At three in the morning I strolled up the Embankment. It was a gala night for the homeless, for the police were elsewhere; and each bench was jammed with sleeping occupants. There were as many women as men, and the great majority of them, male and female, were old. Occasionally a boy was to be seen. On one bench I noticed a family, a man sitting upright with a sleeping babe in his arms, his wife asleep, her head on his shoulder, and in her lap the head of a sleeping youngster. The man’s eyes were wide open. He was staring out over the water and thinking, which is not a good thing for a shelterless man with a family to do. It would not be a pleasant thing to speculate upon his thoughts; but this I know, and all London knows, that the cases of out-of-works killing their wives and babies is not an uncommon happening.
One cannot walk along the Thames Embankment, in the small hours of morning, from the Houses of Parliament, past Cleopatra’s Needle, to Waterloo Bridge, without being reminded of the sufferings, seven and twenty centuries old, recited by the author of “Job":-
There are that remove the landmarks;
they violently take away flocks
and feed them.
They drive away the ass of the fatherless,
they take the widow’s ox
for a pledge.
They turn the needy out of the way;
the poor of the earth hide
Behold, as wild asses in the desert
they go forth to their work,
seeking diligently for meat; the wilderness yieldeth them food for
They cut their provender in the
field, and they glean the vintage of
They lie all night naked without
clothing, and have no covering in the
They are wet with the showers of
the mountains, and embrace the rock
for want of a shelter.
There are that pluck the fatherless
from the breast, and take a pledge
of the poor.
So that they go about naked without
clothing, and being an hungered
they carry the sheaves.—Job xxiv. 2-10.
Seven and twenty centuries agone! And it is all as true and apposite to-day in the innermost centre of this Christian civilisation whereof Edward VII. is king.
I stood, yesterday, in a room in one of the “Municipal Dwellings,” not far from Leman Street. If I looked into a dreary future and saw that I would have to live in such a room until I died, I should immediately go down, plump into the Thames, and cut the tenancy short.