Зображення сторінки

“My name is John Galloper,” remarked the redhaired boy, before he was asked the question, and folding his hands behind him, after the fashion of good little boys, when repeating a catechism lesson.

“And how do you get a living, John ?”. "You don't want to hear no lies, mister.” “ Certainly not.”

“Then I don't get a living at all; I lets the living get itself.”

“But you must either provide for yourself or somebody provides for you; which is it?”

“It's a kind of mixshure of both, I suppose," returned John Galloper, with a laugh, and, after a little reflection, “it comes somehow; I don't trouble myself.”

“How old are you ?".

“Older than you might think," answered John Galloper, with the wink of a middle-aged horse dealer ; “I am thirteen last birthday.”

“And you do no work?”
"I ain't above a job, if I tumble across it.”
“Sometimes you beg?”
“ Per’aps you might call it beggin'.”
“Sometimes you steal ?”

“Oh! come, yer know, you're a-comin' it a little too hot now. It's a mixshure. I tell you you'd better call it a mixshure, and say no more about it. What's the job you brought me here to do, guv'ner ?”

"Wait a little : where do you live ?”

"I don't live anywheres. I ony lodges in Golden-lane --sometimes at the Nussery,' sometimes at Dunn's." "Have you a father or a mother ?"

"I d’n know ; I hain't been to see this year and more. They don't care nothing about me, and I don't want 'em to.”

"I tell you what, my young friend, it seems to me that unless you alter your ways there can be little doubt as to what the end of all this will be.”

John Galloper broke off a bit from the purloined crust in his pocket, and calmly masticated it as he looked up to the ceiling.

"You'll become a convict, and sent to drudge in misery to the end of your life in some stone quarry."

“Ah, all right,” said John Galloper, evidently growing restless; “ we'll see about that when we gets there. What's the job, master ?”

“I didn't bring you here to preach to you, but I must tell you it is terribly distressing to find a little lad like you so reckless as to what becomes of him. If you could seriously

"Oh, that's enough of that. Don't you fret about me, mister; I knows my way about. Now, what's the job ?”

There was no use in further talking, and so the "job". was at an end, very much to Mr John Galloper's amazement when I announced the fact. So I gave them a shilling each, and let them go back to the mire where I had found them. I don't know if it was the effect of the cheese of which with my young friends I had partaken, or whether it was the influence of their strange company, but that night I lay much awake, thinking of poor Billy Taggs bemoaning the worry of cats as he tumbled and tossed in the friendly baker's barrow, and of the pale little fusee-boy, tucked as warmly as may be in his wretched bed by his little hunchback sister, and dreaming of the genius of the coffee-pot, and of desperately wicked young John Galloper, and of what, one of these days, would inevitably come out of his pernicious "mixshure.”


OUT-DINNING the din of the Whitecross-street Sunday morning market, the sound of a bell was heard distinctly —not the measured chiming of a church bell, not the peremptory clatter of a factory bell, but a fitful and uncertain ringing, now loud and hasty, and urgent, like a fire bell ; now slow and laboured, like the ringing of a bell-buoy at sea.

A gentleman in the baked-potato interest, however, to whom I applied for information on the subject, ruthlessly stripped the bell of everything in the shape of romance.

" It is the Costers' Misshun bell,” said he. “And whereabouts is the Costers' Mission ?" I asked.

“ That's it over there,” said he, pointing towards a tall building in the distance that towered above the houses. “Go down Golden-lane and turn up Hartshorn-court, and you'll come at it if you wants to.”

I had no previous intention of "coming at” the building in question, but as soon as my attention, was fairly directed to it, the idea immediately occurred to me, What a wonderfully fine view of this curious neighbourhood might be obtained from the flat of its tall roof?

Half an hour afterwards, thanks to the excellent gentleman to whom the Costermongers' Mission House owes its existence, I had mounted to the topmost storey, and stood on the snow-covered leads looking down.

There was the bell that had excited my curiosity, and at a glance was revealed to me the secret of its erratic

behaviour. It is a large and handsome bell, but the way in which it is set ringing is singularly of a piece with the make-the-best-of-things-as-we-find-them system that prevails throughout the whole establishment. It is not hung after the orthodox fashion. It is humbly gibbeted on a rough-and-ready arrangement of wood and iron, and in season two boys of the school, who by their exemplary behaviour have earned the glorious privilege, ascend to the roof and swing the bell to and fro while its great clapper bangs against its brazen sides.

Golden-lane, seen in looking down from an elevation of eighty feet or so, is very different from Golden-lane viewed from the pavement. In the latter case all that may be seen is the bare lane itself, and let the explorer beware that he uses his eyes not too diligently in this beyond compare the very ugliest neighbourhood in London—in all England. I know something of the "shady” parts of London and its environs. Spitalfields is very bad. Probably, in the event of a ruffian show, Flower and Dean-street, and Keate-street could produce specimens that would leave all other competitors far behind ; but Spitalfields produces only ruffians of a certain type. Mint-street and Kent-street-those old plague-spots that disgrace and disfigure the fair face of the Borough of Southwark—teem with blackguardism and vice; but here, too, you find that the birds who here flock are strictly of a feather. Cow-cross, again, is a terrible place; but it is chiefly the hideous habitations and the extreme destitution of the inhabitants that make it so.

Golden-lane, however, with its countless courts and alleys, left and right, may truthfully boast of exhibiting each and every one of the objectionable characteristics above enumerated. Its thieves are the most desperate

and daring in the world; it is rich in examples of that even more dangerous scoundrel, the “rough.” Annually it yields its crop of coiners and smashers; it is the recognised head-quarters of beggars and cadgers ; while, as for costermongers, they must be three thousand strong at the very least. It is the “slummiest” of slums. There are China-yard, Cowheel-alley, Blackboy-court, Little Cheapside, Hotwater-court, and many a dozen besides, and as quaintly named, nestling closely about the feet of the gaunt and exteriorly uncomfortable - looking Costermongers' Mission House-originally intended for a model lodging-house ; whose tall head and high shoulders of raw bricks rear high above the houses, by comparison dwarfing them to the dimensions of pig-sties and rabbit-hutches—hutches which such elegant bucks and does as are exhibited at fancy shows would erect their silken ears in horror to behold.

Awful places! As far as the eye may reach—not very far, for high up as the roof of the Golden-lane building may be, the supply of pestilent mist from below is constant and steady-east, west, north, and south, is to be seen nothing but an intricate network of zig-zag cracks, chinks, and crevices, which really are courts and alleys threading among houses teeming with busy life, making it look as though what was once a solid block had been worm-eaten and burrowed and undermined like a rotten old cheese, and were now falling to pieces in misshapen ugly lumps.

The life that stirs in these black crooked lanes, not wider than the length of a walking-stick, scarcely seems human. Creatures that you know to be female by the length and raggedness of hair that makes their heads hideous, and by their high-pitched voices, with bare red arms, and their bodies bundled in a complica

« НазадПродовжити »