+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

to regard passers-by with a fixed and vitreous
gaze into long explanations not
remarkable for clearness, to give a wide berth
to drinking-fountains, and "sometimes to do
obeisance, even in the mud, before objects
not ordinarily associated with worship, such
as lamp-posts, gin-shop doors, coal plates,
and the like. Your Informant observed, also,
an affectionate disposition on the part of such
of these persons as were husbands and fathers
to lean caressingly on their wives, and even
on children of tender years, teaching them
thus a moral lesson of the necessity there
might be for them to support their parents
in the decline of life. He observed, too,
that these husbands and fathers were prone in
some instances to shed tears, in others to cheer
with laughter and merry jests those who were
accompanying them; whilst others were moved,
in their desire to improve the training of their
families, to such stern censure of their faults as
would sometimes lead them to administer
correction, with some violence, in the public streets.
There were some individuals who maintained
a dignified silence, and steadily refused to yield
to the urgent entreaties of those who desired
(most unaccountably) their return home. Some,
too, when more specially urged by government
authorities to advance one way or the other,
would hold firmly to iron railings, or to corners
of gateways, or would sit down upon damp
pavements, rather than alter a determination
once taken, or yield to importunity, in a case
where the judgment was unconvinced.

Now, putting all the things together, and having
it further forced upon his mind that in many
instances the individuals whose singularities have
just been developed were generally similar in
appearance, costume, and all other respects to
those whose conduct had attracted his attention
in the morning in Lumbago-terrace, it did at
last occur to your Informantespecially after
recognising a gentleman who was beating his
wife with a trombone as the artist who had called
in behalf of the waits in the morningit did
occur to the writer at last, to ask himself whether,
perchance, there was any connexion between the
Christmas-boxes of the morning and the eccentric
behaviour of their recipients in the evening;
whether, again, that eccentric behaviour was in any
degree attributable to a misuse of strong waters;
and once more, whether the Christmas-box
system altogether was or was not, in this respect,
a nuisance?

Your Informant has no objection to voluntary
"tips," but to mendicancy he has a great
objection, and is inclined to think that
gratuities should be gratuitously given, and not
be extorted by importunity from unwilling
donors. Christmas-time is a good season
for liberality and judicious almsgiving, and
were the money annually expended in this
country in Christmas-boxes collected for some
benevolent object, the sum would be of such
magnitude as to provide the means of carrying
out some great national work of philanthropy,
and perhaps also it might happen, that this
money, being diverted into other and worthier
channels, the annual return of Christmas might
be attended by a lessened display of drunkenness
in our public streets.


I WAS to be a governess; but I could not
obtain a situation. My poor mother had been
insane for many years before her death; one of
my brothers was deaf and dumb, another was
deformed, while none of us showed either health
or vigour. In a word, there was no escaping
the fact that we had the seeds of some terrible
disease sown thickly among us, and that, as a
family, we were unhealthy and unsafe. I was the
eldest and the strongest, both in mind and body,
but that was not saying much. I was always
what I am now, tall and gaunt, with the
spasmodic affection which you see in my face, as
nervous as I am now, and nearly as thin; short-
sighted, which made my manners doubly
awkward, and they would always have been
awkward from my nervousness and ungainly figure;
and with an unnaturally acute hearing, often
followed by attacks of unconsciousness, which
sometimes lasted many hours, and rendered me,
for the time, dead to all outward life.

Unpromising as our family condition was,
when my father died and left us destitute, it
was absolutely necessary that those of us at all
capable should get something to do, and that
the rest should be cared for by charity. The
last we found more easy to be accomplished
than the first. Many kind hands were stretched
forward to help the helpless of us, but few to
strengthen the weak. However, after a time,
they were all settled in some way or other, and
were at least secured from starvation, while I,
who had been considered the most hopeful, was
still unprovided for, looking vainly for a situation
either as governess or companion. Both
were equally difficult to procure. On the one
side my manners and appearance were against
me, on the other, my family history. As I
could not deny my inheritance of disease and
insanity, mothers, naturally enough, would not
trust me with their children, and I was not
sufficiently attractive for a companion. People
who can afford companions want something
pliant, bright, animated, pleasant. No one
would look at my unlovely face, or hear the
harsh tones of my voiceI know how harsh
they areand pay me to be an ornament or
pleasure to their lives. So, as I tell you, I was
refused by every one, until I began to despair of
success, and without blaming any, to understand
that the world was too hard, for me, and that I
had no portion in it.

As my last venture, I answered an advertisement
in the Times for a companion to a lady in
delicate health, living in the country. My
letter was replied to in a bold manly hand, and
a meeting arranged. I was to go down that
next day by train to a place about twenty miles
from London, and find my way from a certain,