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If by these pages I shall inspire one reader with a higher love for Truth and Freedom; with a deeper indignation against wrong; with a nobler purpose to diffuse the hallowed spirit of Liberty throughout the world, I shall feel I have not written in vain. C. EDWARDS LESTER.
UTICA, October 1, 1841.
THE GLORY AND THE SHAME
London, May, 1840.
It is my first night in London. The bells of St. Paul's have just struck the hour of midnight. I am sitting in an old oak chair, in a narrow and gloomy apartment of the Guildhall Coffee-house, which stands in the heart of this great metropolis. There is but one window in the room, and the storm is beating against it. I am surrounded by two millions of human beings, and yet, of all this vast multitude, there is probably no one I ever saw before. Should I be struck down with disease to-night, no friend would watch my bed; were I to die, no one would let fall a tear on my grave. I begin to feel the truth of that well-known saying of Johnson, "There is no solitude so awful to the stranger as London."
After I left the railway station at Euston Square, I rode on mile after mile, scarcely realizing that I was among those very scenes of which from childhood I had so often read, and about which I had thought so long and so earnestly. I longed for daylight to unfold the wonders of that crowded VOL. I.-B
world through which I was moving. The lamps here and there cast a flickering and uncertain glare upon the adjacent pavements and houses. To avoid the throng, we passed through different by-streets, where not a lamp was to be seen, nor a voice heard, save the noise of low debauchery coming up from some foul and dismal cellar. What scenes, thought I, should I witness could I but look into all these dwellings. In that house an aged man, long weary of the world, just drawing his last breath; in the next, an infant opening its eyes for the first time upon the light. In that stately mansion is heard the sound of mirth and revelry, while by its side an orphan, who has this very day asked for food a thousand times, and asked in vain, is shivering in the cold damps of night. In that lonely chamber might be heard the dying groan of one once beautiful and virtuous, but now outcast and deserted, with no one but God to see her die; while, perhaps, in some neighbouring dwelling, pure young hearts are exchanging their vows of love. Here the abandoned are revelling in pollution, where the very air is loaded with guilt, while, separated from them only by a thin wall, the subdued voice of prayer and praise is ascending to heaven.
London! How much there is in that single word. It is not a city-it is a world by itself. Thousands, it is said, live and die here without ever seeing the blessed light of heaven shining on the green fields. The wealth of London would wellnigh purchase
POOR BLIND WOMAN.
half the globe, and yet there are in it one hundred and fifty thousand poor wretches who feel the keen pangs of hunger every day. It is now the hour when the poor, the weary, the guilty, the heart-broken, who have homes, have gone to their rest; those who have none are wandering through dreary lanes, to find some transient shelter; the hour, too, when the rich, the gay, the noble, have just begun to mingle in scenes of splendour and dissipation. What a spectacle must London present to the All-Seeing eye at midnight. But it is late; and I am so much fatigued that I must defer giving you a description of the incidents of the past day until to-morrow.
On my way to the cars in Liverpool I met a blind woman, who was standing at the corner of one of the principal streets: her only covering was a tattered skirt, a ragged handkerchief thrown over her shoulders, and an old straw bonnet tied on her head with a coarse string. She entreated me in God's name, whoever I might be, if I knew how to pity a poor blind woman who was starving, to give her a penny; for if I or some one else did not, she should certainly starve. I had heard so much about the
profession" of begging, that I was determined, whenever asked for charity, to examine the case for myself. I stopped, therefore, a few moments to converse with this woman. There could, at least, be no deception in her eyes; for they had both perished, and left only their hollow sockets behind. She
needed clothing, and looked wan and hungry. But, after all, Suspicion would say, "She may be hired to beg, and assumes this air of want and wretchedness only to win sympathy;" and so it might be that she was a poor victim of misfortune, innocent in the eye of Heaven, thrown upon the tender mercies of a stranger, who may himself one day feel what it is to beg or starve. So long as there was a possibility of this, I could not wrong my own soul by turning one of God's creatures unfeelingly away. When I offered her some money, she reached forth her shrivelled hand, saying, "God bless you, master! I wish I had eyes to see youand I hope you may never be blind; but if you should get blind, I do hope you won't be naked and hungry too, and without a home or a friend in the world, besides." I felt sick at heart when I left the old woman, and the last words I heard her utter were a prayer that God would bless me. I may become so familiar with spectacles of this kind before the summer is over as to pass the beggar by without assistance or sympathy; but in this instance I certainly felt that the blessing of one ready to perish was upon me.
As I was passing from the office to the cars, a very pretty but pale-faced girl came up to me, with a basket of books on her arm, and in a sweet voice inquired if I did not wish to get a Companion. I answered, "That will depend entirely upon the character a gentleman or a lady?" "Oh, sir,"