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there be any probability or suspicion that age or infirmity may disable them. If, in such a case, they endeavour to remove to some situation where they hope more easily to maintain themselves; where work is more plentiful or provisions cheaper, the overseers (of the workhouse) are alarmed; the intruder is apprehended as if he were a criminal, and sent back to his own parish.
Wherever a pauper dies, that parish must be at the cost of his funeral instances, therefore, have not been wanting of wretches in the last stage of disease having been hurried away in an open cart upon straw, and dying upon
the road. Nay, even women in the very pains of labour have been driven out, and have perished by the wayside, because the birthplace of the child would be its parish.”
The suffering operatives of England would not be crowded together by hundreds into hot task-houses by day, and herded together in damp cellars by night; they would not toil on in unwholesome employments a whole lifetime; they would not sweat night and day before furnaces which are never permitted to cool, and breathe in vapours which must inevitably produce disease and death—the poor would never submit to this unless they were in that state of abject poverty which precludes instruction, and hope for the future, and reduces them, like the beasts of the field, to seek nothing beyond the gratification of their present wants. They must bow to the dictation of cruel masters, and endure all the
miseries of which I have spoken, and numberless others unknown to all but themselves-or starve.
Contrast these factory children, as they flock from the mills at evening to their gloomy homes, with the fresh, rosy-cheeked children of the middle classes ; contrast them even with the children of the wandering gipsies: the traveller sees these singular and picturesque “squatters" on heaths, in lawns, and wild glens, scattered all over England. You may have read that touching paragraph about them in Nicholas Nickleby; for your love of the true and the beautiful must have led you to read that beautiful
history of the uprisings and downfallings of the Nickleby family."
“ Even the sunburnt faces of gipsy children, half naked though they be, suggest a drop of comfort. It is a pleasant thing to see that the sun has been there; to know that the air and light are on them every day; to feel that they are children, and lead children's lives; that if their pillows be damp, it is with the dews of heaven, and not with tears; that the limbs of their girls are free, and that they are not crippled with distortions, imposing an unnatural and horrible penance upon their sex; that their lives are spent from day to day, at least among the waving trees, and not in the midst of dreadful engines, which make young children old before they know what childhood is, and give them the exhaustion and infirmity of age, without, like age, the privilege to die. God send that old nursery-tales were
true, and that the gipsies stole such children by the
Who can tell, one thinks, as he looks on these little sufferers, in whose faces the deep lines of want and sorrow are drawn, like cruel gashes in some tender flower-stem, which would have been fresh and blooming; who can tell how many minds have thus been crushed---minds which might have made their own age an era, and future times proud of their names, if they had not been sacrificed on the altar of Mammon? How many hearts there are among them whose cheerfulness has been blasted forever ; who, when told by the preacher that the kind Father of all made them to be happy, and watches over them in love, wonder how this can be true ?
I happened to be wandering one evening through a dirty lane in the part of the town where the operatives are clustered. The factories were just opening their doors for weary thousands to go home; and I met crowds of ragged, pale men, women, and children. There was an air of abjectness and exhaustion, of servile degradation and feebleness, about very many I saw; among whom were persons of all ages-from the old and haggard to children of tender years. I may have been deceived about the ages of some of the children, but there were multitudes of them who did not seem to me to be more than eight or ten years old.
I stood at the corner of a street, and looked at the
THE TWO ORPHANS.
crowds as they passed along. I observed a boy apparently about twelve or thirteen, holding up and dragging along a pale little girl considerably younger than himself. “Come along now, Meggy; can't you go for yourself a bit-I am about to give up, and I can't carry you again ?"
I took the little creature's left hand, and the boy took the other, and we led her on to their home. The eyes of every
one in the street were turned upon me, as though it were a strange thing to see a welldressed person take a fainting child by the hand.
“What is the matter, my boy, with your sister ?"
“She's tired out, sir; for she is not used to the mill-work yet, and it comes hard on her."
“ How long have you worked in the mills ?" “Five years."
Why don't your sister stay at home? She is too young yet to go to the mills.”
“ Mother did keep her out as long as she could ; but after father died she was obliged to send Meggy to the mills too." 6 How many brothers and sisters have
you “ There's six of us in all. George is apprenticed in Preston ; and Sarah, and Kate, and Billy work in Mr. -'s mill.”
We turned a corner into a very narrow, filthy lane, and the boy, pointing the way down into the basement, said, “ Here we live.” The steps were steep and narrow, and I took the little girl in my arms and carried her into the cellar.
The mother was lying upon a low bed of rags in one corner of the apartment. She rose up after one or two unsuccessful efforts, and sat on the side of the bed. The room was nearly dark; and what light there was came through the door we entered and fell upon her face. Her countenance looked sallow and consumptive; her cheek was feverish, and her eyes were sunk deep in her head. Her forehead was large and handsome; but there was an appearance of deep depression, and something like brokenheartedness in her looks.
I apologized for intruding. “Oh, sir,” she said, in a low and hollow voice, “God bless you, don't apologize for entering my cellar; I am glad to see any one but my hungry children." Sobs shook her frame, and tears gushed from her eyes.
“I hope you have come to me for good ; I am in great distress. No one has before entered the cellar to-day, except the officer, and he took my last shilling for taxes."
“God bless you, woman," I exclaimed, “ what can a tax-gatherer have to do in your house ? Come to rob a widowed mother and hungry orphans of their last shilling !!!", When I thought of Britain in this light, a shudder went through my frame as though I had been bitten by a serpent.
“I wish I had a chair for you, sir," said the widow;“ but there is a bench."
The little girl climbed upon the bed and lay down, and the boy threw himself upon an old chest