Page:The bitter cry of outcast London.djvu/23

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OF OUTCAST LONDON.

separated only by partitions of boards, some of which are an inch apart. There are no locks on the doors, and it would seem that they can only be fastened on the outside by padlock. In this room to which we have come an old bed, on which are some evil-smelling rags, is, with the exception of a broken chair, the only article of furniture. Its sole occupant just now is a repulsive, half drunken Irishwoman. She is looking at some old ragged garments in hope of being able to raise something upon them at the pawnshop, and being asked if she is doing this because she is poor, she gets into a rage and cries, "Call me poor? I have, got half a loaf of bread in the house, and a little milk;" and then from a heap of rubbish in one corner she pulls out a putrid turkey, utterly unfit for human food, which she tells us she is going to cook for dinner. This woman has just "done seven days" for an assault upon a police officer. We find that she has a husband, but he spends almost all his money at the public-house. Rooms such as this are let furnished (!) at 3s. 6d. and 4s. a week, or 8d. a night, and we are told that the owner is getting from 50 to 60 per cent, upon his money.

And this is a specimen of the neighbourhood. Reeking courts, crowded public-houses, low lodging-houses, and numerous brothels are to be found all around. Even the cellars are tenanted. Poverty, rags, and dirt everywhere. The air is laden with disease-breeding gases. The missionaries who labour here are constantly being attacked by some malady or other resulting from blood poisoning, and their tact and courage are subjected to the severest tests. In going about these alleys and courts no stranger is safe if alone. Not long ago a doctor on his rounds was waylaid by a number of women, who would not let him pass to see his patient until he had given them money; and a Bible-woman, visiting "Kent Street," was robbed of most of her clothing. Even the police seldom venture into some parts of the district except in company. Yet bad as it is there are elements of hopefulness which encourage us to believe that our work will not be in vain. Many of its denizens would gladly break away from the dismal, degrading life they are leading, if only a way were made for them to do so; as it is they are hemmed in and chained down by their surroundings in hopeless and helpless misery.

Such is Collier's Rents. To describe the other two localities