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Theodore Smith
Theodore Smith

Build A Boat For Tre....txt

If most men were like a fellow I saw on the Yarmouth boat oneday, I could account for the seeming enigma easily enough. It was just off Southend Pier, I recollect, and he was leaningout through one of the port-holes in a very dangerousposition. I went up to him to try and save him.

Build A Boat For Tre....txt

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We arranged to start on the following Saturday fromKingston. Harris and I would go down in the morning, andtake the boat up to Chertsey, and George, who would not be ableto get away from the City till the afternoon (George goes tosleep at a bank from ten to four each day, except Saturdays, whenthey wake him up and put him outside at two), would meet usthere.

It is evening. You are wet through, and there is a goodtwo inches of water in the boat, and all the things aredamp. You find a place on the banks that is not quite sopuddly as other places you have seen, and you land and lug outthe tent, and two of you proceed to fix it.

The first list we made out had to be discarded. It wasclear that the upper reaches of the Thames would not allow of thenavigation of a boat sufficiently large to take the things we hadset down as indispensable; so we tore the list up, and looked atone another!

It seemed a good thought, and we adopted it. I do notknow whether you have ever seen the thing I mean. You fixiron hoops up over the boat, and stretch a huge canvas over them,and fasten it down all round, from stem to stern, and it convertsthe boat into a sort of little house, and it is beautifully cosy,though a trifle stuffy; but there, everything has its drawbacks,as the man said when his mother-in-law died, and they came downupon him for the funeral expenses.

George said it was so pleasant to wake up in the boat in thefresh morning, and plunge into the limpid river. Harrissaid there was nothing like a swim before breakfast to give youan appetite. He said it always gave him an appetite. George said that if it was going to make Harris eat more thanHarris ordinarily ate, then he should protest against Harrishaving a bath at all.

George impressed upon us to take a change of under-things andplenty of socks, in case we got upset and wanted a change; alsoplenty of handkerchiefs, as they would do to wipe things, and apair of leather boots as well as our boating shoes, as we shouldwant them if we got upset.

We tried to get away from it at Marlow. We left the boatby the bridge, and took a walk through the town to escape it, butit followed us. The whole town was full of oil. Wepassed through the church-yard, and it seemed as if the peoplehad been buried in oil. The High Street stunk of oil; wewondered how people could live in it. And we walked milesupon miles out Birmingham way; but it was no use, the country wassteeped in oil.

On a fine Sunday it presents this appearance nearly all daylong, while, up the stream, and down the stream, lie, waitingtheir turn, outside the gates, long lines of still more boats;and boats are drawing near and passing away, so that the sunnyriver, from the Palace up to Hampton Church, is dotted and deckedwith yellow, and blue, and orange, and white, and red, andpink. All the inhabitants of Hampton and Moulsey dressthemselves up in boating costume, and come and mouch round thelock with their dogs, and flirt, and smoke, and watch the boats;and, altogether, what with the caps and jackets of the men, thepretty coloured dresses of the women, the excited dogs, themoving boats, the white sails, the pleasant landscape, and thesparkling water, it is one of the gayest sights I know of nearthis dull old London town.

He said he must drink something, however, and climbed upon theseat, and leant over to get the bottle. It was right at thebottom of the hamper, and seemed difficult to find, and he had tolean over further and further, and, in trying to steer at thesame time, from a topsy-turvy point of view, he pulled the wrongline, and sent the boat into the bank, and the shock upset him,and he dived down right into the hamper, and stood there on hishead, holding on to the sides of the boat like grim death, hislegs sticking up into the air. He dared not move for fearof going over, and had to stay there till I could get hold of hislegs, and haul him back, and that made him madder than ever.

I pulled splendidly. I got well into a steady rhythmicalswing. I put my arms, and my legs, and my back intoit. I set myself a good, quick, dashing stroke, and workedin really grand style. My two friends said it was apleasure to watch me. At the end of five minutes, I thoughtwe ought to be pretty near the weir, and I looked up. Wewere under the bridge, in exactly the same spot that we were whenI began, and there were those two idiots, injuring themselves byviolent laughing. I had been grinding away like mad to keepthat boat stuck still under that bridge. I let other peoplepull up backwaters against strong streams now.

We sculled up to Walton, a rather large place for a riversidetown. As with all riverside places, only the tiniest cornerof it comes down to the water, so that from the boat you mightfancy it was a village of some half-dozen houses, all told. Windsor and Abingdon are the only towns between London and Oxfordthat you can really see anything of from the stream. Allthe others hide round corners, and merely peep at the river downone street: my thanks to them for being so considerate, andleaving the river-banks to woods and fields and water-works.

One sees a good many funny incidents up the river inconnection with towing. One of the most common is the sightof a couple of towers, walking briskly along, deep in an animateddiscussion, while the man in the boat, a hundred yards behindthem, is vainly shrieking to them to stop, and making franticsigns of distress with a scull. Something has gone wrong;the rudder has come off, or the boat-hook has slipped overboard,or his hat has dropped into the water and is floating rapidlydown stream.

Much of this sort of trouble would be saved if those who aretowing would keep remembering that they are towing, and give apretty frequent look round to see how their man is gettingon. It is best to let one person tow. When two aredoing it, they get chattering, and forget, and the boat itself,offering, as it does, but little resistance, is of no realservice in reminding them of the fact.

He and three other men, so he said, were sculling a veryheavily laden boat up from Maidenhead one evening, and a littleabove Cookham lock they noticed a fellow and a girl, walkingalong the towpath, both deep in an apparently interesting andabsorbing conversation. They were carrying a boat-hookbetween them, and, attached to the boat-hook was a tow-line,which trailed behind them, its end in the water. No boatwas near, no boat was in sight. There must have been a boatattached to that tow-line at some time or other, that wascertain; but what had become of it, what ghastly fate hadovertaken it, and those who had been left in it, was buried inmystery. Whatever the accident may have been, however, ithad in no way disturbed the young lady and gentleman, who weretowing. They had the boat-hook and they had the line, andthat seemed to be all that they thought necessary to theirwork.

George said he never saw so much thoughtful sadnessconcentrated into one glance before, as when, at the lock, thatyoung couple grasped the idea that, for the last two miles, theyhad been towing the wrong boat. George fancied that, if ithad not been for the restraining influence of the sweet woman athis side, the young man might have given way to violentlanguage.

Another example of the dangerous want of sympathy betweentower and towed was witnessed by George and myself once up nearWalton. It was where the tow-path shelves gently down intothe water, and we were camping on the opposite bank, noticingthings in general. By-and-by a small boat came in sight,towed through the water at a tremendous pace by a powerful bargehorse, on which sat a very small boy. Scattered about theboat, in dreamy and reposeful attitudes, lay five fellows, theman who was steering having a particularly restfulappearance.

This seemed to sort of lighten the boat, and it went on mucheasier, the small boy shouting at the top of his voice, andurging his steed into a gallop. The fellows sat up andstared at one another. It was some seconds before theyrealised what had happened to them, but, when they did, theybegan to shout lustily for the boy to stop. He, however,was too much occupied with the horse to hear them, and we watchedthem, flying after him, until the distance hid them fromview.

Of all experiences in connection with towing, the mostexciting is being towed by girls. It is a sensation thatnobody ought to miss. It takes three girls to tow always;two hold the rope, and the other one runs round and round, andgiggles. They generally begin by getting themselves tiedup. They get the line round their legs, and have to sitdown on the path and undo each other, and then they twist itround their necks, and are nearly strangled. They fix itstraight, however, at last, and start off at a run, pulling theboat along at quite a dangerous pace. At the end of ahundred yards they are naturally breathless, and suddenly stop,and all sit down on the grass and laugh, and your boat drifts outto mid-stream and turns round, before you know what has happened,or can get hold of a scull. Then they stand up, and aresurprised.

Harris and I began to think that Bell Weir lock must have beendone away with after the same manner. George had towed usup to Staines, and we had taken the boat from there, and itseemed that we were dragging fifty tons after us, and werewalking forty miles. It was half-past seven when we werethrough, and we all got in, and sculled up close to the leftbank, looking out for a spot to haul up in.

That canvas wanted more putting up than I think any of us hadbargained for. It looked so simple in the abstract. You took five iron arches, like gigantic croquet hoops, andfitted them up over the boat, and then stretched the canvas overthem, and fastened it down: it would take quite ten minutes, wethought. 041b061a72


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