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ON Monday, the fifteenth of March last, I
rose soon after daylight to study two interesting
documents: one, a map of England, which
Mr. Warren De la Rue had intersected with
three straight lines, to show the direct path to
be traversed that morning by the Solar Eclipse
across this island: the other, a hand-bill invitation
to the public generally from the Great
Western Railway Company, to an excursion
to Swindon; where the darkness which, according
to the astronomers, was to prevail at
mid-day, would be most visible. To these
aids to reflection were added a few personal
observations of the state of the weather;
which, as the morning advanced, was very

The result of all this studythe first lesson
in astronomical and meteorological science I
ever voluntarily undertookwas a rapid
toilette, a cold breakfast (I am a bachelor), a
sharp walk, and a seat in a railway carriage;
of which I and my friend The Count, whom I
had picked up on the platform, were the
earliest occupants.

"It is a singular fact," observed this
friend of minea Scotch schoolfellow
who was looking out of the window, and
filling it up with his broad shoulders to
prevent the intrusion of strangers; "that
of the crowd of passengers now struggling
for places, at least fifty per cent. wear
spectacles; and, of these, twenty-five per
cent. are adorned with white cravats."
It was his passion for arithmetic (termed
"counting" in Scotch schools), that gave
him his title; his real name being Mac
Aliquot. "The luggage, too, is exceptional,"
he went on to observe. "It is all mahogany
and brass, if you notice. And—"
here The Count, suddenly seeing some
one he knew, waved his arm frantically,
exclaiming: "Hi! hi! Sidery! Professor!
There's plenty of room here! Come in." The
signal was answered. "Capital fellow!" he
said to me, as he gathered up his coat,
his newspaper, his hat, and his gloves from
five of the seats, which he had appropriated.
"Formerly Professor of Conic Sections at
Saint Cwrg's College, South Wales: and no
mean astronomer, I can tell you. See what
a lot of apparatus he has brought!"

"Do you include in that expression the
lovely young woman clinging so gracefully to
him, amidst the unwieldy pile of things at his
feet; and the three young men?" I asked.

"Well, yes," said the Count, who was
always as literal as an Arabic numeral. "You
will see: Sidery will utilise even his daughter
and sons somehow for eclipse purposes; as
he will me, and you, too, if you don't mind."

"Have you room for five?" the astronomer
asked with timidity.

"For any number," I answered fervently,
while making room for Miss Sidery, who
passed me with a gracious bend, and the
sweetest unspoken "Thank you." She was
followed by her brothers, to whom the
professor handed in, tenderlyas if it
were a well-packed babya great mahogany
box containing his telescope. Then
he delivered through the open door, several
thermometers, pronouncing with each a
verbal label: "dry bulb;" "wet bulb;"
"red bulb;" "black bulb." Then a barometer;
then a sextant, boxed up in a
kind of mahogany cocked-hat; then a
couple of lorgnettes; then a pair of clouded
goggles; then some packets of stained
glass. I felt dreadfully afraid of the professor
and of all these instruments. My
ignorance of every kind of heavenly body
was now to be punished by seventy-seven
miles of humiliation; and, I should have hated
The Count for bringing it upon me, if any
sort of harsh sentiment could have been
possible in the benign presence of the two
day-stars that shone full upon me from the
opposite seat. Still the professor went on
shipping apparatus with all the perseverance
and with something of the manner of a wharf-clerk;
calling out the names of the objects as
they were taken from him: a box of lucifers;
a candle; a Welsh testament, large print; a
Welsh testament, small print; a copy of Jones's
Diamond Classics; a roll of photographic
paper; a burning glass; two ounces of
gunpowder, a pot of crocuses, in full bloom;
a pot of violets; a bundle of camp-stools;
three umbrellas, several papers of
sandwiches, and two full flasks;" for," Mr.
Sidery observed, in allusion to the latter
miscellanea, as he entered the carriage,
with the train already in motion, "Science
must be fed."