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"Oh! listen in mercy, ye sons of wealth,
SATURDAY night! There is something peculiarly pleasing in the sound, as well as in the associations of a Saturday night to the poor. It is a sort of Hallow Eve, around which all the retrospective dreams of the past linger with a melancholy interest. The husband and father seats himself beside his cheerful fire, and hands over to his wife the hard earnings of the week, and she, good dame, with sparkling eyes and eager steps sets about the laying it out to the best advantage, with a strict eye to economy. The poor must ever be so. Then comes the preparation for the morrow! The children are to be washed and dressed, their stockings darned, their shoes cleaned, and then-
"Kneeling down to heaven's Eternal King,
The Saint, the Father, and the husband prays."
We could picture such scenes with a glowing pen, if it were not that there is a dark shade to paint, which throws a gloom over the Saturday night--among the suffering poor. Let us visit one family; and those who are not willing to accompany us in our sorrowful journey may believe that it is no fancy sketch, but the family scene is one of many that are to be found in our city.
"The streets were deserted, a poor woman was seen wending her solitary way towards a cluster of small houses in the southern part of the city. She was wrapped up in
an old cloak, around which the winter wind swept keenly and with searching power. The snow fell in large flakes, and her feet were scarcely protected from the crusts of ice which encumbered her way. She however passed swiftly on--for her children were awaiting her coming with hungry and eager looks, and what had the widowed mother for them. The proceeds of two shirts at twelve and a half cents each! It was a Saturday night, the night of all others to the young and innocent the most pleasing: it is the eve of the holy Sabbath, and their little hearts yearned to bask in the sunshine of its moral and blessed light. Four miserable beings were clustered around a wretched fire, their toes were peeping from their worn-out stockings, and their ragged garments hung loosely around them. These children had seen better days. It was when their father was with, and provided for them; he was dead now, and the only surviving parent struggled on through poverty in all its phases, to keep a roof, such as it was, above their little heads. Piece by piece of her furniture was disposed of to provide for them, until there was scarcely anything left but a bed, a table and a few chairs. Let us stand apart, and listen to the prattle of the children.
"Sister," says a little boy of about nine years of age, "If you will sew up these trowsers I can go to Sunday School to-morrow; see it is only a rent, and my shoes will do I am sure."
The sister, a girl of some twelve years old, looked at the pale-faced boy, and tears came into her eyes as she spoke. "I will mend them, Billy dear, but your shirt is not fit, see how the collar looks, and you know it is the only one you have."
"I can turn the collar down, for I should like to go to
Sunday school to-morrow-hark, how the wind whistles-where is mother? I am cold!"
"She will be here directly, go you, James, and bring up some more chips, for mother will be cold, and, Jacob, you had better clean your shoes, and brush your coat, for you must go to Sunday school while your shoes are good; they will not last long, and then you will have to stay at home too."
"Perhaps not, sister. I may get something to do next week. I have the promise of a boy to help him to sell newspapers, and I may get enough to buy another pair. Am I not old and strong enough to do that? Why I have learnt already to cry papers. Hark, there comes mother; yes, I knew her step." The door opened, and the wretched parent gazed on her four shivering children, as they joyfully started up and clung around her. She kissed them all, and putting on a smiling face, to hide her grief she began to prepare their humble meal. A mother's love-who can portray a mother's love for her children? No one--it is an indescribable feeling known only to the angels in Heaven; it is an unwritten story, and, like the music of nature, it has no gamut! The twenty-five cents was all the money she had. Let us pause for a moment and ask, are the rich, the opulent, and the extravagant aware of such scenes? We presume not. And if they were, we do not call upon them to divide their wealth, or distribute it among the poor. We
do not advocate the levelling system, but we ask them, if, in the midst of the enjoyments of the festive board, and the luxuries of their own table, a thought should arise, and memory, or a better feeling call up the image of a family picture such as we have drawn, and they would reflect how small a portion of the expense of that feast would benefit a
whole family of suffering poor, if their sleep would not be sounder, and their consciences clearer, than they would be after the wild indulgence of a night's revel, with not one of charity to illumine its darkness or soothe the horrors of indigestion?
We ask them to look in upon that family, as described to us by Mr. Street. Gaze upon the straw bed, on which are four children sleeping, and in that unquiet slumber you will hear them cry for bread--see the mother standing by their side tucking in and around them the scanty covering, and rousing a few dying embers on the hearth, to throw a little. warmth o'er that cheerless room. Let us ask them to follow that family through a long cold Sunday, and the dreary, cheerless, howling blasts of a winter's storm, and dwell for a moment on the feelings of the wretched, heart-broken parent. Youth is the season of delight--the yo ng heart opens to the world like the blossoms of spring, bu. if the chill blasts of poverty come over it in its noontide, it withers, and fades away, and that young heart is lost in the snows misfortune's storms gather around it.
The writer of these leaves has visited the homes of the poor; he has looked on the pale face of the mother, and the haggard features of her children, and the blood chilled his heart while contemplating their silent suffering. Poor as he is in this world's goods, he has the consolation to know that the long winter night and dreary days of that poor widow were rendered cheerful by his exertions owing to the good example set by the Rev. John Street, in administering to the wants of the distressed.
Blessed are they who remember the poor.
"It is reported that the shrub called Our Lady's Seal, which is a kind of briory, and Colewort, set near together, one or both will die, the cause is, for that they be both great depredators of the earth, and one of them starveth the other."-Bacon.
IN the whole vocabulary of words, there are not perhaps more truth and philosophy to be found than what are contained in those we have quoted from Bacon, and how applicable they are to the vices of our city, as detailed in the leaf, we leave our readers to judge.
In glancing back over the pages already published, it strikes us that we have passed by a very important matter, and that is, the moral character of many who claim assistance at the hands of the charitable. It is not to ask the question, "What has brought them to such misery and poverty?" The true Christian never goes beyond the scene of woe which is presented to his view. Idleness, dissipation, nay, crime itself, may have aided in their downfall, and their present suffering be the result of all combined.
The great and increasing march of crime in our city is very properly attributed to the increase of population, and although education has in some measure checked its advance in exactly the same ratio, yet are there very many lamentable proofs that moral instruction, and the cultivation of the mind in all the various branches of education, are not sufficiently powerful to control the influence of vice.
An examination into the philosophy of crime, satisfies us that it has its origin in the higher and the middle walks of life; with the poor it is either natural or imitative. Asso