La reflexión moral es consustancial al ser humano, pero en literatura no tiene acomodo fácil. En la literatura infantil, satura muchos libros, escritos demasiado «de arriba abajo», lo que cancela el placer propiamente literario. A medida que nos acercamos a la juvenil, la situación es casi peor: da origen a personajes más falsos que una promesa electoral, con un grado de «madurez» que apenas soportaríamos ni en la bisabuela. El terreno más favorable es el compartido, «horizontal», como denuncia de vicios genéricos; funciona especialmente bien en la narración oral y a menudo se relaciona con tópicos.
«Parson’s pleasure», una de las «Tales of the unexpected», cumple todos estos requisitos: es particularmente apta como base para la narración oral, denuncia un vicio que todos denostamos y se ancla en tópicos como «la avaricia rompe el saco»; el fruto es, sencillamente, una enorme carcajada. (Personalmente, la carcajada colectiva sobre la avaricia me parece irresistible; de ahí el sesgo de mi Sopa de nada, adaptación de la tradición de la «sopa de piedras».) Si pensamos en lectores jóvenes, no es probable que nuestros alumnos de Bachillerato tengan el inglés preciso, pero ya sea despacio o con adaptación, puede ser una buena lectura de grupo. Recojo aquí el final, que culmina en la frustración de la gloria anticipada por el mezquino sr. Boggis:
Mr Boggis walked out into the yard and through the gate and then down the long track that led across the field towards the road. He found himself giggling quite uncontrollably, and there was a feeling inside him as though hundreds and hundreds of tiny bubbles were rising up from his stomach and bursting merrily in the top of his head, like sparkling-water. All the buttercups in the field were suddenly turning into golden sovereigns, glistening in the sunlight. The ground was littered with them, and he swung off the track on to the grass so that he could walk among them and tread on them and hear the little metallic tinkle they made as he kicked them around with his toes. He was finding it difficult to stop himself from breaking into a run. But clergymen never run; they walk Slowly. Walk slowly, Boggis. Keep calm, Boggis.
There’s no hurry now. The commode is yours! Yours for twenty pounds, and it’s worth fifteen or twenty thousand! The Boggis Commode! In ten minutes it’ll be loaded into your car–it’ll go in easily and you’ll be driving back to London and singing all the way! Mr Boggis driving the Boggis Commode home in the Boggis car. Historic occasion. What wouldn’t a newspaperman give to get a picture of that! Should he arrange it? Perhaps he should. Wait and see. Oh, glorious day! Oh, lovely sunny summer day! Oh, glory be!
Back in the farmhouse, Rummins was saying, “Fancy that old bastard giving twenty pound for a load of junk like this.”
“You did very nicely, Mr Rummins,” Claud told him. “You think he’ll pay you?”
“We don’t put it in the car till he do.”
“And what if it won’t go in the car?” Claud asked. “You know what I think, Mr Rummins? You want my honest opinion? I think the bloody thing’s too big to go in the car. And then what happens? Then he’s going to say to hell with it and just drive off without it and you’ll never see him again. Nor the money either. He didn’t seem all that keen on having it, you know.”
Rummins paused to consider this new and rather alarming prospect.
“How can a thing like that possibly go in a car?” Claud went on relentlessly. “A parson never has a big car anyway. You ever seen a parson with a big car, Mr Rummins?”
“Can’t say I have.”
“Exactly! Arid now listen to me. I’ve got an idea. He told us, didn’t he, that it was only the legs he was wanting. Right? So all we’ve got to do is to cut “em off quick right here on the spot before he comes back, then it’ll be sure to go in the car. All we’re doing is saving him the trouble of cutting them off himself when he gets home. How about it, Mr Rummins?” Claud’s flat bovine face glimmered with a mawkish pride.
“It’s not such a bad idea at that,” Rummins said, looking at the commode. “In fact it’s a bloody good idea. Come on then, we’ll have to hurry. You and Bert carry it out into the yard. I’ll get the saw. Take the drawers out first.”
Within a couple of minutes, Claud and Ben had carried the commode outside and had laid it upside down in the yard amidst the chicken droppings and cow dung and mud. In the distance, half-way across the field, they could see a small black figure striding along the path towards the road. They paused to watch. There was something rather comical about the way in which this figure was conducting itself. Every now and again it would break into a trot, then it did a kind of hop, skip, and jump, and once it seemed as though the sound of a cheerful song came rippling faintly to them from across the meadow.
“I reckon he’s barmy,” Claud said, and Bert grinned darkly, rolling his misty eye slowly round in its socket.
Rummins came waddling over from the shed, squat and froglike, carrying a long saw. Claud took the saw away from him and went to work.
“Cut “em close,” Rummins said. “Don’t forget he’s going to use “em on another table.”
The mahogany was hard and very dry, and as Claud worked, a fine red dust sprayed out from the edge of the saw and fell softly to the ground. One by one, the legs came off, and when they were all severed, Bert stooped down and arranged them carefully in a row.
Claud stepped back to survey the results of his labour. There was a longish pause.
“Just let me ask you one question, Mr Rummins,” he said slowly. “Even now, could you put that enormous thing into the back of a car?”
“Not unless it was a van.”
“Correct!” Claud cried. “And parsons don’t have vans, you know. All they’ve got usually is piddling little Morris Eights or Austin Sevens.”
“The legs is all he wants,” Rummins said. “If the rest of it won’t go in, then he can leave it. He can’t complain. He’s got the legs.”
“Now you know better’n that, Mr Rummins,” Claud said patiently. “You know damn well he’s going to start knocking the price if he don’t get every single bit of this into the car. A parson’s just as cunning as the rest of “em when it comes to money, don’t you make any mistake about that. Especially this old boy. So why don’t we give him his firewood now and be done with it. Where d’you keep the axe?”
“I reckon that’s fair enough,” Rummins said. “Ben, go fetch the axe.”
Bert went into the shed and fetched a tall woodcutter’s axe and gave it to Claud. Claud spat on the palms of his hands and rubbed them together. Then, with a long-armed high-swinging action, he began fiercely attacking the legless carcass of the commode.
It was hard work, and it took several minutes before he had the whole thing more or less smashed to pieces.
“I’ll tell you one thing,” he said, straightening up, wiping his brow. “That was a bloody good carpenter put this job together and I don’t care what the parson says.”
“We’re just in time!” Rummins called out. “Here he comes!”
- La edición inglesa es de Penguin (ISBN 978-0-14-005131-5) y la española, de Anagrama (ISBN 978-84-339-2308-0, en col. Contraseñas, o 978-84-339-2086-7, en bolsillo).