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windows and the open doors of the little
sleeping cells on either side. In about the
centre of the perspective, under an arch,
regardless of the pleasant weather, regardless
of the solitude, regardless of approaching
footsteps, was the poor little dark-chinned, meagre
man, poring over the matting. 'What are
you doing there?' said my conductor, when
we came to him. He looked up, and pointed
to the matting. 'I wouldn't do that, I think,'
said my conductor, kindly; 'if I were you, I
would go and read, or I would lie down
if I felt tired; but I wouldn't do that.'
The patient considered a moment, and
vacantly answered, 'No, sir, I won't; I'll
I'll go and read,' and so he lamely shuffled
away into one of the little rooms. I turned
my head before we had gone many paces.
He had already come out again, and
was again poring over the matting, and
tracking out its fibres with his thumb and
fore-finger. I stopped to look at him, and it
came into my mind, that probably the course
of those fibres as they plaited in and out,
over and under, was the only course of things
in the whole wide world that it was left to
him to understandthat his darkening intellect
had narrowed down to the small cleft of
light which showed him, 'This piece was
twisted this way, went in here, passed under,
came out there, was carried on away here to
the right where I now put my finger on it,
and in this progress of events, the thing was
made and came to be here.' Then, I
wondered whether he looked into the matting,
next, to see if it could show him anything of
the process through which he came to be
there, so strangely poring over it. Then, I
thought how all of us, GOD help us! in our
different ways are poring over our bits of
matting, blindly enough, and what confusions
and mysteries we make in the pattern. I
had a sadder fellow-feeling with the little
dark-chinned, meagre man, by that time, and
I came away."

Mr. Idle diverting the conversation to
grouse, custards, and bride-cake, Mr. Goodchild
followed in the same direction. The
bride-cake was as bilious and indigestible as
if a real Bride had cut it, and the dinner
it completed was an admirable performance.

The house was a genuine old house of a
very quaint description, teeming with old
carvings, and beams, and panels, and having an
excellent old staircase, with a gallery or upper
staircase, cut off from it by a curious fencework
of old oak, or of the old Honduras Mahogany
wood. It was, and is, and will be,for many
a long year to come, a remarkably picturesque
house; and a certain grave mystery lurking
in the depth of the old mahogany panels,
as if they were so many deep pools of dark
watersuch, indeed, as they had been much
among when they were treesgave it a very
mysterious character after nightfall.

When Mr. Goodchild and Mr. Idle had
first alighted at the door, and stepped into
the sombre handsome old hall, they had been
received by half-a-dozen noiseless old men in
black, all dressed exactly alike, who glided
up the stairs with the obliging landlord and
waiterbut without appearing to get into
their way, or to mind whether they did or
noand who had filed off to the right and
left on the old staircase, as the guests entered
their sitting-room. It was then broad, bright
day. But, Mr. Goodchild had said, when
their door was shut, "Who on earth are
those old men!" And afterwards, both
on going out and coming in, he had noticed
that there were no old men to be seen.

Neither, had the old men, or any one of the
old men, reappeared since. The two friends
had passed a night in the house, but had
seen nothing more of the old men. Mr.
Goodchild, in rambling about it, had looked
along passages, and glanced in at doorways,
but had encountered no old men; neither
did it appear that any old men were, by any
member of the establishment, missed or

Another odd circumstance impressed itself
on their attention. It was, that the door of
their sitting-room was never left untouched
for a quarter of an hour. It was opened
with hesitation, opened with confidence,
opened a little way, opened a good way,—
always clapped-to again without a word
of explanation. They were reading, they
were writing, they were eating, they were
drinking, they were talking, they were
dozing; the door was always opened at an
unexpected moment, and they looked towards
it, and it was clapped-to again, and nobody
was to be seen. When this had happened
fifty times or so, Mr. Goodchild had said to
his companion, jestingly: "I begin to think,
Tom, there was something wrong about
those six old men."

Night had come again, and they had been
writing for two or three hours: writing, in
short, a portion of the lazy notes from which
these lazy sheets are taken. They had left
off writing, and glasses were on the table
between them. The house was closed and quiet,
and the town was quiet. Around the head of
Thomas Idle, as he lay upon his sofa, hovered
light wreaths of fragrant smoke. The
temples of Francis Goodchild, as he leaned
back in his chair, with his two hands clasped
behind his head, and his legs crossed, were
similarly decorated.

They had been discussing several idle
subjects of speculation, not omitting the strange
old men, and were still so occupied, when
Mr. Goodchild abruptly changed his attitude
to wind up his watch. They were just
becoming drowsy enough to be stopped in their
talk by any such slight check. Thomas Idle,
who was speaking at the moment, paused and
said, "How goes it?"

"One," said Goodchild.

As if he had ordered One old man, and the
order were promptly executed (truly, all