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The Un-Commercial Traveler

Birthday Celebrations
It came into my mind that I would recall in these notes a few of the many hostelries I
have rested at in the course of my journeys; and, indeed, I had taken up my pen for the
purpose, when I was baffled by an accidental circumstance. It was the having to leave off,
to wish the owner of a certain bright face that looked in at my door, 'many happy returns
of the day.' Thereupon a new thought came into my mind, driving its predecessor out, and
I began to recall - instead of Inns - the birthdays that I have put up at, on my way to this
present sheet of paper.
I can very well remember being taken out to visit some peach-faced creature in a blue
sash, and shoes to correspond, whose life I supposed to consist entirely of birthdays.
Upon seed-cake, sweet wine, and shining presents, that glorified young person seemed to
me to be exclusively reared. At so early a stage of my travels did I assist at the
anniversary of her nativity (and become enamoured of her), that I had not yet acquired
the recondite knowledge that a birthday is the common property of all who are born, but
supposed it to be a special gift bestowed by the favouring Heavens on that one
distinguished infant. There was no other company, and we sat in a shady bower - under a
table, as my better (or worse) knowledge leads me to believe - and were regaled with
saccharine substances and liquids, until it was time to part. A bitter powder was
administered to me next morning, and I was wretched. On the whole, a pretty accurate
foreshadowing of my more mature experiences in such wise!
Then came the time when, inseparable from one's own birthday, was a certain sense of
merit, a consciousness of well-earned distinction. When I regarded my birthday as a
graceful achievement of my own, a monument of my perseverance, independence, and
good sense, redounding greatly to my honour. This was at about the period when
Olympia Squires became involved in the anniversary. Olympia was most beautiful (of
course), and I loved her to that degree, that I used to be obliged to get out of my little bed
in the night, expressly to exclaim to Solitude, 'O, Olympia Squires!' Visions of Olympia,
clothed entirely in sage-green, from which I infer a defectively educated taste on the part
of her respected parents, who were necessarily unacquainted with the South Kensington
Museum, still arise before me. Truth is sacred, and the visions are crowned by a shining
white beaver bonnet, impossibly suggestive of a little feminine postboy. My memory
presents a birthday when Olympia and I were taken by an unfeeling relative - some cruel
uncle, or the like - to a slow torture called an Orrery. The terrible instrument was set up at
the local Theatre, and I had expressed a profane wish in the morning that it was a Play:
for which a serious aunt had probed my conscience deep, and my pocket deeper, by
reclaiming a bestowed half-crown. It was a venerable and a shabby Orrery, at least one
thousand stars and twenty-five comets behind the age. Nevertheless, it was awful. When
the low- spirited gentleman with a wand said, 'Ladies and gentlemen' (meaning
particularly Olympia and me), 'the lights are about to be put out, but there is not the
slightest cause for alarm,' it was very alarming. Then the planets and stars began.
Sometimes they wouldn't come on, sometimes they wouldn't go off, sometimes they had
holes in them, and mostly they didn't seem to be good likenesses. All this time the
 
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