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The first thud of war between the * Hooligans'
is generally for two sharp. The seconds set
to, along with their principals, as in the older
duel. For mark that, in most things, we are
as our betters were just so many centuries
ago, and are simply belated with our flint age.
And now our shapelier waves of sound break
into a mere foam of oath and shriek. At
times there is an interval of silence more awful
than the tumult, and you may know that the
knife is at its silent work, and that the whole
meaner conflict is suspended for an episode of
tragedy. If it is a hospital case, it closes the
celebration ; if it is not, the entertainment pro-
bably dies out in a slanging match between two
of the fair ; and the unnameable in invective and
vituperation rises, as in blackest vapour, from our
pit to the sky. At this, every room that holds a
remnant of decency closes its window, and all
withdraw, except, perhaps, the little boys and
girls who are beginning to pair according to the
laws of the ooze and of the slime.

So millions live, in one mode or other, all over

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No. 5 John Street

the broad earth. The differences are only in the
trappings. There is a John Street in every
shining city of civiHsation — in New York,
Chicago, Boston ; in Rome, St. Petersburg,
Vienna, Madrid. Deep calls to deep of dirt
and tipple, ignorance, squalor, and despair.
There is a sort of Liberty of John Street, and
Fellowship of blood and gin-fire. If the Tzigane
from Buda-Pesth walked in here at No. 5, we
should know him for a brother, though he wore
a bandanna in lieu of a cap. He would be as
greasy as we are ; he would itch with another
variety of insect, that is all. The children might
pelt him for a time, because they are silly enough
to think that strange boots make a strange man.
But their seniors, as soon as they had taken
stock, in one swift glance, of the holes in his
uppers, and the devil in his eye, would yield him
his appointed place without a word. His badge
of outlawry from all the sweeter uses of life would
take him into our smuggest Cathedral cities, with
a certainty of finding a garret or a cellar after his
own heart, under the shadow of the spire.
Every village in the land, if it has not its entire
John Street, has its No. 5. It may be only the
cottage at the end of the lane, but there it is, and
there the feckless find their pallet and their roof.
We are a mighty corporation, and I feel sure
that we should not look in vain for quarters if
we tramped it to a settlement of the Samoyedes.
There would surely be one tent fouler and more
open to the sky than the rest — tent No. 5.

57



VII

Letter from Jervis. Do I like otter-hunting ?
What 's that to him ? Will I join a little party
they are making up at Longtown for the lower
reaches of the Esk ? I won't. This is galling,
and I must put a stop to it. None of them seem
to know I 'm duck-shooting on the Caspian.

Mefn. — Get Stubbs to put a line about it in the
Post. Dear old Post, all alive just now with
arrivals in town, and first parties for the season.
My night cabman is exceedingly keen on his
bargain, and sends round for the paper as soon
as he wakes. I wish he were equally punctual
with his 3d. a week.

• • * •

It is Sabbath morn at No. 5 John Street.
The bells proclaim it, one from a neighbouring
chapel, as it might proclaim an execution, others
from a Church settlement, in music. But we
want no proclamation ; the house is aware.
Rest, if not devotion, is written all over it, back
and front. Our great hive is, at least, two
hours late in stirring ; and even then we remain
but half dressed for, at least, two hours more.
The first stage for public appearance is shirt
sleeves, for one-half of the community, and skirts

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No. 5 John Street

without ' body' for the other. Men sit at the
windows ; the smoke of the morning pipe curls
in the air. Ingenious children contrive to play
in the yard. Washing in these quarters is
classed among the duties — put it off. Birds
sing from the greenhouse ; and such breeze as
finds its way to us stirs the leaves of the tree
that pierces the glass roof of their prison. This
poor sylvan survival, a mere Cockney now, is
a relic of some primeval shrubbery that once
marked our status as a mansion. For all its
shortcomings, the scene is peace.

The families converse from their back windows
with the Sunday ' piper ' for basis. I meet the
boy that hawks this intellectual luxury from floor
to floor, as I sally forth to beat up Low Covey in
his quarters. We enter my friend's room to-
gether. He lies extended at his ease, the while
he turns over the whole budget of light literature
of John Street with a critical air. In these pro-
ductions, as I now, for the first time, make closer
acquaintance with them, the tragedy of life seems
to find its fullest representation in the sheets
devoted to humour. Low Covey hands me one
of these, which bears the not inappropriate title
of Leavings, with the remark, 'That's a nice
bright thing.' It is the humour of savages, who
happen to be within touch of the appliances of
civilisation — the humour of drunken rows, of
Homeric blows on the nose, of life as one vast
spill -and -pelt of pantomime. These weekly
comics, as they are called, are nearly all illustra-

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No. 5 John Street

tion. They have hundreds of cuts to the issue,
and but a thin black line of legend to each.
There is no vice in them, in the sense of con-
scious depravation ; it is but the bestiality of bad
taste. The monkey house at the Zoo might
delight in every issue ; for, to enjoy this revel of
pictorial rowdyism, it is hardly necessary to
know how to read.

Covey's next selection has failed to please him.
' Swipey Loafer ain't up to much this week,' he
murmurs, as he lays it aside with a sigh of dis-
appointment.

In this elegant trifle, a typical family, and
especially the typical head of it, lives before the
public on a nutriment of winkles and gin. It
gives us the humours of the beanfeast and of the
Margate sands, varied by glimpses into the back-
yards of Somers Town. The more winkle shell
and the more gin bottle, the greater the fun ; it is
a simple plan. All the men are drunk, and most
of the women are in short skirts. It is 'Arry in
'Eaven, a heaven of plenty to eat and drink,
plenty to wear, and a celestial choir for ever on
the spree. Words cannot tell its vulgarity, its
spiritual debasement. Better vice itself, if
redeemed by a touch of mind.

The Police sheets detain him longer — the
sheets in which the same scheme of social ob-
servation is more or less associated with crime.
' That'll do to begin with,' he says, laying asidf
one in which sprightly young women kick off the
hats of maudlin young men in evening dress, or

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No. 5 John Street

box eacli other for rights of priority, when the
supply of lovers fails to go round. Burglars
break into bridal chambers. Wives track truant
husbands, and make for their rivals, like panthers
on the spring. As gin and shell-fish are the
principal ingredients of the first dish, so leg and
chemisette are indispensable to the last.

'Nice and tastey,' observes my friend with a
chuckle, as he points to a leg that seems to fear
nothing on earth, nor in the heaven above to
which it points — -not even Lord Campbell's
Act.

These, in their innumerable varieties, form the
mirror of life for the slums. They should be
carefully stored in our literary archives, for they
will be priceless to the future student of manners.
They show how remote from the surface we yet
are in our ascent from the bottomless pit of taste.
They represent the visible world as the incarna-
tion, under an innumerable variety of forms, of
the Universal Cad in the dual nature of woman
and of man. The creative spirit moves upon
the slime, and we have organisms and institu-
tions. In the first, it is the Cad as Swell, as
Plutocrat, as Strumpet, or as Thief. In the
other, it is the environment of the Ginshop, the
Racecourse, the Prize Ring, and the Police Cell.

These publications, I believe, are edited by
mild-mannered men of blameless life who bringf
up families on five pounds a week in the villas of
Camberwell. They are owned by men of fortune,
who have worked their way up from the courts

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No. 5 John Street

of Fleet Street to mansions on the river-side and
to seats on the magisterial bench. I have myself
assisted in toasting one of these persons at a
public dinner, and have joined in extolling him
as a model of successful enterprise. He has
given a library and a public swimming-bath to
his rural district; and it is hoped that, at the next
vacancy, he may be sent to Westminster to make
our laws. A portrait published in one of his
'properties' hangs in Low Covey's room. It
represents ' the bloke as was 'ung ' — one who, at
the time of his arrest, was our fellow-lodger.
Meritorious as an impression in art, it is defective
as a likeness, for it was taken when the cap was
drawn.

In spite of these aids to cheerfulness, my friend
is manifestly troubled in his mind. In truth, on
Sabbath mornings he is more or less in hiding
from the missionaries. Our house, I find, instead
of being our castle, is but a sort of railway junction
of social agencies. All seem bound for this spot
from the most distant parts of the system. Vast
consignments of ministration cross each other at
our quivering points, and not without danger,
as politics, religion, science, art, and the rest,
rushing in pell-mell, contend for the patronage
of No. 5.

' I can't get nobody to leave me alone,' com-
plains my friend. ' I feel a'most barmy with it
all. This 'ere improvin' lot 's got me down on
their books jest as if they was perlicemen — age,
occypation, time of goin' out, time o' comin' in.

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No. 5 John Street

' Hush ! ' he cries, as another tread is heard on
the landing. ' There s old Conroy, bet yer what
yer like. Lay close.'

It is too late. An elderly man, in black, which
betokens not mourning, but respectability, gently
pushes his way in. He looks, what I afterwards
find he is, a city missionary who was once of the
world as a shopkeeper, and who now calls sinners
to repentance as the unpaid pursuit of his leisure.
He has an open countenance. He seems a good
man. I am sure he is a perfectly sincere one.
His old civility to customers is now unction, with
scarcely a change.

' Good-morning, my friend. 'Jest come to
bring you a little picture I thought you might
like to 'ang up in your room.'

He unrolls a coloured lithograph, which repre-
sents Queen Victoria offering the Bible to an
inquiring savage, as ' the true cause of the great-
ness of England.' The chief kneels in a loin-cloth
of ostrich plumes. Ministers in the Windsor
uniform hover in the background. Her Majesty
wears the crinoline of that happy middle period
when we were still able to smack our lips over
our own flavour as the salt of the earth.

Covey regards it with evident approbation, but
he seems to want time to make a suitable acknow-
ledgment. On occasions of this sort well-bred
persons find nothing more difficult than to hit the
mean between self-respect and the effusiveness of
gratitude.

' There is a double interest in that picture,'

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No. 5 John Street

says Mr. Conroy. * It shows what queer kind o'
people, if you might put it in that way, the Queen
rules over, and what blessin's she bestows on
'em.'

He is evidently a patriot, and he glows with
the thought of the evangelising mission of his
country. His, perhaps too exclusive, survey of
mankind from the point of view of Exeter Hall
has led him to believe that the flag makes the
circuit of the globe to the sole end of carrying
the Scriptures in its folds.

' What might be 'is name ? ' asks Covey at
length, pointing to the chief. ' Anybody we bin
lickin' lately ? '

Mr. Conroy {rather uneasily). ' Oh, no. There
was never any trouble with him — brought up by
the missionaries.'

Covey. ' What sort of lingo, now, would he
speak, in a manner o' speaking .-* '

Mr. Conroy. 'Sort of broken English, I fancy
— at any rate when he 's comin' our way.'

Covey. * I s'pose everybody all over the world '11
know our patter bimeby.'

Mr. Conroy (wit A. modest pride). * That 's what
it's coming to, I fancy. They pick it up like.
It's the tracts.'

Covey [warming). ' An' what 's the lingo up
yonder, I wonder ? '

Mr. Conroy. • Up where ? '

Covey {apparently too shamefaced to name a
better zuorld). ' That plice what you 're always
a-talkin' of.'

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No. 5 John Street

Mr. Conroy. 'English '11 do, I think you'll
find.'

He does not say so in terms ; but he manifestly
cherishes the hope that our tongue, if not exactly
the sole language of heaven, is certainly the one
most in use there. I infer as much from a short
discourse on the perfections of the Divine Ruler,
which he proceeds to hold for our joint benefit.
There can be no doubt of the good man's inclina-
tion to the belief that his Maker is, at heart,
a Briton. He suspects irreverence in the con-
clusion, and would be glad of escape from it, but
there seems no way. The Lord's steadiness. His
constancy. His perfect sobriety of spirit, His great
constructive activities. His combined justice and
mercy are all, in Mr. Conroy's view, eminently
British qualities.

The only circumstance in which he seems to
palter with this pride of race is his attribution of
our remoter origin to one of the lost tribes. He
courteously invites our perusal of the latest tract
on that subject, as he leaves the room,

' He 's a grand old ruin, but he don't mean no
'arm,' is Low Covey's judgment on him, when his
back is turned.

My friend now looks round to find a place for
the new print. It is no easy matter. His walls
are crowded, and chiefly with presentation copies.
A portrait of the Earl of Beaconsfield, in printed
oils, occupies the place of honour over the mantel-
piece, and is evidently regarded by its owner with
peculiar reverence.

E 65



No. 5 John Street

' Real lidy gimme that. One o' these ere
Primrose dymes. Rides in er carriage, and
keeps it waitin' cawner o' the street every time
she comes up. Wish I may die.'

This excellent person appears to be taking him
through a brief course of constitutional history.

' Wat Tyler — ever 'ear of 'im, an' Jack Kide .'*
Well, this 'ere chap put 'em down. " Rooshians
shall not 'ave Con-stan-ti-no-ple" — stopped that
little gyme too. It was 'im as brought over the
primroses to this country. Many a dollar he 's
put in Tilda's pocket, you bet.'

A photograph of the Madonna of Botticelli,
which faces this all-compelling nobleman, was the
gift of another lady. ' Nice sort she is too.
Wears a green frock — no waist to it. *' Curl
Sersiety." Sounds like something in false 'air,
don't it ? But she 's all right that wye.'

In this case, I understand, the very laudable
object is the development of Covey's sense of
the beautiful in and for itself. He has been
assured that frequent contemplation of this work
will do wonders for his general education in the
amenities, and he has been induced to promise
that he will look at it at least twice a day. He
keeps the promise by fixing his eye on the picture,
as on vacancy, while smoking his pipe.

He ultimately finds room for the new work by
displacing the framed set of rules of a church
club. This institution offers him every recreation
but beer, and especially a weekly set-to with the
ofloves between an athletic curate and all comers.

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No. 5 John Street

The champion is from Oxford (new movement),
and this, apparently, is his way of reviving the
earlier methods of converting the heathen. On
Saturday nights he is ready to visit Low Covey
at the club, to smoke a short pipe in his company,
and, perhaps, to black his eye. On Sundays he
expects Covey to visit him at St. Amanda's,
and to see him, awful in full canonicals, with
power of binding and loosing, banning and bless-
ing, the priest behind his altar rails.

' He ain't much of a 'and with the gloves,
though he fancies 'isself a bit in that line. I 'd
rather talk to 'im any day than spar with 'im. Yer
see, 'e 's such a good sort, yer don't care to land.'

At this juncture Covey starts, and assumes
something of the tremulously watchful attitude of
the hunted hare. A trill, as of miniature cymbals,
is heard on the staircase, with now and then a
deeper note as of the muffled drum. In another
moment the instrument, whatever it is, is used
for a rap at the door ; and in answer to Covey's
resigned murmur of ' That 's me,' a quite beautiful
young creature in the uniform of the Salvation
Army enters the room. Her air, her sweet
voice, and her gentle bearing make one indif-
ferent to certain little peculiarities of accent and
manner, and they are calculated to allay all uneasi-
ness in the prospect of meeting the housemaid in
a better world.

It is a tambourine lass with her instrument.
The pink and white of her face is set off to per-
fection by the great plain bonnet, whose dark

67



No. 5 John Street

blue is carried out in the rest of the costume, with
never a jarring note. She is all health and all
happiness, I should say, to judge by her look of
perfect peace.

' Now, brother, come and be saved this very
minute. You promised me for to-day.'

' Don't want to disgrace myself, Capting. Wish
I may die, if I 'd larf ; and if I didn't, I should
have to bust.'

' Larf as long as yer like, only come.'

* It ain't you what I should be larfin' at. It 's
them other cures.'

' I know ; poor old Colonel Slocum. But he 's
such a dear!'

' Kunnel Slocum! Why, 'e's only a coaley —
jest as I might be. I can't stand that.'

'Never mind, brother, larf at 'im. It'll only
make 'im pray for yer twice as 'ard. 'Allelujah !
Come, and do let us finish off the job this time.
Save yer while yer wait.'

* I ain't a goin' to sit along with no sinners,
not me — to be talked down to by a Gospel shark.'

' You shall be saved all by yourself.'

Covey softens — ' I don't mind goin' jest as far

as the door of the barricks — to see yer march

out. But I won't go in.'

* Just as far as you like, brother. Come.'
Poor Covey ! one sees the end of it.

I feign to take my leave, but really I mean to
see the adventure out. I observe them through
the chink of my door as they pass downstairs,
the girl leading. Covey following with a defiant

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No. 5 John Street

air, I follow both on tiptoe, and track them
stealthily in the street until they reach ' quarters.'
It is the usual service promenade, with banner
and music ; and the young woman, spinning her
timbrel betwixt thumb and finger, is the Miriam
of the hour. Covey stands at the street corner
with his hands in his pockets and observes out
of the ' tail ' of his eye. He would have scorned
a more active interest in the proceedings had
not, unfortunately, a loutish fellow hurled a cab-
bage stalk at the contingent, which struck the
tabor out of Miriam's hand. Low Covey in-
stantly knocks him down, and then follows the
procession — though still without joining it — just
to see fair play. In this way, he becomes one of
the outer ring assisting at the service, and he
hears the charming evangelist in the poke bonnet
preach and pray. He smokes all the while to
show that, personally, it has no effect upon him.
He follows the band back to barracks, still as a
bodyguard ; but, at the doorway, the evangelist
beckons, and he goes in. Before the service
closes I see him sitting on the sinner's form, with
his pipe smouldering in his pocket, his head
bowed, and his shoulders rounded in the collapse
of repentance. I cannot see his face, but there
is shame all over him. The bullet head, the big
ears standing as it were erect in relief from the
close crop, are eloquent of confusion at least, if
not of remorse. When the company has prayed
over him, he is suffered to escape.

My last view of him leaves him once more in

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No. 5 John Street

the filthy streets of the filthiest capital of civilisa-
tion — unswept because it is the Lord's Day. I
leave him, unconverted indeed, but still dazed,
in a group waiting for the opening of 'the pubs,'
amid a litter of last night's fried fish-bones, this
morning's orange peel, and the foul dust of a
month's neglect of the simplest process of sanita-
tion. O the nameless abominations of the scene !
Not a missioner of them all has wasted a thought
on these ever-present suggestions of every kind
of defilement while he has been tinkering at our
souls. A thousand sittings of the Kyrle Society
have left these footways as they are, with their
bordering houses all smeared with smoke, like
huts of the dawn of civic life. Now I know why
all who can fly London town on Sundays, and why
so many who cannot keep indoors and play loo.
The place is too maddening, without the bright
wares in the shop windows to mask its ugliness
and grime.



7^



VIII

The portrait of the Earl of Beaconsfield was
given without conditions. It, therefore, does not
preclude Low Covey's intermittent attendance at
the meetings of the Anarchist Society in the hall
in the yard. These, I understand, are the only
gatherings of an educational character at which
he is allowed to smoke under cover and to
keep his cap on. He has been led to apprehend
Anarchy in this manner, as a system under which
everybody is to do as he likes, and those who
won't do it shall be made. The meetinofs accord-
ingly offer some resource against weariness of
spirit at times when he has no money for a house
of entertainment, properly so called. On such
occasions he listens to that terrible old Hot
Gospeller who lodges in the other shed in the
yard, and who screams yndying hate of all insti-
tutions whatsoever, in Low Covey's patient and
all-receptive ear. Now and then the programme
is varied by ' chemical ' courses, at which the
strange man in black, who is Old 48's fellow-
lodger, gives purely expository discourses in
broken English on the effect of explosive forces.
His name, or rather his pseudonym for the plat-
form, which in Low Covey's rendering was some-

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No. 5 John Street

thing of a mystery, is at length made clear by
a handbill lying in my friend's room. It is
' Azrael; ' and this, I am enabled to say, on the
authority of the handbill, is the name of the
Angel of Death. On the surface of it, his lecture
is but a demonstration in the art of making the
most of common things. * Waste nothing, my
friends,' the lecturer seems to say. * With an old
saucepan, a common sardine tin from the dustbin,
a piece of wire, six penn'orth of this from the
chemist's shop, and six penn'orth of that, you
may lift a mountain into the air.' Why you are
to lift it, and at whose expense, is not for the
lectures Low Covey attends. That is for inner
circles of teaching, which, with his provoking
want of curiosity on the subject, my friend will
never reach. In both its inner and its outer
meaning it is pre-eminently a lecture for the poor.
As Low Covey may be supposed to apprehend
it, it is but a way of showing how, by the expen-
diture of a little pocket-money, the ingenious
pauper may make a chemical toy. Low Covey is
not quite such a fool as he looks ; but though
he does not want the toy for himself, it is no part
of his business to stand in the way of those who
do. He 'don't take no notice' — that is all.
Besides, he has a sort of involuntary respect for
the lecturer, of whom he usually speaks as 'Izreel,
Esquire.'

Among other ministrations, as they affect the
house at large, we convert a Jew on the premises,
or seek to convert one, by weekly visits, each

72



No. 5 John Street

marked by a dole. The recipient is a semi-
savage-looking fellow from Galicia who works
for the fur-dresser on the first floor. Like
Nicodemus of old, he takes his instruction by
night. The devout Hebrew, his employer, would,
I am sure, stand no nonsense on this point ; so the
transaction has to be kept a secret from him. A
special missionary and interpreter of the Yiddish
waits for his man at the foot of the stairs, and
serves him with a tract, or a copy of a Christian
gospel. With this, which may be regarded as a
citation to a superior court of conscience, there
usually passes a small coin as service-money.
Our neophyte of the cruel eye and the mocking
lip seems to have found a way of turning doubt
itself into cash. He dwells, as it were, on
the lake shore of baptism and conversion, and
adroitly keeps himself in the state of being
about to be.


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