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GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

BY CHARLES DICKENS.

CHAPTER LIV.

IT was one of those March days when the
sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it
is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.
We had our pea-coats with us, and I took a bag.
Of all my worldly possessions I took no more
than the few necessaries that filled the bag.
Where I might go, what I might do, or when I
might return, were questions utterly unknown
to me; nor did I vex my mind with them, for
it was wholly set on Provis's safety. I only
wondered for the passing moment, as I stopped
at the door and looked back, under what altered
circumstances I should next see those rooms, if
ever.

We loitered down to the Temple stairs, and
stood loitering there, as if we were not quite
decided to go upon the water at all. Of course
I had taken care that the boat should be
ready and everything in order. After a little
show of indecision, which there were none to
see but the two or three amphibious
creatures belonging to our Temple stairs, we went
on board and cast off; Herbert in the bow, I
steering. It was then about high-waterhalf-
past eight.

Our plan was this. The tide, beginning to
run down at nine, and being with us until three,
we intended still to creep on after it had turned,
and row against it until dark. We should then
be well in those long reaches below Gravesend,
between Kent and Essex, where the river is
broad and solitary, where the water-side
inhabitants are very few, and where lone public-
houses are scattered here and there, of which
we could choose one for a resting-place. There,
we meant to lie by, all night. The steamer
for Hamburg, and the steamer for Rotterdam,
would start from London at about nine on
Thursday morning. We should know at what
time to expect them, according to where we were,
and would hail the first; so that if by any accident
we were not taken aboard, we should have
another chance. We knew the distinguishing
marks of each vessel.

The relief of being at last engaged in the
execution of the purpose, was so great to me that
I felt it difficult to realise the condition in which
I had been a few hours before. The crisp air,
the sunlight, the movement on the river, and
the moving river itselfthe road that ran
with us, seeming to sympathise with us,
animate us, and encourage us onfreshened me
with new hope. I felt mortified to be of so
little use in the boat; but, there were few
better oarsmen than my two friends, and they
rowed with a steady stroke that was to last all
day.

At that time, the steam-traffic on the Thames
was far below its present extent, and water-
men's boats were far more numerous. Of
barges, sailing colliers, and coasting-traders,
there were perhaps as many as now; but, of
steam-ships, great and small, not a tithe or
a twentieth part so many. Early as it was,
there were plenty of scullers going here and
there that morning, and plenty of barges
dropping down with the tide; the navigation
of the river between bridges, in an
open boat, was a much easier and commoner
matter in those days than it is in these; and
we went ahead among many skiffs and wherries,
briskly.

Old London Bridge was soon passed, and old
Billingsgate market with its oyster-boats and
Dutchmen, and the White Tower and Traitors'
Gate, and we were in among the tiers of
shipping. Here, were the Leith, Aberdeen, and
Glasgow steamers, loading and unloading goods,
and looking immensely high out of the water as
we passed alongside; here, were colliers by the
score and score, with the coal-whippers plunging
off stages on deck, as counterweights to
measures of coal swinging up, which were then
rattled over the side into barges; here, at her
moorings was to-morrow's steamer for Rotterdam,
of which we took good notice; and here
to-morrow's for Hamburg, under whose bowsprit
we crossed. And now I, sitting in the stern,
could see with a faster beating heart, Mill Pond
Bank and Mill Pond stairs.

"Is he there?" said Herbert.

"Not yet."

"Right! He was not to come down till he
saw us. Can you see his signal?"

"Not well from here; but I think I see it.
Now, I see him! Pull both. Easy, Herbert.
Oars!"

We touched the stairs lightly for a single
moment, and he was on board and we were off
again. He had a boat-cloak with him, and a

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