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A Night With The Crowned Heads
by [?]


It was a ferociously hot day at the beginning of the summer vac. I, as in duty bound, had been spending my first day as a well-conducted, newly broken-up schoolboy should.

Being fully impressed with the importance of combining self-improvement with all my recreations, I had been in the morning to the Zoo, where I had eaten buns with the elephant, cracked jokes and nuts with the monkeys, prodded the hippopotamus, got a rise out of the grizzly, made the lions roar, had a row with the chimpanzee, and generally enjoyed myself.

Then I had done the Tower. This only took ten minutes, as the place was horribly slow, and fellows looked after you wherever you went.

After that I had had a turn at the circus, to study the habits of the horse in a state of nature. I should have liked this more if the clown had not been such a muff. He wasn’t half up to his business, and consequently the place was not as improving as it ought to have been. So I shook off the dust of it from my feet, and, after laying some apples and other things aboard, took an omnibus to Madame Tussaud’s, where I knew I should see some fellows of my acquaintance, and be able to improve my mind in good company.

You must know I had pulled off the third history prize in our division last term, and therefore felt more or less friendly disposed to the kings and queens generally, and was even a little curious to see what they looked like, now that I was supposed to know more about them than most fellows do.

To tell the truth, although I had several times been to Madame Tussaud’s before, I had invariably cut these grand people and devoted myself to another part of the establishment, which boys are usually supposed to understand better. Even on the present occasion it was necessary to pay a visit to those regions, since several celebrated historical figures were kept down there, which I felt I must on no account miss seeing.

But after I had thoroughly explored that portion, making the acquaintance of all the new-comers, putting my head into the guillotine, taking a turn in the condemned cell, sitting in Napoleon’s carriage, and otherwise informing myself concerning the seamy side of human nature, I determined to be virtuous and devote at least half an hour to the study of the royalties in the Great Hall.

The enterprise was not to be undertaken without refreshment. I therefore took a preliminary excursion to the ground floor, where the historical costumes are kept, and, close beside them, the ices, buns, Victoria sandwiches, ginger-beer, Turkish delight, lemon squashes, and other wholesome aids to historical research. Here I dallied a little– just long enough to repair the ravages of nature–and then, feeling very much as Little Jack Horner did after he had partaken of refreshment, I mounted once more the marble stairs and set myself to do the crowned heads.

I set myself literally, for it occurred to me I could do their Majesties just as well sitting as standing. And, as the afternoon was hot, and the sofa near the door was comfortable, and as, moreover, I was slightly oppressed with my study of the costumes downstairs, and considerably soothed by the strains of Madame Tussaud’s orchestra, it so fell out that, just as I was nodding how-do-you-do to William the Conqueror, I dropped asleep.

How long I slept I must leave it to those of my readers who have come through the same exertions of mind and body to guess. I had never intended to exceed a short forty winks, because I was aware that only half an hour was left before the time for closing arrived. But when I awoke it was with a start, to find that the place was silent, dark, and deserted. The music had gone, the shuffling of footsteps on the stairs had ceased, the hum of voices had died away. All was so quiet that my own breathing sounded loud and noisy.