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19. CHAPTER XIX. (continued)
When the man in the hired up-river boat sees anyone he knows, he gets out on to the bank, and hides behind a tree.
I was one of a party who hired an up-river boat one summer, for a few days' trip. We had none of us ever seen the hired up-river boat before; and we did not know what it was when we did see it.
We had written for a boat - a double sculling skiff; and when we went down with our bags to the yard, and gave our names, the man said:
"Oh, yes; you're the party that wrote for a double sculling skiff. It's all right. Jim, fetch round THE PRIDE OF THE THAMES."
The boy went, and re-appeared five minutes afterwards, struggling with an antediluvian chunk of wood, that looked as though it had been recently dug out of somewhere, and dug out carelessly, so as to have been unnecessarily damaged in the process.
My own idea, on first catching sight of the object, was that it was a Roman relic of some sort, - relic of WHAT I do not know, possibly of a coffin.
The neighbourhood of the upper Thames is rich in Roman relics, and my surmise seemed to me a very probable one; but our serious young man, who is a bit of a geologist, pooh-poohed my Roman relic theory, and said it was clear to the meanest intellect (in which category he seemed to be grieved that he could not conscientiously include mine) that the thing the boy had found was the fossil of a whale; and he pointed out to us various evidences proving that it must have belonged to the preglacial period.
To settle the dispute, we appealed to the boy. We told him not to be afraid, but to speak the plain truth: Was it the fossil of a pre-Adamite whale, or was it an early Roman coffin?
The boy said it was THE PRIDE OF THE THAMES.
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