|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||A Dreadful Pickle|
A Dreadf ul Pickle.
Could anything have happened more deliciously? Madge -walked down the platform in a perfect trance of delight that was roughly broken by the sight of the irreproachable brougham and liveried ?ervants waiting there. She ran hastily to it. "You can go home at once, Wil- liam," she called to the coachman, " I am not coming/' and the man, thinking she was going with her mother or brother, touched up the horses and drove away.
" Will you tell me where the poor people live, if you please," said Midge^ very politely to a cabman standing near.
" Poor paopU !" echoed the cabby, mys- tified, "what poor people, missey? I reckon there's a good few in this ere city."
" Very poor people," answered Midge, with a strong emphasis on the very.
"You're a rum little Jadv," said the man, smiling and looking at her silk frock and the gold bangles on her wriuta " you'd bsst have nothing to do with very poor people, missey, that's my opiniou "
"Kindly direct me, I wish to vint them," said Midge in a haughty grandilo- quent little tone she had copied from her mother, and the cabman laughed loudly.
" Waal, I reckon there's plenty at Botany, missey, and Waterloo j shall I drive you there ?" he said.
" Thanks, no ; I prefer the tram," re- turned Midge, " where shall I find the tram that goes there ?"
" At the foot of those steps over there," the man said, and Midge thanked him, slipped a shilling in his hand, in the way she had seen her brothers do, and walked across to the steps.
'* Waal, I'll be beat if I ever see sich a rummy little lady," ejaculated the man, looking after her ia surprise
At the foot of the steps Midge was for- tunate (or unfortunate) enough to catch a Waterloo tram, and was soon speeding along towards the goal of her ambition the poor. It was only about 1 o'clock, and the tram was rather empty, so as she ten- dered her tickets she asked the guard *' could he tell her, please, where some very poor people lived?" " What's their name," asked the man, in a matter-of-fact way.
"0, I don't know, any poor people will do,'' said Midge.
.* Down any of those back slums there's plenty," said the man, looking curiously at her, and then going on to the other cars with his cry of " Fares, please." He had intended to go back and question her, for it struck him as very strange that a beautifully-dressed child like that should bs travelling alone, inquiring for " very poor people."
Once out of the tram Midge hurried along, up streets and down streets, eager to begin her visits. »' There, this street will do," she thought, aB she came to a nar- row, clean-looking little street, the dearest, darlingest little strset-just like the one in
" I'll try this one," she said to herself, and knocked boldly at the door. Several minutes elapsed before it was opened, and then an old, exceedingly neat old woman opened it a few inches. Midge caught a glimpse of a scrupulously tidy little room and some scrupulously clean children play- ing inside, and all her little set phrases
deserted her, and she stood there silent growing redder and redder.
"Well, what d'ye want?" said the woman, sharply.
" I-I-I came to visit yon," said Midge« timidly lifting a pair of frightened grey eyes to the woman's sour face. " May I come in ?" and, never dreaming of a rebuff, she took a half-step across the threshold. The next minute she received a rough push from the doorway, and the door was slammed violently in her face« This was more than she had bargained for. Crim- son-faced and ashamed she was turning away when a woman, who had been lis- tening curiously to the little dialogue« accosted her. " An* is it a-visiting you're doing, me angel ?" she said in a wheedling little tone. " Oh, there's folks down Gunner's Alley ud make ye welcome as
the flowers of May, me sweet dar lint ; come with me, I'll show em you." Headily appeased Midge walked by the side of her new friend for several streets, chatting confidentially* Of a very courageous and trusting nature, and in her innocence of heart and eager desire to carry out her plan, Bhe never dreamt of any deception. They had turned into, a dark noisy little alley, so dirty and littered with ref use,heads of cabbages, old tins, &c, that Midge looked at her dainty tan shoes, and involuntarily stopped short. But the woman suddenly pushed open the door of a low dirty hovel -it could not be called a house-pulled the child roughly across the doorway, and shut and locked the door. " You-you should not4 do that" gasped Midge, " it-it is too rough, and 1 am your visiter." But the woman only laughed coarsely, and hurried her into an inner room, where an old Jewish-looking man sat crouched on the floor sewing. Bound both rooms were hung a motley collection of old garments.
«* A real swell," said tbe woman, in answer to the man's surprised look ; " give you her for two pund slick down; real silk this. Money in her purse too I'll be
Midge grew white as death, and made à terri tied rush for the door, but the man; sprang up, seized her, hastily tied a rope round her ancles, and pushed her on Í to the ground. Too terrified to move or ' speak, Midge lay haif dead in her agony' of fright. The man and woman haggled for some time over her price, examining h«r clothes, feeling in her pockets. At. last the woman seemed satisfied, and with her *' two pund " in her hand, got up and went away.
Then the old man and his wife, a dirty, bent old woman, proceeded to lift the child from the ground, and to strip off her rich, clothes. The movement seemed to give Midge new courage, and with strength horn of despair, she kicked and struggled fran- tically, shrieking with all the power of her young lungs. In a moment the woman's rough dirty hand was placed over her mouth, and she ceased to struggle. " See this," said the man, holding a heavy whip over her, " another sound, and I'll thrash the life out of ye. See that," and he pointed to a copper of dirty clothes that was boiling near ; *' another sound, and I put you in there. See this," and he dangled a rope before her ; " another sound, and I'll hang you up to the roof."
Thoroughly subjugated by these awful threats, Midge stood tremblingly stilly only uttering little hard gasps and sobs as they stripped from her her lovely clothes, and then put on her a coarse rough gar-' ment that hung to her feet. There was a sound as of an opening door in the next room, and with all the strength left her Midge gave vent to a last wild scream. '
The newcomer, however, was the woman who had brought her in, and who came in again to see how she was getting on* " Well, to Tae Bure, fine feathers do make fine birds," she said, aB she looked at the white-faced shivering ohild in the coarse, sack-like dress.
" Well, this bird has to be hung now," said the man, with a wink to the two women, which Midge did not see. " I said
if she screamed I'd do it," and he lifted up a clothes line that lay on the ground. Fas- cinated with terror, Midge watched him as he slowly made three loose nooses. One he tied round her little bare feet, another he tied round the little white arms, and the third he proceeded solemnly to put round her neck. Directly .the rough rope touohed her neck, Midge Mung up her little bound arms, and with a shrieck of wildest terror fell senseless to the ground.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)