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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

262     Material for a Projected Sequel

The Wife of Bath

There are Canterbury Pilgrims every Sunday in summer
who start from close to the old Tabard, only they go by the
South-Eastern Railway and come back the same day for five
shillings. And, what is more, they are just the same sort of
people. If they do not go to Canterbury they go by the
Clacton Belle to Clacton-on-Sea. There is not a Sunday the
whole summer through but you may find all Chaucer's
pilgrims, man and woman for man and woman, on board the
Lord of the Isles or the Clacton Belle. Why, I have seen the
Wife of Bath on the Lord of the Isles myself. She was eating
her luncheon off an Ally Sloper's Half-Holiday, which was
spread out upon her knees. Whether it was I who had had
too much beer or she I cannot tell, God knoweth; and whether
or no I was caught up into Paradise, again I cannot tell; but
I certainly did hear unspeakable words which it is not lawful
for a man to utter, and that not above fourteen years ago but
the very last Sunday that ever was. The Wife of Bath heard
them too, but she never turned a hair. Luckily I had my
detective camera with me, so I snapped her there and then.
She put her hand up to her mouth at that very moment and
rather spoiled herself, but not much. [1891.]

Horace at the Post-Office in Rome

When I was in Rome last summer whom should I meet but
Horace.

I did not know him at first, and told him enquiringly that
the post-office was in the Piazza Venezia ?

He smiled benignly, shrugged his shoulders, said " Prego "
and pointed to the post-office itself, which was over the way
and, of course, in the Piazza S. Silvestro.

Then I knew him. I believe he went straight home and
wrote an epistle to Mecsenas, or whatever the man's name was,
asking how it comes about that people who travel hundreds
of miles to see things can never see what is all the time under
their noses. In fact, I saw him take out his note-book and
begin making notes at once. He need not talk. He was not
a good man of business and I do not believe his books sold