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The Stolen Child.
BY GEORGE WILSON M'CREE.
For some time Seven Dials was infested by a gang of child-robbers and child-stealers. Women of vile and drunken habits watched for children sent by their parents with money to make small purchases, and then snatched it from them, sometimes violently pushing the little things into the gutter. At other times they decoyed the child into a passage, and stripped off its clothing, with which they decamped, taking it at once to the pawn shop. They also stole children for begging purposes, leaving them afterwards near some police station, from whence, after inquiry, they were restored to their parents. All the plunder thus obtained by those base and cruel monsters went to the gin-shop. Barmaids, gay with ribbons, rings, and ringlets, took their money day after day, and landlords grew rich on pelf which should have burnt their hands like coals of fire.
One of the worst of these women was West-end Polly. She was one of the vilest women ever born. Fierce, defiant, strong, and drunken, she lived by violence and crime. Her tall form, swinging step, dark face, wild eyes, and strident voice, made her well known to every one on the Dials, and woe to any who irritated her, whether drunk or sober. No constable ever meddled with her if he could help it. A potman once tried to put her out of the bar of The Grapes, but she lifted him off his feet, threw him on the pavement, and danced on his face, as he lay insensible, until he was running with blood. He never touched her afterwards, nor did any one else.
Going one winter's night through Monmouth Court, Dudley Street, I suddenly saw West End Polly come rushing down the court from Little Earl Street. She had a child in her arms, and as I was sure it was not hers, I turned to follow her. As did so a mob of drunken inen rushed out of the side door of a public-house to fight, and choked the narrow passage, so that I lost sight of her; and, feeling baffled, I went on my way to visit a dying man, As I was returning towards the Seven Dials, I met a woman crying bitterly, and I asked her what was the matter.
“Oh, I've lost my child ! my dear child !" “ How did
lose it?” “I went into the yard for some water, and it must have gone out of the door into the street."
“Well,” I said, “ go to the police-station, and give them this card, which has my name upon it, and tell them there that I think West End Polly has stolen your child, and they will do what they can for you. Off she rushed like the wind, and as I had a little time to spare, I
I went off to see if I could find any trace of the cruel thief. In vain-in vain. I found flaming gin shops, kept by “highly
' respectable men,” crowded with thieves, costermongers, Irish hodmen, beggars, swearing women, and ragged children darting in and out like ferrets, but no one had seen West End Polly.
“She has been here, and drunk she was, and no mistake," said Bill Jones, a coster. “Had she a child with her ?" I inquired. “Yes," cried a woman,
” a as she took a glass of gin from her swollen lips, “and I saw her rob another kid (child) of its dress to get drunk with—she did.”
It is with such money that many publicans keep their traps and ponies; which enables them to bet on the Derby, and go to Brighton Races, and adorn their gaudy wives with finery from Paris. Have they no pity for the miserable people they see perishing at their bars day after day? None—no, none. As long as they can make money they do not care for any man's soul.
For several days I went to see the distracted mother. She wept, walked
up and down her little room, cried aloud for her darling to come to her, took up its doll and kissed it, and then wept aloud. I went into lodging-houses and gin-shops, but West End Polly was not there. The police could hear nothing of her; but, at last, a ragged cripple said to me
“West End Polly! Why, bless my old crutch, she's a sleeping now, I'll bet a shilling, under the Adelphi Arches, and she has a kid with her. I seed her myself two nights ago.”
“ Sure?” I said. “Come and show me where she is, or where she slept, and I'll give you a shilling without betting it."
“Right you are, sir,” he said, and off he hobbled towards the Strand.
The dark arches under the Adelphi, Strand, were formerly the resort of homeless boys, men, and women. Half naked, covered with vermin, with unkempt hair, ulcerated feet, small bundles of clothing-ragged, unwashed, starving, and, either desperate or heart-broken, they slept there on the cold ground, in gloomy recesses and far-off corners. Great arches, dark at noon, and like rocky caves at night, with the deep Thames at one end and the brilliantly-lighted roaring Strand at the other. These arches—the “Dark Arches,” as they were always called—were the safe and chosen resort of the most forlorn wretches even London could produce.
As the cripple dived down into the gloom he suddenly stopped, and said_“You ain't afеard ?"
“No,” I said, “I have been here alone. Go on to the right place, and you shall have two shillings if I get the child."
Down we went into the darkness. The cripple tumbled over a drunken man who lay in his path, and who cursed horribly as he rolled over to find a softer place. On we went. I saw hidleous people peering at us as we passed into the depths of one of the arches, and at length the cripple stopped, and exclaimed
“She slept there, she did.”
Kneeling down, I groped about and found a little shoe. Yes, a little shoe, but no little child. I felt sick at heart. I would have given all I had in the world to have found the lost one, but I could not do so. So I returned to see its mother.
“ BOIL IT DOWN.”
“Do you know this ?" I said, and held up the little shoe. It seemed as though she would have gone mad. She seized it, kissed it, pressed it to heart, and then came close to me, and in the most thrilling whisper I ever heard she asked_"Have
little And then, breathless, she waited for my answer.
It was dreadful. I could only shake my head, whereupon she sat down in a chair and moaned. Her husband, whom I then saw for the first time, rose sobbing-rough fellow as he was—and went out into the street.
At last the mystery was solved. West End Polly and the stolen child were found drowned near the Adelphi Stairs, the probability being that she had got drunk with the money obtained by begging with the child, and, having stumbled into the river, met her awful fate.
The poor mother soon died of sore and wearing grief, with her child's shoe in her hand, and it was buried with her when she was laid beside her little pet in a quiet grave.
Boil it down''
Most of us are in a feverish hurry. We have not time for anything lengthy. Everything must be short and sharp; put into the smallest compass, and on the table at the first stroke of the clock. Mathew Arnold says
“We see all sights from pole to pole,
And glance, and rush, and bustle by,
Before we die."* Leisure has died out. It is an interesting fossil, to be dug up in the vast tomes of Owen or Scaliger, but nowhere to be found living and reproductive in our day. We must, therefore, have each thing short, and all things in rapid succession. We want short services, short prayers, short sermons, short articles, and everything short except our daily fare, and the dresses of ladies.
As to readers, it has been calculated by a certain “fellow" of an unnamed statistical society, that an article of twelve octavo pages is not read at all, it is either skipped or skimmed; one of six is read by three persons; if of two pages, by thirty; if of one page, by 300; if of half a page, by 3,000; and if of half a dozen lines, by 3,000,000; and if of a line and a half, by all the world, and his wife. Compression, therefore, must be the rule for all literary work that reckons up its value by the number of heads it touches; but there are men who have a proneness for looking to what is inside heads; and would rather speak and write for one head that has some meditative and wide-awake brains in it, than for all the empty skulls in creation.
The “boiling down” process is not altogether good, it must be remembered. A dog fed on Liebig” will not thrive so well as a dog fed on the “rags” left behind by boiling, plus the "Liebig." There is a use in the "
rags.” We are not made to take all our nourishment in the form of “essence.” Compression is not an unmixed good, Liebig
* New Poems. A Southern Night, p. 127.
and Swiss milk notwithstanding; and certainly the tendency to produce
compressed manhood” in our large manufacturing towns, which seems to be increasing at a rapid rate, owing to the exclusion of county influences, and the separation of classes, should be stopped right early.
Any way for myself, I will say this, that I do not prefer to take all my literary food in the boiled condition. “ Boiled books” are nuisances. “ Crams" are the curses of education. Reading analyses of books, and not reading the books themselves, is like “bolting" food, and ends in intellectual flatulence, and incurable dyspepsia. Make an analysis yourself, and it will do you good, lasting good. Boil your own books, and keep the essence by you to be fed upon again and again as you need, and you will thrive upon it. Write out your own analyses and epitomes, and you will master your books more thoroughly, and realize Bacon's idea of a “full man.”
Yet I have always felt a lively gratitude towards a contributor to our “ Mag” who once had the rare merit in sending an article to say, “ I regret I have not had time to make it shorter !" To be sure the article was long, and it cost us some fuel and pains to boil it down, but we kept the fire going with all the more pleasure for that one note of penitence and sign of sense. MR. CUPPLES says, " Better greit for the
“ mune, than greit for nothin'.” So I said, “Better a long article and regret that che writer had not time to make it shorter, than the unenviable vanity of the villainous scribe who measures the worth of his contribution by its length, and thinks he has done fine things because he has scrawled over a good many sheets of paper. Some men are so prodigiously great that they cannot compress their expansive genius into a small space. They must have sea-room: and they wonder, poor souls, that readers always give it them, and take care to get out of their way. Anybody can write lengthily; men who have fire and force enough to boil their work down are very rare.
Didn't Robert Hall say, “any fool could preach three sermons on a Sunday: it required a really great man to preach one ?”
From the beginning of our editorial career we have favoured the boiling down policy in certain wise ways; we mean to work up to it more thoroughly and more wisely than ever; and therefore to our contribators, and to all our fellow-workers in church and school, we say“ Whatever you have to say, my friend, When writing an article for the press, Whether witty, or grave, or gay,
Whether prose or verse, just try Condense as much as ever you can, To utter your thoughts in the fewest And say in the readiest way;
words, And whether you write of rural affairs, And let them be crisp and dry : Or particular things in town,
And when it is finished, and you suppose Just take a word of friendly advice
It's done exactly brown,
Boil it down. For if you go spluttering over a page
When a couple of lines would do, For editors do not like to print Your butter is spread so much, you see,
An article lazily long ; That the bread looks plainly through; And the general reader does not care So when you have a story to tell,
For a couple of yards of song. And would like a little renown,
So gather your wits in the smallest space To make quite sure of your wish, my If you'd win the author's crown; friend,
And every time you write, my friend, Boil it down.
Boil it down. JOHN CLIFFORD.
Man after Death.
. I. DOES THE BIBLE TEACH THAT MAN IS IMMORTAL ? The questions concerning Man after Death are three :
I. Does man, as man, survive the shock of the great human mortal sorrow, death? Is his real life unbroken by an event which seems to terminate his being ?
II. If his existence is perpetuated on the other side of death, what are its chief features ; what is the life he lives; where is it lived; how long does it last, and under what conditions ?
III. And finally, is there any relation, as of cause and effect, between the events on this side of death and the experiences on the other? Is consciousness of personal existence continued from here to there, and right through ? Is character continuous from here to there, and right through? Does the life here affect the life hereafter ? And, if so, in what way?
The first of these profound questions has been dealt with in a series of
papers,* in so far as SCIENCE and HISTORY, human nature, human experience, and human study, contribute materials for an answer; and we have found firm footing for the conviction that man's life stretches into the eternity, and for aught we can find to the contrary runs parallel with it; nay, more, from what we discover of God and man and
nature, does assuredly run parallel therewith. History and Science assert positively that man, as man, lives after death, and lives eternally.
We now appeal to SCRIPTURE.
This is another witness—and yet not another; for it is the same Authoritative Revealer who speaks in these Hebrew writings, and by the lips of His Redeeming Son, as speaks in the chequered and manifold life of humanity, and in the facts and laws of science. The divine voice is not less authoritative here than elsewhere; nor are its tones less distinct, or its teachings less conclusive.
But more than ordinary care is requisite in order that we may be indubitably sure that we know the meaning of His word. Every step must be taken with the strictest and severest caution. There must be no hurry; no bias, no slavery to system. Not a single text should be misread; not a solitary fact misjudged; not a passage put out of court that has any right to be in, nor made to bear more than it was originally intended to convey. The Bible has suffered incredibly from doctrine-hunters, and is suffering acutely still. We shall, therefore, work our way through these writings with fear and trembling, but with all the honesty, frankness, freedom from prejudice, we can obtain, and with the fervent prayer for the guidance of the Spirit of all truth.
Simple facts, such as the following, must be kept in mind, or else we shall miss “ the word of the Lord,” and only find the poor, vacuous, and barren word of men.
(1.) There is a difference between a song and an argument, & biography and a carefully worded and consciously framed exposition. It is the merest fanaticism of criticism to take the moan of a dying
* G. B. Mag., 1878, “Man after Death."