Трое в лодке, не считая собаки / Three Men in a Boat (to Say Nothing of the Dog)
Трое в лодке, не считая собаки / Three Men in a Boat (to Say Nothing of the Dog)
Адаптация текста, комментарии С. А. Матвеева.
© Матвеев С. А., адаптация текста, комментарии
© ООО «Издательство АСТ», 2017
There were four of us – George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency. We were sitting in my room, smoking, and talking about how bad we were – bad from a medical point of view, of course.
We were all feeling bad, and we were quite nervous about it. Harris said he had such a very bad headache that he hardly knew what he was doing. And then George said that he had a headache too. As for me, it was my liver that was out of order. I read about the various symptoms of a sick liver in a circular that offered liverpills. I had them all.
It is a most extraordinary thing, but when I read a medicine advertisement I usually come to the conclusion that I am suffering from the disease that was described.
One day I went to the British Museum to read about hay fever,I fancy I had it. I took the book, and read all I needed; and then I idly turned the leaves, and began to study diseases, generally. Immediately I understood that I had some fearful, devastating illness.
I sat for a while, frozen with horror; and then, in despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever – read the symptoms – discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months without knowing it – wondered what else I had got; turned up St. Vitus’s Dance – found, as I expected, that I had that too, – and so started alphabetically. I had every malady they wrote about! The only malady I had not got was housemaid’s knee.
I felt rather hurt about this at first. Why hadn’t I got housemaid’s knee? After a while, however, I reflected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and I grew less selfish, and determined to do without housemaid’s knee.
There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded there was nothing else the matter with me.
I thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical point of view! Students would have no need to ‘walk the hospitals’, if they had me. I was a hospital in myself. All they need do would be to walk round me, and, after that, take their diploma.
Then I wondered how long I had to live. I tried to examine myself. I felt my pulse. I could not at first feel any pulse at all. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to start off. I pulled out my watch. I made it a hundred and forty-seven to the minute. I tried to feel my heart. I could not feel my heart. It had stopped beating. I could not feel or hear anything. I had walked into that reading-room a happy, healthy man. I crawled out a decrepit wreck.
I went to my doctor. He is an old friend of mine, and feels my pulse, and looks at my tongue, and talks about the weather. “What a doctor wants,” I said, “is practice. He shall have me.” So he said:
“Well, what’s the matter with you?”
“I will not take up your time with telling you what is the matter with me. But I will tell you what is not the matter with me. I have not got housemaid’s knee. Why I have not got housemaid’s knee, I cannot tell you; but the fact remains that I have not got it. Everything else, however, I have got.”
Then he examined me, and then he hit me over the chest when I wasn’t expecting it. After that, he sat down and wrote out a prescription, and folded it up and gave it me, and I put it in my pocket and went out.
I did not open it. I took it to the nearest chemist’s, and handed it in. The man read it, and then handed it back.
I read the prescription. It said:
“1 lb.beefsteak, with 1 pt.bitter beer every 6 hours.
1 ten-mile walk every morning.
1 bed at 11 sharp every night.”
I followed the directions, with the happy result – my life was saved, and is still going on.
But going back to the liver-pill circular, I had the symptoms, beyond all mistake, the chief among them being ‘a general disinclination to work of any kind’.
What I suffer in that way no tongue can tell. From my earliest infancy I have been a martyr to it. As a boy, the disease hardly ever left me for a day. My family did not know, then, that it was my liver. Medical science was in a far less advanced state than now, and they thought it was laziness.
“Are you still sleeping,” they would say, “get up and do something for your living, can’t you?” – not knowing, of course, that I was ill.
We sat there for half-an-hour, describing to each other our maladies. I explained to George and William Harris how I felt when I got up in the morning, and William Harris told us how he felt when he went to bed; and George told us how he felt in the night.
Suddenly, Mrs. Poppets knocked at the door to know if we were ready for supper. We smiled sadly, and decided to eat a little.
I seemed to take no interest in my food – an unusual thing for me – and I didn’t want any cheese.
We refilled our glasses, lit our pipes, and resumed the discussion upon our state of health.
“What we want is rest,” said Harris.
“Rest and a complete change,” said George. “The overstrain upon our brains has produced a general depression. Changes and absence of the necessity for thought will restore the mental equilibrium.”
“If you want rest and change,” said Harris, “let’s make a sea trip.”
I objected to the sea trip strongly. I was afraid for George. George said that he felt sure we should both be ill.
It is a curious fact, but nobody ever is seasick – on land. At sea, you come across plenty of people very bad indeed, whole boat of them; but I never met a man yet, on land, who had ever known at all what it was to be sea-sick.
For myself, I have discovered an excellent preventive against sea-sickness, in balancing myself. You stand in the centre of the deck, and you move your body about, so as to keep it always straight. When the front of the ship rises, you lean forward, till the deck almost touches your nose; and when its back end gets up, you lean backwards. This is all very well for an hour or two; but you can’t balance yourself for a week.
“Let’s go up the river.”
He said we should have fresh air, exercise and quiet; and the hard work would give us a good appetite, and make us sleep well.
Harris said he didn’t think George ought to do anything that would make him sleepier than he always was, as it might be dangerous. He might just as well be dead, and so save his board and lodging.
Harris and I both said it was a good idea of George’s. The only one who was not struck with the suggestion was Montmorency.
“It’s all very well for you fellows,” he says; “you like it, but I don’t. There’s nothing for me to do. If you ask me, I call the whole thing foolishness.”
We were three to one, however.
We pulled out the maps, and discussed plans. We arranged to start on the following Saturday from Kingston. Harris and I would go down in the morning, and take the boat up to Chertsey, and George would meet us there.
Should we ‘camp out’ or sleep at inns?
George and I were for camping out. We said it would be so wild and free, so patriarchal.
“How about when it rained?”
Camping out in rainy weather is not pleasant. We therefore decided that we would sleep out on fine nights; and in hotels and inns, like respectable folks, when it was wet. Montmorency approved this compromise. To look at Montmorency you would imagine that he was an angel sent upon the earth, for some reason in the shape of a small fox-terrier. When first he came to live with me, I never thought I should be able to have him long. I used to sit down and look at him, and think: “Oh, that dog will never live.” But I was wrong.
To hang about a stable, and collect a gang of the most disreputable dogs to be found in the town, and lead them out to fight other disreputable dogs, is Montmorency’s idea of ‘life’.
Harris proposed that we should go out and get a drop of good Irish whiskey.
George said he felt thirsty (I never knew George when he didn’t); and we put on our hats and went out.
So, on the following evening, we again assembled, to discuss and arrange our plans. Harris said:
“Now we must discuss what to take with us. Now, you get a piece of paper and write down, J., and you get the grocery catalogue, George, and I’ll make out a list.”
“No; you get the paper, and the pencil, and the catalogue, and George write down, and I’ll do the work.”
“We must not think of the things we could do with, but only of the things that we can’t do without.”
Well, we left the list to George, and he began it.
“We won’t take a tent,” suggested George; “we will have a boat with a cover. It is ever so much simpler, and more comfortable.”
It seemed a good thought, and we adopted it. You fix iron hoops up over the boat, and stretch a huge canvas over them, and fasten it down all round, and it converts the boat into a little house.
George said that in that case we must take a rug each, a lamp, some soap, a brush and comb (between us), a tooth-brush (each), a basin, some tooth-powder, some shaving tackle, and a couple of big-towels for bathing. I notice that people always make gigantic arrangements for bathing when they are going anywhere near the water, but that they don’t bathe much when they are there.
George said it was so pleasant to wake up in the boat in the fresh morning, and plunge into the river. Harris said there was nothing like a swim before breakfast to give you an appetite. He said it always gave him an appetite. George said that if it was going to make Harris eat more than Harris ordinarily ate, then he should protest against Harris having a bath at all.
Finally we decided to take three bath towels, so as not to keep each other waiting.
For clothes, George said two suits of flannel would be sufficient, as we could wash them ourselves, in the river, when they got dirty. Harris and I were weak enough to believe he knew what he was talking about, and that three respectable young men could really clean their own shirts and trousers in the river Thames with a bit of soap.
Later we found that George was a miserable impostor.
George forced us to take plenty of socks, in case we got upset; also plenty of handkerchiefs, and a pair of leather boots as well as our boating shoes.
Then we discussed the food question. George said:
“Begin with breakfast.” (George is so practical.) “Now for breakfast we need a frying-pan, a teapot and a kettle, and a methylated spirit stove.”
“No oil,” said George, with a significant look; and Harris and I agreed.
We had taken an oil-stove once, but ‘never again’. We spent that week in an oil-shop. It oozed. We kept it in the nose of the boat, and, from there, it oozed down to the rudder, and it oozed over the river, and spoilt the atmosphere. Sometimes a westerly oily wind blew, and at other times an easterly oily wind, and sometimes it blew a northerly oily wind, and maybe a southerly oily wind.
We tried to get away from it at Marlow. We left the boat by the bridge, and took a walk through the town to escape it, but it followed us. The whole town was full of oil. We passed through the church-yard, and it seemed as if the people had been buried in oil. The High Street stunk of oil; we wondered how people could live in it.
At the end of that trip we took an awful oath never to take paraffine oil with us in a boat again.
For other breakfast things, George suggested eggs and bacon, which were easy to cook, cold meat, tea, bread and butter, and jam. For lunch, he said, we could have biscuits, cold meat, bread and butter, and jam – but no cheese. Cheese, like oil, makes too much of itself. It wants the whole boat to itself. It gives a cheesy flavour to everything else. You can’t tell whether you are eating apple-pie or German sausage, or strawberries and cream. It all seems cheese. There is too much odour about cheese.
George suggested meat and fruit pies, cold meat, tomatoes, fruit, and green stuff. For drink, we took some wonderful sticky concoction of Harris’s, which you mixed with water and called lemonade, plenty of tea, and a bottle of whisky, in case, as George said, we got upset. But I’m glad we took the whisky.
We didn’t take beer or wine. They are a mistake up the river. They make you feel sleepy and heavy.
We made a list of the things to be taken, and a pretty lengthy one it was, before we parted that evening. The next day, which was Friday, we got them all together, and met in the evening to pack. I said I’d pack.
I rather pride myself on my packing. Packing is one of those many things that I feel I know more about than any other person.
I started the packing. It seemed a longer job than I had thought; but I got the bag finished at last, and I sat on it.
“Aren’t you going to put the boots in?” said Harris.
And I looked round, and found I had forgotten them. I opened the bag and packed the boots in; and then, just as I was going to close it, a horrible idea occurred to me. Had I packed my tooth-brush?
My tooth-brush is a terrible thing, it makes my life a misery. While sleeping, I dream that I haven’t packed it, and wake up, and get out of bed and hunt for it. And, in the morning, I pack it before I have used it, and have to unpack again to get it. And then I repack and forget it, and I have to carry it to the railway station, wrapped up in my pocket handkerchief.
Of course, I could not find it. I took the things out of the suitcase. Of course, I found George’s and Harris’s eighteen times over, but I couldn’t find my own. Then I found it inside a boot. I repacked once more.
When I had finished, George asked if the soap was in. I said I didn’t care whether the soap was in or whether it wasn’t. But I found that I had packed my tobacco-pouch in it, and had to reopen it. Harris said that he and George had better do the rest; and I agreed and sat down.
They began. I made no comment; I only watched. They started with breaking a cup. That was the first thing they did. Then Harris packed the strawberry jam on top of a tomato and squashed it, and they had to pick out the tomato with a teaspoon.
And then it was George’s turn, and he trod on the butter. I didn’t say anything, but I sat on the edge of the table and watched them. It irritated them. I felt that. It made them nervous and excited, and they stepped on things, and put things behind them, and then couldn’t find them when they wanted them. They packed the pies at the bottom, and put heavy things on top, and smashed the pies in.
They upset salt over everything. But the butter! They tried to put it in the kettle. It wouldn’t go in, and what was in wouldn’t come out. They scraped it out at last, and put it down on a chair, and Harris sat on it, and it stuck to him, and they went looking for it all over the room.
“I put it down on that chair,” said George, staring at the empty seat.
“So mysterious!” said Harris.
Then George got round at the back of Harris and saw it.
“Here it is all the time,” he exclaimed, indignantly.
And they got it off, and packed it in the tea-pot.
Montmorency came and sat down on things, just when they were wanted to be packed; and he was sure that Harris or George wanted to touch his cold, damp nose. He put his leg into the jam, and he fought the teaspoons, and he pretended that the lemons were rats, and killed three of them.
Harris said I encouraged him. I didn’t encourage him. A dog like that doesn’t want any encouragement.
The packing was done at 12.50; and Harris said he hoped nothing would be found broken. George said that if anything was broken it was broken. He also said he was ready for bed. We were all ready for bed. We went upstairs.
It was Mrs. Poppets that woke me up next morning.
“Do you know that it’s nearly nine o’clock, sir?”
“Nine o’ what?” I cried.
“Nine o’clock,” she replied, through the keyhole.
I woke Harris, and told him. He said:
“I thought you wanted to get up at six?”
“So I did,” I answered; “why didn’t you wake me?”
“How could I wake you, when you didn’t wake me?” he retorted.
I saw George. He was still sleeping – the man who had wanted to know what time he should wake us – on his back, with his mouth wide open. I shouted in his ear, and he awoke.
“What’s the matter?” he asked, sitting up.
“Get up!” roared Harris. “It’s quarter to ten.”
“What!” he shrieked, jumping out of bed into the bath.
We finished dressing, and we remembered that we had packed the tooth-brushes and the brush and comb, and we had to go downstairs, and take them out of the bag.
We went downstairs to breakfast. Montmorency had invited two other dogs to come and see him off, and they were sitting on the doorstep.
It was very bright and sunny on that morning. Harris and I brought our luggage to the doorstep, and began to wait for a cab.
Our luggage was rather big. There was a huge suitcase and the small hand-bag, and the two hampers, and a large roll of rugs, and some four or five overcoats and mackintoshes, and a few umbrellas, and then there was a melon in a bag, and a couple of pounds of grapes in another bag, and a Japanese paper umbrella, and a frying-pan.
Quite a small crowd had collected, and people were asking each other what was the matter. One party (the young and giddy portion of the crowd) thought that it was a wedding, and pointed out Harris as the bridegroom; while the elder and more thoughtful party said that it was a funeral, and that I was probably the corpse’s brother.
At last, an empty cab came, and packing ourselves and our things into it, we drove away amidst the cheers of the crowd.
We got to Waterloo at eleven, and asked where the eleven-five started from. Of course nobody knew; nobody at Waterloo ever knows where a train is going to start from, or where a train when it starts is going to, or anything about it. The porter who took our things thought it would go from number two platform, while another porter, with whom he discussed the question, had heard a rumour that it would go from number one.
We went upstairs, and asked the traffic superintendent, and he told us that he had just met a man, who said he had seen it at number three platform. We went to number three platform. We saw the engine-driver, and asked him if he was going to Kingston. He said he couldn’t say for certain of course, but that he rather thought he was. We gave him half-a-crown, and begged him to be the 11.5 for Kingston.
“Nobody will ever know,” we said, “what you are, or where you’re going. You know the way, so go to Kingston.”
“Well, I don’t know, gentlemen,” replied the noble fellow, “but I’ll do it. Give me the halfcrown.”
Thus we got to Kingston.
We learnt, afterwards, that they had spent hours at Waterloo, looking for the train we had come by, and nobody knew what had become of it.
Our boat was waiting for us at Kingston just below bridge. We stored our luggage, and into it we stepped.
It was a glorious morning, late spring or early summer, when the year seems like a fair young maid. I was looking at the town and began to think about great English kings and queens who built it.
Suddenly Harris got up and left his seat, and sat on his back, and stuck his legs in the air. Montmorency howled, and the top hamper jumped up, and all the things came out.
I was somewhat surprised, but I did not lose my temper. I said, pleasantly enough:
“Hello! what’s the matter?”
“What’s the matter? Why – ”
No, on second thoughts, I will not repeat what Harris said. Maybe I was guilty, I admit it; but nothing excuses violence of language of Harris. I was thinking of other things, and forgot, as any one might easily understand, that I was steering, and our boat hit the bank of the river.
I got out and took the tow-line, and ran the boat on past Hampton Court. What a dear old wall that is that runs along by the river there! If I could only draw, and knew how to paint, I could make a lovely sketch of that old wall, I’m sure.
I’ve often thought I should like to live at Hampton Court. It looks so peaceful and so quiet, and it is such a dear old place to walk around in the early morning.
We are creatures of the sun, we men and women. We love light and life. That is why we crowd into the towns and cities, and the country grows more and more deserted every year.
Harris asked me if I’d ever been in the maze at Hampton Court. He said he went in once to show somebody else the way. He had studied it up in a map, and it was so simple that it seemed foolish – hardly worth the twopence charged for admission. Harris took his country cousin there. He said:
“We’ll just go in here, so that you can say you’ve been, but it’s very simple. It’s absurd to call it a maze. You must always turn right – that’s all. We’ll just walk round for ten minutes, and then go and get some lunch.”
They met some people soon after they had got inside, who said they had been there for three-quarters of an hour. Harris told them they could follow him, if they liked; he was just going in, and then should turn round and come out again. They said it was very kind of him, and followed.
People who had given up all hopes of ever getting either in or out, joined the procession, blessing him. Harris said there were about twenty people, following him; and one woman with a baby, who took his arm, for fear of losing him.
Harris kept on turning to the right, but it seemed a long way, and his cousin said he supposed it was a very big maze.
“Oh, one of the largest in Europe,” said Harris. “Yes, it must be,” replied the cousin, “because we’ve walked a good two miles already.”
Harris began to think it rather strange himself. At last, they passed the piece of a cake that Harris’s cousin had noticed there seven minutes ago. Harris said, “Oh, impossible!” but the woman with the baby said, “Not at all,” as she herself had taken it from the child, and thrown it down there, just before she met Harris. She also added that she wished she never had met Harris, and expressed an opinion that he was an impostor. That made Harris mad, and he showed her his map, and explained his theory.
“The map may be all right enough,” said one of the party, “if you know where we are now.”
Harris didn’t know, and suggested that the best thing to do would be to go back to the entrance, and begin again. So everybody turned, and went, in the opposite direction. About ten minutes more passed, and then they found themselves in the centre.
Anyhow, they knew where they were, and the thing seemed simpler than ever, and off they started for the third time.
And three minutes later they were back in the centre again.
After that, whatever way they turned brought them back to the middle. Harris said that he had become unpopular.
They had to wait till one of the old keepers came back from his dinner before they got out.
Harris said he thought it was a very fine maze, and we agreed that we would try to get George to go into it, on our way back.
It was while passing through Moulsey Lock that Harris told me about his maze experience. It took us some time to pass through, as we were the only boat, and it is a big lock.
I have stood and watched it. The river affords a good opportunity for dress. For once in a way, we men are able to show our taste in colours. I always like a little red in my things – red and black. You know my hair is golden brown, and a dark red matches it beautifully. I like a red silk handkerchief round the waist – a handkerchief looks so much better than a belt.
Harris always keeps to shades or mixtures of orange or yellow, but I don’t think he is at all wise in this. His complexion is too dark for yellows. Yellows don’t suit him: there can be no question about it. I want him to take to blue as a background, with white or cream; but the less taste a person has in dress, the more obstinate he is.
George has bought some new things for this trip. But his blazer is loud. He brought it home and showed it to us on Thursday evening. We asked him what colour he called it, and he said he didn’t know. He didn’t think there was a name for the colour. The seller had told him it was an Oriental design. George put it on, and asked us what we thought of it. Harris said that it is perfect to frighten the birds away. What troubles Harris and myself, is that this blazer will attract attention to the boat.
Harris wanted to get out at Hampton Church, to go and see Mrs. Thomas’s tomb.
“Who is Mrs. Thomas?” I asked.
“How should I know?” replied Harris. “She’s a lady that’s got a funny tomb, and I want to see it.”
I objected. Harris, however, adores tombs, and graves, and epitaphs, and monumental inscriptions, and the thought of not seeing Mrs. Thomas’s grave made him crazy. He said he had looked forward to seeing Mrs. Thomas’s grave from the first moment that the trip was proposed.
I reminded him of George, and how we had to get the boat up to Shepperton. George was working at the bank there and he had to join us later.
“I never see him doing any work there,” said Harris. “He sits behind a bit of glass all day, trying to look as if he was doing something. What use is he there, and what’s the good of their banks? If he was here, we could go and see that tomb. I don’t believe he’s at the bank at all. I’m going to get out, and have a drink.”
It is always best to let Harris say everything he wants. Then he pumps himself out, and is quiet afterwards.
I reminded him that there was concentrated lemonade in the hamper, and a gallon-jar of water in the nose of the boat, and we could mix them and make a cool and refreshing beverage.
Then he said those beverages produced dyspepsia, and ruined body and soul alike, and were the cause of half the crime in England.
He added he must drink something, however, and climbed upon the seat, and began to look for the bottle. It was right at the bottom of the hamper, and seemed difficult to find, and he had to lean over further and further, and, he pulled the wrong line, and sent the boat into the bank, and the shock upset him, and he dived down right into the hamper, and stood there on his head. He dared not move for fear of going over, and had to stay there till I could get hold of his legs, and take him back, and that made him madder than ever.
We stopped under the willows, and lunched. It is a pretty little spot there: a pleasant grass plateau with willows. We had just commenced the third course – the bread and jam – when a gentleman came along, and wanted to know if we knew that we were trespassing. We said we did not know, but we could believe him.
We thanked him, but he still hung about, and seemed to be dissatisfied, so we asked him if there was anything further that we could do for him; and Harris offered him a bit of bread and jam.
The man said that it was his duty to turn us off. He would go and consult his master, and then come back.
Of course, we never saw him any more, and, of course, all he really wanted was a shilling. Harris said he not only wanted to kill the man but sing comic songs on the ruins of his house.
You have never heard Harris sing a comic song. It is one of Harris’s fixed ideas that he can sing a comic song. The fixed idea, on the contrary, among those of Harris’s friends who have heard him try, is that he can’t and never will be able to.
When Harris is at a party, and is asked to sing, he replies: “Well, I can only sing a comic song, you know;” and he shows that is a thing that you ought to hear once, and then die.
“Oh, that is nice,” says the hostess. “Do sing one, Mr. Harris”; and Harris gets up, and comes to the piano.
“Now, silence, please, everybody”, says the hostess, turning round. “Mr. Harris is going to sing a comic song!”
“Oh, how jolly!” they murmur; and they hurry in, and come up from the stairs, and crowd into the drawing-room, and sit round.
Then Harris begins.
Well, you expect a wonderful voice for a comic song. You don’t expect correct phrasing or vocalization. But you do expect the words. You don’t – well, I will just give you an idea of Harris’s comic singing, and then you can judge of it for yourself.
HARRIS (standing up in front of piano and addressing the expectant mob): “I’m afraid it’s a very old thing, you know. I expect you all know it, you know. But it’s the only thing I know. It’s the Judge’s song – no, I don’t mean it – I mean – you know what I mean – the other thing, you know. You must all join in the chorus, you know.”
Brilliant performance of prelude to the Judge’s song by nervous Pianist. Moment arrives for Harris to join in. Harris takes no notice of it. Nervous pianist commences prelude over again, and Harris, commencing singing at the same time, dashes off the first two lines. Nervous pianist tries to finish the prelude, then he tries to follow Harris with accompaniment, and stops.
HARRIS (with kindly encouragement): “It’s all right. You’re doing it very well, indeed – go on.”
NERVOUS PIANIST: “I’m afraid there’s a mistake somewhere. What are you singing?”
HARRIS (promptly): “The Judge’s song. Don’t you know it?”
A FRIEND OF HARRIS’S (from the back of the room): “No, you’re not, you’re singing the Admiral’s song.”
Long argument between Harris and Harris’s friend as to what Harris is really singing. Friend finally suggests that it doesn’t matter what Harris is singing, and Harris requests pianist to begin again. Pianist starts prelude to the Admiral’s song, and Harris begins.
HARRIS: ‘When I was young and called to the Bar.’
General roar of laughter, taken by Harris as a compliment. Pianist, thinking of his wife and family, retires; his place is taken by a stronger-nerved man.
THE NEW PIANIST (cheerily): “Now then, old man, you start off, and I’ll follow. We won’t bother about any prelude.”
HARRIS (laughing): “Oh, I beg your pardon. Of course – I’ve mixed up the two songs. It was Jenkins confused me, you know. Now then.
Singing; his voice sounds like an approaching earthquake.
‘When I was young I served a term As office-boy to an attorney’s firm.’
(Aside to pianist): “It is too low, old man; we’ll have that over again, if you don’t mind.”
[Sings first two lines over again, in a high falsetto this time.
Great surprise on the part of the audience. Nervous old lady near the fire begins to cry.]
HARRIS (continuing): ‘I swept the windows and I swept the door, And I – ’
No – no, I cleaned the windows of the big front door.
And I polished up the floor – no, dash it – I beg your pardon – funny thing, I can’t think of that line. And I – and I – Oh, well, we’ll get on to the chorus (sings):
‘And I diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-de, Till now I am the ruler of the Queen’s navee.’
Now then, chorus – it is the last two lines repeated, you know.
GENERAL CHORUS: “And I diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-de, Till now I am the ruler of the Queen’s navee.”
And Harris never sees what an idiot he is making of himself, and how he is annoying a lot of people who never did him any harm. He promises them to sing another comic song after supper.
We reached Sunbury Lock at half-past three. The river is sweetly pretty just there before you come to the gates, and the backwater is charming; but don’t attempt to row up it.
I tried to do so once. I was sculling, and asked the fellows if they thought it could be done, and they said, oh, yes, they thought so, if I pulled hard. We were just under the little footbridge.
I pulled splendidly. My two friends said it was a pleasure to watch me. At the end of five minutes, I thought we ought to be near the weir, and I looked up. We were under the bridge, in exactly the same spot that we were when I began.
We sculled up to Walton, a rather large place for a riverside town. Caesar, of course, had a little place at Walton – a camp, or an entrenchment, or something of that sort. Also Queen Elizabeth, she was there, too. You can never get away from that woman, go where you will.
There is an iron ‘scold’s bridle’ in Walton Church. They used these things in ancient days for curbing women’s tongues. They have given up the attempt now. I suppose iron was getting scarce, and nothing else would be strong enough.
There are also remarkable tombs in the church, but Harris didn’t seem to think of them, and we went on. Above the bridge the river winds tremendously. This makes it look picturesque; but it causes argument between the man who is pulling and the man who is steering.
You pass Oatlands Park on the right bank here. It is a famous old place. Henry VIII stole it from some one or the other, I forget whom now, and lived in it. There is a grotto in the park which you can see for a fee, and which is supposed to be very wonderful; but I cannot see much in it myself. The late Duchess of York, who lived at Oatlands, was very fond of dogs. She had a special graveyard, in which she buried them when they died, and there they lie, about fifty of them, with a tombstone over each, and an epitaph inscribed thereon.
Well, I dare say they deserve it quite as much as the average Christian does.
Halliford and Shepperton are both pretty little spots; but there is nothing remarkable about either of them. There is a tomb in Shepperton churchyard, however, with a poem on it, and I was nervous lest Harris should want to get out. So I jerked his cap into the water, and in the excitement of recovering that, he forgot all about his beloved graves.
At Weybridge, the river enters the Thames. The lock is just opposite the town, and the first thing that we saw, when we came in view of it, was George’s blazer on one of the lock gates. When we came close, we discovered George inside it.
Montmorency set up a furious barking, I shrieked, Harris roared; George waved his hat.
George had a curious thing in his hand. It was round and flat at one end, with a long straight handle.
“What’s that?” said Harris, “a frying-pan?”
“No,” said George, with a strange, wild look glittering in his eyes. “It’s a banjo.”
“I never knew you played the banjo!” cried Harris and I, in one breath.
“Not exactly,” replied George, “but it’s very easy, they tell me; and I’ve got the instruction book!”
George did not want to work, of course; that goes without saying. He had had a hard time in the City, so he explained. Harris said:
“Ah! and now you are going to have a hard time on the river for a change; change is good for everyone!”
I would not let Harris touch the tow-line, because he is careless. I had looped it round slowly and cautiously, and tied it up in the middle, and folded it in two, and laid it down gently at the bottom of the boat. Harris had lifted it up, and had put it into George’s hand. George had taken it firmly, and held it away from him, and had begun to unravel it; and, before he had unwound a dozen yards, the thing was more like a badly-made door-mat than anything else.
An example of the dangerous case was witnessed by George and myself once up near Walton. We were camping on the opposite bank, noticing things in general. A small boat came in sight, towed through the water by a powerful horse, on which sat a very small boy. In the boat there lay five fellows, the man who was steering had a particularly restful appearance.
“I should like to see him pull the wrong line,” murmured George, as they passed. And at that precise moment the man did it, and the boat rushed up the bank. Two men, a hamper, and three oars immediately left the boat on the larboard side, and afterwards, two other men disembarked from the starboard, and sat down among boat-hooks and sails and carpet-bags and bottles. The last man went on twenty yards further, and then got out on his head.
This lightened the boat, and it went on much easier. The small boy shouted, and urged his steed into a gallop. The fellows sat up and stared at one another. It was some seconds before they realised what had happened to them, but, when they did, they began to shout for the boy to stop. He, however, was too much occupied with the horse to hear them, and we watched them, flying after him, until the distance hid them from view.
Of all experiences in connection with towing, the most exciting is being towed by girls. It is a sensation that nobody ought to miss. It takes three girls to tow always; two hold the rope, and the other one runs round and round, and giggles. They generally begin by getting themselves tied up. They get the line round their legs, and have to sit down on the path and undo each other, and then they twist it round their necks, and are nearly strangled. They fix it straight, however, at last, and start off at a run, pulling the boat along at quite a dangerous pace. At the end of a hundred yards they are naturally breathless, and suddenly stop, and all sit down on the grass and laugh, and your boat drifts out to mid-stream and turns round, before you know what has happened. Then they stand up, and are surprised.
“Oh, look!” they say, “he’s gone right out into the middle.”
After this the boat runs aground 1.
You jump up, and you shout to them not to stop.
“Yes. What’s the matter?” they shout back.
“Don’t stop,” you roar.
“Don’t stop – go on – go on!”
“Go back, Emily, and see what it is they want,” says one; and Emily comes back, and asks what it is.
“What do you want?” she says, “anything happened?”
1 runs aground – садится на мель
“No,” you reply, “it’s all right; only go on, you know – don’t stop.”
“We can’t steer, if you stop. You must keep the boat moving.”
“Oh, all right, I’ll tell them. Are we doing it all right?”
“Oh, yes, very nicely, indeed, only don’t stop.”
“It doesn’t seem difficult at all. I thought it was so hard.”
“Oh, no, it’s simple enough. You want to keep on steady at it, that’s all.”
“I see. Give me out my red shawl, it’s under the cushion.”
You find the shawl, and by this time another one has come back and thinks she will have hers too, and they take Mary’s on chance, and Mary does not want it, so they bring it back and have a pocket-comb instead. It is about twenty minutes before they get off again, and, at the next corner, they see a cow, and you have to leave the boat to drive the cow away.
Finally George towed us steadily on to Penton Hook. There we discussed the important question of camping. We had decided to sleep on board that night. We decided to go to Runnymead, three and a half miles further, a quiet wooded part of the river, and where there is good shelter.
We all wished, however, afterward that we had stopped at Penton Hook. Three or four miles up stream is really nothing early in the morning, but it is a hard job at the end of a long day. You do not chat and laugh. Every half-mile you cover seems like two. When you have gone – what seems to you – at least ten miles, and still the lock is not in sight, you begin to seriously fear that somebody had stolen it.
I remember one day I was out with a young lady – cousin on my mother’s side – and we were pulling down to Goring. It was rather late, and we were anxious to come home – at least she was anxious to return home. It was half-past six when we reached Benson’s lock, and dusk was drawing on, and she began to get excited then. I drew out a map I had with me to see exactly how far it was. I saw it was just a mile and a half to the next lock – Wallingford – and five on from there to Cleeve.
“Oh, it’s all right!” I said. “We’ll be through the next lock before seven, and then there is only one more”, and I settled down and pulled steadily away.
We passed the bridge, and soon after that I asked if she saw the lock. She said no, she did not see any lock; and I said, “Oh!” and pulled on. Another five minutes went by, and then I asked her to look again.
“No,” she said; “I can’t see any signs of a lock.”
“You – you are sure you know a lock, when you do see one?” I asked hesitatingly, not wishing to offend her.
The question did offend her, however, and she suggested that I had better look for myself. Not a sign of a lock was to be seen.
“You don’t think we have lost our way, do you?” asked my companion, and she began to cry.
I tried to reassure her. I said that I was not rowing fast, but that we should soon reach the lock now; and I pulled on for another mile.
Then I began to get nervous myself. I looked again at the map. There was Wallingford lock, clearly marked, a mile and a half below Benson’s. It was a good, reliable map. Where were we? What had happened to us? I began to think it must be all a dream, and that I was really asleep in bed.
I asked my cousin if she thought it could be a dream, and she replied that she was just about to ask me the same question; and then we both wondered if we were both asleep, and if so, who was the real one that was dreaming, and who was the one that was only a dream.
I still went on pulling, however, and still no lock came in sight, and the river grew more and more gloomy and mysterious under the gathering shadows of night, and things became weird and uncanny. I thought of hobgoblins and banshees, and will-o’-the-wisps, and those wicked girls who sit up all night on rocks, and lure people into whirl-pools and things. In the middle of these reflections I heard the sounds of a song, played, badly, on a concertina, and knew that we were saved.
I do not admire the tones of a concertina, as a rule; but, oh! how beautiful the music seemed to us both then – far, far more beautiful than the voice of Orpheus or the lute of Apollo. The music was human and reassuring.
The sweet sounds drew nearer, and soon the boat from which they came lay alongside us. I never saw more attractive, lovable people in all my life. I hailed them, and asked if they could tell me the way to Wallingford lock; and I explained that I had been looking for it for the last two hours.
“Wallingford lock!” they answered. “Sir, that’s been done away with for over a year. There is no Wallingford lock now, sir. You’re close to Cleeve now!”
I had never thought of that. We thanked them over and over again, and we said it was a lovely night, and we wished them a pleasant trip, and, I think, I invited them all to come and spend a week with me, and my cousin said her mother would be so pleased to see them. And we got home in time for supper, after all.
Harris and I began to think that Bell Weir lock had dissapeared the same manner. George had towed us up to Staines, and we had taken the boat from there, and it seemed that we were dragging fifty tons after us, and were walking forty miles. It was half-past seven when we came to the place, and we all got in.
We did not feel that we yearned for the picturesque so much now as we had earlier in the day. We did not want scenery. We wanted to have our supper and go to bed. However, we dropped into a very pleasant nook under a great elm-tree, to the spreading roots of which we fastened the boat.
George said that we had better get the canvas up first, before it got quite dark, and while we could see what we were doing. Then, he said, all our work would be done, and we could sit down to eat with an easy mind.
We took up the hoops, and began to drop them into the sockets placed for them. You would not imagine this to be dangerous work. They were not hoops, they were demons. First they would not fit into their sockets at all, and we had to jump on them, and kick them, and hammer at them with the boat-hook; and, when they were in, we saw that they were in the wrong sockets, and they had to come out again.
But they would not come out, they tried to throw us into the water and drown us. They had hinges in the middle, and, when we were not looking, they nipped us with these hinges in delicate parts of the body.
We got them fixed at last, and then we had to arrange the covering over them. George unrolled it, and fastened one end over the nose of the boat. Harris stood in the middle to take it from George and roll it on to me. George did his part all right, but it was new work to Harris.
How he managed it I do not know, he could not explain himself; but by some mysterious process he succeeded, after ten minutes of superhuman effort, in getting himself completely rolled up in it. He was so firmly wrapped round, that he could not get out. He, of course, made frantic struggles for freedom – the birthright of every Englishman, – and, in doing so (I learned this afterwards), knocked over George; and then George, swearing at Harris, began to struggle too, and got himself entangled and rolled up.
I knew nothing about all this at the time. I had been told to stand where I was, and wait till the canvas came to me, and Montmorency and I stood there and waited.
We waited some time, until, at last, George’s head came over the side of the boat, and spoke up.
“Give us a hand here, can’t you, you cuckoo; standing there, when you see we are both being suffocated, you dummy!”
I never could withstand an appeal for help, so I went and undid them; Harris was nearly black in the face.
It took us half an hour after that, before the canvas was properly up, and then we cleared the decks, and got out supper. We put the kettle, and went down to the stern and pretended to take no notice of it.
That is the only way to deal with the kettle. If it sees that you are waiting for it and are anxious, it will never even sing. You have to go away and begin your meal, as if you were not going to have any tea at all. You must not even look round at it. Then you will soon hear it sounds.
It is a good plan, too, if you are in a great hurry, to talk very loudly to each other about how you don’t need any tea. You get near the kettle, so that it can hear you, and then you shout out, “I don’t want any tea; do you, George?” to which George shouts back, “Oh, no, I don’t like tea; we’ll have lemonade instead – tea’s so indigestible.” And the kettle begins to boil.
We made this old trickery, and it worked. Then we lit the lantern, and sat down to supper.
How good one feels when one is full – how satisfied with the world! People who have tried it, tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy; but a full stomach does the business quite as well, and is cheaper, and more easily obtained.
One feels so forgiving and generous after a substantial and well-digested meal – so noble-minded, so kindly-hearted.
It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon, it says, “Work!” After beefsteak and porter, it says, “Sleep!” After a cup of tea (two spoonful for each cup, and don’t let it stand more than three minutes), it says to the brain, “Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; and soar over the whirling world beneath you!”
After hot muffins, it says, “Be dull and soulless, like a beast of the field – a brainless animal, with listless eye that lacks hope, or fear, or love, or life.” And after brandy it says, “Now, come, fool, grin and tumble.”
We are but the sorriest slaves of our stomach. Reach not after morality and righteousness, my friends; watch vigilantly your stomach, and diet it with care and judgment. Then virtue and contentment will come and reign within your heart; and you will be a good citizen, a loving husband, and a tender father – a noble, pious man.
Before our supper, Harris and George and I were quarrelsome and snappy and angry; after our supper, we sat and smiled. We loved each other, we loved everybody.
We lit our pipes, and sat, looking out on the quiet night, and talked.
George said why could not we be always like this – away from the world, with its sin and temptation, leading sober, peaceful lives, and doing good. And we discussed the possibility of our going away, we four, to some desert island, and living there in the woods.
George remembered a very funny story that happened to his father once. He said his father was travelling with another fellow through Wales, and, one night, they stopped at a little inn, where there were some other fellows, and they joined the other fellows, and spent the evening with them.
They had a very jolly evening, and sat up late, and, by the time they came to go to bed, they (this was when George’s father was a very young man) were slightly drunk, too. They (George’s father and George’s father’s friend) were to sleep in the same room, but in different beds. They took the candle, and went up. The candle went out, and they had to undress and grope into bed in the dark. This they did; but, instead of getting into separate beds, as they thought they were doing, they both climbed into the same one without knowing it – one getting in with his head at the top, and the other lying with his feet on the pillow.
There was silence for a moment, and then George’s father said:
“What’s the matter, Tom?” replied Joe’s voice from the other end of the bed.
“Look, there’s a man in my bed,” said George’s father; “here’s his feet on my pillow.”
“Well, it’s an extraordinary thing, Tom,” answered the other; “but there is a man in my bed, too!” “What are you going to do?” asked George’s father.
“Well, I’m going to throw him out,” replied Joe. “So am I,” said George’s father, valiantly.
There was a brief struggle, then a rather doleful voice said:
“I say, Tom!”
“How are you?”
“Well, to tell you the truth, my man has thrown me out.”
“So has mine! It’s an awful inn!”
We turned in at ten that night, and I thought I should sleep well, being tired; but I didn’t. As a rule, I undress and put my head on the pillow, and then somebody hits at the door, and says it is half-past eight. But tonight everything seemed against me; the hardness of the boat, the cramped position (I was lying with my feet under one seat, and my head on another), the sound of the water round the boat, and the wind among the branches disturbed me.
I did get to sleep for a few hours. I slept through it for a while, dreaming that I had swallowed a sovereign, and that they were cutting a hole in my back with a gimlet, so as to get it out. I thought it very unkind of them, and I told them I would owe them the money, and they should have it at the end of the month. But they would not hear of that, and said it would be much better if they had it then, because otherwise the interest would accumulate so. I told them what I thought of them, and then they pushed me so hard that I woke up.
The boat seemed stuffy, and my head ached; so I stepped out into the cool night air. I put on what clothes I could find about – some of my own, and some of George’s and Harris’s – and crept under the canvas on to the bank.
It was a glorious night. The moon had sunk, and left the quiet earth alone with the stars. They awe us, these strange stars, so cold, so clear.
I woke at six the next morning; and found George awake too. We tried to go to sleep again, but we could not.
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