Snippets 110. Today’s snippet is another quote from Richard Le Gallienne’s Travels in England, from 1900, an interesting travel book that we have looked at in a couple of previous snippets. Some travel journals can fall into the trap of being dull descriptions of landmarks, but I try to find ones where the writer’s voice comes through clearly, creating a work with character. These kinds of journals offer us some social history and a window into a different life. That life is often more innocent and simple, as illustrated by the following quotation, where the writer sees some children playing in the River Avon at Salisbury:
Boys bathing, with, I hesitate to add, two or three sprightly little girls to guard, and, presently it transpires, devilishly to steal, their clothes. Indeed, as I come upon them, a quaint little drama begins. One of the lads, just as he was born — only rather bigger — is pursuing a wicked little girl who has stolen his shirt. She has evidently been wading too, for her petticoats are tucked up, and her legs are bare. Her hair streams behind her, and her petticoats escape from their tucking, and flow about her as she runs. The boy is rapidly gaining, breathing slaughter, and there are wild screams of excitement. In a moment, however, she has placed a broad ditch between them, which, for some reason I cannot make out, the boy is unable to cross. He runs along his side of it, evidently seeking a crossing, but, finding none, calls a parley. She only answers with laughter and holds his shirt derisively from the other side almost within his reach. Then once more despair seizes him, and, with the energy of it, he is suddenly on the other side — but not before the girl has found another point of vantage. And so the chase goes on. Once he is for returning to the rest of his clothes, and she, disappointed, calls out an “O, well then, here it is,” just to allure him back again, and start the game afresh. The lure succeeds, and once more begins the savage chase, the wild girl screams, the young limbs flashing, the petticoats flying. When the bank hid them from me the end was not yet, nor the terrible vengeance that would no doubt fall upon that wicked, but, it struck me, charming little girl. Or would she succeed in making terms? I fear not. For she was yet some way from the age when her sex will get her out of any possible scrape, not to speak of the scrapes it will get her into.
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