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My acquaintance with Mr. Thorley was purely accidental, and arose out of a commercial transaction which I had with the well-known firm of Holdfast, Steady, and Co. of Yard, in the City of London. Having postponed from various causes the commission with which I had been intrusted, and hearing that the
packet was to sail on the following day, I hastily threw aside my books, my slippers, and my indolence, and hurried off to execute my correspondent's commands, not without experiencing some apprehension that my procrastination might have already rendered my intentions abortive.
Through lane and alley I made my tedious way, jostling in my expedition smart clerks and greasy porters, all as busy as so many ants, and, to my great relief, at last entered the quiet precincts of Yard, with no other damage than a slight contusion, occasioned by my coming in contact with an empty milkpail, which the milkmaid (a stout Irishwoman of fifty summers) swung carelessly against my right leg.
After buffeting the motley throng, the place really appeared a haven of rest, into which I had run from а sea of troubles."
A ticket-porter, with his short white apron and his pewter badge, was walking up and down with the calmness of a Peripatetic philosopher - I am quite sure he was not a Cynic; for, upon inquiring for the office I sought, he politely pointed it out. At the same time I thought I detected a look of wonder at my ignorance of the locality of the greatest house in the world; that is, his world, which was probably limited to this solitary yard, wherein he moved and got his daily bread.
I pushed open the green-baize doors, with their orbicular ground-glass panes, which appeared like a pair of huge eyes deprived of vision, and entered a spacious office.
There was a gloom-an oldness-a certain wear-andtear about the place, that looked both cozey and respectable.
Many grey heads and bald heads, and spectacles both of silver and tortoiseshell, did I behold, and only one smart hat, and that was stuck jauntily on the head of a gentleman about two-and-twenty, with a handsome florid complexion, dressed in a cut-away Newmarket coat, top-boots, and white corduroys.
He was swinging to and fro on an office-stool, with a penknife poised 'twixt his fore-finger and thumb, and darting it javelin-wise at the desk.
"Now, really, Mr. William," said a soft voice in a tone of remonstrance," really, Mr. William, that is so childish of you!" And the speaker, picking up the knife, removed it beyond his reach.
Observing me, the young man coloured with confusion, and, wheeling round upon the stool, walked off, "whistling as he went for want of thought," and vanished behind the intervening partition. I afterwards learned that " Mr. William " was the eldest son of the senior partner of the firm.
A little, pleasant, gentlemanly-looking man, dressed in the fashion of the last century, with his silver-rimmed spectacles thrown up above his eyebrows, whom I recognised as the speaker, now came forward, and politely demanded my business.
Having shortly communicated the purport of my visit, and handed him the packet with which I had been intrusted, he begged me to step into the adjoining room, and he would furnish me with the necessary receipt, &c.
I entered a spacious office covered with a well-worn Turkey carpet. On one side hung a map of the world, as yellow as if the fogs of forty Novembers had been sublimated on its dingy surface; a portrait was suspended over the fire-place, almost as obscure as the map; mahogany chairs, with horse-hair bottoms; a librarytable littered with papers, and an easy-chair covered with black leather, completed the appointments. Everything around, indeed, appeared coeval with the oldestablished firm.
The old gentleman sat himself down to his desk, after inviting me to be seated, and, having deliberately adjusted his spectacles, commenced writing, when a broad-shouldered porter entered with a copper scuttle in his hand to feed the flame.
"Well, Smith," said he without turning his head, "how's the wife?"
"Better,werry much better, I'm obleeged to you, sir," replied the man; and he proceeded to supply the grate. "That doctor as you were so kind as to send ha' done her a world o' good."
"Glad to hear it," said the old gentleman.
"He's a good 'un, he is," continued the man. "But the old 'ooman was raythur flustered a bit when he drew up in his carriage."
"I dare say
"But he made hisself at home in no time," said the porter. Why, sir, I actilly found him a-taking of a dish of tea with the old 'ooman, I did, indeed; and talking so pleasant like, it done one's heart good."
"Take care, Smith !" said the old gentleman with
mock gravity," these medical gentlemen are very insinuating."
“Oh, lauk, sir! I'm not afeard of his insinivations,
not I. She ain't no lamb, to be run away vith,” replied the porter; and, chuckling at the conceit of the old gentleman, he quitted the room, no doubt to retail the joke to the gentlemen of the outer office.
"Excuse this interruption, sir," said the old gentleman; but Smith is an old and valued servant: man and boy, he has served the house above forty years, and is a sort of privileged person in the establishment. I'll be bound he would not be tempted to quit the firm for an alderman's gown!"
I expressed my pleasure, and quoted some commonplaces about fidelity and long service, concluding with my real conviction, that good masters make good servants, meaning to pay him a compliment.
"I agree with you, sir, on that point," replied he, "and thank you for the intended compliment: but I am not one of the firm; I am merely their confidential clerk. My name is Josiah Thorley, at your service." We bowed.
Yes, sir," continued he; "for five-and-twenty years I have occupied this room in that capacity."
"And a very comfortable room it is," said I; " but the prospect, I think, is rather melancholy," pointing at the small churchyard which was visible through, and came close up to, the broad window.
"Melancholy!" replied he; "why, my dear sir, that little patch of green is as pleasant in my sight as a turf to a lark! As Milton says, the mind is