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PUTTING up for the night in one of the
chiefest towns of Staffordshire, I find it to be
by no means a lively town. In fact it is as
dull and dead a town as any one could desire
not to see. It seems as if its whole population
might be imprisoned in its Railway Station.
The Refreshment-Room at that Station is a
vortex of dissipation compared with the
extinct town-inn, the Dodo, in the dull
High Street.

Why High Street? Why not rather Low
Street, Flat Street, Low-Spirited Street,
Used-up Street? Where are the people who
belong to the High Street? Can they all be
dispersed over the face of the country, seeking
the unfortunate Strolling Manager who
decamped from the mouldy little Theatre last
week, in the beginning of his season (as his
play-bills testify), repentantly resolved to
bring him back, and feed him, and be
entertained? Or, can they all be gathered to their
fathers in the two old churchyards near to
the High Streetretirement into which
churchyards appears to be a mere ceremony,
there is so very little life outside
their confines, and such small discernible
difference between being buried alive in the
town, and buried dead in the town tombs?
Over the way, opposite to the staring blank
bow windows of the Dodo, are a little
ironmonger's shop, a little tailor's shop (with
a picture of the Fashions in the small window
and a bandy-legged baby on the pavement
staring at it)—a watchmaker's shop, where
all the clocks and watches must be stopped,
I am sure, for they could never have the
courage to go, with the town in general, and
the Dodo in particular, looking at them. Shade
of Miss Linwood, erst of Leicester Square,
London, thou art welcome here, and thy
retreat is fitly chosen! I myself was one of
the last visitors to that awful storehouse of
thy life's work, where an anchorite old man
and woman took my shilling with a solemn
wonder, and conducting me to a gloomy
sepulchre of needlework dropping to pieces
with dust and age and shrouded in twilight
at high noon, left me there, chilled, frightened,
and alone. And now, in ghostly letters on
all the dead walls of this dead town,
I read thy honored name, and find that thy Last
Supper, worked in Berlin Wool, invites
inspection as a powerful excitement!

Where are the people who are bidden
with so much cry to this feast of little
wool? Where are they ? Who are they?
They are not the bandy-legged baby studying
the fashions in the tailor's window.
They are not the two earthy ploughmen
lounging outside the saddler's shop, in the
stiff square where the Town Hall stands, like
a brick and mortar private on parade. They
are not the landlady of the Dodo in the
empty bar, whose eye had trouble in it and
no welcome, when I asked for dinner. They
are not the turnkeys of the Town Jail, looking
out of the gateway in their uniforms, as if
they had locked up all the balance (as my
American friends would say) of the
inhabitants, and could now rest a little. They
are not the two dusty millers in the white mill
down by the river, where the great water-
wheel goes heavily round and round, like the
monotonous days and nights in this forgotten
place. Then who are they, for there is no
one else? No; this deponent maketh oath
and saith that there is no one else, save and
except the waiter at the Dodo, now laying
the cloth. I have paced the streets, and
stared at the houses, and am come back to
the blank bow window of the Dodo; and the
town clocks strike seven, and the reluctant
echoes seem to cry, " Don't wake us! " and
the bandy-legged baby has gone home to bed.

If the Dodo were only a gregarious bird
if it had only some confused idea of making
a comfortable nestI could hope to get
through the hours between this and
bedtime, without being consumed by devouring
melancholy. But, the Dodo's habits are all
wrong. It provides me with a trackless
desert of sitting-room, with a chair for every
day in the year, a table for every month, and
a waste of sideboard where a lonely China vase
pines in a corner for its mate long departed,
and will never make a match with the candlestick
in the opposite corner if it live till
Doomsday. The Dodo has nothing in the
larder. Even now, I behold the Boots
returning with my sole in a piece of paper; and
with that portion of my dinner, the Boots,
perceiving me at the blank bow window,
slaps his leg as he comes across the road,
pretending it is something else. The Dodo