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When the mystic midnight passes, the bustle of Fleet Street slackens; but on each side of the thoroughfare hundreds of workers with hand and brain are toiling with eager intensity. In tall buildings here and there the lights glitter on every floor, and throw their long shafts through the gloom; not much activity is plainly visible, and yet somehow the merest novice feels that there is a throb in the air, and that some mysterious forces are working around him. Hurrying messengers dash by, stray cabs rush along with a low rumble and sharp clash of hoofs. But it is not in the street that the minds and bodies of men are obviously in action; go inside one of the mighty palatial offices, and you find yourself in the midst of such a hive of marvellous industry as the world has never seen before. On one journal as many as four hundred and fifty or five hundred men are all labouring for dear life; every one is at high pressure, from the silent leader-writer to the fussy swift-footed messenger. In that one building is concentrated a great estate, which yields a revenue that exceeds that of some principalities; it is a large nerve-centre, and myriads of fibres connect it with every part of the globe; or, say, it is like some miraculous eye, which sees in all directions and is indifferent to distance. Go into one quiet, soft-carpeted room, and certain small glittering machines flash in the bright light. “Click, click–click, click!”–long strips of tape are softly unwound and fall in slack twisted piles. One of those machines is printing off a long letter from Berlin, another is registering news from Vienna, and by a third news from Paris comes as easily and rapidly as from Shoreditch; subdued men take the tapes, expand and make fluent the curt, halting phrases of the foreign correspondents, and pass the messages swiftly away to the printers. From America, Australia, India, China, the items of news pour in, and are scrutinised by severe sub-editors; and those experts calculate to a fraction of an inch what space can be judiciously spared for each item. If Parliament is sitting, the relays of messengers arrive with batches of manuscript; and, when an important debate is proceeding, the steady influx of hundreds of scribbled sheets is enormous. A four hours’ speech from such an orator as Mr. Gladstone or Mr. Chamberlain contains, say, thirty thousand words. Imagine the area of paper covered by the reporters! But such a speech would rarely come in late at night, and the men can usually handle an important oration by an eminent speaker in a way that is leisurely by comparison. The slips are distributed with lightning rapidity; each man puts his little batch into type, the fragments are placed in their queer frame, and presently the readers are poring over the long, damp, and odorous proof-sheets. There is no very great hurry in the early part of the evening; but, as the small hours wear away, the strain is feverish in its poignancy. There is no noise, no confusion; each man knows his office, and fulfils it deftly. But such great issues are involved, that the nervousness of managers, printers, sub-editors–every one–may easily be understood. Suppose that a very important division is to be taken in Parliament; the minutes roll by, and the news is still delayed. Some kind of comment must be made on the result of the debate, and an able, swift writer scrawls off his column of phrases with furious speed. Then that article must be put into type; a model of the type must be taken on a sheet of papier-mache, the melted metal must be poured into the paper mould, the resulting curved block must be clamped on to a cylinder of the waiting machine, and all this must be done with strict regard to the value of seconds. A delay of half a minute might prevent the manager from sending his piles of journals away by the early train, and that would be a calamity too fearful to be dreamed of. In one great newspaper-office ten machines are all set going together, and an eleventh is kept ready in case of accident. The ten whizzing cylinders print off the papers, and an impression of a quarter of a million is soon thrown out, folded, and piled ready for distribution. But imagine what a loss of one minute means! Truly the agitation of the officials at an awkward pinch is singularly excusable, and many a hard word is levelled at pertinacious talkers who insist on thrusting themselves upon the House at a time when the country is waiting with wild eagerness for momentous tidings. The long line of carts waits in the street, the speedy ponies rattle off, and soon the immense building is all but still. Comfortable people who have their journal punctually handed in at a convenient hour in the morning are apt to think lightly of the raging effort, the inconceivably complicated organisation, the colossal expense needed to produce that sheet which is flung away at the close of each day. A blunder of the most trivial kind might throw everything out of gear; but stern discipline and ubiquitous precaution render the blunder almost an impossibility. Sometimes you may observe in a paper like the Times one column which bristles with typographical errors. All the slips are clustered in one place, and the reason is that the few minutes necessary for proper revision could not be spared. Good workmen are set on at the last moment, and an attempt is made to set up the final scraps of matter with as few errors as possible; but little mistakes will creep in, and people who do not know the startling exigencies of the printer’s trade are apt to express scornful wonder. Very comic have been the errors made during the recent furious and prolonged debates, for the frantic conflicts in the House were extended far into the small hours. One excited orator, in closing a debate, dropped into poetry, and remarked that a certain catastrophe came “like a bolt from the blue”; a daily journal of vast circulation described the event as coming “like a bolt from the flue”–which was a very sad instance of bathos. The amazing thing is that such blunders should be so rare as to be memorable.