CHAPTER VII (Continuation)

Harris wanted to get out at Hampton Church, to go and see Mrs. Thomas\'s tomb.

\"Who is Mrs. Thomas?" I asked.

\"How should I know?" replied Harris. "She\'s a lady that\'s got a funny tomb, and I want to see it."

I objected. I don\'t know whether it is that I am built wrong, but I never did seem to hanker after tombstones myself. I know that the proper thing to do, when you get to a village or town, is to rush off to the churchyard, and enjoy the graves; but it is a recreation that I always deny myself. I take no interest in creeping round dim and chilly churches behind wheezy old men, and reading epitaphs. Not even the sight of a bit of cracked brass let into a stone affords me what I call real happiness.

I shock respectable sextons by the imperturbability I am able to assume before exciting inscriptions, and by my lack of enthusiasm for the local family history, while my ill-concealed anxiety to get outside wounds their feelings.

One golden morning of a sunny day, I leant against the low stone wall that guarded a little village church, and I smoked, and drank in deep, calm gladness from the sweet, restful scene - the grey old church with its clustering ivy and its quaint carved wooden porch, the white lane winding down the hill between tall rows of elms, the thatched-roof cottages peeping above their trim-kept hedges, the silver river in the hollow, the wooded hills beyond!

It was a lovely landscape. It was idyllic, poetical, and it inspired me. I felt good and noble. I felt I didn\'t want to be sinful and wicked any more. I would come and live here, and never do any more wrong, and lead a blameless, beautiful life, and have silver hair when I got old, and all that sort of thing.

In that moment I forgave all my friends and relations for their wickedness and cussedness, and I blessed them. They did not know that I blessed them. They went their abandoned way all unconscious of what I, far away in that peaceful village, was doing for them; but I did it, and I wished that I could let them know that I had done it, because I wanted to make them happy. I was going on thinking away all these grand, tender thoughts, when my reverie was broken in upon by a shrill piping voice crying out:
"All right, sur, I\'m a-coming, I\'m a-coming. It\'s all right, sur; don\'t you be in a hurry."

I looked up, and saw an old bald-headed man hobbling across the churchyard towards me, carrying a huge bunch of keys in his hand that shook and jingled at every step.

I motioned him away with silent dignity, but he still advanced, screeching out the while:
"I\'m a-coming, sur, I\'m a-coming. I\'m a little lame. I ain\'t as spry as I used to be. This way, sur."

\"Go away, you miserable old man," I said.

\"I\'ve come as soon as I could, sur," he replied. "My missis never see you till just this minute. You follow me, sur."

\"Go away," I repeated; "leave me before I get over the wall, and slay you."

He seemed surprised.

\"Don\'t you want to see the tombs?" he said.

\"No," I answered, "I don\'t. I want to stop here, leaning up against this gritty old wall. Go away, and don\'t disturb me. I am chock full of beautiful and noble thoughts, and I want to stop like it, because it feels nice and good. Don\'t you come fooling about, making me mad, chivvying away all my better feelings with this silly tombstone nonsense of yours. Go away, and get somebody to bury you cheap, and I\'ll pay half the expense."

He was bewildered for a moment. He rubbed his eyes, and looked hard at me. I seemed human enough on the outside: he couldn\'t make it out.

He said:
"Yuise a stranger in these parts? You don\'t live here?"

\"No," I said, "I don\'t. You wouldn\'t if I did."

\"Well then," he said, "you want to see the tombs - graves - folks been buried, you know - coffins!"

\"You are an untruther," I replied, getting roused; "I do not want to see tombs - not your tombs. Why should I? We have graves of our own, our family has. Why my uncle Podger has a tomb in Kensal Green Cemetery, that is the pride of all that country-side; and my grandfather\'s vault at Bow is capable of accommodating eight visitors, while my great-aunt Susan has a brick grave in Finchley Churchyard, with a headstone with a coffee-pot sort of thing in bas-relief upon it, and a six-inch best white stone coping all the way round, that cost pounds. When I want graves, it is to those places that I go and revel. I do not want other folk\'s. When you yourself are buried, I will come and see yours. That is all I can do for you."

He burst into tears. He said that one of the tombs had a bit of stone upon the top of it that had been said by some to be probably part of the remains of the figure of a man, and that another had some words, carved upon it, that nobody had ever been able to decipher.

I still remained obdurate, and, in broken-hearted tones, he said:
"Well, won\'t you come and see the memorial window?"

I would not even see that, so he fired his last shot. He drew near, and whispered hoarsely:
"I\'ve got a couple of skulls down in the crypt," he said; "come and see those. Oh, do come and see the skulls! You are a young man out for a holiday, and you want to enjoy yourself. Come and see the skulls!"

Then I turned and fled, and as I sped I heard him calling to me:
"Oh, come and see the skulls; come back and see the skulls!"

Harris, however, revels in tombs, and graves, and epitaphs, and monumental inscriptions, and the thought of not seeing Mrs. Thomas\'s grave made him crazy. He said he had looked forward to seeing Mrs. Thomas\'s grave from the first moment that the trip was proposed - said he wouldn\'t have joined if it hadn\'t been for the idea of seeing Mrs. Thomas\'s tomb.

I reminded him of George, and how we had to get the boat up to Shepperton by five o\'clock to meet him, and then he went for George. Why was George to fool about all day, and leave us to lug this lumbering old top-heavy barge up and down the river by ourselves to meet him? Why couldn\'t George come and do some work? Why couldn\'t he have got the day off, and come down with us? Bank be blowed! What good was he at the bank?

\"I never see him doing any work there," continued Harris, "whenever I go in. 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? I have to work for my living. Why can\'t he work. What use is he there, and what\'s the good of their banks? They take your money, and then, when you draw a cheque, they send it back smeared all over with `No effects,' `Refer to drawer.' What\'s the good of that? That\'s the sort of trick they served me twice last week. I\'m not going to stand it much longer. I shall withdraw my account. If he was here, we could go and see that tomb. I don\'t believe he\'s at the bank at all. He\'s larking about somewhere, that\'s what he\'s doing, leaving us to do all the work. I\'m going to get out, and have a drink."

I pointed out to him that we were miles away from a pub.; and then he went on about the river, and what was the good of the river, and was everyone who came on the river to die of thirst?

It is always best to let Harris have his head when he gets like this. Then he pumps himself out, and is quiet afterwards.

I reminded him that there was concentrated lemonade in the hamper, and a gallon-jar of water in the nose of the boat, and that the two only wanted mixing to make a cool and refreshing beverage.

Then he flew off about lemonade, and "such-like Sunday-school slops," as he termed them, ginger-beer, raspberry syrup, &c., &c. He said they all produced dyspepsia, and ruined body and soul alike, and were the cause of half the crime in England.

He said he must drink something, however, and climbed upon the seat, and leant over to get the bottle. It was right at the bottom of the hamper, and seemed difficult to find, and he had to lean over further and further, and, in trying to steer at the same time, from a topsy-turvy point of view, he pulled the wrong line, and sent the boat into the bank, and the shock upset him, and he dived down right into the hamper, and stood there on his head, holding on to the sides of the boat like grim death, his legs sticking up into the air. He dared not move for fear of going over, and had to stay there till I could get hold of his legs, and haul him back, and that made him madder than ever.


abandoned: deserted

bewildered: confused

chivvy: (chivvying, chivvied) to make sb do sth very quickly

cussedness: behaving in an unhelpful way

dyspepsia: niestrawność

gritty: rough

hanker after: (hankering, hankered) yearn, want

haul: (hauling, hauled) pull

hobble: (hobbling, hobbled) limp, walk with difficulty

imperturbability: opanowanie

jingle: (jingling, jingled) brzęczeć

motion: (motioning, motioned) to give instructions by moving your hands

obdurate: obstinate

reverie: daydream

screech: (screeching. screeched) scream

sexton: person who takes care of the church (kościelny)

slay: (slaying, slew, slain) kill sb

spry: lively, brisk

tomb: crypt, grave

vault: crypt

wheezy: breathless

withdraw: (withdrawing, withdrew, withdrawn) remove

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