Книга Three Men on the Bummel. Содержание - Chapter III

He was a methodical man.

"Take a piece of paper"-he always began at the beginning-"put down on it everything you can possibly require, then go over it and see that it contains nothing you can possibly do without. Imagine yourself in bed; what have you got on? Very well, put it down— together with a change. You get up; what do you do? Wash yourself. What do you wash yourself with? Soap; put down soap. Go on till you have finished. Then take your clothes. Begin at your feet; what do you wear on your feet? Boots, shoes, socks; put them down. Work up till you get to your head. What else do you want besides clothes? A little brandy; put it down. A corkscrew, put it down. Put down everything, then you don't forget anything."

That is the plan he always pursued himself. The list made, he would go over it carefully, as he always advised, to see that he had forgotten nothing. Then he would go over it again, and strike out everything it was possible to dispense with.

Then he would lose the list.

Said George: "Just sufficient for a day or two we will take with us on our bikes. The bulk of our luggage we must send on from town to town."

"We must be careful," I said; "I knew a man once-"

Harris looked at his watch.

"We'll hear about him on the boat," said Harris; "I have got to meet Clara at Waterloo Station in half an hour."

"It won't take half an hour," I said; "it's a true story, and-"

"Don't waste it," said George: "I am told there are rainy evenings in the Black Forest; we may he glad of it. What we have to do now is to finish this list."

Now I come to think of it, I never did get off that story; something always interrupted it. And it really was true.

Chapter III

Harris's one fault-Harris and the Angel-A patent bicycle lamp— The ideal saddle-The "Overhauler"-His eagle eye-His method-His cheery confidence-His simple and inexpensive tastes-His appearance-How to get rid of him-George as prophet-The gentle art of making oneself disagreeable in a foreign tongue-George as a student of human nature-He proposes an experiment-His Prudence— Harris's support secured, upon conditions.

On Monday afternoon Harris came round; he had a cycling paper in his hand.

I said: "If you take my advice, you will leave it alone."

Harris said: "Leave what alone?"

I said: "That brand-new, patent, revolution in cycling, record— breaking, Tomfoolishness, whatever it may be, the advertisement of which you have there in your hand."

He said: "Well, I don't know; there will be some steep hills for us to negotiate; I guess we shall want a good brake."

I said: "We shall want a brake, I agree; what we shall not want is a mechanical surprise that we don't understand, and that never acts when it is wanted."

"This thing," he said, "acts automatically."

"You needn't tell me," I said. "I know exactly what it will do, by instinct. Going uphill it will jamb the wheel so effectively that we shall have to carry the machine bodily. The air at the top of the hill will do it good, and it will suddenly come right again. Going downhill it will start reflecting what a nuisance it has been. This will lead to remorse, and finally to despair. It will say to itself: 'I'm not fit to be a brake. I don't help these fellows; I only hinder them. I'm a curse, that's what I am;' and, without a word of warning, it will 'chuck' the whole business. That is what that brake will do. Leave it alone. You are a good fellow," I continued, "but you have one fault."

"What?" he asked, indignantly.

"You have too much faith," I answered. "If you read an advertisement, you go away and believe it. Every experiment that every fool has thought of in connection with cycling you have tried. Your guardian angel appears to be a capable and conscientious spirit, and hitherto she has seen you through; take my advice and don't try her too far. She must have had a busy time since you started cycling. Don't go on till you make her mad."

He said: "If every man talked like that there would be no advancement made in any department of life. If nobody ever tried a new thing the world would come to a standstill. It is by-"

"I know all that can be said on that side of the argument," I interrupted. "I agree in trying new experiments up to thirty-five; AFTER thirty-five I consider a man is entitled to think of himself. You and I have done our duty in this direction, you especially. You have been blown up by a patent gas lamp-"

He said: "I really think, you know, that was my fault; I think I must have screwed it up too tight."

I said: "I am quite willing to believe that if there was a wrong way of handling the thing that is the way you handle it. You should take that tendency of yours into consideration; it bears upon the argument. Myself, I did not notice what you did; I only know we were riding peacefully and pleasantly along the Whitby Road, discussing the Thirty Years' War, when your lamp went off like a pistol-shot. The start sent me into the ditch; and your wife's face, when I told her there was nothing the matter and that she was not to worry, because the two men would carry you upstairs, and the doctor would be round in a minute bringing the nurse with him, still lingers in my memory."

He said: "I wish you had thought to pick up the lamp. I should like to have found out what was the cause of its going off like that."

I said: "There was not time to pick up the lamp. I calculate it would have taken two hours to have collected it. As to its 'going off,' the mere fact of its being advertised as the safest lamp ever invented would of itself, to anyone but you, have suggested accident. Then there was that electric lamp," I continued.

"Well, that really did give a fine light," he replied; "you said so yourself."

I said: "It gave a brilliant light in the King's Road, Brighton, and frightened a horse. The moment we got into the dark beyond Kemp Town it went out, and you were summoned for riding without a light. You may remember that on sunny afternoons you used to ride about with that lamp shining for all it was worth. When lighting— up time came it was naturally tired, and wanted a rest."

"It was a bit irritating, that lamp," he murmured; "I remember it."

I said: "It irritated me; it must have been worse for you. Then there are saddles," I went on-I wished to get this lesson home to him. "Can you think of any saddle ever advertised that you have NOT tried?"

He said: "It has been an idea of mine that the right saddle is to be found."

I said: "You give up that idea; this is an imperfect world of joy and sorrow mingled. There may be a better land where bicycle saddles are made out of rainbow, stuffed with cloud; in this world the simplest thing is to get used to something hard. There was that saddle you bought in Birmingham; it was divided in the middle, and looked like a pair of kidneys."

He said: "You mean that one constructed on anatomical principles."

"Very likely," I replied. "The box you bought it in had a picture on the cover, representing a sitting skeleton-or rather that part of a skeleton which does sit."

He said: "It was quite correct; it showed you the true position of the-"

I said: "We will not go into details; the picture always seemed to me indelicate."

He said: "Medically speaking, it was right."

"Possibly," I said, "for a man who rode in nothing but his bones. I only know that I tried it myself, and that to a man who wore flesh it was agony. Every time you went over a stone or a rut it nipped you; it was like riding on an irritable lobster. You rode that for a month."

"I thought it only right to give it a fair trial," he answered.

I said: "You gave your family a fair trial also; if you will allow me the use of slang. Your wife told me that never in the whole course of your married life had she known you so bad tempered, so un-Christian like, as you were that month. Then you remember that other saddle, the one with the spring under it."

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