CHRISTMAS (1851) IN THE METROPOLIS.
The first indication of the approach of Christmas - a literal
"note of preparation," generally steals over us in this crowded
city in a dream of the night. Somewhere about the beginning
of December, in the small hour "ayont the twal'," a sense of
something Elysian qualifies one's quiet slumber; then a faint
and distant sound of sweet harmony glides agreeably upon the
ear, and grows louder and louder, and we dream rapturous
dreams, and float among a countless host of singing seraphs bright - on, and on, and on, when, suddenly, with a start, one
wakes to find the dream not all a dream. For there, beneath
your window, is a band of French-horns, flutes, oboes, and
trombones, warbling the pastoral symphony of Handel with
low-toned instruments, whose quiet voices thrill you with
pleasure. Pausing in your breath, you drink in every note,
and listen greedily till the strain has ceased; then a stentorian
voice rings through the fog and mist and moisture, invoking
in behalf of all and sundry within hearing, "a merry Christmas
and a happy new-year." Then you drop off once more to
sleep, in the dreamy intervals of which the strain is renewed
again and again; and you rise in the morning with the full-
blown consciousness that Christmas is at hand, and that all the
world, and the London world in particular, is bound to be as
merry and as happy as it can be.
So the "waits" having thus warned you of the advent of the great annual fact, you begin to look about in your walks abroad for the verification of it; and though it yet wants three weeks or more of Christmas-day, there is no lack of indications of what is expected. In anticipation of the liberal expenditure of ready cash - the most interesting consideration of the season to a London trader - and which expenditure every shopkeeper is dutifully anxious to engross as far as possible to himseld; a thousand different persuasive devices are already placarded and profusely exhibited. "Christmas presents" forms a monster line in the posters on the walls and in the shop-windows. Infantine appeals in gigantic type cover the hoardings. "Do, Papa, Buy Me" so-and-so; so-and-so being blotted out in a few hours by "The New Patent Wig," so that the appeal remains a perplexing puzzle to affectionate parents, till both are in turn blotted out by a third poster, announcing the sacrifice of 120,000 gipsy cloaks and winter mantles at less than half the cost-price. Cheap Christmas books are a part of every bookseller's display; Christmas fashions fill the drapers' windows, and stand on full-dressed poles in the doorways. There are Christmas lamps, lustres, and candelabra; Christmas diamonds made of paste, and Brumagem jewellery for glittering show, as well as Christmas furniture for parties and routs, to be hired for the season-carving, gilding, hangings, beds; everything which, being wanted but once a year, it may be cheaper to hire than to purchase or to keep on hand.
The slopsellers especially are in a state of prodigious activity, taking time by the forelock, and pushing their unwieldly advertising vans out in every direction, freighted with puffs of their appropriate Christmas garb - Hebrew harness for a Christian festival. These are a few of the broad palms thus early stretched forth to catch a share of the golden shower about to fall.
But these and such as these are very minor and subordinate preparations. Eating and drinking, after all, are the chief and paramount obligations of the Christmas season. As the month grows older, the great gastronomic anniversary is heralded at every turn by signs more abundant and less equivocal. Among the dealers in eatables, one and all of whom are now putting in their sickles for the harvest, the grocer, who is independent of the weather, leads off the dance. Long before the holly and the mistletoe have come to town, he has received his stock of Christmas fruit, on the sale of which, it may be, the profit or loss of the whole year's trading is depending. For months past, he has been occupied at every leisure hour in breaking to pieces the rocky mass of conglomerate gravel, dirt, sticks, and fruit which, under the designation of currants, came to him from the docks; and it is not before lie has got rid of near half the gross weight, that the indispensable currants are fit to meet the eye of the public. This is one of the nuisances of his trade, and forms a ceremony which, as every housekeeper knows well enough, is but indifferently performed after all. The currants, tolerably cleaned and professionally moistened, occupy a conspicuous place in his window, along with the various sorts of raisins- Sultanas, Muscatels, and Valencias - dates, prunes, and preserves in pots, and candied lemons and spices, built up in the most attractive and gaudy piles and pyramids, edged round with boxes of foreign confections, adorned with admirable specimens of the lithographic art, and all ticketed in clean new figures at astonishingly low prices. The gin-shops, or, to speak more politely, the wine-vaults, now begin to brush up. They wash and varnish over their soiled paint, cleanse the out-sides and decorate the insides of their faded saloons; and concocting new combinations of fire-water, prepare for thirsty poverty new incentives to oblivious intemperance. Every third-rate inn and back-street public-house is the centre and focus of a goose-club, the announcement of which stares you in the face twenty times in the course of a day's walk. They owe their existence to the improvidence and want of economy of the labouring and lowest classes. A small weekly sum subscribed for thirteen weeks, entitles each subscriber to a goose; and by increasing his weekly dole, he may insure, besides the goose, a couple of bottles of spirits. The distribution of geese and gin takes place on Christmas-eve; and in large working establishments, where the goose-club is a favourite institution, and where, for the most part, the innkeeper is not allowed to meddle, the choice of the birds is decided by the throw of the dice, the thrower of the highest cast having the first choice. We will drop in at the hour of distribution, and witness the consummation of one of these affairs.
But time rolls on, and the great cattle-show in Baker-street has come off. The pig of half a ton weight has held his last levee, and grunted a welcome to the lords and ladies of the aristocracy, and to hundreds of thousands of less distinguished visitors. The prize animals are all sold, and marched or carted off to their new owners. The periodical insanity of the butchers has been developed as strongly as ever. The love of fame glows beneath a blue apron as fiercely as beneath a diamond star; and determined to cut a respectable figure in the carnival which is approaching, Mr. Stickem does not hesitate to purchase a beast, which he knows well enough will hardly cut up for five-and-thirty pounds, at the cost of seventy. What of that? The bubble reputation outweighs the love of lucre, and if he is satisfied with his bargain, who shall complain? Happy is the butcher who has been enabled to purchase a prize-ox; he is not disposed to hide his candle under a bushel. If he have room in front of his shop, he will tether his dear bargain, during the short hours of daylight, to a post in front of his doorway-where, a good fat ox being a special favourite with the public, lie is patted and petted by them as they stop in groups to admire his vast proportions. The unwieldly beast, ornamented with ribbons and favours, gazes moodily around him, now plucks a mouthful of hay, and now utters a sonorous bellow - a lament for the pastures of his calf hood.
Let us now transport ourselves to Covent-garden on the eve of Christmas-week. It is late on Friday night, and to-morrow is the last Saturday's market before Christmas-day. The market, which for the last two months has been redolent of the damp odour of the sere and yellow leaf, is now to blossom for a few short hours with renewed brilliancy. The bells of the city have not yet struck the hours of midnight, when from the various avenues which lead into Covent-garden, the sound of wheels is heard on all sides, and a continuous stream of carts and waggons pours into the open space, which, in less than an hour, is rendered impassable to any but adventurous foot passengers. At the first glance, the whole burden of the numberless wains appears one mass of evergreens; it looks as though Birnam Wood had actually come to Dunsinane. Immense quantities of holly and fir, with here and there a bough of laurel, show the demand of the Londoners for winter verdure. The mistletoe-bough, which has hung like an inverted goose-berry bush from the old apple-tree all the summer long, and a fine specimen of which is good at this nick of time for half-a- guinea, to say nothing of the kissing, which we don't presume to value, appears this year in quantities truly enormous, and, we should think, unprecedented. The market now presents a noisy and interesting spectacle. The bawling and roaring of drivers, the backing of wails to make room for privileged new-comers, the chaffering of dealers, who are not at all angry, passionate as they seem, the grappling feet of horses, and fifty minor sounds, perplex the ear, as much as the dim vision does the eye, of dark figures flitting rapidly about hither and thither, by the light of a hundred lanterns constantly dodging up and down, and the steady glare of the gas overhead. In the midst of all this apparent confusion, however, business is doing and done by wholesale. By three or four o'clock, a good half of the various wares, prickly as well as palatable, brought to market, are transferred to new proprietors, and are already off, most of them without breaking bulk, to different quarters of the town. Long before the dawn, the din has ceased altogether, and the cause of it has vanished. The traders of the market are mostly on the spot before four o'clock, and are now active in preparing the show of winter fruit, which is to adorn the tables of the wealthy in the coming festival. Before ten o'clock, the arcade is in trim for visitors and customers, and a tempting array of all that the depth of winter can produce is ranged in artistic order. There are apples of all hues and sizes, among which the brown russet, the golden bob, and the Ribston pippins, are pre-eminent. Among the pears are the huge winter-pear, the delicious Charmontel, and the bishop's-thumb. Then there are foreign and hot-house grapes, transparent and luscious; large English pine-apples, pomegranates, brown biffins from Norfolk, and baskets of soft medlars; Kent cob-nuts, filberts and foreign nuts of outlandish shapes, all gaily mingled and mixed up with flowers of all hues, natural and artificial, and both, and neither; bouquets of real grasses tinted to an unreal colour, immortelles that were never green, stained into evergreen; weeds and wayside flowers dried to death, and then dyed of various hues to live and blossom again, scented with delicious odours which nature never gave them; flowers cut from coloured paper, flowers modelled in wax, flowers of tinted cotton fabrics, flowers carved delicately from turnips and beet-root- all in bright and brilliant contrast with the dark-green holly and the sere and russet hue of the winter fruit. Notwithstanding this artificial attempt at colour, the show is, on the whole, much more suggestive to the palate than captivating to the eye. You cannot help noticing a prodigious number of sapling firs, some transplanted into pots, and trained, cropped, and clipped into regular shapes for Christmas-trees; most of these are sold naked as brought to market, but some few are loaded with fruit, oranges, lemons, and clustered grapes, and liberally adorned with imitative flowers and wreaths. The confectioners purchase these trees, and load the branches with choice delicacies under various disguises, and will present each member of a customer's family with an appropriate token of affectionate remembrance. This practice of plucking fruit from the Christmas tree, which is growing more and more prevalent in English families, is of German origin, and is said to owe its increasing popularity in England to the custom of the, royal family, whose Christmas-tree is pretty sure to be fully described in the fashionable journals.
But we must leave the market to the customers, who are now thronging in, and pursue our way eastward. The weather is precisely in that condition which any alteration would improve- close, warm, and wet, with a drizzling rain, and without the remotest sign of what every butcher, fishmonger, and poulterer is praying for-a frost. But every phase of the weather has its peculiar phenomena in this critical season; one is visible in the spare and comparatively Lenten aspect, as yet, of the butchers' shops. They are afraid to expose to show their prize meat; and the fat cattle, though probably all by this time slain, are left hanging in the slaughter-house. So the butchers make an extra show with evergreens and sawdust, and a few-only a few-prize sheep, whose broad backs bear their history inscribed in inch-long characters, declaring where and by whom they were bred and fed. In a few hours they will be cut up, and then you may learn, if you like, from similar labels, by whom each joint will be eaten. That smart-looking countryman yonder, standing on the kerbstone, he with the green wide-awake, cutty smock- frock, corduroy breeches, and short, heavy high-lows, is another of the phenomena whose appearance here is due to warm weather in winter. Crowding and fluttering round his feet are a group of fifty hungry ducks, whom he, their cautious owner, has not dared to kill, lest in so doing he should kill his profits; so, three days ago, he brought his gobbling friends alive to market, and has already reduced their number to one-half. The famished birds are pecking desperately at a few grains of barley, which he occasionally dispenses from his pocket in homeopathic doses, merely to keep them from straying away. He is intent on doing business; hear him: (Duck-dealer loquitur) "Sure to be fresh, marm-all alive, you see; kill em when you want em - pick and choose a couple for three-and-six, say three bob, marm. Kill em for you? Certainly, marm. Which is your fancy, marm? Ha! I see you knows what a duck is. Here, dilly! dilly! come and be killed, you fool. There, marm, that's the way we doos it, quite skyantific, you see. Stop, marm, let me put em in the basket; they'll lie under the apples snug as nine- pence-that's it. Thanky, marm. Yar-ar! Sold agin, and got the money. Who's for the next sample? Who says ducks? -ducks an' apple-sarse! that's a tidy tightener, I reckon," &c.
Turning into a side street, for the sake of avoiding the greasy mud, trodden and churned by myriads of feet to the consistence of bird-lime, we come upon another phenomenon, consequent, in some degree, upon the warm and close weather. We are suddenly confronted by an enormous serried phalanx, full fifty yards in solid depth, of wayworn, spit-doomed geese, waddling wearily forwards, their hungry bills gaping aloft in the air, and every feather sodden with moisture, and dyed to the hue of London mud. Unlike their renowned ancestors, the guardian fowls of Rome, they have not a syllable to say for themselves. Fifteen mortal miles have the whole troop of nearly 1000 waddled painfully since, by the cold starlight, they were roused from their roost, and compelled to sally forth under the conduct of the driver, who, armed with a wand ten feet long, which answers his purpose better than any dog, with whom the geese would inevitably do battle, has undertaken the patient and difficult task of consigning them to their final friend and patron, the poulterer. He has to enter London, and pick the whole way to his destination through side streets and by-ways, in order to escape collision with cabs and omnibuses, which would make short work with his intractable flock. The whole regiment are completely exhausted by the long march; each one presents a sorry spectacle of individual distress: with empty crops and parched throats, heads erect and gasping for air, they look wildly round, and press feebly yet hurriedly on, without emitting the slightest sound. If a single "quack" would save the Capitol, it would not be uttered. These unfortunate candidates for a fellowship with sage and onions, to obtain which they must be plucked as a preparatory step, are bred and trained, with a view to this especial promotion, in Epping and Hainault Forests, whence whole armies are despatched, in dead and living detachments, at Michaelmas and Christmas. A good portion of them die a patriot's death on their native soil, and escape the misery of such a journey as these have undergone; but vast numbers are every year, especially when the weather is unfavourable for killing, condemned to execute a forced march upon the capital, where they operate as a corps de reserve, awaiting the exigencies of the poulterer, whose knife, like the sword of Damocles, hangs suspended over their heads, with this difference, however, that it is sure to fall and to slay. It is no unusual thing to meet the drover of this feathery herd strung round the waist with half-a-dozen disabled travellers, who, from accident or weariness, have broken down on the way.
On account of the weather, and the four clear days which have yet to elapse before Christmas, Saturday's market is, comparatively speaking, but a flat affair, and presents nothing particularly worthy of record. Sunday comes on with a drab- coloured sky, fringed with fog, and dripping with occasional warm showers. The fishers and fleshers fret at their devotions, and pray for seasonable weather. The sky is clear at eventide, and the stars shine out. Vain promise! Monday is ten times worse-not a breath of air stirs-the whole vast city is seething in one warm vapour-bath - the thermometer stands almost at "temperate," and ten minutes' walk wets you through in spite of your umbrella. Still, now or never is the time for display, and forth comes everything into fair daylight, such as it is. The mistletoe-boughs, which everywhere droop pendent where comestibles are to be sold, are dripping with moisture, and every milk-white berry seems to distil a crystal drop. Greengrocers, fishmongers, and fruiterers are embowered in greenery; but they are busy as bees in their damp hives, unpacking, packing, and arranging and despatching goods to weather-bound customers. The greengrocer galls the kibe of the grocer, and sells all the materials for plum-pudding, as well as vegetables for the pot and fruit for the dessert. The fishmonger, who is completely built in with barrels of oysters, trenches upon the domain of the poulterer; and to fish of all flavours, fresh and salt, from the smelt to the cod, adds geese and turkeys, and barn-door fowls. The butcher now marshals his meat-the mutton in carcasses, the beef in quarters, such quarters ! - in the most imposing order. But the relentless clouds pour forth an unremitting flood, and drive us home to a dry room and a cheerful fire.
Tuesday comes - a glorious day - the sun shining bright, a moderate breeze blowing aloft, and the thermometer down to 47. "All in good time yet," say the shopkeepers; "people must eat, that's one comfort." We want something besides butcher-meat for our Christmas dinner. Let us be off to the poulterer's, and see what he has got to show. We shall come upon him just round the corner. Here we are. Verily, the whole house is feathered like one huge bird, the fabulous roc of the Arabian Tales. The list of them defies all our skill in ornithology. Numbers there are that we know, and as many that are strangers to us - at least with their feathers on. Over the door is a pair of enormous swans, though we do not see the albatross, measuring nine feet across the wings, which we saw in the same place a couple of years back. Above the swans are bitterns, herons, hawks; here a peacock, and there a gigantic crane, besides a raven, and an eccentric collection of birds never intended to be eaten, but which are only hung up aloft to impress the spectator with the indisputable fact, that the whole of the tribes of the air are under the potent enchantment and subject to the despotic beck and bidding of Mr. Pluck - and very proper too. Grouse, pheasants, partridges, and wild-fowl hang in countless numbers from the topmost floor down to the very pavement; pigeons in dense dead flocks; and snipes, thrushes, and larks bundled together by the neck in bulky tassels, fringe the solid breast-work of plucked geese and turkeys, which, with heads dangling in silent rows, lie close jammed in fleshy phalanx upon the groaning shop-boards. Hares in legions, and rabbits by the warren, line the walls or hang from the ceiling; and among them here and there the bright feathers of the mallard give a touch of colour to the dense masses of brown and gray. Gorged as the whole place is with the denizens of the air, the forest, the fen, and the farmyard, you are not for a moment to suppose that the store before your eyes is anything more than a mere indication of the proprietor's doings in the way of business. Lest you should fall into the simple error, that all this is all he can do, he politely informs you in a placard a yard long, that he has levied a cont4bution upon the county of Norfolk for thousands of turkeys and tens of thousands of geese, which are bound, under a heavy penalty, to be delivered within a given time. Think of that! and in the meanwhile look around you, and see what is going on. While you are gazing, the birds are going off by whole coveys. People with empty baskets are thronging in, and folks with baskets full are crowding out. Look at that stout woman tottering under the weight of two turkeys, three geese, a hare, and a brace of pheasants, to say nothing of a sucking-pig, stuffed with straw, and bearing a sprig of red-berried holly in his mouth, with his eye knowingly modelled to a wink, as though he were making faces at the destiny which has doomed him to the spit. Next come a jolly-looking butler, and a boy at his heels carrying a basket filled with choice game; the butler gets into a cab, and the boy, having first hoisted his basket to the top, mounts guard by the side of the driver, and off they go. The place of the cab is instantly filled by a cart full of slaughtered geese, doubtless a part of the immense consignment from Norfolk; but the shop doorway is one crush of customers, and they can't be got in there - so they go in like bricks, being pitched through the open window to a shopman behind the counter, who tells them off; and in his turn pitches them down an open trap, where a band of Mr. Pluck's pluckers are plucking from morning to night and all night long. To-day is the great day for business. In matters of eating and drinking, the Londoner is not given to procrastination when he can avoid it; he has a passion for an extensive choice; and though he want but a sixpenny article, he will walk a mile to buy one from a stock of 10,000, rather than take one out of ten equally good which are offered at his own door. The appreciation of this truth has made Mr. Pluck's fortune, as it has made the fortunes of thousands besides.
But we must leave the poulterer to his traffic, and the butcher, and fishmonger, and grocer, and fruiterer, and all who have delicacies to sell, not forgetting the confectioner, who, up to the eyes in paste, is already preparing the Twelfth-cakes for his Christmas-day. They say that these cakes last from year to year, and that one which fails to go off in '52 may meet with a customer in '53. We know nothing about that, but we do know a young artist who has been at work for some weeks already, laying very spirited water-colour drawings on a ground of sugar, and a very pleasant working ground he says it is.
Christmas-day, bright with sunshine and slightly frosty, rises upon London very much like a Sunday, and the streets in the morning are thronged by the same bands of steady church-goers answering the call of the parish bells. Full service takes place in all the churches, which are profusely decorated with boughs of evergreen. Christmas anthems are sung, and Christmas sermons are preached, and Christian charity is urged on behalf of the poor. Sermon over, we are tempted by the weather to whet our appetite with a walk of an hour through the city, in the course of which we encounter a hundred different groups, bound unmistakeably for the dinner-table of some hospitable host: charming young lasses, with little whity-brown parcels held between finger and thumb at one corner, and containing the new ribbon which is to make its first appearance on the fair neck at to-day's party; elder matrons carrying their spick-and-span-new caps in pin-fastened packets a shade larger; new-married couples, the husband with his young wife's satin shoes sticking out of his coat-pocket behind, and some flimsy mystery in tissue-paper in his hand, and not half hidden, as he thinks it is, beneath his coat, with which he dares not cover it for fear of a crush. Besides these, there are lawyers' clerks, with undeniable black bottles swathed in brown paper, and pushed up tightly under the left armpit, swaggering along as proudly as though bin No. 12 in their own cellar were crammed with fifty-dozen, and never dreaming that every passer-by is cognizant of their three-and-sixpenny purchase. Suddenly we find ourselves in a crowd, and, going with the stream, are borne into the centre of a multitude assembled round the entrance to a stable-yard, over which is painted in gigantic letters on a broad white sheet: "Welcome to the Christmas Feast;" and underneath, "God loveth a cheerful giver." Within are tents surmounted with banners inscribed with texts of Scripture, enforcing the duty of benevolence, and inviting the poor to enjoy its fruits. Christian charity is doing its work by wholesale. Crowds of the poor and ill-fed populace are streaming in, directed by a numerous band of policemen, and numbers are coming out loaded with the good old English fare of roast beef and plum-pudding, to say nothing of tea enough for a week's consumption. Trotty Veck is there with all his tribe; and every man, woman, and child is armed with plate, dish, basin, or jug, for the reception of the welcome dole, which continues from one in the afternoon till late in the evening, and renders that particular district a marked contrast to all the rest of London on a Christmas afternoon. Elsewhere, there is a void and a silence in the streets, to which the stillness of the Sabbath is comparative uproar. Hundreds of thousands of revolving spits are about to surrender their savoury burdens; the multitudinous mouth of London waters at the impending feast, whose odour fills the air; the gastronomic treasures of the east and the west, the north and the south, of proximate Kew and far Cathay, are heaped for final sacrifice upon myriads of festive boards. All London is now in-doors, and "particularly engaged. Here and there an omnibus and a cab rattle along the paved road to the unwonted music of their own echoes, and for hours they have almost undisputed possession of the out-door world.
After dinner, we are tempted again to the scene of the poor man's feast. Introduced by a friend and subscriber we manage to make our way into the principal tent, where, in the course of the day, hundreds have dined upon substantial fare, of which the odours yet remaining are sufficient evidence. The place is one bower of canvas and foliage. Upon a platform at one end, a merry-faced orator is resounding the praises of a certain inestimable personage, amidst the cries of "Hear, hear!" and the uproarious bravos of the auditors. The merry-faced gentleman subsides with a general round of applause, and the inestimable personage comes forward to acknowledge the compliment. Shade of Father Christmas! it is the veritable Soyer himself, the prince of cooks, habited in his kitchen garb, his handsome face gleaming with exercise and good-humour. See how politely he bows to his humble friends, and hear if you can, for we can't, how handsomely he repudiates all claim to the praise so lavishly bestowed by the former speaker. Then a band of music strikes up, and M. Soyer rushes into the kitchen, and we, mindful of certain annual anthems, in which we are pledged to take a part in the home circle, scramble through the motley crowd, and retrace our steps homewards.
The quiet that reigns all the afternoon and evening throughout the city is effectually broken before midnight, by which time the streets are populous again with groups of well-dressed visitors returning to their homes, noisy with mirth or heavy with wine; these reclining in cab or hackney, and those loudly chattering on the pavement, and beguiling the walk with jest or song. The rumble of wheels and the merry march of foot passengers continue for the best part of the night, and as they fade away into silence, Old Father Christmas vanishes in the morning mist.
We can hardly close these desultory sketches of Christmas- time without some brief allusion to the day after Christmas, which, through every nook and cranny of the great Babel, is known and recognised as "Boxing Day," - the day consecrated to baksheesh, when nobody, it would almost seem, is too proud to beg, and when everybody who does not beg is expected to play the almoner. "Tie up the knocker - say you're sick, you are dead," is the best advice perhaps that could be given in such cases to any man who has a street-door and a knocker upon it. Now is your time to make out a new list of occupations, and to become acquainted with all the benefactors whose good offices you have been enjoying all the year through without one thought of the gratitude you owe them. Dab the first is the sweep, of course, who must be paid over again for sweeping your chimneys. Half fearing that if you refuse you may get a smoky house for the rest of the year, you consent for the sake of your lungs, and lie is off. You sit down to breakfast, and with the first slice of toast comes dab the second. You glance out of the window, and see a couple of long-coated valets bearing battered French horns, and you cheerfully bestow another shilling on the minstrels, as you suppose of the wet and dismal nights. They are off to the next door, and before you have drunk your second cup comes dab the third - the turncock wants his water-rate. You do as you like with him, but if you turn him off empty, he does the same with the writer, and leaves you dependent on your neighbours for a supply. Dab the fourth is the dustman, and you must down with your dust, or you will get the dust down your throat the next time the bin has to be cleared out. Dab the fifth waters the roads in summer, and wants to wet his whistle at your expense. Dab the sixth scrapes them in winter, and now comes to scrape acquaintance with you in the affectionate desire of drinking your health "at this jiful season." Dab the seventh - what! the waits again? I gave the fellow a shilling just now. "Yes, sir," says Betty, "but them fellers had no right to it." Here the leader and spokesman of the band of genuine waits makes his appearance, bowing and scraping at the parlour- door: "Sorry to hobtrude, sir, but ours is the genuine waits, sir. That there gang what you subscribed, sir, only goes a collectin' - they never plays nothin'; they aint musicians, only tbievin' scamps as robs honest men. You rek'lect my vice, sir, a wishin' of you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Of course you recognise his "vice," for he bellows as loud as he did last Wednesday at midnight, and of course, too, you pay the shilling over again. Dab the eighth is the lamp-lighter, who enlightens you on the subject of his large merits and small pay. Dab the ninth is the grocer's boy, who is followed by a shoal of dabs in regular succession, comprising every mentionable trade, until at length your patience being exhausted, and your small-change at the same low ebb, you rush desperately into a greatcoat and out of the house, and leave Betty to fight the battle of baksheesh as well as she can, which she generally does victoriously by declining to show a front to the enemy, and leaving the dabs to come as slowly as they choose to the unwilling conviction, that "it's no use knocking at the door any more.
Charles Manby Smith Curiosities of London Life, or Phases, Physiological and Social of the Great Metropolis, 1853