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limat was reached when a flock of sheep was seen in a distant ield. Some said they were little pigs, while others, with a lofty issumption of superior knowledge, assured the rest, Them be ats, of course'-an almost incredible but perfectly true story.
I could tell not a few tales concerning the odd people I have net in the slums of a dock parish, drawn from almost every rank of society ; but enough has been said to show that even from the most secular point of view & curate's life is not without its interest. Indeed, what can be more absorbing to a man than the study of his fellow men ? And what better occupation than the attempt, however feebly conceived and carried out, to ameliorate their condition and raise them out of the slough of despond ?
STEWART F. L. BERNAYS.
A ROMANCE OF BARKER'S BUILDINGS.
It was hot in Barker's Buildings. As a matter of fact it was hot everywhere, but in Barker's Buildings one was fairly broiled. Altogether, what with the heat and the mangle and the noise next door, where Mr. and Mrs. Flinders were having a few words —which meant a good many—Mrs. Wicks found herself taking a decidedly pessimistic view of things in general, and Barker's Buildings in particular.
'Lor, what it'd seem like to be down in the country agen! Sich a fool as I were ever to leave it. But then we're most on us fools once in our lives, an' it's no use cryin' over spilt milk, best thing you can do is take a cloth an' wipe it up. But often and often I've arst myself whatever I see in Wicks to leave the village and 'ome an' friends an' relashins jest's though they was a lot of old lumber, an' come up to this yer great, grimy, 'ard'arted, overgrowed wilderness o' bricks an’ morter that there's no finding your way outer once you set foot in it. Lawks-a-daisyme,' wiping the perspiration from her forehead, 'what I'd give to see them parts agen where I was born an' brought up, with the medders an' orchids, an' lanes, an' 'edges, an' the cottage gardins where you could grow yer bits of vegetubbles an' pick the currints an’ gooseberries off yer own bushes, with a nosegay to stick in a mug on the winder sill.'
Her eye roved for an instant towards the window, upon which the sun was concentrating its rays with such apparent singleness of purpose that one almost expected to see the rusty crape floricultural decorations of Mrs. Wicks's headgear put forth fresh buds and leaves, and the mangle blossom like the rose.
Between the blind and the curtain was a space through which she could catch a glimpse of the only view which Barker's Buildings provided for its inmates. It consisted of a large asphalte square, surrounded by tall, dingy, hideous brick erections pierced with many windows. Three or four portable zinc dustbins slightly relieved the monotony; the human interest being supplied by a slatternly woman sifting cinders, the while her voice was upraised in maternal admonition towards some member of her home circle:
*You, 'Lizabeth Hann, wait till I gets 'old on yer, an'if I don't break every bone in yer body--
No, tain't like the country, admitted Mrs. Wicks with a sigh. The row them two do keep up next door, too, 's 'nough to deafen anyone. Seems like a wooden-legged man when the drink's in ’im's worsen the ord’nary.'
The door opened to admit a prim-looking young woman with a bundle under each arm.
• That you, Em'ly?'
This being the sort of salutation that seemed to require no reply, Em’ly (otherwise Miss Wicks) made none, but put down her bundles, and taking off her hat hung it on its own particular peg beside her mother's best black bonnet—her second best, as has been already intimated, graced Mrs. Wicks's head; indeed, as à rule, she only took off her bonnet to put on her nightcap. A smash, as of crockery, followed by the upsetting of a chair
a and accompanied by a torrent of vituperation in a high treble caused Miss Wicks to elevate her eyebrows at her mother.
* He don't gen'rally break out so early in the week, seeing today's only We'n'sd'y,' observed Mrs. Wicks deprecatingly. “Pore Mrs. Flinders do 'ave a deal to put up with.'
So do we, for that matter,' replied her daughter. What's the good of us working ourselves to the bone to try and keep respectable, when the neighbours carries on in sich style? Either the ’usban's bangs their wives or the wives bangs their children. There was Mrs. Priggins, in No. 7, pitching into that gal of 'er's something shocking not two minutes ago. 'Lizabeth Hann's
' no angel, but 'itting of 'er over the 'ead with a shovel ain't the way to better 'er as far 's I can see. I'm sick of Barker's Buildings, that I am!'
• No sicker'n I am, comes to that,' answered her mother. *Only what's the good? We must live somewheres.'
Miss Wicks shrugged her shoulders impatiently, and, unpinning the bundles, proceeded to count over the contents.
A thud, followed by a scream and the noise of something heavy rolling over the floor, seemed to indicate that a climax had been reached in the Flinders' ménage. Then came the banging of a door and the sound of a wooden leg, somewhat the worse for drink, zig-zagging along the stone passage.
• I'll be getting the tea now,' said Mrs. Wicks, with a sigh of relief; 'p'raps we'll be able to ’ave it in peace an' quietness.' She wiped her streaming face with her apron. 'I don't believe I
. got so much as a dry thread on me. That there mangle's ’nough VOL, III,-NO, 17, N.S.
to give a body the happy plexy, with the sun a-pouring in at the winder like we was a sorter patent fuel as he was bound to set light to some'ow.'
She was a little, bent, old woman, with scanty grey wisps of hair grabbed back tight and fixed into a hard ball with one timeworn hairpin. Anyone who watched her as she trotted round, setting out two cracked cups and saucers and a battered-looking roué of a block tin teapot on the small round table covered with American cloth, would, on their own responsibility, have added at least another ten years or so to the half-century which was all she could lay claim to.
I did almost think I could a-fancied a bloater with my tea, she added, as she made a kettle-holder of a back number of the parish magazine. 'They're two for three ha’pence at the shop at the corner, an' finer you couldn't wish to see, only what with one thing an’ 'nother
Gimmy the money,' interrupted her daughter; it won't take me above a minnit, and I feel as though I could relish one myself.'
Her mother produced the amount from some stronghold in her petticoats, and Em’ly, sticking on her hat at a rakish angle, departed.
Mrs. Wicks had just set the teapot on the hob to draw when there came a tap at the door.
Who'll that be, now, I wonder ? I do wish folks wouldn't come bothering at meal times. Come in! Oh, it's you, Mrs. Flinders! Why? there ain't nothink the matter, I 'ope?'
This, owing to a turban-like arrangement upon the visitor's head which, constructed, as it to all appearance was, out of a towel
a which had seen some service since it last encountered the wash. tub, was obviously not to be taken in an ornamental sense. Mrs. Flinders, a large, flabby, unkempt-looking woman, who undoubtedly had not used Pears', or any other brand of soap, of late, flopped down in the nearest chair—which creaked a remonstrance-and broke into perspiration and tears.
What's he bin a-doing of now?' asked Mrs. Wicks, at once diagnosing the complaint.
Mrs. Flinders unwound a portion of the towel, thus disclosing her left eye, which appeared, like the local tradesmen, to have adopted the early closing movement, pointed to a rapidly rising bump that adorned her brow, and sobbed : Doin' of? Why,
tryin' to make a cold corpse of 'is wedded wife, which he will, one 5. o' these fine days if I only live long 'nough.'
* Dear, dear!' exclaimed Mrs. Wicks, sympathetically, “and 'im sich a good 'usban' when the drink isn't in 'im!'
* It's a true word you're speakin',' answered Mrs. Flinders, 'but for all that it's a widower he'll find 'isself with a rope round 'is neck sooner or later.'
• Me'n Em'ly thought we 'eard somethink as though you was 'aving a little falling out,' was Mrs. Wicks's delicate way of putting it.
• Fallin'!—'twasn't fallin', twas chuckin' it at me he was, an' a mercy 'is aim wasn't so stiddy as it might be, or it's in my coffin I'd be at this very minnit 'stead o' sittin' 'ere.'
Mrs. Wicks expressed her sense of the seriousness of the situation by clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth prior to inquiring:
* Was it the poker this time, or what ?'
* That's what's breakin' my 'art, let alone my 'ead,' responded Mrs. Flinders, rivulets of grief irrigating the soil of her counte
* To think o'the trouble I took, an' the way I wore myself out, goin' round the parish gettin' letters oreckymendation to the Sussiety as supplies wooden legs an' glass eyes an' sich like post free, cos ’is old one was done for, bein' broke in two places ; an' proud I was fust time I walked out with 'im in the noo ’un. Little did I think as in less'n a fortnight he'd be flingin' the old leg at my ’ead an' knockin' my brains out as near as ever was. Sich a wife as I've bin to 'im an' all !'
'Ah,' commented Mrs. Wicks, as the visitor paused to take breath, if we only knowed what we was laying up for ourselves, there's a many of us'd turn back at the church door an' say, "Much obliged, but I'll change my mind an' not my name.”'
' Flinders he was in the bricklayin' line, till the side of a 'ouse fell on 'im an' crushed 'is leg like it 'ad bin made o' wax, an' I thought it a fine thing when they give 'im the pianny-orgin an'a donkey to drore it, by way o' compensation. Though times an' times I've said since, as I'd rather ’ave 'im as he were, stead o' with a leg as unstraps an’ stands in a corner at night, an' gets shied at you permiscus when the drink's in ’im or things not jest to 'is likin’. But there,' drying her tears on a convenient corner of the towel, 'I'm keepin' you from yer tea, only some'ow I felt as I