Зображення сторінки

however. The proprietors of the countless booths that are ranged in rows on both sides of the race-course are up and busy, though as yet they do not deem it worth their while to throw open their canvas doors and expose the tempting wealth of eatables within. This is sufficient precaution by day, but at night-time stronger protective measures have to be adopted. There is not a refreshment-booth keeper on Epsom Downs that is not provided with firearms; and any thief who should thrust his curious head in after the proprietor was supposed to have retired for the night would, in all probability, find it promptly and solidly rapped by some sturdy watchman who keeps guard just within the flimsy rag that serves as a door. But booth robberies on the Downs are seldom heard of. It is not as though the hundreds of poverty-stricken and famished ones who are spread about the neighbourhood were alert and lively. By the time they tramp from London and mount the hill, they are so utterly done up, that not even the sharp spur of hunger is sufficient to goad them to petty larceny for the stomach's sake.

I looked about in vain for some time for my comrades of the road, the hero of the pail, and he who had come to Epsom to fish for fortune with no more promising bait than a bunch of bits of string and a bradawl. At last I found the latter. Decent old fellow that he was, he had had no breakfast, and was without even a penny to buy him a cup of coffee ; but when I discovered him he was in the hands of the travelling barber, who had him between his knees on the grass already lathered for shaving. The charge was three halfpence, and this was the exact sum, with not a farthing over, that the stouthearted old chap possessed : but he let it go without a pang, in order that he might appear respectable at that lucky spot on the slant of the hill, where, on a memorable occasion, the man had sold one of his old braces for a guinea, to patch up a broken-down harness. I made inquiries for the man with the pail, and was informed by the other old fellow, as he wiped his clean shaven jaws, and winked at me over the edge of the towel, that it had turned out just as he expected it would - he had ascertained that there were dozens of men with pails besides himself already on the spot, and that he had discreetly parted with the vessel in which he had placed such trust, for the sum of tenpence, and was at that moment tramping back to London.


He was neither a handsome nor a wholesome looking figure, as at five o'clock in the day he came slipshod over the sunny pavement, with a half-quartern loaf under his arm. He looked like what was once a spick-and-span lilywhite baker, fit to figure on a Twelfthcake, only in the prime of his youth he had fallen into a dusthole and grown old and grey there, and had that very afternoon made his escape ; too much depressed just now by his protracted and dismal experiences to rejoice and be glad.

“As tired as a dog,” he said he was ; and so by his very first utterance bespoke himself a modest man, whose word might be relied on. If appearances went for anything, my poor old journeyman baker was more tired than any dog that ever ran about on four legs. The only dog that could have matched him for jadedness and weariness of aspect must have been one of the ancient turnspit breed, who, in consequence of the indisposition of a mate, had fagged through many hours of “overtime" before a roaring kitchen fire. Either that dog or another I have seen about lately-an unhappy wretch of a half-shaved French poodle, whose companion and master is a bagpiping, drunken, dancing Scotchman. Through the livelong day the wretched beast, in a gay Glengarry cap, that mocks the eloquent sadness of its eyes, and of its mouth which droops so woefully at the corners, foots it mincingly on its hind legs, the bagpiper himself dancing fiercely, and leading the steps. As the day advances, the bagpiper's nose glows under the influence of accumulated twopenn'orths of whiskey, and then, his steadiness failing to keep pace with his perspiring vigour, he has a habit of treading on the poodle's toes; causing the agonised animal to emit sounds that the thoughtless crowd applauds, mistaking it for the sagacious creature's imitation of the triumphant whoop the Scotchman occasionally indulges in.

If the reader can picture that poodle at the close of a fatiguing day, and imagine the mire with which he is besmeared from head to foot to be dough-stains and flower-and-water splashes, he may form a tolerably correct idea as to the sort of tired dog my journeyman baker looked. He had no regular service, but was an “odd man”—that is to say, an extra hand employed on the busiest day in the week, which is Saturday. There used to be a great deal of talk about slave-grown sugar being moistened with the tears of the poor enthralled black men who cultivated it. I should not be astonished if much of that saline flavour that is commonly found in cheap bread is due to the tears of the severely-worked and badly-paid odd men. “I've been at it, sir,” said the old journeyman, with a yawn that caused the veneering of dough on his countenance to crackle like the glaze on an old white plate—“I've been at it since eight o'clock last night, and now its five (twenty-one hours), for three-and-sixpence and a halfquartern. That isn't the regular pay—it's four shillings; but when a man gets to my age he can't stick out for sixpence.” So we went a little further, until we came on a snuggery known to him as celebrated for the quality of its porter and favourable to uninterrupted

converse, and there we sat down, with the loaf on the table.

And here I may state that I was not altogether unprepared for the revelations my journeyman baker might make to me. I had already given some consideration to the poor man's loaf. Horrified as I was, and as thousands of fathers of families must have been, by the appalling rumour recently set floating—that the science of adulteration as regards bread had advanced a prodigious stride, and that, instead of comparatively simple alum, some deadly preparation of copper was now used by the murderous baker to give colour to bad flour— in order to test this alarming accusation, II caused to be obtained from six various poor neighbourhoods as many two-pound loaves, which were placed in the same able hands to which were entrusted for analysis the samples of gin and beer treated of in these columns some few weeks since. Before I sought my baker, who in forty years of his practical life must have made tens of thousands of loaves, I had in my possession Professor Attfield's report. What I was desirous of ascertaining was, in what degree a working baker's statement would correspond with the inexorable verdict of the man of science.

“I have been a journeyman baker over forty years, and I dare say that in regular service and as odd man I have worked in fifty shops in London at the very least, and I never knew anything but the regular alum to be used in the way of what you call adulteration. Never, except at ——'s, in the Kentish Town Road. There was something used there, but I don't know the name of it. It was kept locked up, and when we wanted to make a biling of it we had to go to the master, and he gave it us—about a pint of it. It was like fine salt,

« НазадПродовжити »