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beer ; he keep reducin' and reducin' on account of his family. I often used to feel grieved for him when I sent him out in the mornin' with nothin' but dry puffs; and he'd say sometimes,— 'I don' know', he say, 'I feel as if I should like somethin' better than bread sometimes. I see the other min have meat pudden, or little bits o' meat dumplin', and I never have nothin''. And as I sot here, I could hear 'em next door a fryin' bits o' meat (my nybour—she's only herself and the man to keep, you know, miss), and I often cried 'cause I felt so grieved for John. And he say to me sometimes, he say,—' Gal', he say, 'you never let me have a ha'penny. I'm bound just as if I was a wukhus child '. I say, 'Never mind; we must be thankful as we've got bread for us and the children; and happen things '11 be better'. He's a good father, John is; there never was a better. He'll goo a'thout any one thing to let his children have it. If there's ever such a little mite o' butter, he 'on't eat it—he say, 'Let the little uns have it'."
No need to say anything about herself; love and thoughtfulness for her children beam in her face, as she talks to you of them and of the countless shifts to which she is put to get them what they need. True, the prospect of an addition to their family is one which brings tears to her eyes whenever she speaks of it. I remember one day she came to our door to ask if we had an old dress for Laura (the rarest thing, for she is no beggar); and after telling me how the child's frock was " wholly to pieces ", and she did so want to go to the concert the young ladies had promised her a ticket for, the poor mother broke down.
"I can't see as I can get her a dress nohow. There's eight on 'em, you see, and I'm half-way through my time to the next. 0 dear I O dear! I think sometimes whatever shall I do !"—and her spirit giving way for once, she broke into bitter sobs.
But when the children come, she loves them dearly, and I believe she would echo the answer which another woman, the mother of ten children, made to my remark that the last new baby seemed to be as much "made of" as any of its brothers and sisters had been,—" "Well, miss, I ought to be 'shamed to say so, p'rhaps; but to my thinking, I love each one of 'em better than the last". John himself comes in for a large share of his wife's warm heart, as is evident from the way she talks of him; and in his case, as in the children's, her love seems to have grown with the years. She tells you, smiling, " When I had him, I didn't care for he. But he always did drive such a trade about me—he jus' as if he 'ouldn't gi' me no peace till I had him ".
Sometimes I have thought that the poverty and hardships of married life among the poor drive away the love that was once warm in the hearts of husband and wife, and that it only returns again when the children have gone out into the world, and the old couple are once more left to themselves. But perhaps it is not so much troubles as troubles taken badly which destroy love—selfish ways, repinings, and mutual upbraidings. Anyhow, it is clear that this husband and wife have gained, not lost, in tenderness, as the long, hard years have rolled over their heads; perhaps their troubles have even drawn them closer together than they would ever have come without.
But the mention of Laura's dress reminds me that we have not yet allowed anything but a penny a week for clothes. I know that there is still one source of income—an occasional one—which has not yet been mentioned in our talk; and so I go on to ask her a few questions about " broad work "— called so, presumably, because it is done abroad—in the fields. I may briefly state that there are five kinds of broad-work—stone-picking, carlicking (i.e. charlock-pulling), mangel-pulling, pea-picking, and gleaning—which is of course its owu reward. The other four kinds are paid for—at a very low rate. Stone-picking the women reckon the hardest work of all; it begins very early in the year, when the heavy land is " dreening wet", and the clay so "plucky" that the poor stone-pickers' boots soon become twice their natural size and weight. The constant stooping, and the ever-increasing weight of the bag of stones round the waist, are so back-breaking, that some of the women, eager though they are to earn a chance penny, find it too much for them to attempt. They are paid five farthings a bushel; and by working hard all day long one might perhaps pick six bushels, thus earning sevenpence - halfpenny. Carlicking and mangel-pulling, as women's work, seem to be dying out; but pea-picking is on the increase. A woman might possibly get three weeks' pea-picking, if she were able to walk long distances to reach the different pea-fields; but ten days would probably be as much as most women, with houses and families to see to, could secure. Then, if they work twelve hours, beginning at three in the morning, they can earn ninepence a day; but here again it is obvious that a poor woman with a family can seldom be absent from home for the twelve hours' work and the walk both ways, even if her strength would hold her out. That they make gallant efforts to do as much as they can in this way, however, Mrs. Allen's tale will show. You will forgive its homeliness, I know; to cut out bits here and there would be to rob it of its simplicity and truth—or so, at least, I fancy.
"Well, miss, the clothes are a proper oneasiness to me, and I couldn't get them nohow if it warn't for the broadwork. There was last year I went stone-picking to get the booys' shuts; and then I did count on gettin' myself a new shimmy, for my was wholly rent to pieces, but then there's four o' the booys, and Annie, she forced to have two shimmies, and so—well, I don' know, I never got it, and I don't know
when I shall. So I did my stone-picking as well as I could; but it was terrible lugsome work; and I made the children pick a few in the evenings, and on Saturdays; and I had a two-three days' carlicking. And then there come the pea-picking. But I couldn't lay that money out on clothes, for I forced to make spare on't for what I knew I should want when the baby come. But oh! I didn't know how to goo. There warn't no peas to pick just round here; and the fields were such a wonderful way off that master he carried some o' the women in a tumbril; but I couldn't stand the jounce, and so I forced to walk. And there was one day I got up 'twixt two and three, and I said to John, 'I don't know how ever I shall goo'. And he say, 'Lie down ', lie say, 'lie down. You ain't fit to goo!' And I say, 'But whatever shall we do? There's twoand-six for the woman to tend me, and there's a shill'n' for liquor, and I must have that, and then there's some sheets I must have, and we ain't got a blanket—and what ever shall we do if I have them cold chills? And you ain't got the money to pay.' 'Gal', he say,' I han't'. So I got up, and I made myself a cup o' tea ; and I took Oily with me, and he carried a stool for me to sit on. I know he's been a wonderful owdacious booy at school, miss, and it's been a great oneasiness to me and John. John's towd him a plenty times he'd have to chine him up [a threat of which I have never learnt the precise meaning], and he's often hot him over the head when the other booys come home and said how Oily fit [fought] the little booy Plum up strit [in the village street]. But he's better than any o' the children to do things for me. Well, we had to go right through
B , and 'most two mile fudder.
Oily was a good booy, and he pulled the rice [pea-plants], and I sat and stripped the peas. But oh! the sun had such a power, and when we'd finished, we set off to goo home, and I jus' as if I couldn't goo a step fudder. I don't know how ever I did get home; and when I got into the house, I couldn't sit and I couldn't stand, and I couldn't get upstairs nohow, so I just lay down on the bricks to rest myself a bit. And presently Laura came in, and she was wholly • scared to see me, and she said, 'Mother, whatever is the matter?' And I said, 'Gal, I'm reg'lar beat out *".
Three days later the baby was born. What wonder if it is a tiny, blue, wizen-faced little thing, so shrunk and old-looking that one day, when I saw it lying on her lap, I really thought it was dead J It seems to be gradually picking up, however, and is much thought of by the children, though perhaps it will never be such a pet as the bigger baby, Elijah, whom, as Mrs. Allen tells me, they all "think a wonderful lot of, because you know, miss, I lost my little dear child, King, the one who come just afore him, and we jus' as if we couldn't do enough for Elijah ".
I could go on to tell many more of her simple tales,—as, for instance, how Jimmy was given a half-crown by his master "for keeping the ship [sheep] well through the harvest", that he might go to the nearest town for the day with it, and how he spent a shilling of the money there in buying a cap for his father, "to keep his head hot on coarse days ". Or again, how the father's heart fails him sometimes, when he comes home at night, and hears the children—light-hearted as usual—exclaim, "Father, my owd boot's bust out again!" As his wife proudly says, he never "mobs" or "tongue-bangs" his children; but he cannot always refrain from exclaiming, "Booys, I b'lieve you tears they boots out o' puppose 1" However, he resigns himself to his fate, sends out for "a penn'orth o' tipnails" and some "hob-irons ", and sets to work to nail on afresh the tips and heels of the ragged old boots.
Enough, however, has been told to give you some idea of the hard-working,
hard-faring life of this man, to bring before you the noble, pathetic figure of this woman—noble, in spite of homeliness, uncouthness of speech, rags, and squalor,—pathetic, in its terrible lack of the comforts that we think necessary to make life even tolerable,— pathetic most of all in its utter powerlessness to relieve the many wants of husband and children. A woman's love for her cup of tea is proverbial; she is accustomed to think of that as a simple necessary of life, without which she could hardly exist, much less do hard work. Think of the two ounces of tea which has to last out the week—as the only drink, remember— in this family of nine; and the heart of every woman amongst us must surely ache with pity as we picture this poor woman sitting down day after day to a cup of coloured water, unsoftened even by milk, and sweetened with sugar, nearer black than brown, at three halfpence per pound I And yet I believe that Mrs. Allen would rather claim your pity for the distress which sometimes overcomes her as she thinks of her husband—that "good, still man "—working day after day in the broiling sun (and the sun and the work together are a severe tax upon the strength of the best-fed labourer in our harvest-fields), with nothing to "take to" but dry bread, and a little weak home - brewed beer. "Bound like a wukhus child "—yes, she knows he is, and all her labours, all her privations, cannot loose him; there, 1 believe, is the most poignant grief of all. What must have been her feelings when, as happened the winter before last, the fiat went forth that for a month or two there would be only four days' work—ah I and four days' pay—for all the men who worked on those farms, must be left to my readers' imagination.
I have, no doubt, chosen a somewhat exceptional case, for all labourers are not—shall I say blessed 1—with so large a family; and but for the fact that the eldest girl is physically unfit, she ought of course to be at least supporting herself by this time. But I could point out many other families in the same parish where there are from six to nine children. One qualification for the Christmas gift of coal is five children under thirteen or four under ten, and many have been the families who could claim it under this head. Fancy having to house, feed, and clothe the father and mother, and four, or even three, little ones who cannot earn a penny for themselves, with wages ten shillings a week ; and if you do not give up the problem in despair, it will only be because you have seen the thing done—or, shall we say, attempted ?—in cottages such as I was in only the other day, where there were six little ones under nine.
Can you wonder if some of our young men do not exactly relish the prospect of leading the life which their fathers have led, with no prospect before them but the workhouse (for how can they save on wages such as these ]),—if they try whether better luck may not befall them in our crowded cities? True, their want of prudence, their early marriages, their neglect to save when they are earning men's wages and as yet have only themselves to keep, have something to do with the poverty which will pinch them so sorely in later life if they settle down in the country; but with wages ten shillings a week, when would it be safe—when would it be prudent-—for a man to marry? Weak human nature wants to see a chance of safety before it will condescend to prudence; and where is that chance for an agricultural labourer?
Whether we may look for a brighter day to dawn—in what direction we may turn for help—must be left to wiser heads than mine. Perhaps the agricultural interest has sunk to its
lowest; perhaps things will begin to look up again, and the old order may yet bring moderate comfort and contentment to our cottage homes. Or perhaps, on the other hand, great changes will have to be slowly made; perhaps, as I incline to believe, the salvation of the labourer is to be found in the gradual transference to him of part of the land on which he works, so that each, if he desires and proves worthy of it, may have something to hope for, something to work for— finally, something to call his own. If this be so, we may hope that the present distress is temporary only, and may do what we can to give temporary relief. These poor people must suffer— there is no effectual help for it; for all things connected with the land are at a very low ebb. Both landlords and farmers are hampered by their losses; gentlemen's houses are shut up; parish after parish which I could name has no gentleman's family in it but the clergyman's. In many cases the great reduction in his tithe has brought him also into hard and bitter straits, so that he, his people's only friend, cannot do to help them what he would; though indeed I believe, and know, that the records of many a quiet country parson's life would tell of many a sacrifice, many a burden, many an anxiety as to his own ways and means, willingly and cheerfully borne for the sake of the flock whom he cannot desert in bodily, any more than in spiritual need. For him and for his people I claim some of the sympathy which is so readily accorded to the suffering poor of London—which will be accorded to their country brethren, I am confident, when once their hardships, their patience, and their heroism have been made known.
ON AN OLD BOOK.
I Have before me a small book—a very small one—which I bought a few days ago at Hodgson's auctionrooms in Chancery Lane, rooms devoted, as the reader probably knows, exclusively to the sale of books. It was one of a lot of thirteen odd volumes which lay on the lowest shelf in the least accessible corner of the room— a bundle half buried in dust and pinched by coarse string; elbowed, too, in its disgrace by a score of similar lots, each more dingy and worm-eaten, more shamelessly out at backs and corners, than its neighbour. Yet there was some bidding for this particular lot, No. 718 in the catalogue. It had been examined. More eyes than mine had espied a neat whole book or two between the grimy fastenings; and had anticipated—fondly, no doubt—the change which a little dusting and wiping and some judicious banging might produce upon calf that was fairly sound, and old gold edges that still gleamed soberly. At any rate there was bidding for this bundle. Lots 716 and 717 went for eighteen-pence apiece; but Lot 718 rose to five-and-six—six shillings— seven shillings! and at last was knocked down to me for seven-andsixpence.
Perhaps I should do well to pass over in silence the twelve nondescripts which went to complete my baker's dozen; make-weights hastily examined and quickly laid aside. But considering them pitifully, I relent. What reverence is not due to old books? To all surely, then to these. They have lain—their fly-pages tell of it—year in and year out on the window-seats of quiet Lancashire manor-houses, among the rods and otter-spears perchance; they have gone up to rooms at Merton or Christchurch, in Master Tom's saddle-bags, or in the boot of
the Swiftsure. Generations of boys and men have pored over their pages; have cried over them, and laughed over them, ay, and have scrawled in them. They have been given " to P. G. by his kind friend, Laura W.", by Tom to Dick, and by Dick to Harry. They are, some of them, more than two centuries old; they came to England, some of them, before the Hanover rat. They cost much money in their day. This tiny "Caesar ", for instance, now light and worm-eaten, arrived at the last stage of sapless old age, once cost a pretty penny; possibly its present weight in gold, for it only turns the balance at three ounces and a half—a feather-weight for a book. It was printed at Amsterdam in 1630. One thing they all have in common—shabbiness. From the outside they all look mere rubbish; all are in the last stages of old age, some of decay. But how well they have done their work. Some time, too, our collections will go up at Hodgson's to be sold. Lucky shall we be, then, if we have done our work in the world so well as these odd volumes. One of them falls open as I toss it aside, and discloses a yellow time-stained bookplate. There is a motto on it; surely the most appropriate motto that ever lurked in a second-hand book. It might be set up over the doorway of Hodgson's; for by a strange coincidence it is the sad, Fuimus.
And this thirteenth volume which remains in my hand I I retain it because I find that when the oldest of those I have enumerated, the " Caesar ", was born, this book was already sixand-fifty years old. It came into the world at Antwerp in 1574; two years, that is to say, after the massacre of St. Bartholomew at Paris, and two years before the Spanish Fury at Antwerp, and so in the very crisis of the