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paratory school, was bravely embarking to with a turn around the capstan, piped hoarselearn the stern and perilous business of the ly, with drawling, melancholy cadence: seafarer. He ran down the gangway to “Sing fare you well, my bonny young girl, stand on the dock with his father. What they For we're bound for the Rio Grande.” said to each other was in farewell, for the tug Before rambling among the other docks
down river, it is worth while slanting across the Thames to see the water-side of old Deptford, and the Royal Victualling Yard, which feeds the navy somewhat better than in Pepys's time or when Nelson's hearts of oak fought mightily on a diet of petrified salt horse and mouldy, weevily biscuit. Near by is the ancient dock-yard where Elizabeth came in state to welcome Drake after his marvellous voyage around the world in the Golden Hind and knighted him Sir Francis. In the church of St. Nicholas, whose tower was used as a light-house in by-gone days, rest the bones of two of the dauntless captains, Fenton and Hawkins, who smashed the Armada. And it was at Deptford that fine old Admiral Benbow puttered among his posies when he was not blowing the French out of water or blockading Dunkirk.
It is perhaps as well to
hug this shore of the river The white figure-head of some serene sea-goddess.
as far as Greenwich and
quit the water-man's was grinding along-side, the ship was loosing skiff for a stroll along the terrace in her moorings, and the sailors were scram- front of the stately, pillared palace of Charles bling aloft. The twain lingered beneath the II, now the Royal Naval College and Hossoaring bowsprit which extended over the low pital, and the seat of Greenwich Observaroofed warehouses, and the white figure-head tory, by whose time skippers set their chroof some serene sea-goddess made the picture nometers and reckon their longitude around complete, gave it the touch of finality. The the world. The Thames is no longer brown curate and his young midshipman parted and muddied but has a greenish cast of the company with a long hand-clasp and the sea- sea, and on the further side, appearing remen, who were heaving short a warping-line motely inland, are forests of masts and
funnels in far extending docks. The water- against a stanchion, and, swish! the skiff is man cocks a shrewd eye at the hurry- towing astern with a wall of white water ing steamers, discerns a tug afar off and foaming higher than her sides. It is an scrambles down to the gravelly shore on easy, if somewhat hair-raising method of which he has beached his skiff. Rowing covering the distance to the lower docks. sturdily into the stream, he drops his oars, Soon the massive gateways of the Vicand catches up a heaving line to which is toria and Albert Basins come into view. bent an iron grapnel. As the tug comes These are filled with the largest steamers surging past he flings the hook, it rattles that come into the river. It is in these
Photo by " Sport & General"
The Lascar seamen, turbaned, brown, and nimble, help to give the scene the proper color. - Page 578.
docks that one seems to feel the pulse of of a limited express train, not an event to the British Empire beat most vigorously. thrill the observer and cause him to weave Out from them lead the roads to India, romantic fancies. It is something very South Africa, Australia, to Hongkong, to different from this to watch the working Jamaica, to all the scattered coasts and force of empire scatter by divergent routes colonies where Englishmen are dominant. to pick up its appointed tasks. Not even This is quite wonderful to think about, es- the sight of a squadron of the grim, gray pecially if it is sailing day for the P. and O., dreadnoughts of the Home Fleet, cruising the Union Castle, the Shaw Savill, or the in the Channel or anchored in the lee of British India steamers. The Lascar sea- Dover breakwater conveys a more moving men, turbaned, brown, and nimble, help impression of the power and influence of to give the scene the proper color. Army this sea-girt island of England than do these men are going out to join their commands docks with their steamers and their people. in blazing, dusty garrisons and canton- The Tilbury Docks, twenty-five miles ments. Younger sons are faring forth to below London, are much larger than the seek fortune at the pioneering outposts of Victoria and Albert Basins, but by no means civilization. Gentlemanly remittance men as busy. They spread over the Essex whom nobody wants at home are noncha- marshes in the midst of a most unlovely lantly sailing into the unknown to reappear region of factories, waste spaces and dumpunder new names on the beaches of the South ing grounds in a kind of vast and empty Seas and the Bund of Shanghai. Sweet- isolation. Several of the best-known British hearts are trustfully voyaging afar to marry shipping companies despatch their liners their heroes who have earned the passage from Tilbury, but, for the most part, the money in rupees by sweating in the Civil steamers, scattered here and there, are like Service. Wistful mothers who have come so many prisoners in solitary confinement. home to place the children in school are re- There are miles of tracks and hoisting cranes turning to share their husbands' exile. and capacious warehouses, but none of that
The passage across the Atlantic in a animated confusion of scenes and sounds swift liner has become a ferry trip, almost which one expects to find in the business of commonplace. The departure is like that a mighty seaport. Further up the river there is nothing to indicate that London is losing men, men-of-war's men and merchant sailher grip of the ocean commerce, but at Til- ors ready with expert criticism of the mabury one begins to ponder and ask ques- næuvres of the tugs, steamers, and sailing tions. Is England decadent, as many of her ships which throng the channel, and all intelligent people profess to believe and as the talk is, not of commerce, but of things they will admit with a shrug and a sigh? saltily nautical. These and other signs inHas the shipping of London River been dicate that the river is nearing the sea. largely diverted to other ports and other D reary and inconspicuous as is the shore flags? It is true that the Tilbury Docks were line faintly pencilled toward the mouth of far too large for the time of their build- the Thames, there are suggestions here and ing, which was soon after the opening of the there to recall some of the most high-heartSuez Canal, but the fact remains that while ed pages of English history. The anAntwerp, Hamburg, and New York cannot chored training ships of the navy, obsolete find sufficient room to harbor their swelling three deckers with painted ports, bring to commerce, there are scores of vacant berths mind the exploits of Rodney, Blake, and in London's greatest and most modern area Cloudesley Shovel. At the navy yards of of dockage.
Chatham Reach rides a line of modern batIt is a more cheerful pilgrimage to steer tleships and cruisers, but on the lawn stands across the river to Gravesend, which some an old wooden figure-head of Nelson overone else has compactly described as “all looking the bit of sloping shore from which tea and shrimps, oilskins, sea-boots, and the Victory was launched. The red lightbloaters.". This is really the seaward ship which warns mariners off the Noreboundary of the port. Beyond it the sands marks a stretch of water reminiscent Thames begins to widen into an estuary of mutinies, of sea-fights, of fleets keeping between low shores receding monotonously watch and ward. behind stretches of marsh and mud bank, At the Nore the ships of London River a landscape of smoky distances. Off cease to trail in column and turn to go their Gravesend the red mooring buoys sheer several ways, the little coastwisecraft through and twist in the strong tide and every the channel to the northward, the deep-sea vessel passing to and fro must slow down or ships steering east and south on through the round to for visits from the customs and Downs, then vanishing, hull down and health officers. The causeway has an under, to choose the solitary paths that lead idling maritime population of pilots, fisher- them to all the havens of the chartered oceans.