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The cells measured eight feet by five, and, had no lighting apparatus except a tiny, barred window high up in the wall, and a spyhole in the door.There were no bugs, and we had bedsteads and straw palliasses, rare luxuries both.Littered on the grass, we seemed dingy, urban riff-raff.We defiled the scene, like sardine-tins and paper bags on the seashore.This was Scotty, a little hairy tramp with a bastard accent sired by cockney out of Glasgow.His tin of cigarette ends fell out of his sock at the wrong moment, and was impounded. An official at the gate entered our names and other particulars in the register and took our bundles away from us.We stuffed our ankles with contraband until anyone seeing us might have imagined an outbreak of elephantiasis.But is an unwritten law that even the sternest Tramp Majors do not search below the knee, and in the end only one man was caught.
He was a gruff, soldierly man of forty, who gave the tramps no more ceremony than sheep at the dipping-pond, shoving them this way and that and shouting oaths in their faces. 'Well, that's bloody bad luck, guv'nor,' he said, 'that's bloody bad luck, that is.' And thereafter he took it into his head to treat me with compassion, even with a kind of respect. All the indecent secrets of our underwear were exposed; the grime, the rents and patches, the bits of string doing duty for buttons, the layers upon layers of fragmentary garments, some of them mere collections of holes, held together by dirt.
But when he came to myself, he looked hard at me, and said: 'You are a gentleman? The room became a press of steaming nudity, the sweaty odours of the tramps competing with the sickly, sub-faecal stench native to the spike.
Some of the men refused the bath, and washed only their 'toe-rags', the horrid, greasy little clouts which tramps bind round their feet.
The woman was sent off to the workhouse, and we others into the spike.
It was a gloomy, chilly, limewashed place, consisting only of a bathroom and dining-room and about a hundred narrow stone cells.