[Transcriber's Note: Archaic spellings have been retained; obvious typographical errors have been corrected.
A table of contents has been added for the reader's convenience.]
SINKS OF LONDON LAID OPEN:
Pocket Companion for the Uninitiated,
TO WHICH IS ADDED A
MODERN FLASH DICTIONARY
CONTAINING ALL THE
CANT WORDS, SLANG TERMS, AND FLASH PHRASES
NOW IN VOGUE,
A LIST OF THE SIXTY ORDERS OF
The whole Forming a True Picture of London Life, Cadging Made Easy, the He-She Man, Doings of the Modern Greeks, Snoozing Kens Depicted, the Common Lodging-house Gallants, Lessons to Lovers of Dice, the Gaming Table, etc.
EMBELLISHED WITH HUMOROUS ILLUSTRATIONS BY
London: PUBLISHED BY J. DUNCOMBE.
Pub'd March 22d 1822 by G. Humphrey 27 St. James's St. London. G. Cruikshank fec't.]
CHAPTER I. COMMON LODGING HOUSES, CADGERS, &c., &c. CHAPTER II. ST. GILES'S—THE CADGER'S HEAD-QUARTERS. CHAPTER III. THE CADGING HOUSE. CHAPTER IV. A BEGGAR'S REPAST. CHAPTER V. AN EVENING MEAL—A FEAST FOR AN ALDERMAN. CHAPTER VI. A QUIET SCENE. CHAPTER VII. A LITTLE LITERARY CONVERSATION. CHAPTER VIII. THE GAMING TABLE. CHAPTER IX. AN UNDER-DEPUTY. CHAPTER X. THE RETURN;—AND A LITTLE UNKNOWN. CHAPTER XI. THE LIFE OF LOW LIFE; OR THE GLORIOUS FINISH OF THE WEEK. CHAPTER XII. ONE NOISE SUBSTITUTED FOR ANOTHER.—THE CLAMOURS OF STRIFE EXCHANGED FOR THE SONGS OF PEACE. CHAPTER XIII. THE CLOSE OF THE NIGHT. FLASH DICTIONARY. THE SIXTY ORDERS OF PRIME COVES.
Dens of London
COMMON LODGING HOUSES, CADGERS, &c., &c.
These two subjects are, perhaps now the only ones remaining, in what is termed the "walks of life," of which a correct description has not yet been given. All the old topics, such as the beauties of the country, and the ancient stories of love and heroism, which have afforded so much employment to the pencil, the muse, and the worker-up of novels, have long been considered as the beaten track; and the relaters of fiction, at least those who lay claim to any thing like originality, have been fain to leave the romantic path, with its old castles and wondrous deeds, and so forth, and seek for heroes behind a counter, amidst the common-place details of business, and for scenes amongst the intricate windings of lanes and alleys. In short, novelty is the grand charm for this novel-writing age.
Independent of the hosts of "Military and Naval Sketches of Mr. Such-a-one," "the Author of So-and-So's Reminiscences," &c., with the usual abundance of matter, that daily crowd from the press, we may notice amongst the really useful works that have lately appeared, the "Old Bailey Experience," "Essays on the Condition of the People," "the Dishonest Practices of Household Servants," and "the Machinery of Crime in England, or the Connection between the Thieves and Flash Houses;" but, valuable as these articles are, and they are certainly of some importance to society, has there any one, we might ask, ever entered into the Common Lodging House,—the Vagabond's Home,—a place that abounds in character and crime? The only information which we have had in these dens of poverty and vice, has been merely through the Police Reports, when some unfortunate defaulter had been taken out of one of those skulking-holes. On such occasions we are told, amongst the usual remarks, that the accommodation in those houses were exceedingly cheap, and that the lodgers herded together indiscriminately, &c.; but how such houses were really conducted, and of the manners and characters of most of the people who frequented them, the public may be said to be almost in perfect ignorance. In like manner with that fraternity called "Cadgers," our knowledge has been equally limited. No correct account has ever yet been given of this idle, but cunning class of the community. All that we have been told concerning them, is, to use the common phrase, but mere hearsay. We remember reading, some few years ago, of one of those begging gentry boasting of being able to make five shillings a day. He considered that sixty streets were easily got through, from sunrise to sunset, and that it was strange indeed if he could not collect a penny in every street. Now, this very same anecdote we read, not many days since, in a new work, entitled, "A History of the Working Classes," as something, of course, just brought to light.
The story, too, in that by-gone piece of notoriety, "Pierce Egan's Life in London," about the beggar's opera, where the lame and the blind, and other disordered individuals, were said to meet nightly, in a place called the "back slums," to throw off their infirmities, and laugh at the credulity of the public, was, not a great many weeks ago, trumped up into a paragraph in one of our weekly journals as a fact just discovered, and the curious were referred to a certain house in St. Giles's, in corroboration thereof. Indeed, we think it would be easy to prove that what little is known of the Common Lodging House, and those people the Cadgers, is neither more nor less than mere reports, and which like the generality of reports, contain not always the truth.
It certainly appears strange that those two subjects, which offer such an abundance of original matter to writers and other observers of mankind, should have remained so long without any other notice than merely that they were known to exist. Seemingly strange, however, as this singularity is, sufficient reasons, perhaps, may be given for it. There can be little doubt, at least there is none in our mind, that since the commencement of the Spectator and Tatler, periodicals have principally assisted in developing, if we may so term it, the powers of observation. Intelligent readers of this kind of literature would naturally turn away from the insipid stuff of the rhymer, and the equally sentimental trash of the getter-up of fiction, of which our old magazines were mostly composed, to the more rational parts of the publication, such as original essays, critiques, stories which had really some truth for their foundation, or any thing which bore the stamp of newness. This secret of attraction would, of course, soon be found out, by those most interested in the sale; but the grand introduction of utility was at that period when the Waverley novels made their appearance. Then, instead of the exaggerated imaginings of a diseased brain, with all its superhuman agency, we had History beautifully blended with Fiction, or rather Truth, accurate descriptions of nature, and correct pictures of life, both high and low. We all remember what powerful sensations those literary wonders at first created, and what a crowd of imitators followed in their train. The Magazines soon caught up the tone, and became doubly interesting, with the lives of private soldiers, "Two or Three Years in the Peninsula," and the "Subaltern." The camp and the man-of-war now poured forth their vast stories of anecdote and adventure, in all shapes and sizes—octavo and article—sketches of character, local customs and antiquities, filled up the other attractions of the day; and to read for improvement, while we read for amusement, was almost considered the fashionable employment of time.
These excellent topics, doubtless, had their season, and when done, our wholesale dealers in wisdom, the Publishers, well knew that their great patron, the public, would not be content with what had gone before. Something was to be again produced, that would make the press move; and that something, we believe, every one will agree with us, that, notwithstanding the splendour of Genius which the imaginative tribe are endowed with in this mental age, was to be that which was new—that, in fact, which would sell. This, as might be expected, caused the booksellers and their hacks to look around them, and the tempting gilt which the former held out, (scanty though the quantity always be!) was yet too keen a spur to the flagging wits of hungry scribblers, to allow them to lie idle. Society was once more ransacked, and that which formerly gave pleasure was now found to be too old for entertainment. Bad practices were discovered to exist amongst those with whom honesty was thought to dwell—the seat of justice was found to be but the seat of corruption—and so high in repute had Unions risen in the land, that they even extended to the very pests of society—the men who lived by plunder. It is to this desire for change, then, that we are indebted for those admirable novels of the French writer Paul de Kock, which have lately appeared; and wherein are portrayed, with such faithfulness, the plodding manners and steady characters of shop-keepers, instead of the high-toned conversation of polished society or the homely but innocent simplicities of a country life—that old ground-work of fiction. The same may be said of those "Essays on the Condition of the People,"—"Household Servants,"—the "Old Bailey Experience," and those equally instructive articles on the "Machinery of Crime in England, or the Connection between the Thieves and the Flash Houses," which all owe their origin to the same cause. It therefore can scarcely excite surprise that the Common Lodging House and Cadger should have remained so long without notice, when, if we take but a little time to reflect, we shall easily perceive that this work of observation is but just now going on, and that the very period in which we now live, is what with justice may be called but—the Age of Inquiry.
The Common Lodging House, as the reader no doubt understands, is a house of accommodation for all classes—no matter what may be their appearance or character—only provided that they can procure, when required, the necessary quantity of coins. In every considerable village in the kingdom there is a lodging-place called the "Beggars' House;" and in every town, more or less, according to its size or population. In London there are hundreds and thousands of houses of this description, from the poor tenant of a room or cellar, with its two or three shake-down-beds upon the floor, to the more substantial landlord with his ten or twenty houses, and two or three hundred beds. Among these the houseless wanderer may find shelter, from a penny to three halfpence, twopence, threepence, fourpence, and sixpence a night, on beds of iron, wood, and straw, or on that more lofty couch a hammock; and some (that is, the penny-a-night lodger) have often no softer resting place than the hard floor. This common lodging-house business is a thriving trade; only small capital is required, for an old house will do, no matter how the rain beats in, or the wind whistles through, in a back street or filthy lane, for the more wretched the neighbourhood, the better; old bedsteads and beds, clothes of the coarsest description, with a few forms, and a table or so, for the kitchen, are all that is necessary for the concern. The front room, or what is usually termed the parlour, is generally fitted up into a shop, or, when this is not the case, there is always some accommodating neighbour, who has the following articles for sale: viz., bacon, butter, cheese, bread, tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco, potatoes, red and salt herrings, smuggled liquors, and table-beer. Some add the savoury profession of the cook to that of the huckster, and dish up a little roast and boiled beef, mutton, pork, vegetables, &c. The whole of these, the reader may be assured, are of a very moderate quality: they are retailed to the lodgers at very profitable prices, and in the smallest quantities, such as a halfpenny worth of butter, bacon, cheese, tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco, &c.; and, for the trifling sum of one penny, the poor epicure may gratify his palate with a taste of beef, mutton, and so on. Very little credit is given in those creditable places, and that only to those who are well-known; they who have not that advantage, often are compelled to take the handkerchief off their necks, the coat, and even the very skirts off their backs, to give to the cautious housekeeper, before they can procure a night's lodging, or a morsel of food; indeed, in the country, it is a common thing, when a traveller (which is the respectable appellation by which the alms-seeking gentry designate themselves) seeks for a night's lodging, for the landlord to refuse admittance, unless the applicant carries a bundle, which is looked upon as a kind of security, should he not have the desirable in his pocket.
It may naturally be supposed that, where there are such little outlays and such large returns, that good round sums must be produced; indeed, there are few who commence this kind of life, but soon secure to themselves an independency. There are many whom we could mention, who have accumulated such large fortunes by the encouragement of vagrancy, as now to be the proprietors of vast property in houses, and who still carry on large establishments by means of deputies, and in their deputies' names, while they themselves live in fashionable style on the borders of the town. The servants that are kept in those houses are in general men, they being considered better adapted to keep peace and quietness than women. It is customary with lodgers, who have anything of value, to deposit it with the landlord, and, in most cases, it is returned with safety. There are some whose character stands so high for honesty, that twenty pounds and upwards may be entrusted with them; but there are those again with whom it would not be prudent to leave a rag, and who often colleague with ruffians to get up a row during the night, to rob the lodgers, they of course coming in for a share of the booty. It is true, too, that in a great many of those houses men and women scorn all restraint, and hate any thing in the shape of a barrier. As regards cleanliness very little can be said for any; they all abound, more or less, with those small creeping things, which are said to be so prolific on the other side of the Tweed, and in the dear country. To delineate, however, the characters of the different houses, comes not at present within our limits; that of itself would fill volumes with the most extraordinary interest; and what then would be the descriptions of the crowds who frequent such houses—the thousands and tens of thousands who exist in this country by what is called their wits—whose trade is imposture, and whose whole life one continued exercise of the intellects? The flash letter-writer and the crawling supplicant; the pretended tradesmen, who live luxuriously on the tales of others, and the real claimant of charity, whose honest shame will hardly allow him to beg for sufficient to procure the hard comforts of a bed of straw; the match seller and ballad-singer, whose convenient profession unite the four lucrative callings of begging, selling, singing, and stealing; gangs of shipwrecked sailors, or rather, fellows whose iron constitutions enable them for the sake of sympathy, to endure the most inclement weather, in almost a state of nudity, and among them only one perhaps ever heard the roar of the ocean; jugglers, coiners, tramps (mechanics seeking work), strolling players, with all the hangers-on of fairs, races, assizes, stable-yards; besides the hosts of Irish who yearly migrate from sweet Erin to happy England, to beg, labour, and steal. Here then, is a wide field for speculation, a vast common in life, where a character may be almost picked up at every step—mines of vice and misery as yet unexplored. A road that has never yet been trodden by the man of the pen, and very rarely by him of the pencil. If a few straggling mendicants, or some solitary wretch, have occasionally been sketched, the great centre of the sons of Cain—the outcast's home—has never yet been entered; that place has remained sacred to the tell-tale eye of each observer. But enough of this: we will now enter among these new scenes, and in order to give a correct view of the ways and doings of this strange life, will at once introduce the reader to the head-quarters of the cadgers—St. Giles's.
ST. GILES'S—THE CADGER'S HEAD-QUARTERS.
The house, or rather establishment (for it contains no less than eight houses, having a moderate-sized court within its boundary, in which stands a large gas lamp) to which we intend to conduct the reader, is situate at No. 13, —— Street, St. Giles's. The proprietor being what is called a gentleman—a man of property—and, like all men of property, of course, wishes not to have his name mentioned but in a respectable way—we therefore, with all respect for the power of wealth, will accommodate him with a dash.
This cavern was opened some forty years ago, by a man of the name of ——, a native of that cautious country, "Canny, tak care o' yoursel." The Scotchman, with the characteristic foresight of his countrymen, soon saw that to set up prudence in the midst of wanton waste, was a sure and ready way to accumulate the bawbees. Accordingly, he took a shop and house at the aforesaid number, and commenced giving shelter to the wild and the profligate. Trade thrived, and, ere long, Sawney had reason to bless the day he crossed the border. He not only grew a rich but a braw man—put his sons to respectable professions, and expended as much in setting them up in the world, as might have made them no common lairds in the land of thistles, and finally gave up the ghost, breathing his last breath amidst the air of plenty, leaving his money-making craft to his eldest son, who still carries on this establishment, as well as two others, one in the Broadway, St. Giles's, and the other in Long Acre, through the means of a deputy, and in the deputy's name, while he himself takes his ease in elegant style, a little way out of town, and is reputed to be the possessor of a great number of houses besides.
This grand cadging rendezvous, then, is under the superintendence of a deputy, and is kept up in his name; he is assisted by his wife and under deputy (men-servants), and a few female domestics. This man—that is, the leader of the band—hails we believe from Cambridgeshire. He is of a slight make, with a shrewd cast of the eye. Formerly he figured in a gentleman's family, and has still much of the air and dress of a lackey: he is nevertheless well adapted for his situation; is affable and free, gambles, and is the companion of the lodgers in the house, but knows them not in the street. When any of the inmates chance to meet him in one of their alms-seeking rambles, and present their hat, to see if he will set an example to unwilling people, he never drops in more than one poor penny; his wife, however, is considered a trump (a generous woman), and never has the collection-box held to her, but invariably lets fall a tanner, to shew that she is a Gemman's wife. These people have the reputation of being honest: anything intrusted to them, of whatever value, is certain of being returned. Robbery and petty thefts are here very rare, and fights are never allowed in the house, if the landlord is at home. There are two kitchens, one for the males and the other for the females: the men are not permitted to visit the women, and, until after eleven at night, the time the women's kitchen is cleared, very few of the latter are allowed to disturb their masculine neighbours; those who have that privilege, are the select few, who are pleased to term themselves wives. There are sleeping apartments, too, for the different sexes, and rooms for those who pass as married people; and when any of the fair part of the inmates happen, in their perambulations, to meet with a friend of the opposite gender, and find, as they sometimes do, that it will be necessary to have a little private communion before they part, the landlord has so far sympathized with such persons, as to provide a room or two for their particular use. In short, this place, besides being a common lodging house, adds to it that now very necessary convenience—a brothel.
There are considerably more than one hundred beds in this house, made of wood and iron, distributed three and six in a room; the single ones are fourpence, and the double ones sixpence; and when we add the profits of this to that of the other two establishments, it must be allowed that the whole must amount to a gentlemanlike sum.
It is now our duty to enter this abode; and though accustomed to those retreats of vice and crime, we actually did pay a visit to this very house, one Saturday evening, and there remained until Monday morning, taking, from first to last, careful notes of the most extraordinary characters and their ways, in order that our first sketch might be a correct picture of the manner in which these outcasts of society spend the last, the best, and the first part of the week.
Well, then, on Saturday afternoon, upon a certain day, we directed our steps to that well known spot of this mighty part of the world—the Rookery, the appropriate title given to that modern Sodom, St. Giles's. On entering this region of sin, we, of course, had the usual difficulties of foot-passengers to encounter, in picking and choosing our way among the small but rich dung heaps—the flowing channels and those pitfalls, the cellers, which lie gaping open, like so many man-traps, ready to catch the unwary traveller. At length, however, we reached No. 13, —— Street, which was pointed out to us by a damsel standing in one of the many groups which are usually collected there, discussing the queries of that city, as being the habitation that we were in search of.
THE CADGING HOUSE.
As this is the first attempt that has been made to describe a Cadging House, we perhaps may be excused in being somewhat particular. The outside of this dwelling was more cleanly and decent than we had been led to expect. The window of the low front room, which was large and rather bowed, still retained the remains of its former shop-like appearance, was modestly screened in the inside by a green curtain; and the step of the door was nicely scoured and sanded.
On entering, we were struck with the establishment-like appearance of the room. Rows of common tin tea-pots were ranged along the dresser. As for the shelves, they literally lined the walls, well filled with plates, dishes, and tea-ware. The landlady came forward to meet us, a tall, genteel woman, with the manners of one apparently used to better society. After putting down our groat, and giving into her hand a certain garment wrapped in a handkerchief, in case of accidents, we were told that the men's kitchen was in the next house, the first door on the right hand side, in the entry. By this, we found that the threshold on which we then stood, was no less than the high quarters set apart for the barrack-master himself. Accordingly, we sallied out for No. 12: but, before going in, we took the liberty to make a survey of this "Vagabond's Home!" and, in troth, it did well deserve that name.
The low front room or parlour, whose fate it was now to be the Cadger's Kitchen, had certainly the same shop-like appearance as that of No. 13—but there the likeness ended. The door, which led into the street, instead of having the clean, welcome, and open look of its neighbour, was fast nailed up, and bore evident marks that many a sick man had leaned against it. The door-light—the window above the door—had been taken out, or what is more likely, knocked out, and its place supplied with a wooden shutter, which was raised up during the day, to let in the light, and air: and as for the window itself, with the exception of a few panes of glass in the centre, here and there patched with brown paper, it was almost wholly made up with squares of wood—giving ocular proof that glass was of a very brittle nature in St. Giles's.
After satisfying ourselves thus far, we proceeded to explore the interior. A narrow passage ran between the houses, and led into a tolerably large court, which, with those two, contained the number of houses already stated. At the foot of this entry stood two or three Moll Flanders looking husseys, who, it may be supposed, did not neglect a passing salute. Farther up the yard, were some half-dozen fellows, in parti-coloured dresses, (and not over particular about shoes and stockings) smoking their cutties, and gambling at pitch-penny.
We next proceeded to the kitchen—and a den-like retreat it was—dark and gloomy from the partial light let in by the few remnants of glass, it seemed well calculated to harbour felon thoughts. The room itself was moderate enough in size—a good fire, and an excellent grate, containing a copper of boiling water, always kept full by a pipe conveyed to it from a cask raised on one side of the fire-place, was all that we could see that approached to anything like luxury or comfort. Beneath this cask lay a heap of coke and coal, and a coal-heaver's shovel leaned against the wall, at the service of any one who loved a cheerful hearth. The floor and walls did not differ much in colour, the former being of a dusky hue, that knew of no other purifier save the birchen broom; and the latter, a dirty red—a daub long since and clumsily made. A cuckoo-clock ticked on one side of an old cupboard, and before the window was spread a large deal table, at which sat the landlord playing at cards with a couple of ruffian-like fellows. A small table (whose old-fashioned, crooked, mahogany legs, showed that it had once been in a more honoured place; but the rough deal covering with which it had been repaired, denoted that it was now only fit for cadger's plate)—stood at the other end of the room, behind the door. A man, in a decent but faded suit of clothes, sat on one side—his arms were stretched over the table, and his head half-buried within them—he was, apparently, asleep. The white apron, that was wrapped round his waist, clearly proclaimed to what class he belonged—the "Begging Tradesmen." A few things, tied to a blue handkerchief, rested on one side of his head; and a parcel of ballads, his whole stock-in-trade, lay on the other. Before the fire, warming his back, stood a short, thick-set man, humming the air of a vulgar ditty; his hands were thrust into the pockets of a velvet shooting-jacket, ornamented with large ivory buttons, such as are commonly worn by cabmen and other tap-room blackguards. His countenance was by far too dark and sinister-looking to be honest, and, as he occasionally favoured us with a few oblique and professional glances from beneath a white castor, half-pulled over his brow, it instinctively, as it were, reminded us of "my lord—the prisoner at the bar."
On a form against the wall, sat a tall and aged man, with a beard like a hermit, all fluttering in rags—the very emblem of wretchedness. He was relieving his uneasiness by giving his back every now and then, a comfortable rub against the wall. A little on one side of this forlorn being, at the head of the table where the landlord sat, was a character that could hardly escape the notice of the most obtuse observer, a stout active young man, in the very perfect costume of a cadger. The upper part of his person was decorated with a piece of a garment that had once been a coat, and of which there yet remained a sleeve and a half; the rest was suspended over his shoulders in shreds. A few tatters were arranged around his nether parts, but they could scarcely be said to cover his nakedness; and as for shoes, stockings, and shirt, they doubtless had been neglected, as being of no professional use. A kind of a hat (which, from a piece of the flap still remaining, showed that it had once possessed a brim) ornamented as villanous a looking head as ever sat upon a pair of shoulders—carrotty hair, that had as much pliancy as a stubble field—a low receding forehead—light grey eyes, rolling about, with as much roguery in them as if each contained a thief—a broad, snubby nose—a projecting chin, with a beard of at least a month's growth—the whole forming no bad resemblance to a rough, red, wiry-haired, vicious terrier dog, whose face had been half-bitten off by hard fighting. He was the very type of a hedge ruffian, and a most proper person to meet any one "by moonlight alone."
——"He looked as if his blood Had crept thro' scoundrels ever since the flood."
The very sight of this model of his tribe brought vagrancy, with all her train, before our eyes, mugger's-carts, tinker's wives, bull dogs, donkeys, creels, kail pots, and all the trumpery of a gipsey's camp. This elegant individual, we found afterwards, answered to the very proper appellation of "Cadger Jack." He was leaning over the table, resting his arms on a bundle of matches, and grumbling heavily about the times, "Cadging," he said, "was gone to the devil! He had been out ever since the morning, and had not yet broke his fast; but if he lived till Monday, he would go to the lord mayor." Here he used some emphatic language, and swore he would not stir until he got relief.
"You will get three months to the tread-mill," observed a woman, sitting opposite (the only one in the room, and a happy compound between the slut and the sot).
He d——d the tread-mill, declared he had played at up and down before now—and would go—they were compelled to give him something—the law did not suffer any man to starve, and so on.
He was rattling on in his way, without any one paying the least attention to what he said, when a lad about fourteen, decently dressed, came in, carrying a box. He placed himself beside the window, and began to display the contents of his trunk, offering for sale several respectable articles of clothing for mere trifles.
"Go home, boy," (said a man who had just come in, with his arms loaded with good things). "What brought you here? do you want to be ruined? you have run away, you young rascal, and stole them things."
The younker, who was the very image of a spoiled child and natural vagabond, replied with all the pertness and insolence of one that had been over indulged, "that the things were his—he had paid for his lodgings, and nobody had anything to do with him."
"When did he come here?" enquired the man, (the landlord by this time had gone out).
"On Thursday," he was answered.
"It is a shame," he said, "to take in so young a boy; he should have a stick laid across his back, and sent home again."
In defence of the landlord, it was argued, that if he did not take him in, others would; and that his things were safe here, which might not be the case elsewhere. This was admitted by our moralizer to be very true.
"Howsomever," observed he, "all I know is this—that if the young dog is not already a thief, I know that he has come to the right place to become one."
"Aye, that he has," drawled out a half naked lusty young fellow, raising himself slowly up from the form where he had been stretched his full length, laying upon his face, the sluggard's favourite position. Hogarth, or Joe Lisle, or any other character hunter, might have taken this youth for the very Son of Idleness. There might alternately be traced in his heavy features sluggard, loon, fool, and rascal. "Aye, that's very true," he observed, "it was coming to St. Giles's that was the ruin of me; and them there lasses," pointing to a ruddy-faced girl, who had just popped her brazen front in at the door, and who, in return for his salutation, politely placed her finger on one side of her nose, then raising the hinder part of her body touched it, in a style that would scarcely be tolerated at St. James's.
"Ah, you imp of Satan!" he bellowed out, as the young vixen scampered away between a dance and a run, and again commenced his story:
"It was coming to St. Giles's, I was saying, was the ruin of me. I robbed my father, but I got clear of that; then I robbed my mother, I got turned away for that; my sisters took me in, I robbed them, and was first to cut; at last, my aunt pitied and took care of me, I robbed her too. But I got three month for that, and—"
"Hold your tongue, you ass," exclaimed half-a-dozen voices, "the booby's mad, and should be sent to St. Luke's."
At this rebuff the hopeful youth grinned a grin something like the triumph of a fool glorying in his shame; then thrusting his hand into his bosom, was for a few moments lost in heavenly bliss, enjoying that most ecstatic of enjoyments, which King Jamie, of clawing memory, says, ought always to be reserved for kings—scratching; then rolled himself down again, to have a little more folding of the arms, and a little more slumber.
A BEGGAR'S REPAST.
Our friend, who had such singular ideas in a cadging house of what ought to be, was himself but one of those who existed by his wits. Two pieces of leather hung round his feet and ankles, which for resemblance came nearer to sandals than boots. The rest of his garb, of course, corresponded.
We observed before, that, when he came in, he had his arms full of good things—among which were a sixpenny cottage-loaf, half a pound of butter, two ounces of coffee, a quarter of a pound of sugar, and half-a dozen eggs. He now busied himself in putting those things in order, and quietly suffered the promising boy to take his will down to the road to ruin. The loaf he cut down into substantial slices, and covered them well and thickly with the rich cured cream of the cow; he put the whole of the coffee into the pan and boiled and simmered it with such attention as clearly showed that, at least in the culinary department, he was a man of taste; and although he did not mix with his beverage any of that much-talked-of continental stuff—succory, yet such was the sweet-smelling odour, as the steam wafted by us, that we could not help thinking that such highly-flavoured drink could not fail to find favour, even in the nostrils of the very Ottoman himself. This being done, he placed it upon the table, and called loudly for his mate.
And here it may be necessary to observe, that your professed vagabonds who live unmarried, always associate in pairs—like the soldier with his comrade, and the sailor with his messmate; it is probably owing to so many of the latter being members of this fraternity, that this seafaring phrase has become to be adopted. Be that as it may, however, the cadger and his mate sleep together, mess together, and share each other's good and bad luck; the most prudent of the two being always the purser.
The individual who answered to the call was a short, punchy, filthy animal, of middle age, half covered with rags. His breast was as bare and as highly coloured as the chest of a Red Indian; owing, perhaps, to sleeping in the open air, or laying among the cinder heaps of glass-houses. Jamie, for that was his name, was, however, a professed gentleman of the road; had an eye as sleepy and as cunning as a cat; and, to use his low jargon, was "up to summat," and knew "what was what."
His mate passed a few jokes upon him, at his skill in gulling swells, and taking in flats; for he was considered an adept. Jamie chucked at the compliments, and smiled at what was before them. They then fell to the viands, and ate with the hearty gusto of robust health. The eggs were certainly boiled too hard; but that defect they took good care to remedy, by softening them well with nice fresh butter, neither crying "Halt!" until there remained not the shadow of crust.
After this slight refection, like the rest of the gemmen who live by their means, they wiped their chins with their napkins—the cuffs of their coats—arose, and went out to that sink of ruin, the gin shop, to rinse their teeth with a little rum, that being the favourite stimulus of the begging tribe. The twopenny dram of pure Jamaica is preferred by them, and particularly those who live in the country, to any other kind of malt, or spirituous liqueurs.
AN EVENING MEAL—A FEAST FOR AN ALDERMAN.
All the wandering race, such as pedlars, tramps, and hawkers of small ware, whose pursuits are in the open air, and which lead them, during the day, to an uncertain distance from their residence, never have more meals than their breakfast and their tea. But as the most of these people are no enemies to good living, they usually contrive to have their morning affair as much in the Scotch fashion as possible, and their evening refection to unite the substantiability of the English dinner, with the refreshing qualities of the tea table. Between six and seven is the hour which they in general retire from the labours of the day; and as this was the time the lodgers were now crowding in, every one carrying the eatables he intended to use, which usually consist of half a pound of bacon, quarter of a pound of butter, a pennyworth of tea or coffee, with as much sugar. These are placed upon a half-quartern loaf, and carried in one hand; and, if eggs are in season, three or four may be seen clutched in the other.
In London, and other large towns, these people, when their finances will permit, indulge in all the luxury of the cook-shop and the flesher's stall; but in country places, there is not such a variety, the bacon—a red herring, and the et ceteras, are mostly their choice.
Among the people who now made their appearance, were certainly some two or three labourers, but the rest were all of that stamp who scorn to live by the sweat of their brow. The frying pan was put into active motion. A couple, a man and his wife,—who by their appearance, no one would suppose that they ever partook of anything save crusts and scraps, filled the pan with nice mutton chops, by way of a relish to their bohea. Eggs and bacon, ham and eggs, ham, beef-steaks, (aye, of the prime rump, too,) mutton chops, sausages, saveloys, &c., &c., were all now with rapidity, and in their turn, soon smoking, fuming, and frying upon the fire, raising a smell almost powerful enough to satisfy the moderate cravings of a Frenchman's appetite.
The whole of the food that we could perceive that had been gathered from door to door, was one solitary plate of broken bread, which was before a broad-shouldered and able-bodied match seller; and even he, before he would allow such refuse to take its descent down his gullet, took especial care to plaster well every piece with good fresh butter—washing the whole down with an excellent cup of coffee.
It might have afforded a fine treat to the searcher after life and manners, to have observed the rough and ragged scene that was now before us. The kitchen at times was crowded to excess; and, amid the clattering of plates, fuss of cooking, and confusion of tongues, men, women, and children, feasting, drinking, singing, and card-playing, while some two or three might be seen wiling away the painful effects of an empty pocket by a soothing whiff from the favourite cutty, occasionally a half naked brute, in the shape of a man or a woman, would stagger in, their heads nodding on their shoulders, like the equally sensible and oblivious looking pate of a Chinese figure in a grocer's window; and if there was space enough, would reel a step or two, and then measure their length upon the floor, muttering sundry threatening sounds. These, of course, were soon picked up, and in their attempts to play at a la Randall, had their arms carefully pinioned, their bodies placed upon a seat, and laid against the wall; or, if there was room enough, were accommodated with a stretch upon the form, to snooze themselves fresh again—dreaming of the sweets of gin, and the joys of a begging life.
But perhaps a sketch or so of those strange beings, with a little of their interesting slang, will be the better way to describe such a group. By the bye, this is the place for character—the cadging house is the very spot for the pourtrayer of life, who wishes to lay claim to any thing like originality;—here Nature has her full scope, and affectation rarely shows her face.
As we were sitting, noting the various particulars that were continually passing before our eyes, and as the Poet says, catching "the manners living as they rise," a thumping step was heard coming along the passage. The door opened, and a wooden-legged weather-beaten seaman, past the meridian, with a pot of beer in one hand and a bag in the other, showed his phiz. He was dressed in the usual sailor's garb, jacket and trousers, with a black handkerchief slung round his neck, and a low-crowned glazed hat on his head. The immense breadth of his shoulders, solidity of chest, with a neck like the "lord of the pasture," gave him the weighty bearing and bold front of an eighty-four, while his open, bluff, and manly countenance at once proclaimed him to be the true man-of-war's man, and tar of old England. Jack's story is soon told:—besides being a King George's man, he had been a bold smuggler, and had his starboard leg carried away in an affray with the Custom sharks.
We were struck with something like admiration at beholding such a model of the favourite class of this country, and very naturally followed his motions, taking an interest in every little peculiarity, they being exactly what have been represented by Smollett, and other naval sketchers, as the characteristics of a tar of the old school.
Jack thumped away to a seat, clapped his pot of beer upon the table, and threw down his hat alongside. He then very gravely took out of his mouth a tolerable sized quid of tobacco, and, having safely deposited that treasure in his jacket pocket, sent, the next moment, a torrent of Virginian juice below the bars. These preliminaries being over, he proceeded to rummage forth the contents of his bag; and among the odds and ends, hauled out a substantial piece of the wing of an ox, and showed that his cruise had not been a bad one. With this goodly blunter of the keen edge of hungry appetite securely clutched in his fist, it may be supposed that the jack-knife did not lag behind; indeed, he had evidently enjoyed many a north-easter, for his appetite appeared to be of that sort which brooks no delay; never once allowing him to answer the many questions that were addressed to him, as "What cheer to-day, Jack?" &c., or so much as to give his grinders one moment's rest, save, and only then when he took a hearty pull at Messrs. Perkins and Co.
This highly-refreshing task being over, he handed a portion of his grub, and a draught of porter, to a decently-dressed young man, who had apparently nothing to chew, save his own thoughts. Then drawing from his pocket his old crony—the pipe, and stretching forth his timber toe, to feel as it were at home, commenced addressing the young fellow as follows. And here let us remind the reader, that it will be impossible for us to describe a dialogue among this class, which is of the lowest of the low, in the language of polished society; we will therefore, in lieu of the emphatic words with which they generally garnish their conversation, use the delicate but meaning dashes —— ——.
"Harry," says the tar, "have you not been at work to-day, that you look so devilish blue?" (working, by the bye, is the honest word used by those honest people for begging, they having as correct an idea of what is meant by respectable terms as their more respectable fellow men).
"Work! Aye," replied Harry, "I went out this morning with Williams. We worked all the way to Piccadilly, then down the Haymarket, along Pall Mall, and were, just beginning with some ladies in the Park, when we were stopped by a policeman, and very nigh got tapped, and —— —— if I could raise heart to cadge any more."
"Aye," cried Jack, "you were always a hen-hearted dog; but, howsomever, I had a brush to-day, myself with one of those land sharks. As I was crossing St. Martin's-lane, I saw a carriage full of ladies standing at a shop door. Up I stumped, and was just about to doff my castor (hat), when a slap on the shoulder, with 'what do you want there?' made me turn round; and there I met the ugly mug of a devil in blue. 'What's that to you?' says I. 'Oh, I thought you were going to beg.' 'Did you,' says I, 'if I had, I would have taken care not to have been such a —— fool, as to let you see me.' 'Well, well, go on, go on,' says he. I stepped on one side, and watched till my master had steered off, and then I about again, and, blow me, if one of the young ladies—and a prime un she was!—did not tip me a tanner (sixpence)."
A remarkably fine-looking man, with nicely trimmed whiskers and a long white apron, who was regaling himself with a plate of sausages to his evening souchong, here observed that there were yet some good fellows among the police. "For instance," he said, "it was only the other day, as I was working at the Middle Row, Holborn, which is my regular beat, I cadged a couple of swells. They bid me begone, or else they would call for the police. I laughed at them, and still tried it on, when one of them called to a blue devil, 'Take this fellow into custody,' says he, 'and I will appear against him to-morrow morning.' 'What's he been doing?' demanded the policeman. 'Begging,' answered the other. 'Oh, is that all?—well, if you will go on, sir, he will not trouble you.' 'Take him up directly, you scoundrel,' shouted the gentleman, 'or else, by —— I'll report you.' The policeman laughed, and walked away, leaving the swells swearing like good-uns."
The youth, whom we have before noticed as being partial to a drowsy life, now put in his word, and gave his affirmation as to the lenity of the police. His beat as he called it, was between the foot of Ludgate Hill and Blackfriars Bridge, "and neither the man who formerly looked about for the people there, nor his predecessor, ever once interrupted him in his laudable endeavours to collect pence, although he daily cadged in the very face of the guardian of the public."
It was now admitted by the whole of the company that only keep off any glaring annoyance, and the police would never say you did wrong.
"Well, well," observed Jack, "I believe, after all, London is still the place. I was once put into limbo in Norfolk, fourteen days, for simply asking a gentleman for a little money, and —— me, if the constables there won't swear that old Belzebub is white, sooner than they will let a man clear. And now," said he, shaking the ashes out of his pipe, "I must to work once more, or else there will be short allowance to-morrow, I know."
At this there was a general movement among the company; even the sluggard himself raised up his heavy lump of a body, as if necessity had just given him a call,—yawned, and fumbled with his hands about his head and breast. For, be it known, that those ease-loving people have as great a respect for the Sabbath, as Sir Andrew Agnew himself; not that they care anything for such a place as a church, but for that inherent dislike which the whole tribe have to anything in the shape of labour, and which induces them to make an extra push on a Saturday night, in order that they may enjoy the Sunday as a holiday, with the rest of the labouring classes. It must likewise not be forgotten, that the police are rather indulgent on a Saturday night, but more watchful on the Lord's day.
"Where shall we stand?" demanded a tape and thimble seller to a dealer in matches. "Tottenham Court, or Clare Market."
"Clare Market, to be sure!" answered the other; "and we will have a drop of rum at the new gin-shop. I had half a pint there this morning with Morgan, and it was prime."
"Come, Blacksmith," (the name given to the fellow whom we had designated the sloth,) said a half-naked lad, with a strong Irish accent, "Come, boy, come, we must be dodging."
"Aye," replied his heavy crony, "I suppose we must. Have you got any browns (pence) about you, Paddy?"
"Yes," said the Hibernian, "I can sthand a quarthern."
"Then, we'll go."
And accordingly they prepared, the sluggard in a soldier's flannel jacket, and a tattered pair of breeks, which was all that he considered requisite for the weather and his own particular profession. Paddy, a lean, pale-faced lad of eighteen, whose features bore the look of emaciation, from the continual use of tobacco—the pipe or quid never being out of his mouth, save at meals, (a short black stump now ornamented his jaws)—with a shirt upon his back that had been as much acquainted with soap as the owner's skin, and a thin pair of canvass trousers, was the finish complete to this vagabond's costume. Away they went, in the true shipwrecked sailor-begging style—their arms folded, bodies bent, and lifting their feet at every step, as if they were afraid to touch the ground for cold, and which contributed to give them that rocking gait so peculiar to the sons of the ocean—their whole frames, too, shivering as if the frosty breath of Old Winter was stealing through their veins:—the sluggard to whine and cry for melting charity at the foot of Ludgate Hill, and Paddy, in his shirt, to cadge, at ten o'clock at night, in the windiest nook on Blackfriars Bridge.
A QUIET SCENE.
The kitchen was now nearly empty. A candle in a brass candlestick was placed upon each table by the under deputy, which, with the help of a good fire, made the room feel somewhat comfortable, and even cheerful. Some two or three individuals still continued to shuffle the cards; and as many women placed themselves by the fire, with their legs stretched upon the forms, to smoke and beguile away the time, until "their men," as they termed them, would come back; while perhaps two or three of the "swinish multitude" might be heard snoring away their stimulus in a corner, in sounds both loud and deep.
On a Saturday evening, from the hours of eight and nine, until eleven, every cadging house is in general particularly quiet, for the reasons we have already stated; none ever going out to work on a Sunday (the sweepers of crossings, of course, excepted), but those who are compelled from sheer necessity.
The room for some time enjoyed a tolerable degree of stillness. The master and an old female domestic occasionally entered, and made their exit. A lodger or so came home, and busied themselves in getting their refreshments. Two or three females dropped in from the women's kitchen, just by the way of having a little gossip; and, as is usual with the angelic part of the creation, scandal was the topic; how that such a one had been "carrying on," as they phrased it, all the week, getting drunk every day, and that they had never paid the landlord; and how that Mr. So-and-so was grumbling, as well he might; and how that Tom What-d'ye-call-him was going to be parted from Bet What's-her-name; "and, to tell the truth, no one pitied her; she came home mortal (insensibly intoxicated) twice or thrice a day, and what man could stand that? He had all but murdered her, the other night, but it was to no purpose; for she had taken every rag he had, even the very shirt off his back, and put them up the spout (the pawn-shop) this very morning. But as for Tom himself, he was as sober and as decent a man as ever entered a house, rarely ever seen the worse for drink above twice or thrice a week," &c., &c. With such lady-like discourse as this, then, did those patterns of excelling nature while away the time, not forgetting too, every now and then, to strengthen their language with a few powerful asseverations.
From this interesting group, we turned to observe a few individuals staggering in, when a tall countryman, with his hat slouched over his ears, and one of those velvet shooting-jackets, which we have before noticed, and which indeed is the flash coat of low life, following close after, caught our attention. The sleeves of his jerkin were slit here and there, and the white shirt (the only one we had seen that night) protruding through the rents, gave it a good deal of the appearance of the slashed doublet of former days. As he advanced into the room, we soon recognised an old acquaintance in Harry ——, of ——, in Yorkshire.
This man who now stood before us, is one of the many instances, that are to be met with in those dens, of the strange vicissitudes of life. His youth was reared in one of the first boarding schools in Yorkshire, and, for many years, he was well known at Doncaster market as a gentleman farmer; nor is it a great while ago, since this very man might be seen dashing along those streets in his one-horse chaise. But, alas! what is he now? A crawler from door to door with matches, or, when he can raise sufficient pence to purchase a stock of ballads, may be seen standing in the streets, straining himself to amuse the rabble—the inmate of a cadging house, and the companion of the lowest of the low. So much, then, for gambling and a jovial life. Notwithstanding his education, and the good society in which he must have moved, there was yet nothing of the remains of a gentleman about him; a considerable share of the fool and profligate was naturally engrafted in his character. A large black mark, in the shape of a half-moon, appeared to have been strongly indented by hard knuckles, below the left visual organ,—ornaments that are as frequently to be seen upon the inhabitants of St. Giles's, as rings are upon the visitors of St. James's. His ruffianly country dress, clownish manners, broad dialect of canny Yorkshire, with a certain cunning cast of the eye,—contracted no doubt by peering through the hedge, to see if the gamekeeper was coming,—all contributed to exhibit him before us, as the very beau ideal of a poacher.
"York! York!" was vociferated from different parts of the room, and to all of which the bite, or rather the bitten, answered, with good-humoured smiles. "He had just come in," he said, "to see if his mate was come hyem yet; but as he had not, he thought he could guess right weel where he wad be, and wad just step o'er to Brown's (the gin-shop) and see."
Away he went, and, in about ten minutes time, a roaring, roistering party was heard coming to the door. York entered, his arms loaded with eggs and bacon, and a glass or two the merrier. A Deaf-Burke-made fellow, an Irishman, half labourer and half beggar, who went under the name of Harlequin, reeled by his side in a state of high elevation, with two or three hangers-on, that trod close to their heels. Harlequin, filled with drink and overflowing with vanity, overwhelmed every one with noise and kindness.
The plates, &c., were soon put in order, and York showed himself no despicable cook. He made the tea, fried the eggs and bacon, and as if not to be outdone in loving kindness by his mate, now loudly proclaimed, "that if ony man was in want of summat to eat, to come forward; for there was plenty for all."
A man, who had been sleeping behind the table, roused himself up at the invitation, and expressed his willingness for a cup of tea.
"Nay, I'll be —— if thou shall," says York; "thou's been drunk, man, fra night till morning, and fra morning till night, these three weeks; and I say that a man that can find money to drink, can find money to eat. To get drunk," he said, turning to the company, "the matter of twice or thrice a week, is a thing that ony man is liable to, and I say that such a man is welcome to a cup of tea, and maybe summat to eat; but to be always drink, drinking, I say again, that a man who can find money to drink, can find money to eat, and so he shall not have a drop!"
During the latter part of this speech, the speaker's looks were directed towards the company, to see if it met with their approbation. Some two or three there were who drawled out that "it was right;" but their assent seemed to be drawn from them, more in expectation of the good things that York was about to give away, than from any real coincidence with his opinion—even such cadging house morality as this, appeared to be too rigid for their notions of right and wrong. As for the man himself, whose drowsy and dissipated looks certainly presented the very picture of a sot, quietly swallowed the affront, and laid himself down again to sleep.
The Yorkshireman, however, had apparently set his own conscience to rest, and seemed to care very little about the tranquillity of the other. He handed a piece of bacon to one, and a cup of tea to another; then thrusting a rasher into his own mouth, much in the style of a terrier griping a rat, chewed, bolted, swallowed, and gorged, until he had completely stuffed the inward man.
There was a fine contrast of national character between the Yorkshireman and his mate. The Irishman was all puff, blarney, and brag, and all the time had been in a humour either to fight or to shake hands. Nothing would serve him but to play at cards with every one of the company, offering the most tremendous odds; but, fortunately for him, there was not another purse-proud man in the room but himself. One poor fellow in particular, on whom he fastened, and who distinctly stated that he had no money, or else he would hazard a game. But this only served to set the Hibernian's froth in motion. He stormed, roused himself upon his legs, towered, and gave vent to a burst of blarney.
"Now, d—— it," says York, "I dinna like that—I dinna like it at all; attack a man that has summat, I say, and not one that has nought, and then that will luck mair like a man!" And with such hearty John Bull notions as these did canny Yorkshire browbeat his crony of the sister kingdom.
Some remarks were now made upon York's black eye, and various remedies proposed—such as the application of a piece of raw flesh, &c., to all of which the Bite did seriously incline, for, as he said, "It lucked scandalous-like to see a man with a black eye. But," says he, "Mike O'Brady maybe thinks he got clear of that; but, ye hear me say, he's mistaken? I was the other day at Epsom Races, and spent every ha'penny; and as I was coming off the course I met Tom ——, (a fellow, from whose appearance no one would suppose was worth twopence, but who, in reality, was a partner of one of those gambling-tables which are carried to fairs and races), and asked him for threepence to get a pint of yell. He pulled out ten shillings, and said I mot hae the loan of five pounds ony day; and when Doncaster races comes, I think I can raise other fifteen" (and to show this was no vaunt, thrust his hand into his bosom, and pulled out a handfull of the sinews of war—shillings and half-crowns), "that will be twenty, we'll make a match on it;" and raising his fist and his voice together, "we will then see which is the best man."
At this a tremendous row was heard at the door. St. Giles's was just beginning his orisons. Loud shouts, hard blows, and deep oaths were heard, with cries for the policeman, and "Murder, murder," from powerful lungs. In a twinkling the kitchen was emptied, and then came the din of strife—struggling, heavy falls, swearing, the policeman's voice, and the roar of all parties.
As soon as this animated but common affair was over, the company returned; the most of whom seemed to think it scarcely worthy of further notice; but not so with Harlequin. The Irishman was outrageous—like the war-horse, his mettle was put in motion, he whooped and bellowed, and was all kicking for a row; threw off his jacket, displaying the upper part of his body in a state of nudity, and with his clenched hand slapped his breast, which sounded like a board; then striking out, right and left, two sunburnt arms of bone, like Ossian's heroes of old, cleaving the air with their arms for the coming fight swore that he had got one black eye, and by the Holy Mother Church and Daniel O'Connell, would not lay head upon pillow this very night until he got another.
At last, after much coaxing, pulling, and hauling, he was dragged to a seat, and John Barleycorn finally overcame him, and delivered him for a time safely into the arms of Morpheus.
York sank down upon a seat, stretched his arms over the table, buried his head between them, and in an extremely short space of time, Old Tom gave notice that he too was fast acting as an opiate upon canny Yorkshire.
A LITTLE LITERARY CONVERSATION.
Quietness was again restored. A group had gathered around the fire, to amuse themselves with a little chat. Among which was an attorney's clerk out of place, in the last stage of sottishness and vagrancy; a drunken mechanic; and a kind of decent itinerant, very pedagogue-like, an inveterate reader of the Twopenny Police Dispatch (the only paper the landlord took in), and a stout advocate of the Holy mother church and Daniel O'Connell, the father of the people, as he styled him. A few ungentlemanly words were exchanged between this small politician and a staunch supporter of the English Church; several topics were descanted upon, among which was the character of Wellington and his campaigns. A short but lively description was given of the Battle of Vittoria, by an old soldier in a labourer's dress.
Wellington, it was said, was not the man he was, or else the papers did not speak the truth; and, certainly, a few glaring facts were produced that they could, at least at times, make a mistake. This brought on a discussion about the management of newspapers.
One talkative fellow maintained that one newspaper was but merely a copy of another; but this assertion was clearly set aside, and the duties of an Editor and Reporter nicely discriminated, by a very equivocal sort of a gemman, in a great coat, whom we strongly suspected was somewhat related to the Swell Mob.
THE GAMING TABLE.
The cards had been in constant motion,—either two or three, or more, engaged with them during the whole of the evening. The card party was now augmented to about sixteen or eighteen, all players and betters, not one of whom could boast of such a thing as a shirt, save the landlord, who at this moment presided as director in chief of the ceremonies, every deference being paid to the lord of the house, as "Master this," and "Master that," and "Master the other."
Twopence to fourpence was the sum which each put down at every stake, and it was astonishing to observe how rapidly the coins were transported from one pocket to another.
"D—— it," says a match-seller, "there goes eighteenpence. I brought in two shillings; I'll now not have enough left for my Sunday's dinner."
All this was said with the most perfect good humour, and at the same time putting down the other stake.
Occasionally one of those fiend-like looks, which are said to be so conspicuous at the splendid hells, might be seen stealing even across this low swindling table. But, upon the whole, the party was very sociable, winning and losing their money with the utmost equanimity of temper.
We observed more than one put down their last penny, and then light their pipes and walk out, puffing and humming away, in search of more.
A strange phenomenon about this time grinned in at the door, his face all wrinkled with age and smiles, and an extremely short pipe in his mouth, which was no other than Ben, the under-deputy, a snub-nosed, hard-featured, squat old boy, with a horn lantern in his hand, to see if any body wanted to turn in (go to bed).
As this individual is a fine specimen of the class to which he belongs, a slight sketch, perhaps, may not be unnecessary.
The deputies, we have before stated, are the men-servants of those establishments, they being better adapted as the waiters of these noisy houses than women. Ben our present subject, had all his life been a roadsman, and lived, as the professional phrase goes, the best way he could; and now, in his old days, when his legs had become rather heavy for a tramp, had secured to himself that comfortable retreat—under-butler of the Beggar's Hall. He was well calculated to be the drudge of a common lodging house;—laborious, dull, and good-natured, answering every call, with as much patience as Francis in Henry the Fourth, with his "Anon anon!" He could sit up night and day—neither age nor toil seemed to have made much impression on his sinewy and hardened frame; indeed, to use the common saying, he was considered by all to be a durable slave.
Besides these serviceable qualities, Ben was considered a great favourite with the lodgers; was never known to utter a testy word, save and only then, when the 'bacco grew short; like the rest of his tribe, he was an eternal smoker. This misfortune however, in being short of Virginia, was seldom of long duration. He never kept that event a secret; and, on such occasions, what could any honest-hearted cadger do, but offer their pouch to the willing old lad?
To light the lodgers to bed, was Ben's regular task—from eleven at night till three during the week, and until four on the Sunday morning.
At this summons, one or two who had become drowsy through the powerful influence of the pipe or pot, roused themselves upon their legs—stretched their arms out, and yawned, which was as much as to say, "they would follow." Ben took the hint, and moved on with his lantern, like an ostler leading horses to the stable, to show to which house in the building, and to what room, they were to repose their precious selves.
THE RETURN;—AND A LITTLE UNKNOWN.
The kitchen was again getting crowded. The fire once more gave notice that it was busy with chops and steaks; and as for the gambling-table, it had literally become thronged. The bawlers of catch-penny papers, or "booksellers," as they styled themselves, were now beginning to make their appearance, in parties of three or four; every one having a copy of the news he had been so loudly proclaiming stuck in the front of his hat, with that awful word, "murder," printed in large letters as the head-line; or the more melancholy announcement of the dying speech of one John So-and-so. They busied themselves in arranging their papers and dividing the gains.
We have before noticed that these people have partners or mates. A quarrel was now about to take place between a publisher and his Co. The Co. swearing that the principal was going to put him in the hole (cheat him); but after a recasting up of accounts, business was at length amicably adjusted. These lung-labourers then threw away all further care for the night, and each sought after his own individual amusement—as smoking, eating, gambling, and larking.
A singular being now entered the kitchen—one who would have afforded a fine treat to such observers as Sir Walter and the American Irving—those accurate delineators of the human race. Such places as these, we have before observed, teem with originality; they, in fact, run wild (if we may so use the expression) with character.
The man, (for the creature was in masculine garb,) was between four and five feet high; he was long armed, and one leg was rather longer than the other, which caused one of his shoulders to rise a little when he walked or stood, and which gave his shoulders, which were naturally broad, a very square appearance.
He was dressed in one of those flash coats already described whose full make, too, by no means diminished his breadth. A kind of shawl crossed his neck, or rather bosom, for his neck, was bare, in a style as if arranged by the hand of a female; and underneath of which peeped two corners of his shirt. His features were of that kind, that carried precisely the expression of those of a masculine woman; and when he spoke, it was a perfect puzzle to the stranger, to know whether he heard the voice of a man or a woman.
The creature himself (as if conscious of those singularities) affected a superior degree of manliness. Swaggered around the room, his hat half pulled over his brows, and slouched a little on one side; assuming the scowling look of a bully, and at times the flashy air of a gallant.
He had a wife; and, as if that was not enough for any man, likewise had a mistress; and, to show that he was a professed admirer of the kind of Eve, took hold of his mistress when he entered with one hand, and waving the other above his head, sung "My love is like the red, red rose," in a voice at once powerful and sweet. Then taking her upon his knee struck up "the light, the light guitar," in a style so exquisitely musical and rich, as fairly to disturb the card-table, and draw form the whole company a thundering round of applause, with "Bravo, Bill!"
He appeared to be a creature of great spirit and vivacity, dashed about, throwing himself into pugilistic attitudes, and striking out, right and left, at his cronies, in sportive play, using at the same time the true slang of low, blackguard life; as, with great emphasis, "I'll —— into you, your —— pall!" with a vast deal more of such high-toned language so appropriate for the gallant of a cadging house. He fell a capering, singing all the while with great animation, and beating time most elegantly with heel and toe, and giving vent to the fulness of his spirits in shouts, as "He hows," "the Cadger Lad," "A roving life for me," &c.; and, catching hold of his wench again, thrust his hand into his bosom—pulled out a handful of silver; swore, bravadoed,—squirted tobacco juice in the grate, and boasted of always being able to earn his ten shillings a day, and thought nothing of picking up a guinea in the same time at a race or fair.
[Footnote 1: See Glossary at end.]
[Footnote 2: This portrait, with the whole of the work, was written, and given to the publisher of one of the first magazines of the day, in November 1834, and the following report appeared in the papers in February 1835, and which, we think, authenticates pretty clearly the correctness of our statement. The reader will perceive a likeness.
EXTRAORDINARY CASE—A MAN-WOMAN.
A creature in the garb of a man, who at the station-house had given the name of Bill Chapman, was placed at the bar with one Isabella Watson, and complained of for being a common cheat and impostor, and creating a disturbance.
Oakley, inspector of the E division, stated that although the thing before them, that called itself Bill Chapman, was attired in man's apparel, he had ascertained that it was a woman.
Mr. Bennett, who was very much surprised, looked steadfastly at the prisoner and asked her name.
Prisoner (speaking in a rough manner.) "It is Mary Chapman."
Mr. Bennett. "I never saw a figure more like a man, and the voice is manly."
Oakley. "I have known her at least ten years, and she always appeared in a dress similar to the one she now wears, namely, a hat, smock-frock, trousers, or knee-breeches, and until last night I always supposed her to be a man. She is known all over England as a ballad-singer and a crier of 'The last dying speeches,' &c."
Mr. Bennett. "She may be a disorderly and disreputable character, which, in fact, her dressing as a man clearly shows, but I know of no law to punish her for wearing male attire."
Oakley. "She travels the country with a woman named Isabella Watson, and they are both known at every race-course and fair as ballad-singers, and considered to be man and wife."
Mr. Bennett. "She may have more than one reason for dressing in that manner, and passing as the husband of the woman Watson, and I wish it was in my power to imprison her."
Oakley. "For upwards of seven years she has occasionally lodged with Watson, at Mr. —— in —— street, St. Giles's, and they always passed as man and wife; and, moreover, Chapman smokes; and whenever Watson gives her any offence, she beats her and blackens her eyes, though Watson is so much taller and apparently stronger."
Mr. Bennett. "It is a very extraordinary case. What have you to say, prisoner?"
Prisoner. "Isabella has lived with me as my companion for many years."
Mr. Bennett. "Why do you dress as a man?"
Prisoner. "I own I am disguised, and it was owing to the cruelty of a father-in-law that I first dressed in this manner. I never did harm to any person. I have been all over the kingdom, and never was in prison in my life before."
Mr. Bennett. "Well I should advise you to be careful; if I could punish you, I would."
Isabella Watson. "The poor fellow has been with me hundreds of miles as my companion, and he never got into a scrape before."
Mr. Bennett. "It is a case that puzzles me, but I must discharge the prisoner."
The prisoner, who was chewing tobacco, then bowed his head, and walked out of the office with Isabella, who exclaimed, "Never mind, my lad, if we live a hundred years it will be in this manner."
Watson is about five feet seven inches in height, with rather an intelligent countenance; and Chapman is not more than five feet high. Her hair is light brown, and cut short, the same as a man's; and she has the gait of a man, and looks like a costermonger.
We agree with this account in every thing except the height of the individuals. The reporter, we think, is a little man, who always sees inches through a magnifier. The man-woman is the height we have stated, or rather less, and his wife is five feet two inches, instead of five feet seven. It is curious but nevertheless a fact, that, although this strange being had lodged for a number of years at the house alluded to, it was never known it was a woman, though at the same time it was never supposed that the creature was a man.]
This money-making man, it may be supposed, was a street singer; and was reported to be a native of that country—the land of leeks and cheese; that place where goats are said to abound—Wales.
The landlord opened the door, and gave orders for the card players to cease; it was twelve o'clock. The gamblers were loth, but the master was peremptory.
THE LIFE OF LOW LIFE; OR THE GLORIOUS FINISH OF THE WEEK.
"Yes!" snivelled a street-preacher and psalm singer, who could scarcely hold up his head for strong drink; "we are now entering upon the Lord's day."
"Aye," observed a spouting vagabond, "it is so, old Mawworm, and you had better go to bed. You know you have your part to perform to-morrow."
"Yes!" he answered, adding a little snuff to his other stimulants, and muttered something about "God willing."
And now it was that the roar of revelry began—noise, disorder, and discord, all joined chorus. The players were let loose, and were giving vent to their different feelings, as ill or bad luck had attended them.
The lodgers were nearly all returned, every man and woman more or less in liquor. The boys of the Emerald Isle were fast approaching to that state in which they are said to be in all their glory; and nothing was now seen or heard but singing, swearing, cooking, eating, smoking, talking, larking, and quarrelling.
The first who broke the peace was a stout bare-footed fellow, a Welshman, who began beating his wife (a girl of the pave), for her excessive partiality for gin.
"Are not you a pretty —— of a woman," he exclaimed, with a voice as gruff as a ruffian's could well be, "to call yourself a man's wife, to come home here, by ——, drunk, every night, while I am going about the streets all day long bawling myself hoarse!" and at the conclusion of every sentence sent her a blow of weight enough to lower one of his mountain bulls.
No one ever offered to interfere, although the woman's face was already beginning to exhibit both blood and marks; for, however that old right for a man to chastise his wife is repudiated in the other parts of society, in this refined age, yet in these walks of life, this ancient custom still holds good. Here a man is considered perfectly in the right to match his strength of arm against his wife's strength of tongue.
The fellow hammered away at his helpless helpmate with hard words and harder blows, threatening all the time a separation, and extolling to their skies the beauties and perfections of another nymph, whom he swore he would join.
Just at this moment the lady in question made her appearance; and, certainly, as far as personal looks, dress, and a more sober demeanour went, she was superior to the one in possession. The wife, who had borne beneath the weighty power of her husband, in as becoming a manner as a wife ought to do, now felt as if endowed with the nervous locks of Sampson; fired with jealousy, and backed by Old Tom (gin), she sprung upon her rival, and, in a moment, ribbons, caps, and hair, were twisted in the clenched hand. Down went a table and one or two forms,—men, women, and children,—and up rose yells, screams, and oaths, with all the stormy joys of fight seconding the uproar.
Old Ben rushed in, and did his utmost to restore order, but it was "no go," as they would say—family affairs must be settled. The Amazons tugged and tore at each other, if not with the fury and hate of bull-dogs, at least like their mates. The wife had secured the sweetheart by the hair, and was taking a most merciless advantage, by keeping her down upon the floor, when a Scotch sailor, wishing, we suppose, to see a stand-up affair, unloosed her hold, and let the other escape. But Sawney had, at this time at least reckoned without his host; he had been wise, he had left the devil alone; for, loosing her vengeance, she turned all her remaining rage upon the northern, and soon made something trickle down his cheeks, of more consequence than tears.
The man never retaliated, but he was not without his friend. The woman who officiated as his wife—down with the child she had in her arms—flung off her shawl, and going up to the jade who had tickled her gude mon, poured forth a torrent of strong round words.
"Do you think," she said, "that he has nobody to take his part, that you strike as if you were not to be struck again? No, no!" she added, "he is no man who will strike a woman except she be his own wife; but here, you —— ——, I am your," &c., &c.
"Honour among thieves!" thought we, and here's fair play among cadgers. The other, who, to use the phrase of the ring, was blood to the back bone, and in a most excellent humour to accept a challenge, was not very slow in putting herself in order for what is termed a regular.
Ben tried again for peace, but it was no use. The master was gone to the house in the Broadway, and the inmates here were wild. No nails, or tugging of hair, was brought into this action, but everything settled in the true old English style of disputing.
These paragons of the tender sex then threw themselves into attitudes that would have done honour to a Mendoza; but Sawney's wife, who was a real Lady Barrymore hussey, proved the master at arms. Tall and bony, she slashed her opponent at arm's length, with the cutting force of a Curtis and presently ended her share of the fray.
The Welshman, after having seen his battered spouse taken care of, returned and going up to the Scotchman, very gravely said,
"Joe, I believe there is something between you and me. You were always a good 'un, but I cannot allow any man to meddle with my wife."
"Say no more," said the canny Scot; "it's all right. No man ever heard me say, nay."
"No never!" shouted the most of the company. "You were always a trump!"
"Well then," says Taffy, "let's have this turn over, and we'll be friends yet."
And with this kind of chivalrous feeling, did these two honourable blackguards prepare to maul each other, zealously encouraged by their friends. Sawney's wife telling him, that if he did not soften that lump of goat's flesh, she would give him a lesson herself how to fist a man.
It was curious to observe how differently these people were affected, when a violent struggle was about to take place. The most of the younkers, particularly the females, got upon the window-ledge tables, and forms, but most of the veterans in vice never moved out of their seats.
The sole garments of the Scot consisted of a loose, ragged great coat, and a pair of trousers of equal value. Wheeling himself round for the combat, in a kind of bravo style, his cumbrous coat dropped off his shoulders, with as much ease as if it had been the cloak of a Spanish duellist, and presented a frame formed for the ring. Rather under-sized, light limbed, broad chested, and strong armed, all sinew and bone, with a step as light as an Indian, and an eye as fierce as a Mohawk.
After a little play with their fists, by the way of feeling how each other stood, and an exchange or two of favours, the Scot sent in a straight right-handed hit on the throat, with as much force as if the whole weight and strength of his body had been concentrated in the blow. His man was prostrate head foremost under the bars. Taffy's lump of a body was picked up, for his soul seemed as if it had taken its flight to Davy Jones. It was all over, and Joe, the "o'er the border man," was cheered with deafening acclamations, whoops, and yells.
Harlequin, who ought to have been christened Hercules, from his Atlas-like shoulders, was now standing in the middle of the floor, like a surly boar roused from his lair, by the seat he had been sleeping upon being overturned, and, catching instinctively, as it were, that fights were going on, longed for some object on whom he could soothe his disturbed blood. He had flung his jacket over his arm, and, like a true bully, was striking his naked breast with his fist, and daring in his own low, disgusting slang, the best man in the room to turn out.
The place, at this moment, bore no bad resemblance to the infernal regions. The tables, forms, and windows were crowded, and drunkenness, ruffianism, and profligacy, were revelling in all the demoniac delights of mischief. Shouts, roars, and yells, shook the house, for the Scot to accept the challenge. Ben's voice in the din, was like a mite in the universe.
Sawney had just moved a step, to take the bear by the paw, when an apparition appeared that instantly quelled the riot.
We have heard of a story of the devil obtruding himself on a company playing at cards on a Sunday morning, and petrifying the Sabbath-breakers by the sight of his club foot; or we might imagine Jove silencing the stormy contentions of Olympus by his nod; but neither of these had a greater effect than had the blue physog. of a police sergeant showing his awe-inspiring self in at the door.
Down crouched the vagabonds; every tongue was hushed as if Silence had stilled their throats with his finger. Some took their pipes, affected to appear tranquil, but smoked very confusedly, and a slight tremor might be observed in their fingers. As for Harlequin, he stood with his naked form, and his jacket flung over his arm, with a look as condemned as if the cap was about to be placed upon him.
The policeman never once opened his lips, but moved forward, with all the commanding importance of office, as he held his lantern from one ruffian's face to another. The landlord came in, and apologized for the noise, and promised that there should be no more disturbance. The guardian of the night nodded, and walked out.
The lodgers were then entertained with a lecture, with threats of turning out, and sending to the station-house. Three or four of the most unruly were dragged away to bed and the rest left, with strong injunctions to enjoy nothing but harmless mirth.
ONE NOISE SUBSTITUTED FOR ANOTHER.—THE CLAMOURS OF STRIFE EXCHANGED FOR THE SONGS OF PEACE.