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12. A SEA OF TROUBLES
Mr Meggs's mind was made up. He was going to commit suicide.
There had been moments, in the interval which had elapsed between the first inception of the idea and his present state of fixed determination, when he had wavered. In these moments he had debated, with Hamlet, the question whether it was nobler in the mind to suffer, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. But all that was over now. He was resolved.
Mr Meggs's point, the main plank, as it were, in his suicidal platform, was that with him it was beside the question whether or not it was nobler to suffer in the mind. The mind hardly entered into it at all. What he had to decide was whether it was worth while putting up any longer with the perfectly infernal pain in his stomach. For Mr Meggs was a martyr to indigestion. As he was also devoted to the pleasures of the table, life had become for him one long battle, in which, whatever happened, he always got the worst of it.
He was sick of it. He looked back down the vista of the years, and found therein no hope for the future. One after the other all the patent medicines in creation had failed him. Smith's Supreme Digestive Pellets--he had given them a more than fair trial. Blenkinsop's Liquid Life-Giver--he had drunk enough of it to float a ship. Perkins's Premier Pain-Preventer, strongly recommended by the sword-swallowing lady at Barnum and Bailey's--he had wallowed in it. And so on down the list. His interior organism had simply sneered at the lot of them.
'Death, where is thy sting?' thought Mr Meggs, and forthwith began to make his preparations.
Those who have studied the matter say that the tendency to commit suicide is greatest among those who have passed their fifty-fifth year, and that the rate is twice as great for unoccupied males as for occupied males. Unhappy Mr Meggs, accordingly, got it, so to speak, with both barrels. He was fifty-six, and he was perhaps the most unoccupied adult to be found in the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. He toiled not, neither did he spin. Twenty years before, an unexpected legacy had placed him in a position to indulge a natural taste for idleness to the utmost. He was at that time, as regards his professional life, a clerk in a rather obscure shipping firm. Out of office hours he had a mild fondness for letters, which took the form of meaning to read right through the hundred best books one day, but actually contenting himself with the daily paper and an occasional magazine.
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