Книга Three Men on the Bummel. Содержание - Chapter V

He turned from George, and addressed himself to Harris and myself.

"Your friend's beauty," said he, "I should describe as elusive. It is there, but you can easily miss it. Now, in that cap, to my mind, you do miss it."

At that point it occurred to George that he had had sufficient fun with this particular man. He said:

"That is all right. We don't want to lose the train. How much?"

Answered the man: "The price of that cap, sir, which, in my opinion, is twice as much as it is worth, is four-and-six. Would you like it wrapped up in brown paper, sir, or in white?"

George said he would take it as it was, paid the man four-and-six in-silver, and went out. Harris and I followed.

At Fenchurch Street we compromised with our cabman for five shillings. He made us another courtly bow, and begged us to remember him to the Emperor of Austria.

Comparing views in the train, we agreed that we had lost the game by two points to one; and George, who was evidently disappointed, threw the book out of window.

We found our luggage and the bicycles safe on the boat, and with the tide at twelve dropped down the river.

Chapter V

A necessary digression-Introduced by story containing moral-One of the charms of this book-The Journal that did not command success-Its boast: "Instruction combined with Amusement"— Problem: say what should be considered instructive and what amusing-A popular game-Expert opinion on English law-Another of the charms of this book-A hackneyed tune-Yet a third charm of this book-The sort of wood it was where the maiden lived— Description of the Black Forest.

A story is told of a Scotchman who, loving a lassie, desired her for his wife. But he possessed the prudence of his race. He had noticed in his circle many an otherwise promising union result in disappointment and dismay, purely in consequence of the false estimate formed by bride or bridegroom concerning the imagined perfectability of the other. He determined that in his own case no collapsed ideal should be possible. Therefore, it was that his proposal took the following form:

"I'm but a puir lad, Jennie; I hae nae siller to offer ye, and nae land."

"Ah, but ye hae yoursel', Davie!"

"An' I'm wishfu' it wa' onything else, lassie. I'm nae but a puir ill-seasoned loon, Jennie."

"Na, na; there's mony a lad mair ill-looking than yoursel', Davie."

"I hae na seen him, lass, and I'm just a-thinkin' I shouldna' care to."

"Better a plain man, Davie, that ye can depend a' than ane that would be a speirin' at the lassies, a-bringin' trouble into the hame wi' his flouting ways."

"Dinna ye reckon on that, Jennie; it's nae the bonniest Bubbly Jock that mak's the most feathers to fly in the kailyard. I was ever a lad to run after the petticoats, as is weel kent; an' it's a weary handfu' I'll be to ye, I'm thinkin'."

"Ah, but ye hae a kind heart, Davie! an' ye love me weel. I'm sure on't."

"I like ye weel enoo', Jennie, though I canna say how long the feeling may bide wi' me; an' I'm kind enoo' when I hae my ain way, an' naethin' happens to put me oot. But I hae the deevil's ain temper, as my mither call tell ye, an' like my puir fayther, I'm a— thinkin', I'll grow nae better as I grow mair auld."

"Ay, but ye're sair hard upon yersel', Davie. Ye're an honest lad. I ken ye better than ye ken yersel', an' ye'll mak a guid hame for me."

"Maybe, Jennie! But I hae my doots. It's a sair thing for wife an' bairns when the guid man canna keep awa' frae the glass; an' when the scent of the whusky comes to me it's just as though I hae'd the throat o' a Loch Tay salmon; it just gaes doon an' doon, an' there's nae filling o' me."

"Ay, but ye're a guid man when ye're sober, Davie."

"Maybe I'll be that, Jennie, if I'm nae disturbed."

"An' ye'll bide wi' me, Davie, an' work for me?"

"I see nae reason why I shouldna bide wi' yet Jennie; but dinna ye clack aboot work to me, for I just canna bear the thoct o't."

"Anyhow, ye'll do your best, Davie? As the minister says, nae man can do mair than that."

"An' it's a puir best that mine'll be, Jennie, and I'm nae sae sure ye'll hae ower muckle even o' that. We're a' weak, sinfu' creatures, Jennie, an' ye'd hae some deefficulty to find a man weaker or mair sinfu' than mysel'."

"Weel, weel, ye hae a truthfu' tongue, Davie. Mony a lad will mak fine promises to a puir lassie, only to break 'em an' her heart wi' 'em. Ye speak me fair, Davie, and I'm thinkin' I'll just tak ye, an' see what comes o't."

Concerning what did come of it, the story is silent, but one feels that under no circumstances had the lady any right to complain of her bargain. Whether she ever did or did not-for women do not invariably order their tongues according to logic, nor men either for the matter of that-Davie, himself, must have had the satisfaction of reflecting that all reproaches were undeserved.

I wish to be equally frank with the reader of this book. I wish here conscientiously to let forth its shortcomings. I wish no one to read this book under a misapprehension.

There will be no useful information in this book.

Anyone who should think that with the aid of this book he would be able to make a tour through Germany and the Black Forest would probably lose himself before he got to the Nore. That, at all events, would be the best thing that could happen to him. The farther away from home he got, the greater only would be his difficulties.

I do not regard the conveyance of useful information as my forte. This belief was not inborn with me; it has been driven home upon me by experience.

In my early journalistic days, I served upon a paper, the forerunner of many very popular periodicals of the present day. Our boast was that we combined instruction with amusement; as to what should be regarded as affording amusement and what instruction, the reader judged for himself. We gave advice to people about to marry-long, earnest advice that would, had they followed it, have made our circle of readers the envy of the whole married world. We told our subscribers how to make fortunes by keeping rabbits, giving facts and figures. The thing that must have surprised them was that we ourselves did not give up journalism and start rabbit-farming. Often and often have I proved conclusively from authoritative sources how a man starting a rabbit farm with twelve selected rabbits and a little judgment must, at the end of three years, be in receipt of an income of two thousand a year, rising rapidly; he simply could not help himself. He might not want the money. He might not know what to do with it when he had it. But there it was for him. I have never met a rabbit farmer myself worth two thousand a year, though I have known many start with the twelve necessary, assorted rabbits. Something has always gone wrong somewhere; maybe the continued atmosphere of a rabbit farm saps the judgment.

We told our readers how many bald-headed men there were in Iceland, and for all we knew our figures may have been correct; how many red herrings placed tail to mouth it would take to reach from London to Rome, which must have been useful to anyone desirous of laying down a line of red herrings from London to Rome, enabling him to order in the right quantity at the beginning; how many words the average woman spoke in a day; and other such like items of information calculated to make them wise and great beyond the readers of other journals.

We told them how to cure fits in cats. Personally I do not believe, and I did not believe then, that you can cure fits in cats. If I had a cat subject to fits I should advertise it for sale, or even give it away. But our duty was to supply information when asked for. Some fool wrote, clamouring to know; and I spent the best part of a morning seeking knowledge on the subject. I found what I wanted at length at the end of an old cookery book. What it was doing there I have never been able to understand. It had nothing to do with the proper subject of the book whatever; there was no suggestion that you could make anything savoury out of a cat, even when you had cured it of its fits. The authoress had just thrown in this paragraph out of pure generosity. I can only say that I wish she had left it out; it was the cause of a deal of angry correspondence and of the loss of four subscribers to the paper, if not more. The man said the result of following our advice had been two pounds worth of damage to his kitchen crockery, to say nothing of a broken window and probable blood poisoning to himself; added to which the cat's fits were worse than before. And yet it was a simple enough recipe. You held the cat between your legs, gently, so as not to hurt it, and with a pair of scissors made a sharp, clean cut in its tail. You did not cut off any part of the tail; you were to be careful not to do that; you only made an incision.

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