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WE now come to a sad episode in our history - and yet one in which there is perhaps less romance and more truth than in any scene yet depicted.
    We have already warned our reader that he will have to accompany us amidst appalling scenes of vice and wretchedness :- we are now about to introduce him to one of destitution and suffering - of powerful struggle and unavailing toil - whose details are so very sad, that we have been able to find no better heading for our chapter than miserrima, or "very miserable things."
    The reader will remember that we have brought our narrative, in preceding chapters, up to the end of 1838 :- we must now go back for a period of two years, in order to commence the harrowing details of our present episode.
    In one of the low dark rooms of a gloomy house in a court leading out of Golden Lane, St. Luke's, a young girl of seventeen sate at work. It was about nine o'clock in the evening; and a single candle lighted the miserable chamber, which was almost completely denuded of furniture. The cold wind of December whistled through the ill-closed casement and the broken panes, over which thin paper had been pasted to repel the biting chill. A small deal table, two common chairs, and a mattress were all the articles of furniture which this wretched room contained. A door at the end opposite the window opened into another and smaller chamber: and this latter one was furnished with nothing, save an old mattress. There were no blankets - no coverlids in either room. The occupants had no other covering at night than their own clothes ;- and those clothes - God knows they were thin, worn, and scanty enough!
    Not a spark of fire burned in the grate ;- and yet that front room in which the young girl was seated was as cold as the nave of a vast cathedral in the depth of winter.
    The reader has perhaps experienced that icy chill which seems to strike to the very marrow of the bones, when entering a huge stone edifice :- the cold which prevailed in that room, and in which the young creature was at work with her needle, was more intense - more penetrating - more bitter - more frost-like than even that icy chill!
    Miserable and cheerless was that chamber: the dull light of the candle only served to render its nakedness the more apparent, without relieving it of my of its gloom. And as the cold draught from the wretched casement caused the flame of that candle to flicker and oscillate, the poor girl was compelled to seat herself between the window and the table, to protect her light from the wind. Thus, the chilling December blast blew upon the back of the young sempstress, whose clothing was so thin and scant :- so very scant!
    The sempstress was, as we have before said, about seventeen years of age. She was very beautiful; and her features, although pale with want, and wan with care end long vigils, were pleasing and agreeable. The cast of her countenance was purely Grecian - the shape of her head eminently classical - and her form was of a perfect and symmetrical mould. Although clothed in the most scanty and wretched manner, she was singularly neat and clean in her appearance; and her air and demeanour were far above her humble occupation and her impoverished condition.
    She had, indeed, seen better days! Reared in the lap of luxury by fond, but too indulgent parents, her education had been of a high order; and thus her qualifications were rather calculated to embellish her in prosperity than to prove of use to her in adversity. She had lost her mother at the age of twelve; and her father - kind and fond, and proud of his only child - had sought to make her shine in that sphere which she had then appeared destined a to adorn. But misfortunes came upon them like a thunderbolt: and when poverty - grim poverty - stared them in the face - this poor girl had no resource, save her needle! Now and then her father earned a trifle in the City, by making out accounts or copying deeds ;- but sorrow and ill-health had almost entirely incapacitated him from labour or occupation of any kind ;- and his young and affectionate daughter was compelled to toil from sunrise until a late hour in the night to earn even a pittance.
    One after another, all their little comforts, in the shape of furniture and clothing, disappeared; and after vainly endeavouring to maintain a humble lodging in a cheap but respectable neighbourhood, poverty compelled them to take refuge in that dark, narrow, filthy court leading out of Golden Lane.
    Such was the sad fate of Mr. Munroe and his daughter Ellen.
    At the time when we introduce the latter to our readers, her father was absent in the City. He had a little Occupation in a counting-house, which was to last three days, which kept him hard at work from nine in the morning till eleven at night, and for which he was to to receive a pittance so small we dare not mention its amount! This is how it was:- an official assignee belonging to the Bankruptcy Court had some heavy accounts to make up by a certain day: he was consequently compelled to employ an accountant to aid him; the accountant employed a petty scrivener to make out the balance-sheet; and the petty scrivener employed Monroe to ease him of a portion of the toil. It is therefore plain that Monroe was not to receive much for his three days' labour.
    And so Ellen was compelled to toil and work, and work and toil - to rise early and go to bed late - so late that she had scarcely fallen asleep, worn out a with fatigue, when it appeared time to get up again; - and thus the roses forsook her cheeks - and her health suffered - and her head ached - and her eyes grew dim-and her limbs were stiff with the chill!
    And so she worked and toiled, and toiled and worked. 
    We said it was about nine o'clock in the evening.
    Ellen's fingers were almost paralysed with cold and labour; and yet the work which she had in her hands must be done that night; else no supper then - and no breakfast on the morrow; for on the shelf [-168-] in that cheerless chamber there was not a morsel of bread!
    And for sixteen hours had that poor girl fasted already; for she had eaten a crust at five in the morning, when she had risen from her hard cold couch in the back chamber. She had left the larger portion of the bread that then remained, for her father; and she had assured him that she had a few halfpence to purchase more for herself - but she had  therein deceived him! Ah! how noble and generous was that deception ;- and how often - how very often did that poor girl practise it!
    Ellen had risen at five that morning to embroider a silk shawl with eighty flowers. She had calculated upon finishing it by eight in the evening; but although she had worked, and worked, and worked hour after hour, without ceasing, save for a moment, at long intervals to rest her aching head and stretch her cramped fingers, eight had struck - and nine had struck also - and still the blossoms were not all embroidered.
    It was a quarter to ten when the last stitch was put into the last flower.
    But then the poor creature could not rest :- not to her was it allowed to repose after that severe day of toil! She was hungry - she was faint - her stomach was sick for want of food; and at eleven her  father would come home, hungry, faint, and sick at stomach also!
    Rising from her chair - every limb stiff, cramped, and aching with cold and weariness - the poor creature put on her modest straw bonnet with a faded riband, and her thin wretched shawl, to take home her work.
    Her employer dwelt upon Finsbury Pavement; and as it was now late, the poor girl was compelled to hasten as fast as her aching limbs would carry her. 
    The shop to which she repaired was brilliant with lamps and gas-lights. Articles of great variety and large value were piled in the windows, on the counters, on the shelves. Upwards of twenty young men were busily employed in serving the customers. The proprietor of that establishment was at that moment entertaining a party of friends up stairs, at a champagne supper!
    The young girl walked timidly into the vast magazine of fashions, and, with downcast eyes, advanced towards an elderly woman who was sitting at a counter at the farther end of the shop. To this female did she present the shawl.
    "A pretty time of night to come!" murmured the shopwoman. "This ought to have been done by three or four o'clock."
    "I have worked since five this morning, without ceasing," answered Ellen; "and I could not finish it before."
    "Ah! I see," exclaimed the shopwoman, turning the shawl over, and examining it critically; "there are fifty or sixty flowers, I see."
    "Eighty," said Ellen; "I was ordered to embroider that number."
    "Well, Miss - and is there so much difference between sixty and eighty?"
    "Difference, ma'am!" ejaculated the young girl, the tears starting into her eyes; "the difference is more than four hours' work!"
    "Very likely, very likely, Miss. And how much do you expect for this?"
    "I must leave it entirely to you, ma'am."
    The poor girl spoke deferentially to this cold-hearted woman, in order to make her generous. Oh! poverty renders even the innocence of seventeen selfish, mundane, and calculating!
    "Oh! you leave it to me, do you?" said the woman, turning the shawl over and over, and scrutinising it in all points; but she could not discover a single fault in Ellen's work. "You leave it to me? Well, it isn't so badly done - very tolerably for a girl of your age and inexperience! I presume," she added, thrusting her hand into the till under the counter, and drawing forth sixpence, "I presume that this is sufficient."
    "Madam," said Ellen, bursting into tears, "I have worked nearly seventeen hours at that shawl —"
    She could say no more: her voice was lost in sobs. 
    "Come, come," cried the shopwoman harshly, - "no whimpering here! Take up your money, if you like it - and if you don't, leave it. Only decide one way or another, and make haste!"
    Ellen took up the sixpence, wiped her eyes, and hastily turned to leave the shop.
    "Do you not want any more work?" demanded the shopwoman abruptly.
    The fact was that the poor girl worked well, and did not "shirk" labour; and the woman knew that it was the interest of her master to retain that young creature's services.
    Those words, "Do you not want any more work?" reminded Ellen that she and her father must live - that they could not starve! She accordingly turned towards that uncouth female once more, and received another shawl, to embroider in the same manner, and at the same price!
    Eighty blossoms for sixpence!
    Sixteen hours' work for sixpence!!
    A farthing and a half per hour!!!
    The young girl returned to the dirty court in Golden Lane, after purchasing some food, coarse and cheap, on her way home.
    On the ground-floor of a house in the same court dwelt an old woman - one of those old women who are the moral sewers of great towns - the sinks towards which flow all thee impurities of the human passions. One of those abominable hags was she who dishonour the sanctity of old age. She had hideous wrinkles upon her face; and as she stretched out her huge, dry, and bony hand, and tapped the young girl upon the shoulder, as the latter hurried past her door, the very touch seemed to chill the maiden even through her clothes.
    Ellen turned abruptly round, and shuddered - she scarcely knew why - when she found herself confronting that old hag by the dim lustre of the lights which shone through the windows in the narrow  court.
    That old woman, who was the widow of crime, assumed as pleasant an aspect as her horrible countenance would allow her to put on, and addressed the timid maiden in a strain which the latter scarcely comprehended. All that Ellen could understand was that the old woman suspected how hardly she toiled and how badly she was paid, and offered to point out a more pleasant and profitable mode of earning money.
    Without precisely knowing why, Ellen shrank from the contact of that hideous old hag, and trembled at the words which issued from the crone's mouth.
    "You do not answer me," said the wretch. "Well, well; when you have no bread to eat - no work - no money to pay your rent - and nothing but the workhouse before you, you will think better of it and come to me."
    Thus saying, the old hag turned abruptly into her own den, the door of which she banged violently.
    With her heart fluttering like a little bird in its [-169-] 

cage, poor Ellen hastened to her own miserable abode.
    She placed the food upon the table, but would not touch it until her father should return. She longed for a spark of fire, for she was so cold and so wretched - and even in warm weather misery makes one shiver! But that room was as cold as an icehouse - and the unhappiness of that poor girl was a burden almost too heavy for her to bear.
    She sate down, and thought. Oh! how poignant is meditation in such a condition as hers. Her prospects were utterly black and hopeless.
    When she and her father had first taken those lodgings, she had obtained work from a "middle-woman." This middle-woman was one who contracted with great drapery and upholstery firms to do their needle-work at certain low rates. The middle-woman had to live, and was therefore compelled to make a decent profit upon the work. So she gave it out to poor creatures like Ellen Monroe, and got it done for next to nothing.
    Thus for some weeks had Ellen made shirts - with the collars, wristband., and fronts all well stitched - for four-pence the shirt.
    And it took her twelve hours, without intermission to make a shirt and it cost her a penny for needles, and thread, and candle.
    She therefore had three-pence for herself!
    Twelve hours' unwearied toil for three-pence!!
    One farthing an hour!!!
    Sometimes she had made dissecting-trousers, which were sold to the medical students at the hospitals; and for those she was paid two-pence half-penny each.
    It occupied her eight hours to make one pair of those trousers!
    At length the middle-woman had recommended her to the linen-draper's establishment on Finsbury Pavement; and there she was told that she might have plenty of work, and be well paid.
    Well paid!
    At the rate of a farthing and a half per hour!!
    Oh! it was a mockery - a hideous mockery, to give that young creature gay flowers and blossoms to work - she, who was working her own winding-sheet! 
    She sate, shivering with the cold, awaiting her father's return. Ever and anon the words of that old crone who had addressed her in the court, rang in her ears. What could she mean? How could she - stern in her own wretchedness herself and [-170-] perhaps stern to the wretchedness of others - how could that old hag possess the means of teaching her a pleasant and profitable mode of earning money? The soul of Ellen was purity itself - although she dwelt in that low, obscene, filthy, and disreputable neighbourhood. She seemed like a solitary lily in the midst of a black morass swarming with reptiles!
    The words of the old woman were therefore unintelligible to that fair young creature of seventeen and yet she intuitively reproached herself for pondering upon them. Oh! mysterious influence of an all-wise and all-seeing Providence, that thus furnishes warnings against dangers yet unseen!
    She tried to avert her thoughts from the contemplation of her own misery, and of the tempting offer made to her by the wrinkled harridan in the adjoining house; and so she busied herself with thinking of the condition of the other lodgers in the same tenement which she and her father inhabited. She then perceived that there were others in the world - as wretched and as badly off as herself; but, in contradiction to the detestable maxim of Rochefoucauld - sge found no consolation in this conviction. 
    In the attics were Irish families, whose children ran all day, half naked, about the court and lane, paddling with their poor cold bare feet in the puddle or the snow, and apparently thriving in dirt, hunger, and privation. Ellen and her father occupied the two rooms on the second floor. On the first floor, In the front room, lived two families - an elderly man and woman, with their grown-up sons and daughters; and with one of those sons were a wife and young children. Eleven souls thus herded together, without shame, in a room eighteen feet wide! These eleven human beings, dwelling in so swine-like a manner, existed upon twenty-five shillings a week, the joint earnings of all of them who were able to work. In the back chamber on the same floor was a tailor, with a paralytic wife and a complete tribe of children. This poor wretch worked for a celebrated Clothing Mart, and sometimes toiled for twenty hours a-day - never less than seventeen, Sunday included - to earn - what?
    Eight shillings a week.
    He made mackintoshes at the rate of one shilling and three-pence each; and he could make one each day. But then he had to find needles and thread; and the cost of these, together with candles, amounted to nine-pence a week.
    He thus had eight shillings remaining for himself, after working like a slave, without recreation or rest, even upon the sabbath, seventeen hours every day.
    A week contains a hundred and sixty-eight hours. And he worked a hundred and nineteen hours each week!
    And earned eight shillings!!
    A decimal more than three farthings an hour!!!
    On the ground floor of the house the tenants were no better off. In the front room dwelt a poor costermonger, or hawker of fruit, who earned upon an average seven shillings a week, out of which he was compelled to pay one shilling to treat the policeman upon the beat where he took his stand. His wife did a little washing, and perhaps earned eighteen-pence. And that was all this poor couple with four  children had to subsist upon. The back room on the ground floor was occupied by the landlady of the house. She paid twelve shillings a week for rent and taxes, and let the various rooms for an aggregate of twenty-one shillings. She thus had nine shillings to live upon, supposing that every one of her lodgers paid her - which was never the case.
    Poor Ellen, in reflecting in this manner upon the condition of her neighbours, found herself surrounded on all sides by misery. Misery was above - misery below : misery was on the right and on the left.. Misery was the genius of that dwelling, and of every other in that court. Misery was the cold and speechless companion of the young girl as she sate in that icy chamber : misery spread her meal, and made her bed, and was her chambermaid at morning and at night!
    Eleven o'clock struck by St. Luke's church; and Mr. Monroe returned to his wretched abode. It had begun to rain shortly after Ellen had returned home; and the old man was wet to the skin.
    "Oh! my dear father!" exclaimed the poor girl, - "you are wet, and there is not a morsel of fire in the grate."
    "And I have no money, dearest," returned the heart-broken father, pressing his thin lips upon the forehead of his daughter. "But I am not cold, Nell - I am not cold!"
    Without uttering a word, Ellen hastened out of the room, and begged a few sticks from one lodger, and a little coal from another. It would shame the affluent great, did they know how ready are the miserable - miserable poor to assist each other!
    With her delicate taper fingers - with those little white hinds which seemed never made to do menial service, the young girl laid the fire; and when she saw the flame blazing cheerfully up the chimney, she turned towards the old man - and smiled!
    She would not for worlds have begged any thing for herself - but for her father - oh! she would have I submitted to any degradation!
    And then for a moment a gleam of something like happiness stole upon that hitherto mournful scene, I as the father and daughter partook of their frugal - very frugal and sparing meal together.
    As soon as it was concluded, Ellen rose, kissed her parent affectionately, wished him "good night," and retired into her own miserable, cold, and naked chamber.
    She extinguished her candle in a few moments, to induce her father to believe that she had sought repose; but when she knew that the old man was asleep, she lighted the candle once more, and seated herself upon the old mattress, to embroider a few blossoms upon the silk which had been confided to her at the establishment in Finsbury.
    From the neighbouring houses the sounds of boisterous revelry fell upon her ears. She was too young and inexperienced to know that this mirth emanated from persons perhaps as miserable as herself, and that they were only drowning care in liquor, instead of encountering their miseries face to face. The din of that hilarity and those shouts of laughter, therefore made her sad.
    Presently that noise grew fainter and fainter; and at length it altogether ceased. The clock of St. Luke's church struck one; and all was then silent around.
    A lovely moon rode high in the heavens; the rain had ceased, and the night was beautiful - but bitter, bitter cold. 
    Wearied with toil, the young maiden threw down her work, and, opening the casement, looked forth from her wretched chamber. The gentle breeze, though bearing on its wing the chill of ice, refreshed her; and as she gazed upwards to the moon, she wondered within herself whether the spirit of her departed mother was permitted to look down upon her from the empyrean palaces on high. Tears - large tears trickled down her cheeks; and she was too much overcome by her feelings even to pray.
    [-171-] While she was thus endeavouring to divert her thoughts from the appalling miseries of earth to the transcendant glories of heaven, she was diverted from her mournful reverie by the sound of a window opening in a neighbouring house; and in a few moments violent sobs fell upon her ears. Those sobs, evidently coming from a female bosom, were so acute, so heart-rending, so full of anguish, that Ellen was herself overcome with grief. At length those indications of extreme woe ceased gradually, and then these words;- "Oh my God! what will become of my starving babes!" fell upon Ellen's ears. She was about to inquire into the cause of that profound affliction, when the voice of a man was heard. to exclaim gruffly, "Come - let's have no more of this gammon: we must all go to the workus in the morning - that's all!" And then the window was closed violently.
    The workhouse! That word sounded like a fearful knell upon Ellen's ears. Oh! for hours and hours together had that poor girl meditated upon the condition of her father and herself, until she had traced, in imagination, their melancholy career up to the very door of the workhouse. And there she had stopped: she dared think no more - or she would have gone mad, raving mad! For she had heard of the horrors of those asylums for the poor; and she knew that she should be separated from her father on the day when their stern destinies should drive them to that much-dreaded refuge. And to part from him - from the parent whom she loved so tenderly, and who loved her so well ;- no - death were far preferable!
    The workhouse! How was it that the idea of this fearful home - more dreaded than the prison, less formidable than the grave - had taken so strong a hold upon the poor girl's mind? Because the former tenant of the miserable room which now was hers had passed thence to the workhouse: but ere she went away, she left behind her a record of her feelings in anticipation of that removal to the pauper's home!
    Impelled by an influence which she could not control - that species of impulse which urges the timid one to gaze upon the corpse of the dead, even while shuddering at the aspect of death - Ellen closed the window, and read for the hundredth time the following lines, which were pencilled in a neat hand upon the whitewashed wall of the naked chamber:-


I HAD a tender mother once.
    Whose eyes so sad and mild
Beamed tearfully yet kindly on
    Her little orphan child.
A father's care I never knew;
    But in that mother dear.
Was centred every thing to love,
    To cherish, and revere!

I loved her with that fervent love
    Which daughters only know;
And often o'er my little head
    Her bitter tears would flow.
Perhaps she knew that death approached 
    To snatch her from my side;
And on one gloomy winter day
    This tender mother died.

They laid her in the pauper's ground,
    And hurried o'er the prayer
It nearly broke my heart to think
    That they should place her there. 
And now It seems I see her still
    Within her snowy shroud;
And in the dark and silent night
    My spirit weeps aloud.

I know not how the years have passed
    Since my poor mother died;
But I too have an orphan girl,
    That grows up by my side.
O God! thou know'st I do not crave
    To eat the bread of sloth:
I labour hard both day and night,
    To earn enough for both!

But though I starve myself for her,
    Yet hunger wastes her form:-
My God! and must that darling child
    Soon feed the loathsome worm?
'Tis vain - for I can work no more -
    My eyes with toil are dim; 
My fingers seem all paralyzed,
    And stiff is every limb!

And now there is but one resource;
    The pauper's dreaded doom!
To hasten to the workhouse, and
    There find a living tomb.
I know that they will separate
    My darling child from me;
And though twill break our hearts, yet both
    Must bow to that decree!

Henceforth our tears must fail apart.
    Nor flow, together more;
And from to-day our prayers may not
    Be mingled as before!
O God! is this the Christian creed,
    So merciful and mild?
The daughter from the mother snatched, 
    The mother from her child!

Ah! we shall ne'er be blessed again
    Till death has closed our eyes.
And we meet in the pauper's ground
    Where my poor mother lies.- 
Though sad this chamber, it is bright
    To what must be our doom;
The portal of the workhouse is
    The entrance of the tomb!

    Ellen read these lines till her eyes were dim with tears. She then retired to her wretched couch; and she slept through sheer fatigue. But dreams of hunger and of cold filled up her slumbers ;-and yet those dreams were light beside the waking pangs which realised the visions!
    The young maiden slept for three hours, and then arose unrefreshed, and paler than she was on the preceding day. It was dark: the moon had gone down; and some time would yet elapse ere the dawn. Ellen washed herself in water upon which the ice floated; and the cold piercing breeze of the morning whistled through the window upon her fair and delicate form.
    As soon as she was dressed, she lighted her candle and crept gently into her father's room. The old man slept soundly. Ellen flung his clothes over her arm, took his boots up in her hand, and stole noiselessly back to her own chamber. She then brushed those garments, and cleaned those boots, all bespattered with thick mud as they were; and this task - so hard for her delicate and diminutive hands - she performed with the most heart-felt satisfaction.
    As soon as this occupation was finished she sate down once more to work.
    Thus that poor girl knew no rest!

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