Page:The bitter cry of outcast London.djvu/19

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
15
OF OUTCAST LONDON.

out by train or tram into the suburbs; and how, with their poor emaciated, starved bodies, can they be expected—in addition to working twelve hours or more, for a shilling, or less,—to walk three or four miles each way to take and fetch? It is notorious that the Artizans' Dwellings Act has, in some respects, made matters worse for them. Large spaces have been cleared of fever-breeding rookeries to make way for the building of decent habitations, but the rents of these are far beyond the means of the abject poor. They are driven to crowd more closely together in the few stifling places still left to them; and so Dives makes a richer harvest out of their misery, buying up property condemned as unfit for habitation, and turning it into a goldmine because the poor must have shelter somewhere, even though it be the shelter of a living tomb.

The State must make short work of this iniquitous traffic, and secure for the poorest the rights of citizenship; the right to live in something better than fever dens; the right to live as something better than the uncleanest of brute beasts. This must be done before the Christian missionary can have much chance with them. But because we cannot do all we wish, are we to do nothing? Even as things are something can be accomplished. Is no lifeboat to put out and no life-belt to be thrown because only half a dozen out of the perishing hundreds can be saved from the wreck? The very records which supply the sad story we have been telling, give also proofs of what can be done by the Gospel and by Christian love and tact and devotion. Gladly do many of these poor creatures receive the Gospel. Little match-box makers are heard singing at their toil, "One more day's work for Jesus." "If only mother was a Christian we should all be happy," said one; and on his miserable bed, amidst squalor and want and pain, a poor blind man dies with the prayer upon his lips, "Jesus, lover of my soul, Let me to thy bosom fly." Another writes, "You have filled my heart with joy, and my little room with sunshine." A second, who now regularly attends a place of worship, says, speaking of the visits of the missionary, " Before he came to visit me I used to sit and make match-boxes on Sunday, but a word now and then has enabled me to look up to the Lord. I don't feel like the same person." Another who himself became a missionary to his own class, and exercised great power over them when-