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Three Men Out of a Boat


We reached Reading at about II o'clock. The river here is very dirty, so we moved on to Streatley. We stayed at Streatley for two days. We took our clothes to a laundry woman. We had tried to wash them in the river, as George told us. The river was so dirty that our clothes collected all the dirt from the water. The river became cleaner, but our clothes became dirtier.

The laundry woman was very surprised to see such dirty clothes. She looked at them and said, 'This will cost you three times the usual price.'

We agreed and paid her.

The river near Streatley and Goring is excellent for fishing. It is full of different types of fish. Some people sit and fish there all day. However, they never catch any fish. The local fisherman's guide book doesn't say anything about catching fish. It only says that the place is a good fishing area. And it is!

You can see many fish swim past, but you can't catch them.

When you go for a walk by the river, you can see hundreds of fish. They come and stand half out of the water. Their mouths are open for bread. If you go swimming, they come to look at you and disturb you. You cannot catch them, however.

We passed by Wallingford and Dorchester. Both are ancient British towns. In the days of the Roman Empire, the Romans camped here and built fortifications. We spent the night at Clifton Hampdon, which is a pretty village.

We finally arrived at Oxford and spent two excellent days there. Oxford is a beautiful town with its old university. Oxford is also full of dogs. Montmorency was very happy. He had eleven dog fights on the first day and fourteen on the second day. He probably thought he was in heaven.

We left Oxford on the third day, to return home to London. When we left Oxford, it was raining. The rain continued without stopping.

When it's sunny, the river is a dream. But when it's rainy, the river is brown and unfriendly.

It rained all day. At first, we pretended to enjoy it.

'Well, this is a nice change. Too much sunshine is boring. Nature is beautiful even when it rains,' I said.

'Yes,' Harris said, 'it's good to see the river in all kinds of weather. The rain is good for you. I can't understand people who are afraid of a little rain.'

Harris and I sang songs and we were quite happy.

George did not agree. He stayed under the umbrella.

We put up the canvas cover before lunch. We left a little opening to see where we were going. We continued our trip for another nine miles. We stopped for the night at Day's Lock.

We did not have a happy evening. The rain never stopped. Supper was not good. We were really tired of cold meat. We dreamt about our favourite foods. Harris talked about fish cooked in a special sauce.

Harris gave his cold meat to Montmorency. He looked at it and turned his head. He seemed insulted by Harris's offer. He went to sit at the other side of the boat, alone.

George said, 'Please don't talk about good food, until I finish this cold meat.'

We played cards after supper. After that, we had some hot water and whisky. George told us about a man he knew. This man had slept on the river in a wet boat, like ours. He got very ill and died ten days later.

Of course, we began talking about other illnesses. After a while, I Harris said, 'I've got an awful headache. It must be the rain.'

'Well, I've got a bad backache,' I said.

To make us feel happier, George sang to us. That made Harris and I cry, and it made Montmorency howl.

There was nothing else to do, so we went to bed. We didn't sleep well at all. We were awake at five o'clock the next morning.

Our second rainy day was the same as the first. It rained all day. We moved slowly along the river. We agreed to continue our trip, even if it killed us.

'It's only two more days,' Harris said. 'We're young and healthy. Maybe we'll be all right.'

We talked about our evening. 'With this weather, we can have dinner and take a walk in the rain. Or, we can have dinner and spend an hour in a pub,' I said.

'That's not very exciting,' said George.

'It's much more interesting to go to the Alhambra Theatre in London,' said Harris.

'And then have supper at that little French restaurant,' I added.

'But we have decided to stay and die on this boat,' said George. 'However, there's a train that leaves Pangbourne after five o'clock. It gets to London in time to eat something, and then go to the theatre.'

Everyone was silent. We didn't say one word. We looked at one another. Then, we got out the big bag and got our clothes ready.

Twenty minutes later, three men and a dog were going to the railway station.

We lied to the boatman at Pangbourne. We didn't have the courage to tell him the truth: we were running away from the rain!

We asked him to take care of the boat until the next morning. 'If something happens, we'll write to you,' we said, telling him a big lie.

We reached Paddington Station at seven o'clock. We went directly to the restaurant and had a small meal. Montmorency stayed at the restaurant, while we went to the theatre.

'We'll return at half past ten for the dog and for a good supper,' I told the restaurant owner.

The man at the ticket office of the theatre said, 'Oh, you're the famous acrobats from the Himalaya Mountains. You're late for the performance. Please use the side door.'

We explained to him that we were not acrobats. He understood and sold us three tickets. Our clothes probably looked a bit old and strange.

At the Alhambra Theatre everyone looked at our clothes and smiled. Some people laughed.

After the theatre, we went back to the restaurant.

We enjoyed our delicious supper. After ten days of eating cold meat, we were thankful for this supper. We ate it without speaking. Then we sat back and felt happy and kind.

Harris, who was sitting next to the window, pulled back the curtain. He looked at the wet street. It was rainy and dark. The wind was blowing. A few people walked past under their umbrellas.

Harris took his glass and said, 'Well, we had a good trip, and I say thank you to Old Father Thames. But, I think we were right to come back when we did. Here's to Three Men well out of a boat!'

Montmorency stood on his back legs in front of the window. He looked at the wet night and gave a short bark of agreement.

Date: 2015-02-03; view: 1893

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