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Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens

Part 1 out of 15

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Transcribed from the 1903 edition by David Price,
email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk




How much is conveyed in those two short words--'The Parish!' And
with how many tales of distress and misery, of broken fortune and
ruined hopes, too often of unrelieved wretchedness and successful
knavery, are they associated! A poor man, with small earnings, and
a large family, just manages to live on from hand to mouth, and to
procure food from day to day; he has barely sufficient to satisfy
the present cravings of nature, and can take no heed of the future.
His taxes are in arrear, quarter-day passes by, another quarter-day
arrives: he can procure no more quarter for himself, and is
summoned by--the parish. His goods are distrained, his children
are crying with cold and hunger, and the very bed on which his sick
wife is lying, is dragged from beneath her. What can he do? To
whom is he to apply for relief? To private charity? To benevolent
individuals? Certainly not--there is his parish. There are the
parish vestry, the parish infirmary, the parish surgeon, the parish
officers, the parish beadle. Excellent institutions, and gentle,
kind-hearted men. The woman dies--she is buried by the parish.
The children have no protector--they are taken care of by the
parish. The man first neglects, and afterwards cannot obtain,
work--he is relieved by the parish; and when distress and
drunkenness have done their work upon him, he is maintained, a
harmless babbling idiot, in the parish asylum.

The parish beadle is one of the most, perhaps THE most, important
member of the local administration. He is not so well off as the
churchwardens, certainly, nor is he so learned as the vestry-clerk,
nor does he order things quite so much his own way as either of
them. But his power is very great, notwithstanding; and the
dignity of his office is never impaired by the absence of efforts
on his part to maintain it. The beadle of our parish is a splendid
fellow. It is quite delightful to hear him, as he explains the
state of the existing poor laws to the deaf old women in the board-
room passage on business nights; and to hear what he said to the
senior churchwarden, and what the senior churchwarden said to him;
and what 'we' (the beadle and the other gentlemen) came to the
determination of doing. A miserable-looking woman is called into
the boardroom, and represents a case of extreme destitution,
affecting herself--a widow, with six small children. 'Where do you
live?' inquires one of the overseers. 'I rents a two-pair back,
gentlemen, at Mrs. Brown's, Number 3, Little King William's-alley,
which has lived there this fifteen year, and knows me to be very
hard-working and industrious, and when my poor husband was alive,
gentlemen, as died in the hospital'--'Well, well,' interrupts the
overseer, taking a note of the address, 'I'll send Simmons, the
beadle, to-morrow morning, to ascertain whether your story is
correct; and if so, I suppose you must have an order into the
House--Simmons, go to this woman's the first thing to-morrow
morning, will you?' Simmons bows assent, and ushers the woman out.
Her previous admiration of 'the board' (who all sit behind great
books, and with their hats on) fades into nothing before her
respect for her lace-trimmed conductor; and her account of what has
passed inside, increases--if that be possible--the marks of
respect, shown by the assembled crowd, to that solemn functionary.
As to taking out a summons, it's quite a hopeless case if Simmons
attends it, on behalf of the parish. He knows all the titles of
the Lord Mayor by heart; states the case without a single stammer:
and it is even reported that on one occasion he ventured to make a
joke, which the Lord Mayor's head footman (who happened to be
present) afterwards told an intimate friend, confidentially, was
almost equal to one of Mr. Hobler's.

See him again on Sunday in his state-coat and cocked-hat, with a
large-headed staff for show in his left hand, and a small cane for
use in his right. How pompously he marshals the children into
their places! and how demurely the little urchins look at him
askance as he surveys them when they are all seated, with a glare
of the eye peculiar to beadles! The churchwardens and overseers
being duly installed in their curtained pews, he seats himself on a
mahogany bracket, erected expressly for him at the top of the
aisle, and divides his attention between his prayer-book and the
boys. Suddenly, just at the commencement of the communion service,
when the whole congregation is hushed into a profound silence,
broken only by the voice of the officiating clergyman, a penny is
heard to ring on the stone floor of the aisle with astounding
clearness. Observe the generalship of the beadle. His involuntary
look of horror is instantly changed into one of perfect
indifference, as if he were the only person present who had not
heard the noise. The artifice succeeds. After putting forth his
right leg now and then, as a feeler, the victim who dropped the
money ventures to make one or two distinct dives after it; and the
beadle, gliding softly round, salutes his little round head, when
it again appears above the seat, with divers double knocks,
administered with the cane before noticed, to the intense delight
of three young men in an adjacent pew, who cough violently at
intervals until the conclusion of the sermon.

Such are a few traits of the importance and gravity of a parish
beadle--a gravity which has never been disturbed in any case that
has come under our observation, except when the services of that
particularly useful machine, a parish fire-engine, are required:
then indeed all is bustle. Two little boys run to the beadle as
fast as their legs will carry them, and report from their own
personal observation that some neighbouring chimney is on fire; the
engine is hastily got out, and a plentiful supply of boys being
obtained, and harnessed to it with ropes, away they rattle over the
pavement, the beadle, running--we do not exaggerate--running at the
side, until they arrive at some house, smelling strongly of soot,
at the door of which the beadle knocks with considerable gravity
for half-an-hour. No attention being paid to these manual
applications, and the turn-cock having turned on the water, the
engine turns off amidst the shouts of the boys; it pulls up once
more at the work-house, and the beadle 'pulls up' the unfortunate
householder next day, for the amount of his legal reward. We never
saw a parish engine at a regular fire but once. It came up in
gallant style--three miles and a half an hour, at least; there was
a capital supply of water, and it was first on the spot. Bang went
the pumps--the people cheered--the beadle perspired profusely; but
it was unfortunately discovered, just as they were going to put the
fire out, that nobody understood the process by which the engine
was filled with water; and that eighteen boys, and a man, had
exhausted themselves in pumping for twenty minutes, without
producing the slightest effect!

The personages next in importance to the beadle, are the master of
the workhouse and the parish schoolmaster. The vestry-clerk, as
everybody knows, is a short, pudgy little man, in black, with a
thick gold watch-chain of considerable length, terminating in two
large seals and a key. He is an attorney, and generally in a
bustle; at no time more so, than when he is hurrying to some
parochial meeting, with his gloves crumpled up in one hand, and a
large red book under the other arm. As to the churchwardens and
overseers, we exclude them altogether, because all we know of them
is, that they are usually respectable tradesmen, who wear hats with
brims inclined to flatness, and who occasionally testify in gilt
letters on a blue ground, in some conspicuous part of the church,
to the important fact of a gallery having being enlarged and
beautified, or an organ rebuilt.

The master of the workhouse is not, in our parish--nor is he
usually in any other--one of that class of men the better part of
whose existence has passed away, and who drag out the remainder in
some inferior situation, with just enough thought of the past, to
feel degraded by, and discontented with the present. We are unable
to guess precisely to our own satisfaction what station the man can
have occupied before; we should think he had been an inferior sort
of attorney's clerk, or else the master of a national school--
whatever he was, it is clear his present position is a change for
the better. His income is small certainly, as the rusty black coat
and threadbare velvet collar demonstrate: but then he lives free
of house-rent, has a limited allowance of coals and candles, and an
almost unlimited allowance of authority in his petty kingdom. He
is a tall, thin, bony man; always wears shoes and black cotton
stockings with his surtout; and eyes you, as you pass his parlour-
window, as if he wished you were a pauper, just to give you a
specimen of his power. He is an admirable specimen of a small
tyrant: morose, brutish, and ill-tempered; bullying to his
inferiors, cringing to his superiors, and jealous of the influence
and authority of the beadle.

Our schoolmaster is just the very reverse of this amiable official.
He has been one of those men one occasionally hears of, on whom
misfortune seems to have set her mark; nothing he ever did, or was
concerned in, appears to have prospered. A rich old relation who
had brought him up, and openly announced his intention of providing
for him, left him 10,000l. in his will, and revoked the bequest in
a codicil. Thus unexpectedly reduced to the necessity of providing
for himself, he procured a situation in a public office. The young
clerks below him, died off as if there were a plague among them;
but the old fellows over his head, for the reversion of whose
places he was anxiously waiting, lived on and on, as if they were
immortal. He speculated and lost. He speculated again and won--
but never got his money. His talents were great; his disposition,
easy, generous and liberal. His friends profited by the one, and
abused the other. Loss succeeded loss; misfortune crowded on
misfortune; each successive day brought him nearer the verge of
hopeless penury, and the quondam friends who had been warmest in
their professions, grew strangely cold and indifferent. He had
children whom he loved, and a wife on whom he doted. The former
turned their backs on him; the latter died broken-hearted. He went
with the stream--it had ever been his failing, and he had not
courage sufficient to bear up against so many shocks--he had never
cared for himself, and the only being who had cared for him, in his
poverty and distress, was spared to him no longer. It was at this
period that he applied for parochial relief. Some kind-hearted man
who had known him in happier times, chanced to be churchwarden that
year, and through his interest he was appointed to his present

He is an old man now. Of the many who once crowded round him in
all the hollow friendship of boon-companionship, some have died,
some have fallen like himself, some have prospered--all have
forgotten him. Time and misfortune have mercifully been permitted
to impair his memory, and use has habituated him to his present
condition. Meek, uncomplaining, and zealous in the discharge of
his duties, he has been allowed to hold his situation long beyond
the usual period; and he will no doubt continue to hold it, until
infirmity renders him incapable, or death releases him. As the
grey-headed old man feebly paces up and down the sunny side of the
little court-yard between school hours, it would be difficult,
indeed, for the most intimate of his former friends to recognise
their once gay and happy associate, in the person of the Pauper


We commenced our last chapter with the beadle of our parish,
because we are deeply sensible of the importance and dignity of his
office. We will begin the present, with the clergyman. Our curate
is a young gentleman of such prepossessing appearance, and
fascinating manners, that within one month after his first
appearance in the parish, half the young-lady inhabitants were
melancholy with religion, and the other half, desponding with love.
Never were so many young ladies seen in our parish church on Sunday
before; and never had the little round angels' faces on Mr.
Tomkins's monument in the side aisle, beheld such devotion on earth
as they all exhibited. He was about five-and-twenty when he first
came to astonish the parishioners. He parted his hair on the
centre of his forehead in the form of a Norman arch, wore a
brilliant of the first water on the fourth finger of his left hand
(which he always applied to his left cheek when he read prayers),
and had a deep sepulchral voice of unusual solemnity. Innumerable
were the calls made by prudent mammas on our new curate, and
innumerable the invitations with which he was assailed, and which,
to do him justice, he readily accepted. If his manner in the
pulpit had created an impression in his favour, the sensation was
increased tenfold, by his appearance in private circles. Pews in
the immediate vicinity of the pulpit or reading-desk rose in value;
sittings in the centre aisle were at a premium: an inch of room in
the front row of the gallery could not be procured for love or
money; and some people even went so far as to assert, that the
three Miss Browns, who had an obscure family pew just behind the
churchwardens', were detected, one Sunday, in the free seats by the
communion-table, actually lying in wait for the curate as he passed
to the vestry! He began to preach extempore sermons, and even
grave papas caught the infection. He got out of bed at half-past
twelve o'clock one winter's night, to half-baptise a washerwoman's
child in a slop-basin, and the gratitude of the parishioners knew
no bounds--the very churchwardens grew generous, and insisted on
the parish defraying the expense of the watch-box on wheels, which
the new curate had ordered for himself, to perform the funeral
service in, in wet weather. He sent three pints of gruel and a
quarter of a pound of tea to a poor woman who had been brought to
bed of four small children, all at once--the parish were charmed.
He got up a subscription for her--the woman's fortune was made. He
spoke for one hour and twenty-five minutes, at an anti-slavery
meeting at the Goat and Boots--the enthusiasm was at its height. A
proposal was set on foot for presenting the curate with a piece of
plate, as a mark of esteem for his valuable services rendered to
the parish. The list of subscriptions was filled up in no time;
the contest was, not who should escape the contribution, but who
should be the foremost to subscribe. A splendid silver inkstand
was made, and engraved with an appropriate inscription; the curate
was invited to a public breakfast, at the before-mentioned Goat and
Boots; the inkstand was presented in a neat speech by Mr. Gubbins,
the ex-churchwarden, and acknowledged by the curate in terms which
drew tears into the eyes of all present--the very waiters were

One would have supposed that, by this time, the theme of universal
admiration was lifted to the very pinnacle of popularity. No such
thing. The curate began to cough; four fits of coughing one
morning between the Litany and the Epistle, and five in the
afternoon service. Here was a discovery--the curate was
consumptive. How interestingly melancholy! If the young ladies
were energetic before, their sympathy and solicitude now knew no
bounds. Such a man as the curate--such a dear--such a perfect
love--to be consumptive! It was too much. Anonymous presents of
black-currant jam, and lozenges, elastic waistcoats, bosom friends,
and warm stockings, poured in upon the curate until he was as
completely fitted out with winter clothing, as if he were on the
verge of an expedition to the North Pole: verbal bulletins of the
state of his health were circulated throughout the parish half-a-
dozen times a day; and the curate was in the very zenith of his

About this period, a change came over the spirit of the parish. A
very quiet, respectable, dozing old gentleman, who had officiated
in our chapel-of-ease for twelve years previously, died one fine
morning, without having given any notice whatever of his intention.
This circumstance gave rise to counter-sensation the first; and the
arrival of his successor occasioned counter-sensation the second.
He was a pale, thin, cadaverous man, with large black eyes, and
long straggling black hair: his dress was slovenly in the extreme,
his manner ungainly, his doctrines startling; in short, he was in
every respect the antipodes of the curate. Crowds of our female
parishioners flocked to hear him; at first, because he was SO odd-
looking, then because his face was SO expressive, then because he
preached SO well; and at last, because they really thought that,
after all, there was something about him which it was quite
impossible to describe. As to the curate, he was all very well;
but certainly, after all, there was no denying that--that--in
short, the curate wasn't a novelty, and the other clergyman was.
The inconstancy of public opinion is proverbial: the congregation
migrated one by one. The curate coughed till he was black in the
face--it was in vain. He respired with difficulty--it was equally
ineffectual in awakening sympathy. Seats are once again to be had
in any part of our parish church, and the chapel-of-ease is going
to be enlarged, as it is crowded to suffocation every Sunday!

The best known and most respected among our parishioners, is an old
lady, who resided in our parish long before our name was registered
in the list of baptisms. Our parish is a suburban one, and the old
lady lives in a neat row of houses in the most airy and pleasant
part of it. The house is her own; and it, and everything about it,
except the old lady herself, who looks a little older than she did
ten years ago, is in just the same state as when the old gentleman
was living. The little front parlour, which is the old lady's
ordinary sitting-room, is a perfect picture of quiet neatness; the
carpet is covered with brown Holland, the glass and picture-frames
are carefully enveloped in yellow muslin; the table-covers are
never taken off, except when the leaves are turpentined and bees'-
waxed, an operation which is regularly commenced every other
morning at half-past nine o'clock--and the little nicknacks are
always arranged in precisely the same manner. The greater part of
these are presents from little girls whose parents live in the same
row; but some of them, such as the two old-fashioned watches (which
never keep the same time, one being always a quarter of an hour too
slow, and the other a quarter of an hour too fast), the little
picture of the Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold as they
appeared in the Royal Box at Drury Lane Theatre, and others of the
same class, have been in the old lady's possession for many years.
Here the old lady sits with her spectacles on, busily engaged in
needlework--near the window in summer time; and if she sees you
coming up the steps, and you happen to be a favourite, she trots
out to open the street-door for you before you knock, and as you
must be fatigued after that hot walk, insists on your swallowing
two glasses of sherry before you exert yourself by talking. If you
call in the evening you will find her cheerful, but rather more
serious than usual, with an open Bible on the table, before her, of
which 'Sarah,' who is just as neat and methodical as her mistress,
regularly reads two or three chapters in the parlour aloud.

The old lady sees scarcely any company, except the little girls
before noticed, each of whom has always a regular fixed day for a
periodical tea-drinking with her, to which the child looks forward
as the greatest treat of its existence. She seldom visits at a
greater distance than the next door but one on either side; and
when she drinks tea here, Sarah runs out first and knocks a double-
knock, to prevent the possibility of her 'Missis's' catching cold
by having to wait at the door. She is very scrupulous in returning
these little invitations, and when she asks Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so,
to meet Mr. and Mrs. Somebody-else, Sarah and she dust the urn, and
the best china tea-service, and the Pope Joan board; and the
visitors are received in the drawing-room in great state. She has
but few relations, and they are scattered about in different parts
of the country, and she seldom sees them. She has a son in India,
whom she always describes to you as a fine, handsome fellow--so
like the profile of his poor dear father over the sideboard, but
the old lady adds, with a mournful shake of the head, that he has
always been one of her greatest trials; and that indeed he once
almost broke her heart; but it pleased God to enable her to get the
better of it, and she would prefer your never mentioning the
subject to her again. She has a great number of pensioners: and
on Saturday, after she comes back from market, there is a regular
levee of old men and women in the passage, waiting for their weekly
gratuity. Her name always heads the list of any benevolent
subscriptions, and hers are always the most liberal donations to
the Winter Coal and Soup Distribution Society. She subscribed
twenty pounds towards the erection of an organ in our parish
church, and was so overcome the first Sunday the children sang to
it, that she was obliged to be carried out by the pew-opener. Her
entrance into church on Sunday is always the signal for a little
bustle in the side aisle, occasioned by a general rise among the
poor people, who bow and curtsey until the pew-opener has ushered
the old lady into her accustomed seat, dropped a respectful
curtsey, and shut the door: and the same ceremony is repeated on
her leaving church, when she walks home with the family next door
but one, and talks about the sermon all the way, invariably opening
the conversation by asking the youngest boy where the text was.

Thus, with the annual variation of a trip to some quiet place on
the sea-coast, passes the old lady's life. It has rolled on in the
same unvarying and benevolent course for many years now, and must
at no distant period be brought to its final close. She looks
forward to its termination, with calmness and without apprehension.
She has everything to hope and nothing to fear.

A very different personage, but one who has rendered himself very
conspicuous in our parish, is one of the old lady's next-door
neighbours. He is an old naval officer on half-pay, and his bluff
and unceremonious behaviour disturbs the old lady's domestic
economy, not a little. In the first place, he WILL smoke cigars in
the front court, and when he wants something to drink with them--
which is by no means an uncommon circumstance--he lifts up the old
lady's knocker with his walking-stick, and demands to have a glass
of table ale, handed over the rails. In addition to this cool
proceeding, he is a bit of a Jack of all trades, or to use his own
words, 'a regular Robinson Crusoe;' and nothing delights him better
than to experimentalise on the old lady's property. One morning he
got up early, and planted three or four roots of full-grown
marigolds in every bed of her front garden, to the inconceivable
astonishment of the old lady, who actually thought when she got up
and looked out of the window, that it was some strange eruption
which had come out in the night. Another time he took to pieces
the eight-day clock on the front landing, under pretence of
cleaning the works, which he put together again, by some
undiscovered process, in so wonderful a manner, that the large hand
has done nothing but trip up the little one ever since. Then he
took to breeding silk-worms, which he WOULD bring in two or three
times a day, in little paper boxes, to show the old lady, generally
dropping a worm or two at every visit. The consequence was, that
one morning a very stout silk-worm was discovered in the act of
walking up-stairs--probably with the view of inquiring after his
friends, for, on further inspection, it appeared that some of his
companions had already found their way to every room in the house.
The old lady went to the seaside in despair, and during her absence
he completely effaced the name from her brass door-plate, in his
attempts to polish it with aqua-fortis.

But all this is nothing to his seditious conduct in public life.
He attends every vestry meeting that is held; always opposes the
constituted authorities of the parish, denounces the profligacy of
the churchwardens, contests legal points against the vestry-clerk,
will make the tax-gatherer call for his money till he won't call
any longer, and then he sends it: finds fault with the sermon
every Sunday, says that the organist ought to be ashamed of
himself, offers to back himself for any amount to sing the psalms
better than all the children put together, male and female; and, in
short, conducts himself in the most turbulent and uproarious
manner. The worst of it is, that having a high regard for the old
lady, he wants to make her a convert to his views, and therefore
walks into her little parlour with his newspaper in his hand, and
talks violent politics by the hour. He is a charitable, open-
hearted old fellow at bottom, after all; so, although he puts the
old lady a little out occasionally, they agree very well in the
main, and she laughs as much at each feat of his handiwork when it
is all over, as anybody else.


The row of houses in which the old lady and her troublesome
neighbour reside, comprises, beyond all doubt, a greater number of
characters within its circumscribed limits, than all the rest of
the parish put together. As we cannot, consistently with our
present plan, however, extend the number of our parochial sketches
beyond six, it will be better perhaps, to select the most peculiar,
and to introduce them at once without further preface.

The four Miss Willises, then, settled in our parish thirteen years
ago. It is a melancholy reflection that the old adage, 'time and
tide wait for no man,' applies with equal force to the fairer
portion of the creation; and willingly would we conceal the fact,
that even thirteen years ago the Miss Willises were far from
juvenile. Our duty as faithful parochial chroniclers, however, is
paramount to every other consideration, and we are bound to state,
that thirteen years since, the authorities in matrimonial cases,
considered the youngest Miss Willis in a very precarious state,
while the eldest sister was positively given over, as being far
beyond all human hope. Well, the Miss Willises took a lease of the
house; it was fresh painted and papered from top to bottom: the
paint inside was all wainscoted, the marble all cleaned, the old
grates taken down, and register-stoves, you could see to dress by,
put up; four trees were planted in the back garden, several small
baskets of gravel sprinkled over the front one, vans of elegant
furniture arrived, spring blinds were fitted to the windows,
carpenters who had been employed in the various preparations,
alterations, and repairs, made confidential statements to the
different maid-servants in the row, relative to the magnificent
scale on which the Miss Willises were commencing; the maid-servants
told their 'Missises,' the Missises told their friends, and vague
rumours were circulated throughout the parish, that No. 25, in
Gordon-place, had been taken by four maiden ladies of immense

At last, the Miss Willises moved in; and then the 'calling' began.
The house was the perfection of neatness--so were the four Miss
Willises. Everything was formal, stiff, and cold--so were the four
Miss Willises. Not a single chair of the whole set was ever seen
out of its place--not a single Miss Willis of the whole four was
ever seen out of hers. There they always sat, in the same places,
doing precisely the same things at the same hour. The eldest Miss
Willis used to knit, the second to draw, the two others to play
duets on the piano. They seemed to have no separate existence, but
to have made up their minds just to winter through life together.
They were three long graces in drapery, with the addition, like a
school-dinner, of another long grace afterwards--the three fates
with another sister--the Siamese twins multiplied by two. The
eldest Miss Willis grew bilious--the four Miss Willises grew
bilious immediately. The eldest Miss Willis grew ill-tempered and
religious--the four Miss Willises were ill-tempered and religious
directly. Whatever the eldest did, the others did, and whatever
anybody else did, they all disapproved of; and thus they vegetated-
-living in Polar harmony among themselves, and, as they sometimes
went out, or saw company 'in a quiet-way' at home, occasionally
icing the neighbours. Three years passed over in this way, when an
unlooked for and extraordinary phenomenon occurred. The Miss
Willises showed symptoms of summer, the frost gradually broke up; a
complete thaw took place. Was it possible? one of the four Miss
Willises was going to be married!

Now, where on earth the husband came from, by what feelings the
poor man could have been actuated, or by what process of reasoning
the four Miss Willises succeeded in persuading themselves that it
was possible for a man to marry one of them, without marrying them
all, are questions too profound for us to resolve: certain it is,
however, that the visits of Mr. Robinson (a gentleman in a public
office, with a good salary and a little property of his own,
besides) were received--that the four Miss Willises were courted in
due form by the said Mr Robinson--that the neighbours were
perfectly frantic in their anxiety to discover which of the four
Miss Willises was the fortunate fair, and that the difficulty they
experienced in solving the problem was not at all lessened by the
announcement of the eldest Miss Willis,--'WE are going to marry Mr.

It was very extraordinary. They were so completely identified, the
one with the other, that the curiosity of the whole row--even of
the old lady herself--was roused almost beyond endurance. The
subject was discussed at every little card-table and tea-drinking.
The old gentleman of silk-worm notoriety did not hesitate to
express his decided opinion that Mr. Robinson was of Eastern
descent, and contemplated marrying the whole family at once; and
the row, generally, shook their heads with considerable gravity,
and declared the business to be very mysterious. They hoped it
might all end well;--it certainly had a very singular appearance,
but still it would be uncharitable to express any opinion without
good grounds to go upon, and certainly the Miss Willises were QUITE
old enough to judge for themselves, and to be sure people ought to
know their own business best, and so forth.

At last, one fine morning, at a quarter before eight o'clock, A.M.,
two glass-coaches drove up to the Miss Willises' door, at which Mr.
Robinson had arrived in a cab ten minutes before, dressed in a
light-blue coat and double-milled kersey pantaloons, white
neckerchief, pumps, and dress-gloves, his manner denoting, as
appeared from the evidence of the housemaid at No. 23, who was
sweeping the door-steps at the time, a considerable degree of
nervous excitement. It was also hastily reported on the same
testimony, that the cook who opened the door, wore a large white
bow of unusual dimensions, in a much smarter head-dress than the
regulation cap to which the Miss Willises invariably restricted the
somewhat excursive tastes of female servants in general.

The intelligence spread rapidly from house to house. It was quite
clear that the eventful morning had at length arrived; the whole
row stationed themselves behind their first and second floor
blinds, and waited the result in breathless expectation.

At last the Miss Willises' door opened; the door of the first
glass-coach did the same. Two gentlemen, and a pair of ladies to
correspond--friends of the family, no doubt; up went the steps,
bang went the door, off went the first class-coach, and up came the

The street door opened again; the excitement of the whole row
increased--Mr. Robinson and the eldest Miss Willis. 'I thought
so,' said the lady at No. 19; 'I always said it was MISS Willis!'--
'Well, I never!' ejaculated the young lady at No. 18 to the young
lady at No. 17.--'Did you ever, dear!' responded the young lady at
No. 17 to the young lady at No. 18. 'It's too ridiculous!'
exclaimed a spinster of an UNcertain age, at No. 16, joining in the
conversation. But who shall portray the astonishment of Gordon-
place, when Mr. Robinson handed in ALL the Miss Willises, one after
the other, and then squeezed himself into an acute angle of the
glass-coach, which forthwith proceeded at a brisk pace, after the
other glass-coach, which other glass-coach had itself proceeded, at
a brisk pace, in the direction of the parish church! Who shall
depict the perplexity of the clergyman, when ALL the Miss Willises
knelt down at the communion-table, and repeated the responses
incidental to the marriage service in an audible voice--or who
shall describe the confusion which prevailed, when--even after the
difficulties thus occasioned had been adjusted--ALL the Miss
Willises went into hysterics at the conclusion of the ceremony,
until the sacred edifice resounded with their united wailings!

As the four sisters and Mr. Robinson continued to occupy the same
house after this memorable occasion, and as the married sister,
whoever she was, never appeared in public without the other three,
we are not quite clear that the neighbours ever would have
discovered the real Mrs. Robinson, but for a circumstance of the
most gratifying description, which WILL happen occasionally in the
best-regulated families. Three quarter-days elapsed, and the row,
on whom a new light appeared to have been bursting for some time,
began to speak with a sort of implied confidence on the subject,
and to wonder how Mrs. Robinson--the youngest Miss Willis that was-
-got on; and servants might be seen running up the steps, about
nine or ten o'clock every morning, with 'Missis's compliments, and
wishes to know how Mrs. Robinson finds herself this morning?' And
the answer always was, 'Mrs. Robinson's compliments, and she's in
very good spirits, and doesn't find herself any worse.' The piano
was heard no longer, the knitting-needles were laid aside, drawing
was neglected, and mantua-making and millinery, on the smallest
scale imaginable, appeared to have become the favourite amusement
of the whole family. The parlour wasn't quite as tidy as it used
to be, and if you called in the morning, you would see lying on a
table, with an old newspaper carelessly thrown over them, two or
three particularly small caps, rather larger than if they had been
made for a moderate-sized doll, with a small piece of lace, in the
shape of a horse-shoe, let in behind: or perhaps a white robe, not
very large in circumference, but very much out of proportion in
point of length, with a little tucker round the top, and a frill
round the bottom; and once when we called, we saw a long white
roller, with a kind of blue margin down each side, the probable use
of which, we were at a loss to conjecture. Then we fancied that
Dr. Dawson, the surgeon, &c., who displays a large lamp with a
different colour in every pane of glass, at the corner of the row,
began to be knocked up at night oftener than he used to be; and
once we were very much alarmed by hearing a hackney-coach stop at
Mrs. Robinson's door, at half-past two o'clock in the morning, out
of which there emerged a fat old woman, in a cloak and night-cap,
with a bundle in one hand, and a pair of pattens in the other, who
looked as if she had been suddenly knocked up out of bed for some
very special purpose.

When we got up in the morning we saw that the knocker was tied up
in an old white kid glove; and we, in our innocence (we were in a
state of bachelorship then), wondered what on earth it all meant,
until we heard the eldest Miss Willis, in propria persona say, with
great dignity, in answer to the next inquiry, 'MY compliments, and
Mrs. Robinson's doing as well as can be expected, and the little
girl thrives wonderfully.' And then, in common with the rest of
the row, our curiosity was satisfied, and we began to wonder it had
never occurred to us what the matter was, before.


A great event has recently occurred in our parish. A contest of
paramount interest has just terminated; a parochial convulsion has
taken place. It has been succeeded by a glorious triumph, which
the country--or at least the parish--it is all the same--will long
remember. We have had an election; an election for beadle. The
supporters of the old beadle system have been defeated in their
stronghold, and the advocates of the great new beadle principles
have achieved a proud victory.

Our parish, which, like all other parishes, is a little world of
its own, has long been divided into two parties, whose contentions,
slumbering for a while, have never failed to burst forth with
unabated vigour, on any occasion on which they could by possibility
be renewed. Watching-rates, lighting-rates, paving-rates, sewer's-
rates, church-rates, poor's-rates--all sorts of rates, have been in
their turns the subjects of a grand struggle; and as to questions
of patronage, the asperity and determination with which they have
been contested is scarcely credible.

The leader of the official party--the steady advocate of the
churchwardens, and the unflinching supporter of the overseers--is
an old gentleman who lives in our row. He owns some half a dozen
houses in it, and always walks on the opposite side of the way, so
that he may be able to take in a view of the whole of his property
at once. He is a tall, thin, bony man, with an interrogative nose,
and little restless perking eyes, which appear to have been given
him for the sole purpose of peeping into other people's affairs
with. He is deeply impressed with the importance of our parish
business, and prides himself, not a little, on his style of
addressing the parishioners in vestry assembled. His views are
rather confined than extensive; his principles more narrow than
liberal. He has been heard to declaim very loudly in favour of the
liberty of the press, and advocates the repeal of the stamp duty on
newspapers, because the daily journals who now have a monopoly of
the public, never give verbatim reports of vestry meetings. He
would not appear egotistical for the world, but at the same time he
must say, that there are SPEECHES--that celebrated speech of his
own, on the emoluments of the sexton, and the duties of the office,
for instance--which might be communicated to the public, greatly to
their improvement and advantage.

His great opponent in public life is Captain Purday, the old naval
officer on half-pay, to whom we have already introduced our
readers. The captain being a determined opponent of the
constituted authorities, whoever they may chance to be, and our
other friend being their steady supporter, with an equal disregard
of their individual merits, it will readily be supposed, that
occasions for their coming into direct collision are neither few
nor far between. They divided the vestry fourteen times on a
motion for heating the church with warm water instead of coals:
and made speeches about liberty and expenditure, and prodigality
and hot water, which threw the whole parish into a state of
excitement. Then the captain, when he was on the visiting
committee, and his opponent overseer, brought forward certain
distinct and specific charges relative to the management of the
workhouse, boldly expressed his total want of confidence in the
existing authorities, and moved for 'a copy of the recipe by which
the paupers' soup was prepared, together with any documents
relating thereto.' This the overseer steadily resisted; he
fortified himself by precedent, appealed to the established usage,
and declined to produce the papers, on the ground of the injury
that would be done to the public service, if documents of a
strictly private nature, passing between the master of the
workhouse and the cook, were to be thus dragged to light on the
motion of any individual member of the vestry. The motion was lost
by a majority of two; and then the captain, who never allows
himself to be defeated, moved for a committee of inquiry into the
whole subject. The affair grew serious: the question was
discussed at meeting after meeting, and vestry after vestry;
speeches were made, attacks repudiated, personal defiances
exchanged, explanations received, and the greatest excitement
prevailed, until at last, just as the question was going to be
finally decided, the vestry found that somehow or other, they had
become entangled in a point of form, from which it was impossible
to escape with propriety. So, the motion was dropped, and
everybody looked extremely important, and seemed quite satisfied
with the meritorious nature of the whole proceeding.

This was the state of affairs in our parish a week or two since,
when Simmons, the beadle, suddenly died. The lamented deceased had
over-exerted himself, a day or two previously, in conveying an aged
female, highly intoxicated, to the strong room of the work-house.
The excitement thus occasioned, added to a severe cold, which this
indefatigable officer had caught in his capacity of director of the
parish engine, by inadvertently playing over himself instead of a
fire, proved too much for a constitution already enfeebled by age;
and the intelligence was conveyed to the Board one evening that
Simmons had died, and left his respects.

The breath was scarcely out of the body of the deceased
functionary, when the field was filled with competitors for the
vacant office, each of whom rested his claims to public support,
entirely on the number and extent of his family, as if the office
of beadle were originally instituted as an encouragement for the
propagation of the human species. 'Bung for Beadle. Five small
children!'--'Hopkins for Beadle. Seven small children!!'--'Timkins
for Beadle. Nine small children!!!' Such were the placards in
large black letters on a white ground, which were plentifully
pasted on the walls, and posted in the windows of the principal
shops. Timkins's success was considered certain: several mothers
of families half promised their votes, and the nine small children
would have run over the course, but for the production of another
placard, announcing the appearance of a still more meritorious
candidate. 'Spruggins for Beadle. Ten small children (two of them
twins), and a wife!!!' There was no resisting this; ten small
children would have been almost irresistible in themselves, without
the twins, but the touching parenthesis about that interesting
production of nature, and the still more touching allusion to Mrs.
Spruggins, must ensure success. Spruggins was the favourite at
once, and the appearance of his lady, as she went about to solicit
votes (which encouraged confident hopes of a still further addition
to the house of Spruggins at no remote period), increased the
general prepossession in his favour. The other candidates, Bung
alone excepted, resigned in despair. The day of election was
fixed; and the canvass proceeded with briskness and perseverance on
both sides.

The members of the vestry could not be supposed to escape the
contagious excitement inseparable from the occasion. The majority
of the lady inhabitants of the parish declared at once for
Spruggins; and the quondam overseer took the same side, on the
ground that men with large families always had been elected to the
office, and that although he must admit, that, in other respects,
Spruggins was the least qualified candidate of the two, still it
was an old practice, and he saw no reason why an old practice
should be departed from. This was enough for the captain. He
immediately sided with Bung, canvassed for him personally in all
directions, wrote squibs on Spruggins, and got his butcher to
skewer them up on conspicuous joints in his shop-front; frightened
his neighbour, the old lady, into a palpitation of the heart, by
his awful denunciations of Spruggins's party; and bounced in and
out, and up and down, and backwards and forwards, until all the
sober inhabitants of the parish thought it inevitable that he must
die of a brain fever, long before the election began.

The day of election arrived. It was no longer an individual
struggle, but a party contest between the ins and outs. The
question was, whether the withering influence of the overseers, the
domination of the churchwardens, and the blighting despotism of the
vestry-clerk, should be allowed to render the election of beadle a
form--a nullity: whether they should impose a vestry-elected
beadle on the parish, to do their bidding and forward their views,
or whether the parishioners, fearlessly asserting their undoubted
rights, should elect an independent beadle of their own.

The nomination was fixed to take place in the vestry, but so great
was the throng of anxious spectators, that it was found necessary
to adjourn to the church, where the ceremony commenced with due
solemnity. The appearance of the churchwardens and overseers, and
the ex-churchwardens and ex-overseers, with Spruggins in the rear,
excited general attention. Spruggins was a little thin man, in
rusty black, with a long pale face, and a countenance expressive of
care and fatigue, which might either be attributed to the extent of
his family or the anxiety of his feelings. His opponent appeared
in a cast-off coat of the captain's--a blue coat with bright
buttons; white trousers, and that description of shoes familiarly
known by the appellation of 'high-lows.' There was a serenity in
the open countenance of Bung--a kind of moral dignity in his
confident air--an 'I wish you may get it' sort of expression in his
eye--which infused animation into his supporters, and evidently
dispirited his opponents.

The ex-churchwarden rose to propose Thomas Spruggins for beadle.
He had known him long. He had had his eye upon him closely for
years; he had watched him with twofold vigilance for months. (A
parishioner here suggested that this might be termed 'taking a
double sight,' but the observation was drowned in loud cries of
'Order!') He would repeat that he had had his eye upon him for
years, and this he would say, that a more well-conducted, a more
well-behaved, a more sober, a more quiet man, with a more well-
regulated mind, he had never met with. A man with a larger family
he had never known (cheers). The parish required a man who could
be depended on ('Hear!' from the Spruggins side, answered by
ironical cheers from the Bung party). Such a man he now proposed
('No,' 'Yes'). He would not allude to individuals (the ex-
churchwarden continued, in the celebrated negative style adopted by
great speakers). He would not advert to a gentleman who had once
held a high rank in the service of his majesty; he would not say,
that that gentleman was no gentleman; he would not assert, that
that man was no man; he would not say, that he was a turbulent
parishioner; he would not say, that he had grossly misbehaved
himself, not only on this, but on all former occasions; he would
not say, that he was one of those discontented and treasonable
spirits, who carried confusion and disorder wherever they went; he
would not say, that he harboured in his heart envy, and hatred, and
malice, and all uncharitableness. No! He wished to have
everything comfortable and pleasant, and therefore, he would say--
nothing about him (cheers).

The captain replied in a similar parliamentary style. He would not
say, he was astonished at the speech they had just heard; he would
not say, he was disgusted (cheers). He would not retort the
epithets which had been hurled against him (renewed cheering); he
would not allude to men once in office, but now happily out of it,
who had mismanaged the workhouse, ground the paupers, diluted the
beer, slack-baked the bread, boned the meat, heightened the work,
and lowered the soup (tremendous cheers). He would not ask what
such men deserved (a voice, 'Nothing a-day, and find themselves!').
He would not say, that one burst of general indignation should
drive them from the parish they polluted with their presence ('Give
it him!'). He would not allude to the unfortunate man who had been
proposed--he would not say, as the vestry's tool, but as Beadle.
He would not advert to that individual's family; he would not say,
that nine children, twins, and a wife, were very bad examples for
pauper imitation (loud cheers). He would not advert in detail to
the qualifications of Bung. The man stood before him, and he would
not say in his presence, what he might be disposed to say of him,
if he were absent. (Here Mr. Bung telegraphed to a friend near
him, under cover of his hat, by contracting his left eye, and
applying his right thumb to the tip of his nose). It had been
objected to Bung that he had only five children ('Hear, hear!' from
the opposition). Well; he had yet to learn that the legislature
had affixed any precise amount of infantine qualification to the
office of beadle; but taking it for granted that an extensive
family were a great requisite, he entreated them to look to facts,
and compare data, about which there could be no mistake. Bung was
35 years of age. Spruggins--of whom he wished to speak with all
possible respect--was 50. Was it not more than possible--was it
not very probable--that by the time Bung attained the latter age,
he might see around him a family, even exceeding in number and
extent, that to which Spruggins at present laid claim (deafening
cheers and waving of handkerchiefs)? The captain concluded, amidst
loud applause, by calling upon the parishioners to sound the
tocsin, rush to the poll, free themselves from dictation, or be
slaves for ever.

On the following day the polling began, and we never have had such
a bustle in our parish since we got up our famous anti-slavery
petition, which was such an important one, that the House of
Commons ordered it to be printed, on the motion of the member for
the district. The captain engaged two hackney-coaches and a cab
for Bung's people--the cab for the drunken voters, and the two
coaches for the old ladies, the greater portion of whom, owing to
the captain's impetuosity, were driven up to the poll and home
again, before they recovered from their flurry sufficiently to
know, with any degree of clearness, what they had been doing. The
opposite party wholly neglected these precautions, and the
consequence was, that a great many ladies who were walking
leisurely up to the church--for it was a very hot day--to vote for
Spruggins, were artfully decoyed into the coaches, and voted for
Bung. The captain's arguments, too, had produced considerable
effect: the attempted influence of the vestry produced a greater.
A threat of exclusive dealing was clearly established against the
vestry-clerk--a case of heartless and profligate atrocity. It
appeared that the delinquent had been in the habit of purchasing
six penn'orth of muffins, weekly, from an old woman who rents a
small house in the parish, and resides among the original settlers;
on her last weekly visit, a message was conveyed to her through the
medium of the cook, couched in mysterious terms, but indicating
with sufficient clearness, that the vestry-clerk's appetite for
muffins, in future, depended entirely on her vote on the
beadleship. This was sufficient: the stream had been turning
previously, and the impulse thus administered directed its final
course. The Bung party ordered one shilling's-worth of muffins
weekly for the remainder of the old woman's natural life; the
parishioners were loud in their exclamations; and the fate of
Spruggins was sealed.

It was in vain that the twins were exhibited in dresses of the same
pattern, and night-caps, to match, at the church door: the boy in
Mrs. Spruggins's right arm, and the girl in her left--even Mrs.
Spruggins herself failed to be an object of sympathy any longer.
The majority attained by Bung on the gross poll was four hundred
and twenty-eight, and the cause of the parishioners triumphed.


The excitement of the late election has subsided, and our parish
being once again restored to a state of comparative tranquillity,
we are enabled to devote our attention to those parishioners who
take little share in our party contests or in the turmoil and
bustle of public life. And we feel sincere pleasure in
acknowledging here, that in collecting materials for this task we
have been greatly assisted by Mr. Bung himself, who has imposed on
us a debt of obligation which we fear we can never repay. The life
of this gentleman has been one of a very chequered description: he
has undergone transitions--not from grave to gay, for he never was
grave--not from lively to severe, for severity forms no part of his
disposition; his fluctuations have been between poverty in the
extreme, and poverty modified, or, to use his own emphatic
language, 'between nothing to eat and just half enough.' He is
not, as he forcibly remarks, 'one of those fortunate men who, if
they were to dive under one side of a barge stark-naked, would come
up on the other with a new suit of clothes on, and a ticket for
soup in the waistcoat-pocket:' neither is he one of those, whose
spirit has been broken beyond redemption by misfortune and want.
He is just one of the careless, good-for-nothing, happy fellows,
who float, cork-like, on the surface, for the world to play at
hockey with: knocked here, and there, and everywhere: now to the
right, then to the left, again up in the air, and anon to the
bottom, but always reappearing and bounding with the stream
buoyantly and merrily along. Some few months before he was
prevailed upon to stand a contested election for the office of
beadle, necessity attached him to the service of a broker; and on
the opportunities he here acquired of ascertaining the condition of
most of the poorer inhabitants of the parish, his patron, the
captain, first grounded his claims to public support. Chance threw
the man in our way a short time since. We were, in the first
instance, attracted by his prepossessing impudence at the election;
we were not surprised, on further acquaintance, to find him a
shrewd, knowing fellow, with no inconsiderable power of
observation; and, after conversing with him a little, were somewhat
struck (as we dare say our readers have frequently been in other
cases) with the power some men seem to have, not only of
sympathising with, but to all appearance of understanding feelings
to which they themselves are entire strangers. We had been
expressing to the new functionary our surprise that he should ever
have served in the capacity to which we have just adverted, when we
gradually led him into one or two professional anecdotes. As we
are induced to think, on reflection, that they will tell better in
nearly his own words, than with any attempted embellishments of
ours, we will at once entitle them.


'It's very true, as you say, sir,' Mr. Bung commenced, 'that a
broker's man's is not a life to be envied; and in course you know
as well as I do, though you don't say it, that people hate and
scout 'em because they're the ministers of wretchedness, like, to
poor people. But what could I do, sir? The thing was no worse
because I did it, instead of somebody else; and if putting me in
possession of a house would put me in possession of three and
sixpence a day, and levying a distress on another man's goods would
relieve my distress and that of my family, it can't be expected but
what I'd take the job and go through with it. I never liked it,
God knows; I always looked out for something else, and the moment I
got other work to do, I left it. If there is anything wrong in
being the agent in such matters--not the principal, mind you--I'm
sure the business, to a beginner like I was, at all events, carries
its own punishment along with it. I wished again and again that
the people would only blow me up, or pitch into me--that I wouldn't
have minded, it's all in my way; but it's the being shut up by
yourself in one room for five days, without so much as an old
newspaper to look at, or anything to see out o' the winder but the
roofs and chimneys at the back of the house, or anything to listen
to, but the ticking, perhaps, of an old Dutch clock, the sobbing of
the missis, now and then, the low talking of friends in the next
room, who speak in whispers, lest "the man" should overhear them,
or perhaps the occasional opening of the door, as a child peeps in
to look at you, and then runs half-frightened away--it's all this,
that makes you feel sneaking somehow, and ashamed of yourself; and
then, if it's wintertime, they just give you fire enough to make
you think you'd like more, and bring in your grub as if they wished
it 'ud choke you--as I dare say they do, for the matter of that,
most heartily. If they're very civil, they make you up a bed in
the room at night, and if they don't, your master sends one in for
you; but there you are, without being washed or shaved all the
time, shunned by everybody, and spoken to by no one, unless some
one comes in at dinner-time, and asks you whether you want any
more, in a tone as much to say, "I hope you don't," or, in the
evening, to inquire whether you wouldn't rather have a candle,
after you've been sitting in the dark half the night. When I was
left in this way, I used to sit, think, think, thinking, till I
felt as lonesome as a kitten in a wash-house copper with the lid
on; but I believe the old brokers' men who are regularly trained to
it, never think at all. I have heard some on 'em say, indeed, that
they don't know how!

'I put in a good many distresses in my time (continued Mr. Bung),
and in course I wasn't long in finding, that some people are not as
much to be pitied as others are, and that people with good incomes
who get into difficulties, which they keep patching up day after
day and week after week, get so used to these sort of things in
time, that at last they come scarcely to feel them at all. I
remember the very first place I was put in possession of, was a
gentleman's house in this parish here, that everybody would suppose
couldn't help having money if he tried. I went with old Fixem, my
old master, 'bout half arter eight in the morning; rang the area-
bell; servant in livery opened the door: "Governor at home?"--
"Yes, he is," says the man; "but he's breakfasting just now."
"Never mind," says Fixem, "just you tell him there's a gentleman
here, as wants to speak to him partickler." So the servant he
opens his eyes, and stares about him all ways--looking for the
gentleman, as it struck me, for I don't think anybody but a man as
was stone-blind would mistake Fixem for one; and as for me, I was
as seedy as a cheap cowcumber. Hows'ever, he turns round, and goes
to the breakfast-parlour, which was a little snug sort of room at
the end of the passage, and Fixem (as we always did in that
profession), without waiting to be announced, walks in arter him,
and before the servant could get out, "Please, sir, here's a man as
wants to speak to you," looks in at the door as familiar and
pleasant as may be. "Who the devil are you, and how dare you walk
into a gentleman's house without leave?" says the master, as fierce
as a bull in fits. "My name," says Fixem, winking to the master to
send the servant away, and putting the warrant into his hands
folded up like a note, "My name's Smith," says he, "and I called
from Johnson's about that business of Thompson's."--"Oh," says the
other, quite down on him directly, "How IS Thompson?" says he;
"Pray sit down, Mr. Smith: John, leave the room." Out went the
servant; and the gentleman and Fixem looked at one another till
they couldn't look any longer, and then they varied the amusements
by looking at me, who had been standing on the mat all this time.
"Hundred and fifty pounds, I see," said the gentleman at last.
"Hundred and fifty pound," said Fixem, "besides cost of levy,
sheriff's poundage, and all other incidental expenses."--"Um," says
the gentleman, "I shan't be able to settle this before to-morrow
afternoon."--"Very sorry; but I shall be obliged to leave my man
here till then," replies Fixem, pretending to look very miserable
over it. "That's very unfort'nate," says the gentleman, "for I
have got a large party here to-night, and I'm ruined if those
fellows of mine get an inkling of the matter--just step here, Mr.
Smith," says he, after a short pause. So Fixem walks with him up
to the window, and after a good deal of whispering, and a little
chinking of suverins, and looking at me, he comes back and says,
"Bung, you're a handy fellow, and very honest I know. This
gentleman wants an assistant to clean the plate and wait at table
to-day, and if you're not particularly engaged," says old Fixem,
grinning like mad, and shoving a couple of suverins into my hand,
"he'll be very glad to avail himself of your services." Well, I
laughed: and the gentleman laughed, and we all laughed; and I went
home and cleaned myself, leaving Fixem there, and when I went back,
Fixem went away, and I polished up the plate, and waited at table,
and gammoned the servants, and nobody had the least idea I was in
possession, though it very nearly came out after all; for one of
the last gentlemen who remained, came down-stairs into the hall
where I was sitting pretty late at night, and putting half-a-crown
into my hand, says, "Here, my man," says he, "run and get me a
coach, will you?" I thought it was a do, to get me out of the
house, and was just going to say so, sulkily enough, when the
gentleman (who was up to everything) came running down-stairs, as
if he was in great anxiety. "Bung," says he, pretending to be in a
consuming passion. "Sir," says I. "Why the devil an't you looking
after that plate?"--"I was just going to send him for a coach for
me," says the other gentleman. "And I was just a-going to say,"
says I--"Anybody else, my dear fellow," interrupts the master of
the house, pushing me down the passage to get out of the way--
"anybody else; but I have put this man in possession of all the
plate and valuables, and I cannot allow him on any consideration
whatever, to leave the house. Bung, you scoundrel, go and count
those forks in the breakfast-parlour instantly." You may be sure I
went laughing pretty hearty when I found it was all right. The
money was paid next day, with the addition of something else for
myself, and that was the best job that I (and I suspect old Fixem
too) ever got in that line.

'But this is the bright side of the picture, sir, after all,'
resumed Mr. Bung, laying aside the knowing look and flash air, with
which he had repeated the previous anecdote--'and I'm sorry to say,
it's the side one sees very, very seldom, in comparison with the
dark one. The civility which money will purchase, is rarely
extended to those who have none; and there's a consolation even in
being able to patch up one difficulty, to make way for another, to
which very poor people are strangers. I was once put into a house
down George's-yard--that little dirty court at the back of the gas-
works; and I never shall forget the misery of them people, dear me!
It was a distress for half a year's rent--two pound ten, I think.
There was only two rooms in the house, and as there was no passage,
the lodgers up-stairs always went through the room of the people of
the house, as they passed in and out; and every time they did so--
which, on the average, was about four times every quarter of an
hour--they blowed up quite frightful: for their things had been
seized too, and included in the inventory. There was a little
piece of enclosed dust in front of the house, with a cinder-path
leading up to the door, and an open rain-water butt on one side. A
dirty striped curtain, on a very slack string, hung in the window,
and a little triangular bit of broken looking-glass rested on the
sill inside. I suppose it was meant for the people's use, but
their appearance was so wretched, and so miserable, that I'm
certain they never could have plucked up courage to look themselves
in the face a second time, if they survived the fright of doing so
once. There was two or three chairs, that might have been worth,
in their best days, from eightpence to a shilling a-piece; a small
deal table, an old corner cupboard with nothing in it, and one of
those bedsteads which turn up half way, and leave the bottom legs
sticking out for you to knock your head against, or hang your hat
upon; no bed, no bedding. There was an old sack, by way of rug,
before the fireplace, and four or five children were grovelling
about, among the sand on the floor. The execution was only put in,
to get 'em out of the house, for there was nothing to take to pay
the expenses; and here I stopped for three days, though that was a
mere form too: for, in course, I knew, and we all knew, they could
never pay the money. In one of the chairs, by the side of the
place where the fire ought to have been, was an old 'ooman--the
ugliest and dirtiest I ever see--who sat rocking herself backwards
and forwards, backwards and forwards, without once stopping, except
for an instant now and then, to clasp together the withered hands
which, with these exceptions, she kept constantly rubbing upon her
knees, just raising and depressing her fingers convulsively, in
time to the rocking of the chair. On the other side sat the mother
with an infant in her arms, which cried till it cried itself to
sleep, and when it 'woke, cried till it cried itself off again.
The old 'ooman's voice I never heard: she seemed completely
stupefied; and as to the mother's, it would have been better if she
had been so too, for misery had changed her to a devil. If you had
heard how she cursed the little naked children as was rolling on
the floor, and seen how savagely she struck the infant when it
cried with hunger, you'd have shuddered as much as I did. There
they remained all the time: the children ate a morsel of bread
once or twice, and I gave 'em best part of the dinners my missis
brought me, but the woman ate nothing; they never even laid on the
bedstead, nor was the room swept or cleaned all the time. The
neighbours were all too poor themselves to take any notice of 'em,
but from what I could make out from the abuse of the woman up-
stairs, it seemed the husband had been transported a few weeks
before. When the time was up, the landlord and old Fixem too, got
rather frightened about the family, and so they made a stir about
it, and had 'em taken to the workhouse. They sent the sick couch
for the old 'ooman, and Simmons took the children away at night.
The old 'ooman went into the infirmary, and very soon died. The
children are all in the house to this day, and very comfortable
they are in comparison. As to the mother, there was no taming her
at all. She had been a quiet, hard-working woman, I believe, but
her misery had actually drove her wild; so after she had been sent
to the house of correction half-a-dozen times, for throwing
inkstands at the overseers, blaspheming the churchwardens, and
smashing everybody as come near her, she burst a blood-vessel one
mornin', and died too; and a happy release it was, both for herself
and the old paupers, male and female, which she used to tip over in
all directions, as if they were so many skittles, and she the ball.

'Now this was bad enough,' resumed Mr. Bung, taking a half-step
towards the door, as if to intimate that he had nearly concluded.
'This was bad enough, but there was a sort of quiet misery--if you
understand what I mean by that, sir--about a lady at one house I
was put into, as touched me a good deal more. It doesn't matter
where it was exactly: indeed, I'd rather not say, but it was the
same sort o' job. I went with Fixem in the usual way--there was a
year's rent in arrear; a very small servant-girl opened the door,
and three or four fine-looking little children was in the front
parlour we were shown into, which was very clean, but very scantily
furnished, much like the children themselves. "Bung," says Fixem
to me, in a low voice, when we were left alone for a minute, "I
know something about this here family, and my opinion is, it's no
go." "Do you think they can't settle?" says I, quite anxiously;
for I liked the looks of them children. Fixem shook his head, and
was just about to reply, when the door opened, and in come a lady,
as white as ever I see any one in my days, except about the eyes,
which were red with crying. She walked in, as firm as I could have
done; shut the door carefully after her, and sat herself down with
a face as composed as if it was made of stone. "What is the
matter, gentlemen?" says she, in a surprisin' steady voice. "IS
this an execution?" "It is, mum," says Fixem. The lady looked at
him as steady as ever: she didn't seem to have understood him.
"It is, mum," says Fixem again; "this is my warrant of distress,
mum," says he, handing it over as polite as if it was a newspaper
which had been bespoke arter the next gentleman.

'The lady's lip trembled as she took the printed paper. She cast
her eye over it, and old Fixem began to explain the form, but saw
she wasn't reading it, plain enough, poor thing. "Oh, my God!"
says she, suddenly a-bursting out crying, letting the warrant fall,
and hiding her face in her hands. "Oh, my God! what will become of
us!" The noise she made, brought in a young lady of about nineteen
or twenty, who, I suppose, had been a-listening at the door, and
who had got a little boy in her arms: she sat him down in the
lady's lap, without speaking, and she hugged the poor little fellow
to her bosom, and cried over him, till even old Fixem put on his
blue spectacles to hide the two tears, that was a-trickling down,
one on each side of his dirty face. "Now, dear ma," says the young
lady, "you know how much you have borne. For all our sakes--for
pa's sake," says she, "don't give way to this!"--"No, no, I won't!"
says the lady, gathering herself up, hastily, and drying her eyes;
"I am very foolish, but I'm better now--much better." And then she
roused herself up, went with us into every room while we took the
inventory, opened all the drawers of her own accord, sorted the
children's little clothes to make the work easier; and, except
doing everything in a strange sort of hurry, seemed as calm and
composed as if nothing had happened. When we came down-stairs
again, she hesitated a minute or two, and at last says,
"Gentlemen," says she, "I am afraid I have done wrong, and perhaps
it may bring you into trouble. I secreted just now," she says,
"the only trinket I have left in the world--here it is." So she
lays down on the table a little miniature mounted in gold. "It's a
miniature," she says, "of my poor dear father! I little thought
once, that I should ever thank God for depriving me of the
original, but I do, and have done for years back, most fervently.
Take it away, sir," she says, "it's a face that never turned from
me in sickness and distress, and I can hardly bear to turn from it
now, when, God knows, I suffer both in no ordinary degree." I
couldn't say nothing, but I raised my head from the inventory which
I was filling up, and looked at Fixem; the old fellow nodded to me
significantly, so I ran my pen through the "MINI" I had just
written, and left the miniature on the table.

'Well, sir, to make short of a long story, I was left in
possession, and in possession I remained; and though I was an
ignorant man, and the master of the house a clever one, I saw what
he never did, but what he would give worlds now (if he had 'em) to
have seen in time. I saw, sir, that his wife was wasting away,
beneath cares of which she never complained, and griefs she never
told. I saw that she was dying before his eyes; I knew that one
exertion from him might have saved her, but he never made it. I
don't blame him: I don't think he COULD rouse himself. She had so
long anticipated all his wishes, and acted for him, that he was a
lost man when left to himself. I used to think when I caught sight
of her, in the clothes she used to wear, which looked shabby even
upon her, and would have been scarcely decent on any one else, that
if I was a gentleman it would wring my very heart to see the woman
that was a smart and merry girl when I courted her, so altered
through her love for me. Bitter cold and damp weather it was, yet,
though her dress was thin, and her shoes none of the best, during
the whole three days, from morning to night, she was out of doors
running about to try and raise the money. The money WAS raised and
the execution was paid out. The whole family crowded into the room
where I was, when the money arrived. The father was quite happy as
the inconvenience was removed--I dare say he didn't know how; the
children looked merry and cheerful again; the eldest girl was
bustling about, making preparations for the first comfortable meal
they had had since the distress was put in; and the mother looked
pleased to see them all so. But if ever I saw death in a woman's
face, I saw it in hers that night.

'I was right, sir,' continued Mr. Bung, hurriedly passing his coat-
sleeve over his face; 'the family grew more prosperous, and good
fortune arrived. But it was too late. Those children are
motherless now, and their father would give up all he has since
gained--house, home, goods, money: all that he has, or ever can
have, to restore the wife he has lost.'


Our Parish is very prolific in ladies' charitable institutions. In
winter, when wet feet are common, and colds not scarce, we have the
ladies' soup distribution society, the ladies' coal distribution
society, and the ladies' blanket distribution society; in summer,
when stone fruits flourish and stomach aches prevail, we have the
ladies' dispensary, and the ladies' sick visitation committee; and
all the year round we have the ladies' child's examination society,
the ladies' bible and prayer-book circulation society, and the
ladies' childbed-linen monthly loan society. The two latter are
decidedly the most important; whether they are productive of more
benefit than the rest, it is not for us to say, but we can take
upon ourselves to affirm, with the utmost solemnity, that they
create a greater stir and more bustle, than all the others put

We should be disposed to affirm, on the first blush of the matter,
that the bible and prayer-book society is not so popular as the
childbed-linen society; the bible and prayer-book society has,
however, considerably increased in importance within the last year
or two, having derived some adventitious aid from the factious
opposition of the child's examination society; which factious
opposition originated in manner following:- When the young curate
was popular, and all the unmarried ladies in the parish took a
serious turn, the charity children all at once became objects of
peculiar and especial interest. The three Miss Browns
(enthusiastic admirers of the curate) taught, and exercised, and
examined, and re-examined the unfortunate children, until the boys
grew pale, and the girls consumptive with study and fatigue. The
three Miss Browns stood it out very well, because they relieved
each other; but the children, having no relief at all, exhibited
decided symptoms of weariness and care. The unthinking part of the
parishioners laughed at all this, but the more reflective portion
of the inhabitants abstained from expressing any opinion on the
subject until that of the curate had been clearly ascertained.

The opportunity was not long wanting. The curate preached a
charity sermon on behalf of the charity school, and in the charity
sermon aforesaid, expatiated in glowing terms on the praiseworthy
and indefatigable exertions of certain estimable individuals. Sobs
were heard to issue from the three Miss Browns' pew; the pew-opener
of the division was seen to hurry down the centre aisle to the
vestry door, and to return immediately, bearing a glass of water in
her hand. A low moaning ensued; two more pew-openers rushed to the
spot, and the three Miss Browns, each supported by a pew-opener,
were led out of the church, and led in again after the lapse of
five minutes with white pocket-handkerchiefs to their eyes, as if
they had been attending a funeral in the churchyard adjoining. If
any doubt had for a moment existed, as to whom the allusion was
intended to apply, it was at once removed. The wish to enlighten
the charity children became universal, and the three Miss Browns
were unanimously besought to divide the school into classes, and to
assign each class to the superintendence of two young ladies.

A little learning is a dangerous thing, but a little patronage is
more so; the three Miss Browns appointed all the old maids, and
carefully excluded the young ones. Maiden aunts triumphed, mammas
were reduced to the lowest depths of despair, and there is no
telling in what act of violence the general indignation against the
three Miss Browns might have vented itself, had not a perfectly
providential occurrence changed the tide of public feeling. Mrs.
Johnson Parker, the mother of seven extremely fine girls--all
unmarried--hastily reported to several other mammas of several
other unmarried families, that five old men, six old women, and
children innumerable, in the free seats near her pew, were in the
habit of coming to church every Sunday, without either bible or
prayer-book. Was this to be borne in a civilised country? Could
such things be tolerated in a Christian land? Never! A ladies'
bible and prayer-book distribution society was instantly formed:
president, Mrs. Johnson Parker; treasurers, auditors, and
secretary, the Misses Johnson Parker: subscriptions were entered
into, books were bought, all the free-seat people provided
therewith, and when the first lesson was given out, on the first
Sunday succeeding these events, there was such a dropping of books,
and rustling of leaves, that it was morally impossible to hear one
word of the service for five minutes afterwards.

The three Miss Browns, and their party, saw the approaching danger,
and endeavoured to avert it by ridicule and sarcasm. Neither the
old men nor the old women could read their books, now they had got
them, said the three Miss Browns. Never mind; they could learn,
replied Mrs. Johnson Parker. The children couldn't read either,
suggested the three Miss Browns. No matter; they could be taught,
retorted Mrs. Johnson Parker. A balance of parties took place.
The Miss Browns publicly examined--popular feeling inclined to the
child's examination society. The Miss Johnson Parkers publicly
distributed--a reaction took place in favour of the prayer-book
distribution. A feather would have turned the scale, and a feather
did turn it. A missionary returned from the West Indies; he was to
be presented to the Dissenters' Missionary Society on his marriage
with a wealthy widow. Overtures were made to the Dissenters by the
Johnson Parkers. Their object was the same, and why not have a
joint meeting of the two societies? The proposition was accepted.
The meeting was duly heralded by public announcement, and the room
was crowded to suffocation. The Missionary appeared on the
platform; he was hailed with enthusiasm. He repeated a dialogue he
had heard between two negroes, behind a hedge, on the subject of
distribution societies; the approbation was tumultuous. He gave an
imitation of the two negroes in broken English; the roof was rent
with applause. From that period we date (with one trifling
exception) a daily increase in the popularity of the distribution
society, and an increase of popularity, which the feeble and
impotent opposition of the examination party, has only tended to

Now, the great points about the childbed-linen monthly loan society
are, that it is less dependent on the fluctuations of public
opinion than either the distribution or the child's examination;
and that, come what may, there is never any lack of objects on
which to exercise its benevolence. Our parish is a very populous
one, and, if anything, contributes, we should be disposed to say,
rather more than its due share to the aggregate amount of births in
the metropolis and its environs. The consequence is, that the
monthly loan society flourishes, and invests its members with a
most enviable amount of bustling patronage. The society (whose
only notion of dividing time, would appear to be its allotment into
months) holds monthly tea-drinkings, at which the monthly report is
received, a secretary elected for the month ensuing, and such of
the monthly boxes as may not happen to be out on loan for the
month, carefully examined.

We were never present at one of these meetings, from all of which
it is scarcely necessary to say, gentlemen are carefully excluded;
but Mr. Bung has been called before the board once or twice, and we
have his authority for stating, that its proceedings are conducted
with great order and regularity: not more than four members being
allowed to speak at one time on any pretence whatever. The regular
committee is composed exclusively of married ladies, but a vast
number of young unmarried ladies of from eighteen to twenty-five
years of age, respectively, are admitted as honorary members,
partly because they are very useful in replenishing the boxes, and
visiting the confined; partly because it is highly desirable that
they should be initiated, at an early period, into the more serious
and matronly duties of after-life; and partly, because prudent
mammas have not unfrequently been known to turn this circumstance
to wonderfully good account in matrimonial speculations.

In addition to the loan of the monthly boxes (which are always
painted blue, with the name of the society in large white letters
on the lid), the society dispense occasional grants of beef-tea,
and a composition of warm beer, spice, eggs, and sugar, commonly
known by the name of 'candle,' to its patients. And here again the
services of the honorary members are called into requisition, and
most cheerfully conceded. Deputations of twos or threes are sent
out to visit the patients, and on these occasions there is such a
tasting of candle and beef-tea, such a stirring about of little
messes in tiny saucepans on the hob, such a dressing and undressing
of infants, such a tying, and folding, and pinning; such a nursing
and warming of little legs and feet before the fire, such a
delightful confusion of talking and cooking, bustle, importance,
and officiousness, as never can be enjoyed in its full extent but
on similar occasions.

In rivalry of these two institutions, and as a last expiring effort
to acquire parochial popularity, the child's examination people
determined, the other day, on having a grand public examination of
the pupils; and the large school-room of the national seminary was,
by and with the consent of the parish authorities, devoted to the
purpose. Invitation circulars were forwarded to all the principal
parishioners, including, of course, the heads of the other two
societies, for whose especial behoof and edification the display
was intended; and a large audience was confidently anticipated on
the occasion. The floor was carefully scrubbed the day before,
under the immediate superintendence of the three Miss Browns; forms
were placed across the room for the accommodation of the visitors,
specimens in writing were carefully selected, and as carefully
patched and touched up, until they astonished the children who had
written them, rather more than the company who read them; sums in
compound addition were rehearsed and re-rehearsed until all the
children had the totals by heart; and the preparations altogether
were on the most laborious and most comprehensive scale. The
morning arrived: the children were yellow-soaped and flannelled,
and towelled, till their faces shone again; every pupil's hair was
carefully combed into his or her eyes, as the case might be; the
girls were adorned with snow-white tippets, and caps bound round
the head by a single purple ribbon: the necks of the elder boys
were fixed into collars of startling dimensions.

The doors were thrown open, and the Misses Brown and Co. were
discovered in plain white muslin dresses, and caps of the same--the
child's examination uniform. The room filled: the greetings of
the company were loud and cordial. The distributionists trembled,
for their popularity was at stake. The eldest boy fell forward,
and delivered a propitiatory address from behind his collar. It
was from the pen of Mr. Henry Brown; the applause was universal,
and the Johnson Parkers were aghast. The examination proceeded
with success, and terminated in triumph. The child's examination
society gained a momentary victory, and the Johnson Parkers
retreated in despair.

A secret council of the distributionists was held that night, with
Mrs. Johnson Parker in the chair, to consider of the best means of
recovering the ground they had lost in the favour of the parish.
What could be done? Another meeting! Alas! who was to attend it?
The Missionary would not do twice; and the slaves were emancipated.
A bold step must be taken. The parish must be astonished in some
way or other; but no one was able to suggest what the step should
be. At length, a very old lady was heard to mumble, in indistinct
tones, 'Exeter Hall.' A sudden light broke in upon the meeting.
It was unanimously resolved, that a deputation of old ladies should
wait upon a celebrated orator, imploring his assistance, and the
favour of a speech; and the deputation should also wait on two or
three other imbecile old women, not resident in the parish, and
entreat their attendance. The application was successful, the
meeting was held; the orator (an Irishman) came. He talked of
green isles--other shores--vast Atlantic--bosom of the deep--
Christian charity--blood and extermination--mercy in hearts--arms
in hands--altars and homes--household gods. He wiped his eyes, he
blew his nose, and he quoted Latin. The effect was tremendous--the
Latin was a decided hit. Nobody knew exactly what it was about,
but everybody knew it must be affecting, because even the orator
was overcome. The popularity of the distribution society among the
ladies of our parish is unprecedented; and the child's examination
is going fast to decay.


We are very fond of speculating as we walk through a street, on the
character and pursuits of the people who inhabit it; and nothing so
materially assists us in these speculations as the appearance of
the house doors. The various expressions of the human countenance
afford a beautiful and interesting study; but there is something in
the physiognomy of street-door knockers, almost as characteristic,
and nearly as infallible. Whenever we visit a man for the first
time, we contemplate the features of his knocker with the greatest
curiosity, for we well know, that between the man and his knocker,
there will inevitably be a greater or less degree of resemblance
and sympathy.

For instance, there is one description of knocker that used to be
common enough, but which is fast passing away--a large round one,
with the jolly face of a convivial lion smiling blandly at you, as
you twist the sides of your hair into a curl or pull up your shirt-
collar while you are waiting for the door to be opened; we never
saw that knocker on the door of a churlish man--so far as our
experience is concerned, it invariably bespoke hospitality and
another bottle.

No man ever saw this knocker on the door of a small attorney or
bill-broker; they always patronise the other lion; a heavy
ferocious-looking fellow, with a countenance expressive of savage
stupidity--a sort of grand master among the knockers, and a great
favourite with the selfish and brutal.

Then there is a little pert Egyptian knocker, with a long thin
face, a pinched-up nose, and a very sharp chin; he is most in vogue
with your government-office people, in light drabs and starched
cravats; little spare, priggish men, who are perfectly satisfied
with their own opinions, and consider themselves of paramount

We were greatly troubled a few years ago, by the innovation of a
new kind of knocker, without any face at all, composed of a wreath
depending from a hand or small truncheon. A little trouble and
attention, however, enabled us to overcome this difficulty, and to
reconcile the new system to our favourite theory. You will
invariably find this knocker on the doors of cold and formal
people, who always ask you why you DON'T come, and never say DO.

Everybody knows the brass knocker is common to suburban villas, and
extensive boarding-schools; and having noticed this genus we have
recapitulated all the most prominent and strongly-defined species.

Some phrenologists affirm, that the agitation of a man's brain by
different passions, produces corresponding developments in the form
of his skull. Do not let us be understood as pushing our theory to
the full length of asserting, that any alteration in a man's
disposition would produce a visible effect on the feature of his
knocker. Our position merely is, that in such a case, the
magnetism which must exist between a man and his knocker, would
induce the man to remove, and seek some knocker more congenial to
his altered feelings. If you ever find a man changing his
habitation without any reasonable pretext, depend upon it, that,
although he may not be aware of the fact himself, it is because he
and his knocker are at variance. This is a new theory, but we
venture to launch it, nevertheless, as being quite as ingenious and
infallible as many thousands of the learned speculations which are
daily broached for public good and private fortune-making.

Entertaining these feelings on the subject of knockers, it will be
readily imagined with what consternation we viewed the entire
removal of the knocker from the door of the next house to the one
we lived in, some time ago, and the substitution of a bell. This
was a calamity we had never anticipated. The bare idea of anybody
being able to exist without a knocker, appeared so wild and
visionary, that it had never for one instant entered our

We sauntered moodily from the spot, and bent our steps towards
Eaton-square, then just building. What was our astonishment and
indignation to find that bells were fast becoming the rule, and
knockers the exception! Our theory trembled beneath the shock. We
hastened home; and fancying we foresaw in the swift progress of
events, its entire abolition, resolved from that day forward to
vent our speculations on our next-door neighbours in person. The
house adjoining ours on the left hand was uninhabited, and we had,
therefore, plenty of leisure to observe our next-door neighbours on
the other side.

The house without the knocker was in the occupation of a city
clerk, and there was a neatly-written bill in the parlour window
intimating that lodgings for a single gentleman were to be let

It was a neat, dull little house, on the shady side of the way,
with new, narrow floorcloth in the passage, and new, narrow stair-
carpets up to the first floor. The paper was new, and the paint
was new, and the furniture was new; and all three, paper, paint,
and furniture, bespoke the limited means of the tenant. There was
a little red and black carpet in the drawing-room, with a border of
flooring all the way round; a few stained chairs and a pembroke
table. A pink shell was displayed on each of the little
sideboards, which, with the addition of a tea-tray and caddy, a few
more shells on the mantelpiece, and three peacock's feathers
tastefully arranged above them, completed the decorative furniture
of the apartment.

This was the room destined for the reception of the single
gentleman during the day, and a little back room on the same floor
was assigned as his sleeping apartment by night.

The bill had not been long in the window, when a stout, good-
humoured looking gentleman, of about five-and-thirty, appeared as a
candidate for the tenancy. Terms were soon arranged, for the bill
was taken down immediately after his first visit. In a day or two
the single gentleman came in, and shortly afterwards his real
character came out.

First of all, he displayed a most extraordinary partiality for
sitting up till three or four o'clock in the morning, drinking
whiskey-and-water, and smoking cigars; then he invited friends
home, who used to come at ten o'clock, and begin to get happy about
the small hours, when they evinced their perfect contentment by
singing songs with half-a-dozen verses of two lines each, and a
chorus of ten, which chorus used to be shouted forth by the whole
strength of the company, in the most enthusiastic and vociferous
manner, to the great annoyance of the neighbours, and the special
discomfort of another single gentleman overhead.

Now, this was bad enough, occurring as it did three times a week on
the average, but this was not all; for when the company DID go
away, instead of walking quietly down the street, as anybody else's
company would have done, they amused themselves by making alarming
and frightful noises, and counterfeiting the shrieks of females in
distress; and one night, a red-faced gentleman in a white hat
knocked in the most urgent manner at the door of the powdered-
headed old gentleman at No. 3, and when the powdered-headed old
gentleman, who thought one of his married daughters must have been
taken ill prematurely, had groped down-stairs, and after a great
deal of unbolting and key-turning, opened the street door, the red-
faced man in the white hat said he hoped he'd excuse his giving him
so much trouble, but he'd feel obliged if he'd favour him with a
glass of cold spring water, and the loan of a shilling for a cab to
take him home, on which the old gentleman slammed the door and went
up-stairs, and threw the contents of his water jug out of window--
very straight, only it went over the wrong man; and the whole
street was involved in confusion.

A joke's a joke; and even practical jests are very capital in their
way, if you can only get the other party to see the fun of them;
but the population of our street were so dull of apprehension, as
to be quite lost to a sense of the drollery of this proceeding:
and the consequence was, that our next-door neighbour was obliged
to tell the single gentleman, that unless he gave up entertaining
his friends at home, he really must be compelled to part with him.

The single gentleman received the remonstrance with great good-
humour, and promised from that time forward, to spend his evenings
at a coffee-house--a determination which afforded general and
unmixed satisfaction.

The next night passed off very well, everybody being delighted with
the change; but on the next, the noises were renewed with greater
spirit than ever. The single gentleman's friends being unable to
see him in his own house every alternate night, had come to the
determination of seeing him home every night; and what with the
discordant greetings of the friends at parting, and the noise
created by the single gentleman in his passage up-stairs, and his
subsequent struggles to get his boots off, the evil was not to be
borne. So, our next-door neighbour gave the single gentleman, who
was a very good lodger in other respects, notice to quit; and the
single gentleman went away, and entertained his friends in other

The next applicant for the vacant first floor, was of a very
different character from the troublesome single gentleman who had
just quitted it. He was a tall, thin, young gentleman, with a
profusion of brown hair, reddish whiskers, and very slightly
developed moustaches. He wore a braided surtout, with frogs
behind, light grey trousers, and wash-leather gloves, and had
altogether rather a military appearance. So unlike the roystering
single gentleman. Such insinuating manners, and such a delightful
address! So seriously disposed, too! When he first came to look
at the lodgings, he inquired most particularly whether he was sure
to be able to get a seat in the parish church; and when he had
agreed to take them, he requested to have a list of the different
local charities, as he intended to subscribe his mite to the most
deserving among them.

Our next-door neighbour was now perfectly happy. He had got a
lodger at last, of just his own way of thinking--a serious, well-
disposed man, who abhorred gaiety, and loved retirement. He took
down the bill with a light heart, and pictured in imagination a
long series of quiet Sundays, on which he and his lodger would
exchange mutual civilities and Sunday papers.

The serious man arrived, and his luggage was to arrive from the
country next morning. He borrowed a clean shirt, and a prayer-
book, from our next-door neighbour, and retired to rest at an early
hour, requesting that he might be called punctually at ten o'clock
next morning--not before, as he was much fatigued.

He WAS called, and did not answer: he was called again, but there
was no reply. Our next-door neighbour became alarmed, and burst
the door open. The serious man had left the house mysteriously;
carrying with him the shirt, the prayer-book, a teaspoon, and the

Whether this occurrence, coupled with the irregularities of his
former lodger, gave our next-door neighbour an aversion to single
gentlemen, we know not; we only know that the next bill which made
its appearance in the parlour window intimated generally, that
there were furnished apartments to let on the first floor. The
bill was soon removed. The new lodgers at first attracted our
curiosity, and afterwards excited our interest.

They were a young lad of eighteen or nineteen, and his mother, a
lady of about fifty, or it might be less. The mother wore a
widow's weeds, and the boy was also clothed in deep mourning. They
were poor--very poor; for their only means of support arose from
the pittance the boy earned, by copying writings, and translating
for booksellers.

They had removed from some country place and settled in London;
partly because it afforded better chances of employment for the
boy, and partly, perhaps, with the natural desire to leave a place
where they had been in better circumstances, and where their
poverty was known. They were proud under their reverses, and above
revealing their wants and privations to strangers. How bitter
those privations were, and how hard the boy worked to remove them,
no one ever knew but themselves. Night after night, two, three,
four hours after midnight, could we hear the occasional raking up
of the scanty fire, or the hollow and half-stifled cough, which
indicated his being still at work; and day after day, could we see
more plainly that nature had set that unearthly light in his
plaintive face, which is the beacon of her worst disease.

Actuated, we hope, by a higher feeling than mere curiosity, we
contrived to establish, first an acquaintance, and then a close
intimacy, with the poor strangers. Our worst fears were realised;
the boy was sinking fast. Through a part of the winter, and the
whole of the following spring and summer, his labours were
unceasingly prolonged: and the mother attempted to procure needle-
work, embroidery--anything for bread.

A few shillings now and then, were all she could earn. The boy
worked steadily on; dying by minutes, but never once giving
utterance to complaint or murmur.

One beautiful autumn evening we went to pay our customary visit to
the invalid. His little remaining strength had been decreasing
rapidly for two or three days preceding, and he was lying on the
sofa at the open window, gazing at the setting sun. His mother had
been reading the Bible to him, for she closed the book as we
entered, and advanced to meet us.

'I was telling William,' she said, 'that we must manage to take him
into the country somewhere, so that he may get quite well. He is
not ill, you know, but he is not very strong, and has exerted
himself too much lately.' Poor thing! The tears that streamed
through her fingers, as she turned aside, as if to adjust her close
widow's cap, too plainly showed how fruitless was the attempt to
deceive herself.

We sat down by the head of the sofa, but said nothing, for we saw
the breath of life was passing gently but rapidly from the young
form before us. At every respiration, his heart beat more slowly.

The boy placed one hand in ours, grasped his mother's arm with the
other, drew her hastily towards him, and fervently kissed her
cheek. There was a pause. He sunk back upon his pillow, and
looked long and earnestly in his mother's face.

'William, William!' murmured the mother, after a long interval,
'don't look at me so--speak to me, dear!'

The boy smiled languidly, but an instant afterwards his features
resolved into the same cold, solemn gaze.

'William, dear William! rouse yourself; don't look at me so, love--
pray don't! Oh, my God! what shall I do!' cried the widow,
clasping her hands in agony--'my dear boy! he is dying!' The boy
raised himself by a violent effort, and folded his hands together--
'Mother! dear, dear mother, bury me in the open fields--anywhere
but in these dreadful streets. I should like to be where you can
see my grave, but not in these close crowded streets; they have
killed me; kiss me again, mother; put your arm round my neck--'

He fell back, and a strange expression stole upon his features; not
of pain or suffering, but an indescribable fixing of every line and

The boy was dead.



The appearance presented by the streets of London an hour before
sunrise, on a summer's morning, is most striking even to the few
whose unfortunate pursuits of pleasure, or scarcely less
unfortunate pursuits of business, cause them to be well acquainted
with the scene. There is an air of cold, solitary desolation about
the noiseless streets which we are accustomed to see thronged at
other times by a busy, eager crowd, and over the quiet, closely-
shut buildings, which throughout the day are swarming with life and
bustle, that is very impressive.

The last drunken man, who shall find his way home before sunlight,
has just staggered heavily along, roaring out the burden of the
drinking song of the previous night: the last houseless vagrant
whom penury and police have left in the streets, has coiled up his
chilly limbs in some paved comer, to dream of food and warmth. The
drunken, the dissipated, and the wretched have disappeared; the
more sober and orderly part of the population have not yet awakened
to the labours of the day, and the stillness of death is over the
streets; its very hue seems to be imparted to them, cold and
lifeless as they look in the grey, sombre light of daybreak. The
coach-stands in the larger thoroughfares are deserted: the night-
houses are closed; and the chosen promenades of profligate misery
are empty.

An occasional policeman may alone be seen at the street corners,
listlessly gazing on the deserted prospect before him; and now and
then a rakish-looking cat runs stealthily across the road and
descends his own area with as much caution and slyness--bounding
first on the water-butt, then on the dust-hole, and then alighting
on the flag-stones--as if he were conscious that his character
depended on his gallantry of the preceding night escaping public
observation. A partially opened bedroom-window here and there,
bespeaks the heat of the weather, and the uneasy slumbers of its
occupant; and the dim scanty flicker of the rushlight, through the
window-blind, denotes the chamber of watching or sickness. With
these few exceptions, the streets present no signs of life, nor the
houses of habitation.

An hour wears away; the spires of the churches and roofs of the
principal buildings are faintly tinged with the light of the rising
sun; and the streets, by almost imperceptible degrees, begin to
resume their bustle and animation. Market-carts roll slowly along:
the sleepy waggoner impatiently urging on his tired horses, or
vainly endeavouring to awaken the boy, who, luxuriously stretched
on the top of the fruit-baskets, forgets, in happy oblivion, his
long-cherished curiosity to behold the wonders of London.

Rough, sleepy-looking animals of strange appearance, something
between ostlers and hackney-coachmen, begin to take down the
shutters of early public-houses; and little deal tables, with the
ordinary preparations for a street breakfast, make their appearance
at the customary stations. Numbers of men and women (principally
the latter), carrying upon their heads heavy baskets of fruit, toil
down the park side of Piccadilly, on their way to Covent-garden,
and, following each other in rapid succession, form a long
straggling line from thence to the turn of the road at

Here and there, a bricklayer's labourer, with the day's dinner tied
up in a handkerchief, walks briskly to his work, and occasionally a
little knot of three or four schoolboys on a stolen bathing
expedition rattle merrily over the pavement, their boisterous mirth
contrasting forcibly with the demeanour of the little sweep, who,
having knocked and rung till his arm aches, and being interdicted
by a merciful legislature from endangering his lungs by calling
out, sits patiently down on the door-step, until the housemaid may
happen to awake.

Covent-garden market, and the avenues leading to it, are thronged
with carts of all sorts, sizes, and descriptions, from the heavy
lumbering waggon, with its four stout horses, to the jingling
costermonger's cart, with its consumptive donkey. The pavement is
already strewed with decayed cabbage-leaves, broken hay-bands, and
all the indescribable litter of a vegetable market; men are
shouting, carts backing, horses neighing, boys fighting, basket-
women talking, piemen expatiating on the excellence of their
pastry, and donkeys braying. These and a hundred other sounds form
a compound discordant enough to a Londoner's ears, and remarkably
disagreeable to those of country gentlemen who are sleeping at the
Hummums for the first time.

Another hour passes away, and the day begins in good earnest. The
servant of all work, who, under the plea of sleeping very soundly,
has utterly disregarded 'Missis's' ringing for half an hour
previously, is warned by Master (whom Missis has sent up in his
drapery to the landing-place for that purpose), that it's half-past
six, whereupon she awakes all of a sudden, with well-feigned
astonishment, and goes down-stairs very sulkily, wishing, while she
strikes a light, that the principle of spontaneous combustion would
extend itself to coals and kitchen range. When the fire is
lighted, she opens the street-door to take in the milk, when, by
the most singular coincidence in the world, she discovers that the
servant next door has just taken in her milk too, and that Mr.
Todd's young man over the way, is, by an equally extraordinary
chance, taking down his master's shutters. The inevitable
consequence is, that she just steps, milk-jug in hand, as far as
next door, just to say 'good morning' to Betsy Clark, and that Mr.
Todd's young man just steps over the way to say 'good morning' to
both of 'em; and as the aforesaid Mr. Todd's young man is almost as
good-looking and fascinating as the baker himself, the conversation
quickly becomes very interesting, and probably would become more
so, if Betsy Clark's Missis, who always will be a-followin' her
about, didn't give an angry tap at her bedroom window, on which Mr.
Todd's young man tries to whistle coolly, as he goes back to his
shop much faster than he came from it; and the two girls run back
to their respective places, and shut their street-doors with
surprising softness, each of them poking their heads out of the
front parlour window, a minute afterwards, however, ostensibly with
the view of looking at the mail which just then passes by, but
really for the purpose of catching another glimpse of Mr. Todd's
young man, who being fond of mails, but more of females, takes a
short look at the mails, and a long look at the girls, much to the
satisfaction of all parties concerned.

The mail itself goes on to the coach-office in due course, and the
passengers who are going out by the early coach, stare with
astonishment at the passengers who are coming in by the early
coach, who look blue and dismal, and are evidently under the
influence of that odd feeling produced by travelling, which makes
the events of yesterday morning seem as if they had happened at
least six months ago, and induces people to wonder with
considerable gravity whether the friends and relations they took
leave of a fortnight before, have altered much since they have left
them. The coach-office is all alive, and the coaches which are
just going out, are surrounded by the usual crowd of Jews and
nondescripts, who seem to consider, Heaven knows why, that it is
quite impossible any man can mount a coach without requiring at
least sixpenny-worth of oranges, a penknife, a pocket-book, a last
year's annual, a pencil-case, a piece of sponge, and a small series
of caricatures.

Half an hour more, and the sun darts his bright rays cheerfully
down the still half-empty streets, and shines with sufficient force
to rouse the dismal laziness of the apprentice, who pauses every
other minute from his task of sweeping out the shop and watering
the pavement in front of it, to tell another apprentice similarly
employed, how hot it will be to-day, or to stand with his right
hand shading his eyes, and his left resting on the broom, gazing at
the 'Wonder,' or the 'Tally-ho,' or the 'Nimrod,' or some other
fast coach, till it is out of sight, when he re-enters the shop,
envying the passengers on the outside of the fast coach, and
thinking of the old red brick house 'down in the country,' where he
went to school: the miseries of the milk and water, and thick
bread and scrapings, fading into nothing before the pleasant
recollection of the green field the boys used to play in, and the
green pond he was caned for presuming to fall into, and other
schoolboy associations.

Cabs, with trunks and band-boxes between the drivers' legs and
outside the apron, rattle briskly up and down the streets on their
way to the coach-offices or steam-packet wharfs; and the cab-
drivers and hackney-coachmen who are on the stand polish up the
ornamental part of their dingy vehicles--the former wondering how
people can prefer 'them wild beast cariwans of homnibuses, to a
riglar cab with a fast trotter,' and the latter admiring how people
can trust their necks into one of 'them crazy cabs, when they can
have a 'spectable 'ackney cotche with a pair of 'orses as von't run
away with no vun;' a consolation unquestionably founded on fact,
seeing that a hackney-coach horse never was known to run at all,
'except,' as the smart cabman in front of the rank observes,
'except one, and HE run back'ards.'

The shops are now completely opened, and apprentices and shopmen
are busily engaged in cleaning and decking the windows for the day.
The bakers' shops in town are filled with servants and children
waiting for the drawing of the first batch of rolls--an operation
which was performed a full hour ago in the suburbs: for the early
clerk population of Somers and Camden towns, Islington, and
Pentonville, are fast pouring into the city, or directing their
steps towards Chancery-lane and the Inns of Court. Middle-aged
men, whose salaries have by no means increased in the same
proportion as their families, plod steadily along, apparently with
no object in view but the counting-house; knowing by sight almost
everybody they meet or overtake, for they have seen them every
morning (Sunday excepted) during the last twenty years, but
speaking to no one. If they do happen to overtake a personal
acquaintance, they just exchange a hurried salutation, and keep
walking on either by his side, or in front of him, as his rate of
walking may chance to be. As to stopping to shake hands, or to
take the friend's arm, they seem to think that as it is not
included in their salary, they have no right to do it. Small
office lads in large hats, who are made men before they are boys,
hurry along in pairs, with their first coat carefully brushed, and
the white trousers of last Sunday plentifully besmeared with dust
and ink. It evidently requires a considerable mental struggle to
avoid investing part of the day's dinner-money in the purchase of
the stale tarts so temptingly exposed in dusty tins at the pastry-
cooks' doors; but a consciousness of their own importance and the
receipt of seven shillings a-week, with the prospect of an early
rise to eight, comes to their aid, and they accordingly put their
hats a little more on one side, and look under the bonnets of all
the milliners' and stay-makers' apprentices they meet--poor girls!-
-the hardest worked, the worst paid, and too often, the worst used
class of the community.

Eleven o'clock, and a new set of people fill the streets. The
goods in the shop-windows are invitingly arranged; the shopmen in
their white neckerchiefs and spruce coats, look as it they couldn't
clean a window if their lives depended on it; the carts have
disappeared from Covent-garden; the waggoners have returned, and
the costermongers repaired to their ordinary 'beats' in the
suburbs; clerks are at their offices, and gigs, cabs, omnibuses,
and saddle-horses, are conveying their masters to the same
destination. The streets are thronged with a vast concourse of
people, gay and shabby, rich and poor, idle and industrious; and we
come to the heat, bustle, and activity of NOON.


But the streets of London, to be beheld in the very height of their
glory, should be seen on a dark, dull, murky winter's night, when
there is just enough damp gently stealing down to make the pavement
greasy, without cleansing it of any of its impurities; and when the
heavy lazy mist, which hangs over every object, makes the gas-lamps

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