The CHILDREN'S BOOK of LONDON
G. E. MITTON
WITH EIGHT FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR
A. & C. BLACK, LTD., 4, 5 & 6 SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W.1
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN
First Published 1903
RENA, CU, AND ELFIE
LONDON AS IT IS
I. LONDON CHILDREN 3
II. LONDON 16
III. THE KING'S PALACES 29
IV. TRAINS AND HORSES 42
V. CHILDREN AT SCHOOL 52
VI. LONDON MARKETS 64
VII. CHILDREN'S HOSPITALS 77
VIII. STREETS AND SHOPS 89
IX. DOGS AND CATS 105
X. ODDS AND ENDS 115
XI. KING EDWARD V 131
XII. TOURNAMENTS AND PAGEANTS 154
XIII. SIR THOMAS MORE 165
XIV. LADY JANE GREY 182
XV. GUNPOWDER PLOT 196
XVI. CHARLES I 204
XVII. THE GREAT PLAGUE AND FIRE 222
THE SIGHTS OF LONDON
XVIII. THE TOWER OF LONDON 241
XIX. THE TOWER OF LONDON—continued 257
XX. THE ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS 270
XXI. THE ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS—continued 289
XXII. THE BRITISH MUSEUM 303
XXIII. THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM 311
XXIV. WESTMINSTER ABBEY, ST. PAUL'S, AND THE CENOTAPH 332
XXV. THE MINT, THE BANK, AND THE POST OFFICE 353
XXVI. THE LORD MAYOR'S SHOW AND OTHER THINGS 370
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
THE TOWER BRIDGE Frontispiece
QUEEN VICTORIA MEMORIAL AND BUCKINGHAM PALACE 30
TRAFALGAR SQUARE 132
THE TRAITORS' GATE, TOWER OF LONDON 180
THE CENOTAPH, WHITEHALL 216
ST. MARY-LE-STRAND AND BUSH HOUSE 244
THE CORONATION CHAIR, WESTMINSTER ABBEY 340
ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL 348
LONDON AS IT IS
THE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF LONDON
To begin with, the streets of London are not paved with gold; but I need not have said that, for nowadays the very youngest child knows it. It was Dick Whittington who first imagined anything so foolish; but then he was only a country lad, and in his days there were not the same opportunities for finding out the truth about things as there are now. There were very few books for one thing, and those there were cost a great deal of money, and would hardly be likely to come in Dick's way; so that if there was by chance a book which described London as it was then, it is not at all probable that he would have seen it. There were no photographs, either, to show him what London was really like, so, of course, he had to make up ideas about it himself, just as you who live in the country and have heard people talking about London do now. Are the stories you invent at all like the stories Dick Whittington made up for himself? You can't answer because you're not writing this book, so I must answer for you. Perhaps you think London is a place where there are no lessons to do, and where there is always a great deal of fun going on; where you can go to see sights all day long; the huge waxwork figures at Madame Tussaud's, as big as real people; and lions and tigers and elephants and bears at the Zoo; and you think that the boys and girls who live in London spend all their time in seeing wonderful things.
If this is what you think, some of it is true enough. There are a great many wonderful things to be seen in London, and if you want to hear about them at once you must skip all this chapter and a great many others besides, and go on to page 241, where you will find them described. But if you want to know what London itself is really like you must wait a little longer. The best people to tell you would be the children who live in London; they will read this book, and, of course, they could answer all your questions, but they would not all answer in the same way.
Some would say: 'Oh yes, of course we all know the Zoo, but that's for small children; we are quite tired of a dull place like that, where everyone goes; we like balls, with good floors for dancing, and programmes, and everything done as it is at grown-up balls; and we like theatres, where we can sit in the front row and look through opera-glasses and eat ices. Madame Tussaud's? Yes, it's there still; we went to it when we were quite little babies, but it's not at all fashionable.'
And another child might say: 'I don't mind driving with mother in the Row when I'm really beautifully dressed.'
But I'll tell you a secret about the little boys and girls who talk like this: they are not really children at all, they never have been and never will be; they are grown-up men and women in child shapes, and by the time their bodies have grown big they won't enjoy anything at all. Master Augustus will be a dull young man, who hates everybody, and does not know how to get through the long, dreary day; and Miss Ruby will be a mere heartless woman, who only cares to please herself, and does not mind how unhappy she makes everyone else. And all this will be because their foolish father and mother let them have everything they wanted, and allowed them to go everywhere they liked, and that is not at all good even for grown-up people, and it is very, very much worse for children.
There are, however, many other sorts of children in London, and it is rather interesting to hear what they think of the town in which they live. For instance, there are the children of people who are not at all poor, who have nice houses and plenty of money, but who are yet sensible enough to know that their children must have something else besides pleasure. If we asked one of their children what he thought of London, he might say: 'I've seen the Zoo, of course, and Madame Tussaud's, and I've been to Maskelyne's Mysteries and the Hippodrome, and they're all jolly, especially the Zoo; but those things generally happen in the holidays: we don't have such fun every day.' A boy or a girl of this sort has really a much duller time than one who lives in the country. London is so big, so huge, that he sees only a wee bit of it.
London is the capital town of England, as everyone knows. In Dick Whittington's time it was not very big, but it has grown and grown, until it is seventeen miles in one direction and twelve in another. You know what a mile is, perhaps; well, try to imagine seventeen miles one after another, end to end, on and on, all streets of houses, with here and there a park, very carefully kept, not in the least like a country park. And all these streets and streets of houses are not very interesting, and in many of them the houses are all alike, built of dull-coloured stone or red brick, or else they are covered with plaster.
There is a great part of London where people only go to work, and from which they come away again at nights. In the mornings hundreds and hundreds of men pour into this part as fast as the trains can bring them, and go to their offices, which are in great buildings, many different offices being in one building; and the streets are filled with men hurrying this way and that, always in a hurry. There is no one standing about or idling. Omnibuses and carts and cabs are all mixed up together in the roadway, until you would think it was impossible for them ever to be disentangled again. And now and then some bold man on a bicycle dares to ride right into the middle of it all, between the wheels and under the horses' noses, and how he ever gets through without being crushed up as flat as a paper-knife is a wonder!
At nights, when the men have done their day's work, they are in as much of a hurry to get out of this part of London, which is called the City, as they were to get into it in the morning. They go by cabs and omnibuses and trains back to their homes and their children, and the City is left still and silent, with just a quiet cat flitting across the street, and making a frightened jump when the big policeman turns his lantern on to her.
The children of rich people seldom see this part of London. Perhaps their father goes there every day, and they hear him talk of the City, but it is like another town to them, so vague and far away it seems. These children probably have lessons with their governess at home, and when twelve o'clock comes they go for a walk. When they open the front-door they see a long street, stretching both ways, filled with dark, dull-looking houses just the same as their own. The street pavement is made of wood, which is quieter than stones, and when the cabs run past they make very little sound. If the children are lucky they live in a square, and there is a garden in the middle, with iron railings round it, and everyone who lives in the square has a key to open the gate; but it must not be left open, or other people would get in and use the garden too. It has green grass in it and flower-beds, and it is all very prim and proper, and not at all interesting; and, worst of all, the dear dogs, Scamp and Jim, cannot go there, even when they are led by a string. The gardener would turn them out, for he imagines they would kick about in his flower-beds and rake out the seeds. This is not the sort of garden that a country child would care for. But Jack and Ethel are not country children; they are quite used to their garden, and like it very much.
We can see them start on their morning walk with Miss Primity, their governess. Both the children wear gloves—they never go out without them—and in the street they walk quietly; but when they have passed down the street and got into Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens, they can run about as much as they like. In the Gardens there is a big round pond, where Jack can sail his boat; and on Saturdays the water is covered with white sails, and even men come down and join in the sport, making their toy boats race against one another. The boats are often quite large, and the scene is very gay and pretty. There are a great many ducks, which clamour to be fed; and there are other children there too. These may be friends of Jack's and Ethel's, and they can play together, and Ethel can show her new doll, and Jack can boast of all the things he means to do when he grows up. The Gardens are very nice, but it is rather dull always having the same walk in the same place every day, and sometimes the children get a little tired of it, and are glad when a half-holiday comes and an aunt or uncle carries them off to see some of the wonderful things of which London is full.
There is another part of London of which we have not yet spoken. We have heard of the City and of the West End—the City, where business men work, and the West End, where rich people live; but there is also the East End, lying beyond the City, and the people who live here are nearly all poor. If you asked any of the children of the East End if they had seen Madame Tussaud's or the Zoo, they would grin, and say, 'Garn!' and if you told them about these things they might say, 'Ye're kiddin', ye're,' which is their way of saying they don't believe you, and think you are telling stories. In the streets where these children live everything is dirty and nasty. A number of families live together in one house, perhaps even in one room, for I have heard of rooms where each family had a corner. The women never do anything more than they can help. They never mend their old dresses, or wash themselves or their children, or try to cook nicely; they do nothing. They spend the day sitting on their dirty doorsteps, with the youngest baby on their knees, and their hair is all uncombed, and their dresses are filthy and torn, and they shout out to other women across the street, and make remarks on anyone who happens to pass. The poor little baby gets dreadful things to eat—things that you would think would kill an ordinary child—bits of herring or apple, and anything else its mother eats, and sometimes even sips of beer or gin. If it cries, it is joggled about or slapped, and as soon as ever it is able to sit up, it is put down on the pavement among a number of other dirty, untidy children and left to take care of itself. When a little girl is seven she is thought quite old enough to look after all the younger ones, and on Saturdays she goes off with other little girls, pushing a rickety old perambulator or a wooden cart, with perhaps two babies in it and several smaller children hanging on to her skirt; and she goes down the foul street and on until she comes to a tiny little bit of ground, where there are seats and some bushes and hard paths, and this is a playground. But what do you think it really has been? A graveyard, and there are still graves and big stones, showing that people have been buried there long years ago. But the children who play in it do not mind this at all; they sit on the graves, and think that they are very lucky to get this place away from the street. Then the poor little babies are left in their go-carts or perambulators, very often in the sun, with their heads hanging down over the edge, while Liza talks to Bella; and they both put their hair in curl-papers, and show each other any small things they have picked up in the street. They have no need of dolls, for both Bella and Liza have living dolls, which are often very troublesome; but they are quite used to it, and if the live doll cries they just stop talking and rush up to it and push it up and down, or take it out and shake it about for a few minutes, and then put it back again and go on with their talk. Sometimes, not often, they have a feast, and perhaps Bella brings out a dirty bottle which she has picked up, and fills it with water at the fountain; and Liza takes from her pocket an apple and some sticky toffee, and perhaps one of the little ones has a bun. And then the apple is rubbed until it shines with a dirty bit of rag called a pocket-handkerchief, and they all sit down together in a row and share the things; and even the baby has a hard lump of apple stuffed into its mouth, for Liza and Bella do not mean to be unkind to their babies, for they have mother-hearts in them.
Well, of course, there are many other sorts of children in London besides these: there are the children of working men, who are neatly dressed and go out on Sundays with their father and mother; there are chauffeurs' children who live near the garage, or in the mews, where rich people keep their motor-cars or carriages. It is not easy in London to find rooms for cars or carriages close to the house, so a number of stables were built together, making a long yard like a street, and the people who lived near kept their carriages there, but there are fewer carriages now, and often the rooms in the mews are empty or used by outside people, while the cars are kept at some big garage a little distance off. There are many others who are not so lucky as chauffeurs' or coachmen's children; think of the little children who belong to the organ-grinders, and who are taken about in a basket tied on to the grinding organ, with the hideous noise in their ears all day. I wonder that they can ever hear at all when they grow up. Many, very many, of the children have no playground at all but the street, the pavement, where people are passing all the time. They sit on the doorsteps and breathe in the dust, and all their playthings, if they have any—and even their food—are often thick with dust. I have seen a child rubbing a bit of bread-and-jam up and down on the dirty stone before it eats it. But the rich children and the poor children do not often meet, for if the rich children go through the streets in the poorer parts they are in motor-cars or cabs, and in their part of the park there are not many poor children, while in the parks where the poor children go you do not find many rich ones. And though there are parts of London where poor and rich are very near together, yet their lives never mix as the lives of country children do. Very often in the country a child knows the names of all the other children in its village, and who they are and all about them; but in London it is not so. And many rich children grumble all the time if they do not have everything they want, and never think of their poor little brothers and sisters, who would snatch eagerly at many of the things they throw away.
Have you heard the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who piped so wonderfully that he could make anything follow him when he liked, and how he piped so that all the rats ran after him, and he led them to the river and they were drowned? When he asked the mayor and chief men in the town to be paid for what he had done, they laughed, and said: 'No, now the rats are dead, you can't make them alive again; we have got what we wanted, and we won't pay you.' So the piper was very angry, and piped another tune, and all the children in the town followed him; and he led them on and on toward a great mountain, where a cave opened suddenly, and they all went in, and were never seen again. I think if that Pied Piper came to London he would find very many more different sorts of children than ever he found in Hamelin, where—
'Out came the children running: All the little boys and girls, With rosy checks and flaxen curls, And sparkling eyes, and teeth like pearls, Tripping and skipping ran merrily after The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.'
There would be London children whose eyes did not sparkle, and who had almost forgotten to laugh, as well as those like the children of Hamelin, who were so bright and so gay.
Now, we have seen something of the children who live in London, and it is time to try to think a little of what London itself is like. As I have said, the boys and girls who live there do not know very much about it; they only know their own little corner of it, because London is so big that it is almost impossible even for a grown-up person to know it quite well in every part. I have told you it is about seventeen miles long and twelve broad, but you cannot understand really how long that is; you can only get some little idea. This great town stretches on for mile after mile, houses and houses and streets and streets, with here and there a park, but even the park is surrounded by houses. Children who live in small towns can always get out into the country and see green trees and grass and hedges, but many of the children who live in London have never seen the country, and have no idea what it is like.
We heard in the last chapter just a little about this great town, how it is divided into three parts, that is to say, the West End, where the rich people live, and the City, where men go to work, and the East End, where the poor people live. Of course, it isn't quite so simple as that, because all the rich people don't live in the West End or all the poor people in the East. Some of the poor ones live in the West End, too, but roughly we may put it so, just to get some idea of the place.
Through this great London there rolls a great river, and there is scarcely any need to say what the name of that river is, for every child knows about the Thames. The great river cuts London into two parts, and on the south side of it there are many poor streets with poor people living in them, and close to the river is a palace, where the Archbishop of Canterbury lives. He is head of all the clergymen and all the bishops of the English Church. The palace has stood there for many hundreds of years, and it is curious to think that this important man, who has so much power, and who has the right to walk before all the dukes and earls when he goes to Parliament, lives there among the poor people on the south side of the river.
The City, where men have their offices and go to work, is really quite a small part of London, but it is very important. Here there is the Bank of England, where bank-notes are made, and where there is gold in great bars lying in the cellars. The Bank has streets all round its four sides, as if it were an island, and the streets were rivers, and inside, in the middle of the building, there is a yard, with trees in it and a garden. It does seem so funny to find a garden here amongst all the houses. If you went into the Bank to see it, you would meet a man wearing a funny cocked hat like those that men used to wear in old times; and if you showed him that you had leave to go all over the building, he would tell you where to go and be very civil. We shall hear more about the Bank later on.
Close to the Bank is the Mansion House, where the Lord Mayor lives. The Lord Mayor is a very grand person indeed. He is the head of the City, and a new Lord Mayor is chosen every year. There are other big buildings around near the Bank, and just here seven streets meet, and there is an open space. Now, if you were suddenly dropped down into that open space at, say, the middle of the day, you would most certainly be run over unless you stood close beside the very biggest policeman you could see, for every thing on wheels is coming in every direction—big motor-omnibuses, generally painted the most vivid scarlet, crammed with people inside and on the top; taxi-cabs with patient drivers, who would not jump if a gunpowder explosion went off under their noses; they have to keep good-tempered all day long, in spite of the tangle of traffic; immense lorries loaded with beer barrels; and little tiny carts with greengrocer's stuff, perhaps dragged by a dear little donkey, who looks as if he could run right under the bodies of the big dray-horses. And all these things are coming so fast and so close to one another, that it seems a miracle anyone can get through. Not long ago an underground passage with steps leading down to it was built, so that people can go under instead of over the street, which is, I think, a very good thing.
In the City there are a great many churches, nearly all built by one man, Sir Christopher Wren, a very clever man. But you will say, 'Why do people want churches in the City? Didn't you say that everyone went away to their own houses at night and on Sundays? Isn't the City, then, quite empty?'
Yes, that is true; on Sundays the City is empty, except for people who come down to walk round and look at it. But the churches are still there, and there are still services in them on Sundays, because long years ago good men left money to pay the clergymen, and no one has any right to use it for any other purpose; so the clergymen preach, and very few people are there to hear. It seems odd, doesn't it? But there are many things odd in this great, dear, smoky London of ours. There used to be many more churches in the City than there are now; at one time there were seventy churches or more all in this small space! There aren't so many now, but still there are a good many left.
If you went on beyond the City, further away from the West End, you would come to that miserable part where the poor people live, and in some parts here there are a great many foreigners, who come to England to get work, and who earn very little money, and are rough and rude, and all live together in one place. In some streets you would hardly hear English spoken at all. On Saturday nights here the streets are quite a sight, because the people have barrows or stalls by the sides of the road instead of shops, and when evening comes they light them up with flaming torches. And then they spread out all sorts of things for sale, and yell and shout for people to come and buy; and crowds of people do come, and the pavement is covered with people pushing and jostling to get things cheaply. On one stall you will see piles of fruit—cheap green grapes hanging in bunches, red apples, yellow oranges, and perhaps tomatoes; and on another stall nothing but raw meat, and here the women buy a little bit for their Sunday dinners; and on another stall there is nothing but yards and yards of white embroidery. It seems such a queer thing to sell there; but it is there: I have seen it, and the wonder is it does not get so black that no one could use it. Then another stall may have fish, and here all sorts of shell-fish will be lying in little saucers with a pinch of pepper and a spoonful of vinegar over them, and people take them up and eat them there and then. And all down the street the lights flare, until you would think they must set fire to everything, and the people at the stalls cry, 'Buy, buy, buy!' And perhaps in the midst of all this noise and confusion you might see a little baby, rolled up in a shawl, lying on the ground or in a box close to a stall.
If you went down to the river from the East End you would find many very wonderful things, but here hardly any London people from the West End go; it is so far that very few of the people who live in London have ever been there at all. The great river rolls on to the sea, and twice in every day and night the sea sends a strong tide flooding up to London, and the barges, bringing coal and straw and wood and many other things, use the tide to come up the river, for otherwise they must have a small steamboat to drag them. And by the side of the river there are great houses built right on the edge of the water, where all day long men work, either taking things out of steamers or putting other things into other steamers to go away to foreign countries. The river is covered with steamers and barges and boats, just as the streets are crowded with omnibuses and cabs and carts. Always men are working and bringing things to the great City and sending things out. If it were not so the City could not live at all, because the people must be fed and clothed, and they can't make everything they want or grow what they want to eat in London itself.
Down in this part of London there are huge docks, but I am quite sure you do not know what docks are. They are basins of water, like immense ponds or lakes, shut in on all sides except for one entrance from the river, and here ships can come in and lie snugly and safely without being pushed about by the tides, and they can be painted and mended and made fit to go to sea again. One of these docks on a fine afternoon in summer is a very beautiful sight; all the tall masts and funnels of the ships are mixed up together like a forest of trees, and the blue sky peeps through them and the blue water ripples round them. When you saw this sight you would understand a little what a wonderful city London is, and how she sends her ships out to all parts of the world.
One of the great sights on the river is the Tower Bridge. This is not the newest bridge, but it was built later than most of the others. It has two great towers rising one on each side, to the sky, and the bridge lies across low down between these towers. But when a big ship comes and wants to get up the river under the bridge, what is to be done? The bridge is not high enough! Well, what does happen is this, and I hope that every one of you will see it one day, for it is one of the grandest things in all London: a man rings a bell, and the cabs and carriages and carts and people who are on the bridge rush quickly across to the other side, and when the bridge is quite empty then the man in the tower touches some machinery, and slowly the great bridge, which is like a road, remember, rises up into the air in two pieces, just as you might lift your hands while the elbows rested on your knees without moving, and the beautiful ship passes underneath, and the bridge goes back again quite gently into its place. This bridge has been called the Gate of London, and it is a very good name, for it looks like a giant gate over the river. Close to it is the Tower, of which you must often have read in your history books—the grim Tower where so many people who were not wicked at all were imprisoned, and where some of them were beheaded because, in the time when they lived, there were no laws such as there are now safeguarding people's lives. The Tower will have a chapter to itself later on.
This is all I am going to tell you at present about the City and the East End, because it is quite impossible to tell everything. In the West End, too, there are many interesting things, and the most interesting of them must have chapters to themselves; for instance, the palaces belonging to the King, and the hospitals which are entirely for children. But there are other things which belong to the whole of London, and must be mentioned here. There is, for instance, the Embankment—rather a long word, but not a difficult one. It means the wall which was built for miles along beside the river to make a road and to prevent the river flooding right up to the houses. In old days, when people had their houses on the water's edge, when there came a high tide or a strong wind, the water washed up over them, and did a great deal of damage; so it was decided to build a strong wall beside the river, which the water, even in the highest tide, could not leap over. It was a wonderful piece of work. It is difficult to think of the number of cartloads of solid earth and stone that had to be put down into the water to make a firm foundation, and when that was done the wall had to be built on the top. But though the river had been banked up it could still make itself disagreeable. In 1928, driven by strong winds and high tides, after much rain, it flowed up over the Embankment in some places and broke through in others. It flooded many houses, and some people were drowned. The river also helps to cause fog; it seems as though it had gone to the smoke demon to find out what they could do to be spiteful, and they had agreed they could not do anything each by himself, but that together they could be very nasty. So every now and then the damp air which rises from the river, and the heavy smoke which comes out of the hundreds of chimneys, join together and make a thick black veil, and hang over London and come down into the streets so that people can't see where they are going, and when they breathe their noses and mouths are filled with nasty, dirty smuts. You who are London children know Mr. Fog-fiend very well. When you wake on a morning in November and find the room still dark, and are told it is time to get up when it looks like the middle of the night, then you know the fog has come; and he visits rich and poor alike. There is no keeping him in the East End.
With all her money and her cleverness London has never found out anything good enough to tempt Mr. Fog-fiend to go right away. No, he comes often, and stays, perhaps, for weeks together, and the eyes of children smart and their throats feel thick, and they find it so dull to do lessons by artificial light; and when the time comes for the daily walk they cannot go out, because they might get run over, not being able to see. And everything is very quiet, for the omnibuses and taxi-cabs have to go at a walking pace for fear they might run into something. And it is no wonder sometimes that children get cross and tired when they cannot see the sun, which may be shining brightly in the country all day long. Mr. Fog-fiend has many dresses; sometimes he puts on a white one instead of a black one, and that is not so bad, because it is quite light, but just as if soft white shawls were hung in front of your eyes so that you couldn't see. But it is even more dangerous to try to cross the road in a white fog than in a black one. It is like living inside a big white cloud. Then there is a yellow dress, which is the ugliest of all. It is like yellow smoke, and it gets into people's throats and makes them cough, and it steals into all the rooms so that even the lamp across the room looks quite dim; and the air is full of it, and you taste it in all your food. But it is lucky that there are not always fogs in London, or no one could live; they only come in the last months of the year or the very early ones, and in the summer London children do not see fogs any more than country children do, though perhaps the sun does not shine always quite so brightly in London as it does in the country.
Close to the river are the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, both very wonderful. I have not told you about Westminster yet, because I was afraid of confusing you with too many things at once, but you ought to know now. You can tell for yourselves which side of London it is on from the name—that is, if you are not very stupid. Yes, Westminster is on the west side of the City, but what is rather odd is that once Westminster and London were two separate places with long green fields and hedges lying between them, but the houses grew and grew until they met. Westminster is very proud, and though now she is mixed up with London, she says, 'I will be a city, too.' And so she is a city within London, but there is no difference that you could tell between the two; the houses run on just the same, and no one could find out, merely by looking, where Westminster begins.
Well, this is enough for one chapter, and in the next we will see some more things about this wonderful town of London, which can swallow a whole city like Westminster and allow her still to be a city, and yet not feel any indigestion!
THE KING'S PALACES
In the last chapter I said something about the King's palace. One of the first things that foreigners ask when they come to London is, 'Where does the King live?' and when they see his London house they are quite disappointed, because Buckingham Palace is not at all beautiful. It stands at one end of a park called St. James's Park, and it is a huge house, with straight rows of plain windows. In front there is a bare yard, with high railings round it, and beside the gate there are sentries on guard. The palace is large, but very ugly, and anyone seeing only the outside might wonder why the King of England, who is so rich, lived in such a dull house while he was in London. But Buckingham Palace is very magnificent inside, and if you saw it on a day when the ladies go to Court to be presented to the King and Queen, you would no longer think it dull. In the time of Queen Victoria, the ladies who wished to be presented, which means to be introduced to the Queen, had to go there in the daytime, and as they were obliged to wear evening dress and to have waving white feathers in their hair, and sometimes had to wait hours and hours before their turn came to kiss the Queen's hand, it cannot have been much pleasure to them, and they must have felt often very cross, especially when it was cold. But since the reign of King Edward VII., the Drawing-rooms, as they are called, when ladies are presented to their Sovereign, are in the evening, and Queen Mary has had garden parties where young girls are 'presented' too, in afternoon dress. It is not very interesting reading about descriptions of furniture, so I will only say that the great staircase in the palace is of white marble, and in the throne-room there is crimson satin and much gilt, and the walls of the rooms are hung with magnificent pictures, and everything is just like the palace that one reads about in fairy tales, to which the Prince took home the Princess when he had won her.
Before Buckingham Palace was built, the house which stood here belonged to a man called the Earl of Arlington, and in his time no one in England knew anything about tea. Beer was generally drunk at every meal—beer for breakfast, beer for dinner, beer for supper! But this Earl bought a pound of tea in Holland for sixty shillings, which was a great deal to give, for a pound of tea now costs about two shillings. And he brought it home to his house and made the tea there, so that it seems very likely that the first cup of tea ever drunk in England was made where Buckingham Palace now stands, and I expect there are very few people who know that.
At the side of Buckingham Palace there is a big garden with high side-walls. In this garden are held the royal garden parties attended by thousands in gorgeous raiment, including many Eastern potentates, as well as ambassadors, generals, admirals, and others in uniform. Marlborough House, which was used by Queen Alexandra, King George's mother, during her lifetime, afterwards became the home of the Prince of Wales. Both his father and grandfather, King George and King Edward, lived here when they were Prince of Wales.
St. James's Palace is just opposite. It is much more picturesque but not so convenient. With its rambling courtyards and turrets it really looks old. You shall hear about its history presently.
The Duke of York, the second son of the King, is married. It was a joy to the nation when he chose for himself Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, daughter of the Earl of Strathmore. Their baby daughter, Princess Elizabeth, has already won all hearts.
All the children in our Royal Family have been very carefully and properly brought up. The Queen is an excellent mother and has set an example to all mothers. Not only have they received a special education, including the fluent use of many foreign tongues, but they have been taught manners and self-control and unselfishness. It is not so easy to be a good prince as some of you might think. The Prince of Wales must often be bored by all the hand-shaking and set speeches he has to endure, but he must always look pleased, and remember that though he is sick of these things yet the people he is speaking to consider it the occasion of their lives.
The Prince's ready smile and pleasant nature have endeared him to thousands beyond the seas. And in his tours to India and the Dominions he has done more to bind together the British Empire than any statesman who ever lived. He and his next brother, the Duke of York, are much attached to one another. The Duke, who is still affectionately spoken of as Prince Albert, is of a serious turn of mind, and has already taken up philanthropic work for the hospitals and other institutions. Then comes Princess Mary, the only girl in this large family, and a great favourite, not only with her brothers, but with the whole nation. In 1922 she married Viscount Lascelles, and has two sturdy boys, Hubert and Gerald. That she and her next brother should marry thus into the noble families of Britain has drawn the ties between the nation and Royal Family closer than before.
Prince Henry, the third son, is in the army, and has proved himself a sportsman, excelling especially in polo and tent-pegging. He has chosen the army as his profession. Prince George is a sailor by profession, inheriting the love of the sea from the King.
There is a story told of the Prince of Wales as a very small boy, which shows that, as well as being full of fun, he can also be very thoughtful. The nurse who was looking after him said he must go to sleep and not talk any more, so he answered: 'Well, I'll just say one thing more, and then I'll go to sleep. You know, nurse, that if I live I shall one day be King of England.' Yes, the nurse knew that very well. 'Then,' said the Prince, 'when I'm King I shall do three things: first, I'll make a law that no one is to cut off the puppy dogs' tails; then I'll make a law that no one is to put bearing-reins on horses.' As he was silent, the nurse asked what was the last thing. 'Oh, that,' he said: 'I'm going to do away with all sin.'
St. James's Palace is a very old place, and really looks like a palace. It has high towers and a great clock, and is made of dark-red brick. It was first built by King Henry VIII., and very many of the kings and queens of England have lived there. If you guessed all day you would never guess what stood here before the palace, so I will tell you. There was a hospital for poor women who had leprosy. King Henry VIII. had bought a good deal of the park, and he thought he would like to have the hospital too, so he just took it. It was what he was in the habit of doing when he wanted anything. But our kings and queens never do that now. King Henry turned out the fourteen poor women who lived there, but some people say he gave them money to make up for taking their home from them, and we hope he did. Then he built St. James's Palace. When Cromwell had beheaded King Charles I., there were some exciting times at St. James's Palace. King Charles's children, the Duke of York and the Duke of Gloucester and the Princess Elizabeth, were kept in prison here, and at last the Duke of York borrowed some clothes from a woman, and got out of the palace and into the park. Then he managed to get to the river, and took a boat, and so went down the river and escaped abroad, and was safe from his enemies. Afterwards, when England found out what a mistake she had made, and how wicked she had been to kill her King, she called back her King's son Charles to be Charles II. The Duke of York was his younger brother, so when Charles II. died without leaving any children, the Duke of York, who had escaped from the palace dressed like a woman, became king as James II. The night before he was crowned he slept at St. James's Palace, and he must have thought of the difference between his position then and when he had had to run away in terror at night, a poor frightened boy.
St. James's Park, where Buckingham Palace, Marlborough House, and St. James's Palace stand, is very pretty. There is a great piece of water in it, and on this live many ducks and some other kinds of rare birds. During the war the water was partly drained off, though one end was left for the birds, on the other part were put up wooden offices for the clerks in government employ. Not far off you can see the permanent Government offices, where the men who have been appointed to do all the business of the country work. In the middle is the Horse Guards, where two magnificent soldiers on black horses are on guard. They have shining armour and helmets and waving white plumes, and look very splendid; but it must be rather dull for them sitting there on their horses for so many hours without moving until they are relieved by their comrades, who take it in their turn.
In one of these great buildings, called the Treasury, all the work about the money which England has to spend on her soldiers and sailors is done; and in another, called the Admiralty, all the rules for the life of the sailors are arranged, and there are many others.
A very long time ago, before anyone who is living now can remember, there was a garden in the corner of St. James's Park called Spring Gardens, and people used to go there to dance and enjoy themselves; here there were cows, and fashionable ladies used to get up early in the morning and go to drink the milk which had just been taken from the cows. At this place there was a spring of water, which used to start up from the ground if anyone walked over a particular piece of ground, and so pressed the grass with his foot. Sometimes a person did not know this, and would come walking quite gravely along and tread on that place, and a great stream of water would jump out of the ground all over him, and the other people would shout and laugh with amusement to see him so unexpectedly drenched. We would not like that much now—we should think it rather rude and unkind to laugh at such a thing; but people had rougher manners then. Now there are houses built nearly all over Spring Gardens. King Charles I., who had spent the night before he was murdered at St. James's Palace, walked this way when he went to be beheaded.
There is a walk in St. James's Park called the Mall, and this name comes from Pall Mall, which was the name of an old game Charles II. used to play here. It must have been rather a funny game, and no one plays it now. The players had long mallets, which were not quite like croquet mallets, but more like golf clubs, and they had a wooden ball about the size of a croquet ball, and they tried to hit the ball through a hoop high up in the air hanging from a pole. It must have been difficult and rather dangerous to have a ball as big as a croquet ball hopping about and jumping up in the air, but we do not read of any accidents happening.
Another palace in London, which is some way from the others and in another park, is Kensington Palace, and this is not now used by the King at all, but he allows some ladies and gentlemen to live there. This palace will always be of very great interest to all of us, because it was here that good Queen Victoria was born, and here she lived when she was a little girl. Do you remember my telling you about Kensington Gardens and the Round Pond, where Ethel and Jack went for their walk? Well, the palace is there, and I wonder how many children who run and play in the gardens every day ever think of the childhood of little Princess Victoria. You know, when she was quite a little girl, it was not known that she would be Queen of England, because there were other persons between her and the throne; but they died one by one, so that at last every one knew that Princess Victoria would one day be Queen of England. But no one ever guessed what a long and glorious reign she would have—longer than any other English Sovereign who has reigned; and not only longer, but better. Her uncle, King William, who reigned before her, was an old man, while she was still quite young, and he died very suddenly in the night; so the Archbishop of Canterbury and one of the most important Ministers of State rode off at once to Kensington Palace to tell Victoria that she was now Queen. They arrived about five in the morning, and, of course, everyone in the palace was asleep. So they knocked and rang and thumped, and at last they made the porter hear. But when they told him to tell the attendants they must see Princess Victoria, her maid was sent for, and she told them she had not the heart to wake the Princess, for she was in such a sweet sleep. So then they said: 'We have come to the QUEEN on business, and even her sleep must give way to that.' So the maid went away again and woke Princess Victoria. Fancy being awakened out of your sleep to be told that you were Queen of England! Victoria was told she must not keep the lords waiting, and so she threw a shawl round her nightdress and slipped her feet into slippers, and went through into another large room with all her long hair hanging down; and when they saw her those two great lords fell on their knees and kissed her hand. She was only eighteen then, and she had before her such a wonderful life. It is said that she had known for a little time before this that if anything happened to her uncle she would be Queen. So she was not quite unprepared, and when she had been warned of this, her first exclamation was; 'Oh, I will be good!' Which showed she was good, for I think most people would have been rather proud about it, and would not have thought just at that moment of being good.
Kensington Gardens is one end of a great park, and the other end is called Hyde Park, where the fashionable people drive in the afternoons. There are now many who prefer to drive in motor-cars, but there are a few who still use open carriages, with the fine horses tossing their heads proudly as they trot. It is a great pity to see that so many people will put the rein, called a bearing-rein, upon their horses. This forces the poor animal's head up high, and holds it there, until his neck aches; and he tries to get rid of it, and foams and chews his bit, and then the ladies and men who are driving think he looks splendid, and never mind that he is suffering pain. But to anyone who really loves a horse there is nothing beautiful in this, and the horse looks far more beautiful when he is free and holds his head high, or tosses it just because he likes to do so.
The flowers in Hyde Park are often lovely, and in summer when they are out, and form a background for the shining cars in which people wait for the Queen to pass, there is no grander sight to be seen anywhere. On Sundays, when it is fine, a great many fashionable people go to walk up and down in the Park after they have been to church, and then there are many smart dresses to be seen.
There is a great piece of water here called the Serpentine, because it curves round like a serpent, and anyone can hire a boat and go for a row, and sometimes the whole of the water is covered with boats. At other times in the winter, when the ice is safe, there are hundreds and hundreds of skaters to be seen. And in the mornings very early a good many men and boys go here to bathe, so that the poor old Serpentine gets well used; but perhaps he likes it, and it keeps him from feeling lonely.
During the Great War the open spaces of the Park were freely used for the drill and training of soldiers, and many people used to go to watch the fresh-faced young lads springing out of the trenches they had dug and prodding with their bayonets at stuffed swinging sacks representing the enemy. There is always something going on and something to see in Hyde Park.
TRAINS AND HORSES
London is so large that it takes a long time to get from one end to the other, and the men who go down to the City for their work and come back every day want means of getting about cheaply and quickly. So there are omnibuses and trains and cabs in numbers. But the trains in London do not run above ground—there would be no room for them in the crowded streets; so there are railways in the earth, deep down beneath all the houses, and on them there are trains that run round in a circle. Those of you who have frequently been by the Underground Railway think nothing of it; to you it seems quite natural, for you are used to it. But it really is a most astonishing piece of work, as you would realize if you saw it for the first time. Just imagine how long it must have taken to cut out and carry away all the masses of earth that had to be removed to make a tunnel of such a length—a tunnel which should run right round underneath London. The most wonderful thing is that the houses under which it ran did not fall down and break through into it. But that has never happened, for the men who built the tunnel made it very strong, and lined it with bricks. And all day long, while people are walking about in the streets and horses are trotting in the daylight, down below the trains in the underground are running, running in the dark. It cannot be a very pleasant life to be an engine-driver on this railway: it must be almost like the life of a pitman who works down in the depths of the earth; yet the men themselves seem quite happy. The worst part of the railway used to be that as there are not many places where the smoke and steam can get out into the air, they hung in the tunnels and made the air very thick and bad, and there was, consequently, nearly always a sort of fog down there, and it was unpleasant to breathe the thick air; but all this has been remedied now, for the trains are run by electricity instead of steam. There are other underground railways in London also run by electricity, and they go through different districts, so by means of one or the other people can get near to almost any street where they want to go to visit their friends or to shop. In these, the fares are on the same system as on other railways: you pay for your ticket according to the distance you wish to go; but in the first one you paid twopence for all distances alike—twopence if you wanted to go right from the West End to the City, and twopence all the same if you were going to get out at the next station. Therefore some people nicknamed this railway 'The Twopenny Tube.'
Now, besides these underground trains, which are not seen, there are many huge motor-omnibuses to convey people about the streets above ground. These omnibuses are painted in very bright colours—generally red—and the newest of all are made very conveniently so that the passengers inside can mostly sit facing the way they are going, as they do outside. You can go inside or out, and in summer it is a very good way of seeing London to go on the top of an omnibus and watch all that goes on in the streets below; in the old days the horse omnibuses were often stuffy inside, with no windows to open at all, and it is a wonder anyone could be found to go in them. When the motor-omnibuses are full they carry a great many people. Those of the latest pattern carry fifty-four passengers inside and out. There is now a regulation to make omnibuses stop only at certain fixed places which are shown by sign-boards with the numbers of the 'buses on them. This saves the constant stopping and starting again, which is trying for the driver, and wastes much time. People are often very inconsiderate about this; they never think of getting off if the omnibus stops just a little way before the place they are going to. I have seen a woman—I'm afraid women are the worst in this respect—wave her umbrella to the conductor of an omnibus that was going at a good pace, so the omnibus stopped, and the woman took quite a long time to go across the street to it; and when she reached it she asked if it were going to the place she wanted, and it was not, so all the stopping and waiting had been for nothing. The motor 'buses go very much faster than the old horse 'buses, and as they carry, also, many more people, altogether, as we have seen, they do more work in the way of conveyance altogether.
You can go a long way in an omnibus for a few pence, but taxi-cabs are much more expensive; they are also very comfortable—no stopping and waiting for other people then. You are carried swiftly and smoothly to your destination, unless you are held up by the traffic; and you always know just how much you will have to pay, as the little clock face beside the driver marks up the extra payment as the cab covers the ground.
The motor cabs in London are more comfortable than the hansoms were. But the old hansom was very good for seeing in the streets, as the driver was behind and not in front of you. The four-wheel horse cabs seem very slow to us now, but they carried more luggage than the taxi-cabs can. Some of us think that the old omnibuses and cabs were more interesting than the modern ones.
I will tell you a story an omnibus horse told me. His name is Billy, and he lives in the outskirts of London.
'Oh yes,' he says, 'it's a deal better than being a cab-horse, this is. They think themselves very grand, and turn up their noses at us. Why, yes, I've known a cab-horse that turned his nose up so high he could never get it down again into his nose-bag when he wanted to eat his dinner, and they had to have a special sort of nose-bag made for him. Fact! And all along of an old bus-horse a-speaking to him friendly-like as they stood side by side one day. Silly things! they're running all day long, and never know how far they'll have to go, while I just have my one journey a day, and then I go back to my stable. You ought to see that stable. I live up two stories high, and I walk upstairs to bed every night. What are you laughing at? It's true. There are three stories at our place, and for staircases to reach the top ones there are long sloping boards, like those you've seen put for chickens to get into a hen-house, with little boards across to make steps, only, of course, ours are a bit bigger than the chickens'. Why, yes, don't laugh; I could not walk up a chicken-ladder, could I? In our stable we stand in long rows, a row on each side, with our heels together in the middle, and heads to the walls, and between the two rows of heels there's just enough room for a man to pass. Kick? Why, no; only the bad uns do that, and when they've done it once Tom (that's our stableman) he puts a rope across their heels to keep 'em in, and to show people they must take care. There's plenty to eat, and we don't have a bad time at all. There's eleven of us belong to one omnibus; that's two each time for five journeys, and one over. Well, in the mornings I go out with old Sally perhaps, and we trot up to the City and back; it's a matter of about eight miles each way. We don't have to go fast, but it's stop, stop, stop whenever a silly old woman wants to get on and get off, and it's a pull starting again, I can tell you. We know when the conductor rings the bell that means to start, and off we go without the driver telling us, and when the conductor rings again that's to stop; it's easy learnt. At the other end, the City end, we have perhaps a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes, and then we come back. The whole thing doesn't take much over three hours, and we're done for that day; but our driver he has to go on again with another pair, and then another, and so five times there and back. It takes a long time that; but then, of course, he's only got to sit up on the bus, and he doesn't pull it, and every second day he is off for two journeys. Once in ten days we get a day off, a holiday, while the odd horse, number eleven, he takes the bus in the place of one of us. We have a doctor, too, to ourselves, and when we're ill we get medicine just as you do. Did you say that you had heard a bus-horse didn't live very long—that the work killed him? Well, maybe; it depends on the horse. There's a mare there fifteen years old, and quite good yet; but seven years does for most of us. What's that you're giving me? Sugar, did you say? I don't know about that—I'd rather not; but if you had an apple now, or a bit of bread, I'll eat it and welcome.'
You see, he was a common horse, this—not a gentleman, but a good-tempered, nice fellow, that wouldn't give his driver much trouble. But they're not all like that. Listen now to a cab-horse.
'Did you say you'd been talking to a bus-horse? Nasty low creatures, not fit to talk to! Now I can tell you all you want to know. Yes, I'm only a cab-horse now, it's true, but once I was in a gentleman's carriage—one of a pair, with a coachman and footman on the box, and my lady herself used to pat my nose and give me sugar. They were grand times then—that is, they seem grand when I think of them now—very little to do, and we were scrubbed and polished until our coats were like satin. In the afternoon we danced round the Park. Yes, I say danced, because there was a horrid thing called a bearing-rein that hurt us so much that we had to dance and throw out our legs, and people said it was splendid. It made me feel so angry that I didn't know what to do. But then I had a bad temper from the beginning, and it's my temper that has done for me. One day I wheeled round and leaped over the traces, and kicked the coachman hard. We were standing in the mews, and I dashed out and ran away, and the other horse fell down, and the carriage was smashed. Well, then I was sold, and—— But I'm not going to tell you about that. Yes, I know it's my own fault, and I know I shouldn't have been a cab-horse if I'd behaved; but I was wicked, and I used to bite, and now I've been whipped and beaten until I daren't do anything. Yes, even now I kick, and I hate my life and I hate my driver. He gives me sugar sometimes, too; but that's just because he doesn't want me to run away and dash him off his box, but I shall some day. I shall smash him up against a lamp-post just because I hate everyone. Oh, it's not a fine life, I can tell you. It's all very well when I stand here waiting; but perhaps just when I've got my nose into my bag and begun to eat I hear a sharp whistle twice, and that means someone wants a hansom, and my master whisks away my bag, jumps on to his box, and gives me a cut that makes me furious, and we go galloping round the streets to see where the whistle comes from. And when we find the right house, where someone is waiting, perhaps a man jumps in, and says: "To the station as fast as you can, and half a crown if you do it in a quarter of an hour." Well, of course, it's my master who gets the money, but it's I that have to earn it. So we tear off full speed, and other things get in the way, and I have to pull up suddenly, and the horrid curb-bit cuts my mouth till I could rear with the pain. Then off again, and at last, all hot and angry, we dash up to the station, and the man inside leaps out and throws up the money and runs off. Then my master strokes me down, and says: "Jenny, old girl, I'm sorry to fluster you so, but we must make a bit for the bairns at home, eh, old girl?" And he pats me, and I'd bite his hand if I could. As if I cared about his bairns! And so it goes on all day long, and at night I'm in a nasty stuffy stable with other horses coming and going, until it makes me wild. I'll be glad when it's all over, I can tell you; but I have heard it said that there are worse things than even my life.'
That horse, you see, was not good-tempered, and so even the kind cabman could not make her happy.
There are still many horses in London drawing carts of all kinds and vans, and even private carriages, but every year they become fewer.
CHILDREN AT SCHOOL
Of course all London children must go to school or be taught at home, just as all country children are. And there is nothing very interesting in the ordinary schools in London, for they are like those anywhere else. But there are some special schools which belong to London, even if they are not still actually there; one of these is the Duke of York's School for soldier-boys, which used to be at Chelsea, but has been moved into the country near Dover. Five hundred little boys, the sons of soldiers, who are nearly all going to be soldiers themselves, are here trained. They are dressed in a scarlet uniform in summer, just like soldiers, and in winter wear dark-blue uniform, and the school is like a barracks where real soldiers live. The boys come here as young as nine years old, and stay until they are fourteen or fifteen, and then if they like it they go into the real army, and are drummer-boys. To see them on Sunday is a pleasant sight. They have a chapel and a chaplain of their own; on Sunday mornings the boys meet together and march up and down like an army. They march beautifully, keeping step all the time, and wheeling round just as the men do, for they are carefully drilled. Then the band plays, for they have a capital band, and they all go to church. During the service the boys are very good and still as mice, because they are well trained. But it is not long. It is a bright, short service, with a sermon, quite short and simple, so that the boys can understand it. There are many hymns, and when it is over they go back for dinner. Dinner is very important, but before I tell you about that I will tell you what they get to eat for all their meals. They have cocoa in the mornings for breakfast and bread-and-jam or bread-and-butter, and they have the same again at tea-time. On extra days they get cake too. For dinner on Sundays in winter they have pork, with potatoes and apple-sauce. I don't know if you like apple-sauce, but the soldier boys do, and they think it is waste to eat it with pork; so they leave it until they have finished their meat, and then spread it on their bread and eat it separately. Afterwards there are plum-puddings, an ordinary big plum-pudding for every table, and at each table there are eight boys. Each boy who sits at the head of a table marches out and marches in again carrying a plum-pudding, which he sets down on his own table; then he takes a knife and cuts it neatly across and across, making four pieces; then he cuts it across and across again, and makes eight pieces, and he gives each boy a piece, and there is no more plum-pudding. It is a pretty big bit that, an eighth of a plum-pudding, but it all goes somewhere; and the boy who cuts it has to be very careful to see that he does it quite fairly, so that no one gets more than anyone else. I think the plum-pudding and the pork must be a good mixture, for you hardly ever see elsewhere such bright-looking faces as there are here.
There is a big playground, with plenty of room for games and sports, and there are long bedrooms, called dormitories, with rows of neat little beds. It is a good thing to think that these boys are growing up happy and good, and passing on into the army to be among England's brave soldiers. When it was decided to move this school into the country many people were very sorry, but all agreed it was better for the boys.
There is another school very like this one for sailor-boys, only that is not in London either, but a long way down the river, so there is not much use in describing it here. There are homes for soldiers' daughters and for sailors' daughters, too; there is nothing very different about them from an ordinary school.
Another school which belongs to London, though it too has now gone into the country, is the Foundling Hospital. It seems funny to call a school a hospital, but in old times the word 'hospital' did not mean, as it does now, a place for sick people, but any place where people were cared for and made comfortable. This is rather a sad school in some ways, for it is a home for the poor little children whose parents have deserted them or who have no parents; and the faces of the children are quite different from those of the boys in the Duke of York's School. The Foundling Hospital is a very large place indeed, and there are in it both boys and girls, who stay until they are old enough to earn their own living. The Hospital was begun many years ago by a kind captain of a ship, who had seen places like it when he went to foreign countries. He did not quite know how to begin, but he was sure there were many poor little neglected children in London who must need a home, so he gave money to some men and asked them to see about it for him; and these men put a notice in some papers, saying that any baby under two months old that was brought would be taken in and no questions asked. You would be astonished at the number of babies that were brought; it seemed quite impossible that so many mothers could want to give away their little children. And it was really like giving them away, for when the babies were taken into the hospital the mothers never came to see them; and if they did come to the school many years after and saw all the children running about, they could not tell which was their little boy or girl. Sometimes the nurses used to keep a locket or some little thing brought with a child, so that if ever it was wanted they could say which child belonged to which mother, but they never told anyone which was which. And many children had no locket or any other kind of token, and when they grew up they did not know who they were or who their mother and father had been. Many were just left at the door, and others were put into a big basket hung outside the door, and left there until someone inside the hospital heard them crying and came and took them in. And it was no wonder they cried, because sometimes the men or women who brought them stole all the clothes and left the poor little naked baby in the basket. Of course, these babies had no names, not even a surname, and the people at the Hospital used to make up names for them, and very funny some of them were; Richard No-More-Known was one little boy who died at five years old. Dorothy Butteriedore was another, because the little girl had been left beside a small door called a buttery-door, through which people used to pass food from the kitchen. We are told of Jane Friday-Street that she went to service aged six. Poor little Jane Friday-Street! She must have been too much of a baby to do any work; one would have thought she needed a nurse herself. The girl called Grace That-God-Sent-Us ought to have been a very good girl, and there was another Jane That-God-Sent-Us, too; and there was a boy called James Cinerius, because he was found on a cinder-heap.
After a good many years it was found that there were far too many children left at the Hospital, and they could not all be kept; and so the men who looked after the place made a rule that the mother must bring her child and tell all she could about it, and if she was very poor, and the father would not give her money or take care of her and the child, then the child was taken in and kept.
For a long time past babies who came to the hospital have been sent to the country, and now the older ones live in the country too. Then, when they are fourteen, the boys have to learn some trade to earn their living, or become soldiers, and the girls begin to work as little servants. The boys wear coats and trousers of a kind of chocolate colour with brass buttons and red waistcoats, and the girls' dresses are the same colour, and have trimmings of red. On Sundays the girls wear a high snowy-white cap and a large white collar, and they used to sit in the gallery of the chapel, the girls on one side of the organ and the boys on the other. It was one of the sights of London; many people used to go to the chapel on Sundays to see it.
After chapel the children march to their dining-rooms and walk in, and stand round the table and sing their grace before dinner. On Sundays they get mutton and potatoes and bread, and on some other days meat and potatoes, and on some days fish and pudding. For breakfast they have bread, with butter or dripping, and boiled milk, or cocoa, or porridge; for tea they get bread-and-butter and milk, and for supper bread, with cheese, butter, or jam.
It is a very good thing to think they are all being well taught and looked after and helped to turn into honest men and women, but it is very sad to think there are so many boys and girls whose parents don't want them, and will willingly give them away; and we can't help feeling that it can never be quite a happy place, for every child must feel that it is only one in a crowd of others, and that no one loves it especially.
In old times it was the fashion for good men and women to found schools for children where all the children had to wear a particular sort of dress, and some of these were called Blue-coat Schools, and some Green-coat, and some Gray-coat; but they are very different now, and the children don't wear the dress they used to. There is one very big school, which went from London into the country, called the Blue-coat School; this is just like any other school where big boys go, except that the boys never wear hats, and have bright yellow stockings and a long sort of skirt on to their coats, which must be very awkward for them when they want to play cricket or football. What do you think they do with it then? They just tuck the long skirt into their belts, and run about like that, and very funny it looks. They will find this dress even more awkward in the country than it was in London. The beautiful school buildings that were begun by King Edward VI., who was a clever and learned boy himself, and always tried to help other boys to learn, are now pulled down. This is a great pity, and it will be a greater pity still if the curious old dress is done away with and the boys dress just like all other boys. It must be very odd never to wear a hat, whether it rains or whether the sun shines; but I suppose the boys get used to that, and would feel uncomfortable in a hat. This school is called Christ's Hospital as well as the Blue-coat School, so, you see, here is another instance of the word 'hospital' being used to mean a school or home.
In old days the Blue-coat boys used to have a very hard time; their food was bad, and they did not get enough of it, and they ate it off wooden platters. There is a story told that the boys had a custom of never eating the fat of a particular sort of meat; they called it 'gags,' and though they might be very hungry they would never touch this fat. But one day they saw a boy go and gather up all the 'gags' that his companions had left, and take them away in his handkerchief. Very disgusting, wasn't it? The other boys thought so too, and they watched him to see if he went and ate them himself. But he did not; he slipped away when the others were not looking and went out into the town. So then they thought he went to sell them, and they were very angry, and would not speak to that boy or play with him, and left him alone; but still he used to get the 'gags' and carry them away. One day some other boys followed him, and what do you think they found? That he used to take the 'gags' to his own father and mother, who were very poor and almost beggars, and had nothing to eat. So the master praised him for being a good son, and not minding what the others said when he knew he could do something to help his poor parents.
In those days when a Blue-coat boy tried to run away he was shut up in a little dark cell like a prison cell, and had only bread and water given to him, and saw no one and spoke to no one, and twice a week he was taken out and flogged. It was no wonder the boys wanted to run away, for the place was very wretched, and in the great dining-hall there were swarms of rats that came out at night to pick up the crumbs, and the boys used to go and catch them for fun, not in traps, but in their hands. I don't think girls would ever have liked that game, and there must have been some nasty bites and scratches sometimes.
A very small boy was crying one day when he came back to the school after the holidays, and a master said to him: 'Boy, the school is your father; boy, the school is your mother; boy, the school is your brother, the school is your sister, your first cousin, your second cousin, and all the rest of your relations.' I don't suppose it made that boy feel any better. It is very different now, and the boys are very happy, and a great many clever men have been taught at that school, but in those early days it cannot have been very comfortable. But this is enough about the Blue-coat School.
In one school the boys play on the roof, because they have no playground. This is in the City, near the great big cathedral of St. Paul's, and there is no room for playgrounds there; the land is too valuable, and is wanted for houses and streets. The school is for the choir-boys of the cathedral, who sing more beautifully than any other boys in the world. And if you were walking past the school you might suddenly hear a lovely voice rising higher and higher and higher, like a skylark or a nightingale, and this would be one of the boys practising his notes. The school is large and the roof is flat, and all over the top and at the sides are high railings filled in with wire, so that the balls at cricket or football can't jump over the edge and come down on the heads of the people walking in the street below. That would be a surprise, wouldn't it? to have a great football drop out of the sky on to your head. It is a funny idea, playing up there among the chimneys and the roofs, and I don't think it can be very clean; I expect the boys have always to wash their hands before they put on their pure white surplices and go into the great solemn cathedral to sing. There is going to be a chapter in this book telling something about the cathedral of St. Paul's, so you will remember this about the choir-boys when you come to it.
There are seven millions of people in London. That does not give any idea of the real number, but if you were to begin now and count hard for three days and nights, you would not have counted a million then, even if you never stopped to eat or to sleep. Just think of it, that great crowd of people all wanting to be fed, and many of them wanting three good meals every day! If all the carts in the world were to be marching into London the whole time, you would think they could hardly bring food enough for this multitude of people. Yet somehow it is done, and it does not seem to be very difficult either. I think I hear someone saying, 'But there are the shops; people can go and buy there.' Yes, they can, of course, but where do the shopmen get their stuff from? Where does all the meat come from, and the fruit and the flowers and vegetables, and all the things that must be kept fresh? Where does the shopman buy them? The shopman gets them from the markets, and the markets get them from the country. There are many great markets, and to-day we will visit three of them—that where we can see the meat, and that where the flowers and vegetables are, and that where the fish are. The flower market is much the nicest, of course, so we will keep it for the last.
The fish market is down close by the river, just where you would expect it to be. If you want to see it you must not mind getting up very early, long before any cabs or omnibuses are about—in fact, it will be very difficult to get there at all unless you can bicycle or can walk a long way without being tired.
Early one Saturday morning, then, when the light is still dim, and we have the streets all to ourselves, we start. It is so quiet. Not even the milkman is about yet, and the blinds of the houses are all down. The whole of the inhabitants of London seem asleep except you and me. We go right down into the City by London Bridge, and then in a very narrow dark street we suddenly find a number of people and hear a great noise. All over the street there are barrows and carts, and people are shouting and pushing, and everyone is trying to get in and out of the market at once. The market, which is called Billingsgate, is a great big place like a barn, and when once we have pushed in among all the rough men and women there, we see a wonderful sight. You would think you were at the seaside from the smell, for there are great lumps of seaweed lying about among the fish on the slabs, and they bring the breath of the sea with them. Here is a crawling pile of black lobsters; they are alive, and they turn bright-red when they have been boiled. Poor lobsters! they can't think where they have got to, and they are stretching out their long whiskers and looking about with their great goggle eyes, and the man who wants to sell them is shouting, 'Come, buy! come, buy! fine fresh lobsters alive, alive, oh!' All the fishmongers in London must be here, you would think, there are so many; and they buy the fish in great quantities, not as we do in the shops by the weight, but by the number—so much for each fish, whether it is big or little. And then they sell them for more money than they gave for them to the people who want them for breakfast and dinner, and so they make their living. Salmon, the king of all the fish, is always sold by weight, though, even in this market. Look at the salmon—huge silver fish lying on the stalls, with their scales gleaming in the early light. When they are cut open their flesh is pink, and all the other fish have white flesh. King Salmon was taking a little exercise one day, dashing about in the salt sea or sailing up the river, perhaps, when he ran his great stupid head into a net, and the more he struggled the worse it was, and strong as he was—as strong as a fairly big dog—he could not break that net, and so he was hauled out and brought to shore, where he died. Or perhaps he saw something very attractive in the water, and made a rush at it, only to find a cruel hook firmly fixed in his mouth. He might dash away or lie quiet, but wherever he was he knew the hook was still there; and when he was tired with all his struggles, the fisherman at the other end of the line began to haul it in gradually, and poor old salmon was drawn nearer and nearer to the land, and at last picked out of the water with a landing-net. And now he lies at Billingsgate, waiting for someone to buy him and take him to a shop to sell him again to be eaten. All round there are many cries—indeed, a noise such as you never heard before. What you hear is something like this: 'Haddock and cod, come buy! Fine fresh fish, fresh cod, buy, buy! Here you are; couldn't buy any finer. All this lot for ten shillings! Look here! look here! Whiting and turbot! crabs crawling all alive, alive, oh! Shrimps do you want? Fine shrimps, the very best! Here you are, buy! buy!' and so on, everyone shouting out to make the fishmongers buy their fish. Perhaps a crab crawls too near the edge of his stall, and falls over with a crash, and the man who owns him picks him up and throws him back, and off jumps Master Crab again as quick as you please, and does just the same thing again. You would think he would not want to tumble down: it must hurt him, even through such a thick shell; but he thinks if he goes on long enough perhaps he'll find again those lovely rocks all soaked with the great sea tide, which somehow he seems to have lost. So he goes on scuttling about and tumbling down until someone picks him up and throws him into a bag with the rest, and he is carried off to the shop, where, poor crab! he will never have a chance of finding his dear rocks again or hearing the water rushing in over the seaweed.
He was perhaps lying under a great mass of seaweed in a deep pool, when a pole came walking along and poked into his side. He did not want it at all—in fact, he got quite angry with it, and shook himself free; but that pole only waggled about, and stuck into him again, and at last he seized it with his claws, and the more it shook, the tighter he held on, and he did not know that that was just what the man who was bending over the pool wanted. So the pole was pulled out with Master Crab sticking to it, and the man caught hold of him so neatly that he had not time to use his claws, and popped him into a bag, and he has never found the seaside since, and now he never will again. But perhaps he would not mind so much if he knew that Mrs. Crab did not miss him at all, for she went out to seek him when he did not come home, and she smelt a piece of dead fish, just the very thing she liked most of all. So she crawled up the side of the funny basket that was lying in the water, and found that the bit of dead fish was inside it. But that did not matter, for there was a hole at the top; so in popped Mrs. Crab, and there she had to stay, for she could not get out again. She tried and tried, but the hole was made with bits of stick pointed inwards, so that she could not get up to it from the inside. Many lobsters have been caught that way, and now Mrs. Crab was too; and when the men came in the evening to look at their baskets, they were quite pleased, for they found not only Mrs. Crab, but four of her friends whom she had invited inside because she felt lonely. So Mrs. Crab went to the market too, but it was not to the same market as her husband, and she did not meet him again. All those shrimps lying near were caught by boys with nets. The boys ran into the water with bare feet, and thrust their nets along the sandy bottom, and each time they came out they picked out the shrimps from the net and threw them into a pail, and only the very strongest managed to hop back on to the sand again; nearly all of them went to market.
But while we have been looking at these things the market has been getting emptier; and now there are only a few young lads left, who have little barrows and carts, and are called costers, and they are walking round the stalls and picking out what they will buy after the fishmongers have got all the best of the fish. It is time to go away, and soon Billingsgate will be nearly desolate. It is not a nice place, and if there were not some policemen near I should not like to have brought you here.
We cannot go to Covent Garden Market where the flowers are this morning, for it is nearly seven o'clock, and too late, as we ought to be there very early; but we can go to the meat market, which is not at all a pretty sight, and a long way off. But it is very wonderful. Here there is selling going on quite late, until about ten o'clock, perhaps, and even to the middle of the day the place is still busy. It is a huge place with a great glass roof, and there are rows of stalls with narrow passages like streets between them, and everywhere are great masses of raw meat. It is a city of meat; you walk down lanes of meat—meat everywhere. All the butchers in London come here to choose what they will buy, and from midnight onward all is bustle and business. Some of the meat comes to the market in vans, but the greater part comes by train. Right under the market there is a place scooped out in the earth like a cellar, and the railway lines run in under there, and then from the vans standing on the lines it is easy to lift the meat up into the market. Outside there is a great square, and in the early morning this square is filled with carts of every kind waiting to carry away the meat which the butchers buy. But all the meat does not come from England. A great deal of it comes from over the sea, from Australia and New Zealand, for England herself would never have enough to feed all her people. Close to the market at Smithfield there is another, where nothing but poultry is sold. Rows and rows of dead chickens go every day to fill all the shops—good chickens and bad chickens, the chickens that obeyed their mothers and the chickens that didn't; they come here just the same to supply the wants of the people of London.
The flower market is very pretty, and it is a treat to go there. If you were grown up and had been to a ball in London, you might see, when you were coming back in the early morning, a cart piled high with cabbages, and a sleepy-looking man sitting on the shafts, while a dim lantern hung beside him. This is one of the carts bringing in the vegetables that London wants for her dinner next day. London itself is like a great ogre—eating, always eating. You remember the story of the giant who used to be quiet so long as the people brought him enough to eat? And how all the people in the country used to work day and night to bring in cartloads of things, for fear if they allowed him to go hungry he would eat them instead? The giant could swallow up those cartloads as if they were spoonfuls. And so it is with London. Men work day and night bringing, always bringing, cartloads of meat and fruit and vegetables, and London swallows them all up; and next day there are more carts and more food from the country, and so it goes on always.
In the middle of the night, when most people are fast asleep, the man who wants to sell his flowers or vegetables at Covent Garden Market must be up and out. In the dim light he harnesses his horse and lights his lamp. Perhaps his faithful dog watches him, and runs about quite pleased to be going for a walk, even if it is in the middle of the night. Then the man starts off on his long, slow journey into London. Mile after mile over muddy or dusty roads, through villages where everyone is asleep, where not even a dog barks, on and on to London. It may be very cold, and the horse only goes slowly, so it cannot be very comfortable; but this is the man's work, and he must do it. Perhaps the cartman has a little boy, and takes him too, and you see the little boy, when the cart is coming back empty in the morning, lying sound asleep on the straw dead tired, while his father drives home.
All the carts gather up to the market, and then they are unloaded. One brings vegetables, and another fruit, and another flowers, and by two o'clock everything is in its place and ready to be sold. Then the buyers come—shop people again, greengrocers and fruiterers—and they look round and try to get the best they can at the lowest prices.
There is a great hall covered in with glass, and in this the flowers are arranged. It is lovely—like a huge flower-show. Of course, the flowers are different at different times of the year, but in the early summer you can see banks and banks of roses, all colours—red and yellow and white—and masses of sweet-scented carnations and lilies and heliotrope; and the smell is very sweet, so different from the market at Billingsgate. All the people here, except you and me, are busy people come to buy in order to sell again, and some of them don't look very rich. Do you see that girl there in the corner with a red shawl and a hat with huge untidy feathers all out of curl? She is a flower-girl, and she is going to spend two or three shillings on buying a basket of flowers. These she will do up into little bunches, and if she is lucky enough to sell them again she will make a few shillings before the evening. When she has chosen her flowers she goes away and sits down on a cold stone step, and begins pulling them about and blowing into the roses to make them open, and if you feel as I do you will not care to buy them then; you would much rather she left them just as they were and did not finger them. But she thinks people will be more likely to buy them if they are carefully arranged. When she has done she starts off to walk a long way to a stand where she goes every day, perhaps a place where two or three streets join and there is an open space. There is one in the West End, where there is an island of pavement between lines of traffic north and south, east and west; the flower-girls sit here all day. They don't seem to mind the rain or wet at all; they are quite used to it. They don't pay anything for being here; but they are very angry if another comes and takes their place, and the girl or woman to whom it belongs will perhaps fight the newcomer, and then the policeman has to come and separate them.
Some of these places where the flower-women sit are made quite beautiful by the baskets of flowers. In the spring, when the daffodils are out, it looks as if a patch of sunshine had fallen from the sky into the dark street. But all these flowers don't come from England. A great many are grown abroad, and sent to Covent Garden Market from over the sea.
At the market, when the cartman has finished arranging his vegetables, he goes to a coffee-stall. There are many there, and perhaps he gets a great cup of strong coffee and an immense hunch of bread or cake for breakfast, or perhaps he goes to the public-house at the corner; but at any rate, before he goes back, he has something to eat, and then he piles up his baskets, now empty, in which he brought the things and starts off home. One of the most surprising things at Covent Garden is the quantities of oranges that come there—boxes and boxes of oranges. These have been brought to England up the river in ships, and the men, with great cushions on their heads, carry them to the markets. The cushion is to make it soft and prevent the hard wood of the box hurting their heads, and they carry a huge boxful in this way more easily than you or I would carry a book.
Long years ago, when London consisted of only a few houses and Westminster of another few houses, this market, which is now in the middle of streets, was really a garden, and it belonged to a convent for nuns, and it is strange that it should be like a garden still with all its fruit and flowers, though now it is part of a great town.