Read CHAPTER VI - ON WATERLOO BRIDGE of Little Pollie A Bunch of Violets , free online book, by Gertrude P. Dyer, on

“I say, why don’t yer come with me on Saturdays, Pollie?” asked Sally Grimes one Thursday evening as they wended their way homewards.

It was opera night, and the sale of their flowers had been very good, so that Sally, who had “cleared out,” as she termed it, was elated with success. Even Pollie had only a small bunch left. Truth to tell, she always liked to keep a few buds to take home with her-just a few to brighten up their room, or those of their two dear friends.

She was tying up her blossoms, which had become unfastened, so that for the moment she did not reply to her companion’s question, who asked again-

“Why don’t yer come on Saturdays, eh? I allers does a good trade then.”

“Mother likes to get ready for the Sabbath on that day. So we clean our room right out, so as to make it nice and tidy. Then I learn my hymns and texts for the Sunday-school, and then mother hears me say them over, so as to be sure I know them well; and oh, it’s so happy!”

“Sunday-school!” repeated Sally; “is that where yer goes on Sundays? I see yer sometimes with books, eh? Lord do yer go there?”

“Yes; would you like to go with me?” Pollie suddenly asked, looking up at her friend with delight at the mere idea.

But Sally rubbed her nose thoughtfully with a corner of her apron, uncertain what to say on the subject.

“Don’t they whop yer at school?” she asked, after deliberating.

To her astonishment, quiet little Pollie burst into such a merry laugh.

“No, indeed!” she exclaimed, when her mirth had subsided. “The teachers are far too kind for that. Oh, I know you would like it, so do come.”

“Well, I’ll see about it,” was the rejoinder. “My gown ain’t special, but I’ve got such a hat! I bought it in Clare Market, with red, blue, and yaller flowers in it-so smart!”

“Oh, never mind your clothes,” said Pollie, somewhat doubtful as to the effect such a hat would have on the teachers and pupils; “come as you are, only clean and tidy-that is all they want.”

For some time they walked on in silence, but their thoughts must have been on the same subject, for suddenly Sally asked-

“What do you do at Sunday-school?”

“We read the Bible, repeat our texts and hymns. Shall I say the one I am learning for next Sunday to you?”

“Well, I should like to hear it,” was the reply. “Suppose we go and sit on Waterloo Bridge-it’s nice and quiet there-I’ll pay the toll.”

Pollie, however, would not consent to her friend’s extravagance on her behalf, so the two children paid each their halfpenny and passed on to the Bridge.

It was a lovely evening, and though April, yet it was not too cold, so they seated themselves in one of the recesses, and for a time were amused by watching the boats on the river, chatting merrily, as only children can.

“Now, then, tell me yer pretty hymn,” said Sally, when at last they had exhausted their stock of fun, and putting her arm around her little friend’s neck, they cuddled up lovingly together-the gentle little Pollie, and sturdy, rugged Sally. Then the child repeated to her listening companion-

“Abide with me! fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens;
Lord, with me abide,” &c.

She went on unto the end, the bigger girl listening the while with almost breathless eagerness, and when it was finished they both remained silent. Evidently those beautiful verses had struck a chord hitherto mute in the heart of the poor untaught London waif.

“Oh, but that’s fine!” she murmured at last in hushed tones. “Tell me something else, Pollie.”

However, just at that moment the attention of the children was arrested by a young woman who came and sat down in the recess opposite them. They had both noticed her pass and repass several times, but as they were almost hidden by the stone coping of the bridge, she had not observed them.

With wild gestures she threw herself upon the stone seat, and imagining she was alone, burst into piteous moans, alternately clasping her hands tightly together, as though in pain, then hiding her pale but lovely face, which showed traces of agony; swaying backwards and forwards, but with ever the same ceaseless moaning cry.

“Oh, poor lady!” whispered Pollie to her friend.

“She ain’t no lady, though she be so smart in a silk gown and rings on her fingers,” replied her companion in the same low tone.

“What is she then?” asked the child.

Poor Sally Grimes! her education had hitherto been confined to the London streets, and that training had made her but too well acquainted with life in its worst phases; so she replied-

“She’s only some poor creature - I say!” was her exclamation, as suddenly she started up, “what be yer going to do?”

The latter part of this sentence was addressed to the stranger, who had sprung upon the stone parapet, and was about to throw herself into the deep waters beneath.

“Let me die! let me die!” she cried, wildly struggling to free herself from sturdy Sally’s strong grasp.

“No, I won’t!” was the reply. “Here, Pollie, you hold hard too.”

“Oh, in mercy, in pity, let me die!” sobbed the unhappy creature in her agony. “Oh, if you only knew how I want to be at rest for ever!” and again she struggled franticly to escape from the saving hands that held her.

“Now, if yer don’t get down and sit quiet on this seat, I’ll call that there peeler, and then he’ll take yer to Bow Street,” exclaimed the undaunted Sally. “Ain’t yer ’shamed to talk like that? Now, come, I’ll call him if yer don’t do what I say.”

Frightened by this threat, or perhaps seeing how fruitless were her feeble struggles against the strong grasp of her preserver, the unhappy girl-she was but a girl-shrank down submissively on to the seat, still trembling and moaning, whilst brave-hearted Sally stood over her to prevent any further attempt at self-destruction. Pollie looked on in bewildered surprise at this sad scene, not knowing what to make of it; but she still kept her hold on the woman’s dress, as if her small strength could be of any service; but Sally had told her to “hold on,” and so she obeyed.

The woman was now sobbing bitterly. It was more than the child could bear to see any one in tears, so laying her little hand tenderly upon the sorrow-bowed head, she said very gently-

“Please don’t cry, ma’am; it makes Sally and me so sad.”

At that soft touch and soothing voice the woman looked up, and then the two children saw that she was very beautiful even now,-mere wreck as she seemed to be of all that is pure and lovely.

“Child!” she cried, “do you know what you touch?-a wretch not fit to crawl the earth much less be touched by innocent hands like yours.”

Pollie shrank back in terror at these words, and the tone in which they were uttered, but Sally was equal to any emergency.

“Come, come,” she exclaimed, “don’t yer talk like that, frightening this little gal in that way; you just quiet yourself, and then we’ll see yer safe home.”

“Home!” was the response. “I have none, only the streets or the river.” “Stuff and nonsense!” cried practical Sally. “No home!” repeated little Pollie; “how sad!”

“Now what’s to be done?” debated the elder girl, somewhat puzzled as to the course to be pursued; “here’s night coming on, and we can’t leave you here, yer know.”

“Let us take her home to my mother,” exclaimed the child; “mother will know what to do.”

But Sally hesitated.

“Perhaps she might not like it,” she observed.

“Oh, I am sure mother won’t mind, she is so good and so kind.”

All the time the children were discussing what was to be done, the unhappy creature sat there, never heeding what was said, but still sobbing and moaning, and apparently utterly exhausted.

“Well, then, there’s nothing else to be done that I see, so come along, young woman;” and so saying, Sally Grimes grasped her firmly by the arm, thus forcing her to rise.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked, gazing wildly around.

“To Pollie’s mother,” was the reply.

But the woman hung back and strove to free herself.

“I will not go!” she cried; “let me stay here, leave me to myself.”

However, there is much to be said in favour of strength of will. Sally Grimes, young as she was, possessed it in a wonderful degree; therefore, without wasting another word, she compelled the forlorn creature to go with her, little Pollie still keeping hold of the poor thing’s dress.