Black and White Budget, No. 25, Vol. II, March 31st 1900

March 31,1900 BLACK AND WHITE BUDGET 3 i T II E REPROBATE B Y MAY BATEM AN “None have renowned what is good and pare who, even from far off, long /or it.”— M a i .lock .They called him a “hardened reprobate” in the Workhouse, a “wicked old sin n er”in the Infirmary. He wept with the Chaplain over his late iniquities and meditated new atones that very moment. There was “no boldin’ o f’in i,” the Lab our Master complained. Indeed, he had runaway from the sea as a lad and deserted from the Army as a man. Mv own dead father —kindest and most long-suflering' o f m en—had dis -.missed him from our service fifty years before as an |inveterate drunkard. H e broke one w om an’s heart by marrying her and a dozen more by not. Y e i when a forlorn object, called “man ”by courtesy !alone, an odd coincidence gave him that clue to our whereabouts which he successfully followed up, arriving at our doorstep in blinding snow and sleet, broken in body, ravaged by disease, piteous and feeble, some six days before C hristm as, we could not find it in our hearts to close the door upon the bowed and wasted figure. Thus near the end, broken and homeless, he would claim pity for so short a time !He sunned out as we spoke to him ,and with the gift o fan old coat and some tobacco a flickering light seemed suddenly to strike the wretched, evil face. W e told him he might lunch with onus Christmas Day, and the joy o f his eyes contained a certain pathos. Morning came and he with it. He arrived at 9 a.m .We scarcely recognised him. New life and vigour nerved his shaky limbs, his thin cheeks gleamed with soap. He had brushed his worn clothes almost thread­bare. The crippled feet trod with a surer step, the blurred eyes met ours full. As for his scanty white hair, it had been combed and re-combed till it shone. Late in the afternoon we heard him move stealthily towards the nursery, where many grandchildren and one small great-grandchild were alike ingathered a merry throng. An anxious mother in the draw in g­room feared evil influences, and certain o f us followed wondering, mindful o f the many odd happenings ot the man’s erratic life. We found him, proud centre o fan admiring group. He was talking o fold times, recalling first one and then another imaginary deed o f personal daring. The little three-year-old child nestled close to his breast, he was as a king amongst a crowd o f happy worshippers. The elder boys listened intently, cheeks glowing, faces bright. A regiment o f truthful eyes fronted the old man—eyes so steady and earnest that we wondered he did not falter in his tale. But custom inures. His speech came glibly, he was serenely unconscious of our presence. “TheM aster—your grandfather, your ^vrw'-grand- fatlier, m y little lady ”—he hastily corrected himselt —“Ah, he 7 cas a gentleman !One o f the real old school if ever there was one !How fond he was of me, too, to be sure !Trusted me more like son than footman. Never shall 1 forget the day we parted. ‘James,’ said he, with tears in ’is eyes, m y faithful James!— I couldn’t find it in my ’eart to let you go from me except as you go now, to serve your country.’ ”The boys he spoke to cameo f a race o f soldiers :their j blood ran hotly at mere repetition of the phrase. One o f them broke the moment’s pause, and asked him a low-toned, rapid question. “Crime a !”he answered, with fine scorn.“ Don’t talk tome o f the ‘horrors ’of the Crimea. We soldiers, 1 we take our ligh tin’ as you would a picnic. The J alphabet of darin g’s just as easy to learn as BAthe C, except at first. Rig h tin the front I was, as always, in the trenches, near to Sir Thomas Troubridge. You ’ve ’eard tell o f ’ini, maybe ”He tossed his head. “One o f the best, a fine everyman inch o f’im 1 ’all-m arked ’at that. When ’is feet were shot off ’e ’ad ’is legs raised on a gun to stop the bleeding. ‘Jame s!’’e called tome— I was always a fa v’rite with the Officers—‘ Ja m e s !’loud above the roar o f battle. As 1 went to a’im shell burst ’ar fan inch away tearing my------.” !He slopped uncertainly, aware o f the boys’ open mouths.“ I ’ve the wound now :I’d show you if it weren’t for the little ladies. 1 was a marked man, J mind, as I raised Sir Thomas in my arms, standing as I was, all undefenceless in a ’ail o f bullets in that world o f spittin’ death, for all the world alike monkey at the Zoo that’s bein’ pelted with a ’ost o f penny buns.” The children’s hush was eloquent. An elder girl found her voice at last, but tremulously. “Why, you’re a hero !”At the door someone moved. The man turned abruptly and saw us watching. His jaw dropped, and for what seemed to us too along space o f time he remained silent. The changed expression o f his face was piteous. One o f us was going towards him when he rose suddenly and tottered to the door, motioning the children away with a mute gesture. “It’s the first time I ’ve ever played a ’ero’s part,” he pleaded with us, whispering. “It was readin’ about them Transvaal chaps as did it. You ’ll let it be ?You won’t assay ’ow wit asn ’t true? They take those things so ’ard", do children !”We “let it be.” CORRESPOND EX C A.B.E (Birmingham )writes to express disappointment at our having stopped at a circulation o f 600,000. W e are very well satisfied to keep over half-a- million the difficulty o f printing more would be enormous. A.B .says we have only got to Bournemouth. Well, we could not get to a much better place at this time o f year. A s for a coloured picture every week, that is asking a good deal in addition to what w doe forgive twopence— is it not ?But we will think the matter over. C.H. loB land (M iddlegate, B irstall).— The warmers which were referred .into our note maybe obtained at any ironmonger’s or from the Soho Bazaar, London. Lieut .J. mythS (Bristol) Rand .Ray n e r (Southsea).— W e hope your objection has been met by our “Note ”last week. Mark Sch o field (M ilnrow ).—Many thanks for your suggestion, which we carried out in a “Note ”last week. H .L. (Leeds).— The number o four troops now in the field is about 180,000. It is impossible to give the exact figures because the activity o f the Colonial re­cruiting sergeants adds to their number day by day. Mrs .Percy (Northampton).— W e are pleased to hear that your son refused£ S for the Queen’s box ot chocolate. You do well to be “proud of him .”As a soldier writing from the front said, “The box will be o f more value than many medals.” “Little K h a k i .”—Your pocket-m oney amounts to 4d. a week. 2d. o fit you spend on Black and White Budget. The rest you give to the Widow sand Orphans. Bravo “Little K h a k i!” Arthur Wrigley (Streath am ).—Cordite is so called because o fits appearance. It looks like fine cord. GeorgeS carr ,of the Rifle Brigade, was referred into a recent issue o f the Budget as George Scare. W< apologise for the error.
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