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would be free to go about its business in a fortnight. In the next compartment was a hat with feathers, and in the next, and the next four-all as much alike in style as doubtless their owners were in character. Such, at least, might be inferred from their sentence of durance, which in each case was four months.
Then came a very remarkable bonnet—a gaunt, rawboned, iron grey straw, of parochial breed. It was such an enormous bonnet, and the bundle it accompanied was so diminutive in size, that the former was not perched atop of the latter as in the other cases; indeed, unless it had been proficient in the art of balancing itself on its front rim, it would have found the feat impossible. It straddled over its bundle, which was partly lost within its iron grey jaws, as though bent on swallowing it. How the workhouse bonnet came there I did not inquire, nor did I ask for how long its lodgings had been engaged, or of what crime it had been guilty. Perhaps it was for “making away” with a portion of its clothing—the diminutive size of the bundle certainly favoured this supposition, and getting drunk with the money. This, however, must be said, that it looked much more abashed at its degrading position than many of its sisters there; and one could not help hoping that the wizened old face it had been accustomed to overshadow would soon be restored to it, and convey it out of that shameful place.
In some of the nests I observed that there were two bonnets, and when this was the case it happened pretty often that they were exactly alike. Here were a pair of the sort—of French grey velvet, trimmed luxuriantly with green grapes and the foliage of the vine. They were slightly the worse for wear, and battered in at the crowns, which had a pulpy look, as from constant battering. At a glance one might perceive the class to which they belonged—the night-prowling, tavern-frequenting class, so well known to the police that a tremendous amount of daring and dexterity on the part of its members is required to enable them to “pick up” enough to procure gin and finery. They are thieves, of course, and they hunt in couples. The two grey bonnets were a pair, the tickets pinned to them showing that they had been convicted on the same day for the same term. Knowing that both bonnets and bundles will be required on the same day three months hence, they are thus conveniently kept together by the prison authorities. So surely as the warder at the gate has to let them out, so surely will he, a month or so afterwards, let them in again, and the bonnets will be once more stowed away, while the women, in a perfectly free and easy manner, will take to the serge gowns and calico caps, and make themselves at home. Indeed, creatures of this class—and at Westminster House of Correction alone they may be reckoned in scores—appear to regard the prison as their proper home, and their freedom as a mere "going out for a spree,” which may be long or short, according to luck.
A remarkable feature of this prisoners' wardrobe is, that the more magnificent the bonnet the smaller the accompanying bundle—a fact which tells most eloquently what a wretched trade these women follow, and how truly the majority of them are styled “unfortunate.” I am informed that nothing is more common than for these poor creatures to be found wearing a gaudy hat and feather and a fashionably made skirt and jacket of some cheap and flashy material, and nothing besides in the way of under-garments but a few tattered rags that a professional beggar would despise.
And these are the habiliments in which, on bitter cold winter nights, they saunter the pavements, and try to look like “gay women.” Gay! with their wretchedly thin shoes soaking in the mud, and their ill-clad limbs aching with cold, until they can get enough to drown sense and memory in gin. Gay, with their heart aching and utterly forlorn, and hopeless, and miserable, homeless, companionless, ragged and wretchedly clad except for the outer finery without which they could no more pursue their deplorable calling than an angler could fish without bait-is it surprising that they drink until they are drunk, or that they steal when money to supply their desperate needs can be obtained in no other way? It may be love of finery that in the first instance lures hundreds of girls from the path of virtue; but it is altogether a mistake to suppose that, despised and outcast, they are still content because they wear many flounces on their gowns, and flowers and feathers on their heads. They would reform if they could reform. They hate the life they lead, they hate themselves, and so they go from bad to worse; and the temporary deposit of these bonnets in the prison clothesroom finishes with their leaping a bridge in the delusive gay garb, or carrying it away with them to some distant convict station.
A “SLY HOUSE” ON SUNDAY.
THERE was nothing in the least attractive about it : and unless the attention had been particularly directed towards it, as mine had been, you might have passed up and down the shabby little Whitechapel back street in which it was situated, and observed in it nothing in the least remarkable.
It was just an ordinary barber's shop, the front parlour of one of a row of small houses, with a striped pole jutting out above the doorway, and a window board, on which was innocently inscribed, “Shaving id; hair cut 2d.” By the side of the board was a glass bottle, containing some amber-coloured fluid, stopped with a tin funnel instead of a cork, and bearing about its neck a label intimating “ Hair oil in ha'porths and pen'orths.” Nothing else. If the barber was a professor, he was too modest to parade the distinction. If he was the inventor or vendor of any miraculous preparation, either for banishing grey hair or for promoting early whiskers on the cheek of ambitious youth, there were no outward signs of his enjoying so valuable a possession. Yet the extent of his trade was wonderful. It was Sunday morning, and the church bells, which had just commenced ringing, denoted the time of day to be eleven o'clock; but it was evident that very many of the residents of Little Swallow Street and its neighbourhood were not even shaved yet.
It was curious to note how undecided many of those for whom the striped pole served as a beacon appeared to be as to whether they should be shaved or not. They would shamble leisurely down little Swallow Street in twos and threes, and when they reached the barber's they would pause and look left and right, pass their hand musingly over their stubbly chins, and then turn swiftly in at the little door, as though acting on the well-considered conviction that it was, after all, the best thing to do.
I went in with the rest. I had not the courage to be shaved. I had previously witnessed the operation in similar establishments, and had a sickening dread of that shaving-brush, like nothing so much in size and texture as two or three tufts plucked from an ordinary half-worn hearth-broom. I must confess to a rooted antipathy for the soap-bowl and the soap contained in it-bristling as both were with spiky atoms of men's beards, red, brown, and grey, to an extent which suggested the idea that they had been plentifully sprinkled with baker's raspings. I felt that I dare not be shaved, so I had resolved to have my hair cut-just the ends taken off. There were forms and chairs for the barber's customers to sit on, and these they occupied with fair regard for the “next turn."
There were so many customers awaiting their next turn that the front parlour was unequal to their accommodation, and they had brimmed over into the backparlour, which was the barber's bed-chamber as well as his living-room. This, however, was an advantage rather than otherwise, because the turn-up bedstead, for the occasion turned down, served as a seat for eight or ten of us. It was an uncomfortable, frowsy little den; the barber's two little children and the baby were squal