Page:Hopkinson Smith--In Dickens's London.djvu/124

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streets; in the parks, art galleries, and restaurants stood women dressed in their best, from the humblest shop-girl in her straw hat and white muslin frock to the duchess in laces and silk.

They were selling flowers to whoever would buy in aid of the sick in London's many hospitals. Pressing close, some with a penny, some with a five-pound note, surged the outpourings of the great city; men and women from the slums lying between the Strand and the river; costermongers, push-cart men, peddlers, clerks, teamsters, hucksters; men from the banks, from insurance offices; presidents of trust companies, tourists, strangers;—every class and condition of man and woman;—and from my perch I could study them all—all reverent; all conscious of the dignity, mercy, and tenderness of the women standing before them doing a menial service for a noble cause; all deeply appreciative of the sacrifice, the men of the street jerking at their cap brims, the men of the clubs lifting their hats—a wonderful, illuminating, and always-to-be-remembered object-lesson.

And then came the shock and with it the other lesson. At that same hour of the afternoon—within half a dozen blocks of where I sat—a band of assorted women carrying the banner of their cause, in an attempt to harangue a crowd, were set upon by the mob and barely rescued by the police, their clothes almost torn from their backs.

The two incidents afford food for thought; they also point a moral. But—and here I restrain myself—they cannot very well adorn a tale. Neither Emily's nor this one of my own, which must concern itself wholly with the genius of a great writer.