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[-304-]    

CHAPTER XCIX.

THE BUFFER'S HISTORY.

"You are well aware that my name is really John Wicks, although very few of my pals know me by any other title than the Buffer.
    " My father and mother kept a coal and potatoe shed in Great Suffolk Street, Borough. I was their only child; and as they were very fond of me, they would not let me be bothered and annoyed with learning. For decency's sake, however, they made me go to the Sunday-school, and there I just learnt to read, and that's all.
    "When I was twelve years old, I began to carry out small quantities of coals and potatoes to the customers. We used to supply a great many of the prisoners in the Bench; and whenever I went into that place, I generally managed to have a game of marbles, and sometimes rackets, with the young blackguards that lurked about the prison to pick up the racket balls, run on messages, and so on. At length I got to play for money; and as I generally lost, I had to take the money which I received from the customers to pay my little gambling debts. I was obliged to tell my father and mother all kinds of falsehoods to account for the disappearance of the money. Sometimes I said that I had lost a few halfpence; then I declared that a beggar in the street had snatched a sixpence out of my hand, and ran away; or else I swore that the customers had not paid me. This last excuse led to serious misunderstandings; for sometimes my father went himself to collect the debts owing to him; and then, when the prisoners declared they had paid me, I stuck out that it was false; and my father called them rogues and swindlers. At length, he began seriously to suspect that his son was robbing him and one day be found it out in a manner which I could not deny. I was then fourteen, and was pretty well hardened, I can tell you. So I turned round, and told my father that he had brought it all on himself, because he had instructed me how to cheat the customers in weight and measure, and had therefore brought me up in wrong principles.
    "You must understand that the usual mode of doing business in coal-sheds is this: all the weights only weigh one half of what they are represented to weigh. For instance, the one which is used as the fifty pound weight is hollow, and is, therefore, made as large in outward appearance as the real fifty pound weight; whereas, in consequence of being hollow, it actually only weighs twenty-five pounds. This is the case with all the weights; the pound weight really weighs only half a pound, and so on. You may ask why the weights are thus exactly one half less than they are represented to be,- neither more nor has than one half. I will tell you: when the leet jury comes round and points, for instance, to the weight used for fifty pounds, the answer is, 'Oh, that is the twenty-five pound weight;' and, upon being tested, the assertion is found to be correct. So there is never any danger of being hauled over the coals by the leet jury; but if the weights were each an odd number of ounces or pounds short, they could not be passed off to the jury as weights of a particular standard, and then the warehouseman would get into a scrape. It is just the same with the measures. The bushel contains a false bottom, and is really half a bushel; and when the leet jury calls, it it stated to be the half bushel measure, whereas to customers it is passed off as the bushel. This will also account to you for the way in which costermongers in the streets are able to sell fruit (cherries particularly) and peas, in the season, for just one half of the price at which they can he bought at respectable dealers. The poor dupe who gives twopence for a pound of cherries of a costermonger in the street, only obtains half a pound; and the housewife who thinks that she can save a hundred per cent, by buying her peas in the same way, only gets half a peck instead of a peck.
    "My father had thirty barrows, which he let out to the costermongers at the rate of eighteen pence a day each; and some of those men could clear eight 6r ten shillings a day by their traffic. But they are so addicted to drinking that they spend all they get; and in the winter season they starve. Now and then a costermonger would disappear with the barrow, for the loan of which my father never required any security, as the poor souls had none to give; and then my father offered a reward for the apprehension of the absentee. He was generally caught, and my father always had him taken before the magistrate and punished - as a warning, he said, to the rest. I used to think he behaved very harshly in this respect, as the poor wretch whom he thus got sent to the treadmill had most probably paid for the barrow over and over again.
    "But to return to my story. When my father discovered that I had robbed him, I threw in his teeth the use he made of false weights and measures. He was alarmed at this, because I threatened to inform the neighbours; and so he did not give me the thrashing which he had at first promised. He, however, resolved to send me away from home, and in the course of a few days got me a place at a friend's of his, who kept a sweet-stuff shop, in Friar Street, Blackfriars. There I was initiated into all the mysteries of that trade. I found that the white-sugar articles were all largely adulterated with plaster of Paris; and that immediately accounted to me for the pernicious - often fatal  - effects produced by this kind of trash upon children. If parents, who really care for their children, were only commonly prudent, they would never allow them to eat any white-sugar sweet-stuff at all. Then I discovered that the articles passed off as burnt almonds, really contained the kernels of fruits; for the kitchen-maids in wealthy families and hotels collect and sell the stones of the peaches, apricots, and nectarines, eaten at the dinner-tables of their masters, as regularly as cooks dispose of their bones and grease. In fact, the most deleterious ingredients enter into the composition of sweet-stuff. The sugar-refiners sell all their scum to the sweet-stuff makers; and this scum is composed of the lime, alum, bullock's blood, charcoal, acetate of soda, and other things used for fining sugar. Oxide of lead is also mixed with the small proportions of sugar used in making sweet-stuff; and thus you may perceive what filthy and poisonous substances are given to children in the shape of sugar-plums. I hope that I do not weary you with this description; and if you should be surprised that I can now recollect the chemical names of the ingredients used, I must tell you that I went so often to the sugar-refiners, and to the chemists, for my master, that I soon became familiar with every thing at all relating to the business.
    "I now came to more interesting matters. I had been with my master about six years, and was then going on for twenty-one, when my father died. My mother sent for me home to help her in the business; and I now had the command of money. The taste for gambling which I had imbibed in my boyhood, returned with additional force and I sought [-305-] 

every opportunity of gratifying my inclination in this respect. I frequented a notorious public-house in Suffolk Street, where gaming was carried on to a great extent; and my ill-luck seemed unvaried. My mother did all she could to check the progress of this infatuation; but it was invincible; and in the course of three years I had completely ruined both my mother and myself. An execution was put into the house for rent, and my mother died of a broken heart. I shed a few tears, and then looked round me for some occupation.
    "One of the persons who frequented the public-house in Suffolk Street offered to recommend me to a friend of his, who kept an auction-room in the City. I gladly accepted the proposal, and was engaged as 'a bidder,' at that establishment. I will tell you what I had to do: the auction was carried on in an open warehouse in a great thoroughfare. The articles put up for sale were all of the most worthless description - razors, made (like Peter Pindar's) to sell, and not to cut; pen-knives, that would inflict no damage upon a piece of wood; decanters, that would scarcely resist the pressure of the most delicate lady's hand; candlesticks, made of a metal that would melt if held too close to the fire; urns, that sprang a leak the moment hot water was poured into them; watches, that were never know to go beyond the first four-and-twenty hours; scissors, that would not sever a thread; snuffers, that merely crushed without diminishing the wick; tea-pots, made of polished pewter, and warranted as silver; in a word, every species of domestic rubbish of this kind, occupied the counters and tables in the auction-room. Myself and three others were hired as bidders. Our duty was to offer a price for every article put up, and buy it in if it appeared likely to go to a stranger at too low a price - although, indeed, few prices were too low for the articles on which they were put. Then, when a greenhorn entered the mart, we were to puff of the articles amongst ourselves in his hearing - never talking to him, but talking at him. The master was perched up behind a high desk, using his hammer with exemplary alacrity, and knocking down article after article to the flat that came in and bid. Sometimes the dupes would come back the following day, and demand the return of their money, as they had ascertained that the goods for which they had parted with it were worthless: it was then our duty to hustle such obstreperous claimants, bonnet them, or, [-306-] in extreme cases, knock them down, and then give them into custody for creating a disturbance.
    In this situation I remained for three years. The master was very good to us, and gave us a present every time he effected large sales by our means. One afternoon an elderly gentleman entered the mart, and stood bidding for some cut decanters, They had been invoiced to the proprietor of the establishment for six shillings, and the lowest price at which they were to be knocked down was two pounds ten. The bidding was rather slow; and I retreated a pace or two behind the old gentleman, to avoid having the appearance of being anxious to make myself conspicuous. In that position I observed the corner of a red pocket-book peeping out of his coat tail. I glanced around: no one noticed me; and in a moment I abstracted the inviting object. This was the first theft I ever committed; and bad as I already was, the moment I had that pocket-bank safe in my possession, I would have given the world for it to have been back again in its former place. The deed was however done; and I evaporated from the auction mart with the rapidity of thought.
    I was not such an idiot as to return to my lodgings; but I hastened into the vicinity of Smithfield, and entered a public-house in Chick Lane. The parlour  -a little slip, with a single window looking upon the street - was fortunately empty; and I immediately examined my treasure. And true enough it was a treasure! It contained eight hundred pounds in Bank of England notes, together with bills of exchange to the amount of three thousand. There were also letters and cards of address, which showed me who the old gentleman was. He was a rich landholder in the county of Hants. 1 enclosed the bills of exchange and the letters in a sheet of paper, and returned them through the post to their owner. The Bank notes I kept. But I was now at a loss how to act; for I fancied that if the notes had been stopped, there would be danger in attempting to pass them. After I had put the letter in the post, I returned to the public-house in Chick Lane, and meditated-upon the best course to pursue. While I was sitting in the parlour, over a glass of brandy and-water, pondering upon this very difficult matter, a man entered, sate down, called for some liquor, and got into conversation with me. By degrees we grew confidential; and he let me know that he was a member of the swell-mob. I opened my heart to him; and he immediately offered to take me to a place where I could change my notes.
    "I thankfully accepted his proposal; and he led me into Field Lane. There he entered a shop where they sold salt fish, herrings, haddocks, and oysters. He asked a dirty-looking girl if Israel Moses was at home; and, receiving an affirmative answer, led the way up a narrow, dark, and dirty staircase, to a room where an old Jew, with a face almost completely concealed by grisly white hair, was sitting at a table covered with papers. My guide immediately communicated to him the object of my visit; and the old Jew questioned me closely relative to the way in which I had obtained the Bank notes. My companion advised me to tell him the exact truth, which I did; and the Jew then offered me six hundred pounds in gold for my eight hundred pounds' worth of notes. He explained to me that he should be compelled to send them to his agents in Paris, Hamburgh, and Amsterdam, to get rid of them; and that he could therefore afford to give me no more. I accepted his proposal, received the gold, and departed, accompanied by my new friend, who was no other than Dick Flairer.
    "I made him a handsome present for his counsel and assistance, and was about to part from him, when he told me that I had better take care of myself for a few days until the hue and cry concerning the pocket-book should be over. He asked me to accompany him to his lodgings in Castle Street, Saffron Hill. I agreed; and there I first met his sister Mary. In the evening Dick went out, to ascertain, as he said, 'how the wind blew.' He' came back at a late hour, and brought me a copy of a hand-bill that had been printed and circulated, and which gave not only a full description of the robbery, but also a most painfully accurate account of my person. Dick assured me that I was not safe in his lodgings, as he himself was a suspicious character in the neighbourhood; and be advised me to hide myself in a certain house which he knew in Chick Lane. I followed his advice, and proceeded to the Old House, where I lay concealed is that horrid dungeon under ground for a mortal fortnight. Mary brought me my food every other day, and gave me information of what was going on outside. She told me that the newspapers had published an account of the return, of the bills of exchange and letters by post; and that the same organs stated that the old gentleman who had been robbed was unwilling to proceed any farther on that very account. At length Dick came himself, and assured me that I might leave the dungeon; but that it would be better for me to remain quiet in some snug place for a few weeks. I proposed to him a trip into the country: he agreed ; and Mary accompanied us.
    "We went down to Canterbury, and took lodgings on the Herne Bay road, close by the barracks. Dick and I used to visit all the neighbouring towns, and see what we could pick up; but we led a jovial life, spending much, more than we got, and thus making desperate inroads into my funds. My old habits of gambling returned; and the gold which I had received from the Jew was disappearing very rapidly. We had left London for upwards of eight months, when we thought of returning to our old haunts. Mary seemed quite averse to the proposal, and was most anxious to remain a short time longer where she was. To this Dick agreed; and he and I came up to town. We went to the Boozing-ken on Saffron Hill, and there took up our quarters. Dick introduced me to Bill Bolter; and as it happened that our funds were all low, we resolved upon adopting some means to replenish our purses. Happening to take up the Times, I saw an advertisement, according to which a wealthy jeweller and goldsmith in the Strand required a porter. I made a remark which led Dick Flairer to observe, that if I chose to take the situation, he could get me a reference, as he knew one of the largest linen-drapers in Norton Folgate, who was in the habit of buying stolen goods of the cracksmen of Dick's gang, and would not dare refuse, to perform the part required. The plan was settled: I applied for the situation, gave the reference, and in two days entered the service of the rich goldsmith. In lees than a fortnight I had obtained all the information I required; and stepping out one evening, I hastened to the boozing-ken, where I met the pals, and appointed the following night for the enterprise. I then returned to my master's residence.
    "On the ensuing night, precisely as the clock struck twelve, I stole softly down from my bed-room, and entered the shop by means of a skeleton key. I then cautiously opened the front door, and admitted Dick Flairer and Bill Bolter.. We immediately set to work to pack up all the most valuable and most [-307-] portable articles; in which occupation we were engaged when a cry of 'Fire, fire!' was heard in the street outside; and almost at the same moment a tremendous knocking at the front door began. For an instant we were paralysed; but the noise of steps descending the stairs hurried us into action; and, opening the doors, we darted from the house with the speed of wild animals, leaving all the booty behind us. The cry of 'Fire!' was instantly succeeded by that of 'Thieves!' and several persons began to pursue us hotly. We gained Wellington Street, and hastened towards Waterloo Bridge, intending to get into the Borough with the least possible delay. On we went-through the great gate, without waiting to pay the toll at the entrance of the footway - the pursuers gaining upon us. Suddenly I recollected that the cornice along the outside of the parapet was very wide; and without hesitating a moment I sprang over the parapet, alighted on the cornice, and only saved myself from falling into the river by catching hold of the gas-pipe which runs along the outer side of the bridge. Scarcely had I thus accomplished a most dangerous feat, when I distinctly saw a man, a few yards a-head, mount the parapet, and precipitate himself into the river. Then arose the sounds of voices on the bridge, crying, 'He is over!' 'He has leaped in!' 'He will be drowned.' 'They have all three escaped.' 'But where the devil could the other two have got to?' and such-like exclamations, which convinced me that my companions were safe. There I remained, a prey to a thousand painful reflections and horrid ideas, for upwards of an hour; till at length I grew so dizzy that I was every moment on the point of falling into the river. The bridge was now completely silent; and I ventured to leave my hiding- place. I passed over the bridge to the Surrey side, without molestation, and proceeded by a circuitous route to the Old House in Chick Lane, where, to my astonishment, I found Bill Bolter. I then learnt that it was Dick Flairer who had leapt into the river, and was no doubt drowned; and that Bolter had only escaped by concealing himself in the deep shade of one of the recesses of the bridge, when totally overcome by fatigue, until his pursuers had passed, when he retraced his steps, and quietly gained the Strand.
    "We were greatly grieved to think that our enterprise in the jeweller's house should have failed, and that we had lost so excellent a fellow as Flairer; but in the midst of our lamentations, the door opened and Dick himself entered the room. Pale, dripping, and exhausted, he fell upon a seat, and would most probably have fainted - if not died - had we not forced some brandy down his throat. He then revived; and, having changed his clothes, was soon completely recovered from the effects of his bath, and the desperate exertions he had made to swim to a wharf communicating with the Commercial Road.
    "We staid for the remainder of the night at the Old House; and on the following morning Dick Flairer went up to the boozing-ken, where he procured a newspaper. He then returned to us; and we perceived by the journal that the curtains of the bed-room which I had occupied at the jeweller's house had caught fire, and created the alarms which had interrupted us in the midst of our employment in the shop. I moreover ascertained that I was of course suspected of having admitted thieves into the premises, and that a reward was offered for my apprehension. I was accordingly compelled to remain concealed for some weeks in the Old House, while Bolter and Flairer, being unsuspected, were enabled to go abroad. I did not upon this occasion conceal myself in the dungeon of the Old House, for I could not bear the solitude of that living tomb; and as Bolter and Flairer were constantly visiting me, the time did not hang so very heavily on my hands. At length I left the Old House, and I and Dick returned to Canterbury.
    "When we arrived there, after an absence of two months, we made a most unpleasant discovery - unpleasant to Dick as the brother, and to me who was enamoured of Mary. She was in a way to become a mother; her situation was too palpable to be concealed. Dick flew into a most ungovernable rage; and Mary tried to deny it. But the fact was glaring, and she was obliged to confess that she had been seduced by a serjeant of the regiment stationed at Canterbury. Her attachment to that man, and the hope that he would do her justice, were the reasons that had induced her to remain at Canterbury, when we went to London. The serjeant had recently treated her with neglect and indifference, and she longed for revenge. Dick and I swore that she should have it. She told us that the serjeant was very fond of angling, and that every morning early he indulged in his favourite sport in the river Stour, which flowed close by the barracks.
    "Next morning Dick and I went down to the river, and there we saw the serjeant preparing his tackle. From the description we had received of him, we knew him to be the man we wanted but there was a large water-mill close by, and we dared not attack him in a spot that was so overlooked. We accordingly returned home, and consulted together how we should proceed. At length we resolved that Mary should endeavour to get him to grant her an interview on the banks of the river. She sent him a note, saying that she was to leave Canterbury in a few days, and that she wished to see him once more. She concluded by begging him to meet her that evening or the next between nine and ten o'clock, close by the bridge of Kingsford's water-mill. He consented, and appointed the evening of the next day for the interview.
    "The hour drew nigh, and Mary want to the place agreed upon. Dick and I followed her at a little distance. The night was dark; it was in the month of April; and the air was very cold. As we drew near the bridge as noiselessly as we could, we distinguished the forms of two persons standing upon the bridge, and leaning in earnest conversation upon the low railing that overhung the huge wheel which was revolving beneath, the torrent pouring over it through the sluices of the dam upon the top of which the bridge stood. We advanced closer; and could then perceive that the two forms were those of Mary and her seducer. We proceeded to the bridge. When we reached the middle, Dick went up to the serjeant, and said, 'This is my sister; do you mean to do her justice ?' - 'No,' cried Mary; 'he has just told me that I need have no hope us that respect.' 'Then there is nothing more to be said,' exclaimed Dick Flairer; and at the same moment we precipitated ourselves upon the serjeant. Dick Flairer pressed his hand upon his mouth; the poor wretch struggled violently; but in an instant we hurled him over the bridge-railing. He fell upon the wheel; the roar of the torrent, and the din of the ponderous machine drowned his last cry of agony, and the crushing of his bones. 'Now, Mary,' said I, 'you are revenged.' She pressed my hand convulsively, without uttering a word; and we returned to our lodgings.
    [-308-] "Next day, the body of the serjeant was found, fearfully crushed and mutilated, a mile below the mill, entangled in a bed of osiers. It was carried to the barracks: an inquest was called and a verdict of 'Found Drowned' was recorded. Not a suspicion was entertained that the man had been murdered it being evident from the surgical examination that he had been crushed by the wheel of the mill, upon which it was supposed he had accidentally fallen, over the bridge-railing, which was only about three feet high.
    "The moment the verdict was returned, and we saw that no suspicion attached to any body in reference to the murder, we left Canterbury, and repaired to London. In the course of a few weeks, Mary became the mother of a still-born child; and in due time I assured her that I would overlook her fault, and marry her if she would have me. She was pleased with the proposal; and Dick readily agreed to it. But before we could be spliced, I one day met the goldsmith of the Strand in the street; and he gave me into custody. I was taken before the magistrates, and fully committed for an attempt to rob my employer. While I was in Newgate, waiting for my trial, I was greatly alarmed lest the old gentleman, whom I had robbed at the auction mart, should prefer an indictment against me; but my fears in this respect were unfounded. At length the sessions commenced, and I was put upon my trial. The Sheriffs had supplied me with counsel, for I was completely without funds when I was arrested. The barrister thus retained in my behalf, advised me to plead guilty, as I should then stand a good chance of escaping transportation. I followed his recommendation, and expressed my contrition for the offence. The Recorder read me a long lecture, and condemned me to seven years' transportation, which sentence was commuted to two years' imprisonment in Newgate.
    "During that time I seriously thought of mending my ways, when I should be once more at liberty. But I could not conceive what on earth I should do for a livelihood if I did not steal. I knew that I should be turned adrift without a penny in my pocket; and I had no friends but those with whom I could only pursue my old career. When the chaplain spoke to me upon the errors of my past life, and the necessity of reformation, I used to say to him, 'Show me, reverend sir, how I am to obtain an honest living when I leave these walls, and I never shall sin again.' But he always gave an evasive reply. in fact, what could he say? If he had required a man-servant - a groom - an errand-boy - a menial scrub to black his boots and brush his clothes, would he have taken me? No. If he had known any friend who wanted a man to take care of his hounds - never enter his house - but sleep in the kennels along with the dogs, would the chaplain have recommended me? No. If the governor of Newgate had needed a man to sweep the dirt away from the front of the prison, would the reverend gentleman have spoken a kind word in favour of me? No. Of what use, then, is it for these gaol chaplains to preach penitence and reformation, when by their very actions they say, 'We do not believe that you can possibly change for the better?' Of what benefit is it for these salaried moralists to declaim upon the advantages of a virtuous course, when they know perfectly well that the old maxim is invariably correct, - 'Give a dog a bad name and hang him!' Virtue must be fed; but Virtue, upon leaving the walls of a criminal prison, can obtain no food. Must Virtue, then die of starvation? Human nature revolts against this self-destruction - this systematic suicide; and, sooner than submit to it, Virtue will al low itself to be changed by circumstances into Vice. Virtue in this case has no option but to become Vice.
    "I often thought, when I was in prison, that ii there was a workshop, established by the government to receive persons whom the criminal gaols daily vomit back upon society, many a miserable creature would in reality reform, and be saved from a re-plunge into the sea of crime, But all that the government does is to punish. I mentioned these thoughts to the chaplain. And what did he say? He endeavoured to get rid of the necessity of giving a derisive opinion, by throwing himself headlong into a mass of argument and reasoning, half religious and half political, which I could not understand. Thus do those men invariably extricate themselves from perplexing topics. In my opinion there is no mockery more abominable - no hypocrisy more contemptible - no morality more baseless than the attributes of a gaol-chaplain!
    "If good and pious men attended criminal prisons of their own free will, and talked in a plain homely manner to the inmates, - a manner which those inmates could understand, - how much benefit might result! But when you think that the chaplain only troubles himself about you because he is paid, - that he doles out his doctrine in proportion to the income which he receives, - and that he says the same to you to-day which he said to another yesterday, and will say to a third to-morrow, - his office is mean, contemptible, and degrading.
    "It does not do for me to hold forth in this manner; I know that: but I cannot help expressing the thoughts that occupied me when I was in Newgate. They are often present in my memory; and, sometimes, when I am dull and in low spirits, I console myself by the conviction that if I am bad now, it is because there is no door open for me to be good. So a truce to these ideas. They do not often come from my lips; and even now I scarcely wish to recall them.
    "Well - I passed my two years in Newgate; and when I was released, I stood still by the lamp-post at the top of the Old Bailey, thinking which way I should go. I had not a penny in my pocket; and I knew that in the course of a few hours I should be hungry. As true as I am sitting here, tears rolled down my cheeks as I contemplated the necessity of returning to my old pursuits, - yes - burning tears - tears of agony - such tears as I never shed before, and shall never shed again!
    " Suddenly a thought struck me. I would go to the workhouse. The idea consoled me; and, fearful lest my good intentions should grow cool, I turned back past the door of Newgate again, and directed my steps down the Old Bailey towards Blackfriars' Bridge. In the course of an hour, I knocked at the door of the ------ Workhouse, with an order for admission from the overseer.
    "It was about twelve o'clock in the day when I entered the Workhouse. The porter conducted me into the office, where the master took down my name, age, &c. He then sent me to the bath-room, where I was cleansed. When I came from the bath I put on the coarse linen, grey suit, and thick shoes which constitute the workhouse garb - the livery of poverty. The dress differed but little from the one I had worn in Newgate - so small is the distinction in this blessed country between a felon and a pauper! My old clothes were put up together in a bundle, labelled with my name, and conveyed to the storeroom, to be returned to me when I chose to leave [-309-] the place. As soon as 1 was dressed, I was allotted to the able-bodied men's department of the Workhouse. The scale of food for this class of persons was just this:-

Bread Gruel Meat Bacon Potatoes Soup Cheese Suet Pudding
Oz. Pints Oz. Oz. Oz. Pints. Oz. ..
Monday 14 1 .. .. .. 1 2 ..
Tuesday 21 1 .. .. .. .. 4 ..
Wednesday 14 1 .. .. .. 1 2 ..
Thursday 14 1 .. 4 8 .. 2 ..
Friday 14 1 .. .. .. .. 2 14
Saturday 14 1 .. .. .. 1 2 ..
Sunday 14 1 5 .. 8 1 .. ..
Total Weekly Allowance 105 10 5 4 16 6 14 14

So you see that we had only five ounces of cooked meat and five ounces of bacon, in the shape of animal food, in the course of each week! And yet we had to work-to keep the grounds in order, to do various lobs in the establishment, and to pick four pounds of oakum each, every day, the Sabbath excepted. Felons are better off ; for in the prison one has more meat, more bread, and more gruel. (which is certainly nourishing) than in the workhouse!
    "We had nothing to drink with our dinners and suppers but water - and of that they could not very well stint us, because it cost nothing. The able-bodied women had much less than the able-bodied men. The infirm paupers had each one ounce of tea and seven ounces of sugar weekly, instead of gruel, for breakfast! Fancy one ounce of tea for seven meals!
    "We were divided into messes, or tables of ten each ; and each mess elected a carver. The duty of the carver was to go to the kitchen and fetch the provision allotted to the individuals at his particular table, and then to distribute it in equal proportions. What fighting and wrangling always took place at meal times! On meat days, one had too much fat, and another's morsel was too under-done:- on bacon days, one had too much lean, and another had the rind given to him. Then one declared that he had been cheated out of a potatoe; and so on. It was a scene of perpetual selfishness - of human beings quarrelling for a crumb! But who can wonder? A potatoe or a cubic inch of bread was a considerable portion of a meal; and where all were ravenous, who could afford to lose even a potatoe or a crumb ?*

[* The Dietary Table of Clerkenwell New Prison, already quoted at page 190, is as follows

Soup Gruel Meat Bread
Pints. Pints. Ounces Ounces
Monday .. 2 .. 20
Tuesday .. 1 6 20
Wednesday .. 2 .. 20
Thursday .. 2 .. 20
Friday 1 1 .. 20
Saturday .. 1 6 20
Sunday 1 1 .. 20
Total Weekly Allowance 2 13 12 140

It is too frequently the habit to throw the blame of the diabolical nature of some of the clauses of the New Poor Law upon the masters of workhouses; whereas the whole vituperation should be levelled against the guardians who issue the dietary-tables, from the conditions of which the masters dare not deviate. We have no doubt that there are many masters of workhouses who are humane and kind-hearted men. Indeed, having inspected several of those establishments for the purpose of collecting information to aid us in the episode to which this note is appended, we have been enabled to ascertain that such is really the fact. Amongst others, we must signalize the Edmonton and Tottenham Union House, the master of which is Mr. Barraclough. This gentleman is a man of a most benevolent heart, and exerts himself In every way to ameliorate the condition of those entrusted to his charge. The guardians of that particular Union are, moreover, worthy, liberal-minded and considerate men, who sanction and encourage Mr. Barraclough in his humane endeavours to make the inmates of the workhouse as little sensible of their degraded condition as possible. Would that all boards of guardians merited the same encomium.]

    "Neither of you have ever been in a workhouse, I know ; and therefore you cannot imagine the change it produces in its inmates. They grow discontented with the world, and look upon theft superiors with abhorrence. An army of able-bodied men, recruited from all the Unions in the kingdom, would make the finest republican soldiers imaginable. They would proceed with a good heart to level throne, aristocracy, and every institution which they believed oppressive to the industrious classes.
    "But that is no business of mine - and I care nothing for politics of any kind. Of an evening, we used to gather round the fire till bed-time, and talk of our past lives. Many - many of my companions had, like myself, seen better days; and it actually made one's heart ache to hear them compare their former positions with their present ones. And after all, what can be more inhuman - what more cruel, than the very principles of the workhouse system? Old couples, who have lived together for years and years, are separated when they go to the workhouse. Mothers are debarred from the society of their little ones :- no ties of kindred are respected there!
    "I remember one man - he was about sixty, and much better behaved than the rest - who had been a writer, or something of that kind, in his time. The men used to get him now and then, when he was in the humour to recite poems - some of which he had composed in better days, and others since he had been in the Union. Those of his palmy years were all about love, and friendship, and sweet spring, and moonlight scenes, and so on ;-but from the moment that he set foot in the workhouse, he bade farewell to love and friendship; and he never more was destined to know the enjoyments or charming seasons and tranquil hours! One of his late poems made such an impression on me, that I learnt it by heart. It was a workhouse scene. I remember it now; and will repeat it:-

"THE SONG OF THE WORKHOUSE.

"Stooping over the ample grate,
    Where burnt an ounce of fuel,
That cheered not the gloom
    Of the workhouse room.
An aged and shivering female sate,
    Sipping a pint of gruel:
And as she sopped a morsel of bread
    In that liquid thin and poor.
With anguish she shook her aching head, 
    And thought of the days that were o'er

"Through the deep mists of years gone by 
    Her mental glances wandered;
And the warm blood ran
    To her features Wan;
And fire for a moment lighted her eye,
    As o'er the past she pondered.
[-310-] For she had once tripped the meadow green 
    With a heart as blithe as May;
And she had been crowned the village-queen 
    In times that were far away!

 She'd been the pride of parents dear. 
    And plenty banished sorrow;
And her love she gave
    To a yeoman brave;
And a smiling offspring rose to cheer
    Hearts that feared not for the morrow
Oh! why should they fear? In the sweat of their brow
    They ate their daily bread;
And they thought, 'The earth will o'er yield as now
    The fruits whereon we're fed!'

"But when their hair grew silvery white, 
    Sorrow their cot invaded,
And ravaged it then
    As armies of men
Sack the defenceless town by night:-
 Thus all Hope's blossoms faded!
From their little farm the stock was swept
  By the owner of their land;
And the very bed on which they slept,
    Was snatched by the bailiff's hand.

"One hope - one fond hope now was all
    Each tender heart dared cherish- 
That they might remain
    Still linked by one chain,
And midst the sorrows that might befal, 
    Together live or perish.
But Want drove them on to the workhouse gate; 
    And when the door was pass'd
They found themselves doomed to separate- 
    To separate at last.

"And he fell sick:- she prayed in vain
    To be where he was lying;
She poured forth her moan
    Unto hearts of stone;
Never admittance she could gain
    the room where he was dying!
Then into her brain the sad thoughts stole 
    That brain with anguish reeling- 
That the great ones, judging by their own soul. 
    Think that paupers have no feeling.

"So, thus before the cheerless grate,
    Watching the flick'ring ember
She rocked to and fro,
    Her heart full of woe
For into that heart the arrow of fate
    Pierced like the cold of December.
And though she sapped a morsel of bread, 
    She could not eat for crying;
Twas hard that she might not support the head 
    Of her much-lov'd husband dying!

    "I stayed in the workhouse six weeks; and could stand it no longer. I had to labour, and was half-starved. So one morning I went to the Master, demanded my clothes, and was speedily retracing my steps towards my old haunts. That evening I supped with Dick Flairer at the boozing-ken on Saffron Hill ; and the same night we broke into a watchmaker's shop in the City. We got seventeen pounds in money, and a dozen watches and other trinkets, which we sold to the 'fence' in Field Lane for thirty guineas. That was a good bargain for him! I then went and took up my quarters with Dick Flairer at his lodgings; and in a few weeks I married his sister Mary. Six or eight months afterwards poor Dick was killed; and —"

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