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" One God and Father of us all," and
" God is Love." '



224



X.



A BLACK MISSIONARY TO THE BLACKS.

UNLESS you are Lucretianly selfish
enough to feel your own comfort height
ened by others' sufferings, it is like a
draught of icy wind rushing into the warm
bed to be awoke at five o'clock on a win-
ter's morning by a ponderous single knock,
followed by a hoarsely shrill shout of
' s wee- weep ! ' The stars shine with a cold,
steel-like brilliance between the snow-
furred chimney-pots over the way. You
hear the black familiar in waiting tramp-
ing up and down on the ice-glazed, snow-
caked pavement, coughing, clapping his



A BLA CK MISSIONAR Y TO THE BLA CKS. 225

hands on his breast, blowing on his fingers,
and ever and anon repeating his knock
and cry to hurry the sleepy, miserable
maiden who has to let him in. She huddles
on her clothes, a blink of candle-light
glances into your bed-room as she slips past
on her way to the drear, chill under-regions.
The sound of the undoing of a door is
heard, and presently a rumbling in the
chimney ; and listening, you wonder, just
before you drop off to sleep again, which
feels the more wretched the working
sweep, or the watching servant.

It chanced one winter morning that
the maiden commissioned to let the sweep
into my humble establishment proved deaf
to his knockings and shouts, and my staff
of servants being as modest as my house,
there was no fellow-servant to rouse her.
Accordingly I had to go down to let the
man in. Kicking the snow off his boots,

VOL. II. 15



226 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

lie clumped up the steps, when I opened
the door.

1 Hoverslep' yourself, eh, Mary ? ' he
said in a cheery tone, as he came in. 1 1
don't wonder at it. I should ha' liked to
sleep a bit longer such a mornin' as this.
Law, sir, I beg your pardon, I'd no notion
it was you. You'll ketch your death o'
cold standin' shiverin' there without your
stockins. You go up to bed agin. I'll
bang the door arter me when I've done. I
shan't steal nothin',' he added with a smile.
' I see you every Sunday at church, sir ;
but I've got a cleaner face then than I have



now.'



There was such an honest ring in the
old man's ^voice, that even if I had pos-
sessed anything within his reach worth
stealing, I should have trusted him. I
was glad enough to jump into my warm
bed again, but as I did so, I felt ashamed
of myself. A younger man somehow feels



A BLA CK MISSIONAR Y TO THE BLACKS. 227

little when he sees an old man cheerfully
doing work and bearing hardship what-
ever they may be that he would shrink
from. And besides that, I felt ashamed
that the sweep should know me well as his
clergyman, whilst 'I knew nothing of him
as a parishioner beyond what his red-tape-
bound card hung up in the kitchen told
me. From that I had learnt that he beat
carpets as well as swept chimneys, and in
both capacities, I believed, my maiden
had employed him to her satisfaction ; but
I had never thought of the chimney-
sweeper and carpet-beater as a fellow
Christian, and large as was the parish in
which I then laboured, I felt that I could
not excuse myself. He had been often in
my house, he came regularly to church;
and yet, until I happened to have to let
him into my house, I had taken as much
or as little human interest in his brush, as
I had in its wielder.



228 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

After this I soon made his acquaint-
ance. His little house certainly was not
free from the stifling scent of soot, but his
wife who let me in, the little passage into
which I stepped, and the little parlour into
which I was shown, were all startlingly
clean. There being no fire in the prim
little parlour, I asked leave to sit in the
kitchen ; and that, too, though a good deal
more comfortable, was almost as clean.

1 Sam'l will be in directly, sir, he's
clean in' hisself. An' p'r'aps you'll be so
good as to hexcuse me, sir, I was jest
a-goin' out when you knocked. I'll tell
Sam'l to 'urry hisself.' So spake the
sweep's wife as she left the room, and
presently f Sam'l ' entered in decent clean
clothes, and with a face that shone from
yellow soap and friction, although a fringe
of black cloud still lingered, so to speak,
on its horizon.

' Your house is very different, Mr



A BLA CK MISSIONAR Y TO THE BLA CKS. 229

Craske, from what I had fancied/ I said
with a laugh. i I had got a notion that I
should be ankle-deep in soot.'

1 You'd be a good bit over that, sir, if
you was to step across into the outhouse,
but I like to have my own place tidy, and
so does my old woman. It ain't that I
was brought up to such ways, for a sut-bag
was the only bed I had when I was
'prentice. There's sweeps' houses still,
too, where you might find a lot o' sut hin-
side whole nests o' sweeps and sweeps'
women that scarce gives theirselves a wash
from year's hend to year's hend. There
they huddles together and squabbles to-
gether, jest like pigs aboard a Hirish
packet, till the walls is as black as the
chimbley.'

1 How do you manage to keep your
place so clean ? '

' Well, you see, sir, I've got a side-way
to my backyard, and that's a 'elp. And



230 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

then I've got a good wife, instid o' keepin'
a drunken woman, an' gittin' drunk along
wi' her, an' pitchin' into her, and her
pitchin' into me. We respect each other,
and that 'elps us to respect ourselves. And
we've both got right notions, I 'ope, about
things in your line, sir, and that's another
'elp. Cleanliness is next to godliness, they
say, but in my way o' life it's the t'other
way, I think. It wasn't till I took a se-
rious turn that I cared about cleanin'
myself. Of a Saturday night I takes a
warm bath over there in Vitechap'l, and I
takes my Sunday things with me, and
when I've got my clean shirt on, I feels as
if Sunday was begun.'

f You don't look much like a chimney-
sweep now, Mr Craske.'

1 Oh, I allus gives myself a good sluice
every night when my work is done, and
changes my clothes. But that ain't like
Saturday's wash. I enjy my meals twice



A BLA CK MISSION AR Y TO THE BLA CKS. 23 1

as much a-Sundays as other days. If I
could manage it, I'd put off my grubbin'
till I'd cleaned myself at night, but I'm too
sharp-set for that.'

1 And how do you spend your even-
ings ? '

( Oil, my old gal's good company. We
talks, and I spell her a bit out o' the paper,
and reads her a chapter, or a good book,
and so on. And then '

Mr Craske stopped suddenly.

1 Well, Mr Craske, and then ? '

1 Why, you see, sir, I don't like to talk
as if I was braggin', but I'm a bit of a
public character of an evenin',' he an-
swered with a grin.

1 In what way ? '

( Why, you see, sir, I'm a Total Ab-
stainer, and so's my old gal. Not that I'd
want her to be, if she didn't like it, for she
never took enough to 'urt her, but I used
to be a hawful lushington. There's lots



232 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

of sweeps is still, and a missionary that
goes about amongst 'em, and is a teetotal-
ler hisself, says to me one day, " I can't
do anythin' with them they won't listen
to me, or if they do, it's only to chaff me
afterwards ; but if you was to speak to 'em,
Craske, p'r'aps they might mind you more.
You know what a good thing Total Ab-
stinence has been to you," says he, "and
it's your duty to try to make your fellow-
tradesmen see the benefit of it." Well,
sir, he borrered a room, and he got me to
let him give out amongst 'em that a sweep
wos goin' to talk to sweeps in it. " A Talk
with Sweeps lij a Sweep" was what he
put on the little bills he got printed. A
lot of 'em came for the fun of the thing,
and rare game they made of me at first, for
I was wery shame-faced at startin'. But I
got my pluck an' my woice as I went on,
and before I'd finished they was quiet
enough, and most of 'em looked friendly



A BLACK MISS ION AR Y TO THE BLA CKS. 233

when I'd done. Some of 'em came up to
thank me, and I'd another talk with them.
Since then, when I've time, I've gone
about of an evening among 'em, trying to
git 'em to give up their lushing and save
their money, and live decenter, and re-
member there's a world where there's no
sut, and another place where there must be
a dreadful lot on it: "an that chimbley
never gits swep'," I says to them, " becos
they never lets the fire out there." Some
of 'em cuts up rough, and offers to fight
me for a pot, an' the women offen is wery
himpident, poor creaturs. I can't say I've
done much good, but I've done some,
thank God. It seems presumsheous in
the likes of me settin' up for a sort o' par-
son, but it worn't my own thought at start-
in', and now you see, sir knowin' the
ways of the trade and so on I've found
out that I can git along with some of 'em,
p'r'aps, better than a reg'lar parson could.



234 EPISODES IN AA OBSCURE LIFE.

He'd know a million times more than me,
but then he wouldn't jest know the ways
o' sweeps ; and so I 'ope you'll excuse me,
sir.'

1 1 ought rather to ask you to excuse
me, Mr Craske. I ought to have known
you long ago, and the people you visit too.
You may be sure, though, that I shall not
interfere with you even if I had the
power, or the right, I should not have the
will. From what you tell me, I should
say that you were just the man to do them
good.'

' Oh, sir, I 'ope you don't think I've
been crackin' myself up that way. It's
jest this. If I hadn't gone amongst 'em,
there was no one they could 'ear a good
word from. They was like sheep without
a shepherd and precious black sheep, too,
hinside as well as out.'

1 Just the kind our Shepherd came to
seek and to save. Try to talk to them as



A SLA CK MISS ION A R Y TO THE BLA CKS. 235

much like Him as you can, Mr Craske. I
mean, don't trust only to scaring them.
I've no doubt that they need a good deal
of scaring. When a man is lying dead
drunk in a house on fire, it's a kindness to
give him a good shaking. But I have not
much faith in mere frightening. If a man
only gives up his sins because he is afraid
of hell-fire, he is very apt to fall into them
again. You know, we don't think much
of a man's honesty when it is only the fear
of being taken up that keeps him from
stealing. Talk to them about the holiness
and love of God. I don't mean as if you
were preaching them a sermon; but tell
them bits out of Jesus's life, just as if you
were telling them stories. They will be
fresh enough to them, poor fellows, and
when they hear them, they will under-
stand what you mean by God's holiness
and love. Leading is generally better
than driving.'



236 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

L I partly see what you mean, sir. You
think I've too much bark, like a young
drover's dog, and so I do more 'arm than
good only drive 'em up into a muddle
like.'

1 Indeed, I mean no such thing.'

' Well, sir, whether you do or whether
you don't, I can see there's sense in it, and
I'll bear your words in mind.'

In the course of our conversation, I
learnt the history of this brother of the
cloth.

He thought that Craske was not his
right name. His first master's name was
Craske, and he was sure that he was not
his father. He had no idea who his
parents were, or where he was born ; but
he fancied that it must have been in the
country, from a few little things he re-
membered, and because the first time his
master took him into the country, it didn't
seem strange to him.



A BLA CK MISS ION A R Y TO THE BLA CKS. 237

' I rec'llect there was a old finger-post
in the middle of a bit of green, with a bit
of the board broken off, and a moke stand-
in' under it, and a sow rubbin' herself agin
it, and it all seemed as I'd seen the wery same
things the week before, though I know I'd
never been out o' London before, since mas-
ter had had me. What I remember of the
country when I was a kid was what I've

I

told you, sir, and a lane with the 'edges
meetin' almost atop, and a big woman with
a red face and a black eye ; but I'm sure
she worn't my mother from the way I think
of her. And then I remember blubberin'
and gittin' a hidin' in a little room full of
smoke, and a crack in the wall above the
mantel-shelf. It worn't the woman that
hided me I can remember that ; but who
it was, I don't remember. And then I
rec'llect nothin' till I was lyin' atop of
the sut-sacks in my master's shed, feel-
in' hawful scared and cold, and blubberin'



238 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

becos I'd had another hidin' an' hadn't had
nothiii' to eat. The tramps used to kid-
nap country children in them days boys
and gals both and sell 'em to the sweeps,
and I've no doubt that's how it was with
me. My master was a Tartar, but I expec'
he worn't much worse than the rest. He
didn't grudge me my grub when I got to
be of use, but he was wery fond of hidin' me,
with or without a cause. The missis was a
bit kinder, but it was heasy to be that, and
when she was on the lush, she'd hit out at
me with the poker or the rollin'-pin or any-
thin' else that come to 'and first some-
times it was the fender she was noways
partic'lar, poor old woman.

1 1 remember the first time I ever
climbed. I must ha' been goin' on for six
then, I s'pose ; but some was put to it as
young as four yes, sir, little gals as well
as boys. My master had two boys as well
as me older than me and they used to



A BLACK MISSION AR Y TO THE SLACKS. 239

wallop me, too, and tell me all sorts o'
flesh-creepin' stories about the chimbleys
lads stickin' in 'em, and bein' dug out with
the flesh all burnt off their bones, and so
on. It wasn't pleasant to 'ear sich tales of
a night, layin' there in that shed that was
as black as pitch. And there was truth in
them stories, too ; though, of course, the
t'other boys made 'em out as bad as they
could. Anyways, I was hawful scared when
master first told me to go up achimbley. He
leathered me, but I caught 'old of his legs,
and begged and prayed of him not to force
me. But up he shoves me, and when I
didn't go on, he set some stror alight in
the grate, and that druv me up sharp
enough. And then another of the lads
was sent up arter me, to give me a prod
with a pin when I turned faint-hearted.
In the sole of my fut he druv it in, or the
fleshy part of my leg though my legs
hadn't much flesh on them in them days.



240 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

I was three-parts naked, and my knees and
elbers was sore for months arterwards
the sut, you see, got in, and the sores
wouldn't 'eal, but I'd to go up all the same.
Yes, sometimes the servants pitied me like,
but if they give me a penny, my master or
his man allus took it.

1 The masters arid the journeymen, too,
took best part of what we got on May Day.
The masters said it was for our clothes,
but I don't think my clothing could ha'
cost my master much. Whenever we got
any coppers, if the journeymen couldn't
bounce us out of 'em, they'd chisel us out
of 'em at gambling, sir. And then it was
the servants who was most set agin the
machines. They would have the boys.
The machines was inwented, bless you, sir,
years and years before climbing was put
down by Hact o' Parli'ment, and there
was climbing boys long arter they was sup-
posed to be put down. The servants said



A BLA CK MISS ION AR Y TO THE BLA CKS. 241

the new things didn't sweep the flues half
as well as the boys did and there's some
truth in that. You see, sir, our scramblin'
up an' down rubbed off more sut than a
machine will, and then we could git our
brushes into 'oles and corners a machine
can't reach. But it was a 'orrid life to set
a child to.

' Some folks say that the world's as bad
as ever it was, but I can't believe that, or
where would ha' been the use of Christ
a'-comin' to it, and sufferin' what He did
for nothin' ? I've no doubt there's improve-
ments, and puttin' down the climbin' was
one of 'em. Let alone the boys bein'
brought up like little 'eathens, and the life
they led, there was all kinds of illnesses
they ran the risk on. P'r'aps you may have
'eard, sir, that there's a cancer next to no-
body ever had but chimbley-sweepers. It
was a 'orrid life. You can git used to most
things, and I got used to that, but I never

VOL. II. 16



242 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

felt jolly like, 'cept when I was out of a
May Day ; and there was a dinner use to be
given becos a swell kid had been stole for a
chimbley-sweep, and his mother found him
out becos he'd been sent to a swell place,
and crawled into bed, brush and all, jest as
if he was used to it. I used to like the tuck-
in, but didn't I wish sometimes that a swell
lady would come along and say, " That's
my kid you come 'ome with me, Sam'l."

' Arter I got too big for climbiri', I did
odd jobs here and there, now for this mas-
ter and now for that. It was a poor life,
and a wicked one too. I'd learnt to drink,
and swear, and fight, and gamble, and do
all kinds of wickedness, jest as if I'd been
a man. I couldn't read then, and I s'pose
I'd never been inside a church or chapel in
my life. I think, though, that I must ha'
been taught to say my prayers, becos,
when I was quite a little kid, I used to
kneel down by the sut-sacks, and say a bit



A BLA CK MISSIONAR Y TO THE BLA CKS. 243

of " Our Father "I didn't know all on it.
I'd no clear notion what it meant, but some-
how I didn't feel so lonely when I said it.
It's wery lonesome for a little kid not to
have nobody as belongs to him. I've got
a notion that p'r'aps them as was brought
up like me, when they gits to know they've
a Father in Heaven, vallies Him more than
them that has had fathers and mothers to
look arter 'em. But I was soon laughed
out o' sayin' my prayers, when the t'other
lads saw what I was up to, and a real bad
boy I turned out.

1 AVhen I got a bit older, I'd journey-
man's wages. They wasn't much, but then
I'd my bed and my board and my per-
kisits but it all went the same way. Wuss
and wuss I got. A man must ha' been a
blackguard for sweeps to think him bad, in
them days and I'm afraid things isn't
much altered now, so far as that goes but
even amongst my mates I'd a name for



244 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

bein' an out-and-outer. Perkisites ? Oh,
that's the money you git for measurin' the
sut for your master, and puttiri' out chim-
neys a-fire, and the beer money .the serv-
ants give you, and such like, sir. It's
astonishin' what things people will pride
themselves on. I'd got to be wery wentur-
some as well as wicked, and I don't know
which I was the prouder on. But my
pride was to have a fall. I fell into an
airey, and a lucky fall it was for me. Instid
of tumbling straight into hell, as I expect-
ed I should as I shot down, I tumbled into
the kingdom of heaven. I'd been carryin'
on on a roof, as usual, half drunk, as usual.
I was runnin' along a ridge like a rope-
dancer when I overbalanced myself, and
down I come clatterin' over the tiles.
There worn't no prarripet to bring me up, so
over I went, as I was tellin' ye. I was a
bag of broken bones when they picked me
up, and months and months I laid in horse-



A SLA CK MISSIONAR Y TO THE BLA CKS. 245

spittle. But I was cured at last, and I'd
had somebody to see me that had done me
more good than all the doctors even.

' There was a kind old lady come to
see me, sometimes twice a week. She lived
opposite the house I fell off, and she'd seen
me tumble. It was her that got me to
give up drink, and taught me about Jesus.
And she looked arter me, too, when I came
out to see that I didn't fall back into bad
ways. The kind old lady had me to her
house in the evenin', and larnt me my
letters. It was then, you see, sir, I got in-
to the 'abit of givin' myself a sluice.
When I'd saved up a bit of my earnin's,
the old lady lent me a little money, and
recommended me to her friends ; so I
bought a machine and a few sticks, and
started for myself. As soon's ever I'd
saved up the money the old lady had lent
me, I took it back to her. I 'oped she'd
take it back, but I was 'alf afraid she



246 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE?

wouldn't. But she did, and writ me out a
receipt for it, though she never axed for
one. " Quite right, my good man," says
she, when she'd counted it out. " It would
not be a kindness to give you this money,
because now you can earn money for your-
self, and so I can lend this to some one
else to help him to do the same."

' Soon arter that I married my old
woman she was kitchen maid in one of
the houses I went to and neither on us,
I 'ope, has had reason to repent it. Some-
times I can keep a man, and sometimes I
can't, but we've allus had a livin'.

1 Cripps was the name of the lady who
give me my start for the next world and
this too. I got a suit o' black, and went
to the church when she was buried, dear
good soul. If I'd ever had a babby boy
or gal I should ha' called it Cripps,
though Cripps Craske might ha' had a



A BLA CK MISS I ON A R Y TO THE BLA CKS. 247

rummy sort o' sound. She worn't only so
good, she was so sensible. Says she to
me one day, " What do you do with your
soot, Mr Craske ? " (Soot, she called it, so
I s'pose that's right, but in the trade we
mostly calls it sut). "Well, ma'am," says
I, " I sells it to them as sells it agin, but I
believe at last the farmers gits it for their
corn." " There, Mr Craske," says she,
' think of that! The black soot helps to
make the beautiful green corn grow, that
gives us the sweet white bread. Think of
that ! " She meant it for a kind of parable
like, like them in the Testament, but I
didn't twig what she meant at first, so I
axed her. " Why," she says, " you mustn't
think because you're a chimney-sweep that
you can't do any more good to other
people than sweeping their chimneys, and
paying your debts with the money you
get for doing it." Well, sir, I did think,



248 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

offen and offen, of what Mrs Cripps had
said to me, and that made me the readier
to try to do my best when the missionary
spoke to me about goin' about among the
sweeps.'



249



XI.



IMAGINATIVE MATTHEY.



ONE day when I called upon Mr Jones
I found him examining a boxful of still
semi-torpid tortoises which he had just
bought. It looked a queer consignment,
and I expressed my doubts as to its prov-
ing a profitable speculation.

* Never fear, sir,' said Mr Jones. ' Have
you any idea, sir, o' 'ow many o' them
queer critturs git sold in London every
year? I'll be bound you hain't. Well,
it's a good bit nigher twenty thousand
than ten, and I hain't got more than five



250 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

dozen. I'll keep a dozen to sell over the
counter, and the rest I've got for a friend
o' mine as sells 'em in the street. He'll
take 'em of me a dozen at a time as he can
work 'em off.'

1 Why doesn't he buy them where you
do, and so save your profit ? '

1 Bless you, sir, I don't screw a profit
out of him. Matthey's a friend of mine,
and so I try to 'comniodate him a bit. I
buy the things of a Jew in the Minories.
He gits 'em sent him by his brother as
lives in Marocky. They don't cost much
for carriage nor for keep, becos they're
sound asleep, you see, and so they come
as ballast. Well, if Matthey was to go to
Cohen for a dozen, he'd charge him, say,
five bob ; but me buyin' 'alf a gross or so
at a time, Cohen 'ill let me 'ave 'em for a
trifle less, and then I let Matthey 'ave 'em,
as he wants 'em, at cost price.'

i And how do they sell retail ? '



IMA GIN A TIVE MA TTHE Y. 251

( Well, for those I sells myself I gits
prices accordin' to my customer, and the
looks an' liveliness o' the queer critturs.
At the best o' times they ain't never over-
burdened with spirits. The chaps in the
streets, I s'pose, gits from a tanner to a bob
a-piece may'ap 'alf-a-bull for a whopper.
There was one chap, I know anyways
he said so got that for a dead uii, becos it
was a big un. He gammoned the party
that bought it into believin' that the longer
a tortus was in comin' to life agin, the
longer it 'ud live, an' the livelier it 'ud be,
when it did come to life agin.'

' I hope that wasn't your friend.'

'No, that worn't Matthey. He'd be
above cheatin' like that. Ketch him sellin'
a dead thing for a live un ! and yet I
never come acrost a chap with sich a
imagination.'

< How ? '

' Why, you see, sir, when he's yarnin',



252 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

you can't believe more than about 'alf o'
what he says, and you're puzzled which
'alf to choose. Still, it's interestin' con-
versation like a child's story-book, you
understand. There ain't no 'arm in Mat-


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