THE GARRET AND THE GARDEN OR LOW LIFE HIGH UP.
In the midst of the great wilderness we
might almost say the wilds of that comparatively
unknown region which lies on the Surrey side of the
Thames, just above London Bridge, there sauntered one
fine day a big bronzed seaman of middle age.
He turned into an alley, down which, nautically speaking,
he rolled into a shabby little court. There he
stood still for a few seconds and looked around him
as if in quest of something.
It was a miserable poverty-stricken
court, with nothing to commend it to the visitor save
a certain air of partial-cleanliness and semi-respectability,
which did not form a feature of the courts in its
“I say, Capting,” remarked
a juvenile voice close at hand, “you’ve
bin an sailed into the wrong port.”
The sailor glanced in all directions,
but was unable to see the owner of the voice until
a slight cough if not a suppressed laugh caused
him to look up, when he perceived the sharp, knowing,
and dirty face of a small boy, who calmly contemplated
him from a window not more than a foot above his head.
Fun, mischief, intelligence, precocity sat enthroned
on the countenance of that small boy, and suffering
wrinkled his young brow.
“How d’ee know I’m
in the wrong port monkey?” demanded
“’Cause there ain’t
no grog-shop in it gorilla!” retorted
There is a mysterious but well-known
power of attraction between kindred spirits which
induces them to unite, like globules of quicksilver,
at the first moment of contact. Brief as was
this interchange of politenesses, it sufficed to knit
together the souls of the seaman and the small boy.
A mutual smile, nod, and wink sealed, as it were,
the sudden friendship.
“Come now, younker,” said
the sailor, thrusting his hands into his coat-pockets,
and leaning a little forward with legs well apart,
as if in readiness to counteract the rolling of the
court in a heavy sea, “there’s no occasion
for you an’ me to go beatin’ about off
an’ on. Let’s come to close quarters
at once. I haven’t putt in here to look
for no grog-shop ”
“W’ich I didn’t say you ’ad,”
interrupted the boy.
“No more you did, youngster.
Well, what I dropped in here for was to look arter
an old woman.”
“If you’d said a young
’un, now, I might ’ave b’lieved
you,” returned the pert urchin.
“You may believe me,
then, for I wants a young ’un too.”
“Well, old salt,” rejoined
the boy, resting his ragged arms on the window-sill,
and looking down on the weather-beaten man with an
expression of patronising interest, “you’ve
come to the right shop, anyhow, for that keemodity.
In Lun’on we’ve got old women by the
thousand, an’ young uns by the million,
to say nuffin o’ middle-aged uns an’
chicks. Have ’ee got a partikler pattern
in yer eye, now, or d’ee on’y want samples?”
“What’s your name, lad?” asked the
“That depends, old man.
If a beak axes me, I’ve got a wariety o’
names, an’ gives ’im the first as comes
to ’and. W’en a gen’leman axes
me, I’m more partikler I makes a
“Bein’ neither a beak
nor a gentleman, lad, what would you say your name
was to me?”
“Tommy Splint,” replied
the boy promptly. “Splint, ’cause
w’en I was picked up, a small babby, at the
work’us door, my left leg was broke, an’
they ’ad to putt it up in splints; Tommy, ’cause
they said I was like a he-cat; w’ich was a lie!”
“Is your father alive, Tommy?”
“’Ow should I know?
I’ve got no father nor mother never
had none as I knows on; an’ what’s more,
I don’t want any. I’m a horphing,
I am, an’ I prefers it. Fathers
an’ mothers is often wery aggrawatin’;
they’re uncommon hard to manage w’en they’re
bad, an’ a cause o’ much wexation an’
worry to child’n w’en they’re good;
so, on the whole, I think we’re better without
’em. Chimleypot Liz is parent enough for
“And who may chimney-pot Liz
be?” asked the sailor with sudden interest.
the boy with equally sudden caution and hesitancy.
“I didn’t say chimney-pot but
chimley-pot Liz. W’at is she?
W’y, she’s the ugliest old ooman in this
great meetropilis, an’ she’s got the jolliest
old ’art in Lun’on. Her skin is wrinkled
equal to the ry-nossris at the Zoo I seed
that beast once at a Sunday-school treat
an’ her nose has been tryin’ for some years
past to kiss her chin, w’ich it would ’ave
managed long ago, too, but for a tooth she’s
got in the upper jaw. She’s on’y
got one; but, my, that is a fang! so loose that
you’d expect it to be blowed out every time she
coughs. It’s a reg’lar grinder an’
cutter an’ stabber all in one; an’ the
way it works sometimes in the mouth, sometimes
outside the lip, now an’ then straight out like
a ship’s bowsprit is most amazin’;
an’ she drives it about like a nigger slave.
Gives it no rest. I do declare I wouldn’t
be that there fang for ten thousand a year.
She’s got two black eyes, too, has old Liz,
clear an’ bright as beads fit to bore
holes through you w’en she ain’t pleased;
and er nose is ooked . But, I say, before
I tell you more about ’er, I wants to know wot
you’ve got to do with ‘er? An’
w’at’s your name? I’ve gave
you mine. Fair exchange, you know.”
“True, Tommy, that’s only
right an’ fair. But I ain’t used
to lookin’ up when discoorsin’.
Couldn’t you come down here an’ lay alongside?”
“No, old salt, I couldn’t;
but you may come up here if you like. You’ll
be the better of a rise in the world, won’t you?
The gangway lays just round the corner; but mind
your sky-scraper for the port’s low. There’s
a seat in the winder here. Go ahead; starboard
your helm, straight up, then ’ard-a-port, steady,
mind your jib-boom, splice the main-brace, heave the
main-deck overboard, and cast anchor ‘longside
Following these brief directions as
far as was practicable, the sailor soon found himself
on the landing of the stair, where Tommy was seated
on a rickety packing-case awaiting him.
“Now, lad,” said the man,
seating himself beside his new friend, “from
what you tells me, I think that chimney-pot ”
“Chimley,” remarked the boy, correcting.
“Well, then, chimley-pot Liz,
from your account of her, must be the very woman I
wants. I’ve sought for her far an’
wide, alow and aloft, an’ bin directed here
an’ there an’ everywhere, except the right
where, ’till now. But I’ll explain.”
The man paused a moment as if to consider, and it
became evident to the boy that his friend was labouring
under some degree of excitement, which he erroneously
put down to drink.
“My name,” continued the
sailor, “is Sam Blake second mate
o’ the Seacow, not long in from China.
I didn’t ship as mate. Bein’ a
shipwrecked seaman, you see ”
the boy, with much interest expressed in his sharp
“Ay, lad, shipwrecked; an’
not the first time neither, but I was keen to get
home, havin’ bin kep’ a prisoner for an
awful long spell by pirates ”
“Pints!” interrupted the
boy again, as he gazed in admiration at his stalwart
friend; “but,” he added, “I don’t
believe you. It’s all barn. There
ain’t no pints now; an’ you think you’ve
got hold of a green un.”
“Tommy!” said the sailor
in a remonstrative tone, “did I ever deceive
“Never,” replied the boy
fervently; “leastwise not since we ’come
acquaint ’arf an hour back.”
“Look here,” said Sam
Blake, baring his brawny left arm to the elbow and
displaying sundry deep scars which once must have been
painful wounds. “An’ look at this,”
he added, opening his shirt-front and exposing a mighty
chest that was seamed with similar scars in all directions.
“That’s what the pirates did to me an’
my mates torturin’ of us afore killin’
“Oh, I say!” exclaimed
the urchin, in a tone in which sympathy was mingled
with admiration; “tell us all about it, Sam.”
“Not now, my lad; business first pleasure
“I prefers pleasure first an’
business arter, Sam. ’Owever, ’ave
it yer own way.”
“Well, you see,” continued
the sailor, turning down his, “w’en I went
to sea that time, I left a wife an’ a
babby behind me; but soon arter I got out to China
I got a letter tellin’ me that my Susan was dead,
and that the babby had bin took charge of by a old
nurse in the family where Susan had been a housemaid.
You may be sure my heart was well-nigh broke by the
news, but I comforted myself wi’ the thought
o’ gittin’ home again an’ takin’
care o’ the dear babby a gal, it was,
called Susan arter its mother. It was at that
time I was took by the pirates in the Malay Seas now
fifteen long years gone by.”
“W’at! an’ you ain’t
bin ’ome or seed yer babby for fifteen years?”
exclaimed Tommy Splint.
“Not for fifteen long year,”
replied his friend. “You see, Tommy, the
pirates made a slave o’ me, an’ took me
up country into the interior of one o’ their
biggest islands, where I hadn’t a chance of escapin’.
But I did manage to escape at last, through God’s
blessin’, an’ got to Hong-Kong in a small
coaster; found a ship the Seacow-about
startin’ for England short-handed, an’
got a berth on board of her. On the voyage the
second mate was washed overboard in a gale, so, as
I was a handy chap, the cap’en he promoted me,
an’ now I’m huntin’ about for my
dear little one all over London. But it’s
a big place is London.”
“Yes; an’ I suspect that
you’ll find your little un raither a big un too
by this time.”
“No doubt,” returned the
seaman with an absent air; then, looking with sudden
earnestness into his little companion’s face,
he added, “Well, Tommy Splint, as I said just
now, I’ve cruised about far an’ near after
this old woman as took charge o’ my babby without
overhaulin’ of her, for she seems to have changed
her quarters pretty often; but I keep up my hopes,
for I do feel as if I’d run her down at last her
name was Lizbeth Morley ”
“Oho!” exclaimed Tommy
Splint with a look of sharp intelligence; “so
you think that chimleypot Liz may be your Lizbeth
and our Susy your babby!”
“I’m more than half inclined
to think that, my boy,” returned the sailor,
growing more excited.
“Is the old woman’s name Morley?”
“Dun know. Never heard nobody call her
nothin’ but Liz.”
“And how about Susan?”
“That’s the babby?” said the boy
with a grin.
“Yes yes,” said Sam anxiously.
“Well, that babby’s about
five fût four now, without ’er boots.
You see ’uman creeturs are apt to grow considerable
in fifteen years ain’t they?”
“But is her name Blake?”
demanded the seaman. “Not as I knows of.
Susy’s wot we all calls ’er so
chimley-pot Liz calls ‘er, an’ so she
calls ‘erself, an’ there ain’t another
Susy like her for five miles round. But come
up, Sam, an’ I’ll introduce ee they’re
So saying the lively urchin grasped
his new friend by the hand and led him by a rickety
staircase to the “rookeries” above.