Page:Our Common Land (and other short essays).djvu/121

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109
OPEN SPACES.

low door-step, side by side with a drunken woman who comments with foul oaths on all who pass. The children, how they swarm! The ground seems alive with them, from the neglected youngest crawling on the hot stones, clawing among the shavings, and potato-peelings, and cabbage-leaves strewn about, to the big boy and girl "larking" in vulgarest play by the corner. The sun does not penetrate with any purifying beams to the lower stories of the houses, but beats on their roofs, heating them like ovens. The close staircase is sultry, the dust-bins reek, the drains smell, all the dirty bedding smells, the people's clothes smell. The wild cries of the thirsty, heated, irritated crowd driven to drink, the quarrelling children's voices echo under the low and narrow archway by which you enter the court. Everyone seems in everyone else's way. You begin to wonder whether a human being, man, woman, or child, is in very deed in any sense precious, either to God who made them, or to their