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BLINKY AND ONIONS.
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BLINKY AND ONIONS:
A RAGGED-SCHOOL REMINISCENCE.
MRs. JAMES MARTIN,
AUTHOR OF OUR TOM," LONG CLOAKS," LITTLE TRIMMINGS," ETC.
"They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make
up My jewels."
SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION,
56, OLD BAILEY, E.C.
I. THE FIRST DISCOVERY ... ... ... 1
II. A LADY'S SERMON ... ... ... 10
III. AN ENDING, BUT NOT A BENEDICTION ... ... 21
IV. "MY LODGING IS THE CAULD, CAULD GROUND" 33
V. THE BREAD-WINNING ... ... ... 44
VI. THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE ... ... 51
VII. "THE MIST OF DARKNESS ... ... ... 79
VIII. BUILDING CASTLES IN THE AIi ... ... 96
IX. "ONLY A PAUPER THAT NOBODY OWNS ... 111
X. THE OLD SOLDIER AND HIS DAUGHTER AT HOME 127
XI. CHRISTMAS EVE ... ... ... ... 146
XII. CHRISTMAS MORNING ... ... ... 169
XIII. "ONE EVENT UNTO ALL" .. ... ... 176
LIST OF ENGRAVINGS.
BLINKY'S TOILET ... ... ... Frontispiece
CAUGHT ... ... .. ... .. 5
" WE WANTS SOME ONE BADLY TO TAKE US UP ... 29
"'OOK UP, BLINKY, IT'S THE OLD SOJER ... 55
OLD BILL TAKING STOCK ... ... ... 99
THE MOTHER'S PAUPER FUNERAL ... ... 123
BLINKY AND ONIONS.
THE FIRST DISCOVERY.
" I SAY, boys, look alive Here's the old soldier him-
self to-night, and no mistake. Let's stand all of a
row, and give him a real milingtery salute."
"The old boy'll fancy hisself back in his old
quarters again, Jim," said another voice in the half
darkness. "Go it! if we've got to be pious for an
hour, let's have a lark for it."
It was half-past six o'clock on a Sunday evening,
late in the month of November. The sound of church
bells came cheerily, even through the mist of a
London fog, and almost seemed the message from
a brighter world beyond the winter clouds and storms.
A dirty lane led sharply at right angles out of a
tolerably grand street. It had an unenviable noto-
riety, having supplied from its inhabitants countless
occupants of prison cells, and at least one criminal
"who had, in the phraseology of the district, danced
upon nothing" at Newgate. The neighbourhood
seemed, on the whole, rather pleased than otherwise
with this criminal distinction.
2 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
Nearly at the foot of the dirty lane, on the right
hand side of the way, was a large tumble-down look-
ing wooden building, which had once been a car-
penter's shed. Whether the original occupant had
made or lost his fortune there, no one now could tell.
For many a day, the daily diminishing fragments
of glass in the decaying window-frames had been
the never-failing target for the missiles of the lazy
ragged urchins. Guiltless alike of drainage and gas,
the lane was horrible in dry weather; but, on a night
like this, became completely ankle-deep with all sorts
of refuse, for which the road was the only place of
deposit, and of which the stench was simply dis-
During the past few months previous to this Sunday
evening, an attempt had been made to establish a
ragged school. Not without success either, although
at first a concerted and well-executed plan to ex-
tinguish all the candles, was a favourite and frequent
wind-up of the Sabbath evening exercises-as the
roughs used to call them in mimicry. A policeman
as door-keeper was an absolute necessity, and he
rarely got safe off duty without a plentiful bespatter-
ing of filth. But the superintendent, like Gallio,
cared for none of these things. Physically strong,
mentally stronger, and spiritually higher and stronger
than all, he won the admiration of boys and men
alike. Always fearless and quite calm, whatever
outrage they perpetrated, his very gentleness made
him great, and if once a man can win the admiring
respect of a set of roughs, the rest will follow. Sunday
after Sunday the attendance increased. Something
like order and decent behaviour began to prevail.
A superannuated military officer made one of the
band of helpers, who had gathered round this super-
intendent. His erect carriage and military bearing
THE FIRST DISCOVERY. 3
were a constant source of amusement to the boys,
whose jests were neither very deep, nor at all times
very decent. A few ladies had, with much effort,
been coaxed into occasional visits, but the state of
the road, the absence of all light, and the fear of
rough usage, had prevented anything like a formal
division of the scholars into the usual male and
female classes. So the sight of a young lady, follow-
ing close in the steps of this old gentleman that
Sunday night, aroused considerable curiosity. Not
being troubled with the least remains of shyness, the
whole lane turned out into the doorways, to interview
the new-comers as best they might, by the light of
their own farthing candles.
Oh my! Sail, ain't she a dainty one ?" said one
dirty creature, who had thought it unnecessary to
honour the Sunday by the very slightest acknowledg-
ment of soap and water. I'd not like to black her
boots to-morrow Look out now, miss and a basin
of dirty water was flung out of an upper window;
-it might have been by accident.
In the endeavour to escape the foul deluge, the
lady slipped, and, except for her father's quick eye
and strong hand, would have fallen. Loud shouts
of merriment greeted her misadventure, and, with
a gathering cloud of vexation on her face, and a still
more careful guarding of her skirts, the two pro-
ceeded. For a few steps they went silently, and then
the greeting already given struck her ear.
"Papa dear," she remonstrated, "what is the use
of wasting our nice Sunday evening among this set ?
Why, even your very profession is made fun of! I
thought everybody bowed to an officer."
"It's well to get rather more of the egg-shell off
your dear little head," said the old gentleman, with
a quiet chuckle habitual to him. He never laughed
4 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
out loud. "If any of them happen to know the
song of 'The Old Soldier's Daughter,' you will be
saluted with that, to a dead certainty."
The policeman at the door stood aside to allow
them to pass. The light of the one oil lamp in the
entry was hardly sufficient to show much of the lady's
face. It was just as well, for an angry flush lit up
her features as a row of awkward, dirty, close-cropped
youths each raised two fingers to the side of his head
in imitation of a soldier's salute. The joke, though
very stale, was as mirth-provoking as ever, and the
fellows laughed noisily.
"All right, lads," was the instant response; only
in my day, the fellows didn't dare to laugh when they
saluted. If you mean to copy, you should not stop
"You are an old brick, guv'nor, that's what you
are," said one, taller than the rest, as, with a swing
of his arm, he toppled over two of the foremost
"Dick, who's your hair-cutter?" was the only
retort. "He cuts werry close and werry round.
How much did you pay him ? and, with jokes of this
sort, the whole crowd tumbled and jostled into the
With a little difficulty and much patience on the
part of the teachers, all were at length seated in
classes. Just as the superintendent was about to
give out a hymn, the officer's quick eye detected a
little fellow skulking at the back of the desk. In a
second, his hand had abstracted a silk pocket-hand-
kerchief. The officer made a slight sign, and the
superintendent, turning round unexpectedly, laid his
hand firmly on the boy's shoulder. A dozen rose to
their feet directly. Not in any way abashed, the boy
rolled his prize into a ball, and aimed it so success-
, _ii -. ,'1 i ; I -
I C II.
-- -- -- :
THE FIRST DISCOVERY. 7
fully at two tallow candles in an old lantern at the
opposite side of the room, that they were extinguished
instantly, and handkerchief, candles, and boys were
in a heap on the floor together. The policeman
looked in to see if he was wanted, but was signed to
"Now, Jack," said the superintendent, "if that's
fun, I would like to have a little earnest. If you
wanted to see what my pocket-handkerchief was like,
you might as well have put it back again when you
had looked at it. As it is," he went on, quite good-
temperedly, "I must have it washed before I can
possibly touch it again, and washing is expensive.
Do you think your mother will come for it to-morrow
morning ? And this time, you know, you might bring
it back to me yourself, clean."
The handkerchief had been silently passed from
one to another while he spoke, and a very dirty hand,
as he finished, reached over the Bible and laid it on
the desk before him. He held it up.
"Well done, master " It's a shame "Horse-
whip the young rascal!" "Hand him up to the
bobby!" rose from all corners of the shed, with
murmurs of approbation at the superintendent's
Send little Soapsuds down our way, sir," shouted
the same Dick who had bowled down his two before.
"We'll keep his fingers out of pockets for a bit."
Can you keep your own, Dick?" said one fellow,
with a leer. 'Cos that's a lesson you must have
learned quite recent like! "
Dick made no other reply than a box on the ear,
and a fight might have ensued, but the superin-
tendent said briskly, All right, Dick; you look after
him. I'll settle with him presently; and the small
thief had Dick's strong hand on his neck all the rest
of the evening.
8 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
Without any further interruption, school was
opened in the usual manner. A harmonium, very
well played, led the singing, and the music had its
usual effect of silencing, for the time, all less har-
monious sounds. The teachers settled to their work,
and a class of nine girls fell to the young lady's share.
In no wise calmed by all these novel experiences,
she opened her Bible, and glanced over her scholars.
All were unpromising enough-one dead level of dirt
and degradation-all but one, a little girl of about
nine, with the unnatural sharpness and look of
starved old age so often seen on faces of this class,-
little faces, that should look up brightly, confidingly,
winningly, but that have verily written on them now,
in deep, deep lines, the sins of the third and fourth
generations. She had but one eye; the eyelid fell
close upon the left socket, and no trace of eyeball
could be seen through the lid. The remaining one
was clearly weak, and the mark of the thin hand, so
often raised to dash away the water as it gathered
and trickled down, was the only clean spot in the
otherwise uniform mask of dirt. Dark, matted hair
hung over the thin face, which had this redeeming
and unusual feature-a mouth of perfect beauty and
singular expressiveness. On her bony knee she held
most carefully a heavy child of about four years old.
Fair haired she was, and of much commoner type of
face. The only resemblance lay in the eyes. Both
were perfect, but smitten with the sort of ophthalmia
that seems born of dirt and disgrace. Again, the
frequent tears had made two little rivulets through
the unwashed face.
Children of one mother-it was best not to inquire
who, or where, was the father of either. Baptismal
name they had none, or, if ever the rite had been
performed and a name given, it had long since
THE FIRST DISCOVERY. 9
merged into the only names by which both were
known. In what was probably considered quite a
masterpiece of wit, and which seemed to have lost
-if it ever had-a sting, the elder, in cruel allusion
to her semi-blindness, had been named "Blinky,"
and the little one, from the flow of perpetual tears,
"Onions." Only by these names were the children
10 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
A LADY'S SERMON.
"Jesus called a little child unto Him."-ST. MATT. xviii. 2.
THE lady put her forefinger between two pages of
her well-worn pocket Bible-worn by use, and not
by irreverent usage-and twisting nervously in the
other hand the scrap of paper which had marked the
place, she began thus :-
Once upon a time-and when I was a little girl,
I always thought the nice stories began that way-
once upon a time, in a land a long way off, where
people live in different houses, and wear different
clothes and longer hair, and have darker-coloured
skins than we have-at least, I mean those of us who
manage to get a little drop of water now and then;
and it really doesn't take much to wash the dirt off,
when you are inclined to be clean. I wish very much
by next Sunday evening some of you would try it,
and then just ask each other if you do not look much
nicer than usual."
A low titter ran round the class, followed by the
usual nudging of elbows, as one or two whose faces
were specially begrimed endeavoured, by damping
the corner of a tattered apron, after a fashion quite
familiar to teachers in night schools, and vigorously
A LADY'S SERMON. 11
rubbing it over the thickest of the dirt, to remove
some strata of accumulated filth. The teacher smiled
pleasantly, and went on-
No, not just now, for you can hardly do two
things at once. Try my plan before school next time.
But thank you all the same for taking my hint so
quickly, and not being put out with me. Well, in a
far-off beautiful land, where beautiful flowers grow
wild in the hedges, and figs and grapes are quite
common things (" Oh my! broke in several subdued
voices, with a sound like a smack of appetite), there
was a very large town, nearly all built on the top or
sides of a high hill. You could see it a long, long
way off, before you got near it at all, and on the very
highest part, as white as white marble could make it,
and with little, little spikes of gold shining away
against the blue sky, was the grandest and most
beautiful church that could be seen anywhere in all
that country. The church was not close to the road,
like our churches are, but was away by itself, with
yards and courts, and long flights of steps to go up
before you could get near any of the doors. And these
courts and yards were always full of people in the
daytime, for the church was never shut, Sunday nor
Monday, except when it grew dark; and every morn-
ing, before most of you are out of bed (" Some on us
ain't never in it," one girl put in, sotto voce), there had
been quite a long service gone through. Some were
dressed like ministers-parsons, I think you generally
call them-and some wore long loose gowns like
women, with bits of writing stitched on here and
there. Some had a little stone bottle of ink strapped
into a belt at their side, and something like a roll of
yellow paper in their hands; and in one large court
all by itself-not a man near it-you might have seen
a great many women and little girls. Well, one
12 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
afternoon, close by the large gate that opened from
one of these courts away down the hill, there was a
great crowd of people. You might nearly have walked
on their heads. Some were shouting, some hooting,
some hissing, in fact, just all the sorts of disagree-
able noises that I heard when I came in here to-night;
and just in the very middle of them, not in the least
afraid, was a quiet, grave-looking man, not dressed a
bit better than any of the common people. At last
the crowd got so angry, that they went to one side of
the court, where masons and bricklayers were busy
making a wall, and they lifted some of the largest
stones they could find, and began to throw them at
Well, I'll bet they hit Him," put in the same voice
that had interrupted before.
No, they did not," said the young lady, quietly;
"but the queer thing was that, though they were
watching Him with all the eyes in their heads, as you
would say, all at once they couldn't see Him, not one
bit of Him. And the stones they had begun throwing
hit each other, and made them very angry, but where
He had gone to, nobody could see, nor how He had got
out of their way could anybody tell. But in a corner
just by one of the great stone posts of the gate, which
you can guess was always open when the church
itself was, you might have seen, crouched down on a
little mat, a poor blind man. Every morning he was
led to that corner by a little girl, with long dark hair
fastened back from her forehead by a strip of blue
string. She wore a long loose frock of coarse white
stuff, but it was quite clean, and she had it tied in
tight round her waist, by something like a silk cord
that had had green, and blue, and purple in it, but it
was so ravelled out now that you would have scarcely
been able to guess what it had been like in its best
A LADY'S SERMON. 13
days. And like the little girls of her time-for they
were modest, and did not wish to be stared at-she had
a curious way of covering her head, and part even of
her face out of doors, with what seemed to be a fold of
her long, loose sleeve.
The house where they lived was very poor, away
at the foot of the hill, on the side of a road leading
to another town, and for several days together you
might have seen this child leading her poor blind
brother kindly up the steep hill, shaking his little
bit of rug carefully before she settled him on it,
setting a stone jar of water just where he knew he had
only to put out his hand and reach it, and a little
bundle-oh, so little it always was!-of whatever she
could manage to give him that day to eat. For
their mother was dead long ago, and their father
was growing old and not good for much now, and if
it had not been for the kindness of the neighbours, I
cannot really tell you what they would have done.
If you had seen the poor blind man sitting there
day after day so sadly, and heard him say, 'Pity the
poor blind! Pity the poor blind! in such a sorrowful
tone, I am sure you would have felt as sorry as the
people did who passed him on their way into the
church, and you would have given him a copper too,
like a great many gave him."
The lady imitated the cry of the blind man so
exactly, that the class was quite disturbed. That's
Blind Billy to a t exclaimed one. "No, it ain't,"
said another, 'cos he wasn'tt no sister; he 'as only a
dog." But he sits at the corner of St. Stephen's
every Sunday in life, sister or no sister. And he
always says them werry words, 'Pity the poor
blind interrupted a fourth; and I knows them
as says it's more touching nor the sermon, so it is."
Now, tell us," said a small chorus, pressing close
14 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
round her knees, "was it him as you was a-thinking
of? Just tell us now, do." Blinky neither spoke
nor moved; for one thing, Onions was fast asleep on
her lap, but she had quite forgotten to wipe her eyes
in her excitement.
"No," the lady went on, I do not know Blind
Billy; but I am very glad you do, for you will be quite
able to understand my story. On the afternoon that
I told you about just now, when the people began
throwing stones, the poor blind man got frightened
at all the noise. He was afraid to catch hold of any-
body's long loose robe, for fear it should be some one
who did not know him, and would only have abused
him. And as the crowd came through the gates,
pushing and struggling in their anger, some came so
close as to tread on his poor thin legs, though he
tucked them up on his mat as close together as he
could; and the stone jar, that held his drop of water,
was thrown down. He could feel the wet making his
mat so damp, and he knew by the sound as it rolled
against the gate-posts, that it was cracked too, and
would not hold any water at all for him to-morrow.
And he crept almost under the wall, wishing so much
that he could but hear his little sister Miriam's foot-
step, and yet afraid of how that angry crowd would
behave to a poor girl. But at length the people
seemed to go away home, and it grew quieter, and he
could hear the sound of the sweet, solemn music in the
church, which told him they had begun the evening
service, and he began to feel chilly as the dew fell on
him. Oh, he was so glad when he felt sure it was her
step he heard, and when she said, softly, as usual, 'I
am here, brother,' he could very nearly have cried
She started when she saw the broken water-jar,
and asked anxiously how long he had sat on the damp
A LADY'S SERMON. 15
mat. He could not tell, he said, but he was very
cold, and so frightened; he could not guess what had
made the crowd so angry, and so near the church too.
Miriam listened patiently to all his story; she had
heard a little as she was coming up the hill, and
understood it all a great deal better than he did. So
she threw the wet mat over one arm, and gave him
the other to help his poor trembling legs. When she
tried to lift his water-jar, it fell into pieces, and
she kicked them out of his way.
"Down the hill they went, more slowly than ever,
Miriam thought. Cheer up, dear,' she said at last,
'it's not much further now, and father will be so
anxious.' But he did not seem as if he could go
any quicker, and by the time she lifted the latch of
the front door, the stars were shining bright over their
heads. And she was very glad when she got him
made comfortable for the night, and her father too,
and was able to lie down herself close by his side, on
what you would have thought a worn-out old hearth-
rug, but it was all the bed she knew anything about,
and she was fast asleep very soon, for you see she was
only a little girl.
Well, for a good many days after that, her blind
brother would not gb away from the house. And
when at last Miriam did persuade him, and told him
how often people who knew him had asked about
him, and that she did not know how they could
possibly get along without the money that was given
him at the church gate, he began to shiver all over,
and said that he never would go back to his old seat.
She could not tell how dreadful it was to hear all that
those angry people said, and to be pushed and kicked
and hurt badly, and all the while not even to be able
to see how to get out of the way. No, she did not
know how terrible it was to be always in the dark,
16 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
both night and day. But back to that corner by the
gate-post he would not go-never.
So Miriam talked it all over with the old father,
and they thought of a safer and quieter place for him.
Almost within sight of their door, on the side of the
same road that led up the long hill to that church,
there was a little well of bright, clear, cold water, and
two pretty trees with long glossy dark-green leaves
hung over it like a large umbrella, and it was never
very hot there, even at the middle of the day in
summer. Round the little well a few large rough
stones were laid to prevent children from tumbling
They wouldn't care if we did, here," was whispered
audibly; "they always says there's such a cussed lot
of children down our street." The lady only noticed
the interruption by signing to Blinky to rest her feet
on the bar of her own chair, and went on.
So she waited till next morning, and told her
brother what their little plan was, and how she had
noticed that people who went up or down that steep,
dusty hill often sat on the stones by the well to rest
awhile. And she had to go that very day to a house
near by, to help the woman to get ready for a
very solemn religious ceremony that was coming,
and so she could beg five minutes now and then
through the day, to run down and see how he was
"He agreed, and she took his mat, which was quite
dry long ago, and a cup with a bit of string tied to
the handle, so that each time she came she could
draw some nice fresh water out of the well; and he
put his right hand on her shoulder, and, with his
strong stick in his left, went with her. She spread
the mat just so that he could lean back nicely against
the stem of one of the trees, and after saying good-
A LADY'S SERMON. 17
bye, she looked back several times, as she ran her
own way up the hill, to make sure that he was com-
Just about this time, if you had gone some little
way further on the road away from the church, and
past the poor old house where they lived, you would
have found yourself in a town. And there you would
have met the very same grave, sad, shabbily dressed
man that the crowd were so angry with at the church,
walking along the road with several other men, to
whom He was talking now and then Once He was
interrupted by some women who brought their little
babies to Him-not at all too clean, I dare say, for
the people that knew Him were mostly poor. And
the men did not like having their nice chat spoilt by
squalling children, as they called them, and in a very
cross manner they told the mothers to be off-nobody
wanted a pack of such goods there. But He stopped,
and with something as nearly like a frown as ever any-
body saw on His face, rebuked these men. And when
the mothers ventured to come closer as they noticed
this, He stood quite still. One little one He hugged
up in His arms, and patted the black curly head of
another, and looked with such love at the rest, that all
the crying stopped in a minute, as He said, in low
sweet tones, that He wanted all the little children to
come to Him, and He would not love anybody who
tried to keep them away. And the mothers had gone
back to their own houses so happy, and for many a
long day after, the husbands wondered what that Man
could have said, for the children had grown so quiet
and loving, that it was not like being in the same
A sound from the harmonium broke in here, which
drew a chorus of dissatisfied Oh, what a bother! "
from most in the class. The superintendent was wise,
18 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
and at that school a little breathing-time was always
given during the evening, in which the children were
allowed to talk, stand up, and move about. He said
the pent-up steam was let off that way, and there
was not so much fear of an explosion for the rest of
the evening. He was generally right too, for, except
new-comers, who needed a night or two before they
quite understood the ways of the place, the noise and
confusion was apt to be at the very opening of the
Never mind," said the lady, we shall get on all
the better for a change. I wonder if any of your
throats are as dry with listening as mine is with
talking?" She took from some pocket which they
could not see, a good-sized glass bottle, to the great
wonderment of several boys in the next class, who
asked, of course, "what brew the lady liked best." She
pulled out a cork, and rising from her chair, asked
each child to hold out her hand. What wonderful
curiosities some of them were And a very fair allow-
ance of sweeties fell into each palm. But oh,
the manceuvres of the classes at each side, to inter-
polate a dirty paw into the rank, and when that
failed-for the lady counted heads as well as hands-
to nudge elbows, so as to scatter the little hoard on
the floor, and give the interested outsiders a chance
of dividing the spoil.
However, between the lady's clever adroitness in
managing, and the natural sharpness of the children
in dodging, not many went astray, and the class sat
and sucked with sugary satisfaction, which actually
was silent also.
The lady smiled at the success of her little scheme.
"Now," she said, "will you promise to be as quiet
after the sweeties are done ? "
"Yes, ma'am, we will," burst from one and all-
A LADY'S SERMON. 19
for there is honour among thieves, if you can only
get at it !
"She's a fust-rate hand, so she is," said the one
who had interrupted before; "and if any one says
as she ain't, just let 'em come to me for the loan
of a sixpence." The voice, no less than the words,
betrayed the speaker's nationality.
That's very good," said the lady, "but you
shouldn't compliment me to my face. Now, I want
just to read you a bit of poetry about children, and
then, if you like, you shall have the end of my
These were the lines she read-
Only a child! just a little child,
Fragile and fair as a flo-weret wild,
Kissed by the butterfly, loved by the bee;
Yet with no special grace that outsiders can see;
Loved in its home for its own sweet sake,
For love is the measure how hearts can ache
Only a child! but 'tis our own child,
Part of our home, where the father smiled,
Forgetting his cares in his little one's glee,
Making home as like heaven as earth can be;
Unheeding the years rushing rapidly by-
Only a child! but suppose it should die!
"Basket and spade, and empty chair-
Relies of fingers that once were there!
Curtains drawn close round a disused bed,
Where angels once hovered, but now have fled,
Just a child's grave; there's no cause to weep-
There's peace when the little ones go to sleep !'
"Only a child just one dear little girl,
But precious to Jairus as fairest pearl;
The widow of Nain had an only son;
The Syrophenician a daughter-just one;
The deaf, dumb, or blind, sad home-treasures unpriced,
Though rebuked by disciples, are healed by the Christ!
20 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
"Only a child! yet the Master pressed
Jewels like these to His loving breast!
Only a child! but the angels from far
Are sent from His throne to where little ones are.
The world in cold scorn may pass on unbeguiled;
The good God saith never 'Tis only a child!' "
( 21 )
AN ENDING, BUT NOT A BENEDICTION.
"When they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh
away the word that was sown in their hearts."-MARK iv. 15.
THE lady had no more trouble that night with her
class. They listened, in curious contrast to some of the
surrounding groups, to her very last word. She went
on with her story.
"I am sure you would all like to be told how
people were dressed in that country, and I had
better tell you now. Well, the men did not wear
clothes at all like men do here. They were made of
stuff that could be easily washed, very often white; and
everything was made loose, because the heat is often
very great. And their coats, I am sure you would
have thought very much more like a woman's long
mantle, for they were nearly down to their toes. And
if they were in a hurry, or if it rained, you can fancy
how the folds would flap, flap against their legs, and
prevent them from getting on quickly. So they had a
belt which they buckled tight round their waist, and
when they wanted to be very quick about anything,
they either tucked the loose long coat under the belt
and made it a great deal shorter, or they took it off
22 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
altogether, and rolled it up tight as the policeman
at the door does with his oilskin cape."
Every head immediately turned at once to survey
X 22, who by this time of the evening generally found
that he was pretty sure not to be wanted outside, and
was glad of a stool inside, and a chance of hearing
and seeing anything that might be interesting.
The lady was a good deal amused by this endeavour
to verify the accuracy of her description, and mentally
recorded it as a hint, that any remark very wide of
the truth might chance to be challenged-a fact, by-
the-by, which teachers of more pretension are rather
apt to forget.
Well, I left off where the man and His few friends
were walking along the road, and their talk had been
interrupted by some little children."
Oh yes," said several, "and the friends was
"But He wasn't," put in Blinky, very low.
No, He was not, and He would not have been with
any of you, if you had been there. But they walked on,
and a good many people came out of their houses as
He passed, and went after Him too, just to see what
He was 'up to,' as you would have called it. So when
they came in sight of the little well, with the two pretty
green trees hanging over it, one of them said, 'Look
there isn't that the poor blind fellow that used to
beg by the big church up on yonder high hill?
What's he changed his quarters for ?' So they looked
at him as they came closer, and they all agreed that
it was just the very same; but why he had taken to
sit there, they could not tell. By this time-you
know what sharp ears blind people almost always
have-the poor man had heard the shuffle of a good
many feet, and the sound of several people talking.
He thought at once of the row by the church gates, and
AN ENDING, BUT NOT A BENEDICTION. 23
his poor heart went pit-a-pat. 'Oh, what shall I do ?'
he said quite out loud. 'If only Miriam was anywhere
about, and could see this stir, and run to me !' And
he felt about for his cup, and rolled the string of it
tight round one hand, for fear that it should get
broken, as his water-jar had been.
"' Did you speak, poor man?' said a woman who
was walking at the very edge of the crowd. She had
"a kind, sweet face, though he could not see that, and
"a very gentle voice which soothed him at once; and
she carried in her arms a little fat, crowing baby, one
of the very ones whom the Man had spoken to so
kindly only a short time ago.
The blind man caught hold of her dress with one
hand. 'I am so frightened,' he said. 'I am quite
blind, and I got hurt in a crowd. What are all these
people doing ?'
"'Poor man!' she said. So you can't see who it
is that is going by ? All the same; it's just the very
man for you, if you can only stop Him. 'Tis that
good man, Jesus, that used to live with the carpenter
Joseph, at Nazareth, and now He can do things that
beat all the doctors. Call Him! call Him He's
nearly passed you while we've been talking.'
"The man rose up from his mat, where he had
been crouching like a dog that everybody kicks, and
standing straight up, making himself as tall as ever
he could, called out quite loud, Have mercy on me !
have mercy on me '
Some of the very men who had been so cross
before, when the little babies had been carried up
to this Man, slipped away from His side, and went
up to the beggar. 'Don't shout like that they said,
in a very disagreeable way. 'We can't hear what
He is saying, if you keep on bawling! What do
you want ? We can't give you any money, for we are
24 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
all very poor, and we haven't as much as we should
like for ourselves.'
Don't you mind what they say,' said the woman,
and she laid her hand very earnestly on his arm.
' They are not Him, and it's only Him as you've got
to look to. Call again, again! See, He's heard-and
He's stopping, so He is;' and she nearly let the baby
fall in her excitement. 'Try again, once more, very
loud! and his voice came ringing out over all the
heads of the people-
"' Son of David, have mercy on me!' and there
was just a quiver at the end of it, which would have
made you cry if you had heard it.
"By this time the Man had quite stopped, and the
people round Him fell off right and left, so as to make
a little lane straight up to the well.
When the cross men saw that, they began to be
afraid that they would get another scolding, which
they knew they had quite deserved. And they tried
to make up for being so cruel, by patting his back
now, and saying, There, don't be afraid! He's calling
you. Go to Him; it's just you that He wants.' But
the kind woman popped her baby down on his mat.
'Quick she said, 'quick! He mightn't send for you
twice, and I heard Him myself just now say, "Poor
blind man, come There's a man coming for you
now,' and she undid the fastening of his belt, for she
saw how his poor fingers were bungling at it, and he
threw off his long, loose coat, making his way up
through the little lane of people, feeling with his
hands right and left. So he came quite close, and
the Man said, in the same soft, low voice that had
made the children so happy, 'Is there anything you
want, that you think I can do for you ?'
Something in his heart just then said,' It is not
just a man that you are speaking to ; it is He who can
AN ENDING, BUT NOT A BENEDICTION. 25
save His people from their sins. Ask all you want.
You may never have such a chance again.' And so
the blind man lifted one hand and put his fingers on
his poor dark eyes, and he laid the other hand over
the heart that ached so often, and was always so dull
and lonely, and he just managed to stammer out,
'Lord, that I might receive my sight.' As he said
this he felt in himself, If I am not helped now, I
shall just be poor and blind and miserable all my
days; but I feel sure He will.'
"What was it that had happened? A few words,
'Thy faith hath made thee whole,' seemed to ring in
his ears, and yet they had been said so sweetly and
softly that a sleeping baby would hardly have stirred.
He lifted up his head, and for the first time saw a
face-he had never seen his mother's-the face of
the Man who had been such a good friend to him.
He saw those eyes, so full of love that they were full
of tears once, when he stood by the grave of a man He
loved very much. He saw the grave mouth, with
deep lines of sorrow and pain round it, as you have
often seen on some old granny's face, only this Man
was still young, and ought not to have had them for
many, many years. He saw the crowd, but he did
not look twice at the mob of people. He looked at the
bright green leaves of the two trees, but he did not
turn that way again. He heard the pleasant little
gurgle, gurgle of the water in the well, saw it for
the first time sparkling in the bright sun, and he
almost wondered to find how beautiful everything in
the world was; but one look was enough. It was just
the face of the good Man who had been such a friend
to him that he wanted to look at, and that sweet, low
voice was the only music to fill his ear and heart.
He forgot his mat, he forgot his water-cup, and his
old loose coat, though it was the only one he had.
26 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
He even forgot Miriam and his father, and he just
turned and went behind the Man, keeping as close to
Him as ever he could. Then something inside him
told him again that, as long as he did that, he would
never know what it was any more to want any good
The lady opened her little Bible, and read the
last seven verses of the tenth chapter of St. Mark.
" There," she said, I have made a long story over
Blind Bartimoeus, the son of Timamus, who sat by the
way-side begging.* And I want you to think about it,
and just to try, like he did, if you too cannot come
straight up to Jesus Christ. He is standing still
waiting now, and it is just me that He has sent to
call you all to-night, and I want to be like the good
woman, and help you all to find Him."
A small hand-bell had been tinkled by the police-
man at the door for a few minutes, and several women
came straggling into the room noiselessly, for not one
had a vestige of stocking or shoe; their heads either
bare or loosely covered with a greasy shawl, and
every one carrying the inevitable baby.
The superintendent had a kindlyword for each comer.
At the side of the room furthest from the door was a
small fireplace propped up with bricks, where the
carpenter in old days had probably heated his glue-
pot. Round this fire he seated them now, and the
poor creatures seemed to relish both light and heat
for which they had not to pay. A few men skulked
in and stood at the back of the door, evidently not
caring to be much noticed.
Any of the scholars that pleased could go at this
"* With the hope of grouping in one narrative as many of the
leading features in Christ's ministry as would specially appeal to
children, the writer has purposely diminished the distance between
Jericho-close to which the miracle was wrought-and Jerusalem,
where Bartimseus is stationed when the story opens.
AN ENDING, BUT NOT A BENEDICTION. 27
pause. One hour was thought quite sufficient for
school, and a short religious service followed, intended
chiefly for the parents. Latterly most of the children
and all the adults had remained. Even piety and
heat were better than their miserable homes and a
The old officer began with a very short prayer, and
then again a hymn was sung. Scotch, as a few ex-
pressions proved him to be, it was natural that he
should fall back on the Psalms of his youth for his
text. He gave his audience really a brief autobio-
graphy, told of his boyhood among strangers, of his
training in the army, of his barrack life, of some ex-
periences on the field of battle, of some soldiers' lives,
and of some soldiers' deaths.
"With the stern brevity of his profession, he pictured
all without waste of words, and the complete stillness,
unbroken except now and then by a baby's whine, was
almost curious. He had taken as a motto, rather
than a text, When my father and my mother for-
sake me, then the Lord will take me up." A living
illustration of His care over the needy and desolate,
the old man testified warmly how safe they are, whom
He protects and cares for.
A prayer offered by the superintendent closed the
service. The mothers sat on around the fire, telling
of Jack who 'listed last year, and no one had heard
tell of him since," and other accounts of neighbours
just similar. The elder boys had begun their usual
game of extinguishing the candles, by a promiscuous
pelting of caps or any small handy article, not
always exercising care as to whose pocket the missile
might be taken from.
The young lady had risen when the service ended,
but Blinky's voice arrested her. Steadying herself
with difficulty, as she carried little Onions, whom the
28 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
closeness of the room had long since thrown into
a sleep as deep as that of Eutychus, she ventured to
"Please, ma'am, it was werry good to hear that
story to-night, but would you please write something
for me "
Quite misunderstanding her, the lady said, "But
I never saw you before to-night, and I can't say a
word for you without knowing more about you."
Oh, please no, ma'am," said the child, hastily.
"I hain't a beggar, and don't want nothing of you
nor nobody. We gets our own living me and
Onions. Only I thought, ma'am, if you would be
so werry good as to write down what the old gent
said to-night, it might help us a bit when we get
afraid like in the dark."
The lady sat down again instantly. Her natural
impulse was to stroke the child's head caressingly,
but a second glance satisfied her of the necessity of
postponing that evidence of interest. Blinky had
come quite close to her, and was now half resting
Onions on her lap.
It's the text, ma'am, that he said so many times.
We wants some one badly to take us up; and if he
says the Lord will do it, we might do worse than try."
The lady asked a few questions, but Blinky's con-
fidence was hard to win, and she did little more than
repeat her request to "have the words wrote down."
"And please, ma'am, do it all in big letters like
those," and she pointed to a board of capitals, which
the teacher of the next class had just hung up again
on its peg.
A little baffled and disappointed at the child's
evident want of trust, the lady searched for paper.
She had only a letter in her pocket, and in the inside
of the envelope, which was directed to herself, she
printed the whole verse. Blinky looked on.
"- -- -.-
AN ENDING, BUT NOT A BENEDICTION. 31
Loud shrieks and cries of "Murder! interrupted
them. The room cleared instantly. A row was too
tempting, even in the enjoyment of light and heat.
Three of the worst alleys in the whole district were
really closed at one end by this carpenter's shed, and
from their direction the sounds came.
"It's Long Jane's voice, I'll bet," said one woman,
wrapping the end of her shawl round the snoring
baby. If I was Blinky, I'd make off to-night."
The child knew the voice, too. Without a word
of thanks, she snatched the envelope with one hand,
and, still keeping Onions as well as she could with
the other, elbowed her way out with the rest, and was
lost in the darkness. The policeman had gone at the
first sound of the disturbance; it was nothing new
"Is there any danger, papa?" said the young lady,
as the room rapidly emptied of all but the half-dozen
Not the very least, dear," said the old officer, to
us; nor I suppose to anybody. These people make
more noise than we used to do on the battle-field."
"And do less execution," added the superintendent,
with a smile. "And where am I to find Dick and
Soapsuds ? "
"You'll have to let him off to-night," said the
young lady. "Why didn't you give him in charge ? "
My dear young lady," said he, "I should have
lost my boy, for he would never have come near me
again. As it is, I can search for him, and have a
chance of getting some hold of him."
"It's uphill work!" sighed the old officer. "If one
could not remember how once, it was just when the
Master was wearied, that He preached one of His most
successful sermons, we might nearly all give up."
They went out into the lane, and groped their way
82 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
along the houses, now silent and dark. As they
turned into the broad street at the end, a mob
straggled through the middle, some swearing, some
shouting, while several policemen carried a man too
drunk to walk, but well able to fight.
"He had half killed a woman-the brute!"
screamed some of the women, and she was took
off to the doctor's."
The injured woman was Blinky's mother; but
where were Blinky and Onions ?
,f' ,t ,^ ,M
\ ..i.. sl ': -, ..;
"MY LODGING IS THE CAULD, CAULD GROUND."
Oh that I knew where I might find Him "-Jon xxiii. 3.
"He giveth ... to the young ravens which cry."-PSALM cxlvii. 9.
LIKE many other districts famous in the annals of
crime, this locality bordered on a neighbourhood
more than respectable, and hung like a foul fringe
on the skirts of solvent suburbans;-just the old
story : cloth of gold touching cloth of frieze.
Running right through its very centre, and driving
the already overcrowded inhabitants into still closer
quarters and deeper degradation, was a branch rail-
way. Many a foul secret, long buried, had been
suddenly brought to light, as the navvies excavated
for the piers of its countless arches. Once even the
instrument which did the murderous deed, and which
alone had been wanting to complete a chain of
evidence, was exhumed as the work went on. Many
of the arches had been utilized for storage, and nearly
all had been boarded up. In such a district they had
been simply the unlicensed houses of entertainment,
and given the policeman extra work in the way of
The station was about half a mile away, and late
on Sunday evenings was generally quiet enough. A
few church-goers, whose restless spirits could find no
34 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
congenial pasture close at hand, took their Sabbath
day's journey to their favourite minister, and a beggar
or two dodged about at the well-known hours. In
their experience, church-going and charity were
The fog had thickened as the evening wore on, and
the lights of the station seemed only a dull disc of
red. No refreshment-room was necessary so near
to town; but a stall, with cakes, apples, and brandy-
balls, stood on week-days just at the foot of the steps.
Carefully feeling over the refuse-she could not be
said to be looking-was Blinky; as usual, with Onions
by her side.
"I so hungry," whined the child. "Do let's get
back to mammy."
"Onions stay with Blinky to-night," said the
poor child; "not leave Blinky all alone in the dark! "
"But I want somefin' to eat," repeated the child;
" and you ain't getting it for Onions."
Blinky dashed away one drop from her face; she
was hungry too.
"Look here!" she shouted triumphantly. With the
quick sense of touch which so often seems the divine
compensation for defective vision, she put two or
three lumps into her ragged apron, and hurried to
the station lamps to examine the prize.
Not much. Even a dog would scarcely have
touched the fragments: three hard and dirty crusts
-the refuse of the Saturday night supper of the
more fastidious fruit-seller; a half-eaten apple, much
decayed; and the head of a herring. The smell of
this last would have been sufficient for most people,
but to Onions it was specially invigorating, and
after one reassuring sniff, she stopped whining, and
opened her mouth instead.
The two children sat down on the lowest step,
"MY LODGING IS THE CAULD, CAULD GROUND." 35
and began their feast. Unperceived by Onions, Blinky
carefully wiped the largest crust with the corner of
her apron, and slipped it into the bosom of her frock.
With an instinct of motherliness which is natural to
some children, the child broke off bit by bit, and fed
the little one as a bird does its nestling. Bread and
fish disappeared in silent rapidity, and then Onions
held out her hand for the dessert.
Just one long breath Blinky drew as the morsels
vanished. Her woman's lesson of self-denial was
Vere's Blinky's supper?" at last said Onions,
quite wide awake to the fact that not even a crumb
was left. Will mammy give you some ? "
We'll not try to-night. Me and Onions '11 stay
together on the nice shavings. We don't want to go
home, do we ?"
Oh no, not want to go home," said the little one,
of course repeating the sisterly oracle. "Blinky, have
zou dot nothing more for supper ? Onions not full."
For one second Blinky's face grew dark. She could
have eaten all and more, yet she had not tasted a
crumb. She felt for the hidden crust, and then
dropped her hand.
Onions not want any more to-night," she said.
Come away, or the nice shavings will be gone; and
at that prospect Onions got up at once.
They crept close to the railway, and at the third
arch found a well-remembered loose board. Many a
night before they had passed there, but it had been
summer-time, and now cold and hunger made Blinky
almost reel. Pushing the board on one side, she
crept in on hands and feet. A little management was
necessary to coax the plumper Onions through the
same narrow space. Feeling about for a heap of
shavings, Blinky caught hold of something like a
36 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
sack, and sitting down on the heap, she drew Onions'
head into her lap, and threw the covering over her.
Is we kite safe, Blinky? said the child. It
vesy dark. You will hold Onions kite tight? "
Tears would have come had she tried words.
Blinky hugged her still closer, and she was in a few
minutes fast asleep again. Blinky's thoughts went
back to the ragged school. A row in the home, and
a night out, were too common occurrences in Blinky's
life for her to think about them. Fragments of delf,
broken chairs and tables, black eyes, and bruises,-
were not they her heritage by birth ? the natural sur-
roundings of every day ?
That old gent looked like as he'd been taken care
of by somebody," she said to herself. But then
likely he was never hungry, like me, or if he was, it's
a precious long time ago. Was he ever as empty as
I am to-night ? And how did the Lord take him up ?
'cos he looks very happy when he talks about it. I
'spose it's the same Lord that the young lady talked
of too. They're father and daughter, them two, that's
clear. Dear how funny it must be to have a father
what doesn't throw things at you! But she called
Him 'the dear Lord.' I wonder why. Does it take a
deal of money to get at Him ? 'cos that's what they
means here when they says things is dear. But she
said the blind man was a L..._ i. and me and Onions,
we does work honest for our living, so he could not
have bought Him to cure him. Was it 'cos he'd no
sight in both eyes, and I can see with one, that He
has never called me? The old gent said He'd been
better nor a father to him. Anybody might easy be
that to me. Was his father good, I wonder? 'cos he
said as how he'd had to shift for himself when he was
a boy. That's what me and Onions has to do pretty
often. Only if the Lord or anybody took me any-
"MY LODGING IS THE CAULD, CAULD GROUND." 37
where, they'd have to take her too." And at the bare
thought of separation, Blinky gave an involuntary
hug to the little sleeper, and provoked a howl which
it took her some minutes to stop.
Policeman Z 52 was on for his night's beat. He
knew the little couple well, and their wretched mother
even better. He pushed the loose board over the
aperture so softly, that even Blinky's sharp ears
detected no sound. On his next round he stopped
again, and this was what he heard; the voice was
0 Lord, wherever you are, please come and take
me up away anywhere out of this-me and Onions.
I aren't say,' dear Lord,' like the young lady did, 'cos
likely she's known you a long while, and I think she
must be good. I don't much care about my eye, for
one does well enough for me, but I'd like something to
eat, and somebody to say a kind word to me now and
then. The old gent said you wos tired and hungry very
often, so you knows what it feels like. And I'm almost
always that. And he said you'd no home, and I
haven't neither; and as for father and mother, I'd be
a deal better without those as I've got. So please, O
Lord, if you took the old gent up, will you just take
me some day soon-me and Onions ?"
The weak voice stopped. To the listener's ear it was
choked in tears, and his own eyes were full. Again
he went his round, and again returned to the same
spot. All was silent. Quietly moving the board, he
turned on the light of his bull's-eye by degrees, and
saw the two children. Blinky had toppled over on
one side, almost double, but with Onions safe shielded
from cold and damp, by the sacking which she had
managed to put round, after the fashion of a little
tent. Her own poor feet were uncovered and blue.
It was hopeless for him to try and do more than get
38 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
one arm in. But in his pocket was a certain blue
handkerchief, in which his thoughtful wife of ten
years' standing had wrapped something for her good
man's supper. Savoury it smelt. It was hardly cold
yet, and he knew well that anything her fingers made
was apt to taste even better than it looked or smelt.
He pushed in the little bundle as far as his arm could
reach, and put back the plank as tightly as he could,
to keep out the night air.
The November fog had no effect upon him-that
Sunday night less than ever. He was warm inside,
with a joy that a ministering angel would not have
disdained to share. When he was relieved in his beat,
long before the lamps were out in the early morning,
the board was still unmoved.
An early train, at six o'clock every morning, ran at
a cheap fare to take workmen to their daily toil. The
noise, rolling over their heads like thunder, started
the children. Blinky was numb with cold and the
night's sleep on the damp litter. Onions woke cross,
after the fashion of hungry children.
"Blinky, isn't it morning yet? Onions wants
somfin' to eat."
Putting one hand into the bosom of her frock,
Blinky, in silence, took out the crust she had hidden
there the night before. As yet it was quite dark.
She felt for the little hand that was uplifted to her
face, and slipped the hard morsel into it. Onions'
hand closed over it, as a happier child would have
been comforted with barley sugar. With one end
in her mouth, she solaced herself into quietness, and
of course, at length, sleep.
Blinky had shifted her position slightly, though still
holding the child, and now sat upright, with her back
leaning against the damp wall of the arch. The
scrap of paper, on which the text was written by the
"MY LODGING IS THE CAULD, CAULD GROUND." 39
young lady, she had pulled out with the crust. The
feel of it sent her back to the previous evening.
Where was her mother? Was she really hurt ?-for
Blinky had so often heard cries of Murder! when no
members had been injured, but the arms and legs of
chairs and tables, that she could hardly believe in
any serious personal injury. At most, a strip or two
of doctor's strapping plaster made all things right
again. Slowly she repeated to herself the text which
sleep seemed to have printed down, even clearer than
the lady's letters-
I'll try and be werry good to Onions to-day, and
get her lots to eat. Then perhaps He'll come and
look after us a bit." And poor Blinky sighed.
The daylight struggled through the chinks of the
boards. The men at the station were clearly beginning
to get it clean for their respectable morning travellers ;
and Blinky could hear the milkmen. What would she
have given for some-only a cup of the much-abused
Onions woke, finally this time; and after a process,
exactly resembling a cat's attention to its kittens, and
to which both children were perfectly accustomed,
stood upright with great difficulty; and, staggering
with weakness, Blinky rose too. Just then Onions
spied the policeman's blue bundle. Whether her two
eyes were worth more than Blinky's one, or with the
instinct of a mere animal she scented the food, she
was certainly the first to find it. She dropped the
half-sucked crust, and held out her hand.
Onions not take that," said Blinky. "Nobody
gave that to Onions," and in her heart, oh, how she
wished somebody had, as Onions' fingers dexterously
pulled out, between the knots, a pasty, and a large
slice of ham and bread!
40 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
"But Onions founded it," said the child, savagely,
letting the handkerchief drop; "and what me find
me will keep," she added, with a logic easily learnt,
even at four years old.
Blinky hesitated. It was not there when she couched
down last night, she felt sure. Had the Lord sent it
from somewhere, to prove that He was going to take
her and Onions into His own care ? Still, without
some assurance on the point, Blinky's honest soul re-
volted at touching what was neither earned nor given,
and could not have been cast out as refuse. The
possible taint of thievery would completely overpower
the unusual and most appetizing flavour of the ham.
Onions, let Blinky take it into the station," she
said, persuasively. Maybe as some man's dropped it
over by mistake, and it's all he's got for his meat
"Zou 'toopid!" said Onions, as plainly as a big
corner of the pasty stowed up in her cheek would
allow. He couldn't let it d'op in here; dere 'aint no
hole big enough."
This was such a self-evident proposition, that poor
famished Blinky wondered how it had not occurred
to her before. It was not there when they crept in
on the previous night, it was there when they be-
stirred themselves at dawn. Stay! had the young
lady watched their hiding-place, and was it to her
that they were indebted for a breakfast so luxurious ?
This seemed such a possible and pleasant solution
of the difficulty, and the craving of long emptiness
so loudly asserted the necessity of settling the
question speedily, particularly if Blinky was really
to have any share in the meal at all, that she sat
down again by Onions' side, nor uttered one com-
plaint at the crusty end of the pasty, without a frag-
ment of meat remaining, which the latter gravely
MY LODGING IS THE CAULD, CAULD GROUND." 41
held out-" Zou turn now," with a comical air of one
bestowing a favour.
But when Onions turned to attack the ham sand-
wich, all Blinky's little housekeeping propensities as-
serted themselves. No, no, Onions," she said, with
more decision than usual. If Onions gobble all up
now, Onions not have nothing for dinner, nor poor
Blinky neither," she added, with a lingering hope
that when the sense of hunger was satisfied for a time,
there might be a little more hope that the claims of
affection might be considered.
Onions regarded it with tender longing, but, having
really eaten as much as the policeman would have
done for his supper, was for once too full to be as com-
bative as usual. She dropped it with a sigh of re-
signation. "P'aps 'oo teep it for Onions' dinny," she
said. "Any vay, Onions don't vant no more now.
She feel kite full! And the child spread her two
dirty little fat legs straight out in front of her, and,
folding her hands over the seat of her sensations-to
wit, her stomach-looked up in Blinky's pinched and
A very few mouthfuls disposed of all that remained
of the pasty, but even the flavour of meat, which hung
about the crust, made it a sweet morsel to the half-
starved child. She made no attempt to touch the
sandwich, which, in good truth, Onions still guarded
with jealous care, and contentedly finished her meal
with the hard crust which she had reserved for
Onions' use the night before. Oh, how selfish hunger
S will make a little child! To judge by Onions' face,
the arrangement met with her unqualified appro-
What to do with the handkerchief, was the question
that now perplexed poor Blinky's mind. Had she any
right to that? She doubted exceedingly, and the
42 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
more she thought it over, the stronger that doubt
grew. Onions wanted something more round her
neck, and though neither very large nor very thick,
it would still be better than nothing. Or, she might
get a few pence on it by taking it to one of the many
pawnshops, with which her mother had made her so
unhappily familiar. And as that thought occurred
to her, the whole disturbance of last night flashed on
her memory, and the cry of "Murder! seemed again
to ring in her ears. Where and how should she find
that mother again ?
But the immediate difficulty still remained. Con-
sulting Onions was certainly useless. If she could
be comforted, or warmed, or filled by any appropria-
tion of any stray goods, the child must alter marvel-
lously before any idea of restoration could possibly
take possession of her mind. She seemed to be born
with an innate confusion of ideas as to the rights of
property! Slowly Blinky laid the sandwich on the
skirt of her own ragged frock, and carefully shook the
crumbs from the handkerchief. But when she began
folding it up Onions interfered-
"Dat Onions' too," she said, nodding her head.
"Me founded it all. Good Onions to give Blinky
nice bit pie."
Blinky's patience nearly gave way, and she lifted
her hand. Onions ducked her head on one side, in a
way which betokened long familiarity with the mode
of punishment known in the district as a bat side
o' the head." But the hand did not fall on her.
Look here," she said, rather more sternly than
usual, Blinky knows best what to do. That hand-
kercher is not Onions', nor won't be neither. If we'd
left the pie I don't know but what some dog would
have eaten it up, and we is as good as the dogs,
and as hungry, too," she added, with a little sigh.
"MY LODGING IS THE CAULD, CAULD GROUND." 43
"So I don't think it was stealing, though I ain't so
very sure. But this handkercher ain't neither yours
nor mine; so here it'll have to stay, Onions, come
what will of it." She laid it just in the place where
Onions' hungry eyes had first noticed it; put the
sandwich in that invariable pocket of poor, ill-clad
womankind-the bosom of her frock; and held out
her hand for Onions, who, a little sulkily, being too
frightened by Blinky's unusual severity to wage war
for its possession, rose to her feet.
44 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
"At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled
with bread."-EXODUS xvi. 12.
IT was light now, and Blinky knew quite well what
she had to do as her day's work. An old man in the
district went early every morning to market for
water-cress, herrings, etc., according to the season of
the year, whatever the relish" might be which was
most likely to be saleable for the breakfasts or teas of
his customers. He had a regular round of his own,
and he had besides a spare basket or two, and an
outlying district which he cultivated through some
children, who paid him for the loan of basket, cloth,
and the original stock-in-trade.
Blinky was one of these, and in the main he dealt
pretty honestly with them. The nightly settlement
was not usually a hard bargain, unless he thought
himself cheated, in which case he was apt, as the
children expressed it, to cut up very rough indeed."
But Blinky and he had always been very good friends,
and an extra bunch of sweet wallflowers, or a bundle
of radishes thrown into her count, was often his way
of sending the child to her toil, with that sense of
light-heartedness that a word or deed of praise will so
THE BREAD-WINNING. 45
Onions followed Blinky as she crept out from their
lodging. It could hardly have been called entertain-
ment, either for man or beast. The spotted blue
handkerchief, neatly folded (according to Blinky's
ideas of neatness), lay as nearly as possible where
Z 52 had placed it the night before. She quite
understood the furtive looks with which Onions still
regarded it, and pulled her through the narrow
aperture with scant regard to the comfort of either
shins or elbows. When the child was fairly outside
and the loose board readjusted, she felt as if the
danger was over.
A dripping water-tap (why do taps at railway
stations always drip ? unless, indeed, they go to the
other extreme, and run dry altogether, as they
are apt to do in summer) near the foot of the
steps to the platform, was the usual scene of
Blinky's morning toilet. The quantity of water used
was decidedly small, and would not have neces-
sitated the payment of a heavy water tax. Onions
twisted and twirled like a gorged eel, as Blinky
endeavoured to raise a handful of water to her be-
grimed little face; and the application of a bit of
her own petticoat, which was the only towel either
child had ever known, scarcely improved the child's
appearance. Stripes of one colour had been substi-
tuted for the previous daubs of another, and that
was about the best that could be said for the perform-
ance. Blinky surveyed her with decided dissatis-
"I wonder," she said at last, "what that lady
does wash herself with? Is it only on Sunday, and
when she talks good, as she makes herself clean?
Of course, she ain't got no call to touch old crusts and
sich like, as we has; but I don't think her hands
would be so white, if she didn't wash 'em very often.
46 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
Does she like it, I wonder, Onions? 'cos you don't;
and the water is horrid cold when it runs up your
arm, and wets you all." And she pulled her thin
draggled sleeve away from her elbow and shook it
out. "Do you know," she went on, "you'd be
rather pretty, Onions, if you was washed like her, and,
maybe, the water in your eyes wouldn't make them
ugly marks down your face."
Onions stared. These esthetic remarks of Blinky's
were quite beyond her experience. "Vot's 'oo up to,
Blinky? 'oo vesy queer dis morning," was the un-
"Now look," said Blinky, in the pauses of an
energetic application of the towel to her own face,
and a process of smoothing down her own hair as
well as Onions'-a process which, if the customers
had only seen, they would most decidedly have re-
quested that the use of the tap should have followed,
and not preceded, the attempt at coiffing-" look
here," and by this time the morning adornment was
complete, and they were trotting hand-in-hand to the
old vendor of water-cresses. If you was got clean
and tidy, somehow, Onions, I was thinking couldn't
we come about that lady, and get her to let us run
errands for her sometimes ? And maybe as she could
let us sleep in some shed in her garden, if we'd pro-
mise not to touch the waterpot nor nothing; for, in
Blinky's experience, a pawnshop was a rapacious
animal, that had a crop for all corn, and that article
must be very worthless which was not worth "lifting
for the few pence it would bring there," and never
a question asked either as to "how it was come
by "-which, indeed, was often just as well for the
reputation of Blinky's mother. "Maybe she'd give
you an old frock, or a shawl, or something, Onions,
and you'd be quite decent like." And Blinky stopped,
THE BREAD-WINNING. 47
fairly overcome with the picture which her own castle
in the air had conjured up, through the damp Novem-
One element, however, in the description was sadly
lacking, to complete Onions' gratification at her ideal
altered prospects. "Oud she div Onions somefin' to
eat ?" she said, with a finger already in her mouth
by way of anticipation; 'cos I likes to be so full!
I's comfy den."
Blinky's disgust overcame the possibility of speech.
What was she to do with a child who, like the fishes,
was all stomach, and had no heart ?
The sight of the old man's head at his own door,
looking up and down the street, made a reply un-
necessary, and woke poor Blinky up from her dreams,
to the full understanding of the fact that they were
neither of them as yet clean nor clothed; further,
that one of them at least was very far from being
The basket that Blinky usually carried was on a
rough board before the door, the only one remaining.
The others, and the children who carried them, were
all out of sight.
You're late, Blinky," said the old man-Bill
Took was his name. I was afraid as you'd come to
some harm in that horrid row last night. I slipped in
and out, and couldn't find no sign of yer, or the missis
and I would have let yer in here. Where did you and
the young 'un make off too ? "
Oh, we went to the railway, and was real com-
fortable;" and, quite forgetting her mother, Blinky
told all herlittle story, and the unexpected provision
of the pasty and the sandwich.
Well, I reckon as the young lady must have put it
there," he said, pulling at his woollen comforter, as
his habit was when puzzled. "Any way, I don't think
48 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
as it could be called stealing, Blinky, in special when
you was careful and laid by the blue handkercher.
I'm glad you did not take that. And the things
wouldn't ha' kep' good this foggy weather anyhow, so
I thinks as you did all for the best. But I wanted to
warn you, Blinky, as to how you'd better not turn up
there again for a bit." And he indicated, with a jerk
of his left-hand thumb over his shoulder, the direction
of the court where Blinky's mother-it could have
been scarcely said with truth she herself-lived. He
was real mad with the drink last night, so he was, and
she was just cussed provoking; but I'd never knowed
her nothing else. But she's got a settler this time, or
I'm mistaken; for the crack he hit her on the skull
with the broken leg of the big chair, would ha' done
for most women, I'm thinking. Any way, she'd just
breath enough left to shout Murder !'once, and after
that she lay quiet enough like, and that's saying some-
thing for her, so it is. And the sight of her all a-lying
in a heap, and the blood streaming down, sobered him,
and he made two jumps over the broken stair, and
away out of the little window at the back, on to the
railway. But how he squeezed hisself through yon
little sash, is more nor I could tell, only I seed it
myself. And when they took Big Bill off to the
station-house, says I, 'You've took the wrong man;
he hain't no more to do with the row nor a infantt'
But, says they, 'Just you shut up. Sure he was
drunk as drunk could be, at the bottom of the stairs,
and she just a-lying at the top.' If it had ha' been
just t'other way of it,' says I, 'it might ha' had
more of a face upon it. Any way, a quiet night '11
help to cool Big Bill, and maybe as we'll all sleep the
sounder for it too.' But I s'pose he's come to hisself
this morning, and they've found out as they've been
and gone and took the wrong man. Just as I comedy
THE BREAD-WINNING. 49
in with my basket this morning, there was two p'leece
about, and they axes me a lot of questions, for they
say as Long Jane's nearly past speaking, and they've
been to a magistrate for to take her dispositions.
You take my advice, Blinky, and keep out of it all,
and don't go near the house again, nor any one on the
lot on 'em either."
The child lifted her basket with the look of one half
stunned. Blinky hated rows and scenes. For one
thing, with her defective vision, she always got in for
both blame and blows, when her little conscience told
her she deserved neither. But her mother, was she
really so badly hurt ? In Blinky's experience, she
" had very nearly got her death so often that it was
difficult to credit the reality of danger. Even if she
was dying, could she, Blinky, be of any use ? and if
she employed her day in looking up her mother, what
would become of Onions ? For the latent motherliness
in herself asserted its claim more unmistakably than
the actual motherhood, of whose caressing and pro-
tecting reality she had experienced so little. No!
Blinky could not have shaped into words the argu-
ments and conclusions that ran rapidly through her
brain. As is ever apt to be the case with women,
little or big, feeling, rather than sense, settled the
matter. In effect she said, Let the dead bury their
dead," but water-cress, and Onions, must be looked after
just the same as usual. So Blinky turned round on
her heel in silence, slung the basket over her arm,
and, with a nod to the old man, took Onions by the
hand and faced her daily toil.
So the world goes on: men must work, and women
must weep ; and if ever it comes that men either
cannot or will not, then the burden falls upon the
little children. The old water-cress vendor stood
for a minute, looking sorrowfully after the two
50 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
Something's wrong somewhere," he said, with
another vicious tug at his comforter. "Them as has
the children shouldn't be let off the keep of them
when they've come. 'Cos somebody's got to mother
'em, or more of them would die than do. But there's
an awful lot of women in this world, that it's a clean
sin ever to call mothers No, not if they had twins
three times over." And something ludicrous seemed
to strike him as, with an audible chuckle, he went in
for the cup of coffee, which his old 'ooman" never
failed to brew for him before he set out on his own
I wish now I'd given a taste of that hot stuff to
them two poor dears," he said to his wife, but Blinky
turned off short. Just keep a drop for her and the
little 'un, when she brings back the basket."
( 51 )
THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE.
"The eyes of the blind shall soe out of obscurity."-Is,\tA. xxix. 18.
" THE evening and the morning were the first day,"
and then the second day, and so on, is often quoted
by very methodical people, who get their own bread
day by day, with praiseworthy and comfortable re-
gularity, withal not lacking the addition of pleasant
fresh butter! They read a prophecy, in what it pleases
them to call the divine order of creation, and are
complacently satisfied, and mildly grateful, that its
fulfilment has happened to themselves.
So the evenings and the mornings run very smoothly
by, and when the end of their little weeks draws on,
they too survey their surroundings with compre-
hensive satisfaction, and, with a becoming spirit of
preparedness for Sabbath rest, pronounce everything
to be very good.
Two essential points of difference between the divine
and the human utterances never occur to such
satisfied souls. One is, that their comfortable con-
dition in no sort arises out of their own creation, and
the other, that there really is a world outside them
whose experience of life, on either Saturday or Sunday,.
is something very different indeed.
52 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
Blinky slung her basket over her arm, and lightened
the weight by passing a leather strap over her head
across one shoulder. Mechanically she held out the
other for Onions, and, just in the same half-dazed,
sleep-walking fashion, turned the usual corner. It was
the old story over and over again, the same hard
struggle for the bare bite that held her from actual
starvation. Each morning simply brought back to
her childish hand the burden of which kind sleep had
eased her for an hour or two the night before. There
was the same bitter sense of standing alone, in a world
where something to do seemed only one degree less
hard to get than something to eat. And she closely
watched the doors when she paused and cried her
"Water-creases," "Fresh Yarmouth bloaters" at
exactly the same area steps, and with an expressionless
exactness of intonation, as if she had been a small sur-
pliced chorister at matins. She wondered, as she had
done many times before, what could it be like, to have
your breakfast spread on a white cloth, as she saw
through the windows of the parlours as she passed,
and even on a little table in front of some of the
kitchen windows! How very queer it would be to
wake up some morning, and find herself toasting her
toes on a fender, eating one of the herrings, instead of
carrying a basketful about And if that ever should
happen, what would become of Onions?
More than once during her dreams, Onions' two
eyes had detected the beckoning finger of some maid-
servant at an open door, and she had darted up with
a fish and a bunch of water-cress, taking with a little
bob the half-pence given, and dropping them into the
one safe pocket allowed in Blinky's mass of rags;
and this, too, just as a matter of course, like the
reveries of the other. There had been very little
trouble in training her either.
THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE. 53
Onions' one reasoning faculty had early made out
the intimate connection between money and meat,
and she always woke up to her share in the one
process, which was so certain to issue in the other.
The locality was, of course, anything but a wealthy
one. Well-to-do people do not generally buy their
food at the door, and their servants, too, are particular
as to the cleanliness of the hands that handle what
they have to eat, excepting, it may be sometimes,
their own. But life is short, and much washing in
the kitchen, like much study upstairs, is apt some-
times to be a weariness of the flesh.
Yet in these little houses of commonplace struggling
people, with many children, and one maid-of-all-
work-or, if any were very prosperous, a girl
not much older than Blinky "to help "-there was
many a dry crust, or two or three cold potatoes,
which found their way into Onions' ready hand. Half
starved though she always was, Blinky hardly liked
her eager catch, as she called it; still, with her
innate objection to be asked any questions about
her one eye, she had trained Onions to fetch and
But this cold November morning seemed to have
chilled the charity of people, and Onions came back
again and again, blowing the red, stumpy fingers that
could hardly hold the half-penny-the fog had made
them so damp and cold-but without any scraps for
the dinner which the seat of her affections, or emotions,
was already beginning so earnestly to crave. The
ham sandwich, which Blinky, with prudent house-
keeping forethought, had reserved for the rainy day,
had quite passed away from her short memory. Head,
heart, and stomach were at that moment all empty
together. Poor little atom of humanity !
A tight squeeze of a fishy, wet hand roused Blinky
54 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
at the very moment when she had pictured herself,
by the force of contrast, with her own feet on a
fender, and Onions somewhere out in the cold. She
also woke up to the fact that the store of fish and
cresses in the basket was more, and the coppers in
her pocket consequently less, than she at all liked.
"Come, Onions," she said, speaking for the first
time since she had left the old man's door, "this
won't do any way. We's late this morning, and the
'spectables has all done their breakfast. We'll try
the Green; maybe we'll be first there."
The Green was a mile further away than their
usual tramp led them. Only on great emergencies,
when the near streets failed to empty the basket,
did Blinky go so far, and even then it had generally
been on some occasion, when the mother had been
sober enough to be trusted with Onions, whose little
legs Blinky was always unwilling to try with such
a long stretch. The way to it was under the railway,
beneath one of whose arches the children had passed
the previous night, and-what had probably just now
more influence with Blinky-their road lay at the
end of the terrace, where, at No. 10, lived the lady
who had told that beautiful story in the ragged school.
At the remembrance, Blinky's hand again sought
the bosom of her frock, and she satisfied herself, by
the crackling of the paper, that her treasured text was
safe. Onions was accustomed to see valuables con-
signed to that safe custodian, so, as she marked the
gesture, her baby mind at once suggested some
"Did 'e lady div' 'oo her 'dress ?" she asked. "And
is dat why you're going to 'e Green? or," and the
apparently Heaven-sent eatables flashing up in her
memory, is dat vere 'oo put the dam, Blinky ?"
The monosyllable, so wide of its intended meaning,
ii IO II
" K P, BLINKY, ITS THE OLD SOJ."
" 'OOK UP, BLINIKY, IT'S THE OLD SOJDIl."'
THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE. 57
sounded so odd from baby lips, in Blinky's ear, that
the child burst out laughing.
'Oo needn't yaugh, Blinky," said the little one, in
an injured tone, 'cos Onions 'ight. I knows. I's
not allers a baby, and 'oo isn't tind."
The sort of hotch-potch which had been working
for hours in the child's bewildered brain, bubbled over
at last. Uncertainty about her mother, the loss of
even the shadow of a home for Onions, the physical
weakness and fatigue, and the reaction from the
excitement-spiritual, one might almost call it-which
so often accompanies that first desire of a longing
soul, an infant crying for the light,"-all this found
vent at last. Blinky's laughter speedily changed
into choking sobs, till at length she sat down on a
door-step, dropped her basket, and, putting her
head in her hands, shook and almost shrieked
with hysterical emotion. Onions was frightened out
of all the little sense she ever had. But her unde-
fined notion of the rights of property, or else an idea
that cresses and bloaters could be eaten if not sold,
led her to sit down by Blinky's side, and tuck her own
little arm under the handle. Consolation she did not
An old gentleman passed by, and looked at the
children. For a moment he paused, then went on,
turned to look again, and finally stopped. Onions
recognized him at once. With an emphasizing thrust
of her elbow into Blinky's thin ribs, she whispered-
"'Ook up, Blinky, it's the old sojer as is a-passin'
How the child's unconscious adaptation of the very
Bible words broke in upon Blinky's ear Had the cry,
which she had been vainly struggling all the morning
to shape into words, really been heard by Him, who
had been pictured to her as nearest, when fathers
58 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
and mothers are nowhere to be seen ? Had One,
mightier than the "old soldier," sent him just then,
when her strength had for once completely failed
her ? At any rate, it was clear that she ought to rise
and do something; and Blinky withdrew her apron
from her face, hardly knowing what or who she
expected her one eye to rest on.
The old officer now knew her perfectly. Only that
morning at breakfast-a meal which in his house was
served with military precision at eight o'clock-his
daughter had told him the incident of the text. They
had determined upon following up the children, and
doing something, if they proved to be both deserted
and deserving, towards making life more tolerable.
Neither of them had any sentimental idea about
releasing the elder one from the necessity of work.
" If a man or child won't work, he or she shall not eat
at my expense, if I can help it, poor laws notwith-
standing," he used to say. And thus their plan, so
far as they had mapped it out, was to fit Blinky better
for the life of labour to which God, and not society
only, had called her, but to save her, if that might
be, from the load of suffering which she seemed to
struggle with vicariously and silently. Is there not
somewhere a roll-call of martyrs, whom no one thinks
of including in "the noble army," and to whose
memory there are neither stained glass windows, nor
monumental inscriptions? Unsustained, too, by the
tears of high-born women, or the sympathy and
imitation of grand men which, one sometimes fancies,
must have been a grateful anodyne, even in the midst
of the fires.
Well, little woman," said the old officer, kindly,
" you have begun your Irish 'och hone!' at the wrong
end of the day," and the gentleness of note quite
forbade any idea of firing up, as Blinky was wont
THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE. 59
to do, when her patriotism was, as she thought, insulted.
" Have you not got your marching orders for to-day;
or haven't they been explained to you right ? "
Please, sir," said the child, rising to her feet,
"me and Onions has been marching all morning
down one street and up another ; we don't need no-
body to explain where we goes to; and she looked
up with a puzzled expression in her one eye, as she
felt with her quick instinct that she had somehow
missed the real meaning of what he said.
Well, child, you don't seem to have made much
of it this time; you want a leader, child-a leader
and commander;" and he repeated, half to himself,
as was a favourite habit-"'a Leader and Commander
of the people.' "
Blinky's usual reserve clung to her, and she only
looked at him steadily without a word. Onions broke
in. "The p'leece leads 'em when they's tipsy; but
Onions not like 'em. Blinky leads Onions, and den
she's so safe; only hungly now and den."
"Hush! said Blinky, sharply; "that's begging,
Onions, and you're not hungry. If you beg, the
p'leece will take you."
The threat brought a howl from Onions, not wholly,
it must be confessed, from dismay at the possible
interference of the constable, but in the lurking hope
that her tears might extract a copper from the old
sojer's pocket. She had tried the little experiment
before, and had found it successful. But she had
quite mistaken her man this time. He turned away
from her to Blinky, and as the little one found the
appeal of sobs resulted in nothing, she wisely con-
cluded to be quiet, and use her ears instead.
You know your way all about here, I suppose ?"
he said. "You've been before, though I don't re-
member seeing you except at school."
60 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
He was a thorough old gentleman, and when he
talked to tattered non-church-goers, he never ad-
dressed them as "the lapsed masses," nor did he
now say "the 1.i ,. i school" in speaking to Blinky.
It was the respectable, well-dressed, well-to-do Scribes
and Pharisees, he said, whom the Master denounced
as children of hell and hypocrites. But when He
came to the woman of Samaria, or the woman spoken
of by the Apostle John, He did not even brand
them with the epithet which, in these days, is em-
ployed to describe the breach of the seventh com-
mandment. Poverty was a thing to be dealt with
tenderly in his eyes-this good old man. It was
crime alone against which he proclaimed no quarter.
But St. Giles and its shabby, even ragged cloth of
frieze, had rights to be respected, and little weak-
nesses to be treated indulgently, quite as much as
St. James, with its cloth of gold.
"Yes, sir," said the child, almost unconsciously
doing homage to his way of treating her by bobbing
a little curtsey. I knows my ways, though I
doesn't come 'ere often. You see," she went on, as
she gathered courage from the old grey eyes with
many crows'-feet in the corners, "Onions is little,
and can't walk far, and I can't carry the basket and
her too, unless once in a while when it do chance to
be werry empty. But we had bad luck this foggy
morning so I thought, as we'd 'ad a good breakfast,
we could make out a bit further than usual. Mostly
we sells out there and there." And she mentioned
the names of several streets, which he knew were at
the decent end of the disreputable neighbourhood
in the midst of which the ragged school was.
So far good," he said. Now go straight across
the Green, and turn up the broad road on your right.
There's a row of houses-the Terrace, it is called-
THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE. 61
right in front of you, and if you ring the bell at
No. 10, and say I told you to come, you will find my
daughter, the lady who talked to you last night."
Blinky's thanks were shown, by the haste with
which she lifted her basket, but in a moment she
looked up doubtfully. Please, sir, will the lady
open the door herself when we rings ? 'Cos servants
sich as yours mostly taps at the kitchen winders, and
says, Nothing wanted; you be off when the likes of
us comes about."
"I should like to see any servant in my house
doing that," said the old officer, with a quiet chuckle;
"I don't like only parlour politeness. No, my dear,
you ring the bell, and ask for the old soldier's
daughter, and no one will say a rough word to you.
Halloa! he called, as he had moved off a few steps,
"try and sell all you can on the road, you know;
somebody might be wanting cresses, just the same
as if you had not met me."
Put your trust in God, my boys, but keep your
powder dry," he went on his way again, rhyming it
over to himself. Either one or the other is easy
enough, but the tug comes when a body honestly
tries to do both.
Blinky took his hint, and acted upon it to the very
letter. She seemed quite a different child from the
crushed little heap of rags, that had squatted on the
door-step half an hour ago. She held Onions by
the hand with a firm, decided grasp, and called
" Creases and "Bloaters in quite a cheery tone.
Several servants were cleaning the stone steps, which
even the most regular of them could hardly have done
earlier in the day, with the damp November fog all
round, and Blinky spoke to one and another, with most
unusual freedom of speech. "Nice bloaters, ma'am,
quite sweet and good; creases fresh, and good large
62 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
bunches, if you'd just look at 'em." And several
times, oddly enough, even on the Green, of which
generally she spoke with bated breath, as the part
where "them heavy swells lived,-she was for once
successful, and her basket was sensibly lighter when
she turned into the Terrace, and began her count for
She came to a full stop in front of the house, and,
resting her basket against the gate-post, took a
minute survey of Onions from head to heels. The
result was not apparently satisfactory. With her
one free hand, she made a dive at her here, and gave
her a vicious tug there, the corners of her sole good
feature, her mouth, drawing downwards the while into
deepening lines of disgust. Onions regarded the
unusual process of tidying, at that hour of the day,
with speechless astonishment, and turned round and
round, as meekly as the rotating wax figure in a hair-
dresser's window. Blinky's whole face expressed
huge annoyance, which the other perfectly under-
stood, and noted in her little brain with great amuse-
Now, just you listen, Onions, and mind what I
says, 'cos it's werry important, so it is," she said at
last, with an emphasizing forefinger on the child's
shoulder. That old gent, bless him, says as we's to
call on the young lady. We didn't go for to look for
him this morning, and we doesn't know yet what'll
come of it neither. But it seems, any way, as if the
Lord was going to take us hup, now mother's been
and gone and got her head cracked, and can't do
nothing for us, nor us for her, as I can make out. But
if anybody would keep an eye to us a bit, and give
us a lift to start with, we might, maybe, get on for a
while. Now mind, Onions, and if you takes in all I
says I'll give you a bite afore we sees her."
THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE. 63
Onions' attention was fixed in a moment, on the
bosom of Blinky's frock, that is to say, and she nodded
her head as if it held all the wisdom of Solomon.
Blinky took out the ham sandwich, and, with
liberal hand, broke it into two very unequal parts,
the larger finding its way, as usual, into Onions'
ready hand and equally open mouth. With cus-
tomary self-denial, too, which the other saw without
remonstrance, she wrapped the remaining moiety up
in the greasy paper, and restored it to its previous
Now," she went on, "you can't tell the lady as
you're hungry now, with that big piece in your inside.
And you musn't either-that's more. For I tell you,
Onions, if you does allers go on whining, and scring-
ing for something to eat, I'll drop you, I will, as sure
as-" And the appropriate, or intended word for
the completion of the threat, stuck apparently in
Onions was much too comfortably occupied, to be
able to do more than assent to all and anything by
a vigorous nod.
It's real mean, so it is," she continued; and it
won't be of no use trying to put anything into yer,
unless, maybe, there's some way of cramming it down
yer throat; though how it's to get up again into yer
head and do yer any good is more than I can tell.
But yer ain't to say anything about eating at all, I
tell yer, and yer is to stand a little behind me, and
curtsey as I does; and, Onions, when yer nose or yer
eyes wants a-wiping, yer can just lift up the tail of
my frock, but yer not to do it with the backs of yer
hands, for that's just clean disgusting, so it is-not
to speak of touching the fish and creases."
Onions' mouth being empty, she had now leisure to
open her eyes at the new-born indications of refine-
64 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
ment in Blinky's last speech. But, feeling much too
comfortable to run the risk of bringing on herself a
vial of wrath by untimely contradiction, and a little
awed, too, by the big house and Blinky's intense
earnestness, she assented with becoming meekness.
"Onions be vesy dood. Onions not tell the lady
she dot a stomach; p'aps the lady hasn't one! but
I'm not hungly now, and I's keep my nose right."
Neither child had noticed, in the absorbing interest
of their present circumstances, two heads at the
kitchen window, watching them closely. One a good-
looking, brisk housemaid, who, in any other house
but the old soldier's, would probably have been pert,
had she dared. The other a middle-aged, thoughtful,
rather sad face, which contemplated the two little
masses of rags, without a shade of the disgust which
was evidenced in the pursed-up mouth of the other.
There are some women who will never be real
mothers, if they have as many children as a poor
curate's wife. There are others who, while never
married, and never knowing the joy of watching a
firstborn, will never be anything but mothers, in all
the holiest and deepest affections of true mother-
hood; and children soon find out and recognize their
This woman was one of this sort. With a shaky
little hand, Blinky touched the bell. Like everything
else about the house, wires and handles did their
work perfectly, and even the modest pull set the bell
ringing, so that the child heard it as she stood on the
door-step, and trembled while she heard. Oh
my! she said, under her breath to Onions, "who'd
ever ha' thought it were so easy Why, it's just gone
off like a shot."
The housemaid had turned from the kitchen window
as the bell rang. It's some of them ragged pets of
THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE. 65
master's," she said, gathering her clean print dress
close in. But I must answer 'em civil, any way."
You needn't go, Hannah," said the older servant,
Maria by name. "You can finish up the silver, and
I'll see what they want."
So, when the hall door opened softly, and Blinky
heard the sound of the unlucky bell more plainly than
ever, her first idea was to deprecate the wrath that
she felt sure her appeal to the handle must pull down
"If you please, ma'am," she said, with a bob,
which Onions faithfully repeated a few inches behind
her, "I hopes as you won't be angry, but I didn't
guess as it would ring so easy like. We goes to the
ragged school, does Onions and me, and the old gent
said, just now, as we was to come here straight."
The keen, grey, yet sad eyes ran over both children
with quick scrutiny. The owner of them did not like
to be imposed upon,-any one that can love seldom
does, and still more seldom is.
Come in," she said-" come in out of the fog.
You met master this morning, did you ? Where did
you. come across him "
While speaking, she had taken the child's basket
from her arm, and rested it on a door-mat in the outer
hall. She led the way inside, and fastened the door,
rich with stained glass, which shut it off from the
-house. Onions' two eyes roved restlessly over pretty
tiled mosaics, beautiful striped foreign skins, marble
tables, and old wedgewood pots of flowers. She crept
closer to Blinky in amazement at the fairy-land, of
which, with only one eye, the elder child felt, rather
than clearly saw, the perfect harmony of arrangement.
"At the other side of the Green, ma'am," she
answered, with another bob, again photographically
repeated by Onions; "and he said we was to come
66 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
to No. 10, and ask for the young lady, and nobody
would be hard upon us; but I'm real sorry for the
"My dear, we were not asleep," said the old
servant, looking at her with eyes from which all
traces of sternness had vanished. "And if we had
been, it would have been a small sin to wake us at this
hour of the day. What name do they call you by,
child ? for I heard master say that nobody gets called
by their right names, if indeed they've got any, away
yonder. Who shall I tell Miss Mitford it is that
wants her ?"
Blinky's quick wits suggested at once the best
possible answer. She pulled out the envelope which
had been given her the night before, and carefully,
almost tenderly, smoothing out the creases, handed it
open to the woman. She, of course, recognized the
handwriting at once, and her compassion for the
two poor little draggled ones grew apace.
The lady did that for me her own self at the
school, last night, ma'am; and she sent the beauti-
fullest breakfast for Onions and me that ever was-
pasty and sandwich, all tied up in the loveliest blue
handkercher, which we's left safe, ma'am, under the
railway harch "
Onions did not consider it was any breach of the
compact, to emphasize Blinky's description of the
eatables by a loud smack of her lips;-it was only a
grateful act of remembrance !
The old servant sat down on one of the hall chairs,
and fairly laughed out. What railway arch, dear ? "
she asked; "and what blue handkerchief? We
haven't got such a thing in the house."
"No, ma'am, not now; for unless it's been took by
some one, it's there still, where we's folded it. We
thought as it wasn't no harm to eat the vittles, but
THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE. 67
we hadn't no right to lift the handkercher, 'cos it
would be so like stealing, and we's never come to
that yet. We isn't thieves, ma'am-Onions and me-
and, please God, we won't never be neither;" and
the child spoke with a truthful vehemence, that
moistened the old woman's eyes.
Please God you shall not, dear," she said, softly;
"and there's them in this house, as will always help
a struggling body that's trying to do right. But we
were none of us out of the house, after master and
Miss Mary came home last night, till he left it him-
self, about an hour ago. You must thank the good
Lord for your breakfast, child, and you'd better ask
Him to send you another, for your poor thin bones
want covering badly."
"Would you please to give us that bit of paper
back again ? said Blinky, anxiously, as the servant
rose from the hall chair, and nervously folded it in
her fingers like a fan. It's what the old gent talked
about, and it seems somehow as if it had got us our
I'll take it to Miss Mary, dear, and she'll give it
back to you safe enough, never fear. You just wait
a minute." Crossing the hall, she tapped at the
second of two doors on the right-hand side, and then
It was only a second or two before the young lady
herself came out. "Well, Blinky," she said kindly,
"we parted in such a hurry last night, that I had no
time to ask you where you lived; but I am glad you
have found me out. Come in, both of you. Maria
says my father met you, and told you to come."
Yes, ma'am," said Blinky, with a still profounder
curtsey than she had even bestowed upon the servant,
Onions once more faithfully seconding the motion;
" but we's afeard to put foot in there," and she nodded
68 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
in the direction of the door, which Maria held open in
"Are you ? said Miss Mitford. "Well, I don't
think you'll get a scolding from Maria. This is my
little room, and she keeps it tidy for me, and she does
not even scold my kitten, who very often comes in
with dirty paws."
She took hold of Onions' little hand first, rightly
divining, that the motherhood of Blinky's nature would
compel her to follow. Leading the child in front of
the fire, and seating her on an old-fashioned wooden
stool, black with age and elbow grease," in shape
like the letter X, she left her to make use of her eyes,
and turned to Blinky. A few wise questions, neither
impertinent nor patronizing (and it is quite a mistake
to imagine that poor people do not quite understand
both), and the child's reserve melted.
"With the usual discursiveness of that class, she told
all she knew of her own history, and that of Onions.
She cast no blame upon her wretched mother, whose
degradation, mercifully, she could only in part under-
stand. With unconscious pathos she spoke of the
changing night quarters, where for safety's sake they
had so often to bestow themselves, and there was
something touchingly heroic in the struggles for
Onions' comfort, which, unknown to herself, ran like
a bright thread all through her story. She wound up
with the narrative of the last night, and the unlooked-
for morning meal, and seemed quite disappointed,
when Miss Mitford repeated the old servant's state-
ment, of complete ignorance as to the blue pocket-
I cannot tell who put it there," she said, "but I
feel quite sure of one thing. It had something to do
with the prayer, which you tell me you made for your-
self and Onions. If you had not asked, you would not
THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE. 69
have received." In which repetition of an old truth,
be it observed, she was very much closer to the exact
fact than even she herself supposed.
So old Bill thinks you had better not show your-
self at your mother's house again ? she said, musingly.
" I suppose he understands all that sort of thing much
better than I do. But you two poor children can't be
left to wander about that way, and with winter coming
on too. It's worse than the old worthies, with their
' dens and caves of the earth.' "
She looked across at Onions. The sensation of
fulness within her, of warmth all round her, and the
usual effect of drowsiness, that sitting idly in front of
a good fire will often produce on people whose brains
are much more wakeful than Onions', had quite
cheated her into forgetfulness of her new surroundings.
Even dirt and rags cannot wholly erase the beauty
of a little child's ways, and Onions was anything but
repulsive looking now, as she sat still, on the stool, but
with her face turned sideways to the heat, her bare,
dirty little toes close to the fender, and her head
propped on the arm of the old gentleman's easy-chair.
She would have been prettier, certainly, had she only
Blinky smiled her rare smile of motherly protec-
tiveness, as she followed with her eye Miss Mitford's
finger pointing to the sleeping child. She lowered
her voice, as women always do in the presence of
sleep, or death, which is often so like it.
Couldn't old Bill take you both in for a few
nights? she suggested. "I should like to tell my
father all you have told me, but you might at least
get housed there, while we try to make out some way
for you both."
"Well, you see, ma'am, he 'as just the one room
for hisself and his old 'ooman, and they has two on hus
70 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
who sells the creases, in one corner as it is. And
then, ma'am," she added hesitatingly, I never did
tell afore, how often Onions and me was driven out of
nights, and if it hadn't ha' been as he was somehow in
the thick of the row last night, I'd never ha' told this
morning. I can't abear letting the people about
know all. They just asks a lot of questions, and then
they looks at us, and says, Poor Blinky !' and wot's
the good of that I can't see. I'd a deal rather keep our-
selves to ourselves, if so be we could do. When mother
wasn't just dead drunk, I could trust Onions with
her in the morning, for she mostly laid abed, and
there wasn't no fire for the little 'un to get at; but I
don't see as to where I can put her now, and she
can't go all my rounds, I'm sure."
A gentle tap at the door was followed by the en-
trance of the tidy housemaid, who quietly and deftly
laid a luncheon tray upon the table, and withdrew.
"With quick sense of propriety, Blinky got up at once.
But Onions was on her feet before her. Even in her
sleep, the aroma of something to eat made a stir in
her gastric juices, and all her promises were flung to
the winds. Blinky's endeavours to silence her were
perfectly useless, and even the tail of her frock,
which, while apparently using to wipe Onions' watery
eyes, she was in reality struggling to stuff into her
mouth, failed to act as a gag. Onions twisted and
"Bad Blinky! she gasped out; "don't luv' 'oo.
I's melll somefin' nice, I's do. P'etty lady, div'
Onions some; and she went off into a regular street
whine, which so exasperated Blinky that she shook
Miss Mitford turned, and rang the bell.
There," said Blinky, under her breath-"there
now, see what you've been and gone and done, you
THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE. 71
bad girl. I told you as you wasn't to beg, and the
lady's rung the bell for the p'leece."
Tell Maria I want her," said Miss Mitford, as
the housemaid appeared again. "Don't scold her,
Blinky. She doesn't understand why she should not
have lunch as well as other people."
Blinky relaxed her hold, but still looked at her
sister with great disgust.
I don't know what ails Onions," she said with
difficulty, choking back the tears. There ain't no
time in the day, sleeping nor waking, when she don't
want something to stuff into her mouth. You wouldn't
believe it, ma'am," she went on, ruefully, "but she
never makes no trouble of passing the public-house, not
even when they's a-coming out staggering and stoving.
But a cookshop, ma'am, I can't hardly coax her past
that nohow. And if it's near dinner, and the steam
a-risin' up through the iron bars, oh dear oh dear "
The recollection had a widely different effect upon
the two children. The expression of distress on
Blinky's face was perfectly comical. Onions, with
one finger already in her mouth, backed towards
Maria and the stairs. She read a pleasant prospect
of food in the sympathetic face of the one, and the
delightful smell which came through the bpen door at
the head of the other.
"I thought you would likely want a meal for the
two half-starved little ones," Maria said, with the
respectful at-home look of an old family help, who
knows by instinct what even the ringing of a bell may
mean. If I may take them downstairs, Miss Mary,
Hannah and me will look after them, while you get
your own lunch. You didn't eat much breakfast this
morning, and I've some nice broth ready."
"I was like some other people, then," said Miss
Mitford ; but that is exactly what I wanted, Maria.
72 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
Blinky, you go with Onions downstairs, and see if
Maria has forgotten what little girls like."
Onions had tight hold of the servant's hand, before
the leave was given. But to the surprise of both
mistress and servant, Blinky stood quite still, and
began once more fumbling in the bosom of her frock.
Thank you, ma'am, very kindly," she said, the
smell wafted in at the door, as well as that from
the tray on the table, almost shaking the resolve of the
half-famished noble little child, and making her voice
falter. Thank you, ma'am," she repeated; but we
isn't hungry, at least Onions hasn't got no right to
be, for I gave her the biggest half, just afore we comedy
in, and she promised faithful as she'd not ask for
nothing to eat. And here's the rest for her now, if
she's empty; and she held out the broken bit of the
sandwich in its greasy paper. I don't want it; and
the brave little head held itself up erect, with a keen
look of downright starvation in the one eye, that was
pitiful to see. Onions, of course, held out her hand for
that too. Birds, in the bush only, have a doubtful
flavour. Maria felt more than half inclined to repeat
My dear," said Miss Mitford, very persuasively,
if you had a great deal of something that I would
be very much the better for having, and you knew it,
and offered it to me, wouldn't it vex you very much
if I did not take it ? Wouldn't you think that I had
taken some dislike to you, when I would not do a little
thing to give you pleasure ? "
"But you never was in rags like me, ma'am,"
sobbed the child; "and you doesn't know what it's
like to be made a beggar, when you'd be glad to work
your fingers to the bone, if you'd only a chance of ever
holding up your head like decent people. Let Onions
go and stuff herself, if she likes, and I'll take back
THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE. 73
the basket to old Bill, and come again for her when
she's done. I'll have time enough to run, there and
back, afore she's full," she added, dashing away the
tears, and speaking with the only touch of bitterness
which had shown itself through their talk.
The lady controlled herself with great difficulty.
Maria laid firm hold of the child. Yes, dear," she
said, in her most motherly voice; "but suppose I
was to put in a can of broth for him too, as he's old
and been good to you, hasn't he ? And Hannah and
me have set our hearts on some of the nice cresses
for our tea to-night, and we'll just pay you in broth
instead of pennies; it'll be just as good, dear, to
him too, for likely he's not much of a cook." Still
reluctantly, the child followed her downstairs, where,
released from the restraint of the lady's presence,
Onions talked and eat, till both processes seemed no
"Well," said the prim Hannah, "there's nothing
to beat the stomachs of children for cramming, except
a carpet bag-you can never tell when they're full."
Blinky laid down the spoon which, not being ac-
customed to, she was managing awkwardly enough.
Her half-conquered reluctance revived at the tone,
even more than the words, of the housemaid's speech.
Thank you, ma'am," she said, hastily rising,
" it's werry good, and Onions and me is werry grate-
ful, but I couldn't eat no more,-it would choke me,
so it would."
Maria's temper, and it was none of the sweetest,
broke upon her unfortunate fellow-servant. Bother
the woman!" she said, "couldn't you go upstairs, and
find something there to do to keep you quiet ? Miss
Mary and I had trouble enough to coax the poor
thing downstairs at all, and now you've just gone
and upset our little plans."
74 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
The housemaid wisely vanished.
Never mind her, dear," said the older woman, so
far forgetting her dislike to unkempt locks, as to
stroke Blinky's hair soothingly.
It was the first time in all her life that she had
ever felt such a touch, so familiar to happy children.
Blinky looked up at her with such a look of wonder,
almost reverence, and drew back her plate in front of
her again. "I'll do anything," she said, "ma'am, if
you'll only do that to me again. That's wot no one 'ud
do to a beggar, and I'll eat till it comes up my throat,
if that 'ud please you."
Greatly moved, Maria repeated the action which
had so drawn the child to her. Blinky was true to
her word, and emptied her soup plate in perfect
"Now, ma'am," she said, when she had finished,
"if you'll kindly let me go upstairs again to my
basket, maybe, as I knows creases, I might choose a
better bunch than you as doesn't, for it takes one to
be a bit knowledgable. And I'd like, if you'd please
be so good as let me, to leave one for the other maid
too, just that she mightn't think me a upstart like."
"Come, then, child," said the old servant, "there
is so little of well doing in this selfish world, that it
would be a pity to hinder anybody from carrying out
their good intentions. I'll take 'em for her, dear,
though how she'll eat them is more than I know."
The trio went up the kitchen stairs without en-
countering the prudent Hannah. Blinky squatted on
the door-mat, and turned over her basket. After
careful scrutiny, she selected four bunches.
Miss Mitford came out just at that minute. "I
thought I heard you in the hall," she said. "Have
you done your lunch, Blinky? I want to settle
something with you, but I never like making arrange-
THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE. 75
ments when people are hungry, and I felt half
Onions looked up in great wonderment. "Did 'oo
yike it, yady ? 'cos Onions doesn't," she said, gravely.
At which the other three laughed-the child was in
such dead earnest.
No, child, I didn't at all," said the lady; and I
don't wonder that Onions does not either. Will you
ask Hannah to take away my tray, Maria? and
Blinky, will you let me be a customer for a bunch of
cresses ? I am sure I shall like them, and papa will
eat them too."
"I had taken out two of the very best bunches,
ma'am," said the child, rising and curtseying in the
very depths of gratitude. If they're well washed,
ma'am, you won't get any harm. I doesn't let
Onions touch 'em much, and I puts the cloth 'tween
them and the fish."
"We'd eat 'em, dear, if they poisoned us," said
Maria, in her heartiness; "though I'm sure they
won't though, if you can help it. I'll carry down
your tray, Miss Mary," she said, with emphasis, and
a sort of warning look. I have to go down any way
for the tin can Blinky is to carry to old Bill."
Very well," said Miss Mitford, who saw that there
had been something, which rendered Hannah's further
appearance on the scene undesirable. Come in
here again for a minute, both of you. Blinky," she
went on, you can work a little, you say ? "
"Yes, ma'am, but I'm not to say good at it.
Onions mostly threads the needles, for it's that takes
me the longest. I can make out stitches a'most with
my fingers' ends."
Stitches that could be felt, was quite a new idea to
Miss Mitford, but she only made a note of it in pass-
ing, and went on-
76 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
I'm going to have a sewing class at the school on
three nights in the week, and we mean to begin to-
night. Papa tells me a good many say they will come.
But look, Blinky, I have a great many odd pieces of
dress stuff, and I bought them very cheap. Now, my
plan is this : I don't mean to give them away, because
papa thinks you will take more care of them, if you
pay something for them. And you can sit round the
fire in the schoolroom, and I will cut out, and fix, and
find you needles and thread."
"Onions shread de needles," put in the little one;
"I's do it vesy kick."
"Very well, that will be a great help. And then I
thought, Blinky, that you might work, and I could read
a story to you, and you pay me every night, as many
pence as you can scrape together. So by the time it
was made into a frock it would likely be paid for; and
you would not have to thank anybody, but just your
own nimble fingers."
And you, and the kind old sojer," said Blinky, "'cos
it's you as'll have all the bother with us, and no pay
either. It's we that'll have the good; but a frock for
Onions-bran-new, and not a cast-off! She's never
had such a thing in hall her life; no, never "
"Well, then, she will owe it to you," said Miss
Mitford, "as it seems to me she does everything.
But I have to be at the other side of London and
back again this afternoon, in spite of the fog. So it's
time I was getting ready. And now, Blinky, you
know if I buy your cresses, you must let me pay for
them in any coin I please. So here are two little warm
shawls, one for you, as well as Onions, and you are
to leave a bunch of cresses here every day you can
come so far, and when I think you have paid for
them, I will tell you."
The pleasant little fiction of payment hardly satis-
THE FOG LIFTS A LITTLE. 77
"fied the child, but she pinned one round Onions with
a large safety-pin which Miss Mitford handed her;
and the comfortable sigh with which the little one
tugged at it till it covered her arms to her satisfaction,
made resistance impossible. Maria came in with a
tap at this juncture, and, taking the other shawl from
her young mistress, pinned it carefully up round the
elder child's thin throat.
They'll not know us, Onions," she said, after
looking her all over. We'll have to tell 'em who we
be. Old Bill will stare."
"Is her basket ready, Maria ?" asked her mistress.
"Now, good-bye, Blinky, till to-night. I'm very glad
indeed you came to see me. I have printed papa's
text on a card for you, much plainer than I could do
last night, and you can look at it as often as you
"Please, ma'am, I'd like the bit of paper as you
fust wrote too, 'cos it was the very fust. I likes the
other, it's just beautiful-like a picture; but I'll wrap
it in the paper, and that'll keep it clean."
Miss Mitford handed the crumpled envelope back
to her, and she and Maria both watched, while Blinky
encased the floral card in it, and put it back close to
"We'll be there to-night, ma'am-me and Onions,
and please thank the old gent, and you too," she
added, turning to Maria; "and I'll not pull the
bell so hard next time I comes with the creases."
She went out of the room with the usual bob, still
copied by Onions, and accompanied by Maria to the
Now," said the latter, I've put the cover over
the can with the broth for old Bill, and it can't
possibly spill. You bring the can back the next time
you come, dear; but you needn't hurry-it will be safe
78 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
enough with you, I'm sure." The expression of con-
fidence flushed Blinky's pale face with evident pleasure.
"And look, child," Maria went on; "you must not
be vexed, you know, but in this corner, fixed in tight
with the tin, is a ham sandwich, instead of the one
you gave to that little "-pig was on the tip of her
tongue, but with womanly discretion she cleared her
throat and said dear instead.
I'll take it, ma'am, if it's only just to please you,"
she said, gratefully. "And now, Onions, you and me'll
get back to old Bill as fast as our legs '11 carry us.
He'll wonder if we've made off with his basket; and
they went down the steps together hand-in-hand,
Blinky turning at the bottom to close the gate care-
fully, and making a parting bob.
( 79 )
THE MIST OF DARKNESS."
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death."-
PSALM cvii, 14.
THE fog had lifted somewhat as it drew near noon,
and there was a red, round disc in the sky, showing
that the sun was good tempered and meant to show
a smiling face, if only it had a fair chance. But it
had not, really; so, like certain people who are ready
to be universally pleasant and agreeable, if only the
universe, as a whole, will second their intentions,
and who retreat into themselves in the silent, sulky
grandeur of being generally misunderstood, the sun
withdrew from public view altogether. Perhaps it
waited, too, for a more convenient season, like so
many of those upon whom it shines.
As the afternoon drew on, the thick darkness grew
and deepened also. Gas was re-lit in economically
managed offices, or warehouses, where it had been
extinguished for an hour or two. The hours rung out
from invisible church clocks like sounds from an
unseen world. The little newspaper boys ran home
with the evening intelligence-third edition that no-
body could see to read-and made ready their torches,
so as to turn into link-boys, and make something
even out of a fog. People jostled one another in
80 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
turning round the corners; it may have been the
fog in their throats, which hindered them from tender-
ing the usual politeness at such encounters, "I beg
your pardon." In fact, all London was shrouded in
mist, and didn't like it at all.
The 'busses were crowded. They were safer, at
least, than walking, though hardly quicker; for the
horses could not see much more than their own
length before them, and blinkers to restrict their
view were wholly unnecessary. A long line of vehicles
went slowly one way on one side of the leading
thoroughfares, and a similar line crept as slowly in
the opposite direction on the other. It was when
some dray, or 'bus, or car had to break the line, and
attempt to make -its way across at right angles, for
its own destination, that the confusion deepened.
Drivers shouted, and link-boys dodged between legs
and wheels, and hoarse policemen tried to give
audible and intelligible directions. But the plot
thickened, and collisions were frequent, and all
sensible people wished themselves safe at their own
firesides, vowing that nothing short of life or death
should take them out again that night.
Just opposite the General Post-Office the confusion
was at its height. Letters will be written and mails
must go entirely irrespective of wind and weather.
The little red mail-carts were driving into the yard,
endeavouring to combine caution with speed, and
succeeding wonderfully well. A line of 'busses from
Kentish Town, Camden Town, and other northern
districts, were crawling along, and had stopped at
that usual station for dividing the journey. One of
Pickford's vans had been unloading, up a turning
which led to the wholesale entrance of a large estab-
lishment, and the two powerful horses had their
heads out from under the archway, leaving space
THE MIST OF DARKNESS." 81
for foot passengers between them and the main
thoroughfare. The lad who was standing at their
side, and who should have been watching them, was
amusing himself by producing a series of noises most
unearthly in the fog, startling the few foot passengers,
and making the horses fidgety. At length, he
snatched a torch from a passing link-boy, and bran-
dished it just at the horses' heads. Uncomfortable
and irritated before, that was enough, and in a second
they had crashed in the windows of an Islington 'bus,
cutting themselves with the broken glass, and making
a rent in the woodwork with the iron end of the pole
A crowd of link-boys were on the spot in a moment.
Policemen came from invisible quarters. A dozen
strong hands restrained the restive horses, and pre-
vented either 'bus or van from moving, till the
frightened passengers had been helped out. There
were but five, fortunately: two gentlemen, one on
each side of the door; two middle-aged ladies on one
side; and on the other, where the collision occurred,
a young lady alone. The iron head of the pole
slightly grazed her left shoulder; but the head of
the near horse, as it crashed through the pane of
glass and sent the fragments in a sharp shower over
the 'bus, struck her on the back, and sent her violently
against the woodwork of the other side. That young
lady was Miss Mitford. She had paid the visit of
which she had spoken to Blinky, which was one of
inquiry after a sick military old friend of her
With no thought of danger-she had too much of
soldier blood in her for that-she took her seat in the
'bus for her homeward journey, her thoughts still
running upon the two children, and especially the
curious difference between them.
82 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
The blow stopped her musings for that and many
succeeding days. But at the time she felt no pain.
The men's foreheads met with a hard hit, and the
two women and Miss Mitford seemed suddenly all in
a heap together. One yelled and shrieked after the
fashion of their kind; the other went off into a faint;
and it was the young lady who helped to lift her from
"the floor, regardless of her own crushed bonnet, which
bore testimony to the force of the blow.
"Be you a friend of the lady's, mum?" asked a
kindly carter, one of the many willing assistants.
" Glad to see as you bean't much the worse, any way.
We'll take her in here."
A chemist's shop was only two doors off, although
the crimson and purple lights gave no sign.
Thither the whole five were escorted, and an immense
crowd instantly gathered from goodness knows
where. A newspaper reporter turned up in the fog,
and, to save time, had already scribbled, "Fatal
accident" on the fresh leaf of his note-book. Two
policemen ushered in a young doctor, whose spirits
had risen to the emergency, and who now shut the
shop door upon him, facing the crowd themselves
with the stern "Stand back! stand back! which
always seems to act as a wet blanket upon popular
Inside, the fainting woman was recovering and
shivering; the shrieking one had become silent and
sensible. The two men shook themselves, and drew
a long breath. Miss Mitford sat quiet and unnoticed.
The doctor mixed a draught in the chemist's
medicine-glass, and gave it in succession to each of
"It was very nasty looking a few minutes ago,"
said one of the gentlemen, laying his hat on the
counter, and pushing some curls of very damp hair
THE MIST OF DARKNESS. 88
off his forehead. "Thank God, we are all more
frightened than hurt."
"If the iron pole had struck either of you fair
on the spine," said the doctor, "there would not
have been much use for me "-a remark at which
the hysterical female gave signs of indulging in
another outburst. Come, come, my good lady,"
and he put out his hand with the medicine-glass
to the chemist, a little more sal volatile here,
please. When you are really not injured, thanks
would be more gracious than groans. You had
better get home and to bed as fast as you can.
It will be only a dream when you wake to-morrow
The gentleman who had not yet spoken, now said
quietly, He keepeth all his bones; not one of them
The doctor wheeled round and looked at him
closely, at the same time lifting his hat as he did
so. "Yes," he said, gravely, "we doctors are of very
little use when a grand smash come. But there is
something wrong here, that we should have looked
after sooner." In turning round, his eye fell on Miss
Mitford, and in a second his fingers were on her
pulse. "You are hurt," he said, very gently; "there
is something more the matter with you than the
nervous shock. Did you get a blow ?"
"The jolt of the horse threw me forward, and I
struck my head somewhere," she answered, feebly.
The doctor had taken off the crushed remains of her
bonnet while she spoke, and unfastened the long
plaits of her hair. "A tablespoonful of brandy here,
please," he said to the chemist. "No, my dear
young lady, it's for external application only," as
she made a gesture of dissent with her hand, feeling
that words were fast becoming impossible. I have
84 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
very strong opinions about the use of spirits, and they
are not popular either, as I find to my cost."
Yet, if you believe you are right, and have counted
the cost, you can afford to tarry the Lord's leisure
about that and everything;" said the quiet man,
who, without being asked, had aided him in producing
a fine white handkerchief, which the doctor, with a
little inward amusement, had saturated with the
spirit, and laid on Miss Mitford's head. She was not
married-so said her left hand. And he could not be,
when he dared to be so free with his pocket-hand-
kerchiefs; no, not if he were a parson ten times over.
The other three seemed to be making common
cause over their common trouble; and the gentleman
volunteered to escort them to their own home, the
women declining the chemist's offer of calling a cab,
but thankfully agreeing to his proposition of avoiding
the curiosity of the still unsatisfied crowd, by going
out at a side door, and getting down into Ludgate
Hill that way. Unfortunately, in their hurry, they
had forgotten to remunerate the chemist-or, perhaps
it would be more charitable to suppose that their
pockets had been picked in the crowd.
"You'll have to get a cab here," said the young
doctor. This is not a case for a moonlight ramble,
even if there were no fog," he went on, with a sly
look at his assistant. "Can you give me your
address, my dear young lady ? The less you speak the
better, though that is not exactly a palatable pre-
scription to give to a woman."
The young lady sat up, and gave the doctor an
envelope. "That's my address," she said. "I am
afraid I can't walk, though I should get home almost
quicker than by riding." She stood up, and steadied
herself for a minute with the back of her chair, before
taking out her purse. She laid half a sovereign on
"THE MIST OF DARKNESS." 85
the counter, and the chemist fumbled in his drawer
I should be glad to go home now," she said, her
face growing very white, though her voice was still
"Yes, ma'am, at once," said the chemist, with
profoundly respectful bows. "I'll pay the cab with
Please keep it," she said. You can give extra
weight to the next ounce of liquorice or black
currant lozenges that some little child runs in to buy
for its granny." The chemist stared. "Oblige me
with your card, doctor," and she turned to him.
"My father will, I am sure, be glad to call and
thank you, himself, for your kind attention. I
am his only daughter," she continued, with a little
fond pride, "and his memory is always good for
pleasant things, especially when I am concerned."
She staggered as she spoke, and, in a manner far
too respectful to meet with the slightest resistance,
the quiet observer half led, half carried her into the
small room behind the shop. The chemist had
thrown open the door, as if to invite entrance some
minutes ago. An armchair, with a movable foot-
rest, a basin on a long brass arm, and a black
morocco case lying on a side table, made it clear that
a little dental surgery on a rough scale was some-
times carried on. But, like all quiet people, this
man used his eyes and said nothing, till he had guided
the suffering girl to a couch, which stood half hidden
in the shadow of the door.
So," said the young doctor, "you are taking my
patient out of my hands, and are leaving me nothing
to do ? Not fair, Mr. --," and he stopped for the
name. "I think we should have a general introduction
all round, if only to establish our respectability. Miss
86 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
Mitford has set the example already. I am Joseph
Welch, M.D., F.R.C.S., and any more letters that
the gullible public choose to add." He rambled on,
with an anxious eye, watching his patient, and clearly
endeavouring at once to amuse her and keep her quiet.
"I live in Paradise Terrace, which has nothing
left of Eden about it, if it ever had any nearer re-
semblance than the accident of name. I've noticed
that similarity of nomenclature doesn't always, by
any means, carry with it a faithful repetition of dis-
position or feature. There's my son and heir, now "-
and he looked again waggishly at the other, as if he
intended his own confidence to be a challenge-" what
could the chap have done better than copy his father,
a true-born Englishman, six feet high in his stocking
soles ? and bless you, he is just a tiny-featured, small-
limbed young rogue-the very ditto of his mother."
And a flash of the full, brown eye, as well as an un-
intended emphasis of voice, proclaimed that, no matter
what the said terrace might be like as to the outside,
the blessed woman-who, perhaps, regretted in her
heart of hearts that her boy did not resemble his
father-had succeeded in making the inside of the
home a very paradise regained."
Cab's come," said the shop-boy, briefly. He had
been told to be quick, so he put in his head, and
jerked the two words at the group, closing the door
with a bang which made Miss Mitford tremble
violently. His self-importance had been injured, in
that he had not been allowed to stay as long as he
pleased, and satisfy the gradually diminishing, but still
inquisitive crowd, with facts and reflections and
fictions at pleasure.
Knows how to minister to a head diseased," said
the doctor, laconically. Do that young man good to
be sent on an errand again. Just send him up to my
THE MIST OF DARKNESS." 87
house," he went on to the chemist, and let him tell
Mrs. Welch that I'm off to a patient, and she is not
to be uneasy if I am kept rather late."
With unsteady fingers, Miss Mitford had rearranged
her hair, and, with native neatness, made an attempt
to bring order out of the chaotic mass of a bonnet.
The doctor noted it as an evidence that her brain was
still, as he was very fond of calling it, in good working
The mouth of the other gentleman relaxed its ex-
treme gravity for the first time since the accident.
In his heart he said, "Well, women are wonderfully
made! I do believe they would think about settling
their dress, if they were actually dying." All he did,
however, was to hold out a firm, strong, shapely hand,
and say, May I help to arrange you comfortably
in the cab? Your drive must be a long one to-
night, and I doubt your power of sitting upright all
"Interfering again," said the doctor-a little testily
this time. Are you one of my profession, sir ? he
inquired; for, indeed, I took you for a parson."
His answer was simply to take a card from his
pocket, and hand it-not to Dr. Welch, but to Miss
Mitford. She read on it, Francis Graham," and an
address which did not require the postal E to testify
that it was in what West-End folks call "the vulgar
side of London." The young lady put her hand on
his arm, and turned to the doctor. "You are kind
enough to take charge of me home, doctor," she
said ; at least, I gather as much from the message
sent to your wife."
I did so intend, my dear young lady," he said,
with his old professional suavity; but, pardon me,
you hardly require two keepers."
My attendance on Miss Mitford will end at the
88 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
cab door, doctor," said Mr. Graham. "I wish I
could be of more use, and the prescriptions of the
Physician whom I consult are as well known, I imagine,
to her as to myself. Thou wilt keep him in perfect
peace whose mind is stayed on Thee,' is one, the
value of which, 1 feel sure, she has often tested."
He led her tenderly out, through a dark passage,
the chemist going before and opening several doors.
Unnoticed by any one, he had left a crown piece and
his card on the side table.
Where do you hold forth on Sundays ? rattled out
the doctor, making a strong effort to choke down his
annoyance at being so coolly thrust aside. I'll look
in for a bit, if it happens to be in my beat."
"I don't think you would stay long if you did,"
said Mr. Graham. "But I shall come and see you
first, and satisfy your curiosity. I owe you that
civility at least, and I don't like debt."
He held out his hand-his right hand, with such
a winning smile, that the doctor shook it warmly,
almost in spite of himself.
Miss Mitford stepped painfully into the cab. Mr.
Graham lifted his hat, and disappeared in the fog.
Cool customer," said the doctor, turning to the
chemist, "quite accustomed to manage the women.
Curious how these parsons always contrive to get a
female following. Now," said he, for the first time
using the name which, stunned as Miss Mitford felt,
she made an effort to remember, "Cochrane, I took
French leave, and made off with a cushion I saw
yonder, in your surgery; but I'll see that it finds its
way back all right. Come, Miss Mitford," he went on,
fixing the cushion into the corner of the cab, steady
your head on that, and if you'll allow me to sit on
the same side, I will steady you." She smiled slightly,
and did exactly as he told her. Now, then, all right.
"THE MIST OF DARKNESS." 89
Drive on, cabby, and don't let us in for a second edition,
revised and corrected "
The chemist vanished into the dark passage, and
Miss Mitford settled herself for the drive, which, she
felt, nothing but good sense, and a spice of self-will,
would enable her to hold out to the end. Was there
not once a lady who provoked her friends, by main-
taining that a determined effort of self-will could
overcome the sharpest attack of toothache which
ever afflicted either man or woman ?
Beyond a watchful professional inquiry now and
again as to how she was bearing it, Dr. Welch made
no attempt at conversation. The two lights of the
cab dimly showed him a face growing whiter and
whiter, and the voice that answered him grew each
time more feeble. The doctor devoutly wished himself
at the end of his journey.
It seemed an hour before an increased speed, and
a cessation of noise, proved that the city was left
behind them at last. In the suburbs the fog was less
dense, and the street lamps each shed a little halo
round its respective post, and served at least as mile-
stones to mark the distance.
At length the cabman turned his head, and shouted,
"Wot number, sir, did you say? and, as Dr. Welch
replied, Ten, on the left-hand side," Miss Mitford
drew a long breath, and raised her head.
"Ask for Maria," she said, "if a young servant
opens the door, and tell her to come here to me before
she speaks to papa."
The doctor sprang out, and stopped the man just as
he was about to give a vigorous pull at the bell. He
rang it himself very gently, and waited. Hannah
opened the door.
Will you tell Maria that a person wants to see
her for a moment ? he said.
90 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
Certainly, sir. Will you step in ? and she moved
aside to allow him to pass.
"I'll not detain her a moment," he said; and I
am both damp and dirty. Has it been as bad as this
here all day? And the unsuspecting Hannah meekly
"Yes, sir, it has been very bad to-day. I'll tell
Maria, sir;" and she closed the glass door behind
her, and left him on the door-mat, where Blinky's
basket had rested only that morning.
Maria's face appeared almost directly, and the
doctor quickly put out his hand, and again shut the
"Maria," he whispered, keep calm. Miss Mitford
is hurt, and I am a doctor, and have brought her
home in a cab. No bones are broken, but her head
is stunned, and you must help her into bed as soon
and as quietly as possible."
The old servant set her mouth into stiff, hard lines,
which those who were familiar with her knew to be the
only outward sign of emotion which she ever allowed
the outer world to see. She reopened the door and
beckoned to Hannah, who was lingering about the
hall, in the fond hope that, for once, she had lit upon
a secret of her uncomfortably discreet fellow-servant.
Just keep up here," she whispered, "and if
master's bell rings, say some one has come with a
message for me. Miss Mary's got hurt in the fog,
and is at the gate in a cab."
With a communication made in a manner so little
communicative, any ebullition of feeling was impos-
sible. Hannah turned into an automaton on the
spot. Maria ran down the steps, and, with strength
for which no one just looking at her would have given
her credit, lifted her young mistress in her arms as
she met her just at the gate, and carried her, with a
"THE MIST OF DARKNESS." 91
curious recollection of her baby days just then flash-
ing across her brain, into the hall. The doctor was
so surprised that he stood speechless.
"Now," she said, in a clear whisper, "shut the
door, Hannah, show the gentleman into the dining-
room, and in a minute or two go to master, and say
that a gentleman wants him for a moment about the
ragged school. He is in the book-room, and Miss
Mary can't go to school this night, so that's no lie.
I'll put Miss Mitford to bed, sir," she added, "and
after you have told master all there is to tell, Hannah
will show you to her room, and I'll be glad to receive
The doctor was amazed at her coolness, and still
more that she asked no questions. I seem to be
one too many everywhere to-night," he said, half
aloud only; but at least you had better let me/help
"My poor poppet! said the old soul, with an in-
finite tenderness of tone. I've carried her often; "
and before the doctor had time to look round, she had
gathered her nursling into her motherly arms, and
laid her safely on a sofa at the foot of her own bed.
"Don't talk, dear," she said, making short work
with buttons and hooks and eyes. "I see by your
bonnet that your head has been struck; and it was
not in the street, thank God, for you have no mud
on your ulster. Now, dear," and she wrapped a soft
dressing-gown all round her, and, again lifting her,
laid her in bed. "I'll set light to your fire, and then
we're ready for the doctor, though goodness knows if
he's worth much, for he don't look like it."
Which unflattering opinion of his merits the doctor
narrowly escaped hearing, for a very slight tap at the
door was instantly followed by the entrance of Mr.
Mitford and Dr. Welch.
92 BLINKY AND ONIONS.
"I am not much hurt, papa," she said bravely,
steadying her voice and lifting her mouth for a kiss.
The effort forced a flush of pain over her face, and
printed a line on her white forehead. He hung over
her silently, and she went on. "The horse's head
struck me on the back, and I went bump against the
other side of the 'bus;" and she tried to smile.
"Wasn't it just like your ugly duckling-always
getting into some trouble ?"
Maria, who had been folding up her clothes,
shivered as she heard the brief account. The attempt
at smiling was another miserable break-down, and
she went off into a fit of sobbing.
"This mustn't be allowed," said the doctor;
"nothing that will excite her in the very least; and
he dipped a towel into the water-jug, and handed it
to the silent servant, indicating, by putting his hand
on his own head, where he wished it applied to Miss
Mitford. Her father still held her hand, and she
gently patted her old nurse's face with the other, as
she recognized the touch that was cooling her heated
"Papa," she said again, "I wanted to tell you
about Blinky. She was here to-day, and promised to
come to my sewing class to-night."
"I'll tell master everything, dear, if you'll rest and
not think about the school just now. We'll not for-
get the child, and I'll see about her frock."
The door opened, and Dr. Welch took a cup of tea
from the thoroughly frightened Hannah. He emptied
into it a little bottle that he took from his vest pocket,
and gave it across the bed to Maria.
Give her that," he said, and we will leave her
quietly with you. Sleep is what we want now. The
real extent of the injury can't be told for a day or
two; but she is so sensible that I hope the brain will