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   Chapter 17 THE WAYS OF LONDONERS

Highways and Byways in London By Emily Constance Baird Cook Characters: 54339

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Laughing, weeping, hurrying ever,

Hour by hour they crowd along,

While below the mighty river

Sings them all a mocking song."-Molloy.

"An ever-muttering prisoned storm,

The heart of London beating warm."-John Davidson.

'Bus Driver.

What is the best way to see London? "From the top of a 'bus," Mr. Gladstone is said to have sagely remarked. And if you can study London itself from the top of a 'bus, you can also, from the interior of the same convenient, if not always savoury, vehicle, study the ways of Londoners. For, as means of transit, omnibuses and road-cars are every decade, nay, every year, coming yet more into popularity. Soon the patient horses that drag them will disappear and they will transform themselves into "motor-omnibuses," but their general character will be still unaltered. Whether the new electric railway along Oxford Street will at all affect the omnibus public, is a question to be considered; but up to now these popular vehicles have certainly had it all their own way. To the unsophisticated, there seems now even a dash of adventure about them. Why, it is only some twenty years since it was considered bold for a young woman to venture into that hitherto exclusively male precinct, the very select "knifeboard": and now, the top of a 'bus usually harbours not one, but a majority of females, while the uncomfortable "knifeboard" itself has given place to the luxurious "garden-seat." Then, it was in old days considered necessary to talk of "omnibuses," and now, 'bus is a term as common as "the Zoo," and used not only by "the masses," but even by purists in the English language.

The ways of Londoners, then, as studied in the ubiquitous "'bus," are not at all the ways of any other people. To begin with, the stranger should be warned of the fact that the average Londoner resents being spoken to. He, or she, regards it as an unwarrantable liberty. For the Londoner,-at any rate that Londoner whose honour it is to belong to the great and respectable "middle class," prides himself on "keeping 'isself to 'isself." He, or, again, it is generally she,-is nothing if not conventional, and dreads nothing in life so much as the unexpected. If, therefore, you should show such bad taste as to suddenly die in the 'bus, or in the street, a dirty crowd would, it is true, soon collect round you, but the more respectable would, like the Levite, "pass by on the other side," preferring "not to mix themselves up with any unpleasantness." "People in London are so rude," I remarked once sadly to a "lady friend" of mine who lived in a "two pair back" in a select mews: "Wyever do you speak to 'em?" was her retort-evidently on the principle that you can't expect anything from a wolf but a bite.

But the lowest classes are more genial. They have not got such an overpowering amount of gentility to keep up. They can even afford to be sympathetic. Once I happened to have to ring up a doctor in the small hours of the morning. Hardly had I pulled twice at the midnight bell, when with Gamp-like alacrity two strange figures hurried up, and inquired with breathless anxiety, "Anyone pizened, Miss?" adding, with knowledge born of experience, "Knock at the winder." The advice was at all events opportune. Yes, the very poor have always a certain rude, Dickensian, good nature. Thus, if an old market-woman, for instance, happen to jump into your 'bus at Covent Garden, she will amiably rest her big (and distinctly savoury) basket half on your knees, and, mopping her crimson face with a dishcloth, "pass" you the time of day. On the other hand, a great lady and her fashionably dressed daughter will (if you happen to offer your own place for their acceptance) take it without so much as "thank you," and will then proceed to eye you superciliously through a lorgnette. Truly, our manners do not improve, in all respects, with our social status.

Max O'Rell, in John Bull and his Island, has well hit off the Englishman's little ways when travelling by omnibus:

"Ask John Bull if you are in the right for such and such a place; you will get yes or no for an answer, and nothing more. When he enters an omnibus or a railway carriage, if he does not recognise any one, he eyes his fellow travellers askance in a sulky and suspicious way. He seems to say, 'What a bore it is that all you people can't walk home, and let a man have the carriage comfortably to himself....' London omnibuses are made to seat six persons on each side. These places are not marked out. When, on entering, you find five people on either hand, you must not hope to see any one move to make room for you. No, here everything is left to personal initiative. You simply try to spy out the two pairs of thighs that seem to you the best padded, and with all your weight you let yourself down between them. No need to apologise, no one will think of calling you a bad name."

There is much character to be met with in a 'bus. The incipient or embryo novelist should be encouraged to travel by them. From the time when the poet Shelley frightened the Highgate old lady in a 'bus, by his odd invitation to:

"sit upon the ground,

And tell strange stories of the death of kings...."

-many romances have been enacted, many curious histories related in them. Omnibuses have before now been utilised as meeting-grounds for young couples whose courtship was tabooed by unkind parents, and who consequently discovered pressing engagements requiring their presence at "Hercules Buildings," or "the Elephant," as the case might be. Mr. Anstey Guthrie's amusing conversations, overheard in the 'bus, and his intense anxiety as to the never discovered déno?ment of the thrilling story about "the button-hook as opened George's eyes," we have all known and laughed over. But the omnibus,-mere comedy on a bright, dusty, spring or summer day, when its garden-seats shine resplendent in new paint, becomes rather a thing of grim tragedy on muddy days of winter gloom, when the rain comes down in torrents, and a stern "Full inside," is all the response the weary wayfarer gets after waiting long minutes,-painful, jostled minutes,-for the desired vehicle, of which, as Calverley says:

"... some, like monarchs, glow

With richest purple; some are blue

As skies that tempt the swallows back.

Or red as, seen o'er wintry seas,

The star of storm; or barred with black

And yellow, like the April bees."

The omnibus conductors are generally uncommunicative, and often morose-perhaps, from too frequent digs in the ribs from fussy old ladies and choleric old gentlemen. Some of them, too, refuse to wait for you unless you pretend to have a broken leg, or at least to be half-paralyzed; yet, even among 'bus conductors, there are still occasional pearls to be met with. In one thing they show remarkable aptitude; namely, in an interchange of wit with the drivers of rival vehicles. On these occasions their sallies, considering their very limited vocabulary, are often quite brilliantly forcible. In a "block" in Oxford Street or the Strand, or after a "liquor-up" at a convenient "pub," such flights of humour will often while away the time very agreeably for the passenger inside, that is, if he be not too nervously fearful of being drawn into the dispute himself. Omnibus conductors, however, "frivel" as they may among themselves, are as adamant where any infringement of their rules by their passengers is concerned. Why they continually insist-against all show of reason too-on seating no less than six fat people on one side of their vehicle, and no more than six thin ones on the other, has always been a mystery to me. It is, however, as a law of the Medes and Persians, for it knows no alteration. But it has at any rate the merit of pointing the parable about the fat and the lean kine.

Inside.

Fat people, it must be confessed, have a peculiar affinity for omnibuses. The contents of a 'bus are, I have observed, nearly always fat. An omnibus journey is, by the obese, regarded as so much exercise. An old tradesman of my acquaintance who suffered from liver was lately ordered exercise by his doctor. Thereupon he took, like Mrs. Carlyle, one sad shilling's worth of omnibus per day, and was surprised when, at the end of a month, he felt no better. "One shilling's worth of omnibus!"-horrible suggestion! It must have taken nearly three hours, for the cost of omnibus journeys can generally be reckoned at a penny for every ten minutes. The distance traversed is immaterial, as the traveller will soon discover. If he wishes to catch any particular train he had better allow twenty minutes a mile to be quite on the safe side.

On rainy days, character in omnibus is yet more self-revealing. Thus, a wayfarer gets in with a wet cloak and wet umbrella; no one shows any desire to make room. The five lean kine on the one side spread themselves out; the five fat ones on the other expand also. The new-comer stumbles, the wet cloak splashes every one, the umbrella drips genially; it is a pleasant sight. When room is finally made and the wanderer seated, the wet garments soon exhale a fragrant steam-which scent mingles with the odours of cabbage, peppermint, or onions, already discernible. These scents, it may be added, vary in different quarters of London. Thus, onions are partial to Long Acre; antiseptics to Southampton Row; cheap scent to Oxford Street and Holborn; whisky, perhaps, to "the 'Ampstid Road"; general frowsiness to King's Road, Chelsea; and the aroma of elegant furs to the shades of Kensington. Omnibus scents vary, too, with "the varying year." In the spring it is leeks and "spring onions"; in the winter it is paraffin or eucalyptus; in the summer it is indescribable.

Yet, it must be said on behalf of human nature, that there is kindness to be met with even in the maligned 'bus. If, for instance, some "absent-minded beggar" should happen to get in without possessing the necessary pence, at least half the 'bus are immediately ready to offer the deficit; and hands are similarly always stretched out to help in the lame and the blind.

"Benk, Benk!!"

Even should a fellow passenger be exceptionally conversational, it does not, I may add, usually answer to talk much to the casual neighbour on a 'bus, even if it be by way of ingratiating yourself with "the masses." Especially does this rule hold good where young women are concerned. A seriously-minded girl-a girl, too, who was not a bit of a flirt, or indeed remarkably pretty-once confessed to me her sad experiences in that line. Being much interested in democratic politics, she had one fine day begun to talk-on the 'bus roof-to a young artisan on the "Eight Hours' Bill." She imagined herself to be getting along swimmingly, when suddenly the young man, hitherto very intelligent and respectful, began to "nudge" her (this being, I have reason to believe, the first preliminary to courtship in his class). From "nudging" he proceeded to "squeezing"; and, finally, could it be fancy, or was it an arm that began ominously to encircle her waist? She did not stay to investigate the phenomenon, but clambered down the iron staircase with inelegant haste-a sadder and a wiser young woman!

Another time I myself was "riding," as the Cockneys term it, on the outside of a 'bus towards the sylvan park of Kennington, and, fired no doubt by the lovely summer day, began-with more enthusiasm than prudence-to discuss current topics with my neighbour on the "garden seat." He was a well-mannered youth, and for a while I was much edified by his conversation-until, that is, his sudden interjection of "There's a taisty 'at a-crawsin' of the rowd," in some inexplicable manner cooled me off.

Carlyle was a constant traveller by 'bus, which economy, it may be, agreed well with his Scotch thriftiness. Mrs. Carlyle, on one of her solitary returns to their Chelsea home, describes him as meeting her by the omnibus, scanning the passengers (like the Peri at the gate) from under his well-known old white hat. This white hat, even in Carlyle's day, used to attract attention. "Queer 'at the old gent wears," once remarked an unconsciously irreverent passenger to the conductor of the Chelsea omnibus. "Queer 'at," retorted the conductor reprovingly; "it may be a queer 'at, but what would you give for the 'ed-piece that's inside of it?"

Cabs are vastly more luxurious than omnibuses, but are to be rigidly eschewed by the economical, except in cases where time is of as much value as money. The fact is, that it is almost necessary to overpay cabmen, and especially so if the "fare" be at all nervous. Hence it has been said with some truth, that life, to be at all worth living in London, should disregard extra sixpences. People of the Jonas Chuzzlewit type may, indeed, take cabs to their utmost shilling limits, but this is a proceeding hardly to be recommended to the sensitive. For the average cabman is prodigal in retort, and not generally reticent on the subject of imagined wrong. In the season overpaying is more than ever necessary, while hiring "by the hour" is, at least by the nervous, to be deprecated. The familiar device of paying one penny per minute, though fair enough in fact, has been characterised as "only possible to the hardened Londoner." Some people make a practice of only overpaying the cabman when, like John Gilpin, they are "on pleasure bent"; yet I do not know how the cabman is supposed to divine their mission.

The hansom-"the gondola of London," as Disraeli called it-is far preferable to the antiquated "four-wheeler" or "growler," a vehicle which has never been really popular since Wainwright murdered Harriet Lane, and inconsiderately carried about her mutilated body in one of these conveyances, tied up in American cloth. True, hansoms have their faults. Thus the hansom horse is sometimes afflicted with a mania for going round and round in a manner which suggests his having been brought up in a circus. Sometimes he does nothing but twist his head back to look at his fare; sometimes he persists on turning into every "mews" he passes; sometimes he jibs in a way altogether distracting to a nervous passenger who can only, for the moment, behold the horse and the driver; but still there is a "smartness" about the well-turned-out hansom that cannot be gainsaid. The acme of smartness is, perhaps, a private hansom with a liveried driver; these, however, are exclusively seen in the haunts of fashion. It is, perhaps, well for the London resident to be liberally inclined, for in an incredibly short space of time his or her "ways" become known to the cab-driving community, and facilities for getting cabs largely depend on their verdict. It may be added that if the hansom-driver is inclined to be pert (a natural inclination, considering the height of his elevation above the general public), more generally the "growler" is morose, and given to a huskiness that is suggestive of that abode of light and polished brass-the "poor man's club."

The Hansom.

The visitors to London vary, like the omnibus scents, with the varying year. In the spring and early summer, it is the fashionable world that mainly haunts its streets; in the later summer, the French, Italians, Germans-especially Germans-flock with everlasting red Baedekers (indeed, in the London streets in August, you but rarely hear your own language spoken); in autumn, it is chiefly Americans who abound, provided with all "Europe" in the compass of one guide-book; in January the country cousins, and thrifty housewives generally, come up for the day, armed with lists of alarming length, to swell the crowds at the winter sales.

One of the things that strikes the foreigner, new to England and England's ways, most in London, is the regulation of the street traffic. The innumerable vehicles that throng the highways of London, every moment threatening, or seeming to threaten, a "block"; the continuous rumble of many wheels,-omnibuses, cabs, drays, vans, bicycles, motors,-all these, an apparently limitless force, are stopped, as if by magic, by "the man in blue" simply holding up an arm. All power, for the moment, is vested in him; he is here the one authority against which there is no appeal. Under the protection of the policeman's aegis, the most timid foot-passenger may pass in perfect security; the flood will be stayed while his arm, like that of Moses of old, is raised. And there is no such thing as disobedience. Be the bicyclist never so bold, be the hansom-driver never so smart, woe betide him if he disobey the mandate! Under the policeman's faithful pilotage, the big crossings are safe; danger only lurks in the smaller ones, where his presence is not felt. The "man in blue" is, generally, a charming and urbane personage; if, in the exercise of his calling, he sometimes chance to develop a certain curtness, it is, perhaps, that he has in his time been overmuch badgered.... His urbanity, as a rule, is marvellous; and in great contrast to that of his continental brethren. In Germany, the officer of the law shakes his list in people's faces; in France, he gesticulates wildly; in Italy, he is timid and ineffectual; in England, he merely raises his arm, and behold! like the gods on Olympus, he is obeyed.

Londoners are a curiously callous race, and are, as has been shown, remarkably little interested in their neighbours. The fact is, their life is much too busy for such interest. In the country, your neighbours know everything you do, your business, your position, your income even. In London, all that your neighbours know of you is that you come and that you go; and, once gone, your place knows you no more. Miss Amy Levy, who, more than any other poet, has expressed the feeling of London streets, puts the idea well, in these most pathetic lines:

"They trod the streets and squares where now I tread,

With weary hearts, a little while ago;

When, thin and grey, the melancholy snow

Clung to the leafless branches overhead;

Or when the smoke-veiled sky grew stormy-red

In autumn; with a re-arisen woe

Wrestled, what time the passionate spring winds blow;

And paced scorched stones in summer;-they are dead.

"The sorrow of their souls to them did seem

As real as mine to me, as permanent.

To-day, it is the shadow of a dream,

The half-forgotten breath of breezes spent.

So shall another soothe his woe supreme-

No more he comes, who this way came and went."

(A London Plane-Tree.)

The Londoner dies-the great bell of St. Pancras may toll out his sixty years, or the deep tones of Westminster call to his memorial service; yet none the less a dance is given at the house next door, and the immediate neighbours know not of the death until they see the hearse and the long row of funereal trappings. Truly was it said, that in a crowd is ever the greatest solitude! The mighty pulse of London, that

"Of your coming and departure heeds,

As the Seven Seas may heed a pebble cast,"

beats on just the same though you are gone. The vast machine grinds out its daily life, the propellers work, the wheels of Juggernaut hum, while, like a poor moth, you spin your little hour in the sun, and then go under. This terrible desolation of London has resulted, and still results, in many a tragedy, bitter as that of young Chatterton, the boy poet, found dead in a Brooke Street garret:

... "the marvellous boy,

The sleepless soul that perished in his pride...."

A Doorstep Party.

London, the "stony-hearted stepmother," as De Quincey called Oxford Street-has many a time given her children stones for bread. Many are the men and women, poets, authors, journalists, actors, who come up to the vast city, attracted by "the deceitful lights of London," to starve in Soho or Bloomsbury garrets (Bloomsbury, to which place, it is said, more MSS. are returned than to any other locality in the British Isles). Too proud to beg, too sensitive to fight, they soon become ousted in the struggle for life, and very often get pushed altogether out of the ranks; or, if they do succeed, are soured by years of trial and suffering. The biographies of successful men sometimes tell of such early struggles: but of the many who are not successful, the submerged ones, you do not hear. Some of the Bloomsbury and Bayswater boarding-houses afford sad evidence of retrenched fortunes and squalid lives. The ragged window blind, the dirty tablecloth, covered always with remains of meals; the sad, lined, discontented faces pressed close to the dingy panes, the eternal smell of onions or fried fish, the general wretchedness and frowsiness of everything-all tell tales of a sadder kind than those of Dickens's Mrs. Tibbs or Mrs. Todgers. And, descending yet lower in the social scale, individual cases become yet sadder. I once lived in a London square, next door to an empty house. For two days a battered corpse lay on the other side of the wall, in the garden, and no one knew of it. It was only the poor caretaker left in the "mansion" who, weary of existence, had herself severed the Gordian knot of life. And, in the immediate neighbourhood of another square of "desirable residences," no less than three murders was considered the usual winter average-murders, too, of the worst and most squalid type. Such, in London, is the close juxtaposition of "velvet and rags," luxury and misery. London is the refuge of blighted lives, of the queer flotsam and jetsam of humanity. Where can they all come from? and what were their beginnings? Among such waifs and strays do I recall one old man-feeble, pitiful, wizened, who carried an empty black bag, and stretched it out towards me appealingly. The contents, if any, of the black bag, I never discovered; but I often gave him a penny, simply because he was so unutterably pathetic. He is gone now, and his place knows him no more. But he always haunts my dreams. And the afflicted girl-white-faced and expressionless-who sat for many years close to the "Horse-Shoe" of Tottenham Court Road (indeed, she may sit there still), her face calm as that of a Caryatid, as though oblivious of Time and inured to suffering, through all the noise and tumult of drovers' carts and omnibuses; she has often seemed to me as a type of the eternal, dumb sorrow of humanity.

Yet this isolation of London, terrible as it is for the poor and suffering,-is,-for the well-to-do class at least,-in some ways advantageous. For one thing, it allows more liberty of action;-for another, it prevents any undue personal pride. It is, fortunately, rare indeed for the individual to be as conceited in London as he is in the provinces. True,-London has occasional ?sthetic crazes and literary fashions; but, as a rule,-and with the exception of special cliques and coteries such as those of Chelsea and Hampstead,-people are not unduly puffed up in London. The city, with its vast size, acts as an automatic equaliser;-personality becomes lost,-and individuals tend to find their proper level. The Londoner is apt to realise,-that, in the words of Mr. Gilbert's song,-"he never would be missed." Nowhere is there more liberty; no one even notices you as you walk the streets. A man used, some years ago, to walk about the Bloomsbury squares with long hair in be-ribboned pigtails, and in a harlequin dress; the street-boys hardly marked him; even a Chinaman in full costume only attracts a following of a few nursery-maids and perambulators. But in London it really matters very little what you do, or how you dress. Dress here is in fact immaterial, unless you are bent on social successes. Eyes are not for ever scanning you critically, as they do in country villages. And, for ladies who work in slums and "mean streets,"-the safest plan is always to wear dark, shabby, and quiet clothes-clothes that do not "assert themselves." Otherwise, it is likely that she may be accosted as "dear" or "Sally,"-invited to take "a drop o' tea," or otherwise chaffed by rough women standing akimbo at street doors. This practice of standing at doors and gossiping would appear, indeed, to be the main occupation of women of the lower class; but, poor things! they enjoy it; and their life, after all, must contain but few enjoyments. It is perhaps, less certain that their babies enjoy the "cold step," on which they are unceremoniously flopped at all hours of the day. An overdose of "cold step" may, indeed, partially account for the bronchitis which riddles the ranks of the children of the poor. You may see a family of six slum children playing happily in the damp gutter one week; the week following, you may find half of them dead or dying from a visitation of this fell plague. To say that the children of London are decimated by it would be putting the case much too mildly. The mothers, however, take a different view. "She niver looked 'erself agin sence that 'ere crool vaccination,"-a mother will say placidly,-ignoring the cold step and the bronchitis that did the work. "Cold step," indeed, to their minds, acts as a refreshing tonic; they call it "bringin' 'im,-or 'er,-up 'ardy."

That "pity for a horse o'erdriven" that often catches you by the throat in London streets,-is yet almost cast into the shade by the far sadder lot of helpless humanity. 'Bus horses, at any rate, are well fed,-to say nothing of their being worn out, and released from their sufferings after an average period of four years; besides, you can always comfort yourself by refusing to travel by 'bus (I have a friend, indeed, who always vows that he will NOT on any consideration make one of twenty-eight people for two horses to pull);-but it is little or nothing you can do for the alleviation of the lot of the slum babies. Sad indeed is the case of some of these. For, in some dingy and romantically-named "Rose Lane,"-or "Marigold-Avenue,"-(the filthier the London lanes, the more poetic their names),-baby-farms flourish and spread. Once, I remember coming home sick at heart, from a visitation of one such slummy "lane." In a dirty "two-pair back" I found an old woman of witch-like aspect and doubtful sobriety, three mangy cats, and two miserable "farmed" babies,-one an infant, wretched, scrofulous, and covered with sores, lying on a dirty flock bed, its eyes half-closed, in the last stage of exhaustion;-the other a girl of two, wasted and cadaverous, sitting on the usual "cold step," and gazing with pathetic and suffering eyes over to the cabbage-laden and redolent gutter that, filthier far than any in Italian town or foreign Ghetto, apparently did duty, in the middle of the paved alley, as a common dustbin. (Truly, it well becomes us to decry,-in this matter of cleanliness, our neighbours of Central Europe!) I went away sadly; yet what could I have done? I could not take the poor neglected babies home; even though they probably belonged to girls who were not too regular in paying for their weekly maintenance. Nothing short of bringing in the Law would have been of any use, and I was not sure enough of my facts to do this. Yet that elder child's pathetic and mournfully pat

ient eyes still afflict my memory.

Poor, little, neglected slum children! Miss Dorothy Tennant (Lady Stanley), has by her unique art surrounded these waifs with all that glamour of poetry and sentiment that had, by a foolish custom, been hitherto exclusively reserved for the children of the rich. Even Du Maurier always made his slum children ugly and repulsive. Nature, however, knows no such differences. And,-apart from Miss Dorothy Tennant's charming ragamuffins,-who has not stopped to admire, in some back street, the graceful dancing of some half-dozen of small ragged girls? girls in shocking shoes,-but who, nevertheless, hop so delightfully, and with such sense of time and rhythm, to the wheezy old organ, the wheeziest of its tribe, that they have inveigled into their custom. Indeed, I have sometimes doubted whether the organ-man does not himself engage the small girls to dance, as a catch-penny ruse. They do difficult, intricate, ever-changing steps:

"advance, evade,

Unite, dispart, and dally,

Re-set, coquet, and gallopade,"

as Mr. Austin Dobson hath it.

It is not, indeed, only in hospital wards that the children of the great city are pathetic. I have been moved (like Mrs. Meagles), almost to tears, at the sight of a big Ragged School of small boys marching, ten abreast, in perfect drill, in a large phalanx, numbering about five hundred. Five hundred unwanted little human souls! each child, of infant years, with no mother to love it; more destitute in a way than even the slum baby, regarded as a cipher merely; it is surely a sight pitiful enough to make the angels weep!

Hop-scotch.

All the street child's usual stock in-trade, in the way of toys, is chalk (for drawing those incessant white squares on the pavement), perhaps a few worn marbles, and a selection of old buttons. The chalked squares, of course, refer to the ancient game of "hop-scotch," so called because the player in trying to get a stone into a square, may only "hop" over the lines which are "scotched" or "traced" on the ground. The London children often use, instead of stones, broken bits of glass or crockery they call "chaneys"; and to own a private "chaney" is considered, I believe, highly genteel. The familiar game of "Tip-cat," and the skipping rope, have rival attractions; and great enjoyment may be derived from a primitive swing-a bit of rope deftly fixed between area rails or on lamp-posts. The pavement is the London child's playground, for, though in some quarters a movement has, I believe, been started for opening some few of the select "squares" to poor children at certain days and hours, it would not appear to have done much as yet. The pavement games and the Board Schools together often produce a quite wonderful arithmetical sharpness: "The idea of Em'ly gittin' a prize," I heard a ragged girl of tender years remark contemptuously to her equally ragged companion, "Em'ly! why, the girl's a perfect fool; past ten year owld, and can't move the decimal point!" Like other children, these little pariahs of the street have their "make-believe" games; for instance, I have seen them look longingly into toy-shop windows, and heard them talk to each other of every article there, as though it were their own peculiar property; I have also overheard them, sitting on a West-End doorstep, appropriate the mansion thus: "Ain't this 'ere a fine 'ouse, M'ria? didn't know as yer ma was sich a toff. When are y'going to arst me in to tea?" &c., &c. What matter if they pepper their speech continually with such cockneyisms as "not me," "chawnce it," "you ain't no class"; they are generally sweet English children all the same, and immeasurably superior to their surroundings. And such surroundings as they are!

"Our street" (as a little Board School boy described his home in an essay), "is a long lane betwixt two big streets. Our street is not so clean as the big streets, coz yer mothers throws the slops and things in the gutter, and chucks bits of Lloyds and cabbige leaves in the middle of the road. That's why there's allus a funny smell down our street, speshally when it's hot."

Another such essay thus describes a London "Bank Holiday":

"They call this happy day Bank Holiday, becose the banks shut up shop, so as people can't put their money in, but has to spend it. People begin talking about Bank Holiday a long time afore it comes, but they don't begin to spree about much till the night afore.... Bank Holidays are the happiest days of your life, becose you can do nearly what you like, and the perlice don't take no notice of you.... There's only one thing as spoils Bank Holiday, and that is not being fine and hot. When it's wet all the gentlemen get savige and fight one another, and pull their sweetarts and missises about. I'm very sorry for them all round, becose it is a shame for to see. But when it's fine and hot, the gentlemen all larf and are kind, and the women dance about and drink beer like the gentlemen. Everybody's right, and boys don't get skittled round."

But, of course, the Board Schools have done, and are doing, much to improve the rising generation. It is no small tribute to them that into whatever slum or rough district you elect to go, you are safe if you surround yourself with a bodyguard of street children. And for the matter of that, even that pariah of the schools, the London street arab, is with his "pluck" and general resourcefulness, distinctly attractive. Have not Dickens and other novelists adopted him as their hero? All honour to him if he outgrow his base surroundings; small wonder if he is like poor Tip, "of the prison prisonous and of the streets streety." Quickwitted, idle, and hardened to privation, he may, when he grows up, turn to honest work, or he may sink into a "loafer,"-one of those mysterious beings who arise, as out of thin air, from the empty street whenever a four wheel cab, with its burden of boxes, arrives at its destination.

The Return, Bank Holiday.

The conversation of the London working man hardly, perhaps, shows him at his best. The familiar but very unpleasant adjective that invariably greets your ears as you walk behind him, is in the main its distinguishing element, and, notwithstanding its more or less classical derivation (from "by'r Lady"), it is somewhat too suggestive for squeamish ears. Besides, from the frequency of its use, it would appear to mean nothing at all, but simply to be a foolish habit that cannot even plead the excuse of Cockneyism.

What, by-the-way, is the derivation of the term "Cockney"? Its beginnings, as usual in etymological questions, are abstruse; for instance, the word began by meaning a "a cockered child"; then it was synonymous for "a milksop," "an effeminate fellow"; then, (16th cent.), "a derisive appellation for a townsman as the type of effeminacy, in contrast to the hardier inhabitants of the country." Then it became "one born in the city of London, within sound of Bow Bells"; a Bow-Bell Cockney being always a term "more or less contemptuous or bantering, and particularly used to connote the characteristics in which the born Londoner is supposed to be inferior to other Englishmen."

According, however, to an old writer, the term "cockney" arose thus: "A Cittizen's sonne riding with his father into the Country, asked when he heard a horse neigh, what the horse did; his father answered, the horse doth neigh; riding further he heard a cocke crow, and said, doth the cocke neigh too? and therefore Cockney or Cocknie, by inversion thus: incock, q. incoctus, i., raw or unripe in Country-man's affaires."

Some Cockneyisms are frankly puzzling, some are actually startling. Factory girls are specially prodigal of them. Now, the average factory girl is often rather a rough diamond, but there is really no harm in her when once you get used to her ways. She has, it is true, an embarrassing habit of shouting into the ear of the inoffensive passer-by; she may even (if she happen, as frequently occurs, to be walking with two others, three abreast) try to push you into the gutter; but this is simply her fresh exuberance of spirits; she means no ill by it. And her frank utterances are not always rudely meant. For instance, the Cockney remark, "You are a fine old corf-drop, you are!" may even leave the person addressed in some bewilderment as to whether it be a compliment or an insult. It means, however, merely, that you are an "innocent," an ignoramus, a tyro in the ways of the world. "'Ere's a fine fourpenny lot!" or "Where did you get that 'at?" seem, on the other hand, to sound a more distinctly aggressive note. Next to factory-girls and flower-girls, costermongers talk, perhaps, the raciest "cockney." I once knew an old flower-man with a wonderful gift of the gab, who was always persuading me to sell him my husband's old boots, or "a' old skirt for the missus" for some pot of depressed-looking fern. "Did y' ever see sich fine plants?" he will cry admiringly of his barrow-full; "all growed up in cold air, I don't tell you no story. Wy, a gent larst year as kep' a mews, 'e bought a box 'o stershuns orf o' me, an' this year 'e come back an' said as 'e didn't wawnt no more o' that sort, cos wy? they blowed too well, they did, and made 'is winders look that toffy, as 'is landlord see 'em, and 'is rent wus riz on 'im. Now, this 'ere cherry-pie, you niver see sich bewties, got real stalks an' roots, they 'ave; been kep' warm under the children's bed, down our court; 102, Little Red Fox Yard; kep' in they wuz, cos of the rain; and blimy if they don't look all the better for it!"

The flower-girls have perhaps less voluble "patter," but their cry, "Fine Market Bunch!" "'Ere y'are!" is no less patiently reiterated. The London flower-girl, good-looking as she often is, is yet, perhaps, hardly an ideal embodiment of the goddess Flora. To begin with, she is generally enveloped in a thick, rough, unromantic, fringed shawl, and wears an enormous black hat with a still more enormous feather, the latter in sad need of curling. Her abundant hair is coiled loosely on to the nape of her neck, and hangs, in a thick black fringe, over her eyes and ears; anything more totally unlike the dainty, slim, Venetian flower-girl can hardly be imagined. Some kind ladies did, indeed, get up a benevolent scheme for providing London flower-sellers with neat dresses, bonnets, and hats; two or three women, garbed in this costume, may still occasionally be seen at London's principal flower-mart, Oxford Circus. But Londoners are a conservative race, and it is, I imagine, doubtful if the recipients themselves much appreciate these gifts.

Flower Girls.

The organ-grinders who delight so many humble folk, and enrage and afflict so many of the richer class, mostly hail from Hatton Garden and its immediate neighbourhood. The street organ,-"piano-organ" as its proud possessor generally terms it,-is usually the sole support of the family. The organ-grinders are, as a rule, Italian; and are generally to be seen in their picturesque native costume. The organ, however, requires, to catch many pennies, one, at least, of two useful adjuncts; viz., a baby in a cradle, or a dressed-up monkey. The baby sleeps peacefully through the noisiest tunes (what nerves of iron that child must possess!), the monkey dances and postures, even climbing up the area railings. Even in places where the organ-man is cursed, he often reaps a rich harvest of pennies, paid him to go away. Each organ has its special "pitches," its settled rounds. Thus, coming early from Hatton Garden, they will frequent Bloomsbury, say at 9 A.M., and work slowly towards the West End and back, to give the boarding houses in Bedford Place yet another serenade by the light of the setting sun. When once started, the organ-man is pitiless in giving you his whole repertoire. Poor John Leech! it is said that they helped to aggravate the lingering illness of which he died. But there can be no doubt that they lighten the drab, unlovely lives of the London poor.

"Children, when they see thy supple

Form approach, are out like shots;

Half-a-bar sets several couple

Waltzing in convenient spots.

"Not with clumsy Jacks or Georges;

Unprofaned by grasp of man

Maidens speed those simple orgies

Betsey Jane with Betsey Ann."

German bands at street corners,-drum-and-fife bands organised by local talent,-all help, at nightfall, to swell the vast volume of the noise of London.

There is one day in the week, however, when silence-a silence that can almost be oppressive-hangs over the entire city, and not even the sound of the organ-grinder varies the dulness of the monotonous streets. This is Sunday, a day which strikes terror to the heart of the uninitiated foreigner. M. Gabriel Mourey thus feelingly describes it:

"That English Sunday, which so exasperates the French, gives them, from mere recollection, an attack of the spleen, a fit of yawning.... Yet to me there is something comforting about it. It is really a day of rest, of compulsory rest, of rest against one's will; a day when it is simply impossible to do otherwise than rest; it is an obligatory imprisonment which at first revolts the prisoner, but which, if he control his feelings, he will, at the end of an hour or so, find not without its charm. To know for certain that no whim, no fancy for outside amusement can distract you, no theatrical temptation, no yearning for active life can assail you, to be assured that you are protected from the Unforeseen, be it happy or sad, from a letter even-that, in short, it is for the moment impossible to do anything useful,-all this gives you a tranquil security, a serene and healthful calm of twenty-four hours, a calm of which we in France, and especially of Paris, do not know the boon.... And if, in the evening, you venture on to the deserted streets, you can pass freely on your way; no one will interrupt your walk; it is like a dead city; all trace of the life and activity of the six past days has vanished."'

And here is another, and a still more depressing picture, from the same author:

"In this immense and respectable cemetery into which London is metamorphosed on Sundays, some characteristic and amusing beggars patrol the streets. Two old people, a man and his wife, stop at a street corner. The man takes a wretched violin out of an old black cloth bag. The woman sings. What a voice! a hungry voice of chilly misery, which issues, bitter and shrill, from her toothless mouth. Though the weather is warm, she seems to shiver beneath her ragged shawl. The violin grates on obstinately. The man is tall, with a kind of remains of grandeur in his torn coat-tails, and in his face, still haughty, though greasy and bloated. Some passers-by have stopped, and some pence have dropped into the old woman's dirty, wasted hand. The man, still drawing his violin bow, looks round, satisfied, on the treasure.... Six o'clock strikes from a steeple near; they suddenly desist, she from her singing, he from the scraping of his miserable instrument, and they go off to swell the little crowd which awaits, at the public-house doors, the sixth stroke of six,-the re-opening of the house where drunkenness, the cure of hunger-pain, is to be cheaply bought."

Such tragedies, such pitiful sights, wring the heart every day, "whene'er I take my walks abroad" in the streets of London. "How the poor live," indeed! Some of the London waifs would find it hard to tell you how they do live! The day often divided between the street and the public-house; the night, perhaps, spent in the shelter of the "fourpenny doss"; and withal, a delightful uncertainty about the possibilities of dinner and breakfast. Selling penny toys in the street in the winter months must be chilly work; and even in the hot days of August, when the pavements blister in the sun, and American and German tourists throng the streets with their Baedekers, it must have its drawbacks. As to the "fourpenny doss," its discomforts are probably mainly owing to its inmates. The common lodging-houses are often comparatively clean, with a big, central, well-warmed kitchen, presided over by a "deputy." But, of course, where many individuals are herded together in big dormitories, pickpockets will abound; pickpockets, too, abandoned enough to thieve even from other human wastrels. The shelter of the "casual ward" is ever held to be the last resource. A charwoman whom I once knew, a witty and charming lady,-talented, too, in her métier, but alas! I fear, of the "Jane Cakebread" type,-often complained to me of the horrors she had endured there. "It's downright crool," she would say with tears in her eyes, "the way them nurses treats yer. Fust, you 'as to be washed; an' washed you must be; there's no gittin' away from it. An' your' ed, too! It's 'Dip your 'ed in,' and dip it you must, will or no. An' with so much dippin' my 'earin's fair gorn." As for the compulsory oakum picking, the lady minded it not at all. "I didn't never tike much count on it," she said; "but there, my 'ands is 'ardened like."

One word of warning to the wise. Do not, in the mistaken kindness of your heart, take (as Mrs. Carlyle did to her subsequent repentance) to your own home, children that appear to be "lost"; or at least only do so under very exceptional circumstances. When children tell you that they are lost, they are usually only frightened. "Bless your 'art," a kindly policeman once said to me, "they'll find their way 'ome safe enough, if you only leave 'em where they are." Even if really lost, the best place for the stray child is, after all, the police station, "and" (to quote a Mrs. Gamp-like member of the force), "well they knows it, the little dears-well they knows as the orficer is always their best friend." If you do take the child home, it will prove-as it did to Mrs. Carlyle-as great a riddle as the Sphinx. Once I did this. I took a lost infant home, indulged it in nuts, oranges, buns, and picture books; yet still the wretched child howled, refusing, like Rachel, to be comforted; and I found out to my cost that I had better have left it alone. (Perhaps the too unaccustomed neatness of my room distressed it, or the absence of the friendly and familiar "washing.") But once again was I strongly tempted to play the good Samaritan. Returning home on a winter's day, I met, in a "mean street," two children-boy and girl, of seven and eight years-crying bitterly. I interrogated them as to the cause of their tears:

"Our school's burnt down," the boy said betwixt his sobs, "and we can't get in there to-day."

A compulsory holiday seemed a feeble reason for howls. "Why don't you go home and say so?" I inquired.

"'Cause-mother-she w-w-won't believe us," the youth sobbed. "She said as she'd rive our livers out, if we ever humbugged her any more, an' stopped away from school-and-and-it's really burnt down this time!"

Terrible Nemesis, indeed, and worthy of Miss Jane Taylor's well-known "moral poem,"-this unforeseen result of "giving Mamma false alarms!"

Burglars in London are not uncommon; they seem to know, by mere predatory instinct, the houses where valuables and silver abound. It is best to treat them, when found, gently but firmly. But if we feel that we cannot all attain to the courage of the Gower Street matron who held the thief by the collar till the police came, then we can at least lock up safely and retire to rest, resolute to ignore all suspicious sounds within the house. Casual morning visitors give, on the whole, more trouble to the London householder. Old ladies, for instance, in black silk that has seen better days, who are kindly willing to sell to you, for the nominal sum of one and-six, an ancient recipe for furniture polish, or smart and glib young men who call as though they were old college friends, and who, only after some half-hour's discussion of the state of Europe or the weather, divulge to you the fact that they came as agents for a tea firm. Then there are the itinerant vendors of tortoises, with barrow-loads of the poor distressed creatures. "Wonnerful things for beadles, 'm! eat a beadle as soon as look at 'im"-a thing they seldom, if ever, do. And, on one memorable occasion, a whole hour of my precious morning was taken up by an elderly female who represented herself, I know not on what grounds, as "a relative and scion of the late Sir Humphry Davy"! (I am glad, on the scion's behalf, to be able to add that she did not also appropriate the tea-spoons!)

Yet another factor in city life calls for remark. This is the newsboy of London, a personality into which the street arab not infrequently develops. He is a curious being, gifted with nine lives; I should describe him as "a survival of the fittest." His raucous, indescribably husky voice may be heard at every street corner, crying either "Win-ner," or "Extra Spee-shul." Of late, the newsboys have, however, battened on war. "Death o' Kroojer," one of them was bawling one day, before the ex-President's oblivion. "Why are you shouting what's not true?" I inquired kindly of the youthful delinquent, "you've got plenty of lighting." "Shut up, you," the urchin retorted, no whit abashed, "battles is played out!" I once asked a newsboy, just as a matter of curiosity, what piece of news he had found paid him best. "Wy, resignation o' Mr. Gladstone," was the prompt reply, "I got meself a new pair o' boots outer that." The familiar and oft reiterated cry, "'Orrible Murder!" has, especially since "Jack the Ripper" days, been sacred to the calm of Sunday evenings, when men of the roughest class take the place of boys, and generally cry bogus news. It is a curious fact, which says much for the weakness of human nature, that the householder can rarely resist the temptation of buying a Sunday evening paper, even though he knows well, from bitter experience, that the news cried is almost invariably false.

The curious indifference to other people's affairs that, as already mentioned, characterises the Londoner,-shows itself also in a certain want of public spirit. There is, naturally, very little of the proud, local, personal feeling that the villager and the small townsman so often feels. The Londoner, on the contrary, is usually self-centred, unsociable, phlegmatic, narrow. This pleasing quality foreigners politely excuse in him by calling it "the spleen," and account it, indeed, a kind of result of the London fog on character. The fog, or "London particular," as that incorrigible cockney, Sam Weller, called it, is thus described by a trenchant French satirist, Max O'Rell:

"The London fog, of universal reputation, is of two kinds. The most curious, and at the same time the less dangerous, is the black species. It is simply darkness complete and intense at mid-day. The gas is immediately lighted everywhere, and when this kind of fog remains in the upper atmospheric regions, it does not greatly affect you. It does not touch the earth, and the gas being lighted, it gives you the impression of being in the street at ten o'clock at night. Traffic is not stopped; the bustle of the city goes on as usual. The most terrible of all is the yellow fog, that the English call pea-soup. This one gets down your throat and seems to choke you. You have to cover your mouth with a respirator, if you do not wish to be choked or seized with an attack of blood-spitting. The gas is useless, you cannot see it even when you are close to the lamp. Traffic is stopped. Sometimes for several hours the town seems dead and buried.... When the sun makes his appearance he is photographed, that folks may not forget what he is like."

Another Frenchman, M. Gabriel Mourey, describes the fog more picturesquely:

"The frenzied, unbridled activity of the City" (he says) "loses half its brutality under the mantle of fog. Everything seems to be checked, to slacken into a phantom-like motion that has all the vagueness of hallucination. The sounds of the street are muffled; the tops of the houses are lost, hardly even guessed; the lower and first floors are, apparently, all that exist: behind the shop-fronts, a light vapour floats, giving to the goods exposed for sale something of age and disuse. Everything shares, in a fashion, in the solidity and heaviness of the atmosphere. The openings of the streets swallow up, like tunnels, a crowd of foot-passengers and carriages, which seem, thus, to disappear for ever. The trains that cross Ludgate Hill wander off into emptiness on a cloud. St. Paul's resembles some monumental mass of primitive times, at the foot of which the human ant-heap swarms, ridiculous in size, of a mean and pitiable activity. Nevertheless, they are innumerable, a compact army, these miserable little human creatures; the struggle for life animates them; they are all of one uniform blackness in the fog; they go to their daily task, they all use the same gestures, and every step that they take brings them nearer to death. How many millions of men for centuries have followed the same road? and how many millions will follow it in the future, when these of to-day shall have finished their course? But the clouds settle down; they rain themselves on to the ground in black masses; the sky descends among men, and covers them as with an immense funereal pall."

Londoners are always very quick to "catch on" with the latest "craze"; they tire of it, however, also with proportionate rapidity. Thus, the hero of May is often forgotten by November, even if he have not already become a villain by that time. Therefore, with Londoners, it is best to take the ball on the hop, and gather roses, so to speak, while you may. A catch-word is in every one's mouth one winter; it is quite forgotten by next summer. Even a wildly popular new novel has only a "quick sale" of a few short weeks; and may then be altogether ousted in favour of a newer aspirant. The great city is notoriously fickle and wayward in her favours.

Mr. Charles Booth, and his fellow-workers, have, with infinite labour and trouble, sifted and sorted the population of London into varying classes of wealth and poverty, of toil, crime, and leisure. The results of this work, which have reduced the heterogeneous elements of London population to order as with a fairy's wand, are very interesting as well as instructive. The results are hardly encouraging to would-be immigrants from the country; and it is, perhaps, fortunate that there are still some rustics who hold the great metropolis in horror, and would not on any account venture near it. This I can endorse from personal experience. For, only last year, I happened to express to a well-educated, intelligent, small farmer of some forty years of age, my surprise that he had never yet thought well to make the short three hours' journey from his native town to London. He seemed, however, quite contented with his ignorance. "No," he remarked, in answer to my wondering question, "I ain't never bin there, nor yet 'as the missus; and, from all I 'ear, we're best away from sich places."

The Men in Blue.

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