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ON THE BROADS.
visioning of it. Another larger yacht, with cabin. accommodation for ladies, and including a man to sail her, could be had, we were informed, for 67. a week. These yachts were plainly fitted up, they were the very reverse of luxurious, though sufficient; but is not a little so-called roughing-it a desirable change in these easy-going times, the salt as it were that gives zest to such an outing? The best way for those who would see the Broads leisurely is to hire a yacht with a man, provision her, and cruise around independent for the time being of the outer world; for an artist or an angler there are many worse ways of spending a summer holiday.
For ourselves we were content to engage an ordinary rowing boat and paddle down the river to the nearest Broad, for after all, we argued, one Broad must more or less resemble another. They have no special mountain peaks presiding over them to give to each a distinctive character; herein, however beautiful they may be, they differ from lakes cradled. in mountain lands. Indeed the Broads may be briefly described as meres set in the midst of a level, green, and treeful country. They possess their own peculiar charms, and though they have none of the mountain glory, neither have they any of the mountain gloom. No wooded hills or jutting crags are reflected on their stilly surface; no wreathing mists wander amongst surrounding mountains or lose themselves in a mystery of form upon the higher peaks, blending together earth and sky; no torrents fret the rural silence. A deep repose rests upon the Broads, a mighty dome of blue stretches over
head from all the circling horizon, and this vast expanse of unshaded sky gives a wonderful feeling of brightness and light to the landscape-or waterscape is it?
The only boat remaining on hire at Stalham, if not a smart, was eminently a safe one. I don't think that we could have capsized her had we tried, which was one recommendation, though I am bound to confess she had no other. We should have preferred something different, but it was a case of Hobson's choice, and after all, we argued, the boat will not affect the scenery, so we engaged her and proceeded down Stalham river or dyke, for it is sometimes called the one and sometimes the other. River perhaps sounds the most picturesque, so let us call it a river. It was a new experience this, rowing on a river without any appreciable current, with high reeds on either side of us effectually hiding all the rest of the low-lying country. The reeds grew out of the water, and no dry land was anywhere visible, only the sluggish green stream, the greener reeds, and the sky above. But what struck us most was the absolute stillness; there was absolutely no sound but the musical rippling and gurgling of the water against the prow of our boat and the measured splashing of our oars, unless it were the gentle rustling of the reeds and tall aquatic grasses, as they were stirred ever and again by the soft summer breeze. There was no song of birds or any other sound to break the profound and almost painful silence; a deep tranquillity rested over all.
The river was narrow, and presently we observed
A WATER TYRANT.
ahead of us the great red-brown sail of one of the large trading wherries that infest these quiet waters. We well knew the law of the road on land, but on the water we felt a little uncertain as to whether we ought to keep to the right or to the left, so, as we should have fared badly in case of a collision, and as space was limited, we pulled right into a thick bed of reeds, and waited for the wherry to go by. These big trading wherries of the Norfolk rivers and Broads are to the yachtsman as the steam traction engine is to the driving tourist, the tyrants of the way, before which all must give place or be run down. Slowly the wherry came along, and as it passed by us we hailed the steersman, who was contentedly munching a huge crust of bread and cheese, little heeding his steering. Why should he? was not the river straight ahead, and was it not the business of other people to get out of his way? Which is the right side of the river to keep on?' we shouted out; this in case we should meet other like monopolists of the water. To our surprise, knowing the reputation of bargees for incivility, we received a fairly courteous response. 'There bain't no right side,' said he, with wherries. It all depends on the wind; you should alway keep to the windward side, then us can steer clear.' We thanked the bargee for his information, though certainly it seemed to us that as far as he was concerned it mattered little whether we kept to the windward or not, for he was manifestly too intent upon his bread and cheese to take much heed of such small fry as ourselves.
It was very peaceful rowing down (or up, I am
not very certain which it was) that quiet little river. Very beautiful were the reeds and the many-hued grasses, but even beauty without variety becomes monotonous in time, and we longed to reach the more open Broad. We kept on rowing, which we found warm work in the hot sunshine, but we seemed to get no nearer to it; it was as though, like a Devonshire lane, the river and bordering reeds. had no ending. By-and-by we espied a patient fisherman in a boat anchored by the side of the stream; of him we asked how far it was to the Broad, and learnt that it was only another half a mile on. That half a mile' seemed very long to us. 'What are you catching?' we asked, wishing to learn the sort of fish that anglers seek for here. 'Nothing,' was the laconic rejoinder. This, though doubtless true, did not much enlighten us as to the object that we had in view, but we refrained from further pressing him.
Then suddenly the river widened out and we found ourselves in Stalham Broad-a silvery stretch of water, surrounded by wooded banks and rich luxuriant meadows; the prospect seemed quite expansive after the limited horizon of the reed-bound river. Here the white sails of yachts gave life to the scene, which life was further heightened by the glancing light of the wings of wandering gulls, who seem almost as much at home on these inland watery wastes as on the wilder sea. Stalham Broad leads to Barton Broad, which latter has the reputation of being the most beautiful of these Norfolk meres; at least so the, civil maid who waited upon us at