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shameful waste of precious space to introduce such luxuries. It would be impossible to plant more than two bedsteads in a chamber of the dimensions just described, and equally impossible, even by the most ingenious packing, to squeeze more than six lodgers in each bed. Now this would not pay at a penny eachthe sum charged. About twenty in a room is the expected number, and they lie in their own rags on the ground. I say “about twenty," because that happened to be exactly the number discovered under shockingly painful circumstances by a gentleman whose testimony is indisputable. He was called to a hot-water house to comfort a little girl dying, and nearly dead, of scarlet fever. He found the sick child lying in a corner of a parlour; and, the hour being after bed-time, the “hotwater” lodgers had made themselves comfortable for the night. “The floor was so thickly strewn with adults,” says the gentleman to whom I have referred, “that it was next to impossible to approach the feverstricken little girl without treading on them. I counted them, and there were nineteen.” The child died in the night, and the nineteen jolly beggars set out next morning, with their rags loaded with scarlet fever, to spread it through the town.
The majority of these hot-water lodgers are cadgers and beggars by profession. It is not invariably because they cannot afford it, that they do not patronise the fourpenny houses, but rather because they would sooner "pig” together on the boards than lie on separate beds; and threepence saved is threepence earned. To be sure, they might save the entire fourpence, and obtain, besides, something to eat that night and next morning. The doors of the casual wards will open to their knocking; but in this tribe only your loafing scoundrel, who
is too lazy even to beg, avails himself of the parochial asylum. The professional beggar finds that it does not "pay." He has his daily occupation, and, if he would make good money, he must follow it industriously. A rich idea, indeed, to be sweating for three hours over a couple of bushels of stones, in payment for a bed and half a pound of bread, when as much time spent in judicious whining and cadging will earn him a shilling or eighteenpence! The “hot-water” lodger is expected to be something more than a person who merely pays his penny, selects his pitch on the parlour floor, and next morning takes his departure, perhaps to apply for a bare lodging at the end of the day. He is supposed to “use the house" in the daytime, and it is this last-mentioned custom that gives these lodginghouses their name. A big pot of water is kept constantly heated on the hob of the kitchen fire, and payment of a half-penny secures the privilege of the loan of a jug and boiling water to make tea or coffee. Lodgers are at liberty to bring in their cooked meat to eat; but, if they require the loan of the frying-pan, an additional half-penny is charged. Except for professional “mud-plungers”—beggars whose harvest-time is when they can wade in the middle of the road and in the pouring rain, with an agonising display of saturated rags and mire-soddened naked feet—wet weather is unfavourable. It is bad for street begging, because the few people about are “buttoned up," or their charitable hands are hampered with the care of an umbrella; it is bad for house-to-house beggars, because lady housekeepers wax wroth at the sight of miry footprints desecrating the purity of their hearthstoned steps ; so it comes about that a rainy day means a crowded “hotwater” house from morning till night. For this daylight accommodation a penny a-head is charged, the use of the frying-pan being liberally thrown in.
Once more, as regards the Golden Lane missionary. What it is to labour day by day and week by week, in wintry frost and snow, and summer's pestilent heat, among these dreadful places, must be left to the reader's imagination. It is easy enough, however, to comprehend this much. It is not every man has courage and confidence and patience enough to take on himself, without fee or reward, the tremendous task not only of amending the morals of this great horde of twenty thousand, steeped to their necks in vice and misery—but likewise of feeding swarms of neglected and hungry little children, and providing to the best of his means shoes for their naked feet and shirts for their naked backs, inculcating in them honest and cleanly habits.
AT A BLACK HOUSE.
My unsatiable desire to meet with strange company led me on a certain Sunday afternoon, in the autumn time, to pay a visit to what had been described to me, by a friendly undertaker, as one of the most flourishing public houses of the “black sort,” to be found at the outskirts of London, and arrived there at about three in the afternoon, after an hour's walk eastward, and I must confess that my first glance at the much vaunted hostel caused me a pang of disappointment. Except for the horse-trough and one drunken man asleep on an outside form, it looked as quiet and unbusinesslike a place'as could well be imagined. It was almost as though a roadside villa, driven to desperation on account of its isolation from the abodes of men, had procured a spirit and beer license, and set up a sign-board, purely for the sake of enticing an occasional wayfarer to cross its threshold, and so for a while, by his discourse of the busy world, to. dispel the gloom and dejection that seemed to enwrap the place.
To be sure it was Sunday and church time; and under such conditions the “Polecat” could hardly be expected to appear at its liveliest. The good dry skittle ground was, of course, idle; and the attractions of the small teagarden were not increased by a lowering sky and a keen easterly wind.
But what about the "excellent and increasing blackcoach trade.”
As a shrewd and suspicious man, I should have been
inclined, by the evidence of my visual organs, to regard that alluring line in the advertisement as something very like “fudge." There were black coaches in plenty, and as they slowly approached their number increased; but not one of them availed itself of the inducements to halt held out by the “ Polecat.” The drivers on the hearse and on the coaches, and the bearers or porters, or whatever they are called, who clung in bunches at the back of the coaches, turned a look of placid serenity towards the “Polecat” portals, through the chinks of which, arranged artistically on the counter, a pyramid of cool and shiny pewter pots was temptingly visible; but vehicle after vehicle passed on as though the prospect of closer acquaintance were too remote to excite in the bosoms of their attendants the least present emotion.
But what puzzled me more was the undismayed and perfectly calm manner in which mine host of the “Polecat” regarded this—as it appeared to me-neglect of his establishment. He stood on his steps with his fat thumbs hooked into his apron-string, and blandly nodded in acknowledgment of the waving of every departing coachman's whip, as though he were stationed there expressly to warn them off, and were sensible of the obligation they conferred on him by not compelling him to resort to extreme measures. Presently, however, he shaded his eyes with his hand, took a long look down the road, and, finding no more coaches coming, became an altered man-a man whose spell of rest had expired, and who is thoroughly prepared for a rush of business that he knows to be presently coming.
“ Bill,” he cries, “is the spittoons, and the pipes, and that, all ready in the parlour?”.
“All right, sir,” responds brisk potman Bill. “Then give the tables out in the back a brush down.