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THE STORY OF REUBEN INCH.
A WitLLIN FRIEND
STORY OF REUBEN INCH;
THE POWER OF PERSEVERANCE.
BY THE AUTHOR OF
"COPSLEY ANNALS," "VILLAGE MISSIONARIES,"
T. NELSON AND SONS, PATERNOSTER ROW;
EDINBURGH; AND NEW YORK.
(if ont tent.
I. LABOURERS WANTED, ... ... .. ... 7
II. REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS, ... ... ... 34
III. UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY, ... ... 61
IV. HOW NELLY THREW A LIGHT, ... ... 87
V. HIRING IN FOR TIE REGULAR SERVICE, ... ... 115
VI. A FIELD-DAY, ... .. .. ... 141
,:-- '- __ ---
THE STORY OF REUBEN INCH.
T was a hot August afternoon--so
hot in the suburbs of London as to
"VY suggest as an open question whether
S the ball of St. Paul's Cathedral had
not been created a sort of deputy-lieutenant
by the great Sun in person, with directions
to radiate forth heat in every direction from
itself as a centre; for if the suburbs were
sultry, the city was more sultry still.
And past a large red-brick building in a
populous outskirt of the metropolis, for
which we will, as a matter of convenience,
8 LABOURERS WANTED.
adopt the postal S.E. as a title, a boy was
carrying a heavy parcel, which he shifted
from shoulder to shoulder with an aspect
of weariness, as if he had arrived at that
stage of fatigue which made both it and the
"Hot and heavy," he half exclaimed, as
he looked through the railings fencing in
the school playground by which he was
passing, and paused to consider the pattern
of the ornamental brick facing of the build-
ing itself; I wouldn't mind a bit of a rest
in the inside of the porch, just where a
form's left handy." With which words,
crossing the wide space separating it from
the road, and laying down his parcel in the
corner, Reuben Inch proceeded to make
himself completely at home in the bower of
repose which he had selected; and in the
entrance of the porch, and overshadowed by
a fringe of hats and sun-bonnets which were
suspended above his head, he sat with his
elbows on his knees and his head in his
LABOURERS WANTED. 9
hands, and with a soothing sense of his own
acuteness in having found so convenient a
Outside there was nothing particular to
attract his notice. The playground which
he had crossed; and then the road; and,
over the way, semi-detached suburban villas
with two windows at the top and two lower
down, and a hall door with a window by its
side, and then with two steps into two
square yards of garden with an average of
two flower-beds in each, wherein about two
flowers a-piece were trained under the eyes
of the owners thereof. Nearer, and within
the playground, were three poplars of tender
years, that looked as if they had outgrown
their strength, and that courtesied and bowed
as if going through a perpetual deportment
lesson, stimulated to their movements by
the least encouragement from a passing
breath of wind. They didn't know much of
country life, Reuben thought, though they
were willing to make the most of their
10 LABOURERS WANTED.
opportunities; for Reuben had once spent a
day in the country, and ever after had wished
to go to heaven, with a vague idea of woods
and streams, and of wind whispering in
branches, as being the sights and sounds
which would there again meet his eyes and
ears. He now occupied himself with a
small sum of arithmetic, for which materials
were furnished by the suburban villas, the
windows, the flower-beds, and the flowers;
and having, by a masterly calculation, ar-
rived at the fact that they came to twenty-
four, and that the poplars thrown in would
give a total of twenty-seven, Reuben re-
freshed himself after his mental effort by
looking for a less fatiguing occupation of his
thoughts nearer at hand.
He was quite aware that school was going
forward on the other side of the door open-
ing into the porch, and, fanning himself
softly with a small sun-bonnet which had
fallen from its hook, he began to speculate
as to what the children might be learning
LABOURERS WANTED. 11
at that time, and as to whether they were
up to nine times nine; for the chief re-
mainder to him of some scant months of
schooling which had come in his way years
before, was a sense of the power of figures,
for which he had a natural aptitude, a know-
ledge as far as the fives in the multiplication
table, and a vigorous determination to raise
himself, as he knew men had raised them-
selves, to a mastery over the nines; after
which, he said to himself, the rest would
While he sat pursuing this train of
thought, the door seemed to open of itself,
as if the lock had not been thoroughly
fastened; and as the hum became louder,
Reuben was conscious of the inquisitive
glance of a pair of black eyes, their owner
being the occupant of the lowest corner-seat
of a many-rowed gallery rising up from the
door. Merry, sparkling eyes they were.
Reuben's blue ones seemed to signal back
an understanding of pleasant fellowship;
12 LABOURERS WANTED.
and after a few minutes the friendly under-
standing was signalled further by the hold-
ing out of a slate-pencil through the chink
of the door, the other end of which he
*I ^ t : i I'' iI ;
] i I I
UNDER THE PORCH.
accepted and shook in token of good feeling
and mutual interest.
"Ellen Green!" was suddenly the ex-
clamation of an authoritative voice within;
and the slate-pencil was hastily withdrawn,
LABOURERS WANTED. 13
and the gravest of little faces bent over a
row of figures which had been long in join-
ing the ranks with their predecessors. All
of a sudden the school stood up. Reuben
heard a door open and shut, and caught a
glimpse of his friend as she started to her
feet. Peeping further, he saw the slate,
figures and all, handed down as if by
machinery to a girl, who seemed to be re-
ceiving enough for roofing in a shed, and
who stood at the other end of the gallery
ready for loading. The black eyes peeped
through the door again, and seemed lit up
with pleasure. The blue ones looked an
inquiry as to what might be going on, but
received no reply ; for it was evident, from
the hush and stillness which followed the
previous sounds, that the current of atten-
tion had set in towards some new external
After a moment Reuben heard a voice;
a voice so quiet and low in its first words
that he found it difficult to catch them
14 LABOURERS WANTED.
through the door. Their very quietness and
distinctness, however, seemed to arrest the
children's attention, for they listened with-
out a stir.
"And what do you see in the picture ? "
was the first question distinctly audible
"Men," was the safe general statement
immediately issued in chorus from the
children. Then followed more particulars.
"Men doing nothing ; Men standing
about;" "Men with turbans ;" to which
Reuben's friend added the observation,
" Men looking as if-;" and then, over-
whelmed with the sense of alone carrying
on the subject, stopped short shyly.
"Well, little Nelly ? said the voice in-
quiringly; while Reuben threw in an en-
couraging nod, intended to signify that he
would be willing to stand to her opinion
under any circumstances.
"As if they were wanting some one to
set them goingg" finished Ellen timidly;
LABOURERS WANTED. 15
Wi _. : I V
LABORERS IN HE MARKET-PLACE.
though reassured by a whole series of ap
proving gestures from her friend without,
," : -, .,,
LA&BOUIIEIS IX I1HE MIAB.KiT-l'LI'UE.
though reassured by a whole series of ap-
proving gestures friom her friend without,
16 LABOURERS WANTED.
who had completely abandoned any thought
of immediately proceeding on his way,-
diverted therefrom by the unexpected oppor-
tunity of drinking at a new fountain of in-
struction flowing through the chink of the
door, beside which sat little Ellen.
Quite right," said the speaker approv-
ingly; "they do want some one to set them
going. These are men-labourers waiting
to be hired. Now, to what country do you
think they belong? "
Division of opinion. India seemed in
favour at one corner of the gallery. China
was hazarded less confidently lower down ;
and a slight murmur in favour of Damascus
died away on the bottom row.
"Bible lands," whispered Nelly almost to
herself, and with a glance through the door,
to see if that was likely to suit. A tremen-
dous nod from Reuben, who could not see,
however, and knew nothing at all about the
matter, again encouraged her in her toler-
ably safe reply.
LABOURERS WANTED. 17
"Yes, India and Bible lands both; or,
better still, we will say an Indian picture
which makes us understand a Bible story,"
answered the expositor of the print. Now,
who can tell me the story of some men who
waited once to be hired in the market-
place ? "
A whole forest of hands went out. Reuben
wished that he could have had time to count
them, multiplying afterwards by five for a
total of fingers; but this desire gave place
rapidly to a sense of admiration as the chil-
dren, without the least difficulty, repeated
the parable, first told by One who spake as
never man spake, of the labourers waiting
for hire in the market-place.
The voice of the unseen teacher took up
their words approvingly. Reuben listened,
fairly enchained, as the lesson went on, and
as every feature of the parable and every
figure in a picture which he could only see
through little Nelly's eyes seemed, as he
"spoke, to glow with life and fresh interest.
18 LABOURERS WANTED.
The waiting of the labourers, according to
the custom of those old times standing for
hire in the market-place; the anxious scrutiny
of employers looking out for vine-dressers;
the eager offers of service which were made
to come from one and another; the arrival of
the householder; his words, his engagement
with the men;-all seemed to stand out
with a reality which kept the children spell-
"It's all as fresh as yesterday," said
Reuben to himself, "as natural as last
night's fire in this morning's news;" which,
although not strictly an illustration to the
point, expressed very satisfactorily what he
meant-that here was no dry fossil instruc-
tion, too hard for use, but something stir-
ring, real, present, with fresh life about it
claiming kindred with the young fresh life
not ground out of his own heart by poverty
and hard work.
He and Nelly maintained but a very
limited communication now. Their whole
LABOURERS WASTED. 19
thought and hearing were enlisted. Only
an occasional shake of the head, seen through
the crevice of the door, conveyed, at different
points of the lesson, a mutual intimation
that their sentiments coincided, and that the
arrows aimed low had gone home to their
understandings. And. so the errand-boy
listened until the last words were spoken
of the short half-hour's lesson. They were
"Remember, every one of you, even to
the youngest, that you have not been turned
out into the world as if it were a great play-
ground, only to play and amuse yourselves
in. The Lord Jesus Christ, who died for
you, is like the householder; and He's going
through this world, through the great city,
through these very streets, among your own
homes, and He is looking for labourers. He
wants you to work in His world-vineyard.
Don't say, 'No man has hired me,' you boy,
who have a mother at home to fetch water
or carry wood for, or little brothers and
20 LABOURERS WANTED.
sisters to help for, or work before you to do.
Christ, the good Master, has put your work
right before you. Do it for Him. That's
what makes true men of some good in the
world; not idle, selfish, drinking fellows,
such as you will never be if you know what
a happy thing it is to work under a good
"And you girls, if your work seems to
you nothing very great or out of the way-
if it's only just nursing the baby, or washing
up, or peeling potatoes, or mending clothes,
or tidying before father comes home, or
learning your school-lessons-remember it
becomes high work, beautiful work, happy
work, when you do it at His word and for
the love of Him who gave Himself for you.
He wants great labourers and little
labourers. I've seen people working in the
vines in Italy. You can't think how pretty
the long trellised branches look, like beauti-
ful cobwebs of vine-leaves, with nice bunches
of grapes hanging down from them. Well,
LABOURERS WANTED. 21
there was work for all. There were tall
men wanted to get down high clusters; and
there were sometimes strong men wanted to
fasten up boughs, and to do other parts of
the work. But there were children also
hired in the vineyard. And they held the
baskets, and they looked to the clusters
which hung low down within their reach,
and they were all quite happy in doing just
what was set before them to do; and they
helped in the vintage, not saying, 'I'd like
to hold the ladder instead of carrying a
basket,' I'd like to take the messages in-
stead of stooping down to these low boughs,'
but were quite content to help in the general
Well, there's a general work that's being
done in the world, and that the Lord wants
to have done. That general work is 'the
will of our Father which is in heaven.'
And each one of you has a little piece of
that work given to you which nobody else
can do as well. You are each to do that
22 LABOURERS WANTED.
bit well. You haven't to choose it for your-
selves. He has put it straight before you
to do at home and at school. The great
thing is to do it for Him. Let every letter
of your copies, every figure of your sums,
every stitch of your needlework, every duty
at home, be to you what the low boughs
and the care of the grape-baskets were to
the children in Italy,-a part-your part-
in the general work of doing our Father's
will on earth. The angels have the same
work in heaven. I want you to try and be
fellow-workers with them. Think of that.
Think, when you go away this afternoon,
'The angels and I are at the same business;'
and mean what you say when you kneel
down to-night and pray, 'Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.' That means,
to begin with, 'Let my little corner be cared
for, and my place well filled.'
"By-and-by Jesus will come and say,
'Call the labourers!' Now here is the
School Register. Here are long lists of
LABOURERS WANTED. 23
names: Harry Jones, and Mark Lewis, and
Susan Lee, and Ellen Green (a violent nod
through the door), "and Mary Simms, and
numbers more. When the Lord comes, will
all the names in this School Register be on
His roll of labourers ? Will yours be there?
Yours? Yours ?" And Reuben felt sure
that the teacher was pointing down to dif-
ferent rows of the listening occupants of the
gallery, while Nelly almost quivered with
eagerness to hold out her hand in reply.
But all was quite still for a moment, and
then the voices of the children rose in the
words of a hymn given out verse by verse;
Nelly singing emphatically through the door
in order that her friend might not lose a
In the vineyard of our Father
Daily work we find to do;
Scattered gleanings we may gather,
Though we are but young and few.
Help to fill the garners too.
Toiling early in the morning,
Catching moments through the day,
24 LABOURERS WANTED.
Nothing small or lowly scorning,
So along our path we stray,
Free-will offerings by the way.
Up and ever at our calling,
Till in death our lips are dumb;
Or till, sin's dominion falling,
Christ shall in His kingdom come,
And His children
Reach their everlasting home.
Steadfast, then, in our endeavour,
Heavenly Father, may we be !
And for ever and for ever
We shall give the praise to Thee.
Singing through eternity."
Reuben stood listening and thinking-
feeling, rather, for his thoughts. The first
that came to hand in any definite form was
a sort of inquiry which he made to himself,
as, with his parcel on his shoulder, he crossed
the playground,-" I wonder whether I'm
hired or not ?" The second was a desire to
ask Nelly her opinion on the subject. In a
minute he spied her coming out from the
porch, with her hat in her hand, and heard
her singing over the words,-
LABOURERS WANTED. 25
"In the vineyard of our Father
Daily work we find to do."
She described him instantly, and ran up to
him with the eager inquiry, "Wasn't it
lovely-say, wasn't it? "
"Which?" asked Reuben, in reply.
Oh, that about peeling potatoes, and all
-just the very things I've got to do now
directly and every day; as if he'd been look-
ing through the window at home."
Who is he ?" inquired Reuben, conduct-
ing his intercourse with Nelly as upon a basis
of long-established friendship.
"Mr. Antrim, the clergyman that the
church and schools belong to. He's the
best of all our teachers. He comes every
Friday for half an hour with a picture; and
it's the best time in all the week. With
other gentlemen, mostly, and even ladies,
one has to stretch up, up on tiptoe, to get
hold of the sense and the teaching in it;
but he seems to stoop down right to us
each one, and put something in our hand to
26 LABOURERS WANTED.
carry home, like a penny on Christmas
Reuben's mind exercised itself in the en-
deavour to imagine what the sensation might
be of receiving a Christmas gift such as Nelly
had made use of for purposes of illustration;
after which he asked her where she lived.
"Down in Paradise," was the prompt
reply; "number fifteen. I'm waiting now
for the little ones. They'll be out directly."
Littler than you? asked Reuben, who
had considered Nelly very small indeed,
"Than me! Why, I'm second class,"
answered his friend surprisedly. Wait till
you see Jane and Harry, and Paul and Polly!"
The two smallest children referred to,
just then described as running forth from
another wing of the school-house, followed
from another door by two more, fully justi-
fied Nelly's estimate of her size; and as
they placed themselves on each side of her,
Mr. Antrim himself came up, and her en-
LABOURERS WANTED. 27
deavours took the turn of coaxing Paul into
making a bow, for which, not having time
J If if
to arrive at a distinct conclusion as to his
sex, he insisted on substituting a courtesy,
finishing up by obligingly achieving both
forms of salutation consecutively.
"Well, little Nelly," said her friend, with
his hand on her shoulder, "are you going
home to work in the vineyard this after-
28 LABOURERS WANTED.
Yes, sir," replied Nelly eagerly;
"there's getting ready for father now,
directly, and minding the little ones at
home for mother."
"Little ones at home," thought Reuben;
"how many more ?"
"And please, sir, he's been listening out-
side in the porch all through what you was
a-teaching us-and please, sir, he was asking
of me who you was."
Reuben looked very shy after Nelly's
introduction had been gone through, and
made a show of once more shouldering his
"And who are you, my boy ?" inquired
his new acquaintance.
Reuben Inch is my name," he answered,
somewhat hurriedly. "I'm a sort of a odd
boy about the docks-doing errands and
such like jobs. I was once sent a errand at
a pinch right into the country, and a third-
class return-ticket all to myself. And I did
it all right, too, they said."
LABOURERS WANTED. 29
This crowning incident of Reuben's life
formed far too conspicuous a feature in his
previous history to remain unrevealed; and
Nelly looked great admiration as he further
proceeded to furnish Mr. Antrim with many
particulars of the eventful day in question,
not omitting a glass of water and some beef
at an inn called the Rising Sun, and a
distinct view of a gentleman's place, "as
they said was rich enough to buy up pretty
near half London if he chose;" which par-
ticular Reuben threw into his narrative as
being of itself quite sufficient to make it
Mr. Antrim seemed quite as much in-
terested as Nelly. When Reuben had
completely finished, with a flourish at the
end as to how "they gived me threepence
halfpenny in, besides the day's work and
third-class return too," he went on to ask
who his parents were.
Haven't got none in particular," was
the reply. "You see, I'm a sort of a odd
30 LABOURERS WANTED.
boy that way too. I goes with the house,
having been picked up, pretty nigh a baby,
knowing no one, by a man as was called
Ben Inch, a waterman, and he fathered me
kindly; and they said he'd have been a
friend like, but he died; and then I seemed
to hang on, and worked about for a few
pence, the house changing hands, and I
with it. It's a woman now. She makes
and mends for the watermen. I bring her
mostly what I earns. I'll get threepence for
carrying this here parcel out from Deptford."
And are you one of the labourers, Reu-
ben ?" asked Mr. Antrim pleasantly.
Reuben's eyes fell. I was putting it
away in my mind to ask myself," he replied
slowly. "None ever spoke to me of such
like things, though I had a bit of schooling
But he is, sir, isn't he ?" interposed
Nelly, who had listened eagerly after effect-
ing the introduction. Hasn't he something
to do ?"
LABOURERS WANTED. 31
"Yes," replied Mr. Antrim, smiling; "lhe
has to carry that parcel. That's the first
thing. Don't you think so, Reuben? "
"Will that go in for it directly-for that
general work, I mean ? asked the boy, with
clear open eyes fixed on the clergyman.
"Yes, now, directly," answered Mr. An-
trim, completely understanding him.
"Am I to hire in now, this blessed
minute ?" repeated Reuben, wishing to
satisfy himself without any manner of
If you wish," replied his friend seriously.
"The Master wishes it, Reuben."
Then I do. But-but-"
Well, but what, my boy ? "
"Why, it all seems so strange: my going
in, and making friends with her, and hearing
you, and being hired, and all; and-and,
why, how'm I ever to know what to do
"The next work that comes, that the
Master sends you. You must ask Him to
82 LABOURERS WANTED.
teach you. But I would like to give you a
helping hand. Will you come and see me
some evening ?"
I'd come, if it was ten miles," answered
the boy earnestly. Where do you live ?"
In that house opposite. You may come
to-morrow evening, and ask for me."
"What! that one with the two windows
a-top, and then two, and a hall-door with
one more, making six ? asked Reuben.
"Why, I was a-counting of them there in
that very porch, never knowing who lived
inside of them."
"Well, you shall come inside yourself,"
said Mr. Antrim, smiling. Meantime,
carry your parcel to the place to which it
has been sent. Let all your work be done
for the Lord, who wants to hire you; and
And Mr. Antrim, and Nelly, and Jane
and Harry, and Paul and Polly, and Reuben
with his bundle, went their ways.
Dear young reader, if you look once more
LABOURERS WANTED. 33
at the picture of Labourers in the Market-
place," ask yourself the question, Have I
given my name in to be one of the Lord's
labourers in the vineyard ? And if you
have, or if you have not, follow Mr. An-
trim's advice, and take the next piece of work
you have to do to Him, and ask Him to
teach you by His Spirit to do it to His glory.
IT E oldest inhabitant could not re-
d set in so early. Who the oldest
I- abitanE o t of Postant could nt S.r
might be, was a question difficult of deter-
mination, as two old women and one old
man, each over a hundred years of age, laid
claim to the distinction; and because there
was nobody at hand who had lived longer
to dispute their title, the neighbourhood
prudently left them to settle the matter
among themselves. Younger inhabitants
distinctly remembered frost and snow at an
earlier stage, even, in the year's history;
REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS. 35
but John Dowling, who, on the whole, car-
ried his claims to antiquity with the high-
est hand, couldn't; and although he in un-
guarded moments allowed that, not being
so young as he once was, he 'times muddled
one year with another," still, if he as the
oldest inhabitant" could not remember an
earlier winter, what right had younger folks
to think they knew better ?
It was certainly a sharp and cold shake
of the hand that November proffered on be-
half of the coming winter. Carts and car-
riages sounded with muffled roll on the
snowy roads, as if some one were ill in
every house, and cotton-wool had been laid
down by contract; and as the evening came
on, the lamplighter and the milkman, meet-
ing each other, looked like ornaments on an
iced cake, and as if they had trimmed their
hats with bands of swans'-down, while they
observed, in confidence, that old Father
Christmas seemed like paying wages a
month in advance, and that "there'd be a
36 RlEF'EN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS.
many poor folks as wouldn't mind a blanket
extra to-night;" the lamplighter adding that
he himself, if the question were put before
him, would have no personal objection to
such additional accommodation.
Mrs. Antrim, at the window of the neat
drawing-room of the semi-detached, subur-
ban villa which looked over the two square
yards of flower-garden into the road, and
over the road into the school playground,
had stood for some time in quiet observation
of things without, and had arrived at a set-
tled conclusion in her own mind that Postal
District S.E. was considerably improved in
appearance by a white veil. There was such
a still frost, that the three young poplars in
the school yard had left off their perpetual
bowing and courtesying, and only shivered;
and a high mound, calling itself a hill, to
the right, and generally unsightly by reason
of coal-heaps, railway trucks, ashes, and
broken china, now looked as if it were
1ii r:yii.-' itself, like a tidy parlour-maid, in
REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS. 37
a white cap and apron, as it appeared, in
the fading light, crowned and skirted with
snow. At all events, for a few hours, the
snow is as pure in the suburbs as in the
country," thought Mrs. Antrim to herself,
as she turned from the window, and pro-
ceeded to shake up the sofa-cushions, smooth
out the chintz cover of the arm -chair,
straighten the hearth-rug, push the foot-
stool into its place, and otherwise to efface
the traces of "a game of romps with
baby;" after which, having satisfied herself
with looking out sufficiently at the snow,
she proceeded to seat herself in a low chair
on the rug and to look into the fire.
Mrs. Antrim had, before her marriage,
drawn for herself a picture of a clergyman's
home, which she had fitted up in her own
imagination and had made very pretty, with
honeysuckle and roses creeping up the sides
of the house, and with picturesque country
cottages in the surrounding meadows, in
each of which rosy children and nice old
38 REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS.
women with white caps and red petticoats
were to be her friends and favourites.
Postal District S.E. was not at all so attrac-
tive; and the new prim house to which she
had come two years before was as little like
a country home as possible. Nevertheless,
like a good wife, Mrs. Antrim had tried to
help forward her husband's work to the best
of her ability, and in many conversations
lately carried on with baby, had told him
how he was "to grow up, and be a good
boy, and help papa, and be his curate some
day;" at which times baby was observed to
have crowed with much appearance of satis-
faction, and with a distinct assent to such a
This cold November day, though with
respect to its position in the year among
the shortest, had been a long one to Mrs.
Antrim. There was sickness and distress
in a low-lying portion of the district, and
her husband had been delayed in his return
home; and she had been weak and ailing,
REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS. 39
and unable to help him further than by see-
ing to a wonderful provision of outer gar-
ments in which he had been well wrapped
up before going forth on his rounds. And
still looking into the fire, she found herself
"wishing for his return, and for more strength
to fight with him against the great forces of
sickness, poverty, and ignorance which he
seemed to be meeting day by day in close
combat, when a single knock, evidently pro-
duced by force of three combined knuckles
on the other side of the door, roused her
from her thoughts.
Come in "
It's me, mum," said the voice of Heph-
zibah, the upper servant of the household,
who, having come with Mrs. Antrim from
her own home, had not the slightest scruple
in speaking her mind to her mistress.
Well, Hephzibah ? "
Please, mum, have you heard whether
master's hired a servant lately, as has come to-
night, and wants to see him by his order ? "
40 REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS.
Hired a servant !" exclaimed the lady,
looking up in surprise. Of course not,
Hephzibah. It is some mistake."
So I should have said, mum," rejoined
Hephzibah, rather grimly; "but he's very
particular that it was master as hired him
in three months ago, only he wasn't able to
come before; which seems like what's called
a quarter's notice. I suppose he's not to be
sent away either."
These last words were said in as respect-
ful a tone of bitterness as Hephzibah's man-
ner of regarding the circumstances would
allow. In vain had she endeavoured to
enter into Mr. Antrim's views that no per-
son desiring to see him should be sent away
from his door. The rather severe, but
strictly respectable, family servant, who, as
she remarked, had at home-by which term
Mrs. Antrim's former residence was desig-
nated-held the door to many a lord and
once to a marquis, did not relish the sort
of company to which the clergyman's house
REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS. 41
was ever open-visitors from low and de-
graded homes, applicants for bodily and
spiritual help, young and old with indivi-
dual burdens of care and trial which her
master endeavoured to share and often to
bear for them, burdens of which Hephzibah
knew nothing, as, from within a red baize
door, she "kept an eye," as she called it, on
the umbrellas in the hall.
Mrs. Antrim had maintained her hus-
band's determination throughout her hand-
maiden's opposition. Many a slice of bread
and butter had she cut in the dining-room,
and administered to a tired child who came
to say how "mother was bad, and the doc-
tor said she must go into the hospital, and
would Mr. Antrim give her a ticket."
Many a private donation of woollen socks
had been produced from old stores, for baby
feet red and blue with cold; while Hephzi-
bah, through the chink of the said baize
door, communicating with pantry regions,
looked on suspiciously, wondering that mis-
42 REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS.
sus should trouble herself with folk which
might as well as not bring infection into the
house,-and then what would come of the
baby up-stairs! And it was with a vague
notion that the boy might be right, and
that Mr. Antrim might really have desired
his attendance, that the lady went on fur-
ther to inquire,-
What kind of work does he do, Heph-
zibah ? "
"It's about the straightest forward thing
he've got to say," was the reply: "he says
he's a sort of a odd boy about; which seems
pretty nigh the truth, for each thing he says
is odder than the last."
"And your master engaged him, he
Hired him in for the general work,
"which is his very words, mum; and he's as
positive as positive, and says he's been at it
since in a way, only couldn't come before,
and seemed to think I'd know all abo 't
it. He was to come, he said, where there
REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS. 43
was two winders atop, and then two, and a
hall-door with one more, and two steps,
making eight in all; which he makes men-
tion of much as if we was living at the sign
of five winders and a hall-door."
"But there are numbers of houses just
the same," said Mrs. Antrim, laughing in
spite of herself at the handmaiden's grim
joke; "whole ranks of them without a
particle of variety," she added, half dis-
"Yes, there is, mum; but not opposite
the school-gate, concerning which he's par-
ticular; and the clergyman that taught the
children, he says, Friday afternoons, told
him to come and he'd help him along a bit,
for the general work; which is what he says
exactly, and sounds pretty much like mas-
ter's ways, if I might say so."
Mrs. Antrim inwardly agreed that it
sounded very much like master's ways in-
deed, as she replied pleasantly, "Well,
Hephzibah, we mustn't send him away.
44 REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS.
He must wait till your master comes home.
It's a cold evening for him to be outside, so
he can sit in the kitchen. I suppose you
can give him some bread or soup. There's
some, isn't there ?'"
Yes, there most always was, Hephzibah
observed as she shut the door, and reflected
upon her directions. Everything goes to
soup here," she went on to herself; "it's
always at dinner, 'My dear, this would
make good soup for the poor;' or 'My dear,
you won't forget some broth for the old
woman in Fish Court.' Master thinks that
the very crumbs off the table may come out
soup for the poor, if only they're properly
handled; indeed, it's my belief, for all he
knows of the food that's set before him,
that he'd not be surprised if the table-cloth
was set down for white soup. If this
weather lasts, why, we'd best set up a public
kitchen, which I believe is what he'd like
more than anything."
REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS. 45
"Yes, mum;" and the handmaiden re-
opened the drawing-room door.
The snow's very thick, and the steps
and path are very slippery-I'd like the
snow cleared, and some cinders thrown over
REUBEN AT WORK.
the steps before your master comes in. This
boy could set to work and earn a few pence."
"Yes, mum ;" and Hephzibah once more
shut the door.
Mr. Antrim came home wearied out that
46 REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS.
evening. The battle against the three great
forces had been a hard one through the day.
Sickness and Poverty are strong when they
have winter frost on their side; and Ignor-
ance, that great sapper and miner for the
armies of sin and unbelief and wrong, re-
joices that his hidden pit-falls cut of the
retreat to the strong fastnesses of hope and
faith. From out of these pit-falls the clergy-
man had been through long hours trying to
help those who could not help themselves-
trying sometimes vainly, always with all his
might; and no wonder that, with a tired
step, he went up to his own house and
looked forward gladly to an evening's rest.
In the hall Hephzibah greeted him with
her communications respecting the boy who
had swept the door-steps.
"Hired in for the general work three
months ago!" exclaimed her master with
some surprise; "there must be some mis-
So I said, sir, but the boy won't be per-
REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS. 47
suaded out of it. Missus desired I should
put him to sweeping up the path against
you come home, sir, which he's done handily
enough," said Hephzibah; who had been at
first so staggered by the sweeper's profession
of attachment to her master, as to have been
led to the belief that Reuben might have
hidden thoughts of the tea-spoons, but who
had been slightly mollified by his frank and
Let me speak to him," continued Mr.
Antrim, and through the red door went in
to the kitchen. He had so many boy trans-
actions, for so many needy lads found work,
to so many gave his short earnest school-
lessons, among so many was known as a
friend and teacher, that the brief intercourse
with this open-eyed eager youth had passed
from his memory; while to Reuben it had
'been a bright remembrance never to be
lost. The voice of kindness had wakened
up echoes in that warm impulsive heart of
his, which had never been wakened up be-
48 REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS.
fore; and a rehearsal mentally of every de-
tail of a hot afternoon in August on which
he had listened unseen to Mr. Antrim's
lesson, and had been enlisted as a friend
and comrade by Nelly Green, generally
preceded his nightly surrender of himself
Do you want me, my boy ?" was Mr.
Antrim's greeting, as Reuben started from
the stool upon which Hephzibah had bid
"Yes, sir. Please, sir, I couldn't come
when you told me after that day when I
was hired in-at least you said, you know,
we was to be. There was a job for me on
board a coal barge-the Mlermaid of the
Ocean, sir-and they dropped down with
the tide that very evening, down to Dart-
ford; and when she was gone, they took
me up for a month of odd work about
Rotherhithe docks; and I couldn't get away,
sir, not to come to you--not till this very
night. I thought of it times and times,
REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS. 49
and felt all along as if you was a-lookin' out
for me, sir; but I've come up now directly
for my name to be put on the list for that
'ere general work, sir."
If the Mermaid of the Ocean, with all
sails set, and her collier crew on board, had
sailed up the garden-walk at that moment,
Mr. Antrim could not have been more com-
pletely in the dark as to the meaning of
such an arrival than he was concerning the
drift of Reuben's address. But there was
an honest earnestness in the boy's coun-
tenance and manner which bespoke strong
reality of purpose, and the clergyman made
a vigorous effort at recollection as Reuben,
slightly conscious of not being remembered,
went on with his explanations.
"That hot day, sir, it was, more than
three months ago, when I was a-coolin' in
the doorway of the red schools opposite,
and you was a-talkin' of hiring in for the
Great Master who had got such a right to
us, and the grape-pickin' and all. There
50 REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS.
was a little un as they called Nelly mindin'
of me; and you told me my name were to
be put down, and I was to carry my parcel
straight on, and come to you the next even-
ing. You was a-showing of them a picture
It all flashed back on Mr. Antrim's mind
then, and Reuben hailed joyfully the corre-
sponding flash of recognition in his counte-
"I remember you perfectly," he said,
"and am so glad to see you, Reuben. You
are quite right to come up and talk over
this hiring in with me; but first let me hear
what you are doing in the way of earning a
"Sort of odd jobs, sir. I've been lucky
for getting work lately, but they've kept me
pretty close at it. Coaling, and heaving
about the docks, and running of errands, and
being ready to give a hextra hand for a
boat-load and such like."
"Well, Reuben, and so you want to be
REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS. 51
one of the Lord's labourers, and you've come
to me to know about His service."
"Yes, sir, that's about it," answered the
boy, upon whom this one idea, sent home to
his heart with strong kindly words, had
taken fixed hold ever since. "One some-
how wants being in something regular."
"What do you know of Him-of the
Master you want to serve, Reuben ? "
Hard to say," rejoined the boy hesitat-
ingly. I've thought a deal of what you
said that day; but I don't seem to see it
clear. I learnt a bit of reading when I was
at a school, which gave me some sort of a
insight; but you see my life's cut up rough,
Sand it's always seemed summut outside
"And how much did you learn? "
"God made me, they said; and there's a
bad place and a good place at the end for dif-
ferent lots of folk. I learnt to read words
of five letters, however."
Reuben's evident impression that school-
52 REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS.
ing and religion went hand in hand was one
which Mr. Antrim frequently encountered.
"cold night to his house, and that friend re-
ceived him as one of the little ones sent in a
REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS. 53
higher Name, and took him by the hand
well and truly to lead him in the way.
Mr. Antrim told him at once the story of
the Life and the Death which were to bring
life to the lost and the lowest. He reached
in an instant chords in the boy's heart which
were ready to vibrate to his touch; and the
first was that sense of sin which, half
ignorantly, yet deeply, Reuben felt and
I know I'm bad. I felt it most up at
Rotherhithe. One of the mates aboard
the ill. /,,.r.she's a Norway timber-brig,
and was hauled up for repairs because some-
thing had got wrong to her keel-he fell
overboard and was drowned; and all the
rest they said it would be bad work for him,
he was such a drinking, bad-living man.
And it set me a-thinking that s'pose it
"Well, and suppose it had been you-
Reuben ? "
"Why, I dunno-I might have gone to
54 REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS.
the bad place and be burnt. Then I put it
to myself, I wasn't cheating or drinking,
and hadn't never done nobody no harm, and
maybe I'd have a chance. But then, no, I
didn't feel right; and there was a verse
written up somewhere I saw, about the soul
that sinneth it shall die, and I wanted to
know; and I thought about them words
in the school opposite, and come up as you
Reuben generally concluded each obser-
vation with the statement of his personal
appearance in Mr. Antrim's kitchen as
being distinctly the result of that gentle-
man's own invitation; still entertaining a
sort of fear of intrusion, which Hephzibah's
intimation to her master that tea would
soon be ready did not assist in dispelling.
But Mr. Antrim was not thinking of his
tea. He was at the "general work," as
Reuben called it, and nothing might disturb
The story of Jesus is the only story
REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS. 55
which meets all the sense of sin and longing
for pardon, and desire for a better life, and
yearning for friendship, and craving for
sympathy, which a hungry and thirsty
heart realizes: it was that story which,
while the snow fell thickly without, the
minister of the gospel told simply and
plainly to his young hearer within. An old
old story : but new and satisfying to the
boy, who wanted life, and needed a Saviour.
"It's all true, right through, ain't it?"
"Right through, every bit," was the
"And He'll take such as me-He won't
mind my clothes-I haven't had no new ones
for ever so long, and this here was made up
out of a bigger man's, and's most worn out
-He won't mind it all being so bad ? "
"Jesus wants a humble heart, Reuben;
that's all you have to bring to Him just as
you are. You must pray to Him-speak to
Him-tell Him that you want to be His."
56 REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS.
"Yes, I want to hire in for the general
work," replied the boy, returning to his first
strong impression. I see how it comes:
He came for me, and I'm to follow after and
do all for Him I can ; but that praying, sir
-that seems like to beat me."
"Have you ever known a man who
prayed, Reuben ?"
"They said as how Ben Inch-he as
fathered me first-as how he prayed when
he was a-dying, and was a good man. It
was his money as gave me that bit of school-
ing-his money, left for the purpose."
"And you have never prayed, then ?"
"I says something like 'Our Father;'
only I've not got it right; and there's
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, on to it-
kind of a charm they say it for," said Reu-
But you must speak to Jesus yourself,
Reuben," said Mr. Antrim.
"I'd learn things, if you'd tell me, sir-
thlings as was right to say," replied the boy,
REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS. 57
with a docility which contrasted strangely
with his independent and manly bearing.
"Ah, Reuben, my boy, the saying won't
do of itself. When Jesus was on earth, there
were proud people who thought themselves
much better than others, and they used to
say long prayers at the corners of the streets,
and think how good they were. In countries
far away, to which the ships go, poor ignor-
ant men still stand about the streets; and
they, too, say long long prayers, thinking
that they make themselves good by doing
so, and knowing nothing of how to speak to
God from the heart. But once there was a
poor sinful man, and the only prayer which
he could say was, God be merciful to me a
sinner and that came from the very bottom
of his heart, and it went right up, and God
heard it, and answered it."
"That's all what I want," said Reuben,
the cloud clearing from his brow; will He,
up in heaven, hear such a bit of a prayer as
that ? "
58 REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS.
PRAYING IN THE STREETS.
"He will indeed, Reuben," replied Mr.
Antrim, standing up at last ; only try for
REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS. 59
yourself.-And now," he continued, "you
must let me see you again. How far off do
you live ? "
"Well, it's pretty near two miles where I
am between times," replied Reuben reflec-
tively; "I have not seen her these three
months, however; but I'll be going down
I want you to come to school on Sunday
-the same place where I saw you before."
Right opposite, with three trees a-tryin'
to grow up like as if they was out in the
Exactly," replied the clergyman, smiling
at the lad's quick observation ; "and then I
shall make some plan for seeing you again."
"I'll come," replied Reuben eagerly.
"You'll know me again, sir ? "
"That I shall," replied Mr. Antrim, with
his hand on his shoulder, as he wished him
"My dear," said the clergyman to his
60 REUBEN CALLS IN FOR ORDERS.
wife later on in the evening, while Hephzi-
bah was taking away the tea-things, you'll
manage to have a basin of soup for that boy
when he comes on Sunday. He might come
in here after church, you know ; and perhaps
you could have a little over for the old Irish
woman in Swan Alley, that admired baby
so much. She's called him a broth of a boy
ever since. Poor old thing! This cold
weather will come hardly upon her, with no
one to care for her."
"Soup again !" said Hepzibah to herself.
" I believe it will come to putting down the
baby, if the cold weather lasts !"
** .: ;
UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
i'TR. ANTRIM had invited Reuben
Inch to the Sunday school, and
euben had resolved to come.
He didn't know much what it
would be like. His chief idea
was that it would help him on in the
generall work," and that he should again
see his friend the minister.
The snow was still on the ground when
Sunday morning dawned, and the air was
cold and still as the chimes from different
steeples came down the river near which he
lived when not employed at other docks.
Two or three lodgers were in the same house,
62 UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
who, however, took matters easily on the
first day of the week, and did not come forth
with their pipes till noon. Reuben knew
little of them. They were "off and on
mates," as Mrs. Bence called them, only
under her roof when "laid up ashore;"
while Reuben, who went with the house,"
as he expressed it, was regarded by her with
as much friendliness as the hard struggle
for life allowed her to have at her disposal,
and had a character for being "a peaceable
lad, that was no trouble with drinking or
swearing, and brought her every bit of his
wage when he stopped down with her,
which was only fair, when she never grudged
feeding him with the best she could get for
him, and thought nothing of fixing up an
old coat for him, or a pair of trousers bought
up cheap and second-hand at the dock
Reuben's own good-natured disposition
led him into paths of usefulness which were
not strictly laid down for him in his terms
UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY. 63
of agreement with Mrs. Bence ; and he had
fetched water, helped to make up fires,
given a general polish to little Sandy, and
afforded as much warmth as he could spare
to the fingers of Mattie, the youngest of the
Bences, by the time that, having disposed
of a large slice of bread, garnished with a
share of red-herring, which Mrs. Bence
threw in, as she expressed it, for a Sabbath
relish, he went forth bound for the place of
meeting, and began to thread his way
among the intricate streets bordering the
Many cogitations occupied him as he
pulled his ragged coat more closely round
him, and stamped firmly on the frozen
ground to bring a little warmth into his toes.
A scarcely formed idea that Sunday chimes
were so many voices reminding him of Mr.
Antrim's story of the Christ who had come
to save him ; a secret, undefined longing for
a higher life in harmony with those voices, a
strong desire to belong to some company,
61 UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
some number, some kindred bound together
by a closer tie than that of association for a
few weeks in the rough labour of the docks;
-all these thoughts were vaguely in the
boy's heart, as he wondered what would
come of the chance meeting which had taken
place a few months ago in the school yard.
He was one of a numerous brotherhood who,
untaught and uncared for, swarm in the
streets of our great metropolis, "picking up
a livelihood as best they can, and knowing
the One Name given under heaven whereby
men may be saved only as associated with
oaths and profanity. To no one had he told
of his intercourse with Mr. Antrim, simply
because he had no one to whom to tell it.
Mrs. Bence's contract with him was one of
food and shelter when he brought her money,
and nothing more. If he had disappeared
from her tumble-down tenement for a year,
and had come back paying down sufficient
for a night's lodging, there would have been
no inquiry made as to his going and coming
UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY. 65
beyond the usual salutation, "Back again,
lad Mind not to tread heavy on the stairs
at the top, or they'll come down, as sure as
I'm born "-Mrs. Bence's invariable greet-
ing. He knew that the door of the house
which-with an intuitive feeling that home
meant something more-he generally called
"our place," would be shut in his face if he
could not bring money to pay for his main-
tenance ; and Reuben wanted something to
care for and something to love.
His face glowed by the time that he
arrived in sight of the red-brick school-house,
and saw troops of children in comfortable
society all taking the same direction. It
glowed still more deeply as, for the first
time, a deep sense of shyness stole over him,
and a quick impression that he would be
stared at if he went in with them.
For Reuben was a tall boy for his age,
which was past fifteen; and he felt his size
painfully in contrast with that of a crew of
little ones that were running by at the mo-
66 UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
ment. And he was queerly dressed, too;
Mrs. Bence's "fixing up" of second-hand
clothes being by no means successful as to
any result of outward adornment, and very
doubtfully so as regarded their more import-
ant office of keeping out the cold.
.- -- / L- -_
They'd stare at me, being so big," said
the boy to himself over and over again, as,
having planted himself within view of the
entrance to the infant-school, he wondered
UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY. 67
that all the children should be so small.
"I'd like to keep true to him, though; and
if I see'd him, I'd go up and tell him I was
here. But I'm a guy by all of them with
buttons on their frocks and such good boots;
and there it is-I'm so big, just like the
Great Eastern among 'em all.
If only Nelly 'd come," continued Reu-
ben, after an interval in which he occupied
himself in counting the children as they
went in; "if only Nelly 'd come, she'd mind
me, and show me where to go, for all I'm not
dressed fine; but I don't see her nowheres"
He had hardly abandoned hopes of Nelly
before that little damsel made her appear-
ance, with a whole crew in her keeping of
children of different age and size. She was
very coarsely but very tidily clad, and seemed
intent upon guarding Paul and Polly and
the rest of her followers from the cold-de-
tecting with a general's eye the least breach
in the fortresses of rough cloth in which
they were wrapped; recommending to the
68 UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
smaller ones the familiar tactics of putting
their fingers in their mouths to keep them
warm; lending all round, and for a given
space of time, a strong glove, which seemed
to be general property, and to have a capa-
bility for fitting hands of all sizes,-and in
other ways maintaining a capable defensive
warfare with the frost.
Reuben watched her as she left deposits
of children at various entrances of the red-
brick building, which seemed like a kindly
monster to have an appetite for, and to
swallow up, childhood of every size; and he
was just about to place himself under her
protection in the general distribution, when
she was addressed and joined, as she crossed
the playground, by a lady-" as beautiful as
a figure on a ship's prow," the boy said to
himself-who spoke to Nelly with all the
kindness of a personal friend.
He resisted the impulse to join her, after
a few moments' reflection. She'd not like
it," he said musingly; "such a figure as I
UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY. 6
am to claim acquaintance before gentlefolk,
for all the world like the Iier.iaid of the
ocean for handsomeness and general effect.
She was kind-spoken to me that day, and
I'll not return her back anything to put her
out; and she'd be shamed of me, looking as
if I'd just come up from work."
Reuben would have been rather surprised
had he known how much of the spirit of the
true gentleman was in the heart of the
roughly-clad boy who, after the school-bell
had ceased, hung about the various porches,
longing for some one to bring him up to Mr.
Antrim, and yet shy of being seen-listen-
ing to the hum of voices, and wondering
how he should have felt if he had been in
there-fearful lest his friend should think
him careless of his engagement, and yet
strangely timid of fulfilling that engagement;
and he looked back in after-days with a
strange wonder upon the long hours of that
cold winter's morning, in which, after long-
ingly surveying the ranks of children march-
70 UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
ing to church in company, with a realize
tion that they were in "something regular,"
and that he was out of it, he strolled about
aimlessly and forlorn, thinking what he
should do next.
I must get to know more of Him that
died," he said to himself as, quite unconscious
of reasons to the contrary, he spent a few
pence at a stall kept open on Sunday; and,
instead of the soup destined for his consump-
tion at Mr. Antrim's, slowly disposed of
apples and bread in the street. It's my
own fault now-losing a chance; and he
made it so plain all how I was to pray to
Him; and I've been trying too, after a fash-
ion. I'd like to go up again and see him
this evening, only it'd be like botherin' of
him, and he so kind-spoken; over and above
that I didn't go where he told me this
morning. If only he'd a-known how awful
strange I seemed amongst them all got up
slick and tidy. If only there was a place for
ragged, low fellows-mates, so to speak-I'd
UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY. 71
go half-a-dozen miles, and think nothing
I'd like to be in the regular work, and
serve Him as died,-I would, now. I mind
over and over all he said up at the house,
with her looking' in at me every minute, as
if I was a sea-serpent, like them that the
Medusa's got for a head-dress all curling
lovely round. But it's so hard to keep
mindin'. It's as if all the world were on(
way, and He that died-long ago and fai
away-He the other. But if I was to fall
overboard, I'd feel as if it was He, the first,
as was right."
Up Fish Court, and down Swan Alley."
The words were uttered in Reuben's hearing,
as the evening drew on and the stars came
out in the frosty sky; and a ragged man,
who had given this information to an inquirer
equally r;,- .. ,1. looked after the said inquirer
with a laugh, observing, as he turned in the
direction named, that he s'posed he was
going in for being converted, like Joe Adams."
72 UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
Up Fish Court, and down Swan Alley."
The words again fell upon his ears, but this
time in a more familiar tone; and close by
his side he, for the second time that day,
distinguished his friend Nelly, who seemed
to be at her usual work of looking after
somebody, although in this instance it was
a tall and strongly-built man, by whose side
she walked as fast as her legs would carry
her. She did not observe Reuben as she
passed by in the dark street; but he almost
unconsciously found himself following her,
as, with her father, she threaded her way
knowingly among tortuous lanes and past
perplexing cross-ways, carrying on all the
while a cheery discourse, which seemed, how-
ever, to meet with only occasional responses
from her companion.
Up Fish Court. It was an unsavoury
and unattractive spot, as it appeared lit up
by the flaring gas-lamps from two rival
public-houses-the Sun and Moon-which,
at opposite corners, sent forth streams of
UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY. 73
flaring light and confluent odours of spirits
and tobacco smoke. It must have looked
even less attractive in the clear daylight,
with high uneven walls on one side, papered
by red and yellow play-bills, and with low
tumble-down tenements on the other, all
looking as if they were bent on shouldering
each other out of sight because of their ugli-
ness and squalor. It was wonderful the
number of families that crowded together
there. Still more wonderful was the collec-
tion of ash-heaps and oyster-shells which,
together with broken china, formed the de-
corations of Fish Court. Reuben, though
accustomed to low places, as he followed
Nelly asked himself whether Swan Alley
had, at a loose estimate, a chance of being
It went down from the end of the court
in the direction of the docks. A long low
lane, in which robberies might be committed
and pockets picked out of the house win-
dows, so narrow was the pathway between
74 UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
the two rows of tenements on either side;
a lane unclean and unsavoury as all others
of the neighbourhood.
At the end of the alley, Nelly and her
father went in by a door on the right hand,
and Reuben went in too. It was an odd-
looking place. A square plot of ground,
once called Oyster Court, and formed by the
blank sides of adjoining warehouses, had
been roofed in and roughly boarded, so as
to form a square building large enough to
contain two or three hundred persons. There
were rows of benches of rude construction,
and there was plenty of light, which revealed
to Reuben rows of ragged men and women,
amongst whom he cut quite a respectable
Under the sanction of Nelly's presence,
Reuben seated himself near the door, and
was fully occupied in wondering what sort
of a place he had come to, when he saw a
grave-looking man stand up at a desk placed
at the further end of the room, and heard
UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY. 75
the words, I will arise, and go to my
Father, and will say unto Him, Father, I
have sinned against heaven and before Thee,
and am no more worthy to be called Thy son."
If we say that we have no sin, we de-
ceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us :
but if we confess our sins, He is faithful and
just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us
from all unrighteousness."
from all unright~eousness."
76 UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
It's just what I want," said Reuben to
himself; "and all given out so handy, with-
out my asking even so much as a question.
Nelly seems to know pretty well where to go.'
"Almighty and most merciful Father;
We have erred, and strayed from Thy ways
like lost sheep. We have followed too much
the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against Thy holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we
ought to have done; and we have done those
things which we ought not to have done."
From the low poor building in Swan Alley
the confession went up to heaven; from the
ground of many a poor and degraded heart
the cry of Unclean, unclean," was uttered.
" There is no health in us," was the burden
of many a sigh which made its way up
through the rank atmosphere of that squalid
region to the abode of the high and lofty
One inhabiting eternity; and Reuben found
that he had his own feelings put into words
for him at once, and knew what they meant.
UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY. 77
Then there was singing. He did not
make out all the words; but there were two
or three young men up at the top of the
room who set the tunes with clear mellow
voices, and many round took them up--
Nelly among the first; while the ragged
"odd boy felt as if he was, for almost the
first time in his life since the "hiring in,"
"in something regular," and not excluded.
There had been some singing for the second
time, when the door opened, and up through
the ranks of the congregation Mr. Antrim
made his way. Reuben could have jumped
for joy at seeing him so unexpectedly, and
longed even then to pull him by the coat as
he passed, and explain the morning's em-
barrassments. As it was, he waited breath-
lessly to hear what his friend would say,
who, after a day's close toil, had found time
to come and speak to the lowly congregation
gathered from the degraded streets around
Mr. Antrim took the place at the desk,
78 UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
and at once began to read a story of Him
who died," as Reuben translated it to him-
self. It related how when He, the Lord
Christ, was teaching, the relations of a poor
man who had the palsy determined to bring
him to be healed by this wonderful Physician
who could cure with a touch. There was no
chance of their bringing him up near to
Christ, for there was such a crowd that no
one could make his way through; so the
friends of the sick man carried him up to
the top of the house, and let him down
through the roof right in front of the Lord.
The houses in that country were not like
those in England," said Mr. Antrim; nor
were the beds like our beds. The people of
the house used to sleep on the roof-tops, and
there was a ladder leading up to them from
the outside; so that they could carry the sick
man right up from the street, and then let
him down, just in front of the Master, into
the court. The beds, too, were more like
rugs, easily folded up and carried--some-
UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY. 79
i-, ,-. ..... ,
TAKING UP THE BED.
tiLIng like sailors' hammocks-and better for
80 UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
that hot country than those which we
"Well, what was the first thing that
Jesus said to the sick man ? continued the
preacher, who, after reading the passage
from the Gospel of St. Luke, seemed to be
telling the story over again, and bringing
out every bit of it before the eyes of his
hearers, just as Reuben remembered he had
done that of the vineyard labourers. What
were the words they all wanted to hear ? We
know pretty well. 'Now,' they said to
themselves, 'we have a proof ready for Him.
We have heard of His wonderful healing
power, let us see how much truth there has
been in these reports. One man said He
healed a leper the other day; and Simon-
that sea-faring man standing by Him-why,
he tells how He cured his mother-in-law of
a fever all in a moment. This palsy's some-
thing to try Him by; for palsy isn't cured
in a hurry! Listen, mates,' they said to
each other; 'let's hear what He'll say.'
UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY. 81
'Man, thy sins are forgiven thee !' Ah,
those are the first words which the Master
speaks over the sick-bed. Were they the
words the people wanted? I suspect they
were what the poor sufferer himself wanted
more than anything. I can't help thinking
that He who knew what was in man, knew
that there was a cry in his heart for pardon
and peace, that there was something more
than sickness filling him with trouble-the
sense of sin-and that, knowing this, He
granted him the best thing first, the least
Reuben's heart, eyes, and ears were en-
tranced as Mr. Antrim went on. He seemed
to be listening to the Pharisees, to be bend-
ing over the sick man's couch, to be waiting
breathlessly for the result amongst the crowd
in the court, to be more eager than they
were for the great miracle; and when the
words Arise, take up thy bed, and go into
thy house !" sounded out again through the
building, he joined irresistibly in the low
82 UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
murmur of satisfaction which ran through
Mr. Antrim paused for a minute, after
finishing up every detail of the story as
given in the gospel narrative, and after
waiting, as it were, to see the man roll up
his bed and make his way through the
crowd, glorifying and praising God; and
then he said he was going to ask a ques-
I'm going to ask you a question; and I
want you to think for a minute about the
answer. It is the same question which the
Lord asked of the people in the courtyard:
'Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be for-
given thee; or to say, Arise and walk?'
If you or I were sick, and Jesus Christ were
passing by, right down Swan Alley, to-night,
should we want him most to heal our bodies
or our souls ? "
There was perfect silence for a minute;
each one taking, as it were, time to con-
sider. Then Mr. Antrim spoke again:-
UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY. 83
"Which do you think it cost the Lord
most to say? He was God. He could
heal with a touch-with a word. But how
much did it cost Him to say, 'Thy sins be
forgiven thee' ? It cost Him His life; He
could only forgive by taking on Himself
their penalty, and bearing it in the sinner's
stead. He could only pardon by suffering
death instead of every man who deserved
death. That's what you meant just now
when you said,-'By Thine agony and
bloody sweat; by Thy cross and passion; by
Thy precious death and burial-Good Lord,
deliver us.' That's the reason which we
bring up in the words, 'For Jesus Christ's
sake.-Amen.' And Jesus Christ is passing
by now, to every one who wants to hear
Him say, Thy sins be forgiven thee. He's
passing by for every man and woman who
can't get to feel right, and who would like
to lay all the sin on Him, and get all the
pardon. He's passing by for the stranger
who has strayed in here out of curiosity,
84 UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
and who has heard the offer of forgiveness.
He may be yours now, this very minute.
You may lay your sins at His feet; and if
you do so truly, He will forgive you, and
tell you to go home and glorify and praise
God in a new life of service and love.
Why not come, then, to Jesus now ? "
Mr. Antrim did not stop here. Reuben
and Nelly, who had recognized each other
with intent earnest eyes, listened on with
increased attention, as he contrasted the
service of sin and the service of Jesus, the
wages of sin and the gift of God, the end of
sin and the heaven of everlasting joy; and
it was with a half sigh that they drew
breath as he closed the Bible with the
yearning appeal, "And this-this offer of
love, of healing, of pardon, of peace, of joy,
and of heaven-this, which the scoffer re-
jects and the sinner scorns-this is the word
which by the gospel is preached unto you."
Then the last hymn was given out, verse
by verse :-
UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY. 8S
Here does the contrite sinner bring
A heart and voice too sad to sing?
Oh, turn not doubtingly away,-
Christ may be yours, and yours to-day.
"We who from God's just law had swerved,
The punishment of death deserved;
Our guilt He took, our death He bore,
To set us free for evermore.
Our chastisement on Christ was laid,
Our utmost penalty He paid;
Drank to the dregs the bitter cup,
And in our stead was offered up.
Lift up your heart! this word is true,-
Jesus has died instead of you;
In love the Father sent Him down,
His Spirit makes that love our own.
Then choose to-day the better part;
Bring to the Lord a contrite heart;
Heaven's gates stand open to the plea,
Jesus has died instead of me "
It was exactly what Reuben wanted-the
message of peace. He saw Mr. Antrim
afterwards, and Nelly, and Nelly's father;
but even the opportunity of explaining the
morning's breach of promise did not fill his
thoughts so much as the words he had
86 UP FISH COURT, AND DOWN SWAN ALLEY.
"Heaven's gates stand open to the plea,
Jesus has died instead of me !"
He understood that now, after Mr. Antrim's
teaching. It was healing to him. The boy
had thought much of his one day in the
country; but his heart travelled that night
into a better country-to the land very far
off, to which the road is forgiveness of sin.
Up from the degraded lanes round Swan
Alley, up through the rank fumes of smoke
and drink, up beyond the still starlight of
the frosty sky, up to the place which Mr.
Antrim had spoken of-the place of living
waters, the golden streets where the feet
are never weary, the gardens where the tree.
of life blossoms-his hopes ascended; there
he fixed his thoughts and fastened his
"Nothing can stand against me," he said
to himself, if He who died is on my side.
It'll keep on always in my ears-
Heaven's gates stand open to the plea,
Jesus has died instead of me !'"
*,. --,. ,..' ,,. '- %
ITOW NELLY THREW A LIGHT.
"i WN in Paradise," was the place of
Nelly Green's abode, as reported
by herself; and "down in Para-
dise Reuben found himself on a
Sunday evening some few weeks
after that of his visit to Swan Alley. It
presented itself as a question to the foot-
passenger, by what connection of ideas the
name had affixed itself to the row of shops
of the very humblest description thus styled;
and if he thought upon the matter at all, he
found himself inquiring whether it perpet-
uated a somewhat bitter jest on the part of
the builder, or indicated a sanguine turn of
88 HOW NELLY THREW A LIGHT.
mind leading that gentleman to indulge in
pleasing hopes concerning the prosperity of
future inhabitants who might there carry
out their lawful trades and callings.
However the truth might be, it was quite
certain that Paradise Row, in Postal Dis-
trict S.E., was not, in respect of beauty, a
garden of Eden. Perhaps it most resem-
bled it in being a place of temptation-
wherein, alas! the resemblance was a very
close one. Temptations to buy, temptations
to cheat, temptations to grind down the
seller, temptations to take in the buyer,
temptations to pass old goods for new and
stale goods for fresh, temptations to wrangle,
and sometimes temptations to despair,-all
these were abundant in Paradise Row.
And in the cold winter weather, when the
bitter frost occasionally got to the heart,
and the piercing wind carried on a dreary
performance of its own in chimneys where
the fire wasn't always there to fight it out,
these last sometimes went to the heart with
HOW NELLY THREW A LIGHT. 89
the frost, and howled through the souls of
struggling folk with the wind; and only a
very warm fire indeed of love and hope was
sufficient to keep them out or to fight them
A dreadful circumstance had happened to
Nelly on the Sunday morning. She had
lost one of her children. It was not, strictly
speaking, a Green; indeed, it happened to
be a Brown; but it belonged to the com-
pany which Nelly daily convoyed from
Paradise to school; and how it had mislaid
itself, and when, and where, nobody knew.
It was after the afternoon school that
Tommy was missing; and a sort of howl of
dismay from the brothers and sisters of the
Brown family, together with an anguished
running backwards and forwards at the tops
of streets, with a cry of "Tommy Tommy !
Tommy Brown! where are you?" from
Nelly, arrested the attention of Reuben, and
of one or two of the teachers, who at once
joined in the search.
90 HOW NELLY THREW A LIGHT.
In vain was Tommy looked for in the
school, under the forms, in the clothes-cup-
board, even in the master's house, and in the
mistress's linen-press. In vain did one of
the elder girls run down to Paradise to see
whether, contrary to the custom of his
tender years, Tommy had taken himself
home. The only thing gained by her en-
deavours was a sudden rush of Mrs. Brown
herself to the scene of inquiry-her hair in
curl-papers and her gown in rags-who, not
finding Tommy, shook all the other children
in turn, asking them what they meant, and
how they felt; which, if the general sobs
and tears might be taken into consideration,
was very mournful indeed.
Several of the elder children-Reuben
among the rest-undertook to explore the
streets in different directions, Mrs. Brown
going over, with Nelly's assistance, an in-
ventory of his dress, always ending with-
" and a pair of boots that wasn't a pair, and
didn't match, bless him!" and "a cap,
HOW NELLY THREW A LIGHT. 91
which his head was too big, and didn't come
right on, bless him !" with which, together
with other instructions, they went their
ways Nelly mournfully mustering her
diminished flock, and counting them over to
make sure that the rest were safe, as she
escorted them back to Paradise, whither
Mrs. Brown had already retreated with
another rush to prepare Mrs. Green for
what had happened, all along of his going
with that girl of yours."
Tommy's adventures meantime had been
by no means of a wholly unattractive de-
scription. Having, without due observance
of Nelly's ordinances, turned homewards im-
mediately after school with a number of
other children, he had been unable to resist
the attraction of exploring an empty cab, of
which the door was open and the driver not
attending. Established therein, and having
for some time enlivened himself with the
solitary amusement of playing at being a
real gentleman driving along, with a cigar
92 HOW NELLY THREW A LIGHT.
in his mouth--for the indulgence of which
imitative sport he accommodated himself
with a straw from the bottom of the cab-
Tommy's head began to grow heavy and his
eyelids still heavier, and he fell fast asleep,
PLAYING THE i llNTLEM \N.
being safely shut up by the unconscious No.
1697, who looked, as he afterwards explained
it, one way with one hand, and shut the
door with the other."
It was not until evening that 1697 was
hailed by a passing stranger, upon whom
HOW NELLY THREW A LIGHT. 93
the discovery of Tommy fast asleep inside
did not seem to produce a very favourable
impression; and that, much bewildered, the
boy found himself lifted out of his place of
retreat, and heard himself asked what busi-
ness he had there, to which question he
vainly endeavoured to find an answer.
Rubbing his eyes, wondering what had
happened, then bitterly weeping, and con-
ceiving an awful general impression that he
was lost for life and would never see his
family again, Tommy stood under a lamp
and was desolate; and it may safely be ad-
mitted by any one who has known the short
concentrated anguish of being lost at four
years old, that a keener distress than his
hardly existed at that moment within the
confines of Postal District S.E.
A compassionate milkman was the first to
take pity upon him, by asking what was the
matter; and after a brief conversation
Tommy made over the responsibility of the
care of himself completely, and without any
94 HOW NELLY THREW A LIGHT.
reserve, to that kind-hearted inquirer, by
asking him to take him somewhere. "Down
in Paradise was, however, so completely
out of his "milk-walk," that Tommy, on
further consultation, consented with his last
sob to being deposited with Mrs. Long, the
schoolmaster's wife, at the school-house-
the little four-year-old machinery of his
mind occupying itself, as the pair walked
along, in an endeavour to set the question
at rest as to whether, having been lost and
found, like a penny in the streets, he would
not henceforth become Mrs. Long's personal
property, his mother's right to him being
thereby forfeited; which train of thought
mingled with a close inspection of the
shoulder machinery by which his friend
steadily carried his cans without spilling a
Mr. and Mrs. Long were preparing for a
cup of tea in the school-house parlour before
evening service, when, with their milk, the
benevolent milkman presented them with
HOW NELLY THREW A LIGHT. 95
Tommy, whose disappearance had caused
the commotion of two hours before. And
so completely was the next half-hour's enter-
tainment to his mind-so comforting was
kind Mrs. Long's soothing reception-so
pleasant was the hot bread and milk, of
which he partook without the least reserve
-and so satisfactory was it to his feelings
to be admired by numerous little Longs,
who crowded round him with a sort of ex-
pectation that a boy that had been lost
would look different from a boy that hadn't
been lost-that he made a present of him-
self then and there to the schoolmaster's
wife, and was much disappointed because
she wouldn't accept him, but instead, re-
placed on his well-warmed little feet the
" boots that weren't a pair," and on his head
"the cap which wouldn't come right on,"
and committed him to Reuben, who hap-
pened to call in to say that he couldn't be
found, and who promised to bring him to
Paradise without further delay.
96 HOW NELLY THREW A LIGHT.
Tommy's reception at home, after the first
sensation of relief at his appearance, was by
no means so cheering. On the contrary,
having revealed the circumstance of the
bread and milk at the school-house, Mrs.
Brown's scolding for his having been "a bad,
wicked boy, as lost hisself," took the econo-
mical turn of his being sent to bed without
further supper.; while his brothers and
sisters privately exchanged views that they
wouldn't mind being lost, once in a way, if
they could be sure of its ending in tea at
Reuben, meantime, having outside the
door met Nelly's father, who, like him, had
been in search of the missing child, accepted
his invitation to "come in and sit round the
fire a bit," and for the first time entered
"There's littler ones still," he exclaimed
to himself, as, besides Paul and Polly, an
assortment of younger children appeared in
different parts of the room, whom Nelly-