Imágenes de páginas

landlord converted his orchard and stable-yard into the aforesaid row of tenements. The row consists of ten houses; of the inhabitants of each I shall give a short description, excepting only No. 3, which is occupied by myself, of whom I am not bound to say any thing: further particulars, if required, may be obtained of any of the neighbours : those who have lived longest in the row will know most about me, I having been one of the first tenants. I am not much in the habit of needlessly prying into my neighbours' affairs, but there are certain out-of-door symptoms, and statements of those who know the parties, which can scarcely fail to give an attentive observer some correct ideas of the character of the inhabitants; even the first puff of smoke that issues from the chimney in a morning, is a pretty sure indication to the neighbourhood whether industry or indolence lights the fire.





No. 1, is occupied by Mr. John Perkins, shoemaker. To begin with morning observations. The bed-room curtains are seldom undrawn till nearly eight o'clock in the morning. The curtains were, I believe, originally white, but are now of a dirty ash colour, and hang in slips, occasioned by their being exposed to the heat of the sun. Brown's, at No. 2, which were put up about the same time, look as white as ever, and nearly as

but then they are washed every spring, and drawn back every morning before six o'clock, when the sun has not got round to rot them: this may account for the difference. But to return to Mr. Perkins,—often after eight o'clock, a dirty little urchin issues forth to purchase a halfpenny fagot; if, perchance, he should loiter by the way, his mother

appears at the door, in her night cap, and with her

gown unpinned, to watch for his return : on his arrival, he is saluted with a cuff on the ear, which sets him roaring and sobbing. In a minute or two, the forgiving mother, having kindled her fire, calls to the young culprit, “Come, leave off crying, there's a good boy, and fetch me a kettle of water.” With a little soothing, he is induced to comply, and is afterwards engaged to blow the fire and make the water boil. Meanwhile four or five more children come tumbling down-stairs, one by one, scarcely half awake, with dirty faces and hands, and ragged clothes. The youngest is still left fretting in the cradle, as none of the elder ones seem inclined to take it up and attend to it. Presently, one is despatched for three pennyworth of hot rolls; and another for half a quartern of butter, half an ounce of coffee, and a quarter of a pound of sugar. One of these messengers generally returns with the unwelcome intelligence, that the people at the shop refuse to trust them till the old score is cleared off. He is then sent to the father’s master, to draw a shilling on account, the mother thus tutoring him: “Mind you say your daddy is poorly, and that we have not a bit of bread for breakfast; and if master asks why the shoes are not sent home, tell him he shall be sure to have them some time to-day: don't you say a word that your daddy was out yesterday."

The father, a haggard, pale-faced man, now makes his appearance at the door, his waistcoat unbuttoned, his shoes down at heel, and a pipe in his mouth. Thus he yawns away the time, till, after various delays, the breakfast is put on the table, it cannot be said arranged, for no respect whatever is paid to order, decency, or cleanliness.

Before the father takes his seat at the breakfast table, he snatches up the five farthings change from the borrowed shilling, and fumbling out a stray halfpenny from the corner of his pocket, slinks off to the Rose and Crown. On his return, his breath too plainly indicates what was his errand there. And now the little unwashed rabble crowd round the table, snatching at the rolls, picking at the butter and sugar, and upsetting the tea-cups, and getting sometimes a slap from the mother, an oath from the father, or into a scuffle among

themselves. Before the meal is finished, the clock strikes nine, and one or two of the bigger boys are driven off to school, with a lie in their mouths, to excuse themselves to their master for their late appearance. The girls are sometimes sent, or sometimes kept away, either to mind the baby, or because their frocks are not fit to be worn, or any other of the ready excuses that are always found in the mouths of slatternly mothers and negligent children. Those who remain are turned into the plot, miscalled a garden; or into the lane, to rout about in the dirt, like little pigs; while the mother, in her unswept room, and surrounded by the litter of breakfast, sits down to bind a pair or two of shoes, on the payment of which she depends for the family dinner. The husband perhaps sits down to work, or perhaps strolls out to the public-house : the former most frequently occurs towards the end of the week, when resources run low, or when the master has become, clamorous for the work in hand. The fire is usually suffered to burn out, and has to be lit again to boil the potatoes or the bit of bacon, often at the expense of another halfpenny fagot; or, perhaps, with a murmur at the hard times which prevent a poor family from having a bit of meat, the price of the shoe-binding is bartered at the chandler's shop for a loaf of new bread and a quartern of cheese. It is well if the labours of the afternoon furnish another meal of any kind; and at dusk the mother is seen leaning over the hatch, with her arms under her apron, her hair as blowsy, and her face as dirty, as ever, gossiping with any one who happens to go by, and occasionally scolding or humouring her children. The husband is at this time most likely taking his nightly carouse at the public-house, and the chil. dren wandering in the lane, or stirring up the mud of the kennel, or throwing stones at the passengers: when they can no longer see, they are driven, unwashed, to their unmade beds, and impure bed-chamber, for they scarcely ever take the trouble to open the window; and were it not that a breath of fresh air steals in, in spite of the rags and paper stuffed in the numerous broken panes, the family would be still more than they are the subjects of disease.

But it may be asked, Does the mother never clean herself, or her family, or her house ? Oh yes; Saturday evening commences what she calls her“ thorough rout.” Her first concern is, when her husband has received the remains of his wages, to waylay him, and obtain as much as she can, before he goes into the beer-shop, or public-house. The first purchases are, a quarter of a pound of soap, and a bit of firing. It need scarcely be observed, that the chandlers and take care to keep the soap moist in order to add to its weight, and that being used in this state, it melts away very soon. Some endeavours have been made to convince Mrs. Perkins of this and


« AnteriorContinuar »