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Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 458 Volume 18, New Series, October 9, 1852   By:

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No. 458. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9, 1852. PRICE 1 1/2 d.


I have been all my life a sort of amphibious animal, having, like many an old Roman, learned to swim long before I had learned to read. The bounding backs of the billows were my only rocking horse when I was a child, and dearly I loved to ride them when a fresh breeze was blowing. I rarely tired in the water, where I often amused myself for hours together. I grew up with such a liking for the exercise, that I have never been able to forego the opportunity for a swim when it offered; and a daily bath has been for a long course of years as necessary to me as my daily food. The exercise of swimming has been through life my chief pleasure and my only medicine a never failing restorative from weakness and weariness, and, what may appear strange to some readers, from the effects of irritation, anxiety, and mortification as well.

This accomplishment, however, once led me into a strange adventure. I was engaged in a rather extensive commercial tour through the central kingdoms of Europe. I had crossed the Hungarian frontier about the middle of the day, after being much annoyed and chafed by a multiplicity of delays and extortions; and at length, hot and wearied, arrived at B late in the evening. As soon as I caught sight of the Danube in the distance, I resolved that the first thing I would do after getting housed and refreshed by a few hours' sleep, should be to enjoy the luxury of a leisurely swim in that noble river. With this view, passing through the town, I put up at a small but decent gasthof which stood upon a patch of rising ground close upon the margin of the stream; and having first seen to the comfort of my horse, which was well nigh knocked up with the day's journey, and next attended to my own, I retired to rest at an early hour, without descending to the common room and joining in the beery orgies of the evening. I rose next morning, as was my custom, a full half hour before the sun; and finding no one stirring in the house, proceeded to the stables, the back of which overlooked the water. Here I found a middle aged tatterdemalion, whose flesh and costume were all of one colour, and that the precise hue of the dungheap from which he had just arisen, and from which one might have imagined him to have been engendered. He was in the act of cleaning out the stable, as well as the task could be accomplished, with his bare feet and a shovel, the blade of which was not much bigger than his hand. With some trouble, and with the aid of a small coin, I contrived to make him understand my purpose; and he led me up stairs to a loft, in which I might undress and deposit my clothes, and pointed to a rude flight of wooden steps, leading from the window to the water's edge, and from which I might plunge in from any height I chose.

In a few minutes, I had left my clothes upon a truss of odorous clover, and plunging in head foremost from the top of the ladder, I rose to the surface at a few yards' distance from the bank, and struck out vigorously to enjoy my swim. The sensation was deliciously cool and pleasant. Keeping my eyes fixed upon the opposite shore, I made towards it, feeling all the while as light as a cork and as strong as a colt. How long I revelled in the first exquisite sense of enjoyment I have not, nor had I then, any very distinct idea. Turning, however, upon my back, just to vary my position, my head, of course, faced the shore I had left, from which, to my great surprise, the good town I had left had vanished entirely, and I became aware that the rapid current of the river, upon which, in my eagerness for a bath, I had not bestowed a single thought, had already carried me some mile or two in its progress towards the Black Sea... Continue reading book >>

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