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TAPPING THE BUTTS
IN TWO CHAPTERSCHAPTER  1                                                                                                                                                                                                 I  AM fifty-four or thereabouts in age; weigh
fourteen stone and a half; am five feet ten
inches in height, and never had a day's illness
in my life. Yet no man, perhaps, has travelled
more for the recovery of his health. The
junior partners would sulk uncommonly if it
was mere pleasure that took me from London
just as the heat began; they would grudge
every week I spent at Brighton, Dover,
Eastbourne, Worthing, Bonchurch, or Torquay, if
they knew what a jolly life I led at all those
places; but, when they hear my cough as I
walk into the counting-room about the end
of May, when they see the large vials
of brandy and water, marked " Sedative
Draught," which I drink with rueful face
any time after .two o'clock (I lunch on a roast
fowl at half-past one); when they see, in
short, what a determined valetudinarian I
am, it is amazing how anxiously they advise
me to be gone: "Poor old fellow!" I hear
them saying; "he can't stand this long."
''Governor's going, Snooks,"— I heard the
book-keeper say to one of the clerks. "Where
to?" inquired Snooks; "to Paris again, or
Scotland?" "Don't be a fool!" was the
book-keeper's reply, "you're an unfeeling
beast. The poor old gent's a going to slip his
wind. Nobody can stand all them cough
mixtures and doctor's stuff; hear how he
blows on the stairpuff, puff, puff!"

So, with the universal good-will of the
whole establishment, I pack up my trunks,
give my housekeeper injunctions of secresy,
creep weakly into a cab, which picks me up
at the office door, and spring radiant with
health and happiness into a railway coach.
But whither? Here is the merry month of
June; I have arranged for an absence till
the end of July, with ingenious preparations
for a relapse till the beginning of September;
about that time a sprained ancle will give me
three weeks more, and the cool first week of
October will tempt me back to moderate
work in the mornings, and a quiet club dinner
at night. Three or four months are to be
disposed of, and what is to be done? Egypt is
vulgar, and the continent unsafe. I have
visited every scene "consecrated by antiquity
or adventure," from Stonehenge and Runnymede
to Jack Straw's Castle and the Love
colleges of Dorset. I thought at one time of
enrolling myself as an inmate in those sweet
abodes, and afterwards publishing the results
of my experience as "Nights in the
Agapemone;" but this is a fastidious age,
and Afra Behn and the Queen of Navarre
have fallen into disuse. Mountains and
rivers, towns and villages, Scotch lochs and
Welsh coombs, have neither novelty nor
attraction; and yet a pilgrimage without an
object is a very dull affair, and an object,
therefore, I must find. "I shall think of it on
the way," I said, as I took out my ticket and
paid the whole fare; and, with a railway
guide in my hand, I racked my brains to
discover some end and aim for a journey of a
hundred and fifty miles. Better get out and
chase butterflies than have no purpose in life.
Last year I travelled from Dan to Beersheba
in search of eighteen hundred and twenty
Port, small binns of which are still to be met
with in old-established way-side inns, where
its charms have the additional advantage of
being utterly unappreciated and inadequately
charged for by the unconscious possessor; you
sometimes also find a remnant in quiet
country houses, where it is brought forth on
great occasions, and treated with the veneration
it deserves. But a man can't always
travel in search of bees'-wing and cobwebs.
Two years ago I determined to see fat cattle,
and frequented agricultural shows and
provincial aldermen's dinners, till the production
of tallow appeared to be the chief end of man.
Science, also, has had its attractions, and I
followed the progresses of the savants,
witnessed their experiments and attended their
conversaziones, and heard the wonders of
nature displayed by naturalists and geologists
till I became persuaded of the reality of red
lions and sea-serpents, and was ready to
swear I had seen enormous specimens of both
kinds of animals with my own eyes.

"It's of no use," I exclaimed in despair,
when I had reached about forty miles from
St. Paul's, and shut up Bradshaw with a
force that alarmed my fellow passenger who
was sitting opposite. It was a little prim
old maidthere was no mistaking that
who had been gazing every now and then
with an astonished look at the devotion of
my whole time to the study of the times

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