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of earth, and the sky visible through a thousand chinks in the roof tiles. The only furniture of the place is a range of posts, with staples and bits of rope still dangling to them, showing that in the winter time the place is used for fattening cattle. Two partitions, rather more than knee high, extend across the interior of the building, and divide it into three compartments of about equal size. There is one bed in the place, composed of a heap of straw covered with a couple of sacks, and with a horse rug for a counterpane. It is spread on the earth, and is bordered round with hurdles, and over the bed, on a shelf slung to the wall, are a few articles of shabby crockery and a teapot. This is the sleeping chamber of the foreman of the pickers, but not one of his numerous hands aspires to such luxuries.
In each of the compartments above mentioned is strewn a litter of straw, certainly not more than six or eight inches deep, and at the complexion of which a costermonger's donkey would be justified in turning up his nose. This is all the accommodation afforded by the hop-grower for his lodgers. The straw is meant for them to lie on, but for reasons of their own they prefer to sit on it, composing themselves for the night by huddling nose and knees together and squatting by the wall. This wall is of rough planking, and extending along its entire length are places rubbed bald of splinters, and greasily polished by the friction of their uneasy shoulders, showing that for many “seasons” the shed had been used as a dormitory. They never take off their clothes, these hop-pickers, except the more fastidious, who will divest themselves of their ragged coat or jacket, with which to make a cushion to sit upon. Sometimes a mother may divest herself of her shawl or gown to make a nest on the ground for her baby. The only rule in
support of decency—and the married element is generally sufficiently strong to enforce it—is that the married couples sleep in the middle, and the single lads and lasses at the ends.
The foreman picker had not yet retired, though it was late, and when he obligingly opened the barn door, so that I might get a peep inside, the scene, though ugly, was peaceful enough. Every one was asleep, or pretending to be asleep, and the heavy and by no means sweet air was stirred by the nasal trumpeting of many who had earned sweet repose by twelve or fourteen hours' labour in the broiling sun. But one could not help suspecting that what now appeared was not the worst of it. Was it reasonable to expect decent behaviour among human creatures housed with so much less ceremony than pigs in a sty? And then it was impossible to avoid the reflection that the majority of these hop-pickers were dissolute, lawless tramps, for whom a prison has no térrors except the hard labour, and brazen, shameless women, who, lost to all sense of modesty, delight in nothing so much as mocking it in others. The majority of professional hop-pickers are undoubtedly of this class; but only the majority. Every season scores of decent men and women, just then “hard-up,” are tempted by the stories of four and five shillings a day, and join the troop that flock to the Kentish plantations. These, of course, must herd with the rest.
“Do you ever have any trouble with them ?" I asked of the foreman.
"Nothing worse than larking,” he replied, “and that mostly on a Sunday. They are so tired that they are glad to get to sleep on week days."
Nothing worse than larking. To be sure that foreman picker may have been a man whose sense of pro
priety was so severe that he would construe the most innocent funny remark or practical joke as a “lark.” On the other hand, it would not be the least surprising if, in the event of an officer of the Society for the Sup. pression of Vice putting his head in at one of these dens some fine Sunday night when the hilarity is at its height, he should discover something that called pretty loudly for his interference.
LONDON COURTS AND ALLEYS.
MAY I be permitted to offer to gentlemen of an inventive turn of mind a suggestion as to the production of a mechanical contrivance that shall confer greater benefits on mankind than the steam-engine or the electric telegraph, and earn for the inventor fame and wealth at least equal to those which rewarded the genius and perseverance of Watt and Stephenson ? I have not the remotest idea as to what should be the shape of this wonderful machine, or of what material it should be constructed, but its name should be the Plague Preventive and Fever Indicator. The mechanism would need to be so delicate that wholesome air would have no effect on it; but as soon as the atmosphere became tainted with pestilence, it should proclaim the fact with a noise compared with which the din of an ordinary railway whistle is a mellow tinkling. Moreover, the machine, to be perfect, should be uncompromising—not to be quieted with apologies or promises. It must insist that the evil it is exposing be at once remedied ; indeed, it should be out of its power to leave off shrieking until the cause of complaint was completely eradicated.
I only stipulate for one thing—that I may be out of town on the morning when this ingenious machine is set agoing. Otherwise it would be simply impossible to escape from the deafening uproar. Supposing Parliament to be sitting at the time, gentlemen of the House
of Commons would be unable to hear each other speak, for Peter Street lies within a bowshot of the legislative temple. Now Peter Street is full of filthy chinks that swarm with human life in a manner suggestive of nothing so much as a rotten old cheese. The Judges at Westminster would be in the same predicament. There is not a law court, civil or criminal, that would be able to keep out the appalling sound. It is a fact that, notwithstanding all that has been done in the way of bettering the dwellings of the poor of the metropolis, and despite our vaunt that London is the healthiest city in the world, its courts and alleys—east, west, north, and south—may still be reckoned in thousands; the majority of them being unfit for human residence, and not a few in such a condition that many people would not believe in a fairly-written description of them. There is evidence-volumes of it—that London, in a sanitary sense, is steadily improving. The first vigorous steps were taken about a quarter of a century since ; and, during the past five-and-twenty years, not a week, not a day has been lost in the highly-important work of making London a city fit to live in. Yet it is a simple fact that within three miles of St Paul's there may be found at least a thousand dens of squalor that are a shame and disgrace to any civilised nation.
The other day an offender was brought before one of the City Aldermen, charged with offering for sale some fruit that was somewhat decayed. His worship was justly indignant; but the terms in which he expressed himself were painfully significant of the fact that in spite of the advantage of his official position, he little knew what a tiny mite of the city's rottenness that half-bushel of plums or peaches represented. “Good heavens !” the worthy magistrate exclaimed, with a voice tremulous