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THE LIFE OF THE LONDON POOR.

| A correspondent■ of the’ European Mail who has started to collect ?ome' [ information respecting the inner Ijfirdf [ jthe London poor, writes to say visited High street, Hoxton> the • Saturday night, the roads and pathwaysr of which were, as usual, crowded (marketing folk. The 'pitiless jralnjn however, caused many of the pfaor Stitt-' keepers and pedlars about nine o’cTdclf to pack up their neglected goodsin spair, and with their laden boards ;oa. itheir head, and the trestles on .which thqy:had rested under their arm, move_i:off: homeward with moody and anxiousfaces thafr-ptaiply foretold their dismal ' to-morrow. •'Ait there were a feW : ceptions who seemed desperately- | termined to stand it out till the last, .let > the cruel downpour do its worst. Opeb pf these was a ;toy vendor, quite ..a (decent-looking old fellow, despite h’ia i threadbare attire. Bravely indifferent Ito the rain, with his battered old' hatT reeking so that in the ,glare of thegaa, ft looked as though it Had just' beep-, dipped in some shiny r solution, - and ■■ with the drench from'it coursing 'down ; the furrows of his Wrinkled cheeks and _ mingling with his grey whiskers, 1 dropping in grimy tears from the tip'of ■ his venerable nose, as though he was . quite dry and comfortable, and dping.a , brisk trade, he still kept on without: teasing, “ Six cheers, a table, and a ' bedstead, all for a penny!' A complete doll’s house and doll’s furniture for one penny! All packed, in a box complete, only a penny 1” The boxes In . Which. the Liliputian articles are,,her/ stowed were of the commonest card- • board, and not calculated 1 to resist ’ moisture, so he had taken off cotton i neckerchief and spread it douUed~dye?-r his fragile stock, and when it .was - soaked through, which was something >, less than ten minutes, he methodically / wrung it and shook it out and-patiently • replaced it. Presently 1 a poor womahi f with a large market basket, passed him,. 1 paused, considered the matter, ~and, ’ turning back bought two boxes of fiirnir . ture from him. He was agreeably astonished at the unexpected magnitude of the order. But, alas 1 his rejoicing was speedily turned to bitterness. Scarce a minute had elapsed befpre.the.woman with the basket reappeared with' both the box lids off, and the rain - peppering the chairs and, tables. “What ' do you mean, you precious old cheat ?” she exclaimed angrily; “ they are all . unglued. There’s two legs of one of the bedsteads off a’ready, and half the cheers aint got no backs to ’em !” The : honest old furniture dealer was so overcome that he had no language to defend • himself against the damaging aspersion that had been cast on him. the dilapidated boxes back, and with a rueful visage produced the twopence from its safe stowage and handed it to her. Then, with a dismal foreboding of what had happened, he more closely approached the lamp light and, open- ; Jng one box after another, gently : fingered the legs of his chairs; and, observing, doubtless, a general disposition to dislocation, he stood for a few moments looking very miserable, and: was in the act of making a damp bundle of the whole contents of the . tea-tray in the cotton neckerchief before mentioned when an eccentric person, the correspondent writes, stepped forward and offered to buy the entire stock at the full price ! JNor was this all. In steady contemplation of a. settled purpose, and intent on its consummation, the said eccentric .purchaser affably invited the saturated old furniture salesman into the private compartment of the public-house, where the transaction was duly “ wetted.”- It was eventually agreed that there Were, one way and another, a dozen and two suites of furniture to pay for. .“.I knew that was the number,” said he, “ because I brought out the usual dozen and a half, and I only sold four out of ’em.” “ And how long had you been standing there ?” “ Since four, o’clock in the afternoon —(it was then half-past nine)—but it isn’t often I’m so long selling such a few. Bless you, no 1 Fine Saturday evenings I can polish the lot off in'about five hours. Week days it always takes longer, money being scarcer, and there being fewer people about. I usually reckon on doing, a. dozen a day or’nary days, and I have to be out from morning till night to do it* “ And when you have sold out yott have taken a shilling ?” “ That’s what I reckon to do, with a bit of luck,” returned the old fellow, quite elate with eighteenpence in his pocket, and the rare treat of a drop of warm rum and :water before him; “a shilling a day during the five days and one-and-six on :a Saturday.” “And out of that you have to buy your goods?” “Oh no, that would never keep the pot a bilin’. It’s only the bit of wood we have id buy, and the glue. We make ’em all ourselves. At least when I say we, it isn’t much time I’ve got to spare from the selling to help My old lady she makes ’em principally. And the boxes to put ’em in are made out of the waste bits our two gals have left from theif match-box making.” “ Yotir two daughters, do you mean?” “Granddaughters ; one’s ten and the other thirteen. They live along with us, not having anybody else to look after ’em, poor things. Their mother’s been dead these three years, and their father’s gone away and left ’em. So, as a matter o’ course, we took ’em in,” said the old fellow, with a cherry smile, “as ’t vas out duty so to do.” “ They earn their own living, you say, at match-box making ?” “ They do their best towards it, sir, but the eldest being a cripple in one of her arms, poor creature, she can’t earn very much with no more than a penny three tardens a gross for them, and they have to find their own paste out of that: But the little ’ un, bless her, young heart,, she’s; a reg’ler {iger for, work.

I’ve known her knock off three gross and a half in a day, working very early and very late. But about two gross and a half is the usual. Four gross between 'em —that’s seven pence —sixpence half-penny, say, reckoning the paste. So you see, sir, that’s how we manage to rub on.” “ But do you mean the six and sixpence you depend on earning by selling the things your wife makes and the three shillings the two girls earn,, is all -the entire family have to live on?” returned the old man, with'a rueful little laugh, “ I only wish we-had as much, sir. You forget; the rent. It’s that that makes such a big ’ ’Bite in our earnings. Come to take half a crown out of nine and nine —you was threepence wrong in your reckoning, sir—and it ain’t much of the fat of the land you can go in for on yh?Ps'. b»ft” : ‘‘ But how on earth do , you manage?,’ “ Blest if I can tell you,” he replied, as though the matter waS ! Ws*great a mystery to him as to me. " y TheTold lady could tell you better than I can. Since you’ve been 3s)kind rae>i y.epcrWigy; come and ask her“ abput it “ yourself uf : you’ve got a mind to.”. So . there and then the two set' out: together for the house where the bid doll’s furniture maker lodged. It Was' situated in 1 a dark and dismal b&iK’sficsetj_ ; npf. : far from the canal. &teep andjricketty stairs led down to the basement, and to the back kitchen, at the threshold of .which,, having heard her grandfather’s voice, the little cripple girl'appeared* with a lamp in her left hand and her right withered-looking, abd nd bigger than a baby’s, half drawn up to, her breast-The afflicted arm ir §o y washed And thin that the head jpf crfllcH ; it . rested on looked itnonstrously out of proportion to its

--size. ' .She: was deplorably ragged and' idirty, l wasthe old his wife,j ■frhp : Was; t sittin| on,the fender; evidently! Thei few'word's he whispered £9 ,her ,caused i her to brighteh ,yp t yconsiderably, andj ishe gave the correspondent a graciousj i-welcomei. “You’ll excuse us, •being ; so ! untidy,-■ sir,” said she, driy 'just, got rid of the ."nSkteh wbrk (theV “ tiger ” had gone tq-take it to shop), “and the place do smoke so in rainy weather, that it’d out of the question to try to keep clean.” the <chimney did “smoke.” Despite of a breadth of old sacking i thajf-.thungo' from the mantleshelf to

withinsix inches of .the top bar of the - gfdte, dense clouds came puffing out ' beayily laden with sooty particles; 'Sdbt festooned the ceiling, clung in patches to the damp, yellow-washed walls,and hung in ropy wreaths in the old woman’s cap frills and in her white

■ hair, while - the wrinkles” bf~Tier visage wereas distinct as though they had ' been traced with .a lead pencil. “I say, mother,” gasped her husband, “This is summat choking, ain’t it?f’ “So it is,” she repliedbut when there is no choice but . opening, the window arid letting in the smells what are we to do?” There was no bedstead in the place, but in a rough packing case in one comer there was a bundle something like a bed* and in anotbercpmer,. screened with a ragged curtain'hung over a string, the end of |a

mattress peeped out. All the visible: furniture consisted of a large deal table, - r three wooden chairs, a stool, a fender, and a clock. .—“.Have you no other i.i rpQm besides this ?” I inquired. “ Bless h i you, no, sir,” the old lady replied ; “it would be all rooms and no wittles if We hrid more.' There aint many of us, yc|u see, and one room is quite enough fbr rifr—with management—and we should ,';;he very comfortable if it wasn’t for the smoke. We’ve lived here this eleven d'jiyißarsj”: if* And always paid half-a-crown “Always. The landlady • V won't raise it as long as we stay, she ‘Says, though it would fetch two arid

if we waste leave. The front kitchen fetches three and six. —Bntr then,-they’ve ' got a iarge~ family and a r,mangle.” “The gentleman ' wanted to know,.mother, how you con- _(, trive^ f[ to . : manage with about six ,a yreek.to keep us all?” “Ah!” tke. old soul, piously wagging f.hersopty night-cap, “God knows how dPs done, but it is. I ain’t got no head 4;-for perticlers, so I can’t tell the gentleabout it than that” It Was j si *‘>'gvide'nt that she was shyer of enter!fig flctait than her old husband had supposed she would be, and, finding jit .twfis/useless pressing her further on the subject, the correspondent bade tfie family good night, just in time to meet thet' little-mat6h-box" makef who" v|as 0 . f , such a tiger for work, with a load of box !i , ,jtqspmmencepn in back-kitchen gloom and soot at daylight on Monday morn■'tttg. < • !

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18811118.2.2

Bibliographic details

THE LIFE OF THE LONDON POOR., Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 495, 18 November 1881

Word Count
1,836

THE LIFE OF THE LONDON POOR. Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 495, 18 November 1881

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