terça-feira, 31 de agosto de 2010
The Trial, by Franz Kafka - Extract
'Somebody must have laid false information against Josef K., for he was arrested one morning without having done anything wrong.' From this first sentence onwards, Josef K. is on trial for his right to exist in a novel which, more than any other, is infinitely perceptive about the nature of terror and the futility of human life.
ARREST - CONVERSATION WITH FRAU GRUBACH - THEN FRÄULEIN BÜRSTNER
Somebody must have made a false accusation against Josef K., for he was arrested one morning without having done anything wrong. The cook employed by his landlady Frau Grubach who brought him his breakfast every morning at about eight o'clock did not come this time. That had never happened before. K. waited for a while and with his head on the pillow looked at the old lady living opposite who was observing him with a curiosity quite unusual for her, but then, feeling both annoyed and hungry, he rang the bell. Instantly there was a knock at the door and a man he had never before seen in the house came in. He was slim but solidly built, he wore a close-fitting black suit which was provided, in the manner of travelling outfits, with various pleats, pockets, buckles, buttons and a belt, and which consequently seemed eminently practical, though one could not be quite sure what its purpose was. 'Who are you?' asked K., starting to sit up in bed. But the man ignored the question, as if his appearance were to be accepted without query, and merely said: 'You rang?' `Anna is supposed to be bringing me my breakfast,' said K., and then he tried to determine through silent observation and reflection who the man really was. The latter did not submit himself for long to this scrutiny but turned to the door and opened it a little to say to someone who must have been standing close behind the door: 'He wants Anna to bring him his breakfast.' This was followed by a short burst of laughter in the next room; from the sound it was hard to say if several persons might not be involved. Although the stranger could not have learned anything from this that he did not know before, yet he now said to K., as if making an announcement 'It is impossible.' `That's news to me,' said K., who leaped out of bed and quickly got into his trousers. 'I must see who these people in the next room are and what explanation Frau Grubach will give for this disturbance.' He immediately realized of course that he should not have said this and that by doing so he had to some extent recognized the right of the stranger to supervise his actions, but it did not seem important to him now. All the same, this is how the stranger took his words, for he said: 'Wouldn't you rather stay here?' `I will neither stay here nor be talked to by you unless you tell me who you are.' `I meant well,' said the stranger and he now opened the door without further objection. In the next room, which K. entered more slowly than he intended, things looked at first glance almost exactly as they had on the previous evening. It was Frau Grubach's living-room; perhaps there was a little more space than usual in this room packed with furniture, rugs, china and photographs, but that was not immediately apparent, especially as the most striking change was the presence of a man who was sitting by the open window with a book, from which he now looked up. 'You should have stayed in your room! Didn't Franz tell you that?' `Yes, but what do you want?' said K., and he looked from this new acquaintance to the one spoken of as Franz, who had remained in the doorway, and then back again. Through the open window the old woman was again visible; with true senile inquisitiveness she had moved to the corresponding window opposite so that she could continue to see everything. 'I want to see Frau Grubach —' said K., and he made an abrupt movement as if he were tearing himself free from the two men who were in fact standing some distance away from him, and made to leave the room. 'No,' said the man by the window; he threw the book on a little table and stood up. 'You are not allowed to go from here. You are after all under arrest' `So it would seem,' said K. 'And for what reason?' he then asked. 'It's not our job to tell you that. Go into your room and wait. The proceedings have now been started and you will learn everything in good time. I am exceeding my instructions by talking to you in such a friendly way. But I hope nobody can hear this except Franz, and he himself has been obliging to you .in defiance of regulations. If you continue to have as much good luck as you've had in the choice of your warders you have reason to be confident.' K. wanted to sit down, but he now saw there was nowhere to sit in the whole room apart from the easy chair by the window. 'You will come to see how true that is,' said Franz, at the same time walking towards him with the other man. The latter in particular towered over K. and tapped him now and then on the shoulder. The two of them examined K.'s nightgown and said he would now have to wear a gown of much inferior quality, but they would take care of this gown as well as his other linen and would return everything to him if his case should turn out favourably. 'It's better to hand these things to us than to the depot,' they said, 'because there's a lot of thieving in the depot and, apart from that, things are sold after a specified time regardless of whether the relevant proceedings have been concluded or not. And how cases of this kind do drag on, especially as we've seen in recent times. Of course you would get the money eventually from the depot, but these proceeds are small enough in the first place because it's not the size of the offer which determines the sale but the size of the bribe, and secondly we know how such proceeds dwindle as they are passed from hand to hand over the years.' K. paid little attention to these words; the right which he still possessed to dispose of his things did not rank high in his estimation; to him it was much more important to understand his position clearly, but in the presence of these people he could not even think; the belly of the second warder — they could of course only be warders — bumped into him again and again in quite a friendly fashion, but when he looked up he saw that this fat body was out of keeping with the dry bony face, its prominent nose bent to one side, which was exchanging glances with the other warder over his head. What sort of people were they? What were they talking about? To which authority did they belong? After all, K. lived in a country which enjoyed law and order, there was universal peace; all the laws were upheld; so who dared pounce on him in his own home? He had always been inclined to take everything as easily as possible, to believe the worst only when the worst happened, not to worry about the future even when everything seemed threatening. But in this situation that did not seem right; one could of course regard the whole affair as a joke, a crude joke organized for some unknown reason by his colleagues at the bank, perhaps because today was his thirtieth birthday. This was of course possible, perhaps all he had to do was laugh in some way in the warders' faces and they would laugh with him, perhaps they were porters picked off the street, they looked rather like that — all the same, ever since he had first seen the warder Franz he had been utterly determined not to surrender the slightest advantage he might possess in relation to these people. K. saw a very slight danger that people might say later he could not take a joke but, even though it had not been usual for him to learn from experience, he now recalled certain incidents, not important in themselves, when, unlike his friends, he had deliberately set out to behave rashly without the slightest regard for possible consequences and had suffered as a result This was not to happen again, not this time anyway; if this was just a bit of make-believe, he would go along with it.
He was still free. 'Do you mind!' he said and passed quickly between the warders to his room. 'He seems to be reasonable,' he heard one say behind him. In his room he immediately pulled out the drawers of his desk; everything was arranged in perfect order, but in his agitated state he could not instantly find the identity papers he was looking for. At last he found his bicycle licence and thought of taking this to the warders,. but then the paper seemed too trivial and he looked further until he found his birth certificate. As he was going back into the next room the door opposite was just opening and Frau Grubach was about to come in. She was visible only for an instant, for as soon as she saw K. she became embarrassed, begged for forgiveness and disappeared, closing the door with extreme care. 'But do come in,' was all that K. could have said. Now he stood in the middle of the room with his papers, still looking at the door, which did not open again, until he was roused by a shout from the warders, who were sitting at the small table by the open window and, as K. now realized, were devouring his breakfast. 'Why didn't she come in?' he asked. 'She's not allowed to,' said the tall warder. 'You're under arrest, after all.' `But how can I be under arrest? And above all in this way?' `Now you're beginning again,' said the warder and he dipped his bread and butter in the honey jar. 'We don't answer such questions.' `You'll have to answer them,' said K. 'Here are my identity papers; now show me yours, and especially the warrant for my arrest' `Dear God in heaven!' said the warder. 'Why can't you just accept your position, why do you seem determined to irritate us needlessly, we who probably stand closer to you now than any other of your fellow men?'
'That's how it is, do believe that,' said Franz; he did not raise to his mouth the coffee cup he held in his hand but looked at K. with a lingering glance which was probably meaningful but yet incomprehensible. In spite of himself, K. entered on an exchange of glances with Franz, but then slapped his papers and said: 'Here are my identity papers.' 'What have they got to do with us?' shouted the tall warder. 'You're behaving worse than a child. What do you want? Is it your idea to bring your damned great case to .a quick conclusion by arguing with us, your warders, about identification and arrest warrant? We are junior officials who hardly know one end of an identity document from another and have nothing more to do with your case than to stand guard over you for ten hours a day and be paid for it. That's all we are, but we are capable of seeing that the high authorities we serve would not order such an arrest without gathering exact information about the reasons for the arrest and about the person to be arrested. There's no room for mistake. Our authorities, as far as I know them, and I know only the lowest grades, do not go in search of guilt in the population but are, as it says in the law, drawn to guilt and must send us warders out. That is law. Where could there be a mistake in that?' 'This law is unknown to me,' said K. 'All the worse for you,' said the warder. 'It probably exists only in your heads,' said K., who wanted to worm his way somehow into the warders' minds, turn their thoughts to his advantage or entrench himself there. But the warder merely said in an indifferent manner 'You'll soon come up against it.' Franz intervened and said: 'See, Willem, he admits he doesn't know the law and says at the same time he's innocent' 'You're quite right, but you can't make him understand anything,' said the other. K. made no further answer, do I, he thought, have to let myself be even more confused by the twaddle of these lowest of instruments — they themselves admit that's all they are? Anyway, they are talking about things they don't understand at all. Their certainty is possible only because of their stupidity. A few words with someone on my own level will make things incomparably clearer than the longest conversations with these two. He walked up and down a few times in the open space in the room; across the way he saw the old woman, who had dragged an even older man to the window and now held him tightly; K. had to make an end of this exhibition.
`Take me to your superior,' he said. 'When he tells us to, not before,' said the warder who had been addressed as Willem. And now I advise you' he added 'to go into your room, keep calm, and wait to see what will be decreed about you. We advise you not to disturb yourself with useless thoughts but to pull yourself together, great demands will be made on you. You haven't treated us in the way our considerate attitude might have deserved. You've forgotten that we, whatever we might be, are at this moment in relation to you at least free men, and that's no mean superiority. Nevertheless we are ready, if you have the money, to fetch you a light breakfast from the café opposite.'
Without making a reply to this offer, K. stood quietly for a moment. Perhaps if he were to open the door into the next room or even the door into the hall, these two would not dare get in his way, perhaps the simplest solution of the whole thing would be to take it to an extreme. But perhaps they might get hold of him all the same, and once he were thrown on the floor all the superiority he still preserved to a certain degree in relation to them would be lost. So he came down in favour of the solution which must come in the natural course of events and went back into his room without another word being uttered either by him or the warders.
He threw himself on his bed and took from the bedside table' a fine apple he had put aside the previous evening for his breakfast. Now it was all the breakfast he had, and at any rate, as he ascertained from his first great bite, much better than the breakfast from the filthy night cafe which he might have got through the gracious favour of the warders. He felt well and confident. True, he was absent from his post in the bank this morning, but that could easily be excused .because of the comparatively high position he held there. Should he tell them the real reason? He thought he might do so. If they did not believe him — which was understandable in this case — he could call Frau Grubach as witness, or even the two old people from over the way who were probably now moving to the opposite window. K. was surprised; at least, when he tried to follow the warders' train of thought, he was surprised they had forced him into his room and left him here alone with all the many possibilities he had of killing himself. But at the same time he asked himself, trying to see it from his own point of view, what reason he could have for doing such a thing. Because those two were sitting next door and had intercepted his breakfast? Killing himself would have been so senseless that even if he had wanted to he would not have been able to do it, because of its senselessness. If the intellectual limitations of the warders had not been so obvious, one might have assumed they too shared this conviction and therefore saw no danger in leaving him on his own. They could watch if they liked as he went to a cupboard where he kept a bottle of fine schnapps and see how first of all he drank off a glass in place of breakfast and then a second to give himself courage, the second only as a precaution for the improbable event that it might be necessary.
Then a call from the next room startled him so much that his teeth struck against the glass. 'The supervisor wants you,' was the message. It was only the shout that startled him, this curt, clipped, military shout he would not have thought possible coming from the warder Franz. The command itself was very welcome. 'At last,' he shouted back and locked the wardrobe and hurried straight into the next room. There the two warders were standing and they drove him back into his room as if this were a matter of course. 'What are you thinking of?' they cried. 'You want to appear before the supervisor in your shirt? He'd have you thrashed, and us with you!' `Let me be, for heaven's sake!' said K., who had already been pushed back as far as the wardrobe. 'If you pounce on me in my bed you can't expect to find me in my best suit' `That doesn't help,' said the warders who, when K. shouted, became quite calm, almost melancholy, and thus confused him or to some extent brought him to his senses. 'Ridiculous formalities!' he growled, but he had already taken a jacket from the chair and was holding it out with both hands as if spreading it for the warders' judgement They shook their heads. 'It must be a black coat,' they said. K. threw the jacket on the floor and said — he himself did not know in what sense he meant this: 'After all, it's not the main hearing yet.' The warders smiled but kept to their 'It must be a black coat' `If I can hurry up the business in this way, I don't mind,' said K., and he opened the wardrobe, looked for some time among the collection of clothes, selected his best black suit, a two-piece that had caused quite a sensation among his acquaintances because of its cut, put another shirt on too, and began to dress with care. He secretly thought he had managed to expedite the whole affair because the warders had forgotten to make him take a bath. He watched them in case they might yet remember that, but of course it did not occur to them, although Willem did not forget to send Franz to the supervisor with the message that K. was getting dressed.
When he was fully dressed he had to walk in front of Willem through the empty room next door into the adjoining room whose double door was already open. This room, as K. well knew, had been taken recently by a Fräulein Bürstner, a typist, who went off to work very early, came back late, and with whom K. had exchanged little more than a passing greeting. Now the bedside table had been moved from the bed to the middle of the room to serve as the interrogator's desk, and the supervisor sat behind it. His legs were crossed, one arm was draped over the back of the chair. In the corner of the room stood three young persons looking at Fräulein Bürstner's photographs stuck on a board which hung on the wall. A white blouse was hanging on the latch of the open window. The two old people were again to be seen in the window across the way, but the group had increased in size, for behind them and towering over them was a man with an open-necked shirt who stroked and twirled his reddish goatee with his fingers.
`Josef K.?' queried the supervisor, perhaps only to draw K.'s distracted glances to himself. K. nodded. 'You must be very surprised by this morning's events?' the supervisor asked and at the same time used both hands to move the few objects on the bedside table, the candle with matches, a book and a pincushion, as if these were objects he required for his interrogation. 'Certainly,' said K., and he was overcome with pleasure at meeting a reasonable man at last and being able to discuss his case with him, 'certainly I am surprised, but I am by no means very surprised.' `Not very surprised?' asked the supervisor and now placed the candle in the middle of the table and grouped the other objects around it 'Perhaps you misunderstand me,' K. hastened to remark. 'I mean ...' Here K. broke off and looked round for a chair. 'I can sit down?' he asked. 'It's not customary,' answered the supervisor. 'I mean,' said K. without further delay, 'I am as a matter of fact very surprised, but when you've spent thirty years in this world and had to fight your way through as I've had to, you become hardened to surprises and don't take them too seriously. Especially today's.' `Why espe- • cially today's?' `I'm not going to say I regard the whole thing as a joke; the arrangements that have been made seem too extensive for that. All the people in the boarding-house would have to be involved, and all of you too. That would take it beyond the limits of a joke. So I'm not going to say it's a joke.' `Quite right,' said the supervisor, and he looked to see how many matches there were in the matchbox. 'But on the other hand,' K. went on, and he turned to them all and would have liked to include the three standing by the photographs, 'on the other hand, the matter can't be very important either. I deduce this from the fact that I'm accused of something but can't find the slightest guilt to justify an accusation. But that's a minor point. The main question is: who is accusing me? What authority is conducting these proceedings? Are you officials? Nobody's got a uniform unless' — here he turned to Franz — 'we can call what you are wearing a uniform, but it's more like a travelling outfit. I'd like to have these points cleared up, and I'm sure that after this clarification we'll be able to take leave of each other most amicably.' The supervisor slammed the matchbox down on the table. 'You are making a great mistake,' he said. `These gentlemen here and I are of minor importance to your case, indeed we know almost nothing about it. We could be wearing the most correct uniforms and your business would be none the worse. I am absolutely unable to tell you that you stand accused, or rather I don't know if you are. You are under arrest, that's true, I don't know more than that. Perhaps the warders have said something more in gossip, but that's only their gossip. Even if I can't answer your questions I can, however, advise you to think less about us and about what may happen to you, and more about yourself. And don't make such a palaver about your feeling of innocence, it detracts from the not unfavourable impression you make otherwise. You should be more restrained in what you say too, nearly everything you said just now could have been inferred from your conduct even if you had said only a few words, and in any case it was nothing of great advantage to you.'
K. stared at the supervisor. Was he to get schoolboy maxims here from a person perhaps younger than himself? Was his openness to be punished with a reprimand? And was he to learn nothing about the reason for his arrest and who had ordered it? Thrown into a state of some agitation, he walked up and down without hindrance from the others, pushed his cuffs back, touched his chest, smoothed his hair down, went past the three gentlemen and said: `But it's senseless,' whereupon these three turned towards him and looked at him in a sympathetic but earnest way, and finally he came to a stop by the supervisor's table again. 'Hasterer from the prosecutor's office is a good friend of mine,' he said. 'Can I phone him?' `Of course,' said the supervisor, 'but I don't know what sense there's supposed to be in that, unless you have some private matter to discuss with him.' `What sense?' cried K., more shaken than annoyed. 'But who are you? You ask for sense and you are putting on the most senseless exhibition yourself. Isn't it enough to melt a stone? First these gentlemen pounced on me and now they're sitting or standing around here expecting me to do tricks for you like a performing horse. What sense there might be in telephoning a lawyer when I'm supposed to be under arrest? All right, I won't telephone.' `But do,' said the supervisor and he pointed to the hall, where the telephone was, 'but please do telephone.' `No, I don't want to now,' said K. and went to the window. Across the way the group was still at the window and only now, because K. had come to the window, did their quiet contemplation seem a little disturbed. The old people tried to stand, but the man behind reassured them. `There are more spectators over there,' shouted K. quite loudly to the supervisor and he pointed across with his finger. 'Away from there,' he then shouted at them. The three immediately fell back a few steps, the two old people even retreated behind the man, who shielded them with his broad body and, to judge by the movements of his mouth, was saying something which was incomprehensible at that distance. But they did not disappear completely, they seemed to be waiting for the moment when they could come to the window again without being observed. 'Impertinent, thoughtless people!' said K. as he turned back to the room. It was possible the supervisor agreed with him, or so K. thought when he gave him a sideways glance. But it was just as possible he had not even been listening, for he had pressed one hand firmly on the table and seemed to be comparing the lengths of .his fingers. The two warders sat on a chest covered with an embroidered cloth and were rubbing their knees. The three young people had their hands on their hips and were looking around aimlessly. It was as quiet as in some abandoned office. 'Now, gentlemen,' cried K., who felt for a moment as if he were carrying them all on his shoulders, 'to judge from your expressions, this affair of mine must be at an end. In my opinion the best thing is not to brood any more about whether what you've done is justified or not justified but to bring the matter to a peaceful conclusion with a mutual handshake. If you share my opinion, then please ...' and he stepped up to the supervisor's table and offered him his hand. The supervisor raised his eyes, chewed his lips, and looked at K.'s outstretched hand. K. still believed. the supervisor would shake hands in agreement. But the latter stood up, took a hard round hat which lay on Fräulein Bürstner's bed and placed it carefully on his head with both hands, just as one does when trying on new hats. 'How simple everything seems to you,' he said to K. as he was doing this. 'We should bring the matter to a peaceful conclusion, is that your opinion? No, no, that really won't do. By which, on the other hand, I definitely don't mean to say you should despair. No, why should you? You're only under arrest, that's all. That's what I had to communicate to you, I've done that, and I've also seen how you've taken it. That's enough for today and we can take leave of each other, only for the time being of course. I suppose you'll want to go to the bank now?' `To the bank?' asked K. `I thought I was under arrest' K. put this question with a certain defiance, for although his handshake had not been accepted he felt, especially since the supervisor had stood up, more and more detached from all these people. He was playing with them. What he had in mind, if they were to go away, was to run after them as far as the gate and offer to be arrested. So he said again: 'How can I go to the bank? I'm under arrest.' 'Ah yes,' said the supervisor, who was already by the door. 'You've misunderstood me. It's true you're under arrest, but that doesn't mean you can't follow your occupation And you won't be hampered in your normal way of life.' 'Being arrested is not so bad,' said K., and he went up close to the supervisor. 'I never said it was,' said the latter. 'But then it seems it was not even very necessary to tell me about my arrest,' said K., who now went even closer. The others too had come nearer. All were now assembled in a confined space by the door. 'It was my duty,' said the supervisor. 'A stupid duty,' said K. unrelentingly. `Maybe,' said the supervisor, 'but we don't want to waste our time talking like this. I had assumed you'd want to go to the bank. As you pay such close attention to every word I say, I will now add: I'm not forcing you to go to the bank, I had merely assumed you would want to go. And to make that easier for you and to make your arrival at the bank as unobtrusive as possible, I have retained these three gentlemen here, your colleagues, to be at your disposal.' `What?' cried K. and looked at the three in amazement. These utterly insipid and colourless young men, whom he had noted mentally as merely a group by the photographs, were indeed officials from his bank; not colleagues, that was pitching it too high and revealed a gap in the supervisor's omniscience, but they really were subordinate officials from the bank. How could K. have overlooked this fact? He must have been absolutely absorbed in the supervisor and the warders not to recognize these three. The erect Rabensteiner with restless hands, fair-haired Kullych with his deep-set eyes, and Kaminer with the insufferable smile caused by chronic muscular spasm. 'Good morning,' said K. after a pause and held out his hand to the gentlemen, who were bowing politely. 'I didn't recognize you at all. So now we'll go off to work, eh?' The three nodded with an eager laugh as if they had been waiting for this all the time, but when K. missed his hat, which had been left in his room, they all rushed out together to fetch it, and this revealed a certain embarrassment after all. K. stood where he was and watched them through the two open doors; the last of course was the apathetic Rabensteiner who had merely broken into an elegant trot. Kaminer gave him his hat, and K. had to make a point of telling himself, as he often had to in the bank, that Kaminer's smile was not intentional, indeed that he was quite incapable of smiling intentionally. In the hall the front door was then opened for the whole company by Frau Grubach, who did not give the impression of feeling very guilty, and K. looked down, as he often did, at the apron-string which made such a needlessly deep cut in her massive body. When they were outside, K. took his watch in his hand and resolved to call a cab so that there would be no unnecessary prolongation of the delay, which had already lasted half an hour. Kaminer ran to the corner to find a cab and the two others were evidently trying to take K.'s mind off things, when Kullych suddenly pointed to the house-door opposite, where the man with the pale goatee had just appeared; at first a little embarrassed at being seen at his full height, he then retreated to the wall and leaned on it. The old people were probably still on the stairs. K. was annoyed with Kullych for drawing attention to the man, whom he had already seen earlier and had in fact expected. 'Don't look over there,' he blurted, without thinking how extraordinary such a remark was when addressed to grown men. But no explanation was necessary, for the cab arrived just then and they took their seats and drove off Then K. realized he had not noticed the departure of the supervisor and warders; the supervisor had hidden the three officials from him, and now the officials had done the same for the supervisor. This did not suggest he was very alert, and K. resolved to pay closer attention to such things. Yet he still turned involuntarily and leaned over the back of the cab to see if he could catch a glimpse of the supervisor and the warders. But he turned back again at once, without making any effort to look for anyone, and settled himself comfortably in the corner. In spite of appearances, he would have been glad of some words of encouragement at this time, but the gentlemen now seemed tired. Rabensteiner was looking out of the cab on the right, Kullych on the left, and only Kaminer was available with his grin, and common humanity forbade any joke about that.
Posted by Francisco Augusto Vaz Brasil at 17:21
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson - Extract
The Old Sea Dog at the 'Admiral Benbow'
Squire Trelawney, Dr Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17 —, and go back to the time when my father kept the 'Admiral Benbow' inn, and the brown old seaman, with the sabre cut, ﬁrst took up his lodging under our roof.
I remember him as if it were yesterday, as he came plodding to the inn door, his sea-chest following behind him in a hand-barrow; a tall, strong, heavy, nut-brown man; his tarry pigtail falling over the shoulders of his soiled blue coat; his hands ragged and scarred, with black, broken nails; and the sabre cut across one cheek, a dirty, livid white. I remember him looking round the cove and whistling to himself as he did so, and then breaking out in that old sea-song that he sang so often afterwards: –
'Fifteen men on the dead man's chest – Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!'
in the high, old tottering voice that seemed to have been tuned and broken at the capstan bars. Then he rapped on the door with a bit of stick like a handspike that he carried, and when my father appeared, called roughly for a glass of rum. This, when it was brought to him, he drank slowly, like a connoisseur, lingering on the taste, and still looking about him at the cliﬀs and up at our signboard.
'This is a handy cove,' says he, at length; 'and a pleasant sittyated grog-shop. Much company, mate?'
My father told him no, very little company, the more was the pity.
'Well, then,' said he, 'this is the berth for me. Here you, matey,' he cried to the man who trundled the barrow; 'bring up alongside and help up my chest. I'll stay here a bit,' he continued. 'I'm a plain man; rum and bacon and eggs is what I want, and that head up there for to watch ships oﬀ. What you mought call me? You mought call me captain. Oh, I see what you're at – there;' and he threw down three or four gold pieces on the threshold. 'You can tell me when I've worked through that,' says he, looking as ﬁerce as a commander.
And, indeed, bad as his clothes were, and coarsely as he spoke, he had none of the appearance of a man who sailed before the mast; but seemed like a mate or skipper, accustomed to be obeyed or to strike. The man who came with the barrow told us the mail had set him down the morning before at the 'Royal George;' that he had inquired what inns there were along the coast, and hearing ours well spoken of, I suppose, and described as lonely, had chosen it from the others for his place of residence. And that was all we could learn of our guest.
He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove, or upon the cliﬀs, with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlour next the ﬁre, and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to; only look up sudden and ﬁerce, and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day, when he came back from his stroll, he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road? At ﬁrst we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question; but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman put up at the 'Admiral Benbow' (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol), he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlour; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter; for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day, and promised me a silver fourpenny on the ﬁrst of every month if I would only keep my 'weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg,' and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough, when the ﬁrst of the month came round, and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me, and stare me down; but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my fourpenny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for 'the seafaring man with one leg.'
How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. On stormy nights, when the wind shook the four corners of the house, and the surf roared along the cove and up the cliﬀs, I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut oﬀ at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.
But though I was so terriﬁed by the idea of the sea faring man with one leg, I was far less afraid of the captain himself than anybody else who knew him. There were nights when he took a deal more rum and water than his head would carry; and then he would sometimes sit and sing his wicked, old, wild sea-songs, minding nobody; but sometimes he would call for glasses round, and force all the trembling company to listen to his stories or bear a chorus to his singing. Often I have heard the house shaking with 'Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum;' all the neighbours joining in for dear life, with the fear of death upon them, and each singing louder than the other, to avoid remark. For in these ﬁts he was the most over-riding companion ever known; he would slap his hand on the table for silence all round; he would ﬂy up in a passion of anger at a question, or sometimes because none was put, and so he judged the company was not following his story. Nor would he allow any one to leave the inn till he had drunk himself sleepy and reeled oﬀ to bed.
His stories were what frightened people worst of all. Dreadful stories they were; about hanging, and walking the plank, and storms at sea, and the Dry Tortugas, and wild deeds and places on the Spanish Main. By his own account he must have lived his life among some of the wickedest men that God ever allowed upon the sea; and the language in which he told these stories shocked our plain country people almost as much as the crimes that he described. My father was always saying the inn would be ruined, for people would soon cease coming there to be tyrannised over and put down, and sent shivering to their beds; but I really believe his presence did us good. People were frightened at the time, but on looking back they rather liked it; it was a ﬁne excitement in a quiet country life; and there was even a party of the younger men who pretended to admire him, calling him a 'true sea-dog,' and a 'real old salt,' and such like names, and saying there was the sort of man that made England terrible at sea.
In one way, indeed, he bade fair to ruin us; for he kept on staying week after week, and at last month after month, so that all the money had been long exhausted, and still my father never plucked up the heart to insist on having more. If ever he mentioned it, the captain blew through his nose so loudly, that you might say he roared, and stared my poor father out of the room. I have seen him wringing his hands after such a rebuﬀ, and I am sure the annoyance and the terror he lived in must have greatly hastened his early and unhappy death.
All the time he lived with us the captain made no change whatever in his dress but to buy some stockings from a hawker. One of the cocks of his hat having fallen down, he let it hang from that day forth, though it was a great annoyance when it blew. I remember the appearance of his coat, which he patched himself up-stairs in his room, and which, before the end, was nothing but patches. He never wrote or received a letter, and he never spoke with any but the neighbours, and with these, for the most part, only when drunk on rum. The great sea-chest none of us had ever seen open.
He was only once crossed, and that was towards the end, when my poor father was far gone in a decline that took him oﬀ. Dr Livesey came late one afternoon to see the patient, took a bit of dinner from my mother, and went into the parlour to smoke a pipe until his horse should come down from the hamlet, for we had no stabling at the old 'Benbow.' I followed him in, and I remember observing the contrast the neat, bright doctor, with his powder as white as snow, and his bright, black eyes and pleasant manners, made with the coltish country folk, and above all, with that ﬁlthy, heavy, bleared scarecrow of a pirate of ours, sitting far gone in rum, with his arms on the table. Suddenly he – the captain, that is – began to pipe up his eternal song: –
'Fifteen men on the dead man's chest –
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest –
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!'
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest –
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!'
At ﬁrst I had supposed 'the dead man's chest' to be that identical big box of his up-stairs in the front room, and the thought had been mingled in my nightmares with that of the one-legged seafaring man. But by this time we had all long ceased to pay any particular notice to the song; it was new, that night, to nobody but Dr Livesey, and on him I observed it did not produce an agreeable eﬀect, for he looked up for a moment quite angrily before he went on with his talk to old Taylor, the gardener, on a new cure for the rheumatics. In the meantime, the captain gradually brightened up at his own music, and at last ﬂapped his hand upon the table before him in a way we all knew to mean – silence. The voices stopped at once, all but Dr Livesey's; he went on as before, speaking clear and kind, and drawing briskly at his pipe between every word or two. The captain glared at him for a while, ﬂapped his hand again, glared still harder, and at last broke out with a villainous, low oath: 'Silence, there, between decks!'
'Were you addressing me, sir?' says the doctor; and when the ruﬃan had told him, with another oath, that this was so, 'I have only one thing to say to you, sir,' replies the doctor, 'that if you keep on drinking rum, the world will soon be quit of a very dirty scoundrel!'
The old fellow's fury was awful. He sprang to his feet, drew and opened a sailor's clasp-knife, and, balancing it open on the palm of his hand, threatened to pin the doctor to the wall.
The doctor never so much as moved. He spoke to him, as before, over his shoulder, and in the same tone of voice; rather high, so that all the room might hear, but perfectly calm and steady: –
'If you do not put that knife this instant in your pocket, I promise, upon my honour, you shall hang at the next assizes.'
Then followed a battle of looks between them; but the captain soon knuckled under, put up his weapon, and resumed his seat, grumbling like a beaten dog.
'And now, sir,' continued the doctor, 'since I now know there's such a fellow in my district, you may count I'll have an eye upon you day and night. I'm not a doctor only; I'm a magistrate; and if I catch a breath of complaint against you, if it's only for a piece of incivility like to-night's, I'll take eﬀectual means to have you hunted down and routed out of this. Let that suﬃce.'
Soon after Dr Livesey's horse came to the door, and he rode away; but the captain held his peace that evening, and for many evenings to come.
Posted by Francisco Augusto Vaz Brasil at 17:06
Three Tales From the Arabian Nights, by Malcolm C. Lyons - Extract
In these three tales from the first major translation into English of The Arabian Nights in more than 100 years, the endless inventiveness of the vizier's daughter Shahrazad is revealed, as she spins stories of greed, lust, riches and wonder to delay her death at the hands of a brutal king.
In a city of Persia, on the borders of your majesty's realms, there were two brothers, one called Qasim and the other Ali Baba. These two had been left very little in the way of possessions by their father, who had divided the inheritance equally between the two of them. They should have enjoyed an equal fortune, but fate was to dispose otherwise. Qasim married a woman who, shortly after their marriage, inherited a well-stocked shop and a warehouse ﬁlled with ﬁne goods, together with properties and estates, which all of a sudden made him so well oﬀ that he became one of the wealthiest merchants in the city. By contrast, Ali Baba had married a woman as poor as himself; he lived in great poverty and the only work he could do to help provide for himself and his children was to go out as a woodcutter in a neighbouring forest. He would then load what he had cut on to his three donkeys – these being all that he possessed – and sell it in the city.
One day, while he was in the forest and had ﬁnished chopping just enough wood to load on to his donkeys, he noticed a great cloud of dust rising up in the air and advancing straight in his direction. Looking closely, he could make out a large crowd of horsemen coming swiftly towards him. Although there was no talk of thieves in the region, nonetheless it struck him that that was just what these could be. Thinking only of his own safety and not of what could happen to his donkeys, he climbed up into a large tree, where the branches a little way up were so densely intertwined as to allow very little space between them. He positioned himself right in the middle, all the more conﬁdent that he could see without being seen, as the tree stood at the foot of an isolated rock much higher than the tree and so steep that it could not be climbed from any direction.
The large and powerful-looking horsemen, well mounted and armed, came close to the rock and dismounted. Ali Baba counted forty of them and, from their equipment and appearance, he had no doubt they were thieves. He was not mistaken, for this was what they were, and although they had caused no harm in the neighbourhood, they had assembled there before going further aﬁeld to carry out their acts of brigandage. What he saw them do next conﬁrmed his suspicions.
Each horseman unbridled his horse, tethered it and then hung over its neck a sack of barley which had been on its back. Each then carried oﬀ his own bag and most of these seemed so heavy that Ali Baba reckoned they must be full of gold and coins.
The most prominent of the thieves, who seemed to be their captain, carried his bag like the rest and approached the rock close to Ali Baba's tree. After he had made his way through some bushes, this man was clearly heard to utter the following words: 'Open, Sesame.' No sooner had he said this than a door opened, and after he had let all his men go in before him, he too went in and the door closed.
The thieves remained for a long time inside the rock. Ali Baba was afraid that if he left his tree in order to escape, one or all of them would come out, and so he was forced to stay where he was and to wait patiently. He was tempted to climb down and seize two of the horses, mounting one and leading the other by the bridle, in the hope of reaching the city driving his three donkeys in front of him. But, as he could not be sure what would happen, he took the safest course and remained where he was.
At last the door opened again and out came the forty thieves. The captain, who had gone in last, now emerged ﬁrst; after he had watched the others ﬁle past him, Ali Baba heard him close the door by pronouncing these words: 'Shut, Sesame.' Each thief returned to his horse and remounted, after bridling it and fastening his bag on to it. When the captain ﬁnally saw they were all ready to depart, he took the lead and rode oﬀ with them along the way they had come.
Ali Baba did not climb down straight away, saying to himself: 'They may have forgotten something which would make them return, and were that to happen, I would be caught.' He looked after them until they went out of sight, but he still did not get down for a long time afterwards until he felt completely safe. He had remembered the words used by the captain to make the door open and shut, and he was curious to see if they would produce the same eﬀect for him. Pushing through the shrubs, he spotted the door which was hidden behind them, and going up to it, he said: 'Open, Sesame.' Immediately, the door opened wide.
Posted by Francisco Augusto Vaz Brasil at 16:48
Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome - Extract
Martyrs to hypochondria and general seediness, J. and his friends George and Harris decide that a jaunt up the Thames would suit them to a 'T'. But when they set off, they can hardly predict the troubles that lie ahead with tow-ropes, unreliable weather-forecasts and tins of pineapple chunks – not to mention the devastation left in the wake of J.'s small fox-terrier Montmorency.
Three Invalids – Suﬀerings of George and Harris – A victim to one hundred and seven fatal maladies – Useful prescriptions – Cure for liver complaint in children – We agree that we are overworked, and need rest–A week on the rolling deep? – George suggests the river – Montmorency lodges an objection – Original motion carried by majority of three to one.
There were four of us – George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency. We were sitting in my room, smoking, and talking about how bad we were – bad from a medical point of view I mean, of course.
We were all feeling seedy, and we were getting quite nervous about it. Harris said he felt such extraordinary ﬁts of giddiness come over him at times, that he hardly knew what he was doing; and then George said that he had ﬁts of giddiness too, and hardly knew what he was doing. With me, it was my liver that was out of order. I knew it was my liver that was out of order, because I had just been reading a patent liver-pill circular, in which were detailed various symptoms by which a man could tell when his liver was out of order. I had them all.
It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suﬀering from the particular disease therein dealt with, in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that I have ever felt.
I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment for some slight ailment of which I had a touch – hay fever, I fancy it was. I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently study diseases, generally. I forget which was the ﬁrst distemper I plunged into – some fearful, devastating scourge, I know – and, before I had glanced half down the list of 'premonitory symptoms', it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.
I sat for a while frozen with horror; and then in the listlessness of despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever – read the symptoms – discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months without knowing it – wondered what else I had got; turned up St Vitus's Dance – found, as I expected, that I had that too – began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically – read up ague, and learnt that I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight. Bright's disease, I was relieved to ﬁnd, I had only in a modiﬁed form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid's knee.
I felt rather hurt about this at ﬁrst; it seemed somehow to be a sort of slight. Why hadn't I got housemaid's knee? Why this invidious reservation? After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed. I reﬂected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and I grew less selﬁsh, and determined to do without housemaid's knee. Gout, in its most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my being aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suﬀering with from boyhood. There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded there was nothing else the matter with me.
I sat and pondered. I thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a class! Students would have no need 'to walk the hospitals', if they had me. I was a hospital in myself. All they need do would be to walk round me, and, after that, take their diploma.
Then I wondered how long I had to live. I tried to examine myself. I felt my pulse. I could not at ﬁrst feel any pulse at all. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to start oﬀ. I pulled out my watch and timed it. I made it a hundred and forty-seven to the minute. I tried to feel my heart. I could not feel my heart. It had stopped beating. I have since been induced to come to the opinion that it must have been there all the time, and must have been beating, but I cannot account for it. I patted myself all over my front, from what I call my waist up to my head, and I went a bit round each side, and a little way up the back. But I could not feel or hear anything. I tried to look at my tongue. I stuck it out as far as ever it would go, and I shut one eye, and tried to examine it with the other. I could only see the tip, and the only thing that I could gain from that was to feel more certain than before that I had scarlet fever.
I walked into that reading-room a happy healthy man. I crawled out a decrepit wreck.
I went to my medical man. He is an old chum of mine, and feels my pulse, and looks at my tongue, and talks about the weather, all for nothing, when I fancy I'm ill; so I thought I would do him a good turn by going to him now. 'What a doctor wants', I said, 'is practice. He shall have me. He will get more practice out of me than out of seventeen hundred of your ordinary, commonplace patients, with only one or two diseases each.' So I went straight up and saw him, and he said:
'Well, what's the matter with you?'
'I will not take up your time, dear boy, with telling you what is the matter with me. Life is brief, and you might pass away before I had ﬁnished. But I will tell you what is not the matter with me. I have not got housemaid's knee. Why I have not got housemaid's knee, I cannot tell you; but the fact remains that I have not got it. Everything else, however, I have got.'
And I told him how I came to discover it all.
Then he opened me and looked down me, and clutched hold of my wrist, and then he hit me over the chest when I wasn't expecting it – a cowardly thing to do, I call it – and immediately afterwards butted me with the side of his head. After that, he sat down and wrote out a prescription, and folded it up and gave it me, and I put it in my pocket and went out.
I did not open it. I took it to the nearest chemist's, and handed it in. The man read it, and then handed it back.
He said he didn't keep it.
'You are a chemist?'
'I am a chemist. If I was a co-operative stores and family hotel combined, I might be able to oblige you. Being only a chemist hampers me.'
I read the prescription. It ran:
1 lb beefsteak, with
1 pt bitter beer every 6 hours.
1 ten-mile walk every morning.
1 bed at 11 sharp every night.
And don't stuﬀ up your head with things you don't understand.
I followed the directions, with the happy result – speaking for myself – that my life was preserved, and is still going on.
In the present instance, going back to the liver-pill circular, I had the symptoms, beyond all mistake, the chief among them being 'a general disinclination to work of any kind'.
What I suﬀer in that way no tongue can tell. From my earliest infancy I have been a martyr to it. As a boy, the disease hardly ever left me for a day. They did not know, then, that it was my liver. Medical science was in a far less advanced state than now, and they used to put it down to laziness.
'Why, you skulking little devil, you,' they would say, 'get up and do something for your living, can't you?' – not knowing, of course, that I was ill.
And they didn't give me pills; they gave me clumps on the side of the head. And, strange as it may appear, those clumps on the head often cured me – for the time being. I have known one clump on the head have more eﬀect upon my liver, and make me feel more anxious to go straight away then and there, and do what was wanted to be done, without further loss of time, than a whole box of pills does now.
You know, it often is so – those simple, old-fashioned remedies are sometimes more eﬃcacious than all the dispensary stuﬀ.
We sat there for half an hour, describing to each other our maladies. I explained to George and William Harris how I felt when I got up in the morning, and William Harris told us how he felt when he went to bed; and George stood on the hearth-rug, and gave us a clever and powerful piece of acting, illustrative of how he felt in the night.
George fancies he is ill: but there's never anything really the matter with him, you know.
At this point, Mrs Poppets knocked at the door to know if we were ready for supper. We smiled sadly at one another, and said we supposed we had better try to swallow a bit. Harris said a little something in one's stomach often kept the disease in check; and Mrs Poppets brought the tray in, and we drew up to the table, and toyed with a little steak and onions, and some rhubarb tart.
I must have been very weak at the time; because I know, after the ﬁrst half-hour or so, I seemed to take no interest whatever in my food – an unusual thing for me – and I didn't want any cheese.
This duty done, we reﬁlled our glasses, lit our pipes, and resumed the discussion upon our state of health. What it was that was actually the matter with us, we none of us could be sure of; but the unanimous opinion was that it – whatever it was – had been brought on by overwork.
'What we want is rest,' said Harris.
'Rest and a complete change,' said George. 'The overstrain upon our brains has produced a general depression throughout the system. Change of scene, and absence of the necessity for thought, will restore the mental equilibrium.'
George has a cousin who is usually described in the charge-sheet as a medical student, so that he naturally has a somewhat familyphysicianary way of putting things.
I agreed with George, and suggested that we should seek out some retired and old-world spot, far from the madding crowd, and dream away a sunny week among its drowsy lanes – some half-forgotten nook, hidden away by the fairies, out of reach of the noisy world – some quaint-perched eyrie on the cliﬀs of Time, from whence the surging waves of the nineteenth century would sound far-oﬀ and faint.
Harris said he thought it would be humpy. He said he knew the sort of place I meant; where everybody went to bed at eight o'clock, and you couldn't get a Referee¹ for love or money, and had to walk ten miles to get your baccy.
'No,' said Harris, 'if you want rest and change, you can't beat a sea trip.'
I objected to the sea trip strongly. A sea trip does you good when you are going to have a couple of months of it, but, for a week, it is wicked.
You start on Monday with the idea implanted in your bosom that you are going to enjoy yourself. You wave an airy adieu to the boys on shore, light your biggest pipe, and swagger about the deck as if you were Captain Cook, Sir Francis Drake, and Christopher Columbus all rolled into one. On Tuesday, you wish you hadn't come. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, you wish you were dead. On Saturday you are able to swallow a little beef tea, and to sit up on deck, and answer with a wan, sweet smile when kind-hearted people ask how you feel now. On Sunday, you begin to walk again, and take solid food. And on Monday morning, as, with your bag and umbrella in your hand, you stand by the gunwale, waiting to step ashore, you begin to thoroughly like it.
I remember my brother-in-law going for a short sea trip once for the beneﬁt of his health. He took a return berth from London to Liverpool; and when he got to Liverpool, the only thing he was anxious about was to sell that return ticket.
It wasoﬀered round the town at a tremendous reduction, so I am told; and was eventually sold for eighteenpence to a bilious-looking youth who had just been advised by his medical men to go to the seaside, and take exercise.
'Seaside!' said my brother-in-law, pressing the ticket aﬀectionately into his hand: 'why, you'll have enough to last you a lifetime; and as for exercise! why, you'll get more exercise, sitting down on that ship, than you would turning somersaults on dry land.'
He himself – my brother-in-law – came back by train. He said the North-Western Railway was healthy enough for him.
Another fellow I knew went for a week's voyage round the coast, and, before they started, the steward came to him to ask whether he would pay for each meal as he had it, or arrange beforehand for the whole series.
The steward recommended the latter course, as it would come so much cheaper. He said they would do him for the whole week at two-pounds-ﬁve. He said for breakfast there would be ﬁsh, followed by a grill. Lunch was at one, and consisted of four courses. Dinner at six – soup, ﬁsh, entre´e, joint, poultry, salad, sweets, cheese, and dessert. And a light meat supper at ten.
My friend thought he would close on the two-pounds-ﬁve job (he is a hearty eater), and did so.
Lunch came just astheywere oﬀ Sheerness. Hedidn't feel sohungry as he thought he should, and so contented himself with a bit of boiled beef, andsome strawberries andcream. Hepondereda gooddealduring the afternoon, and at one time it seemed to him that he had been eating nothing but boiled beef for weeks, and at other times it seemed that he must have been living on strawberries and cream for years.
Neither the beef nor the strawberries and cream seemed happy, either – seemed discontented like.
At six, theycameandtoldhimdinnerwasready.Theannouncement aroused no enthusiasm within him, but he felt that there was some of that two-pounds-ﬁve to be worked oﬀ, and he held on to ropes and things and went down. A pleasant odour of onions and hot ham, mingled with fried ﬁsh and greens, greeted him at the bottom of the ladder; and then the steward came up with an oily smile, and said:
'What can I get you, sir?'
'Get me out of this,' was the feeble reply.
And they ran him up quick, and propped him up, over to leeward, and left him.
For the next four days he lived a simple and blameless life on thin Captain's biscuits (I mean that the biscuits were thin, not the captain) and soda-water; but, towards Saturday, he got uppish, and went in for weak tea and dry toast, and on Monday he was gorging himself on chicken broth. He left the ship on Tuesday, and as it steamed away from the landing-stage he gazed after it regretfully.
'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 sea-sick – 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 sea-sick. Where the thousands upon thousands of bad sailors that swarm in every ship hide themselves when they are on land is a mystery.
If most men were like a fellow I saw on the Yarmouth boat one day, I could account for the seeming enigma easily enough. It was just oﬀ Southend Pier, I recollect, and he was leaning out through one of the port-holes in a very dangerous position. I went up to him to try and save him.
'Hi! come further in,' I said, shaking him by the shoulder. 'You'll be overboard.'
'Oh my! I wish I was,' was the only answer I could get; and there I had to leave him.
Three weeks afterwards, I met him in the coﬀee-room of a Bath hotel, talking about his voyages, and explaining, with enthusiasm, how he loved the sea.
'Good sailor!' he replied in answer to a mild young man's envious query, 'well I did feel a little queer once, I confess. It was oﬀ Cape Horn. The vessel was wrecked the next morning.'
'Weren't you a little shaky by Southend Pier one day, and wanted to be thrown overboard?'
'Southend Pier!' he replied, with a puzzled expression.
'Yes; going down to Yarmouth, last Friday three weeks.'
'Oh, ah – yes,' he answered, brightening up; 'I remember now. I did have a headache that afternoon. It was the pickles, you know. They were the most disgraceful pickles I ever tasted in a respectable boat. Did you have any?'
For myself, I have discovered an excellent preventive against sea-sickness, in balancing myself. You stand in the centre of the deck, and, as the ship heaves and pitches, you move your body about, so as to keep it always straight. When the front of the ship rises, you lean forward, till the deck almost touches your nose; and when its back end gets up, you lean backwards. This is all very well for an hour or two; but you can't balance yourself for a week.
'Let's go up the river.'
He said we should have fresh air, exercise, and quiet; the constant change of scene would occupy our minds (including what there was of Harris's); and the hard work would give us a good appetite, and make us sleep well.
Harris said he didn't think George ought to do anything that would have a tendency to make him sleepier than he always was, as it might be dangerous. He said he didn't very well understand how George was going to sleep any more than he did now, seeing that there were only twenty-four hours in each day, summer and winter alike; but thought that if he did sleep any more he might just as well be dead, and so save his board and lodging.
Harris said, however, that the river would suit him to a 'T'. I don't know what a 'T' is (except a sixpenny one, which includes bread-and-butter and cake ad lib., and is cheap at the price, if you haven't had any dinner). It seems to suit everybody, however, which is greatly to its credit.
It suited me to a 'T', too, and Harris and I both said it was a good idea of George's and we said it in a tone that seemed to somehow imply that we were surprised that George should have come out so sensible.
The only one who was not struck with the suggestion was Montmorency. He never did care for the river, did Montmorency.
'It's all very well for you fellows,' he says; 'you like it, but I don't. There's nothing for me to do. Scenery is not in my line, and I don't smoke. If I see a rat, you won't stop; and if I go to sleep, you get fooling about with the boat, and slop me overboard. If you ask me, I call the whole thing bally foolishness.'
We were three to one, however, and the motion was carried.
Posted by Francisco Augusto Vaz Brasil at 16:28