SOME BURGLARS I HAVE MET

During the summer of 1904 there were in London few men more unsettled in
mind and miserable than myself. I had severed my connection with London
police-courts–and well I knew it. I was not sure that I had done wisely
or well, and was troubled accordingly. I missed more than words can
express the miseries that had hitherto been inseparable from the routine
of my life. For twenty-one years, day after day at a regular hour, I had
turned my steps in one direction, and had gone from home morning by
morning with my mind attuned to a certain note. It was not, then, a
strange thing to find that mechanical habits had been formed, and that
sometimes I found myself on the way to the police-court before I
discovered my mistake. Still less was it a marvel to find that my mind
refused to accept all at once the fact that I was no longer a
Police-Court Missionary. I must in truth confess I felt a bit ashamed
that I had given up the work. I felt that I was something of a traitor,
who had deserted the poor and the outcast, many of whom had learned to
love and trust me.

I am not ashamed to say that I had been somewhat proud of my name and
title, for the words “Police-Court Missionary” meant much to me, and I
had loved my work and had suffered for it.

It was doubtless in accordance with the fitness of things that I should
retire from the work when I did, for I am getting old, and dead
officialism might have crept upon me, and whatever power for good I may
have might have been atrophied. Of such a fate I always felt afraid;
mercifully from such a fate I was prevented or delivered.

Still, I sorrowed till time lightened the sense of loss. By-and-by new
interests arose, new duties claimed me, and other phases of life
interested me. Four years have now lapsed, a length of time that allows
sufficient perspective, and enables me to calmly take stock of the
twenty-one years I spent in London police-courts. I do not in this
chapter, or in this book, intend to review the whole of those years, but
I do hope to make some comparisons of the things of to-day with those of
twenty-one years ago.

The comparisons will, I trust, be encouraging, and show that we have
progressed in a right direction, and that we are all still progressing.
Two days of those years will remain ever with me–the day I entered on
my work and the day I gave it up.

Of the latter I will not speak; but as the former opened my eyes to
wonders of humanity, and humanity being of all wonders the greatest, I
have something to say.

The conditions at London police-courts in those days were bad, past
conception. No words of mine can adequately describe them, and only for
the sake of comparison and encouragement do I attempt briefly to portray
some of the most striking features of those days. Even now I feel faint
when I recall the “prisoners’ waiting-room,” with its dirty floor, its
greasy walls, and its vile atmosphere.

The sanitary arrangements were disgusting. There was no female attendant
to be found on the premises.

Strong benches attached to the walls provided the only seats; neither
was there separation of the sexes. In this room old and young, pure and
impure, clean and verminous, sane and insane, awaited their turn to
appear before the magistrate; for the insane in those days were brought
by local authorities that the magistrate might certify them, and they
sat, too, amongst the waiting prisoners.

The sufferings of a decent woman who found herself in such company in
such a room may easily be imagined; but the sufferings of a pure-minded
girl, who for some trifling offence found herself in like position,
cannot be described. The coarse women of Alsatia made jests upon her,
and coarse blackguards, though sometimes well dressed, vaunted their
obscenity before her. Deformed beggars, old hags from the workhouse–or
from worse places–thieves, gamblers, drunkards, and harlots, men and
women on the verge of delirium tremens–all these, and others that are
unmentionable, combine to make the prisoners’ room a horrid memory.
Things are far different to-day, for light and cleanliness, fresh air
and decency, prevail at police-courts. At every court there is now a
female attendant; the sexes are rigidly separated. Children’s cases are
heard separately; neither are children placed in the cells or prisoners’
room.

In those days policemen waited for the men and women who had been in
their custody, and against whom they had given evidence, and, after
their fines were paid, went to the nearest public-house and drank at
their expense. Hundreds of times I have heard prisoners ask the
prosecuting policeman to “Make it light for me,” and many times I have
heard the required promise given and an arrangement made. Sometimes I am
glad to think that I have heard policemen give the reply: “I shall speak
the truth”; but not often was this straightforward answer given.

In this respect a great change has come about, for policemen do not hold
a conference with their prisoners in the waiting-room, and it is now a
rare occurrence for a policeman to take a drink at his prisoner’s
expense.

And this improvement is to be welcomed, for it is typical of the
improvement that has been going on all round. Gaolers in those days were
“civil servants,” and were not under police authority; now they are
sergeants of the police, and under police discipline and authority. The
old civil servant gaoler looked down from his greater altitude with
something like contempt upon the common policemen, and this often led to
much friction and unpleasantness. Now things work smoothly and easily,
for every police-court official knows his duties and to whom he is
responsible.

But a great change has also come over the magistrates–perhaps the
greatest change of all. Doubtless the magistrates of those days were
excellent men, but they were not only officials, but official also.

It was their business to mete out punishment, and they did it. Some were
old–too old for the office. I have seen one sleeping on the bench
frequently, and only waking up to give sentence. Once while the justice
nodded his false teeth fell on his desk; he awoke with a start, and made
a frantic effort to recover them. No doubt these men were sound lawyers,
but they were representatives of the community as it then existed; there
was no sentimentality about them, but they were rarely vindictive.

The legal profession, too, has changed. Where are the greasy, drunken
old solicitors that haunted the precincts of police-courts twenty-five
years ago? Gone. But they were common enough in those days, and touted
for five-shilling jobs, money down, or higher prices when payment was
deferred. With droughty throats and trembling limbs, they hastened to
the nearest public-house to spend what payment had been given in
advance. Here they would remain till their clients were before the
magistrate, and would then appear just in time to say: “I appear for the
prisoner, your Worship.” Horrid old men they were, the fronts of their
coats and vests all stained and shiny with the droppings of beer.
Frequently the magistrate, unable to tolerate their drunken or
half-drunken maunderings, would order them out of court; but even this
drastic treatment had little effect upon them, for the next day, or even
on the latter part of the same day, they, apparently without shame or
humiliation, would inform his Worship that they were in So-and-so’s
case, and ask at what time it would be taken–as if, forsooth, their
engagements were numerous and important.

The bullying solicitor, too, has disappeared or mended his ways. No
longer is he allowed to bully and insult witnesses or prosecutors, and
cast scurrilous and unclean imputations on the lives and characters of
those opposed to him. Generally these fellows were engaged for the
“defence.”

They one and all acted on the principle that to attack was the best
defence. I once heard an athletic young doctor ask a solicitor of this
kind, who had been unusually insulting, to meet him when the case was
over, assuring him also that he would receive his deserts–a good
thrashing. The pompous, ignorant solicitor, with neither wit, words,
action, utterance, nor the power of speech–he, too, has gone. One
wondered at the strange fate that made solicitors of such men; wondered,
too, how they passed the necessary examinations; but wondered most of
all why people paid money for such fellows to defend them. Invariably
they made their client’s case much worse; they always declined to let
“sleeping dogs lie,” and were positively certain to reveal something or
discover something to the disadvantage of the person whose interests
they were supposed to be upholding. I remember one magistrate, sitting
impatient and fidgety while the weary drip of words went on, calling out
suddenly: “Three months’ hard labour, during which you can ruminate on
the brilliant defence made by your solicitor!”

All these have passed, and police-courts have been civilized; for law is
more dignified, and its administration more refined. Magistrates are
up-to-date, too, and quite in touch with the new order of things and
with the aspirations of the community.

Bullying, drunken, and stupid solicitors have no chance to-day. In all
these directions great changes have come about, and great progress has
been made.

But the greatest change of all is that which has taken place in the
appearance of the prisoners and of police-court humanity generally.

Where are the “blue-bottle” noses now? Twenty-five years ago they were
numerous, but now London police-courts know them not.

Where are the reddened faces that told of protracted debauch? They are
seldom to be met with. Hundreds of times in the years gone by, in the
prisoners’ waiting-room, I have heard the expression, “He’s got them
on”; and I have seen poor wretches trembling violently with terror in
their faces, seeking to avoid some imaginary horror. But delirium
tremens seems to have vanished from London police-courts.

Do people drink less? is a question often asked. If I may be permitted
to reply, I would say they do, and very much less; but whether they are
more sober is another question.

Of one thing I am perfectly certain, and it is this: people are more
susceptible to the effects of drink than they were twenty-five years
ago.

Whether this susceptibility is due to some change in the drink or to
physiological causes in the drinkers I do not know, but of the result I
am, as I have said, quite sure.

I am inclined to believe that we possess less power to withstand the
effects of alcohol than formerly. We seem to arrive at the varying
stages of drunkenness with very much less trouble, and at very much less
cost. The reverse process, too, is equally rapid. Formerly there was not
much doubt about the guilt of a man or woman who was charged with being
drunk. If the policeman’s word was not quite sufficient, the appearance
of the prisoner completed the evidence. But now men and women are mad
drunk one hour and practically sober the next. Red noses and inflamed
faces cannot be developed under these conditions. I have seen in later
years a long array of prisoners charged with being drunk, and no
evidence of tarrying long at wine upon any one of them, and no evidence
of drinking either, excepting the bruises or injuries received.

This ability to get drunk quickly and to recover quickly leads sometimes
to unexpected results; for some men, when released on bail, rush
promptly to their own doctor and get a certificate of sobriety, and then
bring the doctor as a witness.

His Worship is in a dilemma when the case is brought before him, for the
police state that the man was mad drunk at 1 a.m., while, on the other
hand, medical testimony is forthcoming that at 2 a.m. he was perfectly
sober.

Other men, when detained in the cells, get quickly sober. Nor can they
believe they have been drunk; indignantly they demand an examination by
the police divisional doctor, and willingly pay the necessary bill of
seven and sixpence for his attendance. This time it is the doctor who is
in a dilemma; he knows in his heart that the man _has been_ drunk; he
also naturally wishes to confirm the police evidence; still, he cannot
conscientiously say that the man _is_ drunk. “He appears to be
recovering from the effects of drink,” is the testimony that he gives,
and his opinion is attached to the charge-sheet for the magistrate’s
guidance. “No,” says the prisoner, “I was not drunk; neither had I been
drunk; but I was excited at being detained in the cells on a false
charge.” And he will call as witnesses friends who were in his company
during the evening, and from whom he had parted only a few minutes
previous to arrest. They declare that the prisoner was perfectly sober;
that he could not possibly have been drunk; that they had only a limited
number of drinks; that he was as sober as they were–the latter
statement being probably true!

What can the magistrate do under such circumstances but discharge the
prisoner?–and “Another unfounded charge by the police” is duly
advertised by the Press.

I believe this to be the secret of so much contradictory evidence, and
this new physiological factor must be taken into account when weighing
evidence, or much discredit will fall upon the police, when they have
but honestly done their duty. It ought no longer to avail a prisoner who
proves sobriety at one o’clock, sobriety at three o’clock, to contend
that he could not possibly have been drunk at two o’clock. I have seen
so much of drunkenness that I believe two hours a sufficient length of
time to allow many men to get drunk and to get sober too.

I must not enter on an inquiry as to why this change has come about; I
merely content myself with stating a fact, that must be recognized, and
which is as worthy of consideration by sociologists and politicians as
it is by judges and magistrates.

This facility of getting drunk means danger, for passions are readily
excited, and delusions readily arise, and are most tenaciously held in
brains so easily disturbed by drink. All sorts of things are possible,
from silly antics to frenzy and murder; but, as I have said, the varying
stages pass so quickly that only onlookers can realize the truth: for
the victim of this facility is nearly always sure that the evidence
given against him is absolutely false.

But prisoners generally have changed: I am not sure that the change is
for the better. Time was when prisoners had character, grit, pluck, and
personality, but now these qualities are not often met with. Formerly a
good number of the vagabonds were interesting vagabonds, and were
possessed of some redeeming features: they seemed to have a keen sense
of humour; but to-day this feature cannot often be seen.

Prisoners have put on a kind of veneer, for both youthful offenders and
offenders of older growth are better dressed.

They are cleaner, too, in person, for which I suppose one ought to be
thankful–even though, to a large extent, rags and tatters were
picturesque compared with the styles of dress now too often seen. Loss
of the picturesque has, I am afraid, been accompanied by loss of
individuality, and the processions that pass through London
police-courts now are not so striking as formerly. They are devoid of
strong personality, and the mass of people in many respects resembles a
flock of sheep. They have no desire to do wrong, but they constantly go
wrong; they have no particular wish to do evil, but they have little
inclination for good. In a word, weakness, not wickedness, is their
great characteristic.

But weakness is often more mischievous and disastrous in its
consequences than wickedness.

In the young offenders this lack of grit is combined with an absence of
moral principles, and though the majority of them appear to know right
from wrong, they certainly act as if they possess little moral
consciousness.

Again I content myself with merely stating a fact, for I must not be led
into philosophic inquiry or speculation as to the causes of this loss of
grit, though I hope to say something upon the subject later on.

Crime, too, has changed in some respects. There are fewer crimes of
violence; there is less brutality, less debauchery, less drinking;
but–and I would like to write it very large–there is more dishonesty,
which is a more insidious evil.

Here again I am tempted to philosophic inquiry, or to engage in some
attempt to answer the question–Are we as a nation becoming more
dishonest? I answer at once, We are.

For twenty-five years I have watched the trend of crime, for the past
ten years I have closely studied our criminal statistics, and I can say
that personal experience and a close study of our annual criminal
statistics confirm me in this matter.

Some explanation of the growth of dishonesty may be found in the social
changes that have been going on. As education advanced the number of men
and women employed as clerks, salesmen, and business assistants
multiplied, and it follows that the temptations to, and opportunities
for, dishonesty multiplied also. For years a large transference of boys
and young men from the labouring and artisan life to the clerk’s desk or
to the shop-counter has been going on. The growth in the number of
persons employed as distributors of the necessaries of life, who day
after day receive, on behalf of their employers, payments for bread,
milk, meat, coal, etc., multiplies enormously the facilities for
dishonest actions.

Most of those engaged in this class of work come from the homes of the
poor, and in too many cases receive insufficient payment for arduous and
responsible services. Still, I am sure that we must not look for the
reason of this growing dishonesty in the multiplication of the
opportunities, or to sudden temptations caused by the stress of poverty.

To what, then, shall it be attributed? I do not hesitate to answer this
question, by replying at once: To that lack of moral backbone and grit
to which I have alluded; to the absence of direct principles; to the
desire of enjoying pleasures that cannot be afforded, and of spending
money not honestly acquired. Some people to whom I have spoken on this
subject have said to me: “But these are the faults of the rich; surely
they are not the sins of the poor.” And I have said: “Well, you know
more of the rich than I do, so maybe they are characteristic of both.”
Though I do not believe them to be national characteristics, sorrowfully
I say the trend is in that direction. I know perfectly well that some
people will say that this is the croaking of one who is growing old, and
that old men always did, and always will, believe in the decadence of
the present age.

But this is not so. I am a born optimist. I believe in the ultimate
triumph of good. I believe that humanity has within itself a sufficiency
of good qualities to effect its social salvation. Nevertheless, I am
afraid of this growing dishonesty, for I have seen something of its
consequences. Sneaking peculations, small acts of dishonesty, miserable
embezzlements, falsified accounts, and contemptible frauds, have damned
the lives of thousands, and the strands of life are covered by human
wrecks, whose anchorage has been so weak that the veriest puff of wind
has driven them to destruction.

I know something of the evils of drink; I have seen much of the
blighting influence of gambling; but dishonesty is more certain and
deadly in its effects among educated and ignorant alike: for it begins
in secrecy, it is continued in duplicity, it destroys the moral fibre,
and it ends with death.

I have said that the police-court processions are not so interesting as
in years gone by: probably that is a superficial view, for humanity is,
and must be always, equally interesting. It may not be as picturesque,
but that is a surface view only, and we really want to know what is
beneath. But the underneath takes some discovering, and when we get
there it is only to find that there is still something lower still.

Much has been said of late years about the increase of insanity. Whether
this increase is more apparent than real is a debatable point. I am glad
to know that more people are certified than formerly, and that greater
care is taken of them. This undoubtedly prolongs their existence, and
consequently adds to their number. But whatever doubt I may have about
the actually insane, I have no doubt whatever about the increase in the
number of those who live on the borderland between sanity and insanity,
and whose case is far more pitiful than that of the altogether mad.

Poor wretches! who are banged from pillar to post, helpless and
hopeless, they are the sport of circumstances; they are an eyesore to
humanity, a danger to the community, and a puzzle to themselves. For
such neither the State nor local authorities have anything to offer. If
committed to prison, they are certified as “unfit for prison
discipline.” If they enter the workhouse, they are encouraged to take
their discharge at the earliest moment. They cannot work, but they can
steal, and they can beg. They have animal passions, but they have less
than animal control. They can perpetuate their species, and pile up
burdens for other generations to bear. Nothing in all my experiences
astonishes me so much as the continued neglect of these unfortunate
people. Prisons have been revolutionized; dealing with young offenders
has developed into a cult; prisoners’ aid societies abound; the care,
the feeding, the education, the health, and the play of children have
become national or municipal business: but the nation still shirks its
responsibility to those who have the greatest claim upon its care; for
these people are still in as parlous condition as the lepers of old. My
memory recalls many of them, and profoundly do I hope that in the great
changes that are impending, and in the great improvements that are
taking place, consideration of the poor, smitten, unfortunate half-mad
will not be wanting.

Surely I am not wrong in affirming that, when the State finds in its
prisons a number of people who are constantly committing offences, who
are helpless and penniless, and whose mental condition is so low that
they are not fit to be detained even in prison, provision should be made
for their being permanently detained and controlled in institutions or
colonies, with no opportunity for perpetuating their kind. In our
dealings with the “unfit” we have, then, made no progress, and we are
still waiting and hoping for a solution of this distressing evil. To
show how this evil grows by neglect, I offer the following instance:

I happen to be a churchwarden, and when leaving church one Sunday
morning I was asked by the verger to speak to a man and woman who sat
by the door. They had come in during the service, and asked for the
Vicar, in the hope of obtaining relief.

The man was wretched in appearance–much below the usual size–and was
more than half blind; the woman was equally wretched in appearance, and
not far removed from imbecility. I knew the man at once, and had known
him for twenty years. I had met him scores of times at London
police-courts, where he had been invariably committed to prison,
although certified as “unfit.” He had been in the workhouse many times.
In the workhouse he had met with the poor wretch that sat by his side.
They were legally and lawfully married, and were possessed of three
children–or, rather, they were the parents of three children, for other
folk possessed them; but doubtless they would make their losses good in
due time, the couple being by no means old.

The number of women charged with drunkenness has increased largely
during late years, and the list of those constantly charged has grown
considerably.

From this it would appear safe to conclude that female intemperance
generally has largely increased.

Many people have come to this conclusion, and are very apt with figures
which seem to prove their case.

But even figures can lie, for a woman who has been convicted ten or
twelve times in the year has furnished ten or twelve examples of female
inebriety; but, after all, she is but one individual. And to get at
approximate truth, we must ascertain the number of separate individuals
who have been charged. Nor will this give us the whole truth, for it
must also be ascertained who are the women that are constantly charged.
To what class do they belong? What is the matter with them? Why are they
different from women generally? Such inquiries as these have been
conveniently avoided.

I will endeavour to supply the missing answers.

Eighty per cent. of the women charged repeatedly with drunkenness belong
to one class, and may be described as “unfortunates.” The number of
these women has increased tremendously during the last twenty years. The
growth of London accounts partly for this increase in the number of
“unfortunates,” and the growth of provincial towns supplements the
growth of London. In all our large centres we have, then, a large army
of women whose lives are beyond description, whose vocation renders
drinking compulsory, and whose habits bring them into conflict with the
police. Their convictions, which number many thousands, should be
charged to another evil.

Of the remaining twenty per cent. I must also give some description. Ten
per cent. of them are demented old women, who spend their lives in
workhouses or prisons, upon whom a small amount of drink takes great
effect.

The remaining ten per cent. may be considered more or less respectable,
but my experience has led me to believe that less rather than more would
be a fitting description. I want it to be clearly understood that I am
now speaking of women “repeaters,” not of women who are occasionally
charged with drunkenness.

In considering female intemperance, the above must be eliminated, and
when this is done I think it will be found that the alleged increase of
drunkenness among women is not proved. At any rate, it is not proved by
criminal statistics. But a great change has come over women: they are no
longer ashamed of being seen in public-houses, for respectable women are
by no means careful about the company they meet and associate with in
the public-houses. In police-courts I have noticed this growing change.
Time was when few or no women were found among the audiences that
assembled day by day in the courts. It is not the case now. Formerly, if
women had any connection with cases that were coming on, they discreetly
waited in the precincts of the court till they were called by the police
or the usher.

It is very different now, for there is no scarcity of women, ready to
listen to all repulsive details of police-court charges. Sometimes, when
the order is given for women to leave the court, some women are ready to
argue the matter with the usher; and when ultimately compelled to leave,
it is evident they do so under protest, and with a sense of personal
grievance.

Perhaps it may be natural for police-courts to supply to the poor and
the tradesman class that excitement and relish the higher courts and
divorce courts furnish to those better off.

In one direction I am able to bear direct testimony to the virtue of
women, for they are more honest than men, and their honesty increases
rather than diminishes. This is the more remarkable as opportunities for
dishonesty have become much more numerous among women. Still, in spite
of multiplied opportunities, dishonesty among women seems to be a
diminishing quantity. I am glad to find that our annual statistics for
some years past confirm me in this experience.

But my experiences do not furnish me with any reason for believing that
we have made any progress with the housing of the very poor. The State,
municipal authorities, and philanthropists still act upon the principle,
“To him that hath it shall be given.” Consequently, they continue to
provide dwellings for those who can pay good rents. In another chapter
some of my experiences with regard to the housing of the very poor will
be found, so I content myself here with a few reflections and
statements. During the years covered by my experience the rents of the
very poor have increased out of all proportion to their earnings. I have
taken some trouble to inquire into this question, and when speaking to
elderly men and women living in congested streets, I have obtained much
information. “How long have you lived in this house?” I asked an elderly
widow. “Thirty years. I was here long before my husband died.” “What
rent do you pay?” “Thirteen shillings per week.” “But you can’t pay
thirteen shillings.” “No, I let off every room and live in this
kitchen.” We were then in the kitchen, which was about nine feet square.
The house consisted of four rooms and a back-yard about the same size as
the kitchen; there was no forecourt. “What rent did you pay when you
first came here?” “Six shillings and sixpence.” The rent had doubled in
thirty years.

“Who is your landlord?” “I don’t know who it is now, but a collector
calls every week.”

“Why don’t you go somewhere else?” “I can’t get anything cheaper, and I
like the old place, and I don’t have to climb a lot of stairs.”

This little conversation exactly outlines the lot of the poor, so far as
their housing is concerned: they must either take a “little house and
let off,” or make their homes in one or more of the very little rooms.
Let me be explicit. By the very poor I mean families whose income is
under twenty-five shillings weekly–women whose husbands have but fitful
work; women who have to maintain themselves, their children and sick
husbands, when those husbands are not in the infirmary; widows who have
to maintain themselves and their children, with or without parish
assistance; and elderly widows or spinsters who, by great efforts,
maintain themselves.

For these and similar classes no housing accommodation has yet been
attempted. Yet for them the need is greatest, and from neglecting them
the most disastrous consequences ensue.

The State will lend money to the man who has a fair and regular income;
municipal authorities and philanthropic trusts will build for those who
can regularly pay high rents; but the very poor are still hidden in
prison-houses, and for them no gaol deliverance is proclaimed, so they
huddle together, and the more numerous the building improvements, the
closer they huddle. The new tenements are not for them, neither is any
provision made for them before they are displaced, so a great deal of
police-court business arises in consequence, to say nothing of greater
and more far-reaching evils. But I deal more fully with housing in my
next chapter.

In dealing with child offenders, vast improvements have been made.
To-day rarely, indeed, are children sent to prison, and we appear to be
on the verge of the time when it will be impossible for anyone under the
age of fourteen to receive a sentence of imprisonment. The birch, too,
is more sparingly used, and only when there appears to be no other
fitting punishment. One magistrate quite recently, in ordering its
infliction, declared it was the first time he had done so for twelve
years. The courts do not run with the blood of naughty lads, as some
suppose; but the birch has not disappeared, and the lusty cries of
youthful delinquents are sometimes to be heard.

While I hate cruelty and do not love the birch, I would like to place on
record the fact that I have never known it administered too severely, or
any serious injury inflicted.

The statement that the most powerful policeman is selected for the duty
is fiction pure and simple. In London, at any rate, the sergeant-gaoler
or his deputy administers the birch. Whatever else may be charged
against the police, cruelty to children cannot be brought against them,
for the kindness of the Force to children is proverbial. And this
kindness is reflected in police-courts. Nowhere are children more
considerately treated. I agree with the movement in favour of separate
courts for children, because I would not have children’s actions
considered as criminal; but, in the light of my experience, I am bound
to disagree with many of the statements made by some advocates of the
movement. Children are tenderly treated and considered in the London
police-courts of to-day.

But I am more concerned for the Toms, Dicks, and Harrys between fourteen
and twenty years of age, who, having little or no home accommodation,
crowd our streets, especially on Sunday evenings, and make themselves a
nuisance to the staid and respectable.

For these the bad old rule and simple plan of fines to be promptly paid,
or imprisonment in default of payment, still prevails; but of this I
have more to say in a chapter on Hooliganism.

Years ago the brute, coarse and cruel though he was, was different from
the brute of to-day; for, at any rate, he was an undisguised brute.
Youthful offenders, too, had more pluck and self-reliance; in fact,
while offences remain much the same, and the ways in which offences are
committed have not altered greatly, the bearing and appearance of the
offenders have completely changed. Rags are not so plentiful as they
were, and child offenders are very much better dressed; for civilization
cannot endure rags, and shoeless feet are an abomination. Veneer, then,
is very palpable to-day in police-courts. This may be indicative of good
or evil. It may have its origin in self-respect, in changing fashions,
or in deceit; it may be one of the effects of insufficient education, or
it may be a by-product of the general desire to appear respectable. It
may also be claimed as an outward and visible sign of the improved
social condition and the enlarged financial resources of the poor. The
change in speech, too, is strongly noticeable; the old blood-curdling
oaths and curses spiced with blasphemy are quite out of fashion.

Emphasis can only be given to speech to-day by interlarding it with
filthy words and obscene allusions. This method of expression is not
confined to the poorest, for even well-dressed men adopt it, and the
style and words have now passed on to thoughtless young people of both
sexes.

There are no “women” to-day. Times have improved so greatly that every
woman has become “a lady.” The term “woman” is one of reproach, and must
only be used as indicative of scorn or to impute immorality. Magistrates
have tried hard to preserve the good old word and give it a proper
place, but in vain. “Another woman” always means something very bad
indeed; she is one that must be spoken of with bated breath. Even the
word “female” carries with it an implication of non-respectability.

Indeed, so far have we progressed in this direction, and so far does the
politeness of the Force extend, that when giving evidence against a
woman of the worst possible character an officer will refer to her as
“the lady,” not as the prisoner. Sometimes, as I have already hinted,
the magistrate intervenes at this point, and tries to preserve some of
the last shreds of respectability that still attach to the once-honoured
word.

Here again one might speculate as to what has produced this change, and
ask whether the development of obscene language has anything to do with
the abandonment of the words “woman” and “female.” Personally, I am
inclined to believe that it has. “What did he say?” peremptorily asked
an irate magistrate of a young and modest constable. “Your Worship, the
words were so bad that I don’t like to repeat them.” “Write them down,
then.” The officer did so. “Well, they are pretty bad, but you will soon
get used to them. They don’t shock me, for I hear them all the day, and
every day.” The magistrate was correct, and, more the pity, his words
are true. The old oaths were far less disgusting and far less
demoralizing. The invocation of the Deity, either for confirmation of
speech or for a curse upon others, argued some belief in God, which
belief has probably suffered decay even among the coarse and ignorant.
Still, if police-court habitués and their friends continue to embellish
their speech with obscenity, then their last state will be worse than
their first. Likely enough, this fashion in speech has much to do with
the substitution of the word “lady” and the abandonment of the word
“woman.” It may be, after all, only a clumsy attempt to speak
courteously, without casting any imputation on the moral character of
the person referred to. That, however, is the only redeeming feature I
can find in the matter, which is altogether too bad for words. I only
refer to the subject because I wish to be a faithful witness, and these
changes cannot be ignored, for they are full of grave portent.

Profoundly I hope this fashion will change, and if appeal were of any
use, I would honestly and earnestly appeal to all my poor and
working-class friends to set themselves against this vile method of
expression, and to encourage a higher standard of thought and speech.

But I must now give a little consideration to some legal changes that
have taken place, from which much was expected, and from which much has
followed. Whether the results have been exactly what were expected, and
whether the good has been as large as we looked for, are moot points. It
is, of course, true of social problems, and peculiarly true of humanity
itself, that evil defeated in one direction is certain to manifest
itself in another, so that standing still in social life, or in
individual life, must and does mean retrogression, when the old evils
assert themselves differently, but more speciously guised. Briefly, the
new Acts that have had most effect in London police-courts are the First
Offenders Act, the Married Women’s Protection Act (1905), and some
clauses in the Licensing Act of 1902.

The former Act has undoubtedly kept thousands of young people from
prison, for which everyone ought to be supremely thankful. It was,
perhaps, impossible for us to have a reform of this magnitude without
some evil attaching to it, for we have not as yet discovered an unmixed
good. This beneficent Act has been much talked of and widely advertised.
The public generally have been enraptured with it, and magistrates have
not been slow to avail themselves of its merciful provisions, though
generally exercising a wise discretion as to their application.

But human nature is a strange mixture, for while excessive punishment
hardens and demoralizes a wrong-doer, leniency often confirms him. It
is, and must always be, a serious matter to interpose between a wilful
wrong-doer and the punishment of his deeds; but the punishment must be
just and sensible, or worse evils will follow. The utmost that can be
urged against this well-known Act is that it has not impressed on the
delinquent youth the heinousness of his wrong-doing, and this is the
case. True, he has been in the hands of the police, and he has been
admonished by the magistrate; he has also been in the gaoler’s office,
and bound in recognizance to be of good behaviour. But this is all, for
nothing else has happened to him. He has not been made to pay back the
money stolen, neither has he been compelled to make any reparation to
those he has injured. The law, then, has considered his offence but
slight, and his dishonesty but a trivial matter. In his heart he knows
that, though he has purged his offence as far as the law is concerned,
he has not absolved his own conscience by any attempt to put the matter
right with the person he has wronged; consequently, he is quite right in
arguing that the law has condoned his offence. Frequently, then, he goes
from the court a rogue at heart. Hundreds of times I have tried to
persuade young persons, who have been charged with dishonesty and dealt
with as first offenders, of the duty and necessity of paying back the
money dishonestly obtained, but I never succeeded. The law had done with
them; nothing else mattered. The wrong to the individual and to their
own conscience was of no consequence.

Human nature being, then, so constructed, it cannot be a matter for
surprise that the First Offenders Act failed in conveying to young
persons who had fastened around themselves the deadly grip of dishonesty
that the law considered dishonesty a most serious matter. Many of the
young offenders could not realize this, for, to use their own
expression, “They got jolly well out of it.” But such results might have
been foreseen, and ought to have been foreseen.

This matter is, however, now attended to, for Mr. Gladstone’s Probation
Act (1908) empowers magistrates to compel all dishonest persons that are
dealt with under the Act to make restitution of stolen property or money
up to the value of £10. I have long advocated this course, which is both
just and merciful–just to the person who has been robbed and just to
the robber; merciful because it compels the wrong-doer in some degree to
undo the wrong, and enables him to break the chains of his deadly habit.
It will also prove to him that the law is not so tolerant of dishonesty
as he believed. Common-sense, too, says that the pardoned rogue ought
not to profit from his roguery, while the person he has robbed has to
suffer, not only the loss of goods or money, but also the trouble and
expense of prosecution.

Most respectfully, then, would I like to point out to all magistrates
that they may now order dishonest persons dealt with under this Act to
make restitution up to £10. It is to be hoped that our magistrates will
freely avail themselves of this permissive power, and make young rogues
“pay, pay, pay.” It matters not how small the instalments nor how long a
time the payments may be continued, for I feel assured that nothing will
stem the onward sweep of dishonesty, and that nothing will bring home to
young offenders the serious character of dishonesty so much as the
knowledge that great inconvenience, but no pecuniary benefit, can come
to those who indulge in it.

The Married Women’s Protection Act came at last. It was inevitable.
There was a horrible satire contained in the suggestion that in England,
with its humanity and civilization, after a thousand years of
Christianity an Act to protect women against their legal husbands should
be necessary; but it was.

This Act came in the very fulness of time. Everybody was tired and
altogether dissatisfied with the old and ineffectual plan of sending
brutal husbands to prison. This feeling arose not from sympathy with
brutal husbands, but from pity to ill-treated wives, for it was
recognized that sending brutal husbands to prison only made matters
worse. Briefly, the Act empowered married women who had persistently
cruel husbands to leave them, and having left them, to apply to the
magistrates for a separation and maintenance order, which magistrates
were empowered to grant when persistent cruelty was proved.

Police-courts then became practically divorce-courts for the poor, for
thousands of women have claimed and obtained these separation orders.
It seems just, and I have no hesitation in saying it is right, whatever
may be the consequences, that decent suffering women whose agony has
been long drawn out should be protected from and delivered out of the
power of human brutes. But in a community like ours we are bound to have
an eye to the consequences.

Women very soon found that it was much easier to get separation than it
was to get maintenance. However modest the weekly amount ordered–and to
my mind magistrates were very lenient in this respect–comparatively few
of the discarded husbands paid the amounts ordered: some few paid
irregularly, the majority paid nothing. The “other woman” became an
important factor, and the money that should have gone to the support of
the legal wife and legitimate children went to her and to illegitimate
children. Such fellows were, then, in straits. If they left the “other
woman,” affiliation orders loomed over them; if they did not pay their
legalized wives, they might be sent to prison. Some men I know found
this the easiest way of paying their wives “maintenance,” for they would
go cheerfully to prison, and when released would promptly start on the
task of again accumulating arrears.

Undoubtedly very many women were much better off apart from their
husbands–at any rate, they had some peace–but mostly they lived lives
of unremitting toil and partial, if not actual, starvation. On the
whole, this Act, which was quite necessary and inspired by good
intentions, has not proved satisfactory. But married men began to ask,
“Why cannot we have separation orders against habitually drunken
wives?”

Why, indeed! The principle had been admitted, and “sauce for the goose
must be sauce for the gander.” Joan had been protected; Darby must have
equal rights. And Darby got them, with something added. The Licensing
Bill of 1902 put him right, or rather wrong. Under some provisions of
this Act habitual drunkenness in case of either husband or wife became a
sufficient reason for separation, and police-courts became more than
ever divorce-courts for the poor. But Darby came best, or rather worst,
out of this unseemly matter, for there was no need for him to leave his
wife and his home before applying for a separation. He might live with
his wife in their home, and while living with her apply for a summons
against her, and this granted, he might continue to live with her right
up to the time the summons was heard–might even accompany her to the
court, and drink with her on the way thither. Then, proving her
drunkenness to the magistrate’s satisfaction, he could get his order,
give her a few shillings, go home and close the door against her,
leaving her homeless and helpless in the streets. She may have borne him
many children, she might be about to become a mother once more; in fact,
the frequent repetition of motherhood might be the root-cause of her
drunkenness. No matter, the law empowers him to put her out and keep her
out. Such is the law, and to such a point has the chivalry of many
husbands come. But Darby may go still further, for he may call in
“another woman” to keep house and look after the children. In a sense
he may live in a sort of legalized immorality, and do his wife no legal
wrong; while, if she, poor wretched woman, with all her temptations and
weaknesses, yields but once to a similar sin, all claim to support is
forfeited, and she goes down with dreadful celerity to the lowest
depths. Plenty of good husbands, and brave men they are, refuse to take
advantage of this Act, and bear all the unspeakable ills and sorrows
connected with a drunken wife, bearing all things, enduring all things,
and hoping all things, rather than turn the mothers of their children
into the streets. But it is far different with some husbands, whose
lives and habits have conduced to, if they have not actually caused,
their wives’ inebriety; to them the Act is a boon, and they are not
backward in applying for relief. I have elsewhere given my views as to
the working of these special clauses, but I again take an opportunity of
saying that the whole proceedings are founded in stupidity. In action
they are cruel, and in results they are demoralizing to the individuals
concerned, and to the State generally. All this is the more astounding
when one realizes that the Act might easily have been made a real
blessing; and it is more astounding still when the temper and tone of
society is considered.

We demand, and rightfully demand, that first offenders shall have
another chance. Has it come to this–that a wretched wife, who, through
suffering, worry, neglect, or ill-health or mental disturbance, has
given way to drink, shall have less consideration than the young thief?
So it appears. We scour London’s streets, we seek out the grossest
women even civilization can furnish–women whose only hope lies with the
Eternal Father–and we put them in inebriates’ reformatories, and keep
them there, at a great expense, for two or three years. Money without
stint is spent that they may have the shadow of a chance for
reclamation. Organized societies are formed for their after-care when
released from the reformatories. And yet we calmly contemplate married
women, otherwise decent but for drink, real victims of inebriety, being
thrust homeless into the streets, with the dead certainty that they will
descend to the Inferno out of which we are seeking to deliver the
unfortunates.

The common London burglar is by no means a formidable fellow. Speaking
generally, there is nothing of Bill Sikes about him, for he has not much
stature, strength, courage, or brains. Most of those that I have met
have been poor specimens of manhood, ready alike to surrender to a
self-possessed woman or to a young policeman. Idle, worthless fellows,
who, having no regular work to do, and being quite indifferent as to
what happens to them, often attempt burglary, but of the crudest
description.

These young fellows evince no skill, exhibit little daring, and when
caught show about as much pluck as a guinea-pig. For them one may feel
contempt, but contempt must be tempered by pity. Circumstances have been
against them. Underfed and undersized, of little intelligence, with no
moral consciousness, they are a by-product of our civilization, a direct
product of our slum-life. If caught young and given some years’ manual
training and technical education, together with manly recreation and
some share in competitive games, many of them would go straight on
their release, provided a reasonable start in life were given them.

Idle liberty is dangerous to young men who have no desire for
wrong-doing, but who at the same time have little aspiration for
right-doing. Our prisons are crowded with them, and a series of short
imprisonments only serves to harden them, until they become confirmed
but clumsy criminals. But real burglars are men of different stamp, and,
if I may be pardoned, men of better metal, for at any rate they possess
nerve, brain, and grit. They may be divided into two classes: first, the
men who are at war with society, who live by plunder, and who mean to
live by plunder, who often show marvellous skill, energy, presence of
mind, and pluck; secondly, men who, having once engaged in burglary,
find it so thrilling that no other pleasure, passion, or sport has to
them one tithe of the joy and glamour that a midnight raid presents. Let
me give you one example of the former.

A well-dressed gentleman–frock-coat, silk hat, gold-rimmed eyeglasses,
etc.–took a house in a swell neighbourhood at £120 a year rental. His
references were to all appearances undeniable; his manner, speech, and
bearing were beyond reproach; so he obtained a lease of the premises,
and entered into possession. His next step was to call on the local
superintendent of the police and give him his address, asking also that
the police might keep a watchful eye upon the house till he took up his
residence in it. He was, he said, a practical consulting and analytical
chemist; he was fitting up an expensive laboratory on the premises, and
a good many things of value to him would be sent to the house. He
himself would be there during the day, but he would be grateful if the
police would, when on their beat at night, sometimes see that all was
right. The police were charmed with him. He was a small man, about 5
feet 4 inches in height. The same night a mean-looking little man was
converted at an open-air meeting of the Salvation Army. He wished for
lodgings for a time, that he might be shielded from temptation, for
which he was prepared to pay. So he went to lodge with the officer in
command, and donned a red guernsey. He was employed on night-work, he
told his landlady, but sometimes he had to go away for a day or two. His
friends were well pleased with him; his conversion seemed genuine, and
he gave but little trouble. Meanwhile, at the large house close by
consignments of goods were, constantly arriving, and sometimes the
frock-coated gentleman showed himself to the police. For many weeks this
went on, till one day the convert was missing from his lodging. He did
not return the next day, nor the day after that. They were anxious about
him; they were poor, too, and he owed money. But they could get no
tidings of him. Thinking something might have happened to him by way of
accident, they went to the police-station to inquire. A keen detective
heard their inquiry, and kept his own counsel; but next morning he went
to the remand prison, and sure enough he found the missing man there
among the prisoners. He had been arrested for “failing to report.” He
was on “ticket-of-leave,” and had to report himself once a month to the
police. Either his religious emotion or the interest of his night
employment had caused him to neglect this trivial matter.

About this time the consulting and analytical chemist disappeared, and
no more consignments of goods for the laboratory arrived. The little
convert was once more remanded, for the magistrate and the police wanted
to know what he had been doing. The police, too, had been keeping an eye
on the big house; they thought, too, that something had happened to the
chemist, so they forced the door and entered. It was verily a robbers’
cave they found. No trace of scientific implements, except burglars’
tools, no trace of chemicals or laboratory; but they found the proceeds
of many clever burglaries that had been committed in various parts of
London. The chemist and the convert were one; their identity was
established. When I spoke to him in the cells, he called himself an
“ass” for failing to report himself to the police. “If it had not been
for that, I should have been all right,” he said.

In a previous book I have given at some length my experiences of a
burglar who is a living example of the second class; but I have
something to add to the story, for since “Pictures and Problems” was
issued his fifth term of penal servitude terminated, and the man came
back to me.

Twice had I given him a good start in life, for he was both clever and
industrious, and in many respects honest. I do not think he would have
cheated anyone, and I know that he would have scorned to pick anyone’s
pocket. I had twice previously set him up in his business–bookbinding.
Twice had he appeared to be on the way to thorough reformation of
character and good social standing; but twice, when things were
prospering with him, and when he had acquired plenty of good clothing,
etc., and had saved at least £10, had he lapsed into burglary, with the
inevitable result–he was caught. Well under fifty years of age, yet his
accumulated sentences amounted to nearly forty years; but it must be
borne in mind that one-fourth of the time he had been on
“ticket-of-leave,” for he behaved well in prison, and obtained every
possible mark for good conduct, etc. I had not expected to see any more
of him, for I knew that he had heart trouble, and, moreover, had been
ill in prison. The officials had, however, taken good care of him, and
during the months previous to his discharge he had been an occupant of
the prison hospital. He appeared to be in fair health. The hair on his
head had been allowed to grow; he had been decently shaved. His
clothing, however, betrayed him, for there was no mistaking it.

He had earned £6 in prison, which sum had been placed with the Church
Army for his benefit. Neither the Church Army nor the Salvation Army
could find or give him any employment, and the £6 was soon spent. I saw
much of him, and watched him closely, for he interested me. When he was
quite penniless and apparently hopeless, I obtained work for him with a
local tradesman, for which he was to receive £1 weekly, but was required
to do a certain amount of work every day; for I was anxious for him to
have regular work, and to be able to earn sufficient for his need, but
no more. I also agreed to find or procure sufficient work to keep him
going. This arrangement seemed likely to prosper, and I felt some hope.
There was no sign of repentance to be observed in him, neither was he in
the least ashamed of his past; indeed, he seemed to think, like a good
many other ex-convicts, that it was the duty of the community to help
him and compensate him for the years he had spent in prison. I soon had
cause for suspicion, but kept silent, till one day I saw him with
something that he could not possibly have purchased. I told him that I
should warn the police. He did not deny the impeachment, but he wanted
to argue the matter, and seemed to believe that in some way or other his
conduct was justifiable.

Within a fortnight from the time of this conversation he was again in
the hands of the police, who charged him with attempted burglary, and
once more he went back to penal servitude. He has not written to me; I
hope he will not write. I confess myself hopeless with such men. The
chances of their reformation are almost nil, and I for one welcome
heartily and unreservedly the proposals of the present Home Secretary,
and sincerely hope that those proposals will soon become part and parcel
of our penal administration. No Prisoners’ Aid Society can help such
men, and those of us who are behind the scenes know perfectly that no
Prisoners’ Aid Society tries to help them. They naturally prefer more
plastic material to work upon.

The strangest part of this matter is the undoubted fact that these men
have within them a great deal that is good, for sometimes I have known
them to be stirred by pity and animated by love; but it requires someone
in much worse plight than they themselves are to evoke that pity and
kindle that love.

The following story, true in all particulars, will be of interest:

In one of our large prisons I saw an old man acting as “orderly” in the
prison hospital. He was leaning over the bed of a young man who was
dying of consumption. He was pointed out to me as an “old lag”–that is,
an ex-convict. He was a habitual criminal, a sin-seared, oft-convicted,
hardened old man, of whom and for whom there was no hope; a danger to
the community and a pest to society, well known to prison officials. His
last offence being of a technical character, he was sent to prison for a
short term only. What could the Governor do with him? Solitude and
severity had proved ineffectual for his reformation; deadening and
soul-destroying monotony had failed to soften him; the good advice of
various chaplains had fallen like seed in a stony place. He seemed
impervious to feeling, not susceptible to kindness–a hopeless,
dead-alive man.

An inspiration came to the Governor. He made the “old lag” into a nurse,
and sent him into the hospital. Muttering and cursing, he went among the
sick and the weak. He was brought face to face with suffering and death.
Prison does not secure immunity from the fell scourge consumption, and
the old man’s days had to be spent among some upon whom the scourge had
fixed its relentless grip. Sometimes death makes a long tarrying, and
the wheels of consumption’s death-car are long delayed.

Suffering, waiting, hoping for the end, lay a young man who was alone in
the world. Too ill and too near death, he could not be discharged from
prison; he had no friends into whose care he could be committed; so he
must suffer, wait and hope for the end. And the old convict had to nurse
him. Soon strange sensations began to thrill the old man, for pity took
possession of him. By-and-by the old man’s heart became tender again,
and the foundations of the frozen deep were broken up; the “old lag” had
learned to love! He had found someone in worse plight than himself,
someone who needed his care, and someone whom he could care for. As the
weary days passed, and the days lengthened into weeks, and the weeks
into weary months, the affection between the two men grew in intensity,
till the fear of separation filled their minds–a separation not caused
by death.

Would the old man’s sentence expire before the young man died?

Would the young man die before the old man’s time was up? Who would be
nurse for the young man when the old man was gone? Alas! the convict’s
time was up first, and the day came when the prison-gates were opened
and he must go free, when he must say farewell to his friend. The day
came, but the old man refused to leave, and he implored the Governor to
let him stay “and see the last of him.” Surely it was a beautiful
exhibition of the power of love. The old man had passed through love to
light, and the dear old sinner was ready to sacrifice himself for the
benefit of the dying lad. But it was not to be. Prison rules and prison
discipline could not be relaxed, and the old convict must needs go.
There was no place for him in the prison, so with sad heart he bade his
friend farewell and departed. But three days later he was back in the
same prison, and once more he was “orderly” in the hospital.

On leaving prison the convict said to the Governor: “You won’t let me
stop, but you will soon have me back again, and you won’t be able to
refuse me admission.”

In prison he had earned a few shillings, so into the nearest
public-house he went, got drunk, came out and “went for” the first
policeman, who naturally took him into custody. When before the
magistrate he asked for three months, but the magistrate thought that
one month met the justice of the case. So back he went to prison, where
the Governor promptly gave him his “old job.”

When I saw the old man, his month was running out.

I have since learnt that when he was again discharged, he said to his
friend, “Cheer up! I shall soon be back.” But the dying youth lingers
on, and waits for him in vain.

Eagerly he scans every fresh comer, but no glint of recognition lights
up his poor face. The officials, too, scan every list that comes with a
fresh consignment of prisoners, but the “old lag’s” name has not
appeared. Neither do the police know anything of him. What has happened
to the old convict? Perhaps, after all, his time was up first. Maybe he
waits in the spirit-world for the coming of his friend. Maybe the young
man will plead for the old convict, and say: “Lord, I was sick and in
prison, and he came unto me.” And the Lord will answer and say:
“Inasmuch as ye did it unto him, ye did it unto Me.”

The police effect many smart and plucky captures. Sometimes they are
aided by a stupid oversight on the part of the criminal, but quite as
often by some extraordinary piece of luck. Let me give an instance of
the latter.

A six-foot fellow from the country joined the London police-force. He
also, as soon as possible, joined himself in matrimony to a servant-girl
living in London. Her health proved to be very bad, but this did not
prevent her having children quickly, and so it came about that, before
he had been in the police-force many years he was in debt and
difficulties. Four young children and a wife constantly ill do not help
to make a policeman’s life a happy one. His friends made a collection
for him on the quiet, but it had little beneficial effect. The children
became ill, the wife became worse, the debts heavier, and exposure
threatened. It was winter-time. He left his ailing wife and crying
children to go on night-duty, wishing he was dead and out of it all. As
he went quietly to his beat, his step became slower and slower, until it
stopped altogether, and he found himself standing with his back to the
wall thinking of suicide.

Some months afterwards he gave me this account of what happened.

“Mr. Holmes, pluck and courage had nothing to do with it, for I had
just made up my mind to make a hole in the water, when I happened to
look at the window of a jeweller’s shop, in which a light was burning.

“I saw somebody move in the shop, so I took out my truncheon and went
softly into the shop door. I had an idea it was unfastened, so I stood
still for a minute or two, hardly breathing, and then I rushed at the
door, and sure enough it opened, and in I went.

“The three fellows were just packing up the jewellery. One of them came
for me with a pistol, but before he could get it to fire I caught him on
the head with my truncheon, and down he went. Another made for the door,
but he had to pass me, and I laid him out. The third came at me with a
big jemmy, and we had a fight, but I was too big and quick for him. I
almost broke his arm. So I took the lot; but I should not have cared if
they had killed me. I was just in a mad fury, and it was nothing but a
piece of luck.”

Yes, it was a bit of luck. A large sum of money was collected for him by
the public. His praises were duly sung in the Press, his debts were
paid, and his wife sent for a time to a convalescent home. He might have
made headway in the Force, but he was no scholar. I went sometimes to
give him lessons in arithmetic, spelling, etc., but it was of no use. He
wanted to catch more thieves, and sometimes made the terrible mistake of
arresting an innocent person. The last time I saw him he told me that
his wife was no better, but that she had had another child.

Not long ago a singular mistake occurred in North London. Burglars had
infested a respectable road for some time. An attempt to enter had
evidently been made at one house without success, for they had left
jemmy-marks upon the door, but did not enter. The police resolved to
watch this house from the outside. The owner and his stalwart son
resolved to watch inside, but neither communicated with the other. At
midnight two men were seen by the police to enter the garden and go to
the front door, so the constables softly followed and listened at the
door, which was closed. Evidently there was someone inside, so they
cautiously opened the door, when suddenly they were set on by two men
armed with heavy hammers. A severe blow fell on the shoulder of one of
the officers, who responded with a crack on the head with a truncheon,
and the man inside fell on the floor. Poor fellow, he was the owner! The
son also got injured, and when the police were about to handcuff him,
the affair was explained. Meanwhile the thieves went higher up the road,
made a real attempt, and were caught. But the owner of the house lay ill
for some days, suffering from concussion of the brain, while the officer
was incapacitated from duty for some weeks.