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“Him bid l’’ exclaimed the man, with an accent of the utmost astonishment—“Him bid — why he's the Auctioneer that’s to sell us! I thought you would have remarked that in his speech, for he imitates in his talk the advertisements of the famous Mr. Robins. He’s called the Old Gentleman.”
“Old ! why he appears to be in the prime of life.”
“Yes, sir, – but it’s the other Old Gentleman — ”
“What the Devil P”
“Yes, sir, — because you see, he's always a knocking down of somebody's little Paradise.”
“TIME,” says Rosalind, in that delicious sylvan comedy called “As You Like It,”—“Time travels in divers paces with divers persons.” And thence she prettily and wittily proceeds to enumerate the parties with whom he gallops, trots, ambles, or comes to a stand still. And nothing can be truer than her theory. Old Chronos has indeed infinite rates of performance — from railway to snail-way. As the butcher's boy said of his horse, “He can go all sorts of paces—as fast as you like, or as slow as you don't.” But hark what says a clear, bell-like voice from the HorseGuards, that “time is time, and one o'clock is one o'clock all the town over.” * True, old Regulator | The remark is as correct as striking, time is time, and the horological divisions are, or should be, synchronous from Knightsbridge to Whitechapel. But the old Mower is, like ourselves, a compound being — body and spirit. Hence he hath, as the Watchmakers say, “a duplex movement:” namely, Mechanical and Metaphysical; — the first, governed absolutely by the march of the sun, and the swing of a pendulum ; the second, determined by moral contingencies: the one capricious as the ad libitum, the other exact as the tempo obligato of the musician. Thus the manifold bells of London — sounding, like the ancient chorus, a solemn accompaniment to the grand drama of Human Life — thus hundreds of iron tongues simultaneously proclaim the current hour to the vast metropolis, yet with what different speed has time travelled from chime to chime with its millions of inhabitants — with the Bride and the Widow, the Marchioness in the ball-room, and the Milliner in her garret, the Lounger at his club, and the Criminal in the condemned cell! Of these “divers paces with divers persons,” there is a memorable illustration in “Old Mortality,” where Morton and the stern Covenanters, with opposite feelings, watch on the same dial-plate the progress of the hand towards the fatal black point, at which the hour and a life were together to expire. The Novelist has painted the victim “awaiting till the sword destined to slay him crept out of the scabbard gradually, and as it were by straw-breadths.” The walls “seemed to drop with blood, and the light tick of the clock thrilled on his ear with such loud, painful distinctness, as if each sound were the prick of a bodkin inflicted on the naked nerve of the organ.” Here, then, was one of those persons whom Time gallops withal, whereas to the bloodthirsty Fanatics he crept on so leisurely, that Impatience could not refrain from giving the laggard a thrust forward on his course. In our Courts of Law, Civil and Criminal, the divers paces of Time are continually exemplified, and have been verified on oath by scores of respectable witnesses. For example, there was once a murder committed at Tottenham ; and on the trial of the assassin, it became a point of judicial importance to determine the exact interval between two distant pistol-shots. “Five minutes 1" deposed Miss White, who had passed the evening in question tete-à-téte with her affianced sweetheart. “Fifteen,” swore Mrs. Black, who had spent the same hours in vainly expecting a husband addicted to the alehouse. “Bless my soul and body l’exclaimed the Judge, naturally astonished at such a wide discrepancy; “the clocks in that part of the country must be sadly in want of regulation l’” But his lordship himself was in error. The material wheels, springs, pendulums, and weights worked truly enough; it was the moral machinery that was accountable for the variation. The rectification, however, was at hand.
The suburban village of Tottenham swarms, as is well known, with resident Members of the Society of Friends— a sect remarkable for punctuality, and the preciseness and uniformity of their habits—whose lives flow as equably as the sand of the hour-glass — whose pulses beat with the regularity of the pendulum. Accordingly, five Quakers who had heard the shots, were examined as witnesses; and, on their several affirmations, gave the interval between the two reports with little more variation than so many Admiralty Chronometers. As thus: —
Being actually the juste milieu, or a drab average, between the extreme statements of Black and White.
BUT to my personal experiences.
Like my fellow-mortals in fair Rosalind's catalogue, I have found Time to resemble both the Hare and the Tortoise, sometimes as fleet as the quadruped, at others as slow as the reptile in his race. Many bright and brief days recur to my memory when he flew past with the speed of a flying Childers, many dark and long ones, when he stepped as heavily and deliberately as the black horse before a hearse. All his divers paces are familiar to me — he has galloped, trotted, ambled, walked with me, and on one memorable occasion, seemed almost to stand stock-still. Never, O never can I forget the day-long seconds which made up those month-like minutes, which composed that interminable Hour—the longest in my whole life
“And pray, sir, how and when was that ?”
For the when, madam, to be particular, it was from half past nine to half past ten o'clock, A.M., on the First of May, new style, Anno Domini, 1822. For the how, you shall hear.
At the date just mentioned my residence was in the Adelphi, and having a strong partiality for the study of Natural History from living specimens, it suited both my convenience and my taste to drop in frequently at the menagerie at Exeter 'Change. These visits were generally paid at an early hour, before town or country cousins called to see the lions, and indeed it frequently happened that I found myself quite alone with the wild beasts. An annual guinea entitled me to go as often as agreeable, which happened so frequently, that the animals soon knew me by sight, whilst with some of them, for instance the elephant,” I obtained a friendly footing. Even Nero looked kindly on me, and the rest of the creatures did not eye me with the glances half shy and half savage which they threw at less familiar visitors. But there was one notable exception. The royal Bengal tiger could not or would not recognize me, but persisted in growling and scowling at me as a stranger, whom of course he longed to take in. Nevertheless there was a fascination in his terrible beauty, and even in his enmity, that often held me in front of his cage, enjoying the very impotence of his malice, and recalling various tragical tales of human victims mangled or devoured by such striped monsters as the one before me; and, as if the cunning brute penetrated my thoughts, he would rehearse as it were all the man-eating manoeuvres of the species: now creeping stealthily round his den, as if skulking through his native jungles, then crouching for the fatal spring, and anon bounding against the bars of his cage, with a short, angry roar, expressive of the most fiendish malignity. By the by, madam, did you ever hear of the doctrine of Instinctive Antipathies 2 “Yes, sir; and Mr. Lamb or Mr. Hazlitt quotes an instance of two strangers, who on meeting each other in the street immediately began to fight.” Well, madam, there seemed to be some such original antipathy between me and the tiger. At any rate he took a peculiar pleasure in my presence in ostentatiously parading his means of offence. Sometimes stretching out one huge muscular leg between the bars, he unsheathed and exhibited his tremendous claws, after which, with a devilish ogre-like