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An Inland Voyage - Down the Oise

1. Preface

2. Antwerp to Boom

3. On the Willebroek Canal

4. The Royal Sport Nautique

5. At Maubeuge

6. On the Sambre Canalised

7. Pont-Sur-Sambre We are Pedlars

8. Pont-Sur-Sambre The Travelling Merchant

9. On the Sambre Canalised

10. At Landrecies

11. Sambre and Oise Canal

12. The Oise in Flood

13. Origny Sainte-Benoite A By-Day

14. Origny Sainte-Benoite The Company at Table

15. Down the Oise

16. La Fere of Cursed Memory

17. Down the Oise

18. Noyon Cathedral

19. Down the Oise To Compiegne

20. At Compiegne

21. Changed Times

22. Down the Oise: Church Interiors

23. Precy and the Marionnettes

24. Back to the World



Below La Fere the river runs through a piece of open pastoral
country; green, opulent, loved by breeders; called the Golden
Valley. In wide sweeps, and with a swift and equable gallop, the
ceaseless stream of water visits and makes green the fields. Kine,
and horses, and little humorous donkeys, browse together in the
meadows, and come down in troops to the river-side to drink. They
make a strange feature in the landscape; above all when they are
startled, and you see them galloping to and fro with their
incongruous forms and faces. It gives a feeling as of great,
unfenced pampas, and the herds of wandering nations. There were
hills in the distance upon either hand; and on one side, the river
sometimes bordered on the wooded spurs of Coucy and St. Gobain.

The artillery were practising at La Fere; and soon the cannon of
heaven joined in that loud play. Two continents of cloud met and
exchanged salvos overhead; while all round the horizon we could see
sunshine and clear air upon the hills. What with the guns and the
thunder, the herds were all frightened in the Golden Valley. We
could see them tossing their heads, and running to and fro in
timorous indecision; and when they had made up their minds, and the
donkey followed the horse, and the cow was after the donkey, we
could hear their hooves thundering abroad over the meadows. It had
a martial sound, like cavalry charges. And altogether, as far as
the ears are concerned, we had a very rousing battle-piece
performed for our amusement.

At last the guns and the thunder dropped off; the sun shone on the
wet meadows; the air was scented with the breath of rejoicing trees
and grass; and the river kept unweariedly carrying us on at its
best pace. There was a manufacturing district about Chauny; and
after that the banks grew so high that they hid the adjacent
country, and we could see nothing but clay sides, and one willow
after another. Only, here and there, we passed by a village or a
ferry, and some wondering child upon the bank would stare after us
until we turned the corner. I daresay we continued to paddle in
that child's dreams for many a night after.

Sun and shower alternated like day and night, making the hours
longer by their variety. When the showers were heavy, I could feel
each drop striking through my jersey to my warm skin; and the
accumulation of small shocks put me nearly beside myself. I
decided I should buy a mackintosh at Noyon. It is nothing to get
wet; but the misery of these individual pricks of cold all over my
body at the same instant of time made me flail the water with my
paddle like a madman. The Cigarette was greatly amused by these
ebullitions. It gave him something else to look at besides clay
banks and willows.

All the time, the river stole away like a thief in straight places,
or swung round corners with an eddy; the willows nodded, and were
undermined all day long; the clay banks tumbled in; the Oise, which
had been so many centuries making the Golden Valley, seemed to have
changed its fancy, and be bent upon undoing its performance. What
a number of things a river does, by simply following Gravity in the
innocence of its heart!

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