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´╗┐Title: The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp
Author: Davies, W. H. (William Henry)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp

[Illustration]



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    THE JOURNAL OF LEO TOLSTOI (1895-1899)

    THE COLLECTED POEMS OF
      WILLIAM H. DAVIES



    Illustration: THE AVTOBIOGRAPHY
    OF A SVPER-TRAMP

    BY WILLIAM H. DAVIES
    PREFACE BY BERNARD SHAW

    NEW YORK (Decoration) MCMXVII

    ALFRED A. KNOPF



   COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY
   WILLIAM H. DAVIES

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



Preface by Bernard Shaw



PREFACE


I hasten to protest at the outset that I have no personal knowledge of
the incorrigible Super-tramp who wrote this amazing book. If he is to
be encouraged and approved, then British morality is a mockery,
British respectability an imposture, and British industry a vice.
Perhaps they are: I have always kept an open mind on the subject; but
still one may ask some better ground for pitching them out of window
than the caprice of a tramp.

I hope these expressions will not excite unreasonable expectations of
a thrilling realistic romance, or a scandalous chronicle, to follow.
Mr. Davies' autobiography is not a bit sensational: it might be the
Post Office Directory for the matter of that. A less simple minded
supertramp would not have thought it worth writing at all; for it
mentions nothing that might not have happened to any of us. As to
scandal, I, though a most respectable author, have never written half
so proper a book. These pudent pages are unstained with the frightful
language, the debased dialect, of the fictitious proletarians of Mr.
Rudyard Kipling and other genteel writers. In them the patrons of the
casual ward and the dosshouse argue with the decorum of Socrates, and
narrate in the style of Tacitus. They have that pleasant combination
of childish freshness with scrupulous literary conscientiousness only
possible to people for whom speech, spoken or written, but especially
written, is still a feat to be admired and shewn off for its own sake.
Not for the life of me could I capture that boyish charm and combine
it with the _savoir vivre_ of an experienced man of the world, much
less of an experienced tramp. The innocence of the author's manner and
the perfection of his delicacy is such, that you might read his book
aloud in an almshouse without shocking the squeamishness of old age.
As for the young, nothing shocks the young. The immorality of the
matter is stupendous; but it is purely an industrial immorality. As to
the sort of immorality that is most dreaded by schoolmistresses and
duennas, there is not a word in the book to suggest that tramps know
even what it means. On the contrary, I can quite believe that the
author would die of shame if he were asked to write such books as Adam
Bede or David Copperfield.

The manuscript came into my hands under the following circumstances.
In the year 1905 I received by post a volume of poems by one William
H. Davies, whose address was The Farm House, Kennington S. E. I was
surprised to learn that there was still a farmhouse left in
Kennington; for I did not then suspect that the Farmhouse, like the
Shepherdess Walks and Nightingale Lanes and Whetstone Parks of Bethnal
Green and Holborn, is so called nowadays in irony, and is, in fact, a
dosshouse, or hostelry where single men can have a night's lodging
for, at most, sixpence.

I was not surprised at getting the poems. I get a gift of minor poetry
once a week or so; and yet, hardened as I am to it, I still, knowing
how much these little books mean to their authors, can seldom throw
them aside without a twinge of compunction which I allay by a glance
at one of the pages in the faint but inextinguishable hope of finding
something valuable there. Sometimes a letter accompanies the book; and
then I get a rapid impression, from the handwriting and notepaper as
well as from the binding and type in the book, or even from the
reputation of the publisher, of the class and type of the author. Thus
I guess Cambridge or Oxford or Maida Vale or West Kensington or Exeter
or the lakes or the east coast; or a Newdigate prizeman, a romantic
Jew, a maiden lady, a shy country parson or whom not, what not, where
not. When Mr. Davies' book came to hand my imagination failed me. I
could not place him. There were no author's compliments, no
publisher's compliments, indeed no publisher in the ordinary channel
of the trade in minor poetry. The author, as far as I could guess, had
walked into a printer's or stationer's shop; handed in his
manuscript; and ordered his book as he might have ordered a pair of
boots. It was marked "price half a crown." An accompanying letter
asked me very civilly if I required a half-crown book of verses; and
if so, would I please send the author the half crown: if not, would I
return the book. This was attractively simple and sensible. Further,
the handwriting was remarkably delicate and individual: the sort of
handwriting one might expect from Shelley or George Meredith. I opened
the book, and was more puzzled than ever; for before I had read three
lines I perceived that the author was a real poet. His work was not in
the least strenuous or modern: there was in it no sign that he had
ever read anything later than Cowper or Crabbe, not even Byron,
Shelley or Keats, much less Morris, Swinburne, Tennyson, or Henley and
Kipling. There was indeed no sign of his ever having read anything
otherwise than as a child reads. The result was a freedom from
literary vulgarity which was like a draught of clear water in a
desert. Here, I saw, was a genuine innocent, writing odds and ends of
verse about odds and ends of things, living quite out of the world in
which such things are usually done, and knowing no better (or rather
no worse) than to get his book made by the appropriate craftsman and
hawk it round like any other ware.

Evidently, then, a poor man. It horrified me to think of a poor man
spending his savings in printing something that nobody buys: poetry,
to wit. I thought of Browning threatening to leave the country when
the Surveyor of Taxes fantastically assessed him for an imaginary
income derived from his poems. I thought of Morris, who, even after
The Earthly Paradise, estimated his income as a poet at a hundred a
year. I saw that this man might well be simple enough to suppose that
he could go into the verse business and make a living at it as one
makes a living by auctioneering or shopkeeping. So instead of throwing
the book away as I have thrown so many, I wrote him a letter telling
him that he could not live by poetry. Also, I bought some spare
copies, and told him to send them to such critics and verse fanciers
as he knew of, wondering whether they would recognise a poet when they
met one.

And they actually did. I presently saw in a London newspaper an
enthusiastic notice of the poems, and an account of an interview with
the author, from which I learnt that he was a tramp; that "the farm
house" was a dosshouse; and that he was cut off from ordinary
industrial pursuits by two circumstances: first, that he had mislaid
one of his feet somewhere on his trampings, and now had to make shift
as best he could with the other; second, that he was a man of
independent means--a _rentier_--in short, a gentleman.

The exact amount of his independent income was ten shillings a week.
Finding this too much for his needs, he devoted twenty per cent of it
to pensioning necessitous friends in his native place; saved a further
percentage to print verses with; and lived modestly on the remainder.
My purchase of eight copies of the book enabled him, I gathered, to
discard all economy for about three months. It also moved him to offer
me the privilege (for such I quite sincerely deem it) of reading his
autobiography in manuscript. The following pages will enable the world
at large to read it in print.

All I have to say by way of recommendation of the book is that I have
read it through from beginning to end, and would have read more of it
had there been any more to read. It is a placid narrative, unexciting
in matter and unvarnished in manner, of the commonplaces of a tramp's
life. It is of a very curious quality. Were not the author an approved
poet of remarkable sensibility and delicacy I should put down the
extraordinary quietness of his narrative to a monstrous callousness.
Even as it is, I ask myself with some indignation whether a man should
lose a limb with no more to-do than a lobster loses a claw or a lizard
his tail, as if he could grow a new one at his next halting place! If
such a thing happened to me, I should begin the chapter describing it
with "I now come to the event which altered the whole course of my
life, and blighted, etc., etc." In Mr. Davies' pages the thing
happens as unexpectedly as it did in real life, and with an effect on
the reader as appalling as if he were an actual spectator. Fortunately
it only happened once: half a dozen such shocks would make any book
unbearable by a sensitive soul.

I do not know whether I should describe our supertramp as a lucky man
or an unlucky one. In making him a poet, Fortune gave him her
supremest gift; but such high gifts are hardly personal assets: they
are often terrible destinies and crushing burdens. Also, he chanced
upon an independent income: enough to give him reasonable courage, and
not enough to bring him under the hoof of suburban convention, lure
him into a premature marriage, or deliver him into the hands of the
doctors. Still, not quite enough to keep his teeth in proper repair
and his feet dry in all weathers.

Some flat bad luck he has had. I suppose every imaginative boy is a
criminal, stealing and destroying for the sake of being great in the
sense in which greatness is presented to him in the romance of
history. But very few get caught. Mr. Davies unfortunately was seized
by the police; haled before the magistrate; and made to expiate by
stripes the bygone crimes of myself and some millions of other
respectable citizens. That was hard luck, certainly. It gives me a
feeling of moral superiority to him; for I never fell into the hands
of the police--at least they did not go on with the case (one of
incendiarism), because the gentleman whose property I burnt had a
strong sense of humour and a kindly nature, and let me off when I made
him a precocious speech--the first I ever delivered--on the
thoughtlessness of youth. It is remarkable what a difference it makes,
this matter of the police; though it is obviously quite beside the
ethical question. Mr. Davies tells us, with his inimitable quiet
modesty, that he begged, stole, and drank. Now I have begged and
stolen; and if I never drank, that was only an application of the
principle of division of labour to the Shaw clan; for several members
of it drank enough for ten. But I have always managed to keep out of
the casual ward and the police court; and this gives me an ineffable
sense of superior respectability when I read the deplorable
confessions of Mr. Davies, who is a true poet in his disregard for
appearances, and is quite at home in tramp wards.

Another effect of this book on me is to make me realise what a slave
of convention I have been all my life. When I think of the way I
worked tamely for my living during all those years when Mr. Davies, a
free knight of the highway, lived like a pet bird on titbits, I feel
that I have been duped out of my natural liberty. Why had I not the
luck, at the outset of my career, to meet that tramp who came to Mr.
Davies, like Evangelist to Christian, on the first day of his American
pilgrim's progress, and saved him on the very brink of looking for a
job, by bidding him to take no thought for the morrow; to ask and it
should be given to him; to knock and it should be opened to him; and
to free himself from the middle class assumption that only through
taking a ticket can one take a train. Let every youth into whose hands
this book falls ponder its lesson well, and, when next his parents and
guardians attempt to drive him into some inhuman imprisonment and
drudgery under the pretext that he should earn his own living, think
of the hospitable countrysides of America, with their farm-houses
overflowing with milk and honey for the tramp, and their offers of
adoption for every day labourer with a dash of poetry in him.

And then, how much did I know about hotels until I read this book! I
have often wondered how the poor travel; for it is plain that the
Ritzes and Metropoles, and even the hotels noted by Baedeker as
"unpretending," are not for them. Where does the man with sixpence in
his pocket stay? Mr. Davies knows. Read and learn.

It is to be noted that Mr. Davies is no propagandist of the illusions
of the middle-class tramp fancier. You never suspect him of having
read Lavengro, or got his notions of nomads from Mr. Theodore Watts
Dunton. He does not tell you that there is honour among tramps: on the
contrary, he makes it clear that only by being too destitute to be
worth robbing and murdering can a tramp insure himself against being
robbed and murdered by his comrade of the road. The tramp is
fastidious and accomplished, audacious and self-possessed; but he is
free from divine exploitation: he has no orbit: he has the endless
trouble of doing what he likes with himself, and the endless
discountenance of being passed by as useless by the Life Force that
finds superselfish work for other men. That, I suppose, is why Mr.
Davies tramps no more, but writes verses and saves money to print them
out of eight shillings a week. And this, too, at a moment when the
loss of a limb has placed within his reach such success in begging as
he had never before dared to dream of!

Mr. Davies is now a poet of established reputation. He no longer
prints his verses and hawks them: he is regularly published and
reviewed. Whether he finds the change a lucrative one I venture to
doubt. That the verses in The Soul's Destroyer and in his New Poems
will live is beyond question; but whether Mr. Davies can live if
anything happens to his eight shillings a week (unless he takes to the
road again) is another matter. That is perhaps why he has advised
himself to write and print his autobiography, and try his luck with it
as Man of Letters in a more general sense. Though it is only in verse
that he writes exquisitely, yet this book, which is printed as it was
written, without any academic corrections from the point of view of
the Perfect Commercial Letter Writer, is worth reading by literary
experts for its style alone. And since his manner is so quiet, it has
been thought well by his friends and his publishers to send a
trumpeter before him the more effectually to call attention to him
before he begins. I have volunteered for that job for the sake of his
poems. Having now done it after my well known manner, I retire and
leave the stage to him.

    G. B. S.

    Ayot St. Lawrence. 1907.



Contents


    Preface by G. Bernard Shaw

    CHAPTER

    I.      Childhood,                                           1

    II.     Youth,                                              12

    III.    Manhood,                                            23

    IV.     Brum,                                               32

    V.      A Tramp's Summer Vacation,                          39

    VI.     A Night's Ride,                                     46

    VII.    Law in America,                                     56

    VIII.   A Prisoner His Own Judge,                           66

    IX.     Berry Picking,                                      77

    X.      The Cattleman's Office,                             87

    XI.     A Strange Cattleman,                               101

    XII.    Thieves,                                           112

    XIII.   The Canal,                                         119

    XIV.    The House-Boat,                                    126

    XV.     A Lynching,                                        138

    XVI.    The Camp,                                          147

    XVII.   Home,                                              157

    XVIII.  Off Again,                                         168

    XIX.    A Voice in the Dark,                               178

    XX.     Hospitality,                                       192

    XXI.    London,                                            197

    XXII.   The Ark,                                           213

    XXIII.  Gridling,                                          227

    XXIV.   On the Downright,                                  242

    XXV.    The Farmhouse,                                     254

    XXVI.   Rain and Poverty,                                  267

    XXVII.  False Hopes,                                       274

    XXVIII. On Tramp Again,                                    283

    XXIX.   A Day's Companion,                                 296

    XXX.    The Fortune,                                       303

    XXXI.   Some Ways of Making a Living,                      310

    XXXII.  At Last,                                           317

    XXXIII. Success,                                           329

    XXXIV.  A House to Let,                                    338



The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp



The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp



CHAPTER I

CHILDHOOD


I was born thirty-five years ago, in a public house called the Church
House, in the town of N----, in the county of M----. It was kept by my
grandfather, native of Cornwall, a retired sea captain, whose pride it
was, drunk or sober, to inform all strangers that he had been master
of his own ship, the said ship being a small schooner. In those days
there was a steam packet, called the _Welsh Prince_, trading regularly
between N----and Bristol, and in the latter town we had relatives on
my grandmother's side. The fact of the matter was that my grandmother
belonged to Somerset, and she often paid a visit to three maiden
sisters, first cousins of hers, living, I believe, near Glastonbury,
who had a young relative that had gone on the stage, and was causing
some stir under a different name from his own, which was Brodrib. My
grandmother held very strong opinions about the stage, and when these
first cousins met, no doubt the young man, in those early days, was
most severely discussed, and, had he not been a blood relation, would
have been considered a sinner too far advanced for prayer.

My earliest recollection is of being taken as a small boy with an
elder brother to Bristol on the _Welsh Prince_ by my grandfather. I
believe the frequency of these trips was mainly owing to the
friendship existing between the two captains, as my grandfather seldom
left the bridge, taking a practical part in the navigation of the ship
and channel--except at times to visit the saloon cabin for a little
refreshment.

On one trip we had a very stormy passage, and on that occasion the
winds and the waves made such a fool of the _Welsh Prince_ that
she--to use the feminine gender, as is the custom of every true
mariner, of one of whom I am a proud descendant--often threatened to
dive into the bowels of the deep for peace. It was on this occasion
that my grandfather assisted the captain of the _Welsh Prince_ to such
purpose that people aboard acclaimed him as the saviour of their
lives, and blessed him for the safety of the ship. It is not therefore
to be wondered at when the old man ashore, returning at midnight from
this rough voyage with me and my brother, would frequently pause and
startle the silent hour with a stentorian voice addressed to
indifferent sleepers--"Do you know who I am? Captain Davies, master
of his own ship." Whether the police were awed by this announcement,
or knew him to be an honest, respectable man with a few
idiosyncrasies, I cannot say; but it was apparent to me in those young
days that they assisted him home with much gentleness, and he was
passed on carefully from beat to beat, as though he were a case of new
laid eggs.

Alas! the _Welsh Prince_ became childish in her old age. She would
often loiter so long in the channel as to deceive the tide that
expected her, and to disappoint a hundred people who assembled on the
bridge--under which she moored--to welcome her. What with her missing
of tides, her wandering into strange courses, her sudden appearance in
the river after rumours of loss, her name soon became the common talk
of the town. Her erratic behaviour became at last so usual that people
lost all interest as to her whereabouts, or whither she had wandered,
and were contented to know that she arrived safe, though late. They
were not curious to know if she had been dozing in a fog or had rested
for a day or two on a bank of mud; whatever she had done, she had been
too wary to collide, and, being too slow to dash through the waves,
had allowed them to roll her over with very little power of
resistance. These things happened until she was condemned and sold,
and her mooring place to this day is unoccupied by a successor. When
I now cross the bridge and look down on her accustomed place, I think
with tender emotion of the past. After the _Welsh Prince_ had been
deposed in her old age, accused of disobeying captain and crew,
charged with being indifferent to her duties, and forgetful of her
responsibilities--her captain, losing his beloved ship, idled a few
months ashore and died. No doubt he had grown to love her, but she had
gone beyond the control of living man, and a score of the best seamen
breathing could not have made her punctual to her duties; therefore he
could not reasonably answer the charges made against her. Some other
company, it was rumoured, had chartered her for the Mediterranean,
which would certainly be much better for her time of life; the
Mediterranean being so large a body of water as compared with the
Bristol Channel, would allow her more scope for manoeuvres. But all
this was idle talk, probably a profane sneer at her old age, for it
was told me by an eye-witness, that she was run ashore in an isolated
pool at the mouth of the river, stripped unceremoniously of her iron,
and her wood-work burned. It is only a few years ago since the river
was hers, but her name is seldom mentioned at the present day.

It was through being born in a public house that I became acquainted
with the taste of drink at a very early age, receiving sups of mulled
beer at bed time, in lieu of cocoa or tea, as is the custom in more
domestic houses. So that, after my school days were over, I required
but very little inducement to drink.

At last the old people, being tired of business and having a little
property, retired into private life; my father, whom I cannot
remember, being dead, and my mother marrying the second time, much to
the old folks' annoyance. Their own children having all died, they
kindly offered to adopt us three children, the only grandchildren they
had; and mother, knowing that such would be to our future benefit, at
once agreed. When we were settled in private life our home consisted
of grandfather, grandmother, an imbecile brother, a sister, myself, a
maidservant, a dog, a cat, a parrot, a dove, and a canary bird. I
remember those happy days, and often wish I could speak into the ears
of the dead the gratitude which was due to them in life, and so ill
returned.

My school days began, but I played truant day after day, and the
maidservant had to lead me as a prisoner to school. Although small of
figure I was a good athlete, and so often fighting that some of my
relatives thought that prize fighting was of a certainty to be my
future vocation. Mother's father and brothers all took great interest
in pugilism, and they knew the game well from much practice of their
own. They were never so much delighted as when I visited them with a
black eye or a bloody nose, at which time they would be at the trouble
to give cunning points as to how to meet an opponent according to his
weight and height. "He certainly has the one thing essential," they
affirm, one to the other, "and that is the heart. Without that
experience would be of no account, but with that it will be the making
of him." If I took off my coat to battle in the streets, the shirt
itself came off in the lanes and fields. When attending school I would
accompany a dozen or more boys "following the leader." Needless to
say, I was the leader; and, being a good jumper, would leap over
ditches that would try every nerve in my body. Two or three would
follow a little less successfully, and then we would bully and
threaten the less active to make the attempt. Often we had to drag
them out by the hair of the head, and it was in this condition that
they were led back to school late--always late. The dirtiest boy, who
had had the most pressure put upon him, and was truly the most gentle
and least guilty of us all--would be punished the most severely for
these escapades, owing to his dirtier condition; and most likely
receive more punishment afterwards at home. Strange that I was not a
bad scholar, and that I passed all my standards with ease. In the last
year of my school days I became captain of the school's football team,
and was honoured and trusted by being allowed to take charge of the
ball, but owing to making private use of the same, and practising in
secret with boys of other schools, I was requested by the Committee to
forfeit my trust, although I might still continue captain as
aforesaid. If I had been contented with these innocent honours, and
had not been so ambitious to excel in other and more infamous parts,
all would have been well, and my schooldays would have been something
of a credit to me. But unfortunately, at this time, I organised a band
of robbers, six in number, and all of good families and comfortable
homes. It was our wont to enter busy stores, knowing that small boys
would not be attended to until the grown people had finished their
purchases. Then we would slyly take things up for a curious
examination, at the same time watching a favourable opportunity to
surreptitiously appropriate them. When accosted by the shopman as to
our wants we would innocently ask the price of some article we had
agreed on, and receiving answer, would quietly leave the premises.
This went on for some time, and I had nefariously profited by a large
assortment of miscellaneous articles, such as paints, brushes, books,
bottles of scent and various other items that could not be preserved,
such as sweets and confectionery. How this continued for six weeks
speaks well for our well laid plans, and our dexterity in the
performance of them. My girl, Maggie, who had, during our early
acquaintance, received only presents of wild flowers and birds' eggs,
and occasionally a handful of nuts, was now the happy possessor of
valuable presents in the shape of purses, pocket books, bottles of
scents, pencils of silver, not to mention having received a hundred
different sorts of sweets and cake that was superior to her mother's.
Time after time she promised not to betray me; or any of my
confederates. The latter often warned me against reposing confidence
in the other sex. One produced a book, at that very moment, which told
how a woman betrayed a gang of robbers; and it was his firm opinion
that the other sex could not be trusted farther than they could be
seen.

At home I was cured of thieving by what I thought at that time to be a
very remarkable incident--no more or less than the result of
witchcraft. One day my grandmother happened to be standing before the
fire cooking, and above the fireplace was a large mirror, towards
which her eyes were turned. Thinking this a favourable opportunity to
rifle the sugar basin, I lost no time in making the attempt; but my
fingers had scarcely closed on a large lump when the old lady, without
in the least turning her head, cried in a shrill voice, "You dare!"
For my life I could not account for this discovery, and it sent such a
shock through me that I never again attempted in the old lady's
presence to be other than honest. She could close her eyes in the arm
chair and even breathe audibly, but I never had the confidence to
make another attempt. But this incident at home had no detrimental
effect on my courage abroad.

One day I and my lieutenant played truant from school, and making our
way up town, began to execute various little plans that had been
concocted the night before. After several desperate sorties on
confectionery, with our usual success, we began to meditate on higher
game. We blundered at a cigar case in a chemist shop, and had to leave
our spoils behind. Although fearful, we entered a large grocery store,
and were having great success, when my lieutenant dropped a bottle of
scent, and not having the presence of mind to stand his ground and
make it appear an accident, made a guilty rush through the open door.
I followed him at once, and catching him up, got clear ahead. But the
hue and cry was out, and every one shouted, "Stop thieves!" This
terrible cry, taken up by one and another, took all the strength out
of our legs, and our own sheer terror brought us to a halt. In five
minutes we were captured and crying over our ill luck in a prison
cell. We made a confession of everything, and the rest of the gang
were soon under arrest. Our houses were visited by detectives and
searched, and different articles found in cupboards, drawers, desks,
and chests which were soon identified by the shopkeepers. Maggie, at
the instigation of her mother, gave several articles to the police,
with information, proving to me, even in those early days, how little
her sex was to be trusted. The unfortunate part of this was that we
all had good homes. My grandfather would most certainly have paid a
fine of twenty or thirty pounds to save me from punishment, and
offered, I believe, to do the same. Alas! the magistrates were
inexorable, and I and my lieutenant were sentenced each to twelve
strokes with the birch rod, whilst the other four, not being caught
red-handed, received six strokes each. I do not at present feel much
remorse for those desperate times, but often think of the disgrace to
parents. The kindly admonishment of my schoolmaster made me shed the
real tears of repentance, not being forced from me by any thought of
punishment. This ended my schooldays; and after the breaking up of our
gang, I was not allowed much liberty, our elders being afraid of a
reorganisation. When I was allowed out for an hour's play, strict
injunctions were given me not to leave our own door, and this was not
much to my liking. In the dark winter evenings I would sit with my
grandfather, my brother and sister, painting ships or reading before a
large fire that was never allowed to burn below its highest bar. My
grandfather, with his old habits, would pace slowly up and down the
half dark passage, shutting himself out in the cold. Every now and
then he would open the front door to look at the stars or to inform
himself from what latitude the wind blew. The wind never changed
without his knowledge; for this wary mariner invariably surprised it
in the act of doing so. Three or four times in the evening he would
open the kitchen door to see that his family were comfortable, as
though he had just made his way from the hurricane deck to enquire
after the welfare of passengers in the cabin. When this was done, the
old lady would sometimes say, rather peevishly, "Francis, do sit down
for a minute or two." Then he would answer gruffly, but not
unkindly--"Avast there, Lydia," closing the door to begin again his
steady pacing to and fro.

At this time I had a boy companion, named Dave, who was a great
reader, had enough self-confidence to recite in public, and was a
wonderful raconteur of tales. Great things were expected of him in
after years. I have heard since that intemperance prevented their
fulfilment, but we were too innocent in those days to think that such
would be the case. Through him I became a reader, in the first place
with an idea of emulating his cleverness, which led to a love of
literature for its own self. Of course I began with the common penny
novel of the worst type, but acquired a taste for better work in a
shorter time than boys usually do.



CHAPTER II

YOUTH


Life was very irksome to me at this period, being led to chapel
morning and evening on Sundays, and led back; having the mortification
of seeing other boys of the same age enjoying their liberty. The only
way to alter these conditions was to apply for work. This was soon
done, hiring myself out to an ironmonger, at a weekly wage of five
shillings. The old people now began to take a pride in me, advising me
to study my master's interests, and without doubt succeed to his
business at his decease. My brother, two years my senior, who, as I
have said before, was odd in his behaviour, took example by me, and
succeeded in being employed at a large clothing establishment. It was
there and then that he began and finished his life's work in half a
day. Having been sent to the dock with a large parcel valued at two
pounds ten shillings, he found on arrival that the _Betsy Jane_ was
moored in the middle of the dock. My brother, seeing this, and not
being blessed with inventive faculties, placed the parcel on the quay
and returned to his master. Naturally the shopkeeper thought it was
safely delivered, until the captain of the _Betsy Jane_, coming
straight from his ship, entered the shop to make enquiries about his
goods. My brother, having a clear conscience, explained matters in his
simple way to the open eyed astonishment of his hearers. The result
was a summary dismissal, and a letter to my grandfather requesting him
to make good the loss of the parcel; which was duly done, my
grandfather being extremely afraid of the law. The old people would
never admit that my brother was different from other boys, although it
was apparent not only to grown folk, but to the smallest child in the
street. Some days before the affair just mentioned my grandmother,
having to answer the door, ordered my brother to watch some fish,
which was being prepared for dinner. When she returned, the cat was
enjoying a good meal under the sofa. To the old lady's cry of
"Francis, did I not tell you to watch the fish," my brother answered
truthfully: for he always told the truth and did what he was told--"So
I did, grandmother, and the cat took it." If she had explained to him
properly why she wanted the fish watched, at the same time making
special mention of a cat's partiality for fish, no doubt he would have
watched to better purpose.

Nothing could have happened better than this instance of the loss of
the ship's goods to undeceive my grandfather as to my brother's state
of mind. A sudden blaze of intelligence broke in on the old man's
mind, which was not of the most brilliant kind. "Lydia," said he to
his wife, "there's something wrong with the boy; to think he did not
have sense enough to shout, Ship ahoy." I ventured to say, to show my
cleverness, that there might have been several ships in the middle of
the dock, and they would have all answered to Ship ahoy. Would it not
have been better to cry, _Betsy Jane_, ahoy? The old man paused
thunderstruck. "Avast there," he cried, "drop anchor: will ye have
more pudding?"

In our street almost every woman had some one connected with the sea,
and it was my grandfather's pleasure by day to parade the street and
inform the women as to what winds and tides were favourable to their
husbands or sons. One woman had a husband that had sailed away in a
barque, which was never sighted or hailed after leaving port, and was
now three months overdue. My grandfather feared to meet this sailor's
wife, and would often peep around his door, trying to escape
consultation from her, knowing well his own forebodings as to the fate
of the barque and her crew.

I have mentioned Dave, who was a very studious lad, and who became my
one companion and the sharer of my dreams. He had received an old copy
of Byron, and we both became fascinated by the personality of that
poet. His influence on Dave was so great that it was publicly shown
to all the boys and girls in the chapel's schoolroom, where we had
gathered for childish games, under the supervision of the elders.
While we were playing kiss in the ring, singing and laughing, dancing
with merriment, when small white teeth, red lips and bright eyes were
all the rage--Dave would lean his figure (not so tall as he would like
it) against a pillar, biting his lips and frowning at our
merry-making. None but myself knew that his troubles and sorrows were
purely imaginary, but they certainly succeeded in causing some
sensation, even the notice of the elders being drawn to him. Some time
after this we had more trouble with Dave, when we went for a day's
trip to the sea-side. On this occasion he took his own path across the
sands, a solitary figure, with his head bowed, and when we called him
he would not heed us. That night, when it was time to return Dave
stood perilously near the edge of the pier, gazing with melancholy
eyes on the water. Several women hastened towards him, and drawing him
gently away, enquired as to his trouble. On which Dave stood erect,
was motionless, frowned, bit his lip, and stalked away into the
darkness, without uttering a word. He came back in time to catch the
boat. Dave soon got tired of these doings, but the influence of Byron
was more lasting on me. It was the first time for me to read verse
with enjoyment. I read Shelley, Marlowe, and Shakespeare, indifferent
to Wordsworth, but giving him since the attention of wiser days.

My grandmother had only read one novel in her life, called "The
Children of the Abbey," and had been severely punished by her mother
for doing so. She therefore continually warned me against reading such
works, but strongly recommended Milton's "Paradise Lost" and Young's
"Night Thoughts"; her favourite quotation being from the
latter--"Procrastination is the thief of time." It pleased her to
tears when a friend saw a likeness between John Bunyan and myself, and
she regretted that she saw no prospect of ever tracing a resemblance
between our hearts.

I was now bound apprentice to the picture frame trade, but owing to my
passion for reading, could not apply myself sufficiently to that
business so as to become a good workman. The fact of the matter was
that I was reading deep into the night and, having to be up early for
work, was encroaching on Nature's allowance of sleep. Owing to being
young and conceited and not being satisfied at having knowledge
concealed, I showed at this time some parts that made older and wiser
people of both sexes prophesy good results in manhood. Having no
knowledge of metre and very little of harmony, I composed and caused
to be printed a poem describing a storm at night, which a young friend
recited at a mutual improvement class, making after mention of the
author's name, when I was publicly congratulated. Some time after this
I--having surreptitiously visited the playhouse on more than one
occasion--boldly read out an article to the same class entitled--"In
defence of the Stage." This daring performance caused some commotion
among the full grown sheep, who thought they detected a wolf in lamb's
clothing; but the young lamb--my companions--bleated for pride and
joy. My grandmother was told of this, and as she did not take the
trouble to enquire the subject of my address, and it was not told unto
her, she was satisfied to know I had surprised several members of the
congregation and in particular a deacon, for whom she had great
respect.

It has always been a wonder to me where my conversational power has
gone: at the present time I cannot impress the most ordinary men. It
must be through associating so many years with companions uncongenial
to my taste, a preference for indulging in my own thoughts, and
forcing myself to comment on subjects uninteresting to me. I remember
at one time being in a lodging house where one man stood out as an
authority on books, disease, politics, military tactics, and more
especially the meaning and right pronunciation of words. Several times
different men have said to me, "That man is a scholar; he is not an
ignoramus, as the likes of you and me." It was a secret satisfaction
to know that this gentleman to whom they referred, often paid the
compliment of knowing more than himself by asking information, which,
on my part, was imparted with much secrecy, as I did not wish to
appear in any way superior to those with whom I was forced by
circumstances to associate. Yet, in those happy days of my
apprenticeship, I rarely visited a house but what a second invitation
was assured, although a painful shyness marred the beginning. We
enjoyed ourselves so much one evening at a friend's house, where the
lady had been all day indisposed, that her husband said, on leaving,
"My wife has been laughed out of her sickness, and you have certainly
saved me an item on the doctor's bill." Instead of this giving more
confidence and overcoming my shyness, when I received from them an
invitation for a second party I became so overpowered at the thought
of what would be expected of me, that for the life of me I could not
accept it, knowing I would have made an ass of myself. It is not
altogether shyness that now makes me unsuccessful in company.
Sometimes it is a state of mind that is three parts meditation that
will not free the thoughts until their attendant trains are prepared
to follow them. Again, having heard so much slang my thoughts often
clothe themselves in that stuff from their first nakedness. That being
the case, shame and confusion in good company make me take so long to
undress and clothe them better, in more seemly garments, that other
people grow tired of waiting and take upon themselves the honour of
entertainers. It was in the second year of my apprenticeship that I
met a young woman living in a small village adjoining this town of my
birth, who was very clever, a great reader of fine literature; and it
was to her hands, after I had enjoyed her conversation on several
occasions, that I submitted a small composition of my own. Her
encouragement at that early time has been the star on which these eyes
have seldom closed, by which I have successfully navigated the deeps
of misery, pushing aside Drink, my first officer, who many a day and
many a night endeavoured to founder me. She was the first to recognise
in my spirit something different from mere cleverness, something she
had seen and recognised in her books, but had never before met in a
living person. I had known her only six months when she died, but her
words of encouragement have been ringing in my ears ever since they
were uttered.

My grandfather had also died; a straightforward, honest, simple man,
with a mortal dread of being in debt, and always well prepared to pay
his rates and taxes. He had a horror of being a principal in the
police courts, but appeared there three times for no offence of his
own. Called upon once to examine a rope supposed to be stolen from a
ship he proved the rope was of the land, and different from a ship's
rope--discharge of the prisoner. On another occasion, Sunday morning,
and grandfather being in bed, a detective, disguised as a poor working
man that was almost dying for a drink, wheedled the old man's daughter
to sell him some liquor over the back wall--the result being a summons
for supplying drink during closed hours, followed by a heavy fine,
which was at once paid. The third time was at my trial with five other
desperadoes, as described in the preceding chapter. There was nothing
false about this man, and he had the heart of a lion. He claimed to
have beaten the champion of Portsmouth, but undoubtedly this was some
drunken fellow who had taken on himself this much coveted title.
Grandfather's pet yarn, which I have heard him recount a hundred
times, took place in a public house, where a thin partition divided
him from another person who was loudly extolling himself to the
admiration of others. Grandfather allowed this man to continue for
some time, but at last, losing patience, he looked around the
partition and cried in a stern voice, "Avast there, Captain Jones: I
knew thee when thou wert glad to eat barley bread without butter."
Captain Jones looked disconcerted at this remark and then, quickly
putting his own head around the partition, whispered: "Hush, hush,
Captain Davies; there's nothing like making one's self look big in a
strange place."

I was now in the last year of my apprenticeship, and was running a
bit wild, taking no interest in my trade, and determined in a few
months to throw off all restraint. When my time had expired, my master
wanted me to continue working for him, which I did for a short time;
and, for one who had not yet reached his twenty-first year, received a
very fair wage. In three or four months I found some excuse for
leaving. I was eager to start for the new world; but my grandmother
would not, on any account, supply money for that purpose; so I applied
for work at Bristol, was accepted, and worked there six months, being
then called home through the death of the good old lady. The licence
indulged in during these six months, being in a strange town and
unknown, was sufficient to wreck the brains and health of any man
beyond recovery, and for the time being deadened all literary
ambition. It could not have continued this way much longer, and no
doubt, it was her death that prevented the collapse of my life, by a
change of circumstances. Her estate was in the hands of a trustee, and
its profits were to be divided weekly among her three grandchildren.
She was a good old soul, and I have lived long enough to cherish every
hair of her head. She was a Baptist, stoutly opposed to other
creeds--called the stage the Devil's Playground--abhorred second
marriages--and thought as much of me in life as I think of her in
death. Many of the little kindnesses that were given to her in life
were done more out of a sense of duty than from the gratitude of
which she was so worthy. But the good old soul died without suspecting
any other than gratitude. Mine is the shame and sorrow that she did
not receive it, as I am even now, thirteen years after her death,
living on her bounty. When my grandmother died, I joined home with
mother and her second family, but after a month or two of
restlessness, I sought the trustee, got an advance from him of some
fifteen pounds, and full of hope and expectation embarked for
America.



CHAPTER III

MANHOOD


On arriving at Liverpool, I made the acquaintance of a man who had
been in America some years previously, and not having his hopes
realised at that time, had returned desperate to England, taken in a
fresh cargo of hopes, and was now making a second attempt with as much
enthusiasm, if not more, than others in making their first. In him I
placed implicit confidence, and received such an extraordinary
description of that country, the number of stories of some of its
highest buildings which were called skyscrapers; the houses of wood
which could be moved from one street to another without in any way
interfering with the comfort of the people within, cooking, sweeping
and washing going on without hindrance; the loneliness of its prairies
and deserts; engineering triumphs over high mountains; and how the
glorious South was flushed with roses what time the North could not
save a blade of green from the snow; all this happening under the one
wide spreading flag: this made such an impression on me that I at once
went to the steerage cabin and wrote a full description of the
country, that very first evening aboard; telling of my arrival in
America, and the difference between the old and the new world. This
letter was given to the steward at Queenstown, and was written to save
me the trouble of writing on my arrival, so that I might have more
time to enjoy myself. Several years elapsed before it occurred to me
how foolish and thoughtless I had been. The postmark itself would
prove that I had not landed in America, and they would also receive
the letter several days before it would be due from those distant
shores. I can certainly not boast a large amount of common sense.

It was in the month of June, when we made this voyage, and the great
Atlantic was as smooth as an inland river. Every one sought to escape
the thoughts of home, and to do so, we often worked ourselves into a
frenzy of singing and dancing. Sometimes our attention would be drawn
to an iceberg on the port side, very innocent and beautiful to the
eyes of passengers, but feared by mariners, who saw into its depths.
And then a ship full sail; or another great Atlantic liner on the
starboard bow. There was a total lack of ceremony aboard, strangers
familiar with strangers, and the sexes doing each other little
kindnesses, who had never met before and probably would never meet
again, parting without even enquiring or giving each other a name. As
we neared the coast we had a thunderstorm, and I was surprised and
somewhat awed at the sound of its peals, and at the slower and larger
flashes of lightning. Nature, it seemed, used a freer and more
powerful hand in this country of great things than is her wont among
our pretty little dales, and our small green hills. I thought the
world was coming to an end, and in no way felt reassured when an
American, noting my expression, said that it was nothing to what I
would see and hear if I remained long in God's own country of free and
law abiding citizens.

My impression of Americans from the beginning is of the best, and I
have never since had cause to alter my mind. They are a kind,
sympathetic race of people and naturally proud of their country. The
Irish-American is inclined to be the most bitter, remembering from his
youth the complaints of his parents, who were driven through unjust
laws from their own beloved land; and such a man is not to be idly
aggravated, for life is a serious subject to him. This man is not to
be aggravated, especially under the consideration that our conscience
is not too clean in this respect, and that we are apt to be very slow
in making that open confession which is good for the soul. The most
pleasing trait in Americans, which cannot for long escape us, is their
respect for women and the way in which the latter do their utmost to
deserve it. No sight of a woman behind the saloon bar listening to the
ribald jests of drunken men, and no woman at the bar's front drinking
glass for glass with her associates. However weak in this respect a
woman may be in private, she is certainly too strong to make a public
exhibition of her weakness. Husband and wife may be unhappy, but you
seldom hear of a woman carrying the marks of a man's brutality as
witnesses against him which is so common in the police courts of old
England. A man in a fit of ungovernable passion may kill his wife; and
better so, I should say, than to leave her half killed at the foot of
the stairs every Saturday night and holidays for twenty or thirty
years, and blacken her eyes before they can recover their natural
colour, the brutality that shamed me so much in after years in the
slums of London, hearing it so often recorded as a jest.

I was so anxious to see the different states of America that I did not
stay long in New York before I succumbed to the persuasion of my
Liverpool acquaintance to visit with him some friends in a small town
in the state of Connecticut, at which place we soon arrived, with
something like ten dollars between us. America, at this time, was
suffering from a depression in trade, and people were daily returning
to the old country, most of them with the intention of returning again
to America at a more favourable time. Not being able to get employment
at once, and resolved to be independent of the bounty of strangers, I
walked out alone, and sat on a seat in the park, trying to conceive
some plans for the future. My box, full of clothes, books, brushes,
etc., would amply compensate, I thought, for the week's lodging which
I had had. Yes, I would see Chicago: and, suddenly becoming aware of a
man occupying the other end of the seat, I enquired of him the way to
Chicago, as though the distance was a paltry ten miles, instead of a
hundred times greater. This man looked at me in astonishment, and at
last asked me if I intended to beat my way. Seeing my lack of
understanding, he enquired as to my financial resources. On shaking my
head in the negative, implying that I had no money, he said. "No more
have I: and if you are agreeable, we will both beat our way to
Chicago."

This was Brum, a notorious beggar, who made himself at home in all
parts of the country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, and from
the northern provinces of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The easy and
sumptuous way of his catering made me indifferent to all manual
labour. In that country, where food was to be had for the asking,
where it often went begging to be received, and people were not likely
to suffer for their generosity, I became, under Brum's tutorage, a
lazy wretch with but little inclination for work. Cockneys make good
beggars. They are held in high esteem by the fraternity in America.
Their resources, originality and invention, and a never faltering
tongue, enable them to often attain their ends where others fail, and
they succeed where the natives starve. But my friend Brum held them in
great scorn, for their methods were not his methods. Brum was a
genuine beggar, who did not make flashes in the dark, having one day
plenty and nothing on the next day. What he required he proceeded to
beg, every morning making an inventory of his wants. Rather than wash
a good handkerchief he would beg an old one that was clean, and he
would without compunction discard a good shirt altogether rather than
sew a button on--thus keeping up the dignity of his profession to the
extreme. He scorned to carry soap, but went to a house like a
Christian, and asked to be allowed to wash, with a request for warm
water if the morning was cold. Begging was to him a fine art, indeed,
and a delight of which he never seemed to tire. I have known him, when
surfeited with an abundance of common food, such as steak, chops,
etc.--to beg lozenges and sweets, complaining I suppose, of throat
troubles. Even in a new country like America, there are quite a number
of hostile towns, owing to their lying on the main roads between large
cities that are not far apart; but Brum never seemed to fail, and
would certainly never lower his dignity by complaining of difficulty.
In every street, he said, there lived a good Samaritan, and seeing
that a good beggar knocks at every door, he must ultimately succeed.
She may live in the last house, and therefore the unsuccessful
beggar, having no patience and perseverance, fails in his calling.
Brum was a slow man in action and went about his business in a dogged
way. And that reminds me of how this slowness of action once saved his
life. We had built a camp fire in the woods, within a mile or more of
a small town. Now, it was Brum's habit, before lying down for the
night, to wind his handkerchief around his neck, and this he had done.
Next morning I was the first to rise, and Brum, deliberately following
my example, began in his own easy way to slowly unwind this
handkerchief, when to my horror a large tarantula fell from its folds.
Now, had Brum been an impulsive man, no doubt the spider would have
been squeezed, and would have then fastened on his neck and poisoned
his blood mortally.

I was soon initiated into the mysteries of beating my way by train,
which is so necessary in parts of that country, seeing the great
distances between towns. Sometimes we were fortunate enough to get an
empty car; sometimes we had to ride the bumpers; and often, when
travelling through a hostile country, we rode on the roof of a car, so
as not to give the brakesman an opportunity of striking us off the
bumpers unawares. It is nothing unusual in some parts to find a man,
always a stranger, lying dead on the track, often cut in many pieces.
At the inquest they invariably bring in a verdict of accidental
death, but we know different. Therefore we rode the car's top, so as
to be at no disadvantage in a struggle. The brakesman, knowing well
that our fall would be his own, would not be too eager to commence
hostilities. Sometimes we were desperate enough to ride the narrow
iron rods, which were under the car, and only a few feet from the
track. This required some nerve, for it was not only uncomfortable,
but the train, being so near the line, seemed to be running at a
reckless and uncontrollable speed, whereas, when riding on the car's
top, a much faster train seems to be running much slower and far more
smooth and safe. Sometimes we were forced to jump off a moving train
at the point of a revolver. At other times the brakesmen were
friendly, and even offered assistance in the way of food, drink or
tobacco. Again, when no firearm was in evidence, we had to threaten
the brakesman with death if he interfered with us. In this way Brum
and myself travelled the States of America, sleeping at night by camp
fires, and taking temporary possession of empty houses.

One night, when darkness had overtaken us, before we could find a fit
and comfortable place for camping, we spied a house, and seeing no
light in the window, presumed it to be unoccupied. We knocked at the
door, and the hollow sound which followed convinced us that no living
person was then on the premises. When we lifted the latch and entered
we were surprised to see chairs, a table and various articles of
domestic utility scattered in confusion on the floor. In spite of this
we proceeded to make ourselves easy for the night, and coming out
again began to feel in the darkness for wood. Being successful in our
search we returned and made a fire, and there we slept until morning.
As usual, I was the first to rise on the following day, and went forth
in quest of water to make our breakfast coffee. This I soon found, and
was bearing it along, when my attention was drawn to a board nailed to
the front of the house. There I saw the letters "Haunted," painted
large, and ragged, as though by a hand that had shaken with fear. If
we had seen this board on the night previous, no doubt we would have
hurried on in dread of our lives, but as it was, we made our coffee
and laughed heartily in the daylight. At this time I took a notion to
work for a few days, but Brum showed his grinning face so often that I
grew ashamed of him, and discharged myself. He seemed to have taken a
strange liking to me, and would not leave me, but swore that not even
for my sake would he become a working man.



CHAPTER IV

BRUM


Brum was a man of an original turn of mind and his ideas were often at
variance with others. For instance, all tramps in America travel on
the railroad, whether they walk or take free rides. Therefore it seems
reasonable to infer that the people who live on the outskirts of a
town, being farthest from the track, would be more in sympathy with
tramps, for they would see and hear less of them. But Brum laughed at
this idea, and claimed that his own success was through being of a
different mind. "For," said he, "as all tramps are of that opinion,
therefore the outskirts are begged too much and the centre of the town
too little. For instance," he continued, "here is the railroad depot,
with its restaurant; now, not one tramp in a hundred would visit such
a place, for it is on their direct road, and they believe that it
receives far too many appeals. This opinion, being so common, must
prove it to be false. However, we will test it and see." Saying which
Brum boldly entered the restaurant, leaving me to wait outside. It was
a considerable time before he reappeared, and I began to think that
he was being supplied with a meal on the premises, but at last he
came, carrying in his hand a large paper parcel. "The place is as good
as gold," said he, "for here we have a day's provisions for two. Take
it down the track to that clump of woods," said he, "for the waiter
promised that did I bring a jug or can he would supply me with hot
coffee." I started at once towards the woods with this bag, the weight
of which proved the presence of either much meat or pudding; while
Brum made his way to a small house near the railroad to see if he
could borrow a can. It was not long after this when we were seated in
the shady green wood with the contents of this parcel before us, which
were found to consist of a number of chops, bread and butter, some
potatoes and cake. These, with a quart or more of good hot coffee,
made such a meal as a working man could only reasonably expect once a
week--the day being Sunday.

One of Brum's peculiarities was, on approaching a town, to look out
for a church steeple with a cross, which denoted a Catholic church,
and therefore a Catholic community. Making his way in the direction of
that cross he would begin operations in its surrounding streets,
"and," said he, "if I fail in that portion of the town, I shall
certainly not succeed elsewhere."

I shall never forget the happy summer months I spent with Brum at the
seaside. Some of the rich merchants there could not spare more than a
month or six weeks from business, but, thanks be to Providence, the
whole summer was at our disposal. If we grew tired of one town or, as
more often the case, the town grew tired of us, we would saunter
leisurely to the next one and again pitch our camp; so on, from place
to place, during the summer months. We moved freely among the
visitors, who apparently held us in great respect, for they did not
address us familiarly, but contented themselves with staring at a
distance. We lay across their runs on the sands and their paths in the
woods; we monopolised their nooks in the rocks and took possession of
caves, and not a murmur heard, except from the sea, which of a
certainty could not be laid to our account. No doubt detectives were
in these places, but they were on the look out for pickpockets,
burglars and swindlers; and, seeing that neither the visitors nor the
boarding house keepers made any complaint, these detectives did not
think it worth while to arrest tramps; for there was no promotion to
be had by doing so. "Ah," I said to Brum, as we sat in a shady place,
eating a large custard pudding from a boarding house, using for the
purpose two self-made spoons of wood--"Ah, we would not be so
pleasantly occupied as tramps in England. We would there receive
tickets for soup; soup that could be taken without spoons; no pleasant
picking of the teeth after eating; no sign of a pea, onion or carrot;
no sign of anything, except flies." Two-thirds of a large custard
pudding between two of us, and if there was one fault to be found with
it, it was its being made with too many eggs. Even Brum was surprised
at his success on this occasion. "Although," as he said, "she being a
fat lady, I expected something unusual." Brum had a great admiration
for a fat woman; not so much, I believe, as his particular type of
beauty, but for the good natured qualities he claimed corpulence
denoted. "How can you expect those skinny creatures to sympathise with
another when they half starve their own bodies?" he asked. He often
descanted on the excellencies of the fat, to the detriment of the
thin, and I never yet heard another beggar disagree with him.

After seeing Brum wash the dish, and wipe it with his
pocket-handkerchief, with a care that almost amounted to reverence,
and trusting in my own mind that the good lady would have the thought
and precaution to wash it again--I settled to a short nap, till Brum's
return. For there was no knowing how long he might be away; he might
take a notion to beg a shirt, a pair of trousers or shoes, or anything
else that came to his mind.

Now, when Brum left, he had on a dark shirt, but I was so accustomed
to seeing him change his appearance with a fresh coat, or a different
shaped hat, that I was not at all surprised on waking to see him
sitting before me in a clean white shirt with a starched front. I said
nothing about this change, and he was too good a beggar to give
unsolicited information, which would look too much like boasting of
his own exploits. That he had met another of his favourite fat ladies,
or perhaps the same one had added to her kindness--there was not the
least doubt.

Brum's first words rather startled me, for he continued the
conversation from the place I left off previous to my sleep. "When I
was in England," he began, "I did not experience such hardship as is
commonly supposed to exist. Beggars there, as here, choose the wrong
places, and not one in three knows which are the best." "Surely," I
said, "a good clean street of houses with respectable fronts, of
moderate size, and kept by the better class mechanics, are the best?"
"And so they would be," he answered, "if every beggar did not think
so. But let me tell you, for your benefit if ever stranded in England,
the best places for beggars to operate." How I learned the truth of
his wise teaching, in after days! Every fine looking street you chance
upon, pass it; but every little court or blind alley you come across,
take possession without delay, especially if its entrance is under an
arch, which hides the approach to the houses, making them invisible
from the street. Such little out of the way places are not only more
profitable than good streets, but are comparatively safe where the
police are unusually severe. Then again you should avoid every town
that has not either a mill, a factory, or a brewery; old fashioned
towns, quiet and without working people--except a few gardeners,
coachmen, domestic servants, etc: such places where you see a sign at
the free libraries warning tramps not to enter, and every plot of land
has its sign--"Beware of the Dog." In towns where working men are
numerous, and the idle rich are few, such signs are not to be seen.
"Of course," he continued, "your object in England must be money, for
you cannot expect to get meat, cake and custard pudding in a land
where even the rich live poorer, with regards to diet, than the
labouring classes of this country." I remembered these wise thoughts
of Brum, uttered on the shores of the Atlantic, and if I did not
profit much by them in my own experience in England, I certainly made
enough attempts to test their truth. I always kept a keen eye for
blind alleys, and quiet courts under arches, and I invariably came out
of one richer than I went in. And what nice quiet places they are for
drinking cups of tea on a doorstep, with only a neighbour or two to
see you, and perhaps thousands of people passing to and fro in the
street at the other side of the arch. There is no thoroughfare for
horses and carts; no short cut for business men, and the truth of the
matter is that a number of the inhabitants themselves, born and bred
in the town, know not of the existence of such places; and others,
knowing them, would be ashamed to confess their acquaintance with
them. But Brum knew where to find the kindest hearts in England, not
in the fine streets and new villas, but in the poor little
white-washed houses in courts and alleys.



CHAPTER V

A TRAMP'S SUMMER VACATION


We were determined to be in the fashion, and to visit the various
delightful watering places on Long Island Sound. Of course it would be
necessary to combine business with pleasure, and pursue our calling as
beggars. With the exception of begging our food, which would not be
difficult, seeing that the boarding houses were full, and that large
quantities of good stuff were being made, there was no reason why we
should not get as much enjoyment out of life as the summer visitors.
We would share with them the same sun and breeze; we could dip in the
surf at our own pleasure, and during the heat of the day we could
stretch our limbs in the green shade, or in the shadow of some large
rock that overlooked the Sound. However we could no longer stand the
sultry heat of New York, where we had been for several days, during
which time we had been groaning and gasping for air. So I and Brum
started out of the City, on the way towards Hartford, Connecticut,
with the intention of walking no more than six miles a day along the
sea coast. What a glorious time we had; the people catered for us as
though we were the only tramps in the whole world, and as if they
considered it providential that we should call at their houses for
assistance. The usual order of things changed considerably.
Cake--which we had hitherto considered as a luxury--became at this
time our common food, and we were at last compelled to install plain
bread and butter as the luxury, preferring it before the finest
sponge-cake flavoured with spices and eggs. Fresh water springs were
numerous, gushing joyously out of the rocks, or lying quiet in shady
nooks; and there was many a tramps' camp, with tin cans ready to hand,
where we could make our coffee and consume the contents of paper bags.
This part of the country was also exceptionally good for clothes.
Summer boarders often left clothes behind, and of what use were they
to the landladies, for no rag-and-bone man ever called at their
houses. The truth of the matter was that in less than a week I was
well dressed from head to foot, all of these things being voluntary
offerings, when in quest of eatables. Brum, of course, had fared
likewise, but still retained the same pair of dungarees, which he
swore he would not discard except at the instance of a brand new pair
of tweeds. It was this pair of working man's trousers which had caused
a most regrettable mistake. We had just finished begging at one of
these small watering-places and, loaded with booty, were on our way in
the direction of the camp which, Brum informed me, was half a mile
north of the town. When we reached this camp we found it occupied by
one man, who had just then made his coffee and was about to eat. On
which Brum asked this man's permission to use his fire, which would
save us the trouble of making one of our own. The stranger gave a
reluctant consent, and at the same time moved some distance away, as
though he did not wish further intimacy. While we were gathering wood
and filling our cans at the spring, I could not help but see this
stranger glaring hatefully at my companion's trousers, and expected
every moment to hear some insulting remark. At last we were ready and
Brum proceeded to unload himself. He had eight or nine parcels of food
distributed about his clothes, but in such a way that no one could be
the wiser. It was then that I noted a change come over the stranger's
face, who seeing the parcels, seemed to be smitten with remorse. In
another moment he was on his feet and coming towards us, said
impulsively--"Excuse me, boys, for not giving you a more hearty
welcome, but really--"glancing again at my companion's trousers--"I
thought you were working men, but I now see that you are true
beggars." Brum laughed at this, and mentioned that others had also
been deceived. He explained that the said trousers had been given him
against his wish, but on seeing that they were good, and were likely
to outlast several pairs of cloth, he had resolved to stick to them
for another month or two. "I regret having had such an opinion of
you," said the stranger, in a choking voice, "and trust, boys, that
you will forgive me." Thus ended in a friendly spirit what promised at
first to become very unpleasant.

This stranger turned out to be New Haven Baldy. We had never had the
pleasure of meeting him before, but had often heard of him. He had a
great reputation in the State of Connecticut, which he never
left--except for an annual trip through Massachusetts to the city of
Boston. There was not one good house in the former State that was not
known to Baldy. This was put to the test in our presence, that very
day. A man came to the camp who, poor fellow, claimed to be a
hard-working man. He had lost his job and had been robbed of his
savings, now being forced to walk home to Meriden. He had never begged
in his life, and had now been without food for two days, and was
almost too weak to continue his journey. "Yes," said Baldy, "and when
you are settled at home, and the wrinkles are taken out of you, what
sympathy will you have with us? You will tell us to go and work for
our living, the same as yourself." The poor fellow protested, saying
that he had never known his mother to refuse any man food. At this
Baldy pricked up his ears and enquired of the stranger his mother's
address. On hearing the name of the street Baldy at once proceeded to
describe the one--and only one--good house to be found there: "That
is our house," said the stranger. Baldy, not yet convinced, asked for
a description of the old lady and her husband. This was given, to
Baldy's satisfaction. "Well," said he, "I have had many a meal at your
house, and you shall now have one with me." Saying which he gave the
stranger a parcel which, being spread on the grass, was seen to
contain several meat sandwiches and a number of small cakes. After
eating these, and others from Brum, the stranger left, saying that he
would not again feel hungry until he reached home.

After the stranger had gone Baldy laughed immoderately. "That man's
father," said he, "was a railroad man, who became boss, and at last
retired on a comfortable little sum. In the kitchen, where the old
people have often fed me, the old man has hung on the wall the shovel
which he had used in his early days. There it is to be seen tasselled
and kept shining bright, and treated reverently as a family heirloom.
How I have laughed," continued Baldy, "to see that shovel, to think
what a simple old fellow he must be to take a pride in showing how he
toiled in his early life. Every time I go there the old man points at
the shovel with pride, and I have as much as I can do to keep a calm
face in listening to its history. But in spite of all that the old man
is a good sort, and I am glad to have been able to assist his son."

Alas, what a disastrous end was ours! When we reached the town of New
Haven, we began to beg from passersby in the open streets and in less
than an hour were in jail. On being brought up next morning before the
judge, we were each sentenced to thirty days. But what hurt our
feelings most was the personal comment of the judge--that we were two
brawny scoundrels who would not work if we had the chance. However
true this might be as applied to us in a moral sense, it certainly was
not a literal fact, for we were both small men. People who, not seeing
us, would read this remark in the local paper, would be misled as to
our personal appearance. I am doubtful whether any Judge is justified
in using such a term. At any rate, thirty days had to be served.

We were in a far better position than an Italian who was waiting to be
tried for murder, and whose cell was not far distant from ours.

At this jail we had to perform the light labour of caning chairs, and
were well treated in the way of food and sleeping accommodation and,
in addition, received a liberal supply of chewing tobacco.

Being interested in the Italian, the first thing we did on regaining
our liberty was to enquire as to his fate. We were told that he had
received a life sentence; or, as our alien informant strangely
expressed it--"Antonia, he didn't get some of de time, but he got all
of de time."

Thus what promised to be a summer's outing full of enjoyment, came to
a disastrous close sooner than we expected. And, when we were again
free, the summer season was practically over, the visitors were
gradually leaving for their town houses; which meant that our
treatment at the boarding houses would become colder and colder in
accordance with the number of boarders.

At this time I accepted employment as a woodchopper, but unfortunately
the work did not last; and just as I began to feel the inclination for
this more respectable life, I was discharged, much to Brum's delight,
who was apparently disgusted with this new innovation called work, and
could not understand any man's desire for it.



CHAPTER VI

A NIGHT'S RIDE


Although I had at this time become lazy, losing almost all sense of
respectability, I often reproached Brum for the aimlessness of this
existence; telling him we must seek work and attend to other wants
than those of the body. I would tell him of the arts, and how the
cultivation of them was lost to us through a continual lack of funds.
I told him of the pleasures of reading, visiting picture galleries,
museums and theatres, and of the wonders of instrumental music, and of
the human voice. Once when we were passing through a street in New
Orleans, I paused to listen to a woman singing. Brum, like the
faithful companion he was, waited my pleasure, until he too seemed to
become impressed by some unusual feeling. The song ended, and as we
went our way, I said--"There, Brum, what do you think of that?" "O
lor," he answered, awestruck, "wasn't she a blooming cat!" making me
laugh heartily at such a strange expression of praise, knowing that it
was meant to be truthful and sincere.

Having done a few days' work, as mentioned in the preceding chapter,
I resolved to come to an understanding with Brum at once as to our
future plans. With this end in view, I invited him to a drink, and
thus began: "What do you intend doing? Your life is not mine. We often
go for days without reading matter, and we know not what the world is
saying; nor what the world is doing. The beauty of nature is for ever
before my eyes, but I am certainly not enriching my mind, for who can
contemplate Nature with any profit in the presence of others. I have
no leisure to make notes in hopes of future use, and am so overpacking
my memory with all these scenes, that when their time comes for use,
they will not then take definite shape. I must go to work for some
months, so that I may live sparingly on my savings in some large city,
where I can cultivate my mind." Now, Brum's method of begging was
different in large cities from what it was in the country. In the
latter he found no use for money, except for hair cutting or shaving;
and when this became necessary he never failed to get the requisite
amount for his purpose. When he was ready to have this office
performed, it was his custom to interview the Catholic priest of the
community, and beg the use of his razor, knowing it was part of that
person's creed to shave continually. Of course, the priest would not
think of lending his razor to an entire stranger, but seldom refused
the ten cents that were necessary for that operation. But in the large
cities, Brum scorned private houses, and begged money in the streets,
and in their various stores; purchased his meals at a restaurant, and
paid his lodgings like an honest man. Therefore, thinking my
discontent was mainly owing to the lack of funds, he said--"All this
haste from place to place is not at all to my liking. If you wish to
settle in a large city, I can guarantee two dollars a day at the
least, between us, for a visit to the theatre, music hall, for books,
papers, or an occasional glass of grog." "No, no," I said, "we must
either work or part. There are three dollars, half of my earnings, so
please yourself whether we work or part, whether you go or stay; for I
have already decided my own course. What is it to be?" "Well," said
he, after a long pause, "we are now near to the hop country, and they
start picking sometime next week; that is about the only work to be
had at this time of the year."

Upon this we had several drinks, for I was so pleased at Brum's
decision, that I ordered drink after drink with bewildering
succession. Brum informed me of a freight train that was to leave the
yards at midnight, on which we could beat our way to a small town on
the borders of the hop country. Not knowing what to do with ourselves
until that time arrived, we continued to drink until we were not in a
fit condition for this hazardous undertaking--except we were fortunate
to get an empty car, so as to lie down and sleep upon the journey. At
last we made our way towards the yards, where we saw the men making
up the train. We kept out of sight until that was done and then in the
darkness Brum inspected one side of the train and I the other, in
quest of an empty car. In vain we sought for that comfort. There was
nothing to do but to ride the bumpers or the top of the car, exposed
to the cold night air. We jumped the bumpers, the engine whistled
twice, toot! toot! and we felt ourselves slowly moving out of the
yards. Brum was on one car and I was on the next facing him. Never
shall I forget the horrors of that ride. He had taken fast hold on the
handle bar of his car, and I had done likewise with mine. We had been
riding some fifteen minutes, and the train was going at its full speed
when, to my horror, I saw Brum lurch forward, and then quickly pull
himself straight and erect. Several times he did this, and I shouted
to him. It was no use, for the man was drunk and fighting against the
overpowering effects, and it was a mystery to me how he kept his hold.
At last he became motionless for so long that I knew the next time he
lurched forward his weight of body must break his hold, and he would
fall under the wheels and be cut to pieces. I worked myself carefully
towards him and woke him. Although I had great difficulty in waking
him, he swore that he was not asleep. I had scarcely done this when a
lantern was shown from the top of the car, and a brakesman's voice
hailed us. "Hallo, where are you two going?" "To the hop fields," I
answered. "Well," he sneered, "I guess you won't get to them on this
train, so jump off, at once. Jump! d'ye hear?" he cried, using a great
oath, as he saw we were little inclined to obey. Brum was now wide
awake. "If you don't jump at once," shouted this irate brakesman, "you
will be thrown off." "To jump," said Brum quietly, "will be sure
death, and to be thrown off will mean no more." "Wait until I come
back," cried the brakesman, "and we will see whether you ride this
train or not," on which he left us, making his way towards the
caboose. "Now," said Brum, "when he returns we must be on the top of
the car, for he will probably bring with him a coupling pin to strike
us off the bumpers, making us fall under the wheels." We quickly
clambered on top and in a few minutes could see a light approaching
us, moving along the top of the cars. We were now lying flat, so that
he might not see us until he stood on the same car. He was very near
to us, when we sprang to our feet, and unexpectedly gripped him, one
on each side, and before he could recover from his first astonishment.
In all my life I have never seen so much fear on a human face. He must
have seen our half drunken condition and at once gave up all hopes of
mercy from such men, for he stood helpless, not knowing what to do. If
he struggled it would mean the fall and death of the three, and did
he remain helpless in our hands, it might mean being thrown from that
height from a car going at the rate of thirty miles an hour. "Now,"
said Brum to him, "what is it to be? Shall we ride this train without
interference, or shall we have a wrestling bout up here, when the
first fall must be our last? Speak?" "Boys," said he, affecting a
short laugh, "you have the drop on me; you can ride." We watched him
making his way back to the caboose, which he entered, but every moment
I expected to see him reappear assisted by others. It might have been
that there was some friction among them, and that they would not ask
assistance from one another. For instance, an engineer has to take
orders from the conductor, but the former is as well paid, if not
better, than the latter, and the most responsibility is on his
shoulders, and this often makes ill blood between them. At any rate,
American tramps know well that neither the engineer nor fireman, his
faithful attendant, will inform the conductor or brakesman of their
presence on a train. Perhaps the man was ashamed of his ill-success,
and did not care to own his defeat to the conductor and his fellow
brakesmen; but whatever was the matter, we rode that train to its
destination and without any more interference.

As we neared the town we saw a large camp fire in a small dingle near
the track, at which a man lay asleep. Seeing this comfortable sight,
and being cold and tired, we made up our minds to jump off the train
as soon as possible, and to return to that fire for a few hours'
comfort. The whistle blew for the station, and the train began
gradually to slacken speed, when we jumped from the bumpers; and our
limbs being stiff, we staggered and fell, but received no hurt. It
must have been a mile or more back to that place, but we arrived there
in due time, and without waking its solitary occupant, were soon
stretched out fast asleep on the other side of the fire. When we awoke
the stranger had already been to town, had returned with food, and was
now making coffee in a tomato can, all of which he generously offered
to share with us. This I gladly accepted, but Brum declined with
thanks, saying that he was always capable of getting his own meals,
and if needs be, could beg enough for half a dozen others. I gave this
stranger my entire confidence, and soon learnt that he had come to
these parts for the same purpose. "We three," said he, "will work
together on the same land, and under the one master. I am a moulder by
trade," he continued, "and a week ago I had a hundred dollars saved,
but went on the spree, and am now probably without a cent." To my
surprise, at this stage of the narrative, he unlaced his right boot
and began to feel in its toes, at the same time shaking his head
despondently. After which he put it on again and laced it. "Yes," he
said, taking off his coat and feeling the lining, "a week ago I had a
hundred dollars saved."

Brum, having now returned from town laden with sandwiches, cakes,
etc., and he having had a hot dinner from a convent we packed those
necessaries for future use, and started on foot for the hopfields.
Every now and then the stranger--whom Brum at once called Australian
Red, owing to his being born in that country, and his having a florid
complexion--would try our patience extremely by sitting on fallen
timber and taking off his boot, sometimes the two; and after feeling
in them, replacing them on his feet, with a sigh of disappointment.
Often he would take off his hat and minutely examine the lining, to
our unfeigned astonishment. At one time we lost patience with him. He
had seen a low stack of timber, and requested a few moments delay. On
this being granted, Australian Red began to take off his garments one
by one, and to examine them. Not one article was placed aside without
having undergone a thorough scrutiny, until nothing but his shirt
remained. All this waste of time was very trying to our patience, and
when he was again dressed, we requested him at once for all to put a
stop to such manoeuvres. We walked on in silence, but had scarcely
covered a short mile, when Red was seen to be preparing to strip for
another investigation. On seeing which Brum, losing a little
patience, said:--"Look here, old fellow, if such is going to be your
conduct, you can't, on no account, travel any further with us." For a
time Australian Red looked undecided, and then let his coat slip back
to its position. "It is like this," he said, "I am a moulder by trade;
a week ago I had a hundred dollars saved, but where are they now? It
is always my custom," he continued, "when I go on the spree, to
secrete my money in some safe place. Although I have no recollection
of doing so, I am positively assured that such has been the case; and
would not be surprised at any moment to discover a twenty dollar bill
in the lining of my clothes; but, with regards to the boots, I am now
thoroughly satisfied." When I became better acquainted with Australian
Red, this peculiarity was often made apparent to me. Perhaps he did
secrete money, for I have oftened wondered as to where it had
vanished. Whether or not, it was certainly never to be found on his
person, and must have been slipped under the mat in strange places,
dropped into vases, or hidden behind looking glasses.

In a day or two we reached the hop-fields and all three succeeded in
being hired by the same farmer. This could not have very well been
different, as neither one would have otherwise worked. The season, if
I remember right, lasted between three and four weeks, which we began
and finished, but were not very well satisfied with the financial
result. Our total earnings were, clear of all expenses, about forty
dollars, and with that amount we walked to the nearest large town
intending to beat our way to New York and paint it a forty dollar red.
We reached the said town, and made enquiries of a switchman as to when
the next freight train would be leaving for New York. The sight of a
flask of whiskey in the hands of Australian Red enlightened us
considerably as to the time of trains, their qualification for
carrying human freight, and the cruel or kind disposition of their
attendant crews. We made choice of a train leaving about dusk, and
finding an empty car on a side track, we entered it, to wait as
patiently as possible until that time came. We were not so quiet as we
should have been, considering that we were trespassing on the
railroad; and that is why we were soon startled by a voice crying:
"What are you doing there? Do you know that you are trespassing on the
railroad?" With that the marshal of the town stood before the open
door, showing the star of his authority on his dark clothes. "I can't
get any sleep day or night, through you fellows," he said; "consider
yourselves under arrest." Saying this, he marched us off at the point
of a revolver, and began seeking the judge for our trial at that
strange hour of the night.



CHAPTER VII

LAW IN AMERICA


As he marched us along, he made several enquiries as to our finances,
to know if we were prepared to pay a fine. Being assured of this he
took a very despondent view of our case.

Brum explained afterwards, when it was too late, that trespassing on
the railroads was always considered a very serious offence during this
month of the year, when men were returning with their small earnings
from the hopfields; which were not sufficient to enable them to travel
as passengers. He explained that trespassing on the railroad was not
only overlooked, but was openly encouraged when men had to pick hops
to fill their pockets; but as soon as those pockets were filled by
picking hops, the local magistrates lost no time in giving the police
strict orders to fall to, arrest and detain, so that a picker's pocket
might be picked by them of his little earnings.

The marshal stopped several citizens, enquiring as to the whereabouts
of a person named Stevens. To my surprise, we were not lodged for the
night in the common jail, but were led into a public house, which in
that country is referred to as a saloon. As we entered this place, and
stood in front of its bar, we did not look much like prisoners. Brum
called for four drinks, and the marshal drank his respect for us in a
very friendly manner indeed. After which he took the landlord aside
for a short consultation, in which I heard the man Stevens mentioned
more than once. Then he came back and had another drink, this time at
the expense of Australian Red. Some customers now arrived, followed by
a lean, solemn looking person, whom the marshal took no time in
accosting as Judge Stevens. This gentleman at once called for whiskey,
then looked from the marshal to us, and from us to the marshal, at the
same time nodding his head approvingly to the latter. The marshal
cleared his throat and began: "I found these men trespassing on the
railroad, and at once arrested them." The judge again nodded his head
in approval to this red, burly individual, who had made a claim of
being robbed of his sleep day and night, and turning to us said:
"Boys, we have to put a stop to these things, drink and follow me." He
led the way into a small back room, and we followed with the marshal,
the citizens bringing up the rear. The marshal gave evidence of our
arrest, making special mention of our possession of money. The judge
wished to be informed of the exact amount, and being told that it was
something like ten dollars each, summed up the case at once. "Boys,"
he said, "I fine you each five dollars, in default of which you must
go to Syracuse for thirty days"--at which place was the county jail.
Now, I was always outspoken, and was never forced by fear, under any
circumstances, to conceal my thoughts, which if I saw real injustice
or hypocrisy, would be blurted out in a more dignified court than
this. This mock trial, which at first had been highly amusing,
exasperated when it came to paying half of my hard earnings, so I told
this judge plainly that my friends might please themselves, but that
he would not get one cent out of me. Brum supported me in this, but
Australian Red began to finger his dollars, whereat the marshal
quickly snatched them out of his hand, deducted five dollars, which he
gave to the judge, and returned the rest. Judge Stevens looked at us
steadily for a time, and then asked this astounding question: "Boys,
how much are you prepared to pay?" Brum, who had very little sense of
justice, and being such a good beggar, set very little value on money,
asked the judge if he would accept three dollars from each of us. If I
had been alone at this time I would have paid nothing, but to save
Brum from going to prison, who I knew would support me through all, I
satisfied myself that, if the judge approved of this amount, I would
pay it without further comment. The judge appeared to weigh the
matter seriously, and then cried, with a magnanimity that was
irresistible--"Pass over the dollars, boys; you shall have a chance
this time."

The trial was not here ended, as most of us believed. A citizen, who
had been an interested spectator of this scene, and who had been
fidgetting in his seat for some time, now rose to his feet, and
said--"Where is the justice of this? These men are all guilty of the
same offence, and yet one is fined five dollars, and the other two get
off more leniently, with the loss of three dollars each; this
certainly cannot be called justice." At this the Judge showed the
first signs of passion. "Sir," he shouted in wrath, "who is the Judge,
I or you? If you ever again interfere with our proceedings, in this
manner, I shall fine you for contempt of court--contempt of court,
sir, contempt of court." This citizen and lover of justice, collapsed
stricken with awe, bluffed and discouraged. "Come, boys," said the
Judge, and he led the way back to the bar. There, he produced a two
dollar bill, which was part of our fine, and called for drinks for the
house. We followed his example, late prisoners and citizens, and were
all happy together until a late hour.

The marshal, who seemed to have a little respect for me, for having
shown the spirit of free speech before the judge, took me aside and
asked whether we intended to take advantage of the invitation given by
the citizen who had been threatened for contempt of court--to spend
the night at his house. "I don't think so," I said; "we have had
enough of this town, and intend leaving it to-night." Shortly after
these words we left the saloon, but had scarcely reached the street
end, when I heard steps following, and to my surprise, the marshal was
soon at our side. Now comes the most extraordinary part of this story,
which I have often been diffident in relating, thinking it would not
be credited. "Boys," said this burly fellow, who could not get any
sleep day or night, "get you to the railroad, and if any one
interferes with you, tell them that the marshal sent you; I shall be
with you in about twenty minutes." We were soon at the railroad, were
not interfered with, and the marshal followed in a short time.
"Listen," he said to us, who were again trespassers on the railroad,
at his pleasure and instigation: "There is a train already made up to
start in five minutes' time; get into this empty car, and by heavens,
no man shall interfere with you." Which we did, and when the train
started, the marshal was there, beside the car, wishing us a pleasant
good-bye. "Why," said Brum, when I commented in astonishment at all
this, "it is nothing unusual. One day," he began, "I was in a small
town in Ohio. Seeing a freight train leaving the station, I leaped
into an empty car, just as the train started. When safe inside, I
turned and stood in the open doorway, and looking out, saw the marshal
standing on the platform, looking after me, so I waved him a sarcastic
farewell. But the train, instead of increasing in speed, began to
slow, and coming to a standstill, began at once to back towards the
station. Before I could decide on my course of action, we were again
standing in front of the station, with my car facing the marshal, who
seemed to have waited, expecting this to happen. 'Hallo,' he cried,
'come out of that for you are under arrest.' I was lodged in jail, and
was next morning brought up for trial. The marshal gave evidence as to
seeing me jump the train, and I was charged with that offence. Having
no money, I was about to be sent to jail when the judge asked the
marshal to examine my hands which, although I had done no work for a
number of years, were still hard and horny. I said that I was a
seafaring man, and exhibited pictures of boats and anchors tattooed on
my arms, at the same time offering to show the _Polly Jane_ in full
sail across my breast. My strange calling, in that inland town more
than a thousand miles from the coast, appeared to greatly interest the
judge, who, after several friendly questions, discharged me with a
caution. Instead of at once taking advantage of my freedom, I sat
down, waiting the end of the court. Another prisoner was then brought
up, who had been seen loafing on the station platform all the previous
day. This prisoner pleaded guilty, and said that he had waited in vain
for hours for a freight train to carry him to his destination, he
having no money to pay his fare as a passenger. "Hold," cried the
marshal, "that is a lie, for I myself saw a train steaming out when
you were loafing indifferently on the platform." "Ten dollars, or
sixty days," said the judge. This will show you how one prisoner was
charged for stealing a ride on a freight train, and another prisoner
was charged for not doing so as the opportunity occurred, happening in
the same court, and under the same judge. Again," continued Brum, "I
know a prisoner, in an adjoining state, who was sentenced to ten years
for embezzlement. The money was never recovered, and he probably has
it safe until his time expires. This prisoner is receiving a salary of
ten dollars a week for keeping the prison books, is allowed to
converse with any one, and is entrusted to go the rounds of the
turnkey. He is the one man allowed to wear private clothes, and is
even allowed at night the liberty of a stroll in the open air, and
unattended, with the one stipulation that he returns before a certain
hour at night. And," continued Brum, "what with the money he has
concealed--held probably by a relative--and his weekly salary of ten
dollars as the bookkeeper of the prison, he will never need work more,
after his sentence is served. But, listen to me," continued Brum more
earnestly, "some of these queer laws are to a tramp's advantage. The
winter is already here, and promises to be a most severe one. Now, if
you would like to rest and grow fat during the coldest months, come
with me to Michigan. You can there enter jails without committing
offence of any kind, and take ten, fifteen, twenty or thirty days, all
at your own sweet discretion. No work to do, good food to be had, and
tobacco daily supplied. There is nothing else but begging before you,
for the coming winter," said Brum, warming to his subject, "but if you
like to enter with me those blessed havens of rest, where one can play
cards, smoke or read the time away, you will become strong and ready
for work when the spring of the year arrives."

This project did not seem to me to be very attractive. For one thing,
it was a long journey to that part of the country, and the weather
being cold, we were forced to travel at night and sleep in the day. I
was certainly not a very pleasant companion at this time, being
occupied so much with my own dreams, which ever took the one shape of
a small comfortable room with a cosy fire; books, papers, tobacco,
with reading and writing in turns. At any rate, we decided to follow
Brum's suggestion, and, instead of going to New York, we got off, and
took another road.

We had a rough time in beating our way to Michigan. We were marched
out of one town by the marshal, where we were waiting to catch a
train. This necessitated us either to walk three miles to catch a
train as it was on a grade, or to walk ten miles to the next watering
tank, where all freight trains stopped. We decided on doing the
former. To do this required an activity of which I hardly thought Brum
to be capable. The grade was long and before the train reached the
top, its speed would be slackened to about ten miles an hour, or less,
if it had heavy freight. It was necessary to lie low, and out of
sight, until the train appeared, and then run beside it, so as to leap
and catch the handle bar, the feet at the same time catching the iron
step; after doing which we could step on to the bumpers, or climb the
ladder to the top of the car. If either the hand or foot failed to do
its duty, it meant a fall, and a very serious accident or death. I was
the youngest and most active, and leapt the first part of the train.
As soon as I was safe I looked around the car, and had the pleasure of
seeing Australian Red succeed just three cars behind, and Brum
succeeding on the next car to him. When we reached the next stopping
place, we all got together on the same car, so as to be prepared for
any trouble with the train's crew. A brakesman passed over the top,
and shouted to us in a friendly manner; passed and re-passed several
times before the train reached its destination, but treated our
presence with the utmost indifference, which is often the case in that
part of America.

What a difference it made in our feeling, this changing of seasons! It
seemed but a few days ago the birds were singing, the orchards were
heavy and mellow with fruit, and we could sleep in the open air all
night. It was now necessary to light great fires, when the front parts
of our bodies burned whilst a cold chill crept up and down the spine;
and the first fall of snow, which was likely to occur at any time,
would soon make it difficult to enjoy even this small comfort.

At last we reached a small town in Michigan which, Brum informed us,
was the county town; and which, said he, chuckling with delight, had
an exceedingly pleasant jail.



CHAPTER VIII

A PRISONER HIS OWN JUDGE


"Now," said Brum, as the freight train steamed into the town and came
to a standstill, "we must see the marshal." With this end in view we
walked towards the passenger depot, which, Brum informed us, was
visited by the marshal several times a day, so that he might the
better accost such tramps as were going through that town. We arrived
at that place and stamped up and down the platform, to circulate our
blood, for it was now snowing heavily, and the wind blowing in small
gusts that discovered us, shelter wherever we would.

How the snow falls in the north! Flake on flake falling incessantly,
until the small dingles are almost on a level with the uplands. It
throws itself on the leaves of Autumn, and holds them down in security
from the strongest winds. It piles great banks against people's doors,
and mothers and daughters are made prisoners to their own hearths,
until fathers and sons set to and cut a path to the open thoroughfare.
Special snow trains are at work clearing the track to make the way
easier for passenger trains and freight trains that run on passenger
lines, being loaded with cattle or other perishable goods; whilst
other freight is often delayed for days, and sometimes weeks.

We had been here some fifteen minutes, when we saw the marshal coming
down the road leading to the station, the bright star of his authority
being seen distinctly on his breast. "Now," said Brum, "let me be the
spokesman, and I will arrange for a month's comfort." By this time the
marshal stood before us. "Boys," he began, "cold weather for
travelling, eh?" "We don't feel the cold," was Brum's reply. "You will
though," said the marshal, "this is but the beginning, and there is a
long and severe winter before you, without a break. You would
certainly be better off in jail. Sixty days in our jail, which is
considered one of the best, if not the best, in Michigan, would do you
no harm, I assure you." "As for that," said Brum, "we might take
thirty days each, providing of course, that you made it worth while.
What about tobacco and a drink or two of whiskey?" "That'll be all
right," said the marshal, "here's half a dollar for a drink, and the
sheriff will supply your tobacco." "No, no," objected Brum, "give us a
dollar and three cakes of tobacco, and we will take thirty days, and
remember, not a day over." The marshal produced the three cakes of
tobacco, seeming to be well prepared for these demands, and giving us
a paper dollar, requested us to go to Donovan's saloon, which we
would find in the main street, where he would see us later in the day;
"when of course," he added, winking, "you will be supposed to be just
a bit merry."

"What is the meaning of all this?" I asked Brum, as we went our way to
Mr. Donovan's saloon. "It simply means this," he said, "that the
marshal gets a dollar each for every arrest he makes--in our case
three dollars; the judge receives three or four dollars for every
conviction, and the sheriff of the jail is paid a dollar a day for
boarding each prisoner under his charge; we benefit by a good rest,
warmth, good food and plenty of sleep, and the innocent citizens have
to pay for it all."

We had not much difficulty in finding Donovan's saloon, which we
entered, and called for whiskey. It so happened that two strangers
were there, who had made a considerable stake in the backwoods, and
had come to this town to squander their earnings. We therefore came
into many a free drink, through the liberality of these men. About an
hour and a half had elapsed when we discovered ourselves to be alone
in the bar, and without means of procuring more liquor. "We had better
be going," said Brum, and we passed into the street. Brum saw the
marshal coming up the road and began singing in a lusty voice, to the
astonishment of some of the storekeepers. Australian Red, being the
worse for drink, and forgetting that we had only to feign this part,
began to roar like a bull, merry in earnest. On this the marshal
quickly crossed the street and in the hearing of several citizens,
shouted in an authoritative voice:--"I arrest you for being drunk and
disorderly," and we followed him like lambs. We were then led to the
sheriff's house, adjoining the jail. That gentleman, being in,
received us with open arms saying--"Welcome, boys, you want thirty
days, and thirty you shall have, no more or less; and you will be none
the worse for it, I promise you, at the end of the month." He then
made a few casual items in a large book, roughly descriptive of our
weight, height, and personal appearance, and then led the way through
two or three corridors, until we were confronted by a large iron door.
This he opened with an iron key, and we were ushered into a large
room, where were assembled between thirty or forty prisoners. Some
were reading, some were pacing to and fro, and several batches of them
were playing cards. What a reception we had, bringing in a fresh
supply of information from the outside. "Have you seen Detroit Fatty?"
asked one. "Or the Saginaw Kid?" asked another. "Or Chicago Slim?"
asked another. Brum, who seemed to know these wonderful persons,
answered according to his knowledge.

In this large room, for the common use of the prisoners, were twenty
or more cells, to which they retired for sleep, but were never locked
in--except maybe, an occasional prisoner, who might be waiting trial
under a charge of grand larceny, manslaughter, or murder. Supper was
soon brought in, and it was a good substantial meal. Its quantity
seemed to be more than idle men needed, if they had three such meals
every day, and its quality would satisfy me in any position in life.
What a pleasure it was that night to be in warmth, and with our minds
eased of a month's anxiety. "What time are you going to do?" asked
one. "Thirty days," answered Brum. "Plenty," said the other. "There is
more jails than this, and not much difference in them, and to go out
in the cold for a day or two makes us better appreciate the warmth and
comfort within."

Next morning we were taken by the sheriff to the court-house, where a
number of town people were assembled, owing to the more interesting
trial of a local man. I have often thought with amusement of this
scene. Despite the judge's severe expression, and his solemn
deliberate utterance, we knew what to expect,--thirty days, no more or
less. The sheriff whispered to the judge, and the judge nodded sagely,
at the same time casting his eyes in our direction. We were charged
with being drunk and disorderly, and with disturbing the public peace.
"He did not see," he said, "why peaceable citizens should be disturbed
in this way by drunken strangers, and would fine us seven dollars and
costs, in default of which we would be lodged in the county jail for
thirty days." We were then led back by the sheriff, and when we were
again among the prisoners, they seemed to express very little
curiosity as to our sentences, knowing it was our wish that we should
receive thirty days, and that the judge was at our pleasure--we being
in fact our own judges.

Every morning the sheriff required half a dozen prisoners to sweep and
clean the court-house, which was situated about half a mile from the
jail. Australian Red and myself went with him several mornings, for a
little fresh air, but prisoners could please themselves, and Brum, I
know, never left the jail during the whole thirty days. It was an
understood thing that any prisoner could discharge himself on these
occasions, if inclined, without any fear of capture. The Marshal and
the Judge had had their dollars for arrest and conviction, and I
suppose, the sheriff charged for board and lodging, without mention of
a prisoner's escape. Perhaps they were afraid of bringing back an
escaped prisoner, for fear he might make some awkward disclosures. At
any rate, liberty could be had by a very deliberate walk and there was
certainly no need to make a desperate dash for it. Of course, there
was no reason why any prisoner should seek to escape these conditions,
which were of his own seeking, and which, during this unpleasant time
of the year, could not in any way be bettered by homeless men.

After serving our sentence, and the sheriff exacting a promise from us
to return again that winter, if not the following, we sought another
jail some twenty miles from the last, which prisoners had spoken
highly of. We were told that there was no necessity at this place of
going through the form of an arrest, but that we could go straight in
out of the cold. The Sheriff would at once receive us at his house,
learn our wants, while the judge would attend to us on the following
morning.

We arrived at this place, and everything turned out as described. The
jail was no different from the other. We were catered for as customers
that would, if treated with courtesy and good living, return winter
after winter, and patronise this place in preference to visiting the
more congenial climate of the south. At this place we sentenced
ourselves to another thirty days. Our room, like the other, was a
large iron cage, in which were twenty-four cells in a double row, main
floor and gallery, like little cages within it. As we entered this
large cage, the sheriff opening the iron door, a number of jail-birds
were singing merrily, not for liberty, but enjoying such captivity.
There was only one real prisoner here, who was waiting trial under a
charge of manslaughter, and he was the one prisoner to be locked in
his cell at night; and, in that cell, had waited trial a most cold
blooded murderer. Here we had the usual amusements of card playing,
singing and relating experiences.

The real prisoner--for none of the others had been guilty of any
offence, having entered of their own free will--was very unfortunate
in having a pair of wags quartered in the cell above him. These two
practical jokers made a figure of their bed clothes, and letting it
down, dangled it in front of this prisoner's cell. The poor wretch,
happening to be awake, and thinking this was Bill Henderson, murderer,
and late occupant of the cell, come to haunt him, leaped from his bed,
crying with a horror-stricken voice--"Bill Henderson, by God!" Before
he could recover from his fear and make a more calm investigation, the
figure was withdrawn. All this happened as expected, and the prisoners
were delighted, for they had been hinting all day about Bill
Henderson's ghost, so that it might take hold of this poor wretch's
nerves. Once only during the night was this accomplished, so that
their victim might have no suspicion as to its being a genuine ghost.
Every time the sheriff appeared the prisoner complained to him of this
ghost murderer, pleading for a removal, or an early trial. That
gentleman invariably listened with a sarcastic smile, seeming to have
some notion of the truth, by glancing at the faces of the other
prisoners. How these sheriffs, marshals and constables, despise
cowardice, and how they respect the intrepidity of dangerous men.
Many a sheriff, I believe, has surrendered his prison keys to the
lynchers and the lawless mobs, forgetting his duty in disgust at the
exhibition of fear in one for whom he is responsible. And many a
sheriff would lay down his life to protect a criminal who with cool
nerve faces his cell, callous and indifferent.

We visited, and were entertained, in several jails during this winter,
and emerged from the last in the middle of April.

I have heard since that this system of boodle, as it was called, was
in the following winter entirely squashed. A sheriff, it seemed, being
of an avaricious disposition, had interfered with the quality and
quantity of the prisoners' rations. Therefore, when respectable
citizens visited the jail to speak a few sympathetic words to the
prisoners, which they usually did on Sunday, those discontented
jail-birds complained of insufficient picking; and informed the
citizens that they had been guilty of no offence; that they had
entered the jail through being promised enjoyment, and that those
expectations had not been realised. On hearing this, the citizens
formed a committee, and soon discovered the whole system to be rotten.
Seeing how they had been robbed, they deposed several officers and the
upshot of it was that travellers never again visited that part of
America in quest of comfortable jails.

For a day or two the least exertion tired us, owing to our winter's
inactivity, but take it all in all, we were certainly in good bodily
condition. It was now that Australian Red made his first proposal. He
knew a fruit farm, where he had been previously employed, "in this
very State," said he, "on the shores of Lake Michigan." "How long does
the work last?" I asked. "All the summer," he answered, "and good pay
for an active man." "All right," I said, "if I can make a pretty fair
stake, I shall then return to England and home." Brum agreeing to
this, we lit a fire that evening near a water tank, intending to take
the first freight train that came our way. When the train arrived, we
still dallied at the fire, which was a considerable distance from the
track. It whistled before we expected and began its journey. "Break
away," cried Australian Red, making a rush for the departing train.
The speed of the train was increasing and when I reached its side I
was almost afraid to attempt to board it. Australian Red succeeded,
but when we reached the next stopping place, we were greatly
disappointed to find that Brum had been left behind. We got off and
waited the arrival of other trains, thinking that he would soon follow
us, but as Brum did not appear on any of them, we continued our
journey, thinking to see him later. I never saw him again. He had
complained of the year not being sufficiently aired for freedom, and
had proposed another short term in jail. No doubt, after losing us he
had done this.



CHAPTER IX

BERRY PICKING


We reached the fruit country a week or two before picking commenced,
but although we were in advance of time, and without a cent, the
generosity of the farmers supplied all our wants. The authorities did
not in the least interfere with us, though we lit large camp fires on
the outskirts of the towns, took possession of hay ricks and empty
out-houses, and loafed for hours in their principal streets. They knew
well that the assistance of every man would be needed to strip the
vines of their berries, which promised a supply exceeding that of
former years. Friday morning, it being generally known that picking
was to commence on the following Tuesday, Australian Red remarked that
it was now time to interview the farmer, for whom he had previously
worked. With this object in view, we left the pretty inland port of
St. Joseph, and strolling leisurely, we reached that farm in two
hours, it being only five miles from the town. The farmer and his
wife, who employed several servants of both sexes, but were without
children of their own, at once recognised Australian Red, and gave
him a kindly welcome, which spoke well for Red's gentlemanly behaviour
in the past. The old man told him, in his bad English, that there
would always be plenty of work for Red, and for others whom he might
bring with him.

I was about twenty-three years of age at this time, appeared much
younger and not in any way looking like a dangerous youth, was soon on
the best of terms with the old people. So much so, that at the end of
the summer, when the pickers were leaving, the result being as
satisfactory to themselves as to the farmer, the kind old couple
inveigled me into a private place and proposed to adopt me as their
own son, and that they would teach me how to run the farm, which they
said would become mine at their death. The only way to answer these
kind people was to say that I already had a good home, and parents
living in England, and that I intended to return there with the
profits of this summer's work.

The earliest fruit was the strawberries, whose vines grew from six
inches to a foot above the ground. We knelt in the hot blazing sun
which beat so powerfully on our bended necks that the flesh became in
a day or two the dark colour of walnut stain. The soil, being dry and
sandy burned through the clothing until our knees were covered with a
rash. The effect of this extreme heat often affected people's
reasons, and sometimes killed them outright. Berry picking in the
South has other dangers of a worse kind. I shall never forget seeing a
man leap screaming to his feet, at the same time wringing his right
hand in agony. He had parted the thick vines, in quest of the berries
that were concealed under the leaves, and in doing so, had disturbed a
deadly snake, which had bitten his offending hand. The snake was very
small, but far more deadly than many others of twenty times its length
and weight. Several deaths occurred this way in my berry picking
experience in the South. There was not much fear of this happening in
the State of Michigan, but we often wished we could crawl under the
low green leaves of the vine to escape for a time the rays of the sun.
The farm extended to the shores of the lake, and when our day's work
was at an end, we hastened there, and plunged into the cold and
unsalted water which never grew warm, and could be swallowed with
impunity. After which we would return, cook supper in the open air,
and wrapping ourselves in blankets lie all night under the thick
foliage of a tree. The berries were sent every night to Chicago for
the morrow's market; but, there being no market on Sunday our day of
rest was Saturday, and we picked on Sunday for Monday's market. Early
every Saturday morning Australian Red would go to town in the farmer's
buggy, and return to us later in the day with papers, tobacco,
matches, and such provisions as we needed; for eggs, butter, milk,
potatoes and fruit could be had of the farmer, the latter delicacy
being free for the trouble of picking.

Red seemed to me to be a man above the average intelligence, and, as
far as my knowledge went, seldom made an error in grammar or the
pronunciation of words. But that he should think words required a
different pronunciation in reading from what they did in speaking, was
a great shock to me, and made some of his most illiterate hearers look
from one to another with stupefaction. Now, I was always greatly
interested in fights and glove contests, and Red, claiming to have
personal acquaintance with the best of Australia, and himself claiming
to be an amateur middle weight, whose prowess many a professional had
envied, often entertained me with little anecdotes of them, which had
escaped the notice of sporting papers. So, on the first Saturday of
our picking, Red returned from town with a paper which gave a full and
graphic account, round by round, of a contest for the light weight
championship of the world, the principals hailing respectively from
Australia and America. Red's sympathies, of course, were with the
former, who, to his elation, had defeated his opponent. Being a very
modest man, Australian Red had always quietly perused his paper,
making few comments, so as to avoid all argument; but on this
occasion, he opened his paper and began to read with a boldness that
astonished me. But what surprised me most was the way in which he
made use of an expletive syllable, which sounded so quaint as to make
laughter irresistible. For instance, this passage occurred in
describing the fifth round: "After he was knocked down, he picked
himself up painfully, and the blood flowed from his nostrils in
copious streams." I could not help laughing out at his strange
delivery, and Red, thinking my sympathies were with the bruiser from
the Antipodes, chuckled with a real, but more quiet delight. We had
enough food for conversation that day, in commenting on this contest.
I like to see a good scientific bout by men who know the use of their
hands, but would rather walk twenty miles than see animals in strife.
Although of a quiet disposition, my fondness for animals is likely at
any time to lead me into danger. After reading cases of vivisection I
have often had dreams of boldly entering such places, routing the
doctors with a bar of iron, cutting the cords and freeing the animals,
despite of any hurt I might receive from bites and scratches. Perhaps
I should cut a ridiculous figure, walking through the crowded streets
with a poor meek creature under each arm, but that would not bother me
much in the performance of a humane action.

After a good month's work at the strawberries, we had three weeks at
picking raspberries, followed by four weeks blackberry picking. There
was good money to be made at the strawberries, but much less at the
raspberries. The blackberry picking was as lucrative as the
strawberry, and, being cultivated on the low bushes that seldom
required us to stoop, was not such a tedious occupation as the latter,
whose vines were often half buried in the soil. After paying all
expenses, I had, at the end of the season, cleared over a hundred
dollars.

It was now the last of the picking, and the farmer paid us off. He was
a German, and nearly all the farmers in that part of the country were
the same, or of that descent, and they used the German language at
every opportunity, and never used English except when it was necessary
to do so. "You vos come again, next summer," said he to Australian Red
and myself as we were leaving--"for I know you two plenty." This
remark made me blush, for it seemed as much as to say that his
knowledge of us was more than he desired--but we understood his
meaning. He offered to drive us to St. Joseph, but we preferred to
walk, as we had all day and half the night to wait before the boat
started from that place to Chicago.

"Now," I said to Australian Red, as we jogged along, "I am going to
hoard the bulk of my dollars, and shall just keep two or three handy
for food and incidental expenses, for I am now about to beat my way
from Chicago to New York. From the latter place I shall pay my passage
to Liverpool, clothe myself better, and then take train for South
Wales, and still have a pound or two left when I arrive home." "Come
and have a drink," said Red, "and I will then inform you how any man
without former experience on sea or ship, neither being a sailor,
fireman or cook, can not only work his passage to England, but be paid
for doing so."

We had had no intoxicating liquor for several months, and, though we
had passed one or two of these places on our way to St. Joseph, on
which he had gazed in a rather too friendly manner, his courage, up to
this moment, had not been equal to an invitation. "Well," I said,
pleased with the prospect of not only saving my passage money, but
also of earning my train fare in England--"it will certainly be cold,
taking this deck voyage across the lake in the early hours of morning,
and a glass of whiskey will keep some warmth in us." Alas! the usual
thing happened--we got full; and what with the dead effects of the
drink, and a rough passage across, we arrived in Chicago feeling cold,
stiff, and in many other ways uncomfortable.

I have often heard salt water mariners sneer at these fresh water
sailors, but, after crossing the Atlantic some eighteen times, and
making several passages across the lakes, my opinion is that these
vast inland lakes are more dangerous to navigate, and far less safe
than the open seas.

Of course, we had to have more whisky, after the voyage, and, having
had to sleep, its effect was almost instantaneous. Not altogether
losing my senses, I suggested to Red that we should go to some hotel,
have breakfast, and then go to bed for an hour or two, say till dinner
time, which would refresh us. It was now eight o'clock in the morning,
and Red had unfortunately got into conversation with a gentleman who
knew something of Australia. "Yes," he said, gravely, after listening
to my proposal--"you are young, and you certainly look drunk and
sleepy, and had better follow your own advice. The hotel is next door
but one to this, and you will find me here when you return." Not
liking to take him by the shoulder, and to gently try to force him
away from this stranger in whose conversation he evidently seemed to
take a great delight, not to mention doing such an action before the
landlord's face, I left him, made arrangements at the hotel for two,
and then went to bed. Having had a good sleep, and a substantial meal,
and feeling thoroughly refreshed, I now returned to Red, whom I found
in the centre of half a dozen loafers, besides the gentleman to whom I
have already referred. On my appearance, he staggered to his feet and
came to meet me, and then, taking me on one side, began in this way:
"You have just come in the nick of time, for the glasses, as you see,
are empty. Pay for all drinks called for, and I will make it all right
with you in the morning." "What is the matter?" I asked. "What have
you done with over eighty dollars?" Winking artfully, and with a smile
meant to be cunning, he said--"I have hidden my money, as I usually do
in these cases. Most likely it is in the lining of my coat; but,
wherever it is, you may depend on it as being quite safe." If he had
had the assistance of a score of the most inveterate drunkards, I know
he could not in this short time have squandered between eighty and
ninety dollars. Red had earned ninety-five dollars and a half, and, up
to the time of my leaving him, had spent but very little. I came to
the conclusion that he had been robbed, and that this befell him in
all his sprees. After calling for a round of drinks, I left the house,
knowing that Red would soon follow, which he did, and at once. I
persuaded him to bed, and the next morning saw the same peculiarities
as before--his going into corners, up side streets, to feel the lining
of his clothes. He was not satisfied at seeing no tear in the lining
of his cap, but must hold it in his hand and feel every inch of it.
"Somewhere on my person," he reiterated, "I have secreted three twenty
dollar bills. I have a distinct recollection of doing so, but for the
life of me I cannot remember what part." "You have been robbed," I
answered, with a little disgust. Not willing to leave him in his
present circumstances, and only too sorry that I had not done so when
he was almost as well off as myself, I shared my dollars with him,
saying in an offended manner--"The sooner we squander this stuff the
better it will please us." We spent it in one week in Chicago, and
were again without a cent. "Again," I said with some exaggeration,
"winter is here, and we are in the same position as at the end of last
summer. What now?" "We are without money," said Red, "but there is
still nothing to prevent us from our first intention of visiting
England. We will beat our way to Baltimore without delay. I am known
in that port by the cattle foremen and owners, and we are almost sure
of a ship as soon as we arrive." After all, I thought, eager for a new
experience, one trip will not come amiss.



CHAPTER X

THE CATTLEMAN'S OFFICE


We found the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad easy to beat, and were at the
end of our journey in a very few days. When we entered the cattleman's
office, from which place owners and foremen were supplied with men, it
was evident to me that Red was well known in this place, hearing him
make enquiries of Washington Shorty, New York Fatty, Philadelphia
Slim, and others. At this place I made the acquaintance of Oklahoma
Sam, an extremely quiet man, very much respected in that he had a cold
blooded fashion of whittling wood and paring his nails with a steel
blade nearly a foot long. Another queer character was Baldy, of whom
Australian Red related this anecdote. When stranded in Liverpool and
hungry, he once took up a position in front of a confectioner's shop,
and, being an extremely lazy man, placed his shoulder against the
lamp-post, and settled himself for a long reverie. He might have been
there an hour or more, when the baker came out and complained of
Baldy's person, being ragged and dirty, as the reason why people
hurried past his establishment; telling Baldy straight that his
presence was detrimental to the trade of any shop that catered to the
inner man. Baldy, too lazy to speak, much less show any signs of
anger, took a firmer bearing on the post and settled to a more
prolonged reverie. Two or three hours elapsed when the baker, who had
come several times to stare at him through the window, rushed out and
shouted with much irritation--"For Heaven's sake, go: here, take this
sixpence, and let me see the last of you." Baldy, who had not wished
the baker good morning, wished him good afternoon, and strolled
quietly away, with the price of a good meal in his hand. Nobody, who
thoroughly understood Baldy's disposition, would wonder at this; for
this success, after all, was only the result of laziness, but most of
his companions gave him credit for using unique strategy in obtaining
money.

Shelter only was supplied at this office, and that of the barest kind,
being no other than the hard floor, and blanketless. Owing to this the
men, who, after making a trip often had to wait sometimes two or three
weeks for another chance, were all good beggars. Some of them had
begged Baltimore off and on for ten years, and knew every good house
in the city. One would say--"I shall go to the dressmaker for my
breakfast"; another intended to go to the dairy, the fat woman, or the
dentist; the latter being always good for money in the shape of a ten
cent piece.

We had been at this office three days, when the shipper sent
Australian Red and myself, with four others, to rope cattle at the
yards. Seven hundred and fifty head of cattle had to be shipped that
night, and the ropes had to be placed on their necks or horns, with
which they had to be fastened to their places aboard ship. After Red
had taken a rope, and given me a practical illustration of what was to
be done, the cattle began to arrive. They were very wild, having just
come from the plains of the west. There was a long narrow shoot in the
yards, with one end blocked, and when a number of cattle had been
driven into this, and had wedged themselves too close and fast to be
capable of any wild movement, it was our business to slip a noose
around their horns, or necks, draw this rope as tight as possible, and
fasten it with a knot, so as to prevent it from slipping. When this
was accomplished, the end of the shoot was opened, and they were
rushed out with their ropes dangling, and a fresh batch were then
driven in and served likewise. After which they were put in cars and
sent to the ship. Now the foreman, knowing Red, asked him if he would
like to go with him, to which Red answered yes, at the same time
putting in a good word for me, which at once met with the foreman's
approval. We were not therefore surprised, on our return, when the
shipper called us into his private office to sign articles--Red to
receive two pounds for the trip, and myself thirty shillings, an
amount seldom paid to a raw hand, except on the recommendation of
owner or foreman.

I shall never forget the first night's experience, when the cattle
were brought to the ship in a train of cars. A large sloping gangway
was erected to span the distance between ship and shore, and up this
incline the poor beasts were unmercifully prodded with long poles,
sharpened at the end, and used by the shore cattlemen. The
terror-stricken animals were so new to the conditions, that they had
no notion of what was expected of them, and almost overleaped one
another in their anxiety to get away. What with the shout of savage
triumph, the curse of disappointment, and the slipping and falling of
the over-goaded steers, I was strongly tempted to escape the scene. As
the cattle were being driven aboard, we cattlemen, who had signed for
their future charge, caught their ropes, which we were required to
fasten to a strong stanchion board. Sometimes one would run up behind,
and prevent himself from turning. On one of these occasions, I crossed
the backs of others, that had been firmly secured, so as to force this
animal to a proper position. The animal, whose back I was using for
this purpose, began to heave and toss, and at last succeeding in
throwing me across the back of the other, this one tossing and rearing
until I was in danger of my life, only the pressure of the other
beasts preventing him from crushing my limbs. Taking possession of
his rope, I held it to a cattleman, who was standing waiting and ready
in the alley, and he quickly fastened this refractory animal to the
crossboards. Now the foreman had been watching this, and coming to the
conclusion that I was a good man with cattle, said he would like me to
be the night watchman. This undoubtedly does require a good man, as I
soon discovered, on the first night out. There were two lots of cattle
aboard, and for these two foremen, two lots of cattlemen, and two
watchmen. As all hands are available in the day, any difficulty with
the cattle can soon be attended to; if necessary, all hands taking
part. But when there is any trouble at night, one watchman only has
the assistance of the other, who, of course, expects the same aid from
him, in cases of emergency. Now if a number of cattle have broken
loose, and worked themselves into intricate positions, the watchman is
supposed to awake the foreman and his men to assist him, but one would
rather struggle all night with his difficulties than to take these men
at their word, knowing their peevishness and dislike for a man who has
disturbed them from a sound sleep. A watchman is therefore told to
call up all hands, if he cannot cope with the cattle under his charge,
but he is never expected to do so.

What soon breaks the spirit of these wild animals is the continual
motion of the vessel. There is always plenty of trouble at first, when
they slip forward and backward, but in a few days they get their
sea-legs, and sway their bodies easily to the ship's motion. The wild
terror leaves their eyes, and, when they can no more smell their
native land, they cease bellowing, and settle calmly down. This
restlessness breaks out afresh when nearing shore on the other side,
and again they bellow loud and often, long before the mariner on the
look-out has sighted land.

We also had on this trip two thousand head of sheep, quartered on the
hurricane deck. When we were six days out there came a heavy storm,
and the starboard side was made clean, as far as pens and sheep were
concerned, one wave bearing them all away. This happened at night, and
on the following morning the sheep men were elated at having less work
to do during the remainder of the voyage. The cattle, being protected
on the main deck, and between decks, and their breath filling the air
with warmth, make the cattleman's lot far more comfortable than that
of the sheep-men. The condition of the cattle can be seen without
difficulty, but ten or fifteen sheep lying or standing in the front of
a crowded pen, may be concealing the dead or dying that are lying in
the background. For this reason it is every morning necessary to crawl
through the pens, far back, in quest of the sick and the dead, and it
is nothing unusual to find half a dozen dead ones. The voyage would
not be considered bad if thirty sheep only died out of two thousand.

What a strange assortment of men were these cattlemen and sheepmen.
One man, called Blacky, a bully without being a coward, fell in love
with a small white cat, which we had found in the forecastle. His
ruffianism at once disappeared, and every time he was at liberty,
instead of looking for trouble with his fellow-men, he could be seen
peacefully nursing this cat, at the same time addressing it
endearingly as "Little White Dolly," and such simple language as a
child might use.

It was our duty to keep the cattle standing, and not to allow them to
rest too long on their knees; and not let them, on any account,
stretch full length in the pens. One reason for this was that a
kneeling steer would be overstepped by his nearest neighbour, and if
the latter happened to rise, their ropes, which were so fastened as to
give them very little freedom, would be tightened and crossed,
bringing their heads together in such close proximity, that they would
make frantic efforts to escape each other's presence. And another
reason for not allowing them to lie down for any length of time was
that their joints would become so stiff as to make them almost
incapable of rising, though goaded by the most heartless cruelty. I
used the most humane methods to attain this end, and sought to inspire
terror in them by the use of the most ferocious war-cry, which often
succeeded. If that failed to raise them, I struck them with a flat
stick on the haunches, which they could scarcely feel, at the same
time not forgetting to use my voice. Not succeeding in this, I
resorted to the old remedy, which rarely fails, standing at their
backs and twisting their tails. A bullock can kick in any direction.
There is terrible power in his side kick, also his front kick,
throwing his hind leg forward with a speed that is remarkable for such
an unwieldy animal. But his back kick, when you stand back to back
with him, has not the least power to cause hurt. The other watchman
and myself had about an equal number of cattle under our charge, and
when I was in difficulty he kindly came to my assistance, and I did
likewise for him, although he seldom seemed to need other help than
his own. We made our rounds about every half hour. Sometimes I found a
steer in the alley; by some means or other he had cleared the head
board and, still being a prisoner, stood fastened outside the pen
instead of inside. Another time we would find one standing with his
tail to the head-board, instead of his head, owing to the rope getting
loose, or being broken; after which he had turned himself around to
see if there was any way of escape behind him. It required great care,
in cases of this kind, to place them again in their original
positions.

Up till the fourth night we had experienced no bad weather, and the
cattle had been quiet and requiring little care. On this particular
night my attention had been drawn several times to a big black steer,
which, time after time, had persisted in lying down. At last, in pity
for the poor beast, I let him rest, thinking to get him into a
standing position at the last moment, when I went off duty, after
calling the foreman and his men. But when that last moment came I
failed in all my efforts to raise this animal, whose joints, I
suppose, had become stiff after a prolonged rest. I was not therefore
greatly surprised when the foreman came, after I had gone off duty, to
the forecastle, with the complaint of having found a number of cattle
lying down, and one, he said, in particular, which must have been
lying down half of the night. "When I left the cattle," I said,
"nothing seemed to be wrong." "Come up and see this one," he answered.
I followed him on deck, and there I saw several cattlemen standing in
front of a pen, in which I recognised the big black steer. He was now
lying full length in the pen, the others having had to be removed for
his convenience. "See this," said the foreman, "this creature should
be standing. Twist his tail," he continued, to a cattleman, who at
once obeyed. During this operation another cattleman fiercely prodded
the poor creature's side with a pitchfork, which must have gone an
inch into the body. At the same time another beat the animal about
the head with a wooden stake, dangerously near the eyes. The animal
groaned, and its great body heaved, but it made no attempt to move its
legs. "Wait," said the foreman then, "we will see what this will do."
He then took out of his mouth a large chew of tobacco, and
deliberately placed it on one of the animal's eyes. My heart sickened
within me, on seeing this, and I knew that I would have to be less
gentle with these poor creatures to save them the worst of cruelty. In
a second or two the poor beast, maddened by pain, made frantic efforts
to rise, tried again and again, and after seeing its great sides
panting, and hearing a number of pitiful groans, it succeeded in the
attempt.

These cattlemen are, as a rule, great thieves, and well the sailors
and firemen know it, and especially the steward and cook. One evening,
when the men had finished their day's work, and I was preparing to go
on duty for the night, I heard Blacky propose a night's raid on the
captain's chickens, which were kept in a small coop under the bridge,
and rather difficult to rob, considering the bridge was always
occupied by the captain or one of his first officers. But, next
morning, on coming to the forecastle I was not greatly surprised to
smell a peculiar and a not unpleasant odour, coming from that place.
Blacky and another had made their raid during the previous night,
leisurely killing the chickens on the spot, which was certainly the
best plan. When I descended the forecastle steps, I saw that the stove
was red hot, on which was a large tin can full of potatoes, onions and
chicken. I am not ashamed to say that I did not scruple to partake of
this rogue's mess, knowing from experience how this company ran their
boats, allowing their stewards such miserly small amounts for
provisions, that the common sailors and firemen did not get sufficient
food to eat, bad as its quality was.

When we arrived at Liverpool, we were not long clearing our decks of
cattle. After one is forced to lead, which is often difficult to do,
they all follow, and it is the same with the sheep. It is more often
necessary to control their mad rush than to goad them on. We received
payment aboard--Red two pounds, myself thirty shillings, one other a
pound, and the rest ten shillings each, which was to board and lodge
us ashore for six days, when we would have passenger tickets back to
the port from which we had sailed. If the ship, from any cause, was
delayed over this number of days, we were to receive an extra half a
crown for every day over. Red, having been in Liverpool several times
previously, led the way to a cheap house, at which place I persuaded
them to pay down six nights' lodging, so as to make sure of some
shelter, not forgetting to caution them against drink, as they would
need every penny of the remainder for food, which would be more
difficult to obtain in this country than their own.

These cattlemen are recognised as the scum of America, a wild, lawless
class of people, on whom the scum of Europe unscrupulously impose.
They are an idle lot, but, coming from a land of plenty, they never
allow themselves to feel the pangs of hunger until they land on the
shores of England, when their courage for begging is cooled by the
sight of a greater poverty. Having kind hearts, they are soon rendered
penniless by the importunities of beggars. Men waylay them in the
public streets for tobacco, and they are marked men in the public
houses--marked by their own voices. First one enters and makes a
successful appeal, who quickly informs another, and others as quickly
follow. These wild, but kind-hearted men, grown exceedingly proud by a
comparison of the comfortable homes of America with these scenes of
extreme poverty in Liverpool and other large sea-ports, give and give
of their few shillings, until they are themselves reduced to the
utmost want. And so it was on this occasion. The next day after
landing, I made my way to the public library, for I had not enjoyed
books for a considerable time. When I returned from this place,
Australian Red at once approached me to borrow money, with his old
hint of having some concealed. On questioning the others, six in
number, I found that these men had not the price of a loaf of bread
among them. As for myself, I had not been drinking, and had only spent
seven shillings, and a part of that had been given away in charity.
For even in the coffee-house ragged lads set their hungry eyes on
one's meal, and sidle up with the plaintive remark that they will be
thankful for anything that is left. In such cases, who could help but
attend to them at once, before attempting to enjoy his own meal? As
far as my money went I maintained Red and the others, but the day
previous to sailing, there was not one penny left. We were to sail the
following night, but would not be supplied with food until breakfast
time the next morning. When that hour arrived we were all weak from
hunger, not having had food for over forty hours. When the food did
arrive in the forecastle, these hungry men strove for it like wild
beasts, without any system of equal shares.

What a monotonous life we now had for thirteen days. No work; nothing
to do but to eat and sleep. And how I had intended to enjoy this part
of the trip! The few hours I had spent in the library, had brought
back my old passion for reading, and, had it not been for the distress
of others, I had now been the happy possessor of some good books. This
was not to be; for I was to lie in my bunk with but one
consolation--that I had sufficient tobacco under seal with the steward
to last me until the end of the voyage. This new experience was a
disappointment, and it was my firm resolve, on returning to Baltimore,
to seek some more remunerative employment, to save, and then to work
my passage back to England in this same way, and go home with my
earnings.

We had a rough passage back, the ship being light, with little more
than ballast. One night the vessel made a fearful roll, and the lights
went dark, and we thought every moment that she would turn over. A
coal bunker was smashed by the waves, and large pieces of coal bounded
across the deck with a force that would have broken every bone in a
man's body. Pieces of heavy wood, that would have cut off a man's feet
as clean as a knife, slid across the deck from side to side. We
thought the end had come, especially when we saw an old sailor rush on
deck in his bare feet, his shirt being his only apparel. Sleep was out
of the question for some hours, for we were forced to cling to our
bunks with all our strength, to save ourselves from being thrown out,
when we would be rolled here and there, and soon battered into an
unconscious state.

We reached Baltimore on the thirteenth day, and at once made our way
to the cattlemen's office, intending on the morrow to make better
arrangements for the future.



CHAPTER XI

A STRANGE CATTLEMAN


It was now the beginning of October, and the mornings and the evenings
were getting colder. Although Baltimore is a southern town, and was
therefore free from the severe cold of towns further north, it was not
so far south as to make plenty of clothes dispensable. We two,
Australian Red and myself, tramped this city day after day for work,
but without success. There were only two courses left open to us: to
make three or four more trips on cattle boats, until the coming of
spring, when there would probably be work in abundance, or to go
oyster dredging down the Chesapeake Bay, a winter employment that was
open to any able-bodied man in Baltimore, experience not being
necessary. Red soon placed the latter beyond consideration by relating
his own hard experience of the same. First of all the work was very
hard, and of a most dangerous kind; the food was of the worst; and,
worse than all, the pay was of the smallest. A man would often cut his
hands with the shells, which would poison and swell, and render him
helpless for some time to come. "Again," said Red, "a man is not sure
of his money, small as it is. A few years ago," he continued, "it was
a common occurrence for a boat to return and have to report the loss
of a man. These dredgers were never lost on the outward trip, but when
homeward bound, and the most hazardous part of their work was done.
The captain, on coming to shore, would report a man lost, drowned, and
his body unrecovered. This drowned man, being an unknown, no relative
came forward to claim wages from the captain. How the man met his
death was no secret among the dredgers, and they had to keep a wary
eye on their own lives; for a captain would often move the tiller so
suddenly as to knock a man overboard, accidentally, of course. A board
of enquiry looked into these things, and a captain was tried for
murder, and escaped with a sentence of seven years' imprisonment.
There were not so many accidents after this, but they have not
altogether ceased." After hearing this account, I was not very eager
for more practical knowledge of this profession, called dredging, so I
agreed with Red to make three or four more trips as cattlemen, until
the spring of the year made other work easy to be obtained.

We returned to the office, where between thirty and forty men were
waiting an opportunity to ship. As I have said before, some of these
men were notorious beggars, and the kind-hearted people of Baltimore
never seemed to tire of giving them charity. One man, called Wee
Scotty, who had been a cattleman for a number of years, begged the
town so much in some of the rather long intervals when he was waiting
a ship, that he could take a stranger with him three times a day for a
month, to be fed by the different good people that were known to him.
He could take up a position on a street corner, and say--"Go to that
house for breakfast; come back to this house for dinner, and yonder
house with the red gate will provide you a good supper." In this way
he kept me going for two weeks when, at last, I was asked to sign
articles to go with cattle to Glasgow.

Some days before this, a man came to the office, whose peculiar
behaviour often drew my attention to him. He asked to be allowed to
work his passage to England, and the skipper promised him the first
opportunity, and a sum of ten shillings on landing there. This was the
reason why some of us had to wait so long, because, having made trips
before, more or less, we required payment for our experience. The man
referred to above, had a white clean complexion, and his face seemed
never to have had use for a razor. Although small of body, and not
seeming capable of much manual labour, his vitality of spirits seemed
overflowing every minute of the day. He swaggered more than any man
present, and was continually smoking cigarettes--which he deftly
rolled with his own delicate fingers. In the intervals between
smoking he chewed, squirting the juice in defiance of all laws of
cleanliness. It was not unusual for him to sing a song, and his voice
was of surprising sweetness; not of great power, but the softest voice
I have ever heard from a man, although his aim seemed to make it
appear rough and loud, as though ashamed of its sweetness. It often
occurred to me that this man was playing a part, and that all this
cigarette smoking, chewing tobacco and swaggering, was a mere sham; an
affectation for a purpose. I could not, after much watching,
comprehend. He was free of speech, was always ridiculing others, and
swore like a trooper, yet no man seemed inclined to take advantage of
him. Blackey took him under his protection, laughing and inciting him
to mischief. He was certainly not backward in insulting and
threatening Blackey, which made the latter laugh until the tears came
into his eyes. The men were spellbound at his volubility. He shook
that red rag of his, and a continuous flow of speech ensued, and the
surrounding creatures were mute, but not at all infuriated. His
audacity may have slightly irritated one or two, but no man had the
least idea of inflicting on him corporal punishment. I and Red were
called to the office to sign articles for Glasgow, and, when doing so,
Blackey and this strange new companion of his were signing for
England, the two ships leaving for their destination on the same tide.
We were sorry to lose this man's company, knowing that his tongue
would have gone far to amuse our leisure hours aboard.

We had a very pleasant voyage, and this line of boats gave us very
little cause to complain, either of sleeping accommodation or diet,
the officers and ship's crew also being sociable in their dealings
with us. The same thing happened at the end of this voyage, and we
would have suffered the same privation--had it not been for an
accident. On the fourth morning ashore there was not a penny among us,
and the boat would not sail for another two days. Australian Red was
rummaging his pockets and piling before him a large assortment of
miscellaneous articles. "I wouldn't care much," said he, "if I had the
paltry price I paid for this," at the same time throwing on the table
a thick, heavy, white chain. Picking this up, for an indifferent
examination, I became interested, and enquired as to how it came into
his possession. It seemed that a poor fellow had offered to sell Red
the chain for a penny. Red, seeing the man's condition of extreme
want, had given him sixpence, at the same time refusing to accept the
chain. The poor fellow had then persisted that Red should accept it as
a gift. Red, being now filled with his own troubles, wished that he
could dispose of the chain to the same advantage. The chain was,
without doubt, silver, being stamped on every link. "What!" cried Red,
suddenly roused, while the cattlemen in their deep interest moved
forward, making a circle several feet smaller--"What!" he cried,
"silver did you say? Let me see it!" He snatched the chain and,
without looking at it, or putting it in his pocket, rushed out of the
room without another word. In five minutes he returned, and throwing
towards me eight shillings, the value of the chain in pawn, said:
"None of this for drink; keep a tight hand on it for our food supply
until the boat sails." He knew his own weakness. On first coming to
shore I had taken the precaution to buy several books, to make sure of
them, indifferent whether we suffered hunger or no. For this reason I
thoroughly enjoyed the voyage back, and we arrived safely at
Baltimore, having been away a little over five weeks.

The first man we met, on entering the cattlemen's office, was Blackey,
who, having made a shorter trip, had returned some days previous.
"What became of your strange friend, Blackey?" I asked. "Did he remain
in England, or return to America?" "Why, haven't you heard about it
all?" asked Blackey; "the English papers were full of the case." "We
have heard nothing," I said, thinking the poor fellow had either been
kicked to death by one of the wild steers, or that he had either
leaped at the waves in a mad fit of suicide, or that the waves had
leaped at him and taken him off. "He worked side by side with me for
eleven days," said Blackey, "and by his singing, laughing and
talking, he made a play of labour. Down in the forecastle at night he
sang songs and, in spite of our limited space, and the rolling of the
ship, he gave many a dance, and ended by falling into his low bunk
exhausted, and laughing still. In all my experience this was the first
time that I was not eager to sight land, and fill myself with English
ale. On the eleventh day out, we were hoisting bales of hay for the
cattle, and he was assisting me in the hold of the vessel. I know not
whether we failed to fasten properly the bales, or whether the
cattlemen on deck blundered when receiving them, but all at once I
heard a shout of--'Look out, below!' and down came a heavy bale,
striking my companion on the shoulder. He spun around once or twice,
and then fell unconscious into my arms. The ship's doctor was at once
called, and the poor fellow was taken aft. Several times a day I made
enquiries about him, and heard that he was out of danger, but needed
rest. I never saw him again. When we landed in England he was not to
be seen, and I thought, perhaps, that he was too ill to be removed
without the assistance of a vehicle. Next day I happened to pick up a
paper, in which was a full and lengthy account of how a woman had
worked her way as a cattleman from the port of Baltimore, making
mention of the ship's name. My companion was that woman, and I never
had the least suspicion," continued Blackey, "although, I will say,
that I always thought him a queer man."

I had scarcely been in the office a week, when I was offered a boat
for London. Only one two-pound man was required, all the others, with
the exception of one, who was to receive fifteen shillings, were
ten-shilling men. Red had no chance on this boat, and I was not sorry,
knowing how his extravagant habits would spoil the trip's enjoyment.
This was a voyage of some delight, both aboard and ashore. Having been
in London before, I knew what enjoyment could be had with but little
expense--of museums, parks, gardens, picture galleries, etc. I made
friends with a decent fellow, who had been a schoolmaster, and,
persuading him out of Deptford, we procured lodgings in Southwark, and
from that place we paid our visits to the different scenes. We saw
none of the other cattlemen until the hour of sailing. Many of the
poor fellows had lost their money on the first night ashore, and now
had strange experiences to relate of workhouses, shelters,
soup-kitchens, and unsuccessful begging. When we arrived at Baltimore
it wanted one week to Christmas Day, and there was not much chance to
ship again for two or three weeks, owing to the number of men waiting.

As I have said before, the people of Baltimore are extremely
kind-hearted, and no man need starve if he has the courage to express
his wants. The women seem to be as beautiful as they are good, for I
have never seen finer women than those of Baltimore, and a man would
not be making the worst of life if he idled all day in a principal
street, reading the face of beauty, and studying the grace of forms
that pass him by. But it is of their kindness and generosity that I
would now speak. For Christmas Eve had come, and Australian Red,
accompanied by Blackey, had taken me on one side, the former beginning
in this way: "Will you join this night's expedition? What we want you
to do is to carry a small bag, no more, and all the begging will be
done by us." I had visions of the police stopping me and enquiring the
contents of such a strange burden, but being an unsuccessful beggar,
and feeling too independent to have others perform this office for me,
without making some little effort to deserve their maintenance, I
agreed to their proposal, and that evening at six p. m., we sallied
forth together. They both started on a long street, Red taking one
side and Blackey the other, whilst I waited the result some yards in
advance--a safe distance away. They could scarcely have been refused
in one house, for in less than ten minutes they were both at my side,
dropping paper parcels into the empty bag, the mouth of which I held
open. All at once Blackey disappeared, having been called in to
supper. The same thing happened to Red, two or three minutes after.
When they approached me again with other parcels, they both agreed to
accept no more invitations to supper, but that they would excuse
themselves as having families at home. They continued this for half an
hour, hardly more, when the bag was full to the mouth. "Now," said
Blackey, "take this to the office, and we will remain to fill our
pockets, after which we will follow as soon as possible. Or do you
prefer to wait for us?" I preferred to go, and, avoiding the main
streets and lighted places, succeeded in getting back without rousing
the curiosity of the police. They soon followed, with another supply
stored in their capacious pockets. What delighted them most--but of
which I took very little account, knowing to what use it would be
put--was that they had received several small amounts in money, the
total being one dollar and seventy-five cents. I shall never forget
this begging expedition. When the different parcels were unrolled, we
beheld everything that the most fastidious taste could desire, for not
one parcel, I believe, consisted of simple bread and butter, much less
the former by its own common self. There were fried oysters, turkey,
chicken, beef, mutton, ham and sausages; Irish potatoes, sweet
potatoes and yams; brown bread, white bread; pancakes, tarts, pie and
cake of every description; bananas, apples, grapes and oranges;
winding up with a quantity of mixed nuts and a bag of sweets. Such
were the contents of over sixty parcels, got with such ease. Blackey
had been refused at three doors; and Red had failed at five, but had
been requested to call back at two of them, and had not troubled to do
so, not having properly located the houses.



CHAPTER XII

THIEVES


Cockney More was a cattleman, hailing from the port of Baltimore. He
was a born thief and, strange to say, nearly blind; but without doubt,
he was a feeler of the first magnitude. If he borrowed a needle, and
the said article was honestly returned, it behoved the lender, knowing
the borrower's thievish propensities, to carefully examine it
to see that the eye had not been abstracted; for, as Donovan
remarked--"Cockney More could steal the milk out of one's tea."

When I have looked at Cockney's long thin fingers, I have often
wondered whether he had power to disjoint them at will, letting them
down the legs of his trousers to rummage the locality, while he stood
innocently talking to us with his hands in his pockets. That honour
which is supposed to exist among thieves, was not known to Cockney
More, for he would rob his best friend, and do it in such a way that
no man could take umbrage. For instance, six of us had landed in
Liverpool, having been paid off that morning. Cockney, knowing the ins
and outs of that city, and its numerous pitfalls for strangers,
escorted us at once to a cheap lodging-house, where we paid in
advance for a week's bed, thus being assured of shelter until the ship
was ready to return. The next morning we sat six disconsolate men in
the lodging-house kitchen, not one of us having the price of his
breakfast. Cockney, being the last to rise, entered at last, and
noting our despondent looks enquired as to the cause. On being told he
went out and returned in a few moments with tea, sugar, bread and
sausages. In fact, he continued these kind deeds during our week
ashore. The others, being mostly strangers, blessed him for a good
fellow, but it occurred to me that he was simply returning us our own,
for he spent three times more money during those few days than he had
received for the trip.

I remembered a mean little trick that he had performed on one of the
cattlemen that very first morning ashore. True, we were all getting
drunk fast, but I never thought Cockney would be daring enough to
attempt such a deed in our first stage of intoxication. He had asked
this cattleman for a chew of tobacco and the man had generously
offered him the whole plug to help himself. Cockney took this plug
and, biting off a piece, returned the bitten part to the owner, and
himself pocketed the plug. I was speechless with astonishment at
seeing this: and more so when the strange cattleman innocently
received the bitten part, and put it in his pocket without having
perceived anything wrong.

Cockney and myself were on the best of terms, and yet, some time
previous to the above episode, he had served me a trick which ought to
have severed our friendship for ever. I was at the shipping office and
had that morning signed for a trip to London. "Have you sufficient
tobacco, and a spoon, knife, fork and plate?" enquired Cockney. "Yes,"
I replied, "and I have also a new pack of cards, so that we may enjoy
our leisure hours aboard." Cockney was pleased to hear this, although
he was not to accompany me on this trip. "Let me see them," said he.
This I did and being, as I have said, nearly blind, he took them to
the window for examination, but returned them almost immediately. Then
came a shout for all men who had signed for the London trip, and,
hastily wishing Cockney and others good-bye, I left the office. On the
second day out we were all at leisure for an hour or more, and
enquiries went around as to who had a pack of cards. My cards were at
once produced and, taking partners, we were about to settle to a
little enjoyment. Alas, when my cards were taken out of the new case,
they were found to be a dirty, greasy old pack with several missing,
and, of course, card playing was out of the question. I at once knew
what had happened: Cockney had substituted these old ones for the new,
what time he pretended to be interested at the window. That little
trick meant twelve days' misery for eight men, for we could not get
another pack until we landed in London.

On that trip, when I had the pleasure of Cockney's company, we had
with us Donovan who, as a thief, certainly ran Cockney a good second.
The truth of the matter is that all cattlemen are thieves, and the one
who complains of going ashore without his razor, often has in his
possession another's knife, comb or soap. On the second day out I
missed my pocket-knife and, without loss of time boldly accused
Cockney More to his face, telling him that however much I admired his
dexterity in other people's pockets I had not the least suspicion that
he would be guilty of such a trick on an old pal. "No more have I,"
said he. "What kind of knife was it?" On being told, he advised me to
say no more about it, and that he would endeavour to find it. He
succeeded in doing so, and the next day Donovan was shouting
indignantly--"Who has been to my bunk and stolen a knife?" After this
I lost my soap, but did not think it worth while mentioning such a
petty loss. On approaching Cockney More for the loan of his,
he--giving me strict injunctions to return it at once, and not leave
it exposed to the eyes of thieves--lent me my own soap.

This trip was a memorable one, and no doubt Cockney made the best haul
of his life. We were together in Liverpool, Cockney, Donovan and
myself, and as usual drinking. A stranger, hearing by our
conversation that we hailed from America, invited us to drink; and in
the course of conversation expressed a regret that he was out of work,
and had no means of visiting America. "Nothing is easier," said
Cockney, "if you place yourself unreservedly in our hands. We are to
sail on Thursday, and I can stow you away, as I have successfully done
with others." "Many thanks," replied the other, and so it was agreed.

On the following Thursday we went aboard, the Cockney carrying a large
bag which contained the stowaway's clothes, etc. When the ship's
officers entered our forecastle the stowaway was, of course, not
present, but when they were searching other places, the stowaway was
then sitting comfortably among us, these things being well managed by
Cockney More. After this search they would pay us no more visits, and
the stowaway was safe, and could go on deck at night for fresh air.
The only danger now was to land him in America. This, the Cockney
affirmed, was a danger of little account.

Now, as I have said, this stowaway had a bag, and Cockney More and
Donovan were great thieves. Therefore, it was not at all surprising to
hear that the poor fellow was soon without a second shirt to his back.
He had lent me a book, the value of which I did not think him capable
of appreciating, and I had made up my mind that it should not be
returned until asked for. But when I heard him complain of losing so
many things, through pity I became honest and returned it. But where
was his watch and chain, his brushes, and where were his clothes, his
tools, razor, strop, and many other useful articles? All these things
were in possession of Donovan, and Cockney knew it and appeared to be
grieving over lost chances; for he was supposed to have that honour
which is among thieves, and as Donovan had been too fast for him, he
had no other option than to sit quiet under the circumstances.

On the day before our arrival at Baltimore, I happened to enter the
forecastle and found Donovan, his face pale, feverously rummaging
Cockney More's bunk. "What do you think?" said he. "That blasted
Cockney has robbed me of everything." And so he had. He had allowed
Donovan to do all the dirty work, of abstracting the goods one by one,
as the chance occurred; he had allowed him the pleasure of their care
and possession for many days, and then he had robbed him. But the
artful part of the business was this: he had not left Donovan any
chance to recover the goods, for he had made friends with one of the
sailors--the latter having a forecastle to themselves--and had
prevailed on that person to take charge of a parcel for him until all
the cattlemen landed; "for," said he, "these cattlemen are born
thieves." Yes, he had done the business neatly, for the desperate and
much aggrieved Donovan who intended on landing to recover the goods
by force, saw Cockney More walk ashore as empty-handed as himself, and
he was almost shaken in his belief that the said Cockney was, after
all, the thief triumphant.



CHAPTER XIII

THE CANAL


I now left Baltimore, travelling alone, making my way as fast as
possible towards Chicago, where a canal was being built to facilitate
commerce between that large inland city, and deep water, at which
place I soon arrived.

On the banks of that canal were assembled the riff-raff of America and
the scum of Europe; men who wanted no steady employment, but to make
easy and quick stakes--for the pay was good--so as to indulge in
periodical sprees, or in rare instances, for the more laudable purpose
of placing themselves in a better position to apply for more
respectable employment. They came and went in gangs, for the work was
so hard that there were few men that did not require a week's rest
after a month's labour. So much for the rough but honest working
element. But unfortunately these canal banks were infested by other
gangs, who did not seek work, and yet were often to be seen loafing
about the various camps. Then how did these men live? For they could
not successfully beg, seeing that work was to be had for the asking.
Perhaps the explanation is that seldom a day passed but what a dead
body was dragged out of the water, and more than two-thirds of these
bodies bore the marks of murder. The bodies were not those of men
coming from the city in search of employment, but of such men as had
been known to have quit work a few days previous, having then had a
month's or more pay on their persons, and who had been on the way to
the city for enjoyment. Yes, these loafers were undoubtedly the thugs
and murderers, and if a man was inclined to hazard his life, all he
had to do was to make it known that he on the following day was to
draw his earnings, with the intention of walking the canal banks to
one of the distant towns. It was hardly likely that he would reach his
destination, but would be taken out of the canal some days later--a
murdered man. To defeat the purpose of these unscrupulous life-takers,
the more timid workmen waited for one another until they were
sufficiently strong in number to discharge themselves and travel
without fear. But alas! there was many a man who prided himself on his
own heart and muscles for protection and dared the journey alone. At
the time of which I write there had been no houses built on those
banks, therefore no women walked to and fro, and no children played
there. No doubt such are to be seen there at the present day, innocent
of the violence and the blood that was shed there in the past.

I had applied for work at one of these camps and being sickened of the
same in a little more than three weeks demanded my earnings at the
same time Cockney Tom and Pat Sheeny drew theirs, with the intention
of accompanying them to Chicago. Being somewhat delayed in business,
owing to the absence of the timekeeper, and being then compelled to
remain for dinner, we soon saw the impossibility of reaching the city
before midnight. Therefore it was arranged between us that we should
settle for the night at some place half way between the camp and the
city, and rise early so as to enter the latter before noon on the
following day. With this intention we started, after receiving dinner
and pay, and after several hours' walk settled down.

There would be six hours' darkness and it was proposed that I should
keep awake for the first two hours' watch, after which Cockney Tom
would relieve me, and Pat would then keep watch until daybreak.

Now, in my two hours' watch I had on several occasions heard a stir in
the adjoining bush, but not being able to see whether it was a man or
a beast, I had not thought it necessary to alarm my companions. At
last I considered my duty to be at an end, and, after rousing Cockney
Tom, settled myself for sleep. Before I closed my eyes I noticed that
the second watch was still lying recumbent, although he seemed to be
wide awake; but I was too intent on my own sleep to care whether he
would be faithful to his trust or not. I don't think I could have been
asleep more than fifteen minutes when I was startled by a loud shout
and, springing to my feet was just in time to see Cockney Tom in
pursuit of one who was then entering the bush. The Irishman was also
up, and we both followed the chase. We soon reached our companion,
finding him standing dazed and confused as to which way the quarry had
gone. He explained to us that when on watch he was lying down with his
eyes closed, but with his ears wide open, and all his mental faculties
at work. Suddenly, he heard a step near and opening his eyes saw a
stranger standing within three feet of him. It was at that moment that
he gave the alarm, but the stranger was too fleet to be overtaken. "No
doubt," said Cockney, "there is a gang of them at no short distance
from here and if we are wise, we will continue our journey at once. I
have seen the man's face before, at the camp, and know I shall
recognise him if we meet again." His advice of continuing our journey
was hardly necessary, for sleep was now out of the question.

In less than a week after the above incident we three, having
squandered our earnings in Chicago, were back at the old camp seeking
re-employment. There happened to be only one vacancy, which the
Irishman persuaded Cockney to accept, whilst we two would travel on to
the next camp, a distance of two miles. We were about to do this when
the boss ganger asked me if I would like a position in the boarding
shanty as assistant cook. Knowing that an assistant cook meant no more
than carrying water, peeling potatoes, washing dishes, keeping a good
fire and opening cans of condensed meat and preserves--I felt quite
confident in undertaking such a position. So the Cockney and I started
to work at once, but before doing so, arranged for the keep of Pat
until a vacancy occurred, his meals to be entered to our account. The
next morning his chance came and he was set to work.

We had been working four days, and on the evening of that fourth day
we three and a number of others were resting ourselves in a quiet
place near the camp. Whilst seated there, smoking and talking, there
came along four strangers, who seated themselves some distance from
us, but within earshot of our conversation. No one paid much heed to
them, for it was not unusual to be visited by strangers in quest of
work. But there was one man who could not keep his eyes from them, and
that was Cockney Tom. "Yes," he said to me after several long puffs at
his pipe, "that stranger, showing us his side face, is the very man
who attempted to rob us." Saying this the Cockney took off his cap and
laying it carefully on the ground with its inside uppermost, placed
therein his dirty clay pipe, as gently as a woman putting a sleeping
babe in its cradle--and to the no small surprise of his companions
began to address them in this oratorical fashion: "Gentlemen, some
time ago a man attempted to rob me and two others, and ever since then
I have been longing to meet him face to face. At last we meet, and I
would like to know what is to be done with him." "Why, give him a good
hiding, of course," cried several angry voices. On hearing this the
Cockney at once turned towards the strangers--whom he had hitherto
pretended not to notice--and in three bounds was standing over them.
Placing his hands on the shoulders of one he said in a calm voice,
"This is my man." The man referred to rose deliberately to his feet,
as though he had expected this, and his companions did likewise.
"Well," said he, "what is the trouble?" "You know quite well," replied
the Cockney, "so you may as well strip without further question."
Whatever the stranger was, he certainly was no coward, for his coat
and waistcoat were soon in the hands of his companion. The Cockney
lost no time, and the next minute they stood squaring before each
other in such a scientific way as promised the onlookers a most
interesting exhibition. Although the stranger was the taller of the
two, the Cockney seemed to possess the longer reach. Round after round
they fought, and in spite of their heavy and muddy boots the footwork
was neat, and the dodging of their heads, and the feinting of their
arms made the more gentle onlookers overlook the drawing of blood.
There was no wrestling, or mauling on the ground, and there was no
attempt at foul blows, for each of the principals seemed to value the
favour of that most appreciative assembly. It looked more like a
friendly exhibition than two men attempting to take life. The
spectators laughed approval and buzzed with admiration until even the
bleeding men, hearing this, chaffed one another, and smiled at each
other grimly with their battered faces. Yes, it seemed friendly enough
until the tenth round when the Cockney, who the round previous seemed
to show signs of weariness, called to his assistance some latent force
which set his arms to work like a pair of axes on a tree, and down his
opponent fell, and the battle was lost and won. The stranger was borne
away by his companions, and Cockney Tom returned to the camp to dress
his injuries, which did not prevent him from work on the following
day. The Cockney was well pleased with this exploit, and if his
opponent was one of those thugs and murderers, who had taken an active
part in perhaps fifty or sixty murders, he would certainly be lucky if
he never met with severer punishment.



CHAPTER XIV

THE HOUSE-BOAT


I worked long enough on this canal to save fifty dollars, and then
quit, feeling the old restlessness return, which had unsettled me for
some time. With this comfortable sum in my possession I kept beating
my way west until I arrived at St. Louis, a large city on the
Mississippi, having up till now lived frugally, and spent nothing on
travelling. This kind of life was often irksome to me, when I have
camped all night alone in the woods, beside a fire, when one good
sociable companion might have turned the life into an ideal one. Often
have I waked in the night, or early morning, to find spaces opposite
occupied by one or two strangers, who had seen the fire in the
distance, and had been guided to me by its light. One night, in
Indiana, when it had rained heavily throughout the day, I had made my
fire and camped under a thick leaved tree, where the ground was dryer
than in the open. Sometime about midnight, I felt myself roughly
shaken, at the same time a sudden shower fell that pinned me
breathless to the earth. I looked here and there, but could see no
one. Then I left the shelter of the tree and saw to my surprise, that
the night was fine, and that the stars were thick and shining. As I
replenished the fire with wood, of which I always gathered in an
abundance before darkness came, it puzzled me much to account for
this. Although I thought the shaking must have been a dream, my wet
clothes were a sufficient proof of the rain's reality. Every man I met
on the following day enquired where I had lodged during the earthquake
shock on the previous night, and that question explained everything.
The earth had shaken me, and the leaves of the tree, which had been
gathering all day, the rain drops had in one moment relinquished them
all upon my sleeping form.

On reaching St. Louis I still had something like forty dollars, and
being tired of my own thoughts, which continually upbraided me for
wasted time, resolved to seek some congenial fellowship, so that in
listening to other men's thoughts I might be rendered deaf to my own.
I had bought a daily paper, and had gone to the levee, so that I might
spend a few hours out of the sun, reading, and watching the traffic on
the river. Seeing before me a large pile of lumber, I hastened towards
it, that I might enjoy its shady side. When I arrived I saw that the
place was already occupied by two strangers, one being a man of middle
age, and the other a youth of gentlemanly appearance. Seating myself,
I began to read, but soon had my attention drawn to their
conversation. The young fellow, wanting to go home, and being in no
great hurry, proposed buying a house-boat and floating leisurely down
the Mississippi to New Orleans, from which place he would then take
train to Southern Texas, where his home was. "We will go ashore," he
said, "and see the different towns, and take in fresh provisions as
they are needed." The elder of the two, who had a strong Scotch
accent, allowed a little enthusiasm to ooze out of his dry
temperament, and agreed without much comment. "Excuse me, gentlemen,"
I said, "I could not help but hear your conversation and, if you have
no objection, would like to share expenses and enjoy your company on
such a trip." The Texan, being young and impetuous, without the least
suspicion of strangers, jumped to his feet, exulting at the social
project. Scotty, more calm, but with a shrewd eye to the financial
side of the question, said that he thought the trip would certainly be
enjoyed better by three, and that the expense would not be near so
great per head. We had no difficulty in purchasing a house-boat.
Hundreds of these are moored to the banks, lived in by fishermen and
their wives, and others in various ways employed on the river. But, of
course, the one we required was to be much smaller than these. We
found one, at last, rather battered, and ill-conditioned, for which we
were asked eleven dollars. Scotty, to our unfeigned disgust, acted the
Jew in this matter of trade, and had succeeded in beating the price
down to nine dollars and a half when we to his annoyance offered to
pay that sum without more ado. But Scotty, although mean in these
business matters, was strictly honest and just in paying an equal
share; for, after I had paid the odd half a dollar, he did not forget
that amount when we came to stocking the boat with provisions. We lost
no time in getting these, and then went ashore for the evening's
enjoyment and the night's sleep, intending to start early the next
morning. And with these prospects before us, a very pleasant evening
we had.

At nine o'clock the following morning, we weighed anchor--our anchor
being a large stone--and drifted into the current, the young Texan
using an oar as a tiller. And what a strange voyage we had, fraught
with more danger than many would dream. This Mississippi river often
had only a few yards for navigation purposes, even when the distance
from bank to bank was between two and three miles. Sometimes we were
in the middle of this broad river, and yet were in extreme danger of
floundering, for we could touch the bottom with a short stick. Yes, we
were in danger of floundering, and yet our ship drew less than six
inches of water! Trees, whose branches were firmly embedded in the
mud, had their roots bobbing up and down, bobbing up unawares, and we
were often in danger of being impaled on one of these ere we could
steer clear of it. Sometimes we would see villages and small towns
that in the remote past had been built flush on the banks of this
river: now they were lying quiet and neglected a mile or more away,
owing to the river's determination to take his own course. Hundreds of
lives had been sacrificed, dying of swamp fever, in building levees
and high banks to prevent this, and millions of dollars utilised for
the same purpose--but the Father of Waters has hitherto had his own
will, and can be expected to be seen at any place, and at any time.

Towards evening we would put ashore on a sand bar, making a fire with
the driftwood, of which there was an abundance. Here we cooked supper,
slept and enjoyed breakfast the next morning. There was no other water
to be had than that of the river, which the natives of the south claim
to be healthy. We had no objection to using it for cooking and
washing, but it was certainly too thick for drinking cold--or rather
lukewarm, for it was never cold in the summer months. We would fill a
large can and let the water settle for twenty or thirty minutes, and,
after taking great care in drinking, a sediment of mud would be left
at the bottom a quarter or three-eighths of an inch deep.

We put ashore at one place where a number of negroes and white men had
assembled in expectation of work, when man again proposed putting
forth his puny strength against the Mississippi, where we decided to
wait a day or two and take our chance of being employed. Unfortunately
the ill feeling which invariably exists between these two colours came
to a climax on the first day of our arrival. The negroes, insulting
and arrogant, through their superiority of numbers, became at last
unbearable. On which the white men, having that truer courage that
scorned to count their own strength, assembled together, and after a
few moments' consultation, resolved to take advantage of the first
provocation. This came sooner than was expected. A negro, affecting to
be intoxicated, staggered against a white man, and was promptly
knocked down for his trouble. The negroes, whose favourite weapon is
the razor, produced these useful blades from different parts of
concealment, stood irresolute, waiting for a leader, and then came
forward in a body, led by a big swaggerer in bare feet, whose apparel
consisted of a red shirt and a pair of patched trousers held up by a
single brace. These white men, who were so far outnumbered, said
little, but the negroes were loud in their abuse. This soon led to
blows and in the ensuing fight, knives, razors and fists were freely
used. Only one shot was fired, and that one told. When the negroes,
whose courage had failed at such a determined resistance, were in full
flight, the tall swaggerer was left behind with a bullet in his heart.
Several men were wounded, with gashes on necks, arms, and different
parts of the body. Small fights continued throughout the day, but it
was left for the night to produce a deed of foul murder. A white man
was found next morning with his body covered with blood from
thirty-nine wounds. Half a dozen razors must have set to work on him
in the dark. The razor is a sly, ugly-looking weapon, but is far less
dangerous than a knife, a poker, or even a short heavy piece of wood;
and as it cannot pierce to the heart or brain, that is why this man
took so long in the killing. This deed roused the sheriff and his
marshal, and they followed the black murderers to the adjoining state,
but returned next day without them.

We embarked again, but owing to the young Texan being taken sick with
malarial fever, resolved to put ashore for medicine at the first large
town. This malarial fever is very prevalent in these parts, especially
this state of Arkansas, which is three parts a swamp. He suffered so
much that we decided to call on the first house-boat seen, and ask
assistance of the fishermen, and soon we had an opportunity of doing
so. Seeing a large house-boat moored at the mouth of a small creek, we
put the tiller--which as I have said, was an oar--to its proper work,
and sculled towards the shore. We ran to land within ten yards of the
other boat, and the fisherman, who had seen us coming, stood waiting
on the sands to know our wants. He was a typical swamp man, with a
dark sickly complexion, thin-faced and dry-skinned and, though he was
nearly six feet in height, his weight, I believe, could not have
exceeded one hundred and twenty pounds. His left cheek was
considerably swollen, which I thought must be due to neuralgia until
the swelling began to disappear from that side; and, after witnessing
for a few seconds a frightful, even painful contortion of the face, I
saw the right cheek come into possession of the same beautiful round
curve, leaving the left cheek as its fellow had been. It was now
apparent that the one object of this man's life was to chew tobacco.
To him we related our troubles, asking his advice, and for a little
temporary assistance, for which he would be paid. Up to the present
time he had not opened his lips, except a right or left corner to
squirt tobacco juice, sending an equal share to the north and south.
"I guess there's some quinine in the shanty boat," he said, after a
long silence, "which I reckon will relieve him considerably, but he
ought ter go home ter th' women folk, that's straight." He led the way
to his boat, and we followed. We soon had the young Texan in comfort,
and Scotty and myself returned to transfer some provisions to the
fisherman's house-boat, for the evening's use. While doing so, we
decided to sell our own boat, at any price, when we would walk to the
nearest railroad, and send the young fellow home; after which we
would seek some employment and settle down. We cooked supper, and then
slept in the open air, beside a large fire, leaving our sick friend
comfortable in the boat.

The next morning we offered our house-boat for sale for six dollars,
with all its belongings. The fisherman explained to us that he not
only had no money, but rarely had use for it. Everything he needed he
paid for in fish, and often went months at a time without a glimpse of
money of any description. To my surprise the one thing that did seem
to claim his attention, for which he could not help but display some
greed, was the large stone which we had brought with us from St.
Louis, and which we had used for anchor. This stone certainly had no
vein of gold or silver in it, it was not granite or marble, and could
boast of no beauty, being a very ordinary looking stone indeed, but it
seemed to have a strange fascination for this man. The fisherman had
no money, and had nothing to barter which might be of use to us, so we
made him a present of the whole lot, and left him sitting on the
stone, watching our departure. "He seemed very eager to possess that
stone," I remarked to Scotty, as we followed a trail through a
thicket, so that we might reach the high-road. "Yes," said Scotty,
"for in this part of the country, where there is little but sand, wood
and mud, a stone, a piece of iron, or any small thing of weight, can
be put to many uses."

After reaching the road we had twenty miles to walk to reach the
nearest railway station, at which place we arrived late that night,
the young Texan being then weak and exhausted. A train was leaving at
midnight for New Orleans, and, after seeing him safely aboard, we sat
in the station till daybreak. Early the next morning we were examining
the town, waiting for business to start, so that we might enquire as
to its prospects for work. This seemed to be good, there being a large
stave factory which employed a number of men. We succeeded in our
quest, starting to work that morning, and at dinner time received a
note of introduction to an hotel. That evening we associated with our
fellow-workmen, and, in the course of conversation, we discovered that
there was no particular time to receive wages, there being no regular
pay day. Sometimes wages ran on for a month, six weeks, two months,
etc. At the present time no man had received wages for over two
months. "Of course," he explained to us, "anything you require you can
easily get an order for on the stores." We worked two weeks at this
factory, when I was taken ill myself with malaria, and not being able
to eat, soon became too weak for work. In this condition I went to the
office for my money, but could not get it, and saw that nothing else
could be done than to get an order on the stores, and take my wages
out in clothes, shoes, etc. Scotty was scared at this, and quitted
work at once to demand his wages in cash, and there I left him,
waiting for a settlement. I intended going to Memphis, the nearest
large town, and placing myself in its hospital, whilst Scotty was
going to New Orleans, where I promised to meet him in a month,
providing I was sufficiently recovered to do so.

I don't know what possessed me to walk out of this town, instead of
taking a train, but this I did, to my regret. For I became too weak to
move, and, coming to a large swamp, I left the railroad and crawled
into it, and for three days and the same number of nights, lay there
without energy to continue my journey. Wild hungry hogs were there,
who approached dangerously near, but ran snorting away when my body
moved. A score or more of buzzards had perched waiting on the branches
above me, and I knew that the place was teeming with snakes. I
suffered from a terrible thirst, and drank of the swamp-pools,
stagnant water that was full of germs, and had the colours of the
rainbow, one dose of which would have poisoned some men to death. When
the chill was upon me, I crawled into the hot sun, and lay there
shivering with the cold; and when the hot fever possessed me, I
crawled back into the shade. Not a morsel to eat for four days, and
very little for several days previous. I could see the trains pass
this way and that, but had not the strength to call. Most of the
trains whistled, and I knew that they stopped either for water or
coal within a mile of where I lay. Knowing this to be the case, and
certain that it would be death to remain longer in this deadly swamp,
I managed to reach the railroad track, and succeeded in reaching the
next station, where most of these trains stopped. The distance had
been less than a mile, but it had taken me two hours to accomplish. I
then paid my way from this station, being in a hurry to reach Memphis,
thinking my life was at its close. When I reached that town, I took a
conveyance from the station to the hospital. At that place my
condition was considered to be very serious, but the doctor always
bore me in mind, for we were both of the same nationality, and to
that, I believe, I owe my speedy recovery.



CHAPTER XV

A LYNCHING


Upon leaving the hospital, I remained several days in Memphis,
spending most of my hours enjoying the shade and sunshine of a small
park, which is pleasantly situated in the main portion of that town.
One morning, while doing this, I was accosted by one whom I soon
recognised as a fellow worker of mine in the stave factory. From him I
learnt that the firm had smashed, no pay day had come, and the stores
had all absolutely refused to honour the firm's orders; while some men
had left the town disgusted, and others were patiently waiting a
settlement that would never come. This man was going north, so I left
him at Memphis, intending to beat my way to New Orleans, and from that
town to the state of Texas.

These states of Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, are
the homes of the negroes of old. It is a strange contrast to see the
old negroes, who in their young days were slaves, reverently raising
their hats to any seedy looking white man whom they meet, calling him
such titles as captain, major, colonel and even general--and the half
defiant gloom of the free, young generations, who are still in some
respects slaves to the white men. These negroes lived in small wooden
shanties, and rarely received money for their labour. They worked for
the planter at so much a day. This gentleman kept on the plantation a
large general store, and supplied their wants at such an exorbitant
price that the negroes were seldom out of debt, when the busy season
commenced. In the cities, silk would be far cheaper than the common
flimsy muslin which poor black Dinah so much coveted from her master's
store. I have heard many an old negro say that he was far worse off as
a freeman than as a slave.

The prisons in the north were like hotels, but here in the south went
to the extreme of cruelty. In some places a man would be tried and
perhaps fined ten dollars and costs. A citizen, having need of a cheap
labourer, would pay this fine, take possession of the prisoner, and
make him work out his fine on the farm. This citizen would buy the
prisoner cheap overalls, dungarees, shirts, shoes, etc., for a few
dollars, and charge the prisoner four times their amount. The prisoner
was not free to refuse these, and being forced to work out their
price, was kept in this way twice the number of his days. I was very
much afraid of all this, although a wandering white man was not in
nearly so much danger as a negro.

Some days after leaving Memphis, I arrived at a small town, where I
was surprised to see an unusual amount of bustle, the surrounding
country for miles having sent in all its able bodied men. Every man
was armed with a gun, and they stood in small groups talking outside
the various stores. It seemed as though there had been rumours of an
invasion, and that these men were organising to defend their homes and
country, but I had not the least idea of what had really happened. The
small groups now began to join together into larger ones, and the
larger groups joined until they became one large body of men. This one
body then shouldered guns and moved quickly along the main street, the
men's faces being drawn and pale. I followed on, perhaps the one
unarmed man among them, curious to know the meaning of it all. They
came at last to a halt, and, to see the reason for this, I stepped
across the way, and saw that they had halted before a large building,
which, by its barred windows, I had no difficulty in recognising as
the jail. One man had curled around his shoulders a long rope, and
this man with two others knocked loudly with the butt ends of their
guns on the prison door. Almost in an instant the door was flung wide
open, and the sheriff stood in the open way to know their wants. The
men must have demanded the prison keys, for I saw the sheriff at once
produce them, which he handed to these men without the least show of
resistance. This man with the rope and several others then entered
the jail, and the silent crowd without cast their eyes in that
direction. Up to the present time I had not heard a distinct voice,
nothing but the buzz of low whispering. But suddenly from the jail's
interior there came a loud shriek and a voice crying for mercy. Men
now appeared in the open doorway, dragging after them a negro at the
end of a rope. This unfortunate wretch was possessed of a terror that
is seldom seen in a human being. He fell on his knees to pray, but was
jerked to his feet ere he could murmur the first words, O Lord. He
staggered to and fro and sideways, at the same time howling and
jabbering, foaming at the mouth, and showing the horrible white of his
eyes. I can well understand a man screaming, trembling and crying for
mercy, when actually enduring bodily pain, but that one should show
such a terror at the thought of it, filled me more with disgust than
pity. That this prisoner should have been so brutal and unfeeling in
inflicting pain on another, and should now show so much cowardice in
anticipation of receiving punishment inadequate to his offence, dried
in me the milk of human kindness, and banished my first thoughts,
which had been to escape this horrible scene without witnessing its
end. For it was now I remembered reading of this man's offence, and it
was of the most brutal kind, being much like the work of a wild beast.
They now marched him from the jail, their strong arms supporting his
terror stricken limbs, but no man reviled him with his tongue, and I
saw no cowardly hand strike him. Soon they came to a group of trees on
the outskirts of the town, and, choosing the largest of these, they
threw the rope's end over its strongest branch, the prisoner at the
same time crying for mercy, and trying to throw his body full on the
ground. When this was done a dozen hands caught the rope's end, made
one quick jerk, and the prisoner's body was struggling in the air.
Then all these men shouldered their guns, fired one volley, and in a
second the body was hanging lifeless with a hundred shots. In five
minutes after this, nothing but the corpse remained to tell of what
had occurred, the men having quietly scattered towards their homes.

A few days after this, I was in New Orleans, intending to spend a week
or two in that city, before I started on my journey to Texas. It was
in this city, three days after my arrival, that I became the victim of
an outrage which was as unsatisfactory to others as to myself. Having
been to the theatre, and being on my way back home late at night, half
a dozen men, whom I scarcely had time to recognise as negroes, sprang
from a dark corner, and, without saying a word, or giving the least
chance of escape or defence, biffed and banged at my face and head
until I fell unconscious at their feet. Their motive, without a doubt,
was robbery, but having my money concealed in a belt next to my body,
they had to be satisfied with a five cent piece, which was all my
pockets contained. Such brutal outrages as these are seldom committed
by white men, who having the more cool courage, demand a man's money
at the commencement, and do not resort to violence, except it be their
victim's wish. But this not very intelligent race half murder a man
without being sure of anything for their pains. White men will search
a man as he stands, and if he possesses nothing, he may go his way
uninjured, followed perhaps, by a curse or two of disappointment; but
these negroes prefer to murder a man first, and then to search the
dead body. They are certainly born thieves. On the river boats, that
ply the Mississippi from St. Louis to New Orleans, which are all
manned by negroes, with the exception of those holding the higher
offices, a negro thief will often spoil a six dollar pair of trousers
in robbing his victim of a twenty-five cent piece. When a man is
asleep the negro will bend over him, feeling the outside of his
trousers where the pockets are. If he feels the shape of a coin,
instead of working his fingers carefully into the mouth of the pocket,
he takes out his razor and, holding the coin with the fingers of his
left hand, cuts it out, bringing away coin, part of the lining, pocket
and trousers. When the victim wakes he, or some one else, sees the
hole, and they at once know the meaning of it. I remember a trip on
one of these boats when a white man feigned a sleep, lying on his
back on a bale of cotton, with his hands in his coat pockets. In his
right pocket was a revolver, which his right hand held ready cocked
for use. These negroes are always on the look out for sleepers, and
one of these thieves was soon bending over his expected victim. He had
felt a coin and, taking out his razor, was in the act of cutting it
out, when there was a sharp report, and the negro fell back shot
through the brain. The supposed sleeper quietly rose to his feet, and
when the captain and some officers came, he simply pointed to the
negro and the fallen razor, and no other explanation was needed. At
the next stopping place the captain had a few words with the
authorities, and the dead body was taken ashore, but the white
passenger continued his journey without being bothered about a trial
or examination. There was no more thieving during that trip.

I soon left New Orleans, being possessed with a restless spirit, and,
after visiting Galveston, Euston, and many more towns of less
importance, I made my way through the heart of Texas to the town of
Paris, which lies on the borders of the Indian territory. It was in a
saloon in the main street of this town that I had my attention drawn
to a glass case, wherein was seen hanging a cord, at the end of which
was something that looked very much like a walnut. On looking closer,
I saw a small heap of dust at the bottom. Seeing that this case
contained no stuffed animal, nor any model of ingenious mechanism, I
began to read the printed matter, curious for an explanation. This
small thing dangling at the end of the cord purported to be the heart
of a negro, whom the people had some time previously burned at the
stake. He had suffered a terrible death: so had his little victim, a
mere child of a few years, who had been found in the woods torn limb
from limb. This negro had been arrested by the sheriff, and sentenced
to a short term adequate to his offence. After he had been released,
he had taken his revenge on the sheriff's child, bearing her off when
on her way to school. The sheriff's wife, being the child's mother,
had with her own hand applied the torch to this monster, and if her
hand had failed, any woman in this land of many millions would have
willingly done her this service.

I left Paris that night, catching a fast cattle train, and arrived the
following morning at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Bill Cook, the train and
bank robber, and his gang, were being tried this morning, and a
special train was now waiting to convey them to the penitentiary. I
saw this notorious free-booter, when he was brought to the station--a
young man between twenty and thirty years, receiving a sentence of
forty years' imprisonment. One of his gang, Cherokee Bill, a
desperado of nineteen years, was indicted for murder, and remained in
Fort Smith to be hanged. The train steamed out with its many deputies
to guard a few prisoners--few, but proved to be very dangerous.



CHAPTER XVI


THE CAMP


Who would have dreamt that so many well known beggars would have met
together at one camp, without any prearranged plans? The time was
morning and the scene was on the outskirts of Pittsburg, and the
characters were Philadelphia Slim and Wee Shorty, who had all night
ridden the freight car and had now dismounted near the camp, which
they knew of old. They both had cold victuals in plenty, with dry
coffee and sugar, and they were not long in making a blaze and
fetching water from the spring before they were seated comfortably to
their breakfast, after which they intended to sleep, for they were
more weary than working men.

They were not without money; for Wee Shorty and Slim had, the day
previous, been encamped with others about a hundred miles from the
present spot, at which place there had come to the camp an unfortunate
blacksmith who possessed society papers but lacked courage to beg with
them. On which Wee Shorty had conceived a most daring plan, which was
to borrow the aforesaid papers, with the blacksmith's consent, and to
make his way to the nearest blacksmith's shop. With this idea in his
mind the Wee Man had bound his hand in white linen, so that he could
plead disablement in case the blacksmith doubted him to be the
legitimate owner of the papers, and to prove his veracity, would test
him with a little job. After binding his hand in this way, Wee Shorty,
who was no more than five feet in height, and who had small white
hands and a pale face, and whose weight never exceeded seven stone and
a half, and who looked more like a sickly tailor than a
blacksmith--after taking this precaution, Wee Shorty made his way to
the blacksmith's shop. In less than twenty minutes he had returned
with a dollar in small change, and had returned the poor blacksmith
his papers, and generously given him one-fourth of his makings. Yes,
it would indeed be a hard town if this wee fellow failed to make
money.

As I have already said, Slim and the artful one were tired after their
night's ride, and they were well pleased to find the camp unoccupied
by strangers. But they had scarcely made their coffee and swallowed
the first mouthful, when the dried twigs were heard to crack beneath a
heavy tread and, the next moment, there walked into the camp the
Indian Kid, whom the present proprietors had not seen for over twelve
months.

What a meeting was there, and what confidences were exchanged. There
was good reason for the Kid not having been seen, for he had been
incarcerated in a jail. He had committed his first and last burglary,
which had not been done with an eye to profit, but out of a mean
spirit of revenge. He had been refused charity at a house and, on
leaving the place, had spied a small outhouse in which he saw many
things easy to carry, and easily to be converted into money. Bearing
this in mind he had returned after dark, scaled the back wall, and was
soon in possession of a large bundle consisting of shirts, frocks,
shoes and various carpenter's tools. All this had been done through a
spirit of revenge, for the Kid swore that he could have begged the
worth of the bundle in half an hour. Being in possession of that
bundle at that strange hour of the night, he was afraid to carry it
into the town for fear that the police would enquire his business, so
he hid it in the bushes, which in the night looked so dark and thick;
after which he had artfully walked some distance away, and laid
himself down to sleep until morning. It must have been daylight for
several hours when the Kid rose hastily and went in quest of his
bundle. But the bundle had disappeared, and the Kid had been cruelly
robbed, by early workmen he at first thought, who had spied the bundle
in the bushes, which appeared so much less heavy by day than by night.
However it was not the early workman who had done this, but a plain
clothes policeman who still hid behind the bushes and, seeing the Kid
searching for his bundle, sprang from concealment, saying--"You are
looking for a bundle, and I am looking for you." Such was the Kid's
story, recited at great pains, for he often rambled in his discourse
to laud himself as a successful beggar who would, on no account,
commit burglary for profit; all of which accounted for his twelve
months' disappearance.

His story was scarcely at an end when who should walk into the camp
but Windy, the talkative Windy, whose tongue had entertained many a
camp with strange and unique experiences. Of course, at his heels was
Pennsylvania Dutch, a faithful friend enough but a poor beggar, who
was no more than a pensioner on Windy's bounty, and acted the part of
a man-servant.

But there was another surprise to follow; for English Harry, who had
been in Pittsburg for some time past, having now walked out of the
city to take a glance at the camp, walked into it at this very time,
and to his astonishment and joy found the place in possession of good
beggars instead of common work seekers, as he had at first feared.

Only imagine all these notorious men meeting together haphazard in
this manner. They could scarcely recover their astonishment. There was
nothing else to be done but to make a muster of what money was in the
camp, and to send Pennsylvania Dutch for its worth in whisky, so as to
celebrate such an event by a carousal. This was at once done, and
Windy's pensioner shook off his laziness from head to foot, which made
Wee Shorty sarcastically remark--"Dutchy would rather buy than beg."
To which Windy, in a voice of despair, answered--"He will never make a
beggar and, if I did not keep a sharp eye on him, or anything occurred
to part us, he would live in orchards and turnip fields until he saw a
chance to become a working man. He confessed, when I first met him,
that he had lived for ten days on green corn and apples, so I took him
in hand and kept him, thinking my example would rouse him to action,
but it was of no use, for the poor fellow has not the heart. However,
I never forget poor Dutchy when I am foraging," said Windy, rather
tenderly.

It was not long before the object of these remarks returned and placed
before his companions two bottles of whisky. "Now, boys," said Windy,
after he had become affected by several lots of spirits--"Now, boys, I
propose that we hold this camp down for a whole week, and we will all
rag up"--meaning that they would beg clothes and put on the appearance
of gentlemen. His proposal was unanimously seconded, and was quickly
followed by a suggestion from the Indian Kid that they should finish
the whisky, which also met with no objection. "We will hold the camp,"
cried Windy, "against all comers." They would certainly find no
necessity for defending their privacy, for one glance at these six
men, especially in their present condition, would have been sufficient
to deter any decent-minded person from entering. This camp was now far
more private than Mrs. Brown's house in town, who had a neighbour that
never entered other people's doors without first knocking; but which
neighbour never gave Mrs. Brown, or any one else, the chance to remove
sundry things that were better concealed, nor waited to hear the cry
"come in"; for she entered as she knocked, saying--"Don't be alarmed,
Mrs. Brown, it is only Mrs. White."

Alas, the whisky soon gave out, and there was no more money, and what
was to be done? "I propose," said English Harry, "that we leave
Pennsylvania Dutch in charge of the camp while we go out foraging for
an hour." To this they all agreed, and made their way towards the
town. On reaching the suburbs they divided and went in different
directions, with the understanding that each man should be returned to
the camp in less than two hours, and that each one should have no less
than half a dollar.

How it was done was a mystery, but Wee Shorty was back in less than an
hour, not only with half a dollar but with twenty cents' worth of
whisky in a bottle. He was soon followed by Windy, who had begged
fifty-five cents. After which came in English Harry and the Indian Kid
together, each with half a dollar. But where was Philadelphia Slim,
Wee Shorty's boon companion? For these were good beggars all, who
could have almost persuaded the birds to feed them in the wilderness,
and Slim was by no means the worst, even though the Wee Man was by a
small degree the best. Until they knew the fate of poor Slim they felt
very little inclination to continue their carousal.

It might have been three-quarters of an hour after the return of
English Harry and the Kid, when they heard a step coming through the
bush and, turning their eyes that way, were soon confronted by their
late companion Slim. He had a large bundle under his arm, but to the
surprise and anxiety of his companions, was holding to his nose a
blood-stained pocket handkerchief. "Who has done that, Slim?" cried
Wee Shorty, who had surreptitiously fortified himself with whisky, and
who, being the smallest man, was naturally the most ferocious--"Who
has done that?" he cried, springing to his feet and, with his hands
dangerously clenched, standing to his full height. Slim did not answer
this question at once, but threw down his bundle; after which he
produced a dollar bill and placed it thereon. Pointing then to the
twain with his right hand--his left hand still being occupied with his
bleeding nose--he said, "Here is a suit of clothes and a dollar bill,
and I have well earned them." Such words were mysterious to his
associates, for they knew that Slim would never at any price perform
labour, and they came to the conclusion in their own minds that he had
forcibly taken these things in a very high handed fashion, and had
suffered in the act. What a disgrace to the profession!

After enquiring if there was any whisky to be had, and being supplied
with the same by his particular friend Wee Shorty, Slim proposed that
Pennsylvania Dutch should be again despatched with all speed for a
fresh supply. Seeing this done he then seated himself and proceeded to
give his experience.

It seems that Slim had had more difficulty than was expected. A full
half hour had elapsed, and Slim had not received one cent, although he
had told his pitiful story to a number of people. He almost began to
despair of success, but firmly resolved not to return without
something to show for his trouble. Seeing a very large house he went
to the front door and rang the bell, but the door remained unanswered.
Not to be baffled by this, and beginning to feel desperate, he made
his way to the back of the house, and was just about to knock at the
back door when a voice hailed him from an adjoining shed. Turning his
eyes in that direction he saw a man in his white shirt sleeves, who
seemed to be the master of the house. Now, as Slim looked across, he
saw into the shed, and behold there was a punching ball hanging from
the ceiling, which was still moving as though this gentleman had only
that moment finished practising. On Slim explaining his wants, which
had been increasing in number through his ill-success, the gentleman
quietly went to a shelf and taking therefrom a pair of boxing gloves
told Slim that if he would oblige him with ten minutes' practice with
the same, he would reward him with a dollar. Now it happened that
these things were not entirely unknown to Slim, and once or twice in
his life he had actually had them in his hands--but not on--and he had
come to the conclusion that they could do but very little hurt.
Therefore he donned the gloves, being as eager to earn an easy dollar
as the master of the house was eager to practise. Alas! it was this
difference in their motives which gave the gentleman an overwhelming
victory and poor Slim a bloody nose and such aching bones. "For," said
Slim to us, "suppose I had knocked him out, who was to pay me my
dollar'? He attacked me like a mad bull, and all I dare do was to act
on the defence. Several times he left an opening which, had I taken
advantage of, would have ended in his collapse; and if he had died,
there had been no witness to hear what bargain had been made between
us. Being at such a disadvantage as I was," Slim continued, "he would,
no doubt, have made matters worse if my nose had not bled, which I
began to wipe with the gloves. Seeing this he was afraid my blood
would be conveyed by means of gloves to his own person, so he asked me
if I had had enough. I thanked him that I had and, as we made our way
towards the house, told him I would be thankful for any old clothes to
replace my own, which were now stained with blood. He seemed to be so
pleased at having drawn my blood that I believe he would have given me
anything I asked for. Here are the clothes, but I don't know what they
are like."

Such was Slim's experience. On an inspection of the bundle it was
found to contain a clean shirt, a pair of socks, two handkerchiefs,
and an almost brand new suit of clothes.

Just as Philadelphia Slim ended his story, Pennsylvania Dutch returned
with the whisky, and we all caroused until sleep overpowered us.



CHAPTER XVII

HOME


I had now been in the United States of America something like five
years, working here and there as the inclination seized me, which, I
must confess was not often. I was certainly getting some enjoyment out
of life, but now and then the waste of time appalled me, for I still
had a conviction that I was born to a different life. The knowledge
that I had the advantage over the majority of strangers in that
country, often consoled me when feeling depressed. For my old
grandmother had left me one-third profit of a small estate, my share
at that time amounting to ten shillings per week, and during these
five years I had not drawn one penny, therefore having over a hundred
pounds entered to my account. So, when one would say how much he
desired to return to his native land, but had no means of doing so, I
would then explain how it could easily be done on the cattle boats.
And if he protested, saying that he had not the courage to return
penniless after so many years abroad, although I had no answer to
console him, his objection was a pleasant reminder of my own
expectations. It was this knowledge that made me so idle and so
indifferent to saving; and it was this small income that has been, and
is in a commercial sense, the ruin of my life.

It was now the end of October, and I was in Chicago squandering a
summer's earnings, having, during the previous months, worked on a
fruit farm in Illinois. I had been idling for three weeks, visiting
the various theatres at night, and reading during the day. One Sunday,
I had bought a weekly paper, wherein I read an appreciation of the
poet Burns, with numerous quotations from his work. My thoughts
wandered back to the past, the ambition of my early days, and the
encouraging words of my elders.

"Ah!" I said, with a sigh, "if during these five years I had had the
daily companionship of good books, instead of all this restless
wandering to and fro in a strange land, my mind, at the present hour,
might be capable of some little achievement of its own."

These thoughts haunted me all day, and that night a great joy came
over me; for after my thoughts had tugged and pulled at my heart, all
pointing in the one direction, which I saw was towards England, I
settled with myself to follow them to that place. So, that night, I
resolved to leave Chicago early the following day, beat my way to
Baltimore, work a cattle boat to either Liverpool or London, and from
one of these places make my way back to where I belonged. With this
object, I was up early the next morning, had breakfast, and in as
happy a mood as when I first landed in America, left Chicago for the
last time.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was an easy road to beat. I had taken
with me a good lunch, with a small flask of whisky, so that I might
attend to travelling for twenty or thirty hours without suffering
thirst or hunger. At the end of thirty-six hours I got off a train,
now being hungry and thirsty, at a small town, having by then
traversed half the distance between Chicago and Baltimore. Without
staying any length of time in Pittsburg, I caught a train for
Connesville, and, arriving there in a few hours, had to dismount and
wait the next train for Cumberland, in the State of Maryland. A train
was now being made up, consisting of flat cars loaded with iron rails,
and coal cars, also loaded. There was not much necessity on this road
of concealing oneself, so I boldly mounted a coal car, and there I
sat, exposed to the elements, and to the curious gaze of people at the
various small towns through which we passed. What surprised me not a
little was that I seemed to be the only man that was beating his way
on this train, whereas, this being such an easy road, most trains had
a number of tramps, some of them having two score or more. It did not
take me long to notice that these people at the different stations
and villages stared at me with something like awe, had pale faces,
pointed at me in an unusual manner and whispered to each other. Now,
between Connesville and Cumberland, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
crosses the Allegheny mountains, and often the train, if heavy, can
scarcely crawl up, after which it runs down at a terrific speed. We
had just mounted a steep elevation, had reached the top, and the train
men were making fast their brakes for the steep incline on the other
side of the mountain, when my attention was drawn to a large number of
people assembled in the valley below, some distance ahead. I then saw
that the mountain side was covered with coal, and between forty and
fifty trucks lay in a heap at the foot of the mountain. This train had
apparently, through some cause or another, jumped the rails, and the
cars had rolled over and over from top to bottom. When I reached
Cumberland, still being stared at, and pointed out at the various
stations and villages on the way, it was not long before an
explanation was forthcoming. I, it seemed, had followed a train that
had killed forty-four men--two brakesmen, the engineer, conductor, and
forty tramps who were beating their way. On coming down the mountain
side, the brakes had refused to work, the fireman had jumped off in
time to save his own life, and the others had all been precipitated
with the train into the valley and killed. It had run with such a
reckless speed that it could not possibly maintain its hold of the
rails. And this accounted for my being the one traveller on this
train, and how horror-stricken the people had seemed at my temerity,
which, of course, was no more than ignorance of the mishap. After this
ride I never again felt comfortable on a train, much preferring to
take my chance on the water, however stormy it might be. It made me
pause when this same night an unknown man was struck down by a fast
express train, mangled and cut into pieces. Two or three trains left
this town of Cumberland before I could summon sufficient courage to
ride. I was standing, still wondering whether I should ride or walk
from this town to Baltimore, when a switchman, who had just helped
finish making ready a train, said--"Hello, lad; which way are you
going, to Baltimore?" On answering in the affirmative, he said,
pointing to this train, "Jump on: you will be there early in the
morning!" Which I did, at the same time saying to myself, "This is my
last train ride in America, whether I live or die." No sleep that
night, and I was not sorry to reach Baltimore.

I had something like fifty dollars at this time, and intended to go at
once to the cattleman's office, and to ship at the first opportunity,
so that I might still have a few pounds left when I landed in England.
So, when I reached Baltimore, I soon made my way to that place, and
on entering, recognised several of the old cattlemen, among whom was
no less a person than Australian Red, who it seemed had lost all
ambition for a more respectable life. I invited him out, with two
others, and we had several drinks, and at night visited the theatre.
"Now," I said, after leaving the theatre, well knowing that these men
would unscrupulously bleed me to the last cent, and would take
a cunning delight in robbing me and bearing all expenses
themselves--"now," I said, "one drink more, and we have reached the
end of my resources."

Shipping, Red explained to me on the following day, was rather slow
for experienced hands. He had been begging Baltimore for more than six
weeks, and was still without prospect of making a trip. He explained
that he could go at any time for a pound, and had had a chance or two
to go for thirty shillings, but very few two-pound men had been called
for during the last three months. "Are you going out for breakfast?"
he asked. "If you have any more money left, don't be foolish enough to
spend it on food, for I can get you more than you want of that, and
the money can be used for pleasure." "You already know that I have no
more money," I said to him, feeling myself change colour with guilt,
which he did not notice. "Wait here till I return," he said. "If you
don't feel inclined to beg, for a day or two, you need have no fear of
starving." He then left me, and, after he had gone, I followed, and
feeling guilty and ashamed, turned into a restaurant for breakfast.
Later on, when I returned to the office, Red was waiting for me with
an abundance of food, for he had made extra exertion on this
particular morning. "Come," he said, "you must be hungry by this
time." Knowing that I had this part to keep up, I sat down, but after
slowly eating a morsel or two, which had been difficult to swallow, I
found it necessary to plead a full stomach. Red was persistent, and so
dissatisfied at this that I could not help but feel grateful for such
kindness, and, feeling more shame than ever at playing such a part, I
arose, telling him I would wait for him outside the office. He soon
followed, and, leading the way to another part of the city, I
commenced with him a spree that ended in a week's debauchery. Both of
us then being penniless, we returned to the cattleman's office, to
find that a good chance had been lost in our absence, when the shipper
had enquired for us.

"What," cried Red, "go home for good next trip, eh? Why, you are
cursed, like myself, by restlessness, and, mark me, you will not
remain six months in your native town." "Perhaps not," I said, "but I
assure you, that neither this town, nor this country, shall again feel
my tread!"

Some days after this I was sent with several others to rope cattle at
the yards, and there met a foreman under whom I had made a former
trip. "Hallo," said he, "I have not seen you for some time; are you
going with this lot of cattle?" "I don't know," was my answer, "but I
should certainly like to, if there is need of a two-pound man."
"Well," he said, "I'll put in a good word for you at the office." That
night the shipping master approached me on the subject. "Look here,"
he said, "I can only give you thirty shillings for this trip. If you
like to wait, you can have two pounds, but I warn you, the chance may
be a long time coming. What do you say?" "I'll sign for thirty
shillings," I said, with difficulty trying to conceal my eagerness;
which was at once done. I was alone on this trip, among strangers. Had
Australian Red accompanied me, no doubt I should have spent my train
fare, and been forced to return to America on the same boat.

What an enjoyable trip this was from beginning to end! What music
heard in the weighing of the anchor, and what a delightful sensation
when the good ship moved slowly from her dock! I performed my duty
with a new pleasure, leaping here and there at any sign of danger,
giving one steer longer or shorter rope, as the case required, knowing
what pleasant dreams would be mine at night, when the day's work was
done. And when this pleasant time came, I would lie in my bunk and
take an inventory of all the old familiar things which had been
stored in my memory, unthought of for over five years, and nothing
would now escape me. I had written home only three times during this
long absence, three short letters in my first year abroad. Probably
they had given me up for dead, and I would appear at their door as a
visitant from another world. One thought often troubled me, and that
was to be going home without money, after such a long stay in a new
country. For every man thinks that fortunes are more easily made in
other lands than his own, and I knew that people would expect me to be
in possession of ranches, flourishing towns and gold mines; and I felt
much shame in having to admit that I had returned poorer than ever.
Had it not been for the money saved during my absence, which had not
been convenient for use, this thought had been likely to prevent my
return for some years longer, perhaps for my whole life. On the tenth
day we were passing Ireland, on which I gazed with deep feeling,
taking her to my heart as a sister isle, knowing at the same time that
her heart was her distressful own. When I reached Liverpool, and the
cattle had gone ashore, I received my pay, and, slipping away from the
other cattlemen, went alone up town, made a few purchases in the way
of clothes, and arrived at the railway station with three shillings
and a few coppers over my fare. With this insignificant amount, the
result of five years in a rich country, and something like one
hundred and twenty pounds standing to my account, I arrived that
evening at my native town.

Here I wandered lost for several hours, making enquiries for my
people, who, during my stay abroad, had moved from the place I knew. I
had just made up my mind to seek a favourite aunt of mine, who,
previous to my leaving England, had been a number of years in one
house, and did not then seem likely to leave, when a strange woman in
the street where I was making enquiries, recognised me by my likeness
to mother, and at once directed me to her place. I knocked on the door
and mother, who always was and is full of premonitions, and is very
superstitious in the way of signs and dreams, opened the door at once,
knew who I was in the dark, though we could not see much of each
other's form or face, and, to my surprise, called me by name. "That's
me, mother," I said. "Yes," she answered, "I thought it was your
knock," just as though I had only been out for an evening's stroll.
She said in the course of the evening, that they had all given me up
for dead, except herself, and that she had also, three years before,
given up all hopes of seeing me again, having had a dream wherein she
saw me beat about the head and lying bloody at the feet of strangers.
She mentioned the year, and even the month of this year, and a little
consideration on my part placed its date with that of the outrage at
New Orleans, but I did not then trouble her with an account of this.

When I was very small an aunt took me to live with her for a couple or
more months in a small town in Gloucestershire, a county in which
mother had never been. But she had a dream in which she saw me leaving
the house with my uncle's dinner, and that I had to follow the canal
bank to his works. She saw me returning that same way, and, beginning
to play near the water, fall in head first, she, in her dream, just
reaching the spot in time to save me. Early the following morning,
after this dream, mother came by train to this village, walked the
canal bank to my aunt's house, without enquiring its whereabouts, and
demanded her son before he was drowned. There was certainly a
possibility of this happening, for I was very small at that time, and
the canal was deep. She had never before been in this place, but the
locality seemed to be well-known to her as it was seen in her sleep.



CHAPTER XVIII

OFF AGAIN


Of course at this homecoming I vowed that I would never again leave my
native town. True, I found great difficulty in sleeping on a soft bed,
and lay awake several hours through the night, tossing and turning
from one side to another. The food itself did not seem so palatable
coming out of clean pots and shining ovens, as that which was cooked
in close contact with the embers, and in the smoke and blaze of a camp
fire. The unplucked chicken, covered with a thick crust of mud and
baked under a pile of hot ashes, after which the hard crust could be
broken to show the chicken inside as clean as a new born babe, with
all its feathers and down stuck hard in the mud--this meat to me was
far more tasty than that one at home, that was plucked and gutted with
care, and roasted or baked to a supposed nicety. This food of
civilisation certainly seemed to suffer from a lack of good wholesome
dirt, and I should like to have had my own wood fire at the end of the
backyard, were it not for shame.

For several weeks I walked the streets, renewing old acquaintance,
accosted here and there by my old school-mates. Most of them were
married, but married or single, they all seemed to be poor and
unsuccessful. I began to drink immoderately at this time, meeting one
and the other, and very soon began to realise that my hundred and
twenty pounds were going at the rate of a sovereign a day. Scarcely
had I been home one month, when, to escape from so much drink, I made
a trip to Bordeaux, on one of the local steamers. But it was of no
use: for I saw the time coming when I would again be without
prospects. I had not worked at my trade since leaving Bristol, six
years before, and had no intention of doing so again. The fever of
restlessness that had governed me in the past, broke out afresh, and
after two months of this idle life, I suddenly made a pretence of
being filled with a desire for business, saying it was my intention to
open a bookshop in London, and as soon as possible, which I have often
had thoughts of doing. With this end in view, I drew the remainder of
my money, which in two months had dwindled by a half, divided a few
pounds among the family, and took train for London. "Yes," I repeated
to myself, several times on this journey. "I will open a bookshop and
settle down to a quiet life of study, for which there will be ample
time during the intervals of business." In London I saw a number of
vacant shops that would have answered the purpose, but unfortunately,
I had not the least notion of how or where to obtain books, the
greater part of which were to be second-hand. If, when on this quest,
I could have bought a bookshop ready fitted and filled, no doubt I
would have closed with the offer at once, and settled quietly down.
Not seeing any way out of this difficulty, I continued my rambles
through the city, day after day, invariably visiting the theatre at
night. This happened for over a week, and the money was still going
out and none coming in, and poverty never appeared worse to me than at
that time.

One afternoon, when passing through Trafalgar Square, I bought an
early edition of an evening paper, and the first paragraph that met my
eye had this very attractive heading--"A Land of Gold." It was a
description of the Klondyke, and a glowing account of the many good
fortunes that daily fell to the lot of hardy adventurers. It would
cost me sixty pounds, or more, to travel to that remote part of the
world, and forty-four pounds were all I now possessed. This thought
did not for long discourage me from making the attempt. I knew that I
could beat my way across the Canadian continent, without using a cent
for travelling, and I could save these few pounds for food, and cases
in which payment would be absolutely necessary, when forced to travel
on foot, at the other end of Canada.

That night I exchanged thirty pounds for their equivalent in paper
dollars, placing the latter in a belt which I wore next to my skin,
determined that this money should not see the light until my journey
was nearly done.

It was now the month of March, and the navigation of the St. Lawrence
had not yet opened, so that I would be compelled to beat my way from
Halifax, or St. John's, to Montreal, which would not be necessary
later in the Spring, when the latter port would be the destination of
all emigrant ships. I was very happy at this time, with these
prospects in view, which were really too bright to decoy any man who
had an average amount of common-sense. My conception of that wonderful
land, for all my travels, was childish in the extreme. I thought the
rocks were of solid gold, which so dazzled the sun that he could not
concentrate his glance on any particular part, and that his eye went
swimming all day in a haze. I pictured men in possession of caves
sitting helpless in the midst of accumulated nuggets, puzzled as to
how to convey all this wealth to the marts of civilisation. What I
wanted with all these riches I cannot say, for it was never a desire
of mine to possess jewellery, fine raiment, yachts, castles or horses:
all I desired was a small house of my own, and leisure for study. In
fact I made up my mind not to waste time in hoarding more wealth than
would be necessary to these small comforts, but to return home
satisfied with a sum not exceeding two thousand pounds, the interest
from which would, I thought, be ample for any student who remained
true to his aims, and was sincere in his love for literature.

In this month of March, the first day in the second week, I left
Euston Station at midnight, and arrived cold and shaking in Liverpool,
early the next morning. On making enquiries, I learnt that a ship was
leaving for St. John's on the following Wednesday, from which place
emigrants must needs go by train to Quebec or Montreal, owing to the
ice-bound condition of the river. I decided on making St. John's my
destination, from which port I would beat my way towards the west,
going easy at first, and faster as the spring of the year advanced.

The accommodation for steerage passengers on this ship was abominable,
and their comfort seemed to be not in the least considered. This was
owing to the small number of English speaking people that were
travelling as steerage passengers, and the disgusting, filthy habits
of the great majority, who were a low class of Jews and peasantry from
the interior of Russia. None of the ship's crews could be expected to
treat these people as one of themselves, seeing them sit to eat in the
filth of their skin and fur clothes, without the least thought of
washing; and again, hiding food in their bed clothes, making the cabin
too foul to sleep in. After seeing the first meal fought for, and
scrambled for on the steerage floor, where it had fallen, we
Englishmen, five in number, took possession of a small table to
ourselves, only allowing one other, a Frenchman, to sit with us. This
did not succeed without some protest. On the second day out, when we
went below for our mid-day meal, we found the table to be already
occupied by these people, who maintained our seats, looking defiantly
at us to show that they had taken no accidental possession of the
same. It was owing to these defiant looks that we determined to
re-possess this table. "Stick close together," said a young
Englishman, who was a blacksmith, with the accredited brawny arms.
Saying which he caught one of the usurpers in his arms, and with great
force threw him in the midst of his people, knocking several of them
down. There was great commotion at this. Two hundred of these haters
of soap and water began to jabber and wildly gesticulate, and no doubt
every foul word in that unknown tongue was used against us. Instead of
seating ourselves at once at the table, which was now unoccupied, we
stood in our small body waiting with a quiet determination which did
not seem at all to their relish. This attitude conquered them; and, as
none of us were quarrelsome, and did not again in any way interfere
with them, either on deck or below, the trip was ended without any
further trouble.

So many of these aliens were landing in Canada at this time, that when
I approached the Custom House officers, one of them, judging by my
features and complexion, which were not much unlike those of a native
of the south, addressed me in an unknown tongue. I looked at him in
surprise, which made him repeat his question, probably in another
tongue, equally unknown. Being rather incensed at this, and flushing
indignantly at this tone to a dog, I lost no time in answering him
according to Billingsgate. "Ho, ho!" he laughed, "so you are a
blooming cockney, and so am I. Why didn't you say so at once?"

The blacksmith had booked through to Quebec, and would take train to
that place before morning. Three other Englishmen had booked through
to Winnipeg, and would travel with him by the same train. The other
Englishman, a carpenter by trade, had relatives in Montreal, and,
having only a couple of dollars in his possession, was willing to take
instructions from me how to get there. I promised to get this man to
Montreal in three or four days, providing he did not at any time
question my actions. He kept his promise and I kept mine, for on the
fourth day after landing, I wished him good-bye outside his sister's
house, which he had had some difficulty in finding. I was now alone,
and seeking a companion for my journey west.

Now, once upon a time, there lived a man known by the name of Joe
Beef, who kept a saloon in Montreal, supplying his customers with a
good free lunch all day, and a hot beef stew being the midday dish.
There was not a tramp throughout the length and breadth of the North
American Continent, who had not heard of this and a goodly number had
at one time or another patronised his establishment. Often had I heard
of this famous hostelry for the poor and needy, and the flavour of its
stew discussed by old travellers in the far States of the South. When
I thought of this, I knew that a companion for any part of America
could most certainly be found on this man's premises, and I would
there hear much valuable information as to the road I was about to
travel. So I went strolling along quietly, intending to wait until I
met some needy looking individual before I made enquiries. Now,
whenever Joe Beef's name had been mentioned it had invariably led to
the mention of French Marie, and the name of the latter as invariably
introduced the name of Joe Beef, for these two establishments seemed
to be patronised by the same class. These names were well-known to me,
for, as I have said, their fame was abroad throughout America.

I was strolling along with these thoughts, when I met the man of my
desire, leaning lazily against a post. Not wishing to accost him
outright, and yet eager for his conversation, I stood beside him
lighting my pipe, striking several matches for this purpose and
failing, owing to the wind blowing in small gusts. Seeing my dilemma,
the man quickly produced matches of his own, and striking one, held it
lighted between the palms of his hands, leaving just enough space for
the bowl of my pipe to enter. For this I thanked him, and secondly,
invited him to a drink, asking him where we should go, being in hopes
he would mention Joe Beef. "Well," he answered, pointing to the
opposite corner, "the nearest place is French Marie's." We entered
that place and, in the course of conversation, I told him how I had
beat my way from state to state, but that this was my first experience
in Canada. "The United States," said this man sagely, "are nearly
played out, and of late years there are far too many travellers there.
You will find the Canadian roads better to beat, and the people's
hearts easier to impress, for they are not overrun. When did you get
here?" Knowing that this man was under the impression that I had just
beat my way into Canada from the States, and not willing to undeceive
him, I answered quickly "This morning," and for a time changed the
conversation into a praise of the beer. "Where are you going to
sleep?" he asked. "Meet me here in half an hour, after I have begged
the price of my bed, and a drink or two--and we will both go to Joe
Beef's, where I have been for this last week." Not wishing to lose
sight of this man, I told him that my pocket could maintain the two of
us until the next day. "All right," said he, appearing much relieved,
"we will go at once and settle for our beds, and come out for an hour
or so this evening." Leaving French Marie's we walked beside the river
for some distance, when my companion halted before a building, which I
knew must be Joe Beef's, having just seen two seedy looking travellers
entering. We followed, and to my surprise, I saw it was a rather clean
looking restaurant with several long tables, with seats and a long bar
on which the food was served. But what surprised me most was to see a
number of Salvation Army men and officers in charge of this place.
Without saying a word to my companion, I took a seat at one of the
tables, to order a beef stew, asking him what he would have, and, for
his sake, the order was doubled. "When Joe Beef kept this place,"
whispered my companion, "he was a true friend to travellers, but you
don't get much out of these people except you pay for it!" Although I
winked at him, as though the same thoughts were mine, I noticed that
the meals were well worth what was charged for them, and, in after
days, I often compared this place favourably with similar institutions
in London, that were under the same management, and where men did not
get the worth of their money.



CHAPTER XIX

A VOICE IN THE DARK


At this place I remained several weeks, watching the smiling Spring,
which had already taken possession of the air and made the skies
blue--unloosing the icy fingers of Winter, which still held the earth
down under a thick cover of snow. What a glorious time of the year is
this! With the warm sun travelling through serene skies, the air clear
and fresh above you, which instils new blood in the body, making one
defiantly tramp the earth, kicking the snows aside in the scorn of
action. The cheeks glow with health, the lips smile, and there is no
careworn face seen, save they come out of the house of sickness of
death. And that lean spectre, called Hunger, has never been known to
appear in these parts. If it was for one moment supposed that such a
spectre possessed a house in this country, kind hearts would at once
storm the place with such an abundance of good things that the
spectre's victim would need to exert great care and power of will, if
he would not succumb to an overloaded stomach. This spectre is often
seen in the overcrowded cities of Europe, and one of its favourite
haunts is the Thames Embankment, in front of the fine hotels where
ambassadors and millionaires dine sumptuously. Where they sit or stand
at their windows watching the many lights of the city, and to see the
moon dipping her silver pitcher in the dark river, and they swear, by
Jove! it is worth seeing. But they cannot see this spectre of Hunger,
moving slowly, and sometimes painfully, from shadow to shadow,
shivering and anxious for the sun, for they have no other fire to sit
before, to make their dreams of the past pleasant.

I remained three weeks in this inexpensive hotel, and decided to
travel on the following Monday, although the snow was still deep in
Montreal, and would be yet deeper in the country. I had a small room
for sleeping purposes, at a cost of fifteen cents per night. There
were several others of the same kind, each divided one from the other
by a thin wooden partition, which was high enough for privacy, but did
not prevent curious lodgers from standing tip toe on their beds, and
peering into another's room. Going to bed early on Sunday night,
previous to continuing my journey on the following day, I was somewhat
startled on entering my room, to hear a gentle rap on the partition
which divided my room from the next. "Hallo!" I cried, "what do you
want?" The man's wants, it seemed, were private, for he seemed
frightened into silence at this loud tone of demand, which would most
certainly draw the attention of others. At last he cleared his throat
by a forced fit of coughing, and then whispered, in a low distinct
voice--"I want a match, if you can oblige me with one." Of course,
smoking was not allowed in the bed-rooms, but in this respect we were
nearly all breakers of the law. Taking a few matches from my pocket, I
threw them over the partition, and heard him feeling in the
semi-darkness, after hearing the sound of them falling. Then he gently
struck one, and, by its light, gathered in the others. In a moment or
two he addressed me in his natural voice, and, to my surprise, it
sounded familiar, and filled me with curiosity to see this man's face.
I encouraged him to talk--which he seemed determined to do--thinking a
word might reveal him to me, and the circumstances under which we had
met.

His voice in the dark puzzled me, and I could not for my life locate
it. A hundred scenes passed through my memory, some of them containing
a number of characters. In my fancy I made them all speak to me,
before dismissing them again to the dim regions from which they had
been summoned, but not one of their voices corresponded with this
voice heard in the dark. Above this voice I placed thin and thick
moustaches, black, grey, brown, red, and white; under this voice I put
heavy and light beards of various hues, and still, out of all my
material, failed to make a familiar face. Still sending Memory forth
in quest of the owner of this voice, and she, poor thing! bringing
forward smiling men and stern men, thin men and fat men, short men and
tall men, tame men and wild men, hairy men and bald men, dark men and
fair men--until she became so confused as to bring back the same
people the second time; still sending her forth on this vain quest, I
fell asleep.

It was a dreamless sleep; no sound broke its stillness, and no face
looked into its depths; and, when I awoke the next morning, this voice
seemed to be already in possession of my thoughts. I lay awake for
about ten minutes, and was just on the point of rising, thinking the
man had left his chamber, when I heard a stir coming from that
direction. He was now dressing. Following his example, but with more
haste, so as to be the first ready, I waited the unbolting of his
door, so that I might meet this man face to face. I unbolted my own
door, and opened it when I was but half dressed, but there was no
necessity for doing this, for my arms were in the sleeves of my coat
when his bolt was slipped back, and we simultaneously appeared, at the
same time wishing each other good morning. I recognised this man
without difficulty, but apparently had the advantage of him. To make
no mistake, I looked at his right hand, and saw the two fingers
missing, knowing him for a certainty to be Three Fingered Jack, who
had been a cattleman from Montreal, whom I had met in Glasgow when I
had gone there from Baltimore, three years previous to this. On that
occasion I had been in this man's company for only half an hour, and
since that time had heard thousands of voices, but was still positive
that I had heard this voice before.

We stood side by side washing, and preparing for breakfast, and,
although I remained a stranger to him, as far as former acquaintance
was concerned, I mentioned to him in confidence that I was going west
that very morning, after breakfast. "So was I," he said, "as far as
Winnipeg, but thought to wait until some of this snow cleared. Anyhow,
as a day or two makes little difference, we will, if you are
agreeable, start together this morning. I know the country well," he
continued, "between Montreal and Winnipeg, having travelled it a
number of times, and, I promise you, nothing shall be wanting on the
way."

This man had lost his two fingers at work in the cotton mills, some
ten years before, and ever since then had been living in idleness,
with the exception of two or three trips he had made as a cattleman.
Certainly he lived well on the kindness of these people, as any able
bodied man might do in this country, without being in any way
afflicted. Though he was going to Winnipeg, he was in no hurry, had no
object in view, and had not the least idea of where that town would
lead him, and he soon tired of one place.

Three Fingered Jack was a slow traveller for, as he with some emotion
said--"It broke his heart to hurry and pass through good towns whose
inhabitants were all the happier for being called on by needy men."
This slow travelling suited me for the time being, for we were having
another fall of snow, and I half regretted having left Montreal,
although, day after day I was certainly getting a little nearer to the
gold of Klondyke. But I determined to shake off this slow companion on
the first approach of fine weather.

We loafed all day in the different railway stations, in each of which
was kept a warm comfortable room for the convenience of passengers.
Although we were passengers of another sort, and stole rides on the
trains without a fraction of payment to the company, we boldly made
ourselves at home in these places, being mistaken for respectable
travellers, who were enjoying the comforts for which we paid.
Sometimes a station master would look hard on us, suspecting us for
what we were, but he was very diffident about risking a question,
however much he was displeased at seeing us in comfortable possession
of the seats nearest to the stoves. Towards evening we made
application for lodgings at the local jail, at which place we would be
accommodated until the following morning. I was now without money,
with the exception of that which was concealed and reserved for the
most hazardous part of the journey, which would be its western end.
Now, in all these jails we were searched and examined before being
admitted for a night's shelter, but often in a very indifferent
manner. One night we arrived at a small town where a double hanging
was to take place in the yard of the jail early the next morning. A
woman, it seems, had called on her lover to assist in the murder of
her husband, which had been brutally done with an axe, for which crime
both had been pronounced guilty and condemned to die. Thousands of
people had flocked in from the neighbouring country, which in this
province of Ontario was thickly settled, and a large number of plain
clothes detectives had been dispatched from the cities, there being
supposed some attempt might be made at rescue, owing to one of the
condemned being a woman. We arrived at this town early in the
afternoon, and were surprised at the unusual bustle and the many
groups of people assembled in the main thoroughfares. Thinking the
town contained, or expected, some attraction in the way of a circus or
menagerie, we expressed little curiosity, but returned at once to the
railway station, intending to possess its most comfortable seats
against all comers, until the approach of darkness, when we would then
make application at the jail for our night's accommodation. When this
time came, we marched straight to the jail, and boldly hammered its
door for admittance. It was at once answered by a police officer, to
whom we explained our wants, and he, without much ado, invited us
indoors. Expecting the usual questions, and being prepared with the
usual answers--expecting the usual indifferent search, and having
pipe, tobacco and matches artfully concealed in our stockings--we were
somewhat taken by surprise to find a large number of officers, who all
seemed to show an uncommon interest in our appearance. The officer,
who was examining us previous to making us comfortable for the night,
had finished this part of the business to his own satisfaction, when
one of these detectives stepped forward, and said--"We cannot admit
strangers to the jail on the present occasion, so that you had better
make them out an order for the hotel." This order was then given to
us, and we immediately left the jail; and it was then, curious to know
the reason for this action, that we soon made ourselves acquainted
with the true facts of the case. When we arrived at the hotel, we were
informed that every bed had been taken since morning, and that, as it
was, a number of men would be compelled to sit all night dozing in
their chairs, and it was with this information that we returned to the
jail. For the second time we were admitted, and were advised to walk
to the next town. This, Three Fingered Jack absolutely refused to do,
saying that his feet were too blistered and sore to carry him another
hundred yards. All these detectives then got together, and, after a
rather lengthy consultation, one of them came forward and, after
plying us with a number of questions, proceeded to examine our
clothes, and that so thoroughly that I feared for the result. At the
beginning of the search, I gave him my razor, a small penknife, my
pocket-handkerchief and a comb, but he was not satisfied until his
hands were down in my stockings, and bringing up first my pipe, then
my tobacco, and lastly the matches. What worried me most was the belt
next to my body, which contained my money. I had not much fear of
Three Fingered Jack, when confronting each other openly, though he was
a tall active man, but had he known of these dollars, I had not dared
in his presence to have closed my eyes, believing that he would have
battered out my brains with a stone, wooden stake or iron bar, so that
he might possess himself of this amount. This detective certainly
discovered the belt, and felt it carefully, but the money being in
paper, and no coin or hard substance being therein, he apparently was
none the wiser for its contents. At last this severe examination was
at an end, and we were both led through an iron corridor and placed in
a cell, the door of which was carefully locked. I don't believe we
slept one moment during that night but what we were overlooked by a
pair, or several pairs of shrewd eyes. They could not believe but
that we were other to what we pretended, and had come there with
designs to thwart the ends of justice. Next morning our things were
returned to us, and we were turned adrift at a cold hour that was far
earlier than on ordinary occasions.

The snow was still deep and the mornings and evenings cold when, a
week after this, we reached Ottawa. This slow travelling was not at
all to my liking, and I often persuaded my companion to make more
haste towards Winnipeg. This he agreed to do; so the next morning we
jumped a freight train, determined to hold it for the whole day.
Unfortunately it was simply a local train, and being very slow, having
to stop on the way at every insignificant little station, we left it,
at a town called Renfrew, intending that night to beat a fast overland
passenger train, which would convey us four or five hundred miles
before daybreak. With this object we sat in the station's waiting-room
until evening, and then, some twenty minutes before the train became
due, we slipped out unobserved and took possession of an empty car,
stationary some distance away, from which place we could see the train
coming, and yet be unseen from the station's platform. This train
would soon arrive, for passengers were already pacing the platform,
the luggage was placed in readiness, and a number of curious people,
having nothing else to do, had assembled here to see the coming and
going of the train. At last we heard its whistle, and, looking out, we
saw the headlight in the distance, drawing nearer and nearer. It
steamed into the station without making much noise, for the rails were
slippery, there still being much ice and snow on the track. "Come," I
said to Jack, "there is no time to lose;" and we quickly jumped out of
the empty car.

This fast passenger train carried a blind baggage car, which means
that the end nearest to the engine was blind in having no door. Our
object was to suddenly appear from a hiding place, darkness being
favourable, and leap on the step of this car, and from that place to
the platform; this being done when the train was in motion, knowing
that the conductor, who was always on the watch for such doings,
rarely stopped the train to put men off, even when sure of their
presence. If he saw us before the train started, he would certainly
take means to prevent us from riding. When we had once taken
possession of this car, no man could approach us until we reached the
next stopping place, which would probably be fifty miles, or much
more. At that place we would dismount, conceal ourselves, and, when it
was again in motion, make another leap for our former place. Of
course, the engineer and fireman could reach us, but these men were
always indifferent, and never interfered, their business being ahead
instead of behind the engine.

The train whistled almost before we were ready, and pulled slowly out
of the station. I allowed my companion the advantage of being the
first to jump, owing to his maimed hand. The train was now going
faster and faster, and we were forced to keep pace with it. Making a
leap he caught the handle bar and sprang lightly on the step, after
which my hand quickly took possession of this bar, and I ran with the
train, prepared to follow his example. To my surprise, instead of at
once taking his place on the platform, my companion stood
thoughtlessly irresolute on the step, leaving me no room to make the
attempt. But I still held to the bar, though the train was now going
so fast that I found great difficulty in keeping step with it. I
shouted to him to clear the step. This he proceeded to do, very
deliberately, I thought. Taking a firmer grip on the bar, I jumped,
but it was too late, for the train was now going at a rapid rate. My
foot came short of the step, and I fell, and, still clinging to the
handle bar, was dragged several yards before I relinquished my hold.
And there I lay for several minutes, feeling a little shaken, whilst
the train passed swiftly on into the darkness.

Even then I did not know what had happened, for I attempted to stand,
but found that something had happened to prevent me from doing this.
Sitting down in an upright position, I then began to examine myself,
and now found that the right foot was severed from the ankle. This
discovery did not shock me so much as the thoughts which quickly
followed. For, as I could feel no pain, I did not know but what my
body was in several parts, and I was not satisfied until I examined
every portion of it. Seeing a man crossing the track, I shouted to him
for assistance. He looked in one direction and another, not seeing me
in the darkness, and was going his way when I shouted again. This time
he looked full my way, but instead of coming nearer, he made one bound
in the air, nearly fell, scrambled to his feet, and was off like the
shot from a gun. This man was sought after for several weeks, by
people curious to know who he was, but was never found, and no man
came forward to say--"I am he." Having failed to find this man, people
at last began to think I was under a ghostly impression. Probably that
was the other man's impression, for who ever saw Pity make the same
speed as Fear?

Another man, after this, approached, who was a workman on the line,
and at the sound of my voice he seemed to understand at once what had
occurred. Coming forward quickly, he looked me over, went away, and in
a minute or two returned with the assistance of several others to
convey me to the station. A number of people were still there; so that
when I was placed in the waiting room to bide the arrival of a doctor,
I could see no other way of keeping a calm face before such a number
of eyes than by taking out my pipe and smoking, an action which, I am
told, caused much sensation in the local press.



CHAPTER XX

HOSPITALITY


I bore this accident with an outward fortitude that was far from the
true state of my feelings. The doctor, seeing the even development of
my body, asked me if I was an athlete. Although I could scarcely claim
to be one, I had been able, without any training, and at any time, to
jump over a height of five feet; had also been a swimmer, and, when
occasion offered, had donned the gloves. Thinking of my present
helplessness caused me many a bitter moment, but I managed to impress
all comers with a false indifference.

What a kind-hearted race of people are these Canadians! Here was I, an
entire stranger among them, and yet every hour people were making
enquiries, and interesting themselves on my behalf, bringing and
sending books, grapes, bananas, and other delicacies for a sick man.
When a second operation was deemed necessary, the leg to be amputated
at the knee, the whole town was concerned, and the doctors had to give
strict injunctions not to admit such a number of kind hearted
visitors. At this time I was so weak of body, that it was hopeless to
expect recovery from this second operation. This was soon made
apparent to me by the doctor's question, as to whether I had any
message to send to my people, hinting that there was a slight
possibility of dying under the chloroform. A minister of the gospel
was also there, and his sympathetic face certainly made the dying seem
probable. Now, I have heard a great deal of dying men having a
foresight of things to be, but, I confess, that I was never more calm
in all my life than at this moment when death seemed so certain. I did
not for one instant believe or expect that these eyes would again open
to the light, after I had been in this low vital condition, deadened
and darkened for over two hours, whilst my body was being cut and sawn
like so much wood or stone. And yet I felt no terror of death. I had
been taken in a sleigh from the station to the hospital, over a mile
or more of snow; and the one thought that worried me most, when I was
supposed to be face to face with death, was whether the town lay
north, south, east or west from the hospital, and this, I believe, was
the last question I asked. After hearing an answer, I drew in the
chloroform in long breaths, thinking to assist the doctors in their
work. In spite of this, I have a faint recollection of struggling with
all my might against its effects, previous to losing consciousness;
but I was greatly surprised on being afterwards told that I had, when
in that condition, used more foul language in ten minutes' delirium
than had probably been used in twenty-four hours by the whole
population of Canada. It was explained to me that such language was
not unusual in cases of this kind, which consoled me not a little, but
I could not help wondering if the matron had been present, and if she
had confided in her daughter. The latter was a young girl of sixteen
years, or thereabouts, and was so womanly and considerate that her
mother could very well leave her in charge of the patients for the
whole day, although this had not been necessary during my stay.

For three days after this operation I hovered between life and death,
any breath expected to be my last. But in seven or eight days my
vitality, which must be considered wonderful, returned in a small way,
and I was then considered to be well out of danger. It was at this
time that the kindness of these people touched me to the heart. The
hospital was situated at the end of a long road, and all people, after
they had passed the last house, which was some distance away, were
then known to be visitors to the matron or one of her patients. On the
verandah outside sat the matron's dog, and, long before people were
close at hand, he barked, and so prepared us for their coming. When it
was known that I was convalescent, this dog was kept so busy barking
that his sharp clear voice became hoarse with the exertion. They came
single, they came in twos and threes; old people, young people and
children; until it became necessary to give them a more formal
reception, limiting each person or couple, as it might be, to a few
minutes' conversation. On hearing that I was fond of reading, books
were at once brought by their owners, or sent by others; some of which
I had not the courage to read nor the heart to return; judging them
wrongly perhaps by their titles of this character:--"Freddie's
Friend," "Little Billie's Button," and "Sally's Sacrifice." With such
good attendance within, and so much kindness from without, what wonder
that I was now fit to return to England, five weeks after the
accident, after having undergone two serious operations! My new
friends in that distant land would persuade me to remain, assuring me
of a comfortable living, but I decided to return to England as soon as
possible, little knowing what my experience would be in the years
following.

When the morning came for my departure, the matron, in a motherly way,
put her two hands on my shoulders and kissed me, her eyes being full
of tears. This, coming from a person whose business was to show no
emotion, doing which would make her unfit for her position, made me
forget the short laugh and the cold hand shake for which my mind had
prepared itself, and I felt my voice gone, and my throat in the
clutches of something new to my experience. I left without having the
voice to say good-bye. On my way I had to wish good-bye to every one
I met, and when, at last, this ordeal was over, and I was in the train
on my way back to Montreal, I felt that I was not yet strong enough to
travel; my courage forsook me, and I sat pale and despondent, for I
never expected to meet these people again, and they were true friends.

Soon I reached Montreal. Only two months had elapsed, and what a
difference now! Two months ago, and it was winter, snow was on the
earth, and the air was cold; but I was then full limbed, full of
vitality and good spirits, for summer like prospects golden and
glorious possessed me night and day. It was summer now, the earth was
dry and green, and the air warm, but winter was within me; for I felt
crushed and staggered on crutches to the danger of myself and the
people on my way. I soon got over this unpleasant feeling, roused by
the merry-makers aboard ship, the loudest and most persistent, strange
to say, being a one-legged man, who defied all Neptune's attempts to
make him walk unsteady. Seeing this man so merry, I knew that my
sensitiveness would soon wear off; and, seeing him so active was a
great encouragement. I was soon home again, having been away less than
four months; but all the wildness had been taken out of me, and my
adventures after this were not of my own seeking, but the result of
circumstances.



CHAPTER XXI

LONDON


Sitting at home, thinking of future employment, manual labour being
now out of the question, it was then for the first time that I
expressed gratitude for my old grandmother's legacy, which, on my home
coming from the States had been reduced from ten shillings to eight
shillings per week. In the past it had been sniffed at and scorned,
being called several ill-natured names, such as "a week's tobacco," "a
day's grub," or "an evening's booze without cigars." I had been very
bitter, on the reading of her will, that the property had not come
into my hands, to sell or retain, spend or save; but a little common
sense now told me that if such had been the case I would, at the
present time, have been without either property or income, and had
been so less than twelve months after her death. The old lady, no
doubt, had noted my wildness, and to save me the temptation to
squander my brother's share, who was incapable of taking charge of his
own affairs, and whose share I must have ill managed, after the
passing of my own she had wisely left this property to remain in the
hands of a trustee, which now turned out as lucky for myself as for
my brother.

I was now more content with my lot, determined that as my body had
failed, my brains should now have the chance they had longed for, when
the spirit had been bullied into submission by the body's activity.

It was now the middle of Summer, and daily I sat dreaming, reading,
and occasionally writing in a leafy bower in the garden. I could now
dispense with crutches, having just received from London an artificial
limb, and on this was practising, taking short walks at night, with a
success that was gratifying. A far different Klondyke had opened up
before my eyes, which corresponded with the dreams of my youth. I
pictured myself returning home, not with gold nuggets from the far
West, but with literary fame, wrested from no less a place than the
mighty London. This secret was never divulged to my people, and, in
the after years, this reticence saved them from many a pang of
disappointment, and freed me from many an awkward question. Determined
to lose no time in the conquest of that city, which I expected would
be surrendered to me some time within twelve months, I began, without
wasting more time in dreams, to make preparations for this journey.
Alas! how many greater men failed in a lifetime at this attempt,
although they now stand triumphant in death, holding in their
spiritual hands the freedom and keys of the whole world's cities!

With a cotton shirt, a pair of stockings and a handkerchief in a brown
paper parcel, and the sum of two pounds in my pocket, after the
expense of train fare, I started for London, filled to the brim with
the aforesaid designs. My failure in the States, and again in Canada,
had made me a little more chary with my confidence, but I was not in
the least the less optimistic. My first dreams were, and are, my best.
I scorn clothes and jewellery; I would rather take a free country
walk, leaving the roads for the less trodden paths of the hills and
the lanes, than ride in a yacht or a coach; I would rather see the
moon in the ruins than the gaslight of an assembly room; gluttony I
despise, and drink is seldom taken except at the invitation of other
eyes: then what, in the name of everything we know, would be to me the
silver and gold of all Alaska!

I arrived in London early the following morning, and at once made my
way towards Lambeth. Early that night, being tired with the exertion
of an unusually long day, I went seeking for lodgings in Blackfriars
Road, and, seeing several signs that claimed to accommodate working
men with good clean beds at sixpence per night, entered one of these
establishments, paid the amount demanded, and was then ushered into a
long kitchen, preferring to sit and smoke for an hour before retiring
for the night. Some thirty or forty men were in this kitchen, but the
British Workman had either not yet arrived, was out drinking his pint,
or had gone early to bed. This was not by any means my first
experience in England of lodging houses, for I had been forced to live
in similar places on my visits in cattle ships from America; but I
certainly did not like the look of this place, where no sign of
authority was to be seen, and which seemed to be entirely left to the
control of these noisy men. Some of these lodgers had been old
soldiers, had just received their pensions--the accumulation of three
months. A number of them were bringing in cans of beer, and the
kitchen was in an uproar. Many of them were too drunk to perform this
task, but were sufficiently sober to sit awake and give money and
orders to others, and there was no lack of willing hands to bring them
what they required. I left the kitchen at once, determined to seek
another place, without troubling the landlady to refund my money. As I
left the kitchen, two drunken men began to fight; others interfered,
and this fight threatened to become an all round affair. When I had
reached the top of the stairs, feeling my way in the dark, I found the
landlady standing at the office door. Seeing me, as I was about to
pass her, she said, in a voice which was the worse for drink--"So you
want to go to bed? Here, Jim, show this gentleman to his bed." Jim
obeyed, a small, pale-faced child, whom I mechanically followed up
two flights of stairs, which were better lighted than those leading to
the kitchen, which was in the basement of the house. He then showed me
into a room where there were a number of beds, and, pointing to one,
said--"You are number forty-five," when he left the room. Many of the
beds already contained sleepers. I sat down on the edge of mine,
wondering if there would be any disturbance in the night, whether any
of these men would take a fancy to my clothes, or in the dark were
likely to rummage their contents. The man in the next bed coughed, and
then, turning towards me, said gently--"The beds are good, I admit,
but that is about all you can say of this house." Second voice, not
far away: "You've come to a good house, you have, and yer don't know
it." First voice: "If I hadn't been drunk last night and got chucked
out of Rowton's, I wouldn't, on any account, be here." A third voice,
distant, but loud and angry: "Give over, will yer: when are you coves
going to sleep? I ain't done any labour for three weeks, and now as
I've got a chance at four in the mornin', blow me if I ain't robbed of
my slumber. Take care I don't set about yer at once, yer blooming lot
of bleeders. If I come arter yer body, yer'll know it, and no mistake
about it, either." No more was said after this. I at once made up my
mind to try Rowton House on the following day. That they had refused
this man a bed owing to his being drunk, and, more than likely,
quarrelsome in drink, was a strong recommendation to me after my
experience here, where it would be impossible to either read, write or
think, or to even partake of my meals in comfort.

The following morning, after having had breakfast at an eating house,
I enquired for Rowton House, and when the first person I addressed
asked which one I wanted, I answered him--"the nearest one." This
proved to be in Newington Butts and, after receiving instructions, I
proceeded accordingly, and was soon standing outside that place, where
I was to remain for two years, without in the least impressing London.
To my surprise, I found this house to be a fine large block of red
buildings, with an imposing front, and a fine entrance, polished and
clean; and, facing its many front windows, was an old church tower and
clock, set in an old leafy churchyard that had stones for the dead and
a number of wooden seats for the living.

On making an application for a bed, I learnt that this could not be
granted until nine o'clock in the evening, but was courteously allowed
the privilege of remaining indoors until that time. This place
surprised me by its accommodation of dining rooms, library, sitting
rooms, baths, lavatories, etc., all being kept clean and in thorough
good order by a large staff of men, its charge being sixpence per
night.

On making my way into the library, and seeing two large cases of
books, one containing fiction, and the other being enriched by the
poets, historians, essayists, with biography and miscellaneous
literature, and hearing how quiet this room was, in spite of the
presence of over a hundred men, I at once made up my mind to pay a
week's lodgings down, indifferent whether the sleeping accommodation
was good or bad. This I did at nine o'clock, after which I sat
sometimes reading the paper, and again watching the faces of this
mixed assembly. Some of them were of refined appearance, with their
silk hats, their frock coats, cuffs and collars, and spoke in voices
subdued and gentle. Some of them were of such a prosperous appearance
that no doubt I had already passed them in the street, thinking they
were either merchants or managers of great concerns; and, more likely
than not, the paper boys had followed on their heels, and the cabmen
had persistently hailed them.

If I wanted to devote my time to study, living on eight shillings per
week, this was apparently a suitable place for my purpose. Being my
own barber, doing my own plain cooking, and living abstemiously,
renouncing drink and the pleasures of theatres, and other indoor
entertainments, and retaining tobacco as my sole luxury--I saw no
reason why this could not be done, at the same time making up my mind
that it had to be done.

I had been here little more than a week, when I set to work in
earnest, and the result of two months' diligence was a tragedy,
written in blank verse, and which I called "The Robber." Never
dreaming but what it would at once meet with success, owing to its
being full of action--a very difficult thing to marry to verse, but
which I thought was successfully accomplished--I was somewhat taken
aback to have it returned to me on the third day, with the manager's
regret. Now it seemed that the Rowton House had a bad name, owing to
the great number of criminals that were continually in the Police
Courts giving that address. Some of these lodgers, for that very
reason, had their correspondence addressed to various small shops,
where they were customers for tobacco, papers, and groceries.

On having this tragedy returned, I, thinking of this, came to the
conclusion that no respectable person would be likely to consider or
respect any work, or application for the same, that emanated from a
house of this name. I spoke to a gentleman with whom I had become
acquainted, on this difficult subject, and he agreed with me, saying
that such were the true facts of the case. "But," said he, after a
thoughtful pause, "as your means are so limited, and the shopkeepers
charge one penny for every letter they receive on a customer's behalf,
would it not be as well to still have your correspondence addressed
here, but in another way, of which you probably have not heard? Give
your address as number one Churchyard Row, and, although people will
not recognise this house under that name, yet the post office
authorities will know it for its proper address." This I did, without
further question, and "The Robber" was despatched on a second journey.
Fourteen days after my robber returned to number one Churchyard Row.
Bothering my head to account for this, I came to the conclusion that
my tragedy had not been read farther than the front page, and that a
tragedy that was born and bred in such a place as Churchyard Row--the
address being so appropriate to the nature of the work--was enough to
make any man, who had the least sense of humour, condemn it with a
laugh. My conceit, at this time, was foolish in the extreme, and yet I
was near my thirtieth year.

The next work was a very long poem, in which the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and even the fishes of the sea, met in a forest
glade to impeach man for his cruelty to them, and went on to describe
their journey at midnight to the nearest town, and the vengeance they
then took on the sleeping inhabitants. My confidence in this work
being accepted could not have been altogether whole-hearted, for the
following reason: I made two copies of this poem, and posted them
simultaneously to different publishers. I felt quite satisfied that
one of these would be accepted, but when a whole week had passed on,
and I had received no communication from either publisher, I was then
horrified to think that they both were giving the poem such a
consideration that there was a probability that both of them would
accept it, and that both publishers would call on me to make terms,
perhaps at the very same hour. This thought so preyed on my mind that
I did not feel at all easy until I had one of the copies returned; but
it was a great disappointment to receive the second copy on the
following day.

Thinking that short poems would stand a better prospect of being
accepted, I set to work on a hundred sonnets, writing five, and
sometimes six a day, but when this number had been accomplished and
submitted, this work met with the same failure. After this I wrote
another tragedy, a comedy, a volume of humorous essays, and hundreds,
I believe, of short poems. I was always writing at this time, either
beginning or finishing a work, but, strange to say, none of this work
was being sent out, but was safely treasured, under the impression
that it would some day find its market.

After having had twelve months' practice, in the last months of which
no attempt had been made at publication, I decided to make one more
effort, this time with a small volume of short poems. This was
immediately sent to a well known publisher, who in a few days returned
answer, offering to publish at the author's expense, the sum needed
being twenty-five pounds. This success completely turned my head.
With all my heart I believed that there would not be the least
difficulty in procuring money for such a grand purpose, and at once
wrote to several well known philanthropists, writing six letters. Two
of them never murmured, and the other four set their secretaries to
snap me up in a few words. Exasperated at this I wrote to several
others, all my trouble being to no purpose.

Now, when I first entered this lodging house, I had something like
thirty shillings to the good, being ahead of my income, and up to the
present had no reason for spending this amount. Could I put this to
some use? My mind had several plans, and one in particular seemed good
and feasible. I would write three or four short poems on a page, get
them printed, and sell them from door to door. Two thousand of these
sheets, sold at threepence per copy, would be twenty-five pounds, and,
no doubt, I could sell quite a hundred of these copies a day,
providing I went from house to house, from street to street, from
early morning till late at night. With this object I lost no time in
seeing a job printer, and was told that thirty-five shillings would be
needed to defray expenses. This large amount disappointed me not a
little, but I paid a deposit and went back to the house, where I lived
and nearly starved in saving four shillings that were short, which was
done in two weeks out of the sixteen shillings that were to maintain
me in food and lodgings for fourteen days. At last, after great
privation and sacrifice, it was done, and I received from the printer
two thousand and some odd copies. Early the next morning I was to be
seen in the suburbs of London, with my hands and pockets full of these
copies, going from door to door. I mentioned to the inhabitants that I
had had an offer from a publisher, and that he could not undertake to
publish my work under twenty-five pounds. All these people did was to
stare, none of them seeming to understand, and no one seemed inclined
to ask questions. I had, I believe, visited the doors of some thirty
houses or more, and had not sold one copy. Most of these people were
poor, and some had become sufficiently interested to enquire the price
of my copies, seeming inclined and willing to trade with me in a small
way, but none of them seemed to be anxious to give threepence for a
sheet of paper which they did not understand. At last I chanced upon a
house that was much larger than the others, at which place a servant
answered the door. I lost no time in relating to her the true facts of
the case, and she was standing there silent and puzzled as to my
meaning, when her mistress called to her from the top of the
stairs--"Mary, who's there?" On which the maiden gave answer in a
halting voice--"Some man selling some paper." At this there was a
pause, and then the same voice said, from the direction of the
stairs--"Give him this penny, and tell him to go away," and, almost
instantly, that copper coin fell at the bottom of the stairs, and came
rolling rapidly towards us, as though aware of its mission. The girl
handed me this penny, which I took mechanically, at the same time
persisting in her taking a copy to her mistress. That lady, hearing
our further conversation, and perhaps, guessing its import, cried
again, this time in a warning voice--"Mary, mind you don't take
anything from him." This crushed the last hope, for I began to think
that if this lady, who might be a woman of some cultivation and rich,
could only see and read what had been done, she might have at once, in
her deep interest, merged the whole twenty-five pounds, at the same
time befriending me for life. Alas! I have been unfortunate all my
life in believing that there were a great number of rich people who
were only too eager to come forward and help talent in distress.

I was so disgusted at receiving this single penny, and being so
dismissed, that I at once put the sheets back in my pockets and
returned to the city. How long would it take to get twenty-five
pounds, at this rate? What am I talking about! Money was lost, not
even this single copper was a gain; for this penny-a-day experience
had cost me three pennies in tram fare, without mention of a more
expensive breakfast than I usually had.

When I got back to the house I started, with the fury of a madman, to
burn the copies, and did not rest until they were all destroyed,
taking care not to save one copy that would at any time in the future
remind me of my folly.

It was at this time that I came under the influence of Flanagan. That
gentleman, seeing me often writing and apparently in deep thought, at
once gave me credit for more wisdom than I possessed. He was a very
illiterate man, having no knowledge of grammar, punctuation or
spelling. The upshot of this acquaintance was that he informed me in
confidence that he was the lawful heir to nearly half the county of
Mayo, in Ireland; on which estate was a house like the King's palace.
In exchange for this confidence I told him that I was the author of a
book of verse, which could not be published except the author defrayed
expenses. On which Flanagan expressed much sympathy--more especially
when I read him aloud a few lines expressing my disapproval of
landowners and rich tyrants--and promised sincerely to relieve me of
all difficulty providing, of course, that he made good his claims to
the estate. Flanagan then proposed that I should put some of his
arguments in grammatical form, which he would immediately forward to
the proper authorities. This I began to do at once, and some of
Flanagan's arguments were so strong that I am surprised at the present
day at being a free man. I told one eminent statesman that he should
retire and give place to a more honest man, and another that though he
was born in Ireland and bore the name of an Irishman, yet he was a
traitor, for his heart had ever been in England. Despite these
powerful letters, the County Mayo never to my knowledge changed hands,
and I was disappointed in my expectations, and Flanagan grieved daily.
At that time, I must confess, I thoroughly believed Flanagan, perhaps
through being blinded by my own ambitions as an author. Even at the
present time, though I have cut down the estate considerably, from
half a county to half an acre, and have taken out quite a number of
windows from the estate's residence--after doing this, I still believe
that poor Flanagan was robbed of a cottage and garden by an avaricious
landlord.

This was at the time of the Boer War and Flanagan's long dark beard
and slouched hat gave him the exact appearance of one of those
despised people. Therefore we seldom took a walk together but what we
were stoned by boys in the street, and even grown up people passed
insulting remarks. In fact everywhere we went we were regarded with
suspicion. Our clothes not being of the best, drew the attention of
attendants at museums and art galleries, and we, being swarthy and
alien in appearance, never paused near a palace but what sentry and
police watched our every movement. One morning we were passing
through Whitehall, what time a regiment of soldiers were being drilled
and inspected by a gentleman in a silk hat. Now Flanagan was a man of
great courage and never thought it necessary to whisper. Therefore a
vein of savage satire broke in Flanagan's heart when he beheld a man
in a silk hat inspecting a troop of soldiers. "See!" he cried,
"there's a sight for the Boers." A number of bystanders resented this
remark, and there were loud murmurs of disapproval. On which Flanagan
asked the following question: "Will the best man in the crowd step
forward?" But no man seemed inclined to attempt Flanagan's
chastisement, without being assisted. Although I did not entirely
approve of him on this occasion, still, seeing that the words could
not be recalled, I was quite prepared to be carried with him half dead
on a stretcher to the nearest hospital; for I liked the man, and he
certainly seemed to like me, since he always took his walks alone when
I did not accompany him.



CHAPTER XXII

THE ARK


I had now been two years in London, at the same place, and though my
literary efforts had not been very successful, I must confess that the
conditions had not been the most unfavourable for study; and, no
doubt, I had cultivated my mind not a little by the reading of
standard works. The conditions of this place could not have been
bettered by a person of such small means, and probably I would have
continued living here until I met with some success, had I not known
of one who would be thankful of a couple of shillings a week, and
resolved to make a little sacrifice that would enable me to send them.
To do this it was necessary to seek cheaper lodgings where, rent not
being so high, this amount could be saved. I had heard something of
such a place in Southwark which was under the control of the Salvation
Army. A bed was to be had there for two shillings per week, therefore
one and sixpence would be saved at the onset, as I was now paying
three and sixpence. Following my first impulse, as usual, but with
much regret at having to leave a place where I had not by any means
been unhappy, I gathered up my few things and left, and that night
settled in Southwark Street.

Speaking after six months' experience at the Salvation Army Lodging
House, I am very sorry that I have nothing at all to say in its
favour. Of course, it was well understood by the lodgers, whatever
people on the outside thought, that no charity was dispensed on the
premises. Certainly the food was cheap, but such food as was not fit
for a human being. I do not know whether the place came under the
control of the London County Council, being regarded as a charitable
institution, or whether, in case of a surprise visit from its
inspectors, beds were removed in the day: what I do know from
experience is this, that it was with difficulty that a man could find
room between the beds to undress. A row of fifteen or twenty beds
would be so close together that they might as well be called one bed.
Men were breathing and coughing in each other's faces and the stench
of such a number of men in one room was abominable. I was fortunate in
having a bed next to the wall, to which I could turn my face and
escape the breath of the man in the next bed.

The officers in charge were, according to my first opinion,
hypocrites; which seemed to be verified some time after from Head
Quarters, for both the Captain and his Lieutenant were dismissed from
the Army. However, the Captain was well liked by the lodgers, and I
have often seen him assist them out of his own private purse.

As for the Lieutenant, he was very gentle and fervent in prayer, more
so than any man I have ever heard, but in conversation he had not a
civil word for any one, except, of course, his superior officer. He
sometimes made his deceit so apparent that I have been forced to laugh
out. When the Captain arrived at night, or in the morning--he was a
married man and did not live on the premises--he would stand with his
back to the restaurant bar, looking down the long room at the faces of
his many lodgers. It was at such a time that when I have looked up
from my meal, I have been surprised, and not a little startled, to see
this Lieutenant's pale thin face looking down through a glass window,
eager to see what his superior officer was doing. So engrossed would
he be that he would entirely forget that he exposed his deceit to the
eyes of a number of men who had their faces turned towards him.
Sometimes he would creep tiptoe to the kitchen door and peep in for an
instant, and then creep back to the office. I have often wondered that
the Captain never turned and surprised him in these doings, for there
was not a lodger in the house that had not one time or another seen
him perform them.

On Sunday afternoons, these two, the Captain and his Lieutenant, would
conduct a meeting; the latter commencing it with a short prayer, after
which the former would preach a sermon which was, I must confess,
often interesting, and invariably eloquent. In all my life I have
never heard a more pathetic address and prayer than that which was
delivered by this Captain, on one of these Sunday afternoons. It so
chanced that in this place there lived a poor half demented lodger,
who was known by the name of Horace, whose profession was that of a
flower seller. Every night this man would dress and garland himself
with his unsold flowers, and return home drunk to the Ark. Now, this
man suddenly disappeared, and, at the same time, a man committed
suicide from London Bridge, which was well known to be the haunt of
the man Horace. Whereat the following Sunday our Captain preached a
funeral oration, giving for our interest the few facts he had gleaned
from the past life of the deceased, who, the Captain affirmed, had
received a good education and had come of a respectable family. The
Captain wept copiously, being overcome by his feelings, and the
Lieutenant approved and encouraged him by an unusual number of sighs
and broken sobs. The meeting then ended with an earnest prayer for the
soul of the drowned Horace. About six days after this meeting had
taken place, there came to the Ark a man drivelling and laughing
idiotically, with wreaths and posies all over his person--no other
than the lamented Horace. The Captain came out of his office, followed
by his Lieutenant. The Captain looked at Horace with a melancholy
annoyance; the Lieutenant looked first at his superior officer and,
after receiving his expression into his own face, turned it slowly on
Horace. The Captain then turned slowly on his heels, at the same time
shaking his head, and, without saying a word, returned to the office,
while his subordinate followed him in every particular. Never, after
this, did this Captain treat Horace as a living man, and all chaff and
familiar conversation was at an end between them. How the Captain came
to the belief that the drowned suicide was Horace, the flower seller,
was very strange, for this man was known to mysteriously disappear
several times in the year, he, invariably, like the drowned man he was
supposed to be, coming to the surface on the seventh day, seven days
being the extreme penalty of his simple and eccentric behaviour.

There was no lack of strictness at this place; whether a man was ill
or not, whether it rained, snowed or hailed, every lodger was
compelled to quit the premises at ten o'clock in the morning, after
which it would remain closed for cleaning purposes until one o'clock.
And yet there was not a man in the house could keep himself clean. It
was not thought necessary to close other establishments of this kind,
that were not connected with the name of religion, which were kept
cleaner without making the lodgers suffer any inconvenience. Why
things should be carried on in this high handed fashion I cannot
understand, seeing that there was not the least charity doled out.
Whatever good the Salvation Army did for the homeless and penniless in
their shelters, they certainly did not cater well for these poor, but
independent, fellows whose wages ranged from a shilling to
eighteenpence a day--being paper-men, sandwichmen, toy-sellers, etc.,
who receive nothing but what they paid for.

I had been at this place something like four months, when I determined
to make another attempt at publication. My plans at this time seemed
to be very feasible, for I gave them a full half year for execution. I
applied at the local police station for a pedlar's certificate,
intending to stock myself with laces, pins, needles and buttons with
which I would hawk the country from one end to the other. At the end
of this time I would be some ten pounds in pocket, the result of not
drawing my income, and would, no doubt, save between nine and ten
shillings a week as a hawker. Being very impulsive, I proposed
starting on this interesting business at once, but one idea--which
could not for long be overlooked--brought me to a halt: my artificial
leg would certainly not stand the strain of this enforced march from
town to town on the country roads, that were so often rough and
uneven. For even now it was creaking, and threatened at every step to
break down. On mentioning these difficulties to a fellow lodger, he at
once advised me to go to the Surgical Aid Society for a wooden leg, of
the common peg sort; which, he was pleased to mention, would not only
be more useful for such a knockabout life, but would not deceive
people as to my true condition. This society was visited by me on the
following day; at which place I was informed that fifteen subscription
letters would be required for my purpose, and after paying sixpence
for a subscription book, in which were the names and addresses of
several thousand subscribers, I lost no time in buying stamps and
stationery. Eighteen letters were without loss of time written and
posted to their destination. These eighteen succeeded in bringing in
two subscription letters, several letters of regret from people who
had already given theirs away; several of my letters were returned
marked "not at home," and a number of them elicited no response.
Twelve more letters were quickly despatched, with the result of one
subscription letter. To be able to do this I was forced to use the
small weekly allowance that I had been making. In six weeks I had
written nearly a hundred letters and was still several letters short
of my allotted number. I again consulted my fellow lodger, who had at
first referred me to the Surgical Aid Society, and his explanation
was, undoubtedly, reasonable and true. He explained that not only was
the time of the year unfavourable, it being summer, and most of the
subscribers were away from home on their holidays--but, unfortunately,
the South African war was still in progress, and numbers of soldiers
were daily returning from the front in need of artificial assistance
one way or another. Although I ruminated with some bitterness on the
idea that I would almost pay in postage the value of that which I
required, before it became mine, I still had enough common-sense to
see that no one was actually to blame. Several letters were received,
offering to assist me on certain conditions. One lady would assist on
a clergyman's recommendation, and another subscriber would have no
other than a Roman priest. I offered to get these ladies a Salvation
Army Officer's recommendation, which, apparently, would not do, for
our correspondence came to an end. One lady, who did not recognise the
house of Salvation under the address of 96 Southwark Street, regretted
that she had already given her letters away, but advised me to go to
the Salvation Army, who would most certainly attend to my wants. I
explained to this person that I was already at one of their places,
and had been here over five months; and that I had not been seen drunk
in the place, and that my behaviour had not, at any time, raised
objections, also that I was on the most friendly terms with the
officer in charge; but that I could live here for many years to come,
and no man would enquire my wants or offer to assist me.

One afternoon, when I returned to the Ark, after having been out all
day, I was surprised to hear from a lodger that two gentlemen had been
there that afternoon to see me. After which another lodger came
forward with the same information, and still another, until I was
filled with curiosity to know who those gentlemen could be. "What did
they look like?" I asked one. "Like solicitors," he answered. "What
kind of looking men were they?" I asked of another. "Very much like
lawyers," he answered at once. "Don't forget to remember yer old
pals," chimed in another, "when yer come into the property." First I
examined my mother's side of the family, and then my father's, but
could find no relative, near or distant, at home or abroad, whose
death would be likely to befriend me. At last I went to the office,
but found this place closed, the Lieutenant being out walking, and the
Captain not yet having arrived. Never in my life did I have such an
excitable half hour as this. When I saw the Captain coming forward,
smiling, with an envelope in his hand, I went to meet him, and, taking
the letter in my own hand, began to examine its outside. "Of course,"
said the Captain, "you know who it is from?" "Not the least idea," I
said, "how should I?", and proceeded to open it. It was a short note,
with a request that I should call on the Charity Organisation, between
the hours of ten and eleven a. m. on the day following. The Captain
went back to his office, and I sat down, thinking of what this would
amount to. Again I decided to consult the Canadian, the lodger who had
first mentioned to me the Surgical Aid Society. "As to that," said
this man, "it's a wonder to me that you have not run foul of these
people before now. My friend, who sells papers in the city, was
continually meddled and interfered with by these people, but they gave
him no assistance, although they seemed curious to know all about
him." This information surprised me not a little, but I came to the
conclusion that the Canadian's friend was addicted to drink and other
bad habits, and was an undeserving case.

The next morning I arose, lighthearted in anticipation of hearing
something to my good, and was leaving the house when I saw the Captain
standing at the front door. Feeling some misgiving, I turned to this
gentleman and asked him point blank--what was his opinion of the
Charity Organisation. "Well," he replied slowly, "to give you my
candid opinion--although I may be mistaken--the object of the Charity
Organisation is not so much to give alms, as to prevent alms being
wasted." How I remembered these words in the light of my after
experience with these people!

At ten o'clock punctually, I was at their office in the Borough Road,
and was at once shown into a side room, where I sat waiting patiently,
for an hour. At last a gentleman in black came forward, saying, very
politely--"Mr. Davies, will you please come this way." I followed him
up two or three flights of stairs, and we entered a quiet room on the
top floor. Seating himself at a table, and taking pencil and paper,
he then asked me to be seated and began. "Mr. Davies," he said, "I
have received a letter from a lady who has become interested in your
case, and wishes to better your conditions. So as to answer this lady,
it is necessary to know something of yourself, for which reason I
propose asking you a few questions, which, of course, you need not
answer except you think proper." This he proceeded to do, at the same
time making notes of my answers. After answering a dozen or more
questions truthfully, dealing with particulars of my family, and my
past life--he brought the case up to that time. "Surely," he said,
"you do not live on eight shillings a week. I should have thought that
to be impossible." "As for that," I answered, "not only has that sum
been sufficient for myself, but I have been able to make another an
allowance of two shillings a week, but have not been able to do so
since I applied to the Surgical Aid Society." "Now tell me what is the
matter with that leg?" asked this gentleman. "I should have thought
that it would last for another two years at least. Excuse me, did you
get that through the Society?" "No," I said, "it cost me twelve
pounds, ten shillings, when I could ill afford the money, but,
unfortunately, I knew nothing then of the Surgical Aid Society." "The
Society, no doubt, does a large amount of good," continued this
gentleman, "but I don't altogether agree with their methods. You have
written quite a number of letters?" he asked; "and I don't suppose any
of the subscribers helped you with the postage, sending you a trifle
to defray expenses?" At this point he made a long pause, and I began
to tell him that all the help I had received was from a gentleman who,
having no letters left to assist me with, had very considerately sent
twelve stamps to help my correspondence. The Charity Organisation
showed much interest at this point of the conversation, and said that
he thought quite a number of subscribers would have done the same. "As
I have already said," he continued, "I don't altogether agree in the
methods of the Surgical Aid Society; their cases are maintained too
long without result, and allows too good an opportunity for writing
begging letters." Not even now could I see the drift of this man's
questions--that he suspected me of being an impostor, of writing
begging letters. Yes, I, who was bitter at having to bear all this
expense, and was grieved at having to withhold two shillings a week
from one who was very poor, so that I might be enabled to do so. "How
many letters do you now need?" he asked. "Two," I answered, "but I
don't intend to be at any further expense in postage; I will take in
what letters I have already received, and explain to the Surgical Aid
Society the difficulty I have had in trying to obtain the requisite
number." This ended our interview, and I went away satisfied that the
Charity Organisation would come to my rescue in the near future. But I
did not again hear from them for over two years, which will be
explained in another chapter. How they answered the kind lady who had
become interested in me, I cannot say, but it could not have been
other than to my discredit.

The day following this interview, three letters were at the, office,
all three coming by the first post. One of them contained a
subscription letter, so that I now only lacked one of the required
number. One of the other letters came from the Surgical Aid Society,
saying that a subscriber had forwarded to them a letter to be entered
to my account, and that if I would call at their office with the
letters I then had, the Society would make up the number deficient.
The required number was now made up, without having need to draw on
the Society. I now took these letters to their office, and in a day or
two received the article which had caused me so much bother in writing
letter after letter, and such an expense in postage. By a sad irony,
the worry and expense was by no means at an end, as I had expected.
People were now returning from the continent, and other places where
they had spent their summer holidays. Letters came to me daily from
people returning home. Some of my own letters, which had been posted
three, four, five and six weeks before, were now being considered.
Several subscription letters came to hand--too late for use. Others
wrote asking if I was still in need of assistance. I was now at as
great an expense as ever, returning these subscription letters with
thanks; and writing to others to tell them that I had now succeeded in
obtaining the required number. Letters were still coming when I left
the Ark for the country; and, it was told me afterwards, that a goodly
number had come, been kept for a number of days, and returned during
my absence.

I was more determined than ever to tramp the country until I was worth
thirty pounds, for an offer had again been made by a publisher, during
my stay at the Ark, and this offer was much the same as the other.
Seeing that there was no other way of getting this amount than by
hawking the country, I determined to set out as soon as possible. So,
when my business with the Surgical Aid Society was at an end, I spent
three or four shillings on laces, needles, pins, buttons, etc., and
started with a light heart and not too heavy a load. The Canadian, who
had had some experience in this kind of life, prophesied good results
from it, adding that a man situated the same way as I was, need carry
no other stock in trade than that which I had received from the
Surgical Aid Society, and that success was assured, on that very
account.



CHAPTER XXIII

GRIDLING


It was a beautiful morning in September when I left the Ark with every
prospect of fulfilling this mission. As I advanced towards the
country, mile after mile, the sounds of commerce dying low, and the
human face becoming more rare, I lost for the time being my vision of
the future, being filled with the peace of present objects. I noted
with joy the first green field after the park, the first bird that
differed from the sparrow, the first stile in the hedge after the
carved gate, and the first footpath across the wild common that was
neither of gravel nor ash. I had something like nine shillings in my
pocket, and I felt that business was out of the question as long as
any of this remained. Reaching St. Albans on the first night, I walked
through that town, and, making a pillow of my pack, lay down on the
wild common. It seemed as though extra bodies of stars had been
drafted that night into the heavens to guard and honour the coming of
age of a beautiful moon. And this fine scene kept me awake for two or
three hours, in spite of tired limbs. This seemed to me a glorious
life, as long as summer lasted and one had money to buy food in towns
and villages through which he passed. For three or four days I walked
and idled, standing on culverts and watching the water burst from
darkness into light; listening to the birds; or looking at a distant
spire that was high enough, and no more, to show that a quiet town was
lying there under a thousand trees.

I reached Northampton, and it was in this town that I intended to
start business on the following day, though I still had a few
shillings left, having slept in the open air since leaving London.
With this object I proceeded to examine my pack, with the intention of
filling my pockets with the different wares, to draw them forth one or
two at a time, as they would be needed. So, that night, previous to
the great business that was to be transacted on the following day, I
sought a quiet corner in the lodging house, and began to unroll my
paper parcel. As I proceeded to do this, it seemed to me that the
inner part of the parcel was damp, and then I remembered the two or
three heavy showers that we had on the second day of my travels. On a
further examination I discovered, to my horror, that the goods were
entirely unfit for sale; that the parcel had been so bent and
misshapen one way and the other, during my night's repose, that the
needles had cut through their rotten packets, and were stuck in the
pin papers, and that a great number of pins had concealed their whole
bodies in the needle packets, showing plainly the guilty tops of their
heads. The laces were twisted and turned, and their tags were already
rusted. This was a great blow to me, as there seemed nothing else to
do but send home for the few shillings that had now become due. But on
second thoughts I made up my mind to travel without stock of any kind,
not doubting but what I would rise to the emergency after the last
penny had been expended, and I was under the force of necessity.
Thinking Northampton too large a town in which to starve, I determined
to remain here until my funds were exhausted, when desperation would
urge me to action. With this idea I took life very easily for a couple
more days, even inviting poverty by being unusually extravagant, going
to the extreme of buying milk for my tea. But when I became reduced to
the last sixpence, I decided to make all speed to Birmingham, as the
resources of that city, it being so much larger, would be a better
place to serve my wants.

Starting on this journey, without any more delay, I was soon going
into the town of Rugby, tired, penniless, and hungry. What was I to
do? Something had to be done, and that at once. I had to face the
horrible truth that I was now on the verge of starvation. Whilst busy
with these unpleasant thoughts, I heard a voice shout to me from the
roadside, and, looking in that direction, saw a man sitting in the
grass, eating from a paper parcel, which was half spread before him.
On going over to see what this man wanted, I found an apparently tall
man and large in proportion, who was dressed in seedy looking clothes,
which were torn and patched in a good many places. In fact, something
seemed to have been gnawing night after night at the bottom of his
trousers, taking advantage of him in his sleep, for these hung in
tatters and rags just below the calves of his legs. The man had a
freckled face, which was almost lost in an abundance of red hair, and
his head was as thick with the same. What helped to make his
appearance strange, and perhaps ridiculous, was a schoolboy's small
cap to cover the crown of such a large head. "Have a mouthful of
this," he said, inviting me to partake of some bread and meat. "It is
dry eating, I must say, but, as we go into Rugby, we can wash it down
with a pint or two of beer." I thanked him for his kindness, and,
accepting his invitation, seated myself on the grass. "What's in your
bundle," he asked, looking askance at a small brown paper parcel,
which contained a clean shirt, socks and a handkerchief, "are you
selling anything?" I explained to him that I was a licensed hawker,
but had not yet been long enough at the business to make a success of
it. "What," he cried with some surprise, "a one legged man not to be
successful? I get all I want by just opening of my mouth," although he
added with some scorn, "I know that some people cannot beg unless
they have something in their hands to sell. But if you travel with me,
all you will have to do is to pick up the coppers."

After I had finished eating, he proposed to set off immediately; and,
as we walked leisurely along, I wondered how it was possible for a big
healthy fellow like this to be able to exist in any other manner than
by selling. On coming to the first public house he politely invited me
to enter, which I did, when he called for two pints of beer. He then
became communicative, telling me he was a gridler, and a good one too;
which I understood to mean a grinder, although I had not seen tools of
any description either in his hands or in his pockets. He paid for two
or three pints of beer in quick succession, and, not having had much
drink for a considerable time, I began to feel somewhat elated, and
began to make a laughing joke of my circumstances. "Now," said this
man, "to business; for we must get the price of our beds and a little
breakfast for the morning, not to mention the night's supper. All you
have to do," he said again, "is to pick up the coppers as they come."
Wondering what these words could mean, I followed him, on this
pleasant afternoon, up several side streets, until we came to the end
of one very long street, which had respectable looking houses on
either side of the road. My strange companion walked several yards
down this street, and then came to a sudden halt in the middle of the
road. "Now," said he, for the third or fourth time, "all you have to
do is to pick up the coppers. I ask you to do no more; except," he
added, grinning rather unpleasantly, "except to see that we are not
picked up by the coppers." His joke appeared simple enough, and I
could not fail to understand it, but it was not at all to my relish.
The last named coppers were police officers, who would be likely to
take hold of us for illegally appropriating the copper coins of the
realm. "Are you going to pick up the coppers?" he asked a little
impatiently, seeing me standing irresolute and undecided as to what to
do. Scarcely knowing how to answer him, I said that if I saw any
coppers he need have no fear but what I would pick them up. "All
right, that's good," he said, at the same time moving several feet
away from me. I stood still watching these mysterious movements, and
thinking of the coppers, wondering from what source they would be
supplied. He now turned his back, without more ado, and, setting his
eyes on the front windows before him, began, to my amazement, to sing
a well known hymn, singing it in the most horrible and lifeless voice
I have ever heard. In spite of the drink, which had now taken effect,
making my head swell with stupidity, I still felt an overwhelming
shame at finding myself in this position. I stood irresolute, not
knowing whether to wait the result of this, or to leave him at once
with short ceremony. But, whilst ruminating in this frame of mind, I
heard a window open with a loud creak, saw the shaking of a fair hand,
and then heard a copper coin fall on the hard earth within a yard of
where I stood. Being penniless I was nothing loth to take possession
of this coin, and had scarcely done so, when a front door opened on
the other side of the street, and a fat florid old gentleman appeared
and beckoned me across to him. Going immediately to this gentleman, I
received twopence and, after thanking him, joined my companion in the
road. Now, as I belong to a race of people that are ever prone to
song, whether it be in a public house or a prayer meeting, it will not
surprise many to know that ere long I was making strong attempts to
sing bass to this man's miserable treble, and only ceased to do so
when it became necessary to stoop and pick up the coppers, which
continued to come in at the rate of two to the minute. The effect of
my voice on my companion was immediately apparent. His limbs shook,
his knees bent and knocked together, and his voice quivered and
quavered with a strong emotion. He was now singing another well-known
hymn, better known perhaps than the last; and what with his tall form
bent double to half its height, and the wringing of his hands in
despair--a poor wretch who was apparently broken both in body and
spirit--he was, at this particular stage, the most miserable looking
mortal I have ever beheld. He was in this old man's broken attitude
when, to my surprise, he suddenly straightened his great body, and
gazed about one second down the street. After which he quickly turned
on his heels, saying, in short peremptory tones--"Quick march," at the
same time suiting the action to the words, in sharp military steps.
What the people, in their different windows, and on their doors,
thought of this change, I cannot say. I looked down the street, and
then saw that a police officer had just turned its far corner, and was
coming slowly in our direction. My companion waited for me at our end
of the street, where I joined him as soon as possible. "It is getting
harder every day for a poor man to get a living," he said, when I
stood beside him. "Suppose you count the earnings," he said. "We work
together well." On doing this, I found twenty pennies to be in my
possession, and, at his suggestion, we there and then shared them
alike. "Friend," he began, "before we commence again, let me give you
a word or two of advice. First of all, you sing in too lusty a voice,
as though you were well fed, and in good health. Secondly, you are in
too much of a hurry to move on, and would get out of people's hearing
before they have time to be affected. Try to sing in a weaker voice:
draw out the easy low notes to a greater length, and cut the difficult
high notes short, as though you had spasms in the side. Your object
is to save your voice as much as possible, indifferent to the demands
of music, or the spirit of the song. When we start in another street,"
he continued,--but at this admonitory point I cut him short, telling
him that I had had enough of--eh--gridling. "What, enough of
chanting?" he cried in amaze. "Why, my dear fellow, it is the best
thing on the road, bar none. All right," he said, seeing my
determination not to make a fresh start, "we will make our way to the
lodging house: it is not far from here."

We were soon comfortably settled in this place, and when, after having
had a good tea, I was sitting smoking, and enjoying a newspaper, I
felt more pleased than ashamed of what I had done; for I was going to
bed with an easy stomach, and had coppers in my pocket for a good
breakfast. Therefore, when a fellow lodger, a hawker, who was now
taking an inventory of his wares, and who had probably seen and heard
us singing that day, when following his own calling--when this man
enquired of me if the town was good for gridlers, I answered him very
pleasantly indeed, that there was nothing to complain of.

After breakfast, the next morning, my companion of the preceding day
proposed putting in a good eight hours' work, but I at once cut him
short saying that such a business was not in my line. Now, several
women were at this place; some of them were married, and some single,
and most of them made and sold fancy work of embroidery. After I had
spoken so decisively to my companion he had sat near to one of these
women, at the other end of the kitchen. This woman, who seemed to be
the wife of a knife and scissors grinder, had a little girl of about
seven years of age. "Yes," said this woman, in answer to some question
my companion had made, "you can have the kid all day; it's not the
first time, by a long way, for Mary Ann to be used by gridlers, and
she knows as well as you what's wanted of her." Not long after this
remark my companion and the woman's child left the kitchen together.
This I, subsequently, often saw done. Almost any woman, if she called
herself a true traveller, would lend her child for this purpose; the
woman or child, of course, deriving some part of the profit: so that
when a man is seen with one or more children, it is not always to be
granted that he is the father of them. These children are rarely
subjected to ill usage--except that of enforced tramping--but are more
often spoilt by indulgence, especially if they show early signs of
that cunning which is needed for their future, and which is the boast
of their parents.

What a merry lot of beggars were assembled here; and how busy they all
seemed to be, making articles for sale, and washing and mending their
clothes! two or three of them sitting shirtless during the process of
drying.

It has become a common expression to say "dirty tramp," or, "as dirty
as a tramp"; but this is not always true, except occasionally in the
large cities; although such a term may be applied morally to them all.
There is one species of tramp who wanders from workhouse to workhouse;
and this man, having every night to conform strictly to the laws of
cleanliness, is no less clean, and often cleaner, than a number of
people whose houses contain bath rooms which they seldom use. Another
species of tramp is proud of being a good beggar, who scorns the
workhouse, but who knows well that a clean appearance is essential to
his success. For this reason, any one that enters a common lodging
house can at once see what efforts are being made to this end. It
seems strange to say, but the dirtiest looking tramp is often the most
honest and respectable, for he has not the courage to beg either food
or clothes, nor will he enter the doors of a workhouse. I have seen
this so often the case that I would much prefer to believe a dirty
ragged tramp who might tell me that he had a good home six months
previous, than to believe his cleaner namesake, who seems so eager to
impart this information unsolicited. It is certainly the man who has
had a good home, and has been waited on by other hands, who soon
succumbs to a filthy condition, when it becomes necessary to wait on
himself by washing and patching his own clothes; and the higher his
former position has been the lower he sinks in the social strata.

It is no difficult matter to get company when travelling. The pedlar,
whom I have mentioned before, asked me if I was going towards
Coventry, and if I intended to do business on the road. To this
question I answered that such might be the case, but I could not say
for sure--at the same time knowing that it was very unlikely. "Come
along then," he said, "and do business if you feel inclined; but, I
warn you, it is a very poor road for a gridler." We started at once,
and, in the course of our journey I told him everything--my first
experience of gridling and my dislike to it, and how my wares had been
spoilt by the rain, which had prevented me, through having no stock,
nor money to buy it, from earning my living in a respectable manner as
a pedlar. "Of course," he said, "you have a pedlar's certificate?" I
answered him in the affirmative, and added that I had not earned one
penny with it up to that moment.

As we jogged along talking in this way, we came to a small village,
when the pedlar, stopping short, asked if I would like to help him to
do a little trade. Knowing that something had to be done, as I had but
twopence halfpenny in my pocket, I assured him that I would. Hearing
this he took two bundles of laces from his pack, leather and mohair,
and placed them in my hands, at the same time saying--"You work on
one side of the village and I'll attend to the other." I passed
several houses before I had the courage to knock at their doors, but
seeing him go calmly from door to door, I nerved myself to follow his
example, and was soon doing the same, and, as far as I could see, was
meeting with more success. This so encouraged me that I was soon
regretting that I had no more houses left on my side of the village.
But, instead of waiting patiently until he had done, I took a
desperate notion and went back to the houses which I had at first
passed. After this we jogged on towards Coventry, which we reached
that evening.

We worked Coventry together for four or five days, and the result was
nine shillings and some odd pence in my pocket. This pedlar was going
to spend a week or two with a brother in Birmingham, whom he had not
seen for a number of years. But, before we left Coventry, he persuaded
me to stock myself with three shillings' worth of stuff, and, said he,
"never let a day pass you without doing some business, however little;
and never allow your stock to get low." We reached Birmingham, and,
after he had shown and recommended a lodging house, he wished me
good-bye, with many hopes that we might meet again.

As usual, my first enquiry after I had settled for my lodgings, was
for the public library. This place I found so much to my liking, what
with its variety of journals, its number of papers, and so much
comfort and accommodation for its visitors--that business was entirely
out of the question until the third day, when I woke to the awkward
fact that my last three coppers were then being spent on a meal. At
this I made up my mind to hawk on the outskirts of Birmingham for a
month or more, so that my evenings might be enjoyed in its library.
But, apparently, I was not cut out for this kind of business. Hawking
required a perseverance which I certainly did not possess. For when a
person declined to make a purchase, instead of crying up the cheapness
of my wares, I walked away dumbfounded to the next house. Yes, the
success or ill success of this buying and selling was all a simple
matter of tongue. A big able-bodied fellow, with a persistent tongue,
can talk charity out of the people who indifferently pass the silent
blind man. Of course this business of hawking with a few cheap laces,
and a few packets of common pins or needles, was after all only
another name for begging, and it was well for us that the people knew
it, for they often paid for what they declined to receive. They knew
that these things were to be had much cheaper at a store. In
exoneration of this fraudulent selling, a man was expected to tell
some tale of distress. This I found difficulty in doing, except on
being asked direct questions; and the people would often stand after
refusing to purchase with their hands in their pockets ready to assist
on the first confession of distress. The number of times people have
called me back, after I have left their doors, and assisted me, has
often proved to me how they have waited to have their first feelings
of pity strengthened by some recital of poverty. No doubt there was
some sort of a living to be made in this way, providing a man talked
incessantly and went for hours from house to house, and from street to
street; and when he failed in the line of business to plead for the
sake of charity. It must have been over two hours and my takings had
amounted to ninepence, nearly all profit I admit. Looking at this
paltry amount I now reversed my former opinion as to the resources of
a large city, and came to the conclusion that the small country towns
and villages were after all more willing, if not better able, to
support me. Therefore, instead of returning to the city I took the
road towards Warwick, intending when I reached that town to use my
tongue to some purpose. And how many houses have I visited with this
same resolution, but, alas, many of the towns were passed through
without any one hearing the sound of my voice.



CHAPTER XXIV

ON THE DOWNRIGHT


On my way towards Warwick I joined company with a grinder, and we
travelled socially together towards that ancient town. When we
arrived, we lost no time in seeking a lodging house, which we soon
found, but, to my surprise, the landlady, a big raw-boned, slatternly
woman said, looking sternly at my companion: "I will have no grinders
in my house." Of course, I did not know at that time what I have heard
subsequently. Of all the men on the road, following various
occupations, the grinder is, I believe, the most thoroughly detested.
As a rule he is a drunken dissolute fellow, a swearer, and one who, if
he picks up a quarrel, which is usually the case, is in no hurry to
drop it. The more unpretentious lodgers hate his presence, seeing that
he makes himself more at home than the landlord himself. I have often
heard travellers tell of a small village in the north of England,
which grinders dare not enter, pass through or lodge therein for the
night, and it is the regret of many travellers that there are not more
villages of its kind distributed throughout the country. It seems
that some years ago, a great wind had visited that particular town,
and floored the roofs of the houses, and grounded the church steeple,
many of the inhabitants being injured, and not a few killed. Now, it
happened that the day following this great disaster, two unfortunate
grinders, who had arrived in town the night before, and slept at the
village inn, appeared in the streets and made a great shout in
soliciting orders. Some way or another the inhabitants connected these
poor wretches with the great wind, and set upon them, and proceeded to
beat them out of the town, coming near to killing them; and, since
that day the town has been visited by neither grinders nor great
winds. Even in larger towns these people often experience great
difficulty in procuring lodgings. This state of affairs was not known
to me at this time, or I should certainly not have been anxious for
the company of one of these despised people.

We were admitted at the next lodging house, but even here the landlady
seemed to have some compunction at so doing; for she followed us to
the kitchen and without saying a word, placed her two hands on her
broad hips, at the same time looking severely at my grinder, as much
as to say--"If you are going to start any of your capers, let it be at
once, my hearty grinder, now I am watching you, and we'll soon see
who's who." We sat down quietly, and the landlady, thinking that this
attitude had had its desired effect, left the kitchen, not forgetting
to throw a last glance at my grinder, who was trying his best to hide
his nervousness by puffing hard at his pipe and nearly choking in the
attempt.

Some ten or fifteen men were in this room, some of them busy preparing
work for the next day. Two were busy making artificial flowers; one
was working with copper wire, turning and twisting it into toasting
forks, plate holders, and hangers to suspend flower pots. Two others
were in the rag and bone trade, for I had seen them when I first
entered, overlooking their stuff in the backyard. One man was a
pedlar, for there was his pack, towards which he often turned his
eyes, in distrust of his company. One was a musician, for there,
sticking out of the top pocket of his coat, was a common tin whistle.
"There," said I to myself, glancing at a man on my right hand--"here
is the only respectable working man among them all." This man had on a
clean moleskin pair of trousers, a pilot cloth coat, and on his neck a
large clean white muffler. "Grinder?" asked this man, catching my eye
before I could avoid it. "No," I answered, "a pedlar." "Oh," said he,
"I didn't notice you carrying a pack when you came in." Alas! my
little stock could easily be carried in my pockets. "No," I answered,
"as a rule I don't carry much stock." "I shouldn't think you would,"
he said, glancing at my leg, "a bible ought to be enough for you, and
a good living too." Now it happened that when I left London, I had
made room in my pockets for two books which, up till that time, I had
very little opportunity of reading. One was the bible, and the other
was a small printed and cheap paper cover edition of Wordsworth. So,
hearing this man mention a bible, I became extremely curious to learn
how a man could earn a living by carrying a book of this kind. Seeking
this information I said to this man--"I shouldn't think that there was
much money to be made by carrying a bible." "Why not," he asked; "if
you carry in your hand a decent rake (a comb), a flashy pair of sniffs
(scissors) and a card of good links and studs--that is certainly a
good bible for a living; but there is not much profit in a pair of
stretchers (laces) or a packet of common sharps (needles). As for me,"
he continued, "I am on the downright, and I go in for straight
begging, without showing anything in my hand. That grinder, whom I
thought you were with, and am glad you are not, works very hard at
dragging that old ricketty contrivance with him all over the country;
and is he any better off than I am? I never fail to get the sixteen
farthings for my feather (bed), I get all the scrand (food) I can eat;
and I seldom lie down at night but what I am half skimished (half
drunk), for I assure you I never go short of my skimish." Being
curious to see this man at work, and to hear the tales with which he
approached people, I told him I would accompany him the next day as
far as Stratford, that was if he had no objection to my company, as I
also intended to visit that town before I made my way towards London.
To this proposal he seemed perfectly agreeable.

The next morning arrived and after having had breakfast, we set out.
We had scarcely set foot outside the lodging house, when I saw this
downrighter dodge in and out of shops with an astonishing alacrity,
more like a customer than a beggar; but with what success I could not
tell. He seemed to go in smiling, and to come out the same, until we
were at last at the business end of the town. He did not confide in me
as to his success or failure; but generously invited me to a smoke. We
filled our pipes, but just as I was about to strike a match, my
companion interrupted me with--"Wait until we are on the other side of
the sky pilot." Looking down the road I saw a clergyman approaching us
at a fast rate, carrying something in his hand which proved on nearer
view to be a book of prayers. When this black cloth was within three
or four feet of us, my companion began to address him in a very
serious voice, calling him in his ignorance, or perhaps,
excitement--"your reverend highness." The gentleman in black cloth
seemed to have been expecting something of this kind, for, without
turning his head either to the right or left, he passed on, going if
possible, at a greater speed. On seeing which my companion shouted in
a jeering voice--"Go it, old hearty, and remember me in yer prayers."
As we proceeded on our way he laughed immoderately. "Yes," he said, "I
have always found a bible or a prayer book in a person's hand to be
the sign of an uncharitable disposition. Seldom do I get anything from
them, but I like to pester them. Now, if this had been a man with a
bottle, or jug of beer in his hand, I would have had a civil answer at
the very least." The indifference of this reverend gentleman, and the
experience my companion seemed to have had of this kind in general,
surprised me not a little; for this man I was with certainly had the
appearance of an honest working man of the better class; his clothes
were good, and his flesh was clean, and he certainly had not forgotten
the barber.

My companion allowed no person to pass us without making an appeal,
and it was made apparent to me that he was successful in a number of
cases. In times of failure people listened to this respectable looking
fellow, and regretted that they had left home without having brought
coppers with them. At one time we saw a man who had dismounted to
examine his bicycle, probably having heard some part of it go click
and fearing an accident, had paused for an investigation. We stood
before this man, and my companion in straightforward, manly tones,
asked him for assistance. The gentleman began to stammer, to hem and
to haw, at the same time saying that he regretted that he was not at
that moment exactly in the position to----"Friend," broke in my bold
downrighter, in a stern solemn voice, laying his heavy hand on the
man's shoulder; "friend, you see before you two men in extreme want,
who must be relieved in this very hour." We were standing in the man's
way, and he could not possibly escape without knocking us over.
Apparently the man was afraid, for he first looked at our faces, and
after looking backward and then forward, he produced a silver
sixpence, saying he trusted that that amount would be of some service
to us. We made sure of this and then cleared ourselves from his path,
allowing him space to mount and ride, an opportunity of which he
quickly availed himself. This looked very much like highway robbery,
but strangely, I was better satisfied at this open independent way of
transacting business than by whining forth pitiful tales of want,
however true they might be.

We were now entering the town of Stratford-on-Avon, and my companion
was advising me as to my behaviour at the common lodging house. "It is
the only lodging house in the town," he said, "and the old lady is
very particular and eccentric. Our very appearance may dissatisfy her,
and then we will be compelled to walk some miles to the next town.
She keeps a shop attached to the lodging house," continued the
downrighter, "and if strangers, not knowing this to be the case, when
applying for lodgings, have bread, tea, sugar, meat, etc., in their
hands, that is bought elsewhere, this eccentric old landlady declines
to receive them as lodgers, and they are forced, often late at night,
to walk to the next town. Some time ago," he continued, "a lodger
bought at her shop a half pound of cornbeef, which he thought was
underweight. Going to the public house opposite for a glass of beer,
he requested the publican to weigh this meat, which being done, it was
found to be two ounces short of the required weight. On returning to
the house this lodger went quietly to bed, but the next morning he
spoke his mind to her in a very straightforward manner, making mention
of the publican as a witness. Ever since that time, any man who visits
that public house is not allowed to sleep on her premises. If seen
entering that place by day, they are objected to at night, and if seen
visiting that house after their beds are already paid for, on their
return their money is at once refunded without the least explanation."

It certainly spoke highly for our respectable appearance when this
particular landlady received our money, and admitted us without much
scrutiny into the kitchen; although she lost no time in following us
there, and stood for several minutes watching our movements. No doubt
if one of us had thrown a match on the floor, or sat too near the
fire; or complained that the kitchen only contained two tea pots,
cracked and half spoutless, among the ten lodgers now patiently
waiting a chance to make tea; and that there were only three cups, and
one half rimmed plate like a vanishing moon--no doubt if we had
uttered one complaint, our money would have been returned without
advice or warning, and we would have found no other lodgings that
would have answered our small means in the town. But we fortunately
knew the old lady too well to implicate ourselves and we gave her no
chance to complain.

After tea I wandered alone about the town, and as I went here and
there in this enchanted place, ambition again took possession of me,
stronger than ever. It filled me with vexation to think that I was no
nearer my object, for I was, comparatively speaking, penniless. Two
months had I wandered, during which time I had not been able to
concentrate my thoughts on any noble theme, taking all day to procure
the price of a bed, and two or three coppers extra for food. True I
had by now some three pounds saved, the income that I had not touched,
but at this rate, I would never be able to attain my ends. November
was here, and I was suddenly confronted with a long winter before me,
and I pictured myself starved and snow bound in small out of the way
villages, or mercilessly pelted by hailstones on a wild shelterless
heath. Side by side with these scenes I placed my ideal, which was a
small room with a cosy fire, in which I sat surrounded by books, and I
sickened at the comparison.

The following morning I was up and on my way before the downrighter
had put in an appearance. In two or three days I was again back on the
outskirts of London, walking it round in a circle; sometimes ten miles
from its mighty heart, or as far distant as twenty miles; but without
the courage to approach nearer, or to break away from it altogether.
Whatever luck I had good or bad, I always managed to escape the
workhouse; and was determined to walk all night, if needs be, rather
than seek refuge in one of those places. One desperate hour possessed
me every day, sometimes in the morning, or in the afternoon, but more
often in the evening, when I would waylay people on the high roads, go
boldly to the front doors of houses, interview men in their gardens,
stables or shops at the same time flourishing before their eyes a whip
of a dozen laces. In this hour I seemed to be impelled by a fatality
like that of the wandering Jew, cursed at having to perform something
against my will. When this mad fit was at an end, during which I
generally succeeded in getting a shilling or more, people might then
come and go without fear of being molested, for I was satisfied that
the workhouse was once more defeated for another night.

One morning at the beginning of December, I made up my mind to tramp
home for Christmas. This was a new idea, and not much to my liking,
for I had always written them hopeful letters, and although they knew
that I had left London, they knew nothing of my present condition. As
usual, under these active impulses I made astonishing progress, being
on the borders of Wales in less than a week. The greater part of the
journey accomplished, being now less than thirty miles from my native
town, I regretted having started with such an intention, and tramped
over the Welsh Hills day after day, ultimately finding my way to
Swansea. I did not remain long in that town, but began other rambles,
and the day before Christmas eve, was in a town twenty-seven miles
from home; sleeping there that night I rose early the following
morning and started for home. Keeping up a pace of three miles an
hour, in spite of the one leg and the rough uneven roads of the hills,
I accomplished the journey in nine hours, arriving home just after
dark, without having once rested on the way.

I had now been tramping for over three months and thought myself
entitled to a little rest, if such could be had. After all, why had I
done this, and to what end had I suffered? For I would now draw the
few pounds that were due to me, would return to London in a week or
two, and would again commence writing without any prospect of success,
for I would once more be living on a small income. And such was the
case: three weeks' comfort improved me wonderfully and vitality
returned stronger than ever after the low state into which it had
fallen. What cut me to the heart was not so much that I had not
practised writing during these four months, but that I had been forced
to neglect reading and had therefore been taking in no means to
justify my hopes in the future of being capable of writing something
of my own. The poor man, who has his daily duties to perform, has his
quiet evenings at home, with friends to lend him books, and being
known in the locality, a library from which to borrow them, but what
privileges has the wanderer?

Feeling myself fit, I drew what money was due to me and returned to
London.



CHAPTER XXV

THE FARMHOUSE


Yes, I returned to London, and to my surprise, began to look forward
with pleasure to be again frequenting the old haunts for which, when
leaving I had felt so much disgust. This feeling seems to be natural;
that I felt inclined to see familiar faces, although they were red and
blotchy with drink; to hear familiar voices, however foul their
language might be. Therefore, on the first night of my return wonder
not when I say that I was sitting comfortably in the Ark, as though I
had not slept one night away. I looked in vain for my old friend the
Canadian. Many recognised and spoke to me. One in particular, a toy
seller, who was curious to know where I had been. Seeing that he
suspected that I had been incarcerated in a jail, I told him something
of my wanderings, and ended by making enquiries of him as to the
whereabouts of the Canadian. Of this man he knew nothing, but gave
information that "Cronje," the fish porter, another of my
acquaintances, was staying at the Farmhouse, and no doubt would be
glad to see me, he having been at the Ark to enquire of me during my
absence. Of course it was not my intention to stay long at the Ark, so
I at once made my way to the Farmhouse, to see "Cronje," where I found
him.

The Farmhouse is very particular about taking in strangers, which
certainly makes it a more desirable place than others of its kind;
but, at "Cronje's" recommendation, I was without much ceremony
accepted as a lodger. This man, nicknamed "Cronje," who had been for a
number of years in Australia, and had so many wonderful anecdotes to
relate, was a sharp little man, the very image of a Jew in features,
but fair, red, always happy and laughing, for a contradiction. He was
clean in his habits, extremely generous to the poorer lodgers, and was
well liked by all. It is true that many considered him to be a liar;
but no man contradicted him, for no man was capable of talking him
down. In his early days he had had a phenomenal voice, which he
claimed to have lost through auctioneering. As a rower he had defeated
all comers on the river Murrumbidgee, and had publicly disgraced the
champion of Wagga Wagga at billiards. On seeing a man taking a hair
out of his food, Cronje declaimed on the danger of swallowing this,
relating how his friend Skinner of Australia--who had taken down all
the best fencers of Europe--had swallowed a single hair which, taking
root in his stomach, had grown to such a length that it had killed
him before an operation could be performed. Again: hearing some one
mention the names of two famous singers, one a tenor and the other
basso, Cronje, eager to create wonder, said that it was a most
remarkable case that the tenor had at first become famous as a basso,
and that the basso had at first received recognition as a tenor, and
that each man's voice had changed after he had become famous.

What a strange house was this, so full of quaint characters. Some of
these men had been here for fifteen, and twenty years. "Haymaker"
George was here, and had been here for some time; for he claimed to
have gone haymaking from this very house, when he first came here;
going and returning daily without the assistance of trains, busses or
cars.

"Salvation" Jimmy was here; who had been so emotional that he had been
desired as an acquisition to the Salvation Army, which he had joined,
and donned the red jersey. At last the poor fellow had become so very
emotional, probably influenced by such stirring music and the ready
hallelujah of the members, that really, his frequent laughter, his
fervent cries and his down-on-the-knees-and-up-in-a-trice, had
provoked so many smiles and sarcastic remarks from his audience, that
not only was he not promoted to rank from a private, but was
discharged the service altogether. Even to this day, he knew no reason
for his dismissal. He was mad enough now, in these later days,
laughing, dancing and singing up and down the Farmhouse kitchen, so
that I can imagine the effect on his nerves when marching to the sound
of loud music, under the spread of a blood red banner. Even now, in
these days, he drew every one's attention to his eccentric behaviour,
so that what must he have been then?

I soon knew them all by name, that is, by their nicknames, by which
most of them preferred to be known. It was very interesting to hear,
morning after morning, "Fishy Fat" and John--the latter being in the
last stages of consumption, and poor fellow peevish withal--sit down
to breakfast and to abolish the House of Lords. It was often a
surprise to me to see this noble edifice still standing, after hearing
it abolished in such fierce language, and in terms of such scathing
reproach. Strangely, these men had very little to say during the day;
and did one get up earlier than the other in the morning, he would
stand silent with his back to the fire, or pace quietly up and down
the kitchen waiting the appearance of his friend. When one saw the
other preparing breakfast, he would at once follow his example and
when everything was ready, both would seat themselves opposite each
other at the same table. Up till this time nothing would have been
said, until each had tasted and sugared his tea to his own liking.
After this being done, one would suddenly ejaculate a sentence of this
kind "Smother them lazy rotters in the h'upper 'ouse, the bleeding
liars." In accordance with that remark, the other would immediately
answer--"Perish 'em all." And then would follow oath after oath of the
blackest character, and daring cold-blooded designs that would have
gladdened the heart of Guy Fawkes.

Brown was also here, and always in a state of wonder. He had very
little faith in print, and every hour things happened which made
him--to use his own words--"know not what or what not to believe." He
presumed that the laity was a certain kind of religious sect, but to
him they all seemed without difference. The only difference he could
see between a vicar and a curate was that one had a larger corporation
and a redder nose than the other. Brown, who was a simple,
kind-hearted fellow, said that we were all born of woman; that we were
born and that we must all die; that it was a great pity, and made his
heart bleed, to see a man come down in life after he has been high up;
and that we had to face a cruel fact--although it was almost beyond
belief--that a man's own relations often caused the man's downfall
which, with his own eyes, he had seen done.

"Gambling" Fred was here, looking over the daily paper with "Red Nosed
Scotty." They are both short sighted, and, unfortunately, have but one
pair of spectacles between them, which is now being used by "Scotty."
Suddenly the red nosed man sees the name of a horse. "There you are,"
he cries exultingly; "there's a sure winner." "Where?" asks his fellow
gambler, taking the spectacles and adjusting them on his own nose.
"How can I show you now?" asks the red nosed gambler, in a fretful
voice, "haven't you got the specs on?" At last matters are arranged to
the satisfaction of both, and Fred approaches his friend "Yanks" for
the loan of sixpence, to back this horse. But "Yanks" unceremoniously
tells his friend to go to hell. At this the gambler sulks all the
evening and unfortunately the next day his favoured horse wins. On
this transaction the gambler would have been ten shillings in pocket.
After this another horse won, which Fred, in his penniless state,
professes to have favoured. He would have backed this horse with his
ten shillings won from the other race, and would now have been five
pounds in pocket. "Yes," says the gambler, pointing to his friend
"Yanks"--"that man has done me out of many a golden pound."

Poor old "Scotty" Bill was here, a seller of fly papers; who disturbed
the kitchen all day, because of the scarcity of flies, as though the
lodgers were to blame. "We are having damn strange summers of late
years," he said, "different from my younger days; for there is now
scarcely a fly to be seen."

Here dwelt "Hoppy" the bootblack, who had a rival in business on the
opposite corner. He was certainly the dirtiest man I have ever seen
going in and out of a house, but he earned good money, and often came
home drunk to this lodging house in a cab, causing a great sensation
among the poorer lodgers. His rival did less trade, and could afford
to do less, a lodger remarked, seeing that his mother kept a
flourishing cats' meat shop. When I have passed near these rival
bootblacks, I have often wondered how the thousands of people walked
daily between them without being singed, not to mention scorched, by
their baneful glances, which were fired at each other across the way.

Here too had "Irish" Tim come; a very small man with a sarcastic
tongue; an out-of-date printer broken on the wheels of new machinery.
Did you not want to be subjected to the ridicule of the kitchen it was
necessary when expressing an opinion, to look this man straight and
sternly in the face, and to speak with the utmost deliberation. He
always sat at the same table, and in the same seat, if not already
occupied; and his particular table was known as the House of
Parliament, owing to the number of arguments conducted there, of which
he was the leader. He passed judgment on public men, and although he
rarely had a good word for any one, I must say, to Tim's credit, that
he never lost an opportunity to stroke the cat. I believe Tim had just
a little friendly feeling for simple, eccentric and impulsive Bob;
whom he could scorn and contradict without being threatened or bullied
in return. Bob was an idealist, a dreamer with a strong imagination;
and it was Tim's delight to beat this dreamer to the thorny paths of
his daily life, speaking in the name of common sense.

Bob was full of the wonders of Nature, marvelled much at the
undertakings of men, to make railways to cross mountains and bridges
to span canyons; and was deeply interested in the early growth of
things, ere they were manufactured into a form that every person could
recognise. He was a most brilliant conversationalist, and was
interestingly dramatic in his readings. He was a good companion for
others, but, as I soon discovered to my disappointment, seldom had a
comfortable moment when alone with himself. I had a small bedroom to
myself, and unfortunately the near cubicle to mine was Bob's. Bob,
who, probably five minutes before, had been in the kitchen laughing,
or reading with childish delight of the gorgeous pageantry of a coming
play or pantomime, or had been seriously wondering at some new
discovery, would scarcely set foot in his own quiet room ere he was
clutched by a devil. I have become accustomed to foul language from
one man to another, but his bold way of directly addressing his
blasphemy to his Maker, stiffened the laughter on my lips, and shocked
me, in spite of an indifferent faith. This unusually clever man--a
genius, if this world ever had one--disappointed at his circumstances,
after an indulgence of his ideal, would sit on his bed and try to
throttle himself, night after night; and then would smother his face
in his bed clothes, and invariably end his mad fit by sobbing. When he
reached this pitiful state, this simple, impulsive and childlike man,
I felt like standing to his side, before the outraged face of his
Maker, so great was my pity for him.

Many others were here, whom I was to become better acquainted
with--such as the "Major," "Australian" Bill, "Never Sweet,"
"Cinders," and "The Snob," who was sent to prison so often through
having an over-liking for other people's pockets; and who, when
questioned as to his absence, always said he had been to see his
youngest brother. All of these were here, with many others of note.

For the "Blacksmith" was here, who, every time he saw me preparing to
go out, thought I must be on a begging expedition, and he trusted that
I would find the ladies kindly disposed. On thanking him for this kind
wish, he confided his intention of visiting Deptford, saying that he
had given that part of the city a long rest.

"Boozy" Bob was here, "Drunken Dave" and "Brummy Tom"; three small men
with a large capacity for taking ale. All these men were quiet or at
least not objectionable, and none of them could disturb me in my room.
The sleep of the house was disturbed more from without than from any
cause within. Cats--by day the most docile of God's creatures, every
one of them in the night enlisting under the devil's banner--took the
place by storm after the human voice had ceased. But perhaps the one
who accounted for more than two-thirds of my sleepless nights, was a
woman, an outsider living in an adjacent block. It was her custom to
come home drunk early in the morning, singing and swearing. "Little
Punch," a sickly consumptive, who had lived in this neighbourhood of
Southwark all his life, had no difficulty in recognising the voice of
Mrs. Kelly. So whenever I enquired as to the origin of a disturbance,
the name of Mrs. Kelly was the beginning and the end of it. Mrs. Kelly
was not satisfied with a single fight; she occasionally instigated a
riot. On the night of that memorable day when Southwark, and in
particular the Borough, was visited by royalty, this was the lady that
murdered sleep. The police always appeared tolerant with her, and more
so on this occasion. As a general rule it is people that live in
private houses who have to complain of the presence of a common
lodging house, of being disturbed by its low-class inmates; but this
lodging house, with beds for nearly two hundred men, was kept as quiet
as a large mansion with its one small family and half a score of
servants. In its kitchen was a continual din up till twelve o'clock at
night; but this did not disturb the sleepers in other parts of the
house. Seldom would a loud voice be heard inside; but it was nothing
unusual to hear at night the fighting and swearing of men and women,
and the screaming of children. This could be expected without fail on
Saturday nights and the close of holidays. These horrible and inhuman
cries so affected me on one Saturday evening, when, for the sake of
the study, I had retired early to bed, that I could neither think,
sleep nor lie quiet, and felt compelled to get up and return to the
kitchen. This I did, and found thirty or forty men assembled there,
most of them more or less drunk, but none of them appeared
quarrelsome. Of course it was impossible to sit long here before I was
surrounded by them; and sat fearing to breathe deep enough to inhale
the fumes of drink which came from both their mouths and clothes; and
being in good favour with these hopeless fellows, was continually
invited good naturedly to shake hands with them. Instead of going back
to my room, I left the place and entered a public house for the first
time in three months. "Brummy" Tom was there, with another fish porter
of his acquaintance. "Have a drink with me," he said, "I have often
thought to ask you, but thought you were a teetotaller and would
refuse." "'Brumm,'" I said, rather bitterly, "a teetotaller who lives
in a common lodging house is to be heartily despised, for he shows
himself to be satisfied with his conditions." With "Brummy" Tom and
his friend for companions, I took a number of long sleeping draughts,
and just after twelve o'clock that night was fast asleep in bed. The
following morning some of the lodgers were telling of murder cries
heard just after midnight, but I praised the power of Bacchus that I
had not heard them.

It was always a mystery to me that these men respected me and never
failed in civility in their dealings with me, for I did everything
that these men disliked. I wore a white collar, which they at once
take to be a challenge that you are their superior. Few other men in
the house, except they were fighting men, could have produced a
toothbrush without being sneered at. True it induced Brown to ask the
question whether I felt any actual benefit from cleaning my teeth;
that he had heard so many different opinions that he did not know what
or what not to believe; saying that he had often watched me, and
wondered at so unusual a custom. They all detested the "Masher,"
because he was earning more than a pound a week on a good paper stand,
and was also in receipt of a good pension; and they all cried shame on
him for living in a common lodging house. This man, to my discomfort,
showed so much inclination to confide in me, pointing out the
different lodgers who owed him money, and calling them low vagabonds
and ungrateful scamps, in a voice that was not meant to be a whisper,
that I was almost afraid of losing their good will in listening to
such words, without saying something on their behalf. Again I was
almost a teetotaller, and that was the worst charge of all. In spite
of all this, I do not believe that I made one enemy, and am certain
that I never received other than kindness and civility from the
lodgers of the Farmhouse.



CHAPTER XXVI

RAIN AND POVERTY


The greatest enemy to the man who has to carry on his body all his
wardrobe, is rain. As long as the sun shines he is indifferent, but if
he is caught in a wet condition after sunset he is to be pitied. He
does not fear any ill consequences to health from being wet through,
as does his more fortunate brother, but he does not like the
uncomfortable sensation of shivering and not being able to keep warm.
This unsettled feeling is often made worse by an empty stomach. In
fact a full stomach is his one safeguard against the cold, and he
cares not then if the rain and the wind penetrate his clothes. No
seaman ever searched the heavens for a dark speck, or astronomer for a
new light, as does this homeless man for a sign of rain. To escape
from the coming deluge he seeks shelter in the public library, which
is the only free shelter available; and there he sits for hours
staring at one page, not a word of which he has read or, for that
matter, intends to read. If he cannot at once get a seat, he stands
before a paper and performs that almost impossible feat of standing
upright fast asleep, so as to deceive the attendants, and respectable
people who are waiting a chance to see that very paper. To be able to
do this requires many unsuccessful efforts, which fail on account of
hard breathing, nodding and stumbling against the paper stand; but
success has at last been attained, and there he stands fast asleep and
apparently absorbed in a most interesting paragraph. He attains such
perfection in this one act that he has been known to stand like a
marble statue before a large sheet of costly plate glass, what time
sleep had overpowered him in the act of admiring a baker's art. The
homeless man must always remember one thing, that though he may sit on
wooden seats and stone parapets, eat in public and go in rags, he must
not, on any account, sleep. Working men only are allowed that
privilege and those who can afford to remain idle. No policeman would
think of indulging in a short nap until he made sure that there was no
vagrant sleeping on his beat. And what respectable householder could
rest in bed knowing that a tramp was sleeping in his doorway? If
necessity is the mother of invention, sleep must certainly be
necessary to a human being, or the tramp, according to his many
chances of experiments, would be the first to prove the contrary. So
much for the very lowest men.

But there are others who, in that they have a shelter at night, scorn
the name of being called homeless men. These men live in common
lodging houses, and are well satisfied with a place to sleep and
enough food to keep body and soul together. Most of these men earn
their living, such as it is, in the open air, and they earn so little
that they are seldom prepared for a rainy day. Therefore, when comes
this rainy morn, and the poor fellow rises penniless from his bed, it
is then that you see a little seriousness come over him; for he cannot
expose his wares to spoil in the rain and, did they not spoil, who
would be foolish enough to tarry in bad weather to make an idle
purchase? The rain would spoil his paper-toys, his memorandum-books,
or his laces and collar studs. In truth, as long as the rain continues
his occupation is gone. The paper seller can take his stand regardless
of weather, and earn enough for the day thereof, at the expense of a
wet skin. Sometimes he is fortunate enough to be stationed near some
shelter, but sometimes his stand happens to be outside an aristocratic
club or hotel, and he dare not enter its porch, not even if the devil
was at his heels.

Then there is the "downrighter," the man who makes no pretence to
selling, but boldly asks people for the price of his bed and board. On
a rainy day he has to make sudden bursts between the heaviest showers
and forage the surrounding streets, which, being near a lodging house,
are invariably poor and unprofitable, whereas his richest pastures are
in the suburbs or better still the outskirts of them. The bad weather
is, of course, a blessing to those distant housekeepers, however hard
it is on the "downrighter," for it comes as the Sabbath day to their
bells and knockers.

Then there are the market men who work two or three early hours in the
morning, when the majority of people are asleep. These men are
returning in their wet clothes between eight and nine o'clock and
their day's work is done. Often they have no change of clothing,
therefore it is not unusual for two men to be standing at the same
fire, the one drying his wet socks and the other toasting his dry
bread, with the articles in question almost embracing one another on
the most friendly terms.

It is on this rainy day that one sees those little kindnesses which
are only seen among the very poor: one who has not sufficient for
himself assisting some other who has nothing. One man who has made
eighteen pence at the market, returns, pays fourpence for his bed,
buys food, and then in addition to paying for another man's bed,
invites yet another to dine with him and in the end gives his last
copper to another. One, who happens to have done well the previous
day, gives here and there until he is himself penniless. The
consequence of all this is that whereas you saw in the morning dull
and anxious faces, at midday you see more than half of the lodgers
cooking, their beds already paid for. All worry is at an end, and
they are whistling, humming songs, or chaffing one another.

It is on this rainy day when they are made prisoners without spare
money to pay into the beer house, that they mend and wash their
clothes, repair their boots, and have abundant time to cook
vegetables. It is a day for Irish stews and savoury broths.

It was on one of these days, when the kitchen was so crowded, that I
unfortunately attempted to make pancakes. I knew that such an unusual
experiment could not fail to cause a sensation which I did not desire,
so I placed myself in a dark corner and quietly and without being
observed, made the flour into paste, exactly as I had seen another
lodger do some time previous. The flour had been in my possession ever
since that occasion, but my courage had up to the present failed.
Three or four men were now at the stove, and a number of others were
idly walking up and down. I had made half a basin of paste, and this
was to make one big thick fat pancake. But how was I to get it into
the frying pan without attracting notice? I covered the basin with a
saucer, placed the frying pan on the stove, with butter therein, and
waited my chance. I had taken the precaution of having in readiness a
large plate. At last my chance came, for two cooks were having high
words as to whether cabbage should be put into cold or boiling water.
Others joined in this argument, so without receiving notice, I dropped
the paste into the frying pan and quickly covered it with a large
plate. So far, so good: my only difficulty now would be to turn it;
for after it was cooked I could carry the pan and its covered contents
to the dark corner where I intended to dine; and where, although men
might see me eat, none would be the wiser as to what I was eating.
Five minutes had passed and no doubt its one side was cooked. The
argument was still in full swing, for each man stoutly maintained his
opinions, and almost every man who took part cited his mother or
sister as an authority, except one, who proudly mentioned a French
chef in an Australian gold diggings. Now was my chance. I cast one
furtive glance around, rose the hot plate with a stocking, which I had
been washing, made one quick turn of the wrist, spun the pancake in
the air, caught it neatly and promptly, clapped the plate over it--the
whole process done, I believe, in less than ten seconds. The
difficulty was now over and I breathed relief. I went to my dining
corner and sat down, intending to fetch the pancake in five minutes
time.

Three minutes perhaps I had been seated when I heard a loud voice
cry--"Whose pancake is this burning on the stove?" How I did detest
that man: he was always shouting through the kitchen--"Whose stew is
this boiling over?" or "Whose tea is stewing on the fire?" The man
always seemed to be poking his nose into other people's business. I
did not think it worth while drawing every one's attention by
answering him, but made my way as quietly as possible towards the
stove. Alas! the idiot, not thinking that I was the owner of the
pancake, and was then on my way to attend to it, shouted the second
time, louder, and it seemed to me, too impatiently--"Whose pancake is
this?" If I was vexed when I heard that second enquiry, imagine how I
felt when every lodger in the kitchen, not seeing or hearing from the
pancake's lawful claimant, began to shout in angry voices, "Whose
pancake is that burning on the fire?" My own patience was now
exhausted. "The pancake is mine," I said, "and what about it? What is
all this fuss about? It is the first pancake I have ever attempted to
make and by heavens! if it is to cause such a stir as this, it will be
the last." But while I was making this speech another voice, which
froze the blood in my veins cried angrily--"Whose pancake is this?" It
was a woman's voice, it was the Mrs. of the house; and I now knew that
something more serious was happening than the burning of a pancake--I
was burning her frying pan. If I dallied in respect to my pancakes, I
must certainly not make further delay in saving the frying pan. To her
I at once apologised, but I gave that meddler a look that for ever
again kept him silent as to what belonged to me. Such are the doings
in a lodging house, vexatious enough at the time, but amusing to
recall.



CHAPTER XXVII

FALSE HOPES


The Farmhouse was under the management of an Irishman and his wife. He
with a generous heart that always kept him poor, for he often assisted
lodgers towards paying for their beds, who, I am sorry to say, were
sometimes ungrateful in return. She, more circumspect, but kind
hearted and motherly where she thought the case to be a deserving one.

With regards to literary ambition I always kept my own counsel,
confiding in one man only--"Cronje"; a man to be relied on, whose
sympathetic ears were always open to receive either good or bad news.

I must have been in this house something like twelve months, when I
took a sudden notion to send some work to a literary man, asking him
for his opinion of the same. In a few days I received a letter stating
that want of time prevented him from passing judgment on my work,
which he regretted he would have to return unread. This did not offend
me in the least, although I was greatly disappointed, for I knew that
a man in his position could have little time to spare, and no doubt
was pestered with correspondence of a like nature. But, unfortunately,
the MS. returned in an ill condition, having been roughly handled
through the post, and arrived at the Farmhouse with the ends of the
envelope in tatters. When I received this ragged and disreputable
parcel from the Manager, I knew that the cat was out of the bag, and
that the secret which I had guarded so jealously was now the property
of another, but I made no confession, thinking that he would broach
the subject, which he did on the following morning. On enquiring if
the parcel I had received on the day previous was a manuscript, I lost
no time in telling him everything. The upshot of this was that he
persuaded me to send some work to a publisher, and if that gentleman
thought the book worth publication, he, the Manager, had no doubt that
one of the many rich people who were connected with the Farmhouse
Mission could be induced to assist me. Hearing this I was sorry that I
had not confided in him of my own accord, for I had often seen these
rich people coming and going, looking, perhaps for deserving cases.

With these golden projects before me, I again set to work, and, in
less than a month, the MS. was ready and in the hands of a publisher.
That gentleman wrote in a few days saying that he thought there was
literary merit, and that the cost of production would be thirty
pounds. The publisher's name was well known, and the Manager was quite
satisfied as to its being a genuine offer from an old and respectable
firm. Quite contented in my own mind, my part having been performed
without difficulty, I gladly allowed this man to take possession of
this correspondence, and a few specimen books of verse, which the
publisher had sent with it, and, having full trust in the man's
goodness and influence, made myself comfortable, and settled down in a
fool's paradise. I have never had cause to doubt his goodness, but he
certainly overrated his power to influence the philanthropists on the
behalf of a lodger.

Several weeks passed, and I had received no encouraging news. No
mention had been made of my affairs, and I gave myself over to the
influence of the coke fire. After going out in the morning for two or
three hours, I would return at midday, often earlier, and sit
hopelessly before this fire for ten or eleven hours, after which I
would retire to my room. What a miserable time was this: the kitchen,
foul with the breath of fifty or sixty men, and the fumes of the coke
fire, took all the energy out of a man, and it was a hard fight to
keep awake. It has taken the play out of the kitten, and this small
animal lies stretched out, overcome by its fumes, without the least
fear of being trodden on. Sometimes, when I endeavoured to concentrate
my mind, with an idea of writing something, it was necessary to feign
a sleep, so that these kind hearted fellows might not disturb me with
their civilities. On these occasions it was not unusual for me to fall
into a real sleep. And, when I awoke, it sickened me to think of this
wasted time; for I was spending in bed more hours than were necessary
for my health, and it was a most cruel waste of time to be sleeping in
the day. This fire exerted a strange influence over us. In the morning
we were loath to leave it, and we all returned to it as soon as
possible. Even the books and magazines in the libraries could not
seduce me longer than an hour. There was one seat at the corner of a
table, which I have heard called "the dead man's seat." It was within
two yards of this great fire, which was never allowed to suffer from
want of coke. It was impossible to retain this seat long and keep
awake. Of course, a man could hardly expect to keep this seat day
after day for a long winter, and to be alive in the spring of the
year. This was the case with a printer who, unfortunately, had only
three days' work a week. The amount he earned was sufficient for his
wants, so, in his four idle days, he would sit on this seat, eating,
reading, but more often sleeping, until before the end of the winter,
he was carried away a dying man. Some of these lodgers claim to be
able to recognise in the public streets any strangers who are
suffering from this coke fever.

Weeks passed and then months, and I still heard nothing about my book.
The Manager had failed, of that I at last became certain. I avoided
him as much as possible, because of the confidence I had reposed in
him. It was certainly very awkward for the both of us, and I felt much
sympathy on his account. When he was near I felt extremely
uncomfortable, and I am sure he felt none too easy in my presence.

Spring at last came, and I broke away from the lodging house fire, to
indulge in the more pure rays of the sun. I began to absent myself
from the house longer every day, until I at last began to regret that
there was any necessity to return to it at all. The happiness and stir
of Nature, at this time of the year, began to fill me with her own
energy. I was in my room, one of these bright mornings, and was
looking in the mirror, adjusting my scarf--the mirror and bed being
the whole furniture. In this mirror I looked long enough to see a
white hair on the side of my head. Thinking this to be hardly true at
my time of life, I shifted the glass to a better light, thinking it
must have played me false; but sure enough, here it was--a single
hair, as white as snow. Yes, I thought, with some bitterness, this
comes of waiting to be fulfilled the promises of other people; and you
will never rise if you do not make some effort of your own. Thinking
of this white hair, I left the house, wondering what I could do to
help myself. And, this particular morning, an idea occurred to me, so
simple, so reasonable, and so easily to be accomplished, that it
filled me with surprise that such a plan had not presented itself
before. I had an income of eight shillings per week; then what was to
prevent me from borrowing forty or fifty pounds, even though I paid
for it a little more than usual interest? Again I was full of hope and
happiness, for I could see nothing to prevent the accomplishment of
this. My eight shillings were being received in sums of two pounds
every five weeks. Two shillings a week were forwarded home, and I
lived abstemiously on the remainder. My five weeks' money was due on
the following week, so I at once began making preparations for a trip
home. When this money arrived I determined to lose no time in
executing these plans, for I had visions of being a white headed man,
if I remained under these hopeless conditions for another year or two.
The money came on Saturday night, when it was due, and everything
being prepared, I was that very night on my way to Paddington Station,
after having told the manager that I was going home for a week, and
that I would forward him my rent, if I remained longer than that time.
Full of this idea I arrived at home.

The following Monday I invaded the office of my old granny's lawyer,
and telling him I wished to set up in business, consulted him as to
the best way of borrowing the money, some forty or fifty pounds being
necessary. He saw nothing to prevent this from being done, but
strongly advised me not to do so; "at any rate," he said, "see your
trustee, ask him if he can lend you the amount, and, if he cannot see
his way clear to do so, let me know!" In half an hour I was with the
trustee. That gentleman had not the amount on hand, but had plans of
his own which, if I strictly adhered to, would be more to my advantage
in the long run.

"It is now June," he said, "and if you allow your income to stand
until the beginning of the New Year, you will then have ten pounds
saved to your account, and I give you my promise to advance another
twenty pounds without a question of interest, making the amount thirty
pounds!" Now it happened that three weeks before I left London, I had
sent a work to a printer and publisher, who had priced two hundred and
fifty copies at nineteen pounds; so that I knew well that thirty
pounds would be ample to meet all expenses. But how was I to live for
the next six months? Determined to make any sacrifice to attain this
end, I closed with the trustee's offer, and, getting an advance from
him of one pound, intended to return at once to London, but was
persuaded to remain at home for another three weeks. At the end of
this time I paid my fare back to London, and again took possession of
my room, for which I had forwarded the rent during my absence. In
less than four days after my return, I was very near penniless, and
saw no other prospect than to start on another half year's wandering.

How foolish all this was! Why did I not start my travels from home,
instead of wasting money on a return fare to London? Why did I pay
three weeks' rent for the sake of returning to a room for as many
days? Well, I had a faint hope that the Manager might, at last, after
six months, have succeeded in his attempt.

I told the Manager that I was going on the road for a month or two,
but mentioned no purpose, for I was now resolved to act for myself.

"You will always find room at the Farmhouse," he said; "do not doubt
that."

Trying to appear as cheerful as possible, for I knew this man was also
disappointed, I left him, determined never to set foot in that house
again until I could dispense with the services of others. At this time
I had two silver shillings and some odd coppers, and would soon need
assistance as a man, without any question as to my work as an author.

Again I was leaving London, not knowing how much I would have to
suffer. One idea consoled me not a little; that I would not require
money for a bed for at least three months to come; that the nights,
though cold, would not be so dangerous as to kill. Whatever the
consequence might be, even if this rough life threatened to injure my
health permanently, I was firmly resolved to sacrifice the next six
months for whatever might follow them.



CHAPTER XXVIII

ON TRAMP AGAIN


NOW followed a strange experience, an experience for which there is no
name; for I managed to exist, and yet had neither the courage to beg
or sell. Certainly at times I was desperately inclined to steal; but
chance left nothing for my eyes to covet, and I passed harmlessly on.
When I suffered most from lack of rest, or bodily sustenance--as my
actual experience became darker, the thoughts of the future became
brighter, as the stars shine to correspond with the night's shade.

I travelled alone, in spite of the civilities of other tramps, who
desired company, so as to allow no strange voice to disturb my dreams.
Some of these men had an idea that I was mad, because I could give
them little information as to the towns and villages through which I
had that very day passed. They enquired as to the comforts and
conditions of a town's workhouse, of which I knew nothing, for I had
not entered it. They enquired as to its best lodging house, of which I
was again ignorant, having slept in the open air. They enquired how
far I had come that day, which I could not immediately tell them; and
they were curious to know how far I was going, which I did not know.
The strangest part of this experience was that I received help from
people without having made a glance of appeal, and without having
opened my mouth. When I asked for water, tea or milk was often
brought, and food invariably followed. I began to look on this as a
short life of sacrifice, killing a few worthless hours so as to enjoy
thousands of better ones; and I blessed every morning that ushered in
a new day, and worshipped every Sabbath night that closed another
week.

After tramping from town to town, from shire to shire, in two months I
was in Devonshire, on my way to Plymouth. I felt continually attracted
to these large centres of commerce, owing, I suppose, to feeling the
necessity of having an object in view; but was generally starved out
of them in a very short time. A gentleman on horseback, whom I met
near Totnes, saved me from suffering from want, for a couple of days,
at least, when I would reach Plymouth. This gentleman drew his horse
to a halt, so that he might enquire my destination. He seemed to be
much surprised when I told him it was the town of Plymouth.

"Ah, well," he said, glancing towards the ground, "there is only one
foot to get sore, if that is any consolation to you; perhaps this
will help you a little on the way," dropping into my hand three silver
shillings.

Without having this case in mind, I certainly fared better in
Devonshire than in other counties, and found its people more like the
prosperous settlers in new lands. In spite of this, my roughest
experience was in this county, owing to the inclemency of the weather,
and the difficulty of finding shelter. One night I had gone into the
fields, and, getting together a dozen or more wheatsheaves, proceeded
to build a house of them, making a dry floor on the damp earth, with
walls to shelter from the wind, and a roof to shelter from the dew,
leaving just space enough at one end to admit my body. I had been in
here comfortable and warm for some time, when it began to rain. In
half an hour the rain leaked in large drops through the roof, and in
less than an hour these drops had become streams. There was nothing to
do but to remain, for it was now too dark to seek shelter. For ten
hours it rained incessantly, and I was literally wet to the skin, and
no drier than a person immersed in water--not wet to the skin as
people commonly express it when they are damp after a few showers. I
was nothing daunted, looking on this as one of the many hard
experiences that I was compelled to undergo. The next morning I chose
a secluded spot in the open air, so as to lie down where the sun,
coming out warm and strong, would dry me while I slept. Two or three
times have I suffered in this way, but have never felt any ill effects
after.

My worst experience of this kind was in the adjoining county of
Somerset, at the end of September, when I was again making my way back
to London. But it was not the blowing of the wind, or the patter of
the rain; not the rustle of the leaves on the swaying branches; not
the discomforts of having wet clothes, and being without sign of a
barn or empty house in which to shelter; it was none of these that
took the courage out of me: it was a wild laugh, harsh, and apparently
in savage mockery. I had skirted what appeared to be a park, for
something like two miles, and was weary to see the end of it. This at
last seemed to come, for I could see through the trees a large open
field wherein were wheatsheaves, stacked in their threes, and in their
usual rows. Now, had this been a field right up to the roadside, I
would most certainly have had no compunction in spending the night
there, being tired of carrying such a distance my wet and heavy
clothes. As it was, I paused, not feeling inclined to proceed further
on my journey, and yet not half liking to cross that narrow strip of
park, thinking it might contain game that would be well looked after,
making trespassing a serious offence. When in this irresolute state of
mind, I caught sight of a white gate, and a small footpath leading to
the field. Night seemed to be coming on at the rate of a darker shade
to the minute, and I knew well that in another quarter of an hour it
would be difficult to distinguish a house from a barn. Seeing this, I
summoned courage, opened the gate, and made my way quickly along the
path that led to the wheatsheaves. Standing amidst these I waited
silently, listening for any that might be in that locality. Satisfied
that there were not, I picked up a sheaf, and was about to lay it
flat, when I heard a loud startling laugh, coming from the direction
of the road. Dropping the sheaf at once, I bent low, not for a moment
doubting but what some one had seen me from the road, and was taking a
heartless delight in letting me know his discovery. Although I
regretted this, thinking he would inform others, and I would surely be
disturbed before morning, perhaps that very hour--I determined to
travel no further that night, if I could help it, and proceeded to
make my bed, under the impression that he had passed on. I stood up in
full, but had scarcely done so, when my appearance was greeted by
several long shouts of derisive laughter. Now, a homeless man has no
time to be superstitious, he fears the living and not the dead. If he
is sleepy he is not particular about feeling in the darkness of
cellars or vaults; and, if he were sleeping on a grave, and was
awakened by a voice crying--"Arise from off this grave," he would at
once think it the voice of a grave digger, or the keeper of the
cemetery, rather than the ghostly owner of the same. Therefore, I had
not the least idea but what this was the voice of a human being,
although it sounded uncanny and strange. I moved again, and again
heard that loud peal of laughter. This voice evidently only mocked
when I moved, for when I stood still, not a sound was to be heard.
This time I gave up all thoughts of making a bed, and being now filled
with fear, picked up the thick stick with which I travelled, and stood
on the defensive, every moment expecting to see a madman burst from
under the trees and in three leaps and a bound be at my side. These
movements seemed to cause some merriment, but the laughter again
ceased when I stood watching and waiting, and puzzled how to act. Rest
was now out of the question, and I made up my mind to leave that
accursed place instantly. With this intention I made my way towards
the gate. I had scarcely moved in that direction, when the laughing
began, this time continuing for a long time, as though jeering its
last at my defeat. When I reached the gate, and passed through to the
open road, my courage returned, and I looked with some bitterness to
see the figure of some country lout hurrying into the darkness, after
succeeding in robbing me of my sleep; but, to my surprise, I heard no
one, and could see no figure on the road before or behind. It was now
that superstition took hold of me, and I got off with all possible
speed, often looking back to see if I was pursued; and I did not stop
until a human settlement lay between me and that accursed park. Often
have I thought of that night. It is natural to suppose that a
thoughtless ploughman, or farm labourer, would have stood at the
roadside and laughed or shouted once or twice, and then passed on, but
it is scarcely probable that he would have remained there to carry his
joke so far. Granted that he had had the courage to laugh so many
times, taunting one at a distance, where was his courage now that he
had run away, or still stood concealed behind the trees? The voice
sounded human, but still seemed wild and a little unnatural. After
much consideration the only conclusion I could put to the affair was
that the voice came from a bird in the trees; an escaped pet bird that
could imitate the human voice. This solution of the mystery did not
altogether satisfy me, for I have never had cause to believe that any
bird could so perfectly imitate the human voice. Superstition must
have thoroughly possessed me for the once in my life, or I should not
have walked all night, after the painful exertion of the day.

If I settled towards night time in any place where a bird came hopping
restlessly from branch to branch, making a series of short cries of
fear, to let me know that I was lying too close to its nest, I would
without hesitation shift my position, often to my own discomfort; but
at the same time, people could pass to and fro to my indifference.

I would never beg, unless forced to the last extremity, for I feared
the strange fascination that arises from success, after a man has once
lost his shame. On one occasion I saw a well dressed couple wheeling
their bicycles up an incline, which was too steep to ride. Evidently
they were lovers, for they seemed to be in no hurry to reach the top
of the hill and end their conversation by riding. As I drew near the
lady produced her purse, and, placing something in her companion's
hand, motioned over her shoulder in my direction. On which the
gentleman nodded, and immediately glanced back towards me. Now, these
people could not very well make the first overtures, for the simple
reason that they know not whether a man is in want, or is a poor, but
proud and respectable inhabitant of one of the adjacent villages. I
preferred to impress them with the latter opinion, for, when I reached
them, I put on an extra spurt, and was soon beyond their hearing. No,
I would never make a good beggar, for here was money in readiness, to
come at the sound of my voice, or to be drawn by the simple side
glance of my eye. When I was some distance away, I looked back, and
saw the lady looking rather disappointed, receiving back her coin. Her
companion was laughing, no doubt consoling her by saying that I was
hardly likely to be in actual need, or I would have asked for
assistance, and probably my home was somewhere near. The truth of the
matter was that at this time I had not a copper to bless myself with.

Days, weeks, and months went on, and it was now the month of October.
It was now that I began to find the necessity of having a bed every
night, having been satisfied up till then with a bed once or perhaps
twice a week, according to the coppers received. I was back again in
Swindon, having been there some time previous, when on my way to
Devonshire. The first three months of sacrifice were over, and I was
very little the worse for it; but the next three months required
different means, to correspond with the difference in the time of
year. Shelter was necessary every night, and to meet these stern
demands, I needed something to sell, so as to be sure of coppers for
this purpose. With this idea, I bought two dozen laces with the last
three coppers I had, and re-opened business as a hawker. The success
with which I met in this town astonished me, owing, I believe, to its
being a working man's town, and not filled with half-pay officers and
would-be aristocrats that cannot afford, but still feel it their duty,
to live in fine villas in the locality of a royal residence. The poor,
sympathetic people seemed to understand a man's wants. Business was
often transacted without the utterance of words. Taking a pair of
laces, they would give a copper, and, smiling their sympathy, close
the door. Often one would pay for these useless things and not take
them. The kindness of these people so filled me with gratitude, that I
found it impossible to continue selling after I had received enough to
supply the day's wants, which would often be in less than half an
hour. I remained here for two weeks, being able to allow myself half
an ounce of tobacco and a halfpenny paper every day. The only thing
that worried me in this town was the persistence of an old beggar in
the lodging house. Night after night, this man would advise me to go
out and stand pad. This was, he explained, that a man, who is
afflicted with the loss of an arm, a hand or a leg, blind, paralysed
or lame, should stand or sit in a public place in the town, holding in
his hand matches, laces or any other cheap trifle, so that he might
invite the charity of passers by. This old man could not understand
why this was not done, seeing that it required no eloquence--the very
act and the affliction speaking for themselves--and was so successful
a dodge that even able-bodied men could often pick up a shilling or
two in this way. At last I became so impressed with this old man's
eloquence, that I left the lodging house three times in one night with
a firm resolution to stand pad, and three times I returned without
having done so. On the last occasion I did make a little attempt, but
foolishly took up a position where no one could see me.

Before I left Swindon I wrote to a friend of mine in Canada,
requesting him to forward me a pound to London, as soon as possible,
which would be returned to him at the beginning of the new year. I did
this so that I might have a couple of weeks at the end of December to
prepare my MS. and to be ready for business as soon as that time
arrived. It was now the latter end of October, and this pound could
not reach London far short of a month. Thinking I was not likely again
to suffer for want of a bed or food, after this success in Swindon, I
bought a good stock of laces and left that town, with the intention of
working the towns on the outskirts of London, so that when ready to
enter I would be within a day's march. Unfortunately, after leaving
Swindon, success deserted me, which was certainly more my fault than
that of the people, for I made very little appeal to them. Arriving at
Maidenhead, I had the bare price of my bed, with a dry bread supper
and breakfast. My laces were being exhausted, and I was without means
to replenish them. From town to town I walked around London, sometimes
making sixpence, and always less than a shilling a day; and this small
amount had to purchase bed, food, and occasionally a couple of dozen
laces. The monotony of this existence was broken a little at
Guildford, where I was arrested on suspicion of crime. A plain clothes
officer happened to be in the office of the lodging house, who, when
he set eyes upon me, requested a few moments conversation, at the same
time leading the way out into the yard. He then came to a halt under a
lamp, and, taking from his pocket some papers, began to read, often
raising his eyes to scrutinise my person. "Yes," he said, at last, "no
doubt you are the man I want, for you answer his description." "I
suppose," was my answer, "it is a case of arrest?" "It is," he said,
"and you must accompany me to the station." On my way to that place he
asked many a question of what I had done with my overcoat, and as to
the whereabouts of my wife. It had been several years since I had
owned the former, and the latter I had never possessed; but this man
could not be convinced of either. "Which way have you come?" he asked.
To which I mentioned one or two shires. At this he pricked up his
ears, and asked if I had been in a certain town in one of those
shires, which I had, and saw no reason to say otherwise. Unfortunately
this was the town where the guilty man had operated. The detective was
certainly not very smart when he took this confession as evidence of
guilt, for the guilty man would have mentioned that particular town as
one of the last places to visit. I certainly answered to the
description of the man wanted, with the exception of not having a
blotchy face, which had been characteristic of the guilty man. But on
my face they saw no blotches, nor signs of any having been there in
the past. Of course, I was discharged in an hour, and returned to the
lodging house for the night. The following day I happened to be in
Dorking, and was walking through that town, when I heard quick steps
behind me, and a voice cry--"Halt: I want you." Turning my head I saw
it was a police officer. This man at once took possession of me,
saying that he fortunately had been looking through the police station
window, when he saw me passing, and that I answered to the description
of a man wanted--"for that affair at Cheltenham," I added. "Ha," he
said, his face lighting with pleasure, "how well you know." We
returned quietly to the police station, and when I confronted his
superior officer, I asked that person if I was to be arrested in every
town through which I passed; telling my experience the night before at
Guildford. After one or two questions, and a careful reading of the
description paper, also an examination of my pedlar's certificate, he
told me I was at liberty to go my way, at the same time saying that no
man with any sense would have arrested me. After this I was not again
troubled by police officers, owing perhaps, to their having arrested
the guilty man.



CHAPTER XXIX

A DAY'S COMPANION


I had many a strange experience in those days, especially one with an
old man, who must have been between seventy and eighty years of age.
He accosted me through the hedges and, looking in that direction, I
saw him in the act of filling a quart can with blackberries, aided by
a thick long stick with a crooked end. "Wait a moment," said he, "for
I also am going Bedford way." I was nothing loth to wait, for I was a
stranger in that part of the country, and required information as to
which was the best cheap lodging house for the night. I knew that in a
town of the size of Bedford there must be more than one common lodging
house, and one must be better than another, if only in the extra smile
of a landlady, regardless of clean blankets or cooking accommodation.

For this reason I waited, and, in less than three minutes, the old man
joined me. His answer to my first question was disappointing, for it
seemed that the number of lodging houses which Bedford could boast
were all public houses, and there was not one private house that
catered for beggars. This was a real disappointment, for I knew that
whosoever made tea at such a place, did so under the ill favoured
glance of a landlady or landlord, perhaps both, who sold beer ready
made. In fact the facilities for making tea, cooking, or even washing
one's shirt, were extremely limited at such a place, which made it
very undesirable for a poor beggar like myself, who had great
difficulty in begging sufficient for his bed and board, and did not
wish to be reminded of beer.

"Surely," I said, "there must be in a town the size of Bedford one
private lodging house, at least, to accommodate tramps."

"Well," said he, "as a tramp I have been going in and out of that town
for over thirty years, and I never heard of such a place. You can make
enquiries, and I should like to know different," he continued, rather
sarcastically that I had doubted his knowledge. "The two best houses
are the 'Boot' and the 'Cock,' but seeing that the former takes in
women, the latter I think would be the best for us. Are you going to
do business on the road?" he enquired. "Not to-day," I answered him,
"for I have enough for my bed, and an extra few coppers for food."
"All right," said he, "we will travel together, and if I do a little
business on the way it won't interfere with you, and we have plenty of
time to reach the lodging house before dark." Having no objection to
this proposal we jogged pleasantly along.

We were now descending a steep incline and my companion, seeing a man
coming in the opposite direction, walking beside a bicycle, lost no
time in confronting that gentleman and pushing the blackberries under
his nose. "No," said the man, gruffly, "do you think I am going to
carry those things? but here's a copper for you." Well, thought I,
this man will never sell his berries if he does not show more
discretion and offer them to more likely customers.

Just after this we met a lady and gentleman, both well dressed and
apparently well to do. Touching his cap to these people my companion
soon had his blackberries within a few inches of their eyes, at the
same time using all his persuasive powers to induce them to make a
purchase. In this he failed, as was to be expected, but continued to
walk step by step with them for several yards, until the gentleman
hastily put his hand in his pocket and gave the old fellow sixpence,
the smallest change that he had.

Several others were stopped after this, and although my fellow
traveller failed to sell his perishable goods, a number of people
assisted him with coppers. In one instance I thought he surely could
not be of sound mind, for he had seen a party of ladies and gentlemen
seating themselves in a motor car, and was hurrying with all speed in
that direction. In this case he failed at getting a hearing, for
before he was half way towards them, the party had seated themselves
and the car was moving rapidly away. My companion's lips trembled with
vexation at seeing this.

"Wait a moment," said he, crossing the road to a baker's shop--"I am
going to exchange these berries for buns." Waiting outside I was soon
joined again by this strange old fellow who then carried in his left
hand four buns, his right hand still being in possession of the
blackberries.

"You will never sell them," I said, "if you do not offer them at more
likely places. See, there is a shop with fruit and vegetables: try
there." "Why," he answered with a grin, "how do you think I could make
a living if I sold them? The market value of these berries is about
one farthing, and it takes sixteen farthings to pay for my feather
(bed) not reckoning scrand (food), and a glass or two of skimish
(drink). In fact," said he, "my day's work is done, and I am quite
satisfied with the result." Saying which he tumbled the blackberries
into the gutter and placed the can--which he used for making tea--into
a large self-made inside pocket. On getting a better view of them, I
remarked that no person could buy such berries, for they were about
the worst assortment I had ever seen in my life. "It would not pay to
make them very enticing," said he, "or they would find a too ready
sale." "But what do you do when the season is over?" I asked, "for you
cannot pick blackberries all the year round." "Oh," he answered, "I
have other ways of making a living. If I can get a good audience in a
public house, I can often make a day's living in a quarter of an hour,
with several drinks in the bargain." "What, by singing or dancing?" I
asked. "No," said he, "but by reciting. Listen to this." With that he
began to recite a long poem, line after line, until I began to hope
his memory would fail him. What a memory it was! Hundreds of lines
without a break. When he came to the most dramatic parts he paused for
action, and I knew that he was heedless of the approach of night, and
had forgotten that Bedford was still afar off. There was now no
stopping of him; poem after poem he recited, and he introduced his
subjects with little speeches that were so different from his ordinary
conversation, that it was apparent that he had committed them also to
memory for the benefit of a fit audience. If he was so zealous after a
weary day's walk, and without stimulants, what would he be under the
influence of several glasses of strong ale? I shuddered to think of
it.

We were now about a mile from Bedford, and my companion had for the
last hour been reciting; as for myself I was travelling alone, for I
had forgotten him. Sometimes to my confusion he would startle me by a
sudden question, but seeing that he made no pause for an answer, I
soon understood that no answer was required of me, for that he was
still reciting.

As we entered the outskirts of Bedford, my companion found it
necessary, owing to increase of traffic, to raise his voice, which he
continued to do until at last the traffic became so very great that he
could not make himself heard. I had not heard his voice for the last
five minutes, when he suddenly clutched my shoulder and demanded what
I thought of that. "You have a wonderful memory," I said. "Oh," said
he, "that is nothing; I could entertain you for several days in like
manner, with fresh matter each day. Here we are at the 'Cock.' I like
your company and, if you are travelling my way to-morrow, let us go
together. It is not every man that I would travel with two days in
succession." And, thought I, it is not every man would travel in your
company two days in succession. "Which way are you going?" I asked
him. "Towards Northampton," said he. "Alas," I answered, "my direction
is altogether different."

We now entered the "Cock," and after calling for two glasses of ale,
enquired as to accommodation for travellers, which we were informed
was good, there being plenty of room. Sometimes, if ale is not called
for, they are disinclined to letting beds, especially in the winter,
when they find so little difficulty in filling the house.

On entering the kitchen we found it occupied by a number of men, some
of whom recognised my fellow traveller, and spoke to him. But, strange
to say, although this man had proved so garrulous with one for a
companion, with the many he had very little to say, and sat in a
corner all through the evening smoking in silence, and paying no heed
to others either by tongue, eye, or ear. Once or twice I saw his lips
move, when filling his pipe, or knocking out its ashes, and I thought
that he was perhaps rehearsing and training his memory for the
following day, in case he would be again fortunate in picking up with
an easy fool like myself. For, no doubt, the poor old fellow had been
often commanded to desist from reciting, and ordered to hell by
impatient and unsympathetic men whom he had at first mistaken for
quiet and good natured companions. I had not by a look or a word
sought to offend him, but one day of his company was certainly
enough.



CHAPTER XXX

THE FORTUNE


It is not unusual to read of cases where men who have descended to the
lowest forms of labour--aye, even become tramps--being sought and
found as heirs to fortunes, left often by people who either had no
power to will otherwise, or whom death had taken unawares. Therefore,
when one fine morning a cab drove up to a beer-house, which was also a
tramps' lodging house, and a well dressed gentleman entered and
enquired of the landlord for a man named James Macquire--the landlord
at once pronounced him to be a solicitor in quest of a lost heir.
"Sir," said he, "we do not take the names of our lodgers, but several
are now in the kitchen. James Macquire, you said?" On receiving answer
in the affirmative the landlord at once visited the lodgers' kitchen,
and standing at the door enquired in a very respectable manner if
there was any gentleman present by the name of Macquire, whose
christian name was James. At which a delicate looking man, who had
arrived the previous night, sprang quickly to his feet and said in a
surprised voice--"That is my name." "Well," said the landlord, "a
gentleman wishes to see you at once; he came here in a cab, and, for
your sake, I trust my surmises are right."

With the exception of having on a good clean white shirt, the man
Macquire was ill clad, and he looked ruefully at his clothes, and then
at the landlord. "Please ask the gentleman to wait," said he, and,
going to the tap, began to wash his hands and face, after which he
carefully combed his hair.

The strange gentleman was seated quietly in the bar when the man
Macquire presented himself, and the landlord was engaged in washing
glasses and dusting decanters. "Mr. James Macquire?" asked the
gentleman, rising and addressing the ill-clad one in a respectful
manner, which the landlord could not help but notice. "That is my
name," answered Macquire, with some dignity. "Do you know anything of
Mr. Frederick Macquire, of Doggery Hall?" asked the gentleman. "I do,"
said the ill-clad one; and, after a long pause, and seeming to give
the information with much reluctance, he added--"Mr. Frederick
Macquire, of Doggery Hall, is my uncle." Several other questions were
asked and answered. "That will do, thank you," said the gentleman;
"will you please call at the 'King's Head' and see me at seven P. M.?
You have been advertised for since the death of Mr. Frederick
Macquire, some weeks ago. Good morning," he said, shaking James
Macquire by the hand in a highly respectful manner, as the landlord
could not fail to see, totally regardless of the man's rags.

The ill-clad one stood at the bar speechless, apparently absorbed in
deep thought. "What will you have to drink?" asked the landlord
kindly. "Whisky," answered Macquire, in a faint voice. After drinking
this, and another, he seemed to recover his composure, and said to the
landlord--"I am at present, as you must know, penniless, and you would
greatly oblige me by the loan of a few shillings, say half a sovereign
until I draw a couple of hundred pounds in advance. Whatever I receive
from you, you shall have a receipt, and, although nothing is said
about interest, the amount owing will be doubled, aye trebled, you may
rest assured of that, for I never forget a kindness." "You had better
take a sovereign," said the landlord, "and, of course, the Mrs. will
supply any meals you may need, and drink is at your disposal." "Thank
you," said Macquire, in a choking voice--"let me have a couple of pots
of your best ale for the poor fellows in the kitchen."

What a surprise for the poor lodgers when they were asked to drink
Macquire's health! On being told of his good fortune, they one and all
cheered and congratulated him. But the easy way in which this man
Macquire threw his weight about the kitchen and, for that matter, the
whole house was extraordinary.

Now it happened that there were at this house two stonemasons who,
although heavy drinkers, had been working steady for a week or more,
for their job was drawing to a close, and they knew not how many idle
weeks might follow. These men were at breakfast and, being repeatedly
offered drink, grew careless and resolved to quit work there and then
and draw their money, which amounted to three pounds ten shillings
between them. Macquire favoured this resolution and, said he, "Before
your money is spent, I shall have a couple of hundred pounds at my
disposal." The landlord was present at the passing of this resolution
and, though he said nothing, apparently favoured it, for he laughed
pleasantly.

In less than half an hour Macquire and the two stonemasons were back
in the lodging house kitchen, and drinking ale as fast as they
possibly could. In a number of cases the former received money from
his new friends to buy the beer, but, according to after developments
he must have pocketed this money and had the beer entered to his
account, in addition to that which he fetched of his own accord.
However, when evening came Macquire, though seemingly possessed of
business faculties, was not in a bodily condition to keep his lawyer's
appointment. As he himself confessed--"he was drunk in the legs, but
sober in the brain." What an evening we had! Not one man in the house
retired sober, and the kindness of the ill-clad one brought tears
into a number of eyes, for he made the stonemasons spend their money
freely, and he made the landlord fetch pot after pot, and all he did
in the way of payment was to utter that name, grown strangely
powerful--James Macquire.

Now when the next morning came there seemed to be a suspicion that all
was not right. For, as soon as James Macquire put in an appearance,
one of the stonemasons abruptly asked when he intended to see the
lawyer. At this moment the landlord entered, and, though he had not
heard the question, he too, would like to know when Macquire intended
seeing his lawyer. "Don't bother me," said Macquire, "you see what a
state I am in, trembling after drink?" "I'll soon put you right," said
the landlord, leaving the kitchen, and entering the bar.

The stonemasons offered their future benefactor a drink of beer, which
he waved aside, saying that he must first have a short drink to steady
his stomach. "You don't mind giving me a saucerful of your tea?" said
Macquire to me, for I was then at breakfast. "With pleasure," said I,
and, filling the saucer pushed it towards him. "Thank you," said he,
after drinking it--"that saucer of tea has cost me a sovereign!"
"Nonsense," said I, inwardly pleased, "it is of no value whatever."
"Have you any tobacco?" he asked. At this question one of the
stonemasons, in fear that Macquire would promise me more money,
sprang forward with tobacco. "I am not asking you for tobacco," said
Macquire slowly--"but am asking this gentleman." This was said in such
a way as could not give offence; as much as to say that he already
knew that the stonemason's heart was good, but that he felt disposed
to test mine and, if he found it generous, he would not forget me when
he came into his estate. Not setting great value on a pipeful of
tobacco, I offered him my pouch to help himself. After he had filled
his pipe, he said, in an abrupt manner, as he was walking towards the
bar--"Please remember, friend, I am five pounds in your debt." "What a
fine fellow he is," said the stonemason to me; "for the few kindnesses
we did him yesterday, he has promised me and my pal twenty pounds each
out of his first advance, and larger sums to follow."

At this moment the postman entered with a letter addressed to James
Macquire, Esq. If the landlord, or any one else, had the least
suspicion earlier in the morning, it certainly vanished at the sight
of this letter. Macquire opened the letter and, after reading it,
passed it to the landlord. That gentleman's face beamed with
satisfaction, although it was but an ordinary note saying that the
lawyer had expected Macquire the night previous, and trusted that he
would keep the appointment at the same hour on the following day, by
which time the lawyer would be able to advance him some money.
"That's something like business," said Macquire, to which every one
agreed, the landlord and the stonemasons showing the most approval.

"Now," said James Macquire to the landlord, "you had better let me
have some money." "What for?" asked that gentleman; "you can have
anything that you require, as I told you before." "Just for my own
satisfaction," said Macquire. "I am going to walk out for a while, so
as to keep myself sober for business." "You can't go out in those
rags," said the landlord--"you had better take my best suit."

In ten minutes or less the ill-clad one was standing at the bar in the
landlord's best suit of clothes, after which the said landlord gave
him all the money available, amounting to thirty shillings. "How much
am I in your debt?" asked Macquire. "Oh, about three pounds," was the
answer. "We will call it fifty pounds," cried Macquire and, drinking
his whisky, he left the house, followed closely by the faithful
stonemasons.

In half an hour the stonemasons were back, having lost their companion
in the market place, and were at the bar awaiting him, thinking he
might have already returned. Yes, and they could wait, for that was
the last of Macquire, and, to the surprise and mortification of the
landlord and the two stonemasons, the house received no more visits or
letters from lawyers.



CHAPTER XXXI

SOME WAYS OF MAKING A LIVING


No doubt laces are the best stock to carry, for a gross of them can be
had for eighteen pence, sometimes less, which, sold at a penny a pair,
realises six shillings; and, counting the number of pennies that are
tendered free in pity for the man's circumstances, who must be cunning
enough to show only two or three pairs at a time--he has nothing to
complain of in the end. Although he sometimes meets a lady who
persists in regarding him as a trader and bargains for two pairs for
three halfpence, and ultimately carries them off in triumph--in spite
of his whine of not being able to make bed and board out of them--in
spite of these rare instances, he must confess that in the end he has
received eight or nine shillings for an outlay of eighteen pence, and,
what is more, an abundance of free food. Then, again, laces are light,
they are easy to carry and can be stored in one coat-pocket. Another
great advantage is that although a man may get wet through, or roll on
his laces in the grass, he does not spoil his living. In fact, if they
become crumpled and twisted and their tags rusty, he makes them his
testimony that he was wet through, being out all night, which story
rarely fails in coppers and he still retains his laces.

But with all these advantages of a light and profitable stock, there
are two men who scorn to carry even these and will not on any account
make any pretence at selling. These two men are the gridler and the
downrighter. The former sings hymns in the streets, and he makes his
living by the sound of his voice. Professional singers are paid
according to the richness, sweetness, and compass of their voices, but
the gridler's profit increases as his vocal powers decline. The more
shaky and harsh his voice becomes, the greater his reward. With a
tongue like a rasp he smoothes the roughness off hard hearts. With a
voice like an old hen he ushers in the golden egg. With a base mixture
of treble, contralto and bass, he produces good metal which falls from
top story windows, or is thrown from front doors, to drop at his feet
with the true ring. Then, if the voice be immaterial, where lies the
art of gridling? No more or less than in the selection of hymns, which
must be simple and pathetic and familiar to all. Let the gridler
supply the words sufficiently to be understood, and the simple air
with variations--a good gridler often misses parts of the air itself
for breathing spells and in stooping for coppers--let him supply the
words, I say, and his hearers will supply the feeling. For instance,
if a gridler has sung an old well known hymn fifty or sixty times a
day for ten or fifteen years, he cannot reasonably be expected to be
affected by the words. It would be extremely thoughtless to request of
such an one an encore without giving a promise of further reward. In
fact this man is really so weary of song that if there is any merry
making at the lodging house, he is the one man who will not sing, not
even under the influence of drink; and, what is more no man would
invite him for, being a gridler and earning his living by song, we
know well that his voice is spoilt, and that he cannot sing. The
gridler considers himself to be at the top of the begging profession,
for his stock never gets low, nor requires replenishing; and his voice
is only a little weak thing of no weight, the notes of which are born
into the world from his throat, and was never roused from sleep in the
depths of his chest. There is no strain or effort in giving these
notes to the world--despite the gridler's affectations--and he neither
grows pale nor red with the exertion.

But the downrighter not only scorns grinders, pedlars, etc., but he
even despises the gridler for being a hard worker. "I," says he, "do
not carry laces, needles, matches, or anything else; and I do not
advertise my presence to the police by singing in the streets. If
people are not in the front of the house, I seek them at the back,
where a gridler's voice may not reach them. I am not satisfied with
getting a penny for a farthing pair of laces--I get the whole penny
for nothing. People never mistake me for a trader, for I exhibit no
wares, and tell them straightforward that I am begging the price of my
supper and bed."

The fact of the matter is that all these men have different ways of
making a living, and each man thinks his own way the best and fears to
make new experiments, such an opinion being good for the trade of
begging. Sometimes, owing to the vigilance of the police, and their
strict laws, the gridler has to resort to downright begging, but his
heart is not in the business, and he is for that reason unsuccessful.
He longs to get in some quiet side street where he can chant slowly
his well known hymns. But everything is in favour of the more silent
downrighter; who allows nothing to escape him, neither stores, private
or public houses, nor pedestrians. All he is required to do is to keep
himself looking something like a working man, and he receives more
charity in the alehouse by a straightforward appeal as an unemployed
workman, than another who wastes his time in giving a song and a
dance. People often hurry past when they hear a man singing, or see
one approaching with matches or laces, but the downrighter claims
their attention before they suspect his business.

When I met Long John at Oxford, we had much talk of the merits of
different parts of a beggar's profession. He, it seemed, had carried
laces; he had also gridled sacred hymns in the streets, and sung
sporting songs in the alehouses; he had even exerted himself as a
dancer, "but," said he, "I must confess, after all, that as a
downrighter my profits are larger, at the expenditure of far less
energy."

In the course of conversation Long John informed me that he also was
travelling London way, and if I was agreeable we would start together
on the following morning. "And," said he, in a whisper, so that other
lodgers might not hear--"there is a house on our way that is good for
a shilling each. He is a very rich man and has been an officer in the
army. He pretends to be prejudiced against old soldiers, and when they
appeal to him, he first abuses them, after which he drills them and,
after abusing them again rewards each with a two shilling piece. Do
you know the drills'?" "No," I answered, "I have never been in the
army." "That is a great pity," said Long John, "for we lose a shilling
each. However, we will not say that we are old soldiers, for fear of
losing all, and be satisfied with the two shillings between us." So it
was agreed.

In less than two hours we were at the gentleman's lodge. Passing
boldly through the gates we followed the drive until we saw before us
a fine large mansion. Reaching the front door we rang the bell, which
was soon answered by a servant. To our enquiries as to whether the
master was in the servant replied in the negative, but intimated that
the mistress was. Of course, this made not the least difference, as
many a tramp knew, except that had we been old soldiers the lady not
being able to test us by drill, would therefore not have given more
than the civilian's shilling. Now, almost unfortunately for us,
the downrighter, knowing that the lady would not drill us, and
thinking that there might be a possibility of getting the master's
double pay to old soldiers, without danger of drill or cross
examination--suddenly made up his mind to say that we were two old
soldiers. For, thought he, if it does no good, it cannot do any harm.
Therefore, when the lady appeared smiling at the door Long John, being
spokesman, told a straightforward tale of hardship, and added that we
had both served our country on the battlefield as soldiers. He had
scarcely mentioned the word soldiers when a loud authoritative voice
behind us cried--"Shoulder Arms!" I was leaning heavily on a thick
stick when this command was given, but lost my balance and almost fell
to the ground. We both turned our faces towards the speaker and saw a
tall military looking gentleman scrutinising us with two very sharp
eyes. Giving us but very little time to compose ourselves he shouted
again--"Present Arms!" This second command was no more obeyed than the
first. Long John blew his nose, and I stood at ease on my staff, as
though I did not care whether the dogs were set upon us or we were to
be lodged in jail. After another uncomfortable pause the retired
officer said, looking at us severely--"Two old soldiers, indeed! You
are two imposters and scoundrels! Perhaps you understand this
command"--and in a voice fiercer and louder than ever he cried, "Quick
March!" Long John and I, although not old soldiers, certainly
understood this command, for we started down the drive at a good pace,
with the military looking gentleman following. When we reached the
public road, he gave another command--"Halt!" But this was another of
those commands which we did not understand. However, on its being
repeated less sternly we obeyed. "Here," said he, "you are not two old
soldiers, but you may not be altogether scoundrels; and I never turn
men away without giving them some assistance." Saying which he gave us
a shilling each. But what a narrow escape we had of being turned
penniless away, all through Long John's greed and folly!



CHAPTER XXXII

AT LAST


In spite of these occasional successes with Long John and others, I
was often at my wits' ends to procure food and shelter. This always
happened when I travelled alone. I was now heartily sick of this
wandering from town to town, and every day seemed to get more
unfortunate; until the first day in December, when, forced by extreme
want, I resolved to enter the city at once, knowing that a pound was
already there waiting my pleasure. That night I was back in the
Farmhouse; and what a genial spirit seemed to animate the old coke
fire! Not at all like the death dealer, the waster of time, who robbed
a human being of his energy and a kitten of its play. Oh, no; for this
one night we were the best of friends, and sunny smiles passed between
us until bed time.

I had been away five months, and would still have to suffer owing to
this early return; knowing that I would not have courage to sell in
the streets of London, and that I would be compelled to eke out a
living on five shillings a week, until the beginning of the new
year--this being a half crown for lodgings, and the same for food.

I was very well satisfied with myself at this time, with the prospect
of the new year before me; and at once began to get my work ready for
the press. When all original composition was done, and it was
necessary to make ready a copy for the printer, even at this time I
was confronted with a foolish hindrance. One library in Lambeth, which
at one time had a table with pens, ink and blotting pads for the
convenience of visitors, had had these things removed; but seeing no
sign to the contrary, I still thought I would be allowed to take
possession of a corner of this table and write, providing I supplied
my own material. So, this library was chosen for my week's writing,
but I was warned off at the commencement. Thoroughly incensed at this
fresh and paltry hindrance, I sought a library where I knew my work
could be continued without interference, even if the writing of it
took some years. This library was not so convenient as the other,
being some distance away, but there I at last succeeded in performing
my task.

Now came the new year when, independent of others, I would be enabled
to assist myself. If I failed in making success, the disappointment
would be mine only, and if I succeeded, there would be none other to
thank but myself. On receiving this money, in the first week in
January, I lost no time in seeing the printer and arranging for an
edition of two hundred and fifty copies, the cost to be nineteen
pounds. This amount certainly did not cover expenses, and here began
the series of kindnesses which, after a few more disappointments, were
to follow. This printer placed the MS. in the hands of a good reader,
and that gentleman was put to considerable trouble, being baffled and
interested in turns. The last two lines of a poem entitled "The hill
side park" are entirely his, both in thought and expression. I mention
this because two or three correspondents liked the poem in question,
and one thought the last two lines the best; so, I take this
opportunity to clear my conscience. There was nothing to complain of,
both printer and reader being at great pains and patience to make the
work better than it was. Naturally, I thought if there was any
interest shown, it would not be in the author's personality, but in
the work itself, and for this reason, gave the Farmhouse, a common
lodging house, as my address. I was under the impression that people
would uninterestedly think the Farmhouse to be a small printing
establishment, or a small publishing concern of which they had not
heard; to which they would forward their orders, and business would be
transacted without their being any the wiser. In the first week in
March I received my first printed copy.

The printer had sent thirty copies or more to the various papers, and
I was now waiting the result, which at last came in the shape of two
very slim reviews from the North; a Yorkshire paper saying that the
work had rhymes that were neither intricate nor original, and a Scotch
paper saying that the work was perfect in craftsmanship rather than
inspired. This was very disappointing, more so to know that others,
who were powerless to assist me, were interesting themselves on my
behalf. Although I still had confidence that the work contained some
good things, I began to think that there must be some glaring faults
which made the book, as a whole, impossible to review. This first
thought became my first belief when other notices did not follow.

Weeks and weeks went by and, having now started to drink, and losing
control of my will in this disappointment, I had come down to my last
ten shillings, and had a good seven months to go before my money was
again due. First of all I had serious thoughts of destroying this
work--the whole two hundred and odd copies, which were under lock and
key in my room, and to then set to work carefully on new matter, and,
when my income was again due, to again mortgage it in another attempt.
Being very impulsive, this no doubt would have been there and then
commenced, had I not been confronted with the difficulty of doing so.
There was only one way of doing this properly, and that was by fire,
which would require privacy. My room was the only place where I could
do this without being seen, but that contained neither stove nor
grate; and, even if it had, two hundred books would take a number of
sleepless nights to render into ashes. I thought with some bitterness
of having to go on tramp again, and it was in one of these bitter
moments that I swore a great oath that these copies, good or bad,
should maintain me until the end of the year. For I would distribute
the books here and there, sending them to successful people, and they
would probably pay for their copies, perhaps not so much for what
merit they might think the work contained, as for the sake of
circumstances. This idea no sooner possessed me than I began preparing
for its execution. For this purpose I obtained stamps and envelopes,
and six copies were at once posted. The result was seen in a couple of
days--three letters, two containing the price of the book, and the
third from the Charity Organisation, the latter writing on behalf of a
gentleman who had become interested, and would like to come to my
assistance. Remembering these people in the past, through my former
experience with them, I had no great hopes at the present time, in
spite of the kind hearted interest of the gentleman in question.
However, I called on them the next morning, and after the usual long
wait in a side room--which, I believe, is not through any great stress
of business, but so as to bring one's heart down to the freezing point
of abject misery, and to extinguish one by one his many hopes--after
this weary waiting, I received an interview. There is not sufficient
venom in my disposition to allow me to describe this meeting in words
fit and bitter for its need. This life is too short to enable me to
recover from my astonishment, which will fill me for a good many years
to come. The questions and answers which had passed between us on our
former interview,--two years previous, were now before them. But they
questioned again in the same strain, and my answers corresponded with
those of the past, for I told no lies. Apparently they had no chance
here, so they came at once to the business in hand. "You have written
to a gentleman, asking for his assistance?" Not liking this way of
explaining my conduct, I said--"No, not exactly that, but have been
trying to sell him some work that I had done." It seemed that they
knew nothing of this work--or that it better suited their purpose to
appear ignorant--so it was necessary to give them the full
particulars. "Was not the book a success?" they asked. Not caring to
admit failure, and still thinking the work worthy of a little success,
I answered--"Not yet, but it is too early to judge it as a failure."
Then I gave it in confidence that a gentleman, well known in
Southwark, and who often wrote articles on literary subjects, had
promised to review it in one of the evening papers, which might lead
to other notices. "What is the name of this gentleman?" The name was
at once mentioned, for there was no reason that I knew of, to
withhold it. But instead of this name doing me good, as I then
expected, it probably made this case of mine more unfavorable; for I
have been told since that this gentleman had more than once attacked
the ways and methods of this Organisation, both on the public platform
and through the press. Not knowing this, at that time, I thought it
extremely fortunate to be enabled to mention the favour of such a well
known local man. All went smoothly for a while--although I could
plainly see that these people did not recognise the writing of books
as work, and were plainly disgusted at the folly of sacrificing an
income to that end. Their next question confirmed this opinion--"Do
you ever do anything for a living?" I mentioned that I had tramped the
country as a hawker, during the previous summer, but had suffered
through want of courage, could not make anything like a living, and
was often in want and without shelter. There was a rather long pause,
and the Charity Organisation rose slowly to their feet, and said--"Mr.
Davies, do you really expect this gentleman, who has written to us, to
maintain you? Is there anything the matter with you?" What was the
matter with me did not seem to escape many people, and it was most
certainly noted by the smallest toddler that played in the street, but
the Charity Organisation did not think proper to recognise any other
than an able man, strong in the use of all his limbs. "No," said
these people, "you must do the same as you did last summer;" which, in
other words was--go on tramp, starve, and be shelterless as you were
before. And then in the deep silence which followed, for I was
speechless with indignation, a voice soft and low, but emphatic and
significant, said--"We strongly advise you to do this, but you really
must not write any more begging letters. Mr. Davies, we do not
consider ourselves justified in putting your case before the
committee." That ended the interview, and I left them with the one
sarcastic remark, which I could not keep unsaid, "that I had not come
there with any great hopes of receiving benefit, and that I was not
leaving greatly disappointed at this result." These people passed
judgment in a few minutes, and were so confident that they did not
think it worth while to call at the Farmhouse for the opinion of a man
who had known me for a considerable time. No doubt they had made
another mistake. For, some time before this, an old pensioner, an old
lodger of the Farmhouse, had interviewed these people, telling them a
story of poverty, and of starving wife and children. The story was a
fabrication from beginning to end, yet they assisted this man on his
bare word to the extent of ten shillings, so as to enable him to lie
about the Farmhouse drunk for several days. Then, some days after
this, the Charity Organisation called at the Farmhouse to see the
manager, and to make enquiries of this man whom they had so
mysteriously befriended. "What," cried that gentleman, "you have
assisted this drunken fellow on his bare word, and when I send cases
to you, that I know are deserving, you sternly refuse to entertain
them." Perhaps it was this instance, fresh in their minds, which gave
them an idea that no good could come out of the Farmhouse. Yet, as far
as my experience goes, the object of these people was not so much to
do good, but to prevent good from being done; for here, for the second
time, they stepped between me and one who might have rendered me some
aid. What I found the most distasteful part of their system was the
way in which they conceal the name of a would-be benefactor. I had
sent six books, three to men and three to women. One man had replied
with a kind encouraging letter and the price of the book enclosed, and
one of the two others had written to the Organisation, but, on no
account, would they mention his name. Now, when these people answer a
letter of enquiry, they have no other option than to say one of two
things--either that the applicant is an impostor, and deserves no
notice, or that the case is genuine and deserving consideration. They,
of course, answered in the former strain, withholding the gentleman's
name, so as to leave no opportunity to vindicate one's character.

The interference of these people put me on my mettle, and I was
determined not to follow their advice and tramp through another hard
winter. I had something like three shillings, at the time of this
interview; so, buying two shillings' worth of stamps, I posted a dozen
books that very night, being still warm with resentment. The result of
these were four kind letters, each containing the price of the book.
Only one or two were returned to me, whether purchased or not, which
was done at my own wish. Before I again became penniless, off went
another dozen. In this way I disposed of some sixty copies, with more
or less success; some of these well known people receiving the book as
an unacknowledged gift, and others quickly forwarding the price of the
same. The strangest part of this experience was this: that people,
from whom I expected sympathy, having seen their names so often
mentioned as champions of unfortunate cases, received the book as a
gift; whilst others, from whom I had less hope, because they appeared
sarcastic and unfeeling in their writings, returned the price of the
work. The Manager was astonished at my receiving no answer from two or
three well known people whom he had recommended. At last, after
disposing of sixty copies in this way, two well known writers
corresponded with me, one of whom I saw personally, and they both
promised to do something through the press. Relying on these promises,
I sent away no more copies, being enabled to wait a week or two owing
to the kindness of a playwriter, an Irishman, as to whose mental
qualification the world is divided, but whose heart is unquestionably
great. Private recognition was certainly not long forthcoming, which
was soon followed by a notice in a leading daily paper, and in a
literary paper of the same week. These led to others, to interviews
and a kindness that more than made amends for past indifference. It
was all like a dream. In my most conceited moments I had not expected
such an amount of praise, and they gathered in favour as they came,
until one wave came stronger than the others and threw me breathless
of all conceit, for I felt myself unworthy of it, and of the wonderful
sea on which I had embarked. Sleep was out of the question, and new
work was impossible. What surprised me agreeably was the reticence of
my fellow lodgers, who all knew, but mentioned nothing in my hearing
that was in any way disconcerting. They were, perhaps, a little less
familiar, but showed not the least disrespect in their reserve, as
would most certainly have been the case if I had succeeded to a
peerage or an immense fortune. The lines on Irish Tim, which were
several times quoted, were a continual worry to me, thinking some of
the more waggish lodgers would bring them to his notice. Poor Tim, no
doubt, would have sulked, resenting this publicity, but, if the truth
were known, I would as soon do Tim a good turn as any other man in
the Farmhouse. Boozy Bob, I suppose, had been shown his name in print;
but Bob thought it a great honour to be called Boozy; so, when he
stood drunk before me, with his face beaming with smiles of gratitude
for making use of his name, at the same time saying--"Good evening,
Mr. Davies, how are you?"--I at once understood the meaning of this
unusual civility, and we both fell a-laughing, but nothing more was
said. What a lot of decent, honest fellows these were: "You must not
be surprised," said a gentleman to me, at that time, "to meet less
sincere men than these in other walks of life." I shall consider
myself fortunate in not doing so.



CHAPTER XXXIII

SUCCESS


However much cause I may have at some future date to complain of
severe criticism, I have certainly no complaint up to the present
against any connected with the making of books. Some half a dozen
lines of work were submitted to publishers, and three times I received
letters with a view to publication, which, of course, failed through
the want of friends to assist me. Knowing how rough and unequal the
work was, and that critics could find--if so inclined--plenty to
justify extreme severity, has undeceived me as to my former
unreasonable opinion, that critics were more prone to cavil than to
praise. I would like it to be understood that I say this without
bidding for any future indulgence; for I am thankful to any man who
will show me my faults, and am always open to advice.

As I have said, the first notice appeared in a leading daily paper, a
full column, in which I saw myself described, a rough sketch of the
ups and downs of my life, in short telling sentences, with quotations
from my work. The effect of this was almost instantaneous, for
correspondence immediately followed. Letters came by every post. Of
course, all my thoughts had been concentrated on the reading world, so
that I was much surprised when two young men came to the house and
requested a photo for an illustrated paper. I could not oblige them at
that moment, but with a heart overflowing with gratitude was persuaded
to accompany them at once to the nearest photographer, now that
interest was at its high point. "Now," said one of these young men,
when I was on my way with them, delighted with this mission--"now, if
you could give me a few lines on the war in the East, to go with your
photograph, it would be of much greater interest to the public." Not
caring to blow the froth off my mind in this indifferent manner, and
feeling too conscientious to take advantage of public interest by
writing in such haste, which, to tell the truth, appeared a difficult
task--I quickly turned the subject to other matters, thinking he would
soon forget his request. But it was of no use; for, every other step
or two, he wanted to be informed whether I was concentrating my mind
on the war. At last, being under the impression that my natural
reserve and feeble attempts at conversation would lead him to believe
that something was being done in that direction, I made a great effort
to become voluble, and, I believe, succeeded until the photograph was
taken. When I left him, his last question was--"What about the war?"

The next morning, after the last mentioned episode, being Sunday, I
was enjoying a stroll through the city, which is so very quiet on this
one morning of the week; and was thinking of nothing else but my own
affairs, more especially of the photo that was soon to appear. The
street was forsaken, with the exception--yes, there they were: two men
with a camera, and both of them looking my way, anxiously awaiting my
approach. "This," I said to myself, "is fame with a vengeance." I felt
a little mortification at being expected to undergo this operation in
the public streets. One of these photographers quickly stepped forward
to meet me, and, smiling blandly, requested me kindly to stand for a
moment where I was. It certainly shocked and mortified me more to
learn that they desired to photograph an old fashioned dwelling of
brick and mortar, and that they considered my presence as no adornment
to the front.

A few days after this first review, a critic of fine literature, who
had interested himself privately on my behalf, sent a notice to a
weekly literary paper; and it was the respect due to this man's name
that drew the attention of some other papers of good standing, for
their representatives mentioned this man's name with every respect,
knowing, at the same time, that he would not waste his hours on what
was absolutely worthless.

What kind hearted correspondents I had, and what offers they made,
what questions they asked! and all of them received grateful
answers--with one exception. This gentleman, who did not require a
book, presumably being more interested in the strange conditions under
which I had lived and worked, offered me a pleasant home in the
country, where I could cultivate my talents surrounded with a little
more comfort and quieter scenes. The letter was long, delightful,
poetical, and worked warmly on my imagination, sentence for sentence;
until the last sentence came like a douche of cold water on a warm
body--"Of course," finished this gentleman, "it is necessary to supply
me with strict references as to honesty and respectability." Where was
I to get these? after having failed to get a library form signed,
which would entitle me to borrow books. No doubt the manager of the
Farmhouse would have willingly done the latter, as was afterwards done
by him, but I was then under the impression that the keeper of a
lodging house was ineligible for such a purpose, knowing this to have
been the case elsewhere. Where could I obtain these references, seeing
that I knew no one who would take the responsibility of doing such a
petty kindness as signing a library form? This gentleman's letter, I
need scarcely say, remained unanswered, for which, I believe, none
will blame me.

Several other letters were received, which I found extremely difficult
to answer. One addressed me familiarly in rhyme, beginning--"Dear
brother poet, brother Will;" and went on to propose that we two should
take a firm stand together, side by side, to the everlasting benefit
of poetry and posterity.

Another had written verse, and would be glad to find a publisher, and
another could, and would, do me many a good turn, if I felt inclined
to correct his work, and to add lines here and there as needed. Not
for a moment would I hold these people to ridicule, but it brought to
mind that I was without a publisher for my own work, and I believed,
in all sincerity, that better work than mine might go begging, as it
often had.

In the main my correspondents were kind, sympathetic and sensible,
making genuine offers of assistance, for which I thanked them with all
my heart, but thought myself now beyond the necessity of accepting
them.

As a matter of fact, no one man in a common lodging house is supposed
to be regarded with any special favour. The common kitchen is his
library, his dining room and his parlour, and better accommodation
cannot be expected at the low price of fourpence per night. We are all
equal, without a question of what a man's past may have been, or what
his future is likely to realise. Any man who puts on superior airs is
invariably subjected to this sarcastic enquiry--"How much do you pay?"
or the incontrovertible remark that one man's fourpence is as good as
another's. The Manager has to use great tact in not indulging in too
long a conversation with one particular man, and a lodger must not
jeopardise his popularity by an overweening anxiety to exchange
civilities, or to repose confidence in those who are in authority; for
these lodgers are in general distrustful and suspicious. If a fish
porter--a good number of these men were here--was warned after any
misconduct, he would turn to one of his pals and say--"Billingsgate, I
see, is not favoured in this place." And if a paper-seller--of which
there were about an equal number--was called to account in the same
way, his remark would be that had he been a fish porter the misconduct
would have been overlooked. Such was the state of feeling in the
Farmhouse, although the caretaker, time after time, almost daily,
reiterated the remark that one man was as good as another, and that no
distinction was made between the two classes. Knowing this state of
feeling, and the child-like distrust and jealousy of these honest
fellows, it was no wonder that I felt a little awkward at the change
of circumstances; for, after all, I was still a lodger, and paying no
more than them for the same conveniences. In spite of this, I don't
believe I suffered the least in popularity when the Manager,
determined that I should not suffer any longer for want of privacy to
pursue my aims, threw open his own private rooms for my convenience.
And, every time I took advantage of his kindness, the Manager's wife
would take advantage of this by supplying a hot dinner or tea, as the
hour might be, so that my studies might not be interrupted, or food
postponed through an anxiety to perform a certain task.

The Manager was astonished at my success, and, after he had read
several notices, it certainly must have made him bitter against those
whom he had approached on my behalf. "Yes," he said, "I must confess
to failure, in your case, and I am left wondering as to what kind of
cases these people consider worthy of assistance." The man, being in a
subordinate position, dare not openly speak his thoughts, or appear to
force the hands of those rich visitors, but he certainly lost no
opportunity in showing some honest Irish blood in his references to
the Charity Organisation. "Miss So and So has been here," said he, one
morning; "and I lost no time in relating your experience with the
Charity Organisation. She was very much offended and shocked, and she
has now gone there to seek some explanation." "As for that," I
answered, knowing these people had all the power to make good their
own case, and that I would not be called upon to sift the false from
the true--"As for that, this lady will return satisfied, as you will
see." The Manager did not altogether believe this, saying that he
thought the lady in question was not a blind believer in anything, and
had an unusual amount of common sense. She certainly did return
satisfied, saying that she thought they were justified in their
conduct, to a certain extent. On being questioned by the Manager, who
claimed it justice that the truth should be known, she said that she
dare not make public the sayings and doings of the Society. I am now
giving my experiences honestly and truthfully, and thought for
thought, if not word for word, as they happened. As a man whose
ambition above all other things is to impress every one favourably, I
have come to the conclusion that my work has been praised far more
than its worth, owing to having met the writers of some of those
articles, and impressing them in a simple, honest way. I am writing
these experiences with a full knowledge of human nature, knowing that
many people will remark: "Take no heed of that man, for he has not a
good word for any one or anything;" but, as far as my knowledge and
experience goes it is the truth, and, if that seems false and
sensational, it is no fault of mine. Certainly I have led a worthless,
wandering and lazy life, with, in my early days, a strong dislike to
continued labour, and incapacitated from the same in later years. No
person seemed inclined to start me on the road to fame, but, as soon
as I had made an audacious step or two, I was taken up, passed quickly
on from stage to stage, and given free rides farther than I expected.



CHAPTER XXXIV

A HOUSE TO LET


Apparently the ill luck which had pursued me so close in the past,
would not let me escape without another scratch. In my pleasant walks
in my native town, my eye happened to fall on a beautiful house,
untenanted in a neighbourhood so quiet that every other house seemed
to be the same. The very name, Woodland Road, was an address for a
poet. It was a four storied villa, standing on the top of a hilly
road, from where one could see on a clear mistless day the meeting of
the Severn and the Bristol Channel; and, looking in another direction,
could see the whole town without hearing one of its many voices.
Unfortunately, I coveted this house as a tenant, thinking to get more
pleasure in one glance from its top window on a bright summer's
morning than from the perusal of many books. Even now, in Winter, it
presented a warm, comfortable appearance, with its evergreens and its
ivied walls. A tall, spreading rose bush stood facing its lowest
window, and I imagined the bashful red roses looking in at me, as
though I would not come out of doors to please them. There were
primrose leaves green on the rockery, and one yellow flower still
stood, withered and bent, in this last week of November. There was
also an apple tree and a pear tree, so that the front of the house was
both a park and an orchard. Blackbirds, robins, and thrushes visited
the grounds daily; and I believe that this house was their nearest
approach to town. It only wanted a few touches of Spring, and here
were shady nooks, and leafy boughs for birds to sing unseeing and
unseen. Thinking that this beautiful place would not remain untenanted
for long, I at once made application, being recommended by my old
master of the days of my apprenticeship. Had I known that the house
was always empty and untenanted, and that people came and went at
short notice, I should certainly not have been in such a hurry to take
possession, in spite of its natural beauties. It was neither haunted
by ghosts nor animal noises, but by the landlady, who lived in the
next house. This lady I did not see, nor have I seen her up to the
present time, one of my family having taken the place in my name.
Probably if I had transacted business personally, and had had an
opportunity of seeing this landlady's face, I had not coveted the
house, and, according to a right judgment of human nature, would have
saved myself the money and disappointment that was to follow.
However, the house became mine, and I received the key which was to
let me possess this house and its interesting grounds.

I idled a week about town descanting with great pleasure on the
beauties of my future home; but I was somewhat taken by surprise at
the unfavourable reception with which my news was received. "Who is
the landlady?" asked one. "Mrs. S," I answered; "she lives next door."
"It is very unfortunate," said this person, "that the landlady lives
next door." "Every one can please themselves," said another, "but as
for myself, I would never dream of living next door to my landlady."
"What": cried another, "the landlady lives next door? What a great
pity, to be sure." Although the last named depreciator was the
respectable wife of a retired tradesman, and had given her own
landlady satisfaction for a number of years; in spite of this, I was
highly amused at these remarks, taking the uncharitable view that
these people were really not so respectable as they seemed, and would
not be allowed to live under the watchful eyes of a particular person.
My landlady, I thought, be she ever so watchful, dare not interfere
without some cause; and, as the house must needs be kept very quiet
for my own purpose of study, noises that are not allowed to reach me
in the same house, surely will not be able to reach the house next
door.

The eventful day arrived, and I gathered together my small family, one
from her limited possession of two small rooms, being very pleased to
have me with her, which could not otherwise have been. At last we were
in full possession, and at once proceeded to arrange the furniture,
and to make the house comfortable. On the second day I began to work
in earnest, having been unsettled and indisposed for several weeks.
When I came downstairs to dinner, on this second day, I was informed
that the landlady had already been there to say that she objected to
us keeping animals. On being told there was not the least intention of
doing the same, she said that she certainly thought such was our
intention, seeing that we were in possession of wood, and that she
strongly objected to any other than that which could be kept indoors.
The wood, which had caused all this suspicion, was simply a clothes
prop and three shelves which had not yet been removed from where they
were first placed. I laughed heartily at this unwarranted
interference, but the feminine portion of the family strongly resented
it.

The third day I continued my work, the others again working on the
comfort of this large house; one being outside trimming the
evergreens, and taking a general pride in our half orchard and half
park. Ditto the third day, and so on day after day, until the rent
became due. This was the first time for me to take a personal hand in
my affairs, and, when the agent called, I thought it more business
like to put in an appearance, for the first rent day, at least, seeing
that the house was in my name, after which others might attend to it.
I paid the rent, 9s. 6d.--the house, as I have said, was a fine large
villa, and was really worth fifteen or sixteen shillings a week; and
this small amount demanded for it, was a mystery at which any sensible
person would have sniffed. This agent then gave me a book, with the
rent entered to my account. After this he handed me a letter, which,
said he, was sent from the office. Not dreaming of its contents, I
there and then opened this letter, and to my astonishment saw that it
was a notice to quit within one week of that date, at the orders of
Messrs. H. and B., her solicitors. This notice was a severe blow, for,
up till then, the place had been unsettled, and we had only been
enjoying the expectation of future comfort. "Who, or what does this
lady object to?" I asked the agent, with some bitterness. "I need
absolute quiet for my work, and the amount I have done in the past
week proves that I have had it. What then has disturbed my landlady,
that has not interfered with my work? To make a person suffer the
expense, and worse, the worry of moving twice in a few days, should
not be done without due consideration, and some definite reason." But
the agent knew or pretended to know nothing of the affair, and he
left me at the door, feeling more shame and mortification than I have
ever felt before. There was nothing else to do but to pack up again as
soon as possible and to seek fresh quarters, which, after great
difficulty, were found.

To think that I have lived thirty-five years, and not to have known
the folly and ill policy of living next door to one's landlady! But
this particular landlady is eccentric, can afford to be independent,
and I verily believe she would not sell a house for even twice its
worth if she thought the would-be purchaser to be a man incapable of
taking charge of property. Her house is more often unoccupied than
let, as I have since been told, for the most respectable people cannot
live near her. Apparently this is the case, for the house was still
empty several weeks after I had quit, in spite of its unreasonably low
rent and the beauty of its surroundings.

A robin came to the back door every morning and was fed. Perhaps this
time wasted on the robin might have been better employed in winning
the good graces of the landlady.

What a pity such an eccentric person should have such power to receive
people as tenants for a few days, and then to dismiss them without
warning or giving any definite reason. And what a harvest her
idiosyncrasies must be to her solicitors. They even followed me up and
demanded another week's rent, after the expense of moving to the top
of a high hill and down again, which, up to the present, I have not
paid. A lawyer would certainly be a lucky man to be allowed control
over the interests of half a dozen such clients, and he could dress
his wife and daughters in silk, and thoroughly educate his sons on his
makings. I have been told that she is a deeply religious woman.
Therefore, although she said in her own heart--"on no account can
these people live in a villa of mine," she must have prayed that room
would be reserved for us in the many mansions above.

This chapter should justify itself for the sake of the worldly wisdom
contained in the simple words--"Never live in a house next door to
your landlady or landlord;" which deserves to become a proverb. Many
people might not consider this warning necessary, but the hint may be
useful to poor travellers like myself who, sick of wandering, would
settle down to the peace and quiet of after days.

Such has been my life, rolling unseen and unnoted, like a dark planet
among the bright, and at last emitting a few rays of its own to show
its whereabouts, which were kindly received by many and objected to by
a few, among the latter being my late landlady.

Perhaps I am deceived as to the worth or worthlessness of certain
people, but I have given my experience of them without exaggeration,
describing as near as memory makes it possible, things exactly as
they occurred. I have made no effort to conceal my gratitude for those
who have befriended me, and I have made every effort to conceal
bitterness against enemies. If I have not succeeded in the latter it
is with regret, but if I have failed in the former, for that am I more
truly and deeply sorry. If I have appeared ignorant of certain matters
I claim exception from sin through a lack of prejudice which is, after
all, the only ignorance that can be honestly named with sin.

These have been my experiences; and if I have not omitted to mention
trouble of my own making, for which no one but myself was to blame,
why should I omit the mention of others, whom I blame for hours more
bitter? People are not to be blamed for their doubts, but that they
make no effort to arrive at the truth. However much people of a higher
standing may doubt the veracity of certain matters, I have the one
consolation to know that many a poor man, who is without talent or
means to make his experiences public, knows what I have written to be
the truth. It is but a poor consolation, for such an one is the
sufferer, and not the supporter, and he is powerless in the hands of a
stronger body.


THE END





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