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IN Tattyboys Rents the sun shines, and the rain rains, and
people are born, and live, and die, and are buried and forgotten, much as they
do in Rents of greater renown. And I do not think that the obscurity of the
Tattyboysians, and the lack of fame of their residence, causes them much grief,
simply because it is to be believed that they are unconscious of both fame and
obscurity. That happy conformation of the human mind which leads us firmly and
complacently to think that the whole world is ceaselessly occupied with our own
little tinpot doings - that serenity of self-importance which lends such a
dignity of carriage to little Mr. Claypipkin, as he sails down the street in
company with big, burly Mr. Brazen-pot - these, I dare say, set my friends in
the locality that gives a name to this paper, quite at their ease in regard to
the place they occupy, in the estimation of the universe, and engender a
comfortable indifference as to whether the eyes of Europe (that celebrated
visionary) are continually fixed upon Tattyboys Rents or not.
To tell the plain truth about them, nevertheless, the Rents and the Renters are alarmingly obscure. Beyond the postman, the tax-collectors, and those miracles of topographical erudition who deliver County Court summonses, and serve notices for the Insolvent Court, I doubt if there are a hundred persons in London, exclusive of the inhabitants themselves, who know anything about Tattyboys Rents, or even whereabouts they are. It is to be surmised that the names of the magnates of the Rents are inscribed in that golden book of commerce, the Post-Office London Directory, but the place itself finds no mention there. By internal evidence and much collation of the work in question, it may be conjectured that Tattyboys Rents is not even the proper name of the score of houses so called, and that it is legally known - no, not known, for it isn't known - but that it should be designated as - Little Blitsom Street. Plugg, of the water-rates, says that in his youth he well remembers a small stone tablet on the corner wall of number nineteen, running thus, 'Little Blitsom Street, 1770, ' -and old Mrs. Brush, the charwoman, who, in the days of King James the First, would infallibly have been burnt for a witch, but is now [-232-] venerated as the oldest inhabitant, minds the time 'when a ferocious band of miscreants,' whether forgers, burglars, or murderers, is not stated, were captured in Tattyboys Rents by that bold runner Townshend, and his red-waistcoated acolytes, and by him conveyed before Sir Richard Birnie the wretches being known as the 'Little Blitsom Street Gang.' Mogg's Map of the Metropolis, with the later charts of Richard and Davis, passes the Rents by, in contemptuous silence. Blitsom Street and long, dirty Turk's Lane, into which it leads, are both set down in fair characters, but beyond a nameless little space between two blocks of houses, there is nothing to tell you where Tattyboys Rents may be. It is no good asking the policeman anything about them. I have my doubts whether he knows; but even granting his sapience, I have my suspicions that unless he knew your position and character well, he would affect entire ignorance on the subject. He has his private reasons for doing so. Tattyboys Rents are far too snugly situated, peaceable, and well-behaved, for its locality to be divulged to strangers - possibly of indifferent character. Therefore my advice to you is, if you understand navigation, which I do not, to take your observations by the sun and moon, and, by the help of your 'Hamilton Moore,' chronometers, quadrant, compass steering due north, and a guinea case of mathematical instruments, work out 'Tattyboys Rents' exact place on the chart, - and then go and find it. Or, 'another way,' as the cookery-book says, follow Turk's Lane, till you come to Blitsom Street, up which wander till you stumble, somehow, into Tattyboys Rents.
The last you are very likely to do literally, for the only approach to the Rents is by a flight of steps, very steep and very treacherous, their vicinity being masked by a grove of posts, and the half-dozen idlers whom you are always sure to find congregated round Chapford's beershop. And it has often happened that, of the few strangers who have travelled in Tattyboys Rents, the proudest and sternest: men who would have scorned to perform the ceremony of the Kotou in China, and would have scouted the idea of salaaming to the Great Mogul: have made their first entrance into the Rents with the lowliest obeisances, with bended knees, and foreheads touching the pavement.
If Miss Mitford had not written, years ago, 'Our Village,' it is decidedly by that name that I should have called this [-233-] paper. For, Tattyboys Rents form not only a village as regards their isolation, and the unsophisticated nature of their inhabitants, but they resemble those villages, few and far between, now-a-days, where there is no railway-station - cross-country villages, where the civilising shriek of the engine-whistle is never heard; where the building mania in any style of architecture is unfelt; where the inhabitants keep themselves to themselves, and have a supreme contempt for the inhabitants of all other villages, hamlets, townships, and boroughs whatsoever; where strangers are barely tolerated and never popular; where improvements, alterations, and innovations, are unanimously scouted; where the father's customs are the son's rule of life, and the daughters do what their mothers did before them. The Metropolitan Buildings Act is a dead letter in Tattyboys Rents, for nobody ever thinks of building - to say nothing of rebuilding or painting - a house. The Common Lodging-House Act goes for nothing, for there are no common lodging-houses, and the lodgers, where there are any, are of an uncommon character. No one fears the Nuisances Removals Act, for everybody has his own particular nuisance, and is too fond of it to move for its removal. The Health of Towns Act has nothing in common with the health of Tattyboys Rents, for fevers don't seem to trouble themselves to come down its steep entrance steps, and the cholera has, on three occasions, given it the cut direct. It is of no use bothering about the drainage, for nobody complains about it, and nobody will tell you whether it is deficient or not. As to the supply of water, there is a pump at the further extremity of the Rents that would satisfy the most exigent hydropathist; and, touching that pump, I should like to see the bold stranger female who would dare to draw a jugful of water from it, or the stranger boy who would presume to lift to his lips the time-worn and water-rusted iron ladle attached by a chain to that pump's nozzle. Such persons as district surveyors and inspectors of nuisances have been heard of in Tattyboys Rents, but they are estimated as being in influence and authority infinitely below the parish beadle. There was a chimney on fire once at number twelve, and with immense difficulty an engine was lifted into the Rents, but all claims of the Fire Brigade were laughed to scorn, and the boys of the Rents made such a fierce attack on the engine, and manifested so keen a desire to detain it as a hostage, that the helmeted men with the hatchets were glad to make their escape as best they could.
[-234-] The first peculiarity that will strike you on entering the Rents is the tallness of the houses. The blackness of their fronts and the dinginess of their windows will not appear to you as so uncommon, being a characteristic of Blitsom Street, Turk's Lane, and the whole of the neighbourhood. But, Tattyboys houses are very tall indeed, as if, being set so closely together, and being prevented by conservative tendencies from spreading beyond the limits of the Rents, they had grown taller instead, and added unto themselves storeys instead of wings. I can't say much, either, for their picturesque aspect. Old as the Rents are, they are not romantically old. Here are no lean-to roofs, no carved gables, no old lintels, no dormer or lattice windows. The houses are all alike - all tall, grimy, all with mathematical dirty windows, flights of steps (quite innocent of the modern frivolities of washing and hearthstoning), tall narrow doors, and areas with hideous railings. One uncompromisingly tasteless yet terrible mould was evidently made in the first instance for all the lion's-head knockers: one disproportioned spearhead and tassel for all the railings. I can imagine the first Tattyboys, a stern man of inflexible uniformity of conduct and purpose, saying grimly to his builder: 'Build me a Rents of so many houses, on such and such a model,' and the obedient builder turning out so many houses like so many bricks, or so many bullets from a mould, or pins from a wire, and saying, 'There, Tattyboys, there are your Rents.' Then new, painted, swept, garnished, with the mathematical windows all glistening in one sunbeam, the same lion's-head knockers grinning on the same doors, the regularity of Tattyboys Rents must have been distressing: the houses must all have been as like each other as the beaux in wigs and cocked hats, and the belles in hoops and hair powder, who lived when Tattyboys Rents were built: but age, poverty, and dirt have given as much variety of expression to these houses now, as hair, whiskers, wrinkles, and scars give to the human face. Some of the lion-headed knockers are gone, and many of the spear-headed railings. Some of the tall doors stand continually open, drooping gracefully on one hinge. The plain fronts of the houses are chequered by lively cartoons, pictorially representing the domestic mangle, the friendly cow that yields fresh milk daily for our nourishment, the household goods that can be removed (by spring vans) in town or country; the enlivening ginger-beer which is the favourite beverage (according to the cartoon) of the British [-235-] Field-Marshal, and the lady in the Bloomer costume. Variety is given to the windows by many of their panes being broken, or patched with parti-coloured paper and textile fabrics; and by many of the windows themselves being open the major part of the day, disclosing heads and shoulders of various stages of muscular development, with a foreground of tobacco-pipes and a background of shirt-sleeves. Pails, brooms, and multifarious odds and ends, take away from the uniformity of the areas, while the area gates (where there are any left) swing cheerfully to and fro. Groups of laughing children be- spangle the pavement, and diversify the door-steps: and liveliness, colour, form, are given to the houses and the inhabitants by dirt, linen on poles, half-torn-off placards, domestic fowls, dogs, decayed vegetables, oyster tubs, pewter pots, broken shutters, torn blinds, ragged door-mats, lidless kettles, bottomless saucepans, shattered plates, bits of frayed rope, and cats whose race is run, and whose last tile has been squatted on.
Tattyboys originally intended the houses in his Rents to be all private mansions. Of that there can be no doubt: else, why the areas, why the doorsteps and the lion-headed knockers? But, that mutability of time and fashion which has converted the monastery of the Crutched Friars into a nest of sugar-brokers' counting-houses, and the Palace of Henry the Eighth and Cardinal Wolsey into a hair-dresser's shop, has dealt as hardly with the private houses in Tatty. boys Rents. The shopkeeping element has not yet wholly destroyed the aristocratic aspect of the place; still, in very many instances, petty commerce has set up its petty wares in the front parlour windows, and the chapman has built his counters and shelves on the groundfloors of gentility.
I have spoken so often of Tattyboys Rents, that the question might aptly be asked, Who was Tattyboys? When did it occur to him to build Rents? By what fortunate inheritance, what adventitious accession of wealth, what prosperous result of astute speculations, was he enabled to give his name to, and derive quarterly rents from, the two blocks of houses christened after him? So dense is the obscurity that surrounds all the antecedents of the locality, that I do not even know the sex of the primary Tattyboys.
The estates, titles, muniments, and manorial rights (whatever they may be) of the clan Tattyboys, are at present enjoyed by a black beaver bonnet and black silk cloak of antediluvian design and antemundane rustiness, supposed to contain [-236-] Miss Tattyboys herself. I say supposed, for though the cloak and the bonnet are patent in the Rents on certain periodical occasions the ancient female (she must be old) whom they enshroud is facially as unknown as the first Odalisque of the Harem to Hassan the cobler, or as the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan was to the meanest of his adorers. No man has seen Miss Tattyboys, not even Mr. Barwise, her agent; nay, nor old Mr. Fazzle, the immensely rich bachelor of number thirteen; but many have heard her stern demands for rent, and her shrill denunciation of the carryings on of her tenants. It is said that Miss Tattyboys resides at Hoxton, and that she keeps her own cows. Men also say that she discounts bills, and is the proprietor of a weekly newspaper. It is certain that she is in frequent communication with Mr. Hemp, the officer of the Sheriffs' Court; and many are the proclamations of outlawry made against sprigs of nobility, with tremendously long and aristocratic names at the 'suit of Bridget Tattyboys.' Likewise she arrested the Honourable Tom Scaleybridge, M.P., at the close of the last session, before the advent of the present administration, but was compelled to release him immediately afterwards, he claiming his privilege. There are many solicitors of my acquaintance, who in their mysteriously musty and monied private offices have battered tin boxes with half-effaced inscriptions relative to 'Tattyboys Estate, 1829;' 'Tattyboys Trust, 1832;' 'Tattyboys versus Patcherly'; and 'Miss Bridget Tattyboys.' She is mixed up with an infinity of trusts, estates, and will cases. She is the subject of dreary law-suits in which the nominal plaintiff is the real defendant, and the defendant ought not to be a party to the suit at all. Time is always being given to speak to her, or communicate with her, or to summons her to produce papers which she never will produce. Law reports about her cases begin with 'So far back as eighteen hundred and ten;' 'it will be remembered that;' 'this part heard case'; and the daily newspapers occasionally contain letters denying that she made a proposition to A., or sued B., or was indebted to C.: signed by Driver, Chizzle, and Wrench, solicitors for Miss Tattyboys. She got as far as the House of Lords once, in an appeal case against Coger Alley Ram Cunder Loll, of Bombay; but how this litigious old female managed to get out, physically or literally, to Hindostan, or into difficulties with a Parsee indigo broker, passes my comprehension. A mysterious old lady.
Meanwhile, Miss Bridget Tattyboys is the landlady of [-237-] Tattyboys Rents. There is no dubiety about her existence there. Only be a little behindhand with your rent, and you will soon be favoured with one of Mr. Barwise's 'Sir, I am instructed by Miss Tattyboys;' and close upon that will follow Mr. S. Scrutor, Miss Tattyboys' broker, with his distraint, and his levy, and his inventory, and all the sacraments of selling up. I should opine that Miss Tattyboys is deaf, for she is remarkable in cases of unpaid rent for not listening to appeals for time, and not hearing of a compromise. Gilks, the chandler's shopkeeper of number nine, whose wife is always in the family way, and himself in difficulties, once 'bound himself by a curse' to seek out Miss Tattyboys at Hoxton, to beard her in her very den, and appeal to her mercy, her charity, her womanhood, in a matter of two quarters owing. He started one morning, with a determined shirt-collar, and fortified by sundry small libations at the Cape of Good Hope. He returned at nightfall with a haggard face, disordered apparel, and an unsteady gait; was inarticulate and incoherent in his speech; shortly afterwards went to bed; and to this day cannot be prevailed upon by his acquaintances, by the wife of his bosom even, to give any account of his interview, if interview he had, with the Megaera of Hoxton. Mrs. Gilks, a wary woman, who has brought, and is bringing, up a prodigious family, has whispered to Mrs. Spileburg, of the Cape of Good Hope, that, on the morning after Gilks's expedition, examining his garments, as it is the blessed conjugal custom to do, she found, imprinted in chalky dust, on the back of his coat, the mark of a human foot! What could this portend? Did Gilks penetrate to Hoxton, and was he indeed kicked by Miss Tattyboys? or did he suffer the insulting infliction at the foot of some pampered menial? Or, coming home despairing, was he led to the consumption (and the redundancy of coppers, and the paucity of silver, in his pockets would favour this view of the case) of more liquid sustenance of a fermented nature than was good for him? And was he in this state kicked by outraged landlord or infuriated pot-companion? Gilks lives, and makes no sign. Pressed on the subject of Miss Tattyboys, he reluctantly grumbles that she is an 'old image,' and this is all.
Dear reader (and the digression may be less intolerable, seeing that it takes place in what is but a digression itself), I do wonder what Miss Tattyboys is like. Is she really the [-238-] stern, harsh, uncompromising female that her acts bespeak her? Does she sit in a rigid cap, or still accoutred in the black bonnet and veil in a dreary office-like parlour at Hoxton, with all her documents docketed on a table before her, or glaring from pigeon-holes, shelves, and cupboards? Or is she a jolly, apple-faced, little woman, in a cheery room with birds and plants and flowers, liking a cosy glass and a merry song: a Lady Bountiful in the neighbourhood, a Dorcas to the poor, the idol of all the dissenting ministers around? Perhaps. Who knows? Ah! how unlike we all are to what we seem! flow the roar of the lion abroad softens into the bleat of the lamb at home! How meekly the fierce potent schoolmaster of the class-room holds out his knuckles for the ruler in the study! He who is the same in his own home of homes as he is abroad, is a marvel.
Miss Tattyboys has a carriage and a horse, but for certain reasons upon which I briefly touched in allusion to the parish engine, her visits to the Rents are made perforce on foot. Monday mornings, black Mondays emphatically, are her ordinary visiting days; and on such mornings you will see her dusky form looming at Mr. Fazzle's door, or flitting through the Rents as she is escorted to her carriage by Barwise, her agent. Communications may be made direct to her, but they always come somehow through Barwise. He may be described as the buffer to the Tattyboys train; and run at her ever so hard, Barwise receives the first collision, and detracts from its force. If Gilks wants time, or Chapford threatens to leave unless his roof is looked to, or Mrs. Chownes asks again about that kitchen range, or Spileberg expresses a savage opinion that his house will tumble in next week, and that there'll be murder against somebody, Barwise interposes, explains, promises, refuses, will see about it. Which Barwise never does. You try to get at Miss Tattyboys, but you can't, though you are within hand and earshot of her. The portentous black veil flutters in the wind; you are dazzled and terrified by her huge black reticule bursting with papers; you strive to speak; but Miss Tattyboys is gone, and all you can do is to throw yourself upon Barwise, who throws you over.
The carriage of the landlady of the Rents is an anomalous vehicle on very high springs, of which the body seems decidedly never to have been made for the wheels, which on their part appear to be all of different sizes, and shriek while [-239-] moving dreadfully. Much basket-work enters into the composition of Miss Tattyboys's carriage, also much rusty leather, and a considerable quantity of a fabric resembling bed- ticking. There are two lamps, one of which is quite blind and glassless, and the other blinking and knocked on one side in some by-gone collision, to a very squinting obliquity. A complication of straps and rusty iron attaches this equipage to a very long-bodied, short-legged black horse, not unlike a turnspit dog, which appears to be utterly disgusted with the whole turnout, and drags it with an outstretched head and outstretched legs, as though he were a dog, and the carriage a tin kettle tied to his tail. There have been blood and bone once about this horse doubtless; but the blood is confined at present to a perpetual raw on his shoulder, artfully veiled from the Society's constables by the rags of his dilapidated collar, and the bone to a lamentably anatomical development of his ribs. To him, is Jehu, a man of grim aspect and of brickdust complexion, whose hat and coat are as the hat and coat of a groom, but whose legs are as the legs of an agricultural labourer, inasmuch as they are clad in corduroy, and terminate in heavy shoes, much clayed. He amuses himself while waiting for his mistress with aggravating the long-bodied horse with his whip on his blind side (he, the horse, is wall-eyed) and with reading a tattered volume, averred by many to be a book of tracts, but declared by some to be a 'Little Warbler,' insomuch as smothered refrains of 'right tooral lol looral' have been heard at times from his dreary coachbox. It is not a pleasant sight this rusty carriage with the long horse, and the grim coachman jolting and staggering about Blitsom Street. It does not do a man good to see the black bonnet and veil inside, with the big reticule and the papers, and overshadowed by them all, as though a cypress had been drawn over her, a poor little weazened diminutive pale-faced little girl, in a bonnet preposterously large for her, supposed to be Miss Tattyboys's niece, also to be a something in Chancery, and the 'infant' about whose 'custody' there is such a fluster every other term, the unhappy heiress of thousands of disputed pounds.
I cannot finally dismiss Miss Tattyboys without saying a word about Barwise, her agent. Barwise as a correspondent is hated and contemned, but Barwise as a man is popular and respected. His letters are dreadful. When Barwise says he will 'write to you,' you are certain (failing payment) of being [-240-] sued. Barwise's first letters first begin, 'It is now some time since;' his second missive commences with the awful words, 'Sir, unless;' and after that, he is sure to be 'instructed by Miss Tattyboys,' and to sell you up. It is horrible to think that Barwise not only collects Miss Tattyboys's rents; but that he collects debts for anybody in the neighbourhood, takes out the abhorred 'gridirons,' or County Court summonses, is an auctioneer, appraiser, valuer, estate, house, and general agent. Dreadful thought for Barwise to have a general agency over you! Yet Barwise is not horrible to view, being a sandy man of pleasant mien, in a long brown coat. He is a capital agent, too, to employ, if you want to get in any little moneys that are due to you; and then it is astonishing how you find yourself egging Barwise on, and telling him to be firm, and not to hear of delay. I think there is hut one sentiment that can surpass the indignation a man feels at being forced to pay anything he owes - and that is the soeva indignatio with which he sets about forcing people to pay, who owe him anything.
Barwise sings a good song, and the parlour of the Cape of Good Hope nightly re-echoes to his tuneful muse. I don't believe he ever went farther seaward than Greenwich, but he specially affects nautical ditties, and his plaintive 'Then farewell my trim-built wherry,' and 'When my money was all spent,' have been found occasionally exasperating to parties whose 'sticks' he has been instrumental in seizing the day before. On festive occasions I have however heard his health proposed, and the laudatory notes of 'For he's a jolly good fellow!' go round.
There are three notable institutions in Tattyboys Rents. I am rather at a loss which first to touch upon. These are the posts, the children, and the dogs - and all three as connected with the steps. Suppose, in reverse order of rank, I take the brute creation first. Tattyboys Rents, if it were famous for anything, which it is not, should be famous for its dogs. They are remarkable, firstly, for not having any particular breed. Gilks, the chandler's shopkeeper, had a puppy which was 'giv' to him by a party as was always mixed up with dogs,' which he thought, at first, would turn out a pointer, then a terrier, then a spaniel; but was miserably disappointed in all his conjectures. He had gone to the expense of a collar for him, and the conversion of an emptied butter-firkin into a kennel, and, in despair, took him [-241-] to Chuffers, the greengrocer, and dogs'-meat vendor, in Blitsom Street, and solemnly asked his opinion upon him. 'There hain't a hinch of breed in him,' was the dictum of Chuffers, as he contemptuously bestowed a morsel of eleemosynary paunch upon the low-bred cur. Charley (this was the animal's name) grew up to be a gaunt dog of wolf-like aspect, an incorrigible thief, a shameless profligate, a bully, and a tyrant. He was the terror of the children and the other dogs; and as if that unhappy Gilks had not already sufficient sorrows upon his head, Charley had the inconceivable folly and wickedness to make an attack one Monday morning upon the sacred black silk dress of Miss Tattyboys. You may imagine that Barwise was down upon Gilks the very next day, like a portcullis. Charley thenceforth disappeared. Gilks had a strange affection for him, and still cherished a. fond belief that he would turn out something in the thorough-bred line some day; but the butter-firkin was removed to the back yard, and Charley was supposed to pass the rest of his existence in howling and fighting with his chain in that townhouse amid brickbats, cabbage-stalks, and clothes-pegs, having in addition a villegiatura or country-house in an adjacent dust-bin, into which the length of his chain just allowed him to scramble, and in the which he sat among the dust and ashes, rasping himself occasionally (for depilatory purposes) against a potsherd.
There is a brown dog of an uncertain shade of mongrelity, who (they are all of such decided character, these dogs, that I think they deserve a superior pronoun) belongs to nobody in particular, and is generally known in the Rents as the Bow-wow. As such it is his avocation and delight to seek the company of very young children (those of from eighteen months to two years of age are his preference) whose favour and familiarity he courts, and whom he amuses by his gambols and good-humour. The bow-wow is a welcome guest on all door-steps, and in most entrance-halls. His gymnastics are a never-failing source of amusement to the juvenile population, and he derives immense gratification from the terms of endearment and cajolement addressed by the mothers and nurses to their children, all of which expressions this feeble-minded animal takes to be addressed to himself, and at which he sniggers his head and wags his stump of a tail tremendously. I have yet to learn whether this brown, hairy, ugly dog is so fond of the little children, and frisks round them, and rolls them over [-242-] with such tender lovingness, and suffers himself to be pulled and pinched and poked by his playmates, all with immovable complacency - I say, I have yet to learn whether he does all this through sheer good-humour and fondness for children, or whether he is a profound hypocrite, skilled in the ways of the world, and knowing that the way to Mother Hubbard's cupboard, when there are any bones in it, is through Mother Hubbard's motherly heart. I hope, for the credit of dog nature and for my own satisfaction, loving that nature, that the first is the cause.
The only dog in the Rents that can claim any family or breed is an animal by the name of Buffo, who was, in remote times, a French poodle. I say was, for the poodleian appearance has long since departed from him, and he resembles much more, now, a very dirty, shaggy, white bear, seen through the small end of an opera-glass. He was the property, on his first introduction to the Rents, of one Monsieur Phillips - whether originally Philippe or not, I do not know - who, it was inferred, from sundry strange paraphernalia that lie left behind him on his abrupt departure from his residence, was something in the magician, not to say conjuror and mountebank line. Buffo was then a glorious animal, half- shaved, as poodles should be, with fluffy rings round his legs, and two tufts on his haunches, and a coal-black nose, due perhaps to the employment of nitrate of silver as a cosmetic, and a pink skin, he could mount and descend a ladder; he could run away when Monsieur Phillips hinted that there was a 'policeman coming;' he could limp on one leg; he could drop down dead, dance, climb up a lamp-post at the word of command. It was even said that he had been seen in James Street, Covent Garden, on a ragged piece of carpet, telling fortunes upon the cards, and pointing out Monsieur Phillips as the greatest rogue in company. Monsieur Phillips, however, one morning suddenly disappeared, leaving sundry weeks' rent owing to his landlord, Chapford, of the beer-shop; his only effects being the strange implements of legerdemain I have noticed, and the dog Buffo, whom he had placed at livery, so to state, at least at a fixed weekly stipend for his board and lodging. I need not say that in a very short time the unfortunate dog 'ate his head right off;' the amount of paunch he had consumed far exceeding his marketable value. Chapford, after vainly debating as to the propriety of turning the magician's cups into half-pint measures, and his balls into [-243-] bagatelle balls, sold them to Scrutor, the broker, and Buffo himself to Joe (surname unknown), who is a helper up Spavins's yard, the livery and bait stables, in Blitsom Street. Joe 'knowed of a lady down Kensington wet was werry nuts upon poodles;' and Buffo, prior to his introduction to the lady amateur, was subjected to sundry dreadful operations of dog-farriery, in the way of clipping, staining, and curtailing, which made him from that day forward a dog of sullen and morose temper. lie soon came back from Kensington in disgrace, the alleged cause of his dismissal being his having fought with, killed, and eaten a gray cockatoo. He was re-sold to Mrs. Lazenby, old Mr. Fazzle's housekeeper; but he had either forgotten or was too misanthropic to perform any of his old tricks, regarded policemen unmoved, and passed by the whole pack of cards with profound disdain. A report, too, founded on an inadvertent remark of Chapford, that he (Buffo) had once been on the stage, and had been fired out of a cannon by the clown in a pantomime, succeeded in ruining him in the opinion of the Rents, who hold all 'play-actors' in horror: he passed from owner to owner, and was successively kicked out and discarded by all, and now hangs about Chapford's, a shabby, used-up, degraded, broken-down beast.
Is there anything more pitiable in animal nature than a thoroughly hard-up dog? Such a one I met two Sundays back in a shiningly genteel street in Pimlico. He was a cur, most wretchedly attenuated, arid there in Pimlico he sat, with elongated jaws, his bead on one side, his eyes wofully upturned, his haunches turned out, his feet together, his tail subdued, his ribs rampant: an utterly worn-out, denuded, ruined old dog. If he had taken a piece of chalk, and written 'I am starving,' fifty times on the pavement in the most ornamental caligraphy, it could not have excited more sympathy than the unutterable expression of his oblique misery, propped up sideways as he was against a kitchen railing. I had no sooner halted to accost him, than, taking it for granted that I was going to kick or beat him because he was miserable, he shambled meekly into the gutter, where he stood, shivering; but I spoke him fair, and addressing him in what little I knew of the Doggee language, strove to reassure him. But how could I relieve him? What could I do for him? It was a stern uncompromising shining British Sunday; there was no back slum nigh; no lowly shop, whither I could convey him to regale on dogs'-meat. Moreover it was church time, [-244-] and I could not even purchase licensed victuals for his succour. it was no good giving him a penny. I might as well have given him a tract. He was unmistakeably mangy, and I dared not convey him home; and I knew of no dog-hospital, So I exhorted him to patience and resignation, and left him reluctantly; persuaded that the greatest charity I could have extended to him would have been to blow his brains out.
You are not to think that these I have mentioned are all the dogs of which Tattyboys Rents can boast. Many more are they, big dogs and little dogs: from that corpulent Newfoundland dog of Scrutor's, the broker, whose sagacity is so astounding as to lead to his being trusted with baskets and cash, to purchase bread and butchers' meat - the which he does faithfully, bringing back change with scrupulous exactitude - and whose only fault is his rapid rate of locomotion, and defective vision, which cause him to run up against and upset very nearly everybody he meets in his journeys - to Bob Blather, the barber's, cock-tail terrier, which can kill a 'power of rats,' and has more than once been matched in 'Bell's Life' (familiarly called by the sporting part of the Rents, 'The Life') to do so. I may say, to the honour of the dogs of Tattyboys Rents, that they seldom stray beyond its limits; and that if any strange dog descend the steps leading thereunto, they invariably fall upon, and strive to demolish him with the utmost ferocity.
The children of the Rents are so much like other street children, that they preserve the same traditions of street games and songs common to other localities. They are remarkable, however, for a certain grave and sedate demeanour, which I have never failed to observe in children who are in the habit of sitting much upon flights of steps. Such steps are the beach of street life, and the sea of the streets rolls on towards the stony shore. The steps of Tattyboys Rents are to the children there a place of deliberation, recreation, observation, and repose. There, is to-morrow's lesson studied; there, does the baby learn a viva-voce lesson in walking; there, is the dirt-pie made, and the sharp-pointed 'cat' constructed; there, does the nurse-child rest, and the little maid achieve her task of sewing; there, are tops wound, and marbles gambled for, and juvenile scandals promulgated; there, is the quarrel engendered, and the difference adjusted. It is good to see this La Scala of Tattyboys Rents on a sunshiny day; its degrees sown with little people, whose juvenile talk falls [-245-] cheerfully on the ear after the ruder conversation at the posts. The posts are immediately behind the steps, forming a grove of egress,- a sort of forest of Soignies, behind the Mont Saint Jean of the Rents,- into Blitsom Street. At the posts, is Chapford's beer-shop; pots are tossed for at the posts, and bets are made on horse-races. Many a married woman in the Rents 'drats' the posts, at whose bases she lays the Saturday night vagaries of her 'master;' forgetting how many of her own sex are postally guilty, and how often she herself has stood a-gossiping at the posts and at the pump.