Part 2 out of 2
no catechism--let him read a creed in our daily life. The
articles of faith strongest in his soul will be those which have
crystallized there from the combined action of truth and
experience, and not as it were been pasted on its walls by
ecclesiastical bill-posters. 'What is truth?' he must ask and
answer for himself, as we all must do before God. Don't mistake
me; I hope I am not more indifferent to religion than any here
present--but I differ from them on the best method of imbuing the
mind and heart with it. Surely we need not, we cannot--it would
be an exquisite absurdity--pass a resolution in this committee
that the child is to be a Calvinist! Who then would agree to
secure him from any taint of Arminian heresy in years to come?
Dare you even resolve that he shall be a Christian and a
Protestant! I would not insure the risk. But, with so many of
Christ's followers about me, surely, surely without providing any
ecclesiastical mechanism, there will be testified to him simply
how he may be saved. Your prayers, your visits, your kindly
moral influence and talk, your living example of a goodness
derived not from dogmas but from affectionate following of a holy
pattern and trust in revealed mercies, your pointing to that
pattern and showing the daily passage of these mercies will
prompt his search after the truth that has made you what you are.
Let some good woman do for him a mother's part, but choose her
for her general goodness and not for the dogmas of her church.
The simpler her piety the better for him I should say!"
This straightforward speech fell like a new apple of discord in
the midst of the committee. Angry knots were formed, and the
noble chairman found that he could not restore order. An
adjournment was agreed to. Luckily for the body of Ginx's Baby,
he had been meanwhile sent to a home where Protestant money
secured to him for the time good living, while his benefactors
were discussing what to do with his soul.
Surely, it were no impertinence to interrupt this history and
advert to the fact, that, in the discussion just related, every
one was to some extent right and to some extent agreed.
That religious teaching was due to an immortal spirit--some
notion and evidence of the Divine and the Great Hereafter to be
conveyed to it--scarce was disputed. Nor was there collision
over the necessity of what is called intellectual cultivation.
The boy must be taught something of the world in which he was to
live; nay, this latter knowledge seemed to be most immediately
practical. As each disputant fixed his eye on one or the other
aim that end appeared to him to be the most important. Hence, by
a natural lapse, they came to treat subjects as antagonistic
which were, in fact, parallel and quite consistent. The one
called the others godless--the others threw back the aspersion of
bigotry. Then came complication. What was "religion?"
Intellectual culture they could agree about--it embraced
well-known areas; but this religion divided itself into many
disputable fields. These brother Protestants were like country
neighbors who must encounter each other at fairs, markets, meets,
and balls, and smile and greet, though each, at heart, is looking
savagely at the other's landmarks, and most are very likely
fighting bitter lawsuits all the while. It was because religion
meant CREED to most members of the committee, and because it so
implies to the vast bodies they represented, that they could not
come to terms about Ginx's Baby or any other infantile immortal.
Not always, perhaps, but often, they fought for futile
distinctions. Had Mahomet's creed consisted of but one article,
There is one God, the blood of many nations might never have
given testimony against the creed they resented when to it he
tacked and Mahomet is His prophet. Could Protestants but consent
to agree in their agreement and peacefully differ in their petty
differences, how would the aggregated impulse of a simple faith
roll down before it all the impediments of error!
When Ginx's Baby had grown to a discretionary age, and was at all
able to know truth from error--supposing that to be
knowable--there were in the country fifty thousand reverend
gentlemen of every tincture of religious opinion who might ply
him with their various theories, yet few of these would be
contented unless they could seize him while his young nature was
plastic, and try to imprint on immortal clay the trade-mark of
some human invention.
XII.--No Funds--no Faith, no Works.
The Committee of the Protestant Detectoral Union on Ginx's Baby
held twenty-three meetings. They were then as far from unity of
purpose as when they set out. Variety was given to the meetings
by the changing combinations of members in attendance. The
finances were little heeded in the intensity of their zeal for
truth. These at length fell altogether into the hands of the
association's secretary, and we have seen involved large items of
expense. The twenty-three meetings extended over a year. At the
end of that time the secretary startled the committee by laying
on the table a demand for the board and keep of the Protestant
baby for three months, amounting to L 36; and adding that the sum
in hand was L 1, 4s. 4 1/2d. In his report he said: "No effort
has been spared by means of advertisements, pamphlets, tales,
leaders and paragraphs in newspapers and religious journals,
together with occasional sermons, to maintain the public interest
in this child; but attention has been diverted from him by the
great Roman Spozzi case, and the anxiety created throughout the
Protestant world by the recent discovery made by Dr. Gooddee, of
a solitary survivor of the ancient Church of the Vieuxbois
Protestants in a secluded valley of the Pyrenees."
The secretary asked the committee to provide the money to
discharge the baby's liabilities; but they instantly adjourned,
and no effort could afterwards get a quorum together. When the
persons who had charge of the Protestant foundling discovered the
state of affairs they began to dun the secretary and to neglect
the child, now about thirteen months old and preparing to walk.
Since no money appeared they sold whatever clothes had been
provided for him, and absconded from the place where they had
been farming him for Protestantism. The secretary, by chance
hearing of this, was discreet enough to make no inquiries.
Ginx's Baby, "as a Protestant question," vanished from the world.
I never heard that any one was asked what had been done with the
funds; but I have already furnished the account that ought to
have been rendered.
One night, near twelve o'clock, a shrewd tradesman, looking out
of his shopdoor before he turned into bed, heard a cry which
proceeded from a bundle on the pavement. This he discovered to
be an infant wrapt in a potato-sack. He was quick enough to
observe that it had been deftly laid over a line chiselled across
the pavement to the corner of his house, which line he knew to be
the boundary between his own parish of St. Simon Magus and the
adjacent parish of St. Bartimeus. He took note, being a business
man, of the exact position of the child's body in relation to
this line, and then conveyed it to the workhouse of the other
WHAT THE PARISH DID WITH HIM.
I.--Parochial Knots--to be untied without prejudice.
The infant borne to the workhouse of St. Bartimeus was Ginx's
Baby. When he had been placed on the floor of the matron's room,
and examined by the master, that official turned to the unwelcome
bearer of the burden.
"Did you find this child?"
"Lying opposite my shop in Nether Place."
"What's your name? "
"Oh! you're the cheesemonger. Your shop's on the other side of
the boundary, in the other parish. The child ought not to come
here; it doesn't belong to us."
"Yes it does: it wasn't on my side of the line."
"But it was in front of your house?"
"Well, the line runs crossways: it don't follow the child was in
"Oh, nonsense! there's no doubt about it! We can't take the
child in. You must carry it away again."
Mr. Snigger turned to leave the room.
"Wait a bit, sir," said Mr. Doll; "I shall leave the child here,
and you can do as you like with it. It ain't mine, at all
events. I say it lay in your parish; and if you don't look after
it you may be the worse of it. The coroner's sure to try to earn
his fees. Good-night."
He hurried from the room.
"Stop!" shouted the master, "I say: I don't accept the child.
You leave it here at your own risk. We keep it without
prejudice, remember-- without prejudice, sir!--without----"
Mr. Doll was in the street and out of hearing.
II.--A Board of Guardians.
The Guardians of St. Bartimeus met the day after Mr. Doll's
clever stratagem. Among other business was a report from the
master of the workhouse that a child, name unknown, found by Mr.
Doll, cheesemonger, of Nether Place, in the Parish of St. Simon
Magus, opposite his shop, and, as he alleged, on the nearer side
of the parish boundary, had been left at the workhouse, and was
now in the custody of the matron. The Guardians were not
accustomed to restrain themselves, and did not withhold the
expression of their indignation upon this announcement. As Mr.
Doll had himself been a guardian of St. Simon Magus, it was clear
to their impartial minds that he was trying by a trick to foist a
bastard--perhaps his own--on the wrong parish.
Mr. Cheekey, a licensed victualler, moved that the master's
report be put under the table.
Mr. Slinkum, draper, seconded the motion.
Mr. Edge, ironmonger, pointed out that there was no parliamentary
precedent for such a disposition of the report, and, further,
that such action did not dispose of the baby.
"Well," said Mr. Cheekey, turning painfully red, "no matter how
ye put it, I move to get rid of the brat. What's the best form
A churchwarden, who happened to be a gentleman, explained that
the Board could not dismiss the question in so summary a way.
"He could foresee that there might be a nice point of law in the
case. They would have to take some legal means of ascertaining
their liabilities, and of forcing the other parish to take the
child if they ought to do so. They must consult their
solicitor." This gentleman was sent for post haste. Meanwhile
the baby was ordered to be brought in for inspection. The matron
had handed him over to a sort of half-witted inmate of the house,
whose wits, however, were strangely about him at the wrong time,
to nurse and amuse him. This person brought Ginx's Baby into the
Board-room, and placed him on the table. The Board of Guardians
took a good look at him. He was not then in fair condition. He
was limp, he was dirty, hollow in the cheeks, white, stiff in his
limbs, and half-naked-- (to be regardless of gender)--
"Pallidula, rigida, nudula."
"Hum!" said Mr. Stink, who was a dog-breeder--"What's his
This brutal joke was well received by some of the Guardians.
"His pedigree," answered the half-wit, gravely, "goes back for
three hundred years. Parients unknown by name, but got by Misery
out o' Starvashun. The line began with Poverty out o' Laziness
in Queen Elizabeth's time. The breed has been a large 'un
wotever you thinks of the quality."
This pleasantry was less acceptable to the Board.
"Well," said Mr. Scoop, grocer, a great stickler for
parliamentary modes of procedure, "I move it be committed. "
"Committed! Where?" said Mr. Stink.
"To Newgate I s'pose," said the half-wit, his eyes twinkling.
"Nonsense, sir,--for consideration. Send that man out,"
exclaimed Scoop--"clear the room for consultation."
Davus was expelled, and the baby was then formally consigned to
the care of a committee. By this time the legal adviser came in.
The facts having been stated to him, he said:
"Gentlemen, as at present advised I am of opinion that the parish
in which the child was found is bound to maintain him. If Mr.
Doll (a highly respectable person, my own cheesemonger) found the
child beyond the boundaries of St. Simon Magus--and he will of
course swear that he did--you cannot refuse to take it in.
However, I had better ascertain the facts from Mr. Doll and take
the opinion of counsel. Meanwhile we must beware not to
compromise ourselves by admitting anything, or doing anything
equivalent to an admission. Let me see--Ah!--yes--a notice to be
served on the other parish repudiating the infant; another notice
to Mr. Doll to take it away, and that it remains here at his risk
and expense--you see, gentlemen, we could hardly venture to
return it to Mr. Doll; we should create an unhappy impression
in the minds of the public--"
"D--n the public!" said Mr. Stink.
"Quite so, my dear sir," said Mr. Phillpotts, smiling, "quite so,
but that is not a legal or in fact practicable mode of discarding
them; we must act with public opinion, I fear. Then, to resume,
thirdly and to be strictly safe, we must serve a notice on the
infant and all whom it may concern. I think I'll draft it at
In a few minutes the committee in charge pinned to the only
garment of Ginx's Baby a paper in the following form:--
PARISH OF ST. BARTIMEUS.
To ---- ---- (name unknown), a Foundling, and all other persons
interested in the said Foundling.
That you, or either of you, have no just or lawful claim to have
you or the said infant chargeable on the said Parish. And this
is to notify that you, the said infant, are retained in the
workhouse of the said Parish under protest, and that whatsoever
is or may be done or provided for you is at the proper charge of
you, and all such persons as are and were by law bound to
maintain and keep the same.
WINKLE & PHILLPOTTS,
Solicitors for the Board.
III.--"The World is my Parish."
When Mr. Phillpotts called upon Doll, the cheesemonger, the
latter straightway gave him the facts as they had occurred. He
pointed out the exact spot on which the bundle had lain; he gave
an estimate of the number of inches on each side of the line
occupied by it, and declared that the head and shoulders of the
infant lay in the parish of the solicitor's clients. Ginx's
Baby, under the title "Re a Foundling," was once more submitted
for the opinion of counsel. They advised the Board that as the
child was in both parishes when found, but had been taken up by a
ratepayer of St. Simon Magus, the latter parish was bound to
support him. Whereupon the Guardians of St. Bartimeus at their
next meeting resolved that the Vestry of the other parish should
have a written notice to remove the child, failing which
application should be made to the Queen's Bench for a mandamus to
compel them to do it.
On receiving the challenge the Guardians of St. Simon Magus also
took counsel's opinion. They were advised that as the greater
part, and especially the head of the infant, was when discovered
in the parish of St. Bartimeus, the latter was clearly
chargeable. Both parties then proceeded to swear affidavits.
The Attorney-General and Solicitor-General, the two great
law-officers of the crown, were retained on opposite sides, and
took fees--not for an Imperial prosecution, but as petty Queen's
Counsel in an inter-parochial squabble.
IV.--Without prejudice to any one but the Guardians.
The Court of Queen's Bench, after hearing an elaborate statement
from the Attorney-General, granted a rule nisi for a mandamus.
This rule was entered for argument in a paper called "The Special
Paper," and, the list being a heavy one, nearly a year elapsed
before it was reached. It was then again postponed several times
"for the convenience of counsel."
The Board of St. Bartimeus chafed under the law's delay. They
became morbidly sensitive to the incubus of Ginx's Baby,
especially as the press had been reviewing some of their recent
acts with great bitterness. The Guardians were defiant. Having
served their notices, they were induced by Mr. Stink to resolve
not to maintain the infant. The poor child was threatened with
dissolution. Thus, no doubt, many difficulties in parochial
administration are solved--the subject vanishes away. The baby
was kept provisionally in a room at the workhouse. On the
outside of the door was a notice in fair round-hand:--
Pending the legal inquiry into the facts concerning the above
infant, and a decision as to its settlement, all officials,
assistants, and servants of the workhouse are forbidden to enter
the room in which it is deposited, or to render it any service or
assistance, on pain of dismissal. No food is to be supplied to
it from the workhouse kitchen.
N.B. This is not intended to prevent persons other than
officials, &c., from having access to the infant, or assisting
BY ORDER OF THE BOARD.
That any body of human beings, other than Patagonians, could have
coolly contemplated such a result as must have followed upon the
strict performance of this order, would be incredible except in
the instance of the Guardians of St. Bartimeus. There was
nothing they could not do--or leave undone. Fortunately for
Ginx's Baby, the order was disobeyed. Occasionally lady visitors
went to look at him and give him some food--he was toddling about
the room on unsteady legs--but charity seemed to be appalled by
the official questions hanging about this child. The master,
Snigger, whose business it was every day to ascertain whether the
cause of the great parochial quarrel was in, or out of,
existence, became a traitor to the Board. When the child grew
hungry and dangerously thin, he brought bottles of pap prepared
by Mrs. Snigger, and administered it to him. No conclusions to
the disfavor of the Board were to be drawn from this conduct, for
Snigger was particular to say to the boy in a loud voice, each
time he fed him:--
"Now, youngster, this is without prejudice, remember! I give you
due notice--without prejudice."
Who, in Master Ginx's situation, would have had any prejudices to
such action, or have expressed them even if they were
entertained? He took no objection as he took the pap; while
Snigger was glad to be able to do an unusual kindness without
compromising the parish.
Thus things had gone on for many months, when one day an eye of
that Argus monster, the Public, was set upon Ginx's Baby. A
well-known nobleman, calling at the workhouse to see a little
girl whom he had saved from infamy, as he passed down a corridor
was arrested by the notice on the door of our hero's room.
Curiosity took him in, and horror chained him there for some
time. Had he not entered, Ginx's Baby, spite of Snigger, would
in twenty-four hours have ceased to supply facts to history. He
was suffering from low fever, and his condition was as
sensationally shocking as any reporter could have wished. Out
rushed the peer for a doctor, took a cab to a magistrate and
detailed the whole case, to be repeated in next morning's papers.
Penny-a-liners ran to the spot, wrote vivid descriptions of the
baby and the room, and transcribed the notice. The Guardians
were drubbed in trenchant leaders and indignant letters. They,
instead of bending to the storm, strove to confront it, and
passed angry resolutions of a childish and grotesque character.
The few of them who possessed any sense of propriety were railed
at in the meetings till they ceased to attend. The uproar
outside increased. Why did not the President of the Poor-Law
Board interfere? At last he did interfere: that is, instead of
visiting the scene himself, and satisfying his own eyes as to the
truth of what his ears had heard, a process that would have taken
a couple of hours, he appointed a gentleman to hold an inquiry.
The Guardians became furious. The reports of their proceedings
read like the vagaries of a lunatic asylum or the deliberations
of the American Senate. They discharged Snigger for breach of
orders, substituting a relative of Mr. Stink. They put a lock on
the door, and passed food to the Baby by a stick. A committee
was appointed to see him fed, and they forwarded a memorial to
the Poor-Law Board, stating that "he daily had more food than he
could possibly eat, and was in admirable condition." They
refused to allow any doctor but one employed by themselves to see
him. They procured from him a certificate that the noble
busybody and his physician had made a mistake, and that all the
functions of life in the infant appeared to be in perfect order.
Then came the gentleman, and the inquiry, and his report, and a
letter from the Poor-Law Board, and further discussions and more
letters, until the bewildered public gnashed its teeth at the
Minister, the Guardians, and the law, and wished them all at
Land's End or beyond it.
V.-An Ungodly Jungle.
The case of the Guardians of St. Bartimeus against the Guardians
of St. Simon Magus was at length reached. The argument lasted
for two days. There is a grim work, the short title whereof is
"Burns's Justice," in five fat volumes, from which the legal
Dryasdust turns aghast. In one of these portentous books, title
"Poor," pp. 1200, the inquisitive may find a code unrivalled by
the most malignant ingenuity of former or contemporary nations: a
code wherein, by gradual accretion, has been framed a system of
relief to poverty and distress so impolitic, so unprincipled,
that none but the driest, mustiest, most petrified parish
official could be expected to lift up his voice to defend it; so
complicated that no man under heaven knows its length or breadth
or height or depth; yet it stands to this hour a monument of
English stolidity--a marvel of lazy or ignorant statesmanship.
Imagine, if you please, a Lord Chief Justice and three Puisnes,
all keen, practical men, alive to public policy and the common
weal, eager to extricate the truth and do the right, plunging
into this "ungodly jungle," thwarted at every turn, in search of
justice for Ginx's Baby. With all his patient industry and
lightning quickness of apprehension, the Chief Justice found it
hard to reconcile past and present, or evolve from the vast
confusion anything consistent with his moral instincts.
--Clear the board, gentlemen. True regenerative legislation will
begin by drawing away the rubbish. Reform means more than
repair. Mend, patch, take down a little here, prop up some
tottering nuisance there, fill in gaping chinks with patent
legislative cement, coat old facades with bright paint, hide
decay beneath a gloze of novelty, titivate, decorate,
furbish--and after all your house is not a new one, but a whited
sepulchre shaking to decay. Repair? There is a Repair party,
intermediating between Tories and Reformers--Radicals or Rooters
let us call these latter if you like--who cling to "vested
interests" and all other sorts of antique nuisances, yet say they
are willing to improve them. REFORM, which means, Pull down with
bold statesman's hand, and with like hand REBUILD, is no darling
of your political Repairer. Call the party and the men by their
right names: and give me for utility in legislation or
administrative action an Old Tory and Obstructive party rather
than this middling, meddling, muddling Repairer--
"Eager to change yet fearful to destroy."
Just now all Social Reformation, in its noblest aims and
attempts, is fettered by the Repair party. What is termed
Sanitary Reform is enfeebled, and the vigor withdrawn from it, by
this party. "Vested rights," "the Liberty of the people,"
"Interference with personal freedom," "EXPENSE," --these are the
watchwords of the Repairer in opposition to him who, pointing to
the pallor and fever of a hundred neighborhoods, calls upon a
ministry to cleanse them with imperial force.
A comprehensive scheme of National Education is seized and
half-throttled by the Repair party. "Oh! utilize what there is;
improve on and tack to the denominational system; avail yourself
of the jealousy of sects; see what a grand building that has
already erected! True, it is not large enough; true, it is badly
built; but repair that, and add wings. It will cost you ever so
much to rebuild--Repair!"
The methods of relief to the Poor are old, cumbrous, unequal, as
stupid as those who administer them. Forth steps the Reformer,
and cries out--"Clear this wrack away! Get rid of your
antiquated Bumbledom, your parochial and non-parochial
distinctions, your complicated map of local authorities;
re-distribute the kingdom on some more practical system, redress
the injustice of unequal rating, improve the machinery and spirit
of relief, and so on." You have the Repair party shouting its
Non possumus as loudly as any other arch-obstructive: "Heaven
forbid! Queen Elizabeth and the Poor Laws for ever! To the
rescue of Local Government and Vested Interests! Repair!"
Some one with a long head and a divinely-warmed heart, searching
vainly for help to thousands in the packed alleys of his English
Home, sends his quick glance across seas to rich lands that daily
cry to heaven for strong arms that wield the plough and spade.
"Ho!" he shouts, "Labor to Land--starvation to production--death
unto life!" and he calls upon every statesman and patriot to help
the good work, and give their energies to frame an Emigration
Scheme. Then the Repair party foams: "Send away the Labor, the
source of our wealth? No. Mend the condition of the laborer;
give him the sop of political rights--free breakfasts--the
ballot. Give State funds to alter social conditions? No.
Improve the methods of local assistance to Emigration; it is a
Thus, according to the gospel of this party, everything must be
subject of restoration only. Like antiquarians, they utter
groans over the abolition of anything, however ugly it may be,
however unfitted for human uses, and with however so elegant a
piece of artistry you desire to displace it. For them a
Gilbert-Scott politician, reverential restorer of bygone styles,
enthusiastic to conserve and amend the grotesque Gothic policies
of the past, rather than some Brunel or Stephenson statesman,
engineering in novel mastery of circumstances--not fearful to
face and conquer even the antique impediments of Nature. Give me
a trenchant statesman, or I pray you leave legislation alone.
Better things as they are than patched to distraction.
At length, by means of some delicate legal adjustments, the
judges saw their way to affirming that Ginx's Baby's parish was
that of St. Bartimeus, and refused the rule for a mandamus.
VI.--Parochial Benevolence--and another translation.
The authorities of St. Bartimeus did not take kindly to the
charge imposed upon them by the Queen's Bench. Some of the
Guardians privately hinted to the master that it was unnecessary
to overfeed the infant. They did not burthen him with much
clothing, and what he had was shared with many lively companions.
When you, good matron, look at your little pink-cheeked daughter,
so clean and so cosy in her pretty cot, waking to see the
well-faced nurse, or you, still sweeter to her eyes, watching
above her dreams, perhaps you ought to stop a moment to contrast
the scene with the sad tableaux you may get sight of not far
* * *
Ginx's Baby was not an ill-favored child. He had inherited his
father's frame and strength: these helped him through the changes
we are relating. What if these capacities had, by simple
nourishing food, cleanly care-taking, and brighter, kindlier
associations, been trained into full working order? Left alone
or ill-tended they were daily dwindling, and the depreciation was
going on not solely at the expense of little Ginx, but of the
whole community. To reduce his strength one-half was to reduce
one-half his chances of independence, and to multiply the
prospects of his continuous application for STATE AID.
The money spent in stopping a hole in a Dutch dyke is doubtless
better invested than if it were to be retained until a vast
breach had laid half a kingdom under water. Surely your
Hollander would agree to be mulcted in one-third of his fortune
rather than run the hazard!
Every day through this wealthy country there are men and women
busy marring the little images of God, that are by-and-by to be
part of its public-shadowing young spirits, repressing their
energy, sapping their vigor or failing to make it up, corrupting
their nature by foul associations, moral and physical. Some are
doing it by special license of the devil, others by Act of
Parliament, others by negligence or niggardliness. Could you
teach or force these people--many unconsciously engaged in the
vile work--to run together, as men alarmed by sudden danger, and
throw around a helpless generation influences and a care more
akin to your own home ideal, would you not transfigure the next
epoch--would not your labor and sacrifice be a GOD-WORK, reaching
out weighty, fruit-laden branches far into the grateful future?
'Tis by feeling and enjoining everywhere the need of such a
movement as this that you, O all-powerful woman! can carry your
will into the play of a great economic and social reform.
Society that recognizes not a root-truth like that is sowing the
wind--God knows what it will reap.
So the Guardians, keeping carefully within the law, neglected
nothing that could sap little Ginx's vitality, deaden his
happiest instincts, derange moral action, cause hope to die
within his infant breast almost as soon as it were born. Good
The items the Board were really entitled to charge the
rate-payers as supplied to our hero were--
Chances of catching skin diseases, fevers, &c.,
Occasional cruelty, and
A small supply of bad food and clothing.
Every pauper was to them an obnoxious charge by any and every
means to be reduced to a minimum or nil. Ginx's Baby was reduced
to a minimum. His constitution enabled him to protest against
reduction to nil. But, just after the bills of costs had been
taxed, mulcting the rate-payers of St. Bartimeus in a sum of more
than L 1,600, the Guardians were made aware of the name and
origin of their charge. One of the persons who had deserted him
was arrested for theft, and among other articles in her
possession were some of the Baby's clothes. She confessed the
whole story, and declared that the child left in Nether Place was
no other than the Protestant Baby, son of Ginx, about whom so
much stir had been made two years before. The Guardians were not
long in tracing Ginx, and, at his quarters in Rosemary Street,
the hapless changeling was one day delivered by a deputy
relieving-officer, with the benediction, by me sadly recorded--
"There he is, d--n him!"
I am sure if the Guardians had been there they would have said:
WHAT THE CLUBS AND POLITICIANS DID WITH HIM.
Ginx's Baby's brothers and sisters would have nothing to say to
him. Mrs. Ginx declared she could see in him no likeness to her
own dear lost one; and her husband swore that the brat never was
his. The couple had latterly been pinching themselves and their
children to save enough to emigrate. For this purpose aid and
counsel were given to them by a neighboring curate, whose name,
were my pages destined to immortality, should be printed here in
golden letters. Rich and full will be his sheaves when many a
statesman reaps tares. Finding that a thirteenth child was
imposed on them by so superior a force as the law of England the
Ginxes hastened their departure.
Their last night in London, towards the small hours, Ginx,
carrying our hero, went along Birdcage Walk. He scarcely knew
where he was going, or how he was about to dispose of his burden,
but he meant to get rid of it. On he went, here and there met by
shadowy creatures who came towards his footsteps in the uncertain
darkness, and when they could see that he was no quarry for them
flitted away again into the night.
He passed the dingy houses, since replaced by the Foreign Office,
across the open space before the Horse Guards, near the house of
a popular Prime Minister, and up the broad steps till he stood
under the York Column. The shadow of this was an inviting place,
but a policeman turning his lantern suspiciously on the man
walking about at that silent hour with a child in his arms
frustrated his wish. Slowly Ginx tramped along Pall Mall, with
only one other creature stirring, as it seemed for the moment--a
gentleman who turned up the steps of a large building. Seating
the child on the bottom step and telling him not to cry, Ginx
instantly crossed the road, turned into St. James's Square,
passed by the rails, and stealing from corner to corner through
the mazes of that locality, reached home by way of Piccadilly and
Grosvenor Place. Henceforth this history shall know him no more.
Scarcely had the shadow of his parent vanished in the gloom
before Ginx's Baby piped forth a lusty protest: the street rang
again. Ere long the doors at the top of the steps swung back,
and a portly form stood in the light.
"Halloo! what's the matter?" (This was a general observation into
space.) "Why, bless my heart, here's a child crying on the
Another form appeared.
"Is there nobody with it? Halloo! any one there?"
No answer came save from poor little Ginx, but his was decided.
The two servants descended the steps and looked at the miserable
boy without touching him. Then they peered into the darkness in
hope that they might get a glimpse of his mother or a policeman.
A rapid step sounded on the pavement and a gentleman came up to
"What have we here?" he said gently.
"It's a child, Sir Charles, I found crying on the steps. I
expect it's a trick to get rid of him. We are looking for a
policeman to take him away."
"Poor little fellow," said Sir Charles, stooping to take a fair
look at Ginx's Baby, "for you and such as you the policeman or
the parish officers are the national guardians, and the prison or
the poor-house the home. . . . . Bring him into the Club,
The men hesitated a moment before executing so unwonted a demand,
but Sir Charles Sterling was a man not safely to be thwarted--a
late minister and a member of the committee. The child being
carried into the magnificent hall of the Club, stood on its
mosaic floor. From above the radiance of the gas "sunlight"
streamed down over the marble pillars, and glanced on gilded
cornices and panels of scagliola. A statue of the Queen looked
upon him from the niche that opened to the dining-room; another
of the great Puritan soldier, statesman, and ruler, with his
stern massive front; and yet another, with the strong yet gentle
features of the champion Free-Trader, seemed to regard him from
their several corners. On the walls around were portraits of men
who had striven for the deliverance of the people from ancient
yokes and fetters. Of course Ginx's Baby did not see all this.
He, poor boy, dazed, stood with a knuckle in his eye, while the
porter, lackeys, Sir Charles Sterling, and others who strolled
out of the reading-room, curiously regarded him. But any one
observing the scene apart might have contrasted the place with
the child--the principles and the professions whereof this
grandeur was the monument and consecrated tabernacle, with this
solitary atomic specimen of the material whereon they were to
work. What social utility had resulted from the great movements
initiated by them who erected and frequented this place? Ought
they to have had, and did they still need a complement? While
wonderful political changes had been wrought, and benefits not to
be exaggerated won for many classes, WHAT HAD BEEN DONE FOR
The query would not have been very ridiculous. He was an unit of
the British Empire--nothing could blot out that fact before
heaven! Had anything been left undone that ought to have been
done, or done that had well been left undone, or were better to
be undone now? Of a truth that was worth a thought.
"What's all this?" said a big Member of Parliament, a minister
renowned for economy in matters financial and intellectual.
"What are you doing with this youngster? I never saw such an
irregularity in a Club in my life."
"If you saw it oftener you would think more about it," said Sir
Charles Sterling. "We found him on the steps. I think he was
asking for you, Glibton."
This sally turned a laugh against the minister.
"Well," said another, "he has come to the wrong quarter if he
"I shouldn't wonder," said a third, "if he were one of the new
messengers at the Office of Popular Edifices. Glibton is
reducing their staff."
"If that's the case I think you have reached the minimum here,
Glibton," cried Sir Charles.
"Can't the country afford a livery?"
"Bother you all," replied the Secretary, who was secretly pleased
to be quizzed for his peculiarities--"tell us what this means.
Whose 'lark' is it?"
"No lark at all," said Sterling. "Here is a problem for you and
all of us to solve. This forlorn object is representative, and
stands here to-night preaching us a serious sermon. He was
deserted on the Club steps --left there, perhaps, as a piece of
clever irony; he might be son to some of us. What's your name,
Ginx's Baby managed to say "Dunno!"
"Ask him if he has any name?" said an Irish ex-member, with a
Ginx's Baby to this question responded distinctly "No."
"No name," said the humorist; "then the author of his being must
be Wilkie Collins."
Everybody laughed at this indifferent pleasantry but our hero.
His bosom began to heave ominously.
"What's to be done with him?"
"Send him to the workhouse."
"Send him to the d----" (there may be brutality among the gods
"Give him to the porter."
"No thank you, sir," said he, promptly.
The gentlemen were turning away, when Sir Charles stopped them.
"Look here!" he said, taking the boy's arm and baring it, "this
boy can hardly be called a human being. See what a thin arm he
has--how flaccid and colorless the flesh seems--what an old
face!--and I can scarcely feel any pulse. Good heavens, get him
some wine! A few hours will send him to the d---- sure enough. .
. . . What are we to do for him, Glibton? I say again, he is
only part of a great problem. There must be hundreds of
thousands growing up like this child; and what a generation to
contemplate in all its relations and effects!"
The gentlemen were dashed by his earnestness.
"Oh, you're exaggerating," said Glibton; "there can't be such
widespread misery. Why, if there were, the people would be
wrecking our houses."
"Ah!" replied the other, sadly, "will you wait to be convinced by
that sort of thing before you believe in their misery? I assure
you what I say is true. I could bring you a hundred clergymen to
testify to it to-morrow morning."
"God forbid!" said Glibton. "Good-night."
The right honorable gentleman extinguished the subject in his own
little brain with his big hat; but everywhere else the sparks are
still aglow, and he, with all like him, may wake up suddenly, as
frightened women in the night; to find themselves environed in
the red glare of a popular conflagration. Well for them then if
they are not in charge of the State machinery. What an hour will
that be for hurrying to and fro with water-pipes and buckets,
when proper forethought, diligence, and sacrifice would have made
the building fireproof.
III.--A thorough-paced Reformer--if not a Revolutionary.
By the kindness and influence of Sir Charles Sterling, Ginx's
Baby that night, and long after, found shelter in the Radical
Club. He gave rise to a discussion in the smoking-room next
evening that ought to be chronicled. Several members of the
committee supported his benefactor in urging that the child
should be adopted by the Club, as a pledge of their resolve to
make the questions of which he seemed to be the embodied emblem
subjects of legislative action. Others said that those questions
being, in their view, social and not political, were not proper
ones to give impulse to a party movement, and that the
entertainment in the Club of this foundling would be a gross
irregularity: they did not want samples of the material
respecting which they were theorizing. To some of the latter Sir
Charles had been insisting that, whether they kept the child or
not, they could not stifle the questions excited by his
"You may delay, but you cannot dissipate them. We are filling up
our sessions with party struggles, theoretic discussions,
squabbles about foreign politics, debates on political machinery,
while year by year the condition of the people is becoming more
invidious and full of peril. Social and political reform ought
to be linked; the people on whom you confer new political rights
cannot enjoy them without health and well-being."
"But all our legislation is directed to that!" exclaimed Mr.
Joshua Hale. "Reform, Free Trade, Free Corn--have these not
enhanced the wealth of the people?"
"Partially; yet there are classes unregenerated by their reviving
influences. Free trade cannot insure work, nor can free corn
provide food for every citizen."
"Nor any other legislation: let us be practical. I own there is
much to be done. I have often stated my 'platform.' We must
clip the enormous expenditure on soldiers and ships; reduce our
overweening army of diplomatic spies and busybodies; abstain from
meddling in everybody's quarrels; redeem from taxation the
workman's necessaries--a free breakfast-table; peremptorily
legislate against the custom of primogeniture; encourage the
distribution and transfer of land; and, under the aegis of the
ballot, protect from the tyranny of the landlord and employer
their tenants and workmen."
"Very good, perhaps, all of them," replied Sir Charles, "but some
not at the moment possible, and all together are not exhaustive.
Why do you not go to the bottom of social needs? You say nothing
about Health legislation--are you indifferent to the sanitary
condition of the people? You have not hinted at Education--Waste
"Oh! I am opposed to that altogether."
"I forgot, you are a manufacturer; yet the last man of whom I
should believe that selfishness had warped the judgment. You
have done and endured more than any living statesman for the
advantage of your fellow- citizens, so that I will not cast at
you the aspersion of class-blindness. Still, I can scarcely
think you have looked at this matter in the pure light of
patriotism, and not within the narrow scope of trade interests."
"Quite unjust. Our best economists reprehend the policy of
depleting our labor-market. Emigration is a timely remedy for
adversity and to be very sparingly used. Labor is our richest
"We may have too much of it. Take it as a fact that you now have
more than you can use, and the unemployed part is starving; what
will you do with them?"
"That is a mere temporary and casual depression, to which all
classes are liable."
"But," said Sir Charles, "which none can so ill bear. Nay--what
if it is permanent? You look to increased trade. Do you suppose
we are to retain our manufacturing pre-eminence when every
country, new and old, is competing with us? Can our trade, I ask
you honestly to consider, increase at the rate of our population?
Besides, for heaven's sake, look at the thing as a man. Grant
that we have a hundred thousand men out of work, and hundreds of
thousands more dependent on them--do you think it no small thing
that the vast mass should be left for one, two, three years
seething in sorrow and distress, while they are waiting for
trade! By the time that comes they may have gone beyond the hope
of rescue. Ah! if an elastic trade comes back to-morrow, you can
never make those people what they were; ought we not to have
forecast that they should not be what they are? But I contend
that depression has become chronic, the poverty more wide-spread
and persistent--how then shall we, who represent these classes
among the rest, face the prospect?"
Here interposed a gentleman high in office, a pure, keen, rigid
economist of the highest intellectual and political rank.
"My dear Sterling, pardon me if I say you are talking wildly.
Perhaps you don't see that you are verging on rank communism.
The working of economic laws can be as infallibly projected as a
solar eclipse. You can secure no class from periodic calamity,
and so regulate laws of supply and demand by guiding-wheels of
legislation and taxation as to save every man from penury. You
wish us to send away our bone and sinew because we have no
present employment for it, and next year, or the year after,
under a recovered trade you will be wringing your hands and
cursing the folly that prompted you to do it."
"I should be too glad of the opportunity," replied Sir Charles,
sturdily, "but in truth there is an incubus of excessive numbers
that no revival of trade will provide for, even if it is beyond
our extremest hopes, and I for one will not be guilty of the
inhumanity of keeping fellow-creatures in misery till we can find
a use for them. You have forgotten that there are other economic
laws besides those you glance at. Several millions of acres of
unoccupied land belonging in a sense to the people of this
country are to be kept untilled in defiance of the plainest
policy that nature and God have indicated to us, namely, that
labor should come in contact with land! For want of this
conjunction our colonies are to be checked, while at home
miserable millions are gaping for work and food."
"Oh! let them take themselves out. There are too many going
already. They will follow natural laws, and where labor is
required thither the stream will flow."
"Mere surface talk, my clever friend," replied the other, "the
men who are trooping out at their own expense are our most sober,
careful, and energetic workmen. Else they could not go. They go
because here so many indifferent ones are weighing down their
shoulders. And where do most of them go to? Not to strengthen
and develop our colonies, but the United States--a not always
friendly people, and just now your free-trader's bugbear!"
"Well, well," said the minister, "drop that question. It's
utterly impracticable at this time. We couldn't entertain the
demand for State-help for an instant. I tell you again you're a
Fourierite. You virtually propose to put your hand in the pocket
of the upper classes to pay all sorts of expenses for the lower."
"You may call me a communist if you please," replied Sir Charles
Sterling; "I do not shrink from shadows. Perhaps I am in favor
of something nearer to communism than our present form of
society. One thing I am clear about: no state of society is
healthy wherein every man does not own himself to be the guardian
of the interests of the community as well as his own--does not
see that he is bound, morally and as a matter of public policy,
to add to his neighbor's well-being as well as his own. Does not
society, by its protection and aggregation, make it possible for
the rich to grow rich, the genius and the ambitious man to pursue
their aims, the merchant to gather his vails, the noble to enjoy
his lands? For these privileges there is more or less to pay,
and it may be that the proper proportion which the capable
classes should be called upon to contribute to the common weal
has never been correctly adjusted. The first fruit of practical
Christianity was community of goods, and but for human
selfishness we might hope for an Eutopian era--when, while it
should be ruled that if a man would not work neither should he
eat, there should also be brought home to every man the care of
his poorer, or weaker, or less competent brother. I never expect
to see that. I do hope to see the men of greatest ability pay
more generously for the privileges they enjoy. The best policy
for them too. The better the condition of the general community
the better for themselves. You cannot alarm me with epithets.
But these views are happily not essential to the support of the
"O dear! O dear! mad as a March hare!" cried the minister, as he
stumped from the room.
"Sterling is a good fellow," said he to a colleague with whom he
walked down Pall Mall, "and a thorough-paced Liberal. Besides,
he carries great weight in the House. But he is an enthusiast,
and, therefore, not always quite practical."
By PRACTICAL the minister meant, not that which might well and to
advantage be done if good and able men would resolve to do it,
spite of all hindrances, but that which, upon a cunning review of
party balances and a judicious probing of public opinion, seemed
to be a policy fit for his party to pursue. The first, original
and masterly statesmen are needed to initiate and perform--the
other is simply the art of a genius who knows how most adroitly
to manipulate people and circumstances.
IV.--Very Broad Views.
Sir Charles Sterling, Mr. Joshua Hale, and others continued the
conversation interrupted by the minister's exit. What was to be
done with Ginx's Baby? In the great dissected map of society
what niches were cut out for him and all like him to fill? Most
of the politicians were for leaving that to himself to find out.
The term "law of supply and demand" was freely bandied between
them, as it is in many journals nowadays, with little object save
to shut up avenues of discussion by a high-sounding phrase.
Then of these "statesmen," most clung, if not to self-interest,
to personal crotchets. What is more darling to a man than the
child of his intellect or fancy? How the poor poetaster hugs his
tawdry verses as if they were the imperial ornaments of genius!
Just in the same way does the politician love the policies
himself hath devised, pressing them forward at all hazards, while
he is blind to the utility of others. This is the basis of that
aspect of selfishness which often mars in the approbation of a
country a really honest statesmanship--an egotistic tenacity of
one's own creature as the best, which yet is not the criminal
selfishness of ambition. Still that egotism is not seldom
disastrous to the people's interests. While these statesmen
nursed their own bantlings and held them up to national notice,
they were apt to avoid or too lightly regard the views of men as
able as themselves. For instance, Joshua Hale-- who is far above
these remarks generally--had put forth a scheme for the solution
of the St. Helena property question--very likely a good one,
albeit revolutionary, and nothing would convince him that any
other could succeed. He wished every man in St. Helena--a
turbulent adjunct of the British Empire--to be a landowner, and I
do think, neither desired nor hoped that any man in that island
should be happy until he was one. Yet there were other men ready
to offer simpler remedies, and to prove that if every man in St.
Helena became a landowner it would become a very hell upon earth,
and more unmanageable than it was before. If these gentlemen do
not sacrifice their pet fancies for the sake of a settlement,
what will become of St. Helena?
Just now they were discussing Ginx's Baby. One thought that
repeal of the Poor-Laws and a new system of relief would reach
his case; another saw the root of the Baby's sorrow in Trades'
Unions; a third propounded cooperative manufactures; a
fourth suggested that a vast source of income lay untouched in
the seas about the kingdom, which swarmed with porpoises, and
showed how certain parts of these animals were available for
food, others for leather, others for a delicious oil that would
be sweeter and more pleasant than butter; a fifth desired a law
to repress the tendency of Scotch peers to evict tenants and
convert arable lands into sheep-walks and deer-forests; a sixth
maintained that there were waste lands in the kingdom of capacity
to support hungry millions. In fact earth, heaven, and seas were
to be regenerated by Act of Parliament for the benefit of Ginx's
Baby and the people of England. Sir Charles listened
impatiently, and at last burst forth again.
He said: "When you consider it, what we are all trying to do
nowadays is--vulgarly-- to improve the breed; but we go to work
in a round-about way. At the outset we are met by the
depreciated state of part of the existing generation; and one
problem is to prevent these depreciated people from increasing,
or to get them to increase healthily. No one seems to have gone
directly to such a problem as that. The difficulties to be faced
are tremendous. Your dirtiest British youngster is hedged round
with principles of an inviolable liberty and rights of Habeas
Corpus. You let his father and mother, or any one who will save
you the trouble of looking after him, mould him in his years of
tenderness as they please. If they happen to leave him a walking
invalid, you take him into the poorhouse; if they bring him up a
thief, you whip him and keep him at high cost at Millbank or
Dartmoor; if his passions, never controlled, break out into
murder and rape, you may hang him, unless his crime has been so
atrocious as to attract the benevolent interest of the Home
Secretary; if he commit suicide, you hold a coroner's inquest,
which also costs money; and however he dies you give him a deal
coffin and bury him. Yet I may prove to you that this being,
whom you treat like a dog at a fair, never had a day's--no, nor
an hour's--contact with goodness, purity, truth, or even human
kindness; never had an opportunity of learning anything better.
What right have you then to hunt him like a wild beast, and kick
him and whip him, and fetter him and hang him by expensive
complicated machinery, when you have done nothing to teach him
any of the duties of a citizen?"
"Stop, stop, Sir Charles! you are too virulent. There are
endless means of improving your lad--charities without
"Yes, that will never reach him."
"Never mind, they may, you know. Industrial schools,
reformatories, asylums, hospitals, Peabody-buildings, poor-laws.
Everybody is working to improve the condition of the poor man.
Sanitary administration goes to his house and makes it
"Very," interjected Sir Charles Sterling, dryly.
"Factory laws protect and educate factory children----"
"They don't educate in one case out of ten. They don't feed
them, clothe them, give them amusement and cultivation, do they?"
"Certainly not--that would be ridiculous."
"Why, the question is whether that would be ridiculous!" replied
Sir Charles. "I do not say it can be done, but in order to
transform the next generation, what we should aim at is to
provide substitutes for bad homes, evil training, unhealthy air,
food and dulness, and terrible ignorance, in happier scenes,
better teaching, proper conditions of physical life, sane
amusements, and a higher cultivation. I dare say you would think
me a lunatic if I proposed that Government should establish
music-halls and gymnasia all over the country; but you, Mr.
Fissure, voted for the Baths and Washhouses."
"Who's to pay for all this?" asked Mr. Fissure, pertinently.
"The State, which means society, the whole of which is directly
interested. I tell you a million of children are crying to us to
set them free from the despotism of a crime and ignorance
protected by law."
"That is striking; but you are treading on delicate ground. The
liberty of the subject----"
"Exactly what I expected you to say. These words can be used in
defence of almost any injustice and tyranny. Such terms as
'political economy,' 'communism,' 'socialism,' are bandied about
in the same way. Yet propositions coming fairly within these
terms are often mentioned with approval by the very persons who
cast them at you. In a report of a recent Royal Commission I
find that one of the Commissioners is quite as revolutionary as I
am. He says it is right by law to secure that no child shall be
cruelly treated or mentally neglected, over-worked or
under-educated. Some people would call that communism, I fancy.
But I think him to be correct as a political economist in that
broad proposition. Why? Because a child's relation to the State
is wider, more permanent, and more important than his relation to
his parents. If he is in danger of being depreciated and damned
for good citizenship, the State must rescue him."
"A paternal and maternal government together!" cries Lord
Namby--"a government of nurses. You know I should like to stop
the production of children among the lower orders. Your
propositions are far in advance of my radicalism. The State must
sometimes interfere between parent and child; for instance, in
education or protection from cruelty. But, if I understand you,
you actually contemplate a general refining and elevation of the
working class by legislative means."
"Assuredly: I should aim to cultivate their morals, refine their
tastes, manners, habits. I wish to lift from them that
ever-depressing sense of hopelessness which keeps them in the
"So do most men; but you must do that by personal and private
influences, not by State enactments. How would you do it?"
"How? I think I could draw up a programme. For instance:
Expatriate a million to reduce the competition that keeps poor
devils on half-rations or sends them to the poorhouse; Take all
the sick, maimed, old, and incapable poor into workhouses managed
by humane men and not by ghouls; Forbid such people to marry and
propagate weakness; Legislate for compulsory improvements of
workmen's dwellings, and, if needful, lend the money to execute
it; Extend and enforce the health laws; Open free libraries and
places of rational amusement with an imperial bounty through the
country; Instead of spending thousands on dilettanti sycophants
at one end of the metropolis, distribute your art and amusement
to the kingdom at large; The rich have their museums, libraries,
and clubs, provide them for the poor; Establish temporary homes
for lying-in women; Multiply your baths and washhouses till there
is no excuse for a dirty person; Educate; Provide day schools for
every proper child, and industrial or reformatory schools for
every improper one; Open advanced High Schools for the best
pupils, and found Scholarships to the Universities; Erect other
schools for technical training; Offer to teach trades and
agriculture to all comers for nothing--you would soon neutralize
your bugbear of trades-unionism; Teach morals, teach science,
teach art, teach them to amuse themselves like men and not like
brutes. In a land so wealthy the programme is not impracticable,
though severe. As the end to be attained is the welfare of
future generations, no good reason could be urged why they should
not contribute towards the cost of it--a better debt to leave to
posterity than the incubus of an irrational war."
Will any sane political practitioner wonder to be told that at
the end of this harangue the smoking-room party broke up, and
that some, as they laughed good-humoredly over Sterling's
egregia, recalled the number of glasses of inspirited seltzer
swallowed by the orator? He was so far in advance of the most
radical reformer that there was no hope of overtaking him for an
era or two: so they determined to fancy they had left him behind.
V.--Party Tactics--and Political Obstructions to Social Reform.
In the Club our hero revelled awhile under the protection of Sir
Charles Sterling, and the petting of peers, Members of
Parliament, and loungers who swarm therein. Certain gentlemen of
Stock Exchange mannerism and dressiness gave the protege the
go-by, and even sneered at those who noticed him with kindness.
But then these are of the men with whom every question is checked
by money, and is balanced on the pivot of profit and loss. I
dare say some of them thought the worse of Judas only because he
had made so small a gain out of his celebrated transaction. To
foster Ginx's Baby in the Club, as a recognition of the important
questions surrounding him, though these questions involved
hundreds of thousands of other cases, was to them ridiculous. Of
far greater consequence was it in their eyes to settle a dispute
between two extravagant fools at Constantinople and Cairo, and
quicken the sluggishness of Turkish consols or Egyptian 9 per
cents. I do not cast stones at them; every man must look at a
thing with his own eyes.
But it was curious to note how the Baby's fortunes shifted in the
Club. There were times--when he was a pet chucked under chin by
the elder stagers, favored with a smile from a Cabinet Minister,
and now and then blessed with a nod from Mr. Joshua Hale. Then,
again, every one seemed to forget him, and he was for months left
unnoticed to the chance kindness of the menials until some case
similar to his own happening to evoke discussion in the press,
there would be a general inquiry for him. The porter, Mr.
Smirke, had succeeded, by means of a detective, in discovering
the boy's name, but his parents were then half-way to Canada.
The members of the Fogey Club opposite, hearing that so
interesting a foundling was being cherished by their opponents,
politely asked leave to examine him, and he occasionally visited
them. They treated him kindly and discussed his condition with
earnestness. The leaders of the party debated whether he might
not with advantage be taken out of their opponents' hands. Some
thought that a judicious use of him might win popularity; but
others objected that it would be perilous for them to mix
themselves up with so doleful an interest. In the result the
Fogies tipped young Ginx, but did not commit themselves for or
against him. Thus a long time elapsed, and our hero had grown
old enough to be a page. He had received food, clothing, and
goodwill, but no one had thought of giving him an education.
Sometimes he became obstreperous. He played tricks with the Club
cutlery, and diverted its silver to improper uses; he laid traps
for upsetting aged and infirm legislators; he tried the coolness
of the youngest and best-natured Members of Parliament by popping
up in strange places and exhibiting unseemly attitudes. At
length, by unanimous consent, he was decreed to be a nuisance,
and a few days would have revoked his license at the Club.
No sooner did the Fogies get wind of this than they manoeuvred to
get Ginx's Baby under their own management. They instructed
their "organs," as they called them, to pipe to popular feeling
on the disgraceful apathy of the Radicals in regard to the
foundling. They had him waylaid and treated to confectionery by
their emissaries; and once or twice succeeded in abducting him
and sending him down to the country with their party's
candidates, for exhibition at elections.
The Radicals resented this conduct extremely. Ginx's Baby was
brought back to the Club and restored to favor. The Government
papers were instructed to detail how much he was petted and
talked about by the party; to declare how needless was the
popular excitement on his behalf; and to prove that he must,
without any special legislation, be benefited by the
extraordinary organic changes then being made in the constitution
of the country.
Sir Charles Sterling resumed his interest in the boy. He had
been gallantly aiding his party in other questions. There was
the Timbuctoo question. A miserable desert chief had shut up a
wandering Englishman, not possessed of wit enough to keep his
head out of danger. There was a general impression that English
honor was at stake, and the previous Fogey Government had ordered
an expedition to cross the desert and punish the sheikh. You
would never believe what it cost if you had not seen the bill.
Ten millions sterling was as good as buried in the desert, when
one-tenth of it would have saved a hundred thousand people from
starvation at home, and one-hundredth part of it would have taken
the fetters off the hapless prisoner's feet.
There was the St. Helena question always brooding over
Parliament. St. Helena was a constituent part of the British
Empire. Every patriot agreed that the Empire without it would be
incomplete; and was so far right that its subtraction would have
left the Empire by so much less. Most of its inhabitants were
aboriginal--a mercurial race, full of fire, quick-witted, and
gifted with the exuberant eloquence of savages, but deficient in
dignity and self-control. Before any one else had been given
them by Providence to fight, they slaughtered and ravaged one
another. Our intrusive British ancestors stepped upon the
island, and, being strong men, mowed down the islanders like
wheat, and appropriated the lands their swords had cleared.
Still the aborigines held out in corners, and defied the
conquerors. The latter ground them down, confiscated the
property of their half-dozen chiefs, and distributed it among
themselves. By way of showing their imperial imperiousness, they
built over some ruins left by their devastations a great church,
in which they ordered all the islanders to worship. This was at
first abomination to the islanders, who fought like devils
whenever they could, and ended by accepting the religion of their
foes. But the conquerors, afterwards choosing to change their
own faith, resolved that the islanders should do so too.
Forthwith they confiscated the big church and burying-ground,
and, distributing part of the land and spoils among their most
prominent scamps, erected a new edifice of quite a different
character, in which the natives swore they could neither see nor
hear, and their own clerics warned them they would certainly be
damned. To make the complications more intricate, these clerics
owed allegiance to an ancient woman in a distant country, who had
all the meddlesomeness and petty jealousy of her sex, and was,
besides, much attached to some clever wooers of hers, wily
sinners who covered their aims under the semblance of
ultra-extreme passion for her. The prominent scamps died, to be
succeeded by their children, or other of the hated conquerors,
from generation to generation. The islanders went on increasing
and protesting. T hey starved upon the lands, and shot the
landlords when a few gave them the chance, for most lived away in
their own country, and left the property to be administered by
agents. The Home Government had again and again been obliged to
assist these people with soldiers, to provide an armed police, to
shoot down mobs, to catch a ringleader here or there and send him
to Fernando Po, or to deprive whole villages of ordinary civil
rights. Then the yam crop failed, and nearly half the people
left the island and crossed the seas, where they continued to
hate and to plot against those whose misfortune it had been to
get a legacy of the island from their fathers. It would be
wearisome to recount the absurdities on both sides: the stupidity
or criminal absence of tact from time to time shown by the Home
Government--the resolve never to be quiet exhibited by the
natives, under the prompting of their clerics. Upon
"--that common stage of novelty--"
there were ever springing up fresh difficulties. Secret clubs
were formed for murder and reprisal. A body called the "Yellows"
had bound themselves by private oaths to keep up the memory of
the religious victories of their predecessors, and to worry the
clerical party in every possible way. Their pleasure was to go
about insanely blowing rams'-horns, carrying flags and bearing
oranges in their hands. The islanders hated oranges, and at
every opportunity cracked the skulls of the orange-bearers with
brutal weapons peculiar to the island. These, in return, cracked
native skulls. The whole island was in a state of perpetual
commotion. Still, its general condition improved, its farms grew
prosperous, and a joint-stock company had built a mill for
converting cocoanut fibre into horse-cloths, which yielded large
profits. The memory of past events might well have been buried;
but the clerics, in the interest of the old woman, fanned the
embers, and the infamous bidding for popularity of parties at
home served to keep alive passions that would naturally have died
out. Besides, latterly folly had been too organized on both
sides to suffer oblivion. Everybody was tired of the squabbles
of St. Helena. At length there was a general movement in the
interests of peace, and to pacify the islanders Parliament was
asked to pull down the wings of the old church edifice, remove
some of the graves, and cut off a large piece of the graveyard.
Some were in favor also of dividing all the farms in the country
among the aborigines, but the difficulty was to know how at the
same time to satisfy the present occupiers. These schemes were
topics of high debate, upon them the fortunes of Government rose
and fell, and while they were agitated Ginx's Baby could have no
chance of a parliamentary hearing. Many other matters of
singular indifference had eaten up the legislative time; but at
last the increasing number of wretched infants throughout the
country began to alarm the people, and Sir Charles Sterling
thought the time had come to move on behalf of Ginx's Baby and
VI.--Amateur Debating in a High Legislative Body.
While Sir Charles was trying to get the Government to "give him a
night" to debate the Ginx's Baby case, and while associations
were being formed in the metropolis for disposing of him by
expatriation or otherwise, a busy peer without notice to anybody,
suddenly brought the subject before the House of Lords. As he
had never seen the Baby, and knew nothing or very little about
him, I need scarcely report the elaborate speech in which he
asked for aristocratic sympathy on his behalf. He proposed to
send him to the Antipodes at the expense of the nation.
The Minister for the Accidental Accompaniments of the Empire was
a clever man--keen, genial, subtle, two-edged, a gentlemanly and
not thorough disciple of Machiavel; able to lead parliamentary
forlorn hopes and plant flags on breaches, or to cover retreats
with brilliant skirmishing; deft, but never deep; much moved too
by the opinions of his permanent staff. These on the night in
question had plied him well with hackneyed objections; but to see
him get up and relieve himself of them--the air of originality,
the really original air he threw around them; the absurd light
which he turned full on the weaknesses of his noble friend's
propositions, was as beautiful to an indifferent critic as it as
saddening to the man who had at heart the sorrows of his kind.
If that minister lived long he would be forced to adopt and
advocate in as pretty a manner the policy he was dissecting.
Lord Munnibagge, a great authority in economic matters, said that
a weaker case had never been presented to Parliament. To send
away Ginx's Baby to a colony at imperial expense was at once to
rob the pockets of the rich and to decrease our labor-power.
There was no necessity for it. Ginx's Baby could not starve in a
country like this. He (Lord Munnibagge) had never heard of a
case of a baby starving. There was no such wide-spread distress
as was represented by the noble lord. There were occasional
periods of stagnation in trade, and no doubt in these periods the
poorer classes would suffer; but trade was elastic; and even if
it were granted that the present was a period when employment had
failed, the time was not far off when trade would recuperate.
(Cheers.) Ginx's Baby and all other babies would not then wish
to go away. People were always making exaggerated statements
about the condition of the poor. He (Lord Munnibagge) did not
credit them. He believed the country, though temporarily
depressed by financial collapses, to be in a most healthy state.
(Hear, hear.) It was absurd to say otherwise, when it was shown
by the Board of Trade returns that we were growing richer every
day. (Cheers.) Of course Ginx's Baby must be growing richer
with the rest. Was not that a complete answer to the noble
lord's plaintive outcries? (Cheers and laughter.) That the
population of a country was a great fraction of its wealth was an
elementary principle of political economy. He thought, from the
high rates of wages, that there were not too many but too few
laborers in the country. He should oppose the motion. (Cheers.)
Two or three noble lords repeated similar platitudes, guarding
themselves as carefully from any reference to facts, or to the
question whether high rates of wages might not be the
concomitants simply of high prices of necessaries, or to the yet
wider question whether colonial development might not have
something to do with progress at home. The noble lord who had
rushed unprepared into the arena was unequal to the forces
marshalled against him, and withdrew his motion. Thus the great
debate collapsed. The Lords were relieved that an awkward
question had so easily been shifted. The newspapers on the
ministerial side declared that this debate had proved the
futility of the Ginx's Baby Expatriation question. "So able an
authority as Lord Munnibagge had established that there was no
necessity for the interference of Government in the case of
Ginx's Baby or any other babies or persons. The lucid and
decisive statement of the Secretary for the Accidental
Accompaniments of the Empire had shown how impossible it was for
the Imperial Government to take part in a great scheme of
Expatriation; how impolitic to endeavor to affect the ordinary
laws of free movement to the Colonies." Surely after this the
Expatriation people hid their lights under a bushel! The
Government refused to find a night for Sir Charles Sterling, and
after the Lords' debate he did not see his way to force a motion
in the Lower House. Meanwhile Ginx's Baby once more decided a
turn in his own fate. Tired of the slow life of the Club, and
shivering amid the chill indifference of his patrons, he borrowed
without leave some clothes from an inmate's room, with a few
silver forks and spoons, and decamped. Whether the baronet and
the Club were bashful of public ridicule or glad to be rid of the
charge, I know not, but no attempt was made to recover him.
PART V. WHAT GINX'S BABY DID WITH HIMSELF.
A full-formed Horse will, in any market, bring from twenty to as
high as two hundred Friedrichs d'or: such is his worth to the
world. A full-formed Man is not only worth nothing to the world,
but the world could afford him a round sum would he simply engage
to go and hang himself.--SARTOR RESARTUS.
The Last Chapter.
Our hero was nearly fifteen years old when he left the Club to
plunge into the world. He was not long in converting his spoils
into money, and a very short time in spending it. Then he had to
pit his wits against starvation, and some of his throws were
desperate. Wherever he went the world seemed terribly full. If
he answered an advertisement for an errand-boy, there were a
score kicking their heels at the rendezvous before him. Did he
try to learn a useful trade, thousands of adepts were not only
ready to underbid him, but to knock him on the head for an
interloper. Even the thieves, to whom he gravitated, were
jealous of his accession, because there were too many competitors
already in their department. Through his career of penury, of
honest and dishonest callings, of 'scapes and captures,
imprisonments and other punishments, a year's reading of
Metropolitan Police Reports would furnish the exact counterpart.
I don't know how many years after his flight from Pall Mall, one
dim midnight, I, returning from Richmond, lounged over Vauxhall
Bridge, listening to the low lapping of the current beneath the
arches--looking above to the stars and along the dark polished
surface that reflected a thousand lights in its
undulations,--feeling the awfulness of the dense, suppressed life
that was wrapt within the gloom and calm of the hour. I suddenly
saw a shadow, a human shadow, that at the sound of my footstep
quickly crossed my dreamy vision--quickly, noiselessly came and
went before my eyes until it stood up high and outlined against
the strangely-mingled haze. It looked like the ghost of a
slight-formed man, hatless and coatless, and for a moment I saw
at its upper extremity the dull flash as of a human face in the
gloom, before the shadow leaped out far into the night. Splash!
When my startled eyes looked down upon the glancing, waving
ebony, I thought I could trace a white coruscation of foam
spreading out into the darkness, instantly to dissipate and be
lost for ever. I did not then know what form it was that swilled
down below the glistening current. Had I known that it was
Ginx's Baby I should perhaps have thought "Society, which, in the
sacred names of Law and Charity, forbad the father to throw his
child over Vauxhall Bridge, at a time when he was alike
unconscious of life and death, has at last itself driven him over
the parapet into the greedy waters"----
Philosophers, Philanthropists, Politicians, Papists and
Protestants, Poor-Law Ministers and Parish Officers--while you
have been theorizing and discussing, debating, wrangling,
legislating and administering--Good God! gentlemen, between you
all, where has Ginx's Baby gone to?