Coming down to first causes, the only reason why collisions of any kind occur is because two bodies defy Nature's law that a given spot on a given plane shall at a given moment of time be occupied by only one body.
There was a certain spot near the foot of the great staircase which Ashe, coming downstairs from Mr. Peters' room, and George Emerson, coming up to Aline's room, had to pass on their respective routes. George reached it at one minute and three seconds after two a.m., moving silently but swiftly; and Ashe, also maintaining a good rate of speed, arrived there at one minute and four seconds after the hour, when he ceased to walk and began to fly, accompanied by George Emerson, now going down. His arms were round George's neck and George was clinging to his waist.
In due season they reached the foot of the stairs and a small table, covered with occasional china and photographs in frames, which lay adjacent to the foot of the stairs. That--especially the occasional china--was what Baxter had heard.
George Emerson thought it was a burglar. Ashe did not know what it was, but he knew he wanted to shake it off; so he insinuated a hand beneath George's chin and pushed upward. George, by this time parted forever from the tongue, the bread, the knife, the fork, the salt, the corkscrew and the bottle of white wine, and having both hands free for the work of the moment, held Ashe with the left and punched him in the ribs with the right.
Ashe, removing his left arm from George's neck, brought it up as a reinforcement to his right, and used both as a means of throttling George. This led George, now permanently underneath, to grasp Ashe's ears firmly and twist them, relieving the pressure on his throat and causing Ashe to utter the first vocal sound of the evening, other than the explosive Ugh! that both had emitted at the instant of impact.
Ashe dislodged George's hands from his ears and hit George in the ribs with his elbow. George kicked Ashe on the left ankle. Ashe rediscovered George's throat and began to squeeze it afresh; and a pleasant time was being had by all when the Efficient Baxter, whizzing down the stairs, tripped over Ashe's legs, shot forward and cannoned into another table, also covered with occasional china and photographs in frames.
The hall at Blandings Castle was more an extra drawing-room than a hall; and, when not nursing a sick headache in her bedroom, Lady Ann Warblington would dispense afternoon tea there to her guests. Consequently it was dotted pretty freely with small tables. There were, indeed, no fewer than five more in various spots, waiting to be bumped into and smashed.
The bumping into and smashing of small tables, however, is a task that calls for plenty of time, a leisured pursuit; and neither George nor Ashe, a third party having been added to their little affair, felt a desire to stay on and do the thing properly. Ashe was strongly opposed to being discovered and called on to account for his presence there at that hour; and George, conscious of the tongue and its adjuncts now strewn about the hall, had a similar prejudice against the tedious explanations that detection must involve.
As though by mutual consent each relaxed his grip. They stood panting for an instant; then, Ashe in the direction where he supposed the green-baize door of the servants' quarters to be, George to the staircase that led to his bedroom, they went away from that place.
They had hardly done so when Baxter, having disassociated himself from the contents of the table he had upset, began to grope his way toward the electric-light switch, the same being situated near the foot of the main staircase. He went on all fours, as a safer method of locomotion, though slower, than the one he had attempted before.
Noises began to make themselves heard on the floors above. Roused by the merry crackle of occasional china, the house party was bestirring itself to investigate. Voices sounded, muffled and inquiring.
Meantime Baxter crawled steadily on his hands and knees toward the light switch. He was in much the same condition as one White Hope of the ring is after he has put his chin in the way of the fist of a rival member of the Truck Drivers' Union. He knew that he was still alive. More he could not say. The mists of sleep, which still shrouded his brain, and the shake-up he had had from his encounter with the table, a corner of which he had rammed with the top of his head, combined to produce a dreamlike state.
And so the Efficient Baxter crawled on; and as he crawled his hand, advancing cautiously, fell on something--something that was not alive; something clammy and ice-cold, the touch of which filled him with a nameless horror.
To say that Baxter's heart stood still would be physiologically inexact. The heart does not stand still. Whatever the emotions of its owner, it goes on beating. It would be more accurate to say that Baxter felt like a man taking his first ride in an express elevator, who has outstripped his vital organs by several floors and sees no immediate prospect of their ever catching up with him again. There was a great cold void where the more intimate parts of his body should have been. His throat was dry and contracted. The flesh of his back crawled, for he knew what it was he had touched.
Painful and absorbing as had been his encounter with the table, Baxter had never lost sight of the fact that close beside him a furious battle between unseen forces was in progress. He had heard the bumping and the thumping and the tense breathing even as he picked occasional china from his person. Such a combat, he had felt, could hardly fail to result in personal injury to either the party of the first part or the party of the second part, or both. He knew now that worse than mere injury had happened, and that he knelt in the presence of death.
There was no doubt that the man was dead. Insensibility alone could never have produced this icy chill. He raised his head in the darkness, and cried aloud to those approaching. He meant to cry: "Help! Murder!" But fear prevented clear articulation. What he shouted was: "Heh! Mer!" On which, from the neighborhood of the staircase, somebody began to fire a revolver.
The Earl of Emsworth had been sleeping a sound and peaceful sleep when the imbroglio began downstairs. He sat up and listened. Yes; undoubtedly burglars! He switched on his light and jumped out of bed. He took a pistol from a drawer, and thus armed went to look into the matter. The dreamy peer was no poltroon.
It was quite dark when he arrived on the scene of conflict, in the van of a mixed bevy of pyjamaed and dressing-gowned relations. He was in the van because, meeting these relations in the passage above, he had said to them: "Let me go first. I have a pistol." And they had let him go first. They were, indeed, awfully nice about it, not thrusting themselves forward or jostling or anything, but behaving in a modest and self-effacing manner that was pretty to watch.
When Lord Emsworth said, "Let me go first," young Algernon Wooster, who was on the very point of leaping to the fore, said, "Yes, by Jove! Sound scheme, by Gad!"--and withdrew into the background; and the Bishop of Godalming said: "By all means, Clarence undoubtedly; most certainly precede us."
When his sense of touch told him he had reached the foot of the stairs, Lord Emsworth paused. The hall was very dark and the burglars seemed temporarily to have suspended activities. And then one of them, a man with a ruffianly, grating voice, spoke. What it was he said Lord Emsworth could not understand. It sounded like "Heh! Mer!"--probably some secret signal to his confederates. Lord Emsworth raised his revolver and emptied it in the direction of the sound.
Extremely fortunately for him, the Efficient Baxter had not changed his all-fours attitude. This undoubtedly saved Lord Emsworth the worry of engaging a new secretary. The shots sang above Baxter's head one after the other, six in all, and found other billets than his person. They disposed themselves as follows: The first shot broke a window and whistled out into the night; the second shot hit the dinner gong and made a perfectly extraordinary noise, like the Last Trump; the third, fourth and fifth shots embedded themselves in the wall; the sixth and final shot hit a life-size picture of his lordship's grandmother in the face and improved it out of all knowledge.
One thinks no worse of Lord Emsworth's grandmother because she looked like Eddie Foy, and had allowed herself to be painted, after the heavy classic manner of some of the portraits of a hundred years ago, in the character of Venus--suitably draped, of course, rising from the sea; but it was beyond the possibility of denial that her grandson's bullet permanently removed one of Blandings Castle's most prominent eyesores.
Having emptied his revolver, Lord Emsworth said, "Who is there? Speak!" in rather an aggrieved tone, as though he felt he had done his part in breaking the ice, and it was now for the intruder to exert himself and bear his share of the social amenities.
The Efficient Baxter did not reply. Nothing in the world could have induced him to speak at that moment, or to make any sound whatsoever that might betray his position to a dangerous maniac who might at any instant reload his pistol and resume the fusillade. Explanations, in his opinion, could be deferred until somebody had the presence of mind to switch on the lights. He flattened himself on the carpet and hoped for better things. His cheek touched the corpse beside him; but though he winced and shuddered he made no outcry. After those six shots he was through with outcries.
A voice from above, the bishop's voice, said: "I think you have killed him, Clarence."
- Stas Nikonov
- Александр Ванник
- Natalja Gurvitch
- Алексей Баденко
- Субботина Софья
- Кокаулина Ирина
- Eduard Tkatch
- Оля Сербина
- Соколова Елена
- Доценко Алена
- Елена Зеркалова
- Вера Мышкина
- Алексей Круглов
- Попова Ольга
- Alexander Samoshkin
- Анна Железниченко
- Алена Васнецова
- Татьяна Любовская
- Татьяна Орлова
- Ирина Вохминцева
- Михаил Владимиров
- Надежда Сечкина
- Елена Агафонова
- Новаленко Светлана
Алена Васнецова и Ольга Сербина
На этот раз было довольно трудно распределить места: все пятнадцать присланных отрывков неплохи, а почти половина так просто хороши. Однако предложенный отрывок был настолько большим, что у каждого из участников есть ошибки или корявые фразы с явными родовыми признаками подстрочника.
Мне очень хотелось отдать первое место Алене Васнецовой: у нее получился без всяких скидок литературный текст, очень живой и остроумный. Увы, я насчитала в нем не менее пяти смысловых ошибок. Первая - во втором абзаце: Эш прибыл к месту столкновение не после того, как полетел; он полетел после того, как столкнулся с Джорджем. Кстати, тут запутались многие, так что, кто преодолел эту трудность - молодцы! Остальные ошибки у Алены вообще на пустом месте: она сама легко их найдет, сравнив свой текст с другими переводами. Тем не менее я просила бы устроителей конкурса дать ей поощрительный приз.
Очень неплохо, на мой взгляд, перевели:
Оля Сербина (хотя вместо языка у нее оказался дар речи. Впрочем, это простительно, потому что из контекста действительно не понятно, о чем разговор).
Алексей Баденко (только бабушка на портрете все же была одетая)
Александр Ванник (непонятно, правда, откуда взялась оранжерея)
Вообще, как я уже сказала, почти у всех получилось неплохо; это позволяет надеяться, что следующий проект непременно будет удачным!