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shall have it some other day. We are not
going to part company yet, old boy." With
those words he fell asleep, his feet over
the dash-board, and his head resting on my


My uncle Burbidge's house is not a
favourite resort of mine. It is a dull, damp,
country-place, with thick steaming woods all
round it, and with wet, spongy-looking sheep
feeding in the park; and it stands on a
clayey soil, which renders the ultimate possession
of his boots a matter of great uncertainty
to the visitor. In the lowering autumnal
evenings, it is soul-harrowing to be there. Frogs
and bitterns scream from the neighbouring
marshes; miasma floats through every chink
and crevice; and the old butler's awful
cough echoes through the hollow passages
with a perfectly supernatural effect. With a
glass of grog, a cigar, and a pleasant book or
cheerful companion, one would not mind this
so much; but my uncle is a dull old man,
who abominates spirits, tobacco, and
literature, and will allow none of the three to be
partaken of in his house. He is of a scientific
turn: at one time, photographist: at another,
astronomer. This year he is mad about
microscopes, and has bought a very ugly and
complicated brass instrument, for a sum of
money which would have put some highly
necessary additional furniture into my
chambers in Raymond Buildings, and kept
me in board and lodging for some months.

During the early part of this last October,
when I was staying with him, this microscope
was the bane of my existence. I was
compelled, literally to keep a perpetual eye on it;
and I have examined more horrible things in
the shape of antennae of wasps, and probosces
of flies, than the uninitiated can imagine. I
was afraid to take my cold bath in the
morning, so great was my dread of being
bodily devoured by the awful animals I
had seen in the magnified drop of water
the previous night; and my celebrated
dream of a combat with an enraged
bluebottle, seventy million times the size of
life, still haunts my memory with fearful
distinctness. The want of some rest,—of
some book to which to moor myself, ere I
floated down this stream of science into the
ocean of idiocy,—of some friend to whom I
might impart my new-born doubts as to the
real thickness of each hair on my head, or
the megatherian properties of the domestic
flea, so preyed on my mind that I determined
at once to fly from this Castle Dangerous,
and I took advantage of a letter which
arrived by the day-mail late one afternoon, to
announce to my uncle that my presence was
immediately required in town, and that I
must start by the mail train, which passed
the Spetchley Junction at thirty minutes past
eleven P.M. He grumbled, but I insisted,
and after dinner started forth, carpet-bag in
hand, in the midst of a pouring rain, to walk
to the station.

It had been raining without cessation
for three days, and the land all round
the station, which lay low, was flooded.
However, with liberty and London before
me, I kept a good heart, squashed boldly
over the reeking fields, and arrived, dripping,
at the station. A small fire was burning in
the grate, about which were seated a
sergeant in full uniform, and five rustics, whose
ribbon-bearing button-holes announced them
recruits. I made my way to the clerk's
little desk to take my ticket, and, tendered
my money; but the dapper little man behind
the row of pigeon-holes smiled grimly, and
informed me that a telegraph just received
from the next principal station announced
that the floods were out, and that the train
would, in all probability, be some two hours
behind its advertised time.

This was pleasant news. The idea of passing
such a period in such a place and
with such company, with nothing to read
but the bylaws of the company, the
warning relative to Tomkins who had been
fined forty shillings for riding in a first-class
carriage without a ticket, and the framed and
glazed advertisements of pills, sauce, and
"comfort in a storm" was gall and wormwood
to me. I was about seating myself in
anything but a pleasant temperament, when the
door was pushed open and a stranger entered.
Not very remarkable in appearance: being
simply a middle-sized, middle-aged,
broad-shouldered man, with large black whiskers,
and a face the very realisation of good
humour. His small white teeth gleamed out of
his ruddy lips as he saluted the assembled
company, and as soon as he heard of the
anticipated delay in the arrival of the train,
instead of being annoyed he burst forth into
a laugh which awoke a reciprocal broad grin
from the five recruits, and even roused me
from my sulky state.

"By the holy Malone! A saint, by the way,
very little appreciated in this country," said
he, "and that's a pleasant hearing!"

I had not needed this expletive to tell
me what countryman he was, for his
good-natured face bore Irishman imprinted
on it.

"Two hours to wait, eh! I've passed
many a pleasant two hours in a less promising
place. Sergeant! good evening to you;
I'm always glad to meet men of your
profession. Very likely looking lads you have
there I'd have been glad of five such
followers myself in the old time."

Pleased at the compliment, the sergeant
rose, erect as a dart, and bringing his right
hand to his cap-peak, said, "Thought there
was no donbt about your honour's profession
the minute I see you! Company's officer, if
I don't mistake?"

"No," laughed the new comer. "No!