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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 185 pages of information about The People of the Abyss.

“An’ get fourteen days?”

“No; get away.”

“Aw, I come ‘ere for a rest,” he said complacently.  “An’ another night’s kip won’t ’urt me none.”

They were all of this opinion, so I was forced to “sling it” alone.

“You cawn’t ever come back ’ere again for a doss,” they warned me.

“No fear,” said I, with an enthusiasm they could not comprehend; and, dodging out the gate, I sped down the street.

Straight to my room I hurried, changed my clothes, and less than an hour from my escape, in a Turkish bath, I was sweating out whatever germs and other things had penetrated my epidermis, and wishing that I could stand a temperature of three hundred and twenty rather than two hundred and twenty.

CHAPTER X—­CARRYING THE BANNER

“To carry the banner” means to walk the streets all night; and I, with the figurative emblem hoisted, went out to see what I could see.  Men and women walk the streets at night all over this great city, but I selected the West End, making Leicester Square my base, and scouting about from the Thames Embankment to Hyde Park.

The rain was falling heavily when the theatres let out, and the brilliant throng which poured from the places of amusement was hard put to find cabs.  The streets were so many wild rivers of cabs, most of which were engaged, however; and here I saw the desperate attempts of ragged men and boys to get a shelter from the night by procuring cabs for the cabless ladies and gentlemen.  I use the word “desperate” advisedly, for these wretched, homeless ones were gambling a soaking against a bed; and most of them, I took notice, got the soaking and missed the bed.  Now, to go through a stormy night with wet clothes, and, in addition, to be ill nourished and not to have tasted meat for a week or a month, is about as severe a hardship as a man can undergo.  Well fed and well clad, I have travelled all day with the spirit thermometer down to seventy-four degrees below zero—­one hundred and six degrees of frost {1}; and though I suffered, it was a mere nothing compared with carrying the banner for a night, ill fed, ill clad, and soaking wet.

The streets grew very quiet and lonely after the theatre crowd had gone home.  Only were to be seen the ubiquitous policemen, flashing their dark lanterns into doorways and alleys, and men and women and boys taking shelter in the lee of buildings from the wind and rain.  Piccadilly, however, was not quite so deserted.  Its pavements were brightened by well-dressed women without escort, and there was more life and action there than elsewhere, due to the process of finding escort.  But by three o’clock the last of them had vanished, and it was then indeed lonely.

At half-past one the steady downpour ceased, and only showers fell thereafter.  The homeless folk came away from the protection of the buildings, and slouched up and down and everywhere, in order to rush up the circulation and keep warm.

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