صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

“There she goes," he said, “ there she goes, with two pounds worth of food on board that belongs to me, and that I haven't had!”

He said that if they had given him another day he thought he could have put it straight.

So I set my face against the sea trip. Not, as I explained, upon my own account. I was never queer. But I was afraid for George. George said he should be all right, and would rather like it, but he would advise Harris and me not to think of it, as he felt sure we should both be ill. Harris said that, to himself, it was always a mystery how people managed to get sick at sea — said he thought people must do it on purpose, from affectation — said he had often wished to be, but had never been able.

Then he told us anecdotes of how he had gone across the Channel when it was so rough that the passengers had to be tied into their berths, and he and the captain were the only two living souls on board who were not ill. Sometimes it was he and the second mate who were not ill; but it was generally he and one other man. If not he and another man, then it was he by himself.

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-loads of them; but I never met a man yet, on land, who had ever known at all what it was to be seasick. Where the thousands upon thousands of bad sailors that swarm in every ship hide themselves when they are on land is a mystery.

UNCLE PODGER. On the following evening, we again assembled to discuss and arrange our plans. Harris said:

“Now, the first thing to settle is what to take with us. Now, you get a bit of paper and write down, J., and you get the grocery catalogue, George, and somebody give me a bit of pencil, and then I'll make out a list.”

That's Harris all over -- so ready to take the burden of everything himself and put it on the backs of other people.

He always reminds me of my poor uncle Podger. You never saw such a commotion up and down a house in all your life as when my uncle Podger undertook to do a job. A picture would have come home from the frame-maker's and be standing in the dining-room, waiting to be put up, and Aunt Podger would ask what was to be done with it, and Uncle Podger would say:

“Oh, you leave that to me! Don't you, any of you, worry yourselves about that. I'll do all that.”

And then he would take off his coat and begin. He would send the girl out for sixpen’orth of nails, and then one of the boys after her to tell her what size to get; and, from that, he would gradually work down, and start the whole house.

“Now you go and get me my hammer, Will," he would shout; "and you bring me the rule, Tom; and I shall want the step-ladder, and I had better have a kitchen-chair, too; and, Jim! you run round to Mr. Goggles, and tell him Pa's kind regards, and hopes his leg's better; and will he lend him his spirit-level?' And don't you go, Maria, because I shall want somebody to hold me the light; and when the girl comes back, she must go out again for a bit of picture-cord; and Tom where's Tom? — Tom, you come here; I shall want you to hand me up the picture.

And then he would lift up the picture, and drop it, and it would come out of the frame, and he would try to save the glass, and cut himself; and then he would spring round the room, looking for his handkerchief. He could not find his handkerchief, because it was in the pocket of the coat he had taken off, and he did not know where he had put the coat, and all the house had to leave off looking for his tools, and start looking for his coat, while he would dance round and hinder them.

“Doesn't anybody in the whole house know where my coat is? I never came across such a set in all my life upon my word I didn't! Six of you! — and you can't find a coat that I put down not five minutes ago! Well, of all the

Then he'd get up, and find that he had been sitting on it, and would call out:

“Oh, you can give it up! I've found it myself now. Might just as well ask the cat to find anything as expect you people to find it.”

And, when half an hour had been spent in tying up his finger, and a new glass had been got, and the tools, and the ladder, and the chair, and the candle had been brought, he would have another go, the whole family, including the girl and the charwoman, standing round in a semicircle, ready to help. Two people would have to hold the chair, and a third would help him up on it, and hold him there, and a fourth would hand him a nail, and a fifth would pass him up a hammer, and he would take hold of the nail, and drop it.

“ There !” he would say in an injured tone, “now the nail's gone.

And we would all have to go down on our knees and grovel for it, while he would stand on the chair, and grunt, and want to know if he was to be kept there all the evening.

The nail would be found at last, and by that time he would have lost the hammer.

* Where's the hammer? What did I do with the hammer? Great heavens ! Seven of you, gaping round there, and you don't know what I did with the hammer!”

We would find the hammer for him, and then he would have lost sight of the mark he had made on the wall, where the nail was to go in, and each of us had to get up on a chair, beside him, and see if he could find it; and we would each discover it in a different place, and he would call us all fools, one after another, and tell us to get down. And he would take the rule, and remeasure, and find that he wanted half thirty-one and three eighths inches from the corner, and would try to do it in his head, and go mad.

And we would all try to do it in our heads, and all arrive at different results, and sneer at one another. And in the general row, the original number would be forgotten, and Uncle Podger would have to measure it again.

He would use a bit of string this time, and at the critical moment, when the old fool was leaning over the chair at an angle of forty-five, and trying to reach a point three inches beyond what was possible for him to reach, the string would slip, and down he would slide on to the piano, a really fine musical effect being produced by the suddenness with which his head and body struck all the notes at the same time.

And Aunt Maria would say that she would not allow the children to stand round and hear such language.

At last, Uncle Podger would get the spot fixed again, and put the point of the nail on it with his left hand, and take the hammer in his right hand. And, with the first blow, he would smash his thumb, and drop the hammer, with a yell, on somebody's toes.

Aunt Maria would mildly observe that, next time Uncle Podger was going to hammer a nail into the wall she hoped he'd let her know in time, so that she could make arrangements to go and spend a week with her mother while it was being done.

“Oh! you women, you make such a fuss over everything! Uncle Podger would reply, picking himself up. Why, I like doing a little job of this sort."

And then he would have another try, and at the second blow the nail would go clean through the plaster, and half the hammer after it, and Uncle Podger be precipitated against the wall with a force nearly sufficient to flatten his nose.

Then we had to find the rule and the string again, and a new hole was made ; and about midnight the picture would be up - very crooked and insecure, the wall for yards round looking as if it had been smoothed down with a rake, and everybody dead beat and wretched — except Uncle Podger.

“There you are,” he would say, stepping heavily off the chair on to the charwoman's corns, and surveying the mess he had made with evidert pride. “Why, some people would have had a man in to do a little thing like that!"

PACKING

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 altogether, 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 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 lighted a pipe and spread himself over the easy-chair, and Harris cocked his legs on the table and lighted 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 patter 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 toothbrush? I don't know how it is, but I never do know whether I've packed my toothbrush.

My tooth-brush is a thing that haunts me when I'm traveling, 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

« السابقةمتابعة »