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IN the autumn month of September,
eighteen hundred and fifty-seven, wherein
these presents bear date, two idle apprentices,
exhausted by the long hot summer and
the long hot work it had brought with it,
ran away from their employer. They were
bound to a highly meritorious lady (named
Literature), of fair credit and repute, though,
it must be acknowledged, not quite so highly
esteemed in the City as she might be. This
is the more remarkable, as there is nothing
against the respectable lady in that quarter,
but quite the contrary; her family having
rendered eminent service to many famous
citizens of London. It may be sufficient to
name Sir William Walworth, Lord Mayor
under King Richard the Second, at the time
of Wat Tyler's insurrection, and Sir Richard
Whittington: which latter distinguished man
and magistrate was doubtless indebted to
the lady's family for the gift of his celebrated
cat. There is also strong reason to suppose
that they rang the Highgate bells for him
with their own hands.

The misguided young men who thus shirked
their duty to the mistress from whom they
had received many favors, were actuated by
the low idea of making a perfectly idle trip,
in any direction. They had no intention of
going anywhere, in particular; they wanted
to see nothing, they wanted to know nothing,
they wanted to learn nothing, they wanted
to do nothing. They wanted only to be idle.
They took to themselves (after HOGARTH),
the names of Mr. Thomas Idle and Mr.
Francis Goodchild; but, there was not a
moral pin to choose between them, and they
were both idle in the last degree.

Between Francis and Thomas,  however,
there was this difference of character:
Goodchild was laboriously idle, and would take
upon himself any amount of pains and labour
to assure himself that he was idle; in short,
had no better idea of idleness than that it
was useless industry. Thomas Idle, on the
other hand, was an idler of the unmixed
Irish or Neapolitan type; a passive idler, a
born-and-bred idler, a consistent idler, who
practised what he would have preached if he
had not been too idle to preach; a one entire
and perfect chrysolite of idleness.

The two idle apprentices found themselves,
within a few hours of their escape, walking
down into the North of England. That is to
say, Thomas was lying in a meadow, looking
at the railway trains as they passed over a
distant viaductwhich was his idea of walking
down into the North; while Francis was
walking a mile due South against time
which was his idea of walking down into the
North. In the meantime the day waned, and
the milestones remained unconquered.

"Tom," said Goodchild, "The sun is
getting low. Up, and let us go forward!"

"Nay," quoth Thomas Idle, "I have not
done with Annie Laurie yet." And he
proceeded with that idle but popular ballad, to the
effect that for the bonnie young person of
that name he would "lay him doon and dee,"—
equivalent, in prose, to lay him down and die.

"What an ass that fellow was!" cried
Goodchild, with the bitter emphasis of

"Which fellow? " asked Thomas Idle.

"The fellow in your song. Lay him doon
and dee! Finely he'd show off before the
girl by doing that. A Sniveller! Why couldn't
he get up, and punch somebody's head!"

"Whose?" asked Thomas Idle.

"Anybody's. Everybody's would be better
than nobody's! If I fell into that state of
mind about a girl, do you think I'd lay me
doon and dee? No, sir," proceeded
Goodchild, with a disparaging assumption of the
Scottish accent, "I'd get me oop and peetch
into somebody. Wouldn't you ?"

"I wouldn't have anything to do with her,"
yawned Thomas Idle. " Why should I take
the trouble?"

"It's no trouble Tom, to fall in love,"
said Goodchild, shaking his head.

"It's trouble enough to fall out of it, once
you're in it," retorted Tom. "So I keep out
of it altogether. It would be better for you,
if you did the same."

Mr. Goodchild, who is always in love with
somebody, and not unfrequently with several
objects at once, made no reply. He heaved
a sigh of the kind which is termed by the
lower orders "a bellowser," and then, heaving
Mr. Idle on his feet (who was not half so
heavy as the sigh), urged him northward.