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Home -> Jerome K. Jerome -> Three Men in a Boat -> Chapter 5

Three Men in a Boat - Chapter 5

1. Chapter 1

2. Chapter 2

3. Chapter 3

4. Chapter 4

5. Chapter 5

6. Chapter 6

7. Chapter 7

8. Chapter 8

9. Chapter 9

10. Chapter 10

11. Chapter 11

12. Chapter 12

13. Chapter 13

14. Chapter 14

15. Chapter 15

16. Chapter 16

17. Chapter 17

18. Chapter 18

19. Chapter 19



IT was Mrs. Poppets that woke me up next morning.

She said:

"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 yourselves."

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

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

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.

"Wasermarrer?" he observed, sitting up.

"Get up, you fat-headed chunk!" roared Harris. "It's quarter to ten."

"What!" he shrieked, jumping out of bed into the bath; "Who the thunder
put this thing here?"

We told him he must have been a fool not to see the bath.

We finished dressing, and, when it came to the extras, we remembered that
we had packed the tooth-brushes and the brush and comb (that tooth-brush
of mine will be the death of me, I know), and we had to go downstairs,
and fish them out of the bag. And when we had done that George wanted
the shaving tackle. We told him that he would have to go without shaving
that morning, as we weren't going to unpack that bag again for him, nor
for anyone like him.

He said:

"Don't be absurd. How can I go into the City like this?"

It was certainly rather rough on the City, but what cared we for human
suffering? As Harris said, in his common, vulgar way, the City would
have to lump it.

We went downstairs to breakfast. Montmorency had invited two other dogs
to come and see him off, and they were whiling away the time by fighting
on the doorstep. We calmed them with an umbrella, and sat down to chops
and cold beef.

Harris said:

"The great thing is to make a good breakfast," and he started with a
couple of chops, saying that he would take these while they were hot, as
the beef could wait.

George got hold of the paper, and read us out the boating fatalities, and
the weather forecast, which latter prophesied "rain, cold, wet to fine"
(whatever more than usually ghastly thing in weather that may be),
"occasional local thunder-storms, east wind, with general depression over
the Midland Counties (London and Channel). Bar. falling."

I do think that, of all the silly, irritating tomfoolishness by which we
are plagued, this "weather-forecast" fraud is about the most aggravating.
It "forecasts" precisely what happened yesterday or a the day before, and
precisely the opposite of what is going to happen to-day.

I remember a holiday of mine being completely ruined one late autumn by
our paying attention to the weather report of the local newspaper.
"Heavy showers, with thunderstorms, may be expected to-day," it would say
on Monday, and so we would give up our picnic, and stop indoors all day,
waiting for the rain. - And people would pass the house, going off in
wagonettes and coaches as jolly and merry as could be, the sun shining
out, and not a cloud to be seen.

"Ah!" we said, as we stood looking out at them through the window, "won't
they come home soaked!"

And we chuckled to think how wet they were going to get, and came back
and stirred the fire, and got our books, and arranged our specimens of
seaweed and cockle shells. By twelve o'clock, with the sun pouring into
the room, the heat became quite oppressive, and we wondered when those
heavy showers and occasional thunderstorms were going to begin.

"Ah! they'll come in the afternoon, you'll find," we said to each other.
"Oh, WON'T those people get wet. What a lark!"

At one o'clock, the landlady would come in to ask if we weren't going
out, as it seemed such a lovely day.

"No, no," we replied, with a knowing chuckle, "not we. WE don't mean to
get wet - no, no."

And when the afternoon was nearly gone, and still there was no sign of
rain, we tried to cheer ourselves up with the idea that it would come
down all at once, just as the people had started for home, and were out
of the reach of any shelter, and that they would thus get more drenched
than ever. But not a drop ever fell, and it finished a grand day, and a
lovely night after it.

The next morning we would read that it was going to be a "warm, fine to
set-fair day; much heat;" and we would dress ourselves in flimsy things,
and go out, and, half-an-hour after we had started, it would commence to
rain hard, and a bitterly cold wind would spring up, and both would keep
on steadily for the whole day, and we would come home with colds and
rheumatism all over us, and go to bed.

The weather is a thing that is beyond me altogether. I never can
understand it. The barometer is useless: it is as misleading as the
newspaper forecast.

There was one hanging up in a hotel at Oxford at which I was staying last
spring, and, when I got there, it was pointing to "set fair." It was
simply pouring with rain outside, and had been all day; and I couldn't
quite make matters out. I tapped the barometer, and it jumped up and
pointed to "very dry." The Boots stopped as he was passing, and said he
expected it meant to-morrow. I fancied that maybe it was thinking of the
week before last, but Boots said, No, he thought not.

I tapped it again the next morning, and it went up still higher, and the
rain came down faster than ever. On Wednesday I went and hit it again,
and the pointer went round towards "set fair," "very dry," and "much
heat," until it was stopped by the peg, and couldn't go any further. It
tried its best, but the instrument was built so that it couldn't prophesy
fine weather any harder than it did without breaking itself. It
evidently wanted to go on, and prognosticate drought, and water famine,
and sunstroke, and simooms, and such things, but the peg prevented it,
and it had to be content with pointing to the mere commonplace "very

Meanwhile, the rain came down in a steady torrent, and the lower part of
the town was under water, owing to the river having overflowed.

Boots said it was evident that we were going to have a prolonged spell of
grand weather SOME TIME, and read out a poem which was printed over the
top of the oracle, about

"Long foretold, long last;
Short notice, soon past."

The fine weather never came that summer. I expect that machine must have
been referring to the following spring.

Then there are those new style of barometers, the long straight ones. I
never can make head or tail of those. There is one side for 10 a.m.
yesterday, and one side for 10 a.m. to-day; but you can't always get
there as early as ten, you know. It rises or falls for rain and fine,
with much or less wind, and one end is "Nly" and the other "Ely" (what's
Ely got to do with it?), and if you tap it, it doesn't tell you anything.
And you've got to correct it to sea-level, and reduce it to Fahrenheit,
and even then I don't know the answer.

But who wants to be foretold the weather? It is bad enough when it
comes, without our having the misery of knowing about it beforehand. The
prophet we like is the old man who, on the particularly gloomy-looking
morning of some day when we particularly want it to be fine, looks round
the horizon with a particularly knowing eye, and says:

"Oh no, sir, I think it will clear up all right. It will break all right
enough, sir."

"Ah, he knows", we say, as we wish him good-morning, and start off;
"wonderful how these old fellows can tell!"

And we feel an affection for that man which is not at all lessened by the
circumstances of its NOT clearing up, but continuing to rain steadily all

"Ah, well," we feel, "he did his best."

For the man that prophesies us bad weather, on the contrary, we entertain
only bitter and revengeful thoughts.

"Going to clear up, d'ye think?" we shout, cheerily, as we pass.

"Well, no, sir; I'm afraid it's settled down for the day," he replies,
shaking his head.

"Stupid old fool!" we mutter, "what's HE know about it?" And, if his
portent proves correct, we come back feeling still more angry against
him, and with a vague notion that, somehow or other, he has had something
to do with it.

It was too bright and sunny on this especial morning for George's blood-
curdling readings about "Bar. falling," "atmospheric disturbance, passing
in an oblique line over Southern Europe," and "pressure increasing," to
very much upset us: and so, finding that he could not make us wretched,
and was only wasting his time, he sneaked the cigarette that I had
carefully rolled up for myself, and went.

Then Harris and I, having finished up the few things left on the table,
carted out our luggage on to the doorstep, and waited for a cab.

There seemed a good deal of luggage, when we put it all together. There
was the Gladstone and the small hand-bag, and the two hampers, and a
large roll of rugs, and some four or five overcoats and macintoshes, and
a few umbrellas, and then there was a melon by itself in a bag, because
it was too bulky to go in anywhere, and a couple of pounds of grapes in
another bag, and a Japanese paper umbrella, and a frying pan, which,
being too long to pack, we had wrapped round with brown paper.

It did look a lot, and Harris and I began to feel rather ashamed of it,
though why we should be, I can't see. No cab came by, but the street
boys did, and got interested in the show, apparently, and stopped.

Biggs's boy was the first to come round. Biggs is our greengrocer, and
his chief talent lies in securing the services of the most abandoned and
unprincipled errand-boys that civilisation has as yet produced. If
anything more than usually villainous in the boy-line crops up in our
neighbourhood, we know that it is Biggs's latest. I was told that, at
the time of the Great Coram Street murder, it was promptly concluded by
our street that Biggs's boy (for that period) was at the bottom of it,
and had he not been able, in reply to the severe cross-examination to
which he was subjected by No. 19, when he called there for orders the
morning after the crime (assisted by No. 21, who happened to be on the
step at the time), to prove a complete ALIBI, it would have gone hard
with him. I didn't know Biggs's boy at that time, but, from what I have
seen of them since, I should not have attached much importance to that
ALIBI myself.

Biggs's boy, as I have said, came round the corner. He was evidently in
a great hurry when he first dawned upon the vision, but, on catching
sight of Harris and me, and Montmorency, and the things, he eased up and
stared. Harris and I frowned at him. This might have wounded a more
sensitive nature, but Biggs's boys are not, as a rule, touchy. He came
to a dead stop, a yard from our step, and, leaning up against the
railings, and selecting a straw to chew, fixed us with his eye. He
evidently meant to see this thing out.

In another moment, the grocer's boy passed on the opposite side of the
street. Biggs's boy hailed him:

"Hi! ground floor o' 42's a-moving."

The grocer's boy came across, and took up a position on the other side of
the step. Then the young gentleman from the boot-shop stopped, and
joined Biggs's boy; while the empty-can superintendent from "The Blue
Posts" took up an independent position on the curb.

"They ain't a-going to starve, are they? " said the gentleman from the

"Ah! you'd want to take a thing or two with YOU," retorted "The Blue
Posts," "if you was a-going to cross the Atlantic in a small boat."

"They ain't a-going to cross the Atlantic," struck in Biggs's boy;
"they're a-going to find Stanley."

By this time, quite a small crowd had collected, and people were asking
each other what was the matter. One party (the young and giddy portion
of the crowd) held that it was a wedding, and pointed out Harris as the
bridegroom; while the elder and more thoughtful among the populace
inclined to the idea that it was a funeral, and that I was probably the
corpse's brother.

At last, an empty cab turned up (it is a street where, as a rule, and
when they are not wanted, empty cabs pass at the rate of three a minute,
and hang about, and get in your way), and packing ourselves and our
belongings into it, and shooting out a couple of Montmorency's friends,
who had evidently sworn never to forsake him, we drove away amidst the
cheers of the crowd, Biggs's boy shying a carrot after us for luck.

We got to Waterloo at eleven, and asked where the eleven-five started
from. Of course nobody knew; nobody at Waterloo ever does know where a
train is going to start from, or where a train when it does start is
going to, or anything about it. The porter who took our things thought
it would go from number two platform, while another porter, with whom he
discussed the question, had heard a rumour that it would go from number
one. The station-master, on the other hand, was convinced it would start
from the local.

To put an end to the matter, we went upstairs, and asked the traffic
superintendent, and he told us that he had just met a man, who said he
had seen it at number three platform. We went to number three platform,
but the authorities there said that they rather thought that train was
the Southampton express, or else the Windsor loop. But they were sure it
wasn't the Kingston train, though why they were sure it wasn't they
couldn't say.

Then our porter said he thought that must be it on the high-level
platform; said he thought he knew the train. So we went to the high-
level platform, and saw the engine-driver, and asked him if he was going
to Kingston. He said he couldn't say for certain of course, but that he
rather thought he was. Anyhow, if he wasn't the 11.5 for Kingston, he
said he was pretty confident he was the 9.32 for Virginia Water, or the
10 a.m. express for the Isle of Wight, or somewhere in that direction,
and we should all know when we got there. We slipped half-a-crown into
his hand, and begged him to be the 11.5 for Kingston.

"Nobody will ever know, on this line," we said, "what you are, or where
you're going. You know the way, you slip off quietly and go to

"Well, I don't know, gents," replied the noble fellow, "but I suppose
SOME train's got to go to Kingston; and I'll do it. Gimme the half-

Thus we got to Kingston by the London and South-Western Railway.

We learnt, afterwards, that the train we had come by was really the
Exeter mail, and that they had spent hours at Waterloo, looking for it,
and nobody knew what had become of it.

Our boat was waiting for us at Kingston just below bridge, and to it we
wended our way, and round it we stored our luggage, and into it we

"Are you all right, sir?" said the man.

"Right it is," we answered; and with Harris at the sculls and I at the
tiller-lines, and Montmorency, unhappy and deeply suspicious, in the
prow, out we shot on to the waters which, for a fortnight, were to be our

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