I rather pride myself on my packing. Packing is one of those many things that I feel I know more about than any other person living. (It surprises me myself, sometimes, how many such things there are.) I impressed the fact upon George and Harris and told them that they had better leave the whole matter entirely to me. They fell into the suggestion with a readiness that had something uncanny about it. George spread himself over the easy-chair, and Harris cocked his legs on the table.
This was hardly what I intended. What I had meant, of course, was, that I should boss the job, and that Harris and George should potter about under my directions, I pushing them aside every now and then with, “Oh, you!” “Here, let me do it.” “There you are, simple enough!” — really teaching them, as you might say. Their taking it in the way they did irritated me. There is nothing does irritate me more than seeing other people sitting about doing nothing when I’m working.
I lived with a man once who used to make me mad that way. He would loll on the sofa and watch me doing things by the hour together. He said it did him real good to look on at me, messing about. Now, I’m not like that. I can’t sit still and see another man slaving and working. I want to get up and superintend, and walk around with my hands in my pockets, and tell him what to do. It is my energetic nature. I can’t help it.
However, I did not say anything, but started the packing. It seemed a longer job than I had thought it was going to be; but I got the bag finished at last, and I sat on it and strapped it. “Ain’t you going to put the boots in?” said Harris. And I looked round, and found I had forgotten them. That’s just like Harris. He couldn’t have said a word until I’d got the bag shut and strapped, of course. And George laughed — one of those irritating, senseless laughs of his. They do make me so wild.
I opened the bag and packed the boots in; and then, just as I was going to close it, a horrible idea occurred to me. Had I packed my toothbrush? I don’t know how it is, but I never do know whether I’ve packed my toothbrush.
My toothbrush is a thing that haunts me when I’m travelling, and makes my life a misery. I dream that I haven’t packed it, and wake up in a cold perspiration, and get out of bed and hunt for it. And, in the morning, I pack it before I have used it, and have to unpack again to get it, and it is always the last thing I turn out of the bag; and then I repack and forget it, and have to rush upstairs for it at the last moment and carry it to the railway station, wrapped up in my pocket-handkerchief.
Of course I had to turn every mortal thing out now, and, of course, I could not find it. I rummaged the things up into much the same state that they must have been before the world was created, and when chaos reigned. Of course, I found George’s and Harris’s eighteen times over, but I couldn’t find my own. I put the things back one by one, and held everything up and shook it. Then I found it inside a boot. I repacked once more.
When I had finished, George asked if the soap was in. I said I didn’t care a hang whether the soap was in or whether it wasn’t; and I slammed the bag shut and strapped it, and found that I had packed my spectacles in it, and had to re-open it. It got shut up finally at 10.05 p.m., and then there remained the hampers to do. Harris said that we should be wanting to start in less than twelve hours’ time and thought that he and George had better do the rest; and I agreed and sat down, and they had a go.
They began in a light-hearted spirit, evidently intending to show me how to do it. I made no comment; I only waited. With the exception of George, Harris is the worst packer in this world; and I looked at the piles of plates and cups, and kettles, and bottles, and jars, and pies, and stoves, and cakes, and tomatoes, etc., and felt that the thing would soon become exciting.
It did. They started with breaking a cup. That was the first thing they did. They did that just to
show you what they could do, and to get you interested.
Then Harris packed the strawberry jam on top of a tomato and squashed it, and they had to pick out the tomato with a teaspoon. And then it was George’s turn, and he trod on the butter. I didn’t say anything, but I came over and sat on the edge of the table and watched them. It irritated them more than anything I could have said. I felt that. It made them nervous and excited, and they stepped on things, and put things behind them, and then couldn’t find them when they wanted them; and they packed the pies at the bottom, and put heavy things on top, and smashed the pies in.
They upset salt over everything, and as for the butter! I never saw two men do more with one-and two pence worth of butter in my whole life than they did. After George had got it off his slipper, they tried to put it in the kettle. It wouldn’t go in, and what was in wouldn’t come out. They did scrape it out at last, and put it down on a chair, and Harris sat on it, and it stuck to him, and they went looking for it all over the room. “I’ll take my oath I put it down on that chair,” said George, staring at the empty seat. “I saw you do it myself, not a minute ago,” said Harris. Then they started round the room again looking for it; and then they met again in the centre and stared at one another.
Harris said I encouraged him. I didn’t encourage him. A dog like that doesn’t want any encouragement. It’s the natural, original sin that is born in him that makes him do things like that.
The packing was done at 12.50; and Harris sat on the big hamper, and said he hoped nothing would be found broken. George said that if anything was broken it was broken, which reflection seemed to comfort him. He also said he was ready for bed. We were all ready for bed. Harris was to sleep with us that night, and we went upstairs.
We tossed for beds, and Harris had to sleep with me. He said :
“Do you prefer the inside or the outside, J.?”
I said I generally preferred to sleep inside a bed.
Harris said it was odd.
“What time shall I wake you fellows?”
“No — six,” because I wanted to write some letters.
Harris and I had a bit of a row over it, but at last split the difference, and said half-past six. “Wake us at 6.30, George. George made no answer, and we found, on going over, that he had been asleep for sometime; so we placed the bath where he could tumble into it on getting out in the morning, and went to bed ourselves.
When did they finally decide to get up the next morning?