The vagrant was who had the thorough look of a "professional." He was literally a mass of rags and filth. He was, indeed, exactly what in the Act of Henry VIII. is denominated a "valiant beggar." He stood near upon feet high, was not more than , and had altogether the frame and constitution of a stalwart labouring man. His clothes, which were of fustian and corduroy, tied close to his body with pieces of string, were black and shiny with filth, which looked more like pitch than grease. He had no shirt, as was plain from the fact that, where his clothes were torn, his bare skin was seen. The ragged sleeves of his fustian jacket were tied like the other parts of his dress, close to his wrists, with string. This was clearly to keep the bleak air from his body. His cap was an old, brimless "wide-awake," and when on his head gave the man a most unprepossessing appearance. His story was as follows:—
I am a carpet-weaver by trade. I served my time to it. My father was a clerk in a shoe-thread manufactory at ——. He got 35s. a-week, and his house, coals, and candles found him. He lived very comfortably; indeed, I was very happy. Before I left home, I knew none of the cares of the world that I have known since I left him. My father and mother are living still. He is still as well off as when I was at home. I know this, because I have heard from him twice, and seen him once. He won"t do anything to assist me. I have
transgressed so many times, that he won"t take me in hand any more. I will tell you the truth, you may depend upon it; yes, indeed, I would, even if it were to injure myself. He has tried me many times, but now he has given me up. At the age of twenty-one he told me to go from home and seek a living for myself. He said he had given me a home ever since I was a child, but now I had come to manhood I was able to provide for myself. He gave me a good education, and I might have been a better scholar at the present time, had I not neglected my studies. He put me to a day-school in the town when I was eight years old, and I continued there till I was between twelve and thirteen. I learnt reading, writing, and ciphering. I was taught the catechism, the history of England, geography, and drawing. My father was a very harsh man when he was put out of his way. He was a very violent temper when he was vexed, but kind to us all when he was pleased. I have five brothers and six sisters. He never beat me more than twice, to my remembrance. The first time he thrashed me with a cane, and the last with a horsewhip. I had stopped out late at night. I was then just rising sixteen, and had left school. I am sure those thrashings did me no good, but made me rather worse than before. I was a self-willed lad, and determined, if I couldn"t get my will in one way, I would have it another. After the last thrashing he told me he would give me some trade, and after that he would set me off and get rid of me. Then I was bound apprentice as a carpet-weaver for three years. My master was a very kind one. I runned away once. The cause of my going off was a quarrel with one of the workmen that was put over me. He was very harsh, and I scarce could do anything to please him; so I made up my mind to leave. The first place I went when I bolted was to Crewkerne, in Somersetshire. There I asked for employment at carpet-weaving. I got some, and remained there three days, when my father found out where I was, and sent my brother and a special constable after me. They took me from the shop where I was at work, and brought me back to ——, and would have sent me to prison had I not promised to behave myself, and serve my time out as I ought. I went to work again; and when the expiration of my apprenticeship occurred, my father said to me, "Sam, you have a trade at your fingers" ends: you are able to provide for yourself." So then I left home. I was twenty-one years of age. He gave me money, 3l. 10s., to take me into Wales, where I told him I should go. I was up for going about through the country. I made my father believe I was going into Wales to get work; but all I wanted was, to go and see the place. After I had runned away once from my apprenticeship, I found it very hard to stop at home. I couldn"t bring myself to work somehow. While I sat at the
work, I thought I should like to be away in the country: work seemed a burden to me. I found it very difficult to stick to anything for a long time; so I made up my mind, when my time was out, that I"d be off roving, and see a little of life. I went by the packet from Bristol to Newport. After being there three weeks, I had spent all the money that I had brought from home. I spent it in drinking— most of it, and idling about. After that I was obliged to sell my clothes, &c. The first thing I sold was my watch; I got 2l. 5s. for that. Then I was obliged to part with my suit of clothes. For these I got 1l. 5s. With this I started from Newport to go farther up over the hills. I liked this kind of life much better than working, while the money lasted. I was in the public-house three parts of my time out of four. I was a great slave to drink. I began to like drink when I was between thirteen and fourteen. At that time my uncle was keeping a public-house, and I used to go there, backwards and forward, more or less every week. Whenever I went to see my uncle he gave me some beer. I very soon got to like it so much, that, while an apprentice, I would spend all I could get in liquor. This was the cause of my quarrels with my father, and when I went away to Newport I did so to be my own master, and drink as much as I pleased, without anybody saying anything to me about it. I got up to Nant-y-glô, and there I sought for work at the iron-foundry, but I could not get it. I stopped at this place three weeks, still drinking. The last day of the three weeks I sold the boots off my feet to get food, for all my money and clothes were now gone. I was sorry then that I had ever left my father"s house; but, alas! I found it too late. I didn"t write home to tell them how I was off; my stubborn temper would not allow me. I then started off barefoot, begging my way from Nant-y-glô to Monmouth. I told the people that I was a carpet-weaver by trade, who could not get any employment, and that I was obliged to travel the country against my own wish. I didn"t say a word about the drink—that would never have done. I only took 2 1/2d. on the road, 19 miles long; and I"m sure I must have asked assistance from more than a hundred people. They said, some of them, that they had "nout" for me; and others did give me a bit of "bara caws," or "bara minny" (that is, bread and cheese, or bread and butter). Money is very scarce among the Welsh, and what they have they are very fond of. They don"t mind giving food; if you wanted a bagful you might have it there of the working people. I inquired for a night"s lodging at the union in Monmouth. That was the first time I ever asked for shelter in a workhouse in my life. I was admitted into the tramp-room. Oh, I felt then that I would much rather be in prison than in such a place, though I never knew what the inside of a prison was—no, not then. I thought of the kindness of my father and mother. I
would have been better, but I knew that, as I had been carrying on, I never could expect shelter under my father"s roof any more; I knew he would not have taken me in had I gone back, or I would have returned. Oh, I was off from home, and I didn"t much trouble my head about it after a few minutes; I plucked up my spirits and soon forgot where I was. I made no male friends in the union; I was savage that I had so hard a bed to lie upon; it was nothing more than the bare boards, and a rug to cover me. I knew very well it wasn"t my bed, but still I thought I ought to have a better. I merely felt annoyed at its being so bad a place, and didn"t think much about the rights of it. In the morning I was turned out, and after I had left I picked up with a young woman, who had slept in the union over-night. I said I was going on the road across country to Birmingham, and I axed her to go with me. I had never seen her before. She consented, and we went along together, begging our way. We passed as man and wife, and I was a carpetweaver out of employment. We slept in unions and lodging-houses by the way. In the lodging-houses we lived together as man and wife, and in the unions we were separated. I never stole anything during all this time. After I got to Birmingham I made my way to Wolverhampton. My reason for going to Wolverhampton was, that there was a good many weavers there, and I thought I should make a good bit of money by begging of them. Oh, yes, I have found that I could always get more money out of my own trade than any other people. I did so well at Wolverhampton, begging, that I stopped there three weeks. I never troubled my head whether I was doing right or wrong by asking my brother-weavers for a portion of their hard earnings to keep me in idleness. Many a time I have given part of my wages to others myself. I can"t say that I would have given it to them if I had known they wouldn"t work like me. I wouldn"t have worked sometimes if I could have got it. I can"t tell why, but somehow it was painful to me to stick long at anything. To tell the truth, I loved a roving, idle life. I would much rather have been on the road than at my home. I drank away all I got, and feared and cared for nothing. When I got drunk overnight, it would have been impossible for me to have gone to work in the morning, even if I could have got it. The drink seemed to take all the work out of me. This oftentimes led me to think of what my father used to tell me, that "the bird that can sing and won"t sing ought to be made to sing." During my stay in Wolverhampton I lived at a tramper"s house, and there I fell in with two men well acquainted with the town, and they asked me to join them in breaking open a shop. No, sir, no, I didn"t give a thought whether I was doing right or wrong at it. I didn"t think my father would ever know anything at all about it, so I didn"t care. I liked my mother best,
much the best. She had always been a kind, good soul to me, often kept me from my father"s blows, and helped me to things unknown to my father. But when I was away on the road I gave no heed to her. I didn"t think of either father or mother till after I was taken into custody for that same job. Well, I agreed to go with the other two; they were old hands at the business—regular housebreakers. We went away between twelve and one at night. It was pitch dark. My two pals broke into the back part of the house, and I stopped outside to keep watch. After watching for about a quarter of an hour, a policeman came up to me and asked what I was stopping there for. I told him I was waiting for a man that was in a public-house at the corner. This led him to suspect me, it being so late at night. He went to the public-house to see whether it was open, and found it shut, and then came back to me. As he was returning he saw my two comrades coming through the back window (that was the way they had got in). He took us all three in custody; some of the passers by assisted him in seizing us. The other two had six months" imprisonment each, and I, being a stranger, had only fourteen days. When I was sent to prison, I thought of my mother. I would have written to her, but couldn"t get leave. Being the first time I ever was nailed, I was very downhearted at it. I didn"t say I"d give it up. While I was locked up, I thought I"d go to work again, and be a sober man, when I got out. These thoughts used to come over me when I was "on the stepper," that is, on the wheel. But I concealed all them thoughts in my breast. I said nothing to no one. My mother was the only one that I ever thought upon. When I got out of prison, all these thoughts went away from me, and I went again at my old tricks. From Wolverhampton I went to Manchester, and from Manchester I came to London, begging and stealing wherever I had a chance. This is not my first year in London. I tell you the truth, because I am known here; and if I tell you a lie, you"ll say "You spoke an untruth in one thing, and you"ll do so in another." The first time I was in London, I was put in prison fourteen days for begging, and after I had a month at Westminster Bridewell, for begging and abusing the policeman. Sometimes I"d think I"d rather go anywhere, and do anything, than continue as I was; but then I had no clothes, no friends, no house, no home, no means of doing better. I had made myself what I was. I had made my father and mother turn their backs upon me, and what could I do, but go on? I was as bad off then as I am now, and I couldn"t have got work then if I would. I should have spent all I got in drink then, I know. I wrote home twice. I told my mother I was hard up; had neither a shoe to my foot, a coat to my back, nor a roof over my head. I had no answer to my first letter, because it fell into the hands of my
brother, and he tore it up, fearing that my mother might see it. To the second letter that I sent home my mother sent me an answer herself. She sent me a sovereign. She told me that my father was the same as when I first left home, and it was no use my coming back. She sent me the money, bidding me get some clothes and seek for work. I didn"t do as she bade. I spent the money— most part in drink. I didn"t give any heed whether it was wrong or right. Soon got, soon gone; and I know they could have sent me much more than that if they had pleased. It was last June twelvemonth when I first came to London, and I stopped till the 10th of last March. I lost the young woman when I was put in prison in Manchester. She never came to see me in quod. She cared nothing for me. She only kept company with me to have some one on the road along with her; and I didn"t care for her, not I. One half of my time last winter I stopped at the "Strawyards," that is, in the asylums for the houseless poor here and at Glasshouse. When I could get money I had a lodging. After March I started off through Somersetshire. I went to my father"s house then. I didn"t go in. I saw my father at the door, and he wouldn"t let me in. I was a little better dressed than I am now. He said he had enough children at home without me, and gave me 10s. to go. He could not have been kind to me, or else he would not have turned me from his roof. My mother came out to the garden in front of the house, after my father had gone to his work, and spoke to me. She wished me to reform my character. I could not make any rash promises then. I had but very little to say to her. I felt myself at that same time, for the very first time in my life, that I was doing wrong. I thought, if I could hurt my mother so, it must be wrong to go on as I did. I had never had such thoughts before. My father"s harsh words always drove such thoughts out of my head; but when I saw my mother"s tears, it was more than I could stand. I was wanting to get away as fast as I could from the house. After that I stopped knocking about the country, sleeping in unions, up to November. Then I came to London again, and remained up to this time. Since I have been in town I have sought for work at the floor-cloth and carpet manufactory in the Borough, and they wouldn"t even look at me in my present state. I am heartily tired of my life now altogether, and would like to get out of it if I could. I hope at least I have given up my love of drink, and I am sure, if I could once again lay my hand on some work, I should be quite a reformed character. Well, I am altogether tired of carrying on like this. I haven"t made 6d. a-day ever since I have been in London this time. I go tramping it across the country just to pass the time, and see a little of new places. When the summer comes I want to
be off. I am sure have seen enough of this country now, and I should like to have a look at some foreign land. Old England has nothing new in it now for me. I think a beggar"s life is the worst kind of life that a man can lead. A beggar is no more thought upon than a dog in the street, and there are too many at the trade. I wasn"t brought up to a bad life. You can see that by little things —by my handwriting; and, indeed, I should like to have a chance at something else. I have had the feelings of a vagabond for full ten years. I know, and now I am sure, I"m getting a different man. I begin to have thoughts and ideas I never had before. Once I never feared nor cared for anything, and I wouldn"t have altered if I could; but now I"m tired out, and if I haven"t a chance of going right, why I must go wrong.
The next was a short, thick-set man, with a frequent grin on his countenance, which was rather expressive of humour. He wore a very dirty smock-frock, dirtier trousers, shirt, and neckerchief, and broken shoes. He answered readily, and as if he enjoyed his story.
I never was at school, and was brought up as a farm labourer at Devizes," he said, "where my parents were labourers. I worked that way three or four years, and then ran away. My master wouldn"t give me money enough—only 3s. 6d. a-week,—and my parents were very harsh; so I ran away, rather than be licked for ever. I"d heard people say, "Go to Bath," and I went there; and I was only about eleven then. I"m now twentythree. I tried to get work on the railway there, and I did. I next got into prison for stealing three shovels. I was hard-up, having lost my work, and so I stole them. I was ten weeks in prison. I came out worse than I went in, for I mixed with the old hands, and they put me up to a few capers. When I got out I thought I could live as well that way as by hard work; so I took to the country. I began to beg. At first I took "No" for an answer, when I asked for "Charity to a poor boy;" but I found that wouldn"t do, so I learned to stick to them. I was forced, or I must have starved, and that wouldn"t do at all. I did middling; plenty to eat, and sometimes a drop to drink, but not often. I was forced to be merry, because it"s no good being downhearted. I begged for two years,—that is, steal and beg together: I couldn"t starve. I did best in country villages in Somersetshire; there"s always odds and ends to be picked up there. I got into scrapes now and then. Once, in Devonshire, me and another slept at a farm-house, and in the morning we went egghunting. I must have stowed three dozen of eggs about me, when a dog barked, and we were alarmed and ran away, and in getting over a gate I fell, and there I lay among the smashed eggs. I can"t help laughing at it still: but I got away. I was too sharp for them. I have been twenty or thirty times in
prison. I have been in for stealing bread, and a side of bacon, and cheese, and shovels, and other things; generally provisions. I generally learn something new in prison. I shall do no good while I stop in England. It"s not possible a man like me can get work, so I"m forced to go on this way. Sometimes I haven"t a bit to eat all day. At night I may pick up something. An uncle of mine once told me he would like to see me transported, or come to the gallows. I told him I had no fear about the gallows; I should never come to that end: but if I were transported I should be better off than I am now. I can"t starve, and I won"t; and I can"t "list, I"m too short. I came to London the other day, but could do no good. The London hands are quite a different set to us. We seldom do business together. My way"s simple. If I see a thing, and I"m hungry, I take it if I can, in London or anywhere. I once had a turn with two Londoners, and we got two coats and two pair of trousers; but the police got them back again. I was only locked up one night for it. The country"s the best place to get away with anything, because there"s not so many policemen. There"s lots live as I live, because there"s no work. I can do a country policeman, generally. I"ve had sprees at the country lodging-houses—larking, and drinking, and carrying on, and playing cards and dominoes all night for a farthing a game; sometimes fighting about it. I can play at dominoes, but I don"t know the cards. They try to cheat one another. Honour among thieves! why there"s no such thing; they take from one another. Sometimes we dance all night— Christmas time, and such times. Young women dance with us, and sometimes old women. We"re all merry; some"s lying on the floor drunk; some"s jumping about, smoking; some"s dancing; and so we enjoy ourselves. That"s the best part of the life. We are seldom stopped in our merry-makings in the country. It"s no good the policemen coming among us; give them beer, and you may knock the house down. We have good meat sometimes; sometimes very rough. Some are very particular about their cookery, as nice as anybody is. They must have their pickles, and their peppers, and their fish-sauces (I"ve had them myself), to their dishes. Chops, in the country, has the call; or ham and eggs— that"s relished. Some"s very particular about their drink, too; won"t touch bad beer; same way with the gin. It"s chiefly gin (I"m talking about the country), very little rum; no brandy: but sometimes, after a good day"s work, a drop of wine. We help one another when we are sick, where we"re knowed. Some"s very good that way. Some lodginghouse keepers get rid of anybody that"s sick, by taking them to the relieving-officer at once.
A really fine-looking lad of eighteen gave me the following statement. He wore a sort of
frock-coat, very thin, buttoned about him, old cloth trousers, and bad shoes. His shirt was tolerably good and clean, and altogether he had a tidy look and an air of quickness, but not of cunning:—
My father," he said, "was a bricklayer in Shoreditch parish, and my mother took in washing. They did pretty well; but they"re dead and buried two years and a half ago. I used to work in brick-fields at Ball"s-pond, living with my parents, and taking home every farthing I earned. I earned 18s. a-week, working from five in the morning until sunset. They had only me. I can read and write middling; when my parents died, I had to look out for myself. I was off work, attending to my father and mother when they were sick. They died within about three weeks of each other, and I lost my work, and I had to part with my clothes before that I tried to work in brick-fields, and couldn"t get it, and work grew slack. When my parents died I was thirteen; and I sometimes got to sleep in the unions; but that was stopped, and then I took to the lodging-houses, and there I met with lads who were enjoying themselves at push-halfpenny and cards; and they were thieves, and they tempted me to join them, and I did for once—but only once. I then went begging about the streets and thieving, as I knew the others do. I used to pick pockets. I worked for myself, because I thought that would be best. I had no fence at all—no pals at first, nor anything. I worked by myself for a time. I sold the handkerchiefs I got to Jews in the streets, chiefly in Field-lane, for 1s. 6d., but I have got as much as 3s. 6d. for your real fancy ones. One of these buyers wanted to cheat me out of 6d., so I would have no more dealings with him. The others paid me. The "Kingsmen" they call the best handkerchiefs—those that have the pretty-looking flowers on them. Some are only worth 4d. or 5d., some"s not worth taking. Those I gave away to strangers, boys like myself, or wore them myself, round my neck. I only threw one away, but it was all rags, though he looked quite like a gentleman that had it. Lord-mayor"s day and such times is the best for us. Last Lord-mayor"s day I got four handkerchiefs, and I made 11s. There was a 6d. tied up in the corner of one handkerchief; another was pinned to the pocket, but I got it out, and after that another chap had him, and cut his pocket clean away, but there was nothing in it. I generally picked my men—regular swells, or good-humoured looking men. I"ve often followed them a mile. I once got a purse with 3s. 6d. in it from a lady when the Coal Exchange was opened. I made 8s. 6d. that day— the purse and handkerchiefs. That"s the only lady I ever robbed. I was in the crowd when Manning and his wife were hanged. I wanted to see if they died game, as I heard them talk so much about them at our house. I was there all night. I did four good handkerchiefs and a rotten one not worth picking up. I saw them
hung. I was right under the drop. I was a bit startled when they brought him up and put the rope round his neck and the cap on, and then they brought her out. All said he was hung innocently; it was she that should have been hung by herself. They both dropped together, and I felt faintified, but I soon felt all right again. The police drove us away as soon as it was over, so that I couldn"t do any more business; besides, I was knocked down in the crowd and jumped upon, and I won"t go to see another hung in a hurry. He didn"t deserve it, but she did, every inch of her. I can"t say I thought, while I was seeing the execution, that the life I was leading would ever bring me to the gallows. After I"d worked by myself a bit, I got to live in a house where lads like me, big and little, were accommodated. We paid 3d. anight. It was always full; there was twenty or twenty-one of us. We enjoyed ourselves middling. I was happy enough: we drank sometimes, chiefly beer, and sometimes a drop of gin. One would say, "I"ve done so much," and another, "I"ve done so much;" and stand a drop. The best I ever heard done was 2l. for two coats from a tailor"s, near Bow-church, Cheapside. That was by one of my pals. We used to share our money with those who did nothing for a day, and they shared with us when we rested. There never was any blabbing. We wouldn"t do one another out of a farthing. Of a night some one would now and then read hymns, out of books they sold about the streets—I"m sure they were hymns; or else we"d read stories about Jack Sheppard and Dick Turpin, and all through that set. They were large thick books, borrowed from the library. They told how they used to break open the houses, and get out of Newgate, and how Dick got away to York. We used to think Jack and them very fine fellows. I wished I could be like Jack (I did then), about the blankets in his escape, and that old house in West-street —it is a ruin still. We played cards and dominoes sometimes at our house, and at pushing a halfpenny over the table along five lines. We struck the halfpenny from the edge of the table, and according to what line it settled on was the game—like as they play at the Glasshouse—that"s the "model lodging-house" they calls it. Cribbage was always played at cards. I can only play cribbage. We have played for a shilling a game, but oftener a penny. It was always fair play. That was the way we passed the time when we were not out. We used to keep quiet, or the police would have been down upon us. They knew of the place. They took one boy there. I wondered what they wanted. They catched him at the very door. We lived pretty well; anything we liked to get, when we"d money: we cooked it ourselves. The master of the house was always on the look-out to keep out those who had no business there. No girls were admitted. The master of the house had nothing to do with what we got. I don"t know of any other such house in London; I don"t
think there are any. The master would sometimes drink with us—a larking like. He used us pretty kindly at times. I have been three times in prison, three months each time; the Compter, Brixton, and Maidstone. I went down to Maidstone fair, and was caught by a London policeman down there. He was dressed as a bricklayer. Prison always made me worse, and as I had nothing given me when I came out, I had to look out again. I generally got hold of something before I had been an hour out of prison. I"m now heartily sick of this life. I wish I"d been transported with some others from Maidstone, where I was tried.
A cotton-spinner (who had subsequently been a soldier), whose appearance was utterly abject, was the next person questioned. He was tall, and had been florid-looking (judging by his present complexion). His coat—very old and worn, and once black—would not button, and would have hardly held together if buttoned. He was out at elbows, and some parts of the collar were pinned together. His waistcoat was of a match with his coat, and his trousers were rags. He had some shirt, as was evident by his waistcoat, held together by button. A very dirty handkerchief was tied carelessly round his neck. He was tall and erect, and told his adventures with heartiness.
I am thirty-eight," he said, "and have been a cotton-spinner, working at Chorltonupon-Medlock. I can neither read nor write. When I was a young man, twenty years ago, I could earn 2l. 10s., clear money, every week, after paying two piecers and a scavenger. Each piecer had 7s. 6d. a-week—they are girls; the scavenger—a boy to clean the wheels of the cotton-spinning machine—had 2s. 6d.
I was master of them wheels in the factory. This state of things continued until about the year 1837. I lived well and enjoyed myself, being a hearty man, noways a drunkard, working every day from half-past five in the morning till half-past seven at night—long hours, that time, master. I didn"t care about money as long as I was decent and respectable. I had a turn for sporting at the wakes down there. In 1837, the "self-actors" (machines with steam power) had come into common use. One girl can mind three pairs—that used to be three men"s work—getting 15s. for the work which gave three men 7l. 10s. Out of one factory 400 hands were flung in one week, men and women together. We had a meeting of the union, but nothing could be done, and we were told to go and mind the three pairs, as the girls did, for 15s. a-week. We wouldn"t do that. Some went for soldiers, some to sea, some to Stopport (Stockport), to get work in factories where the "self-actors" wern"t agait. The masters there wouldn"t have them—at least, some of them. Manchester was full of them; but one gentleman in Hulme still won"t have them, for he says he won"t turn the men out of bread. I "listed for a soldier in the 48th. I liked a soldier"s life very well
until I got flogged—100 lashes for selling my kit (for a spree), and 150 for striking a corporal, who called me an English robber. He was an Irishman. I was confined five days in the hospital after each punishment. It was terrible. It was like a bunch of razors cutting at your back. Your flesh was dragged off by the cats. Flogging was then very common in the regiment. I was flogged in 1840. To this day I feel a pain in the chest from the triangles. I was discharged from the army about two years ago, when the reduction took place. I was only flogged the times I"ve told you. I had no pension and no friends. I was discharged in Dublin. I turned to, and looked for work. I couldn"t get any, and made my way for Manchester. I stole myself aboard of a steamer, and hid myself till she got out to sea, on her way from Dublin to Liverpool. When the captain found me there, he gave me a kick and some bread, and told me to work, so I worked for my passage twenty-four hours. He put me ashore at Liverpool. I slept in the union that night—nothing to eat and nothing to cover me—no fire; it was winter. I walked to Manchester, but could get nothing to do there, though I was twelve months knocking about. It wants a friend and a character to get work. I slept in unions in Manchester, and had oatmeal porridge for breakfast, work at grinding logwood in the mill, from six to twelve, and then turn out. That was the way I lived chiefly; but I got a job sometimes in driving cattle, and 3d. for it, —or 2d. for carrying baskets in the vegetable markets; and went to Shoedale Union at night. I would get a pint of coffee and halfa-pound of bread, and half-a-pound of bread in the morning, and no work. I took to travelling up to London, half-hungered on the road—that was last winter—eating turnips out of this field, and carrots out of that, and sleeping under hedges and haystacks. I slept under one haystack, and pulled out the hay to cover me, and the snow lay on it a foot deep in the morning. I slept for all that, but wasn"t I froze when I woke? An old farmer came up with his cart and pitchfork to load hay. He said: "Poor fellow! have you been here all night?" I answered, "Yes." He gave me some coffee and bread, and one shilling. That was the only good friend I met with on the road. I got fourteen days of it for asking a gentleman for a penny; that was in Stafford. I got to London after that, sleeping in unions sometimes, and begging a bite here and there. Sometimes I had to walk all night. I was once forty-eight hours without a bite, until I got hold at last of a Swede turnip, and so at last I got to London. Here I"ve tried up and down everywhere for work as a labouring man, or in a foundry. I tried London Docks, and Blackwall, and every place; but no job. At one foundry, the boiler-makers made a collection of 4s. for me. I"ve walked the streets for three nights together. Here, in
this fine London, I was refused a night"s lodging in Shoreditch and in Gray"s-inn-lane. A policeman, the fourth night, at twelve o"clock, procured me a lodging, and gave me 2d. I couldn"t drag on any longer. I was taken to a doctor"s in the city. I fell in the street from hunger and tiredness. The doctor ordered me brandy and water, 2s. 6d., and a quartern loaf, and some coffee, sugar, and butter. He said, what I ailed was hunger. I made that run out as long as I could, but I was then as bad off as ever. It"s hard to hunger for nights together. I was once in "Steel" (Coldbath-fields) for begging. I was in Tothill-fields for going into a chandler"s shop, asking for a quartern loaf and half a pound of cheese, and walking out with it. I got a month for that. I have been in Brixton for taking a loaf out of a baker"s basket, all through hunger. Better a prison than to starve. I was well treated because I behaved well in prison. I have slept in coaches when I had a chance. One night on a dunghill, covering the stable straw about me to keep myself warm. This place is a relief. I shave the poor people and cut their hair, on a Sunday. I was handy at that when I was a soldier. I have shaved in public-houses for halfpennies. Some landlords kicks me out. Now, in the days, I may pick up a penny or two that way, and get here of a night. I met two Manchester men in Hyde Park on Saturday, skating. They asked me what I was. I said, "A beggar." They gave me 2s. 6d., and I spent part of it for warm coffee and other things. They knew all about Manchester, and knew I was a Manchester man by my talk.
The statement I then took was that of a female vagrant—a young girl with eyes and hair of remarkable blackness. Her complexion was of the deepest brunette, her cheeks were full of colour, and her lips very thick. This was accounted for. She told me that her father was a mulatto from Philadelphia. She was short, and dressed in a torn old cotton gown, the pattern of which was hardly discernible from wear. A kind of half-shawl, patched and mended in several places, and of very thin woollen texture, was pinned around her neck; her arms, which, with her hands, were full and large, were bare. She wore very old broken boots and ragged stockings. Her demeanour was modest.
I am now eighteen," she stated. "My father was a coloured man. He came over here as a sailor, I have heard, but I never saw him; for my mother, who was a white woman, was not married to him, but met him at Oxford; and she married afterwards a boxmaker, a white man, and has two other children. They are living, I believe, but I don"t know where they are. I have heard my mother say that my father—that"s my own father—had become a missionary, and had been sent out to America from England as a
Vagrant From the Refuge in Playhouse Yard, Cripplegate. [From a Photograph.]
missionary, by Mr. ——. I believe that was fifteen years ago. I don"t know who Mr. —— was, but he was a gentleman, I"ve heard my mother say. She told me, too, that my father was a good scholar, and that he could speak seven different languages, and was a very religious man. He was sent out to Boston, but I never heard whether he was to stay or not, and I don"t know what he was to missionary about. He behaved very well to my mother, I have heard her say, until she took up with the other man (the box-maker), and then he left her, and gave her up, and came to London. It was at Oxford that they all three were then; and when my father got away, or came away to London, my mother followed him (she told me so, but she didn"t like to talk about it), as she was then in the family way. She didn"t find him; but my father heard of her, and left some money with Mr. —— for her, and she got into Poland-street workhouse through Mr. —— I"ve heard. While there, she received 1s. 6d.
a-week, but my father never came to see her or me. At one time, my father used to live by teaching languages. He had been in Spain, and France, and Morocco. I"ve heard, at any rate, that he could speak the Moors" language, but I know nothing more. All this is what I"ve heard from my mother and my grandmother—that"s my mother"s mother. My grandfather and grandmother are dead. He was a sawyer. I have a great grandmother living in Oxford, now ninety-two, supported by her parish. I lived with my grandmother at Oxford, who took me out of pity, as my mother never cared about me, when I was four months old. I remained with her until I was ten, and then my mother came from Reading, where she was living, and took me away with her. I lived with her and my stepfather, but they were badly off. He couldn"t get much to do at his trade as a box-maker, and he drank a great deal. I was with them about nine months, when I ran away. He beat me so; he never liked me. I couldn"t bear it. I went to Pangbourne, but there I was stopped by a man my stepfather had sent—at least I suppose so—and I was forced to walk back to Reading—ten miles, perhaps. My father applied to the overseer for support for me, and the overseer was rather harsh, and my father struck him, and for that he was sent to prison for three months. My mother and her children then got into the workhouse, but not until after my stepfather had been some time in prison. Before that she had an allowance, which was stopped; I don"t know how much. I was in the workhouse twentyone days. I wasn"t badly treated. My mother sweared my parish, and I was removed to St. James"s, Poland-street, London. I was there three weeks, and then I was sent to New Brentford—it was called the Juvenile Establishment—and I went to school. There was about 150 boys and girls; the boys were sent
to Norwood when they were fifteen. Some of the girls were eighteen, kept there until they could get a place. I don"t know whether they all belonged to St. James"s, or to different parishes, or how. I stayed there about two years. I was very well treated, sufficient to eat; but we worked hard at scrubbing, cleaning, and making shirts. We made all the boys" clothes as well, jackets and trousers, and all. I was then apprenticed a maidof-all- work, in Duke-street, Grosvenor-square, for three years. I was there two years and a half, when my master failed in business, and had to part with me. They had no servant but me. My mistress was sometimes kind, pretty well. I had to work very hard. She sometimes beat me if I stopped long on my errands. My master beat me once for bringing things wrong from a grocer"s. I made a mistake. Once my mistress knocked me down-stairs for being long on an errand to Pimlico, and I"m sure I couldn"t help it, and my eye was cut. It was three weeks before I could see well. [There is a slight mark under the girl"s eye still.] They beat me with their fists. After I left my master, I tried hard to get a place; I"m sure I did, but I really couldn"t; so to live, I got watercresses to sell up and down Oxfordstreet. I stayed at lodging-houses. I tried that two or three months, but couldn"t live. My mother had been "through the country," and I knew other people that had, through meeting them at the lodging-houses. I first went to Croydon, begging my way. I slept in the workhouse. After that I went to Brighton, begging my way, but couldn"t get much, not enough to pay my lodgings. I was constantly insulted, both in the lodging-houses and in the streets. I sung in the streets at Brighton, and got enough to pay my lodgings, and a little for food. I was there a week, and then I went to the Mendicity, and they gave me a piece of bread (morning and night) and a night"s lodging. I then went to Lewes and other places, begging, and got into prison at Tunbridge Wells for fourteen days, for begging. I only used to say I was a poor girl out of place, could they relieve me? I told no lies. I didn"t pick my oakum one day, it was such hard stuff; three and a half pounds of it to do from nine to half-past three: so I was put into solitary for three days and three nights, having half a pound of bread and a pint of cold water morning and night; nothing else, and no bed to sleep on. I"m sure I tell you the truth. Some had irons on their hands if they were obstropolous. That"s about two months ago. I"m sorry to say that during this time I couldn"t be virtuous. I know very well what it means, for I can read and write, but no girl can be so circumstanced as I was. I seldom got money for being wicked; I hated being wicked, but I was tricked and cheated. I am truly sorry for it, but what could a poor girl do? I begged my way from London to Hastings, and got here on Saturdäy last, and having no money,
came here. I heard of this asylum from a girl in Whitechapel, who had been here. I met her in a lodging-house, where I called to rest in the daytime. They let us rest sometimes in lodging-houses in the daytime. I never was in any prison but Tunbridge Wells, and in Gravesend lock--up for being out after twelve at night, when I had no money to get a lodging. I was there one Saturday night, and got out on Sunday morning, but had nothing given me to eat—I was in by myself. It"s a bad place—just straw to sleep on, and very cold. I told you I could read and write. I learnt that partly at Oxford, and finished my learning at the Juvenile Establishment at Brentford. There I was taught, reading, writing, sums, marking, sewing, and scrubbing. Once I could say all the multiplication table, but I"ve forgot most of it. I know how to make lace, too, because I was taught by a cousin in Oxford, another grandchild of my grandmother"s. I can make it with knitting-needles. I could make cushion-lace with pins, but I"m afraid I"ve forgot how now. I should like, if I could to get into service again, here or abroad. I have heard of Australia, where I have a cousin. I am sure I could and would conduct myself well in service, I have suffered so much out of it. I am sure of it. I never stole anything in my life, and have told all I have done wrong.