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While one visitor was poring over these
documents, the other deliberately watched
the coloured envelopes. They were, with
about 2000 other General Post letters, put
into boxes and taken to the tunnel to be
conveyed into the Inland Office upon a horizontal
band worked by a wheel. The two friends
now took leave of the District Department
to follow the objects of their pursuit.

It was a quarter before six o'clock when
they crossed the Hallsix being the latest
hour at which newspapers can be posted
without fee.

It was then just drizzling newspapers.
The great window of that department being
thrown open, the first black fringe of a
thunder-cloud of newspapers impending over
the Post-Office was discharging itself fitfully
now in large drops, now in little; now in
sudden plumps, now stopping altogether. By
degrees it began to rain hard; by fast degrees
the storm came on harder and harder, until
it blew, rained, hailed, snowed, newspapers.
A fountain of newspapers played in at the
window. Water-spouts of newspapers broke
from enormous sacks, and engulphed the men
inside. A prodigious main of newspapers, at
the Newspaper River Head, seemed to be
turned on, threatening destruction to the
miserable Post-Office. The Post-Office was so
full already, that the window foamed at the
mouth with newspapers. Newspapers flew
out like froth, and were tumbled in again
by the bystanders. All the boys in London
seemed to have gone mad, and to be besieging
the Post-Office with newspapers. Now and
then there was a girl; now and then a
woman; now and then a weak old man: but
as the minute hand of the clock crept near to
six, such a torrent of boys, and such a torrent
of newspapers came tumbling in together pell-
mell, head over heels, one above another, that
the giddy head looking on chiefly wondered
why the boys springing over one another's
heads, and flying the garter into the
Post-Office with the enthusiasm of the corps of
acrobats at M. Franconi's, didn't post
themselves nightly, along with the newspapers, and
get delivered all over the world.

Suddenly it struck six. Shut Sesame!
Perfectly still weather. Nobody there. No
token of the late stormNot a soul, too late!

But what a chaos within! Men up to
their knees in newspapers on great platforms;
men gardening among newspapers with
rakes; men digging and delving among
newspapers as if a new description of rock
had been blasted into those fragments; men
going up and down a gigantic trapan ascending
and descending-room worked by a steam-
enginestill taking with them nothing but
newspapers! All the history of the time, all
the chronicled births, deaths, and marriages,
all the crimes, all the accidents, all the
vanities, all the changes, all the realities, of
all the civilised earth, heaped up, parcelled
out, carried about, knocked down, cut, shuffled,
dealt, played, gathered up again, and passed
from hand to hand, in an apparently
interminable and hopeless confusion, but really in
a system of admirable order, certainty, and
simplicity, pursued six nights every week, all
through the rolling year! Which of us,
after this, shall find fault with the rather
more extensive system of good and evil, when
we don't quite understand it at a glance; or
set the stars right in their spheres?

The friends were informed that 70,000,000
newspapers pass through all the post-offices
every year. Upwards of 80,000,000
newspaper-stamps are distributed annually from
the Stamp-Office; but most of the London
papers are conveyed into the country by early
trains. On the other hand, frequently the
same paper passes through the post several
times, which accounts for the small excess of
10,000,000 stamps issued over papers posted.
In weight, 187 tons of paper and print pass
up and down the ingenious ' lift ' every week,
and thence to the uttermost corners of the
earthfrom Blackfriars to Botany Bay, from
the Strand to Chusan.

As to the rooms, revealed through gratings
in the well, traversed by the ascending and
descending-room, and walked in by the
visitors afterwards,—those enormous chambers,
each with its hundreds of sorters busy over
their hundreds of thousands of letters
those dispatching places of a business that has
the look of being eternal and never to be
disposed of or cleared awaythose silent
receptacles of countless millions of passionate
words, for ever pouring through them like a
Niagara of language, and leaving not a drop
behindwhat description could present them?
But when a sorter goes home from these
places to his bed, does he dream of letters?
When he has a fever (sorters must have fevers
sometimes) does he never find the Welch
letters getting into the Scotch divisions, and
the London letters going to Jericho? When
he gets a glass too much, does he see no
double letters mis-sorting themselves
unaccountably? When he is very ill, do no
dead letters stare him in the face? And
yonder dark, mysterious, ground-glass balcony
high up in the wall, not unlike a church
organ without the pipesthe screen from
whence an unseen eye watches the sorters
who are listening to temptationwhen he
has a nightmare, does he never dream of that?

Then that enormous table upon which the
public shoot their letters through the window-
slitsdo the four men who sit at it never
fancy themselves playing at whist, gathering
up an enormous pack of red aces, with here
and there a many-hued Valentine to stand for
a Court card? Their duty is termed ' facing,'
or turning the ace-like seals downwards,'
ready for stamping.

The system of stamping, sorting, and
arranging, is precisely similar to that in the
District Branch, and by his recently acquired
knowledge of it, the person who posted the

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