It happened thus:
I had just received my quarter’s allowance of pocket-money, and had gone into the city to cash the cheque at my father’s bankers.
The money paid, I debated for a moment how I should return homewards. First I thought of walking: then of taking a cab. While I was considering this frivolous point, an omnibus passed me, going westward. In the idle impulse of the moment, I hailed it, and got in.
It was something more than an idle impulse though. If I had at that time no other qualification for the literary career on which I was entering, I certainly had this one—an aptitude for discovering points of character in others: and its natural result, an unfailing delight in studying characters of all kinds, wherever I could meet with them.
I had often before ridden in omnibuses to amuse myself by observing the passengers. An omnibus has always appeared to me, to be a perambulatory exhibition-room of the eccentricities of human nature. I know not any other sphere in which persons of all classes and all temperaments are so oddly collected together, and so immediately contrasted and confronted with each other. To watch merely the different methods of getting into the vehicle, and taking their seats, adopted by different people, is to study no incomplete commentary on the infinitesimal varieties of human character—as various even as the varieties of the human face.
Thus, in addition to the idle impulse, there was the idea of amusement in my thoughts, as I stopped the public vehicle, and added one to the number of the conductor’s passengers.
There were five persons in the omnibus when I entered it. Two middle-aged ladies, dressed with amazing splendour in silks and satins, wearing straw-coloured kid gloves, and carrying highly-scented pocket handkerchiefs, sat apart at the end of the vehicle; trying to look as if they occupied it under protest, and preserving the most stately gravity and silence. They evidently felt that their magnificent outward adornments were exhibited in a very unworthy locality, and among a very uncongenial company.
One side, close to the door, was occupied by a lean, withered old man, very shabbily dressed in black, who sat eternally mumbling something between his toothless jaws. Occasionally, to the evident disgust of the genteel ladies, he wiped his bald head and wrinkled forehead with a ragged blue cotton handkerchief, which he kept in the crown of his hat.
Opposite to this ancient sat a dignified gentleman and a sickly vacant-looking little girl. Every event of that day is so indelibly marked on my memory, that I remember, not only this man’s pompous look and manner, but even the words he addressed to the poor squalid little creature by his side. When I entered the omnibus, he was telling her in a loud voice how she ought to dispose of her frock