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the London District Branch that the two
gentlemen first appeared to have business.

Having been led through a maze of offices
and passages more or less dark, they found
themselveslike knights-errant in a fairy tale
' in an enormous hall, illumined by myriads
of lights.' Without being exactly transformed
into statues, or stricken fast asleep, the
occupants of this hall (whose name was Legion)
appeared to be in an enchanted state of idleness.
Among a wilderness of long tables,
and of desks not unlike those on which buttermen
perform their active parts of legerdemain
in making 'pats 'only these desks were
covered with black cloththey were reading
books, talking together, wandering about,
lying down, or drinking coffeeapparently
quite unused to doing any work, and not at
all expectant of ever having anything to do,
but die.

In a few minutes, and without any
preparation, a great stir began at one end of this
hall, and an immense train of private
performers, in the highest state of excitement,
poured in, getting up, on an immense scale,
the first scene in the ' Miller and his Men.'
Each had a sack on his back; each bent under
its weight; and the bare sight of these sacks,
as if by magic, changed all the readers, all
the talkers, all the wanderers, all the liers-
down, all the coffee-drinkers, into a colony of
human ants!

For the sacks were great sheepskin bags
of letters tumbling in from the receiving-
houses. Anon they looked like whole flocks
suddenly struck all of a heap, ready for
slaughter; for a ruthless individual stood
at a table, with sleeves tucked up and
knife in hand, who rapidly cut their throats,
dived into their insides, abstracted their contents,
and finally skinned them. ' For every
letter we leave behind,' said the bag-opener,
in answer to an inquiry, ' we are fined half-a-
crown. That's why we turn them inside out.'

The mysterious visitors closely scrutinised
the letters that were disgorged. These were
from all parts of London to all parts of London
and to the provinces and to the far-off quarters
of the globe. An acute postman might guess
the broad tenour of their contents by their
covers:—business letters are in big envelopes,
official letters in long ones, and lawyers' letters
in none at all; the tinted and lace-bordered
mean Valentines, the black-bordered tell of
grief, and the radiant with white enamel
announce marriage. When the Fleet Street
dispatch appeared, the visitors tracked it,
and the operations of the clerk who separated
the three bundles of which it consisted were
closely followed. With the prying curiosity
which now only began to show itself, one of
the intruders actually took a copy of the bill
which accompanied the letters. It set forth in
three lines that there were so many ' Stamped,'
so many ' Prepaid,' and so many ' Unpaid.'

The clerk counted the stamped letters like
lightning, and a flash of red gleaming past
showed the inquirers that one of their epistles
was safe. Suddenly the motion was stopped;
the official had instinctively detected that one
letter was insufficiently adorned with the
Queen's profile, and he weighed and taxed it
double in a twinkling. Having proved the
number of stamped letters to be exactly as
per account rendered, he went on checking
off the prepaid, turning up the sender's green
missive in the process. He then dealt with
the unpaid, amongst which the lookers-on
perceived their yellow one. The cash column
was computed and cast in a single thought,
and a short-hand mark, signifying ' quite
correct,' dismissed the Fleet Street bill upon
a file, for the leisurely scrutiny of the Receiver-
General's office. All the other letters, and all
the other bills of all the other receiving-houses,
were going through the same routine
at all the other tables; and these performances
are repeated ten times in every day, all
the year round, Sundays excepted!

' You perceived,' said one of the two friends,
' that in the rapid process of counting, our
stamped letter gleamed past like a meteor,
whilst our money-paid and unpaid epistles
remained long enough under observation for a
careful reading of the superscriptions.'

' That delay,' said an intelligent official, ' is
occasioned because the latter are unstamped.
Such letters cause a great complication of
trouble, wholly avoided by the use of Queen's
heads. Every officer through whose hands they
passfrom the receiving-house-keeper to the
carriers who deliver them at their destinations
has to give and take a cash account of
each. If the public would put stamps on all
letters, it would save us, and therefore itself,
some thousands a-year.

' What are the proportions of the stamped
to the prepaid and unpaid letters which pass
through all the post-offices during the year? '

' We can tell within a very near approximation
to correctness:—337,500,000 passed
through the post-offices of the United Kingdom
during last year, and to every 100 of
them about fifty had stamps; 46 were pre-
paid with pennies; and only 4 were committed
to the box unpaid.'

While one of the visitors was receiving this
information, the other had followed his
variegated letters to the next process; which was
that of stamping on the sealed face, in red ink,
the date and hour of despatch. The letters
are ranged in a long row, like a pack of cards
thrown across a table, and so fast does the
stamper's hand move, that he can mark 3000
in an hour. While defacing the Queen's heads
on the other side, he counts as he thumps, till
he enumerates fifty, when he dodges his stamp
on one side to put his black mark on a piece of
plain paper. All these memoranda are afterwards
collected by the president, who, reckoning
fifty letters to every black mark, gets a
near approximation to the number that have
passed through the office.

It was by this means that our friends

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