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Master Humphrey's Clock

Chapter 3
Master Humphrey's Visitor
WHEN I am in a thoughtful mood, I often succeed in diverting the current of some
mournful reflections, by conjuring up a number of fanciful associations with the
objects that surround me, and dwelling upon the scenes and characters they
suggest.
I have been led by this habit to assign to every room in my house and every old
staring portrait on its walls a separate interest of its own. Thus, I am persuaded
that a stately dame, terrible to behold in her rigid modesty, who hangs above the
chimney-piece of my bedroom, is the former lady of the mansion. In the courtyard
below is a stone face of surpassing ugliness, which I have somehow - in a kind of
jealousy, I am afraid - associated with her husband. Above my study is a little
room with ivy peeping through the lattice, from which I bring their daughter, a
lovely girl of eighteen or nineteen years of age, and dutiful in all respects save
one, that one being her devoted attachment to a young gentleman on the stairs,
whose grandmother (degraded to a disused laundry in the garden) piques herself
upon an old family quarrel, and is the implacable enemy of their love. With such
materials as these I work out many a little drama, whose chief merit is, that I can
bring it to a happy end at will. I have so many of them on hand, that if on my
return home one of these evenings I were to find some bluff old wight of two
centuries ago comfortably seated in my easy chair, and a lovelorn damsel vainly
appealing to his heart, and leaning her white arm upon my clock itself, I verily
believe I should only express my surprise that they had kept me waiting so long,
and never honoured me with a call before.
I was in such a mood as this, sitting in my garden yesterday morning under the
shade of a favourite tree, revelling in all the bloom and brightness about me, and
feeling every sense of hope and enjoyment quickened by this most beautiful
season of Spring, when my meditations were interrupted by the unexpected
appearance of my barber at the end of the walk, who I immediately saw was
coming towards me with a hasty step that betokened something remarkable.
My barber is at all times a very brisk, bustling, active little man, - for he is, as it
were, chubby all over, without being stout or unwieldy, - but yesterday his alacrity
was so very uncommon that it quite took me by surprise. For could I fail to
observe when he came up to me that his gray eyes were twinkling in a most
 
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