From a Correspondent HREE men and a boy stood by Pir
a coffee stall on Ham'pstead Heath. The gray-haired man had only just come. He stood a little apart from the others, breathing heavily, and sipping occasionally at a coffee. .
One of the other men was telling a story to the stall-keeper. The third man leant forward, listening eagerly. The boy stood too far away to hear the low voice of the story-teller, but his lips were parted ready to smile with the inevitable burst of laughter.
The man sipping coffee watched him, saw the frayed cuff, the deliberate way he ate his sandwich, making it last as long as possible, saw the black finger nails, the loose fair hair that he shook occasionally off his forehead, the blue tie of vague pattern, tightly knotted.
The Noise of Baal There was the sudden laughter as the tale was told; then a reaction of silence. In a near house someone was playing on the piano a Bach sonata. The chords gathered to themselves increasing complexities, and the music unfolded its rich textures over the Heath complacently.
" How much longer is that noise going on?"
The story-teller spoke to fill up the silence. The stall-keeper muttered about " some people's idea of music." Then the story-teller sighed, swallowed the drains of his tea and said, " Well, better he getting home, I suppose. 'Night Ted," to the stallkeeper, "Coming, Joe?" His companion nodded, and they walked away.
The boy watched them go. Reluctantly he ate the last piece of his sandwich. The man who was sipping coffee knew that he had to help the boy. This was the culmination of his queer holiday which had begun very early in the morning at Stokeon-Trent railway station, He Fuddled His Holiday
This was the real and unknown purpose for which he had, on impulse, bought that excursion ticket and escaped from his home and his six kids.
He had fuddled his holiday wandering round the streets until evening, trying all the time to get something straight in his mind; trying sometimes to drive the consciousness of the necessity of getting this unknown thing straight, out of his mind, by gaping at the sights, watching the children in the park, making hurried tube journeys, feverishly occupying himself in doing the things a chap on a Sunday holiday ought to do.
But as he was having a drink in a crowded bar just before afternoon closing time he had given up the pretence of having a good time, and let the realities fill his mind. He had walked out of the bar with the questions he had evaded for twenty years hammering away at his intellect and emotion.
In the evening he had gone to Benediction, in the church of the Dominicans, as some sort of reparation for having missed Mass in the morning. The sermon was about the Prodigal Son, and it was as if the
priest was talking to "him only, Afterwards he had walked hard through the streets and across the Heath, trying to bring some peace into his mind. He had come to the coffee stall; and there was a boy of sixteen, ill-dressed, and so obviously in need of food, and friendliness, In a Brightly Painted Room . . .
But now the boy was going away. The man walked after him. As he caught him up he said: " You look very tired. Are you going—Have you anywhere . . . ?"
The boy, not the least surprised, said in a dead voice: " Nowhere."
They went together to the presbytery of the Dominican church, where they were directed to the House of Hospitality. There the boy was accepted without question. He waited, while his bed was being pre pared, in a brightly painted room full of books and chairs and other boys of his own age, reading or laughing.
The man waited with him rather bewilderedly . .. So late it was, and his excur sion ticket would be no use tomorrow, but it was already so late, and where could you go for the night, just a bed, somewhere cheap . . .
" Where can I get a bed cheap for the night?" he asked the young man who came
in to take the boy to his room. "Why not stay with us?" said the young man. The older man stayed with them, with the Young Christian Workers of Haverstock Hill. Stayed the night, and the next night, and the night after. Before he went home he went for the first time to Confession and to Communion.
Tricked Into England
The boy remained on after he had gone, sharing in the lite of the Young Christian Workers, trying to understand the religion that moved them to live as they did. seeking a job for himself that would be better
The Sandwich de Luxe
The popularity of motoring, cycling and hiking has caused a mild revolution in week-end habits and has raised the sandwich to a place of eminence in the national dietary. The ideal sandwich is one which provides the maximum, of nourishment in the most appetising form. Bovril sandwiches fulfil these conditions admirably. They are easily made—spread Bovril thinly between two slices of bread and butter, and add a little watercress, if desired. They are economical too. From a 4-oz. bottle of Bovril you can make over 100 delicious sandwiches, of definite food value. than the wandering existence he had formerly led.
He is there now.
Which brings us up to this very moment of living. What has been related is no story, but an actuality, and not a particularly odd actuality because such things occur every day and night at this House of Hospitality in North London.
Recently two Irish boys came in destitution to the House. They had been tricked into coming to England by an advertisement in an Irish newspaper. They had sent half-a-crown to an agency. which had in return asked them to come to London, where there would be a number of jobs for them to choose from. They came to London and to the agency. Another 15s. 6d. was demanded before the addresses of the vacancies could be given. The two boys had not 15s. 6d, between them.
They were stranded. For a week they rented a room and looked for work. When their money was gone they went to the House of Hospitality to get help.
They got shelter and food and, after three days, work. The people at the House managed to find one boy a job in a Christian Brothers' College, and the other a job in a Guest House, One of them wrote to the House a letter in which he said:
"Thanks a Million" "I call your place the House of Prosperity and will always be grateful to the priest at the Priory for sending me to you. Thanks a million for all you have done for me, When a fellow is so many miles from his mother and dad and family as I am. he sure does appreciate the kindness that has been shown. 1 am only sorry that Pat and I can't spend
more time with you all. But maybe some day we will get better jobs nearer hand. in the meantime we must be thankful to God and the House of Hospitality for the fresh start in life."
Another Irishman came alone, late at night. He was young, and had been in England for some years. He had been unemployed long enough to have lost confidcncz in himself. He could not speak properly, so hungry was he and so frightened of asking for help. He stayed at the House for ten days, during which time he got used to some of the basic comforts of civilisation, such as regular meals. a bed, shelter, and the talk of friendly
He was fixed up with a new outfit of clothes and a decent job as a barman was found for him. He comes along to the House regularly on all his holidays.
One Friday evening came a young Englishman of twenty-two who had been deported from America as a distressed British citizen. By the following Friday. after a week of quietness in the House, he had a safe job.
5 a.m.-6 p.m. Looking for Work
Sometimes a young man of twenty-eight used to come for meals. He was almost silent, and answered questions in monosyllables. He was encouraged to stay for a few nights. Every morning he rose at five o'clock and all day until six o'clock at night looked for work. A few odd jobs was all that he could get. He became more and more depressed. The people of the House decided that they would do a little searching. They found a reliable employment agency, and through this the young man got a " " job in a good hotel.
So it goes on. The ambassadors of God come every day to the House, and the Young Christian Workers do all things they can for their comfort and their aid. Not the least they do is to talk with them and laugh with them, discuss with them politics, books, religion, social conditions. Until late in the night they are talking. Discussion begins at the evening meal, and is carried on in the library. Out of this eager mixture of talk and action a completeness of Christian living grows.
The boy who has wandered for months looking for work is treated probably for the first time in his life as a complete human being; a person with a body and soul and an eternal destiny,
Can It Go On?
This House of Hospitality at 129, Malden Road, N,W.5, has existed only since early summer. That it goes on existing depends on the spirit of the people who run it, and on a supply of the simple things which kccp bodies alive. The spirit is not lacking, but such things as tea, potatoes, corned beef, fruit, preserves, sugar, clothes (men's clothes especially) and shillings are.