فصل 09

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فصل 09

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CHAPTER NINE

Fighting Swans

After lunch, a gentle wind pushed us up the river past Wargrave and Shiplake. We got out of the boat at Sonning and walked around the village. Sonning is a lovely village. Everything is clean and beautiful. Each house is covered with roses. We decided to return to one of the Shiplake islands to spend the night.

George said, ‘Let’s have a special supper tonight. Let’s make an Irish stew. We can put everything into one big pan.’

‘What a wonderful idea!’ Harris and I said.

‘I’ll get the wood and make a fire,’ George said. ‘You two can peel the potatoes.’

This was a very big job. We were happy and excited. But when we peeled our first potato, we understood that this was not exciting - it was hard work. The first potato we peeled looked like a pea.

George looked at it and said, ‘No, no, no! There’s no potato left. Do it like this.’

We worked hard for half an hour, but we peeled only four potatoes. We refused to continue.

‘Well, just put the potatoes in without peeling them. Let’s add some carrots and other vegetables. Look in the hampers and take out all the pieces of old food. We’ll put them in the stew. You can put anything in a stew.’

We found half a pork pie, a tin of fish and a few broken eggs. We added these to the stew. Montmorency watched us carefully and then left. After a while, he returned with a dead rat in his mouth. He wanted to add something to the stew, too. We discussed it first.

Harris said, ‘It’s all right to add the dead rat. It will be mixed with the other things. A stew needs many ingredients.’

George said, ‘Well, I don’t want to try anything new. Maybe next time. I’m sorry, Montmorency.’

Harris said, ‘If you never try anything new, you’ll never discover things. It’s men like you, George, who slow down the progress of our world.’

George didn’t listen to Harris.

The stew was a great success. It was delicious - excellent in every way. We all really enjoyed it.

After the Irish stew, George and I decided to go to Henley for an evening walk. Harris wanted to stay on the boat and drink a whisky.

When we returned to the boat, Harris was sad and confused.

‘What happened to you, Harris?’

‘Swans!’ he said.

We had left the boat near a swan’s nest. When George and I were in Henley, Mrs Swan came back to the nest. She started to shout at Harris. Harris frightened her away. She went to get her husband, Mr Swan. Harris had a terrible fight with these two swans. Harris finally won the fight.

However, half an hour later, Mr and Mrs Swan returned with eighteen other swans. There was a horrible fight. The swans attacked Harris and tried to pull him off the boat. They wanted to drown Harris and Montmorency!

Harris fought with courage for four hours. In the end, the swans slowly swam away to die.

‘How many swans were there?’ George asked.

‘Thirty-two,’ said Harris, who was sleepy.

‘But you said eighteen before,’ George said.

‘No, I didn’t. I said twelve. Do you think I can’t count?’

We never discovered the truth about the swans. We asked Harris about it the next morning. He said, ‘What swans?’ He thought that George and I were dreaming.

That night Harris had trouble sleeping. He woke me up about twelve times during the night. He was looking for his clothes. George woke up, too.

‘Why do you need your trousers? It’s the middle of the night!’ George said.

Later, Harris was looking for his shoes. Then he asked for his socks and his umbrella.

We woke up late the next morning. We had a small breakfast and we were ready to go. We agreed that we would row the boat, and not tow it. Harris said, ‘George, you and J can row. I’ll steer.’

I didn’t like this idea, and I said, ‘No, Harris. You and George row, so that I can rest.’

I was doing too much work on this trip. I always think that I work too much. It’s not because I don’t like work. I love it! I find it very interesting. I can sit and look at it for hours. You can’t give me too much work. I like collecting it. My office is full of it.

I’m very careful with my work, too. Some of the work in my office has been there for years. It is in perfect condition. It isn’t dirty or anything. That’s because I take good care of it.

Harris said, ‘On this boat, I’m the only one who works.’

George said, ‘You do nothing but eat and sleep, Harris. I’m the only one who works. You and J are very lazy people.’

Harris laughed and said, ‘George! Work! Have you ever seen George work?’

I agreed with Harris, George never worked.

‘How do you know if I work, Harris? You’re always sleeping, except at meal times. Have you ever seen Harris awake, except at meal times?’ George asked me.

I agreed with George. Harris worked very little on the boat.

‘Oh, please! I do more work than old J,’ Harris said.

‘Well, it’s difficult to do less work than old J,’ George added.

‘Old J thinks he’s a passenger and doesn’t need to work,’ Harris said.

After this discussion, I said to Harris, ‘You and George row the boat up to Reading. At Reading I’ll tow it.’

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