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The Garret and the Garden Or, Low Life High Up   By: (1825-1894)

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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 neighbourhood.

"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 the sailor.

"'Cause there ain't no grog shop in it gorilla!" retorted the boy.

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 sailor.

"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 s'lection."

"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 me."

"And who may chimney pot Liz be?" asked the sailor with sudden interest... Continue reading book >>

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