The Old Year was fast nearing its close, the night was clear and starry, and Father Time, from the top of his observatory tower, was taking a last look round.
To him entered, unannounced save by the staccato yap of the faithful Tobias, Time's unfailing friend, unerring Mentor, and immortal contemporary, Mr. Punch.
"I am not for an age, but for All Time," freely quoted the Swan's sole parallel. "And very much at Time's service," he added, throwing open his fur-lined "Immensikoff," and lighting a cigar at the Scythe-bearer's lantern.
"Happy to meet you once more, Mr. Punch," responded old Edax Rerum, turning from what the poet calls his 'Optic Tube' to welcome his sprightly visitor. "Awfully good of you to turn up just now. Like True THOMAS's Teufelsdröckh, 'I am alone with the Stars,' and was beginning to feel just a little bit lonely."
"With the Voces Stellarum to keep you company? You surprise me," said Mr. Punch. "But what is all this?" he added, pointing with accustomed eye to a pile of MS. at TIME's elbow.
If so old a stager as Father TIME can blush, he certainly did so on this occasion.
"Fact is, Mr. Punch," he rejoined, "I, like younger and shall I say lesser Celebrities, have been writing my 'Reminiscences.' Ha ha! The Chronicles of Chronos in 6,000 volumes or so—up to now. This is a small portion of my Magnum Opus. Can you recommend me to a publisher?"
"Ask my friend Archdeacon FARRAR," responded the Sage, drily. "What a work! And what a sensation! TALLEYRAND's long-talked-of 'Memoirs' not in it! Do you know, my dear TIME, I think you had better postpone the publication—for an æon or so at least. Your Magnum Opus might become a Scandalum Magnatum."
"Ah, perhaps so," replied TIME, with a sigh.
"Alone with the Stars," pursued Mr. Punch, meditatively. "Humph! The Solar System alone ought to provide you with plenty of company."
"Yes." responded TIME, "but, after all, you know, telescopic intercourse is not entirely satisfactory. Like EDGAR POE's Hans Pfaal, I feel I should like to come to closer quarters with the 'heavenly bodies' as the pedagogues call them."
"And why not?" queried Mr. Punch, coolly.
"As how?" asked his companion.
"TIME, my boy" laughed the Sage, "you seem a bit behind yourself. Listen! 'Mr. EDISON is prosecuting an experiment designed to catch and record the sounds made in the sun's photosphere when solar spots are formed by eruptions beneath the surface.' Have you not read the latest of the Edisoniana?"
TIME admitted he had not.
"TIME, you rogue, you love to get
Sweets upon your list—put that in,"
quoted the Sage. "Something piquant for the 6001st Vol. of your Chronicles. But, after all, what is EDISON compared with Me? If you really wish for a turn round the Solar System, a peregrination of the Planets, put aside that antiquated spy-glass of yours and come with Me!"
And, "taking TIME by the forelock," in a very real sense, the Sage of Fleet Street rose with him like a Brock rocket, high, and swift, and light-compelling, into the star-spangled vault of heaven....