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happen very soon. Perhaps if the Gutter
Parson came she would die quicker. It was
his business to start people on the last jour-
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Gutter-Babies

ney. That was one of the things they kept
him for. Anyway, it was right for her to see
the Priest, of course. He had never been a
religious man himself; still he had not gone
to bed, that he could remember, without say-
ing a "Glory be" since he was a little lad at
the Sunday School. He called loudly up the
stairs of the Gutter Castle for the elder
Lizzie who "did" for him and the sick wife
just now.

" I 've now took a fancy into me 'ead to 'ave
the Priest fetched to my gal!" he explained.

The elder Lizzie gave him an incredulous
stare. Then she lifted a corner of her apron
to one eye and wiped it slowly.

"Wot?" she asked still staring.

Dicky repeated his information. "I've a
fancy as my gal should 'ave the Priest fetched
to'er!"

Lizzie dropped the corner of her apron
abruptly and her eyes grew round and dry. i

"Yer devil!" she said; "yer must be
a-wishin' of she to die, and after all me trou-
ble, too. I 'm sure I 've treated 'er as fair as
me own sister. I '11 fetch the Priest me very

246



Thursday

self, and me prayer is you'll be done in yer
eye. There's many a sick creature 'e's put
on their pore legs again, just when they
thought they was gone!"

Dicky went back to his watch beside the
sick-bed. The Gutter Parson would be here
presently. He was known to be very prompt
on such occasions, but the crossing-sweeper
was feeling a little queer inside. It was tire-
some, that way the women had of knowing
just what you would never have thought of
telling anyone. Women were mean things;
perhaps, after all, those other women, with
bold eyes and lips he could kiss, would not
do for him so quietly as this poor dying crea-
ture had done. But he was sure it was right
for the Priest to be fetched. He was not a
religious man, no one could laugh at him for
that. He had never been to Church for what
he could get like some others. But the child-
ren had been to Sunday School regularly.
Perhaps he trusted more than he knew to his
nightly repetition of "Glory be." Anyhow,
he did feel certain that when his last moment
came, he would expect the Gutter Parson to

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Gutter-Babies

see him safely through. He had not thought
at all what would happen if he died suddenly
in a fit or by accident. He could not think of
such things. God would be kind to the last
to the one-legged crossing-sweeper. And yet
Dicky knew that at the bottom of his heart
he was looking forward to this visit with dim
apprehension. Nobody knew what nonsense
the elder Lizzie might have been talking, as
she hurried the Gutter Parson to obey his
summons. Perhaps when they arrived he
would tell the gentleman that his wife was
better. A new idea suddenly came to him;
perhaps the dying woman would not want to
see the Priest at all. In the mean time he felt
that he wanted to be kind to her.

She was sitting up with a bundle of pillows
behind her, and her head sunk forward on her
shrunken breast. Now and then she stretched
out a lean hand and groped about with it in
the darkness which had gathered round her
and sometimes her blackened lips moved
feebly, '"Elpme!"

"I am 'elpin' yer, me gal," said Dick ten-
derly; "wot can I do for yer?"

248



Thursday



"I wants me Communion on Thursday!"
whispered the sick woman.

Dicky remembered suddenly that she had
often slipped out on Sunday mornings early;
he had thought she used to buy the meat
then. If he had known she was going to
Church there would have been a row. So after
all she had deceived him. She had not been
a good wife to him. She was dying, the
sooner the better!

"Termorrer," said Dicky. "We needn't
wait till Thursday."

"Thursday," whined the sick woman; "I
said Thursday."

It was the Gutter Parson who stood sud-
denly near him at the bedside and startled
Dicky. So he had come, and he had walked
in just as if the place belonged to him. The
Crossing-sweeper would have liked to swear,
but he did not. He looked up once at that
quiet kindly face, the face of a strong man
with two legs and a mind that was not shifty
like his own, and he did not look again.

He had never got out of his own room quite
so quickly before since the amputation of his

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Gutter-Babies

left leg, but he had been glad to go when the
Priest had asked to be left alone with the
dying woman. He felt like a stranger in
there, with his own wife and the Gutter
Parson both talking about things he did not
understand. He began to wish he had gone
with her to buy the meat on Sundays.

When he was called back again into the
room, he came creeping and looking curiously
about him. The Gutter Parson was putting
a violet ribbon into his pocket.

"I'll bring you the Blessed Sacrament to-
morrow!" he promised.

"Thursday; I said Thursday!" muttered
the sick woman.

The Gutter Parson looked dubious, for it
seemed scarcely possible that the withered
shrunken body on the bed could imprison a
human soul so long.

"Well, Thursday!" he agreed reluctantly;
and Dicky was alone on the doorstep.

When he went back to the bedside, his wife
was whispering feebly, " Is it Thursday yet? "
she asked.

All that night and all next day the question
250



Thursday



was perpetually on her lips, "Is it Thursday
yet?"

Dicky was feeling vaguely uneasy. What
would happen on Thursday? He did not
want to be so near to God. He did not want
them to bring God to his home. Dicky had
always had pleasantly dim ideas about God
before. Somewhere or other in a big place
called Heaven he believed that God sat on a
big throne. But this was so real and so near,
he would have liked to run away, only some
dim suggestion of loyalty held him chained
to that awful mysterious muttering figure on
his bed who called to him so often to " 'elp"
her, and who was waiting like himself for
Thursday.

At last the day came. Dicky woke up in
the grey dawn wondering what was the mat-
ter. Suddenly he remembered. It was Thurs-
day. "Yus, 't is!" he answered as he caught
sight of the pale lips moving beside him.

The day grew slowly while the sick woman
waited joyfully and Dick shuddered.

"I ain't never done nothin' wrong to no-
body!" he kept assuring himself.

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Gutter-Babies

At seven o'clock the elder Lizzie appeared,
and exiled him. Her preparations took a long
time, and later on a stranger came to assist
her. Presently the bell in the little Mission
Chapel began to ring and he heard the dying
woman ask if it were Thursday. Perhaps they
had not answered her; he crept into the room
and looked fearfully round.

" It's Thursday!" he said with a trembling
voice.

"Ain't 'E comin' soon?" asked the sick
woman, with a little despairing cry.

Dicky thought it would be soon. He
watched the two candles on the white-spread
table. They were guttering in a cold unnatu-
ral draught that stirred through the room.
He put out a hesitating hand to close the
window and saw that it was fastened. A
great dread took possession of him and sud-
denly he dropped on his knees and realised
that he was caught in a trap. There was no
time for him to escape now; if he lifted his
bowed head for an instant, he knew that he
would meet the Face of God and die.

For this little stuffy familiar room, with its
252



scanty hired furniture for which he paid ten-
pence a night, with Sundays thrown in, had
at that moment become the holiest spot in
Guttergarten.

"O Gawd, don't come into my 'ouse!"
whined the miserable Dicky. But he knew
that He had come, and even then he was
grovelling in the dust before the mysterious
Prisoner of the Pyx.

The awful reality of this Presence was so
different from Dicky's ordinary dim concep-
tion of the far-away God Who could be forgot-
ten and even blasphemed.

Oh, if only he could get away! But he
would never be able to get away again, he
would never be able to forget.

Dicky was nursing a whining, cowardly
heart, and praying for the withdrawal of that
intensely real and dreadful Thing.

But that did not happen, even with the
Gutter Priest's own intention. "Behold the
Lamb of God!"

Within that White Circle the burning Heart
of God throbbed through the stillness of the
little room and scorched the shrinking soul of

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Gutter-Babies

Dicky. But the bowed body on the bed, with
its stiffened discoloured lips and sightless
eyes, had lost the power to become the taber-
nacle of the Host and its doors were shut fast
against the approaching Guest.

The blood was surging in Dicky's veins and
singing in his ears, but he dared not lift his
head. He heard them laying the body down
flat in the bed. One of the pillows slipped to
the floor beside him. He heard his wife speak
in a voice that did not belong to her at all.
She was dying and they were her last words.
He listened eagerly for them.

"Put me out straight!" she muttered.

"She's thinking of her coffin, pore dear!"
explained the elder Lizzie; "'er was always
thoughtful up to the last!"

Then she pulled out those crumpled twisted
limbs tenderly, and whispered into the dying
ear, "Don't yer fret, me gal, yer'll make a
lovely corpse!"

The Gutter Parson was saying a prayer,
and before he had quite finished the elder
Lizzie crept behind Dicky and flung up the
window.

254



Thursday



Five minutes later the little room held only
himself and Something hidden away under a
sheet on the bed.

The crossing-sweeper got up slowly. The
little candles were still smoking on the white-
spread table, but the air was empty. He knew
that he was changed, though he had only very
vague ideas how the change would declare
itself. He might join the Salvation Army or
he might get drunk. In the mean time he
would kneel down on the dirty floor and say a
"Glory be!" before that little throne where
the Terrible One had rested.



CHAPTER XXVI
The Palm Boy

SOMEWHERE high up in the blue void
that hung above the real Guttergarten
of actual fact, floated a heaven of
imaginary Idea, into which the little mind of
Special Johnny made bold ecstatic ventures.
And often in those inquisitive flights he
brought back with him some captive thought
which attached itself to the hard edges of the
real Gutter-experience and became in time
"his idea." And then, as he struggled with
the expression of it, in order that he might
share it in the mysterious communion of his
own people, one frequently caught vivid, sud-
den glimpses of that other land of dream
and promise, where the wandering minds of
the Gutter-babies lose themselves now and
then.

Out of this other land come the new-made
Gutter-babies, who take quite a long time to
get used to the real Guttergarten, to learn its

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The Palm Boy

speech and become initiated into all the
secret ways of the little wild people.

Some of them did not stop long. Perhaps
they were frightened ; at first big people were
very rough with new Gutter-babies. But it
was silly of them not to have waited a little
longer. Things were so very different in
Guttergarten as you grew older. They had
certainly lost a splendid chance. It was very
wrong and foolish to fling away the kingdom
of Guttergarten with the first tear.

And some of them came back again and
again. They could not rest in the other land
when they had once seen Guttergarten and
heard a Gutter-baby laugh.

There was little Arthur, for instance.

"Your Mother's got a born by by!" said
Special Johnny to Boy Jones, the little black-
eyed Welshman in the Gutter Castle.

"'Er ain't, then!" protested Boy Jones.

"Yer bleedin' liar! I see the doctor!"

" 'Er ain't got no born byby, though ! " per-
sisted Boy Jones.

"'Er 'ave a born byby; ain't I 'card it
'oiler?"

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Gutter-Babies

"Well, it ain't no born by by if yer 'ave!' f

"Well, 'ow can it 'elp bein' er born byby if
it 'oilers?"

"Well, I knows it do 'oiler!" admitted Boy
Jones; "but it won't not fer long!"

"Why, yer ain't goin' ter throttle it, are
yer?" said Johnny, with a sudden hopeful
interest.

"No, I ain't; I don't love 'im very much, but
I would n't go for to 'urt 'im certainly not ! "

"Then I'll knock yer bloody 'ead off!"
announced Johnny, with scorn, " 'cos yer 'ave
got a born byby, yer lyin' devil!"

The Boy Jones stuck two helpless fists into
his black tear-dimmed eyes and sobbed. He
was a smaller Gutter-baby than Johnny and
his mother had kept him "nice." He was not
fit to be alone in the wild places of Gutter-
garten, and he repented bitterly of entering
into conversation with Special Johnny.

"Well, I never meant to tell anyone but
Mummy, but if you knocks me bleedin' 'ead
off, that ain't no born byby. 'E comes every
year and 'e goes away again in a few days;
'e 's little Arthur; 'e ain't no byby!"
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The Palm Boy



"Don't 'e grow?" asked Johnny, deeply
interested.

"No, 'e don't grow, nor nothink like that;
'e 's some little pigeon, 'e is, says Mummy!"

"Will 'e go termorrer, p'r'aps?"

" 'E don't go, 'e flies; 'ave yer done with
me'ead?"

" Yaas, I won't touch yer 'ead. Wish I 'ad
a little pigeon," said Johnny regretfully.

" I don't know 'ow it is, Miss; I lose all my
babies. I 'm sure they don't want for nothin',
and others as do, and run the streets and all,
the Lord don't notice. It ain't very encour-
aging to a woman. I shan't rear none of
mine, I think, sometimes; they are a 'andful,
Miss!" said poor Mrs. Jones, as, surely
enough, two days later, the pigeon Arthur
deserted his cradle.

We have even seen the outline of the other
land as we stood together in awe and wonder,
upon the very edge of the great unknown.

It was at Southend, as the little white
waves rolled up across the mud, and washed
the slimy legs of Special Johnny.

"Can't yer see the other land plain?" said
259



Gutter-Babies

my Gutter-baby, with his wistful gaze turned
out to sea.

For below the bank of red-hot clouds and
behind the dropping sun, and through the
folds of the mist we traced, quite clearly, the
mystic outline of the other land.

There had been much to wonder at all day.
There had been merry little jumping prawns
to play hide-and-seek with us in the slippery
pools, and trails of blistered seaweed to pop;
there had been waves to dance with, and little
bazaars and funny side-shows on the crowded
promenade ; but as the excursion train whirled
us home to Guttergarten, through the evening
shadows of this wonderful day, in the midst
of a thousand memories, I watched now and
again the strange deep light rekindle in the
Gutter-baby's eyes, as they turned out to sea
once more, and mapped out the boundary-
line of the other land.

And once again in the green heart of the
Park, as the blue mists rose high between the
dark lines of the trees, and the lights of Lon-
don were jumping all round us, as we travelled
a long way across country in quest of an

260



The Palm Boy



unfamiliar tower which climbed like a grey
and silver thread out of our world of solid
fact and beckoned us away.

It was with swift and sudden steps that we
set out on that journey into the unknown. It
is only when we do not know where we are
going that we move with real energy, and
direction. For this is the path of ecstasy, that
fails abruptly when we begin to realise what
a barren harvest, after all, is ours in the land
of human discovery.

"Ain't it a lovely little castle? Shall we
both live there?" suggested Special Johnny
joyously.

"Ain't it the 'Oly City?" he chattered on.
"Will there be Palm Boys there?"

I knew that now I had stumbled on one of
his "ideas."

What was a Palm Boy? And how did this
unfallen inhabitant of the Gutter-baby's
Heaven represent the height of his ambition?

"Will I be a little Palm Boy if I gets there? "
he questioned eagerly.

"What is a Palm Boy, Johnny?"

"I dunno!" said Johnny sadly. "And I
261



Gutter-Babies

dunno 'ow yer comes to be a Palm Boy, but
I wishes as 'ow I was one!"

Who could have guessed the secret inspira-
tion of the Gutter-baby's life. And so through
all his merry wild existence in Guttergarten,
in the quiet places of his mind Special Johnny
had hugged the pale image of the Palm Boy
and fought bravely with his own alarmingly
forcible little personality for its safety.

It is true that when we found the Palace of
our quest, it pretended to be the Albert
Memorial, but the Gutter-babies are not so
easily taken in. We heard the mocking
laughter of the illusive land and the children
of the mist scattered before us as we started
home.

But the ghostly terror that shrivelled up
the little heart of Special Johnny with its
dread was the round white moon that hung
itself sometimes in the night of Guttergarten
and flooded the shadows with a pale unearthly
brilliance.

"There's a white woman in there!" he
told me, once, in trembling awe; "'er frits
little Johnny!"

262



The Palm Boy

"That's only the Moon, Johnny."

"Well, I knows as that is what they says!"
admitted Johnny.

But he knew much better than that, and
often, beneath the spell of the white witch, a
moon-struck Gutter-baby sat up with wide
bright eyes of terror and watched with curi-
ous distrust the round pale light floating
ominously over Guttergarten.

"Please Gawd, there won't be no Moon to-
night!" he would pray piously, as he tucked
himself away in the blanket, and listened for
the voices of the other land.



CHAPTER XXVII

Among the Deaf and Dumb

ABROAD belt of widening sunlight
brightened the dismal, chilly garret
where Jane was sleeping. For many
days past she had been just a handful of
shrunken bones heaped together in a reclining
posture among her cushions. But this morn-
ing she was to wake with a new mind sensitive
to impressions, and capable once more of sug-
gestion and response, with a new strong con-
sciousness, too, of the things of life appealing
to the reviving activities within herself.

What had happened? Ah, yes, she could
remember now. She had been going to die.

The old Gutter-world that she had loved
so dearly, and the friendly faces that had
once seemed so familiar, had slowly withered
into the distance, which is beyond correspond-
ence and recognition. It is true that they
had been for a long time much less real to her
than the mysterious creature-life of her own

264



Among the Deaf and Dumb

delirium; but now they were going from her
altogether.

She was quite ready to die.

The earth-dream had lately become a mono-
tonous and meaningless repetition, and those
sad faces that watched about her were foolish
tear- washed masks.

And then, while the shadows closed in upon
her with their deep and intense invitation, a
human voice had called to her suddenly and
imperatively out of the emptiness of that
other almost forgotten side of things, to which
belonged the clock that was ticking away the
minutes, and the glass of water which she still
needed from time to time.

For now she was to live again.

Outside her window, in the street below,
the busy Gutter-life hummed on its careless
way, and claimed her interest once more. She
had been told that the miraculous interfer-
ence which had thrown her back into the
heart of Guttergarten would mean, if it
occurred, that some tremendous destiny had
been allotted to her. Vague wonder and in-
quisitive speculation as to the nature of this

265



Gutter-Babies

new and sudden vocation began to occupy
her sick fancy. Like the Blessed Jeanne,
whose name she bore, she saw herself, now,
riding through the ranks of the enemy with
the honour of the Gutter-dwellers streaming
like a white flag in her hands. It would have
been so much easier to die.

"There ain't nothink that I ever 'card of
to live for ! " she had often told those watching
faces that surrounded her. "Don't take on
about me dyin', it's no use kickin' up a shindy
now. I ain't 'ungry any more!" she had
assured them.

All the arrangements for the great journey
had been completed. Her mother had been
stitching away industriously during those last
interminable days and nights at the new
black.

"It don't do to be took all of a sudden,"
she explained. "There'll be more and enough
to do at the last, mark my words!"

Her little sisters did not scruple to tell her
about their wonderful new dresses with crepe
bows and all, and of how they had been dared,
in spite of their aching appetites, to touch

266



Among the Deaf and Dumb

those two sacred pennies on the shelf which
she knew were solemnly destined to rest soon
upon her own tired, heavy eyelids. Yes, they
had all been quite ready, and then had come
the sudden closing of the ways and the biting
snap of driven bolts, as the Gates of Gutter-
garten defied abruptly her ambitious venture.
Memory traced weakly for her the dim outline
of the Priest's white garments and the shad-
owy hands with which he anointed her, but
the gracious touch of Mystery was still heavy
upon her senses. For one second of earth she
had been poised in the timeless grasp of cer-
tainty, and in that brief flash of experience
had learnt things which could never be told
by her to the little men and women of the
earth-dream, who were still patiently wearing
out their thin lives in the fretting battle of the
survival. With a quiet smile she remembered
now all the peevish perversity with which she
had fussed over the last preparations.

"Not me feet!" she had exerted all her
despairing strength to cry, with a strange
reluctance to offer those poor crippled useless
members to the operations of Mystery.

267



Gutter-Babies

There had even been tears of rebellious
helplessness when no one had caught her
meaning.

"Not me feet," she was struggling to pro-
test, in that toneless sinking voice that was no
longer her own, while the gathering darkness
called to her fancy out of a little yawning
mouth among the nameless graves in the
cemetery. And now those very feet, by a
curious whim of Mystery, not to-day or to-
morrow, perhaps, or even the day after to-
morrow, but one day, were to carry her out
once again into Guttergarten upon some tre-
mendous errand, while the wisdom of the
shadows lay hidden in her heart.

There was a sound of heavy boots beside
her bed, and the round stolid figure of Lily
Ann rolled into view suddenly, and with this
unquestionably material apparition, in one
shock, the whole complicated machinery of
the old Gutter-life was set in motion, and the
earth-dream forced itself back into intense
realisation once again.

Jane observed that the podgy polished face
of Lily Ann was drawn solemnly into unusual

268



Among the Deaf and Dumb

proportions. She was in fact making heroic
efforts to conceal from her suffering sister the
warm-hearted eager enjoyment of her own
robust and brimming life.

"Well, I never!" she said at last, as with
widening puzzled eyes she examined this new
Jane, who had so unexpectedly returned from
the far country beyond the pale limit of Lily
Ann's wildest thoughts. "No, I never did!"

Jane smiled feebly. "I'm better!" she
explained in a whisper.

Lily Ann had recently departed from the
home circle to her first place. " I always likes
to get me gals out as soon as possible," her
mother had often said. "Them's better off
by a long ways with their legs under some-
one else's table."

And so Lily Ann had reluctantly aban-
doned an excellent connection in step-clean-
ing, strangled her ambitious yearnings for the
pickle factory where her "young feller" had
an interest, and started out into the world the
day after she had "turned fourteen," with a
shabby little box that her mother had used
before her, packed full of borrowed clothes.

269



Gutter-Babies

She was ready and willing to scrub and wash
till further notice, but she still kept her self-
respect and refused to wear a cap.

"The day Lily Ann puts on one of them
little bonnets 'er leaves the profession, " she
had firmly warned her new mistress.

So Lily Ann was humoured because of her
prodigious aptitude for scrubbing, until her
Gutter-pride should be conquered by the
desire for promotion and the greed of in-
creased wages.

Lily Ann had come home for her weekly
visit to-day with her courage screwed up for
an interview with her sister's corpse, and
with half her earnings in a fat little purse in
her pocket.

Her squat broad figure and glowing ruddy
face seemed to be swollen with importance.

"Ain't yer a fair marvel, though? Me and
Mother quite thought as you was gone las'
week!"

"No, I 'm not going; I 'm real better!" said
Jane with a shadow of disappointment that


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