After passing by pleasant towns and villages, the three men settle early on one of the islands. This affords them a good opportunity to show “could be done up the river in the way of cooking,” with Harris inspired to make a big, hearty meal. He decides to make an Irish stew.
The men continue with the rhythm of boating from one meal to the next. Harris’ hubris makes him think he can cook something truly remarkable despite the environment they’re in.
While George gathers wood, the other two peel the potatoes. However, they peel too much and the potatoes they are left with are tiny and useless. George puts an unsettling mixture of food into the pot, mainly comprised of the leftovers from the food hampers (bacon, cabbage, salmon, eggs, and so on). The dog brings the men a dead rat, seemingly suggesting that should go in too. The stew tastes like nothing that J. has tried before, but not necessarily in a good way.
Harris chucks everything he can into the stew, making it out to be some kind of delicacy. In fact, it does comprise of quite expensive food—but in placing it all together in one pot Harris creates something that, while unique, is not all that appetizing. He seeks to demonstrate how cultured he is through his cooking, but it remains unconvincing.
Montmorency attacks the boiling kettle, which he has a real hatred for. Of course, he comes off worse and goes off in pain. George gets his banjo out, but the men protest. Even Montmorency howls when George starts playing. George had tried to practice at home, but his landlady and neighbors had complained. J. knows of someone who tried to learn the bagpipes; at one point one of their neighbor’s thought they could hear the screams of someone being murdered.
Montmorency mimics the men in his distaste for modernity—and like them, it gets the better of him. In a way, he wants to be wild too by hunting the kettle. George tries again to demonstrate his cultural refinement, but still nobody wants to listen. At least he tried to practice at home, but in that closely-populated environment his playing was too much of a nuisance.
George and J. decide to head into Henley for some drinks, but Harris stays behind with an upset stomach. When George and J. head back, neither can quite remember which island they’re staying on. Just when they’re about to give up hope, they hear Montmorency’s bark.
It’s not clear wby Harris has a bad stomach, but there’s a good chance it’s because of the weird stew he made earlier. It’s another example of the men’s poor practical skills, as Harris’ (for once genuine) sickness encroaches on his leisure time.
George and J. find the boat, and Harris is in a strange state, more than just merely tired. He seems like something serious has happened to him, and when the men question him can only answer “Swans!” It transpires that the boat had been moored near a swan’s nest, and the birds had attacked Harris. He’s confused by how many there were, at one point saying there were two and at another thirty-two.
Harris is genuinely confused by what has happened. It’s intimated that he might be drunk, though it’s possible that his run-in with the swans might just have been that harrowing. The Thames is full of swans—they are its most emblematic bird—and this is another instance of nature throwing up something unexpected.
The three men eventually fall asleep. George wakes in the night, inexplicably trying to find his trousers, and then, later, his socks.
George appears to be having confused dreams involving fashion and keeping up appearances.