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which those engaged set about the mission makes it appear so. I had a fair opportunity of observing the process from the very beginning. At the corner of a widish street there was an individual, of repulsive aspect, offering for sale the last published number of a delectable illustrated publication, and holding forth, with a degree of warmth that should have earned him three months at the treadmill, on the spirited illustrations with which that literary venture is adorned. Here was a foeman worthy of their steel, and the street preachers advanced with a firm step and at a rapid pace, within six yards of the man who was shouting, “Who'll have another spicy ’un ? Beauty's hunadorned for a penny!”
The standard-bearer halted and planted his standard firmly between the cobble-stones. It was eight feet high at least, the material being jappanned table-covering, and on it was inscribed an appropriate scriptural motto. The preaching force was not strong. It consisted indeed of the custodian of the banner, a preacher, and a person with some books, who had charge of the preacher's hat. One would have thought that, under the circumstances, gentle remonstrance and persuasion would have been the method adopted by the well-meaning pastor of the highway; but, to my amazement, he affected the opposite extreme. He lost not a moment in shilly-shally, but seized Satan by the horns at once, and commenced abusing him in a tone and at a rate which must at once have convinced the Evil One that he was now in the hands of a person who not only had no dread of him, but was hot and eager to rouse him to fury, and then give him battle to the death.
The preacher was a short thickset man, with shortcropped hair, and no shirt-collar, and his coat was buttoned over his breast. His gestures were prodigiously
energetic, and the consequence was, that before he had preached ten minutes he had worked his wrists well through his coat-cuffs—wrists of a size that matched well with his ponderous fists, which, except when engaged with the prayer-book, were tightly clenched. Evidently he was by no means new to the good work, and experience had taught him the most profitable manner of performing it; but to one unaccustomed to this way of conveying to the incredulous and unbelieving the meek and pacific doctrines of Christ, the spectacle was startling. He was not long in disposing of the illustrated paper man at all events. The latter, after a volley or two of the choicest Billingsgate, finding that his audience thinned, dismounted from his stool, and beat a retreat, which was the means of securing to the preacher quite a numerous congregation.
It was little short of marvellous how those about him bore the stinging castigation he administered, and the hard terms he applied to them. They were poor purblind fools not to see the advantages of religion ; they were robbers, insomuch as they filched the day of rest, and turned it to their own vile purposes; they were cowards, for they were afraid of offending the devil. I don't say that as a rule the hundred or so gathered about were deeply impressed, or that any listener's pipe was put out or his appetite spoiled for the nuts or winkles on which he happened to be engaged when he strolled up. But this much may be said, and it is not a little—not one of that rough and uncouth assembly opened his mouth in sneering or in wrath; not one raised his hand to ward off or resent the severe pummelling of which he was metaphorically the victim. From this point of view the preacher of the street may lay claim to having achieved a victory, and he has my very best wishes.
The instance above recited was not the only one furnished by Hare Street, shewing the courageous determination of a worthy, and, I am afraid, ill-requited few, to win the Sabbath breaker from his wicked ways. About midway in this street of evil repute there is what was at one time a shabby little music hall, attached to an uninviting-looking low public house, known as the Apollo. For some reason or other the Apollo has lost its licence; but, so far as outward appearance goes, it is still a public house. There are legends of “cordial gin” and “fine vatted rum” still to be read, and the publican's name still adorns the portal; the doors, battered and greased by drunken shoulders, were half open, and only for one unusual feature the place might still have been an ordinary public house of the slums, doing a bit of sly business on a Sunday morning. The unusual feature was a written placard on the door-post, announcing that Mrs Someone of Liverpool would preach in the hall that morning; and even as I read, there came from the rear of the premises the sweet sound of voices uniting in a hymn.
I went in, past the bar that was ruinous, past the parlour in which Hare Street heroes were wont to roar their praises of brown beer, but in which now the hats and cloaks and umbrellas of the pious congregation found temporary harbourage. The hall itself—the music hall
-presented a striking spectacle. It was never adapted for a daylight congregation, and, broad, sunny noon as it was, three or four of the flashy little chandeliers overhead were lit ; the sickly unseasonable gas illuminating in ghostly fashion the cobwebs and grime in which the disused glass pendants were enveloped. There were the narrow seats and the ledges in front, just as they were last ringed and smeared by the gin-and-water and half
and-half measures, but on them prayer and hymn books now rested.
On the stage, still looked down on by two Shoreditch cupids, was a table—the very table, probably, which that excellent delineator of Negro eccentricities, “Pumpkin Squash,” in the rattling old times when the Apollo was the Apollo, used to whack with his umbrella during his far-famed stump-oration. At this very table, now decently covered with baize, and supported by three or four of her male admirers, was the highly respectable lady alluded to in the placard, holding forth with no small degree of eloquence, and with her benevolent heart earnest in the hard work before her.
I am sorry to tell, however, that the congregation was not numerous. The heathen of the Ditch is shy of any kind of enclosure. If you wish to tackle him, you must tackle him just where you may happen to find him, and take your chance of his pausing to listen. You have not that claim on his attention which you would have if you invited him into your place of worship, and he accepted the invitation. You are both, in his opinion, on an equally free and independent footing; and he would no more think of questioning your right to preach at the street corner against vice, than he would tolerate your interference with his daily occupation, which is the bawling of “ rabbit-skins;" which undoubtedly is a condition of things much more favourable to the brave designs of the preacher than if the said heathen were as blindly brutal as his spiritual aggressor is blunt and plainspoken.
By the time I quitted the Apollo it was one o'clock, and the public houses were open, which of course accounted for the streets being comparatively clear.
AT A NEWGATE FLOGGING.
THE hoar-frosted stones of Newgate never shew to such grim advantage as on a dull, deadly cold morning, with the strong old prison enveloped in a leaden mist, that might pass as its natural breath, emitted from the several spiked jaws that are its portals. Such a morning was it when, apprised of the fact that a brace of brutal garotters were to be brought up for the lash, I presented my card at the door of Newgate. I had very nearly run against the common hangman, coming from the direction of Smithfield, with the brim of his hat pulled down to the level of his bleary eyes, and with a comforter enveloping his visage to the very nostrils of his clubby nose. Not that on account of his horrible profession Mr Calcraft is shy of public recognition—not in the least. But, as before stated, the morning was raw cold, and our hangman is verging towards seventy years old. After all, I was not quite sure it was he; but, while I was wondering, he turned abruptly in at the first doorway from Newgate Street, where there was a servant of the prison cleaning the steps.
He turned about, and, recognising his friend, at once exclaimed
“What, Ben, old chap, how are you?” and he dropped the scrubbing-brush to shake the hand that had slipped the fatal bolt a hundred times with as much cordiality as though he expected him, and was mighty glad to see him. Undoubtedly he was expected. He had come to