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is tacked for evermore was one that he
imposed upon his customers. It seems that
Hobson was an Oxford stable-keeper, and
that he forced his customers to take the horse
nearest the door. In no case might they
choose; every ill that horse-flesh is heir to
might afflict the nag nearest the door, but
still Hobson would let no other animal leave
the stable till this one was disposed of. And
thus, Hobson's choice was no choice. I had
thought often of Hobson as the forlorn victim
of an adverse fate; but I found that he was
Fate personified, and that he was the tyrant
over Oxford equestrians.

I was walking in the streets of Birmingham
one day, while its thousand chimneys
were waging war with the sunlight. I was in a
moody humour, and inclined to look out upon
nature through smoked glass, when I stood
still before a very pitiable object. It was
the figure of a mere child, with a dull
life showing through the eyes that should
have been young and bright, and glad with
the blue of heaven in them. What a face!
What a head! It was swollen and shapeless
the forehead hung over the eyes;
the jaws were coarse; and ill-health had
burst hideously out about the lips. Surely, I
thought, there is a Hobson hereabouts, and
this child is his victim; it has no choice but
a life of misery. I asked the child about its
mother, and its brothers and sisters. The
old story fell from its poor lipsits mother
away, and the brothers and sisters stupified
by a neighbouring nurse. I meet Hobson's
customers everywhere now. They crowd
about me when I land at Belfast; they
besiege my ear when I pause in the streets of
Dublin; their childish voices ring upon my
ear as I pass a certain establishment on my
way from Cowes to Newport; their plaintive
words are heard through prison-bars;
the horse next the door has been a sorry
one to all of them! Undoubtedly all these
are customers of Hobsondoomed to his
choice. At the cradle, I have watched the
babyhood of one of Hobson's customers.
Limbs that should have been round and
pulpy, were limp and fleshless; eyes that
should have been quick and sparkling, were
dull and heavy; cheeks that should have
bloomed, and been dimpled often with smiles,
were fiat and colourless; the baby voice
that should have been musical, was a wail
an unceasing grumble; the breath that
should have been pure and sweet, reeked
with the smell of laudanum! There it lay,
wearing away time till it had scrambled
together sufficient strength to trot forth from
the drug-room of its babyhood to the streets,
foul and pent-up, of its terrible neighbourhood.

As it is formed and settled now, so, in
after years, shall it bring forth good or
evil fruit to the State. Its footsteps wander,
and are without a purpose: it is a thing
with senses, and little more; yet within
lies the immortal germ, clouded with baby-
poison, yet to be extracted by a skilful
hand. But the child has only the choice ot
Hobson; therefore, no kind hand is stretched
forth to sustain its better nature, and turn it
from the pollution of its terrible neighbourhood.
Hobson's choice is for it, as for its
father and grandfather before it. How can it
choose but be an outcast? There was poison
in the atmosphere that surrounded its cradle,
contamination in its play-ground; and how
then shall the child fare, as I notice the sickly
bud burst into the graceless flower? Its
parentage, and the curse thereof, clings to it,
as it wanders into the world to do the dreadful
deeds that have been sown in its child's
heart. A fire smoulders in the bosom of the
young fellow, as he finds a sorry beast in the
nearest stall for him! He has been at war
with his fellow-man from the cradle. Not a
passion has been restrained. His eye has
ever dwelt upon hideous forms, and now
it is dead to all beauty. Talk to him of the
virtues that dignify and are the strength and
charm of social life: your words are foreign
to his eartoo heavy and sodden with
pestilential atmosphere is his heart to vibrate
with the tenderness of yours!

How can you talk to him of the equal chances
of menof the equal purity of all babyhood?
By what subtle play of logic can you persuade
him that there is not a curse upon his race
that he may escape from the tyranny of
Hobson? He has his full measure of revenge,
however; for he knows that his race costs the
State a round sum yearly, in transport-ships,
in penal colonies, in warm baths and patent
cooking apparatus! He only wonders how it
is that in these economical times his governors
will not set to work in a more prudent manner
how it is that they let his brothers and
sisters quietly grow up to follow the profession
of robbers: for Hobson's customers of to-day
know well enough, and their governors must
know, that as surely as the law is a profession,
so surely a proportion of the population is set
aside to be drilled arid tutored as robbers.
And this profession has its averages of success
and failure like any other. Hobson's
customers count upon an average run in this
country of nine years, at the expiration of
which term they are content to retire to the
Government retreats provided for them. Here
they have no care for the morrowthey have
their full measure of food, and a trip to a
distant country where they settle for life.
No qualms of conscience make the heart sick
here, for their life has been only the natural
development of their childhood. They own at
once that Hobson has never given them a
chance of riding fair on a trusty steed. They
point to their calamitous parentage in
explanation of their deeds. Shameful Hobson!
a terrible fate this that he has imposed
upon so many of us! A race foredoomed!—
born to be thrown in the mud by Hobson's
bad horses! How, ask earnest men, are we

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