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SWORD AND THE TROWEL.
MAY 1, 1871.
Among the whitecross Strect Dealers,
BY EDWARD LEACH.
OES any one wish to realise some of the many difficulties
which low London presents to the carnest evangelist, of whom we have so often written in these pages ?- let him visit on a Sabbath morning one of the most unlikely spots
for successful mission work to be found in our great metropolis. Are any sceptical as to the truthfulness of what has been written of the lowest classes of London poor?-let them seek an illustration of their wretchedness and misery in Whitecross Street some fine Sunday morning, at the hour when the church bells are ringing to inform" dearly beloved Roger” and his family that the church will be quite empty without their presence.
Whitecross Street is not an unimportant thoroughfare. It is in the heart of the City, only a few minutes' walk from St. Paul's. Famous is it for its prison for debtors: while the longer and more densely peopled part is famous for its street market for the poor. Crowded on several days in the week, it is still more crowded on the Sunday morning. Locomotion is more than difficult to respectable persons—it is sometimes perilous. Clearly, this is not the place in which to sport your bran-new Sanday best. Be thankful if you may drift on with the mass, and are not huddled up in a corner or jostled by a burly costermonger against some jolly, broad-backed, bonnet-less, shawl-less dame, and made to receive-protests of innocence notwithstanding-unpleasant and unmerited revilings. Observe all you can, good friend, but do not stare at one thing for one section of a moment, lest you be, even in that brief space of time, minus a pocket-handkerchief or a gold watch. Look knowing, if you will-perhaps as you must-but not “too knowing," lest some graceless rascal prove to a demonstration (though he knows nothing of Euclid, and you do) that he is sharper than you. Ah, what problems are demonstrated here! Here is proved every day how, and under what circumstances, the poorest of the poor can manage on their miserable pittance to live with some show of satisfaction. Here you may learn upon what the hungriest feed; what the humblest can get for the decoration of their ungainly, or delicate, or buxom persons. Are you surprised to find so many lasses unblest with a single shilling wearing ear-rings that glitter in the sun, and brooches so prodigiously big and so flashy? Behold on that tray of valueless invaluables the full solution of your difficulty. How yon smiling girls budding into life's spring-tide of glowing hope, eye the trumpery things they value so highly. Perhaps you have wondered why some of the poor never seemed to have a new dress —no, not even a new-cotton dress, that commonest of all common articles of cleanly attire. Behold here the solution of that problem which your Euclid would not help you to solve. Hung up by the street-door, or exposed in the shopwindow, are dresses by the score that need more than the dressmaker's art to secure them from falling to pieces. Such dresses! Where have the bright colours gone? How many ages ago did they begin to fade ? Who has worn them ? and how many wearers ? and where are they now? Those once thick shawls that might have come from Paisley, or might once have been imitations of the Paisley shawl, are now of no pattern whatever-in what ages of antiquity had they any? Do you ignorantly conclude that the thousand and one kitchen trifles which in the aggregate cost you so much each year, are denied to the humbler folk whom your kindly heart compassionates? Here your mistake can be cleared up. Housewives are invited to buy assortments of kitchen necessaries for one penny that cost you six times that amount; while little heaps of vegetables of various kinds are disposed of for the same sum. Indeed, the penny reigns supreme here, and is unrivalled. Meatjacks for one penny, live birds (that you are assured will sing) for one penny, ear-rings, children's frocks and underclothing at one penny, also stockings and handkerchiefs, towels, and a splendid assortment of wall papers, to decorate the room in as ambitious a way as you please, in all the colours of the rainbow, also one penny. Not much profit, you say, to be made out of such absurdly cheap commodities ; more profit by far I readily and sadly admit does Mr. Boniface the spirit-dealer get out of his pernicious drugs. But these costermongers and street-dealers seem to be doing a roaring trade: their roar, at least, being indisputable. Barrows are indigenous here. There are hundreds of them on week-days-on the Sunday, baskets and trays alone are permitted, and the number of make-shifts for barrows is great. A friend counted one Sabbath morning three hundred and seventy-two persons who were selling something in this one street, and so great is the variety of the articles offered for sale that you need lack nothing digestible or indigestible—not even the portrait of your popular minister, whose flaming picture is huddled up with those of the favourites of the stage or the gallows. Even literature as well as the fine arts has a pretence of a sale here; while an antiquated stock of dusky-brown stationery, at six sheets a penny, reminds you that some few are able to write. There is a lugubrious, seedy-looking dealer in sarsaparilla wine, cough lozenges, rhubarb, and other medicinal preparations, who invites the passer-by to “ taste-'em,” assuring them with much considerateness that they are not "obligated to buy." We need hardly add that all the boys surrounding the stall do feel “ obligated” to taste, not the rhubarb, but the lozenges; but purchasers, we fear, are to be found alone among the adults.
In the midst of this universal hubbub, who would think of another and a more welcome voice uttering its cry? If there be a place where a street preacher is out of place, surely it is here. If there be a need for powerful lungs that can utter sounds louder than those blasts of a trombone with which we are favoured when our nerves are more than usually sensitive, surely it must be with the man who essays to preach near such a tumult. His is not the voice of one crying in a wilderness, but in a Babel of contrary sounds; and yet, taking a position in a turning near this lively scene, he manages to be heard by his loud speaking. Some few who have bought their Sunday dinners stay to listen, and as they are welcome under any conditions, and however heavily burdened, to the mission-room close by, they sometimes avail themselves of the offer for an hour. This mission-room is next door to a shop which was let last year to a showman, who illustrated the exterior by fiery looking daubs representing the taking of Magdala, and the Indian's dance of death ; and it was in competition with these attractions that a good Wesleyan-Baptist brother sought to labour. It was our privilege to preach at one of the opening services of this hall in May, 1868, and we are glad to find that Mr. Vigeon, who conducts the Whitecross Street mission, has been greatly useful. The hall is only a stone's throw from the building where our Right Rev. Friend the Bishop of Golden Lane scatters his golden truths to his thankful congregation. There is no fear of rivalry; here is "ample room and verge enough" for a colony of Orsmans. Would that such a useful colony could be found ! Besides, Mr. Vigeon is happy in having the sympathy and help of so noble a co-worker in the same field ; and we rather think both are the better for such sympathy. In the battle against vice and godlessness may both slay their tens of thousands! The said Bishop has several followers in this his diocese who on week-days sell goods in Whitecross Street. One of his boys is engaged to ring a large hand-bell for a tradesman who deals after the style of Mr. Cheap John. One of the regular attendants at the Golden Lane cathedral (and if there be no tower thereto there is an open belfry, and a bell that gives forth no uncertain sound at 10.45 A.M. and 6.15 P.M.) is a dealer in cuttings of velvet for coat collars at a penny a piece ; another is a vendor of roast chestnuts; and some of Mr. Orsman's curates, who evangelise in their way, without vestments or surplices, legal or illegal—à la Purchas or à la Ryle-gain their livelihood in ways equally unclerical and singular.
Mr. Vigeon's work in Whitecross Street is purely honorary, and therefore more likely to be successful than the work of those who are paid for their services. Since he commenced his labours, he has opened five rooms, and his hall is every Sabbath evening crowded. In the morning, there is open-air preaching before the service in the ball, and in the evening the various courts are visited and short services held. On a Wednesday evening a special service for children is held, when there are usualiy from 180 to 200 children present. These meetings are rather unique in character, and the plan adopted has proved so successful that we gladly quote it from the last report :-“The numbers gathered are encouraged to regularly attend by the distribution of tickets on the following system: Every child on departure receives a yellow ticket, which announces the services, and when the child can show four of them a red ticket is given in exchange. The following is the arrangement of prizes : A prize for three red tickets, and a Bible for six red tickets; and in the event of twelve red tickets being produced, a handsome Bible or some useful book is presented. The service is conducted exactly as an ordinary service in a chapel, sometimes the preaching taking the form of an address, a sermon, a narrative from the Scriptures, or a tale of the character of Jessica's First Prayer;' by which means the Saviour is held up as the only refuge from the wrath to come.” Mr. Orsman has a similar service, attended by children who formerly spent their Sunday evenings in the gutter. The children appreciate these services so highly that “the most successsul way of punishing the refractory is to threaten them with exclusion for a week or two." They are treated to plenty of lively singing, and everything that can make the service interesting is done. No prizes are given in this case. A curious feature of these services is the juvenile prayer meeting. “Teacher, please,” said a bright blue-eyed little girl," are we goin' to ’ave a prayer-meeting to-night?" "No, my dear!” “Oh! do, please.” "Why, Bessie ?” “Cos my father got into trouble last night, and I do want him prayed for !" The teacher complied, and about twenty elder boys and girls remained behind to pray with Bessie, to lighten her sorrowful little heart. One day, the teacher of the Free Day-school asked if any boy or girl had ever had any answers to prayer. Several hands were held up. A little girl, who earned a few pence on Saturdays by assisting a hatbox maker, said that on the previous week the boxes wouldn't dry, and if not taken into the warehouse by two o'clock, her employer would not get his money nor would the girl. She said, “ Mother and baby was ill, and father was out of work; if I didn't get my money we should get nothing to eat on Sunday, so I went down into the cellar and knelt down, and I prayed, ' Dear Jesus, you know if the work is not dried off I shan't get my money. Do please dry it off.'” Her face brightened up as she exclaimed, “And he did dry it, teacher, and I got my money.'
Mr. Orsman assures us that many of these little ones are bread-winners to the family, and are permitted, in consequence, to bring their work to the school, when practicable. Their pay, he says, is pitiful. For sewing twenty-four braces they receive twopence. Others are employed in making toys, cutting skewers, doll making, covering buttons, wireplaiting for bonnet shapes, at miserable prices. Artificial-flower makers are soon recognised by the yellow appearance of their hair. This is caused by the arsenic used in colouring. The fern-like spray tipped with glass “ dew-drops,” worn by ladies so extensively, is made by these
*“A Brief Statement of a Year's Voluntary Evangelistic Work carried on after Office Hours, etc. By W.J. ORSMAX. Lundon: Passmore & Alabaster.
little nimble hands. The bead-threaders receive a farthing per gross for this work. “Some who do this work are only five years old; others a little older are turned out in the streets to sell fusees, newspapers, or flowers, when they ought to remain at school.”
The eldest boys are taught to patch their own clothes, and our friend grimly observes that as they only possess a single suit the meeting is, of necessity, strictly private. Their gratitude may be roughly expressed, but it is genuine. "I say, teacher, don't you be afeerd of ever havin’ to go to the workus, we'll see as yer never wants a crust. Wait till we gits to be men, and we'll look arter yer !"
How different this case from that of a Whitecross Street boy met with by the correspondent of a London newspaper at the Angel, Islington. • His name, he said, was John Galloper :
“And how do you get a living, John?' •You don't want to hear no lies, Mister?' 'Certainly not. Then I don't get a living at all; I lets the living get itself.' But you must either provide for yourself or somebody provides for you ; which is it?' 'It's a kind of mixshure of both, I suppose,' returned John Galloper, with a laugh; and after a little reflection, it comes somehow; I don't trouble myself.' • How old are you?' 'Older than you may think,' answered John Galloper, with a wink of a middle-aged horsc dealer ; • I'm thirteen last birthday.' *. And you do no work ?' *I ain't above a job if I tumble across it.' Sometimes you beg?' Per’aps you might call it beggin'.' * Sometimes you steal ?' Oh! come, yer know, you're a-comin' it a little too hot now. It's a mixshure. I tell you you'd better call it a mixshure, and say no more about it. •I tell you what, my young friend,' I said, it seems to me that unless you alter your ways there can be little doubt as to what the end of all this will be.' John Galloper broke off a bit from the purloined crust in his pocket, and calmly masticated it as he looked up to the ceiling. You'll become a convict, and sent to drudge in misery to the end of your life in some stone quarry.' 'Ab, all right,' said John Galloper, evidently growing restless ; 'we'll see about that when we gets there.'”
It is Mr. Vigeon's aim to train every believer as a home missionary. The principle is sound, and the fact that efforts are made to instruct each person in Bible truths, and that new converts have expounded unto them the way of God more perfectly, shows that the application of the principle is wise. Each Christian becomes a visitor, either to the sick, or to those who do not attend any religious service. The visitors' reports illustrate the difficulties which beset their work, but they also illustrate the far-reaching energy of the grace of God. In one case, a sick widow was visited, who refused to listen to any religious counsel, and peremptorily ordered the visitor out of her room. Kindness and persistency won her round, and instead of repelling these kind offices, she welcomed them, and at length became convinced of sin and was converted to Christ. Nor is this a solitary instance of God's blessing upon tact and perseverance in this good work. It does not follow that the case is hopeless because on the first visit the door is slammed in your face. People get to be as much ashamed of such treatment, as you to fear its continuance. Mr. Vigeon conducts each Sunday afternoon a Bible-class for working men. In the immediate neighbourhood there is a hall where atheists indulge in their amplified nothings, much to their own delight and to the harm of the working men and girls and boys who make up their Sunday evening auditory. To counteract some of the evils