Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - In the Slums, by the Rev. D. Rice-Jones, 1884 - Chapter 20 - Our Band of Hope

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THIS juvenile branch of the temperance society was started soon after we came here, and it was carried on with more or less success as long as my wife was able to help me. But unfortunately she was my only helper, and when I was left quite alone I found it a more difficult task to keep the children together, as I had no one to accompany the singing on the harmonium. For some time I managed to keep the elder children amused by getting up recitations, and a few boys even went so far as to get up Shakespeare's "Death of Julius Caesar." And I may here remark in passing, that my Mark Antony acted his part to perfection, especially on a certain occasion when he had a fly or something else in his eye, which compelled him to keep the eye covered with his hand and to give other signs of feeling twinges of real pain during his great oration to the people, i.e., to the other little boys and girls. I know the effect produced upon me was such that I began to enter-[-127-]tain serious thoughts of trying to write an original teetotal drama in five acts, and of training my little company to perform it in public. But alas for our dreams of ambition! Alas for our sanguine hopes which are so often doomed to end in disappointment!
    One Wednesday evening, in the middle of winter, I went at the usual hour into the schoolroom, expecting to meet as usual my band of hope. But the schoolroom was quite empty. I waited a quarter of an hour, but not a single child came. Then I heard another band-a brass band-playing outside the mission house. Then I heard singing, as of many voices, to the accompaniment of the brazen instruments. Then above all the mingled din, I heard the sounds of a multitude of treble voices shouting and hurrahing; and the voices sounded not unlike those of my band of hope.
    I rushed down to the front door to ascertain the cause of the unusual noise; for although noises of the most uproarious kinds are not unusual here, still there was something peculiar about the noise made on that particular occasion, something which reminded me of Salvation Army processions. I found, however, that it was not a real Salvation Army procession, but only a feeble imitation of one. A brass band, accompanied by a few young men, who were singing a marching hymn at the top of [-128-] their voices, had been sent out from a neighbouring Methodist chapel to beat up recruits for the avowed purpose of getting up a revival; and the plan adopted was certainly very successful as fair as the children of the neighbourhood were concerned. The band was preceded, and followed, and flanked by all the poor children who were allowed to be out at that hour; and it succeeded in completely breaking up my band of hope for a time; for upon every night of the performance in the streets, the children, who accompanied the band to the chapel door, were invited to an entertainment inside.
    One might have thought that the most zealous sectarians would have been content with such a signal triumph as this. But some of those good people, not satisfied with having seduced my band of hope, tried very hard to entice my servants to their chapel.
    Late one Saturday evening, I happened to hear some one at the street door in earnest conversation with a young nurse-maid whom my wife had brought here from her home, in a west-country village. It was the voice of a woman that I now heard talking to the girl, and what I heard was as follows:-
    Nurse-maid: "But this is a church, ma'am, and my master is the clergyman."
Woman: "Oh! but you needn't mind that; you [-129-] might come to our chapel, at least for once, and just see what it is like."
    I gave her no time to say any more. I ran down to the door, and asked the woman what she wanted.
    "Please, sir," said the nurse, "she wants me to go to her chapel, but I told her that this is a church, and that I didn't want to go."
    "You must have known what place this was," I said to the woman; "because there are large bills outside, and no one could mistake the building for a private house. If you think you are doing God service by coming to a clergyman's door under the cover of night, and trying to seduce his servants from their duty" -
    "I-I-didn't know, sir,- I" -  she began; but I had no wish to hear a lie, so I stopped her, and requested her not to come to my house again.