20 December 2008

A Complete Change

Today is a travel day, so I'm going to post a passage from Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men on a Bummel, published in 1900:

"What we want," said Harris, "is a change."

At this moment the door opened, and Mrs. Harris put her head in to say that Ethelbertha had sent her to remind me that we must not be late getting home because of Clarence. Ethelbertha, I am inclined to think, is unnecessarily nervous about the children. As a matter of fact, there was nothing wrong with the child whatever. He had been out with his aunt that morning; and if he looks wistfully at a pastrycook's window she takes him inside and buys him cream buns and "maids-of-honour" until he insists that he has had enough, and politely, but firmly, refuses to eat another anything. Then, of course, he wants only one helping of pudding at lunch, and Ethelbertha thinks he is sickening for something.

Mrs. Harris added that it would be as well for us to come upstairs soon, on our own account also, as otherwise we should miss Muriel's rendering of "The Mad Hatter's Tea Party," out of Alice in Wonderland. Muriel is Harris's second, age eight: she is a bright, intelligent child; but I prefer her myself in serious pieces.

We said we would finish our cigarettes and follow almost immediately; we also begged her not to let Muriel begin until we arrived. She promised to hold the child back as long as possible, and went. Harris, as soon as the door was closed, resumed his interrupted sentence.

"You know what I mean," he said, "a complete change."
A bummel, the narrator eventually explains, is "a journey, long or short, without an end; the only thing regulating it being the necessity of getting back within a given time to the point from which one started."

6 comments:

Sam said...

what? How did I miss this book? And what happened to the dog from the other book?

J. L. Bell said...

Three Men on a Bummel followed Three Men in a Boat by several years. People seem to think it's a lesser book. It's based around the same three men's aimless bicycle tour of Germany. Instead of a dog, they deal with their bicycles.

J. L. Bell said...

Today is a travel day...

Well, I thought today would be a travel day. And I've been in an auto, two subway cars, a bus, two moving walkways, another bus, two more subway cars, and a taxi. But since both airplane flights I was successively booked on were canceled and I'm back home with nothing to show for it, I don't think I actually traveled.

Chaucerian said...

Or perhaps you were on a bummel of the purest nature. Did your travel day feel as if it was without an end? Did you come back to the point from which you started? I rest my case. Sorry about your day, though.

J. L. Bell said...

Too bad "bummel" is so close to "bummer."

Hermione said...

The dog was added to the first book. To the extent that the trip was actually taken, there was no dog. Connie Willis's rendition is pure beauty.