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pulled off by the mother, who, with fearful resolution, a resolution that burnt up her tears and caused her eye to gleam in its sunken socket, exchanged this, her best garment, for the means wherewith to buy a morsel of bread. As she came out, she met a man dressed in a worn and dirty suit of corduroy; but, despite this, and a face telling a tale of gin and rum, it needed not the agricultural implements he carried to identify his stalwart figure with the notion of one of England's peasantry.
He would have passed the woman without noticing her; but, pulling him by the sleeve, and drawing him beneath the light of the street-lamp, she looked, with a wild smile, into his face, and showed him the little pieces of silver in her hand.
“You won't take those there to-night, husband ?” she said in a low husky voice, first pointing to the tools he held, and then to the shop, "see, here is enough for the children and us until to-morrow," and again she rattled together the few small coins. With a half inaudible oath, he broke away from her feeble grasp, and entered the pawnbroker's. For a moment she stood still, but was aroused by the wail of the child, who seemed about to awaken beneath the influence of the cold; involuntarily, as it were, the mother hushed it; then, as by a sharp sudden pang of recollection, and with a hysteric sob, hurried away through the gloom.
The whole truth was easy to conjecture at a glance. The man had been tempted by higher wages to leave the country, and work at the railway, not a hundred yards from this squalid street; that he had had his discharge, with other supernumeraries a few days since, and now, having spent his wages in the manner so easily and fatally suggested in this huge metropolis, he wanted more money. To do what with? To feed that worn and wretched woman with the infant at her breast ? To carry nourishment to the half-naked children, grovelling together on the floor of the one sickly chamber ? To emancipate them from the overcrowded lodging-house, and carry them back to the country, to the green fields and the blue sky, away from the stifling, fever-laden, and utterly demoralizing air they breathe ?
No, he wanted it as the passport back again to the infernal region he had just quitted, as the means to stand again beneath the bright intoxicating glare of the gas lights, to listen once more to the prostituted and, therefore, soul polluting schemes of liberty and equality suggested there; in short, he wanted it as the refuge of despair at the gin palace.
The wife, in the meanwhile, divided the loaf at home -if home for childhood that may be deemed where irreverence, debauchery, and drunkenness abound. And now, reader, if not too much disconcerted by the gloom, the cold, the poverty, and the vice, you will stand with me beneath the very lamp which just now threw its gleam on the wretched woman and her husband, watching who next crosses that fatal threshold.
A middle aged man approaches in a rusty suit of black. Around his throat is a limp, ill-tied, once white 'kerchief. He pauses as if fearful of observation, and as he turns his face, you may observe how different is its expression from that of the last customer; aye, different as the cut and colour of his coat. Suffering—deep, long, anxious, and terrible, may be read there at a glance, but not a trace of vice.
In fact, the intelligence also legible there, might, possibly, alone have preserved him from the moral degradation of self indulgence : nevertheless, I can scarcely admit this as a probability. How many instances may be quoted of the impatience, the cunning, the danger, of intelligence alone, when unsupported and animated by a higher grace ! That the latter has been given to this man may be inferred from his calling. His calling? Yes ! you well may start-he is an
an ordained Priest of the Church of England.
His sad story may be told by a few strokes ; alas! that pen and pencil should so often have to draw such from the life! First, the vain efforts to be just, charitable, and even liberal as an under-paid, over-tasked curate; then an abortive attempt to gain pupils in this great city of competition (even in the hiring out brains) where so many have arrived in hope and died in despair; the utter inadequacy of the paltry pittance doled out once a week by a plethoric pluralist, as remunerative for all release from labour in his rich corner of the Vineyard ; a delicate, sensitive, yet hard working wife; and children half starving, are a few of the horrors, the incongruities, the seeming anomalies, by which we, in this so vaunted high state of civilization, are surrounded.
Well, here is the sequel to this chapter of everyday life in the fact of this poor clergyman, stealing, beneath the shades of night, to part with his watch at the pawnbroker's shop. The tradesman and his customer think they are unobserved; but, it is easy for us, by the magic of truth, to see the cold speculation, the long chilled callous heart on one side the counter, and the tremulous shame, varying the hue of the sunken cheek, on the other; of sorrow, too, (a childish regret it may seem to some to find a place amid so many stern miseries) in parting with the old companion, the monitor of college hours, of happier times, of bridal hopes, of many serious duties. The watch is pawned.
Pass on, poor minister! Go on your way home! Defray your landlord's demands for the humble roof which shelters you, the citizen of another world, for whom, it may be, a mansion above is prepared. Who knows but you are one of those, still to inherit the earth? Who knows but that bright angels are hovering near you in your passage through this miserable alley ? Go on, thou man, ordained to bless your fellow mortals, to speak to them the glad tidings of the Eternal Truth—and, ye rich men, will ye 'howl and weep ?'
Now, perhaps, you are tired of waiting for more revelations of poverty; perhaps you would rather sink down in the soft cushioned chair of the
prosperous man's library, from whence this poor brother's wrongs are carefully excluded, or taught to tread softly on the thick carpet, and are kept in the background of luscious half-subdued light? If so, let me not weary by detaining you here longer, although I am determined to wait and see if any one else come this way to-night. You will still be my companion ? Very well — then look yonder. Alas! are not these bye streets free from the footfall of dishonoured woman?
Two approach, whose appearance and calling cannot be doubted, though different types of their most unhappy class ;-the one, bold, painted, tawdry; the other wan, delicate, and fragile. The only bond