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FORM NO. 609; I2,3,37 ; (OCH.




TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE




The place seemed like a haunted cave



TWO GIRLS ON
A BARGE

ii ^

BY

V. CECIL COTES



WITH FORTY- FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS
BY F. H. TOWN SEND



NEW YORK

D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

1 891



Csrs

T



37^03



Authorized Edit



ion.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

PAGE
THE PLACE SEEMED LIKE A HAUNTED CAVE . . Frontisjpiece

THAT WAS ONE OF THE MOMENT'S TROUBLES .... 3

' DEPENDS ON WHAT I BE TO DO ' 9

' MRS. BARGEE ' 13

OUR OWN BARGEE 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

1 SLEEPS ! WHY, 'UD SLEEP TILL SUVEN O' THE MORNING ' . 35

MRS. BARGEE ' MASHED ' OUR TEA 37

IDLENESS IN ACTION 41

THROUGH LADY KEPPEL'S PARK 46

MRS. BARGEE 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



viii TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE

PAGE

' MR. BARGEE HAS DEPARTED OVERLAND ' 84

1 THERE 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 LOCKS Ill

4 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. BRADSHAW ....... 135

THE LADY GODIVA 145

COVENTRY . . . . 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



CHAPTEK I

rFHE 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
recognised apparently as topographical at all,



2 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



4 TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE

thought 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 5

* 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.

1 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 wot 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 realised 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 7

'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.

1 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 unyielding of demeanour.



8 TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE

' How rnony 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 ? '

1 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



io 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 11

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 ! '

1 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 thev would save the need of snuffers ! '



12 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



13



to- clay 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.'




MKS. BAKGEE



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



14 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 15

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 B.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
K.A. appeared. It is needless to go further.
Enough to state that this embryo Barge Painter
fulfilled the 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



TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE 17

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 K.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.



1 8 TWO GIRLS ON A BARGE



CHAPTER II

T)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.



2o 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 21

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



22 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, and he spoke collectedly and quietly, but
he took the barge by storm.

1 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 23

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, via 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
Bargees lived.

On board there fell a silence. The possessors,
left in possession, were assimilating their sensations.
It was very quiet 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.'



24 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 io 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 grocesque quivering contor-
tions to the dhurrie on the floor, and it was very
quiet down there on the canal. Even the little




THEY DISAPPEARED
THROUGH A TRAP
IN THE TARPAULIN
KOCF



26 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. ^

1 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

1 The Bargee has been asleep for the last two
hours.'

1 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


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