Imágenes de páginas


in service as nuss-girl at Mrs. Omer's, came home to-day. I won't deny that Mrs. Omer have been kind to her ; keeping her on after they failed, and that ; but she up and told her yesterday that she couldn't afford it any longer. I remember, brethren, when Mr. and Mrs. Omer held up their heads, and paid their way as respectable as the first manufacturer in Riverton. Good people they was.

“Mr. Omer came to our place to-day," interrupted Markham, “to pray

the governor to give him a little work at his own home, as a journeyman. But we had none to give, without robbing them that want it worse than he. I think I never saw our governor so cut up as he was, after being obliged to refuse him.”

“Ay,” returned the former speaker, “and our Betsy declares as her missis cried to her this morning, and said she didn't know but what they should come to the parish. Betsy, poor girl,” he continued, “ can't bear to be a burden upon us, but there ain't no help for it. There be no places to be had : what with so many of the girls being throwed out of employment, and the famerlies as formerly kept two or three servants, keeping but one, and them as kept one, keeping none. There's nothing that she can do, brethren, for herself or for us."

“ The Lord keep her from evil courses !" uttered a deep, earnest voice.

“ If I thought as her, or any of my childern, was capable of taking to them,” thundered the man, his breast heaving as he raised his sinewy, lean arm in a threatening attitude, “I'd strike her flat into the earth afore me!” .“ Softly, neighbour,” interrupted the voice.

“ We all know that your missis is a bringing up her girls in credit. But starvation is hard to put up with, when it lasts from week to week, from month to month, and from year to year.

Many a young 'ooman, better circumstanced than either yours or mine, has been forced into wickedness by nothing else. That's all I meant, comrade : I never thought to cast a reflection on your girl: the company present knows she don't deserve it. Oh, brethren! is there not an awful sin lying at the doors of them who have brought us to this ?”

At this moment the door opened, and the man named Thorpe-the one spoken of as having gone round with the “ deputation," and had left it to return to his wife and family-pushed into the room.

" What now?” cried several, for they saw that some emotion oppressed him.

They talk to us of being peaceable, of being patient, of bearing our wrongs stoutly!” he uttered, catching his breath with every word : " but, comrades, they should first try the wrongs, these lawgivers, and realise what it is that we have to bear."

" What has happened, Thorpe ?”

The new comer pressed his arms upon his chest, as if to keep down his excitement. He was one of the handsomest men in the room, so far as physical beauty went, with a superiority in his bearing approaching to refinement, but his cheeks were hollow and pale, and his clothes tattered, His voice rose occasionally to a sob as he spoke.

“I went round this morning with the deputation, comrades. I did not want to go, for my poor wife was sick a bed, and my children ailing ; but I yielded to their wishes, and went.”

[ocr errors]

“He is a better spokesman than some of us, you see,” interposed the leader of the deputation : "his edication was smart, and he has improved himself along of reading books. I thought he might explain some things to the masters to-day conciser than we should, so I asked him to go." “I went with them,” returned the man,

có and now I'll tell you my reward. I owed, brethren-perhaps we most of us do it, to our sore perplexity-I owed a trifle of rent. God knows how I have struggled to keep free of debt; living upon almost nothing, and my wife and babes upon as little : it is that, the dispensary doctor says, that has brought on her disorder."

“Did you get a ticket for the dispensary ?” inquired Thomas Markham.

“ Yes. I had a deal of trouble over it, but I got one at last. And lately, since


wife has been too ill to walk there, the doctor has been so kind as to come down and see her, though folks say it's out of his duty. We had but one room : we gave up our two others when work failed me, long ago now, and we had parted with everything to buy bread, save the straw mattress my wife lay upon, an old chair or so, and a broken table. The whole lot of things would not have fetched ten shillings at a sale.”

“Why don't you go on, Thorpe ?" asked the manager before mentioned, seeing that the man had stopped, in his agitation.

“ I'll go on, sir, but I feel to-night a difficulty in fetching my breath. Well, when I got home just now, there was a crowd collected in the lane, close by our door, and what should I see but my wife in the midst, lying upon some dirty straw, in the open air, and the children stretched there too, a crying and sobbing by her. The landlord had come in while I was away, had seized my poor handful of things for his rent, and turned


wife and children out.' A burst of indignation shook the room.

“The neighbours, they are like ourselves, so miserable that they had not a bed to lie her on, but they went for the dispensary surgeon, and he came. He said —he said”—poor Thorpe's speech seemed in danger of stopping altogether-" he said that the worry and the fright and the exposure to the air, had completed what the illness had nearly done before, and that perhaps she would not live through the night. And— brethren-I've told


all." “Who says we have no wrongs to redress ?” were the first words spoken. “ They are foul wrongs, they are crying wrongs!” uttered one, in a

, violent tone. “ If the Legislatur don't interfere to relieve us, I can't see what it's to end in."

" It will end in this city's ruin, and in ours with it," interposed Markham. “ But what care the government for that? The duty imposed upon these new-fangled French goods, is filling their pockets : you would be astonished, some of you, gentlemen, at the amount of money that has thus accrued to the government since the ports have been opened. I forget the exact figure, but I know it surprised me when our governor read it to me. And while the money is thus Bowing in, and enriching their coffers ; helping to keep up their extravagance, and their places for their younger sons, and their pensions for their women, what


care they, think you, for a little local misery? Why, if we all die off into the ground, it would only be so much less embarrassment to them.”

Markham stopped, and heavy groans were echoed around, proving how his words told upon his hearers.

“ The question of another petition was mooted at the masters' meeting to-day,” he resumed, “one to the king. But, dear me! if petitions-as Mr. Íravice said to his father afterwards, when they were conversing upon it—if petitions could do any good, it would have been done ere this

, with all that have gone up. The governor remarked to me

At this moment the door opened, and there suddenly rushed into the room a man, under the influence of some extraordinary excitement. His name was Sanders. He was a broad-shouldered, powerful fellow, standing six feet high, and, with his bare, fleshless bones, looked not unlike a walking skeleton. He had been one of the first of the operatives thrown out of work, and he did not bear his distresses calmly. Never of the most steady character, he had latterly become fierce in his deportment; violent and revengeful in his language; drinking to excess when he could get it: but he was sober on this night. He pressed forward, his large eyes dilating and his mouth working, panting for breath. In his fierce eagerness, he thrust the landlord aside, as if he had been an atom, totally losing sight of the respect in general accorded to that individual.

“ Comrades! comrades ! the news, the news! Ye haven't heard it, or ye wouldn't be sitting droning together like this !"

Pipes were taken from lips, and cups of ale were arrested half-way thither. The company did not know what to make of Sanders.

“ It's come express, men--a chaise and four horses. I saw it myself. How the steam rose from the reeking cattle! Comrades, he has gone to retribution !-gone to answer for our ruin! It was only yesterday that these wretched old lips of mine, which hadn't tasted food since the previous day, said if you only waited, you would see that some judgment would fall upon him.”

“ Sanders!" exclaimed the manager of the large firm before alluded to, “ you look wild, and talk so. What have you been doing, man ?” "A dance to-night, brethren !" resumed the fellow; “

merry hearts and shining countenances, if we never wear 'em again! Let them as have the means, drink till they're drunk: let them as haven't, make a score with the landlord. We'll drink to him on his journey!"

“Are you mad ?" questioned the landlord.

5. I feel so," returned the excited man. " But let's wonder how he feels—how many of the phantoms he has sent out of the world, brokenhearted and starved, is a hovering round him on his journey, crying for vengeance! Oh, comrades ! this is news to last for our lives, if we never hear any again!"

“ Is your news good or ill?”

“ That's as you may find it. There's revenge for us, that's good; there's a thought that God A’mighty has seen our wrongs and is a rewarding of 'em, that's good; and there's death, which is generally reckoned bad. I guess it is, in this case, for him it has overtook.”

[ocr errors]

“Who is dead?” was the next question, while universal silence pervaded the hushed assemblage.

“ Ye knew of the great undertaking, as they called it ; what has occupied men's tongues and thoughts lately; the opening of the great railroad between Liverpool and Manchester ? It is opened.” « Well ?— well ?" repeated the impatient men.

“ What's that to us?" “ Ye knew that the grandees of the government, our oppressors, was to be at it, in a body?”

“ Go on.”

" And there's one on 'em has met his fate there. Killed-jammed jammed to death, brethren: the carriages went right over him. Never say again that there's no retribution !"

The men had risen from their seats, breathless with suspense, and the deepest stillness reigned in the room. It was broken by a hesitating voice.

“ The king? Was he there ?”

“No, no, not the king !" returned Sanders, in a contemptuous tone. “One who has had more to do with us ; who has taken the bread from our mouths, the fire from our hearths, the clothing from our impoverished bodies; who has brought grey hairs upon us afore their time; who has driven scores of us into the grave afore God would have put us there! Can you tell now

?” A certain name—the men said so afterwards-rose to the lips of many there, but not one gave utterance to it ; and Sanders resumed, his voice

; rising to a shriek:

“Huskisson, brethren !-do you hear the name ? Huskisson! It is true, as God's in heaven!”

The dead silence was prolonged for a few moments, until the men's minds had had time to take in the startling tale ; and then arose, almost simultaneously, one long, loud, dreadful shout, in every tone-in every sense of exultation. Let us hope that the ill-fated statesman, not yet many

hours gone to his dread account, had other prayers than these to follow his exit from the world!


These unhappy and, in most cases, ignorant operatives were not alone in the opinion they expressed on the death of Huskisson. If you will go to Riverton—and perhaps you have by this time pretty nearly guessed what town it is that has been alluded to—you will find many of its first citizens—not very young most of them now—who will unhesitatingly tell you that the singular fatality which overtook the unfortunate statesman, was but the measuring of Heaven's wrath upon him for the local misery he had brought upon the land. I do not speak of the lower class, who are apt to be prejudiced, but of gentlemen, educated and intelligent in their minds, just and benevolent in their principles and practice. And you may as well endeavour to turn the sun from its course, as to alter this, their conscientious and long-cherished conviction.

Does any one require to ask what was the eventual fate of Riverton, so far as its trading prosperity was concerned ? No redress, or compensation,


or sympathy, was ever accorded it. Its unfortunate, and, let us say, illused manufacturers, went, with very few exceptions, down to total ruin, one after the other, and were scattered abroad on the face of the toilsome earth, to be heard of no more. Not yet have the effects of the longcontinued misery passed away, and never will, so long as our time shall last. This has been but a sketch of it, for it was of by far too grave a nature, too deep and painful in its working, for any pen faithfully to record. But when you hear talk again of these great political changes, ask yourselves, however flourishing their aspect may be, whether there may not be some localities, some communities, of peaceful, unoffending people to whom they are bringing the destruction that they once brought

This record of the Arkell family is not a very cheering history. Its conclusion—that is, so far as a conclusion can be given to the career of people who yet live—will appear in a subsequent number. But, I warn

a . you, it will be no more gay than these two first papers have been. And, you may rely upon it, that when the pen confines itself faithfully to chronicles of real life, its traces will in general be found to be sad ones.

upon Riverton.




Wild winds sweep through yon roofless tower,
Where warrior-knights kept watch and ward;
And rank weeds choke the woodbine bower,
Where erst


the velvet sward
Trod, in times past, light fairy feet
As stole full oft, some blushing maid
Thither, her mail-clad love to meet.
And where sad parting words were said
Ere far away, to tented field,
And deadly battle-plain, he hied,
Glory to win-for could he yield
To Beauty's thrall, his martial pride ?

The golden sunsets still illume
Yon purple hills, yon rushing stream,
Still chase yon dark wood's sombre gloom,
And o'er each loopholed turret beam.
But where are they, the stirring throng,
Whose looks once on that scene were cast-
Who listened to the minstrel's

Or to the trumpet's echoing blast ?

« AnteriorContinuar »