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Hall, or the origin of the three balls of the
Lombards. The old church with the Pharos
tower, most venerable of all those venerable
structures that are wonderfully
picturesque and totally uninhabitablecrumbling
old temple, mixture of the cow-shed and the
early Norman styles of architecture, whose
snuffy brickwork is only kept together by the
ivy, and a high hill, which shelters it from
the sharp winds; I was mad the other day to
take photographs of it from every conceivable
point of view, but now I feel disposed to tilt
against it on horseback in the night, and
knock it down, for the purpose of creating a
sensation. The stable-boys, who idle about
sucking straws the whole day through, know
that I have missed the coach, and they
impart their knowledge to any one willing to
receive it, until I become a by-word and a
joke in the village. After the second day, I
get weak and imbecile; excited even by such
an event as the changing of horses for the
coach that passes through once a week in the
opposite direction to that in which I wish
to go. At last my deliverance comes, and
I stay up all night this time to receive it.
I think, if all the places are taken, I shall
become a fit inmate for an asylum of idiots.

Too late for a coach under such circumstances
is bad enough, but I can imagine a
position infinitely worse.

I am a favourite comedian, the pride,
the glory, the support, of a leading London
theatre. In an unguarded moment I take a
sudden fancy for a country trip, and run
down by rail about twenty miles, and turn
off for a good day's walk over the fields, the
lanes, and commons. In the afternoon I
return to the station calmly and leisurely to
catch a train that shall deposit me in town
about six in the evening. I enter the little
frail hut that serves for the station where I
have to embark, and my eye rests upon a
broad-faced clock, the hands of which are at
a quarter to seven. I look again, and find
that my eyes have not deceived me; and the
boy in charge of the place, in answer to my
hasty questions, coolly informs me that the
clock keeps London railway time, and that
there is no train for two hours. I sink in
horror upon the one thin, hard, narrow,
wooden seat in the place, and a thousand wild
schemes chase each other with fearful rapidity
through my troubled brain. Solitary is the
station as a witch's hut upon a heath, and
nothing like a conveyance is visible on the
line, except a navigator's wheelbarrow turned
upside down upon a heap of gravel. My eye
follows the long, thin, tapering lines of rails
in the direction of London, until they pierce
a clump of trees, and vanish at that distant
point from my sight. Can I run along the
line, and by that means reach my appointment,
even an hour later than the proper
time? How repulsive everything about the
country appears now, the trees, the fields, and
the golden sunset; and how I hate the stillness
broken only by the cawing of those
dreadful rooks in the adjoining park, whose
song I would give worlds to exchange for the
smoke and rattle of Fleet Street. Why did I
ever venture into the treacherous precincts
of the picturesque, when I should have been
sipping my coffee, and reading my paper in
my dingy tavern? A roar and a puff of
smoke, and the express train whirls by, that
might have carried me to my destination in
half an hour, if I could have summoned
courage and physical agility to have jumped
upon the roofs of the carriages as they passed
under the bridge, timing my leap like an
acrobat in the circus.

But I miss the golden opportunity, and
am again a hopeless inmate of the solitary
station, looking vacantly at the clock which
has now reached the stroke of seven.

There I sit for the next two hours, while a
panorama of events at the theatre passes
before my mental vision. I hear the sharp
click of the prompter's bell, and the voice of
the call-boy, shouting "overture, gentlemen,"
up the staircase. I see my aged dresser, who
has been used to punctual men, old actors,
and slow makers-up, walking frantically
about the room, wondering where I can be,
when I have to go on in an elaborate costume,
in the middle of the first act. He taxes his
memory to ascertain whether I was ever so
late before, when the same piece was being
performed, and he determines that I never
was.

Unable to bear his mental torture any
longer, he hobbles down to the hall-keeper,
and finds that I have not yet passed into
the theatre. Then commences a consultation,
and the information is spread behind
the curtain that Mr. Sockskin has not
arrived, although he has to go on in the
next scene. Prompter, actors, call-boys, and
manager, take the alarm, and the latter dives
to his room to prepare a few hasty words of
apology. The moment arrives that can be
no longer delayed, and the pale, nervous
manager goes on in a comic dress, and, with
the most heart-broken voice, and the most
piteous face, that contrast ludicrously with
his gay and facetious attire, tells the
disappointed and indignant audience all he
knows himself, namely: that Mr. Sockskin is
not in the theatre. The curtain rings down
amidst a torrent of yells, while another piece
is being hastily put upon the stage, and I
am gnawing my finger-nails in the enforced
and unwelcome solitude of the railway
station.

These are some of the phantasms of
procrastination and delay that a morbidly
regular man like myself will occasionally
call up before him in his hours of idleness.
As there are many men in the world who
cannot be kept in the path of temperance,
unless awful examples of the effects of
intoxication are continually paraded before
their eyes, it may be that I unconsciously

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