The office of the Statesman daily journal was not popular with the neighbours, although its existence unquestionably caused a diminution of rent in its immediate proximity. It was very difficult to find--which was an immense advantage to those connected with it, as no one had any right there but the affiliated; and strangers burning to express their views or to resent imaginary imputations cast upon them had plenty of time to cool down while they wandered about the adjacent lanes in vain quest of their object. If you had business there, and were not thoroughly acquainted with the way, your best plan was to take a sandwich in your pocket, to prepare for an afternoon's campaign, and then to turn to the right out of Fleet Street, down any street leading to the river, and to wander about until you quite unexpectedly came upon your destination. There you found it, a queer, dumpy, black-looking old building,--like a warehouse that had been sat upon and compressed,--nestling down in a quaint little dreary square, surrounded by the halls of Worshipful Companies which had never been heard of save by their own Liverymen, and large churches with an average congregation of nine, standing mildewed and blue-mouldy, with damp voters'-notices peeling off their doors, and green streaks down the stuccoed heads of the angels and cherubim supporting the dripping arch over the porch, in little dank reeking churchyards, where the rank grass overtopped the broken tombstones, and stuck nodding out through the dilapidated railing.
The windows were filthy with the stains of a thousand showers; the paint had blistered and peeled off the heavy old door, and round the gaping chasm of the letter-box; and in the daytime the place looked woebegone and deserted. Nobody came there till about two in the afternoon, when three or four quiet-looking gentlemen would drop in one by one, and after remaining an hour or two, depart as they had come. But at night the old house woke up with a roar; its windows blazed with light; its old sides echoed to the creaking throes of a huge steam-engine; its querulous bell was perpetually being tugged; boys in paper caps and smeary faces and shirt-sleeves were perpetually issuing from its portals, and returning, now with fluttering slips of paper, now with bibulous refreshment. Messengers from the Electric Telegraph Companies were there about every half-hour; and cabs that had dashed up with a stout gentleman in spectacles dashed away with a slim gentleman in a white hat, returning with a little man in a red beard, and flying off with the stout gentleman again. Blinds were down all round the neighbourhood; porters of the Worshipful Companies, sextons of the congregationless churches, agents for printing-ink and Cumberland black-lead, wood-engravers, box-block sellers, and the proprietors of the Never-say-die or Health-restoring Drops, who held the corner premises,--were all sleeping the sleep of the just, or at least doing the best they could towards it, in spite of the reverberation of the steam-engine at the office of theStatesman daily journal.