One of our favorite amusements at each landing-place was to make the natives scramble for money. They came down in large numbers, sometimes two or three hundred of them, and kept up a continual howl of “Backsheesh, O, Howadji!” that sounded very much like the murmurs of a mob. They gathered on the bank opposite the stern of the boat, and were ready to catch all the money we would throw to them. We had a supply of copper for just such cases, and by a judicious use of it, we made a franc go a great ways, and this was the way we would distribute it.
One of us would take a copper, and after balancing and aiming it several times, would give it a toss. A mass of hands would be stretched to receive it, and the crowd would sway in the direction of the falling coin. If it struck in the dirt, a dozen Arabs would spring upon the place where it fell, and there would be a scramble for it. Sometimes the struggle would be so fierce, that the cloud of dust raised thereby would completely conceal the combatants, and they would emerge with torn garments
Begging is by no means a profitable trade in China, and few therefore pursue it except the monks of Fo and Tao-tzé, and a few impostors who go about pretending to foretell events and predict good or ill fortune. The annexed is the representation of a beggar of a different description. The piece of hollow wood in his hand is struck to draw attention, and the label on his back describes his condition, which is not exactly such as in other countries would excite much compassion. It states his unfortunate situation, as having no children to take care of him, to console him in affliction, to give him food when hungry, or medicine when sick. The want of children is considered in China as the greatest of all misfortunes, and is in reality so, as by the moral precepts of that nation, which have all the force of law, filial piety is looked upon as the first of moral virtues; and, however poor a child may be, he is bound to share his earnings with his aged parents.
The sabouleux, who were commonly called the poor sick of St. John, were in the habit of frequenting fairs and markets, or the vicinity of churches; there, smeared with blood and appearing as if foaming at the mouth by means of a piece of soap they had placed in it, they struggled on the ground as if in a fit, and in this way realised a considerable amount of alms. These consequently paid the largest fees to the Coesre
Beggar playing the Fiddle, and his Wife accompanying him with the Bones.--From an old Engraving of the Seventeenth Century.
Lastly, we must mention the drilles, the narquois, or the people of the petite flambe, who for the most part were old pensioners, and who begged in the streets from house to house, with their swords at their sides. These, who at times lived a racketing and luxurious life, at last rebelled against the Grand Coesre, and would no longer be reckoned among his subjects--a step which gave a considerable shock to the Argotic monarchy.
-Orphans, Callots, and the Family of the Grand Coesre.--From painted Hangings and Tapestry from the Town of Rheims, executed during the Fifteenth Century.
The Grand Coesre levied a tax of twenty-four sous per annum upon the young rogues, who went about the streets pretending to shed tears, as "helpless orphans," in order to excite public sympathy.