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An Inland Voyage - Back to the World

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


Of the next two days' sail little remains in my mind, and nothing
whatever in my note-book. The river streamed on steadily through
pleasant river-side landscapes. Washerwomen in blue dresses,
fishers in blue blouses, diversified the green banks; and the
relation of the two colours was like that of the flower and the
leaf in the forget-me-not. A symphony in forget-me-not; I think
Theophile Gautier might thus have characterised that two days'
panorama. The sky was blue and cloudless; and the sliding surface
of the river held up, in smooth places, a mirror to the heaven and
the shores. The washerwomen hailed us laughingly; and the noise of
trees and water made an accompaniment to our dozing thoughts, as we
fleeted down the stream.

The great volume, the indefatigable purpose of the river, held the
mind in chain. It seemed now so sure of its end, so strong and
easy in its gait, like a grown man full of determination. The surf
was roaring for it on the sands of Havre.

For my own part, slipping along this moving thoroughfare in my
fiddle-case of a canoe, I also was beginning to grow aweary for my
ocean. To the civilised man, there must come, sooner or later, a
desire for civilisation. I was weary of dipping the paddle; I was
weary of living on the skirts of life; I wished to be in the thick
of it once more; I wished to get to work; I wished to meet people
who understood my own speech, and could meet with me on equal
terms, as a man, and no longer as a curiosity.

And so a letter at Pontoise decided us, and we drew up our keels
for the last time out of that river of Oise that had faithfully
piloted them, through rain and sunshine, for so long. For so many
miles had this fleet and footless beast of burthen charioted our
fortunes, that we turned our back upon it with a sense of
separation. We had made a long detour out of the world, but now we
were back in the familiar places, where life itself makes all the
running, and we are carried to meet adventure without a stroke of
the paddle. Now we were to return, like the voyager in the play,
and see what rearrangements fortune had perfected the while in our
surroundings; what surprises stood ready made for us at home; and
whither and how far the world had voyaged in our absence. You may
paddle all day long; but it is when you come back at nightfall, and
look in at the familiar room, that you find Love or Death awaiting
you beside the stove; and the most beautiful adventures are not
those we go to seek.

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