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Full text of "The Strange Adventures of a House-boat: A Novel"

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WIDENER 

"■"ill 

HN P3UG U 



a»M;m.:».q.a..S 




HARVARD 

COLLEGE 
LIBRARY 




The Old Conwr 6Nk 

MMkyMMt 




*'Mi88 Peggy had been shown how to ding gracefully to the iron bar, and 
how to move the titter with her brome-dippered foot'' — See page 29. 




\l>'. 



. .• r> 



K-; ' V 










;^'rVi'^ 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES 



OF 



A HOUSE-BOAT 



a ^ovti 



BT 

WILLIAM BLACK 

▲UTHOS or **A PRWCKSS OF THULl" ^'SUIIBIBS'* " MACLEOD OF DABI 
"WHTTl mCATHSR*' ** WMTl WIKOS" VtC 



ILLUSTRATED 



HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS 

NEW YORK AND LONDON 

1904 



3. \ W^H. ^^.2..^ 

NARVAKO COLLEGE LIMARY 

GIFT OF 

iRi. 6E0RGE PEA60DY 6AltOIIEii 

NOV. tS, 193d 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 



''MISS FBOGT BAD BEEN SHOWN HOW TO CLINO OKACS- 
FULLT TO THS IRON BAB, AND HOW TO MOYB THB 

TuxER WITH HSB BRONZB-8LIPPEBBD FOOT*' . . . F^rofUiipieee, 

*'MU8 PEGOT, TABLING HEB BANJO FBOM ITS GABB, AT 

ONCE FOUND A HOOK WHEBE IT COULD HANG" . . 7b f<iCe p, 18 
**THEN HE BANG, WITH GOOD EXFBE88ION, IF WITH NO 

GBBAT voice" •* 70 

**A GBEAT PABT OF THE AFTEBNOON SHE HAD SPENT iN 

BEADING UP THE HISTOBT OF THB YABIOUS COLLEGES, 

IN SUCH GUIDE-BOOKS AS WE HAD WITH US " . . ** 80 

" HE WENT WITH THS WOMEN FBOM SHOP TO SHOP, AND 

GABBIED THEIB PABCELS FOB THBM" ** 88 

" THB TWO BUSTICS STOLIDLY STABED AT THB SPOT WHEBE 

THB STONE HAD SUNK*' <* 114 

"NIGHT GAME DOWN. WE PASSED UNDEB MTSTEBIOUS 

BBIDGBS" " 154 

*'A PHANTOM CASTLE, INDEED; FOB THE MOONLIGHT HAD 

BOBBED THE BUDDY STONE OF ITS COLOB, AND IT 

WAS NOW OF A PALE AND SILVEBY GBAY** ... " 170 

"FOB AN INSTANT B08ALIND STANDS THEBB '* .... ** 190 

"MISS PEGGY WAS ALSO ALLOWED A LITTLE PBACTICB ". " 200 

"SHE WAS PEBSUADED IN THB END, AND WENT AND GOT 

THB banjo" •* 226 

"THBOUGH THIS WHIRLING AND CHANGING WORLD OF 

SHOWERS AND FLYING CLOUDS AND SUNLIGHT" . . " 296 

BBISTOL CABMEN ** 344 

COLLEGE GBBEN « 850 



THE STEANGE ADVENTURES 

OF 

A HOUSE-BOAT. 



CHAPTER I. 

''Seel from the bower a form majestic morei, 
And, smoothly gliding, shines along the groTes ; 
Say, comes a goddess from (he golden spheres? 
A goddess comes— or Rosalind appears I" 

<' Akd do choose a nice one this time I" says a small woman, 
with pleading soft brown eyes. *' Just fancy those long days 
and weeks — in far out-of-the-way places : of course I want some 
one who is very, very pretty, and very, very delightful, to be my 
companion. Never mind about her being a heroine. Every- 
body can't be a heroine. I want somebody who will be merry 
at dinner, and cosey to walk with on the moonlight nights ; and 
I don't care twopence about her character — " 

"Whatr 

'' Ton know quite well what I mean. I detest strong-minded 
women — ^they should all be sitting on School Boards, with spec- 
tacles on their noses, like a row of owls. Character ! You can't 
kiss force of character, but you can kiss Peggy Rosslyn." 

" You mean you can." 

"Well?" says Mrs. Threepenny- bit, with a stare. "Isn't 
that enough?" 

«Hm! However, it's Peggy Ros8l3m, is it, you've fixed 
upon ? Well, I shouldn't have called her so uncommonly pretty. 
Let's see. Her eyes — her eyes are rather glassy, aren't they ?'' 

" I think they are most beautiful eyes," says this small creat- 
ure, warmly. " Why, they have the clear shining blue of the 
eyes of a child '" 

I A 



2 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

** Her nose is distinctly impertinent.^' 

** Ton may call it impertinent, if yon like ; bat that is merely 
the stupidity of the English language in not having a word to 
describe the prettiest shape of nose there is." 

'< We won't quarrel about her nose ; there isn't enough of it 
to make a fuss about. And indeed if I were granting you 
everything — ^that she is fairly good-looking, and has a tall and 
elegant figure, and a fresh complexion, and so forth — ^what does 
it amount to ? When you come to her conduct, what are you 
to say ? Why, you know she is a most outrageous and auda- 
cious and abominable flirt !" 

Queen Tita condescends to smile a little. 

'* She is a mischievous monkey," she admits. '< But it's only 
her fun." 

" Her fun ? A nice kind of fun I I call her simply a White 
Pestilence — " 

" I'll tell her you said so." 

'* A White Pestilence, stalking through the land, and scatter- 
ing devastation wherever she goes." 

" And it's little cause you have to complain, in any case," she 
retorts ; for she can shift her ground with dexterity. " No, it 
isn't for you to complain of Peggy's tricks. Who encourages 
her ? Who is worse than anybody else ? Why, the way you 
two go on is perfectly disgraceful. I declare, if I weren't an 
angel — " 

" But wait a bit. Who said you weren't an angel ? I want 
to know who said you weren't an angel? Just you pass him 
this way. Hand him along. And then ask his aged mother to 
come and see if she can recognize the fragments." 

" It's all very well for you to make a joke of it ; but if you 
would only think of those two grown-up boys, and the kind of 
example that is set before them — " 

" I dare say the boys will be able to look out for themselves." 

" If they take after their father, they will." 

" Come, now, about Peggy. You know she has a way of ex- 
pecting a good deal of attention." 

" Yes ; and men are never willing to pay her all the attention 
she wants I Oh, no, they are quite reluctant — ^you especially ! 
Well, never mind, I'll take Peggy. I dare say we shall get on 
excellently by ourselves. But remember, Peggy is to be mine. 



THE BTRANOE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 8 

snd mine alone. Of conrse she will share my cabin at night| 
but I mean in the daytime as well — when we are walking along 
the bank — Peggy is to be with me ; and if we go for a drive 
anywhere she and I are to sit together. And won't yon men be 
wild!" 

" And won't you women be dull I But I don't know yet that 
I can allow a person of that kind to come with us. There is a 
good deal of moral obliquity about your peerless Peggy. Look 
at the way she goes on at cards. Tou may call her * a daughter 
of the gods, divinely tall,' but you can't say she's < most divinely 
fair ;' for she cheats at vingt-et-un like the very mischief." 

« It's only her fun." 

" Why, everything is only her fun ! Is she to be allowed to 
do whatever she pleases so long as it amuses her ? Besides, there 
are other considerations. She's a Yank." 

" She's a dear !" 

Obviously it was of no use to argue further with a woman who 
would make such irrelevant answers ; for the sake of peace and 
quietness it was better to say '^Yery well;" and so it came 
about that it was resolved to ask Miss Peggy Rosslyn to accom- 
pany us when we should be ready to steal away from the busy 
haunts of men and begin our exploration of the devious water- 
ways in the west of England. 

As it chanced, the Person without a Character — ^she who had 
been chosen simply because she was pretty and nice — ^who was 
supposed to have no mental or moral attributes whatsoever — no 
ambitions, opinions, affections, angularities, or sinister designs 
of any kind — this Characterless Person called upon us that after- 
noon, and found some people chatting and drinking tea. And 
oh ! so innocent she looked ; and so demure were her eyes ; and 
so reserved and courteous and complaisant her manner to these 
strange folk ! Not any one of them, as it happened, had met 
her ; not any one of them had been on terms of intimate friend- 
ship with her, and been allowed for a second — ^for the flashing 
fifteenth part of a second — ^to see in those innocent eyes a sud- 
den and laughing confession of all her villainies and sins. 
What they saw was a tall, pleasant-looking, young American 
lady, of about eighteen or nineteen, fresher-complexioned than 
most of her countrywomen, and thoroughly well dressed. Per- 
haps one or other of the younger men, regarding her with great- 



4 THB STRANGLE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

er interest, might have observed one of her small pecnliarities, 
the grace of the action of her hands and wrists when she took 
anything np or put it down. It was a quite unconscious and 
natural habit she had of keeping her hand turned outward from 
. the wrist, and hovering, as it were, before she touched anything, 
as a butterfly hovers before it settles. It may be added — with- 
out any great breach of confidence — that when Miss Peggy 
wanted to be very affectionate towards one of her women-friends, 
or wanted to wheedle her out of something, she had a trick of 
holding her victim's head in those pretty white hands while she 
kissed her on both cheeks. A person who has gone through 
this ceremony several times informs the writer that she cannot 
think of anything it resembles so much as the soft closing to- 
gether of a plover's wings when the bird first reaches the ground. 
On this occasion it fell to the lot of a distinguished but far 
from elderly man of science to make himself agreeable to Peggy ; 
and he did his best. He entertained her with an account of the' 
Dodo. The Dodo, he said, was a Conservative bird, that became 
very much annoyed with the Radical new ways of its contem- 
poraries — ^the sports of the various species, so to speak ; and 
failing to convince them that they were conducting themselves 
shamefully, he simply left the world in disgust That is what 
we do now with science ; we make it entertaining for children. 
Peggy was a child ; and had to be amused. And how could 
this youthful Professor know, when he was making himself 
pleasantly facetious, that those calm inquiring eyes were read- 
ing him through and through ; that Peggy knew far more about 
human beings and their arts and wiles and ways than he knew 
about snails and frogs; and that, while he remained within 
reach of her glance, he was playing with a fire a hundred times 
more deadly than any ever invented by the Greeks ? However, 
in these pages there shall be naught set down in malice against 
the young lady who was to be our guest and companion during 
our long water-journey. The truth may have to be told, but it 
shall be no more than the truth. And it is frankly admitted 
that on this afternoon Miss Peggy behaved herself very well. 
She was docile and agreeable to all She did not sit in a cor- 
ner with any one person for the whole time. As for the youth- 
ful Professor, he went away declaring that she was simply charm- 
ing, though she did not seem to him to resemble ihe typicai 



THX STBANeX ADVXNTURXB OF A HOUBX-BOAT. 5 

Ameiican girl ; from which we are to learn that aham metaphys- 
ics may by accident penetrate even into the sacred domain of 
natnral science, and that a biologist may confess to a belief in 
those anoemic abstractions, those impossible phantoms, those 
fantastic fabrications of prejudice or prepossession — national 
types. 

Bat when we discovered that Peggy had no engagement for 
that evening, and when she discovered that we were to be by 
ourselves, she was easily persuaded to stay and dine with us ; 
and forthwith — for the people had lingered on tiU nearly seven 
o^ clock — the domineenng mite who controls this household had 
carried her improvised guest away with her, to prepare for the 
banquet And indeed when Miss Peggy took her seat at the 
table, the candid historian is bound to admit — ^though rather 
against his will — that she was pleasant to look at One forgot 
the audacity of her nose in the general brightness of her face ; 
and her eyes, whatever else they may have been, were distinctly 
good-humored. She had a pretty under-lip, too— na perfect rose- 
Wd in its way ; and she had a habit of pursing her mouth piq- 
uantly when about to speak ; when listening, on the other hand, 
in an attitude of pleased attention, her head a little forward, 
sometimes she would part her lips in a half-laughing way, and 
then there was a gleam of whitest pearl. Yes ; simple honesty 
demands — or rather, extorts — ^the confession that there have 
been plainer young women than our Peggy, as she appeared on 
this evening ; and the prospect of having her for a companion 
during our contemplated excursion was one to be endured. 

And now we had to lay all our plans, inchoate as they still 
were, before our young friend, in the hope of enticing her to go 
with us. It was speedily found that very little enticement was 
necessary. When her hostess described to her our preconcerted 
and sudden withdrawal from the roar and turmoil and heated 
rooms of London ; the assembling of the small party of friends 
on board the mysterious barge, as yet unconstructed and un- 
named, that was to bear us away towards far western regions ; 
our stealthy gliding through the silent land, in the pleasant 
May-time of the year ; the ever-changing panorama of hill and 
wood and daisied meadow slowly going by ; our morning walks 
along the banks ; our moonlit evenings on deck, with perhaps a 
little music, of plantation birth ; or, later still, a game of cards 



6 THK STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

in the lamp-lit saloon ; when all these things and many more 
have been put before her, the question comes — 

" Now, Peggy, what do you say ? Will you go with us ?" 

" Will I ?" says Peggy. " Won't 1 1" 

And then she seems to think this answer too abrupt ; and she 
goes round the table and kisses that small mite of a woman. 

" You are just too good to me,'' she says ; and then she re- 
turns to her place. 

" You will bring your banjo, Miss Peggy ?" says one of us. 

"Oh, no!" 

" Why not ? Don't you ever perform out of London ? Bell 
took her guitar with her when we drove the phaeton north- 
ward." 

" That is different," she says. " A guitar sounds all right. 
But a banjo would be out of keeping." 

" Oh, we can't get on without * Kitty Wells ' and * Carry me 
back to old Virginny.' " 

" There is a much more important thing," interposes Mrs. 
Threepenny-bit; and she eyes the young lady with severe and 
significant scrutiny. ** We shall want a fourth for our party ; 
and he may — I say h£ may — ^be a man ; and even possibly a 
young man. Now, Peggy, I want to know if you are going to 
behave yourself?" 

Miss Peggy turns to the third member of this trio, with ap- 
pealing and innocent and injured eyes. 

" Now, is that fair ? Is that kind ? Do I ever misbehave ?" 

" Never — I will swear it ! But I see you know where to 
come to, you poor dear, when they say things about you. You 
know where sympathy and consolation are always waiting for 
you. Don't you mind them — you come to me — " 

" Who called her a White Pestilence .^' says a hushed, small 
voice. 

"What's that?" says Miss Peggy, whose ears are sharp 
enough. 

" Oh, yes ; you must bring your banjo," one has to inter- 
polate hastily. " Of course we can't do without * Kitty Wells,' 
you know, and * Carry me back to old Virginny — ' " 

" Who ccUled her a White Pestilence P^ says Uie fiend again. 

So this matter has to be faced. 

" Well, you understand, Miss Peggy, there are some people 



TBI STRAHOX ADTSNTURSS OF A HOUBI-BOAT. 7 

wbom you have to describe by opposites — ^ihe ordinary phrases 
of approval are not good enough— do you see ?" 

*' Oh, yes, I see,'' answered Miss Peggy ; and there was very 
little indeed that that young woman was incapable of seeing. 
" I see that you have been talking about me. But I know you 
didn't believe half of what you said." 

" Of course not ! nor any of it" 

" Besides," she continues, '< if I go with you on this boating 
expedition, I shall be under your eyes from morning till night, 
and you'll see for yourself how good I am. Perhaps you will 
believe then — ^and not listen to any stories !" 

This last remark was addressed to Mrs. Threepenny-bit, who 
did not answer. She seemed doubtful about the young lady 
and her behavior. However, we had booked Miss Rosslyn for 
that vagrant voyaging by canals and western rivers — ^that was 
the main point gained ; and as she was pretty — that is, toler- 
ably pretty — ^and as she had engaging manners, and as she was 
certified as possessing no character worth speaking about, all 
promised excellent well. 



CHAPTER 11. 

"One day there chanced into these halls to roT« 
A joyous youth, who took you at first sight ; 
Him the wild wave of pleasure hither droye, 
Before the sprightly tempest-tossing light ; 
Gertes, he was a most engaging wight, 
Of social glee, and wit humane though keen, 
Turning the night to day, and day to night ; 
For him the merry bells had rung, I ween, 
If in this nook of quiet bells had ever been.'* 

The first difficulty we encountered was to find a suitable 
name for the noble craft that was to carry us away into those 
sylvan solitudes. Here are some of the suggestions made to 
us ; and the reasons why we had to decline them : 

Converted Susan, This was the proposal of an ingenious 
young man who fancied we were going to take an ordinary 
canal-boat, and adapt it to our present needs ; and who inti« 



8 THX STBAWeE ADVENTURKS OF A HOUBE-BOAT. 

mated that a name of this kind would give a pious air to the 
undertaking. Of course we refused to sail under false colors. 

The Snail, Appropriate, perhaps ; but not poetical. 

Noah! 9 Ark, Scouted unanimously; we weren't going to 
have any beasts accompany us. 

The Rose of Kentucky, This was a pure piece of sentiment 
on the part of Mrs. Threepenny-bit ; and therefore — ^and alas I 
— to be put aside. 

The White Swan, This looked more promising ; and we even 
went the length of discussing the decoration of the vessel ; and 
asking whether a little symbolism might not be admissible — 
say, a golden beak at the prow, or something of that kind. 

"Oh I no," says Queen Tita, " I wouldn't have any ornament 
at all. I would have the boat painted a plain white — a simple 
plain white, without any scrap of decoration." 

" Surely that would be too severe," says the aforementioned 
youth. " Why, even the old bookworm who sent instructions 
to his binder : ' Let back and sides go bare, go bare ; but you 
may gild the top edges if you like ' — even he wasn't as strait- 
laced as that." We knew there never was any such old book- 
worm; and we resented this flippant treatment of a serious 
subject. 

The Water Speedwell^ the Water Vole, the White Moth, the 
Velvet Shoe, the Phantom, the Fholas, the Vagary : all these and 
a hundred more were examined and rejected; and we were 
growing desperate, when Miss Peggy Rosslyn, happening to 
come in one evening, settled the matter in a moment 

" If that is all the trouble," said she, " why not call it the 
Nameless Barge .^' 

The Nameless Barge was the very thing we wanted — myste- 
rious, ghostlike, and entirely in keeping with our secret and 
silent gliding along those solitary highways; and the Name- 
less Barge we forthwith declared it should be. 

Now when we set about the planning and construction of the 
nondescript floating thing that was to be serviceable on both 
canals and rivers, we were greatly indebted for advice and as- 
sistance to a young friend of ours, who has already been inci- 
dentally mentioned. His name was Jack Buncombe ; he was 
the son of a wealthy Manchester merchant, who had sent the 
lad to Harrow and Cambridge ; thereafter the young man came 



TBS STRAKGS ADVXKTURB8 OF A HOUBX-BOAT. 9 

to London to study for the Bar, took rooms in the Temple, ate 
his dinners, and eyentnally got called. But it was not the bw 
that filled this young man's head, it was the drama ; and he had 
actually succeeded in getting one small piece produced, which 
was mercilessly mauled by the critics (of course, a conspiracy 
to crush aspiring genius !). Busy as Jack Duncombe was, how- 
ever, with plots and characters and epigrams, he found time for 
a good deal of idling ; and as most of his idling was spent on 
the Thames, and as he was a universal favorite among riverside 
families during the sunomer months, he had acquired an inti- 
mate knowledge of all kinds of pleasure-boats. Not only that, 
but he was an exceedingly clever and handy fellow, and of the 
most indefatigable good-nature; and when he heard of this 
project of ours, he quite naturally assumed that it was his busi- 
ness to procure for us the very vessel we wanted. Nothing 
seemed to diminish his unselfish industry and zeal ; no obstacle 
was allowed to stand in his way. Consultations with boat- 
builders; correspondence with the secretaries of canal com- 
panies; laborious comparisons of designs; visits to Lambeth, 
to Stains, to Eangston ; nothing appeared to come amiss to him. 
And yet one shudders even now to think of that cold river on 
a January day — ^the copper-colored sun behind the milky clouds 
— the bitter wind coming over the frozen land and blowing 
harshly down the stream — the shivering conversation on the 
icicled gangways — the inspection of this dismal house-boat and 
that one still dismaller. For surely there is nothing in the 
world more depressing than the appearance of a disnumtled 
house-boat, shorn of its pretty summer adornments, and stand- 
ing revealed in all its nakedness of damp-smelling wood, faded 
paint, and rusty metal-work. But our young dramatist was 
too much occupied to heed this melancholy contrast ; he was 
busy with such things as the height of the cabin, the depth of 
keel, the quantity of ballast, the arrangement of the pantry, the 
construction of the berths ; and at length, when all our inquiries 
were over, the commission was finally given ; and it was agreed 
and undertaken that the Nameless Barge^ painted a simple 
white, with no touch of color or gilding at all, should be ready 
and waiting for us at Kingston-on-Thames, on May 1, with such 
stores on board as we might choose to send down beforehand. 
Then says the mistress of this household — 

A* 



10 THE STRANGE ADVBNTTJRB8 OF A HOUBB-BOAt. 

" Mr. Dancombe has been so awfully kind and obliging over 
this affair that we are almost bound to ask him to go with us, ii 
he can." 

" You know the certain result Peggy will make a hash of 
him within the first dozen hours." 

^* Oh no, no ; this time she has promised to behave ; and in- 
deed I don't think she ever means very serious mischief. Be- 
sides, if anything were to happen, where would be the harm! 
That's what I thought when Peggy was with us at Venice, and 
Mr. Duncombe wrote saying he might perhaps come round that 
way. Of course, as we don't know the Rosslyns very well, it 
would be awkward if anything were to come about that they 
disapproved of while she was under our charge ; and one can 
easily understand that people who have been very rich, and have 
lost nearly all their money, may be anxious that their daughter 
should marry well. I suppose that is natural. But, you see, we 
are quite safe with Mr. Duncombe, for he will have plenty ; and 
there can be no other objection — ^he is clever, good-humored, 
light-hearted, a favorite everywhere. I'm sure it is not to bring 
about a match that I suggested we should take either the one 
or the other ; if they only knew, they would remain as they 
are — Peggy especially, with all the men her slaves, and people 
ready to pet her wherever she goes. However, as I say, if 
anything were to happen, I don't see how the old people could 
disapprove. I suppose Mr. Duncombe will come into a large 
fortune." 

" You may comfort yourself in one direction. Whatever hap- 
penSy they won't hold you responsible. They have lived long 
enough with Miss Peggy to know that she is quite capable of 
managing her own affairs. She has got a will of her own, has 
that young woman." 

'^ I can't understand why you always talk in that invidious 
way about Peggy," she says, in rather an injured tone : " you 
don't act up to it when she is here." 

'< Madam, there are such things as the sacred rites of hospi- 
tality ; and when the representative of a nation allied to us by 
ties of blood — allied to us by all kinds of things— comes to our 
shores, of course we receive her as a guest." 

" That's all very well," she says. " But we meet plenty of 
Americans ; and yet I don't find you cutting a new pair of kid 



THS 8TRAKGX ADYXNTURXB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 11 

gloves to pieces when they happen to scratch their finger with a 
needle." 

" Where is the chance ? You don't suppose that the Amer- 
icanS) as a nation, are continually scratching their fingers on 
needle points ? However, there is this to he said ahout asking 
Jack Duncombe to go with us, that he is a particularly handy 
fellow who will make himself useful. And Miss Peggy can 
beam on him if she chooses, by way of reward. Jack is used 
to that kind of favor, people say." 

Accordingly we asked the budding dramatist to accompany 
us, and nothing loath was he ; for he had always plenty of time 
on his hands, and ideas in his head, that wanted an abundance 
of leisure for the proper working of them out. And he would 
not hear of there being any difficulty about getting a factotum 
for our house-boat, a jack-of-all-trades, able to cook, and look 
after the cabins, and take a hand at the tiller when needed. 

" Why," says Queen Tita, " where are you going to get the 
Admirable Crichton who can steer a boat, and boil potatoes, 
and black boots, and also wait on table ?" 

" Oh, that's all right," the young man said, gayly. " We'll 
advertise for somebody who has taken Mr. Longfellow's advice, 
and learn to labor and to wait." 

She did not approve of this levity. She said: "I think 
you'd better write to Mr. Gilbert for the address of the sole sur- 
vivor of the Narmf Bell — the man who was 

" The cook and the captain bold. 
And the mate of the Nancy brig. 
And the bos'un tight, and the midshipmite 
And the crevr of the captain's gig — " 

for short of that I don't see how we are to get along." 

" I will undertake," says this confident youth, " to get, * not 
one, but all mankind's epitome ' — a person able to sew on but- 
tons, cook the dinner, and drive the horse when the man falls 
drunk, as he is sure to do. Leave that to me." 

And then we told him about Peggy Bosslyn going with us. 

" I've heard a great deal about that young lady," said he, 
" It's odd I've never met her at your house." 

" She spent all last winter in Paris," Mrs. Threepenny-bit ex- 
plains. '< And since she has come to England, she has been 
mostly at Bournemouth, where she has some friends," 



12 THE STRANaS ADVENT URBS OF A HOUBE-BOAT. 

" And is she really the adorable angel you all make her out f 
he asks, with a certain air of indifference, not to say of incredu- 
lity. 

<< She is a very good girl, and a very nice girl,'' says Queen 
Tita, quietly ; for she doesn't like any of her young lady friends 
to be spoken of in a free-and-easy fashion, especially by young 
men. 

Indeed, the next time Jack Buncombe called to see us, she 
took occasion to drop a little hint on this subject — ^in.the gen- 
tlest possible way, of course. He came in radiant. He had 
been down to Kingston. The Nameless Barge was nearing 
completion. He was himself astonished at the amount of ac- 
commodation on board, seeing that she had to be constructed 
so as to enter canal locks and pass under bridges : nay, he was 
confident of her seagoing qualities, too, when we should have to 
face the wide waters of the Severn channel. According to him, 
the project no longer looked merely hopeful : its success was 
assured. He had discovered how to avoid Birmingham and all 
similar grimy districts. Our wanderings were to be purely 
pastoral and peaceful ; the Thames, the Severn, the Kennet, the 
Avon, were to reveal to us their most secret haunts. He prom- 
ised us that on some still evening — some warm and golden 
evening — perhaps dying slowly into dusk, and then reawaken- 
ing into the splendor and magic of a moonlight night — we 
should find ourselves moored by a meadow-side, in the dim soli- 
tudes of the Forest of Arden. 

" Yes," said he, " all you want now is a motto for the great 
scheme ; and I've got that for you too. A motto ! — why, it's a 
prophecy ! Would you believe that Virgil clearly foresaw what 
you were going to do ? Oh, yes, he did — he described it in a 
single phrase — ^m the Georgics." 

'^ And what is it ?" Queen Tita asks. 

" * Mellaque arundineis inferre canalihuSy " he answers, appai> 
ently rather proud of his ingenuity. 

<' And the translation ?" she asks again. 

<< The translation ? Oh, that is clear enough. It means ' To 
carry Peggy Rosslyn along the reedy canals,' " he answers, as 
bold as brass. 

'< Beally, now, what a dear, clever old man to have foreseen 
80 much !" she says dryly. And then she adds : " I suppose, 



THE 8TBANOS ADVXNTURXS OF A HOU6X-BOAT. 13 

now, it was the age of the poet that allowed him to speak in 
that familiar way. I am afraid that with our yonnger poets — 
the poets of oar own generation — ^eggy will have to be known 
as Miss Rosslyn.'' 

** Oh, I will treat her respectfully enough, if yon mean that," 
he says, with promptitude. 

And yet even in giving this assurance he had somehow the 
manner of one conversant with the ways of young women, and 
accustomed to humor them, and manage them, and patronise 
them. And, no doubt, looking forward to the long excursion be- 
fore him, and to the companionship of the young American lady 
of whom he had heard so much, he considered that it would be 
his duty to pay her some ordinary civility, and generally to look 
after her, and befriend her, if only as a little bit of amusementi 
Poor wretch ! poor wretch I 



CHAPTER HL 

'*Bj the rashy fringed bank 
Where grows the willow, and the oeier dank 
My sliding chariot stays.'* 

*< Thxrx's my dear ! There's my pretty one I" cries Queen 
Titania, as we drive up to Waterloo Station ; forthwith one 
catches sight of a tall young lady, bright-eyed and smiling, com- 
ing quickly towards tne cab ; the next instant the two friends 
are together on the platform,- kissing each other in the wasteful 
and foolish fashion peculiar to women. To the humble by- 
stander it is left to regard Miss Peggy's costume, which is quite 
admirable in its neatness and apparent inexpensiveness ; of navy 
blue serge it is, with the jacket open in front and showing a vest 
of soft white merino with silver buttons. At present she wears 
a bonnet and gloves ; but we know that she has with her a sail- 
or's hat of cream-white straw, and we hope in due time, on 
board ship, to teach her the usefulness of bare hands. 

The luggage having been looked after, the three of us get into 
a carriage. 

" No, Peggy," says Queen Tita, gravely ; " you needn't look 
round. He isn't here." 



14 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" Oh," says Peggy, with reproachful eyes, " as if I wanted 
anybody but you." 

Therewith she takes her friend's hand in both of hers and 
presses it most affectionately ; and then, sidling close to her on 
the seat, she interlinks their arms, and hugs her tightly, just as 
if these two were determined to go through the world togeth- 
er, unheeding all the rest of mankind. And as for the third 
person in this railway-carriage ? Oh, his share in the whole per- 
formance is to pay. He may have labored days and nights to 
get everything in readiness ; he may have worn his eyes out in 
the perusal of Ordnance Survey maps ; he may have spent nn-^ 
told gold on tinned meats and biscuits ; and now he is of no 
more account ; he may, if he pleases, buy a penny newspaper, 
retire into a comer of the carriage, and read the Parliamentary 
reports. But there is one reflection that cannot escape him; 
which is, that endearments between women are the foolishest 
things on the face of this earth. They impose on no one. They 
afford no possible kind of satisfaction to the recipient of them ; 
and there is not a man alive who does not see that they are a 
mere hollow pretence. 

To return to business: our start, after all, was rather a hap- 
hazard affair, because some of our arrangements had broken 
down at the last moment. For one thing, the factotum of a 
steward provided by Jack Buncombe proved to be much too 
astute a person for simple folk like us. Doubtless he knew a 
great deal more about the Thames and about house-boats than 
we did ; and we were willing, in a measure, to be instructed ; but 
when it came to innumerable conditions and half-hinted stipula- 
tions, we had to point out to him, gently but firmly, that we did 
not at all look upon his going with us in the light of an obliga- 
tion. Finally we had politely to request him to betake himself 
to the outermost edge of Limbo, himself and all his idiotic re- 
quirements ; and then says Mrs. Threepenny-bit — 

" Why, you know who are the only obliging race of people 
we have ever met ! Where do we ever get courtesy and kind- 
ness and good-will except in the West Highlands? If I were 
you I would send right away for Murdoch." 

" A Highland steward on the Thames !" 

<<At all events he will be good-natured, and obliging, and 
pleasant-mannered. I'd rather have him on board than any of 



THX 8TRANOX ADVIHTITiaB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 15 

the confectioner-creatares yon see at Henley Regatta. And so 
would yon, Peggy, I know ; for he is very good-looking, and yon 
conld fall back on him if there was no one else." 

' Why do yon say snch things of mef* says onr poor, injured 



However, it was there and then resolved to send for Murdoch 
Maclean, of Tobermory, in the island of Mull ; who came — sadly 
bewildered by the size and roar of London ; and was at once 
sent on to Kingston. Thither also Jack Dnncombe had gone 
down ; for there was some little trouble about getting a man 
and horse to tow us up to Oxford — ^where more permanent ar- 
rangements were to be made. Thus it was that we three set 
forth by ourselves ; two of us making ostentatious display of 
their siUy affection for each other ; the third driven in self-de- 
fence to the invertebrate garrulities of the House of Commons. 

As the train slowed into Kingston Station we perceived a 
young gentleman eagerly scanning the carriages. He was a 
straight-limbed, slimly-built young fellow, of pale complexion, 
with good features, intelligent gray eyes, chestnut-brown hair, 
and a small brown moustache. He wore a blue jacket, white 
ducks, and yachting-shoes. 

" Peggy," said the elder of the two women, as they stepped 
out and on to the platform, << let me introduce to you Mr. Dun- 
combe — Miss Rosslyn." 

The quick look of surprise that appeared on the young man's 
face ! Had our familiar speaking about Peggy deceived him ? 
Perhaps he was not prepared to find this American young lady 
so distinguished-looldng, and so calm and self-possessed ; to say 
nothing of the observant, direct glance of her clear shining 
eyes. Miss Peggy bowed complacently and not unkindly ; and 
the young man, recovering a little from his embarrassment, turned 
to his hostess and explained that he had a youth below and a 
barrow for the transference of our luggage, and that he had left 
Murdoch in charge of the boat. Then these two, the luggage 
having been carried down, walked on ahead ; leaving Miss Peggy 
to follow with the only companion left her. 

" Well t" one says to her, by way of encouragement and in- 
quiry. She does not care to look up in answer: you would 
think she was quite interested in the dusty road before her. 

*' Well (" And then Miss Peggy slowly raises her eyes, when 



16 THB BTRANOB ADVBNTURBS OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 

she has had time to make them quite inscrutable. It is a trick 
she has when she dares you to read any meaning in them. 

"WeUr 

^ What is it f ' she says, with the most beautiful innocence : 
though there is the smallest, faintest curye at the end of her lips 
that speaks of a dark concealment. 

" What do you think of him ?*' 

" Of your friend ?" she says, artlessly ; and she glances ahead. 
'^ Oh, well, I think he is rather good-looking ; that is all one can 
say as yet." 

" Miss Peggy, are you going to let him alone ?" 

Again the plaintive, injured look. 

** I didn't think you were going to accuse me of such things, 
even in fun. You are always kind to me — and — and defending 
me against everybody. Besides, didn't I tell you you would see 
for yourself, all the day long, how well I behave ?" 

" But you mustn't behave too well, Miss Peggy ; thajb would 
never do ; we might begin to think you had some definite kind 
of a character about you. Don't you know what made that 
small woman there determined to inveigle you into going with 
us ? It was because you had no angles of character at all ; be- 
cause you were nothing but simply nice." 

''Did she say I was nice?" she inquires, with a touch of 
shyness. 

"She did." 

" And did you agree with her ?" asks this bold hussy — ^show- 
ing what her shyness is worth. 

" I ? Oh, well, that's asking questions, and too soon. You 
know what the man said who went oft in a balloon by him- 
self ; he said, * This is very nice, / hope /' We'll see. Miss 
Peggy. We'll have a little scrutiny of your conduct before 
saying anything definite. We'll give you a written warranty 
afterwards." 

" And that is all you trust me ?" says Miss Peggy, looking 
very, very much hurt and aggrieved. " Well, then, I will tell 
you this : sometimes I imagine it is you who say all those wicked 
things about me, while professing to be my friend the whole 
time. I believe it is your wife who is my real friend ; and that 
it is you who put suspicions into her mind. But I will show 
you how wrong you are. I will just show you how wrong you 



TBS BTRAKOB ADTXHTnUB OF A HOVBX-BOAT. IT 

we. And then, when jom ire heartily ashamed of yoanelf, I 
hope you wiU apologize." 

"Iwm." 

At this moment Miss Peggy is regarding those other two in 
front ; a smile begins to hover about her lips ; the faintest dim^ 
pie appears in her cheek ; but her eyes are inscrutably grave. 
She turns towards her companion. 

^^Yes; he is rather good-looking. Don't you think soP 
she says. 

"You villain r 

No other protest is possible ; for here we are down at the 
river ; and there is the long white thing — ^an elongat^ Noah's 
Ark — ^a whitewashed gondola it seems — that is to be our home 
for many a day. And here is Murdoch come ashore — a sailor- 
like, sunburned young fellow, who has made himself smart in his 
steward suit and peaked cap ; he is very bashful before the young 
lady stranger ; he waits to be spoken to by Queen Tita, who is 
an old friend and seafaring comrade of his. 

" Well, Murdoch," says she, " and what do you think of the 
boat, now you have seen her ?" 

Murdoch glances towards the Nameless Barge with evident dis- 
favor ; but he is too courteous to say anything too disparaging. 

" I thought, mem, it wass to be a yat," he says, still regarding 
that long white eel of a thing. 

" A yacht ? Oh, no. We couldn't take a yacht away inland. 
Why," she says, with a smile, looking at him, " I believe you are 
quite disappointed I" 

" Oh, no, meuL Maybe it is a good boat for the purpose — 
maybe it uz. But I would not like for us to be going round 
Ru Hunish in /Aa^" 

" I dare say not. But she could lie at anchor well enough in 
the Sound of XJlva, couldn't she? You remember the place, 
Murdoch?" 

There is a quick look of pleasure in Murdoch's clear, dark- 
blue eyes. 

" Ay, indeed, mem ; it wass niany's the time we were in there ; 
and a nice place it wass to be in, mem, when the GoTnetra men 
did not foiget to bring us bread from the steamer." 

" Murdoch, this is Miss Rosslyn ; she is an American young 
lady, who wants to see all about England, you know ; and you'U 



18 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

haye to do everything to make her comfortable while she is on 
board." 

<<0h, yes, mem; bat I wish the young leddy wass going 
with us on a yat, mem," says Murdoch, rather pathetically ; it is 
clear that he regards our present expedition as a sad faUing off 
from others he has known in former days. 

Queen Tita looks at him and laughs a little. 

" I do really believe, Murdoch, you are sorry you came south I" 

" Oh, no, mem ; indeed not that, mem," says this bashful- 
eyed young fellow (who would scarcely even look Peggy's way). 
" I am sure I do not care what kind of a boat it uz, if you will 
ask me to go, mem ; and it's ferry glad I am to be going with 
you, mem, whateffer the kind of boat." 

It was a pretty speech, in intention ; and may have helped to 
put that sprat of a creature into an amiable frame of mind. At 
all events, when we got the two women bundled on board, dis- 
appointment was not the mood in which they took possession of 
their new quarters. They were simply delighted with every- 
thing ; could not express their admiration of all the cunning lit- 
tle arrangements ; must needs ransack the pantry, and overhaul 
the cooking apparatus ; were astonished at the convenience and 
snugness of the berths ; and then, when it was intimated to them 
that the saloon forward, when not required for meals, was to be 
their own especial boudoir, into which meaner members of the 
company might occasionally be admitted on invitation, you 
should have seen how naturally Queen Tita began to roll up the 
red silk blinds of the small windows, so as to let plenty of light 
in, and Miss Peggy, taking her banjo from its case, at once found 
a hook where it could hang. 

" We must get some flowers for the table," says Peggy. 

" God grant I have no need of thee /" says her friend, address- 
ing the waterproof that she is folding up for stowage m the rack. 

They were at home at once. They sat down opposite each 
other, to admire all the cheap Tottenham-court-road finery around 
them — ^the Utrecht velvet cushions, the mirrors, the sconces, and 
what not ; and they had no word of complaint against the char- 
acter of the decoration. 

" Well, I do think this is very comfortable," says the elder of 
them. 

" I call it perfectly charming," says the younger. 




'* Mi88 Peggy, taking her banjo from its case, at once found a Iwok where 
it could hang." 



. ' THE 8TRANOE ADVBNTURIB OT A HOUBl-BOAT. 19 

"I am sure we are very much obliged to Mr. Doncombe — 
wb0re is he?" And then she cries: "Why, I declare we're 
moving !" 

There could be no doubt of the fact ; for a glance out at the 
forward window showed that we were being towed across the 
river by a small boat pulled by two men. And of course the 
women must needs see the start ; and as that forward windon 
was found to open on to a space of deck at the bow, they had 
no difficulty in getting out there, and commanding an excellent 
view of all that was gomg on. 

Where was Jack Buncombe all this time ? Why, he was steer- 
ing. He was responsible for all the arrangements of our setting- 
forth ; and his air was serious, not to say important He had 
neither word nor look for the women-folk ; and they, of course, 
knew better than to talk to the man at the wheel. They hum- 
bly looked on as he got the boat close to the bank, and, springing 
ashore, proceeded to get ready the towing-line. The horse, 
adorned with bows of ribbon, was there waiting; so was the 
driver. We should start in a minute at furthest. 

But alas for our assiduous and serious-eyed young friend! 
No sooner is the line attached than the gayly-decorated steed ap- 
pears to think he ought to do something ; and what he does is 
far from what we want him to do. He proceeds to dance 
around on his hind-legs, scattering the small boys who have as- 
sembled, and paying no heed at all to the man, who clings des- 
perately to his head. It is a humiliating spectacle — a beast paw- 
ing the air in that fashion, as if he were imitating a bear at a 
show. Our women-folk are too ashamed to laugh; but Mr. 
Buncombe, no doubt, assumes that they are laughing ; and very 
angry he becomes. 

" Whoa ! you confounded beast ! Come down, you brute !" 
And then he says to the man ; " What did your master mean by 
sending us a fool of a horse like this? ^7e're not going to 
take a circus through the country. This is a nice sort of creat- 
ure for a canal tow-path !" 

Then, amid these gambols, crack I goes something. 

" Look here, now !" our young friend calls to the driver, who 
is still hanging on to the animal's head. " Here is this thing 
broken ! Tou'll have to go back. Take this kangaroo home, 
and bring us a horse. Get away, you idiot 1" 



20 THS STmiNGB ADySNTURBS Or A HOUSE^BOAT. 

This last ejaculation is caased by his having to skip aside 
from the lively pair of heels — ^an undignified movement, at the 
best. The driver, a tall young man, gaunt of face, clad in a suit 
of pilot cloth, and wearing a skipper's hat — we called him Pali- 
nurus the moment we set eyes on him — proceeds to unhitch the 
rope from the broken harness ; and then, in a melancholy man- 
ner, leads away the disgraced, beribboned prancer. Jack Dun- 
combe comes on board. The women don't say anything. He 
pretends that all is not quite ready for our departure. He con- 
sults Murdoch about the stowage of the portmanteaus ; and then 
these two disappear within the Noah's Ark. The women's faces 
remain demure. 

And yet we made a sufficiently pleasant start, after all, when a 
second horse— -a large-boned white animal, with bushy mane and 
tail — ^was brought along and yoked ; and glad enough were we 
when the vibration of the long, tight line and the swishing of 
water at the bows told us we were really off. It was a cheerful 
morning, too ; for if there was no positive sunlight, there was a 
white glare of heat ; the birds were twittering everywhere ; the 
swallows skimming and darting over the surface of the silver- 
rippling river. Of course this was rather a well-known panorama 
that was now gliding silently by — the Surbiton villas among their 
abundant gardens — with here and there a boating party embark- 
ing, and here and there a rose-red sunshade visible under the 
young green of the trees; and, indeed, some of us may have 
been wishing that we could get the Thames part of our voyage 
over and done with, and set forth upon less familiar waters. 
But this we had to remember, that with us was a young Ameri- 
can stranger, to whom everything was new, who had an eager 
interest in places with historical associations, and who was most 
amiably disposed to be pleased with everything she saw. Hamp- 
ton Court was not at all " 'Appy 'Ampton " for our Miss Peggy ; 
it was the palace that Henry VIH. gave to Cardinal Wolsey ; 
and she seemed surprised that we did not propose to stop at a 
place enriched with so many memories. 

<* Well," says Mrs. Threepenny-bit, in the midst of our learned 
discourse, " I am going inside to talk to Murdoch about lunch. 
YoQ," she says, to the humble chronicler of these events — " you 
can stay here and entertain Peggy with English history. His- 
tory ; yes, that's what they call it," 



THE BTRAHGE ADYENTUBBS 07 A HOUSE-BOAT. 21 

" What does she mean ?" says Peggy, with artless eyes. 

But just as if to rebuke the malignant levity of women — ^who 
think of nothing but their own wretched little gibes and jeers 
among the serious cares and duties of life — ^not more than a 
minute after that we found ourselves out in the middle of the 
river Thames, helplessly adrift, and with no visible means of 
reaching either shore. For at Hampton Court the towpath 
changes to the Surrey side ; Palinurus had unhitched the line 
without leaving sufficient way on the boat to enable us to shoot 
the bridge; we had no oars; and the two poles we had on 
board could not reach the bottom. This was a pleasant predica- 
ment ; and yet here was one woman looking on in mild amuse- 
ment at our frantic efforts to- save her worthless life ; and the 
other woman, rejoicing, no doubt, in the feeble sarcasm with which 
she took her leave, busy with such inanities as plovers' eggs and 
pigeon-pie. By what superhuman endeavors we got that boat 
over to the other shore needs not to be described here ; we found 
Palinurus peacefully, if furtively, smoking his pipe, and Corio- 
lanus — ^why we called him Coriolanus we never could make out ; 
but it seemed natural, somehow — Coriolanus was nibbling at the 
grass on the bank. Presently, the line had been attached again, 
and our silent progress resumed ; and then, when we had dis- 
posed of the rough-and-tumble business of getting through Moul- 
sey Lock, a silver tinkling was heard within, which we knew to 
be Murdoch's summons to lunch ; and Miss Peggy, forsaking 
history — yes, history — ^f or the moment, was pleased to descend 
from her conmianding position at the prow, and take her place 
at the oblong little table in the saloon. 

Now this was the first occasion on which those two young 
people had really been thrown into each other's society ; and it 
may be said at once that Queen Tita's fears, if she had ever seri- 
ously entertained any, ought to have been dissipated forthwith. 
Miss Peggy took not the least notice of the young man ; she did 
not even look his way ; you would have thought she was not 
aware of his existence. You see, she was much interested in 
hearing about Cardinal Wolsey's gold and silver plate, and his 
more than regal hospitalities ; and she was very curious about 
the gentlewomen who now occupy rooms in Hampton Court 
Palace ; and wanted to know all about their circumstances and 
yf&ys of life. As for Jack Duncombe, he devoted himself entire- 



22 THS STRANGE ADVSNTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

ly to his hostess ; and of coarse he talked of nothing bat this 
blessed boat 

" Well, yoa know," he was saying, " we must make little mis- 
takes sometimes ; an excarsion of this kind can't be done right 
off the reel. If it had been qnite easy to do, everybody would 
have done it And, besides, this isn't the least like an ordinary 
house-boat The ordinary house-boat, as you know, is a great big 
unwieldy thing, with a square stem ; you don't go voyages in her ; 
you contract to get her moved for you, when you want her 
moved; and then you take down your party of friends, and 
have skylarkings. I suppose the builder fancied those boat- 
hooks would be long enough for all practical purposes ; but wait 
till we get to Staines, and then I'll look about for a right sort 
of pole. We live and learn. If the people at Hampton Court 
thought us duffers, they were welcome. We got the boat across, 
anyway." 

" Oh, but you mustn't apologize," she says, kindly. " I'm sure 
our start has been most successful. And I'm sure, too, that 
Miss Rosslyn will be delighted with our English scenery, just 
when it is at its freshest and brightest" 

Miss Rosslyn was engaged at the moment — ^with history. 

" It will be far more interesting," the young man said, " when 
we get away into the unknown districts. It will be the most 
solitary expedition you can imagine. You know the railways 
have in many places bought up the canals ; and these are almost 
disused now ; if we only can get along, it will be the loneliest 
trip you ever tried. I hope we are all very good-natured." 

" Peggy," she says, suddenly, " are you very good-natured f" 

Peggy looks up, startled. 

" No, thank you ; I won't have anything more," she says. 

And then — not noticing the fiendish grin on the face of the 
woman who pretends to be her friend — Miss Peggy continues : 

" Oh, isn't it beautiful ! — ^and the delicious silence — you can't 
tell how you are going — it feels like a kind of enchantment. 
That window," she says, regarding the larger one at the bow, 
'^ has just the proportions of an upright landscape ; and if you 
sit where I am, you see simply a succession of Corots — ^those 
tall poplars, and the glassy stream, and the white sky. I could 
not have imagined anything so delightful. It is like being 
wafted through the air.'* 



THB STRAirOE ABYENTURIS OF ▲ HOU8S-BOAT. 23 

" If yoaVe all finished," says Jack Dancombe, to whom Miss 
Peggy's remarks were not addressed, <* Fll take a turn at the 
tiller, and let Murdoch come in to clear away." 

So we left the women to the enjoyment of their Corots, or to 
helping Murdoch, as they felt inclined ; and betook ourselves to 
cigars and steeripg, astern. 

Well, it was pleasant enough : the gentle motion ; the silence, 
save for the thrushes and blackbirds; the suffused sunlight; 
the cool swish of the water along the boat ; the gliding by of 
the placid English landscape, green with the verdure of the open- 
ing sunmier. And perhaps we enjoyed this luxurious idleness 
all the more that we knew there were harder days ahead of us — 
days of fighting with low bridges, and opening and closing un- 
tended locks ; days of distant wanderings and privation, per- 
haps of anxious responsibility and care. At present our duties 
were mostly confined to taking a turn at the helm ; for as the 
steersman had to stand on an improvised thwart in order to see 
over the roof of the house, with his arms supported by the iron 
stanchions meant for an awning — ^that spread-eagle attitude could 
not be maintained for any great length of time. Of course, we 
ought to have had gear arranged by which the boat could have 
been steered from the forward deck ; but we could not think of 
everything at the last moment ; besides, why should the occu- 
pants of the cabin have their Corots spoiled for them by the in- 
terposition of a man's legs ? 

But if our adventure at Hampton Court was unfortunate, our 
escapade at Shepperton was entirely lamentable and ignominious. 
Here the towpath shifts to the Middlesex side, and the horse has 
to cross by ferry; and here, once more, Palinurus, detaching 
the rope prematurely, we were left helpless in mid-stream, with 
a strong current carrying us down. Now, a man may use a 
boathook as an oar, even as he may use a walking-stick in place 
of an umbrella ; but neither will avail him much ; accordingly, 
we found ourselves drifting broadside on to an island. 

'' Eott pless me !" we heard Murdoch muttering to himself as 
he was vainly endeavoring to reach the bottom with one of these 
sticks, '* What iss to be done with a boat like thtis P 

Then a man comes running along the bank. 

" Throw us a line, guv'nor I" 

Jack Duncombe, who is at the bow, coils up the towing-rope^ 



24 THB BTRANOB ADYENTURIB OF A HOUBB-BOAT. 

and heaves it, just getting it ashore. The next instant our op* 
portune friend (his soul no doubt exultant with hopes of a shil- 
ling and subsequent beer) has got the line looped round his 
shoulders ; gradually he gets a little way on the boat ; Murdoch 
has to take the tiller again, and in this humiliatiiig fashion we 
gain entrance to Shepperton Lock. 

That was a beautiful afternoon, still and calm and summer- 
like, up by Ghertsey Mead and Laleham. There was not a breath 
of wind to ruffle the smooth-flowing river ; and the perfect re- 
flections of the trees and bushes — in warm hues of yellow-green 
and olive — were only disturbed when the towing-line dipped and 
hit the surface into a shimmering silver-white. It was a peace- 
ful landscape, very English-looking ; in the distance there was a 
low line of wooded hill, with here and there a church-spire ap- 
pearing among the trees. 

"Really," says Mrs. Threepenny-bit, as we are getting into 
Penton Hook Lock — " really, I am quite ashamed to see so much 
of the work falling upon Mr. Duncombe's shoulders. He never 
gets a moment's rest." 

" He likes it. He is proud of his position as sailing-master." 

She turns to Miss Peggy. 

" Peggy," she says, " you might at least go and talk to him 
while he is at the tiller." 

" I don't know Mr. Duncombe," says Miss Peggy, looking 
down. " I am sure he would rather have you go and talk to him." 

" And leave you two to get back to your English history — is 
that what you want ? Well, anyway, I have to go and see if Mur- 
doch is making preparations for dinner." 

"You'd better leave Murdoch alone," it is here interposed. 
" He has had his hands pretty full all day ; don't bother him 
about dinner now." 

" Are we to starve ?" 

" It would do you good, once in a while." 

" I like to hiear men talk like that ! We know what goes on 
at their clubs ; don't we, Peggy ? Yes, and at the dinners of the 
City Companies, and the Mansion House, and the Royal Acad- 
emy — why, everything, anything, is an excuse for the most waste- 
ful extravagance. However, there's one thing, if there is to be 
no dinner, it isn't Peggy and I who will suffer the most. We 
sha'n't complain ; shall we, Peggy J" 



THS STSAKGX ADVENTURXS OF ▲ HOU8S-BOAT. ^5 

" I don't know," says Peggy, irresolutely. 

" If you would only wait a moment," says the person whose 
sole business in life seems now to be pulling out eighteenpences 
to pay successive lock-keepers, '^ I would explain. We shall get 
up to Staines about half-past seven or eight, and we must go 
ashore to buy a proper pole. Very well ; we can dine at the old 
Pack-Horse before coming on board again, and save a heap of 
trouble. Now do you understand ? Can your diminutive intel- 
lect grasp that situation ?" 

" It would have been so nice to have dined on board," she 
says. 

" You will get plenty of dining on board before we have done 
with you. Wait till you find yourself in the Forest of Arden." 

" I suppose travellers must be content," she says, humbly ; and 
then she turns to Miss Peggy. " Well, if you won't go and 
talk to Mr. Buncombe, I will. I am sure we should all be very 
much obliged to him." 

It was nearer eight than half-past seven when we reached 
Staines, and found a safe mooring for the Nameless Barge. 
The labors and experiences of this our first day were over, and 
we went ashore in a placid frame of mind. The twilight was 
darkening to dusk now ; but the thrushes and blackbirds were 
still piping everywhere. 

Dinner ordered at the old familiar Pack-Horse, one or two of 
us went out on to the little balcony overlooking the river. The 
evening was very still. There was a curious metallic gray on 
the sui^ace of the stream ; and as we stood regarding it a single 
bronze-hued boat went noiselessly by, floating down with the 
current ; and in the stem of the boat, sitting very close to- 
gether, were two young people, who might have been ghosts 
gliding through the mysterious gloom. 

"Doesn't it remind you of those nights in Venice?" says 
Miss Peggy, rather absently. 

And then, behold ! far above the darkness of the trees, there 
is the young moon, of a pale silver, in the lilac-tinted skies ; 
and in the closing down of the night the birds are still calling. 

B 



M THE BTRANOB ADYBNTURBS OF ▲ HOUSB-BOAT. 



CHAPTER IV. 

" Marie, have you forgotten yet 
The losing barter that we made? 
The rings we changed, the suns that set, 
The woods fulfilled with sun and shade? 
The fountains that were musical 
By many an ancient trysting-tree^ 
Marie, have you forgotten all ? 
Do you remember, love Marie ?" 

It is early morning — calm and clear ; a pale sunlight lies over 
the green landscape ; the masses of foliage are mirrored on the 
smooth waters of the stream. There is quietude on board this 
gently-gliding boat; for Jack Duncombe has gone ashore to 
walk with the driver ; Murdoch is in the pantry ; the two wom- 
en are also within ; and the helmsman, left solitary at his post, 
has little to do but listen to the universal singing of the birds, 
and also to look out for shallows. 

But the quietude is suddenly broken ; a woman appeansH-a 
small woman — apparently half inclined to laugh, and yet as fierce 
as a bantam. 

" And what do you think of yourself now ?" she says. 

" I am pretty well, I thank you," is the properly civil answer 
to this polite inquiry. 

" Why, you ought to be ashamed of yourself I" 

" But I am." 

" Why do you do it, then ?" 

" Do what ?" 

" Oh, of course you don't know how you were going on last 
night — ^both of you. In all my life I never saw two human be- 
ings make such an exhibition of themselves. I wish you could 
have seen yourself, and her too—-" continues this wildly imagi- 
native and wholly unveracious person, whose testimony the kind 
reader of these pages will doubtless estimate at its proper value 
^-<< the underhand talking, eyes fixed on eyes, the sniggering at 



THK 8TRAKOS ADVBNTURXB OF ▲ HOU8X-BOAT. 97 

^inall jokes that no one else was allowed to hear. And then the 
pretty dear must give yon that little bouquet of pansies ; and, 
of course, you couldn't pin it on for yourself ; oh, no, a man's 
fingers are so clumsy ; and, of course, she must lean over to do 
it for you, and be about half an hour in doing it ; I wish some 
one had knocked your two heads together. Then comes out 
the cigar-cutter — oh, yes, she saw it in Paris, and thought the 
combination of silver and gold rather pretty, and had your in- 
itials engraved on it ; and, of course, you can't be behindhand 
when it is a question of love-^ts ; you go and give her the sil- 
ver penholder you have had for years, and that you promised to 
Edward—" 

"Whatr 

'< The boy would have prized it, and treasured it all his life ; 
and that minx will throw it away, or give it to the first young 
numskull she finds in her train. I do wonder that men will 
make such idiots of themselves — ^for nothing but a pretty face. 
A smooth cheek and a pair of baby eyes — that's enough. That's 
all that's wanted ; and they seem to be knocked silly, and are 
ready to believe anything. Why, if you only knew! Don't 
you see that she is merely playing you off against Mr. Dun- 
combe ? It's all done to pique him. That's the way she begins. 
All these secret confidences — and the attention she pays to 
your slightest word — and all her unblushing coquetry — that is 
all done to tantalize him. That cigar-cutter: she has had it 
ever since she came over from Paris ; why did she wait till last 
night before giving it to you in that marked way?" 

'< I suppose young ladies have a right to open their portman- 
teaus when they please ?" 

''At all events, you needn't encourage her in her mischief. 
Oh, I saw your tricks ! That's a very pretty one you've taught 
her of looking into each other's eyes while you're clinking wine- 
glasses. Pledging friendship, I suppose! Friendship! And 
then that stupid old conundrum — What kind of weather repre- 
sents an animal ? Rain, dear !— of course you asked her that 
just to be allowed to call her dear. I could see what was going 
on—" 

"Doubtless!" 

" — although I had to talk to Mr. Duncombe all the time. 
And mark my words, as soon as she has provoked Mr. Din^ 



28 THE 8TBANOS ADTENTURB8 OF ▲ HOUSE-BOAT. 

combe into paying her attention — as soon as she has got him in 
a fair way of becoming her slave — I wonder where you will be ! 
Where will be all her devotion, and her flattering smiles, and 
her make-believe gratitude, and her ready laughing at the most 
ridiculous jokes ; where will all that be — ^then ?" 

" Where, indeed ! With the snows of yesteryear. But in the 
meantime, while Heaven vouchsafes such mercies, one mustn't 
throw them away, don't you see?" 

" Heaven ! It's very little you know about Peggy Rosslyn if 
you think that Heaven has anything to do with her." 

Just as this atrocious sentiment (which will reveal to young 
men what the friendship of women, as between themselves, is 
worth) has been uttered, there is suddenly heard the tinkling of 
a banjo within the saloon — a careless strumming, apparently to 
test the strings. Then we hear a girl's voice, also quite care- 
less ; and we can just make out something about 

" Hy old Kentucky home far away.'' 

The next instant the door opens, and Miss Peggy, without her 
banjo, but radiant, and fresh as a wild rose in June, and smiling 
content with herself and all the world, comes out into the day- 
light. 

" I wish I had brought some more strings from home ; they're 
better than those you get in England — " 

Suddenly Miss Peggy stops, and glances from one to the 
other. She is a sharp-eyed young woman. 

" What is it ?" she says, looking puzzled. 

And then — well, the writer of these lines hardly hopes to be 
believed, but this is actually what happened — ^the woman who 
had been talking so abominably about this girl-friend of hers 
hesitates for but a second; perhaps there is a kind of fascina- 
tion in the fresh young face, or a mute appeal in the puzzled 
eyes ; at all events, she goes quickly forward, and laughs a lit- 
tie, and draws Peggy's arm within her own, and forthwith makes 
use of these words : 

" P®ggy> <i®*r, I'm going to tell you a secret. Be warned by 
me, and have nothing to do with men. They're perfidious, ev- 
ery one of them. If you only knew their selfishness, and the 
way they laugh at any trust you may be so foolish as to put in 
them ! Now, women do try to be honest with each other. Yon 



THE 8TRANOB ADVBNTUBES OV A HOUSS-BOAT. 29 

may expect a woman's affection and friendship to last, for a 
while at least; bat a man's — never! They'll simply amuse 
themselves with you, for the moment, and pass on. Tliat's the 
way with m^n." 

Now, as there was only one man present (who scorned to no- 
tice these taunts), it was but natural that Peggy should turn to 
him ; and there was more than interrogation in her eyes. There 
was a great deal more than interrogation in those remarkably 
shrewd and intelligent eyes. There was — but never mind. She 
was a discreet young creature, and held her tongue ; and she 
pretended to be grateful for this disinterested advice ; and found 
something the matter with her friend's neckerchief, so that, in 
putting it straight, she could stroke and pet her a little. For a 
perfectly characterless person. Miss Peggy had ways. 

Then says the smaller of the two women : 

*< Look here, Peggy, no one seems to take any notice of Mr. 
Duncombe, though he is working so hard for us. He has been 
quite by himself ever since breakfast. What do you say — shall 
we go ashore and walk with him for a bit ?" 

'* Please, I wanted to be shown how to steer," says Peggy, 
timidly. 

" And consider this. Miss Peggy," says the third person pres- 
ent, " you'll be coming to Runnymede very soon." 

" Not the real Runnymede ?" she says, quickly. 

''The actual and veritable meadow where the barons met; 
and you'll see the place where King John waited on the other 
side ; and the island between, where Magna Charta was signed." 

" Now Heaven grant me patience, for they're at their English 
history again !" says Mrs. Threepenny-bit, apparently to herself ; 
and then she opens the door behind her, and calls : '' Here, Mur- 
doch, come and get ready the gang-board ; I'm going ashore." 

And she did go ashore, uttering the while covert gibes and 
jeers the unworthy nature of which will be made manifest di- 
rectly. For when Miss Peggy had been shown how to cling 
gracefully to the iron bar, and how to move the tiller with her 
bronze-slippered mite of a foot, the conversation took quite an 
unexpected turn, and had nothing to do with English history. 

"Now that we're quite alone," said Peggy, "I wish you 
would tell me something. Fve often thought of asking you ; I 
think you could tell me as well as any one." 



30 THE BTRANOE ADVSKTURBS OF A HO0SB-BOAT. 

"What is it, then?" 

" Well, I want to know if books are like real life." 

This was an amazing question. 

" It is to be hoped that real life isn't like some books," one 
answers, trying to escape. 

" I don't mean that," she says ; " I mean generally. Do you 
think books represent things as ordinary people find them ? Do 
you think you would find in the actual world around you people 
capable of so much selfnsacrifice, and so much kindness to the 
weak and poor ; and men doing heroic things for the sake of 
the love of a woman — I don't mean fighting and bloodshed, but 
constancy in time of trial, and so on ? Don't you think that in 
the real world money is more important than they make it out 
to be in books? You know quite well that there are people 
who will frankly tell you their opinion, at least, that money is 
everything, and romance and love and all that mere moonshine. 
Now, if you take this case, if you suppose a young man engaged 
to a girl — or as good as engaged ; the two families taking it al- 
most for granted — and if he seems inclined to throw her over 
because it turns out she has not as much money as he expected — 
or none at all, let us say — you would consider that he was only 
doing what was right and prudent and usual, what every one 
else would do in his place ? People would call him sensible, 
and say he was quite right, wouldn't they ?" 

Now, the writer of these pages has been studying men and 
women for a considerable number of years, and has managed to 
get considerably befogged, especially about women ; but surely 
it needs no very profound knowledge of human nature to per- 
ceive that this young lady, while seemingly concerned about the 
sincerity of literature, was in reality thinking of one particular 
young man. And, of course, no one could be expected to offer 
an opinion in such a delicate affair, especially on such insuffi- 
cient data. It was a good deal safer to tackle the general ques- 
tion. And it was easy to point out to this ingenuous young 
creature that no single human being's estimate of the world at 
large was of much value to any other human being. You form 
your opinion from a certain limited number of friends and ac- 
quaintances, who are mostly of your own choosing ; that con- 
tracted sphere you have in a great measure made up for your- 
self. And like draws to like. " The world," said Mr. Thackeray, 



THE 8TRANQS ADVBNTtJREB OF A B0U6B-B0AT. 31 

*' is a mirror in which each man sees the reflection of his own 
face." It was more particularly pointed oat to this meeJL uisci^ 
pie that she should not seek for any such information as sue 
desired from a person horn and brought up in a country whose 
ballads and songs and tales and family histories seemed to show 
that there human life had not always been conducted on strictly 
commercial principles. On these and other weighty themes the 
discourse was going on pleasantly enough, and Miss Peggy's 
clear blue eyes were grown somewhat pensive, and the bronze- 
slippered foot was idly swaying the tiller, when all of a sudden 
there was a grating sound — ^a ghastly sound too easily recog- 
nized — a hurried yell is sent forward to Palinurus — there is a 
harsher sound, and a terrible vibration of the boat — ^the strain- 
ing line hauls her over-— and just as Miss Peggy and her com. 
panion are wondering what is going to '* give " first, the towing- 
rope is slackened, and we find the Nameless Barge fixed firmly 
on a long and shelving shallow, nearly opposite Magna Charta 
island. 

" Oh, Miss Peggy, what will they say of you now ?" 
Miss Peggy flushes quickly, and yet there is a half-hidden 
laugh in her eyes. 

" I know what your wife will say ; but it wasn't so, was it f 
Really I wasn't looking^ — " 
" Certainly you weren't." 
" Why did you run the bow into the bank ?" 
*< Oh, here they come : we shall have to face it somehow." 
I suppose it is a very amusing thing for two grinning idiots 
to stand on the bank of a stream and mock at people who have 
got into trouble. "How about Robert Fitz -Walter? Where 
did King John go after the Charter was signed?" one of them 
kept asking ; and that feeble sort of sarcasm seemed to give her 
great delight. The worst of it was that the people in the boat 
tried their very hardest to get her shoved off, and without avail ; 
and Murdoch, by the expression of his face, seemed to say he 
was more than ever convinced that this mongrel craft was fit for 
neither land nor water. In the end Coriolanus had to be 
brought back, the towing-line was hitched on astern, and in this 
ignominious fashion we were dragged off the shoal. When we 
resumed our voyage. Miss Peggy and her companion had neither 
word nor look for the people ashore. They were welcome to 



d9 THB 8TRAK0S ADTSKTUtllSS 09 ▲ HOUfiK-BOAf. 

their thin facetioosness. Two souls, always congenial, seemed 
to be drawn more and more to each other by having had to pass 
through the valley of humiliation ; and Peggy, relinquishing the 
tiller, went and got her banjo, and came and ensconced herself 
in the stem-sheets and began to sing — " The sun shines bright 
in my old Kentucky home." She had a pretty contralto voice, 
of pure and sympathetic quality ; and she sang low and softly, 
for, of course, we did not choose that these two people ashore 
should overhear. 

Then Peggy — Miss Peggy, I mean — sang "Sweet Belle Ma- 
hone ;" and then she sang " Hard times come again no more ;" 
and then she sang "The little old log -cabin in the lane." 
And all the while the water was rippling at the prow of the 
boat, and the summer-green landscape went gliding by in the 
happy silence ; envy, spite, and jealousy were far away (walking 
along the bank, that is), and here were peace and content, and 
the communion of two kindred souls. 

"Pfiggy, will you put down your banjo for a moment and 
come up here ?" 

She does as she is bid ; for she is an obedient lass, when 
there is no one by to provoke her or frighten her. And this 
that she has been summoned to see — ^the spectral gray thing 
rising high over the wide, rich-f oliaged landscape ? That spec- 
tral gray thing is the stately pile of Windsor Castle ; and at the 
Bound Tower floats the royal standard of England. 

" Do you know what that means. Miss Peggy ? The queen 
is there just now." 

" What," she says, " actually there — living in that building ?" 

"Undoubtedly." 

She is silent for a moment or two. 

"Well," she says, "I suppose you can't understand how 
strange that is to me. I dare say it's nothing to you. You see 
the queen driving past in her carriage, and you read about her 
in the newspapers. But to us at home — ^to an American girl at 
least — the Queen of England seems to belong to a long line of 
kings and queens ; to be one of a series of historical characters 
that one has read about so much ; well, I can't explain it to you, 
but it does seem odd to think that she's only a woman, after all, 
and living over there in that house." 

" They say you are rather fond of English history ?" 



THE STBANOS ADVSKTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 33 

Let no man think that he can catch Miss Peggy unawares. 

There is a flash of a laugh in her eyes, but only for a second ; 
the next instant she lets herself down into the stem-sheets and 
demurely takes up her banjo again. 

" They may say so if they like," she says, as she strikes the 
first " whir " across the strings. " But you must not say any- 
thing of that kind, for you always defend me." 

It was at the entrance to Windsor Home Park, where we were 
charged ninepence for permission to pass along this portion of 
the river (to the young republican mind there seemed something 
very incongruous in this transaction, but no more incongruous 
than the costume of the royal gatekeeper, who was in his shirt- 
sleeves, and wore a tall hat with gold braid round it) — it was at 
this point that Mrs. Threepenny-bit and her companion came on 
board again ; and very anxious was the former to ascertain what 
Miss Peggy had been talking about when we ran aground oppo- 
site Magna Oharta island. 

" Oh, well," said Peggy, evasively, " a lot of things. And 
one can't learn to steer sdl at once. Besides, who would have 
expected the water to be so shallow ?" 

" Oh, but I must tell you this," said Jack Duncombe, with 
some eagerness, ^' that shoal is well known to everybody famil- 
iar with the Thames. It is one of the worst on the river. And, 
of course, you couldn't be expected to know. Miss Rosslyn ; it 
was simply a piece of bad luck that you happened to be steer- 
ing at the time." 

Miss Rosslyn looked rather pleased that he should have come 
so warmly to her assistance, but she did not say anything. 

So on we went towards Eton College — ^the old red-and-gray 
building looking as picturesque as ever among its abundant elms 
and willows and chestnuts ; we got through Romney Lock with 
a moderate amount of bumping, and then we halted for lunch 
by the side of a long breakwater, where we found a serviceable 
post. It is true that we also found a notice warning any boat or 
barge of the awful consequence that would ensue if it moored 
by " this cobler ;" but then we had no idea what a cobler was. 

" Very well," said our young dramatist, with an oracular air ; 
" a thing of which you are entirely ignorant has for you no ex- 
istence ; and surely for mooring to a thing that has no esstence 
you can't reasonably be prosecuted." 



3i TB8 STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

We had no time to stay and consider tMs proposition, for we 
were all desperately hungry, and Murdoch had done his best 
for us. 

Now during this repast — which was enjoyable enough, for 
the day was fine and clear and still; the stream was scarcely 
heard in the prevailing silence, and we seemed to be quite alone 
in the world, though one could catch a glimpse through certain 
of the windows of a few river-side cottages, while far avay and 
above these rose the ethereal gray mass of Windsor Castle, with 
the gorgeously colored standard floating idly in the summer air — 
during this meal it was impossible to avoid imagining that our 
young friend the dramatist was trying to show oft a little. At 
any time he was a merry youth, light-hearted, clever-tongued, 
with a kind of half-cynical dryness that gave his not too recon- 
dite quips and jokes a certain flavor ; but on this occasion he 
was more than ordinarily facetious. Not only that, but he re- 
vealed to us plans for further intellectual display sufficient to 
make one's blood run cold. 

" Yes," said he, cheerfully, " that's what I do when Fm hav- 
ing a quiet walk along the bank. Fm working hard all the 
time. Fm storing up observations, reflections, aphorisms, all 
kinds of things ; and I'm going to jot them down, and FU read 
them out to you, and you're all to give me a frank opinion, and 
say whether any of them are likely to be of any use." 

^' Fancy having aphorisms read to us after dinner !" said one 
of us, who was rather aghast at the prospect. " The novel-hero- 
ine of former days had no scruple at flJl in opening her little 
book and reading out her * thoughts,' and the public didn't ob- 
ject ; for at the time nearly everybody kept a diary, and was 
rather proud of turning out neat little bits of wisdom, cut and 
dried. But a diary — in these times I" 

" Oh, that isn't what I mean," he said. " My profound ob- 
servations on human life and character are all to come in in 
dialogue." 

'' But dialogue must arise naturally from the circumstances, 
or else it will be artificial ; or, what is worse, it will be suspect- 
ed of being so." 

<' Invent the circumstances to suit," observed this intrepid 
young man. 

" Perhaps," suggested Queen Tita, apparently without guilei 



THJE STRANOJE ADYBNTUBSS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 85 

'<Mr. Doncombe would show us some of these materials, and 
then we should understand/' 

" Of course I will 1" said he, frankly. " There's no unneces* 
sary modesty about me. I really invite you to say * rubbish ' if 
you think they aro rubbish. On the other hand, you might 
give me valuable hints as to how to bring them in — either in a 
play or in a ctory. I'm willing to learn." 

He laid down his knife and fork, and took out and opened a 
small memorandum-book. 

'< Here, for example, is what appears to me a reasonable sug- 
gestion. ^Londoners should be taxed at a higher rate than any 
other community in the country, because they get so much food 
for nothing. Tlie living organisms in the water they drink are 
supplied to them quite recklessly, and free of cost Why should 
other cities be less favored ?' Now, don't you call that dialogue 
arising out of the circumstances ? You are walking by the side 
of the Thames ; you think of the destination of the water, and 
its quality." 

" It would be awfully difficult to represent the Thames on the 
stage," says Queen Tita, anxious to help the budding Shake- 
speare. " Even if you had real water the people would not know 
it was the Thames." 

" But I should put that in a story — in the dialogue, don't you 
know?" 

** Yes," says one of us ; " and have the public turn round and 
rend you for making faces at it. Come, let's have another one." 

" Very well," said he. " How about this ? — * The wisdom of 
children is wonderful — when they are your own children : other 
people's children don't seem quite so wise." 

" Why, you would insult every mother in the country !" ex- 
claims Queen Tita. " Every one of them would think the remark 
addressed to her." 

" It won't do ? Well, out it goes. I'm not proud. The in- 
terests of the British public before anything ; and I won't offer 
them articles that haven't been approved and passed," he con- 
tinued, quite good-naturedly. " How's this, then ? — * At Christ- 
mas-time Providence must be rather puzzled as to how all those 
millions of wishes for happiness and prosperity during the com- 
ing year are to be met. How can the supply meet the de« 
mandf" 



36 THE 8TRANGB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" Mr. Buncombe," she says, but quite gently, " I don't think 
it will serve your turn with anybody to be profane." 

He snapped the book together and took up his knife and 
fork. 

" No," said he, " no one has any luck with criticism except 
after dinner. Then people are inclined to be complaisant. That 
was why, when the public dined at midday, the players opened 
the theatres in the afternoon ; when the public took to dining 
in the afternoon the theatres were opened in the evening ; and 
now, when the public dine in the evening, the theatres open at 
night. I am very much obliged to you for your kind criticism, 
but the next time I try it will be at a much later hour." 

He took his present failure with a light heart, and why? 
Simply because he had successfully established a scheme by 
which he could show off at any moment he pleased before these 
two women -folk. Young men are always recollecting clever 
things they might have said to girls, and bitterly regretting that 
their wit was not alert enough when the occasion was there. 
But here was a young man who could spend all his leisure-time 
in constructing these sparkling and ingenious "might-have- 
beens ;" and who had also invented a crafty device for display- 
ing them. The interests of the British public, indeed ! Mate- 
rials for dramas and plays, forsooth ! What he really wanted 
was to flash those intellectual jewels before the eyes of Peggy 
Bosslyn, who had taken no notice of him since we had started 
on this trip. Very well ; young people have curious ways ; but 
there was one dispassionate observer on board who was of opin- 
ion that Miss Peggy's eyes would take a good deal of dazzling 
before her brain became confused ; while as for her heart — but, 
perhaps, a person certified as being without a character had no 
heart at all. 

Windsor is hated by bargemen because of the long interrup- 
tion of the towing-path, which necessitates a tedious poling per- 
formance, and also because of the depth of the stream ; and 
this hatred is not unreasonable, as we innocents were soon to 
discover. We sent Coriolanus and his driver along to the Bro- 
cas meadows, and then set about getting the boat along too. 
But not even the long pole we had purchased at Staines was of 
any use here ; and once more we found ourselves helpless in the 
middle of the river, unable to reach the bottom with any of our 



THB STBANGB ADVBNTURJBS OF A HOUBB-BOAT. 37 

sticks, and driven to a feeble form of paddling, producing but 
the smallest effect. 

" What iss the use of a boat without oars ?" says Murdoch, 
gloomily, to Mr. Duncombe, when he is quite sure " the mus- 
tress " is out of hearing. 

" Well, you're quite right, Murdoch," the young man answers. 
" We must buy a pair of oars at Oxford." 

<< And what iss the use of a pair of oars if there's no place to 
work them ?" 

This seems an awkward dilemma. 

" We'll have to invent a place, that's all." 

However, there happened to be a light wind blowing up- 
stream, and the Nameless Barge had a sufficiently large surface 
exposed to it ; so that, -what with this favoring breeze and the 
vigorous use of poles and sticks, we did get her along to the 
Brocas, where Coriolanus was again attached, and our gentle 
and silent progress resumed. 

All the four of us were now in the stem together — one perched 
aloft and steering — as we stole along on this quiet afternoon by 
Boveney Lock and Surly Hall and Oakley Court, looking at the 
placid landscape and listening to the salmon-reel cry of the 
corncrake, the kurrooing of the wood-pigeons, and the soft and 
distant note of the cuckoo. And perhaps it was our being 
brought together in this way, and cut off from the rest of the 
world, as it were, that made our sentimental Mrs. Threepenny- 
bit think of far other scenes. 

" It's very pretty, you know," she says, glancing along the 
bank ; " oh, yes, it's very pretty ; and I could understand people 
in time becoming very fond of the quietude of it. But some- 
times — well, one can't help it — you begin to wish you were 
away in places you have a stronger affection for — ^" Here she 
suddenly takes her friend's hand. " Oh, Peggy, if only we had 
you with us now in the Sound of TJlva, or in Loch-na-Keal !" 

" But as I can't be there I'm very glad to be here," says our 
practical Peggy. " Why, I think it most delightful ! And the 
places are so interesting too. Did the Vicar of Bray really live 
there?" 

At Maidenhead we had some excellent exercise before dinner ; 
for here again the towing-path is interrupted for a considerable 
distance, and we had to shove our Noah's Ark along by means 



88 THK BTRAKGE ADYKNTURSS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

of the sticks. The water, however, is of less depth here thaD 
at Windsor, so that we had little difficulty in getting her 
under the bridge and over to the Berkshire side. Then came 
the rough-and-tumble of Boulter's Lock ; after which we found 
ourselves gliding silently along under the hanging woods of 
Cleveden. The shades of evening were stealing over the land- 
scape now ; but there was a golden touch appearing here and 
there among the western clouds, and we had vague hopes of a 
clear sky at night. 

By the time we had got through the lock at Cookham and 
poled across to the riverside inn there the dusk had fallen, and 
orange rays of light from the windows of the comfortable-look- 
ing hostelry shot through underneath the ancient yews. A 
good-natured boatman guided us to convenient moorings, which 
seemed to be just outside somebody's garden, for we were em- 
bedded among bushes and overarched by tall trees ; and then 
we began to light our lamps and candles, and to draw together 
the tiny red window-curtains, while Miss Peggy helped to lay 
the cloth for dinner. Jack Duncombe slung a bottle of wine 
over the side to cool; Mrs. Threepenny-bit apportioned the 
napkin-rings we were to retain during the voyage, and so forth; 
and presently Murdoch's welcome appearance summoned us to 
our seats. 

Now, when four people are dining together, nothing is easier 
than to keep the conversation general ; but when you have a 
young man who is rather anxious to be brilliant, and who nev- 
ertheless will constantly address his hostess, evidently expecting 
the other two to listen, then, perhaps, the other two may be 
driven, in self-defence, to talk by themselves. Moreover, when 
you have two and two talking, courtesy demands that you should 
not speak loudly, for you might annoy your neighbors. Besides 
that. Miss Peggy was telling her immediate companion of her 
experiences of camping-out ; that is to say, she had not been 
camping-out, but certain of her young gentlemen friends had 
been, in the Adirondacks, while she and her mamma were stay- 
ing at the Sagamore Hotel, on Lake George, and there were 
certain stories and adventures to relate which might have been 
misinterpreted by the vulgar mind. Miss Peggy's eyes said 
more than her words when she was challenged to make confes- 
sion. And it is to be imagined that the presence of one young 



TBI STRAHOS ADTBNTUBSS OF A HOU8B-BOAT. 39 

bdj— of rather attractive appearance, and just a little bit in- 
clined to be mischievous — ^among those idling young men did 
not tend much to the cultivation of a generous good-fellowship. 
She herself, of course, gave quite a different reason for the break- 
ing -up of the camp. She said the young men were simply 
crowded out. It appears that they used to have occasional 
afternoon receptions, to which they invited such neighbors as 
were within reasonable distance, giving them what little refresh- 
ment was procurable. But these festivities proved popular; 
neighbors invited neighbors ; all sorts of people came unasked ; 
and the climax was reached when one tail native of the wilds 
was overheard to say to another stranger, " Be them nuts free ?" 
That was Miss Peggy's story of the breaking-up of the camp ; 
but there may have been other reasons for those young men for- 
saking their forest life and going sadly away back to their homes in 
Brooklyn and New York. One could only guess, for Miss Peggy's 
eyes, though they tell a good deal, don't tell everything. As 
for certain other admissions she made — well, they were in the 
nature of confidences, and therefore cannot and shall not be set 
down here. 

In the midst of all this Queen Tita is heard to exclaim, 

'' Well, I declare ! Look where he has hung that cigar-cut- 
ter ! That is a pretty kind of thing to wear at one's watch- 
chain as a charm !" 

" Madam," observes the owner of the article in question, " for 
once you are right. It is a very pretty kind of thing to wear as 
a charm. But, supposing it were not, what then ? Have you 
lived all these years without discovering this — ^that it is not the 
character of the gift, but the intention of the giver, that is of 
importance ? Isn't that so. Miss Peggy ?" 

" Why, of course it is !" says Miss Peggy, boldly, but with 
her eyes cast down. 

" Oh, indeed !" she says, turning to the girl. " And you ? I 
suppose you will have that silver pencil-case mounted and made 
into a brooch ?" 

Peggy looks up, laughing but defiant. 

" Why not ? I think it would do very well, and be such a 
new idea. Why, the British jeweller's imagination never gets 
beyond a butterfly or a horseshoe. You should see TiflEany's. 
And then the dressmakers are all for making you so square 



40 THE STRANOB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

shouldered nowadays; an oblong brooch at your neclr would 
suit very well." 

Mrs. Tomtit, cowed, baffled, jumped-upon, outstared, exter- 
minated, can only turn and say to her companion, with a sigh 
of resignation. 

" Did you ever hear such brazen impudence ?" 

" I am afraid you goaded Miss Rosslyn into it," he says, with 
a smile which is meant to carry peace-making all round the little 
board. 

Well, we sat late after dinner ; for everything was very snug 
and comfortable ; and two and two make excellent companion- 
ship. Of course, that arrangement did not always exist; for 
occasionally Jack Buncombe, with a humility we had never 
before seen him exhibit, addressed Miss Rosslyn direct; and 
always she listened to him attentively, and with grave and cour- 
teous eyes. We sat so late that some suggestion that had been 
made about vingt-et-un was dropped by common consent, and, 
instead of card-playing, it was proposed that, before turning in, 
we should have a look at the world outside. The forward win- 
dow of the saloon was opened, and we stepped forth from the 
yellow glare of the lamps and candles into the strange silence 
and darkness without. 

It seemed silent and dark for no more than a second or so, 
for the young moon was shining in the pale violet skies, and 
we could faintly see the surface of the river ; and if the hush 
of the night seemed to have fallen over the sleeping land, there 
was a murmur of water in the distance ; and close by, in the 
bushes, a sedge-warbler was singing shrill and clear. And even 
Queen Tita forgot to wish that she was far away in Ulva's 
Sound. 



THS STRAKGK ADVKNTURS8 OF A HOU8K-BOAT. 41 



CHAPTER V. 

'* Ah ! my dear love, why do you sleep thoB long, 
When meeter were that you should now awake 
T* wait the coming of your joyous make, 
And hearken to the birds^ love-learned song, 

The dewy leaves among ? 
For they of joy and pleasance to you sing, 
That all the woods them answer, and their echo ring.** 

TVas it that same unholy fowl — ^the sedge-warbler — that woke 
some of us next morning, when as yet the dawn was dim in the 
eastern heavens ? The world looked strange at this early hour. 
There was a ghostly, half -lurid light on the rippling stream, 
and the night still lingered in the skies, drawing her robes re- 
gretfully around her as she slowly left. And what did this 
beast of a bird say ? Why, as plain as plain could be, " Early, 
early, early! — time to get up! time to get up! — early, early, 
rise ! — ^time to get up ! time to get up !" We cursed him by 
all his gods, and went to sleep again. 

When, much later on, the two women-folk came into the 
saloon to breakfast, it appeared that they, too, had suffered ; 
indeed. Miss Peggy, though she looked as fresh as a sweetbrier 
rose, had an odd expression in her eyes, as though the broken 
dreams and visions of the night had left some bewilderment in 
the still blue deeps. 

" Did you ever hear such an animal ?" Queen Tita exclaimed. 
" And then, I was without my sleep-producer." 

" What is that ?" our young dramatist promptly inquired. 

" Oh, well, I used to suffer a good deal from sleeplessness 
about five or six in the morning, and I found the best thing was 
to sip a little lemon-juice and soda-water, and lie down again. 
Indeed, I always have it ready when I'm at home, though I sel- 
dom have to use it now. Every night I see that it is there — the 
lemon-juice in a tumbler, the bottle of soda-water, and even a 
corkscrew." 



42 THK STRANGE ADVBKTURES OF A BOUSK-BOAT. 

" Not necessarily for insertion, but as a guarantee of good 
faith," murmured the young man. 

" And the mere consciousness that it is there," she continues, 
not heeding his flippancy, ^* seems to be enough. But I never 
expected to be woke up in the middle of the night in a quiet 
place like this." 

" Oh, you shouldn't say anything against the sedge-warbler," 
Jack Duncombe protests. " Don't you know he is the most con- 
scientious of all the birds ? He knows that it is his business to 
pipe, and he goes on piping, morning or evening, until he is 
dead beat or until he falls asleep. You just try this now : when 
he stops at night you throw a stone into the bush, to awaken 
him, and off he'll go again, piping away for dear life. It's a 
fact." 

" If I threw a stone into the bush it wouldn't be with that 
intention," says Mrs. Tomtit, savagely ; and Miss Peggy laughs. 

The country between Cookham and Great Marlow, as many 
people are aware, is one of the most beautiful stretches on the 
Thames ; on the one hand lush meadows, thick-starred with dai- 
sies, dandelions, and buttercups, or blush-tinted with patches of 
the cuckoo-flower; on the other upland slopes, hanging with 
beech and wych-elm. And on this silver-clear morning every- 
thing looked cool and fresh and bright ; there was a light wind 
ruffling the surface of the river ; and there was a half -veiled sun- 
light touching the upper foliage of the woods, and lying with a 
broader cheerfulness on the daisied fields. And in all this wide 
landscape, shining in the soft green of the early summer, one 
could now make out but four figures ; two of these were Pali- 
nurus and his four-footed charge, close at hand ; the other two 
were a couple of young people, who were a good distance ahead, 
although one or other of them occasionally stooped to pick a 
wild-flower. Well, who could grudge them this pleasant stroll 
together? Youth naturally goes with May and flower-starred 
pastures and the freshness of the morning ; it seemed fitting to 
the time and place that these two should be walking along the 
bank there, by the side of the smoothly flowing stream. It is 
true that there was on board a demon of a woman who professed 
to find in this harmless companionship a confirmation of her own 
sinister prophecies. 

" Ah," said she, when, at Cookham, Jack Buncombe had made 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HO08E-BOAT. 43 

bold to ask our Peggy whether she would care to walk on ahead 
for a bit, and when Miss Rosslyn had graciously assented and 
gone ashore for the purpose, " ah, I told you ; who is in favor 
now?" 

" Go away," answers the man at the wheel 

" What is the value now of all her flattery and her love-gifts 
and her secret confidences ? He was just a little bit too indif- 
ferent ; and Peggy can't stand that. She'll have it out with him 
now. She'll teach him his proper place. And where will 
you be f 

" Gto away." 

" Well, she will be caught herself some day, I suppose. But 
I don't know. Men make such fools of themselves whenever 
they come near her — ^just because of her pretty face and her 
pretty figure — ^that she can hardly help laughing at them. Mr. 
Duncombe has been proof so far, because he never had a chance ; 
you took care he shouldn't have a chance. But Peggy will give 
him a chance ; oh, yes, she can always manage that." 

^' Will you get away, and stop chattering about that girl ? Is 
there no other subject on this luckless earth that you can talk 
about?" 

" I wonder who talks about her most I I wonder who is al* 
ways making extraordinary discoveries about her character !" 

" How can that be, when you declare she hasn't any ?" 

Apparently this is a dilemma ; but, as usual, she escapes. 

" I don't know that the discoveries are worth much. No ; 
how could a man understand Peggy ? It isn't possible. Either 
he is in love with her, or he is jealous of somebody else being 
in love with her ; and either way he is blinded, and the girl 
never gets a fair judgment. Now, a woman sees dispassionately 
what Peggy really is ; and I will tell you this, she isn't in the 
least like what men imagine her to be." 

'< Peace, fiend ; and listen I Men take her as God made her, 
with all the fascination naturally bom of beauty, and with all 
the glamour naturally cast by a pair of eyes that are not only 
pretty, but also exceedingly amiable and good-humored ; where- 
as women — who escape the fascination and miss the glamour — 
think they know her better because they can subject her to their 
spiteful dissection. But answer me this, Mrs. Farthing-Mephis- 
topheles, which is the real firefly, the insect that flashes through 



44 THK STRANGE ADTSNTURB8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

the summer night, dazzling you with its splendor, or the insect 
that you've stuck a pin through and put on card-board and into 
a glass case? Which is the real firefly? I tell you that a 
woman's dissection of a woman is worth just nothing at alL 
Women weren't meant for women, to begin with ; it is but nat- 
ural they should be blind to a fascination and a glamour that 
are suflBciently obvious to other folk. And now, to conclude, 
dearly beloved brethren, and to end forever this fruitless ex- 
hortation, it is to be observed that here and there on this 
unhappy planet there are men who are woman-minded, and 
who think it is the real firefly that they have got fixed on card- 
board." 

" At all events," she says, " it's nicer of you to call Peggy a 
firefly than to call her a White Pestilence ; and I'm glad you're 
not in a rage with her for having gone away and forsaken you. 
You bear it very well. Your pretence of good-natured approval 
is very well done. But I know you just hate him at this min- 
ute ; and I shouldn't wonder if you hinted to him that his re- 
turning to London at the end of the week would improve his 
chances at the Bar." 

"His chances at the Bar! His chances of getting a farce 
produced at a Strand theatre, you mean. However, will you be 
so kind as to remove yourself from my presence, and go away 
and tell Murdoch to come to the tiller, for I have to hunt out 
some ordnance survey maps. Who else is likely to take any 
trouble about them ?" 

Now the business of tracing out with red ink, on an ordnance 
map, our future route by canals and rivers is not a very en- 
grossing one ; and so, as the door of the saloon is fully open on 
this fresh-scented morning, one easily overhears the following 
conversation. 

Queen Tita is in the stem-sheets with her sewing. Murdoch 
is on the steering-board, with his foot on the tiller. 

" And what do you think of England, Murdoch ?" 

" Oh, it iss a peautiful country, mem ; chist peautiful, with 
ahl the fine grazing-land. I'm sure it iss that meks the English 
people so rich that they come up in their yats and take ahl the 
shootings and forests and the salmon-fishings. I hef not seen a 
bit of bad land anywhere ; and there's no rocks or peat-bogs or 
hulls," 



THE 8TRAHGX ADVKNTUBSS OF A H0U8X-B0AT. 45 

''Bat don't you miss the hills, Murdoch f she interposes. 
" Do yon know I am afraid we have rather disappointed you?" 

'' Oh, no, mem ; you must not be for saying that, menu If I 
hef any disappointment, it wass for you yourself, mem, bekass I 
thought you were coming north in a yat." 

<' Well, we have been in some strange places, Murdoch, in the 
old days." 

" Yes, indeed, mem." 

" Do you remember going away from Isle Omsay by moon- 
light?" 

<' I did not like that night, mem. There wass two rings round 
the moon." 

" What a place that was to be caught in by the equinoctials I 
Do you remember the seventy fathoms of anchor-chain ? And 
do you remember the night we flew through Scalpa Sound, with 
the red of the port-light shining on the foam ? why, it was like 
seething jam !" 

" Ay, that wass a bad night, too, mem." 

" Do you remember the long, long time we took to get back 
from Loch Maddy ? how many days was it ? a dead calm almost 
all the time ; nothing but blue hills and blue skies and a sea like 
glass. Why, in a short time they will be having those wonder- 
ful nights when there is no darkness all the night through. 
Wouldn't the people here be glad to be able to play lawn-tennis 
till half -past eleven o'clock ?" 

" Yes, mem. But I wass thinking now, mem, of ahl the places 
we used to feesit in the yat, there wass none you liked so well 
as Polterriv, opposite lona, and the anchorage in the Sound of 
TJlva, and Bunessan ; ay, and Isle Omsay, too." 

'' Oh, I love them all ! I'm not going to make any compari- 
sons. I wasn't born in your country, Murdoch ; but whenever 
I think of it, and of the people, my heart warms to both it and 
them ; and I would rather spend a week there, yacht or no yacht, 
than have a year's holiday anywhere else in the world." 

This is an extremely elegant and appropriate kind of conversa- 
tion to be overheard at one of the very prettiest spots on the 
Thames — these two weeping together by the waters of Babylon, 
as they remembered Zion. Why, when one steps forth again 
into the outer world, and looks around, it is to wonder what any 
human being can wish for more. Over there, on the Berkshire 



46 THB 8TRANGB ADVKNTURSB OF A fiOUBS-BOAT. 

side, and rising steep and sheer from the river's edge, are the 
Qaarry Woods, the young foliage all shimmering in the sunlight ; 
just under them the deep olive-green of the reflections on the 
water is broken by silver-flashing ripples ; and above and beyond 
certain willowy islands in mid-channel one catches a glimpse of 
the spire of Marlow church and a bit of red-tiled roof. A more 
pleasant-looking landscape — in water-color — one could not de- 
sire ; why should Madame Ingratitude sigh for the sombre soli- 
tudes of the North and the magic of moonlight nights at sea! 

At Marlow Lock our young people were good enough to come 
on board again ; for we had to get the boat past the little town 
by means of our sticks ; and it must be said for Jack Duncombe 
that he was always at hand when there was any hard work to 
be done. As for Miss Peggy, she comes through the saloon, 
opens the window, and is pleased to join the solitary person at 
the bow. 

" I hope you have enjoyed your morning walk, Miss Peggy." 

She looks up quiekly, to be on the alert against any possible 
sarcasm ; and then, seeing that no harm is meant, she says, 

" He's rather nice, you know." 

"Indeed!" 

" Oh, yes, he's rather nice, if he wouldn't try to toe so clever. 
Indeed, he reminds me of some of our young fellows at home, 
who rather tire you by their determination to be funny. I hardly 
expected it in an Englishman. I thought Englishmen were so 
satisfied with themselves that they wouldn't take the trouble to 
try to produce any effect on a stranger." 

" That depends on the stranger ; on her age and the color of 
her eyes, and a lot of other things." 

" I hope he hasn't been making a fool of me," she says, look- 
ing at the little nosegay she holds in her hands. " You see I 
am very anxious to know what were Shakespeare's wild-flowers, 
and we've got the names pretty well mixed on our side. I know 
that what we call the cowslip on Long Island is really the marsh- 
marigold ; then we've got no primroses in America, nor ivy, nor 
heather ; no, nor hawthorn, I believe ; and I want to know what 
the flowers are that your English poets mention." 

" But, look here. Miss Peggy, the poets are most dangerous 
guides to follow, especially as regards the seasons of the wild- 
flowers. You will wander about a long time before you find 



THJi STBANGK ADVSKTURB8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 47 

a bank whereon the wild thyme blows, along with oxlips and 
mask-roses and eglantine. Milton called for a heap of impossi- 
bilities to strew on the grave of Lycidas ; indeed, it never was 
Buckinghamshire that Milton looked at ; it was a very literary 
sort of landscape he had around him." 

'< I don't mean that," she says, without ceremony ; '< I want to 
know what were really the flowers that Perdita had in her lap 
or her basket, whichever it was ; and what were the daisies pied 
and violets blue that Rosalind sings about in the forest scene." 

" By virtue of stage-license only." 

" This is the real English daisy, then ?" she says, examining 
her little nosegay again. 

" "Undoubtedly." 

" And this is the cuckoo-flower ?" 

" The cuckoo-flower, or lady's smock, whichever you please." 

'< I think I can trust you better than him, for he would say 
anything," continues Miss Peggy. ''And I am going to get 
you to tell me the names of all the wild-flowers as we go along; 
all that are mentioned in Shakespeare, I mean ; and this is a 
small mark of gratitude in advance, if you will wear it, and if I 
can find a pin ; and if any one asks you where you got the nose- 
gay, you must just say it dropped from the clouds." 

By this time we had resumed our silent voyage through the 
wide-stretching meadows that were all shining in the light of 
this clear May day. The world seemed very empty somehow. 
We met no one on the river ; perhaps it was too early in the 
year for many boating-parties to be abroad. The only interrup- 
tions to our placid progress were the ferries and the locks ; and 
we were now grown quite proficient in getting the boat across 
the stream, and rather enjoyed the hard work. As for the locks, 
the people there were far from being sulky toll-takers; they 
seemed rather to welcome the sight of strangers in these solitary 
parts, and more than once brought our women-folk a few flow- 
ers from their trimly-kept gardens. Miss Peggy, while the boat 
was being got through, was generally on shore, where she be- 
trayed not the least hesitation in speaking to any one — man, 
woman, or child — that chanced to be about. 

At what precise spot we stopped for luncheon it would be 
hard to say ; but it was somewhere between Hurley Mill and 
Medmenham ; we merely chose the prettiest stretch of meadow 



48 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

we could see, where there were some pollard willows close to 
the stream, and ran the boat in there and made her fast. We 
had all the freedom and remoteness and landscape surroundings 
of a picnic ; but also we had comfortable seats to sit on, and 
the unmistakable convenience of a table. Jack Duncombe, who 
had steered all the way from Marlow, on coming into the saloon 
appeared to be a little surprised that Miss Peggy should have 
given away the rustic posy he had helped her to gather ; but it 
is wholesome for young men to be taught lessons. 

It was during this leisurely meal that Mr. Duncombe (who, 
in the morning, had been telling Miss Peggy something of his 
pursuits and experiences and hopes) incidentally fell foul of 
dramatic critics and criticism, and proceeded to entertain us 
with a furious onslaught on both. Why, if criticism were the 
contemptible and inefficient thing he declared it to be, he took 
the trouble to be angry about it, we did not wholly understand. 
He maintained that the function of professional criticism had 
become obsolete ; that the public had no time to listen to the 
myriad contradictory voices of newspapers, magazines, and re- 
views ; that the fortunes of a play or a book were made at the 
dinner-table, at afternoon tea, in the smoking-room of a club. 
He half-heartedly admitted that there was something to be said 
in favor of the trade or profession of criticism as a means of 
providing food for a certain number of people who, themselves 
incapable of producing anything, were content to live by pass- 
ing opinions on the work of others ; but he insisted that it was 
a mean and parasitical occupation, and the fruits of it absolutely 
useless to, and disregarded by, the public. With much more 
of the like sort. The cruel fate of the luckless little comedy 
was being sternly avenged. The first-night mercenaries, as he 
called them, were being torn and rended in royal fashion. And 
when it was pointed out to him, by one who had but little in- 
terest in the subject, and who in any case was at the moment 
inclined to be generally complaisant (through wearing of a cer- 
tain nosegay), when it was pointed out to him that, after all, 
critics were, though the fact has been doubted, human beings ; 
that they can bear a grudge ; that, in a measure, they hang to- 
gether (" Wish they did !" said he) ; and that, therefore, the 
solitary dramatist who seeks to fight them is a fool, and will 
suffer for his pains, he would have none of it. 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 49 

<< Oh, don't yoQ suppose that I am one of the wretched creat- 
nres who shake and shudder when they hear a critic come 
crashing through the jungle. Not a bit ! I may stand aside 
for a moment, but I'll have a shot at the beast all the same 
before he has gone far." 

And then again he said (having been interrupted by his 
hostess asking him to open a bottle of soda-water) — 

" If I were writing a book, wouldn't I like to lay traps for 
them, to expose their ignorance. I'd have a boat land on the 
north side of the Thames, in Kent. Fd have a Gloucester 
yeoman die intestate, and his freeholds go to his youngest son. 
I'd use all kinds of phrases that they'd gird at as Scotticisms, 
and then I'd smash them with Chaucer and Shakespeare. Why, 
I believe Shakespeare did lay traps for the scurrilous idiots who 
were always attacking him. Giving a seaport to Bohemia was 
a trap. I have no doubt he knew quite well that at one time 
Bohemia had seaports on the Adriatic ; and I dare say he had 
his laugh over the ignorant objectors of his own day. But, 
you see, he can't have it out with the ignorant objectors of our 
day, because he's dead." 

'^ He is," said Queen Titania, calmly ; and this ended the 
discourse ; for we saw through the windows that Palinurus had 
made his appearance — old Pal, we had now got to call him, 
affectionately — along with the ample-maned and bushy-tailed 
white charger that had grown so familiar a feature in these 
breezy spring landscapes. 

As we go on again, by Medmenham, and towards Hambledon 
Lock, Miss Peggy is up at the bow, and she is talking, in rather 
a low voice, and with downcast eyes. There are reasons why 
she does not wish to be overheard : Jack Duncombe is at the 
tiller ; and the country around us is absolutely silent, save for 
the singing of the birds. 

" Do you really think there is anything in him ?" she asks. 

'^ Why, his brain is as full of projects as a hive is full of 
bees." 

" But do you think he will succeed f 

^* He ought to hit on a good thing sooner or later. He is 
industrious enough." 

«* And a successful play pays very well, does it not ? It is 
worth trying for," 



50 THX STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

''That is hardly what he is aiming at. His family have 
plenty of money ; and he is the eldest son. It's honor and 
glory that he is after — fame as an author — bowing his thanks 
to a crowded audience on a first night — and having yonng 
women write to him for his autograph." 

" I'm sure I hope he will succeed," she remarked, and she 
seemed to take a very sincere and good-natured interest in the 
young man's welfare. " But isn't it a very precarious profes- 
sion 9 Don't you think he would have a much safer, a more 
settled occupation if he kept to the law ?" 

" A more settled occupation, certainly : he could sit in his 
rooms in the Temple, and read novels. There would be no 
anxiety about the dramatic critics then." 

** But surely you will remonstrate with him about that," she 
said, with apparently honest concern. " Why, it is such a pity 
for a young man to make enemies, and at the very beginning 
of his career." 

^ He does not mean half what he says. He talks for the 
sake of talking — especially if there is a young lady listening. 
By the way, what has become of the aphorisms? We've had 
none of late." 

" He says they did not meet with a flattering reception," 
answers Miss Peggy, who appears to have received a good many 
of Mr. Duncombe's confidences during the morning. " But I 
can tell you that he is still storing them up, and all kinds of 
suggestions, too, for plays and novels and sketches. He showed 
me his book. Oh, I thought it was very interesting to hear 
him talk about all the various things he meant to do ; and some 
of them were very clever, and some very amusing. It was like 
being in a workshop, and looking at the materials ; you couldn't 
help being interested. There was one suggestion for a short 
story or a sketch that seemed to me very funny : would it be 
breaking confidence if I told it to you ?" 

" You may depend on it I shall not rob the boy of his ideas." 

" Well, it is the sub-editor of a provincial paper, and his 
room is on the ground-floor. It is a hot day, and the door is 
open. He has been writing an essay on presence of mind ; but 
he has left that on his desk, and gone to a little table by the 
window, where his lunch has been brought in for him. Well, 
he is at his lunch, when he hears a murmuring noise outside^ 



TBX STRAJraB ADVXirTURSS OF A HOU8B-BOAT. 51 

and then one or two startled cries of warning nearer at hand ; 
and he gets np to look over the nndernsaah into the street At 
the same moment a leopard comes slouching in by the open 
door, and, without seeing him, sneaks away into the opposite 
comer of the room. Then he understands what the murmur 
of the crowd outside means; he remembers that a menagerie 
was to arrive in the town that day, and this leopard has escaped. 
Then begins a description of his feelings. He daren't stir, for 
the slightest movement would attract the attention of the beast 
And perhaps it will smell the chop on the table, and come round 
that way to him. The question is whether he should make one 
spring for the door, or wait for the menagerie people to come 
to his help. But he can't think — ^he can't decide anything — 
because he is in such a horrible fright : and his essay on pres- 
ence of mind has gone entirely out of his head. Don't you 
see?" 

" Yes ; but what happens!" 

" Oh, that's all." 

" Oh, that's all ? But what did the man do ?" 

" I don't know." 

*^ Ah, now I see. The interest is psychological Oiven the 
environment — ^that is to say, the four walls of a sub-editor's 
room, including a leopard, a man, and a fragrant chop ; to find 
out what the man — ^his temperament subject to the laws and 
conditions of heredity — will probably be thinking about. That's 
it, is it ? Well, it might be interesting ; but, if Mr. Duncombe 
speaks to you of his projected story again, you may hint to 
him that the public, being gross and camal-minded, would very 
likely want to know what the man did, and what the leopard 
did, too." 

'< I will," she says ; and then she raises her eyes a little. 
'^ Are you aware that those two are talking down there ; and I 
can see that they are talking about us ; and I know that they 
are saying we are engaged in the study of English history. 
Now, are we ?" 

" Certainly not ; we don't do such things." 

" Well, I'm off. I don't like being subjected to suspicion. 
Good-bye." 

" Good-bye." 

So Miss Peggy descends into the saloon ; but she consider- 



52 THE 8TRANGX ADVXKTURX8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

ately leaves the window open behind her ; and presently one 
hears a strumming on the banjo, and discovers that she is 
briskly busy with " Oh, dem golden slippers," " In the morn- 
ing," and other alien airs. 

When at length we reached Henley, we stopped to bait the 
horse there, and we all went ashore ; and, of course, for the 
sake of old associations, made our way to the Red Lion, the 
front of which was one magnificent mass of wisteria in full 
blossom, a sight worth coming all the way to see. It was while 
we were having tea in the well-known parlor overlooking the 
river that Jack Buncombe made these observations : 

" We shall get to Sonning to-night ; and I have been think- 
ing that if Miss Rosslyn would like to see a capital specimen of 
an old-fashioned country inn, we might dine at the Bull there. 
Not the White Hart down by the river-side — ^that is beloved of 
cockneys — ^but the Bull that the artists who know the Thames 
swear by. It won't be exactly like dining at the Bristol ; but 
it will be a good deal more picturesque. What do you say. 
Miss Rosslyn ?" 

Miss Rosslyn, who has taken off her sailor hat (thereby gra- 
ciously revealing to us all the beautiful masses of her golden- 
brown hair) and is twirling the same on her forefinger, makes 
answer very prettily, " I am sure whatever you all think best 
will be best. Everything has been delightfully arranged so 
far ; it is like a fairy dream to me. So don't ask me to give 
any opinion, please ; it will be much better to leave it in your 
hands." 

" We'll say the Bull, then," said he, just as if he were man- 
ager of the whole caravan. 

And perhaps it was because of his familiarity with these 
parts that when we went out for a stroll through the pretty, 
clean-looking, red-and-white town, the young man naturally con- 
stituted himself Miss Rosslyn's companion and guide to all 
there was to be seen. And perhaps it was gratitude on her 
part that led her, when we returned to the boat, to take up her 
position in the stem-sheets, along with the other two, leaving 
the solitary watchman at the bow to his own meditations. But 
revenge was nigh. As we were passing Wargrave Marsh, one 
could hear a lot of chattering astern. 

♦♦ If they're not enowdrops, what are they !" 



THS 8TRANOB ADVENTUREg OT A H0U8B-B0AT. 63 

'< They can't be snowdrops, at this time of the year." 

" They're too big for snowdrops." 

" Mightn't snowdrops grow large in that swampy place f ' 

" Let's stop and see, anyway. Old Pal could get hold of 
some and throw them on board." 

Then these innocents must needs slop the boat, and get the 
astonished driver to adventure his life through that dismal 
swamp to reach certain white flowers growing among the rank 
vegetation near the water's edge. But even when these were 
got on board, and our progress resumed, the amateur botanists 
did not seem any the happier. The babblement continued. 
Then, after a pause — 

" ^^SSJ^ y^^ S^ *^*^ ^^ him." 

Some one comes along, and through the saloon, and appears 
at the open window. 

" They want you to tell them what kind of a snowdrop 
this is." 

" Go away and don't talk to me. I don't know you." 

" Please !" 

" Well, you are a lot of pretty dears ! That is your notion 
of a snowdrop, is it ? I suppose none of you are aware that the 
Leueofum cestivum is one of the chief botanical glories and treas- 
ures of the Thames ?" 

" But I can't remember that dreadful name," says Miss Peggy, 
with the blue eyes grown piteous. " Please, what else do they 
call it?" 

« The snowflake." 

" It isn't in Shakespeare ?" 

" No, it doesn't grow in Warwickshire." 

'^ The snowflake," she says, taking the flowers into her hand 
again. " When I have told them what it is, I am coming back, 
if I may. May I?" 

" You may." 

As we follow the/ meanderings of the river between Shiplake 
Lock and Sonning, a gray mist begins to steal over the woods 
and wide meadows, and seems to presage the long-prayed-for 
rain. When we arrive at our destination, and walk up through 
the little village to the Bull Inn, there is just enough light to 
give our young American friend some vague idea of what the 
place is Hke — the quaint old-fashioned building of brick and 



54 THB STRANGE ADVKNTURBS OF A ^OUSB-BOAT. 

timber, with its red-tiled roof, its peaked windows and small- 
paned casements, the creepers trained ap the wall, the large 
orchard on one side of the house, the row of tall limes in front. 
Inside, there is another tale to tell ; for when we have made 
onr way along the uneven flooring of the corridors, and stum- 
bled headlong into the apartment where we are to dine, we find 
that lit up bj a cheerful blaze of lamps, and everything look- 
ing very snug and comfortable indeed. It appears that it is 
Jack Duncombe who is running this circus, if the phrase may 
be allowed. We are his guests, he gives us to understand 
And, of course, in his character of host he is bound to consult 
the wishes of the party— of the two women, that is to say ; and 
very indefatigable and considerate he is about it. They even 
remonstrate. One of them is accustomed to yachting fare ; the 
other has had experiences of camping-out. They beg of him 
not to be so exacting. 

<' But I want to show Miss Rosslyn what an English inn is 
tike," he says ; and that is supposed to settle the question : to 
please Miss Rosslyn everything must yield. 

It is gratifying to be able to state that during the whole of 
this evening the conduct of Miss Rosslyn was quite beyond 
reproach. Young Duncombe was in rather an eager and talk- 
ative mood — perhaps from the consciousness that he was enter- 
taining those people; and she paid him the most scrupulous 
and courteous attention. Whether he was in jest or in ear- 
nest, she listened; and he had adopted a kind of donVyou- 
think-so attitude towards her ; and often her eyes smiled assent 
and approval even when she did not speak. One could see that 
Queen Tita occasionally threw a glance towards the girl that 
seemed to savor of sarcasm ; but women are like that ; and are 
not to be heeded. Miss Peggy was urbanity itself; and no 
doubt the young man was pleased to have secured so respect- 
ful a listener. Not only that, but she managed to .pay him a 
little compliment in so dexterous a manner that the trivial in- 
cident is worth recording. He was putting forth the proposi- 
tion, more or less seriously, that as we raise statues to those of 
our fellow-creatures who command our admiration and grati- 
tude, so we ought to have a perpetual pillory for those who 
deserve the universal execration of mankind. His first notion 
was to have a Chamber of Horrors in Westminster Abbey ; but 



THtt STRAKaX ABTSNTimBB OF A H0V8I-B0AT. 65 

he concluded that something more cosmopolitan was wanted. 
And then, when we all began to back onr candidates for ad^ 
mission to this Universal Pillory — Bloody Mary, Judge Jef- 
freys, Torquemada, Alva, Butcher Cumberland, and so on — it 
came to Miss Peggy's turn to make a suggestion. 

^' The critic who reviewed Eeats's poems in the Quarterly,*^ 
she said. 

The allusion was so unmistakable to the complaint he had 
made that morning that he could hardly help being grateful to 
her for her proffered sympathy and alliance, even if he refused 
to regard himself as a distinguished poet, or to rank his ill- 
starred comedy with " Endymion." It was cleverly done on 
the part of Miss Peggy. It showed good-will. Indeed, her 
eyes showed that too, as she listened to the young man's dis- 
course. 

Now, when we left this snug hostelry to return to our Name- 
less Barge, the two women led the way ; and they had their 
arms interlinked; and were engaged in conversation. What 
that conversation was we were not permitted to overhear; but 
on reaching the boat — which was all lit up, by the way, and in 
the darkness looked something like one of those illumined 
toy-churches, with colored windows, that Italians used to sell 
in the streets — ^it was found that Miss Peggy was pretending 
to be very much annoyed with her friend. She wore an in- 
jured air. She would not speak. When Murdoch had got out 
the gangboard, and we were all in the saloon again, Mrs. Three- 
penny-bit went and took down the banjo. 

" Come, now, Peggy, don't be vexed ; or, rather, don't pre- 
tend to be vexed. When I talk to you, it's for your good, and 
I tell you the truth. I'm not like those other people. Come 
along, now, and we'll have * Carry me back to old Virginny* 
as a kind of general good-night." 

Miss Peggy glances at Jack Duncombe, and gently declines. 
The fact is this: at certain high jinks which the young lady 
has honored with her presence, this song, as played by her on 
the banjo, has been in great request ; partly because, no one 
knowing the words, it could be prolonged indefinitely by sing- 
ing to it verses of other songs, or even a leading article cut "up 
into the requisite quantities, but mainly because it has an ex- 
cellent chorus in which everybody can easily join. These fes- 



66 THE 8TRANOB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 

tivities, however, were of a strictly esoteric character. The 
presence of a single stranger invariably put a check on certain 
of Miss Peggy's banjo performances; and especially upon 
" Carry me back to old Virginny.' And now the fact that 
Mr. Duncombe had never been within the charmed circle is 
enough. It is in vain that cigars are lit, and soda-water (and 
other things) produced, so that we may have a final and friendly 
half -hour together : Miss Peggy remains obdurate. 

** Oh, no," she says, " Fm afraid Mr. Duncombe would think 
it stupid, for no one knows the words.'' 

" Why, that's all the fun of it I We'll take Dr. Watts's hymns 
this time. The words are nothing ; the chorus is the objective 
point." 

Miss Peggy reaches over and takes the instrument that is 
handed to her. 

" No," she says, " but I'll try an English ballad I heard a 
little while ago — I don't know whether I can manage it with 
this thing." 

She struck the strings, and almost directly we recognized the 
prelude of one of the quaintest and prettiest of the old ballad 
airs. And then Miss Peggy sang — 

** Early one morning, just as the sun was rising, 

I heard a maid sing in the valley below ; 

* Oh, don't deceive me ! Oh, never leave me ! 

How could you use a poor maiden so ?' " 

And therewithal she looked across the table to Queen Tita, 
with eyes that spoke of injury and reproach, as clearly as the 
mischief in them would allow. 



THX 8TRANOX ADySKTURKS OV A HOU8B-BOAT. 57 



CHAPTER VI. 

^* Ab, I remember well— and how can I 
Bat erermore remember well — when first 
Our flame began, when scarce we knew what was 
The flame we felt ; when as we sat and sighed. 
And looked upon each other, and oonceiFcd 
Not what we ailed, yet s<miething we did ail. 
And yet were well, and yet we were not well, 
And what was our disease we could not tell. 
Then would we kiss, then sigh, then look : and thus 
In that first garden of our simpleness 
We spent our childhood. But when years began 
To reap the fruit of knowledge, ah, how then 
Would she with sterner looks, with graver brow 
Check my presumption and my forwardness I 
Tet still would give me flowers, still would show 
What she would have me, yet not have me, know." 

All this world of young summer foliage was thirsting for 
rain ; you could have imagined that the pendulous leaves of the 
lime-trees, hardly moving in the light airs of the morning, were 
whispering among themselves, and listening for the first soft 
patterings of the longed-for shower. They were likely to get 
it, too. The swifts and swallows were flying low over the river, 
the sky was a uniform pale white, without any definite trace of 
cloud; there was a feeling of moisture in the faint-stirring 
wind. It was when we were passing Holme Park that it began 
— ^a few touches on hand or cheek, almost imperceptible, then 
heavier drops striking on the glassy surface of the stream, each 
with its little bell of air and widening circle around it. There 
was an immediate call for waterproofs. Mrs. Threepenny-bit, 
when she was encased in hers, with the big hood over her head, 
looked amazingly like one of the mountain dwarfs in ^' Rip Van 
Winkle ;" Miss Peggy, on the other hand, wore a gray driving- 
coat that suited very well her tall and elegant figure, and also 
she had a gray Tam o' Shanter, which she declared was imper- 



58 THK 8TSAKGS ADTSKTintXB 09 A H0U81-B0AT. 

vious to the wet The four of us were now together in the stem 
— Murdoch being engaged in the pantry ; and it has before been 
observed by certain people who have large experience of weather 
that rain is a great promoter of good-comradeship, f ellowHSuffer- 
ers appearing to combine for the very purpose of defying the 
elements, and cheating themselves into the belief that they are 
enjoying themselves very much indeed. The illusion is more 
likely to be maintained when the waterproofs are sound. 

On this occasion Jack Duncombe was entertaining us with 
a lively account of certain gayeties and festivities that had taken 
pbce just before he left town, and also with notes and anticipa- 
tions of the season then entering on its full swing. All this 
talk — ^into which well-known names were freely introduced — 
was naturally very interesting to our young American visitor, 
and she listened with a perfect attention. Of course he was 
far better qualified than simple country folk like ourselves to in- 
form her ingenuous mind upon such matters ; and she paid him 
every heed ; and seemed to regard him with favor. Perhaps, 
to one or other of us, this echo of the great roar of the London 
season may have sounded strangely in these still solitudes, with 
nothing around us but whispering rain and shimmering water 
and the constantly moving landscape ; but Miss Peggy was a 
young woman with a healthy and natural interest in all kinds 
of social affairs ; and she was pleased to hear all this about 
balls and drawing-rooms, and pastoral plays and private views, 
and famous beauties and their costumes. He had his reward, 
too. Addressing her almost exclusively, he was privileged to 
look at her as much as he chose, and it has been remarked be- 
fore in these pages, once or twice, that Miss Peggy's eyes were 
distinctly good-natured. Moreover, he talked more freely to 
her now; and was gradually resuming— of course, within re- 
spectful limits — his usual audacity of manner. 

Incidentally, he mentioned the banjo craze, and made merry 
over the number of people, among his own acquaintance, who, 
with a light heart, had set about learning to play, and who had 
suddenly been brought up short, through want of ear or some 
other cause. 

^ I had a try myself," he said, modestly ; '' but I soon got to 
the end of my tether." 

" But you play a little f * she said. 



THB BTRAKOE ADySNTTRBS OF A HOtTSK-BOAT. 59 

" Oh, yes, a little — in a mechanical sort of way. It isn't 
everybody has the extraordinary lightness of touch that you 
have." 

" I am not a player at all," she said, '* I am only a strmnmer. 
Anyhow, my banjo wants a thorough tuning some time or other, 
and I should be so much obliged to you if you would help me ; 
if you would screw up the pegs while I tune the strings; it 
is much easier so." 

^* I think my knowledge of the instrument will go as far as 
that," said he, gravely. 

" You know I meant no such thing," she said, laughing ; and 
then she continued, with a fine air of carelessness : '' What do 
you say to having it done now ? If you will bring the banjo — " 

" Not into the rain," he protested ; for a much less ready- 
witted young man than he could not have failed to perceive the 
chance before him. ^' No ; we will go into the saloon, and have 
a thorough overhauling «of the strings. It will be a capital way 
of passing the time, for I don't see much prospect of the weather 
clearing at present." 

She was quite obedient. She rose, and shook the raindrops 
from her sleeves and skirts, and passed through the door that 
he had courteously opened for her, he immediately following. 
When they had thus disappeared. Queen Tita was left alone 
with the steersman. 

" That young man had better take care," she remarked, signif- 
icantly. 

**Why, what have you to say against her now? Did you 
ever see anybody behave better — more simply and frankly and 
straightforwardly ?" 

" If you only knew, it is when Peggy is best behaved that 
she is most dangerous," was tlie dark answer, "She doesn't 
take all that trouble for nothing, you may be sure. Well be- 
haved 1 Oh, yes ; she is well behaved ; she is a great deal too 
well behaved. The guileless eyes, and her courtesy, and her 
charming manner. Why, last night she listened to him with as 
much reverence as if he were Mr. Spencer !" 

'<! suppose that was what you and she were quarrelling 
about, then ?" 

" We weren't quarrelling ; but I asked her not to pretend to 
be too much of a simple innocent. I knew what she was after. 



60 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

Virginny ? — oh, dear no ! No Virginny before Mr. Buncombe. 
Properly conducted young ladies don't sing Dr. Watts's hymns 
with the chorus of, * Carry me back to old Virginny.' " 

" And that is the way a woman talks about her friend !" 

" It isn't altogether her fault either. What I complain of is 
this : when you had all kinds of objections to Peggy's coming 
with us, I said that I was willing to take her as my own par- 
ticular companion. If you were dissatisfied with her, I said she 
was good enough for me ; and that was the arrangement But 
what is the state of affairs now ? Why, you two men monopolize 
her the whole day long. If it isn't the one of you, it's the 
other ; and, of course, it doesn't matter to Peggy which of you 
it is, or whether it is either of you, so long as it is somebody 
she can carry on with. When there are no men about she is 
nice as nice can be." 

" The fact is simply that you want her aU to yourself, and are 
outrageously jealous of the smallest bit of attention she pays to 
any one else ; and you accuse her of * carrying on ' when she is 
merely decently civil to any one who is talking to her." 

" Decently civil ! Too civil by half !" 

" And you think she doesn't see through you, and know how 
to humor you ? Why, it's a high comedy to watch her taking 
you in hand, whenever she thinks it necessary, and stroking 
and petting you into a good temper, just as if you were a baby ; 
only you are a good deal more amenable than a baby when it is 
Peggy that pets you." 

" I repeat, that when there are no men about she is just as nice 
as nice can be. She is an honest, frank, good girl, and very kind 
and affectionate ; but directly men come along she gets mischief 
into her head, for it amuses her to see them make fools of them- 
selves. And if they could only look at themselves in a mirror !" 

" I thought that was the occupation of a woman. Who was 
it who said that the only furniture a woman wanted in a room 
was ten mirrors and a powder-puff ?" 

" Nobody ever said anything so ridiculous. You are always 
inventing spiteful things about women, and putting them down 
to some imaginary French philosopher. You think I don't 
know better !" 

"You know everything; and so, perhaps, you can tell me 
how long it takes to tune up a banjo ?" 



THB STRANGE ADVXNTURB8 OF ▲ HOU8K-BOAT. 61 

They certainly were an unconscionable time about it The 
rain had almost ceased now ; different lights were appearing in 
the sky — warm grays that had a cheerful look about them ; and 
the birds had resumed their singing, filling all the air with a 
harmonious music. We crossed the mouth of the river Ken- 
net, thus beginning the long loop which we hoped to complete 
by means of the Thames, Severn, Avon, and Eennet, with the 
intermediate canals, until we should return to this very spot 
As we went by Reading, however, our hopes for fine weather 
were for the moment dashed ; a '* smurr '' came over, and the 
thin veil of the shower toned down the colors of the red houses, 
the meadows golden with buttercups, the bronze foliage of the 
poplars, the various greens of willow and elm and chestnut, and 
the shadowy blue of the distant and low-lying hills. Perhaps 
it ought to be explained that standing on the gunwale of a 
house-boat enables one to see an immeasurably wider stretch of 
landscape than when one is rowing; and the board that we 
had placed across for the convenience of the steersman could 
always accommodate two or three people standing side by side. 
And so (while that banjo seemed to take a lot of tuning) we 
went on through the phantasmal atmosphere, watching the few 
signs of life that were visible in the still world around us. A 
large heron rose suddenly, his long legs dangling beneath him ; 
but soon he had these securely tucked up, and was sailing away 
on his heavy-flapping wings. A peewit, with startled cry and 
erratic flight, jerked himself into the higher air. A moor-hen, 
disturbed by the tow-rope, went whirring across the river ; and 
we could see in the rushes the nest she had left, with her brood 
of young ones in it. As for the excitement and occupation on 
this rather idle day, these were always afforded us by the con- 
siderate carelessness of the Thames Conservators, for the tow- 
ing-line was continually catching up on some broken stump or 
unyielding willow, and only a wild yell to Palinurus saved us, 
on these occasions, from being dragged bodily on to the bank. 

Nearing Purley, the tow-path twice crosses the river ; and 
now Jack Buncombe appears at the bow, and gets hold of the 
long pole, while Miss Bosslyn comes along and joins her friends 
aft 

" I had no idea it had left off raining," she observes inno- 
cently. 



62 TBS 8TRAN0B ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" I hope you got the banjo properly tuned ?" one of us says to 
her. 

" Oh, yes ; it is much better now, she answers pleasantly and 
with an artless air. '' But Mr. Duncombe was too modest. He 
can play very fairly indeed. He played two or three things 
just to try the banjo, and I was quite surprised." 

" Oh, you can give him some lessons, Peggy," her friend says ; 
but the young lady won't look her way ; and the sarcasm — if 
any was intended — is lost. 

Now it was at our second crossing — ^to the Berkshire side — 
that a small incident occurred of which we did not get the ex- 
planation till nightfall. Having to wait a little while for the 
horse coming over on the ferry-boat, we landed and loitered 
about under some magnificently tall black poplars near to the 
river's side. Miss Peggy was talking, in the most casual way, 
about nothing in particular, to the veracious chronicler of these 
events, when something happened, or was perceived, that seemed 
to afford Queen Tita much covert amusement. The twopenny- 
halfpenny secret, whatever it was, was imparted to Jack Dun- 
combe, as we could see. 

" What is she laughing at f" says Miss Peggy. 

" Goodness only knows. The Diversions of Purley, perhaps. 
I don't see much reason for gayety about the place, or about 
the weather either." 

"If you want to find out, do you know how?" says Miss 
Peggy, with an engaging smile. " All you have to do is to re- 
frain from asking. If you ask them, they will make a mystery 
of it If you don't ask, you may be certain they will speak 
about it — ^they couldn't keep their enjoyment to themselves." 

There seemed to be a modicum of wisdom in these observa- 
tions of this innocent-eyed young thing ; and so not a word 
was said as we got on board and resumed our peaceful progress 
through this still and silvery-gray day. The rain had stopped ; 
the birds had begun again ; and steadily the prow of the Name- 
less Barge kept cutting in twain the lakelike reflections on the 
smooth surface of the river. 

We stopped for luncheon a little above Whitchurch Lock, 
and moored so close in among the willows that one or two 
branches appeared at the open window of the saloon, making 
rather a pretty decoration there. Then we went on and past the 



THS STRANGE ABVXKTUIUBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 63 

beech woods of Basildon. Everywhere there was a gray mist 
after the rain ; but all the same there was a faint light on the 
tops of the trees that seemed to suggest the possibility of the 
son breaking through those pallid skies. 

" It was here that Mrs. Threepenny-bit's jealousy declared it- 
self. She seemed to think (and perhaps not unnaturally) that 
these two young people had had quite enough of each other's 
society ; and may have thought it was hardly fair she should 
be so entirely deprived of her own chosen companion. So she 
comes along to the stemnsheets, where Miss Peggy and Jack 
Duncombe are talking together, overlooked but unheeded by 
the steersman, who, indeed, has enough to do with the recurrent 
obstructions on the bank. 

" Peggy?" she says, " would you like to do a human being a 
great Mndness ?" 

" Why, yes," the young lady answers instantly. " What is 
it? Who is it?" 

** It's Murdoch, poor fellow. He wouldn't utter a word of 
complaint or disappointment, you know — not for worlds ; but 
I do believe he would rather be a deck-hand on board the 
Dunara Castle than get double wages on board a thing like this. 
Now, come along, Peggy, and we'll cheer him up a bit. We'U 
pretend to be on board a yacht." 

Miss Peggy jumps to her feet with alacrity ; she may have 
many evil qualities, but a want of good-nature is not among 
them. 

"But how?" she says, putting her hand on her friend's 
shoulder. 

" I'll show you," is the answer ; and the women disappear 
together. 

" Now," says the steersman of this unjustly despised vessel 
to his sole remaining companion, " do you want a word of 
friendly advice ?" 

" Certainly." 

"Very well. Listen and take heed. This night at dinner, 
whenever you see anything that looks particularly deadly — ^ma- 
genta-colored jellies, dark devices in the way of lobster, mush- 
room patties, olives stuffed with bacon — I say, whenever you 
see anything that looks absolutely fatal, you must seize on it 
and eat it boldly — ^never mind the consequences — ^and as boldly 



64 THB 8TRAKOB ADVEKTUREB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

mast you praise it Now remember. You have been warned. 
Never mind what happens to you. You've got to do it." 

"Well," says he, looking rather bewildered, "I suppose a 
man can't die better than by facing fearful odds, though do- 
ing that in a game of billiards is more in my line. But really, 
if I am to rush upon death in this way, I should like to know 
what for?" 

" What for ? Haven't you got eyes and ears ? Didn't you 
see those two women go away ? Didn't you hear them say they 
were going to pretend to be on board a yacht ? And don't you 
know what is happening at this moment? They have got the 
table in the saloon covered over with cloths ; and Murdoch is 
taking them flour and butter and jam, and lobster and grated 
cheese, and nutmeg and caviare and olives, and I don't know 
what; and soon they'll be engaged in turning out kromeskis, 
and rissoles, and croquettes, and every kind of poisonous inven- 
tion of the devil. What's more, now they've begun, they'll go 
on. How long do you expect to survive ?" 

" I don't know," said he. " I can stand a good deal. Some 
constitutions are pretty wiry. They say there was a Sepoy at 
the end of the Indian Mutiny who was to be blown from a gun ; 
and he was so tough that, when the cannon was fired, his body 
merely stretched out and let the ball go by, and when they came 
to untie him, he collapsed again, and was quite well ; and they 
were so disgusted they could do nothing but give him a kick 
and send him off." 

" The story is a little improbable, but, no doubt, true. How- 
ever, that Sepoy had never sailed in a boat with two amateur 
cooks on board." 

" I think I can score here," the young man said, thoughtful- 
ly ; but he would not explain further, and one could only guess 
that he was contemplating a mean and cowardly breach of con- 
fidence. 

Indeed, we were well rid of those women ; for we found the 
towing-path at this part of the river— especially after we crossed 
at Moulsford Ferry — ^to be in a most disgraceful state of neg- 
lect, and we were continually getting into trouble with broken 
fences, posts, and willow-stumps. It must be admitted, how- 
ever, that we were ourselves partly responsible for these calam- 
ities. For one thing, our towing-line should have been attached 



THE 8TRANOB ADVBNTnaXS OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 65 

to the top of the '* honse," instead of to the bow of the boat 
(most of the canal barges have a mast or pole for the purpose), 
and the increased height thus gained would have enabled us to 
clear at least some of the obstructions. For another, Palinnrus 
had a habit of keeping his gaze fixed on the far future ; he 
seemed to consider that, so long as he could urge Coriolanus 
onward, he had no concern with anything that was happening 
behind. The worst of it was that a single hitch generally begat 
several hitches ; for when once one of the broken posts or im- 
penitent bushes had caused the Nameless Barge to ^'run her 
nozzle agin the bank," there was a difficulty in getting proper 
steering-way on her, and a consequent risk of further entangle- 
ments. However, we encountered these delays with patience, 
and crept on by Little Stoke, and Cholsey, and towards Winter- 
brook ; while the tinkling notes of '^ FU meet her when the sun 
goes down " told us one of two things— either that the hibors 
of the amateur cooks were ended, or that those two people 
had stolen away on false pretences, to have a confabulation 
together. 

" Do you know, that is a very interesting girl," says Jack 
Duncombe, reflectively, as he listens to the banjo. 

"Indeed?" 

" Oh, very," he repeats with decision. 

" I don't know much about her myself. I have been told by 
a friend of hers that she is as characterless as a woman in a 
fashion-plate." 

" Well, you see," observed this profound student of man- 
kind, " all Americans are interesting in a way. You never 
know what strain of blood may reveal itself ; and probably the 
American himself couldn't tell you ; so there is always a pos- 
sibility of surprise. He may be descended from one of Captain 
John Smith's 'broken men' — ^the adventurers and desperadoes 
who went to the South ; or he may have the sour Puritanical 
leaven in him, and, in spite of his nineteenth-century manner and 
clothes, be at heart an intolerant bigot and persecutor, if he had 
the chance. Or he may have French blood in his veins, or 
Spanish, or even a drop of Bed Indian. You never know how 
\t may develop itself." 

" Your interest in Miss Peggy, then, is purely ethnological P' 
one asks of him, merely for the sake of information. 
5 



66 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

*' Oh, well," he says, after a quick glance of suspicion, " she 
is a very nice girl besides that. I was talking of Americans in 
general." 

"And from what kind of stock do you suppose Miss Peggy 
is descended ?" 

" Of course I can't tell ; but I know she was very much 
pleased when I told her that the Rosslyn family here spell their 
name just as her family do. She only knew it in connection 
with Roslin Abbey ; and thought it had got corrupted in Amer- 
ica. She says she doesn't know where her people originally 
came from." 

" From the Garden of Eden, I suppose." 

" I can imagine her delight if you could show her that her 
family were settled in some part of this country even three 
hundred years ago. And as for the Conquest — " 

" But the name is a little older than that, my young friend. 
Moss and lyn are two British words — the meadow of the pool or 
waterfall they mean, if that is any news to you." 

" It is extraordinary the interest she takes in anything that's 
old," continues this young man, who seems to have been using 
his opportunities of studying Miss Peggy's character, or no- 
character, with some diligence. "Old furniture, old jewelry, 
old buildings, anything that has been handed down from former 
times. And she is so anxious to know how people lived then ; 
and . whether their present descendants are like them in any 
way ; and whether the representatives of the great families of 
England are difEerent from the ordinary people one meets. 
You should hear her talk about the Tower and Westminster 
Abbey. I think it was the historical characters in Shakespeare 
that captivated her imagination, to begin with ; I fancy that has 
had a good deal to do with it." 

"So you have been engaged in teaching her English his- 
tory?" 

" No," says this impertinent boy ; " I leave that to my elderg 
and betters." And there is a flash of delight in his gray eyes at 
getting this easy chance. Of course there is no reply. Babies 
in sarcasm should be encouraged rather than crushed. 

We moored at Wallingford that night; and by the time 
that dinner was ready it was dark enough to have the kmps 
and candles lit. And perhaps, as we sat in this little room— 



THE 8TBANOB ABVBNTUBES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 67 

and observed our young dramatist's feeble efforts to guess at 
what dishes were the handiwork of the amateur cooks — ^the 
place looked all the more snug that the pattering of the rain 
on the roof was continuously audible. It seemed a familiar 
sound, somehow. We had heard it, in similar circumstances, 
in very far out-of-the-way places indeed. How could we tell, 
seated in this little cabin, with the blinds drawn and the 
doors shut, but that outside were the mist -hung cliffs of 
Bourg and the dark solitudes of Loch-na-Eeal ? Perhaps, if 
one were to step forth into that dismal world of rain one might 
peer through it for the red ray of Rona lighthouse. Or, per- 
haps, there might be heard the muffled thunder of the western 
seas surging into the caves of Staffa, or the distant murmur of 
the tides where Corvrechtan seethes and whirls along the Scarba 
rocks? We knew nothing of Wallingford; Wallingford was 
but a name to us. Here was a cabin, comfortably lit and snug, 
and here was a small group of friends sufficiently well interested 
in each other; and these immediate surroundings were inde- 
pendent of such external things as we could not see. But if 
Queen Tita had imagined that at that moment she could have 
caught a glimpse of the piercing white light of Lismore, be sure 
she would not have been sitting. In one swift second she 
would have been out and on deck, despite the heaviest rain that 
ever poured. 

"Sufficiently well interested in each other" — the phrase 
seems inadequate to the occasion. For had we not with us a 
person whose ethnological antecedents might spring a surprise 
on us at any moment? One began to wonder how the strain 
of blood would manifest itself. Would she unexpectedly leap 
upon us and endeavor to scalp one or other of us with a fruit- 
knife ? Would she incoherently clamor for another Bartholo- 
mew Massacre? Or begin to sing psalms through her nose? 
These and other possibilities — young Shakespeare had said they 
were possibilities — were somewhat bewildering ; but, as a matter 
of fact, at this instant the Ethnological Curiosity was calmly 
carving a slice of pineapple; and her eyes were cast down; 
and she was listening to Jack Duncombe ; and the smile that 
hung about her rosebud mouth seemed to say that she was be- 
ing amiably entertained by her companion. For the rest, she 
wore on this evening certain swathes of pale pink and pale 



68 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

yellow mnslin that came round her neck, and were fastened at 
her waist ; and anything more cool and summer-like coald not 
be imagined. 

Dinner over, the two women-folk retired to the upper end of 
the saloon, next to the big window ; and Mrs. Threepenny-bit 
took down the banjo, and, without a word, handed it to Miss 



"Ah, I know what will fetch you," the girl said, with a not 
nnkindly smile. 

She struck a few low notes of introduction, and then began — 
"Once in the dear dead days beyond recall" It was an air 
that suited her contralto voice admirably ; and when she came 
to the refrain — " Just a song at twilight, when the lights are 
low " — she sang that with a very pretty pathos indeed ; inso- 
much that, when she had ended. Queen Tita did not thank her 
with any speech, but she put her hand within the girl's arm in- 
stead, and let it remain there. With her disengaged arm Miss 
Peggy held out the banjo. 

" You, now," she said to Mr. Buncombe, in her frank way. 

He took the banjo from her, of course. 

" Oh, I can't sing," he said ; " but I'll try to give you some 
idea of a rather quaint little ballad that most people know of ; 
though very few have heard the whole of it, I imagine. Of 
course you have seen the play of * The Green Bushes V " 

Miss Peggy had not. 

" Oh, well, it is an old-fashioned melodrama that used to be 
very popular — ^perhaps it is now, when it is revived. I won't 
describe it to you ; but there is one part of it in which a young 
girl goes away in search of her foster-sister, whom she has lost ; 
and she wanders through all the towns and villages in Ireland 
singing a song that both of them knew, until the foster-sister 
hears her, and rushes to the window. I think it is a very af- 
fecting bit,, myself. I'm not ashamed to say that it has made 
me cry like a baby, though Miami, the real heroine of the piece, 
doesn't seem to impress me much. Well, now, this is the song 
the girl sings. The fact is, I — " 

He hesitated for a second. 

" — I once knew a young actress who used to play the part, 
and I asked her to give me the words ; and she wrote them 
down for me as far as she knew them." 



THE 8TRANOB ADVXNTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 



60 



Possibly one or other of us may bare been guessing that 
perhaps there existed another reason for his interest in things 
theatrical besides his thirst for fame; but he had abready be^ 
gun to strum out, in a more or less effective fashion, some such 
air as this : 




And then he sang, with good expression, if with no great 
voice — 

" It^s I was a-walking one morning in May 
To hear the birds singing and see lambkins plaj, 
I espied a young damsel, so sweetly sung she, 
Down by the Green Bushes where she chanced to meet me." 

" Remember," said he, " the words were written down from 
memory, and I may have got them all wrong." 
Then he went on — 

" * Oh, why are you loitering here, pretty maid V 
* Tm waiting for my true love,' softly she said ; 
' Shall I be your true love, and will you agree 
To leave the Green Bushes and follow with me ? 

** ' rU buy you the beavers and fine silken gowns, 
ru give you smart petticoats flounced to the ground, 
ril buy you fine jewels, and live but for thee, 
If you'll leave your own true love and follow with me.' " 
* 
<< The flounced petticoats make me think the ballad must be 

old," said the troubadour ; and he continued : 

'* ' Oh, I want not your beavers, nor your silks, nor your hose, 
For Fm not so poor as to marry for clothes ; 
But if you'll prove constant and true unto me. 
Why, 111 leave the Green Bushes and follow with thee. 



70 THE 8TRAHOS ADySNTURSS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

** * Gome, let us be going, kind sir, if jou please, 
Oh, let us be going from under these trees, 
For yonder is coming my true love I see, 
Down by the Green Bushes where he was to meet me.' 

*' And it's when he came there and found she was gone. 
He was nigh heart-broken, and cried out forlorn — 
* She has gone with another and forsaken me, 
And left the Green Bushes where she used to meet me !* " 

<< Well, now, I call that jast delightful !'' Miss Peggy cried at 
once. " Why, I haven't heard anything so quaint and pretty for 
many a day ! Just delightful, I call it. Mr. Buncombe, it is 
always a shame to steal people's songs, and especially this one, 
that is in a kind of way your own property ; but really I should 
like to take it back home with me. Would you mind singing 
it over to me some other time ? I think I could remember it." 

" But I will copy it out for you," he said, instantly. 

" It would be too much trouble," she rather faint-heartedly 
suggested. 

*' It would give me a great deal of pleasure to copy it out for 
you," said he, quite earnestly, and she thanked him, with her 
eyes cast down. 

We had some further playing and singing (but no " Virgin- 
ny ;" oh, no ; she was too well behaved ; the time was not yet) ; 
and by and by the hour arrived for our retiring to our several 
bunks. All this afternoon and evening Mrs. Threepenny-bit — 
our Mrs. Threepenny-bit she ought to be called, as she is a part- 
ner in the firm, and, indeed, gives herself as many airs as if she 
were the whole firm in her own proper person — ^had had no op- 
portunity of revealing the cause of her sinister laughter at Pur- 
ley ; and indeed the person to whom Miss Peggy had confided 
her prediction had forgotten all about the matter. Just before 
our final separating for the night, however, that opportunity 
chanced to occur ; and then Miss Peggy's prophecies came true. 

" I suppose you didn't notice what happened at Purley I" she 
says. 

<< I saw you grinning like a fiend, that was alL" 

"Of course, you weren't aware that when Peggy and you 
were standing under those big poplars, there was a bunch of 
mistletoe right over your heads," 



THX 8TBAHOS ADVSNTURSS OF A HOUSX-BOAT. 71 

** I was not aware of it ; but if I liad been, what difference 
would that have made t" 

" Why, none, of course, as far as you are concerned. Yon 
wouldn't have dared. But we were thinking, supposing Peggy 
had discovered it, what a horrible fright she would have got'' 

^< Indeed. And so you at once assume that mistletoe grows 
in America ; and you are also quite sure that Miss Peggy knows 
what it means ?" 

*< What ?" she says, as she prepares to slip back again into the 
saloon. << Peggy not know ? Peggy not know what a branch 
of mistletoe means f I wonder what there is in that direction 
that Peggy doesn't know ?" 

Well, welL Man's inhumanity to man has often been be- 
wailed by the poets ; but man's inhumanity to man is the veriest 
milk and honey compared to the inhumanity which a woman, 
without the least hesitation or scruple, will inflict on her so-called 
bosom-friend. 



CHAPTER Vn. 

" Mj time, O ye Mases, was happily spent^ 
When Phoebe went with me wherever I went; 
Ten thousand sweet pleasures I felt in my breast : 
Sure never fond Shepherd like Colin was blest ! 
But now she is gone, and has left me behind. 
What a marrellous change on a sudden I find ! 
When things were as fine as could possibly be, 
I thought 'twas the Spring; but alas I it was she." 

The ancient little town of Wallingford, as every schoolboy 
ought to know — but probably doesn't — ^has as much history 
crammed into its annals as would furnish subject-matter for 
twenty lectures. The destruction of its walls by the Parlia- 
mentary army was an affair of but the other day, so to speak — 
a quite recent occurrence, when you come to treat of the chron- 
cles of Wallingford. Why, they had a mint established here 
before the Norman Conquest ! Can it be wondered at, then, 
that when we go on shore for a prowl through this venerable 
borough. Miss Peggy should naturally associate herself with the 



72 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

only member of the party capable of giving her a clear and com- 
prehensive view of the transactions of the last dozen centuries f 
The frivolity of youth may be acceptable for the moment ; the 
singing of << Green Bushes " and strumming on guitars, and such 
nonsense, may pass an idle evening ; but when the ingenuous 
mind seeks for higher things — when it asks for instruction and 
lucid and ample and accurate information — it is to age, or at 
least to a respectable seniority, that it unhesitatingly turns. Mr. 
Jack Buncombe seemed surprised that his companion of the 
previous day should so wantonly forsake him, and march off 
without a word of apology. But what did he know about Sax- 
ons and Danes ? He would have put Archbishop Laud and Sir 
William Blackstone into the same century ; and, just as likely 
as not, he would have gloried in his ignorance. 

And yet, as we perambulate the damp and almost deserted 
streets of the little town, on this dull, blowy, uncertain, gray- 
skied morning, it is not of history, ancient or modem, that Miss 
Peggy is talking. A suggestion has been made to her that we 
should try to obtain, somewhere or other, a newspaper, to find 
out what has been occurring all this time throughout the inhab- 
ited globe. Miss Peggy distinctly objects. 

" No, no," she says ; " it is far more delightful to be cut off 
from everybody and everything. Never mind what has been 
happening. They are all minding their own affairs ; and they 
have forgotten us ; and we are much better to be entirely by 
ourselves." 

<< And empires may be going to smash, and you don't care !" 

" I'll tell you what I should like to do now," she says. " I 
should like to be able to pop up to the sun, for just a single 
day, and go round with him, and see the whole thing — see how 
everything was going on all the way round, and what it all 
looked like — and then come back and alight at the same place 
at the end of the twenty-four hours." 

" Your notions of science are primitive, Miss Peggy." 

<< Oh I I hate science," she says, pausing for a second at a 
milliner's shop-window, and then coming on again ; " I just hate 
science. It never tells you anything that interests you. I don't 
care a cent whether there is or is not carbonate of soda in the 
moon. I like living things — ^human beings, mostly." 

<' But not too many of them at once ?" 



THX STRAHOE ADVSNTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 73 

" Why, science can't tell you what the life of a butterfly is, 
let alone the life of a costermonger, or a priest, or an actress — ^" 

^' Or a young lady whose pastime is the destruction of the 
peace of mind of young men." 

"Well, anything you like," she says, carelessly. "I don't 
want to know what chemicals I'm made up of. I want to know 
why the look of some women makes me distrust or dislike them ; 
and why you take to other women, almost at first sight, and 
want to be friends with them ; and why you detest some men, 
and why other men are — well, not so detestable : things of that 
kind are really interesting. I should like to know how we 
came to be in the world at all — and every one of us different 
from the other, that's the odd thing ; and whe^e we are going 
when we leave it." 

" Wouldn't it be easier to decide where you think you deserve 
to go?" 

" Ah," she says, and it is a bootmaker's window she is look- 
ing into now, for these things seem strangely civilized after our 
solitary intercourse with meadows and trees and water and skies, 
" I have told you before : if only you were honest, you would 
admit that you never met any one as good as I am ; and you 
would say that I behave like a perfect angel." 

" I am ready to swear to both. The fact is that your be- 
havior at present is not only very good, but so good as to be 
suspicious." 

She forsakes the bootmaker's window. 

" Let's see, what were we talking about ?" she asks, though 
her eyes are covertly laughing. 

" You were assuming that the sun went round the earth, for 
one thing." 

" Oh, I hate astronomy," she says, perhaps glad enough to get 
away to this new subject. " There is no plan in astronomy, no 
regularity; everything is different from everything else, and 
that is what makes it difficult to understand. Now, for exam- 
ple, why shouldn't there be a crescent sun as well as a crescent 
moon?" 

" There ought to be a crescent sun, certainly, if you think so." 

" They make all these differences just to puzzle you, and then 
they set up to be the clever ones, and get themselves called Fel- 
lows of Societies. Say, it isn't really going to rain, is it ?" 

D 



74 THB STRAKGB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

Now, this IS a candid description of the kind of conversation 
that was going on ; and everybody mast see that if it wasn't 
very coherent, nor yet very profitable for instruction, at least it 
was harmless enough. Why, therefore, that young man should 
have kept worrying, and interfering, and bothering us with his 
townhaUs and old churches and Roman remains simply passes 
one's comprehension. To humor him, we went away down a 
stable-yard — ^belonging to the G^eorge Inn, I think — ^in order to 
look at a door of carved wood which, he said, had originally be- 
longed to Wallingf ord Castle. It was very old, he informed us. 
He added that it was of Spanish pine. And when we sug- 
gested that so valuable a relic (he said it was valuable) need not 
have been disfigured with a coat of hideous paint, he seemed 
hurt. And when Miss Peggy said she wanted to go and find a 
" store " where she could get some silk and wool for her crewel 
work, Mr. Duncombe was left to continue his exploration of the 
antiquities of Wallingford in the society of his hostess, who, as 
ever, was bland towards him and complaisant. 

On our return to the boat, and while we were making the 
necessary preparations for resuming our voyage, the weather 
looked as if it might turn to anything. The wind had risen ; 
there was a surcharged sky ; there were shifting gleams of light 
here and there. 

" Before long, you will find a good deal of Constable about," 
is the general warning. 

" That means waterproofs," says Mrs. Threepenny-bit, prompt- 
ly. " I don't like good landscapy days. They always mean either 
waterproofs or sitting indoors." 

Indeed, the words were hardly out of her mouth when the rain 
began— a few pattering drops, rapidly developing into a smart 
shower ; in the midst of which both the women-folk summarily 
retreated into the saloon, leaving the navigators of this noble 
vessel to themselves. 

" Well, we shall be in Oxford to-morrow," says the young 
man — and he need not look so exceedingly depressed simply 
because Miss Peggy has not paid him as much attention this 
morning as usual — '^ and I shall be glad of it. The real busi- 
ness of your trip will begin then. All this Thames affair is just 
a little bit too familiar." 

^* To you, perhaps, but n9t to us. Besides, we are entertain- 



THE ST&ANOK ADVBNTnaES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 75 

ing a young American stranger, who has never been up the 
Thames before, and who seems to like it well enough." 

He declines to speak about Miss Rosl3m. 

" The Thames has been done by everybody ; I am looking 
forward to something more novel." 

" And you are likely to get it, too, if all they say is true about 
those disused canals. But what have you to complain of now — 
except the rain, and that's going off ? Why, we were told we 
should find the Thames overcrowded ; and yet we have had it 
practicaUy to ourselves. Do you want anything more solitary 
and remote f 

If he had had the honesty to confess it, it was his solitariness 
at this moment that was weighing on his spirits ; for he was 
listening to the distant tinkling of a banjo. Any sane per- 
son would instantly have construed that into an invitation, and 
would have gone away forward to the saloon ; but young peo- 
ple, when they have taken offence, are peculiar. Here he was 
quarrelling with the Thames, which a good many folk have de- 
clared to be a beautiful river. It was a pity he could not urge 
objections against the Nameless Barge^ for that was chiefly of 
his own designing. He could not even find fault, decently, with 
the weather, for it was doing its very best to improve — already 
there was a pale, watery sunlight breaking through the clouds, 
and wandering over the misty green landscape. Why did not 
he forthwith summon the two women to come out again ? Be- 
cause Miss Peggy, who was a diligent young lady, had to go 
away and buy silk and wool and things of that kind when she 
should have been searching with him for the remains of Roman 
waUs. 

It was left for some one else to summon them. Murdoch, 
having finished with his duties of the morning, had smartened 
himself up, and now came forth from his quarters. 

« Will I tek the tiUer, sir ?" 

" No, thank you." 

Before going in again, in sailor-like fashion he gave a rapid 
glance to his surroundings. And very likely he may have been 
thinking that here was a capital sailing-day just being thrown 
away and wasted. The breeze that was blowing us onward was 
strong enough to raise the silvery surface of the river into hurry- 
ing waves ; the willows were rustling and bending, their foliage 



76 THE STRANGE ADTENTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

now gray, now green; the buttercups were nodding in the 
meadows, or lying prone before the blast. And in this brief 
look round, something caught his attention — certain lilac-gray 
and white birds circling round, or darting this way and that, 
against the leaden-hued and windy sky. Murdoch regarded 
them with astonishment. 

" Bless me !" he said, apparently to himself. " They're no' 
sea-swallows !" 

" But they are," one of us answers him ; " and they mean re- 
markably bad weather when they make their appearance in these 
parts." 

" Well, well — indeed, now !" said he, still eying them with 
an astonished curiosity. " And it iss a long weh from home that 
they hef come." 

Clearly Murdoch imagines that the terns have come all the 
way from the Sound of Mull, or Loch Sunart, or some such dis- 
tant place; but the next moment he disappears. We cannot 
hear him, but we know he is tapping at the door of the sa- 
loon. Presently two women appear at the bow, one of them 
holding on her sailor-hat, for the breeze is brisk 

" Do you see those sea-swallows ?" the other one cries, in the 
teeth of the wind. 

" Yes, of course," answers the man at the wheel. 

" What are they doing here ?" 

" Raising a storm. Don't you know that we are simply fly- 
ing ? — we shall be dragging Coriolanus along directly." 

" What do sea-swallows mean by — " 

The sentence was never completed, for a startled yell from 
the steersman suddenly rent the air. The tow-line had caught 
on a stump. Palinurus, with his gaze as usual fixed on the far 
horizon, was paying no heed ; and by the time that the cry of 
alarm had recalled him to his senses, the Nameless Barge had 
quietly slewed round, and run its nose, gently but firmly, into a 
bank of mud, rushes, willow-shrubs, and miscellaneous water- 
weeds. 

One of us, of course, has to go to the bow, as Palinurus sad- 
ly returns to unhitch the line ; for in such an emergency what 
are women good for but sarcasm ? 

" You were boasting just a little too much of your speed I" 
says the elder fiend. 



THB 8TBANGE ADVINTURBS OF A BO0BK-BOAT. 11 

*< It was those confounded birds— everybody was looking at 
them." 

" Tern, Fortune, tern thy wheel, and lower the proud," says 
the younger one, in an undertone ; but she need not have been 
afraid — in any case the wind would have prevented Jack Dun* 
combe from overhearing her flippant impertinence. 

That ignominious stoppage took place on the stretch of water 
between Benson Lock and Shillingford Bridge; but we were 
soon on our way again, the favoring wind making of the labor 
of Coriolanus a mere holiday task. In due course of time we 
had passed Shillingford and Uie mouth of the small river Thame ; 
and had caught sight, across the fields, of Dorchester Abbey, 
and also of the sinuous lines of the fortifications of a Roman 
camp. We moored for luncheon by the side of a meadow just 
above Day's Lock. Here the bank is a few feet high ; so tiiat, 
sitting at table, we found that the buttercups and dandelions 
and daisies, all swaying and nodding in this brisk breeze, were 
just level with our windows and our view. The banquet was 
not attended with state. Our only companions were the swal- 
lows skimming along and across the stream. We had no brass 
band playing ; but there was a lark singing high in the heavens, 
and somewhere, in the distance, the occasional carol of a thrush. 
The only other sound was the rippling of the wind-ruffled water 
along the sides of the boat For stillness, and solitariness, and 
silence, we might have been in the depths of a Canadian forest. 

Now, during all this time these two young people had not ap- 
proached each other ; and of course it was not for Miss Peggy 
to make the first advances, even if she had been so inclined. 
And in any case he did not give her the opportunity, for he de- 
voted himself entirely to Queen Tita ; and as he was talking to 
her in a half-scornful, half-petulant fashion, we guessed that 
once more the critics were catching it. Some scraps of his 
conversation reached us. 

'< I wish the newspaper-offices could be flooded with carbolic 
acid," we overheard him say, rather angrily. 

" Why," asks Queen Tita, with much civility. 

'^ Because the scientific fellows say that carbolic acid destroys 
low organisms." 

<< Tes ?" she says again, not understanding. 

" Well, the number of critics would be considerably reduced !** 



78 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" If the dramatic critics," one interposes, to put this foolish 
boy straight, " are like the literary critics, you wouldn't find one 
of them in the newspaper offices. You would be more likely to 
find them in South Kensington, living in palatial houses, each 
with his brougham, and their wives going to Drawing-rooms and 
Foreign Office receptions. Do you still imagine there is such a 
place as Grub Street?" 

And yet again we could hear Queen Tita telling him of some 
of her adventures in Italy, and magnifying the mercilessness of 
the mosquitoes in certain of the towns ; and when she spoke of 
having been stung so badly, on one occasion, that her arm was 
swollen from the hand up to the elbow, he said, 

" Of course the mosquito must have been feeding on some 
putrid object — a critic, most likely." 

Whereupon Miss Peggy asked, in a low voice, 

" Were they very severe about his comedy I" 

That, however, is a question which one cannot answer her; 
because plays by novices are not very interesting to the ordina- 
rily busy person in this country, while newspaper criticism of 
plays by novices fails still more to arouse the attention. Be- 
sides, at the time that Jack Duncombe's piece was produced, we 
knew hardly anything about him. 

We had to wait a considerable time for the return of Old Pal, 
for it appeared that, he having gone to fetch a bucket of water 
for Coriolanus, that gallant steed had wandered off into space, 
and had got near to Dorchester before he was found. But he 
in no wise refused to resume his appointed task; he took to 
it quite placidly ; and once more we were peacefully gliding 
through the still landscape. The afternoon was clearing, though 
there was still an April look about the banked-up clouds, with 
their breadths of bronze or saffron-hued lights here and there. 
A touch of blue was visible in places : the various tints of the 
foliage had grown more vivid ; at last there was a glimmer of 
pale sunlight on the rippling water. Indeed, there was more of 
Constable than of Ck)rot, now, as the world seemed to emerge 
from the prevailing mist. And so we go on by Clifton Hamp- 
den, and by Appleford, and by Sutton Courtney (Miss Peggy is 
of opinion that these old English names were a good deal pret- 
tier than Clearanceville, and Cuttingsville, and the like); the 
most exciting incident the while being the sudden scurrying 



THE STRANG! ADVBNTURXS OF A HOUBI-BOAT. 7d 

across a field of a hare, that sits up on its haunches and regards 
as, looking singularly red among the green ; or the whirring 
away of a brace of partridges, put up by Coriolanus, the birds 
eventually subsiding into a wide and golden sea of buttercups. 

We had had some thoughts of pushing on to Oxford that 
evening ; but as rain began to fall again, and as we wished Miss 
Peggy's first impressions of the famous university town to be 
favorable, we resolved upon passing the night at Abingdon. In- 
deed, we were all of us glad to get in out of the wet ; and when 
waterproofs had been removed, and candles lit, the blinds drawn, 
and Murdoch's ministrations placed on the table, it did not much 
matter to us what part of England happened to be lying along- 
side our gunwale. Miss Peggy, it may be said, was quite pre- 
occupied about this city of Oxford ; a great part of the after- 
noon she had spent in reading up the history of the various col- 
leges, in such guide-books as we had with us ; and it was under- 
stood that, until the weather improved, we should go no farther, 
but rather give up the time to showing her over the most inter- 
esting of these foundations. 

" And you will find other objects of interest, Peggy," her 
hostess says to her. " You will see a great many very good- 
looking lads, all with their college cap and gown on. 

^^ Tou said they called themselves men as soon as they went 
to Oxford ?" Miss Peggy observes, for she is always curious 
about English ways and customs. 

" So they do, but they're mostly boys, all the same. And very 
pretty boys, too, of the unmistakable English type — light-haired, 
clear-complexioned, and clear-eyed ; nearly all of them well-built, 
athletic-looking young fellows. Oh, yes, you will find some ob- 
jects of interest in the Oxford streets ! And, of course, you 
can't expect but that they may look at you a little — ^just the 
least possible thing, as you go by." 

Miss Peggy shifts the subject, as one having no concern for 
her. 

« Do you know an inn called the Mitre ?" she asks, inno- 
cently. 

" Of course we do." 

" But they say it dates from the fourteenth century !" she 
says, glancing towards one of the guide-books as though the 
oompiler of it had been trying to impose on her. 



80 THE STRANOX ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

"WeUr 

" The fourteenth century ?" she continues. " Why, that was 
long and long before Shakespeare's time. And if the inn was 
there when he lived I suppose he must have passed it every time 
he went to Stratford or came back to London. Oxford is on the 
high-road to Stratford, isn't it ?" 

"Undoubtedly." 

" And do you mean that Shakespeare really passed this inn 
every time — or, perhaps, slept the night in it ?" 

" Well, tradition says there was another inn in Oxford — ^the 
Crown — that was his favorite haunt. But certainly he must 
have passed the Mitre, though it was probably not in all its 
parts precisely the same building that you'll find there to-day." 

"But, really, he used to ride along the same street that we 
shall be in to-morrow f she says, in a half-bewildered way. 
" Well, you can't understand how strange that is to me. These 
things and places seem to us at home to be so very far away 
when we read about them — ^it is all like a kind of fairy-land. 
You don't expect ever to see the actual street." 

" Come, now, Miss Peggy," one of us says to her, " how will 
this do ? We shall probably have to remain in Oxford for two 
or three days. There are some arrangements to be made ; we 
have to find out somebody who is familiar with the canals ; and 
we have to get a horse for him as well ; and a lot of things of 
that kind. Then you want to see the colleges, and one or two 
of the libraries and museums. Besides that, we have several 
friends in the place, who will expect us to call on them, and they 
will be only too anxious to entertain a simple-minded young 
American stranger, so long as she behaves herself. And then, 
again, we don't want you to see our English scenery through a 
deluge of rain ; we must wait for better weather. Now, Folly 
Bridge, where we shall moor this stately vessel, is a good bit 
away from the centre of the town, and it might be a nuisance to 
be continually driving or walking backwards and forwwds, and 
what I want to know is this: supposing we were to put up for 
these two or three days at an inn, and supposing that inn to be 
the one you were talking about — ^the Mitre, in the High Street — 
how would that suit your views ?" 

" Do you mean it ?" says Miss Peggy, with a flash of delight 
in her sufficiently expressive eyes. No further answer is needed* 




s?w hiid »pe.fd in rauUnff ttji 
the hiatory fff the ■vtit*i'f.m?f t*of- 
/f|j'fr#, in HUf*h gtikk-biifAs a^i 
we lnui ii^ith ti^,*' 



THB STRANGE ADYBNTURIS OF ▲ HOUBK-BOAT. 81 

'' What we think of the proposal," says Queen Tita, in her 
graQd manner, to her neighbor the budding dramatist, " is of no 
conseqnence. Oh, no I Our convenience is not to be consulted 
in any way whatever. It is nothing that we shall have to pack 
up all over again, just when we were getting everything into its 
proper place. We pretend to go away on a boating expedition, 
and pass the time in inns, just because a person — a person — 
comes from America whose mind runs upon bygone centuries. 
And it is that person who is to say yes or no. Everything is to 
be done for her. We are not of the least account ; everything 
is to be arranged to suit the whims of the American person." 

Miss Peggy looks doubtful ; she seems uncertain as to whether 
this remonstrance is wholly a pretence. 

" I am sure," she says, regarding Queen Tita with honest eyes, 
<< that I am quite willing to keep to the boat, if any one wishes 
it — yes, and very gladly too. It will be very unfair if you allow 
me to interfere with what any one else may wish just for want 
of telling me." 

" P^ggy* don't be silly !" her hostess says, abruptly, but not 
with much unkindness. " Why, you will be quite delighted 
with the old-fashionedness of the Mitre, if you are able to pre- 
serve your wits in trying to remember your way along the pas- 
sages. And then you're almost certain to see one of the uni- 
versity lads entertaining his friends at lunch in the coffee-room 
— that is very amusing — the superior airs of the host, and his 
directions to the waiter — the way the boys look at the wine be- 
fore drinking it, and their affectation of indifference and manly 
self-possession. Unfortunately, when they have drunk a little 
champagne they are apt to forget their dignity, and then they 
begin to chaff the waiter, and laugh rather loudly at very small 
jokes. I suppose we sha'n't be allowed to go and sit in the 
billiard-room ? — that ought to be interesting." 

" Then you won't really mind the trouble of packing," asks 
Miss Peggy, with a pretty air of innocence. 

"Goodness gracious, child, don't you understand that we 
shall often have to put up at a hotel, if only to get our washing 
done ? And the Mitre is in the middle of everything ; it will be 
a hundred times more convenient than this huddled-up caravan- 
sary. Peggy, wouldn't you like to drive out to Woodstock, and 
see Blenheim Park and Fair Rosamond's Well ? Or, at least, to 
6 D* 



82 THE BTRAVOS ADVENTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

Grodstow Nunnery, where she is supposed to be buried. Pool 
thing," says Queen Tita, absently. " I wonder whether they cut 
ofE all her beautiful hair when she entered the convent." 

"Are you speaking of Fair Rosamond!" says Miss Peggy. 
" I thought Queen Eleanor poisoned her." 

" They say not. They say she gave up all her splendor, and 
went into Godstow Nunnery, and lived in great penitence and 
piety for many years, and died and was buried there," says this 
learned person ; and then she continues, " I don't know how it 
is, but the women in history who get most of our pity and sym- 
pathy are generally the women who haven't been quite what 
they ought to have been. I would rather have a bit of Mary 
Stuart's embroidery, done by her own hand, than all the jewels 
Queen Elizabeth ever wore." 

" Do you think that possible," says Miss Peggy, with a sud- 
den interest — " to get a scrap of sewing, no matter how small, 
that Mary Queen of Scots did with her own hand ? No, surely 
not ! Why, now, to think of having a treasure like that to 
show I" 

" There must be plenty of pieces, if only they could be iden- 
tified," says Mrs. Threepenny-bit (who has before now expressed 
her own vain desires in this direction), " for she spent the long 
years and years of her imprisonment in doing hardly anything 
else, and embroidery doesn't easily perish. I should think some 
of the old Scotch families must have heirlooms of the kind. I 
wonder if Colonel Cameron would be likely to know. There, 
Peggy ; there is an idea for you. Choose Sir Ewen Cameron to 
be your knight, and give him this quest." 

" But I never even heard of him," says Miss Peggy. 

"Oh, we know him well enough; we'll ask him to come 
along, and get his commission from you. And he is a High- 
lander ; he will do anything for a pretty face." 

At this moment there was a tapping at the door, and pres- 
ently another Highlander, to wit, our faithful Murdoch, ap- 
peared, to clear the table ; so that the project of equipping and 
sending forth a nineteenth-century Sir Galahad was for the 
present abandoned, if it was not quite forgotten by these two 
crazy folk. 

We had no music this evening, for every one was busy in 
getting his or her things ready for going ashore on the follow- 



THS 6TBANGB ADTXHTURSS OF A HOUBB-BOAT. 83 

ing morning. It was daring these preparations that the senior 
members of the party unexpectedly found a chance of having a 
few words together privately. 

** Have these two quarrelled f says Mrs. Threepenny-bit 

" Not that I know of." 

'^ The formality of their manner towards each other is rather 
odd after yesterday." 

<< Well ; if he chooses to take offence because she refused to 
go traiking* about the streets of Wallingf ord with him, she will 
doubtless let him have his own way." 

<^ You think that is all ? I believe the mischievous wretch is 
playing him — ^and playing him very skilfully, too." 

** She wouldn't take the trouble. She has been a good deal 
more interested in hearing about those colleges all day long." 

<' Well, at all events," says this tom-tit Machiavelli, " I am not 
very sorry that at present they are on terms of rather cool ac- 
quaintanceship. For we shall be seeing several people in Oxford ; 
and it is as well they should understand that, although these two 
are with us, nothing is meant by it. I don't want to have any- 
thing happen while the girl is under my charge. Match-making 
is a thankless office ; and I hope to get to the end of this trip 
with both of those two innocents quite heart-whole. Innocents ? 
Tes, a precious pair of innocents thej/ are ! My private impres- 
sion is that the one is as bad as the other ; and if anything hap- 
pens to either of them, it will be richly deserved. I shouldn't 
wonder if she taught him a lesson he wasn't expecting. But in 
the meantime — " 

"Yes?" 

" In the meantime," Queen Tita says, with a laugh, '' Peggy 
is just a little too well-behaved for me. Where's all her fun ? 
I wanted a lively companion ; she's as prim as a school-miss." 

" You cannot have everything. You told her before we started 
that you were doubtful as to the way she might behave ; and 
now she is showing you, from hour to hour, from day to day, 
that there is not a more properly conducted young lady in the 
whole of this land." 

" Oh, yes, when she is studyingEnglish history. Magna Charta, 
the Barons, and so forth, and running the boat aground at the 

* This ifl a Scotch word difficult to translate accorately. 



84 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

same time. Do you think I don't know why she wanted to get 
away and buy silk and wool this morning? * Unter vier Augen^ 
is Peggy's motto. And you will see how she will befool those 
old fogies at Oxford to-morrow — ^her timid inquiries, her pre- 
tended reverence for the founders, her courteous interest in 
everything; and all the time she will be perfectly aware that 
she is reducing some learned old professor, or proctor, or doctor, 
to the condition of a jelly. If you could only see Peggy's face 
when she turns round, after having listened with the prof oundest 
attention to some dreadful old bore — " 

" Will you stop talking about her, anyway ; and take such 
things as you want ; and get out ? Buncombe will be back here 
in a minute." 

" I tell you this," she says, as she prepares to depart with a 
bundle of articles enclasped in her arms, " that before Peggy 
has done with Mr. Buncombe, she will teach him not to speak 
so patronizingly about girls. He will be singing a different tune 
before Peggy has finished with him." 

Alas ! for our fond desire that Miss Peggy should approach 
Oxford under favorable influences of weather. All that night it 
rained hard ; in the morning it was raining hard ; when we left 
Abingdon it was pouring in torrents. There was half a gale 
blowing, too ; and no easy task was it to steer this long and un- 
wieldy craft against the heavy current, with a stiff breeze knock- 
ing her about at the same time. A more doleful picture than 
that around us could hardly be conceived — the leaden and lower- 
ing sky, the dull, coffee-colored river, the dark meadows, the 
dripping willows and elms and chestnuts ; and yet, when Queen 
Tita mournfully asked if this were the merry month, of May, she 
received her answer from the shore, for through the dismal pall 
of rain we could see that the slopes of Nuneham were blue with 
wild hyacinths. 

" Bell's children," says a mite of a creature, from within the 
monkish cowl of her waterproof, " say that I'm always in a tem- 
pest, when I go over to drive them away from their books, and 
into the open air. Well, if they saw me now, they might think 
it was literally true." 

" They call her Auntie Cyclone," Miss Peggy is informed, " and 
that is a very good name for her, only much too complimentary. 
She isn't a cyclone at all : she's only a shallow disturbance." 



THB 8TKAKOB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 65 

" Ah ! did he say such things about you ?" says Miss Peggy, 
in consolatory tones ; and she even puts her hand on her friend's 
arm, to comfort her. But is there anything more ludicrous and 
ineffectual than the endeavor of two women to display sympathy 
or affection for each other while they are encased in waterproofs ? 
The india-rubber seems to act as a non-conductor of kindness. 
Besides, their cuffs are tight, and their hands are cold, and usu- 
ally there is rain running down their noses. On this occasion. 
Queen Tita prefers to take no notice ; she merely resumes her 
wail about the weather. 

" And just as we are coming to Iffley, too— to the mill and 
the bridge and the poplars that have been painted from every 
inch of difference of a point of view ! And the river as you get 
near to Oxford — why, it is quite a pretty sight to see the various 
boats, and the barges moored by Christ Church Meadow, and all 
those young lads looking so brisk and healthy, and full of life 
and enjoyment ! Well, we may get a better day before we leave 
Oxford." 

We are not likely to encounter a worse. The rain keeps peg- 
ging away, in a steady, unmistakable, business-like fashion, as 
we draw nearer to those half-hidden spires among the trees. 
The river is quite deserted ; there is not a single boat out on the 
swollen and rushing stream. The long row of barges, notwith- 
standing their gay colors and gilding and decorations, look so 
many pictures of misery ; and would appear to be quite unten- 
anted but that here and there a curl of smoke from a stove-pipe 
suggests that some solitary steward or caretaker is trying to 
keep himself warm. And so we get on to Salter's rafts, and 
secure our mqorings there; while Jack Duncombe good-nat- 
uredly volunteers to remain behind and settle up with Falinurus, 
and see our luggage forwarded to the hotel. 

In a few minutes three of us are in a cab, and driving through 
the wan, cold, dripping, black-gray thoroughfares. And it is 
little that the grave and learned seniors of those halls and col- 
leges — and it is little that the younger Fellows, snugly ensconced 
in their bachelor rooms — it is very little indeed they suspect that 
a certain White Pestilence has arrived in Oxford town. 



86 THS STRANGE AOVBNTVBSS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 



CHAPTER VIIL 

"But now secure the painted vessel glides, 
The sunbeams trembling on the floating tides : 
While melting music steals upon the sky, 
And softened sounds along the waters die ; 
Smooth flow the waves, the zephyrs gentle play — 
Belinda smiled, and all the world was gay.'' 

When, after dreary days of rain, one wakens some fine morn- 
ing, and instinctively turns one's eyes towards the window, and 
finds that outside the blessed sunlight is pouring down on a 
cluster of scarlet geraniums — making the translucent petals a 
glory and wonder of color — then joy rushes in upon the soul. 
We did not spend much time over dressing and breakfasting 
that morning ; we were too eager to be out ; and when at last 
we emerged from the inn, behold ! all this town of Oxford had 
undergone a magic transformation. The gray houses had turned 
to yellow ; over them there were masses of silver-white cloud 
slowly sailing through the blue ; a soft, fresh wind was blowing ; 
life and gladness were everywhere. Of course, we made straight 
away for Folly Bridge ; and there the flooded and rapid river 
was glancing and shimmering in the sun; and the elms and 
chestnuts and poplars were all swayiiQg and rustling in the 
breeze. It is true that our newly acquired skipper and pilot — 
Captain Columbus, Miss Peggy had named him, on account of 
the unknown regions into which he was about to conduct us — 
as he looked down from the bridge on the swollen and rushing 
stream, seemed to think it would be rather a tough job to get 
the Nameless Barge round by the Isis to the first lock of the 
canal ; and the young lad who was to act as driver — ^the Horse- 
Marine we proposed to call him, with reference to his double 
duties — was lounging about with a certain air of indifference; 
while Murdoch, being wholly ignorant of this kind of sailing, 
was discreetly silent. But we were anxious to make a start ; 
and so it was arranged that, as our women-folk had still some' 



TH£ STBANOE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 87 

things to purchase (not knowing when they might see a shop 
again), we should go back through the town, and meet our boat 
later on at the beginning of the canal, if peradventure the crew 
were able to take her thither. 

Now, whether it was that this gay morning had raised Miss 
Peggy^s spirits, and thereby in a measure softened her heart, or 
whether it was that she was bent on a little wilful mischief after 
having played Miss Propriety — to perfection, be it said— during 
these past few days, she was now showing herself a good deal 
kinder to Jack Duncombe, and he was proportionately grateful, 
as he went with the women from shop to shop and carried their 
parcels for them. Perhaps it would be more generous to say 
that she was merely giving the rein to her natural good-humor 
— for she was a friendly kind of creature, and not apt to take 
offence. Anyhow, if Jack Buncombe was pleased by her marked 
amiability, he was not too obviously overwhelmed. If he was 
ready, on small encouragement, to become her slave, he wore his 
chains with a certain lightness of heart, or cunningly professed 
to do so. And this entirely won the approval of our Govemor- 
General-in-Petticoats, who smiled benignly on them both, and 
seemed to think they were very good children indeed. 

" Oh, yes, it's all right," she says (and, of course, she knows 
everything), as we are putting our traps together at the hotel. 
"They're only in fun. I fancied once or twice that Peggy 
meant serious mischief, and the way she played you oft against 
him was very clever — oh, yes, very skilful indeed ; but I really 
think she will let him alone now. I suppose she sees that she 
could do for him if she chose, and that is enough for Peggy. 
Besides, she has had a fair turn at it these last few days." 

"Why, you said yourself to her last night that she had be- 
haved herself perfectly !" 

" So she did ; it wasn't her fault that the men made idiots of 
themselves. I wonder if that Mr. A'Becket will really come out 
to see us to-morrow. I shouldn't be a bit surprised ; but as for 
his overtaking us by walking along the canal-bank — well, I know 
what that meant — that was to give Peggy the notion that he was 
a tremendous athlete, and could do his five miles an hour with 
perfect ease. An athlete — in a black frock coat with long tails, 
and his hat on the back of his head !" 

" My dear, when intellect bulges out a man's forehead, so that 



88 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

he has to wear his hat on the back of his head, it is not a m&U 
ter for scom, bnt for reverence. Mr. A'Becket is a Fellow of his 
college. He has written several letters to the Times on the im- 
portant subject of elementary education. His ' Critical Studies 
of the Cartesian Philosophy ' are read and admired wherever — 
wherever — well, wherever they are to be found." 

'< He has got long front teeth, and his eyes are like boiled goose- 
berries," she says, with the maddening irrelevance of womankind ; 
and that ends the discussion. 

We went to the Canal Company's office to get our permit, and 
then walked along to the first lock — a little toy-box kind of basin 
it looked ; and there we loitered about for a while in expecta- 
tion of the Nameless Barge making its appearance. Time passed, 
and there was no sign. Of course it was all very well for those 
young people to be placidly content with this delay, and to heed 
nothing so long as they could stroll up and down in the sun- 
light and the blowing winds — ^her eyes from time to time show- 
ing that he was doing his best to amuse her ; but more serious 
people, who had been reading in the morning papers of the hurri- 
canes and inundations that had recently prevailed over the whole 
country, and whose last glimpse of the Isis was of a yellow-col- 
ored stream rushing like a mill-race, began to be anxious. Ac- 
cordingly it was proposed, and unanimously agreed, that we 
should make our way back along the river-bank, to gain some 
tidings. 

When, at length, we came in sight of our gallant craft and 
her composite crew, we found that Captain Columbus was mak- 
ing preparations for getting her under a bridge, and also that 
about half the population of Oxford had come out to see the 
performance. When we looked at the low arch, and at the head- 
strong current, it was with no feelings of satisfaction ; neverthe- 
less we all embarked, to see what was about to happen, and 
Murdoch took the tiller, while the tow-rope was passed to the 
Horse-Marine. Now, we should have run no serious risk but 
for this circumstance: half of the bridge had recently fallen 
down, and the authorities, instead of rebuilding it, had con- 
tented themselves with blocking up the roadway. Accordingly, 
when, as we had almost expected, the Nameless Barge got caught 
under the arch, we found the masonry just above our heads dis- 
playing a series of very alarming cracks ; and the question was 







** He went with tJie women from shop to shop, and carried their parcels 

for tJiem.'' 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 89 

as to wHich of those big blocks, loosened by the friction of the 
boat, would come crashing down on us. However, the worst 
that befell us was that we got our eyes filled with dust and our 
hands half -flayed with the gritty stone, and eventually we were 
dragged through, and towed to a place of seclusion, where we 
could have our lunch in peace, the populace having been left 
behind by ^at opportune obstruction. 

And that was but the beginning of our new experiences ; for 
when — Columbus and the Horse-Marine having reappeared — we 
went on to the first lock of the canal, we found the toy-basin so 
narrow that we had to detach our fenders before we could enter. 
Then came another bridge that had almost barred our way by 
reason of the lowness of the arch. And that again was as noth- 
ing to the succeeding bridges we encountered as we got into 
the open country — drawbridges that had to be tilted up by hand, 
their rough beams hanging over us at an angle, and threatening 
to tear the roof off our floating house. Nevertheless, we man- 
aged to get on somehow, and these recurrent delays and diffi- 
culties only served to give variety and incident to our patient 
progress. Fortunately, the weather befriended us, though there 
was too much of an April look about. There were dazzling 
white clouds, and ominous purple ones ; there were dashes of 
deep-blue sky ; bursts of vivid sunlight sweeping over the level 
landscape; buttercups and marigolds nodding here and there 
in the marshes. A Constable day; but without waterproofs, 
luckily. Queen Tita remarked that it was no wonder Eng- 
land excelled in landscape art, for no other country was pos- 
sessed of so much weather, and the painters got every possible 
chance. 

We passed the quiet little hamlet of Woolvercot, the only 
living creatures visible being some white geese on the. green; 
and shortly thereafter we stopped our noble vessel for a second 
or two, and got out for a stroll along the tow-path. And a very 
pleasant stroll it was ; the air was soft and sweet, the sunlight 
was more general now, and lay warmly on the hawthorn hedges 
and the grassy banks. Of course. Miss Peggy was busy with her 
study of English wild-flowers ; and the young man who seemed 
rather glad to be her attendant did what he could to assist her ; 
and as she got together wild hyacinths, and primroses, and speed- 
wells, and forget-me-nots, and Rosalind's << daisies pied and vio- 



90 THX STRANGE ADVKNTURES OF A HOUSK-BOAT. 

lets blue," she sometimes hummed or whistled a bit of the ^* Green 
Bushes^' tune that had apparently got into her head. 

" I sha'n't forget to write out that song for you," said her 
companion — as if the assurance were needed ! 

" I think I know the air," she answered, " if you will kindly 
give me the words." 

" Oh, you'd better let me write out the whole thing complete," 
he said. " Some day or other you may come across it, when 
you are away in America ; and then it may remind you of this 
trip— and of some English friends," he made bold to add. 

" I am not likely to forget either," said Miss Peggy, quietly, 
and without any embarrassment. Indeed, the relations that now 
existed between these two — for the moment, at least — were such 
as to command universal approval. She was kind to him, but 
not over-kind ; while he was very attentive to her, but in a mod- 
est and respectful way. What, then, had become of the rather 
patronizing air with which he had spoken of our Peggy, before 
he had ever set eyes on her? There was remarkably little of 
that now. Miss Peggy had quickly enough taught him "his 
place ;" and though he was as eager and gay and talkative as 
ever, and as full of all kinds of literary and dramatic projects, 
which he recklessly intermixed with the sober and steady busi- 
ness of our sailing, still there was always something in his man- 
ner towards Miss Peggy that showed that " patronage " was far 
from being in his mind. 

It turned out a clear and golden afternoon ; and the westering 
light lay softly on the foliage of the willows and elms, on the 
wide and silent meadows where the cattle were, and on the banks 
nearer us that were yellow with buttercups. 

" Why," says our young American friend, turning round for 
a moment, "this is not the least like what I expected. You 
would never think this was a canal — it is more like an exceed- 
ingly pretty and peaceful river. I thought a canal was a grimy 
place ; and that we should have a good deal of rough company 
— indeed, I was quite prepared to put cotton-wool in my ears. 
But this is just beautiful ; and we have it all to ourselves." 

" The canals are grimy enough in some places," one says to 
her, " especially in the north ; but we shall avoid these, as far 
as possible, and take you through nothing but primrose and cow- 
slip country, so that you may fancy yourself Ghloe, or Daphne, 



THS STRANGE ADVENTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 91 

or Phoebe, and weave posies for yourself all day long, if you 
like. As for rough company, we don't seem to have company 
of any kind ; and even if you were to hear some of the Birming- 
ham lads giving each other a dose of ' damson-pie ' — that is the 
polite name they have for it — you wouldn't understand a single 
sentence. So you needn't be afraid, Miss Peggy. If you want 
to play Rosalind in the forest, it is all around you. And if 
there is no one to hang up verses about you on the trees, then 
it speaks ill for those young men of Oxford." 

" Do you expect Mr. A'Becket to come and see us, Peggy ?" 
asks Mrs. Threepenny-bit in a casual kind of way. 

Miss Peggy glances rather swiftly at Jack Duncombe (who is 
quite imperturbable), and makes answer, 

" How can I know ? He is your friend." 

" That was really a beautiful basket of roses he brought you 
yesterday afternoon," her hostess again remarks. 

" I have just given them to Murdoch," the young lady says, 
with much simplicity. " They ought to look very pretty on the 
dinner-table." 

And not only was Miss Peggy surprised and charmed by the 
pastoral character of this portion of her voyage, but also she 
was much interested in our getting through the locks. These 
rude little wooden boxes seemed to have been left for us years 
and years ago ; and as there was no one in charge of them, nor 
any living creature visible near them, we had to open and shut 
them for ourselves, thereby getting a sufficient amount of occu- 
pation and exercise. Jack Duncombe, of course, was chief en- 
gineer on such occasions, co-operating with the captain ; and it 
is well to allow young men of superfluous energy to have their 
way, especially when there is a fair spectator looking on whose 
favor they wish to obtain. Indeed, young Duncombe had been 
so obliging all day — so dexterous and indefatigable, and full of 
resource when we were in any small difficulties — ^that we thought 
him entitled to some consideration at the hands of our pretty 
Miss Peggy. And as for the man in the long coat, with his hat 
on the back of his head ? WeU, he might walk his five miles 
an hour till he was blue in the face, but there was no opinion- 
ated metaphysician going to make any part of the voyage with 
us. We should take care of that 

Whether the little hamlet of Hampton Gay is so called in re- 



92 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

membrance of certain historical high-jinks, or whether it obtained 
its name from the prevailing character of its people, we could 
not learn; and all that we saw of the place was an odd little 
churchnspire peeping up from among the trees. Almost imme- 
diately thereafter we came to a lock, and, having passed through 
that, emerged into the swift-flowing and osiered Cherwell. Here 
abundant evidence of the recent floods was all around us ; wide 
stretches of meadow had been turned into a continuous lake, 
with nothing to be seen but pollard-willows and half-submerged 
masses of marsh-marigold ; the tow-path was under water, as 
our young friend Murdoch, being ashore, discovered to his cost, 
for he had to pick and splash his way along, while Columbus 
and the Horse-Marine had mounted their gallant steed and rode 
secure ; and the Cherwell itself was coming down in extraor- 
dinary volume and with tremendous force. In fact, as this is a 
quite candid history, the writer of it will here confess — ^f or the 
guidance of any one who may attempt a similar expedition — that 
he was very nearly being the death of all those members of the 
party who happened to be afloat. Steering at the time, and ob- 
serving that the heaviest rush of the river was along the western 
shore, he naturally thought he could cheat the current by edg- 
ing out towards mid-stream, and proceeded to do so with ^1 
imaginary caution. But the moment the heavy weight of water 
got a grip of the bow, the boat was twisted round, so that the 
full force of the stream bore down upon her broadside on ; while 
the strain of the tow-rope, acting at this awkward angle, pro- 
ceeded to tilt us over in a very alarming fashion. It was an 
affair of only a moment or two ; for by jamming the tiller over 
she was presently righted; and beyond a scream from the 
women, and a ghastly rattle of crockery in Murdoch's pantry, 
nothing happened. But it convinced us of two things : first, 
that it was well for us that the Nameless Barge had been con- 
structed below on the lines of an ordinary boat, instead of being 
a flat-bottomed punt; and, secondly, that the steersman of a 
vessel that is being towed by a horse should not try to be too 
clever when the stream is in heavy flood. 

We were now to understand why it was we had come so far 
without encountering a single canal-barge. We arrived at a 
lock where there was quite a company of them congregated 
there for the night, afraid to face that furious current, or, rather, 



THB STRANOB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 93 

not afraid of facing it, but of being carried down by it, to the de- 
struction of all proper steering-way. And where was the grimi- 
ness of these barges, now that we were among them? They 
were unconmionly smart, we thought They were gay with 
landscapes painted in brilliant hues of scarlet and white, and 
yellow and purple — comprising Italian villas, cascades, snow- 
peaks, mountain bridges, and all kinds of romantic things ; and 
there was a sententious simplicity about their names — The Staff 
of Life, Live and Leam^ and so forth. As for the people, they 
seemed a quiet and civil folk ; the men lent us a helping hand 
in getting through ; the women — who were tidily furnished with 
head-gear, if their faces seemed hardened by exposure to wind 
and weather— eyed us as we passed with a natural curiosity; 
while some of the small fry popped out their heads to have a 
look. 

" Poor little wretches !" says Queen Tita. " I hope they are 
not worried much by the school-inspectors. At all events, their 
life ought to be a good deal wholesomer and happier than the 
life of children in the London slums. They must get fresh air 
— in the daytime, at least ; and they must get to know all about 
country things. Do you remember the story of the bird's-nest 
being taken into a ward in a children's hospital in London, and 
hardly one of the poor little things able to tell what it was? 
They call for education and education, and they cram a lot of 
useless stuff into small brains that only get stupefied by it ; and 
then you take some poor little fellow out into the country, and 
he can't tell the difference between a buttercup and a dandelion ; 
and a sheep frightens him, and a mile's walking tires him — " 

'< Madam, will you please to speak less disrespectfully," one 
of us interposes, ^' of a system that has been established by the 
collective wisdom of the country ? I tell you that by means of 
education you can do everything — " 

" Except teach people how to live." 

" If you want to see what education can do, look at America — ^" 

" At America !" she says (for Peggy is not within hearing at 
the moment) — " at America, that makes no shame of walking 
away with the surplus of the Alabama money buttoned up in its 
pocket I I suppose that is the effect of education on the national 
conscience ?" 

^ I tell you again that you do not understand the blessings of 



94 THB STRANOB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

edacation. Why don't you consult some capable authority, and 
have your invincible ignorance removed ? Why don't you con- 
sult Mr. Algernon A'Becket, now — ^" 

" Mr. Algernon A'Becket !" she says. But she stops short, 
for here comes Miss Peggy ; and of course her innocent mind is 
not to be prejudiced against any person (whatever may be the 
color of his eyes or the peculiarity of his front teeth) who has 
shown an exceptional interest in her. 

Meanwhile, we had sailed once more into the silences ; and 
the clear and golden afternoon had become a clear and golden 
evening ; and the wide sheets of water, lying along the meadows, 
shone with a glory that the eyes could hardly bear. And per-, 
haps it was that dazzling light, and the beautiful color in the 
higher heavens, and our own solitariness, that made Queen Tita 
say, rather wistfully, 

" I could almost think we were lying becalmed in Loch-na- 
Eeal, and looking out to the west — to Little Colonsay, and 
Staffa, and the Dutchman. Ah ! Peggy ; we have something to 
show you yet before you go back home !" 

" More beautiful than this ?" says the girl ; for she is a con- 
tented creature, and happy in her surroundings, whatever they 
may be. " But it isn't fair to ask you. Why, you are just like 
Murdoch. Do you know what he did yesterday I He had got 
a newspaper sent him from Scotland, from some friend of his ; 
and he brought it to me, and showed me an advertisement of a 
yacht for sale — ^a full description of it — and he wanted me to 
take it to you and persuade you to either buy or hire her for 
the autumn. He did not say anything against this trip; but 
you could see what he was thinking." 

" And what did you say to him ?" 

" I told him I could hardly do that, for it would look as if I 
were asking you to take me with you." 

" But will you come, Peggy ?" immediately and eagerly asks 
this brazen piece of audacity, who seems to assume that when- 
ever she and any girl-friend of hers, who happens to have pretty 
eyes, and pretty ways, and a weakly-pretended contempt for 
men, choose to plan out a further holiday for themselves, a 
yacht must be provided for them forthwith, irrespective of the 
trifling question of cost. Fortunately Miss Peggy has a little 
more common-sense. 



THB 8TRANOB ADVBKTURSS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 95 

" Don't tempt me," she says. " From the way you speak of 
all those places, I know it must be just beyond anything. But 
the ' old folks at home ' will be thinking I have been away long 
enough. And, besides, it isn't wise to exhaust all your pleasures 
at once. You will let me look forward to going with you, some 
day, to your pet places ; and it will be something to think about, 
and dream about, when I am thousands of miles away from you." 

" Well, that is a bargain, Peggy," says Mrs. Threepenny-bit ; 
and she puts her hand within the girl's arm. " Whenever you 
have the opportunity of coming with us for a month, or two 
months, in the summer or autumn, we will go on a yachting 
cruise together — and then you will see something. For I con- 
sider you have been a very good girl, and quite a pattern of 
behavior, and I will give you a certificate of character whenever 
you want it." 

Now, what moved Miss Peggy, almost directly thereafter, to 
the following piece of mischief ? The present writer is convinced 
that it was simply the transparent honesty of the girl, who knew 
well enough that she was not deserving of the praise bestowed 
on her, and was resolved to amend Mrs. Threepenny-bit's too 
high estimate of her. When the elder of the two women said — 

"Come along, Peggy; I see Murdoch is lighting the can- 
dles—we must get ready for dinner." 

Miss Peggy, instead of immediately following, lingered for 
a moment. 

" Have you got the little cigar-cutter I gave you ?" she said, 
in a rapid undertone. 

" I should think I have !" 

" Can't you fasten it on again to your watch-chain ?" 

" In a kind of a way." 

" Well, do I I want you to wear it at dinner. You'll see 
something." 

A little while thereafter, in obedience to Murdoch's sum- 
mons, we found ourselves taking our places at table ; and the 
first thing we discovered was that Miss Peggy had had time to 
change her dress, and now wore a very pretty and simple cos- 
tume that seemed to suit her excellently well. Of some slightly 
roughish material it was, and cream-white, with vertical blue 
stripes ; and at the neck, just underneath the plain linen collar, 
there was a band of dark blue velvet It was on this dark band 



96 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

that there gleamed conspicuous an oblong silver ornament, 
which the person sitting next her instantly recognized as a 
pencil-case ingeniously set as a brooch. The jeweller in Ox- 
ford deserved credit for this piece of workmanship ; and cer- 
tainly he could not have been long over it. 

For the first few minutes the new trinket remained unnoticed; 
but presently Queen Tita's attention was caught by it ; and at 
once she put down the spoon she held in her hand. 

" Well, upon my word !" she exclaimed. " Before my very 
eyes ! Did you ever see such disgraceful eflErontery !" 

And then she glanced across the table. 

*' And look at the other one ! look what he has at his watch- 
chain I" she says to Jack Duncombe. " Did you ever see such 
shamelessness in a Christian country? I wish my two sons 
were here — they wouldn't see their mother insulted — ^" 

" But I have only done what you yourself suggested !" says 
Miss Peggy, with an air of simple wonder that was beautiful 
to behold. " Don't you remember it was your own sugges- 
tion ? and I thought it was so kind of you and so clever of 
you to think of it — " 

" Yes ; and why the secrecy ? Why the sneaking out in 
Oxford, and never a word said about it ? Why the conspiracy 
to spring a surprise on us ?" 

'* But you had so many things to attend to in Oxford that I 
thought I needn't bother you with my small affairs," says Miss 
Peggy ; and the perfect candor of her eyes would have bam- 
boozled an Old Bailey lawyer out of his wits. 

"Your small affairs, you wretch! Do you think you can 
impose on me with your pretended innocence ?" 

" Don't you pay any attention to them. Miss Peggy," one of 
us says to her. " What do they understand about faithfulness 
and devotion? I suppose they thought, when they took you 
away from the simple pleasures of the country, and plunged 
you into the wild whirl of gayeties at Oxford — " 

" Tea and talk !" says Peggy. 

" That you would forsake old friends. When they led you 
away through dazzling halls, and would distract you with a 
thousand revelries, they little dreamed that there was still con- 
stancy in your heart. How could they know that one always 
returns — ^no matter what comes between — ^to one's first loves ?" 



THB 8TRANOB ADVXNTITRES OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 9*i 

" I wonder how many you would have to return to, if you 
began," says Queen Tita, spitefully. 

" They fancied that the sympathy between two kindred souls 
was to be destroyed by three and a half days' gallivanting about 
Oxford ! And callous and unfeeling worldlings might think so too ; 
but we will show them something different; we will be a lesson to 
them ; our constancy will be celebrated in legend and ballad — " 

" Yes," says Miss Peggy, with eyes cast down. " * And out 
of her grave there grew a red rose ; and out of her knight's a 
sweet-brier.' " 

" Precisely so. I know they will quote us in song and story, 
as a shining example : 

* Jeunesse trop coquette, 

Ecoutez la le^on 
Que Yous fait Henriette, 
£t son amant Damon.' " 

'< Are you listening to them ?" says Queen Tita to her neigh- 
bor, in awestruck tones. 

"Yes," says Jack Duncombe, "it does sound a little improper." 

"And to think that a simple Highland lad like Murdoch 
should be coming and going — I wonder what his opinion is." 

As the simple Highland lad happened to come in at this 
moment, she had to stop her envious chatter ; and was fain to 
turn to her companion with some idle request that he should pass 
the salt. 

All this time, it must be remembered, we were steadily and 
silently gliding through the now fast darkening country. As 
to where we were, or where we should pass the night, we had 
not the remotest idea. For one thing, our studies of Ordnance 
Survey maps had at least taught us this — ^that canals are not 
as other highways. The ancient highways, such as rivers and 
roads, have had centuries and centuries to draw population to 
them, so that the life of a district is mostly visible there ; while 
the chief modem line of communication, the railway, has gen- 
erally been engineered so as to pick up any considerable vil- 
lages in its course. But the peculiar difficulties in the con- 
struction of canals have, in the majority of instances, prevented 
their projectors from doing much beyond aiming at the chief 
objective points ; so that, when you leave one of these — such 
as Oxford, or Napton, or Warwick, or Rugby, as a rule you 
1 E 



08 THE STRANGE ADVENTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

find yourself going through districts that are apparently unin- 
habited. If a foreigner were to see England in this way, he 
would find it hard to give credence to the familiar statistics 
about relative proportion of population to area in this and 
other countries. Of course, it mattered nothing to us whether 
we were near a village or not. We had our house with us, 
and were well content to be without neighbors. Our only 
concern was that Captain Columbus, the horse, and the Horse- 
Marine should find quarters for the night; and as Columbus 
professed himself well acquainted with the Oxford Canal, at 
least, we had no immediate anxiety on that score. 

Dinner over, Jack Duncombe, without any entreaty or apology, 
handed Miss Peggy her banjo ; and she, good-naturedly, took 
that proceeding as a matter of course. First of all, to try the 
strings, she played the " Daisy " clog-dance, which met with 
much approval. Then she said, 

" Did you ever hear the tragic story of Dinah Snow ?" 

We had never heard it. 

" Well, I will sing it to you ; and you must all join in the 
chorus, mind. This is the chorus." 

She played a few notes of prelude that at once struck us as 
strangely familiar, and beautiful, too ; and then she sang, 

" Oh, my witching Dinah Snow, oh, my witching Dinah Snow, 
She met her death by drowning in the river Ohio." 

" But wait a minute, Peggy," interposes Mrs, Threepenny- 
bit, in considerable wonderment. " Why, that's < The Wearing 
of the Green !' " 

" Of course it is," says Miss Peggy, complacently. 

" What a shame !" 

" I don't see that. I suppose no one knows what were the 
words originally sung to those old airs — " 

" Quite right ; hear, hear !" Peggy's faithful ally ventures 
to put in. 

" And the story of Dinah Snow is as pathetic as anything you 
could wish for. Now listen ; and don't forget the chorus." 

We began to think that Miss Peggy was making a fool of us 
on this occasion ; for, although she sang the song with much 
feeling, still there was a curious ingenuousness about the words 
which provoked doubt. What could one make of this ? — 



THE STRAKaX ADVXNTURSS OF A HOVSX-BOAT. 99 

** 'Twas a dark and dreary night, the stormy winds did blow. 
She went on board the horse-boat to cross the Ohio ; 
The waves ran high and in the deep her graceful form did go, 
The river's cold embrace received my pretty Dinah Snow." 

This piece of literature, it must be confessed, puzzled us ; and 
it is just possible that Miss Peggy might have been sharply 
brought to task for singing a comic song to one of the finest of 
the old Irish airs, had she not put such evident good faith into 
her rendering of it. So we all, in such dulcet tones as Heaven 
had dealt to us, bewailed the fate of poor Dinah Snow ; and 
then, mercifully to cheer us up a bit, our pretty Peggy sang 
" There's a happy little home down in Southern Tennessee," 
and several others that we had established as favorites since 
she first came among us with her banjo and her audacious 
ways. 

Now, it may be observed that Queen Tita is easily taken 
captive by a contralto voice ; and when the girl ceased for a mo- 
ment or so, she said, 

" Peggy, I wish you were *a wave of the sea;' you remem- 
ber the nice things that were said to Perdita ; and that you 
could go on forever. And it's awfully good of you to have 
brought your banjo with you. What should we do to show 
our gratitude to you? Would you like a testimonial? Or a 
vote of thanks?" 

Instantly there is a flash of wicked triumph in Miss Pe^y's 



<< May I wear this brooch, then ?" she asks. 

But the little woman is equal to the occasion. 

" That brooch ?" she answers, with much indifference. " Why, 
of course. What do I care ? He may give a brooch to every 
woman in the country, for anything it matters to me. And 
you needn't suppose you are the only favored one," she adds, 
with a perfectly gratuitous malice. 

" At all events, I know the sort of brooch you should wear," 
one says to her. '^ It ought to have dark blue stones in it. 
And then one could call you Sapphira with impunity, and 
with truth." 

<< In the meantime," says Mr. Jack Duncombe, not without 
some reason, " don't you think we should ask Columbus whether 
he has any notion where he is going to find lodgings for the 



100 THB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

night ? It must be getting late ; and they can't go wandering 
about the country in the dark, searching for a public-house 
and a stable." 

So therewithal the young man rose and went outside. But 
he had not been gone a second when he returned. 

" If you will come out now," he said, " you will see the most 
surprisingly beautiful thing you ever saw in your life, I believe. 
And you needn't wrap up," he considerately added to the women- 
folk ; " the air is quite soft and mild." 

Nevertheless, they lingered for a momei^t to put some light 
shawl or kerchief round their head or shoulders ; and then they 
passed out from.the saloon on to the piece of deck at the prow. 
And, indeed, it was no wonder they were struck wholly silent 
by the marvellous scene they now found all around them. In 
the cloudless violet-hued heavens there shone a full golden 
moon ; jet-black were the trees and bushes near us, and also 
the shadow along the bank ; but the surface of the canal, away 
behind us, was of a pale and mystic gray ; and that, again, was 
broken by the divergent ripples we left in our wake, each of 
these ripples catching the moonlight and becoming a line of 
quivering fire. This boat, indeed, stealing through the silence 
and the mysterious dusk, seemed like some great white moth, 
with long and sinuous wings of silver ; and the creature had 
red eyes, too— for the windows were lit; and noiselessly it 
crept on beneath the black overhanging boughs. The whole 
thing was very ghostly ; it sounded quite pleasant to hear the 
cheerful voice of Captain Columbus — whom we could scarcely 
make out in the shadow of the trees — ^return assurances that 
he knew perfectly well where he was, and would soon bring us 
to our moorings for the night. 

Nevertheless, it was some little time thereafter before we 
were finally made fast, and saw the dark figures of the two 
men and the horse disappear along the gray tow-path, leaving 
us to the silence of this perfect moonlight night. As to where 
we were we had not the faintest notion ; nor did it matter one 
jot Jack Buncombe and the writer of these pages considered 
they might profitably smoke their final cigar outside, and Queen 
Tita and Miss Peggy, the latter with her banjo, were so kind 
as to come and sit in the stem-sheets with us. 

"On a night like this," said our young American friend, 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 101 

'< isn't it a pity we haven't some beantiful music 9 The tink- 
ling of a banjo spoils everything." 

" Peggy," said Queen Tita, putting her hand on the girl's 
arm for a moment, ^^ sing *• Mj old Kentucky home.' " 

Thereupon Miss Peggy — ^who is the soul of good-nature when 
there is no mischievous project in her head — ^took up her banjo 
and began to sing, and very well did her rich contralto voice 
sound in the stillness of these slumbering woods and fields. 
One could not help wondering what some belated rustic would 
have thought of it all if he had chanced upon us on his way 
home ; the black trees and the gray canal showing no sign of 
life; that spectral white thing moored in there among the 
willows, with its motionless points of red -fire; the silence 
all around absolute but for the strange singing of a woman's 
voice. 

Well, it was a pleasant night ; and I don't know how late 
we sat up, or did not sit up. We felt very much alone, and 
yet, somehow or other, we were not greatly discontented with 
our solitude. 



CHAPTER IX. 

*' Marie Hamilton to the kirk is gane, 
Wi' ribbons on her breist : 
The king thocht mair o' Marie Hamilton 
Than he listened to the priest 

" Marie Hamilton to the kirk is gane, 
Wi' ribbons in her hair : 
The king thocht mair o* Marie Hamilton 
Than onie that were there. 

" Marie Hamilton to the kirk is gane, 
Wi' gloves upon her hands : 
And the king thocht mdr o^ Marie Hamilton 
Than the queen and a' her lands." 

It was hard that such a perfect night should be succeeded by 
a wild and blustering morning; the rain was rattling on our 
house-roof ; there was a wail of wind through the swaying and 
dripping bushes and trees. In the midst of all this turmoil. 
Captain Columbus suddenly makes his appearance, emerging 



102 THB BTRANGB ADVINTUBBS OF A HOU8I-BOAT. 

from tlie vague regions of unknown space; and, with serious 
aspect, he informs us that we cannot go any farther at present 
The authorities, it appears, lock the canal -gates every second 
Sunday — perhaps with a view of forcing on the floating popula- 
tion at least a chance of going to church : and it is this second 
Sunday we happen to have hit on. Queen Tita, of course, is far 
from being disappointed. She highly approves of stopping the 
traffic every second Sunday, and doubtless would have the regu- 
lation extended to every Sunday if she had the power. And as 
for our own nondescript crew, she distinctly objects to having 
them labor on the day of rest. 

" I quite agree with you," says Jack Buncombe (he generally 
does agree with her, for reasons of his own). '' The seventh 
day's rest is good for everybody all round. I remember, one 
night at dinner, a young parson was going on about the neces- 
sity of Sunday as an institution, and one of the girls of the 
house said, * Yes, of cour&e ; if it wasn't for Sunday, how should 
we ever find the missing tennis-balls ?' But I wonder what we 
are to do here ?" 

" Can't we go to church ?" says Miss Peggy, ingenuously. " If 
we were to find a road and keep to it we should be sure to come 
to a church somewhere." 

It turned out, however, that this search for a simple rustic 
service did not seem to commend itself to Mrs. Threepenny-bit, 
whose sympathies rather incline to cathedral aisles, and mystic- 
hued windows, and the hushed, clear singing of an invisible 
choir : besides which, she detests, as a cat would, walking along 
muddy roads. Indeed, we had just begun to think of settling 
down to a hopelessly idle day, when Captain Columbus again 
presented himself, and with far more alarming news — in fact, 
he had become a kind of stormy petrel on this wild morning. 
The latest piece of intelligence was that the local experts (where 
did he find any in this solitary district ?) were of opinion that it 
was quite impracticable for us to get our boat under a certain 
small bridge a little way farther along. Of course this was a 
contingency to be faced, and at once. If the information was 
correct, it meant our immediate return to Oxford, and a stay 
there of probably a week, while the Namelesi Barge was having 
two or three inches taken oS. the height of her house. Accord- 
ingly, orders were given that, without waiting to send for the 



THS STRAKOS ADVINTUBSS OF A HOUdB-BOAT. 103 

horse, they should themselves hanl the boat along to this al- 
leged obstruction, that we might know our fate forthwith. 

In a venerable book of jests, the title of which the present 
writer has forgotten, there is a story told of a Dutch toll-keeper 
who dreamed a dream of the Day of Judgment, himself and his 
neighbors being summoned to give an account of themselves, 
and then being sent to the left hand among the goats, or to the 
right hand among the sheep, as their merits deserved. Several 
of his fellow toll -keepers having been sent among the goats 
for their iniquitous exactions, Jacob Schmseven, somewhat after 
this fashion, relates what happened to himself : '^ Then the Lord 
said to me, ' Stand before me, Schmseven. Schmseven, you take 
too much toll.' * Yes, Lord,' I said, * I take too much toll — ^but 
from the rich people only, and not from the poor.' Then the 
Lord said, ' Friend Schmseven, you may go to the right hand 
among the sheep — ^but let me tell you it is a tam tight squeeze !' " 
We found the phrase most appositely descriptive of our passage 
under this wretched little bridge. Such pushing and hauling 
and canting and righting there was ! — ^and all the while flying 
showers were driving past ; and the wind was whistling through 
the trees, and drawing out the branches of the willows like long 
streamers of witches' hair ; and the silver - gray breadths of wa- 
ter in the meadows were darkened to a leaden hue as the suc- 
cessive gusts bore heavily down upon them. But through the 
bridge we eventually did get ; and, as farther progress was im- 
possible for that day, we allowed Captain Columbus and the 
Horse-Marine to go back to Oxford, if they should be lucky 
enough to strike a railwaynstation somewhere ; and when they 
were gone away — having been intrusted by Murdoch with sun- 
dry commissions, chiefly on account of breakage — we were once 
more left to ourselves in this remote and rain-beaten region. 

Suddenly, through the chaos of sounds without, there came 
another — ^the faint and distant tolling of a bell. Miss Peggy 
quickly looked up from her writing. 

'^ Mr. Duncombe, there must be a church somewhere not so 
far away. Don't you think we could find it ?" 

" Certainly," said he, with the greatest alacrity — ^for these two 
had never had an excursion together before. " If you will put 
on thick boots and a waterproof, I will undertake to find out 
where the church is." 



104 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

** In a moment, then, when I have finished my letter," said 
she ; and presently she had gone away to get ready. 

And then the extraordinary care that had to be taken of her, 
and the precautions and the anxious advice when she returned 
to the saloon I You would have thought she was made of Ve- 
netian spun -glass, or Genoese pastry, or Sevres china, by the 
way he went on. Was she quite sure that her boots were thick- 
soled? Her waterproof ought certainly to have been three 
inches longer: wouldn't she try whether she could wear his, 
and he would take his ulster ? Well, if she didn't care to do 
that, hadn't she some smaller bonnet that would allow the hood 
to come well over, so as to be strapped down round her ears ? 
At the next big town we should reach, he said, he would get 
her a deer-stalker's cap, and show her how admirably that fitted 
into the hood of a waterproof, to keep the wind from whistling 
about her head. Would she intrust him with a spare pair of 
gloves, that he could give her on reaching the church porch, 
and then her hands wouldn't feel damp and miserable during 
the service ? To one of us it appeared pretty certain that this 
was not the first time Mr. Jack Duncombe had ministered to a 
young lady's comfort ; but, anyhow, Miss Peggy was apparently 
very grateful to him — though once or twice there was a look in 
her eyes that seemed to say she was a little bit amused by his 
assiduous care of her. Then these two set forth from the ark 
to see whether they could find any resting-place for the soles of 
their feet. 

While our young friends were away the loneliness of our sit- 
uation was naturally intensified ; our sole companions were the 
speedwells and daisies and forget-me-nots along the bank, and 
the swaying willows and flooded meadows beyond. Oddly 
enough, though the weather brightened up from time to time, 
there was not a bird singing anywhere ; whereas, along the 
Thames, whenever a shower ceased, there was a burst of music 
filling all the air. In what various functions of reading and let- 
ter-writing we passed that morning needs not to be described; 
but when at length we heard voices without, and presently be- 
held Miss Peggy's bright and smiling face at the door of the 
saloon, it cannot truthfully be said that the interruption was un- 
welcome. 

She had come back in excellent spirits, after the buffeting 



TBB STBANOB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 105 

the rain and wt&d had given her ; and all during luncheon she 
was very talkative and merry, while her eyes were sometimes 
quicker than her words in flashing out her meaning, or showing 
that she was alive to everything that was going on, whether in 
jest or earnest. It was the first time she had been in a small 
village church in this country. 

" For one thing," she said, " I am glad to find that the Horse- 
Marine wasn't making fun of me yesterday. I was watching 
what they were doing on the bank, and he was talking to Co- 
lumbus ; and he said something about going ' right back into 
the ta-own.' Well, I thought it wasn't very civil of him to 
mock my Yankee pronunciation before my very face ; and I said 
to myself that I would have it out with the young man before 
he was many days older. But this morning in church I found 
I had been mistaken. I heard the children in the choir say as 
plainly as possible — ' Glory be to the Father, and ta-o the Son,' 
and I came to the conclusion that the Horse-Marine hadn't been 
mocking me at all." 

" Of course he hadn't," one says to her. " If only you keep 
your ears open you'll hear plenty of American pronunciation 
and plenty of what are called Americanisms as you go through 
these country districts. Perhaps you didn't notice how Colum- 
bus greeted his acquaintances on the barges last night ? < How 
do?' he said to each one of them. And as we were coming 
away from the lock, when he nodded good-bye to a friend he 
had been talking to, he said ^ So long !' Both these are sup- 
posed to be Americanisms, aren't they ?" 

" It's very hard," says Peggy, reflectively, " that I am not al- 
lowed to use the least little bit of American slang — it is so clever 
sometimes, and means such a lot. Any English girl I meet may 
use those smart little phrases when she is among her own friends, 
and everybody understands she only does it for fun — " 

" And why may not you ?" 

^^ Because if I did people would say American girls ordinarily 
talked like that." 

"People would say? What people?" 

" The English people," answers Miss Peggy, simply. 

" You may believe this, that the English people are no such 
microcephalous jackasses. Why, our Bell is quite delighted 
when she gets hold of another Westemism ; but, of course, that 

E* 



106 TBK BTRANQE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

is among ourselves: she doesn't trumpet her newly acquired 
knowledge from the housetops." 

All the same, Miss Peggy shakes her head. 

" People are so stupid," she says ; " and I have the credit of 
my country to keep up." 

*^ Then please don't consider us as people," one says to her 
finally; ^^and talk in any way you like so long as you are on 
board this boat. It isn't in neighborhoods like this, surely, that 
you need be afraid of what people will say I" 

In wet weather, and during the daytime, we had agreed that 
there should be no smoking in the saloon ; so presently two of 
us found ourselves outside, in the sternnsheets, where there was 
some kind of shelter from the driving wind and drizzle. 

" Do you know, that is a remarkably nice girl !" says our 
young dramatist, with sudden emphasis, as soon as we are shut 
out of hearing. 

« Indeed !" 

" She is, really. She has been telling me all about herself 
this morning, and about her family; and I seem to know the 
whole lot, and all her surroundings. Of course, on a boating 
expedition of this kind you get to understand people so much 
better. A single day's constant companionship makes you bet- 
ter acquainted than a hundred chance meetings during a Lon- 
don season — " 

" Yes. I have heard young people say that before, on board 
a yacht. It was generally when the girl was good-looking that 
this intimate acquaintance was insisted on." 

"Oh, it isn't only that she is pretty," observes the young 
man, ingenuously. " I call her uncommonly clever. She isn't 
a fool, by any means. Oh, no. I tell you, you have to be on 
your guard ; she knows more than you think." 

" She knows more about you than you think," is one's inward 
comment ; but our young friend continues — 

" She puzzled me this morning, though, for a bit. You re- 
member she was writing a letter before we went out." 

" I believe she was." 

" Well, as we were going along she asked me if we were like- 
ly to come across a post-office. I said I didn't know, but that 
at any rate we could get the letter posted for her to-morrow 
morning. She said that wouldn't do at all; she must post it 



THB 8TRANGI ADVBNTUBSS OF A HOUSI-BOAT. 107 

herself ; it was a compact she had made before leaving America 
that she should write every Sunday, and post the letter with her 
own hand. Of course, I jumped to the natural conclusion. In- 
deed, I reflected that a bright and attractive girl like that was 
sure to be engaged — though I had never heard any of you speak 
of it I can't say that I was particularly disappointed; it was 
none of my business ; still, you know, you rather prefer to fancy 
that the girl you're talking to is heart whole." 

"Is that so?" 

" Oh, yes ; you don't want to imagine that all the time she is 
listening to you she is in reality thinking of some beast of a 
man somewhere else. However, it was no business of mine; 
no ; I rather hoped she would tell me something about him, as 
she had been telling me so much about her people. Fact is, I 
looked upon myself as rather a generous and noble-hearted per- 
sonage — resolved to find out a post-office so that a letter might 
be sent away to some idiot of a fellow in New York. But, af- 
ter all, it was for her sister." 

"Really!" 

" Yes. Her sister Emily. She's at school at Brooklyn. She 
is only fourteen, but tall for her age ; and these two are great 
chums; and when Miss Rosslyn left America each of them 
promised to write to the other every Sunday, and post the letter 
with her own hand — " 

" No matter whether the post-offices were open or not." 

" Oh, I got the people to take it — I managed that," says the 
young man, complacently ; then he continues his garrulous talk, 
all upon one subject : " I wonder if her own countrymen would 
quite like to hear the way she speaks about England and the 
people over here. She is not ungrateful for kindness, that is 
one thing certain ; and she doesn't conceal her opinion about 
the exalted merits and virtues of her friends. And isn't she 
frank, too, about the circumstances of her family ? Well, she 
found that I knew part of her story before, and so she spoke 
freely enough. I rather fancy her father may have kept her 
abroad all this while in order to see whether he couldn't pull 
round a little, and make it easier for her to bear the change 
when she goes back. Not that it would matter much to her, 
judging by the way she talks ; she is very sensible about it ; 
and you can see how simply and inexpensively she dresses, 



108 THE STRANGE ADYBNTURSS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

though she is always particularly neat. Just imagine the situ- 
ation of those two partners out there — companions from boy- 
hood almost, and then associated in business most of their lives ; 
and suddenly the one is beggared, while the other remains a 
man of wealth. Fortunately, from what I can gather, the col- 
lapse of Mr. Rossl3ni's speculations hasn't affected the credit of 
the firm : the other partner is known to be a solid man ; so that 
the Rosslyn family should, in course of time, get fairly right 
again, if they can't be as rich as they were. I don't know why 
she should have told me so much ; well, I was asking her, if she 
was so fond of England, why she didn't stay here altogether, 
and then she began and told me how they were all situated at 
home, when once she discovered that I had got most of the 
story from you." 

" You must have employed your time diligently, both going 
and coming." 

" We did not hurry back, you know." 

" You did not. You kept luncheon half an hour late." 

" Well, she is really a very interesting girl," he says, by way 
of apology. 

" As an ethnological curiosity, yes. I understood your inter- 
est in her to be purely scientific. Have you discovered any ra- 
cial peculiarities yet ?" 

" I believe the wet weather has got at my cigars ; this is a 
perfect brute," he says, knitting his brows. "Oh, as to the 
probable origin of her family? Well, that is of little conse- 
quence. The girl herself i& sufficiently attractive, when you 
get to understand how she is situated, and how she regards 
things, and her opinions, and so forth." 

" What kind of a clergyman did you find there this morning ?" 

"Oh, the usual kind. Her sister Emily is extraordinarily 
fond of her, and will hardly let any of the others go near her 
when she is at home. It is the Emily one who is considered to 
be the beauty of the family ; so I suppose she must be some- 
thing to look at, rather !" 

" Do you think Miss Rosslyn so pretty, then ?" 

" Why, don't you ?" he says, with an innocent air of surprise. 

" That is neither here nor there. Did you have a good ser- 
mon this morning ?" 

" Yes, good enough, I dare say. You know Miss Rossiyn's 



THE 8TRANOB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 109 

waterproof isn't as efBcient as it onght to be, and all we conld 
do we couldn't get the hood to keep properly np. The conse- 
quence was that she got her hair pretty well wet and blown 
about ; and although she stopped in the porch and tried to dry 
it a little with her handkerchief, it was considerably bedraggled 
as she was sitting in the pew. And, do you know, it really 
looked prettier than ever ; there were dark and light strands in 
it — some almost golden, and some a beautiful brown : really, it 
was quite pretty to look at." 

'^ You seem to have been much edified by this morning's ser- 
vice," one remarks, in a casual kind of way. 

" But, I say," continues young Shakespeare, " you don't actu- 
ally mean that there is a chance of that pretentious prig, A'Beck- 
et, coming along ? He isn't a friend of yours, is he f ' 

" Heaven forbid !" 

" Then why should he tack himself on to a small private par- 
ty, such as we make at present?" demanded the young man, 
rather indignantly. 

"Why? Well; when you are introduced to any one at a 
friend's house, and he chooses to make himself agreeable to the 
women of your party, and proposes to favor them with a visit, 
what are you to do? That is their lookout And, besides, 
they can't very well say * Not at home ' if he comes along a 
canal-bank and finds them in a boat. They will have to be civil 
to him. Perhaps their youthful minds are impressed by the 
fame of so great a man — " 

" A great man ! I consider him as bad a specimen as I ever 
saw of the pedantic and conceited schoolmaster I And then he 
is so hideously ugly !" 

" But don't you think there is something pathetic in the wor- 
ship of beauty when you find it in a rather ill-favored person? 
Don't you think that our guest of this evening — " 

" He isn't really coming, is he ?" 

" He said he would try to find us out. And don't you think 
that, by way of compensation for Nature having given him an 
unwholesome complexion and green eyes, don't you think he 
should be allowed a few minutes' worship at the shrine ? Sup- 
posing that he, too, should find the strands of gold and brown 
in Miss Peggy's hair rather pretty ?" 

" Well," says the young man, somewhat gloomily, " it is not 



110 THB 8TRANOB ADVENTURES OP A HOUSE-BOAT. 

for me to say anything, because I am here merely as an inyited 
gaest, as he will be if he comes this evening. But I can't help 
thinlring it considerably cheeky of a stranger, or semi-stranger, 
to thmst himself on a party away on an expedition of this kind/' 
" To cheer our loneliness, my young friend !" 
" He might know we would rather be by ourselves." 
" You may be of that opinion and so may I, but women may 
be glad of a little gayety — a little alien admiration even." 

"Gayety! His ugly mug would turn beer sour!" exclaims 
this impetuous boy. 

Well, it began to clear up in the afternoon, and soon the word 
was passed round to prepare for an exploration of this neighbor- 
hood in which we had been held captive. And perhaps it was 
as a make-up for the possible interference of the scholiast in the 
evening that Jack Duncombe now assumed sole charge and man- 
agement of Miss Rosslyn, and our pretty Miss Peggy received 
these little attentions with much gracious complaisance. More- 
over, as these two had discovered a church in the morning, they 
were allowed to lead the way ; and in the warmer light now be- 
ginning to stream over from the west we patiently followed 
them along the canal-bank, and into a pathway through some 
fields, until we actually came in sight of a house — a farmhouse 
it was — ^and near it was a little church, and also a parsonage, 
and similar evidences that there were people in the world be- 
sides ourselves. But we could see no one to tell us the name 
of the place, nor do we know it until this day. A winding and 
miry lane took us back to the canal, which, with its wooded 
banks and rows of poplars, looked quite river-like ; and, as the 
walking here was preferable to that of the country roads, we 
held on our way, with the westering light growing ever more 
and more golden, and gleaming on the scarcely stirring wet foli- 
age all around. And still these two kept on ahead ; and, in- 
deed, we were paying but little attention to them — ^talking, as 
we were on this calm evening, of friends very far away ; until 
Mrs. Threepenny-bit, happening to glance forward, laughed a 
little. 

" Mr. Buncombe's devotion," she said, " is becoming quite re- 
markable. One would almost think it was serious. Of course, 
it can't be serious, because — well; because they don't kn»w 
each other at alL" 



THK STRANGE ADVENTUHES OF A HOUSB-BOAT. Ill 

" Oh, don't they ? I assure you they know each other very 
well indeed," one answers, " if his confidences have been like 
hers. Oh, yes ; it is wonderful how intimate you may become 
with a young lady if you are interested about herself and her 
family, and if you have a memory for details. Emily is only 
fourteen, it is true ; but she is tall for her age, and she and Miss 
Rosslyn are great companions. Emily is at school in Brooklyn. 
She writes to her sister, and her sister writes to her, every Sun- 
day ; and the letter is to be posted by the writer's own hand. 
Emily is so fond of her sister she will hardly let the others go 
near her when she is at home. Miss Rosslyn's hair got wet to- 
day, and she tried to dry it in the porch, but couldn't entirely, 
and it looked very pretty as she was sitting in the pew. Miss 
Rosslyn is grateful for kindness. Miss Rosslyn likes the people 
she has met over here. If Miss Rosslyn's opinion of England 
and the English were known on the other side, America would 
howl with rage, and rend the stars and stripes, and sit in sack- 
cloth and ashes. Miss Rosslyn is quite frank about her circum- 
stances, and has the merit of dressing inexpensively." 

" You seem to have heard a good deal about Peggy to-day." 

" I had a fair dose." 

" Of course the subject wasn't interesting to you T' 

'^ Madam, all human beings are interesting to me." 

" Yes ; but you prefer to study those that have pretty eyes, 
and that will go away with you for long walks along the shore 
when everybody else on board the yacht is busy packing." 

" I don't know to whom you are referring." 

" I should think not ; the list is too long." 

" And I don't remember the circumstances ; but I can per- 
ceive that there may have been an occasion on which consider- 
ate people kept themselves out of the way so as to let others get 
forward with their business." 

"And the considerate people — what was their business? 
English history, I suppose ! Well," she adds, with another 
glance at the couple ahead of us, and with an odd smile on her 
face, " if Mr. Duncombe is only amusing himself with Peggy, 
he'd better look out. Of course it doesn't matter to her whether 
he is serious or not ; she can always have plenty of suitors — if 
she is so foolish as to think of marrying ; but if he fancies that 
he can make-believe without Peggy seeing through it all, it's 



112 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

little he understands abont her. If he doesn't mind, Mr. Dun- 
combe will get what for ^ as your friends in Scotland say." 

" You want to know whether he is serious ? I'm sure I can't 
tell you. But I hope we shall hear no more about Emily ; for 
although she is only fourteen, and tall for her age, and writes 
every Sunday, one doesn't seem to be deeply concerned about 
her." 

" Why, I have got Emily's portrait at home ; Peggy gave it 
me ever so long ago !" she says ; for no earthly reason but to 
place herself, as regards Peggy, on a footing superior to that of 
the young man, who only heard of the brat of a school-girl this 
very morning. 

To think we should have been looking on England as rather 
a sparsely populated country I Why, we had three visitors that 
evening ! Two of them, whom we found on the bank when we 
returned to the boat, were of rustic mould, and in stolid silence, 
and with calm, immovable gaze they contemplated the strange 
object that had invaded these solitudes. They made no remark ; 
their eyes wandered not ; they merely stood there and stared, 
and stared, and stared, as fished the famous fisher of Sunburie. 
And perhaps it was to prevent their being hopelessly mesmer- 
ized that young Duncombe now proceeded to act in a way quite 
sufficient to arouse anybody's attention — in fact, we ourselves 
began to wonder whether he had suddenly grown insane. Dur- 
ing the latter part of our afternoon stroll he had been looking 
everywhere about for a big stone ; and, having found one, he 
brought it along to the boat. Now, with a dark resolve visible 
on his face, he attached a piece of cord to the stone ; and then 
he went into the saloon and came out again with a slim volume 
in his hand, not a word being uttered the while. The volume 
we recognized as a little monogragh on Coleridge that we had 
seen lying about ; but we knew it by its outside only ; conse- 
quently we were quite unaware that this piece of criticism, or 
whatever else it might be, was of a nature to awaken rage. 
Nevertheless, and with a desperate malignity. Jack Duncombe 
proceeded to tie the harmless little book to the big stone. 

" Fancy," we overheard him say, " fancy setting a rat-minded 
creature like that to balance and measure and estimate the genius 
of Coleridge ! They might as well set a thieves' lawyer to ex- 
pound the Book of Revelation I" 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 113 

Forthwith he lifted stone and book together, and heaved ; there 
was a mighty splash, and a series of widening ripples, then slow- 
ly the surface of the stream became tranquil again. The two 
rustics stolidly stared at the spot where the stone had sunk. 
Then they stared at Jack Buncombe. Then they resumed their 
staring — at the boat, at the windows, the gunwale, the tiller, the 
roof, the anchor at the bow. And never a word they spoke. 
We left them staring. 

Our third visitor — to Jack Buncombe's obvious discomfiture 
— was no other than Mr. Algernon A'Becket, who arrived some 
little time before dinner, and was in high glee over his success 
in discovering our whereabouts. Indeed, he was quite hilarious, 
notwithstanding that his trousers looked rather damp ; and as 
he confessed that after his multifarious adventures of the after- 
noon he was just a little bit hungry, Murdoch was bidden to 
make speed, while the women-folk began to light the lamps and 
candles in order to brighten up the saloon. Jack Buncombe, of 
course, would take no part in the entertainment of this new 
guest ; but Mr. A'Becket seemed capable of making himself at 
home without much trouble ; and Mrs. Threepenny-bit and her 
young American friend, as they were laying the cloth, and other- 
wise getting matters made easy for Murdoch, were very courte- 
ous and complaisant towards him, the while he recounted his 
victorious triumph over all obstacles and difficulties. 

" And how are you to get back, Mr. A'Becket ?" his hostess 
said to him, not unnaturally. " I wish we could offer you a 
berth." 

" Not at all, not at all !" he answered, with abundant cheerful- 
ness. " I know precisely where I am now." 

" I am sure that is more than we do," she observed, rather 
ruefully. 

" And you know I was anxious to see how you looked en voy- 
age^'' he continued, with a well-satisfied glance all round ; " and 
really nothing could be more snug and delightful. How strange 
it must be to feel yourselves so entirely isolated ; a small party 
all by yourselves, and wandering away into these out-of-the- 
world places ; really, it makes one a little envious." 

Jack Buncombe glared ; was the man actually begging for an 
invitation ? 

And at dinner, too, Mr. A'Becket seemed quite content so 
8 



114 THI 8TRANOB ADVENTURBB OF A HOUBB-BOAT. 

long as he could address himself to the two women, Jack Dan- 
combe rarely interfering, except when there was a chance of his 
posing as Miss Peggy's natural ally and champion. Indeed, the 
younger man strove to appear in that light whenever occasion 
offered, and seemed ready to sacrifice the most sacred institu- 
tions of his native land for the mere sake of taking her part. 
For example, our Oxford friend was talking about the irrever- 
ence for antiquity commonly attributed to the American people 
(there was not much of that quality about Peggy, anyway), and 
said he had once heard an American declare that Squattersville, 
Nebraska, was of more value to the world than Westminster 
Abbey, because Squattersville was full of living men, whereas 
Westminster Abbey was full of dead ones. Whereupon Miss 
Peggy said, sensibly and modestly enough, as we thought, 

<< Well, sometimes our people at home say things like that, 
but they don't believe them. They think it clever to startle 
you, that is all. If a man were seriously to say anything of 
that kind in a company of educated Americans he would be 
looked on as if he were a baboon escaped from a cage." 

That ought to have been enough. But it wasn't enough for 
Jack Buncombe. Oh dear, no. Something must be 6aid on 
behalf of Miss Peggy's countrymen. Miss Peggy herself was 
not to be crushed by the dread might and majesty of Westmin- 
ster Abbey. 

'< After all," said this reckless young man, " if you walk 
through Westminster Abbey, and impartially look at the names 
of the people they have put there, you'll come to the conclusion 
that in former days it was pretty easy to get in. They must 
have been hard put to it to get a fair show of distinguished 
men, for the number of nobodies and duffers is perfectly awful. 
Look at John Philips. Did you ever hear of John Philips ?" 

Our learned friend from Oxford, being thus directly chal- 
lenged, had to confess his ignorance of the enshrined John 
Philips. 

" Well, he was a writer of comic verses ; at least, I believe 
they are considered to be comic," the younger man continued, 
with superfluous scorn. " I know this ; I could get you twenty 
living writers who could do infinitely better verses ; indeed, if 
John Philips were alive now there is one place where you would 
not find him, and that is at the Punch weekly dinner." 




** The two rustics stolidly stared at the spot where the stone had sunk. 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 115 

Mr. A'Becket turned to Miss Peggy, and said to her, with a 
smile, 

''Your countryman whom I heard make that remark is said 
to be worth thirty million dollars." 

" He isn't worth consideration," she answered, with a kind of 
audacious petulance ; and there the subject dropped. 

Now, nothing but the most despicable jealousy could have 
refused to admit that our visitor did his very best to make him- 
self amiable and amusing. It is true that he was a little too 
much given to the formulating of opinions on matters small 
and great ; and that is a weariness to the flesh ; but on these 
opinions he did not insist overmuch. It was almost pathet- 
ic, indeed, to see this person, of cadaverous complexion and 
somewhat too obvious front teeth, striving so hard to win, 
by the display of his intellectual fascinations, a smile from the 
eyes of Beauty. He succeeded, too. Miss Peggy was very 
good to him; doubtless merely because he was our guest, 
and she was bound to be civil. If he had encountered un- 
heard-of perils in his wild pursuit of us, surely now he was 
reaping his reward. And yet there was a skilful touch of re- 
spect in her manner towards him. She seemed impressed by 
his authority ; even when she was most amused, there was a 
sort of pleased submission in her look. Of course, before this 
stranger she was decorum itself. She played the properly con- 
ducted young lady to perfection. One began to fear that she 
was doing it only too well, and that in the ingenuous mind of 
Jack Buncombe there might be planted the first baleful seeds 
of suspicion. 

But you should have heard how that young man broke forth 
when our guest, somewhat reluctantly, as it seemed, had to 
leave us to find his way across country to some railway-station 
that he named. You would have thought that this harmless 
freak on the part of an Oxford Don, instead of being in its way 
a kind of compliment, was really a gross invasion of one's inal- 
ienable natural rights. If we wished to be by ourselves, why 
should we not be allowed to be by ourselves? Mr. Jack Dun- 
combe made much use of that word '' ourselves." He seemed 
to Kke it, somehow. Throughout his remonstrances there ap- 
peared to run the assumption that we four had cut ourselves off 
from the worlds and were to spend a nomadic existence together 



116 THX 8TRAKOE ADVENTURES OF A H0U8E-B0AT. 

for the rest of our lives. And then the infuriate scorn which 
he dealt out to pedants and their insufferable airs. 

'* I propose/' said he, in his reckless fashion, '< that we should 
give up our leisure time on this trip to the composition of a 
great and learned work, just to show what we can do. Will 
you join. Miss Rosslyn 9" 

" Oh, yes," says the young lady, with calm effrontery. " What 
is it to be about?" 

'' Oh, anything will serve to show off with. We must make 
it imposing. The square of the hypothenuse, if you like." 

" That would be very interesting," she observes, with much 
complacency. " Of course you will begin with a description of 
the square; I mean, the square in which the Hypothenuse 
lives?" 

" Certainly," he answers, " catching on " with alacrity. " Then 
we come to the habits of the Hypothenuse — ^his time of getting 
up and going into the city." 

<'I would have something more romantic than that," Miss 
Peggy says, thoughtfully. '^ If he lives in a square, there must 
be people opposite. One of them might be a young lady." 

" Yes, undoubtedly ; but she is rather an unknown quantity 
yet ; we will call her x until we can settle more about her. She 
is living with her Uncle Rhomboid." 

" And the Hypothenuse has the greatest diflBculty in meeting 
with her," she continues. 

'^ The gardens in the square would be a good place ; I sup- 
pose the Hypothenuse would have a key ?" 

"Naturally. But then again Aunt Parallelogram distinctly 
approves of the match, and is going to leave all her money to x. 
Would you make the Hypothenuse rich or poor ?" 

So these two young idiots went on ; one of them apparently 
taking a grim delight in thus revenging himself (as he consid- 
ered) for the intrusion of a stranger among " ourselves." There 
was no other thought for the hapless Scholiast making his way 
along darkened roads to wait for the last train in some solitary 
little railway-station. Here the lights were burning clear, and 
there were cigars and things, and these light-hearted young folk 
knew they were now safe from all interference ; with aimless mer- 
riment and bandied words and laughing glances to fill full every 
glad and precious minute. Moreover, to-morrow we should re- 



THE 8TRANOX ADVENTURX8 OF A HOUSX-BOAT. 117 

6ume our voyage, and be off into the unknown. It was all very 
well for this prying collegian to ferret us out when we were 
within measurable distance of Oxford town ; but soon we should 
be away in remoter wilds, with all communications cut except 
such as we chose should remain open. And where would the 
long-coated metaphysician be then? Jack Duncombe and his 
bright-eyed neighbor eagerly followed up this subject of the 
Hypothenuse, and turned it outside and inside and topsy-turvy, 
until they had got quite a blood-curdling series of adventures to 
relate ; and all the while Miss Peggy's smiling looks and dim- 
pled cheek seemed to show that she was enjoying this careless 
gayety after the constraint and propriety conduct of the previ- 
ous part of the evening ; and the young man who was her aider 
and abettor in the rambling nonsense made no secret of his sat- 
isfaction that we were once more entirely " by ourselves." 



CHAPTER X. 

" Within the sand of what far river lies 

The gold that gleams in tresses of my Love? 

What highest circle of the heavens above 
Is jewelled with such stars as are her eyes ? 
And where is the rich sea whose coral vies 

With her red lips, that cannot kiss enough ? 

What dawn-lit garden knew the rose, whereof 
The fled soul lives in her cheeks' rosy guise ?" 

" WxLL, I declare !" exclaims Mrs. Threepenny-bit, in accents 
of only half -smothered indignation, as she comes into the saloon 
at an early hour. " In all my life I never knew such weather ! 
The tourists talk about the rain in the West Highlands ! The 
West Highlands don't know how to rain ; they should come 
here to take a lesson. And just as we are about to get to such 
interesting places ! Captain Columbus told me yesterday that we 
should almost certainly get to Warwick to-morrow night. But 
I suppose the whole district that used to be the Forest of Arden 
will be flooded — I wonder how Rosalind, and Celia, and Touch- 
stone would have liked t?iaL And I hoped we should be able to 
see the ruins of Kenilworth by moonlight. Moonlight, indeed I 



118 THK BTRANOE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

We needn't expect to find the ghost of poor Amy Bobsart wan- 
dering about in weather like this/' 

Here Murdoch enters. 

" Murdoch, don't you wish you were back in the Highlands to 
get a glimpse of the sun again ?" 

Murdoch looks puzzled. 

'^ Yes, mem ; I think there's another shower coming over." 

" Another shower coming over ! It is raining as hard as ever 
it knows how." 

^^ Oh, yes ; it iss a pad country, this, for rain — a ferry pad 
country for rain, mem. I wass thinking I neffer pefore sah so 
mich land under watter." 

Here Miss Rosslyn enters. 

" ^^SSJ9 ^ I write a history of this trip, I will call it * A Voy- 
age in Waterproofs.' " 

"Well," says Miss Peggy, with her wonted cheerfulness, 
" what better could we do than devote such a day to literature ? 
I'm going to write a novel." 

" With the Hypothenuse for hero f Jack Duncombe suggests. 

" Oh, no ; something very serious indeed. You'll see. Just 
wait until Murdoch has cleared the table after breakfast ; and 
then I will make a beginning that will show you something." 

However, when Murdoch had cleared the table, it appeared 
that it was required for another purpose. Mrs. Threepenny-bit 
wanted to do up her flowers for the day — including the roses 
presented by Mr. A'Becket ; and soon she had the cloth removed, 
and was busily at work. Peggy went and got her banjo. First 
she played, in a careless way, some plantation dance or other of 
which we did not know the name. . Then, in almost an under- 
tone, she sang — 

" Mary had a little lamp 
Filled full of kerosene; 
She went with it to light the fire 
And has not since benzine." 

Suddenly, at the conclusion of these touching words, there was 
a simultaneous roar of a chorus — 

"Then carry me back to old Virginny, 
There let me live and die." 

She sang " How doth the little busy bee ;" she sang " Ye banks 
and braes ;" she sang " Sylvia hath a beaming eye," or any other 



THK STRANOK ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 119 

thing that could be suggested to her ; and ever the recurrent 
and stormy chorus was volunteered her at the end of each verse. 
Jack Duncombe caught up the air at once, and joined in with a 
will. It was his initiation into the art and practice of madness 
as an antidote against despair and rage and rain. Nay, he him- 
self made random shots at verses to suit ; and was anxious to re- 
lieve Miss Bosslyn from the duty of singing the solo. But at 
last she laid aside the banjo. 

'^ Really, this is mere frivolity," she said, with a preoccupied 
air. '< I must set about my novel, even if I can't have the table." 

She went to the ladies' cabin and returned with a tiny writing- 
desk, which she proceeded to balance on her knee as she sat 
sideways on her seat. Then we could perceive that she was en- 
gaged in the agony of composition. Biting the end of her pen- 
cil seemed to help her a little. Her brows were knitted ; her 
face was grave ; and yet one could half fancy that there was 
mischief in her downcast eyes. 

" Come, Miss Peggy," one says to her, " let's hear what start 
you have made." 

" Oh, don't interrupt ; you have no idea how horribly difficult 
it is. I want something bold and thrilling for a beginning — 
something that will arrest the attention of the critics." 

" If you write for the critics you won't come to much good," 
says Jack Duncombe, who rarely fails to have his fling when the 
chance is given him. " 1 have been thinking of addressing a 
letter to M. Pasteur, asking him if he couldn't inoculate one 
against the effects of criticism. He might render you safe from 
the bites of the rabid beasts." 

" How am I to get on, if you interrupt ?" complains Miss 
Peggy ; but there is not much anger in her petulance. 

" Peggy," says Mrs. Threepenny-bit, " do you always put out 
the tip of your tongue while you are writing ?" 

" Only when I am writing a novel," she answers, placidly. 

" Is it at your readers, or at your critics, or at your com- 
panions ?" 

Miss Peggy does not look up. 

" That's telling. I put out my tongue." 

" Oh, I suppose you think we are in one of the streets of 
Verona !" says Mrs. Threepenny-bit, with some vague recollec- 
tion of a Montague and Capulet quarrel. 



120 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

Here, however, Miss Peggy not only raises her eyes, she also 
})uts aside her writing-desk, and gets up. She edges towards the 
door and opens it. Her glance is fixed upon her hostess ; and 
it is full of malice ; perhaps she is annoyed by these unseemly 
interruptions. 

" Oh, no," she says, retreating still farther, '^ we're not in Verona 
at all. Verona house-boat in the middle of England." 

In a twinkling she disappears ; and the same instant a sponge 
surcharged with water strikes the edge of the door, just where 
her saucy face had been. It was a very good aim for a woman ; 
had Mrs. Threepenny-bit been the thirtieth part of a second 
quicker, that impertinent hussy would have met with the punish- 
ment she richly deserved. Then we made bold to take up the 
sheet of paper on which Miss Peggy had pencilled the opening 
lines of her novel. Thus they ran : " It was a cold day in New 
York — a cold, cold winter's day. In the chill easterly blast the 
brown-stone buildings had turned to a livid purple ; and the 
veins in the marble blocks ran blue. Not a single statue in Cen- 
tral Park had a nose or a toe left ; all had dropped off, frost- 
bitten by the terrible wind." 

^^ Ah, there is no sentiment among the young people of these 
days," says Queen Tita, as she sprinkles the roses with her wet 
fingers. "When I was at school the girls used often to try 
to write stories; but they were always full of noble people 
and beautiful aspirations. Nowadays there is nothing but bur- 
lesque. That wretch has been simply making a fool of us." 

At this moment Miss Peggy reappears. 

"Come along — come along, everybody," she says, briskly. 
" The morning is clearing up beautifully ; I believe it is going 
to be quite fine. And Captain Columbus is here ; and he has 
brought a whole multitude of people with him, two men and a 
boy at the very least ; and they have a barrow ; and he wants to 
know if he can come into the saloon to lift the flooring. There 
is quite a commotion outside." 

This was stirring news indeed, after the silence and inactivity 
of these last f our-and-twenty hours ; and forthwith we swarmed 
out, to greet the reappearance of our crew. We found Columbus 
in the midst of this vast concourse ; and a busy and important 
man was he ; for he had already purchased three hundredweight 
of old iron, and was now bargaining for a fourth. It turned 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 121 

out that there was another bridge, not far ahead, that was likely 
to trouble us ; and our gallant skipper, with a foresight and a 
resolution reminding us of the qualities that enabled his great 
namesake to discover a new world, had determined to reduce the 
height of the boat by cramming in a lot more ballast. Strange 
ballast it was, when we came to examine it. Apparently it was 
refuse from some railway factory ; there were all kinds of bolts 
and screws, and rivets and nuts, and bits of rail ; and, as Colum- 
bus proceeded to tear up the flooring of the saloon, and to wedge 
in this old iron alongside the other ballast, one began to wonder 
what would happen supposing that the NameUsa Barge were to 
be sunk somewhere, in the Severn, for example, and lie imbedded 
there for " an eternity or two." What would the new race of 
mortals, with their aerial navigation, make of these strange frag- 
ments? Would they recognize them as belonging to the half- 
mythic railway age ? And perhaps a few ribs and planks of our 
noble vessel might remain, to offer materials for all kinds of con- 
jecture ? Well ; they might be able to reconstruct the Name- 
less Barge, perhaps ; but they were not likely to figure out in 
their imagination that it ever contained a creature so perverse 
and wilful, and bewildering and demure, and generally danger- 
ous and demoniacal as our Peggy. She was talking to Captain 
Columbus now with an air of innocent curiosity on her face that 
would have deceived her own mother. And Captain Columbus, 
who had that morning bought for himself in Oxford a straw hat 
and a brilliant blue necktie, and made himself very smart indeed, 
was excessively proud and pleased that the young lady should 
be so interested in his work, and became quite communicative 
about boats and bridges and tunnels, and what not. Miss Peggy 
listened with a grave attention. It is always a pleasing sight 
to see a young mind engaged in the acquisition of knowledge. 

Glad enough were we to find ourselves once more in motion ; 
and as we stole quietly on through this unknown region, the 
skies were banking themselves up into April-looking masses of 
silver-gray and purple-gray, while bursts of vivid sunlight chased 
each other across the richly wooded landscape. But our literary 
projects were not altogether abandoned. We returned to the sub- 
ject of Miss Peggy's novel. She confessed that there was a touch 
of exaggeration in her description of a cold day in New York ; but 
she wanted the opening to be effective. 



129 THE 8TRAVOK ADTENTITRKB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

'' Bat your characters, Miss Peggy, what about them ? Is it 
to be a tragedy or a comedy f ' 

*' Ob ! I don't know/' she says, artlessly. <* I don't know 
that there will be much of a story. You know they say that all 
the stories have been told." 

" They say ? Who say ? Don't you belieye any such rubbish. 
As long as there are two men and a woman in the world, or 
two women and a man, for that matter, the elemental passions 
will be there — ^loye, jealousy, hatred, rage, despair, and all the 
rest of them — and there will be plenty of romantic story to tell, 
tragic or idyllic as the case may be, if there is anybody capable 
of telling it. Don't you follow the lead of any literary knife- 
grinder." 

^^ But I say," interposes our young dramatist, ^' that is rather 
an awful picture, isn't it? I don't mean the two men and one 
woman left in the world ; that would soon right itself ; one of 
the men would soon be a dead un. But fancy the two women 
and the one man, just think what his situation would be." 

" Yes," says Queen Tita, " what would you do, supposing you 
were the man?" 

<< I ?" he answers, and then for a second he pauses, as if the 
horror of the possibility were too bewildering. " Well, I think 
this is what I would do. I would go to them and say, ' My 
dear friends, a very extraordinary thing has happened. If you'll 
only climb up to the top of these Downs, you will find that the 
English Channel has gone dry, the water is all away ; and if 
you like you can walk across dry-shod and then go on to Paris, and 
see if there are any bonnets and parasols left in the shop win- 
dows.' Very likely they wouldn't believe me ; but at all events 
they would be sure to go up to have a look ; and then, as soon 
as I had seen them started, do you know where I should be ? I 
should be on the main road to the north, running as hard as my 
legs could carry me ; and I shouldn't think myself safe until I 
got up to the Moor of Rannoch or somewhere behind Ben Nevis." 

" * Oh, ye'U take the high road, and I'll take the low road,' " 
murmurs Queen Tita as a kind of aside, '< ' and I'll be in Soot- 
land before ye.' " 

" Madam," one says to her, " you'd better go no further with 
that Loch Lomond song. The refrain is genuine ; the rest of 
it has * spurious ' written on every line." 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 123 

" The melody is pretty," she pleads in excuse. 

" Undoubtedly. It is simply * The Bonnie House o' Airlie.'" 

" At all events the words are not quite so preposterous as those 
of * Allan Percy,' " she says. " I think that is about the worst 
imitation of a Scotch ballad that I ever met with, and it is of 
American make, Peggy." 

But Peggy is looking rather stupefied. 

" * Allan Percy,' " she says. " Isn't it Scotch ? I always 
thought it was a real Scotch ballad, and very pretty, too." 

" Oh, Peggy !" her friend cries, in accents of deep distress, 
" don't talk like that. You quite alarm me. If you don't in- 
stinctively feel that the words of that wretched thing are as 
foreign to the whole spirit of Scotch song-writing as they can be, 
and that the music is just as foreign, too, to the whole spirit of 
Scotch music, then I am simply frightened to think of the trouble 
I shall have in teaching you. And of course it's got to be done. 
But fancy the time ! And how am I to begin ? Well, perhaps 
you'd best start with Aytoun's < Ballads of Scotland.' " 

" I know another way," says Miss Peggy. 

"And what is that?" 

" Take me to Scotland with you," says the young lady, with- 
out more ado. 

Queen Tita's soft brown eyes smile a quick approval. 

" Do you know, Peggy, that is the prettiest speech you have 
made since you came on board this boat, and the most sensible, 
too. And I shall consider it a promise." 

Very spring-like indeed was this fresh-blowing morning, with 
its skies of purple and silver, its sudden bursts of sunlight, and 
the curiously vivid greens of the rain-washed and rustling foliage. 
And as the fioral decoration of the saloon was now finished, and 
as Miss Peggy seemed disinclined to resume her literary labors, 
we had the boat stopped for a second or two, and all of us went 
ashore for a stroll along the bank, the two women setting out by 
themselves arm-in-arm. This was a strangely voiceless country 
through which we were going. There was hardly a sound any- 
where ; the only living things visible were some Highland cattle, 
that looked picturesque enough in the lush meadows, though a 
background of gray rock, green bracken, and crimson heather 
might have been more appropriate. Nevertheless, we knew that 
there must be some population somewhere in this lonely region ; 



124 THE 8TSAHOS ADYSHTUBSB OF A HOU8K-BOAT. 

for at one and the same time we conld make out the spires of 
three charches peeping np above the trees ; and our gallant cap- 
tain informed us that these three charches were boilt by three 
brothers, who chose the sites so that if any one of them wanted 
the loan of a hanmier it could be thrown to him. It was in this 
neighborhood that we came to the bridge about which we had 
been warned ; and well was it that our faithful Columbus had 
had the forethought to put in the additional four hundredweight 
of ballast Even as it was, we had enormous difficulty in getting 
through ; and we began to wonder what the NameUis Barge 
would be like at the end of our voyage, if she had to encounter 
much more of this scraping and bumping. But we did get her 
through, that was the main point ; and thereafter left her to her 
sober gliding through this still landscape, while we continued 
our careless stroll and talk. 

Oddly enough, it was Miss Peggy who formed the chief sub- 
ject of Mr. Jack Duncombe^s conversation on this soft-aired 
morning ; and it was carious to find from how many points of 
view that young lady seemed to prove interesting to him. He 
was looking at her as she walked on ahead with her friend ; and 
he remarked, with something of a critical air, 

'* I wish Miss Rosslyn was an actress.*' 

" Indeed ; and why ?" 

^' I wish she was an actress ; and that I could write a piece 
for her, in which she should play the heroine. Fancy what a 
chance that would be for me ! That always seems to me the 
great pull a playwright has over a novelist ; whatever the play- 
wright's heroine may be like, at least the public see that she is 
alive. All that he has to do is to invent situations for her, and 
give her words to speak. She is alive ; and the public see for 
themselves what she is. In a novel it is only a description of 
the person that is there ; and it must be horribly difficult to get 
that lifelike." 

" Not at all ; anybody can do it." 

" Why, this very morning I was trying to think what I should 
do if I wanted to describe Miss Rosslyn in a book ; and I couldn't 
in the least see how it was to be done. Even her appearance," 
he continues, looking once more in that critical fashion at the 
young lady ahead of us, *' even her appearance would come down 
to a mere catalogue that wouldn't tell you much, would it ? You 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 125 

see, if she came on the stage, then every one would recognize the 
symmetry of her figure, and — and — ^the kind of graceful way 
she moves — ^and the animation — ^the intelligence — of her face. 
But in a book, what are you to do ?" 

" What, indeed !" 

" I was trying, just for fun, you know.'* 

"To describe Miss Peggy?" 

" No, not exactly f but I was wondering, if I should attempt to 
write a story, how I should begin to describe the heroine." 

" And, naturally, you took Miss Peggy for your heroine. Very 
well ; did you succeed ?" 

" Of course I did not put anything down in writing ; I was 
merely looking at her from time to time, and thinking," says the 
young man, with much modesty. " Well, you know, there are 
certain things you could definitely name. You might say she 
had beautiful hair." 

"You might, especially when it gets blown about by wind 
and rain on her way to church." 

" Golden-brown, I would call it ; and a little wavy here and 
there ; that is something you could definitely say. Then her 
forehead, you might call her forehead intelligent ?" he suggests, 
with a trifle of timidity. 

" You might, but it wouldn't convey very much.". 

"That's just where it is! That's just the difficulty. Of 
course you have noticed what a beautifully shaped nostril she 
has?" 

" In a general way, perhaps." 

" But that would sound absurd in a book ! Of course you 
might do what the poets do, bring in all kinds of things as 
similes, you might give her cherry lips, and rose-petal cheeks, 
and speedwell-blue eyes, and all the rest of it ; but that wouldn't 
be Miss Rosslyn." 

"No?" 

" It's all very well to say that her cheek is like the petal of a 
rose ; but that tells you nothing about the curious little dimple 
that appears there when she has been saying something very 
audacious to your wife, in a perfectly grave voice, and with her 
eyes cast down. No," he adds, almost with a touch of vexation, 
" I don't believe the minutest catalogue that could be made of 
her features would be of any use at all, no matter how true it 



126 THE 8TRANOE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

might be. There's a — a something about her expression that 
makes Miss Rosslyn Miss Rosslyn, and unlike any other girl I 
ever saw. Perhaps it is her eyes ?" he says, suddenly. 

" It may be her eyes." 

<< There is a sort of submission in them when she looks at 
you, as if — well, as though they might very readily laugh at you, 
only that her natural courtesy keeps them serious. It is a very 
curious look." 

"Yes?" 

" And then there is a kind of harmony of expression in her 
face ; I mean — well, when she laughs ever so little, her eyes and 
her lips and the dimple in her cheeks seem to brighten up all to- 
gether ; I don't quite know how to describe it, but I'm sure you 
couldn't put it into a book. Perhaps it is that there is so much 
life in her face, and you can't describe life, you know ; it is an 
intangible, invisible, unknown thing ; and yet there is plenty of 
it in Miss Rosslyn's face." 

"ReaUy!" 

" If you were putting her into a book, now, how would you 
describe her ?" this remarkably cool person proceeds. 

" Oh, I wouldn't try. As you say, it might be too diflBcult. 
Besides, she might not interest me as she interests you." 

" You doil't think her interesting ?" he says, surprised into 
some brief expression of disappointment. 

" In a way, perhaps. She seems a nice kind of creature — if 
she wouldn't make puns." 

" Well, now," he says, warmly, " I am delighted to hear her 
make puns, for it shows she is not standing on ceremony with 
her companions for the time being. And really I cannot under- 
stand the fuss people make in pretending to be shocked by any lit- 
tle joke of that kind. I call it simply a very bad form of affecta- 
tion. Why, what takes them to a burlesque? yet you'll hear 
a whole audience cry * Oh ! oh !' and they are delighted and 
laughing all the same, especially if the pun is an atrocious one. 
I am very glad to find Miss Rosslyn so frank." 

" Well, that settles it. I won't remonstrate with her any more." 

" I like to hear you talk like that !" he has the insolence to 
say. " You know quite well that when she does or says any- 
thing outrageous it is done simply to please you. She looks to 
you for approval every time ; I have seen her again and again ; 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 127 

she is always watching you at dinner, if she has anything ma- 
licious to say. Your wife declares that if you did not encour- 
age her in mischief she would be as well-behaved a girl as any 
in the country. Not that I have ever seen anything really to 
object to ; of course not ; I like fun as well as anybody ; and I 
certainly like to find a girl like that enjoying plenty of freedom. 
She has an abundance of high spirits, hasn't she ? Oh, but I say," 
this young man continues, suddenly changing his tone, ^' didn't 
she make an awful fool of that prig, A'Becket ? Did you ever 
see anything like it? Wasn't it delightful? Why she made 
him believe he was the cleverest fellow she had ever beheld. 
She flattered him just off his head. And it was done so nicely 
and neatly, and so seriously ; of course he didn't suspect a little 
bit. Any one else, though, could see what was going on. Oh, 
I assure you it was beautiful to look at !" 

"Then you consider Miss Peggy an arrant hypocrite? is that 
your conclusion ?" 

" A hypocrite ? certainly not. It was merely her kindness. 
If a man is such an ass as to like being flattered, well, he gets 
what he wants. Don't you think he was pleased ? He grinned 
with his long front teeth until I thought he was going to tumble 
into his own mouth. I consider it was the height of good-nat- 
ure for Miss Rosslyn to take so much trouble in making herself 
agreeable to a fellow like that." 

" But she did take the trouble !" 

" Oh, yes," he admits, rather grudgingly. " She did. I sup- 
pose his airs and affectations amused her. And then, as I say, 
she is very good-natured ; and he was your guest ; of course she 
made herself agreeable to him, in an ordinary kind of way." 

" And have you decided, then, on putting her into a book ?" 

He hesitates for a moment. 

" No ; Fm afraid she would puzzle me a little too much. But 
just fancy if I had a comedy, and she was to play the heroine. 
Why, her mere appearance on the stage would be half the bat- 
tle; the first flash of her eyes, and the public would be in a 
pleasant and favorable mood. In private life, too," he continues, 
" I should say her face was a very eflScient passport. She seems 
to find not much difficulty in making friends." 

" But you haven't yet quite decided what is the particular fas- 
cination she exercises, have you ?" 



128 THB STRANGE ADVENTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

'^ I decide it ? not I ! But what I am pretty sure of is this, 
that jou wouldn't get at it by giving a catalogue of her features. 
No ; it's some quality, perhaps some mental quality, perhaps some 
quality of disposition, that seems to make her attractive. She's 
very companionable, for one thing. She's not stifE. Her laugh 
is quite delightfully frank. There's no humbug about her. I 
should say that her mind was of a particularly healthy tone ; she 
seems to have the natural carelessness of a child, although your 
wife sometimes teases her by attributing all kinds of evil designs 
to her. Of course that's merely nonsense. You can see what 
excellent friends they are really. And she seems to be very af- 
fectionate." 

"Who?" 

" Miss Rosslyn." 

" Miss Rosslyn again ! My young friend, if you go on in this 
way, it isn't merely a description of Miss Rosslyn you'll have 
constructed, but a whole library of volumes about her. Suppose, 
for a couple of seconds, we talk about something else I" 

" Ah !" he says, " it's all very well. You pretend not to be 
interested. You come and ask me what is the secret of her fas- 
cination." 

"Did I really?" 

" At all events you affect an indifference that you don't show 
when Miss Rosslyn and you are together," he says, with some 
touch of resentment. "One would almost think there was 
some secret understanding between you two — I mean that a third 
person hasn't a fair chance. I believe that she bamboozled that 
Oxford fellow simply and solely for your amusement." 

" That is a very shocking thing to say of a young lady. How- 
ever, as you have now got a perfectly clear conception of Miss 
Rosslyn's character, viewed from every possible standpoint, why 
shouldn't you put that into a book ? It seems a pity that the 
result of so much study should be thrown away in idle talking." 

" I'll wait," he answers, somewhat moodily, and who can tell 
what dark suspicions appear to have suddenly leaped into his 
head ? " Since she made such a fool of that fellow A'Becket, 
perhaps she may be trying to make a fool of me ; who knows ?" 

" And that is the end of all your praise of her !" 

" Oh, no ; I don't take back anything I have said, he answers, 
irresolutely. " But she is a clever-headed young woman ; and 



THX STRAHGS ADTIKTUBSS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 129 

— ^and she may be having her fun. That is only natural, at her 
age. Who could object ?" 

" I don't think you, at least, should object to the way in which 
she has treated you. Most young men would even be a little 
grateful." 

" Oh, well," he says, with a careless air, " if it amuses her, of 
course I am very glad." 

At this moment the two women-folk ahead paused for a few 
seconds, to allow us to overtake them ; and as we drew near to 
them, and as our young dramatist found that Miss Peggy's re- 
markably clear and expressive eyes were regarding him, and re- 
garding him with a most amiable look, it is hardly to be won- 
dered at that his face brightened up a little. 

" Mr. Duncombe," she said (and you should have seen how in- 
stantly attentive he was, and respectful, and anxious to please), 
" Captain Columbus tells me we shall be at Banbury before long. 
That is some kind of a town, I suppose. And do you think it 
likely you could get me some blank music sheets ?" 

" Oh, yes, certainly !" was the immediate rejoinder. 

** You know I am going to keep you to your promise of writ- 
ing out for me * The Green Bushes,' " said Miss Peggy, most 
pleasantly and cheerfully, " and I must do something by way of 
exchange. You rather liked the ^ Daisy' clog-dance; shall I 
note that down for you ?" 

" Will you ?" he said, quickly. 

" Oh, yes, or any of them you happen to like," she said, in 
the most good-natured way. "Several of them I picked up 
merely by hearing them, and I doubt whether you could get 
them in England. Now, if we have the blank music with us, I 
could jot down any of them for you, at any odd moment." 

" Well, that is awfully kind of you !" said he, with the most 
submissive gratitude. " And — and, let me see, what was the name 
of that very pretty one you played this morning ?" 

This subject having been started, these two naturally walked 
on together. And where were all his wild suspicions now ? 
Where was his " stand-off " attitude ? Of course he was telling 
her how charmingly she played those tripping compositions; 
and of course she was saying how the song of the " Green Bush- 
es " would remind her of this excursion when she was far away 
in America ; and of course he was telling her that, when he was 
9 F* 



130 THB STRANGE ADVSNTURS8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

helping to plan ont the expedition, he had no idea it would 
prove so enjoyable, though every one could see how much of 
that was owing to herself, and her happy fashion of making the 
best of ever3rthing. Poor wretch! poor wretch! His suspi- 
cious mood was by far the safer for him ; but young people 
will go their own way. 

And at length we came to a town. It was the town of Ban- . 
bury. We contemplated with a strange curiosity this mighty 
congeries of houses and buildings, and roofs and chimneys, and 
felt quite shy on encountering the gaze of the myriads of peo- 
ple who were hanging about the canal-basin. That was but a 
first and fleeting impression, however. When the horse had 
been led away to a stable, and when Murdoch had been intrustr 
ed with sundiy commissions, we were free to explore this centre 
of civilization for ourselves, and found it rather a featureless 
and empty little place, bearing a general kind of resemblance to 
Chipping Norton. Our own purchases did not extend beyond 
the blank sheets of music, though we stared at the shop-win- 
dows with that aimless wish to buy something which generally 
gets into the head of boating-folk when they get ashore. No ; 
Banbury did not interest us much. But before we had got 
away from the place we had formed the conclusion that the 
familiar Oxfordshire rhyme — 

"Banbury Church 

That hasn^t got a steeple; 
A very dirty town, 

And a very proud people" — 

is grossly malicious, libellous, and untrue. So far from being 
proud, the people of Banbury simply overpowered us with their 
polite attentions. The fact was that we had here to face the 
two most wretchedly small and unmanageable bridges that we 
found on the whole of our route ; and the population of Ban- 
bury, no doubt ashamed of these obstructions, and sympathizing 
with us in our anxious distress, were of one mind that we should 
not be stopped if their united exertions could assist us through. 
They got ropes and hauled. They got poles and pushed. They 
swarmed into the stem-sheets, in humility and kindness acting 
as additional ballast. They clustered on the bow, to give us the 
benefit there also of their weight. Finally a lot of them got on 
the top, and lay on their backs, and shoved against the low arch 



THE STRANGE ADVEKTUASS OF A HOtTBE-BOAT. 131 

with their feet Amid all this wild struggling a slight, grating 
noise was heard ; undoubtedly the boat was beginning to move ; 
their efforts were redoubled; at length we shot triumphantly 
through^ and our multitude of friends could now go ashore 
again and regard with satisfaction the victory they had achieved. 
And yet they say that the inhabitants of Banbury are a proud 
people. 

These obstructions had delayed us very considerably, however, 
and that evening we did not get much beyond Cropredy, the red- 
brick houses and bams of which hamlet looked pleasantly warm 
in color after the cold hues of green through which we had been 
sailing on this smurry afternoon. For the rain was on again. 

" Really, I never saw anything like it !" Queen Tita said, im- 
patiently. " I shouldn't wonder if Murdoch went back to the 
North and told his friends that he had been paying a visit to the 
lower regions. Do you know what they are called in Gaelic, 
Peggy ? — I-fruin^ the Island of Rain.* Poor Murdoch I Fancy 
what kind of a story he will have to tell about this country 
when he goes back to Tobermory." 

"I like these wet afternoons very well," said Miss Peggy, 
with much content. ** They are an excuse for lighting the can- 
dles so much the sooner." 

" Oh, I think they are jolly !'J young Shakespeare asserted, 
with superfluous energy of conviction. "They are so snug. 
You shut everjrthing out. You are a little world all to your- 
selves. When you know that it is raining and miserable out- 
side it makes it just so much the pleasanter." 

This was all very well for a couple of young people who could 
amuse themselves by playing Ferdinand and Miranda when they 
chose ; but we had come to see what England was like in these 
out-of-the-way districts, and were less satisfied with being shut 
up in this pine-wood box. No doubt the little saloon looked 
comfortable enough when the lights were lit; and the velvet 
cushions and drawn red blinds were of a cheerful aspect ; more- 
over, we had Miss Peggy, with her banjo and her bright eyes, 
and her malice and her mocking will-o'-the-wisp elusiveness of 
mood, and her sudden appeals for a frank << making-up " that 

* She might have added that the Gaelic for smurry weather i&JUuth^ whkA 
•otmda ominously like the German /ueA. 



13S THl STRANOl ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

JOQ conldn't trust too far. Oh, yes, these were pleasant even- 
ings ; but they might have been in London. Of course, in Lon- 
don we should not have had the eerie feeling, recurring from 
time to time, whatever kind of mischief or merriment was going 
on, that outside were still solitudes and gray mists and the sol- 
emn gathering down of a voiceless night. For, no matter what 
village or hamlet might be within hail, we invariably chose a 
lonely, and, if possible, an inaccessible spot for our moorings. 
On this particular evening, when Miss Peggy was proceeding to 
shut out the doleful landscape by drawing together the blinds, 
she suddenly paused. Then she silently beckoned us to look. 
Just outside, in the ghostly gray meadow, there was a solitary 
sheep that had come nibbling and nibbling its way down to the 
edge of the bank, and with such strict attention to business that 
it had not noticed this strange object in front of it. Moreover, 
the meadow was raised somewhat above the level of the water, 
so that the animal's head, bent to the ground, was precisely on 
a level with Miss Peggy's head, and only a foot or two off. 
Nearer and nearer it came. 

" Tap on the window," we said to her, for we didn't want the 
poor creature to be frightened out of its wits. 

But the same instant it had become aware that there was 
something in front of it ; it imised a pair of startled and wide- 
apart eyes only to find that a pair of human eyes were quite 
close to it, and gazing at it ; and then, with a bound into the 
air, as if it had been shot, it sprang backwards. 

" Really," said Miss Peggy, as she drew the folds of the blind 
together, " I had no idea I looked so ferocious." 

Now, that evening was a memorable one, for it proved to have 
far-reaching consequences. During the day there had been a 
good deal of idle talk about literary projects, with even some 
vague suggestion that Miss Peggy might figure in a play or be 
described in a book ; but after dinner on this evening, while as 
yet there was some wine on the table, and cigars were being 
produced, and while Miss Peggy's white fingers just touched the 
strings of her banjo from time to time, with hardly an audi- 
ble sound, our young dramatist, secure of the sympathy of this 
small circle, and perhaps not unwilling to give himself some im- 
portance in the eyes of the two women-folk, unfolded to us th© 
outlines of a far more ambitious undertaking. 



THE STRANGE ADVENTUREB OF ▲ HOUSE-BOAT. 133 

'* Well, yon see, it is only the snbject I have considered as 
yet," said he ; and Miss Peggy was so considerate as to stop her 
tinkling and listen with serious eyes ; " but that seems to me to 
be striking enough. I don't even know whether it would be 
better treated in a play or in a book. Perhaps the story couldn't 
be fully told in a play ; Fm afraid the * unities ' would have to 
suffer ; but I will show you what the position is, and perhaps 
you will be able to help me with some hints. Wouldn't it be 
fine if I were to write a play and Miss Bosslyn a novel, as an 
outcome of our meditations during this voyage ? We should all 
have a hand in them — ^a kind of joint partnership." 

" Please, I want all my profits for myself," says Miss Peggy ; 
" I have to buy innumerable things for my sister Emily before I 
go back home." 

"But the story, Mr. Duncombe?" says Queen Tita, as Mur- 
doch brings in the coffee. 

" Well, look what a fine combination this is, whether for a 
story or a play," Shakespeare, junior, begins, with a certain air 
of complacency. " You have first a young Italian poet, of noble 
birth and large fortune, ardent, impetuous, and proud ; of strik- 
ing presence, too ; tall and pale, with long, flowing red hair ; a 
splendid horseman ; indeed, you can hardly tell whether he isn't 
as proud of his horses as of his tragedies that have already given 
a new life to the dramatic literature of his country. A more 
striking figure you can hardly imagine ; a man given over to all 
kinds of passionate impulses and enthusiasms ; hurrying from 
one capital of Europe to another in feverish impatience, gener- 
ally in a state of delirious joy or acutest anguish over some love- 
affair, and then seeking for distraction in violent fits of study. 
Very well ; in the midst of this wild whirl of life he is intro- 
duced, in Florence, to a young and beautiful princess, of great 
accomplishments, fond of letters and the arts, and of the most 
amiable character. I'm afraid it wouldn't be easy to get a stage- 
heroine to look the part, for the peculiarity of her beauty is that 
she has singularly black eyes, with a dazzlingly fair complexion 
and light hair. His own description of her is ^ un dolce f ocoso 
negli occhi nerissimi accoppiatosi con candidissima pelle e bion- 
di capelli.' Now this is the situation — that this beautiful and 
Mniable young princess has been taken from a convent when she 
was nineteen years of age and married to a man she never saw 



134 THX BTRAMOX ADySNTCRXS OF ▲ H0U8X-B0AT. 

before — ^a drnnken, brutal old reprobate,, who ill-treats her cru- 
elly, and makes her life a constant misery to her ; and this is the 
condition of affairs when she meets this passionate and wayward 
being of a poet, who, almost at first sight, conceives for her an 
exalted and ideal affection, very different from his previous 
amours. They tell a story," continues our young playwright, 
satisfied to find the two women listening so attentively, " about 
that first meeting that perhaps might serve as an incident when 
one came to arrange the materials. It was in a picture-gallery 
in Florence. The princess happened to be looking at a portrait 
of Charles XIL, and said that she greatly admired the costume. 
What must her new acquaintance do but go immediately and get 
for himself a precisely similar costume, in which he made his 
appearance in the streets of Florence, not heeding the sarcasm 
of his friends, though he seems to have been extremely sensitive 
to ridicule. That is a mere incident, by the way, of course. 
Well, on her side, the young princess is at once interested in 
this vehement, tall, red-haired young count ; as she proved af- 
terwards, she was much more than interested ; but her husband 
is as jealous as he is brutal and ill-tempered, and the two friends 
only meet under the full observation of Florentine society. But, 
of course, the^ first thing that presents itself to his mind is the 
necessity of freeing her from the cruel tyranny that is killing 
her existence ; and here there comes on the scene an Irishman — 
a gay, adventurous Irishman — who has a nimble-witted wife ; 
and soon they and the impetuous lover have a plot schemed out 
among them to spirit away the young princess, and get her 
safely into a convent, so that she may appeal for protection to 
the pope." 

" But, Mr. Buncombe," Queen Tita says, with rather a puz- 
zled look, '< is this a real story you are telling us, or one you 
have invented ?" 

" Oh, it is a real story, so far as the facts go," he answered ; 
" only I thought I wouldn't mention names, so as to leave your 
minds free from any prejudice or prepossession." 

<< If you did tell us the real names, shouldn't we understand 
all the better ?" she said. 

" At least, the name of your hero, the tall, red-haired poet," 
pleaded Miss Peggy. 

" Why ^ Vittorio Alfieri I" he said, rather with an air of triumph. 



THX STRANGE ADVSNTURB8 OF A H0U8K-B0AT. 186 

" And the beautif ol princess ?" 

** The beautiful princess — she was a bit of a poet, too, and an 
artist ; many a portrait she painted of Alfieri ; well, she was 
Louisa, Princess of Stolberg and Countess of Albany." 

" The Countess of Albany ?" Queen Tita repeated ; and she 
looked at him still with that bewildered air. << The Countess of 
Albany ? Then her husband, the man you described ?" 

'' Yes," he said, with a careless laugh ; '< the besotted old 
drunkard, who used to beat his wife, was no other than your 
* Bonnie Prince Charlie.' " 

He knew not what he had done. In this trumpery search of 
his after materials for some trivial book or play he had taken no 
thought that he might be outraging all kinds of personal senti- 
ments and fondly cherished associations. Of course Queen Tita 
uttered no word. He might describe in what terms he pleased 
the last of the ill-fated Stuarts — ^the hapless wretch whom a 
hundred bitter disappointments dragged down to a miserable 
doom ; she would make no protest. But one of us sitting there, 
and observing her proud silence, knew this right well, that if 
the young man who was so jauntily setting out on his play- 
writing career had succumbed in any way to the glamour of Miss 
Peggy's eyes and to the provoking fascination of her wiles and 
witchcraft if he had been filling the future with plans and 
schemes far other than those pertaining to the stage, and if he 
had been counting on Queen Tita's intercession on his behalf, 
and perhaps even thinking that she would plead his cause for 
him, and befriend him, and help him to win that precious prize, 
then, through this unlucky disclosure of these literary designs of 
his, he had " wrought for " himself " an irredeemable woe," 



136 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 



CHAPTER XL 

"Quoth I, ' My bird, my bonnie, bonnie bird. 
Is that a tale ye borrow, 
Or is 't some words ye've learnt by rote, 
Or a lilt o' dool and sorrow ?' 

" 'Oh, no, no, no,' the wee bird sang, 
* I've flown since mornin' early ; 
Bot sio a day o' wind and rain — 
1 wae's me for Prince Charlie !' " 

On this still morning, while as yet the unknown world around 
us seems but half awake, there is a tall young lady, of slim and 
elegant figure, standing all alone in the stem of the boat. It 
is the Person without a Character. She has perched herself 
on the steersman^s plank ; her arms are placed on the transverse 
iron rod ; her chin rests contemplatively on her crossed palms. 
And who can tell what dreams and reveries may not be in the 
calm deeps of her eyes, which can be thoughtful and wistful 
enough when they are not full of malice and wickedness, and 
downright rude insolence (to persons older than herself) ? Ap- 
parently she is looking away across the undulating landscape, 
with its varied features of wood and meadow, of hedgerow and 
upland slope, emerging from the pale mists of the dawn ; but 
there may be quite other visions before her. Perhaps she is 
thinking of the olden days of romance and heroic adventure, 
when noble earls " came sounding through the town ;" perhaps 
• she is only thinking of New York, and of some facetious and 
correctly dressed young man there. When one civilly bids her 
good-morning, she turns round with a startled look : clearly her 
thoughts have been far away. 

" Well," she says, " the more I see of England, the more I 
am surprised to think how such a wonderful lot of things should 
have happened in so small a place. And not only small, but — 
but — empty. The country seems dead. There's nobody in it. 
Last night I was reading about Warwick and Kenilworth, just 



TBB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 137 

by way of preparation, you know, for I suppose we shall get 
there this evening. Well, where did all those great lords find 
the people to build splendid castles for them ? Where did they 
get such sums of money ? Where did all the armies come from 
that were in the Wars of the Roses ?" 

Now the spectacle of a young mind in eager quest of knowl- 
edge is, as has been observed before, a pleasing sight ; but it 
has to be pointed out to Miss Peggy that the study of English 
history ought to remain prohibited during the remainder of 
this trip, to avoid misconception, and for the better silencing 
of scandalous tongues. 

" Ah, now," she says, plaintively, " isn't it hard that we 
should be subjected to such cruel taunts and suspicions ? And 
so unjustly, too ; that is the shameful part of it ; if there was 
the smallest atom of foundation for the things they say of us, I 
shouldn't mind. I do really believe," she continues, with an air 
of solemn conviction, " that you and I are the two most abso- 
lutely perfect characters the world has ever known. I have 
never met with any one just quite so good as we are. And of 
course that is the explanation. Perfect people are never prop- 
erly comprehended. Their motives and conduct are always 
being misunderstood and misrepresented by the outside world ; 
other people who are not perfect have to console themselves 
by being spiteful and envious. The only comfort is," adds 
Miss Peggy, complacently, "that you and I understand and 
appreciate each other ; and they are welcome to say all those 
things about us as often as they please." 

This was all very well; and indeed it was satisfactory to 
think that one had won the commendation of a being so con- 
fident of her own moral worth. But there was this to be con- 
sidered about Peggy, that you could never be very sure of her. 
Indeed, when she was most amiable she was most to be dis- 
trusted; when she held out both hands to you in the frankest 
fashion, you had to beware lest they should turn out to be the 
two knobs of an electrical machine. 

The next instant, with immovable face and inscrutable eyes, 
she remarks, in a casual kind of way, 

" Mr. A'Becket is coming to Warwick." 

" What !" 

" Yes, he is." 



138 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 



" Well, yon are — ^I declare you i 

'^ I ?'' she says, with a blank stare of innocence. " What 
have I to do with it?" 

" Then how did he tell yon and no one else of his coming f ' 

" Oh, as for that," she says, in a careless fashion, << he only 
mentioned it in going away as a kind of possibility. If he had 
spoken of it to you, it might have looked like asking for an 
invitation. And perhaps he mayn^t come, after all. Fm sure, 
if I were he, I wouldn't take the trouble." 

" Probably not." 

<< I say," she continues, with a sudden change of manner (for 
she can be very friendly and confidential when she likes), *' what 
made your wife look so strange last night when Mr. Buncombe 
was talking about Alfieri, and the princess, and Prince Charles 
Edward ?" 

This was a large question, and one rather difficult to answer 
ofiHiand ; but just at this moment, as it happened, we were un- 
expectedly interrupted. There was a barge coming along, drawn 
by two donkeys, each with a nose-tin slung at its head ; and 
along with them was a tall young bargeman, as handsome as 
Apollo, but with a sun-tan on his face and a mild fire in his 
eyes unknown to the marble figures in the XJffizi corridors. 
After a preliminary and rather diffident glance at the young 
lady, he made bold to ask us whether we were going on that 
day? 

" Yes, certainly," was the answer. 

"Then you'll have to make haste," said the sun-browned 
Apollo, " for they're going to repair Claydon Lock, and unless 
you get on at once, you won't get through till to-morrow." 

Now, this was most unwelcome news ; for, though it was 
well enough, once in a while, to spend a whole twenty-four 
hours by the side of a meadow, with speedwells, dandelions, 
pollard-willows, swifts, water-rats, and an occasional sheep, as 
our only companions, still we felt that we had not been making 
sufficient progress, and we had certainly calculated on reaching 
Warwick that night. So there was nothing for it but to sum- 
mon Murdoch forthwith, and bid him leave breakfast alone, 
and go and scour the neighboring country in search of Captain 
Columbus and the Horse-Marine. Of course, all this commo- 
tion had been heard within. Mrs. Threepenny-bit made her 



THB 8TRANGB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 189 

appearance at the bow, and said she would hang the whole 
ship's company if she wasn't safely deposited in Warwick town 
that very evening. Jack Duncombe popped out his head astern, 
and said that as soon as he had got his boots on he would go 
off and help to find our crew — in Cropredy they would be most 
likely, he added. In the midst of all this, Columbus, the horse, 
and the Horse-Marine simultaneously hove in sight ; Murdoch, 
having espied them, at once returned to his duties in the pan- 
try; and in the shortest time possible we were again under 
way, stealing along through the silent landscape. 

Now, why was this young man so dense as not to see that 
on the previous evening he had grievously displeased his host- 
ess by his flippant description of the fallen estate of Bonnie 
Prince Charlie ? On this succeeding morning, at breakfast, he 
must needs revive the unlucky subject; and the moment he 
began he ought to have perceived that he was addressing Miss 
Peggy alone ; Queen Tita preserved a proud silence, and would 
have nothing to do with him or his impertinent projects. 

'< The fact is," said he, with a pleasant f acetiousness, after 
he had been reviewing the subject all over again, *' that there 
is something just a trifle too farcical in the scene in which the 
dissipated old blackguard finds his young wife spirited away 
from him ; there is a Palais Royal touch about it that I shall 
have to steer clear of if I meddle with the thing at all. Tou 
see, this is how matters stood : the conspirators — that is Alfieri, 
and the Irishman, taid his lady-friend, Madame Orlandini — ^they 
knew they would have some diflSculty in getting the princess 
safely away and into a convent, even after they had got the 
permission of the grand duke ; the elderly husband had to 
be dealt with, and he was as jealous and as suspicious as the 
very mischief. Very well, this was how they managed : one 
morning Madame Orlandini called upon the princess and her 
husband and asked them to drive with her to the convent — 
I forget the name of it — ^to see some articles manufactured by 
the nuns. It was a casual kind of visit, you understand. But 
when they got to the convent who should be there but the Irish- 
man-— quite by accident, of course — ^and as he was there any 
way, he naturally escorted the ladies up -stairs, leaving the 
prince, who was fat and scant of breath, to follow as best he 
could. He did follow, and reached the landing ; but the two 



140 THE BTRAKOE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

ladies had disappeared ; there was no one there but the Irish- 
man, pretending to be very angry that he had been shut out. 
Then your Bonnie Prince Charlie — I suppose he was beginning 
to suspect a trick — began to knock violently ; and all the answer 
he got was that the abbess appeared at a small grating and 
civilly informed him, from behind it, that his wife had been 
received into the convent and was now under the protection of 
the grand duchess. They say his rage was tremendous when 
he found out how he had been cheated ; but the irate husband 
doesn't get much sympathy, especially if he is fat and elderly, 
and given to drink and beating his wife." 

You should have seen Queen Titans face all this time : she 
was far too indignant to speak. 

" And did the princess remain in the convent ?" Miss Peggy 
asked, she being apparently as ignorant as he of the effect pro- 
duced on their hostess by this happy-go-lucky recital 

" Oh dear, no. The pope allowed her to retire to Rome ; 
and the carriage she drove in was guarded by an escort of 
horsemen, with Alfieri and the gay Irishman, both of them dis- 
guised and armed, on the box. I don't know that her husband 
ever saw her again. Why he didn't appeal to the pope, I can't 
understand. Perhaps he wasn't in good odor ; I suppose his 
habits were too notorious — " 

How long was this to go on? In order to get him away 
at any hazard from this fatal topic, one ventured to hint that, 
from the point of view of literary morality, it was perhaps hardly 
quite fair to make a real person like Alfieri the hero of a ro- 
mance or a play. 

" Oh, as for that," said the young man, immediately and 
happily rising to the lure, " you know the private lives of the 
great poets have always been considered common property in 
the world of letters. Didn't you ever read the novel about 
Milton and his second wife ? I think it was the second one. 
Why, Shakespeare has figured in fiction, both in Germany and 
England, in every possible condition of life-7-as a young lover, 
as an actor and boon companion in London, as a country gen- 
tleman living quietly in Stratford. Fve seen Voltaire on the 
French stage — a representation of himself personally, I mean. 
I don't see much difference between writing about them and 
painting them ; and you get a picture of Shakespeare in his 



THE 8TRAN0S ADVENTURES OF ▲ HOUSE-BOAT. 141 

cradle ; well, that w playing it pretty low down ; and you get 
Dante wandering through the air with Beatrice. My belief is 
that Alfieri would have been very much offended if you had 
considered him a private person. He left his own memoirs — '* 

" Yes ; and told us all about his life and his literary career 
that he thought it necessary should be known. Isn't that 
enough ?" 

'< I wouldn't say it in print," continues this young man, con- 
fidentially ; " I wouldn't sign my name to it in a review ; but 
my private impression is that Alfieri has long before now been 
made a figure in literature. If 'Don Juan' wasn't suggested 
by some of Alfieri's earlier adventures, then I will eat my hat" 

(This is the fashion in which young people of the present 
day discuss grave literary questions.) 

« My belief is," continues our ingenuous young friend, as he 
contemplatively chips another egg, *' my belief is that poetical 
genius is based on nothing more nor less than an infinite capac- 
ity for falling in love. What makes a bird sing ? Alfieri says 
himself that it was always when he was in love with some 
woman or other that he produced his finest work; it was the 
desire to shine in her eyes that was his inspiration. Of course 
you want a certain amount of imagination to fall in love; I 
suppose the mass of mankind go through life without ever 
knowing what reaUy being in love is, and without ever know- 
ing that they don't know. But when you come to the people 
of great imagination, see how they can fall in love again and 
again ; look at Goethe, at Bums, at Shelley, at Byron, at 
Milton—" 

" At least," says Queen Tita, sharply, " Milton had the grace 
to marry the women he fell in love with." 

" Well, it isn't every one who gets the chance of marrying 
three times," says this young man, with cool effrontery. Miss 
Peggy looks amused, but keeps her eyes downcast. Mrs. Three- 
penny-bit, addressing Murdoch, who happens to come into the 
saloon, asks him to write out a list of any things he may want 
in Warwick. She adds that we shall have our meals at a hotel 
to-morrow, so that he may have the more time to look over the 
town and the castle. For there is one person on board to whom 
she is always civil ; and that is because he is a Highlander. 

Well, we got through Claydon Lock easily enough; and 



142 THl STRANG! ADYIRTURES OF ▲ HOU8S-BOAT. 

thereafter entered upon a long stretcli of eleven miles without 
any lock at all. This was by far the most lonely district into 
which we had as yet penetrated ; and as the canal is here on a 
high level, we had a sufficiently spacious view of the richly 
cultivated but apparently uninhabited country. Far as the eye 
could reach there was nothing visible but fields, hedge-rows, 
and upland heights, with here and there a clump of trees, or 
perhaps a solitary bam, a bit of red showii^ pleasantly enough 
among the prevailing greens. The day was brightening up, 
too ; sweet, mild airs were blowing ; there was even, now and 
4gain, a ray of watery sunlight striking on some distant slope. 
We began to wonder whether we had at last escaped from the 
rain that had pursued us so incessantly ; for, of course, we 
did not want our pretty Miss Peggy to go away back to Amer- 
ica with the impression that England was a land of perpetual 
mists. 

One thing was certain : neither mist nor rain nor any other 
kind of weather was likely to upset that young lady's equanim- 
ity. She would have proved an invaluable acquisition on board 
the Ark, if she had been given her banjo, and her knitting, 
and perhaps, also, a young man or two to make a hash of, just 
by way of filling in the time. On this breezy, soft-aired morn- 
ing the uncertain look about the weather had no fears for her. 
She was the first to be ready to leave the boat for a stroll along 
the bank. But she was not the first to get ashore ; for Queen 
Tita called on her to wait ; and Miss Peggy, sitting down com- 
placently, amused herself by strumming, " Oh, dem golden 
slippers !" until her friend was ready to join her. 

And very soon, when all of us had got on land, we discov- 
ered Mrs. Threepenny-bit's dark design in thus carrying off the 
young lady all to herself. She was going to undo the evil that 
Jack Buncombe had done ; and she happened to be very well 
qualified for the purpose. In the absolute silence of this un- 
inhabited district, we two who were following could hear dis- 
tinctly enough ; and what we heard was an elaborate discourse 
on the character, career, and sad misfortunes of Prince Charles 
Edward Stuart, accompanied by such an abundance of minute 
detail and anecdote that even Miss Peggy was surprised, and 
was forced to ask her friend how she came to hear of all these 
things. 



THS 8TRAK01 ADVENTURKS OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 143 

" Well," we overheard her say, " I suppose it was partly 
through oar knowing the Camerons of Inverfask, and being 
interested that way ; but all kinds of narratives and journals 
have been published, so that the whole story of Prince Charlie's 
adventures in the Highlands has been told, down to the smallest 
circumstance. What became of him after, or what he became 
— well, I never heard much about that ; but what I do know 
is that there must have been something very extraordinary and 
fascinating about the character of a man who was able to do 
what he did. Fancy his landing at Borrodale with only seven 
companions — ^the Highland chiefs on whom he most depended, 
entirely opposed to the enterprise — ^the people not knowing him 
even by sight ; and yet within a couple of months he had got 
together an enthusiastic army, had taken Edinburgh, had beaten 
the English general sent against him, and was fairly on his way 
to London. Surely the young man who could do that must 
have been possessed of some unusual qualities : don't you think 
so, Peggy? From the very outset it was one difficulty after 
another to get over ; any one with less courage and resolution 
would have given up the whole affair — ^any one with less per- 
sonal fascination of character, for it all depended on that, could 
have done nothing with men who tried from the very beginning 
to get him to go back. Boisdale — he was one of the Macdon- 
aids, I think — went to see him even before he landed, and begged 
him to return to France. Young Olanranald assured him that 
the project was quite hopeless. Why, when Cameron of Lo- 
chiel — and everybody says there would have been no rising at 
all but for him — ^when he set out to meet the prince he was as 
much opposed to it as any of them ; and yet his brother, Cam- 
eron of Fassiefem, knew quite well what would happen if he 
came under his influence. Lochiel had to pass Fassiefem on 
his way — ^some day, Peggy, I hope you and I will have a drive 
along Glenfinnan, and I will show you all the places — ^and Fas- 
siefem came out and tried hard to stop him. * Brother,' he 
said, * if the prince once sets his eyes on you, he will make you 
do whatever he pleases.' Of course Lochiel yielded like the 
others; and it was this same Lochiel — ^the * gentle Lochiel' — 
long afterwards, after CuUoden, when Prince Charlie and he 
and the rest of them were exiles in France— it was that same 
Lochiel who hung back from accepting the command of a French 



144 THE STRAirOB ADVENTURKB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

regiment that was offered him, and kept urging the prince to 
make another effort in Scotland. And you think that this young 
Charles Stuart, coming almost alone to the country, could 
have induced those men to risk their lives, their estates, and 
the prospects of their families, without his having most unusual 
qualities of character ; yes, and force of will, and personal cour- 
age as well f ' 

Now, it is to be observed that Miss Peggy had brought no 
such charge ; she was listening to this laudation of Prince 
Charles with the most amiable attention ; plainly the taunt 
was thrown out for the benefit of any one who might be lis- 
tening behind. 

" Peggy," she continues (the arms of these two are inter- 
linked, and they are supposed to be in very private confabula- 
tion together ; but somehow we hear every word), " I wish we 
could get Colonel Cameron to come along with us for a few 
days, just to show you what kind of men they were who joined 
the Young Chevalier. I think he is every way fit to be a kins- 
man of ' the gentle Lochiel ;^ but, gentle or no gentle, the Cam- 
erons can fight. And I suppose fighting is to be his trade to 
the end now. Poor Inverf ask ! I am quite sure he had always 
the idea of leaving the service as soon as he had scraped a 
little money together — ^f or he is not very well off, you know — and 
settling down on his small place in the Highlands, and making 
what he could of it. I suppose he would take a command in 
the local militia ; and if the place swallowed up too much in 
the way of improvements, I dare say he would have let the 
autumn shooting to some rich Liverpool or Birmingham man. 
But his young wife died — what a dear, gentle creature she was ! 
— and so I suppose he will stick to his soldiering to the end. 
Well, at all events, when we get back to London, we must ar- 
range an evening for him to come and dine with us, and then 
you will see the kind of man who went *out' in '46; for I 
suppose a generation or two can't have made much difference 
in the blood, though all the circumstances are different. Do 
you know what blood was in the veins of Prince Charles Stuart ? 
— ^the blood of John Sobieski ; and he showed himself worthy of 
it. But still there must have been some extraordinary personal 
glamour about this young man that captured every one he came 
across, rich and poor alike. The women, of course you know, 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 145 

all went mad about him ; though they weren't all quite so lucky 
as Miss Edmonstone." 

<<Who was she?" the innocent disciple asks; whereupon. 
Mrs. Threepenny-bit smiles a little : perhaps she is trying to 
imagine Miss Peggy in Miss Edmonstone's place. 

'^ That was when Prince Charles was marching south from 
Perth. The gentlewomen in the neighborhood of Doune had 
come out to welcome him and offer him some refreshment; 
and it was the daughters of Mr. Edmonstone who were to 
serve him. Well, when he had drunk the wine and returned 
the glass, they asked to be permitted to kiss his royal high- 
nesses hand ; but there was a cousin of theirs standing by who 
said she would rather * pree his royal highness's mou'.' Per- 
haps this was a little joke on her part ; perhaps she counted 
on his not being able to understand ; and he didn't understand, 
any more than you do, Peggy, my dear ; but the speech was 
immediately explained to him by his companions, and at once 
he stooped down, and lifted the young lady in his arms, and 
kissed her heartily. So if it was a joke, she was paid out for 
it ; but they say the other ladies of the district were very en- 
vious and thought she had got more than her share. They say, 
too, that his manner towards women was just the perfection 
of courtesy." 

If, at this moment. Jack Duncombe had dared to say a word 
he would probably have muttered, "Yes; especially when he 
was beating his wife;" but the smallest remark would have 
been overheard ; so he was compelled to go in silence, listen- 
ing to this wild eulogium of Prince Charles — a eulogium that 
was not only in a manner levelled at his own head, but that also 
effectually deprived him of all chance of enjoying Miss Peggy's 
companionship during this morning's stroll. 

" He invariably rose whenever Flora Macdonald entered the 
room, no matter what business was going on. They say that 
when he was at Holyrood his charm of manner quite won the 
hearts of the young Scotch ladies, and that numbers of them, 
like Miss Lumsden, bade their lovers go and fight for Prince 
Charlie, or give them up forever. Yes; and some of them 
gave him more substantial aid. Did you ever hear of Colonel 
Anne, Peggy?" 

" No," answers Miss Peggy. 
10 G 



146 TBS 8TRAHOX ADYXNTURKS OF A H0U8X-B0AT. 

And here again the small mite of a woman laughs a little ; 
for she has a prodigious and heroic valor of imagination, though 
she will skip on to a chair at sight of a black-beetle. 

'< She was the wife of Mackintosh of Mackintosh ; and while 
he was a captain in the loyal militia, she raised a whole regi- 
ment for the Chevalier, of her own clan and the Farquharsons, 
and joined them herself. The joke of it was that her husband 
was some time afterwards taken prisoner and brought into her 
presence. * Your servant, captain,' she said. * Your servant, 
colonel,' he answered. There is another story told about her 
that will show you what spirit she had. After Culloden, she 
was taken prisoner and sent to London ; but they set her free 
before long; and the Duke of Cumberland invited her to a 
ball, and to the ball she went Very well ; the first tune played 
was * Up and waur them a', Willie,' and Cumberland asked her 
to dance with him, which she did ; then she said, ' Now that I 
have danced to your tune, will you dance to mine V Of course, 
he couldn't refuse ; and what must she do but call for < The 
auld Stuarts back again !' Well, she had her revenge ; but 
still — still, I think I would rather not have heard of brave 
Colonel Anne dancing with Butcher Cumberland." 

Here the rampant little Jacobite was interrupted by a distant 
sound that gradually came nearer and nearer and increased and 
increased until we knew by the whir and rattle that a train 
was going by somewhere, though we could not see it. The 
disturbance was quite startling in the silence to which we had 
grown used ; we resented it almost ; it was a message from 
the far-outside world to people who had forsaken it, and almost 
forgotten the existence of railway-stations and porters and 
hansom-cabs. But presently the hubbub had ceased ; stillness 
reigned around ; we were left alone once more with the silent 
woods and meadows, the placid water, and the pale sunlight 
that here and there warmed the upland slopes, under the darker 
sky-line of the trees. 

" Then there was Lady Kilmarnock," continues this furious 
partisan of five-foot-three (and all this is for the pious edifica- 
tion of Miss Peggy, who has been tampered with by heretics) ; 
" she didn't raise a regiment ; but I don't know that she didn't 
do Prince Charles a greater service still. Well ; well, Peggy, 
it's a terrible story of a woman's duplicity ; I hope you will 



THX STRANGX ADTIKTURIS Or ▲ H0U8K-B0AT. 147 

never do such a thing, even for a Prince Charlie. Bat she 
happened to be at Callander House when General Hawley and 
his English troops arrived to drive away the Highlanders from 
the siege of Stirling ; and on the very morning of the battle of 
Falkirk she sent an invitation to General Hawley to come and 
breakfast with her. I think he might have suspected; Lord 
Kilmarnock was with the prince ; she was known to be a warm 
adherent of the Stuarts. However, she was very good-looking 
and very charming ; and Hawley thought he could drive the 
Highlanders away just whenever he pleased ; and so he went 
Yes, Peggy, he went ; and it was a bad day for him that he did. 
Even when his own officers sent him word that the Highlanders 
were in motion, he wouldn't come away from Callander House. 
They say that Lady Kilmarnock had very pleasant manners ; and 
of course she would talk about something interesting — ^history, 
perhaps — ^English history, perhaps ; do you hear, Peggy f ' 

" Yes," says the young lady, innocently. 

" By mid-day," the duodecimo historian continues, " Prince 
Charles had made all his arrangements for an attack ; and the 
English were without their general He was still at Callander 
House." 

" And what was the end of it ?" asks Miss Peggy. 

'< Why, the English lost the battle of Falkirk, that was all ; 
and General Hawley, who had been enjopng the interesting 
conversation of Lady Kilmarnock all the morning, was in the 
evening in full retreat towards Linlithgow." 

" Ah, I see," observes Miss Peggy, gravely. " You might 
say that he had run his ship fast aground — opposite Magna 
Charta island." 

" Yes," observes Mrs. Threepenny-bit — who is far too eager 
in her proseljrtizing to heed this piece of impertinence, '< the 
women of Scotland did what they could for Bonnie Prince 
Charlie ! I wonder, Peggy, if I could get for you some account 
of the homage they paid to Flora Macdonald when she was at 
Leith, in the ship that was taking her a prisoner to London. 
Whole crowds of ladies, many of them persons of great dis- 
tinction, went to see her, and took all kinds of presents with 
them. One of them said, ' I could wipe your shoes with pleas- 
ure, and would count it an honor so to do.' Another said, 
'Surely you are the happiest woman i^ the world.' And 



148 THE STRAHOB ADVBNTURB8 OF A BOUSS-BOAT. 

another — Lady Mary Cochrane that was — stayed on board all 
nighty and begged Miss Macdonald to let her share her cabin, 
so that she might say that she had had the honor of lying in 
the same bed with one who had been so happy as to be guar- 
dian to her prince. And even that was nothing to the enthu- 
siasm that Flora created in London, after she was set free, and 
living as the guest of Lady Primrose^" 

" Hi ! You people in front there ! What is all this farrago 
about the '46 Rebellion ? What are you trying to prove I" 

Mrs. Threepenny-bit turns round for a second. 

*' I am trying to prove," she says, with audacious calmness, 
" that it is impossible for Peggy to go back to America without 
having met Colonel Cameron ; she must see what a Highlander 
is like." 

It was about midday that our Argonauts were greatly sur- 
prised, and perhaps a little bit cheered, by esp3dng in the far 
distance a cluster of human habitations. Perched on the top 
of a hill was a conspicuous toy of a church ; and along the 
slopes and trending down to the valley was a straggling mass 
of houses and cottages, the red brick and blue slate of which 
gave the place an odd purple look in the middle of the wide 
green landscape. It was the village of Napton, we learned, 
where we were to leave the Oxford canal and turn off westward 
by the Napton and Warwick. But before reaching the junc- 
tion we had of course to descend from the high level that had 
yielded us so (historically) interesting a walk ; and as the oper- 
ation of going down a hiU, by means of a series of canal-locks, 
is just a trifle tedious, we abandoned our noble vessel to the 
care of Captain Columbus and the Horse - Marine, and took 
refuge in the saloon, where luncheon was already laid out 

Now it is just possible that by this time our young drama- 
tist had begun to perceive what a fatal mistake he had made 
the night before ; but he need not now have proceeded delib- 
erately to make matters worse by proposing modifications of 
his unhappy scheme. He would have been much wiser to have 
said not one word more about the unlucky book or play, which- 
ever it was to be. He was clever at dressing salads, and open- 
ing cases of tinned meats; and might have confined himself 
to these useful occupations. But no. Perhaps it grieved him 
to see Miss Peggy so completely carried off from him, to be 



THE STRANGE ADVSNTUBBS OF A HOUBB-BOAT. 149 

lectured about the Highland clans. Perhaps he thought that 
by currying favor with this Jenny Wren of a Jacobite he might 
hope to have a little of the younger lady's companionship re- 
stored to him. At all events, we had scarcely sat down at 
table, when he began, quite jauntily and airily, 

" Well, Miss Rosslyn, what do you think of the young Cheva- 
lier now? I heard you were being shown a different picture 
of him this morning. Oh, yes, there is much to be said on 
that side ; and I dare say, at one period of his life, he must 
have been rather an attractive and interesting kind of person- 
age. Of course I take the later period — ^my story happens then ; 
and it is necessary for my purpose that there should be a dark 
foil to the brilliant character of Alfieri — ^the darker the better. 
And yet, you know, if I should ever take up the thing, I don't 
think I would represent Bonnie Prince Charlie, even in his 
later days, as being absolutely contemptible — " 

(This was the young man's idea of putting matters straight !) 

" — no, not absolutely contemptible. I would have glimpses 
of his former self appear through his drunken stupor ; I would 
make him maunder about his brave Highlanders, and all that 
kind of thing, don't you know. My private impression is that 
it was his brave Highlanders who taught him the use of the 
whiskey-bottle ; still, I suppose when they were skulking in the 
hills they were glad to get anything, and he must have come 
through a good deal of privation when he was being hunted 
from island to island." 

And at last Queen Tita breaks silence ; she can bear this 
no longer. 

" Privation !" she says, with a touch of indignant tremor in 
her voice. " Yes, privation such as might make people silent 
with pity over whatever he became towards the end of his life. 
I don't know what that was ; I would rather not inquire ; I 
suppose few have ever experienced such cruel disappointments 
and mortifications ; and I don't know what habits he may have 
acquired in those later years ; but I do know this : I know that 
when he was crossing from Uist to Skye they had with them 
only half a bottle of white wine ; it was all the soldiers had 
left at Clanranald's house, and he would not touch it ; every 
drop was to be saved for Flora Macdonald. And I know that 
when M^colm Macleod was guiding him across Skye, and there 



150 THB STRJLNOB ADVSNTUKXB OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 

was only one glass of brandy, he made Malcolm drink it, as 
needing it more than himself. I remember,'^ she continues, 
taming to Miss Peggy, as if the yoong man were no longer 
worth talking to, " being told where that bottle is still pre- 
served, for Macleod hid it in the heather, and picked it np 
afterwards. Well, there is this to be said, Peggy : that in all 
the privations they had to go through — starving for days some- 
times, and sleeping in wet caves at night — ^the prince always 
kept the most undaunted heart of them all. He would turn 
his hand to anything ; kindling a fire, cooking a dinner when 
they had anything to cook, hauling a boat up on shore, or sing- 
ing songs to cheer the sailors when they were dead-beat with 
their rowing. Old men, who had fought for him at Culloden, 
and made their way back to the glens, burst into tears when 
they found him in such a pitiable plight ; but he was always 
stout-hearted and cheerful, and making the best of his circum- 
stances. And very ungrateful he must have been, in those later 
years, whatever he was, if he did not think sometimes of his 
brave Highlanders. Such loyalty, I do believe, was never seen 
before. Imagine those poor people, each one of them knowing 
that he or she could go and get £30,000 by telling the nearest 
captain of militia where the prince was hi<^ng, and not one of 
them yielding to the temptation ! Why, at Coradale, in Uist, 
there were more than a hundred people knew quite well where 
he was, and not one of them would betray him. The very 
officers who were searching for him could not help admiring 
such faithfulness. Just think of this, Peggy — there was a 
poor fellow called Macleod — Macleod or Macdonald, I forget 
which — who had piloted the boat the prince escaped in, and 
he was taken prisoner, and brought before General Campbell. 
He confessed at once to having been with the prince. * Don't 
you know,' said the general to him, ' what money is put on 
that gentleman's head ? No less than £30,000, which would 
have made you and your family happy forever.' * What, 
then ?' was the answer of the poor fellow. * What though I 
had gotten it? My conscience would have got the better of 
me, and I would not have enjoyed it two days. And although 
I could have gotten all England and Scotland put together, I 
would not have allowed a hair of his head to be injured, since 
he was under my care.' Do you know what the general said, 



THE 8TRAKOB ADYXHTUBSB OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 161 

Peggy? He said, 'I cannot much blame you.' And sorely 
yoa cannot think that such extraordinary devotion could have 
been aroused except by one who had some very unusual quali- 
ties of character ? Mind you, it wasn't merely their loyalty to 
their chiefs. When young Clanranald hesitated at the begin- 
ning, his clan told him they would go out, whether he headed 
them or not No, I don't seek to know what habits the dis- 
appointed and unhappy man may have fallen into in his last 
years ; but it was no mean or contemptible person who could 
awaken such loyalty and devotion ; and, what is more, it was 
no mean or contemptible person who, even after his misfor- 
tunes, was so much of a hero to the people of Paris that the 
French king himself was vexed and envious because of his 
great popularity and the admiration and sympathy that were 
shown for him. Mr. Buncombe, you may turn the young Chev- 
alier into a drunken old reprobate, if you like ; but I think 
you will make a mistake ; for one thing, you will get no one to 
believe you." 

This was a pretty warm defence of the last of the Stuarts, 
coming as it did from a small mite of an Englishwoman who 
had picked up her Jacobite sentiments simply through having 
stayed on one or two occasions at Inverfask House and been 
told something about the relics in the hall there. And as Jack 
Buncombe was beginning to make a few feeble excuses — say- 
ing he might not take up the subject at all — and that, if he did, 
he would introduce reminiscences of the hapless prince's more 
heroic days — suddenly a shaft of sunlight shot into the saloon ; 
and, that being always a welcome signal, it was suggested by one 
of us to Miss Peggy that she might come outside and take the 
tiller, and see a little more of this country of England. 

Bespite that stray shaft of sunlight, however, we found the 
day had not improved during our sojourn within ; there was 
now half a gale sweeping over from the southwest ; the yellow 
waters of the canal were driven into lapping waves ; and a res- 
ervoir hard by — near to Stockton Grange it is — was changed 
into a miniature sea, with white foam springing from its em- 
bankments. It was all very striking and picturesque, no doubt 
— ^the bent and swaying trees, the hurrying clouds with their 
purple shadows and silvery lights, and the occasional gleams of 
sunshine that struck here and there on spinney or hill ; but we 



152 THB STRANGB ADVBNTITKXB OF A HOU8B-BOAT. 

began to wish, in the most modest and respectful way (and 
especially as we should be wandering through the Forest ot 
Arden within the next day or two) for just a trifle of decently 
quiet weather. We were not landscape artists. We had prom- 
ised ourselves stiU moonlight nights in these remote districts, 
with Miss Peggy and her banjo at the bow of the boat, trying 
to charm the fairies out into the open glades with a kind of 
music they had never heard before. But now we were encount- 
ering nothing but a series of juvenile tornadoes ; and we were 
beginning to feel annoyed. 

Nevertheless, that evening improved very considerably ; the 
wind abating; the clouds banking themselves up into heavy 
masses overhead; while along the western skies there were 
silver rifts that seemed slowly and steadily widening. Indeed, 
the heavy darkness overhead made that white glory in the west 
all the more vivid and alluring ; and when, at length, through 
some sudden parting of the clouds, a flood of sunlight swept 
across the corn-fields and the hedges and the daisied meadows, 
the effect was quite bewildering. It was Miss Peggy who was 
at the hehn. She insisted that she could not see, the glare was 
so strong. So we had the boat stealthily stopped; Murdoch 
was quietly summoned ; those people within — ^the one of them 
letter-writing, the other, no doubt, inventing situations sufficient 
to make a Strand audience gasp with emotion — ^were left to 
themselves; and the two congenial souls on board this ship— 
the two who were not likely to let their friendship strike and 
founder on any idiotic rock of historical sentiment — were free 
to walk away by themselves into that western world of light, 
conversing on subjects so serious and exalted that it would be 
a pity to put them down here, lest they should be misunder- 
stood. 

The evening drew on apace ; but momentarily it became more 
beautiful. It really seemed as if we had come out from under 
those lurid storm clouds into a region of mellow radiance and 
perpetual calm. The still surface of the canal was a golden 
pathway before us; overhead, such spaces of the sky as were 
now clear were of a pale blue, just touched here and there with 
a flake of saffron cloud. Of course, this brilliancy could not 
last Slowly the wild fires in the west paled down. As we 
drew near to Radford Simele (we were all on board again now) 



THE STRANGE ADVENTUBES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 163 

there was a wan twilight on the water ; and as we stole through 
the outskirts of Leamington Priors the windows and lamps 
gleamed orange through the gathering gray dusk. 

Night came down. We passed under mysterious bridges. 
Here and there a mass of black building or a tall chimney rose 
into the faintly lilac sky ; here and there a yellow ray of light 
burned in the dark. We could hear, but barely see, our noble 
captain and his crew as they made their way through the pre- 
vailing gloom. And then it seemed to us as if we were passing 
into the country again. Where was Warwick ? We knew that 
it was but a mile or two from Leamington ; but here were we 
among meadows, with no more sign of a town than we had met 
with on the lonely level between Claydon Lock and Napton 
Hill. In the midst of our perplexity the Nameless Barge — ^that 
has been coming through these sombre shades as noiselessly as 
a bat — slowly ceases to move ; and Captain Columbus appears 
with his report. 

We must remain where we are, it seems ; for the next lock- 
gate is locked. Warwick is three quarters of a mile away, 
across the fields. Then comes the question, put to the popular 
vote, as to whether we should make our way into the town 
(there is a moon somewhere behind the clouds, and those mead- 
ows are beginning to show gray, with the hedges black between) 
or spend the evening on board, with such entertainment as we 
may be able to devise for ourselves. It is unanimously resolved 
that we remain on board. 

Late that night, Mrs. Threepenny-bit happened to bethink her 
of putting postage-stamps on the letters that had occupied her 
in the afternoon ; and while doing so she pushed one of the en- 
velopes across the little table to Miss Peggy. 

" There, Peggy, do you see to whom I have been writing ?" 

The young lady took up the letter and read the address, 
" To Colonel Sir JEwen Cameron^ V. (7., K. C.B,, Aldershot Camp, 
Hampshire ;" and upon her asking what " V. C." meant, her 
hostess seemed quite proud to give her the information. But 
with regard to the contents of the letter (which one of us made 
bold to suspect were the concrete result of all the vague histor- 
ical squabbling that had taken place during the day) the astute 
small person chose to hold her peace. 

G* 



154 THB BTRANQB ADTXNTUBSB OT ▲ HOUM-BOAT. 



CHAPTER XIL 

** And in that Manor now no more 

Is cheerful feast and sprightly ball; 
For ever since that dreary hour 
Have spirits haunted Cumnor Hall. 

"The village maids, with fearful glance. 
Avoid the ancient moss-grown wall ; 
Nor ever lead the merry dance 
Among the groves of Cumnor HalL 

"Full many a traveller oft hath sighed, 
And pensive wept the Countess' fall, 
As wandering onwards they've espied 
The haunted towers of Cumnor HalL'* 

" Your servant, colonel !" says a tall and slim young Udy, as 
she appears at the door of the saloon, and makes a very fair 
imitation of a military salute. 

But if Mrs. Threepenny-bit-— or Colonel Anne, as she is sup- 
posed to be — ^has any wish to check the young person's imper- 
tinence, it so happens that she has just had the means placed at 
her disposal. 

"Look here, Peggy," she says, "Mr. Buncombe has been 
over to the town, and was kind enough to ask for letters. This 
one is for you ; and the postmark is Oxford." 

" Oh, thank you," Miss Peggy says to the young man ; " Fm 
sure I never should have thought of asking for letters at War- 
wick : I told them Stratford-on-Avon ; for I suppose we shall 
stay there a day or two." 

"But, Peggy," says Mrs. Threepenny-bit again, "the post- 
mark is Oxford : what friends have you in Oxford ?" 

" It may be a bill," she says, carelessly, as she takes the en- 
velope in her hand and proceeds to open it, " though I thought 
we had paid for everjrthing. Oh, no, it's from Mr. A'Becket" 

She ran her eye over the two or three pages in a negligent 
fashion. 



THE STBANOB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 165 

*' Oh, he can't get away at present Did I tell you he spoke 
of coming over to Warwick to see how we were getting along! 
And — ^and there are some inscriptions in a church in Bath that 
we are to look at ; and Gloucester Cathedral ; colored figures on 
tombs. Oh, I dare say we shall find all that in the guide-books. 
Then there are kind regards and remembrances to everybody. 
That's aU." 

She put the letter into her pocket with a fine air of indifEer- 
ence. Mrs. Threepenny-bit said not a word. Murdoch came in 
with breakfast ; and presently we were all at table. 

Now, Miss Peggy was in the highest of spirits ; perhaps be- 
cause of the unwonted brightness and cheerfulness of the morn- 
ing, perhaps because she was looking forward with an eager 
interest to this ancient town we were about to enter. All her 
talk — which chiefly consisted of questions — was of earls, and 
tournaments, and crusades ; of Simon de Montf ort, and Piers 
Gaveston, and *^ the black hound of Arden ;" of pleasances and 
moats and battlements. 

" It will be just splendid !" she exclaimed. " Oh, you don't 
understand a bit — ^you can't understand : why, all that medisBval 
time reads to me like a fairy tale ; it is so far away ; it isn't 
real ; you can't believe in it. But when you come to see the 
actual walls, the towers built by So-and-so and So-and-so, the 
tilting-yard, the gardens, the great kitchens, and all that, then 
you begin to think that the things actually happened, and that 
the tremendous festivities really took place. Say, now, how 
big must that round table have been that could let a hundred 
knights and a hundred ladies sit down to dinner all at once ?" 

NaturaUy we looked to Jack Buncombe for the desired in- 
formation. He was smart at figures ; the calculation was not an 
abstruse one ; and he ought to have sympathized with the laud- 
able curiosity shown by our young American friend. Perhaps 
he did not hear ; perhaps he yras in a resentful mood ; anyhow, 
he took no notice of her question. Indeed, it was patent to all 
of us that throughout this meal he « was most unusually pre- 
occupied and silent ; and when, some time thereafter, we had 
packed a few things together, and were ready to set forth for 
the town, he did not offer to accompany Miss Peggy (who was 
first ashore as usual), but hung behind and followed with his 
hostess. So far as we could hear, the conversation between 



156 THE STRANOB ADVENTURS8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

these two was of a somewhat intennittent character, though 
Queen Tita was as courteous as ever ; for her quarrels are soon 
over, and not a word had been said about Prince Charlie all the 
morning. 

But as for this Rosslyn girl, as we walked along the pleasant 
country road towards the town, she appeared to have taken leave 
of her senses altogether. Perhaps ike unaccustomed sunlight 
had got into her brain ; perhaps she was enjoying a fierce de- 
light in her release from the strict surveillance that hemmed her 
in on board the Nameless Barge; at all events, a dafter lassie 
could not that morning have been found within the shores of 
these three islands. It was conundrums she was busy with. 
Where she had got them, or whether she had made them her- 
self, it was impossible to say; but about her implacable per- 
sistence in propounding them there could be no doubt Short 
of throwing her over the fence there was no way of escape from 
her. And what a diabolical ingenuity ran through those in- 
sanities ; and with what an amiable innocence, with what seri. 
ous, scarcely smiling lips, and grave, sweet eyes, she continued 
her maddening questions ! 

" Come, now, I will give you an easy one — " 

" Oh, go away with you !" 

" No, but really this is a very simple one — even you might 
find it out. Come now, have a try. I wouldn't give in, if I 
were a man : I would have a try, anyway. I thought men never 
were afraid of anything ; at least they pretend never to be afraid." 

" Sometimes they are. Sometimes they are afraid of being 
bitten — when they find themselves in a lonely country road, 
with a creature gone mad." 

"I suppose you think that is sarcasm. Well, never mind. 
Tell me this, now : Why is Lord Wolseley the most extraor- 
dinary general that ever lived ?" 

" Oh, what do you know about Lord Wolseley !" 

" I ask you a simple question, and you can't answer it. Men 
think themselves so clever — and yet you can't answer that I 
Well, I'll tell you. I'll have pity on you. I wouldn't leave you 
to worry your head all day about a simple thing like that It's 
because he not only took Cairo, but Damietta." 

" Look here, young lady, let me give you a solemn warning : 
those people are not more than six yards behind, and if you 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 157 

don't take care, you'll be getting * what for.' How would you 
like to be sent back to the boat, and shut up on bread and water ?" 

" I did think you could answer a simple question," the demon 
continues ; but suddenly she alters her tone. " Well, now, what 
kind of a building is that ?" 

We had come in view of a remarkably handsome structure 
close to the roadside, but most picturesquely embowered in 
foliage — ^the fragrant lilac-trees, in full blossom, being chiefly 
conspicuous. 

" I should say it was a jail." 

'< A jail ? Oh, I suppose they ought to make the outside of a 
jail attractive. That's moral. The outside of a jail ou^ht to 
be the most attractive side of it. Say, don't you feel a kind of 
satisfaction in going past a jail — on the outside ?" 

" I don't know that I do." 

" That isn't the feeling you have ? Perhaps it's rather more 
a kind of surprise." 

" Very good — very good ; we are getting on. This is what 
the young people of the present day call manners. This is their 
respect for age. I shouldn't be surprised to see two she-bears 
come out from behind those bushes and rend you in bits." 

*' I say," she continues, just as if this suddenly confidential 
appeal were the most natural thing in the world, '< what is the 
matter with Mr. Buncombe ?" 

" You, most likely." 

" What do you mean I" 

'^ Well, he may have been forming exalted ideas of the fem- 
inine character. Young men are soft-headed enough to do that 
sometimes, you know. And then — ^and then — ^he may have seen 
a young lady unblushingly open a letter — yes, and read the con- 
tents aloud, too— a letter from a middle-aged Oxford don whom 
she has bamboozled out of his senses in the course of a couple 
of evenings. He may have been shocked by such a display of 
callousness." 

" Oh, nothing of the sort. Don't you make any mistake," 
says Miss Peggy, with decision (and it may be adbnitted that 
she has observant eyes). '< There is something troubling him — 
something serious." 

" Perhaps it's Prince Charlie." 

" Well, how could he be so stupid as to bring up that — ^that 



158 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

absurd story again and again when lie ought to have seen he 
was vexing your wife ?" says Miss Peggy, who seems to have 
recovered her sanity. " And I'm sure she is right. There must 
have been something fine and heroic about the young prince ; or 
he couldn't have won the hearts of all those people in such a 
fashion. I think — ^yes, I think if I had been with those Edmon- 
stone girls, I should have been a little bit envious, too— of the 
cousin, I mean." 

" Really ? Another convert to the white cockade ?" 

" What do you think, now, about that letter last night ?" she 
continues. "Do you think she has asked Colonel Cameron to 
come and sail with us for a bit? You know she was hinting 
at it" 

" More likely she has written to tell him we shall be returning 
through the southern counties, and asking him if he would care 
to ride over from Aldershot, when we are at some near point, 
and lunch with us. That is more likely, I fancy. But why do 
you ask? Have you any curiosity about him, simply because 
he is a Cameron, and related to some of the people who were 
out in the '45 ?" 

" Why, of course !" she says, with a quick glance of surprise. 
" It makes all those things seem so much more near and actual. 
But I don't think I could ever get you to understand — I mean, 
how it strikes any one brought up in America. By the way, 
sometimes I hear your wife speaking of him as * Inverfask :' is 
that the way he is ordinarily addressed ?" 

" No, not ordinarily. His neighbors in the north would call 
him * Inverfask.' Then the people on his own place speak of 
him as * The Cornel.' Then he is * Ewen ' to his family ; and 
* Cameron ' to his intimates, and * Sir Ewen ' or * Colonel Cam- 
eron' to acquaintances; so that you have plenty of variety, you 
see." 

" And you always put * V.C on the envelope, if you are writ- 
ing to him ?" asks this diligent student of old-world ways. 

"Generally." 

" Is he so very pro.ud of it ?" 

" There is not much vanity about the Cornel. But the Vic- 
toria Cross is the proudest thing that an Englishman can wear ; 
and it is open to any soldier to win — the private in the ranks as 
well as his officer." 



«:1I1 8TRANOB ADVSNTtTRlBS OF A HOUSSHBOAT. 159 

**' For some special act of courage in battle ?" she continues, 
thoughtfully. " I think if I were a man I should be proud to 
have that ; and you might say it was vanity if you liked. It is 
curious what different ambitions people have. I suppose, now, 
what Mr. Buncombe mostly thinks about is being called on the 
stage after the production of a play, and having all the critics 
praise it next morning." 

" If Mr. Buncombe doesn't mind," one says to her, " the critics 
will arise and tear him piecemeal. I hear he has been writing 
an article on the present lamentable condition of the British 
drama, and no doubt he puts all the mischief down to those 
bold, bad, heartless men." 

" What is Colonel Cameron like ?" she asks, with a sudden- 
ness which shows how little concerned she is about the condition 
of the British or any other drama. 

" When you see him, you will probably call him a long, red- 
headed Scotchman — ^that's about all." 

'^ Rather blunt and — ^and overbearing, is he ?" 

<< Overbearing ! He comes of the same stock as ' the gentle 
Lochiel.'" 

"And yet the Camerons are a fighting race, aren't they? 
There are so many references — " 

" Oh, yes, they have done a little in that way, now and again, 
during the past century or two." 

" I should like to see him," she says, simply ; and then her 
attention is claimed by the buildings of the town of Warwick, 
which lies before us. 

And, indeed, it is quite a pleasant task to be cicerone to this 
young American person, as we go along these wide, quiet, old- 
fashioned streets ; for her quick appreciation of anything shown 
her, especially if it have any kind of historical interest, needs 
no spurring ; while she herself has a sharp eye for any ancient 
gateway or similar relic surviving among more modem stone- 
work. Moreover, she is now introduced for the first time to 
the Warwickshire cottage of brick and timber, with its over- 
hanging eaves, its peaked gables, and its casements studded 
with small green panes. And nothing will do for Miss Peggy 
but that to one of these old houses — ^to this one, she says, or 
that one over there — WiUiam Shakespeare used often to come 
on a visit, or perhaps on business. Of course he would ride 



160 THS 8TRANOS ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

over from Stratford (she says) and come np this very street; 
and pall up his horse just there, by the side of that causeway ; 
and give the bridle to a lad to hold ; and then go up those steps 
to the door. Would that be the same knocker — ^that knocker 
there ? Or most likely, in this quiet place, the door would be 
open ; he would simply walk in, and call for the people of the 
house. 

" Yes," said Miss Peggy, contemplatively. " I think he would 
have rather a loud voice — ^being good-humored and merry — ^and 
the people mightn't be there — ^he would call for them. And of 
course the first thing they would do, on recognizing the voice, 
would be to hurry away one of the maids to fetch a jug of ale 
and some cakes. Cecily or Dorothy, it might be, and I suppose 
she would run quickly. I should, if in her place — " 

" Peggy, whatever are you staring at ?" says Mrs. Threepenny- 
bit, happening to come up at this moment 

^' Oh, nothing," the girl answers, rather absently, and goes on 
again. 

But when it came to be a question of churches, choirs, monu- 
ments, mural inscriptions, and so forth, one found one's occupa- 
tion entirely gone. It was Miss Peggy who was guide. It was 
she who took us to the tomb of Thomas Earl of Warwick, and 
knew all about his having fought in the Holy Land, and at Cressy 
and Poictiers. It was she who discovered for us the sarcophagus 
bearing the words, " Fulke Greville, Servant to Queen Elizabeth, 
Counsellor to King James, and Friend to Sir Philip Sidney." 
And when we came to the two marble figures of the Earl and 
Countess of Leicester, she knew that it was not the hapless Amy 
Robsart who was lying there in the silence, her hands clasped 
in stony prayer, but Leicester's third wife, Lettice Knowles. 
We had no idea that this young American stranger had been so 
diligent a student. It quite reconciled us (after many long years 
of abstention) to figuring in the capacity of tourists. And her 
interest in these old things was so fresh, so natural, and so un- 
stinted, that it was beautiful to look at. Even when we had got 
back to our hotel to lunch, she was all eagerness and chatter 
about what she had seen and what she was going to see. 

But the equanimity of our small party was now about to re- 
ceive an unexpected shock. We were discussing plans. We 
had discovered that the Avon is not navigable between Stratford 



THB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. Idl 

ukd Tewkesbarj ; and so had resolved to get round to the Severn 
by the Warwick and Birmingham Canal. Meanwhile we could 
certainly get by canal as far as Stratford; but as we shonld 
have to torn back there, it was proposed, in order to avoid going 
over this part of the route twice, to send on the Nameless Barge 
under care of Captain Columbus, while we should run through 
to Stratford by rail (thus giving Miss Peggy as much time there 
as possible) and then join the ship again, to continue our voyage 
northward and westward. What, then, was our astonishment, 
to hear Jack Buncombe calmly say to his hostess, who had been 
putting some questions to him, 

<< I am afraid, if it comes to that, I must ask you to leave me 
out I — I am very sorry, but I fear I shall have to go back to 
town. Of course, it isn't like breaking up the party : you can 
easily get some one to take my place. I assure you I am sorry 
enough to go, for the trip so far has been most delightful : and 
you will soon be getting to even more interesting districts ; but 
I think — yes, I think it will be safer if you count me out" 

For a second there was an awkward silence : Mrs. Threepenny- 
bit seemed afraid to ask him the reason for this sudden resolve. 

" I hope it is nothing serious ?" she ventured to say, however. 

<* Oh, no, I think not," he said, evasively ; and then he added : 
'* I should fancy you would find it all plain sailing now until 
you get to the Severn; and then youUl want a steam-tug or 
something of the kind to take you down to Bristol. I will get 
to know whether the Thames and Severn Canal is navigable, in 
case you should prefer to return that way, and drop you a line. 
The Kennet and Avon Canal, I know, is open." 

He was talking in quite a matter-of-fact fashion; but he 
seemed depressed a little. Then, when luncheon was over, he 
said he would walk along to the telegraph-office, and join us 
subsequently at the castle, whither we were shortly bound. At 
the same moment Miss Peggy went away to her own room, to 
fetch her guide-books ; and the instant she had shut the door 
behind her. Queen Tita was free to express her astonishment 
and her suspicions. 

<< Now really do you think that wretch has been at her tricks 
again ?" she demands. 

" What, wretch f What tricks ?" 

" Why, what should he be going away for so suddenly if he 
11 



162 THE BTRAN6S ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

hadn't quarrelled with her ?" she says. " What other reason can 
there he ? Oh, I know she was pretending to behave very well ; 
and you would have thought there was nothing between them 
but ordinary acquaintanceship. Well, I don't know, he has been 
very devoted ; and all I cared about it was that no blame could 
fall on me. It would have been a very good match if it had 
been a match. But what can this mean ? Surely he can't be so 
hard hit that he must needs be mightily offended because she 
has been amusing herself a little with Mr. A'Becket, and getting 
a letter or two ?" 

<< You don't imagine he is such a fool ? what could it matter 
to him her getting twenty dozen letters from Mr. A'Becket ?" 

" Oh, you don't know. She is pretty clever at leading people 
on, even when she pretends to be most innocent. And if it isn't 
that, what is it ?" demands this creature again, whose very igno- 
rance she brings forward as an argument. " However, if he wishes 
to go, I suppose we must let him go. And it would be such a 
chance to get Colonel Cameron to come along." 

"His royal highness the commander-in-chief might have a 
word to say," it is humbly observed. 

" Oh, that's all right ; they can always get leave," says (mr 
commander-in-chief. " That letter I posted to him this morn- 
ing — Well, it was only a general kind of invitation, asking 
him if he would care to come and see us en voyage at any point 
in the south there ; but I could telegraph and tell him we had 
now a spare berth for him, if he wished to join at once. He 
will get the letter to-morrow, I suppose ? We shall be at Strat- 
ford. • Wouldn't that do very well, if I telegraphed from Stratford 
to-morrow or next day ?" 

Now observe, that is the gratitude of women. Here was a 
young man who had taken unheard-of trouble in arranging this 
expedition for us, and who had promised himself in reward the 
enjoyment of a long idling holiday in this ghostly nomadic fash- 
ion ; and when he is suddenly arrested in mid-career, and signs 
an order for his own dismissal, she doesn't protest at all, or en- 
treat him to stay, or make decent expression of regret — she im- 
mediately seizes the opportunity to send for a substitute more 
to her liking. And why more to her liking ? Because she has 
some foolishly romantic sentiment about Bonnie Prince Charlie, 
and wants to convince her young American acquaintance, through 



THB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 163 

being introduced to one of the Camerons, that Prince Charles 
£dward was a gallant hero, and one of the most hardly entreated 
of mortals. Such is woman's gratitude, and woman's logic. 
Jack Buncombe might go if he wished and welcome, if only she 
could get Cameron of Inverf ask to take his place. This was the 
result of our young dramatist's unfortunate vaunting of his 
Alfieri project. Peggy must see the kind of men who went out 
in the '45 to follow the white cockade of the Chevalier. Nor 
had Mrs. Tomtit any regard either for the interests of England ; 
Sir Ewen Cameron must needs be summoned away from his 
serious duties at Aldershot, all to convince this young minx of 
an American. 

And when that daughter of the Stars and Stripes reappeared, 
as she did almost directly, one was almost ashamed to see how 
radiant and cheerful and self-complacent she was. Even sup- 
posing that she had nothing to do with the young man's so sud- 
denly parting company with us, at least she might have affected 
some little sorrow. If compunction was out of the question, if 
her heart was incapable of experiencing any such emotion, at 
least she could have said it was a pity he was leaving. Had he 
not been her devoted slave all the way through ? Had he not 
mended pencils for her, and tuned the banjo strings, and carried 
her wraps for her with the most patient assiduity ? It is true 
she did casually mention his going, and expressed to us the hope 
that, whatever might be the cause, we should find him returning 
to the Nameless Barge later on in our wanderings. But she was 
plainly all eagerness to be off to Warwick Castle ; and she got 
hold of Mrs. Threepenny-bit by the arm, and dragged her down 
the stair-case and out into the open thoroughfare with an osten- 
tation of affectionate companionship which was perhaps just a 
little bit uncalled-for. For, after all, they didn't know their 
way ; and it served them right that they had to pull up and ask. 
One did not wish to triumph over them, of course, although 
Miss Peggy's glance of defiant malice had a sort of challenge in 
it; but still it was pointed out to them that the formation of 
secret societies was a futile thing as among women, and that 
they would do much better not to profess a mystery that didn't, 
and couldn't (by reason of their tongues) exist. 

We found Jack Buncombe at the gateway, but before going 
in he begged the women-folk (for he still kept up the. pretence 



164 TRK 8TRAXOX ADTKNTURXS OP A HOUSX-BOAT. 

of being their escort^ despite liis preoccupied looks and liis im- 
minent departure), be b^ged tbem to accompany bim a litUe 
way down Mill Street, wbere be assured tbem tbey would get a 
very striking view of tbe castle. Striking, indeed, it was ; it 
almost looked as if it bad been designed by a drawingnnaster : 
the great gray frontage, with Ciesar^s Tower and Guy^s Tower, 
rising into the pale blue and white of the summer skv ; and all 
around the base of the mighty walls a kind of fringe of pict- 
uresqueness — ^the yellow waters of the Avon flowing between 
rich green meadows, a broken bridge whose buttresses were 
masses of ivy, a dilapidated mill-wheel, and some tumble-down 
old cottages of brick and timber. But one has observed before 
that it is rarely the picturesqueness of a place that attnurts Miss 
Peggy; it is rather the human interest of it; and as we are 
walking back to the main entrance she says to the person who 
happens to be her companion for the time being, 

^^ I suppose, now, you think I ought to be struck by the great 
age of a castle that was founded by a daughter of Alfred the 
Great AVell, it is quite the opposite. T^se things seem to 
bring far-back centuries quite close up ; and yon b^in to im- 
agine that the time has not been so long, and long, and long as 
it always appeared to be. I remember I used to think of every- 
thing you read about in the New Testament as having happened 
ages and ages ago--as being quite separated and away frmn us 
— it all seemed to have no kind of connection with the actual 
existing world : well, you come and see a place like this, stand- 
ing before you, and you are told that King Alfred*s daughter 
b<^an to build the fortress in 900 and something. Why, that*s 
hi^-way back — that is. half-way back to all that took place by 
the side of the Lake of Galilee. That seems veiy strange, s<»ie- 
how.** 

Her speech was rather incoherent ; but one could make out 
siNBie glimmering of what she meant And it was also interest- 
ing to notice how, inside the castle — in those magnificent haDs 
tiffed with costly treasures gathered from all parts of the w<»ld 
— she turned with c<»nparative indifference from buhl and orm<^ 
from marqueterie tables and Indian bowls and Etruscan vases^ to 
pay cnnoQs attention to the portraits^ She would stand riveted 
before this one or that — Mair, Queen cf Scots, it might be, or 

^mt B<deyn, or the Marquis of Montrose, or Charles L — ^ 



THE 8TRANOS ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 165 

parently striving to read into their features sometMng of what 
she knew of their story. Bat, of coarse, she was greatly charmed 
by the situation of Lady Warwick's boudoir, with its windows 
overlooking the magnificent trees and the winding valley of 
the Avon ; and here it was that Queen Tita came forward and 
took the girl by the hand and led her out on to a small stone 
balcony. 

" Here is a view for you, Peggy," she said. " And, do you 
know, I am certain this was the kind of snug corner that Lady 
Mary Anne had all to herself, where she could look down on the 
young fellows playing at the ball. I suppose you don't know 
that ballad ? 

' Lady Mary Anne looked owre the oastle wa*. 
She saw three bonny boys playing at the ba'. 
And the youngest among them was the flower o* them a' ; 
My bonny laddie's young, but he's growmg yet.* 

I think she must have been an audacious young lady ; do you 
know what she said ? 

* " father, father, an' ye think it fit, 

We'll send him a year to the college yet 
We'll sew a green ribbon round about his hat, 
And that will let them ken he's to marry yet." ' 

But she was young herself — so says the ballad — 

* Lady Mary Anne was a flower in the dew, 
Sweet was its smell and bonnie was its hue, 

And the langer it blossomed, the sweeter it grew ; 
For the lily in the bud will be bonnier yet.' " 

" And were they married when he came back from college ?" 
asks Miss Peggy. 

^^ Oh, I suppose so. But the ballad-maker doesn't wait to 
tell ; it was the figure of the Lady Mary Anne in the balcony 
that took his fancy. And surely it must have been just such 
another balcony as this, opening from her own boudoir." 

" Who was she ?'* asks Miss Peggy, again. 

" I'm sure I don't know. Perhaps she never existed. Per- 
haps she was nothing but a dream, a fancy, of some rustic 
poet." 

<< Oh, no ; it is better to think she was a real person ; I don't 
care about dreams," says Miss Peggy ; and therewith she comes 



166 THE 8TRANOK ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

in from the balcony — she and her friend — and they resume 
their slow perambulation of the splendid halls. 

When we got back to our hotel — after having rummaged 
through one or two bric-4-brac shops, that are well known to 
lovers of useless furniture and cracked plates — we found a tele- 
gram lying on the table addressed to our young playwright. 
He took it up and opened the envelope. 

" Yes," he said, " it is as I feared. I must go back to town 
to-morrow." 

" So soon as that ?" said Queen Tita ; and— despite the fact 
that her small brain was busy with thoughts of the coming of 
Colonel Cameron — she managed to put a little decent regret 
into the words. 

" Yes," he said, " it is rather a nuisance. You know, you 
have all been so kind as to let me engineer this trip in a kind 
of a way, and I should like to have seen it through. But really 
I don't think you will have any trouble now. There will be 
those long tunnels, of course ; but Columbus should be able to 
get you through without difficulty. And in going down the 
Severn you will choose a smooth day, naturally." 

" Oh, but don't look at your going from tiiat point of view 
only," remonstrates Queen Tita, in a very kindly way (consider- 
ing what he had said about Prince Charlie). " I have no doubt 
we shall get on well enough. But we had hoped you would be 
with us all the way along ; it seems such a pity your having to 
break off in the middle." 

" Yes, I don't much like it," said he — ^and surely, if any fall- 
ing out with Miss Rosslyn had prompted his going, he was now 
acting indifference very well indeed. ** You will be coming to 
the best of it soon. I should like to have passed a night or two 
in the Forest of Arden, in that vagabond way — and then going 
down the Severn — ^and the Eennet and Avon — ^" 

Now here Miss Peggy thought fit to strike in. Perhaps her 
heart (if any) smote her a little. He had done his best to amuse 
her during all this time ; he had let her into his literary confi- 
dences ; had produced aphorisms for her ; had (alas !) revealed 
to her his dramatic ambitions ; and had told her the names of 
our English wild-flowers so far as he knew them, which was 
not very far. And so she says, as she is pouring out a cup 
of tea for him — 



THE STRANGS ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 167 

" But can't you come back later on, Mr. Duncombe f Why, 
it wiU be quite different without you. We shall feel quite lost 
and lonely." 

" It's very good of you to say so," he makes answer (and, if 
he is offended with the young lady, he certainly conceals it ad- 
mirably). '^ As for the coming back, the case stands this way. 
You ought to fill up my place — and you should have little dif- 
ficulty if your friends knew what this way of travelling was like 
— I say you ought to fill up my place, for it is better to have 
an additional hand to take the tiller at times. WeU, then, you 
see, even if I should come back later on, I should find my berth 
occupied." 

"But, look here, Mr. Duncombe," says Mrs. Threepenny-bit, 
who, on the assumption that her Highlander friend will soon be 
with us, can afford to be a trifle generous, " if that were so, 
couldn't you manage somehow? I never knew any difficulty 
about making room for an extra person on board a yacht ; and 
if a clumsy, unwieldy thing like this can't be hospitable, I won- 
der what it is good for." 

" If it came to that," said he, " I could be with you during 
the day, and go off for lodgings at night, like Captain Columbus. 
He has never failed yet to find some kind of a place, although 
Miss Rosslyn thinks that England is an uninhabited country. 
And I should certainly like to go down the Severn with you. I 
want to see how a house-boat will answer. In fact, I consider 
myself in a way responsible for your safety ; and I don't want 
to hear of your getting into trouble." 

" But do you think there is any danger ?" she said, quickly ; 
a question which, to do the small person justice, you would 
never have heard her put on board any yacht. 

" I should say not," he answered. " There is sometimes a 
bit of a sea on in the estuary of the Severn ; but she ought to 
ride out anything; and then of course you would keep all the 
doors and windows shut so that the wind couldn't get a pur- 
chase on her." 

" For we mustn't drown Peggy in the Bristol Channel," she 
says. 

" I would never speak to you again if you did," that young 
lady observes in reply. 

Towards nine o'clock that evening an open landau stood in 



168 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

front of the Warwick Arms; and presently two cloaked and 
hooded creatnres, accompanied by a couple of shawl-bearers, 
came out of the hotel and took their seats in the carriage. The 
thoroughfare was almost deserted on this still moonlight night ; 
hardly any passer-by was visible along the wan gray pavements ; 
though on the shadowed side of the street here and there a 
window shone a dull orange through the dark. 

^< I am almost afraid — I hope nothing will happen," said a 
girl's voice, in rather low tones. 

" Why, what should happen ?" her companion asked. 

<< Surely, if there are phantoms anywhere, it will be at Een- 
ilworth Castle. Amy Robsart wasn't the only one Leicester 
murdered, was she ?" 

"Fancy Peggy being afraid of ghosts!" says the other, as 
the horses are sent forward, and there is a sharp rattle of hoofs 
and wheels in the silent street. " Why, Peggy, I thought you 
called them * spooks ' in your country. Well, you know, you 
couldn't be afraid of anything called a ' spook. ' " 

Presently we had left the last of the houses behind, and were 
out in the open country, where the moonlight was throwing 
black shadows from the elm-trees across the wide white road. 
There was not a sound anywhere ; nor a breath of wind to stir 
the great overhanging branches. The wooded and undulating 
landscape, touched here and there into a pallid gray, lay silent 
under the stars ; we could not even hear the barking of a dog, 
teUing of some distant farm. It was a strangely still world we 
were driving through, and we ourselves were not disposed to be 
over-garrulous. 

At length we came to Guy's Cliff; but from the road, of 
course, there was nothing visible but a long and wide avenue 
of trees, with a modem-looking building — ^in dusky shadow — 
at the end of it. There was nothing here to tell of the war- 
rior who had repented him of the slaughter he had wrought 
in honor of his lady-love, who came home and turned hermit, 
and who was tended in his holy retirement by the lady her- 
self, who did not recognize him, fancying that her lord had 
died in Palestine. But Miss Peggy knew of the legend ; and 
this at least was the neighborhood in which the repentant 
knight dug out a cell for himself in the solid rock, and lived 
and died in great sanctity. Then again, on the other side of 



TBS STRANGK ADVENTUBSS OF A BOUSK-BOAT. 169 

the road, up among some trees on the hillside, we could just 
make out a smaU gray object ; and we guessed that to be the 
monument which marks the spot where Piers Gaveston, "the 
minion of a hateful king," was beheaded some five centuries 
and a half ago. But the aim of our quest lay farther on. And 
still, as we pursued our way through this silent landscape, the 
overarching sky remained serene and clear; all the circum- 
stances were propitious for our visit; Miss Peggy was to see 
Kenilworth " aright." 

And yet she could not have been in the least prepared for 
the startling beauty of the vision that suddenly declared itself 
before us as we swept round a turn of the road. We had 
driven through a long and straggling village that appeared to 
be fast asleep — ^a quite interminable string of houses and cot- 
tages it seemed — ^and had thereafter got into the country again, 
where our view was hemmed in by dark masses of foliage 
along the roadside. We had no knowledge of the neighbor- 
hood, nor of the whereabouts of the castle ; and it was quite 
unexpectedly that, through an opening in the trees, we sudden- 
ly beheld a vast mass of walls and towers, silver-gray in the 
moonlight, and here and there blackened with ivy, and all clear- 
ly defined against the cloudless heavens. The vision lasted for 
but a second. The spectral castle in the moonlight disappeared. 
The next minute we found ourselves in a hollow, with the horses 
splashing through a ford ; then they slowly ascended a bit of a 
hill on the other side ; finally, we pulled up at a gateway, and 
all got down. 

Our coming had been expected, and there was no difficulty 
about obtaining entrance. But it was with no great speed that 
this silent little party made its way through the garden, which 
was filling all the night air with its varied scents. You would 
have fancied the women were walking on tiptoe ; not a word 
was said. And then again, when they left this garden-path, and 
emerged upon the wide plateau round which are ranged the 
giant walls and towers and galleries, they seemed to hesitate. 
Was it not a kind of sacrilege to go forward? — the place 
seemed so still in this white light — so still as to be almost aw- 
ful. Not a leaf stirred in the heavy masses of ivy that hung 
around the mullioned windows ; no bat came flitting out from 
the mysterious corridors ; no raven croaked from those mighty 



170 THE STRANOS ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

towers whose summits were with the stars. A phantom castle 
indeed ; for the moonlight had robbed the ruddy stone of its 
color, and it was now of a pale and silvery gray ; and gray, too, 
was the sky that shone clear through broken archway and lofty 
loophole. The two women stood voiceless — themselves like 
ghosts — though their shadows fell sharp and black on the grass. 
And then Miss Peggy, almost in a whisper, asked if we knew 
which of these was Mervyn's Tower; and we knew why she 
asked ; it was in a chamber somewhere within the great mass 
of masonry now in front of her that the Countess Amy had 
sought shelter, a trembling fugitive and captive, writing a letter 
to her faithless lord, and tying it with a love-knot of her hair, 
while he was entertaining the proud and passionate Queen of 
England with masque and pageant and ball. 

But of course considerations of mere sentiment could not be 
allowed to interfere with our affording our young American 
friend all the information and instruction in our power ; and it 
was necessary — notwithstanding the impressive silence of the 
place, and the ineffable beauty that the moonlight threw over 
those imposing ruins — ^that she should begin and try to con- 
struct for herself some idea of the castle as it was when Queen 
Elizabeth and all her courtiers and retainers were assembled to 
hold high revel within its walls. Jack Buncombe had brought 
a plan with him ; and the Society for the Preservation of An- 
cient Monuments would have shuddered at the audacity with 
which he set about the work of restoration, not only connecting 
walls and completing towers, but decorating the pleasance with 
statues and fountains and grottoes, and furnishing the great 
hall with oaken roof, and tapestries, and brazen chandeliers and 
waxen torches. The younger of the two women listened ; but 
she looked more than she listened. It was plain that a certain 
eerie feeling still hung over both of them ; and when they were 
bidden to ascend a certain part of the building, and enter a 
chamber there from which they could see the moonlit landscape 
all around, they seemed to regard with a kind of suspicion, if 
not with actual dread, the long black galleries which were so 
strangely silent. 

" I suppose you never saw Millais's * Gray Lady ?' " Queen 
Tita said to her companion. " No ? It is two or three years 
since it was exhibited, and T don't know where it is now. But 




" A phantom castle, indeed; for tlie moonlight had robbed the ruddy stone 
of its color, and it was now of a pale and silvery gray." 



THB BTBANGE ADVBNTURES OF A HO0SE-BOAT. l7l 

I thoaght it was very fine — ^though the critics didn't seem to 
care mnch for it — " 

" The critics I" said Jack Duncombe (of course). 

" It was the figure of a lady, gray and ethereal and ghostly, 
and with vague and absent eyes, and she was making her 
way up a turret-stair, with her hand outstretched before her. 
The curious thing was that her hand and part of her arm caught 
the moonlight — ^and yet they were quite visionary too — while 
the rest of her was in a kind of shadow. Peggy, if you were 
to see any one come along there — now — " 

They were regarding, like two frightened children, a narrow 
and dusky corridor, into which, at some distance away, fell a 
solitary ray of moonlight. 

" No," said Peggy ; " the place is too silent and dead and 
empty for even a ghost. But I don't think I should like to 
wander through these ruins by myself at night." 

And yet, after all our imaginary reconstruction was over, 
she seemed loath to leave. She was the last to linger there, in 
the open plateau, looking up at the gray moonlit walls and the 
empty windows, the ivied towers, and the serene and silent stars. 
Nay, when we were all coming away by the garden-path, she 
left us, and went back, and stood there alone for a minute or 
two. When she returned she said, 

" I wonder, now, when I am at home again in America, and 
when I think of this night, I wonder whether I shall be able to 
persuade myself that I ever did actually see anything so won- 
derful and beautiful ? I am afraid it will seem all like a dream. 
I went back to have another look just now ; I suppose I shall 
be able to remember something like it — something a little like 
it — ^but it will be all dreamlike and unreal. It will appear to 
be a castle built of air, as unsubstantial as the Gray Lady you 
were speaking of." 

This possibility seemed to concern her not a little ; or, per- 
haps she was merely trying to impress on her memory the chief 
features of the scene she had just witnessed ; at all events, she 
was very silent during the long drive back to Warwick, and 
paid hardly any heed to what little conversation was going on. 

Now this was to be the last night that our little party, as 
hitherto constituted, was to assemble together; and at the 
modest banquet that was meant to console us for our lack of 



172 THB 8TRANOB ADVBNTURSB OF A BOUBS-BOAT. 

dinner, the two women-folk — no doubt looking back over the 
lengthened companionship now drawing to a close, and bethink- 
ing them of Jack Dancombe's helpfulness and friendliness and 
general good-humor — ^were unmistakably inclined to be complai- 
sant to the young man. Whether his hostess had really forgiven 
him for his scandalous schemes in connection with the Young 
Chevalier, or whether she was confidently looking forward to an 
ally who would keep Miss Peggy's sympathies on the right side, 
one, of course, could not say ; but, in any case, she was very 
kind to him, and not only renewed her expressions of regret at 
his going, but once more urged his return when that might be 
practicable for him. 

" Oh, I shall be glad enough to get back if I can," said he— 
which he hardly would have said had he been going away in 
resentment of Miss Peggy's conduct ; and now he was afEecting 
to be more cheerful, though he was not in a very gay mood, we 
could see. '< And, as I say, I think you are all right now for 
the rest of the expedition. Of course there was always a risk, 
the experiment never having been tried before; and once or 
twice I thought we should be stuck ; but I think everything 
should go smoothly now. If you had to begin all over again, 
of course, you would have the boat six inches narrower in beam, 
and six inches lower in the roof, so that you would have no 
trouble with the bridges : that's all that I can see in the way of 
improvement. I consider the whole thing to have been most 
successful so far." 

" And you know yourself how much of that we owe to you," 
Mrs. Threepenny-bit makes bold to say. << Think of the Thames, 
even — we should never have got on at all." 

" Oh ! I had to learn like other people," said he, modestly. 
'< I never had anything to do with a boat like this before. But 
I should think it was a capital idea, to begin with ; and I think 
it has turned out very well. The thing that strikes me most 
about it is the curious sense of independence you have — you 
are not tied to any inn or town — ^you stop just where you like — 
and you take your own house with you all the time." 

" Some people would find it rather slow," she suggested. 

** Some people would find it quite intolerable," said he. " But 
you remember what Mr. Ruskin says : *• To any person who has 
all his senses about him, travelling becomes dull in exact pro-' 



THB 8TBANGB ADYBNTURBB OF A HOUBB-BOAT. 1^3 

portion to its rapidity. Going by railroad I do not consider 
travelling at all ; it is merely being sent to a place, and very 
little different from becoming a parcel.' And then you have to 
consider that if this trip has so far been pleasant enough in 
spite of the broken weather, yon can imagine what it would be 
in settled, fine weather." 

" Oh ! I don't think the weather matters much," says Miss Peg- 
gy, blithely. " You can always pop in-doors to escape a shower : 
it isn't like driving in rain. No ; what strikes me as the most 
curious thing is the way the time passes — ^the extraordinary 
number of things you get to do. You gentlemen seem to be 
hard at work from morning till night; while for us. Well, I 
suppose, I shall get my novel carried on a bit further some day 
or other; but I don't know when. And I can't get letters 
written at all. I know some people who will think I have got 
lost in the woods — wandered in the trackless prairies of the 
middle of England — and never coming back to civilized life any 
more. That's another thing: When are the adventures to 
begin?" 

" What adventures ?" 

<< Why, we must have wild adventures ; we must be attacked 
by robbers ; and have to barricade the doors and fire through 
the windows. Why shouldn't there be pirates on a canal, and 
desperate villains, and bloody deeds ? Oh ! I can tell you I 
saw something yesterday morning that would have startled you. 
It was before any of you were up — or out, at least. There was 
a solitary barge coming along ; and as it was passing, I saw 
there was a tuft of hair hanging from the top of the rudder. 
Well ; anything more horribly like a scalp it was impossible to 
imagine — it was long hair, too, like a woman's. And there was 
I all alone, mind you ; I might have been another victim ; the 
cowardly dogs of Mingoes might have sprung upon me, and 
bound me hand and foot — ^think of that for an adventure ; the 
Scalp-Hunters of the Wild-Canal !" 

" But what was the tuft of hair, Peggy ?" her hostess inter- 
rupts. 

"Oh, well," Miss Peggy says, lightly, "Captain Columbus 
told me afterwards. It was an emblem of affection, not of 
bloodthirstiness. It was a memorial of an old friend and com- 
panion gone to his rest. It was part of the tail of a horse. 



174 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES 07 A HOUSE-BOAT. 

But that's neither here nor there," she adds ; " what I say is, 
we must have some wild and perilous adventures." 

" I hope it won't be as you are going down the Severn," re- 
marks the young man, significantly. 

" There again, now," cries Mrs. Threepenny-bit. " I do real- 
ly believe you think we shall be in danger going down the 
Severn. What will the boat do, Mr. Dnncombe ? Is it possible 
for her to roll over, if there are heavy waves ? Or could she be 
blown over ? For I won't have Peggy run any risk. She's under 
my care. She's not worth much ; but I have charge of her." 

" No, I don't think there will be any great danger," he said 
again, to reassure them. ^< In any case, you can all go on board 
the tug; and if the house-boat sinks, there will be nobody 
drowned but the one who is steering — and that will be Mur- 
dock." 

" I will not have Murdock drowned for all the house-boats 
that ever were built !" exclaims Mrs. Threepenny-bit. " Can't 
the wretched old thing steer herself ?" 

" No, that kind of craft hasn't been invented yet But I 
think she will keep afloat Of course you won't all be sitting 
on the roof — ^by the way, you have never tried that way of sail- 
ing through the country." 

" The weather never gave us a chance !" she says. " But 
there is a wonderful change coming. There are golden days 
in store for us, Peggy ; and you and I will have cushions and 
rugs laid along the top, and we will sit and sew, or read, or you 
will play the banjo, and we shall be as gods together." 

" Until lunch-time arrives," one remarks. 

" We shall have lunch on the top too." 

" Well, don't try it as you are going down the Severn, espe- 
cially if there is a brisk breeze coming up against the stream," 
Mr. Jack Duncombe observes, by way of final warning. " For 
there is next to nothing to hold on by — that rail has got all 
* smashed with getting through the bridges. Then the channel of 
the river twists ; and if at a comer the wind were to catch her 
and tilt her over a bit, your sliding off into the water would not 
only be unpleasant, it would be very ignominious." 

'* Can't we have a small dingy astern, if that caravansary is 
likely to go to the bottom ?" she demands. 

" Tes," said he, " that would be simple enough ; and then if 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 11 5 

Murdoch found the boat filling — I don't see why she should 
myself, but such things have happened — ^if he found her threat- 
ening to sink, he would jump into the dingy, cut the painter, 
and be all right." 

" At all events, Mr. Duncombe," she says to him (and she can 
be very gracious when she pleases ; that is, when everything is 
going as she wants it to go) — ^at all events, we shall hope to find 
you with us there, to have the benefit of your advice. I am sure 
we can't say how indebted we are to you for your help in get- 
ting us along as far as we have got." 

Soon thereafter — for it had been a long and a busy day — there 
was a general departure for our respective quarters ; and the 
Warwick Arms subsided into the general silence that lay over 
the sleeping town. And if Miss Peggy dreamed dreams and 
saw visions that night, and if any fragments of melody, sug- 
gested by what she had seen at Kenilworth, were haunting 
her brain, it is as likely as not that these were the familiar lines : 

"The dews of summer night did fall, 
The moon, sweet regent of the sky, 
Silvered the walls of Curonor Hall, 
And many an oak that grew thereby.'* 

But perhaps it was just as well that she had not encountered 
the ghost of poor Amy Bobsart 



CHAPTER XIII. 

"Fill the bowl with rosy wine! 
Around our temples roses twine! 
And let us cheerfully awhile, 
Like the wine and roses, smile. 
Crowned with roses, we contemn 
Gyges* wealthy diadem. 
To-day is ours, what do we fear? 
To-day is ours ; we have it here ; 
Let*s treat it kindly, that it may 
Wish, at least, with us to stay. 
Let's banish business, banish sorrow; 
To the gods belongs to-morrow." 

Here, in the coffee-room of the Shakespeare Hotel, Stratford- 
on-A 7on, on this May morning, one is reluctantly compelled to 



176 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

chide the nervous impatience of a certain young person, appa* 
rently caused by nothing more than Queen Tita's delay in com- 
ing down. 

" What would you be at ? Do you want to take Stratford at 
a rush ? Do you think you are Ewen Cameron at Tel-el-Kebir ! 
Do you want to join the ranks of the impenitent tourist ? Why 
don't you go over to the sofa there, and sit down, and drum 
your toes on the carpet, and strum your fingers on the window- 
pane, and try to get rid of a little of that superfluous transat- 
lantic electricity ? A pretty frame of mind for one who ought 
rather to be thinking about the secret of the Warwickshire Avon, 
and wondering whether you will ever discover it." 

" Don't be hard on a fellow," she says, good-naturedly, and 
she goes and sits down on the sofa, and clasps her hands m 
front of her. " Well, now, what is the secret of the Warwick- 
shire Avon?" 

" It is something that can't be explained to you, though you 
may find it out for yourself in time. Of course there are con- 
ditions. You would have to calm down your temperament a 
little. It isn't every one who can hear the grass growing just 
at once ; you have to wait and listen, and wait and listen ; and 
if there is any place for hearing the grass grow it is in the War- 
wickshire meadows and along the Warwickshire streams. Then 
you've got to leave comparisons behind ; and you've got to for- 
get chromo-lithographs ; and you have to prepare yourself for a 
little disappointment, even perhaps for a little dejection and 
vague melancholy ; and then, by and by, you grow reconciled ; 
and then, slowly and gradually, you begin to feel the charm there 
is in the old-world repose and gentleness and quiet of the land- 
scape, and in the placid nature of the people, and in the silence 
of the monotonous but perfectly cheerful and even days. If 
you were to live in a Warwickshire village for six months. Miss 
Peggy, you would get to see what worlds of space and time lie 
between the innocent gayety of Izaak Walton and the morbid 
self-consciousness of Thoreau. But where would you be at the 
end of the six months ?" 

" In the village, I suppose." 

" In your grave more likely. But you would have learned 
something. The fact is, if Rasselas had been bom in this Hap- 
py Valley it isn't that he never would have left it ; he never 



THE 8TRANGS ADVSNTURS8 OF A B0V8S-B0AT. 177 

woald have anderstood how any one could want to leave it. In 
a minnte or two, when we go oat, I will show you long, Btrag" 
gling, old-fashioned thoroughfares in which nearly every second 
house is a small tavern ; a tavern that does no trade. Qenerally 
the door is shut. If you went inside you would find no one in 
the bar ; but by and by a smiling and buxom little landlady 
might make her appearance, and if you asked for a glass of ale 
she would cheerfully accede, and expect you to enter into a con- 
versation with her about things in general. In the evening, of 
course, you might find a few friends of the house occupying the 
parlor, with long clay pipes and pewter pots, and some slow and 
measured talk about the crops, the markets, and so forth ; safe 
remarks, warranted to stir up no argument. But in the day- 
time these little inns never think of doing any business." 

" How do the people live, then ?" 

" They live as their neighbors live, by not taking any trouble 
about it. They live as the grass grows. Why should they take 
any trouble? Why should they think of leaving the Happy 
Valley ? They live as their fathers lived, and as their grandfa- 
thers and grandmothers lived, and they grow old contentedly in 
the same way. As long as there is a good fat side of bacon 
hanging from the kitchen rafter, why should they trouble about 
to-morrow or next day or next week ? It is to-day they live in ; 
and they are suflSciently happy in the present moment" 

" But the bacon has to be paid for," says this practical young 
person. 

*' The bacon may have come from a farmer, most likely, who 
got a barrel of ale in exchange." 

" Then the ale has to be paid for." 

The insatiable character of the American mind ! 

** I tell you that they don't trouble about such things. Come 
and see them. Talk to them. Judge for yourself if you ever 
met happier people ; though they don't seem to do any trade." 

" Oh, well, I don't care anything about them," she says, im- 
pertinently. " There is only one tavern in Stratford that I care 
about ; that is the one that Shakespeare used to frequent ; where 
he played shovel-board with his friend the landlord ; Julius 
Shawe, wasn't it ? And I've seen it ; at least the outside of it ; 
I noticed the sign as we drove up to the hotel ; I recognized it 
lit once." 

12 H* • 



178 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

There is a pause of a second or two. 

" What are you staring at ?" she says. 

^< I am admiring your cahnness. You can sit there and say 
things of that kind, and have no fear of the heavens falling on 
you!" 

" What do you mean ? It isn't possible that you never noticed 
the Falcon Tavern ? you've been in Stratfotd before." 

" The Falcon Tavern ! Why, every amateur magazinist who 
sets about reconstructing Shakespeare's Stratford is sure to start 
away with the Falcon Tavern in the High Street, opposite New 
Place ; whereas New Place isn't in the High Street, and never 
was ; and the house opposite wasn't a tavern at all in Shake- 
speare's time, nor for many a long year thereafter. But that's 
nothing. That is a common and vulgar error. You have gone 
far further and deeper and wilder than that." 

" It's all very well to talk," she says, in an injured tone, and 
she takes up a little green volume ; *^ but just you look at this 
woodcut. It is a drawing of New Place, and here is the Falcon 
Inn opposite, sign and all." 

" Oh, pitch that wretched book out of the window ! Do you 
want to be told that Judith Shakespeare married one Thomas 
Quincey, and also that she became Mrs. Hall, and left one daugh- 
ter, who was afterwards Lady Barnard ? Is that the kind of in- 
formation you are pouring into your innocent young mind ? As 
for that drawing, it is only part and parcel of Samuel Ireland's 
ridiculous inventions ; but where did you get the rest of Ire- 
land's nonsense about the shovel-board and Julius Shawe, the 
landlord, and all that ? Not in that book, bad as it is." 

" So there was no Falcon Tavern in Shakespeare's time ?" she 
says, absently, and in rather a disappointed way. 

" But there was a house there, opposite New Place," one says 
to her (for it is a pity to rob her of all her illusions), " and a 
very interesting old house it is now ; and if you are good we'll 
take you to see it presently. And you may imagine, if you like, 
that some of the furniture may have come across from New 
Place, as alterations were made there from time to time ; possi- 
bly the oak panelling, too, which is very good oak panelling 
indeed, though some monstrous wretch has gone and painted it 
all over at some time or other. Do you know that a country- 
woman of yours offered to pay all the cost of having that pan- 



THS 8TBAKOS AJDVEKTUR18 OF A HOUBS-BOAT. 179 

elling carefully scraped and restored to its original condition ; 
and it is a great pity that the offer wasn't accepted." 

Here Miss Peggy holds oat both her hands straight before 
her. 

"Look!" 

"Well?" 

" Am I sufficiently calm now $ Do you see how steady my 
fingers are ?" 

" They don't tremble much." 

" And yet this is my first visit to Stratf ord-on-Avon — ^my first 
visit ; and I am an American girl ; oh, you don't understand !" 

Perhaps one did understand, easily enough. However, at this 
moment Mrs. Threepenny-bit made her appearance, all bonneted 
and shawled and ready to set forth ; Miss Peggy, with much 
alacrity, picked up her sunshade ; and presently we had passed 
through the shadowed corridor and out from under the pillared 
portico into the white air of Stratford town. 

And as we leisurely walked along this main thoroughfare our 
young American friend spoke not one word to either of her 
companions ; but from the curiously excited interest with which 
she regarded every object she could fix her eyes on you might 
have sworn she had it in her imagination that this dawdling 
butcher's boy and that patient, plodding old woman, with the 
silvery hair and the Normandy-pippin cheeks, were somehow 
related to Shakespeare — ^the lineal descendants of his neighbors 
and associates ; and that he himself had walked along this iden- 
tical gray pavement. On this occasion we allowed her but a 
glimpse of New Place and a glance at the outside of the Falcon 
Inn ; we wanted to give her some notion of the country around 
Stratford, so we took her along Scholar's Lane, making for the 
meadows that lie between the town and the hamlet of Shottery. 

The day was just fitted for the placid Warwickshire land- 
scape into which we wandered outside the suburban gardens. 
There had been some rain during the night, or perhaps early in 
the morning, but now the skies were fair, if not completely clear; 
long streaks of turquoise blue lay between the motionless, soft, 
fleecy white clouds, and a dull, sultry sunlight lay over the 
moist green meadows and the hawthorn hedges and the great 
wide-branching elms, not a leaf of which was stirring. A death- 
like silence brooded over this wide extent of country, that rose 



180 THB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

at the horizon into a line of low-lying hill serrated with woods ; 
but somewhere, far away, there was a tinkling of a bell, proba- 
bly a school-bell, and around us there was a continuous twitter- 
ing of birds busy after the rain. There was no other sign of 
life. And in this perfect stillness and solitariness one grew to 
fancy that, however Stratford town may have been altered in its 
old-world streets and houses, these meadows must have been in 
Shakespeare's time, and long before that, too, very much what 
they are now, with buttercups among the lush grass, in the 
sweet May-time, under the fleecy white skies. Miss Peggy was 
most anxious to be satisfied on that point. This was the very 
way, then, that Shakespeare would come if he were going over 
to Shottery ? He must have crossed this little brook ? and seen 
those hills away down there in the south? It must have been 
as lonely then as it is now? and a place for meditation as one 
walked ? 

Presently she had strayed from the pathway a short distance, 
and was engaged in gathering buttercups and daisies. When 
she returned, with a considerable handful, she said, 

"They say we Americans go through Europe chipping and 
cutting everywhere to take back souvenirs. But I don't think 
we do that now ; we have got shamed out of it. Anyway, no 
one would grudge me these ?" 

"It is a very simple bouquet, Peggy," Mrs. Threepenny- 
bit says; "I think we could find you something better than 
that." 

" Better than that ?" she answers, at once. " I don't know 
where, then. If you only knew the value that will be put upon 
them when I send them home ! They will have to do for a good 
many people, too ; but all I shall have to say will be, * Dear So- 
and-so, I send you two or three wild-flowers that I gathered 
this morning in Shakespeare's fields.' Do you think it will mat- 
ter to them what kind of flowers they are ? Ah, if you only 
knew ! I suppose, now, you would think it awfully silly if a 
girl were to cry when she got these daisies sent to her in Amer^ 
ica ; I mean, a girl who isn't likely ever to be in England her- 
self, and who knows all about Stratford, but has never seen any 
actual thing belonging to it. You would tWnk it silly, wouldn't 
you? For you English are so dreadfully stolid. You don't 
seem to care about anything, Your gr^^^t roeo are ^1 thrown 



THE STRANGE ADVENTUREB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 181 

away on you ; you don't take the trouble to honor them ; you 
are quite indifferent. I do believe you think more of the man 
who invented Harvey's sauce than of any poet who ever lived in 
your country. Why, I have hardly met anybody in England 
who has been to Stoke Poges ; and I never heard of an Ameri- 
can who came to see England who didn't go there. You, now," 
she says, addressing a perfectly inoffensive bystander, " have you 
ever been to Stoke Poges ?" 

" No." 

" There, now !" she says, triumphantly. 

" But you may admire a man's work, and honor his memory, 
without making pilgrimages to his grave." 

" It is because you won't take the trouble. Or, perhaps, it 
isn't consistent with English pride to show anything like grati- 
tude ? I suppose, instead of showing gratitude, you would rath- 
er sit down and pull all that he had done to bits, and declare 
that the mass of mankind were quite mistaken in thinking there 
was anything fine in it at all." 

" Ah, well, Peggy," says Mrs. Threepenny-bit, getting hold of 
the girl's arm and taking her on with her, '* isn't it a comfort 
that sometimes we have a stranger come among us to give us a 
good scolding ?" 

" Yes ; but she might be a little more accurate," says one of 
us (who likes to be crushed no more than any other human be- 
ing). " If it comes to that, Harvey's sauce wasn't invented by 
a man, but by a woman ; sauce of any kind comes more natural 
to a woman. And as for those bits of weeds that you are send- 
ing to America as having been gathered in Shakespeare's fields, 
how do you know that these were the meadows that belonged to 
Shakespeare ?" 

She turns her head for a second. 

'* They belong to him now, and so does the whole place ; I 
don't care what English landlord thinks he owns them," she 
says, proudly ; and of course that settles the question ; there is 
no more to be said ; it is quite right that an impertinent Amer- 
ican schoolgirl should come over here to teach us the whole 
duty of man. 

But you should have observed how she changed her tune as 
we drew near to Shottery. She had vaguely heard of doubts 
having been thrown on the tradition connecting Anne Hatha- 



182 THX BTRANOX ADVXNTURE8 07 A HOUSE-BOAT. 

way's name with the well-known cottage, and she was anxioos 
to he assured that all the thousands and thousands of people, 
many of them famous, others hardly so famous, who had made 
their pilgrimage to the spot, had not heen laboring under a de- 
lusion. It was quite certain, was it, that the name given in 
" William Shagspere's " marriage-bond was " Anne Hathwey ?" 
And it was known that there were Hathaways living in Shot- 
tery ? And the belief that Anne Hathaway lived in this partic- 
ular cottage went very far back, did it not? And so forth. 
Then she says, 

"And is it possible that Shakespeare's widow married again 
after his death?" 

" So you have heard about that, have you ? Well, it was a 
countryman of yours, and a friend of mine, who threw that 
pretty little bombshell into the air, and then ran away to Aus- 
tralia before it burst. Is it possible ? Everything is possible. 
But, considering that she was an old woman of sixty when Shake- 
speare died, and that she herself died seven years afterwards, 
and that on her tombstone she is described as * Anne, wife of 
Mr. William Shakespeare,' I don't think it very probable. Well, 
now, haven't you got any more questions ? Don't you want to 
know whether it is reasonably likely that Bacon wrote Shake- 
speare's plays ?" 

" Well, now, is there anything in that theory ?" she asks, with 
much innocence. 

" Oh, I'm not going to give any opinioil. I'm not going to 
prejudice your mind, if you have any notion of becoming a con- 
vert to the new religion. But I fancy that if the ghost of Ben 
Jonson could hear it suggested that his old chum and boon com- 
panion was nothing but a rank impostor ; if Ben Jonson could 
hear of that suggestion, and also be permitted the use of pen, ink, 
and paper between now and dinner-time, I imagine there would 
come a message from the other world that would considerably 
startle some folk." 

And there was no more impertinence; there was rather a 
humble submission and a tremulous eagerness of interest shown 
by Miss Peggy as we went down and through the scattered little 
hamlet, that was almost smothered amid the luxuriant leafage of 
the spring. Very picturesque indeed were the small cottages 
on this fresh May morning ; the orchards were gay with apple- 



THE STBAKGE ADVENTUBES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 183 

blossom, and the gardens with lilacs both purple and white, 
while the warm air around us was fragrant with sweetbrier, and 
also, at times, with the softnsmeiling hawthorn. This was our 
first meeting with the hawthorn ; not a bit of may had we seen 
all the way along ; no doubt the shelter of the little hollow and 
the moist warm winds combined had brought the blossom out 
somewhat before its usual time. 

The old dame at the cottage made a great pet of Miss Peggy, 
and when she discovered that the tall young stranger hailed 
from across the Atlantic she pointed out in the visitors' book 
the signatures of one or two distinguished Americans whom 
she thought the young lady might know. And when we were 
coming away she declared that the little posy Miss Peggy was 
carrying would never do at all. Oh, no ; she must take away 
with her, if she was going back to America, something a little 
better than that; wouldn't she wait for a moment, until she 
could have a few flowers gathered for her from the garden? 
And very soon the good old dame had culled a very pretty little 
nosegay of conmion cottage-flowers — columbine, forget-me-not, 
wall-flower, and the like ; and she gave them to Miss Peggy 
with a favoring smUe. Only cottage-flowers they were, but we 
who were standing by had a kind of notion that the young 
American lady would not have exchanged that little bouquet 
for all the hothouse flowers in Covent-garden multiplied a dozen 
times over. 

Then we wandered on through the straggling small hamlet, 
half hidden among its gardens and orchards, and eventually 
made our way out on to the Alcester road, and so back to Strat- 
ford town. We were just entering the High Street when whom 
should we espy in the distance but our faithful Captain Colum- 
bus, serenely sauntering along the pavement and looking at the 
shop-windows. And, naturally, we congratulated ourselves on 
having a skipper so prompt and alert, and were glad to think 
that now, at any moment we chose, we could resume our voy- 
age, having the Nameless Barge close by, awaiting us in some 
convenient creek. 

" Good-morning, captain ! You haven't been long in getting 
her through. Whereabouts in Stratford is the canal-basin ?" 

"Beg pardon, sir, but she isn't in Stratford yet," says he, 
rather solemnly; and in an instant the dreadful fear flashes 



184 THE STRANGE ADVENTURBB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

upon US that our noble ressel had been run into in mid-Atlantic 
— in mid-canal, that is — and irrecoverably sunk. 

" Where is she, then ?" 

'' Well, sir, as near as I could judge, about three miles from 
Claverdon ; that was the first station on the line I came to across 
country. Very sorry, sir, but she's stuck fast there ; there's a 
bridge I can't get her through, anyhow." 

<' There ! the moment Mr. Duncombe leaves us we get into 
trouble !" exclaims Mrs. Threepenny-bit, with an audacity which 
even she has rarely equalled ; for who was so willing that Jack 
Duncombe should go, in order that she might provide a place for 
her lamppost of a Highlander ? 

" There's only the one way, sir," continues our indomitable 
Columbus. " The canal people say they will draw off the water 
so as we can get the boat through ; but they want to be paid for 
that." 

Aha I so there was a solution, after all ? And how could we 
do better than take a lesson from the great and wise of our own 
land ? Nowadays, when an English minister is confronted by a 
difficulty, foreign or domestic, his first and immediate thought 
is, " Very well, then ; what size of a check is necessary to settle 
this job ?" That is modem English statesmanship ; and some- 
times he pays away money so freely that the people who get it 
are at their wits' end to know what to do with it. And why 
should we not, in our small and humble way, profit by such 
an example ? We were in a difficulty ; we were asked to pay ; 
and what was the use of arguing or fighting ? 

" How much will they take, captain ?" 

" A matter of a few shillings, sir, I should think, would get it 
done." 

" Go you away back to Claverdon, then, and pay what they 
ask, and bring that boat along as fast as ever you can. For the 
rain has taken it into its head to stop, and we want to get some 
part of the voyage done in decent weather." 

'' Very well, sir," said our captain, and we left him to make 
his way onward to the station. 

The moment we entered our little sitting-room at the hotel 
Queen Tita cast a hasty glance towards the mantelpiece ; there 
was nothing there for her. 

^' Isn't it strange Colonel Cameron hasn't telegraphed ?" she 



THS STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 185 

said. ^*He must have had both my telegram and letter by 
now." 

" Oh, well, I am not sorry," Miss Peggy made answer, ingen- 
uously. " Wouldn't it be delicious to be away entirely by our- 
selves, in the woods, in the Forest of Arden ? and we start to- 
morrow, don't we, if Captain Columbus can bring the boat along! 
In any case, couldn't we go to Claverdon, and walk across? I 
do hope you won't wait for anybody. I think it would be splen- 
did to be entirely by ourselves." 

*< Why, Peggy," says her hostess, as she draws a chair in to 
the table, where luncheon is already laid, '^ didn't you feel how 
lopsided we were this morning ? We want a fourth to complete 
the party. And what would you do if you hadn't somebody 
to practise on !" 

" Now, now, now !" Miss Peggy interposes. " You have lost 
the right to say anything of the kind about me. If you were 
honest you would confess that I have behaved most beautifully 
all the way along. Now confess. Confess that Fve cheated 
you. I know what you expected ; oh, yes ; I know quite well. 
And perhaps I have even disappointed you in giving you no 
chance of scolding ; but, anyway, confess you have been quite 
mistaken." 

" Oh, but I am not so sure about that," Mrs. Threepenny-bit 
says, coolly, as she puts aside her gloves and sits down. *< I am 
not at all so sure about that. Young women are remarkably clever 
in concealing what is going on. And we have had no explana- 
tion yet of Mr. Buncombe's going away. It is very strange that 
he should have nothing to put forward in the way of excuse ; 
very strange, indeed." 

"And do you think I had anything to do with it?" the girl 
demands, with inscrutable eyes. 

" I don't know. The whole affair is very mysterious. Before 
I could give you a certificate for good conduct I should want to 
understand why he went away so suddenly." 

" If I had anything to do with it, why should he want to come 
back f says Miss Peggy, with her eyes still downcast. 

"I don't know that, either; but I have often seen young 
people make those sudden resolutions when they were annoyed 
with each other, or perhaps hoping for some change of manner, 
trusting to the effect of absence, and regret, perhaps." 



186 tHE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" I hope Mr. Duncombe and I parted very good friends," said 
the young lady, with suspicions calmness ; was she making a 
fool of a woman twice her age, and her hostess as well ? 

" I will admit this," the other continued, " that perhaps you 
had not sufficient time to settle him thoroughly. You were very 
much engaged with English history and other things. Of course 
you did not know he was going. No doubt you thought you 
could take him up and settle him effectually when you had a 
little more leisure." 

" I wish I had a big brother," says Miss Peggy, pensively ; 
" he wouldn't allow people to say such things of me." 

"Oh, yes, a pretty innocent you are!" the other retorts. 
" Now sit down at once and have some luncheon, for you have 
a long and busy afternoon before you." 

A long and busy afternoon, indeed, it was ; for we had to take 
her, first of all, to the house in Henley Street in which Shake- 
speare was bom, and introduce her to the Misses Chattaway ; 
then we showed her over New Place ; also she was allowed to 
inspect the rooms of the Falcon Inn ; from thence we guided 
her steps to Stratford Church, and she passed along the noble 
avenue of limes, and entered the hushed building, and sought 
out Shakespeare's grave ; finally, ere the dusk should draw over 
the afternoon, we led her down by the mill, and across the bridge 
that spans the smooth-flowing Avon, and through the wide and 
flower-starred meadows that lie between the town and the hang- 
ing woods of the Weir Brake. 

Now, just above those steep banks there is a comer from 
which a very pleasant view of Stratford and its neighborhood 
may be obtained ; and when these two women had climbed up 
through the bushes to this open space they seemed in no great 
hurry to leave it. A more peaceful pastoral scene one could 
hardly wish for. Moreover, there was now a touch of faint sal- 
mon-color among the heavy purple clouds above our heads, and 
there were masses of vivid and burning gold in the westem skies ; 
so that a warmer and mellower light fell over the green foliage 
enfolding the town. Stratford ceased to be a show-place. You 
could not see the Memorial Theatre. Down below us were the 
yellow waters of the Avon, flowing by pollard willows and grassy 
banks ; then came the bridge and the mill ; then the umbrageous 
elms, from which rose the distant spire of the church. There 



THB STRANGE ADVIKTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 187 

was nothing striking about this stretch of landscape, but it was 
peaceful; the quietude around us was gracious; the golden 
evening drew on apace, with hardly a sound audible anywhere. 
Whether Miss Peggy was trying to get at the secret of War- 
wickshire scenery one could not say, but she and her friend re- 
mained there for long and long, and scarce a word was spoken 
between them. Nay, they lingered among the bushes on their 
way down (there were golden shafts of fire shooting through 
between the black branches) under pretence of seeking for wild 
hyacinths ; and when, later on, in the gray twilight, they passed 
through the darkening meadows — like two ghosts they were as 
they went — ^they had with them some cuckoo-flowers and speed- 
wells and the like. These things were for friends far away. 

And again when we got back to the hotel there was neither 
telegram nor message of any kind awaiting us ; and again Miss 
Peggy expressed the hope that when we once more left the 
haunts of men and disappeared into the Forest of Arden— or 
rather into the neighborhood that used to bear the name — we 
should be all by ourselves. But a little later on, as we sat at 
dinner, a brown envelope was brought in, which Queen Tita 
quickly seized and broke open. 

"Yes, yes," she said, directly, and with much evident sat- 
isfaction, " he is coming, he expects to be with us to-morrow 
morning ; now, Peggy, we have got a companion for you who 
will interest yon." 

Miss Peggy did not seem to look at the matter in that light. 

" Farewell our sylvan joys and sports !" she said, with plain- 
tive sadness. " I had looked forward to all kinds of revels when 
we got into the forest— dances of fauns and satyrs by moon- 
light — everything that you would naturally expect in such a 
haunted place. I thought we might try a scene or two from 
< As You Like It ' some night — some misty night perhaps, when 
you could imagine things. But if there is to be a spectator, 
then it's all over." 

" Why, you are like Mr. Buncombe," her hostess says. " You 
want to produce a play without having any critics looking on. 
I think you would find Colonel Cameron a very indulgent critic 
What has set you against his coming, Peggy ?" 

" Oh ! I don't know ; Pm afraid of him." 

" Why should you be afraid of him ?" 



188 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A ROUSB-BOAT. 

'' I can hardly tell you, except that there is something very 
shivery about that passage in * Childe Harold ' — ^you remember ?" 
" I should think I do remember — 

'And wild and high the Cameron's Gathering roee, 
The war-note of Lochiel, which Albyn's hills 
Have heard, and heard, too, have her Saxon foes : 
How in the noon of night that pibroch thrills 
Savage and shrill ! But with the breath which fills 
Their mountain-pipe, so fill the mountaineers 
With the fierce native daring which instils 
The stirring memory of a thousand years. 
And Evan's, Donald's fame rings in each clansman's ears I' 

And you know what Walter Scott wrote, Peggy ?" she contin- 
ues, rather proudly — 

" * Where through battle, rout, and reel, 
Through storms of shot and hedge of steel, 
Led he, the grandson of Lochiel, 

The valiant Fassiefem. 
Through steel and shot he leads no more, 
But, Sunard rough, and wild Ardgour, 

And Morven long shall tell. 
And proud Ben Nevis hear with awe. 
How at the bloody Quatre Bras 
Brave Cameron heard the wild hurrah 

Of victory as he fell !' " 

"Well, that's just it," the girl said ; " I'm afraid." 
" Afraid of Ewen Cameron !" was all that Mrs. Threepenny- 
bit answered ; but there was a smile on her lips which seemed 
to say that she did not consider Sir Ewen Cameron to be in 
private life a very truculent person. 

Now, whether it was that Miss Peggy was determined- to have 
one merry evening before the coming of this overawing colonel, 
or whether it was that Nature demanded a little relaxation after 
the high-strung excitement of the day, true it is and verity that 
on this occasion — ^after the dinner-things had been removed — 
she broke out into a pure madness of audacious mirth and mis- 
chief. She had only an audience of one ; the third member of 
the party was supposed to be absorbed in nicotine and the read- 
ing of local journals (which are often quite as interesting as those 
which deal with large imperial matters). But he could hear 
something of what was going on. Miss ^eggy had got the 
whole of the sofa to herself. She was seated at the extreme 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 189 

end of it She had the banjo on her knee. She was address- 
ing an imaginary person at the other end of the sofa ; and her 
imitation of the speech of a negro-minstrel was so admirable 
that one suspected this was not the first time she had practised it 

" Well, now, Mr. Bones," she was saying, in tones of lofty 
patronage, " I will ask you a question. Can you tell me when a 
door is not a door ?" 

Likewise, she answers for the imaginary minstrel — 

" Can I tell you when a door is not a door ?" 

" Yes, sir ; can you tell me when a door is not a door ? You 
are a clever man, Mr. Bones ; you can answer my question, I 
presume." 

" When is a door not a door ?" 

" Yes, sir ; that is the question I ask you. But if you do not 
know, then I will tell you. A door is not a door, Mr. Bones, 
when it is a negress." 

She rises, advances a step, and gravely announces to her im- 
aginary audience the name of the next song — "Driven from 
Home ;" then, with a courteous bow, she returns to her seat and 
takes up her banjo. She does not sing very loudly (for fear of 
disturbing thie newspaper-reader), but one can hear the simple 
and touching pathos she puts into the words : 

" * Out in the cold world, out in the street, 
Asking a penny of each one I meet ; 
Shoeless I wander about through the day, 
Wearing my young life in sorrow away 
No one to help me, no one to bless, 
No one to pity me, none to caress, 
Fatherless, motherless, sadly I roam, 
A child of misfortune, Vm driven from home.' " 

Then she glances along the sofa, as if inviting a chorus, which 
she herself leads, but now singing alto— 

<* * No one to help me, no one to bless, 
No one to pity me, none to caress ; 
Fatherless, motherless, sadly I roam. 
Nursed by my poverty, driven from home.* " 

^She puts the banjo on her knee, and resumes her cheerful con- 
versation with Mr. Bones ; and really, if one forbore to peep 
round the comer of his newspaper, so perfect is the imitation 
that one might easily imagine her to be in evening dress, with a 



190 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

large diamond in her slurtrfront, ber face blackened, ber lips red, 
ber eyes rolling in doll-like fasbion as sbe speaks, or pitifully 
upraised to beaven as sbe sings. But presently one bears the 
announcement, " Ladies and gentlemen, tbere will now be an in- 
terval of ten minutes ;" and tberewitb, taking up ber banjo, she 
steals out of the room. 

" Have you been listening ?" says Queen Tita. 

" Now and again." 

" Do you know that is an extraordinarily clever creature ! 
Who would have suspected that sbe could do a thing like that, 
and do it so well ? I wonder how much more cleverness she has 
concealed about ber; and bow much more madness is neces- 
sary to bring it out. For it's only when sbe goes daft that sbe 
reveals herself. And what is sbe up to now f ' 

No guessing was needful ; tbere was a footstep without in the 
passage ; one swiftly and discreetly returned to the small-beer 
chronicles of Warwickshire ; and the door opened. 

Yes, the door opened. And what was this apparition — ^this 
phantom from the Forest of Arden — ^tbis tall, swash-buckler 
youth, with doublet, hose, and beef -eater cap, and with a volu- 
minous cloak of russet homespun thrown lightly around him ? 
For an instant Rosalind stands tbere, with heightened color and 
laughing lips and hesitating mien : then sbe enters and shuts 
the door, and makes ber way across the room to ber friend, 
whose bead sbe affectionately encircles with ber arm. 

" * From henceforth,' " sbe says (but almost in a whisper, so 
as not to attract attention), " * I will be merry, coz, and devise 
sports. Let me see : what think you of falling in love V " 

" You can't do it, Peggy ; it isn't in your nature." 

[N.B. — This speech is not to be found in any well-known 
edition of " As You Like It ;" and its authenticity is open to 
grave doubt.] 

" * Love is merely a madness, and, I tell you, deserves as well 
a dark bouse and a whip as madmen do ; and the reason why 
they are not so punished and cured is that the lunacy is so or- 
dinary that the wbippers are in love too.' " 

" P®ggy> y^^ ^lU ^® taught a lesson some day, take my word 
for it I" 

[This, also, is clearly a corruption of the text.] 

But here Rosalind suddenly alters ber manner, and takes ber 




'For an instant Rosalind stands there." 



THE BTRANOB ADVXNTURES OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 101 

friend's head in both her hands for a moment, and strokes her 

a little. 

" * But, come, now I will be your Rosalind in a more comings 

on disposition, and, ask me what you will, I will grant it.' " 
" You can sing me a song, Peggy, and leave my hair alone." 
Then one hears a fairly expressive voice sing very quietly — 

" Under the greenwood-tree 
Who loves to lie with me, 
And tune bis merry note 
Unto the sweet bird^s throat, 
Come hither, come hither, oome hither : 
Here shall we see 
No enemy — ** 

But that snatch of song was never finished. There was a 
tapping at the door. With a smothered shriek, Miss Peggy flew 
to the window, and hid herself behind the curtains, pretending 
to be looking down into the street: hardly anything could be 
seen of the russet-draped Ganymede behind those white folds. 

" Shall I bring you some tea, ma'am ?" 

" No, thank you, Minnie." 

" Or for the young lady, ma^am ?" 

The young lady hiding behind the curtain dares not to turn 
her head. 

" No ; I don't think you need trouble," answers Mrs. Three- 
penny-bit on her behalf. 

" Thank you, ma'am," says the neat handmaiden, and with- 
draws; and then, when she is gone, one is vaguely aware that 
Rosalind — ^probably considering that another such interruption 
might not be so dexterously encountered — slips across the room, 
opens the door, and disappears into the dark passage. 

" Did you see her ?" says Mrs. Threepenny-bit. 

" I caught a glimpse of her." 

" Didn't she make a bonny boy !" 

" There have been plainer youths." 

^^That was a costume she got for a fancy-dress ball in 
Brooklyn ; I've never seen it before, but I've heard of it. She 
says she got it for its cheapness; but I'm sure it must be 
more like what Rosalind would wear in the forest than the dress 
that most stage Rosalinds wear; Peggy's is really a disguise, 
whereas the stage-costume would be merely an invitation to 



192 THE STRANGE ADYENTTTREB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

robbers. Tes, indeed, she makes a bonny boy ; I don't wonder 
that Phcebe fell in love with her. And I'm pretty sure Peggy 
was thinking of some prank when she took the trouble to bring 
that dress with her — some nonsense in the Forest of Arden ; and 
now that she has got a ridiculous fear of Colonel Cameron into 
her head, I suppose she was determined to have her piece of 
play-acting before he came. Well, she will have to behave 
henceforth ; if I were to threaten to tell him of her masquerad- 
ing in a room in a Stratford hotel, wouldn't that frighten her out 
of her wits?" 

But Miss Peggy was not prepared to " behave " just yet. Al- 
though she came back in her own proper clothing, she was far 
from being in her right mind. By rude force she possessed her- 
self of the newspapers, and deliberately put them away; she 
opened the piano, and dragged Mrs. Threepenny-bit thither, and 
opened some music ; she demanded that the table in the centre 
of the room should be shoved into the window-recess — ^in case 
of certain exigencies connected with one or two of the songs ; 
and then she proceeded to get her banjo strings in tune with 
the keys. What followed needs not be described here — being 
far too chaotic to bear consecutive narrative. Indeed, it has been 
observed by many travellers, and reported by them in all good 
faith, that there is something peculiarly exhilarating — ^to use the 
mildest term — in the atmosphere of Stratford-upon-Avon; and 
stories are told (to which it is difficult to give credence) of the 
more than extraordinary conduct of which the most grave and 
serious-minded people, visiting that town, have been guilty. 
That we did not altogether escape the contagion, on this partic- 
ular evening, may be frankly and freely admitted. Within just 
and sober bounds, there was a little modest hilarity. And, indeed, 
to observe Miss Peggy gently gliding round the room to a waltz 
measure, singing the while the chorus of the song, and also help- 
ing out the accompaniment with her banjo— But these are 
revelations which, if once begun, it might be difficult to end — 

" Souls of poets dead and gone, 
What Elysium have ye known, 
Happy field or mossy cavern, 
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern ?** 



UIS STRANOS ADTSKTUIUBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 193 



CHAPTER XIV. 

"The Laird o* Roslin's daughter 
Walked through the wood her lane, 
When by came Captain Wedderbum, 
A servant to the king. 

Nkxt morning there was a welcome bustle of preparation, for 
the boat had been successfully brought along to Stratford and had 
now to be provisioned for the resumption of our voyage ; like- 
wise we had to write our last letters before bidding good-bye to 
civilization and once more disappearing into the unknown. In 
the midst of all this, the door of our small sitting-room is opened, 
and Miss Peggy appears, just a little breathless. 

" Say, now, what is your friend like ?" she asks, with some 
eagerness. 

" What friend ?" says Queen Tita, looking up from her cor- 
respondence. 

" Why, Colonel Cameron, of course. Is he very tall, and thin, 
and sandy-haired ; with a small moustache, that has a streak of 
gray in it ; and blue-gray eyes that look at you — well, as if they 
had seen you before ?" 

" Yes, that is rather like him. But what do you mean, Peggy ? 
He isn't come already, is he ?" 

" WeU, it can't be he either," she continues. " He wouldn't 
think of going boating in a costume like that — a frock coat, and 
a tall hat, yellow gloves, patent-leather boots. Well, if it is your 
friend, he looks as if he had just stepped out of P^-MalL" 

" But where did you see him ?" 

" Whoever he is, he is down below, in the hall." 

" In this hotel?" 

<< Yes ; and — ^and he looked at me as I passed him, as if he 
thought I might belong to your party. At least that was my 
fancy ; I only saw him for a moment — " 

"Of course it is Colonel Cameron!" Mrs. Threepenny-bit 
13 I 



194 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

exclaims at once. '^Gro away down and ask him to come up, 
Peggy." 

"Me?'' says the girl, in some alann. "Oh, I couldn't I 
don't know him. There might be a mistake." 

" Well, I suppose I must go myself," she says, putting back 
her chair ; and therewith she leaves the room and proceeds down- 
stairs to receive her new visitor. 

"I say," observes Miss Peggy, with some disappointment, 
** if that is Colonel Cameron, he isn't like a soldier at all. He 
is just like one of those long-legged icicled creatures you see 
wdking in St. James's Street, stiff and starched and polished 
to the very finger-tips and the toes, and looking at you with a 
cold blank stare of indifference. Well, this one isn't quite so 
glacial as that — no, not quite ; but it looks odd to see a tall 
Pall-Mall dandy standing at the door of a Stratford hotel." 

"Do you loiow this. Miss Peggy, that if you only got a 
glimpse of him as you came by, you managed to bring away a 
pretty faithful portrait. There's not the slightest doubt that 
that is Sir Ewen Cameron ; though what has brought him down 
in that guise goodness only knows." 

There were voices without ; the next moment Queen Tita ap- 
peared, followed by a tall, thin, sun-tanned person who carried 
his hat in one hand and his umbrella in the other. When he 
was introduced to Miss Peggy, his eyes rested on her for a sec- 
ond with a kindly look, as if there had already been some slight 
acquaintance between them : no doubt he had guessed that she 
was of our party when she had passed him below. Then he 
sat down, and proceeded to explain that he had received our 
manageress's telegram in London only the night before, and had 
come straight away down, the first thing in the morning, to see 
what was wanted of him. It was clear that her invitation had 
been too vague ; and now when she informed him that we had 
a berth at his disposal, that we proposed to start at once, and 
that she hoped he would come along with us for such time as 
he could spare, he not only accepted her proposal with frank 
promptitude, but, also, he did not seem to think that so hurried 
a departure .would involve any inconvenience. We should be 
coming to a town sooner or later ? He could telegraph to Alder* 
shott to have a few things sent along. 

But, meanwhile, whither had fled our Peggy ? She had sud' 



THK 8TRANOB ADYBIITURES OF A HOUBB-BOAT. 195 

denly gone out of existence — vanisbed clean away from us and 
disappeared ; and in her place there was now an American young 
lady whom we could recall as coming in to us of an afternoon 
in London, to drink a cup of tea and listen with a grave courtesy 
to any one who might be introduced to her. Alas ! this was not 
our Peggy at all, with her mischief, and her wild ways, and her 
laughing frankness and good-nature ; this was a kind of stranger, 
serious-eyed and gentle and attentive ; Peggy had gone away 
from us, and in her stead here was Miss Rosslyn come again : 
Miss Rosslyn, who would henceforth behave so perfectly and 
faultlessly that these sylvan haunts we were about to enter would 
be deprived of half their witchcraft and diablerie. And had not 
the girPs own instinct been right ? Ought we not to have gone 
away into those secret solitudes entirely by ourselves? Why 
introduce this new-comer to chill the atmosphere, and rob these 
pastoral glades of all their charm? What had we to do with 
Oamerons and Lochiels, and pibrochs and stories of the clans ? 
We had no wish to hear anything " savage and shrill " in the 
Forest of Arden ; we wanted to hear the grass grow ; we wanted 
to hear the fairies blowing their cowslip horns in the dew-wet 
silence of the summer nights. 

" But, you know. Sir Ewen," continued Mrs. Threepenny-bit, 
with much cheerfulness, ^* I cannot let you come with us unless 
you quite understand all the privations you will have to put up 
with. Don't you think you ought to go and see the boat ; then 
you would know a little better what to expect ?" 

" But I heard all about your project before you started," said 
he, with a kind of gentle persuasiveness, '^ and I envied you. I 
never thought I was to be so fortunate as to be asked to join 
you ; and now that I am here, I think your difficulty will be to 
get rid of me. Oh, I assure you I understand all the conditions 
of such a trip — " 

"Yes; but don't you think you ought to go and see the 
boat ?" she says again. " Wouldn't it be safer ? Miss Rosslyn 
has nothing to do just now, she could walk along with you and 
show you where it is." 

This proposal was made in simple good faith; but the 
fright that it clearly caused Miss Peggy demanded instant in- 
terference. 

" No, no ; not at all ; hurry up with your letters. Sir Ewen 



106 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

won't mind waiting a little while ; and then we can all go along 
together." 

"And in the meantime," said our colonel, "if you don't 
mind, I think I will go out and see if I can pick up a few boat' 
ing things. I suppose in a liTer-side place one may find what 
one wants. And which did you say was the next town you 
would come to ?" 

" Worcester." 

" Then I will telegraph to Aldershott when I am out. I sup- 
pose I shall find you here when I come back." 

The moment he had gone Mrs. Threepenny-bit turned to her 
young friend. 

" Well ?" she said, with a kind of pride. 

But Miss Peggy answered nothing. 

"Well?" she said again. "What do you think of him, 
Peggy?" 

" Of course I don't know yet," said the young lady, evasively. 
" I thought he would look more like a soldier ; he is like — like 
anybody else." 

"Did you expect to find him wearing his Victoria cross? Of 
course he came away just as he was. It is a soldier's pride to 
be able to start at a moment's notice. And I suppose he will 
get some of the Piccadilly look taken off before we set out — 
you may trust a Highlander to forage for himself. By the way, 
won't Murdoch be a proud lad when he hears that Colonel Cam- 
eron of Inverfask is going with us; we shall all have to wait 
upon ourselves now ; it's very little attention any of us will get 
as long as Inverfask is on board." 

"Murdoch won't forsake me," observed Miss Peggy, with 
significant confidence. 

And yet with all our hurrying it was near midday when we 
were ready to start ; but when we did get away our departure 
was most auspicious. There was a kind of general elation in 
setting forth ; and then everything looked cheerful in the wel- 
come sunlight ; and there were warm, sweet airs blowing about : 
all promised well. Our colonel had greatly pleased his hostess 
with his praises of the arrangements on board ; he was delighted 
with everything, and especially surprised that he could stand 
upright in the saloon. Then "Captain Columbus had been duly 
complimented on his success in bringing the boat through ; and 



THE 8TBAN0X ADVXNTUIUE8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 197 

Mardoch, who was at first rather overcome with awe on hearing 
the name of our new gnest, had been driven out of his senses 
with pride and gratification when Inverfask was considerate 
enough to address a few words to him in his native tongue ; and 
finally, at the very last moment, a messenger had come running 
down to the canal-side with a parcel, for which Miss Peggy had 
been anxiously inquiring ever since she came to Stratford. 

<< And what is that, Peggy V^ asks her hostess, looking at the 
long thing that has just been handed into the boat. 

"Guess." 

"Some. magical kind of sunshade, is it?" 

"No; it's a fishing-rod — an American one; I sent for it a 
long time ago, and have been wondering whether it was ever 
going to arrive. They say our American rods are very good ; I 
hope this one will turn out all right." 

"And since when have you taken to fishing, Peggy f she 
asks. 

" Oh, it isn't for myself ; it's for him," the young lady an- 
swers, indicating a not uninterested bystander. 

"Oh, it's for him, is it! Well, he can't wear that at his 
watch-chain !" says Mrs. Spitfire ; and therewith she withdraws 
into the saloon, to beg Colonel Cameron not to bother any more 
with those ordnance-survey maps. 

And so once more we are gliding on through the still, wooded 
landscape ; and the larks are filling all the wide spaces of the 
air with their singing ; and the sunlight lies warm on the hedges 
and fields. And this is Miss Peggy, who is perched up here 
astern, with more or less complete control of the tiller ; although, 
as she seems rather absent-eyed, one has to exercise a general 
sort of surveillance over her. 

" Yes," she is saying, " it was an extraordinary experience. 
No one who has never been to Stratford could imagine anything 
of the kind, or could understand how completely Shakespeare 
occupies and possesses the whole place. It is all Shakespeare ; 
he seems just to fill the town. When you come out of Stratford 
you come into England again. Now we are back in England." 

"But you needn't imagine you are beyond the reach of 
Shakespeare associations yet, Miss Peggy," one says to her. 
"Do you see that stretch of country there? Shakespeare had 
the tithes of it, and was no doubt very prompt in collecting 



198 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

them, for he appears to have been an extremely businesslike 
person." 

'* What, those actual fields ?" she says, with quite a new in- 
terest. 

"Those actual fields and slopes and woods. Over there is 
Welcombe, and we shall be at Bishopton directly. Now, wasn't 
it exceedingly generous of Francis Bacon to allow that fifth-rate 
actor to carry off all the profits of his plays — of Bacon's plays 
— and come away down here and buy tithes and houses and 
lands ? And yet they say Bacon himself liked money as well as 
most folk." 

But Peggy betrays little interest in Lord Verulam; she is 
looking abroad over that tract of country as if it had acquired 
some new and mysterious value in her eyes. 

" Didn't they talk at one time," she said, " of buying the 
house that Shakespeare was bom in, and taking it over to 
America ? As if that would have been of any use at all !" 

"But that was a very small project," one says to her. 
"Haven't you heard of the new one, that is to signalize the 
presidency of Mr. Cleveland? Oh, yes; it's all settled. A 
country so wealthy as yours can get what it wants; there is 
nothing that cannot be bought, if you will only pay the price ; 
and they say the subscriptions are already pouring into the 
White House in streams. The petroleum men are determined 
to have it ; and so are the pork men — " 

"But what are you talking about?" she says, coming back 
from that meditative survey of the distant landscape. 

"Westminster Abbey. It has to be taken down stone by 
stone, and shipped across, and put together again over there, 
monuments and everything. I tell you your country is rich 
enough to buy anything it wants. Westminster Abbey has to 
go. It is to be taken over and set up again — in Milwaukee." 

"Now you are talking nonsense. But what I say is this," 
she continues, facing round as if to deliver a challenge, " that if 
we haven't got Shakespeare's birthplace, and the town and the 
fields where he lived, at least his literary fame, his position as a 
poet, belongs quite as much to us Americans as it does to you." 

" Really ?" one says to this audacious minx ; " well, it may be 
so ; but it was a precious lucky thing for Shakespeare that the 
discontented people who went over to found your country — I 



THS 8TRAHGE ADYENTUBXB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 199 

don't mean Captain John Smith's it^es and vagabonds, but the 
Nonconf onnists — ^it was a precious lucky thing for Shakespeare 
that they hadn't their own way here in this country, or there 
wouldn't have been a single player allowed to ply his trade. 
And where would have been the buying of tithes then ? And 
the purchase of New Place? And the conveyancing of mes- 
suages and tenements and orchards and gardens ?" 

<' Why, what's that ?" she exclaims, suddenly, catching sight 
of something ahead. 

^ It looks like a series of gigantic steps and stairs, doesn't it! 
But it is really a succession of locks. We have got to climb a 
hill, that's about alL And it will be a very tedious process. 
Tou'd better go inside and tell them we will have luncheon 
now, and send Murdoch out to take the tiller." 

We found luncheon an admirable method of passing the time 
necessary to get through this great bunch of locks (though we 
could have dispensed with a little of the bumping going on out- 
side) ; and now it was that Miss Peggy was brought more im- 
mediately into contact with our new guest, who had been inform- 
ing himself of our probable route by the study of maps. But 
she was a little silent She did not display towards him any- 
thing of the quiet self-confidence which ordinarily characterized 
her manner in the presence of strangers. Once or twice she 
glanced timidly at him as he was talking to Queen Tita ; whereas 
her custom was to look straight at people, especially if they were 
indifEerent to her. Nor was there in her own conversation, with 
the person sitting next her, any trace of that careless wilfulness 
with which we had grown familiar. Where were her gibes now ? 
She was distressingly well-behaved. And yet surely there was 
nothing in the manner or discourse of this tall and elderly sol- 
dier to strike dismay into a sensitive young soul : on the con- 
trary, whenever the talk became general, and he looked across 
the table, as if addressing her also, his eyes seemed to regard 
her in a pleased and friendly fashion, as if they were saying, 
'* Oh, yes ; our acquaintance has been happily begun ; we shall 
soon be friends — ^perhaps we are already." 

And on this occasion, so far from playing Captain Bobadil, 
or magnifying his own profession, all his speech, prompted by 
a question of Queen Tita's about the possible intentions of the 
French republic, was of the mischief wrought by newspapers in 



200 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

fanning national antipathies and goading nations into war. And 
here one was enabled to afford him unexpected corroboration. 

" Wait a moment, Cameron ; I have a story to tell you," says 
one of us. " Once upon a time there was a person, we will call 
him A, maintaining that very position before a lot of people ; 
and they wouldn't believe him. Very well : to convince them of 
the way in which mischief is caused by newspapers provoking 
quarrels, he said he would undertake, himself, to get up a per- 
fectly brand-new international dispute in three weeks. Within 
three weeks he declared he would have England and Germany 
at loggerheads — not England and Germany, of course, but the . 
English and German newspapers, which fortunately is a very 
different thing. Well, first of all he went to a German friend 
of his, whom we will call B. * Look here,' says he, * let's get up 
a row between Germany and England about something or other. 
You'll start it in Germany, and I'll take it up here ; and then 
they'll all be at it directly, for of course no one newspaper will 
confess that it doesn't know what is going on.' *But about 
what V says B. * Oh, anything ; never mind what. Say Ger- 
many wants Heligoland.' * All right.' Then the worthy Herr 
Doctor — ^it is some years since, mind, and both A and B were 
younger when they played that prank — he proceeded to write a 
very pathetic article about Heligoland, and he made no scruple 
about altering the well-known old rhyme so that it ran, 

* Fern ist der Strand, 

Weiss ist der Sand, 

Das ist des Deutschen Heligoland !* 

That article was printed in a Cologne paper. Immediately after- 
wards there appeared in a London daily paper another article, 
saying that the long-cherished desire on the part of the German 
people for the acquisition of Heligoland was again taking voice ; 
and that aspirations which had for so long been merely senti- 
mental promised now to become a serious demand, that would 
have to be faced by English statesmen. Then appeared a sec- 
ond article in the Cologne paper calling attention to the manner 
in which England was regarding Germany's now formulated 
claim. Of course, by this time the other papers were not to be 
left out in the cold. The question of the cession of Heligoland 
to Germany was taken up everywhere ; statements that it had 



THB STRANOB ADVBKTURE8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 301 

been discussed at cabinet meetings were made, and authorita- 
tively contradicted ; one weekly paper, with tears in its eyes, 
appealed to Germany not to misuse her newly-found strength in 
the prosecution of such an invidious demand, but said if she 
came forward in a peaceable way, and argued the matter upon 
moral grounds, then perhaps we might be persuaded to restore 
the island to the Danes. Descriptive articles began to appear ; 
there were pictures of Heligoland in the illustrated papers ; and 
discussion everywhere. What was the worth of it to England ? 
What good would it do to Germany ? . Were German statesmen 
so arrogant that they must have this little bit of an island, just 
because they fancied it, and in spite of all considerations of his- 
tory and race ? What kind of argument was it to bring forward 
a bit of half -forgotten rhyme? The German journals said it 
was only a high-principled and sincere country like England 
that could continue, with a satisfied conscience, to hold such 
alien possessions as Gibraltar, Heligoland, Cyprus, and Malta. 
One English paper said it was understood that our foreign 
secretary attached no great importance to our keeping Heligo- 
land, and was not inclined to contest the claim, if Germany in- 
sisted ; another had it on the very best authority that the foreign 
secretary had expressed no opinion whatever on the subject. 
And meanwhile, while all this was going on, A and B met 
every other evening at the Culturverein, and smiled a little — • 
like two augurs — over their Hochheimer and cigars." 

" And what came of it all ?" says the colonel 

" Oh, nothing ; it died away. The thunder rumbled off ; but 
even now, from time to time, you may hear a faint echo of it ; 
and just as likely as not you'll find that perverted rhyme crop- 
ping up at the same time, though sometimes they print it, 

* Fern ist der Strand, 

Weiss ist der Sand, 

Das ist das deatsche Heligoland V " 

" Peggy," says Mrs. Threepenny-bit, regarding the girl with 
a world of meaning in her eyes : " they say that open confession 
is good for the soul." 

And it is very likely that Miss Peggy would have answered 
with some remark equally impertinent, uncalled-for, and unjust ; 
but that the presence of Colonel Cameron seemed to impose a 



202 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

wholesome restraint upon her. Indeed, she made no answer at 
all ; she discovered that we were in the last of the locks ; and 
her proposal that we should seize the opportunity to get ashore 
was unanimously and immediately adopted. 

We now found ourselves on a considerable height ; and all 
around us lay a richly wooded country, the abundant foliage of 
which kept shimmering or darkening as the slow-moving sun- 
rays and wide shadows trailed across the landscape. Over there, 
on the horizon line, were Bearley Bushes and Smitherfield ; here, 
as we leisurely followed the windings of the canal, were Wilme- 
cot, and Gypsy Hill, and Newnham. Then we came to a long 
straight aqueduct spanning a spacious valley ; and far below us, 
in the hollow, was a line of railway — ^that going down to Alcester. 
The view from this point was one of the most extensive we had 
as yet encountered — ^the successive undulations of wood and 
spinney and grassy slope receding away into the south, where 
the low-lying hills, underneath the milk-white skies, were of a 
pale, ethereal blue. Moreover, this canal, that was leading us 
into the wide district once known as the Forest of Arden, was 
very little like a canal. It seemed to be entirely disused and 
forsaken. We met with neither barge nor boat of any descrip- 
tion. Here and there the still waters were almost choked with 
all kinds of aquatic plants ; here and there were masses of the 
floating white buttercup, in blossom. A solitary neighborhood 
this was, and a silent ; yet there was a kind of persuasive charm 
in its very loneliness; while, for the rest, the afternoon was 
growing mellower in color, and lending a warmer tone to all 
these masses of foliage. Miss Peggy, as we walked along, spoke 
but little ; perhaps she was peopling those woods and open spaces 
and darker glades with mysterious phantoms. Her eyes, at any 
rate, had no mischief in them now. 

But as we drew near to Wootton Wawen — which is only 
about a mile or so from Henley-in-Arden — she turned her atten- 
tion to the wild-flowers we were passing, and from time to time 
she stooped to add to the little nosegay in her hand. We knew 
her purpose. We knew whither was going that variegated little 
collection of red campions, blue hyacinths, yellow bed-straw, 
purple self-heal, golden cowslips, and the like simple blossoms. 

" It is a very little trouble," she says (as if any apology were 
necessary), ^' and think of the gratitude I shall reap when they 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 203 

get them over there ! I suppose I may honestly say, * From the 
Forest of Arden,' in the letter ?" 

" Undoubtedly this was part of the ancient Forest of Arden, 
if that is what you mean ; it stretched over the half of Warwick- 
shire," one makes answer. "I don't know when the district 
was disafforested ; but in Shakespeare's own time they hunted 
red-deer in these Warwickshire woods — ^you'll find it all de- 
scribed in the * Polyolbion ;' * our old Arden here ' is Drayton's 
phrase ; and he was a Warwickshire man. Yes ; I think you 
may fairly say these flowers are from the Forest of Arden." 

" That is all I wanted to know. And yet," she continues, " I 
am not sure it would be kind to send any of them to my sister 
Emily. It seems such a shame that I should be seeing sJl these 
places, while she is at home." 

'* Her time will come, surely. She will be in England some 
day." 

*' But who will take her about like this ?" Miss Peggy is good 
enough to say. " Do you think, now, there ever was an Ameri- 
can here before f* 

" In this precise spot ? I should think it was highly improb- 
able." 

She was silent for a minute or two as we were walking along. 

" I suppose our people would want to rush through. Well ; 
it is very strange, when you get used to this dreamlike kind of 
existence, how very natural it seems ; and how far away the out- 
side world seems to be. I wonder, when I am back in New 
York, whether I shall be able to recall the feeling of being lost, 
and being quite happy in being lost. All the people and things 
I used to know seem to be gone, or in an outside ring so far 
away that you hardly ever hope to get back to it. And yet," 
adds Miss Peggy, with a smile, " I don't feel in the least bit 
miserable to find myself cut off from the rest of the world, and 
forgotten, and alone." 

" You are not quite alone." 

" No ; not quite," she says ; and then she goes on, in a quite 
simple and natural fashion : '^ Do you know, I like your friend 
the colonel." 

"Indeed?" 

" Yes. I like him. He doesn't try to show off." 

"Did you think he would?" 



204 THB STRANGB ADVENTURK8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" And Fm not so much afraid of him as I expected. No, 
hardly at all ; he is so quiet ; and — ^and I like the way he looks 
at you — ^he doesn't scrutinize — he has a pleasant way of looking 
at you. What do people say of him ?" 

" The public, do you mean — ^the newspapers ?" 

" No, no ; the people who know him." 

" Well ; he bears the reputation of being a pretty strict dis- 
ciplinarian ; but his men are said to be extraordinarily devoted 
to him all the same ; and I know his brother officers are rather 
fond of him. I remember a young fellow one night at the Rag 
— ^at dinner — saying simply enough, * Well ; I don't like Cam- 
eron ; that isn't it : I love him.' " 

" Is it long since his wife died ?" 

" Yes ; some years." 

" Was she pretty ?" 

" She was very good-looking. She was one of the Lennoxes 
of Coulterhill — ^they're all a handsome family." 

"How old is he?" continues this inquisitive young person; 
indeed, that is one of her peculiarities ; when she is interested, 
however slightly, in any one, she must needs know all about his 
or her situation in life, and surroundings, and prospects — ^per- 
haps for the better spinning of aimless little romances. 

"How old is he? Oh, he is just everybody's age. Don't 
you know that there is a long period, an interval between be- 
ing insignificantly young and distressingly old, in which all 
nice people and all interesting people dwell, without particular- 
ly counting years. You may call it the broad platform of life, 
if you like ; and a few Mays or Decembers are not allowed to 
count. Colonel Cameron is just in the middle of existence — 
like the rest of us — " 

" Oh, do you take me in, too ?" she says. 

"Why, certainly. Do you call yourself insignificantly 
young?" 

" But I want to be counted in 1" she says, promptly. " I like 
to have plenty of company. I should prefer being with the 
happy majority. Oh, yes ; I want to be on the middle plat- 
form, with the rest of the people." 

" If it came to that, young lady, there are two or three little 
tricks and artifices in which you are a good deal older than 
Ewen Cameron, or any one of us." 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 205 

" Ah, don't say that !" she pleads, with much pathos. " I have 
been so good !" 

" I suppose you wrote a very pretty letter to that long-coated 
metaphysician, thanking him for all the information he sent you." 

" Indeed I did not, then," she says, warmly. " I did not write 
to him at all. For I did not ask him to send us any informa- 
tion ; I suppose we could have got it out of the guide-books in 
any case." 

But meanwhile, as we had been thus leisurely strolling along, 
the waning day had been still further deepening in color. Over 
head the silvery-gray heavens were now mottled with soft lilac ; 
towards the west were long bands of purple cloud, their lower 
edges fringed with crimson fire ; beneath these, and behind the 
various clumps of foliage in front of us, were breadths of golden 
yellow, that only reached us through the darkened branches in 
mild flashes of light. We had been seriously delayed, more- 
over, by one or two diflficult bridges, particularly in the neigh- 
borhood of Lowsom Ford ; and now, as these fires were fading 
out, and as Captain Columbus had discovered that somewhere 
not very far away he could get stabling for the horse, it was re- 
solved to call a halt for the night. We were to be up betimes 
in the morning, for there was a long day before us, to say noth- 
ing of the wild peril and adventure of getting through the 
King's Norton and West Hill Tunnels. So we chose out a 
meadow-bank where there were some convenient willow-stumps 
and alder-bushes, and there we made fast ; and then Murdoch — 
now in the Forest of Arden, and probably wishing he were at 
home in a better place, though his courtesy would not allow 
him to say so— was besought to prepare some food for his co- 
mates and brothers in exile. 

A ceremony, of deepest interest to at least one person pres- 
ent, now took place. It was at Miss Peggy's timid suggestion. 
Wouldn't one like to put the American trout-rod together, to 
see whether it met with approval ? If it were not quite satis- 
factory, she said, she could have it changed. And here was a 
stretch of smooth water ; hadn't we an3rthing in the shape of a 
line ? Now as we had brought plenty of all kinds of tackle with 
us— on chance — ^we made pretty sure of finding a small reel that 
would fit; and there was still enough light in this gathering 
dusk to show us how the line went out. 



206 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

And what a dainty toy did this torn out to be, when we 
pulled the circular shaft from out its furry cover, and found in 
the grooves of the shaft the light-golden, hexagonal pieces of 
spliced cane all neatly packed ; and who could have aught but 
admiration — ^were he fisherman or no fisherman — ^for the del- 
icately ribbed handle, and the silver ferrule and rings, and the 
small, shining bands of rose-red silk f The inscription on the 
metal portion of the butt, too : really, when one had put this 
work of art together, and had taken a single glance at it, it was 
quite apparent that it was far too bright and good for human 
nature's daily food. What? — make this beautiful little golden 
toy, with its rose-red silk and its silver sockets, an instrument 
to thrash the sullen surface of a Scotch loch, in hours of driving 
rain, with the heavy storm-clouds coming lower and lower down 
the hillside, and darkening the world as they descend? No, 
no ; the proper place for such a thing of beauty was a comer 
of the hall, in alliance with the various trophies of the chase, so 
that young ladies, on their way from the dining-room to the 
drawing-room, might be invited to admire its elegance and 
pliancy and pretty color. To take this dainty thing out for any 
kind of actual work ? Why, it might get wet ! 

And yet, when we had rummaged about and found a reel 
small enough to be attached to the butt, it was very speedily 
discovered that this plaything of a rod had a remarkable faculty 
for sending out a line. Perhaps it wasn't so much of a toy, 
after all ? If it felt a little " whippy " at first, the hand soon 
got used to that ; and it was most satisfactory to stand here in 
the dusk and watch how easily the undulating line went out 
and how lightly — ^with a touch like a butterfly — ^it fell on the 
wan water. Our colonel tried a cast or two, and declared that, 
for this delicate kind of work, it was a most excellent instru- 
ment. Miss Peggy was also allowed a little practice ; and as 
there was nothing attached to the line there was no risk of her 
hanging up artificial flies on the trees and bushes as thickly 
as ever Orlando hung up his rhymes when he was wander- 
ing through these very glades. Finally, Mrs. Threepenny-bit 
got the pretty plaything into her possession ; but this was with 
a view to reading the inscription on the silver band ; and she 
affected to be greatly surprised by its simplicity. 

" Well, I declare ! not a single scrap of poetry. Why, Peg* 




**Mis8 Peggy was also allowed a little pi'actice" 



THB 8TRAKGK ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 207 

gy, you might have quoted a line or two just to please him — 
* When this you see, remember me ;' or, * The rose is red, the 
violet's blue, the grass is. green, and so are you.' Or a motto, 
even — * Whoever loved, that loved not at first sight ?' " 

** I think you are very impertinent," says Miss Peggy, with 
an air of much dignity ; and she takes away the rod from that 
envious scrap of a creature, and offers to help in putting it back 
in its case. 

During dinner that night — whether it was the sensation of 
solitariness inspired by these lonely neighborhoods, or whether 
it was that her fear of the tall colonel had not quite worn off — 
Miss Peggy was again rather silent, listening with a respectful 
attention, but rarely saying anything. Of course, she was not 
entirely dumb ; and one chance remark she made — as coming 
from a person of so retiring a disposition — seemed to strike 
Colonel Cameron with a little surprise. By accident he had 
gone back to the subject of the various incitements to war, and 
was talking to Queen Tita about the times when the love of 
this or that fair lady was a common cause of strife. One of 
us happened to say that he had heard of a tournament in our 
own day — or rather, a joust — of a very idyllic nature. It was 
a lady in the north, who had two suitors, both of them in every 
way eligible, and both of them equally pressing in their suit ; 
and, to settle the matter, she said she would marry the one who 
wrote the best poem on Mary, Queen of Scots. She was as 
good as her word; and married the successful competitor. 
Whereupon Miss Peggy remarked quietly, 

" I am pretty sure she knew beforehand which of them could 
write the best poem ; and that was why she took that way of 
deciding." 

Well, it was a shrewd remark for a young woman to make ; 
and Colonel Cameron glanced up with the least touch of sur- 
prise ; you see she had been so very modest and quiet and un- 
assuming since he had joined our party. But we were privately 
of opinion that before very long Inverfask would find out for 
himself that our Peggy — though quite a characterless person — 
was no fool. 

And fortunate it was for us that this subject had been started ; 
for in speaking of this or the other noble lady whose name was 
connected in legend or history with some tragic deed, Cameron 



208 THE STRANOE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

happened to ask his hostess if she knew the ballad of "The 
Twa Bonnie Gordons." 

" I dare say you will know the story," he said, " for there 
are two or three ballads about it — * Gordon o' Bracklay,' I think 
one of them is called, or * The Baron o' Bracklay.' But this 
version I have has never been in print, as far as I know, and I 
think it is finer than any of them. My mother used to sing it 
to a very singular and pathetic air ; let me see, I think I could 
repeat the words to you — " 

" Oh, will you ?" she said, quickly. 

" It is hardly a pleasant story they have to tell ; but the 
ballad is fine — as fine as any I know : 

" * Down Deeside rode Inveray, whistling and playing, 
He called loud at Brackla gate ere the day*s da wing, 
" Gordon of Brackla, proud Gordon, come down, 
Tbere*8 a sword at your threshold mair sharp than your own.'' ' " 

He repeated these lines almost in an undertone, and slowly ; 
perhaps to give the two women-folk a better chance of making 
out the Scotch; but as he went on there was a curiously vi- 
brant quality in his voice that made his recitation singularly 
impressive : 

" * Arise now, gay Gordon t' his lady *gan cry, 

* For there is fierce Inveray driving your kye :' 

* How can I go, lady, and win them again, 
When I have but ae sword where he has got ten V 

** ' Arise now, my maidens, leave rock and leave fan ; 
How blest had I been had I married a man ! 
Arise now, my maidens, take lance and take sword : 
€ro, milk the ewes, Gordon, for I shall be lord !' 

" Up sprang the brave Gordon, put his helm on his head, • 
Laid his hand on his sword, and his thigh o'er his steed ; 
But he stooped low and said, as he kissed his proud dame : 

* There's a Gordon rides out that will never ride hame.' 

** There rode wi' fierce Inveray thirty-and- three, 
And nane wi' the Gordon save his brother and he ; 
Twa gallanter Gordons did never sword draw, 
But against three-and-thirty, wae's me ! what were twa f 

" Wi' swords and wi' daggers they rushed on them rude. 
And the twa bonnie Gordons lay bathed in their bluid ; 
Frae the mouth o' the Dee to the source o' the Spey, 
The Gordons mourn for them and curse Inveray. 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 209 

" * came ye bj Brackla, and what saw ye there f 
Was the young widow weeping and tearing her hairf 
' I came down by Brackia ; I looked in, and oh ! 
There was mirth, there was feasting, but naething o' woe. 

'* * like a rose bloomed the lady and blithe as a bride ; 
A bridegroom young Inveray stood by her side ; 
She feasted him there as she ne'er feasted lord, 
Though the bluid o' her husband was red on his sword.' 

'* there's dule in the cottage, if there's mirth in the ha'. 
For the twa bonnie Gk>rdons who are deid and awa' ; 
To the bush comes the bud, and the flower to the plain, 
But the twa gallant Gordons come never again." 

When he had finished, there was a second silence ; and then it 
was Peggy who spoke. 

" I — I hope he killed her !" the girl said, with white lips. 

A little later on — well, perhaps, there was a half-confessed 
feeling that this fierce and piteous story had been all too terri- 
ble for these tranquil solitudes — anyhow, it was Miss Peggy who 
timidly suggested that we should get outside to see what the 
night was like, and perhaps go ashore, also, for a stroll through 
the meadows and lanes, if any such were to be found. So forth- 
with we went, Sir £wen lighting a big cigar by way of prep- 
aration ; but as for going ashore, the first one who tried that 
discovered that the grass was soaking wet with dew. Accord- 
ingly we all of us, with much content, took up our places in 
the stern-sheets of the boat ; with much content, for the night- 
air was sweet, and there was a silence not disturbed by the 
stirring of a leaf, and there were dark glades and vistas be- 
tween the trees which, if one liked, one could people with all 
kinds of spectral figures, who could perform a ghostly play 
for us. 

The contrast between that still darkness all around and the 
crimson glow of our little floating home was strange enough. 
Sitting out here, we were spectators of both ; indeed, not only 
could we look into the glare of light within — which seemed to 
illumine a fairy palace — but also we could see where some of 
the softened radiance, streaming through the windows, touched 
here and there a branch of alder or a willow-stump. But if 
these glades near at hand were steeped in the shadow of over- 
hanging leaves, the heavens above us were clear and cloudless, 
U 



210 THK 8TRAKOK ADYXHTURSS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

the great vault palpitating with myriad upon m3niad of stars. 
There sat Cassiopeia on her silver throne ; and the jewel Bas- 
tahen burned fierce on the forehead of the Dragon ; the pale 
Andromeda was there, and Perseus with uplifted sword; the 
brilliant Vega gleamed on the invisible strings of the Harp ; and 
the shining wonders of the Plough, white, trembling, and yet 
constant, throbbed in the pure ether. All the life of the world 
seemed to be in those lambent skies ; there was nothing here 
around us but impalpable gloom and death. That impression 
lasted but for a minute or two. Perhaps it was our coming 
forth from the saloon that had startled the woods into silence. 
Anyhow, the next moment a sudden sound sprang into the 
night, flooding all the darkness with its rich and piercing mel- 
ody— ^m^, jugy jug^ug^ jug^ jug^ tir-o-ee — ^a joyous, clear, full- 
throated note, deep-gurgling now, and again rising with thrills 
and tremors into bursts of far-reaching silver song that seemed 
to shake the hollow air. A single nightingale had filled the 
woods with life. We cared no more for those distant and si- 
lent stars. It was enough to sit here in the gracious quiet and 
listen to the eager, tremulous outpouring of this honeyed sound, 
and to remember that we were in the Forest of Arden. 



CHAPTER XV. 

*'Did I but purpose to embark with thee 
On the smooth surface of a summer^s sea; 
While gentle zephyrs play in prosperous gales, 
And Fortune^s favor fills the swelling sails; 
But would forsake the ship, and make the shore, 
When the winds whistle, and the tempests roar ? 
No, Henry, no : one sacred oath has tied 
Our loves; one destiny our life shall guide; 
Nor wild nor deep our common way divide." 

In the dim lands that lie between sleeping and waking, and 
while as yet the dawn is low in the eastern skies, there are 
shadows moving hither and thither, and a sound as of music 
echoing down the forest glades. Fainter and fainter it grows. 
The booted and belted figures, with their garments of green and 
feathered caps, melt away into the distance — " The hortiy the 



THK STRANOK AOVKNTURKS OF A H0U8B-B0AT. 211 

Aom, the lusty ^ lusty hoTUy^ is liardly heard now — ^and at last the 
hoarse chorus ceases, and there is silence. Silence bat for a mo- 
ment ; for here is the gay-hearted and merry-tongned RosaUnd, 
in russet cloak and velvet cap, followed by her bewildered 
lover. " Bid your friends," she says to him ; for if you will be 
married to-morrow, you shall : and to Rosalind, if you will" 
Then scarcely have iJiey gone when there is a blowing of silver 
bugles ; slowly and gradually richly clad figures come trooping 
in; a magic light awakes: these are no longer glades in the 
forest, but spacious halls ; and the bridal guests have arrived. 
A murmur passes through the crowd. The blaze of light falls 
upon a figure in white satin and silks and pearls ; and, as the 
duke leads her forward, her veil is partly removed, and the shin- 
ing-eyed and smiling and queenlike Rosalind, now blushing as a 
bride, and y^t imperious in her very yielding, advances to her 
lover with outstretched hand. " To you I give myself, for I 
am yours." And again there is a hushed sound of music-— of 
stringed instruments this time — and presently the brilliant as- 
semblage is moving slowly through a dance, but ever with the 
one radiant white figure attracting all eyes. As one looks and 
listens, the gay-colored company grows paler : the music, too— 
there is something strange about it ; it is a monotonous sound 
— wr-r-r-r-r-r — ^and then again the calling of a cuckoo— cucXroo, 
cuckoo — ^as if we were still in the woods. And whither has 
gone that glare of light ? There are wan grays appearing, and 
wide spaces; the bridal party has dispersed; a new day has 
dawned. And now we know : the cuckoo is calling to us from 
out the dripping leaves ; the ur-r-r-r-r is a continuous rattling 
on the roof above us ; those magic fires have been extinguished 
by the heavy rain, and the ghosts have vanished back into the 
night. 

" For the last two mortal hours, I do believe," says our col- 
onel, as he is tying his shoes in the cramped cabin, that brute 
has been at it ! Fancy a cuckoo caUing in such a deluge! It 
can only be to make a fool of us." 

And when one at length is dressed, and ready, and goes into 
the saloon, perhaps it is with some vague curiosity to see whether 
our own flesh-and-blood Rosalind in any way resembles that 
spectral white-satined Rosalind of the dawn. One finds Miss 
Peggy alone, and up at the farther end of the saloon. What 



212 THX 8TRAK0S ADVSHTURES OF A HOUSK-BOAT. 

she has been about is clear. There are branches of alder pro^ 
jecting from the bank; she has opened the window just far 
enough to draw some of them inside and spread them across the 
pane ; and is now contemplating that ingenious piece of deco- 
ration. When she turns round to say " Grood-mondng," her first 
concern is to dry her dripping fingers and wrists. 

" A pleasant morning, Miss Peggy !" 

" Oh ! I don't mind," she says, with her usual cheerful care- 
lessness. " After such a night as last night, I am ready to for- 
give anything. Besides, where should you have patience with 
the weather if not here ? * The penalty of Adam — ^the Season's 
difference.' I'm ready to take what comes. There's another 
thing : when it does rain, I like to hear it rain like that ; a good 
business-like downpour means to have it out and done with it. 
You'll see we shall have a fine day ; I'm sure of it — certain of it." 

No ; there was very little that was phantasmal about this high- 
ly matter-of-fact and well-contented personage. Perhaps if she 
had been clad in the costume which she wore for a few min- 
utes that evening at Stratford, she might have looked a little like 
the dream-Rosalind who was figuring about in this neighborhood 
before the day broke ; but she was a much more actual and sub- 
stantial individuality than the shining bride who had paled and 
vanished with the coming of the dawn. There was a healthful 
and wholesome pink in her peach-soft cheek that spectres do not 
possess ; the light that shone in her eyes (and that was suflScient- 
ly bright for all practical purposes) was not borrowed from any 
unholy glare ; besides, there was a self-confidence and a cool 
audacity in her demeanor that no well-behaved ghost would dis- 
play ; for ghosts, if they are anything at all, are sensitive, shrink- 
ing, retiring creatures. Nor do ghosts — well-behaved ghosts — 
try to whistle when they are drying their fingers. 

" Hallo ! what's that ?" says Miss Peggy, turning suddenly 
round. 

A slight scraping noise had attracted her attention. And 
now what do we behold? — what but those branches of alder 
being slowly withdrawn by an invisible hand. She regards this 
extraordinary phenomenon for a second, until the last leaf has 
disappeared, and then the truth fiashes upon her. 

" The boat is moving ! Are we off already ?" 

It is even so. For it appears that Captain Columbus, being 



TUX STRANOX AD VENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 218 

anxious for an early start, has come quietly down through the 
meadows, unmoored the Nameless Barge^ and is now, from the 
stem, poling her across to the tow-path, where the horse and 
horse-marine are waiting. Perhaps it has not hitherto heen ex- 
plained in this veracious chronicle that we invariahly chose our 
moorings on the side opposite the tow-path, so that, in the im- 
probable event of any barge coming along in the night, we should 
not be run into. Moreover, this also removed from us the pos- 
sibility of visitors, if visitors there could be in regions that 
showed no sign of human life. 

At breakfast, all assembled, the chief topic of discussion is 
naturally the tunnels we shall have to encounter some time or 
other during the day; and Mrs. Threepenny-bit, from certain 
things she has heard, seems a little apprehensive. Not so Miss 
Peggy. 

" Why should you distrust the boat ?" the young lady says. 
" Hasn^t she done very well so far ? There has been no danger 
at all, except once or twice when she tilted over a bit, and that 
did nothing but break a few dishes. Why should you think 
there was any risk in going through tunnels ?" 

" The risk is this, Miss Peggy," one says to her. " The West 
Hill Tunnel, according to Captain Columbus, is over a mile and 
a half long, and it is absolutely dark. We shall most likely be 
tacked on to the end of a long string of barges — for we shall 
be on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal then — ^barges that 
have been waiting for the steam-launch ; and the tail of a long 
sea-serpent of that kind is just as likely as not to flop about 
considerably, especially as we shall be such a light appendage 
to those heavy craft. Well, suppose she gets an extra hard 
knock against the wall of the tunnel ? One thing is positively 
certain, that, if she were to fill and sink, every person on board 
must inevitably be drowned. How could you be picked up in 
the darkness ? Besides, the people on bomxl the steam-launch 
wouldn't know anything of what was happening; they would 
continue to haul away, even supposing the boat was under water." 

" Surely," said our colonel, " if she were to sink, the drag 
would soon make itself felt." 

" Yes ; but where would you be in the meantime ? However, 
I put these considerations before you people not for the purpose 
of frightening you, but in order to recommend to you a little 



214 THK 8TRANOB ADVBNTURBS OF A HOUBB-BOAT. 

common-sense. There is no need why any of yon should ran a 
quite unnecessary risk. Only one person need be on board the 
boat, to steer. Very well ; the owner of this noble craft pro- 
poses to accept that responsibility, for the better security of his 
own property. All you people — ^and Columbus and Murdoch 
as well ; for the horse-marine will have gone on with the horse 
— ^you people will be safely on board the steam-launch : that is 
how you ought to go through." 

'' Among a lot of Birmingham bargemen !" cries Queen Tita. 
" They'll be all fighting and swearing !" 

" If you allow me to accompany you," Colonel Cameron says, 
in his quiet way, " I think you may make me answerable for the 
preservation of the queen's peace." 

" Please," says Miss Peggy, looking up, and addressing the 
person who proposes to take charge of the boat through the 
tunnels, " if I'm not in the way, may I stay with you ?" 

" How touching ! How very touching !" observes Mrs. Three- 
penny-bit, with her usual gratuitous malice. '^ It quite reminds 
one of the devotion and constancy of the Nut Brown Maid. 
Oh, quite touching!" 

At this impertinent taunt the young lady blushes vividly 
(which she would not have done had it been uttered in the 
presence of Jack Duncombe), and hastily she makes answer — 

<^ I want to see the fun, that's all." 

" Well, now," says Colonel Cameron, to sum up the matter, 
<< do you think it is worth while for any one of us to desert the 
ship 9 A little spice of danger is rather pleasant at times ; and, 
if tiiere is such a thing, we ought all to run an equal chance, 
don't you think ? Of course, if you ladies would rather go on 
board the steam-launch, I will go with you." 

" I, for one," observes Queen Tita, in distinct tones, " am not 
going on board any steam-launch — ^among those men." 

" And I would much rather remain here," says the Nut Brown 
Maid, modestly. 

" Very well," he says, " that is a bargain ; we will stay and 
keep the steersman company. And I don't think you will find 
either Murdoch or Captain Columbus wanting to run away." 

When we went outside after breakfast we found the morning 
had cleared up wonderf uUy ; there were breaks of vivid blue 
overhead ; shafts of sunlight here and there ; and a brisk wind 



THB STRAHGK AOyXNTURKB OF A H0U8X-B0AT. 215 

stirring the foliage of the wide, richly wooded country. By this 
time we had got on to Eingswood Junction, where the Birming- 
ham and Warwick and Birmingham and Stratford canals are 
connected ; and shortly thereafter, as we struck away to the 
northwest, we had to climb a series of steps and stairs, getting 
thereby into a long level stretch of ten miles without a single 
lock to bar our way. This was a very beautiful landscape that 
lay all around us, if it was not particularly romantic or impres- 
sive ; and the day was growing finer and finer ; indeed, the sun 
was almost too hot at times, and we were glad of the cool wind 
that stirred the trees and put a silver ripple on the water. 
Occasionally the woods seemed to close in upon us ; the light 
breeze did not get at the surface of the canal : on the contrary, 
that perfect mirror refiected every leaf and twig and branch of 
the overhanging oak and alder and ash. Now and again we 
came to a little old-fashioned bridge, of weather-tinted red brick 
— a pleasant color among all these greens. And then we would 
find ourselves between steep and high banks, all hanging with 
leaves and tendrils and spring blossom — here and there a golden 
blaze of furze or broom, more rarely a cream-white mass of the 
sweet-smelling hawthorn. Of course we were all ashore now — 
sometimes overtaking the boat, sometimes allowing it to glide 
far ahead of us — ^the only living and moving thing in the soli- 
tary world. This part of the country is rich in song-birds. All 
the air was filled with their singing ; near and far, from bush 
and copse and hawthorn bough, and from the far white spaces 
of the sky, poured an inexhaustible stream of melody, a uni- 
versal rejoicing after the rain. And Miss Peggy was singing, 
too, at times, in a careless fashion, when you happened to cease 
chatting to her, or when she stooped to gather speedwells from 
the warm and sunny banks. '^ O, it's I was a walking one morn- 
ing in May " — ^this was what she was at ; and probably she was 
not in the least conscious that she was in a measure imitating 
Jack Duncombe, any more than she was aware that those speed- 
wells she was gathering were not anything near so blue and 
translucent as her eyes. 

'' Well," she said, at last, when she had gathered her little 
nosegay, and was free to walk on without more ado ; '< it was 
very nice of them." 

" Nice of whom ?" 



216 THX STRANGK ADVKNTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" Why, the people who cut this winding lane through all this 
beaatifal country, and then filled it with water so that you could 
float along it, and then left it for us. It was very kind of them, 
and very lucky for us that we can have it all to ourselves.*' 

" Wait till you get on to the Birmingham and Worcester — 
you'll have some company then." 

" Rough company ? No, I don't think so. All those I have 
seen have heen very civiL" 

" It doesn't much matter. I have told you hefore, if there's 
any had language, you won't understand a word of it — it will be 
in the dark dialect of BrummagenL" 

" Talking about bad language," Miss Peggy says, in her off- 
hand way, " do you know why it's useless to try to block up the 
river Niagara ?" 

" Oh, go away with your preposterous conundrums !" 

" But, really, can't you guess ?" she says, with innocent eyes. 
"And why should you despise conundrums? Is it because 
you're not very clever at finding them out ?" 

" Well, there's something in that As you grow a little older, 
young lady, and gather experience in the world's ways, you'll 
find that the great majority of people comfort themselves by 
despising everything of which they are ignorant and every- 
thing they can't do. It's a wholesome rule of life ; it makes 
for content. Suppose you can't hit a haystack at thirty yards 
and can't throw a fly, your best plan is to call fieldnsports brutal- 
izing, and a survival of the instincts of the savage. Suppose, 
on the other hand, you can shoot and fish and ride to hounds 
and all the rest of it, and yet you can't make anything out of 
Carpaccio, then you may safely call lovers of the fine arts Aes- 
thetes, prigs, and effeminate creatures generally. If you can't 
drink wine, elevate your abstinence into a religion, and look 
upon yourself as a marvel of virtue ; if you can't get on with- 
out wine, you may hint that teetotallers, if all were known, 
might be found to be no better than they should be. If you 
are a scientific person — " 

" I'm not," says Peggy. 

" Don't interrupt. If you are a scientific person, you can 
make light of the practical value of the Greek and Latin litera- 
tures ; if you are learned in the humanities, you may caU science 
a mere blind empiricism — the workings of a mole in the dark. 



THE STRANGE ADVBNTURSS OP A HOUSE-BOAT. 217 

If you're a plain woman, you can't be expected to approve of 
wax dolls ; if you're a pretty woman, you may suggest that the 
plain women would prefer to be a little more like wax dolls if 
they could. It is a pleasing habit — and widespread ; it tends 
to the general comfort and content." 

"And that is why you don't like conundrums?" continues 
Miss Peggy (who does not seem so much impressed by this ser- 
mon as she might be). "Because you can't find them out? 
Well, I wouldn't confess, if I were you. I would rather try a 
little. Come, now, I'll make it easy for you. I'll give you a 
friendly lead. Why is it you needn't try to block up the Ni- 
agara River — put a hinderance across it, don't you see ? — some- 
thing to stop it ?" 

" Oh, get away with your nonsense !" 

" But don't you see the answer ? — ^think a moment ! It's as 
plain as anything I Must I tell you, then? The reason you 
needn't try to block up the river Niagara ? — well, because dam 
it you can't !" 

One contemplates this person. She is young; and fair to 
look upon. There is even an appearance of maiden guilelessness 
on the smooth white forehead and in the shining eyes. But 
how so seemly an exterior can enclose a mentsJ and moral 
nature so lost to all sense of shame is a problem too distressing 
to face. One walks on in silence. 

" Of course," she remarks, proudly, " if you choose to put 
wicked meanings into what I say, I can't help it." 

" Live and learn," one answers her. " It is always pleasant to 
watch the new development of manners — ^the conduct of the com- 
ing generation. And I wonder what Colonel Cameron will think." 

In an instant her attitude is entirely changed. 

" Ah, you wouldn't be so mean !" 

" Don't you think he would be interested ?" one asks of her, 
impartially. " A kind of small revelation in its way?" 

" No," she says — and her earnestness of entreaty is not whol- 
ly a pretence — " you're capable of a good lot, but not of that. 
You couldn't be so mean ! Tales told out of school ! Well, 
look here, if you will promise not to repeat that to Colonel Cam- 
eron, I will promise never to ask you another conundrum as 
long as I live. And I've got some very good ones," she adds, 
demurely. 



218 THJB BTRANOX ADVBNTURX8 OF A HOUSK-BOAT. 

« Where did you get them f From some fumiy yonng man 
in Brooklyn?" 

" No, it wasn^t — ^it was from a girl." 

"What kind of a girl?" 

" I won't tell you her name ; you would recognize it She 
made nearly all of them herself." 

" And all of the same character ?" 

" Most of them. WeU," continues Miss Peggy, with return- 
ing confidence, " there's really no harm in them, except what 
you choose to put there. Not a hit of harm. Say, are you go- 
ing to write a book about this trip ?" 

" It is possible." 

" If you do, will you tell those things about me ?" 

" I daren't tell all 1 know about you — certainly not." 

" Ah, but that's just what I want !" she says. " If you told 
everything, I should have nothing to fear. If you told every- 
thing, then the reader would recognize before him the picture 
of an absolutely perfect human being. That's me. I have al- 
ways been like that; and you know it; for I have told you be- 
fore. But I dare say you will go and distort things, and make 
me out a villain if you can, whereas you know better, if you 
would only be honest." 

She had got a bit of thread, and as she walked along she was 
tying the speedwells together. 

" I wonder, now, if you can guess why Robinson Crusoe was 
startled when he saw the footprint in the sand ?" 

" I thought you made a promise a little while ago," one says 
to her. 

" Oh, that's all very well," rejoins this impenitent creature. 
" Why, you are just dying to hear some more of them. But 
you sha'n't. I won't tell you another one. And then, of course, 
if you do say a word to Colonel Cameron — ^but no, you couldn't 
be so mean as that, even if you tried." 

Then she adds, irrelevantly — 

" I say, are you going to let me stay outside and see what's 
going on, while we are in those tunnels ?" 

" If you are good ; and if you put on a waterproof." 

"Well, shouldn't we get into the boat again, and have every- 
thing ready ? Besides, I have a letter to write that I want to 
have posted at King's Norton." 



THE STRANGB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 219 

It was not, however, until a long time after that, and after 
some miles of pleasant sailing through a richly cultivated and 
cheerful-looking country, that we drew near to the first of the 
tunnels. This was found to be a sufficiently simple affair; 
moreover, we had the whole passage to ourselves ; for we were 
still on the Birmingham and Stratford Canal, where we had en- 
countered but little traffic. And yet it was with a strange and 
eerie feeling that we left the warm white air and shot under 
this low archway into a cold and clammy darkness that was 
pierced far away ahead by a needle-point of light. Our method 
of propelling the boat is technically known on the canals as 
" legging ;" that is to say. Captain Columbus and Murdoch lay 
on their backs on the roof of the saloon, and shoved with their 
feet against the dripping brickwork encircling us. We made 
no great speed ; in fact, there was so little way on the boat that 
steering was next to impossible ; on the other hand, there was 
an abundance of bumping from side to side, though our colonel 
did his best, with one of the poles, to mitigate these concussions ; 
and thus we crept along. 

" Why, it's nothing at all !" said Miss Peggy, her voice echo- 
ing strangely in this hollow-sounding vault. "Where is the 
danger?" 

She was answered by the boat again swinging against the 
side of the tunnel in a fashion that would probably have tipped 
her into the water had she not been clinging on to the iron 
rod ; but she still maintained there was nothing to be afraid of ; 
and also that the mysterious light somehow reminded her of 
Venice. 

But all this while the white pin-ppint far ahead of us had 
been gradually growing larger and more brilliant; still larger 
and larger it grew, until it seemed to be a sort of circular chan- 
nel leading out into a bewildering glare of greenish-yellow ; one 
could make out more clearly now one's environment of moist and 
dripping brickwork ; and then, with a kind of soft glory daz- 
zling our eyes, we slowly emerged into the warm glowing world 
again, to find ourselves surrounded by hanging masses of sunlit 



Murdoch rose from his recumbent position on the roof, and 
looked back at the tunnel through which we had come. 

*' It's an ahfu' place that," we heard him say, in awe-stricken 



220 THB BTRANOB ADVBNTURKS OF A H0U8B-B0AT. 

tones, to Captain Colambns ; doubtless he had never been in a 
tonnel in his life before. 

" Oh, that^s nothing, lad," said Columbus, who was now also 
standing erect, and shaking the grit and water from his clothes. 
" That's only a baby tunnel. Wait till you come to the West 
Hill." 

Then we went on to King's Norton ; and, having to post Miss 
Peggy's letter, we strolled along and up to the yillsige. We 
found it a quaint, little, out-of-the-world-looldng place, with a 
wide green, surrounding that a number of old-fashioned brick 
and timber houses, and dominating all a well-proportioned 
church. In the post-oflSce there were some newspapers for sale 
— weekly newspapers; but we had lost interest in the great 
and busy world we had forsaken ; and these heavy compilations 
of paragraphs did not seem attractive. When we got leisurely 
back to the boat again we discovered that Captain Columbus 
had taken advantage of our absence to bait the horse, so that 
we were enabled to resume our voyage forthwith. 

It was about a mile after that — ^and we were now on the 
Worcester and Birmingham Canal — that we came in sight of 
the entrance to West Hill Tunnel, and likewise perceived that 
there were a large number of barges waiting for the steam-launch 
to return and take them through. As yet there was no line of 
procession formed ; and as we could discover no master of cere- 
monies, we took up a modest position by the bank opposite the 
tow-path, and awaited instructions. Our neighbors paid us little 
heed ; as it happened, there was a contest of wits going on ; 
and as the rival jesters were far apart, and had to bawl out their 
merry quips, they won loud and general laughter by their efforts. 
With our strictest attention, however, we could make nothing of 
these recondite japes. We wanted some interpreter, as in the 
homiletic Oesta Bomanorum, to come in with " Carissimi " and 
an explanation. Meanwhile, at Queen Tita's request, Murdoch 
had lit the candles in the saloon ; but this was to be merely an 
experiment ; for one knew not whether the light might not sub- 
sequently prove to be a distraction to the steersman responsible 
for the safety of these people. 

" Look there !" cries Peggy. " Look at that pony ! Did you 
ever see anything more picturesque in Italy ?" 

And a picturesque little animal it was — a piebald black and 



THB STRANOX ADVSHTURSS OF A HOUSS-BOAT. 22 1 

white; with cream-colored ear-coverings and crimson tassels; 
brass ornaments on its forehead ; blue and white ribbons at the 
side of its head ; a bunch of hay hanging from its collar ; a nose- 
tin of burnished copper suspended from its neck. Quite a gay 
little creature it was ; and a marked feature in the slow proces- 
sion of animals that now left the side of the canal to go forward 
and await us at the other end of the tunnel. 

Then appeared a black and grimy little steam-launch ; there 
was an interview with Columbus and a production of papers ; we 
were furnished with a lamp to be fixed at the bow ; and thereupon 
the burly little steamer proceeded to head the long line. How 
that line was formed it was hard to say ; but it was clear we were 
to be at the tail-end of it ; and, indeed, as barge after barge moved 
away, we had no more than time to throw a rope to the last of 
them and get attached. The huge black snake before us seemed 
to be disappearing into the bowels of the earth with a marvellous 
rapidity ; one had to steer as straight as one could for the nar- 
row arch at the base of that mighty mass of masonry ; the semi- 
circular opening seemed to close around us ; and the next mo- 
ment we were in darkness. This sudden plunge into the un- 
known was suflSciently startling ; for now there was no welcome 
star of light far away ahead, while the red glow in the saloon 
told us nothing of our whereabouts or our proper course. We 
only knew there was a wall around us, for we grated along this 
side, and then banged against that ; and, altogether, the situation 
was unpleasant. But matters mended a little. Whether the 
smoke from the launch had lessened or not, one could at length 
make out, at a considerable distance along, two dull spots of 
orange, doubtless two lamps ; and these at least gave some indi- 
cation of our course, and some guidance for steering. The 
worst of it was that this light boat at the end of these heavy 
barges would not properly answer her helm ; the " swing " they 
gave her was too powerful ; and all that could be done was for 
Columbus and Murdoch at the bow, and the colonel astern, to 
keep shoving with hands or feet, as occasion offered, to prevent 
the boat from tearing herself to pieces against the almost invis- 
ible wall. Not a word was spoken, for no one knew what might 
happen the next second ; the only certain thing was that, what- 
ever might befall, we were powerless to avert it. In the pre- 
vious tunnel, while we were being " legged " through, if we 



S22 THE STRANGE ADYBNTURKB OF A HOUSI-BOAT. 

had come to a difficulty we should have stopped to consider; 
DOW we were being dragged irresistibly along, by a force with 
which we had no possible commanication. 

" I say," at length remarks Miss Peggy, who is standing on 
the steering thwart, and holding on to the iron rod, " do you see 
those two small lights far away along there ?" 

" I should hope so. They're all I've got to go by." 
" Well, but if you take your eyes off them for a moment you'll 
see other two lights in the dark, of a curious pale purple." 
" I suppose you know what complementary colors are !" 
" This is a far more ghostly place than the other ; I wish we 
were well out of it," she says. 

Suddenly, into the hollow-sounding vault, there springs a shrill, 
high, plaintive note ; and we find that one of the younger barge- 
men has begun to relieve the tedium of this mediterranean pas- 
sage by a pathetic ballad. So silent is the tunnel — ^for there is 
only a dull throbbing far away of the engine of the steam-launch 
— ^that every word can be distinctly heard; and by guessing 
here and there at peculiarities of pronunciation, one can make 
out easily enough the main current of these stories. For it is 
not one, but many pieces, that this Brummagem Orpheus, de- 
scended into the deeps of the earth, has in his repertory ; and 
generally they are found to deal with the trials and experiences 
and sorrows of a young man : 

"My father died a drunkard. 
And I was left alone, 
To fight the world all by myself, 
With ne*er a house or home." 

Or again the high, shrill, nasal voice would tell how this hapless 
young man was entrapped into going to sea : — 

**The captain said as I was bound 
To go for seven years." 

There was very little love-making in these ditties ; indeed, in the 
only one that partly touched on this topic there was a most un- 
gallant reference to the maids of merry England. It ran some* 
what in this fashion : — 

"It was a lass of Coventry, 
As fair as fair could be; 
And on a Sunday evening, 
She walked along o' me; 



THK STRAKOB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 229 

*'I asked her then, she gave consent, 
She was as good as gold; 
How little did I ever think 
, That she should grow so cold I 

***Now, Jane, fulfil your promise, 
The promise you gave me. 
Or I will turn a sailor, 
And sail away to sea;* 

" * Tom,* she said, a-crying, 
*My heart will burst in two, 
For I love Jim the carpenter 
As once I did love you/ 

**Now all you gay young mariners 
That sail upon the main, 
I pray you keep yourselves abroad. 
And ne*er come home again; 

"From port to port you*ll meet with girls 
That are both kind and free; 
But the girls of this old England 
They*!! ne*er get hold o* me.** 

The door of the saloon is opened, and a dark, small fignre ap- 
pears against the dull glow. 

" P6ggy>" Sftys Queen Tita (who has been at the forward win- 
dow, vainly peering out into the blackness), " isn't this dreadful ? 
I can see no sign of anything ; and the boat will be smashed to 
bits before we get out. Can you see anything ?" 

" Nothing but the two small lights in the distance — two lamps, 
I suppose. I'm afraid we're not near the end yet." 

" But the tunnel is only a mile and a half long : even with 
this crawling we should be through in three quarters of an hour 
at the most." 

" I'm afraid we haven't been in the tunnel anything like that," 
says Miss Peggy ; and she is right. 

" May I come up beside you ?" 

" Oh, no, please don't 1" the girl says at once. " I can't see 
where the board is ; you might slip. I dare not move hand nor 
foot." 

" I hope it will be my last experience of the kind," the other 
says, with some decision, and she goes back into the saloon, to 
stare anxiously through the window-pane. 

And still our unknown friend with the high and nasal voic« 



224 THE STRANGI AOYBNTirBBS OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 

poors out his artless narratiYes, one after the other. When he 
ceases, there is a dead silence ; no one attempts to interfere or 
help ; perhaps this performance of his is acknowledged and has 
broaght him fame among the bargemen of the west. Nor does 
he ever relapse into the comic vein. Life has been serious for 
these young men of whom he sings. Hard work, poor wages, 
tyrannical masters, and the temptations of drink in seaport towns 
have wrought them many woes. And yet they do not complain 
overmuch ; it is the hand of fate that has been against them ; 
they relate their experiences as a warning or as a consolation to 
others in similar plight Indeed, we were highly pleased with 
these simple ditties — ^thinking, as we may have done, of the 
ghastly facetiousness, the cynicism, the knowingness that de- 
light the gin-sodden London music-haller. 

And so we fought our way on through this echoing and in- 
terminable cavern, striving to steer a middle passage between 
those walls that seemed to tear at the side of the boat as with 
demon claws ; and ever we were looking forward for the small 
spot of light that would tell us of the near-coming of the outer 
world. It was Miss Peggy who caught sight of it first. 

" There it is ! — look !" she cried. 

Then one could make out, apparently at a great distance 
away, a sort of miniature bulFs-eye, of a dullish hue, that dis- 
appeared now and again behind clouds of smoke ; but ever, as 
we glided or grated along, it was growing larger and larger ; and 
the saffron hue that it showed was becoming more and more 
strangely luminous, so that the two lamps we had been following 
for so long had become invisible. And now we can make out 
an archway filled with a confused yellow light ; the black barges 
are sailing towards it and through it ; sometimes a bronze-hued 
smoke obscures the opening, and again there is a golden glare ; 
finally, but with eyes dazed with the sudden splendor of color, 
we sail out into the placid beauty of this bit of Worcester- 
shire scenery — the green wooded banks, the brown water, and 
the afternoon sky ; and the candles, ineffectual and unheeded, 
still burning in the now forsaken saloon. 

" Well," says Queen Tita, with a sigh of relief, " now that we 
have come safely through, I'm glad we have done it." . 

Miss Peggy comports herself more bravely. 

" Fd do it again to-morrow !" she says. 



THS STRANGS AOYBNTURES 07 A HOUSB-BOAT. 225 

'< Then you shall/' one answers her. 

" What do you mean ?" she says — ^just a little taken aback. 

" To-morrow w6 have two more tunnels to go through." 

" Oh, indeed," she says. " But perhaps they are the simpler 
ones, where we can push the boat through by ourselves ?" 

"Certainly not; we shall have to be towed through by a 
steamer." 

" I*6ggy>" 8*ys Mrs. Threepenny-bit, maliciously, " * when I 
said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I 
were married.' " 

" Come on, a hundred tunnels !" says Miss Peggy, laughing. 
" Do you think I am afraid of them ? But I confess that it is a 
good deal nicer to be out here in the warm air." 

That, however, was not precisely the question that was con- 
cerning the more responsible members of this travelling-party. 
On overhauling the Nameleaa Barge with such carefulness as was 
possible, we found that apparently she had sustained no serious 
damage during her subterranean voyage, although she bore abun- 
dant marks of iU-usage that did not improve her appearance. On 
raising the stem-sheets — which was the readiest way of ascer- 
taining what water was in her — it was discovered that there 
had been no unusual leakage ; so that we hoped she had suffered 
nothing but what could be put right by a little mending and 
scrubbing and a coat of paint. We were therefore free to con- 
tinue our voyage in peace. 

And peaceful indeed, and very beautiful, was that afternoon's 
sail. In. this neighborhood the canal winds along a high em- 
bankment, formed on the side of a hill ; and there were wide 
views over the far-stretching and undulating landscape — ^the 
deep valleys near us enclosed by distant cultivated slopes, here 
and there crowned by a bit of wood. The evening was mellow 
and golden ; we had allowed the barges to get away ahead of 
us, so that we were once more by ourselves ; after the rough- 
and-tumble work of the day, we were glad to resume our quiet 
gliding through the silent and shining country. When it be- 
came a question of halting for the night, it mattered little to 
us where we moored ; we were once more quite alone. Captain 
Columbus hinted that there was a small place not far off, called 
Alvechurch, where he could get stabling and also accommoda- 
tion for himself and the horse-marine ; and so we assented, and 
15 K* 



226 THB 8TRANOB ADVBNTURKS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

chose out a part of the bank where there were some bushes, and 
soon the Nameless Barge was again at rest 

After dinner that evening Mrs. Threepenny-bit mnst needs 
have Peggy bring out her banjo, which had remained in its case 
since our leaving Stratford-on-Avon. Miss Peggy seemed a lit- 
tle loath. When Colonel Cameron joined in the request, that did 
not improve matters much — ^rather the contrary, as it appeared 
to us. And yet she was persuaded in the end, and she went 
and got the banjo ; and then, with a timidity we had never seen 
her exhibit (this was not like our Peggy at all !), she began and 
sang the old familiar and simple " Mary Blane ;" and very well 
she sang it, too— notwithstanding her shyness — ^with her rich 
contralto voice. Colonel Cameron seemed a little surprised. 
He had not heard our Peggy sing before ; and certainly there 
was something in the quality of her singing a little finer than 
the shrill and nasal tones that had rung along the hollow-sound- 
ing underworld through which we had passed ; though even now 
that experience seemed Vio recent that we could abnost hear the 
long and plaintive drawl — 

^ Now nil you gay young marinera 

That sail upon the main, 
I pray you keep yourselves abroad 

And ne*er come home again ; 
From port to port you*ll meet with girls 

That are both kind and free, 
But the girls of this old England 

They'll ne'er get hold o' me." 

That was interesting in its way, and indeed we were grateful to 
the unknown young Orpheus for enlivening our black voyage ; 
but we preferred to be among the silences once more, entirely 
by ourselves in this floating little home, with the cheerful lamps 
lit, and cigars and things.; and with Peggy — her voice deep- 
throated as a nightingale's — ^to lend another charm to the last 
lingering half-hours together, ere we parted for the night. 




'* She was persuaded in the end, and went and got the banjo. 



THB STRANGS ADVENTURES OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 237 



CHAPTER XVI. 

^ But who the melodies of mom can tell ! 
The wild brook babbling down the mountain-side; 
The lowing herd ; the sheepfold's simple bell ; 
The pipe of early shepherd dim descried 
In the lone valley ; echoing far and wide 
The clamorous horn along the cliffs above ; 
The hollow murmur of the ocean-tide ; 
The hum of bees, the Imnet's lay of love. 
And the full choir that wakes the universal grove.*' 

This is a Sunday morning, still and beautiful, the sunlight 
tying wannly over the wide Worcestershire landscape, with its 
far-stretching valleys and copse-crowned hills, its smiling farms 
and mansions half -hidden among woods. The perfect silence 
is hardly lessened, rather it seems heightened, by the universal 
singing of the birds — a multitudinous and joyous din that al- 
most drowns the velvet-soft note of the cuckoo. H Warwick- 
shire chiefly struck us by its sylvan luxuriance, surely we must 
give pre-eminence to this county of Worcester in the matter of 
bird-music ; and well it fits with the pleasant morning, and the 
peaceful country-side, and the prevailing stillness, which, as far 
as we can hear, is not as yet broken by any sound of a church- 
bell. And then, as we are listening, there comes a human voice 
into this domain — a startling thing, for we have grown accus- 
tomed to be the sole possessors of these solitudes — ^and this is 
a stranger's voice we hear in the distance, singing in a high and 
wavering and plaintive key. Then we behold the first of a long 
string of barges. The music draws nearer. We can make out 
phrases — " In the sweet. . . . boi and boi. , . , we shall meet on 
that beautiful shore. . . . In the sweet. . . . boi and boi. . . . we 
shall meet on that beautiful shore."*^ But as the first of the barges 
comes along, the young man who is singing and steering at the 
same time becomes mute ; he glances with a veiled wonder at 
this nondescript boat moored in among the bashes ; and then 



228 THE STRANOS AD VENTURES OF ▲ HOUSE-BOAT. 

he is carried on. The people in the other barges also stare a 
little, in silence. They are very qoiet this morning. Perhaps 
they have been up at an early hour. Or perhaps their somno- 
lent way of life has sunk into their spirits. They regard us 
with a blank look as they pass, and then return to their monot- 
onous task of watching the prow of their boat, with their hand 
or arm on the tiller. 

^'Good-morning!" says Miss Peggy, coming out into the 
white light with her cheeks fresh-tinted as the rose, and her 
speedwell-blue eyes shining. <' This is a surprise ! I made sure 
it was raining hard — ^there was such a pattering on the roof — ^^ 

'^ And didn't you know what the pattering was ?" 

'< Since it wasn't rain, I suppose it was rats." 

" Not at all. It was birds. They were hopping about in 
search of crumbs among all that rubbish that we scraped off in 
the tunnel. Murdoch must get a brush and sweep the roof ; it 
isn't like him to be so neglectful." 

" I know why," she says. " He can hardly take his eyes off 
Colonel Cameron; and he listens to no one else. I suppose 
Colonel Cameron is a great hero in Murdoch's eyes." 

"Well, you see, the Highlanders have a strong regard for 
these old families, although the clans and clanship have long 
been abolished. There isn't much that a Highlander wouldn't 
do for Lochiel, or Cluny, or Lord Lovat, or some of those. And 
then, when any representative of these well-known families dis- 
tinguishes himself, of course the Highlanders are very proud of 
him, and don't make too little of his exploits. At the same 
time, you must remember that Ewen Cameron's name is known 
— slightly — ^to other people besides the Highlanders." 

" I think he is almost too gentle for a soldier, don't you ?" 
she says. " No, I won't say that, for I like him so much, and 
I'm not the least bit afraid of him now. Yes, I like him very 
much indeed ; and that's honest now ; and I don't see how any 
one can help liking him. He is so considerate. Do you notice 
how he never forgets to say something to Murdoch in Gaelic 
when they meet for the first time in the morning ? It is a little 
thing, but I think it is very nice of him. I consider him to be 
just a type of what a perfect gentleman should be in manners — 
I mean, he is nearer my idea of that than any one I have ever 
met He is so natural, and so very kind to you without mak* 



THB STRANGE ADVSNTURXS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 229 

ing any pretence about it ; and never anything is done for dis- 
play ; and then he never worries you with attentions ; perhaps 
it's rather the other way — ^perhaps he is a little stand-offish ; 
but then, you know, he has lived so long among the English 
and their airs of indifference. Well, I like even that in his 
manner. There is a kind of proud simplicity about him, that is 
so different from — ^well, from the kind of mock gallantry that 
young men think so fine. Oh, I wish girls could talk T' 

" Can't they V 

" I wish they were allowed to speak their minds — some peo- 
ple would be surprised I Why, they'll come to you — ^a perfect 
stranger — and they'll profess to be so complaisant, and give 
themselves such fascinating airs, and pretend to be charmed, too, 
by your superior accomplishments ; and they think you're such a 
fool as not to see through it all ! And of course a girl can't say, 
^ Oh, go away and don't make an ass of yourself !' " 

" It certainly would not be usual for a well brought-up young 
lady to speak in that way." 

" It's only their vanity," continues Miss Peggy, with con- 
temptuous vehemence. " And what they say to you they say to 
the next, and to the next dozen, and to the next hundred ; and 
they think that girls are so simple as not to know. Well, we're 
simple enough, but we've ceased to be infants, I suppose — " 

How far her indignation might have carried her, it is impos- 
sible to guess ; but at this moment the door was again opened, 
and out came a tall figure with another ^^ Good-morning !" while 
Miss Peggy was instantly struck silent, and that with some ob- 
vious embarrassment. She even flushed slightly ; and to cover 
her not quite intelligible confusion one had to say quickly, 

" Here is Miss Rosslyn, Cameron, who wants to know all 
about the Highland clans, and the clansmen, and their relations 
to the chiefs. And about the '45 rising too ; she is to be made 
a partisan of Prince Charlie ; she must be turned into a Jacobite 
if there's going to be any peace and quietude on board this boat 
And who can do that better than yourself ?" 

*< Oh, no," he said, with a smile, ^' no, no, no ; all that is past 
and gone now. Chiefs and clansmen are alike loyal nowadays ; 
we are the queen's * loyal Highlanders,' and proud to wear the 
title." 

^* Yes, but don't you understand^" one says to him, " how in- 



230 THS 8TEANOX ADVXNTURI8 OF ▲ HOUSE-BOAT. 

teresting it mast be to an ingenaoas young student from Amer- 
ica, where all the institutions and habits and customs are com- 
paratively new, to hear of this very old-world state of society ; 
yes, and to hear of it from one related to the people who were 
'out' in the '45 r 

" Well, when you think of it," says Inverf ask (for Miss Peggy 
has not a word to say for herself, having been in some myste- 
rious kind of way '^ caught "), '' it does seem strange that the 
clan-system was actually in existence in the last century, and 
within a couple of days' ride— -or a single day's ride, you might 
almost say — ^f rom the city of Edinburgh. And very little the 
good people of Edinburgh knew about the Highlanders and 
their ways. I suppose you never heard the story of what hap- 
pened to Lord Kilmarnock at Falkirk ; it is in Chambers' ' His- 
tory of the Rebellion,' and you should get that book. Miss 
Rosslyn, if you are at all curious to know about that time. 
Lord Kilmarnock had raised a troop of horse for the prince, 
and had been with him all through the expedition into England, 
and all through the retreat, and so must have got some knowl- 
edge of the clansmen and their customs. But what happened 
at Falkirk no doubt puzzled him. The day after the battle, the 
prince and he were looking down from the window of a house in 
the town, and to their surprise they saw a soldier coming along in 
the English uniform, and wearing a black cockade in his hat — " 

" P©ggy»" interposes a small person, who has insinuated her- 
self into this group after a brief " Good-morning " all round, " of 
course you know that the white cockade was the Stewart badge : 

* There grows a bonnie brier-bush in our kail-yard. 
And white are the blossoms o*t in our kail-yard.' " 

" Their first impression," our colonel resumed, " was that this 
straggler might perhaps be some hare-brained adventurer who 
had come along intending to shoot at the prince ; however. Lord 
Kilmarnock immediately went downnstairs and into the street, 
went up to the man, struck off his hat, and put his foot on the 
black cockade. The next moment one of the Highlanders stand- 
ing by had rushed on Lord Kilmarnock and shoved him away ; 
Kilmarnock instantly pulled out his pistol and presented it at 
his assailant ; the Highlander drew his dirk ; and goodness only 
knows what would have happened if a number of the Highland- 



TBX STRAKOX ADVXNTURX8 OF A H0U8X-B0AT. 231 

er's companions had not interposed on behalf of their comrade 
and driven Lord Kilmarnock off. And what was it all about ? 
Why, the man with the black cockade was a Cameron who had 
been in an English regiment, and who, of coarse, deserted to 
join the standard of his chief as soon as he got the chance ; and, 
being a Cameron, the other Camerons standing around would 
not have him interfered with by any one, whatever his rank. 
This was a matter for the clan and the chief of the clan with 
which no outsider could intermeddle. ^ No one in the princess 
army,' they said, < had the right to take the cockade out of the 
man's hat except Lochiel himself.' And if the Edinburgh and 
Glasgow people," Inverfask continued (seeing that Miss Peggy 
was an attentive listener), ^^ were afraid of those wild folk from 
the hills, you may imagine what the English villagers thought of 
theuL That must have been an odd experience for Lochiel — 
the < Gentle Lochiel' they called him in the north — when he 
went into the lodgings assigned him — somewhere in England it 
was — and found his landlady on her knees before him, entreat- 
ing him to take her life, but spare her two little children. I sup- 
pose he did not look much of an ogre ; for when he told her he 
did not mean to harm any one, she answered that it was the 
general belief that the Highlanders made small children a com- 
mon article of food. Then, when he still further reassured her, 
she called aloud, ^ Come out, children, the gentleman will not 
eat you ;' and the trembling creatures came out of a clothes- 
press where they had been hidden. Indeed, the bulk of those 
Highlanders must have looked like savages to the English peo- 
ple, accustomed to their trim soldiers. Their very weapons were 
the weapons of savages." 

Here Murdoch's bell tinkled, and we all had to troop into the 
little breakfast-table in the saloon; but now that Queen Tita 
had found Colonel Cameron willing to improve and inform the 
mind of her young American friend, she was not going to let 
him abandon the task. 

"I'm afraid. Sir Ewen," she said, "you'll have to give Peggy 
a good deal of information ; she has never been through the 
hall at Inverfask, you know." 

" Well," he said, " isn't it odd to think that only in the last 
century our own countrymen were going into battle with a tar- 
get made of wood and bull's-hide, and studded with brass nails, 



232 THE STRANOX ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

on their left arm to protect them? It is hardly to be wondered 
at that the English were bewildered by the manner of fighting 
of those wild Highlanders. This was what they did — if Miss 
Rosslyn cares to know. The front rank was composed almost 
entirely of gentlemen — connected by blood with the chief, that 
is — and they were armed with the leather target, a musket, a 
claymore, pistols, and dirk; the rear rank had any kind of 
weapon they could lay their hand on — sometimes a scythe or a 
sickle attached to a pole. When the line charged, tiie High- 
landers rushed forward until they were quite at close quarters ; 
fired their muskets and threw them away; drew their clay- 
mores and again rushed forward, receiving the bayonets of the 
enemy on their targets, that almost entirely covered them ; then 
they twisted aside the bayonet-point fixed in the target, and 
found the helpless English soldier at their mercy. The fury of 
this first onslaught is said on all hands to have been incredible : 
why, at CuUoden, there was one of the Mackintoshes — John 
Mor Macgilvray, I think was his name — hewed his way into the 
English lines a gun-shot past the cannons, and he had a dozen 
men lying killed around him before they could get him de- 
spatched. Well, that was not the reason that made Macdonald 
of Keppoch keep up a hopeless struggle, when everything was 
lost. You remember, the Macdonalds were mortally offended 
because at Culloden they were given the left of the line, where- 
as they had always fought on the right ; the consequence was, 
they refused to move; they stood the enemy's fire with the 
greatest coolness and courage, but nothing could induce them 
to charge ; and, at last, with the general retreat, they turned 
also and fied. When Keppoch saw that he cried aloud, * My 
God, have the children of my tribe forsaken me ?' — doesn't it 
sound like something you have read of in the Old Testament ? — 
and he rushed forward, alone, to certain death. He fell wound- 
ed ; and even then one of his followers tried to get him to leave 
the field ; but no, he went forward again, received another shot, 
and fell dead. And well it was," continued Inverfask, in a low- 
er voice, and with a darker light in his eye, " that he fell dead. 
He might have lain on the field that night, and the next day, 
too, until it pleased the Butcher to send out his platoons of 
musketry in order to put the wounded out of their pain. I 
believe that was his phrase." 



THE.BTRANOB ADVBNTURES OF A HOUBK-BOAT. 233 

Then he seemed to reflect that this was rather a gloomy sub- 
ject for a bright and cheerful Sunday morning in Worcester- 
shire; and he began to talk to his hostess about the use of 
these old claymores and cavalry pistols and dirks in the way of 
decoration, and to warn her against the sham targets manufact- 
ured — dints and all — ^in Edinburgh for the embellishment of 
hotel smoking-rooms and the halls of rich Glasgow merchants. 

"But, Colonel Cameron," said Miss Peggy, harking back, 
" are the Highlaiiders of the present day, are your Highland 
soldiers, anything like those clansmen who followed Charles 
Edward into England?" 

" Well," he said, with a smile, " you wouldn't find much out- 
ward likeness between a Highland regiment of to-day and the 
men who came down from the hills with Clanronald and Glen- 
garry and the rest of them. But our present Highlanders have 
inherited a good many of their qualities — ^f or you don't change 
the instincts of a race in a century and a half. As all the world 
knows, they are brave — what the Highland regiments have done 
in the British army would be a long story to tell ; they are im- 
mensely proud of their nationality ; they are warmly devoted to 
such officers as they like ; and they need to be humored a little. 
Colin Campbell never did a more astute thing in his life than 
when he announced to the Forty-second, the Ninety-third, and 
the Seventy-ninth, just after they had won the heights of Alma, 
that he meant to ask the commander-in-chief for permission 
to wear the Highland bonnet during the rest of the campaign. 
It was an adroit compliment; he himself wrote home how 
pleased the men were. And I have no doubt that the one occa- 
sional defect of the Highland soldier, his impetuosity — his 
anxiety to come to close quarters and carry everything with 
a rush — ^is inherited from the clansmen. You remember how 
Sir Colin had to roar at the Ninety-third when they went for- 
ward at Balaclava ? — ' Ninety-third, Ninety-third, damn all that 
eagerness !' Well, he had no reason to complain of their want 
of steadiness when they were at length formed in position: 
the ^ thin red line,' and how it withstood the charge of the Rus- 
sian cavalry, and broke them, and hurled them back, will not 
be forgotten soon, I think. Indeed, Sir Colin must have had a 
fair amount of confidence in his Highlanders when he did not 
form them into square to receive that tremendous charge ; they 



234 THB BTRANGE ADYENTCTRES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

were not even in f onrs ; they were only two deep ; and every 
one, Dr. Ansell wrote at the time, stopped, breathless, to watch 
the ' bursting of the wave upon the line of Gaelic rock.' Fm 
afraid the clansmen could not have withstood a charge like 
that," continued Colonel Cameron, addressing himself mainly to 
the young American lady, who, strangely enough, seems a hun- 
dred times more interested in hearing of these deeds of blood 
and battle than in listening to Jack Buncombe's literary disqui- 
sitions and his cursing of the critics. '' No, the first rush was 
everything with them. Prestonpans — where they first met the 
English, as you know — was the work of a few minutes, so head- 
long was their assault. Lochiel told his followers to strike at 
the noses of the horses, so as to produce confusion in the Eng- 
lish ranks ; but they never got the chance ; the dragoons bolted 
straight away." 

<< ^ They a' ran awa', ran awa', frae the hundred pipers and a' 
and a' V " says our twopenny-halfpenny Jacobite at the head of 
the table ; and at the same moment Captain Columbus makes 
his appearance without, and presently Murdoch is standing at 
the door of the saloon, awaiting orders. 

Now, this being Sunday, Queen Tita would rather have given 
our gay young mariners and their diligent horse a rest ; but, as 
appeared from our noble captain's report, there were ominous 
rumors abroad among the canal-folk of intended repairs some- 
where or other; and he himself was distinctly of opinion that 
we should at least push forward and get through the two tun- 
nels. So we assented to that, poled the boat across to the tow- 
path, had the line affixed to the harness, and were once more 
gliding along. 

But when we came to the first of the tunnels, we found we 
had just missed the steam-launch, which had disappeared with 
its long convoy into that black hole in the earth ; and as there 
was now a considerable time for us to wait, we all got ashore, 
and proceeded to explore the neighboring wood, which is known 
as Shortwood Dingle. And a very picturesque wood this turned 
out to be — ^here and there showing wide clearances, where the 
trees had been felled ; here and there dipping down into a deep 
hollow, where one could hardly get through the tangled bushes. 
And we had not been strolling very far when we discovered that 
we had come into the land of which the poets fable. The wild* 



THE STRANGB ADYKKTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 23d 

flowers were all wrong. We had noticed in the Warwickshire 
woods a kind of tendency on the part of Nature to jnmble up 
the times and seasons; but that was nothing to the anachro- 
nisms we encountered here. We remembered charges we had 
brought against Milton, Shakespeare, Bums (Bums, curiously 
enough, is never wrong in his poetry ; it is when he is writing 
inflated prose that he trips up), and others, and we were filled 
with remorse of conscience. For in these open spaces between 
the felled stumps, and in the glades between the bushes, and 
down in the moist dells, amid all the profusion of bloom, the 
customary dates of the coming and going of the earlier wild- 
flowers of the year seemed to have been quite disregarded. 
Here, for example, were scattered patches of the red campion 
(Lychnis diurna), which, properly speaking, is a June and July 
flower. There, between the trees, were sheets of the wild hy- 
acinth, making a blue as of the sky overhead. Everywhere, 
among the dank grass, were pale yellow clusters of primroses ; 
and the primrose is usually held to be an April visitant (we were 
now well on in May), though the present writer has occasionally 
found an odd specimen as late as August. However, the matter 
of times and seasons bothered us little ; here was a rare abun- 
dance of blossoms : the white stars of the stitchwort (Stellaria 
holostea); the tender-hued yellow dead-nettle; the darker-col- 
ored cowslip ; the purple self-heal ; the modest violet among its 
smooth, dark leaves ; the bright little flower of the wild straw- 
berry, and many another old familiar friend. For the rest, we 
found this Shortwood Dingle rather a dampish place ; but even 
in the deeper hollows the crude greens of the evly summer were 
tempered by the russets and browns of the fallen oak-leaves, and 
the sunlight striking down here and there spread a soft radiance 
around. 

Miss Peggy was busy. She said the sconces in the saloon 
had never been properly decorated. Now she would have one 
entirely surrounded with cowslips, another with wild hyacinths, 
another with yellow dead-nettle, the fourth with red campion, 
while an indiscriminate mass of blossoms might adorn the table. 
Mrs. Threepenny-bit wanted to know (as if anybody could tell 
her) why Shakespeare, among all his references to wild-flowers, 
never mentions the hyacinth or blue-bell, though it must be 
much more common in these parts (this was her contention) 



236 THE STRANQB ADVBNTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

tlian the ^' azure hare-bell '' that was to strew the grave of Imo- 
gen. Colonel Cameron, when he was not talking to the women, 
was chiefly on the outlook for pheasants, of which we saw none. 
And so we wandered along through the picturesque dingle, and 
up to a height from which there is a wide view over the adjacent 
country, and eventually back to the canal, where there were now 
several boats besides our own awaiting the arrival of the steam- 
launch. 

When that far from gay vessel arrived, we were all water- 
proofed and ready for the ordeal — ^all except Mrs. Threepen- 
ny-bit, who preferred to sit by herself in the saloon, awaiting 
events, and consoling herself with the reflection that these two 
Tardebigg tunnels were shorter than the West Hill one. Short- 
er we found them, but also much darker ; indeed, absolutely 
dark, for the bargemen did not seem to consider it necessary to 
light their lamps on this occasion. Accordingly, one had to 
steer by touch — that is to say, by the scraping of the boat on 
one or the other side of the tunnel ; and as the second of these 
subterranean ways is hewn out of solid rock, the poor NameUss 
Barge suffered many a rude knock in her laborious passage. But 
Miss Peggy had grown quite fearless now. She begged to be 
allowed to steer — a request that was instantly and distinctly re- 
fused, for we did not want to be drowned like rats in a drain. 
She even, in a quite unconcerned way (to judge by her tone, 
for one could not get even a glimmering outline of her) re- 
turned to the subject of the Highland regiments and the sur- 
viving traces of clanship and comradeship — ^as if one could listen 
to the idle chatter of tiis long-limbed school-girl while piloting 
a valuable argosy through unknown deeps. So we scraped and 
tore our way along first the one tunnel, and then — ^with an in- 
terval of smooth sailing in the white day — through its rock- 
hewn successor, until, ahead of us in the dark, there grew up 
and waxed brighter and brighter a sort of fuliginous, confused, 
opalescent glare ; then finally we plunged into that bewildering 
glory — ^bronze-hued or saSron-hued it appeared as we approached 
it — ^and suddenly emerged into a sunlit greenness of foliage and 
the quietude of the outer world. 

<^ How many more of these tunnels shall we have to go 
through?^' asks Queen Tita, and it would seem that the more 
she sees of them the less she likes them. 



TBB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 237 

'^ Not another one ; that is the last. The next possible dan- 
ger we have to face is going down the Severn, and I dare say we 
shall be able to manage somehow. < We^U warsle through.' " 

" Oh, I don't mind what it is, so long as there is daylight," she 
says ; and then she adds, looking back to the low archway of 
t^ tunnel, '< but I confess I am not anxious for any more expe- 
riences of that kind." 

" But just think of the story you will have to tell when you 
go back to London !" says Miss Peggy, putting her arm round 
her friend's neck for a moment, as she is passing along to her 
cabin, to get the sand and wet out of her pretty brown hair. 

This was a strange sort of afternoon. We were now at a very 
considerable elevation, and could overlook a vast extent of coun- 
try stretching away on both sides of us ; but there was a pale 
mist lying over the land, with which the faint sunlight was in- 
effectually struggling ; and here and there, indeed, the far wood- 
ed heights seemed to rise out of a sea of white fog. The map 
informed us of the hilly nature of the neighborhood — Shadow 
Hill, Turret Hill, Breakneck Hill, Hill-top, and so on ; but all 
that we could make out was a ghostly kind of landscape loom- 
ing through the gray vapor, sometimes catching a pale yellow 
tone from a shaft of sunlight, sometimes showing darker ridges 
of trees, high in air, rising out of the formless chaos in the val- 
leys beneath. It was grievous that we should thus be cheated 
out of the wide prospect, but in any case we had soon to de- 
scend from our lofty position ; we came to a series of no fewer 
than six-and-thirty locks, and, working our way laboriously down 
through these, we found ourselves close to Stoke Prior. It only 
remains to be noted that, just as we reached the foot of that 
long flight of steps and stairs, Mrs. Threepenny-bit and Miss 
Peggy, who happened to be in the saloon together, made a re- 
markable discovery. They discovered that the glass had risen 
very considerably. This was such joyous news that they must 
needs come rushing forth to proclaim it ; and, apparently, it 
gave them so much pleasure that it was not worth while inform- 
ing the innooent young things that the aneroid had risen, not to 
announce any change in the weather, but simply because we had 
descended from the heights to the plain. 

It was a social afternoon, too. We had an abundance of vis- 
itors. The people belonging to the chemical works near Stoke 



288 THB BTRANGE ADYSNTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

had come out for their Sunday-evening stroll, they and their 
families, and the banks of the canal seemed to be their favorite 
promenade. We were so fortunate as to be able to afford them 
quite a novel excitement and cause of wonder ; and the curios- 
ity with which they examined the boat, and the inmates of thp 
boat, and tried to get glimpses of the interior of the saloon, was 
of the most open and simple and ingenuous kind. 

" They look as if they would like very much to be invited on 
board," Queen Tita said. 

" If we stop anywhere, I shall try to get some of the children 
on board," Inverfask made answer. " It will be a raree-show 
for them to remember for years." 

And he was as good as his word — or tried to be. A bridge 
stopped us for a minute or two, and there happened to be a num- 
ber of small folk on the bank, both boys and girls. But they 
were not to be enticed. He wheedled and coaxed. Miss Peggy 
helping him, without avail ; either they stared with stolid eyes 
or grinned and hung back. On the other hand, two bland and 
healthy-cheeked young rustics, of abou-t eighteen or twenty, in- 
formed us that they had to tramp that night all the way to Wor- 
cester, and were so kind as to offer us their society for as far as 
we might be going. We were obliged to decline that amiable 
proposal. And so, gradually leaving behind us the last twos 
and threes of that vagrant population, we sailed smoothly on by 
Summer Hill and Hadsor, and Dunhamstead and Oddingley, 
while the gray mists around us deepened, and the dusk came 
over the voiceless land. 

We were at length forced to call a halt, and ask Captain Co- 
lumbus if he had any idea where he was going to put up for the 
night. He said he had not. On consulting the map, we found 
the only place with a name in this neighborhood was called Tib- 
berton ; and we advised him and the horse-marine to go in quest 
of it, before it became quite dark. Accordingly off they went, 
leaving us to our solitude ; and we were not sorry when all the 
lamps and candles were lit in the saloon, shutting out those pale 
swathes of mist, and shining cheerfully on the white cloth of the 
dinner-table, now gay with the Shortwood Dingle flowers. 

And then it was — at dinner — ^that Queen Tita skilfully drew 
aur colonel on to talk about Inverfask House and the trophies 
m the hall there, and 1745, and kindred matters; and this he 



THE 8TRANOB ADVBNTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 239 

did freely enough, for these were not his own exploits or expe- 
riences he was asked to speak about, and he could not but see 
that the young American lady was very much interested. 
. " And naturally it is interesting to you," he said to her, " for 
America has never come through any such phase of civilization ; 
and it is indeed a survival of a state of society unknown any- 
where else in Europe. That is why I think we ought to have 
some great historical picture to preserve its appearance for ua 
Perhaps there is some such thing ; I don't know ; I have been 
so much abroad that I am not familiar with the public galleries ; 
but there ought to be such a picture — in Edinburgh, for exam- 
ple. I don't mean mere incidents in the Jacobite rebellions, but 
a general picture of the Highland army — say, as it appeared on 
the morning of the Battle of Prestonpans. Don't you think it 
would be very striking ? I mean just before the battle began, 
when the sun rolled away the mist, showing the Highland lines 
— the gentlemen in the front rank, with targets and claymores 
and dirks ; about the middle of the line, the chief of the clan 
and his immediate kinsmen ; the rear rank made up of his half- 
armed followers — unkempt, wild-haired, wiry-looking men from 
the hills, many of them bare-legged and barefooted from the 
long marching. It was just before the charge that the whole 
mass of them removed their bonnets and offered up a short 
prayer : wouldn't that make a striking scene for a painter f" 

"And who led the charge, Peggy? And who first sent the 
English dragoons flying ? It was the clan Cameron !" interposed 
Mrs. Threepenny-bit, with a kind of triumph ; and a very pretty 
speech it was — for an Englishwoman to make. 

" I wonder," continued our colonel, " if any one has ever 
painted the meeting of Prince Charlie with the Seven Men of 
Glenmorriston ? — ^that is a very picturesque incident, now." 

" Who were they ?" Miss Peggy asked at once. 

" Well, if you are at all interested in the story of the prince's 
wanderings — ^and it is an interesting story — ^I hope you will al- 
low me to send you the * Journal of the Miraculous Escape of 
the Young Chevalier,' " said he. " It has been reprinted ; I will 
send you a copy of the little book — " 

" Oh, thank you very much," said she, dutifully. " But who 
were the men you spoke of ?" 

" Sometimes," said this most amiable of historians, to his in- 



240 THE 8TBANGB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

tensely interested audience of two — ^two crazy women, that is to 
say — " sometimes they are described as noted thieves and rob- 
bers, who lived in a cave in the mountains, subsisting on such 
plunder as they could get ; but I believe the truth is they were 
simply a small band of men who had been in the princess army 
and who had been grievously ill-treated by the English — de- 
spoiled of everything they possessed — and had retired to these 
wilds, swearing an oath to be revenged on the government troops 
and all their allies. However that may be, starvation compelled 
the prince to throw himself on the mercy of these outlaws. He 
and his attendants had been wandering among the hills for forty- 
eight hours without food of any kind ; they had no means of 
conmiunicating with Lochiel or any of. the others who were also 
skulking in the mountains ; and, as a last resource, Glenaladale 
—or his brother, I forget which — ^advised that they should seek 
out those men in the cave. That must have been a striking in- 
cident, don't you think, when the prince, all ragged and emaci- 
ated with his sufferings, was brought into the den in the rocks, 
where those half-savage fellows, who couldn't talk a word of 
English, had secreted themselves. Glenaladale introduced the 
prince to them as young Clanranald, but they recognized him at 
once, and constituted themselves his bodyguard, swearing an 
oath, in Gaelic, to be faithful to him — ^" 

" And mind you, Peggy," Queen Tita again interposes (so wild 
is she about these Highland folk), *^ mind you, Peggy, any one 
of those poor wretches could at any moment, and without any 
danger or trouble, have gone to the nearest military station and 
claimed £30,000 for telling where the prince was." 

" Chambers says," continues Colonel Cameron, and of course 
it is chiefly for Miss Peggy's edification that he is recalling these 
old stories, " that those poor fellows kept their oath so well that 
they never mentioned the prince's name until a twelvemonth 
after he had escaped to France. And when he, on first trusting 
his safety to them, proposed that Glenaladale and himself should 
also take an oath of fidelity towards them, pledging every one of 
the party to stand by the others to the last, they said no ; they 
did not require that." 

" And yet they say that a prince who could inspire such he- 
roic devotion was a contemptible person !" the smaller woman 
exclaimed, with proud lips. 



THK STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 241 

" A contemptible person he was not," said Cameron, gravely. 
" He had the stuff in him of a capable soldier, and it was a 
grievous misfortune he was ever led away by promises from the 
French court to attempt an enterprise that cost many a brave 
man his life and ruined many a family. I suppose claimants 
for thrones don't take such things into account. Anyway, it 
would have been a bad day for both England and Scotland if he 
had succeeded ; every one knows that, and every one may ac- 
knowledge as much and yet admit that Charles Edward was an 
able and intrepid soldier, a generous and high-spirited compan- 
ion — even in the worst of his troubles — and a gallant prince. It 
is conceded by every one who came in contact with him, from 
the chiefs of the clans who ventured their fortunes for him to 
the poor wretched islanders who perilled their lives for him, and 
who, years and years after, could never hear his name mentioned 
without tears rushing into their eyes. That is not the kind of 
enthusiasm and strong and devoted affection that is awakened 
by any contemptible person." 

Queen Tita seemed very happy all the rest of this evening, 
and was most effusively kind to Colonel Cameron ; and she said 
that, if Miss Rosslyn should happen to be in the Highlands with 
us that autumn, she hoped he would allow these two to pay a 
visit — in his absence, of course — ^to Inverfask House, so that 
Miss Rosslyn should see the hall and its contents. Colonel Cam- 
eron answered that to invite any one to visit a house with the 
owner of it absent was not what was generally considered a 
Highland welcome ; and, if he only knew about what time these 
two friends were likely to be in the neighborhood of Inverfask, 
it would be hard if he could not find a few days in which to go 
north to receive them. And Miss Peggy seemed mightily pleased, 
too ; but whether it was at the notion of inspecting Inverfask 
House, or from some other cause, one could not definitely say. 
16 L 



242 THB BTBANGB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 



CHAPTER XVn. 

^' Now he goes on, and sings of fairs and shows. 
For still new fairs before his eyes arose. 
How pedler's stalls with glittering toys are laid, 
The various fairings of the country maid. 
Long silken laces hang upon the twine, 
And rows of pins and amber bracelets shine ; 
How the tight lass knives, combs, and scissors spies, 
And looks on thimbles with desiring eyes. 
Of lotteries next with tuneful note he told 
Where silver spoons are won, and rings of gold. 
The lads and lasses trudge the street along. 
And all the fair is crowded in his song.'* 

Next morning our women-folk, though they did not say much, 
betrayed a quite remarkable eagerness and animation ; and we 
could guess the cause ; for we had discovered by the map that 
we were not more than half a dozen miles from Worcester ; and 
no doubt such imagination as Heaven had vouchsafed to these 
two creatures was already running riot in shops and purchases. 
And yet it seemed hard to believe that we were in the imme- 
diate neighborhood of a great and ancient city, whose story told 
of sieges and fires and massacres, whose streets had resounded 
with the din of battle and the shouts of victorious hosts. Here, 
in a kind of dreamlike haze of sunlight, lay quiet fields and 
meadows ; the elms and the hawthorns scarcely stirred a leaf ; 
the only living thing we could see was a pheasant stalking warily 
through the long grass and eying us from time to time — his 
plumage ablaze among the green. Then there were the yellow 
waters of the canal ; a small red bridge in the distance ; some 
farther groups of trees ; that was all. Not a sound anywhere 
— even the birds had forsaken us. 

" Yes, Miss Peggy," one says to the young lady, when we are 
all assembled at breakfast, " you must scold Captain Columbus 
for being late. It is easy to understand why you are anxious to 
push on. We know what your head is fuii of at this moment. 



TBS BTBAKGS ADVBNTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 243 

Shops — gloves — laces — white-rose scent — and things of that 
kind ? No, no. You are a danghter of the Great Republic of 
the West ; and, of course, you are anxious to see the scene of 
Cromwell's last battle — ^the < crowning mercy ' that established 
the Commonwealth." 

" Peggy," says Mrs. Threepenny-bit, with innocent eyes, "you 
haven't been studying English history for some time back — I 
was quite forgetting — ^" 

" Oh, you hold your tongue !" one continues. " There is 
only one period of history that is of any importance in your 
eyes. You see everything from an angle of '45 degrees — 1746, 
I mean ; nothing else has any interest for you. But you. Miss 
Peggy : well, we will show you the cathedral-tower where Charles 
II. and his Council of War stood and watched Fleetwood build- 
ing his bridge of boats across the Severn ; and we will show you 
the spot where the lord -general massed his forces, bringing 
them along by Stratford-on-Avon and Evesham and Pershore." 

" Was Cromwell ever at Stratford-on-Avon ?" she says, quickly, 
as if that were a very curious circumstance. 

" Certainly. And we will show you where Fleetwood crossed 
the Teme, and drove the Scotch, fighting hard, back into the 
suburbs of the town ; and where Cromwell, on the other side of 
the Severn, had to give way for a time before the final charge." 

" Is there a theatre in Worcester ?" asks Queen Tita, with 
shocking irrelevance ; the fate of Charles 11. is as nothing to 
her; that is not the one of the Stuart family who enlists her 
sympathy. 

" There is." 

" Then we must take Peggy ; she has never been to a provin- 
cial theatre in England ; and her education can't be completed 
without that. Then I mean to send a telegram to Bell, just to 
remind her of old times ; how strange it will be to be in Wor- 
cester again !" 

" And I shall have a whole heap of letters, I know," says Miss 
Peggy. 

" And I am trying to make myself believe that I shall find a 
box of cigars packed among my things that are coming from 
Aldershot," observed our oolonel, somewhat wistfully ; so that 
it will be seen there was a plentiful variety of reasons why we 
should gird a little at Captain Columbus being late. 



244 THE STRANGE ADYBNTURSS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

Bat when that trastworthy fanctionary appeared, the delay 
was easily explained. It turned out that Tibberton had entirely 
declined to shelter them for the night. No lodging of any kind 
or description could be found, either there or in the surrounding 
neighborhood. So they had come wandering back to the canal ; 
and at last they had met with a most hospitable lock-keeper, 
who not only offered them the use of his parlor for the night, 
but was so Mnd as to provide them with a modest supper, and, 
moreover, showed them some kind of shed or another where 
they could put up the horse. We began to wonder how many 
centuries ago it was that Tibberton received its name of ^^ the 
holy town ;" and whether it was a resort of pious pilgrims, and 
a populous and famous place ; and why it had so completely 
and lamentably fallen away from its high fortunes : in the midst 
of which aimless speculations Captain Columbus had once more 
attached our motive power, and presently we were smoothly 
gliding onwards and towards the city of Worcester. 

Now it soon became apparent that Colonel Cameron had not 
forgotten the proposal of the previous evening, that Miss Peggy 
and her friend should pay a visit to Inverfask that autumn ; on 
the contrary, it seemed to have a kind of fascination for him ; 
he returned to it again and again, and always on the assumption 
that it was an accepted engagement. 

" I only wish you could remain there long enough to become 
thoroughly acquainted with the people," said he to the young 
lady, as she was considerately helping to steer the boat with 
her bronze-slippered foot on the tiller. " They may have their 
faults—" 

" But which. Sir Ewen ?" interposed Queen Tita, promptly ; 
the notion that her beloved Highland folk could have any faults 
seemed to startle her. 

" Well," said he, rather evasively, " for one thing, I think they 
are a little apt to tell you what they imagine will please you, 
rather than be strictly accurate — " 

" Indeed, then, I don't find much to object to in an excess of 
courtesy !" she says, at once. " It is 'a good deal preferable to 
boorishness. Most other people wouldn't take the trouble to 
make things pleasant for you. I'm afraid. Sir Ewen, you will 
have to find some other fault with my Highlanders !" 

" But I was going to tell Miss Rosslyn what was certainly not 



THE STRANGE ADVEMT0RE8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 245 

one of their faults/' said he, '^ and that is ingratitude. If a lady 
lives among them, and is a little kind to them — ^friendly in her 
manner, I mean — it is wonderful the affection they will show 
towards her, and the pride they will take in doing her little ser- 
vices. And then there's another thing : they are the only peas- 
antry I have ever met with who have the knack of saying pretty 
and nice things ; the rudest of them — " 

" But, Sir Ewen, there are none of them rude !" Mrs. Three- 
penny-bit exclaimed. 

He laughed. 

" They have won your heart, at all events. But what I was 
going to say is that they have an extraordinary faculty for pay- 
ing you pretty little compliments, making nice, friendly little 
speeches." 

" Ah, don't I know that !" she said again. 

<^And then you must remember that English is a foreign 
tongue to them; that makes it all the more astonishing; but 
they are a quick-witted race." 

" I think it is their disposition," said she. '^ If people are 
well-disposed towards you, and naturally obliging and courteous, 
the chance always comes, and the phrase too. Look at Mur- 
doch, now. I know he is disappointed with this boat — ashamed 
of it, most likely. He is lamenting day by day that we haven't 
a yacht, away there in the West Highlands ; but would he say 
it ? He would not. I wish. Sir Ewen, you would ask him some 
time what he really thinks of England — I mean when I am not 
by; for he knows I am an Englishwoman, and he would be 
sure to say something nice out of kindness to me." 

Now just at this moment Murdoch happened to come forth 
from the saloon. He had smartened himself up after his morn- 
ing's work ; and he now timidly inquired of the young lady if 
he was not wanted at the tiller. 

" Oh, no, thank you, Murdoch," said she, most pleasantly, " I 
mean to steer all the way in to Worcester." 

And then it was that Colonel Cameron, tempted by the oppor- 
tunity, and forgetting half his hostess's injunction, asked Mur- 
doch what he thought of England. 

" Murdoch, what do you think of this country, now that you 
have seen so much of it ?" 

It was a shame. The poor lad glanced nervously at **the 



246 THl BTRANGB ADVEKTURKS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

mufitress," as lie was used to call her. For this was a kind of 
public challenge ; his truthfulness was at stake ; and yet here 
was she, an Englishwoman, regarding him. But he was equal 
to the occasion, after all; for he took refuge in his native 
tongue. 

" ^Si duthaieh bhriagh, a tK innte gu dearhh ; acKi fhearr 
leamsa' ^bki am duthaieh fheiuy'^ said he, with averted eyes ; 
and then he withdrew into the interior of the boat, making his 
way up to the bow, where he remained on guard. 

" What did he say ?" asked Mrs. Threepenny-bit, as soon as 
he was out of hearing. 

Sir Ewen smiled a little. 

" Perhaps you won't think it very complimentary. He said : 
^ It is a beautiful country^ without any doubt ; but I would rather 
be in my own country,^ A little touch of homesickness; that 
is all." 

" Indeed, I don't see what else he could have said," said she, 
warmly. " If it comes to that — Well, I wish I were there too !" 

"What!" cries Peggy. 

" Oh, well, I am quite content with this expedition," she ad- 
mits, in a half-hearted sort of way. " Yes ; I wouldfl't have 
missed it. It has been a very unusual experience; and most 
interesting at times ; I should have been extremely sorry to have 
missed it. Still — still — Well, I won't be so ungrateful as to say 
anything against it; for we have had many, many delightful 
days, in the strangest kind of places ; and some of the most 
delightful evenings I ever spent in my life — haven't we, Peggy ? 
And all I will say is this, that when we get you out among the 
western islands, far away there in the North, and in a proper 
sort of yacht, you will find it a little different : that is all I will 
say." 

" In other words," says Miss Peggy, gravely, " * This is a 
beautiful country, without any doubt ; but I would rather be in 
my own country.' " 

And then she turns to Colonel Cameron, and regards him for 
a swift second in a curious sort of way. 

" Sir Ewen, do the people up there look upon you with any 
of the old clanship feeling, because of the name and the history 
of your family ?" 

" Oh, no, no," said he ; " whatever of that exists now among 



THE 8TRANGB ADVENTURBS OF A HOUBB-BOAT. 247 

the Camerons goes naturally to Lochiel. He is chief of the clan. 
Among the Camerons, whether they are in Argyllshire, or In- 
vemessHshire, or in the backwoods of Canada, Lochiel is every- 
body ; I am nobody." 

" There are some I know in the Highlands," puts in Queen 
Tita, " who would not like to hear that said by any one else of 
* The CoameL' " 

And in this wise we stole along through the still landscape ; 
making our way under small red bridges, and between woods 
and upland slopes and fertile plains, until we drew near to the 
ancient city. The approach to Worcester by way of the canal 
is extremely pleasant ; there are suburban villas on sloping banks 
and surrounded with gardens, which, at this time of the year, 
were a mass of blossom. The wharves, when we got to them, 
were not so captivating, of course ; yet we had Httle reason to 
complain ; for we found the people very good-natured ; one firm 
of wharfingers, in especial — whom we had no opportunity of 
thanking when we left — ^being so kind as to furnish us with a 
snug little berth for the Nameless Barge, and giving us free 
right of way through their premises. Accordingly, when we had 
got our things packed, we left them to be brought along by our 
crew ; and started off for the town, and for the Unicom Hotel. 

And what a wild Maelstrom of a place was this into which 
we now plunged ! The pavements were impassable with crowds 
of people ; our eyes were bewildered with the staring shop win- 
dows and signs ; our ears distracted with the rattle of innumer- 
able wheels. Our faint recollection of Worcester had been that 
it was rather an old-fashioned and sleepy town : now we found 
ourselves suddenly transferred from the remoteness and the 
silence of those pastoral wanderings into the full roaring blast 
of nineteenth-century life. The coffee-room at the Unicom 
Hotel seemed a large hall. We had almost forgotten what kind 
of rooms we wanted. And as for dinner, how could we fix the 
hour even without Murdoch's adroit advice ? We felt ourselves 
in a measure helpless, come out of another world, stranded upon 
an unknown shore. And then we became conscious that it was 
not we who ought to be bewildered, but the landlady, on find- 
ing herself confronted by a group of strangers, who had arrived 
on foot, and without luggage, and yet who apparently had some 
vague kind of desire to remain. 



248 THB STRANG! ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

'< I expected moats and battlements — agates, portcullises, draw- 
bridges, and so on," said Miss Peggy, as we sat at lunch (we 
had at length sunmioned courage to make known our wants; 
and found that, although we hailed from the dim regions of 
Arcady, the trim waitress at the Unicorn sufficiently understood 
our speech) ; " but it is quite a modem city." 

'^ It is not a warlike town any longer,'* her hostess admitted ; 
<< it is more of an ecclesiastical town : wait till we take you to 
the cathedral, and show you all the quaint old buildings attached 
to it — ^with their pretty gardens and ivied walls, and their look 
of learned repose. I remember them perfectly ; I used to think 
that the people who lived in those houses must be very well con- 
tent. And then, Peggy, as we go there, we must keep a look- 
out for the old f umitureHshops. I was told there were two or 
three very good ones in Worcester ; and one never goes wrong 
in picking up some knick-knack — ^a little Sheraton table, or an 
eighteenth-century tea-tray, or something of the kind — ^for it is 
sure to come in handy. If you don't want it yourself, it will do 
for a wedding-present ; and we are always having to look out 
for a wedding-present : young people will go and make fools of 
themselves. Hardly any six months go by without our having 
to go and search for something ; and, of course, you can't igno- 
miniously fall back on spoons." 

Miss Peggy looked up ; and it was as clear as daylight that 
something exceptionally impertinent was on the tip of her tongue. 
Then her eyes fell; and she said not a word. That was one 
good thing that had been secured by the coming of Sir Ewen 
Cameron ; she was very well behaved now ; and even, at times, 
quite respectful to her seniors. 

Thereafter we went out into the town again; but now we 
avoided the crowded thoroughfares — crowded because of some 
fair or cattle-market, we were told ; and made away for the qui- 
eter neighborhood of the cathedral and the Severn shore. And 
as we walked along, it was naturally to be expected that our 
ingenuous young friend should be willing, if not downright 
anxious, to hear all about Sexulphus and Wulstan, about Hardi- 
Canute and William Ruf us, and Stephen, and other great folk 
whose names are associated with the history of Worcester. But 
it was not Worcester at all that Miss Peggy had in her mind. 
What like was Inverf ask House, she was asking. Was it an old 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES 07 A HOUSE-BOAT. 249 

building — in the form of a castle, perhaps ? Was it close to the 
sea? Were there any islands near it? Or mountains? How 
long had it belonged to this branch of the Camerons? Was 
Colonel Cameron likely to give up his soldiering, and go and 
live among his own people ? How had the estate come to be 
so heavily mortgaged ? Not through his fault, then ? But the 
burdens were being gradually removed ? And it was as a sol- 
dier, rather than as Cameron of Inverfask, that he was much 
thought of in the Highlands? Or in both respects, perhaps? 
And was he much liked by the people ? 

** I could imagine that he would be," she said, absently an- 
swering her own question. 

And then an odd thing happened when we were at the cathe- 
dral. We had shown her the richly sculptured chancel, the 
beautiful cloisters, and so forth ; and had taken her round to 
the back of the building, from which she had a wide view over 
the valley of the Severn, with the pale blue Malvern Hills in the 
south. She regarded these for a second or two, and then she 
said — 

"Is that like Scotland?" 

Queen Tita had just come along. 

" Peggy !" she said, indignantly. 

" Well !" the girl answered, in absolute innocence. 

"That like Scotland! Is a painted tea-tray like Scotland! 
Wait till you see !" 

It seemed hard that the Malvern Hills should have been used 
so despitefully by an Englishwoman ; whereas the Scotch mem- 
bers of the party were probably only too grateful, after their 
long voyaging through woodland scenery, for that lofty and 
undulating line of blue along the horizon ; nay, one of them was 
so heartily grateful that there and then he would have been con- 
tent to call these hills mountains, if it would have pleased any- 
body. But no ; Peggy would see something different from that, 
she was assured, when she came north. And they now spoke 
of her visit as a settled and certain thing. 

And then again, Scotland and Inverfask House and the Young 
Chevalier all turned up once more that afternoon, and in this 
fashion. On our way back from the cathedral, Mrs. Three- 
penny-bit chanced to espy a bric-a-brac shop which looked very 
promising indeed ; and we were all of us glad enough to escape 



250 THE STRANGE ADYENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

for a while from the hot glare of the sunlight into the coolness 
of this place, while she proceeded to search and hunt for pos- 
sible wedding-presents. 

" Most of the English houses I have seen," Miss Peggy was 
saying to Colonel Cameron — they being merely bystanders and 
onlookers — "modem English houses,' I mean, have seemed to 
me overcrowded with these things. And then the confusion, 
the mixing up of different countries and centuries : the drawing- 
rooms look like museums, without the arrangement of museums. 
I suppose, now, at Inverf ask, there will be greater simplicity ; 
the decoration will belong to one period." 

" I'm afraid, Miss Rosslyn," said he, with a smile, " that In- 
verfask will have to plead guilty too. There have been a good 
many soldiers in our family ; and they have brought home things 
from all parts of the world; so that there is a considerable 
jumble — Canada, Spain, Egypt, China, India, every place on the 
globe, I fancy, where English regiments have been." 

" But the hall ?" said she, with a little touch of disappoint- 
ment. 

" Oh, the hall is entirely Highland — ^there, I think, you will 
be satisfied. And as our friends here have been trying to inter- 
est you in the '45 rising, you will find a good many curiosities 
belonging to that period. By the way," he added, " I have one 
or two relics of that time that I'm afraid don't honestly and en- 
tirely belong to me. As you have never been in Scotland, I 
suppose you never heard of Fassief em House ?" 

"Oh, yes," said she, modestly. "Wasn't that where the 
younger brother of Lochiel lived, when he came out and tried 
to persuade Lochiel not to go and join the prince ?" 

He looked at her with some surprise ; he did not know how 
this young lady had been drilled. 

" Precisely," said he, " that was John Cameron of Fassiefera, 
whose great-granddaughter is at this moment superior of Fort 
William. Well, perhaps you know also that a few days after 
Prince Charlie raised his standard at the head of Loch Sheil, he 
came along Glenfinnan, and put up at Fassiefem House, passing 
the night there. That, of course, is quite enough for the High- 
landers : a house that lodged the Young Chevalier is a sacred 
kind of thing, with all its contents. And I think they might 
have left Fassiefem alone. It was a pretty old-fashioned place, 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HO0BE-BOAT. 251 

half Hsmothered in ivy, though it had been used as a fannhouse 
for a long time back. But a year or two ago it seems it was 
wanted ; I was told it had to be rebuilt for some reason or an- 
other ; and in the process of tearing down and putting up again 
the old woodwork appears to have been either thrown out or 
given to any chance-comer. And very curious some of it is. I 
have a piece of curved balustrade that is made up of thin slices 
of wood that must have been spliced and put together with great 
labor ; I suppose in those days, and in those parts, they had no 
other way of bending wood. That is one piece. Then I have 
one or two of the balusters ; and a very quaint little frame for 
a mirror, in oak. The fact is, these things were being freely 
handed about in the neighborhood ; and a friend of mine, hap- 
pening to pass through at the time, picked up a few of them, 
and sent them on to Inverfask for safe-keeping. I fear I have 
no strong title to them ; but they will be preserved, at least ; and 
I think if Fassiefem House had been mine, I should have pre- 
served that intact also. By the way. Miss Rosslyn," he contin- 
ued — still addressing himself to the tall young lady, while Queen 
Tita kept rummaging among mouldy old sconces, inlaid tea-trays, 
dower-chests, and the like — " I heard you say something the 
other day about these actual things being very interesting to 
you, as bringing historical times and events much more near, 
and making them seem real. Well, now, here was the house 
that Prince Charles lodged in just after he had raised his stand- 
ard in Glenfinnan ; and these were actually part of the house ; 
and if you would care to take one or other of these bits of 
curiosities home with you to America — " 

" Oh, no, no. Colonel Cameron ! I could not think of such a 
thing. Why, they are quite invaluable !" she exclaimed at once ; 
and the hot blood sprang to her face. 

" Not as something to remind you of Inverfask, and the West 
Highlands, and your visit?" said he, in his gentle way. "I 
won't ask you to take the piece of twisted balustrade — though 
that more certainly formed part of the house than anything else ; 
because it would be cumbrous, and I don't see what you could 
make of it. But the little oak frame — ^it is very quaint and ob- 
viously very old. I think, Miss Rosslyn, we will persuade you 
to accept that, when we are all at Inverfask together." 

And Uttle it was that the small woman hunting there among 



252 THB 8TRANOB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

pots and pans knew of what liad been going on. No doubt she 
thought we three bystanders were idly talking of indifferent mat- 
ters, or perhaps having a little amusement over the eagerness of 
her search. Had she learned that Colonel Cameron had just 
pressed on the acceptance of this young American lady one of 
the treasures of Inverfask House; and that Miss Peggy had 
tacitly consented to accept it as a souvenir of her forthcoming 
visit to his place in the Highlands, perhaps the curiosity-hunter 
would not have been quite so easy in her mind. For it was with 
great equanimity that she now proceeded to collect her pur- 
chases, and to pay for them ; and give instructions about their 
being forwarded to London ; and it was with a light heart that 
she took Peggy's arm and marched her out of the shop, saying 
we should just have time to get a cup of tea or something of 
that kind before walking along to the theatre. 

And perhaps it was owing to our early arrival, or perhaps to 
the fineness of the summer evening outside, that when we en- 
tered the spacious, dimly-lit building, we found ourselves entirely 
alone. Not even the orchestra had as yet put in an appearance. 
Our footsteps had a hollow sound as we went down to the front 
of the dress-circle, and surveyed this large and dusky and emp- 
ty place. Indeed, one could not help sympathizing with those 
poor fellows of musicians, who, as they came in, glanced up at 
the rows of empty benches. Gloomy and phantasmal as the 
great hollow hall appeared, they were probably thinking that 
this was not the kind of house that caused the ghost to walk on 
Saturday. And yet, when they once began, their interest in 
their own professional work seemed in no wise lessened by this 
sorry sight. They played with abundant spirit ; and, what is 
more, they played very good music — ^not the usual poker-and- 
tongs orchestra-rattle ; but an exceedingly pretty waltz. Then, 
attracted by the sound, stragglers began to appear — ^in the pit, 
in the gallery. Matters were mending somewhat. A further 
raising of the lights cheered us. More stragglers appeared; 
there was going to be a semblance of an audience, after all. And 
impatiently we waited for the upwinding of the curtain. 

^*Now, my dear Peggy," said Queen Tita to her neighbor, 
" if you're in luck, you'll find here the drama in its pristine sim- 
plicity — and vigor, too. You won't be asked to ' follow the sub- 
jective Miss from Boston to the banks of Nile.' You'll have a 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 253 

villain that is a villain ; and faithful love rewarded in the end ; 
and virtue entirely triumphant. You'll see what appeals to the 
popular heart. Let it be a lesson to you." 

But here the curtain was raised, and talking had to cease. 
And very soon it became apparent that Miss Peggy was in quite 
superlative luck ; for this story that was being told her was con- 
structed of the most simple and yet substantial materials. Here 
was the anguished heroine who clings to her lover in spite of 
his poverty ; here was the ruthless parent who casts her forth 
and bids her wed the misery that he prophesies for her; her 
lover, now her husband, battling with misfortune and cruel fate, 
and appealing to Heaven to protect his young and innocent wife ; 
and, finally, a ruffian sworn to accomplish all manner of diabol- 
ical deeds, but in especial to capture and carry off the heroine, 
who had scorned his hateful advances. Just a horrible villain 
this one was, and he took no pains to conceal it ; for, like the 
rest of the characters, he from time to time came down to the 
footlights, and in a telling speech revealed the secret workings 
of his soul. There was plenty of action besides; there were 
quite thrilling situations ; and invariably the persons in the play 
addressed each other by both Christian and surname — " Gregory 
Hammond, you shall suffer for this !" " Beware, Richard Merre- 
ton !" and so forth — and every one knows how impressive that 
is. Then the story proceeds apace ; misfortunes accumulate 
upon the hapless pair ; the stem parent remains inexorable ; the 
dark-visaged scoundrel matures his plans ; and the end of the 
act is truly most pitiful — for the villain shoots the father and 
has the guilt laid upon the young husband, who is forthwith 
hurried off to prison, leaving his suffering young wife and her 
infant babe at the mercy of a cruel world. 

It seems hardly befitting the dignity of the legitimate drama 
that we should now have been treated, as an interlude, to a 
" variety entertainment." But there is a reason for all things. 

" You see. Miss Peggy," one explains to this young stranger 
from the West, " when a play is played right off, or when you 
read a book straight through, you are apt to forget what spaces 
of time divide the parts ; and you don't give proper value to 
the constancy of the lover or the faithfulness of his mistress. 
Now just remember, while all this dancing and fiddling is going 
on, that the young husband is suffering penal servitude for ^ 



254 THB 8TRANOS ADYSKTURlS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

murder he never committed ; and the young mother is driven to 
distraction by the kidnapping of her child ; while the villain, 
who is responsible for all this, is having a gay time of it with 
the old man's money — plovers' eggs and Schloss Johannisberger 
for breakfast, no doubt That is precisely what makes it hard, 
that the suffering of the good people should last such a long 
time. Besides, you may have several excellent performers in 
your company whom you can't get into this play : why shouldn't 
they have a chance of showing what they can do ?" 

"Oh, I don't object in the least," she says. "It's like a 
cigarette between the courses at dinner." 

" And what do you know about that ?" 

" I have heard of it," she says, vaguely. 

However, when the drama was resumed, the action moved 
forward with astonishing rapidity. Again and again the hero- 
ine was on the point of being carried off by that desperate 
villain ; and again and again, at the precise moment wanted, 
behold her husband I who, it seems, has escaped from prison, 
and appears to be roaming about the country at large. But 
swift-footed fate is now behind that deep-plotting scoundrel. 
All at once everybody appears on the scene ; the officers of the 
law, instead of arresting the escaped prisoner, clap the manacles 
on the villain's wrists and march him off (a long farewell to 
plovers' eggs and Johannisberger !) ; the hero's innocence is tri- 
umphantly proved ; the kidnapped child is restored to the joy- 
ful mother ; and husband and wife are once more united, with 
every possible kind of felicity showered on their heads. In 
short, virtue wins all along the line ; and wickedness and treach- 
ery and villainy are sent to the right about — ^relegated to a pris- 
on cell, in fact. We were quite glad, and we told Miss Peggy 
it was a solemn warning she should remember all her life ; but 
when it came to be a question as to whether we should remain 
and see the extravaganza that was to follow, we thought we 
had had enough of the theatre for one evening, and so we went 
back to the Unicom Hotel and to supper. 

Late that night the miniature manageress of this wandering 
party was in her own room, engaged in overhauling her millinery 
purchases of the day, and disposing them so as to admit of their 
being packed on the morrow. She seemed a little thoughtful, and 
was mostly silent ; but at length she said, in a cautious sort of way, 



THE STftAKGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 255 

" Do you know what Peggy told me before we went to the 
theatre this evening ?'' 

« I do not" 

" She told me that Colonel Cameron had promised to give 
her some relic from Fassiefem House — a little mirror, I be- 
lieve." 

" I was aware of it." 

She looked up quickly. 

" Oh, you knew ?" And then she said, rather slowly, and 
with no great air of conviction — indeed, she seemed question- 
ing instead of asserting — " I suppose that is nothing. Oh, of 
course not. It is an interesting thing for an American girl to 
take home with her, especially when coming from Inverfask : 
a souvenir, that is all. And he has been very kind to her. Oh, 
no, I would not attach too much importance to his making her 
a little present ; and — and, of course, she will value it !" 

And yet, somehow, she does not seem quite satisfied in her 
own mind. The millinery does not receive much of her atten- 
tion. Finally, she turns from the table altogether. 

" Do be frank, now ! tell me I" she says, in a half -pleading, 
half -frightened way. "Have you noticed anything? Don't 
you think that Colonel Cameron's admiration for Peggy is just 
a little too marked? And she herself, too, have you noticed 
the way in which she speaks of him ? Oh, good gracious, I have 
been trying to shut my eyes and ears ; but if anything — if any- 
thing were to happen between those two, and me responsible I" 

"But how are you responsible?" one says to this incoherent 
person. 

" We brought them together ; isn't that enough ?" she ex- 
claims. "And there he is, a widower, twice her age at least, 
with an encumbered estate ; and I suppose hardly anything be- 
yond his pay. Think what her people would say of it ! They 
wouldn't see any romance in it ; they wouldn't find any fascina- 
tion in her becoming Lady Cameron, of Inverfask, and living 
up there in the north and winning the affection and gratitude 
of those poor people, which is quite clearly what Sir Ewen was 
talking about to-day. What do you suppose they care for the 
traditions of the Highland clans, or for Colonel Cameron's repu- 
tation as a soldier, either ? I suppose they never heard of the 
V.C. They would want to know how many dollars a year he 



256 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

had, and what he was going to settle on her ! Fm sure I never 
thought such a thing possible, or I would never have suggested 
his coming. Of course," she adds, in contrite confession, 
though she is clearly very much perturbed and bewildered, " 1 
thought she would admire him. I wanted her to do that. And 
I knew he would find her a pleasant companion. But just 
think what this would be for both of them ! Why, it's mad- 
ness ! He ought to marry a rich woman, if he marries at all ; and 
get Inverfask cleared of its burdens, and live there. And she 
must marry some one with money." 

" I think you will find that Peggy will marry the man she 
wants to marry without taking your advice or the advice of any 
one else." 

" Oh, it isn't advice — not for worlds would I give her advice 
about such a thing," says this small creature, in entirely evident 
distress. " It's the responsibility of having brought them to- 
gether. With Mr. Buncombe that would have been entirely dif- 
ferent. I was safe there, whatever happened. And that's the 
only thing to be done now, if there is any chance of such a 
foolish infatuation." 

" What is the only thing to be done ?" 

" Why, to beg Mr. Duncombe to come back to us, and at 
once ! I never was quite positively certain why he went away ; 
but if it was merely through some little quarrel or misunder- 
standing, I dare say they would be inclined now to forget it. 
In any case, his presence would make a great difference ; if she 
has any sense at all, she would naturally turn to the younger 
man, with all his advantages." 

" And whati? to be done with the colonel ?" 

" I suppose he will go back to Aldershot," she says, wistfully. 
" I am sorry — but — but anything rather than this. And even 
if he stays, Mr. Buncombe's being with us will make all the dif- 
ference in the world. 'He is an older friend of Peggy's ; she 
seemed to like him very well; and he was so attentive to 
her ; and — ^and she found him amusing. She can't help seeing 
his advantages. She would know there would be no opposition 
on the part of her family. I will even confess that I thought 
it might turn out a match between Mr. Duncombe and herself ; 
not that I particularly wished any such thing ; but it seemed so 
suitable ; and they got on very well together ; and I knew that 



THS STRAKOfi ADTENTUBES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 267 

I was safe enough, whatever happened. Do write and beg him 
to come ! He said he would, if it was in any way possible. 
My gracious, if this other thing were to happen, what would 
those people in America think of me !" 

** They wouldn't think anything at all about you — whatever 
were to happen. You imagine they don't understand Peggy by 
this time ? And here is another point. Supposing there were 
some such possibility as you suggest — supposing there were 
some kind of understanding between these two, though I am 
certain there is nothing of the sort, at present, do you fancy 
that Ewen Cameron is the kind of man who would allow him- 
self to be interfered with ? You are always talking of the gen- 
tleness of the Camerons. Well, they may be as gentle-man- 
nered as most folk ; but they have wills of their own, some of 
them. Did you never hear of the message that Sir Allan Cam- 
eron of Earrachd sent to George III. — or IV., was it ? — ^when it 
was proposed to break up the 79th Highlanders, the regiment 
that Cameron of Earrachd had raised and commanded all 
through the Peninsular campaign ? It was a pretty message to 
send to a king." 

"What was it?" 

"The proposal was to draft the Cameron Highlanders out to 
India, to make up the ranks of certain regiments that had been 
thinned there. * Tell the king from me,^ this was the message 
that Sir Allan Cameron sent, * that he may order the ^9th to hell, 
and I will m^rch at their head ; hut draft them he dare not and 
shall notJ* A very pretty message to be sent to the King of 
England !" 

" I will tell that to Peggy in the morning," says Mrs. Three- 
penny-bit, reflectively, as if, at such a juncture, it was necessary, 
or even prudent, to say anything to still further stimulate Miss 
Peggy's interest with regard to the clan Cameron. 
17 



268 THB STRANGE ADVSNTUBBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 



CHAPTER XVm. 

''Sabrina fair, 

Listen where thou art sittiDg 
Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave, 

In twisted brwds of lilies knitting 
The loose train of thy amber-drooping hair; 
Listen for dear honor's sake, 
Goddess of the silver lake. 
Listen, and save." 

MoRBOYSB, the counsels of the night only increased her fears; 
and by next morning she had quite convinced herself that, un- 
less some immediate measures were taken, Miss Peggy would 
persist in her folly, and end by marrying a beggar. A beggar, 
indeed !. When the fair Mistress Lindsay was wooed and won 
and carried away from Edinburgh city by young Donald of the 
Isles, who had successfully concealed from her his high estate, 
she was, no doubt, agreeably surprised when he took her up 
to a mountain and bade her look abroad on the islands and cas- 
tles and domains of which she was now to be lady and queen. 
Well, we live in less romantic days ; but one could not help 
thinking that, even if the dreaded thing were to happen, Miss 
Peggy might not be altogether disappointed when she came in 
sight of Inverfask House. A moor yielding to two guns and 
fair shooting some five-and-thirty brace on the Twelfth, and — 
with proper management — good for eight or ten brace on an off 
day during the remainder of the season ; a loch with abundance 
of brown trout, and with sea-trout running to four or five pounds ; 
an extensive, if not over-productive farm ; to say nothing of 
the plantations and " policies " surrounding the house itself, and 
rights of salmon-fishing for some miles along the coast : these 
seem to make a very comfortable provision for a beggar. But 
what was the use of discussing this fantastic impossibility ? 

" She is simply at her tricks again — she can't help it," one 
says to this anxious-eyed mite of a creature. " And as for Cam- 



THE 6TRAK0S ADVSNTURBS OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 259 

eron, of course be likes to have a pretty girl to talk to : what 
soldier doesn't ?" 

" It isn't tricks at all," she says. " I know quite well when 
Peggy is merely playing pranks — I've seen her at it too often. 
But this is entirely different; her imagination seems to have 
been taken captive ; you can see that in the interest she displays 
about the smallest matter connected with Scotland, or the High- 
land people, or the Highland regiments, for the matter of that ; 
and then, she is so obedient and submissive ; she isn't pretend- 
ing to be a very, very proper young lady — with a wink at you 
when she gets the chance ; it is real this time, or else I am mis- 
taken, and I hope I am. And as for him ; well, I hope I am mis- 
taken there too ; but his regard for her seems to be most marked 
— ^the quiet satisfaction he appears to have in her society, and 
the good-humored toleration— encouragement, even, he has for 
all her wilfulness." 

" Why, how long is it since he first set eyes on her !" one says, 
by way of protest against this ridiculous fancy. 

" Oh, that is nothing," she answers. '< A single day of this 
companionship is worth a whole London season." 

" But even if it were true, where would be the harm ?" one 
naturally asks. '< Cameron is very far from being penniless." 

" He is five-and-forty, if he is a day I" she exclaims. 

" How often must I point out to you that at five-and-forty a 
man is just at the prime of his manhood — ^the very prime of his 
physical and intellectual strength ?" 

" Of course you say that," she retorts. " But ten years ago 
you said the same of five-and-thirty." 

" And haven't I ten years' more wisdom to add to my judg- 
ment? I tell you now it is five-and-forty. And I say that 
Ewen Cameron is in his prime. Mind you, he can make a poor 
thing of some of the young fellows when they are out on the 
hill : I've seen more than one of them pretty well dead-beat by 
lunch-time — on the far tops at Achnashealach, I mean ; and then 
you'd find the cornel, instead of sitting down to the cold beef 
and the whiskey-and-water, merely take out his pipe, and lounge 
up and down, trying to make out which was Ben-a-vuick and 
which Ben Dearg. How India did not take more out of him 
it's hard to understand ; but I suppose he is one of those firm^ 
knit, fatless creatures that nothing seems to touch." 



260 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

These details do not seem to interest this preoccupied person. 

" If they had ever met before, at some one else's house," she 
said, absently. " But it will look as if we had expressly asked 
him to join our party, to — ^to bring this about. And how could 
we have dreamed of such a thing? Peggy knows as well as 
any one else what her people expect of her ; she has almost told 
me as much, though she is not very communicative about such 
affairs." 

" Well, now, you see the result of cherishing historical prej- 
udices and partisanships," one points out to her. " If you had 
only reconciled yourself to Jack Buncombe's project of making 
Charles Edward the dark foil to the heroic qualities of Alfieri, 
what would be the state of affairs now ? Why, by this time, the 
book, or the play, whichever it was to be, would have been half 
done ; and those young people would have been engaged to be 
married — as sure as ever was; and the mamma and papa in 
Brooklyn would be regarding you as the guardian angel of their 
daughter. Instead of which, here is an impecunious and elder- 
ly soldier, whom you yourself invited to come along ; and you 
are worrying yourself to death because you think he is going 
to carry Peggy away to live on oatmeal and skim-milk in the 
Highlands." 

<' I suppose you think it is a joke ?" she demands, indignantly. 

"I do." 

" Well, it is not You don't know Peggy as I know her ; or 
rather, when you are near her, you are blinded and fascinated 
like the rest of the men, and you don't notice anything — ^you 
don't see anything except her eyes. But I do. And this has 
frightened me. The only thing is, it can't have gone very far ; 
and I dare say, if we could get Mr. Duncombe to come back to 
the boat, she would return to ber senses. For she has common- 
sense ; she is a remarkably shrewd young woman. And then, 
seeing the two of them together, how could she help contrasting 
them ? Mr. Duncombe has every advantage. He is nearer her 
own age ; he will have plenty of money ; and he is good-looking 
and amusing enough. Of course I am not comparing him with 
Colonel Cameron, except as a suitable match for Peggy ; far 
from it; Colonel Cameron is a much finer stamp of man than 
Mr. Duncombe ; to my thinking he is worth a dozen of any of 
the young men we know. But that isn't the question. I am 



THE 8TRANOS ADVSNTT7RXS OF A HOU6S-BOAT. 261 

thinking what her people in Brooklyn would say about it all — 
and about us. Now, will you write to Mr. Duncombe ?" 

" If you like." 

" Will you telegraph ?" 

" If you like." 

" Supposing he can get away, there are plenty of towns where 
he could join us. Tewkesbury — " 

" Not Tewkesbury — we shall be there to-day." 

"Gloucester, then. You know," she added, eagerly, "how 
anxious he was to go down that open part of the Severn with 
us, to see how the boat would answer. He is sure to come 
along if you urge him." 

" And shall I ask him to bring the Alfieri play with him ?" 

" He will not be so ill-mannered," said she, somewhat stiffly, "as 
to talk disrespectfully or cruelly of the unfortunate Prince Charles 
before one of the Camerons ; I think I can trust him for that." 

"And you may trust me for this — ^that, if he did, Colonel 
Cameron wouldn^t care the fifteenth part of a brass farthing." 

" I am not so sure," said she. 

Now, when all were together again in the coffee - room of 
this Worcester hotel, one naturally now again glanced at Miss 
Peggy to gather from her demeanor towards Colonel Cameron 
whether there were any grounds for Queen Tita's suspicions. 
But nothing of the sort was visible. She was in an unusually 
merry mood. So far from there being anything of the love- 
lorn maiden about her, she was neither more nor less than the 
wilful wretch whose sauciness and cantrips we had had to put 
up with all this time ; nay, it was on this very occasion that her 
impertinence reached a point which demands serious notice. 
At breakfast. Queen Tita, who had just been reading her letters 
from home, was discoursing to Sir Ewen Cameron about her two 
boys, their wonderful qualities, ambitions,* and all the rest of 
it ; while the father of those lads, having some small regard for 
the truth, was endeavoring to mitigate this panegyric by a few 
mild protests. But the truth was not acceptable — it seldom is ; 
madam grew more and more annoyed ; Miss Peggy professed to 

* Their ambitions ! If they have any ambition beyond that of getting so 
mauled at football that their own mother can hardly recognize them when 
they come home at night, they have so far been most successful in concealing 
It from the rest of the world. 



262 THS STftANOS ADVENTURSB OF A HOUSS-BOAT. 

sympathize with her deeply; and at last the younger woman 
reached over for a sheet of music she had purchased the pre- 
vious day, scribbled something on the outside of it, and handed 
it to her friend. Now this of itself was a piece of downright 
rudeness, though, probably, it was the presence of the colonel 
that had stilled her flippant tongue ; but it was not until several 
days thereafter, and when we were on board again, that one hap- 
pened accidentally to pick up this sheet of music and discover 
what she had pencilled on it. These were the words: "Full 
fathom five that father lies !" Now, not only was this a mon- 
strous perversion of the text of Shakespeare, it was also a gross 
misstatement of fact ; the only thing it proved being that a young 
woman given over to such unseemly jesting was in no parlous 
case as regarded her heart, or what she might consider her heart. 

We had a busy morning before us ; for, of course, we could 
not set about such a serious undertaking as the navigation of the 
Severn without having the ship fully provisioned and equipped 
for all emergencies. And what did this giddy-headed schoolgirl 
know about paraffine oil, candles, soda-water, two-shilling novels, 
fresh vegetables, preserved fruits, pigeon-pies, towing-ropes, sta- 
tionery, telegraph-forms, and a hundred other things that had to 
be thought of ? We bade her go about her business and bother 
us no more. And then, Colonel Cameron remarking that he 
thought of walking along to seek out some spot from which he 
could get a better notion of the disposition of Cromwell's and 
Fleetwood's forces before the battle of Worcester, she turned to 
him, and asked him if he was likely to be passing by the cathe- 
dral, for that she would like to see again a rose-red hawthorn- 
tree that she had remarked on the previous day, and that she 
thought was the most beautiful thing she had met with in Eng- 
land. Of course he instantly offered to escort her, and these two 
went away ; while Mrs. Threepenny-bit (whatever she may have 
thought of that arrangement) had now to resume her consulta- 
tions with Murdoch in the hall of the hotel. 

It was not, however, until past midday that the four of us, 
idly lounging about and waiting by the banks of the Severn — 
at the spot where the canal debouches into the river — ^beheld 
that long white Noah's Ark of a thing slowly approaching. 
When she came into the last lock we got on board, and, having 
seen that the additional towing-line was attached, and the long- 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 263 

est poles ready, we awaited the opening of the great gates. A 
pleasanter day for our entrance upon the Severn we could not 
have demanded. There was a soft southerly wind blowing up 
stream, ruffling the wide yellow waters, and stirring the foliage 
on the high wooded bank ; on the other shore the flat golden- 
green meadows were glowing in the sunlight ; and far beyond 
them^ and beyond some darker lines of elms, the pale - blue 
Malvern hills rose into the shining silvery sky. A brisk and 
breezy day, sufficiently warm and sufficiently cool ; altogether 
an auspicious setting forth. 

And yet, when at length we found ourselves out in the wide 
current, it was clear that we were to have some unexpected ex- 
periences. For one thing, the river was in flood ; and the wind, 
blowing up against the heavy yellow stream, raised a consider- 
able bit of a sea, so that very soon the Nameless Barge was 
plunging and dipping in a most unusual manner. Queen Tita 
burst out laughing. 

'^ What's the matter now ?" asks the steersman. 

" Fve heard of a bluebottle pretending to be a bee," she says ; 
" but I never heard of an old canal-boat pretending to be a yacht." 

" It's all very well : I suppose you have left heaps of shawls 
and music and books lying about the saloon, and doubtless the 
water is spouting in at those bull's-eyes at the bow — " 

" Oh, my gracious !" she cries, and is off in an instant 

" And you. Miss Peggy," one continues, " you'd better go and 
find Murdoch and ask him to see that there are no loose wine- 
glasses lying about." 

" Oh, certainly," she says (for she is a biddable lass when she 
is not bent on mischief), and she, too, disappears. 

However, our adventuring forth into this raging ocean was a 
small matter. A more serious thing was this. The bargeman's 
rule of the road is '' business first and pleasure after :" that is 
to say, in passing each other, business barges take the inside, 
and pleasure ones the outside, the latter getting their towing- 
lines over smoke-stacks and piled hay as best they can. Now 
the towpath at this part of the Severn runs high along the side 
of a steep bank ; we had necessarily a long line out ; and if, in 
putting our craft into mid-stream to pass the barges coming 
north, her head yawed over the western shore — which it was 
very apt to do with this heavy flood astern — ^that was invariably 



264 THB STRANGE ADVBNTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

the moment chosen by our horse-marine, who was riding, to urge 
forward his charger. The inevitable consequence was a sudden 
and savage wrench, and a tilt over that set the plates dancing 
and the women (inside the saloon) screaming ; and that threat- 
ened to plunge the whole of us into Sabrina^s tawny wave. But 
all the same, we made such excellent progress that every now 
and again the horse-marine indulged in a little trot, which was 
quite inspiriting to behold. We passed the mouth of the Teme ; 
we glided swiftly along by Beauchamp Court and Kempsey ; 
we swept round by Cliffy Wood and Farm ; and on by Severn- 
stoke and Severn End. This was a singularly English-lookhig 
landscape through which we were passing — ^the high, red bank 
above the wide rippling river ; the poplars and alders all trem- 
bling and rustling in the soft breeze ; along the margin of the 
stream, yellow-gray reeds and gray-green willows ; silver-white 
clouds crossing the spacious sky, with here and there a glimpse 
of blue ; finally, at the horizon, the pale line of the Malvern 
Hills — those far heights on which Caractacus and his brave 
Silures intrenched themselves and made their last determined 
and despairing stand against the Roman legions. Very peace- 
ful now appeared this smiling and cultivated plain. It seemed 
hard to believe that it was through these very fields close by 
that Fleetwood's horse had to make their way before they came 
up with the Royalist troops, and drove them, " from hedge to 
hedge," back into Worcester town. 

The two women returned with their report : not a drop of 
water had come in by the bull's-eyes or anywhere else ; while 
all was secure in the lockers. 

" Fm just in love with this boat," observes Miss Peggy. 

" Children are easily pleased," answers her hostess, who shares 
Murdoch's covert opinion about our noble craft. 

" I believe she could cross to America !" the young lady con- 
tinues. 

"So she could," the other says, with bitter irony, "if she 
were properly lashed on to the deck of a White Star Liner." 

"Say, now, where is the part of the Severn you've always 
been talking about as something to be feared ?" 

"Oh! that's away down south, from Sharpness to Bristol; 
that is where you get into the open estuary," the steersman an- 
swers her. 



THB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 265 

" And will there be any danger ?" 

"What a question! Danger in a boat capable of crossing 
the Atlantic !" 

" Oh, don't imagine that I shall be afraid !" the young lady 
says, promptly. " At least, I hope not. If I am, I'll conceal it 
to the best of my ability." 

"I don't think you are likely to show much fright," said 
Colonel Cameron, looking at her with an approving eye. " Es- 
pecially as you will be quite prepared. You will have time to 
screw up your courage beforehand. It's sudden danger that un- 
nerves people. I remember the most awful fright I ever got in 
my life — well, fright is a feeble word : the paralyzing sensation 
of fear was so bewildering." 

" You !" said Miss Peggy. " Why—" 

But she could not tell the man to his face that it was impos- 
sible for her to believe that he had ever been afraid of anything. 

" It was at a small inn in the Highlands," said he, " where I 
had put up for some salmon-fishing. Shall I tell you the story ? 
It's the only ghost story I've got. Yery well. I was there all 
by myself at the time ; and very happy, too— capital sport dur- 
ing the day ; snug quarters in the evening. One night I had 
dined as usual, and had drawn my chair in front of a blazing 
peat-fire, lit a pipe, and got a book. No, Miss Rosslyn, I didn't 
fall asleep and dream my ghost ; just you wait. I was reading 
on in a dead silence ; for at the back of the inn, where my sit- 
ting-room was, there was nothing but fields ; all the traffic at 
Altnaharra goes on in front. Besides, it was getting late. Well, 
I was reading away in this absolute silence when of a sudden 
I heard a sigh just behind me — or a groan, rather — I was so 
startled by the extraordinary sound that I couldn't tell which it 
was. Of course I wheeled round in an instant, and there, right 
before me, was an enormous head, with two staring eyes and 
two large horns. Talk about fright ! this was simply a paralysis 
of sensation altogether. When it is a man who startles you, 
and you wheel round angrily, your first impulse is to strike ; but 
this thing was certainly not a man. Not a man — I should think 
not ! simply an enormous head and huge eyes and nostrils ; mo- 
tionless, too, absolutely motionless, but the eyes glaring. Fright ? 
I wonder I am alive. And then, just as quickly, the explanation 
flashed in upon my mind : it was the head of a cow. I had le^ 

M 



266 THK STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

the lower sash of the window open, to let out the peat-smoke ; 
the sitting-room was on the ground-floor; this beast had got 
loose somehow, and wandered round from the byre, attracted by 
the light, I suppose. When I went forward to it, it still kept 
staring ; then it withdrew its head, with another snort ; and then 
I could see its dark bulk going along in the direction of the 
farm-yard. There, that is my only ghost story." 

" But just suppose it had been an old woman who was sitting 
there," said Queen Tita. "Why, she would have run away 
through the house shrieking and declaring that the devil had 
just appeared to her." 

" My impression is," he said, " that an old Highland-woman 
would have been more familiar with a cow's eyes and horns. It 
was the enormous size of the head that bewildered me, being so 
near, and nothing visible but itself. I suppose, now," he con- 
tinued, as we were gayly careering down this wide river, " it is 
really possible for a man to frighten a bull by stooping and star- 
ing at it from between his legs. But does the bull forget that 
it saw the man upright — ^that he is a man, indeed ? I remember 
a friend of mine telling me how he and a companion of his had 
been out shooting somewhere in the Highlands, and on their way 
home they had to cross a field that had been partly ploughed. 
In the fallow part of the field a bull had been turned loose. 
They paid no heed to him — ^that is the best way in all circum- 
stances, I believe, if only the brute will let you — and thought 
that they were going to get past all right ; but they soon per- 
ceived that he meant mischief. Indeed, there was no mistake 
about it ; and my friend made tracks for a stone dyke, over 
which he clambered with his gun in his hand. Not so his com^ 
panion. Perhaps he was afraid to make a run for it, or he was 
ashamed, or determined to give proof of his courage ; however, 
he put his gun on the ground, turned his back to the bull, stooped 
down, and glared at the animal from between his legs — " 

" And that was enough to frighten the beast away !" said Mrs. 
Threepenny-bit, quickly. 

"Oh, was it?" observed the narrator, with grim placidity. 
" No, it was not Quite the reverse, in fact. The bull came at 
him like a live tornado, caught him one, as the saying is, and 
the next moment he was rolling head over heels, like a cheese, 
along a ploughed furrow — " 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 267 

"And killed?" 

" No, not killed. When he picked himself up, there was a 
plough near, and he dodged behind that ; but in the meantime 
the bull was engaged in trampling his gun to bits with its fore- 
feet, and so he made his escape. They say he has less faith 
now in rustic traditions." 

" He was not a personal friend of yours ?" one ventures to ask. 

" No." 

" You only heard of him ?" 

"That was all." 

" Was your friend who told you the story a person of strict 
veracity ?" 

" Like other people, I suppose. But what then ? Oh, I see. 
The witness may stand down ?" 

" Yes, you may go. The court expresses no opinion." 

A most beautiful river the Severn surely is ; and on this mel- 
low afternoon the wind had mostly died away ; so that the high 
red banks, all hanging in foliage, were faithfully mirrored on 
the smooth surface of the stream, save where some chance puff 
would come along, breaking the oily russets and olive greens 
with a keen shaft of blue, the color of the overhead sky. Sub- 
jects for a water-color painter formed themselves at every turn 
and winding ; and at last, when we came in sight of the square 
gray tower of Tewkesbury Abbey, just visible above the trees, 
and the ruddy houses of the town appearing here and there be- 
yond the warm green meadows, the tower and houses and mead- 
ows and trees all aglow in the light streaming over from the 
western skies, we began to think that too much had Avon and 
Thames and Rennet occupied our artists, and that some of them 
whom we knew and could name might do worse than pitch their 
tents more frequently just a little farther west. 

Now came the question as to where we should moor for the 
night — some snug place where we could make surely fast, and 
defy this swollen current. We had no need to go on to the 
town ; for we had abundant supplies on board ; indeed, we usu- 
ally refused the shelter of wharves and basins unless, for some 
reason, we wanted to put up at a hotel, and wished to have the 
boat within convenient distance. We finally pitched upon a 
nook under a steep red bank — ^the Royal Hill it is called — where 
there were some stout willow-bushes close down by the water ; 



268 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

and when we had run our gallant vessel in among these, and 
fastened her securely both stem and stern, Captain Columbus 
was free to go off in search of lodgings for himself and the 
horse-marine. Our first experience of the Severn had been 
most satisfactory. The Nameless Barge had done everything 
that could have been expected of her. We began to look for- 
ward to Sharpness Point without any overwhelming anxiety. 

At dinner that evening we refrained from lighting the lamps, 
the twilight without being so singularly beautiful. It was in 
the earlier manner of Mr. W. L. Wyllie, so to speak. The wide 
smooth surfaces of the water were breadths of pale saffron and 
exquisite lilac gray reflected from an opalescent sky; there 
were warm olive-green shadows under the opposite bank ; and 
then, as it happened, there was a withered tree on that shore, 
and the mirrored black stem and leafless branches came right 
down to the middle of the stream. A single crimson line in 
the purple blue of the west told of the sinking sun. The birds 
were still singing — somewhere in our neighborhood — ^probably 
among the bushes over the steep red hill behind us. But it 
was the river that chiefly claimed our attention, the tender and 
ethereal and softly merging colors, the palely changing lights: 
each window framed a picture, as the day died out of the world. 
And when at last it grew so dark that we had to have recourse 
to lamps and candles, we knew quite well that in the clear dark- 
blue heavens overhead the first silver-points of the stars were 
beginning to throb. 

Now, all this time Queen Tita had said not a word about the 
possible coming of Jack Buncombe ; perhaps she feared that the 
mere suggestion might be construed by Colonel Cameron into 
a hint that he should vacate his berth. That was not so, as it 
happened ; nevertheless his offer to quit was sufficiently prompt. 

" Oh, Peggy," said she, that night after dinner, in an off-hand 
kind of fashion, " would you be surprised to find an old friend 
coming to join us at Gloucester ?" 

Miss Peggy glanced up in rather a frightened fashion, for 
Colonel Cameron was also sitting out there in the warm, still 
night, contentedly smoking his cigar. Queen Tita caught sight 
of that quick look — ^the glow from the open door of the saloon 
falling full on the girl's face. 

"No," said she, gravely, "it isn't Mr. A'Beckett. It is 



THE STRANQB ADVENTURXS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 269 

strange we have heard nothing of him of late. You haven't 
heard, Peggy?" 

" No," said Miss Peggy, instantly. " Why should I ?" 

" Oh, well, I thought he might have some more information 
to send you," her hostess remarked, in a general kind of way. 
" I don't think we study the guide-books as closely as we ought. 
However, it isn't Mr. A'Beckett. It's Mr. Buncombe." 

" Oh, indeed," said Miss Peggy. " That will be very nice." 

" I am not sure he is coming," she continued, " but we have 
telegraphed to him ; and you know how anxious he was to see 
how the boat would answer in going down the Severn. So I 
shouldn't be surprised to find him turning up at Gloucester." 

"In that case," said Colonel Cameron, with perfect good- 
humor, " I must clear out. I shall hate him heartily, I know, 
but still I've had my turn — " 

" Oh, no, no, not at all," Queen Tita said at once, and most 
anxiously. " Surely if this caravansary of a thing has any rec- 
ommendation it ought to be able to take in another passenger, 
and easily. Why should not one of you gentlemen sleep in the 
saloon ? Murdoch can make up an extra bed, he has often had 
to do that for us on other boats ; and all that is necessary will 
be for you to choose among yourselves which is the earliest 
riser. What can be simpler than that ?" 

" And then his being on board would come in so well just 
now," said Miss Peggy, with demure eyes. " There would be 
Captain Columbus, Murdoch, Mr. Buncombe, Colonel Cameron, 
you two, myself — yes, that would just be right — we could take 
for our motto, * We are Severn.' " 

" P^ggy?" said Mrs. Threepenny-bit, severely, " this is busi- 
ness; I won't be interrupted by your irresponsible frivolity. 
Well, now, supposing Mr. Buncombe should be able to join us, 
he is the new-comer, and should take his chance." 

" But I have had my turn of the cabin," Colonel Cameron re- 
monstrated, " and I assure you I shall be most comfortable in 
the saloon. I should call the whole arrangement the height of 
luxury." 

. " But your things are all in your cabin, and why should they 
be disturbed. Sir Ewen ?" said she — and who is bold enough to 
dispute her will when her farthing-rushlight of a mind shows us 
clearly what it is ? — " Mr. Buncombe was always an early riser. 



270 THE STRANQB ADVBNTURXB OF A HOUSl-BOAT. 

He used to get up and see that everjrthing was arranged about 
the boat and the day's travelling by the time the rest of us were 
ready for breakfast. Peggy used to get up early, too," the 
fiend continued, regarding the younger lady with a sweet and 
affectionate look. ^^ She was studying English history at that 
time — Runnymede and King John, Guy of Warwick and Piers 
Graveston, and the rest of them ; and the seclusion of the morn- 
ing is good for study. She seems to have left off lately ; but I 
suppose she will take it up again when we get to Gloucester or 
Bristol. Is there any English history connected with Bristol? 
If there isn't, Chatterton will do. Or the introduction of bird's- 
eye tobacco. Or the three sailors of Bristol city — indeed, 
anything will do, when Peggy is bent on acquiring informa- 
tion. But in the meantime, Sir Ewen, you are in possession 
of the cabin ; it would be a great pity for you to move your 
things." 

<^ Just as you please," said he, ^' though I don't know that it 
is wholesome training for a soldier to find himself fixed in 
such comfortable quarters. However, you must promise me 
one thing — that the moment you find me in the way you will 
tell me." 

" Oh, yes, I will tell you," said she, with a little laugh (and 
apparently she had now quite abandoned any hope or wish she 
may have formed about his returning to Aldershot). " But you 
must not make fun of us, Sir Ewen. Every one knows how fas- 
tidious officers are. Well, I don't wonder at it. Both they 
and their men suffer sufficient privation in time of war ; and it 
is but natural that when they come home they should expect to 
be well treated. But every one says that the military clubs are 
just the perfection of management ; and when the officers of a 
regiment give a ball, the supper is sure to be most sumptuous ; 
and then about their own dinners — well, I have heard how par- 
ticular they are." 

''And you know why they have to be particular about such 
things, and why they look after the affairs of their club f said 
he. " It's because they're so poor. It's only the rich political 
fellows who can afford to let their club be managed anyhow. 
Oh, no, you mustn't blame us for being particular ; you might 
even say that we are penurious." 

"Penurious?" said she. "Well, I don't know much about 



TBS STRANOB ADVEKT17RK8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 271 

what the oflBcers of other regiments may be ; but I should say 
it was a charge not likely to be brought against the ofScers of 
the Highland regiments — at least, such of them as are High- 
landers '' — ^an amazing remark, if one thinks of it ; because it 
was quite irrelevant ; and not only that, but it came from a per- 
son whose chief fear at the moment — as she professed, at least 
— was that the young lady under her care might be too strongly 
influenced in favor of these Highland people as here represented 
to her. However, Jack Buncombe was coming, we hoped, and 
that would cure all. 

Then she said, 

'^ I hope Murdoch is enjoying his night ashore. Captain Co- 
lumbus looks the kind of man who would know how to order a 
good supper for them. And that reminds me : Peggy, you and 
I shall have to be butler to-night ; will you come and help me ? 
It's about soda-water time." 

" Won't you let me help too !" said Colonel Cameron, rising 
to follow them into the saloon. 

" Oh, yes, I will let you help," said she, cheerfully. " I al- 
ways like you to mix my sleeping-draught for me. Sir Ewen — it 
is something recognizable then. As for poor Peggy, I don't 
know how she gets on at all. We haven't had any iced water 
on board since ever we started." 

" Why, I haven't tasted iced water all the time I have been in 
England," said Miss Peggy, indignantly. "I wouldn't. The 
ice in England isn't cold enough for a free-bom American. Be- 
sides, I would rather go without it than be preached at." 

" And what have they been saying to you, you poor dear ?" 
observed Queen Tita, who was busy with tumblers, glasses, soda- 
water, cigar -boxes, spirit - stands, biscuit -boxes, and the like, 
while the tall young lady is drawing the red curtains across the 
windows and making everything comfortable for the night. 
" Have they been wounding your sensitive soul ? Well, never 
mind ; preaching or no preaching, you leave iced water alone, 
and keep the June roses in your cheeks." 

Then, when this small community was entirely and snugly 
shut in from the dark and silent world without, there was a 
vague hint ventured about a game of whist, or vingt-et-un, or 
something of that sort. 

<'We should have to clear all those things off the table," 



273 THK BTRANQS ADVENTURES OF A ROUSE-BOAT. 

said Mrs. Threepenny-bit, regretfully, " and they are so handy. 
Peggy, why don't you bring out your banjo ? What has made 
you so lazy ? You ought to be ashamed of yourself !" 

The fact was, Miss Peggy had hardly ever touched her banjo 
since Colonel Cameron came on board. Why, we hardly knew. 
We could perhaps have understood her not caring to ask us, 
before one who was comparatively a stranger to her, to join in 
any of her daft choruses; but there were plenty of the old- 
fashioned plantation songs that suited her voice very weD, and 
that have almost recovered from their vulgarization of five-and- 
twenty years ago. Surely " Mary Blane " is pathetic in its sim- 
ple way. " The Old Folks at Home " remains a favorite. There 
are many more, and we knew that she knew them ; but some- 
how she had always seemed disinclined to open that leather case 
since Sir Ewen Cameron joined us. And so she was on this 
occasion. 

" It is so delightfully quiet here," she said, " it is a shame to 
spoil it by that strumming." 

" I am quite sure Colonel Cameron has never heard you sing 
* Nelly Gray,' " Queen Tita suggested, insidiously. 

" And I should very much like to hear it," said he. 

With that, she obediently went and got the banjo, and re- 
sumed her place on the couch ; then, with a few rippling notes 
of prelude, she began to sing — 

** There^s a low green Tallej on the old Kentucky shore, 
Where I've whiled many happy hours away." 

And very well she sang, too, if hardly with the confidence she 
usually displayed. And when she had finished, and when Queen 
Tita was begging her to sing " The little old cabin in the lane," 
Colonel Cameron said, 

" Well, Miss Rosslyn, when I have the pleasure of receiving 
you two ladies in the north — when old Duncan, that is, my fac- 
totum up there, gets your things out of the dog-cart, I shall be 
enormously disappointed if I don't see that yellow leather case 
among them." 

She looked up suddenly. 

" A banjo at Inverfask !" she exclaimed, in a kind of awe- 
stricken way, as though the incongruity was quite startling to 
her. 



THE 6TRANGE ADVBVTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 278 

" Why not ?" said he, simply. 

And surely stranger things than that have happened in this 
odd mixture of a world. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

'* Next crown the bowl full 

With gentle lamb's-wool. 
Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger; 

With store of ale, too, 

And this ye must do 
To make the wassail a swinger." 

" Do you know what true wisdom is ?" 

"No." 

" Would you like to be told ?" 

"Yes." 

" Then I will tell you," says^ this most amiable and obliging 
philosopher (whose brown hair, by the way, invariably looks 
prettiest in the sunlight, and on this joyous morning all the 
wide Severn valley is shining clear). " I will tell you," she says 
blandly (though her eyes would seem to be chiefly engaged with 
the fair landscape all around her — the broad stream quivering 
in light, the ruddy banks hanging in foliage, the wide meadows, 
the ethereal blue hills at the horizon, and one distant black cloud 
from which descend streaks of gray, showing that away over 
there they are having a summer shower to slake the thirsting 
leaves). "True wisdom consists in recollecting how well off 
you are. It sounds simple, doesn't it ? Yet people never do it. 
It's only their miseries they pay any heed to. The toothache, 
or an overcharged bill, or an ill-fitting dress will vex them be- 
yond anything ; but when they don't have these worries or any 
other, they forget to be grateful. They don't realize their good- 
fortune. They don't reflect how glad they ought to be that at 
the present moment there isn't a bit of dust in their eye, and 
that their boots aren't pinching their toes, and that they are not 
crossing the English Channel in rough weather. You know 
what the physiologists say, that when you are not conscious of 
having any body at all, when you don't seem to be aware that 
18 ii* 



Q14 THS STRANG! ADVSNTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

you have got a head or a band or a foot, then everything is go- 
ing weU, and you are in perfect health ; you know that ?" 

<' IVe heard something of the kind." 

** But people in that happy condition never think of congratu- 
lating themselves," she says. <^ They take it all as a matter of 
course ; they forget how lucky they are. When they have rheu- 
matism, they make a mighty fuss, but when they haven't it, they 
don't recollect that it's a very nice thing to be able to walk, or 
move your arms, just as you please. Now, that is true wisdom, 
to remember how well off you are, and how many ailments you 
might have, and haven't, and to be very grateful and thankful 
and contented." 

" Yes, Miss Marcus Aurelius, that is all very well, for you," 
one says to her. '* You ought to be content, certainly. Look 
at your position. You are young, you are passably good-look- 
ing-" 

<< I thank you," she says, in her cool American way. 

" — you have excellent health and spirits, you have an abun- 
dance of friends and well-wishers, you have nothing in the world 
to do but look pretty and please people. It would be a singular 
thing if you were not well content. You would be as unreason- 
able as the man in the ancient legend whose wife said to him, 
* Well, Jim, you beat anything. You were drunk on Sunday 
night and you were drunk on Monday night, you were drunk on 
Wednesday night, and here you're drunk again on Friday night, 
that's already four nights in the week, and still you're grum- 
bling ! What more would you like ? Would you like to be an 
angel?'" 

** Ah, I see I can't make you understand," she says. " It isn't 
at all being merely content; you should make yourself happy 
by thinking of the various anxieties and ailments and distresses 
that you have suffered from or might suffer, and that you are 
now free from ; it isn't content, it is congratulation. When I 
came outside this morning, and looked at the beautiful country 
all around, and breathed the delicious air — well, I don't know 
how to explain it, there was such a delight, and the only griev- 
ance I could invent was that it was all going by. It seemed a 
pity one couldn't bottle up some of the summer for use in win- 
ter. Of course, if you were an artist, you could. Landscape 
pictures are a kind of bottled-up sununer ; you can do a lot with 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 275 

them in winter, if you are quite alone, and try to believe very 
much. Say," she continues, in her usual inconsequent fashion, 
*^ why is your wife so anxious that Mr. Buncombe should come 
back to the boat?" 

She puts this question in an unconcerned manner, and with 
downcast eyes ; in fact, she is now pretending to sketch, on the 
printed fly-leaf of a novel, some simulacrum of a withered tree 
on the other side of the stream, and the better to make her 
drawing visible across the advertisements, she from time to time 
moistens the lead-pencil with her lips, which is a most reprehen- 
sible practice. 

" Is he one of the distresses yon have suffered from, and 
would rather now be free from ?" one asks, in a general kind of 
way. 

" Certainly not. I liked him very well, I liked him very well, 
indeed. But if he comes back now, it will be with a difEerence. 
Things have got altered somehow — don't you feel that? This 
hardly seems the same boat that used to lose itself in the mid- 
dle of the Thames, with everybody trying different kinds of 
poles. Doesn't it feel a long time since then ? And even since 
Mr. Duncombe left us ? Why, that was only the other day, as 
you might call it ; and yet it all seems cut off and distant somcj 
how. I believe it was the tunnels did it." 

"Did what?" 

" Why, since we came through those tunnels we seem to have 
come into another world altogether. Ever^rthing is different — 
the landscape is different — " 

" Are the people different ?" 

" I don't know," she says, reflectively ; " but I seem to feel 
a different kind of atmosphere around us somehow. Don't you 
think it will sound odd to hear Mr. Duncombe, if he comes back, 
talking about theatres and comedies and magazine articles? 
The critics, too, they have been let alone for such a long time ; 
I wonder if he will have any new grievance against them when 
he comes back. Yes, it will be different." 

One could perceive in a vague way what she meant, though 
her speech was not very precise. 

" But don't you want to hear what has been going on in town, 
what new books are being talked about, and new plays ?" 

Miss Peggy lifts her eyes for a moment. 



276 THB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" Don't you think," she says, with a little hesitation, " that he 
is interested in rather small things? To write a comic piece 
for a theatre — ^that isn't a great ambition, is it?" 

" It is a harmless one, surely." 

" Oh, yes. You laugh at the moment, and forget. But these 
are not the things that remain in the mind. Sometimes I al- 
most wish that Colonel Cameron had not repeated that ballad 
of * Gordon of Brackla ;' if I happen to lie awake at night it 
comes into my head, I seem to hear the very tones he used, and 
it makes me shiver, it is so terrible a story. And yet I am quite 
sure that the interpretation you and he put on it is wrong. I 
don't believe the wife taunted her husband, and sent him out to 
fight, with the notion that he would be killed, and that then she 
would marry the other one — * fierce Inveray.' I don't think 
that was it at all. I believe she was convinced that her husband 
could fight against any odds, and would return victorious. That 
was a great deal more likely — she was the wife of a man re- 
nowned for his bravery." 

" My dear young lady, that is a very charitable construction ; 
but what are you to make of her conduct after her husband was 

slain ? — 

*A bridegroom young Inveray stood by her side. 
She feasted him there as she ne'er feasted lord, 
Though the bluid o* her husband was red on his sword.' ^' 

" Ah, but that was to make sure !" says Miss Peggy, with a 
kind of proud air. " If she had tried to defend the castle, In- 
veray would have burned it down, and killed her, and she would 
have lost her revenge. No ; she had to pretend to make friends ; 
and then there was a wedding ; and in the middle of the feast 
she watched her chance, and stabbed him. That was the end 
of it — ^then or thereafter ; I am certain." 

" And a very dramatic ending, too." 

" Well," she continues, " I wish I dared ask Colonel Cameron 
to write out that ballad for me." 

" Dare ! That is an odd kind of word. Why, he'll be de- 
lighted." 

" Will you ask him for me ?" 

"Certainly not. Ask him for yourself. Do you think he 
will bite?" 

" And why is he called colonel ?" she demands, with unrea- 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 277 

soning petulance. "Why isn't he a major/or captain, or gen- 
eral — I wouldn't mind what it was, but colonel ?" 

" You are a little too familiar with the title on your side of 
the water?" 

" And you know how that is ?" she says, instantly. " No, 
you don't I can see you don't. Well, I will tell you. You're 
always calling me a schoolgirl, but there are lots of things I can 
teach you." 

" No doubt." . 

" The reason we have so many colonels in America," she re- 
marks, with an oracular air, " is simply this, that at the end of 
our war all the survivors were raised to that rank. That was 
what a grateful country did. That is what I call true gratitude. 
What they did with people above that rank I don't know ; but 
all the rest were made colonels. What do you do at the end of 
one of your wars ?" 

" We haven't time to do anything before another has begun." 

"Then your soldiers get plenty of chances. Say, do you 
think I could get a copy of * Men of the Time ' over there in 
Tewkesbury ?" asks this persistent questioner. 

" You would be more likely to get it in Gloucester." 

" Is it an expensive book?" 

" I don't know ; perhaps eight or ten shillings. But if you 
mean buying it, it is a bulky thing to carry about." 

" I could cut out the pages I want. I should like to see all 
that Colonel Cameron has done, a list of the engagements he 
has been in, because — ^because naturally it is interesting, when 
you are meeting any one from day to day — well, you want to 
know all about him." 

" And who told you that Sir Ewen Cameron was in * Men of 
the Time?'" 

" Your wife. I was asking her what battles he had been in ; 
and she said I ought to look there." 

" Why not ask himself ?" 

" Oh, I couldn't, I couldn't do that !" she exclaimed ; and then 
she suddenly ceased, for at this moment the door was opened, 
and there was the tall, sandy-haired colonel himself, looking very 
smart and fresh, and with a cheerful " Good-morning !" on his 
lips. Nor was Miss Peggy much confused ; no, she frankly 
gave him her hand, and there was a smile on her face as she re- 



278 THB 8TRANGB ADVENTURB8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

torned his meeting, and inquired if he had heard any tidings of 
breakfast 

We passed most of that morning in Tewkesbury, having got 
ashore and clambered up the steep, ruddy, slippery bank, and 
thence made our way into the town. We crossed the Avon, not 
running red with blood, as the chroniclers say it did after the 
memorable battle of some four hundred years ago, but running 
yellow in spate, with the recent heavy rains. And when we got 
into the quiet, wide-streeted town, we saw further evidence of 
the floods that had visited the valley of the Severn, for along 
the pavements the people were busy pumping out the coffee- 
colored water that had submerged their cellars and kitchens. 
Some of those old houses looked unstable enough already, their 
projecting upper stories apparently like to topple down on the 
heads of the passers-by ; but perhaps the people of Tewkesbury, 
which is built at the confluence of three rivers and several 
brooks, are used to this sapping of foundations. Queen Tita 
asked of her young friend to point *out which of these ancient 
tenements was the scene of the murder of the young Prince Ed- 
ward (they say his blood still stains the floor), but Miss Peggy 
answered that she had not been reading up her English history 
that morning, she had been imparting wisdom, she said. 

And yet, when we had got along to the Abbey Church, and 
were within stone's throw of the Bloody Meadow, as the place 
is called to this day, she showed herself sufficiently interested. 
Mere recitals of battles and sieges she did not heed much ; but 
a personal and dramatic incident could immediately enchain her 
attention, especially if it was connected with anything she could 
actually see. Was it, then, to this very gateway now before her 
that the abbot, interrupted in his celebration of the mass by the 
wild battle without, had come, bearing the host in his hands, and 
forbidding Edward and his victorious followers to enter, until 
the king had sworn to spare the lives of the defeated Lancas- 
trians who had fled for safety into the sacred building ? And 
was it up between these massive Norman pillars that the king 
and his soldiers and the monks marched to the high-altar singing 
their thanks to Heaven for the great victory, while the slaughter 
of the fugitives was still going on outside the walls? Silent 
enough now was this solemn nave, our footfalls on the stone the 
only sound. And the good folk of Tewkesbury have got a race- 



THB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 279 

coarse quite close to the Bloody Meadow, where the Avon and 
Severn join. 

When we got back to the Nameless Barge^ all available poles, 
spars, and oars were called into requisition, for now we had to 
cast her loose upon the wide and flooded river, in order to get 
her over to the tow-path side. But by dint of much indiscrimi- 
nate paddling (we had neither rowlocks nor tholepins, and it was 
difficult to get a purchase on the water from any part of the 
boat) we eventually got her across and under the bridge ; then 
we had the horse hitched to again, and away we went down 
stream once more. It was a landscape-artist's day, bright, breezy, 
and changeful, with sudden bursts of sunlight touching here 
and there and widening out over field and grove ; the atmos- 
phere singularly clear, and yet lending itself to tender hues of 
gray and lilac and silver in the far distance. Then this noble 
river seemed to grow more and more beautiful, when we had 
passed the town and the race-course, and were making rapid way 
southward. The country seemed to grow more and more rich 
and bountiful; there were parks and woods and stately man- 
sions ; and all these shining in this vivid light ; indeed, there was 
one green slope the elms on the summit of which threw almost 
black shadows, so keen was the glare. And then, again, a pale 
network of cloud would partially veil the sun ; and all the colors 
around us would grow quieter in tone, though they were none 
the less harmonious; and when one looked at the yellow rip- 
pling river, the wooded banks, the lush green meadows, perhaps 
here or there a bit of a red roof peeping through the trees, per- 
haps the gray tower of a church crowning some windy height — 
well, then, if we had found in a comer of this composition the 
signature Alfred ParsonSy pinxit, we should hardly have been 
surprised. 

We found the Severn a busy river, too ; and we had quite 
sufficient occupation in getting our awkward vessel past the suc- 
cessive strings of bargds that were being brought up by steam- 
power against the flood, we having to keep outside of them, and 
get our tow-rope over their smoke-stacks somehow or anyhow. 
But with Murdoch at the bow and Captain Columbus on the 
bank, we succeeded in getting by without any serious mishap. 
Help from the bargemen themselves we got none, not that they 
were in any way sulky or unwilling, but that the sight of this 



280 THE STRANGE ADVENTURXS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

strange craft coming down the Severn awoke an all-conqaering 
curiosity, and they could do nothing but stare at us until we had 
passed. Then we encountered a small steamer coming along at 
a considerable pace, that gave us a good bit of a wash ; but the 
NavneUss Barge dipped and bobbed and rode out these billows 
quite as if she had been to the manner bom ; and, altogether, 
we thought we were doing mighty fine. In this fashion we 
swung along by Chaseley Rye, and Deerhurst, and Turley ; and 
then we halted for luncheon at Haw Bridge, there being a cer- 
tain White Lion in the neighborhood, where Captain Columbus 
proposed to bait our gallant steed. 

" Well," said Mrs. Threepenny-bit, pulling in her camp-stool 
to the table with much complacency, " we have got so far in 
safety, thank goodness. But I'm glad I'm not responsible. 
When the worst comes to the worst, I mean to simply sit still 
and be drowned. If we have had to come through so many 
scrimmages on a quiet bit of an ordinary river — " 

<< Oh, pass those pickles and hold your tongue I" one had to 
say to her. " An ordinary river ! I tell you it is a whirlpool, a 
cataract, a Niagara and Corrievreckan rolled into one. I tell you 
we have done very well. Why, we excited the admiration of 
every bargeman we passed. Didn't you see how they were 
struck with astonishment at our skilful seamanship ?" 

" They were struck with astonishment at something," she ob- 
served. " I suppose they never saw a house careering down the 
Severn before. But if we have all these escapades on this quiet 
part of the river, what is to happen to us when we get into the 
open estuary ?" 

"Don't you think you could have constructed a boat that 
would have saved you from all these apprehensions ?" asked Sir 
Ewen Cameron, with cool impertinence. " I mean with some- 
thing stronger along the sides, so that you wouldn't have to fear 
striking against the wall of a tunnel or bumping against one of 
those heavy barges ?" 

" Certainly," one made answer to this amateur critic. " She 
might have been armor-plated all round her gunwale, and she 
might have been furnished with a few twenty-ton guns, in case 
we should fall in with pirates." 

" Or did you never think of taking one of those barges them- 
selves and fitting it up ?" 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 281 

'^ Yes, with underground apartments, where we should all be 
living like moles, or water-rats rather." 

" There might be skylights," said he. 

" But, Sir Ewen," said Miss Peggy, " what would become of 
the charm of these picnic luncheons ? As we are sitting now, 
each of those windows frames a landscape ; why, you might 
consider the five windows five pictures hung up to adorn the 
walls. And then they are living pictures — ^real water and skies 
and trees." 

He deferred to her at once. 

" Oh, certainly, certainly," said he. " When we are resting 
quiet like this, it is much more delightful to have the view all 
round us ; it is when we are going on that the awkwardness of 
having a top-heavy house on the boat comes in. Of course, you 
wouldn't have all that trouble with the tow-rope if you went by 
steam. A small steam-launch, specially fitted to get into the 
canal-locks — " 

"Oh, Sir Ewen!" Queen Tita exclaimed, "fancy having a 
noisy, rattling, smoky thing like that in those beautiful still soli- 
tudes we came through ! All the charm and fascination of the 
quiet would vanish at once. And think of the smell of the oil, 
and the throbbing of the engine." 

" Look here, Cameron," one of us had to interpose, to put an 
end to this insensate discussion, "the political people think noth- 
ing of taking a cabinet minister who has just been war secre- 
tary and putting him in command at the admiralty ; but we can't 
have anything of that kind here. We're not going to have Al- 
dershot dictate to us. Besides, man, do you think we didn't 
debate and discuss all these and a hundred other proposals be- 
fore we hit upon this compromise ?" 

" That seems a most excellent pigeon-pie — may I help my- 
self ?" he remarked to his hostess, and that was all his answer ! 

" And that reminds me," said Mrs. Threepenny-bit, " that we 
ought to hear at Gloucester to-night whether Mr. Buncombe is 
coming. I am sure we owe a great deal to him for all the 
trouble he took about this boat. He was most indefatigable, 
you would have thought he was planning the whole expedition 
for himself." 

" Yes, madam," one said to her, " you ought to be most grate- 
ful to him. It's all very well for you now ; here you are in fine 



282 THX dTRAKOE ADVENTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

summer weather — windows open, beautiful scenery all around 
you, and so on. I can tell you it was a very different thing 
last January, up at Staines or Kingston, inspecting one melani 
choly house-boat after another, the ice crackling on the slippery 
gangboards, one's teeth chattering with the cold. That was 
what Jack Duncombe did for you." 

" Yes, but we are not ungrateful, are we, Peggy f ' she ob- 
served, making a bold appeal. 

" I hope not," the younger person answered. 

<^ And I am only sorry he has not seen this beautiful Severn 
along with us. Perhaps the Rennet may make it up to him." 

She seemed very certain that Jack Duncombe would come 
back to the boat ; and there was this to be said for her convic- 
tion, that, if he could get away at all, he would assuredly try to 
join our party now, for he had always been curious to see how 
the craft he had helped to construct would behave in the open 
waters of the Severn. But we had no idea that we were to see 
him so soon. On this still golden evening we were quietly glid- 
ing on towards Gloucester, when Captain Columbus, who was 
far away along the tow-path (a favorite habit of his when he 
was not wanted on board), was seen to stop and speak to a 
stranger. 

"Fancy Columbus meeting an acquaintance in this out-of- 
the-way neighborhood !" Queen Tita exclaimed. And then she 
looked, and looked again. " Why, I declare it is Mr. Duncombe ! 
Isn't it, Peggy ? It must be !" 

The waving of a pocket-handkerchief put the matter beyond 
doubt. And then, in the course of a few minutes, the horse- 
marine, recognizing the situation, and observing a part of the 
bank where we could easily get alongside, stopped his horse ; 
the bow of the Nameless Barge was quietly run in among the 
reeds and bushes, the gangboard shoved out, and Jack Dun- 
combe, in boating flannels, and with a small blue cap on his 
head, and yet nevertheless having a curious town look about him 
— ^at least so it seemed to us — stepped on board, and was cheer- 
fully welcomed by the women-folk, and introduced to Colonel 
Cameron. Yes, there was a town look about his complexion 
that one had hardly noticed before — somehow suggestive of 
cigarettes, and lemon-squash, and the scribbling of farces. But 
be was apparently in the brightest of spirits ; his clear, intelli- 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 283 

gent gray eyes showed how glad he was of this friendly wel- 
come ; while the way he glanced round the boat seemed almost 
to imply a sense of ownership. 

" And you didn't get my telegram at Tewkesbury ?" said he. 

"We never thought of asking for telegrams," Queen Tita 
made answer ; " we were too much engaged in watching the 
people pumping the water out of their houses." 

** Oh," said he, " I thought you must have been washed away 
somewhere ; I hardly ever expected to hear of you again. Did 
you see the newspapers ? No, I suppose not. Why, there was 
nothing but gales and storms and floods ; many a time I won- 
dered how you liked the Forest of Arden in that kind of 
weather." 

" I can assure you," said she, " we had nothing to complain 
of in the way of weather." 

" Ah, you are used to the West Highlands," he remarked, in 
his off-hand way. 

Well, now, if he had not been a new-comer, and therefore to 
be welcomed, he might have been made to suffer for that impru- 
dent speech ; but she only said, 

" There is Peggy, who has never been in the West High- 
lands ; what do you say, Peggy ?" 

" I think it has been just beautiful and delightful all the way 
through," that young lady said promptly. " We had some rain, 
of course, now and again, but we didn't seem to mind it. What 
I remember is just beautiful." 

" And you got through the tunnels all right ?" 

" Oh, don't speak of that — that was too dreadful," said Mrs. 
Threepenny-bit, with a shudder. " Thank goodness, we are to 
have no more of them ! Nothing on earth would induce me to 
go through those horrible places again." 

" I see you have suffered a little in the wars," he continued, 
glancing along the roof and the sides of the boat. "You'll 
have to lie up somewhere for repairs. Of course you must look 
very smart before you make your appearance in a gay and fash- 
ionable place like Bath." 

" But wait a bit, my young friend," the steersman put in ; 
" what's this you're saying about Bath ? Is the Thames and 
Severn Canal blocked ?" 

** I have been making inquiries," answered this diligent yc 



284 THS BTRAMOS ADYSNTURBS OV A HOUSE-BOAT. 

<< since I came to Gloacester, and I rather fancy it is. However^ 
I will get to know more to-night or to-morrow morning. But 
anyhow, why shoaldnH you go down to Bristol ? It will be ever 
so much better fun. I should like to see her go ploughing after 
a steam-launch.*^ 

" Thank you," said Queen Tita, with much dignity ; " I, for 
one, have had enough of steam-launches." 

'* Oh, that was going through the tunnels," said he, with per- 
fect good-humor; '* whereas this will be in the open. There 
won't be any danger — ^not much, at all events. If she should 
begin to do anything we can howl to the people on board the 
steam-launch, and they'll ' stop her, back her,' and pick us up. 
It's quite simple." 

"It's quite simple," complained Miss Peggy, "to have all 
our things sunk in the middle of the Severn !" 

" And if we are to be towed down by a steam-launch," Mrs. 
Threepenny-bit asked again, ** what is to be done with the horse ?" 

" The horse-marine must take him on to Bristol by road," 
said he. 

" By road ?" she answered, quickly, as if some new idea had 
suddenly occurred to her. " Peggy, don't you think you would 
like a little driving-trip ? we could get a landau that would take 
all the things we wanted to make sure of." 

But here our colonel interfered at once. 

" No, no," said he, " that will never do. There must be no 
deserters. If you will answer for the navigation of the ship, 
Mr. Duncombe, I will be responsible for the behavior of the 
passengers." 

" As for that," said Duncombe, " I don't mind being made 
answerable for anything ; " but I think it's a wholesome rule, 
when there is anything doubtful going to be done with a boat, 
to put the responsibility on the owner of her. He ought to be 
in charge." 

"And he's going to be," observed the person concerned. 
" Don't you make any mistake about that." 

And yet the notion about driving seemed to linger in Mrs. 
Threepenny-bit's small brain. 

" Peggy?" she said, " what do you say about that landau ?" 

Miss Peggy glanced at Colonel Cameron — but instantly low- 
ered her eyes, for he happened to be looking her way. 



THB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 285 

'* Oh, no/' said she, modestly, " the passengers mast be obe- 
dient ; we must all stay by the ship." 

In the clear evening skies there were long lines of faintly 
russet cloud — parallel they mostly were, as if they had been 
left there by some receding sea — when we came in sight of the 
square tower and four turrets of Gloucester Cathedral rising 
above the wide meadows, with a background of purple low- 
lying hills beyond. And now the question was whether we 
should go on to the town and endeavor to get into the basin of 
the Gloucester and Berkeley Ship Canal, or remain for the night 
out here in the rural quiet. 

" And your luggage, Mr. Duncombe ?" Queen Tita asked, for 
she knew that people don't drop down from the clouds in a suit 
of boating flannels. 

" Of course I took my things to a hotel," said he. " When 
I got your invitation, I knew I should be a fifth wheel to the 
coach; only it was too tempting; and then I said to my- 
self that I could easily stop at a hotel whenever there was a 
chance." 

" You shall do nothing of the kind," said she ; for she is a 
hospitable kind of creature in her way, " that is, if you will put 
up with the discomfort of a bed in the saloon." 

" And if you would take my berth, and give me the bed in 
the saloon," Colonel Cameron interposed, "then I know you'd 
hate me less." 

" Not at all," said the younger man, with a good-natured 
laugh. " I am the one who ought to apologize, for coming here 
to disturb a happy family. And to-night, to show you bear 
me no ill-will, you're all coming to dine with me at my hotel." 

" Mr. Duncombe !" his hostess protested. " This boat is 
provisioned for any length of time." 

" But the dinner is ordered," said he ; " and the room ; and 
I have got what you haven't got — some fresh flowers. So I 
suggest you should leave the boat at some convenient place just 
outside the town, and we can walk up to the hotel. And 
then," continued this shifty young man, " you might put a few 
things in your dressing-bags — just now, I mean — ^and if you 
found you would rather stay the night at the hotel, you could 
send for them. It seems a pity to have to turn out late at 
night, and make your way down to the river," 



286 THB STBANGE ▲OVENTURXS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" And how late do you expect us to remain your guests, Mr. 
Duncombe ?" Mrs. Threepenny-bit inquired, mildly. 

" In Gloucester," said he, " no one ever goes to bed before 
twelve ; but two is the fashionable hour." 

" Then I am afraid we shall have to be very unfashionable. 
But come along, Peggy, and we will get some things ready ; 
for no one knows how the time passes when men begin to 
smoke." 

" They don't seem to know, anyway ; that is their good-fort- 
une," remarked Miss Peggy ; and forthwith these two disap- 
peared. 

And very gay this little dinner-party proved to be, when we 
were all assembled in the small sitting-room that Jack Dun- 
combe had engaged ; the table was bright and cheerful with 
flowers and wax-candles ; and the banquet a good deal more 
sumptuous than the modest repasts to which we were accus- 
tomed on board our boat. Perhaps, too. Queen Tita — if she 
were still cherishing certain dark designs — was pleased to ob- 
serve that the young man's position as host gave him a certain 
importance ; and enabled him to display all his best points of 
manners. One could not help imagining that Miss Peggy was 
eying him a little critically — ^though surely that brief absence 
could not have transformed him into a stranger. 

But what puzzled one of us most was this : how was it that 
he, who had left us in a most perturbed and anxious frame of 
mind, should now on his return be in the blithest of moods? 
He declared that the invitation we had sent him had reached 
him at the most opportune moment ; but that, if it had not 
reached him at all, he would have come uninvited, and begged 
to be taken on board as a day passenger, shifting for himself 
at nights. So there was here no making up of any quarrel, or 
the removal of any misunderstanding. On the contrary, he 
conducted himself just as if he had come once more among old 
friends ; and he was most anxious to please ; he brought with 
him all the gossip of the town ; and news of the larger world, 
too, which we had missed for many a day. And always, we 
noticed, our garrulous and vivacious host, when he had to ad- 
dress himself to Sir Ewen Cameron, did so with a certain def- 
erence which became the younger man very well ; and Inverfask, 
who acted the part mostly of a good-humored listener, was very 



THE BTRAKGE ADVKNTtJREe OF A HOtJSK-BOAT. 287 

civil in return. Peggy also was a listener. The talk was chiefly 
kept up between Queen Tita and her young protiffS, who was clear- 
ly in high favor to-night. And as for wandering away out in the 
dark to find the Nameless Barge^ Jack Duncombe had already 
taken that matter into his own hands by ordering rooms for all 
of us in the hotel. 

Yes, this was rather a festive evening, although Miss Peggy 
was without her banjo ; for a little later on, when cigars had 
been lit. Jack Duncombe, who had been educated in Germany, 
proposed to compound for us a bowl of Maitrank, as appropriate 
to the season of the year ; but Colonel Cameron offering instead 
to brew some Scotch toddy, as a much wholesomer mixture. 
Queen Tita unhesitatingly declared for the latter ; and whiskey, 
hot water, sugar, lemons, and the like, were forthwith sent for. 
It cannot honestly be said that our potations were deep ; but 
the steaming odor of this unaccustomed beverage, here in this 
southern land, seemed to awaken memories ; and very soon Mrs. 
Threepenny-bit was telling us of all her maddening difficulties 
as a housekeeper in far northern wilds, thirty-three mortal miles 
from any baker's or butcher's shop ; while Sir Ewen came in 
with his experiences of shooting-lodges from the other point of 
view ; that is to say, the point of view of a guest who has to 
take his chance. We did not sit up till two ; no, nor yet till 
half -past twelve ; but it was a merry evening. 

And at the end of it, in her own room, Mrs. Threepenny-bit 
made these remarks : 

" Well, I am exceedingly glad Mr. Duncombe has come back ; 
and I thought he showed to very great advantage to-night, didn't 
you ? and Peggy has eyes, she must see. Of course, he was 
much too profuse with his entertainment ; ridiculously so, for 
a young man ; but I am hardly sorry. It would remind her 
of his circumstances." 

" And you think she was impressed by borrowed silver can- 
dlesticks, and fruit, and flowers ? It seemed to me she was a 
good deal more interested in hearing how we managed to live 
on blue hares and brown trout at Corrie-na-linnhe, that week 
the horse fell lame." 

" As I said before," she continued, " I wouldn't for a moment 
compare Mr. Duncombe with Colonel Cameron.. Certainly not. 
But in Mr. Duncombe's case, if her fancy was turned his wayi 



288 THE 8TRANOS ADVENTURSS OF ▲ HOUSE-BOAT. 

everything would be most propitious and satisfactory ; and we 
should have nothing to blame ourselves with. She must see 
that, too ; she has as much conamon-sense as any one. And I 
really do think that Mr. Duncombe showed to great advantage 
to-night." 

" But, look here," one ventured to say to her, " even sup- 
posing that Peggy's fancy were to turn his way — either seri- 
ously or for mere devilment — are you quite so sure that Jack 
Duncombe would respond ? All the time he was with us before 
he seemed impervious enough. Whatever else he is — ^and I 
think he is a well-intentioned young fellow, clever, too, and 
amusing in a half-cynical sort of way — there's not much senti- 
ment about him. Mightn't your beloved Peggy find him rather 
a tough subject ?" 

She wheeled round at this. 

" Why, even as a piece of mischief, do you think if Peggy 
were setting her mind to it she couldn't make a hash of him 
in half a dozen hours ? She did it before ; but she dropped it ; 
he gave in too easily, and then she loses interest. If there 
were no more serious possibility with regard to Colonel Cam- 
eron, I should have no anxiety in the matter ; but it isn't her 
usual tricks this time; it is something entirely different; in- 
deed, it is she herself who seems attracted and impressed, and 
that in a very curious sort of way. However, if any madness 
of the kind has got into her brain, the contrast between these 
two as regards their age and their circumstances and all that, 
must certainly strike her. Even if she doesn't take up with 
Mr. Duncombe, I am sure I don't want her to take up with any- 
body while she is under my care, still, the distraction of his 
being here will be useful and wholesome. And really he showed 
very well to-night." 

There was nothing further to be said. When the sacred 
oaks and the doves have spoken, the rest of the world is silent. 



TJU BTRANG8 ADYKirTURXS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 289 



CHAPTER XX. 

" Eagerly once her gracious ken 
Was turned upon the sons of men ; 
But light the serious visage grew — 
She looked, and smiled, and saw them through. 
***** 

" Yet show her once, ye Heavenly Powers, 
One of some worthier race than ours I 
One for whose sake she once might proTe 
How deeply she who scorns can love. 
* * * * 

** And she to him will reach her hand, 
And gazing in his eyes will stand, 
And know her friend, and weep for glee. 
And cry: Lon^y long Pve looked for theeP^ 

There was much business to be got through on the follow- 
ing morning ; and we were rather glad to have the women-folk 
taken off our hands by Colonel Cameron, who volunteered to 
escort them on an exploration of the antiquities of Oloucester. 
They wanted to find out the beautiful old house in Westgate 
Street which is well known to artists and architects. They 
wanted to visit the ruins of Llanthony Priory, probably with 
some vague idea that this was Landor's Llanthony. They wanted 
to see the great cathedral and its monuments ; perhaps, Queen 
Tita wistfully suggested, the choir might be singing. And so 
we beheld them go away ; and blessed them ; and betook our- 
selves to the offices of the Gloucester and Berkeley Ship Canal. 

Here we were received with much courtesy ; and, as a result 
of our inquiries, we resolved not to attempt the navigation of the 
Stroudwater and Thames and Severn canals, but to go down the 
Severn to Bristol. The fact is, we had all the way through had 
a kind of sneaking wish to make this attempt, even supposing 
the other route were practicable ; and we rather wished to be 
persuaded that it was Bristol we ought to make for. Acco' 
19 N 



290 THS STRANGE ADVBNTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

ingly we were fumished with letters of introduction to the au- 
thorities at Sharpness Point, who would advise us as to the best 
means of getting through the open waters ; and being so equipped 
we had now but to bring the Nameless Barge along to the com- 
modious basin, where were lying ships and steamers of every 
description and size. Captain Columbus performed this office 
with his usual business-like self-confidence, but Murdoch looked 
a little bit shy as the toy-boat came along. Beside these mas- 
sive hulks, in the midst of all this bustle and activity, there is 
no doubt the Nameless Barge had the appearance of having 
been brought out of the window of a fancy repository. And so 
the idlers about seemed to think. They crowded down to the 
berth which we secured for her, and stared and examined and 
discussed. No such craft had ever been in this place before, we 
were pretty sure of that ; but then Murdoch had adroitly drawn 
together the small red curtains of the windows on the landward 
side, and so, when Mrs. Threepenny-bit and her young American 
friend at length appeared, they escaped with ease from the curi- 
osity of these good people into the security of the saloon, where 
they remained while we were getting the boat slowly and mis- 
cellaneously rowed and pushed and pulled past the great over- 
towering vessels to reach the mouth of the canal. 

What kind of a day was it when we started ? Well, it was 
the kind of a day that keeps weather prophets, of a prudent 
turn, quiet. We might have rejoiced in this burning and brill- 
iant sunlight that shone on the wide and riverlike waters, on 
the winding pathway, and the hedges and woods and slopes, but 
that all of these things derived much of their extraordinary viv- 
idness from the fact that behind them, in the south, were heavy 
masses of purple-black storm-cloud, forming an admirable but 
ominous background. We affected to ignore that lowering dis- 
tance. Here around us everything was perfect ; the air summer- 
like and sweet ; the smooth water mirroring the blue and white 
of the overhead sky; the sunlight warm on Peggy's golden- 
brown hair. Moreover, there seemed to prevul a certain sensa- 
tion of freedom and largeness as we got farther and farther 
along. This canal was of much greater size than those to which 
we had been accustomed ; and the craft we encountered were 
not the ordinary, long, slow-moving, silent boats, but sea-going 
vessels of all kinds, with life and briskness everywhere visible 



THB STRANGE ADVSNTURE8 OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 291 

Quite imposing was one stately procession of tliree brigantines, 
two schooners, a sloop, and two picturesquely laden barges that 
glided quietly by, headed by a noisy little steamer. Indeed, as 
nearly all the traffic on this ship-canal is governed by steam- 
power, we had almost a monopoly of the tow-path, and so got 
along without trouble. 

Mr. Jack Duncombe seemed very well pleased to be back 
among us, and was gay and talkative, his facetiousness chiefly 
taking the form of magnifying the possible dangers of that trip 
down the open Severn to which we were now definitely pledged. 
Perhaps he meant to show that this part of the expedition was 
as important as the passage of the tunnels, which he had missed ; 
perhaps he was so sure of the seaworthiness of the boat that he 
could afford to scoff ; but in any case he entirely failed to ter- 
rify his hostess — if that was his aim. 

" Oh, no," said she, with decision, " whatever may happen to 
the rest of you, Peggy and I will be safe. I am not going to 
take the opinion of any of you gentlemen ; I am going to take 
the opinion of a professional seaman ; I am going to ask Mur- 
doch whether we should make the venture. And if he is in any 
way doubtful, then there is the landau for Peggy and me ; and 
you may as well keep an eye on us as we are driving along the 
road, for when we see you sinking we should like to wave a 
handkerchief, by way of good-bye. It isn't for myself," she 
continued, placidly, " that I care so much, but I am responsible 
for Peggy. The United States might do something awful to me 
if she was drowned while under my charge. They might sum- 
mon me to the bar of the House of Representatives ; I suppose 
they have a bar ?" 

" Trust them !" said Jack Duncombe, but we didn't know 
what he meant. 

" Then they'll say, * Where is Margaret Rossyln V * My lords 
and gentlemen' — I suppose this is what I shall have to say — 
* please, she went down in a stupid old house-boat that tried to 
get along the Severn.' * Away with her to the dungeons ' — ^that's 
what they'll say to me — * and feed her on iced water and canvas- 
back duck that haven't been cooked.' Oh, no ; I'm not going to 
run any such risk. I will take Murdoch's opinion, and if he is 
at all doubtful, then it's a landau for Peggy and me ; and we'll 
watch you from a convenient distance," 



292 THS STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

At this moment Miss Peggy came out into the snnligbt ; ske 
had been adoniing the saloon with the flowers that had done 
duty on the dinner-table at the hotel the night before. More- 
over, she had made bold to appropriate to herself a few white 
hyacinths, and the little bouquet looked very well on her. dress 
of dark-blue serge. 

" Come here, you American girl," Queen Tita says to her, and 
takes hold of her by the arm, and makes room for her by her 
side ; " do you know that I am responsible for your safety ? and 
now that these people have determined to go down the Severn in 
this cockle-shell of a thing, the question is whether I am going 
to allow you to remain on board." 

" I thought that was all settled," observes Miss Peggy, rather 
appealing to Colonel Cameron. 

" It is not all settled," Mrs. Threepenny-bit makes answer. " I 
will not permit of any f oolhardiness, and, unless I can be assured 
that there is not the slightest danger, you and I will put our- 
selves into a carriage and get down to Bristol on good solid land. 
And I am not going to take any vague assurances ; I am going to 
have a professional opinion ; I am going to consult Murdoch." 

" Oh, Murdoch ?" says Miss Peggy, quickly. 

" Yes ; although he is a steward, he has been a sailor, too, all 
his life ; and unless he thinks we may safely run the risk, then 
ashore we go." 

" Oh, yes ; very well, I agree to that," remarks Miss Peggy ; 
and why should she again glance towards Sir Ewen Cameron, 
this time with a kind of smile in her eyes ? " I will hold myself 
bound by Murdoch's opinion, certainly." 

" Why, Miss Rosslyn," Inverfask interposes, with a touch of 
reproach, " you promised to stay by the ship !" 

" But I am not going to allow her to run into any danger," 
Queen Tita says, in her peremptory fashion. " I have got to re- 
store her safe and sound to the United States, and much good 
may they get out of such a piece of baggage I" 

So on this brilliant and shining day (for we would rather not 
look at that black wall of cloud in the south) we got on by Rea 
Bridge and Quedgley and Hardwicke even unto Whitminster, 
where is the junction with the Stroudwater Canal. But we did 
not stay to make inquiries as to the practicability of getting 
back to the Thames by this route ; we had signed our articles, 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 293 

as it were, and were bound for Bristol ; the allurements of the 
Avon and the Eennet, among other considerations, had proved 
too potent. So we continued our placid voyage; and so fair 
and shining and beautiful was the country around us that we 
pretended not to know that a breeze had sprung up, and that 
those mighty masses of purple cloud were advancing, heralded 
by a few rags and shreds of silvery white. 

The storm burst while we were all inside and leisurely seated 
at lunch. It had been growing darker and darker for some time 
before, but we had hardly noticed it, for we were listening to 
Jack Buncombe's recital of his experiences on the production of 
his one and only piece, and our imaginations were away in the 
region of the lamp-lit Strand. But all of a sudden there was a 
sound that recalled us to our actual surroundings — a smart rat- 
tle as of buckshot on the forward window ; and then we became 
aware that the world without was steeped in an unusual and 
mysterious gloom. The next moment the tempest broke upon 
us with a roar — a continuous thunder of rain and hail and ice 
that battered on the roof, and hurled itself against the windows 
with an appalling fury. We could guess that the sudden gale 
was tearing the water around us into a white smoke, but we 
could see nothing, for the panes were steaming with the half- 
melted ice and hailstones. Then, in the midst of all this bewil- 
derment of noise, there was a sharper crack, as if a pistol had 
been fired just outside. 

" Why, what's that ?" cried Jack Duncombe, jumping up and 
making forward. 

" Here, don't open that window 1" one had to call to him. 
" Do you want to swamp the whole place ? Leave the hurricane 
alone ; it isn't meddling with you." 

But what was this now? The Nameless Barge was going 
more slowly ; then it touched something, gently ; then it stopped 
altogether. 

" I know what it is !" said that young man, triumphantly. 
" The tow-rope has broken, and Murdoch has run the boat along- 
side the bank." 

This seemed probable enough, but it was no reason why 
Queen Tita should exclaim, " How provoking !" and one was 
called upon to rebuke that infinitesimal creature for her unrea- 
sonable impatience. 



294 THB STRAXraS ▲OYBNTURBS OF A H0U8S-B0AT. 

" Qo on with your lunch," one says to her, " and be quiet, 
and leave Murdoch and Captain Columbus to patch up the rope 
between them. *How provoking,' indeed I Don't you know 
that we have a philosopher on board this boat ? If you would 
only listen to her teaching, she would show you that, instead of 
grumbling over the tow-rope breaking now for the first time, 
you should be filled with joy because it did not break before. 

Don't you remember the solenm warning gave us before 

we started ? ' You are going to certain misery,' he said, * if you 
propose to tow a house-boat all over England ; for the tow-rope 
will be continually breaking, and the driver continually getting 
drunk.' What has happened ? The driver has never got drunk 
at all, the tow-rope now breaks for the first time. If you had 
any wisdom in you — if you would only listen to the teaching of 
the great philosopher whom we have engaged for this voyage — 
you would rather rejoice that we had come all this way without 
any such mishap." 

" And who is the philosopher ?" she demands. 

<< Me," says Peggy, abasing herself in bad granmiar. 

" And who has authorized you to interfere with the aflEairs of 
this boat?" 

" Please, I never did anything of the kind !" 

" Ah, it's just like him to trump up charges against innocent 
people. Mr. Duncombe, don't you trouble ; the men will make 
everything right. Come back to your place; we all want to 
hear how the battle-royal ended between you and the hysterical 
mamma." 

Well, the storm— or prolonged squall, rather — ^after bellow- 
ing about our ears as if it meant to blow us out of the water, 
ceased about as suddenly as it had begun ; there was a burst of 
warm sunlight all around, insomuch that the forward window 
was thrown open, letting the mild, sweet air blow freely in ; and 
presently we became aware, from the motion of the boat, that 
the people on the bank had got the line mended and were again 
moving forward. We finished our luncheon in peace, and Jack 
Duncombe came to an end of his adventures on that fateful 
night at the theatre. 

When we went outside, we found a most tempestuous-looking 
scene around us. Far away in the west the Monmouthshire 
hills were steeped in a sombre gloom ; but the hills in the east 



THB BTRAKOK ▲DYKNTURSS OF ▲ H0U8B-B0AT. 295 

were swept by flying rain-cloads, followed by bursts of sonligbt 
that produced a rainbow on the soft gray background. And if 
the colors of the landscape had been vivid before, they were 
now keener than ever in this dazzling radiance ; the very sedges 
and willows beside us were all shimmering in the silvery wet 
There was a brisk breeze blowing, too, a stimulating sort of 
breeze that seemed to suggest our fighting our way against it — 
as, indeed, we very soon were. For we found that the tow-path 
here offered excellent walking, so we all got ashore. Jack Dun- 
combe and Queen Tita leading the way, through this whirling 
and changing world of showers and flying clouds and sunlight. 

<< Colonel Cameron," said Miss Peggy, with a certain demure 
air, "didn't you say that the Highlanders were so courteous 
that usually they would try to answer you as they thought you 
wanted to be answered f ' 

" They have a tendency that way, and I don't blame them. 
" Why do you ask ?" said he. 

" Because I don't think we shall have any need of a landau 
to-morrow." 

« I — I don't quite understand," said he. 

" Didn't you say there should be no deserters from the ship 
when we go down to Bristol ?" she asked, still with her eyes on 
the ground. 

" Well, it would be a pity, wouldn't it ?" he answered her. 
" Why not see the thing through ? You are not afraid, I know, 
and I understood you to say you meant to keep by the boat 
Oh, yes, I distinctly think we should hang together." 

" Don't you mean drown together ?" she asked, meekly. 

"If it comes to that, yes. My own opinion is that there 
won't be the slightest danger of any kind." 

" But you belong to the army, whereas it is a naval expert 
who is to be called in," Miss Peggy continued. " And — ^and I 
thought you looked a little surprised to-day when I consented 
to abide by his judgment Then you had forgotten what you 
told me about the Highlanders ?" 

And still this taU, long-striding, sandy-moustached colonel 
didn't perceive what she was driving at 

" I think I know what Murdoch's opinion will be," she ob- 
served, modestly. 

And then he burst into a roar of laughter. 



296 THS 8TRANOS ADVBNTUREB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" Excellent, excellent ! You are going to tell him beforehand 
that you are anxious to remain in the boat, and then you will 
ask him whether you should or not. Very skilful, very inge- 
nious." 

" Do you think so ?" interposed the fifth of these pedestri- 
ans (all of them struggling forward against this fresh-blowing 
wind). " We will see about that. If there is to be a court of 
inquiry, there shall be no subornation of witnesses. Murdoch 
— if he is consulted at all, which is extremely improbable — 
will be asked to give a perfectly free and unbiased judgment." 

"Murdoch is a friend of mine," she said, darkly, and that 
ended the matter for the moment. 

Presently Queen Tita called aloud, 

" Peggy, come along I Here is something for you." 

These two ahead had come to a halt at a comer of the wind- 
ing tow-path, and when we overtook them we perceived the rea- 
son why. In the great valley now opening before them lay the 
wide bed of the Severn River, here and there showing long 
banks of yellow sand, and here and there narrower channels of 
lapping water of similar hue. Which was the main body of the 
stream we could hardly make out — water and sand seemed in 
many places to lose themselves in each other. 

"Weill" s^d Mrs. Threepenny - bit, "doesn't it remind 
you—" 

" Of what?" asked Miss Peggy. 

"Why, of the Missouri at Council Bluffs!" she exclaimed. 
"I thought you would see the likeness at once — those great 
mud-banks and the yelbw water. I thought your loyal heart 
would leap up ; that we should see tears of gladness in your 
eyes." 

"But I never saw the Missouri anywhere," remarked Miss 
Peggy, innocently. 

" What ! you never were at Omaha ?" 

" No, never." 

" Well, you are a pretty American I" 

"Yes; that's just what she is," one ventured to observe, 
merely by way of defending the poor thing. 

"A pretty American you are! Never saw the Missouri! 
\ wonder if you ever heard of the Capitol at Washington ?" 

" As for that," rejoined Miss Peggy, " I know of somebody 




** Throufjh this whirling and changing world of tsJiowers and fiying 
clouds and sunlight,'* 



THE 8TRAN0S ADVENTURES OF A BOUSB-BOAT. 297 

who has lived all her life in England and never went to Strat* 
ford-on-Avon till the year before last." 

" I consider yon a very impertinent young person," said Mrs. 
Threepenny-bit, with much dignity ; and therewith she turned 
to her former companion, and they resumed their walk and talk. 

But what was of more importance than any fancied likeness 
to the Missouri was the question whether that great extent of 
sand and yellow water gave us any indication of what we might 
expect farther down ; for, in that case, there seemed to be little 
to cause serious apprehension. Even with this brisk breeze 
blowing up against the stream there was nothing of a sea on ; 
and, as far as we could judge, the worst that might happen to 
us would be our grounding on a sandbank, which would be an- 
noying enough, but not necessarily dangerous. The steersman 
of the steam-launch would know the proper channel, and what 
could be simpler than to follow submissively in his wake ? So 
we comforted ourselves, and Miss ^eggy assured Colonel Came- 
ron — there seemed to be an excellent understanding between 
these two — that she would easily manage Murdoch. 

When at length we got down to Sharpness Docks we did not 
go into any of the great basins, but remained in one of the con- 
necting water-ways, where we found a snug berth, and where 
there was a chain ferry-boat, by which we could cross to the 
other side when we wished. We left the women-folk to make 
themselves beautiful for dinner, and set out to prosecute inqui- 
ries. The evening was more placid now, and though there was 
still a stormy look about the western skies^ we still hoped for a 
quiet day for our adventure of the morrow. 

We very soon found, however, that the task of obtaining in- 
formation was no easy one. For one thing, the Sharpness Docks 
extend over a wide area ; and while it was next to impossible to 
explain to the people what nondescript kind of craft this was 
that we had brought along, we could not encroach on their 
good-nature by asking them to leave their homes or duties to 
come and look at it — not that night, at least But on one point 
we had absolute assurance — there was no steam-launch here 
available. There had been one quite recently, but it had left. 
Might there be one over at Lydney? Perhaps. If the worst 
came to the worst we could telegraph to Bristol to have one 
sent up? Certainly. What would that cost? No one kneWt 



298 TBS BTRA90B ADySNTUBBS OV A H01TSB-B0AT. 

They seemed to think it rather an insensate thing that we should 
have come hither with a boat that had neither steam nor sails, 
and that couldn't even be rowed; but our chief consideration 
was that we were here, and had no sort of intention of going 
back. When we returned to the Nameless Barge with our re- 
port (it was half -past eight by this time, the saloon was all lit 
up, and dinner waiting) Miss Peggy promptly said, 

'^ But supposing you can't get any steam-launch, why shouldn't 
the boat be aHowed to float down with the stream ? I suppose 
she would hit upon the sand-banks here or there, but you could 
shove her off, and she could make her way herself. Isn't that 
practicable ?" 

" Oh, yes," responded Jack Buncombe, at once. " It is quite 
practicable. And it would be a gay performance at first, to go 
waltzing along like that ; but it would be rather awkward lower 
down. Do you know that the Severn is about six miles wide 
down there ? I dare say if we bobbed about for a month or 
two we should eventually get blown into the mouth of the 
Avon." 

"What do you say, Mr. Buncombe?" cried Queen Tita. 
«* Six miles wide ? Why, it's the open sea ! And we are going 
out into it in a thing like this .^' 

"But think of the heroism of it!" said he. "Why, they 
will put up a statue to you in Bristol as the first person who 
ever went down the Severn in a wooden shanty." 

" The wooden shanty," said she, solemnly, " will take the 
form of a carriage on four wheels ; and it will go along a sound, 
respectable. Christian highway. What do you say, Peggy f 

Miss Pe^y glanced towards Colonel Cameron, who also was 
regarding her ; but the entrance of Murdoch relieved her from 
the necessity of answering, and presently dinner was going for- 
ward. 

And again this evening the young gentleman who had just 
returned to us maintained that extraordinary vivacity which was 
in such marked contrast to the dolorous mood iti which he had 
left us. Nay, he was nearly incurring his hostess's displeasure 
by his recklessness ; for she, having remarked that it would be 
an interesting thing to know from people which historical char- 
acter they most admired, or would themselves havA chosen to 
be, he said instantly, 



THE 8TBANGB ADVENTURXB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 200 

*< I know who I shoald like to YiAve been — ^the Earl of Rodi- 
eater." 

"Why?" she asked. 

"Oh," said he, carelessly, "he had a merry time of it; he 
was dmnk for five years at a stretch." 

" Colonel Cameron," said she, with severe reserve, " I hope 
you will choose some respectable person." 

"I? Well, I really don't know," Sir Ewen made answer. 
" I've always had a great admiration for the old Northern war- 
rior who was quite willing to be converted to Christianity until 
he happened to ask where his forefathers were : you know the 
story." 

" But I don't," said Miss Peggy, in her usual prompt way. 

" When the bishop told him his forefathers were in hell, Bad. 
bod immediately drew back from the font : where his f oref a* 
thers were, there he would go. I forget the precise words ; but 
it was rather a fine speech — don't you think so ?" 

The chief inquisitor, turning to Miss Peggy, 

"You, Peggy?" 

The answer came without a moment's hesitation — 

" I should like to have been Flora Macdonald," she said. 

" But wait a bit, Miss Rosslyn," Jack Buncombe interposed. 
" Are you quite sure you can call Flora Macdonald an historical 
character ?" 

" Certainly," Colonel Cameron answered for her. " Undoubt- 
edly. Miss Macdonald was flung into the Tower. Now, it is 
only historical characters that are * flung ' anywhere. Unmis- 
takably she was an historical character." 

" It is so strange to hear you speak of her as Miss Macdon- 
ald," said Miss Peggy, thoughtfully ; though we did not quite 
perceive how this little peculiarity should have impressed her. 

Now, it was not to this chance mention of Flora Macdonald, 
nor yet to any resuscitation of Jack Buncombe's Alfieri project, 
that we owed the reintroduction of the subject of Prince Charles 
Edward, which had already played so important a part in the 
conduct of this expedition. Biscuits was the much more pro- 
saic cause. Mrs. Threepenny-bit, in her capacity of universal 
provider, had purchased for us some tins of oatmeal biscuits, for 
which she has a particular fancy ; and when one of those was 
now produced and opened there was some promiscuous talk 



300 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES Ot A HOUSE-BOAT. 

about the qualities of oatmeal in general, which Mr. Duncombe 
seemed to regard as a merry topic. Inverfask, on the other 
hand, was saying that, if it were true that oatmeal was a non- 
fattening, bone-producing form of food, then it was strange that 
Prince Charlie, who must have lived on little else during most 
of his wanderings in the Highlands, should have thriven so well 
on it that when he escaped over to France his own brother hard- 
ly recognized him, so stout had he grown. So here we were 
back at the Young Chevalier again, and forthwith Mrs. Three- 
penny-bit said, with inadvertent encouragement, 

*^ He was quite a slim young man when he landed in Scot- 
land, wasn't he ?" 

" Yes, tall and slim, but with a wiry and muscular figure, and 
with a most princely carriage. I think that must have helped 
him greatly in winning over those poor Highlanders to his cause. 
And then," he continued (for was he not well aware of Miss 
Peggy's romantic interest in these matters ?), *' he had left noth- 
ing undone to fit him for the part he was to play. He did not 
want to come among the clansmen as a foreign prince ; he tried 
hard to make himself a Highlander ; even before he landed he 
had trained himself in their athletic sports, the use of the broad- 
sword as well ; and then, when he was among them, he was in- 
defatigable in interesting himself in their ways and family his- 
tories and traditions, and in picking up any old custom — " 

"There was one of their old customs he managed to pick 
up," Jack Duncombe said, with a laugh ; " he was a powerful 
potationist." 

" Drinking was common among the gentlemen of the time," 
Canreron said, briefly ; " and there may have been an occasional 
bout or two, magnified afterwards by the people who took part 
in it. But Charles Edward was by nature and habit notoriously 
an abstemious young man. Why, do you think a person given 
to drink could have gone through such physical fatigue and en- 
dured such privations as he had to encounter? When he was 
marching with his troops into England — on foot, as he always 
was, at the head of this or that regiment, talking to the men 
and cheering them on — they weren't very sorry when something 
happened to his shoe, for then they got the pace moderated a 
little. Look at his endurance among the hills," Sir Ewen went 
on. " For nearly a whole week he lived on a quarter of a peck 



THB BTRANGB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 301 

of oatmeal ; and all the while sleeping in holes or caves, on the 
bare rock frequently. The whole party were actually starving 
when they chanced on the Glenmorriston men ; and they brought 
the Glenmorriston men near to starvation too, until they man- 
aged to shoot a stag, and that they had to eat without bread or 
salt. I wonder if any king's son ever before had to suffer such 
hard discipline; very likely it may have been the plain living 
and the constant exercise that made him look so stout and well 
when he returned to Prance." 

" Almost thou persuadest me that he was rather a fine fellow," 
Jack Buncombe said, quite good-humoredly. " But you can't 
get over the last years of his life." 

"The last years of his life?" Colonel Cameron repeated. 
" Well, I know the story ; and I don't like to recall it. They 
say that his miseries and disappointments had turned his brain. 
Long before he went to Florence his conduct had become quite 
inexplicable : people couldn't even find out where he was. But 
surely, when a man's life-history is so far away from us as that, 
it is kinder and wiser to think of him at his best." 

" Oh, surely, surely !" said Queen Tita ; for that furious mite 
of a partisan had been listening in rather a breathless way. 

" It is not a great piece of charity to extend to any one," Sir 
Ewen continued; he knew these women-folk were on his side. 
" And at his best young Charles Stuart was a brave and gallant 
prince — eager, generous, and filled with enthusiasm in what he 
considered a just and loyal enterprise, that was to win the 
crown of England, not for himself, but for his father. Aytoun 
says that if the clan system of the Highlands was doomed, it 
was better it should go out in a blaze of romantic splendor 
rather than die merely of inanition. Well, that may be so. 
Tet I can't help remembering that many a poor Highlander had 
to pay dear for that brilliant historical episode ; and, indeed, I 
wish that Lochiel had taken Fassief em's advice and stayed away 
altogether, or else gone to meet the prince with a firm and un- 
alterable * No.' But the thing was done ; the misery and suffer- 
ing are all forgotten now ; and who, at this distance of time, 
can bear any grudge against Charles Edward, or want to think 
of him except in his best days? Why, we should rather be 
grateful to him for all the beautiful music and the pathetic 
songs that he called into existence. Ail the finer feeling of 



302 THE STRANGE ADVENTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

Scotland was awakened by his heroic undertaking — ^the poets 
themselves couldn't keep from joining his standard. Miss Boss- 
lyn, did you ever hear of the * Braes of Yarrow ?' " 

" Oh, yes," the young lady answered, but in a startled way — 
her eyes had been absent. 

" I don't mean Wordsworth's poems, I mean the older ballad, 
'Busk ye, busk ye, my bonnie, bonnie bride.' That was 
written by Hamilton of Bangour. Hamilton belonged to an 
old Ayrshire family, so that clanship feeling had nothing to do 
with him ; a very accomplished person he was, a great favorite, 
and already making his way to fame ; so that he had really 
everything to lose, and nothing to gain, by joining the prince ; 
but join the prince he did. The fascination of the enterprise, 
I suppose, captivated his mind ; I don't know that he had ever 
met the prince personally ; perhaps he had at Edinburgh — ^at 
the Holyrood festivals, when Bonnie Prince Charlie was win- 
ning the hearts of all the Scotch ladies." 

" Was Mr. Hamilton killed ?" she asked, quickly. 

" Oh, no. He escaped to France, like so many more ; and 
afterwards he was pardoned, and even got his estates back. 
The government were as lenient as could fairly have been ex- 
pected, though some examples had to be made. Well, I wish 
they had spared old Lord Balmerino," he continued, in this 
careless, rambling way ; " he was a splendid old fellow : how- 
ever, if there was any one who didn't seem to mind, it was 
Balmerino himself. Then there was old Malcolm Macleod, who 
was guide to Prince Charlie in a great part of his wanderings ; 
they ran no great risk in letting him off, though Malcolm was 
proud enough of the triumphant way in which he got back to 
his own country. When Miss Macdonald was set free, she was 
asked to choose an attendant to accompany her on her journey 
to the north ; and she chose old Malcolm ; so that he used ever 
after to say, " Well, I went up to London to be hanged, and 
came back in a braw post-chaise with Miss Flora Macdonald 1' " 

And how did Mrs. Threepenny-bit take all this talk about 
these half -forgotten things ; and how did she regard the keen 
and sympathetic interest that Miss Peggy so obviously dis- 
played ? It is to be feared that, fiercely Jacobite as she was in 
her sjrmpathies, she was beginning to wish Sir Ewen Cameron 
back at Aldershot, although it was herself who had insisted on 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OP A HOUSE-BOAT. 303 

his being summoned hither. To defend the Young Chevalier, 
and to give Miss Peggy some idea of what a Highland soldier 
may be like, was all very well ; but to capture the young lady's 
heart (supposing there was any such risk) as well as her imag- 
ination, was a very different matter. And again, on this even- 
ing, she gave utterance to her fears. 

The occasion arose in this way. After dinner, Miss Peggy, 
drawing aside one of the blinds and peering out, discovered 
that it was a beautiful starlight night, and proposed that we 
should all go for a stroll along the bank. The captain of the 
ship, having to enter up the log, declined. Queen Tita also re- 
fused, affecting some dread of the night air. Jack Buncombe, 
of course, jumped up at once, and offered to be Miss Peggy's 
escort, which seemed a natural and simple arrangement. But 
Miss Peggy hesitated. She glanced at Colonel Cameron. 

" Sir Ewen," she said, diflSdently, " won't you come too ? I 
am sure you will find it quite as pleasant to smoke your cigar 
outside." 

" Oh, certainly, certainly, if I may," said he forthwith ; and 
then she put a scarf round her head and shoulders, and these 
three went out of the saloon and made their way ashore in the 
clear dark. 

The moment they had gone Queen Tita laid down the book 
she was pretending to read. 

"Now, can you imagine anything more vexatious than the 
way that girl is going on !" she exclaimed, though one perhaps 
suspected that a good deal of her annoyance was assumed. 

" You mean in asking Colonel Cameron to go out for a bit of 
a stroll?" 

" Not at all. I mean her whole attitude towards him. And 
Peggy, of all people in the world ! Why, she has always had a 
kind of scorn of men. She has always found them too pliable, 
too silly, in short ; and has simply amused herself with them ; 
that is, when she wasn't merely indifferent. But now she is as 
obedient as a lamb ; and listens for every word, and I must say 
that he talks almost entirely to her, openly and unblushingly ; 
and it's * Sir Ewen says this ' and ' Sir Ewen says that,' as if he 
were the sole authority in the world. The bit of wood from 
Fassiefem House you would think she considered a sainted 
relic ; and both of them talk of her visit to Inverfask as being 



304 THE BTRANOS ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

something quite important, nothing in the shape of a call ; and 
not one word has the minx to say about her going back to 
America. And the worst of it is, she has such a nerve : she is 
afraid of nothing ; if she takes a thing into her head, she'll do 
it, whatever her people may say." 

*^ But haven't you got Jack Buncombe here to alter all that ?" 
one points out to this schemer. 

" She doesn't seem to pay any heed to him ?" she answers, 
rather blankly. 

" Send Ewen Cameron away, then." 

" I couldn't be rude to him," she says ; and then she adds, 
in a hurt kind of fashion, " Rude — to him /" 

" Very well ; do as you please ; but remember this, that if 
an3rthing should happen through your having insisted on intro- 
ducing Ewen Cameron to your dearly beloved Peggy, all your 
romantic sentiment about flora Macdonald, and your sympathy 
for poor Prince Charlie, and the interest attaching to Malcolm 
Macleod and his post-chaise, and to the Glenmorriston men and 
their stag, and Hamilton of Bangour, and Holyrood, and Cullo- 
den, and Quatre Bras, to say nothing of bushels and sheaves of 
Jacobite ballads and songs — I tell you, all these things boiled 
together won't remove the last of the mortgages from the Inver- 
fask estate." 



CHAPTER XXL 

** And therewith cast I down mine eyes again, 
Whereat I saw, walking under the tower, 
Full secretly, now comen here to plain, 
The fairest or the freshest younge flower 
That e*er I saw, methought, before that hour : 
For which sudden abate, anon astart 
The blood of all my body to my heart" 

Now, as our good friend the harbor-master was coming along 
to have a look at the tameless Barge, it was not likely that the 
responsible people of the party were going to the ship's stew- 
ard to get his opinion of her seaworthiness; but Queen Tita 
had a great faith in Murdoch ; and Miss Peggy knew it ; and 



THE STRANOB ADVBNTUBBS OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 305 

on the first chance the young lady had, which was early the 
next morning, she set aboat beguiling and perverting the mind 
of that simple Highlander. Queen Tita was still in her cabin ; 
Jack Buncombe and the colonel had gone ashore for a stroll ; 
so there remained but one person to watch this young woman's 
wiles. 

'' Murdoch," said she, in her innocent fashion, as she was 
putting some flowers on the breakfast-table (none of them, the 
candid observer is compelled to own, half so fresh and bright 
and pleasant to look at as herself) ; " Murdoch, you know we 
are going down to Bristol?" 

Murdoch lingered at the door of the saloon. 

" Yes, mem." 

" And that the river is very wide down there?" 

" Yes, mem." 

<^ You don't suppose there is any really serious risk, do you ?" 
she asked in an off-hand way (and pretending to be very busy 
with the flowers). 

But at this Murdoch hesitated. Did the young lady wish to 
be encouraged to go by water, or persuaded to go by land ? 
Then perhaps it may have occurred to him that he might as 
well tell the simple truth. 

" Well, mem," said he, " I do not know myself ; but there 
wass two or three o' them last night they were saying to me it 
wass not for five hunderd pounds they would go down to Bris- 
tol in this boat, if there wass any kind of a preeze from the 
sous or sou'west." 

Here was a most unexpected blow ; even Peggy was a little 
bit startled. 

" What was that ?" she said. 

" Yes, mem ; that's what they were saying, not for five hun- 
derd pounds would they go down the rawer in this boat." 

" It's the landau for you. Miss Peggy," one observed to her. 
But she was not to be easily turned from her purpose. 

" Wait a bit. Murdoch, who were these men ?" 

" Oh ! they were chist men from the docks," he answered. 

" Yes ; coalheavers and people like that, I suppose ? What 
could they know about a boat like thi^ ?" 

" Mebbe no mich," said the young Highlander, cautiously, for it 
was not clear to him as yet which way she wanted him to answer. 
20 



306 THE STBANOS ADVBNTURSB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" Well/' she said ; ^' I wouldn't repeat a foolish speech like 
that, if I were you. Five hundred pounds! a lot of babies 
talking nonsense ! How can there be any danger ? I don't 
see any possibility of it !" 

And now here was his cue at last ; and his answer was forth- 
coming readily. 

"Dancher!" said he. "Oh, no, mem; there will be no 
dancher at ahl — no, no, there will be no dancher whateffer !" 

" You are quite convinced of that, Murdoch ?" she said, dex- 
terously pinning him to his expressed belief. 

"Well, mem," said he, "the Severn is only a rawer; and 
she wass on a rawer before, and did ferry well ; and she'll do 
ferry well again." 

This sounded reasonable, though, to be sure, there are rivers 
and rivers. But Miss Peggy went on to tell him of the propo- 
sal that certain members of the party should go by land ; and 
of her own decided opinion that we should all keep together ; 
and in a way appealed to him to confirm her judgment. 

" Why, it would be cowardly to leave the others, wouldn't 
it ?" she continued. " And I know, at least I've heard, Mur- 
doch, that you never had any great liking for this boat ; but 
you have seen what she can do ; and she has never got us into 
trouble hitherto. So long as she keeps afloat, what more can 
we want ? Why, I believe she would float well enough if she 
were on the open sea !" 

" At sea, mem !" said Murdoch, rather aghast. 

" Well, what would happen to her ?" asked this bold student 
of nautical matters. 

" Pless me, mem !" he exclaimed, " if there wass any wind at 
ahl, she would roll about like a tib, and tek in watter, and then 
she would sunk — ay, in five minutes she would be down." 

"Oh, she would roll about like a tub, and then sink?" ob- 
served Miss Peggy, thoughtfully. Then she said, in a lighter 
tone, " Well, Murdoch, it is no use talking about impossibilities. 
We are going down to Bristol — down a river, as you say — and it 
would be a great pity for any of us to leave the others, wouldn't 
it?" 

" Oh, yes, mem, a great peety !" said he. 

" And you know quite well there won't be any danger," she 
observed, insidiously. 



THE STRANGB ADVSNTUEXS OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 307 

^* Oh, I do not think there will be any dancher at ahl !'' he 
repeated. 

'^ And, Murdoch, I wouldn't say a word about that foolish 
speech you heard last night," she said, by way of closing the 
interview. 

" Ferry well, mem," Murdoch obediently answered ; and went 
about his duties. 

Tou should have seen her face when he was gone ; it was so 
serene and serious and ingenuous ; it was only her eyes that 
spoke. 

"Well,of all— I" 

<< All what ?" she asks, and there is hardly a smile in those 
telltale eyes. 

" To go and bewilder a poor Highland lad — '* 

"Don't you know this," she says, interrupting in her usual 
unconcerned manner, " that women are weak, helpless, defence- 
less creatures ; and that sometimes, when they have a particular 
aim in view, they have to use a little judicious skill ? But it is 
always done in innocence. Men, when they deceive, do it for 
dreadful purposes — crimes and villainies ; when women have to 
exercise a little tact, that is all done in pure innocence." 

" Yes, a very simple, innocent young thing you are !" 

" Don't you think I am ?" she says, calmly ; and she stalks 
acrpss the saloon and takes her banjo off the peg, and sits 
down and begins twanging at the strings. 

Then this is what one hears : 

"When de good ole Gabriel gwine to blow de hom, 
Tou'd better be dar sure as you are bom, 
For he gwine to wake you early in de mom, 
He's a gwine to wake you early in de momin'.*' 

Then, when she comes to the chorus, she sings alto— 

'* Den rise, children, sing around de door, 
We'll gadder early on de golden shore, 
He's a oomin' right now, an' he'll come no more, 
He's a gwine to meet us early in de momin'." 

Then comes a brisker air — 

" It's early in de momin', before we see de sun, 
' Roll aboard dat cotton, and get back in a run !* 
Be captun's in a hurry ; I know what he means : 
Wants to beat de Sherlock down to New Orleans.'* 



808 THB 8TRANOS ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

This, also, has a choras, which she sings with much complacency 
(and all for her own enjoyment, apparently) — 

" Boll out, heaye dat cotton, 

Boll out, heave dat cotton, 

Boll out, heave dat cotton, 

Ain't got long to stay !" 

" Now what on earth is all this frightful noise about ?" de- 
mands Mrs. Threepenny-bit, suddenly appearing at the door of 
the saloon. <' And at this time of the morning, too !'' 

" Well, it isn't Sunday morning," the young lady makes an- 
swer. ^< Besides, he has been saying very rude things about 
me ; and I've taken refuge in music ; but it's no use, and I'm 
sick and tired of everybody ; and this is a hateful world ; and 
I'm going to leave it" 

" Better not be in a hurry. Miss Peggy," one feels bound to 
say to her in friendly counsel; "you might change it for a 
worse." 

" Well, now, that is a nice civil sort of speech to make to 
anybody before breakfast, when one's nervous system isn't pre- 
pared for shocks," said she ; but she was paying most atten- 
tion to her banjo. Her fingers wandered into another air, 

" my darling Nelly Gray, they are taking thee away, 
And I'll never see my darling Nelly more—" 

she sang, in soft and tragic tones ; and there is no saying how 
far she might have got with that interesting ballad, but that 
there was a sound without, the sound of Sir Ewen Cameron's 
voice in conversation with Jack Buncombe. Instantly she sprang 
to her feet, whipped the banjo into its case, and hung that up ; 
Queen Tita laughed in her quiet way, but said nothing ; and 
therewithal appeared at the door of the saloon the tall figure 
of the Highland colonel, who had managed to get, somewhere 
or other, two large handfuls of lilac-blossom, both white and 
purple, that made a most welcome and fragrant addition to 
Miss Peggy's table-flowers. 

Alas ! we very soon discovered that it was not on this day, 
at all events, that we could make any attempt to get down the 
Severn, When we emerged from our snug retreat, and set out 
for the scattered hamlet of Sharpness, we found there was half 
a gale blowing briskly up from the west-southwest, and that all 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 309 

the various craft in the basins were stayed there, windbound. 
It was a very beautiful morning, no doubt ; silver and purple 
clouds came rolling up through a sapphire-blue sky ; the view 
across the wide waters of the river was striking enough ; the 
yellow waves white-tipped with foam and rushing along the va- 
rious channels ; and the sunlight, after the passing glooms, was 
extraordinarily vivid on the ruddy banks above the Severn shore 
and on the green hills beyond. But this brilliant, breezy, almost 
bewildering day was a landscape-artist's day ; it was not a day 
for taking an unwieldy house-boat down an estuary. 

The harbor-master at Sharpness was exceedingly kind to us ; 
and was good enough to come along and inspect the Nameless 
Barge, In the end he gave it as his opinion that, if we could 
get a small steamer to tow her down, and had the luck of ordi- 
nary quiet weather, we ought to have no great trouble or risk. 
Then the question arose as to where we should get a steam- 
launch. Such things don't seem to abound in the West of Eng- 
land ; those we could gain any tidings of were all engaged. 
When we had telegraphed here, there, and everywhere, and in 
vain, it began to dawn upon us that the mere possibility of dan- 
ger in getting down the Severn was not the only diflSculty we 
had to face. Supposing we should not be allowed to make the 
attempt 9 As this blowy, sunlit morning wore on, hour after 
hour, matters became more and more serious. It is true, we 
had plenty to occupy us in the intervals of waiting for answers 
to our telegrams ; for docks and harbors are always interesting ; 
and you may suppose that Miss Peggy was highly pleased to 
come across a vessel — a full-rigged ship it was — hailing from San 
Francisco ; and that she stood opposite it a very long time indeed, 
examining it with a kind of loving minuteness, and guessing that 
the one or two people on deck were countrymen of her own. 

Luncheon-time arrives, and we are still in this unpleasant 
quandary. 

" It will be horribly ignominious to be turned back after we 
have got so far," Queen Tita says, in sorrowing tones. " And 
then where could we make for ? I remember some very pretty 
districts farther north ; we see them from the London and 
Northwestern Line every time we go to Scotland, and they have 
a canal winding through them ; but then to get to them, I sup- 
pose we should have to face those horrible tunnels again." 



810 THE STBANGS ADVBNTUBS8 OF A HOU8B-B0AT. 

" You may put that idea out of your small head," one in- 
forms her. '^ We are not going back at all ; we are going for- 
ward. Even if this blessed boat has to be put on a wagon, and 
taken down by road, it's Bristol she has got to get to, somehow/' 

''And that would be practicable enough," says Jack Dun- 
combe. " You could get a lorry, and have her fixed on that." 

" And we could live on board all the same ?" asks Miss Peggy. 

'' Yes, and be taken for a company of maniacs !" her hostess 
says, scornfully ; and then she continues : " How was it no one 
foresaw this difficulty ?" 

" Well, considering that the whole expedition was an experi- 
ment, how was any part of it to be foreseen ?" 

'' And what are our chances now ?" she demands. 

"Our chances now are reduced to one. There is in this 
flourishing community a general dealer, who owns a share in a 
steam-launch — I believe that is how the matter stands — which 
steam-launch is now at Bristol. Very well ; he thinks she is 
hired till the end of next week, and in that case she is of no 
use to us ; but he has telegraphed to inquire, and we shall have 
the answer in due course. If that last chance fails, then there 
is nothing for it but to lift this boat out of the water, and give 
her a cruise on wheels." 

" Then ye'll take the high road, and I'll take the low road ; 
but I'll be in Bristol before ye," she observes, in a flippant man- 
ner. One could almost imagine that she is secretly rejoicing 
over the probability of her escape from that water-journey. 

" In the meantime," one says to her, " we are going along to 
have a look at the Severn railway-bridge, and to inspect the 
machinery of the swing-bridge over the ship-canal. And as 
we shall have to climb to the top of the tower by an outside 
ladder of iron, overhanging the river, I suppose you giddy young 
things won't care to come with us. A person who shut her 
eyes all the time she was going up the Righi railway — " 

" That's what I did when I was lowered to the whirlpool be- 
low Niagara Falls," Miss Peggy confessed, artlessly. 

" Then I take it you won't be for climbing up this outside 
ladder, even if we put a rope round your waist and give you a 
friendly haul ?" 

Queen Tita answered that she was not going to turn acrobat 
at her time of life ; and Miss Peggy pleaded that she had some 



THE STBAN6B ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 311 

correspondence to attend to ; a sufficient excuse ; so the rest 
of us left these two to their own devices, and set out for the 
great railway-bridge that here spans the Severn from shore to 
shore. 

Well, it was a way of passing the time while these fateful 
inquiries were being made for us at Bristol ; and Jack Dun- 
combe, who knew a little about machinery (as about everything 
else in this mortal world), had undertaken to be our instructor 
and guide. And even the most ignorant person could not but 
view with interest the swinging portion of the bridge, a struct- 
ure weighing of itself about four hundred tons, that revolves 
on a massive pivot of stone work. Open^ it permits of vessels 
of any size passing along the Gloucester and Berkeley ship- 
canal ; shut, it connects itself with the railway crossing the 
main bridge over the wide river, the junction being so perfect 
as to be almost imperceptible. Why is it, in looking at the 
elaborate precautions and safeguards necessary to a construction 
of this sort, that the mind will morbidly dwell on the possibil- 
ity of their breaking down ? One could not but think of some 
dark night ; a mistake in the signalling ; the swing-bridge left 
open ; the long train coming thundering along, and then a con- 
fused hurling crash into a black chasnu The iron horse is still 
a monster in the imagination of many ; it has not yet become 
wholly familiar ; it is a devourer of human life more fierce than 
any dragon. 

Then we climbed up an outside iron ladder to the signalling- 
house at the top of the tower (a performance not to be recom- 
mended to nervous persons), and gained a small projecting 
balcony, and were admitted. Instruction was the order of the 
day. Did we not understand that no accident was possible — 
seeing that a certain indicator severed the telegraphic commu- 
nication, so that the persons in charge could not signal a train 
to come along unless the bridge was closed and locked ? Well, 
machinery is a mystery to most folks ; but here, anyway, was 
a spacious and picturesque view of the wide Severn valley ; the 
rippling channels and yellow sand-beds, the ruddy banks crowned 
with foliage, the far green hills stretching back into Monmouth- 
shire. And away in the south were wider waters, whither we 
were bound. Prom this peak in Darien these shifting shallows 
seemed safe enough ; might not one, as Miss Peggy had sug- 



312 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

gested, make the ventare of gliding down with the tide, and 
scrambling along somehow, in the event of no other aid being 
offered as ? At all events, we were not going to turn back. 

Suddenly Colonel Cameron, who had wandered out on to the 
small platform overlooking this great height, uttered a brief 
exclamation : 

<< I say," he called out to us, '< isn't that Miss Bosslyn f" 

And sure enough it was Miss Bosslyn ; away down there, and 
all by herself, idly strolling along the banks of the canal. Who 
could mistake the proud and yet leisurely carriage, to say noth- 
ing of the glimmer of her golden-brown hair ? Nay, of a surety 
it was Miss Bosslyn ; for she looked up as she passed, and 
waved her hand by way of recognition, and then went on again. 

" Look here," he continued, quickly, " you get the engineers 
to open the bridge. I will go down and overtake her, and ask 
her to wait ; it will interest her to see this great thing moving." 

" What ?" one said to him. " Open the Severn railway-bridge 
to please that brat of an American ? Supposing a train were 
to come along ?" 

" Why, you don't understand what they've just been telling 
you !" he exclaimed. " A train catCt come along. When the 
bridge opens the telegraphic communication ceases. Besides, 
there's no train due. You get them to do it ; I'm off." 

So he departed ; and after a while one could see him striding 
rapidly along the banks of the canal, where he soon overtook 
Miss Bosslyn. Nor did he seem to have much diflficulty in per- 
suading her; she turned at once; in a short time these two 
were right down below us, and looking up. 

And certainly it was a curious thing to see this long section 
of a railway separate itself from the rest of the line, and begin 
slowly to revolve on its pivot of masonry, until at length, when 
it became motionless, it was at right angles with the main bridge, 
and parallel with the canal. Then again it began to move and 
slowly swung back into its former place, the great iron wedges 
lifting it on to the stone piers and making the junction com- 
plete. It was a pretty toy to put in motion for the amusement 
of an American miss ; and we hoped she was properly grateful. 

But when we descended from these aerial heights, we found 
that it was not the opening of the Severn railway-bridge that 
Miss Peggy had in her mind ; she was the bearer of a message. 



TH8 BTRANOB AOVSNTURXS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 313 

" I thought I'd come along and tell you," she said, " Murdoch 
was over at the general dealer's shop, and they said they had 
got an answer to their telegram. They can't let you have the 
steam-launch ; it's hired till the end of next week." 

"You seem to consider that rather an amusing piece of news I" 

" Yes," said she, simply ; " for now we'll have to do some- 
thing desperate." 

" Perhaps you would kindly tell us what f ' 

But here Sir Ewen Cameron interferes. 

" Well," he says, " I wouldn't be beaten — ^I would take that 
boat down by water somehow. Sending her by road would be 
ignominious. Why, I'd rather get a gang of men and haul her 
along as we used to haul the boats on the upper Nile. I see 
by the map there is a sea-wall or a sea-bank nearly all the way 
down to Bristol. Or why don't you try to row her ? you could 
put a rowlock on each gunwale astern, and one on each gun- 
wale forward." 

" We should have a high old rowlocking time of it," says 
Duncombe, with insolent irrelevance. 

" Or why don't you get a rrft made, and float it down, as we 
do on our rivers ?" puts in the American person. " Then the 
boat couldn't get hurt" 

" Or why don't you put her on the deck of an outward-bound 
ship," suggests our facetious young man, " and drop her over- 
board when you get near the mouth of the Avon ?" 

" Oh, yes ; you've plenty of mighty fine contrivances this 
afternoon," one says to the ribald crew. "Don't you think 
we'd better get a couple of balloons, stem and stem, and take 
her down by air ?" 

" As you are a Scotchman, you should say Doon by Ayr," 
Mr. Duncombe is good enough to observe ; was there ever such 
a clever, merry, vivacious dog ? But a rope's end would have 
made that dog skip. 

" Well, come away, Miss Peggy," one says to the young lady 
— ^who does not seem as disappointed as one could have wished. 
" We'll go back to the boat and get to know what Columbus 
thinks of this predicament When the heavy troubles of life 
fall on you it isn't clowns and pantaloons you want to consult." 

" I foresee," she placidly remarks, as we set out together, 
" that something wild is going to happen now. You can't send 



314 THB 8TRANOB ADVKNTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

the boat down bj road, as Colonel Cameron says it would be 
too ignominious. So she must go by water, and there's no 
visible means ; therefore something frantic and awful is about 
to happen. But mind, we are all to keep together." 

"Certainly." 

" There's to be no landau." 

" Perish the landau I" 

" Well," she says, with great equanimity, " this is what I like : 
this is going to be charming." And that, at least, was so far sat- 
isfactory. It argued a cheerful frame of mind that she should 
look forward so confidently to the absolutely unknown. 

And yet she proved to be a bit of a prophetess ; for it turned 
out that we were to make a wild attempt to get down by water, 
after all ; and there was to be no division of the party. Hard- 
ly had we got back to the Namelesa Barge when our excellent 
friend the harbor-master appeared, to whom we disclosed our 
grievous straits ; and then he informed us he had heard of a 
pilot-boat that was to leave early next morning for Lundy Island. 
Seeing that a steam-launch of any kind was not procurable, why 
not induce these pilots, for a consideration, to tow us down ? 
Had we an anchor and chain ? — ^yes, we had. Then, at some 
convenient point off the mouth of the Avon, the pilots would 
cast us loose ; we could anchor there, and take our chance of 
some rowing-boat or sailing-boat coming out to guide us into 
the river and up to Bristol. It must be confessed that there was 
an element of vagueness about the proposition ; but by this time 
we were grown desperate. Besides, was not Miss Peggy rather 
looking forward to something strange, uncertain, and even fear- 
ful ? So, upon consideration, we asked where the pilots were to 
be found ; and the harbor-master was then good enough to say 
that, if the ladies were inclined for a bit of a country walk on 
this pleasant afternoon, he would himself show us the way to 
the- little village — a few miles inland — where we should most 
probably find one or other of them. So we accepted this good- 
natured offer ; and all of us set forth. 

What the name of that village was is now immaterial ; but at 
all events the road thither took us through a most charming 
stretch of landscape — all glowing in the golden light of the af- 
ternoon. Very English-looking this bit of country was: the 
small, irregular fields ; the luxuriant hedges and wild ditches ; the 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 315 

short, sturdy, wideHspreading oaks ; the lush grass in the mead- 
ows ; and then here or there a small straggling hamlet, the pict- 
uresque cottages half hidden among laburnum and lilac trees, 
now hanging in blossom of yellow, and purple, and white. Nor 
was there much of the monotony of a highway ; our guide 
seemed well acquainted with the short cuts; and we skirted 
woods, or got over stiles, or followed smooth-worn pathways in 
blind obedience to his lead — glad of the sweet air and the gold- 
en light and the quiet country sounds. At first the party had 
moved forward in an amorphous and changeable fashion; but 
gradually we had dropped into two and two ; Jack Duncombe 
and our amiable guide leading the way ; and Colonel Cameron — 
with much coolness — ^taking possession of Peggy. Queen Tita 
was regarding these two, who were somewhat ahead, when she 
said, rather wistfully, 

" I can imagine Peggy looking very well on the platform at a 
Highland gathering. Just think of it — ^her tall figure — I think 
she would hold her own in appearance ; I can fancy her giving 
away the prizes ; Peggy would look very well, wouldn't she ?" 

'* And that is what things are making for, is it ?" one asks ; for 
clearly, in this mental picture of hers, the person who is giving 
away the prizes is Lady Cameron of Inverfask House. 

" I don't know," she says, almost sadly. " It seems so. I am 
sure I am innocent in the matter — innocent of any intention, at 
least. But I know what they will say of us over there." 

" Has it ever occurred to your small mind that it may not much 
matter what they say of us over there, or over here, or over any- 
where else?" 

" How will they understand," she continues, absently, " that 
their daughter may be Lady Cameron of Inverfask and yet have 
to be economical in her housekeeping? And I suppose it is only 
dollars they care for — that is the aim and end of life — I mean 
among the set that her people belong to. Oh, I don't quarrel 
with them for wishing her to marry well ; but it's little they 
know what she is if they think that luxury or position or display 
is at all a necessity for her. Peggy is a little finer than that 
Well, there's one thing they will not be able to say — I mean, if 
this thing should happen — and that is, that he married her ioi 
money." 

" Why, you talk about them as if they were a pair of indigent 



316 THS 8TRANGS ADySNTURSS OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 

paupers ! If Cameron has to economize, it is chiefly with a view 
to getting the debts cleared off his estate — a most proper pride ; 
and yoa may depend on it that Peggy woald understand the sit- 
uation clearly enough. And do you think she is likely to pay 
much heed to what any one may expect of her ? She seems ca- 
pable of judging for herself — at least, what is quite certain is that 
she will judge for herself. You'd much better take it the other 
way, and consider that she will not be so very badly off, after 
all. If she won't have a house in Mayfair, and be able to give 
a series of balls all through the London season, at least she'll 
have her own piper to march up and down outside the dining- 
room window at Inverfask, playing * Lochiel's away to France,' 
or *The 79th's Farewell to Gibraltar.' If she won't be over- 
burdened with diamonds, she'll have plenty of poor folk on her 
hands, who will look up to her as a kind of goddess. Dollars? 
No ; she won't have millions of dollars, but she'll have one of the 
gentle Camerons for her husband ; and she will belong to a great 
historical family ; and she will be the mistress of an old histori- 
cal house ; and her position altogether will be one not wholly to 
be despised. If marriage is to be a bargain, she won't get so 
much the worst of it. What does she bring ? — ^a pretty face and 
a great deal of impertinence." 

" Oh, don't say that about my Peggy !" she says, piteously 
(though she says it often enough herself). " Jack, look at her 
now ; did you ever see anything more lovely than her hair where 
it catches the warm light? And the way she walks — it isn't 
grace, so much as life and ease and perfect health that it sug- 
gests ; she never seems to be conscious of a single movement ; 
she is all eagerness and interest and delight ; I think I feel a little 
happier every time I look at her." 

" So she is to make her first appearance on any platform in 
order to give away prizes at a Highland gathering — is that it ? 
Well, yes ; I dare say her appearance won't be against her. And 
as she is a sharp young woman I should imagine she wouldn't be 
long in finding out how to make herself popular among those 
people in the north. I shouldn't wonder, when Hector Maclean, 
and Donald Hoy, and Alister MacAlister, and all the rest of them, 
came forward for their prizes, I should not wonder if her leddy- 
ship had a word or two of Gaelic for them, to send them away 
proud and pleased. She has made a poor helpless object of 



THB STRANGE ADVKNTURES OP A HOUSE-BOAT. 317 

Murdoch ; and Captain Columbus is just daft to do her any small 
service." 

" But, supposing they donH go to Inverfask," she says. " And 
supposing he was ordered out to India, or China, or some such 
placer 

" Then Peggy would become a grass-widow ; and you could 
ask her to come and live with us : that would be very nice." 

" Yes — for you," she says. 

"But not for you?" 

" Oh, well, I can bear with Peggy," she has to confess, " so 
long as there are no men about to bother her. But I do hope 
all this is a false alarm. I can hardly believe it possible — of 
Peggy, of all people in the world ! And there is Mr. Buncombe ; 
he seems quite to accede ; he doesn't try to win any of her at- 
tention." 

" What ? He makes bad jokes by the dozen, and tells stories 
of theatres, and curses critics, and tunes her banjo ; what more 
can you want ?" 

" But she pays no heed to him I" this small creature protests. 
" If I were a young man, I should not like to be snuffed out like 
that. She used to be glad enough to have him to go on with. 
But now, oh, dear, no ! she would rather hear about the ball at 
the Inverness Meeting, and the number of salmon Lord Lovat 
took out of the Beauly in a single week, and all that kind of 
thing." 

This conversation came abruptly to an end ; for we were nov 
arrived at the little hamlet, whatever its name was ; and as our 
guide stopped at a certain cottage the ranks of this straggling 
party closed up. Soon we were in negotiation with a tall, mod- 
est-mannered, slim young man whom we understood to be part 
owner of the pilot-boat ; terms were easily arranged ; and we 
undertook to be ready to start between three and four on the 
following morning, so as to catch the turn of the tide. There- 
after there was another leisurely walk homeward — for we had 
come to consider the boat a kind of home by this time — through 
the still golden evening ; but it was not Sir Ewen Cameron who 
was Miss Peggy's companion on the return journey ; it was his 
hostess with whom he now walked ; what their talk was about 
one could not say. 

Poor little Mrs. Threepenny-bit I It seemed to be some kind 



318 VHB STRAKGK ADVENTURKS OF A B0tJ8S-B0AT. 

of consolation to her in her distress that, if her fears proved to 
be true, Peggy would look rather well in her new position. That 
night (there was no sitting up late, in view of our early start on 
the morrow) if the small imaginative person dreamed dreams, 
it is as likely as not that they were all about a great crowd of 
spectators assembled in some wide meadow in the far northern 
Highlands; in the open space kilted competitors putting the 
stone, tossing the caber, playing the pipes, and what not ; sub- 
sequently, the various winners coming forward to the platform, 
cap in hand, to receive their prizes from a tall young lady some- 
what benign of aspect, and with honestly smiling eyes, who pos- 
sibly may have a friendly word for each of them. And this tall 
young lady (perhaps, just by way of loyalty to her clan, wearing 
a bit of ribbon of the Cameron tartan round her throat) is — as 
any of those people around would tell you — ^no other than her 
leddyship of Inverfask. 



CHAPTER XXn. 

" Where lies the land to which yon ship must got 
Festively she puts forth in trim array, 
As vigorous as a lark at break of day : 
Is she for tropic sun or polar snow f 
What boots the inquiry ? Neither friend nor foe 
She cares for ; let her travel where she may, 
She finds familiar names, a beaten way 
Ever before her, and a wind to blow. 
Yet still I ask, what haven is her mark f 
And, almost as it was when ships were rare, 
(From time to time, like pilgrims, here and there 
Grossing the waters), doubt, and something dark, 
Of the old sea some reverential fear. 
Is with me at thy farewell, joyous bark !" 

At half-past two, on this perfectly calm morning, there are a 
few stars still visible in the western skies — faint, trembling 
points of silver in the deep-hued violet vault ; but away in the 
east there is a pale, mysterious light that appears to tell of the 
coming dawn ; while just over a serrated ridge of jet-black trees 
hangs the thin sickle of the moon, orange-hued, and sending 



THX STRAKGK ADVSNTURSS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 319 

down on the smooth surface of the water a long line of gold, 
broken here or there by some accidental ripple. The birds are 
already singing in the strange twilight, and their shrill carolling 
seems to belong to some other and distant sphere, for the great 
world around us lies dark and dumb and dead. When Murdoch 
comes out, he speaks in undertones (it had been arranged we 
were to try to get the boat along to the basin without awakening 
any of the people on board), and when Columbus appears at the 
water-side he looks like a ghost approaching through the trans- 
parent, bewildering, phantasmal gloom. 

Then in the prevailing silence we stealthily release the Name- 
less Barge from her moorings, and with brief paddlings of oars 
and poles get her over to the other side, where the towpath is. 
There Murdoch and Columbus go ashore, taking with them the 
end of the line attached to the bow ; and forthwith we are noise- 
lessly gliding along through the smooth waters of the canal, 
towards the great gates that are to let us forth into the Severn. 

Presently the door opposite the steersman is opened with an 
exceeding quietness, the figure of a tall young lady becomes vis- 
ible, clad in a long dressing-gown, and with some soft white 
thing flung around her head and neck and shoulders ; then, as 
carefully and gently, the door is shut again. 

"I haven't wakened any one," she says, in an apologetic 
whisper. 

"You'd much better go back to bed; you can't have had 
more than three hours' sleep." 

" I haven't had any," she says ; " I was too excited. I was 
lying awake, watching the stars, and then I thought I felt the 
boat moving, and I guessed you had begun. I'm not in your 
way, am I?" 

"Certainly not, but it will be a tedious business getting 
through the locks." 

" Oh, but it is ever so much nicer to be out here ; and what 
a strangely beautiful morning it is I" she says, looking all around 
her. 

Indeed, she is almost justified in calling it morning now, for 
those trees close by are no longer quite black ; some shadowy 
suggestion of green is traceable on the long shelving branches ; 
the stars in the west have disappeared, and the skies there have 
grown from a deep violet to a pale, ethereal lilac ; while in th« 



320 THS 8TEANQS ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

eastern heavens the faint, wan glow has become radiant and 
clear : the herald of the new day, on some far hill-top, is blow- 
ing his silver bugle to awaken the sleeping valleys. She re- 
gards all this, for some time, in silence. Then one hears her 
repeat, almost to herself, the beginning of the old ballad — 

** Down Deeside rode Inveray, whistling and playing, 
He called loud at Brackla gate ere the day^s dawing," 

though what fancy she has in her mind it is hard to say. She 
turns from her musings — 

"Have you many mornings like this in those wonderful 
places in the north?*' she asks, rather wistfully. 

" You will find still stranger things — seasons in which there 
is no night at all. You can sit on deck and read till midnight, 
if you like ; only it is much nicer not to read, but to have some 
amiable young creature play and sing ballads for you ; or you can 
walk up and down and listen to the sea-birds. No night at all ; 
the sunset merely glides into the sunrise, and you have a new 
day around you before you know where you are." 

"But," she says, "when you have been in such beautiful 
places, don't you feel it to be just dreadful to come back and 
live in a town ?" 

" Not at all. It is the contrast that tells. Perhaps, if you 
lived there always, you might become too familiar with it ; you 
might lose the fine touch of things that wonder gives you. The 
first wild primrose you come upon in the spring has an extraor- 
dinary fascination and interest ; but if there were spring and 
summer all the year round — none of the deadness of winter — 
where would be the surprise and delight ?" 

" Well," she says, after a little while — ^and her eyes are fixed 
on that light in the east, that is momentarily becoming more 
clear and silvery and wonderful — " there are things that could 
never grow familiar. Daybreak is one. There is always mys- 
tery about it. It is like coming to life again, after death. You 
have been away, you don't know where, and you come back to 
the world ; and when you find it as it is now — belonging almost 
to yourself, all the other people as good as out of it — it is very 
strange. No, I'm not afraid of becoming too familiar with beau- 
tiful things. Besides, the halcyon times you talk about don't 
last forever. You have the stormy weather coming on, raiu and 



TBS BTRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 321 

gales ; then you are shut up a prisoner in the house ; and when 
you can go out again, when the sunlight and splendid weather 
come again, you have all the delight of novelty and surprise, 
just as much as if you had gone to live in some grimy old 
town." 

She seemed inclined to continue talking, in this hushed way, 
about those northern scenes that had aroused her curiosity ; but 
we were now arrived at the lock-gates, and business had to be 
attended to. All that one could hear of Miss Peggy was an oc- 
casional snatch of the ballad that seemed to be running through 
her head — 

** There rode wi* fierce Inveray thirty-and-three ; 
And nane wi' the Gordon save his brother and he ; 
Twa gallanter Gordons did never sword draw, 
But against three-and-thirty, wae*s me! what were twa?** 

At length we got down to the great basin, where all manner 
of craft were lying ready to sail with the turn of the tide, and 
there modestly took up our position by the side of some of the 
smaller vessels. There was as yet no symptom of life any- 
where, but the objects round about us were now clearly defined ; 
and colors had become visible — the red of the steep, high bank, 
the warm yellow-green of the hanging foliage, and the resplen- 
dent saffron of the eastern skies, against which the tall, inter- 
posing masts were of intensest black. 

Suddenly there was a harsh croak overhead, and a whir as 
if a hundred skyrockets had simultaneously hurtled through the 
air. 

" What's that ?" Miss Peggy exclaimed, startled out of the low 
tones in which she had been talking. 

" Look, mem, look !" said Murdoch, who was standing on the 
quay. "It's a string of wild geese — ^look!" And away the 
great birds went swinging over to the western seas. 

But towards four o'clock it began to be apparent that there 
was some human life on board these various craft. Here and 
there a thin blue line of smoke would rise from the stovepipe 
into the motionless air; here and there an ancient mariner 
would appear on deck, rubbing his eyes, and looking all round 
the heavens for a sign. Soon, indeed, there was plenty of ani- 
mation. Gradually the crews tumbled up and began to hoist 
sail — a picturesque occupation in this early morning glow ; and 
21 0* 



322 TBI 8TRANOS ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

presently the ringing music of the topsail halyards told as they 
were looking forward to a quiet slipping down the stream. Bus- 
tle and activity prevailed everywhere ; men on deck calling to 
men on shore ; hawsers being passed over our heads ; on the 
smaller craft long sweeps being got ready. In the midst of this 
general uproar it is hardly to be wondered at that the rest of the 
people on board the Nameless Barge should speedily make their 
appearance. 

" Here's a pretty hullabaloo !" says Queen Tita, looking all 
around her at the picturesque clusters of boats, with their tall 
spars and ruddy sails. " Well, we are going to have sufficient 
company. If anything goes wrong, there will be plenty of peo- 
ple ready to pick us up." 

" Don't be too sure of that," one says to her. " When once 
we get started, you'll soon find out how a smartnsailing pilot- 
boat will draw away from these lumbering craft. That is, if we 
get any wind at all ; at present there isn't a breath. Now, will 
any one explain how we are to be towed down to Bristol in a 
dead cahn ?" 

" And you, you American girl," she says, turning to Miss 
Peggy, " what have you been about ? When did you steal out 
of that cabin ?" 

" About half -past two, I believe," answers Miss Rosslyn, with 
an air of calm superiority. "/ have seen it all from the begin- 
ning." 

"I don't know how it is," continues Mrs. Threepenny-bit, 
" but you two are always up first on board this boat. What is 
it ? — a wakeful conscience ?" 

" It is not," answers Miss Peggy, promptly ; " it is simply 
the necessity of looking after this valuable craft. Of course, if 
you choose to lie in your berth till all hours of the day, you 
must have somebody to manage things for you. And there's 
no sloth about me ; I am always willing to sacrifice myself for 
the general good." 

" Yes, but I want to know what your share was ; what did 
you manage ?" says the other. 

" I kept my weather-eye open," Miss Peggy answers, enig- 
matically. 

" No doubt you did ! I'll be bound you did I And so this is 
what you call all hours of the day, is it, when it is hardly four 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 323 

o'clock f I know this, that I wish Mardoch could get us a cup 
of tea." 

"You'll have to leave Murdoch alone," one says to her. 
" There are all these vessels beginning to slip out, and Murdoch 
will be wanted at the bow until we get attached to the pilot- 
boat. Indeed, he'd better stop there all the way down, so there 
will be little breakfast for you for some hours to come. Why 
don't you go inside and bring out some soda-water and bis- 
cuits ?" 

" Well," she says, with much good-nature, " people who make 
long voyages into distant lands have to put up with many 
things. But soda-water and biscuits, it's a gruesome break- 
fast !" 

" I'm going to hunt out some beer, if I may," said Jack Dun- 
combe, forthwith. 

" I think," said Colonel Cameron, " if you will let me advise, 
that an egg beaten up in a glass of sherry would be a good deal 
wholesomer for you ladies at this time of the morning ; and if 
you are not going to have breakfast for some hours — " 

But here Miss Peggy interposed. 

" An egg — and sherry ?" she said. " Why shouldn't we have 
egg-nog at once? Let's all have some egg-nog, and you may 
drink to the Fourth of July or not, just as you please. And do 
you think I do not know how to make it ? Oh, but I do. And 
I know that Murdoch has all the materials, and I know where 
he keeps them, so come along and get out the glasses." 

Accordingly these greedy people crowded into Murdoch's 
pantry, where one could hear them hauling things about, with a 
great deal of unseemly jesting. At the same time, when the 
transatlantic beverage was at length produced, one could not 
but confess that it was extremely grateful and comforting at 
this early hour of the morning ; and the Daughter of the Re- 
public received our general thanks. Not that she came back at 
this moment ; oh, no, nor for some time thereafter. When she 
did return to us, we could perceive that she had seized the occa- 
sion to get rid of her hap-hazard costume (which was all very 
well in the mysterious light precedmg the dawn), and now wore 
her suit of blue serge. She had done up her hair, too, and was 
altogether looking very smart and fine and neat. 

Meanwhile we had attached ourselves to the pilot-boat, and 



324 THS 8TRAKOS ▲DVSNTURSS OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 

were now lying oat in the open, in the midst of a dead calm, 
and with a scene of singular beauty all around us. Here was 
no longer any river with twisting channels and bare sandbanks, 
but a vast lifelike expanse of yellow water, quite smooth save 
for the rippling of the tide ; and that rippling declared itself in 
a series of sharp flashes of turquoise blue, the color of the over- 
head sky. On this pale golden plain the various craft, already 
widely separated, lay with their gray or brown or russet sails 
idly swaying or entirely motionless ; the various tints and hues 
warmed into loveliness by the light streaming over from the 
gates of the mom. For by this time the sun was actually risen, 
and his rays shot across the great Severn valley, glorifying all 
the wide plain of waters, and shining along the wood-crowned, 
low-lying green hills in the west. 

Of course we regarded with some little curiosity our friends 
in the boat to which we were attached ; and found them to be 
far away indeed from the old-fashioned type of pilot. They 
were quite elegant young men, and smartly dressed ; in fact, if 
it hadn't been that they showed something of a seafaring com- 
plexion, and that one or two of them were plainly solacing them- 
selves with the chewing of tobacco, they might have been taken 
for a party of city clerks setting forth for a day's pleasure-sail- 
ing. Though very little sailing there was for anybody. For a 
little while there was a light puff of wind coming over from the 
east — ^the merest cat's-paw, just sufficient to fill the sails ; but 
presently that died away ; we were in a dead calm again ; and 
so they on board the pilot-boat took to the sweeps, and began 
to work at these. We crept along in a kind of way, but very 
slowly, opposite the green hills and farms of Lydney and its 
neighborhood. 

<*And where is all the danger that was talked about?'' said 
Mrs. Threepenny-bit, as bold as a very lion (perhaps the egg-nog 
had something to do with her fearlessness). 

" Where, indeed !" said the steersman. 

" Besides, we are in open daylight," she continued. " The 
darkness was the hateful thing about those tunnels. Now, if 
anything happens, we shall see what it is ; and those young 
men could stop in a moment and help us. Why, this seems to 
be about the quietest and safest part of the whole trip !" 

Oh, yes, it was all very pleasant — ^the sweet air of the mom- 



THB 8TRANOE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 325 

ing, the smooth-lapping water, the sun shining along the niddy 
banks and the green woods and fields, and our slow floating 
down with the tide. One was almost for withdrawing Murdoch 
from his post forward and sending him to get breakfast ready, 
but that now and again one^s nostrils seemed to perceive some 
faint indication of a change of wind, or, rather, of a coming wind, 
while as yet there was nothing to stir the sails. And very short- 
ly thereafter, indeed, the sails did stir, and quietly fell over and 
filled ; then the sweeps were taken in ; and presently we found 
ourselves being towed through these yellow waters in quite a 
joyous fashion. Even with this lumbering weight behind her, 
the pilot-boat gradually drew away from all her rivals; the 
young men who looked like clerks had no trouble at all in not 
only keeping the lead but increasing it, beating against the ever- 
freshening southwesterly breeze with a shiftiness and judgment 
that were very pleasant to watch from this old tub of ours. Of 
course we had nothing to do but follow accurately in their wake, 
and avoid the temptation of making little short cuts when they 
put about ; and as the wind was getting brisker and brisker, and 
blowing up against the current, it was quite a new and delight- 
ful experience to chase this flyer through the now rising sea. 

And now Miss Peggy separates herself from these associates 
of hers in the stem-sheets — steps on to the steering-thwart — 
catches hold of the iron rod by both hands, and places her chin 
on these as if she were bent merely on gazing away over the 
waste of waters we are leaving behind, and towards the distant 
shores. 

" I say," she observes, in a remarkably low voice, " isn't this 
what Murdoch calls a ' sous * wind f " 

" Southwesterly, I should say." 

She smiles a little (the others cannot see her face). 

" That was the wind those men at the docks spoke of," she 
remarks. 

"What then?" 

" I was thinking of the five hundred pounds," she says, de- 
murely. 

" Five hundred fiddlesticks ! She is walking the water like a 
thing of life. Don't you feel how beautifully she goes ?" 

" Yes, but is she going to do it any more ?" she asks, 

"Do what t" 



326 TBS STRAVOS ADVSNTURBB OF A HOU8S-BOAT. 

" Why, jump aboat like this." 

<^ It isn't jamping about I tell you it's the minuet in < Ariadne * 
she's doing." 

'* Is the water going to be any rougher ?" 

" If this wind keeps up it certainly will be.** 

'< Oh, my gracious !" she says, in accents of dismay, and one 
understands at once what she is afraid of. 

" Now listen to words of wisdom : if you want to induce sea- 
sickness, you're doing your best at present, standing up here in 
that spread-eagle fashion. But if you wish to guard against it — 
I mean, if the water should get really rough farther down, you 
just ask Colonel Cameron or Mr. Buncombe to go into the sa- 
loon and get out a tin of cold tongue and some biscuits and a 
bottle of champagne. Begin with a bit of biscuit. Then take 
a sip of champagne. Then some cold tongue and biscuit Then 
some more champagne. Keep on as long as you can at the cold 
tongue and champagne ; and then go and get a footstool, and 
cuddle yourself up in that comer there, and sit perfectly still : 
do you understand ?" 

" But I should feel just horrid asking for those things for my- 
self," she protests. " Will your wife join me, do you think ?" 

'^ Join you in eating some cold tongue and biscuit ? My dear 
young friend, she would eat you, or the boat, or anybody, or 
anything, rather than run the risk of being sea-sick." 

" Well, I'm not going to give in just yet, at any rate," she 
says; and she maintains her position on the steering-thwart; 
only she turns round now to face the pleasant breeze. 

We were getting plenty of sailing for our money, but making 
little progress, owing to the perpetual tacking. Jack Buncombe 
and the colonel were between them trying to make out by the 
chart the whereabouts of Sheperdine Sands and Norwood Rocks 
and Whinstone Rocks ; but the high tide rendered this difficult, 
and we could only guess at the distance we had come. At all 
events we had left the other vessels a long way behind ; we 
could see them still sawing and sawing across that yellow plain, 
in the teeth of the still freshening wind. 

But when, in course of time, we got still farther down, we 
could better make out our position. There, unmistakably, was 
the mouth of the Wye, with the long spit running out, and end- 
ing in a conspicuous watch-house. Clearly we were getting on. 



TBS STRAVaB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. d2V 

And so far the Natneless Barge had behaved herself admirably ; 
if oar young friends in the pilot-boat may have been tempted 
to smile when they saw her bobbing up and down in their wake, 
like a fat old donkey being dragged along by a thoroughbred, 
they were polite enough to conceal their merriment. We never 
pretended that good looks were our strong point. What we 
wanted was to get down to Bristol ; and we rather congratulated 
ourselves on having got so far in safety. If there yet lay 
ahead of us a certain channel or series of channels called *' The 
Shoots,^' of which the Sharpness people had spoken in some- 
what solemn tones — But who was afraid ? Even Mrs. Three- 
penny-bit professed rather to like this sawing and sawing across ; 
and nobody was so ill-natured as to draw attention to the fact 
that all the southern horizon was now grown dark, as if there 
was a stiffish bit of a storm brewing down there. 

But what the Sharpness people had been warning us about 
we were by and by to discover. "The Shoots," as they are 
called,^ are formed by the sudden contraction of the Severn es- 
tuary between Northwich and Portskewet (at New Passage, that 
is), and consist of a series of races and whirlpools not unlike 
those in the neighborhood of Corrievrechan— over by the Corra 
Islands and the Dorus M6r. When we found these currents 
strong enough to grip the pilot-boat by the bows and yaw her 
about, it is to be imagined that our poor old Noah's ark, lum- 
bering up in the rear, had anything but a '< daisy time " of it. 
Moreover, the water became more and more lumpy — what with 
the swirling currents themselves, and the breeze blowing against 
the tide, the Nameless Barge began to forsake her heavy gam- 
boilings for all kinds of mystical and unexpected gyrations ; and 
again and again ominous noises told of catastrophes within. 
With that, of course, no one cared to concern himself ; the sa- 
loon and cabins and pantry might mix themselves up, if they 
chose ; they might make of the whole inside of the ship an 
elongated dice-box : it was what was happening out here that 
claimed our attention. And so we fought our way — with such 
rolling and pitching and springing and curvetting as is quite 
indescribable, down through the Shoots ; until, as the morning 
went by, we gained what looked like a very good imitation of the 
open sea, where the pilot-boat began to lengthen out her tacks. 

It was now blowing hard, and looking very dirty in the south : 



328 THX STBAKOB ADVSNTURSS OF A BOUSS-BOAT. 

and one of us, at least, began to wisli that the two women could 
be transferred to the other boat The pilots themselves (who 
had lowered their topsail some time ago) no longer seemed to 
regard this performance as a joke ; they kept an eye on our un- 
wieldy craft, as she plunged through the heavily running sea. 
Indeed, it was almost ludicrous to watch this misshapen thing 
dipping her nose in the water, and springing forward again, and 
dashing the foam from her bows just as if she were a real yacht ; 
and the only question was how long she was likely to keep up 
the pretence by remaining afloat. 

Presently a new and startling discovery was made. As there 
was no calculating what time we should get to Bristol, with this 
head-wind driving against us, the steersman desired Jack Dun- 
combe to go inside and bring forth a handful of biscuits ; and 
the young man cheerfully obeyed. The next instant he came 
out again, without any biscuits. 

'* I say,'' he exclaimed, with a curious expression of face, " this 
blessed boat is full of water !" 

In a moment, from the look of the women, he perceived the 
mistake he had made. 

" Oh, no ; not that," he protested, " but a little water has 
come in, and it's slopping all about the floor of the saloon. 
Here, you'd better let me take the tiller for a minute, and you 
can go and look for yourself." 

Of course we all of us instantly made for the door of the sa- 
loon ; and there a most unpleasant spectacle met our eyes ; for 
if there was not as yet much water visible, it was washing from 
side to side as the vessel lurched ; and, of course, no one could 
tell at what rate the leakage was coming in. 

" Is she going to sink ?" said Miss Peggy, rather breathlessly : 
it was Sir Ewen Cameron she addressed. 

" I won't stay another moment in this boat," Mrs. Threepenny- 
bit exclaimed. " You must call to the pilots — ^tell them to stop 
and take us on board." 

" Oh, be quiet !" one had to say to her. " This is nothing of 
a leakage — it only means that there's nowhere for the water to 
go to. Don't you understand that all the space below the floor- 
ing was filled up with that old iron so as to let her get under- 
neath the bridges ? — ^and this water is merely coming in at some 
of the dried seams— or, perhaps, at the bull's-eyes^" 



THS STRANGE ADVENTUBSS OF A HOUSX-BOAT. d2d 

*^ And how fast is it coming in ?^^ she asked. 

" How can anybody tell ? We'll have to wait and watch. 
Or, rather, Columbus must come inside and watch ; and if the 
water should begin to rise in any quantity, then we may have to 
get on board the pilot-boat ; that's all. It isn't doing any harm 
— ^it's only washing the floor." 

Here a violent pitch of the boat flung us all together ; and 
then we could see through the forward window her bows shak- 
ing off a great mass of foam. 

<< Do you see that now ? She isn't used to dipping her nose 
like that ; and, of course, there must be sun-dried seams on the 
bit of deck up there. Or, it may be, those bull's-eyes have got 
a little loose." 

Well, it has to be conceded to Colonel Cameron that he was 
the only one who cared to wet his ankles in order to make an 
examination. He boldly splashed through the lurching water, 
and got to the farther end of the saloon, and, stooping down, 
strove to reach with his long arm the circular pieces of glass set 
in the bows of the boat. But neither there nor anywhere else 
could we flnd out the source of the leakage ; and when Captain 
Columbus was summoned from his post and shown the state of 
affairs, it was generally agreed that the water must be coming 
in through defective seams, and that, if it did not pour in any 
faster than it seemed to be doing at present, we should manage 
to get to our anchorage in safety. Nevertheless, Columbus was 
directed to remain in the saloon, and furnished with a bucket 
and a bailing-can, to amuse himself withal. 

But now these long tacks were telling; and we hoped that 
we should ere long be getting under shelter of a certain dark 
spur of land running out there in the south. And none too 
soon either. We had not bargained for this squally weather 
when we started in the morning, and we knew well enough that 
this topheavy boat was not at all fltted for the open sea. Of 
course we were glad that she was doing so well; and the re- 
ports from the saloon informed us that the water was not rapid- 
ly increasing ; but we were perfectly aware that, if a heavier 
wave than usual should happen to strike her broadside on, she 
was just as likely as not to "turn turtle." For one thing we 
kept all the doors and windows of the house part rigorously 
closed, so that no sudden gust could get hold of her that way 



380 TBE 8TBANGX ADVSNTURXS OF A H0t7SX-B0Af. 

the other alternative — ^to open them all and let the wind blow 
freely through — did not recommend itself. 

So our gallant convoy continued to cut her way through those 
swift-running seas like a racer ; and we laboriously plunged and 
rolled and struggled after. It must be said for the women that 
they were very brave over it ; after that first fright about the 
water in the saloon, they had hardly a word to say ; they mere^ 
ly looked on in silence — sitting close to each other. And now 
that long dark spur of land — Portishead Point, was it called ? — 
was drawing sensibly nearer. The shipping that was gradually 
becoming visible no doubt marked the whereabouts of the King, 
or King's, Road ; and that, we knew, was just off the mouth of 
the Avon. Then the sea grew a little calmer. Captain Colum- 
bus was provided with a huge sponge to help him in his bail- 
ing. We could hear Murdoch at the bow calling to his brother 
mariners ahead of him — ^asking for instructions, most probably. 
And at length and at last the connecting hawser was shipped, 
and we parted company ; the pilots put out a small boat, and 
our tall, modest-eyed young friend came on board to be paid ; 
and when we had settled accounts, and when he had shaken 
hands with each one of us (there is somehow always a touch of 
the pathetic in a sailor's farewell), we found ourselves at anchor 
in a comparatively smooth sheet of yellow water, and near to a 
Dutch-looking line of coast, the topmasts of vessels, or here and 
there a little glimmer of distant landscape, appearing above steep 
banks of mud. 

" Now, Miss Peggy, you and I expect to be waited upon by 
the whole of this ship's crew and passengers. We have been 
on duty since half-past two, and now it is ten. If that isn't 
working for one's breakfast, what is ?" 

" I'm sure I'm hungry enough," said Miss Peggy, sadly ; cmd 
Queen Tita was so touched with compassion that she herself be- 
gan to get the table ready, while Murdoch was in the pantry, 
busy with ham and eggs and tea. 

Now, we had just finished breakfast, and had gone out again 
to have a look at our surroundings, when we were approached 
by a wherry containing three men, who offered, for a considera- 
tion, to tow us up to Bristol. Truth compels the admission 
that these three ssdlors of Bristol city were about the most vil- 
lainous-looking set of scoundrels one had ever clapped eyes on ; 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 331 

and experience proved that they were capable of acting up to 
their looks. But still, getting to Bristol was the main thing; 
we agreed to their exorbitant terms, gave them a line, and awaj 
they went, we following. 

Soon we had entered the river Avon, which is probably rather 
a pretty river at full tide, but was now, at low water, showing 
long mud-banks that were far from attractive. As we got far- 
ther inland, however, we passed through beautiful woods, now 
almost in full summer foliage ; and, whatever had become of the 
storm we had seen gathering in the south, there were clear blue 
skies overhead, and a warm sunlight filling the river valley. 
The three pirates, we observed, drank hard all the way, having 
replenished their huge keg at a place called Pill. It was none 
of our business, of course ; we were idly speculating as to which 
would probably murder which before nightfall ; and we came to 
the conclusion that it did not greatly matter, so long as there 
was a reasonable likelihood that one or other of them would get 
his notice to quit 

The first trick they played us was to stop at a stone slip not 
far from Clifton Suspension Bridge, intimating that they had 
fulfilled their contract and wanted to be paid. Unthinkingly 
we gave them the money, only to find out that there was no 
tow-path here, and that we were stuck fast. Then Ouzzling 
Jack and Grorging Jimmy, for a further consideration, offered to 
pull us on another stage — into Bristol city proper ; and to that 
we, being helpless, agreed. At the second stoppage we were 
somewhat cheered by the sight of the horse-marine and his 
four-footed companion, who were awaiting us. Moreover, there 
was here a tow-path — at least, there was the common street ; but 
it was so far away from the river edge that there was some diffi- 
culty in getting the boat along ; whereupon the pirates, observ- 
ing our quandary, again offered us their help, and volunteered 
to pull us into the Floating Harbour for yet another sovereign. 
We gazed upon these men in silence, and had no answer for 
theuL Forthwith they became pertinacious. Then we curtly 
bade them begone, and even told them (the womenfolk being 
within) whither we wished them to go. But then again — when 
Columbus informed us that he and Murdoch could get the 
Nameless Barge along to the docks by themselves, and suggest- 
ed that we might as well go ashore now, and he would bring 



332 THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

oar things to the hotel later on — it occurred to us that we were 
once more dependent on those sailors of Bristol So we airily 
and good-naturedly pointed out to them that they might do us 
the favor of taking us ashore — a few yards* distance — ^in their 
boat, and this they did ; but they claimed a shiUing a head for 
the service, and then were dissatisfied and sulkily demanded 
drink. We parted with them more in sorrow than in anger, for 
the contemplation of such deeps of depravity is painfuL And 
even that, as will hereafter be related, was not our last experi- 
ence of the three Bristol pirates. 

As we were leisurely getting along to our hotel on the College 
Green, Colonel Cameron hung back a little, allowing Jack Dun- 
combe to go on with the womenfolk. 

" Look here, my friend," said Inverfask, in something of an 
undertone ; " now it's all over, I suppose you ought to be con- 
gratulated on having come down the Severn in a house-boat, and 
in the face of half a gale of wind. Well, you've done it — suc- 
cessfully — for once. But, if I were you, / wouldrCt try it 



CHAPTER XXin. 

" Heavens I what a goodly prospect spreads around. 
Of hills, and dales, and woods, and lawns, and spires, 
And glittering towns, and gilded streams, till all 
The stretohing landscape into smoke decays !** 

Next morning is a Sunday — calm and clear and still ; a placid 
sunlight falls on the trees in the College Green, on the pave- 
ments, and the closed shop -windows; a soft sound of church- 
bells fills all the tranquil air. And then, when our womenfolk, 
accompanied by Colonel Cameron, have gone away to the ca- 
thedral, a kind of hush falls over this great hotel ; the spacious 
rooms look pretematurally empty ; one wonders when Jack 
Buncombe will have finished his letter-writing, and be ready 
to set forth on a hunt for the whereabouts of the Namdess 
Barge, 

Ft'esently he comes along into the hall. 

<< Sorry to have kept you waiting," he says, as he lights a 



THE 8TRAN0B ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 888 

cigar at the top of the steps. '^ Fact is, I had rather an important 

letter to write. Do you know f" he asks, naming the editor 

of a well-known evening paper. 

" Not personally." 

'* I chanced to meet him at dinner the very night before I 
came down to you. We sat next each other, and got on very 
well. I found he was an eager trout-fisher — most likely taken 
to it late in life and anxious to make up for lost time — ^and that 
he was going down to Derbyshire this sunmier ; so I thought I 
couldnH do better than tell him that if he was anywhere near 
my father's place I would see he had the fishing on our pre- 
served water — for we've never anybody down there in June. 
That seemed to fetch him a little, I think. Then we talked 
about journalism, and he had seen one or two small things of 
mine in The Londoner and elsewhere ; and when I told him I 
was coming down to you, he said, * Why, what a chance for you 
to get a lot of miscellaneous reviewing done. If you like, I will 
send you down a parcel of books — for short notices only — ^and 
it will be no trouble to you to look through them as you are sail- 
ing along. It will help you to pass the time.' You needn't im- 
agine I refused, for a small beginning is better than nothing : 
and I had to write down where I expected to be in a few days' 
time : not that I counted too much on it, for I thought it was 
merely after-dinner good-nature on his part However, I fancy 
Derbyshire must have stuck in his mind, for this morning there 
comes a letter saying the books have been sent off — so, I sup- 
pose, I ought to get them the first thing to-morrow." 

Here one pauses, as we are passing along these sunlit Bristol 
streets, to regard him : is there any outward sign of transfor- 
mation? 

<' So this is the end of all your rage and contempt and abuse f 
You've become a critic yourself ?" 

" Oh, well," he says, with the coolest effrontery, " the critics 
of books and plays and pictures don't do much harm. They 
don't, indeed. They're all contradicting each other, and the 
public see that and judge for themselves. The public are the 
final judge. No," he continues (and really this Short-noticer is 
beginning to talk with an air of authority) ; " the critics who do 
positive harm are the critics of life ; the writers who, from day 
to day and from week to week, pour out morbid and distorting 



834 THE STRANOX ADVSNTURBS OF A HOUSX-BOAT. 

and belitUing opinions about human nature and human affain^ 
I suppose, now, the ordinary Englishman never reflects that he 
spends nearly all his leisure time in the society of journalists. 
They are his companions, whether he is travelling in a railway- 
carriage or toasting his toes before the dining-room fire. It is 
their views of things that he unconsciously adopts. When he 
goes into his club of an afternoon he nods to this acquaintance 
or to that, but he seldom stops to consult them about things in 
general ; he passes into the reading-room and takes up an even- 
ing paper, and listens to what it has to say about every subject 
in the known world. And who is it he is actually listening to ?*' 
the young man goes on, as we make our way down and across 
the bridge, where there are numerous groups of idlers on this 
quiet Sunday morning. '* Of course, it may chance to be some 
quite sensible and well-informed person ; but as likely as not it 
is some literary fellow whose nerves have all gone to bits, or 
whose liver has all gone wrong. Or it may be some poor creat- 
ure of a woman disappointed of a husband, or, worse still, with 
a husband gone to the bad, whom she has to support. And, of 
course, the literary fellow can't take a healthy and wholesome 
view of anything — a cheap sort of cynicism comes most natural 
to him, or a still more hopeless pessimism ; and the woman is 
morose and bitter ; and so, between them, they present you with 
a very charming picture of what is going on in the world. We 
are all of us hypocrites, and worse. Statesmen make a pretence 
of caring for their country, but we know better ; place, salary, 
that is their aim. Literature, art, and science are cultivated 
merely for the money they can produce. Married women drink 
in secret. Married men, when they can afford it, keep a seraglio. 
Girls are eager to sell themselves in the marriage-market to the 
highest bidder. Even children only pretend to like Christmas ; 
they see through the sham sentiment, the affected merry-mak- 
ing. And so on ; you know the kind of thing. To be disgust- 
ed with everything, to believe in nothing, that's the cue. Well, 
now," he continues, with much cheerful complacency, " in my 
Utopia I am going to have my journalists trained. They are 
the modem teachers and preachers ; they must be brought up to 
have a healthy sympathy with all forms of human activity. 
Cricket and football of great importance. They must ride and 
shoot and skate and play lawn-tennis. Then they must travel, 



TBS 8TRANOK ADVENTURKS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 335 

and learn how people live in other countries ; they must talk at 
least three modem languages ; they must visit every part of the 
British empire, to see for themselves how so great a structure 
is maintained.'' 

** Yes," one says to him, " all that is very excellent But 
have you the slightest notion where we are likely to find Cap- 
tain Columbus f 

** Ah," he says, with some disappointment, " you have no re- 
gard for the welfare of your native country." 

'* I thought it was Utopia you were talking about. And that 
is a long way away. Whereas this Floating Harbor, here at 
hand, is quite enough of a conundrum, and we are bound to 
find the boat before we go back." 

" If the pirates haven't boarded her and run away with her," 
he says, as we continue our patient trudge along the almost de- 
serted quays. 

But after long hunting we at length discovered the Nameless 
Barge^ in a kind of cul-de-sdCy lying outside some empty coal- 
boats ; and, having clambered over these and got on board, we 
found Murdoch in sole possession, Columbus and the horse- 
marine having gone off to visit the town. 

"Well, Murdoch," one naturally inquired, "I suppose you 
saw nothing more of those rascals yesterday ?" 

" Indeed, yes, sir," Murdoch answered, with a grin. " They 
came back to the boat" 

"What for?" 

" Well, sir, they said you had telled them they were to come 
and get a bottle of champagne." 

"You didn't give it to them, surely?" 

" Not me, sir ! I chist telled them they were liars, and to go 
aweh." 

"And then?" 

"Well, then, sir, they threepit* and better threepit; and I 
said I would not give them a bottle of champagne, or a bottle 
of anything else ; and I wass thinking one o' them wass for com- 
ing into the boat, so I took up an oar." Here Murdoch grinned 
again. " Oh, ay, sir, they sah I was ready." 

" Beady for what? For his coming on board?" 

* g^reyif =fnaiTitftined or asserted. 



336 TBI 8TKAHOS ADTENTITRBS OF A HO0B1-BOAT. 

" Chist that, sir. If lie had tried to come on board I woald 
have splat his skull," said Mardoch, coolly. '< And they sah I 
wass ready for them ; and then there wass a good dale of sweer- 
ing, and they went aweh." 

We now inquired of him whether he felt any nervous qualms 
about being left alone on board in this pirate-infested city ; but 
Murdoch's mind was quite easy on that point. Indeed, we dis- 
covered that Columbus and the horse-marine were coming back 
at one o'clock to fetch him away for an exploration of the won- 
ders of Bristol city, the friendly owner of a neighboring smack 
having offered to keep an eye on the Nameless Barge during 
the afternoon. So we left full instructions about our departure 
on the morrow, and made our way ashore again. 

Now, as those other people would not be back from the cathe- 
dral till near lunch-time, we set forth on a long ramble to fill in 
the interval — ^wandering along the old-fashioned streets, and 
admiring here and there an ancient gable or latticed window^ 
visiting a church or two (we incontinently broke the tenth com- 
mandment in regarding the beautiful old oak pews in St. Mary 
Redcliffe), and generally finding ourselves being brought up 
sharply by the twisting and impassable harbor. It was during 
this aimless perambulation that Jack Buncombe made a con- 
fession of far greater importance than his change of views about 
the function of criticism. What led up to it one does not pre- 
cisely remember ; perhaps it was merely the opportunity ; for 
there were not many chances of talking in confidence on board 
the Nameless Barge, At all events, it was when we were walk- 
ing down Redcliffe Hill that he began to say, 

" Well, I shall be glad when we get away from these towns 
into the quiet, pastoral districts again. Living on board is ever 
so much better fun than putting up at a hotel. It used to be 
so delightful to have merely to choose out a meadow and a few 
willow-stumps, and pass the night where you pleased. I am 
looking forward to the Kennet and Avon; and I don't mind 
telling you that I hope to enjoy this last part of the trip a great 
deal more than any that came before — ^" 

'< Naturally. The consciousness of having attained to the 
dignity of being a reviewer." 

" Oh, no ; not that," he says, simply. " But, of course, that 
will be a pleasant occupation. And won't I astonish my editor- 



THE 8TBANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 3d7 

friend by mj thoroughness ! There^s no reason why short no- 
tices shouldn't be well done — not the least ; and I have no cause 
for scamping ; I have plenty of time. Oh, I'll show him some- 
thing. But it isn't that at all that promises to make the last 
part of this trip rather gay for me. No. The truth is, when 
I had to leave you at Warwick, I was in a little bit of a 
scrape." 

" We guessed as much." 

"And it threatened to become a rather serious scrape. I 
suppose I may tell you the story, now that it's all over. You 
see, there is a young lady — " 

" Of course." 

" Yes, there generally is ; but this one is a ward in chan- 
cery," he remarks, calmly. 

"What?" 

" A ward in chancery ; that is where the trouble comes in. 
Her mother is a waspish old vinegar-cruet ; tremendously proud 
of her ancestry ; the family have been settled in Wilts since the 
time of Edward III. — ^at least so they say — and, of course, she 
hates me like poison. I can fancy the old cat crying ' Imagine 
Maud marrying the son of a man who hasn't even a coat-of-arms 
on his carriage !' And I suppose it was she who set the guar- 
dians against me ; though what I had done I don't know, ex- 
cept that the paragraph devoted to us in the * County Families 
of the United Kingdom ' is uncommonly short Well, you know 
that talk about £dward III. is ridiculous nowadays," continues 
this garrulous and discursive young man. " I call it ridiculous. 
If you can paint a picture, or compose a piece of music, or write 
a successful book, that is something to show for yourself. That 
is what you can do. But merely because some old robber and 
thief got hold of a lump of land in the fourteenth century, and 
because your family have stuck to it like limpets ever since — 
to be proud of that /" 

" But about the guardians ?" one says to him. 

" Oh, they declared that the young lady should remain per- 
fectly free and unbiassed until she came of age ; when a girl 
reaches twenty-one, she suddenly becomes wise ; I suppose that's 
the theory. Well, neither of us seemed to see the fun of that 
arrangement ; and then the guardians proceeded to extremities ; 
yes, they did their little best, or shabbiest, as one might say ; 
22 P 



338 THX 8TRAN0K ADVEKTURES OF A HOUSK-BOAT. 

they applied to the vice-chancellor, and he issued an order di 
recting that all communication should cease between her and 
me. It seemed hard — and it was hard, for a while. Then one 
naturally began to think of how to mitigate these cruel circom- 
stances.'* 

^ That means, I suppose, that you communicated with her all 
the same ?" 

" They pretended to think so," observes the young man, very 
slowly. " You see, it is very diflScult to define what communi- 
cations are — very difficult ; and you can't expect lawyers to have 
large and liberal views. In fact, the court of chancery have no 
sense of humor whatever. If they think you're playing tricks, 
they only grow morose. Well, I tell you, when I left you at 
Warwick, I was in a devil of a fix and no mistake ; I had vis- 
ions of a scene in court, the vice-chancellor whisking thunder 
and lightning all about my head, and finally sending me off to 
HoUoway prison to purge my contempt. And the trouble I 
had to explain and apologize and give assurances by the yard-— 
I assure you it required a great deal of tact to appear very peni- 
tential, and yet maintain that there was nothing for you to be 
penitential about." 

" So you are engaged to be married, are you ?" one says to 
him (involuntarily recalling certain of Queen Tita's wistful dreams 
and fancies). 

" We've been engaged these two years," he makes answer, 
" but it has been kept very quiet, owing to that absurd oppo- 
sition. However, that will soon be over. Miss Wrexham — I 
may as well tell you her name — will be of age in about six 
months. And then," he adds, in a hesitating kind of way, ** I 
should like your wife to see her. And — ^and — ^we shall be going 
by Devizes, you know." 

" Yes ?" 

" Well, the fact is, Miss Wrexham has plenty of pluck, you 
understand ; and if your wife were so awfully good-natured as 
to send her a little bit of a note, she'd drive over to some ap- 
pointed place — she and her sister drive all about the country in 
a little pony-chaise of their own ; and then Murdoch could hold 
the pony ; and the two girls pop into the saloon ; and you'd 
give them a snack of lunch. I think it would be very jolly ; 
they're rattling nice girls ; plenty of fun in them." 



THK STRANGE ADVENTURES OP A HOUSE-BOAT. 339 

" And this is what you call obeying the vice-chancellor's or- 
der, is it f one demands of him. 

" Oh ! / should have nothing to do with it. If your wife 
asks two young ladies to come and look at a house-boat, how 
can I help it ? I'll sit dumb all the time if you like." 

" What kind of treatment do they give you in HoUoway ?" 

" Not at all bad, if you're a first-class misdemeanant." 

" Do they crop your hair ?" 

" Certainly not !" (He seemed to have been making inquiries). 

"Anything to drink?" 

" A pint of claret with your dinner, or something of that sort." 

« Books ?" 

" Oh, yes." 

" Then you could fill in the time with reviews and short no- 
tices. . All right ; we'll consider that project when we get along 
into Wiltshire." 

Just as we arrived at the entrance of the hotel, we could see 
the other members of our party coming across the College 
Green, through the dappled sun and shade beneath the trees. 
Notwithstanding her partly veiled face, it was clear that Miss 
I^eggy was laughing merrily; and Colonel Cameron, who was 
apparently responsible for this breach of Sabbath decorum, had 
his eyes fixed on the ground ; Queen Tita was looking elsewhere. 

" By Jove, what a handsome girl that is !" said Jack Dun- 
combe, involuntarily, as he, too, caught sight of the tall young 
lady. 

" Has that never struck you before ?" 

" Oh, yes, of course ; but somehow, in the open sunlight, 
when you see her at a distance, her figure tells so well." 

" Now that one thinks of it, my young friend, for a person 
engaged to be married, you seemed to pay a good deal of at- 
tention to Miss Rosslyn at one time, and that not so long ago. 
One might have been excused for thinking that you had serious 
views." 

" About Miss Rossljm," said he, with evident surprise. " No, 
surely not ! I have cheek for most things, but not for that !" 

Well ; this was a modest speech, at any rate. 

" Of course, being so much with her on the boat," he said, 
" there were plenty of chances of becoming very friendly ; and, 
I dare say, \)ems shut off from the rest of the world like that. 



S40 THS STRANOX ADYSITTURSB OF A HOUBX-BOAT. 

a kind of mutaal confidence sprang up ; besides, when a girl is 
exceedingly pretty, and very good-natured, and full of higli 
^irits and enjoyment, you want to make yourself as agreeable 
as you can.*' 

" Oh, you do ; do you f ' 

«* Why, naturally !" 

" But without prejudice to the young lady under the guar- 
dianship of the vice-chancellor ?*' 

^' I am quite sure of this, that Miss Rosslyn has perfectly un- 
derstood our relations all the way through," he answered. '< I 
am quite certain of that Why, if I had been quite free from 
any engagement, I could not have presumed, I would not have 
presumed, to regard her with any ambitious hopes of that kind." 

"Really!" In truth the young man's humility was quite 
touching. 

" Besides," he said, in a lower voice (for they were now 
crossing the street), " it is as clear as noonday who absorbs all 
her interest now. A precious lucky fellow he is ; that is my 
opinion." 

Of course there was no further word to be said ; for the new- 
comers were here ; and together we went up the steps of the 
hotel and made for the coffee-room, the women-folk not staying 
to remove their bonnets. They had a great deal to say about 
Norman gateways, and beautiful windows, and impressive music, 
and it was not for some time that one had an opportunity of 
pointing out to them the distinguished honor that was now 
being done them. 

"You wouldn't be chattering like that," one remarked to 
them at length ; " you would be silent with a reverential awe, 
if you only knew who was seated at this table." 

"Who?" and there was a startled glance round for Ban- 
quo's ghost 

" A reviewer ! There, look at him ; he seems harmless enough, 
but he has become an adjudicator of life and death ; the Bloody 
Assizes begin to-morrow." 

" Is it true, Mr. Buncombe ?" Queen Tita cried, forthwith. 
" Have you turned critic ?" 

" Only in a siqnll way," he said, lightly. " Thei» are some 
books coming down to-morrow, I believe." 

" Oh, we'll all help you I" Miss Peggy excl^»med, with g^ir 



THB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 341 

erous ardor. " We'll read them from end to end — every line — 
and give you the most disinterested opinions." 

" That is precisely what I want," said he, instantly rising to 
the occasion. ^' I want to astonish my editor-friend. He has 
asked only for paragraphs ; but Vl\ show him what paragraphs 
can be — an epigram in every line, or I'm a Dutchman. Isn't it 
lucky I happened to bring my memorandum-book? You re- 
member, Miss Rosslyn, when I ventured to show you some of 
my jottings ; well, they didn't seem to meet with general ap- 
proval ; perhaps, being detached in that way — " 

" Yes," said she, shyly, " they did sound rather detached, 
didn't they?" 

" But when I can insert them cunningly into a critical notice — 
when I can lead up to them — ^it will be quite different. Well, 
I'll take you all into my confidence. After dinner to-night I 
will submit some more of those memoranda for your judgment, 
and you must be quite frank ; you needn't fear my pride being 
wounded. Then you might give me suggestions as to how to 
use them." 

" Hadn't we better wait for the books ?" Queen Tita sug- 
gested, as a member of this joint-stock critical company. 

" Oh, no," rejoined the short-noticer, " you can sample the 
raw materials, and then I'll see how they can be made up for 
use afterwards. Of course, if they don't strike you as being 
worth anything, then I'll drop them at ones." 

After luncheon we got a carriage and drove away out to the 
famous downs of which Bristol is very naturally proud. It was 
a beautiful afternoon, a light westerly wind tempering the hot 
glare of the sun ; and there was everywhere a sunmierlike pro- 
fusion of foliage and blossom ; of red and white hawthorn, of 
purple lilac and golden laburnum, in the pretty gardens that 
front the long-ascending White Ladies-road. Arrived at the 
downs, we of course proceeded on foot, across the undula- 
ting pasture-land bestarred with squat hawthorn-bushes, that 
were now all powdered over with pink-white or cream-white 
bloom. The view from these heights was magnificent ; beyond 
the luxuriant woods in the neighborhood of the Avon, which 
were all golden green in the warm afternoon K^ht, the wide land- 
scape retreated fold upon f(^d, and ridge upon ridge to the 
high horizon line, becoming bluer and bluer till lost in the pale 



d42 TBI 8TRAN0S ADVINTUBI8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

Boathern sky. It was only here or there that some far hill op 
hamlet, some church spire, or wood-crowned knoll, caught that 
golden glow, and shone faint and dim ; mere distance subdued 
all local color ; and the successive landscape waves that rolled 
out to the horizon were but so many different shades of atmos- 
pheric azure, lightening or deepening according to the nature 
of the country. Of topographical knowledge we had none ; we 
only knew that this was a bit of England ; and a very fair and 
pleasant sight it seemed to be. 

And then, again, from these lofty heights we made our way 
down the steep slopes that overhang the river, by pathways 
flecked with sunlight and shade, and through umbrageous woods 
that offered a welcome shelter on this hot afternoon. Truly 
Bristol is a fortunate city to have such picturesque and pleasant 
open spaces in her immediate neighborhood ; and she has done 
wisely in not employing too much of the art of the landscape- 
gardener. There is sufficient of the wilderness about these hang- 
ing woods, though there are also smooth winding ways for those 
who object to scrambling and climbing. And on this quiet Sun- 
day evening both Queen Tita and her young American friend 
distinctly refused to quit the common, familiar paths. It was 
in vain that Mr. Jack Duncombe endeavored to lure them into 
the pursuit of short-cuts. They called him Chingachgbok, and 
told him to go away. Colonel Cameron said he envied the 
Bristol boys if they were allowed to come birds'-nesting in these 
wilds in the early spring ; the number of blackbirds that flew 
shrieking this way and that through the bushes was extraordinary. 

Then we climbed up again to the summit of Clifton Down 
(Durdham Down had been the beginning of our wanderings) and 
found another spacious landscape all around us ; the deep chasm 
of the river right beneath ; high in the air, but still far below 
us, the suspension bridge ; over to the west the beautiful woods 
of Leigh ; and beyond these the stretch of fertile country that 
lies between the Avon and the Severn. It seemed sad to think 
that a city like Bristol, with its famous annals and noble tradi- 
tions, to say nothing of its romantic and picturesque surround- 
ings, should in this nineteenth century be the resort and shelter 
of pirates. But we comforted ourselves with the assurance that 
by this time one or other of them must have had his head bro- 
ken ; perhaps two of them were murdered ; more probably the 



THE STRANGE ADYENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 343 

whole three of them were in the police-cells ; and meanwhile, 
as our womenfolk had done a good deal of walking on this 
warm afternoon, we proposed that they should drive back to the 
hotel, there being plenty of open flies at the base of the hilL 

On our way into the town the time was profitably spent in 
giving sage advice to our young reviewer about the new career 
on which he was entering ; and as one after another took up the 
task, it was really astonishing what a number of things he was 
expected to do and avoid. The anxiety of these good people 
about his success was quite touching. They laid down rules of 
guidance for him; they supplied him with quotations of any- 
thing but a recondite character ; they even constructed expres- 
sions for him which would be effective as coming from the crit- 
ical chair. Mr. Jack Duncombe took all this " badgering '' (as 
he was pleased to call it) good-naturedly enough ; nay, he him- 
self made merry over the phrase ^' the true Shakespearean 
touch '' being applied, as it usually is applied, to this or that 
writer of hopeless obscurity of manner and matter. 

" Why, the great minds of the world," he exclaimed — Shake- 
speare, Homer, Milton, Dante — have invariably been as clear as 
daylight — their meaning clear as daylight, their style clear as 
daylight ; and when you get some fellow puddling about in the 
mudholes of metaphysics, like a duck in a horsepond with its 
head under water, and you talk of him having the true Shake- 
spearean touch — !" 

"But above all," one remarked to him, "you must preach 
conciseness. Drive that into their heads, whatever you do. 
Formerly literature was a leisurely sort of thing, and you daw- 
dled along with a writer, arm-in-arm, just as long as you wanted 
his company. But that's all over. Modem hurry won't have 
anything of that kind. Literature must be boiled down and 
compressed — Liebig's Extract — try our own condensed butter- 
milk. You don't lead up to a situation of interest, you reveal 
it by a lightning flash." 

" That's rather a pretty derangement," he observed, casually. 

" And I will give you an example, so that you may see what 
condensation is. Here are three lines — three short lines — 

Mr. Frazer 

Took a razor : 

* Damme/ says be, * but Fll amaze her !* 



344 THI STRAKOK ADYBNTURSB OF A HOUSK-BOAT. 

Now, do you aee that I That is a lightning -flash situation. 
The whole position is described, not a superfluous word, not a 
single useless accessory ; Mr. Eraser is the central and command- 
ing figure ; there are no ' minor characters ' brought in to dis- 
tract attention. Now, that is what you, as a reviewer, must in- 
sist on. There must be no rambling. When you go to your 
butcher for a beefsteak, it's the beefsteak you want ; why should 
you be expected to look at the rosettes of ribbon he has stuck 
on his loins of pork f Business is business ; you keep them to 
that Hammer it into them. Show them the legend of Mr. 
Fraser — that is the lightning-flash style." 

'^ You, all of you, seem to find it rather an amusing kind of 
thing," he complained, meekly, ^< that I should have been asked 
to write a few notices." 

<< Oh, I assure you, Mr. Buncombe," Queen Tita said at once, 
'^that we are quite seriously anxious you should succeed; and 
I'm sure it can be no joke for the poor trembling wretches who 
are awaiting your verdict." 

" Oh, as for that," said he, cheerfully, " I will take a lesson 
from a friend of mine, who was elected at the Reform at a time 
when there was a good deal of pilling going on. The only way 
he could think of showing his gratitude was by voting for every 
candidate who came on for ballot during the first twelve months 
after his election. If I'm to be called to the chiair of Rhada- 
manthus, I'll begin with a year's leniency." 

" That is very right, at all events, Mr. Duncombe," Miss Peggy 
put in, approvingly, and therewith we drew up at the steps of 
the hotel. 

At dinner we had our prospects for the morrow to discuss, 
but also we had our battles of the previous day to fight over 
again, and it was observable that Colonel Cameron lost no op- 
portunity of magnifying the possibility of danger attending that 
passage down the Severn. But a soldier is no diplomatist ; we 
knew well enough what was meant by all this talk about heavy 
seas and head winds and leaky timbers ; it was merely to con- 
vince the two women that they had shown the most heroic cour- 
age. Well, perhaps they had. They didn't shriek when they 
saw the water swashing about the saloon. When we werfe at 
the roughest part of the voyage they merely sat a little silent, 
that was all. But one who has remarked the ways of women in 



THB STRANGK ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 945 

somewhat similar circumstances may be pardoned for suspecting 
that they were in such dread of becoming seasick as to be quite 
oblivious of any other danger, and that they feared neither wind 
nor waves because they had no time to think of them. 

" But I can't make out," says Miss Peggy, " what that sickle 
of a moon was doing up there in the east at half -past two in the 
morning. Of course you lazy people didn't see that, but that 
was the first thing I noticed when I got out. And we lost the 
moon so long ago." 

'< But the moon is always doing ridiculous things," Jack Dun- 
combe declares, adding, with fine audacity, ^' it burned blue at 
the battle of Dunbar." 

^' Oh, get out !" one sayi^ to this flippant person. 

" But it did," he maintains, " for Oarlyle says so in his * Let- 
ters and Speeches of Cromwell' You turn up and see." 

Now, what was one to answer? We had not the book with 
us ; besides, he wais a reviewer, and what is the use of disputing 
with a reviewer ? 

"Of course it must occasionally bum blue," observed Miss 
Peggy, " or what would be the meaning of the phrase, * Once in 
a blue moon V " Here was another instance of the way in which 
American children are brought up; who asked for her inter- 
ference in a matter being discussed by her elders ? 

" At all events," said Mrs. Threepenny-bit, " there will be no 
half -past two for us to-morrow morning, if we are going no fur- 
ther than Bath. And certainly we must wait for your parcel of 
books, Mr. Duncombe, even if we shouldn't start till midday ; 
for we are going to do our very best for you, all of us. There 
will be such a reading and judging and sifting as you never 
heard of. I think each volume should be the subject of a gen- 
eral debate." 

" I wonder what my editor-friend will think of those inspired 
paragraphs," Mr. Duncombe remarked, modestly. " I shouldn't 
wonder if he felt quite ashamed to reflect that he had put me 
on to short notices. The most likely thing is that he will at 
once ask me to come and edit the paper in his place." 

But the worst of it was that while we were thus conspiring 
together to write a series of short reviews such as the world had 
never seen the like of before, we presently found that we were 
to get next to no help from the materials stored up in Jack Dun- 



346 TBK STRANGE ADVENTCRIS OF A HO0fiB-BOAT. 

combe's note-book. When dinner had been cleared away, and 
cigars and claret placed on the table in oar quiet little sitting- 
room, the young man proceeded, with the utmost frankness, to 
submit for our judgment the various observations, epigrams, 
metaphors, gibes, and so forth, that he had recently jotted down ; 
but what could we do with them, or, rather, what could he do 
with them ? Here and there one or other of them might have 
been introduced into the dialogue of a play, or into the conver- 
sation of a novel ; but the horse and the horse-marine hauling 
in front, and five able-bodied men shoving behind, couldn't have 
got those quips and japes lugged into a newspaper article. Not 
that he complained of our objections. No. What he sought, 
he said, was honest help and counsel f and if these memoranda 
were impracticable for his present purpose, they might come in 
useful at some future time. 

" Here, now," he went on, regarding the small scribbled pages, 
" is a woman so convinced of her son's inability to do anything 
that she says, * Well, if you want to see the Thames frozen over, 
you just get our Jim to try and set it on fire.' Couldn't I make 
some use of that! Couldn't I say it of the author of a bad 
book?" 

" No," said Miss Peggy, promptly, " not for a year, at least ; 
for a year you are to say nothing cruel." 

" Very well ; how about this f — * An Irishman thinks of what 
he can do to worry England ; an Englishman thinks of what he 
can do for himself ; a Scotchman thinks of what he can do for 
Bonnie Scotland.' " 

" Well, now, that is very good — ^that is very good, indeed !" 
Queen Tita exclaimed, with unusual warmth. " That is excel- 
lent, Mr. Duncombe !" 

But Mr. Duncombe made answer, rather sadly, 

'^ I perceive that the merit of an aphorism doesn't lie in its 
truth, but in the way it appeals to one's prejudices. I know, 
for myself, that I always consider an article extremely well-writ- 
ten and unanswerable when it expresses my own view of a sub- 
ject. However, I don't see my way to use that, until I come 
across a Scotch editor." 

Sir Ewen Cameron, it will be observed, was not taking any 
part in these literary discussions; but he listened, especially 
when Miss Peggy joined in ; and he had secured a comfortable 



TBB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 347 

lounging-cbair, and his cigar seemed to afford him satisfaction. 
Jack Duncombe continued : 

*' Here are a lot of similes and metaphors — or, rather, meta- 
phorical phrases — ^that I fancy could be worked in, to give a lit- 
tle touch of picturesqueness, don't you know. ^ As crabbed and 
vexatious as the bones of a red mullet.' Couldn't one say that 
of a writer's style ? or of his temper ? I think so. * As hoarse 
as a black-throated diver — ' " 

"But wait a bit — is the black-throated diver a particularly 
hoarse bird ?" one ventures to ask. 

" I haven't the least idea," he says, coolly ; " but then, nei- 
ther has any one else. And it looks knowing. Oh, yes, I'll 
find plenty of use for these phrases ; FU dot them all over my 
sentences to give them a kind of picturesqueness. But what's 
this ? it opens well, at any rate : * If , in the deeps of the abys- 
mal forests ' — doesn't that sound fine ?" 

" Very fine, indeed !" says Mrs. Threepenny-bit. 

" < If, in the deeps of the abysmal forests, some fifty millions 
of ages ago, there had lived an ancient seer — a hoary and pro- 
phetic ape, a quadrumanous Merlin — who could have looked 
into futurity and foreseen that the development of his kind 
would lead to the production of Offenbach's music and the fa- 
cetiousness of the thoroughbred cockney, wouldn't he have gone 
down on his knees, and wept and howled and prayed to the 
gods for the instant annihilation of the whole race ?' That 
sounds very splendid, but I'm afraid it would involve me in con- 
troversy. Hello, here's more about evolution: *For millions 
and millions of years Nature's system provided that the wild 
beasts of the earth should prey upon each other, thus effecting 
a fair kind of compromise ; but in these later days a new spe- 
cies of predatory animal has sprung up, on whom there is no 
check whatever, and the various races of mankind are left help- 
less before its furious and savage attacks — ' " 

Here he suddenly, but very quietly, closed the book, and 
methodically put the elastic band round it, and consigned it to 
his pocket. In Miss Peggy's eyes there was a quick glimmer 
of laughing intelligence ; Mrs. Threepenny-bit and the colonel, 
on the other hand, sat wondering. 

" Yes, but you didn't finish, Mr. Duncombe," said the former, 
" Who or what arc these predatory animals ?" 



348 TBI STRANQI ADVSNTURK8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" That was written before your conversion, Mr. Buncombe f ' 
Miss Peggy said, looking at him. 

" Yes," he answered, gravely. " Now I am called Paul." 

And then, without any further explanation, he proceeded to 
say that, after all. Queen Tita was right, and that it would be 
better to wait for the books themselves to suggest opportunities 
for the dovetailing in of these fragments of personal experience 
or reflection. But he counted on our collaboration none the 
less, he said. The NameUas Barge^ during the next day or two, 
was to become a kind of reviewing-shop ; with a number of in- 
dustrious apprentices all working away at the same job, or se- 
ries of jobs. Nothing was said about remuneration ; perhaps 
the astonishment and delight and abundant gratitude of the 
British public were to be our sufficient and glorious reward. 

But it was not at all about Mr. Buncombe's future career as a 
critic that Mrs. Threepenny-bit was concerned when, later on 
that night, a chance occurred of communicating to her the news 
of his engagement. At first she professed nothing but a lofty 
acquiescence. She hoped that the objections of the mamma 
and of the guardians were founded on nothing but prejudice, 
and would be removed : as far as she was aware, Mr. Buncombe 
was a very well-conducted, agreeable, and rather clever young 
man. And if, as she presumed, the young lady was well off, 
and if the marriage took place, they would probably settle down 
in the country, with perhaps a house in town ; and he would 
give up dabbling in those vague literary pursuits that promised 
him nothing but inky fingers and disappointed ambition. He 
would be better employed in fencing plantations than in writing 
farces for comic theatres. So it may be said that she, somewhat 
coldly, approved. 

But presently she asked this question, 

"And Mr. Buncombe was actually engaged to be married 
when he started with us at the beginning of this trip ?" 

" Undoubtedly. He says so." 

" Well ; it is no business of mine. But 1 cannot imagine why 
he should have kept his engagement a secret. It seems to me 
that when an unmarried young man is asked to make up a party 
of this kind, and conceals the fact of his being engaged — ^well, 
it is very like joining under false pretences." 

Which was rather a strange speech for a woman who had de- 



THE STBAHOB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 849 

dared again and again that slie had not a single match-making 
idea in her head when we planned the voyage of the Nameless 
Barge, 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

** Thus, thuB I steer my bark, and sail 
On even keel with gentle gale ; 

* * * * 

And once in seven years Pm seen 
At Bath or Tunbridge to careen." 

" The top of the morning to you !" says Miss Peggy, coming 
marching into the coffee-room, and twirling her bonnet by the 
strings. There is a gay audacity in her face, and health and 
youth and high spirits are in her shining eyes. 

" The same to you and many of them," one answers, humbly. 

"I do believe," she continues, in tones of tragic vexation, 
"that your English bootmakers are the immediate descendants 
of the people who lived in the Age of Iron. Why, French and 
German bootmakers use leather ! But your English bootmakers 
fix ydur feet with iron clamps." 

" So your racing and chasing on Durdham and Clifton Downs 
has found you out — is that it ? Well, you'll have to come bet- 
ter provided to the Highlands — boots with broad toes, double- 
soled, and with plenty of nails in them to get a grip of the 
heather." 

" I am not so sure about my ever going to the Highlands," 
she says, with something of a change of manner ; and she walks 
along to the window and looks out. Then she returns. " Won't 
you go for a little stroll until they come down ? It Ib quite pretty 
out there." 

This is a command rather than an invitation ; one fetches hat 
and stick ; Miss Peggy whips on her bonnet and ties the strings; 
and presently we are lounging about the College Green, which 
looks very well in the early sunlight. And the sunlight suits 
Miss Peggy, too, brightening the pale, clear rose of her com- 
plexion, and lending a mystery to her shadowed eyes, and mak- 
ing a wonder and glory of her hair, as many a poor hapless 
mortal, on both sides of the Atlantic, has discovered to his cost 



350 THE 8TRAN0S ADVIlTrURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

'* Has Mr. Dancombe's parcel of books come V^ she asks pres- 
entlj. 

" I don't know." 

''Do you think he will succeed as a writer T again she asks, 
in her careless way. 

" How can one tell ? He hasn't got very far yet" 

" He is very modest about it," she says ; and then, as on one 
or two former occasions, she goes on to speak of Mr. Doncombe 
in rather a cool and critical fashion. '< His simplicity is almost 
amusing. He doesn't aim at much, does he ? Rather a small 
ambition, wouldn't you call it, to be writing these little things, 
and making up plots for farces? Why, if I were a man, Fd 
win the Victoria Cross or die !" she adds, with superfluous en- 
ergy. 

"Good gracious! if everybody wanted the V.C, how would 
the world's business go on ?" 

" I'm talking about myself personally," she says, resolutely. 

" To begin with, you would have to be a soldier." 

" I would be a soldier." 

" You would want an opportunity — " 

" I would make an opportunity." 

" Yes, that's just where the trouble comes in. Don't you know 
that some very high authorities have looked rather askance at the 
V.C. as a temptation to the young soldier to fight for his own 
hand. And yet they say that at the First Relief of Lucknow 
every single man of the 78th Highlanders fought for a Victoria 
Cross — and, what's more, that every single man earned it" 

" And what was done then ?" asks Miss Peggy. 

" Why, they left the regiment itself to choose their represen- 
tatives to get the cross. But the fact is, no Highland soldier 
should get the V.C." 

" What !" she says, indignantly. 

"No Highland soldier should get the V.C. For when the 
critical occasion comes — when a charge has to be made or a 
trench to be stormed, then the pipes begin to play, and the 
Highlander becomes a madman — he is no longer himself. It is 
unfair all the way round. The pipes madden him and frighten 
his enemy at the same time. When Sir Archibald Alison called 
on the pipers to strike up at Amoaf ul, the Ashantees bolted like 
rabbits, and the Black Watch couldn't get at them. Well, I 



TfiK STRAKGS ADVENTURKS OF A BOUSS-BOAT. 361 

hope you will hear a pibroch or two in the Highlands this year: 
what makes you think you won't be able to go ?" 

" Oh, as for that," she says, with rather a proud and hurt air, 
^^ I am sure I am at liberty to go, for anything my people at 
home seem to care about me. They don't appear to be much 
concerned as to whether I go or stay." 

" No letters this morning ?" 

" Oh, it isn't this morning — or many a morning back. I don't 
believe Fve heard from home since I left London; and Fve 
written regularly to my sister Emily, every Sunday, sometimes 
oftener." 

" Don't you think they assume that you have withdrawn alto- 
gether into the wilds, and that it is no use trying to find yon? 
Or isn't it just as likely that there has been some mistake about 
forwarding your letters; and that you will find them all in a 
bundle when you get back to town 9 We shall soon be making 
a beeline for London now." 

" Those people have come down," she says, discreetly glanc- 
iijg over to the windows of the hotel ; " we must go in." 

It was now for the first time that a foreshadowing of the 
breaking-up of our party began to weigh upon the spirits of one 
or two of these good folk — ^particularly upon Colonel Cameron, 
who became remarkably glum and silent when we were count- 
"ing up the days it would take us to reach the Thames. Not so 
with young Buncombe, however. 

" Oh, it's no use thinking about that yet," said he. " We've 
all the Avon and the Rennet to do; and we'll soon be away 
from these to.wns and into the solitudes again. You didn't 
build the Nameless Barge to go on a round of visits to cities. 
There are plenty of delightful stretches of country for you to 
get through before we say good-bye." 

^'But for letters, Mr. Duncombe," his hostess said (and she 
was as polite and courteous to him as ever : it was not to him 
that she was going to say anything about his having come away 
with us under false pretences), " shouldn't we decide where the 
expedition is to end ? And not only that, but one or two friends 
promised to come and meet us at the finish." 

" Oh, I see," said this ingenious young man, instantly. " * As 
You Like It' winds up with a dance — ^at least, they don't always 
do it on the stage, but that was what the duke ordered. Well| 



852 THI 8TBANOS ADVSNTURKS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

we've been in the Forest of Arden — at least, you have been — 
and there ought to be a little dance before we separate. Oh, 
yes, we must have a little fling for the last — a Highland fling, if 
Colonel Cameron prefers it We strike the Thames at Reading ; 
very well ; we can slip down the river to Henley, and put up at 
the Red Lion. Henley will be a capital place to leave the boat 
at, for it will be wanted at the regatta, either by yourselves or 
some of your friends. And of course we should finish up with 
a dance: you ask the people, and leave all the arrangements 
to me." 

And the next morning Queen Tita remarked, rather sadly, 
" Well, Fve said many harsh things about that old boat, but I 
shall be sorry to leave it. It has taken us into some strange 
places, and we've had many and many a snug evening together; 
and I dare say, long days hereafter, when we come together 
again, there will be plenty to talk over." 

" When you bring Miss Rosslyn to the Highlands with you 
in the autumn," Colonel Cameron put in quickly. ''By that 
time the whole trip will have become a beatified kind of thing 
in one's memory ; and, as you say, there will be plenty to talk 
over — plenty." 

''I am sure of this. Sir Ewen," is the rejoinder — and this 
diminutive major-domo of a woman has an air as if she were 
herself the proprietor of all the land and seas between the Mull 
of Cantire and the Butt of Lewis — " I am sure of this, that if 
we get Peggy with us in the West Highlands she won't want to 
look back, she'll have enough to do in looking round." 

Miss Peggy is silent. Perhaps she does not want to distress 
these good friends, who are planning schemes for her delight, 
by telling them that, after all, she may not be able to go. 

Now, in all our wanderings hitherto, we had encountered next 
to nothing of the slumminess that is supposed to be characteris- 
tic of canals ; but we were about to get a good solid dose of it 
at Bristol — for a brief space. When we had our things packed, 
we drove out towards the bit of canal that connects the Floating 
Harbor with the Avon ; and, having put our portmanteaus (and 
Jack Buncombe's parcel of books) on the top of the bank, we 
dismissed the cabs, and calmly awaited the coming of our house- 
boat A most squalid neighborhood was this : the streets grimy ; 
the air pungent with vitriolic fumes ; the sky pierced with a hun- 



THE STRANOS ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 353 

dred chimneys. A populous neighborliood, too, though the peo- 
ple did not appear to be doing anything: they lounged about 
the bridge, leaning over the parapet ; or they stared at our lug- 
gage and ourselves with an absent air. But when, after long 
waiting, we beheld the Nameless Barge approach (it was being 
towed by a small steamer, with the owner of which Captain 
Columbus had established friendly terms) there was a vast com- 
motion among these idlers, and quite a crowd swarmed down 
the bank to witness our embarkation and departure. The curi- 
osity of these worthy folk was of the most artless kind. Their 
comments were uttered without any shamefaced reserve. They 
did not literally come on board ; but they craned their necks, 
at risk of falling into the water, in order to gain a glimpse into 
the saloon. Miss Peggy seemed to attract a good deal of their 
attention ; and that young lady, standing on the thwart across 
the stern-sheets, appeared to be demurely unconscious of their 
scrutiny. Then the horse was attached ; the raree-show began 
to glide away ; and presently we had left that idle population 
behind, and were slowly passing through malodorous suburbs, 
that seemed to consist almost exclusively of manufactories. 

However, when we had got down by a couple of locks into 
the wider waters of the Avon, the world began to grow a little 
greener again. There were still chimneys here and there, and 
spelter works ; but also there were steep red cliflEs hanging with 
foliage, and, on the other side, level meadows catching a faint 
shimmer of sunlight. Nay, we came upon a long railway em- 
bankment that was exceedingly picturesque ; for the line, being 
far above us, was invisible ; and what we saw was a series of 
Norman arches half smothered in heavy clusters of ivy. We 
were becoming quite reconciled to the yellow color of the Avon, 
because of the beauty of these steep banks and the luxuriant 
foliage. Here and there, where there happened to be a clear- 
ance among the trees, masses of wild-flowers showed themselves 
— ^particularly of the red campion. There were the huge leaves 
of the butterbur along the edge of the stream. And from time 
to time the soft summer air around us was sweet with the scent 
of the hawthorn blossom. 

" Mr. Duncombe," says Miss Peggy, as we are gliding smoothly 
along, under high wooded banks, or by the side of level meads, 
** when are we to see the books you are going to review ?" 
23 



354 TBB STRANaS ADVENTURS8 OF A H0U8B-B0AT. 

The young man glances at her somewhat suspiciously. 

" I don't see why you should find so much amusement in the 
notion that I am going to try a little reviewing/' he makes aa- 
swer. " But I don't bear any malice. I propose we open the 
parcel now. Let's have Murdoch called to take the tiller ; then 
we can all go into the saloon — a Council of Five. But mind, it's 
your co-operation I want; not sarcasm. And I don't see any- 
thing funny about it myself : why shouldn't I write reviews as 
well as other people ?" 

*^ What is this that has come unto the son of Kish ?" says 
Queen Tita, darkly ; and then she rises and takes Miss Peggy's 
hand in hers. " Come along, Peggy, let's go and see the books. 

'Come down the cabin-stair, 
And comb your yellow hair, 
Said the captain unto pretty Peggy, 0.' " 

<' What is that ?" the younger lady asks, as she follows her 
hostess into the saloon. 

" Oh, I don't know," the other answers, lightly. " A bit of an 
old song. I don't remember any more of it. But that's always 
the way : it's pretty Peggy who is asked to go down below, and 
make herself smart, and take her place at the captain's table ; 
while plain Susan, or Moll, or Bridget can remain on deck, and 
nibble dried herring. Now, Mr. Duncombe, your knife, please. 
I think, Peggy, as we are women, our curiosity should be grati- 
fied first." 

Accordingly, when the string had been cut, and the pile ol 
books laid bare, these two forward creatures took the whole 
matter of investigation into their own hands ; and the very first 
volume that Queen Tita seized upon caused her to break forth 
into a most unseemly giggle. 

" Mr. Duncombe, what are your views upon this question ?" 
she asked. 

" What question ?" said he. 

She gravely handed him the book ; it was entitled, " On the 
Management of Infancy." But did these two sniggering fiends 
think to disconcert him ? Then they were mistaken. 

" Oh," said he, as bold as a lion, " you needn't think I am so 
ignorant. Views ? I have plenty of views. Haven't I read Mr. 
Spencer's treatise on Education ? Very well. Either this writer 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 355 

approves, or protests against, the process of hardening children. 
Whichever position he takes up, I can face him, and remonstrate 
with him, and talk to him like a father. The worst of it is," he 
continued seriously (and one of us began to suspect that it 
was not he, but his persecutors, who were being trifled with), 
" that I don't believe I ever jotted down a single saying about 
children ; I don't believe there is one anywhere in any of my 
note-books. Isn't that a pity ? You see, that's just where the 
bother is: you can't make those things to order; and what 
memoranda you do put down seem never to be wanted. But I 
must have a flash, you know, a scintillation, here and there — 
something pointed and epigrammatic and luminous — even if it's 
only about infants. Infants! Who ever thought of making 
epigrams about infants? They are not worth the trouble, the 
horrid little idiots ! But still — ^still — I must have a flash or 
two." 

Miss Peggy took up a volume. 

"* Modem Hinduism,' What will you say about that, Mr. 
Duncombe ?" she asked. 

" Modem Hinduism ?" he repeated. " WeU, you see, one 
great advantage is that I don't know anything at all about it. I 
have no prejudices or prepossessions. My mind is virgin soil. 
If the man instructs me properly, I will thank him ; if he amuses 
me, I will thank him still more ; but if he is a dull dog, I will 
arise and smite him in the eye." 

" Oh, no ; you can't do that," she interposed, " not for a year, 
at least." 

Then it was Queen Tita's turn. 

" * Gout in its Relation to the Liver,' " she read out seriously. 
" Have you studied that subject, Mr. Duncombe ?" 

" Thank goodness, no !" our reviewer exclaimed, heedless of 
the responsibilities of his craft ; and then he added, " Now, 
how is any one to bring in lightning-flashes, corascations, things 
of that kind, when you're writing about the liver ?" 

" Be wise, instead," said Colonel Cameron. " An old doctor- 
friend of mine used to say that the liver was the conscience of 
the body, that told you when you had done anything wrong. 
Now, there is an axiom for you ; couldn't you work that in ?" 

" I might ; but if your doctor-friend were to come along and 
claim the copyright ?" 



356 THS 8TRANOS ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" Poor fellow, he's not likely to do that," Sir Ewen answered ; 
" his bones are at the bottom of the Red Sea." 

" I'll jot it down anyway," said our short-noticer, thankfully. 
"Maybe it will come in. But I never undertook to become 
epigrammatic about gout. That wasn't in the contract You'll 
have to give me an easier one. What's that, there. Miss Ross- 
lyn ?" for Miss Rosslyn was grinning. 

" I think you have a famous opportunity here," Miss Peggy 
said, although it is only a pamphlet : * The Modem Stage and 
its Critics.' Doesn't that give you a chance ? I see names men- 
tioned. You might wipe off some old scores." 

" What !" he said, indignantly. " Abuse a position of trust 
to serve private malice ? Never ! What do you take me for ?" 

" Ah," she said, " I perceive : you're one of themselves now." 

" Nevertheless," said he, thoughtfully, and he stretched out 
his hand for the pamphlet, " it is just possible one might have 
a public duty to fulfil. I wonder if Biddies is mentioned ; or 
MacMurtough, of the Whack ; or poor old Tommy Swills, who 
can hardly hold up an opera-glass with his gouty fingers — " 

"Look at him!" said Mrs. Threepenny-bit, in an awestruck 
aside. " Look at the baleful fire gathering in his eyes !" 

" I don't say," he continued, loftily, " that I would have asked 
to be allowed to review this pamphlet. No. There is nothing 
more loathsome and contemptible than malice, private malice, 
striking with coward hand in the dark ; and you would naturally 
avoid even any semblance of that. But supposing you have a 
public duty to perform, in the interests of the stage ; and if these 
fellows have been making use of their opportunities to air their 
aversions and prejudices and venal favoritism — " 

"Then the Lord has delivered them into your hand," Sir 
Ewen said, in a kind of joyful fashion, as if he sniffed the battle 
from afar. " I am more interested in that review than in any of 
the others ; I hope we shall all have a chance of seeing it before 
the party breaks up." 

" And then, again," the young man continued, " when I prom- 
ised to exercise leniency for a year, that was with regard to the 
authors of books, not their subjects. I may curse the gout as 
much as I like, if I am civil to the man who writes about gout. 
In the same way, I may say what I like about these stage-critics. 
Oh, don't I know the brutes — !" 



THB STRANGB ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 357 

" Mr. Duncombe, Mr. Duncombe !" Queen Tita exclaimed, " I 
am really ashamed of you ! That is not the mood in which you 
should set about examining a literary production, whatever its 
subject may be. Goodness gracious, you should be as calm 
and dispassionate and phlegmatic as an owl. I really don^t 
think you should notice that pamphlet at all." 

" But the interests of the public !" he exclaimed. " The inter- 
ests of the public demand it ! Besides, on that subject I've got 
about thirty aphorisms all ready. I'll stick them in as thick as 
plums in a pudding. Oh, I assure you I never expected to get 
such a chance." 

He looked inquiringly at the pile of books over which the two 
women were hovering, as if it were a bran-pie. Queen Tita took 
up the next volume. 

" * Fluctuations in General Prices : their Cause and Cure,' " 
she read aloud, without any comment. 

For a second the young man looked rather staggered. 

" Yes, that is a facer," he remarked, slowly. " Still, the hum- 
bly receptive mind may find something to say even about that." 

" * Shakespeare and Ben Jonson : A Comparative Study,' " she 
went on. 

" Ah, well, there now !" he cried, brightening up at once ; 
" there, now, is something I should like to write about. I don't 
care which side the man takes ; I'll cut my own line ; I'll back 
the magic romanticism of Shakespeare against the realism of 
Ben Jonson at anything you like — a hundred* to one, a hundred 
to nothing ! Romanticism against realism — that's my tip ; I 
know which has the strongest staying power. I'll back Dumas 
in the long run to knock Balzac into a cocked hat. Why — but, 
hullo, what's that—" 

For indeed this elegant excursus in the domain of criticism, 
the Newer Criticism, was summarily cut short by the stoppage 
of the boat ; and when one went out to see what the matter was, 
Captain Columbus, on the bank, was good enough to inform us 
that we were now near to Keynsham, which would be an oppor- 
tune place for baiting the horse. We acquiesced in this arrange- 
ment; Columbus, the horse, and the horse-marine departed; 
and Murdoch, no longer wanted at the tiller, was summoned into 
the saloon to provide us with some snack of luncheon, that buQ' 
die of books being swept into a corner for the present 



358 THE 8TRANQB ADTBNTUltEB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

Well, it was during this foregathering that Miss Peggy, listen- 
ing to our random talk, was at length driven to confess that she 
thought she would be unable to go to the Highlands with us that 
antunin. Mrs. Threepenny-bit seemed somewhat startled ; and 
looked at the girl curiously ; it was clear that she suspected there 
might be occult reasons for this decision which it would be bet- 
ter not to inquire too curiously about. Indeed, when Miss Peggy 
was invited to give us some kind of excuse for this change of 
plan, her answer was vague enough. 

^' I want to know that I have a home," she said, with downcast 
eyes. " They have let me drift away too far. If I were once 
back in America, among my own people, I dare say I should soon 
be ready to start away again ; but at present, I feel just a little 
lost." 

So she went on with her nebulous explanations; and Mrs. 
Threepenny-bit listened, and said nothing. It was easy to di- 
vine that the small creature was distracted by very divergent 
hopes and desires. Was Peggy, then — after all the magnifying 
of the Highlanders and the Highland regiments, and her interest 
in the clans, and her pity for the misfortunes of Bonnie Prince 
Charlie — ^was Peggy to go away back to Brooklyn before her 
education was completed by a visit to Inverfask and the West- 
em Isles ? On the other hand, in view of certain contingencies, 
was it not entirely advisable that the girl should return to her 
own people forthwith, and remain in the clear atmosphere of 
America until certain cobwebs of Old-World romance had got 
blown out of her head? Driving in Prospect Park, or pacing 
the sands at Long Branch, she would soon forget that she had 
ever seen any particular fascination in the fancy of having a 
piper marching up and down outside the dining-room window, 
with the pipes screaming away at " Lord Breadalbane's March," 
or « Wha'U be king but Chariie ?" 

But this mild balancing and " swithering " was very different 
from the energetic protest of Colonel Cameron. 

" Why, Miss Rosslyn, I have been looking on it as a definite 
engagement that you two ladies should pay a visit to Inverfask 
this autumn. I don't think I can let you off. I have been plan- 
ning excursions — indeed, the whole thing is arranged; and I 
cannot allow you to treat me so badly as that. Oh, no, if you 
think of it, it is hardly fair." 



THB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 359 

She glanced at him rather timidly. 

" I may be able to come back to England," she said, vaguely. 

" But you don't seem to have any special reason for returning 
to America just at present," said he. 

" Well, no," she admitted ; " not any very special reason, per- 
haps. It is more a feeling than anything else. I should like to 
know what is going on at home. And it seems to me that I 
have been an outcast and a vagrant long enough." 

In this indeterminate fashion the matter was allowed to rest 
for the moment ; but it was obvious that it was weighing on Sir 
Ewen Cameron's mind. He did not take the customary interest 
in our arrangements for starting again, when Columbus and the 
horse-marine had come back ; and subsequently, when we had 
to get through one or two locks, he did not lend a hand as usual. 
A smurr of rain had come over ; like the rest of us, he had put 
on a waterproof ; and he merely stood in the stem-sheets, idly 
looking away over the wet landscape, and towards some low- 
lying hills that were as ghostly shadows behind the pall of green 
mist. Nay, in one of the locks, when Miss Peggy had espied 
some clusters of the small purple toad-flax, and also an abundance 
of heart's-tongue fern, and expressed a wish to have some of 
these, it was Jack Duncombe who came to her aid. Colonel 
Cameron looked thoughtful and anxious; and paid but little 
heed to what was going on. 

But by and by the afternoon began to clear. The clouds grad- 
ually lifted ; and there were gleams of lemon yellow among the 
soft purples and grays. The still waters of the winding Avon 
mirrored every feature of the bank; and farther oft the skies 
were reflected too^a shimmer of silver here and there, a breadth 
of liquid lilac darkening almost to black under the trees ; while 
over the glassy surface darted innumerable swifts and martens, 
busy in the still, warm, moist air. By this time, of course, 
waterproofs had been thrown aside ; and as we came to a con- 
venient landing-place the boat was stopped as we got ashore — 
all but Jack Duncombe, who was eager to get at his books. 

Now it was Sir Ewen Cameron who assisted Miss Peggy to 
step along the gangboard ; and when she had reached the bank 
these two naturally went on together — at first walking pretty 
smartly so as to get ahead of the horse. Queen Tita was in no 
iuch hurry. 



360 THE 8TRAN0B ADVENTURB8 OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" What is taking that girl back to America ?" she asks, pres- 
ently, looking away along the tow-path towards those two. 

" Who can tell ? She doesn't seem to know herself !" 

^^ Bat perhaps she is right,'' this small person continues, rather 
wistfully. " Yes ; even if it is only some vague kind of feeling. 
And if she was once over there, and were to come back, then 
we couldn't be held responsible for anything that might happen. 
Of course, I hope she will come back. It is very curious what 
a hold that girl gets over one, when once you know her well ; 
how you can't help mixing her up with all your plans and fore- 
casts ; why, I declare, England wouldn't be half England to me 
if I didn't know that, sooner or later, I could look forward to 
seeing my Peggy again." 

"Your Peggy!" 

" Yes, indeed," she continues, boldly. " Oh, any one could 
see how all you men have been fighting for her good graces, for 
a word or a smile or a look ; but she has kept to me all the 
time. Do you think she doesn't know what men are ? I wish I 
could let you hear some of her confidences ! Perhaps you 
would like to know ?" 

"Yes." 

" Well, now, when I think of it, I don't believe you would." 

" So that is her gratitude, is it, and her honesty ? Pretend- 
ing to be friends with everybody on board ; and then, at night, 
in the secrecy of the ladies' cabin, making base revelations and 
sarcasms? Ordiiiary folks would say that that was the con- 
duct of a sneak." 

" She is not a sneak !" this infinitesimal firebrand exclaims, 
blazing up in a minute. " She is my dear friend ; and I wish I 
knew many like her. Yes, I wish there were many women like 
her, in England, or America, or anywhere else. Oh, I know her 
faults. I know Peggy." And here Mrs. Threepenny-bit sud- 
denly alters her manner, and laughs a little to herself. " Yes — 
she's a wretch ; and I can't deny it. But I love her ; and that's 
all I have got to say about her." 

And it was a good deal to say ; for this Jenny-wren of a dis- 
ciplinarian is accustomed to judge of her young women friends 
by a rather severe standard of conduct and aim. But then, 
again, as has been pointed out in these pages once or twice, 
Miss Peggy was rather pleasant-looking, in a kind of way, that 



THE STRANOS ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 361 

is, and a bright complexion, a smiling mouth, and clear-shining 
eyes make for favor and leniency ; besides which, she was a 
kind of solitary young creature, away from her native country 
and her friends, and, therefore, to be protected and regarded 
with gentleness. She had been called a White Pestilence, it is 
true; but that was in bygone days. And now there was a 
chance of our losing her altogether, it was not only Mrs. Three- 
penny-bit who loathed the prospect; by what right were the 
United States of America about to take away from us our pret- 
ty Peggy ? 

Poor Peggy! She seemed most unusually grave when we 
had all to get on board again, for we were now drawing near to 
Bath. Not only that, but she appeared to be at once absent- 
minded and apprehensive: subsiding into a deep reverie from 
time to time, and yet anxiously responding to any remark ad- 
dressed to her, so that her thoughtf ulness might not be noticed. 
She had no further quips and questions about Jack Duncombe's 
bundle of books. She took some tea in silence. And then 
these two women-folk had to be left to themselves ; for we were 
now getting to the end of the day's voyage; and Captain 
Columbus, outside, was awaiting orders. 

The approach to the beautiful Queen of the West, by the val- 
ley of the Avon, is disappointing in the extreme ; indeed, the 
slums here are about as bad as those of the Totterdown suburb 
of Bristol. Our appearance in these squalid outskirts was the 
signal for a mighty flutter of excitement; from all quarters 
there came rushing a multitude of ragged mudlarks — ^between 
five and fifteen their ages seemed for the most part to range — 
not one of whom, as far as we could see, was possessed of cap 
or bonnet; and these formed our ever-increasing escort as we 
slowly passed along the muddy waters. Nor was the general 
perturbation confined to those on foot; everywhere windows 
were throw open, and dishevelled heads thrust out ; there were 
calls from this house to that ; and echoing answers from below. 
When at last we stopped at one of the quays — amid the cranes 
and piles of wood and coal, and what not — ^the crowd grew 
greater than ever ; and it was all that Murdoch, armed with a 
boathook, could do to keep those betattered Arabs from swarm- 
ing over the roof of the house. 

It was abundantly manifest that here was no abiding-place 

Q 



362 TBB 8TRAKGS ADVSNTURX8 OF A BOUSX-BOAT. 

for us; again, and for the last time on this trip — we shoold 
have to sleep ashore ; and so, when a few things had been pat 
into the varioas hand-bags, we set off, a small procession, through 
the streets of Bath, putting up at a hotel where, notwithstanding 
our suspicious want of luggage, we were made fairly welcome 
and furnished with rooms. 

" This will be the last of the towns, anyway," Jack Dun- 
combe said, as if by way of general apology. " To-morrow we 
shall be off into the wilds again ; and nothing more will be 
heard of us until we appear in the Thames." 

And then again, while we were at dinner, he said, 

" Don't you think that, now we are in Bath, we should devote 
the evening to fashion and frivolity? Suppose we call for 
chairs, and go off to the play ; or perhaps there is a ball at the 
Assembly Rooms — with all the great folk there. I'll tell you 
what I should like to see as we were going in — we might just 
come upon them, the young lady, very pretty, of course, with 
high-waisted muslin dress, fan, and a feather or two in her hair, 
the young gentleman in long-tailed coat, ruffles, and rosettes ; 
and she is all palpitation and fright, and he is all courage 
and devotion, as he wraps her cloak round her and puts the 
hood over her head. Then, you must imagine the chariot and 
horses and postilion just round the comer; the young lady 
trips along, and pops in, her spark following ; and then, hey ! for 
Gretna Green. That's what I would call an incident, now — 
Gretna Green in a balldress ; there's some romance in that. But 
when we came through those dull and dead and sombre streets 
this evening who could have believed that anything of the kind 
ever happened in Bath ?" 

We did not go to either ball or play ; but perhaps it was to 
be in sympathy with the spirit and traditions of the place that, 
a little later on, when the table had been cleared, cards were 
produced, and a mild game of vingt-et-un begun. It was with 
some difficulty that Miss Peggy, who was still unaccountably 
reserved in manner and distraite — was induced to join; but 
Jack Duncombe would take no denial : accordingly, when she 
drew in her chair, she seized the first opportunity that presented 
itself of smuggling half a dozen of the cards into her lap. It 
was her usual custom, when she happened to be at the end of 
th« table, and could make sure of friendly connivance. With 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 363 

this repertory to draw from, she seldom had much difficulty in 
making up the coveted twenty -one; so that her success at the 
game had become proverbial. 

Now, some people would say that this was cheating ; but that 
is taking a very shallow and superficial view of a serious sub- 
ject For what nobler aim can inspire the mind than to redress 
the inequalities of Fortune, and mitigate her harsh decrees ? At 
this game of vingt-et-un, when you are dealt a ten and a two, 
every one knows that, if you call for a third card, the spiteful 
fates will almost certainly crush you with another ten. But 
what if you can, without asking for any third card, simply drop 
the two into your lap, and replace it with an ace ? Or if you 
happen to have fourteen in your hand, and are dealt a nine as 
an additional card, why should you not drop that nine if you 
have a seven in your lap ? You are defeating the maleficent 
spirits who preside over games of chance. You are probably 
teaching a wholesome lesson to the other players: there will 
be the less likelihood of their becoming confirmed gamblers. 
It is true that it is only your own evil-fortune that you amend ; 
but doesn't the world get on very well on the principle that 
each man must do the best possible for himself? Everybody 
can't win ; but by this simple expedient you make sure of one 
winning; and why not yourself as well as another? If the 
spectacle of a good man struggling with adversity be grateful 
to the gods, how much more the spectacle of a good man rising 
triumphant ? Magnanimity, not selfishness, springs up and blos- 
soms in the soul of those who hold good cards at vingt-et-un. 
How often has the present writer beheld a young lady, who 
shall be nameless, surreptitiously convey to her nearest neigh- 
bor a six or a five or a three just as he happened to want it, 
instead of meanly seeking to secure all the stakes for herself ? 

But on this particular evening Miss Peggy would seem to 
have abstracted these cards chiefly as a matter of custom, or 
perhaps to save trouble to the dealer ; at all events, she played 
in a perfunctory manner, and as one who had but little heart in 
the game. She did not even take the trouble to win. It was 
Queen Tita who was winning most; and Mr. Duncombe who 
was losing most. At last the latter said to the former, 

" I'm afraid I must trouble you to sell me a couple of dozen,'* 

But Colonel Cameron interposed : 



364 THB STRANGE ABVBNTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" Oh, no ; here, I will lend you a dozen," and he told oflE the 
counters and shoved them over : whereupon the younger man 
observed, rather neatly, as we thought — " Hail to the chief who 
in triumph advances !" and he therewith scooped together the 
bits of bone. 

It was at this point Miss Peggy rose, begging to be excused 
from further play. 

" Here, Mr. Duncombe," said she, " if you are losing, I be- 
queath you all my wealth. And I hope you will all win." 

She went and got a book, and ensconced herself in an easy- 
chair, rather turning her back on us, indeed, so that the gaslight 
should strike on the page. But perhaps it was not to read that 
she had thus forsaken the card-table ? That night, before we 
separated, the humble chronicler of these events had a small 
folded note covertly handed to him; and, on subsequently 
opening it, he found it to contain these words, 

" Shall you be down early to-morrow morning ? I want to 
say something very particular to you — ^in private. Peggy." 

Poor Peggy ! Was it the thought of going away across the 
wide Atlantic again that was pressing heavily on her heart ? 



CHAPTER XXV. 

"For who would leave, unbribed, Hibernia's land, 
Or change the rocks of Scotland for the Strand ? 
There none are swept by sudden fate away, 
But all, whom hunger spares, with age decay : 
Here malice, rapine, accident conspire, 
And now a rabble rages, now a fire ; 
Their ambush here relentless ruffians lay. 
And here the fell attorney prowls for prey ; 
Here falling houses thunder on your head, 
And here a female atheist talks you dead.** 

This day began with glooms and disappointments ; then blos- 
somed forth into a summer-like luxuriance of all beautiful 
things ; and finally ended in joy and calm content. Perhaps 
it was our general impatience of towns, and our anxiety to be 
away in the wildernesses again, that led us to form so poor an 
opinion of the appearance of Bath ; but, anyhow, the morning 



taS STRAKGS ADVEKTURSS OF A BOUSS-BOAT. . 865 

was wet and lowering; the windows seemed dingy; and the 
spectacle of a crowd of people hurrying along muddy pave- 
ments, most of them with umbrellas up, to their respective 
shops and offices was modem and commonplace and depressing. 
This was not what we had expected of the famous Queen of the 
West. All her former glories seemed to have vanished away 
behind that mournful pall of rain. 

And then, again, the assignation that had been planned the 
evening before did not take place. Everybody seemed to come 
into the little sitting-room about the same moment; and Miss 
Peggy had no opportunity of saying a word. During break- 
fast she was quite silent ; and thereafter, when there was a gen- 
eral hunt for waterproofs and umbrellas, she set about getting 
ready in a mechanical way, though it was chiefly for her sake 
we were about to explore the town. At the door of the hotel 
she merely said, in an undertone. 

"Some other time I will speak to you," and then we went 
out. 

Now of all the interesting things in Bath, surely the most in- 
teresting is the Abbey Church, with its storied walls. These 
innumerable marble tablets, all ranged and crowded together, 
are neither ancient nor modem ; many of the names are famil- 
iar; many of the families well known in the present day; 
and yet they speak of a time and a phase of society become 
strangely distant. These good people, drawn from their quiet 
country-seats to this brilliant centre of the world, would seem 
to have been rather proud of burial in Bath Abbey Church and 
of a tablet on its walls. It was " striking for honest fame " in 
those days ; it was securing a kind of immortality ; for would 
not rank and fashion reign in Bath forever ? And so you can 
see how the biographies of these simple human beings — the de- 
tails of their lineage and family connections, of their posses- 
sions, and of their doings (if any) — have been placed here on 
record to claim the attention of the gay, gossiping crowd. 
The gay, gossipping crowd ! Besides ourselves, a small party 
of damp and melancholy strangers, there did not appear to be a 
soul in the place. The wits and beaux and bells and card-play- 
ing dowagers have all vanished ; the famous Pump Room is al- 
most deserted ; Bath itself has fallen upon evil days ; and the 
igares who hurry along its pavements, in the pitiless rain, are 



306 THB STRANGE ADVENTURBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

no longer in resplendent attire, bnt in dingy garments of mod- 
em broadcloth, which get splashed with mud as the omnibuses 
clatter by. The inmiortality of these good folk buried in the 
abbey (who might just as well have composed themselves to 
rest under the grass and daisies of their own village church- 
yard) did not last very long. But an occasional tourist looks 
in, no doubt, or perhaps a young warehouseman seeking shelter 
from a passing shower ; and either may, if he chooses, stand 
before these ingenuous memorials and try to imagine for him- 
self what kind of people sw»*med to Bath when Bath was fash- 
ion's queen. 

Hunting for curiosities among these mural tablets proved to 
be an engrossing occupation with our party ; so that Miss Peggy 
was enabled to lag a little behind without being observed, while 
a slight finger-touch on the arm secured her the listener she 
wanted. The young lady seemed at once shy and anxious: 
there was more color in her face than usual; and when she 
spoke it was in a hurried and low undertone. 

" I want your advice," said she ; " perhaps you may think 
I should speak to your wife — ^but — ^but I would rather have a 
man's advice. Your wife has very exalted ideas — she might be 
a little too uncompromising ; and I would rather you would tell 
me what ordinary people would say and think. Besides, I spoke 
to you about it before. Do you remember ? It was one morn- 
ing on the Thames — ^by Magna Charta island." 

" I remember perfectly." 

" Well," she said, after a moment's hesitation, " that affair re- 
mains just where it was. I — I was really talking of myself." 

" I guessed as much." 

" You did ?" she said, with a quick glance. 

" Yes ; but, of course, I was not at liberty to say anything." 

There was another moment of hesitation ; then she began to 
speak, rather slowly, and with downcast eyes. 

" Tell me what you think I should be justified in doing. 
Mind, it was only a half-and-half kind of engagement — you 
must have guessed that, too — an understanding, indeed. Both 
families were anxious for it — ^and — ^and I liked him a little ; 
oh, yes, he is very amusing, and makes the time pass; and 
I dare say he liked me well enough when everything wag 
going prosperously. Then you know how my father's afiEaiis 



THS STRAKGS ADVEKTURSS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 367 

went wrong," she continued, with an occasional glance towards 
those other people to make sure they were not observing her ; 
*^ and there was a change after that ; and you remember I asked 
you whether most people wouldn't consider that a young man 
was quite right, and doing a sensible thing, in hesitating. Sen- 
sible ? — ^yes, he is very sensible, and prides himself on it. Oh, 
I know what his ambitions are. He wants to get among the 
millionaires ; he wants to run the biggest yacht afloat, and to 
have paragraphs about himself in the papers. That is why he 
has never come to Europe ; he never will come to Europe until 
he has money enough to get himself talked about. And then, 
when my father's aflEairs went wrong, I suppose it was but natu- 
ral he should begin to think twice ; and, although he has never 
said he wanted the engagement broken off — no, for he is afraid 
of quarrelling with his own people— he has left me pretty free 
to imagine that I can go if I choose. Oh, I am not vexed," she 
continued (but now her head was drawn up a little) ; " I am not 
vexed. Of course, a girl does not like to be thrown over." 

" You thrown over ?" 

" It is not quite so bad as that ; for he writes to me from 
time to time — in a kind of a way — and I am left to understand 
that he considers the engagement binding if I wish it If I 
wish it ! I am to be the one to hold to it ! — to demand execu- 
tion ! Well ; a girl doesn't quite like that," she added, with 
just the least passing tremor in her voice ; but doubtless it was 
pride rather than any sense of injury that was driving her to 
speak. 

" So I want you to tell me what I should be justified in do- 
ing," she resumed, presently. " I know what your wife would 
say. Yes ; I know. She would say that when a girl has once 
promised — or even been entangled into an understanding — she 
is bound in honor to keep to it. Yes — but — but a girl may 
make herself too cheap, mayn't she ? — and one ought to have 
some kind of self-respect." 

" Oh, Miss Rosslyn, come along here for a minute !" a third 
person broke in : it was Jack Duncombe. " I have discovered 
the tablet put up to commemorate the illustrious virtues of Beau 
Nash. It's beautiful. Come along, and I will translate it for you." 

So Miss Rosslyn was haled away, somewhat to the relief of 
the person whom she had been consulting. For it was not quit' 



368 TBK 8TRAKOS ADVENTURSS OF A K0U8B-B0AT. 

SO easy as it looked to say offliand what Miss Peggy should do 
in these circumstances. Of course, the natural man was moved 
to answer at once, " Oh, tell that young cub in New York to go 
to the mischief, and ten miles further !" But there were con- 
siderations. The wishes of two families were not lightly to be 
thrown aside. The cub might not be so much of a cub, after 
all ; on the contrary, he might be a perfectly honest, sober, in- 
dustrious member of society, with feelings just like another, but 
perhaps with no great faculty of expressing them in correspond- 
ence. But the chief reason for doubt was this : When a young 
woman asks for advice, she knows quite weU what advice she 
hopes for ; and, as a rule, she is inordinately skilful in angling 
for it. Little difficulty has she in getting up a presentable tale. 
And how could one accept Miss Peggy's facts as being all the 
facts ? For one thing, it seemed hardly believable or possible 
that our peerless Peggy should be in any risk of being " thrown 
over." We, who had known her for some time, and seen her 
in various circles in London, had got into a way of asking our- 
selves : " Well, now, to whom is Peggy going to fling the hand- 
kerchief, after all ?" And to think that in New York, or Brook- 
lyn, or some such place across the water, there was a young man 
who, instead of thanking Heaven a hundred times a day for his 
great good-fortune, was rather inclined to hang off, and hesitate, 
and postpone, with visions of dollars, and yachts, and newspaper 
paragraphs more nearly occupying his mind — ^this was hardly 
conceivable. When lovers quarrel, they are capable of saying 
anything of each other. Perhaps Miss Peggy was temporarily 
indignant because of the coldness of those letters, or the infre- 
quency of them ? One seemed to want to know more ; or to 
take refuge in silence. For here was apparently a settlement 
of her life, approved by both the families immediately concerned, 
which was not to be regardlessly shattered, without very definite 
cause shown. 

As it happened, no further opportunity was afforded Miss 
Peggy of reopening this delicate subject during our brief ex- 
ploration of the antiquities and curiosities of Bath ; and in due 
course of time we had finished our peregrination, and were driv- 
ing, in a couple of cabs, to that point of the Kennet and Avon 
Canal where, as we understood, the Nameless Barge was now 
awaiting us. And very different, indeed, was the manner of our 



THE 8TBANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 369 

leaving from the manner of our arrival. Just as we reached the 
banks of the canal the heavy rain ceased, and a burst of warm 
sunlight filled all the air ; while we had hardly set forth before 
we found ourselves in an enchanted garden of overhanging foli- 
age. Here was no squalor of slums ; but a wilderness of rain- 
washed leaves flashing million upon million of white diamonds ; 
the yellow tassels of the laburnum, the rose-red clusters of the 
hawthorn, the milky minarets of the chestnut all aglow in the 
light. And then, by and by, when we had stolen through these 
closed and guarded paradises, behold ! a great valley lay far 
beneath us ; and, beyond, a range of wooded heights with the 
suburbs of Bath stretching out, terrace on terrace, into the open 
country. This Kennet and Avon Canal, winding snakelike along 
the side of the hill, gave us wider and wider views as we glided 
onwards : the last traces of the city began to disappear ; far be- 
low us the Avon gleamed a thread of silver between its alders 
and its willows ; the heights beyond rose into a series of re- 
ceding woods along the high horizon line. And then the blessed 
warmth of the sunlight ! Our waterproofs were flung along the 
roof of the house, to bask and dry there. A sense of freedom 
and lightness and movement prevailed. We felt as if we had 
come out of some cribbed and cabined place — a dark and de- 
pressing and liquid place — into a wider world of comfort and 
sweetness and pleasant sights and sounds. The gracious air 
about us was laden with subtle scents. The birds were singing. 
We were glad to have done with the last of the towns. 

And ever the beautiful valley increased in loveliness and lone- 
liness as we followed the slow windings of our galleried water- 
way, high up on this hillside. We had all this world of sun- 
light and green leaves and sweet-blowing winds entirely to our- 
selves. We met with no one. Miss Peggy was up at the bow, 
her throat bare to the warm breeze, her hair, unshielded by any 
bonnet, showing threads of burnished gold in the sunlight. Jack 
Duncombe was standing beside her, with an ordnance map 
spread out on the roof of the house. Perhaps she was listening 
to him ; but now and again she looked along to the steersman, 
in a puzzled and curious way. She seemed to say : " WeU, have 
you considered yet? What would the general voice say I was 
justified in doing? And when will there be a chance for you 
to let me know ?" Colonel Cameron was talking to Queen Tita 
24 Q* 



370 TBI STftAVOI A0VKKTUBX8 OF ▲ H0U8X-B0AT. 

about what he should do if he settled down in the West High^ 
lands ; among other things, he seemed to have some notion of 
getting one or two young seals and training them to hont sal- 
mon for him. The horse-marine was sitting sideways on his 
horse, and contentedly smoking. Captain Columbus had thrown 
aside his coat, because of the hot sun, and was marching along 
a great way ahead. Murdoch was within, no doubt putting our 
toy house to rights. 

Then we came to the Dundas Aqueduct, which spans the wide 
vale ; and here the spacious view was more extensive than ever 
— ^the landscape disappearing into tender distances of rose-gray 
and lightest green until, at the far horizon line and melting into 
the silvery sky, there were touches of pale, translucent blue. 
But this aqueduct carried us across the valley — ^to the slopes of 
Knowl Hill, in fact ; and very soon we had left the wide, open 
country behind us, and were plunged into umbrageous woods. 
It was much hotter here ; there was hardly a breath of air to 
stir the shelving branches that felt their way out into the sun- 
light ; and it was but rarely that the intervening foliage afforded 
any shelter. Nevertheless, these good people would insist on 
going for a stroll along the tow-path — all except Miss Peggy, 
who, at the last moment, abruptly changed her mind, and de- 
cided to remain with the steersman, to cheer him with her 
company. 

" This might be a river in a Brazilian forest,*' said she, " for 
the beauty of it, and the solitude." 

It was not of any river in Brazil she was thinking ; she was 
but waiting until those people on the bank were out of earshot. 

Then she said, presently, 

" Have you thought that over ?" 

"Yes." 

Her next question was not put into words ; it was a nervous 
flash of inquiry that appeared in her eyes. Then she looked 
down again, as if awaiting judgment. She had a bit of red 
hawthorn in her hand ; and her fingers were pulling into small 
shreds one or two of the dark-green leaves. 

" Well, you see, Miss Peggy, if your description of the situa- 
tion is literally correct — literally and absolutely correct — ^then 
you would be amply justified in telling that young gentleman in 
New York to go and be hanged. That is what any man would 



THE STRANGE ADVKNTURKS OF A HOUSX-BOAT. 371 

saj— offhand, and at once. But there may be little qaalifying 
tldngs. It isn^t any temporary estrangement, is it, that may be 
made up? Your pride may have been wounded; are you sure 
you don't exaggerate his indifference ? You have heard of lov- 
ers' quarrels — ^" 

Miss Peggy tossed her head slightly — the movement was 
scarcely perceptible. 

" — and people who intervene in these with any kind of ad- 
vice gener^ly get a bang on the head for their pains — subse- 
quently, that is, when the lovers have made it up." 

" Lovers !" said she. 

^< Besides, where is the harm of allowing this engagement, or 
understanding, or whatever it is, to drift on as it is doing? 
There may be some explanation. Letters may have been de- 
layed. You may get them when you go back to London." 

" And if there were a hundred letters, do you think I don't 
know what would be in them?" she demanded, rather proudly. 
<< And as for drifting and drifting, I have grown a little tired of 
that It is no great compliment to a girl to put her in such a 
position. I dare say, now, if I were over in America — ^if I were 
to go over to America for even a fortnight, I could get the 
whole matter settled." 

*'You really and honestly mean that you want to have it 
broken off?" 

<< Broken off !" she exclaimed, with just a touch of indignation 
in her voice. " It is he who wants to have it broken off — ^and 
hasn't the courage to say so. He won't own it to me ; he won't 
own it to his family ; but do you think I don't understand ? I 
am not blind. And however stupid a woman may be at other 
times, in an affair of this kind she can see clearly enough." 

" That is true. But on the other hand, if you think that this 
half-and-half engagement should come to an end, why not let it 
graduaUy die a natural death? It seems pretty moribund at 
present, doesn't it?" Cease writing to him." 

" He hasn't written to me for nearly two months !" 

" Very well. Stop altogether. If that doesn't force him to 
ask for an explanation — if he asks for no explanation, then tho. 
matter is at an end. You go your way ; and he his." 

" I — ^I suppose that is good advice ; and I thank you," she 
said, in rather a low voice. 



372 THS STRANGE AOYBNTURES OF A ROU8E>BOAT. 

But what followed was most amazing. She stood silent for 
a second or so ; then she tnmed away a little ; and one could 
see that she had taken out her handkerchief quickly, and was 
furtively wiping away the tears from her eyes. This was a 
strange and bewildering spectacle. It was all so unlike our gay 
and audacious Peggy. And one naturally and instantly jumped 
to the conclusion that there was a good deal more to reveal 

"I say, Miss Peggy, I am afraid you haven't told me that 
story straight. You care for him all the same ; is that it !" 

" No, oh, no !" she said, still with averted face. 

" Then there is some one else ?" 

She turned with a quick look — ^half -frightened, as it were ; 
then her eyes were downcast. She said nothing, but there was 
a telltale flush in her cheek as rosy-red as was the bit of haw- 
thorn she held in her hand. 

" Oh, there is some one else then ? But why didn't you say 
so before ? For that makes a very great difference — ^that makes 
all the difference in the world I There's some one else ? Then 
you've found yourself fettered, and vexed by the uncertainty ; 
and perhaps to tell you that you should merely let that neb- 
ulous engagement disappear of itself wasn't very comforting ?" 

Miss Peggy had dried her eyes. 

" I am away from my own people," she said, in the same low 
voice, ^' and perhaps I have been a little anxious and fretting, 
and even miserable at times ; but I am sorry I gave you any 
trouble about it. I suppose what you say is right." 

" But wait a moment. I teU you that this makes all the dif- 
ference. Of course I assume that you are quite certain of what 
you say about that young man in New York — that you know he 
wouldn't be sorry to have the engagement broken off, but would 
rather you would say the word ?" 

" Who is likely to know if not myself ?" she answered. " I 
have told you the truth." 

" He would rather you would say the word ? Then say the 
word ! You ask for my advice ; there it is. Tell him he may 
go to Jericho, or Jaffa, or Jerusalem, whichever he likes, and at 
the earliest convenient opportunity. Make yourself free at once. 
Justified ? — of course you will be justified. No man has a right 
to keep a woman in any such position; no woman ought to 
marry a sneak. No, I told you you might let that unwelcome 



THB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. Zib 

understanding die of neglect and inanition, because I thought 
there was no reason for anjrthing else ; now I tell you you should 
shake off those fetters at once, as soon as a letter can cross the 
Atlantic." 

" Ah," said she, rather wistfully, " if only your wife would say 
as much !" 

" She will say precisely the same." 

Miss Peggy shook her head. 

" No, it's too much to hope for. Men are more considerate 
to women, more forgiving; they make allowances. I should 
be afraid to speak to her about it." 

"You needn't be afraid. Haven't you discovered yet that 
she likes you a little ? She can suffer you, as the Tyrolese lover 
says to his sweetheart And if you go the right way to work, I 
know what she will do for you ; she will write over to your peo- 
ple in New York and give them a most fascinating description 
of the favored person — that is, if she knows him." 

" Oh, but she does !" Miss Peggy cried, and then instantly 
she drew back, in wild alarm. " Oh, I — I mean she has always 
been so kind to me ; do you think she would do that ?" 

" She will do it, if you go the right way about it. She very 
much likes you to stroke her hair smooth. You might get a 
little nosegay of wild-flowers and pin them at her neck. Then, 
if you are by yourselves, you can sit down beside her, and put 
your arm within hers, and tell her the whole story." 

" Oh, do you think she would do that for me ?" cried Peggy 
again, and there was a far happier light shining in her face than 
had been there a few minutes before. 

" Of course she will ! Why, you poor, weak, timid, flutter- 
ing, solitary thing — wandering all about the world alone and 
friendless." 

" No, not friendless," said she, with a very pleasant, modest 
look in her eyes, " not friendless. I think I have fallen among 
very good friends, better than I deserve; but I am not un- 
grateful, anyway." 

Then a thought seemed to strike her. 

" You must be tired standing there all this time, with your 
foot on the tiller," said this good-natured lass, rather timidly. 
"Won't you let me take it?" 

" Oh, no, thank you." 



574 THI BTRAKOE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

" And I haven't said a single word of — of gratitude to you." 

"You needn't." 

" And then," said she, rather incoherently — and the clouds 
were all away from her forehead now, and her eyes were bright 
and clear with glad anticipation — " in the summer, later on in 
the summer, I can see such a happy party of us all together; 
you know I've never been — " 

She suddenly stopped. The smooth-gliding boat had carried 
us along until we had unexpectedly overtaken the pedestrians, 
who were standing on the bank; they were coming on board 
now, for it was near lunch-time. And for all the trouble we 
were at in stopping and taking them on with us they rewarded 
us — at least Queen Tita did — with a number of feeble japes 
about the study of English history, all of which harmlessly 
glided off the triple brass of conscious innocence. Was it Eng- 
lish history, then, that had brought this light into Peggy's face ) 
She seemed very pleased about something, and modestly grate- 
ful, and unusually affectionate even towards this taunting fiend. 
She held her fingers in hers, and talked to her in a low voice, 
about nothing in particular; and her eyes were fixed on the 
smaller woman, so that, very soon — before their mild, clear rays, 
and the shining honesty of them, and perhaps, also, a little touch 
of girlish appeal — all that sham sarcasm slunk away abashed. 
These two went into the saloon hand in hand. 

We were now come near to Bradford, which is a clean little 
gray town cheerfully situated on the side of a hill, amid a pro- 
fusion of foliage ; and here we stopped to bait the horse, while 
Murdoch attended to our modest wants within. And whether 
it was the grateful coolness of the saloon — ^the summer air en- 
tering by the open windows and stirring the flowers on the table 
■—or whether we were glad to be away from cities, and alto- 
gether by ourselves again in these still solitudes, or whether 
there was something peculiarly attractive and winning about 
Miss Peggy's demeanor towardJs us all, certain it is that at this 
Jittle banquet there prevailed much content. She was so very 
friendly, in a gentle sort of fashion, with every one ; but in es- 
pecial we could perceive that she wished to be very kind and 
considerate towards Mr. Duncombe. There were no longer 
hypocritical appeals to him for aphorisms. His sensations on 
becoming a reviewer were no longer a subject for mocking in- 



TBS 6T11AN0E ADVENTURES OF A HOtJBE-BOAT. 375 

quiry. Nay, on the contrary, she was quite serions and respect- 
ful, and aknost anxious, as she hoped that he was now seeing 
his way clear to the beginning of his work. 

" Oh, I'm in no hurry," said he, lightly. " I've had a general 
look through the books, and what I'm going to say about them 
must grow up of itself, bit by bit. I don't think I have done 
anything this morning, except compose an epitaph." 

" An epitaph, Mr. Duncombe ?" Queen Tita cried. 

" Yes, I'll read it to you," said he. He took out his note- 
book. " It's for a tombstone in a village churchyard : 

'It was a nasty cold I caught: 
And little of that cold I thought ; 
To lie abed I soon was brought ; 
And here I am reduced to naught' 

You see," he continued, with much equanimity, " epitaphs should 
teach something. They should point a moral. They are the 
only kind of poetry that comes constantly before the rustic eye. 
And what better can you do with a dead and buried Hodge 
than make him a solemn warning to the whole countrynside ? I 
can imagine a heap of good being done in that way. Take drink, 
now : a tombstone would appeal to the conscience of the com- 
munity more effectively than any sermon. Couldn't we manage 
something ? Let me see." 

He took out a pencil, and began scribbling a few words. 

"How's this?— 

' *Twas ale that robbed me of my ease ; 
'Twas ale that twisted up my knees ; 
'Twas ale that swelled the doctor's fees ; 
And choked my breath ; and here I he's.' 

I don't know that that is quite as good as the other, but it's 
the moral, it's the public warning, that is the valuable thing." 

" Mr. Duncombe," said Queen Tita, " I don't know how you 
can be thinking about epitaphs on a day like this. I suppose 
it was Bath Abbey Church put them in your head. But just 
look out of that window, everything seems just full of light and 
color ; look I" 

And indeed the open window framed a very pretty picture of 
summer foliage all shimmering in the sunshine, and of water 
struck into a silver ripple here and there by the velvet-fingered 



376 TBB STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

wind. He pat away his note-book without more ado, and 
agreed with her that it was not a day for the constniction of 
epitaphs. He was a very biddable yonth, and he had no kind 
of literary vanity to be wounded. He helped himself again, and 
freely, to the salad that Colonel Cameron had mixed for us, and 
declared that it somewhat reminded him of sweetbriar, and wild 
roses, and June. Or was it that a distinct feeling of June was 
perceptible in the sweet air blowing in at the window ? We 
were getting near to June now. 

We were now about to enter Crabbers country, or, rather, the 
country in which he spent the latter years of his life ; for as we 
drew away from Bradford we passed within a mile or so of 
Trowbridge, thereafter striking north by Hilperton and Staver- 
ton. And a more delightful afternoon never shone over this 
smiling landscape. We were no longer enveloped in woods ; 
we were more in the open, and there was a light breeze blow- 
ing, just enough to temper the heat. But then, again, the wind 
rarely struck down upon the sheltered waters of the riverlike 
canal; so that the glassy surface mirrored the golden-green 
masses of the elms that overhung the banks, and showed, be- 
sides, here and there, a glimmer of silver and blue. As the 
evening drew on, the breeze ceased altogether; the cloudless 
sky was still and serene ; a warmer light streamed along those 
peaceful meadows, where the cattle were grazing. But for the 
noisy cawing of some rooks, and the occasional flute-note of a 
cuckoo in some distant grove, the silence was absolute ; the 
smaller birds seemed to know that the golden day was dying, 
and had ceased to twitter in the hedges. 

Meanwhile, those people who had been making their way 
along the bank had been occupying themselves in various fash- 
ions, and in various combinations, too, as chance or fancy dic- 
tated. And when they came on board again — as we were draw- 
ing near to Seend — it soon became quite apparent that Queen 
Tita had had some piece of news imparted to her during^ the 
long ramble ashore. Not that any word was spoken. Oh, dear, 
no ; a young lady^s secret is a dangerous thing. But though 
she tried to look as grave as an owl, it was plain that she was 
just a little bit excited, and pleased, also ; and inclined to look 
on Peggy with eyes at once puzzled and affectionate and approv- 
ing. But what had become of Jack Duncombe ? 



THE STRANOB ADVENTURES OP A HOUSE-BOAT. 377 

" Oh," said Mrs. Threepenny-bit (who apparently had been 
bewildered into forgetfulness), "I was to tell you. There are 
several locks ahead, and when we get through these it will be 
time to stop for the night, he says. And he has gone away to 
find out some railway-station, to see if he can telegraph to De- 
vizes. He has some friends living near Devizes, he says, and 
we shall be passing through there to-morrow." 

And then blank horror fell upon the steersman of this boat. 
What might not that awful court do to us ? The tipstaff is a 
terrible person, HoUoway jail a fearful destination ; but in the 
meantime we had to encounter these pernicious locks, and the 
hard work drove speculation out of the brain. 

So we laboriously fought our way to the end of them, and 
then went along some distance, until, having discovered a quiet 
and sheltered nook, where there were wide overbranching wil- 
lows, we ran the boat in there — the Nameless Barge forming a 
very comfortable little nest in among the leaves. By this time 
Jack Duncombe had come back, and with news that was wel- 
come to one person on board. If he had really meant to defy 
the vice-chancellor's authority by communicating with the Wilt- 
shire young lady, his felonious purpose had been baffled. He 
had discovered some little country station — Seend station he 
said it was — but they could not help him. Either there was no 
telegraph, or it was too late, or they could not receive private 
messages. 

That was a gracious night, in this unnamed and unknown 
solitude. We were entirely alone, for we had allowed Murdoch 
to go off to supper with Columbus and the horse-marine in the 
village, and it was left to the women-folk to clear the dinner- 
table for themselves. Then (for they were not antagonistic to 
tobacco) they came out and made themselves snug in the stem- 
sheets of the boat, and Miss Peggy had her banjo, and the 
silence around seemed to wait. There should have been moon- 
light, but the times and seasons were against us. Nay, we could 
see but few of the stars in the clear heavens overhead, for the 
willow-branches were thick ; moreover, the red glow streaming 
out from the windows on the stems and leaves rather attracted 
the eyes. And you may be sure it was not "Tennessee" that 
Peggy sang for us on this still summer night. 

No„ she began — 



378 



THE BTRANGB ADVENTURKB OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 



** 'Onoe in the dear, dead days beyond recall, 
When on the world the mist began to fall, . 
Out of the dreams that rose in happy throng, 
Low to our hearts Loye sang an old, sweet song * " — 

and we could see, by the dim glow, coming from the door of th© 
saloon, that Mrs. Threepenny-bit had drawn as close to the girl 
as the banjo would permit, and that she had placed a hand lightly 
and kindly on her shoulder. And what do you think was Miss 
Peggy's next selection ? Well, she was aware that a certain 
song of hers was a particular favorite with one of the persons 
now listening to her, and she was a grateful lass ; and she may 
have been thinking that she had wished to say some word of 
thanks for the rough-and-ready advice addressed to her that 
morning. Here were her thanks, then— or, at least, some timid 
effort to please ? For we had grown to have some notion of the 
inner workings of the mind of this person without a character. 
The ballad of " Kitty Wells " is not of an intellectual cast, 
any more than are most of the plantation songs ; but the air is 
pretty and attractive ; and this American young lady, to the 
soft ripple of her banjo, could sing it very sweetly indeed. It 
seemed to suit her voice somehow ; you forgot the nigger fatui- 
ties when you heard her tremulous contralto notes ; especially 
when, as on this still night, she sang in a simple and subdued 
fashion, without effort of any kind. This was what the listen- 
ing silence and the darkness heard : 



^^ 



a 



Tou ask what makes this dark- ey weep. Why 






M 



± 



^ 



Stqcizi 



E 



he like oth-ers am not gay ? What makes the tear roll down his 




mf ' "r t "f! c j ^^^ 



rem ear - }j mom till doee of day? My 

— z P— 



^ 



ry, dark-ies, 111 re - late,... 



While 



TBS STRANOX ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 



S^ 




S^ 



^^ 



a 



-^^-F 



/^^ 



in m7 mem-o-ry it dwells; 'Twill cause yoa all to shed a 



m 



V r f J- c i r • T ^^ 



tear. . . On the grave of my sweet Eat-ty Wells. 

And still more gently she sang the chorus ; in the hush of the 
willow-leaves all around us, her rich, clear voice was just audi- 
ble, and no more : 



ftjbi 




m 



-P — P- 



The birds were sing-ing in the morn - ing, And the 



-m P- 



^ 



myr- tie and the i - vy were in bloom. And the 



m 



son all the hill-side was a - dom • in', When we 



- f f tj f 



laid sweet Kit - ty in the tomb.* 

Miss Peggy was exceedingly amiable this evening ; and would 
sing whatever was asked of her, one thing after another ; until 
Sir Ewen Cameron interposed (with some brief exhibition of 
military authority that was entirely uncalled for) and would 
have no more of such persecution and cruelty. Sir Ewen sug- 
gested, instead, an adjournment to the saloon, and a game of 

* The melody as here given, Miss Peggy herself was so obliging as to jot 
down for us ; but she seems to have pitched on a rather high key. Or is 
this banjo notation ? an ignorant person is fain to ask. We never could 
hear who the composer was — ^though some inquiries have been made, both 
in England and America ; but if this should meet his eye, in whatsoever far 
land he may be, he is entreated to accept our profound apologies for the theft 

(^ We have recently been informed that the composer of this ballad 19 
Mr. T. Brigham Bishop.— i\iWwA«r»' N&U) 



880 THS 8TRA170E ADVKirTURSS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

cards ; but it appeared that the womenfolk were bent on re- 
tiring early ; and so, after they had gone inside, and partaken 
of a little soda-water and the like, they were allowed to depart. 
Who knows what portentoas secrets they might not have to 
discuss in the safe seclusion of the ladies' cabin ? 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

'* Do you ask what the birds say ? The Sparrow, the Dove^ 
The linnet and Thrush, say * I love, and I love t' 
In the winter they're silent — the wind is so strong, 
What it says I don*t know, but it sings a loud song. 
But green leaves, and blossoms, and sunny warm weather, 
And singing, and loving — all come back together !" 

Yks, they were all at it again — the linnet and robin; the 
mavis and merle ; the cuckoo telling us of his whereabouts in 
the heart of the thicket ; the larks filling all the wide spaces of 
the sky with their silver song. But for this universal twitter- 
ing, and clear carolling, and fluttering of wings, the world was 
still enough and silent enough. The red kine hardly moved in 
the meadows golden with buttercups. The olive-green masses 
of the elms, rising far into the pale blue of the heavens, did not 
stir a leaf. The warm sunlight seemed to draw forth a hun- 
dred scents from herbs and flowers, that hung in the motionless 
air. And as if all those glowing colors of bush and tree and 
blossom were not in themselves enough, we had them repeated 
on the mirror-like surface of the canal — an inverted fairy-land, 
with the various hues and tints mysteriously softened and 
blended together. 

As one is idly gazing at all these things, and speculating as 
to how far a certain white butterfly, that has started early on his 
travels, will wander before the heat of noon causes him to close 
his wings on a head of clover, there is a quiet stirring of the 
willow-branches, and then a footfall on the gang-board connect- 
ing the boat with the shore. Turning forthwith one finds that 
it is Miss Peggy who has come down through those yellowed 
meadows, and it is Sir Ewen Cameron who is steadying the 
plank for her. She has been abroad thus early to gather flowers 



THE 8TftA90E irDVBKTUBSS OF A H0U8B-B0AT. 881 

for the breakfast-table, ake says ; and in each hand she has a 
great cluster of buttercups. As for the June roses in her cheeks, 
where did she get them on so extremely still a morning ? And 
as for the speedwell-blue of her eyes — But she passes hastily 
into the saloon, for the flower-glasses have to be filled. 

Then this long, sandy haired Highland officer : has he any- 
thing to say ? He observes that the morning is beautiful — which 
is no secret He thinks he saw a trout rise a little bit farther^ 
along. Presently he puts this question — 

"Shall you have any need of Murdoch's services this aor 
tumnT 

"I fear not" 

" He is an exceedingly handy feUow— don't you think so f * 

"I do." 

" And very willing, isn't he ?" 

"He is." 

" Well, now, don't you consider that a young fellow like that 
would be better in a settled situation than in doing odd jobs 
about Tobermory, with sa occasional month or two's yachting 
lA the summer ?" 

" I dare say he would, if it was anything of a situation." 

" ]>) you l^ink he would come to me at Inverf ask ?" 

" Inverfask ?" 

" Tes. I would give him a fair wage ; he would have emr 
ployment all the year round ; and he might look forward to 
some increase of pay if he deserved it" 

" A permanent place at Inverfask — ^is that what you mean f* 

"Yes." 

" WeD, when you put that offer before him, Murdoch will be 
a proud lad." 

" And you are sure you don't want him this autumn ?" 

" Almost certain — ^besides, that could not be allowed to intei^ 
fere." 

" I will go and ask him at once," said he ; and he, too, disap- 
peared into the saloon. 

Well, now, the Nameless Barge seemed to be just filled with 
secrets and mysteries on this busy morning ; but of course one 
had no time to pay heed to such trumpery things ; for we had 
to make an early start in order to get through the chain of locks 
outside Devizes. Alas I when we came in sight of these, our 



382 THK 8TRANOK ADYENTURSS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

hearts fell. We had not the courage to attack that appalling 
ascent Why, from the far top of the hill right down here to 
the plain stretched a long, brown, ribbed thing like the under 
jaw of some mighty saurian monster, its jagged teeth waiting to 
devour us. It was a hideous object in the midst of this smiling 
and sun-warmed landscape. Anything in reason we could at- 
tempt ; but not this ; even Jack Duncombe succumbed. 
^ " No," he said, " there's nothing in the shape of dogged ob- 
stinacy about me. If I have to give in, I give in. Fm of the 
mind of your countryman. Miss Rosslyn, who was asked why 
he looked rather depressed. * Well,' said he, * my store's been 
burned down, and I've lost every cent I had in the world. My 
wife was in the store ; she was burned to death. All my chil- 
dren perished in the fire, too. So now I think I've had enough 
— I ain't a hog.' If you could get to heaven by climbing up 
that Jacob's ladder, it might be worth while trying ; but it isn't 
heaven that's at the top — ^it's only Devizes. So I propose we 
leave Murdoch and Columbus and the horse-marine to fight it 
out among them — ^there's Columbus with his coat off already — 
and we can walk on to the town, and get letters posted and 
telegrams sent off." 

Telegrams? Was he still bent on that mad freak? In any 
case, it was safer to have no cognizance of it ; he might do what 
he pleased ; no questions should be asked. Indeed, they were 
all of them welcome to such twopenny-halfpenny secrets as they 
chose to cherish. Here was a brilliant and beautiful morning ; 
the ascent of the long hill (when we had ignominiously left the 
boat to its fate) revealed an ever-extending view over a richly 
wooded plain ; the air was sweet ; the trout were rising briskly 
in the reservoirs attached to the locks ; and the matted masses 
of the water-buttercup were a blaze of white blossoms. The 
huge saurian jaw was disregarded. Miss Peggy, head in air, 
and marching proudly along, was repeating to herself — 

*' ^ Down Deeside rode Inveray, whistling and playing, 
He called loud at Brackla gate ere the day's dawing,' " 

which she had got nearly perfect now. Colonel Cameron was 
apologizing to Mrs. Threepenny-bit for having carried off her 
faithful Ganjrmede, to serve at Inverfask House. Jack Dun- 
combe was eagerly surveying that wide plain : might not two 



THS 8TRANGB ADVBNTUBXS OF A H0U8B-B0AT. 383 

young ladies be early abroad on so pleasant a morning — driving 
a smart little pony-chaise along the leafy lanes ? 

If there is any deader town than Devizes, in this coantry or 
any other, the present writer has no acquaintance with it The 
very width of the central thoroughfare — filled, as it was on this 
morning, with a pale white sunlight — ogives a sense of solitari- 
ness and loneliness. What bold man would cross this wide and 
empty street, drawing upon himself the eyes of the unseen com- 
munity ? — would he not rather slink round by the church, and 
gain the opposite pavement unobserved? When we called in 
at the small post-office, the people seemed quite startled by this 
apparition of visitors. And when we went for a ramble through 
the silent town — glancing into the unfrequented shops and 
the lifeless-looking little parlor-windows, it was to think of the 
placid, apathetic, unvarying lives led by these good folk as a 
very strange sort of thing. In one of these shops, devoted to 
the sale of apples and confections, apparently, a young girl was 
sitting behind the counter, reading what appeared to be some 
kind of cheap journal of fiction. There was no one else in the 
place ; it looked as if no one else ever had been there, or was 
expected ; and, as we passed, the girl happened to raise her head 
from the periodical she held in her hands. Her eyes looked a 
trifle beglamoured and unobservant. 

" And you fancy, now," says Jack Duncombe to Mrs. Three- 
penny-bit, who has been making remarks, '* that that girl leads 
a very lonely life, in that little bit of a shop, in this empty 
town ? Why, I will wager that she is at this moment back again 
into the most gay and brilliant of fashionable society, listening 
to the most beautiful language, in gorgeous and gilded saloons. 
She isn't in Devizes at all ; she is moving through splendid 
palaces; and breathlessly watching how her particular friendd 
are getting on — and not one of them less than a marquis. ' My 
lordy in your lordship's honor to-night the fountains shall spout 
naught hut perfume; and a thousand wax candles shall shed their 
brilliancy 6*er the banquet.^ * Lit by a spark from your lady- 
ship*s beaming eyes,'* responded the chivalrous nobleman, bomng 
low. In the society that that lonely shop-girl enjoys — ^that she 
revels in from morning till night — lords and ladies converse like 
lords and ladies ; and duchesses know what is expected of them. 
I never had but one conversation with a duchess ; and she talked 



384 THB BT&ANOB ADVBHTUIUBB OV A HOUSE-BOAT. 

all the time about her sciatic nerve, and what the massage treat- 
ment was doing for her." 

He was pretending to be very mnch at his ease, as we wan- 
dered along throngh the little town, chatting aimlessly the while ; 
bat all the same he woald from time to time direct a swift back- 
ward glance along the wide, empty thoroughfare. Was there 
still a chance, then, that a certain pony-chaise might suddenly 
appear in sight? One almost began to share in his secret an- 
ticipation. It would be rather nice if Maud and her sister were 
to come back with us to the boat for luncheon. Young ladies 
of somewhat robust nerve, one had gathered. Perhaps with 
coal-black eyes, and country cheeks, and rippling laughter. The 
divinity that doth hedge a ward of court would hardly be visi- 
ble in the snug seclusion of the saloon ; and if anything came 
of it — ^if that pestilent vice-chancellor should grow fractious 
and perverse, could we not go before him and swear it was all 
the result of an accident, seeing there had been no chance of 
sending off any telegram from Seend? But the great white 
sunlit thoroughfare remained as empty as ever. A cat slunk 
along by the church railings ; there was no other sign of life. 
And so, wistfully giving up all hope of encountering the blush- 
ing Maud and her jovial sister, we slowly toiled away up the 
hiU again, to see if Columbus and his mates had successfully 
vanquished the saurian monster. 

Now perhaps it was that some school had been set free ; but 
at all events when the Nameless Barge drew near the outskirts 
of the little town, her appearance was hailed with delight by a 
considerable concourse of small girls and boys; and these in- 
teresting brats were speedily engaged in summoning their elder 
relatives ; so that, by the time the boat had reached the bridge, 
it was being regarded by a population greater than any we had 
supposed Devizes to possess. To escape from the curiosity of 
these cottagers did not at first sight seem an easy matter, until 
we espied a yard fenced on three sides by a tall paling, and 
coming down to the water's edge ; accordingly, we shoved the 
boat along to this place of shelter, and made her fast, defeating 
the following crowd. Columbus and the horse-marine went 
away to get their dinner, which they had stoutly earned ; and 
Murdoch came on board to set forth some bit of lunch for us. 
Jack Duncombe seemed somewhat depressed. No doubt it wair 



TBK BTSANaX ADVENTURKS OF ▲ HOU8B-BOAT. 385 

tantalizing to know that those young ladies were so near, and 
that presently we should be moving away. As for Holloway 
Jail, and its limited interviews, and its lights out at such and 
such an hour, he probably did not think of all that 

At lunch we were listening to a far from fiery controversy 
between Miss Bosslyn and Colonel Cameron as to the re^ective 
merits of monarchical and republican forms of government, 
when something occurred to withdraw our .attention from that 
by no means engrossing subject 

<' You see,'' the tall soldier was saying, in his quiet, persuasive 
fashion — and she was an apt and attentive scholar rather than a 
fierce disputant — ^' you must remember that nowadays kings aiie 
not self-oreated. A king reigns not because he chooses to gov- 
ern a people, but because the people choose to be governed by 
him. The queen-bee does not coerce the hive, the hive agree to 
respect and guard the queen-bee. And even in the old days ty- 
rants and tyrannies had their uses. They aroused antagonism, 
heroism, patriotism. Italy, when she had to fight the Austrian, 
became splendid ; now she's nothing. When a nation has got 
all the freedom it wants, it takes to making money ; and that is 
the basest, the most degrading, of occupations — " 

Thus he was going on when a very singular object became 
visible outside. The smaller windows of the saloon were just 
about level with the bank, and, indeed, the nettles, daisies, and 
dandelions growing there almost touched the panes. It was 
startling, therefore, to discover, among these weeds, a huge pair 
of hobnailed boots. At first, we could not imagine how they 
came to be there, and to be so remarkably close to us, but pres* 
ently we perceived that above each boot there was a strip of 
corduroy. And then it dawned upon us that here were the 
lower portions of a human being — a foundation, as it were, on 
which the fancy could build up any kind of superstructure it 
chose. Ex pede fferculem. The boots were large, not to say 
huge. Was this, then, some young giant who had scrambled 
over the tall paling ? or, perhaps, the owner of the boatyard, 
who had come in by the legitimate gate, and was now staring at 
this strange craft that had invaded his premises $ Jack Dun- 
combe solved the problem. He went outside and addressed the 
inquisitive stranger. We heard him talking, coaxing, expostu- 
lating ; then, as these invitations were of no avail, he would ap- 
26 K. 



386 THS STRANOB ADVXNTURXS OF A HOU8B-BOAT. 

pear to h&ve stepped ashore and gripped the new-K^omer by the 
scruff of the neck ; the next moment we beheld him at the door 
of the saloon, a shock-headed boy of ten or twelve, whose stolid 
bovine gaze seemed to have no cariosity in it, only a blank won- 
der. He was asked if he had seen any boat like this before, 
bat vouchsafed no reply. Mechanically he accepted a lamp of 
cake that Mrs. Threepenny-bit cut for him, hot there was no 
word of thanks. 

'^ Boy,'' said Jack Duncombe to him, solenmly, <^ that is cake ; 
and you have a mouth. Or are you afraid $ Is it possible that 
you have discovered the fallacy of the proverb that you mayn't 
eat your cake and have it too 9 Have you eaten your cake and 
been only too painfully aware that you had it and were likely to 
have it." 

The boy looked at him, and looked ; then he looked at the 
saloon, at the table, at us, and gazed. Finally, as there was 
nothing to be done with him. Jack Duncombe, figuratively 
speaking, threw him ashore again, and got ready to pole the 
boat across to the towpath, where Captain Columbus was now 
waiting. 

After leaving Devizes, there arc fifteen miles of plain sailing 
without the interruption of a single lock ; so that we made good 
progress this afternoon. The canal, which is here so little used 
that it abounds with all kinds of water-plants — ^the white but- 
tercup conspicuous among them — ^winds along a high plateau 
which affords extensive views over the neighboring landscape. 
Not that we saw this somewhat lonely stretch of country under 
the most favorable conditions. As we stole along by Bishops 
Cannings and All Cannings and Stanton Fitzwarren the still air 
seemed to be threatening thunder ; the skies were of a cloudy 
milky-white, and the hills that rose to the horizon-line both on 
north and south — Roughbridge Hill, Easton Hill, St. Ann's Hill, 
Etchilhampton Hill, Wivelsford Hill, and the like — were slowly 
deepening in gloom. Then came rain, and forthwith these idle 
people fled into the saloon, to books and writing, and tea and 
what not. All but the faithful Peggy, that is to say! Miss 
Peggy not only went and fetched the steersman his waterproof, 
but she also brought out her own ; and having drawn the hood 
over her pretty brown hair, and fastened it securely under the 
chin, she took up her position on the steering-thwart. Was she 



TBB 8TRANGX ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 387 

still anxioas, then, to show her gratitude, in some vague, tenta- 
tive way ? At all events her companionship on this sombre after- 
noon was sufficiently welcome. 

But one soon began to discover what had brought Miss Peggy 
out into the rain ; her remarks about the weather were speedily 
over. 

" Has Colonel Cameron," she asks presently, with a very be- 
coming hesitation, and with downcast eyes, " has Colonel Cam- 
eron said anything — ^anything particular, to you?" 

" Nothing very particular." 

" No, I suppose not," she continues, with the same pretty hes- 
itation. " I had to ask him not to say anything, because — ^be- 
cause I don't wish Mr. Duncombe to know. But you ought to 
know ; yes, you ought to know." 

" Do you think I don't know f" 

"What?" 

"And this is the way they keep a young lady's secret! — 
making it as plain as the nose on a man's face or a weather-cock 
on a steeple. And you are especially anxious to conceal it from 
Jack Duncombe, are you? Don't you think it possible Mr. 
Duncombe may have his own little affairs to attend to ? Well, 
well, you've done it at last, I suppose ; and it's very little you 
know of the fate you are rushing upon — ^you poor, fluttering, 
timid, solitary creature. Banishment to the regions of perpet- 
ual ice — that is a pretty future for you. Think of the gales 
howling down from the North Sea — the glens blocked up with 
snow — no communication witn the rest of the world — ^the rivers 
and lakes hard frozen — hail changing to sleet, and sleet chang- 
ing to hail — ^a Polar bear prowling round the crofts — a walrus — ^" 

" And a carpenter — you mustn't forget the carpenter," says 
this young lady, who isn't as easily frightened as you might 
imagine. 

" The roads impassable — no letters or newspapers for a month 
at a stretch — if you want to go out of the house you'll have to 
get a path cut through the snow — And what will poor Peggy 
do then, poor thing?" 

" Poor Peggy will wrap herself up in her great big ulster," 
she answers, placidly. " Yes. Your wife is going to write to 
the island of Harris for a web of homespun cloth for me ; and 
I'm going to have heaps of things made of it — an ulster, to b^ 



888 THB BTRAKGB ADYBNTUBBB OV A fiOUfiE^BOAT. 

gin with. But it isn't so yerj dreadfnl in the Highlands, is 

itr 

"Dreadful in the Highlands, yon simple innocent! Why, 
don't yon know that that blessed land has hot water laid on, 
winter and summer ? There never was a country so car^ully 
provided for. The Gulf of Mexico is the pot they boil the wa- 
ter in, and then it is taken all the way across the Atlantic, and 
poured along those happy shores. So you needn't wonder that 
they have camelias growing in the open air, and tree-fuehsias 
covering the fronts of houses, and bats flying about in January." 

Now tiiis was to her a most interesting subject, and we were 
far from blessing Jack Dnncombe when he came bustling out 
with has discovery that there was a great white horse cut on l^e 
side of a hill we were then passing — about Alton Priors. We 
cared not a jot about that big, long-necked, illnshapen creature 
that looked more like a camelopard than anything else. We 
knew not what it meant, and were not inclined to ask. Besides, 
Ae country about here is of a commonplace character — ^hardly 
worth regarding. Moreover, we bad seen horses cut upon hill- 
sides elsewhere ; and again, we had private matters to talk over. 
But the distraction served to draw attention to the fact that tiie 
rain had ceased, so waterproofs were forthwith thrown aside, 
and we were glad to welcome a few pale touches of yellow 
among those lowering clouds. 

However, the evening never really cleared ; indeed, twilight 
came over prematurely ; and so, when we got to New Mill Bridge 
we made up our minds to remain there for the night There 
most have been some hamlet in the neighborhood, for two or 
three small children came along through the fields to stare at 
this strange thing all afire in the dusk ; but presently they, too, 
as well as Captain Columbus and the horse-marine, had disap- 
peared; and we were left to shut ourselves in from the now 
darkening worid. 

That evening, amid our various occupations and diversions (it 
is to be h<^ed that the sensitive ears of the night were not too 
much shocked, but this small company seemed mirthfully in- 
clined, for some occult reason or another), a good deal was said 
about Savemake Forest ; and we hoped we should have a good 
day on ihe morrow for a glimpse of the only one of the ancient 
forests of England that does not belong to the crown. But it 



THB 8TRAVGB ADYBKTURBS OF A H0IT8B-B0AT. 880 

was irery little of Savemake Forest we were fated to see ; it was 
nothing at all, in short When we got away the next morning, 
we found that the canal still continued at this high lerel, but 
that the hills and terraces fringing the forest were still higher ; 
so that all that met the eye were some green slopes and banks, 
a profusion of hawthorn-bushes covered with bloom, and some 
hedges white with cow-parsley. However, after we had made 
our way through a tunnel (a train rattled by overhead when we 
were inside, and there was a rolling reverberation as of thunder) 
and got along a bit farther, the landscape once more opened out 
around as — rising at the horizon into far ridges of low-lying hill, 
mostly crowned with wood. It was not a brilliant specimen of 
a June day ; there was still a sullen look about the sky, and a 
heavy feeling in the air; none the less, we had never before 
heard the larks so busy — ^the whole wide world seemed filled 
with their singing. 

Now what happened to us during that day must, for various 
reasons, be chronicled briefly and with discretion. We enter- 
tained two visitors, who were curious to see what the Nam^ 
less Barge was like. When they had dismissed the dog-cart by 
which they had mani^ed to overtake us, they were easily per- 
suaded to stay to luncheon, and Queen Tita was very gracious 
to them. After luncheon, they had a mind to see how the sa- 
loon appeared at night (having heard something of our mild 
revelries) ; and so all the red blinds were drawn, and the lamps 
and candles lit, making a very pretty show Then we went out- 
side ; but they were of an enterprising disposition, these two, 
and asked why, instead of standing at the bow, or sitting in the 
stem-sheets, we did not take up our quarters on the roof — there- 
by securing a wider view ? Well, that was a command ; forth- 
with Inverfask and Murdoch (Jack Buncombe spoke no word to 
these young ladies, and apparently remained unaware of their 
existence) had between them haled forth a sufficiency of rugs 
and cushions (Utrecht velvet); and these being placed along 
the house-roof, the whole party of voyagers clambered up thith- 
er, and took their places, in more or less of an Eastern fashion, 
as it pleased them. Unfortunately, this experiment was very 
nearly ending in a catastrophe. The Nameless Barge had never 
been so top-hampered before, and at one point — whether the 
rope caught on a stump, or whether there was some sudden 



390 THB STRANGE ADVBNTUBBS OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

bend — we found her quietly heeling over ; and if Murdoch, who 
was steering, had not jumped to the opposite side, and put all 
his weight on the rail, the whole of us must certainly have been 
deposited in the water. The young ladies shrieked, and were vast- 
ly amused at the same time. We parted with them at Hunger- 
ford, walking up to the station with them. They were very 
grateful for the little entertainment we had been able to afford 
them. Jack Buncombe said no word of good-bye — no, not even 
when they were in the railway carriage. We returned to the 
boat, and continued on our way, heartily hoping to hear no 
more of that adventure. 

This evening we moored near Eintbury, and after dinner we 
set forth — ^all of us, that is to say, except the short-noticer, who 
was busy with his books— on an exploration of this straggling, 
picturesque little place, whose old-fashioned, gabled, and case- 
mated houses, and ancient square-towered church looked very 
well in the wan, clear twilight ; and as Colonel Cameron was 
walking in front with his hostess, Miss Peggy had a good deal 
to say to her companion about both these people. 

'^ Colonel Anne is not so tall as Colonel Cameron,^' she ob- 
serves, rather in an undertone, for they are not very far ahead, 
''but she is twice and three times the Jacobite he is. I do 
believe she would have raised a regiment for Bonnie Prince 
Charlie if she had lived in those days ; and I know she would 
have gone wild about Flora Macdonald if she had been in Lon- 
don when Flora was released from prison. I like to hear Col- 
onel Cameron speak of ' Miss Macdonald ', it isn't merely that 
it is respectful ; it sounds as if the Camerons of Inverf ask and 
the Macdonalds of Eingsburgh were neighboring families, or 
related to each other, and knew each other quite well. He has 
a good many things that were bought at the sale of Eingsbor- 
ough House, and I suppose they are all, in a kind of way, con- 
nected with Prince Charlie. I wonder what I should do with 
the little mirror-frame that came from Fassiefem; would you 
put a piece of old glass in it if that could be got, or leave it as 
it is?" 

And then, again, she says : 

" What a lot I've got to do when I go back to town ! the 
books I must get, a History of the Highland Regiments first 
and foremost, a History of the Clans — I don't know what all. 



THK STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 391 

Your wife has promised to lend me a volume of pipe-music, 
though she says those marches are so difficult to play on the 
piano. Which are your favorites ?" 

"'The Barren Rocks of Aden' and 'The TOth's Farewell to 
Gibraltar.' " 

" I will remember those. The 79th Regiment, isn't that the 
Cameron Highlanders ?" 

"It is." 

"And the 42d, that is the Black Watch, isn't it?" 

"It is." 

"And the Gordon Highlanders, they are the 75th, aren't 
they?" 

" They are. But why this catechism ?" 

" Oh, well," she says, evasively, " Sir Ewen is very anxious 
that your wife and I should go down to Aldershot to be shown 
over the camp, and of course one would not like to be quite 
ignorant." 

" But do you imagine that Aldershot Camp is made up of 
Highland regiments ?" 

" I wonder," she continues (and now a window is being lit 
here and there in the village, the pale yellow glow of the candles 
projecting upon the blind the shadow of the geranium-pots 
ranged on the inner sill) — " I wonder where he keeps his medals. 
I do wish you would persuade him to send for them. Couldn't 
he have them forwarded to Reading or to Henley ? If you only 
knew how I am longing to see them. Well, I have been think- 
ing, perhaps he has neglected them, for men are so careless ; 
but your wife and I could brighten them up, and brush the 
cases, and make them neat and smart for them. Women can 
do that better than a man can." 

Presently she says, 

"Does he wear them when he goes to a levee at Bucking- 
ham Palace ?" 

" Haven't the least idea." 

"The Victoria Cross, anyway. He must wear the Victoria 
Cross at any state ceremony where the queen is present, sure- 
ly ? Is it true that when the queen presents the Victoria Cross 
to any one, she pins it on his breast with her own hands ?" 

" I believe so." 

" I should like to see that done," she observes, absently. 



SfS THS 8TBAKOB ADYENTURBB OF A H0U8K-B0AT. 

And then again, as she is regarding the tall soldier in front 
of her, who is lounging idly along, one hand hehind his back, 
the other holding a big cigar which he has not taken the trouble 
to light, she laughs a little, and says, 

<< Just to think, that I used to be afraid of him !'' 

This was a long-protracted ramble ; and the curiosity of our 
young American friend about everything relating to the High- 
lands and the modes of life there proved to be quite insatiable, 
just as it was simple, honest, and ingenuous. When we got 
back to the boat the dusk had come down ; and all the little 
red windows were aglow ; but Mrs. Threepenny-bit did not go 
on board ; Colonel Cameron did ; and we guessed that she had 
sent him to summon Mr. Duncombe away from his books. 

** Your servant, colonel I" says Miss Peggy, as we come up. 

*' What do you mean ?" the smaller woman answers. ^' Have 
you changed services, Peggy f YouVe been a sailor all the way 
through ; are you going to leave the navy for the army f" 

'* Yes,*^ says Miss Peggy, lightly. *< I have enlisted. And 
what's more, I've got my marching orders." 

"Where fort" 

This tall young recruit brings up the palm of her hand to her 
forehead, and makes a very fair imitation of a military salute. 

*' For Inverfask, colonel," she says, and the night conceals the 
laughing shyness of her cheeks. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

*' Ye happy fields, unknown to noise and strife, 
The kind rewarders of industrious life; 
Ye shady woods, where once I used to rove, 
Alike indulgent to the Muse and Love ; 
Ye murmuring streams, that in meanders roll, 
The sweet composers of the pensive soul ! 
Farewell ! — The city calls me from your bowers ; 
Farewell, amusing thoughts and peaceful hours !" 

Early on this fair morning the welcome sunlight is all ^ound 
us, touching here and there on the red roofs half hidden 
among the willows and elms, making the old-fashioned inn and 
the ivied hridge quite picturesque, and striking into the clear 



THE 8TRAN6S ADVXNTURSS OV A HOUSS-BOAT. 31^ 

water so that we can see shoals of small fish darting this way 
and that oyer the beds of green weed. And here is Miss Peggy, 
herself as radiant as the dawn ; her eyes shining, and without 
malice ; a placid content npon her tranquil lips. 

" So this is the last day of our voyage ?" she says. 

'* The last full day. We shall leave a few miles to do to- 
morrow, so as to get into Reading about noon.'^ 

'' When one looks back,*^ she says, rather pensively, ^' all those 
places we have seen appear to be very far away now. Doesn't 
it seem ages since we saw Windsor Castle, with the royal stand- 
ard high up in the pale-blue sky ? Do you remember the fear- 
ful rain at Oxford, and the floods ?" 

" And Mr. A'Becket ? yes. Tell me, did you ever answer the 
letter he was so kind as to send you about the antiquities of 
Gloucester?" 

" Well, I did not," she says, hastily. " Don't you think your 
wife will do that for me ? She ought. The information was 
for the whole party." 

" We shall be having some photographs of the boat done at 
Reading ; you can send him one of those : that will square ac- 
counts." 

** Do you remember the flooded Cherwell, and how the Ban- 
bury people helped us, and then those moonlight nights at 
Warwick, and the ghostly drive to Eenilworth? Then came 
the quiet meadows about Stratford." 

" Yes ; and the sudden appearance of Rosalind in a sitting- 
room of the Shakespeare Hotel." 

She looks up quickly. 

" You weren't reading your paper all the time ?" 

" Not all the time." 

She laughs a little. 

'^ I half suspected it. I was sure a man's curiosity would get 
the better of him. They talk about women ! I thought you 
weren't so much taken up with politics. Well, what did you 
think of the performance ?" 

" I thought it was very clever, until you jumped behind the 
curtain, which Rosalind wouldn't have done. Rosalind wouldn't 
have been scared to death by a parlor-maid." 

^' I wonder who is likely to know most of what Rosalind 
would have done, you or I ?" she said, saucily. 



894 THX 8TRANGX ADVENTURX8 OF A HOFBX-BOAT. 

** To-night will be oar hst night on board. You most have 
the costume still with you. May we hope for a repetition f * 

^* Before Mr. Duncombe ? My gracious, no !*' she exclaims. 
^' I shouldn't mind Colonel Cameron so much, for your wife 
went and told him all about it ; but Mr. Duncombe, no." 

" Why, what can it matter ? If you have worn the costume 
at a fancy-dress ball — ^" 

" Yes ; that's just where it is," she says. " You don't mind 
any sort of nonsense, if everybody else is in it. And I thought 
we might have some kind of masquerading when we got into 
the Forest of Arden ; that is why I brought the dress." 

" And there was none ?" 

" No, for Colonel Cameron was with us then to keep us in 
order. Ah, well, I fancy a quieter mood was better fitted for 
those strange solitudes. Do you remember the night we sat 
outside in the starlight, listening to the nightingale, with the 
boat all lit up among the dark branches? If there are any 
ghosts in the Forest of Arden, they must have wondered what 
the fiery thing was, in among the willows. And all that, too, 
seems a long while ago, doesn't it?" she continues. *^Do you 
remember the beautiful wood we rambled through on a quiet 
Sunday morning, just outside one of the tunnels ? I suppose it 
must belong to somebody ; but it looked to me as if no one had 
ever seen it before. Do you remember the primroses, and the 
wild hyacinths, and the red flower, what was it ?" 

" The campion." 

*^ And then to leave all that beautiful place and the sunlight 
and go away into a black hole, scraping and tearing through the 
solid earth. We were getting used to the tunnels by that time, 
I think ; but the first one, the great long one^ was just a little 
too dreadful. Do you remember the unearthly voice — 
' My father died a drunkard, 
And I was left alone/ 

and the small lamps far away in the darkness, and the red glow 
from the saloon showing us the rocky wall around us ? I sup- 
pose if we had bumped hard against the side, it would have 
been Angel Gabriel for the whole of us. Then came the long 
sailing down the Severn — why, even that seems ages ago. I sup- 
pose it is because each day is so crowded with different expe- 
riences: one is so interested at the moment that you forget 



THE STRANQS ADVENTURES OF A HOUBE-BOAT. 395 

what has gone before, until one looks back. And there will be 
a great deal of looking back when once it is all over and we are 
in London again. It will be an occupation for many an evening, 
if you will allow me to come and see you sometimes." 

" We will allow you to come and see us sometimes, if you are 
good." 

" There is one thing," she resumes, as she is idly watching 
the small fish down in the clear deeps : ^< I have got to know 
something of what England is really like. I suppose when I 
hear people at home talking about their trip to England I shall 
be saying to myself, * What, you ! you think you have seen 
England ? You haven't at all ! You have only seen railway- 
England!'" 

" Then you are returning to America ?" one observes, casually. 

" Why, of course, I must go back," she says, " but for how 
long is quite a different matter. I think my friends at Bourne- 
mouth must have had enough of me." 

"There's a house in London where your presence might be 
tolerated; indeed, they might even pretend to welcome you. 
And as you are going to Scotland with us in the autumn, in 
any case, why make two bites of a cherry ?" 

" You are very kind ; but I think it will have to be America 
first and Scotland afterwards," she makes answer ; and here the 
subject drops ; for Murdoch's silver tinkle summons us within. 

At breakfast there was clearly a foreshadowing of the end ; 
for already these good people were beginning to talk of the 
chief impressions produced by this long water-ramble of ours. 
Miss Peggy's fixed ideas seemed to be the remoteness and the 
silence of those solitudes through which we had passed, and 
the profusion of wild-flowers. Mrs. Threepenny-bit, on the other 
hand, had some fancy that in these rural wanderings you got to 
understand something of the hold that the Church of England 
has on the national mind, the prominence of it even in the land- 
scape — the small, venerable, strong, square-towered building dom- 
inating the tiniest village, the great cathedral the principal feat- 
ure, and the proudest possession, of the town. These imaginings 
were vague, but we knew the sentiment that prompted them ; 
and we knew that the importance accorded to the church, 
whether in hamlet or in city, must have been grateful to her 
heart Jack Duncombe said that his chief recollection was of 



396 THS 8TRANOS AOTBNTURKS OV A HOUttX-BOAT. 

wakiag up among willow-branches and wondering what part of 
the worid he was in ; also that red blinds are capital things for 
windows, for they tell you in a moment whether there is sun- 
light outside or not ; for the rest, he looked back upon a most 
judicious combination of exercise and idleness; and then he 
wound up with something very nice and appropriate about the 
companionship he had enjoyed, which was, no doubt, fully ap- 
preciated by his hostess and our pretty Peggy. Amid all these 
pleasant souvenirs, what was our surprise to find that Sir Ewen 
Cameron, the gentle Inverfask, alone was moved to rage and re- 
sentment ! 

" I don't mind owning it,'' said he, ^^ but for the rest of my 
life I shall cherish an undying hatred of the cuckoo. It is a 
pity. Tou think of the cuckoo as the spirit of the woods ; why, 
you might take it as the presiding genius of a trip like this. 
The beast ! I never knew him before. In season and out of 
season, in the times of heaviest rain, when not another bird is 
astir, when everything else is as still as the grave, that fool ai a 
fowl keeps calling away, with a persistency that is simply mad- 
dening. I shall never hear a cuckoo-clock without wanting to 
drive a charge of No. 4 shot through the works of it. I used 
to like the cuckoo. I would no more have dreamed of shoot- 
ing one than of shooting a wren or a robin." 

" Sir Ewen, you wouldn't shoot a cuckoo !" Mrs. Threepenny- 
bit cried. 

" I won't say * Yes,' and I won't say ' No,' " he answered, 
darkly ; ** but it would be awkward for the cuckoo if it happened 
to come in the line of my gun. There's a blood-feud between 
us henceforth. Fortunately, I never heard of any cuckoo being 
in the Inverfask neighborhood ; so there won't be any tempta- 
tion there." 

This was a perfect day for the last. The overarching blue 
had not even a speck of cloud; the atmosphere was singularly 
clear and vivid ; a fresh breeze tempered the heat of the sun, 
and stirred the water into shining breadths of silver. Nor was 
there any want of exercise for those so inclined ; for this Ken- 
net and Avon Canal seems to have quite fallen out of use ; and 
not only had we to open the locks and the swing-bridges for 
ourselves, but these had grown so stiff that it was with the 
greatest toil and difficulty we got through. Occasi(»ially our 



THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A HODSE-BOAT. 897 

loan-power proved insnfficient ; dust and stones had soldered up 
the junction between the bridge and the roadway so that the 
former refused to move on its pivot; in which case we had to 
get a rope and affix it to the horse, and then with his hauling 
and our pushing the slow-creaking thing would begin to revolve 
— ^to the no small wonderment of the cottagers. As there was 
no one at all looking after the locks, in order to save time Jack 
Duncombe and Captain Columbus went on ahead to get them 
open for us; and as the young dramatist was rather fond of 
hard work, he had plenty of it over those rotten old gates and 
paddles. When they had got the lock ready, we could see them, 
a long way off, sitting in the sunlight, in their shirt-sleeves, 
awaiting us ; and a rumor that subsequently prevailed, to the 
effect that Captain Columbus utilized these intervals of rest in 
^* snatching" pike from among the reeds — by means of an un- 
holy instrument that he possessed — ^is almost certainly ground- 
less. At least we had no pike for dinner that evening. 

Our route at first lay tlu*ough a long stretch of level marsh- 
land bounded on the north by a range of hills, on the wooded 
slopes of which are set a series of noble mansions, but at such 
distances apart that no doubt each proud owner, girt about by 
his "policies," is monarch of all he surveys. As we glided 
along through the hawthorn-scented air, our chief difficulty was 
to tell whether we were on a river or a canal, for the Rennet and 
Avon Canal and the river Eennet intertwist themselves in a 
remarkable manner, and seem to have all their chief character- 
istics in common. Which was it, as we were getting on to New- 
bury, that showed us, through the pellucid water, large sub- 
aqueous forests of various hues of green, with prodigious num- 
bers of good-sized perch hanging motionless, or only moving a 
fin, until the prow of the Nameless Barge was almost on them, 
when they would make a sudden shoot out of danger? Miss 
Peggy was called to the bow of the boat to watch this perform- 
ance. Fat fellows those perch were, with their striped sides and 
red fins ; and mostly they lay in the clear spaces among the weeds, 
so that we could see them distinctly enough ; nay, the wonder 
was that they were so long in seeing us, for again and again we 
seemed to be on the point of running down one of them when 
the plump little water-zebra would make a sudden dart aside. 
It was rather pleasant to cleave through this transparent world 



398 TBI BTRAKOS ADYKNTURSS OF A HOtT8X-BOAt. 

df wonders — at least Miss Peggy seemed to find it so. Sbe imk 
clinging to the iron rail at the edge of the house-roof, so as to 
make sore she shouldn't go over ; sometimes she hummed a hit 
of "Kitty Wells/' but in no mournful mood; thie sunlight 
twisted strands of gold among the soft brown of her hair ; no 
doubt she felt the velvet-blowing breeze cool and fresh ^>out 
her face. There was no need for all of us to be laboring away 
at those rotten old locks. Some people like gratuitous work, 
and no doubt it does them good. Even Sir Ewen Cami^ron, 
who was usually active enough, had not joined that volunteer 
brigade ; he was sitting in the steTn-sheetS, talking to his hoert- 
ess, and in a suflSciently serious manner. We did not know Irhiit 
he was consulting her about, and we did not care. We Were 
bent on catching a perch asleep ; and a hundred and a bundhefl 
times we were so nearly Succeeding that it seems hard to dd Hie 
result a defeat 

About midday we came in sight of Newbury, the pink houses 
of which looked very pleasant among the golden meadows and 
the various greens of poplar and maple. A brisk and lively litUe 
town we found it to be, and of much quaint picturesqueness in 
its setting and surroundings ; and peihaps Queen l^ta regarded it 
with all the greater favor that she was almost certainly ignonmt 
of its ancient renown. For what would she have said if shi) 
had been told that a body of Newbury clothweavers had ac- 
tually been audacious enough to march to Flodden Field ? She 
would have indignantly denied that it was by their ell-wands the 
" Flowers o' the Forest were a' wede away." As for the fight- 
ing in CJharles's time, Newbury itself had probably but little to 
do with that : while the Newbury of to-day looks as if it neveSr 
had much association with slaughter and bloodshed of any sort, 
so bright and cheerful is it, and so full of a business-like mod- 
em activity. Not that we lingered very long in the place after 
having paid a visit to the telegraph-office and also made a few 
purchases. We returned to the Namelt99 Barge^ which wtoa 
attracting a vast amount of notice at the bridge, and had her 
pushed along into a place of quietude and privacy ; then Colufii- 
bus and the horse-marine were set free to seek out their mid- 
day med and dso provender for the horse ; and then we assem- 
bled in the saloon, which was pleasantly cool after the glare of 
tiie sun in Newbury streets. 



THX 8TBANOB ADVBNTUBES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 399 

At lunch a very important matter came on for discussion : it 
was the question as to whether the hy-laws of the Eennet Con- 
servancy Board could be held to be binding on a free-bom citi- 
zen of the United States. The fact is, we knew that a little later 
on we should be in the immediate neighborhood of some very 
famous stretches of trouting-water, if not actually passing through 
them. We had an American split-cane rod on board, with plenty 
of light tackle and small flies. We had also an American on 
board. We English folk would, of course, pay attention to the 
notice-boards describing the awful pains and penalties incurred 
by any one found fishing in the preserved waters ; but did these 
rules and regulations apply in the case of a foreigner? Mr. 
Doncombe, who was a lawyer as well as a dramatist and a short- 
noticer, was distinctly of opinion that they did not apply. Colonel 
Cameron, on the other hand, held that it was of no consequence 
whether they did or not. A free-bom American, he maintained^ 
would naturally fish wherever he wanted to fish, and would never 
dream he was committing a crime ; while to prosecute him for so 
doing would be to raise a grave intemational question on quite 
insufficient grounds. If the Eennet Conservancy Board (he said) 
were to drag the two liiations into war over a matter of this kind, 
their conduct would be severely animadverted upon by the news- 
piOper?. li{rs. Threepenny-bit pointed out that Peggy (if we were 
referring to her) could plead that she had never seen the notices 
in question ; for an American — with experiences of advertisements 
displayed on every prominent feature of a landscape — ^instinc- 
tively and resentfully tums away from a board stuck up on a 
tree. The person at the head of the table wanted to know, as 
a matter of argument, what would be the result if the trout were 
consenting parties : if they only knew the chance held out to 
themit might they not gladly accept it, and take for their motto, 
"And Beauty draws us with a single hair?'' Finally, Colonel 
Cameron went to a certain fishing-basket, and coolly brought 
foirth therefrom a book of flies. Without more ado, he was 
going to teach Peggy, it appeared, to break the law, and put us 
all in peril of jail. 

We had a delightful stroll this afternoon along the banks of 
the winding water-way that is sometimes the canal and some- 
times the Eennet, and sometimes both combined. The land in 
our immediate neighborhood still continued marshy — ^here and 



400 THE 8TRAN0S ADVENTURES OF A HOUSE-BOAT. 

there flushed pink with masses of ragged-robin ; and occasion- 
ally there were nursery-beds of water-cress, with clear rills run- 
ning through them. The river-side path was profuse with wild- 
flowers and long lush grass ; and ever3rwhere were hawthorn-trees 
and hawthorn-bushes smothered in bloom. A perfect silence 
prevailed over this wide, flat, swampy district, save for the cry 
of a startled peewit, or the distant soft tinkle of a sheep-bell. As 
to whether we paused at any point of our long ramble to allow 
our young American friend to try the split-cane rod, nothing shall 
be set down here: international complications should be stu- 
diously avoided. 

As the mellow evening drew on apace, we began to think it 
was but little wonder the Eennet River was haunted by artists. 
To be sure, the country around seemed to us, who had been in 
more lonesome wilds, to have a kind of suburban look about it ; 
but then we were drawing near to civilization and the great high- 
way of the Thames ; while as for the Kennet itself, it seemed to 
woo the landscape painter at every sylvan turn. Just before we 
got to Aldermaston, we passed along and under a magnificent 
avenue of overbranching elms and ash and poplar; and the 
masses of foliage, rising far into the evening sky, were aglow in 
the now westering light. Aldermaston itself, or such outlying 
bit of it as was visible to us, had " F. Walker " written on every 
feature of it — ^the wide river, the shallow fords, the sandy banks, 
the trees and scattered cottages wanned by the quiet sunset 
radiance. When we got to our moorings for the night — under 
some tall larch-trees in private grounds, the owner of which was 
most courteous to us — there was the faintest touch of crimson 
low down in the west, and the pale crescent of the new moon 
hung in the golden-clear sky. 

It was our last night on board ; and yet it cannot be said we 
were a particularly mournful company. No ; for in spite of all 
kinds of sinister warnings and prophecies, and in spite of diffi- 
culties that at the moment threatened to be insurmountable, we 
had brought our expedition to a successful issue ; and all we had 
to do now was to celebrate our triumph by a little frolic at Hen- 
ley, to aid in which a few innocent young creatures of both sexes 
had been summoned. But in the meantime we had to decide 
what was to be done with the Nameless Barge, To-morrow we 
should be back in the Thames again, at Beading. Should we 



THE STRANOB ADVBNTTJRB8 OF A HOUSB-BOAT. 401 

take her down to Kingston, whence we had started, and find her 
quarters there ? Or should we send her up the river to Henley, 
with a view to the forthcoming regatta ? 

<* I will settle that matter for you," said Colonel Cameron, as 
we sat at dinner. '< Or, rather, I have settled it for you. I am 
going to buy this boat." 

" Really ?" says one of us, who seems to think he might have 
been consulted. 

" Yes," he continues, in a very cool manner ; " and I will show 
you why. If you keep her at Henley or anywhere else on the 
Thames, you will be continually planning trips and excursions, 
which will waste a great deal of your time. You will want to 
get value for your money. You would get value in one way, 
but not in another. She would be a standing temptation to 
you. Therefore I am going to buy the boat from you and take 
her away." 

" But, Sir Ewen," Mrs. Threepenny-bit exclaims, in amaze- 
ment, " what on earth could you do with a boat like this ?" 

<< I will explain that to you," says this tall Highlander, with 
great equanimity. '< Just below the belt of wood at Inverfask 
there is a quiet little bay, very fairly protected by rocks — in 
fact, close to the shore it is perfectly sheltered. I propose to 
anchor a buoy some way out ; and have a wire rope connecting 
it with the land ; then, you perceive, by means of a traveller, 
you could run this boat along whenever you wished ; and you 
would be out at sea safe and secure— a small floating home that 
would be very convenient for a hundred things. You might 
want to give your visitors afternoon tea. Or you might have a 
little dinner-party in the saloon, for the fun of the thing. I 
have secured Murdoch ; he will be captain, cook, and steward. 
Or you might be quite by yourselves ; and if it was a hot even- 
ing, and the midges troubling you on shore, you just step on 
board, and haul yourselves out to sea. Or again, supposing Mr. 
Buncombe were coming round that way — I hope he will — 
and wanted a quiet day's work done, wouldn't that be a secure 
retreat for him ? There could be no better isolation, surely, or 
more perfect silence ; that would be a place to write 1" 

*<It sounds tempting, certainly," young Shakespeare made 
answer, perhaps with wistful visions of not absolute isolation 
floating before his mind. 
26 



402 TBB 8TBAMOB ADYSKTITIIKS OF A HOUSE«BOAT. 

^'Qf course, yon would have to ask pennission/' InveifMk 
cimlinued, '^ and not from me. No, not from me ; it is not for 
myself I propose to make the purchase; it is to be a littk 
preseuf 

Why was it that all this time our pretty Peggy had been 
sitting with eyes downcast? Did she know of this audaciou«L 
scheme ; and could it concern her in any way ? 

" Then," said he, " when I have got possession of the boat — 
and I have shown you how absolutely necessary and reasonable 
it is that I should get possession of her — ^to hand her over, that 
is — ^then she will no longer be known as the tameless Bar^e, 
Oh, no ; when she is at her new moorings in the north we must 
find a proper name for her." He looked across the table (and 
Peggy's eyes were still downcast). "And do you know what I 
propose to call her? Well, I have been thinking I could not 
do better than call her Rosalind's Bowbr." 



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