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able money enough to give the children-poor, neglected, literally half-starved little fledglings of the surrounding rookeries—a hot dinner, a smoking-hot dinner, and as much as they can eat of it. The reader accustomed to plentiful and regular food can form no adequate idea of what a tremendous boon this is. The poor little creatures look forward to it as children who are better off look forward to Christmas Day. From Monday till Wednesday evening the whispering of it grows and grows until it culminates in a “hooray” that comes from the lowest depths of their little empty bellies, when, morning school concluded, they are informed that they may run home and fetch their dinner things.
On the Wednesday in question the feed was to be Irish stew, and the number of guests expected was about three hundred. Nothing may be said about snowy table-cloths, shining platters, and spoons bright as new shillings. There were no table-cloths—no tables in fact. The funds of the institution will not admit of such luxuries. The worthy promoter of these dinners for destitute little children has not a shilling left after the meal is provided. During this hard weather every twopence he can beg goes into the pot, and comes out a substantial meal for a hungry child. Undoubtedly it would be nicer to see them all decorously seated at a cleanly draped table, with plates, and spoons, and knives and forks, neatly placed before them, and one day this indefatigable caterer for the baby poverty-stricken hopes to achieve that splendid position; but at present his limited means compel him to give all his attention to keeping the Wednesday pot boiling.
And at stroke of one o'clock here they come trooping in, their young eyes twinkling in blissful expectancy as their young noses sniff the savoury stew seething in the cauldron below, and just done. I have not yet seen the cauldron; and as they come swarming in, their tiny, illshod feet and their uncovered arms and legs blue with cold, faster and thicker yet, till the doorway bids fair to be blocked up, and there is still a mob behind, I have misgivings as to my friend's declaration that there will be enough for all and to spare; and what an awful thing it would be if, say, only a dozen of these poor, narrowchested mites of things, who passed last night in a delicious dream of Irish stew, who smacked their lips over the breakfast slice of dry bread flavoured with the promise of it, should be sent empty away! I do not believe that they would survive the shock. They would faint and fall, still clutching the basin that was now a mockery and a snare; they would go mad and run amuck among their more fortunate stew -consuming brethren. Here they come, each one bringing his or her "dinner things.” I wish the reader could see the choice collection! Handless jugs, milk cans, baking dishes, sauce tureens, small-sized tin saucepans, publicans' beer-cans, tin washing bowls—anything. They come of all ages, from the sturdy street boy of ten to the tiny six-months-old baby in arms. There were scores of babies under two years old, brought by their sisters and brothers. They came singly, and they came in families.
One family in particular was a sight to behold. A fortnight or so back a woman had died in one of the alleys, and under such suspicious circumstances that it was at first supposed that she had been murdered. A coroner's jury thought otherwise : so she was buried, and the matter dropped. But she left six little children behind her-a boy, the eldest, of twelve, and a girl, a patient, shrewd, poor little thing of nine, who now had to be mother to the remaining four. She had brought them out to dinner, and carried the motherless baby, four months old, in her mites of arms; and there being no room on the forms, and finding, perhaps, that so sitting she could best feed baby and the next-sized youngster, who was little better than a baby, she squatted on the ground with the little brood round her, distributing Irish stew as grave and solicitous as a matron of thirty.
The elder children sat up in the galleries, with their vessels on their knees, and their shoulders bowed, and their countenances beautifully bedewed under the combined influence of savoury steam and energetic “blowing” to reduce the thick soup sufficiently below scalding point, to admit of its being swallowed. Waiters there were none, except the schoolmaster. With his cuffs turned back and his coat buttoned, he faced his herculean task like a man-like a kindly Christian man with a heart that yearned towards little children, and collected “empties” and brought them back replenished, with an amount of alacrity and good-humour that visibly touched the elder boys' hearts as their stomachs filled and their appetites slackened.
The “youngsters,” the ragged little flock of toddlers in small frocks and pinafores, ate by themselves in a place set apart. It was not a pretty sight: it was, indeed, a painful and distressing sight, if you made merely a sight of it. The forms round the sides of the room were filled, and the floor was literally covered with a swarm of children greedy for food as little pigs, and, now that they had the rare chance, partaking of it pretty much as little pigs would-literally so in some cases; and if one has a pie-dish full of stew and soup and no spoon, what is there but to use the fingers or lap at it? But at least there was this consolation
when swallowed it had precisely as beneficial an effect as that of Irish stew eaten off china with a spoon of silver. It satisfied the famished three hundred heartily, completely, as was clearly manifested by the mellow way in which they sang their simple grace after meat, the good missionary accompanying them on his harmonium.
The institution in question does wonders with the small amount of money placed at its disposal, and many of its dealings, besides those already described, are as quaint as they are useful. One of its most popular features among the fraternity from which the mission derives its name is a “barrow club."
It is impossible for a costermonger to do without a barrow; and not a man in twenty possesses one of his own. · There are regular “barrow farmers," who charge a shilling a week for the loan of the humble vehicle more if it is not a “constant hiring ;” and in the latter case the hirer is supposed to do his own patching and painting, calling on the owner only when new wheels are required. There are men who have had the same barrow five, six, and seven years; and, as a new barrow does not cost more than fifty shillings, it will be at once seen that barrow-farming on a large scale is by no means a profitless speculation.
The monopoly, however, suffered a severe check when the “club” in question was started by Mr Orsman and his friends. The barrowless costermonger pays in a shilling a-week, and, to encourage him, a bonus on his savings of four shillings in the pound is paid him. Or, if he shows himself an honest man, and cannot spare the shilling in addition to the one he is already paying for hire, a friend may “stand security” for him, and in a few months the saved hiring-shillings make the barrow his own. It is a highly respectable club, and no costermonger need be ashamed to belong to it. In fact, it is a “swell” club. Lord Shaftesbury is a member, and, having paid his shilling, he has his barrow. His Lordship speaks of it as “my barrow;" but I am not sure that it is blazoned with the proper heraldic device for so distinguishing it. This I do know, however, that it is kept in the shed with plebeian barrows, to meet cases of emergency; and that it is very common for a poor fellow in difficulties to make humble application for the loan of the “Earl,” by means of which he vends his fresh herrings, or whatever else he may have to sell.
A soup kitchen is to be found on the premises of the costermongers' mission, with a sick and burial club, and a clothing fund. Likewise there is a maternity. fund, which yields a little help in the way of baby clothes and nutritious food to poor women in their greatest need. There are also a “penny bank,” a sewing class, and a free lending library, to say nothing of the daily · ragged school-as ragged a school as ever was seen, the Sunday school, the evening reading and writing classes for young people of both sexes, and many other branches of instructive and religious entertainment.
But I think that the most original class of all is the "patching" class for boys. The use of that potent little weapon of civilization, the needle, is not particularly well known to many of the mothers of the neighbourhood : there are many boys whose mothers are dead, or so habitually dead-drunk that their conveyance to the cemetery would be little loss from a domestic point of view. So, some time ago, it was proposed to the youngsters that if they had a mind to patch up their rags a bit, patch-pieces would be found, and a good-natured matron would show them the way to