Infomotions, Inc.The People of the Abyss / London, Jack, 1876-1916



Author: London, Jack, 1876-1916
Title: The People of the Abyss
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): shillings; dan cullen; johnny upright
Contributor(s): Widger, David, 1932- [Editor]
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Title: The People of the Abyss

Author: Jack London

Release Date: March 20, 2005  [eBook #1688]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


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Transcribed from the Thomas Nelson and Sons edition by David Price, email
ccx074@coventry.ac.uk





THE PEOPLE OF THE ABYSS


The chief priests and rulers cry:-

   "O Lord and Master, not ours the guilt,
   We build but as our fathers built;
   Behold thine images how they stand
   Sovereign and sole through all our land.

   "Our task is hard--with sword and flame,
   To hold thine earth forever the same,
   And with sharp crooks of steel to keep,
   Still as thou leftest them, thy sheep."

   Then Christ sought out an artisan,
   A low-browed, stunted, haggard man,
   And a motherless girl whose fingers thin
   Crushed from her faintly want and sin.

   These set he in the midst of them,
   And as they drew back their garment hem
   For fear of defilement, "Lo, here," said he,
   "The images ye have made of me."

   JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.




PREFACE


The experiences related in this volume fell to me in the summer of 1902.
I went down into the under-world of London with an attitude of mind which
I may best liken to that of the explorer.  I was open to be convinced by
the evidence of my eyes, rather than by the teachings of those who had
not seen, or by the words of those who had seen and gone before.  Further,
I took with me certain simple criteria with which to measure the life of
the under-world.  That which made for more life, for physical and
spiritual health, was good; that which made for less life, which hurt,
and dwarfed, and distorted life, was bad.

It will be readily apparent to the reader that I saw much that was bad.
Yet it must not be forgotten that the time of which I write was
considered "good times" in England.  The starvation and lack of shelter I
encountered constituted a chronic condition of misery which is never
wiped out, even in the periods of greatest prosperity.

Following the summer in question came a hard winter.  Great numbers of
the unemployed formed into processions, as many as a dozen at a time, and
daily marched through the streets of London crying for bread.  Mr. Justin
McCarthy, writing in the month of January 1903, to the New York
_Independent_, briefly epitomises the situation as follows:-

   "The workhouses have no space left in which to pack the starving
   crowds who are craving every day and night at their doors for food and
   shelter.  All the charitable institutions have exhausted their means
   in trying to raise supplies of food for the famishing residents of the
   garrets and cellars of London lanes and alleys.  The quarters of the
   Salvation Army in various parts of London are nightly besieged by
   hosts of the unemployed and the hungry for whom neither shelter nor
   the means of sustenance can be provided."

It has been urged that the criticism I have passed on things as they are
in England is too pessimistic.  I must say, in extenuation, that of
optimists I am the most optimistic.  But I measure manhood less by
political aggregations than by individuals.  Society grows, while
political machines rack to pieces and become "scrap."  For the English,
so far as manhood and womanhood and health and happiness go, I see a
broad and smiling future.  But for a great deal of the political
machinery, which at present mismanages for them, I see nothing else than
the scrap heap.

JACK LONDON.
PIEDMONT, CALIFORNIA.




CHAPTER I--THE DESCENT


"But you can't do it, you know," friends said, to whom I applied for
assistance in the matter of sinking myself down into the East End of
London.  "You had better see the police for a guide," they added, on
second thought, painfully endeavouring to adjust themselves to the
psychological processes of a madman who had come to them with better
credentials than brains.

"But I don't want to see the police," I protested.  "What I wish to do is
to go down into the East End and see things for myself.  I wish to know
how those people are living there, and why they are living there, and
what they are living for.  In short, I am going to live there myself."

"You don't want to _live_ down there!" everybody said, with
disapprobation writ large upon their faces.  "Why, it is said there are
places where a man's life isn't worth tu'pence."

"The very places I wish to see," I broke in.

"But you can't, you know," was the unfailing rejoinder.

"Which is not what I came to see you about," I answered brusquely,
somewhat nettled by their incomprehension.  "I am a stranger here, and I
want you to tell me what you know of the East End, in order that I may
have something to start on."

"But we know nothing of the East End.  It is over there, somewhere."  And
they waved their hands vaguely in the direction where the sun on rare
occasions may be seen to rise.

"Then I shall go to Cook's," I announced.

"Oh yes," they said, with relief.  "Cook's will be sure to know."

But O Cook, O Thomas Cook & Son, path-finders and trail-clearers, living
sign-posts to all the world, and bestowers of first aid to bewildered
travellers--unhesitatingly and instantly, with ease and celerity, could
you send me to Darkest Africa or Innermost Thibet, but to the East End of
London, barely a stone's throw distant from Ludgate Circus, you know not
the way!

"You can't do it, you know," said the human emporium of routes and fares
at Cook's Cheapside branch.  "It is so--hem--so unusual."

"Consult the police," he concluded authoritatively, when I had persisted.
"We are not accustomed to taking travellers to the East End; we receive
no call to take them there, and we know nothing whatsoever about the
place at all."

"Never mind that," I interposed, to save myself from being swept out of
the office by his flood of negations.  "Here's something you can do for
me.  I wish you to understand in advance what I intend doing, so that in
case of trouble you may be able to identify me."

"Ah, I see! should you be murdered, we would be in position to identify
the corpse."

He said it so cheerfully and cold-bloodedly that on the instant I saw my
stark and mutilated cadaver stretched upon a slab where cool waters
trickle ceaselessly, and him I saw bending over and sadly and patiently
identifying it as the body of the insane American who _would_ see the
East End.

"No, no," I answered; "merely to identify me in case I get into a scrape
with the 'bobbies.'"  This last I said with a thrill; truly, I was
gripping hold of the vernacular.

"That," he said, "is a matter for the consideration of the Chief Office."

"It is so unprecedented, you know," he added apologetically.

The man at the Chief Office hemmed and hawed.  "We make it a rule," he
explained, "to give no information concerning our clients."

"But in this case," I urged, "it is the client who requests you to give
the information concerning himself."

Again he hemmed and hawed.

"Of course," I hastily anticipated, "I know it is unprecedented, but--"

"As I was about to remark," he went on steadily, "it is unprecedented,
and I don't think we can do anything for you."

However, I departed with the address of a detective who lived in the East
End, and took my way to the American consul-general.  And here, at last,
I found a man with whom I could "do business."  There was no hemming and
hawing, no lifted brows, open incredulity, or blank amazement.  In one
minute I explained myself and my project, which he accepted as a matter
of course.  In the second minute he asked my age, height, and weight, and
looked me over.  And in the third minute, as we shook hands at parting,
he said: "All right, Jack.  I'll remember you and keep track."

I breathed a sigh of relief.  Having burnt my ships behind me, I was now
free to plunge into that human wilderness of which nobody seemed to know
anything.  But at once I encountered a new difficulty in the shape of my
cabby, a grey-whiskered and eminently decorous personage who had
imperturbably driven me for several hours about the "City."

"Drive me down to the East End," I ordered, taking my seat.

"Where, sir?" he demanded with frank surprise.

"To the East End, anywhere.  Go on."

The hansom pursued an aimless way for several minutes, then came to a
puzzled stop.  The aperture above my head was uncovered, and the cabman
peered down perplexedly at me.

"I say," he said, "wot plyce yer wanter go?"

"East End," I repeated.  "Nowhere in particular.  Just drive me around
anywhere."

"But wot's the haddress, sir?"

"See here!" I thundered.  "Drive me down to the East End, and at once!"

It was evident that he did not understand, but he withdrew his head, and
grumblingly started his horse.

Nowhere in the streets of London may one escape the sight of abject
poverty, while five minutes' walk from almost any point will bring one to
a slum; but the region my hansom was now penetrating was one unending
slum.  The streets were filled with a new and different race of people,
short of stature, and of wretched or beer-sodden appearance.  We rolled
along through miles of bricks and squalor, and from each cross street and
alley flashed long vistas of bricks and misery.  Here and there lurched a
drunken man or woman, and the air was obscene with sounds of jangling and
squabbling.  At a market, tottery old men and women were searching in the
garbage thrown in the mud for rotten potatoes, beans, and vegetables,
while little children clustered like flies around a festering mass of
fruit, thrusting their arms to the shoulders into the liquid corruption,
and drawing forth morsels but partially decayed, which they devoured on
the spot.

Not a hansom did I meet with in all my drive, while mine was like an
apparition from another and better world, the way the children ran after
it and alongside.  And as far as I could see were the solid walls of
brick, the slimy pavements, and the screaming streets; and for the first
time in my life the fear of the crowd smote me.  It was like the fear of
the sea; and the miserable multitudes, street upon street, seemed so many
waves of a vast and malodorous sea, lapping about me and threatening to
well up and over me.

"Stepney, sir; Stepney Station," the cabby called down.

I looked about.  It was really a railroad station, and he had driven
desperately to it as the one familiar spot he had ever heard of in all
that wilderness.

"Well," I said.

He spluttered unintelligibly, shook his head, and looked very miserable.
"I'm a strynger 'ere," he managed to articulate.  "An' if yer don't want
Stepney Station, I'm blessed if I know wotcher do want."

"I'll tell you what I want," I said.  "You drive along and keep your eye
out for a shop where old clothes are sold.  Now, when you see such a
shop, drive right on till you turn the corner, then stop and let me out."

I could see that he was growing dubious of his fare, but not long
afterwards he pulled up to the curb and informed me that an old-clothes
shop was to be found a bit of the way back.

"Won'tcher py me?" he pleaded.  "There's seven an' six owin' me."

"Yes," I laughed, "and it would be the last I'd see of you."

"Lord lumme, but it'll be the last I see of you if yer don't py me," he
retorted.

But a crowd of ragged onlookers had already gathered around the cab, and
I laughed again and walked back to the old-clothes shop.

Here the chief difficulty was in making the shopman understand that I
really and truly wanted old clothes.  But after fruitless attempts to
press upon me new and impossible coats and trousers, he began to bring to
light heaps of old ones, looking mysterious the while and hinting darkly.
This he did with the palpable intention of letting me know that he had
"piped my lay," in order to bulldose me, through fear of exposure, into
paying heavily for my purchases.  A man in trouble, or a high-class
criminal from across the water, was what he took my measure for--in
either case, a person anxious to avoid the police.

But I disputed with him over the outrageous difference between prices and
values, till I quite disabused him of the notion, and he settled down to
drive a hard bargain with a hard customer.  In the end I selected a pair
of stout though well-worn trousers, a frayed jacket with one remaining
button, a pair of brogans which had plainly seen service where coal was
shovelled, a thin leather belt, and a very dirty cloth cap.  My
underclothing and socks, however, were new and warm, but of the sort that
any American waif, down in his luck, could acquire in the ordinary course
of events.

"I must sy yer a sharp 'un," he said, with counterfeit admiration, as I
handed over the ten shillings finally agreed upon for the outfit.
"Blimey, if you ain't ben up an' down Petticut Lane afore now.  Yer
trouseys is wuth five bob to hany man, an' a docker 'ud give two an' six
for the shoes, to sy nothin' of the coat an' cap an' new stoker's singlet
an' hother things."

"How much will you give me for them?" I demanded suddenly.  "I paid you
ten bob for the lot, and I'll sell them back to you, right now, for
eight!  Come, it's a go!"

But he grinned and shook his head, and though I had made a good bargain,
I was unpleasantly aware that he had made a better one.

I found the cabby and a policeman with their heads together, but the
latter, after looking me over sharply, and particularly scrutinizing the
bundle under my arm, turned away and left the cabby to wax mutinous by
himself.  And not a step would he budge till I paid him the seven
shillings and sixpence owing him.  Whereupon he was willing to drive me
to the ends of the earth, apologising profusely for his insistence, and
explaining that one ran across queer customers in London Town.

But he drove me only to Highbury Vale, in North London, where my luggage
was waiting for me.  Here, next day, I took off my shoes (not without
regret for their lightness and comfort), and my soft, grey travelling
suit, and, in fact, all my clothing; and proceeded to array myself in the
clothes of the other and unimaginable men, who must have been indeed
unfortunate to have had to part with such rags for the pitiable sums
obtainable from a dealer.

Inside my stoker's singlet, in the armpit, I sewed a gold sovereign (an
emergency sum certainly of modest proportions); and inside my stoker's
singlet I put myself.  And then I sat down and moralised upon the fair
years and fat, which had made my skin soft and brought the nerves close
to the surface; for the singlet was rough and raspy as a hair shirt, and
I am confident that the most rigorous of ascetics suffer no more than I
did in the ensuing twenty-four hours.

The remainder of my costume was fairly easy to put on, though the
brogans, or brogues, were quite a problem.  As stiff and hard as if made
of wood, it was only after a prolonged pounding of the uppers with my
fists that I was able to get my feet into them at all.  Then, with a few
shillings, a knife, a handkerchief, and some brown papers and flake
tobacco stowed away in my pockets, I thumped down the stairs and said
good-bye to my foreboding friends.  As I paused out of the door, the
"help," a comely middle-aged woman, could not conquer a grin that twisted
her lips and separated them till the throat, out of involuntary sympathy,
made the uncouth animal noises we are wont to designate as "laughter."

No sooner was I out on the streets than I was impressed by the difference
in status effected by my clothes.  All servility vanished from the
demeanour of the common people with whom I came in contact.  Presto! in
the twinkling of an eye, so to say, I had become one of them.  My frayed
and out-at-elbows jacket was the badge and advertisement of my class,
which was their class.  It made me of like kind, and in place of the
fawning and too respectful attention I had hitherto received, I now
shared with them a comradeship.  The man in corduroy and dirty
neckerchief no longer addressed me as "sir" or "governor."  It was "mate"
now--and a fine and hearty word, with a tingle to it, and a warmth and
gladness, which the other term does not possess.  Governor!  It smacks of
mastery, and power, and high authority--the tribute of the man who is
under to the man on top, delivered in the hope that he will let up a bit
and ease his weight, which is another way of saying that it is an appeal
for alms.

This brings me to a delight I experienced in my rags and tatters which is
denied the average American abroad.  The European traveller from the
States, who is not a Croesus, speedily finds himself reduced to a chronic
state of self-conscious sordidness by the hordes of cringing robbers who
clutter his steps from dawn till dark, and deplete his pocket-book in a
way that puts compound interest to the blush.

In my rags and tatters I escaped the pestilence of tipping, and
encountered men on a basis of equality.  Nay, before the day was out I
turned the tables, and said, most gratefully, "Thank you, sir," to a
gentleman whose horse I held, and who dropped a penny into my eager palm.

Other changes I discovered were wrought in my condition by my new garb.
In crossing crowded thoroughfares I found I had to be, if anything, more
lively in avoiding vehicles, and it was strikingly impressed upon me that
my life had cheapened in direct ratio with my clothes.  When before I
inquired the way of a policeman, I was usually asked, "Bus or 'ansom,
sir?"  But now the query became, "Walk or ride?"  Also, at the railway
stations, a third-class ticket was now shoved out to me as a matter of
course.

But there was compensation for it all.  For the first time I met the
English lower classes face to face, and knew them for what they were.
When loungers and workmen, at street corners and in public-houses, talked
with me, they talked as one man to another, and they talked as natural
men should talk, without the least idea of getting anything out of me for
what they talked or the way they talked.

And when at last I made into the East End, I was gratified to find that
the fear of the crowd no longer haunted me.  I had become a part of it.
The vast and malodorous sea had welled up and over me, or I had slipped
gently into it, and there was nothing fearsome about it--with the one
exception of the stoker's singlet.




CHAPTER II--JOHNNY UPRIGHT


I shall not give you the address of Johnny Upright.  Let it suffice that
he lives in the most respectable street in the East End--a street that
would be considered very mean in America, but a veritable oasis in the
desert of East London.  It is surrounded on every side by close-packed
squalor and streets jammed by a young and vile and dirty generation; but
its own pavements are comparatively bare of the children who have no
other place to play, while it has an air of desertion, so few are the
people that come and go.

Each house in this street, as in all the streets, is shoulder to shoulder
with its neighbours.  To each house there is but one entrance, the front
door; and each house is about eighteen feet wide, with a bit of a brick-
walled yard behind, where, when it is not raining, one may look at a
slate-coloured sky.  But it must be understood that this is East End
opulence we are now considering.  Some of the people in this street are
even so well-to-do as to keep a "slavey."  Johnny Upright keeps one, as I
well know, she being my first acquaintance in this particular portion of
the world.

To Johnny Upright's house I came, and to the door came the "slavey."  Now,
mark you, her position in life was pitiable and contemptible, but it was
with pity and contempt that she looked at me.  She evinced a plain desire
that our conversation should be short.  It was Sunday, and Johnny Upright
was not at home, and that was all there was to it.  But I lingered,
discussing whether or not it was all there was to it, till Mrs. Johnny
Upright was attracted to the door, where she scolded the girl for not
having closed it before turning her attention to me.

No, Mr. Johnny Upright was not at home, and further, he saw nobody on
Sunday.  It is too bad, said I.  Was I looking for work?  No, quite the
contrary; in fact, I had come to see Johnny Upright on business which
might be profitable to him.

A change came over the face of things at once.  The gentleman in question
was at church, but would be home in an hour or thereabouts, when no doubt
he could be seen.

Would I kindly step in?--no, the lady did not ask me, though I fished for
an invitation by stating that I would go down to the corner and wait in a
public-house.  And down to the corner I went, but, it being church time,
the "pub" was closed.  A miserable drizzle was falling, and, in lieu of
better, I took a seat on a neighbourly doorstep and waited.

And here to the doorstep came the "slavey," very frowzy and very
perplexed, to tell me that the missus would let me come back and wait in
the kitchen.

"So many people come 'ere lookin' for work," Mrs. Johnny Upright
apologetically explained.  "So I 'ope you won't feel bad the way I
spoke."

"Not at all, not at all," I replied in my grandest manner, for the nonce
investing my rags with dignity.  "I quite understand, I assure you.  I
suppose people looking for work almost worry you to death?"

"That they do," she answered, with an eloquent and expressive glance; and
thereupon ushered me into, not the kitchen, but the dining room--a
favour, I took it, in recompense for my grand manner.

This dining-room, on the same floor as the kitchen, was about four feet
below the level of the ground, and so dark (it was midday) that I had to
wait a space for my eyes to adjust themselves to the gloom.  Dirty light
filtered in through a window, the top of which was on a level with a
sidewalk, and in this light I found that I was able to read newspaper
print.

And here, while waiting the coming of Johnny Upright, let me explain my
errand.  While living, eating, and sleeping with the people of the East
End, it was my intention to have a port of refuge, not too far distant,
into which could run now and again to assure myself that good clothes and
cleanliness still existed.  Also in such port I could receive my mail,
work up my notes, and sally forth occasionally in changed garb to
civilisation.

But this involved a dilemma.  A lodging where my property would be safe
implied a landlady apt to be suspicious of a gentleman leading a double
life; while a landlady who would not bother her head over the double life
of her lodgers would imply lodgings where property was unsafe.  To avoid
the dilemma was what had brought me to Johnny Upright.  A detective of
thirty-odd years' continuous service in the East End, known far and wide
by a name given him by a convicted felon in the dock, he was just the man
to find me an honest landlady, and make her rest easy concerning the
strange comings and goings of which I might be guilty.

His two daughters beat him home from church--and pretty girls they were
in their Sunday dresses; withal it was the certain weak and delicate
prettiness which characterises the Cockney lasses, a prettiness which is
no more than a promise with no grip on time, and doomed to fade quickly
away like the colour from a sunset sky.

They looked me over with frank curiosity, as though I were some sort of a
strange animal, and then ignored me utterly for the rest of my wait.  Then
Johnny Upright himself arrived, and I was summoned upstairs to confer
with him.

"Speak loud," he interrupted my opening words.  "I've got a bad cold, and
I can't hear well."

Shades of Old Sleuth and Sherlock Holmes!  I wondered as to where the
assistant was located whose duty it was to take down whatever information
I might loudly vouchsafe.  And to this day, much as I have seen of Johnny
Upright and much as I have puzzled over the incident, I have never been
quite able to make up my mind as to whether or not he had a cold, or had
an assistant planted in the other room.  But of one thing I am sure:
though I gave Johnny Upright the facts concerning myself and project, he
withheld judgment till next day, when I dodged into his street
conventionally garbed and in a hansom.  Then his greeting was cordial
enough, and I went down into the dining-room to join the family at tea.

"We are humble here," he said, "not given to the flesh, and you must take
us for what we are, in our humble way."

The girls were flushed and embarrassed at greeting me, while he did not
make it any the easier for them.

"Ha! ha!" he roared heartily, slapping the table with his open hand till
the dishes rang.  "The girls thought yesterday you had come to ask for a
piece of bread!  Ha! ha! ho! ho! ho!"

This they indignantly denied, with snapping eyes and guilty red cheeks,
as though it were an essential of true refinement to be able to discern
under his rags a man who had no need to go ragged.

And then, while I ate bread and marmalade, proceeded a play at cross
purposes, the daughters deeming it an insult to me that I should have
been mistaken for a beggar, and the father considering it as the highest
compliment to my cleverness to succeed in being so mistaken.  All of
which I enjoyed, and the bread, the marmalade, and the tea, till the time
came for Johnny Upright to find me a lodging, which he did, not half-a-
dozen doors away, in his own respectable and opulent street, in a house
as like to his own as a pea to its mate.




CHAPTER III--MY LODGING AND SOME OTHERS


From an East London standpoint, the room I rented for six shillings, or a
dollar and a half, per week, was a most comfortable affair.  From the
American standpoint, on the other hand, it was rudely furnished,
uncomfortable, and small.  By the time I had added an ordinary typewriter
table to its scanty furnishing, I was hard put to turn around; at the
best, I managed to navigate it by a sort of vermicular progression
requiring great dexterity and presence of mind.

Having settled myself, or my property rather, I put on my knockabout
clothes and went out for a walk.  Lodgings being fresh in my mind, I
began to look them up, bearing in mind the hypothesis that I was a poor
young man with a wife and large family.

My first discovery was that empty houses were few and far between--so far
between, in fact, that though I walked miles in irregular circles over a
large area, I still remained between.  Not one empty house could I find--a
conclusive proof that the district was "saturated."

It being plain that as a poor young man with a family I could rent no
houses at all in this most undesirable region, I next looked for rooms,
unfurnished rooms, in which I could store my wife and babies and
chattels.  There were not many, but I found them, usually in the
singular, for one appears to be considered sufficient for a poor man's
family in which to cook and eat and sleep.  When I asked for two rooms,
the sublettees looked at me very much in the manner, I imagine, that a
certain personage looked at Oliver Twist when he asked for more.

Not only was one room deemed sufficient for a poor man and his family,
but I learned that many families, occupying single rooms, had so much
space to spare as to be able to take in a lodger or two.  When such rooms
can be rented for from three to six shillings per week, it is a fair
conclusion that a lodger with references should obtain floor space for,
say, from eightpence to a shilling.  He may even be able to board with
the sublettees for a few shillings more.  This, however, I failed to
inquire into--a reprehensible error on my part, considering that I was
working on the basis of a hypothetical family.

Not only did the houses I investigated have no bath-tubs, but I learned
that there were no bath-tubs in all the thousands of houses I had seen.
Under the circumstances, with my wife and babies and a couple of lodgers
suffering from the too great spaciousness of one room, taking a bath in a
tin wash-basin would be an unfeasible undertaking.  But, it seems, the
compensation comes in with the saving of soap, so all's well, and God's
still in heaven.

However, I rented no rooms, but returned to my own Johnny Upright's
street.  What with my wife, and babies, and lodgers, and the various
cubby-holes into which I had fitted them, my mind's eye had become narrow-
angled, and I could not quite take in all of my own room at once.  The
immensity of it was awe-inspiring.  Could this be the room I had rented
for six shillings a week?  Impossible!  But my landlady, knocking at the
door to learn if I were comfortable, dispelled my doubts.

"Oh yes, sir," she said, in reply to a question.  "This street is the
very last.  All the other streets were like this eight or ten years ago,
and all the people were very respectable.  But the others have driven our
kind out.  Those in this street are the only ones left.  It's shocking,
sir!"

And then she explained the process of saturation, by which the rental
value of a neighbourhood went up, while its tone went down.

"You see, sir, our kind are not used to crowding in the way the others
do.  We need more room.  The others, the foreigners and lower-class
people, can get five and six families into this house, where we only get
one.  So they can pay more rent for the house than we can afford.  It
_is_ shocking, sir; and just to think, only a few years ago all this
neighbourhood was just as nice as it could be."

I looked at her.  Here was a woman, of the finest grade of the English
working-class, with numerous evidences of refinement, being slowly
engulfed by that noisome and rotten tide of humanity which the powers
that be are pouring eastward out of London Town.  Bank, factory, hotel,
and office building must go up, and the city poor folk are a nomadic
breed; so they migrate eastward, wave upon wave, saturating and degrading
neighbourhood by neighbourhood, driving the better class of workers
before them to pioneer, on the rim of the city, or dragging them down, if
not in the first generation, surely in the second and third.

It is only a question of months when Johnny Upright's street must go.  He
realises it himself.

"In a couple of years," he says, "my lease expires.  My landlord is one
of our kind.  He has not put up the rent on any of his houses here, and
this has enabled us to stay.  But any day he may sell, or any day he may
die, which is the same thing so far as we are concerned.  The house is
bought by a money breeder, who builds a sweat shop on the patch of ground
at the rear where my grapevine is, adds to the house, and rents it a room
to a family.  There you are, and Johnny Upright's gone!"

And truly I saw Johnny Upright, and his good wife and fair daughters, and
frowzy slavey, like so many ghosts flitting eastward through the gloom,
the monster city roaring at their heels.

But Johnny Upright is not alone in his flitting.  Far, far out, on the
fringe of the city, live the small business men, little managers, and
successful clerks.  They dwell in cottages and semi-detached villas, with
bits of flower garden, and elbow room, and breathing space.  They inflate
themselves with pride, and throw out their chests when they contemplate
the Abyss from which they have escaped, and they thank God that they are
not as other men.  And lo! down upon them comes Johnny Upright and the
monster city at his heels.  Tenements spring up like magic, gardens are
built upon, villas are divided and subdivided into many dwellings, and
the black night of London settles down in a greasy pall.




CHAPTER IV--A MAN AND THE ABYSS


"I say, can you let a lodging?"

These words I discharged carelessly over my shoulder at a stout and
elderly woman, of whose fare I was partaking in a greasy coffee-house
down near the Pool and not very far from Limehouse.

"Oh yus," she answered shortly, my appearance possibly not approximating
the standard of affluence required by her house.

I said no more, consuming my rasher of bacon and pint of sickly tea in
silence.  Nor did she take further interest in me till I came to pay my
reckoning (fourpence), when I pulled all of ten shillings out of my
pocket.  The expected result was produced.

"Yus, sir," she at once volunteered; "I 'ave nice lodgin's you'd likely
tyke a fancy to.  Back from a voyage, sir?"

"How much for a room?" I inquired, ignoring her curiosity.

She looked me up and down with frank surprise.  "I don't let rooms, not
to my reg'lar lodgers, much less casuals."

"Then I'll have to look along a bit," I said, with marked disappointment.

But the sight of my ten shillings had made her keen.  "I can let you have
a nice bed in with two hother men," she urged.  "Good, respectable men,
an' steady."

"But I don't want to sleep with two other men," I objected.

"You don't 'ave to.  There's three beds in the room, an' hit's not a very
small room."

"How much?" I demanded.

"'Arf a crown a week, two an' six, to a regular lodger.  You'll fancy the
men, I'm sure.  One works in the ware'ouse, an' 'e's been with me two
years now.  An' the hother's bin with me six--six years, sir, an' two
months comin' nex' Saturday.  'E's a scene-shifter," she went on.  "A
steady, respectable man, never missin' a night's work in the time 'e's
bin with me.  An' 'e likes the 'ouse; 'e says as it's the best 'e can do
in the w'y of lodgin's.  I board 'im, an' the hother lodgers too."

"I suppose he's saving money right along," I insinuated innocently.

"Bless you, no!  Nor can 'e do as well helsewhere with 'is money."

And I thought of my own spacious West, with room under its sky and
unlimited air for a thousand Londons; and here was this man, a steady and
reliable man, never missing a night's work, frugal and honest, lodging in
one room with two other men, paying two dollars and a half per month for
it, and out of his experience adjudging it to be the best he could do!
And here was I, on the strength of the ten shillings in my pocket, able
to enter in with my rags and take up my bed with him.  The human soul is
a lonely thing, but it must be very lonely sometimes when there are three
beds to a room, and casuals with ten shillings are admitted.

"How long have you been here?" I asked.

"Thirteen years, sir; an' don't you think you'll fancy the lodgin'?"

The while she talked she was shuffling ponderously about the small
kitchen in which she cooked the food for her lodgers who were also
boarders.  When I first entered, she had been hard at work, nor had she
let up once throughout the conversation.  Undoubtedly she was a busy
woman.  "Up at half-past five," "to bed the last thing at night,"
"workin' fit ter drop," thirteen years of it, and for reward, grey hairs,
frowzy clothes, stooped shoulders, slatternly figure, unending toil in a
foul and noisome coffee-house that faced on an alley ten feet between the
walls, and a waterside environment that was ugly and sickening, to say
the least.

"You'll be hin hagain to 'ave a look?" she questioned wistfully, as I
went out of the door.

And as I turned and looked at her, I realized to the full the deeper
truth underlying that very wise old maxim: "Virtue is its own reward."

I went back to her.  "Have you ever taken a vacation?" I asked.

"Vycytion!"

"A trip to the country for a couple of days, fresh air, a day off, you
know, a rest."

"Lor' lumme!" she laughed, for the first time stopping from her work.  "A
vycytion, eh? for the likes o' me?  Just fancy, now!--Mind yer
feet!"--this last sharply, and to me, as I stumbled over the rotten
threshold.

Down near the West India Dock I came upon a young fellow staring
disconsolately at the muddy water.  A fireman's cap was pulled down
across his eyes, and the fit and sag of his clothes whispered
unmistakably of the sea.

"Hello, mate," I greeted him, sparring for a beginning.  "Can you tell me
the way to Wapping?"

"Worked yer way over on a cattle boat?" he countered, fixing my
nationality on the instant.

And thereupon we entered upon a talk that extended itself to a public-
house and a couple of pints of "arf an' arf."  This led to closer
intimacy, so that when I brought to light all of a shilling's worth of
coppers (ostensibly my all), and put aside sixpence for a bed, and
sixpence for more arf an' arf, he generously proposed that we drink up
the whole shilling.

"My mate, 'e cut up rough las' night," he explained.  "An' the bobbies
got 'm, so you can bunk in wi' me.  Wotcher say?"

I said yes, and by the time we had soaked ourselves in a whole shilling's
worth of beer, and slept the night on a miserable bed in a miserable den,
I knew him pretty fairly for what he was.  And that in one respect he was
representative of a large body of the lower-class London workman, my
later experience substantiates.

He was London-born, his father a fireman and a drinker before him.  As a
child, his home was the streets and the docks.  He had never learned to
read, and had never felt the need for it--a vain and useless
accomplishment, he held, at least for a man of his station in life.

He had had a mother and numerous squalling brothers and sisters, all
crammed into a couple of rooms and living on poorer and less regular food
than he could ordinarily rustle for himself.  In fact, he never went home
except at periods when he was unfortunate in procuring his own food.
Petty pilfering and begging along the streets and docks, a trip or two to
sea as mess-boy, a few trips more as coal-trimmer, and then a
full-fledged fireman, he had reached the top of his life.

And in the course of this he had also hammered out a philosophy of life,
an ugly and repulsive philosophy, but withal a very logical and sensible
one from his point of view.  When I asked him what he lived for, he
immediately answered, "Booze."  A voyage to sea (for a man must live and
get the wherewithal), and then the paying off and the big drunk at the
end.  After that, haphazard little drunks, sponged in the "pubs" from
mates with a few coppers left, like myself, and when sponging was played
out another trip to sea and a repetition of the beastly cycle.

"But women," I suggested, when he had finished proclaiming booze the sole
end of existence.

"Wimmen!"  He thumped his pot upon the bar and orated eloquently.  "Wimmen
is a thing my edication 'as learnt me t' let alone.  It don't pay, matey;
it don't pay.  Wot's a man like me want o' wimmen, eh? jest you tell me.
There was my mar, she was enough, a-bangin' the kids about an' makin' the
ole man mis'rable when 'e come 'ome, w'ich was seldom, I grant.  An' fer
w'y?  Becos o' mar!  She didn't make 'is 'ome 'appy, that was w'y.  Then,
there's the other wimmen, 'ow do they treat a pore stoker with a few
shillin's in 'is trouseys?  A good drunk is wot 'e's got in 'is pockits,
a good long drunk, an' the wimmen skin 'im out of his money so quick 'e
ain't 'ad 'ardly a glass.  I know.  I've 'ad my fling, an' I know wot's
wot.  An' I tell you, where's wimmen is trouble--screechin' an' carryin'
on, fightin', cuttin', bobbies, magistrates, an' a month's 'ard labour
back of it all, an' no pay-day when you come out."

"But a wife and children," I insisted.  "A home of your own, and all
that.  Think of it, back from a voyage, little children climbing on your
knee, and the wife happy and smiling, and a kiss for you when she lays
the table, and a kiss all round from the babies when they go to bed, and
the kettle singing and the long talk afterwards of where you've been and
what you've seen, and of her and all the little happenings at home while
you've been away, and--"

"Garn!" he cried, with a playful shove of his fist on my shoulder.  "Wot's
yer game, eh?  A missus kissin' an' kids clim'in', an' kettle singin',
all on four poun' ten a month w'en you 'ave a ship, an' four nothin' w'en
you 'aven't.  I'll tell you wot I'd get on four poun' ten--a missus
rowin', kids squallin', no coal t' make the kettle sing, an' the kettle
up the spout, that's wot I'd get.  Enough t' make a bloke bloomin' well
glad to be back t' sea.  A missus!  Wot for?  T' make you mis'rable?
Kids?  Jest take my counsel, matey, an' don't 'ave 'em.  Look at me!  I
can 'ave my beer w'en I like, an' no blessed missus an' kids a-crying for
bread.  I'm 'appy, I am, with my beer an' mates like you, an' a good ship
comin', an' another trip to sea.  So I say, let's 'ave another pint.  Arf
an' arf's good enough for me."

Without going further with the speech of this young fellow of two-and-
twenty, I think I have sufficiently indicated his philosophy of life and
the underlying economic reason for it.  Home life he had never known.  The
word "home" aroused nothing but unpleasant associations.  In the low
wages of his father, and of other men in the same walk in life, he found
sufficient reason for branding wife and children as encumbrances and
causes of masculine misery.  An unconscious hedonist, utterly unmoral and
materialistic, he sought the greatest possible happiness for himself, and
found it in drink.

A young sot; a premature wreck; physical inability to do a stoker's work;
the gutter or the workhouse; and the end--he saw it all as clearly as I,
but it held no terrors for him.  From the moment of his birth, all the
forces of his environment had tended to harden him, and he viewed his
wretched, inevitable future with a callousness and unconcern I could not
shake.

And yet he was not a bad man.  He was not inherently vicious and brutal.
He had normal mentality, and a more than average physique.  His eyes were
blue and round, shaded by long lashes, and wide apart.  And there was a
laugh in them, and a fund of humour behind.  The brow and general
features were good, the mouth and lips sweet, though already developing a
harsh twist.  The chin was weak, but not too weak; I have seen men
sitting in the high places with weaker.

His head was shapely, and so gracefully was it poised upon a perfect neck
that I was not surprised by his body that night when he stripped for bed.
I have seen many men strip, in gymnasium and training quarters, men of
good blood and upbringing, but I have never seen one who stripped to
better advantage than this young sot of two-and-twenty, this young god
doomed to rack and ruin in four or five short years, and to pass hence
without posterity to receive the splendid heritage it was his to
bequeath.

It seemed sacrilege to waste such life, and yet I was forced to confess
that he was right in not marrying on four pounds ten in London Town.  Just
as the scene-shifter was happier in making both ends meet in a room
shared with two other men, than he would have been had he packed a feeble
family along with a couple of men into a cheaper room, and failed in
making both ends meet.

And day by day I became convinced that not only is it unwise, but it is
criminal for the people of the Abyss to marry.  They are the stones by
the builder rejected.  There is no place for them, in the social fabric,
while all the forces of society drive them downward till they perish.  At
the bottom of the Abyss they are feeble, besotted, and imbecile.  If they
reproduce, the life is so cheap that perforce it perishes of itself.  The
work of the world goes on above them, and they do not care to take part
in it, nor are they able.  Moreover, the work of the world does not need
them.  There are plenty, far fitter than they, clinging to the steep
slope above, and struggling frantically to slide no more.

In short, the London Abyss is a vast shambles.  Year by year, and decade
after decade, rural England pours in a flood of vigorous strong life,
that not only does not renew itself, but perishes by the third
generation.  Competent authorities aver that the London workman whose
parents and grand-parents were born in London is so remarkable a specimen
that he is rarely found.

Mr. A. C. Pigou has said that the aged poor, and the residuum which
compose the "submerged tenth," constitute 71 per cent, of the population
of London.  Which is to say that last year, and yesterday, and to-day, at
this very moment, 450,000 of these creatures are dying miserably at the
bottom of the social pit called "London."  As to how they die, I shall
take an instance from this morning's paper.

   SELF-NEGLECT

   Yesterday Dr. Wynn Westcott held an inquest at Shoreditch, respecting
   the death of Elizabeth Crews, aged 77 years, of 32 East Street,
   Holborn, who died on Wednesday last.  Alice Mathieson stated that she
   was landlady of the house where deceased lived.  Witness last saw her
   alive on the previous Monday.  She lived quite alone.  Mr. Francis
   Birch, relieving officer for the Holborn district, stated that
   deceased had occupied the room in question for thirty-five years.  When
   witness was called, on the 1st, he found the old woman in a terrible
   state, and the ambulance and coachman had to be disinfected after the
   removal.  Dr. Chase Fennell said death was due to blood-poisoning from
   bed-sores, due to self-neglect and filthy surroundings, and the jury
   returned a verdict to that effect.

The most startling thing about this little incident of a woman's death is
the smug complacency with which the officials looked upon it and rendered
judgment.  That an old woman of seventy-seven years of age should die of
SELF-NEGLECT is the most optimistic way possible of looking at it.  It
was the old dead woman's fault that she died, and having located the
responsibility, society goes contentedly on about its own affairs.

Of the "submerged tenth" Mr. Pigou has said: "Either through lack of
bodily strength, or of intelligence, or of fibre, or of all three, they
are inefficient or unwilling workers, and consequently unable to support
themselves . . . They are often so degraded in intellect as to be
incapable of distinguishing their right from their left hand, or of
recognising the numbers of their own houses; their bodies are feeble and
without stamina, their affections are warped, and they scarcely know what
family life means."

Four hundred and fifty thousand is a whole lot of people.  The young
fireman was only one, and it took him some time to say his little say.  I
should not like to hear them all talk at once.  I wonder if God hears
them?




CHAPTER V--THOSE ON THE EDGE


My first impression of East London was naturally a general one.  Later
the details began to appear, and here and there in the chaos of misery I
found little spots where a fair measure of happiness reigned--sometimes
whole rows of houses in little out-of-the-way streets, where artisans
dwell and where a rude sort of family life obtains.  In the evenings the
men can be seen at the doors, pipes in their mouths and children on their
knees, wives gossiping, and laughter and fun going on.  The content of
these people is manifestly great, for, relative to the wretchedness that
encompasses them, they are well off.

But at the best, it is a dull, animal happiness, the content of the full
belly.  The dominant note of their lives is materialistic.  They are
stupid and heavy, without imagination.  The Abyss seems to exude a
stupefying atmosphere of torpor, which wraps about them and deadens them.
Religion passes them by.  The Unseen holds for them neither terror nor
delight.  They are unaware of the Unseen; and the full belly and the
evening pipe, with their regular "arf an' arf," is all they demand, or
dream of demanding, from existence.

This would not be so bad if it were all; but it is not all.  The
satisfied torpor in which they are sunk is the deadly inertia that
precedes dissolution.  There is no progress, and with them not to
progress is to fall back and into the Abyss.  In their own lives they may
only start to fall, leaving the fall to be completed by their children
and their children's children.  Man always gets less than he demands from
life; and so little do they demand, that the less than little they get
cannot save them.

At the best, city life is an unnatural life for the human; but the city
life of London is so utterly unnatural that the average workman or
workwoman cannot stand it.  Mind and body are sapped by the undermining
influences ceaselessly at work.  Moral and physical stamina are broken,
and the good workman, fresh from the soil, becomes in the first city
generation a poor workman; and by the second city generation, devoid of
push and go and initiative, and actually unable physically to perform the
labour his father did, he is well on the way to the shambles at the
bottom of the Abyss.

If nothing else, the air he breathes, and from which he never escapes, is
sufficient to weaken him mentally and physically, so that he becomes
unable to compete with the fresh virile life from the country hastening
on to London Town to destroy and be destroyed.

Leaving out the disease germs that fill the air of the East End, consider
but the one item of smoke.  Sir William Thiselton-Dyer, curator of Kew
Gardens, has been studying smoke deposits on vegetation, and, according
to his calculations, no less than six tons of solid matter, consisting of
soot and tarry hydrocarbons, are deposited every week on every quarter of
a square mile in and about London.  This is equivalent to twenty-four
tons per week to the square mile, or 1248 tons per year to the square
mile.  From the cornice below the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral was
recently taken a solid deposit of crystallised sulphate of lime.  This
deposit had been formed by the action of the sulphuric acid in the
atmosphere upon the carbonate of lime in the stone.  And this sulphuric
acid in the atmosphere is constantly being breathed by the London workmen
through all the days and nights of their lives.

It is incontrovertible that the children grow up into rotten adults,
without virility or stamina, a weak-kneed, narrow-chested, listless
breed, that crumples up and goes down in the brute struggle for life with
the invading hordes from the country.  The railway men, carriers, omnibus
drivers, corn and timber porters, and all those who require physical
stamina, are largely drawn from the country; while in the Metropolitan
Police there are, roughly, 12,000 country-born as against 3000 London-
born.

So one is forced to conclude that the Abyss is literally a huge
man-killing machine, and when I pass along the little out-of-the-way
streets with the full-bellied artisans at the doors, I am aware of a
greater sorrow for them than for the 450,000 lost and hopeless wretches
dying at the bottom of the pit.  They, at least, are dying, that is the
point; while these have yet to go through the slow and preliminary pangs
extending through two and even three generations.

And yet the quality of the life is good.  All human potentialities are in
it.  Given proper conditions, it could live through the centuries, and
great men, heroes and masters, spring from it and make the world better
by having lived.

I talked with a woman who was representative of that type which has been
jerked out of its little out-of-the-way streets and has started on the
fatal fall to the bottom.  Her husband was a fitter and a member of the
Engineers' Union.  That he was a poor engineer was evidenced by his
inability to get regular employment.  He did not have the energy and
enterprise necessary to obtain or hold a steady position.

The pair had two daughters, and the four of them lived in a couple of
holes, called "rooms" by courtesy, for which they paid seven shillings
per week.  They possessed no stove, managing their cooking on a single
gas-ring in the fireplace.  Not being persons of property, they were
unable to obtain an unlimited supply of gas; but a clever machine had
been installed for their benefit.  By dropping a penny in the slot, the
gas was forthcoming, and when a penny's worth had forthcome the supply
was automatically shut off.  "A penny gawn in no time," she explained,
"an' the cookin' not arf done!"

Incipient starvation had been their portion for years.  Month in and
month out, they had arisen from the table able and willing to eat more.
And when once on the downward slope, chronic innutrition is an important
factor in sapping vitality and hastening the descent.

Yet this woman was a hard worker.  From 4.30 in the morning till the last
light at night, she said, she had toiled at making cloth dress-skirts,
lined up and with two flounces, for seven shillings a dozen.  Cloth dress-
skirts, mark you, lined up with two flounces, for seven shillings a
dozen!  This is equal to $1.75 per dozen, or 14.75 cents per skirt.

The husband, in order to obtain employment, had to belong to the union,
which collected one shilling and sixpence from him each week.  Also, when
strikes were afoot and he chanced to be working, he had at times been
compelled to pay as high as seventeen shillings into the union's coffers
for the relief fund.

One daughter, the elder, had worked as green hand for a dressmaker, for
one shilling and sixpence per week--37.5 cents per week, or a fraction
over 5 cents per day.  However, when the slack season came she was
discharged, though she had been taken on at such low pay with the
understanding that she was to learn the trade and work up.  After that
she had been employed in a bicycle store for three years, for which she
received five shillings per week, walking two miles to her work, and two
back, and being fined for tardiness.

As far as the man and woman were concerned, the game was played.  They
had lost handhold and foothold, and were falling into the pit.  But what
of the daughters?  Living like swine, enfeebled by chronic innutrition,
being sapped mentally, morally, and physically, what chance have they to
crawl up and out of the Abyss into which they were born falling?

As I write this, and for an hour past, the air has been made hideous by a
free-for-all, rough-and-tumble fight going on in the yard that is back to
back with my yard.  When the first sounds reached me I took it for the
barking and snarling of dogs, and some minutes were required to convince
me that human beings, and women at that, could produce such a fearful
clamour.

Drunken women fighting!  It is not nice to think of; it is far worse to
listen to.  Something like this it runs--

Incoherent babble, shrieked at the top of the lungs of several women; a
lull, in which is heard a child crying and a young girl's voice pleading
tearfully; a woman's voice rises, harsh and grating, "You 'it me!  Jest
you 'it me!" then, swat! challenge accepted and fight rages afresh.

The back windows of the houses commanding the scene are lined with
enthusiastic spectators, and the sound of blows, and of oaths that make
one's blood run cold, are borne to my ears.  Happily, I cannot see the
combatants.

A lull; "You let that child alone!" child, evidently of few years,
screaming in downright terror.  "Awright," repeated insistently and at
top pitch twenty times straight running; "you'll git this rock on the
'ead!" and then rock evidently on the head from the shriek that goes up.

A lull; apparently one combatant temporarily disabled and being
resuscitated; child's voice audible again, but now sunk to a lower note
of terror and growing exhaustion.

Voices begin to go up the scale, something like this:-

"Yes?"

"Yes!"

"Yes?"

"Yes!"

"Yes?"

"Yes!"

"Yes?"

"Yes!"

Sufficient affirmation on both sides, conflict again precipitated.  One
combatant gets overwhelming advantage, and follows it up from the way the
other combatant screams bloody murder.  Bloody murder gurgles and dies
out, undoubtedly throttled by a strangle hold.

Entrance of new voices; a flank attack; strangle hold suddenly broken
from the way bloody murder goes up half an octave higher than before;
general hullaballoo, everybody fighting.

Lull; new voice, young girl's, "I'm goin' ter tyke my mother's part;"
dialogue, repeated about five times, "I'll do as I like, blankety, blank,
blank!"  "I'd like ter see yer, blankety, blank, blank!" renewed
conflict, mothers, daughters, everybody, during which my landlady calls
her young daughter in from the back steps, while I wonder what will be
the effect of all that she has heard upon her moral fibre.




CHAPTER VI--FRYING-PAN ALLEY AND A GLIMPSE OF INFERNO


Three of us walked down Mile End Road, and one was a hero.  He was a
slender lad of nineteen, so slight and frail, in fact, that, like Fra
Lippo Lippi, a puff of wind might double him up and turn him over.  He
was a burning young socialist, in the first throes of enthusiasm and ripe
for martyrdom.  As platform speaker or chairman he had taken an active
and dangerous part in the many indoor and outdoor pro-Boer meetings which
have vexed the serenity of Merry England these several years back.  Little
items he had been imparting to me as he walked along; of being mobbed in
parks and on tram-cars; of climbing on the platform to lead the forlorn
hope, when brother speaker after brother speaker had been dragged down by
the angry crowd and cruelly beaten; of a siege in a church, where he and
three others had taken sanctuary, and where, amid flying missiles and the
crashing of stained glass, they had fought off the mob till rescued by
platoons of constables; of pitched and giddy battles on stairways,
galleries, and balconies; of smashed windows, collapsed stairways,
wrecked lecture halls, and broken heads and bones--and then, with a
regretful sigh, he looked at me and said: "How I envy you big, strong
men!  I'm such a little mite I can't do much when it comes to fighting."

And I, walking head and shoulders above my two companions, remembered my
own husky West, and the stalwart men it had been my custom, in turn, to
envy there.  Also, as I looked at the mite of a youth with the heart of a
lion, I thought, this is the type that on occasion rears barricades and
shows the world that men have not forgotten how to die.

But up spoke my other companion, a man of twenty-eight, who eked out a
precarious existence in a sweating den.

"I'm a 'earty man, I am," he announced.  "Not like the other chaps at my
shop, I ain't.  They consider me a fine specimen of manhood.  W'y, d' ye
know, I weigh ten stone!"

I was ashamed to tell him that I weighed one hundred and seventy pounds,
or over twelve stone, so I contented myself with taking his measure.
Poor, misshapen little man!  His skin an unhealthy colour, body gnarled
and twisted out of all decency, contracted chest, shoulders bent
prodigiously from long hours of toil, and head hanging heavily forward
and out of place!  A "'earty man,' 'e was!"

"How tall are you?"

"Five foot two," he answered proudly; "an' the chaps at the shop . . . "

"Let me see that shop," I said.

The shop was idle just then, but I still desired to see it.  Passing
Leman Street, we cut off to the left into Spitalfields, and dived into
Frying-pan Alley.  A spawn of children cluttered the slimy pavement, for
all the world like tadpoles just turned frogs on the bottom of a dry
pond.  In a narrow doorway, so narrow that perforce we stepped over her,
sat a woman with a young babe, nursing at breasts grossly naked and
libelling all the sacredness of motherhood.  In the black and narrow hall
behind her we waded through a mess of young life, and essayed an even
narrower and fouler stairway.  Up we went, three flights, each landing
two feet by three in area, and heaped with filth and refuse.

There were seven rooms in this abomination called a house.  In six of the
rooms, twenty-odd people, of both sexes and all ages, cooked, ate, slept,
and worked.  In size the rooms averaged eight feet by eight, or possibly
nine.  The seventh room we entered.  It was the den in which five men
"sweated."  It was seven feet wide by eight long, and the table at which
the work was performed took up the major portion of the space.  On this
table were five lasts, and there was barely room for the men to stand to
their work, for the rest of the space was heaped with cardboard, leather,
bundles of shoe uppers, and a miscellaneous assortment of materials used
in attaching the uppers of shoes to their soles.

In the adjoining room lived a woman and six children.  In another vile
hole lived a widow, with an only son of sixteen who was dying of
consumption.  The woman hawked sweetmeats on the street, I was told, and
more often failed than not to supply her son with the three quarts of
milk he daily required.  Further, this son, weak and dying, did not taste
meat oftener than once a week; and the kind and quality of this meat
cannot possibly be imagined by people who have never watched human swine
eat.

"The w'y 'e coughs is somethin' terrible," volunteered my sweated friend,
referring to the dying boy.  "We 'ear 'im 'ere, w'ile we're workin', an'
it's terrible, I say, terrible!"

And, what of the coughing and the sweetmeats, I found another menace
added to the hostile environment of the children of the slum.

My sweated friend, when work was to be had, toiled with four other men in
his eight-by-seven room.  In the winter a lamp burned nearly all the day
and added its fumes to the over-loaded air, which was breathed, and
breathed, and breathed again.

In good times, when there was a rush of work, this man told me that he
could earn as high as "thirty bob a week."--Thirty shillings!  Seven
dollars and a half!

"But it's only the best of us can do it," he qualified.  "An' then we
work twelve, thirteen, and fourteen hours a day, just as fast as we can.
An' you should see us sweat!  Just running from us!  If you could see us,
it'd dazzle your eyes--tacks flyin' out of mouth like from a machine.
Look at my mouth."

I looked.  The teeth were worn down by the constant friction of the
metallic brads, while they were coal-black and rotten.

"I clean my teeth," he added, "else they'd be worse."

After he had told me that the workers had to furnish their own tools,
brads, "grindery," cardboard, rent, light, and what not, it was plain
that his thirty bob was a diminishing quantity.

"But how long does the rush season last, in which you receive this high
wage of thirty bob?" I asked.

"Four months," was the answer; and for the rest of the year, he informed
me, they average from "half a quid" to a "quid" a week, which is
equivalent to from two dollars and a half to five dollars.  The present
week was half gone, and he had earned four bob, or one dollar.  And yet I
was given to understand that this was one of the better grades of
sweating.

I looked out of the window, which should have commanded the back yards of
the neighbouring buildings.  But there were no back yards, or, rather,
they were covered with one-storey hovels, cowsheds, in which people
lived.  The roofs of these hovels were covered with deposits of filth, in
some places a couple of feet deep--the contributions from the back
windows of the second and third storeys.  I could make out fish and meat
bones, garbage, pestilential rags, old boots, broken earthenware, and all
the general refuse of a human sty.

"This is the last year of this trade; they're getting machines to do away
with us," said the sweated one mournfully, as we stepped over the woman
with the breasts grossly naked and waded anew through the cheap young
life.

We next visited the municipal dwellings erected by the London County
Council on the site of the slums where lived Arthur Morrison's "Child of
the Jago."  While the buildings housed more people than before, it was
much healthier.  But the dwellings were inhabited by the better-class
workmen and artisans.  The slum people had simply drifted on to crowd
other slums or to form new slums.

"An' now," said the sweated one, the 'earty man who worked so fast as to
dazzle one's eyes, "I'll show you one of London's lungs.  This is
Spitalfields Garden."  And he mouthed the word "garden" with scorn.

The shadow of Christ's Church falls across Spitalfields Garden, and in
the shadow of Christ's Church, at three o'clock in the afternoon, I saw a
sight I never wish to see again.  There are no flowers in this garden,
which is smaller than my own rose garden at home.  Grass only grows here,
and it is surrounded by a sharp-spiked iron fencing, as are all the parks
of London Town, so that homeless men and women may not come in at night
and sleep upon it.

As we entered the garden, an old woman, between fifty and sixty, passed
us, striding with sturdy intention if somewhat rickety action, with two
bulky bundles, covered with sacking, slung fore and aft upon her.  She
was a woman tramp, a houseless soul, too independent to drag her failing
carcass through the workhouse door.  Like the snail, she carried her home
with her.  In the two sacking-covered bundles were her household goods,
her wardrobe, linen, and dear feminine possessions.

We went up the narrow gravelled walk.  On the benches on either side
arrayed a mass of miserable and distorted humanity, the sight of which
would have impelled Dore to more diabolical flights of fancy than he ever
succeeded in achieving.  It was a welter of rags and filth, of all manner
of loathsome skin diseases, open sores, bruises, grossness, indecency,
leering monstrosities, and bestial faces.  A chill, raw wind was blowing,
and these creatures huddled there in their rags, sleeping for the most
part, or trying to sleep.  Here were a dozen women, ranging in age from
twenty years to seventy.  Next a babe, possibly of nine months, lying
asleep, flat on the hard bench, with neither pillow nor covering, nor
with any one looking after it.  Next half-a-dozen men, sleeping bolt
upright or leaning against one another in their sleep.  In one place a
family group, a child asleep in its sleeping mother's arms, and the
husband (or male mate) clumsily mending a dilapidated shoe.  On another
bench a woman trimming the frayed strips of her rags with a knife, and
another woman, with thread and needle, sewing up rents.  Adjoining, a man
holding a sleeping woman in his arms.  Farther on, a man, his clothing
caked with gutter mud, asleep, with head in the lap of a woman, not more
than twenty-five years old, and also asleep.

It was this sleeping that puzzled me.  Why were nine out of ten of them
asleep or trying to sleep?  But it was not till afterwards that I
learned.  _It is a law of the powers that be that the homeless shall not
sleep by night_.  On the pavement, by the portico of Christ's Church,
where the stone pillars rise toward the sky in a stately row, were whole
rows of men lying asleep or drowsing, and all too deep sunk in torpor to
rouse or be made curious by our intrusion.

"A lung of London," I said; "nay, an abscess, a great putrescent sore."

"Oh, why did you bring me here?" demanded the burning young socialist,
his delicate face white with sickness of soul and stomach sickness.

"Those women there," said our guide, "will sell themselves for
thru'pence, or tu'pence, or a loaf of stale bread."

He said it with a cheerful sneer.

But what more he might have said I do not know, for the sick man cried,
"For heaven's sake let us get out of this."




CHAPTER VII--A WINNER OF THE VICTORIA CROSS


I have found that it is not easy to get into the casual ward of the
workhouse.  I have made two attempts now, and I shall shortly make a
third.  The first time I started out at seven o'clock in the evening with
four shillings in my pocket.  Herein I committed two errors.  In the
first place, the applicant for admission to the casual ward must be
destitute, and as he is subjected to a rigorous search, he must really be
destitute; and fourpence, much less four shillings, is sufficient
affluence to disqualify him.  In the second place, I made the mistake of
tardiness.  Seven o'clock in the evening is too late in the day for a
pauper to get a pauper's bed.

For the benefit of gently nurtured and innocent folk, let me explain what
a ward is.  It is a building where the homeless, bedless, penniless man,
if he be lucky, may _casually_ rest his weary bones, and then work like a
navvy next day to pay for it.

My second attempt to break into the casual ward began more auspiciously.
I started in the middle of the afternoon, accompanied by the burning
young socialist and another friend, and all I had in my pocket was
thru'pence.  They piloted me to the Whitechapel Workhouse, at which I
peered from around a friendly corner.  It was a few minutes past five in
the afternoon but already a long and melancholy line was formed, which
strung out around the corner of the building and out of sight.

It was a most woeful picture, men and women waiting in the cold grey end
of the day for a pauper's shelter from the night, and I confess it almost
unnerved me.  Like the boy before the dentist's door, I suddenly
discovered a multitude of reasons for being elsewhere.  Some hints of the
struggle going on within must have shown in my face, for one of my
companions said, "Don't funk; you can do it."

Of course I could do it, but I became aware that even thru'pence in my
pocket was too lordly a treasure for such a throng; and, in order that
all invidious distinctions might be removed, I emptied out the coppers.
Then I bade good-bye to my friends, and with my heart going pit-a-pat,
slouched down the street and took my place at the end of the line.  Woeful
it looked, this line of poor folk tottering on the steep pitch to death;
how woeful it was I did not dream.

Next to me stood a short, stout man.  Hale and hearty, though aged,
strong-featured, with the tough and leathery skin produced by long years
of sunbeat and weatherbeat, his was the unmistakable sea face and eyes;
and at once there came to me a bit of Kipling's "Galley Slave":-

   "By the brand upon my shoulder, by the gall of clinging steel;
   By the welt the whips have left me, by the scars that never heal;
   By eyes grown old with staring through the sun-wash on the brine,
   I am paid in full for service . . . "

How correct I was in my surmise, and how peculiarly appropriate the verse
was, you shall learn.

"I won't stand it much longer, I won't," he was complaining to the man on
the other side of him.  "I'll smash a windy, a big 'un, an' get run in
for fourteen days.  Then I'll have a good place to sleep, never fear, an'
better grub than you get here.  Though I'd miss my bit of bacey"--this as
an after-thought, and said regretfully and resignedly.

"I've been out two nights now," he went on; "wet to the skin night before
last, an' I can't stand it much longer.  I'm gettin' old, an' some
mornin' they'll pick me up dead."

He whirled with fierce passion on me: "Don't you ever let yourself grow
old, lad.  Die when you're young, or you'll come to this.  I'm tellin'
you sure.  Seven an' eighty years am I, an' served my country like a man.
Three good-conduct stripes and the Victoria Cross, an' this is what I get
for it.  I wish I was dead, I wish I was dead.  Can't come any too quick
for me, I tell you."

The moisture rushed into his eyes, but, before the other man could
comfort him, he began to hum a lilting sea song as though there was no
such thing as heartbreak in the world.

Given encouragement, this is the story he told while waiting in line at
the workhouse after two nights of exposure in the streets.

As a boy he had enlisted in the British navy, and for two score years and
more served faithfully and well.  Names, dates, commanders, ports, ships,
engagements, and battles, rolled from his lips in a steady stream, but it
is beyond me to remember them all, for it is not quite in keeping to take
notes at the poorhouse door.  He had been through the "First War in
China," as he termed it; had enlisted with the East India Company and
served ten years in India; was back in India again, in the English navy,
at the time of the Mutiny; had served in the Burmese War and in the
Crimea; and all this in addition to having fought and toiled for the
English flag pretty well over the rest of the globe.

Then the thing happened.  A little thing, it could only be traced back to
first causes: perhaps the lieutenant's breakfast had not agreed with him;
or he had been up late the night before; or his debts were pressing; or
the commander had spoken brusquely to him.  The point is, that on this
particular day the lieutenant was irritable.  The sailor, with others,
was "setting up" the fore rigging.

Now, mark you, the sailor had been over forty years in the navy, had
three good-conduct stripes, and possessed the Victoria Cross for
distinguished service in battle; so he could not have been such an
altogether bad sort of a sailorman.  The lieutenant was irritable; the
lieutenant called him a name--well, not a nice sort of name.  It referred
to his mother.  When I was a boy it was our boys' code to fight like
little demons should such an insult be given our mothers; and many men
have died in my part of the world for calling other men this name.

However, the lieutenant called the sailor this name.  At that moment it
chanced the sailor had an iron lever or bar in his hands.  He promptly
struck the lieutenant over the head with it, knocking him out of the
rigging and overboard.

And then, in the man's own words: "I saw what I had done.  I knew the
Regulations, and I said to myself, 'It's all up with you, Jack, my boy;
so here goes.'  An' I jumped over after him, my mind made up to drown us
both.  An' I'd ha' done it, too, only the pinnace from the flagship was
just comin' alongside.  Up we came to the top, me a hold of him an'
punchin' him.  This was what settled for me.  If I hadn't ben strikin'
him, I could have claimed that, seein' what I had done, I jumped over to
save him."

Then came the court-martial, or whatever name a sea trial goes by.  He
recited his sentence, word for word, as though memorised and gone over in
bitterness many times.  And here it is, for the sake of discipline and
respect to officers not always gentlemen, the punishment of a man who was
guilty of manhood.  To be reduced to the rank of ordinary seaman; to be
debarred all prize-money due him; to forfeit all rights to pension; to
resign the Victoria Cross; to be discharged from the navy with a good
character (this being his first offence); to receive fifty lashes; and to
serve two years in prison.

"I wish I had drowned that day, I wish to God I had," he concluded, as
the line moved up and we passed around the corner.

At last the door came in sight, through which the paupers were being
admitted in bunches.  And here I learned a surprising thing: _this being
Wednesday, none of us would be released till Friday morning_.
Furthermore, and oh, you tobacco users, take heed: _we would not be
permitted to take in any tobacco_.  This we would have to surrender as we
entered.  Sometimes, I was told, it was returned on leaving and sometimes
it was destroyed.

The old man-of-war's man gave me a lesson.  Opening his pouch, he emptied
the tobacco (a pitiful quantity) into a piece of paper.  This, snugly and
flatly wrapped, went down his sock inside his shoe.  Down went my piece
of tobacco inside my sock, for forty hours without tobacco is a hardship
all tobacco users will understand.

Again and again the line moved up, and we were slowly but surely
approaching the wicket.  At the moment we happened to be standing on an
iron grating, and a man appearing underneath, the old sailor called down
to him,--

"How many more do they want?"

"Twenty-four," came the answer.

We looked ahead anxiously and counted.  Thirty-four were ahead of us.
Disappointment and consternation dawned upon the faces about me.  It is
not a nice thing, hungry and penniless, to face a sleepless night in the
streets.  But we hoped against hope, till, when ten stood outside the
wicket, the porter turned us away.

"Full up," was what he said, as he banged the door.

Like a flash, for all his eighty-seven years, the old sailor was speeding
away on the desperate chance of finding shelter elsewhere.  I stood and
debated with two other men, wise in the knowledge of casual wards, as to
where we should go.  They decided on the Poplar Workhouse, three miles
away, and we started off.

As we rounded the corner, one of them said, "I could a' got in 'ere to-
day.  I come by at one o'clock, an' the line was beginnin' to form
then--pets, that's what they are.  They let 'm in, the same ones, night
upon night."




CHAPTER VIII--THE CARTER AND THE CARPENTER


The Carter, with his clean-cut face, chin beard, and shaved upper lip, I
should have taken in the United States for anything from a master workman
to a well-to-do farmer.  The Carpenter--well, I should have taken him for
a carpenter.  He looked it, lean and wiry, with shrewd, observant eyes,
and hands that had grown twisted to the handles of tools through forty-
seven years' work at the trade.  The chief difficulty with these men was
that they were old, and that their children, instead of growing up to
take care of them, had died.  Their years had told on them, and they had
been forced out of the whirl of industry by the younger and stronger
competitors who had taken their places.

These two men, turned away from the casual ward of Whitechapel Workhouse,
were bound with me for Poplar Workhouse.  Not much of a show, they
thought, but to chance it was all that remained to us.  It was Poplar, or
the streets and night.  Both men were anxious for a bed, for they were
"about gone," as they phrased it.  The Carter, fifty-eight years of age,
had spent the last three nights without shelter or sleep, while the
Carpenter, sixty-five years of age, had been out five nights.

But, O dear, soft people, full of meat and blood, with white beds and
airy rooms waiting you each night, how can I make you know what it is to
suffer as you would suffer if you spent a weary night on London's
streets!  Believe me, you would think a thousand centuries had come and
gone before the east paled into dawn; you would shiver till you were
ready to cry aloud with the pain of each aching muscle; and you would
marvel that you could endure so much and live.  Should you rest upon a
bench, and your tired eyes close, depend upon it the policeman would
rouse you and gruffly order you to "move on."  You may rest upon the
bench, and benches are few and far between; but if rest means sleep, on
you must go, dragging your tired body through the endless streets.  Should
you, in desperate slyness, seek some forlorn alley or dark passageway and
lie down, the omnipresent policeman will rout you out just the same.  It
is his business to rout you out.  It is a law of the powers that be that
you shall be routed out.

But when the dawn came, the nightmare over, you would hale you home to
refresh yourself, and until you died you would tell the story of your
adventure to groups of admiring friends.  It would grow into a mighty
story.  Your little eight-hour night would become an Odyssey and you a
Homer.

Not so with these homeless ones who walked to Poplar Workhouse with me.
And there are thirty-five thousand of them, men and women, in London Town
this night.  Please don't remember it as you go to bed; if you are as
soft as you ought to be you may not rest so well as usual.  But for old
men of sixty, seventy, and eighty, ill-fed, with neither meat nor blood,
to greet the dawn unrefreshed, and to stagger through the day in mad
search for crusts, with relentless night rushing down upon them again,
and to do this five nights and days--O dear, soft people, full of meat
and blood, how can you ever understand?

I walked up Mile End Road between the Carter and the Carpenter.  Mile End
Road is a wide thoroughfare, cutting the heart of East London, and there
were tens of thousands of people abroad on it.  I tell you this so that
you may fully appreciate what I shall describe in the next paragraph.  As
I say, we walked along, and when they grew bitter and cursed the land, I
cursed with them, cursed as an American waif would curse, stranded in a
strange and terrible land.  And, as I tried to lead them to believe, and
succeeded in making them believe, they took me for a "seafaring man," who
had spent his money in riotous living, lost his clothes (no unusual
occurrence with seafaring men ashore), and was temporarily broke while
looking for a ship.  This accounted for my ignorance of English ways in
general and casual wards in particular, and my curiosity concerning the
same.

The Carter was hard put to keep the pace at which we walked (he told me
that he had eaten nothing that day), but the Carpenter, lean and hungry,
his grey and ragged overcoat flapping mournfully in the breeze, swung on
in a long and tireless stride which reminded me strongly of the plains
wolf or coyote.  Both kept their eyes upon the pavement as they walked
and talked, and every now and then one or the other would stoop and pick
something up, never missing the stride the while.  I thought it was cigar
and cigarette stumps they were collecting, and for some time took no
notice.  Then I did notice.

_From the slimy, spittle-drenched, sidewalk, they were picking up bits of
orange peel, apple skin, and grape stems, and, they were eating them.  The
pits of greengage plums they cracked between their teeth for the kernels
inside.  They picked up stray bits of bread the size of peas, apple cores
so black and dirty one would not take them to be apple cores, and these
things these two men took into their mouths, and chewed them, and
swallowed them; and this, between six and seven o'clock in the evening of
August 20, year of our Lord 1902, in the heart of the greatest,
wealthiest, and most powerful empire the world has ever seen_.

These two men talked.  They were not fools, they were merely old.  And,
naturally, their guts a-reek with pavement offal, they talked of bloody
revolution.  They talked as anarchists, fanatics, and madmen would talk.
And who shall blame them?  In spite of my three good meals that day, and
the snug bed I could occupy if I wished, and my social philosophy, and my
evolutionary belief in the slow development and metamorphosis of
things--in spite of all this, I say, I felt impelled to talk rot with
them or hold my tongue.  Poor fools!  Not of their sort are revolutions
bred.  And when they are dead and dust, which will be shortly, other
fools will talk bloody revolution as they gather offal from the spittle-
drenched sidewalk along Mile End Road to Poplar Workhouse.

Being a foreigner, and a young man, the Carter and the Carpenter
explained things to me and advised me.  Their advice, by the way, was
brief, and to the point; it was to get out of the country.  "As fast as
God'll let me," I assured them; "I'll hit only the high places, till you
won't be able to see my trail for smoke."  They felt the force of my
figures, rather than understood them, and they nodded their heads
approvingly.

"Actually make a man a criminal against 'is will," said the Carpenter.
"'Ere I am, old, younger men takin' my place, my clothes gettin' shabbier
an' shabbier, an' makin' it 'arder every day to get a job.  I go to the
casual ward for a bed.  Must be there by two or three in the afternoon or
I won't get in.  You saw what happened to-day.  What chance does that
give me to look for work?  S'pose I do get into the casual ward?  Keep me
in all day to-morrow, let me out mornin' o' next day.  What then?  The
law sez I can't get in another casual ward that night less'n ten miles
distant.  Have to hurry an' walk to be there in time that day.  What
chance does that give me to look for a job?  S'pose I don't walk.  S'pose
I look for a job?  In no time there's night come, an' no bed.  No sleep
all night, nothin' to eat, what shape am I in the mornin' to look for
work?  Got to make up my sleep in the park somehow" (the vision of
Christ's Church, Spitalfield, was strong on me) "an' get something to
eat.  An' there I am!  Old, down, an' no chance to get up."

"Used to be a toll-gate 'ere," said the Carter.  "Many's the time I've
paid my toll 'ere in my cartin' days."

"I've 'ad three 'a'penny rolls in two days," the Carpenter announced,
after a long pause in the conversation.  "Two of them I ate yesterday,
an' the third to-day," he concluded, after another long pause.

"I ain't 'ad anything to-day," said the Carter.  "An' I'm fagged out.  My
legs is hurtin' me something fearful."

"The roll you get in the 'spike' is that 'ard you can't eat it nicely
with less'n a pint of water," said the Carpenter, for my benefit.  And,
on asking him what the "spike" was, he answered, "The casual ward.  It's
a cant word, you know."

But what surprised me was that he should have the word "cant" in his
vocabulary, a vocabulary that I found was no mean one before we parted.

I asked them what I might expect in the way of treatment, if we succeeded
in getting into the Poplar Workhouse, and between them I was supplied
with much information.  Having taken a cold bath on entering, I would be
given for supper six ounces of bread and "three parts of skilly."  "Three
parts" means three-quarters of a pint, and "skilly" is a fluid concoction
of three quarts of oatmeal stirred into three buckets and a half of hot
water.

"Milk and sugar, I suppose, and a silver spoon?" I queried.

"No fear.  Salt's what you'll get, an' I've seen some places where you'd
not get any spoon.  'Old 'er up an' let 'er run down, that's 'ow they do
it."

"You do get good skilly at 'Ackney," said the Carter.

"Oh, wonderful skilly, that," praised the Carpenter, and each looked
eloquently at the other.

"Flour an' water at St. George's in the East," said the Carter.

The Carpenter nodded.  He had tried them all.

"Then what?" I demanded

And I was informed that I was sent directly to bed.  "Call you at half
after five in the mornin', an' you get up an' take a 'sluice'--if there's
any soap.  Then breakfast, same as supper, three parts o' skilly an' a
six-ounce loaf."

"'Tisn't always six ounces," corrected the Carter.

"'Tisn't, no; an' often that sour you can 'ardly eat it.  When first I
started I couldn't eat the skilly nor the bread, but now I can eat my own
an' another man's portion."

"I could eat three other men's portions," said the Carter.  "I 'aven't
'ad a bit this blessed day."

"Then what?"

"Then you've got to do your task, pick four pounds of oakum, or clean an'
scrub, or break ten to eleven hundredweight o' stones.  I don't 'ave to
break stones; I'm past sixty, you see.  They'll make you do it, though.
You're young an' strong."

"What I don't like," grumbled the Carter, "is to be locked up in a cell
to pick oakum.  It's too much like prison."

"But suppose, after you've had your night's sleep, you refuse to pick
oakum, or break stones, or do any work at all?" I asked.

"No fear you'll refuse the second time; they'll run you in," answered the
Carpenter.  "Wouldn't advise you to try it on, my lad."

"Then comes dinner," he went on.  "Eight ounces of bread, one and a arf
ounces of cheese, an' cold water.  Then you finish your task an' 'ave
supper, same as before, three parts o' skilly any six ounces o' bread.
Then to bed, six o'clock, an' next mornin' you're turned loose, provided
you've finished your task."

We had long since left Mile End Road, and after traversing a gloomy maze
of narrow, winding streets, we came to Poplar Workhouse.  On a low stone
wall we spread our handkerchiefs, and each in his handkerchief put all
his worldly possessions, with the exception of the "bit o' baccy" down
his sock.  And then, as the last light was fading from the drab-coloured
sky, the wind blowing cheerless and cold, we stood, with our pitiful
little bundles in our hands, a forlorn group at the workhouse door.

Three working girls came along, and one looked pityingly at me; as she
passed I followed her with my eyes, and she still looked pityingly back
at me.  The old men she did not notice.  Dear Christ, she pitied me,
young and vigorous and strong, but she had no pity for the two old men
who stood by my side!  She was a young woman, and I was a young man, and
what vague sex promptings impelled her to pity me put her sentiment on
the lowest plane.  Pity for old men is an altruistic feeling, and
besides, the workhouse door is the accustomed place for old men.  So she
showed no pity for them, only for me, who deserved it least or not at
all.  Not in honour do grey hairs go down to the grave in London Town.

On one side the door was a bell handle, on the other side a press button.

"Ring the bell," said the Carter to me.

And just as I ordinarily would at anybody's door, I pulled out the handle
and rang a peal.

"Oh!  Oh!" they cried in one terrified voice.  "Not so 'ard!"

I let go, and they looked reproachfully at me, as though I had imperilled
their chance for a bed and three parts of skilly.  Nobody came.  Luckily
it was the wrong bell, and I felt better.

"Press the button," I said to the Carpenter.

"No, no, wait a bit," the Carter hurriedly interposed.

From all of which I drew the conclusion that a poorhouse porter, who
commonly draws a yearly salary of from seven to nine pounds, is a very
finicky and important personage, and cannot be treated too fastidiously
by--paupers.

So we waited, ten times a decent interval, when the Carter stealthily
advanced a timid forefinger to the button, and gave it the faintest,
shortest possible push.  I have looked at waiting men where life or death
was in the issue; but anxious suspense showed less plainly on their faces
than it showed on the faces of these two men as they waited on the coming
of the porter.

He came.  He barely looked at us.  "Full up," he said and shut the door.

"Another night of it," groaned the Carpenter.  In the dim light the
Carter looked wan and grey.

Indiscriminate charity is vicious, say the professional philanthropists.
Well, I resolved to be vicious.

"Come on; get your knife out and come here," I said to the Carter,
drawing him into a dark alley.

He glared at me in a frightened manner, and tried to draw back.  Possibly
he took me for a latter-day Jack-the-Ripper, with a penchant for elderly
male paupers.  Or he may have thought I was inveigling him into the
commission of some desperate crime.  Anyway, he was frightened.

It will be remembered, at the outset, that I sewed a pound inside my
stoker's singlet under the armpit.  This was my emergency fund, and I was
now called upon to use it for the first time.

Not until I had gone through the acts of a contortionist, and shown the
round coin sewed in, did I succeed in getting the Carter's help.  Even
then his hand was trembling so that I was afraid he would cut me instead
of the stitches, and I was forced to take the knife away and do it
myself.  Out rolled the gold piece, a fortune in their hungry eyes; and
away we stampeded for the nearest coffee-house.

Of course I had to explain to them that I was merely an investigator, a
social student, seeking to find out how the other half lived.  And at
once they shut up like clams.  I was not of their kind; my speech had
changed, the tones of my voice were different, in short, I was a
superior, and they were superbly class conscious.

"What will you have?" I asked, as the waiter came for the order.

"Two slices an' a cup of tea," meekly said the Carter.

"Two slices an' a cup of tea," meekly said the Carpenter.

Stop a moment, and consider the situation.  Here were two men, invited by
me into the coffee-house.  They had seen my gold piece, and they could
understand that I was no pauper.  One had eaten a ha'penny roll that day,
the other had eaten nothing.  And they called for "two slices an' a cup
of tea!"  Each man had given a tu'penny order.  "Two slices," by the way,
means two slices of bread and butter.

This was the same degraded humility that had characterised their attitude
toward the poorhouse porter.  But I wouldn't have it.  Step by step I
increased their order--eggs, rashers of bacon, more eggs, more bacon,
more tea, more slices and so forth--they denying wistfully all the while
that they cared for anything more, and devouring it ravenously as fast as
it arrived.

"First cup o' tea I've 'ad in a fortnight," said the Carter.

"Wonderful tea, that," said the Carpenter.

They each drank two pints of it, and I assure you that it was slops.  It
resembled tea less than lager beer resembles champagne.  Nay, it was
"water-bewitched," and did not resemble tea at all.

It was curious, after the first shock, to notice the effect the food had
on them.  At first they were melancholy, and talked of the divers times
they had contemplated suicide.  The Carter, not a week before, had stood
on the bridge and looked at the water, and pondered the question.  Water,
the Carpenter insisted with heat, was a bad route.  He, for one, he knew,
would struggle.  A bullet was "'andier," but how under the sun was he to
get hold of a revolver?  That was the rub.

They grew more cheerful as the hot "tea" soaked in, and talked more about
themselves.  The Carter had buried his wife and children, with the
exception of one son, who grew to manhood and helped him in his little
business.  Then the thing happened.  The son, a man of thirty-one, died
of the smallpox.  No sooner was this over than the father came down with
fever and went to the hospital for three months.  Then he was done for.
He came out weak, debilitated, no strong young son to stand by him, his
little business gone glimmering, and not a farthing.  The thing had
happened, and the game was up.  No chance for an old man to start again.
Friends all poor and unable to help.  He had tried for work when they
were putting up the stands for the first Coronation parade.  "An' I got
fair sick of the answer: 'No! no! no!'  It rang in my ears at night when
I tried to sleep, always the same, 'No! no! no!'"  Only the past week he
had answered an advertisement in Hackney, and on giving his age was told,
"Oh, too old, too old by far."

The Carpenter had been born in the army, where his father had served
twenty-two years.  Likewise, his two brothers had gone into the army;
one, troop sergeant-major of the Seventh Hussars, dying in India after
the Mutiny; the other, after nine years under Roberts in the East, had
been lost in Egypt.  The Carpenter had not gone into the army, so here he
was, still on the planet.

"But 'ere, give me your 'and," he said, ripping open his ragged shirt.
"I'm fit for the anatomist, that's all.  I'm wastin' away, sir, actually
wastin' away for want of food.  Feel my ribs an' you'll see."

I put my hand under his shirt and felt.  The skin was stretched like
parchment over the bones, and the sensation produced was for all the
world like running one's hand over a washboard.

"Seven years o' bliss I 'ad," he said.  "A good missus and three bonnie
lassies.  But they all died.  Scarlet fever took the girls inside a
fortnight."

"After this, sir," said the Carter, indicating the spread, and desiring
to turn the conversation into more cheerful channels; "after this, I
wouldn't be able to eat a workhouse breakfast in the morning."

"Nor I," agreed the Carpenter, and they fell to discussing belly delights
and the fine dishes their respective wives had cooked in the old days.

"I've gone three days and never broke my fast," said the Carter.

"And I, five," his companion added, turning gloomy with the memory of it.
"Five days once, with nothing on my stomach but a bit of orange peel, an'
outraged nature wouldn't stand it, sir, an' I near died.  Sometimes,
walkin' the streets at night, I've ben that desperate I've made up my
mind to win the horse or lose the saddle.  You know what I mean, sir--to
commit some big robbery.  But when mornin' come, there was I, too weak
from 'unger an' cold to 'arm a mouse."

As their poor vitals warmed to the food, they began to expand and wax
boastful, and to talk politics.  I can only say that they talked politics
as well as the average middle-class man, and a great deal better than
some of the middle-class men I have heard.  What surprised me was the
hold they had on the world, its geography and peoples, and on recent and
contemporaneous history.  As I say, they were not fools, these two men.
They were merely old, and their children had undutifully failed to grow
up and give them a place by the fire.

One last incident, as I bade them good-bye on the corner, happy with a
couple of shillings in their pockets and the certain prospect of a bed
for the night.  Lighting a cigarette, I was about to throw away the
burning match when the Carter reached for it.  I proffered him the box,
but he said, "Never mind, won't waste it, sir."  And while he lighted the
cigarette I had given him, the Carpenter hurried with the filling of his
pipe in order to have a go at the same match.

"It's wrong to waste," said he.

"Yes," I said, but I was thinking of the wash-board ribs over which I had
run my hand.




CHAPTER IX--THE SPIKE


First of all, I must beg forgiveness of my body for the vileness through
which I have dragged it, and forgiveness of my stomach for the vileness
which I have thrust into it.  I have been to the spike, and slept in the
spike, and eaten in the spike; also, I have run away from the spike.

After my two unsuccessful attempts to penetrate the Whitechapel casual
ward, I started early, and joined the desolate line before three o'clock
in the afternoon.  They did not "let in" till six, but at that early hour
I was number twenty, while the news had gone forth that only twenty-two
were to be admitted.  By four o'clock there were thirty-four in line, the
last ten hanging on in the slender hope of getting in by some kind of a
miracle.  Many more came, looked at the line, and went away, wise to the
bitter fact that the spike would be "full up."

Conversation was slack at first, standing there, till the man on one side
of me and the man on the other side of me discovered that they had been
in the smallpox hospital at the same time, though a full house of sixteen
hundred patients had prevented their becoming acquainted.  But they made
up for it, discussing and comparing the more loathsome features of their
disease in the most cold-blooded, matter-of-fact way.  I learned that the
average mortality was one in six, that one of them had been in three
months and the other three months and a half, and that they had been
"rotten wi' it."  Whereat my flesh began to creep and crawl, and I asked
them how long they had been out.  One had been out two weeks, and the
other three weeks.  Their faces were badly pitted (though each assured
the other that this was not so), and further, they showed me in their
hands and under the nails the smallpox "seeds" still working out.  Nay,
one of them worked a seed out for my edification, and pop it went, right
out of his flesh into the air.  I tried to shrink up smaller inside my
clothes, and I registered a fervent though silent hope that it had not
popped on me.

In both instances, I found that the smallpox was the cause of their being
"on the doss," which means on the tramp.  Both had been working when
smitten by the disease, and both had emerged from the hospital "broke,"
with the gloomy task before them of hunting for work.  So far, they had
not found any, and they had come to the spike for a "rest up" after three
days and nights on the street.

It seems that not only the man who becomes old is punished for his
involuntary misfortune, but likewise the man who is struck by disease or
accident.  Later on, I talked with another man--"Ginger" we called
him--who stood at the head of the line--a sure indication that he had
been waiting since one o'clock.  A year before, one day, while in the
employ of a fish dealer, he was carrying a heavy box of fish which was
too much for him.  Result: "something broke," and there was the box on
the ground, and he on the ground beside it.

At the first hospital, whither he was immediately carried, they said it
was a rupture, reduced the swelling, gave him some vaseline to rub on it,
kept him four hours, and told him to get along.  But he was not on the
streets more than two or three hours when he was down on his back again.
This time he went to another hospital and was patched up.  But the point
is, the employer did nothing, positively nothing, for the man injured in
his employment, and even refused him "a light job now and again," when he
came out.  As far as Ginger is concerned, he is a broken man.  His only
chance to earn a living was by heavy work.  He is now incapable of
performing heavy work, and from now until he dies, the spike, the peg,
and the streets are all he can look forward to in the way of food and
shelter.  The thing happened--that is all.  He put his back under too
great a load of fish, and his chance for happiness in life was crossed
off the books.

Several men in the line had been to the United States, and they were
wishing that they had remained there, and were cursing themselves for
their folly in ever having left.  England had become a prison to them, a
prison from which there was no hope of escape.  It was impossible for
them to get away.  They could neither scrape together the passage money,
nor get a chance to work their passage.  The country was too overrun by
poor devils on that "lay."

I was on the seafaring-man-who-had-lost-his-clothes-and-money tack, and
they all condoled with me and gave me much sound advice.  To sum it up,
the advice was something like this: To keep out of all places like the
spike.  There was nothing good in it for me.  To head for the coast and
bend every effort to get away on a ship.  To go to work, if possible, and
scrape together a pound or so, with which I might bribe some steward or
underling to give me chance to work my passage.  They envied me my youth
and strength, which would sooner or later get me out of the country.
These they no longer possessed.  Age and English hardship had broken
them, and for them the game was played and up.

There was one, however, who was still young, and who, I am sure, will in
the end make it out.  He had gone to the United States as a young fellow,
and in fourteen years' residence the longest period he had been out of
work was twelve hours.  He had saved his money, grown too prosperous, and
returned to the mother-country.  Now he was standing in line at the
spike.

For the past two years, he told me, he had been working as a cook.  His
hours had been from 7 a.m. to 10.30 p.m., and on Saturday to 12.30
p.m.--ninety-five hours per week, for which he had received twenty
shillings, or five dollars.

"But the work and the long hours was killing me," he said, "and I had to
chuck the job.  I had a little money saved, but I spent it living and
looking for another place."

This was his first night in the spike, and he had come in only to get
rested.  As soon as he emerged, he intended to start for Bristol, a one-
hundred-and-ten-mile walk, where he thought he would eventually get a
ship for the States.

But the men in the line were not all of this calibre.  Some were poor,
wretched beasts, inarticulate and callous, but for all of that, in many
ways very human.  I remember a carter, evidently returning home after the
day's work, stopping his cart before us so that his young hopeful, who
had run to meet him, could climb in.  But the cart was big, the young
hopeful little, and he failed in his several attempts to swarm up.
Whereupon one of the most degraded-looking men stepped out of the line
and hoisted him in.  Now the virtue and the joy of this act lies in that
it was service of love, not hire.  The carter was poor, and the man knew
it; and the man was standing in the spike line, and the carter knew it;
and the man had done the little act, and the carter had thanked him, even
as you and I would have done and thanked.

Another beautiful touch was that displayed by the "Hopper" and his "ole
woman."  He had been in line about half-an-hour when the "ole woman" (his
mate) came up to him.  She was fairly clad, for her class, with a weather-
worn bonnet on her grey head and a sacking-covered bundle in her arms.  As
she talked to him, he reached forward, caught the one stray wisp of the
white hair that was flying wild, deftly twirled it between his fingers,
and tucked it back properly behind her ear.  From all of which one may
conclude many things.  He certainly liked her well enough to wish her to
be neat and tidy.  He was proud of her, standing there in the spike line,
and it was his desire that she should look well in the eyes of the other
unfortunates who stood in the spike line.  But last and best, and
underlying all these motives, it was a sturdy affection he bore her; for
man is not prone to bother his head over neatness and tidiness in a woman
for whom he does not care, nor is he likely to be proud of such a woman.

And I found myself questioning why this man and his mate, hard workers I
knew from their talk, should have to seek a pauper lodging.  He had
pride, pride in his old woman and pride in himself.  When I asked him
what he thought I, a greenhorn, might expect to earn at "hopping," he
sized me up, and said that it all depended.  Plenty of people were too
slow to pick hops and made a failure of it.  A man, to succeed, must use
his head and be quick with his fingers, must be exceeding quick with his
fingers.  Now he and his old woman could do very well at it, working the
one bin between them and not going to sleep over it; but then, they had
been at it for years.

"I 'ad a mate as went down last year," spoke up a man.  "It was 'is fust
time, but 'e come back wi' two poun' ten in 'is pockit, an' 'e was only
gone a month."

"There you are," said the Hopper, a wealth of admiration in his voice.
"'E was quick.  'E was jest nat'rally born to it, 'e was."

Two pound ten--twelve dollars and a half--for a month's work when one is
"jest nat'rally born to it!"  And in addition, sleeping out without
blankets and living the Lord knows how.  There are moments when I am
thankful that I was not "jest nat'rally born" a genius for anything, not
even hop-picking,

In the matter of getting an outfit for "the hops," the Hopper gave me
some sterling advice, to which same give heed, you soft and tender
people, in case you should ever be stranded in London Town.

"If you ain't got tins an' cookin' things, all as you can get'll be bread
and cheese.  No bloomin' good that!  You must 'ave 'ot tea, an'
wegetables, an' a bit o' meat, now an' again, if you're goin' to do work
as is work.  Cawn't do it on cold wittles.  Tell you wot you do, lad.  Run
around in the mornin' an' look in the dust pans.  You'll find plenty o'
tins to cook in.  Fine tins, wonderful good some o' them.  Me an' the ole
woman got ours that way."  (He pointed at the bundle she held, while she
nodded proudly, beaming on me with good-nature and consciousness of
success and prosperity.)  "This overcoat is as good as a blanket," he
went on, advancing the skirt of it that I might feel its thickness.  "An'
'oo knows, I may find a blanket before long."

Again the old woman nodded and beamed, this time with the dead certainty
that he _would_ find a blanket before long.

"I call it a 'oliday, 'oppin'," he concluded rapturously.  "A tidy way o'
gettin' two or three pounds together an' fixin' up for winter.  The only
thing I don't like"--and here was the rift within the lute--"is paddin'
the 'oof down there."

It was plain the years were telling on this energetic pair, and while
they enjoyed the quick work with the fingers, "paddin' the 'oof," which
is walking, was beginning to bear heavily upon them.  And I looked at
their grey hairs, and ahead into the future ten years, and wondered how
it would be with them.

I noticed another man and his old woman join the line, both of them past
fifty.  The woman, because she was a woman, was admitted into the spike;
but he was too late, and, separated from his mate, was turned away to
tramp the streets all night.

The street on which we stood, from wall to wall, was barely twenty feet
wide.  The sidewalks were three feet wide.  It was a residence street.  At
least workmen and their families existed in some sort of fashion in the
houses across from us.  And each day and every day, from one in the
afternoon till six, our ragged spike line is the principal feature of the
view commanded by their front doors and windows.  One workman sat in his
door directly opposite us, taking his rest and a breath of air after the
toil of the day.  His wife came to chat with him.  The doorway was too
small for two, so she stood up.  Their babes sprawled before them.  And
here was the spike line, less than a score of feet away--neither privacy
for the workman, nor privacy for the pauper.  About our feet played the
children of the neighbourhood.  To them our presence was nothing unusual.
We were not an intrusion.  We were as natural and ordinary as the brick
walls and stone curbs of their environment.  They had been born to the
sight of the spike line, and all their brief days they had seen it.

At six o'clock the line moved up, and we were admitted in groups of
three.  Name, age, occupation, place of birth, condition of destitution,
and the previous night's "doss," were taken with lightning-like rapidity
by the superintendent; and as I turned I was startled by a man's
thrusting into my hand something that felt like a brick, and shouting
into my ear, "any knives, matches, or tobacco?"  "No, sir," I lied, as
lied every man who entered.  As I passed downstairs to the cellar, I
looked at the brick in my hand, and saw that by doing violence to the
language it might be called "bread."  By its weight and hardness it
certainly must have been unleavened.

The light was very dim down in the cellar, and before I knew it some
other man had thrust a pannikin into my other hand.  Then I stumbled on
to a still darker room, where were benches and tables and men.  The place
smelled vilely, and the sombre gloom, and the mumble of voices from out
of the obscurity, made it seem more like some anteroom to the infernal
regions.

Most of the men were suffering from tired feet, and they prefaced the
meal by removing their shoes and unbinding the filthy rags with which
their feet were wrapped.  This added to the general noisomeness, while it
took away from my appetite.

In fact, I found that I had made a mistake.  I had eaten a hearty dinner
five hours before, and to have done justice to the fare before me I
should have fasted for a couple of days.  The pannikin contained skilly,
three-quarters of a pint, a mixture of Indian corn and hot water.  The
men were dipping their bread into heaps of salt scattered over the dirty
tables.  I attempted the same, but the bread seemed to stick in my mouth,
and I remembered the words of the Carpenter, "You need a pint of water to
eat the bread nicely."

I went over into a dark corner where I had observed other men going and
found the water.  Then I returned and attacked the skilly.  It was coarse
of texture, unseasoned, gross, and bitter.  This bitterness which
lingered persistently in the mouth after the skilly had passed on, I
found especially repulsive.  I struggled manfully, but was mastered by my
qualms, and half-a-dozen mouthfuls of skilly and bread was the measure of
my success.  The man beside me ate his own share, and mine to boot,
scraped the pannikins, and looked hungrily for more.

"I met a 'towny,' and he stood me too good a dinner," I explained.

"An' I 'aven't 'ad a bite since yesterday mornin'," he replied.

"How about tobacco?" I asked.  "Will the bloke bother with a fellow now?"

"Oh no," he answered me.  "No bloomin' fear.  This is the easiest spike
goin'.  Y'oughto see some of them.  Search you to the skin."

The pannikins scraped clean, conversation began to spring up.  "This
super'tendent 'ere is always writin' to the papers 'bout us mugs," said
the man on the other side of me.

"What does he say?" I asked.

"Oh, 'e sez we're no good, a lot o' blackguards an' scoundrels as won't
work.  Tells all the ole tricks I've bin 'earin' for twenty years an'
w'ich I never seen a mug ever do.  Las' thing of 'is I see, 'e was
tellin' 'ow a mug gets out o' the spike, wi' a crust in 'is pockit.  An'
w'en 'e sees a nice ole gentleman comin' along the street 'e chucks the
crust into the drain, an' borrows the old gent's stick to poke it out.
An' then the ole gent gi'es 'im a tanner."

A roar of applause greeted the time-honoured yarn, and from somewhere
over in the deeper darkness came another voice, orating angrily:

"Talk o' the country bein' good for tommy [food]; I'd like to see it.  I
jest came up from Dover, an' blessed little tommy I got.  They won't gi'
ye a drink o' water, they won't, much less tommy."

"There's mugs never go out of Kent," spoke a second voice, "they live
bloomin' fat all along."

"I come through Kent," went on the first voice, still more angrily, "an'
Gawd blimey if I see any tommy.  An' I always notices as the blokes as
talks about 'ow much they can get, w'en they're in the spike can eat my
share o' skilly as well as their bleedin' own."

"There's chaps in London," said a man across the table from me, "that get
all the tommy they want, an' they never think o' goin' to the country.
Stay in London the year 'round.  Nor do they think of lookin' for a kip
[place to sleep], till nine or ten o'clock at night."

A general chorus verified this statement

"But they're bloomin' clever, them chaps," said an admiring voice.

"Course they are," said another voice.  "But it's not the likes of me an'
you can do it.  You got to be born to it, I say.  Them chaps 'ave ben
openin' cabs an' sellin' papers since the day they was born, an' their
fathers an' mothers before 'em.  It's all in the trainin', I say, an' the
likes of me an' you 'ud starve at it."

This also was verified by the general chorus, and likewise the statement
that there were "mugs as lives the twelvemonth 'round in the spike an'
never get a blessed bit o' tommy other than spike skilly an' bread."

"I once got arf a crown in the Stratford spike," said a new voice.
Silence fell on the instant, and all listened to the wonderful tale.
"There was three of us breakin' stones.  Winter-time, an' the cold was
cruel.  T'other two said they'd be blessed if they do it, an' they
didn't; but I kept wearin' into mine to warm up, you know.  An' then the
guardians come, an' t'other chaps got run in for fourteen days, an' the
guardians, w'en they see wot I'd been doin', gives me a tanner each, five
o' them, an' turns me up."

The majority of these men, nay, all of them, I found, do not like the
spike, and only come to it when driven in.  After the "rest up" they are
good for two or three days and nights on the streets, when they are
driven in again for another rest.  Of course, this continuous hardship
quickly breaks their constitutions, and they realise it, though only in a
vague way; while it is so much the common run of things that they do not
worry about it.

"On the doss," they call vagabondage here, which corresponds to "on the
road" in the United States.  The agreement is that kipping, or dossing,
or sleeping, is the hardest problem they have to face, harder even than
that of food.  The inclement weather and the harsh laws are mainly
responsible for this, while the men themselves ascribe their homelessness
to foreign immigration, especially of Polish and Russian Jews, who take
their places at lower wages and establish the sweating system.

By seven o'clock we were called away to bathe and go to bed.  We stripped
our clothes, wrapping them up in our coats and buckling our belts about
them, and deposited them in a heaped rack and on the floor--a beautiful
scheme for the spread of vermin.  Then, two by two, we entered the
bathroom.  There were two ordinary tubs, and this I know: the two men
preceding had washed in that water, we washed in the same water, and it
was not changed for the two men that followed us.  This I know; but I am
also certain that the twenty-two of us washed in the same water.

I did no more than make a show of splashing some of this dubious liquid
at myself, while I hastily brushed it off with a towel wet from the
bodies of other men.  My equanimity was not restored by seeing the back
of one poor wretch a mass of blood from attacks of vermin and retaliatory
scratching.

A shirt was handed me--which I could not help but wonder how many other
men had worn; and with a couple of blankets under my arm I trudged off to
the sleeping apartment.  This was a long, narrow room, traversed by two
low iron rails.  Between these rails were stretched, not hammocks, but
pieces of canvas, six feet long and less than two feet wide.  These were
the beds, and they were six inches apart and about eight inches above the
floor.  The chief difficulty was that the head was somewhat higher than
the feet, which caused the body constantly to slip down.  Being slung to
the same rails, when one man moved, no matter how slightly, the rest were
set rocking; and whenever I dozed somebody was sure to struggle back to
the position from which he had slipped, and arouse me again.

Many hours passed before I won to sleep.  It was only seven in the
evening, and the voices of children, in shrill outcry, playing in the
street, continued till nearly midnight.  The smell was frightful and
sickening, while my imagination broke loose, and my skin crept and
crawled till I was nearly frantic.  Grunting, groaning, and snoring arose
like the sounds emitted by some sea monster, and several times, afflicted
by nightmare, one or another, by his shrieks and yells, aroused the lot
of us.  Toward morning I was awakened by a rat or some similar animal on
my breast.  In the quick transition from sleep to waking, before I was
completely myself, I raised a shout to wake the dead.  At any rate, I
woke the living, and they cursed me roundly for my lack of manners.

But morning came, with a six o'clock breakfast of bread and skilly, which
I gave away, and we were told off to our various tasks.  Some were set to
scrubbing and cleaning, others to picking oakum, and eight of us were
convoyed across the street to the Whitechapel Infirmary where we were set
at scavenger work.  This was the method by which we paid for our skilly
and canvas, and I, for one, know that I paid in full many times over.

Though we had most revolting tasks to perform, our allotment was
considered the best and the other men deemed themselves lucky in being
chosen to perform it.

"Don't touch it, mate, the nurse sez it's deadly," warned my working
partner, as I held open a sack into which he was emptying a garbage can.

It came from the sick wards, and I told him that I purposed neither to
touch it, nor to allow it to touch me.  Nevertheless, I had to carry the
sack, and other sacks, down five flights of stairs and empty them in a
receptacle where the corruption was speedily sprinkled with strong
disinfectant.

Perhaps there is a wise mercy in all this.  These men of the spike, the
peg, and the street, are encumbrances.  They are of no good or use to any
one, nor to themselves.  They clutter the earth with their presence, and
are better out of the way.  Broken by hardship, ill fed, and worse
nourished, they are always the first to be struck down by disease, as
they are likewise the quickest to die.

They feel, themselves, that the forces of society tend to hurl them out
of existence.  We were sprinkling disinfectant by the mortuary, when the
dead waggon drove up and five bodies were packed into it.  The
conversation turned to the "white potion" and "black jack," and I found
they were all agreed that the poor person, man or woman, who in the
Infirmary gave too much trouble or was in a bad way, was "polished off."
That is to say, the incurables and the obstreperous were given a dose of
"black jack" or the "white potion," and sent over the divide.  It does
not matter in the least whether this be actually so or not.  The point
is, they have the feeling that it is so, and they have created the
language with which to express that feeling--"black jack" "white potion,"
"polishing off."

At eight o'clock we went down into a cellar under the infirmary, where
tea was brought to us, and the hospital scraps.  These were heaped high
on a huge platter in an indescribable mess--pieces of bread, chunks of
grease and fat pork, the burnt skin from the outside of roasted joints,
bones, in short, all the leavings from the fingers and mouths of the sick
ones suffering from all manner of diseases.  Into this mess the men
plunged their hands, digging, pawing, turning over, examining, rejecting,
and scrambling for.  It wasn't pretty.  Pigs couldn't have done worse.
But the poor devils were hungry, and they ate ravenously of the swill,
and when they could eat no more they bundled what was left into their
handkerchiefs and thrust it inside their shirts.

"Once, w'en I was 'ere before, wot did I find out there but a 'ole lot of
pork-ribs," said Ginger to me.  By "out there" he meant the place where
the corruption was dumped and sprinkled with strong disinfectant.  "They
was a prime lot, no end o' meat on 'em, an' I 'ad 'em into my arms an'
was out the gate an' down the street, a-lookin' for some 'un to gi' 'em
to.  Couldn't see a soul, an' I was runnin' 'round clean crazy, the bloke
runnin' after me an' thinkin' I was 'slingin' my 'ook' [running away].
But jest before 'e got me, I got a ole woman an' poked 'em into 'er
apron."

O Charity, O Philanthropy, descend to the spike and take a lesson from
Ginger.  At the bottom of the Abyss he performed as purely an altruistic
act as was ever performed outside the Abyss.  It was fine of Ginger, and
if the old woman caught some contagion from the "no end o' meat" on the
pork-ribs, it was still fine, though not so fine.  But the most salient
thing in this incident, it seems to me, is poor Ginger, "clean crazy" at
sight of so much food going to waste.

It is the rule of the casual ward that a man who enters must stay two
nights and a day; but I had seen sufficient for my purpose, had paid for
my skilly and canvas, and was preparing to run for it.

"Come on, let's sling it," I said to one of my mates, pointing toward the
open gate through which the dead waggon had come.

"An' get fourteen days?"

"No; get away."

"Aw, I come 'ere for a rest," he said complacently.  "An' another night's
kip won't 'urt me none."

They were all of this opinion, so I was forced to "sling it" alone.

"You cawn't ever come back 'ere again for a doss," they warned me.

"No fear," said I, with an enthusiasm they could not comprehend; and,
dodging out the gate, I sped down the street.

Straight to my room I hurried, changed my clothes, and less than an hour
from my escape, in a Turkish bath, I was sweating out whatever germs and
other things had penetrated my epidermis, and wishing that I could stand
a temperature of three hundred and twenty rather than two hundred and
twenty.




CHAPTER X--CARRYING THE BANNER


"To carry the banner" means to walk the streets all night; and I, with
the figurative emblem hoisted, went out to see what I could see.  Men and
women walk the streets at night all over this great city, but I selected
the West End, making Leicester Square my base, and scouting about from
the Thames Embankment to Hyde Park.

The rain was falling heavily when the theatres let out, and the brilliant
throng which poured from the places of amusement was hard put to find
cabs.  The streets were so many wild rivers of cabs, most of which were
engaged, however; and here I saw the desperate attempts of ragged men and
boys to get a shelter from the night by procuring cabs for the cabless
ladies and gentlemen.  I use the word "desperate" advisedly, for these
wretched, homeless ones were gambling a soaking against a bed; and most
of them, I took notice, got the soaking and missed the bed.  Now, to go
through a stormy night with wet clothes, and, in addition, to be ill
nourished and not to have tasted meat for a week or a month, is about as
severe a hardship as a man can undergo.  Well fed and well clad, I have
travelled all day with the spirit thermometer down to seventy-four
degrees below zero--one hundred and six degrees of frost {1}; and though
I suffered, it was a mere nothing compared with carrying the banner for a
night, ill fed, ill clad, and soaking wet.

The streets grew very quiet and lonely after the theatre crowd had gone
home.  Only were to be seen the ubiquitous policemen, flashing their dark
lanterns into doorways and alleys, and men and women and boys taking
shelter in the lee of buildings from the wind and rain.  Piccadilly,
however, was not quite so deserted.  Its pavements were brightened by
well-dressed women without escort, and there was more life and action
there than elsewhere, due to the process of finding escort.  But by three
o'clock the last of them had vanished, and it was then indeed lonely.

At half-past one the steady downpour ceased, and only showers fell
thereafter.  The homeless folk came away from the protection of the
buildings, and slouched up and down and everywhere, in order to rush up
the circulation and keep warm.

One old woman, between fifty and sixty, a sheer wreck, I had noticed
earlier in the night standing in Piccadilly, not far from Leicester
Square.  She seemed to have neither the sense nor the strength to get out
of the rain or keep walking, but stood stupidly, whenever she got the
chance, meditating on past days, I imagine, when life was young and blood
was warm.  But she did not get the chance often.  She was moved on by
every policeman, and it required an average of six moves to send her
doddering off one man's beat and on to another's.  By three o'clock, she
had progressed as far as St. James Street, and as the clocks were
striking four I saw her sleeping soundly against the iron railings of
Green Park.  A brisk shower was falling at the time, and she must have
been drenched to the skin.

Now, said I, at one o'clock, to myself; consider that you are a poor
young man, penniless, in London Town, and that to-morrow you must look
for work.  It is necessary, therefore, that you get some sleep in order
that you may have strength to look for work and to do work in case you
find it.

So I sat down on the stone steps of a building.  Five minutes later a
policeman was looking at me.  My eyes were wide open, so he only grunted
and passed on.  Ten minutes later my head was on my knees, I was dozing,
and the same policeman was saying gruffly, "'Ere, you, get outa that!"

I got.  And, like the old woman, I continued to get; for every time I
dozed, a policeman was there to rout me along again.  Not long after,
when I had given this up, I was walking with a young Londoner (who had
been out to the colonies and wished he were out to them again), when I
noticed an open passage leading under a building and disappearing in
darkness.  A low iron gate barred the entrance.

"Come on," I said.  "Let's climb over and get a good sleep."

"Wot?" he answered, recoiling from me.  "An' get run in fer three months!
Blimey if I do!"

Later on I was passing Hyde Park with a young boy of fourteen or fifteen,
a most wretched-looking youth, gaunt and hollow-eyed and sick.

"Let's go over the fence," I proposed, "and crawl into the shrubbery for
a sleep.  The bobbies couldn't find us there."

"No fear," he answered.  "There's the park guardians, and they'd run you
in for six months."

Times have changed, alas!  When I was a youngster I used to read of
homeless boys sleeping in doorways.  Already the thing has become a
tradition.  As a stock situation it will doubtless linger in literature
for a century to come, but as a cold fact it has ceased to be.  Here are
the doorways, and here are the boys, but happy conjunctions are no longer
effected.  The doorways remain empty, and the boys keep awake and carry
the banner.

"I was down under the arches," grumbled another young fellow.  By
"arches" he meant the shore arches where begin the bridges that span the
Thames.  "I was down under the arches wen it was ryning its 'ardest, an'
a bobby comes in an' chyses me out.  But I come back, an' 'e come too.
''Ere,' sez 'e, 'wot you doin' 'ere?'  An' out I goes, but I sez, 'Think
I want ter pinch [steal] the bleedin' bridge?'"

Among those who carry the banner, Green Park has the reputation of
opening its gates earlier than the other parks, and at quarter-past four
in the morning, I, and many more, entered Green Park.  It was raining
again, but they were worn out with the night's walking, and they were
down on the benches and asleep at once.  Many of the men stretched out
full length on the dripping wet grass, and, with the rain falling
steadily upon them, were sleeping the sleep of exhaustion.

And now I wish to criticise the powers that be.  They _are_ the powers,
therefore they may decree whatever they please; so I make bold only to
criticise the ridiculousness of their decrees.  All night long they make
the homeless ones walk up and down.  They drive them out of doors and
passages, and lock them out of the parks.  The evident intention of all
this is to deprive them of sleep.  Well and good, the powers have the
power to deprive them of sleep, or of anything else for that matter; but
why under the sun do they open the gates of the parks at five o'clock in
the morning and let the homeless ones go inside and sleep?  If it is
their intention to deprive them of sleep, why do they let them sleep
after five in the morning?  And if it is not their intention to deprive
them of sleep, why don't they let them sleep earlier in the night?

In this connection, I will say that I came by Green Park that same day,
at one in the afternoon, and that I counted scores of the ragged wretches
asleep in the grass.  It was Sunday afternoon, the sun was fitfully
appearing, and the well-dressed West Enders, with their wives and
progeny, were out by thousands, taking the air.  It was not a pleasant
sight for them, those horrible, unkempt, sleeping vagabonds; while the
vagabonds themselves, I know, would rather have done their sleeping the
night before.

And so, dear soft people, should you ever visit London Town, and see
these men asleep on the benches and in the grass, please do not think
they are lazy creatures, preferring sleep to work.  Know that the powers
that be have kept them walking all the night long, and that in the day
they have nowhere else to sleep.




CHAPTER XI--THE PEG


But, after carrying the banner all night, I did not sleep in Green Park
when morning dawned.  I was wet to the skin, it is true, and I had had no
sleep for twenty-four hours; but, still adventuring as a penniless man
looking for work, I had to look about me, first for a breakfast, and next
for the work.

During the night I had heard of a place over on the Surrey side of the
Thames, where the Salvation Army every Sunday morning gave away a
breakfast to the unwashed.  (And, by the way, the men who carry the
banner are unwashed in the morning, and unless it is raining they do not
have much show for a wash, either.)  This, thought I, is the very
thing--breakfast in the morning, and then the whole day in which to look
for work.

It was a weary walk.  Down St. James Street I dragged my tired legs,
along Pall Mall, past Trafalgar Square, to the Strand.  I crossed the
Waterloo Bridge to the Surrey side, cut across to Blackfriars Road,
coming out near the Surrey Theatre, and arrived at the Salvation Army
barracks before seven o'clock.  This was "the peg."  And by "the peg," in
the argot, is meant the place where a free meal may be obtained.

Here was a motley crowd of woebegone wretches who had spent the night in
the rain.  Such prodigious misery! and so much of it!  Old men, young
men, all manner of men, and boys to boot, and all manner of boys.  Some
were drowsing standing up; half a score of them were stretched out on the
stone steps in most painful postures, all of them sound asleep, the skin
of their bodies showing red through the holes, and rents in their rags.
And up and down the street and across the street for a block either way,
each doorstep had from two to three occupants, all asleep, their heads
bent forward on their knees.  And, it must be remembered, these are not
hard times in England.  Things are going on very much as they ordinarily
do, and times are neither hard nor easy.

And then came the policeman.  "Get outa that, you bloomin' swine!  Eigh!
eigh!  Get out now!"  And like swine he drove them from the doorways and
scattered them to the four winds of Surrey.  But when he encountered the
crowd asleep on the steps he was astounded.  "Shocking!" he exclaimed.
"Shocking!  And of a Sunday morning!  A pretty sight!  Eigh! eigh!  Get
outa that, you bleeding nuisances!"

Of course it was a shocking sight, I was shocked myself.  And I should
not care to have my own daughter pollute her eyes with such a sight, or
come within half a mile of it; but--and there we were, and there you are,
and "but" is all that can be said.

The policeman passed on, and back we clustered, like flies around a honey
jar.  For was there not that wonderful thing, a breakfast, awaiting us?
We could not have clustered more persistently and desperately had they
been giving away million-dollar bank-notes.  Some were already off to
sleep, when back came the policeman and away we scattered only to return
again as soon as the coast was clear.

At half-past seven a little door opened, and a Salvation Army soldier
stuck out his head.  "Ayn't no sense blockin' the wy up that wy," he
said.  "Those as 'as tickets cawn come hin now, an' those as 'asn't
cawn't come hin till nine."

Oh, that breakfast!  Nine o'clock!  An hour and a half longer!  The men
who held tickets were greatly envied.  They were permitted to go inside,
have a wash, and sit down and rest until breakfast, while we waited for
the same breakfast on the street.  The tickets had been distributed the
previous night on the streets and along the Embankment, and the
possession of them was not a matter of merit, but of chance.

At eight-thirty, more men with tickets were admitted, and by nine the
little gate was opened to us.  We crushed through somehow, and found
ourselves packed in a courtyard like sardines.  On more occasions than
one, as a Yankee tramp in Yankeeland, I have had to work for my
breakfast; but for no breakfast did I ever work so hard as for this one.
For over two hours I had waited outside, and for over another hour I
waited in this packed courtyard.  I had had nothing to eat all night, and
I was weak and faint, while the smell of the soiled clothes and unwashed
bodies, steaming from pent animal heat, and blocked solidly about me,
nearly turned my stomach.  So tightly were we packed, that a number of
the men took advantage of the opportunity and went soundly asleep
standing up.

Now, about the Salvation Army in general I know nothing, and whatever
criticism I shall make here is of that particular portion of the
Salvation Army which does business on Blackfriars Road near the Surrey
Theatre.  In the first place, this forcing of men who have been up all
night to stand on their feet for hours longer, is as cruel as it is
needless.  We were weak, famished, and exhausted from our night's
hardship and lack of sleep, and yet there we stood, and stood, and stood,
without rhyme or reason.

Sailors were very plentiful in this crowd.  It seemed to me that one man
in four was looking for a ship, and I found at least a dozen of them to
be American sailors.  In accounting for their being "on the beach," I
received the same story from each and all, and from my knowledge of sea
affairs this story rang true.  English ships sign their sailors for the
voyage, which means the round trip, sometimes lasting as long as three
years; and they cannot sign off and receive their discharges until they
reach the home port, which is England.  Their wages are low, their food
is bad, and their treatment worse.  Very often they are really forced by
their captains to desert in the New World or the colonies, leaving a
handsome sum of wages behind them--a distinct gain, either to the captain
or the owners, or to both.  But whether for this reason alone or not, it
is a fact that large numbers of them desert.  Then, for the home voyage,
the ship engages whatever sailors it can find on the beach.  These men
are engaged at the somewhat higher wages that obtain in other portions of
the world, under the agreement that they shall sign off on reaching
England.  The reason for this is obvious; for it would be poor business
policy to sign them for any longer time, since seamen's wages are low in
England, and England is always crowded with sailormen on the beach.  So
this fully accounted for the American seamen at the Salvation Army
barracks.  To get off the beach in other outlandish places they had come
to England, and gone on the beach in the most outlandish place of all.

There were fully a score of Americans in the crowd, the non-sailors being
"tramps royal," the men whose "mate is the wind that tramps the world."
They were all cheerful, facing things with the pluck which is their chief
characteristic and which seems never to desert them, withal they were
cursing the country with lurid metaphors quite refreshing after a month
of unimaginative, monotonous Cockney swearing.  The Cockney has one oath,
and one oath only, the most indecent in the language, which he uses on
any and every occasion.  Far different is the luminous and varied Western
swearing, which runs to blasphemy rather than indecency.  And after all,
since men will swear, I think I prefer blasphemy to indecency; there is
an audacity about it, an adventurousness and defiance that is better than
sheer filthiness.

There was one American tramp royal whom I found particularly enjoyable.  I
first noticed him on the street, asleep in a doorway, his head on his
knees, but a hat on his head that one does not meet this side of the
Western Ocean.  When the policeman routed him out, he got up slowly and
deliberately, looked at the policeman, yawned and stretched himself,
looked at the policeman again as much as to say he didn't know whether he
would or wouldn't, and then sauntered leisurely down the sidewalk.  At
the outset I was sure of the hat, but this made me sure of the wearer of
the hat.

In the jam inside I found myself alongside of him, and we had quite a
chat.  He had been through Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and France, and had
accomplished the practically impossible feat of beating his way three
hundred miles on a French railway without being caught at the finish.
Where was I hanging out? he asked.  And how did I manage for
"kipping"?--which means sleeping.  Did I know the rounds yet?  He was
getting on, though the country was "horstyl" and the cities were "bum."
Fierce, wasn't it?  Couldn't "batter" (beg) anywhere without being
"pinched."  But he wasn't going to quit it.  Buffalo Bill's Show was
coming over soon, and a man who could drive eight horses was sure of a
job any time.  These mugs over here didn't know beans about driving
anything more than a span.  What was the matter with me hanging on and
waiting for Buffalo Bill?  He was sure I could ring in somehow.

And so, after all, blood is thicker than water.  We were
fellow-countrymen and strangers in a strange land.  I had warmed to his
battered old hat at sight of it, and he was as solicitous for my welfare
as if we were blood brothers.  We swapped all manner of useful
information concerning the country and the ways of its people, methods by
which to obtain food and shelter and what not, and we parted genuinely
sorry at having to say good-bye.

One thing particularly conspicuous in this crowd was the shortness of
stature.  I, who am but of medium height, looked over the heads of nine
out of ten.  The natives were all short, as were the foreign sailors.
There were only five or six in the crowd who could be called fairly tall,
and they were Scandinavians and Americans.  The tallest man there,
however, was an exception.  He was an Englishman, though not a Londoner.
"Candidate for the Life Guards," I remarked to him.  "You've hit it,
mate," was his reply; "I've served my bit in that same, and the way
things are I'll be back at it before long."

For an hour we stood quietly in this packed courtyard.  Then the men
began to grow restless.  There was pushing and shoving forward, and a
mild hubbub of voices.  Nothing rough, however, nor violent; merely the
restlessness of weary and hungry men.  At this juncture forth came the
adjutant.  I did not like him.  His eyes were not good.  There was
nothing of the lowly Galilean about him, but a great deal of the
centurion who said: "For I am a man in authority, having soldiers under
me; and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he
cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it."

Well, he looked at us in just that way, and those nearest to him quailed.
Then he lifted his voice.

"Stop this 'ere, now, or I'll turn you the other wy an' march you out,
an' you'll get no breakfast."

I cannot convey by printed speech the insufferable way in which he said
this.  He seemed to me to revel in that he was a man in authority, able
to say to half a thousand ragged wretches, "you may eat or go hungry, as
I elect."

To deny us our breakfast after standing for hours!  It was an awful
threat, and the pitiful, abject silence which instantly fell attested its
awfulness.  And it was a cowardly threat.  We could not strike back, for
we were starving; and it is the way of the world that when one man feeds
another he is that man's master.  But the centurion--I mean the
adjutant--was not satisfied.  In the dead silence he raised his voice
again, and repeated the threat, and amplified it.

At last we were permitted to enter the feasting hall, where we found the
"ticket men" washed but unfed.  All told, there must have been nearly
seven hundred of us who sat down--not to meat or bread, but to speech,
song, and prayer.  From all of which I am convinced that Tantalus suffers
in many guises this side of the infernal regions.  The adjutant made the
prayer, but I did not take note of it, being too engrossed with the
massed picture of misery before me.  But the speech ran something like
this: "You will feast in Paradise.  No matter how you starve and suffer
here, you will feast in Paradise, that is, if you will follow the
directions."  And so forth and so forth.  A clever bit of propaganda, I
took it, but rendered of no avail for two reasons.  First, the men who
received it were unimaginative and materialistic, unaware of the
existence of any Unseen, and too inured to hell on earth to be frightened
by hell to come.  And second, weary and exhausted from the night's
sleeplessness and hardship, suffering from the long wait upon their feet,
and faint from hunger, they were yearning, not for salvation, but for
grub.  The "soul-snatchers" (as these men call all religious
propagandists), should study the physiological basis of psychology a
little, if they wish to make their efforts more effective.

All in good time, about eleven o'clock, breakfast arrived.  It arrived,
not on plates, but in paper parcels.  I did not have all I wanted, and I
am sure that no man there had all he wanted, or half of what he wanted or
needed.  I gave part of my bread to the tramp royal who was waiting for
Buffalo Bill, and he was as ravenous at the end as he was in the
beginning.  This is the breakfast: two slices of bread, one small piece
of bread with raisins in it and called "cake," a wafer of cheese, and a
mug of "water bewitched."  Numbers of the men had been waiting since five
o'clock for it, while all of us had waited at least four hours; and in
addition, we had been herded like swine, packed like sardines, and
treated like curs, and been preached at, and sung to, and prayed for.  Nor
was that all.

No sooner was breakfast over (and it was over almost as quickly as it
takes to tell), than the tired heads began to nod and droop, and in five
minutes half of us were sound asleep.  There were no signs of our being
dismissed, while there were unmistakable signs of preparation for a
meeting.  I looked at a small clock hanging on the wall.  It indicated
twenty-five minutes to twelve.  Heigh-ho, thought I, time is flying, and
I have yet to look for work.

"I want to go," I said to a couple of waking men near me.

"Got ter sty fer the service," was the answer.

"Do you want to stay?" I asked.

They shook their heads.

"Then let us go and tell them we want to get out," I continued.  "Come
on."

But the poor creatures were aghast.  So I left them to their fate, and
went up to the nearest Salvation Army man.

"I want to go," I said.  "I came here for breakfast in order that I might
be in shape to look for work.  I didn't think it would take so long to
get breakfast.  I think I have a chance for work in Stepney, and the
sooner I start, the better chance I'll have of getting it."

He was really a good fellow, though he was startled by my request.  "Wy,"
he said, "we're goin' to 'old services, and you'd better sty."

"But that will spoil my chances for work," I urged.  "And work is the
most important thing for me just now."

As he was only a private, he referred me to the adjutant, and to the
adjutant I repeated my reasons for wishing to go, and politely requested
that he let me go.

"But it cawn't be done," he said, waxing virtuously indignant at such
ingratitude.  "The idea!" he snorted.  "The idea!"

"Do you mean to say that I can't get out of here?" I demanded.  "That you
will keep me here against my will?"

"Yes," he snorted.

I do not know what might have happened, for I was waxing indignant
myself; but the "congregation" had "piped" the situation, and he drew me
over to a corner of the room, and then into another room.  Here he again
demanded my reasons for wishing to go.

"I want to go," I said, "because I wish to look for work over in Stepney,
and every hour lessens my chance of finding work.  It is now twenty-five
minutes to twelve.  I did not think when I came in that it would take so
long to get a breakfast."

"You 'ave business, eh?" he sneered.  "A man of business you are, eh?
Then wot did you come 'ere for?"

"I was out all night, and I needed a breakfast in order to strengthen me
to find work.  That is why I came here."

"A nice thing to do," he went on in the same sneering manner.  "A man
with business shouldn't come 'ere.  You've tyken some poor man's
breakfast 'ere this morning, that's wot you've done."

Which was a lie, for every mother's son of us had come in.

Now I submit, was this Christian-like, or even honest?--after I had
plainly stated that I was homeless and hungry, and that I wished to look
for work, for him to call my looking for work "business," to call me
therefore a business man, and to draw the corollary that a man of
business, and well off, did not require a charity breakfast, and that by
taking a charity breakfast I had robbed some hungry waif who was not a
man of business.

I kept my temper, but I went over the facts again, and clearly and
concisely demonstrated to him how unjust he was and how he had perverted
the facts.  As I manifested no signs of backing down (and I am sure my
eyes were beginning to snap), he led me to the rear of the building
where, in an open court, stood a tent.  In the same sneering tone he
informed a couple of privates standing there that "'ere is a fellow that
'as business an' 'e wants to go before services."

They were duly shocked, of course, and they looked unutterable horror
while he went into the tent and brought out the major.  Still in the same
sneering manner, laying particular stress on the "business," he brought
my case before the commanding officer.  The major was of a different
stamp of man.  I liked him as soon as I saw him, and to him I stated my
case in the same fashion as before.

"Didn't you know you had to stay for services?" he asked.

"Certainly not," I answered, "or I should have gone without my breakfast.
You have no placards posted to that effect, nor was I so informed when I
entered the place."

He meditated a moment.  "You can go," he said.

It was twelve o'clock when I gained the street, and I couldn't quite make
up my mind whether I had been in the army or in prison.  The day was half
gone, and it was a far fetch to Stepney.  And besides, it was Sunday, and
why should even a starving man look for work on Sunday?  Furthermore, it
was my judgment that I had done a hard night's work walking the streets,
and a hard day's work getting my breakfast; so I disconnected myself from
my working hypothesis of a starving young man in search of employment,
hailed a bus, and climbed aboard.

After a shave and a bath, with my clothes all off, I got in between clean
white sheets and went to sleep.  It was six in the evening when I closed
my eyes.  When they opened again, the clocks were striking nine next
morning.  I had slept fifteen straight hours.  And as I lay there
drowsily, my mind went back to the seven hundred unfortunates I had left
waiting for services.  No bath, no shave for them, no clean white sheets
and all clothes off, and fifteen hours' straight sleep.  Services over,
it was the weary streets again, the problem of a crust of bread ere
night, and the long sleepless night in the streets, and the pondering of
the problem of how to obtain a crust at dawn.




CHAPTER XII--CORONATION DAY


   O thou that sea-walls sever
   From lands unwalled by seas!
   Wilt thou endure forever,
   O Milton's England, these?
   Thou that wast his Republic,
   Wilt thou clasp their knees?
   These royalties rust-eaten,
   These worm-corroded lies
   That keep thy head storm-beaten,
   And sun-like strength of eyes
   From the open air and heaven
   Of intercepted skies!

   SWINBURNE.

Vivat Rex Eduardus!  They crowned a king this day, and there has been
great rejoicing and elaborate tomfoolery, and I am perplexed and
saddened.  I never saw anything to compare with the pageant, except
Yankee circuses and Alhambra ballets; nor did I ever see anything so
hopeless and so tragic.

To have enjoyed the Coronation procession, I should have come straight
from America to the Hotel Cecil, and straight from the Hotel Cecil to a
five-guinea seat among the washed.  My mistake was in coming from the
unwashed of the East End.  There were not many who came from that
quarter.  The East End, as a whole, remained in the East End and got
drunk.  The Socialists, Democrats, and Republicans went off to the
country for a breath of fresh air, quite unaffected by the fact that four
hundred millions of people were taking to themselves a crowned and
anointed ruler.  Six thousand five hundred prelates, priests, statesmen,
princes, and warriors beheld the crowning and anointing, and the rest of
us the pageant as it passed.

I saw it at Trafalgar Square, "the most splendid site in Europe," and the
very innermost heart of the empire.  There were many thousands of us, all
checked and held in order by a superb display of armed power.  The line
of march was double-walled with soldiers.  The base of the Nelson Column
was triple-fringed with bluejackets.  Eastward, at the entrance to the
square, stood the Royal Marine Artillery.  In the triangle of Pall Mall
and Cockspur Street, the statue of George III. was buttressed on either
side by the Lancers and Hussars.  To the west were the red-coats of the
Royal Marines, and from the Union Club to the embouchure of Whitehall
swept the glittering, massive curve of the 1st Life Guards--gigantic men
mounted on gigantic chargers, steel-breastplated, steel-helmeted, steel-
caparisoned, a great war-sword of steel ready to the hand of the powers
that be.  And further, throughout the crowd, were flung long lines of the
Metropolitan Constabulary, while in the rear were the reserves--tall,
well-fed men, with weapons to wield and muscles to wield them in ease of
need.

And as it was thus at Trafalgar Square, so was it along the whole line of
march--force, overpowering force; myriads of men, splendid men, the pick
of the people, whose sole function in life is blindly to obey, and
blindly to kill and destroy and stamp out life.  And that they should be
well fed, well clothed, and well armed, and have ships to hurl them to
the ends of the earth, the East End of London, and the "East End" of all
England, toils and rots and dies.

There is a Chinese proverb that if one man lives in laziness another will
die of hunger; and Montesquieu has said, "The fact that many men are
occupied in making clothes for one individual is the cause of there being
many people without clothes."  So one explains the other.  We cannot
understand the starved and runty {2} toiler of the East End (living with
his family in a one-room den, and letting out the floor space for
lodgings to other starved and runty toilers) till we look at the
strapping Life Guardsmen of the West End, and come to know that the one
must feed and clothe and groom the other.

And while in Westminster Abbey the people were taking unto themselves a
king, I, jammed between the Life Guards and Constabulary of Trafalgar
Square, was dwelling upon the time when the people of Israel first took
unto themselves a king.  You all know how it runs.  The elders came to
the prophet Samuel, and said: "Make us a king to judge us like all the
nations."

   And the Lord said unto Samuel: Now therefore hearken unto their voice;
   howbeit thou shalt show them the manner of the king that shall reign
   over them.

   And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked
   of him a king, and he said:

   This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you; he will
   take your sons, and appoint them unto him, for his chariots, and to be
   his horsemen, and they shall run before his chariots.

   And he will appoint them unto him for captains of thousands, and
   captains of fifties; and he will set some to plough his ground, and to
   reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and the
   instruments of his chariots.

   And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be
   cooks, and to be bakers.

   And he will take your fields and your vineyards, and your oliveyards,
   even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

   And he will take a tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give
   to his officers, and to his servants.

   And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your
   goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

   He will take a tenth of your flocks; and ye shall be his servants.

   And ye shall call out in that day because of your king which ye shall
   have chosen you; and the Lord will not answer you in that day.

All of which came to pass in that ancient day, and they did cry out to
Samuel, saying: "Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die
not; for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king."
And after Saul, David, and Solomon, came Rehoboam, who "answered the
people roughly, saying: My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to
your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you
with scorpions."

And in these latter days, five hundred hereditary peers own one-fifth of
England; and they, and the officers and servants under the King, and
those who go to compose the powers that be, yearly spend in wasteful
luxury $1,850,000,000, or 370,000,000 pounds, which is thirty-two per
cent. of the total wealth produced by all the toilers of the country.

At the Abbey, clad in wonderful golden raiment, amid fanfare of trumpets
and throbbing of music, surrounded by a brilliant throng of masters,
lords, and rulers, the King was being invested with the insignia of his
sovereignty.  The spurs were placed to his heels by the Lord Great
Chamberlain, and a sword of state, in purple scabbard, was presented him
by the Archbishop of Canterbury, with these words:-

   Receive this kingly sword brought now from the altar of God, and
   delivered to you by the hands of the bishops and servants of God,
   though unworthy.

Whereupon, being girded, he gave heed to the Archbishop's exhortation:-

   With this sword do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the
   Holy Church of God, help and defend widows and orphans, restore the
   things that are gone to decay, maintain the things that are restored,
   punish and reform what is amiss, and confirm what is in good order.

But hark!  There is cheering down Whitehall; the crowd sways, the double
walls of soldiers come to attention, and into view swing the King's
watermen, in fantastic mediaeval garbs of red, for all the world like the
van of a circus parade.  Then a royal carriage, filled with ladies and
gentlemen of the household, with powdered footmen and coachmen most
gorgeously arrayed.  More carriages, lords, and chamberlains, viscounts,
mistresses of the robes--lackeys all.  Then the warriors, a kingly
escort, generals, bronzed and worn, from the ends of the earth come up to
London Town, volunteer officers, officers of the militia and regular
forces; Spens and Plumer, Broadwood and Cooper who relieved Ookiep,
Mathias of Dargai, Dixon of Vlakfontein; General Gaselee and Admiral
Seymour of China; Kitchener of Khartoum; Lord Roberts of India and all
the world--the fighting men of England, masters of destruction, engineers
of death!  Another race of men from those of the shops and slums, a
totally different race of men.

But here they come, in all the pomp and certitude of power, and still
they come, these men of steel, these war lords and world harnessers.  Pell-
mell, peers and commoners, princes and maharajahs, Equerries to the King
and Yeomen of the Guard.  And here the colonials, lithe and hardy men;
and here all the breeds of all the world-soldiers from Canada, Australia,
New Zealand; from Bermuda, Borneo, Fiji, and the Gold Coast; from
Rhodesia, Cape Colony, Natal, Sierra Leone and Gambia, Nigeria, and
Uganda; from Ceylon, Cyprus, Hong-Kong, Jamaica, and Wei-Hai-Wei; from
Lagos, Malta, St. Lucia, Singapore, Trinidad.  And here the conquered men
of Ind, swarthy horsemen and sword wielders, fiercely barbaric, blazing
in crimson and scarlet, Sikhs, Rajputs, Burmese, province by province,
and caste by caste.

And now the Horse Guards, a glimpse of beautiful cream ponies, and a
golden panoply, a hurricane of cheers, the crashing of bands--"The King!
the King!  God save the King!"  Everybody has gone mad.  The contagion is
sweeping me off my feet--I, too, want to shout, "The King!  God save the
King!"  Ragged men about me, tears in their eyes, are tossing up their
hats and crying ecstatically, "Bless 'em!  Bless 'em!  Bless 'em!"  See,
there he is, in that wondrous golden coach, the great crown flashing on
his head, the woman in white beside him likewise crowned.

And I check myself with a rush, striving to convince myself that it is
all real and rational, and not some glimpse of fairyland.  This I cannot
succeed in doing, and it is better so.  I much prefer to believe that all
this pomp, and vanity, and show, and mumbo-jumbo foolery has come from
fairyland, than to believe it the performance of sane and sensible people
who have mastered matter and solved the secrets of the stars.

Princes and princelings, dukes, duchesses, and all manner of coroneted
folk of the royal train are flashing past; more warriors, and lackeys,
and conquered peoples, and the pagent is over.  I drift with the crowd
out of the square into a tangle of narrow streets, where the
public-houses are a-roar with drunkenness, men, women, and children mixed
together in colossal debauch.  And on every side is rising the favourite
song of the Coronation:-

   "Oh! on Coronation Day, on Coronation Day,
   We'll have a spree, a jubilee, and shout, Hip, hip, hooray,
   For we'll all be marry, drinking whisky, wine, and sherry,
   We'll all be merry on Coronation Day."

The rain is pouring down.  Up the street come troops of the auxiliaries,
black Africans and yellow Asiatics, beturbaned and befezed, and coolies
swinging along with machine guns and mountain batteries on their heads,
and the bare feet of all, in quick rhythm, going _slish, slish, slish_
through the pavement mud.  The public-houses empty by magic, and the
swarthy allegiants are cheered by their British brothers, who return at
once to the carouse.

"And how did you like the procession, mate?" I asked an old man on a
bench in Green Park.

"'Ow did I like it?  A bloomin' good chawnce, sez I to myself, for a
sleep, wi' all the coppers aw'y, so I turned into the corner there, along
wi' fifty others.  But I couldn't sleep, a-lyin' there an' thinkin' 'ow
I'd worked all the years o' my life an' now 'ad no plyce to rest my 'ead;
an' the music comin' to me, an' the cheers an' cannon, till I got almost
a hanarchist an' wanted to blow out the brains o' the Lord Chamberlain."

Why the Lord Chamberlain I could not precisely see, nor could he, but
that was the way he felt, he said conclusively, and them was no more
discussion.

As night drew on, the city became a blaze of light.  Splashes of colour,
green, amber, and ruby, caught the eye at every point, and "E. R.," in
great crystal letters and backed by flaming gas, was everywhere.  The
crowds in the streets increased by hundreds of thousands, and though the
police sternly put down mafficking, drunkenness and rough play abounded.
The tired workers seemed to have gone mad with the relaxation and
excitement, and they surged and danced down the streets, men and women,
old and young, with linked arms and in long rows, singing, "I may be
crazy, but I love you," "Dolly Gray," and "The Honeysuckle and the
Bee"--the last rendered something like this:-

   "Yew aw the enny, ennyseckle, Oi em ther bee,
   Oi'd like ter sip ther enny from those red lips, yew see."

I sat on a bench on the Thames Embankment, looking across the illuminated
water.  It was approaching midnight, and before me poured the better
class of merrymakers, shunning the more riotous streets and returning
home.  On the bench beside me sat two ragged creatures, a man and a
woman, nodding and dozing.  The woman sat with her arms clasped across
the breast, holding tightly, her body in constant play--now dropping
forward till it seemed its balance would be overcome and she would fall
to the pavement; now inclining to the left, sideways, till her head
rested on the man's shoulder; and now to the right, stretched and
strained, till the pain of it awoke her and she sat bolt upright.
Whereupon the dropping forward would begin again and go through its cycle
till she was aroused by the strain and stretch.

Every little while boys and young men stopped long enough to go behind
the bench and give vent to sudden and fiendish shouts.  This always
jerked the man and woman abruptly from their sleep; and at sight of the
startled woe upon their faces the crowd would roar with laughter as it
flooded past.

This was the most striking thing, the general heartlessness exhibited on
every hand.  It is a commonplace, the homeless on the benches, the poor
miserable folk who may be teased and are harmless.  Fifty thousand people
must have passed the bench while I sat upon it, and not one, on such a
jubilee occasion as the crowning of the King, felt his heart-strings
touched sufficiently to come up and say to the woman: "Here's sixpence;
go and get a bed."  But the women, especially the young women, made witty
remarks upon the woman nodding, and invariably set their companions
laughing.

To use a Briticism, it was "cruel"; the corresponding Americanism was
more appropriate--it was "fierce."  I confess I began to grow incensed at
this happy crowd streaming by, and to extract a sort of satisfaction from
the London statistics which demonstrate that one in every four adults is
destined to die on public charity, either in the workhouse, the
infirmary, or the asylum.

I talked with the man.  He was fifty-four and a broken-down docker.  He
could only find odd work when there was a large demand for labour, for
the younger and stronger men were preferred when times were slack.  He
had spent a week, now, on the benches of the Embankment; but things
looked brighter for next week, and he might possibly get in a few days'
work and have a bed in some doss-house.  He had lived all his life in
London, save for five years, when, in 1878, he saw foreign service in
India.

Of course he would eat; so would the girl.  Days like this were uncommon
hard on such as they, though the coppers were so busy poor folk could get
in more sleep.  I awoke the girl, or woman, rather, for she was "Eyght
an' twenty, sir," and we started for a coffee-house.

"Wot a lot o' work puttin' up the lights," said the man at sight of some
building superbly illuminated.  This was the keynote of his being.  All
his fife he had worked, and the whole objective universe, as well as his
own soul, he could express in terms only of work.  "Coronations is some
good," he went on.  "They give work to men."

"But your belly is empty," I said.

"Yes," he answered.  "I tried, but there wasn't any chawnce.  My age is
against me.  Wot do you work at?  Seafarin' chap, eh?  I knew it from yer
clothes."

"I know wot you are," said the girl, "an Eyetalian."

"No 'e ayn't," the man cried heatedly.  "'E's a Yank, that's wot 'e is.  I
know."

"Lord lumne, look a' that," she exclaimed, as we debauched upon the
Strand, choked with the roaring, reeling Coronation crowd, the men
bellowing and the girls singing in high throaty notes:-

   "Oh! on Coronation D'y, on Coronation D'y,
   We'll 'ave a spree, a jubilee, an' shout 'Ip, 'ip, 'ooray;
   For we'll all be merry, drinkin' whisky, wine, and sherry,
   We'll all be merry on Coronation D'y."

"'Ow dirty I am, bein' around the w'y I 'ave," the woman said, as she sat
down in a coffee-house, wiping the sleep and grime from the corners of
her eyes.  "An' the sights I 'ave seen this d'y, an' I enjoyed it, though
it was lonesome by myself.  An' the duchesses an' the lydies 'ad sich
gran' w'ite dresses.  They was jest bu'ful, bu'ful."

"I'm Irish," she said, in answer to a question.  "My nyme's Eyethorne."

"What?" I asked.

"Eyethorne, sir; Eyethorne."

"Spell it."

"H-a-y-t-h-o-r-n-e, Eyethorne.'

"Oh," I said, "Irish Cockney."

"Yes, sir, London-born."

She had lived happily at home till her father died, killed in an
accident, when she had found herself on the world.  One brother was in
the army, and the other brother, engaged in keeping a wife and eight
children on twenty shillings a week and unsteady employment, could do
nothing for her.  She had been out of London once in her life, to a place
in Essex, twelve miles away, where she had picked fruit for three weeks:
"An' I was as brown as a berry w'en I come back.  You won't b'lieve it,
but I was."

The last place in which she had worked was a coffee-house, hours from
seven in the morning till eleven at night, and for which she had received
five shillings a week and her food.  Then she had fallen sick, and since
emerging from the hospital had been unable to find anything to do.  She
wasn't feeling up to much, and the last two nights had been spent in the
street.

Between them they stowed away a prodigious amount of food, this man and
woman, and it was not till I had duplicated and triplicated their
original orders that they showed signs of easing down.

Once she reached across and felt the texture of my coat and shirt, and
remarked upon the good clothes the Yanks wore.  My rags good clothes!  It
put me to the blush; but, on inspecting them more closely and on
examining the clothes worn by the man and woman, I began to feel quite
well dressed and respectable.

"What do you expect to do in the end?" I asked them.  "You know you're
growing older every day."

"Work'ouse," said he.

"Gawd blimey if I do," said she.  "There's no 'ope for me, I know, but
I'll die on the streets.  No work'ouse for me, thank you.  No, indeed,"
she sniffed in the silence that fell.

"After you have been out all night in the streets," I asked, "what do you
do in the morning for something to eat?"

"Try to get a penny, if you 'aven't one saved over," the man explained.
"Then go to a coffee-'ouse an' get a mug o' tea."

"But I don't see how that is to feed you," I objected.

The pair smiled knowingly.

"You drink your tea in little sips," he went on, "making it last its
longest.  An' you look sharp, an' there's some as leaves a bit be'ind
'em."

"It's s'prisin', the food wot some people leaves," the woman broke in.

"The thing," said the man judicially, as the trick dawned upon me, "is to
get 'old o' the penny."

As we started to leave, Miss Haythorne gathered up a couple of crusts
from the neighbouring tables and thrust them somewhere into her rags.

"Cawn't wyste 'em, you know," said she; to which the docker nodded,
tucking away a couple of crusts himself.

At three in the morning I strolled up the Embankment.  It was a gala
night for the homeless, for the police were elsewhere; and each bench was
jammed with sleeping occupants.  There were as many women as men, and the
great majority of them, male and female, were old.  Occasionally a boy
was to be seen.  On one bench I noticed a family, a man sitting upright
with a sleeping babe in his arms, his wife asleep, her head on his
shoulder, and in her lap the head of a sleeping youngster.  The man's
eyes were wide open.  He was staring out over the water and thinking,
which is not a good thing for a shelterless man with a family to do.  It
would not be a pleasant thing to speculate upon his thoughts; but this I
know, and all London knows, that the cases of out-of-works killing their
wives and babies is not an uncommon happening.

One cannot walk along the Thames Embankment, in the small hours of
morning, from the Houses of Parliament, past Cleopatra's Needle, to
Waterloo Bridge, without being reminded of the sufferings, seven and
twenty centuries old, recited by the author of "Job":-

   There are that remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks
   and feed them.

   They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widow's ox
   for a pledge.

   They turn the needy out of the way; the poor of the earth hide
   themselves together.

   Behold, as wild asses in the desert they go forth to their work,
   seeking diligently for meat; the wilderness yieldeth them food for
   their children.

   They cut their provender in the field, and they glean the vintage of
   the wicked.

   They lie all night naked without clothing, and have no covering in the
   cold.

   They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the rock
   for want of a shelter.

   There are that pluck the fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge
   of the poor.

   So that they go about naked without clothing, and being an hungered
   they carry the sheaves.--Job xxiv. 2-10.

Seven and twenty centuries agone!  And it is all as true and apposite to-
day in the innermost centre of this Christian civilisation whereof Edward
VII. is king.




CHAPTER XIII--DAN CULLEN, DOCKER


I stood, yesterday, in a room in one of the "Municipal Dwellings," not
far from Leman Street.  If I looked into a dreary future and saw that I
would have to live in such a room until I died, I should immediately go
down, plump into the Thames, and cut the tenancy short.

It was not a room.  Courtesy to the language will no more permit it to be
called a room than it will permit a hovel to be called a mansion.  It was
a den, a lair.  Seven feet by eight were its dimensions, and the ceiling
was so low as not to give the cubic air space required by a British
soldier in barracks.  A crazy couch, with ragged coverlets, occupied
nearly half the room.  A rickety table, a chair, and a couple of boxes
left little space in which to turn around.  Five dollars would have
purchased everything in sight.  The floor was bare, while the walls and
ceiling were literally covered with blood marks and splotches.  Each mark
represented a violent death--of an insect, for the place swarmed with
vermin, a plague with which no person could cope single-handed.

The man who had occupied this hole, one Dan Cullen, docker, was dying in
hospital.  Yet he had impressed his personality on his miserable
surroundings sufficiently to give an inkling as to what sort of man he
was.  On the walls were cheap pictures of Garibaldi, Engels, Dan Burns,
and other labour leaders, while on the table lay one of Walter Besant's
novels.  He knew his Shakespeare, I was told, and had read history,
sociology, and economics.  And he was self-educated.

On the table, amidst a wonderful disarray, lay a sheet of paper on which
was scrawled: _Mr. Cullen, please return the large white jug and
corkscrew I lent you_--articles loaned, during the first stages of his
sickness, by a woman neighbour, and demanded back in anticipation of his
death.  A large white jug and a corkscrew are far too valuable to a
creature of the Abyss to permit another creature to die in peace.  To the
last, Dan Cullen's soul must be harrowed by the sordidness out of which
it strove vainly to rise.

It is a brief little story, the story of Dan Cullen, but there is much to
read between the lines.  He was born lowly, in a city and land where the
lines of caste are tightly drawn.  All his days he toiled hard with his
body; and because he had opened the books, and been caught up by the
fires of the spirit, and could "write a letter like a lawyer," he had
been selected by his fellows to toil hard for them with his brain.  He
became a leader of the fruit-porters, represented the dockers on the
London Trades Council, and wrote trenchant articles for the labour
journals.

He did not cringe to other men, even though they were his economic
masters, and controlled the means whereby he lived, and he spoke his mind
freely, and fought the good fight.  In the "Great Dock Strike" he was
guilty of taking a leading part.  And that was the end of Dan Cullen.
From that day he was a marked man, and every day, for ten years and more,
he was "paid off" for what he had done.

A docker is a casual labourer.  Work ebbs and flows, and he works or does
not work according to the amount of goods on hand to be moved.  Dan
Cullen was discriminated against.  While he was not absolutely turned
away (which would have caused trouble, and which would certainly have
been more merciful), he was called in by the foreman to do not more than
two or three days' work per week.  This is what is called being
"disciplined," or "drilled."  It means being starved.  There is no
politer word.  Ten years of it broke his heart, and broken-hearted men
cannot live.

He took to his bed in his terrible den, which grew more terrible with his
helplessness.  He was without kith or kin, a lonely old man, embittered
and pessimistic, fighting vermin the while and looking at Garibaldi,
Engels, and Dan Burns gazing down at him from the blood-bespattered
walls.  No one came to see him in that crowded municipal barracks (he had
made friends with none of them), and he was left to rot.

But from the far reaches of the East End came a cobbler and his son, his
sole friends.  They cleansed his room, brought fresh linen from home, and
took from off his limbs the sheets, greyish-black with dirt.  And they
brought to him one of the Queen's Bounty nurses from Aldgate.

She washed his face, shook up his conch, and talked with him.  It was
interesting to talk with him--until he learned her name.  Oh, yes, Blank
was her name, she replied innocently, and Sir George Blank was her
brother.  Sir George Blank, eh? thundered old Dan Cullen on his death-
bed; Sir George Blank, solicitor to the docks at Cardiff, who, more than
any other man, had broken up the Dockers' Union of Cardiff, and was
knighted?  And she was his sister?  Thereupon Dan Cullen sat up on his
crazy couch and pronounced anathema upon her and all her breed; and she
fled, to return no more, strongly impressed with the ungratefulness of
the poor.

Dan Cullen's feet became swollen with dropsy.  He sat up all day on the
side of the bed (to keep the water out of his body), no mat on the floor,
a thin blanket on his legs, and an old coat around his shoulders.  A
missionary brought him a pair of paper slippers, worth fourpence (I saw
them), and proceeded to offer up fifty prayers or so for the good of Dan
Cullen's soul.  But Dan Cullen was the sort of man that wanted his soul
left alone.  He did not care to have Tom, Dick, or Harry, on the strength
of fourpenny slippers, tampering with it.  He asked the missionary kindly
to open the window, so that he might toss the slippers out.  And the
missionary went away, to return no more, likewise impressed with the
ungratefulness of the poor.

The cobbler, a brave old hero himself, though unaneled and unsung, went
privily to the head office of the big fruit brokers for whom Dan Cullen
had worked as a casual labourer for thirty years.  Their system was such
that the work was almost entirely done by casual hands.  The cobbler told
them the man's desperate plight, old, broken, dying, without help or
money, reminded them that he had worked for them thirty years, and asked
them to do something for him.

"Oh," said the manager, remembering Dan Cullen without having to refer to
the books, "you see, we make it a rule never to help casuals, and we can
do nothing."

Nor did they do anything, not even sign a letter asking for Dan Cullen's
admission to a hospital.  And it is not so easy to get into a hospital in
London Town.  At Hampstead, if he passed the doctors, at least four
months would elapse before he could get in, there were so many on the
books ahead of him.  The cobbler finally got him into the Whitechapel
Infirmary, where he visited him frequently.  Here he found that Dan
Cullen had succumbed to the prevalent feeling, that, being hopeless, they
were hurrying him out of the way.  A fair and logical conclusion, one
must agree, for an old and broken man to arrive at, who has been
resolutely "disciplined" and "drilled" for ten years.  When they sweated
him for Bright's disease to remove the fat from the kidneys, Dan Cullen
contended that the sweating was hastening his death; while Bright's
disease, being a wasting away of the kidneys, there was therefore no fat
to remove, and the doctor's excuse was a palpable lie.  Whereupon the
doctor became wroth, and did not come near him for nine days.

Then his bed was tilted up so that his feet and legs were elevated.  At
once dropsy appeared in the body, and Dan Cullen contended that the thing
was done in order to run the water down into his body from his legs and
kill him more quickly.  He demanded his discharge, though they told him
he would die on the stairs, and dragged himself, more dead than alive, to
the cobbler's shop.  At the moment of writing this, he is dying at the
Temperance Hospital, into which place his staunch friend, the cobbler,
moved heaven and earth to have him admitted.

Poor Dan Cullen!  A Jude the Obscure, who reached out after knowledge;
who toiled with his body in the day and studied in the watches of the
night; who dreamed his dream and struck valiantly for the Cause; a
patriot, a lover of human freedom, and a fighter unafraid; and in the
end, not gigantic enough to beat down the conditions which baffled and
stifled him, a cynic and a pessimist, gasping his final agony on a
pauper's couch in a charity ward,--"For a man to die who might have been
wise and was not, this I call a tragedy."




CHAPTER XIV--HOPS AND HOPPERS


So far has the divorcement of the worker from the soil proceeded, that
the farming districts, the civilised world over, are dependent upon the
cities for the gathering of the harvests.  Then it is, when the land is
spilling its ripe wealth to waste, that the street folk, who have been
driven away from the soil, are called back to it again.  But in England
they return, not as prodigals, but as outcasts still, as vagrants and
pariahs, to be doubted and flouted by their country brethren, to sleep in
jails and casual wards, or under the hedges, and to live the Lord knows
how.

It is estimated that Kent alone requires eighty thousand of the street
people to pick her hops.  And out they come, obedient to the call, which
is the call of their bellies and of the lingering dregs of adventure-lust
still in them.  Slum, stews, and ghetto pour them forth, and the
festering contents of slum, stews, and ghetto are undiminished.  Yet they
overrun the country like an army of ghouls, and the country does not want
them.  They are out of place.  As they drag their squat, misshapen bodies
along the highways and byways, they resemble some vile spawn from
underground.  Their very presence, the fact of their existence, is an
outrage to the fresh, bright sun and the green and growing things.  The
clean, upstanding trees cry shame upon them and their withered
crookedness, and their rottenness is a slimy desecration of the sweetness
and purity of nature.

Is the picture overdrawn?  It all depends.  For one who sees and thinks
life in terms of shares and coupons, it is certainly overdrawn.  But for
one who sees and thinks life in terms of manhood and womanhood, it cannot
be overdrawn.  Such hordes of beastly wretchedness and inarticulate
misery are no compensation for a millionaire brewer who lives in a West
End palace, sates himself with the sensuous delights of London's golden
theatres, hobnobs with lordlings and princelings, and is knighted by the
king.  Wins his spurs--God forbid!  In old time the great blonde beasts
rode in the battle's van and won their spurs by cleaving men from pate to
chine.  And, after all, it is finer to kill a strong man with a clean-
slicing blow of singing steel than to make a beast of him, and of his
seed through the generations, by the artful and spidery manipulation of
industry and politics.

But to return to the hops.  Here the divorcement from the soil is as
apparent as in every other agricultural line in England.  While the
manufacture of beer steadily increases, the growth of hops steadily
decreases.  In 1835 the acreage under hops was 71,327.  To-day it stands
at 48,024, a decrease of 3103 from the acreage of last year.

Small as the acreage is this year, a poor summer and terrible storms
reduced the yield.  This misfortune is divided between the people who own
hops and the people who pick hops.  The owners perforce must put up with
less of the nicer things of life, the pickers with less grub, of which,
in the best of times, they never get enough.  For weary weeks headlines
like the following have appeared in the London papers.-

   TRAMPS PLENTIFUL, BUT THE HOPS ARE FEW AND NOT YET READY.

Then there have been numberless paragraphs like this:-

   From the neighbourhood of the hop fields comes news of a distressing
   nature.  The bright outburst of the last two days has sent many
   hundreds of hoppers into Kent, who will have to wait till the fields
   are ready for them.  At Dover the number of vagrants in the workhouse
   is treble the number there last year at this time, and in other towns
   the lateness of the season is responsible for a large increase in the
   number of casuals.

To cap their wretchedness, when at last the picking had begun, hops and
hoppers were well-nigh swept away by a frightful storm of wind, rain, and
hail.  The hops were stripped clean from the poles and pounded into the
earth, while the hoppers, seeking shelter from the stinging hail, were
close to drowning in their huts and camps on the low-lying ground.  Their
condition after the storm was pitiable, their state of vagrancy more
pronounced than ever; for, poor crop that it was, its destruction had
taken away the chance of earning a few pennies, and nothing remained for
thousands of them but to "pad the hoof" back to London.

"We ayn't crossin'-sweepers," they said, turning away from the ground,
carpeted ankle-deep with hops.

Those that remained grumbled savagely among the half-stripped poles at
the seven bushels for a shilling--a rate paid in good seasons when the
hops are in prime condition, and a rate likewise paid in bad seasons by
the growers because they cannot afford more.

I passed through Teston and East and West Farleigh shortly after the
storm, and listened to the grumbling of the hoppers and saw the hops
rotting on the ground.  At the hothouses of Barham Court, thirty thousand
panes of glass had been broken by the hail, while peaches, plums, pears,
apples, rhubarb, cabbages, mangolds, everything, had been pounded to
pieces and torn to shreds.

All of which was too bad for the owners, certainly; but at the worst, not
one of them, for one meal, would have to go short of food or drink.  Yet
it was to them that the newspapers devoted columns of sympathy, their
pecuniary losses being detailed at harrowing length.  "Mr. Herbert L---
calculates his loss at 8000 pounds;" "Mr. F---, of brewery fame, who
rents all the land in this parish, loses 10,000 pounds;" and "Mr. L---,
the Wateringbury brewer, brother to Mr. Herbert L---, is another heavy
loser."  As for the hoppers, they did not count.  Yet I venture to assert
that the several almost-square meals lost by underfed William Buggles,
and underfed Mrs. Buggles, and the underfed Buggles kiddies, was a
greater tragedy than the 10,000 pounds lost by Mr. F---.  And in
addition, underfed William Buggles' tragedy might be multiplied by
thousands where Mr. F---'s could not be multiplied by five.

To see how William Buggles and his kind fared, I donned my seafaring togs
and started out to get a job.  With me was a young East London cobbler,
Bert, who had yielded to the lure of adventure and joined me for the
trip.  Acting on my advice, he had brought his "worst rags," and as we
hiked up the London road out of Maidstone he was worrying greatly for
fear we had come too ill-dressed for the business.

Nor was he to be blamed.  When we stopped in a tavern the publican eyed
us gingerly, nor did his demeanour brighten till we showed him the colour
of our cash.  The natives along the coast were all dubious; and "bean-
feasters" from London, dashing past in coaches, cheered and jeered and
shouted insulting things after us.  But before we were done with the
Maidstone district my friend found that we were as well clad, if not
better, than the average hopper.  Some of the bunches of rags we chanced
upon were marvellous.

"The tide is out," called a gypsy-looking woman to her mates, as we came
up a long row of bins into which the pickers were stripping the hops.

"Do you twig?" Bert whispered.  "She's on to you."

I twigged.  And it must be confessed the figure was an apt one.  When the
tide is out boats are left on the beach and do not sail, and a sailor,
when the tide is out, does not sail either.  My seafaring togs and my
presence in the hop field proclaimed that I was a seaman without a ship,
a man on the beach, and very like a craft at low water.

"Can yer give us a job, governor?" Bert asked the bailiff, a kindly faced
and elderly man who was very busy.

His "No" was decisively uttered; but Bert clung on and followed him
about, and I followed after, pretty well all over the field.  Whether our
persistency struck the bailiff as anxiety to work, or whether he was
affected by our hard-luck appearance and tale, neither Bert nor I
succeeded in making out; but in the end he softened his heart and found
us the one unoccupied bin in the place--a bin deserted by two other men,
from what I could learn, because of inability to make living wages.

"No bad conduct, mind ye," warned the bailiff, as he left us at work in
the midst of the women.

It was Saturday afternoon, and we knew quitting time would come early; so
we applied ourselves earnestly to the task, desiring to learn if we could
at least make our salt.  It was simple work, woman's work, in fact, and
not man's.  We sat on the edge of the bin, between the standing hops,
while a pole-puller supplied us with great fragrant branches.  In an
hour's time we became as expert as it is possible to become.  As soon as
the fingers became accustomed automatically to differentiate between hops
and leaves and to strip half-a-dozen blossoms at a time there was no more
to learn.

We worked nimbly, and as fast as the women themselves, though their bins
filled more rapidly because of their swarming children, each of which
picked with two hands almost as fast as we picked.

"Don'tcher pick too clean, it's against the rules," one of the women
informed us; and we took the tip and were grateful.

As the afternoon wore along, we realised that living wages could not be
made--by men.  Women could pick as much as men, and children could do
almost as well as women; so it was impossible for a man to compete with a
woman and half-a-dozen children.  For it is the woman and the half-dozen
children who count as a unit, and by their combined capacity determine
the unit's pay.

"I say, matey, I'm beastly hungry," said I to Bert.  We had not had any
dinner.

"Blimey, but I could eat the 'ops," he replied.

Whereupon we both lamented our negligence in not rearing up a numerous
progeny to help us in this day of need.  And in such fashion we whiled
away the time and talked for the edification of our neighbours.  We quite
won the sympathy of the pole-puller, a young country yokel, who now and
again emptied a few picked blossoms into our bin, it being part of his
business to gather up the stray clusters torn off in the process of
pulling.

With him we discussed how much we could "sub," and were informed that
while we were being paid a shilling for seven bushels, we could only
"sub," or have advanced to us, a shilling for every twelve bushels.  Which
is to say that the pay for five out of every twelve bushels was
withheld--a method of the grower to hold the hopper to his work whether
the crop runs good or bad, and especially if it runs bad.

After all, it was pleasant sitting there in the bright sunshine, the
golden pollen showering from our hands, the pungent aromatic odour of the
hops biting our nostrils, and the while remembering dimly the sounding
cities whence these people came.  Poor street people!  Poor gutter folk!
Even they grow earth-hungry, and yearn vaguely for the soil from which
they have been driven, and for the free life in the open, and the wind
and rain and sun all undefiled by city smirches.  As the sea calls to the
sailor, so calls the land to them; and, deep down in their aborted and
decaying carcasses, they are stirred strangely by the peasant memories of
their forbears who lived before cities were.  And in incomprehensible
ways they are made glad by the earth smells and sights and sounds which
their blood has not forgotten though unremembered by them.

"No more 'ops, matey," Bert complained.

It was five o'clock, and the pole-pullers had knocked off, so that
everything could be cleaned up, there being no work on Sunday.  For an
hour we were forced idly to wait the coming of the measurers, our feet
tingling with the frost which came on the heels of the setting sun.  In
the adjoining bin, two women and half-a-dozen children had picked nine
bushels: so that the five bushels the measurers found in our bin
demonstrated that we had done equally well, for the half-dozen children
had ranged from nine to fourteen years of age.

Five bushels!  We worked it out to eight-pence ha'penny, or seventeen
cents, for two men working three hours and a half.  Fourpence farthing
apiece! a little over a penny an hour!  But we were allowed only to "sub"
fivepence of the total sum, though the tally-keeper, short of change,
gave us sixpence.  Entreaty was in vain.  A hard-luck story could not
move him.  He proclaimed loudly that we had received a penny more than
our due, and went his way.

Granting, for the sake of the argument, that we were what we represented
ourselves to be--namely, poor men and broke--then here was out position:
night was coming on; we had had no supper, much less dinner; and we
possessed sixpence between us.  I was hungry enough to eat three
sixpenn'orths of food, and so was Bert.  One thing was patent.  By doing
16.3 per cent. justice to our stomachs, we would expend the sixpence, and
our stomachs would still be gnawing under 83.3 per cent. injustice.  Being
broke again, we could sleep under a hedge, which was not so bad, though
the cold would sap an undue portion of what we had eaten.  But the morrow
was Sunday, on which we could do no work, though our silly stomachs would
not knock off on that account.  Here, then, was the problem: how to get
three meals on Sunday, and two on Monday (for we could not make another
"sub" till Monday evening).

We knew that the casual wards were overcrowded; also, that if we begged
from farmer or villager, there was a large likelihood of our going to
jail for fourteen days.  What was to be done?  We looked at each other in
despair--

--Not a bit of it.  We joyfully thanked God that we were not as other
men, especially hoppers, and went down the road to Maidstone, jingling in
our pockets the half-crowns and florins we had brought from London.




CHAPTER XV--THE SEA WIFE


You might not expect to find the Sea Wife in the heart of Kent, but that
is where I found her, in a mean street, in the poor quarter of Maidstone.
In her window she had no sign of lodgings to let, and persuasion was
necessary before she could bring herself to let me sleep in her front
room.  In the evening I descended to the semi-subterranean kitchen, and
talked with her and her old man, Thomas Mugridge by name.

And as I talked to them, all the subtleties and complexities of this
tremendous machine civilisation vanished away.  It seemed that I went
down through the skin and the flesh to the naked soul of it, and in
Thomas Mugridge and his old woman gripped hold of the essence of this
remarkable English breed.  I found there the spirit of the wanderlust
which has lured Albion's sons across the zones; and I found there the
colossal unreckoning which has tricked the English into foolish
squabblings and preposterous fights, and the doggedness and stubbornness
which have brought them blindly through to empire and greatness; and
likewise I found that vast, incomprehensible patience which has enabled
the home population to endure under the burden of it all, to toil without
complaint through the weary years, and docilely to yield the best of its
sons to fight and colonise to the ends of the earth.

Thomas Mugridge was seventy-one years old and a little man.  It was
because he was little that he had not gone for a soldier.  He had
remained at home and worked.  His first recollections were connected with
work.  He knew nothing else but work.  He had worked all his days, and at
seventy-one he still worked.  Each morning saw him up with the lark and
afield, a day labourer, for as such he had been born.  Mrs. Mugridge was
seventy-three.  From seven years of age she had worked in the fields,
doing a boy's work at first, and later a man's.  She still worked,
keeping the house shining, washing, boiling, and baking, and, with my
advent, cooking for me and shaming me by making my bed.  At the end of
threescore years and more of work they possessed nothing, had nothing to
look forward to save more work.  And they were contented.  They expected
nothing else, desired nothing else.

They lived simply.  Their wants were few--a pint of beer at the end of
the day, sipped in the semi-subterranean kitchen, a weekly paper to pore
over for seven nights hand-running, and conversation as meditative and
vacant as the chewing of a heifer's cud.  From a wood engraving on the
wall a slender, angelic girl looked down upon them, and underneath was
the legend: "Our Future Queen."  And from a highly coloured lithograph
alongside looked down a stout and elderly lady, with underneath: "Our
Queen--Diamond Jubilee."

"What you earn is sweetest," quoth Mrs. Mugridge, when I suggested that
it was about time they took a rest.

"No, an' we don't want help," said Thomas Mugridge, in reply to my
question as to whether the children lent them a hand.

"We'll work till we dry up and blow away, mother an' me," he added; and
Mrs. Mugridge nodded her head in vigorous indorsement.

Fifteen children she had borne, and all were away and gone, or dead.  The
"baby," however, lived in Maidstone, and she was twenty-seven.  When the
children married they had their hands full with their own families and
troubles, like their fathers and mothers before them.

Where were the children?  Ah, where were they not?  Lizzie was in
Australia; Mary was in Buenos Ayres; Poll was in New York; Joe had died
in India--and so they called them up, the living and the dead, soldier
and sailor, and colonist's wife, for the traveller's sake who sat in
their kitchen.

They passed me a photograph.  A trim young fellow, in soldier's garb
looked out at me.

"And which son is this?" I asked.

They laughed a hearty chorus.  Son!  Nay, grandson, just back from Indian
service and a soldier-trumpeter to the King.  His brother was in the same
regiment with him.  And so it ran, sons and daughters, and grand sons and
daughters, world-wanderers and empire-builders, all of them, while the
old folks stayed at home and worked at building empire too.

   "There dwells a wife by the Northern Gate,
      And a wealthy wife is she;
   She breeds a breed o' rovin' men
      And casts them over sea.

   "And some are drowned in deep water,
      And some in sight of shore;
   And word goes back to the weary wife,
      And ever she sends more."

But the Sea Wife's child-bearing is about done.  The stock is running
out, and the planet is filling up.  The wives of her sons may carry on
the breed, but her work is past.  The erstwhile men of England are now
the men of Australia, of Africa, of America.  England has sent forth "the
best she breeds" for so long, and has destroyed those that remained so
fiercely, that little remains for her to do but to sit down through the
long nights and gaze at royalty on the wall.

The true British merchant seaman has passed away.  The merchant service
is no longer a recruiting ground for such sea dogs as fought with Nelson
at Trafalgar and the Nile.  Foreigners largely man the merchant ships,
though Englishmen still continue to officer them and to prefer foreigners
for'ard.  In South Africa the colonial teaches the islander how to shoot,
and the officers muddle and blunder; while at home the street people play
hysterically at mafficking, and the War Office lowers the stature for
enlistment.

It could not be otherwise.  The most complacent Britisher cannot hope to
draw off the life-blood, and underfeed, and keep it up forever.  The
average Mrs. Thomas Mugridge has been driven into the city, and she is
not breeding very much of anything save an anaemic and sickly progeny
which cannot find enough to eat.  The strength of the English-speaking
race to-day is not in the tight little island, but in the New World
overseas, where are the sons and daughters of Mrs. Thomas Mugridge.  The
Sea Wife by the Northern Gate has just about done her work in the world,
though she does not realize it.  She must sit down and rest her tired
loins for a space; and if the casual ward and the workhouse do not await
her, it is because of the sons and daughters she has reared up against
the day of her feebleness and decay.




CHAPTER XVI--PROPERTY VERSUS PERSON


In a civilisation frankly materialistic and based upon property, not
soul, it is inevitable that property shall be exalted over soul, that
crimes against property shall be considered far more serious than crimes
against the person.  To pound one's wife to a jelly and break a few of
her ribs is a trivial offence compared with sleeping out under the naked
stars because one has not the price of a doss.  The lad who steals a few
pears from a wealthy railway corporation is a greater menace to society
than the young brute who commits an unprovoked assault upon an old man
over seventy years of age.  While the young girl who takes a lodging
under the pretence that she has work commits so dangerous an offence,
that, were she not severely punished, she and her kind might bring the
whole fabric of property clattering to the ground.  Had she unholily
tramped Piccadilly and the Strand after midnight, the police would not
have interfered with her, and she would have been able to pay for her
lodging.

The following illustrative cases are culled from the police-court reports
for a single week:-

   Widnes Police Court.  Before Aldermen Gossage and Neil.  Thomas Lynch,
   charged with being drunk and disorderly and with assaulting a
   constable.  Defendant rescued a woman from custody, kicked the
   constable, and threw stones at him.  Fined 3s. 6d. for the first
   offence, and 10s. and costs for the assault.

   Glasgow Queen's Park Police Court.  Before Baillie Norman Thompson.
   John Kane pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife.  There were five
   previous convictions.  Fined 2 pounds, 2s.

   Taunton County Petty Sessions.  John Painter, a big, burly fellow,
   described as a labourer, charged with assaulting his wife.  The woman
   received two severe black eyes, and her face was badly swollen.  Fined
   1 pound, 8s., including costs, and bound over to keep the peace.

   Widnes Police Court.  Richard Bestwick and George Hunt, charged with
   trespassing in search of game.  Hunt fined 1 pound and costs, Bestwick
   2 pounds and costs; in default, one month.

   Shaftesbury Police Court.  Before the Mayor (Mr. A. T. Carpenter).
   Thomas Baker, charged with sleeping out.  Fourteen days.

   Glasgow Central Police Court.  Before Bailie Dunlop.  Edward Morrison,
   a lad, convicted of stealing fifteen pears from a lorry at the
   railroad station.  Seven days.

   Doncaster Borough Police Court.  Before Alderman Clark and other
   magistrates.  James M'Gowan, charged under the Poaching Prevention Act
   with being found in possession of poaching implements and a number of
   rabbits.  Fined 2 pounds and costs, or one month.

   Dunfermline Sheriff Court.  Before Sheriff Gillespie.  John Young, a
   pit-head worker, pleaded guilty to assaulting Alexander Storrar by
   beating him about the head and body with his fists, throwing him on
   the ground, and also striking him with a pit prop.  Fined 1 pound.

   Kirkcaldy Police Court.  Before Bailie Dishart.  Simon Walker pleaded
   guilty to assaulting a man by striking and knocking him down.  It was
   an unprovoked assault, and the magistrate described the accused as a
   perfect danger to the community.  Fined 30s.

   Mansfield Police Court.  Before the Mayor, Messrs. F. J. Turner, J.
   Whitaker, F. Tidsbury, E. Holmes, and Dr. R. Nesbitt.  Joseph Jackson,
   charged with assaulting Charles Nunn.  Without any provocation,
   defendant struck the complainant a violent blow in the face, knocking
   him down, and then kicked him on the side of the head.  He was
   rendered unconscious, and he remained under medical treatment for a
   fortnight.  Fined 21s.

   Perth Sheriff Court.  Before Sheriff Sym.  David Mitchell, charged
   with poaching.  There were two previous convictions, the last being
   three years ago.  The sheriff was asked to deal leniently with
   Mitchell, who was sixty-two years of age, and who offered no
   resistance to the gamekeeper.  Four months.

   Dundee Sheriff Court.  Before Hon. Sheriff-Substitute R. C. Walker.
   John Murray, Donald Craig, and James Parkes, charged with poaching.
   Craig and Parkes fined 1 pound each or fourteen days; Murray, 5 pounds
   or one month.

   Reading Borough Police Court.  Before Messrs. W. B. Monck, F. B.
   Parfitt, H. M. Wallis, and G. Gillagan.  Alfred Masters, aged sixteen,
   charged with sleeping out on a waste piece of ground and having no
   visible means of subsistence.  Seven days.

   Salisbury City Petty Sessions.  Before the Mayor, Messrs. C. Hoskins,
   G. Fullford, E. Alexander, and W. Marlow.  James Moore, charged with
   stealing a pair of boots from outside a shop.  Twenty-one days.

   Horncastle Police Court.  Before the Rev. W. F. Massingberd, the Rev.
   J. Graham, and Mr. N. Lucas Calcraft.  George Brackenbury, a young
   labourer, convicted of what the magistrates characterised as an
   altogether unprovoked and brutal assault upon James Sargeant Foster, a
   man over seventy years of age.  Fined 1 pound and 5s. 6d. costs.

   Worksop Petty Sessions.  Before Messrs. F. J. S. Foljambe, R. Eddison,
   and S. Smith.  John Priestley, charged with assaulting the Rev. Leslie
   Graham.  Defendant, who was drunk, was wheeling a perambulator and
   pushed it in front of a lorry, with the result that the perambulator
   was overturned and the baby in it thrown out.  The lorry passed over
   the perambulator, but the baby was uninjured.  Defendant then attacked
   the driver of the lorry, and afterwards assaulted the complainant, who
   remonstrated with him upon his conduct.  In consequence of the
   injuries defendant inflicted, complainant had to consult a doctor.
   Fined 40s. and costs.

   Rotherham West Riding Police Court.  Before Messrs. C. Wright and G.
   Pugh and Colonel Stoddart.  Benjamin Storey, Thomas Brammer, and
   Samuel Wilcock, charged with poaching.  One month each.

   Southampton County Police Court.  Before Admiral J. C. Rowley, Mr. H.
   H. Culme-Seymour, and other magistrates.  Henry Thorrington, charged
   with sleeping out.  Seven days.

   Eckington Police Court.  Before Major L. B. Bowden, Messrs. R. Eyre,
   and H. A. Fowler, and Dr. Court.  Joseph Watts, charged with stealing
   nine ferns from a garden.  One month.

   Ripley Petty Sessions.  Before Messrs. J. B. Wheeler, W. D. Bembridge,
   and M. Hooper.  Vincent Allen and George Hall, charged under the
   Poaching Prevention Act with being found in possession of a number of
   rabbits, and John Sparham, charged with aiding and abetting them.  Hall
   and Sparham fined 1 pound, 17s. 4d., and Allen 2 pounds, 17s. 4d.,
   including costs; the former committed for fourteen days and the latter
   for one month in default of payment.

   South-western Police Court, London.  Before Mr. Rose.  John Probyn,
   charged with doing grievous bodily harm to a constable.  Prisoner had
   been kicking his wife, and also assaulting another woman who protested
   against his brutality.  The constable tried to persuade him to go
   inside his house, but prisoner suddenly turned upon him, knocking him
   down by a blow on the face, kicking him as he lay on the ground, and
   attempting to strangle him.  Finally the prisoner deliberately kicked
   the officer in a dangerous part, inflicting an injury which will keep
   him off duty for a long time to come.  Six weeks.

   Lambeth Police Court, London.  Before Mr. Hopkins.  "Baby" Stuart,
   aged nineteen, described as a chorus girl, charged with obtaining food
   and lodging to the value of 5s. by false pretences, and with intent to
   defraud Emma Brasier.  Emma Brasier, complainant, lodging-house keeper
   of Atwell Road.  Prisoner took apartments at her house on the
   representation that she was employed at the Crown Theatre.  After
   prisoner had been in her house two or three days, Mrs. Brasier made
   inquiries, and, finding the girl's story untrue, gave her into
   custody.  Prisoner told the magistrate that she would have worked had
   she not had such bad health.  Six weeks' hard labour.




CHAPTER XVII--INEFFICIENCY


I stopped a moment to listen to an argument on the Mile End Waste.  It
was night-time, and they were all workmen of the better class.  They had
surrounded one of their number, a pleasant-faced man of thirty, and were
giving it to him rather heatedly.

"But 'ow about this 'ere cheap immigration?" one of them demanded.  "The
Jews of Whitechapel, say, a-cutting our throats right along?"

"You can't blame them," was the answer.  "They're just like us, and
they've got to live.  Don't blame the man who offers to work cheaper than
you and gets your job."

"But 'ow about the wife an' kiddies?" his interlocutor demanded.

"There you are," came the answer.  "How about the wife and kiddies of the
man who works cheaper than you and gets your job?  Eh?  How about his
wife and kiddies?  He's more interested in them than in yours, and he
can't see them starve.  So he cuts the price of labour and out you go.
But you mustn't blame him, poor devil.  He can't help it.  Wages always
come down when two men are after the same job.  That's the fault of
competition, not of the man who cuts the price."

"But wyges don't come down where there's a union," the objection was
made.

"And there you are again, right on the head.  The union cheeks
competition among the labourers, but makes it harder where there are no
unions.  There's where your cheap labour of Whitechapel comes in.  They're
unskilled, and have no unions, and cut each other's throats, and ours in
the bargain, if we don't belong to a strong union."

Without going further into the argument, this man on the Mile End Waste
pointed the moral that when two men were after the one job wages were
bound to fall.  Had he gone deeper into the matter, he would have found
that even the union, say twenty thousand strong, could not hold up wages
if twenty thousand idle men were trying to displace the union men.  This
is admirably instanced, just now, by the return and disbandment of the
soldiers from South Africa.  They find themselves, by tens of thousands,
in desperate straits in the army of the unemployed.  There is a general
decline in wages throughout the land, which, giving rise to labour
disputes and strikes, is taken advantage of by the unemployed, who gladly
pick up the tools thrown down by the strikers.

Sweating, starvation wages, armies of unemployed, and great numbers of
the homeless and shelterless are inevitable when there are more men to do
work than there is work for men to do.  The men and women I have met upon
the streets, and in the spikes and pegs, are not there because as a mode
of life it may be considered a "soft snap."  I have sufficiently outlined
the hardships they undergo to demonstrate that their existence is
anything but "soft."

It is a matter of sober calculation, here in England, that it is softer
to work for twenty shillings a week, and have regular food, and a bed at
night, than it is to walk the streets.  The man who walks the streets
suffers more, and works harder, for far less return.  I have depicted the
nights they spend, and how, driven in by physical exhaustion, they go to
the casual ward for a "rest up."  Nor is the casual ward a soft snap.  To
pick four pounds of oakum, break twelve hundredweight of stones, or
perform the most revolting tasks, in return for the miserable food and
shelter they receive, is an unqualified extravagance on the part of the
men who are guilty of it.  On the part of the authorities it is sheer
robbery.  They give the men far less for their labour than do the
capitalistic employers.  The wage for the same amount of labour,
performed for a private employer, would buy them better beds, better
food, more good cheer, and, above all, greater freedom.

As I say, it is an extravagance for a man to patronise a casual ward.  And
that they know it themselves is shown by the way these men shun it till
driven in by physical exhaustion.  Then why do they do it?  Not because
they are discouraged workers.  The very opposite is true; they are
discouraged vagabonds.  In the United States the tramp is almost
invariably a discouraged worker.  He finds tramping a softer mode of life
than working.  But this is not true in England.  Here the powers that be
do their utmost to discourage the tramp and vagabond, and he is, in all
truth, a mightily discouraged creature.  He knows that two shillings a
day, which is only fifty cents, will buy him three fair meals, a bed at
night, and leave him a couple of pennies for pocket money.  He would
rather work for those two shillings than for the charity of the casual
ward; for he knows that he would not have to work so hard, and that he
would not be so abominably treated.  He does not do so, however, because
there are more men to do work than there is work for men to do.

When there are more men than there is work to be done, a sifting-out
process must obtain.  In every branch of industry the less efficient are
crowded out.  Being crowded out because of inefficiency, they cannot go
up, but must descend, and continue to descend, until they reach their
proper level, a place in the industrial fabric where they are efficient.
It follows, therefore, and it is inexorable, that the least efficient
must descend to the very bottom, which is the shambles wherein they
perish miserably.

A glance at the confirmed inefficients at the bottom demonstrates that
they are, as a rule, mental, physical, and moral wrecks.  The exceptions
to the rule are the late arrivals, who are merely very inefficient, and
upon whom the wrecking process is just beginning to operate.  All the
forces here, it must be remembered, are destructive.  The good body
(which is there because its brain is not quick and capable) is speedily
wrenched and twisted out of shape; the clean mind (which is there because
of its weak body) is speedily fouled and contaminated.

The mortality is excessive, but, even then, they die far too lingering
deaths.

Here, then, we have the construction of the Abyss and the shambles.
Throughout the whole industrial fabric a constant elimination is going
on.  The inefficient are weeded out and flung downward.  Various things
constitute inefficiency.  The engineer who is irregular or irresponsible
will sink down until he finds his place, say as a casual labourer, an
occupation irregular in its very nature and in which there is little or
no responsibility.  Those who are slow and clumsy, who suffer from
weakness of body or mind, or who lack nervous, mental, and physical
stamina, must sink down, sometimes rapidly, sometimes step by step, to
the bottom.  Accident, by disabling an efficient worker, will make him
inefficient, and down he must go.  And the worker who becomes aged, with
failing energy and numbing brain, must begin the frightful descent which
knows no stopping-place short of the bottom and death.

In this last instance, the statistics of London tell a terrible tale.  The
population of London is one-seventh of the total population of the United
Kingdom, and in London, year in and year out, one adult in every four
dies on public charity, either in the workhouse, the hospital, or the
asylum.  When the fact that the well-to-do do not end thus is taken into
consideration, it becomes manifest that it is the fate of at least one in
every three adult workers to die on public charity.

As an illustration of how a good worker may suddenly become inefficient,
and what then happens to him, I am tempted to give the case of M'Garry, a
man thirty-two years of age, and an inmate of the workhouse.  The
extracts are quoted from the annual report of the trade union.

   I worked at Sullivan's place in Widnes, better known as the British
   Alkali Chemical Works.  I was working in a shed, and I had to cross
   the yard.  It was ten o'clock at night, and there was no light about.
   While crossing the yard I felt something take hold of my leg and screw
   it off.  I became unconscious; I didn't know what became of me for a
   day or two.  On the following Sunday night I came to my senses, and
   found myself in the hospital.  I asked the nurse what was to do with
   my legs, and she told me both legs were off.

   There was a stationary crank in the yard, let into the ground; the
   hole was 18 inches long, 15 inches deep, and 15 inches wide.  The
   crank revolved in the hole three revolutions a minute.  There was no
   fence or covering over the hole.  Since my accident they have stopped
   it altogether, and have covered the hole up with a piece of sheet
   iron. . . . They gave me 25 pounds.  They didn't reckon that as
   compensation; they said it was only for charity's sake.  Out of that I
   paid 9 pounds for a machine by which to wheel myself about.

   I was labouring at the time I got my legs off.  I got twenty-four
   shillings a week, rather better pay than the other men, because I used
   to take shifts.  When there was heavy work to be done I used to be
   picked out to do it.  Mr. Manton, the manager, visited me at the
   hospital several times.  When I was getting better, I asked him if he
   would be able to find me a job.  He told me not to trouble myself, as
   the firm was not cold-hearted.  I would be right enough in any case .
   . . Mr. Manton stopped coming to see me; and the last time, he said he
   thought of asking the directors to give me a fifty-pound note, so I
   could go home to my friends in Ireland.

Poor M'Garry!  He received rather better pay than the other men because
he was ambitious and took shifts, and when heavy work was to be done he
was the man picked out to do it.  And then the thing happened, and he
went into the workhouse.  The alternative to the workhouse is to go home
to Ireland and burden his friends for the rest of his life.  Comment is
superfluous.

It must be understood that efficiency is not determined by the workers
themselves, but is determined by the demand for labour.  If three men
seek one position, the most efficient man will get it.  The other two, no
matter how capable they may be, will none the less be inefficients.  If
Germany, Japan, and the United States should capture the entire world
market for iron, coal, and textiles, at once the English workers would be
thrown idle by hundreds of thousands.  Some would emigrate, but the rest
would rush their labour into the remaining industries.  A general shaking
up of the workers from top to bottom would result; and when equilibrium
had been restored, the number of the inefficients at the bottom of the
Abyss would have been increased by hundreds of thousands.  On the other
hand, conditions remaining constant and all the workers doubling their
efficiency, there would still be as many inefficients, though each
inefficient were twice as capable as he had been and more capable than
many of the efficients had previously been.

When there are more men to work than there is work for men to do, just as
many men as are in excess of work will be inefficients, and as
inefficients they are doomed to lingering and painful destruction.  It
shall be the aim of future chapters to show, by their work and manner of
living, not only how the inefficients are weeded out and destroyed, but
to show how inefficients are being constantly and wantonly created by the
forces of industrial society as it exists to-day.




CHAPTER XVIII--WAGES


When I learned that in Lesser London there were 1,292,737 people who
received twenty-one shillings or less a week per family, I became
interested as to how the wages could best be spent in order to maintain
the physical efficiency of such families.  Families of six, seven, eight
or ten being beyond consideration, I have based the following table upon
a family of five--a father, mother, and three children; while I have made
twenty-one shillings equivalent to $5.25, though actually, twenty-one
shillings are equivalent to about $5.11.

Rent       $1.50    or 6/0
Bread       1.00    " 4/0
Meat        O.87.5  " 3/6
Vegetables  O.62.5  " 2/6
Coals       0.25    " 1/0
Tea         0.18    " 0/9
Oil         0.16    " 0/8
Sugar       0.18    " 0/9
Milk        0.12    " 0/6
Soap        0.08    " 0/4
Butter      0.20    " 0/10
Firewood    0.08    " 0/4
Total      $5.25     21/2

An analysis of one item alone will show how little room there is for
waste.  _Bread_, $1: for a family of five, for seven days, one dollar's
worth of bread will give each a daily ration of 2.8 cents; and if they
eat three meals a day, each may consume per meal 9.5 mills' worth of
bread, a little less than one halfpennyworth.  Now bread is the heaviest
item.  They will get less of meat per mouth each meal, and still less of
vegetates; while the smaller items become too microscopic for
consideration.  On the other hand, these food articles are all bought at
small retail, the most expensive and wasteful method of purchasing.

While the table given above will permit no extravagance, no overloading
of stomachs, it will be noticed that there is no surplus.  The whole
guinea is spent for food and rent.  There is no pocket-money left over.
Does the man buy a glass of beer, the family must eat that much less; and
in so far as it eats less, just that far will it impair its physical
efficiency.  The members of this family cannot ride in busses or trams,
cannot write letters, take outings, go to a "tu'penny gaff" for cheap
vaudeville, join social or benefit clubs, nor can they buy sweetmeats,
tobacco, books, or newspapers.

And further, should one child (and there are three) require a pair of
shoes, the family must strike meat for a week from its bill of fare.  And
since there are five pairs of feet requiring shoes, and five heads
requiring hats, and five bodies requiring clothes, and since there are
laws regulating indecency, the family must constantly impair its physical
efficiency in order to keep warm and out of jail.  For notice, when rent,
coals, oil, soap, and firewood are extracted from the weekly income,
there remains a daily allowance for food of 4.5d. to each person; and
that 4.5d. cannot be lessened by buying clothes without impairing the
physical efficiency.

All of which is hard enough.  But the thing happens; the husband and
father breaks his leg or his neck.  No 4.5d. a day per mouth for food is
coming in; no halfpennyworth of bread per meal; and, at the end of the
week, no six shillings for rent.  So out they must go, to the streets or
the workhouse, or to a miserable den, somewhere, in which the mother will
desperately endeavour to hold the family together on the ten shillings
she may possibly be able to earn.

While in London there are 1,292,737 people who receive twenty-one
shillings or less a week per family, it must be remembered that we have
investigated a family of five living on a twenty-one shilling basis.
There are larger families, there are many families that live on less than
twenty-one shillings, and there is much irregular employment.  The
question naturally arises, How do _they_ live?  The answer is that they
do not live.  They do not know what life is.  They drag out a
subterbestial existence until mercifully released by death.

Before descending to the fouler depths, let the case of the telephone
girls be cited.  Here are clean, fresh English maids, for whom a higher
standard of living than that of the beasts is absolutely necessary.
Otherwise they cannot remain clean, fresh English maids.  On entering the
service, a telephone girl receives a weekly wage of eleven shillings.  If
she be quick and clever, she may, at the end of five years, attain a
minimum wage of one pound.  Recently a table of such a girl's weekly
expenditure was furnished to Lord Londonderry.  Here it is:-

                      s.   d.
Rent, fire, and light 7    6
Board at home         3    6
Board at the office   4    6
Street car fare       1    6
Laundry               1    0
Total                18    0

This leaves nothing for clothes, recreation, or sickness.  And yet many
of the girls are receiving, not eighteen shillings, but eleven shillings,
twelve shillings, and fourteen shillings per week.  They must have
clothes and recreation, and--

   Man to Man so oft unjust,
   Is always so to Woman.

At the Trades Union Congress now being held in London, the Gasworkers'
Union moved that instructions be given the Parliamentary Committee to
introduce a Bill to prohibit the employment of children under fifteen
years of age.  Mr. Shackleton, Member of Parliament and a representative
of the Northern Counties Weavers, opposed the resolution on behalf of the
textile workers, who, he said, could not dispense with the earnings of
their children and live on the scale of wages which obtained.  The
representatives of 514,000 workers voted against the resolution, while
the representatives of 535,000 workers voted in favour of it.  When
514,000 workers oppose a resolution prohibiting child-labour under
fifteen, it is evident that a less-than-living wage is being paid to an
immense number of the adult workers of the country.

I have spoken with women in Whitechapel who receive right along less than
one shilling for a twelve-hour day in the coat-making sweat shops; and
with women trousers finishers who receive an average princely and weekly
wage of three to four shillings.

A case recently cropped up of men, in the employ of a wealthy business
house, receiving their board and six shillings per week for six working
days of sixteen hours each.  The sandwich men get fourteenpence per day
and find themselves.  The average weekly earnings of the hawkers and
costermongers are not more than ten to twelve shillings.  The average of
all common labourers, outside the dockers, is less than sixteen shillings
per week, while the dockers average from eight to nine shillings.  These
figures are taken from a royal commission report and are authentic.

Conceive of an old woman, broken and dying, supporting herself and four
children, and paying three shillings per week rent, by making match boxes
at 2.25d. per gross.  Twelve dozen boxes for 2.25d., and, in addition,
finding her own paste and thread!  She never knew a clay off, either for
sickness, rest, or recreation.  Each day and every day, Sundays as well,
she toiled fourteen hours.  Her day's stint was seven gross, for which
she received 1s. 3.75d.  In the week of ninety-eight hours' work, she
made 7066 match boxes, and earned 4s. 10.25d., less per paste and thread.

Last year, Mr. Thomas Holmes, a police-court missionary of note, after
writing about the condition of the women workers, received the following
letter, dated April 18, 1901:-

   Sir,--Pardon the liberty I am taking, but, having read what you said
   about poor women working fourteen hours a day for ten shillings per
   week, I beg to state my case.  I am a tie-maker, who, after working
   all the week, cannot earn more than five shillings, and I have a poor
   afflicted husband to keep who hasn't earned a penny for more than ten
   years.

Imagine a woman, capable of writing such a clear, sensible, grammatical
letter, supporting her husband and self on five shillings per week!  Mr.
Holmes visited her.  He had to squeeze to get into the room.  There lay
her sick husband; there she worked all day long; there she cooked, ate,
washed, and slept; and there her husband and she performed all the
functions of living and dying.  There was no space for the missionary to
sit down, save on the bed, which was partially covered with ties and
silk.  The sick man's lungs were in the last stages of decay.  He coughed
and expectorated constantly, the woman ceasing from her work to assist
him in his paroxysms.  The silken fluff from the ties was not good for
his sickness; nor was his sickness good for the ties, and the handlers
and wearers of the ties yet to come.

Another case Mr. Holmes visited was that of a young girl, twelve years of
age, charged in the police court with stealing food.  He found her the
deputy mother of a boy of nine, a crippled boy of seven, and a younger
child.  Her mother was a widow and a blouse-maker.  She paid five
shillings a week rent.  Here are the last items in her housekeeping
account: Tea. 0.5d.; sugar, 0.5d.; bread, 0.25d.; margarine, 1d.; oil,
1.5d.; and firewood, 1d.  Good housewives of the soft and tender folk,
imagine yourselves marketing and keeping house on such a scale, setting a
table for five, and keeping an eye on your deputy mother of twelve to see
that she did not steal food for her little brothers and sisters, the
while you stitched, stitched, stitched at a nightmare line of blouses,
which stretched away into the gloom and down to the pauper's coffin a-
yawn for you.




CHAPTER XIX--THE GHETTO


   Is it well that while we range with Science, glorying in the time,
   City children soak and blacken soul and sense in city slime?
   There among the gloomy alleys Progress halts on palsied feet;
   Crime and hunger cast out maidens by the thousand on the street;

   There the master scrimps his haggard seamstress of her daily bread;
   There the single sordid attic holds the living and the dead;
   There the smouldering fire of fever creeps across the rotted floor,
   And the crowded couch of incest, in the warrens of the poor.

At one time the nations of Europe confined the undesirable Jews in city
ghettos.  But to-day the dominant economic class, by less arbitrary but
none the less rigorous methods, has confined the undesirable yet
necessary workers into ghettos of remarkable meanness and vastness.  East
London is such a ghetto, where the rich and the powerful do not dwell,
and the traveller cometh not, and where two million workers swarm,
procreate, and die.

It must not be supposed that all the workers of London are crowded into
the East End, but the tide is setting strongly in that direction.  The
poor quarters of the city proper are constantly being destroyed, and the
main stream of the unhoused is toward the east.  In the last twelve
years, one district, "London over the Border," as it is called, which
lies well beyond Aldgate, Whitechapel, and Mile End, has increased
260,000, or over sixty per cent.  The churches in this district, by the
way, can seat but one in every thirty-seven of the added population.

The City of Dreadful Monotony, the East End is often called, especially
by well-fed, optimistic sightseers, who look over the surface of things
and are merely shocked by the intolerable sameness and meanness of it
all.  If the East End is worthy of no worse title than The City of
Dreadful Monotony, and if working people are unworthy of variety and
beauty and surprise, it would not be such a bad place in which to live.
But the East End does merit a worse title.  It should be called The City
of Degradation.

While it is not a city of slums, as some people imagine, it may well be
said to be one gigantic slum.  From the standpoint of simple decency and
clean manhood and womanhood, any mean street, of all its mean streets, is
a slum.  Where sights and sounds abound which neither you nor I would
care to have our children see and hear is a place where no man's children
should live, and see, and hear.  Where you and I would not care to have
our wives pass their lives is a place where no other man's wife should
have to pass her life.  For here, in the East End, the obscenities and
brute vulgarities of life are rampant.  There is no privacy.  The bad
corrupts the good, and all fester together.  Innocent childhood is sweet
and beautiful: but in East London innocence is a fleeting thing, and you
must catch them before they crawl out of the cradle, or you will find the
very babes as unholily wise as you.

The application of the Golden Rule determines that East London is an
unfit place in which to live.  Where you would not have your own babe
live, and develop, and gather to itself knowledge of life and the things
of life, is not a fit place for the babes of other men to live, and
develop, and gather to themselves knowledge of life and the things of
life.  It is a simple thing, this Golden Rule, and all that is required.
Political economy and the survival of the fittest can go hang if they say
otherwise.  What is not good enough for you is not good enough for other
men, and there's no more to be said.

There are 300,000 people in London, divided into families, that live in
one-room tenements.  Far, far more live in two and three rooms and are as
badly crowded, regardless of sex, as those that live in one room.  The
law demands 400 cubic feet of space for each person.  In army barracks
each soldier is allowed 600 cubic feet.  Professor Huxley, at one time
himself a medical officer in East London, always held that each person
should have 800 cubic feet of space, and that it should be well
ventilated with pure air.  Yet in London there are 900,000 people living
in less than the 400 cubic feet prescribed by the law.

Mr. Charles Booth, who engaged in a systematic work of years in charting
and classifying the toiling city population, estimates that there are
1,800,000 people in London who are _poor_ and _very poor_.  It is of
interest to mark what he terms poor.  By _poor_ he means families which
have a total weekly income of from eighteen to twenty-one shillings.  The
_very poor_ fall greatly below this standard.

The workers, as a class, are being more and more segregated by their
economic masters; and this process, with its jamming and overcrowding,
tends not so much toward immorality as unmorality.  Here is an extract
from a recent meeting of the London County Council, terse and bald, but
with a wealth of horror to be read between the lines:-

   Mr. Bruce asked the Chairman of the Public Health Committee whether
   his attention had been called to a number of cases of serious
   overcrowding in the East End.  In St. Georges-in-the-East a man and
   his wife and their family of eight occupied one small room.  This
   family consisted of five daughters, aged twenty, seventeen, eight,
   four, and an infant; and three sons, aged fifteen, thirteen, and
   twelve.  In Whitechapel a man and his wife and their three daughters,
   aged sixteen, eight, and four, and two sons, aged ten and twelve
   years, occupied a smaller room.  In Bethnal Green a man and his wife,
   with four sons, aged twenty-three, twenty-one, nineteen, and sixteen,
   and two daughters, aged fourteen and seven, were also found in one
   room.  He asked whether it was not the duty of the various local
   authorities to prevent such serious overcrowding.

But with 900,000 people actually living under illegal conditions, the
authorities have their hands full.  When the overcrowded folk are ejected
they stray off into some other hole; and, as they move their belongings
by night, on hand-barrows (one hand-barrow accommodating the entire
household goods and the sleeping children), it is next to impossible to
keep track of them.  If the Public Health Act of 1891 were suddenly and
completely enforced, 900,000 people would receive notice to clear out of
their houses and go on to the streets, and 500,000 rooms would have to be
built before they were all legally housed again.

The mean streets merely look mean from the outside, but inside the walls
are to be found squalor, misery, and tragedy.  While the following
tragedy may be revolting to read, it must not be forgotten that the
existence of it is far more revolting.

In Devonshire Place, Lisson Grove, a short while back died an old woman
of seventy-five years of age.  At the inquest the coroner's officer
stated that "all he found in the room was a lot of old rags covered with
vermin.  He had got himself smothered with the vermin.  The room was in a
shocking condition, and he had never seen anything like it.  Everything
was absolutely covered with vermin."

The doctor said: "He found deceased lying across the fender on her back.
She had one garment and her stockings on.  The body was quite alive with
vermin, and all the clothes in the room were absolutely grey with
insects.  Deceased was very badly nourished and was very emaciated.  She
had extensive sores on her legs, and her stockings were adherent to those
sores.  The sores were the result of vermin."

A man present at the inquest wrote: "I had the evil fortune to see the
body of the unfortunate woman as it lay in the mortuary; and even now the
memory of that gruesome sight makes me shudder.  There she lay in the
mortuary shell, so starved and emaciated that she was a mere bundle of
skin and bones.  Her hair, which was matted with filth, was simply a nest
of vermin.  Over her bony chest leaped and rolled hundreds, thousands,
myriads of vermin!"

If it is not good for your mother and my mother so to die, then it is not
good for this woman, whosoever's mother she might be, so to die.

Bishop Wilkinson, who has lived in Zululand, recently said, "No human of
an African village would allow such a promiscuous mixing of young men and
women, boys and girls."  He had reference to the children of the
overcrowded folk, who at five have nothing to learn and much to unlearn
which they will never unlearn.

It is notorious that here in the Ghetto the houses of the poor are
greater profit earners than the mansions of the rich.  Not only does the
poor worker have to live like a beast, but he pays proportionately more
for it than does the rich man for his spacious comfort.  A class of house-
sweaters has been made possible by the competition of the poor for
houses.  There are more people than there is room, and numbers are in the
workhouse because they cannot find shelter elsewhere.  Not only are
houses let, but they are sublet, and sub-sublet down to the very rooms.

"A part of a room to let."  This notice was posted a short while ago in a
window not five minutes' walk from St. James's Hall.  The Rev. Hugh Price
Hughes is authority for the statement that beds are let on the
three-relay system--that is, three tenants to a bed, each occupying it
eight hours, so that it never grows cold; while the floor space
underneath the bed is likewise let on the three-relay system.  Health
officers are not at all unused to finding such cases as the following: in
one room having a cubic capacity of 1000 feet, three adult females in the
bed, and two adult females under the bed; and in one room of 1650 cubic
feet, one adult male and two children in the bed, and two adult females
under the bed.

Here is a typical example of a room on the more respectable two-relay
system.  It is occupied in the daytime by a young woman employed all
night in a hotel.  At seven o'clock in the evening she vacates the room,
and a bricklayer's labourer comes in.  At seven in the morning he
vacates, and goes to his work, at which time she returns from hers.

The Rev. W. N. Davies, rector of Spitalfields, took a census of some of
the alleys in his parish.  He says:-

   In one alley there are ten houses--fifty-one rooms, nearly all about 8
   feet by 9 feet--and 254 people.  In six instances only do 2 people
   occupy one room; and in others the number varied from 3 to 9.  In
   another court with six houses and twenty-two rooms were 84
   people--again 6, 7, 8, and 9 being the number living in one room, in
   several instances.  In one house with eight rooms are 45 people--one
   room containing 9 persons, one 8, two 7, and another 6.

This Ghetto crowding is not through inclination, but compulsion.  Nearly
fifty per cent. of the workers pay from one-fourth to one-half of their
earnings for rent.  The average rent in the larger part of the East End
is from four to six shillings per week for one room, while skilled
mechanics, earning thirty-five shillings per week, are forced to part
with fifteen shillings of it for two or three pokey little dens, in which
they strive desperately to obtain some semblance of home life.  And rents
are going up all the time.  In one street in Stepney the increase in only
two years has been from thirteen to eighteen shillings; in another street
from eleven to sixteen shillings; and in another street, from eleven to
fifteen shillings; while in Whitechapel, two-room houses that recently
rented for ten shillings are now costing twenty-one shillings.  East,
west, north, and south the rents are going up.  When land is worth from
20,000 to 30,000 pounds an acre, some one must pay the landlord.

Mr. W. C. Steadman, in the House of Commons, in a speech concerning his
constituency in Stepney, related the following:-

   This morning, not a hundred yards from where I am myself living, a
   widow stopped me.  She has six children to support, and the rent of
   her house was fourteen shillings per week.  She gets her living by
   letting the house to lodgers and doing a day's washing or charring.
   That woman, with tears in her eyes, told me that the landlord had
   increased the rent from fourteen shillings to eighteen shillings.  What
   could the woman do?  There is no accommodation in Stepney.  Every
   place is taken up and overcrowded.

Class supremacy can rest only on class degradation; and when the workers
are segregated in the Ghetto, they cannot escape the consequent
degradation.  A short and stunted people is created--a breed strikingly
differentiated from their masters' breed, a pavement folk, as it were
lacking stamina and strength.  The men become caricatures of what
physical men ought to be, and their women and children are pale and
anaemic, with eyes ringed darkly, who stoop and slouch, and are early
twisted out of all shapeliness and beauty.

To make matters worse, the men of the Ghetto are the men who are left--a
deteriorated stock, left to undergo still further deterioration.  For a
hundred and fifty years, at least, they have been drained of their best.
The strong men, the men of pluck, initiative, and ambition, have been
faring forth to the fresher and freer portions of the globe, to make new
lands and nations.  Those who are lacking, the weak of heart and head and
hand, as well as the rotten and hopeless, have remained to carry on the
breed.  And year by year, in turn, the best they breed are taken from
them.  Wherever a man of vigour and stature manages to grow up, he is
haled forthwith into the army.  A soldier, as Bernard Shaw has said,
"ostensibly a heroic and patriotic defender of his country, is really an
unfortunate man driven by destitution to offer himself as food for powder
for the sake of regular rations, shelter, and clothing."

This constant selection of the best from the workers has impoverished
those who are left, a sadly degraded remainder, for the great part,
which, in the Ghetto, sinks to the deepest depths.  The wine of life has
been drawn off to spill itself in blood and progeny over the rest of the
earth.  Those that remain are the lees, and they are segregated and
steeped in themselves.  They become indecent and bestial.  When they
kill, they kill with their hands, and then stupidly surrender themselves
to the executioners.  There is no splendid audacity about their
transgressions.  They gouge a mate with a dull knife, or beat his head in
with an iron pot, and then sit down and wait for the police.  Wife-beating
is the masculine prerogative of matrimony.  They wear remarkable boots of
brass and iron, and when they have polished off the mother of their
children with a black eye or so, they knock her down and proceed to
trample her very much as a Western stallion tramples a rattlesnake.

A woman of the lower Ghetto classes is as much the slave of her husband
as is the Indian squaw.  And I, for one, were I a woman and had but the
two choices, should prefer being a squaw.  The men are economically
dependent on their masters, and the women are economically dependent on
the men.  The result is, the woman gets the beating the man should give
his master, and she can do nothing.  There are the kiddies, and he is the
bread-winner, and she dare not send him to jail and leave herself and
children to starve.  Evidence to convict can rarely be obtained when such
cases come into the courts; as a rule, the trampled wife and mother is
weeping and hysterically beseeching the magistrate to let her husband off
for the kiddies' sakes.

The wives become screaming harridans or, broken-spirited and doglike,
lose what little decency and self-respect they have remaining over from
their maiden days, and all sink together, unheeding, in their degradation
and dirt.

Sometimes I become afraid of my own generalizations upon the massed
misery of this Ghetto life, and feel that my impressions are exaggerated,
that I am too close to the picture and lack perspective.  At such moments
I find it well to turn to the testimony of other men to prove to myself
that I am not becoming over-wrought and addle-pated.  Frederick Harrison
has always struck me as being a level-headed, well-controlled man, and he
says:-

   To me, at least, it would be enough to condemn modern society as
   hardly an advance on slavery or serfdom, if the permanent condition of
   industry were to be that which we behold, that ninety per cent. of the
   actual producers of wealth have no home that they can call their own
   beyond the end of the week; have no bit of soil, or so much as a room
   that belongs to them; have nothing of value of any kind, except as
   much old furniture as will go into a cart; have the precarious chance
   of weekly wages, which barely suffice to keep them in health; are
   housed, for the most part, in places that no man thinks fit for his
   horse; are separated by so narrow a margin from destitution that a
   month of bad trade, sickness, or unexpected loss brings them face to
   face with hunger and pauperism . . . But below this normal state of
   the average workman in town and country, there is found the great band
   of destitute outcasts--the camp followers of the army of industry--at
   least one-tenth the whole proletarian population, whose normal
   condition is one of sickening wretchedness.  If this is to be the
   permanent arrangement of modern society, civilization must be held to
   bring a curse on the great majority of mankind.

Ninety per cent.!  The figures are appalling, yet Mr. Stopford Brooke,
after drawing a frightful London picture, finds himself compelled to
multiply it by half a million.  Here it is:-

   I often used to meet, when I was curate at Kensington, families
   drifting into London along the Hammersmith Road.  One day there came
   along a labourer and his wife, his son and two daughters.  Their
   family had lived for a long time on an estate in the country, and
   managed, with the help of the common-land and their labour, to get on.
   But the time came when the common was encroached upon, and their
   labour was not needed on the estate, and they were quietly turned out
   of their cottage.  Where should they go?  Of course to London, where
   work was thought to be plentiful.  They had a little savings, and they
   thought they could get two decent rooms to live in.  But the
   inexorable land question met them in London.  They tried the decent
   courts for lodgings, and found that two rooms would cost ten shillings
   a week.  Food was dear and bad, water was bad, and in a short time
   their health suffered.  Work was hard to get, and its wage was so low
   that they were soon in debt.  They became more ill and more despairing
   with the poisonous surroundings, the darkness, and the long hours of
   work; and they were driven forth to seek a cheaper lodging.  They
   found it in a court I knew well--a hotbed of crime and nameless
   horrors.  In this they got a single room at a cruel rent, and work was
   more difficult for them to get now, as they came from a place of such
   bad repute, and they fell into the hands of those who sweat the last
   drop out of man and woman and child, for wages which are the food only
   of despair.  And the darkness and the dirt, the bad food and the
   sickness, and the want of water was worse than before; and the crowd
   and the companionship of the court robbed them of the last shreds of
   self-respect.  The drink demon seized upon them.  Of course there was
   a public-house at both ends of the court.  There they fled, one and
   all, for shelter, and warmth, and society, and forgetfulness.  And
   they came out in deeper debt, with inflamed senses and burning brains,
   and an unsatisfied craving for drink they would do anything to
   satiate.  And in a few months the father was in prison, the wife
   dying, the son a criminal, and the daughters on the street.  _Multiply
   this by half a million, and you will be beneath the truth_.

No more dreary spectacle can be found on this earth than the whole of the
"awful East," with its Whitechapel, Hoxton, Spitalfields, Bethnal Green,
and Wapping to the East India Docks.  The colour of life is grey and
drab.  Everything is helpless, hopeless, unrelieved, and dirty.  Bath
tubs are a thing totally unknown, as mythical as the ambrosia of the
gods.  The people themselves are dirty, while any attempt at cleanliness
becomes howling farce, when it is not pitiful and tragic.  Strange,
vagrant odours come drifting along the greasy wind, and the rain, when it
falls, is more like grease than water from heaven.  The very cobblestones
are scummed with grease.

Here lives a population as dull and unimaginative as its long grey miles
of dingy brick.  Religion has virtually passed it by, and a gross and
stupid materialism reigns, fatal alike to the things of the spirit and
the finer instincts of life.

It used to be the proud boast that every Englishman's home was his
castle.  But to-day it is an anachronism.  The Ghetto folk have no homes.
They do not know the significance and the sacredness of home life.  Even
the municipal dwellings, where live the better-class workers, are
overcrowded barracks.  They have no home life.  The very language proves
it.  The father returning from work asks his child in the street where
her mother is; and back the answer comes, "In the buildings."

A new race has sprung up, a street people.  They pass their lives at work
and in the streets.  They have dens and lairs into which to crawl for
sleeping purposes, and that is all.  One cannot travesty the word by
calling such dens and lairs "homes."  The traditional silent and reserved
Englishman has passed away.  The pavement folk are noisy, voluble, high-
strung, excitable--when they are yet young.  As they grow older they
become steeped and stupefied in beer.  When they have nothing else to do,
they ruminate as a cow ruminates.  They are to be met with everywhere,
standing on curbs and corners, and staring into vacancy.  Watch one of
them.  He will stand there, motionless, for hours, and when you go away
you will leave him still staring into vacancy.  It is most absorbing.  He
has no money for beer, and his lair is only for sleeping purposes, so
what else remains for him to do?  He has already solved the mysteries of
girl's love, and wife's love, and child's love, and found them delusions
and shams, vain and fleeting as dew-drops, quick-vanishing before the
ferocious facts of life.

As I say, the young are high-strung, nervous, excitable; the middle-aged
are empty-headed, stolid, and stupid.  It is absurd to think for an
instant that they can compete with the workers of the New World.
Brutalised, degraded, and dull, the Ghetto folk will be unable to render
efficient service to England in the world struggle for industrial
supremacy which economists declare has already begun.  Neither as workers
nor as soldiers can they come up to the mark when England, in her need,
calls upon them, her forgotten ones; and if England be flung out of the
world's industrial orbit, they will perish like flies at the end of
summer.  Or, with England critically situated, and with them made
desperate as wild beasts are made desperate, they may become a menace and
go "swelling" down to the West End to return the "slumming" the West End
has done in the East.  In which case, before rapid-fire guns and the
modern machinery of warfare, they will perish the more swiftly and
easily.




CHAPTER XX--COFFEE-HOUSES AND DOSS-HOUSES


Another phrase gone glimmering, shorn of romance and tradition and all
that goes to make phrases worth keeping!  For me, henceforth, "coffee-
house" will possess anything but an agreeable connotation.  Over on the
other side of the world, the mere mention of the word was sufficient to
conjure up whole crowds of its historic frequenters, and to send trooping
through my imagination endless groups of wits and dandies, pamphleteers
and bravos, and bohemians of Grub Street.

But here, on this side of the world, alas and alack, the very name is a
misnomer.  Coffee-house: a place where people drink coffee.  Not at all.
You cannot obtain coffee in such a place for love or money.  True, you
may call for coffee, and you will have brought you something in a cup
purporting to be coffee, and you will taste it and be disillusioned, for
coffee it certainly is not.

And what is true of the coffee is true of the coffee-house.  Working-men,
in the main, frequent these places, and greasy, dirty places they are,
without one thing about them to cherish decency in a man or put
self-respect into him.  Table-cloths and napkins are unknown.  A man eats
in the midst of the debris left by his predecessor, and dribbles his own
scraps about him and on the floor.  In rush times, in such places, I have
positively waded through the muck and mess that covered the floor, and I
have managed to eat because I was abominably hungry and capable of eating
anything.

This seems to be the normal condition of the working-man, from the zest
with which he addresses himself to the board.  Eating is a necessity, and
there are no frills about it.  He brings in with him a primitive
voraciousness, and, I am confident, carries away with him a fairly
healthy appetite.  When you see such a man, on his way to work in the
morning, order a pint of tea, which is no more tea than it is ambrosia,
pull a hunk of dry bread from his pocket, and wash the one down with the
other, depend upon it, that man has not the right sort of stuff in his
belly, nor enough of the wrong sort of stuff, to fit him for big day's
work.  And further, depend upon it, he and a thousand of his kind will
not turn out the quantity or quality of work that a thousand men will who
have eaten heartily of meat and potatoes, and drunk coffee that is
coffee.

As a vagrant in the "Hobo" of a California jail, I have been served
better food and drink than the London workman receives in his
coffee-houses; while as an American labourer I have eaten a breakfast for
twelvepence such as the British labourer would not dream of eating.  Of
course, he will pay only three or four pence for his; which is, however,
as much as I paid, for I would be earning six shillings to his two or two
and a half.  On the other hand, though, and in return, I would turn out
an amount of work in the course of the day that would put to shame the
amount he turned out.  So there are two sides to it.  The man with the
high standard of living will always do more work and better than the man
with the low standard of living.

There is a comparison which sailormen make between the English and
American merchant services.  In an English ship, they say, it is poor
grub, poor pay, and easy work; in an American ship, good grub, good pay,
and hard work.  And this is applicable to the working populations of both
countries.  The ocean greyhounds have to pay for speed and steam, and so
does the workman.  But if the workman is not able to pay for it, he will
not have the speed and steam, that is all.  The proof of it is when the
English workman comes to America.  He will lay more bricks in New York
than he will in London, still more bricks in St. Louis, and still more
bricks when he gets to San Francisco. {3}  His standard of living has
been rising all the time.

Early in the morning, along the streets frequented by workmen on the way
to work, many women sit on the sidewalk with sacks of bread beside them.
No end of workmen purchase these, and eat them as they walk along.  They
do not even wash the dry bread down with the tea to be obtained for a
penny in the coffee-houses.  It is incontestable that a man is not fit to
begin his day's work on a meal like that; and it is equally incontestable
that the loss will fall upon his employer and upon the nation.  For some
time, now, statesmen have been crying, "Wake up, England!"  It would show
more hard-headed common sense if they changed the tune to "Feed up,
England!"

Not only is the worker poorly fed, but he is filthily fed.  I have stood
outside a butcher-shop and watched a horde of speculative housewives
turning over the trimmings and scraps and shreds of beef and mutton--dog-
meat in the States.  I would not vouch for the clean fingers of these
housewives, no more than I would vouch for the cleanliness of the single
rooms in which many of them and their families lived; yet they raked, and
pawed, and scraped the mess about in their anxiety to get the worth of
their coppers.  I kept my eye on one particularly offensive-looking bit
of meat, and followed it through the clutches of over twenty women, till
it fell to the lot of a timid-appearing little woman whom the butcher
bluffed into taking it.  All day long this heap of scraps was added to
and taken away from, the dust and dirt of the street falling upon it,
flies settling on it, and the dirty fingers turning it over and over.

The costers wheel loads of specked and decaying fruit around in the
barrows all day, and very often store it in their one living and sleeping
room for the night.  There it is exposed to the sickness and disease, the
effluvia and vile exhalations of overcrowded and rotten life, and next
day it is carted about again to be sold.

The poor worker of the East End never knows what it is to eat good,
wholesome meat or fruit--in fact, he rarely eats meat or fruit at all;
while the skilled workman has nothing to boast of in the way of what he
eats.  Judging from the coffee-houses, which is a fair criterion, they
never know in all their lives what tea, coffee, or cocoa tastes like.  The
slops and water-witcheries of the coffee-houses, varying only in
sloppiness and witchery, never even approximate or suggest what you and I
are accustomed to drink as tea and coffee.

A little incident comes to me, connected with a coffee-house not far from
Jubilee Street on the Mile End Road.

"Cawn yer let me 'ave somethin' for this, daughter?  Anythin', Hi don't
mind.  Hi 'aven't 'ad a bite the blessed dy, an' Hi'm that fynt . . . "

She was an old woman, clad in decent black rags, and in her hand she held
a penny.  The one she had addressed as "daughter" was a careworn woman of
forty, proprietress and waitress of the house.

I waited, possibly as anxiously as the old woman, to see how the appeal
would be received.  It was four in the afternoon, and she looked faint
and sick.  The woman hesitated an instant, then brought a large plate of
"stewed lamb and young peas."  I was eating a plate of it myself, and it
is my judgment that the lamb was mutton and that the peas might have been
younger without being youthful.  However, the point is, the dish was sold
at sixpence, and the proprietress gave it for a penny, demonstrating anew
the old truth that the poor are the most charitable.

The old woman, profuse in her gratitude, took a seat on the other side of
the narrow table and ravenously attacked the smoking stew.  We ate
steadily and silently, the pair of us, when suddenly, explosively and
most gleefully, she cried out to me,--

"Hi sold a box o' matches!  Yus," she confirmed, if anything with greater
and more explosive glee.  "Hi sold a box o' matches!  That's 'ow Hi got
the penny."

"You must be getting along in years," I suggested.

"Seventy-four yesterday," she replied, and returned with gusto to her
plate.

"Blimey, I'd like to do something for the old girl, that I would, but
this is the first I've 'ad to-dy," the young fellow alongside volunteered
to me.  "An' I only 'ave this because I 'appened to make an odd shilling
washin' out, Lord lumme! I don't know 'ow many pots."

"No work at my own tryde for six weeks," he said further, in reply to my
questions; "nothin' but odd jobs a blessed long wy between."

* * * * *

One meets with all sorts of adventures in coffee-house, and I shall not
soon forget a Cockney Amazon in a place near Trafalgar Square, to whom I
tendered a sovereign when paying my score.  (By the way, one is supposed
to pay before he begins to eat, and if he be poorly dressed he is
compelled to pay before he eats).

The girl bit the gold piece between her teeth, rang it on the counter,
and then looked me and my rags witheringly up and down.

"Where'd you find it?" she at length demanded.

"Some mug left it on the table when he went out, eh, don't you think?" I
retorted.

"Wot's yer gyme?" she queried, looking me calmly in the eyes.

"I makes 'em," quoth I.

She sniffed superciliously and gave me the change in small silver, and I
had my revenge by biting and ringing every piece of it.

"I'll give you a ha'penny for another lump of sugar in the tea," I said.

"I'll see you in 'ell first," came the retort courteous.  Also, she
amplified the retort courteous in divers vivid and unprintable ways.

I never had much talent for repartee, but she knocked silly what little I
had, and I gulped down my tea a beaten man, while she gloated after me
even as I passed out to the street.

While 300,000 people of London live in one-room tenements, and 900,000
are illegally and viciously housed, 38,000 more are registered as living
in common lodging-houses--known in the vernacular as "doss-houses."  There
are many kinds of doss-houses, but in one thing they are all alike, from
the filthy little ones to the monster big ones paying five per cent. and
blatantly lauded by smug middle-class men who know but one thing about
them, and that one thing is their uninhabitableness.  By this I do not
mean that the roofs leak or the walls are draughty; but what I do mean is
that life in them is degrading and unwholesome.

"The poor man's hotel," they are often called, but the phrase is
caricature.  Not to possess a room to one's self, in which sometimes to
sit alone; to be forced out of bed willy-nilly, the first thing in the
morning; to engage and pay anew for a bed each night; and never to have
any privacy, surely is a mode of existence quite different from that of
hotel life.

This must not be considered a sweeping condemnation of the big private
and municipal lodging-houses and working-men's homes.  Far from it.  They
have remedied many of the atrocities attendant upon the irresponsible
small doss-houses, and they give the workman more for his money than he
ever received before; but that does not make them as habitable or
wholesome as the dwelling-place of a man should be who does his work in
the world.

The little private doss-houses, as a rule, are unmitigated horrors.  I
have slept in them, and I know; but let me pass them by and confine
myself to the bigger and better ones.  Not far from Middlesex Street,
Whitechapel, I entered such a house, a place inhabited almost entirely by
working men.  The entrance was by way of a flight of steps descending
from the sidewalk to what was properly the cellar of the building.  Here
were two large and gloomily lighted rooms, in which men cooked and ate.  I
had intended to do some cooking myself, but the smell of the place stole
away my appetite, or, rather, wrested it from me; so I contented myself
with watching other men cook and eat.

One workman, home from work, sat down opposite me at the rough wooden
table, and began his meal.  A handful of salt on the not over-clean table
constituted his butter.  Into it he dipped his bread, mouthful by
mouthful, and washed it down with tea from a big mug.  A piece of fish
completed his bill of fare.  He ate silently, looking neither to right
nor left nor across at me.  Here and there, at the various tables, other
men were eating, just as silently.  In the whole room there was hardly a
note of conversation.  A feeling of gloom pervaded the ill-lighted place.
Many of them sat and brooded over the crumbs of their repast, and made me
wonder, as Childe Roland wondered, what evil they had done that they
should be punished so.

From the kitchen came the sounds of more genial life, and I ventured into
the range where the men were cooking.  But the smell I had noticed on
entering was stronger here, and a rising nausea drove me into the street
for fresh air.

On my return I paid fivepence for a "cabin," took my receipt for the same
in the form of a huge brass check, and went upstairs to the smoking-room.
Here, a couple of small billiard tables and several checkerboards were
being used by young working-men, who waited in relays for their turn at
the games, while many men were sitting around, smoking, reading, and
mending their clothes.  The young men were hilarious, the old men were
gloomy.  In fact, there were two types of men, the cheerful and the
sodden or blue, and age seemed to determine the classification.

But no more than the two cellar rooms did this room convey the remotest
suggestion of home.  Certainly there could be nothing home-like about it
to you and me, who know what home really is.  On the walls were the most
preposterous and insulting notices regulating the conduct of the guests,
and at ten o'clock the lights were put out, and nothing remained but bed.
This was gained by descending again to the cellar, by surrendering the
brass check to a burly doorkeeper, and by climbing a long flight of
stairs into the upper regions.  I went to the top of the building and
down again, passing several floors filled with sleeping men.  The
"cabins" were the best accommodation, each cabin allowing space for a
tiny bed and room alongside of it in which to undress.  The bedding was
clean, and with neither it nor the bed do I find any fault.  But there
was no privacy about it, no being alone.

To get an adequate idea of a floor filled with cabins, you have merely to
magnify a layer of the pasteboard pigeon-holes of an egg-crate till each
pigeon-hole is seven feet in height and otherwise properly dimensioned,
then place the magnified layer on the floor of a large, barnlike room,
and there you have it.  There are no ceilings to the pigeon-holes, the
walls are thin, and the snores from all the sleepers and every move and
turn of your nearer neighbours come plainly to your ears.  And this cabin
is yours only for a little while.  In the morning out you go.  You cannot
put your trunk in it, or come and go when you like, or lock the door
behind you, or anything of the sort.  In fact, there is no door at all,
only a doorway.  If you care to remain a guest in this poor man's hotel,
you must put up with all this, and with prison regulations which impress
upon you constantly that you are nobody, with little soul of your own and
less to say about it.

Now I contend that the least a man who does his day's work should have is
a room to himself, where he can lock the door and be safe in his
possessions; where he can sit down and read by a window or look out;
where he can come and go whenever he wishes; where he can accumulate a
few personal belongings other than those he carries about with him on his
back and in his pockets; where he can hang up pictures of his mother,
sister, sweet-heart, ballet dancers, or bulldogs, as his heart listeth--in
short, one place of his own on the earth of which he can say: "This is
mine, my castle; the world stops at the threshold; here am I lord and
master."  He will be a better citizen, this man; and he will do a better
day's work.

I stood on one floor of the poor man's hotel and listened.  I went from
bed to bed and looked at the sleepers.  They were young men, from twenty
to forty, most of them.  Old men cannot afford the working-man's home.
They go to the workhouse.  But I looked at the young men, scores of them,
and they were not bad-looking fellows.  Their faces were made for women's
kisses, their necks for women's arms.  They were lovable, as men are
lovable.  They were capable of love.  A woman's touch redeems and
softens, and they needed such redemption and softening instead of each
day growing harsh and harsher.  And I wondered where these women were,
and heard a "harlot's ginny laugh."  Leman Street, Waterloo Road,
Piccadilly, The Strand, answered me, and I knew where they were.




CHAPTER XXI--THE PRECARIOUSNESS OF LIFE


I was talking with a very vindictive man.  In his opinion, his wife had
wronged him and the law had wronged him.  The merits and morals of the
case are immaterial.  The meat of the matter is that she had obtained a
separation, and he was compelled to pay ten shillings each week for the
support of her and the five children.  "But look you," said he to me,
"wot'll 'appen to 'er if I don't py up the ten shillings?  S'posin', now,
just s'posin' a accident 'appens to me, so I cawn't work.  S'posin' I get
a rupture, or the rheumatics, or the cholera.  Wot's she goin' to do, eh?
Wot's she goin' to do?"

He shook his head sadly.  "No 'ope for 'er.  The best she cawn do is the
work'ouse, an' that's 'ell.  An' if she don't go to the work'ouse, it'll
be a worse 'ell.  Come along 'ith me an' I'll show you women sleepin' in
a passage, a dozen of 'em.  An' I'll show you worse, wot she'll come to
if anythin' 'appens to me and the ten shillings."

The certitude of this man's forecast is worthy of consideration.  He knew
conditions sufficiently to know the precariousness of his wife's grasp on
food and shelter.  For her game was up when his working capacity was
impaired or destroyed.  And when this state of affairs is looked at in
its larger aspect, the same will be found true of hundreds of thousands
and even millions of men and women living amicably together and
co-operating in the pursuit of food and shelter.

The figures are appalling: 1,800,000 people in London live on the poverty
line and below it, and 1,000,000 live with one week's wages between them
and pauperism.  In all England and Wales, eighteen per cent. of the whole
population are driven to the parish for relief, and in London, according
to the statistics of the London County Council, twenty-one per cent. of
the whole population are driven to the parish for relief.  Between being
driven to the parish for relief and being an out-and-out pauper there is
a great difference, yet London supports 123,000 paupers, quite a city of
folk in themselves.  One in every four in London dies on public charity,
while 939 out of every 1000 in the United Kingdom die in poverty;
8,000,000 simply struggle on the ragged edge of starvation, and
20,000,000 more are not comfortable in the simple and clean sense of the
word.

It is interesting to go more into detail concerning the London people who
die on charity.

In 1886, and up to 1893, the percentage of pauperism to population was
less in London than in all England; but since 1893, and for every
succeeding year, the percentage of pauperism to population has been
greater in London than in all England.  Yet, from the Registrar-General's
Report for 1886, the following figures are taken:-

Out of 81,951 deaths in London (1884):-

In workhouses            9,909
In hospitals             6,559
In lunatic asylums         278
Total in public refuges 16,746

Commenting on these figures, a Fabian writer says: "Considering that
comparatively few of these are children, it is probable that one in every
three London adults will be driven into one of these refuges to die, and
the proportion in the case of the manual labour class must of course be
still larger."

These figures serve somewhat to indicate the proximity of the average
worker to pauperism.  Various things make pauperism.  An advertisement,
for instance, such as this, appearing in yesterday morning's paper:-

"Clerk wanted, with knowledge of shorthand, typewriting, and invoicing:
wages ten shillings ($2.50) a week.  Apply by letter," &c.

And in to-day's paper I read of a clerk, thirty-five years of age and an
inmate of a London workhouse, brought before a magistrate for
non-performance of task.  He claimed that he had done his various tasks
since he had been an inmate; but when the master set him to breaking
stones, his hands blistered, and he could not finish the task.  He had
never been used to an implement heavier than a pen, he said.  The
magistrate sentenced him and his blistered hands to seven days' hard
labour.

Old age, of course, makes pauperism.  And then there is the accident, the
thing happening, the death or disablement of the husband, father, and
bread-winner.  Here is a man, with a wife and three children, living on
the ticklish security of twenty shillings per week--and there are
hundreds of thousands of such families in London.  Perforce, to even half
exist, they must live up to the last penny of it, so that a week's wages
(one pound) is all that stands between this family and pauperism or
starvation.  The thing happens, the father is struck down, and what then?
A mother with three children can do little or nothing.  Either she must
hand her children over to society as juvenile paupers, in order to be
free to do something adequate for herself, or she must go to the sweat-
shops for work which she can perform in the vile den possible to her
reduced income.  But with the sweat-shops, married women who eke out
their husband's earnings, and single women who have but themselves
miserably to support, determine the scale of wages.  And this scale of
wages, so determined, is so low that the mother and her three children
can live only in positive beastliness and semi-starvation, till decay and
death end their suffering.

To show that this mother, with her three children to support, cannot
compete in the sweating industries, I instance from the current
newspapers the two following cases:-

A father indignantly writes that his daughter and a girl companion
receive 8.5d. per gross for making boxes.  They made each day four gross.
Their expenses were 8d. for car fare, 2d. for stamps, 2.5d. for glue, and
1d. for string, so that all they earned between them was 1s. 9d., or a
daily wage each of 10.5d.

In the second ewe, before the Luton Guardians a few days ago, an old
woman of seventy-two appeared, asking for relief.  "She was a straw-hat
maker, but had been compelled to give up the work owing to the price she
obtained for them--namely, 2.25d. each.  For that price she had to
provide plait trimmings and make and finish the hats."

Yet this mother and her three children we are considering have done no
wrong that they should be so punished.  They have not sinned.  The thing
happened, that is all; the husband, father and bread-winner, was struck
down.  There is no guarding against it.  It is fortuitous.  A family
stands so many chances of escaping the bottom of the Abyss, and so many
chances of falling plump down to it.  The chance is reducible to cold,
pitiless figures, and a few of these figures will not be out of place.

Sir A. Forwood calculates that--

1 of every 1400 workmen is killed annually.
1 of every 2500 workmen is totally disabled.
1 of every 300 workmen is permanently partially disabled.
1 of every 8 workmen is temporarily disabled 3 or 4 weeks.

But these are only the accidents of industry.  The high mortality of the
people who live in the Ghetto plays a terrible part.  The average age at
death among the people of the West End is fifty-five years; the average
age at death among the people of the East End is thirty years.  That is
to say, the person in the West End has twice the chance for life that the
person has in the East End.  Talk of war!  The mortality in South Africa
and the Philippines fades away to insignificance.  Here, in the heart of
peace, is where the blood is being shed; and here not even the civilised
rules of warfare obtain, for the women and children and babes in the arms
are killed just as ferociously as the men are killed.  War!  In England,
every year, 500,000 men, women, and children, engaged in the various
industries, are killed and disabled, or are injured to disablement by
disease.

In the West End eighteen per cent. of the children die before five years
of age; in the East End fifty-five per cent. of the children die before
five years of age.  And there are streets in London where out of every
one hundred children born in a year, fifty die during the next year; and
of the fifty that remain, twenty-five die before they are five years old.
Slaughter!  Herod did not do quite so badly.

That industry causes greater havoc with human life than battle does no
better substantiation can be given than the following extract from a
recent report of the Liverpool Medical Officer, which is not applicable
to Liverpool alone:-

   In many instances little if any sunlight could get to the courts, and
   the atmosphere within the dwellings was always foul, owing largely to
   the saturated condition of the walls and ceilings, which for so many
   years had absorbed the exhalations of the occupants into their porous
   material.  Singular testimony to the absence of sunlight in these
   courts was furnished by the action of the Parks and Gardens Committee,
   who desired to brighten the homes of the poorest class by gifts of
   growing flowers and window-boxes; but these gifts could not be made in
   courts such as these, _as flowers and plants were susceptible to the
   unwholesome surroundings, and would not live_.

Mr. George Haw has compiled the following table on the three St. George's
parishes (London parishes):-

                   Percentage of
                   Population      Death-rate
                   Overcrowded      per 1000
St. George's West  10                 13.2
St. George's South 35                 23.7
St. George's East  40                 26.4

Then there are the "dangerous trades," in which countless workers are
employed.  Their hold on life is indeed precarious--far, far more
precarious than the hold of the twentieth-century soldier on life.  In
the linen trade, in the preparation of the flax, wet feet and wet clothes
cause an unusual amount of bronchitis, pneumonia, and severe rheumatism;
while in the carding and spinning departments the fine dust produces lung
disease in the majority of cases, and the woman who starts carding at
seventeen or eighteen begins to break up and go to pieces at thirty.  The
chemical labourers, picked from the strongest and most splendidly-built
men to be found, live, on an average, less than forty-eight years.

Says Dr. Arlidge, of the potter's trade: "Potter's dust does not kill
suddenly, but settles, year after year, a little more firmly into the
lungs, until at length a case of plaster is formed.  Breathing becomes
more and more difficult and depressed, and finally ceases."

Steel dust, stone dust, clay dust, alkali dust, fluff dust, fibre
dust--all these things kill, and they are more deadly than machine-guns
and pom-poms.  Worst of all is the lead dust in the white-lead trades.
Here is a description of the typical dissolution of a young, healthy,
well-developed girl who goes to work in a white-lead factory:-

   Here, after a varying degree of exposure, she becomes anaemic.  It may
   be that her gums show a very faint blue line, or perchance her teeth
   and gums are perfectly sound, and no blue line is discernible.
   Coincidently with the anaemia she has been getting thinner, but so
   gradually as scarcely to impress itself upon her or her friends.
   Sickness, however, ensues, and headaches, growing in intensity, are
   developed.  These are frequently attended by obscuration of vision or
   temporary blindness.  Such a girl passes into what appears to her
   friends and medical adviser as ordinary hysteria.  This gradually
   deepens without warning, until she is suddenly seized with a
   convulsion, beginning in one half of the face, then involving the arm,
   next the leg of the same side of the body, until the convulsion,
   violent and purely epileptic form in character, becomes universal.
   This is attended by loss of consciousness, out of which she passes
   into a series of convulsions, gradually increasing in severity, in one
   of which she dies--or consciousness, partial or perfect, is regained,
   either, it may be, for a few minutes, a few hours, or days, during
   which violent headache is complained of, or she is delirious and
   excited, as in acute mania, or dull and sullen as in melancholia, and
   requires to be roused, when she is found wandering, and her speech is
   somewhat imperfect.  Without further warning, save that the pulse,
   which has become soft, with nearly the normal number of beats, all at
   once becomes low and hard; she is suddenly seized with another
   convulsion, in which she dies, or passes into a state of coma from
   which she never rallies.  In another case the convulsions will
   gradually subside, the headache disappears and the patient recovers,
   only to find that she has completely lost her eyesight, a loss that
   may be temporary or permanent.

And here are a few specific cases of white-lead poisoning:-

   Charlotte Rafferty, a fine, well-grown young woman with a splendid
   constitution--who had never had a day's illness in her life--became a
   white-lead worker.  Convulsions seized her at the foot of the ladder
   in the works.  Dr. Oliver examined her, found the blue line along her
   gums, which shows that the system is under the influence of the lead.
   He knew that the convulsions would shortly return.  They did so, and
   she died.

   Mary Ann Toler--a girl of seventeen, who had never had a fit in her
   life--three times became ill, and had to leave off work in the
   factory.  Before she was nineteen she showed symptoms of lead
   poisoning--had fits, frothed at the mouth, and died.

   Mary A., an unusually vigorous woman, was able to work in the lead
   factory for _twenty years_, having colic once only during that time.
   Her eight children all died in early infancy from convulsions.  One
   morning, whilst brushing her hair, this woman suddenly lost all power
   in both her wrists.

   Eliza H., aged twenty-five, _after five months_ at lead works, was
   seized with colic.  She entered another factory (after being refused
   by the first one) and worked on uninterruptedly for two years.  Then
   the former symptoms returned, she was seized with convulsions, and
   died in two days of acute lead poisoning.

Mr. Vaughan Nash, speaking of the unborn generation, says: "The children
of the white-lead worker enter the world, as a rule, only to die from the
convulsions of lead poisoning--they are either born prematurely, or die
within the first year."

And, finally, let me instance the case of Harriet A. Walker, a young girl
of seventeen, killed while leading a forlorn hope on the industrial
battlefield.  She was employed as an enamelled ware brusher, wherein lead
poisoning is encountered.  Her father and brother were both out of
employment.  She concealed her illness, walked six miles a day to and
from work, earned her seven or eight shillings per week, and died, at
seventeen.

Depression in trade also plays an important part in hurling the workers
into the Abyss.  With a week's wages between a family and pauperism, a
month's enforced idleness means hardship and misery almost indescribable,
and from the ravages of which the victims do not always recover when work
is to be had again.  Just now the daily papers contain the report of a
meeting of the Carlisle branch of the Dockers' Union, wherein it is
stated that many of the men, for months past, have not averaged a weekly
income of more than from four to five shillings.  The stagnated state of
the shipping industry in the port of London is held accountable for this
condition of affairs.

To the young working-man or working-woman, or married couple, there is no
assurance of happy or healthy middle life, nor of solvent old age.  Work
as they will, they cannot make their future secure.  It is all a matter
of chance.  Everything depends upon the thing happening, the thing with
which they have nothing to do.  Precaution cannot fend it off, nor can
wiles evade it.  If they remain on the industrial battlefield they must
face it and take their chance against heavy odds.  Of course, if they are
favourably made and are not tied by kinship duties, they may run away
from the industrial battlefield.  In which event the safest thing the man
can do is to join the army; and for the woman, possibly, to become a Red
Cross nurse or go into a nunnery.  In either case they must forego home
and children and all that makes life worth living and old age other than
a nightmare.




CHAPTER XXII--SUICIDE


With life so precarious, and opportunity for the happiness of life so
remote, it is inevitable that life shall be cheap and suicide common.  So
common is it, that one cannot pick up a daily paper without running
across it; while an attempt-at-suicide case in a police court excites no
more interest than an ordinary "drunk," and is handled with the same
rapidity and unconcern.

I remember such a case in the Thames Police Court.  I pride myself that I
have good eyes and ears, and a fair working knowledge of men and things;
but I confess, as I stood in that court-room, that I was half bewildered
by the amazing despatch with which drunks, disorderlies, vagrants,
brawlers, wife-beaters, thieves, fences, gamblers, and women of the
street went through the machine of justice.  The dock stood in the centre
of the court (where the light is best), and into it and out again stepped
men, women, and children, in a stream as steady as the stream of
sentences which fell from the magistrate's lips.

I was still pondering over a consumptive "fence" who had pleaded
inability to work and necessity for supporting wife and children, and who
had received a year at hard labour, when a young boy of about twenty
appeared in the dock.  "Alfred Freeman," I caught his name, but failed to
catch the charge.  A stout and motherly-looking woman bobbed up in the
witness-box and began her testimony.  Wife of the Britannia lock-keeper,
I learned she was.  Time, night; a splash; she ran to the lock and found
the prisoner in the water.

I flashed my gaze from her to him.  So that was the charge, self-murder.
He stood there dazed and unheeding, his bonny brown hair rumpled down his
forehead, his face haggard and careworn and boyish still.

"Yes, sir," the lock-keeper's wife was saying.  "As fast as I pulled to
get 'im out, 'e crawled back.  Then I called for 'elp, and some workmen
'appened along, and we got 'im out and turned 'im over to the constable."

The magistrate complimented the woman on her muscular powers, and the
court-room laughed; but all I could see was a boy on the threshold of
life, passionately crawling to muddy death, and there was no laughter in
it.

A man was now in the witness-box, testifying to the boy's good character
and giving extenuating evidence.  He was the boy's foreman, or had been.
Alfred was a good boy, but he had had lots of trouble at home, money
matters.  And then his mother was sick.  He was given to worrying, and he
worried over it till he laid himself out and wasn't fit for work.  He
(the foreman), for the sake of his own reputation, the boy's work being
bad, had been forced to ask him to resign.

"Anything to say?" the magistrate demanded abruptly.

The boy in the dock mumbled something indistinctly.  He was still dazed.

"What does he say, constable?" the magistrate asked impatiently.

The stalwart man in blue bent his ear to the prisoner's lips, and then
replied loudly, "He says he's very sorry, your Worship."

"Remanded," said his Worship; and the next case was under way, the first
witness already engaged in taking the oath.  The boy, dazed and
unheeding, passed out with the jailer.  That was all, five minutes from
start to finish; and two hulking brutes in the dock were trying
strenuously to shift the responsibility of the possession of a stolen
fishing-pole, worth probably ten cents.

The chief trouble with these poor folk is that they do not know how to
commit suicide, and usually have to make two or three attempts before
they succeed.  This, very naturally, is a horrid nuisance to the
constables and magistrates, and gives them no end of trouble.  Sometimes,
however, the magistrates are frankly outspoken about the matter, and
censure the prisoners for the slackness of their attempts.  For instance
Mr. R. S---, chairman of the S--- B--- magistrates, in the case the other
day of Ann Wood, who tried to make away with herself in the canal: "If
you wanted to do it, why didn't you do it and get it done with?" demanded
the indignant Mr. R. S---.  "Why did you not get under the water and make
an end of it, instead of giving us all this trouble and bother?"

Poverty, misery, and fear of the workhouse, are the principal causes of
suicide among the working classes.  "I'll drown myself before I go into
the workhouse," said Ellen Hughes Hunt, aged fifty-two.  Last Wednesday
they held an inquest on her body at Shoreditch.  Her husband came from
the Islington Workhouse to testify.  He had been a cheesemonger, but
failure in business and poverty had driven him into the workhouse,
whither his wife had refused to accompany him.

She was last seen at one in the morning.  Three hours later her hat and
jacket were found on the towing path by the Regent's Canal, and later her
body was fished from the water.  _Verdict: Suicide during temporary
insanity_.

Such verdicts are crimes against truth.  The Law is a lie, and through it
men lie most shamelessly.  For instance, a disgraced woman, forsaken and
spat upon by kith and kin, doses herself and her baby with laudanum.  The
baby dies; but she pulls through after a few weeks in hospital, is
charged with murder, convicted, and sentenced to ten years' penal
servitude.  Recovering, the Law holds her responsible for her actions;
yet, had she died, the same Law would have rendered a verdict of
temporary insanity.

Now, considering the case of Ellen Hughes Hunt, it is as fair and logical
to say that her husband was suffering from temporary insanity when he
went into the Islington Workhouse, as it is to say that she was suffering
from temporary insanity when she went into the Regent's Canal.  As to
which is the preferable sojourning place is a matter of opinion, of
intellectual judgment.  I, for one, from what I know of canals and
workhouses, should choose the canal, were I in a similar position.  And I
make bold to contend that I am no more insane than Ellen Hughes Hunt, her
husband, and the rest of the human herd.

Man no longer follows instinct with the old natural fidelity.  He has
developed into a reasoning creature, and can intellectually cling to life
or discard life just as life happens to promise great pleasure or pain.  I
dare to assert that Ellen Hughes Hunt, defrauded and bilked of all the
joys of life which fifty-two years' service in the world has earned, with
nothing but the horrors of the workhouse before her, was very rational
and level-headed when she elected to jump into the canal.  And I dare to
assert, further, that the jury had done a wiser thing to bring in a
verdict charging society with temporary insanity for allowing Ellen
Hughes Hunt to be defrauded and bilked of all the joys of life which
fifty-two years' service in the world had earned.

Temporary insanity!  Oh, these cursed phrases, these lies of language,
under which people with meat in their bellies and whole shirts on their
backs shelter themselves, and evade the responsibility of their brothers
and sisters, empty of belly and without whole shirts on their backs.

From one issue of the _Observer_, an East End paper, I quote the
following commonplace events:-

   A ship's fireman, named Johnny King, was charged with attempting to
   commit suicide.  On Wednesday defendant went to Bow Police Station and
   stated that he had swallowed a quantity of phosphor paste, as he was
   hard up and unable to obtain work.  King was taken inside and an
   emetic administered, when he vomited up a quantity of the poison.
   Defendant now said he was very sorry.  Although he had sixteen years'
   good character, he was unable to obtain work of any kind.  Mr.
   Dickinson had defendant put back for the court missionary to see him.

   Timothy Warner, thirty-two, was remanded for a similar offence.  He
   jumped off Limehouse Pier, and when rescued, said, "I intended to do
   it."

   A decent-looking young woman, named Ellen Gray, was remanded on a
   charge of attempting to commit suicide.  About half-past eight on
   Sunday morning Constable 834 K found defendant lying in a doorway in
   Benworth Street, and she was in a very drowsy condition.  She was
   holding an empty bottle in one hand, and stated that some two or three
   hours previously she had swallowed a quantity of laudanum.  As she was
   evidently very ill, the divisional surgeon was sent for, and having
   administered some coffee, ordered that she was to be kept awake.  When
   defendant was charged, she stated that the reason why she attempted to
   take her life was she had neither home nor friends.

I do not say that all people who commit suicide are sane, no more than I
say that all people who do not commit suicide are sane.  Insecurity of
food and shelter, by the way, is a great cause of insanity among the
living.  Costermongers, hawkers, and pedlars, a class of workers who live
from hand to mouth more than those of any other class, form the highest
percentage of those in the lunatic asylums.  Among the males each year,
26.9 per 10,000 go insane, and among the women, 36.9.  On the other hand,
of soldiers, who are at least sure of food and shelter, 13 per 10,000 go
insane; and of farmers and graziers, only 5.1.  So a coster is twice as
likely to lose his reason as a soldier, and five times as likely as a
farmer.

Misfortune and misery are very potent in turning people's heads, and
drive one person to the lunatic asylum, and another to the morgue or the
gallows.  When the thing happens, and the father and husband, for all of
his love for wife and children and his willingness to work, can get no
work to do, it is a simple matter for his reason to totter and the light
within his brain go out.  And it is especially simple when it is taken
into consideration that his body is ravaged by innutrition and disease,
in addition to his soul being torn by the sight of his suffering wife and
little ones.

"He is a good-looking man, with a mass of black hair, dark, expressive
eyes, delicately chiselled nose and chin, and wavy, fair moustache."  This
is the reporter's description of Frank Cavilla as he stood in court, this
dreary month of September, "dressed in a much worn grey suit, and wearing
no collar."

Frank Cavilla lived and worked as a house decorator in London.  He is
described as a good workman, a steady fellow, and not given to drink,
while all his neighbours unite in testifying that he was a gentle and
affectionate husband and father.

His wife, Hannah Cavilla, was a big, handsome, light-hearted woman.  She
saw to it that his children were sent neat and clean (the neighbours all
remarked the fact) to the Childeric Road Board School.  And so, with such
a man, so blessed, working steadily and living temperately, all went
well, and the goose hung high.

Then the thing happened.  He worked for a Mr. Beck, builder, and lived in
one of his master's houses in Trundley Road.  Mr. Beck was thrown from
his trap and killed.  The thing was an unruly horse, and, as I say, it
happened.  Cavilla had to seek fresh employment and find another house.

This occurred eighteen months ago.  For eighteen months he fought the big
fight.  He got rooms in a little house in Batavia Road, but could not
make both ends meet.  Steady work could not be obtained.  He struggled
manfully at casual employment of all sorts, his wife and four children
starving before his eyes.  He starved himself, and grew weak, and fell
ill.  This was three months ago, and then there was absolutely no food at
all.  They made no complaint, spoke no word; but poor folk know.  The
housewives of Batavia Road sent them food, but so respectable were the
Cavillas that the food was sent anonymously, mysteriously, so as not to
hurt their pride.

The thing had happened.  He had fought, and starved, and suffered for
eighteen months.  He got up one September morning, early.  He opened his
pocket-knife.  He cut the throat of his wife, Hannah Cavilla, aged thirty-
three.  He cut the throat of his first-born, Frank, aged twelve.  He cut
the throat of his son, Walter, aged eight.  He cut the throat of his
daughter, Nellie, aged four.  He cut the throat of his youngest-born,
Ernest, aged sixteen months.  Then he watched beside the dead all day
until the evening, when the police came, and he told them to put a penny
in the slot of the gas-meter in order that they might have light to see.

Frank Cavilla stood in court, dressed in a much worn grey suit, and
wearing no collar.  He was a good-looking man, with a mass of black hair,
dark, expressive eyes, delicately chiselled nose and chin, and wavy, fair
moustache.




CHAPTER XXIII--THE CHILDREN


   "Where home is a hovel, and dull we grovel,
   Forgetting the world is fair."

There is one beautiful sight in the East End, and only one, and it is the
children dancing in the street when the organ-grinder goes his round.  It
is fascinating to watch them, the new-born, the next generation, swaying
and stepping, with pretty little mimicries and graceful inventions all
their own, with muscles that move swiftly and easily, and bodies that
leap airily, weaving rhythms never taught in dancing school.

I have talked with these children, here, there, and everywhere, and they
struck me as being bright as other children, and in many ways even
brighter.  They have most active little imaginations.  Their capacity for
projecting themselves into the realm of romance and fantasy is
remarkable.  A joyous life is romping in their blood.  They delight in
music, and motion, and colour, and very often they betray a startling
beauty of face and form under their filth and rags.

But there is a Pied Piper of London Town who steals them all away.  They
disappear.  One never sees them again, or anything that suggests them.
You may look for them in vain amongst the generation of grown-ups.  Here
you will find stunted forms, ugly faces, and blunt and stolid minds.
Grace, beauty, imagination, all the resiliency of mind and muscle, are
gone.  Sometimes, however, you may see a woman, not necessarily old, but
twisted and deformed out of all womanhood, bloated and drunken, lift her
draggled skirts and execute a few grotesque and lumbering steps upon the
pavement.  It is a hint that she was once one of those children who
danced to the organ-grinder.  Those grotesque and lumbering steps are all
that is left of the promise of childhood.  In the befogged recesses of
her brain has arisen a fleeting memory that she was once a girl.  The
crowd closes in.  Little girls are dancing beside her, about her, with
all the pretty graces she dimly recollects, but can no more than parody
with her body.  Then she pants for breath, exhausted, and stumbles out
through the circle.  But the little girls dance on.

The children of the Ghetto possess all the qualities which make for noble
manhood and womanhood; but the Ghetto itself, like an infuriated tigress
turning on its young, turns upon and destroys all these qualities, blots
out the light and laughter, and moulds those it does not kill into sodden
and forlorn creatures, uncouth, degraded, and wretched below the beasts
of the field.

As to the manner in which this is done, I have in previous chapters
described it at length; here let Professor Huxley describe it in brief:-

"Any one who is acquainted with the state of the population of all great
industrial centres, whether in this or other countries, is aware that
amidst a large and increasing body of that population there reigns
supreme . . . that condition which the French call _la misere_, a word
for which I do not think there is any exact English equivalent.  It is a
condition in which the food, warmth, and clothing which are necessary for
the mere maintenance of the functions of the body in their normal state
cannot be obtained; in which men, women, and children are forced to crowd
into dens wherein decency is abolished, and the most ordinary conditions
of healthful existence are impossible of attainment; in which the
pleasures within reach are reduced to brutality and drunkenness; in which
the pains accumulate at compound interest in the shape of starvation,
disease, stunted development, and moral degradation; in which the
prospect of even steady and honest industry is a life of unsuccessful
battling with hunger, rounded by a pauper's grave."

In such conditions, the outlook for children is hopeless.  They die like
flies, and those that survive, survive because they possess excessive
vitality and a capacity of adaptation to the degradation with which they
are surrounded.  They have no home life.  In the dens and lairs in which
they live they are exposed to all that is obscene and indecent.  And as
their minds are made rotten, so are their bodies made rotten by bad
sanitation, overcrowding, and underfeeding.  When a father and mother
live with three or four children in a room where the children take turn
about in sitting up to drive the rats away from the sleepers, when those
children never have enough to eat and are preyed upon and made miserable
and weak by swarming vermin, the sort of men and women the survivors will
make can readily be imagined.

   "Dull despair and misery
   Lie about them from their birth;
   Ugly curses, uglier mirth,
   Are their earliest lullaby."

A man and a woman marry and set up housekeeping in one room.  Their
income does not increase with the years, though their family does, and
the man is exceedingly lucky if he can keep his health and his job.  A
baby comes, and then another.  This means that more room should be
obtained; but these little mouths and bodies mean additional expense and
make it absolutely impossible to get more spacious quarters.  More babies
come.  There is not room in which to turn around.  The youngsters run the
streets, and by the time they are twelve or fourteen the room-issue comes
to a head, and out they go on the streets for good.  The boy, if he be
lucky, can manage to make the common lodging-houses, and he may have any
one of several ends.  But the girl of fourteen or fifteen, forced in this
manner to leave the one room called home, and able to earn at the best a
paltry five or six shillings per week, can have but one end.  And the
bitter end of that one end is such as that of the woman whose body the
police found this morning in a doorway in Dorset Street, Whitechapel.
Homeless, shelterless, sick, with no one with her in her last hour, she
had died in the night of exposure.  She was sixty-two years old and a
match vendor.  She died as a wild animal dies.

Fresh in my mind is the picture of a boy in the dock of an East End
police court.  His head was barely visible above the railing.  He was
being proved guilty of stealing two shillings from a woman, which he had
spent, not for candy and cakes and a good time, but for food.

"Why didn't you ask the woman for food?" the magistrate demanded, in a
hurt sort of tone.  "She would surely have given you something to eat."

"If I 'ad arsked 'er, I'd got locked up for beggin'," was the boy's
reply.

The magistrate knitted his brows and accepted the rebuke.  Nobody knew
the boy, nor his father or mother.  He was without beginning or
antecedent, a waif, a stray, a young cub seeking his food in the jungle
of empire, preying upon the weak and being preyed upon by the strong.

The people who try to help, who gather up the Ghetto children and send
them away on a day's outing to the country, believe that not very many
children reach the age of ten without having had at least one day there.
Of this, a writer says: "The mental change caused by one day so spent
must not be undervalued.  Whatever the circumstances, the children learn
the meaning of fields and woods, so that descriptions of country scenery
in the books they read, which before conveyed no impression, become now
intelligible."

One day in the fields and woods, if they are lucky enough to be picked up
by the people who try to help!  And they are being born faster every day
than they can be carted off to the fields and woods for the one day in
their lives.  One day!  In all their lives, one day!  And for the rest of
the days, as the boy told a certain bishop, "At ten we 'ops the wag; at
thirteen we nicks things; an' at sixteen we bashes the copper."  Which is
to say, at ten they play truant, at thirteen steal, and at sixteen are
sufficiently developed hooligans to smash the policemen.

The Rev. J. Cartmel Robinson tells of a boy and girl of his parish who
set out to walk to the forest.  They walked and walked through the never-
ending streets, expecting always to see it by-and-by; until they sat down
at last, faint and despairing, and were rescued by a kind woman who
brought them back.  Evidently they had been overlooked by the people who
try to help.

The same gentleman is authority for the statement that in a street in
Hoxton (a district of the vast East End), over seven hundred children,
between five and thirteen years, live in eighty small houses.  And he
adds: "It is because London has largely shut her children in a maze of
streets and houses and robbed them of their rightful inheritance in sky
and field and brook, that they grow up to be men and women physically
unfit."

He tells of a member of his congregation who let a basement room to a
married couple.  "They said they had two children; when they got
possession it turned out that they had four.  After a while a fifth
appeared, and the landlord gave them notice to quit.  They paid no
attention to it.  Then the sanitary inspector who has to wink at the law
so often, came in and threatened my friend with legal proceedings.  He
pleaded that he could not get them out.  They pleaded that nobody would
have them with so many children at a rental within their means, which is
one of the commonest complaints of the poor, by-the-bye.  What was to be
done?  The landlord was between two millstones.  Finally he applied to
the magistrate, who sent up an officer to inquire into the case.  Since
that time about twenty days have elapsed, and nothing has yet been done.
Is this a singular case?  By no means; it is quite common."

Last week the police raided a disorderly house.  In one room were found
two young children.  They were arrested and charged with being inmates
the same as the women had been.  Their father appeared at the trial.  He
stated that himself and wife and two older children, besides the two in
the dock, occupied that room; he stated also that he occupied it because
he could get no other room for the half-crown a week he paid for it.  The
magistrate discharged the two juvenile offenders and warned the father
that he was bringing his children up unhealthily.

But there is no need further to multiply instances.  In London the
slaughter of the innocents goes on on a scale more stupendous than any
before in the history of the world.  And equally stupendous is the
callousness of the people who believe in Christ, acknowledge God, and go
to church regularly on Sunday.  For the rest of the week they riot about
on the rents and profits which come to them from the East End stained
with the blood of the children.  Also, at times, so peculiarly are they
made, they will take half a million of these rents and profits and send
it away to educate the black boys of the Soudan.




CHAPTER XXIV--A VISION OF THE NIGHT


   All these were years ago little red-coloured, pulpy infants, capable
   of being kneaded, baked, into any social form you chose.--CARLYLE.

Late last night I walked along Commercial Street from Spitalfields to
Whitechapel, and still continuing south, down Leman Street to the docks.
And as I walked I smiled at the East End papers, which, filled with civic
pride, boastfully proclaim that there is nothing the matter with the East
End as a living place for men and women.

It is rather hard to tell a tithe of what I saw.  Much of it is
untenable.  But in a general way I may say that I saw a nightmare, a
fearful slime that quickened the pavement with life, a mess of
unmentionable obscenity that put into eclipse the "nightly horror" of
Piccadilly and the Strand.  It _was_ a menagerie of garmented bipeds that
looked something like humans and more like beasts, and to complete the
picture, brass-buttoned keepers kept order among them when they snarled
too fiercely.

I was glad the keepers were there, for I did not have on my "seafaring"
clothes, and I was what is called a "mark" for the creatures of prey that
prowled up and down.  At times, between keepers, these males looked at me
sharply, hungrily, gutter-wolves that they were, and I was afraid of
their hands, of their naked hands, as one may be afraid of the paws of a
gorilla.  They reminded me of gorillas.  Their bodies were small, ill-
shaped, and squat.  There were no swelling muscles, no abundant thews and
wide-spreading shoulders.  They exhibited, rather, an elemental economy
of nature, such as the cave-men must have exhibited.  But there was
strength in those meagre bodies, the ferocious, primordial strength to
clutch and gripe and tear and rend.  When they spring upon their human
prey they are known even to bend the victim backward and double its body
till the back is broken.  They possess neither conscience nor sentiment,
and they will kill for a half-sovereign, without fear or favour, if they
are given but half a chance.  They are a new species, a breed of city
savages.  The streets and houses, alleys and courts, are their hunting
grounds.  As valley and mountain are to the natural savage, street and
building are valley and mountain to them.  The slum is their jungle, and
they live and prey in the jungle.

The dear soft people of the golden theatres and wonder-mansions of the
West End do not see these creatures, do not dream that they exist.  But
they are here, alive, very much alive in their jungle.  And woe the day,
when England is fighting in her last trench, and her able-bodied men are
on the firing line!  For on that day they will crawl out of their dens
and lairs, and the people of the West End will see them, as the dear soft
aristocrats of Feudal France saw them and asked one another, "Whence came
they?"  "Are they men?"

But they were not the only beasts that ranged the menagerie.  They were
only here and there, lurking in dark courts and passing like grey shadows
along the walls; but the women from whose rotten loins they spring were
everywhere.  They whined insolently, and in maudlin tones begged me for
pennies, and worse.  They held carouse in every boozing ken, slatternly,
unkempt, bleary-eyed, and towsled, leering and gibbering, overspilling
with foulness and corruption, and, gone in debauch, sprawling across
benches and bars, unspeakably repulsive, fearful to look upon.

And there were others, strange, weird faces and forms and twisted
monstrosities that shouldered me on every side, inconceivable types of
sodden ugliness, the wrecks of society, the perambulating carcasses, the
living deaths--women, blasted by disease and drink till their shame
brought not tuppence in the open mart; and men, in fantastic rags,
wrenched by hardship and exposure out of all semblance of men, their
faces in a perpetual writhe of pain, grinning idiotically, shambling like
apes, dying with every step they took and each breath they drew.  And
there were young girls, of eighteen and twenty, with trim bodies and
faces yet untouched with twist and bloat, who had fetched the bottom of
the Abyss plump, in one swift fall.  And I remember a lad of fourteen,
and one of six or seven, white-faced and sickly, homeless, the pair of
them, who sat upon the pavement with their backs against a railing and
watched it all.

The unfit and the unneeded!  Industry does not clamour for them.  There
are no jobs going begging through lack of men and women.  The dockers
crowd at the entrance gate, and curse and turn away when the foreman does
not give them a call.  The engineers who have work pay six shillings a
week to their brother engineers who can find nothing to do; 514,000
textile workers oppose a resolution condemning the employment of children
under fifteen.  Women, and plenty to spare, are found to toil under the
sweat-shop masters for tenpence a day of fourteen hours.  Alfred Freeman
crawls to muddy death because he loses his job.  Ellen Hughes Hunt
prefers Regent's Canal to Islington Workhouse.  Frank Cavilla cuts the
throats of his wife and children because he cannot find work enough to
give them food and shelter.

The unfit and the unneeded!  The miserable and despised and forgotten,
dying in the social shambles.  The progeny of prostitution--of the
prostitution of men and women and children, of flesh and blood, and
sparkle and spirit; in brief, the prostitution of labour.  If this is the
best that civilisation can do for the human, then give us howling and
naked savagery.  Far better to be a people of the wilderness and desert,
of the cave and the squatting-place, than to be a people of the machine
and the Abyss.




CHAPTER XXV--THE HUNGER WAIL


"My father has more stamina than I, for he is country-born."

The speaker, a bright young East Ender, was lamenting his poor physical
development.

"Look at my scrawny arm, will you."  He pulled up his sleeve.  "Not
enough to eat, that's what's the matter with it.  Oh, not now.  I have
what I want to eat these days.  But it's too late.  It can't make up for
what I didn't have to eat when I was a kiddy.  Dad came up to London from
the Fen Country.  Mother died, and there were six of us kiddies and dad
living in two small rooms.

"He had hard times, dad did.  He might have chucked us, but he didn't.  He
slaved all day, and at night he came home and cooked and cared for us.  He
was father and mother, both.  He did his best, but we didn't have enough
to eat.  We rarely saw meat, and then of the worst.  And it is not good
for growing kiddies to sit down to a dinner of bread and a bit of cheese,
and not enough of it.

"And what's the result?  I am undersized, and I haven't the stamina of my
dad.  It was starved out of me.  In a couple of generations there'll be
no more of me here in London.  Yet there's my younger brother; he's
bigger and better developed.  You see, dad and we children held together,
and that accounts for it."

"But I don't see," I objected.  "I should think, under such conditions,
that the vitality should decrease and the younger children be born weaker
and weaker."

"Not when they hold together," he replied.  "Whenever you come along in
the East End and see a child of from eight to twelve, good-sized, well-
developed, and healthy-looking, just you ask and you will find that it is
the youngest in the family, or at least is one of the younger.  The way
of it is this: the older children starve more than the younger ones.  By
the time the younger ones come along, the older ones are starting to
work, and there is more money coming in, and more food to go around."

He pulled down his sleeve, a concrete instance of where chronic
semi-starvation kills not, but stunts.  His voice was but one among the
myriads that raise the cry of the hunger wail in the greatest empire in
the world.  On any one day, over 1,000,000 people are in receipt of poor-
law relief in the United Kingdom.  One in eleven of the whole working-
class receive poor-law relief in the course of the year; 37,500,000
people receive less than 12 pounds per month, per family; and a constant
army of 8,000,000 lives on the border of starvation.

A committee of the London County school board makes this declaration: "At
times, _when there is no special distress_, 55,000 children in a state of
hunger, which makes it useless to attempt to teach them, are in the
schools of London alone."  The italics are mine.  "When there is no
special distress" means good times in England; for the people of England
have come to look upon starvation and suffering, which they call
"distress," as part of the social order.  Chronic starvation is looked
upon as a matter of course.  It is only when acute starvation makes its
appearance on a large scale that they think something is unusual

I shall never forget the bitter wail of a blind man in a little East End
shop at the close of a murky day.  He had been the eldest of five
children, with a mother and no father.  Being the eldest, he had starved
and worked as a child to put bread into the mouths of his little brothers
and sisters.  Not once in three months did he ever taste meat.  He never
knew what it was to have his hunger thoroughly appeased.  And he claimed
that this chronic starvation of his childhood had robbed him of his
sight.  To support the claim, he quoted from the report of the Royal
Commission on the Blind, "Blindness is more prevalent in poor districts,
and poverty accelerates this dreadful affliction."

But he went further, this blind man, and in his voice was the bitterness
of an afflicted man to whom society did not give enough to eat.  He was
one of an enormous army of blind in London, and he said that in the blind
homes they did not receive half enough to eat.  He gave the diet for a
day:-

Breakfast--0.75 pint of skilly and dry bread.
Dinner   --3 oz. meat.
            1 slice of bread.
            0.5 lb. potatoes.
Supper   --0.75 pint of skilly and dry bread.

Oscar Wilde, God rest his soul, voices the cry of the prison child,
which, in varying degree, is the cry of the prison man and woman:-

"The second thing from which a child suffers in prison is hunger.  The
food that is given to it consists of a piece of usually bad-baked prison
bread and a tin of water for breakfast at half-past seven.  At twelve
o'clock it gets dinner, composed of a tin of coarse Indian meal stirabout
(skilly), and at half-past five it gets a piece of dry bread and a tin of
water for its supper.  This diet in the case of a strong grown man is
always productive of illness of some kind, chiefly of course diarrhoea,
with its attendant weakness.  In fact, in a big prison astringent
medicines are served out regularly by the warders as a matter of course.
In the case of a child, the child is, as a rule, incapable of eating the
food at all.  Any one who knows anything about children knows how easily
a child's digestion is upset by a fit of crying, or trouble and mental
distress of any kind.  A child who has been crying all day long, and
perhaps half the night, in a lonely dim-lit cell, and is preyed upon by
terror, simply cannot eat food of this coarse, horrible kind.  In the
case of the little child to whom Warder Martin gave the biscuits, the
child was crying with hunger on Tuesday morning, and utterly unable to
eat the bread and water served to it for its breakfast.  Martin went out
after the breakfasts had been served and bought the few sweet biscuits
for the child rather than see it starving.  It was a beautiful action on
his part, and was so recognised by the child, who, utterly unconscious of
the regulations of the Prison Board, told one of the senior wardens how
kind this junior warden had been to him.  The result was, of course, a
report and a dismissal."

Robert Blatchford compares the workhouse pauper's daily diet with the
soldier's, which, when he was a soldier, was not considered liberal
enough, and yet is twice as liberal as the pauper's.

PAUPER    DIET          SOLDIER
3.25 oz.  Meat          12 oz.
15.5 oz.  Bread         24 oz.
6 oz.     Vegetables     8 oz.

The adult male pauper gets meat (outside of soup) but once a week, and
the paupers "have nearly all that pallid, pasty complexion which is the
sure mark of starvation."

Here is a table, comparing the workhouse officer's weekly allowance:-

OFFICER    DIET          PAUPER
7 lb.      Bread         6.75 lb.
5 lb.      Meat          1 lb. 2 oz.
12 oz.     Bacon         2.5 oz.
8 oz.      Cheese        2 oz.
7 lb.      Potatoes      1.5 lb.
6 lb.      Vegetables    none.
1 lb.      Flour         none.
2 oz.      Lard          none.
12 oz.     Butter        7 oz.
none.      Rice Pudding  1 lb.

And as the same writer remarks: "The officer's diet is still more liberal
than the pauper's; but evidently it is not considered liberal enough, for
a footnote is added to the officer's table saying that 'a cash payment of
two shillings and sixpence a week is also made to each resident officer
and servant.'  If the pauper has ample food, why does the officer have
more?  And if the officer has not too much, can the pauper be properly
fed on less than half the amount?"

But it is not alone the Ghetto-dweller, the prisoner, and the pauper that
starve.  Hodge, of the country, does not know what it is always to have a
full belly.  In truth, it is his empty belly which has driven him to the
city in such great numbers.  Let us investigate the way of living of a
labourer from a parish in the Bradfield Poor Law Union, Berks.  Supposing
him to have two children, steady work, a rent-free cottage, and an
average weekly wage of thirteen shillings, which is equivalent to $3.25,
then here is his weekly budget:-

                                      s.  d.
Bread (5 quarterns)                   1   10
Flour (0.5 gallon)                    0   4
Tea (0.25 lb.)                        0   6
Butter (1 lb.)                        1   3
Lard (1 lb.)                          0   6
Sugar (6 lb.)                         1   0
Bacon or other meat (about 0.25 lb.)  2   8
Cheese (1 lb.)                        0   8
Milk (half-tin condensed)             0   3.25
Coal                                  1   6
Beer                                  none
Tobacco                               none
Insurance ("Prudential")              0   3
Labourers' Union                      0   1
Wood, tools, dispensary, &c.          0   6
Insurance ("Foresters") and margin    1   1.75
        for clothes
Total                                13   0

The guardians of the workhouse in the above Union pride themselves on
their rigid economy.  It costs per pauper per week:-

               s.   d.
Men            6    1.5
Women          5    6.5
Children       5    1.25

If the labourer whose budget has been described should quit his toil and
go into the workhouse, he would cost the guardians for

               s.   d.
Himself        6    1.5
Wife           5    6.5
Two children  10    2.5
Total         21    10.5
Or roughly, $5.46

It would require more than a guinea for the workhouse to care for him and
his family, which he, somehow, manages to do on thirteen shillings.  And
in addition, it is an understood fact that it is cheaper to cater for a
large number of people--buying, cooking, and serving wholesale--than it
is to cater for a small number of people, say a family.

Nevertheless, at the time this budget was compiled, there was in that
parish another family, not of four, but eleven persons, who had to live
on an income, not of thirteen shillings, but of twelve shillings per week
(eleven shillings in winter), and which had, not a rent-free cottage, but
a cottage for which it paid three shillings per week.

This must be understood, and understood clearly: _Whatever is true of
London in the way of poverty and degradation, is true of all England_.
While Paris is not by any means France, the city of London is England.
The frightful conditions which mark London an inferno likewise mark the
United Kingdom an inferno.  The argument that the decentralisation of
London would ameliorate conditions is a vain thing and false.  If the
6,000,000 people of London were separated into one hundred cities each
with a population of 60,000, misery would be decentralised but not
diminished.  The sum of it would remain as large.

In this instance, Mr. B. S. Rowntree, by an exhaustive analysis, has
proved for the country town what Mr. Charles Booth has proved for the
metropolis, that fully one-fourth of the dwellers are condemned to a
poverty which destroys them physically and spiritually; that fully one-
fourth of the dwellers do not have enough to eat, are inadequately
clothed, sheltered, and warmed in a rigorous climate, and are doomed to a
moral degeneracy which puts them lower than the savage in cleanliness and
decency.

After listening to the wail of an old Irish peasant in Kerry, Robert
Blatchford asked him what he wanted.  "The old man leaned upon his spade
and looked out across the black peat fields at the lowering skies.  'What
is it that I'm wantun?' he said; then in a deep plaintive tone he
continued, more to himself than to me, 'All our brave bhoys and dear
gurrls is away an' over the says, an' the agent has taken the pig off me,
an' the wet has spiled the praties, an' I'm an owld man, _an' I want the
Day av Judgment_.'"

The Day of Judgment!  More than he want it.  From all the land rises the
hunger wail, from Ghetto and countryside, from prison and casual ward,
from asylum and workhouse--the cry of the people who have not enough to
eat.  Millions of people, men, women, children, little babes, the blind,
the deaf, the halt, the sick, vagabonds and toilers, prisoners and
paupers, the people of Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, who have not
enough to eat.  And this, in face of the fact that five men can produce
bread for a thousand; that one workman can produce cotton cloth for 250
people, woollens for 300, and boots and shoes for 1000.  It would seem
that 40,000,000 people are keeping a big house, and that they are keeping
it badly.  The income is all right, but there is something criminally
wrong with the management.  And who dares to say that it is not
criminally mismanaged, this big house, when five men can produce bread
for a thousand, and yet millions have not enough to eat?




CHAPTER XXVI--DRINK, TEMPERANCE, AND THRIFT


The English working classes may be said to be soaked in beer.  They are
made dull and sodden by it.  Their efficiency is sadly impaired, and they
lose whatever imagination, invention, and quickness may be theirs by
right of race.  It may hardly be called an acquired habit, for they are
accustomed to it from their earliest infancy.  Children are begotten in
drunkenness, saturated in drink before they draw their first breath, born
to the smell and taste of it, and brought up in the midst of it.

The public-house is ubiquitous.  It flourishes on every corner and
between corners, and it is frequented almost as much by women as by men.
Children are to be found in it as well, waiting till their fathers and
mothers are ready to go home, sipping from the glasses of their elders,
listening to the coarse language and degrading conversation, catching the
contagion of it, familiarising themselves with licentiousness and
debauchery.

Mrs. Grundy rules as supremely over the workers as she does over the
bourgeoisie; but in the case of the workers, the one thing she does not
frown upon is the public-house.  No disgrace or shame attaches to it, nor
to the young woman or girl who makes a practice of entering it.

I remember a girl in a coffee-house saying, "I never drink spirits when
in a public-'ouse."  She was a young and pretty waitress, and she was
laying down to another waitress her pre-eminent respectability and
discretion.  Mrs. Grundy drew the line at spirits, but allowed that it
was quite proper for a clean young girl to drink beer, and to go into a
public-house to drink it.

Not only is this beer unfit for the people to drink, but too often the
men and women are unfit to drink it.  On the other hand, it is their very
unfitness that drives them to drink it.  Ill-fed, suffering from
innutrition and the evil effects of overcrowding and squalor, their
constitutions develop a morbid craving for the drink, just as the sickly
stomach of the overstrung Manchester factory operative hankers after
excessive quantities of pickles and similar weird foods.  Unhealthy
working and living engenders unhealthy appetites and desires.  Man cannot
be worked worse than a horse is worked, and be housed and fed as a pig is
housed and fed, and at the same time have clean and wholesome ideals and
aspirations.

As home-life vanishes, the public-house appears.  Not only do men and
women abnormally crave drink, who are overworked, exhausted, suffering
from deranged stomachs and bad sanitation, and deadened by the ugliness
and monotony of existence, but the gregarious men and women who have no
home-life flee to the bright and clattering public-house in a vain
attempt to express their gregariousness.  And when a family is housed in
one small room, home-life is impossible.

A brief examination of such a dwelling will serve to bring to light one
important cause of drunkenness.  Here the family arises in the morning,
dresses, and makes its toilet, father, mother, sons, and daughters, and
in the same room, shoulder to shoulder (for the room is small), the wife
and mother cooks the breakfast.  And in the same room, heavy and
sickening with the exhalations of their packed bodies throughout the
night, that breakfast is eaten.  The father goes to work, the elder
children go to school or into the street, and the mother remains with her
crawling, toddling youngsters to do her housework--still in the same
room.  Here she washes the clothes, filling the pent space with soapsuds
and the smell of dirty clothes, and overhead she hangs the wet linen to
dry.

Here, in the evening, amid the manifold smells of the day, the family
goes to its virtuous couch.  That is to say, as many as possible pile
into the one bed (if bed they have), and the surplus turns in on the
floor.  And this is the round of their existence, month after month, year
after year, for they never get a vacation save when they are evicted.
When a child dies, and some are always bound to die, since fifty-five per
cent. of the East End children die before they are five years old, the
body is laid out in the same room.  And if they are very poor, it is kept
for some time until they can bury it.  During the day it lies on the bed;
during the night, when the living take the bed, the dead occupies the
table, from which, in the morning, when the dead is put back into the
bed, they eat their breakfast.  Sometimes the body is placed on the shelf
which serves as a pantry for their food.  Only a couple of weeks ago, an
East End woman was in trouble, because, in this fashion, being unable to
bury it, she had kept her dead child three weeks.

Now such a room as I have described is not home but horror; and the men
and women who flee away from it to the public-house are to be pitied, not
blamed.  There are 300,000 people, in London, divided into families that
live in single rooms, while there are 900,000 who are illegally housed
according to the Public Health Act of 1891--a respectable
recruiting-ground for the drink traffic.

Then there are the insecurity of happiness, the precariousness of
existence, the well-founded fear of the future--potent factors in driving
people to drink.  Wretchedness squirms for alleviation, and in the public-
house its pain is eased and forgetfulness is obtained.  It is unhealthy.
Certainly it is, but everything else about their lives is unhealthy,
while this brings the oblivion that nothing else in their lives can
bring.  It even exalts them, and makes them feel that they are finer and
better, though at the same time it drags them down and makes them more
beastly than ever.  For the unfortunate man or woman, it is a race
between miseries that ends with death.

It is of no avail to preach temperance and teetotalism to these people.
The drink habit may be the cause of many miseries; but it is, in turn,
the effect of other and prior miseries.  The temperance advocates may
preach their hearts out over the evils of drink, but until the evils that
cause people to drink are abolished, drink and its evils will remain.

Until the people who try to help realise this, their well-intentioned
efforts will be futile, and they will present a spectacle fit only to set
Olympus laughing.  I have gone through an exhibition of Japanese art, got
up for the poor of Whitechapel with the idea of elevating them, of
begetting in them yearnings for the Beautiful and True and Good.  Granting
(what is not so) that the poor folk are thus taught to know and yearn
after the Beautiful and True and Good, the foul facts of their existence
and the social law that dooms one in three to a public-charity death,
demonstrate that this knowledge and yearning will be only so much of an
added curse to them.  They will have so much more to forget than if they
had never known and yearned.  Did Destiny to-day bind me down to the life
of an East End slave for the rest of my years, and did Destiny grant me
but one wish, I should ask that I might forget all about the Beautiful
and True and Good; that I might forget all I had learned from the open
books, and forget the people I had known, the things I had heard, and the
lands I had seen.  And if Destiny didn't grant it, I am pretty confident
that I should get drunk and forget it as often as possible.

These people who try to help!  Their college settlements, missions,
charities, and what not, are failures.  In the nature of things they
cannot but be failures.  They are wrongly, though sincerely, conceived.
They approach life through a misunderstanding of life, these good folk.
They do not understand the West End, yet they come down to the East End
as teachers and savants.  They do not understand the simple sociology of
Christ, yet they come to the miserable and the despised with the pomp of
social redeemers.  They have worked faithfully, but beyond relieving an
infinitesimal fraction of misery and collecting a certain amount of data
which might otherwise have been more scientifically and less expensively
collected, they have achieved nothing.

As some one has said, they do everything for the poor except get off
their backs.  The very money they dribble out in their child's schemes
has been wrung from the poor.  They come from a race of successful and
predatory bipeds who stand between the worker and his wages, and they try
to tell the worker what he shall do with the pitiful balance left to him.
Of what use, in the name of God, is it to establish nurseries for women
workers, in which, for instance, a child is taken while the mother makes
violets in Islington at three farthings a gross, when more children and
violet-makers than they can cope with are being born right along?  This
violet-maker handles each flower four times, 576 handlings for three
farthings, and in the day she handles the flowers 6912 times for a wage
of ninepence.  She is being robbed.  Somebody is on her back, and a
yearning for the Beautiful and True and Good will not lighten her burden.
They do nothing for her, these dabblers; and what they do not do for the
mother, undoes at night, when the child comes home, all that they have
done for the child in the day.

And one and all, they join in teaching a fundamental lie.  They do not
know it is a lie, but their ignorance does not make it more of a truth.
And the lie they preach is "thrift."  An instant will demonstrate it.  In
overcrowded London, the struggle for a chance to work is keen, and
because of this struggle wages sink to the lowest means of subsistence.
To be thrifty means for a worker to spend less than his income--in other
words, to live on less.  This is equivalent to a lowering of the standard
of living.  In the competition for a chance to work, the man with a lower
standard of living will underbid the man with a higher standard.  And a
small group of such thrifty workers in any overcrowded industry will
permanently lower the wages of that industry.  And the thrifty ones will
no longer be thrifty, for their income will have been reduced till it
balances their expenditure.

In short, thrift negates thrift.  If every worker in England should heed
the preachers of thrift and cut expenditure in half, the condition of
there being more men to work than there is work to do would swiftly cut
wages in half.  And then none of the workers of England would be thrifty,
for they would be living up to their diminished incomes.  The
short-sighted thrift-preachers would naturally be astounded at the
outcome.  The measure of their failure would be precisely the measure of
the success of their propaganda.  And, anyway, it is sheer bosh and
nonsense to preach thrift to the 1,800,000 London workers who are divided
into families which have a total income of less than 21s. per week, one
quarter to one half of which must be paid for rent.

Concerning the futility of the people who try to help, I wish to make one
notable, noble exception, namely, the Dr. Barnardo Homes.  Dr. Barnardo
is a child-catcher.  First, he catches them when they are young, before
they are set, hardened, in the vicious social mould; and then he sends
them away to grow up and be formed in another and better social mould.  Up
to date he has sent out of the country 13,340 boys, most of them to
Canada, and not one in fifty has failed.  A splendid record, when it is
considered that these lads are waifs and strays, homeless and parentless,
jerked out from the very bottom of the Abyss, and forty-nine out of fifty
of them made into men.

Every twenty-four hours in the year Dr. Barnardo snatches nine waifs from
the streets; so the enormous field he has to work in may be comprehended.
The people who try to help have something to learn from him.  He does not
play with palliatives.  He traces social viciousness and misery to their
sources.  He removes the progeny of the gutter-folk from their
pestilential environment, and gives them a healthy, wholesome environment
in which to be pressed and prodded and moulded into men.

When the people who try to help cease their playing and dabbling with day
nurseries and Japanese art exhibits and go back and learn their West End
and the sociology of Christ, they will be in better shape to buckle down
to the work they ought to be doing in the world.  And if they do buckle
down to the work, they will follow Dr. Barnardo's lead, only on a scale
as large as the nation is large.  They won't cram yearnings for the
Beautiful, and True, and Good down the throat of the woman making violets
for three farthings a gross, but they will make somebody get off her back
and quit cramming himself till, like the Romans, he must go to a bath and
sweat it out.  And to their consternation, they will find that they will
have to get off that woman's back themselves, as well as the backs of a
few other women and children they did not dream they were riding upon.




CHAPTER XXVII--THE MANAGEMENT


In this final chapter it were well to look at the Social Abyss in its
widest aspect, and to put certain questions to Civilisation, by the
answers to which Civilisation must stand or fall.  For instance, has
Civilisation bettered the lot of man?  "Man," I use in its democratic
sense, meaning the average man.  So the question re-shapes itself: _Has
Civilisation bettered the lot of the average man_?

Let us see.  In Alaska, along the banks of the Yukon River, near its
mouth, live the Innuit folk.  They are a very primitive people,
manifesting but mere glimmering adumbrations of that tremendous artifice,
Civilisation.  Their capital amounts possibly to 2 pounds per head.  They
hunt and fish for their food with bone-headed spews and arrows.  They
never suffer from lack of shelter.  Their clothes, largely made from the
skins of animals, are warm.  They always have fuel for their fires,
likewise timber for their houses, which they build partly underground,
and in which they lie snugly during the periods of intense cold.  In the
summer they live in tents, open to every breeze and cool.  They are
healthy, and strong, and happy.  Their one problem is food.  They have
their times of plenty and times of famine.  In good times they feast; in
bad times they die of starvation.  But starvation, as a chronic
condition, present with a large number of them all the time, is a thing
unknown.  Further, they have no debts.

In the United Kingdom, on the rim of the Western Ocean, live the English
folk.  They are a consummately civilised people.  Their capital amounts
to at least 300 pounds per head.  They gain their food, not by hunting
and fishing, but by toil at colossal artifices.  For the most part, they
suffer from lack of shelter.  The greater number of them are vilely
housed, do not have enough fuel to keep them warm, and are insufficiently
clothed.  A constant number never have any houses at all, and sleep
shelterless under the stars.  Many are to be found, winter and summer,
shivering on the streets in their rags.  They have good times and bad.  In
good times most of them manage to get enough to eat, in bad times they
die of starvation.  They are dying now, they were dying yesterday and
last year, they will die to-morrow and next year, of starvation; for
they, unlike the Innuit, suffer from a chronic condition of starvation.
There are 40,000,000 of the English folk, and 939 out of every 1000 of
them die in poverty, while a constant army of 8,000,000 struggles on the
ragged edge of starvation.  Further, each babe that is born, is born in
debt to the sum of 22 pounds.  This is because of an artifice called the
National Debt.

In a fair comparison of the average Innuit and the average Englishman, it
will be seen that life is less rigorous for the Innuit; that while the
Innuit suffers only during bad times from starvation, the Englishman
suffers during good times as well; that no Innuit lacks fuel, clothing,
or housing, while the Englishman is in perpetual lack of these three
essentials.  In this connection it is well to instance the judgment of a
man such as Huxley.  From the knowledge gained as a medical officer in
the East End of London, and as a scientist pursuing investigations among
the most elemental savages, he concludes, "Were the alternative presented
to me, I would deliberately prefer the life of the savage to that of
those people of Christian London."

The creature comforts man enjoys are the products of man's labour.  Since
Civilisation has failed to give the average Englishman food and shelter
equal to that enjoyed by the Innuit, the question arises: _Has
Civilisation increased the producing power of the average man_?  If it
has not increased man's producing power, then Civilisation cannot stand.

But, it will be instantly admitted, Civilisation has increased man's
producing power.  Five men can produce bread for a thousand.  One man can
produce cotton cloth for 250 people, woollens for 300, and boots and
shoes for 1000.  Yet it has been shown throughout the pages of this book
that English folk by the millions do not receive enough food, clothes,
and boots.  Then arises the third and inexorable question: _If
Civilisation has increased the producing power of the average man, why
has it not bettered the lot of the average man_?

There can be one answer only--MISMANAGEMENT.  Civilisation has made
possible all manner of creature comforts and heart's delights.  In these
the average Englishman does not participate.  If he shall be forever
unable to participate, then Civilisation falls.  There is no reason for
the continued existence of an artifice so avowed a failure.  But it is
impossible that men should have reared this tremendous artifice in vain.
It stuns the intellect.  To acknowledge so crushing a defeat is to give
the death-blow to striving and progress.

One other alternative, and one other only, presents itself.  _Civilisation
must be compelled to better the lot of the average men_.  This accepted,
it becomes at once a question of business management.  Things profitable
must be continued; things unprofitable must be eliminated.  Either the
Empire is a profit to England, or it is a loss.  If it is a loss, it must
be done away with.  If it is a profit, it must be managed so that the
average man comes in for a share of the profit.

If the struggle for commercial supremacy is profitable, continue it.  If
it is not, if it hurts the worker and makes his lot worse than the lot of
a savage, then fling foreign markets and industrial empire overboard.  For
it is a patent fact that if 40,000,000 people, aided by Civilisation,
possess a greater individual producing power than the Innuit, then those
40,000,000 people should enjoy more creature comforts and heart's
delights than the Innuits enjoy.

If the 400,000 English gentlemen, "of no occupation," according to their
own statement in the Census of 1881, are unprofitable, do away with them.
Set them to work ploughing game preserves and planting potatoes.  If they
are profitable, continue them by all means, but let it be seen to that
the average Englishman shares somewhat in the profits they produce by
working at no occupation.

In short, society must be reorganised, and a capable management put at
the head.  That the present management is incapable, there can be no
discussion.  It has drained the United Kingdom of its life-blood.  It has
enfeebled the stay-at-home folk till they are unable longer to struggle
in the van of the competing nations.  It has built up a West End and an
East End as large as the Kingdom is large, in which one end is riotous
and rotten, the other end sickly and underfed.

A vast empire is foundering on the hands of this incapable management.
And by empire is meant the political machinery which holds together the
English-speaking people of the world outside of the United States.  Nor
is this charged in a pessimistic spirit.  Blood empire is greater than
political empire, and the English of the New World and the Antipodes are
strong and vigorous as ever.  But the political empire under which they
are nominally assembled is perishing.  The political machine known as the
British Empire is running down.  In the hands of its management it is
losing momentum every day.

It is inevitable that this management, which has grossly and criminally
mismanaged, shall be swept away.  Not only has it been wasteful and
inefficient, but it has misappropriated the funds.  Every worn-out, pasty-
faced pauper, every blind man, every prison babe, every man, woman, and
child whose belly is gnawing with hunger pangs, is hungry because the
funds have been misappropriated by the management.

Nor can one member of this managing class plead not guilty before the
judgment bar of Man.  "The living in their houses, and in their graves
the dead," are challenged by every babe that dies of innutrition, by
every girl that flees the sweater's den to the nightly promenade of
Piccadilly, by every worked-out toiler that plunges into the canal.  The
food this managing class eats, the wine it drinks, the shows it makes,
and the fine clothes it wears, are challenged by eight million mouths
which have never had enough to fill them, and by twice eight million
bodies which have never been sufficiently clothed and housed.

There can be no mistake.  Civilisation has increased man's producing
power an hundred-fold, and through mismanagement the men of Civilisation
live worse than the beasts, and have less to eat and wear and protect
them from the elements than the savage Innuit in a frigid climate who
lives to-day as he lived in the stone age ten thousand years ago.




CHALLENGE


I have a vague remembrance
   Of a story that is told
In some ancient Spanish legend
   Or chronicle of old.

It was when brave King Sanche
   Was before Zamora slain,
And his great besieging army
   Lay encamped upon the plain.

Don Diego de Ordenez
   Sallied forth in front of all,
And shouted loud his challenge
   To the warders on the wall.

All the people of Zamora,
   Both the born and the unborn,
As traitors did he challenge
   With taunting words of scorn.

The living in their houses,
   And in their graves the dead,
And the waters in their rivers,
   And their wine, and oil, and bread.

There is a greater army
   That besets us round with strife,
A starving, numberless army
   At all the gates of life.

The poverty-stricken millions
   Who challenge our wine and bread,
And impeach us all as traitors,
   Both the living and the dead.

And whenever I sit at the banquet,
   Where the feast and song are high,
Amid the mirth and music
   I can hear that fearful cry.

And hollow and haggard faces
   Look into the lighted hall,
And wasted hands are extended
   To catch the crumbs that fall

And within there is light and plenty,
   And odours fill the air;
But without there is cold and darkness,
   And hunger and despair.

And there in the camp of famine,
   In wind, and cold, and rain,
Christ, the great Lord of the Army,
   Lies dead upon the plain.

LONGFELLOW




Footnotes:


{1}  This in the Klondike.--J. L.

{2}  "Runt" in America is the equivalent of the English "crowl," the
dwarf of a litter.

{3}  The San Francisco bricklayer receives twenty shillings per day, and
at present is on strike for twenty-four shillings.



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