The novel Three Men in a Boat, a fictional story written by Jerome K. Jerome. Three Men in a Boat is a story about a boat trip that J. takes with Thames River and his friends George and William Samuel Harris. Three Men in a Boat was first published in the year 1889.
There were four of them. George, William Samuel Harris, Jerome K. Jerome (the narrator) and the dog named Montmorency. They were sitting in Jerome’s room. They were smoking and talking how bad they were from a medical point of view. Harris complained of extraordinary fits of giddiness. George also suffered from some fits of giddiness and hardly knew what he was doing. Jerome’s liver was out of order. Jerome discovered that he had symptoms of typhoid, cholera, diphtheria and many other diseases. The only disease which he didn’t have was the ‘housemaid’s knee’. He was ‘a hospital in himself’.
They sat there for half an hour, describing to each other their diseases and ailments. At this point, Mrs. Poppets knocked at the door to know if they were ready for supper. Reluctantly, they had a little steak and onions and some tart. They refilled their glasses, lit their pipes and resumed the discussion upon their state of health. They were of the unanimous opinion that overwork was responsible for their miserable health. George suggested “rest and a complete change”. The overstrain had produced a general depression throughout their system. All agreed. Jerome suggested that they should seek out some peaceful and ‘old-world spot, far from the maddening crowd.’ Harris was of the opinion that a sea-trip would be ideal for rest and change. The narrator (Jerome) remembered the sad experience of his brother-in-law. His brother-in-law went for a short sea-trip once, for the benefit of his health. He was so much disgusted with the sea that he came back by train. George suggested going “up the river”. They should have fresh air, exercise, peace and change. The hardwork would give them a good appetite and sleep. The only one who didn’t like the idea was Montmorency. All others agreed. ‘ The motion was carried’ three to one.
George, Harris and Jerome (the narrator) pulled out the maps, made and discussed plans. They decided to start on the following Saturday from Kingston. George couldn’t accompany them as he went to sleep at a bank from ten to four each day. They also decided the issue of “camping out” or sleeping at inns. Camping out in rainy weather could be quite unpleasant and troublesome. In such a weather the tent could tumble down in a heap. It was hopeless attempt to make a wood fire. One couldn’t smoke even as tobacco was damp. Only a bottle of wine could keep the1 interest alive inducing him to go to bed. Moreover, they could catch severe colds in the night. At last; the issue was settled. They decided to sleep out on clear and fine nights. On a rainy day, they would spend the nights in hotels, inns or pubs. The dog, Montmorency welcomed this ‘compromise with much approval’. So Jerome and Harris made their way to Kingston by train. They were to collect their hired boat and start their journey. They were to meet George later, up-river at Weybridge.
On the following evening, they assembled again to ‘discuss and arrange’ their plans. The first thing to be settled was what things to be taken with them. Harris as was his habit, was ready to take the burden of everything himself and by doing so he created a lot of problem for himself and for others. Harris always reminded Jerome of his poor Uncle Podger. Like Harris, Uncle Podger could create such a commotion up and down the house when he undertook to do a job. One day a picture had come from the frame-maker’s. It was to be put up in the drawing room. Uncle Podger would say : “Oh, you leave that to me I’ll do all that.” And then he would take off his coat, and begin. He would stir the whole house. He would ask Will to give him his hammer. He would shout at Tom for the rule. Jim would be sent to Mr. Goggles to enquire about his leg. And then he would lift up the picture and drop it. He would try to save the glass and cut himself. He would run for his handkerchief which was lying in the pocket of his coat. The whole family, including the girl and the charwoman would stand round Uncle Podger ready to help him. He would go on losing, dropping and forgetting things and start all over again. Aunt Maria would decide to go and spend a week with her mother if Uncle Podger was ever going to hang a picture on the wall. Jerome thought Harris would just be like his Uncle Podger when he grew up.
George came out really quite sensible at such times. He suggested that only such things should be carried as were essentially necessary for them. He was not in favour of stuffing all useless things in the boat and making it so heavy to pull at the oars. “Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends someone
to love………………. ”.
Then they discussed the food question. For preparing breakfast they needed a frying pan, a tea pot and a kettle and a methylated stove. But all agreed on one thing. No oil stove. Once they had taken up an oil stove. It had been Tike living in an oil-shop’. They kept it in the nose of the boat. From there it oozed down the whole boat. It oozed over the river, and saturated the scenery and spoilt the atmosphere. Therefore, they decided to confine themselves to methylated spirit. So they decided never to take an oil-stove again.
George suggested eggs and bacon for the breakfast. They were easy to cook. For lunch they could have cold meat, tea, bread, biscuits, butter and jam. But they were against taking cheese. Cheese like oil could give a cheesy flavour to everything else. It was very difficult to tell whether you were eating apple pie or sausage strawberries or cream. It all seemed cheese. Jerome narrated an anecdote regarding cheese. There could be advantages of cheese as a travelling companion. It would stink so badly that people left the compartment to avoid it. Jerome had the compartment to himself, though the train was crowded. They didn’t take beer or wine but the whisky. They could make one sleepy and heavy. Jerome rather prided himself on his packing. Packing was one of those many things that he felt he knew more about packing than any other person living. He wanted Harris and George should work under his direction. Just when everything was packed, a horrible idea occurred to Jerome. He doubted if he had packed his toothbrush. He would repack and forget it. Then Harris packed the strawberry jam on the top of a tomato and squashed it. And it was now George’s turn. He trod on the butter. The dog, Montmorency would make the things worse. He would get in the way and be sworn at.
Next morning they overslept themselves. It was Mrs. Poppets who woke Jerome up at nine. George read them out the weather forecast prophesied by the newspaper. Jerome considered this “weather-forecast’ as silly and irritating tomfoolishness. It ‘ forecasts precisely what happened yesterday or the day before, and precisely the opposite of what is going to happen today’. Jerome remembered a holiday of his being completely ruined by paying attention to the weather report of a local newspaper. They gave up their picnic as the weather report warned of heavy showers with thunderstorm. But not a drop ever fell and it finished a grand clear day and a lovely night after it. The next morning was declared “a warm and fine day”. And half an hour after they had started, it started raining hard and a bitterly cold wind sprang up. They came home with cold and rheumatism. Even the barometer is useless. It is as misleading as the newspaper weather forecast.
They had a good deal of luggage when they put it all together. No cab came by. Bigg’s boy was the first to come round. Bigg was their greengrocer. “His chief – talent lies in securing the services of the most abandoned and unprincipled errand-boys that civilization has yet produced.” They got to Waterloo station at eleven, and asked where the eleven-five train started from. Nobody at Waterloo ever did know where a train was going to start from, or anything about it. There was a rumour that it would go from number one but the station master had a different opinion. Their porter took them to the high-level platform and asked the engine driver if he was going to Kingston. He said he couldn’t say for certain. They decided to bribe him. They slipped half-a-crown into his hand and ‘begged him to be the 11.05 for Kingston’.
It was early summer. It was a glorious and sunny morning. The ‘quaint back streets’ of Kingston looked quite picturesque in the flashing sunlight. They could see the distant glimpses of the grey old palace of the Tudors. Once Saxon kings were crowned at Kingston. Great Caesar crossed the Thames there and his army camped upon its sloping uplands. Elizabeth also seemed to have stopped there. After Saxon kings, Kingston’s greatness rose once more. Hampton Court became the palace of the Tudors and the Stuarts. The royal barges anchored on the river’s bank. Many of the old houses tell the glory of the days when Kingston was a royal borough. They looked unique in hard red bricks and with their oak staircases. The Hampton Court appeared so peaceful and so quiet and a dear old place to ramble round in the early morning.
Harris asked Jerome and George if they had ever been in the ‘maze’ at Hampton Court. They met some people soon after entering the ‘maze’. They had been trying to come out of the maze for three-quarters of an hour. Harris told them that they could follow him. They picked up various other people in the maze. People were lost in the maze and had given up all hopes of ever getting in or out, or of ‘ever seeing their home and friends again.’ Henry didn’t know how to get out and only suggested that the best thing would be going back to the entrance and begin again. And three minutes later they were back in the centre again. Whatever way they turned, they found themselves back to the middle. They all got crazy. They were saved from that unbearable situation when one of the old keepers came back from his dinner and took them out of the maze.
Mousley Lock on the Thames is a big lock. A lock is a section of river with a gate at the either end. The water level can be changed so that boats can move from one level river to another.
Jerome stood and watched it. On a fine Sunday, Mousley Lock presents a colourful spectacle. Ladies and gentlemen with bright blazers, gay caps, saucy hats, silk rugs, cloaks and ribbons appear nearly all day long. They want for their turn outside the gates as long lines of boats are ready to cross before them. The ‘sunny river’ from the palace to Hampton Court is ‘dotted and decked’ with every colour and shade. A rainbow heap covered every comer. All the people of Hampton and Mousley come and move round the lock with their dogs. They flirt, smoke and watch the moving boats. The river ‘affords’ a good opportunity for showing taste in colours and dresses. Harris always liked shades and mixtures of orange or yellow. Jerome thought that yellow colour didn’t suit the dark complexion of Harris.
The narrator (Jerome) always favoured red and black. The dark red colour matched beautifully with the golden brown hair. George had brought some new things. Jerome and Harris didn’t like his ‘loud’ blazer. Jerome had his misfortune once to go for a water picnic with two young ladies. Both the ladies were beautifully dressed in lace and silky stuff, flowers and ribbons, dainty shoes and light gloves.
They were dressed for a ‘photographic studio’, not for a river picnic. They were greatly concerned about their dresses. It appeared that a drop of river water was enough to min their costumes. The young ladies didn’t complain but huddled up close together. They shrank and shuddered everytime a drop of water touched them or their dresses.
Harris took a lot of interest in tombs, graves, epitaphs and monumental inscriptions. The thought of not seeing Mrs. Thomas’s tomb made him crazy. On the other hand, Jerome took no interest in ‘creeping round dim and chilly churches’ and reading epitaphs. Jerome reminded Harris of George. They had to get the boat up to Shepperton by five O’clock to meet George. Harris complained that he never saw George doing any work there. “He sits behind a bit of glass all day, trying to look as if he was doing something. What’s the good of a man behind a bit of glass?”
They stopped under the willow trees by Kempton Park. It was a beautiful spot, a pleasant grass plateau running along the river. Then a man in short-sleeves and a short pipe came along. He wanted to know if they knew that they were trespassing. He continued hanging about and seemed to be dissatisfied. Harris offered him a bit of bread and jam which he declined quite gruffly. The man measured Harris up and down. He said that he would go and consult his master. He would come back and chuck them into the river. They never saw him anymore. All he wanted was a shilling. He was perhaps one of those riverside roughs who blackmailed weak-minded persons in that way. They would represent themselves as if they had been sent by the proprietors.
It was one of Harris’s fixed ideas or misconceptions that he could sing a comic song. On the contrary, Harris’s friends believed that he couldn’t and never would be able to sing a comic song. When Harris was at a party and was asked to sing, he replied that he could only sing a comic song. The hostess would beg for silence as Harris was going to sing a comic song. People don’t look for a good voice in a comic song. Nor do they expect correct phrasing or vocalization. But they expect the words. Harris never remembered more than the first three lines of the first verse. He would keep on repeating the same lines until it was time to begin the chorus. The pianist would ask in a nervous voice what he was singing. He reminded him that there was a mistake somewhere. Actually, Harris was mixing up the two songs—the ‘Admiral’s song’ and ‘Pinafore’. There arose a long argument between Harris and Harris’s friend as to what he was really singing. But it didn’t matter to him what he was singing as he got on and sang it. He would sing in a voice that suggested ‘the first low warning of an approaching earthquake.’ There was a great surprise on the part of the audience. A nervous old lady who was sitting near the fire began to cry. She had to be led out. And Harris never saw ‘what an ass’ he was making of himself. He was annoying a lot of people who did him no harm. He honestly believed that he had given them a treat by singing such a good song. He would say that he would sing another comic song after supper.
The narrator Jerome K. Jerome was reminded of another curious incident when he thought of comic songs and parties. He recorded a fashionable and highly cultured party. They had put on their best clothes and were in happy spirits. Two German students who were in the party were restless and uncomfortable. They were out of place among the party. Jerome and the party played from the German masters. They discussed philosophy and ethics. Somebody recited a beautiful French poem and a lady sang a sentimental ballad in Spanish. And then those two German youngmen stood up. They asked the party if they had heard Herr Slossenn Boschen sing his great German comic song. They also told that Herr was present in the superroom now. None of them had heard him and his comic song. The youngmen told them that the song was really very funny. When Herr Slossenn Boschen had sung it before the German Emperor, he had to be carried off to bed. Jerome and all the members yearned to hear it and wanted to have a good laugh. The youngmen went downstairs and came up with Boschen. He came up at once and sat down to the piano without another word.
Herr Boschen sang the prelude. Strangely it did not suggest a comic song exactly. It was highly sentimental and serious. Everybody murmured but said nothing. Jerome didn’t understand German himself. Many others also had no knowledge of German language. The people’s eyes were fixed on the two young Germans. They imitated the gestures of the two students. The two youngmen tittered, roared and exploded with laughter continuously. The others also did the same imitating them. The German Herr Boschen didn’t seem happy. He was surprised to see the audience laugh when they had no business to laugh. As they continued laughing Herr Slossenn’s surprise was turned into annoyance and indignation. In the last verse, he surprised himself. He threw such a wailing note of agony that could have brought tears in the eyes of the listeners. But the party knew that he was singing a comic song. So instead of weeping, they burst into laughter. Then Herr Slossenn Boschen got up and swore at the listeners in German. He said that he had never been so much insulted in all his life. Then, it ‘ appeared that the song was not a comic song at all. It was one of the most tragic and pathetic songs in German language. Everybody felt cheated but speechless. They looked around for the two young German students. They were responsible for such a mischief and humiliation. But they had left the place immediately after the end of the song. That was the end of the party. Everyone condemned the shameful conduct of the two German youngmen.
Windsor and Abingdon are the only two towns between London and Oxford that offered a view from the river. Caesar camped at Walton and Queen Elizabeth also came there. Oatlands Park is on the right bank of the river. It is a famous old place. Henry VIII lived here once. The late Duchess of York, who lived at Oatlands, was very fond of dogs. She had a special graveyard made to bury her fifty dogs with a tombstone over each, and an epitaph inscribed thereon.
Now that they had got George, they made him work. It would be better for him to stop in the boat and get tea ready while Harris and Jerome towed. Harris and Jerome looked tired. Jerome had never experienced comfort with the tow-line. He had taken this tow-line and would not let Harris touch it, because he was careless. He had looked it round slowly and cautiously and folded it into two. He laid it down gently at the bottom of the boat. But he cursed himself for creating a mess. It was always the same. It would turn out like a bad fishing net. Jerome remembered an incident that occurred on a windy day. They were pulling down stream. They noticed two men on the bank. They had helplessly miserable expression on their faces. They carried a long tow-line between them. It was clear that something happened. They asked the two men what the matter was. They replied that their boat had gone off. They just got out to disentangle the tow-line and when they looked round, it had already gone. Jerome would never forget the picture of those two helpless men. They were walking up and down the bank, with a tow-line, looking for their lost boat. So one could see a good many funny incidents up the river in connection with towing.
Jerome remembered how he was once terribly upset up the river. He was out with a young lady- cousin on his mother’s side. They were pulling down to Goring in a boat. It was half-past six when they reached Benson’s Lock. The lady wanted to reach in time for supper. The next lock—Walling ford was just a mile and half away. They passed the bridge but the lock didn’t appear. He asked again and again if she had seen the lock. It angered her but not any ghost of a lock was to be seen.
The lady thought that they had lost the way. He suggested perhaps they were making for the falls.
The lady began to cry. She feared that both of them would be drowned. He tried to assure her and pulled on for another mile. Then Jerome began to get nervous himself. He still went on pulling, but no lock came in sight. He heard some sweet sounds drawing nearer. He asked the men in the nearby boat if they could tell him the way to Wallingford Lock. They were surprised. There was no Wallingford Lock now as it was done away with for over a year. They were very close to Cleeve now. They thanked them over and over again and wished them a pleasant trip.
They had originally intended to go on to Magna Charta Island. It is a ‘sweetly pretty part of the river, where it winds through a soft green valley.’ But they didn’t want scenery. They wanted to have their supper and go to bed. They pulled up to the “Picnic Point” and fastened the boat to a great elm-tree. George suggested that they had better get the canvas up first before it got dark. They took up the hoops and began to drop them into the sockets. It turned out that they were wrong hoops for the sockets. They had to struggle for five minutes to take them out. They got them fixed at last and had to arrange the covering over them. George unrolled the covering and fastened one end over the nose of the boat. Harris stood in the middle to roll it to Jerome but he bungled it.
He was completely rolled up in it. He was so firmly wrapped round that he made frantic struggles for freedom. In doing so he was knocked over George and then George swore at Harris. George got himself entangled and rolled up. Jerome was told to stand where he was and wait for the canvas come to him. Jerome and the dog could see the canvas being violently jerked and tossed about. At last, George’s head came wriggling out over the side of the boat. He cried for help as both of them were being suffocated. So Jerome went and undid them. It took them half an hour’s hard labour before the covering was properly up.
Before supper, Harris, George and Jerome were quarrelsome and ill-tempered. After supper, they loved each other and loved their dog, too. They felt satisfied with themselves and with the world when their stomach was full. They felt forgiving and generous.
Jerome woke up at six the next morning. He found George awake too. Then George narrated an incident. It happened to him eighteen months ago.
George narrated that at that time he was lodging by himself in the house of a lady named Mrs. Gippings. George’s watch went wrong one evening. It stopped at quarter-past eight. He forgot to wind it up and went to bed. It was winter. It was still dark when George woke up in the morning. He looked at the watch. It was a quarter-past eight. He rushed downstairs. It was all dark and silent. He put on his great-coat and hat and made for the front door. He unlocked the door and ran out. He ran hard for a quarter of a mile. He was surprised not to find anyone on the road. The shops were not yet open. It was really a very dark and foggy morning. But he had to go to business. He reached Holborn. Three men were in sight, one of them was a policeman. The policeman eyed George up and down with clear suspicion. He asked the policeman what the time was and he pointed out to a neighbouring clock. The clock struck three. George expected it to strike nine times. The policeman asked George where he lived and George gave the address. He advised George to go there quietly. George went home again. At first he wanted to undress himself and go to bed again. But he couldn’t sleep. He played a game of chess himself. Then he tried to read. Then he put on his coat again and went out for a walk. It was horribly lonesome and dark. The policemen turned their lanterns on him and followed him about. George’s conduct made the police more distrustful of him than ever. They saw him go in with his key and took up a position opposite and watched the house. He wrapped himself up in his overcoat and sat in the easy-chair till Mrs. Gippings came down at half-past seven.
They went over to Magna Charta Island. They looked at the stone which stood in the cottage there. The great charter was said to have been signed on it. Then they saw the ruins of an old priory (monastery) which was close to the Picnic Point. Henry VIII was said to have waited for and met Anne Boleyn there.
From the Picnic Point to Old Windsor Lock was a delightful bit of the river. There was ‘Bells of Ouseley’, a beautiful inn where one could have a very good glass of ale. After they passed Old Windsor, George and Jerome towed up to Datchet. They passed a very pretty hotel but rejected it as there was no honeysuckle about it. Then they came to the ‘Manor House just opposite it. But Harris didn’t want to stop there too. He didn’t like the looks of a man who was stopping tfiere. Then they came to the ‘Stag’ and the landlord told them that he couldn’t provide any accommodation there. They picked up their things and went over to the ‘Manor House’ but couldn’t get any accommodation there either. They came to a ‘beershop’ where seven men had already occupied three beds. An old woman took them to a lady friend of hers, who occasionally let her rooms to gentlemen. The rooms were already let. Then they went back on the high road. Harris was dead tired and would go no further. They saw a boy. He appeared as a heavenly messenger for them. He told them that if they liked they could come with him. His mother had a room to spare. They could put up for the night. The good lady gave them hot bacon for supper and they ate it all—five pounds.
Marlow is one of the most beautiful places on the Thames. It is a bustling, lively little town. There is a lovely countryside around it. One can go out for a walk after boating. From Marlow upto Grand old Bisham Abbey the landscape is even fairer yet. It was while floating in his boat under the Bisham beeches that Shelley wrote his famous poem ‘The Revolt of Islam’. Near Dane’s Field, is Medmenham Abbey. From Medmenham to Hambledon Lock, the river is full of peaceful beauty.
The only subject on which Jerome had differences with his dog Montmorency was on cats. Jerome liked cats; Montmorency didn’t. They were on High Street when a cat ran out from one of the houses in front of them. Montmorency gave ‘a cry of joy’ and ran after his prey. His victim was a large black cat Tom. It was a huge but horrible-looking cat. It had lost half its tail, one of its ears and a large part of its nose. Montmorency went for the cat at the rate of twenty miles an hour. But the cat didn’t hurry up. It trotted quietly on until the dog was within a yard of it. Then it turned round and sat down in the middle of the road. There was something about the look of the cat. Montmorency stopped suddenly and looked at Tom. He looked at the cat as if he wanted to feel sorry for disturbing it. Then the cat rose, and continued its trot. If somebody said the word “Cats!” to Montmorency, he would shrink and look up piteously, as if to say, “Please don’t”.
Their departure from Marlow was a great success. They went to a good many shops. By the time they had finished, they had a fine collection of boys with baskets. They were marching down the middle of the High Street to the river. It must have been an imposing spectacle to the local people there.
Shiplake is a pretty village upon the hill. Tennyson was married in Shiplake Church. The river upto Sonning winds in and out through many islands. They got out at Sonning and went for a walk round the village. It was the most fairy like village full of roses. They roamed about sweet Sonning for an hour or so. Then George suggested trying a good, slap-up supper. He suggested that with the vegetables and the remains of the cold beef and general odds and ends, they should make an Irish stew. It seemed a fascinating idea. George gathered wood and made a fire. Harris and Jerome peeled potatoes. They worked for 25 minutes and did only four potatoes. They picked all the odds and ends and the remnants and added them to the stew. Half a pork pie, a bit of cold boiled bacon left were put in the stew. Then George emptied half a tin of salmon into the pot. Jerome put a couple of eggs that had cracked into the pot to thicken the gravy. Montmorency was showing great interest in the proceeding throughout. He reappeared after a few minutes with a dead water-rat in his mouth. Evidently he wished to present it as his contribution to the dinner. Whether it was in a sarcastic spirit, or with a genuine desire to help, couldn’t be said with certainty. They had a discussion whether the dead rat should be put in the stew or not. Harris wanted it to be mixed up with other things but George protested. He had never heard of water-rats in Irish stew. He didn’t want trying experiments.
George got out his banjo after supper and wanted to play it, but Harris objected as he had got a headache and couldn’t stand it.
All agreed that they would pull that morning as a change from towing. It always seemed to Jerome that he was doing more work than he should do. He didn’t shirk work but liked it. He took a great pride in his work. They settled the present difficulty by arranging that Harris and George would row upto Reading and Jerome should tow the boat on from there.
When Jerome was a young man, he used to listen tales and anecdotes from his elders. They told him about their marvellous feats at the river. After acquiring a taste for water, Jerome did a good deal of rafting. Then determined to go in for rowing proper and joined one of the Lea boating clubs. It was not till he came to the Thames that Jerome got his style of rowing. George never went near the water until he was sixteen. Harris was more accoustomed to sea rowing than to river work. George said he had often longed to take to punting for a change. Sailing is a thing that wants practice and knowledge too.
They were near Reading about eleven. They found the river (Thames) quite dirty and dark there. It was here that King Ethelred defeated the invading Danes. When things were unpleasant in London, Reading was considered a safe place to run down to. Parliament was generally rushed off to Reading when there was a plague on at Westminster. The Prince of Orange routed the army of King James in Reading. Henry I lies buried in Reading and John of Gaunt was married here in an abbey. At Reading they came up with a steam launch and they were towed upto Streatley. It was really wonderful being towed up by a launch. The river became very lovely from a little above Reading. Jerome started pulling the boat. George noticed something black floating on the water. It was the dead body of a woman. She had loved and been deceived. They left their boat at bridge, and went up into Streatley. They lunched there much to Montmorency’s satisfaction. Streatley, like most riverside towns and villages dated back to British and Saxon times.
They stayed for two days at Streatley. They got their clothes washed. They had tried washing them themselves but all the dirt of the river was collected during the wash. Later on, the washer-woman charged just three times the usual price for that wash. The neighbourhood of Streatley and Goring is a great fishing centre. The river abounds in all kinds of fish. One can sit and fish all i day. People go for fishing but never catch anything except very small fishes and dead cats. Jerome was not a good fisherman himself. He had not got sufficient imagination. A Thames angler required more imagination and power of invention that he seemed to possess. Some people consider that the art of telling lies easily and without blushing is necessary to be a good fisherman. For example, if he had not netted any fish at all, he would say that he had caught ten fish. If he really did catch one fish, he called it twenty.
Harris, George and Jerome went into a parlour and sat down. There was an old fellow smoking a pipe. Their eyes rested on a dusty old glass-case fixed above the chimney piece. It contained a trout fish. It was a huge fish and the old man told that it weighed 18 pounds 6 ounces. He claimed to have caught it 16 years ago. Then the old man went out leaving them alone. They were still looking at the fish when the local carrier came there and also looked at the fish. He asked if they were strangers and didn’t know anything about the man who had caught the fish. The carrier claimed that he himself caught that trout nearly five years ago and it weighed 26 pounds. Five minutes later, a third man came in. He also described how he had caught it early one morning. It weighed 34 pounds on the ‘ scale. When he had gone, the landlord came in to see them. Then he told them the real history of the fish. He caught it himself when he was just a lad. It was really a most astonishing trout. George : was much excited. He climbed up on the back of a chair to get a better view of it. And then the chair slipped. George clutched wildly at the trout-case to save himself. But down came the trout-case with a crash with George on the floor. That trout (fish) lay broken into a thousand pieces. The trout was made of plaster-of-Paris. It was not real. All of them came to know that all the people, including the landlord, were telling white lies of having caught that huge trout.
They left Streatley early the next morning and pulled up to Culham. They slept under the canvas, in the backwater. From Cleve there is a stretch of six and a half miles without a lock. The absence of locks may be good for rowing-men but not for pleasure seekers. Jerome was fond of locks. He liked rising up and sinking down and coming out in the open from the gates of the lock. The locks were picturesque little spots where one could see boats and exchange river-gossips. The river Thames ‘would not be the fairyland it is without its flower-decked locks.’
Jerome remembered an accident. He and George very nearly escaped one summer morning at Hampton Court. It was a wonderful day, and the lock was crowded. A ‘speculative photographer’ was taking a picture of them. Their boat was the last one. Jerome thought that it would be unkind of him to spoil the man’s picture. So he faced round quickly and took up his position. He arranged his hair with a curl over the forehead and arranged his expressions suiting the occasion. They stood waiting for the click of the camera. But then all the people started crying. “Look at your boat, sir.” They warned them of their certain death if they had not made haste. To their horror, they found the nose of their boat got fixed under the woodwork of the lock. The in-coming water was rising all around it, and tilting it up. In another moment they would be topped over. Each of them seized an oar and a vigorous blow against the side of the lock released their boat. Hence they were saved.
Wallingford, six miles above Streatley was an ancient and historical town. From Wallingford up to Dorchester, the neighbourhood of the river grew more hilly and picturesque. Dorchester, in Saxon days was the capital of Wessex. Between Iffley and Oxford was the most difficult part of the river. First the current drove them on the right bank and then on to the left and then out into the middle. In this way, they got in the way of a good many other boats. As a consequence of that, a good deal of bad language was exchanged. Everybody became exceptionally irritable on the river. The air of the river generally has a demoralising effect upon one’s temper. This is the reason that boatmen are sometimes rude to one another and use such a bad language. They would regret it in calmer moments.
They spent two very pleasant days at Oxford. The dog, Montmorency thought he had got to heaven. Oxford had plenty of dogs. Montmorency had eleven fights on the first and fourteen on the other day. Among people who are physically weak and lazy it is a common practice to get a boat at Oxford and row it down the river. The boats that were let for hire on the Thames above Marlow, were very good boats. They rarely came to pieces, or sank. But they were not ornamental.
The weather changed on the third day. They started from Oxford upon their homeward journey in the midst of a steady drizzle. The river—with the sunlight flashing from its dancing wavelets appears to be a golden fairy stream. But on a chilly and dark day it looks like a neglected ghost. Sunlight is the life-blood of the river. They rowed on all day through the rain. They consoled themselves that Nature could be beautiful even in her tears. They hoisted the cover before they had lunch. The rain poured down continuously and everything in the boat was damp. They gambled and George was lucky at cards. He won four pence. They re-filled their glasses. Surprisingly, George sang a very sad song that was quite touching. They all agreed to continue with their voyage to the bitter end. But they realised that sticking to their boat in such a bad weather would only be inviting their certain deaths. At last, George came to their rescue. A train left Pangboume and it could land them in town in comfortable time for supper. They looked up and down the river. Not a soul was there. Twenty minutes later all the three men were seen walking stealthily from the boat to the railway station with their dog.
They attracted a good deal of attraction at a restaurant at the Alhambra. They enjoyed the supper. They had been living on a very simple diet for about ten days. The odour of Burgundy and the smell of French sauces really excited them. The rain still splashed steadily. Holding a glass of Burgundy in his hand, Harris remarked, “Well, we have had a pleasant trip, and my hearty thanks for it to the old Father Thames.” And Montmorency gave a short bark “to show his concurrence with the toast.”