Repair the Bicycle or Ride It?
Jerome K. Jerome
There are people who very much like to repair things. I have had some experience of such people.
There was a man at Folkestone, his name was Ebbson. One day he came to me and proposed to go on a long bicycle ride together the next day. I agreed. The following day I got up very early. It was a lovely morning.
Ebbson came half an hour late. He saw my bicycle and said: “That’s a good-looking machine. How does it run?”
“Oh, like most of them,” I answered.
“Have you tested the brakes?” asked Ebbson.
“Yes, sure,” I answered.
He took it by the front wheel and the fork, and shook it.
I said: “Don’t do that! You’ll hurt it!”
He said: “The front wheel wobbles.”
I said: “It doesn’t if you don’t wobble it.” In fact, it didn’t wobble at all.
He said: “This is dangerous! Have you got a spanner?
I thought that perhaps he really knew something about the business. I went to my room to see what I could find. When I came back he was sitting on the ground with the front wheel between his legs. He was playing with it, turning it round and round between his fingers; the rest of the machine was lying on the path beside him.
“Something has happened to this wheel,” he said.
“It looks like it, doesn’t it?” I said in a joking way. But he was the sort of men that never understands satire.
He said: “I think the ball-bearings are all wrong.”
I said: “Don’t trouble about it; you will get tired. Let us put it back and start.”
He said: “We must see what the matter with it is.”
He was unscrewing the ball-bearings, and I wanted to stop him but I could hardly do it. He unscrewed something somewhere, and many little balls rolled out all over the path.
“Catch them!” he shouted. “Catch them! We must not lose them.”
We were looking for the ball-bearings for half an hour and we managed to find sixteen.
I put them in my hat, and my hat upon the door-step.
“I hope we’ve got them all, if not, it will make a serious difference to the machine.”
Then he began taking off the gear-case. I tried to stop him. I told him what one of my friends had once said to me: “If anything goes wrong with your gear-case, sell the machine and buy a new one. It will be cheaper!”
“Your friend understands nothing about bicycles. It is very easy to take off a gear-case,” he said.
He was right. In less than five minutes he had the gear-case in two pieces, lying on the path, and was looking for the screws. He said he could never understand how screws disappeared.
We were still looking for the screws when my wife came out. She was very much surprised to find us still there.
He said: “We shan’t be long now. I’m just helping your husband to repair his bicycle. It’s a good machine, but all machines need repairing from time to time.”
My wife said: If you want to wash yourself when you have finished, go to the kitchen. Meanwhile I shall go for a walk with Kate, and we shall be back for lunch.
If only I could go with them, I thought! I was already tired of standing there and looking at this fool who was breaking up my bicycle.
He was not looking for the rest of the screws any longer now. He was trying to get the front wheel back into its place again.
I held the fork open, and he tried to put the wheel back. At the end of ten minutes we changed places. At the end of his first minute he dropped the bicycle, and took a short walk round the garden with his hands pressed together. When he came back he said: “You must never put your fingers between the fork and the wheel. It is dangerous for your hands.”
I agreed with him, and we began again. At last we get the thing into position; when it was in its place he began laughing.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
He said: “I’m a fool! We have forgotten the ball-bearings!” I looked for my hat – it was lying in the middle of the path, and my wife’s little dog was swallowing the balls one by one as quickly as he could.
“He will kill himself,” shouted Ebbson.
“I’m not troubling about the dog,” I said. “He has already eaten a packet of needles this week. I’m worrying about my bicycle now.”
He said: “Well, we must put back all we can find.”
We found eleven ball-bearings. We put six on one side and five on the other, and half an hour later the wheel was in its place again. It really wobbled now.
Ebbson said: “That’s all right for the present.” I thought he was getting a little tired.
Then he tried to put the gear-case back again. He put the bicycle against the house, and worked from one side. Then he put it against a tree, and began working from the other side. Then I held it for him, while he lay on the ground with his head between the wheels, and worked at it from below, and dropped oil upon himself. Three times he said: “Oh, that’s right, at last!”
And twice he said: “No, it is not, after all!”
And then there began a real fight between him and the machine. One moment the bicycle was lying on the path, and he was on top of it; the next moment, the position changed – he was on the path and the bicycle on top of him. Now he was standing victorious, the bicycle between his legs. But the triumph was very short. With a quick movement, the bicycle turned upon him, and hit him over the head with one of its handles. The bell made a ringing sound.
At a quarter to one, dirty and tired, he said: “I think that will do,” and rose from the ground. I took him into the kitchen, where he washed himself. Then I sent him home.
I took the bicycle to the nearest repairing shop. The foreman looked at it and said: “What do you want to do with that?”
“I want to repair it,” I answered.
“That is difficult now,” said the foreman; “but I will do my best.”
He did his best. But it was never the same machine again.
Yes, there are two ways you can get sport out of a bicycle: you can “repair” it, or you can ride it. But it is impossible to get both forms of sport out of the same machine. No machine will stand it!
Activities and Exercises
I. Comprehension task. Match the sentence beginnings (1,2,…) with the correct endings (a,b,…).
1) I thought that perhaps he really knew …
2) If anything goes wrong with your gear-case, …
3) I was already tired of standing there and looking at
4) It’s a good machine, but all machines
5) With a quick movement, the bicycle turned upon him,
a) … sell the machine and buy a new one.
b) … and hit him over the head with one of its handles.
c) … something about the business.
d) … this fool who was breaking up my bicycle.
e) … need repairing from time to time.
Answers: 1 – c; 2 – a; 3 – d; 4 – e; 5 – b.
II. Grammar. Past Simple or Past Continuous?
1) He …… (take) the bicycle by the front wheel and the fork, and …… (shake) it.
2) When I …… (come) back he …… (sit) on the ground with the front wheel between his legs.
3) He …… (unscrew) the ball-bearings and I ……(want) to stop him but I could hardly do it.
4) We ……(look) for the ball-bearings for half an hour, and we ……(manage) to find only sixteen of them.
5) We still …… (look) for the screws when my wife ……(come) out.
Answers: 1. took, shook; 2. came, was sitting; 3. unscrewed, wanted; 4. were looking, managed; 5. were (still) looking
III. Vocabulary. Find parts of the bicycle (eight words). Compound nouns, joined by a hyphen, are written in the square as one word.
IV. Speaking. Retell the story:
a) as it is;
b) as if you were Ebbson;
c) as if you were the narrator’s wife.
Compiled by Tatyana Ivanova