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DOWN WITH THE TIDE.

A VERY dark night it was, and bitter cold;
the east wind blowing bleak, and bringing
with it stinging particles from marsh, and
moor, and fenfrom the Great Desert and
Old Egypt, may be. Some of the component
parts of the sharp-edged vapour that came
flying up the Thames at London might be
mummy-dust, dry atoms from the Temple at
Jerusalem, camels' foot-prints, crocodiles'
hatching places, loosened grains of expression
from the visages of blunt-nosed sphynxes,
waifs and strays from caravans of turbaned
merchants, vegetation from jungles, frozen
snow from the Himalayas. O! It was very
very dark upon the Thames, and it was bitter
bitter cold.

"And yet," said the voice within the great
pea-coat at my side, "you'll have seen a good
many rivers too, I dare say?"

"Truly," said I, "when I come to think of
it, not a few. From the Niagara, downward
to the mountain rivers of Italy, which are like
the national spiritvery tame, or chafing
suddenly and bursting bounds, only to dwindle
away again. The Moselle, and the Rhine, and
the Rhone; and the Seine, and the Sa├┤ne; and
the St. Lawrence, Mississippi, and Ohio; and
the Tiber, the Po, and the Arno; and the——"

Peacoat coughing as if he had had enough
of that, I said no more. I could have carried
the catalogue on to a teazing length, though,
if I had been in the cruel mind.

"And after all," said he, "this looks so
dismal!"

"So awful," I returned, "at night. The
Seine at Paris is very gloomy too, at such a
time, and is probably the scene of far more
crime and greater wickedness; but this river
looks so broad and vast, so murky and silent,
seems such an image of death in the midst of
the great city's life, that——"

That Peacoat coughed again. He could
not stand my holding forth.

We were in a four-oared Thames Police
Galley, lying on our oars in the deep shadow
of Southwark Bridgeunder the corner arch
on the Surrey sidehaving come down with
the tide from Vauxhall. We were fain to hold
on pretty tight, though close in shore, for the
river was swollen and the tide running down
very strong. We were watching certain
water-rats of human growth, and lay in the
deep shade as quiet as mice; our light hidden
and our scraps of conversation carried on in
whispers. Above us, the massive iron girders
of the arch were faintly visible, and below us
its ponderous shadow seemed to sink down
to the bottom of the stream.

We had been lying here some half an hour.
With our backs to the wind, it is true; but
the wind being in a determined temper blew
straight through us, and would not take the
trouble to go round. I would have boarded
a fireship to get into action, and mildly
suggested as much to my friend Pea.

"No doubt," says he as patiently as
possible; "but shore-going tactics wouldn't do
with us. River thieves can always get rid of
stolen property in a moment by dropping it
overboard. We want to take them with the
property, so we lurk about and come out upon
'em sharp. If they see us or hear us, over it
goes."

Pea's wisdom being indisputable, there was
nothing for it but to sit there and be blown
through, for another half hour. The water-
rats thinking it wise to abscond at the end of
that time without commission of felony, we
shot out, disappointed, with the tide.

"Grim they look, don't they?" said Pea.
seeing me glance over my shoulder at the
lights upon the bridge, and downward at
their long crooked reflections in the river.

"Very," said I, "and make one think with
a shudder of Suicides. What a night for a
dreadful leap from that parapet!"

"Aye, but Waterloo's the favourite bridge
for making holes in the water from," returned
Pea. "By the byeavast pulling lads!—
would you like to speak to Waterloo on the
subject?"

My face confessing to a surprised desire to
have some friendly conversation with Waterloo
Bridge, and my friend Pea being the most
obliging of men, we put about, pulled out of
the force of the stream, and in place of going
at great speed with the tide, began to strive
against it, close in shore again. Every color
but black seemed to have departed from the
world. The air was black, the water was
black, the barges and hulks were black, the
piles were black, the buildings were black,
the shadows were only a deeper shade of
black upon a black ground. Here and there,