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The rest upon an upper floor ;
Some little luxury there
Busts, cameos, gems, – such things as these,
Which others often show for pride,
And selfish churls deride ;-
Wealth's wasteful tricks I will not learn,
Nor ape the glittering upstart fool ;-
But all must be of buhl ?
Thus humble let me live and die,
Nor long for Midas' golden touch ; If Heaven more generous gifts deny,
I shall not miss them much, Too grateful for the blessing lent Of simple tastes and mind content !
ESTERDAY morning, as I was walking up a street
in Pimlico, I came upon a crowd of little persons issuing from a narrow alley. Ever so many little people there were streaming through a wicket; running children, shouting children, loitering children, chattering children, and children spinning tops by the way, so that the whole street was awakened by the pleasant childish clatter. As I stand for an instant to see the procession go by, one little girl pops me an impromptu courtesy, at which another from a distant quarter, not behindhand in politeness, pops me another; and presently quite an irregular little volley of courtesyings goes off in every direction. Then I blandly inquire if school is over ? and if there is anybody left in the house? A little brown-eyes nods her head, and says, “ There 's a great many people left in the house." And so there are, sure enough, as I find when I get in.
Down a narrow yard, with the workshops on one side and the schools on the other, in at a little door which leads into a big room where there are rafters, maps hanging on the walls, and remarks in immense letters, such as, “ COFFEE
MY BREAKFAST,” and pictures of useful things, with the well-thumbed story underneath ; a store in the middle of the room; a paper hanging up on the door with the names of the teachers; and everywhere wooden
benches and tables, made low and small for little legs and arms. Well, the school-room is quite empty and silent
and the little turmoil has poured eagerly out at the door. It is twelve o'clock, the sun is shining in the court, and something better than schooling is going on in the kitchen yonder. Who cares now where coffee comes from ? or which are the chief cities in Europe ? or in what year Stephen came to the throne ? For is not twelve o'clock dinner-time with all sensible people? and what periods of history, what future aspirations, what distant events are as important to us — grown-up folks, and children, too as this pleasant daily recurring one?
The kind, motherly schoolmistress who brought me in, tells me that for a shilling half a dozen little boys and girls can be treated to a wholesome meal. I wonder if it smells as good to them as it does to me, when I pull my shilling out of my pocket. The food costs more than twopence, but there is a fund to which people subscribe, and with its help the kitchen cooks all through the winter months.
All the children seem very fond of the good Mrs. KAs we leave the school-room, one little thing comes up crying, and clinging to her, “A boy has been and 'it me!” But when the mistress says, “ Well, never mind, you shall have your dinner," the child is instantly consoled ; " and you, and you, and you,” she continues; but this selection is too heart-rending; and with the help of another lucky shilling, nobody present is left out. I remember particularly a lank child, with great black eyes and fuzzy hair, and a pinched gray face, who stood leaning against a wall in the sun: once, in the Pontine Marshes, years ago, I remember seeing such another figure. “ That poor thing is seventeen,” says Mrs. K— “ She sometimes loiters here all day long; she has no mother: and she often comes and tells me her father is so drunk she dare not go home. I always give her a dinner when I can. This is the kitchen.”
The kitchen is a delightful little clean-scrubbed place, with rice pudding baking in the oven, and a young mistress, and a big girl, busy bringing in great caldrons full of the muttonbroth I have been scenting all this time. It is a fresh, honest, hungry smell, quite different from that unwholesome compound of fry and sauce, and hot, pungent spice, and stew and mess, which comes steaming up, some seven hours later, into our dining-rooms, from the reeking kitchens below. Here a poor woman is waiting, with a jug and a roundeyed baby. The mistress tells me the people in the neighborhood are too glad to buy what is left of the children's dinner. “ Look what good stuff it is,” says Mrs. K—, and she shows me a bowl full of the jelly to which it turns when cold. As the two girls come stepping through the sunny doorway, with the smoking jar between them, I think Mr. Millais might make a pretty picture of the little scene; but my attention is suddenly distracted by the roundeyed baby, who is peering down into the great soup-jug with such wide, wide-open eyes, and little hands outstretched, such an eager, happy face, that it almost made one laugh, and cry too, to see. The baby must be a favorite, for he is served, and goes off in his mother's arms, keeping vigilant watch over the jug, while four or five other jugs and women are waiting still in the next room. Then into rows of little yellow basins our mistress pours the broth, and we now go in to see the company in the dining-hall, waiting for its banquet. Ah me! but it is a pleasanter sight to see than any company in all the land. Somehow, as the children say grace, I feel as if there was indeed a blessing on the food; a blessing which brings color into these wan cheeks, and strength and warmth into these wasted little limbs. Meanwhile the expectant company is growing rather impatient, and is battering the benches with its spoons, and tapping neighboring heads as well. There goes a little guest, scrambling from his place across the room and back
again. So many are here to-day, that they have not all got seats. I see the wan girl still standing against the wall, and there is her brother,
a sociable little fellow, all dressed in corduroys,
who is making funny faces at me across the room, at which some other little boys burst out laughing. But the infants on the dolls'-benches, at the other end, are the best fun. There they are — three, four, five
oldwhispering and chattering, and tumbling over one another. Sometimes one infant falls suddenly forward, with its nose upon the table, and stops there quite contentedly; sometimes another disappears entirely under the legs, and is turged up by its neighbors. A certain number of the infants have their dinner every day, the mistress tells me. Mrs. has said so, and hers is the kind hand which has provided for all these young ones ; while a same kind heart has schemed how to shelter, to feed, to clothe, to teach the greatest number of these hungry and cold and neglected little children.
As I am replying to the advances of my young friend in the corduroys, I suddenly hear a cry of " Ooo ! 000! ooo! noo spoons, noo spoons,
000! 000! 000 !” and all the little hands stretch out eagerly as one of the big girls goes by with a paper of shining metal spoons. By this time the basins of soup are travelling round, with hunches of homemade bread. “ The infants are to have pudding first,” says the mistress, coming forward ; and in a few minutes more all the little birds are busy pecking at their bread and pudding, of which they take up very small mouthfuls, in very big spoons, and let a good deal slobber down over their pinafores.
One little curly-haired boy, with a very grave face, was eating pudding very slowly and solemnly; so I said to him, “ Do you like pudding best ?” Little Boy. “ Isss."