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floor, which consisted of three rooms, as dingy and gloomy as rooms of a house long uninhabited invariably are. The front room was in possession of the present royal family and King Solomon, and the apartment adjoining was tenanted by modern murderers—an awful assemblage, so closely packed that they jostled each other's descriptive card askew. But the crowning horror was in the further room. As you approached the half-open door you could see a bedstead foot; that was in no way startling. From the position of the chamber it would naturally be used for sleeping in. You put your head in at the door, and then you saw a sight that was almost enough to make you scream out “Police !” There was a bedstead by the wall just where a bedstead usually stands, and with a bed on it -a made bed with sheets and bolster and pillows, exposing six children, each one with its throat cut in a manner so horrible that the shocked feelings of the beholder were immediately comforted by the reflection that their death must have been instantaneous. Gore on the little waxen faces, gore on the sheets, and on the hands that had been thrown up to protect their tender lives; and there was the murderess—she had left the razor in the windpipe of her last victim—with her throat cut as well, standing upright in her sprinkled nightdress, to welcome you, with a label round her neck that provided the edifying information that “this woman was nurse to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.” It is difficult to describe how appallingly real it all looked. Had the representation been on view at a public show-room it would have been only grimly ridiculous and disgusting; but being in that small room, to which just such a family of youngsters in so poor a house might have retired to rest, it was, from a dramatic and sensational point of view, a perfect success. The women and the young men and their sweethearts crowded round the bedstead, and gauged the depth of every gash with their sorrowful eyes, which in many cases were watery and red. Perhaps this lastmentioned fact was due to their recent explorations among the onion groves.
But those and similar horrors which need not be enumerated were not all the curiosities offered for public exhibition by Signor Picketo, at his shop in the Bull Ring. He was possessed of a curiosity, that was not of wax, but that was flesh and blood, and human and alive—a something that, according to the placard in the shop window, “would speak and shake hands with any party as wish to talk with her.” It was a terrible sight indeed—a lady who was in part a lioness, and who was regarded as so choice a novelty that she was kept quite apart from the rest of the show, and lodged at the top of the house. An extra penny was charged to see the lioness lady, and a young man guarded the foot of the rickety stairway. Ushered into the back attic, bare and empty, save for a form on which the company was to sit, one saw that the open door disclosed a passage, at the end of which was another door, the bright streak at the bottom of which betrayed that there was a light within; and, moreover, there came from that room the civilised sound of the clinking of teaspoons against teacups.
When six visitors had assembled, the young man knocked for the lady-lioness. She came immediately, emerging from the chamber where the tea-things were, hastily wiping her lips as she came. Her appearance, as she came and stood before us, was startling. Comely of shape, and attired in white muslin, and with her magnificent hair streaming over her shoulders, she seemed not so awful. But then her face. There was the lioness. Her broad forehead was covered with a tawny-coloured horny skin, and it was wrinkled like that of the lion; her eyebrows were shaggy, and one side of her nose was just as is the lion's nose, the other nostril being white, and small and delicate. Both her cheeks were covered with coarse straight hair. It would not have been in the least surprising if she had roared her displeasure at being interrupted while at her tea; but, on the contrary, after having, in a mild and gentle voice, bid us "good evening,” she civilly proceeded to inform us that she was born in Graham's Town, in Southern Africa, in the year 1846; that her father was a soldier in the 86th Regiment, and that during the Kaffir war, and before she was born, her mother was taken prisoner; and that the kraal in which she was lodged was attacked by a lion, which nearly succeeded in carrying her off. Thus she accounted for her leonine appearance, further assuring us that she was very happy under Signor Picketo's protection, and that he permitted her to sell little books of her history, which were one penny each. After this the lioness lady gracefully curtsied, and I have no doubt sought once more the social teapot.
OUT WITH THE WAITS.
It was verging towards twelve o'clock when, by appointment, I met my three friends, the flageolet, the cornopean, and the trombone, in the neighbourhood of the Elephant and Castle.
My object in desiring to spend a few hours in tie company of these midnight musicians may be stated in a few words. In the first place, I felt curious to satisfy myself as to the truth of an ominous whisper, the increasing prevalence of which had for some tine caused me uneasiness, to the effect that Englishmen, and especially Londoners, were growing indifferent to that venerable institution, Christmas waits; that, though its unimpeachable respectability protected it against open hostility, and though in certain quarters it was still tolerated, and to some extent favoured, this was in a spirit far different from bygone feelings, and rather out of pity for its grey hairs and tottering steps, and the conviction that it had but a little while to live. It was represented to me that, except in rare instances, Christmas waits proper had ceased to exist years ago ; that the instrumentalists who now affected nocturnal performances towards the end of December had thrown over all pretence to pious motive, and aspired to nothing more sublime and soul-stirring than the favourite airs of the sentimental ballads of the Christy Minstrels; that lively music-hall hilarity of the “Slap bang, here we are again !” type was found to be more profitable playing, and more in accordance with popular taste, than the sweet old hymn music with which, one time o’ day—or rather night-sleepers were awakened to be reminded that the greatest of all days of Christian thanksgiving was at hand.
Again, it had always been a puzzle to me how Christmas waits ever could make the business pay. One can understand strolling musicians, even those unmusical vagabonds the German bandits, picking up a living of some sort in the day-time, and on the system of prompt payment; but the waits are compelled to give credit. Night after night, for ten or a dozen nights, they turn out at an hour when even the public-houses are closed, and nobody is abroad but penniless, homeless wanderers and the police ; and they play to houses wrapped in darkness, and to people who, for all they can know to the contrary, are fast asleep, and who, on that ground, may justly repudiate the debt accumulating against them.
Then, again, there is the serious drawback of not being able to call for payment until Christmas and its sentimental thoughts are things of the past, and when the wind and the snow are beating in at the street door, meekly knocked at by the red-nosed trombone, who presents his instrument that you may see for yourself that he is no impostor, and who mildly reminds you that “about ten days afore you took in a card with the names of him and the other waits on it.” It is a much quicker operation to shut the door, dismissing the man with a brief "No," than to ask him into the passage while you go and make inquiries. But then, if it is such a doubtful speculation, how is it that it has been in modern times taken up by such shrewd