of his life; he allows himself twenty minutes for
shaving and dressing; fifteen for breakfasting, in
which time he eats two slices of toast, drinks two
cups of coffee, and swallows two eggs boiled for two
and a half minutes by an infallible chronometer.
After breakfast he reads the newspaper, but lays it
down in the very heart and pith of a clever article
on his own side of the question, the moment his time
is up. He has even been known to leave the theatre
at the very moment of the denouement
of a deeply-interesting
play rather than exceed his limited hour by five minutes.
He will be out of temper all day, if he does not find
his hat on its proper nail and his cane in its allotted
corner. He chooses a particular walk, where he
may take his prescribed number of turns without interruption,
for he would prefer suffering a serious inconvenience
rather than be obliged to quicken or slacken his pace
to suit the speed of a friend who might join him.
My uncle Simon was a character of this cast.
I could take it on my conscience to assert that, every
night for the forty years preceding his death, he had
one foot in the bed on the first stroke of 11 o’clock,
and just as the last chime had tolled, that he was
enveloped in the blankets to his chin. I have
known him discharge a servant because his slippers
were placed by his bed-side for contrary feet; and
I have won a wager by betting that he would turn the
corner of a certain street at precisely three minutes
before ten in the morning. My uncle used to frequent
a club in the City, of which he had become the oracle.
Precisely at eight o’clock he entered the room—took
his seat in a leather-backed easy chair in a particular
corner—read a certain favourite journal—drank
two glasses of rum toddy—smoked four pipes—and
was always in the act of putting his right arm into
the sleeve of his great-coat, to return home, as the
clock struck ten. The cause of my uncle’s
death was as singular as his life was whimsical.
He went one night to the club, and was surprised to
find his seat occupied by a tall dark-browed man,
who smoked a meerschaum
of prodigious size in
solemn silence. Numerous hints were thrown out
to the stranger that the seat had by prescriptive
right and ancient custom become the property of my
uncle; he either did not or would not understand them,
and continued to keep his possession of the leather-backed
chair with the most imperturbable sang-froid
My uncle in despair took another seat, and endeavoured
to appear as if nothing had occurred to disturb him,—but
he could not dissimulate. He was pierced to the
[Illustration: “I SAW THE IRON ENTER HIS
My uncle left the club half-an-hour before his time;
he returned home—went to bed without winding
his watch—and the next morning he was found
lifeless in his bed.
* * * *
PUNCH’S POLITICAL ECONOMY.