''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.
Fond as I am of cheese, therefore, I hold that George was right in declining
to take any.
''We shan't want any tea,'' said George (Harris's face fell at this); ''but we'll
have a good round, square, slap-up meal at seven – dinner, tea, and supper combined.''
Harris grew more cheerful. 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.
It seemed to me that George harped too much on the getting-upset idea. It seemed
to me the wrong spirit to go about the trip in.
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. A glass in the evening when you are doing a mouch round the town
and looking at the girls is all right enough; but don't drink when the sun is blazing
down on your head, and you've got hard work to do.
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. We got a big Gladstone for the clothes, and a couple
of hampers for the victuals and the cooking utensils. We moved the table up against
the window, piled everything in a heap in the middle of the floor, and sat round
and looked at it.
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 living. (It surprises me myself,
sometimes, how many of these subjects there are.) I impressed the fact upon George
and Harris, and told them that they had better leave the whole matter entirely to
me. They fell into the suggestion with a readiness that had something uncanny about
it. George put on a pipe and spread himself over the easy-chair, and Harris cocked
his legs on the table and lit a cigar.
This was hardly what I intended. What I had meant, of course, was, that I should
boss the job, and that Harris and George should potter about under my directions,
I pushing them aside every now and then with, ''Oh, you – !'' ''Here, let me do
it.'' ''There you are, simple enough!'' – really teaching them, as you might say.
Their taking it in the way they did irritated me. There is nothing does irritate
me more than seeing other people sitting about doing nothing when I'm working.
I lived with a man once who used to make me mad that way. He would loll on the
sofa and watch me doing things by the hour together, following me round the room
with his eyes, wherever I went. He said it did him real good to look on at me, messing
about. He said it made him feel that life was not an idle dream to be gaped and
yawned through, but a noble task, full of duty and stern work. He said he often
wondered now how he could have gone on before he met me, never having anybody to
look at while they worked.
Now, I'm not like that. I can't sit still and see another man slaving and working.
I want to get up and superintend, and walk round with my hands in my pockets, and
tell him what to do. It is my energetic nature. I can't help it.
However, I did not say anything, but started the packing. It seemed a longer
job than I had thought it was going to be; but I got the bag finished at last, and
I sat on it and strapped it.
''Ain't you going to put the boots in?'' said Harris.
And I looked round, and found I had forgotten them. That's just like Harris.
He couldn't have said a word until I'd got the bag shut and strapped, of course.
And George laughed – one of those irritating, senseless, chuckle-headed, crack-jawed
laughs of his. They do make me so wild.
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? I don't know how
it is, but I never do know whether I've packed my tooth-brush.
My tooth-brush is a thing that haunts me when I'm travelling, and makes my life
a misery. I dream that I haven't packed it, and wake up in a cold perspiration,
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 it is always the last thing I turn
out of the bag; and then I repack and forget it, and have to rush upstairs for it
at the last moment and carry it to the railway station, wrapped up in my pocket–
Of course I had to turn every mortal thing out now, and, of course, I could not
find it. I rummaged the things up into much the same state that they must have been
before the world was created, and when chaos reigned. Of course, I found George's
and Harris's eighteen times over, but I couldn't find my own. I put the things back
one by one, and held everything up and shook it. 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 a
hang whether the soap was in or whether it wasn't; and I slammed the bag to and
strapped it, and found that I had packed my tobacco-pouch in it, and had to re-open
it. It got shut up finally at 10.5 p.m., and then there remained the hampers to
do. Harris said that we should be wanting to start in less than twelve hours' time,
and thought that he and George had better do the rest; and I agreed and sat down,
and they had a go.
They began in a light-hearted spirit, evidently intending to show me how to do
it. I made no comment; I only waited. When George is hanged, Harris will be the
worst packer in this world; and I looked at the piles of plates and cups, and kettles,
and bottles and jars, and pies, and stoves, and cakes, and tomatoes, &c., and felt
that the thing would soon become exciting.
It did. They started with breaking a cup. That was the first thing they did.
They did that just to show you what they COULD do, and to get you interested.
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 came over and sat on the edge of the table and watched them. It irritated
them more than anything I could have said. 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; and they packed the pies at the bottom, and put
heavy things on top, and smashed the pies in.
They upset salt over everything, and as for the butter! I never saw two men do
more with one-and-twopence worth of butter in my whole life than they did. After
George had got it off his slipper, they tried to put it in the kettle. It wouldn't
go in, and what WAS in wouldn't come out. They did scrape 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'll take my oath I put it down on that chair,'' said George, staring at the
''I saw you do it myself, not a minute ago,'' said Harris.
Then they started round the room again looking for it; and then they met again
in the centre, and stared at one another.
''Most extraordinary thing I ever heard of,'' said George.
''So mysterious!'' said Harris.
Then George got round at the back of Harris and saw it.
''Why, here it is all the time,'' he exclaimed, indignantly.
''Where?'' cried Harris, spinning round.
''Stand still, can't you!'' roared George, flying after him.
And they got it off, and packed it in the teapot.
Montmorency was in it all, of course. Montmorency's ambition in life, is to get
in the way and be sworn at. If he can squirm in anywhere where he particularly is
not wanted, and be a perfect nuisance, and make people mad, and have things thrown
at his head, then he feels his day has not been wasted.
To get somebody to stumble over him, and curse him steadily for an hour, is his
highest aim and object; and, when he has succeeded in accomplishing this, his conceit
becomes quite unbearable.
He came and sat down on things, just when they were wanted to be packed; and
he laboured under the fixed belief that, whenever Harris or George reached out their
hand for anything, it was his cold, damp nose that they wanted. He put his leg into
the jam, and he worried the teaspoons, and he pretended that the lemons were rats,
and got into the hamper and killed three of them before Harris could land him with
Harris said I encouraged him. I didn't encourage him. A dog like that don't want
any encouragement. It's the natural, original sin that is born in him that makes
him do things like that.
The packing was done at 12.50; and Harris sat on the big hamper, and said he
hoped nothing would be found broken. George said that if anything was broken it
was broken, which reflection seemed to comfort him. He also said he was ready for
We were all ready for bed. Harris was to sleep with us that night, and we went
We tossed for beds, and Harris had to sleep with me. He said:
''Do you prefer the inside or the outside, J.?''
I said I generally preferred to sleep INSIDE a bed.
Harris said it was old.
''What time shall I wake you fellows?''
''No – six,'' because I wanted to write some letters.
Harris and I had a bit of a row over it, but at last split the difference, and
said half-past six.
''Wake us at 6.30, George,'' we said.
George made no answer, and we found, on going over, that he had been asleep for
some time; so we placed the bath where he could tumble into it on getting out in
the morning, and went to bed ourselves.
MRS. P. AROUSES US. – GEORGE, THE SLUGGARD. – THE ''WEATHER FORECAST'' SWINDLE.
– OUR LUGGAGE. – DEPRAVITY OF THE SMALL BOY. – THE PEOPLE GATHER ROUND US. – WE
DRIVE OFF IN GREAT STYLE, AND ARRIVE AT WATERLOO. – INNOCENCE OF SOUTH WESTERN OFFICIALS
CONCERNING SUCH WORLDLY THINGS AS TRAINS. – WE ARE AFLOAT, AFLOAT IN AN OPEN BOAT.
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, starting up.
''Nine o'clock,'' she replied, through the keyhole. ''I thought you was a– oversleeping
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. ''Now we shan't
get on the water till after twelve. I wonder you take the trouble to get up at all.''
''Um,'' I replied, ''lucky for you that I do. If I hadn't woke you, you'd have
lain there for the whole fortnight.''
We snarled at one another in this strain for the next few minutes, when we were
interrupted by a defiant snore from George.
It reminded us, for the first time since our being called, of his existence.
There he lay – the man who had wanted to know what time he should wake us – on
his back, with his mouth wide open, and his knees stuck up.
I don't know why it should be, I am sure; but the sight of another man asleep
in bed when I am up, maddens me. It seems to me so shocking to see the precious
hours of a man's life – the priceless moments that will never come back to him again
– being wasted in mere brutish sleep.
There was George, throwing away in hideous sloth the inestimable gift of time;
his valuable life, every second of which he would have to account for hereafter,
passing away from him, unused. He might have been up stuffing himself with eggs
and bacon, irritating the dog, or flirting with the slavey, instead of sprawling
there, sunk in soul-clogging oblivion.
It was a terrible thought. Harris and I appeared to be struck by it at the same
instant. We determined to save him, and, in this noble resolve, our own dispute
was forgotten. We flew across and slung the clothes off him, and Harris landed him
one with a slipper, and I shouted in his ear, and he awoke.