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The People of the Abyss by Jack London

Part 2 out of 4

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"Yes," I said, but I was thinking of the wash-board ribs over which
I had run my hand.


First of all, I must beg forgiveness of my body for the vileness
through which I have dragged it, and forgiveness of my stomach for
the vileness which I have thrust into it. I have been to the spike,
and slept in the spike, and eaten in the spike; also, I have run
away from the spike.

After my two unsuccessful attempts to penetrate the Whitechapel
casual ward, I started early, and joined the desolate line before
three o'clock in the afternoon. They did not "let in" till six, but
at that early hour I was number twenty, while the news had gone
forth that only twenty-two were to be admitted. By four o'clock
there were thirty-four in line, the last ten hanging on in the
slender hope of getting in by some kind of a miracle. Many more
came, looked at the line, and went away, wise to the bitter fact
that the spike would be "full up."

Conversation was slack at first, standing there, till the man on one
side of me and the man on the other side of me discovered that they
had been in the smallpox hospital at the same time, though a full
house of sixteen hundred patients had prevented their becoming
acquainted. But they made up for it, discussing and comparing the
more loathsome features of their disease in the most cold-blooded,
matter-of-fact way. I learned that the average mortality was one in
six, that one of them had been in three months and the other three
months and a half, and that they had been "rotten wi' it." Whereat
my flesh began to creep and crawl, and I asked them how long they
had been out. One had been out two weeks, and the other three
weeks. Their faces were badly pitted (though each assured the other
that this was not so), and further, they showed me in their hands
and under the nails the smallpox "seeds" still working out. Nay,
one of them worked a seed out for my edification, and pop it went,
right out of his flesh into the air. I tried to shrink up smaller
inside my clothes, and I registered a fervent though silent hope
that it had not popped on me.

In both instances, I found that the smallpox was the cause of their
being "on the doss," which means on the tramp. Both had been
working when smitten by the disease, and both had emerged from the
hospital "broke," with the gloomy task before them of hunting for
work. So far, they had not found any, and they had come to the
spike for a "rest up" after three days and nights on the street.

It seems that not only the man who becomes old is punished for his
involuntary misfortune, but likewise the man who is struck by
disease or accident. Later on, I talked with another man--"Ginger"
we called him--who stood at the head of the line--a sure indication
that he had been waiting since one o'clock. A year before, one day,
while in the employ of a fish dealer, he was carrying a heavy box of
fish which was too much for him. Result: "something broke," and
there was the box on the ground, and he on the ground beside it.

At the first hospital, whither he was immediately carried, they said
it was a rupture, reduced the swelling, gave him some vaseline to
rub on it, kept him four hours, and told him to get along. But he
was not on the streets more than two or three hours when he was down
on his back again. This time he went to another hospital and was
patched up. But the point is, the employer did nothing, positively
nothing, for the man injured in his employment, and even refused him
"a light job now and again," when he came out. As far as Ginger is
concerned, he is a broken man. His only chance to earn a living was
by heavy work. He is now incapable of performing heavy work, and
from now until he dies, the spike, the peg, and the streets are all
he can look forward to in the way of food and shelter. The thing
happened--that is all. He put his back under too great a load of
fish, and his chance for happiness in life was crossed off the

Several men in the line had been to the United States, and they were
wishing that they had remained there, and were cursing themselves
for their folly in ever having left. England had become a prison to
them, a prison from which there was no hope of escape. It was
impossible for them to get away. They could neither scrape together
the passage money, nor get a chance to work their passage. The
country was too overrun by poor devils on that "lay."

I was on the seafaring-man-who-had-lost-his-clothes-and-money tack,
and they all condoled with me and gave me much sound advice. To sum
it up, the advice was something like this: To keep out of all
places like the spike. There was nothing good in it for me. To
head for the coast and bend every effort to get away on a ship. To
go to work, if possible, and scrape together a pound or so, with
which I might bribe some steward or underling to give me chance to
work my passage. They envied me my youth and strength, which would
sooner or later get me out of the country. These they no longer
possessed. Age and English hardship had broken them, and for them
the game was played and up.

There was one, however, who was still young, and who, I am sure,
will in the end make it out. He had gone to the United States as a
young fellow, and in fourteen years' residence the longest period he
had been out of work was twelve hours. He had saved his money,
grown too prosperous, and returned to the mother-country. Now he
was standing in line at the spike.

For the past two years, he told me, he had been working as a cook.
His hours had been from 7 a.m to 10.30 p.m., and on Saturday to
12.30 p.m.--ninety-five hours per week, for which he had received
twenty shillings, or five dollars.

"But the work and the long hours was killing me," he said, "and I
had to chuck the job. I had a little money saved, but I spent it
living and looking for another place."

This was his first night in the spike, and he had come in only to
get rested. As soon as he emerged, he intended to start for
Bristol, a one-hundred-and-ten-mile walk, where he thought he would
eventually get a ship for the States.

But the men in the line were not all of this calibre. Some were
poor, wretched beasts, inarticulate and callous, but for all of
that, in many ways very human. I remember a carter, evidently
returning home after the day's work, stopping his cart before us so
that his young hopeful, who had run to meet him, could climb in.
But the cart was big, the young hopeful little, and he failed in his
several attempts to swarm up. Whereupon one of the most degraded-
looking men stepped out of the line and hoisted him in. Now the
virtue and the joy of this act lies in that it was service of love,
not hire. The carter was poor, and the man knew it; and the man was
standing in the spike line, and the carter knew it; and the man had
done the little act, and the carter had thanked him, even as you and
I would have done and thanked.

Another beautiful touch was that displayed by the "Hopper" and his
"ole woman." He had been in line about half-an-hour when the "ole
woman" (his mate) came up to him. She was fairly clad, for her
class, with a weather-worn bonnet on her grey head and a sacking-
covered bundle in her arms. As she talked to him, he reached
forward, caught the one stray wisp of the white hair that was flying
wild, deftly twirled it between his fingers, and tucked it back
properly behind her ear. From all of which one may conclude many
things. He certainly liked her well enough to wish her to be neat
and tidy. He was proud of her, standing there in the spike line,
and it was his desire that she should look well in the eyes of the
other unfortunates who stood in the spike line. But last and best,
and underlying all these motives, it was a sturdy affection he bore
her; for man is not prone to bother his head over neatness and
tidiness in a woman for whom he does not care, nor is he likely to
be proud of such a woman.

And I found myself questioning why this man and his mate, hard
workers I knew from their talk, should have to seek a pauper
lodging. He had pride, pride in his old woman and pride in himself.
When I asked him what he thought I, a greenhorn, might expect to
earn at "hopping," he sized me up, and said that it all depended.
Plenty of people were too slow to pick hops and made a failure of
it. A man, to succeed, must use his head and be quick with his
fingers, must be exceeding quick with his fingers. Now he and his
old woman could do very well at it, working the one bin between them
and not going to sleep over it; but then, they had been at it for

"I 'ad a mate as went down last year," spoke up a man. "It was 'is
fust time, but 'e come back wi' two poun' ten in 'is pockit, an' 'e
was only gone a month."

"There you are," said the Hopper, a wealth of admiration in his
voice. "'E was quick. 'E was jest nat'rally born to it, 'e was."

Two pound ten--twelve dollars and a half--for a month's work when
one is "jest nat'rally born to it!" And in addition, sleeping out
without blankets and living the Lord knows how. There are moments
when I am thankful that I was not "jest nat'rally born" a genius for
anything, not even hop-picking,

In the matter of getting an outfit for "the hops," the Hopper gave
me some sterling advice, to which same give heed, you soft and
tender people, in case you should ever be stranded in London Town.

"If you ain't got tins an' cookin' things, all as you can get'll be
bread and cheese. No bloomin' good that! You must 'ave 'ot tea,
an' wegetables, an' a bit o' meat, now an' again, if you're goin' to
do work as is work. Cawn't do it on cold wittles. Tell you wot you
do, lad. Run around in the mornin' an' look in the dust pans.
You'll find plenty o' tins to cook in. Fine tins, wonderful good
some o' them. Me an' the ole woman got ours that way." (He pointed
at the bundle she held, while she nodded proudly, beaming on me with
good-nature and consciousness of success and prosperity.) "This
overcoat is as good as a blanket," he went on, advancing the skirt
of it that I might feel its thickness. "An' 'oo knows, I may find a
blanket before long."

Again the old woman nodded and beamed, this time with the dead
certainty that he WOULD find a blanket before long.

"I call it a 'oliday, 'oppin'," he concluded rapturously. "A tidy
way o' gettin' two or three pounds together an' fixin' up for
winter. The only thing I don't like"--and here was the rift within
the lute--"is paddin' the 'oof down there."

It was plain the years were telling on this energetic pair, and
while they enjoyed the quick work with the fingers, "paddin' the
'oof," which is walking, was beginning to bear heavily upon them.
And I looked at their grey hairs, and ahead into the future ten
years, and wondered how it would be with them.

I noticed another man and his old woman join the line, both of them
past fifty. The woman, because she was a woman, was admitted into
the spike; but he was too late, and, separated from his mate, was
turned away to tramp the streets all night.

The street on which we stood, from wall to wall, was barely twenty
feet wide. The sidewalks were three feet wide. It was a residence
street. At least workmen and their families existed in some sort of
fashion in the houses across from us. And each day and every day,
from one in the afternoon till six, our ragged spike line is the
principal feature of the view commanded by their front doors and
windows. One workman sat in his door directly opposite us, taking
his rest and a breath of air after the toil of the day. His wife
came to chat with him. The doorway was too small for two, so she
stood up. Their babes sprawled before them. And here was the spike
line, less than a score of feet away--neither privacy for the
workman, nor privacy for the pauper. About our feet played the
children of the neighbourhood. To them our presence was nothing
unusual. We were not an intrusion. We were as natural and ordinary
as the brick walls and stone curbs of their environment. They had
been born to the sight of the spike line, and all their brief days
they had seen it.

At six o'clock the line moved up, and we were admitted in groups of
three. Name, age, occupation, place of birth, condition of
destitution, and the previous night's "doss," were taken with
lightning-like rapidity by the superintendent; and as I turned I was
startled by a man's thrusting into my hand something that felt like
a brick, and shouting into my ear, "any knives, matches, or
tobacco?" "No, sir," I lied, as lied every man who entered. As I
passed downstairs to the cellar, I looked at the brick in my hand,
and saw that by doing violence to the language it might be called
"bread." By its weight and hardness it certainly must have been

The light was very dim down in the cellar, and before I knew it some
other man had thrust a pannikin into my other hand. Then I stumbled
on to a still darker room, where were benches and tables and men.
The place smelled vilely, and the sombre gloom, and the mumble of
voices from out of the obscurity, made it seem more like some
anteroom to the infernal regions.

Most of the men were suffering from tired feet, and they prefaced
the meal by removing their shoes and unbinding the filthy rags with
which their feet were wrapped. This added to the general
noisomeness, while it took away from my appetite.

In fact, I found that I had made a mistake. I had eaten a hearty
dinner five hours before, and to have done justice to the fare
before me I should have fasted for a couple of days. The pannikin
contained skilly, three-quarters of a pint, a mixture of Indian corn
and hot water. The men were dipping their bread into heaps of salt
scattered over the dirty tables. I attempted the same, but the
bread seemed to stick in my mouth, and I remembered the words of the
Carpenter, "You need a pint of water to eat the bread nicely."

I went over into a dark corner where I had observed other men going
and found the water. Then I returned and attacked the skilly. It
was coarse of texture, unseasoned, gross, and bitter. This
bitterness which lingered persistently in the mouth after the skilly
had passed on, I found especially repulsive. I struggled manfully,
but was mastered by my qualms, and half-a-dozen mouthfuls of skilly
and bread was the measure of my success. The man beside me ate his
own share, and mine to boot, scraped the pannikins, and looked
hungrily for more.

"I met a 'towny,' and he stood me too good a dinner," I explained.

"An' I 'aven't 'ad a bite since yesterday mornin'," he replied.

"How about tobacco?" I asked. "Will the bloke bother with a fellow

"Oh no," he answered me. "No bloomin' fear. This is the easiest
spike goin'. Y'oughto see some of them. Search you to the skin."

The pannikins scraped clean, conversation began to spring up. "This
super'tendent 'ere is always writin' to the papers 'bout us mugs,"
said the man on the other side of me.

"What does he say?" I asked.

"Oh, 'e sez we're no good, a lot o' blackguards an' scoundrels as
won't work. Tells all the ole tricks I've bin 'earin' for twenty
years an' w'ich I never seen a mug ever do. Las' thing of 'is I
see, 'e was tellin' 'ow a mug gets out o' the spike, wi' a crust in
'is pockit. An' w'en 'e sees a nice ole gentleman comin' along the
street 'e chucks the crust into the drain, an' borrows the old
gent's stick to poke it out. An' then the ole gent gi'es 'im a

A roar of applause greeted the time-honoured yarn, and from
somewhere over in the deeper darkness came another voice, orating

"Talk o' the country bein' good for tommy [food]; I'd like to see
it. I jest came up from Dover, an' blessed little tommy I got.
They won't gi' ye a drink o' water, they won't, much less tommy."

"There's mugs never go out of Kent," spoke a second voice, "they
live bloomin' fat all along."

"I come through Kent," went on the first voice, still more angrily,
"an' Gawd blimey if I see any tommy. An' I always notices as the
blokes as talks about 'ow much they can get, w'en they're in the
spike can eat my share o' skilly as well as their bleedin' own."

"There's chaps in London," said a man across the table from me,
"that get all the tommy they want, an' they never think o' goin' to
the country. Stay in London the year 'round. Nor do they think of
lookin' for a kip [place to sleep], till nine or ten o'clock at

A general chorus verified this statement

"But they're bloomin' clever, them chaps," said an admiring voice.

"Course they are," said another voice. "But it's not the likes of
me an' you can do it. You got to be born to it, I say. Them chaps
'ave ben openin' cabs an' sellin' papers since the day they was
born, an' their fathers an' mothers before 'em. It's all in the
trainin', I say, an' the likes of me an' you 'ud starve at it."

This also was verified by the general chorus, and likewise the
statement that there were "mugs as lives the twelvemonth 'round in
the spike an' never get a blessed bit o' tommy other than spike
skilly an' bread."

"I once got arf a crown in the Stratford spike," said a new voice.
Silence fell on the instant, and all listened to the wonderful tale.
"There was three of us breakin' stones. Winter-time, an' the cold
was cruel. T'other two said they'd be blessed if they do it, an'
they didn't; but I kept wearin' into mine to warm up, you know. An'
then the guardians come, an' t'other chaps got run in for fourteen
days, an' the guardians, w'en they see wot I'd been doin', gives me
a tanner each, five o' them, an' turns me up."

The majority of these men, nay, all of them, I found, do not like
the spike, and only come to it when driven in. After the "rest up"
they are good for two or three days and nights on the streets, when
they are driven in again for another rest. Of course, this
continuous hardship quickly breaks their constitutions, and they
realise it, though only in a vague way; while it is so much the
common run of things that they do not worry about it.

"On the doss," they call vagabondage here, which corresponds to "on
the road" in the United States. The agreement is that kipping, or
dossing, or sleeping, is the hardest problem they have to face,
harder even than that of food. The inclement weather and the harsh
laws are mainly responsible for this, while the men themselves
ascribe their homelessness to foreign immigration, especially of
Polish and Russian Jews, who take their places at lower wages and
establish the sweating system.

By seven o'clock we were called away to bathe and go to bed. We
stripped our clothes, wrapping them up in our coats and buckling our
belts about them, and deposited them in a heaped rack and on the
floor--a beautiful scheme for the spread of vermin. Then, two by
two, we entered the bathroom. There were two ordinary tubs, and
this I know: the two men preceding had washed in that water, we
washed in the same water, and it was not changed for the two men
that followed us. This I know; but I am also certain that the
twenty-two of us washed in the same water.

I did no more than make a show of splashing some of this dubious
liquid at myself, while I hastily brushed it off with a towel wet
from the bodies of other men. My equanimity was not restored by
seeing the back of one poor wretch a mass of blood from attacks of
vermin and retaliatory scratching.

A shirt was handed me--which I could not help but wonder how many
other men had worn; and with a couple of blankets under my arm I
trudged off to the sleeping apartment. This was a long, narrow
room, traversed by two low iron rails. Between these rails were
stretched, not hammocks, but pieces of canvas, six feet long and
less than two feet wide. These were the beds, and they were six
inches apart and about eight inches above the floor. The chief
difficulty was that the head was somewhat higher than the feet,
which caused the body constantly to slip down. Being slung to the
same rails, when one man moved, no matter how slightly, the rest
were set rocking; and whenever I dozed somebody was sure to struggle
back to the position from which he had slipped, and arouse me again.

Many hours passed before I won to sleep. It was only seven in the
evening, and the voices of children, in shrill outcry, playing in
the street, continued till nearly midnight. The smell was frightful
and sickening, while my imagination broke loose, and my skin crept
and crawled till I was nearly frantic. Grunting, groaning, and
snoring arose like the sounds emitted by some sea monster, and
several times, afflicted by nightmare, one or another, by his
shrieks and yells, aroused the lot of us. Toward morning I was
awakened by a rat or some similar animal on my breast. In the quick
transition from sleep to waking, before I was completely myself, I
raised a shout to wake the dead. At any rate, I woke the living,
and they cursed me roundly for my lack of manners.

But morning came, with a six o'clock breakfast of bread and skilly,
which I gave away, and we were told off to our various tasks. Some
were set to scrubbing and cleaning, others to picking oakum, and
eight of us were convoyed across the street to the Whitechapel
Infirmary where we were set at scavenger work. This was the method
by which we paid for our skilly and canvas, and I, for one, know
that I paid in full many times over.

Though we had most revolting tasks to perform, our allotment was
considered the best and the other men deemed themselves lucky in
being chosen to perform it.

"Don't touch it, mate, the nurse sez it's deadly," warned my working
partner, as I held open a sack into which he was emptying a garbage

It came from the sick wards, and I told him that I purposed neither
to touch it, nor to allow it to touch me. Nevertheless, I had to
carry the sack, and other sacks, down five flights of stairs and
empty them in a receptacle where the corruption was speedily
sprinkled with strong disinfectant.

Perhaps there is a wise mercy in all this. These men of the spike,
the peg, and the street, are encumbrances. They are of no good or
use to any one, nor to themselves. They clutter the earth with
their presence, and are better out of the way. Broken by hardship,
ill fed, and worse nourished, they are always the first to be struck
down by disease, as they are likewise the quickest to die.

They feel, themselves, that the forces of society tend to hurl them
out of existence. We were sprinkling disinfectant by the mortuary,
when the dead waggon drove up and five bodies were packed into it.
The conversation turned to the "white potion" and "black jack," and
I found they were all agreed that the poor person, man or woman, who
in the Infirmary gave too much trouble or was in a bad way, was
"polished off." That is to say, the incurables and the obstreperous
were given a dose of "black jack" or the "white potion," and sent
over the divide. It does not matter in the least whether this be
actually so or not. The point is, they have the feeling that it is
so, and they have created the language with which to express that
feeling--"black jack" "white potion," "polishing off."

At eight o'clock we went down into a cellar under the infirmary,
where tea was brought to us, and the hospital scraps. These were
heaped high on a huge platter in an indescribable mess--pieces of
bread, chunks of grease and fat pork, the burnt skin from the
outside of roasted joints, bones, in short, all the leavings from
the fingers and mouths of the sick ones suffering from all manner of
diseases. Into this mess the men plunged their hands, digging,
pawing, turning over, examining, rejecting, and scrambling for. It
wasn't pretty. Pigs couldn't have done worse. But the poor devils
were hungry, and they ate ravenously of the swill, and when they
could eat no more they bundled what was left into their
handkerchiefs and thrust it inside their shirts.

"Once, w'en I was 'ere before, wot did I find out there but a 'ole
lot of pork-ribs," said Ginger to me. By "out there" he meant the
place where the corruption was dumped and sprinkled with strong
disinfectant. "They was a prime lot, no end o' meat on 'em, an' I
'ad 'em into my arms an' was out the gate an' down the street, a-
lookin' for some 'un to gi' 'em to. Couldn't see a soul, an' I was
runnin' 'round clean crazy, the bloke runnin' after me an' thinkin'
I was 'slingin' my 'ook' [running away]. But jest before 'e got me,
I got a ole woman an' poked 'em into 'er apron."

O Charity, O Philanthropy, descend to the spike and take a lesson
from Ginger. At the bottom of the Abyss he performed as purely an
altruistic act as was ever performed outside the Abyss. It was fine
of Ginger, and if the old woman caught some contagion from the "no
end o' meat" on the pork-ribs, it was still fine, though not so
fine. But the most salient thing in this incident, it seems to me,
is poor Ginger, "clean crazy" at sight of so much food going to

It is the rule of the casual ward that a man who enters must stay
two nights and a day; but I had seen sufficient for my purpose, had
paid for my skilly and canvas, and was preparing to run for it.

"Come on, let's sling it," I said to one of my mates, pointing
toward the open gate through which the dead waggon had come.

"An' get fourteen days?"

"No; get away."

"Aw, I come 'ere for a rest," he said complacently. "An' another
night's kip won't 'urt me none."

They were all of this opinion, so I was forced to "sling it" alone.

"You cawn't ever come back 'ere again for a doss," they warned me.

"No fear," said I, with an enthusiasm they could not comprehend;
and, dodging out the gate, I sped down the street.

Straight to my room I hurried, changed my clothes, and less than an
hour from my escape, in a Turkish bath, I was sweating out whatever
germs and other things had penetrated my epidermis, and wishing that
I could stand a temperature of three hundred and twenty rather than
two hundred and twenty.


"To carry the banner" means to walk the streets all night; and I,
with the figurative emblem hoisted, went out to see what I could
see. Men and women walk the streets at night all over this great
city, but I selected the West End, making Leicester Square my base,
and scouting about from the Thames Embankment to Hyde Park.

The rain was falling heavily when the theatres let out, and the
brilliant throng which poured from the places of amusement was hard
put to find cabs. The streets were so many wild rivers of cabs,
most of which were engaged, however; and here I saw the desperate
attempts of ragged men and boys to get a shelter from the night by
procuring cabs for the cabless ladies and gentlemen. I use the word
"desperate" advisedly, for these wretched, homeless ones were
gambling a soaking against a bed; and most of them, I took notice,
got the soaking and missed the bed. Now, to go through a stormy
night with wet clothes, and, in addition, to be ill nourished and
not to have tasted meat for a week or a month, is about as severe a
hardship as a man can undergo. Well fed and well clad, I have
travelled all day with the spirit thermometer down to seventy-four
degrees below zero--one hundred and six degrees of frost {1}; and
though I suffered, it was a mere nothing compared with carrying the
banner for a night, ill fed, ill clad, and soaking wet.

The streets grew very quiet and lonely after the theatre crowd had
gone home. Only were to be seen the ubiquitous policemen, flashing
their dark lanterns into doorways and alleys, and men and women and
boys taking shelter in the lee of buildings from the wind and rain.
Piccadilly, however, was not quite so deserted. Its pavements were
brightened by well-dressed women without escort, and there was more
life and action there than elsewhere, due to the process of finding
escort. But by three o'clock the last of them had vanished, and it
was then indeed lonely.

At half-past one the steady downpour ceased, and only showers fell
thereafter. The homeless folk came away from the protection of the
buildings, and slouched up and down and everywhere, in order to rush
up the circulation and keep warm.

One old woman, between fifty and sixty, a sheer wreck, I had noticed
earlier in the night standing in Piccadilly, not far from Leicester
Square. She seemed to have neither the sense nor the strength to
get out of the rain or keep walking, but stood stupidly, whenever
she got the chance, meditating on past days, I imagine, when life
was young and blood was warm. But she did not get the chance often.
She was moved on by every policeman, and it required an average of
six moves to send her doddering off one man's beat and on to
another's. By three o'clock, she had progressed as far as St. James
Street, and as the clocks were striking four I saw her sleeping
soundly against the iron railings of Green Park. A brisk shower was
falling at the time, and she must have been drenched to the skin.

Now, said I, at one o'clock, to myself; consider that you are a poor
young man, penniless, in London Town, and that to-morrow you must
look for work. It is necessary, therefore, that you get some sleep
in order that you may have strength to look for work and to do work
in case you find it.

So I sat down on the stone steps of a building. Five minutes later
a policeman was looking at me. My eyes were wide open, so he only
grunted and passed on. Ten minutes later my head was on my knees, I
was dozing, and the same policeman was saying gruffly, "'Ere, you,
get outa that!"

I got. And, like the old woman, I continued to get; for every time
I dozed, a policeman was there to rout me along again. Not long
after, when I had given this up, I was walking with a young Londoner
(who had been out to the colonies and wished he were out to them
again), when I noticed an open passage leading under a building and
disappearing in darkness. A low iron gate barred the entrance.

"Come on," I said. "Let's climb over and get a good sleep."

"Wot?" he answered, recoiling from me. "An' get run in fer three
months! Blimey if I do!"

Later on I was passing Hyde Park with a young boy of fourteen or
fifteen, a most wretched-looking youth, gaunt and hollow-eyed and

"Let's go over the fence," I proposed, "and crawl into the shrubbery
for a sleep. The bobbies couldn't find us there."

"No fear," he answered. "There's the park guardians, and they'd run
you in for six months."

Times have changed, alas! When I was a youngster I used to read of
homeless boys sleeping in doorways. Already the thing has become a
tradition. As a stock situation it will doubtless linger in
literature for a century to come, but as a cold fact it has ceased
to be. Here are the doorways, and here are the boys, but happy
conjunctions are no longer effected. The doorways remain empty, and
the boys keep awake and carry the banner.

"I was down under the arches," grumbled another young fellow. By
"arches" he meant the shore arches where begin the bridges that span
the Thames. "I was down under the arches wen it was ryning its
'ardest, an' a bobby comes in an' chyses me out. But I come back,
an' 'e come too. ''Ere,' sez 'e, 'wot you doin' 'ere?' An' out I
goes, but I sez, 'Think I want ter pinch [steal] the bleedin'

Among those who carry the banner, Green Park has the reputation of
opening its gates earlier than the other parks, and at quarter-past
four in the morning, I, and many more, entered Green Park. It was
raining again, but they were worn out with the night's walking, and
they were down on the benches and asleep at once. Many of the men
stretched out full length on the dripping wet grass, and, with the
rain falling steadily upon them, were sleeping the sleep of

And now I wish to criticise the powers that be. They ARE the
powers, therefore they may decree whatever they please; so I make
bold only to criticise the ridiculousness of their decrees. All
night long they make the homeless ones walk up and down. They drive
them out of doors and passages, and lock them out of the parks. The
evident intention of all this is to deprive them of sleep. Well and
good, the powers have the power to deprive them of sleep, or of
anything else for that matter; but why under the sun do they open
the gates of the parks at five o'clock in the morning and let the
homeless ones go inside and sleep? If it is their intention to
deprive them of sleep, why do they let them sleep after five in the
morning? And if it is not their intention to deprive them of sleep,
why don't they let them sleep earlier in the night?

In this connection, I will say that I came by Green Park that same
day, at one in the afternoon, and that I counted scores of the
ragged wretches asleep in the grass. It was Sunday afternoon, the
sun was fitfully appearing, and the well-dressed West Enders, with
their wives and progeny, were out by thousands, taking the air. It
was not a pleasant sight for them, those horrible, unkempt, sleeping
vagabonds; while the vagabonds themselves, I know, would rather have
done their sleeping the night before.

And so, dear soft people, should you ever visit London Town, and see
these men asleep on the benches and in the grass, please do not
think they are lazy creatures, preferring sleep to work. Know that
the powers that be have kept them walking all the night long, and
that in the day they have nowhere else to sleep.


But, after carrying the banner all night, I did not sleep in Green
Park when morning dawned. I was wet to the skin, it is true, and I
had had no sleep for twenty-four hours; but, still adventuring as a
penniless man looking for work, I had to look about me, first for a
breakfast, and next for the work.

During the night I had heard of a place over on the Surrey side of
the Thames, where the Salvation Army every Sunday morning gave away
a breakfast to the unwashed. (And, by the way, the men who carry
the banner are unwashed in the morning, and unless it is raining
they do not have much show for a wash, either.) This, thought I, is
the very thing--breakfast in the morning, and then the whole day in
which to look for work.

It was a weary walk. Down St. James Street I dragged my tired legs,
along Pall Mall, past Trafalgar Square, to the Strand. I crossed
the Waterloo Bridge to the Surrey side, cut across to Blackfriars
Road, coming out near the Surrey Theatre, and arrived at the
Salvation Army barracks before seven o'clock. This was "the peg."
And by "the peg," in the argot, is meant the place where a free meal
may be obtained.

Here was a motley crowd of woebegone wretches who had spent the
night in the rain. Such prodigious misery! and so much of it! Old
men, young men, all manner of men, and boys to boot, and all manner
of boys. Some were drowsing standing up; half a score of them were
stretched out on the stone steps in most painful postures, all of
them sound asleep, the skin of their bodies showing red through the
holes, and rents in their rags. And up and down the street and
across the street for a block either way, each doorstep had from two
to three occupants, all asleep, their heads bent forward on their
knees. And, it must be remembered, these are not hard times in
England. Things are going on very much as they ordinarily do, and
times are neither hard nor easy.

And then came the policeman. "Get outa that, you bloomin' swine!
Eigh! eigh! Get out now!" And like swine he drove them from the
doorways and scattered them to the four winds of Surrey. But when
he encountered the crowd asleep on the steps he was astounded.
"Shocking!" he exclaimed. "Shocking! And of a Sunday morning! A
pretty sight! Eigh! eigh! Get outa that, you bleeding nuisances!"

Of course it was a shocking sight, I was shocked myself. And I
should not care to have my own daughter pollute her eyes with such a
sight, or come within half a mile of it; but--and there we were, and
there you are, and "but" is all that can be said.

The policeman passed on, and back we clustered, like flies around a
honey jar. For was there not that wonderful thing, a breakfast,
awaiting us? We could not have clustered more persistently and
desperately had they been giving away million-dollar bank-notes.
Some were already off to sleep, when back came the policeman and
away we scattered only to return again as soon as the coast was

At half-past seven a little door opened, and a Salvation Army
soldier stuck out his head. "Ayn't no sense blockin' the wy up that
wy," he said. "Those as 'as tickets cawn come hin now, an' those as
'asn't cawn't come hin till nine."

Oh, that breakfast! Nine o'clock! An hour and a half longer! The
men who held tickets were greatly envied. They were permitted to go
inside, have a wash, and sit down and rest until breakfast, while we
waited for the same breakfast on the street. The tickets had been
distributed the previous night on the streets and along the
Embankment, and the possession of them was not a matter of merit,
but of chance.

At eight-thirty, more men with tickets were admitted, and by nine
the little gate was opened to us. We crushed through somehow, and
found ourselves packed in a courtyard like sardines. On more
occasions than one, as a Yankee tramp in Yankeeland, I have had to
work for my breakfast; but for no breakfast did I ever work so hard
as for this one. For over two hours I had waited outside, and for
over another hour I waited in this packed courtyard. I had had
nothing to eat all night, and I was weak and faint, while the smell
of the soiled clothes and unwashed bodies, steaming from pent animal
heat, and blocked solidly about me, nearly turned my stomach. So
tightly were we packed, that a number of the men took advantage of
the opportunity and went soundly asleep standing up.

Now, about the Salvation Army in general I know nothing, and
whatever criticism I shall make here is of that particular portion
of the Salvation Army which does business on Blackfriars Road near
the Surrey Theatre. In the first place, this forcing of men who
have been up all night to stand on their feet for hours longer, is
as cruel as it is needless. We were weak, famished, and exhausted
from our night's hardship and lack of sleep, and yet there we stood,
and stood, and stood, without rhyme or reason.

Sailors were very plentiful in this crowd. It seemed to me that one
man in four was looking for a ship, and I found at least a dozen of
them to be American sailors. In accounting for their being "on the
beach," I received the same story from each and all, and from my
knowledge of sea affairs this story rang true. English ships sign
their sailors for the voyage, which means the round trip, sometimes
lasting as long as three years; and they cannot sign off and receive
their discharges until they reach the home port, which is England.
Their wages are low, their food is bad, and their treatment worse.
Very often they are really forced by their captains to desert in the
New World or the colonies, leaving a handsome sum of wages behind
them--a distinct gain, either to the captain or the owners, or to
both. But whether for this reason alone or not, it is a fact that
large numbers of them desert. Then, for the home voyage, the ship
engages whatever sailors it can find on the beach. These men are
engaged at the somewhat higher wages that obtain in other portions
of the world, under the agreement that they shall sign off on
reaching England. The reason for this is obvious; for it would be
poor business policy to sign them for any longer time, since
seamen's wages are low in England, and England is always crowded
with sailormen on the beach. So this fully accounted for the
American seamen at the Salvation Army barracks. To get off the
beach in other outlandish places they had come to England, and gone
on the beach in the most outlandish place of all.

There were fully a score of Americans in the crowd, the non-sailors
being "tramps royal," the men whose "mate is the wind that tramps
the world." They were all cheerful, facing things with the pluck
which is their chief characteristic and which seems never to desert
them, withal they were cursing the country with lurid metaphors
quite refreshing after a month of unimaginative, monotonous Cockney
swearing. The Cockney has one oath, and one oath only, the most
indecent in the language, which he uses on any and every occasion.
Far different is the luminous and varied Western swearing, which
runs to blasphemy rather than indecency. And after all, since men
will swear, I think I prefer blasphemy to indecency; there is an
audacity about it, an adventurousness and defiance that is better
than sheer filthiness.

There was one American tramp royal whom I found particularly
enjoyable. I first noticed him on the street, asleep in a doorway,
his head on his knees, but a hat on his head that one does not meet
this side of the Western Ocean. When the policeman routed him out,
he got up slowly and deliberately, looked at the policeman, yawned
and stretched himself, looked at the policeman again as much as to
say he didn't know whether he would or wouldn't, and then sauntered
leisurely down the sidewalk. At the outset I was sure of the hat,
but this made me sure of the wearer of the hat.

In the jam inside I found myself alongside of him, and we had quite
a chat. He had been through Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and France,
and had accomplished the practically impossible feat of beating his
way three hundred miles on a French railway without being caught at
the finish. Where was I hanging out? he asked. And how did I
manage for "kipping"?--which means sleeping. Did I know the rounds
yet? He was getting on, though the country was "horstyl" and the
cities were "bum." Fierce, wasn't it? Couldn't "batter" (beg)
anywhere without being "pinched." But he wasn't going to quit it.
Buffalo Bill's Show was coming over soon, and a man who could drive
eight horses was sure of a job any time. These mugs over here
didn't know beans about driving anything more than a span. What was
the matter with me hanging on and waiting for Buffalo Bill? He was
sure I could ring in somehow.

And so, after all, blood is thicker than water. We were fellow-
countrymen and strangers in a strange land. I had warmed to his
battered old hat at sight of it, and he was as solicitous for my
welfare as if we were blood brothers. We swapped all manner of
useful information concerning the country and the ways of its
people, methods by which to obtain food and shelter and what not,
and we parted genuinely sorry at having to say good-bye.

One thing particularly conspicuous in this crowd was the shortness
of stature. I, who am but of medium height, looked over the heads
of nine out of ten. The natives were all short, as were the foreign
sailors. There were only five or six in the crowd who could be
called fairly tall, and they were Scandinavians and Americans. The
tallest man there, however, was an exception. He was an Englishman,
though not a Londoner. "Candidate for the Life Guards," I remarked
to him. "You've hit it, mate," was his reply; "I've served my bit
in that same, and the way things are I'll be back at it before

For an hour we stood quietly in this packed courtyard. Then the men
began to grow restless. There was pushing and shoving forward, and
a mild hubbub of voices. Nothing rough, however, nor violent;
merely the restlessness of weary and hungry men. At this juncture
forth came the adjutant. I did not like him. His eyes were not
good. There was nothing of the lowly Galilean about him, but a
great deal of the centurion who said: "For I am a man in authority,
having soldiers under me; and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth;
and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and
he doeth it."

Well, he looked at us in just that way, and those nearest to him
quailed. Then he lifted his voice.

"Stop this 'ere, now, or I'll turn you the other wy an' march you
out, an' you'll get no breakfast."

I cannot convey by printed speech the insufferable way in which he
said this. He seemed to me to revel in that he was a man in
authority, able to say to half a thousand ragged wretches, "you may
eat or go hungry, as I elect."

To deny us our breakfast after standing for hours! It was an awful
threat, and the pitiful, abject silence which instantly fell
attested its awfulness. And it was a cowardly threat. We could not
strike back, for we were starving; and it is the way of the world
that when one man feeds another he is that man's master. But the
centurion--I mean the adjutant--was not satisfied. In the dead
silence he raised his voice again, and repeated the threat, and
amplified it.

At last we were permitted to enter the feasting hall, where we found
the "ticket men" washed but unfed. All told, there must have been
nearly seven hundred of us who sat down--not to meat or bread, but
to speech, song, and prayer. From all of which I am convinced that
Tantalus suffers in many guises this side of the infernal regions.
The adjutant made the prayer, but I did not take note of it, being
too engrossed with the massed picture of misery before me. But the
speech ran something like this: "You will feast in Paradise. No
matter how you starve and suffer here, you will feast in Paradise,
that is, if you will follow the directions." And so forth and so
forth. A clever bit of propaganda, I took it, but rendered of no
avail for two reasons. First, the men who received it were
unimaginative and materialistic, unaware of the existence of any
Unseen, and too inured to hell on earth to be frightened by hell to
come. And second, weary and exhausted from the night's
sleeplessness and hardship, suffering from the long wait upon their
feet, and faint from hunger, they were yearning, not for salvation,
but for grub. The "soul-snatchers" (as these men call all religious
propagandists), should study the physiological basis of psychology a
little, if they wish to make their efforts more effective.

All in good time, about eleven o'clock, breakfast arrived. It
arrived, not on plates, but in paper parcels. I did not have all I
wanted, and I am sure that no man there had all he wanted, or half
of what he wanted or needed. I gave part of my bread to the tramp
royal who was waiting for Buffalo Bill, and he was as ravenous at
the end as he was in the beginning. This is the breakfast: two
slices of bread, one small piece of bread with raisins in it and
called "cake," a wafer of cheese, and a mug of "water bewitched."
Numbers of the men had been waiting since five o'clock for it, while
all of us had waited at least four hours; and in addition, we had
been herded like swine, packed like sardines, and treated like curs,
and been preached at, and sung to, and prayed for. Nor was that

No sooner was breakfast over (and it was over almost as quickly as
it takes to tell), than the tired heads began to nod and droop, and
in five minutes half of us were sound asleep. There were no signs
of our being dismissed, while there were unmistakable signs of
preparation for a meeting. I looked at a small clock hanging on the
wall. It indicated twenty-five minutes to twelve. Heigh-ho,
thought I, time is flying, and I have yet to look for work.

"I want to go," I said to a couple of waking men near me.

"Got ter sty fer the service," was the answer.

"Do you want to stay?" I asked.

They shook their heads.

"Then let us go and tell them we want to get out," I continued.
"Come on."

But the poor creatures were aghast. So I left them to their fate,
and went up to the nearest Salvation Army man.

"I want to go," I said. "I came here for breakfast in order that I
might be in shape to look for work. I didn't think it would take so
long to get breakfast. I think I have a chance for work in Stepney,
and the sooner I start, the better chance I'll have of getting it."

He was really a good fellow, though he was startled by my request.
"Wy," he said, "we're goin' to 'old services, and you'd better sty."

"But that will spoil my chances for work," I urged. "And work is
the most important thing for me just now."

As he was only a private, he referred me to the adjutant, and to the
adjutant I repeated my reasons for wishing to go, and politely
requested that he let me go.

"But it cawn't be done," he said, waxing virtuously indignant at
such ingratitude. "The idea!" he snorted. "The idea!"

"Do you mean to say that I can't get out of here?" I demanded.
"That you will keep me here against my will?"

"Yes," he snorted.

I do not know what might have happened, for I was waxing indignant
myself; but the "congregation" had "piped" the situation, and he
drew me over to a corner of the room, and then into another room.
Here he again demanded my reasons for wishing to go.

"I want to go," I said, "because I wish to look for work over in
Stepney, and every hour lessens my chance of finding work. It is
now twenty-five minutes to twelve. I did not think when I came in
that it would take so long to get a breakfast."

"You 'ave business, eh?" he sneered. "A man of business you are,
eh? Then wot did you come 'ere for?"

"I was out all night, and I needed a breakfast in order to
strengthen me to find work. That is why I came here."

"A nice thing to do," he went on in the same sneering manner. "A
man with business shouldn't come 'ere. You've tyken some poor man's
breakfast 'ere this morning, that's wot you've done."

Which was a lie, for every mother's son of us had come in.

Now I submit, was this Christian-like, or even honest?--after I had
plainly stated that I was homeless and hungry, and that I wished to
look for work, for him to call my looking for work "business," to
call me therefore a business man, and to draw the corollary that a
man of business, and well off, did not require a charity breakfast,
and that by taking a charity breakfast I had robbed some hungry waif
who was not a man of business.

I kept my temper, but I went over the facts again, and clearly and
concisely demonstrated to him how unjust he was and how he had
perverted the facts. As I manifested no signs of backing down (and
I am sure my eyes were beginning to snap), he led me to the rear of
the building where, in an open court, stood a tent. In the same
sneering tone he informed a couple of privates standing there that
"'ere is a fellow that 'as business an' 'e wants to go before

They were duly shocked, of course, and they looked unutterable
horror while he went into the tent and brought out the major. Still
in the same sneering manner, laying particular stress on the
"business," he brought my case before the commanding officer. The
major was of a different stamp of man. I liked him as soon as I saw
him, and to him I stated my case in the same fashion m before.

"Didn't you know you had to stay for services?" he asked.

"Certainly not," I answered, "or I should have gone without my
breakfast. You have no placards posted to that effect, nor was I so
informed when I entered the place."

He meditated a moment. "You can go," he said.

It was twelve o'clock when I gained the street, and I couldn't quite
make up my mind whether I had been in the army or in prison. The
day was half gone, and it was a far fetch to Stepney. And besides,
it was Sunday, and why should even a starving man look for work on
Sunday? Furthermore, it was my judgment that I had done a hard
night's work walking the streets, and a hard day's work getting my
breakfast; so I disconnected myself from my working hypothesis of a
starving young man in search of employment, hailed a bus, and
climbed aboard.

After a shave and a bath, with my clothes all off, I got in between
clean white sheets and went to sleep. It was six in the evening
when I closed my eyes. When they opened again, the clocks were
striking nine next morning. I had slept fifteen straight hours.
And as I lay there drowsily, my mind went back to the seven hundred
unfortunates I had left waiting for services. No bath, no shave for
them, no clean white sheets and all clothes off, and fifteen hours'
straight sleep. Services over, it was the weary streets again, the
problem of a crust of bread ere night, and the long sleepless night
in the streets, and the pondering of the problem of how to obtain a
crust at dawn.


O thou that sea-walls sever
From lands unwalled by seas!
Wilt thou endure forever,
O Milton's England, these?
Thou that wast his Republic,
Wilt thou clasp their knees?
These royalties rust-eaten,
These worm-corroded lies
That keep thy head storm-beaten,
And sun-like strength of eyes
From the open air and heaven
Of intercepted skies!


Vivat Rex Eduardus! They crowned a king this day, and there has
been great rejoicing and elaborate tomfoolery, and I am perplexed
and saddened. I never saw anything to compare with the pageant,
except Yankee circuses and Alhambra ballets; nor did I ever see
anything so hopeless and so tragic.

To have enjoyed the Coronation procession, I should have come
straight from America to the Hotel Cecil, and straight from the
Hotel Cecil to a five-guinea seat among the washed. My mistake was
in coming from the unwashed of the East End. There were not many
who came from that quarter. The East End, as a whole, remained in
the East End and got drunk. The Socialists, Democrats, and
Republicans went off to the country for a breath of fresh air, quite
unaffected by the fact that four hundred millions of people were
taking to themselves a crowned and anointed ruler. Six thousand
five hundred prelates, priests, statesmen, princes, and warriors
beheld the crowning and anointing, and the rest of us the pageant as
it passed.

I saw it at Trafalgar Square, "the most splendid site in Europe,"
and the very innermost heart of the empire. There were many
thousands of us, all checked and held in order by a superb display
of armed power. The line of march was double-walled with soldiers.
The base of the Nelson Column was triple-fringed with bluejackets.
Eastward, at the entrance to the square, stood the Royal Marine
Artillery. In the triangle of Pall Mall and Cockspur Street, the
statue of George III. was buttressed on either side by the Lancers
and Hussars. To the west were the red-coats of the Royal Marines,
and from the Union Club to the embouchure of Whitehall swept the
glittering, massive curve of the 1st Life Guards--gigantic men
mounted on gigantic chargers, steel-breastplated, steel-helmeted,
steel-caparisoned, a great war-sword of steel ready to the hand of
the powers that be. And further, throughout the crowd, were flung
long lines of the Metropolitan Constabulary, while in the rear were
the reserves--tall, well-fed men, with weapons to wield and muscles
to wield them in ease of need.

And as it was thus at Trafalgar Square, so was it along the whole
line of march--force, overpowering force; myriads of men, splendid
men, the pick of the people, whose sole function in life is blindly
to obey, and blindly to kill and destroy and stamp out life. And
that they should be well fed, well clothed, and well armed, and have
ships to hurl them to the ends of the earth, the East End of London,
and the "East End" of all England, toils and rots and dies.

There is a Chinese proverb that if one man lives in laziness another
will die of hunger; and Montesquieu has said, "The fact that many
men are occupied in making clothes for one individual is the cause
of there being many people without clothes." So one explains the
other. We cannot understand the starved and runty {2} toiler of the
East End (living with his family in a one-room den, and letting out
the floor space for lodgings to other starved and runty toilers)
till we look at the strapping Life Guardsmen of the West End, and
come to know that the one must feed and clothe and groom the other.

And while in Westminster Abbey the people were taking unto
themselves a king, I, jammed between the Life Guards and
Constabulary of Trafalgar Square, was dwelling upon the time when
the people of Israel first took unto themselves a king. You all
know how it runs. The elders came to the prophet Samuel, and said:
"Make us a king to judge us like all the nations."

And the Lord said unto Samuel: Now therefore hearken unto their
voice; howbeit thou shalt show them the manner of the king that
shall reign over them.

And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked
of him a king, and he said:

This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you; he
will take your sons, and appoint them unto him, for his chariots,
and to be his horsemen, and they shall run before his chariots.

And he will appoint them unto him for captains of thousands, and
captains of fifties; and he will set some to plough his ground, and
to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and the
instruments of his chariots.

And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be
cooks, and to be bakers.

And he will take your fields and your vineyards, and your
oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

And he will take a tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and
give to his officers, and to his servants.

And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your
goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

He will take a tenth of your flocks; and ye shall be his servants.

And ye shall call out in that day because of your king which ye
shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not answer you in that day.

All of which came to pass in that ancient day, and they did cry out
to Samuel, saying: "Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God,
that we die not; for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to
ask us a king." And after Saul, David, and Solomon, came Rehoboam,
who "answered the people roughly, saying: My father made your yoke
heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with
whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions."

And in these latter days, five hundred hereditary peers own one-
fifth of England; and they, and the officers and servants under the
King, and those who go to compose the powers that be, yearly spend
in wasteful luxury $1,850,000,000, or 370,000,000 pounds, which is
thirty-two per cent. of the total wealth produced by all the toilers
of the country.

At the Abbey, clad in wonderful golden raiment, amid fanfare of
trumpets and throbbing of music, surrounded by a brilliant throng of
masters, lords, and rulers, the King was being invested with the
insignia of his sovereignty. The spurs were placed to his heels by
the Lord Great Chamberlain, and a sword of state, in purple
scabbard, was presented him by the Archbishop of Canterbury, with
these words:-

Receive this kingly sword brought now from the altar of God, and
delivered to you by the hands of the bishops and servants of God,
though unworthy.

Whereupon, being girded, he gave heed to the Archbishop's

With this sword do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the
Holy Church of God, help and defend widows and orphans, restore the
things that are gone to decay, maintain the things that are
restored, punish and reform what is amiss, and confirm what is in
good order.

But hark! There is cheering down Whitehall; the crowd sways, the
double walls of soldiers come to attention, and into view swing the
King's watermen, in fantastic mediaeval garbs of red, for all the
world like the van of a circus parade. Then a royal carriage,
filled with ladies and gentlemen of the household, with powdered
footmen and coachmen most gorgeously arrayed. More carriages,
lords, and chamberlains, viscounts, mistresses of the robes--lackeys
all. Then the warriors, a kingly escort, generals, bronzed and
worn, from the ends of the earth come up to London Town, volunteer
officers, officers of the militia and regular forces; Spens and
Plumer, Broadwood and Cooper who relieved Ookiep, Mathias of Dargai,
Dixon of Vlakfontein; General Gaselee and Admiral Seymour of China;
Kitchener of Khartoum; Lord Roberts of India and all the world--the
fighting men of England, masters of destruction, engineers of death!
Another race of men from those of the shops and slums, a totally
different race of men.

But here they come, in all the pomp and certitude of power, and
still they come, these men of steel, these war lords and world
harnessers. Pell-mell, peers and commoners, princes and maharajahs,
Equerries to the King and Yeomen of the Guard. And here the
colonials, lithe and hardy men; and here all the breeds of all the
world-soldiers from Canada, Australia, New Zealand; from Bermuda,
Borneo, Fiji, and the Gold Coast; from Rhodesia, Cape Colony, Natal,
Sierra Leone and Gambia, Nigeria, and Uganda; from Ceylon, Cyprus,
Hong-Kong, Jamaica, and Wei-Hai-Wei; from Lagos, Malta, St. Lucia,
Singapore, Trinidad. And here the conquered men of Ind, swarthy
horsemen and sword wielders, fiercely barbaric, blazing in crimson
and scarlet, Sikhs, Rajputs, Burmese, province by province, and
caste by caste.

And now the Horse Guards, a glimpse of beautiful cream ponies, and a
golden panoply, a hurricane of cheers, the crashing of bands--"The
King! the King! God save the King!" Everybody has gone mad. The
contagion is sweeping me off my feet--I, too, want to shout, "The
King! God save the King!" Ragged men about me, tears in their
eyes, are tossing up their hats and crying ecstatically, "Bless 'em!
Bless 'em! Bless 'em!" See, there he is, in that wondrous golden
coach, the great crown flashing on his head, the woman in white
beside him likewise crowned.

And I check myself with a rush, striving to convince myself that it
is all real and rational, and not some glimpse of fairyland. This I
cannot succeed in doing, and it is better so. I much prefer to
believe that all this pomp, and vanity, and show, and mumbo-jumbo
foolery has come from fairyland, than to believe it the performance
of sane and sensible people who have mastered matter and solved the
secrets of the stars.

Princes and princelings, dukes, duchesses, and all manner of
coroneted folk of the royal train are flashing past; more warriors,
and lackeys, and conquered peoples, and the pagent is over. I drift
with the crowd out of the square into a tangle of narrow streets,
where the public-houses are a-roar with drunkenness, men, women, and
children mixed together in colossal debauch. And on every side is
rising the favourite song of the Coronation:-

"Oh! on Coronation Day, on Coronation Day,
We'll have a spree, a jubilee, and shout, Hip, hip, hooray,
For we'll all be marry, drinking whisky, wine, and sherry,
We'll all be merry on Coronation Day."

The rain is pouring down. Up the street come troops of the
auxiliaries, black Africans and yellow Asiatics, beturbaned and
befezed, and coolies swinging along with machine guns and mountain
batteries on their heads, and the bare feet of all, in quick rhythm,
going slish, slish, slish through the pavement mud. The public-
houses empty by magic, and the swarthy allegiants are cheered by
their British brothers, who return at once to the carouse.

"And how did you like the procession, mate?" I asked an old man on a
bench in Green Park.

"'Ow did I like it? A bloomin' good chawnce, sez I to myself, for a
sleep, wi' all the coppers aw'y, so I turned into the corner there,
along wi' fifty others. But I couldn't sleep, a-lyin' there an'
thinkin' 'ow I'd worked all the years o' my life an' now 'ad no
plyce to rest my 'ead; an' the music comin' to me, an' the cheers
an' cannon, till I got almost a hanarchist an' wanted to blow out
the brains o' the Lord Chamberlain."

Why the Lord Chamberlain I could not precisely see, nor could he,
but that was the way he felt, he said conclusively, and them was no
more discussion.

As night drew on, the city became a blaze of light. Splashes of
colour, green, amber, and ruby, caught the eye at every point, and
"E. R.," in great crystal letters and backed by flaming gas, was
everywhere. The crowds in the streets increased by hundreds of
thousands, and though the police sternly put down mafficking,
drunkenness and rough play abounded. The tired workers seemed to
have gone mad with the relaxation and excitement, and they surged
and danced down the streets, men and women, old and young, with
linked arms and in long rows, singing, "I may be crazy, but I love
you," "Dolly Gray," and "The Honeysuckle and the Bee"--the last
rendered something like this:-

"Yew aw the enny, ennyseckle, Oi em ther bee,
Oi'd like ter sip ther enny from those red lips, yew see."

I sat on a bench on the Thames Embankment, looking across the
illuminated water. It was approaching midnight, and before me
poured the better class of merrymakers, shunning the more riotous
streets and returning home. On the bench beside me sat two ragged
creatures, a man and a woman, nodding and dozing. The woman sat
with her arms clasped across the breast, holding tightly, her body
in constant play--now dropping forward till it seemed its balance
would be overcome and she would fall to the pavement; now inclining
to the left, sideways, till her head rested on the man's shoulder;
and now to the right, stretched and strained, till the pain of it
awoke her and she sat bolt upright. Whereupon the dropping forward
would begin again and go through its cycle till she was aroused by
the strain and stretch.

Every little while boys and young men stopped long enough to go
behind the bench and give vent to sudden and fiendish shouts. This
always jerked the man and woman abruptly from their sleep; and at
sight of the startled woe upon their faces the crowd would roar with
laughter as it flooded past.

This was the most striking thing, the general heartlessness
exhibited on every hand. It is a commonplace, the homeless on the
benches, the poor miserable folk who may be teased and are harmless.
Fifty thousand people must have passed the bench while I sat upon
it, and not one, on such a jubilee occasion as the crowning of the
King, felt his heart-strings touched sufficiently to come up and say
to the woman: "Here's sixpence; go and get a bed." But the women,
especially the young women, made witty remarks upon the woman
nodding, and invariably set their companions laughing.

To use a Briticism, it was "cruel"; the corresponding Americanism
was more appropriate--it was "fierce." I confess I began to grow
incensed at this happy crowd streaming by, and to extract a sort of
satisfaction from the London statistics which demonstrate that one
in every four adults is destined to die on public charity, either in
the workhouse, the infirmary, or the asylum.

I talked with the man. He was fifty-four and a broken-down docker.
He could only find odd work when there was a large demand for
labour, for the younger and stronger men were preferred when times
were slack. He had spent a week, now, on the benches of the
Embankment; but things looked brighter for next week, and he might
possibly get in a few days' work and have a bed in some doss-house.
He had lived all his life in London, save for five years, when, in
1878, he saw foreign service in India.

Of course he would eat; so would the girl. Days like this were
uncommon hard on such as they, though the coppers were so busy poor
folk could get in more sleep. I awoke the girl, or woman, rather,
for she was "Eyght an' twenty, sir," and we started for a coffee-

"Wot a lot o' work puttin' up the lights," said the man at sight of
some building superbly illuminated. This was the keynote of his
being. All his fife he had worked, and the whole objective
universe, as well as his own soul, he could express in terms only of
work. "Coronations is some good," he went on. "They give work to

"But your belly is empty," I said.

"Yes," he answered. "I tried, but there wasn't any chawnce. My age
is against me. Wot do you work at? Seafarin' chap, eh? I knew it
from yer clothes."

"I know wot you are," said the girl, "an Eyetalian."

"No 'e ayn't," the man cried heatedly. "'E's a Yank, that's wot 'e
is. I know."

"Lord lumne, look a' that," she exclaimed, as we debauched upon the
Strand, choked with the roaring, reeling Coronation crowd, the men
bellowing and the girls singing in high throaty notes:-

"Oh! on Coronation D'y, on Coronation D'y,
We'll 'ave a spree, a jubilee, an' shout 'Ip, 'ip, 'ooray;
For we'll all be merry, drinkin' whisky, wine, and sherry,
We'll all be merry on Coronation D'y."

"'Ow dirty I am, bein' around the w'y I 'ave," the woman said, as
she sat down in a coffee-house, wiping the sleep and grime from the
corners of her eyes. "An' the sights I 'ave seen this d'y, an' I
enjoyed it, though it was lonesome by myself. An' the duchesses an'
the lydies 'ad sich gran' w'ite dresses. They was jest bu'ful,

"I'm Irish," she said, in answer to a question. "My nyme's

"What?" I asked.

"Eyethorne, sir; Eyethorne."

"Spell it."

"H-a-y-t-h-o-r-n-e, Eyethorne.'

"Oh," I said, "Irish Cockney."

"Yes, sir, London-born."

She had lived happily at home till her father died, killed in an
accident, when she had found herself on the world. One brother was
in the army, and the other brother, engaged in keeping a wife and
eight children on twenty shillings a week and unsteady employment,
could do nothing for her. She had been out of London once in her
life, to a place in Essex, twelve miles away, where she had picked
fruit for three weeks: "An' I was as brown as a berry w'en I come
back. You won't b'lieve it, but I was."

The last place in which she had worked was a coffee-house, hours
from seven in the morning till eleven at night, and for which she
had received five shillings a week and her food. Then she had
fallen sick, and since emerging from the hospital had been unable to
find anything to do. She wasn't feeling up to much, and the last
two nights had been spent in the street.

Between them they stowed away a prodigious amount of food, this man
and woman, and it was not till I had duplicated and triplicated
their original orders that they showed signs of easing down.

Once she reached across and felt the texture of my coat and shirt,
and remarked upon the good clothes the Yanks wore. My rags good
clothes! It put me to the blush; but, on inspecting them more
closely and on examining the clothes worn by the man and woman, I
began to feel quite well dressed and respectable.

"What do you expect to do in the end?" I asked them. "You know
you're growing older every day."

"Work'ouse," said he.

"Gawd blimey if I do," said she. "There's no 'ope for me, I know,
but I'll die on the streets. No work'ouse for me, thank you. No,
indeed," she sniffed in the silence that fell.

"After you have been out all night in the streets," I asked, "what
do you do in the morning for something to eat?"

"Try to get a penny, if you 'aven't one saved over," the man
explained. "Then go to a coffee-'ouse an' get a mug o' tea."

"But I don't see how that is to feed you," I objected.

The pair smiled knowingly.

"You drink your tea in little sips," he went on, "making it last its
longest. An' you look sharp, an' there's some as leaves a bit
be'ind 'em."

"It's s'prisin', the food wot some people leaves," the woman broke

"The thing," said the man judicially, as the trick dawned upon me,
"is to get 'old o' the penny."

As we started to leave, Miss Haythorne gathered up a couple of
crusts from the neighbouring tables and thrust them somewhere into
her rags.

"Cawn't wyste 'em, you know," said she; to which the docker nodded,
tucking away a couple of crusts himself.

At three in the morning I strolled up the Embankment. It was a gala
night for the homeless, for the police were elsewhere; and each
bench was jammed with sleeping occupants. There were as many women
as men, and the great majority of them, male and female, were old.
Occasionally a boy was to be seen. On one bench I noticed a family,
a man sitting upright with a sleeping babe in his arms, his wife
asleep, her head on his shoulder, and in her lap the head of a
sleeping youngster. The man's eyes were wide open. He was staring
out over the water and thinking, which is not a good thing for a
shelterless man with a family to do. It would not be a pleasant
thing to speculate upon his thoughts; but this I know, and all
London knows, that the cases of out-of-works killing their wives and
babies is not an uncommon happening.

One cannot walk along the Thames Embankment, in the small hours of
morning, from the Houses of Parliament, past Cleopatra's Needle, to
Waterloo Bridge, without being reminded of the sufferings, seven and
twenty centuries old, recited by the author of "Job":-

There are that remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks
and feed them.

They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widow's ox
for a pledge.

They turn the needy out of the way; the poor of the earth hide
themselves together.

Behold, as wild asses in the desert they go forth to their work,
seeking diligently for meat; the wilderness yieldeth them food for
their children.

They cut their provender in the field, and they glean the vintage of
the wicked.

They lie all night naked without clothing, and have no covering in
the cold.

They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the rock
for want of a shelter.

There are that pluck the fatherless from the breast, and take a
pledge of the poor.

So that they go about naked without clothing, and being an hungered
they carry the sheaves.--Job xxiv. 2-10.

Seven and twenty centuries agone! And it is all as true and
apposite to-day in the innermost centre of this Christian
civilisation whereof Edward VII. is king.


I stood, yesterday, in a room in one of the "Municipal Dwellings,"
not far from Leman Street. If I looked into a dreary future and saw
that I would have to live in such a room until I died, I should
immediately go down, plump into the Thames, and cut the tenancy

It was not a room. Courtesy to the language will no more permit it
to be called a room than it will permit a hovel to be called a
mansion. It was a den, a lair. Seven feet by eight were its
dimensions, and the ceiling was so low as not to give the cubic air
space required by a British soldier in barracks. A crazy couch,
with ragged coverlets, occupied nearly half the room. A rickety
table, a chair, and a couple of boxes left little space in which to
turn around. Five dollars would have purchased everything in sight.
The floor was bare, while the walls and ceiling were literally
covered with blood marks and splotches. Each mark represented a
violent death--of an insect, for the place swarmed with vermin, a
plague with which no person could cope single-handed.

The man who had occupied this hole, one Dan Cullen, docker, was
dying in hospital. Yet he had impressed his personality on his
miserable surroundings sufficiently to give an inkling as to what
sort of man he was. On the walls were cheap pictures of Garibaldi,
Engels, Dan Burns, and other labour leaders, while on the table lay
one of Walter Besant's novels. He knew his Shakespeare, I was told,
and had read history, sociology, and economics. And he was self-

On the table, amidst a wonderful disarray, lay a sheet of paper on
which was scrawled: Mr. Cullen, please return the large white jug
and corkscrew I lent you--articles loaned, during the first stages
of his sickness, by a woman neighbour, and demanded back in
anticipation of his death. A large white jug and a corkscrew are
far too valuable to a creature of the Abyss to permit another
creature to die in peace. To the last, Dan Cullen's soul must be
harrowed by the sordidness out of which it strove vainly to rise.

It is a brief little story, the story of Dan Cullen, but there is
much to read between the lines. He was born lowly, in a city and
land where the lines of caste are tightly drawn. All his days he
toiled hard with his body; and because he had opened the books, and
been caught up by the fires of the spirit, and could "write a letter
like a lawyer," he had been selected by his fellows to toil hard for
them with his brain. He became a leader of the fruit-porters,
represented the dockers on the London Trades Council, and wrote
trenchant articles for the labour journals.

He did not cringe to other men, even though they were his economic
masters, and controlled the means whereby he lived, and he spoke his
mind freely, and fought the good fight. In the "Great Dock Strike"
he was guilty of taking a leading part. And that was the end of Dan
Cullen. From that day he was a marked man, and every day, for ten
years and more, he was "paid off" for what he had done.

A docker is a casual labourer. Work ebbs and flows, and he works or
does not work according to the amount of goods on hand to be moved.
Dan Cullen was discriminated against. While he was not absolutely
turned away (which would have caused trouble, and which would
certainly have been more merciful), he was called in by the foreman
to do not more than two or three days' work per week. This is what
is called being "disciplined," or "drilled." It means being
starved. There is no politer word. Ten years of it broke his
heart, and broken-hearted men cannot live.

He took to his bed in his terrible den, which grew more terrible
with his helplessness. He was without kith or kin, a lonely old
man, embittered and pessimistic, fighting vermin the while and
looking at Garibaldi, Engels, and Dan Burns gazing down at him from
the blood-bespattered walls. No one came to see him in that crowded
municipal barracks (he had made friends with none of them), and he
was left to rot.

But from the far reaches of the East End came a cobbler and his son,
his sole friends. They cleansed his room, brought fresh linen from
home, and took from off his limbs the sheets, greyish-black with
dirt. And they brought to him one of the Queen's Bounty nurses from

She washed his face, shook up his conch, and talked with him. It
was interesting to talk with him--until he learned her name. Oh,
yes, Blank was her name, she replied innocently, and Sir George
Blank was her brother. Sir George Blank, eh? thundered old Dan
Cullen on his death-bed; Sir George Blank, solicitor to the docks at
Cardiff, who, more than any other man, had broken up the Dockers'
Union of Cardiff, and was knighted? And she was his sister?
Thereupon Dan Cullen sat up on his crazy couch and pronounced
anathema upon her and all her breed; and she fled, to return no
more, strongly impressed with the ungratefulness of the poor.

Dan Cullen's feet became swollen with dropsy. He sat up all day on
the side of the bed (to keep the water out of his body), no mat on
the floor, a thin blanket on his legs, and an old coat around his
shoulders. A missionary brought him a pair of paper slippers, worth
fourpence (I saw them), and proceeded to offer up fifty prayers or
so for the good of Dan Cullen's soul. But Dan Cullen was the sort
of man that wanted his soul left alone. He did not care to have
Tom, Dick, or Harry, on the strength of fourpenny slippers,
tampering with it. He asked the missionary kindly to open the
window, so that he might toss the slippers out. And the missionary
went away, to return no more, likewise impressed with the
ungratefulness of the poor.

The cobbler, a brave old hero himself, though unaneled and unsung,
went privily to the head office of the big fruit brokers for whom
Dan Cullen had worked as a casual labourer for thirty years. Their
system was such that the work was almost entirely done by casual
hands. The cobbler told them the man's desperate plight, old,
broken, dying, without help or money, reminded them that he had
worked for them thirty years, and asked them to do something for

"Oh," said the manager, remembering Dan Cullen without having to
refer to the books, "you see, we make it a rule never to help
casuals, and we can do nothing."

Nor did they do anything, not even sign a letter asking for Dan
Cullen's admission to a hospital. And it is not so easy to get into
a hospital in London Town. At Hampstead, if he passed the doctors,
at least four months would elapse before he could get in, there were
so many on the books ahead of him. The cobbler finally got him into
the Whitechapel Infirmary, where he visited him frequently. Here he
found that Dan Cullen had succumbed to the prevalent feeling, that,
being hopeless, they were hurrying him out of the way. A fair and
logical conclusion, one must agree, for an old and broken man to
arrive at, who has been resolutely "disciplined" and "drilled" for
ten years. When they sweated him for Bright's disease to remove the
fat from the kidneys, Dan Cullen contended that the sweating was
hastening his death; while Bright's disease, being a wasting away of
the kidneys, there was therefore no fat to remove, and the doctor's
excuse was a palpable lie. Whereupon the doctor became wroth, and
did not come near him for nine days.

Then his bed was tilted up so that his feet and legs were elevated.
At once dropsy appeared in the body, and Dan Cullen contended that
the thing was done in order to run the water down into his body from
his legs and kill him more quickly. He demanded his discharge,
though they told him he would die on the stairs, and dragged
himself, more dead than alive, to the cobbler's shop. At the moment
of writing this, he is dying at the Temperance Hospital, into which
place his staunch friend, the cobbler, moved heaven and earth to
have him admitted.

Poor Dan Cullen! A Jude the Obscure, who reached out after
knowledge; who toiled with his body in the day and studied in the
watches of the night; who dreamed his dream and struck valiantly for
the Cause; a patriot, a lover of human freedom, and a fighter
unafraid; and in the end, not gigantic enough to beat down the
conditions which baffled and stifled him, a cynic and a pessimist,
gasping his final agony on a pauper's couch in a charity ward,--"For
a man to die who might have been wise and was not, this I call a


So far has the divorcement of the worker from the soil proceeded,
that the farming districts, the civilised world over, are dependent
upon the cities for the gathering of the harvests. Then it is, when
the land is spilling its ripe wealth to waste, that the street folk,
who have been driven away from the soil, are called back to it
again. But in England they return, not as prodigals, but as
outcasts still, as vagrants and pariahs, to be doubted and flouted
by their country brethren, to sleep in jails and casual wards, or
under the hedges, and to live the Lord knows how.

It is estimated that Kent alone requires eighty thousand of the
street people to pick her hops. And out they come, obedient to the
call, which is the call of their bellies and of the lingering dregs
of adventure-lust still in them. Slum, stews, and ghetto pour them
forth, and the festering contents of slum, stews, and ghetto are
undiminished. Yet they overrun the country like an army of ghouls,
and the country does not want them. They are out of place. As they
drag their squat, misshapen bodies along the highways and byways,
they resemble some vile spawn from underground. Their very
presence, the fact of their existence, is an outrage to the fresh,
bright sun and the green and growing things. The clean, upstanding
trees cry shame upon them and their withered crookedness, and their
rottenness is a slimy desecration of the sweetness and purity of

Is the picture overdrawn? It all depends. For one who sees and
thinks life in terms of shares and coupons, it is certainly
overdrawn. But for one who sees and thinks life in terms of manhood
and womanhood, it cannot be overdrawn. Such hordes of beastly
wretchedness and inarticulate misery are no compensation for a
millionaire brewer who lives in a West End palace, sates himself
with the sensuous delights of London's golden theatres, hobnobs with
lordlings and princelings, and is knighted by the king. Wins his
spurs--God forbid! In old time the great blonde beasts rode in the
battle's van and won their spurs by cleaving men from pate to chine.
And, after all, it is finer to kill a strong man with a clean-
slicing blow of singing steel than to make a beast of him, and of
his seed through the generations, by the artful and spidery
manipulation of industry and politics.

But to return to the hops. Here the divorcement from the soil is as
apparent as in every other agricultural line in England. While the
manufacture of beer steadily increases, the growth of hops steadily
decreases. In 1835 the acreage under hops was 71,327. To-day it
stands at 48,024, a decrease of 3103 from the acreage of last year.

Small as the acreage is this year, a poor summer and terrible storms
reduced the yield. This misfortune is divided between the people
who own hops and the people who pick hops. The owners perforce must
put up with less of the nicer things of life, the pickers with less
grub, of which, in the best of times, they never get enough. For
weary weeks headlines like the following have appeared in the London


Then there have been numberless paragraphs like this:-

From the neighbourhood of the hop fields comes news of a distressing
nature. The bright outburst of the last two days has sent many
hundreds of hoppers into Kent, who will have to wait till the fields
are ready for them. At Dover the number of vagrants in the
workhouse is treble the number there last year at this time, and in
other towns the lateness of the season is responsible for a large
increase in the number of casuals.

To cap their wretchedness, when at last the picking had begun, hops
and hoppers were well-nigh swept away by a frightful storm of wind,
rain, and hail. The hops were stripped clean from the poles and
pounded into the earth, while the hoppers, seeking shelter from the
stinging hail, were close to drowning in their huts and camps on the
low-lying ground. Their condition after the storm was pitiable,
their state of vagrancy more pronounced than ever; for, poor crop
that it was, its destruction had taken away the chance of earning a
few pennies, and nothing remained for thousands of them but to "pad
the hoof" back to London.

"We ayn't crossin'-sweepers," they said, turning away from the
ground, carpeted ankle-deep with hops.

Those that remained grumbled savagely among the half-stripped poles
at the seven bushels for a shilling--a rate paid in good seasons
when the hops are in prime condition, and a rate likewise paid in
bad seasons by the growers because they cannot afford more.

I passed through Teston and East and West Farleigh shortly after the
storm, and listened to the grumbling of the hoppers and saw the hops
rotting on the ground. At the hothouses of Barham Court, thirty
thousand panes of glass had been broken by the hail, while peaches,
plums, pears, apples, rhubarb, cabbages, mangolds, everything, had
been pounded to pieces and torn to shreds.

All of which was too bad for the owners, certainly; but at the
worst, not one of them, for one meal, would have to go short of food
or drink. Yet it was to them that the newspapers devoted columns of
sympathy, their pecuniary losses being detailed at harrowing length.
"Mr. Herbert L- calculates his loss at 8000 pounds;" "Mr. F-, of
brewery fame, who rents all the land in this parish, loses 10,000
pounds;" and "Mr. L-, the Wateringbury brewer, brother to Mr.
Herbert L-, is another heavy loser." As for the hoppers, they did
not count. Yet I venture to assert that the several almost-square
meals lost by underfed William Buggles, and underfed Mrs. Buggles,
and the underfed Buggles kiddies, was a greater tragedy than the
10,000 pounds lost by Mr. F-. And in addition, underfed William
Buggles' tragedy might be multiplied by thousands where Mr. F-'s
could not be multiplied by five.

To see how William Buggles and his kind fared, I donned my seafaring
togs and started out to get a job. With me was a young East London
cobbler, Bert, who had yielded to the lure of adventure and joined
me for the trip. Acting on my advice, he had brought his "worst
rags," and as we hiked up the London road out of Maidstone he was
worrying greatly for fear we had come too ill-dressed for the

Nor was he to be blamed. When we stopped in a tavern the publican
eyed us gingerly, nor did his demeanour brighten till we showed him
the colour of our cash. The natives along the coast were all
dubious; and "bean-feasters" from London, dashing past in coaches,
cheered and jeered and shouted insulting things after us. But
before we were done with the Maidstone district my friend found that
we were as well clad, if not better, than the average hopper. Some
of the bunches of rags we chanced upon were marvellous.

"The tide is out," called a gypsy-looking woman to her mates, as we
came up a long row of bins into which the pickers were stripping the

"Do you twig?" Bert whispered. "She's on to you."

I twigged. And it must be confessed the figure was an apt one.
When the tide is out boats are left on the beach and do not sail,
and a sailor, when the tide is out, does not sail either. My
seafaring togs and my presence in the hop field proclaimed that I
was a seaman without a ship, a man on the beach, and very like a
craft at low water.

"Can yer give us a job, governor?" Bert asked the bailiff, a kindly
faced and elderly man who was very busy.

His "No" was decisively uttered; but Bert clung on and followed him
about, and I followed after, pretty well all over the field.
Whether our persistency struck the bailiff as anxiety to work, or
whether he was affected by our hard-luck appearance and tale,
neither Bert nor I succeeded in making out; but in the end he
softened his heart and found us the one unoccupied bin in the place-
-a bin deserted by two other men, from what I could learn, because
of inability to make living wages.

"No bad conduct, mind ye," warned the bailiff, as he left us at work
in the midst of the women.

It was Saturday afternoon, and we knew quitting time would come
early; so we applied ourselves earnestly to the task, desiring to
learn if we could at least make our salt. It was simple work,
woman's work, in fact, and not man's. We sat on the edge of the
bin, between the standing hops, while a pole-puller supplied us with
great fragrant branches. In an hour's time we became as expert as
it is possible to become. As soon as the fingers became accustomed
automatically to differentiate between hops and leaves and to strip
half-a-dozen blossoms at a time there was no more to learn.

We worked nimbly, and as fast as the women themselves, though their
bins filled more rapidly because of their swarming children, each of
which picked with two hands almost as fast as we picked.

" Don'tcher pick too clean, it's against the rules," one of the
women informed us; and we took the tip and were grateful.

As the afternoon wore along, we realised that living wages could not
be made--by men. Women could pick as much as men, and children
could do almost as well as women; so it was impossible for a man to
compete with a woman and half-a-dozen children. For it is the woman
and the half-dozen children who count as a unit, and by their
combined capacity determine the unit's pay.

"I say, matey, I'm beastly hungry," said I to Bert. We had not had
any dinner.

"Blimey, but I could eat the 'ops," he replied.

Whereupon we both lamented our negligence in not rearing up a
numerous progeny to help us in this day of need. And in such
fashion we whiled away the time and talked for the edification of
our neighbours. We quite won the sympathy of the pole-puller, a
young country yokel, who now and again emptied a few picked blossoms
into our bin, it being part of his business to gather up the stray
clusters torn off in the process of pulling.

With him we discussed how much we could "sub," and were informed
that while we were being paid a shilling for seven bushels, we could
only "sub," or have advanced to us, a shilling for every twelve
bushels. Which is to say that the pay for five out of every twelve
bushels was withheld--a method of the grower to hold the hopper to
his work whether the crop runs good or bad, and especially if it
runs bad.

After all, it was pleasant sitting there in the bright sunshine, the
golden pollen showering from our hands, the pungent aromatic odour
of the hops biting our nostrils, and the while remembering dimly the
sounding cities whence these people came. Poor street people! Poor
gutter folk! Even they grow earth-hungry, and yearn vaguely for the
soil from which they have been driven, and for the free life in the
open, and the wind and rain and sun all undefiled by city smirches.
As the sea calls to the sailor, so calls the land to them; and, deep
down in their aborted and decaying carcasses, they are stirred
strangely by the peasant memories of their forbears who lived before
cities were. And in incomprehensible ways they are made glad by the
earth smells and sights and sounds which their blood has not
forgotten though unremembered by them.

"No more 'ops, matey," Bert complained.

It was five o'clock, and the pole-pullers had knocked off, so that
everything could be cleaned up, there being no work on Sunday. For
an hour we were forced idly to wait the coming of the measurers, our
feet tingling with the frost which came on the heels of the setting
sun. In the adjoining bin, two women and half-a-dozen children had
picked nine bushels: so that the five bushels the measurers found
in our bin demonstrated that we had done equally well, for the half-
dozen children had ranged from nine to fourteen years of age.

Five bushels! We worked it out to eight-pence ha'penny, or
seventeen cents, for two men working three hours and a half.
Fourpence farthing apiece! a little over a penny an hour! But we
were allowed only to "sub" fivepence of the total sum, though the
tally-keeper, short of change, gave us sixpence. Entreaty was in
vain. A hard-luck story could not move him. He proclaimed loudly
that we had received a penny more than our due, and went his way.

Granting, for the sake of the argument, that we were what we
represented ourselves to be--namely, poor men and broke--then here
was out position: night was coming on; we had had no supper, much
less dinner; and we possessed sixpence between us. I was hungry
enough to eat three sixpenn'orths of food, and so was Bert. One
thing was patent. By doing 16.3 per cent. justice to our stomachs,
we would expend the sixpence, and our stomachs would still be
gnawing under 83.3 per cent. injustice. Being broke again, we could
sleep under a hedge, which was not so bad, though the cold would sap
an undue portion of what we had eaten. But the morrow was Sunday,
on which we could do no work, though our silly stomachs would not
knock off on that account. Here, then, was the problem: how to get
three meals on Sunday, and two on Monday (for we could not make
another "sub" till Monday evening).

We knew that the casual wards were over-crowded; also, that if we
begged from farmer or villager, there was a large likelihood of our
going to jail for fourteen days. What was to be done? We looked at
each other in despair -

- Not a bit of it. We joyfully thanked God that we were not as
other men, especially hoppers, and went down the road to Maidstone,
jingling in our pockets the half-crowns and florins we had brought
from London.


You might not expect to find the Sea Wife in the heart of Kent, but
that is where I found her, in a mean street, in the poor quarter of
Maidstone. In her window she had no sign of lodgings to let, and
persuasion was necessary before she could bring herself to let me
sleep in her front room. In the evening I descended to the semi-
subterranean kitchen, and talked with her and her old man, Thomas
Mugridge by name.

And as I talked to them, all the subtleties and complexities of this
tremendous machine civilisation vanished away. It seemed that I
went down through the skin and the flesh to the naked soul of it,
and in Thomas Mugridge and his old woman gripped hold of the essence
of this remarkable English breed. I found there the spirit of the
wanderlust which has lured Albion's sons across the zones; and I
found there the colossal unreckoning which has tricked the English
into foolish squabblings and preposterous fights, and the doggedness
and stubbornness which have brought them blindly through to empire
and greatness; and likewise I found that vast, incomprehensible
patience which has enabled the home population to endure under the
burden of it all, to toil without complaint through the weary years,
and docilely to yield the best of its sons to fight and colonise to
the ends of the earth.

Thomas Mugridge was seventy-one years old and a little man. It was
because he was little that he had not gone for a soldier. He had
remained at home and worked. His first recollections were connected
with work. He knew nothing else but work. He had worked all his
days, and at seventy-one he still worked. Each morning saw him up
with the lark and afield, a day labourer, for as such he had been
born. Mrs. Mugridge was seventy-three. From seven years of age she
had worked in the fields, doing a boy's work at first, and later a
man's. She still worked, keeping the house shining, washing,
boiling, and baking, and, with my advent, cooking for me and shaming
me by making my bed. At the end of threescore years and more of
work they possessed nothing, had nothing to look forward to save
more work. And they were contented. They expected nothing else,
desired nothing else.

They lived simply. Their wants were few--a pint of beer at the end
of the day, sipped in the semi-subterranean kitchen, a weekly paper
to pore over for seven nights hand-running, and conversation as
meditative and vacant as the chewing of a heifer's cud. From a wood
engraving on the wall a slender, angelic girl looked down upon them,
and underneath was the legend: "Our Future Queen." And from a
highly coloured lithograph alongside looked down a stout and elderly
lady, with underneath: "Our Queen--Diamond Jubilee."

"What you earn is sweetest," quoth Mrs. Mugridge, when I suggested
that it was about time they took a rest.

"No, an' we don't want help," said Thomas Mugridge, in reply to my
question as to whether the children lent them a hand.

"We'll work till we dry up and blow away, mother an' me," he added;
and Mrs. Mugridge nodded her head in vigorous indorsement.

Fifteen children she had borne, and all were away and gone, or dead.
The "baby," however, lived in Maidstone, and she was twenty-seven.
When the children married they had their hands full with their own
families and troubles, like their fathers and mothers before them.

Where were the children? Ah, where were they not? Lizzie was in
Australia; Mary was in Buenos Ayres; Poll was in New York; Joe had
died in India--and so they called them up, the living and the dead,
soldier and sailor, and colonist's wife, for the traveller's sake
who sat in their kitchen.

They passed me a photograph. A trim young fellow, in soldier's garb
looked out at me.

"And which son is this?" I asked.

They laughed a hearty chorus. Son! Nay, grandson, just back from
Indian service and a soldier-trumpeter to the King. His brother was
in the same regiment with him. And so it ran, sons and daughters,
and grand sons and daughters, world-wanderers and empire-builders,

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