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twopence on the shillin' that's the charge.
But that seems a h awful lot for the poor
critturs to pay ; so I'll only charge a
'a'penny, say, if the thing's taken out
next day, and a penny if it's out by the
middle of the week, and so on. It's puz-
zlin' work makin' reductions when it's only
a penny or so you've lent. A ha'penny on
the twopence is what the other dollies
charge, whether it's for a week or for a
day; but if they're people I know, I'll
only charge a farden, up to fourpence, and
sometimes I won't charge nothin', when
they pays back within the week that's
accordin' to circumstances, of course.
When folks are honest to my knowledge,
and 'ard up and no mistake about it, it
would go agin niy conscience not to let
'em 'ave a few coppers now and then 's



144 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

long as they don't want to cheat me. If
they'll leave what's worth the money they
want, I'll let honest folks have it, though
that ain't the way of the trade, for you may
'ave a thing as was jist worth the money
'anging on 'and till it ain't worth '//", let
alone the interest. And sometimes I'll
lend, when I know the poor critturs can't
spare what they've brought even for a day,
without takin' the thing in rugs and sich,
when it's bitter cold.* But they mustn't
try to do me make out that things I
couldn't make no money out of is worth
ten times as much as they want on 'em.
Soon's ever I see they wants to do me, my
back's up. " There," says I, and I gives
'em back their trumpery, " we won't 'ave

* ' And if the man be poor, thou sbalt not sleep with his
pledge : in any case thou shalt deliver him the pledge again
when the sun goeth down, that he may sleep in his own rai-
ment, and bless thee.' (Deut. xxiv, 12, 13.)



' THE SQUARE DOLLYWOMAN? 145

no words. You can walk, soon's ever you
please." And they do walk pretty brisk,
but, bless you, some on 'em will try on the
same game agin till I git right out o' pa-
tience with 'em. My temper's short, and
I don't see why they should want to do me
jest becos I've got more pity for 'em than
most has.'

1 What are the sums you generally
lend?'

1 Oh, twopences, and threepences, and
fourpences, and sixpences, and so on up to
a shillin'. 'Tain't often that I go beyond
the bob. Sometimes it's 'alf-a-crown, but
that's seldom. Seven and sixpence is the
most I ever lent to any one at one time,
and that was only once in my life.'

' But I suppose you have been asked for
more ? '

'Well, sir, you see the things that is

VOL. III. 10



146 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

mostly left with me is sich common stuff
that the most owdacious of them as wants
to borrer on 'em wouldn't think of arskin'
anythin' like that. And yet I have been
arsked for out-of-the-way lots, too. Look
at this flute now.'

She opened a drawer in the counter and
took out of it a faded green-baize flute-
case, and out of that the joints of a Ger-
man flute, which when put together looked
so very poor an instrument that I wonder-
ed any one should have thought it worth
while to provide it with a case.

' Look at that now. I don't know
whether you're a judge of sich things, but
I've shown it to them as is, or shams to be,
and they say it 'ud be dear at any money.
And that's about my own opinion, though
it wouldn't do for me to say so to every-
body, if I ever want to sell it, which* I
don't mean to yet.'



1 THE SQUARE DOLLYWOMAN.' 147

1 1 suppose there's some history con-
nected with the flute that has interested
you.'

1 Yes, there is, sir though it's precious
little I know about it. Though if you
come to that, everything that's brought to
me has a 'ist'ry as you call it, that must be
hinterestin' to somebody. But about this
flute. I was settin' in the shop as I might
be now, when in there comes a tall, thin
chap that didn't look jest the sort I'm used
to. He was seedy enough, poor feller,
but still there was a look about him
that made me think he'd been used to
somethin' a bit better sometime or other.
He was dressed in black coat an' trousers
both leastways they had been black when
his hair was. His hair and his clothes look-
ed 's if they'd grown grey together. Well,
sir, he pulls this baize thing out of his pocket



148 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

as carefully as if it was the preciousest
thing in the world, and looks over his
shoulder, and then he puts it down on the
counter without ever sayin' a w r ord. I'd
begun to pity the man, but then I thought
it was plate he'd been a-priggin'. " No,
no, my man," says I, " this ain't your
shop. I ain't a fence, and if you don't slope
precious quick, I'll send for the pollis to sarve
you out for your imperence inbringin' a bad
name on me, which I've never desarved
none." He looks up astonished like, and then
he puts his flute together, and give it me, and
says, " Will you lend me a pound on this,
ma'am ? " I looks at it, and then I looks
at him, and says I, I says, " I'd see you
furder fust. Why, man, it's cracked, and
you must be cracked, too, to think of sich
a thing." I couldn't 'elp pityin' him agin
he looked so wexed for the flute like he



' THE SQUARE DOLL YWOMAN: 149

seemed to care more than he did for his-
self. It was easy to see that lie vallied it
at no end o' price, some reason or other,
and forgot, poor crittur, that it worn't the
same to everybody else it were to him.
" My good man," says I, "if you want to
make money out of your flute, you'd bet-
ter sell it. I'll buy it if you're anyways
reasonable, but you must put a price upon
it. I can't be buyer and seller both."
"No, ma'am," says he, " I can't sell it,"
and then he goes on moonin' to hisself
" all gone, all gone but that nothing
left they ever saw but that. I can't
sell my last thing that ever had sun-
shine on it." I thought the poor man
was wandering; so to bring him to
hisself, I says, "Why, there's the sun
a-shinin' on your coat now, sir. If you
won't name a price, I'll bid 'alf-a-crown for



I5o EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

your flute, though, mind you, 'alf o' that
is only out o' charity." " I thank you,
ina'am," says he, civil and yet proud like,
" but I did not ask for charity. I cannot
sell my flute. Will you lend me," he goes
on, droppin' humble agin, " sixpence on
it? " " That I will," says I, " or a shil-
ling if you like." " No, ma'am," says he,
" I fear that would not be fair to you. I
forgot that the flute could not be to you
what it is to me. I shall be able to pay
sixpence sooner than I could pay a shilling,
and so I shall get my flute back the sooner."
He give a little smile when he said that,
but if he'd made a joke, I couldn't see it,
poor feller. Then he unscrewed his flute,
and put the j'ints back into the green case,
lingerin' over 'em jest as if they was his
babbies he was bury in'. " You will please
to take great care of this, ma'am, and not



' THE SQ UA RE DOLL Y WOMAN.' 1 5 1

let any one tamper with it," says he when
he give it me, as solemn as if he was trust-
in' me with a fortun'. Thinks I, "Who'd
want to, and if they did, what 'ud it mat-
ter ? " But I says to him, as grave as I
could, "All right, sir I '11 look after that."
But that poor gen'leman, he looked so
down in the mouth when he went out o'
the door, that I couldn't 'elp callin' after
him, " Hi, stop a bit, sir, you can take
your flute, and I'll trust to your word to
pay me." I'm sure he heared me, for he
give a twitch in his shoulders, as if he
was a-comin' back, but he made believe
not to hear me, and went on, and I've
never seed him since. That's more than
three years ago, but even if I could git a
customer for his flute and at any rate, I
could git more than a tanner for it I
wouldn't sell it. I'll keep it 's long as I



152 EPISODES I A AN OBSCURE LIFE.

can, to give the poor gen'leman a chance
of gittin' it agin, if he does come back
he seemed so cut up at partin' with it. If
that 1 s all the 'appiness he's got in the world,
it would be a 'ard thing to rob him of it.'



153



VII.



OLE PIPPIN.'



I WAS one day in Mrs Phipps's shop,
when a hale-looking old man came in to
dispose of a bagful of metallic odds and
ends. He was a cheery old fellow, with
full ruddy cheeks, and almost silvery hair ;
but he had a habit of casting his eyes
down and prying about whilst he was
talking that made me suspicious of him at
first ; when, however, I did catch sight of
his clear blue eyes, there was such an
honest look in them that I felt I must have



154 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

made a mistake in his case as well as Mrs
Phipps's in my first reading of character.
"We often do make such mistakes when
we trust solely to conventionally accepted
symptoms of dishonesty. Almost every
calling engenders some trick of manner
which may possibly admit of an unfavour-
able interpretation, if the observer rigidly
applies to it his abstract notions of the
way in which all kinds of people ought to
behave. Persons who pride themselves
upon their knowledge in the matter of in-
sight into charactertheir ability, as they
phrase it, to ' take stock of a fellow at first
sight,' are often ludicrously self-misled.
Witness the false scents which detectives
who have brought themselves to believe
that everybody is a more or less cunning
rogue often run off upon, with a comically
earnest certainty that they are at the heels
of the rascal who is * wanted.' They hunt



' OLE PIPPIN: 155

in London, whilst he is half way across
the Atlantic. They rush to take the Cu-
nard boat at Liverpool, and possibly brush
against the man they are in quest of in the
Strand, whilst they are entering the Han-
som they have hailed in a hurry to convey
them at a gallop to Euston Square, merely
1 confounding ' their quarry for getting in
their way. The old man's habit of casting
down his eyes, I soon found, was one of
these trade-caused tricks of manner as in-
nocent as the soberest sailor's roll on shore.
1 Who is he, Mrs Phipps ? ' I asked
when the old man had gone out with the
money she had paid him for his metal.
' Oh ! that's ole Pippin, sir.'
' And what is Mr Pippin's business ? '
The title I had given him greatly
tickled Mrs Phipps. When she had finished
laughing, she answered, ' Bless you, sir,
he ain't Mr Pippin ' (bursting out in laugh-



156 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE,

ter again at the title she had emphasized).
1 Pippin ain't his name surname or Chris'n
name. It's the name he goes by. I can't
rightly say what his real name is. Though
if you'd mind the neighbours, you'd say I'd
ought to. Accordin' to them, me and ole
Pippin's goin' to make a match of it. A
likely thing, and him old enough to be my
father ! Though he's a fine ole chap, ain't
he, sir, for his years ? And he don't do
badly neither. He ain't like the rest o'
them shore-workers a haul to-day, drunk
as a sow to-morrer, and not a penny in their
pockets day after. He's a lighter notion
o' the vally o' money than that, and he
makes a sight, they say ; but then he's
burdened hisself with sich a lot to spend it
on that I might as well marry a viddiver
as wanted somebody to 'elp keep a lot o'
kids, as ole Pippin; an' that oodn't suit
my book, let alone his years, though no



'OLE PIPPIN: 157

one can deny he carries 'em better than
lots as ain't 'alf his age. I've got on a
deal better since my fust ole man died
than ever I did while he was livin', so I
ain't a-goin to git another, 'cept I can bet-
ter myself. What I make now I have, and
can do as I like with ; but law, it's foolish
nonsense talkin' like that. Ole Pippin's a
deal too much sense to think o' sich a
thing.'

At that time I did not know what
1 shore-worker ' meant, and so I had to ask
for an explanation, which was thus given :

' Them as goes grubbin' in the shores,
when the tide will let 'em in, pickin' up
whatever they can get 'old on. It seems
a queer life, don't it, sir ? P'r'aps there's
some on 'em routin' about under our feet
now, jest like the rats. And the rats is
wery dangerous, _ too, at times, down there,
I've heared. It's a queer life, but there's



158 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

money to be made at it, if the silly fellers
had only the wit to keep it. All kind o'
things shillin's an' gold, too they find
in that filthy muck. But if you want
to 'ear about that, you should go an'
'ave a talk with ole Pippin. There ain't
many's been at it longer than he 'ave, an'
he's a pleasant ole feller to talk to, an'
don't by any means objec' to the sound of
his own woice.'

I was then comparatively unfamiliar
with the strange variety of modes in which
the inhabitants of this huge city pick up a
living. The information that there was a
class of men who earned what, but for
their folly, would be a good living by
groping about in the foul darkness of the
London sewers excited my curiosity ; and
I willingly availed myself of Mrs Phipps's
offer to make me acquainted with old
Pippin.



< OLE PIPPIN: 159

In spite of his vagabondish calling and
our common friend's little sneer at his
loquacity, I found him to be an old man
deserving of respect in more ways than
one ; and I think therefore that a brief
account of his life and adventures may
interest my readers.

I should premise that at the time of
which I write the scientific modern system
of metropolitan drainage was only dreamt
of: a gigantic system which would be
cheap even at its gigantic cost if only,
after having taken so much pains to purify
one part of our river, we were not satisfied
with defiling it a little lower down ; if after
having collected our sewage so that it could
be utilized, we still did not utilize it, ex-
cept in an infinitesimal degree still treat-
ing as rubbish to be got rid of anyhow
what might be made to produce wealth in
comparison with which the richest hauls



160 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

the old shore-workers ever fished out of
the filthy flood would be trifles not worth
counting.

Old Pippin's real name I found to be
Frederick Smith. Why he was called
Pippin he could not tell me except that
most in his line went by a ' by-name ; ' he
had gone by his so long that when I used
his real name he seemed uncertain whether
he was the person addressed. I found him
in occupation of two ground-floor rooms.
Neither the rooms nor the locality in which
they were situated would have suggested
the idea that the tenant made, in Mrs
Phipps's phrase, ' a sight o' money,' but
old Pippin's rooms were exceptionally
good in such a quarter, and still more ex-
ceptionally furnished. There was no lack
of anything necessary for his large adopted
family, but the place was in a sad
muddle. His housekeeper was his niece,



* OLE PIPPIN: 161

a good-looking but rather sour-looking
widow of two or three and thirty, with
a swarm of children. The youngsters,
I could see, tyrannized over their good-
natured grand- uncle, but they were also
very fond of him. The mother likewise
tyrannized over the old man, but she did
not seem at all fond of him. On the other
hand, she seemed to cherish a chronic
grudge against him. She was plainly
angry that a stranger should see how fond
her children were in spite of their teazing
ways of the old man who supported her
and them. She interrupted our chat as
often as she durst with hints about the
tide, and muttered soliloquies at her uncle
for dawdling at home instead of being at
work. She tried to enlist my sympathies
by insinuating that her uncle had done her
some irreparably grievous wrong, but when
she found that I reserved my pity for the

VOL. III. 11



i62 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

old fellow who bore her ingratitude so
cheerfully, she went off in a huff; and I
was by no means sorry to be left to con-
tinue my talk with old Pippin without
farther interruption than recurrent inrush-
ings of the noisy children. I learnt the
exact nature of old Pippin's relations to
his niece, soon after she had flounced out
to gossip in the court (banging the door
after her, boxing the ears of one of her
little boys for letting it jam his fingers*
and then putting her angry face into the
room again to make her uncle responsible,
in some incomprehensible manner, for the
poor little fellow's bellowing). But I will
give old Pippin's history as concisely as I
can ab ovo.

Nearly eighty years before the time in
which I had my first talk with him, he had
been born in Limehouse. His father was
a lighterman, and as soon as Fred could



* OLE PIPPIN: 163

run alone he was almost all day long on,
or in, or on the shore of, the water. 1 1
should feel lost, sir,' he said, in reply to
an inquiry whether he could not find some
employment more suitable for his advanced
age, l if I was put anywheres where I
couldn't see the river.' As soon as his
little brother Jack, who was two years
younger, could splash about with Fred, he
was left almost entirely to Fred's care. ' It
was a queer way to bring up children, but
I liked it. Jack didn't. He was always
weakly, poor chap, an' that made him
peevish. Many a lickin' I've got takin'
his part. I could ha' got on with the other
boys, but poor Jack had a way of rilin'
'em, and then he'd come running to me.'

When the boys were seven and five
both their parents died. ' I don't like to
speak ill of my own father and mother,
but 'tworn't much they'd ever done for us.



1 64 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

'Cept that we'd to sleep where we could,
their bein' dead didn't make much odds to
us. We'd begun to pick up such a livin'
as we could before they was dead, and so
we'd only to go on doin' it when they was
dead. It was a bad thing for two boys to
be left to theirselves like that. I'm afraid
we should ha' gone to the bad, if it hadn't
been for an old woman we often come
across down by the river. It worn't any-
thing she could do for us in the way of
food and that, for she'd to work hard for
her own livin', poor old gal, and it worn't
much of a one when she'd got it. But she'd
give us a stitch now and then, and what's
better, she tried to mend our manners for
us. Of a Sunday evenin' she'd have us
into her room, and tell us about what was
good. It worn't much she knowed, per-
haps, poor old gal, but what she did, she
acted up to. You never heard her say a



' OLE PIPPIN: 165

bad word, and she was the forgivin'est old
creatur' I ever come across. The boys
would tease her, and them as were old
enough to kno\v better were downright
cruel to her sometimes ; but she never bore
'em a grudge, and was as ready to do a
good turn to them as she was to anybody
else. She was such a cheery old bird, too.
If anybody had a right to growl, she had,
you might say ; for she hadn't a soul in
the world to look after her, and she was
often ailing, and when she was about, she
could never do much more than just make
enough to keep soul ani body together;
but, catch Molly grumblin' ! "I've got a
friend up there," she'd use to say, pointin'
to the sky ; " and if things is a bit hard, I
shall enjy heaven all the more, when I get
to it. My friend's gone afore to prepare a
place for me them's his own words." I
declare one evening when I went round to



1 66 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

her place, and heard the poor old woman
was dead and buried, I was a deal more
cut up than I was when my own mother
died. That must be seventy years ago and
more, and yet I remember it as if it was
yesterday. It was a Sunday evening. The
bells was ringing, and the sun was shinin'
on the river and the ships, and poor Jack
was in the workhouse. He'd never been
bad enough to be took in before. I felt
lonely somehow, and thought I'd go round
and have a chat with Molly, and there,
when I got there, she was dead, you see.
I've reason to remember her, for if it
hadn't been for her, I might never ha' had
the happy life I have. It was through her
I got into the right way o' lookin' at things.
And what she'd told me stuck to me some-
how. I don't say I never did wrong
there ain't many can say that, I fancy. But
I was ashamed of myself afterwards I



' OLE PIPPIN. 1 167

couldn't take a pride in it as some poor
fellers does. And now for many a year
I've felt that I've got a friend up there, too.
It's a pleasant thing to think of when
you're grubbin' about in the dark. Sayin'
a prayer to yourself's better than swearin'
down there.'

When Jack was discharged from the
infirmary, the parish found employment for
him as a shopkeeper's errand-boy, whilst
Fred continued to pick up his crust any-
how on the river's bank. I gathered from
the old man's hurt tone that at this time
the better-fed and better-clad Jack grew
ashamed of his ragged elder brother.
' But, of course,' added the old man in
excuse, l it wouldn't ha' done for Jack to
ha' kept much company with me then. His
master would ha' thought that he was rob-
bin' the till, and me a-helpin' him.'

After a time Fred made the acquaint-



1 68 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

ance of some of the ' toshers ' men who
hunt for ' marine stores,' old metal, &c., in
the river's mud, turn over builders' dry
rubbish, and used, at any rate, to explore
the sewers, in search of the same, and any
more literal valuables that may be buried
in such apparently unlikely places. He
soon became a proficient in the strange
calling, and had followed it with more or
less success ever since much to the benefit
of his brother and his family. Jack had
married young, and soon had a great many
children, with very small means of keep-
ing them. Old Pippin had almost sup-
ported them whilst they were children, and
had often had to help them after their
marriage. His youngest niece, on her
mother's death, had come back to her
father's to keep his house. She was a
widow, and had brought a brood of chil-
dren with her. When her father died, old



' OLE PIPPIN: 169

Pippin had ' set up housekeeping,' as he
phrased it, in order to give his niece and
her family a home. When I hinted that,
considering the obligations under which she
lay to him, I thought that she might be a
little more gracious in her manner to him,
he answered with a laugh, ' Ah, well, poor
gal, her temper's short, there's no denyin'-
but then, you see, sir, she's got it into her
head that it's my fault that she's a widdy.
She says that she could ha' done a deal
better for herself if it hadn't been for me.'

1 But what nonsense ! '

' Well, no, sir, in a sort o' way there's
some truth in it anyhow about her bein'
a widdy. It was me as got her to marry
her husband. Leastways I talked to her
parents. And a very worthy young man
he was, though he did die at a ill-conwe-
nient time. He couldn't help that, poor
feller ! You see there was another chap



i;o EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

that was after her, that didn't mean no
good. But he give himself airs as if he
was a gen'leman, and she liked him best
because of his fine clothes, and he could
make her believe anything he liked, poor
lass. So I spoke to Jack, and got her
married to the t'other to keep her out o'
harm's way. I meant well, but she don't
seem to see it and 'tis tryin', no doubt, to
a fine young woman like her to be left as
she is with such a lot of kids as is pretty
sure to scare off any other man from
makin' up to her but the little uns are a
great comfort to me, poor dears I should
miss 'em, if they was took away from me.'
Old Pippin made very light of the dis-
agreeables of his subterranean rambles.
When I asked him how he could stand the
malodour, he answered, l Oh, I don't mind
it a bit I don't take no notice of it 'cept
where it's special strong and not then



* OLE PIPPIN: 171

much if I takes a pipe. Some says the air
in the shores is strengthenin'. I s'pose
that's nonsense, but anyhow it ain't weak-
enin'. Look at me. I don't look much
like a in-walid, do I, sir ? And I've
been up the shores, as often as the tides
'ud serve, ever since I was fifteen. If poor
Jack had taken to the shores, instead of
stickin' in a shop, he might ha' been alive
and hearty now. Of course, there's foul
air in places, as there is in the mines, that
'11 put your light out and choke a man in
no time. It's a dangerous life I'm not
denyin' that. When you can get through
the muck, you don't mind a bit about it
you're thinking of what you'll fish out of
it. But there's holes full of slush that 'd
take you in over head and ears twice over.
And if you don't look sharp, the tide may
come in and drownd ye, or the Gushers
may open a sluice close by ; and so again



172 EPISODES IN AN OBSCURE LIFE.

you'd get drownded. Of course, they
couldn't be expected to shout out, " By


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