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Cookham Dean by Margaret Bertha Wright

For a long time "the Dean" had had a certain familiarity for us. We heard it continually spoken of among our artist friends, and had even come to recognize many of its picturesque features as we came across them in our usual studio-haunts and in the exhibitions. We seemed to know those green, billowy swells at sight, as well as the thatched and tiled roofs and old-fashioned gardens, the swinging barred gates and stagnant, goose-tormented pools,—even the coarse-limbed rustics in weather-beaten "store-clothes," picturesque only in mellow fadedness.

We knew all this; yet, when we set eyes and feet upon Cookham Dean for the first time, behold, the half had not been told us! We had directed many a letter to Cookham Dean, and knew them to have been duly delivered by a bucolic postman on a tricycle. But a hundred canvases, and almost as many tongues, had failed to tell us of the sunny slopes and shadowy glades, the sylvan lanes and ribbon-like roads, the old stone inn with open porch and sign swinging from lofty post set across the way, as Italian campanile stand away from their churches, all coming under the name of "Cookham Dean," although that "Dean," properly speaking, is only their geographical and artistic centre.

Long before we reached Ye Hutte from Cookham station—Ye Hutte set amid bushy and climbing roses upon a prominent knoll of the many-knolled Dean—we ceased to wonder that our picturesque imaginings of the region we were passing through had been so various. Artists were before us, artists behind us, artists on every side of us, two sketching-umbrellas glinting like great tropical flowers in a corn-field, another like a huge daisy in the dim vista of a long lane.

"C—— lodges in that red cottage, B—— in the next one, H—— in this tumble-down farm-house, the L——s in that row of laborers' cottages, the D——s in the inn," said Mona, tripping lightly over well-known names, whose most accustomed place is in the exhibition catalogues.

Through the open windows of a hideous brick row, built to hold as many laborers' families all the year round and as many Bohemian summer artists as can crowd therein, we caught glimpses of tapestries worth their weight in gold. One well-known artist has taken possession of the end of this uncomely row, intended for a supply-shop to the neighborhood. This shop is his studio, which he has filled with treasures of Japanese art. As a Cookhamite assured us, "Mr. C—— goes in for the Japanesque;" and he screens the large display-windows intended for cheese, raisins, and potted meats with smiling mandarins and narrow-eyed houris under octopus-like trees.

At the rear of the same "Row" we recognized a broad-hatted figure once familiar to us in the Quartier Latin and the artistic auberges of the Forest of Fontainebleau. The very personification of insouciance and laissez-aller, he whose tiny bedroom-studio up-stairs ran riot with color caught among California mountains, in cool gray France and ochreous England, was bending the whole force of his mind to sketching a pouter pigeon preening itself upon a barrel.

Still another of the ugly cottages, cursed by artists but inhabited by them, was hired at ten pounds a year by two young landscapists. A charwoman came every morning to quell the mad riots in which the household gods (or demons) diurnally engaged, but at all other times the landscapists manoeuvred for themselves. That the domestic manoeuvring of young landscapists is not always toute rose we saw reason later to believe. For not once, twice, nor yet so seldom as a dozen times, have we seen these young manoeuvrers begin to dine at four, when shadows were growing too long upon field, thicket, and stream, only to finish we knew not when, so late into darkness was that "finish" projected. We could see one of the diners passing along the road from the public house, an eighth of a mile away, at four, with the pièce de résistance of the meal in an ample dish enveloped in a towel. Ten minutes later the other rushes by, contrariwise of direction, in pursuit of beer and the forgotten bread. A little later, and a scudding white dust-cloud in the road informs us that one of the dining 'scapists flees breathlessly vinegar- or salt-ward. Still another five minutes, and the other diner hies him in chase of the white scud, calling vigorously to it that there is no butter for the rice, no sugar for the fruit.

We saw at once that this Berkshire corner abounds more in dulcet and sylvan landscape bits than in picturesque motifs for those who paint genre. The peasants have a certain inchoate picturesqueness, as of beings roughly evolved from the life of this fair material nature, and sometimes, in silhouette against dun-gray skies and amid rugged fields, give one vague feeling of Millet's pathos of peasant life and labor. The yokel himself, however,—and particularly herself,—seems determined to deny all poetic and picturesque relations, by clothing himself—and herself—in coarse, shop-made rubbish, in battered, démodé town-hats and flounced gowns from Petticoat Lane.

From certain points of the "Dean" the distances are dreamy and wide, with high horizon-lines touching wooded hills and shutting the Thames into a middle distance toward which a hundred little hills either descend abruptly or decline gently upon broad green meadows. Nature here smiles, not with pure pagan blitheness, but with a tenderer grace, as of a soul grown human and fraught with countless memories of man's smiles and tears, his hard, bitter labor, his sins, sorrows, and longings. But it is very tender, and not even the wildest storm-effects raise the landscape to any expression of tragic grandeur, but only suede its fair hues and soft outlines to the wan pathos peculiar to English moorlands.

Ye Hutte is a misnomer for the extraordinary establishment, studio and domicile combined, at which we dismounted. It is not a hut, and neither in architectural motive nor the artistic proclivities of its inmates has it aught to do with the centuries when our English tongue was otherwise written or spoken than it is to-day. Ye Hutte is a vast, barn-like building, plain and bare save for an inviting vine-grown porch vaguely Gothic in reminiscence, although nondescript in fact. It was erected by some dissenting society for public worship: hence its interior is one immense vaulted room, with cathedral-like windows and choir-gallery across one end. "The body of the house," to speak ecclesiastically, is cumbered with easels and the usual chaotic impedimenta of painters. The choir, ascended by a ladder, holds three tiny cot-beds, while beneath the choir and concealed by beautiful draperies are stored the domestic and culinary paraphernalia,—pots, pans, brushes, dishes, and, above all, the multiplicity of petroleum- and spirit-stoves in which the Bohemian artistic soul delights. Ye Hutte is an artist's studio, and its name may be found in all the exhibition catalogues, for several generations of painters drift through it every year. As one inmate rushes off to the Continent, the sea-shore, or the mountains, another takes his place. Yet Ye Hutte holds scant place in its real owner's esteem compared with that larger studio owned by all the Dean artists in common, where all their summer's work is done, and which is parquetted with grain-field gold and meadow emerald, walled with rainbow horizons, and roofed with azure festooned with spun silk. Ye Hutte is better appreciated as evening rendezvous for the palette-bearing hosts, both male and female, who, sunbrowned and tired, partake there of restful social converse as well as of the hospitable cup that cheers. Evening after evening, by twos and threes, they sit in the moonlight under the silver-touched vines and dewy blossoms of the porch, listening to the far-away cry of night-birds, the murmur of drowsy bells upon cattle stirring in sleep, or of human voices idealized by remoteness into faint haunting music, while before them white light touches the wooded heights of Cliefden,—distant heights full of picturesque mystery and passionate history,—touches and idealizes into a semblance of poetic realism the sham ruins of Hedsor, and spreads a pearly sheen over the unseen Valley of the Shadow of Light through which winds the quiet Thames.

To the usual artistic circle of Ye Hutte is often added a not uncongenial element from the outside world, sometimes even from within the borders of Philistia. Story-tellers, moved by the subtile magnetism of the artistic creative faculty, whether of brush, chisel, or pen, come up sometimes from London, bringing with them an atmosphere of publishers' offices, of romance in high and low life, of professional gossip and criticism. Often a stalwart bicyclist rolls up from the capital, bringing with him such a breeze from the world of newspapers, theatres, and crack restaurants that Ye Hutte straightway determines to order some weekly journal, waxes ardent for flesh-pots other than of Cookham, and resolves upon having a Lyceum twice a week when the Dean shall be swept by the blasts and St. John's Wood studios swallow us up for the winter.

The Dean is little favored of the ordinary fashionable visitor, for whom artistic accommodations are quite too scantily luxurious. Now and then, for the sake of the river, a rustic cot is taken for a few weeks by a party of boating-people. Then the quaint, old-fashioned gardens blossom with a sudden luxuriance of striped tents and flaming umbrellas, while bright women in many-hued boating-costumes flit among cabbages and onions like curious tropical birds and butterflies. As a rule, however, the Dean is abandoned to its usual rustic population and to artists, numbers of the latter remaining all winter in the haunts whence the majority of their kind have flown.

The social and artistic peculiarities of the Dean are, of course, too many to be specified. In a collection of various nationalities, many of whose number have drifted like thistledown hither and yon over the fair earth, how could it well be otherwise? It may be observed, however, that here, as everywhere else in this right little tight little isle, where habit is the very antithesis of the airy license of "Abroad," it is not, as it is in the artistic haunts of the Continent, en règle to vaunt one's self on the paucity of one's shekels or to acknowledge acquaintance with the Medici's pills in their modern form of the Three Golden Balls.

Once upon a time, in a Barbizon auberge, a certain famous artist and incorrigible Bohemian brought down the table by describing an incident of his releasing a friend's valuables from durance.

"The moment I turned in at the Mont de Piété," he said, "my watch took fright, and stopped ticking on the spot."

That same Bohemian, after years of the Latin Quarter and Mont de Piété, found himself one summer on the Dean. One evening at the porch of Ye Hutte he met a lively group of painters and paintresses, just returned from corn-field and meadow.

During the short halt the Bohemian's watch was so largely and frequently en évidence as to attract attention.

"Yes," he said, with colossal, adamantine impudence, "I've just got it back from a two-years' visit to 'my uncle'."

Only a few evenings later the same party met again in the same spot.

"What time is it, Mr. S——?" asked Sophia Primrose, amiably disposed to resuscitate a forlorn joke.

A mammoth blush submerged the luckless Bohemian. For Dean propriety was already becoming engrafted upon Continental habit, and he crimsoned at having to confess what once he would have proclaimed upon the house-top,—that his watch was again with his "uncle."

Probably nine-tenths of the Continental artists who are not entirely beyond the dread of yet eating "mad cow" travel third-class. But Dean artists, however they may travel when out of England, generally slip quietly away from the sight of their acquaintances when their tickets are other than at least second. Our Bohemian was once presented with a second-class ticket to London. As he scrambled in upon the unwonted luxury of cushioned seats, he saw familiar faces blushing furiously.

"The first time we ever travelled second-class in our lives," murmured Materfamilias.

"I too," responded the cheeky Bohemian.

Another difference between Dean Bohemianism and Continental is characteristic of the whole race whose land this is. Whereas artists in France, Italy, and Germany are of gregarious habit and gather for their summers in rural inns, where they form a community by themselves, the Dean artist sets up his own vine and fig-tree and has a temporary home, if ever so small and mean. The farm-houses and cottages of the Dean are filled with lodgers, all dining at separate tables and living as aloof from each other as the true Briton always lives. There are advantages in this aloofness, but it certainly lacks the camaraderie, the jolly good-fellowship, of those picturesque auberges and osterie where twenty or thirty of one calling are gathered together under one roof, meeting daily at table, where artistic criticism is pungent and free, artistic assistance ungrudging, tales of artistic experience and adventure racy, the atmosphere stimulative to the spreading out of every artistic theory possible to the sane and insane mind.

In one of these Continental auberges rough boards a foot in width ran in one unbroken line round the four sides of the salle-à-manger. These boards were perhaps hazily intended for seats, but their real office was to hold all the artistic rubbish—smashed color-tubes, broken stretchers, ragged canvases, discarded palettes, disreputable paint-rags and oil-tubes—the auberge possessed. But every sunset, as the stream of artists set in from forest and field, the boards came into other service. All the work of the day was ranged upon them along the wall, and while the painters sat at meat comment and criticism grew rampant, every canvas coming in for its share. That many good lessons were given and taken in this wise va sans dire. That also artistic progress was punctuated not unseldom with "bêtise," "imbécile," "nom du chien," "you're a goose," and "you're another," goes equally without saying to all who know the unrestraint of artistic Bohemia and the usual attitude of the human mind under criticism.

The walls of this salle-à-manger were—and are—arranged with panels, in which messieurs les artistes exercised their skill. It is a marked peculiarity of these artistic communities that no branch of art is so popular as caricature. Sometimes these caricatures are amiable, sometimes the reverse. Thus, when a certain blithe widow was represented colossally upon the wall with a little man in her eye, the likenesses were so good and the truth of the caricature so palpable that the widow herself was moved to as quick laughter as the others. But when American Palmer worked all day upon a panel to create a sunny sea laughing radiantly back at a sunny sky, while fantastic lateen-sailed craft floated like bits of jewelled color between, it was mean, to say the least, of Scotch Willie to take advantage of the American's departure and paint out those fairy boats, filling their places with horrible bloated corpses, floating upon the bright water like a nightmare upon innocent sleep.

It was in this same auberge that our landlady made this piteous supplication: "Caricature each other on the walls, messieurs et mesdames, si vous voulez; make portrait busts of the bread and figurines of the potatoes, and decorate the plates in whatever style of art you please; but don't, je vous en supplie, don't blacken the table-cloths before they are three days old."

Alas! this was eloquence lost; for, at that very dinner, conversation chancing to turn upon the subtile malignity of Fanny Matilda's smiles, Fanny Matilda being there present, in less time than it takes to tell it twenty crayon smiles writhed and wriggled upon the spick-span cloth.

"Mon Dieu! mon Dieu!" moaned Madame. "And only yesterday every handkerchief upon the line came in bearing the noses of messieurs et mesdames!"

Aloofly though the Deanite lives, he is not altogether an unsocial being. Neither are his domestic habits always as invisible to the finite eye as he perhaps intends them to be. Tent-life has scant privacy, and the circumscribed accommodation of the Dean leads to frequent "slopping over" into cloth annexes.

Opposite our windows a certain painter spent no inconsiderable time in the peak-roofed tent upon the grass-plot. There the young foreign-looking wife, in scarlet birette and jaunty petticoats just touching high boot-tops, with long, flowing hair, as bright and effective as any pictured vivandière, made tea and coffee over a petroleum-stove, laid the table, sat at her sewing, posed for her husband, received her callers, as charming a gypsy picture as ever brightened canvas.

For the very best of reasons, we were not 'cyclists, although in a country set with 'cycles as the fields with flowers or the sky with stars.

For reasons equally good, we were not boatists, although the watery way from Oxford to the sea flowed so near our door, and our village was one of the gayest head-quarters not only of the fresh-water navy, whose arms are flashing oars and whose oaths are of the universities, but equally that of regiments of painters, whose arms are sketching-umbrellas and easels and who swear not at all,—or at least not to feminine hearing.

Our lodgings were among the artists in the region farther back from the river than that monopolized by the boating-people. We were back among the sunny slopes and smiling meadows, the red-tiled farm-houses and dusky lanes, of the still primitive natives of the region, while the navy covered the shining river by day and overran the river-side hostelries by night.

Our lodgings were not picturesque, if truth must be told, although surrounded by picturesqueness as by a garment,—a circular cloak of it, so to say. We had the chief rooms of a staring new and square brick cottage, glaring with white walls inside, shutterless outside, majestic with a bow-window too high to look from except upon one's legs, owned by my Lady H——'s gardener, and elegantly named "Ethel Cottage," as a stucco plaque in its frieze bore witness. We should have preferred accommodations in any of the ivy-grown, steep-roofed cots about us, or in the old stone inn, with its peaked porch, where honest yokels quaffed nutty ale and a sign-board creaked and groaned from its gibbet across the road. But we had come too late in the painting-season for any other than Hobson's choice: the tidbits of grime and squalor were all taken, and we must e'en content ourselves to be mocked and reviled for the philistinism of our domestic establishing, or else hie us hence where artists were not and Ethel Cottages as yet unknown.

But where, tell me where, are not artists in England? And where, tell me where, do artists gather in squads that Ethel Cottages do not spring up like the tents of an army with banners? For even painters must eat and be lodged, the aboriginal habitations are not of elastic capacity, the inns are of feeble digestion, and the third summer of an artistic invasion is sure to find "Ethels" and "Mabels" in red brick and stunning whitewash, and, like our row of laborers' cottages, cursed by artists, but inhabited by them.

It was a soulagement of our æsthetic discomfort that so long as we remained hidden within it we never realized our own hideousness. Now and then we saw the ugly squareness of our afternoon shadow upon our aristocratically-gravelled front yard, but ordinarily we saw only dreamy distances melting into piny duskiness against the far-off sky, the serpent-like windings of the tranquil river, upon which its navy looked like dust-motes, fair fields of golden grain, and the farm-houses and cottages which looked upon our blank brickness with admiration and wondered why we were despised of our less beautifully housed kind, when our forks were four-pronged and of silvery seeming and our floors carpeted to our sybaritic feet. It was only when we returned to our Ethel after long tramps over the country-side, from a four-miles-distant Norman tower or a ten-miles-away pre-Reformation abbey, now stable or granary, that we figuratively beat our breasts and tore our hair because Fate had not made us real tramps, privileged to sleep in pre-Reformation stables or 'neath pre-Reformation stars, rather than the imitation tramps we were, wedded to the habits but loathing the aspect of red-faced, staring Ethels.

What would we not have given for an invitation to pass a time, as Miss Muloch was, in one of those Thames monsters concerning which she wrote her fascinating pages, "A Week in a House-Boat"! We could scarce catch a glimpse of the river upon our tramps—and it was our constant silvery accompaniment, as the treble to a part-song—without coming across these ungraceful, unwieldy creatures, seeming like bloated denizens of depths below come to bask upon the surface. Hundreds of them dot the river between Teddington and Oxford: once we counted ten between Ethel and the wooded island whither we rowed every Sunday to dine from ponderous hampers upon a huge tree-stump. Many of them are owned and occupied by artists, who have them towed by horses up and down the river every week or two, or moor them for months in one place while painting river-scenery. Some are inhabited by maniacal fishermen, who sit day after day all day long at the end of poles protruding from front or back doors or bedroom windows. Some are inhabited by Londoners in whom primeval instincts for air, space, sunshine, and liberty break out every summer from under the thick crust of modern habits and conventions and cause them to breathe, as we did, not angelical aspirations, but "I want to be a gypsy."

Some of these house-boats are miracles of microscopic luxury, doll-like bedrooms and dining-rooms for pygmies. In some, also, marvels of culinary skill are evolved in pocket-space by French chefs who spend their days creating the banquets to which the boaters invite their convives at evening, when the cold river-mists have driven the navy into harbor for the night. Others are much simpler in construction and furnishing, and the inhabitants live largely upon tinned and potted viands and such light cooking as comes within the possibilities of oil-stoves and fires of fagots on the banks. Still others—and we often saw their lordly and corpulent owners reading the "Times" upon the handkerchief space which serves for porch or piazza before their front doors—move up and down the river from crack hotel to cracker, taking no note of picturesque "bits" or of mooring-places where Paradise seems come down to lodge between Berks and Bucks, caring naught that at this point four exquisite churches and two interesting manor-houses are within tramping-distance, at that a feudal castle and the fairest inland picture that England and nature can offer their lovers, caring only that at the "King" the trout are the best cooked on the whole river, at the "Queen" the chops are divine, while at the "Prince" the perdrix aux truffes are worth mooring there a week for. These house-boaters are generally accompanied by garish wives and daughters, who spend their time in the streets of the town where they chance to be moored,—and they seldom are moored elsewhere than at the larger towns,—exchanging greetings and chatting with such acquaintances as they there meet, or idling up and down the river in the luxurious small boats of their river-made friends. This type of house-boater himself is generally spoken of in brisk naval asides as a "duffer," the kitchen of his boat is a wine-closet, and, to look at him poring for hours over his paper, one may well believe that time is heavy on his hands and that he arrives during every summer vacation at depths of mortal ennui where "nothing new is, and nothing true is, and no matter!"

Americans personally unacquainted with England can form little idea of the extent to which physical culture is carried here, and the universal summer madness for athletic sports and out-of-door amusements. The equable climate, never too hot, never too cold, for river-pull or cricket, is Albion's advantage in this respect over almost all the rest of the world, and particularly over our fervid and freezing clime. Even although this is pious England, where the gin-shops cannot open after the noon of Sunday until the bells ring for the evening service and "Pub" and church spring open and alight simultaneously, even in pious England Sunday is the day of all the week on which the river takes on its merriest aspect, and from the multitudes of familiar faces and frequency of friendly greetings reminds one of Regent Street and the Parks. All prosperous and proper London—the amusement is too costly for 'Arry—seems to float itself upon Thames water that day, coming up forty land-miles from the metropolis to do so. Boats are furiously in demand, every picnic nook is pre-empted from earliest morning, the river-side tea-gardens are thronged, the inns are depleted of men and women in yachting-costumes, and the locks are jammed as full as they can be of highly-draped boats, gayly-dressed women, and circus-costumed men, the whole scene gayer, brighter, more fantastic than any Venetian carnival since the days of the most sumptuous of the Adriatic doges.

One or two real Venetian gondolas are kept at that river-reach where we spent our summer. The owner of the principal one is an English nobleman who lived long in Italy and whose twelve daughters were born there. It is a sight to see those twelve beautiful sisters, from six years of age to twenty-four, poled down the river to church every Sunday morning by a swarthy and veritable Venetian gondolier. Whether or not that hearse-like craft has sacred associations in the minds of the twelve maidens all in a row, or whether its grimness and want of swiftness seem out of place amid the carnival brilliancy of Sunday afternoon, it is certain that it is never used except for church-going, and the maidens appear later in the day each in her own swift little canoe, or two or three sisters together in a larger one, darting to and fro, hither and yon, with almost incredible swiftness, almost more like winged thoughts than like even swallows on the wing. The gabled and ivy-wreathed Elizabethan manor-house which is the summer home of the maidens stands but a few rods from the river's bank. Here, amidst decorous shrubbery, upon smooth shaven and rolled turf, where marble vases overflow with gorgeous flowers, sit Pater and Mater among their dozens of guests. Some of the gentlemen are in correct morning dress, some in boating-costumes, and some in that last stage of unclothedness or first of clothedness which is the English bathing-dress. In their striped tights on land these last look exactly like saw-dust and rope ring clowns, but when they dive into the water from that well-bred lawn and dart in wild pursuit of the maidens, who beat them off with oars from climbing into the canoes, amid shouts of aquatic and terrestrial laughter, one would almost swear they were neither the clowns they looked a moment ago, nor yet the English gentlemen they really are, but fantastic mermen bent upon carrying earth-brides back with them into their cool native depths beneath the bright water.

That is what it looks like. But a single glimpse into those cool dappled depths, where the sunny water is shoal enough to show bottom, reveals, alas! how little mermaiden and romantic those depths are. For London does not disport itself every Sunday on the Thames without leaving ample traces of that disporting. We see those traces gleaming and glooming there,—empty beer- and wine-bottles, devitalized sardine-boxes, osseous remains of fish, flesh, and fowl, scooped cheese-rinds, egg-shells, the buttons of defrauded raiment, and the parted rims of much-snatched-at and vigorously-squabbled-for straw hats.

A favorite boating-trip is from Teddington up to Oxford, or vice versa, spending a week or two on the way, and stopping at river-side inns at night. In the season these inns are full to overflowing, and the roughest and smallest of water-side hamlets holds its accommodations at lofty premiums. A number of public pleasure-steamers and many private steam-launches ply up and down, making the whole trip in two or three days, drawing up at night at towns, and by day provoking curses both loud and deep by the swash of their tidal waves against the liliputian navy. Many of the merry boating-parties of men and women seek only sleeping-accommodations at the inns, and do their own cooking upon bosky islands, on the wooded or sunny banks of the river, by means of kerosene- or charcoal-stoves and tiny tents. How appetizingly we have thus smelt the broiling steak and grilled chop done to a turn even in a camp frying-pan, as we tramped along the river heights and looked down upon chatting groups below! How like airs of Araby the Blest the odors of steaming coffee! how more stimulating than breath of fair Spice Isles the pungent incense of hissing onions!

As a consequence of this return of Nature's children to Nature's breast, the genii loci, the sylvan sprites, are all frightened inland from the borders of the beautiful river. Except here and there where huge boards threaten trespassers and announce that landing is forbidden upon this Private Property, wild flowers will not grow, the grass looks trampled and dim, the soft summer zephyrs play among empty paper bags and relics of grocers' parcels, with sound and sentiment vastly unlike their natural music among green, waving leaves. The river is spoiled for the poet and the dreamer, and even the artist must choose his bits with care. Hyde Park and Piccadilly have come up to the Thames; and what does Hyde Park care for the poetry of dreaming nature, or what the river-madmen for aught else than glorious expansion of muscle and strengthening of sinew and the godlike sense of largeness and lightness which comes with that strengthening and expanding?

Gliding up and down the river, one would suppose all London had taken to boats. But we as trampists came to other conclusions as we pegged along the white Berkshire highways, smooth and even as parquetted floors, day after day. There the bicycle holds its own, and more too, being largely adopted not only by genuine 'cyclists, but by others as well whose only interest is to cover the ground as quickly as possible,—amateur photographers lashed all over with apparatus, artists shapelessly ditto, and pastoral postmen square-backed with letter-pouches. Women tricyclists are only less numerous, and the dignity and modesty must be crude indeed that find objections to this manner of feminine peregrination. The costume is simple and plain,—close-fitting upper garments, without fuss of furbelow, and plain close skirts, met at the ankles by high buttoned boots. A lady's seat upon a tricycle is far less conspicuous than upon a horse, her bodily motion is less, and the movement of her feet scarcely more than is necessary to run a sewing-machine. She sits at her ease in a perfectly lady-like manner, and flies over the ground like a courser of the desert, if she pleases, or rolls quietly and smoothly along, chatting easily with the pedestrians who amble at her side.

Lady tricyclists attract no attention whatever in Oxford Street. Imagine one flying down Broadway!

As trampists our femininely-encumbered party in those delicious English days considered fourteen quotidian miles not discreditable to us, particularly when taking into consideration the bleats and baas and whimpering laggardness with which we returned from three-mile excursions during the first few days we were in the tramping-line. By degrees we thus explored the whole country within a radius of seven miles of Ethel. With this we were content, yea, even proud; for did not many of our boating women-neighbors grumble even at their walk to the river and declare they would rather row five miles than walk one? We were proud, for we knew every church, every picturesque cottage and ruin, within our radius, while our aquatic friends knew only those bordering the river. We were proud—until, ah me! until that desolate day when a merrily, merrily flying squad swooped down upon us and declared they had 'cycled every inch of the twenty-mile periphery of which Ethel's neighboring church tower was the centre!

That cutting down of our pedal pride resulted in our subscribing to a daily paper. Every morning before stretching out to our regular day's tramp we had been wont to trot through dewy lanes, over stiles, and across subtly-colored turnip- and cabbage-fields, to purchase in the town of M—— a luxury not to be had in our own hamlet,—the "Daily News." Rain or shine, that trot must be trotted, for there were those among us who would have tramped sulkily all day and sniffed the sniff of wrath at ivied church and thatched cottage were the acid of their natures not made frothy and light by the alkali of their morning paper. It had never occurred to us, not even when we camped beneath wayside shade around our sandwiches and ale or in some stiff and dim inn-parlor and listened to the reading of the "News," that in reality the town of M——, and not the brickhood of Ethel, was thus the centre of all our ambulatory circumferences. It had never before dawned upon us that we thus added three uncounted miles to our fourteen diurnally counted ones. What astonishment at our own pedometric weakness of calculation! What disgust to find our periphery thus three whole miles smaller than it need have been!

The next day we subscribed to the "News," and walked nine miles as the bee flies from the front door of Ethel even unto the ruins of Medmenham. And we vowed by all our plaster gods and painted goddesses that another summer we would tramp no more. We would 'cycle.

A mile away from Ethel is the village proper of Cookham. It is a sleepy town, save in the boating-season; and whoever enters the post-office in any season finds it empty and inhospitable. Raps upon a tightly-closed inner door call a woman attendant from rattling sewing or noisy gossip of the invisible penetralia; and as soon as the business is done the inhospitable door swings shut again in the stranger's face.

Cookham houses are quaint, often timbered, frequently ivy-grown from basement to roof. One imagines them assuming a half-sullen air at this yearly breaking of their dreamy repose by incursions of parti-colored hordes for whom life seems to hold but two supreme objects,—boats and pictures.

The most picturesque feature of the place is the old church, set amid tombs whose mossy and time-gnawed cherubs have exchanged grins for two hundred years and more. The old flint tower is grave and grim, but softened by a wonderful centuries old ivy in a veil of living green. A pathetic interest to artists hallows the venerable church-yard. Here sleeps Frederick Walker, a genius cut off before his meridian, and resting now amid his kindred in a lowly grave, over which the Thames waters surge every spring, leaving the grave all the rest of the year the sadder for its cold soddenness and for the humid mildew and decay eating already into the headstone, as yet but twelve years old. In the church itself is Thorneycroft's mural tablet to the dead artist, a portrait head of him who was born almost within the old church's shadow, and whose pencil dealt always so lovingly with the poetic aspects of his native region.