Urban Sketches eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 70 pages of information about Urban Sketches.
deficient.  Unscrupulous, hypocritical, and deceitful, he has won many children’s hearts by answering to any name they might call him, attaching himself to their persons until they got into trouble, and deserting them at the very moment they most needed his assistance.  I have seen him rob small school-boys of their dinners by pretending to knock them down by accident; and have seen larger boys in turn dispossess him of his ill-gotten booty for their own private gratification.  From being a tool, he has grown to be an accomplice; through much imposition, he has learned to impose on others; in his best character, he is simply a vagabond’s vagabond.

I could find it in my heart to pity him, as he lies there through the long summer afternoon, enjoying brief intervals of tranquillity and rest which he surreptitiously snatches from a stranger’s doorstep.  For a shrill whistle is heard in the streets, the boys are coming home from school, and he is startled from his dreams by a deftly thrown potato, which hits him on the head, and awakens him to the stern reality that he is now and forever—­a Boys’ Dog.


As the new Benevolent Association has had the effect of withdrawing beggars from the streets, and as Professional Mendicancy bids fair to be presently ranked with the Lost Arts, to preserve some records of this noble branch of industry, I have endeavored to recall certain traits and peculiarities of individual members of the order whom I have known, and whose forms I now miss from their accustomed haunts.  In so doing, I confess to feeling a certain regret at this decay of Professional Begging, for I hold the theory that mankind are bettered by the occasional spectacle of misery, whether simulated or not, on the same principle that our sympathies are enlarged by the fictitious woes of the Drama, though we know that the actors are insincere.  Perhaps I am indiscreet in saying that I have rewarded the artfully dressed and well-acted performance of the begging impostor through the same impulse that impelled me to expend a dollar in witnessing the counterfeited sorrows of poor “Triplet,” as represented by Charles Wheatleigh.  I did not quarrel with deceit in either case.  My coin was given in recognition of the sentiment; the moral responsibility rested with the performer.

The principal figure that I now mourn over as lost forever is one that may have been familiar to many of my readers.  It was that of a dark-complexioned, black-eyed, foreign-looking woman, who supported in her arms a sickly baby.  As a pathological phenomenon the baby was especially interesting, having presented the Hippocratic face and other symptoms of immediate dissolution, without change, for the past three years.  The woman never verbally solicited alms.  Her appearance was always mute, mysterious, and sudden.  She made no other appeal than that which the dramatic tableau of herself and baby suggested, with an outstretched

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Urban Sketches from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.