"FOUND DEAD!" BY THOMAS J. BARNARDO.
An account published by Thomas Barnardo in 1871 of his encounter with a destitute boy known as 'Carrots', real name John Somers.
Poor little "Carrots"! only eleven brief years had passed over thy head, but surely thou didst live in this short span a long and troubled life!
Of relatives, John Somers (called "Carrots" by his fellow-arabs on account of his red hair) had but one living, and that one a mother—at least so she called herself, and so she may have really been; but if affectionate care for her offspring be a natural trait in a mother's character, then did not Mrs. Somers prove her maternal relation to the poor wee laddie found dead a few weeks ago in an empty sugar-barrel, in a passage leading to the water-side near London Bridge.
"Carrots" never knew his father, and her whom he called mother turned him adrift to do for himself at the mature age of seven; that is, just four years before the termination of his long short life.
The boy had been during these four years successively a news-boy, a shoeblack, a vender of cigar-lights, and anything and everything that a little street boy can be to pick up a living.
His appearance was against him, and by all I can gather from the boys who knew him, he seldom made enough to pay for a lodging-house shelter after satisfying Nature's absorbing claims; and so it came to pass that poor Johnny often "slept out," his favourite places of resort being Covent Garden Market and the Queen's Shades. Sometimes his mother appeared, and asserted her relationship by fixing him upon the ground with her knees, whilst both hands rapidly searched his pockets, and abstracted whatever coins were secreted there. If successful in her search, she left him howling over his loss, whilst she sought the nearest gin-shop; but should her search be useless, an oath and a blow were the means by which she expressed her sense of disappointment, unless, indeed, struggling from her unwelcome embraces, the poor boy succeeded in slipping from her grasp.
When first I visited the "Shades" by midnight, or rather early morn, "Carrots" was there, and when by the offer of a halfpenny to each I succeeded in counting out seventy-three destitute lads from the various shelters of old barrels, crates, and packages in which they had been ensconced, I thought I had seldom seen a more unpleasant specimen of boy life than he exhibited. Having out of this large number selected five poor lads to fill an equal number of vacant beds in our "Home," my memory vividly recalls the earnestness with which "Carrots" pleaded to be taken also, but alas! it could not be; we were already filled, and the five lads I then selected were as many as the funds in my hands warranted our receiving.
A few mornings later, as some porters were moving a large sugar hogshead lying with its open head to the wall, they disturbed a sleeping boy, by whose side lay another also apparently asleep; but when touched he moved not, when spoken to he did not answer; and stooping down, the kind-hearted porter took the form of the little lad in his arms, and only then did he perceive that "Carrots" was dead!
At the coroner's inquest, medical testimony declared that the deceased had succumbed to the combined effects of hunger and frequent exposure, and the jurymen who viewed the little pinched-up face and fleshless body, unanimously found a verdict of "died from exhaustion, the result of frequent exposure and want of food."
Thus much from the statements of the good-natured policeman who carried the little corpse soon after its discovery to an adjoining public-house, and who added to his sad communication the, to me, cheering sentence, that, "most of the boys as came round began to blubber as soon as they saw the body." So even poor deserted "Carrots" was missed and wept over, although of him too it might truly be said:—
Friend he had none."
Poor lad! I think I see him on that sad, sad evening of a bright May day, creeping supperless and hungry into the empty cask, his little heart crushed with its sense of loneliness, desertion, and dire need. I wonder did he cry as most children do when distressed? or had the feelings of a child been long banished from that breast in its great struggle for life? or did he pray as he nestled down for the last time beside his little mate?
"Did poor "Carrots" love Jesus?" I asked of a tiny boy who knew him well, and had formed one of the crowd of mourners who dropped a few real tears to the memory of their departed mate.
"Law, sir, we never hears of Him, nor of'nuffin' good, except 'cussin' and swearin', down here," was the awful reply.
"You, at least, shall hear something better," I mentally resolved as I yielded to his solicitation to be taken in. And so homeward bound, and keeping in view the little lad just rescued, I mused upon the Master's words, spoken so long ago beside the Galilean Sea, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men," and my poor heart said, as I heard his voice ringing in my ears, and thought of "Carrots," "Yea, Lord, I would fain follow Thee into all waters, fishing for such souls as these, whilst life holds out, not mindful of anything but this, that Thou hast said,' Follow Me.'" That grace and power so to do may be mine, I ask your prayers, dear fellow Christians.—Yours, in the obedience of Christ,
Thos. J. BARNARDO.
Home for Working Lads, 18, Stepney Causeway.
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