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threatens to lengthen into an interview, and the
Press is distinctly out of reach.

'Milidy,' with a glance from the plain ring
of galvanised iron on Tilda's left hand to the

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No. 5 John Street

infant she has just deposited in its place, ' And
is this pretty child yours ? '

Tilda (interpreting the glance). ' No, Milidy ;
I ain't a married woman. But he did so cry to
have a peep at yer ; and p'raps he mayn't never
see yer no more.*

' Why so .<* I shall come often and see my
poor — again and again.'

'Oh, Milidy, it 'ud be like the Bible if you
could come and walk down John Street, Satur-
day nights. Don't you believe 'em when they
sye the men won't mind nobody. They 'd mind
you. Oh, Milidy, that 's what I 'd do, if I looked
as though I 'd got wings under my bodice, and
could talk French.'

There is a headlong impetuosity in the girl's
manner as though she felt she had to speak a
decisive word for others, and that now or never
was her chance. It is clear that, in her poor,
rude way, she is pleading for her fellows, and
that the dominant idea in her mind is still the
wonder of this morning's experience with the fine
lady, carried to finer ends. For this time she
has been made to feel that woman as the man-
subduer is to conquer for something higher than
mere personal domination, and to use angelic
powers of compulsion that proud nations may be
brought under the yoke of tenderness ' to them
as can't fight,' and may consent to put forth all
their strength to make the weak and lowly
happier, and the world a sweeter scene. The
sense of the unsuspected fighting power of beauty

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No. 5 John Street

and of grace, that seemed to dawn upon her
when I took her to see the pictures, has been
deepened by the might of living forces on this
astounding day — at first by her encounter with
the fairest of the * common people of the skies,'
and now by its culmination in this tremendous
event.

Chairman of the Committee, with a warning
look at Tilda, ' Ahem ! '

MiLiDY (very gently). ' Well, who knows ?
Since you wish it so much, perhaps I shall come
to John Street one day.'

Tilda (on seco7id thoughts). ' Oh no, please,
Milidy, you mustn't never come there— leastways
Saturday nights. It 'ud only make yer want to
die. Perhaps if you was jest to sye you wouldn't
'ave it — without comin' — it might all stop. Send
'em a message, Milidy, and pass a Act o' Parlia-
ment. Don't give no more dinners to us grown-
ups. We 're done. But make a lor about the
young 'uns. Them 's your chance. Make a lor to
make their fathers and mothers send 'em to school.
Make a lor to give 'em two plates o' meat a week
— never mind the oringes — and to keep their
pore little feet out o' the wet. Make a lor
so as they shan't 'it their little sisters — least-
ways when they ain't two of a size, and the gal
can't spar.'

The girl's voice trembles in its last accents ;
and, faith, it is a moving scene.

The Committee have now quite given it up,
and to all appearance they are engaged in mental
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No. 5 John Street

prayer. They make miraculous recovery, how-
ever, when their precious charge, smiHng no
longer, but with a sigh, and a slow, penetrating
look straight into the eyes of Tilda, shakes hands
with the coster gal, and resumes her tour of the
hall.



274



XXVII

Nance has seen the doctor, and the truth is out.
She is being slowly poisoned to earn her bread.

Being a local doctor, he knows these cases by
heart. After one look at her, he gave a short
recital of her symptoms, and told us that she was
in the indiarubber line.

All is in order. She has had the faintness and the
giddiness, the dyspepsia and the headache which
naphtha and carbon bi-sulphide constantly inhaled
cannot fail to produce without a gross dereliction
of duty. The attempt to use them as substitutes for
the breath of life is invariably punished in some
such way. The offender may be the most innocent
and helpless being in the world.

Now, we all know the meaning of a strange
kind of starvation from which Nance has suffered,
at intervals, for weeks. It arises from the want
— not of food in the cupboard, but simply of
stomach for the food on the table. A fly's ration
would keep this frail creature alive, yet, ofttimes,
she cannot get it down. The cursed naphtha fumes
so pervade the general scheme of things in the
factory that everything reeks of them. The poor
child brings what she calls the taste home to bed
with her at night, and rises with it in the morn-

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No. 5 John Street

ing. It comes between her palate and all natural
flavours, and gives her a loathing for the kindly
fruits of the earth.

This symptom, it may be remembered, offers
the clue to a principle of treatment which is the
salvation of the habitual inebriate. If his vice is
whisky, he has whisky sauce with everything,
until he surfeits and sickens of the flavour, and
turns from every faintest trace of it with invincible
disgust. At breakfast, it invades his coffee ; at
lunch, or dinner, his vegetables and his tart. And
when at last he finds it in the very walnuts and
the coffee, he rushes forth a total abstainer.

Nance carries her dinner to the factory, and
eats it there. While waiting to be eaten, it
absorbs the vapours of the place. Her mid-day
meal is thus, to some extent, red herring cured
in naphtha, with bread and naphtha butter, or
pie and naphtha jam. But the really odd thing
is that the only way to get so much as a morsel
of it down is to serve it in the very room in which
it has received the taint. Try to eat it outside ;
and the palate, revived by the fresher air, instantly
rejects the nauseating dose. To make it tasteless,
in fact, you must first debauch the sense of
taste.

Hence, as by law of Nature provided, the
weakness which has made our little sister break
down again and again during the festival.
Hence that premature 'ageing' of her face, and
loss of girlish beauty which struck me so on my
return.

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No. 5 John Street

All is in order, both in things past and in
things to come. The things to come are general
lassitude, mania — paralysis, or consumption, as a
choice of evils — and, in due course, the end.

Nance is at mania at present, just on the verge.
Tilda will tell how her tiny chum sometimes
comes home at night, cross as two sticks, and
resists every attempt to cheer her, like a little
demon. Once, when Tilda was getting her to
bed, the peevish mite actually smacked her big
friend, and then burst into repentant tears. All
the other's tender kisses could not dry them
until the fretted nerves had found the relief of
exhaustion.

' And shall Trelawney die ? ' Tilda answers
with an emphatic 'No,' and straightway warns
me that I must never expect to see this lamb in
my factory fold again. Nance, with trembling
hesitancy, throws herself out of work, and is
interned in John Street for rest, and for such
fresh air as that settlement affords. Tilda, at the
same time, forces her wares on the reluctant
dandy with redoubled energy, to find the where-
withal for the rent and for the other charges.
These include a provision of simple luxuries for
the table. Every day she brings something for
her invalid — a bundle of asparagus, cherry ripe,
or strawberries lying under their leafage, as in
cool grot. But I have reason to know that,
during the process, she pawns her last remain-
ing gold ring of stored capital. Moreover, a
distant view of her hat, caught through the open

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No. 5 John Street

window of her room, shows me that the feather
has been removed, as though for hypothecation,
in the last resort.

The news of the girl's breakdown spreads
through the house. Though it is no uncommon
occurrence, it calls forth the sympathies of many
who are not in her immediate circle. The one
thing that saves our set in the worst extremities
is their spirit of brotherhood. They form a huge
mutual help society, without rules, without meet-
ings, but with a power of improvisation for
emergencies that is truly stupendous. Thus,
one neighbour brings something ' tastey,' though
it may be but a hideous three-cornered jam puff
from the local confectioner's. Another places a
donkey barrow at the patient's disposal for airings.
Holy Joe offers to put her on the free list of an
electrical machine of his contrivance with which
he earns his income in the Saturday markets, at
the rate of a penny a shock. Covey stations him-
self in the yard outside her window and feigns the
thrush, the lark, and the nightingale with ever
astonishing skill. He also has in contemplation
a friendly lead for her benefit, at which we are to
have an entertainment, described as choice, on
the easy terms of * anything you like to put in the
'at.' This will include a wind-up with the gloves
between Covey and a professional of budding
fame. Even the sombre Azrael calls, and brings
port wine — still looking at the girl with an interest
which, I cannot but think, is more than purely
compassionate. He owns as much to me in con-

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No. 5 John Street

fidence, by confessing that she has 'struck him
in the eye.'

I watch all this, as it goes on for a few days,
with sheer delight in the spectacle of so much
love and kindness on one side, and so much
gentle dependence on the other. But one of the
most insidious forms of selfishness is the con-
templation of heroic actions. There comes a
moment when I feel that most of these measures
are not exactly to the point, and that, as there is
no time to lose, I must consent to some breach of
the unities of my social farce, and bear a hand.
An excuse for the offer of the small sum needful
is easily found. I feign a legacy from a maiden
aunt who kept a small general shop in the
suburbs ; and part of it is accepted as a loan.
Nance is sent into the country, with proper
securities for medical attendance and companion-
ship in a village home. Tilda is to go down and
see her once a week. I am to go with Tilda.
Was ever a ha'porth of bank paper so profitably
laid out ?

While waiting for our first excursion, I examine
my factory with sharpened senses, and especially
with clearer eyes. After taking so many persons
round the establishment to explain the processes,
I now, so to speak, take myself round to explain
the effects. I see the hundreds of hands more
warily as they pass the gate, and I find that all
but the quite fresh caught bear traces of this ter-
rible toil. Theirs is an industry of which every
stage of every operation costs a fraction of a life.

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No. 5 John Street

They have all sorts of ' funny complaints.' Their
eyes smart and water as they toil in the penetrat-
ing fumes, and they weep with the mechanical
facility of experienced crocodiles. They see
double at times, and the vast barn-like room
swims round them as though its pots, brushes,
garments, stuffs, and furnace fires of gas jet were
all but so much ruin in a whirlpool. Sometimes,
as I learn in answer to inquiries, they ' ketch it
in the lungs.' They invariably, as we have seen,
' ketch it in the knob ' in the form of bilious
headache. The moral effects are even more dis-
tressing. They lose their temper for nothing,
and will find scope and verge enough for quarrel
on a pin's point. Some have been known to go
'right off their chump,' and to be exceedingly
rude to the overseers.

The Law is supposed to have an eye on us.
Old Antic ! it would be truer to say that we have
an eye on him. His inspectors show no offensive
disposition to intrude. His magistrates are ex-
ceedingly considerate ; and when they are not,
we threaten them with the stoppage of an im-
portant industry. It is our business to send in
periodical returns of our killed and wounded.
The other side make it theirs to accept our figures
without question. Live and let live is the motto,
as between us and our administrative masters, if
not exactly between us and our white slaves.
And, Lord ! Lord ! how we can lie for the good
of trade !

Our factory, in truth, is a great spoiler of

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No. 5 John Street

humanity, and especially of the weaker vessel.
It seems to have the same destructive appetite
for the latter as some monsters of fable. Their
youth and freshness is but raw material ; we turn
them out as hags in no time — the manufactured
article. Alas for their fleeting show of white
and red !

Her cheeks are like the blushing cloud

That beautifies Aurora's face,
Or like the silver crimson shroud

That Phoebus' smiling looks doth grace.

Her lips are like two budded roses
Whom ranks of lilies neighbour nigh,

Within whose bounds she balm encloses
Apt to entice a deity.

With orient pearl, with ruby red,

With marble white, with sapphire blue,

Her body every way is fed,

Yet soft in touch and sweet in view.

Nature herself her shape admires ;

The gods are wounded in her sight ;
And Love forsakes his heavenly fires.

And at her eyes his brand doth light.

Ah, the pity of things marred — blossoms
trampled by the hooves of swine, girlhood
cheated of its day !

Some of them, like Nance, bear it in silence,
feeling that it is the price of * keeping respect-
able.' Some snatch their beauty, so to speak,
out of the fire, and hurry with it to market for
what it may still fetch as damaged ware. Others
CO - operate with the spoiler in his rage for

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No. 5 John Street

results, and make for the dram shop, as though
they cannot keep their nails from their own flesh.
What do I not see, what do I not hear, when
once conscience is roused from its torpor of use
and wont !

The circumstances being such, judge of the
feelings with which I open my paper one morn-
ing, and find a whole sheet devoted to the adver-
tisement of our great Union for the Rubber
Trades. It is out at last. And at the head of
the Directorate who but Sir Marmaduke Ridler,
Bart., C.B., M.P., till this moment our Great
Unknown ? Surely he is of those who rule our
spirits from their urns. There is no escaping
him. A few formalities, and we shall be his, with
the whole British public, in so far as it joins in
the demand for rubber goods. He is in every-
thing — land, houses, inventions, industries. He
has discovered the law by which every single
activity of the race can be made to yield a bare
subsistence to the toilers, and a fortune to him.
It is now a mere trick of the hand ; and he will
undertake to produce the fortune as readily as
the conjuror produces the ace. If he gave his
mind to it, I believe he could make even poetry
pay.

The Union is to pool the interests of all the
rival and competing firms, and to command the
market. I observe that among those who have
sent in their adhesion are one or two that are
known to waste money in experiments in sanita-
tion beyond the meagre requirements of the law.

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No. 5 John Street

The great combine threatens their very existence,
and they are about to yield.

From another page I learn that all society is
on the tiptoe of expectation for the great Jubilee
Ball, and that Sir Marmaduke will be of the
distinguished company.

The paragraph is opportune. I have myself
been favoured with an invitation to the entertain-
ment, which has duly reached me through the
faithful Stubbs. I was about to decline it, since
it threatened to deprive me of more congenial
society for two or three days. But now * The
Case is Altered,' to quote the sign of the house
at which Covey and I take our evening draught.
I feel that I cannot afford to refuse. No single
occasion should be lost for the study of Sir Mar-
maduke Ridler's Life and Times. I must see
about the costume at once. A prophet of Doom ?
— say wild Amos, dresser of sycamore trees, who
saw what must come of low life above stairs,
and who was much given to the analysis of social
grandeur into its chief component of wronged
orphans' tears. Tut! Tut! The Duke might
not like it. A Sans-culotte ? Too realistic.
Egmont, as a sort of king of the beggars .'* Too
smart. Piers the Plowman ? That may do.

Sir Marmaduke, I see, is to go as a Crusader
armed cap-a-pie for the conquest of the Sepulchre
of his Lord.



283



XXVIII

A DAY in the country to see Nance, a day for
Tilda and me. Happily, it is a day of rest for
feather and felt. A neat sailor hat suffices this
time. The choice of costume, I think, has not
been altogether determined by circumstances.
As part of her heroic determination to behave
more like a 'lidy,' Tilda has consciously toned
down. She is almost in her working clothes as
to cut and texture, and she looks more than ever
like a Greek girl in an apron. ' My buff shoes
with the pinted toes,' though dressy, are accept-
able to the most fastidious taste for rustic use.
My own make-up, I am afraid, is still that of a
linendraper who has seen better days. Stubbs
has not packed my John Street bag with dis-
cretion. The billycock and the lounge jacket
are, I think, my strong point. But, beyond all
question, I fade off into uncertainty towards the
knees.

We have not far to go. Within fifty minutes
or so of our move from the starting-point we are
in the heart of the country. We reach a rural
station ; we climb a hill ; we come to a tableland
of broad roadway, shaded by trees. The sun-
light steals through the foliage, and — look how

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No. 5 John Street

even the floor of earth is thick inlaid with
patines of bright gold ! We are flecked with the
glory as we sit down to rest on a prostrate trunk.

Tilda is childishly happy. She has too assidu-
ously sold flowers to know much of the places
where they grow. Covent Garden market is her
halting speculation in search of a first cause.
The lawless blooms in the hedges, the very roses
in the wayside gardens, almost scandalise her as
creatures that have broken bounds. Her delight
offers them a divided duty. As a dealer, she is
disposed to regret a wanton waste of twopenny
buttonholes. As a human being, she has an
emotion which is closely akin to religious awe.
Knowing John Street, she wonders nobody steals
'em o' nights.

'There's a whole tanner's worth for nix,' she
says, as with deft fingers she makes me a giant
buttonhole from the wild growths. I look rather
too much like a coachman at a wedding for my
own private taste ; but may I perish of ridicule
ere I complain.

Poor Tilda ! ' The country ' she has hitherto
known is but some gin palace in the fields, at
Easter or Whitsuntide, a scene of revelry beside
which, in the comparison, a fuddle of Dutch boors
looks like a garden party at old Versailles.

' It's like a symetry,' she murmurs, as though
to mark her sense of the perfect peace.

We stroll on to new beauties — a village, which
she instantly reconciles to experience as some-
thing out of a play, and which in truth, though

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No. 5 John Street

perfectly real, does seem just a little too bright
and good for everyday uses. But as the villagers
are so obliging as to take it entirely as a matter
of course, further wonder would soon bear the
taint of affectation. The little three-cornered
green is bordered by old cottages and immemo-
rial trees. The children in their white aprons
play about like specks of dancing light. Aged
persons sit on an aged bench — both entirely free
from self- consciousness. Other persons draw
water from a well with the same captivating air
of doing nothing out of the common. Ah, the
goodness of God !

* / don't want no bloomin' swings,' says Tilda,
still in the same tone of happy reverie.

I think I know what she means. The quiet is
an excellent substitute for the fun of the fair.
We sit down for a moment, silent as on a peak
in Darien.

The four-mile radius, after all, is not the planet,
and in the main the world is still a quiet scene.
Man, too, is really a peaceful ruminant, content,
if you will ensure him his provender, not to soar
above the earth on which he moves at a cow's
pace. The geniuses who are for ever inviting
him to higher flights, without setting the example,
are but gadflies, whose contemptible triumph is
to make him squirm in his pastures, and who
generally catch it heavily in the long-run from an
iron tail.

Think of our orb's vast mileage of silence and
repose. Take train from a terminus in any

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No. 5 John Street

bear-garden, and in a few minutes you have left
all the uproar behind, and are among earthy sons
of the earth, weighed down to it by its deposits on
their iron-shod boots. You may run for thirty,
forty, fifty miles, and hardly see a soul but the
stragglers at the stations. Beyond, all is calm
— green field, grazing cattle, silent firth, planta-
tion in which there is no sound but the restful
chatter of the birds. The stray cottage is the
true type of the human dwelling-place, with the
smoke of the chimney curling in leisured journey
to the hush of the clouds. And the type of the
earth dweller is the slow-witted fellow with his
one idea a year, or a lifetime. That feverish
hectic of the boulevard whose boast was a new
idea every day, was but a monster of the species.
The ploughman, the carter, the labourer, these
are the majority. The town is but the rubbish-
heap of the plains of peace, and a part of the
secret service of their amenities. The map of
the world, to those who know how to look at it,
is as soothing in its suggestion of that which
passeth understanding as a landscape of Corot or
of Claude. Even in peopled Europe, what range
for the Quietist, and how slight the supposed
usurpation of the crowd ! The self-centred under-
growth, and the communicative trees whose gossip
is but a more delicious mode of rest, have most
of it to themselves. There is much calm on the
Danube as it seeks the land-locked sea ; for the
Eastern Question is but a buzz of trouble at its
journey's end, and most other questions are mere

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No. 5 John Street

polemics of barn-door fowl along its mighty course.
How comfortably may one doze in Spain, in the
snug valleys between the spurs of the Apennines,
in the French and German cities of the second
and third class. The fiords have been fast asleep
from the beginning of the world, just turning with
a snort, perhaps, as the pirate galleys passed out
to carry the noisy minority away, or as the excur-
sion steamer passed in with their descendants,
who, after all, are but midges vainly threatening
the stillness of ocean pools. As for Asia, Africa,
America, in their huge preponderance of mute
forest and wandering tribe, why labour the point?
Tis a very sedate world, of a surety, with fauna
and flora to match both it and the natural cravings
of man.

Now we saunter on to a fillet of limpid water
which calls itself a river in the maps. The girl
drops on her knees by the bank, not to pray by
the book, but just to feast her eyes on the fishes,
with a ravishment of the sense which is prayer in
its way. Her remark that they are ' all alive, and
no mistake,' is, I take it, a reflection on the truth-
fulness of the hawker's cry. Aquariums and
globes of goldfish apart, I honestly believe she
sees them for the first time in their native element.
Her cries are infantine in their expression of
simple wonder and delight. ' Look, there 's a big
'un! See 'im land that young 'un one in the ribs?
Ain't he cock o' the walk ! Twig the two little
'uns comin' up to lam 'im ? Go it, Tom Thumb !
give 'im beans. I '11 'old yer coat ! '

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No. 5 John Street

Then, as if ashamed of bringing a suggestion
of fistic war into Paradise, she rises, straightens
herself, and once more begins to 'behave.'

And here by the brookside is Nance's cottage,
and there in the porch is Nance herself, signalling
to us with her handkerchief. The cries of the
two girls at sight of each other are in the same
perfect keeping with the scene as the twittering
of the birds. The sick one is in kindly tending ;
a glance shows that. There is a glow on her
cheek which may be due to the pleasurable
excitement, but which, I hope, is the effect of
the fresh air. As I see her so, it seems a far cry
to hell.

We display our presents. The simple dainty,
warranted free from naphtha, is premature ; even
yet the poor child does not care to eat. The
pink bow is put on at once, and its reflection
serves to arrest the flight of colour from the
face. The blue eyes are still bright with joy.
It must be another sign of returning health,
Trelawney shall not die.

She nestles up to Tilda in the old way. ' Now,
dear, I must show you round, and then we'll
all come back and 'ave tea. So 'appy, so 'appy
now ! ' With these words, she lays her hand on


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