Two girls on a barge

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Title:
Two girls on a barge
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Cotes, V. Cecil
D. Appleton and Company ( Publisher )
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D. Appleton and Company ( New York )

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oclc - 20054591
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taf o,. ......,.....vo........... -






The Baldwin Ubrary
Univenity
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TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE















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17


The place seemed like a haunted cave


C ~t~c









TWO GIRLS ON


A BARGE







BY
V. CECIL COTES






WITH FORTY-FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS
BY F. H. TOWNSEND








.NEW YORK
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
1891






















tAuthorized Edition.







Authorized Edition.






















LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


PAGE
THE PLACE SEEMED LIKE A HAUNTED CAVE Frontispiece
THAT WAS ONE OF THE MOMENT'S TROUBLES 3
DEPENDS ON WHAT I BE TO DO '. ... 9
'MRS. BARGEE ..... 18
OUR OWN BARGE PUNTED SLOWLY OFF ..... 16
SOMETHING UNUSUAL WAS STIRRING ..... 19
THEY DISAPPEARED THROUGH A TRAP IN THE TARPAULIN
ROoF ......... 25
INITIAL T ...... 31
THE BARGEE'S VISITOR. ..... 33
'SLEEPS WHY, 'UD SLEEP TILL SUVEN 0' THE MORNING' 35
MRS. BARGER 'MASHED' OUR TEA ..... 37
IDLENESS IN ACTION ...... 41
THROUGH LADY KEPPEL'S PARK .... 46
MRS. BARGERE....... 55
FOUR PEOPLE BUBBLING ALL FOR NOTHING ROUND A LITTLE
IMP ... .. 62
THE AWFUL BLACK GOAT ..... 71
I READ OUT THE MISSIVE SLOWLY AND IMPRESSIVELY . 73
WE GOT SOME QUITE ARTISTIC CUPS AND SAUCERS IN THIS
VILLAGE FAIR .. .. ... 77
THE SOCIETY AT THE OTHER END OF THE ROOM 80
MORE OF THE SOCIETY .. .... 81

61-91









viii TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE

PAGE
'MR. BARGEE HAS DEPARTED OVERLAND .. ... 84
'TERRE WAS SOMEBODY INQUIRING FOR YOU DOWN AT FENNY
LOCK YESTERDAY' .... 89
INITIAL W' ....... 92
WE BEGAN TO DISCUSS LIFE AND THE BLACKING OF BOOTS 96
AND YET HE WASN'T A REPORTER .. ... 98
THE GIPSY CAMP .... .. 102
ON THE BANKS ....... 108
AT THE SEVEN LOOKS .. ..... . Ill
'HOW EARLY YOU ARE GOOD MORNING' .... 124
ECCLES WITH THE EGGS .... 125
THE PHILANTHROPIST BEGAN TO SPEAK OF THE BAND OF
BROTHERS ....... 129
SITTING IN THE HALF LIGHT OF A SUBTERRANEAN TUNNEL 131
BESOTTED MRS. BBADSHAW. ..... 135
THE LADY GODIVA .... .. 145
COVENTEY ......... 147
FORD'S HOSPITAL, COVENTRY . 152
THE PROPRIETOR KINDLY PERMITTED US TO WEAR MORNING
DRESS . . . .. 153
IN ONE OF THE OLDEST STREETS .... .,157
'LOTS OF FOLKS HAD LIVED IN HOUSES' 163
'PLEASE, I DON'T LIKE QUA'VENTARY' ... 165
OWNERS HAVE TO CATCH A TRAIN .... 170
THE SALE ....... 172
THE LAST OF THE BARGE . ..... 175
THE END ..... 177














TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


CHAPTER I

I HE worst of it was that we couldn't make up our
minds as to the best way to set about it, Edna
Devize and I. It was the last night of term, and
we had been discussing Browning and a barge
alternately over Miss Devize's tea in her pretty
room. We couldn't get a chart of the canal with-
out going to a specialist, that was one of the
moment's troubles. Another was that we hadn't
got a barge, and we wanted one. We wanted an
empty barge that we could furnish our own way,
and take anywhere we liked for a week of happy
idleness. For Miss Devize had overworked herself,
and I had nothing else to do. But we couldn't get
a chart, and we hadn't got a barge. Canals aren't
recognized apparently as topographical at all,








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


though Shakespeare lived by one, and George Eliot
fished in it. For it was Maggie Tulliver who was
as responsible as- anyone in the matter of this
trip.
And here I must explain that, being only a
benighted Londoner,. and without any 'Varsity
career to correct my etymology, I had long since
dubbed Edna Devize generically Girton,' to that
sweet girl graduate's natural wrath. Girton, she
said, was a collective title, and she wouldn't be
called a horde! Edna then took the matter into
her own hands at this juncture of affairs. She sat
down with a decided air, and we composed a note
to Messrs. Corbett, of the London Salt Works.
For, as everyone knows, Messrs. Corbett's boats
are some of the best of those which ply between
London and Birmingham. It was a very charm-
ing note! And in it we set forth our desires in
the simplest terms, and asked if Messrs. Corbett
would be kind enough to help us in any way they
could. Messrs. Corbett's preliminary cargo being
salt would be a pleasant precedent to our occupa-
tion, and full of fresh-scented reminiscences, we
















































THAT WAS ONE OF THE MOMENT'S TROUBLES








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


thQught. We awaited the result of this experiment
with some anxiety. But there was no need, for
Mr. Corbett responded to our letter in the kindest
spirit and put a boat at our disposal for as long as
we might wish. Not only this, but he sent down
his special manager, who gave us fatherly advice
about the passes we should need, because a laden
barge may go where a pleasure skiff may not upon
canals.
Now, our original intention was to go we two
alone. But when the manager's last letter came
to say the boat was really at the wharf at Padding-
ton awaiting our instructions, we hurriedly decided
to enlist The Crew. After all, a man is a sort of
necessity when there's carpentering to be done.
The Crew was a property of mine, a soldier brother
awaiting his commission-Mr. Talbot Bernard
Grove, Gentleman Cadet. The Cadet was by no
means overwhelmed at the prospect that we offered
him. He even hinted, with some mathematical
precision, that a houseboat on the Thames would
be scarcely more expensive by the time that we
had done,' and implied a preference.








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


'If you like to leave it all to me I'll arrange it
for you,' he said autocratically.
Whereupon we explained to him that we in-
tended to conduct this trip upon principles that
were entirely original, and all we wanted was in
reality a crew; we were very sorry that we could
not offer him a captaincy, than which we could
imagine nothing pleasanter.
'But you see how we are situated,' Girton said.
Well, the Cadet couldn't have been pleasanter
once he understood. It appeared that he con-
sidered he was booked to embark upon a herring
boat going down Vesuvius,' and we wanted no-
thing more than the margin which that gave us-
the metaphor was difficult, but the intention was
amenable.
'You see,' Girton said to him, 'we want to
make a fresh start, as it were, and get right away
from the Conventionalised idea.'
At this point -there arose a' question of a pro-
perly descriptive term for- an Unconventionalised
Idea. Mr. Corbett had called it simply a Canal
Boat, and the Cadet did battle for the word.







6 TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE

Girton said it was a Barge, and if it's not a Barge,
I won't play!' she added. So we set off to Padding-
ton to see. We found our craft lying at the wharf
awaiting us, with a local carpenter standing in the
well.
He stood with unanticipative resignation, this
old carpenter, as having consigned himself for
the time being to the uttermost vagaries of two
female Whims. -Indeed, he was quite right, and-
we hadn't made a ground-plan of what we wanted
him to do. Though in this roomy emptiness there
was scope for architects. The Cadet had sectional
designs of cabins upon every cross-bar within reach
of his gold pencil-case before we had realized that
cabins had to be built if they were required. Rec-
tilinear lines were the fashioning of life to the
,Cadet, he was drawn in them himself.
What were it ye wanted done along o' this ?' .
said the old carpenter, at last addressing him.
But the Cadet politely indicated us, and went on
with his rectilinear lines as if it was no concern of
his. His attitude announced, 'I am the cabin-
boy.'








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


'Er-do you think,' said Girton, and she
stopped to watch the laden horses 'coming up
beyond the roofs on the other side of the canal to
feed the iron shaft where the dust was falling.
'We want to start to-morrow-do you think you
can be done by then ?' I asked him of the slow
footrule, businesslike.
'Depends on what I be to do,' quoth the old
man, deliberately.
The profundity of this, and an impassive
receptiveness in the old man's attitude that had no
loophole of original suggestion in it, rather staggered
me. Girton, turned, glancing up and down the
long empty barge with an air of mature considera-
tion as if balancing the merits and demerits of the
place.
You see, there is lots of room,' she said, as if
stating a new problem, and the old man waited
patiently, expectantly, with his footrule in his hand.,
The Cadet started on another beam in a mathe-
matical cataract of horizontal bars. He was revel-
ling in uprights and a quadrilateral perspective
most uiiyild.'lig, of demeanour.








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


'How mony square foot of boordin' 'ull ye
want ?' demanded the old man.
Don't you think '-Miss Devize was seized of
a sudden inspiration, and spoke eagerly-' Don't
you think that there ought to be an awning in case
the sun comes out.'
Then you won't want no boords at all ?'
What a very imperative race carpenters appear
to be 'remarked Girton to the distant horses, with
a sort of abstract interest.
And you will have to hang some fairy-lamps
for us, in any case, you know, and arrange a
Japanese umbrella,' I added, carefully, for these
little things make so much difference when you
want to make a barge look picturesque.
'Yes, but 'ow about they boords ; boords takes
such a deal o' choosin', and I un'erstood as maybe
ye'd want a goodish few.'
See,' said Girton, suddenly, if the Cadet goes
on drawing on our bulwarks at this rate we shall
be permanently frescoed with a Greek-patterned
dado in a sectional design- and I don't think we
could stand it!' Then, turning to the gentleman











'III






I ~


DEPENDS ON WHAT I 3B TO DO'








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


in question, I think the old man understands our
wishes now; but perhaps you will be good enough
to give him the benefit of your experience in carry-
# ing them out ?' she asked, in the sweetest way.
And the old carpenter looked after her, as we went
to make our purchases, with admiration somewhere
in the tangle of his yellow beard that even the
Cadet's best diagram had been quite unable to elicit.
Then began a pilgrimage; alternately we bought
and begged. Possessions grew around us in huge
brown paper packages, and followed us in trucks
through the plate-glass, polished doors of those
London shops. Liberty curtains were the speciality
of our furnishing. We bought them of every shade
and size and texture. They were to be draped
artistically everywhere-and certainly they did
produce a very good effect when they were up.
Then there were steamer chairs to get, and the
table that we forgot and had to come back for, and
lamps, and a tea set, and the tiny red mattresses
that we couldn't get minute enough, and groceries,
the butter that got rancid, and the Bath Chap that
haunted us like a greasy apparition afterwards.








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


There .was a dear old lady in one shop, a cus-
tomer, who having discovered we were by way of
being nautical, followed us about with information
and advice.
Are you aware,' she said,' that to take cold on
the water always means typhoid? Let me enjoin
you to carry foot-warmers.'
In a few minutes she came up again. Be sure
you don't buy sulphur matches-they are so danger-
ous; and if you are intending to take coal, I
should advise "burning bricks," they're so much
more portable.'
At the moment we were choosing chair-backs,
and did not quite see the connection. But in the
travelling rug department she palpitated out a
valuable hint. It's the little things that get for-
gotten upon these occasions. Soap- '
'Oh, soap '
'Yes, of course; and mustard-you can always
use it up in poultices; and then a pair of garden
scissors might come in handily, you can never tell,
and they would save the need of snuffers !'








TWO GIRLS ON A. BARGE


The Cadet must .have waited a long time on the
wharf at Paddington, when we did at last arrive
prepared to start.
His quadrilateral designs had certainly fulfilled
themselves in a most natty way. The two tiny
cabins looked like cherubs' packing cases, one at
either end of the long deep barge. We admired
them enormously, and I think the Cadet did too,
though he spoke of them with a fine nonchalance.
Their roofs however seemed to us to be impres-
sionistic rather, if a series of skeleton triangles
can be called a roof at all. Add to this that the
barge was full of shavings and the old carpenter
was putting up a door, and the effect remains un-
finished you will find. We stood in the middle of
the boat surveying it, while our packages were
strewed over the wharf in brown hillocks of a
bursting bulkiness of outline.
'Exquisite and most administrative one !' said I
to Mr. Grove ; 'it is charming, as you know ; but has
it ever occurred to you that we have come to start?
'Impressionistic Queryist he responded
readily, when and whether we can start at all








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


to-day entirely depends on Miss Devize's influence
with the carpenter. But, see, here is our own
Bargee, doing tight-rope gymnasium apparently,
and longing to salute you.'






















MRS. BABGEE

At this moment of a first impression our own
Bargee was perilously balanced on the narrow
gangway running overhead, whence he shone down
at us with a rubicund respect that might have








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


warmed a snowstorm. Our introduction to him
was of necessity ephemeral, the impression still
remains-gold nuggets do not tarnish in three
weeks. And then Mrs. Bargee came to welcome
us, beaming in her snowy sunbonnet from the open
door of the little yellow cabin where she lived.
She, in turn, indicated Eccles to us, a small vagrant
factor of the trip at present indeterminate, playing
hide-and-seek among our packages with the other
children of Moore's Wharf.
Edna had just begun to 'tidy up' and was
making hay among the shavings with a walking
stick, luxuriously, while the Cadet was disentangling
the table legs of their swathing of brown paper,
when a sudden voice electrified us all.
Well, young ladies! I have heard of you.'
It was Edna's uncle, General Essington. But
then General Essington was everybody's uncle, or
godfather, or guardian. And he stood, framed by
the narrow door of the salt shed wall, with a
quizzical expression of disapprobation and aston-
ishment in his martial attitude. But behind him
lurked a porter staggering beneath innumerable







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


bundles of such festive possibilities as tended to
belie their owner's unappeasable severity.
Oh, yes, he had heard of us. Our light was
not under a bushel. We seemed to have been
creating an alarming sensation in our respective
families. And would we condescend to explain to
him any trivial details of our present undertaking ?
The smallest information would oblige. Mean-
while, however, he had brought down certain
luxuries to accelerate our start, and amongst other
things he had thought it would be interesting to
take the point of view. He was so fortunate as to
possess a friend, an embryo R.A., whom, upon con-
sideration, he would lend to us, provided we asked
very prettily and could persuade the gentleman of
the advantages of a canal as an artistic field. And
somewhere from among the packages the embyro
R.A. appeared. It is needless to go further.
Enough to state that this embryo Barge Painter
fulfilled thp wildest dreams. Besides which, he
could make hay with a walking-stick, even to rival
Edna.
Come and visit us before we've eaten all



















































OUR OWN BARGEE PUNTED SLOWLY OFF







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


the grapes,' the crew called after this, its unex-
pected Providence-a Providence endowed with a
keen sense of the ridiculous-as the General took
off his hat and disappeared into the darkening
recesses of Moore's Wharf; leaving a cartload of
kindly luxuries, a very genuine sensation, and an
embryo R.A. behind him on a barge.
And our own Bargee punted slowly off with a
long barbed pole, and the old carpenter's good
wishes, Pleasant journey to you, sir,' floated out
from the little door in the salt shed wall; and the
brown canal flowed gently round four Water Babies
eyeing each other with a certain curiosity as they
drifted out of London silently.







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


CHAPTER II

P AST the salt sheds and the iron crane, where
the heavy barges sank still lower in the water,
slowly punted by a Bargee out into the sunset. So
we started.
And presently the boat diverged as if eager to
be harnessed to ,the big horse that stood tall and
brown among the children on the towing-path,
where cockney fishers fished in shoals with the
pertinacity of fishers, taking no refusal. Some-
thing unusual was stirring. There was expectation
in the little group upon the bank, and the small son
of the barge, that mite of seven summers, sat astride
the big brown horse as accredited possessor and.
showman of the novelty. The new lights which
this position threw on his horizon were by no
means lost to Albert, who trailed the barge after
him beside the towing-path with the air of bringing
something of general interest.






































OXLTfN LV"Ui A -- PI Al

SOMETHING UNUSUAL WAA STIRRING


hN


ii




,~-


-.*-.^*A^


*v '








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


Seems like a Teaparty !' was the. conclusion of
the towing-path, summed up last by three on the
Paddingtonian standpoint, formed by the flat top
of one of the projecting cubes of that row of houses
which keeps an eye on the canal as it goes out of
London.
'Chance for a sketch,' said a voice, an artistic
voice, close by. Three people in a barge, three
figures on a wall; title "A Mutual Estimate."
Throw in the sun setting behind the trees on the
island there, and&you have-a canal effect.'
'Metropolitan, but rather sweet,' drawled the
Cadet, with his elbows on the bulwark.
We were all leaning on the bulwark in more or
less receptive attitudes, waiting for ideas of barge
life to come along the bank. For London had
already closed into itself, and might have been a
hundred years away. And other barges passed, '
with the flitting hedges and the moving banks, but
they were only shadows that grew real in a brief
'Good-night' to the helmsman aft, and dis-
appeared, closing the darkness gently after them.
Us, in generally, stops here ; leastways when








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


we're going with the load.' It was the Bargee's
face that shone over the bulwark with a tentative
inquiry. Being Willesden, there's stabling for the
'orse, at least if you think proper The very facts
themselves depended on our pleasure it appeared.
Good idea. Let's stop somewhere for the
night! And it was delightful to tie up in the
growing darkness to the bank, and see Brown Dob
led off to find his corn.
There was still much to do before we could
begin to take Barge life in earnest. There were
the curtains to hang, Liberty curtains that had
taken a whole day to choose, and dhurries to be
draped over the fresh-scented pine of the little
cabins; and Liberty again in innumerable hangings
to be arranged all round the bulwarks gracefully.
And it all was a speciality and to be approached in
a proper spirit of due deference to the originators
of a Barge Idea-and they took us and it quite
seriously! Fancy taking people seriously on a
barge!
Perhaps it was because the Artist's shaded tie
was so ceremoniously immaculate and that his








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


sketch-book was packed up in his Gladstone bag.
Or, perhaps, the big cigar that the Cadet puffed
solemnly engrossed too much of his attention. At
any rate we began to feel that the masculine ele-
ment had not yet assimilated with its new sur-
roundings, and that the Liberty hangings were being
draped under the blackness of the old tarpaulin
almost too exactly as desired, and the' dhurries'
arranged aesthetically on either crosswise beam, with
a vagrant corner half suggesting, half concealing
the provision hampers, became altogether too
politely overpowering. And perhaps, it may have
been Miss Grove's Cambridge theories of a mon-
archy that were responsible for a slight straining of
relations with the crew perceptible about this time.
The last fold of the last 'hanging' strayed
negligently beneath the Cadet's too punctilious
hammer, andhe spoke collectedly and quietly, but
he took the barge by storm.
'Now,' he said, 'you will excuse us, but we're
going.' It was a commonplace remark.
We looked at the Cadet, with his broad
shoulders and his polo cap askew, and the eyeglass








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


that never tumbled out, and he was inscrutable.
So we surveyed the artist, our ephemeral guest,
and gleaned nothing but a polite concurrence in
his general attitude. Could they do nothing
further for us? asked these special sentries of a
Barge. No, then Good-night and pleasant dreams.
And they straightway disappeared, vid the cross-
wise beam, and through a flap of the tarpaulin
roof. For when the roof was up the only other
exit was through the rudder cabin aft where the
B3argees lived.
On board there fell a silence. The possessors,
left in possession, were assimilating their sensations.
It was very qiiet down there on the canal,
despite the Willesden train that rattled by at
intervals. The tarpaulin roof closed in the boat
like the dense, black shadow of a starless sky. It
might have been a subterranean cavern we were in,
the cavern of some weird Sybarite fitted up for the
luxurious leisure of Herculean strength.
The Cadet,' quoth Girton, reminiscently, did
that rather well; it was quite diplomatic for a
man, it was even dignified.'








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


'It's easy to appreciate other people's be-
haviour, when you haven't been to bla-I mean
involved in any way.
Well, we are both stranded on a barge in a canal
at nine o'clock at night, whoever was involved,'
responded Girton, not reproachfully. And there
is not so much as a life-buoy between this and
London, I suppose,' she added, with the resig-
nation of the recipient of unprovoked ill-luck.
Do you really think they will go back to town
to-night ?-not that it makes the slightest differ-
ence,' I added hastily. And small Albert, peeping
round the cabin door before he was forcibly recalled
and sent back to bed, seemed to find much to
interest and instruct him in the appearance of two
ladies talking science with serious demeanours in
the deep well of a salt baige.
But the curtain hangings swayed a little where
the flap of the tarpaulin had been left uncorded,
and the lamps nailed to the beams cast flickering
shadows that fell in grotesque quivering contor-
tions to the dhurrie on the floor, and it was very
quiet down there on the canal. Even the little














i


1^

* .3


TF1,,r Y ; 1 1. .'r4 r L
T' F. -. A i '.P
IN THE TARPAULIN
ROOF








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


cabin aft was quite still and silent, for our Bargees
went to bed at sundown, as everybody should, and
there seemed to be only the tarpaulin between us
and the night sky and the dark deep water under-
neath. Suddenly, at the fore end, in the bows,
there was a sound. It was a grating, furtive sort
of sound, a scrabbling movement, as of contact.
Heavy boots muffled clumsily, on the barge side,
could it have been ?
'It's-it must be something,' murmured Girton,
as we stared breathless into the tarpaulin shadows
whence the ill-omened croak had come; and there
was nothing but the pat-pat-pit-pat of quickened
pulses to reward one's listening.
Shall we make a noise and frighten it ?' she
whispered, rigidly.
No; don't frighten it; it-it might fall into
the canal.'
'There's your Turkish dagger,' tentatively.
Edna always wore it thrust into her belt, and the
blade was quite two inches long.
'It's only the Bargee looking to the moor-
ings.'








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE 27

'The Bargee has been asleep for the last two
hours.'
'Perhaps it will go, anyway, if we kept still.'
Wherewith it came again.
We rose simultaneously.
Girton's face showed white in the dim half-
light, and the place seemed like a haunted
cave.
Unhitch the lamp,' she whispered. Gently,
we don't want to disturb it. I'm going to bed;
you can stay here if you like '
Now, our cabin being at the rudder end was
the more removed from the Formlessness that
seemed to have located itself on the forward ledge
of the barge outside. With silent alacrity I
unhitched the lamp and Edna laid her hand on
the cabin door to open it. She did not turn the
handle, because there wasn't one; neither did she
lift the latch. The only fastening that this door
had was a small wooden bolt inside, and-the door
did not respond, it would not open, it remained a
door, and shut. We looked each other blankly in
the face as the sound came again. It was coming








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


,r.,,i:1. Edna stood silhouetted in the semi-twi-
light of the flickering lamp beside the cabin door.
'Don't clutch,' she said, 'and hold that lamp
straight for half a minute if you can; I'm going to
say something. Next time we go bargeeing-
make a note of it-extra supplies of nerves will
considerably oblige; under present quantities we
are not outfitted for so much incident.' She spoke
in a sibilant whisper, and the loose flap over-
head rolled slowly back upon itself, and in the
sudden draught the lamp glimmered and went
out.
Hullo! what, are you up still, and in the
dark?' It was our crew, those invaluable boys,
who had thought better of it, and returned with a
loyalty worthy of Bargees.
They came, primed with meteorological apologies
of an amiable, if evanescent sort, and broke the
trance of silence that the barge had undergone.
'It was as dark as a wolf's mouth outside,'
they said, and they had had trouble in finding the
canal at all.
Had to climb a finger-post, and light a lucifer








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


to read it, at a place where four roads met just
this side of Willesden. Thought you would have
gone to bed, and we'd be bolted out.'
'You are not, but we are,' we responded,
breezily. 'We have been wanting you. Albert
was round here earlier, and must have slipped the
bolt; the door won't open any way.' We did not
breathe a word about the sound; we would have
rather died.
Well, then, they must force the door. There
was nothing easier, but-
'Hullo-what's that?' said the Cadet, with a
startled air.
What was it? The sound, scraping in the
bows again.
'That noise came before,' I said unconcernedly.
'Here, I say, who is there? What are you
doing ? Who the dickens are you ?' The Cadet
had a good deep pair of lungs and did not mind
using them.
All right, me son,' replied a gruff, hearty,
wholesome voice from the far end outside. 'Us is
only mooring up alongside you, and it's most too








30 TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE

dark to see the tackling lines; but us'ull not
disturb ye.' . .
'On the whole it is more satisfactory to have a
man on board a vessel of this sort,' said Edna as
she turned out the light, and I'm glad they didn't
go back to London '








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


CHAPTER III


HE light was com-
ing into the pine
cabin in red
streaks, where
the boards joined
with a scent
of resin and fir
woods. It had
gt rained, battering
p the old tarpaulin
in the night
with impotent in-
sistency, and yet
there were pinholes all over it, tiny inquisitive specks
that each had a different expression of sun-
lighted impertinence. Everything in this im-
promptu shanty had taken tone to match the







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


chinks, and everything was curiously picturesque.
It had been picturesque to go to sleep wrapped up
in a striped blanket on a dreaming barge, having
first discoursed all ordinary common-sense into
minutely ragged tassels. And I suppose that it was
picturesque as the grey dawn was creeping up with
a cold shiver over the canal that a muffled ghost
should steal out silently and carry off the rugs and
covers from the steamer chairs to supplement the
blanket. It, perhaps, was picturesque, as two
poor chilly ghosts were rejoicing in gradually
returning warmth, and the sense of magnanimity
that returning warmth ensures, that sudden
midnight fowls should have attempted to dispel
them before day broke-as ghosts of rank expect.
Shrill exultations all round the horizon threatened
us, screaming out uncouth warnings, and clamour-
ing for our departure to the shades of Dis. And
all the time these very cocks were misinformed on
every Cochin China legend of their ancestors, for
To-Day still hung shrouded in the veil of Yesterday,
and, wrapped in its first soft misty sleep, did not
intend to stir for any barnyard cock. But this was








7 WO GIRLS ON. A BARGE


such an unexpected form of canal vicissitude, it is
hardly to be wondered that we did not go.
A tiny dimple twinkled
about Edna's mouth as she ..
watched the red chinks and
the sun motes coming ', (a Y
through the roof, while
overhead along the narrow
gangway came a sound of
trampling and the lazy stir
of the morning waking up.
The sister barge that had
moored alongside in the
darkness was bestirring
itself too. It sent long
ripples lapping as it crossed
our bows, and the Bargee >-
exchanged the time and .
weather with the old fidelity
of custom, as it passed on
with its load. The Bargee THE BARaEE'S VISITOR
was taking off the awning, and standing just above,
one could not help hearing what he said. It








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


was a subdued conversation and touched intimate
concerns. I have no business to retail it.
'What's a'boord then, sonny?'
Pleasure boat, me son.'
'Onlikely cargo that.'
'Never seen the like this way afore and I've
been eight and thirty year going up and down.
Sleeps, why 'ud sleep till suven o' the morning.'
Edna,' I said suddenly,' it's nigh on six by the
very latest dandelion clocks. Do you want to
sleep till suven o' the morning ?'
Next, it was the Cadet outside forecasting
breakfast with a certain hunger to the prophet on
the roof. 'By the bye, if we were to keep a pig to
run along the towing-path, could Mrs. Bargee
cook him, do you think ?'
'Law bless ye, Mir, why she could cook anything;
her hasn't got a equal, not my missus '
And yet another unseen voice from some more
distant region and a lengthy consultation in a
monotone. Only scraps and fragments float in
through the chinks. There has been a serious
oversight, and the fragments grow gloomily des-








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


pondent and call in the Bargee. There is no
'mirror' to be found. They seek for substitutes;


'SLEEPS! WHY, 'UD SLEEP TILL SUVEN 0' THE MORNING'

but the cut glass of the sherbet tumbler refracts in
a way that has been unknown to science until now.








TWO GIRLS ONIV-A BARGE


Even the Bargee is hopelessly nonplused, for he
only shaves, it appears, in answer to inquiries,
when he goes 'on the purposely' to the nearest
town . .
Breakfast in the middle of the barge might
have served as an epitome of character for Mr.
James, had he wished to study an illogical quartet.
Mrs. Bargee mashed' our tea, and she made
it very good. To mash your tea is colloquial canal.
We hadn't got a fire so we couldn't mash our own,
but we bought a spirit-lamp at Rickmansworth,
price one shilling, with a tin saucepan all attached
for the special purpose, and the first time we used
it it blew up. At least, it made such a conflagra-
tion as to discourage further efforts, so Mrs. Bargee
mashed our tea, while he of artistic tendencies
foraged for the milk, which presently arrived,
in a paper bag and dripping at all the corners.
Unluckily, the principal commodity that there
was on board seemed just then to be sweet bis-
cuits and Bath Chap. However, Mrs. Bargee lent
us a great liberal cottage loaf, the consumption
of which was considerably interrupted by the














































MRS. BARGEE MASHEDE' OUR TEA







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


necessity we found not to miss the view. In this
matter of provisions, we got them whenever we
were hungry, and that usually chanced in some
particularly lonely spot. That day, for breakfast I
remember, there wasn't any sugar, but, then, the un-
expected mushrooms! The Cadet's face was falling
rather as he chivvied the air bubbles in the table-
cloth with his hands full of spoons-he possessed a
' club,' you know, in the ordinary process of events
--when Edna appeared upon the bank requesting
to be taken in with a great bowl of them. .ZEsthe-
tically creamy terra-cotta tinted things that we
could all appreciate. She had got them in a daisy
field and the dew was on them still.
But it was the solitary farms that stood back
in their unkempt clover fields with their red poppies
nodding on the breezy uplands that really fascinated
us. We rifled their hen roosts-carrying off the
new-laid eggs perilously in blazer pockets, where
they hob-a-nobbed with Indian ink and dainty
tubes of paint, while the ample mistress of farm
produce, in her sun-bonnet and bib, looked on and
cautioned recklessness with the concern of thrift.







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


Simple, fresh-complexioned people Owners of
wide barley fields and rickety old barns and sweet
hay-scented byres, it was no wonder Girton sud-
denly discovered she had a genius for country life!
For, once past the boundary of metropolitan
indifference, with its puny self-centreing of all
interest and concern, and out among the Bargee
people on the brown canal, you come to a strong,
independent mould of thinking that does not
reason cavilling as we others do. Bargees are not
affected by half the trifles that make such a
clattering of tin patty-pans beyond the towing-
path. In the first place, they have no land taxes,
and that is something, anyway! And Mrs.
Sunbonneted Farmmistress who lives by the canal,
with her roomy chimney corner, and her apple
orchard, and her yellow butter, and wide, flat bowls
of milk, would no more let you go away without
testing her abundance than she could deprive
herself of the pleasure of her own broad smile as
the Cadet informs her, standing in her dairy
drinking it, that cream is his only weakness, and-
sadly-we have no accommodation for a cow.







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


It was a halcyon way of taking life.
Our 'usually' attitude, as the Bargee would
say, was an extreme content with idleness. Idleness
in action, idleness at leisure. There was small
apparent difference. Idleness in action perhaps
may indicate the artist sketching, which was the
very luxury of idleness. His drawing-boards and
pencils strewed the narrow gangway with that air
of negligence peculiar to artistic properties, and his
feet dangled blissfully. He never made bad shots
or began again. When he felt like it he sketched,
and the sketch grew of itself. When he didn't feel
like it he didn't sketch. Generally Mrs. Bargee
"- steered, sometimes the Cadet. That was very idle;
and we bumped against the bank. In fact, the
only people who were really busy were Edna and
myself, sitting on the yellow cabin watching Dob.
I don't know why we called him Dob-his name
was Tom; and he was known to the Bargees
simply as the 'orse.' Perhaps it was that Eccles
said he 'waddled more than the old mare.' But
that hardly seems a reason. Mrs. Bargee reproved
Eccles when he said it; she told him not to be















































































IDLENESS IN ACTION








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


'ondacent'-I should not have repeated it,
perhaps.
So we left Uxbridge far behind, with its funny
little streets and utterly uncomprehending air. It
seemed to be holding on to a ragged corner of
Nurse LOJdon's city cloak, and sucking a chubby
sun-tanned finger, as if it didn't quite know what
to make of all the baby brick-kilns standing round
about it so perplexingly. And dawdling through
the morning, we came after a long while to
Rickmansworth. Another of those funny little
centres, blistered, overgrown, and under-populated,
that have been silted up high and dry between the
railway and canal. Rickmansworth, however, has
two stations, and you see its name on Great
Western notice-boards. That was quite ridiculous,
and the brown tracks flowed off on either side; one
to nobody knows where, the other to everybody
knows what sordid destination. But neither
stayed a moment, needlessly, for fear of being
overtaken of that continual procrastination winding
in and out and round the little stranded centre,
like the tangles of a first offence.







STWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


Here we shopped extensively. We bought
provisions and a mirror, and a spirit-lamp and a
pair of canvas shoes. Rather, we did not buy the
shoes, for the Rickmansworthian- foot seems of an
excessive and unyielding similarity, and Mr. Squif
entirely refused to cultivate a foot t:, fit_.the size.
We, in turn, refused to have the ui'5'ror-Iii., to a
purely frivolous account in the Rickmansworthian
estimate of womankind, and stopped outside an
advanced tobacconist's-the only emporium- for
such articles of bijouterie in Rickmansworth--with
a deprecatory unconsciousness of attitude.
About provisions, we didn't know precisely how
much one could eat on board a barge, neither did
we wish to appear ridiculously ignorant. So we
told the little lady of the bread and .butter shop to
give us enough bread for four. She looked
gravely out of her blue eyes and asked how many
loaves we would like to take. We deliberated
carefully.. If you cut a two pound loaf into equal
junks each junk would not be so very small;
but then it wouldn't do not to-have enough, con-
sideringly. On the other hand we would on no








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


account anticipate our wants, we would provide
only for immediate need. But-for one may as
well confess it first as last-though we ate, and
ate, and ate that bread for days, and Eccles helped
us all he could, it got staler, staler, and more stale,
till we tbhouiht, it never would be done. The milk
and B.itti 'u quantities were very puzzling, too.
'Half a pound?' inquired she of the china eyes.
'Do you think that would be very much ? '-Edna
consulted her, suggestively. Two and three,' said
she, with such complete irrelevance as seemed
astonishing. Edna thought we should take a pound
to be on the safe side-and would she kindly show
us how much half a pint of milk would look ?
We bought the most applicable little red stone
jug to take the milk away in, and divided the
loaves and butter and the buns into equitable
portions that we carried with some pride. But
it was very odd how Bickmansworth insisted, in
the person of every worthy citizen we met, in
regarding us as the wandering fractions of some
harmless sort of joke.







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


CHAPTER IV

WTE found our canal lingering lovingly through
Lady Keppel's park he third morning of our
wanderings; and there we lingered too, where the
big trees come up to the water's edge and dip their
branches in, telling all the secrets that they know.
It was pleasant idling through the shadows and
among the applepie,' that half-submerged fringe
to the meadow mantle. And the soft green light
that came down into the water showed tiny brown
minnows lurking and glinted with a sudden flash
on their red fins, scattering in dismay as our dark
reflection fell on them. The Cadet could not
refrain from the expression of a sentiment.
After all,' he said, 'it seems to me there is a
modicum of bliss in this sort of thing, if you set
your mind to it.'
We had come to Lady Keppel's acres through








46 TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE

' a many' locks. First a pound and then a lock, a
lock and then a pound-'pound' being a canal
definition of the level reaches that lie between the
locks-and we had begun to feel like some sort of

*: '* *" - 1..









'v/i- ^ j- -








THROUGH LADY REPPEL'S PARK

accomplices in a very old book of the Arabian
Nights. For these locks were, many of them,
quaintly picturesque, with the quaintness that
arises from an undisturbed possession of them-
selves. The lock-house never interferes. It stands








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


back into the scenery, and the flickering shadows
of the damson orchards that have crept up from
behind play hide-and-seek with it continually.
The lock is merely a sort of fallow source of
revenue that concerns nobody but us and the
Bargee. We never saw a lock-keeper, in that
capacity, from the first gate to the last that we
went through. But his house is overgrown with
clematis and climbing pear, and he sits on the low
sunny wall in front of it in a wide planter's hat,
doing nothing all day long. He looks very happy
and contented doing it, and the Bargee sturdily
toiling at his windlass tells us that his ambition too
is to own a lock. We agree with him that it is
pleasant labour and not difficult. But we, by pre-
ference, would choose a lock that has a disused lobe,
a sedge garden, sleeping by it. The one with the
old ferry boat that lies all water-logged and grass-
grown in the quiescence of decay.
Apart from a proprietorship, however, there
are disadvantages about a lock. We smashed
nearly all our remaining crockery in one. But
then our cups and saucers came to grief on every








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


possible occasion. There seemed a sort of fate
about it. Nearly every time Mr. Squif or the Cadet
descended with any violence from the cabin roof to
the crosswise beam, an array of crocks' would
inevitably have been just balanced there. And
this, in conjunction with a further career of having
boiling afternoon tea on a most unsteady table dur-
ing the processes of locks, had left us with a
minimum of crockery that necessitated drinking
it in tumblers, and decided us that on the whole it
was considerably safer to begin with those upon
the floor. It was the Cadet who finally insisted
on this lowly situation. For in the excitement of
the moment of a bump one instinctively held on
to what came handiest, and the Cadet unfortunately
had just held on to the red end of his cigar instead
of the damp and luscious one as he grasped at the
spirit-kettle-which had been nearest him.
And we, lingering, floated away from Lady
Keppel's park and through the wooded country that
lay on its other side, and under dainty little bridges
through which our canal wound on. These little
round stone bridges, where Eccles halloed and








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


chanted to make the echoes answer him, were our
Academician's happiness and pain. He despaired
for them. They were such self-conscious pictures;
they even framed themselves-in smooth dark
reflections that semicircled underneath till it was
hard to say where the reality began and the shadow
ended. And sometimes a mediamval barge would
shelter in their shadow-the Shannon' or the
'March,' full of yellow bricks or dusky tiles,
watched over by some old sunburned bargee as
taciturn as they.
These other barges that we passed filled us with
admiration for our small boy, Eccles, and with
emulation of the canal dwellers themselves. In the
first place, passing by at all seemed an inextricable
proceeding when the relative towing lines had once
got into an X, fastened at every end by either a
Dobbin or a barge. Until, exactly in the nick of
time, Dob and Albert would slack their line into
the water, while the other barge passed over it, and
the other horse stepped gingerly across it, and we
each passed on as though this thing had never
been.








.'* 50 TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE

As to the emulation they aroused, one barge in
particular struck this note in us as we crossed lines
S with it. It was being drawn by a gipsy girl.
' ',Rather, a bargee'girl with a gipsy face, and a red
S kerchief on her head, ahd whose brown donkey
browsed along beside her like a patient Familiar
waiting for his turn. It had a Neapolitan effect
that we envied her. In fact, we attempted it our-
selves, but our disadvantages outbalanced the effect.
For the dear Bargee was quite distressed, and our
Crew would offer foolish help as it smoked its
cigarettes in two supercilious little spiral wreaths
of blissful satire. And then Dob wouldn't follow
us, he only stood regarding the performance with
a quite peculiar expression, half resentfully. . .
I am sorry to accuse him of it, but I am afraid
there are no extenuating circumstances--the Cadet
was mathematical. It was borne in' on us persis-
tently, and yet was a continual surprise on this
vessel of illogical development. His interest in
locks was a most suspicious circumstance; it had
no connection with the dusky tints of the old stones
anil the subdued tone of the mosses. His analysis







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


chanted to concerned itself with the weight of cubic
feet of water and the immutable laws of leverage.
I am afraid there is no possibility of screening Talbot
from the inevitable deduction-he was not illogical.
He grew restless when one talked of mosses, or Mr.
Squif and Edna began discussing Art. He inspired
the beholder with a secret horrible conviction that
he comprehended vulgar fractions, and that he
would even wish to be conversant with the rule of
three whenever the National Gallery was mentioned
or the Salon seemed impending. For Mr. Squif
and Edna talked a good deal of Art. They raved
of colour and of colourists from Whistler and Duran
to Titian; they ranged the painter's globe discours-
ing-what I cannot tell; but that boldly dominat-
ing whole designs, and which was broad, or chic, or
fine, as enthusiasm seemed to prompt. . .
Mr. Squif was sketching as we crept on our
noiseless errand under the overhanging boughs in
Lady Keppel's park, idly toying with the balances
of happiness in our accustomed attitudes. And
already Velasquez had begun to charge the conver-
sational atmosphere, with the usual result. The


51 ,








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


Cadet became inscrutable-he always did on these
occasions. He retired, as it were, behind his eye-
glass. This eyeglass might at times have been a
crystal shutter through which he himself could see,
yet nobody outside see him. The Cadet interested
Edna. His polo cap was striped of such decisive
colours, red and white, and he wore it always the
same way, a measured inch over his left eye. All
his possessions were immaculate, and the eyeglass
never tumbled out. He always acted as she knew
he would, and yet he was a continual surprise.
Talbot's information, also, was always ready
and to hand. Just then he began exhaustively to
explain to me the whole construction and theory of
a lock, and I found it most instructive. The lock
par example of the moment had two miniature
swimming baths attached, and the Cadet knew why
the water bubbled up in one and boiled down in the
other with no apparent sequence of results. He
told me how it is that only half the water is wasted
every time a boat goes through a lock instead of
all of it-and I didn't understand. It appeared to
me unnatural that in a course of years the canal








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


did not run dry since it was not circular, and the
locks all ran out towards the same direction. The
Cadet was not explicit on the point. He suddenly
remembered he ought to write a letter. Then Edna
turned to remonstrate. Here had we broken with
the Nineteenth Century-the Bargee might have
been Gabriel himself come down to rescue us-
what had we to do with wandering letter boys or
weekly newspapers? We knew no such innova-
tions. We would not be linked to them by so much
as a perforated change of postage stamps. But as
he persisted, we fell to wondering vaguely what he
would do with his epistle when he had finished it,
and watched him unhitch his pencil from his chain
with a curious sense of interest.
'By the bye,' said he, 'I suppose this craft has
got a name ?' And he poised his pencil on his
finger like a little gold exclamation mark.
Edna looked at me and her eyes laughed
naughtily, for, this was a subject we had carefully
avoided.
'It is a barge,' she said; what would you
have more ?'







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


I believe the name,' our artist murmured,
putting in the tassel of her cap abstractedly, is
very nearly painted out.'
Whereupon the Cadet consulted Mrs. Bargee at
the tiller with some determination, for there are
things one must not trifle with even on a barge,
and Fact is one of them. From our alfresco draw-
ing-room the Cadet only had to crane his neck and
speak a little louder to get Mrs. Bargee's smiling
sun-bonnet to an answering focus from her post
beside the tiller.
We consulted Mirs. Bargee on every possible
occasion. She couldn't tell us much of the villages
we passed, and neither she, nor the Bargee knew
anything of those that stood even a stone's throw
inland, but she gave us a great deal of extraneous
information. She didn't skamble,' ever; when
her day's work was done she got the Bargee's
supper and taught Albert his lettering. She never
troubled about the places that they passed, 'cept to
get her bit of marketing, and that was always the
same road. Once she went a journey, it was when
they took the boat to Oxford. It's what us calls a






























hL


MRS. BABRGE1E


. L







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


river there,' you understand. Bat she never
wanted to go that way no more, there was very
dangerous places in what us calls a river,
and she was skeered to death for fear Ecclcs
should fall in-' King Eccles us calls him-me
little soon, you know. Dookie, what are you about ?
Ah! ye naughty boy, why can't ye let it be?'
The day the message came from Mr. Corbett that
they was to be ready to let us have the boat, first
Mr. Fox, he sent for the Bargee, and they couldn't
think what they could have done. They thought
'Iwas something dreadful was the matter, that they
did. But they never seen such a turn-out not in
this canal afore as 'we is now.' She'd a little gurl
-talk about a pretty little gurl!-and she was at
school down along the Wall Docks, but when she
heard about this job she did wish as she could
come. . No, she didn't know much about the
places on the bank, but she daresay Dad would
know.' And a shrill scream of, Dad, they wants
to know!' was a signal that always brought
the Bargee, radiant, and primed with tangled
information, from his pacing after Dob along







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


the towing-path. And as we tell him what it is we
want to know, his face is like the opening of a
water-gate when the canal first begins to drip in
gently at the chinks. That was Girton's simile-
it is pretty, isn't it ?
'Mrs. Bargee, what is our canal boat's name ? '
inquired the Cadet, in a suave tone of partnership
that became him very well. If the Cadet had
said 'barge' and not canal boat,' Mrs. Bargee's
feelings would have suffered an indignity. As it
was she paused, looking at him dubiously. And
you been all this time and not know that,' she said.
'Why us be the Industrious" of course.'
Again we felt obliged to remonstrate with the
Cadet. He should not, at least, present us to
the Nineteenth Century in a pseudo-halo that we
could by no possibility retain. If he insisted on a
definite delineation and address, he, at any rate,
must not reflect upon the divination of the Muse
who selected us and it. And a heavy lock gate
swinging to behind us, the barge heaved gently
upward in its untrammelled course, knocking,
rocking, unhampered, unrestrained, as the kelpies







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


rushed and tumbled where the water was at
play.
"In a lock"' -wrote Talbot, reading his
address. 'Is that too definite? '"Abarge." "Three
days out of London." "Time, date, and century
lost or problematical." "England."'' If anyone
had got a compass he could give it more exactly,,
he parenthesized regretfully. For the tiny thing
inside his watch had not been corrected by a
magnetic variation, and might not be accurate, and
if the Cadet could not be immaculate he would not
be at all. So Mr. Squif made a picture of his
present habitation under the address, to elucidate
the matter . .
Then we had to look for a pillar-box to post the
letter in. But we did not find even the illusion of
a postman's knock among the old man's beard'
and bryony and the trailing sweetness of those
country lanes. After all, the Nineteenth Century
was so far off and so very long ago it really didn't
matter, and we fell to playing soldiers with wiry
plantain stalks, till a small boy, a very small boy,
who might have just come out of a Kate Green-








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


away canvas, pointing with a grubby, unsophisti-
cated forefinger, told us King's Langley was up
there. Up there we went; it was a long, straight
road with wide grass on either side, and it proved
the boy was right-at least, if you may believe a
finger-post that bore also this inscription,' London,
eighteen miles.' Eighteen miles After travelling
for three days in all the simple artlessness of
complete rusticity. Thus is the modern letter
vilified.
But fate having brought us to King's Langley,
the city of a Liliputian street, we paid the homage
due at the shrine of local precedent. The dapper
little hostelry that stands by an iconoclastic finger-
post to console the disillusionised wayfarer opened
hospitable doors to us through a tiny green
verandah, and we were consoled-with mutton and
green beans. Madame-when mutton belongs to a
past century and green beans are a hallucination of
it too, one does not forget these things so easily.
Neither is it permitted every day to dine at "noon
in a tiny parlour, with its window darkened by
geraniums, and where an amiably fantastic person







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


in a lace collar and dress-coat pirouettes in a post
of honour on the wall. And let me tell you that
Lord Broughton, even pirouetting, is an elevating
member of any party in a country inn, and more
so should he happen to be tete-d-tete with a William
the King trampling on a charger to the throne.
Though the Cadet did insist that this beruffled
gentleman, John Broughton known to fame, was a
champion prize-fighter and no Prime Minister at
all, there was no mistaking kingly William pirouet-
ting jauntily, yet with a certain pseudo-stateli-
ness, to the rhythm of the old piano, that flooded in
long cadences from Edna's head into her fingers
and out into the shabby little room.
The commercial traffic of King's Langley would
seem to consist of a baker's cart waiting for the
baker. It behoved us therefore to regard this
vehicle with respectful interest. And, regarding it
through the medium of the Cadet's eyeglass, its
municipal significance gradually faded and left
nothing with us but a yearning-a yearning for
more substantial reminiscences of the warm fra-
grance that pervaded it.








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


Polly !' quoth the Artist, interpreting, we
want a loaf of bread.'
The small mite in charge of the commercial
interests of the town arranged herself artistically
on the driving-box, settling her small skirts with an
air of knowing more than that!
Grab it-and run-before the baker comes,'
drawled he of the crystal optic, focussing a par-
ticularly big, well-baked magnate of the oven in a
manner most suggestive of the opportunity.
But we did not feel capable of subjecting the
digestion of King's Langley to such an act of
violence after its behaviour in the matter of the
beans. We discoursed the baker's representative
in a spirit of sweet reason. We told her we had
come from a Noah's Ark, and when we got back we
should have no bread for tea. We described the
situation feelingly, thinking that it would appeal
to her. Instead, the small imp giggled. We
asked with some severity if all the loaves were
'ordered,' if they were already destined to special
customers? And the small imp bubbled over. It
bubbled, and forcibly restrained itself; it fizzed



















































FOUR PEOPLE BUBBLING. ALL FOR NOTHING BOUND A LITTLE IHrIP







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE 63

internally, and then suddenly exploded-till the
circle, applicant, around the baker's cart became
infected; and, having once begun to bubble,
bubbled out of very sympathy of foolishness. So
that King's Langley hobbled to its doors inquiringly
-a plastic wide inquiry that involuntarily began to
bubble too, to see four people bubbling all for
nothing round a little imp in a baker's cart.







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


CHAPTER V

W E always anchored for the night, just as the
summer twilight kissed all the country
gravely, and the sky drooped, and the meadows
fell asleep. It is an evening light that comes back
to me the oftenest in writing this. And when the
shadows of the poplars" stood sharp and cool, and
the seven stars of the Waggon showed in the dark,
still water where the barge lay moored, even the
Cadet sometimes forgot to talk in parallelograms.
When the Japanese umbrella made night fantastic
about it, and the fairy lamps hung in their own
pale light under the dark skyline of the gangway,
the artist developed troubadour effects. He whistled
from the opera, softly, to lilting castanets; or he
would produce a mandoline and play, like the
gondolier on a porcelain vase-purely for artistic
reasons!







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


It was in the half-light that we crept up from
the canal, and out into the quiet country where the
landscape slowly faded and the cornfields rustled,
dreaming of the idyll the night air whispered as it
passed. Like thieves we stole silently among the
hedges and the darkening trees, and came some-
times only to a moonrise beyond a distant stile, and
sometimes to a village belated in the fields.
So we found Stoke Brewin, with its low-roofed
cottages among its grass-grown roads. A tiny old
village, with its lonely churchyard sloping on the
hill and the wishing-gate ajar beyond, where the
path leads towards the sunset over the wide fields.
Vibrations from those years that one only remembers
dimly nestle under the wide eaves where the swal-
lows build, and nothing matter any more to the
village gaffers smoking on the bridge, and no one
goes up to the wishing-gate. The gaffers gossip all
they mind them.' Till the summer night comes
down and warns them of a creeping rheumatiz,'
and they get stiffly off the round stone wall, and
knock the ashes from the long white pipes, and
totter off together. They have not learnt that







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


smocks are out of date, and they touch their fore-
locks as we pass.
And the wishing-gate swings gently, with the
sunset in its bars. And Edna, with her elbow on the
topmost rail, made no response to the Cadet, who
found Stoke Brewin just what he would have ex-
pected it to be if he had been told it was an ordi-
nary little English hamlet in a midland county.
'It's a mistake, you know,' he added, confident;
'people shouldn't be allowed to rust and demoralise
the educational tendency down here in the pro-
vinces. They ought to be obliged to hitch on to
the county centres by Act of Parliament.'
Hitch their waggons to the Polar system of an
Uxbridge or a Rickmansworth! quoth Mr. Squif,
studying the old grey tower of the little church.
But she only wrapped her long cloak more
about her and put the other elbow on the meadow
gate that the sun had kissed. And presently I
think the Cadet must have retracted that utili-
tarian sentiment of his, for he was arguing the
advantages of three acres and a cow in a way
known only to the logical.








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


Well, then, there was Berkhampstead. Berk-
hampstead reclining its lank self away inland, but
staying for a little space on the side of the canal to
dabble its white stones. The lamps were being
lighted in the darkening streets. There are fewer
lamps to be lighted in the High Street of Berk-
hampstead than in any town of its importance I
have ever seen. For, according to the cutler, who
t3Old us the annals of the place, on Berkhampstead
has depended the historical importance of the
British Empire from the time when St. Paul visited
it and drove thunderstorms and serpents out of it
for ever to the present year of grace. I can't say
that personally we met either the one or the other
in its forbidden precincts, but the cutler went on to
King Wihthraede, and that was just 697 years,
when Edna asked him if he ever had. He gave us
a great deal of interesting information, this historic
cutler, as we stood among the tinware in his tiny
shop. He told us how William of Hastings came
here to be crowned after the battle of Normandy,
and that Chaucer the poet was his private secretary
at the time, and wrote the account of the proceed-







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


ings by which we are informed. And he told us of
the moss-grown well beside the path in what was
Mr. Cooper's garden, now the Rectory well, beside
the Rectory tennis-court.
'Some calls him Mr. Cowper, I have heard,' he
added, leniently; but we addresses Mr. Cooper
here, and we ought to know, I think.'
Talbot and Mr. Squif seemed to find an inex-
plicable fascination every now and then in the
passers-by outside throughout this conversation,
and at last disappeared entirely. So Edna and I
wandered up to the old Castle grounds alone. The
moat was grown up with reeds, and trees had.
clustered on the great protecting dyke, and there
was nothing left to mark where the courtyard
stood. Here and there a fragment of grey masonry
showed luminous in the dark circle of the trees.
Do you feel superstitious ? said Edna, putting
her hand into my arm.
'Not if it is an unpleasant sensation,' I
answered introspectively.
We were walking up and down among the
gnarled roots of the aspens on the huge earthworks








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


above the moat, and a little pool of water down
there gleamed like a steel scabbard in a dark
recess.
Do you know what I've been thinking ?' she
went on presently. 'I think it was very good of
Mr. Grove to come.'
'Yes,' I said; and a white owl hooted in the
moonlight as its great silent wings almost brushed
our faces; he is a splendid chaperon.'
'You are realistic!' said Girton, with a touch
of coldness.
'No, I'm not! And I quite agree with you.
You know very well what I think of the Cadet. I'd
trust him-to be completely logical-in the greatest
emergency, as in the most exasperating trifle.'
'At any rate, you are remarkably definite,'
said Girton. I can't say I have epitomised this
logic that you talk so much about to the extent of
making it account-'
'No,' I said, 'it doesn't. Talbot's a good
fellow-a dear old chap -and we've been chums
from the time that we were six.'
'Come,' said Edna, suddenly assuming her







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


most ordinary tone of voice, do you know this
place is haunted and the sun's quite gone? We
shall be meeting the awful black goat that the lord
of Berkhaampstead met. It was Earl Moreton in
those days, you know, and he was walking slowly
up and down this very terrace thinking. He didn't
know that Rufus had been shot straight through
the heart with an arrow in the New Forest that
identical afternoon, till suddenly-he was face to
face with a great black goat. It was carrying the
,body of King Rufus, all black and ghastly and
horrible. And the lord of Berkhampstead fell on
his knees in front of it, and adjured it by the
Holy Trinity to tell him what it meant-but the
black goat passed on into the shadows.'
'I am glad you didn't say "into the shadows of
these very trees,"' I commented, because in the
days of the black goat the terrace was a castle
wall, and had no trees on it. Is the cutler
responsible for the blood-curdling tale ? '
No,' said Edna. Chaucer told it me himself
when he was private secretary to the Conqueror
after the battle of Normandy-it must have been








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


Chauncey whom he meant
dear!'


was his authority, poor


THE AWFUL BLACK GOAT


Oh! if you come to that,' I said, Chaucer
* was clerk of the works at Berkhampstead-in
Richard the Second's time.' ..







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


'Leighton Buzzard it 'ull be to-night,' said
Mrs. Bargee next day. It's a good stopping' place
is Leighton, and there's fodder for the 'orse.' But
Mrs. Bargee was flustered as she stated this as a
predetermined fact. If she had not been flustered
she would immediately have added, leastwayss, in
the best of our endeavors it will be Leighton
Buzzard.' Perhaps that was an added reason fox
our not finding ourselves at Leighton when the
evening came. Here, however, it is necessary to
begin at the beginning. I had just received a
telegram-wasn't that enough to fluster anyone ?
-a telegram requiring a whole barge family to
assist at its delivery. I had never received a
telegram so instinct with nerves before, and, as I
tore the yellow envelope across, it was like an
electrified anticipation point in the respiratory
organ of a colony. I read out the missive slowly
and impressively:-
'Will look in with pleasure. Meet us at
station, if you can.-EssINGTON.'
General and Mrs. Essington! Our flutter of
anticipation rivalled the Bargee's. That telegram







'TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


was like one of the delightful surprise-packets of
one's youth, full of sweets with caraways inside.
What can we offer them to eat out of ?' It


I READ OUT THE MISSIVE SLOWLY AND IMPRESSIVELY


was the housewife's comment, and Edna and I
made it simultaneously.
'What can we offer them to eat ? that's much
more to the point,' the Cadet and the R.A. ejacu-
lated, also simultaneously.







74 TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE
*
It had never occurred to the Cadet to mention
his invitation to the barge in general. Our invi-
tation, I should say, in that we appropriated it at
once with pardonable piracy, for of course this
consummation was in reply to the letter, which
you may possibly remember, we posted at King's
Langley. The Cadet's ideas were so large. It had
never occurred to him to announce that he had
told the Essingtons we should be here, not far
from Tring, sometime this afternoon, and that he
had promised we would wait for a reply, a personal
reply, he hoped. Now the only trouble attendant
on this was that our tea-drinking facilities, as I have
already told you, at present consisted principally
of wine-glasses and saucers; and our provisions
when set out for critical inspection seemed more
than usually disconnected in appearance.
Menu!' quoth the Artist, jotting off the items
on his fingers daintily. Afternoon tea for six, two
of them hungry travellers. Item, one teapot and
tea, complete; one bag of peanuts'-these Mr.
Grove wishes it clearly understood he considers
low '-and eats immoderately.* 'Item, one leg of








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


a fowl-in parenthesis, I don't want to be rude-an
aged one. Items, several bottles of Apollinaris, one
milk jug-empty, one butter dish, ditto. Anything
to come ? Ah, yes, three wine-glasses, two saucers,
and a cup !'
Theref re we went up to Tring at once. It was
market day, and where the pavement widened, as
it did here and there in the principal street of the
village, the stalls stood temptingly. A large pro-
portion of the goods were laid out on the ground,
and the sellers thereof vociferated of their wares
with an aggrieved expression of countenance when
we passed them by. Naturally everything was
very dusty, particularly the greengrocery; but we
got some quite artistic cups and saucers in this
village fair. They were blue and white, of a cottage
shape, and most appropriate. The demoiselle of
the china spread-truth prevents my calling this
fair Hebrew's domain a stall-possessed the most
fascinating back breadth, Girton said, that she had
Sever seen. Her front breadth did not inspire us at
all, but her demi-train of gorgeous flowery brocade,
and the remarkable adroitness with which she








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


continually gave us the full benefit of it, must, I
think, at least have trebled the value of that china
set. We were still lost in admiration of it when
of a sudden a cab rattled down the village street,
and the Essingtons had passed us, unrecognisingly,
and were careering away with a good two miles
before them in which to out-distance us. They
would arrive to find an empty barge. We looked
at each other, the four of us, with outraged hospi-
tality written in each attitude.
Clu-uck!' ejaculated the Artist-an ejaculation
that with him denoted any unusual sentiment.
Couldn't we throw stones to attract their atten-
tion somehow?' suggested Girton distractedly.
Nonsense. They are stopping now, and I
could catch them easily,' said the Cadet, looking at
her inquiringly. But Mrs. Bargee would explain
to them in any case.'
Oh! catch them by all means,' she said. The
cab had pulled up at the other end of the long
street, 'and General Essington was getting joys
for us again, this time at a confectioner's. The
Cadet dashed off to catch up with the stationary






































r .


WE GOT SOME QUITE ARTISTIC CUPS AND) SAUCERS IN THIS VILLAGE FAIR







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


cab, and we watched him as he raised his cap to
Mrs. Essington, and explained his sudden presence
there. The next thing we saw at the far end of
the street was a quick, careless vehicle, and the
frightened flutter of a white childish pinafore, and
the Cadet's sudden dash, and then a sort of squirm
and a red-striped polo blazer lying in the middle of
the road. And then Mrs. Essington was springing
from her cab, and the General had rushed out
of the confectioner's, with the pie he had been
purchasing caught up in his hand. But Talbot
wasn't killed, lie had saved the child, and the
eyeglass was still blandly in his eye. But his foot
was badly crushed, and he was faint as they
ensconced him in the cab.
'And this,' he added ruefully, 'is the way that
we receive you, Mrs. Essington '
But the General wouldn't hear of trapsing off,
as he expressed it, now to the canal with our V. C.
candidate. And the child who had, through
Talbot's intervention, so narrowly escaped with its
worthless little life, a dirty lint-haired ragamuffin
belonging to the fair, stood by on the pavement







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


watching unconcernedly as we bandaged his
crushed foot as well as we were able with.
embroidered pocket-handkerchiefs. An ungrateful
little ragamuffin! It went into fits of laughter as
Talbot winced, turning very white when the General
ripped his boot, though his only idea was to
apologise to Mrs. Essington for having frightened
her. And then the General carried us all off to dine
at the best hotel. And in spite of our advent ares
it was a merry dinner at the best hotel!-in the
society, at the other end of the room, of the Yet.,
a nice clean butcher in a smock, the chemist, and
the proprietor-and at which the unaccustomed
luxuries of gas, and fish-knives, and elaborately
folded serviettes, roused in us an enthusiasm that so
tickled Mrs. Essington she straightway declared
herself a wandering bargee also-for the sake of
the sensation. But the Cadet was more hurt than
he would allow, and our cheery pseudo-visitors,
impressing the necessity of rest and arnica, insisted
that they wouldn't let him speak another word, and
we said good-night' upon the doorstep and they
drove away.







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


The barge, as luck would have it, had gone on,
and was moored somewhere down there among the
meadows. But it had grown quite dark, and we
couldn't find it for some time as we limped along



;, I


THE SOCIETY AT THE OTHER. END OT THE ROOM


with sympathetic footfalls nervously through a
pitch-dark lane, Talbot leaning on Mr. Squif's arm,
and Edna and I wrapped up in one enormous
cloak. It was like a sudden beacon in the night








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


when the Bargee, hearing voices, threw open the
cabin door, and the warm light streamed out and
showed the weird ark on the silent water, and


MORE OF THE SOCIETY


kindled all the kindness in our own Noah's rugged
face as he commented at intervals, with his eyes on
the Cadet Well, well, well! to think of that !-
and him starting out so well!'







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


CHAPTER VI

'1 UILL,' came a faint, far-off wail to me,
shivering by the rudder.
And again-' Quill! '
What are you doing, and what is happening?'
'And so he give a screech and run inter his
hole,' I responded lucidly. Why don't you come
up and see? It's two miles long and black as
pitch.'
Shall we go through alone ?' came the voice,
reluctantly.
'We are going through like the centre carriage
in a train, and before and behind us are barges,
each linked to the next one following. At this
moment we are waiting outside the tunnel between
high banks covered with sparse, stunted firs. The
mist is deep on the canal, and beyond the sun is
rising. It's rather pretty-you'd better come up
yourse.'








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGA


Do they say it's-dangerous ?' came the voice
as though desirous to face the worst at once.
'The average of accidents is high for a single
tunnel. But the "black water" is always hungry.
A single slip on a greasy board, or a false step in
the darkness, and "the water will swallow you."
And nobody knows if you are in or out. Not that
it would do much good if they did, for the tug goes
forging on, and the barges cannot stop, and the
darkness is intense.'
'Blisworth,' shuddered the voice, almost invo-
luntarily, it seemed.
'Mr. Bargee,' I remarked, by way of reassur-
ance, 'has departed overland to escort "the 'orse,"
but Mrs. Bargee is with us. She is not much "in-
customed," she tells me, to piloting through the
tunnel, for she in-generally goes on with Dob, "or-
dinary like." But Mr. Bargee thought it "wouldn't
be jest what we might consider seemin'ly correct on
this occasion; and she tJinks that she can steer us
through. You know the place is haunted, I suppose ?2'
Do you mean as you've heerd tell of They ?'
It was Mrs. Bargee standing at my elbow with a







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


huge cup of steaming tea she had been preparing
with the kindly forethought we had grown accus-
tomed to depend on, unsolicited.
'You ain't never seen One-real like?' she
questioned, in a low, suppressed voice that startled


'MR. BARGEE HAS DEPARTED OVERLAND'


me in its intensity. It was cold as we stood there by
the rudder, waiting in the long line of barges before
the circular mouth of the tunnel, and her hand
trembled as she proffered me the homely cup of tea.








TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


SYou ain't never seen a haunter?' she insisted,
fearfully.
'I have never been through Blisworth,' I
answered carelessly. But at that moment some-
one beckoned-or so it seemed to me. And, sud-
denly, the little steamer shrieked and rushed into
the darkness, dragging us behind it.
We were in a black, domed passage, and it
was deathly still; in all that string of barges no one
spoke or moved. The gloom of the place encircled
us. An indefinable Presence moved with us in
the blackness. The nearness of the damp stones
impressed itself upon the eyes and played fantastic
tricks with the imagination. Every sense became
distorted, unnaturally acute; the silence was ap-
palling. The story the Bargee had told us of the
great White Spectre, boding evil to the boatman
whenever it appears, came back to me with a
meaning and a terror that yesterday had seemed
impossible. Ye jest slips yer foot, or overbalances,
and the black water swallows ye.' A vision of a
barge, like this one I was on, engrossed all my at-
tention. It was covered up, as ours was, with tar-







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


paulin, to keep the cargo dry; but two boards,
small, mean boards-' wings,' the Bargee had
called them-had been placed far out over the
cruel water on either side of it. They were narrow,
unprotected, slippery boards, and on one of them a
little, clinging, frightened boy was lying on his
back 'legging' the boat along, with nothing to
prevent his slipping off the plank but a hand
twisted under him and grasping it. It was the
first time he had done it, and he was 'well-nigh
skeered.' For his father seen it,' the Bargee had
said, 'only the day afore, and so then he slipped,
and the black water swallowed he.'
A cold, dank drop fell on my forehead, and I
looked up quickly; we were under a glistening spire
with the mists of the upper world entangled round
its top. Then all grew dark again. The water
became phosphorescent, and the air was stifling,
the steamer exhausted it before it got to us.
The sudden scr-r-r-ch of a match, struck close
beside me, almost overbalanced me; there was so
little margin even for a start where the edge of
the barge merged in the outer darkness. Mrs.







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


Bargee grasped my arm, and the red end of the
half-burnt match dropped with a fizz in the water.
'Ye see'd IT!' she ejaculated, and her voice rang
harshly, striking on the stones.
'Light our lamp,' I said sharply, for her foolish
superstitions irritated me. But the words took to
themselves echoes-' our lamp'-' our lamp,' like a
sort of ghostly requiem that went from barge to
barge, rolling and reverberating through the black-
ness of the corridor.
'Unkid! it be unkid,' whispered Mrs. Bargee,
as the tiny colzine burner cast a glimmer murkily,
which was repeated here and there in a lurid inter-
val along the shadowy chain of boats that had
obeyed the echo. 'Unkid-like afore a storm.
Miss- and her voice sank so low I could
scarcely catch the words, 'twere just here--'
'You've got my slippers on!' shot up a sud-
den and indignant protest from regions under
the tarpaulin roof. But I could not instantly reply,
for Mrs. Bargee was reposing in my arms and
gasping, It's the Haunter !'
It was like coming from Pandemonium to







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


perfect peace to issue out into the sunshine from
the black month of that tunnel. For, meanwhile,
the sun had risen, and the air was full of the
freshness and exhilaration that breathe when the
day is new. It was a dainty sight, as the long parti-
coloured barges broke away and spread over the wide
basin formed by the wooded banks, and fraught with
that gentle luxuriance that only comes after storm.
And the R.A., sauntering up, cool, and fresh, and
clean, and radiant in his snowy tie, for once agreed
with me thoroughly and satisfactorily; and we
went amiably together to beg roses from a dewy
garden situated on aipromontory of the conclusive
name of Northampton Amen.
There was somebody inquiring for you down
at Fenny Lock yesterday when I come through,'
said a tall brown bargee-' a stranger-man'-
accosting the roses principally, as we came back
to the barge. Our alfresco housekeeping evidently
interested him, for the Bargee had carried out
instructions; and had taken 'the roof off early.'
It was only the roses, however, that he couldn't
dismiss from the tunnel in his mind entirely satis-






































-> .


'THERE WAS SOMEBODY INQUIRING FOR YOU DOWN AT FENNY LOOCK
YESTERDAY'
7







TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE


factorily as one of the vagaries of four unemployed
-because at six o'clock in the morning they
seemed to him superfluous. Somebody inquiring
for us?' We found the stranger-man of surpass-
ing interest. 'What sort of a somebody?' But
the stranger-man was entirely preoccupied with
the Cadet's bandaged foot that had just limped
into the saloon, and beside which we were stand-
ing. 'He were down at Fenny Lock,' was the
extent of the information the combined efforts of
the crew could extract from him, even under the
influence of coffee and gingerbread, during the
disposal of which he told us, 'Yes, that Blisworth
war about the worst of the steamer tunnels, but
nothing by comparison with Crick and they, sooch
as ye've got to leg.' And, 'Oh! yes,' 'twas a
pleasant enough life in summer, but in winter
--Well, he would thank us very kindly, and he
hoped we'd have good weather for our pleasuring.
Twice again that morning we got messages
from Somebody, delivered by passing barges, and
our curiosity waxed great. At intervals, in a gene-
rally experimental attempt on the part of the