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indescribable person, simply because there was
nothing about him to describe beyond the peculiarity
that he was obviously higher in station
and in breeding than those by whom his affairs
had been so industriously discussed. As if
totally unconscious of the tremendous events
with which he was associated in the minds of
all present, he quietly ordered a glass of mild
ale, and in a tone of almost meek civility asked
if the paper which lay on the table was engaged.
The person nearest to the broadsheet having
timidly responded in the negative, he sat down
and read with intentness, while every line of his
countenance was simultaneously read by the
now silent gossips. The landlord contrived
to linger in the room: the Negative forgot the
presence of the cat; even the bland face of
the Chairman assumed something like a hungry

The Positive at last broke a silence which was
growing absolutely painful. "Is the toy trade
pretty brisk?" said he to the Sandy.

"No," was the answer, "very flat; like
everything else in these times."

"I suppose you sell as many dolls as ever?"
nervously asked the Significant.

"Yes, yes," replied the Sandy, abstractedly.

"I don't see the use of dolls," audaciously
ejaculated the Negative, darting upon the Theme
of Discourse a look of the keenest impudence.
"If I had a doll, I'd put it in a coffin, and bury
it." These last words were uttered with something
like a shout of defiance; but the speaker
almost quailed, when the reader of the newspaper
laid it down, and rising slowly, fixed his
eyes upon him.

"I perceive I am the subject of conversation,"
said the Theme of Discourse, in the calmest

"Not at all, sir, not at all," was the mendacious
murmur, suggested by civility, that ran
round the room. "He went too far," whispered
the Significant to the Novice, alluding to the
Negative; "as he always does."

"Pardon me," proceeded the Theme, "dolls
and coffins could not have been mentioned
together except in connexion with me."

"Well, sir, I suppose one has a right——"
began the Negative, with reviving courage.

"A perfect right," said the Theme, "and
in acknowledgment of that right, I am about to
satisfy a curiosity that is not only justifiable
but natural."

The Chairman, in his rampant benignity, was
about to say, "Pray don't!" but a torrent of
hushes drowned the first accents of his voice.

"I am a man not wealthy," said the Theme,
"but blessed with an income that slightly exceeds
my annual expenditure, and precludes the
necessity of following any avocation."

Reciprocal winks were exchanged; but they
were winks of the most respectful kind.

"In my youth I have seen a great deal,
travelled a great deal, and suffered a great
many severe disappointments. I will add, that
no hope I ever entertained was ever realised,
and that to the ardour of my hopes I can
attribute all the unhappiness I have endured."

The company looked wiser than it felt, and
bowed with puzzled expectation.

"I have resolved, therefore, to live entirely
without hope" (the assembly looked uncomfortable);
"I mean, of course, as far as this
world is concerned" (the assembly was reassured).
"Not being compelled by circumstances
to exert myself for a subsistence, I keep
aloof from all the pursuits and all the amusements
that interest ordinary men. If I committed
myself to the toils of any professionof
any kind of researchof any branch of artmy
desire of success would be so great, that in the
event of failure I should merely renew the acute
pains of former years. Still, in every day there
are twenty-four hours, and these must be occupied
in some way. I have therefore devised an
occupation which is perfectly innocent" ("Encourages
trade, too," thought the Sandy), "and
with which no idea of success is associated. I
fix all my glances on the pastnone on the
future. Every one of those dolls, which have
so much excited your curiosity, is in my eyes a
symbol of some old friendshipsome old love
some old projectin a word, some old hope, and
I choose them from some peculiarity, which,
perhaps, you would hardly observe, but which
to me connects them with some reality of the
past. The decoration of the coffins just requires
manipulative skill enough to afford the mind
other employment than mere contemplation, and
as the puppets represent hopes, so do the coffins
represent disappointments. Hope and disappointment,
as I have said, have been the curses
of my existence. So when I have put the little
figure in the receptacle that has been prepared
for it, and have nailed down the lid, I feel that
I have extinguished one misery with another,
and that I can look calmly upon both as tormentors
of the past, but as mere playthings of
the present."

So saying, the Theme flung a small coin to
the waiter, and slowly left the room.

"Poor gentleman! " said the benignant Chairman,

"I should only like to be as well off as he is,"
said the Positive, knowingly.

"That's as it may be," said the Significant,

"Well, I know he pays ready money for all
that I sell him," said the Sandy, warmly.

"And that's saying a great deal now-a-days,"
said the Senile Voice, approvingly.

"True," said the Unctuous, profoundly.

"I am afraid he is not quite right in his intellects,"
said the Novice, suggestively.

"I tell you what it is," said the Negative,
dogmatically: "he has been telling us a parcel
of stuff on purpose to gammon us, and that's
the long and short of it."