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quickly, " Why, Lord bless my soul, what am
I to do? What can I do ? The place is full.
The place is always fullevery night. I must
give the preference to women with children,
mustn't I? You wouldn't have me not do

"Surely not," said I. "It is a very humane
principle, and quite right; and I am glad to
hear of it. Don't forget that I don't blame

"Well!" said he. And subdued himself

"What I want to ask you," I went on, " is
whether you know anything against those
five miserable beings outside?"

"Don't know anything about them," said
he, with a wave of his arm.

"I ask, for this reason: that we mean to
give them a trifle to get a lodgingif they
are not shelterless because they are thieves
for instance.—You don't know them to be
thieves ?"

"I don't know anything about them," he
repeated emphatically.

"That is to say, they are shut out, solely
because the Ward is full?"

"Because the Ward is full."

"And if they got in, they would only have
a roof for the night and a bit of bread in the
morning, I suppose?"

"That's all. You'll use your own discretion
about what you give them. Only understand
that I don't know anything about them beyond
what I have told you."

"Just so. I wanted to know no more.
You have answered my question civilly and
readily, and I am much obliged to you. I
have nothing to say against you, but quite
the contrary. Good night!"

"Good night, gentlemen!" And out we
came again.

We went to the ragged bundle nearest to
the Workhouse-door, and I touched it. No
movement replying, I gently shook it. The
rags began to be slowly stirred within, and
by little and little a head was unshrouded.
The head of a young woman of three or four
and twenty, as I should judge; gaunt with
want, and foul with dirt; but not naturally

"Tell us," said I, stooping down. "Why
are you lying here?"

"Because I can't get into the Workhouse."
She spoke in a faint dull way, and had no
curiosity or interest left. She looked dreamily
at the black sky and the falling rain, but
never looked at me or my companion.

"Were you here last night?"

"Yes, All last night. And the night
afore too."

"Do you know any of these others?"

"I know her next but one. She was here
last night, and she told me she come out of
Essex. I don't know no more of her."

"You were here all last night, but you
have not been here all day?"

"No. Not all day."

"Where have you been all day?"

"About the streets."

''What have you had to eat?"


"Come!" said I. "Think a little. You
are tired and have been asleep, and don't
quite consider what you are saying to us.
You have had something to eat to-day.
Come! Think of it!"

"No I haven't. Nothing but such bits as
I could pick up about the market. Why,
look at me!"

She bared her neck, and I covered it up

"If you had a shilling to get some supper and
a lodging, should you know where to get it?"

"Yes. I could do that."

"For GOD'S sake get it then!"

I put the money into her hand, and she
feebly rose up and went away. She never
thanked me, never looked at memelted
away into the miserable night, in the strangest
manner I ever saw. I have seen many
strange things, but not one that has left a
deeper impression on my memory than the
dull impassive way in which that worn-out
heap of misery took that piece of money, and
was lost.

One by one I spoke to all the five. In
every one, interest and curiosity were as
extinct as in the first. They were all dull
and languid. No one made any sort of profession
or complaint; no one cared to look at
me; no one thanked me. When I came to
the third, I suppose she saw that my companion
and I glanced, with a new horror upon
us, at the two last, who had dropped against
each other in their sleep, and were lying like
broken images. She said, she believed they
were young sisters. These were the only
words that were originated among the five.

And now let me close this terrible account
with a redeeming and beautiful trait of the
poorest of the poor. When we came out
of the Workhouse, we had gone across the
road to a public house, finding ourselves
without silver, to get change for a sovereign.
I held the money in my hand while I was
speaking to the five apparitions. Our being
so engaged, attracted the attention of many
people of the very poor sort usual to that
place; as we leaned over the mounds of rags,
they eagerly leaned over us to see and hear;
what I had in my hand, and what I said, and
what I did, must have been plain to nearly
all the concourse. When the last of the five
had got up and faded away, the spectators
opened to let us pass; and not one of them,
by word, or look, or gesture, begged of us.
Many of the observant faces were quick
enough to know that it would have been a
relief to us to have got rid of the rest of the
money with any hope of doing good with it.
But, there was a feeling among them all, that
their necessities were not to be placed by the
side of such a spectacle; and they opened a
way for us in profound silence, and let us go.

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