Lists (None yet)

Login to create lists

Comments (None yet)

Add New Comment

2 corrections, most recently by mgregory - Show corrections

A NIGHT IN THE MODEL

LODGING-HOUSE,

BY A VAGABOND.  

Facilis Descensus Averni—the road to rum is proverbially easy. But the word ruin has many different significations. The Duke of Middlesex a short time back was said to be ruined. After spending his time and sub- stance in riotous living, he thought to re- trieve his fortunes by plunging heavily on the turf. He attempted to break the ring, but, as usual, that institution was too much for the amateur, and the ring broke him. The Duke gracefully retired to the Continent, and lived in elegant lease on the few thousands which yearly fall to his share after payment of the interest on the mortgage on his estates. As for those creditors who are not secured, why they may go hang, the wants of a Dake cannot   be curtailed to satisfy some miserable trades- men who doubtless charged him 50 per cent above the value of their goods. The Hon. ïisk Allan, ex-senator and banker of New York, was rained last year, failing for 10,000,000dol. According to the New York press, the hon, gentleman was universally sympathised with. He still resides in his well-known mansion in Fifth Avenue, and his wife still wears those magnificent diamonds which the Grand Duke Alexis admired so much. Griffiths, M.P., the great Welah iron and coal apeca. lator, baa been ruined many times; it seemed to agree with him. After his last grand coup in Belling to a public company for £250,000 eome works which made it insolvent in a year, he has however retired from business, and devotes his attention to politics, and the regeneration of the working-classes. Smith, who opened that publichouse in-street on borrowed capital, is aaid to be ruined. Poor fellow I he never had a penny of his own-honestly earned-and has succeeded in getting into debt to the extent of £3,000, and aome of hia late customera are getting up a parse for him, in recognition of their admiration for his sportsmanlike qua-

lities.

But honeßt folk fight a long time with misfortune before they get really to the bottom of the hill, when the res augusta domi no longer presses on them, because they no longer have house or home. Bat once really ruined, the transit to vagabondage is swift, and snifter, perhaps, in the colonies than anywhere. I know I have passed, with many intervening stages, from Menzies' Hotel to the Model Lodging-house in what seems a remarkably short time, I expect my story is only that of thou- sands. Belonging to a profession over- stocked in England, coming to the colonies without friends and with little money; ill- ness falling upon me, eating away my Bmall capital j the sale of my personal possessions, and transit from hotel to boardinghouse and lodginghouse.soon follows ; and I awake one morning to find I possess nothing but what I stand in, and that, to all intents and pur- poses, I am a vagabond.

In a state of civilisation the outward attire has, I believe, a great deal to do with the moral character. " July, dear, we shall never know in Heaven the supreme satisfaction of being well dressed which we enjoy here," said a French lady to her friend ; and, with- out placing the man entirely below his tailor, I think that anyone who has been accustomed to dress well all his life, to have his morning batta, be carefully shaved, kz., when he loses thoae and becomes shabby, ex {leriences a moral degradation, and feels owered in his own eyes. I know that as I became a vagabond in appearance, I began to feel a vagabond in my nature. I had all my life been part of my tailor or my hatter. None but a Greeley, a Gladstone, or a Vogel can afford to wear a bad hat, and looking at mine now, I feel what an "ordinary cass" I mast appear to the world. Bat after all, this state has its advantages ; I have learnt a great dealof life, have conversed with many interest- ing specimens of humanity (from a student's point of view), Brace I shed my finery. Given good health, and the chance of getting some- thing to eat every day, I don't think the vagabond, "homeless, ragged, and tanned," bas such a bad time of it during the summer months. I know that I walked Melbourne and its Buburba for three night«, sleep- ing in the daytime in the Domain, and I really felt that there were sweets as well as bitters in that life. Tired and exhausted, to lie on your back, shade your face under a boab, and sleep soundly, while the glorious Bun tousled ? your limbs, there was real enjoyment in that. All pleasure is but a relief from or contrast to pain. Without knowledge of evil we should not know good, and so I think the vagabond who suffers in excess from hunger, thirst and fatigue, in satisfying these has a greater enjoyment o pure animal life than those elad in purple and fine linen who sleep on couches of down and fare sumptuously every day.

I am a long time getting to the Model Lodging-house, but all these rambling ideas properly come under my heading as they floated through my mind as I lay awake there last night. Three nights oat of bed waa too much for me. I was weak and ill, and so, beaten, at last I applied where I thought

I had some claim for assistance to enable me to return to England. Two ships were leaving that week ; I longed to be away, to release the colony of my presence. The fear of another attack of paralysis haunted me. I was already a charge upon the colony to the extent of being an out-patient of the Mel- bourne Hospital, which was bad enough, I will not say I was harshly treated, bat in- stead of the brotherly sympathy I expected, I waa coldly received, and, after many days, informed that "the committee vote you £3, which is all we can do for you." I certainly can't die till I've paid that and released my- self from all obligation to the Melbourne ? ; £3 with economy, I've found, will last a man for a month ; but then if one spends £1 in advertising for situations, it will not go BO far. How could I increase my little store and so spin it out to the date, still far distant, when I shall obtain that welcome letter containing funds from England, The chances in Chinese lotteries, I know, are absurdly great against one's getting a prize. Still there is a chance, and to give further point to the morals of The Argus anent this, I, a man of education, holding a University degree, a member of a profession the study of which should enable me to calculate chances, have for the last month lived on one meal a day and apent Gd. dailyinthevaincndeavourtogetaevenmarka. Inever gotfive marka yet, and all mysixpeuces have been wasted. It is only men of despe- rate fortunes and the very poor who will go into this sort of gambling. Whilst on this Bubject, it is really strange that theso Chinese lotteries have taken Buch a bold on the white people of Melbourne. I was in San Francisco some years back, where there are 20,000 Chinese. Lottery tickets were sold in every shop m Chinatown, but I never saw or heard of white people buying any. The gambling was done entirely amongst themselves. I suppose the number of faro banks, which game ia moro exciting, and certainly fairer than a lottery, keops Californians from dip- ping their fingers in tho latter.

On Tuesday night I found myself the possessor of 8d. It waa miserably wot, or I should have once moie given myself the key of the street, and passed the night under la belle tloile. I consult a friendly policeman, -who informs me that at the Model Lodging house in King-atroet I can get a bed for Gd. Rejoiced at the news, I went my way thither through the pouring rain and biting wind. The building ia a large one, of plain brick, three atoriea high. On the steps I find three decent looking men smoking. Entering the hall, on my left I perceive a little Window, where I deposit my Gd., and the official in charge gives me a ticket marked 154, on the back of which he writes my name in chalk. Passing through glass doors, I mount the stairs, and on the nrat landing am received by a courteous warder, who takes my ticket and directa me to my bed. I find that, with the exception of the enclosed ataircaae, the whole floor is open, the landing being partitioned off by iron Bereena about Gft. high, dividing the iloor into two ports. Entering the left-hand Ti J see by the dim gaslight two long rows of small iron beds, and passing between these Í Cn,r my. w°y to No- 15i< eft°b. bed being labelled ia large characters. The beds are placed very close together, and thore '? ?? '"rniture in the room but these. As I look around I see by the beds already

occupied that it ia customary for the lodgers i to place their clothes under their pillows for safety sake, or becauBe there is nowhere else to put them. I follow the cuatom of the place, and am soon in bed. The mattresses and pillows are straw, the sheets coarse, but apparently clean, and the blanket and

counterpane warm. There is barely room to ' walk between the beda ; atretching out my i arm, I could easily place my hand on the ^forehead of the man in tho next bed : in

need, I waa disturbed in the night by a i stroke on the cheek from the hand of my left-hand neighbour, who lashed

out wildly, killing moaquitoes ? in his i dreams. About half of the 60 beds in the I waid were occupied when I entered, and «leepless I watch the new comers who troop in one by one. I fiad the general custom is to «rip to the buff. Night-shirt», of course, i »here are none; and the naked figure« flitting

about the room OB a rule show a lamentai lack of physique, and would serveasexamp that we bave sadly degenerated since t days of the mighty men of old. ( tbe bye, were the ordinary Romans a Greeks so much stronger, handsamor, moie graceful than ourselves? I have

idea they were not, and that the mi nificent sculptured models of human which exist to Bhame us were the artie ideals, and not to be taken as types of t oidinary Greek or Roman. It is true tt might take as models the finest specimen physical benuty to be found amongst th troined athletes. But we have athletes our day in no way inferior to those of o' I believe with Byron that there are "mu finer women, ripe and real," than the Ven de Medici ; and when I saw the late J.

Heenan strip to fight King I was not alo in the opinion that ho was a finer model strength and grace than any perpetuated marble or canvas.)

Jievenons I How one's thoughts do wand lying awake here with nothing to attrr one's attention in the glaring white wa and ceiling, the long windows, or the mot tonous row of beds. By and bye, the wa is nearly filled. I Bee that many of t lodgers are old bands, and appear to ha their regular beds, to which they make tin way as to their home. There has been Uti

talking up to this, those who have gone bed early being evidently tired out, but ne

two men at the end of the room nearest r begin an argument on the policy of S James M'CulIocb. This is interrupted 1 the entrance of a decently-dressed yout whom they tell not to keep them awal to-night. "I assure you, gentlemen," sa; the youth as he takes off his COE "that I went to sleep last night wil my finger between my teetb, ai this morning it was quite sore, but I'd < anything rather than disturb you." I wond with what strange malady he can be aillicti that involves such a curious mode of takii rest, till by the conversation I gather th before his time he has taken to gnash at grind his teetb, awaking all his neighbout He is a very polite, but rather verbose, youl man, and promises to keep his finger betwee his teeth this night. " If I should 'appen begin, you call me," said he. " I'd do an thing rather than disturb you. You'll excu me if I do, for I don't mean to. I know a m: muet have hisrest,"continued he argument tively, "if he's working, he must have h rest, if he's looking for work he muBt ha' his rest, and if "-and here he paused, wil his Bhirt partly off, and considered-" wel if he's a-loafing he must have bia rest Nobody disputing this the grinder got inl bed triumphantly, and emboldened by BU cess, began a long yarn :-" When I wi a-paying ICB. a week for board and lodgir befoie I came here"-the essence of tt

story was the frightful amount of gnashir and grinding which he did in his sleep an

the terror he cauBod the householt "But he didn't mean to do it, and I hoped they'd excuse him." "Ob, yei we 11 excuse you." " Go to sleep now. "Shut yer -- mouth," saluted hit at last, and he subsided to his pillow, bt being a courageous youth, he suddenl sprang up in bed, and waving bia naked ara ' You'll find me a man whichever way yo take me," and with this defiance to the war collapsed. And now it waa nearly 12 o'clocl and a natty little figure dressed in clothes c a fashionable cut, and swinging a cane walked down to a bed nearly opposite mint Thowalk waa that of a gentleman, and of on accustomed to field sports, but the net comer was evidently quite at home here as he went straight to his bed-a sure slgi that he was not a new hand. At 1 o'clock tbe warder came along and turnei the gas low down, and retired to his owi dormitory, juBt partitioned off by the ¡roi screen, and being between the two waid forming the two wings of the ilooi One bed next to mine was vacant ; it gav me breathing room, and I felt that

should hate the man who would occupy ii There is something in presentiments. Afte the warder had retired, a figure came dowi the room. If not drunk, he had had mor than "enough:" there was a difficulty ii getting into bed, and when once in, he peí fumed the neighbourhood with a choice odoa of rum, All these experiences were perfect!; novel to me, and I could not sleep.

longed for a pipe which might pur if; the air around me. I presumed amokini was prohibited, although I had Been ni notice to that effect, and my ticket, unliki English railway ones, did not contain anj announcement "leaned subject to the con ditionB printed on the company's time-bills ;' the Baid conditions, which no one evei reads, barring travellers from recovering damages for any laches of the company. A length I decided not to smoke, although tht whole ward being apparently asleep I mighl have indulged in the weed with impunity Anal) sing my motives in my mind I came to the conclusion that I wai actuated by much the same feeling whicl leads many on English country gentlemar to spend sunny mornings in his parist church. He doesn't think it would do him any barm to stop away, or that he gets muet good by going, but les autres they must go, and he will not Bet them a bad example, benides be is too honourable to evade a dutj which he shares with the lowliest of hit hinds.

Hour by hoar the night passes away, the only disturbance an Irishman in the nexl ward fighting in his Bleep, and cursing his mjthical antagonist. I listen with much curiosity for any sign of the Grinder. I Bhould have liked to have heard a speci- men of bia powers, but be is staunch as steel to his word ; his teeth, presumedly, are crushed on hiß finger, for lie gives no sign. There is one sound, however, which con- tinues all night, and falls gratingly on my ear. It is the continual coughing-not, as a rule, that caused by a trilling cold or brou chitia, but the dry, hacking cough which Íibjsicians know so well. The place sounded

ike a consumptive hospital, and OB an indi- cation of the health of the colony waa any thingbut reassuring, Towards daybreak I fall into a heavy sleep. I am awakened in the morning by a loud call of "Cab," some cab- man ia being aroused. Many of the inmates all each other and exchange morning greet- ings. I find that the man I christened " the ewell " slipped away early ; the Grinder also is gone. 1 am one of the last to arise, and consequently on going to the lavatory (there is one at each end of the building on each floor) I find it hard to discover a clean bit of towel. I manage to get a good wash at last and make my way down stairs and through a paBsage into the back yard, wheie I am told I can clean my boots. On one Bide of the yard I find a shod where there are brushes and blacking, and whero lodgers are allowed to smoke. At the end of the yard is the laundry, and in the centre sheota are hanging out to dry. On the other side is the kitchen, which I enter, and find filled with lodgers, who are evi- dently old banda. Some are boiling water over the fire, others consuming the tea aheady made, together with scraps of food which thoy produco from tho shelf or tho lockers, of which there are a limited number, and which are allotted to habitués on pay- ment of a trilling sum for the koys. These men appear to be generally labourers. I enter the building by another door, and find myself in a ward divided by wooden partitions about 10ft. high into a number of little roomB. Rooms containing only one bed aro charged l8, a night. For a bed four in a room you pay 9d. a night. On the other side of the building is a large room furnished with tables and forms, which is used as a sitting and reading room by the lodgers. A few daily papers are taken in for their use, and draughts and dominoes also provided. Leav- ing this I pass through the glass doors and over the ticket window Bee a framed copy of the ruleB of the Model Lodginghouse Com- pany (Limited),whichappoarfairly reasonable. Smoking ¡nany par tot the building is strictly prohibited, and no intoxicating drinks are allowed to be brought on the premises. As I am perusing these rules, the superinten- dent, Mr. James WatkinB, cornea from hia oflice, and courteously answers my questions. On the first and second floors there are 200 eixpenny beds, and on the ground floor 9li «hilling and ninepenny ones. On Tuesday night there were only two beds vacant in the establishment, and during the wintermonths scores are nightly turned away. The staff is composed of a superintendent, matron, and three wardsmen, with laundry girls. The institution, although not started by ita proprietors with any idea of great pecuniary results, is likely to pay 10 per cent. Mr. Watkins showed me a small library which he has in his office, and from which he lends books to the lodgers. But he in- forms me he is sadly in want of more books, and would be obliged by donations of such from the over-stocked libraries of citizens. Anygentleraan wbobashalf-a-dozeubooks he has read through and does not know what to do with, cannot do better than send them to the Model Lodging-house. Mr. Watkins says that fully five-eighths of the lodgers are studious men. One-fifth he states to he men who have occupied, and may again, gopd positions. They are ex army officers, banisters, lawyers, and doctors men who have either been thoroughly ruined, or are under a temporary cloud. The, remainder are generally tradesmen, or good honest working-men. Altogether, after my Dist trial of the Model Lodging-house, I left very well pleased with the cour

tesy of the officials and the cleanliness! of the place. One or two reforms I would !

bint at. There are/ I think, too many beds (1 in the wards. Smoking should be allowed in ?

the rendingroom at night; on wet cold nights, '

men will not stay in an open Bhed in the yard, the only place where they are allowed to enjoy tobacco, but will certainly go to the nearest publichouse. I think, too, more clean towels and Bheeta might bo provided. In conclusion, I will mention one curious fact which may bo of interest to the churches. I particularly watched at night to eee if any one knelt in prayer. Not a soul. In the morning only one boy knelt, and that after everyone elBO had left the room. Poor lad, I hope he waa not ashamed of his devo- tions. _________________

Zoom

plus
thumb
minus
left
thumb
right
up
thumb
down