The Voyage Out HTML version

Chapter XX
When considered in detail by Mr. Flushing and Mrs. Ambrose the expedition proved
neither dangerous nor difficult. They found also that it was not even unusual. Every year
at this season English people made parties which steamed a short way up the river,
landed, and looked at the native village, bought a certain number of things from the
natives, and returned again without damage done to mind or body. When it was
discovered that six people really wished the same thing the arrangements were soon
carried out.
Since the time of Elizabeth very few people had seen the river, and nothing has been
done to change its appearance from what it was to the eyes of the Elizabethan voyagers.
The time of Elizabeth was only distant from the present time by a moment of space
compared with the ages which had passed since the water had run between those banks,
and the green thickets swarmed there, and the small trees had grown to huge wrinkled
trees in solitude. Changing only with the change of the sun and the clouds, the waving
green mass had stood there for century after century, and the water had run between its
banks ceaselessly, sometimes washing away earth and sometimes the branches of trees,
while in other parts of the world one town had risen upon the ruins of another town, and
the men in the towns had become more and more articulate and unlike each other. A few
miles of this river were visible from the top of the mountain where some weeks before
the party from the hotel had picnicked. Susan and Arthur had seen it as they kissed each
other, and Terence and Rachel as they sat talking about Richmond, and Evelyn and
Perrott as they strolled about, imagining that they were great captains sent to colonise the
world. They had seen the broad blue mark across the sand where it flowed into the sea,
and the green cloud of trees mass themselves about it farther up, and finally hide its
waters altogether from sight. At intervals for the first twenty miles or so houses were
scattered on the bank; by degrees the houses became huts, and, later still, there was
neither hut nor house, but trees and grass, which were seen only by hunters, explorers, or
merchants, marching or sailing, but making no settlement.
By leaving Santa Marina early in the morning, driving twenty miles and riding eight, the
party, which was composed finally of six English people, reached the river-side as the
night fell. They came cantering through the trees--Mr. and Mrs. Flushing, Helen
Ambrose, Rachel, Terence, and St. John. The tired little horses then stopped
automatically, and the English dismounted. Mrs. Flushing strode to the river-bank in high
spirits. The day had been long and hot, but she had enjoyed the speed and the open air;
she had left the hotel which she hated, and she found the company to her liking. The river
was swirling past in the darkness; they could just distinguish the smooth moving surface
of the water, and the air was full of the sound of it. They stood in an empty space in the
midst of great tree-trunks, and out there a little green light moving slightly up and down
showed them where the steamer lay in which they were to embark.