(continued from part 1)
"Be good enough to describe his person and dress, sir," says the Inspector, taking out a printed form called" a Route."
These are minutely detailed, and recorded.
"Has he any friends or relatives in London?"
The applicant replies by describing the residence and condition of the youth's father and uncle. The Inspector orders "Ninety-two" (one of the Reserve) to go with the gentleman, "and see what he can make of it." The misguided delinquent's chance of escape will be lessened every minute. Not only will his usual haunts be visited in the course of the night by Ninety-two; but his description will be known, before morning, by every police officer on duty. This Route,-which is now being copied by a Reserve into a book-will be passed on, presently to the next station. There, it will again be copied; passed on to the next; copied; forwarded-and so on until it shall have made the circuit of all the Metropolitan stations. In the morning, that description will be read to the men going on duty. "Long neck, light hair, brown clothes, low crowned hat," and so on. .
A member of the E division throws a paper on the window-sill, touches his hat, exclaims, " Route, sir!" and departs.
The Routes are coming in all night long. A lady has lost per purse in an omnibus. Here is a description of the supposed thief a woman who sat next to the lady-and here are the dates and numbers of the bank notes, inscribed on the paper with exactness. On the back, is an entry of the hour at which the paper was received at, and sent away from, every station to which it has yet been. A Reserve is called in to book the memorandum; and in a quarter of an hour he is off with it to the station next on the Route. Not only are these notices read to the men at each relief, but the most important of them are inserted in the" Police Gnctte," the especial literary organ of the Force, which is edited by one of its members.
A well dressed youth about eighteen years of age, now leans over the window to bring himself as near to the Inspector as possible. He whispers in a broad Scotch accent:
"I am destitute. I came up from Scotland to find one Sanders McAlpine, and I can't find him, and I have spent all my money. I have not a farthing left. I want a night's lodging."
"Reserve!" The inspector wastes no words in a case like this.
" Go over to the relieving officer and ask him to give this young man a night in the casual ward."
The policeman and the half-shamed suppliant go out together.
"That is a genuine tale," remarks the Inspector.
"Evidently a fortune-seeking young Scotchman," we venture to conjecture, "who has come to London upon too slight an invitation, and with too slender a purse. He has an honest face, and won't know want long. He may die Lord Mayor."
The Inspector is not sanguine in such cases. "He may," he says."
There is a great commotion in the outer office. Looking through the window, We see a stout bustling woman, who announces herself as a complainant, three female witnesses, and two policemen. This solemn procession moves towards the window; yet We look in vain for a prisoner. The prisoner is in truth invisible on the floor of the dock, so one of his guards is ordered to mount him, on a bench. He is a handsome, dirty, curly-headed boy about the age of seven, though he says he is nine. The prosecutrix makes her charge.
"Last Sunday, sir, (if you please, sir, I keep a cigar and stationer's shop) this here little creetur breaks one of my windows, and the moment after, I loses a box of paints--"
"Value?" asks the Inspector, already entering the charge, after one sharp look at the child.
"Value, sir ? Well, I'll say eight-pence. Well, sir, to-night again, just before shutting up, I hears another pane go smash. I looks out, and I sees this same little creetur a running aways. I runs after him, and hands him over to the police."
The child does not exhibit the smallest sign ,of fear or sorrow. He does not even I whimper. He tells his name and address, when asked them, in a straightforward business-like manner, as if he were quite used to the whole proceeding. He is locked up; and the prosecutrix is desired to appear before the Magistrate in the morning to substantiate her charge.
"A child so young, a professional thief!"
"Ah ! These are the. most distressing cases we have to deal with. The number of children brought here, either as prisoners, or as having been lost, is from five to six thousand per annum. Juvenile crime and its forerunner -- the neglect of children by their parents -- is still on the increase. That's the experience of the whole Force."
"If some places were provided at which neglected children could be made to pass their time, instead of in the market and streets -- say in industrial schools provided by the nation -- juvenile delinquency would very much decrease?--"
"I believe, sir, (and I speak the sentiments of many experienced officers in the Force, that it would be much lessened, and that the expense of such establishments would be saved in a very short time out of the police and county rates. Let alone morality altogether."
And the Inspector resumes his writing. For a little while we are left to think, to the ticking of the clock.
There are six hundred and fifty-six gentlemen in the House of Commons assembling in London. There is not one of these gentlemen who may not, in one week, if he choose, acquire as dismal a knowledge of the Hell upon earth in which he lives, in regard to these children, as this Inspector has -- as we have -- as no man can by possibility shut out, who will walk this town with open eves observant of what is crying to God in tile streets. If we were one of those six hundred and fifty-six, and had the courage to declare that we know the day must come when these children must be taken, by the strong hand, out of our shameful public ways, and must be rescued -- when the State must (no will, or will not, in the case, but must) take up neglected and ignorant children wheresoever they are found, severely punishing the parents when they can be found, too, and forcing them, if they have any means of existence, to contribute something towards the reclamation of their offspring, but never again entrusting them with the duties they have abandoned; -- if we were to say this, and were to add that as the day must come, it cannot .come too soon, and had best come now -- Red Tape would arise against us in ten thousand shapes of virtuous opposition, and cocks would crow, and donkeys would bray, and owls would hoot, and strangers would be espied, and houses would be counted out, and we should be satisfactorily put down. Meanwhile, in Aberdeen, the horror has risen to that height, that against the law, the authorities have by force swept, their streets clear of these unchristian objects, 1 and have, to the utmost extent of their illegal power, successfully done this very thing. Do none of the six hundred and fifty-six know of it -- do none of them look into it -- do none of them lay down their newspapers when they read of a baby sentenced for the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh time to imprisonment and whipping, and ask themselves the question, "Is there any earthly thing this child can do when this new sentence is fulfilled, but steal again, and be again imprisoned and again flogged, until, a precocious human devil, it is shipped away to corrupt a new world?" Do none of the six hundred and fifty-six, care to walk from Charing Cross to White-chapel -- to look into Wentworth Street -- to stray into the lanes of Westminster -- to go into a prison almost within the shadow of their own Victoria Tower -- to see with their eyes and hear with their ears, what such childhood is, and what escape it has from being what it is? Well! Red Tape is easier, and tells for more in blue books, and will give you a committee fire years long if you like, to enquire whether the wind ever blows, or the rain ever falls -- 'and then you can talk about it, and do l nothing.
Our meditations are suddenly interrupted.
"Here's a pretty business!" cries a pale man in a breathless hurry, at the window.
"Somebody has bern tampering with my door-lock !"
"How do you mean, sir?"
"Why, I live round the corner, and I had been to the Play, and I left my door on the lock (it's a Chubb!) and I come back, and the lock won't act. It has been tampered with. There either are, or have been, thieves in the place!"
"Take another man with you, and a couple of ladders, and see to this gentleman's house."
A sallow anxious little man rushes in.
"O! you haven't seen anything" of such a thing as a black and tan spaniel, have you>"
"Is it a' spaniel dog we have got in the yard?" the Inspector inquires of the jailer.
"No, sir, it's a brown tarrier!"
"O! It can't be my dog then. A brown tarrier? O! Good night, gentlemen! Thank you."
"Good night, sir"
The Reserve just now dispatched with the other man and the two ladders, returns, gruffvoiced and a little disgusted.
"Well? what's up round the corner?"
"Nothing the matter with the lock, sir. I opened it with the key directly!"
We fall into a doze before the fire. Only one little rattle of a pen is springing now, for the other Inspector has put on his great coat and gone out, to make the round of his beat and look after his men. We become aware in our sleep of a scuffling on the pavement outside. It approaches, and becomes noisy and hollow on the boarded floor within. We again repair to the window.
A very ill-looking Woman in the dock. A very stupid little gentleman, very much overcome with liquor, and with his head extremely towzled, endeavouring to make out the meaning of two immoveable policemen, and indistinctly muttering a desire to know" war it's awr abow."
" Well?" says the Inspector, possessed of the case in a look.
"I was on duty, sir, in Lincoln's Inn Fields just now," says one of the Policemen, "when I see this gent" --
Here" this gent," with an air of great dignity, again observes," Mirrer Insperrer, I requesherknow war it's awr ABOW."
"We'll hear you presently, sir. Go on"
-- "When I see this gent, in conversation again the railings with this Woman. I requested him to move on, and observed his watch-guard hanging loose out of his pocket. ' You've lost your watch,' I said. Then I turned to her! 'And you've got it,' I said. 'I an't,' she said. Then she said, turning to him, 'You know you've been in company with. many others to-night, flower-girls, and a lot more.' 'I shall take you,' I said, anyhow. Then I turned my lantern on her, and saw this silver watch, with the glass broke, lying behind her on the stones. Then I took her into custody, and the other constable brought the gent along."
"Jailer!" says the Inspector
End of Part 2
Continue to Part 3