Saturday January 28, 2012
"A Successful Cruise"
Fascinating account of a night spent on the streets of London, seeking to help fallenn women, and reach them with the truth of the gospel. From Lieutenant John Blackmore, 'The London by Moonlight Mission', Chapter II - 'A Successful Cruise'
After asking the Divine blessing - in company with three Christian friends, I sallied forth down Gray's-inn-lane, about ten in the evening, each of us supplied with suitable tracts for distribution; which, in addition to religious instruction, had my address printed upon them, with an appeal to females, if they wished to quit the ways of sin, to call upon me. These were enclosed in envelopes, thus presenting the appearance of a letter, a form in which they are more readily accepted.
The route proposed for this evening was Holbom-Hill, Fleet-street, the Strand, Regent-street, Oxford-street, and Tottenham-court-road. Each side of the street was to be occupied by two of our party, the whole meeting again at points agreed upon.
The tracts and notes were well received in Gray's-inn-lane. I could not help pitying those whom, by their dress and manner, I knew to be fallen ones; and I earnestly asked my heavenly Father that he would make us the honoured instruments in his hands to rescue some. On arriving in Holbom, I was accosted by many young women ; one of them, with the affected gaiety of her unhappy class, asked me, as I gave her one of the notes, whether it was a love letter. I replied, "Yes: keep it, and read it to-morrow."
When we came to the bottom of Holbom-hill, I was accosted by an interesting young girl, dressed in a superior style. I gave her a note.
"What is this for ?'' she said.
"To invite you to a happy home, until you can get into a situation suited to your ability."
On enquiry, I found that she had no father nor mother, nor any friend in London. Turning round to the gentleman who accompanied me, she asked, "Is he come out for the same purpose as yourself?"
"Yes, and I am expecting two other friends directly. We mean what we say. Our wish is to do you good."
She was struck with astonishment. "Four gentle-men come out to seek after poor friendless girls! It is very good of you: I will call, with thanks."
Degraded as she was, I shook hands with her, and we parted.
Up Farringdon-street I distributed tracts with my address. On Ludgate-hill, I met several well-dressed young women; who made some flippant remarks upon our being out so late.
I replied, "But our object in being out is different from yours. We have come to offer you a helping hand, to take you out of this miserable life, if you will leave it.*'
" What will you do with us ? "
" Clothe you, feed you, keep you, and try to set you up in a respectable way of life.'*
"Well,-that is kind.''
We gave them some tracts, and passed on.
Opposite St. Paul's my companion called me to him. A very genteel young woman had accosted him. She had been, it appeared, a governess. With tears in her eyes, and a voice full of emotion, she said, "Oh, Sir ! I will consent to leave upon bread and water, if you will rescue me from this loathsome life."
My friend was overcome with feelings of sorrow and compassion on her behalf, and begged me to receive her when she called, offering, if the fund of the Institution was exhausted when she came, to pay for her support until she could be otherwise provided for.
We then proceeded round St. Paul's. Here too, we met with many "fallen into the snare of the devil, and taken captive by him at his will," whom we warned to flee from the wrath to come.
On going down Ludgate-hill I met another deeply-interesting young woman. She professed to obtain her living by her needle, and pleaded the low rate of remuneration as a cause of her being ompelled to resort to this miserable course of life. On being informed of the nature of my errand, she expressed surprise at our kindness. She, like the others, had never before heard of any one coming out to speak kindly to her class ; and promised, on parting, either to call on me at the Institution, or to write.
In Fleet-street I met several others, who took the notes and tracts with thanks. One confessed that her way of life was indeed a wretched one.
" Why then not try some other ?"
"So I would, if I could get any friend to take me by the hand. You know not the trials we have to encounter."
"I do know them - too well I know them, and for that reason I am out at this late hour to seek you, and to render you assistance, if I can."
" How kind you are ! no one ever spoke to me as you have done."
At Temple-bar, our little party having re-united, we proceeded up the courts in the vicinity, and scattered tracts. Some of the miserable women here also, on learning our errand, expressed astonishment that any cared for them, and could scarcely believe us sincere. Vice, in its most repulsive form, met the eye. Though it was near midnight, squalid-looking children, with pallid visages and half-starved looks, were scattered about. Oh! if Christians could but see the misery that lies lurking in the vicinity of some of our most polished thoroughfares, they would surely be roused from their state of apathy, to care for the perishing thousands around them.
I foimd the wretched women near Temple-bar to be of the lowest class, with the exception of one, about seventeen years of age, very well dressed. She said her parents were dead, and she could not get enough for a living without having recourse to her miserable occupation. I gave her a hearty invitation to call at my house, for which she appeared very thankful.
Near to St. Clement's Church I observed several young women of the lowest class, and some open haunts of vice in the immediate vicinity of the building. Surely there is a call upon all true-hearted Christians to go forth, in imitation of their divine Master, and make a vigorous attack on these dens of iniquity.
In the Strand I heard many a mournful tale from the numerous unhappy females who were wandering there. The letters which I gave were well received. One young woman in particular accosted me. She belonged, I could see, to what are known as "flash houses," - receptacles of vice, where unhappy victims are provided with gay dresses, and carefully watched when abroad by "keepers," to prevent them from absconding with their clothes. These poor creatures, though gaily attired, lead a truly miserable life. They have, as the wages of their sin---lodging, board, and dress, but no money ; all is swallowed up by their keepers, who sometimes ride in their carriages from the profits of their infamous calling.
After inviting her to the institution, I said, "You are not truly happy; I am out tonight on purpose to take you away from this miserable course of life. I see you are watched by your keeper. Do be persuaded to forsake it."
"I cannot. What you say is true; I belong to a 'flash house,' and I dare not come away."
"Run for it; I will provide some clothing, and send your dress back."
"If I do come you must not deceive me, but give me shelter."
I assured her, that if she came she should be received.
"I will try, then, to do so"; and with tears in her eyes, she thanked and left me.
Directly after this, a young Jewess came up, in company with her "keeper," who directed her attention towards me. She accordingly followed me, and asked me to accompany her to her beautiful home. I requested her to turn out of the Strand, away from the sight of her "keeper." She also belonged, I found, to a "flash house," which she heartily wished to leave, but her dress prevented her; being afraid, if she ran away, she would be taken into custody on the charge of stealing it. She was moved, however, by my appeal.
" I will come away at once, just as I am, if you will take me."
As this, however, was impracticable, she promised to come to me the next day, if possible. Her friends, she said, were wealthy, and would repay me. With sorrow and disappointment she bade me good night, thanking me evidently with much gratitude. Her condition made my heart bleed, and as I looked around on the numbers of other unhappy females, I wished that I could rescue all. Oh! what are Christians about ? Who are following their divine Master, endeavouring to seek and to save these that are lost?
The next I met with in the Strand was an interesting young creature about sixteen. I said to her, "Listen to me a few minutes. Do you not sometimes catch cold, from getting wet in your feet with these thin boots. Suppose a cold settled on your chest, consumption may follow, and death be the consequence! then where is your soulp? All this you know is too true."
"Yes, you are perfectly right."
"Then turn at once. I am now going to join my friends, who have with myself come out expressly to try to do such as you good."
"I never heard of such a thing in my life."
"Yes, God has put it into the hearts of some to endeavour to rescue those like yourself. Good bye - here is a letter. Put it into your pocket, and read it tomorrow morning."
The next I met had been a governess, and truly thankful she appeared also to meet with the voice of kindness. She gratefully accepted our note of invitation. After speaking with several others, I made a halt at Nelson's Column, in Trafalgar-square. It was now one o'clock in the morning; the fog began to grow thick, and a heavy dew fell, which nearly wetted us through. The Christian friend who had accompanied me, in order to see our mode of operation, and who during the night had met with numbers of cases equally distressing with those detailed above, now joined me. "What I have seen this evening,'' he said, "has quite overpowered my feelings; I entreat you not to refuse any of the applications which you may receive for admission in consequence of our labours this evening. Our Christian friends must be stirred up to come forward and give you help. They do not know the facts of the case, or their sympathies would be immediately aroused" Could they but witness the misery we have seen to night, and the desire of these poor females to be rescued, they could not help coming forward to your aid." My friend then left me, having a business engagement early in the morning, which precluded him from remaining out any longer. I may mention, as an example of the effect that was produced upon his mind, and of the practical value he attached to the Institution, that he immediately sent me a donation of five pounds, regretting only that in so important a cause he could not multiply it ten-fold. A similar impression, I am convinced, could not fail to be produced on all who witness the spectacle presented by these unhappy outcasts, miserably wandering to perdition in the streets of London.
My two remaining friends then proceeded with me up Pall-mall, where we met with an accomplished and well-dressed female, attired in black, evidently not of the ordinary class. I gave her a note, explained to her the objects of the institution, and urged her to take advantage of it. She thanked me for my kindness, and after some conversation about her troubles, she left me. At the comer of Piccadilly my companions rejoined me. There were standing here, I may observe, (as one of the curious features of the streets of the metropolis,) several individuals, whom I knew from their appearance to belong to what is popularly known as the "swell mob," and who eyed my companions and myself with some degree of curiosity. "We then directed our steps to Regent-street. Here, again, we met with many fallen females. In a door- way we observed a young man crouched up fast asleep. He was one of the many "homeless by night" to be found in London. Had there been room in the Ragged Dormitory in Westminster, or had his age suited the Refuge in Kentish-town, I would have sent him there: but as it was, we were obliged to leave him.
Among other unhappy objects to whom we gave our notes of invitation, was one young woman, who informed us she had been cook in a gentleman's family in the West-end. She had been ruined by her fellow-servant. Expecting to become a mother, she was obliged to leave her situation; her seducer had also left, and had gone she knew not whither. She had, she said, to support the infant to which she had given birth, which was now five months old. I expressed my sympathy, and offered, if she would call at the institution, to do all I could for her. She thankfully took the note I gave her. It was now about half-past two o'clock in the morning. A little further on, in Oxford-street, we met a well-dressed young woman, returning from one of those casinoes or dancing saloons, which ensnare so many of our young men.
Going up Tottenham-court-road, we saw a poor creature seated on the step of a door, with an infant in her arms. She had no money for a lodging, we therefore raised a contribution, which she thankfully accepted. The fog growing thicker and thicker, we hastened home, which I reached by three o'clock in the morning, passing a few stragglers in the New-road.
The deep evils of this great city, however, cannot be fully unveiled; nor can those by whom they have been in some measure witnessed, depict them as they really are. Happy had it been for many an un-suspecting girl, lured by the hope of high wages and gay attire, had she never exchanged the green fields of the country, for the throng of the gay city and its countless snares.
Parents should indeed tremble for their children, and every mother take alarm, sheltering her young with watchful care, for worse than hawks are ready to devour. There is greater danger to be dreaded from the associates and amusements of your children, than from the midnight robber, against whom you bar your doors. And this exhortation does not apply to parents only; for masters and mistresses are also responsible for watching over those beneath their roof, and guarding them, so far as their power extends, from dangers that lurk in the very streets around their dwellings.
As the result of the evening's mission above narrated, about twenty unhappy females, desirous of forsaking their wretched course, called either at my house, or at the Institutions, and were received and provided for. This fact will demonstrate more forcibly than any comment, the usefulness of such labours, and is indeed a call to the Lord's servants to go forth and gather these poor outcasts, for whom so few care.
Only those who have seen the misery endured by these unhappy objects^ and who know their willing-ness, nay, their eagerness to be rescued, can have any adequate conception of the immense amount of good which an agency of this kind may, by the blessing of God, be the means of effecting. To restore some of these poor wanderers to their sorrowing relatives; to procure for others situations in which they may return to usefulness and respectability; and higher still, to bring them in penitence and faith to the feet of the Saviour - this is a work which all should rejoice to help forward, - if not by going out into the streets to speak to them; surely by their sympathy and prayers.