In Such Times the Lovers Are Ubiquitous, Says a Sufferer.
[Jerome K. Jerome in Three Men in a Boat.]
Have you ever been in a house where there are a couple courting? It is most trying. You think you will go and sit in the drawing-room, and you march off there. As you open the door, you hear a noise as if somebody had suddenly recollected something, and, when you get in, Emily is over by the window, full of interest in the opposite side of the road, and your friend, John Edward, is at the other end of the room with his whole soul held in thrall by photographs of other people’s relatives.
“Oh!” you say, pausing at the door, “I didn’t know anybody was here.”
“Oh! didn’t you?” says Emily, coldly, in a tone which implies that she does not believe you.
You hang about for a bit, then you say:
“It’s very dark. Why don’t you light the gas?”
John Edward says, “Oh!” he hadn’t noticed it; and Emily says that papa does not like the gas lit in the afternoon.
You tell them one or two items of news, and give them your views and opinions on the Irish question; but this does not appear to interest them. All they remark on any subject is, “Oh!” “Is it?” “Did he?” “Yes,” and “You don’t say so!” And, after ten minutes of such style of conversation, you edge up to the door, and slip out, and are surprised to find that the door immediately closes behind you, and shuts itself, without your having touched it.
Half an hour later, you think you will try a pipe in the conservatory. The only chair in the place is occupied by Emily; and John Edward, if the language of clothes can be relied upon, has evidently been sitting on the floor. They do not speak, but they give you a look that says all that can be said in a civilised community; and you back out promptly and shut the door behind you.
You are afraid to poke your nose into any room in the house now; so, after walking up and down the stairs for a while, you go and sit in your own bedroom. This becomes uninteresting, however, after a time, and so you put on your hat and stroll out into the garden. You walk down the path, and as you pass the summer-house you glance in, and there are those two young idiots, huddled up into one corner of it; and they see you, and are evidently under the idea that, for some wicked purpose of your own, you are following them about.
“Why don’t they have a special room for this sort of thing, and make people keep to it?” you mutter; and you rush back to the hall and get your umbrella and go out.
It must have been much like this when that foolish boy Henry VIII. was courting his little Anne. People in Buckinghamshire would have come upon them unexpectedly when they were mooning round Windsor and Wraysbury, and have exclaimed, “Oh! you here!” and Henry would have blushed and said, “Yes; he’d just come over to see a man; ” and Anne would have said, “Oh, I ‘m so glad to see you! Isn’t it funny? I ‘ve just met Mr. Henry VIII, in the lane, and he’s going the same way I am.”
Then those people would have gone away and said to themselves: “Oh! we ‘d better get out of here while this billing and cooing is on. We’ll go down to Kent.”
And they would go to Kent, and the first thing they would see in Kent, when they got there, would be Henry and Anne fooling round Hever Castle.
“Oh, drat this!” they would have said. “Here, let’s go away. I can’t stand any more of it. Let’s go to St. Albans—nice quiet place, St. Albans.”
And when they reached St. Albans, there would be that wretched couple, kissing under the Abbey walls. Then these folks would go and be pirates until the marriage was over.
Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 5 March 1892: p. 12