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he be in any difficulty, it will save me a letter
if you will tell him to write to me for

I gathered up my papers, walked quickly
across the street, pushed open the heavy
door under the dark old archway, and said,
briskly to the first messenger,

"I want Mr. B."

"Certainly, sir; which Mr. B.?"

Now, although B. (with its complement)
is among the commonest of names, I was
totally unprepared for, and totally taken
aback by, this simply worded question.  My
positive air, as of a man intent upon
transacting business, was plainly unsuited to
the atmosphere of the place.  I explained
my wants to the messenger, and consulted
him with regard to the department by
which they could be supplied.  After
considering with knitted brow, he advised an
application to Mr. R. B., and ushered me into
the room over which that gentleman

Mr. R. B. listened with polite attention to
my statement, asked for and inspected the
several papers, which Mr. A. had already
passed under review, and said:

"I think it is scarcely possible that I can
be the Mr. B. to whom Mr. A. intended to
refer you.  The matter is really quite foreign
to my department.  Perhaps Mr. W. B.
might help you; but, for my own part, I
should think Mr. C. the right person to apply
to.  I mention only my private impression."

I left the room with a certain hopefulness,
arising out of the fact that the two last-
named gentlemen were in some slight degree
acquainted with me, and that I expected
more from personal friendliness than from
official courtesy.  Returning to my old ally,
the messenger, I asked for Mr. W. B.

Inquire again on the first floor.

The first floor was guarded by another
messenger, who answered my inquiry by
saying, slightly:

"Mr. W. B. is out of the way."

"Out of the way, is he ?  When will he be

If I had levelled a revolver at the man's
head, he could scarcely have exhibited more

"When will he be back?  I am sure I
don't know when he will be back. When
will he be back! "  this last being an
obstructed and sotto voce repetition of my
innocent sentence, in a style like an imitation
of the Siddons whisper.

"Well, then," I rejoined impatiently, " I
want Mr. C."

"He is at the department in Pall Mall."

The ignorance displayed in asking for
him at the Horse Guards apparently
convinced the messenger that I was one to whom
he need pay no more attention.  So he
sauntered behind a screen, murmuring in an
absent manner: " When will he be back?"

At the department in Pall Mall, I found
Mr. C., a cordial and good-humoured person,
who knew nothing whatever about my business,
but who advised me not to waste time in
pursuing other initial letters.

"Go home," said he; "get the largest sheet
of paper and the biggest envelope you can,
report your arrival and state your claim in
writing, address the letter to the Right
Honorable Her Majesty's Secretary of State
for War; and, in about five weeks, you will
be likely to get an answer, containing
instructions for your further conduct."

So it befell. About six weeks elapsed
before my letter was officially acknowledged,
and many more before claims were settled
about which there was not the smallest
dispute or question, except that, as a matter
of form, they were to be certified by some-
body who was daily expected from Scotland,
or who had just started for Constantinople.
When these matters were finally adjusted,
my experience of government offices ceased,
with one trifling, though notable exception.

In the mouth of August eighteen hundred
and fifty-six, I was desirous to obtain
immediately, a certain piece of information,
which I knew any clerk in a particular
department in Downing Street could furnish,
and which, as one of the public, I thought I
had a right to ask.  Mindful of past adventures
with Messrs. A., B. and C., and believing
that the five weeks arrear of correspondence
had been an exceptional circumstance,
arising out of the war, I put my inquiry
in writing, and despatched it.  Receiving no
answer, I applied myself to private sources,
ascertained what I wanted to know, acted
upon the knowledge, and forgot the
circumstance.  In March eighteen hundred and
fifty-seven, I received a very large letter,
with a large intimation on the cover that it
a gentleman declared that he was directed
by one of Her Majesty's Secretaries of State
to inform me &c., &c., giving, in short, a
polite, distinct, and straight-forward answer
to my question.  As if I were to write to-day
to the publishers of the Edinburgh Review,
asking for advertising space in the next number
of that journal, and were to receive, in March
eighteen hundred and fifty-nine, an assurance
that the required space should be reserved!

I may mention that I returned from the
East with a claim against a gigantic commercial
establishment,as well as against a government
department.  The former was investigated,
acknowledged, and paid, in fewer
minutes than Mr. A. consumed in twiddling
his spectacles, and in asking me to ask some-
body else (across the street) to write to him
for instructions.