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sting of fear.

Yet the Gutter Parson can hold his own
with the heart of the Gutter. I have seen him
in the suffocating atmosphere of the mission-
hall, through the thick clouds of foul tobacco-
smoke, perched on his little platform before
a wild mass of the darkest humanity of Lon-
don, gathered together by the bribery of a
"pipe and a bellyful," a small and not im-
posing figure, with a curly head and a boyish
smile that the years had never been able to

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The Gutter Parson

steal from us, an unconscious and magnificent
display of leadership, as with one weak hand
lifted from time to time against that vast and
powerful throng he controlled and restrained
and silenced their fierce emotions at his will.

The Gutter Parson is dead. We killed him
in his own Gutter with our importunity and
our hopelessness and our peculiar ingratitude.
But we could not bury him.

Last Good Friday, old widow Judy, re-
puted by an ancient tradition of the Gutter-
babies to be a spy in the pay of the police,
heard the thin treble of a familiar hymn-tune
through the confused tumult of the holiday-
making street, and rose up in her warm cor-
ner of the "Blue Star," where she sat with
her pipe and glass, sheltering from the east
wind and picking up scraps of gossip. Strain-
ing her own drunken voice to that faint echo,
she began a dizzy, perilous dance which landed
her out into the Gutter, with her mocking
words and her evil mocking gestures, just as
the procession from the Mission, headed by
the great Crucifix in the hard strong hands of
a huge navvy in corduroys, with the dust and

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Gutter-Babies

odour of his labour still upon him, came round
the corner.

A few holiday-makers stopped to laugh, a
small acolyte put out his arm to push her
aside. But between Judy and that stalwart
crucifer swept some swift and silent warning.
Suddenly flinging up her hands, with a loud
unearthly yell the old creature fell forward,
her face livid in the waving torchlight as the
procession filed solemnly past her.

"Oh, my Gawd," she moaned, "did yer
see 'im there plain as daylight? And me
drunk ag'in!"

Sometimes hurrying through the market in
the early morning, at a particular bend in the
road I meet an aged travelling hawker, with a
lean pack on his stooping shoulders. His wife
is dying in the Infirmary, looking forward
eagerly to a happy release, and he earns
hardly the few pence to pay for his bed in the
common lodging-house which is his home.
But he is an Oxford man, and belongs to one
of the best families in England.

As we shake hands and exchange a few
remarks with an absurd enthusiasm about

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The Gutter Parson

the weather, our minds fly back, shrinking
into the narrow atmosphere of a stuffy
mission-hall, and we are conscious of being
again in the ghostly society of the Gutter
Parson.

And now before his ungentle discipline this
wedding party crept silently away in their
shame and confusion, leaving behind them a
sensation of strange calm and stillness.

Outside, everyone took a different view of
things; the sun was still warm and bright, and
Bill revived a little in the fresh air. No one
felt inclined to be really serious or miserable,
so they decided to continue the festivities as
if there had been no interrupting catastrophe
in the programme.

Later on, when Bill and Loo were visited
in their new home, they had agreed not to
"bother about no parsons now."

That night, behind the warm light in the
window of his snug den, the Gutter Par-
son had company, and entertained Special
Johnny.

"I'll play yer buttons!" said his small
guest, when they had cleared the supper.

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Gutter-Babies

He produced a handful and the game began.

"That's a two-er, and that's a three-er,
and this 'ere's a tenner!" he said, laying it
down with due respect and watching it with
loving eyes.

The game continued with furious excite-
ment and deadly seriousness. Suddenly there
was a fierce exclamation from Johnny, and a
small fist surprised the Gutter Parson's left
eyebrow.

"Oo-er! yer bloody cheat!" said Johnny.
"What, didn't yer lick yer bleedin' thumb
twice? Now say yer did n't, yer swindlin'
liar!"

This is the most quarrelsome and wrang-
ling game that the Gutter-babies play, and
they fight bitterly over it, but no one but the
Gutter Parson would lick his finger more than
once in picking up the buttons. At ten
o'clock, when Johnny stood on the doorstep,
with red cheeks, and twisting his cap in his
hands, he said,

"It were little Johnny spoiled that show
this mornin'."

Nobody else would have thought it quite
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The Gutter Parson

in proportion to play buttons all the evening
with a juvenile lunatic for the purpose of
obtaining this minute and obvious informa-
tion.

But herein lay at once the foolishness and
the genius of our Gutter Parson.



CHAPTER X
How the Gutter-Babies Go

THE most romantic and conspicuous
thing that a Gutter-baby can do is
to die.

In Guttergarten, one can of course be born
blind or crooked or Special, but to be really
famous it is necessary to have also made the
last grave venture.

Although it is the common lot of humanity,
even in the Gutter, yet whenever it happens it
ensures to the individual the immense esteem
and affection of his relatives, of which per-
haps in the time of normal health he may have
sometimes felt doubtful; and it also marks
him as the centre of local excitement. For
there is nothing dearer to the heart of the
Gutter than the passing bell, or one mysteri-
ous visitation of the Last Comer.

I stood in a road fringed with bobbing
rows of Gutter-babies, and we were all star-
ing at the great red-brick Fort of the Salva-

80



How the Gutter-Babies Go

tion Army, as it loomed before us with its
long flight of wide stone steps. At my elbow
Johnny dodged and bothered and damned
the universe, because he could not see when
there was nothing to be seen, and all about
us in front and behind surged an hysterical
crowd talking volubly of the boy who had
died.

Only last week he had been a white-faced,
overworked grocer's assistant, of no particu-
lar interest to anyone except the widowed
mother and the family of brothers and sisters
whom he supported. Now he was a hero, and
the sympathy of the Gutter had gathered
about his memory.

No one had cared when he turned up the
collar of his thin coat and coughed as he went
out to his work in the morning, and nobody
worried much when he tossed and moaned in
his fever, and the doctor ordered things that
could not be got for him.

But now he was a hero, and soon every
head would be bared to him and every hand-
kerchief wet for him, and every heart would
go out to him, and all because he slept with

81



Gutter-Babies

his tired hands idle beneath the cornet and
military cap and the white flowers that
crowned his coffin.

"A pore good-livin' young feller he was,
took off sudden without a note of warning
in a gallopin' consumption!"

So they waited and stared to see the poor
body passed out under the Flag through that
dreadful hush of the silenced Gutter.

" I seed his little whistle! " shrieked Johnny.

The bobbing plumes of the horses, the
bright uniform of his comrades, and the
winding serpent of the singing women with
their white ribbons fluttering were wiped out
of sight by a sudden turn in the road, and the
crowd dispersed lingeringly.

The Gutter-babies have crossed them-
selves and said their prayers, and now they
will go softly about their play all the after-
noon, and to-night will cuddle closer together
as they dream of the boy who died.

But the widow and the wailing family will
come back from the cemetery presently, and
there will be ham for tea, and perhaps later
on local talent will provide a little music, for

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How the Gutter-Babies Go

the insurance has been drawn out and now
they must dance and sing till daybreak, and
drink to the boy who died.

Earn was going to do this tremendous
thing; he lay in his little bed with sunken
cheeks and staring eyes and his nostrils work-
ing hard as he fought for five minutes more
of the Gutter life he had loved.

"Double pommonia, that's it," said his
mother with an apron to her eye, "and he
such a pride, and no 'opes of him now, and
his brother will fret his heart out, they ain't
never been parted. The Lord knows I did my
best. But what can you expect of seven
months?"

So Earn left us.

Only I (known always now in the family
circle as the young person who witnessed our
"pore Earn's going-off"), and I suppose the
priest who held up his little shriven soul to
meet the Last Comer, knew that Earn had
sacrificed himself to a myth. But the Gutter
canonized him all the same. He would never
be called a lying little hound again, and
months would not count for much in that

83



Gutter-Babies

new place where Earn must achieve man-
hood. To-morrow Alf will be bragging about
his twin brother in Heaven, and Johnny will
discuss eschatology in detail, and the Gutter-
babies will wonder and dream and quickly
forget that the Last Comer has been so
near to them.

There will be Mass of the Holy Angels, and
prayers, and gay flowers, and perhaps later
a painted window in the singers' gallery paid
for by Gutter-babies' pennies, but few tears
for the Gutter-baby that died. For the prob-
lem of Earn's mother has been solved at last
and this was the best perhaps the only
way for a Seven Months to' grow up.
Anyway, what else could you expect?

There are of course other modes of exit
for Gutter-babies. The hooters proclaimed
one o'clock loudly, as turning homeward one
morning after a long round, I met all the
Gutter-babies scampering round a corner in
a panic, breathless and round-eyed with
fear.

"Run! run!" screamed Johnny, as he fled
past me, apparently for his life.

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' Run ! run I ' screamed Johnny



How the Gutter-Babies Go

"The Kidnapper's in our street!"

An imposing and dignified person in uni-
form was approaching. He had shrewd kindly
eyes and a soft manner, and he enquired for
one Murphy.

Defiant mothers turned up their sleeves to
be ready for him, and loafing fathers watched
his steady progress maliciously, and still he
continued to search persistently for the home
of the Murphies, for no one seemed willing
to further such a quest. Behind came the
patter of Johnny's bare feet; he had pulled
himself together and returned to see the fun
under my protection. But there was more
than curiosity in his eager whisper.

" Don't let him have my Mary, the thievin'
bounder; she's walkin' out with me on
Sunday!"

And he disappeared as swiftly and cun-
ningly as he had come.

Meanwhile the Kidnapper had found his
man.

He went up the steps of number nine and
knocked irritably, then he descended to the
area and did not knock, but walked straight

85



Gutter-Babies

in, and I know what he found, for I had been
there first.

He found an evil-smelling underground
hovel with a few sticks of furniture, and live
things clinging to the walls and prancing
about the floor, and in the midst an imbecile
man, unshaven and half-dressed, and two
infant boys, the eldest scarce able to crawl,
and they were all waiting dismally. A charit-
ably disposed person had made an attempt
at feeding them from a cup of Quaker Oats,
and the biggest and most helpless baby was
the idiot father. He saw this and shuddered,
but he did not find Johnny's Mary. For she
was sitting curled up in my armchair playing
with a doll just where I had left her when she
came to tell me that "Mummy had gone
away with the gentleman upstairs, and please
would I come at once."

When the Kidnapper is about, somebody
has to hold the Gutter-babies very fast if we
do not want them to go.



CHAPTER XI

The Minding of a Gutter-Baby

SOMETHING had happened to the place
where I lived. The going-out of it was
attended with vague regrets and the
coming-in was full of exquisite and thrill-
ing excitement. The familiar features of the
shabby rooms had ceased to be inanimate mat-
ter. The distempered walls seemed friendly
and affectionate, and no longer bald patches
where prints and books might live and ac-
cumulate. Small ornaments in their accus-
tomed places developed a distinct personal-
ity. A hole in the rug, a portion of the door
from which the paint had been removed by
a Gutter- baby's boot, a discoloured patch
on the ceiling, where Johnny had played pat-
ball with an over-ripe orange, aroused in me
kindly feelings. And the secret of my initia-
tion into this unaccustomed atmosphere was
the coming of Mary.

For tucked away in this new place that
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Gutter-Babies

had so suddenly and sweetly become a home,
in a little camp-bed arranged for its own
special convenience, a real, live Gutter-baby
slept and smiled.

The small change in my domestic affairs
had miraculously affected the whole universe,
and earth and heaven were new because Mary
had come to me. The heart of that life,
which, with its ache and pain, and intensity
of tears and laughter, lay outside the individ-
ualism of a lonely tramp, called and beckoned
to me now. This warm spring morning, I was
a part of things, in tune with the hum of the
city, in sympathy with the crowding souls
about me and their lofty interests. For it
mattered to me also tremendously if the rain
kept off, if the price of bread went up or
down, if a meal were late, or an egg bad or
good, for I too had great possessions, a baby
and a home.

But as I peeped and held my breath and
peeped again, upon my shocked and para-
lysed intelligence there flashed suddenly the
tremendous problem of the minding of Mary.
I could think of no one, even in the inner

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The Minding of a Gutter-Baby

circle of highly critical friends and relations,
who would be at all likely to assist me in such
an extremity. Of course one knew people
who kept pigs and poultry and colonies of
spotted mice, but everybody drew the line
at Gutter-babies. In the whole vast library
of current literature I could think of nothing
that dealt with the subject. "Hints to Mo-
thers" only reminded me with a new pang
that I was an impostor, and there was a sig-
nificant silence about Gutter-babies among
the things women should know. I began to
be almost ashamed and fearful of my unique
position. But at this point Mary awoke, and
having unburdened me of my uneasy secret,
decided the whole matter once for all by
explaining that what was necessary to the
proper nutrition and education of Mary, she
herself would certainly know, and would as
certainly demand; a self-confidence which
the subsequent methods of Mary entirely
justified.

But as Mary lay sweetly sleeping while the
hours crept slowly into dawn, dim doubts
and fears chased themselves in a flying pro-

89



Gutter-Babies

cession through my tired brain. Was it pos-
sible to spoil Mary? One often heard of
spoilt children, but how was it done? Of
course I had seen Gutter-babies spoiled in
different ways a little girl with her nose
smashed in by a drunken father's blow
Gutter-babies who had been taught to lie
and shop-lift, who had big pockets stitched
inside their small frocks, Gutter-babies with
scarred faces and broken limbs. But were
these the only dangers to be avoided in the
minding of Mary? Might she be kissed too
often or fed too well or loved too dearly?

In the morning Mary would tell me, for she
would be sure to know. But before the first
bird had sung to the first sunbeam, before
the light had been able to wake me through
the shuttered window, the patter of small
pink feet, the fierce embrace of little arms,
the warm and vigorous kiss of Mary assured
me that there was to be, at least, no dry
level of benevolence in this new life.

Gradually the minding of her settled down
into a peculiarly simple affair. The bath was
the scene of our one real quarrel.

90



The Minding of a Gutter-Baby

"We don't wash of a mornin'," said Mary,
and stuck to it valiantly in spite of threats
and persuasions. After a long and exhausting
discussion, for I could not ignore the fact
that, in spite of the vigorous scrubbing of the
previous evening, daylight betrayed that our
efforts had been superficial, and a great deal
still remained to come off, we came to terms.

" I will, if I 'as jam on my dinner piece!"

Mary emerged pink and hungry from the
soapsuds. ' ' Wants me breakfus' ! ' ' she stated.
"Give me a penny!"

The penny was produced, and Mary pat-
tered across the road to the opposite stores,
where everything in Gutterland can be bought
in the same department at popular prices.

She returned with a drop of thin milk in a
cup, a few lumps of sugar, and an armful of
stale bread.

I watched her preparations for this frugal
meal with some interest. Having fetched a
saucepan from the kitchen, with small inde-
pendent and capable hands she poured the
contents of the cup into it, and sat down to
watch it warm on the fire.



Gutter-Babies

"I likes a 'ot breakfus'," she explained as
she continued her preparations eagerly. From
time to time she put out a busy finger and
stirred the milk gently. When it had reached
the required temperature, she drank it out
of the saucepan with evident enjoyment,
throwing in bits of bread, and gnawing at the
dry crusts.

"This will last me through the mornin',"
she informed me. And so I learned my first
lesson in the feeding of a Gutter-baby.

The next important consideration was the
clothing of the little body. Clothes may be a
ridiculous habit, invented in the first place
for the indulgence of personal vanity which
desires to add to individual attraction by a
slight variation from type, yet in spite of this
Mary's appearance as we took our first walk
abroad irritated me excessively.

What would the Gutter be without "rags
and tatters"? But one does not care to be
responsible for the disreputable condition of
one of the picturesque little people.

So we bought a wardrobe for Mary. There
were strange little soft pink garments, that

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The Minding of a Gutter-Baby

made Mary first wonder and smile and after-
wards swear and wriggle with discomfort, and
there were new boots that pinched and
creaked ; but the only thing that Mary really
cared about and that made her forget every-
thing else was a little brown fur cap, which
she saw in the window, marked one and eleven
pence.

"Buy it! Buy it!" she insisted; and when it
was given to her she hugged and kissed it
continuously, murmuring in ecstasy to its
unresponsive soul, "Oh, my dear pussy!"

Later, I bitterly regretted the episode of
the fur cap, and fierce flames of jealousy con-
sumed me. I was forgotten, and all Mary's
devotion and caresses extravagantly be-
stowed upon this inanimate and shapeless
skin. Even at night it was not thrown aside,
and the eccentric appearance of Mary asleep,
with her curls still framed in fur, might have
been humorous if I had not felt it to be
tragic.

But the minding of Mary, with its many
strange lessons and its ever increasing initia-
tion into the ways and habits of a Gutter-

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Gutter-Babies

baby, was an absorbing occupation in which
one would have gladly spent many lives and
asked greedily for more.

It was left to the loyal and faithful Johnny
to bring back the wandering affections of
Mary. He came in one morning with a filthy
mongrel puppy yapping feebly in his arms.

" 'E 's a pore orphan! " he said mournfully;
"never 'ad neither father nor mother, pore
little feller, an' now 'e'll 'ave a good *ome!"
I did not like the arrangement, but Mary
did, and the orphan made himself at home at
once. His pleasure became gradually more
and more demonstrative and violent as he
chased us excitedly round the room, working
himself up into that ecstatic abandonment of
joy which only the dumb things seem to know.
Suddenly with a delighted yelp he attacked
the enemy. Johnny and I made heroic efforts
at rescue, but I think we all knew from the
first that the fate of Mary's pussy was sealed.
The orphan remained with us for the rest of
his life. To the Gutter-babies he was a gentle
and sympathetic playmate, and they wept
for him bitterly when he was run over by a

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The Minding of a Gutter-Baby

milk-cart a few days later. But we had no
more pussies.

One cannot tell what might have been the
development of this joyous environment if
Mary had stayed to cultivate it, but this did
not happen.

Months passed, during which my Gutter-
baby fitted herself securely into the small
corner of our home life. I had tuned my ears
to the clatter of her little boots as she came
in from school, and strung my nerves to the
shrill greeting of her cheery voice calling
eagerly for "Miss." I had come to realise at
last that certain portions of the day belonged
to her. The solid dinner and the pleasures of
our simple table must be permitted entirely to
absorb and monopolise my attention between
twelve and two ; and the time after tea until
Mary's uncertain retiring hour was indisput-
ably hers also.

Gradually and almost imperceptibly a
subtle transformation was making for us a
new Mary. Her language as she skipped
about her play, or kicked her ball along the
Gutter with Johnny was much less shock-

95



Gutter-Babies

ingly eloquent, and she had ceased to horrify
society and endanger her own life by eating
off the edge of her knife. She had begun to
be minutely interested in the arrangement of
her black curls, and with huge physical
efforts, accompanied by abnormal sighs and
violent breathing exercises, to introduce the
letter "H" into her vocabulary. Psychically
there may have been some small advance in
Mary since the day of her first attendance at
Mass, when after five minutes' patient endur-
ance she appealed to me wearily, "Please,
I 'm very sick of this!"

But Johnny had already begun to watch
her with secret disapproval. She was under
the suspicion of Guttergarten. For she was
no longer quite one of us, and where was it all
going to end? Slowly I began to realise what
had happened. I had caught a Gutter-baby,
but in the taming of it I had lost it, and in-
stead I was rearing as a changeling that social
derelict, the outsider and the bounder. In the
most effectual and hopeless way of all, I had
succeeded in spoiling Mary. But the fate
that rules the destinies of Gutter-babies was

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The Minding of a Gutter-Baby

not so easily cheated, and the Gutter was not
long in claiming its own.

I can remember the occasion well. It was
in the middle of our play-hour after tea, and
Mary was dancing to her shadow on the wall,
when a message from the Infirmary came to
summon me. I was in time to find Murphy
conscious. He lay propped up on pillows,
dying fast, with his sad wild eyes full of pain.
But he had something to say to me first. He
recognised me with the last flicker of his sink-
ing intelligence.

"'Ullo, mate," he said. I suppose it was
sweet to see, even in that moment when the
unknown was disclosing its great mystery,
a familiar face from the old Gutter-life that
had cast him off. And then his weakness and
pain reasserted itself, and he became queru-
lous.

"I ain't never done no wrong to no one,
and now I'm dyin'," whined the imbecile;
and then, remembering his motive in sending
for me, "You ain't forgot 'er?" he said, allud-
ing to his faithless woman. "She runned
away with the feller upstairs; she don't worry

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Gutter-Babies

after me no more, nor the kids; it'll be the
'Ouse for them, that's about it. But when
the boys goes, says I, Mary goes too; I won't
'ave 'er playin' me lady and 'er brothers in
the 'Ouse, so they all got to go, see? Their
Grandma '11 fix it up. Now, none of yer
bleedin' games; I'll turn in me blasted corfin
first!"

It was no use reasoning with this poor dis-
ordered brain in the last effort to secure jus-
tice for its deserted progeny. So I left him to
die, this worn-out child that the Gutter had
never been able to nurse into a man.

It was not long before that mighty Moloch
of the State swallowed up Mary before my
eyes. She did not go without some reluct-
ance, "I want me brothers bad," she said
wistfully, "and I suppose there's lots of child-
ren there to play with, but I 'opes they'll
give me me bellyful to eat; I should n't 'arf
miss it now."

So she went out of our life, and Johnny
said it was better so. " 'Er were n't no good,"
he said; "too much of 'er mother in 'er fer
me." And then, with a kindly wish to com-

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The Minding of a Gutter-Baby

fort me, he added, "Yer little Johnny loves
yer still."

But among the numerous instructive acci-


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