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An Inland Voyage - Down the Oise To Compiegne

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



The most patient people grow weary at last with being continually
wetted with rain; except of course in the Scottish Highlands, where
there are not enough fine intervals to point the difference. That
was like to be our case, the day we left Noyon. I remember nothing
of the voyage; it was nothing but clay banks and willows, and rain;
incessant, pitiless, beating rain; until we stopped to lunch at a
little inn at Pimprez, where the canal ran very near the river. We
were so sadly drenched that the landlady lit a few sticks in the
chimney for our comfort; there we sat in a steam of vapour,
lamenting our concerns. The husband donned a game-bag and strode
out to shoot; the wife sat in a far corner watching us. I think we
were worth looking at. We grumbled over the misfortune of La Fere;
we forecast other La Feres in the future;--although things went
better with the Cigarette for spokesman; he had more aplomb
altogether than I; and a dull, positive way of approaching a
landlady that carried off the india-rubber bags. Talking of La
Fere put us talking of the reservists.

'Reservery,' said he, 'seems a pretty mean way to spend ones autumn

'About as mean,' returned I dejectedly, 'as canoeing.'

'These gentlemen travel for their pleasure?' asked the landlady,
with unconscious irony.

It was too much. The scales fell from our eyes. Another wet day,
it was determined, and we put the boats into the train.

The weather took the hint. That was our last wetting. The
afternoon faired up: grand clouds still voyaged in the sky, but
now singly, and with a depth of blue around their path; and a
sunset in the daintiest rose and gold inaugurated a thick night of
stars and a month of unbroken weather. At the same time, the river
began to give us a better outlook into the country. The banks were
not so high, the willows disappeared from along the margin, and
pleasant hills stood all along its course and marked their profile
on the sky.

In a little while the canal, coming to its last lock, began to
discharge its water-houses on the Oise; so that we had no lack of
company to fear. Here were all our old friends; the Deo Gratias of
Conde and the Four Sons of Aymon journeyed cheerily down stream
along with us; we exchanged waterside pleasantries with the
steersman perched among the lumber, or the driver hoarse with
bawling to his horses; and the children came and looked over the
side as we paddled by. We had never known all this while how much
we missed them; but it gave us a fillip to see the smoke from their

A little below this junction we made another meeting of yet more
account. For there we were joined by the Aisne, already a far-
travelled river and fresh out of Champagne. Here ended the
adolescence of the Oise; this was his marriage day; thenceforward
he had a stately, brimming march, conscious of his own dignity and
sundry dams. He became a tranquil feature in the scene. The trees
and towns saw themselves in him, as in a mirror. He carried the
canoes lightly on his broad breast; there was no need to work hard
against an eddy: but idleness became the order of the day, and
mere straightforward dipping of the paddle, now on this side, now
on that, without intelligence or effort. Truly we were coming into
halcyon weather upon all accounts, and were floated towards the sea
like gentlemen.

We made Compiegne as the sun was going down: a fine profile of a
town above the river. Over the bridge, a regiment was parading to
the drum. People loitered on the quay, some fishing, some looking
idly at the stream. And as the two boats shot in along the water,
we could see them pointing them out and speaking one to another.
We landed at a floating lavatory, where the washerwomen were still
beating the clothes.

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