I’ve decided to put down a few paragraphs from every book I read. Just to give you the best of a particular book. If not the best, I’d like to put it down simply because I think it’s noteworthy. Here goes.
An excerpt from Three Men in a Boat, (To say nothing of the dog) by Jerome K. Jerome. Just to give you a gist of the scene, they have just put up a tent, to camp for the night and are settling for supper.
It took us half an hours hard labour, after that, before it was properly up, and then we cleared the decks, and got out supper. We put the kettle on to boil, up in the nose of the boat, and went down to the stern and pretended to take no notice of it, but set to work to get the other things out.
That is the only way to get a kettle to boil up the river. If it sees that you are waiting for it and are anxious, it will never even sing. You have to go away and begin your meal, as if you were not going to have any tea at all. You must not even look round at it. Then you will soon hear it sputtering away, mad to be made into tea.
It is a good plan, too, if you are in a great hurry, to talk very loudly to each other about how you don ’t need any tea, and are not going to have any. You get near the kettle, so that it can overhear you, and then you shout out, I don ’t want any tea; do you, George? to which George shouts back, Oh, no, I don ’t like tea; well have lemonade instead teas so indigestible. Uponwhich the kettle boils over, and puts the stove out. We adopted this harmless bit of trickery, and the result was that, by the time everything else was ready, the tea was waiting. Then we lit the lantern, and squatted down to supper. We wanted that supper.
For five-and-thirty minutes not a sound was heard throughout the length and breadth of that boat, save the clank of cutlery and crockery, and the steady grinding of four sets of molars. At the end of five-and-thirty minutes, Harris said, Ah! and took his left leg out from under him and put his right one there instead.
Five minutes afterwards, George said, Ah! too, and threw his plate out on the bank; and, three minutes later than that, Montmorency gave the first sign of contentment he had exhibited since we had started, and rolled over on his side, and spread his legs out; and then I said, Ah! and bent my head back, and bumped it against one of the hoops, but I did not mind it. I did not even swear.
How good one feels when one is full how satisfied with ourselves and with the world! People who have tried it, tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented; but a full stomach does the business quite as well, and is cheaper, and more easily obtained. One feels so forgiving and generous after a substantial and well-digested meal so noble-minded, so kindly-hearted.
It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs, it says, Work! After thick slice of meat, it says, Sleep!
After a cup of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup, and don ’t let it stand more than three minutes), it says to the brain, Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!
After hot muffins, it says, Be dull and soulless, like a beast of the field a brainless animal, with listless eye, unlit by any ray of fancy, or of hope, or fear, or love, or life.
And after tonic, taken in sufficient quantity, it says, Now, come, fool, grin and tumble, that your fellow-men may laugh drivel in folly, and splutter in senseless sounds, and show what a helpless ninny is poor man whose wit and will are drowned, like kittens, side by side, in half an inch of tonic.
We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach. Reach not after morality and righteousness, my friends; watch vigilantly your stomach, and diet it with care and judgment. Then virtue and contentment will come and reign within your heart, unsought by any effort of your own; and you will be a good citizen, a loving husband, and a tender father a noble, pious man.
Before our supper, Harris and George and I were quarrelsome and snappy and ill-tempered; after our supper, we sat and beamed on one another, and we beamed upon the dog, too. We loved each other, we loved everybody. Harris, in moving about, trod on Georges corn. Had this happened before supper, George would have expressed wishes and desires concerning Harriss fate in this world and the next that would have made a thoughtful man shudder.
As it was, he said: Steady, old man; ware wheat.
And Harris, instead of merely observing, in his most unpleasant tones, that a fellow could hardly help treading on some bit of Georges foot, if he had to move about at all within ten yards of where George was sitting, suggesting that George never ought to come into an ordinary sized boat with feet that length, and advising him to hang them over the side, as he would have done before supper, now said: Oh, I ’m so sorry, old chap; I hope I haven’t hurt you.
And George said: Not at all; that it was his fault; and Harris said no, it was his.
It was quite pretty to hear them. We sat, looking out on the quiet night, and talked.
George said why could not we be always like this away from the world, with its sin and temptation, leading sober, peaceful lives, and doing good. I said it was the sort of thing I had often longed for myself; and we discussed the possibility of our going away, we four, to some handy, well-fitted desert island, and living there in the woods.