At this point Harris threw away the sculls, got up and left his seat, and sat
on his back, and stuck his legs in the air. Montmorency howled, and turned a somersault,
and the top hamper jumped up, and all the things came out.
I was somewhat surprised, but I did not lose my temper. I said, pleasantly enough:
''Hulloa! what's that for?''
''What's that for? Why Ц ''
No, on second thoughts, I will not repeat what Harris said. I may have been to
blame, I admit it; but nothing excuses violence of language and coarseness of expression,
especially in a man who has been carefully brought up, as I know Harris has been.
I was thinking of other things, and forgot, as any one might easily understand,
that I was steering, and the consequence was that we had got mixed up a good deal
with the towЦ path. It was difficult to say, for the moment, which was us and which
was the Middlesex bank of the river; but we found out after a while, and separated
Harris, however, said he had done enough for a bit, and proposed that I should
take a turn; so, as we were in, I got out and took the tow-line, and ran the boat
on past Hampton Court. What a dear old wall that is that runs along by the river
there! I never pass it without feeling better for the sight of it. Such a mellow,
bright, sweet old wall; what a charming picture it would make, with the lichen creeping
here, and the moss growing there, a shy young vine peeping over the top at this
spot, to see what is going on upon the busy river, and the sober old ivy clustering
a little farther down! There are fifty shades and tints and hues in every ten yards
of that old wall. If I could only draw, and knew how to paint, I could make a lovely
sketch of that old wall, I'm sure. I've often thought I should like to live at Hampton
Court. It looks so peaceful and so quiet, and it is such a dear old place to ramble
round in the early morning before many people are about.
But, there, I don't suppose I should really care for it when it came to actual
practice. It would be so ghastly dull and depressing in the evening, when your lamp
cast uncanny shadows on the panelled walls, and the echo of distant feet rang through
the cold stone corridors, and now drew nearer, and now died away, and all was death-like
silence, save the beating of one's own heart.
We are creatures of the sun, we men and women. We love light and life. That is
why we crowd into the towns and cities, and the country grows more and more deserted
every year. In the sunlight Ц in the daytime, when Nature is alive and busy all
around us, we like the open hill-sides and the deep woods well enough: but in the
night, when our Mother Earth has gone to sleep, and left us waking, oh! the world
seems so lonesome, and we get frightened, like children in a silent house. Then
we sit and sob, and long for the gas-lit streets, and the sound of human voices,
and the answering throb of human life. We feel so helpless and so little in the
great stillness, when the dark trees rustle in the night-wind. There are so many
ghosts about, and their silent sighs make us feel so sad. Let us gather together
in the great cities, and light huge bonfires of a million gas-jets, and shout and
sing together, and feel brave.
Harris asked me if I'd ever been in the maze at Hampton Court. He said he went
in once to show somebody else the way. He had studied it up in a map, and it was
so simple that it seemed foolish Ц hardly worth the twopence charged for admission.
Harris said he thought that map must have been got up as a practical joke, because
it wasn't a bit like the real thing, and only misleading. It was a country cousin
that Harris took in. He said:
''We'll just go in here, so that you can say you've been, but it's very simple.
It's absurd to call it a maze. You keep on taking the first turning to the right.
We'll just walk round for ten minutes, and then go and get some lunch.''
They met some people soon after they had got inside, who said they had been there
for three-quarters of an hour, and had had about enough of it. Harris told them
they could follow him, if they liked; he was just going in, and then should turn
round and come out again. They said it was very kind of him, and fell behind, and
They picked up various other people who wanted to get it over, as they went along,
until they had absorbed all the persons in the maze. People who had given up all
hopes of ever getting either in or out, or of ever seeing their home and friends
again, plucked up courage at the sight of Harris and his party, and joined the procession,
blessing him. Harris said he should judge there must have been twenty people, following
him, in all; and one woman with a baby, who had been there all the morning, insisted
on taking his arm, for fear of losing him.
Harris kept on turning to the right, but it seemed a long way, and his cousin
said he supposed it was a very big maze.
''Oh, one of the largest in Europe,'' said Harris.
''Yes, it must be,'' replied the cousin, ''because we've walked a good two miles
Harris began to think it rather strange himself, but he held on until, at last,
they passed the half of a penny bun on the ground that Harris's cousin swore he
had noticed there seven minutes ago. Harris said: ''Oh, impossible!'' but the woman
with the baby said, ''Not at all,'' as she herself had taken it from the child,
and thrown it down there, just before she met Harris. She also added that she wished
she never had met Harris, and expressed an opinion that he was an impostor. That
made Harris mad, and he produced his map, and explained his theory.
''The map may be all right enough,'' said one of the party, ''if you know whereabouts
in it we are now.''
Harris didn't know, and suggested that the best thing to do would be to go back
to the entrance, and begin again. For the beginning again part of it there was not
much enthusiasm; but with regard to the advisability of going back to the entrance
there was complete unanimity, and so they turned, and trailed after Harris again,
in the opposite direction. About ten minutes more passed, and then they found themselves
in the centre.
Harris thought at first of pretending that that was what he had been aiming at;
but the crowd looked dangerous, and he decided to treat it as an accident.
Anyhow, they had got something to start from then. They did know where they were,
and the map was once more consulted, and the thing seemed simpler than ever, and
off they started for the third time.
And three minutes later they were back in the centre again.
After that, they simply couldn't get anywhere else. Whatever way they turned
brought them back to the middle. It became so regular at length, that some of the
people stopped there, and waited for the others to take a walk round, and come back
to them. Harris drew out his map again, after a while, but the sight of it only
infuriated the mob, and they told him to go and curl his hair with it. Harris said
that he couldn't help feeling that, to a certain extent, he had become unpopular.
They all got crazy at last, and sang out for the keeper, and the man came and
climbed up the ladder outside, and shouted out directions to them. But all their
heads were, by this time, in such a confused whirl that they were incapable of grasping
anything, and so the man told them to stop where they were, and he would come to
them. They huddled together, and waited; and he climbed down, and came in.
He was a young keeper, as luck would have it, and new to the business; and when
he got in, he couldn't find them, and he wandered about, trying to get to them,
and then HE got lost. They caught sight of him, every now and then, rushing about
the other side of the hedge, and he would see them, and rush to get to them, and
they would wait there for about five minutes, and then he would reappear again in
exactly the same spot, and ask them where they had been.
They had to wait till one of the old keepers came back from his dinner before
they got out.
Harris said he thought it was a very fine maze, so far as he was a judge; and
we agreed that we would try to get George to go into it, on our way back.
THE RIVER IN ITS SUNDAY GARB. Ц DRESS ON THE RIVER. Ц A CHANCE FOR THE MEN. Ц
ABSENCE OF TASTE IN HARRIS. Ц GEORGE'S BLAZER. Ц A DAY WITH THE FASHION-PLATE YOUNG
LADY. Ц MRS. THOMAS'S TOMB. Ц THE MAN WHO LOVES NOT GRAVES AND COFFINS AND SKULLS.
Ц HARRIS MAD. Ц HIS VIEWS ON GEORGE AND BANKS AND LEMONADE. Ц HE PERFORMS TRICKS.
IT was while passing through Moulsey Lock that Harris told me about his maze
experience. It took us some time to pass through, as we were the only boat, and
it is a big lock. I don't think I ever remember to have seen Moulsey Lock, before,
with only one boat in it. It is, I suppose, Boulter's not even excepted, the busiest
lock on the river.
I have stood and watched it, sometimes, when you could not see any water at all,
but only a brilliant tangle of bright blazers, and gay caps, and saucy hats, and
many-coloured parasols, and silken rugs, and cloaks, and streaming ribbons, and
dainty whites; when looking down into the lock from the quay, you might fancy it
was a huge box into which flowers of every hue and shade had been thrown pell-mell,
and lay piled up in a rainbow heap, that covered every corner.
On a fine Sunday it presents this appearance nearly all day long, while, up the
stream, and down the stream, lie, waiting their turn, outside the gates, long lines
of still more boats; and boats are drawing near and passing away, so that the sunny
river, from the Palace up to Hampton Church, is dotted and decked with yellow, and
blue, and orange, and white, and red, and pink. All the inhabitants of Hampton and
Moulsey dress themselves up in boating costume, and come and mouch round the lock
with their dogs, and flirt, and smoke, and watch the boats; and, altogether, what
with the caps and jackets of the men, the pretty coloured dresses of the women,
the excited dogs, the moving boats, the white sails, the pleasant landscape, and
the sparkling water, it is one of the gayest sights I know of near this dull old
The river affords a good opportunity for dress. For once in a way, we men are
able to show our taste in colours, and I think we come out very natty, if you ask
me. I always like a little red in my things Ц red and black. You know my hair is
a sort of golden brown, rather a pretty shade I've been told, and a dark red matches
it beautifully; and then I always think a light-blue necktie goes so well with it,
and a pair of those Russian-leather shoes and a red silk handkerchief round the
waist Ц a handkerchief looks so much better than a belt.
Harris always keeps to shades or mixtures of orange or yellow, but I don't think
he is at all wise in this. His complexion is too dark for yellows. Yellows don't
suit him: there can be no question about it. I want him to take to blue as a background,
with white or cream for relief; but, there! the less taste a person has in dress,
the more obstinate he always seems to be. It is a great pity, because he will never
be a success as it is, while there are one or two colours in which he might not
really look so bad, with his hat on.
George has bought some new things for this trip, and I'm rather vexed about them.
The blazer is loud. I should not like George to know that I thought so, but there
really is no other word for it. He brought it home and showed it to us on Thursday
evening. We asked him what colour he called it, and he said he didn't know. He didn't
think there was a name for the colour. The man had told him it was an Oriental design.
George put it on, and asked us what we thought of it. Harris said that, as an object
to hang over a flower-bed in early spring to frighten the birds away, he should
respect it; but that, considered as an article of dress for any human being, except
a Margate nigger, it made him ill. George got quite huffy; but, as Harris said,
if he didn't want his opinion, why did he ask for it?
What troubles Harris and myself, with regard to it, is that we are afraid it
will attract attention to the boat.
Girls, also, don't look half bad in a boat, if prettily dressed. Nothing is more
fetching, to my thinking, than a tasteful boating costume. But a ''boating costume,''
it would be as well if all ladies would understand, ought to be a costume that can
be worn in a boat, and not merely under a glass-case. It utterly spoils an excursion
if you have folk in the boat who are thinking all the time a good deal more of their
dress than of the trip. It was my misfortune once to go for a water picnic with
two ladies of this kind. We did have a lively time!
They were both beautifully got up Ц all lace and silky stuff, and flowers, and
ribbons, and dainty shoes, and light gloves. But they were dressed for a photographic
studio, not for a river picnic. They were the ''boating costumes'' of a French fashion-plate.
It was ridiculous, fooling about in them anywhere near real earth, air, and water.
The first thing was that they thought the boat was not clean. We dusted all the
seats for them, and then assured them that it was, but they didn't believe us. One
of them rubbed the cushion with the forefinger of her glove, and showed the result
to the other, and they both sighed, and sat down, with the air of early Christian
martyrs trying to make themselves comfortable up against the stake. You are liable
to occasionally splash a little when sculling, and it appeared that a drop of water
ruined those costumes. The mark never came out, and a stain was left on the dress
I was stroke. I did my best. I feathered some two feet high, and I paused at
the end of each stroke to let the blades drip before returning them, and I picked
out a smooth bit of water to drop them into again each time. (Bow said, after a
while, that he did not feel himself a sufficiently accomplished oarsman to pull
with me, but that he would sit still, if I would allow him, and study my stroke.
He said it interested him.) But, notwithstanding all this, and try as I would, I
could not help an occasional flicker of water from going over those dresses.