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Chapter 6

WithAnna Bogen

Without any pressing work to be done, Oxford in summer was the most wonderful place to play with. According to the custom of those who are not particularly well off, six of them – Sylvia, Virginia, Iris, Diana, Martha and Jacqueline – combined to hire a punt: Clare and Judy were to have come in, but with Virginia on the one hand maintaining a dignified silence, and Clare on the other enquiring whether she would have to see much of that tiresome woman if she came into it, it was decided to be more harmonious without the two, for Judy would not come without Clare. They christened it, with much ceremony and three bottles of ginger beer, The Goddess, because it moved in a mysterious way while they were learning to punt it: and they spent most of their time in it: pretending to work on cool, still mornings, when you could hear a water rat go in miles away, and bells coming from the town, and could turn over from contemplating the golden water, to glance at a notebook and remember that everyone said it was no good attending lectures: going miles up the river in the afternoon, to mock at those who, learning to punt, perpetually pirouetted in midstream, and to listen to gramophones playing all the way, anything from dance tunes to Bach, their sounds carved by the distance, the water, into fantastic delicacy: coming down in the evening through the sorrowful calm of the wide and luminous air, the tiptoe trees, the narrow, secret, lovely stream, poised in a tranquillity gradually becoming invisible, like receding music.