THE SEVEN CURSES OF LONDON A REVIEW BY C. H. SPURGEON.
Under the title of “The Seven Curses of London,” Mr. Greenwood, the “Amateur Casual,” has produced a sadly interesting book — a book whose every page would be bedewed with tears, if all readers were like in heart set before us in this volume are not such as are so called by idle impatience, because they flutter the decorum of gentility, or disturb the quiet of heartlessness; they are real curses, deep and deadly, withering, souldestroying, damnable: the descriptions given are all the more weighty, because they are not written from the point of view of the professional philanthropist or the spiritual teacher; if the merely literary man sees so much to lament in our leviathan city, what may still clearer eyes discern!
After reading Mr. Greenwood s’ record, we are conscious of intense pain and anguish, mingled with vehement resolve to leave no means untried to alleviate the wretchedness of this Babylon. We wish every Christian man could be made aware of the vice, the destitution, and the misery which surround him; it would make him a better servant of the Lord. We are a vast deal too comfortable. We simper with complacency a the good which we are doing, when, like Mrs. Partington’s mop, we are scarcely pushing back one wave of the seething ocean of iniquity around us. At our pious gatherings we half persuade ourselves that the world is being converted, and that gross vice is a tara avis in the land, and all the while the devil, witIt ahnost undisputed sway, rules the masses, and devours them at his will.
Those lines of first-class residences, those long terraces of respectable houses, those miles of pretty villas, those leagues of busy shops — one rides along them by the hour, and feels that London is great, flourishing wealthy, orderly; ay, but turu out of that broad thoroughfare, stop at Paradise Court or Rosemary Alley, take your walks abroad where many poor you see, note the ragged children, the filthy Irishwomen, the harlots, the drunkards, the swarms of villanous-looking big boys; and now, as you return, sick from the reek of gin and the mustiness of rags, you learn that London is poor, wretched, lawless, horrible. It is well to have the rose-wat, er removed, and the rose-color washed off awhile. Auotter excuse for niggardly giving and shorthanded working will be torn away, when we are no longer in ignorance of our city’s awful needs.
The first of the seven curses mentioned by our author is “neglected children.” Well may the writer call it a startling fact, that in England and Wales, three hundred and fifty thousand children, under the age of sixteen, are dependent more or less on parish authorities for maintenance; in London alone, one hundred thousand children wander iu destitution, preparing for our gaols or for early graves. Children of the gutter, their food is scant, their lodging foul, their clothing ragged. Even when bless.d with a mother, the young Arabs neither fare sumptuously by night nor by day. Cradled in a gooseberry sieve, or nestled in an egg box, the babies of the poorest class have no injurious luxury to enervate them. Strange fitcts come under our author’s own observation. “Accompanied by a friend, he was on a visit of exploration into the little-known regions of Baldwin’s Gardens, in Leather Lane, and entering a cellar there, the family who occupied it were discovered in a state of dreadful commotion. The mother, a tall, bony, ragged shrew had a baby tucked under one arm, while she was using the other by the aid of a pair of dilapidated nozzleless bellows in inflicting a iremendous beating on a howling young gentleman of about eleven years old. ‘Tut! tut! what is the matter, Mrs. Donelly? Rest your arm a moment, now, and tell us all about it.’ ‘Matther! shure it’s matther enough to dhrive a poor widdy beyant her senses!’ And then her rage turning to sorrow, she in pathetic terms described how that she left that bad boy Johnny only for a few moments in charge of the ‘ darlint comfortable ashleap in her bashket,’ and that he had neglected his duty, and that the baste of a donkey had smelt her out, and ‘ ate her clane out o’ bed.’ . . . It was not long after the incident of the gooseberry sieve, that I discovered in one small room in which a family of six resided, three little children, varying in age from three to eight, perhaps, stark naked. It was noon of a summer’s day, and there they were nude as forest monkeys, and so hideously dirty that every rib-bone in their poor wasted little bodies showed plain, and in color like mahogany. Soon as I put my head in at the door they scattered, scared as rabbits, to the ‘ bed,’ an arrangement of evilsmelling flock and old potato-sacks, and I was informed by the mother that they had not a ra to wear, and had been in their present condition for wore than /hree months.” If these things be true of children left under the c,re f poor penniless widows, what a plea we ]lave for our orphanage, and how graleful should we and our band of helpers be that we are allowed to do a little to prevent such misery.
Had the stories told of the food of our little Arab hordes in London streets been narrated by a missionary as being true of Chinese or Patagonians, our hair would be on end with horror; but many will read the following with complacency. “They draw a considerable amount of their sustenance from the markets. And really it Would seem that by some miraculous dispensation of Providence, garbage was for their sake robbed of its poisonous properties, and endowed with virtues such as wholesome food possesses. Did the reader ever see the young market hunters at such a’feed,’ say in the month of August or September? It is a spectacle to be witnessed only by early risers who can get as far as Covent Garden by the time that the wholesale dealing in the open falls slack which will be about eight o’clock; and it is not to be believed unless it is seen. They will ather about a muck heap and gobble up plums, a sweltering mass of decay, and oranges and apples that ]lave quite lost their original shape and color, with the avidity of ducks or pigs. I speak according to mv knowledge, for I have seen them it. I have seen one of these gaullt wolfish little children with his tattered cap full of plums of a sort one of which I would not have permitted a child of mine to eat for all the money in the Mint, and titis at a season when the saniary authorities in their desperate alarm at the spread of cholera had turned bill stickers, and were begging and imploring the people to abstain from titis, that, and the other, and especially to beware of fi’uit unless perfectly sound and ripe. Judging from the earnestness with which this last provision was urged, there must have been cholera enough to have slain a dozen strong men in that little ragamuffiu’s cap, and yet he munched on till that frowsy receptacle was emptied, finally licking his fingers with a relish. It was not for me to forcibly dispossess the boy of a prize that made him the envy of his plumless companions but I spoke to the market beadle about it, asking him if it would not be possible, knowing the propensities of these poor little wretches, so to dispose of the poisonous offal that they could not get at it; but he replied that it was nothing to do with him what they ate so long as they kept their hands from picking and stealing; furthermore, he politely intimated, that ‘ unless I had nothing better to do,’ there was no call for me to trouJde myself about the ‘little warmint,’ whom nothing would hurt. He confided to me his private belief that they were ‘ made inside something alter the orsestretch, and that farriers’ nails would’at come amiss Io ‘era if they could only get ‘em down.’“ Very painful are the results of enquiries into the parentage of these “rank outsiders” of bumunity, these wretched waifs and strays of the race; and if possible, even worse are the revelations concerning the baby-farming, and other forms by which certain of these poor little souls are reared, or rather, mm’dered wholesale. Advertisements for nurse children, and for babes to be adopted, mean a great deal more thau unsuspecting readers have usually imagined. How many babes have passed into eternity through the “ha’p’orth of bread and a ha’p’orth of milk a-day” system, eternity alone can reveal. No longer need we wonder at the large proportion of infantile mortality. But what unnatural, brutal sin does all this mean! How must God be provoked as he sees his children deserted of their parents, his babes left as beasts leave not their young! Should these poor creatures live, and become bread-winners on their own account, they do’but escape the ogres to fall into the way of harpies equally as vile. The amusements provided for the youth of London are many of them such as Sodom could have never excelled for their depravity. The low theater, and the penny gaff, are simply open doors to hell; they smell or’ Tophet, and this makes them none the less profitable. “Now that the police are to be roused to increased vigilance in the suppression, as well as the arrest of criminaliw, it would be as well if those in authority directed their especial attention to these penny theatres.
As they at present exist, they are nothing better than hot-beds of vice in its vilest forms. Girls and boys of tender age are herded together to witness the splendid achievements of ‘dashing highwaymen,’ and of sirens of the Starlight Sall School; nor is this all. But bad as this is, it is really the least part of the evil. The penny ‘gaff’ is usually a small place, and when a specially atrocious piece produces a corresponding ‘run,’ the ‘house’ is incapable of containing the vast number of boys and girls who nightly flock to see it. Scores would be turned away from the doors, and fieir halfpence wasted, were it not for the wdthy proprietor’s ingenuity. I am now speaking of what I was an actual witness of in the neighborhood of Shoreditch. Beneath the pit and stage of the theater was a sort of ]awe kitchen, reached from the end of the passage that was the entrance to the theater, by a fiigtlt of steep stairs. There were no seats in this kitchen, nor furniture of any kind. There was a window looking towards the street, but this was prudently boarded up. At night time all the light allowed in the kitchen proceeded from a feeble and dim gas jet by the wall over the fireplace. “Wretched and drem’y-lookin as was this underground chamber, it was a source of considerable profit to the proprietor of the ‘ gaff’ overhead. As before stated, when anything peculiarly attractive was to be seen, the theater filled within ten minutes of opening the besieged doors. Not to disappoint the late comers, however, all who pleased might pay and go down-stairs until the performance just commenced (it lasted generally about an hour and a-half) terminated. The prime inducement held out was, that ‘then they would be sm’e of good seats.’ The inevitable result of such an arrangement may be easier guessed than described. For my part, I know no more about it than was to be derived from a hasty glance from the stairhead.
There was a stench of tobacco smoke, and an uproar of mingled y,uthful voices — swearing, chaffin’, and screaming, in boisterous mirth. This was all that was to be heard, the Babel charitably rendering distinct pronouncing of blasphemy or indecency unintelligible. Nor was it much easier to make out the source from whence the hideous clamor proceeded, for the kitchen was dim as a coal cellar, and was further obscured by the foul tobacco smoke the lads were emitting from their short pipes. A few were romping about — ‘larking,’ as it is termed — but the m’ajority, girls and boys, were squatted on the floor, telling and listening to stories, the quality of which might but too truly be guessed from the sort of applause they elicited. A few — impatient of the frivolity that sin’-rounded them, and really anxious for ‘ the play ‘ — stood alart, gzing with scowling envy up at the ceiling, on the upper side of whict, at frequent intervals, there was a furious clatter of hobnailed boots, betokeninc the delirious delight of the happy audieuce in full view of Starlight Sall, in ‘ silk tights’ and Hessians, dancing a Highlaud fling. Goaded to desperation, one or two of the tormented ones down in the kitchen reached up with their sticks and beat on the ceiling a tatto, responsive to the battering of the hobnailed boots before mentioned. This, however, was a breach of ‘ gaff’ rule that could not be tolerated. With hurried steps the proprietor approached the kitchen stairs, and descried me. ‘ This ain’t, the theeater; you’ve no business here, sir:’ said he, in some confusion, as I imagined. ‘ No, my friend, I have no business here, but you have a very pretty business, one for which, when comes the Great Day of Reckoning, I would rather you answered than me.’“ In the chamber of borrors of this book the second door admits us to a view of professional thieves, an army, at least, twenty thofisaud strong. Think of that! remembering that this number is little short of the membership of all the Baptist churches in London; and painfully reflecting that every individual member of this synagogue of Saran is an earnest, genuine worker in the evil cause. If this vast and valiant host comprehended all the rillany of London the plague would be deep and horrible enough; but, alas! the infection of dishonesty taints all classes of the community, and honesty is almost as rare as in those days when the prophet complained that the best of them was “as a thorn-hedge.” Professional beggars figure in the third department; and from our own large and troublesome experience we can more than confirm many of Mr. Greenwood’s statements. That there are beggars in London whose poverty is pitiable and who richly deserve assistance, we know; but that mendicancy is with thousands a profitable trade, a resort for the idle and the vicious, we are equally certain. Mere singing in the street, squatting down in tlmatrical destitution on a doorstep, or exhibiting sham sores are old and timeworn dodges, which are but poorly remunerative; but the begging-letter dodge, the newspaper schehm, and other delicate processes of imposture, are still profitable specula;ions, and support an army of the vilest loafers that ever disgraced a city. We have had scores of the most ingenious epistles, touching enough to have moved a heart of stone, if there had not been around them a certain aroma of cant which rendered fimm ineffectual. In our more simple and verdant days we were waited upon by a foreigner, who threatened to destroy by charcoal, that very night, the lives of himself, his lovely wife, and three noble infants, unless we relieved his wants. In our tmrror at the anticipation of such a mass of murder, we counted out ten good shillings into the raseal’s hand, only to have them returned with well-feigned indignation as an insulting pittance, of no service whatever to a man of his rank, and a degrading meanness on our part to offer. When the shillings were safely in our pocket, and the impertinent impostor was shown the door, his haughty mien suddenly descended into a curtisis, pitiful humility, and a whining entreaty, that, at least, the sum jus; before refused might be returned to him. No; the police would accommodate him unless he went his way, and on that way he went, but no tidings of death by fumes of charcoal appeared in the next morning’s newspaper. That man was one of our ablest instructors, and his successors continue to complete our education. We are entreated to lend twenty pounds to save a tiano from the brokers, to give a guinea to buy a wooden leg (for a man who has two natural ones), to furnish twelve and sixpence to help purchase a cake of ultra-marine to finish a valuable painting, to aid in mending a bath chair in which the petitioner rides to business every day, to subscribe towards getting a basket of tools for a man in a white apron whom we saw wiping his mouth as he came out of the public-house next door; and other pretty little philamhropie schemes equally tempting. In none of these eases do you hear any more of the parties, if you ask for names and addesses in order that the case may be investigated; the hope of the opmtion lies in your carelessly giving money to be rid of the applicant — there is never a shade of truth in the statement, or if a shade, it is of the most impalpable kind. To give to these schemers is to be partakers in their crimes. No man would willingly tax himself to maintain a horde of gross impostors, and yet every man may be morally sure that he is dcin this every time he contributes his ready half-crown to save himself the trouble of “considering the poor,” and discerning between the deserving and the vicious. What vice is propagated by this troop of lying vagabonds only the great day will reveal; they are without doubt a terrible wing of the Satanic army.
On the fourth point, the curse off allen women we confess to be widely at variance with the author of this volume. We deprecate from the bottom of our hearts the idea of licensing prostitution. The French method, so far from having our admiration, excites our loathing’. May God avert from England the abiding pestilence of systematic debauchery, by which sin is made easy, and the path to hell more fascinating than ever. Yet our social evil is intolerable in its present shape, and something must be done to repress it. We look to the gospel as the only remedy, and pray that all who know its power may bestir themselves to bring it to bear upon the prevailing infamy.
The crowning cursp is drunkendless, which indeed is related to all the others, and is often their mother and ahvays their nm’se. Here it is not possible for the subject to be too highly wrought. We have heard it averted of Mr. Greenwood that he colors a subject quite sufficiently, and is no mean proficient in the imaginative; but in this volume we see no evidence to substantiate the charge, perhaps because the fault was impossible. The liquor served out for public consumption at our gin-palaces, beer-houses, and drinking bars, if all be true, wouht defile the foulest kennel; and if the whole stock were poured out into Barking Creek it would be well.
Ordinary hard drinking does quite mischief enough without the added horror of the fact that men and women swallow seas of disgusting mixtures in which coculus indicus, foxglove, green copperas, hartshorn shavings, henbane, jalap, not galls, nux vomica, opium, vitriol, potash, quassia, yewtops, aml alum, are the choicer ingredients. No wonder the topers grow mad drunk, the marvel is they do not die outright. It ought to need no persuasion to induce men totally to abstain from such abominations as the beers and porters, the withes and spirits, of most of our licensed poisonshops.
Our author might, we think, have spared our teetotal friends a good deal of the banter with which he very good-humouredly treats them. Their object is so praiseworthy, and the need of every well-intentioned effort so manifest, that it is a pity to throw cold water on any earnest temperance movement. If teetotalers are rather too prone to treat contemptuously the efforts of those who do not adopt their modes of operation, there is lhe more reason why the true temperance but non-teetotal man should behave with courtesy to his more irritable fellow worker, for whom he is bound to entertain a kindly esteem. This demon of drink must be fought, for it swallows men by thousands, makes their homes wretched, their children paupers, and their souls the prey of the devil. There should be combined and vigorous action among oil temperate men for such a control of licenses that the dens of drunkenness should be made far less numerous, to say the least, and if we went in for still severer restrictions so much the better. We are unmistakably overdone with gin-palaces and beer-houses; they are thrust upon us at every street-corner; they are multiplied beyond all pretense of demand. Not the public good but the publican’s good appears to be the aim of the licensers. Quiet neighbourhoods cannot spring up because the beer-house rises simultaneously; or if such a thing should for a few months be seen under heaven as a sober region, universally respectable, and guiltless of intoxication, the Bacchanalian missionary soon opens his temple and converts the population to the common error of drinking ways. It is true, the demand for drink creates the supply, but it is as surely true that the all-surrounding omnipresence of the stimulant suggests, and propagates the craving. At any rate, no two opinions can exist upon one point, namely, that the accursed habit of intoxication lies at the root of the main part of London’s poverty, misery, and crime. Betting gamblers, in the sixth place, come in for their share of our author’s condemnation. “There can be no doubt tha the vice of gambling is on the increase amongst the English working-classes. Of this no better proof is afforded than in the modern multiplication of those newspapers specially devoted to matters ‘ sportive.’ Twenty years ago there were but three or four sporting nespapers published in London; now there are more than a dozen.”
Those who occupy the highest ranks of the social scale have the fearful responsibility of rendering gambling fashionable, and their example has had its influence upon all ranks, until even children bet their shillings and the lads of the gutter cry the odds. A tribe of “prophets,” blacklegs, and advertisers, feed upon this growing vice, swarming about it like flies around carrion. Marvellous are the fortune to be made by “putting on” a few pounds, and rich are the promised gains of even a dozen postage stamps, staked upon the horse whose name will be communicated upon the receipt of a fee; more marvellous still is the senseless folly which can be duped by such manifest quackery. “Of all manner of advertising betting gamblers, however, none are so pernicious, or work such lamentable evil against society, as those who, with devilish cunning, appeal to the young and inexperienced — the factory lad and youth of the counting house or the shop. Does anyone doubt if horse-racing has attractions for those whose tender age renders it complimentary to style them ‘ young men’? Let him on the day of any great race convince himself. Let him make a journey on the afternoon of ‘Derbyday, for instance, to Fleet-street or the Strand, where the offices of the sporting newspapers are situated. It may not be generally known that the proprietors of the Sunday Times, Bell’s Life, and other journals of a sporting tendency, in their zeal to outdo each other in presenting the earliest possible information to the public, are at the trouble and expense of securing the earliest possible telegram of the result of a horse-race, and exhibiting it enlarged on a broad-sheet in their shop-windows. Let us take the Sunday Times, for instance. The office of this most respectable of sporting newspapers is situated near the corner of Fleet-street at Ludgatehill; and wonderful is the spec-tcle there to be seen on the afternoon of the great equine contest on Epsom downs. On a small scale, and making allowance for the absence of the living provocatives of excitement, the scene is a reproduction of what at that moment, or shortly since, has taken place on the race-course itself. Three o’clock is about the time the great race is run at Epsom, and at that time the Fleet-street crowd begins to gather. It streams in from the north, from the east, from the south. At a glance it is evident that the members of it are not idly curious merely. It is not composed of ordinary pedestrians who happen to be coming that way.
Butcher-lads, from the neighboring great meat-market, come bareheaded and perspiring down Ludgate-hill, and at a pace that tells how exclusively their eager minds are set on racing: all in blue working-smocks, and with the grease and blood of their trade adhering to their naked arms, and to their hob-nailed boots, and to their hair. Hot and palpitating they reach the obelisk in the middle of the road. and there they take their stand, with their eves steadfastly fixed on that at present blank and innocent window that shall presently tell them of their fate. “I mention the botcher-boys first, because, for some unknown reason, they undoubtedly are foremost in the rank of juvenile bettors. In the days when the Fleet-lane betting abomination as yet held out agaillst the police authorities, and day after day a narrow alley betfind the squalid houses there served as standing room for as many ‘professional’ betting men, with their boards and money-pouches, as could crowd in a row, an observer standing at one end of the lane might count three blue frocks for one garment of any other color. But though butcher-boys show conspicuously among the anxious Fleet-street rush on a Derby-day, they are not in a majority by a long way. To bet on the ‘ Derby’ is a mania that afflicts all trades; and streaming up Farringdon-street may be seen representatives of almost every cr,nft that practises within the City’s limits. There is the inky printer’s boy, hot from the ‘ machine-room,’ with his grimy face and his cap made of a ream wrapper; there is the jeweller’s apprentice, with his bibbed white apron, ruddy with the powder of rouge and borax; and the paper-stainer’s lad, with the variegated splashes of the pattern of his last ‘length’ yet wet on his ragged breeches; and a hundred others, all hurrying pell-mell to the one spot, Bud, in nine cases out of ten, with the guilt of having ‘slipped out’ visible on their streaming faces. Take their ages as they congregate in a crowd of five hundred and more (they are expected in such numbers that special policemen are provided to keep the roadway clear), and it will be found that more thau half are under the age of eighteen. Furthermore, it must be borne in mind that in the majority of cases a single lad represents a score or more employed in one ‘office’ or factory. They cast lots who shall venture on the unlawful mission, and it has fallen on him. Again, and as before mentioned, the Sunday Times is but one of ten or a dozen sporting newspapers published between Ludgate-hill and St. Clement Danes; and in the vicinity of every office may be met a similar crowd. Let the reader bear these facts in mind, and he may arrive at some faint idea of the prevalence of the horse-gambling evil amongst the rising generation.”
The following portrait, drawn from the life, is no doubt a fair specimen of the victims of the gambling demon. While the betting-men were making a stand in Farringdon-street in the open air against the city authorities, Mr. Greenwood made the acquaintance of the subject of his story. “I had noticed him repeatedly, with his pale haggard face and his dull eyes, out of which nothing but weariness of life looked. He was a tall slim young fellow, and wore his patched and seedy clothes as though he had been used to better attire; and, despite the tell-tale shabbiness of his boots and his wretched tall black hat, he still clung to the respectable habit of wearing black kid-gloves, though it was necessary to shut his fists to hide the dilapidations at their finger-tips. “He was not remarkable amongst the betting blackguards he mingled with on account of the active share he took in the questionable business in which they were engaged; on the contrary, he seemed quite out of place with them, and though occasionally one would patronise him with a nod, it was evident that he was’ nothing to them,’ either as a comrade or a gull to be plucked. He appeared to be drawn towards them by a fascina£ion he could not resist, but which he deplored and was ashamed of. It was customary in those times for the prosperous horse-betting gambler to affect the genteel person who could afford to keep a’ man,’ and to press into his service some poor ragged wretch glad to earn a sixpence by wearing his mastor’s ‘ card of terms’ round his neck for the inspection of any person inclined to do business. The tall shabby young fellow’s chief occupation consisted in wandering restlessly from one of these betting-card bearers to another, evidently with a view to comparing ‘ prices’ and ‘ odds’ offered on this or thag horse; but he never bet. I don’t believe that his pecuniary affairs would have permkted him, even though a bet as low as twopencehalfpenny might be laid. “I was always on the look-out for my miserable-looking young friend whenever I passed that way, and seldom fai!ed to find him. He seemed to possess for me a fascination something like that which horse-betting possessed for him. One afternoon, observing him alone and looking even more miserable than I had yet seen him, as he slouched along the miry pavement towards Holborn, I found means to start a conversation with him. My object was to learn who and what he was, and whether he was really as miserable as he looked, and whether there was any help for him. I was prepared to exercise all the ingenuity at my command to compass this delicate project, but he saved me the trouble. As though he was glad of the chance of doing so, before we were half-way up Holborn-hill he turned the conversation exactly into the desired groove, and by the time the Tottenham-court-road was reached (he turned down there), I knew even more of his sad history’ than is here subjoined. “‘What is the business pursuit that takes me amongst the betting-men? Oh! no, sir, I’m not at all astonistled that you shotlid ak the question; I’ve asked it of myself sn often, that it doesn’t come new to me. I pursue no business, sir. What business could a wretched scarecrow like I am pursue?
Say that I am pursued, and you will benearer the mark. Pursued by what I can never get away from or shake off.’ “He uttered a concluding wicked word with such decisive and bitter emphasis, that I began to think that he had done with the subject; but he began a.ain almost immediately. “‘I wish to the Lord I had a business pursuit! If ever a fellow was tired of his life, I am. Well — yes, I am a young man; but it’s precious small consolation that that fact brings me. Hang it, no! All the longer to endure it. How long have I endured it? Ah, now you como to the point. For years, you think, I daresay. You look at me, and you think to yourself, “There goes a poor wretch who has been on the downhill road so long that it’s time that he came to the end of it, or made an end to it.” There you are mistaken. Eighteen months ago I was well dressed and prosperous. I was second clerk to — — , the provision merchants, in St. Mary Axe, on a salary of a hundred and forty pounds — rising twenty each year. Now look at me! “‘You need not ask me how it came about. You say thaf, you have seen me often in Farringdon-street with the betting-men, so you can give a good guess as to how I came to ruin, I’ll be binind. Yes, sir, it was horse-betting that did my business. No, I did not walk to ruin with my eyes open, and because I liked the road. I was trapped into it, sir, as I’ll be bound scores and scores of young fellows have been. I never had a passion for betting. I declare that, till within the last two years, I never made a bet in my life. The beginning of it wa, that for the fun of the thing, I wagered ten shillings with a fellow-clerk about the Derby that was just about to come off. I never took any interest in horse-racing before; but when I had made that bet I was curious to look over the sporting news, and to note the odds against the favourite. One unlucky day I was fool enough to answer the advertisement of a professional fipster. He keeps the game going still, curse him! You may read his name in the papers this morning. If I wasn’t such an infernal coward, you know, I should kill that man. If I hadn’t the nmney to buy a pistol, I ought to steal one, and shoot the thief. Bt, what do you think? I met him on Monday, and he chaffed me about my boots. It was raining at the time. “I wish I had a pair of waterproofs like yours, Bobby.
You’ll never take cold while they let all the water out at the heel they take in at the toe!” Fancy me standing that after the way he had served me!
Fancy this too — me borrowing a shilling of him, and saying, ‘Thank you, sir,’ for itlWhy, you know, I ought to be pumped on for doing it! “‘Yes, I wrote to “Robert B — y, Esq., of Leicester,” and sent the halfcrown’s worth of stamps asked for. It doesn’t matter what I got in return.
Anyhow, it was something that set my mind on betting, and I wrote again and again. At first his replies were of a distant and business sort; but in a month or so after I had written to him to complain of being misguided by him, he wrote back a friendly note to say that he wasn’t at all surprised to hear of my little failures — novices always did fail. They absurdly attempt what they did not understand. “Just to show you the difference,” said tie, “just give me a commission to invest a pound for you on the Ascot Cup.
All that I charge is seven and a half per cent. on winnings. Try it just for once; a pound won’t break you, and it may open your eyes to the way that fortunes are made.” I ought to have known then, that either he, or somebody in London he had set on, had been making enquiries about me, for the other notes were sent to where mine were directed from — my private lodgings — but this one came to me at the warehouse. “‘Well, I sent the pound, and within a week received a post-office order for four pounds eight as the result of its investment. The same week I bet again — two pounds this time — and won one pound fifteen. That was over six pounds between Monday and Saturday. “This is the way that fortunes are made,” I laughed to myself, like a fool. “‘Well, he kept me going, I don’t exactly recollect how, between Ascot and Goodwood, which is about seven weeks, not more. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost, but, on the whole, I was in pocket, I was such a fool at last, that I was always for betting more than he advised. I’ve got his letters at home now, in which he says, “Pray don’t be rash; take my advice, and bear in mind that great risks mean great losses, as well as great gains, at times.” Quite fatherly, you know! The scoundrel! “‘Well, one day there came a telegram to the office for me. I was just in from my dinner. It was from B — y. “Now you may bag a hundred pounds at a shot,” said he. “The odds are short but the result certain. Never mind the money just now. You are a gentleman, and I will trust you. You know that my motto has all along been ‘Caution.’ Now it is ‘ Go in and win.’ It is sure. Send me a word immediately, or it may be too late; and, if you are wise, put a ‘lump’ on it.” “‘That was the infernal document — the death-warrant of all my good prospects. It was the rascal’s candor that deceived me. He had all along said, “Be cautions, don’t be impatient to launch out;” and now this patient careful villain saw his chance, and advised, “Go in and win.” I was quite in a m,ze at the prospect of bagging a hundred pounds. To win that sum the odds were so short on the horse he mentioned, that fifty pounds had to be risked. But he said that there was no risk, and I believed him. I sent him back a telegram at once to execute the commission. “‘The horse lost. r knew it next morning before I was up, for I had sent for the newspaper: and while I was in the midst of my fright, up comes my landlady to say that a gentleman of the name of B — y wished to see me. “‘I had never seen him before, and be seemed an easy fellow enough. He was in a terrible way — chiefly on my account — though heaven only knew how much he had lost over the ‘sell.’ He had come up by express purely to relieve my anxiety, knowing how ‘funky’ young gentlemen sometimes were over such trifles. Although he had really paid the fifty in hard gold out of his pocket, he was in no hurry for it. He would take mv bill at two months. It would be all rillt, no donht. He had coneeivecl a liking for me, merely from my straightforward way of writing. Now that he had had the pleasure of seeing me, he shouldn’t trouble himself a fig if the fifty that I owed him was five hundred. “‘I declare to you that I knew so little about bills, that I didn’t know how to draw one out; but I was mighty glad to be shown the wax’ and to give it him, and thank him over and over again for his kindness. That was the beginning of my going to the bad. If I hadn’t been a fool, I might have saved myself even then, for I had friends who would have lent or given me twice fifty pounds if I had asked them for it. But I was a fool. In the course of a day or two I got a note from B — y, reminding me that the way out of the difficulty was by the same path as I had go inlo one, and that a little judicious ‘backing’ would set me right before even my bill fell due. And I was fool enouh to walk into the snare. I wouldn’t borrow to pay the fifty pounds, but I borrowed lelt and riglit,, of my mother, of my brothers, on all manner of lying preenees, to follow the ‘advice’ B — y was constantly sending me. When I came to the end of their Grbearanee, I did more than borrow; but that we won’t speak of. In fire months from the hegi.nning, I was without a relative who would own me or speak to me, and without an employer — cracked up, ruined. And there’s B — y, as I said before, with his white hat cocked on one side of his head, and his gold toothpick, charting me about my old boots. What do I do lbr a living? Well, I’ve told you such a precious lot, I may as well tell you that too. Where I lodge it’s a ‘leaving shop,’ and the old woman;imt keeps it c’m’t read or write, and I keep her ‘ book ‘ for her. That’s how I get a bit of breakfast and supper and a bed to lie on.’“ We have little space and less heart to take up the seventh curse, the waste of charity; but we nmst conclude with entreating the tearful prayers of all God’s people for our wicked city; by exhorting all lovers of truth and righteousness to bestir themseives; and bv asking aid from our own friends, for those efforts which we ourselves are making to educate the orphan, and to instruct a ministry capable, in God’s strengh, of dealing wih these tremendous evils.