LocksGeorge and I are photographedWallingfordDorchesterAbingdonA family manA good spot for drowningA difficult bit of waterDemoralizing effect of river air.
We left Streatley early the next morning, and pulled up to Culham, and slept under the canvas, in the backwater there.
The river is not extraordinarily interesting between Streatley and Wallingford. From Cleve you get a stretch of six and a half miles without a lock. I believe this is the longest uninterrupted stretch anywhere above Teddington, and the Oxford Club make use of it for their trial eights.
But however satisfactory this absence of locks may be to rowing men, it is to be regretted by the mere pleasure-seeker.
For myself, I am fond of locks. They pleasantly break the monotony of the pull. I like sitting in the boat and slowly rising out of the cool depths up into new reaches and fresh views; or sinking down, as it were, out of the world, and then waiting, while the gloomy gates creak, and the narrow strip of daylight between them widens till the fair smiling river lies full before you, and you push your little boat out from its brief prison on to the welcoming waters once again.
They are picturesque little spots, these locks. The stout old lock-keeper, or his cheerful-looking wife, or bright-eyed daughter, are pleasant folk to have a passing chat with.1 You meet other boats there, and river gossip is exchanged. The Thames would not be the fairyland it is without its flower-decked locks.
Talking of locks reminds me of an accident George and I very nearly had one summers morning at Hampton Court.
It was a glorious day, and the lock was crowded; and, as is a common practice up the river, a speculative photographer was taking a picture of us all as we lay upon the rising waters.
I did not catch what was going on at first, and was, therefore, extremely surprised at noticing George hurriedly smooth out his trousers, ruffle up his hair, and stick his cap on in a rakish manner at the back of his head, and then, assuming an expression of mingled affability and sadness, sit down in a graceful attitude, and try to hide his feet.
My first idea was that he had suddenly caught sight of some girl he knew, and I looked about to see who it was. Everybody in the lock seemed to have been suddenly struck wooden. They were all standing or sitting about in the most quaint and curious attitudes I have ever seen off a Japanese fan. All the girls were smiling. Oh, they did look so sweet! And all the fellows were frowning, and looking stern and noble.
And then, at last, the truth flashed across me, and I wondered if I should be in time. Ours was the first boat, and it would be unkind of me to spoil the mans picture, I thought.
So I faced round quickly, and took up a position in the prow, where I leant with careless grace upon the hitcher, in an attitude suggestive of agility and strength. I arranged my hair with a curl over the forehead, and threw an air of tender wistfulness into my expression, mingled with a touch of cynicism, which I am told suits me.
As we stood, waiting for the eventful moment, I heard someone behind call out:
Hi! look at your nose.
I could not turn round to see what was the matter, and whose nose it was that was to be looked at. I stole a side-glance at Georges nose! It was all rightat all events, there was nothing wrong with it that could be altered. I squinted down at my own, and that seemed all that could be expected also.
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