CHAPTER XII (Continuation)

To return to our present trip: nothing exciting happened, and we tugged steadily on to a little below Monkey Island, where we drew up and lunched. We tackled the cold beef for lunch, and then we found that we had forgotten to bring any mustard. I don\'t think I ever in my life, before or since, felt I wanted mustard as badly as I felt I wanted it then. I don\'t care for mustard as a rule, and it is very seldom that I take it at all, but I would have given worlds for it then.
I don\'t know how many worlds there may be in the universe, but anyone who had brought me a spoonful of mustard at that precise moment could have had them all. I grow reckless like that when I want a thing and can\'t get it.
Harris said he would have given worlds for mustard too. It would have been a good thing for anybody who had come up to that spot with a can of mustard, then: he would have been set up in worlds for the rest of his life.
But there! I daresay both Harris and I would have tried to back out of the bargain after we had got the mustard. One makes these extravagant offers in moments of excitement, but, of course, when one comes to think of it, one sees how absurdly out of proportion they are with the value of the required article. I heard a man, going up a mountain in Switzerland, once say he would give worlds for a glass of beer, and, when he came to a little shanty where they kept it, he kicked up a most fearful row because they charged him five francs for a bottle of Bass. He said it was a scandalous imposition, and he wrote to The Times about it.
It cast a gloom over the boat, there being no mustard. We ate our beef in silence. Existence seemed hollow and uninteresting. We thought of the happy days of childhood, and sighed. We brightened up a bit, however, over the apple-tart, and, when George drew out a tin of pine-apple from the bottom of the hamper, and rolled it into the middle of the boat, we felt that life was worth living after all.
We are very fond of pine-apple, all three of us. We looked at the picture on the tin; we thought of the juice. We smiled at one another, and Harris got a spoon ready.
Then we looked for the knife to open the tin with. We turned out everything in the hamper. We turned out the bags. We pulled up the boards at the bottom of the boat. We took everything out on to the bank and shook it. There was no tin-opener to be found.
Then Harris tried to open the tin with a pocket-knife, and broke the knife and cut himself badly; and George tried a pair of scissors, and the scissors flew up, and nearly put his eye out. While they were dressing their wounds, I tried to make a hole in the thing with the spiky end of the hitcher, and the hitcher slipped and jerked me out between the boat and the bank into two feet of muddy water, and the tin rolled over, uninjured, and broke a teacup.
Then we all got mad. We took that tin out on the bank, and Harris went up into a field and got a big sharp stone, and I went back into the boat and brought out the mast, and George held the tin and Harris held the sharp end of his stone against the top of it, and I took the mast and poised it high up in the air, and gathered up all my strength and brought it down.
It was George\'s straw hat that saved his life that day. He keeps that hat now (what is left of it), and, of a winter\'s evening, when the pipes are lit and the boys are telling stretchers about the dangers they have passed through, George brings it down and shows it round, and the stirring tale is told anew, with fresh exaggerations every time.
Harris got off with merely a flesh wound.
After that, I took the tin off myself, and hammered at it with the mast till I was worn out and sick at heart, whereupon Harris took it in hand.
We beat it out flat; we beat it back square; we battered it into every form known to geometry - but we could not make a hole in it. Then George went at it, and knocked it into a shape, so strange, so weird, so unearthly in its wild hideousness, that he got frightened and threw away the mast. Then we all three sat round it on the grass and looked at it.
There was one great dent across the top that had the appearance of a mocking grin, and it drove us furious, so that Harris rushed at the thing, and caught it up, and flung it far into the middle of the river, and as it sank we hurled our curses at it, and we got into the boat and rowed away from the spot, and never paused till we reached Maidenhead.
Maidenhead itself is too snobby to be pleasant. It is the haunt of the river swell and his overdressed female companion. It is the town of showy hotels, patronised chiefly by dudes and ballet girls. It is the witch\'s kitchen from which go forth those demons of the river - steam-launches. The London Journal duke always has his "little place" at Maidenhead; and the heroine of the three-volume novel always dines there when she goes out on the spree with somebody else\'s husband.
We went through Maidenhead quickly, and then eased up, and took leisurely that grand reach beyond Boulter\'s and Cookham locks. Clieveden Woods still wore their dainty dress of spring, and rose up, from the water\'s edge, in one long harmony of blended shades of fairy green. In its unbroken loveliness this is, perhaps, the sweetest stretch of all the river, and lingeringly we slowly drew our little boat away from its deep peace.
We pulled up in the backwater, just below Cookham, and had tea; and, when we were through the lock, it was evening. A stiffish breeze had sprung up - in our favour, for a wonder; for, as a rule on the river, the wind is always dead against you whatever way you go. It is against you in the morning, when you start for a day\'s trip, and you pull a long distance, thinking how easy it will be to come back with the sail. Then, after tea, the wind veers round, and you have to pull hard in its teeth all the way home.
When you forget to take the sail at all, then the wind is consistently in your favour both ways. But there! this world is only a probation, and man was born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.
This evening, however, they had evidently made a mistake, and had put the wind round at our back instead of in our face. We kept very quiet about it, and got the sail up quickly before they found it out, and then we spread ourselves about the boat in thoughtful attitudes, and the sail bellied out, and strained, and grumbled at the mast, and the boat flew.
I steered.
There is no more thrilling sensation I know of than sailing. It comes as near to flying as man has got to yet - except in dreams. The wings of the rushing wind seem to be bearing you onward, you know not where. You are no longer the slow, plodding, puny thing of clay, creeping tortuously upon the ground; you are a part of Nature! Your heart is throbbing against hers! Her glorious arms are round you, raising you up against her heart! Your spirit is at one with hers; your limbs grow light! The voices of the air are singing to you. The earth seems far away and little; and the clouds, so close above your head, are brothers, and you stretch your arms to them.
We had the river to ourselves, except that, far in the distance, we could see a fishing-punt, moored in mid-stream, on which three fishermen sat; and we skimmed over the water, and passed the wooded banks, and no one spoke.
I was steering.
As we drew nearer, we could see that the three men fishing seemed old and solemn-looking men. They sat on three chairs in the punt, and watched intently their lines. And the red sunset threw a mystic light upon the waters, and tinged with fire the towering woods, and made a golden glory of the piled-up clouds. It was an hour of deep enchantment, of ecstatic hope and longing. The little sail stood out against the purple sky, the gloaming lay around us, wrapping the world in rainbow shadows; and, behind us, crept the night.
We seemed like knights of some old legend, sailing across some mystic lake into the unknown realm of twilight, unto the great land of the sunset.
We did not go into the realm of twilight; we went slap into that punt, where those three old men were fishing. We did not know what had happened at first, because the sail shut out the view, but from the nature of the language that rose up upon the evening air, we gathered that we had come into the neighbourhood of human beings, and that they were vexed and discontented.
Harris let the sail down, and then we saw what had happened. We had knocked those three old gentlemen off their chairs into a general heap at the bottom of the boat, and they were now slowly and painfully sorting themselves out from each other, and picking fish off themselves; and as they worked, they cursed us - not with a common cursory curse, but with long, carefully-thought-out, comprehensive curses, that embraced the whole of our career, and went away into the distant future, and included all our relations, and covered everything connected with us - good, substantial curses.
Harris told them they ought to be grateful for a little excitement, sitting there fishing all day, and he also said that he was shocked and grieved to hear men their age give way to temper so.
But it did not do any good.
George said he would steer, after that. He said a mind like mine ought not to be expected to give itself away in steering boats - better let a mere commonplace human being see after that boat, before we jolly well all got drowned; and he took the lines, and brought us up to Marlow.
And at Marlow we left the boat by the bridge, and went and put up for the night at the "Crown."

VOCABULARY:
as a rule: usually
back out: withdraw, cancel, wycofać się
bargain: good deal, umowa, interes
belly out: (bellying, bellied) to swell or become full, wybrzuszyć
clay: glina
comprehensive: all-inclusive, wyczerpujący
curse: przekleństwo
dude: (old-fashioned) a person from the city visiting countryside
embrace: (embracing, embraced) include
exaggeration: hyperbole, wyolbrzymienie, przesada
fling: (flinging, flung) throw
get off: (getting, got) wychodzić cało
grin: smile
grumble: (grumbling, grumbled) complain
haunt: meeting place
hideousness: ugliness, repulsiveness
hurl: (hurling¸ hurled) throw
imposition: narzucenie
in sb’s favour: na czyjąś korzyść
intently: carefully
limb: kończyna
mock: (mocking, mocked) scorn, drwić
mocking grin: drwiący uśmiech
out of proportion: wyolbrzymiony
plodding: dull
poise: (poising, poised) przygotować, zrównoważyć
probation: okres próbny
punt: płaskodenna łódź
puny: weak
row: quarrel
shanty: chałupa
showy: ostentatious, ostentacyjny
sick at heart: very unhappy and disappointed
sigh: (sighing, sighed) wzdychać
skim: (skimming, skimmed) fly
slap: (slapping, slapped) hit, walnąć z siłą
snobby: snobbish
spree: extravaganza, fling
stirring: exciting
strain: (straining, strained) struggle
swell: (old-fashioned) a fashionable and important person
tackle: (tackling, tackled) bring down
tell stretchers: to tell the stories about your adventures which stretch the truth, make you look more important and courageous than you really are, to tell exaggerated stories
temper: anger
thrilling: exciting
tug: (tugging, tugged) pull
twilight: zmierzch
veer: (veering, veered) turn
vexed: angry
weird: strange
wonder: surprise


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Główna Czytelnia Literatura Powieść w odcinkach CHAPTER XII (Continuation)
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