Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Jerome K. Jerome - Three Men in a Boat, Aug 10, 2012

Priya reported that it was laughter all the way at the reading of Three Men in a Boat. These pictures will confirm the merriment that pervaded the reading room.

Sivaram often takes a Kindle e-book copy with him on his travels to keep himself in good humour.  

Sivaram reads as Zakia and Kavita listen.

The many digressions into sentimental philosophy enriched the reading, as Zakia noted. Talitha read the passage where Harris sings a comic song, and she beautifully mimicked the falsettos. It had the group in splits.  

Gopa, Priya, and Talitha

Priya had a fine time reading the passage about two men in their cups who go to bed and throw each other out. 

Here is the group displaying copies of the book they read at the end fo the session:
Kavita, Talitha, Priya, Zakia, Sivaram, Gopa, Sunil, and Mathew

To read a fuller account, click below.
Present: Sunil, Mathew, Sivaram, Talitha, Zakia, Gopa, Kavita and Priya
Absent: Joe, Kumkum (traveling), Bobby (out of station), Thommo (reason unknown)
The reading session was a full house, except for the absence of a few members who were traveling.  It was laughter all the way. The timeless classic that is part travelogue, part history, part philosophy and a lot of situational comedy was savored at the reading down to the small bits of humour.

Zakia was the first to read as she had to leave early because of the Ramadan fast.

She read a philosophic passage from Chapter 3, where Jerome comments about travelling in the boat of life, about de cluttering one’s life and carrying less “lumber”

Zakia said she found such digressions into philosophy and sentimental passages enriched the reading many fold. Talitha was of the opinion that these digressions are not written in a serious vein but are “tongue in cheek” carrying forward the comic element. She said the language was charming and embedded with subtle humour.

Sunil said that the book was written after Jerome went with his wife on a honeymoon boat trip the year prior to writing the novel. George and Harris were two of Jerome’s close friends, George Wingrave and Carl Hentschel , who did not accompany Jerome on such a trip. Montmorencey is completely fictional. The book was planned as a travelogue.

Sivaram said he reads the book every time he travels, which is very often. He has it in his Kindle. He read the passage on Jerome’s friend delivering ripe smelly cheese to his friend and his odorous encounters with people trying to escape the putrid smell. It deals with absolutely hilarious situations in the cab, on the train, and at his friend’s house before the final riddance of the cheese. It was going to be buried in the sand, by the sea.

This passage had everybody cracking up with laughter.

Gopa said that the train travel described is realistic. That in India too when passengers in trains open their food boxes, the smell of food floats around  and people sniff and wonder about the smell, but some are like the charwoman in this context,  who when asked if she could stand the smell replied, “What smell?”

Mathew read the passage when Jerome talks about being in the same room with two lovers, with a historical reference to the courtship between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

The members discussed briefly the references to history, which lends the book a rich texture.

Talitha read the passage when Harris sings a comic song. It had the group in splits. Talitha read it beautifully imitating the falsettos and musical impossibilities that Harris achieved while singing, which left the guests at the high party bewildered and amused.

Gopa read the passage when Harris gets lost in the Hampton Court maze and asks other lost souls to follow him, misleading the group, creating utter confusion and finally being rescued by a keeper.

Priya read a passage where Jerome writes about the relationship between food and intellect. Of how the body and mind are dictated by the food one eats.
After eggs and bacon it says work, after beefsteak and porter it says sleep…  hot muffins, it directs the body to be dull.
She read another short passage about two drunken men sleeping in the same bed and finally throwing each other out without knowing their identities. They heartily narrated to each other the same tale and wondered how both could have met the same fate in the same inn on the same night!
‘What the matter, Tom?’ replied Joe’s voice from the other end of the bed.
Why there’s a man in my bed, said George’s father, here’s his feet on my pillow.”

Sunil’s edition of the book was full of illustrations and he would show the caricatures to the group.

He read the passage where the two friends take a train from Waterloo Station to Kingston and bribe the train driver. He said it was so much like Ernakulam Junction. Everybody discussed about the wrong announcements made on train stations in India with trains arriving at wrong platforms and passengers running helter-skelter, causing mayhem.

The group discussed Montmorency at length, beginning with his name. Gopa read the scene where Montmorency meets a cat and she mentioned that tom cats are huge and dangerous looking animals.

Priya asked about locks on rivers and the system of operation of locks.

Mathew and Sunil explained the system of locks. Gopa said that most locks on the Thames are no longer in use. She talked about the Teddington lock.

Talitha said the book abounds in typical British humour and school boy stories.

Sunil added that there was a touch of pathos too especially in the story of the lady who ended her life; later her body was found floating in the water. She was socially ostracized for having a child out of wedlock.

Mathew said the book was written at a time when philosophy was at its peak. London was full of philosophers. The book was successful overnight and it was pirated too. It was hugely successful in Russia.

Its success prompted Jerome to attempt another book, Three Men on a Bummel (1900) of a similar kind, about his anecdotes on a cycling trip in Black Forests of Germany but the book did not receive as glorious a reception.

The book has been made into films several times over with a latest series, in 2005 for BBC.

The group compared Jerome with two other British writers of comic novels, Wodehouse and Kingsley Amis and felt that Jerome could be positioned between the two. With the Olympics in mind, Sunil compared the two literary stalwarts in athletic terms. Jerome was a sprinter with little stamina, while Wodehouse could keep going for 80 books (not to speak of plays and scripts) over a career spanning 70 years like a marathon runner.

Kavita read from Chapter 13 – The strange disappearance of Harris and a pie. Sunil showed an illustration of the incident and every one had a good laugh.

The Readings

George comes out really quite sensible at times. You’d be surprised. I call that downright wisdom, not merely as regards the present case, but with reference to our trip up the river of life, generally. How many people, on that voyage, load up the boat till it is ever in danger of swamping with a store of foolish things which they think essential to the pleasure and comfort of the trip, but which are really only useless lumber.

How they pile the poor little craft mast-high with fine clothes and big houses; with useless servants, and a host of swell friends that do not care twopence for them, and that they do not care three ha’pence for; with expensive entertainments that nobody enjoys, with formalities and fashions, with pretence and ostentation, and with — oh, heaviest, maddest lumber of all! — the dread of what will my neighbour think, with luxuries that only cloy, with pleasures that bore, with empty show that, like the criminal’s iron crown of yore, makes to bleed and swoon the aching head that wears it!

It is lumber, man — all lumber! Throw it overboard. It makes the boat so heavy to pull, you nearly faint at the oars. It makes it so cumbersome and dangerous to manage, you never know a moment’s freedom from anxiety and care, never gain a moment’s rest for dreamy laziness — no time to watch the windy shadows skimming lightly o’er the shallows, or the glittering sunbeams flitting in and out among the ripples, or the great trees by the margin looking down at their own image, or the woods all green and golden, or the lilies white and yellow, or the sombre-waving rushes, or the sedges, or the orchis, or the blue forget-me-nots.

Throw the lumber over, man! Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need — a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.

You will find the boat easier to pull then, and it will not be so liable to upset, and it will not matter so much if it does upset; good, plain merchandise will stand water. You will have time to think as well as to work. Time to drink in life’s sunshine — time to listen to the Æolian music that the wind of God draws from the human heart-strings around us — time to —

I beg your pardon, really. I quite forgot.

I remember a friend of mine, buying a couple of cheeses at Liverpool. Splendid cheeses they were, ripe and mellow, and with a two hundred horse-power scent about them that might have been warranted to carry three miles, and knock a man over at two hundred yards. I was in Liverpool at the time, and my friend said that if I didn’t mind he would get me to take them back with me to London, as he should not be coming up for a day or two himself, and he did not think the cheeses ought to be kept much longer.

“Oh, with pleasure, dear boy,” I replied, “with pleasure.”

I called for the cheeses, and took them away in a cab. It was a ramshackle affair, dragged along by a knock-kneed, brokenwinded somnambulist, which his owner, in a moment of enthusiasm, during conversation, referred to as a horse. I put the cheeses on the top, and we started off at a shamble that would have done credit to the swiftest steam-roller ever built, and all went merry as a funeral bell, until we turned the corner. There, the wind carried a whiff from the cheeses full on to our steed. It woke him up, and, with a snort of terror, he dashed off at three miles an hour. The wind still blew in his direction, and before we reached the end of the street he was laying himself out at the rate of nearly four miles an hour, leaving the cripples and stout old ladies simply nowhere.

It took two porters as well as the driver to hold him in at the station; and I do not think they would have done it, even then, had not one of the men had the presence of mind to put a handkerchief over his nose, and to light a bit of brown paper.

I took my ticket, and marched proudly up the platform, with my cheeses, the people falling back respectfully on either side. The train was crowded, and I had to get into a carriage where there were already seven other people. One crusty old gentleman objected, but I got in, notwithstanding; and, putting my cheeses upon the rack, squeezed down with a pleasant smile, and said it was a warm day.

A few moments passed, and then the old gentleman began to fidget.

“Very close in here,” he said.

“Quite oppressive,” said the man next him.

And then they both began sniffing, and, at the third sniff, they caught it right on the chest, and rose up without another word and went out. And then a stout lady got up, and said it was disgraceful that a respectable married woman should be harried about in this way, and gathered up a bag and eight parcels and went. The remaining four passengers sat on for a while, until a solemn-looking man in the corner, who, from his dress and general appearance, seemed to belong to the undertaker class, said it put him in mind of dead baby; and the other three passengers tried to get out of the door at the same time, and hurt themselves.

I smiled at the black gentleman, and said I thought we were going to have the carriage to ourselves; and he laughed pleasantly, and said that some people made such a fuss over a little thing. But even he grew strangely depressed after we had started, and so, when we reached Crewe, I asked him to come and have a drink. He accepted, and we forced our way into the buffet, where we yelled, and stamped, and waved our umbrellas for a quarter of an hour; and then a young lady came, and asked us if we wanted anything.

“What’s yours?” I said, turning to my friend.

“I’ll have half-a-crown’s worth of brandy, neat, if you please,
miss,” he responded.

And he went off quietly after he had drunk it and got into another carriage, which I thought mean.

From Crewe I had the compartment to myself, though the train was crowded. As we drew up at the different stations, the people, seeing my empty carriage, would rush for it. “Here y’ are, Maria; come along, plenty of room.” “All right, Tom; we’ll get in here,” they would shout. And they would run along, carrying heavy bags, and fight round the door to get in first. And one would open the door and mount the steps, and stagger back into the arms of the man behind him; and they would all come and have a sniff, and then droop off and squeeze into other carriages, or pay the difference and go first.

From Euston, I took the cheeses down to my friend’s house. When his wife came into the room she smelt round for an instant. Then she said:
“What is it? Tell me the worst.”

I said:

“It’s cheeses. Tom bought them in Liverpool, and asked me to bring them up with me.”

And I added that I hoped she understood that it had nothing to do with me; and she said that she was sure of that, but that she would speak to Tom about it when he came back. My friend was detained in Liverpool longer than he expected; and, three days later, as he hadn’t returned home, his wife called on me.

She said:

“What did Tom say about those cheeses?”

I replied that he had directed they were to be kept in a moist place, and that nobody was to touch them.

She said:

“Nobody’s likely to touch them. Had he smelt them?”

I thought he had, and added that he seemed greatly attached to them.

“You think he would be upset,” she queried, “if I gave a man a sovereign to take them away and bury them?”

I answered that I thought he would never smile again.

An idea struck her. She said:

“Do you mind keeping them for him? Let me send them round to you.”

“Madam,” I replied, “for myself I like the smell of cheese, and the journey the other day with them from Liverpool I shall ever look back upon as a happy ending to a pleasant holiday. But, in this world, we must consider others. The lady under whose roof I have the honour of residing is a widow, and, for all I know, possibly an orphan too. She has a strong, I may say an eloquent, objection to being what she terms ‘put upon.’ The presence of your husband’s cheeses in her house she would, I instinctively feel, regard as a ‘put upon’; and it shall never be said that I put upon the widow and the orphan.”

“Very well, then,” said my friend’s wife, rising, “all I have to say is, that I shall take the children and go to an hotel until those cheeses are eaten. I decline to live any longer in the same house with them.”

She kept her word, leaving the place in charge of the charwoman, who, when asked if she could stand the smell, replied, “What smell?” and who, when taken close to the cheeses and told to sniff hard, said she could detect a faint odour of melons. It was argued from this that little injury could result to the woman from the atmosphere, and she was left.

The hotel bill came to fifteen guineas; and my friend, after reckoning everything up, found that the cheeses had cost him eight-and-sixpence a pound. He said he dearly loved a bit of cheese, but it was beyond his means; so he determined to get rid of them. He threw them into the canal; but had to fish them out again, as the bargemen complained. They said it made them feel quite faint. And, after that, he took them one dark night and left them in the parish mortuary. But the coroner discovered them, and made a fearful fuss.

He said it was a plot to deprive him of his living by waking up the corpses.

My friend got rid of them, at last, by taking them down to a sea-side town, and burying them on the beach. It gained the place quite a reputation. Visitors said they had never noticed before how strong the air was, and weak-chested and consumptive people used to throng there for years afterwards.

Have you ever been in a house where there are a couple
courting? It is most trying. You think you will go and sit in the
drawing-room, and you march off there. As you open the door,
you hear a noise as if somebody had suddenly recollected
something, and, when you get in, Emily is over by the window,
full of interest in the opposite side of the road, and your friend,
John Edward, is at the other end of the room with his whole
soul held in thrall by photographs of other people’s relatives.

“Oh!” you say, pausing at the door, “I didn’t know anybody
was here.”

“Oh! didn’t you?” says Emily, coldly, in a tone which implies
that she does not believe you.

You hang about for a bit, then you say:

“It’s very dark. Why don’t you light the gas?”

John Edward says, “Oh!” he hadn’t noticed it; and Emily
says that papa does not like the gas lit in the afternoon.

You tell them one or two items of news, and give them your
views and opinions on the Irish question; but this does not appear
to interest them. All they remark on any subject is, “Oh!”
“Is it?” “Did he?” “Yes,” and “You don’t say so!” And, after ten
minutes of such style of conversation, you edge up to the door,
and slip out, and are surprised to find that the door immediately
closes behind you, and shuts itself, without your having
touched it.

Half an hour later, you think you will try a pipe in the conservatory.
The only chair in the place is occupied by Emily;
and John Edward, if the language of clothes can be relied upon,
has evidently been sitting on the floor. They do not speak, but
they give you a look that says all that can be said in a civilised
community; and you back out promptly and shut the door
behind you.

You are afraid to poke your nose into any room in the house
now; so, after walking up and down the stairs for a while, you
go and sit in your own bedroom. This becomes uninteresting,
however, after a time, and so you put on your hat and stroll out
into the garden. You walk down the path, and as you pass the
summer-house you glance in, and there are those two young
idiots, huddled up into one corner of it; and they see you, and are evidently under the idea that, for some wicked purpose of
your own, you are following them about.

“Why don’t they have a special room for this sort of thing,
and make people keep to it?” you mutter; and you rush back to
the hall and get your umbrella and go out.

It must have been much like this when that foolish boy
Henry VIII. was courting his little Anne. People in Buckinghamshire
would have come upon them unexpectedly when
they were mooning round Windsor and Wraysbury, and have
exclaimed, “Oh! you here!” and Henry would have blushed
and said, “Yes; he’d just come over to see a man;” and Anne
would have said, “Oh, I’m so glad to see you! Isn’t it funny? I’ve
just met Mr. Henry VIII. in the lane, and he’s going the same
way I am.”

Then those people would have gone away and said to themselves:
“Oh! we’d better get out of here while this billing and
cooing is on. We’ll go down to Kent.”

And they would go to Kent, and the first thing they would
see in Kent, when they got there, would be Henry and Anne
fooling round Hever Castle.

“Oh, drat this!” they would have said. “Here, let’s go away.
I can’t stand any more of it. Let’s go to St. Albans — nice quiet
place, St. Albans.”

And when they reached St. Albans, there would be that
wretched couple, kissing under the Abbey walls. Then these
folks would go and be pirates until the marriage was over.

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 from the conservatory, and come up from the stairs, and go and fetch each other from all over the house, and crowd into the drawing- room, and sit round, all smirking in anticipation.

Then Harris begins.

Well, you don’t look for much of a voice in a comic song. You don’t expect correct phrasing or vocalization. You don’t mind if a man does find out, when in the middle of a note, that he is too high, and comes down with a jerk. You don’t bother about time. You don’t mind a man being two bars in front of the accompaniment, and easing up in the middle of a line to argue it out with the pianist, and then starting the verse afresh. But you do expect the words.

You don’t expect a man to never remember more than the first three lines of the first verse, and to keep on repeating these until it is time to begin the chorus. You don’t expect a man to break off in the middle of a line, and snigger, and say, it’s very funny, but he’s blest if he can think of the rest of it, and then try and make it up for himself, and, afterwards, suddenly recollect it, when he has got to an entirely different part of the song, and break off, without a word of warning, to go back and let you have it then and there. 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 out of Pinafore — no, I don’t mean Pinafore — I mean — you know what I mean — the other thing, you know. You must all join in the chorus, you know.”

Murmurs of delight and anxiety to join in the chorus. Brilliant performance of prelude to the Judge’s song in “Trial by Jury” 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 of the First Lord’s song out of “Pinafore.” Nervous pianist tries to push on with prelude, gives it up, and tries to follow Harris with accompaniment to Judge’s song out “Trial by Jury,” finds that doesn’t answer, and tries to recollect what he is doing, and where he is, feels his mind giving way, and stops short.

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): “Why the Judge’s song out of Trial by Jury. Don’t you know it?”

SOME FRIEND OF HARRIS’S (from the back of the room): “No, you’re not, you chuckle-head, you’re singing the Admiral’s song from Pinafore.

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 so long as Harris gets on and sings it, and Harris, with an evident sense of injustice rankling inside him, requests pianist to begin again. Pianist, thereupon, starts prelude to the Admiral’s song, and Harris, seizing what he considers to be a favourable opening in the music, begins.


“‘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, gives up the unequal contest and retires; his place being 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 (upon whom the explanation of matters has slowly dawned — laughing): “By Jove! I beg your pardon. Of course — I’ve been mixing up the two songs. It was Jenkins who confused me, you know. Now then.

Singing; his voice appearing to come from the cellar, and suggesting the first low warnings of 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, and has to be led out.

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, and chance it (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

‘And he diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-dee’d,
Till now he is the ruler of the Queen’s navee.’

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 said he thought that map must have been got up as a practical joke, because it wasn’t a bit like the real thing, and only misleading. It was a country cousin that Harris took in. 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 keep on taking the first turning to the right. 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, and had had about enough of it. 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 fell behind, and followed.

They picked up various other people who wanted to get it over, as they went along, until they had absorbed all the persons in the maze. People who had given up all hopes of ever getting either in or out, or of ever seeing their home and friends again, plucked up courage at the sight of Harris and his party, and joined the procession, blessing him. Harris said he should judge there must have been twenty people, following him, in all; and one woman with a baby, who had been there all the morning, insisted on taking 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, but he held on until, at last, they passed the half of a penny bun on the ground that Harris’s cousin swore he 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 produced his map, and explained his theory.

“The map may be all right enough,” said one of the party, “if you know whereabouts in it 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. For the beginning again part of it there was not much enthusiasm; but with regard to the advisability of going back to the entrance there was complete unanimity, and so they turned, and trailed after Harris again, in the opposite direction. About ten minutes more passed, and then they found themselves in the centre.

Harris thought at first of pretending that that was what he had been aiming at; but the crowd looked dangerous, and he decided to treat it as an accident.

Anyhow, they had got something to start from then. They did know where they were, and the map was once more consulted, 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, they simply couldn’t get anywhere else. Whatever way they turned brought them back to the middle. It became so regular at length, that some of the people stopped there, and waited for the others to take a walk round, and come back to them. Harris drew out his map again, after a while, but the sight of it only infuriated the mob, and they told him to go and curl his hair with it. Harris said that he couldn’t help feeling that, to a certain extent, he had become unpopular.

They all got crazy at last, and sang out for the keeper, and the man came and climbed up the ladder outside, and shouted out directions to them. But all their heads were, by this time, in such a confused whirl that they were incapable of grasping anything, and so the man told them to stop where they were, and he would come to them. They huddled together, and waited; and he climbed down, and came in.

He was a young keeper, as luck would have it, and new to the business; and when he got in, he couldn’t find them, and he wandered about, trying to get to them, and then he got lost. They caught sight of him, every now and then, rushing about the other side of the hedge, and he would see them, and rush to get to them, and they would wait there for about five minutes, and then he would reappear again in exactly the same spot, and ask them where they had been.

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, so far as he was a judge; and we agreed that we would try to get George to go into it, on our way back.

After eggs and bacon, it says, “Work!” After beefsteak and porter, it says, “Sleep!” After a cup of tea (two spoonsful 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; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!” After hot muffins, it says, “Be dull and soulless, like a beast of the field — a brainless animal, with listless eye, unlit by any ray of fancy, or of hope, or fear, or love, or life.” And after brandy, taken in sufficient quantity, it says, “Now, come, fool, grin and tumble, that your fellow-men may laugh — drivel in folly, and splutter in senseless sounds, and show what a helpless ninny is poor man whose wit and will are drowned, like kittens, side by side, in half an inch of alcohol.”

We are but the veriest, 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, unsought by any effort of your own; and you will be a good citizen, a loving husband, and a tender father — a noble, pious man.

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.

“Why, 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 I’m blest if there isn’t a man in my bed, too!”

“What are you going to do?” asked George’s father.

“Well, I’m going to chuck him out,” replied Joe.

“So am I,” said George’s father, valiantly.

There was a brief struggle, followed by two heavy bumps on the floor, and then a rather doleful voice said:

“I say, Tom!”


“How have you got on?”

“Well, to tell you the truth, my man’s chucked me out.”

“So’s mine! I say, I don’t think much of this inn, do you?”

“What was the name of that inn?” said Harris.

“The Pig and Whistle,” said George. “Why?”

“Ah, no, then it isn’t the same,” replied Harris.

“What do you mean?” queried George.

“Why it’s so curious,” murmured Harris, “but precisely that very same thing happened to my father once at a country inn. I’ve often heard him tell the tale. I thought it might have been the same inn.”

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!

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