CHAPTER XIII (Continuation)


Our departure from Marlow I regard as one of our greatest successes. It was dignified and impressive, without being ostentatious. We had insisted at all the shops we had been to that the things should be sent with us then and there. None of your "Yes, sir, I will send them off at once: the boy will be down there before you are, sir!" and then fooling about on the landing-stage, and going back to the shop twice to have a row about them, for us. We waited while the basket was packed, and took the boy with us.
We went to a good many shops, adopting this principle at each one; and the consequence was that, by the time we had finished, we had as fine a collection of boys with baskets following us around as heart could desire; and our final march down the middle of the High Street, to the river, must have been as imposing a spectacle as Marlow had seen for many a long day.
The order of the procession was as follows:

Montmorency, carrying a stick.
Two disreputable-looking curs, friends of Montmorency\'s.
George, carrying coats and rugs, and smoking a short pipe.
Harris, trying to walk with easy grace, while carrying a bulged-out Gladstone bag in one hand and a bottle of lime-juice in the other.
Greengrocer\'s boy and baker\'s boy, with baskets.
Boots from the hotel, carrying hamper.
Confectioner\'s boy, with basket.
Grocer\'s boy, with basket.
Long-haired dog.
Cheesemonger\'s boy, with basket.
Odd man carrying a bag.
Bosom companion of odd man, with his hands in his pockets, smoking a short clay.
Fruiterer\'s boy, with basket.
Myself, carrying three hats and a pair of boots, and trying to look as if I didn\'t know it.
Six small boys, and four stray dogs.

When we got down to the landing-stage, the boatman said:
\"Let me see, sir; was yours a steam-launch or a house-boat?"
On our informing him it was a double-sculling skiff, he seemed surprised.
We had a good deal of trouble with steam launches that morning. It was just before the Henley week, and they were going up in large numbers; some by themselves, some towing houseboats. I do hate steam launches: I suppose every rowing man does. I never see a steam launch but I feel I should like to lure it to a lonely part of the river, and there, in the silence and the solitude, strangle it.
There is a blatant bumptiousness about a steam launch that has the knack of rousing every evil instinct in my nature, and I yearn for the good old days, when you could go about and tell people what you thought of them with a hatchet and a bow and arrows. The expression on the face of the man who, with his hands in his pockets, stands by the stern, smoking a cigar, is sufficient to excuse a breach of the peace by itself; and the lordly whistle for you to get out of the way would, I am confident, ensure a verdict of "justifiable homicide" from any jury of river men.
They used to have to whistle for us to get out of their way. If I may do so, without appearing boastful, I think I can honestly say that our one small boat, during that week, caused more annoyance and delay and aggravation to the steam launches that we came across than all the other craft on the river put together.
\"Steam launch, coming!" one of us would cry out, on sighting the enemy in the distance; and, in an instant, everything was got ready to receive her. I would take the lines, and Harris and George would sit down beside me, all of us with our backs to the launch, and the boat would drift out quietly into mid-stream.
On would come the launch, whistling, and on we would go, drifting. At about a hundred yards off, she would start whistling like mad, and the people would come and lean over the side, and roar at us; but we never heard them! Harris would be telling us an anecdote about his mother, and George and I would not have missed a word of it for worlds.
Then that launch would give one final shriek of a whistle that would nearly burst the boiler, and she would reverse her engines, and blow off steam, and swing round and get aground; everyone on board of it would rush to the bow and yell at us, and the people on the bank would stand and shout to us, and all the other passing boats would stop and join in, till the whole river for miles up and down was in a state of frantic commotion. And then Harris would break off in the most interesting part of his narrative, and look up with mild surprise, and say to George:
"Why, George, bless me, if here isn\'t a steam launch!"
And George would answer:
\"Well, do you know, I thought I heard something!"
Upon which we would get nervous and confused, and not know how to get the boat out of the way, and the people in the launch would crowd round and instruct us:
\"Pull your right - you, you idiot! back with your left. No, not YOU - the other one - leave the lines alone, can\'t you - now, both together. NOT that way. Oh, you --- !"
Then they would lower a boat and come to our assistance; and, after quarter of an hour\'s effort, would get us clean out of their way, so that they could go on; and we would thank them so much, and ask them to give us a tow. But they never would.
Another good way we discovered of irritating the aristocratic type of steam launch, was to mistake them for a bean feast, and ask them if they were Messrs Cubit\'s lot or the Bermondsey Good Templars, and could they lend us a saucepan.
Old ladies, not accustomed to the river, are always intensely nervous of steam launches. I remember going up once from Staines to Windsor - a stretch of water peculiarly rich in these mechanical monstrosities - with a party containing three ladies of this description. It was very exciting. At the first glimpse of every steam launch that came in view, they insisted on landing and sitting down on the bank until it was out of sight again. They said they were very sorry, but that they owed it to their families not to be fool-hardy.
We found ourselves short of water at Hambledon Lock; so we took our jar and went up to the lock-keeper\'s house to beg for some.
George was our spokesman. He put on a winning smile, and said:
\"Oh, please could you spare us a little water?"
\"Certainly," replied the old gentleman; "take as much as you want, and leave the rest."
\"Thank you so much," murmured George, looking about him. "Where - where do you keep it?"
\"It\'s always in the same place my boy," was the stolid reply: "just behind you."
\"I don\'t see it," said George, turning round.
\"Why, bless us, where\'s your eyes?" was the man\'s comment, as he twisted George round and pointed up and down the stream. "There\'s enough of it to see, ain\'t there?"
\"Oh!" exclaimed George, grasping the idea; "but we can\'t drink the river, you know!"
\"No; but you can drink some of it," replied the old fellow. "It\'s what I\'ve drunk for the last fifteen years."
George told him that his appearance, after the course, did not seem a sufficiently good advertisement for the brand; and that he would prefer it out of a pump.
We got some from a cottage a little higher up. I daresay that was only river water, if we had known. But we did not know, so it was all right. What the eye does not see, the stomach does not get upset over.
We tried river water once, later on in the season, but it was not a success. We were coming down stream, and had pulled up to have tea in a backwater near Windsor. Our jar was empty, and it was a case of going without our tea or taking water from the river. Harris was for chancing it. He said it must be all right if we boiled the water. He said that the various germs of poison present in the water would be killed by the boiling. So we filled our kettle with Thames backwater, and boiled it; and very careful we were to see that it did boil.
We had made the tea, and were just settling down comfortably to drink it, when George, with his cup half-way to his lips, paused and exclaimed:
\"What\'s that?"
\"What\'s what?" asked Harris and I.
\"Why that!" said George, looking westward.
Harris and I followed his gaze, and saw, coming down towards us on the sluggish current, a dog. It was one of the quietest and peacefullest dogs I have ever seen. I never met a dog who seemed more contented - more easy in its mind. It was floating dreamily on its back, with its four legs stuck up straight into the air. It was what I should call a full-bodied dog, with a well-developed chest. On he came, serene, dignified, and calm, until he was abreast of our boat, and there, among the rushes, he eased up, and settled down cosily for the evening.
George said he didn\'t want any tea, and emptied his cup into the water. Harris did not feel thirsty, either, and followed suit. I had drunk half mine, but I wished I had not.
I asked George if he thought I was likely to have typhoid.
He said: "Oh, no;" he thought I had a very good chance indeed of escaping it. Anyhow, I should know in about a fortnight, whether I had or had not.
We went up the backwater to Wargrave. It is a short cut, leading out of the right-hand bank about half a mile above Marsh Lock, and is well worth taking, being a pretty, shady little piece of stream, besides saving nearly half a mile of distance.
Of course, its entrance is studded with posts and chains, and surrounded with notice boards, menacing all kinds of torture, imprisonment, and death to everyone who dares set scull upon its waters - I wonder some of these riparian boors don\'t claim the air of the river and threaten everyone with forty shillings fine who breathes it - but the posts and chains a little skill will easily avoid; and as for the boards, you might, if you have five minutes to spare, and there is nobody about, take one or two of them down and throw them into the river.
Half-way up the backwater, we got out and lunched; and it was during this lunch that George and I received rather a trying shock.
Harris received a shock, too; but I do not think Harris\'s shock could have been anything like so bad as the shock that George and I had over the business.
You see, it was in this way: we were sitting in a meadow, about ten yards from the water\'s edge, and we had just settled down comfortably to feed. Harris had the beefsteak pie between his knees, and was carving it, and George and I were waiting with our plates ready.
\"Have you got a spoon there?" says Harris; "I want a spoon to help the gravy with."
The hamper was close behind us, and George and I both turned round to reach one out. We were not five seconds getting it. When we looked round again, Harris and the pie were gone!
It was a wide, open field. There was not a tree or a bit of hedge for hundreds of yards. He could not have tumbled into the river, because we were on the water side of him, and he would have had to climb over us to do it.
George and I gazed all about. Then we gazed at each other.
\"Has he been snatched up to heaven?" I queried.
\"They\'d hardly have taken the pie too," said George.
There seemed weight in this objection, and we discarded the heavenly theory.
\"I suppose the truth of the matter is," suggested George, descending to the commonplace and practicable, "that there has been an earthquake."
And then he added, with a touch of sadness in his voice: "I wish he hadn\'t been carving that pie."
With a sigh, we turned our eyes once more towards the spot where Harris and the pie had last been seen on earth; and there, as our blood froze in our veins and our hair stood up on end, we saw Harris\'s head - and nothing but his head - sticking bolt upright among the tall grass, the face very red, and bearing upon it an expression of great indignation!
George was the first to recover.
\"Speak!" he cried, "and tell us whether you are alive or dead - and where is the rest of you?"
\"Oh, don\'t be a stupid ass!" said Harris\'s head. "I believe you did it on purpose."
\"Did what?" exclaimed George and I.
" Why, put me to sit here - darn silly trick! Here, catch hold of the pie."
And out of the middle of the earth, as it seemed to us, rose the pie - very much mixed up and damaged; and, after it, scrambled Harris - tumbled, grubby, and wet.
He had been sitting, without knowing it, on the very verge of a small gully, the long grass hiding it from view; and in leaning a little back he had shot over, pie and all.
He said he had never felt so surprised in all his life, as when he first felt himself going, without being able to conjecture in the slightest what had happened. He thought at first that the end of the world had come.
Harris believes to this day that George and I planned it all beforehand. Thus does unjust suspicion follow even the most blameless for, as the poet says, "Who shall escape calumny?"
Who, indeed!


VOCABULARY:
abreast: side by side
accustomed: familiar, used to sth
aggravation: irritation
bean feast: party or celebration
boastful: chełpliwy
boor: prostak
bosom: serdeczny
breach: violation
bumptious: nadęty
calumny: lie
carve: (carving, carved) cut in slices
commotion: tumult, zamieszanie
cosily: comfortably
cur: (old-fashioned) mongrel, kundel
dignified: distinguished, dystyngowany
float: (floating, floated) unosić się na wodzie
fool-hardy: reckless, ryzykowny
frantic: anxious
gaze: (gazing, gazed) look
germ: zarazek
get aground: dostać się na mieliznę
grubby: dirty
gully: parów
hatchet: topór
have a row: to argue
I daresay: sądzę, myślę
indignation: righteous anger
intensely: extremely
knack: talent
launch: a large boat
lure: (luring, lured) attract
ostentatious: pretentious, ostentacyjny
riparian: to do with rivers, rzeczny
rush: sitowie
serene: tranquil, calm
shriek: wrzask
snatch: (snatching, snatched) take
steam launch: a type of a steam boat
steam: para
strangle: (strangling, strangled) udusić
stray: zabłąkany
studded: nabijany
tumble: (tumbling, tumbled) fall
verge: edge, krawędź
winning: zwycięski


Test ze słownictwa

Nie masz uprawnień do komentowania

JezykiObce.pl

Wielka gramatyka języka angielskiego o 20% taniej!

Multikurs.pl

Zaloguj się lub zarejestruj aby skorzystać ze wszystkich funkcji portalu.

Czytelnia - treści losowe

Subskrybcje

Zapisz się do subskrypcji aby codziennie otrzymywać wiadomości i uczyć się słowek
captcha 
Główna Czytelnia Literatura Powieść w odcinkach CHAPTER XIII (Continuation)
Loading ...

Aby zapewnić najwyższą jakość usług, wykorzystujemy pliki cookies. Sprawdź cel, warunki przechowywania i dostęp do tych informacji w Polityce prywatności. Czy zgadzasz się na wykorzystywanie plików cookies?

Polityka cookie OK