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lihood. But who would think of apprenticing him to a lucifer matchmaker, or a worker in chemical compositions, the handling of which would certainly enfeeble his health, and bring him to an early grave? Did only half a dozen such instances occur, the whole nation would raise its hands in horror at the deliberate barbarity; yet here, in Belle-Isle, and in a few other places that might be mentioned, we have hundreds of poor, patient little boys and girls, who never in their lives did a dishonest thing, kept in ignorance and doomed to work through their young lives in dirt and squalor and the very shadow of death, for little if anything more in the shape of wages than the free street Arab contrives to pick up in his vagabond rovings.
SEEDY, not to say downright shabby individuals, whose habiliments are undoubtedly of Cockney cut, are not uncommonly encountered on a Sunday evening in the course of a stroll through country lanes; nor is the circumstance of a person's sitting on a stile by any means extraordinary. It was his face that first brought me to a standstill. A long, wan, melancholy face, shewing a cavernous, whiskerless waste between each prominent cheek-bone and the ledge of the lower jaw, and a chin festooned with a ragged fringe of sandy beard. He wore a cap of the “billycock” order, and it was in all respects a decentish cap, except that, in front of the brim, for the space of a hand's breadth or so, it was worn limp and greasy.
I mention this peculiarity of the billycock, because, after a few moments' puzzled contemplation of the lugubrious visage, some vague remembrance led me to raise my eyes in expectation of finding it exactly as it was. In an odd kind of way I recollected him without recognising him. His figure was quite familiar to me; the elongated countenance, the cap, the threadbare brown coat, long in the skirts and ridiculously short in the sleeves, the stoop-or one might almost say the halfhoop of the man's shoulders. Bother the manwhere had I before seen him, and why did it seem to me that his sitting on a stile in a quiet green lane on a Sunday evening was the very last thing that might have been expected of him?
Presently, however, the riddle was solved in a manner as conclusive as it was startling. The bells of a church in the distance began melodiously ringing, and instantly the figure on the stile pricked up his ears, and looked in the direction from which the sounds came, and, with both his hands in the pockets of his breeches, took to drumming with his heels on the stile-bar a sort of rough accompaniment. This amount of sympathy satisfied him for a short time; but, as the bell music became louder and clearer, he grew more fidgety, and, quite unsuspicious that he was observed, he drew his hands from his pokets, and, dropping them from the wrist with apparent unconsciousness, executed certain movements that were unmistakable. It was the action of one who plays on those instruments peculiar to Ethiopian music -the bones.
But my friend on the stile was not an Ethiopian. He was the veritable and original organ-grinder's bonesthe lanky, merry-faced villain who, for goodness knows how many years, had been the companion of various members of that fiendish Italian horde who, by means of a barrel-organ, grind us mad to make their breadthe playful Bones, who capers as he rattles his clappers, who spars up to the organ-man to the tune in course of grinding, and affects to smite him on the nose—ah! how often have I wished he was doing it in earnest-blows sounding most awfully.
The first time I recollect seeing him was during the time of the first Exhibition, twenty years ago, and he was an accomplished player on the bones then. How came he on this Sunday evening so far from the haunts of his comrades, whose colony, as everybody knows, is within a stone's throw of Leather-lane, Holborn? What on earth had induced him to wander so far away from
home? What pleasure could the poor clown of the streets gain by slinking off ten miles from the slums where organ-men do congregate, to smoke a solitary pipe at a spot that was at least a mile removed from any public-house? Perhaps, disgusted with his wretched pay as a clapper-man, he contemplated turning author, and writing a book of his experiences, and had here sought that quiet that was necessary to the maturing of his plans. His experiences! The idea was too good to be lost. Why should not I know something of his experiences ?
In five minutes more I, too, was sitting on the stile, and a portion of my Bristol bird's-eye was emitting smoke from his stumpy black pipe. Finding that he was ready enough for talk, I contrived that he should have a liberal share of it.
“No, sir ; you haven't made no mistake. I am the party you allude to. Goin' it in dumb show, was I? Very likely. I've been goin' it such a number of years, that I s'pose I'm like them dogs that sets off a howlin' when they hear music. I can't help it. Longer ago than the first Exhibition-four years before. Twentyfour years I've been at it. I was quite a little kid when I first took to it—ten years old. Nobody decoyed me away. I took to it natural. I used to do it for a lark, and to put them out of temper; and so they was, till one day I came on one that wasn't.”
"I was a hard-up sort of boy, and didn't care much what I did; so that when he said he'd give me a shilling a-day to go about with him, I didn't make no objection. It wasn't a shilling a-day long, though: it was a dodge that took, and we made a lot of money. When the other organ-grinders found that out, they bid more for me—two, three shillings a-day; so at last my grinder
says, “We'll go fair whacks in all we get,' and that settled it. I didn't live among 'em at first. I used to be out all day, and come home to sleep. I didn't like to tell the old woman or father what I was up to. I felt kind of ashamed of it, and I used to bring home such a lot of money—six and seven shillings a-day sometimes—and I wouldn't split how I came by it; and the old woman thought I had gone wrong—thought that I went out priggin', you know, and they used to whack me orful; and before they went out to work in the morning, they'd lock up my clothes, right down to my shirt.
" It was a whistling organ-man that first took me up -used to whistle with his mouth to the tunes he played. There used to be a good many of them do it, but they've died out now. Well, I used to hear him whistling after me a couple of streets off. He knowed where I lived, but he durstn't come to the house : so one day I couldn't stand it any longer, so I burst open the cupboard and dressed myself, and ran away from home for good. I went and lodged with the whistling organ-man at his lodgings at Saffron-hill. I lodged among 'em till I got married. Am I? Yes; and got a family, wus luck.
"Wus luck, I mean, because things have got so orful bad. It isn't six and seven shillings a-day now: it isn't two very often. Last Saturday we was out from ten in the morning till dark, and my share was a shilling. Miles of walking? I should think there was. Saturday I met him in the Caledonian-road, and we worked the Surrey side right round about, as far as Claphamcommon, and then had to walk the nine miles home. There isn't no regular way between me and the grinders. Sometimes we go halves; sometimes he will be paid for his day's work-half-a-crown and a bit of something for