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Title: Ragged Homes and How to Mend Them
Author: Bayly, Mary
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1860 James Nisbet edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org

                   [Picture: Public domain book cover]

  [Picture: Tucker’s cottage.  The Oldest House in Kensington Potteries]



                              RAGGED HOMES,
                                   AND
                            HOW TO MEND THEM.


                                * * * * *

                                    BY
                                MRS BAYLY.

                                * * * * *

         “The corner-stone of the commonwealth is the hearth-stone.”

                                * * * * *

                             Fifth Thousand.

                                * * * * *

                                 LONDON:
                 JAMES NISBET AND CO., 21 BERNERS STREET.
                                M.DCCC.LX.



DEDICATED,
BY PERMISSION,
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY.


MY LORD,

I do not inscribe this narrative of facts to you in the expectation of
adding to that acquaintance with the working-classes which you have
gained from personal intercourse with them.

It is for my own satisfaction that I have dedicated this little Volume to
you.  An opportunity, which might not otherwise have occurred, now offers
for thanking you in the name of the poor whom you have cheered by your
sympathy, and of the rich whom you have stimulated by your example.

Compliments between fellow-workers are not seemly, however humble the
bestower, however illustrious the receiver.

That you have allowed your name to appear in these pages cannot but be
gratifying to the writer.  The reader will rejoice no less, and from
higher than personal motives.  He will see in this kindness another proof
of your hearty interest in that class which, if rightly considered, is,
from its very poverty, a blessing to the land, by putting our indolence
and selfishness to shame.

                         I have the honour to be,

                                                                  MY LORD,
                                          Your Lordship’s obliged Servant,
                                                               MARY BAYLY.



PREFACE.


AMIDST the excitements of political contests at home, with wars and
rumours of wars abroad, the voice of “Social Science” is occasionally
heard, and listened to, with a growing conviction of its importance.  The
Politician, the Moralist, and the Christian are impelled by various
reasons to its consideration, and will listen with equal interest to its
details.

Experience is always valued by practical men, and the records of what has
been done are anxiously sought, to assist our judgment in future and more
extended exertions.

The condition of the young, and the education of children, naturally
engaged the earliest attention of Social Reformers.  Experience has shewn
the importance of genial influences at home, and that it is _necessary_
to improve the homes of the poor, in order to save the children from
destruction.  It has also been found that _much_ can be thus effected.
Poor women, who have been subjected to the severe discipline of a
struggling existence, are often willing and anxious listeners to useful
instruction, and are perhaps more susceptible of good influence than
younger persons who have not felt the necessity for improvement.  There
is, therefore, room to hope that the influence which can be brought to
bear upon the mothers of the working-classes will be a most important
element in that general elevation which it is our desire to attain.

It was principally owing to this impression, and also the great desire
which I felt to do something, however feeble, to bring more happiness and
comfort into the houses of my poor neighbours, that induced me, five or
six years ago, to commence a Mothers’ Society.  The usual ways of helping
the poor seemed to me to effect little real good.  The nice soup sent for
the sick man was spoiled by being smoked in the warming up, or by the
taste infused into it from the dirty saucepan: the sago intended for the
infant was burnt, or only half cooked; and medicine and food alike failed
to be efficacious in the absence of cleanliness, and in the stifling air
which the poor patient was doomed to breathe.  The mothers of the little,
thin, fretful babies would complain to me that they could not think why
the child did so badly, for they managed to get a rasher of bacon for it
whenever they could, and always fed it two or three times in the night.
I saw that the wise man was indeed right in saying “that knowledge is the
principal thing;” and that if I could help them in any way to “get
knowledge,” it would be a gift far surpassing in value anything else I
could offer them.  The applications constantly made to me for information
on the best modes of establishing and conducting these Societies, induce
me to suppose that they have taken some hold on the public mind, and that
these institutions supply a want that is every day increasingly felt.

The only value that can be attached to any remarks which I have to make
is, that they are the result of some years’ experience; and that the
plans which I have adopted, though capable of great improvement, have
been to some extent successful.  But the principal motive in my own mind
for sending these simple narratives forth into the world is, the hope
that more attention than ever may by their means be directed to that
great and difficult subject, the improvement of the homes of the poor.
As a few notes of a bird, the lisping of a child, the sound of the wind
dying away, have sometimes been sufficient to awaken the spirit of
harmony in some master-mind, and so led to the composition of the music
which has thrilled and delighted all who have heard it; so, it is hoped,
the suggestions here made may be of use to many minds, and that anything
already effected may be as the drop to the showers, or as the first buds
of spring to the luxuriance of summer.

8 LANSDOWNE CRESCENT,
      _May_ 10, 1859.



CONTENTS.

                                        PAGE
INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER                       1
                 CHAPTER I.
A VILLAGE—NOT PICTURESQUE                 19
                CHAPTER II.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF CHARACTER                39
                CHAPTER III.
SLOW ADVANCING                            61
                CHAPTER IV.
SOWING SEED                               81
                 CHAPTER V.
HOMES AND NO HOMES                       107
                CHAPTER VI.
DIFFICULTIES                             125
                CHAPTER VII.
GIVING AND RECEIVING                     143
               CHAPTER VIII.
LIGHT UPON A DARK SUBJECT                157
                CHAPTER IX.
OUR MISSIONARIES                         175
                 CHAPTER X.
OUR BABY                                 195
                CHAPTER XI.
LETTERS                                  213
                CHAPTER XII.
OBSTACLES: WHO SHALL REMOVE THEM?        237
APPENDIX                                 259



INTRODUCTORY.


    “Give all thou canst; high Heaven rejects the lore
    Of nicely calculated less and more.”

                                                               WORDSWORTH.

A FEW weeks ago I was visiting the Library in the British Museum.  Two
gentlemen, who stood near me, appeared very earnest in the pursuit of
something which they wanted.  Presently, by an exclamation of delight, I
understood that their search had been successful; they had found what
they had sought.  And what had they found?  A very old book, so badly
printed as to be read with difficulty, and containing information of what
must have taken place at least two thousand years ago—information very
interesting and important to the old Romans, no doubt; and which would
have been still more so, if they could have foreseen what delight it
would have imparted, centuries later, to two inhabitants of a remote
island in the north, who could not possibly be affected by it.  But so it
is: some minds prefer to dwell on the past; others live in the present;
and some seem of opinion that “man never is, but always _to be_, blest.”
This diversity is no doubt necessary; all do some good: the antiquarian
adds to the interest of our libraries, if not of our lives; and we owe
much to those who teach us to look forward, if they will only at the same
time help us to look upward: but to such as wish to _do_ something, who
desire to have an influence on the great living history which every day
is writing afresh, the passing events of the time have the greatest
charm, because they not only present food for reflection, but opportunity
for exertion.

We not unfrequently hear people speak of life in such a way as would lead
us to suppose that there had been some mistake as to the date of their
birth.  Had they come a little earlier or a little later, it would have
been different; but the present seems to afford them no object of
interest.  They complain of intolerable dulness, the weariness of life;
and in watching the cheerless, the objectless existence of such people,
we wonder that it is recorded of only a single individual, that one
morning he shot himself, for the reason assigned on a slip of paper which
he had left on the dressing-table—“I am tired of living only to
breakfast, dine, and sup.”

I have often thought, when listening to such complaints, of the prayer of
Elisha for his unbelieving servant, “Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes,
that he may see;” and if the Lord would do for them as He did for this
servant, and open their eyes—not to see “mountains full of horses and
chariots of fire” waiting to deliver them—but alleys, and lanes, and
villages, full of the needy and the sick, waiting for loving hearts and
kind hands to come and help them to rise from their degradation,
wretchedness, and filth,—the strain would be changed; and, in the
contemplation of such a vast amount of labour, followed by such rich
reward, we should rather expect to hear, if it must still be the language
of complaint:—

    “O wretched yet inevitable spite
    Of our short span! and we must yield our breath,
    And wrap us in the lazy coil of death;
    So much remaining of unproved delight!”

There are many indications in the present day that the fields are “white
unto harvest.”  Several things, that were looked upon some years ago as
experiments, have been so eminently successful, that no unprejudiced mind
can doubt that they are the means which God has blessed, and by which He
intends to accomplish a great work of reformation in this country.  It
was a glorious sight at St Martin’s Hall, on the 2d of March, when 567
young persons came forward to claim the prize for having remained a
twelvemonth in a situation; and, were it not for the strictness of the
rules, excluding all apprentices, requiring a written character from a
master or mistress, it was stated that as many as 1500 would have been
present.  All these had been rescued from well-nigh certain destruction
by the Ragged School, and had there received the education which
qualified them to take these situations.  There must have been joy in the
presence of the angels of God that night, as they witnessed these rescued
ones sitting together, and listening eagerly to words by which their
souls might live; and which, if the prayers of many there were answered,
would prepare them to receive an incorruptible prize, that can never fade
away.

Whilst these facts convey resistless evidence to the mind, that these
poor outcasts _can_ be lifted out of their wretchedness and be saved, the
conviction deepens, that God will hold us responsible to do this work;
and, in all the labour ever required of our hands, it has never been so
necessary that whosoever would engage in it must be taught of the Lord.
We have to pray not only that the Lord of the harvest would send more
labourers into the harvest, but also that He would endow them with just
the spirit and power necessary for this particular work.  In noticing the
physical wants and requirements of this country, nothing strikes us more
forcibly than the certainty with which the demand creates the supply.  No
matter how intricate and complicated the required machinery may be, heads
are always to be found clever enough to invent, and hands skilful enough
to work it.  In fact, the degree of perfection attained in this way is
enough to make us “proud of the age we live in.”  If machinery and
steam-power had been the agency required to purify such places as St
Giles’s and Bethnal Green, the work would have been done long ago.  These
wretched localities have not remained so long “like blots in this fair
world,” without being thought of and cared for.  Many politicians and
scientific men have asked earnestly, “What can be done?” and have turned
away hopelessly, feeling that the mighty intellect which could subdue
air, earth, and sea, had now met with something beyond its power; and
still the question remained unanswered, “What can be done?”

One of the most interesting discoveries of the past few years has been,
that the humblest instead of the grandest agency is required to
accomplish this work which the wisest heads have found so difficult.  A
little sketch of the early history of one of God’s most successful agents
will shew that “His thoughts are not as our thoughts;” for it would not
have entered into the heart of man to have suggested such a preparation
for usefulness.  “A drunken father, who broke her mother’s heart, had
brought a young girl of fifteen, gradually down, down from the privileges
of a respectable station, to dwell in a low lodging-house in St Giles’s.
The father died shortly afterwards, and left her, and a sister five years
of age, orphans in the midst of pollution, which they, as by miracle,
escaped; often sitting on the stairs or door-step all night, to avoid
what was to be seen within.  An old man, the fellow-lodger of the
children, and kind-hearted, though an Atheist, had taught the elder to
write a little, but bade her never read the Bible, since it was full of
lies; and that she had only to look around her in St Giles’s, and she
might see that there was no God.  She had learned to read and knit from
looking continually at the shop-windows.  She married at eighteen years
of age her present husband, and for the first time in her young memory
knew the meaning of that blessed word, ‘home;’ although the home was but
a room, changed from time to time in the same neighbourhood.  After many
years of considerable suffering, from loss of children, ill-health, and
other calamities, she took shelter one rainy night in an alley which led
up to a little Mission Hall in Dudley Street.  She entered, and heard it
announced that books would be lent, on the next evening, from a
newly-formed library for the poor at that place.  Going early, she was
the first claimant of the promise.  She had intended to borrow Uncle
Tom’s Cabin; but a strong impulse came over her, which she could not
resist—it was as if she had heard it whispered, ‘Do not borrow Uncle Tom;
borrow a Bible.’  So she asked for a Bible.  ‘A Bible, my good woman?’
was the missionary’s reply.  ‘We did not mean to lend Bibles from this
library; but wait, I will fetch you one.  It is a token for good that the
Book of God, the best of books, should be the first one asked for and
lent from this place.’  He brought her the Bible, and asked if he should
call, and read a chapter with her.  She said respectfully, ‘No, sir,
thank you; we are very quiet folk, my husband might not like it.  I will
take the book, and read it for myself.’  The Lord’s time was come.  His
message then first entered her house, and went straight to her heart.
The Divine Spirit applied the Word with power; and the arrow of
conviction was ere long driven home by suffering and affliction.

“A severe illness laid her prostrate, and to this hour she feels—in a way
that we who help her in her work cannot feel—what is meant by sickness
and poverty coming together.” {8}

This was God’s education to prepare for Himself an agent to carry out His
purposes of mercy.  By uniting the introduction of God’s Word with care
for the temporal wants of the poor people around her, Marian has been
able to accomplish wonders in two short years; and the account of them
will be seen with great pleasure by those who allow themselves the
monthly treat of reading “The Book and its Mission.”  But something more
than facts, valuable as they are, have been deduced from Marian’s
mission.  The lock that refused to be picked, has yielded to the fitting
key.  We have sat in our beautiful churches long enough, and wished we
could see the poor gathered around us; but they have not come.  We have
written numberless words of advice to them from our comfortable houses;
and though all these efforts have, doubtless, accomplished good,
especially amongst a particular class—for no word of truth falls to the
ground—yet all will acknowledge that they have in a great measure failed
to affect the masses of our poor people; and, had it not been for our
City Missionary and Ragged School, it is dreadful to think what would
have become of the ever-increasing population of this crowded city.  Our
missionaries have done much; the moral atmosphere is always improved by
their presence; and thousands of poor wanderers from God have, through
their teaching, found their way back to peace and holiness.  The Ragged
Schools have rescued thousands of poor outcasts from destruction.  But
neither of these agencies operates directly upon the homes of the poor,
though “the entrance” of that word which “giveth light,” seldom fails to
shed its influence on the exterior.

My acquaintance with the poor began very early.  My father’s house stood
alone, surrounded by beautiful lawns, wood, and water.  Our nearest
neighbours were the poor people in a village about five minutes’ walk
from our home; most of them were simple labouring people, and as children
we were trusted to go amongst them without much superintendence from our
elders.  Our dear mother often employed us on errands of mercy to them;
and as soon as we could read well enough, we were sometimes sent to cheer
the solitary hours of some poor invalid by reading to him.  Our relations
to each other were so kindly and pleasant, that we always met with a
hearty welcome; and for years, I believe, I knew something about the
interior of every cottage in the place.  I remember even then feeling
astonished at the wretched management I saw, especially with regard to
children; and as we did not live in any fear of one another, I sometimes
took upon myself to remark to the “gudewife” that so-and-so was never
done at home.  All this was taken in good part: the reply was generally a
laugh, and “Law, my dear, poor people’s children isn’t like
gentlefolk’s;” or if my observations extended to cooking or
house-cleaning, it was, “Law, bless you, you doesn’t know anything about
that; gentlefolks never does.”  Notwithstanding all these rebukes, I
still thought over these things; and have thought over them, to a greater
or less extent, ever since; and the result is, the deliberate conviction
that so long as the wives and mothers of the poor continue such as we
generally find them, we cannot look for any very great improvement in
their social position.

I have known many women, under thirty years of age, with six or eight
children, so totally unqualified for almost everything which they had to
do, that I have wondered how they managed to exist at all.  I am now, of
course, speaking of those below the class from which we usually obtain
our domestic servants; and amongst this class, more unfit than any other
for life’s solemn duties, the earliest marriages are contracted,
apparently without any idea that at least as much preparation is needed
as is deemed necessary for breaking stones on the road.

If a lady feels herself unequal to the management of her family, she can
call in the aid of nurses, governesses, and schools; and thus her defects
may in some measure be made up by assistance from without.  But who or
what is to step in between the poor mother and her children?  If she
cannot train them during the first few years of infancy, they remain
untrained; and not only are the wise man’s words proved true, that “a
child left to itself bringeth its mother to shame,” but it is found that
the multiplication of these families thus left to themselves, bringeth a
nation to shame.  When we look honestly at things as they are, we have no
right to be much surprised at such a result: it is unreasonable to expect
to reap what has never been sown.  Seven years of careful training is not
thought too much for those who are to be employed in the making of our
shoes, our coats, or in the building of our houses.  The education of the
men of this country is generally, from a very early age, adapted to their
future employment.  Hence, as might be expected, there is no lack of
clever artisans, who have indeed a higher character for cleverness than
for goodness.  But the girl, who is to grow up to exercise an influence
upon persons more than upon things, is left to scramble on as best she
can, generally content to do as badly as those who have preceded her; and
yet, in the words of one who has thought and written much upon the
subject—“It is to the poor man’s wife that we must chiefly look, when we
indulge the hope of reducing that frightful amount of crime which, with
all our inventions, discoveries, and improvements, sometimes awakens a
fear that we may not really be in so prosperous a condition, socially and
nationally, as our rapid progress in what is called civilisation would
lead a superficial observer to suppose.”

I have never yet been able to see how schools, or any system of national
education, could meet this difficulty.  That we should be much worse than
we are without them, there cannot be a doubt.  Our beautiful Infant
Schools especially, that shelter these little ones so many hours a day
from the sight and the sound of evil, call for a special thanksgiving to
God.  To no class of people in this country are we more indebted than to
those high-minded Christian teachers who, with infinite patience and
self-denial, manage to infuse into their teaching such freshness, purity,
and wondrous adaptation, that many a little rebel is through them brought
back to allegiance.  The preparation for life that boys likewise require
can, to some considerable extent, be supplied from without; but to girls,
whose education is valuable in proportion as it prepares them for
domestic duties, nothing can ever compensate for the absence of
home-training.  The question then arises, considering that nineteen girls
out of twenty do not receive a proper home-training, what is the best
substitute for it?  Until some remedy for so great an evil can be found,
this misery and misfortune must continue.  I do not pretend to answer
this question satisfactorily; I rather wish to obtain for it the
attention of wiser and clearer heads, believing that nothing can, at the
present time, exceed it in importance.  The few suggestions I have to
make are very simple, and cannot be considered comprehensive enough to
meet such a widely extended evil.  If we were to see seven people
struggling in the water, and could only save one from drowning, we could
not plead as an excuse for neglecting to help that one, our inability to
rescue the six.  In like manner, we must use the little light that is
given to us, trusting that, as we advance, more light will be granted.

That which we propose to substitute should resemble, as nearly as
possible, the home-training which we find to be so sadly deficient.
These poor girls require friends who will supply to them the place of
mothers.  Much has been said and written about ladies devoting their
leisure time to the poor, and there is no doubt that much more good might
be done by them in this way than is done; but the work we refer to
demands something far beyond the occasional call, the book lent, and the
garment cut out.

There are so many points of difference between the child reared in the
mansions of the wealthy, and the uncared-for, friendless infant picked
out of the streets and alleys, that it is not strange if they should have
few thoughts in common.  It is true there is in some hearts, as in that
of Elizabeth Fry, a sympathy strong enough to extend itself to everything
with which it comes in contact.  The moral power of such natures is very
great: they are one of God’s best gifts to this fallen world, yet not the
most common.  In devising schemes of improvement, we cannot therefore
rely upon the powerful assistance which they give; nor must we take it
for granted that our plans will be worked out by their aid.  Probably,
the best suggestion that has been offered hitherto, is made by the writer
of “The Book and its Mission,” who proposes that some of the best of the
poor women, superintended by ladies, should be employed as missionaries;
and that each missionary should be the mistress of a house, into which a
number of homeless girls might be received on payment of a small weekly
sum.  Here, under motherly training, they might be fitted for their
future duties.

The Marian above alluded to, soon after the commencement of her work in
St Giles’s, says:—“I long to lift poor young girls, from twelve to
eighteen years of age, out of the horrors of those overcrowded rooms; and
how glad I should be to take a house and make a dormitory for them by
themselves!  I know forty who would come to me at once, and pay
threepence a night each: they could well afford it, and it would take the
money from those dancing-rooms and casinos to which they flock to their
ruin.  What new thoughts I might put into their minds in the evening!
How I might read the Bible with them! and some of them might help me in
my other work.  There is no provision of the sort for the class I mean;
and they are those who most want it.  Such a change would be to them the
beginning of a new life; and there are perhaps five thousand of those
girls always growing up in St Giles’s.”

But how inadequate, some will say, are these means to meet so extensive
an evil!  To provide for forty out of five thousand is of little avail.
So it, indeed, appears if we look merely on the surface of this great
subject.  But it must never be forgotten that, every individual is a
centre of influence.  It is a proverb that “one sickly sheep infects the
flock,” but happily this law of infection is not always on the side of
evil; and, I believe, the force of example is stronger in the class to
which I am now referring, than amongst the reading and thinking people in
a higher grade of society.  “I thought he was right, at first,” a lady
once said to me, “but when I sat down by the fire quietly in the evening
with my Bible, and listened to the voice within, as well as to the
teaching of the Word, I then saw it all in a different light; and I
resolved more firmly than I had ever done before that God should be my
guide, and not man.”

But we are not speaking of the few who sit quietly by their fireside in
the evening to weigh the actions of the day in the balance of truth; we
refer to the multitude whose rule of conduct is summed up in the
words—“Follow my leader.”  True, they do not always follow the same
leader; and the defection of a comrade will cause them to halt.  Yet,
after a time, they are found walking behind another guide.  They are
contented even if he choose the old path.  But whether old or new, they
cannot advance without guidance.  To such accustomed only to “move
altogether if they move at all,” we would commend the great truth that
God can work by and for the few as well as for the many; that He is often
content with small beginnings where we should have expected mighty
achievements.  This lesson we learn from our Saviour’s teaching.

He often spoke to large audiences; but He never refrained because His
listeners were few.  What minister charged with such a message as,
“Whosoever drinketh the water that I shall give him shall never thirst;
but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water
springing up into everlasting life,” would have told it for the first
time to a poor sinful woman whom he met by the way-side?  Would he not
rather have reasoned that his church must be unusually full before such a
wonderful message could be delivered?  Surely many “masters of Israel”
should have been present to hear the answer to the question that has
vexed and troubled the Church in all ages, as to where and how the Father
was to be worshipped.  But no; the same wondering woman, standing with
her water-pitcher in her hand, was taught that neither exclusively “in
this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem” was the Father to be worshipped, but
that “the true worshippers worship the Father in spirit and in truth.”
Jesus knew she would go on her way and stop every one she met, to repeat
what she had heard, and to say, “Come, see a man who told me all things
that ever I did.”  This, too, is our hope, when the thought depresses us,
that these small means can never affect such masses of evil.  Each
rescued soul becomes a light set upon a hill that cannot be hid, and many
will make use of this light to guide themselves out of darkness.

Let those who are actively and successfully engaged in their own peculiar
duties, spare a little time to assist their less gifted or less fortunate
neighbours.  Let those who are weary of doing nothing, assist those who
are weak and weary with doing too much.  Let those who are strong, aid
those whose burden of life is too heavy for them to bear.  And let us all
seek to fulfil the great Christian command—which should be the bane of
selfishness, and must be the foundation of social elevation—“Look not
every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”



CHAPTER I.
A Village—Not Picturesque.


    “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”

THE wish of the child for a picture of the story which has interested
him, expresses a feeling that is found in those of maturer years.  “Where
did this happen?” is the question sure to follow a narrative that has
awakened sympathy.  We realise the truth of a description more forcibly
when we have given to it “a local habitation and a name.”  In the present
instance there is more than the usual reason for detail.  Characteristic
peculiarities belong both to the place and the people whom I am about to
describe.  Origin, occupation, and habits will, to a great extent,
account for much that would otherwise require explanation.  Without a due
regard to these particulars, much labour is lost in working among the
poor.  We know that the seed which flourishes in one soil, and brings
forth fruit to perfection, will scarcely live in another; and as every
successful gardener considers both ground and plant, so every labourer in
the human soil is careful to adapt means to ends, or his toil is
fruitless.

Inasmuch as there has always been a demand for pigs’ flesh, at least
among Christians, it is impossible to determine for how long pig-feeding
establishments have been thought necessary for the neighbourhood of
London.  In all probability they had their origin at a very early date,
and can claim to be ranked among the “time-honoured institutions” of this
great city.

But we are not able to go back much further than sixty years, when we
find that this necessary evil had for some time been located near the
ground now covered by the Marble Arch, Connaught and other Squares.  Here
the nuisance was supposed to be out of town, and the porcine tribe
luxuriated in this dry and elevated region.  If there had been found at
that time a registrar-general to note down the deaths and diseases of
pigs, the records would excite the envy of swine in the present
generation, and induce the sad belief that the former times _were_ better
than these.  But these respectable animals of the past century had
apparently another cause for congratulation.  Their society seemed
eagerly sought by the great London world; and seeing how perseveringly
they were followed, they could proudly boast that they were leading the
metropolis “by the nose.”  Such a soothing idea was, however, dispelled,
when conviction was unwillingly forced upon them, that there was a
general desire to get rid of them as _near_ neighbours, and that their
room was more highly esteemed than their company.

The ground which these pigs occupied had become too valuable for them to
remain there in peace.  I have not been able to discover whether they
were expelled by purchase, ejectment, or annoyance; but it is certain
that, about the period I have named, they were compelled to go in search
of a new home.

About that time a man named Lake, a chimney-sweeper and scavenger, who
lived in Tottenham Court Road, became, from the nature of his occupation,
so obnoxious to his neighbours, that he, too, was compelled to take
himself off to a fresh locality.  My informant told me he was determined
to go at once far enough out of London.  He thought three miles in a
westerly direction would make him safe, and finding a spot that suited
him, he secured a lease of the land, and removed himself and his
appendages to a place, now sometimes called Notting Dale, but more
generally the “Potteries.”  Here, for a short time, he enjoyed almost a
solitary life.  The population of the place, for the first year or two,
consisted of only three persons.  Whatever he may have suffered from
loneliness, was, no doubt, abundantly made up to him by a sense of
freedom, and an absence from all restraint, for his neighbours were
distant and few.  At length finding he could not use all the land he had
leased, he naturally looked about for some one to share it with him.
Alas! he was not company for every one.  Eventually he heard of a man
named Stephens, a bowstring maker, who, from the unsavoury nature of his
trade, was enduring a similar persecution to that from which he himself
had escaped.  Lake invited this man to become his neighbour; and Stephens
eventually purchased from him the lease of a plot of land for one hundred
pounds, and removed his bowstring establishment to this new possession.
Perhaps he did not find it answer to carry on his business so far from
town: this does not appear in the narrative; but it is certain that, for
some reason, he soon relinquished it, and commenced pig-keeping
instead,—probably for the same reason as the bone-picker assigned for his
attachment to his trade, that he shouldn’t think it all right, unless he
could “feel a smell.”

In his inquiries after pigs, &c., he became acquainted with the distress
of the “West-end establishment,” and offered its members a share of the
refuge which he and his friend Lake had found.  The offer was gladly
accepted, and many of the masters either bought or rented small plots of
land from the original proprietors, and removed their establishments of
pigs and children to this favoured spot, where Lake assured them
everybody should do as they liked, and “he’d see that nobody meddled with
them.”

Under this magnificent charter and spirited government the little colony
progressed rapidly, and numbers of houses, or rather huts, sprang up on
all sides.  Such things as drainage and fresh water were considered
superfluous; and the accumulation of the filth of years rendered it
certain, by the simple law of self-preservation, that nothing would be
meddled with.

In addition to the above-mentioned trades, about thirty years ago a
considerable plot of land was bought for brick-making, the soil being
almost entirely composed of stiff clay, peculiarly adapted for that
purpose.  This introduced another fresh element into the newly formed
colony.  The labourers employed at this work are not usually of a very
high class, and the oldest inhabitants of the Potteries speak of their
introduction as an evil.  An old woman, who has lived forty years in the
place, and her husband’s parents were amongst the first inhabitants,
remarked, “Now pig-keepers _is_ respectable; but them brick people, they
bean’t, some of them, no wiser than the clay they works on.”  I asked
this old woman what kind of life they had lived there by themselves so
many years.  She said, “Oh, ma’am, you’d think ’twas an awful life!  The
only difference in Sundays and work-days was, that on Sundays we had
cock-fighting and bull-baiting, and lots of dogs were kept on purpose to
amuse the people by fighting and rat-killing.  People all round were
afraid of these dogs, and nobody ever cared to come nigh the place.  We
didn’t ourselves venture out after it was dark; if we hadn’t got in all
we wanted before night, why we jist went without it: for besides the
dogs, d’ye see, ma’am, there was the roads; leastwise, we called ’em
roads, but they wornt for all that,—it was jist a lot of ups and downs,
and when you had put one foot down, you didn’t know how to pull the other
one up.  Once, I mind, I happened to be out late in the evening, and had
to go through Cut-throat Lane jist as it was gitting dark, (they calls
that Pottery Lane now, you know, ma’am); I heard some people coming
along, fighting and swearing, and I was so frightened I got down into the
bottom of one of the ruts, and there I stopped till they had gone; so I
got a service out of them that time, d’ye see, ma’am.

“We had no near neighbours for a long time; there was a farm-house where
the Mitre Tavern now stands, and I can mind, when I have been passing by,
seeing the men stacking the hay and the corn, and hearing them singing
over their work.  Then there was another farm-house, down where the Royal
Crescent is now; and sometimes I have been there for a drop of milk, for
we hadn’t no shops for a long time.”

I knew that my communicative old woman had been a good Christian
character for many years; so I asked her how she, as an individual, had
managed to pass her Sundays in this dark place, before there were either
schools or places of worship of any kind there.

“Why, ma’am,” she replied, “I never would work of a Sunday—nobody
couldn’t make me.  I used to tidy up my house after breakfast, and put
the saucepan by the fire, and then I went over to the old church at
Kensington.  The people now and then threw stones at me, and used to
threaten to set the dogs at me; but they never did,—the Lord didn’t let
’em; and they knew me, too, that I’d be torn in pieces before I’d give up
what I knew to be right.”

I was astonished at the immense numbers of pigs which these people seemed
to keep, and I asked the old woman how they managed to find food for them
all; she said—

“We most of us keep a horse, or a donkey and cart, and we go round early
in the morning to the gentlefolk’s houses, and collect the _refuges_ from
the kitchens.  When we comes home, we sorts it out; the best of it we
eats ourselves or sells it to a neighbour, the fat is all boiled down,
and the rest we gives to the pigs.”

“Do you go to the same houses every day?” I asked.

“Why, you see, ma’am, that depends upon how much _refuge_ they have.
When they have lots of company, then they gets a deal of _refuge_.  I
have been to the Duke of —, whenever he has been in town, for the last
thirty years.  Last week one of his daughters was married, and the house
was full all the week; then there was plenty for me.  But, do you know,
ma’am, for all I’ve been in the habit of going backwards and forwards to
that house so many years, them servants, that they have now, never had
the manners to give me a bit of bridecake.  I couldn’t help speaking
about it.  I says to them, ‘Well, this _is_ something to think!  I have
been in attendance on the Duke this thirty years, and can’t get a bit of
bridecake when his daughter is married.’  Of course that wasn’t the
Duke’s fault, you see, ma’am; it was all a-hoeing to them servants.  When
the families goes out of town, the servants is put upon board wages, and
they skrimps and saves everything; we aint wanted to call then, ’cause
there’s not a scrap left for us.  Oh no, it aint no use then.”

Although, as years rolled on, London continued to come further out of
town, till those pig-feeders found themselves again surrounded by
streets, squares, and terraces, inhabited by the “quality,” little
attention was directed to the place, till the visitation of cholera in
1849.  Then the eyes of the newly arrived were opened, and many were
horrified at discerning what a plague-spot they had in their midst.

In one of the first numbers of Dickens’s “Household Words” the following
passages appeared, which at once brought the place into notice; and, both
in and out of Parliament, plans for its improvement were discussed:—

    “In a neighbourhood studded thickly with elegant villas and mansions,
    viz., Bayswater and Notting Hill, in the parish of Kensington, is a
    plague-spot, scarcely equalled for its insalubrity by any other in
    London; it is called the Potteries.  It comprises some seven or eight
    acres, with about two hundred and sixty houses (if the term can be
    applied to such hovels), and a population of nine hundred or one
    thousand.  The occupation of the inhabitants is principally
    pig-fattening.  Many hundreds of pigs, ducks, and fowls, are kept in
    an incredible state of filth.  Dogs abound, for the purpose of
    guarding the swine.  The atmosphere is still further polluted by the
    process of fat-boiling.  In these hovels, discontent, dirt, filth,
    and misery are unsurpassed by anything known even in Ireland.  Water
    is supplied to only a small number of the houses.  There are foul
    ditches, open sewers, and defective drains, smelling most
    offensively, and generating large quantities of poisonous gases;
    stagnant water is found at every turn; not a drop of clean water can
    be obtained; all is charged to saturation with putrescent matter.
    Wells have been sunk on some of the premises, but they have become in
    many instances useless, from organic matter soaking into them.  In
    some of the wells the water is perfectly black and fetid.  The paint
    on the window-frames has become black from the action of sulphuretted
    hydrogen gas.  Nearly all the inhabitants look unhealthy; the women
    especially complain of sickness and want of appetite, their eyes are
    sunken, and their skin shrivelled.

    “The poisonous influence of this pestilential locality extends far
    and wide.  Some twelve or thirteen hundred feet off, there is a row
    of clean houses called Crafton Terrace: the situation, though rather
    low, is open and airy.  On Saturday and Sunday, the 8th and 9th
    September 1849, the inhabitants complained of an intolerable stench,
    the wind then blowing directly upon the terrace from the Potteries.
    Up to this time, there had been no case of cholera among the
    inhabitants; but the next day the disease broke out virulently; and,
    on the following day, the 11th September, a child died of cholera at
    No. 1.  By the 22d of the same month, no less than seven persons in
    the terrace lost their lives by this fatal malady.”

It will be supposed that, after this, the law of self-preservation
induced the surrounding inhabitants to be very urgent with parochial and
all other officials who had any authority in the place.  In a short time
a good road was made, and supplies of fresh water were introduced.  The
drainage was found very difficult, from the low level of the ground; and
it certainly could not have been thoroughly completed; for in the Report
on the Sanitary Condition of the Parish of Kensington, for the year 1856,
by Francis Goderich, M.R.C.S., L.A.C., Medical Officer of Health, the
following passages appear:—

    “One of the most deplorable spots, not only in Kensington, but in the
    whole metropolis, is the Potteries at Notting Dale,—a locality which
    is from its position difficult to drain.  It occupies eight or nine
    acres of ground, and contains about 1000 inhabitants, the majority of
    whom obtain a living by rearing and fattening pigs upon the
    house-refuse obtained from club-houses and hotels, and upon offal,
    entrails, liver, and blood from slaughter-houses.  This offensive
    food, often in a high state of decomposition when brought to the
    place, is boiled down in coppers and the fat separated for sale.

    “The number of pigs varies from 1000 to 2000 (as many as 3000 have
    been kept), in filthy and badly-paved styes close to the houses.  The
    drainage, in nearly all cases very defective, permits the liquid
    manure to run over the yards, saturating the ground to a great depth,
    contaminating all the wells with putrid matter, and polluting the
    atmosphere for a considerable distance around.  There were, till
    lately, several immense accumulations of stagnant water, into which
    this pig matter found its way.  One immense piece, called the
    ‘Ocean,’ formerly occupied nearly an acre of ground; it was covered
    with filthy slime, and bubbling with poisonous gases, caused by the
    drainage of pigstyes, &c., flowing into it.  Till lately, the want of
    water was most severely felt by the inhabitants, and even now many of
    the yards in which the pigs are kept are entirely destitute of it.
    Many of the houses are in a most dilapidated state.  Old
    railway-carriages and worn-out travelling-vans may be seen taken off
    their wheels and converted into dwellings.

    “The people in general look sallow and aged; the children pale and
    flabby, their eyes glistening as if stimulated by ammonia.  Small-pox
    is ten times more fatal than in any of the surrounding districts.

    “The general death-rate varies from forty to sixty per 1000 per
    annum; of these deaths the very large proportion of 87.5 per cent.
    are under five years of age; and nearly all the deaths, I again
    observe, occur from zymotic diseases.  The most appalling fact,
    however, connected with this subject, and one most likely to make a
    deep sensation in the public mind, is, that for a period of three
    years the average age at death is under twelve years.”

After this, great efforts were made to get rid of “the swinish multitude”
altogether; but the shrewd chimney-sweep, Lake, seems to have foreseen
this evil day, and “for the purpose of pig-keeping” had been inserted in
the very leases which the people were able to produce; so that nothing
but a special Act of Parliament could remedy the existing evil.  The
number of animals was, however, somewhat reduced; and, by additional
drainage and further supplies of fresh water, a decided improvement has
been effected.  The inhabitants have become much healthier, and for the
last year or two the number of deaths has scarcely exceeded the common
average.

So much for the physical aspect of the district.  But another question
arises, fraught with still greater interest.  What has been done for the
people themselves?  Surely the moral as well as the physical drainer had
work to do here.  However scanty may have been the supply of fresh water,
the “water of life” was still more scarce.  The road to heaven, though it
had not to be made for them, had to be pointed out.  In the almost entire
absence of the observance of the Sabbath and of the means of grace, it is
not surprising that a generation should have grown up without God in the
world, and to all outward appearance as “far off by wicked works” as any
of the heathen nations.

When, however, the place began to be frequented by the district visitor,
it was found that a few, even there, had from the first feared and
honoured God, had kept His Sabbaths in spite of all opposition; and
though their cry had been, “Woe is me that I dwell in Meshec,” yet they
had held fast their integrity, and, in a few cases, had managed even to
establish in their families the daily reading of the Bible and united
prayer.  I have had the pleasure of conversing with some of these good
people; and it might as truly be said of their moral standing, as it was
of Saul’s natural height, that “from their shoulders and upwards” they
were higher than any of the people.

The first girls’ school in the Potteries was established through the
benevolent exertions of Lady Mary Fox.  Some time after its foundation, a
gentleman, who took a deep interest in the improvement of the district,
presented a plot of ground on which a spacious national school-room was
soon erected.  It was, and is still (1859), surrounded by pigstyes.  St
James’s Church was built in 1845, within a few minutes’ walk of these
school-rooms.

The first curate who was appointed entered at once upon his work in this
deplorably destitute district, and in spite of great difficulties, and
frequent failures of health, from exposure to damp and the horrible
pollutions and stench of the highways and byways, he has steadily worked
on for twelve years.  He has happily lived to see a great improvement
since he commenced his labours, and he has won the respect and affection
of the whole community.  The old woman, from whose conversation I have
before quoted, said, in speaking of him, “’Twas the best day that ever
rose in the Potteries, when he came amongst us; and, let who will come
after him, _he’ll_ never be forgotten.”

Another happy event was the appointment of a City Missionary, in the year
1850.  It was pre-eminently the missionary that those people required.
Their early habits, and also a spirit of lawlessness which seems one of
their natural characteristics, made it difficult to persuade them to
attend any place of worship.  They had, indeed, to be “sought out.”

It has been remarked of the people in the United States of America, that
they are all, to some extent, tinctured with the spirit of their early
founders.  The indomitable spirit, the resolution to conquer difficulties
at any cost, is traced back by some to “the Pilgrim Fathers.”  Those who
reason thus would perhaps think they could account in the same way for
that extraordinary spirit of independence which is so manifest in the
dispositions of the people of whom we are now writing.  The descendants
of Lake and Stephens would, if placed in the same difficulties,
undoubtedly exhibit the same ingenuity and resolution to extricate
themselves.  Another cause of this independence may be, that they have
remained very much their own masters.  Each man and woman seems to have
had so many pigs and children to rule over, and no one dared to
interfere.  This absence of service, each one having to think for
himself, and not to conform to the dictates of another, would also cause
unusual self-reliance.

Fortunately for this people, the missionary soon made himself thoroughly
acquainted with the soil he had come to cultivate, and was enabled so to
accommodate and adapt himself to its requirements, that very little time
was lost in getting to work.  Had the case been otherwise, years might
have passed in fruitless labour; but God gave to His servant a wise and
understanding heart, and by appearing to yield everything, he gained
everything.  Among the many triumphs of missionary work, the Potteries
must rank almost the highest.  A contrast more striking could scarcely be
imagined than that between the indifference, rudeness, and sometimes even
execration, with which his first visits were received, and the
spontaneous respect which is now paid to him by every man, woman, and
child.

But other agencies for good have also been at work.  The church and
congregation assembling at Horbury Chapel directed their kind sympathies,
and stretched out helping hands to cleanse this “Slough of Despond.”  A
room was first hired, in which to conduct a Sunday school; but this was
soon overfilled, and it was proposed to build a chapel and school-rooms.
By the exertion of kind and influential friends, the proposal was carried
out, and the building was opened in 1852.  An excellent master and
mistress for the schools were secured: it is not too much to say that
their influence for good is felt through the length and breadth of the
district.

I was present at a meeting held at Kensington Chapel some time since,
when a report of these schools was read.  In describing the first
gathering of the children, it was remarked that the scholars who
regularly attended soon became orderly and attentive; the annoyance which
was at first experienced arose not from them, but from the ragged,
neglected children without, who for a long time persisted in throwing
stones, breaking windows, persecuting the scholars as they came and
returned, and in other varieties of characteristic mischief.  From these
facts it was evident that while the “aristocracy” of the Potteries had
education provided for their children, there still existed an outlying
juvenile population of young Ishmaelites, to reach whom some other means
must be devised.  After a short time, a room was hired, and a Ragged
Evening School for girls was established; a Mothers’ Class soon followed,
then a Sunday Evening Ragged School for boys, a Working Men’s
Association, and other like institutions.  All these, from want of a
suitable place for assembling, were maintained with considerable
difficulty, and also with great expense.  This want continued to be so
increasingly felt, that in June 1855, a lady in the neighbourhood kindly
convened a meeting of influential ladies and gentlemen at her house, to
consider the possibility of erecting such a building.  At this meeting,
the following resolutions were unanimously carried:—

    “1st, That should such school-rooms be raised, they should be placed
    in trust of a committee of evangelical Christians, to consist of
    members of the Church of England and Dissenters in equal numbers.

    “2d, That they should be for the benefit of four chief objects:—the
    Boys’ Ragged School, the Girls’ Ragged School, the Infant School, and
    the Mothers’ Meetings.

    “3d, It is also considered important that the use of the building
    should be granted for lectures and for general educational purposes.
    The means of carrying out these resolutions are left for decision
    till a future meeting.”

Upwards of one hundred pounds were subscribed on this occasion; but,
though great exertions were made to obtain the requisite funds, it was
not until March 1858, that the committee considered they had a sufficient
amount in hand to warrant the prosecution of their design.  In the list
of contributors to the Building Fund will be found names of members of
the Established Church, the Society of Friends, Independents, Wesleyans,
and Baptists.  It is the determination of the committee to carry out the
first resolution in its strictest integrity, trusting that all the
members will be enabled to act in harmonious concert in the one grand
object of promoting the moral and religious training of the poor people
of the Potteries.  The Infant and Ragged School-rooms, erected under the
able direction of Mr Sim, the Honorary Architect, are remarkable alike
for simplicity of design, excellence of ventilation, and space.  They
were opened by Lord Shaftesbury in June.



CHAPTER II.
Illustrations of Character.


    “The same rains rain from heaven on all the forest trees;
    Yet those bring forth sweet fruits, and pois’nous berries these.”

                                                                   TRENCH.

IN my first visit to the Potteries, I was accompanied by the City
Missionary, who introduced me to some fourteen or sixteen families
residing there.

I was, as usual, at once impressed with the great deficiency of home
comforts; and the miserable countenances of many of the children told of
neglect and bad management more forcibly than words could have done.

I told them I had just come to reside near them, and I hoped we should be
good neighbours.  Like them, I was so occupied with my home duties, that
I feared I should not be able to visit them frequently; but it had
occurred to me, that if they could spare an hour one evening in the week,
I would try to do so also, and we would spend it together in conversing
over our various duties and difficulties, more especially those relating
to our children, and by this means I hoped we might mutually benefit each
other, as well as get more intimately acquainted.

This invitation was by no means warmly responded to at first, but it was
the first step taken towards the formation of the Kensington Potteries
Mothers’ Society.

One morning, a very decent elderly woman, whom I had seen at the Mothers’
Meetings, asked me to call upon her husband, who had not been able to
leave his house for some weeks, and was too ill to read.  In the
afternoon I went to the Potteries.  Fortunately, I met a boy of my
acquaintance in the street, and he conducted me to the dwelling, which,
with the direction given me that “it was in no street in particular,”
would have proved difficult to find.  I had to pass through a kind of
shed to reach the room in which this old couple lived; it was filled with
feeding-troughs, tubs, old hoops, and wheel-barrows.  I managed to steer
safely through all this, and ascended two or three steps into the one
chamber which served at once for bed-room, kitchen, and living-room.  The
man was sitting in a comfortable arm-chair by a neat little fire, and the
room was very clean.  His hair was perfectly white, and scantily covered
one of the finest-formed heads I have ever seen.  The features of his
face were of a very uncommon order, and everything marked him as one of
nature’s “men of power.”  He scarcely noticed me when I entered; but his
wife said, “This is the lady, John, as has the meeting.”  He said, “Oh,”
and gave me a kind of nod.  The woman seemed annoyed at his want of
cordiality, and said again, “John, I have told you about the lady often,
and I went myself this morning to ask her to come and see you.”

“I know,” was the laconic answer.

I saw the first advances must come from me, so I took a seat by him, and
said, “I am sorry to hear you have been suffering from illness so long.”

“I am seventy-five years old; I have hardly had any illness all my life;
I have done a deal of work, and God has been very good to me, and I am
not going to grumble at Him now for shutting me up a few months.”

“Your wife tells me you cannot read much, on account of your eyes; I
suppose you find the time a little tedious after the active life you have
led?”

“I shouldn’t find the time tedious at all, if we were only left to
ourselves.”  I looked to the wife for an explanation, and she said, “He
means, ma’am, that the neighbours hereabout annoy him so by their ways of
going on.”  This touched a theme upon which he could be eloquent.  He
began to tell me a great deal about the wickedness of his neighbours;
their desecration of the Sabbath seemed to vex him exceedingly.  He
complained that he could get no peace on the Sunday for the cries of
those who went about selling things; while the swarms of children that
came out to spend their halfpence that day shewed how wicked their
parents must be.  As I generally avoid talking of the faults of other
persons when visiting the poor, I said, wishing to change the subject,
“Well, we have so much to do with ourselves that we must not judge our
neighbours harshly.”  The old man looked indignantly at me, and
exclaimed, “Do you think if God was to call me away this instant, and I
had to go to be judged before His throne, and He was to tell me of all
the wicked ways I have seen going on before my eyes, and He was to say to
me, ‘Why did you see all that sin, and not reprove it?’ do you think He’d
take for excuse my saying, ‘that I oughtn’t to judge my neighbours
harshly?’  No; depend upon it, He’d hold me guilty for it.  He’d say,
‘You know’d better, and you ought to have cared for their souls, and told
’em of it.’  I have always been in the habit of reproving sin when I have
seen it, and I always shall.”

The character of Nehemiah came so forcibly into my mind while he was
speaking, that when he had ended I could not help remarking, “If you had
lived in the days of Nehemiah, I suppose you would not have disapproved
of what he did?  You know, he not only reproved the people, but he smote
certain of them, and plucked out their hair.”

“Ah!” said the old man, “he was in the right of it.  Whenever I reads
that, I always says, ‘Sarved ’em right.’  We want Nehemiahs bad enough
now-a-days,—people, I mean, as has got the courage to call things by
their right names.”

“But,” I replied, “we have a later example than Nehemiah to go by, and a
more perfect one.  Jesus did not reprove sin in this way.”—“He made a
whip of small cords and drove them all out of the temple, I know,” said
the old man.—“So He did once,” I said; “but a whip of small cords in the
hands of Jesus is a very different thing from what it would be in our
hands.”—“I don’t understand you,” was the rejoinder.—I explained, “Jesus
would only use it where and when it ought to be used, because He would
know the extent of the evil in every heart He had to do with; but we, who
can judge only after the outward appearance, might make mistakes, and
inflict a wound where we ought rather to have bound one up.”

He was silent a minute, and then, as if unable to keep in any longer what
had evidently been in his thoughts throughout, he said, “Ma’am, I’ve
often heard from my old ’ooman and the rest of ’em what you says to ’em
at the meetings, and it has been upon my mind, when I did see you, to
tell you I think, if you know’d more about some of ’em you get there, you
would be rather more sharp upon ’em than you are.”

“You mean, I suppose, that when I know of anything particularly wrong in
any of them, I ought to reprove them?”

“Why, yes.  You see, they look up to you a good deal; and, it seems to
me, you might do a power of good this way.”

“I think you do not take quite the right view of my position.  I do not
profess to come amongst them as a reprover of sin, and just to preach to
them about their duties; I really have no right to take such an office on
myself.  I want to help them, knowing that many of their mistakes arise
from ignorance.  Most of them come in after a hard day’s work, and much
suffering in body and mind from fatigue and anxiety; and while I know
much of that fatigue and anxiety might have been prevented, if they had
set about things in a right way instead of a wrong one, I feel the best
use I can make of the little time we have together is, to try to shew
them ‘a better way.’  We always begin with reading God’s holy Word, and
that is the best reprover of sin; for Paul says, you know, ‘I had not
known sin, except by the law.’  It was the _law_ that made sin appear to
him ‘exceeding sinful;’ and that is the effect I hope and pray it may
have upon us.”

“Well,” said the old man, “some of ’em is a deal better for going, I must
confess; but it ’pears to me you say things to them as if they were all
alike, whereas some of them is a deal wickeder than others.”

I saw it would be quite impossible to separate in the mind of this
veteran the offices of teacher of righteousness, and reprover of sin, or
to make him comprehend how many enemies I should make, and what confusion
there would be, if I adopted the course which he recommended.  So I just
remarked, “Well, you know I always ask God to give me a wise and
understanding heart before I go amongst them, and I hope I shall be
guided to do what is right.  If I could see into the heart as God can, I
might be able to adapt myself to individual cases; but as it is, I think
it would be a worse mistake to distress and vex, by unjust comments,
those already sufficiently weary and heavy laden.  Encouragement in a
right course will often do much more than finding fault with what is
wrong.  I believe, that whatever good has been done, has arisen from the
reading together of God’s Word; whether comfort, counsel, or reproof has
been wanted, they have come in this way, and the promise has been
fulfilled, ‘My word shall not return unto me void.’”

“Ah!” said he, “that blessed book!  I have lived in this place through a
dark time, and I am sure I can say that it has been ‘a light to my feet,
and a lamp to my path.’”  Just then a sad fit of coughing came on, which
seemed almost to deprive him of the power of breathing.  When it was
over, I said, “Do you often cough like that?”  “I often do in the night,”
he replied.  “I can never quite lie down; for if the cough were to come
on suddenly, I might be choked before I could be got up.  The doctor says
I shall go off in one of these fits some night.”

I asked the wife if any one was with them at night: she said, “Oh, no,
John isn’t never afraid.”  “The last thing that I and my old ’ooman does
at night,” added John, “is to kneel down and commend ourselves to God’s
keeping.  I said to her last night, after we had been praying, ‘Jane, if
I am sent for to-night, I am ready;’ and what it will be to leave this
poor place, and go right off at once to the mansion my Saviour has
provided for me!”

“Can you feel as trustful as your husband?” I asked Jane.

“Why, ma’am, I do try to, and I am as happy to think about heaven as he
is; but you see, ma’am, the thing I feel is, that we must die first
before we can go there, and death may be an awfuller thing than we think
for.”

“Jane,” cried her husband, in a reproving tone of voice, “how often I
have told you, that if death is to be a great trouble, then God is going
to send us great help for it.  He took care of me and helped me when I
was a strong man, and now that I am as feeble as a child, He will be
strength to me; and, Jane, I wish you would mind, that it isn’t any more
hard to God to help us out of great troubles than out of little uns.  You
wouldn’t believe, ma’am,” he continued, “how happy I am at night,
sometimes, when I am lying awake.  He makes me to feel that love and
trust in Him, that as sure as David I can say, ‘I fear no evil.’”

Blessed old man!  The little room, with its close atmosphere, and many
discomforts, seemed to me like the gate of heaven; and had he lived in
Old Testament days, his name might have ranked with them of whom it is
said, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but
having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them,
and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

A few months after I had established the Mothers’ Society, one of the
women brought a message from her husband, expressing his great wish to
see me.  I promised to call in the course of the week, and the next
afternoon I found my way to a little low dwelling, which was pointed out
to me as the residence I was seeking.  It consisted of only two rooms—one
in front, where the family seemed to live during the day, while that
behind served as a bed-room.  Three or four children were playing on the
floor; the mother was busy at her washing-tub; and near the fire sat the
husband, who, I saw, from his leather apron and the boot he held in his
hand, was a shoemaker.  The reception here was very different from the
one previously described.  When the wife announced me, the man rose from
his seat; and, as his height exceeded six feet, his head scarcely cleared
the ceiling.  His fine figure, the form of his head, and the expression
of his countenance, conveyed the idea that, had the man been born in a
different position, he might have risen to be Lord Chancellor.  After the
usual greeting, he said (still standing)—

“Madam, I have wanted to see you for some time past, to thank you for
what you have begun to do for us.  You have thought of what we want done
for us more than anything, and I hope, madam, you will go on with it; and
God will bless you for this work, and so shall many of us; for we often
think we might do better, if somebody would take the trouble to put us in
the way of it.”

I told him that I was quite rewarded for any trouble which I was taking,
by the pleasant friends I made.  When I was living in the country, I had
always been accustomed to a large number of poor friends; and since
coming to London, I had missed them very much.  I told him of a book
society that my brother and I had established in the village near our
house.  Twelve men, like himself, (I believe, four out of the twelve were
shoemakers,) each brought a book, and on the first day of the month each
man passed on his book to the member next on the list; and thus all had
the benefit of reading twelve books at the cost of one.  We had quarterly
meetings with these men, to converse about the books; I repeated to him
some of the observations they used to make, and I saw my listener was
much amused.

“Ah!” said he, “I lived in the country, too, before I came here; but
there was nothing of that sort going on there.  I wish there had; it
would have kept me out of a deal of mischief.  I have blessed God that
ever I came to this place; for though it is poor and dirty enough, I have
met the best friends here that I ever knew.”

He then gave me a long and interesting account of his previous life; how
he had early imbibed infidel principles from some of his companions, and
had gone on for years rather wishing them to be true than actually
believing them to be so.

“I couldn’t bear,” he said, “to think there was a God, or another life to
come after this; it made me so miserable.  I was obliged to try and get
rid of the thoughts as fast as they came; and then there was the people
as called themselves religious; I really couldn’t see that they were
better than those as didn’t say anything about it.  They liked eating,
and drinking, and pleasuring, just as much in their way as any one else;
and though we often heard that they talked about us in a way that shewed
they despised us, and thought themselves a deal better, that only made us
feel worse.  But since we have been here, some of the ladies as bring
round the tracts has stopped and talked to us sometimes in quite a
different sort of way, you know, ma’am.  One of them left me a tract to
read some time ago.  I couldn’t get this tract out of my mind after I had
read it.  There, whilst I was at work, it was lying on the bench, and I
kept looking into it again and again.  One day, while I was puzzling
about it, the missionary came in.  I soon saw he wasn’t like them
religious people I knew before, and I told him all that was in my mind:
and ’twas the best day of my life when I met with him; for he has helped
me to see things very different; and I bless God that ever he came here,
and so does many others beside me.”

“Well,” I said, “you can say you are a happier man now than ever you were
before, cannot you?”

“Yes, ma’am, thank God, I can trust Him for this life, and through my
blessed Saviour I have hope of a better life to come.”

I saw, by the thoughtful and earnest expression of his face, that the man
had still something on his mind; so I did not reply, but waited a minute.

“Do you know, ma’am,” he continued, “though God has been so good to me,
and has made me to see how He can and will save me, sinner though I am,
it do trouble me, and I can’t help it, to see so much confusion, like, in
this world.  Some people as isn’t worse than others, nor yet so bad,
seems to be always a-suffering; and little children too, it do grieve me
to see them suffer: and then you see, ma’am, what a place this very
‘Potteries’ is, to be in God’s world.”

“But,” I replied, “God did not make the Potteries what they are.  Some
sixty years ago, before any one lived here, the air was fresh and sweet;
flowers and trees were growing here; and it was altogether as pleasant a
place as any other portion of God’s dominions.”

“Well,” he said, “that’s true:” but the shade had not passed away from
his countenance.

“Do you know,” I continued, “it is one of the greatest troubles of my
life that I so often feel just what you describe.  It was only a short
time ago, I was walking in London; and as I turned into one of the back
streets, I saw a little boy sitting on a doorstep, with a baby in his
arms about five or six months old; as I passed by, the baby began to cry,
and the miserable expression of its little face, and the hopeless look of
its nurse, feeling so powerless to do anything to comfort it,—both little
faces looking already old from hunger, cold, and neglect,—so troubled me
that I could scarcely look at or enjoy anything while I was out.  In the
evening, after my own healthy, happy children were gone to bed, I was
sitting in my comfortable room by the cheerful fire, surrounded by
everything to make life comfortable and desirable; but instead of feeling
thankful for so many mercies, I sat and cried at the recollection of
those unhappy little children.”

“And did ye sure, ma’am?” said the man.  “Law! now, how we do feel alike
after all, when we come to know!  But I suppose, ma’am, that sort of
thing does not last long with you?”

“I remember, that evening at family prayer,” I continued, “the chapter
which was read had this verse in it: ‘Even so it is not the will of your
Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.’
I thought it was not my will, either; but there was this great
difference,—whatever God _willed_ He had the _power_ to do; that He had
sent His Son to die for the world, and these little creatures were part
of His world, and He would do with them just what is right.”

“Do you think, ma’am,” said the man, “that God is altogether angry with
us for this sort of feeling?  He must know that it is very difficult for
us to see so much misery, and not be troubled about it.”

“I do not think that is quite so clear,” I said, “as that He is pleased
with us for trusting Him entirely.  I think He has great sympathy with us
in the difficulty we have to contend with in this respect.  He says, ‘And
blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.’  Though He did not
blame Thomas for his unbelief, He said, ‘Blessed are they who have not
seen me, and yet have believed.’  Even a grain of faith is commended, and
spoken of as having much reward connected with it: and the apostle tells
us, ‘Cast not away, therefore, your confidence, which hath _great
recompense of reward_.’”

“Well, ma’am,” he replied, “I do pray for faith.  I do think it is a
glorious thing to be able to trust everything with God.  I says to myself
often, ‘There, wait a bit, and you’ll know.’”

I answered, “I once heard my dear mother talking to a person who troubled
himself very much about the management of God’s world.  She said, ‘I have
often compared our present condition to that of servants who might be
called into a great house to assist in performing some important work;
but instead of the same servants being employed throughout, each was
expected to work only one hour, and then to give place to others.  Of
course, from this circumstance, no one of them would be able to
understand the object and design of the work; these would only be known
to the master.  All that he required of them was, to do his bidding a
little while, and then to receive a great reward.  How foolish it would
be of those servants to go fretfully through their short period of
service, and dishonour their master by evil reports of what they could
not understand, and lose their reward at last!’”

“O ma’am,” said the man, “that is beautiful: it was never so plain to me
before.”

Just then the children, who had been sent out by their mother to play,
that they might not interrupt our conversation, returned; and, after
making a little acquaintance with them, I took my leave.  As I returned
home, I hoped that this pleasant interview might be the beginning of a
long friendship; but I never saw my friend again.  Only about a week from
that time, he was taken ill, and died a few days afterwards.  I did not
hear of his sickness in time to see him; but I heard that he died in
peace, trusting wholly in the Saviour.  How soon was the mystery, with
him, exchanged for perfect knowledge!  How soon was he admitted where
every tear shed, either for himself or others, was for ever wiped away;
while we, who tried even out of our own dimness and sorrow to enlighten
and comfort him, are still left to wonder and weep!

Foster, after the death of his wife, when writing to a friend, says,
referring to the years that may elapse before he may be permitted to join
her, “Does that to her appear a long time in prospect, or has she begun
to account of duration according to the great laws of eternity?  Earnest
imaginings and questionings like these arise without end, and still,
still there is no answer, no revelation.  The mind comes again and again
up closer to the thick black veil; but there is no perforation, no
glimpse.  She that loved me, and, I trust, loves me still, will not, must
not, cannot answer me.  I can only imagine her to say, ‘Come and see.
Serve our God, so that you shall come and share at no distant time.’”
And again, in another letter, he says, “How striking to think that _she_,
so long and so recently with me here, so beloved, but now so totally
withdrawn and absent, that she experimentally knows all that I am in vain
inquiring.”

The cottage of the communicative little old woman, to whom I am indebted
for so much of my information, was amongst the earliest erected in the
Potteries.  It must have been a picturesque object when the smoke first
curled from the low chimney across the verdant plain, where neither
villa, terrace, nor steeple were to be seen.  The Hippodrome was then on
the spot where the graceful church of Saint John’s now stands.
Travellers, who were in the habit of coming this way, tell us _that_ was
then the waymark, just as the church now seems to be the town-mark.

Not far from the Hippodrome stood “Tucker’s Cottage,” which an artist
thought sufficiently picturesque to transfer to his sketch-book.  The
reader may confirm this opinion on reference to my frontispiece.  This
interesting dwelling consisted of one floor, divided into two apartments,
one for the family, the other for domestic purposes and such animals as
were thought indispensable to the general welfare.  Before and behind was
an ample plot of ground, enclosed by a thick mound of earth that
resembled the outworks of a fortification.  The ground front was the
domain of poultry, pigs, and the donkey; in the rear stagnated a lake,
into which flowed the foul streams of the province.  The pond was
overhung with willow stumps, that assumed the title of trees.  Like a sea
far more famous, it had “no outlet but the ambient air.”  As years
passed, and the events previously described took place, this primeval
cottage was fast advancing to decay.  The roof and walls had been often
repaired with old pieces of board, condemned teatrays, plaster, and
similar rubbish; the windows had become opaque, and the chimney
transparent.  Various means had been adopted to prevent the downfall of
the whole house.  After a “stiffer breeze” than common, the little old
man might have been seen doctoring Jenny’s (the donkey’s) apartment, and
his own also.  But all his trouble and pains were unavailing.  The little
dwelling, which he and his “guidwife” had helped to rear with their own
hands, laughed at by the world, but endeared to them by the associations
of a lifetime, was sentenced by the Commissioners to be taken down; and
thus, just five years before the expiration of their lease, the venerable
pair were compelled, at a cost to themselves of thirty shillings (which
they could very ill afford), to pull down what remained of the old
fabric.  “Some natural tears they shed, but wiped them soon.”  Yes,
literally, they “wiped them soon;” for the poor old couple belonged to
the company of the faithful, who believe that “here they have no
continuing city, but seek one to come.”  It was “the Lord’s will,” they
said.  “He ordered all for the best.”  “The Master would soon call them
to a house not made with hands;” and so, without repining, they rented an
adjoining cottage.  Here the principal inconvenience was, that “grannie,”
in her old age, had scarcely room to stretch her weary limbs: so narrow
was the new domicile, that the chain of the faithful dog had to be
shortened, against his wishes; and the poor ducks and hens, accustomed to
a more ample domain, could scarcely find a roosting-place.

There is yet another member of this little family who must not be
forgotten.  A deaf and blind sister has long received shelter in this
humble home, where no charitable aid has entered, or parochial relief
intrudes.  Though feeling is the only avenue of access to this afflicted
one, she shares their family devotions.  The Bible is brought to her, and
she passes her hands over it, and then places them in the attitude of
prayer, in which she always keeps them a certain time.  After they
removed to their present habitation, this poor creature was much
perplexed at the loss of the old familiar turns and corners by which she
had been accustomed to feel her way about.  The only way in which they
could comfort her, was to bring to her the Word that “endureth for ever,”
pass her hands over it, and lift them up to heaven.

It is not unusual to find persons of determined character holding
peculiar sentiments, and very dogmatical in the expression of them.  With
significant nods and wise shakes of the head, you may frequently hear
this worthy couple saying, that “man can do nothing towards converting
himself—no, nothing.  You may as well tell me to mount up to the sky, as
that man can think one good thought of himself, or do one right action.”

The old woman entertains a very high respect for the excellent curate we
have before mentioned.  Once, on detecting herself speaking more highly
of him and his work than was consistent with her principles of the
“creature being nothing,” she qualified her praise by saying, “He was
able to do all this, because the Lord’s time was come; he wouldn’t have
done nothing without that, d’ye see, ma’am.”

I spoke to her once about some plans of my own, by which I hoped to
effect some improvement.  “Well, ma’am,” she said, “if the Lord’s time is
come for it, you’ll do it; and if it isn’t, you won’t.  He’ll stop you
up, or let you go on, just as He sees fit.  I don’t trouble so much as
some people do about trying to alter things, and make ’em better; for I
know the Lord have planned it all out, and He’ll do it just as He likes.”

Although they have the greatest respect for the whole of God’s Word, yet
some portions of it are much more frequently quoted and dwelt upon than
others.  “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me
draw him,” seems to have made a greater impression than, “Him that cometh
to me, I will in no wise cast out.”

Divine grace sanctifies the natural disposition, but it does not entirely
alter it; and we can often trace an intimate connexion between character
and creed.  The opposition which these good people had experienced had
tended to strengthen a severity natural to them.  How different were
these impressions of truth from those of the kind-hearted man previously
described, who “would have all men to be saved,” and could scarcely bring
his mind to acquiesce in any wish short of that.  There are few
Christians to be met with who are not more deeply impressed with one form
or phase of truth than another.  Nor is this to be regretted, if we can
only meet on the common ground of “love to Him who has died for us.”  In
the words of one of the most popular preachers of the present day,
“Supposing the Spirit of truth to descend upon the earth, would He
anywhere find a temple erected to Himself, of which He could take
possession and say, ‘This is mine?’  No; but He would go from one
building to another, and see here a _stone_ that He could claim as His
own, and there another, and we should hear Him saying, ‘The materials for
my temple are now scattered, though most of them are to be found even
here; but the day is coming when I will collect them together, and _My
temple shall stand upon the earth_.’”

In the sketches of character thus presented, there is no intention of
conveying the idea that the inhabitants of the Potteries generally answer
to this description.  The object has been to shew that, in the midst of
every disadvantage, and surrounded by all incentives to evil, God has had
His own people, and has given them grace to persevere to the end.

To such as have accustomed themselves to look down upon this place as a
plague-spot—a pest that we should be well rid of, this narrative will
shew that there is good material to be picked out of the rubbish, and
that even the rubbish itself may be capable of conversion into good
material.  In talking to policemen, I have more than once heard them say,
“We hardly ever take up any of the Pottery people for theft; they are
known amongst us to be honest and industrious.  Our work lies among the
Irish.  We have very little to do with the Pottery people; and if it were
not for the DRINK, we should have _nothing_ to do with them.”



CHAPTER III.
Slow Advancing.


    “You talk about sending black coats among the Indians; now we have no
    such poor children among us; we have no such drunkards or people who
    abuse the Great Spirit.  Indians dare not do so.  They pray to the
    Great Spirit, and He is kind to them.  Now, we think it would be
    better for you teachers all to stay at home, and go to work right
    here in your own streets, where all your good work is wanted.  This
    is my advice.  I would rather not say any more.”—_Extract from Speech
    of the Chief of the Ojibbeway Indians_.

AH this drink, this terrible drink, which still goes on slaying its
thousands and tens of thousands!  No wonder that indignation has been so
roused against it, that many have banished it from their tables, and even
from their houses!  Our poor Potteries have endured a full share of the
misery and destruction that ever follow it.

During the summer the brickmaker, with the assistance of the elder
members of his family, sometimes earns between £2 and £3 per week.  One
man informed me that he and his family had earned £2, 18s. nearly every
week through the season; and yet that man’s wife and three children were
shivering at my door, one bitterly cold morning in December, and begging
for food and clothing.  The effects of the hard work and hard drinking
had been to bring on a terrible illness, and not a sixpence was left of
all the money which they had earned “when the sun was shining.”  After
enduring privation and suffering too terrible to contemplate, the man and
one of the children died, and the poor widow with the remaining children
went to the workhouse.

Were it not for this inveterate habit of drinking, few places would be
more independent of help from without than the Potteries; but long habits
of intemperance have so impoverished the people, that few can now afford
to _buy_ the pigs for themselves; they therefore fatten them “upon
commission,” and in this way can gain only a miserable livelihood.
Considerable sums of money, however, may be still earned by those who are
careful and prudent, both by pig-feeding and brick-making.  The latter
work is not constant, but can be procured at only one particular time of
the year.  Hence in the course of the same year may be seen, in the same
family, the extreme of prodigality and destitution.  The effect of an
increased income, generally, is that more money goes to the public-house,
and the future is still unprovided for.  I have often told these
labourers that their memories seemed much shorter than the bees’, birds’,
and ants’.  These little creatures never forget that winter will return,
and make the most ample provision for it.  But any stranger would think
that the present was the first winter which these human beings had ever
known; that it had come upon them unexpectedly, and found them unprepared
for it.

The only means by which many of them get food for the winter is by
pawning the little furniture that they have, or by “going on tick,”—in
other words, by getting trusted at the shops.  Those, however, who manage
to pay for their things as they buy them, do it in such a manner as to be
little better off than under the “tick” system.  The child is sometimes
sent to the shop three times a-day, to obtain the supplies for each meal
as it is wanted.  Of course, the shopkeeper cannot give so much time,
paper, and string without being paid for them.  After a careful
calculation, I feel convinced that, whether the poor man’s wants are
supplied through the “tick system,” or the “hand-to-mouth” system, in
either case he gets the value of only fourteen shillings for his pound.
This proves the justice of the saying, that poverty perpetuates itself.

The winter of 1856–57 was one of unusual distress.  Less casual work than
usual turned up in the neighbourhood; and had it not been that several of
the women found employment as charwomen and laundresses, many would have
had no resource but the workhouse.

When the mother has to go out to work that she may obtain the necessary
food for herself and children, the effects to the family are often most
disastrous.  On her return, wearied out in earning her hard-won
half-crown, she finds that the baby has been crying for hours (as well it
might, poor thing!); that another child has been scalded by hot water
from the kettle; that another, perhaps, has wandered away, and has not
come home, and that she herself must go and seek for it; while the
“little girl” left in charge of the whole is severely scolded, if not
beaten, for her many shortcomings.  In the midst of all these annoyances,
the father returns for the hundredth time, without having found work,
exhausted and footsore in his fruitless search; and, sorer still in
spirit, as he feels that he is not wanted in the world, that the
labour-market has no demand for him, he enters the wretched hovel which
he is obliged to call “home.”  He hears the crying of the children, the
scolding of the mother; and sees everywhere the destruction which
children left to themselves will cause.  The wife throws her half-crown
at him as he enters, crying, “There! much good may that do yer.  Here’s a
shilling’s worth of things broke,—Johnny’s coat is burnt, and Sally’s
pinafore; the children have eat up the tea out of the paper; and yer’ll
have to pay for a sight o’ doctoring afore this scalded leg is well.”  A
man already angry would, with less aggravation than this, return railing
for railing; and so the angry words are given back again with interest.
Blows occasionally follow, according to the temper of the moment,
sometimes inflicted on the provoking wife, sometimes on the poor victim
whose negligence is supposed to have caused all these misfortunes.  The
cravings of hunger oblige some one at last to pick up the half-crown, and
“the girl” is despatched with many threats to the nearest places where
bread and cheese and porter can be procured, and charged at the same time
to get “two penn’orth of gin,” to give to the baby to make it sleep.
This expensive food consumes the greater part of the half-crown.  Three
pennyworth of bread, two pennyworth of vegetables, two pennyworth of
barley or rice, and four pennyworth of meat _well cooked_ would have
supplied all the family with a good nourishing supper, leaving something
for the mid-day meal of the morrow; but there has been no one at home to
cook, and in their excited and miserable state it is not food they care
for, so much as something that will dim the perception of their extreme
wretchedness—anything that will make them sleep and forget.  So they
drink the porter, and the baby has the gin, and, in spite of the moan of
the scalded child, they sleep; but in such an atmosphere, surrounded with
such dirt within and stench without, that should they all awake with
burning fever the next morning, no one can wonder.  They tell me that, on
the mornings after such nights, they suffer from intense depression, so
much so, that whatever remains of the half-crown is spent on drink, in
order to drag themselves up to a repetition of their daily toil.

Now, the earnings of the family just described (for I have drawn a
picture from real life) averaged for five months in the summer £2, 10s.
per week.  They could, of course, have lived very well upon twenty-five
shillings.  If we reckon ten shillings for paying off old scores, buying
new clothes, furniture, and sundries, there would still be fifteen
shillings left, which might have been put into the Savings’ Bank to meet
the demands of the ensuing winter.  But instead of doing this, the man in
his distress confessed to me, that the cost of what he and his wife drank
each week of their prosperity would amount to at least a pound.  The
usual quantity of beer that a brickmaker takes during the hours of work
is seven pints.  This expenditure is looked upon simply as necessary: and
when money is plentiful, there must be the drinking for luxury as well as
necessity.

The only excuse which can be made for this recklessness is that the toil
of the brickmaker is excessive.  In the summer, he is expected to work
from four or five o’clock in the morning till eight o’clock in the
evening.  This pressure of work necessitates the drying of sand on Sunday
for the next week’s work.  The Sabbath is no day of rest to him.  He is
expected even on that day, and during his short night, to be watchful
over the bricks, and cover them up on the approach of rain.  Should he
oversleep himself, (which is at least possible after such a day’s work,)
or be away at a place of worship on a Sunday, and the bricks in the
meantime be injured by wet, he would lose some part of his wages, of
which a portion is always kept back by the master.

I had a conversation, recently, with a man who has for the last seven or
eight years acted as a kind of leader in a brick-field.  During all this
time he has been a “teetotaller;” and though his work has been as hard as
that of any man in the field, and sometimes even harder, he is in
perfectly good health, and what is still more unusual, retains the full
possession of his intellectual faculties.  I say, unusual; for in most
cases when this hard work is accompanied with hard drinking, the
brickmaker does actually very nearly realise the old woman’s
complimentary description of, “He has no more sense than the clay he
works on.”  His life thus literally resembles that of the brute: every
bone, muscle, and sinew is exerted to its utmost extent.  The only change
from work is eating, drinking, and sleeping; and when this has gone on
for several years, all intellectual power seems extinct.

The man to whom I have just referred has for some years past rented a
house near the Potteries, for which he pays seven shillings per week.
The eldest girl, now fourteen years old, has been in a place for the last
four years, and is so fond of it, (the father tells me,) that when she
comes home for a holiday, nothing can induce her to stay a minute beyond
the time appointed for her return.

“I got a holiday,” said he, “last autumn, and I took my wife and children
to the Crystal Palace.  We had a beautiful day there, and see’d enough in
that little time to give us something to talk about ever since.  The only
trouble we had was, my girl was in a kind of a fidget, for fear she
shouldn’t get back to her place in time.”

I asked this man a great many questions about his mode of life.  He
said:—

“Our trade would do very well, if it wasn’t for the number of hours we
have to work, and if we could get our Sundays to ourselves.  There is
just now a strike among the men; they want to get sixpence a thousand
more upon the bricks than they at present receive: and as I know how to
reckon very well, I know that the masters could give us that, and still
get a handsome profit for themselves.  If we could get that, then we
should only work from six to six; and we shouldn’t, in that case, have to
dry our sand on Sundays; we could then get all that we wanted ready on
Saturday evening.  I don’t hold with these strikes, ma’am; they are not
the right sort of thing.  It isn’t much use, either, for men to stand out
against their masters; for until they have learnt to save money, they
can’t hold out no time hardly without hurting themselves dreadful.  The
day the men turned out, a gentleman was riding by, and he stopped and
asked me what it was all about; and so I told him.  He says to me, ‘Do
you take any part in it?’  And I says, ‘No, sir, I don’t feel comfortable
about it at all; but, sir, for all that I don’t like this _way_ of doing
it, I don’t think the men are asking for more than they should; they only
want the masters to be as considerate of them as they are of their
horses.’  ‘What do you mean?’ the gentleman says.  ‘Why, sir, I mean
this, that the horse employed in our brick-field is brought in at six
o’clock in the morning, he has a proper time for rest in the day, and he
is always taken off again at six in the evening; but the men must work
fifteen and sixteen hours to get a living out of it; and this hurts their
bodies and souls too, sir; for it isn’t many men can think much as works
like that.  I am a stronger man than most, sir, and I save myself a deal
by not drinking; but it hurts me, I find, and as soon as I can get a
little money in hand, I shall try and get out of it, and take to selling
coals, or something of that kind.’  You know, ma’am,” the man continued,
“I think over all these things a deal, and I do wish masters would listen
to what we have got to say; for though we ain’t so wise, like, as they
are, we think we could make some things plainer to them.  When this was
first talked of among the men, I did wish master would let me talk to him
about it.  I think, if he would have heard how we ’splained all, things
wouldn’t have been as they are now.  It seems to me, that God have
planned out this world for us all to depend upon one another, and we
ought never to stand to one another as we do now.  You know, ma’am, when
we working-men look at all these fine houses and gardens about, and see
all the fine furniture that goes into them, we know that it is all done
by our labour, and that the great people couldn’t do without us, any more
than we could do without them.  And it do seem to me, the world would be
a deal happier, and better, too, than it is, if we felt that sort of
thing to one another; felt, I mean, that we were all wanted, like, to
make the world go on right.”

I told him, I thought many masters of the present day felt just what he
said, and honoured and valued their servants, and wished very much that
they should have proper time for improving themselves, and making their
own homes comfortable; “but,” I said, “you know as well as I do, that
when men _get_ this time, they do not always make a right use of it.”

“Ah, that’s how it is, you see, ma’am; and I am always a-telling ’em how
they do stand in their own way, and hurt theirselves.  Though we can’t
have everything we want to get, there is a good many of ’em needn’t be
half so bad off as they are; but you see, ma’am, there is a great deal of
bad management at home, sometimes, and that always keeps a man down.  I
have looked after this thing so long, that I can pretty well tell whether
a man has got a good home or not, afore I ask him.  He always holds up
his head, and doesn’t seem afraid of anybody; and if things do go cross
with him, he does not get reckless, like, about it, and he takes the
world kinder, like, than other people.  I am so thankful to have this
nice place to myself here, and to be able to send my children to school,
and see ’em growing up the right way, that I never envies nobody.  If
master were to offer me his carriage, and to change places with him, I
wouldn’t; for I know I’m happy now, and I mightn’t be then.”

I asked him what he supposed to be the cause why so many working-men had
such wretched homes.

“Why, ma’am,” he answered, “there is so many things, I hardly know what
to say.  The drink seems the chief thing; but there is many a man that
wouldn’t drink, if he could bear himself without it.  There are so many
women who don’t seem to know how to manage no more than nothing; and when
_they_ take to drinking and going to the pawn-shop, then there is nothing
but misery for them all.  There’s many a woman in our place who has only
one decent gown, and that’s most always in the pawn-shop; she just gets
it out of a Saturday night, when the money comes in, and by Monday
sometimes the money is a’most gone, and she puts it in again.  Some of
our poor fellows have got but one shirt; and I have known a man give it
to his wife on Monday morning to wash, and she has taken it off to the
pawn-shop, and got some drink with the money she got.  Sometimes when the
wife does try to go on right, the man don’t; he takes to all the bad
ways, and leads her a dog’s life: it is only when they both pull one way
that it all goes right.”

After the distress of the winter, to which I have before referred, I
thought it a good time to endeavour to make some impression upon them as
to the urgent necessity of making provision for the future, so that there
might not be a constant repetition of such terrible calamities.  I
therefore addressed the following letter to them, and sent a copy to each
man in the Potteries:—

                             “TO THE WORKING-MEN
                                    OF THE
                            KENSINGTON POTTERIES.

    “MY DEAR FRIENDS,—

    “I have seen with much concern and sorrow, during the past winter,
    how greatly most of you have suffered.  Work has been unusually
    scarce and difficult to obtain, and you have found it almost
    impossible to maintain your families in any degree of comfort.
    Perhaps you have been tempted sometimes to look with envy on your
    richer neighbours, and have thought that they cared nothing for all
    your sorrow and suffering; but, indeed, many of them have cared a
    great deal about it, and have talked over it, and have tried to think
    of some means to prevent this sad state of things from happening so
    often.

    “Some of you think, I dare say, that rich people should help you, by
    giving you more of their money; and so they should, perhaps, in times
    of sickness and calamity: but I have watched these things now for
    many years, and I have not observed that those do best who have most
    given to them; but the prosperous people are generally those who
    resolutely set about to help themselves.

    “Now, we have been thinking over various ways by which you could do
    this better than you have hitherto done; and one thing that has
    occurred to us is, that as many of you earn more money in the summer
    than you actually need to spend, it would be a good plan to put by
    some of it for your use during the winter.  We all find it very
    difficult to take care of our money ourselves, and most of us have
    recourse to some bank or other to take care of it for us.  It is much
    to be regretted that there is no Savings’ Bank in this neighbourhood
    nearer than Kensington, and it would take up too much of your time to
    carry your money there often.  The excellent Penny Savings’ Bank
    established at the Notting Dale School-room is most valuable, but it
    at present confines itself to rather small sums of money; and some of
    you—young men especially, who have not yet begun the expense of
    housekeeping—could, with good management, save a considerable sum of
    money every week.  If young men only knew what future misery,
    degradation, and sorrow they would save themselves by being
    determined not to involve themselves in the expense of a family until
    they had at least fifty pounds in the Savings’ Bank, I am sure they
    would try hard for it

    “It would give me much pleasure to do something to help you over this
    difficulty; and if you do not object to trust me with your money, I
    propose being at the Infant School-room, Princes’ Place, every
    Saturday evening, from eight till nine o’clock, to receive from you
    any sum you may have to spare from your weekly earnings.  You would
    have a little book in which to keep your own account, which you could
    at any time compare with mine.  One of your kind friends in this
    neighbourhood, Mr —, has kindly consented to take care of the money.
    By giving a week’s notice, you can have out what you put in, at any
    time you like.

    “I think I can tell you of one way that would enable you to save a
    good deal of money.  There are thousands of workmen in this country
    who are doing some of the hardest work that is ever done, such as
    working at iron-foundries, &c., and who do it all without the aid of
    intoxicating drink.  With the money thus saved they are able to get
    better food, better clothing, and more comfortable homes; and,
    consequently, are better, stronger, and happier.  I wish very much
    that you would give this a trial.  At the end of the week, you can
    reckon how much you usually spend upon drink, and can bring that sum
    to me.  I am sure you would feel the benefit of it in the winter.  I
    have the pleasure of meeting some of your wives every week, and then
    we talk a great deal about the best means of making your homes
    comfortable; but the wife cannot do it all alone: it is her place to
    learn to lay out the money to the best possible advantage,—it is
    yours to obtain it; and it is when both husband and wife act wisely
    and well, that the family is usually prosperous and happy.

    “But above all these things I have mentioned, I want you to be in
    earnest in seeking to obtain God’s blessing upon all you do.  ‘Seek
    first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things
    shall be added unto you.’  Perhaps you think you should like to have
    the good things promised without the trouble of seeking God; but
    those who have tried, those who have really sought God, and found
    Him, tell us that this is the best part of it, and that they would
    rather give up every earthly possession than live again without God
    in the world.

    “You know, when Jesus came from heaven, He did not settle Himself in
    a grand house, and have a number of people to wait upon Him; but He,
    as the reputed son of a carpenter, worked as you do for the supply of
    His own wants, and spent a great deal of time, besides, in helping
    those who wanted help.  However poor or neglected you may be, you
    cannot be more so than Jesus was.  I do not know of anything so
    likely to cheer you in your daily toil, as to remember that God cares
    for you; that He is watching you, and inviting you to come to Him,
    weary and heavy laden as you are, and He will give you rest.  I wish
    you would come to this kind Friend every day, and ask Him to make you
    wise to know how to manage your worldly affairs aright; and ask Him
    to make you holy, that your worst enemy, sin, may not triumph over
    you.  Ask Him to make you fit for that ‘beautiful world He has gone
    to prepare;’ so that when you have accomplished, as an hireling, your
    day, and finished the work He has given you to do, you may find an
    entrance into that kingdom, which is not meat and drink, ‘but
    righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’

    “I hope to meet many of you at the Infant Schoolroom, Princes’ Place,
    on Saturday, the 1st of May.  I intend to be there about a quarter
    before eight o’clock; and if I can help you in this or in any other
    way, it will give me much pleasure.

                                    “I am,

                                                    “Your sincere friend.”

It did not surprise me at all, that for some weeks this letter seemed to
be taken no notice of.  I went regularly to the place appointed, but no
one came.  Among other reasons, no doubt the calamities of the past
winter had involved in debt nearly all of those to whom I had written,
and the money for the first few months after they obtained work went to
pay off old scores.  But the principal obstacle was, that where people
have been so little accustomed to think and reason, any new proposition
would, in the first place, take some time to be comprehended; and then,
as the safety of their money was involved in the plan, it would require
to be received with great caution.  When a month had passed, a few began
to bring me small sums.  I had no large depositors during the summer, and
the whole of my receipts did not amount to more than £25.  This, however,
was a beginning; and as the men received their money back again in the
winter, several of them remarked that it was “all as if it was given
them; the bits of money would all have been gone, if they had not been
saved up in this way.”

I found that a few of them had previously made some attempts at saving
money, and were much disappointed at the result.  One woman told me she
had once with great difficulty managed to save up seven pounds; one day,
when she was absent, her little room was broken into, and all the money
stolen.  They said they were too far off either from Kensington or
Paddington Savings’ Bank to deposit their money there; and “as to keeping
it in their own places, that was impossible,—_it never kept there_.”

A ragged boy, about thirteen years of age, came to the school-room one
evening, bringing a penny which he asked me to keep for him; and said, if
I would come for it, he would bring a penny there every evening.  I told
him I had not time to do that; but if he would take care of it through
the week, I should be glad to receive sevenpence from him every Monday
evening.  He said he couldn’t do that; for if he had it in his pocket, he
should play pitch and toss with it.  I told him, if he would bring it in
the dinner-hour, the Infant School teacher would be so kind as to take
care of it for him till the night came for paying it in.  This he agreed
to do.  I asked him how it was he had just the penny every day to save.
He said he was earning ninepence a-day then; and that he told his mother
he earned only eightpence, and so saved a penny for himself.  I said,
“You shouldn’t do it in that way.  I dare say, if you told your mother
you wanted to save a penny a-day, she would not object to it.”

“Tell my mother, indeed!” said the boy.  “Oh yes! and take her a stick at
the same time to beat me with; and then it would be the sooner over.”

He then asked me what I meant to do with all the money he brought me, or
rather meant to bring me.

“I shall put it in my desk, and take care of it till you want it.”

“But supposing now I should die, what would you do with it then?”

“Well, I have not thought of that.  I hope you will live, and make a good
use of the money.”

“But suppose I don’t?”

“Well, when you have saved two or three shillings, you can make your
will, if you like, and leave it to somebody.”

“But I can’t write, and I’ve heard as how wills is ‘allus writed.’”

“Then you had better come to the Ragged School, as soon as it is opened,
and learn.”

“Well, I think I will.  I have heard it takes a sight o’ money to bury
anybody.  If I should die afore I can write, you can spend the money for
that.”

“Very well; but I hope you will live and learn to read and write, and
grow up to be a clever and good man.”

“And do yer now?” said he, walking off with one of those inimitable
whistles peculiar to ragged boys.



CHAPTER IV.
Sowing Seed.


    “Some say man has no hurts, some seek them to reveal,
    And to exasperate some, and some to hide and heal.”

                                                                   TRENCH.

A LITTLE before Christmas I received an intimation through the women whom
I used to meet, that their husbands would be glad to talk with me, if I
would give them an opportunity for that purpose.  I fixed an evening, and
sixteen men came.  They told me they had been thinking a great deal about
the bad management of their affairs generally, and especially about their
habit of buying everything at a great disadvantage; that they wished very
much they could see their way to do better.  One man had a copy of the
rules of a Loan Society which had worked very well in other places, and
might be a great help to them.  They would require assistance from some
of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood to help them to start it.  This
they asked me to obtain for them, and also the use of the school-room,
where they might make their payments; since, if they had to go to a
public-house for this purpose, they might as well abandon all thought of
saving.  Two or three of the men told me they wanted, in some quiet way,
to learn to read and write better; for though, when they were asked, they
said they could do both, yet they could do neither well enough for the
occupation to be pleasant to them.  I knew what they meant by the “quiet
way:” men have a great dislike to learning as children, or with children.
I told them, as to the writing, the best thing they could do would be to
save a few sixpences, and buy some of Darnell’s copy-books.  Any man
might teach himself to write well from them, with no other assistance
than just being told how to hold his pen.  Good reading, too, they might
acquire by constant practice and listening to others who could read
better than they.

This last observation opened the way for me to introduce another subject.
I told them that, before we separated, I wished to read a chapter in the
Bible.  Though we differed in many other respects, we were all alike in
this, that each needed God’s teaching; and if we expected any of our
plans for improving our condition in life to be successful, we must ask
God’s guidance in making the plans, and His blessing in carrying them
out.  One of the men immediately got up and brought me a Bible, adding,
“Now we shall be all right.”  This man was a great professor of religion,
but I knew, alas! not always a consistent one; and I saw the scornful
curl of the lip directed against him from some of his comrades.  Out of
these sixteen men a great variety of creeds might have been collected.
One or two of my listeners were stanch Baptists; about the same number
were Wesleyans; one, I believe, was in the habit of attending the Church:
but those who had hitherto taken the leading part in the conversation
were men who have always a great deal to say against “parsons;” who use
the word “humbug” more frequently than any other in reference to anything
of a religious nature.  Most of the rest belonged to a very numerous
class; more numerous among working-men than is generally supposed.  They
might be styled Gallios; for they professedly, at least, “cared for none
of these things.”

I felt the difficulty of suiting such an audience, and as I turned over
the pages of the book, had to encourage myself by the thought, “Never
mind; it is God’s Word, and not yours.”  I began by saying that amongst
the many different characters who came to Jesus, when He was upon earth,
there was one in particular, mentioned in the 3d chapter of St John,
whose history would interest us.  He differed from others in this
respect, that he was not a poor man.  He was a Ruler among the Jews,—a
master of Israel; but that did not much signify, since we need in our
smaller affairs the same wisdom that he was seeking to enable him to be a
better Ruler.

Now, though this man wished to be wiser and better, he thought it would
never do for the people, who looked up to him as their Ruler and Guide,
to see him going to Jesus to be taught just like any common man; so at
last he thought of the plan of seeing Jesus by night.  In this way, he
hoped he should get what he wanted, without making his visit known to
other people.  Many teachers would have said, “Well, as you are ashamed
to be _seen_ coming to me, you had better not come at all.”  But Jesus
did not think of the affront put upon Himself; He only saw before Him a
man whose heart was not right with God, who was not safe for heaven.  I
dare say, too, that as Jesus knew all that was passing in the mind of
this Ruler, He knew that he had not come to Him for heavenly knowledge
only.  He rather perhaps wished to learn from Jesus some arts of
government, by which he could obtain a greater influence over the people.
He would have liked to have known how long the Jews were to be in
subjection to the Romans, and many other things of that kind.  But Jesus
had made this man’s soul, and knew its worth; knew it as a fact that it
must live for ever, and that, if He helped him now to gain or to govern
the whole world, it would be of some little use to him for a few
prosperous years, and then would come the blackness of darkness for ever.
Therefore, without taking any notice of Nicodemus’s compliments, whatever
they may have meant, He lost not a moment in announcing to His wondering
disciple the great and solemn truth, “Ye must be born again.”

After explaining this to them as well as I could, together with a few of
the following verses, we came to the words,—“And as Moses lifted up the
serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up.”  I
turned to the chapter in Numbers, giving the account of this.  From the
intense interest with which these men listened to this simply as a
narrative, I was led to suppose that to some of them it might be new.  I
told them I once saw a picture of this extraordinary story.  In one
corner of the picture was the pole with the serpent lifted upon it.
Strong men, women, and little children were there; some in great agony,
as if just bitten; others perfectly prostrate, with the hue of death upon
their faces.  Mothers were standing with little children in their arms,
trying to raise the head that seemed to have drooped in death, and to
rouse it just for one look.  But that which struck me most was the figure
of a man standing before an apparently dying woman.  He had something in
his hand, to which he endeavoured to draw her attention; and his figure
was placed exactly between her and the brazen serpent, so that without
stretching her head either to the one side or the other, she could not
see the object from which alone she was to derive life.  The artist had
made it appear that, with the little dying strength which remained, she
was trying to move herself out of the way of this hindrance; and as I
continued to look at the picture, so strongly was I impressed, that I
felt myself saying, “This man _must_ be got out of the way, or she will
die.”

“In thinking over this afterwards,” I continued, “it occurred to me that
there were many _now_ acting the part of this cruel man.  All teachers of
error resemble him.  Those lecturers, whom some of you men hear
occasionally, and who tell you to believe in nothing you cannot see,—that
as to your being bitten with the old serpent, _sin_, it is all a fiction,
although, even whilst you are listening, you can hardly be still for the
agony which the bites have inflicted; the Roman Catholic priest, too, who
comes and tells us we need not _look for ourselves_, that his looking for
us, or the intercession of the Virgin Mary, will do equally well—that at
any rate we need not trouble _ourselves_,—are like this man in the
picture.  Then you yourselves sometimes stand in one another’s way; and
when you see any eye directed aright, instead of removing all
impediments, you rather, by your jesting, ridicule, and banter, cause the
eye to be turned away.  And what is it turned to?  It just goes back to
the old dreary state of ‘seeking rest, and finding none.’  Nothing ever
strikes me so much in false teaching as its cruelty.  These
self-constituted leaders will see you suffer without relief, knowing,
too, that bad as it is, this is only the beginning of suffering, they
will still interpose themselves and their false doctrines between you and
the look that would bring such healing and joy as you have never known
before.  It is something like this:—Suppose there was but one large
fountain of water in the street from which the inhabitants could obtain
their supplies, and that this fountain was in the keeping of one person,
whose duty it was to open it to all who applied, and to allow them to
help themselves as freely as they pleased; suppose, then, that instead of
aiding you to fill your pitcher, he exercised a great deal of ingenuity
in persuading you that if you carried it to the top of Notting Hill, or
over to Kensington, perhaps you would get water which would answer your
purpose much better—that the wells there had been more recently dug—that
the water there would suit your particular constitution better; that he
said anything, rather than allow you to supply your wants in the most
simple and direct way—in the way intended and provided by one who really
did know exactly what was adapted for you.

“I should be sorry to undertake to persuade any of you to go this
round-about way to supply your wants.  Your own good sense would be
stronger than any arguments I could possibly use.  You would say, ‘It has
answered the purpose for years past, and those who have gone before us
have done very well upon it; why should I change?’

“Whenever your worldly interests are concerned, I do not consider you men
are easily to be taken in; it is only about the salvation of your
souls—your eternal interests—that which will be living on still when the
heavens and the earth have passed away,—it is only on these points that
you allow yourselves to be—to be—I must use one of your own words—to be
‘humbugged.’

“Then, again, if it were some difficult thing which God asked us to do,
we might make many excuses—we might plead the want of learning, the want
of capacity, the want of strength; but we have only to ‘Look, and live.’”

“Ma’am,” said one of the men, “will you pray for us?”

We all kneeled together, and prayed that whatever prevented our looking
to the “Crucified One” might be removed; and that, instead of going to
earthly fountains to quench our thirst, we might drink of the water of
everlasting life, and thirst no more.

Just as we were separating, one of the men said—“Ma’am, if you will come
here to meet us every Wednesday evening, we’ll all come, and bring about
a hundred more with us.”  I replied that I was much obliged to them, but
I really had not the time to spare.  If my help was the only help they
could get, I would make any sacrifice and come; but if they would only
take the trouble to walk about half a mile, to Mr Lewis’s school-room, at
Westbourne Grove, he would be very glad to see them in their working
clothes, and would explain everything to them much better than I could.

Several of them promised to go; and as most of them were still lingering
about over the fire, I said to them,—“I wish you men, would try and get
out of the way of talking about ‘parsons’ as you do.  I don’t mean to say
that all ‘parsons’ are what they ought to be by a great deal; but the way
you often speak of them is as unjust as it would be for me to speak with
contempt of all working-men, because some amongst them are drunkards and
thieves.”

“Ah, that’s true,” said one of them.  “Fair play’s a jewel, anyhow.”

“It is not only the unfairness to them,” I said, “but you put yourselves
very often out of the way of receiving benefit from those who do most
sincerely and earnestly wish to help you.  As long as we dislike people,
it is hardly possible that they can do us any good.  If you are not in a
hurry to go, I will tell you about a man I met with lately, who was doing
himself a great deal of mischief in this way.”

They said they were in no hurry,—they shouldn’t do anything more that
night; they were glad to stay.

(I did not give them the story so fully as I have written it here.  I had
no notes with me; and simply told them from memory the part that would
apply to our previous conversation.)

“For some weeks before we went into the house in which we now live,
several workmen were employed there; and I generally went once in the
course of the day, to see how they were getting on.  One of them, a
painter, was a remarkably clever man; he seemed to have read an endless
number of books, papers, and everything else.  It was the time of the
Indian mutiny; and if I had been unable to look at the papers, he could
always tell me anything that was going on.  He often made remarks upon
the government of the country, and sometimes these were very sensible.
As he was a single man, and did not seem to care much where he spent his
time, I proposed to him that (as he had to come all the way from
Blackfriars) he should take possession of a little bed-room in the house,
and make himself comfortable there.  He seemed very glad to do this.  A
day or two after he had settled himself, I had occasion to go to his
room; and I found, amongst other things, a great quantity of books and
newspapers strewed about.  Some of the books were political, some on
India; and there were a few novels, by no means the best.  After I had
finished speaking to him about his work that day, I said to him, ‘When I
was up in your room just now, I was looking at your books.  Some of them
are very good.  I am going to ask you to be so kind as to lend me one for
a few days, it is “Napier’s India.”’  He seemed much pleased, and ran off
directly to fetch it.  When he returned, I said, ‘There was one thought
that came into my mind while I was looking at your books.  If I had not
known whose they really were, I should have supposed that they belonged
to some one who had no interest in anything beyond the present life; some
one who meant to get as cleverly as possible through that;—but that was
all.’

“‘I suppose you mean, ma’am, there were no religious books there?  As to
those, I gave all them up long ago: I couldn’t stand such twaddle.’

“‘Have you had a great experience of religious books?’

“‘Why, no.  I went to a Sunday-school once, but it wasn’t much of it; and
some ladies used to call and leave us some tracts, and beg us to read
them.  I didn’t like to promise to do so, and not do it; but it was such
“bosh!”  Do you know, ma’am, after you had been here for a day or two, we
were talking about you; and I said, “I do think she is one of the right
sort; she doesn’t bring us any tracts, or any twaddle.”’

“‘I am afraid I am going to lose my good character.’

“‘Oh no, ma’am; I shall be happy to listen to anything you have to say!’

“‘Well, I want to hear what _you_ have to say.  It interests me very much
to know how you are planning it out.  Do you intend to make the best of
this life; and then—_what_ then?  Are you so pleased with it, as to feel
satisfied that all shall end here?’

“‘Why, as to being pleased with it, I don’t think anybody who has lived
five-and-twenty years in the world can be much pleased with it.  I am
sure it ain’t much to me.  I’ve nobody, hardly, belonging to me, to care
anything about me; and if it wasn’t for the liking I have for books, and
that sort of thing, I should have nothing but my work to do, and to eat,
and drink, and sleep: and I don’t call that worth living for; do you,
ma’am?’

“‘No, indeed, I do not.  I feel very sorry for you.  I should so like to
help you to be happier, if I only knew how; but, perhaps, if I told you
what I think about it, you might call it “bosh” or “twaddle,” or
something of that sort.’

“‘No, ma’am, I shouldn’t.  You see, ma’am, it isn’t because I haven’t
thought about these things, for I thought myself almost crazy once; and
the people who, I expected, might have helped me were worse to me than
anybody.  My father was a mighty religious man in his way, and dreadful
strict: we couldn’t hardly speak or look of a Sunday, but we got a
thrashing for it.  My brother and I have said often and often, that, as
soon as we took to the world for ourselves, we’d have done with all that
sort of thing; we had had enough of it.  The masters I have worked for
have made a great fuss, some of ’em, about their own religion; but they
haven’t minded cheating us a bit when they could do it in a quiet way.
And as to caring about _our_ souls, they have never troubled themselves
about that.  And don’t you think, ma’am, that if they really thought we
were going to burn in hell-fire for ever, if we went on a bad way, that
they’d make some fuss about it, and try to stop us?  I know, if I
believed it, I wouldn’t do much besides try to prevent people going
there; but you may depend upon it, ma’am, they don’t believe it; they
keep it in store, like, as something to frighten poor ignorant people
with.’

“‘But I want to know what _you_ think; I am not just now concerning
myself about these people.’

“‘Well, I have pretty well made up my mind, after all I have seen, just
to take the world as it comes, and live on in the best way I can, and not
trouble my head any more about it.  I suppose, God has got it all planned
out about us, and He’ll do what He likes with us.’

“‘That is quite true.  God has planned it all out; but then He has made
no secret of His plans.  He has written a book to tell us how we stand
towards Him, and how He stands towards us.’

“‘Ah! you mean the Bible.  We used to be punished with having to learn
chapters out of it, and we hated it; and I have never took up with it
since.  People talk about its being good news, and all that sort of
thing; but I don’t believe there is any good news in it for me.’

“‘Supposing, when you first came here, I had written a letter to you,
inviting you to come to my house whenever you liked to do so; telling you
that I would have a nice room prepared for you, and, in every respect,
would make you as comfortable as possible; and supposing that, instead of
reading my invitation, and availing yourself of my kind offers, you had
treated my letter with contempt, and refused even to open it, pleading as
an excuse that a letter once proved disagreeable to you.  If, after you
left, I should hear that you spread an evil report about me, and accused
me of unkindness, do you not think I could justly charge you with
injustice?’

“‘Yes; and I see what you mean.  I can’t say I’ve tried to find out much
about the Book, either good or bad.’

“‘There is another thing.  I think that you have rather confused ideas
about the character of God.  You confound your earthly with your heavenly
Father; and thus you think unjustly of Him, and His works also.  Now, as
I cannot stay longer to-day, I am going to ask you to reward me for not
troubling you with tracts, and what you call “twaddle,” by just reading
one little chapter that I will leave turned down for you here.’

“I left him the 15th chapter of Luke to read; and he faithfully read it,
and the next day we talked about it.  He was too intellectual a man not
to appreciate its exceeding beauty; but he did not feel himself to be a
prodigal needing the love and forgiveness of the kind Father; so that it
was to him little else than a ‘pleasant song.’

“After many observations had passed, I asked if he were in the habit of
attending any place of worship.  He answered, ‘Oh, no!  I have been to
the cathedral sometimes, but I didn’t like it.’

“This was Saturday.  At the end of our conversation, I told him I thought
he had better make one more trial of attending a place of worship; and,
as he lived in Blackfriars, I recommended him to go to Surrey Chapel, to
hear the Rev. Newman Hall.  He promised he would.  On Monday, I did not
get to the house till it was late.  Some of the men had gone away; but
this painter was still lingering over his work.  ‘Oh, ma’am,’ he said, ‘I
am glad you have come.  I wanted to see you, to tell you I went yesterday
to hear the gentleman you spoke about.’

“‘I am glad to hear it.  I hope you will often go.’

“‘I believe I shall, for _he_ is something about a parson.  I said to
myself, “You ain’t a humbug, anyhow.”  I went in the morning, and I went
again in the evening.’

“I had no time to talk to him then, nor for some days after.  I think the
Friday of that week was set apart as a fast-day.  On the Thursday I found
him painting away very busily.  As soon as he saw me, he said, ‘We have
just been talking about you, ma’am, and we know you are in a hurry to get
this house done; and so, instead of knocking off work, because it is the
fast-day to-morrow, we are going to stick to our painting, and have a
jolly good day at it.’

“‘I am very much obliged to you; indeed, I think you are _all_ very kind
in trying to accommodate me; and I quite appreciate all you do; but I
could not think of allowing you to do what you propose.  You know the
state the country is in; what terrible accounts we are constantly
receiving from India; and what severe general distress there is.
Although we may not be suffering from these calamities, it would be
selfish and heartless in the extreme not to join with those who are, in
praying for God’s mercy to deliver us out of these troubles.’

“‘Well, ma’am, that’s all very right, I dare say; and I don’t object to
the thing itself; but what I object to is the way it is done in.  I was
reading the proclamation outside the Mansion House, the other day; and it
says that the Queen _commands_ us all on that day to pray to Almighty
God.  Now, I don’t think any one has a right to command us to do anything
of the sort; and, if I pray at all, I shall do it some other day.’

“‘I gave you credit for being a wiser man.  What would become of law and
order in this country, if some one had not the power to decide such
things?  There would be no end of contest and confusion.  I don’t suppose
that either you or I should make very good Sovereigns; but if there were
no one else, it would be much better for the country to give one of us
the power of saying what should or should not be done, rather than to
leave every question open to be contested.  And as to your taking offence
at the expression, “her Majesty commands,” that is merely a form of
words, meaning that her Majesty confirms the wish of the nation.  The
term itself is just as much of a form as the “Most Gracious Majesty”
which is used to the really gracious and ungracious alike.’

“Another man then joined in, and said that he thought, ‘what the nation
wanted more than fast-days was better government.  The government was
always getting the country into trouble, and then setting it to pray
itself out of it again.’

“‘If that is the case, that would be a very good reason in itself for
having a fast-day,’ I said, ‘that we might pray for better government.’

“Most of the men joined in this talk about governments.  It was evidently
a topic upon which they were much in the habit of conversing; and I could
not but be struck with the shrewdness of their observations.

“At last I said, ‘Now, after all you have told me about oppressive
governments, bad laws, taxation, and all that, you have not brought
forward one thing that would for a moment stand in the way of your
following any occupation you like, and becoming great in it, choosing any
kind of home your industry and resources would enable you to command,
reading what books you like, adopting what form of religious worship you
like, sending your children to any school you like, and taking up with
any friends you like; so that I cannot offer you much sympathy for the
oppressions of which you are complaining.  But there is something going
on in this country that is oppressing you.  I think, if you could prove
there was anything in the present government which caused destruction of
life and property to 10,000 persons every year, it would excite such
indignation in the country that the government would hardly stand another
week.’

“‘I should think not,’ one of them said.

“‘And yet there is something going on amongst us that is destroying at
least 60,000 precious souls and bodies every year; and I have often
wondered that you men, who have such ability to detect and expose the
faults of a government, which, after all, is not hurting you much, and
which you cannot alter, should expend uselessly the power that might be
successfully directed against the monster evil to which I am referring.’

“‘You mean the drink, I suppose, ma’am?’

“‘Yes.  Now, here is an evil worth fighting against.  If you directed all
your efforts against _this_ tyrannical government, and were determined to
get rid of it, you would be doing much more good for yourselves, and the
country too, than any House of Commons will ever do, even supposing all
the members of it were elected by ballot.’

“Then followed a kind of teetotal discussion.  Amongst other arguments
brought against teetotalism, the painter objected that ‘people who lived
altogether upon food ate such a lot that they got heavy and stupid in
their minds.’  I asked him if he knew that the preacher he had heard last
Sunday was a water-drinker?

“‘Dear me, no; I never could have thought it.  What! he only drink water?
Well, that’s a good un!  I’d drink water, too, if I thought I could get
such a headpiece as his out of it.  I said to myself, on Sunday, when I
was hearing him, “Now, you are a right sort of a man; if I could be like
you, I shouldn’t get tired of being alive, as I do now sometimes.”’

“‘No, indeed; if you were like him, you would not get tired of living,
nor be afraid of dying, either.  Now, suppose you set up from this day to
try to be like him.  You know that his nature is no better than yours.
God has made him what he is; and is ready to do everything for you that
He has done for him.’

“‘Well, I think, as we are not to work here to-morrow, I shall go and
hear what he has to say about things; for perhaps he’ll preach a sermon
about the country, or something of that sort.  I have been wondering,
this week, how _he_ thinks about what’s going on.  I have thought of a
lot of things I should like to ask him about.’

“He not only went himself to Surrey Chapel, but took some of his
comrades; and many of their future discussions were grounded upon what
they there heard.

“I saw this man once more, about a month after the house was finished.
He told me, he went every Sunday to hear Mr Hall; and ‘ma’am,’ he added,
‘I do believe I am beginning to see some things very different from what
I did.’”

We separated that evening with the pleasant feeling that we had become
better acquainted, and had found more subjects of common interest than we
had expected.

                                * * * * *

Exception may be taken, and with apparent justice, that I have made no
effort to disabuse the mind of this man of its many prejudices and
antipathies.  Formerly, when I was not so well acquainted with the habits
of thought and feeling among working-men as I now am, I used to expend
considerable time and trouble in endeavouring to remove their prejudices;
but it never appeared to me that I effected any real good in this way.
The men were usually so far beyond me in acuteness and capacity to detect
and expose what they considered inconsistencies, that if I succeeded in
clearing one victim from imputation, another was readily substituted.  I
have, therefore, come to the conclusion that it is better from the first
to treat it as something altogether irrelevant, and not worthy of notice.
Instead of wasting precious time, and losing opportunities that may never
again present themselves, in arguing about the right and the wrong of
other people, I usually meet such attacks in this way:—“Supposing these
people are as bad as you say, I cannot see that their faults can make any
difference to you, beyond inducing you to be more careful that you
yourself entirely abstain from what you seem so to dislike in others.
God’s law is, ‘So then, every one of us must give an account of himself
to God.’  He has written a perfect law that we may study it, and seek to
conform ourselves to it; and to prevent the possibility of our erring
through the want of living example, He has Himself, in the person of
Jesus Christ, lived our earthly life to teach us how to live.  Your
making your own conduct depend so much upon what other people do, is like
the folly of a man who would shut the shutters of his room, excluding all
daylight, and then complain that the dim, flickering, uncertain light of
the rushlight he had substituted, was insufficient to enable him to do
his work properly.  If this man, when taking home his work, were to
excuse himself to the master for its being so badly done, on the ground
that the light of his rushlight was insufficient and uncertain, the
master would reply, I never intended you to work by that light; it is
none of my providing.  You wilfully shut out the glorious sun set up for
your use in the heavens, and which I knew would be more than sufficient
for every purpose.  Whilst you were groping about almost in the dark, it
was even then surrounding you, waiting only to be permitted to enter.
The blame of this bad work, therefore, returns upon you, and upon you
only.”

It will often happen at a later period of intimacy with such characters
as the one previously described, and when a more reasonable state of mind
has taken the place of harsher feelings, that the subject of these
antipathies can be renewed with advantage.  I remember, in the case of
this man, one of the last conversations I had with him was in reference
to remarks he had been making about some distinguished person whose
conduct to him appeared inconsistent.  I said to him, “A few days ago, I
had to insist upon one of my children doing something she did not like to
do.  A short time afterwards, I happened to hear her saying to herself,
‘When I am grown up to be a mamma, I shall not do as my mamma does, I
shall do a great deal better, and let my children do every thing they
like.’

“If you had been by, you would probably have said, ‘When you are a mamma
you will alter your opinion on that subject.’  You would not, probably,
by this remark, do much to remove the impression from the mind of the
child that she was right and I was wrong; but you would be satisfied that
experience would justify you in what you had said.

“I believe we often resemble this child in the estimate we form of people
who are moving in an entirely different sphere from our own.  I have no
doubt, if you could for one week occupy the palaces and take upon
yourself the responsibilities of these people against whom you have so
much to say, as great a transition would take place in your mind
respecting them, as there will probably be in the mind of this child if
she ever assumes the duties she now supposes are so badly performed; and
your wonder would rather be that, amidst the trials, temptations, and
heavy responsibilities attached to their exalted position, you had not
been able to detect even more apparent inconsistencies of conduct.”

“Well, ma’am,” the man replied, “I see what you mean, and I will think it
over, for I have begun to see lately that I am not always so overright
myself.  But, ma’am, I don’t think this ill judging that you complain of
is all on one side.  If we poor men do make the mistake of judging the
rich too harshly, I am sure the rich don’t forget to ‘pay us back in our
own coin.’”

“I am afraid there is much truth in what you say.  This want of
consideration for one another is a general evil that pervades all society
and is at the present time causing a great deal of unhappiness in this
country.  I have no doubt you have had masters whose conduct towards you
seemed to be entirely influenced by the amount of work they could get out
of you; but whilst you could justly charge them with this, must you not
at the same time have pleaded guilty if you had been accused of
entertaining much the same sentiment towards them?  It is not because one
man is rich and another poor that there is so little kindly feeling
between the two classes, neither is it altogether that one is learned and
the other unlearned; for much as there is to deplore in the present state
of society, we have still beautiful instances of the most faithful and
genuine friendship existing between the serving and the served.  It is
not, I am persuaded, this difference of position that is at the root of
the mischief; it is the mistaken _feeling_ that one class bears to
another.  It is the hard words that you speak, and the unjust thoughts
that you and your comrades encourage each other to entertain towards the
rich, that help to make society wrong; and it is because the higher
classes do not honour you for your skill, industry, and ability, and
acknowledge their dependence upon you, that this wrong is perpetuated.”

I have sometimes wondered, if an angel were to be sent from heaven to
endeavour to set us all right on the subject of our duties and feelings
one towards another, whether he would give his first lesson to the
employers or the employed; but neither party need wait for the
extraordinary teaching of a celestial visitant.  An angel would bring
with him no new lesson-book—he would point out to us for our guidance a
few verses from an old and inspired volume; that have been trying to make
themselves heard amongst us for the last eighteen hundred years.

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love
thy neighbour as thyself.”

“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed
one of another.”

“And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; love
as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.”

    “The workshop must be crowded
       That the palace may be bright;
    If the ploughman did not plough,
       Then the poet could not write.
    Then let every toil be hallow’d
       That man performs for man,
    And have its share of honour
       As part of one great plan.

    “Ye men who hold the pen,
       Rise like a band inspired;
    And, poets, let your lyrics
       With hope for man be fired;
    Till the earth becomes a temple,
       And every human heart
    Shall join in one great service,
       Each happy in his part.”



CHAPTER V.
Homes and No Homes.


    “The grief that aits beside the hearth,
          Life has no grief beside.”

TOWARDS the close of 1853, I commenced a Mothers’ Society, and the
following letter will be found to contain an account of its establishment
and early progress.  It is addressed to a dear friend, in answer to a
letter of inquiries from her.  As similar inquiries have frequently been
made since, by persons interested in the same way, I think it best to
give the letter entire:—

                                        7 St James Square, _Dec._ 8, 1854.

    MY VERY DEAR FRIEND,—I fear you must have thought me very dilatory in
    replying to your last kind letter, containing so many inquiries
    respecting the Mothers’ Society.  In consequence of your asking for a
    _minute_ history of its rise and progress, and putting, besides, so
    many definite questions, I felt that the limit of a common letter
    would be quite insufficient, and I have therefore been compelled to
    wait for a day of more than ordinary leisure.  As, I see, you request
    me to go back so far as to tell you what made me think such a thing
    desirable or possible, I must, indeed, lose no time in beginning.

    Although it must be more than ten years since I had the pleasure of
    working with you in the management of the Bath Female Friendly
    Society, I dare say you have not forgotten what queer characters we
    used sometimes to come in contact with.  I remember a few desperate
    cases, where, when everything else had failed, we at last succeeded
    in making some impression through their children.  One of the most
    remarkable instances of this kind I have related, just as it
    occurred, in a letter which I addressed to the society, when I was
    obliged to be absent a few weeks in the spring. {110}  From that
    time, I have always been deeply impressed with the idea that, under
    judicious treatment, this softer and better portion of woman’s nature
    might be so taken advantage of as to lead to excellent moral results.

    But I never had any definite idea of reducing these thoughts to
    practice; and they would, in all probability, have remained quietly
    in my own mind if I had not come in contact with those whose juster
    views of the value and shortness of life had led them to _work_, as
    well as think, whilst it is day.

    One afternoon, the autumn before last, I was sitting alone, and had
    taken up the _Times_, when my attention was arrested by a speech from
    the Earl of Shaftesbury.  I forget the object of the meeting, neither
    do I remember the exact words used, although the idea at once
    impressed itself.  He was speaking hopefully of the good effected
    through ragged and other schools.  ‘But,’ he said, ‘I have long felt
    that until the homes of these poor children are better—until the
    fathers and mothers are better men and better women—our schools can
    accomplish comparatively little.  I believe that any improvement that
    could be brought to bear on the mothers, more especially, would
    effect a greater amount of good than anything that has yet been
    done.’

    I laid down the paper, and thought for some time, wondering what
    could be done, and wished that somebody would do something.  But I
    had advanced no further than this, when the arrival of visitors gave
    my thoughts another direction.

    The next morning, whilst I was busy with my children, I was told that
    the city missionary wished to see me.  The object of his visit was to
    tell me that a large room in the neighbourhood was to be rented for a
    Girls’ Evening School, and he thought it could be spared one evening
    in the week for a Mothers’ Meeting.  He knew some poor women who
    would attend; and he asked me to take the management of it.  From my
    ignorance of the practical working of such a society, I felt very
    much at a loss to know how to commence it, and was inclined to think
    that I had neither the ability nor the time to conduct it.

    I could not, however, but remember how remarkably my attention had
    been several times drawn to this subject, and the various incidents
    which had again and again impressed it on my mind.  But the thought
    that weighed most of all with me was—I knew I had a most entire
    sympathy with poor mothers; that of all things in the world, I most
    wished to try and do something to shew how much I cared for their
    great difficulties and sufferings; and though I might fail to render
    them much real service, I trusted the truthfulness of my feelings
    towards them would manifest itself, and that this might lead to some
    good result.  At any rate, I resolved to try, and to trust that the
    way would open, and that light would come.

    It was on the first Monday in November 1853, that I walked to the
    nicely lighted and pleasant room provided for us.  About seven or
    eight women were assembled, and two or three came in afterwards.  I
    thought they looked at me much as they would have done at the
    entrance of the white bear from the Zoological Gardens, that
    is,—provided he were caged; for the stare had no fear in it, though
    abundance of curiosity.

    They said they were glad I was come, for they did not know what they
    were met there for; they ‘s’posed I did.’  I said, I was prepared to
    explain it to them; but I wished to begin by reading a few verses of
    Scripture.  This they submitted to pretty well; but as soon as it was
    over, they began talking all round to each other, in by no means
    particularly soft voices.  I knew that, as long as the game of ‘Who
    can shout loudest’ was to be played, I had no chance; and not wishing
    to shew my weak side at the first meeting, I remained perfectly
    silent, and listened, as far as I could, to the observations which
    were made principally _at me_, but not to me.

    At last, they seemed rather struck at the isolation of my position,
    and there was a lull.  Then I told them I certainly had not called
    them together without having something to say to them.  I had far too
    high an estimate of the value of their time.  As soon as they caught
    the idea that some kind of improvement was contemplated in their
    domestic affairs, they began again.  If that was what I was after, I
    should have had such and such an one, ‘she sarved her children
    dreadful.’  Then followed no end of narratives of the wickedness of
    their neighbours; and many of the cruelties that mothers can be
    guilty of, came out in detail.  One woman said, she was ‘always
    a-trying to do ’em good, and told ’em what they should do; but,
    instead of doing it, they jist up and sarced at her in a minnit.’  I
    was the more amused at this last expression, as I thought it rather
    aptly described my own position just then, though I must, in justice,
    pause here to remark that, with only one exception, I have never
    _from the very first received direct impudence from any of them_.
    When the hour expired, and we rose to depart, I knew that very few
    who were there would return; but I requested them to send those very
    wicked neighbours of theirs; and as they themselves seemed impressed
    with the desirableness of doing so, I left, with the hope that the
    publicans and sinners might be brought to hear, though the Pharisees
    would not.

    As I am giving this history simply from recollection, having kept no
    kind of memoranda, I cannot be certain of perfect correctness when I
    speak of numbers; but I remember the attendance became less and less,
    until—I think it must have been about the fourth evening—I entered
    the room at the usual hour, and no one was there.  The general
    arrangement of the room had been even more than usually carefully
    attended to, through the thoughtfulness of our kind city missionary.
    It was well lighted, and the fire burned cheerfully.  My chair was
    placed in a ‘chosen spot,’ and a Bible lay on the table before it;
    but no one came.  I opened the Bible, and read; and though I cannot
    give any effect to this narrative by speaking of the remarkable
    appropriateness of the passage that happened to fix my attention, I
    distinctly remember losing, under the influence of its holy power,
    all sense of vexation and disappointment; and the solitude soon
    appeared in the light of a most valuable opportunity for praying,
    long and earnestly, for those I so much desired to serve.  I felt
    perfectly resigned to His will; either to fit me for it, to raise up
    others, or to give me to see clearly that this was not the work He
    had appointed me to do.  About a quarter of an hour before the time
    for closing, a woman came in with a bottle of medicine in her hand.
    She had been coming to the meeting; but her husband had been taken
    ill, which had obliged her to go in search of medicine for him
    instead.  On her return, she thought she would just step in and see
    how we were getting on.  I had noticed that this poor woman had
    seemed far more interested than any one who had yet attended; and I
    was glad of an opportunity of becoming better acquainted with her.
    She told me that her husband had formerly been an infidel; but
    through the influence of a tract that was left at the house, combined
    with the effect of the visits of the missionary, he had become an
    entirely changed character.  She described, with great simplicity,
    how the alteration gradually manifested itself; how, at first, he did
    not like her to see him praying; and how she took care to keep out of
    the way at the time.  Then he came to praying before her, and then
    with her and the children; and now, no day passed without their
    united supplications ascending to the Author of their mercies.  Then
    followed the description of what John used to be, and what he now
    was; what the house was then, and now.  All this was narrated with
    beautiful simplicity.  I never felt more emphatically that ‘surely I
    know it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before
    him;’ and that the only cure for the sting of poverty was, that every
    family should be governed by the principles which influenced this.  I
    need hardly add, that the meeting that night was for my benefit.

    But I am entering too much into detail, and must pass on more
    rapidly.  About six weeks after that solitary evening, there were at
    least twenty-five present; and let me give you an idea of the
    improvement in their manners.  I was a minute or two late.  They were
    nearly all assembled.  As I entered the room, they all rose, and
    remained standing till I was seated.  And this was by no means in
    consequence of any lectures I had given them on manners: I should
    have considered it as much as my place was worth to have offered such
    instruction.

    From having frequently heard a difficulty as to the time which these
    meetings took from their work, I thought of a plan for supplying
    their fingers, whilst their minds were occupied in listening to what
    was passing in the way of instruction.  Various materials for
    clothing were provided, and issued to members of the society, as
    required by them, at a reduction of twopence in the shilling.  Good
    patterns were also provided, free of charge.  In this way, during the
    winter, most of these women made several garments for themselves and
    their children; and as the payments were usually only a few pence at
    a time, the total cost appeared to them very trifling.  In addition
    to this, a Savings’ Bank was established, and some of the depositors
    saved as much as seven or eight shillings.

    As the summer advanced, the attendance, of course, lessened.  The
    greater part of the poor people living in the Potteries, being
    brickmakers, can follow this occupation only in the summer, when they
    work early and late; and the wife often works too.  We therefore
    thought it best to give up meeting, from July to the end of
    September.

    As we parted, one of our members, a good woman, who had interested me
    very much, came to me, and, with tears in her eyes, spoke of the
    happy hours we had enjoyed there, and said the time would seem long
    till we met again.  We then little thought _how_ long it would be.
    The Potteries was one of the first places visited by the cholera that
    year; and this good woman, to whom I was most sincerely attached, was
    one of the first victims.  She was attacked one morning, and died in
    the evening.  A sickly child, too, who had been long the object of
    the greatest care and solicitude to his poor mother, followed her in
    a few hours, and one grave received them both.

    When we assembled in October, in addition to the inroads which death
    had made, a few members had left the neighbourhood; but still so many
    returned, and brought with them so many companions, that I saw it was
    quite impossible to carry on the society longer single-handed.
    Neither was there any occasion for doing so.  Several ladies kindly
    offered their assistance, and we are now regularly organised.

    Another great advantage which we now enjoy is, that, within the last
    few months, a new clergyman has come to the parish, who, by his
    occasional presence among us, and the kind interest that he takes in
    all connected with the society, is a source of much encouragement to
    us, as well as valuable assistance.

    And now having given you an account of what may be called the
    building up of these meetings, I will answer your next inquiry—‘How
    do you manage to interest the mothers?’  I must begin what I have to
    say on this subject by stating that I believe there is no society in
    existence where there is so little difficulty in creating an
    interest, as in a society of mothers.  In fact, you have not to
    create, but to take advantage of what already exists.  A woman who
    will come to such a meeting at all, will be sure not to be perfectly
    indifferent to the improvement of her children; although it is
    lamentable to see how habitual selfishness will sometimes almost
    obliterate even this first principle of nature.  But, believe me,
    there are few cases, very few, where, under right influence, this
    feeling cannot be restored, and brought into living action, and
    always with great benefit to the general character.

    We commence by reading a passage of Scripture, and with prayer.  In
    the prayer, besides mentioning the peculiar difficulties and
    sufferings incident to a poor mother’s life, any cases occurring
    amongst them particularly demanding sympathy are mentioned, in order
    to be made the subject of our united supplications.  I believe that
    this has done much to give a kindly interest in one another; for the
    instances we have had of their sympathy for each other in times of
    distress have been truly beautiful.

    When they have all settled to their work, and the money affairs are
    over, I generally make a few inquiries as to what occurred at the
    past meeting; whether any plan then recommended has failed or
    succeeded.  For instance, a better domestic observance of the Sabbath
    was the subject for two evenings.  This led, among many other things,
    to a conversation on the best way of arranging about the Sunday
    dinner; so that it really might be the best in the week, and yet
    leave as little work as possible connected with it to be done on that
    day.

    Experiments in cooking, and, indeed, anything belonging to their
    pre-eminently practical life, they seem much to enjoy, and they are
    eager to relate, at the next meeting, either success or failure.

    I find that, when they can be induced to make the effort, their
    experience helps them to arrive at conclusions of far more value than
    any mere theoretical suggestions; and I have often the pleasure of
    seeing the ideas which I may have thrown out serve them as a kind of
    scaffolding, useful only as enabling them to erect a building more
    adapted to their own mode of life and circumstances.

    A few evenings since, I was saying to them how much better it would
    be to try to employ and direct children’s energies, than to be so
    often punishing them for inconvenient manifestations of them.  I
    shewed them the German plan of amusing children for a length of time,
    with little bundles of sticks that could be arranged in a variety of
    forms; also, how to cut out paper, patchwork, &c.  I said—

    ‘You will find that children will keep themselves amused much longer,
    and far more earnestly, if you will treat their rational play with
    some respect, and not do violence to their feelings, by applying to
    it such terms as “mess, stuff, bother.”’

    One woman looked up from her work, having evidently thoroughly
    received the idea, and said—

    ‘There, now, how often I’ve said to ’em, “Get along with your
    bother:” I jist wish I hadn’t.’

    At the next meeting, I asked this woman if she had tried any of the
    amusements; she said—

    ‘O ma’am, I have never had such a week before with the children; they
    builded all over the table two or three times a-day; and I told them,
    when they made a very nice house, to let mother see; and the little
    “critters” were so pleased, and “_we haven’t had no beatin_.”’

    About a quarter before nine o’clock, our missionary comes in, and
    concludes all with a concise, well-adapted address, and a short
    prayer.  I must take this opportunity of stating, that I attribute
    our success, under God’s blessing, quite as much to the excellent
    influence which he has exercised without, as to anything that has
    been done within.  In visiting the women, and inducing them, in the
    first place, to attend the meeting, he has taken a part which I could
    not; and, by his wise and timely suggestions, he has often saved me
    from mistakes.

    We did not start with the rules as they now exist,—we were not then
    ripe for them; but as the right time came, I introduced them, and
    they were passed with the full consent of the whole meeting.  Hence
    the mothers view themselves—and justly—as governed by their own laws.

    I see, you still further inquire how, with so many domestic claims of
    my own, and not enjoying good health, I find time to attend to such a
    society.  Now, in alluding to this, you no doubt were influenced by
    the recollection of Mrs Jellaby’s celebrated establishment; and have
    been thinking, when you pay us your long-promised visit, whether you
    will be able to trace a resemblance in my children to the poor little
    neglected ‘Peepy;’ how much semi-cooked meat you will have to eat;
    whether the potatoes will sometimes be lost by being placed in the
    coal-scuttle, and so forth.

    After all that has been written and said, both for and against
    mothers of families being allowed to do anything besides ‘minding
    their own business,’ it seems to me that the question resolves itself
    simply into this:—Is the occupation in unison with home duties, and
    can it chime in with them? or is it something that will divert the
    thoughts and actions into an entirely different channel?  Now,
    although we may imagine it possible to work one’s own mind up into a
    strong interest in some ‘Borrioboolah Gha,’ it is rather too much to
    expect that the minds of those about us will be equally interested.
    But if you could see the great pleasure which my children derive from
    hearing about the society, and working with me, you would be the
    first to beg me to continue it for their sakes.  On the morning
    succeeding a meeting, they come round me with numerous inquiries
    after some mother or baby, whom they have learned to know through
    hearing me speak of them.  They have, of their own accord, set apart
    one day in the week for working for the little children of those
    mothers who are very poor; and when, the other day, they heard me
    speaking of a poor woman who was lamenting she could not read, they
    immediately offered to go two or three times a-week to teach her.

    It seems to me, that the few hours a-day which we set apart for
    teaching our children, (for ‘school,’ as we call it,) has far less to
    do with the formation of their character, than that which they see
    and hear constantly going on around them.  It is the every-day
    incidents of life that impress children; and if it had only been for
    their sakes, I do not know that I could have thought of anything
    better fitted to prepare them for what I wish them to be,—followers
    of Him ‘who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.’

    There is another thing that helps me.  You know, our servants are
    neither ‘necessary evils’ nor ‘natural enemies;’ they are, indeed,
    our friends and helpers; and from remaining with us so long, they
    become as much interested as we are, in everything that is going on;
    and, by their sympathy and thoughtfulness in clearing away
    impediments, they render us most valuable assistance.  Thus, no
    mornings are taken up abroad in inquiring for characters, or at home
    in what is called ‘looking after them.’

    Another plan I find very useful is, not to allow every day to be
    encumbered with every kind of work.  One day is set apart for
    everything connected with this society, which has then the best of my
    thoughts, and as much work expended upon it as can be given without
    interfering with regular duties; and if it attempts to intrude itself
    upon the wrong day, it is told to ‘bide its time.’

    ‘But the “ill health” you mention?’  Yes, that _is_ a drawback, yet
    not entirely so.  It is certainly true that I have sometimes risen
    from my bed to attend the meeting; but then I always tell the mothers
    so, and appeal to their compassion; reminding them, that though I
    cannot speak loud, they _can_ be quiet; though I cannot enforce
    order, they can maintain it; and I really believe that the secret of
    our so soon getting into order was the working of the spirit of
    sympathy with me.  As soon as they felt that something depended upon
    them, they set about it in good earnest.  But that I may not by this
    convey to your mind any wrong idea of the kind of discipline
    necessary, I will just say that such appeal must always be made _en
    masse_; that anything approaching to a monitorial system would be
    ruinous in such a meeting, since nothing requires more watchfulness
    than to keep down the spirit of jealousy.  A good president must be
    really absolute, though as little apparently so as possible.

    Long as this letter is, I will not apologise for it.  I feel that to
    you there is no occasion for apology; for I have perfect confidence
    in your sympathy.  I could write another still longer; and it would
    give me far more pleasure to do so than this has given.  It would be
    full of incidents, shewing how the sunshine of kindness will bring to
    life that which, having been so long covered up by the frost and snow
    of neglect, had been supposed to be extinct.

                          But adieu, my dear friend,

                                                Yours most affectionately,
                                                                     M. B.



CHAPTER VI.
Difficulties.


    “Be useful where thou livest, that they may
    Both want and wish thy pleasing presence still.
    Kindness, good parts, great patience are the way
    To compass this.  Find out men’s wants and will,
    And meet them there.  All worldly joys go less
    To the one joy of doing kindnesses.”

                                                           GEORGE HERBERT.

SOME time ago, I received a letter, in which the following remark
occurs:—“Amongst the number of women whom you have had to do with in this
society, you surely cannot always have escaped meeting with, what we
call, queer characters, even if not desperate ones.  There is a class of
unmanageable women in the world, of whom I am more afraid than of
anything else; and the very thought of them has deterred me from
commencing a society open to any one, and, consequently, open to such as
I have referred to.”

The difficulty mentioned here will generally be experienced, to a greater
or less extent, at the commencement of these societies; and in the
establishment of them it should by all means be anticipated and
considered.  But, after a time, when the greater part of the members have
conformed to law and order, the general disposition will be manifested so
strongly in the right direction, that the rebellious individuals will
either make up their mind to conform, or to leave.  There is a quiet way
of meeting sauciness, which very soon disarms it.  It is some trouble to
be saucy; and when nothing is gained by it, not even amusement, the
attempt is generally relinquished as not worth the effort.

I think it was the second winter after we were established, that a fine,
tall woman presented herself, and said she wished to be admitted.  I told
her of our usual arrangements, and asked her if she would like to have
some material for work.  She said, “No; not that night: she should look
about her, and see how she liked it.”  She took a seat just before me,
sat with her arms crossed, and hardly kept her promise of looking about
her, as she stared at me all the time.  In about half an hour, she got
up, and said she should go, as it was duller than she had expected.

The next week, to my great surprise, she came again.  She said that she
wanted some material for work; and asked if we had anything good enough
for her.  She was supplied with what was required, and she took it away
to her seat; but brought it back again in a few minutes, saying, “It
wasn’t such stuff as that she wanted.”  I took the flannel from her, put
it back into the box, shut the box, and went on reading, leaving her
standing at the table; while every one else was quietly working and
listening.  She looked at me steadily for some minutes, in the hope of my
“having a row with her;” but as I took no kind of notice, and continued
to read without even raising my voice, she presently walked across the
room, upsetting a few things in her way, opened the door, and, bouncing
out, banged it after her, so as to shake the whole room.

During the next week I made a few inquiries about her, and was told she
was “the best hand in the Potteries at a row.”

“Law, ma’am! have you got Mrs A— among you?  Why, she’ll soon upset you
all.  Why, when she goes with the men into the public-house, they’re all
afeared of her.  There’s never no peace where she is.”

This account quite confirmed the opinion which I had formed, that she was
a woman of great energy and uncommon ability; while, if that energy and
ability could only be turned to some proper use, she might be just as
valuable as she was now mischievous.  But the difficulty was how to get
at such a person, with whom one had so little in common.  I confess, I
rather hoped that I should see no more of her.  But the next week she was
there again, and again asked for work.  I gave her what she had refused
the week before, which she took without saying a word, and went away to
her seat.

Whilst taking the money for the work, and settling the accounts, I did
not require the women to be quiet,—that is _their_ time for saying to one
another what they wish; so that I did not take any notice of the very
loud tone in which my new and formidable member conversed, nor of her
subject, which was principally a running commentary upon my proceedings.
At length I took the Bible, and sitting down, all the mothers put aside
their work, and remain quite silent.  This woman, however, kept cutting
out, and talking on, pretending that she did not observe the change.
After waiting a minute or two, I said to her—“We do not continue the work
while the chapter is being read.  We think it a respect due to the Word
of God to sit quietly and listen.”

“Then, I suppose, I must waste my time too?”

“I am sorry you think it waste of time; but you certainly must do as the
rest.  No one is _obliged_ to come here, but whoever chooses to come
_must conform_ to our rules.”

She threw down her scissors, and sat out the reading with a very ill
grace.  Had there been any one to side with her, I believe we could
hardly have escaped “a scene,” but she seemed rather an object of dislike
to the rest; they were annoyed at the interruption which she had caused,
and she met with no encouragement.  She subsided considerably after
another week or two; and her sole mode of annoyance consisted in saying,
partly to herself, and partly to her next neighbour, while I was
speaking, in a tone that I might or might not hear, as I pleased—

“_That’s_ nothing new.”  “Everybody knows _that_, I sh’d think.”  “I
wonder where she pick’d that up!” &c.

I tried at first the effect of not hearing, but as that experiment did
not succeed, I thought I must adopt some other means.  One evening, I
heard her muttering, in reference to something which I had just said—

“I knew all that long ago, and a pretty deal more, too.”

I stopped, and looking directly at her, said—

“Mrs A—, I have just heard you say, ‘I knew all that long ago, and a
pretty deal more, too.’  Now, if that is the case, I should like you to
tell us what you do know.  The object of this meeting is to get all the
information which we possibly can, upon subjects of this kind, and I
shall be delighted to learn anything from you; and so, I am sure, will
every one else here.  One of our rules is, that one person shall speak at
a time, but it does not at all follow that _I_ should always be the
speaker.  I will leave what I was going to say, as any other time will
do, and we will listen to you.”

There was a murmur of dissatisfaction at this; but I quelled it directly,
stating, that “I wished there should be no interruption; we would all be
perfectly quiet, and would listen to what Mrs A— had to say.”

After a minute or two another woman attempted to speak, but I stopped
her.

“Anything you like, presently; but this is Mrs A—’s time.”

Poor Mrs A—! it was her time, indeed.  There we sat, the clock went
“tick, tick,” the needles went “click, click,” although most of the
workers stopped in astonishment.  Even the babies did not relieve us by a
squall.  The silence was terrible, Mrs A— would have known how to have
acted in a storm; there she would have been in her element,—none could
outstorm a storm better than she; but this calm was dreadful.  She had
sense enough to know she had brought this difficulty upon herself; that I
was simply standing on one side, to let her folly fall directly upon
herself.  She did not say anything, but it was evident she inwardly
writhed under the infliction, even more than I had expected; and I have
thought since, that the punishment partook of the refinement of cruelty.
After this silence had lasted three or four minutes, I observed, that I
supposed she did not remember what she had intended to say; and I went on
again where I left off, as if nothing had happened.

When the meeting was over, and the women were going out, I saw Mrs A—
standing irresolutely near the door.  She evidently did not like to leave
without “giving it to me well,” and yet she had sense enough to know
there was no one to blame but herself.  I called to her, and asked her if
she would arrange the work-bags for me; she came back, and before she had
finished, the other women were all gone, and we were alone.  I then said
to her—

“Mrs A—, it has been no pleasure to me to make you feel so uncomfortable
this evening; I have been waiting for some weeks past, in the hope that
your own good sense would shew you the necessity of accommodating
yourself to our plans and rules.  I can scarcely make as much excuse for
your behaviour as I should for a child.  A child is often compelled to go
where he does not like; but every one who comes here, comes of her own
free will, and need never pay a second visit, if it is not agreeable.”

“I wish I had never come a-nigh the place.”

“You have been uncomfortable this evening, I know; but you forget how
many evenings before this you have made _me_ uncomfortable.  If only a
very few were to act as you have done, our meetings would be brought into
such disorder that it would be folly to attempt to meet at all.  One
principal thing for which many of these women value the meetings is, that
they are _quiet_.  It would be no kindness to them to bring them out of
the bustle and confusion of home into another scene of bustle and
confusion.  Now, will you answer me this one question?  Do you think I
should be a fit person to preside over this meeting, if I could not, and
did not check such annoyance and interruption as you have caused?”

“Why, no; I do think I am a sort of a fool;” and the long pent-up
feelings of mortification began to vent themselves in tears.

“I did not think that,” I replied.  “I have often looked at you, and
admired the ability and energy which you have shewn.  Why, I think you
could cut out work fester than any three of the rest of us put together;
and you have a good idea of order and arrangement, too.  I have already
learned some things of you, and you could help me a great deal, if you
would.”

“I don’t think I shall come here any more.”

“I would advise you to stay away for a month.  By that time all that has
passed will be forgotten.  If you will call on me at my house, this day
week, in the afternoon, I shall be happy to see you; and when we have had
a long chat together, we shall be better acquainted.”

She came.  I found it as I had expected.  Next to the unrenewed nature,
the evil had its rise in great physical strength, and mental energy never
fully expended.  Her husband was what they call “a quiet man,” perhaps
more easily managed than she liked; and her two children went to school,
and did not give her much trouble.  But it was not so much the want of
occupation, (for her pig-feeding establishment must have made great
demands upon her time,) as a kind of mental restlessness, which nothing
in her mechanical life could absorb.  The mischief done by a river in
overflowing its banks will never be remedied by damming the water back on
itself; it will only return again and again.  Fresh channels must be dug
for it, and then the same element that previously spread destruction,
will produce verdure and fertility.

I was able to suggest several subjects to this poor woman, which both
interested and occupied her.  She was one of the most expeditious
cutters-out of work that I have ever seen.  She reminded me of the lady
who said “her scissors knew the way.”  During the first winter, and
before the society became so large, I was in the habit of cutting out
most of the work for the mothers, but now I engaged Mrs A— to come to the
room half an hour before the time, to help me.  I used to take patterns
of some things that were not made up in the room—things that I thought
would be useful to them.  These I confided to her, with a quantity of
paper, by which she could reproduce them to any one who might wish for
them.  Many a well-fitting garment to be seen in the Potteries has been
procured in this way.  Since our plans have been altered, and each member
cuts out her own work, many an unskilful, trembling hand has been
relieved by these “scissors that know the way.”  Several of our little
orderly methods, also, for which _I_ have been complimented by visitors,
were originally suggested by the former disturber of our peace.  She is
now a great reader.  One of the last books which I lent her was “Sandford
and Merton.”  She told me, when she returned it, that she often kept her
own boys, and half-a-dozen others, quiet for an hour or two together, by
reading aloud to them.

The deep attention with which she always listens to the reading of the
Word of God, and the great improvement that has taken place in her habits
of life, induce me to hope that, if she has not found, she is, at least,
earnestly seeking Him who can “save to the uttermost.”

There is another character, however, which is met with—to me, far more
difficult and trying than that to which my friend has referred.  Saucy
women are seldom deceptive.  The surface is often worse than that which
remains hidden.  But the bland, smooth-faced ones, who agree to
everything you say, compliment you upon everything you do, smile sweetly
alike at either censure or praise, and talk against you as soon as your
back is turned—what _can_ be done with such people?  Fortunately for me
(for I am still as much at a loss as ever to answer this question), this
is not a common type of character in the Potteries.  Although I have, of
course, had constant money transactions with the women, I cannot now
recall more than seven or eight cases in which the least attempt has been
made to overreach and deceive; and only in one instance have I lost money
by lending it.

But the climax of evil in a woman is the habit of drinking.  There are
many more drunkards amongst men than amongst women, certainly; but whilst
I have known many men reform, I have known but very few women amend,
after having thus once fallen into this horrid vice.  Whether it be that
a woman who has given way to intemperance feels so utterly degraded and
out of place, as to be hopeless of ever righting herself again, and that
she consequently proceeds desperately from bad to worse, I cannot tell;
but certainly the effects of this vice upon herself, her husband, and her
family, are terrible in the extreme.  No tongue can express what the
child of the drunken mother suffers.  I cannot think of such misery
without tears.  Two wretched little children, almost destitute of
clothes, came to my door one bitterly cold day.  The very sight of them
made my children cry; and, contrary to my judgment (for, alas! experience
has made me wise), I allowed them to dress them in warm woollen jackets.
Not many yards from the door, the mother was waiting for them: she took
them at once to the pawn-shop, stripped the little shivering ones of the
only warm garments which they had known for many a day, disposed of them
for a trifle, and got drunk with the money.  The next day, the sufferings
of one of these children were happily closed by death.  I say, happily;
for death is the only release—a release to be desired beyond everything
for the drunken mother’s child.  Here we must weep for the living, and
not for the dead.

The duties of life assigned to our working men and women require a
well-developed physical constitution, as well as that mental power which
gives firmness to endure.  The early sufferings, privations, and exposure
which attend the infancy and childhood of the drunkard’s offspring,
almost preclude the possibility of the first; and the poor mind has, if
anything, a still worse chance.  Then, with this enfeebled body and mind,
the child grows up to take his place in society, unable to contend with
physical labour, tortured with the constant cravings for stimulants which
he has inherited, and is an easy prey to the numberless temptations which
beset his path.  Again, I ask, is it any wonder that those who are daily
watching these things with unspeakable sorrow, should refuse to touch,
taste, or handle that which is the cause of such infinite misery?

Only a few women addicted to this fearful vice have joined our society,
and they have never continued long in it.  When the Word of God is
constantly read and explained, when it is made the foundation of _all_
that is taught,—for our relative and domestic duties have not there been
passed over,—deliberate living in sin becomes incompatible with the
pureness of the moral atmosphere diffused around.  Many a deep sigh have
I heard, as the prayer for the poor drunkard has gone up.

One evening, I was reading the fifteenth chapter of St Luke.  When we
came to the words—“I will arise, and go to my father,” I said that some
seemed to think that only a certain kind of prodigal would be received
back in this way.  I had often heard poor drunkards remark, that there
was no mercy for them—they were given up—they must be lost; whereas if we
went back a little in the history, and remembered that it was said of
this particular prodigal, “he wasted his substance in riotous living,” it
would seem that the drunkard was especially meant.  I observed a poor,
untidy, dirty woman sitting near me; she was weeping bitterly: her
distress was so great, that I never felt so much difficulty in steadying
my voice and going on.  After the meeting was over, she staid behind to
speak to me.  She said—“Oh, ma’am, I have felt _lost_ for years, as if
nothing could save me; and the thought that I might _hope_ quite overcame
me; it was so new to me, I thought I should have sunk!”  This woman
attended regularly for a few weeks, and then she was obliged to remove to
a distance.  I have not heard of her since.  The neighbours told me she
was “a deal steadier afore she left;” and I have hope in that word which
“shall not return unto me void; but it shall accomplish that which I
please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

In order to impress a portion of Scripture upon the minds of our members,
I request them, after the prayer is over, to repeat a verse.  This is
not, of course, compulsory; but most of them comply, or attempt to
comply.  As some of them cannot read at all, and others very imperfectly,
there are not many who repeat the passage correctly.  I generally make a
few remarks upon the verse which I select, with the hope that they will
better remember it, and take it as their motto for the week.  I remember,
one evening, I repeated—“Fear not, little flock; it is your Father’s good
pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  I told them I once heard of a man who
had a great deal of money—more than he really knew what to do with.  He
had a brother, who was very poor, and who used sometimes to ask his rich
brother for help.  One day, he begged for the loan of £20.  The rich
brother said he would advance the sum, on the condition that the poor
brother would write and promise never to trouble him any more.  I
contrasted this with God’s way of bestowing His gifts upon us.  He not
only gives, but it is His good pleasure to give (as we say, sometimes, we
are happy to do so and so), and bestow, not a perishing sum of money
only, but a kingdom.  A poor chimney-sweeper’s wife, sitting near me, was
evidently listening with even more than her usual earnestness.  She could
not read, neither could her husband, and they had no children old enough
to go to school; therefore, repeating a verse was to her a considerable
undertaking.  She was, however, one of those energetic people who cannot
bear to be left behind.  A fragment of a verse, if nothing more, we were
sure to get from her; and the mutilations did not trouble her, as she was
not conscious of them.  I saw, upon this occasion, she was bent upon
getting possession of _this_ verse; and I therefore took care to repeat
it distinctly two or three times.  Next week, when it came to her turn,
she repeated, in a triumphant voice, as if she thought her verse _now_ as
good as any one’s—“Fear not, little flock; yer Father will be very ’appy
to give yer the kingdom.”

The narratives of Scripture, when explained and illustrated, interest
them more than any story-book that I have ever found.  The pressure of
their domestic duties prevents many of them from attending a place of
worship; and the imperfect way in which they read, obliges them to give
more attention to the words than to the sense, and keeps their stock of
book-knowledge very small.  The history of Daniel in the lion’s den has
the same charm for them as for children.  I remember once, when reading
the verse—“Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.”  I
said, these words strikingly shewed how perfectly calm and self-possessed
the prophet was.  We might have supposed, from the terrible position in
which he was, that he would have said at once, “Oh, take me away from
this dreadful place!” but instead of that, he did not even forget to
preface his answer to the king with the usual courtly phrase, “O king,
live for ever.”  After the meeting was over, I observed two women
standing together, and talking about this.  One of them was an
Irishwoman, and a professed Roman Catholic.  She was saying to the
other—“And jist to think now, that he should have minded his manners, and
all, at sich a time as that.”  Little expressions of this kind are not
only amusing, but valuable as a criterion by which to judge how far the
women understand what is said, and are interested in it.  A friend of
mine, who attended the meeting once, was so much diverted by some of
these original sayings and doings, that she said afterwards—“I am afraid
you must find the society of polite people, who never say or do anything
but what is strictly correct, rather dull after this.”



CHAPTER VII.
Giving and Receiving.


    “The world’s a room of sickness, where each heart
       Knows its own anguish and unrest!
    The truest wisdom there, and noblest art,
       Is his who skills of comfort best;
    Whom by the softest step and gentlest tone
             Enfeebled spirits own,
       And love to raise the languid eye,
    When, like an angel’s wing, they feel him fleeting by.”

                                                                    KEBLE.

ONE principal motive which has induced me to write this little book is
the hope that, by facts and illustrations, I might remove the idea of
_difficulty_ which many people attach to the management of such
institutions as I have described.  Many excellent and kind-hearted ladies
have said to me, “I should be so afraid to attempt it.”  “It must require
a person very clever, I am sure; I should never be able to interest
them.”  These objections arise out of the mistaken notion that the
necessary qualifications belong more to the head than to the heart; that
some _great_ thing is required of us, rather than a _good_ thing.

I received a letter, a few days ago, from a gentleman at Plymouth, in
which he tells me of the progress of a Mothers’ Society in that town,
conducted partly by his wife.  Speaking of one of their tea-meetings, at
which he had been present, he says, “Whilst there, I was much struck by
the fact that, notwithstanding the great difference in our circumstances,
our _wants_ are much the same.  We all have anxieties to be allayed,
weaknesses to be supported, sins to be forgiven, hopes to be assured, and
aspirations to be encouraged.  The maladies of all classes are the same,
and require the leaves of the tree given for the healing of the nations.
In this view we are one with the poorest and the lowest, and we speak
_to_ them as one of them.”

It is the realisation of this great thought of being one with them, which
is the true qualification.  No amount of ability will avail without this.
When the head is simply to be stored with knowledge, the greater the
ability which the teacher possesses the better.  But the evils that we
hope to remove by meeting the poor in this way, have more of a moral than
a mental origin; and consequently they must be met as moral evils,
proceeding from the frailty to which we are all liable.  The great object
of the teacher must be to awaken in the mind of the poor mother a deep
sense of her _responsibility_; and this must be spoken of (and how
truly!) as _our_ responsibility.  The very slighting way in which poor
girls generally hear themselves mentioned, the little account in which
they are held, the absence, in fact, of almost everything that can make
them feel of importance in society, induce a habit of thought very
unfavourable to a conscientious discharge of their duties.  The feeling I
speak of is something perfectly distinct from either vanity or pride.  It
is the conviction that interests of great importance are committed to us,
out of which arise duties for whose performance we shall be held
responsible, not only to society, but to Him who has consigned these
sacred trusts to our care, saying, “Occupy till I come.”

I was lately visiting one of our poor women, whose progress I have now
had the pleasure of watching for some years.  She was lamenting the death
of one of her favourite plants, and said—

“I do like to see them pretty green things agin the white curtains; ’tis
something cheerful, like, for the children to watch; they looks after the
buds and flowers as if they could see ’em grow.”

I replied—“The little slips you planted a few weeks ago will soon be up;
and in the meantime, your nice white curtains will make the room look
very neat.”

“Yes; these white curtains I bought last ar’n’t quite so nice as I should
like ’em to be.”

I smiled.  I could not help looking back a few years, and remembering the
wretched hovel in which I had first become acquainted with her and her
children, when even a pair of clean hands or a clean face would have been
as great a rarity as snow in harvest.

“Why, Mrs R—,” I added, “you have become particular, indeed.  I see
something new every time I come.  I don’t know where you are going to
stop.”

“Never, I hope, ma’am.  We saves up, and gets one little thing after
another; and such rejoicing goes on here at every fresh thing that comes.
The children have saved their halfpence for a long time past, and last
week they bought two new hymn-books; and the first thing we hear in the
morning, when we wakes, is their singing; and their voices is so pretty.”

The children rushed to shew their treasures, carefully unwrapped them
from the paper, and produced two threepenny “Curwen’s Hymn-books.”  No
landed proprietor could have felt richer, or looked happier.

“I often think, ma’am,” said the mother, “of how we was when you first
came to us; and I often think, too, how I _could dare to_ keep such a
place for my poor husband and children as I did then.  I hope the Lord
have forgive me.”

Here was the secret of all this social improvement.  “How can I _dare_ to
keep so much misery about me, that I could and ought to prevent?  How can
I _dare_ to leave these children, whom God has entrusted to me to train
for Him, without trying in any way to prepare them either for time or for
eternity?  How shall I dare to stand before God’s judgment throne, to
give an account of the deeds done in the body?”  It is this awakening of
conscience that alone enables a poor mother to see her true position, and
gives her the courage and resolution to do her best for her husband and
children, in the face of difficulties of which the rich have scarcely any
idea.  Where conscience has slumbered long, or, as in most cases, has
never been aroused, the progress will often be slow; but let this right
principle be once established, and the work is done.

In introducing subjects of a domestic nature, the word “_us_” should be
more frequently used than “_you_.”  It is well sometimes to speak
particularly of our own difficulties and mistakes; it helps our listeners
to regard us as fellow-sufferers—as friends, who can understand and
sympathise with them.  When a poor mother tells us how much misery the
bad behaviour of her children is causing her, we must not say (though it
might be true), “Ah! that is just the natural consequence of all your bad
management; if you had only done what I advised, it would not have
happened.”  It must be—(and what mother cannot truthfully say so?)—“Ah! I
can feel for you; for my children trouble _me_ a good deal sometimes, and
occasion me much anxiety.  I don’t know what I should do, if I could not
bring them to God in prayer, and hope in His mercy for them.”

On one occasion, while about to leave home for a few weeks, I received a
message from a poor woman that several of her children had been attacked
by fever.  I could not, of course, go to her then; but I wrote to her the
next day from the sea-side.  I happened to mention, in my letter, that I
was under some anxiety for the health of one of _my_ children.  In her
reply, after thanking me for my remembrance of her, she said, “And I
thank you very much for telling me about your own child being ill.  I
pray for her, too, when I pray for my own children; and I seem to feel
more sure that God will hear me.”

During the first year, as I have already mentioned, I had to conduct this
society alone; being without the kind assistance which I now enjoy.  I
was, of course, very anxious that nothing should ever prevent my being
there at the appointed time.  I had at one time, for some days, been
suffering from toothache; and when the day for the meeting came, I was in
such an unnerved state, that the slightest noise distressed me very much.
But when the evening came, I felt that I must go.  I remember standing at
the foot of the stairs, trembling in every nerve; and wondering how it
was possible to mount to the top, and go into the room to face all the
women.  I had, indeed, to look up to “Him who giveth power to the faint;”
and He did not forsake me.

After the preliminary business was over, and as I sat down to read, I
said, “Now, though you are generally so quiet and orderly, I must ask you
to-night to be, if possible, still more so.  I have been suffering very
much from pain in my face; and it has made me so nervous, that I cannot
bear any noise.  When my children came to me to-day, after dinner, though
they tried to be quiet, yet even their moving about made me so much
worse, that I had to send them away to the nursery.  After they were
gone, and the room was still, I thought that some of you, no doubt,
suffered sometimes just in the same way, and that you had no nursery to
send your children to; and I felt very sorry for you.”

The Mrs A— mentioned in a former chapter was there: she had become a most
zealous champion of mine.  I cannot help laughing now at the recollection
of her tall, commanding figure, as she sat that evening bolt upright in
her chair, looking round with an air of defiance, as much as to say, “Let
me see any one dare to make a noise.”  If a chair creaked, or scissors
dropped, her head was round in an instant.  A little, unfortunate boy,
about four years of age, who came with his mother because he could not be
left at home, was singled out as her special victim.  He could not move,
however quietly, without her threatening face and finger being directed
towards him.  She seemed to exercise some mysterious spell over him, as
he scarcely withdrew his eyes from her; and at last, when a halfpenny
rolled off his lap under the table, he instantly followed it, and
remained out of sight, as if unable to face her again after _that_.  The
energy of her character communicated itself to her needle.  Presently
this noisy needle stopped.  I did not notice it at first, thinking that,
perhaps, she was watching some fresh victim; but, as she continued idle,
I looked up from my book, and said, “Are you waiting for anything, Mrs
A—, that I can give you?”

“Why, ma’am, you see I forgot to bring the sleeves out of the box, when I
fetched my work, and I can’t go on any longer without ’em; but I have got
such thick shoes on, I thought I should make such a racket in fetching
’em, that I should upset you altogether, and I had rather not finish my
work than do that.”

I knew what a self-denial it must be to her not to drive on to the end of
her work, when she had intended to do so; and I appreciated her kind
consideration accordingly.

It has been quaintly said, that “there are more points in which a Queen
resembles her washer woman than in which she does not.”  Without dwelling
upon these extremes, nothing is more certain than that whenever a lady
goes amongst the poor, hoping to benefit them by her influence, she must
be impressed much more by the points of resemblance that exist between
them, than by the points of difference.  Mothers’ Societies have a
peculiar advantage in this respect.  The sufferings and joys attendant on
the mother’s life are common to all, and enable us to realise, more than
any other circumstance or relation in life, that we are all children of
one great family.  The best lessons we can find for our poor sisters will
be always those which we learn from our own hearts—from our own actual
every-day experience.  Sometimes I have repeated a portion of Scripture
with them, which I had previously read with my own children; telling them
what remarks I made upon it, and what the children said about it.  This,
besides interesting and amusing them more than a common explanation, has
a better effect than saying, “You should teach your children so and so.”

I should be afraid of the accusation of “telling as new what everybody
knows,” if I had not so often seen good and excellent people, from whom I
could learn much on most other points, almost entirely fail in anything
which they attempted amongst the poor, just because they did not
recognise the fact that the law of “doing as we would be done by” applies
as much to our intercourse with the poor as with our equals.  I remember
a case in point.  One of our poor mothers had for some months brought
with her a very fine baby.  He was a beautiful child, and so
sweet-tempered, that she had no difficulty in keeping him quiet.  She was
very proud of him, of course, and used to seat him on the table, and
resort to a variety of little manœuvres to induce us to notice and praise
him.  But when he began to cut his teeth, a sad change occurred.  He
became thin and pale, and so did the poor mother, through her
night-watching, and hard work; and we could hardly recognise in them the
bright child and happy mother we used to see.  At last, the little fair
head became covered with sores—very sorrowful to witness; and, instead of
now shewing off her child, the poor stricken mother concealed him as much
as possible with her shawl, and sat apart from the rest of the company.

One evening, a visitor came in and staid about an hour with us.  She
evidently had not been much accustomed to such society, and did not feel
at home in it.  Whilst I was taking the money for the work, she tried to
talk to some of the women, but I saw that she found great difficulty in
it.  Presently, a feeble cry attracted her attention to the poor baby;
with a look of great disgust, she said to the mother—

“Why, what have you been doing with that child’s head?”

“What did you say, ma’am?” answered the mother, hoping, I suppose, that
she had mistaken the question.  It was repeated.  The mother looked very
angry, and replied, “I hav’n’t been doing of nothing with it.  I suppose
rich people’s babies get bad heads, sometimes, as well as poor people’s?”

Many in the room sympathised with her, as I plainly saw, when looking up
from my account-book.  It seemed as if an evil spirit had suddenly
alighted amongst us, and taken possession of us all; for every
countenance looked more or less angry.  Such is the wonderful power of a
few words.  When shall we ever duly estimate the omnipotence of words?  I
had finished my accounts, so I rose from my seat, and went across the
room to fetch something that I did _not_ want; and, as I passed the
offending head, I stroked the little pale face, and said—

“Poor baby! how sad it is that it must begin to suffer so soon, and give
its poor mother so many anxious nights and weary days.”

The baby smiled upon me its accustomed smile; and, by the time I was back
to my seat, I saw the mother’s head bent over the child; the quiet tears
were dropping upon its face, and the evil spirit was gone.

Now, this lady was by no means of an unkind disposition; she would have
given us money if we had asked for it, and would have exerted herself far
more than many, to render us any real service.  She might truly have
said—

    “And yet it was never in my soul
       To play so ill a part;
    But evil is wrought by want of thought,
       As well as want of heart.”

The most beautiful and touching lessons on this subject are to be found
in the life of our Saviour!  Of course a _word_ or a _message_ from Him
could have conveyed the miraculous healing power; but in most cases He
chose to touch the sightless eye, to put His finger into the deaf ear,
and to take her that was dead by the hand.  Even the poor leper, whom no
one would scarcely pass on the road—who had “sat apart” for years, a
stranger to all human sympathy—what must that touch have been to Him!
Jesus knew that a double healing was required here, not only for the body
covered with sores, but for the spirit, wounded by long neglect and
estrangement.  Each must be healed, before the feelings of a man and a
brother could return.  A word or a message could have effected the first,
but the touch accomplished both.

And yet how incomparably greater was the distinction that existed between
Jesus and this poor man, compared with that which exists between the
highest lady of the land and the poor cinder-picker at Paddington!  We
hear often about the condescension of the high towards the low; yet, how
it all fades away in the light of the life of Him “who, though He was
rich, yet for our sakes became poor!”  We are commended sometimes for the
few spare hours which we give to the poor; but what are these to His
gifts, who always “went about doing good;” who sought not “to be
ministered unto, but to minister;” and who closed all by “giving His
_life_ a ransom for many?”

Haydon remarked, about his pictures, “I was never satisfied with anything
I did, until I had forgotten what I wished to do.”  With the example of
Christ before us, at which to aim, it will surely be long before any of
His followers will be able to say of _their_ work that they are
_satisfied_.



CHAPTER VIII.
Light upon a Dark Subject.


    “All may of Thee partake;
       Nothing can be so mean,
    Which, with His tincture (for Thy sake),
       Will not grow bright and clean.
    A servant with this clause
       Makes drudgery divine;—
    Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws,
       Makes that and th’ action fine.”

                                                           GEORGE HERBERT.

“NOW, all this kindness, sympathy, and so forth, that you talk about, are
very well in their way; but you surely find you cannot do everything you
wish amongst the poor by these means?  What do you say to them about
their dirty ways, their bad management, neglect of their children, and
all that sort of thing?”  The answer to this question, put to me a short
time ago, would occupy more space than could be spared in the limits of a
small book.  I will not, therefore, attempt more than a single
illustration in reply.

One subject that comes under my notice, very frequently, is the inquiry
for places of service for the daughters, sisters, and friends of the
higher class of women in our society.  Many secrets of service have been
confided to me; and I ought, therefore, to be wise; but the subject is
difficult.  It is painful to be constantly hearing from mistresses that
there are scarcely any good servants to be met with; and from servants,
“there is no good places going, scarce.”  Something must be wrong.  That
two classes so necessary to each other, and intended by the wise Disposer
of all events to bless and benefit each other, should entertain such
feelings of animosity and ill-will, is deeply to be deplored.  If there
is any remedy for so great an evil, if any solution of so difficult a
problem is possible—here, almost more than on any other subject, is there
room for the whole energy of the philanthropist—here is one of the most
direct roads that can offer, to the elevation of those who greatly need
raising, and to the amelioration of our whole social system.

I think it must now be three or four years since several circumstances
brought this matter more prominently before us.  I said that we would
give up one evening to the special discussion of it.  I appointed the
next week, and invited the mothers to bring with them their own
daughters, and any young people they liked.  The number that came, shewed
that the subject was popular with them.

It was not difficult to find an appropriate Scripture lesson for the
evening.  The Old Testament abounds with interesting reference to
servants.  It is remarkable that the first-recorded appearance of an
angel in this world was to a servant—Hagar.  Abraham’s servant, Eliezer,
was to him as his right hand.  The character which we particularly dwelt
upon was Rebecca’s nurse, Deborah,—beginning at the first mention of her.
“And they sent away Rebecca, their sister, and her nurse.”  We traced her
probable life, as can easily be done from the history that is given us of
the families in which she lived; the long quiet years with Isaac and
Rebecca alone, when she doubtless had her trials, arising, perhaps, from
the want of perfect truthfulness in her mistress, or from the quiet,
contemplative disposition of her master, who did not always appreciate
her efforts to please.  Then came two little boys to be nursed, who,
while they gratified her pride, gave her as much trouble as little boys
of the present day.  How often the nurse and mother conversed together
about them, as they grew up to be young men!—Deborah sometimes, with a
heavy heart, not liking to tell the mother all that went on behind her
back.  Her earlier discovery of the vast difference in the dispositions
of the brothers, had already awakened in her mind a fear that trouble was
in the distance.  And when the trouble came—when the little household,
once so peaceful, was distracted by the contention of the brothers—when
the uncongenial daughters-in-law, who were a grief of mind to Isaac and
Rebecca, were introduced into the family—when her mistress discovered too
late, that whatever is purchased at the expense of truth, brings only
sorrow—and when at last she had to witness the distress of her mistress
in parting with her favourite son,—through all this, how often must the
kind assistance and sympathy of this faithful servant have been sought!
how many tears shed by the poor mother in secret were wiped away by the
hand of this unfailing friend!

After the last kind offices were performed for Rebecca, we find Deborah
in Jacob’s family, living her old life over again in the care of his
children, and winning love and respect even from Rebecca’s lawless
descendants.  Is it any wonder, if, after all this, a chosen spot, “under
an oak,” was selected as the place of her burial, and that the numerous
family who attended her to the grave should have wept so much, that the
name of the place ever after was called “Allon-bachuth,” the “oak of
weeping?”

Now, how many times, through all these eventful years, difficult and
trying circumstances must have occurred: long illness, perhaps;
quarrelsome children to contend with; great changes in the household
management; and so forth?  A modern servant would have said, many times
over, “Well, I can’t stand this; I must be off, and try for something
easier.”  “If people will get into such messes, they must get out of
them.”  “It is no business of mine: all I have to do is to take care of
myself;” and off she would have gone.  After repeating this many times,
is it any wonder that, instead of finding a home in the house of a
master’s favourite son, and attended to her grave by a weeping family,
she finds herself an outcast in the world, and understands the true and
bitter meaning of what, in the heyday of her health and strength, she
used boastingly to sing—

    “I care for nobody, no, not I,
    And nobody cares for me?”

“But now, ma’am,” said one of the women, “I don’t think it’s fair to
speak of places as if they could be always stopped in.  I have had my
daughter ill at home for months.  She was expected to be on her legs from
seven o’clock in the morning till twelve at night, and only two hours out
every other Sunday: she had to sleep in a room beside the kitchen, so
that she never changed the air hardly; and she got so ill, that I am
sometimes afeard she’ll never get well again.”

“And, ma’am,” said another, “some missuses is so mean, they wouldn’t like
anybody like you to know; so that you might go to a house many times, and
never find it out: but they stints the poor servants in their food and
their rest, and seems to be always a-thinking how much they can get out
of ’em, and how little they can give ’em.  I’m sure I know people about
here that ain’t fit to take care of a dog.”

Several others spoke to the same effect.

At last I said, “I should, indeed, be sorry for you to suppose that I
think it is entirely the fault of servants that we are doing so badly in
this way at the present time.  So far from it, I think mistresses are
quite as much to blame as servants.  But it would not be a wise thing for
us to spend the little time we have together here in talking about what
we cannot help.

“Mistresses tell me, that it is the bad servants that put them out; and
you tell me it is the bad mistresses that put you out.  The sooner both
parties begin to make some alteration the better.  But as I am the only
mistress here to-night, it is only waste of time talking about
mistresses.  And I want to ask you, first, if you do not think _you_ have
something in _your_ power?  Is there nothing _you_ can do to make things
better than they are now?”

No one answered; so I continued, “I will tell you about a servant I once
knew very well.  Her name was not Jane, but I will call her by that name
now.  From fourteen to sixteen, she was employed, under an upper-nurse,
in taking care of some little children; but, as she wished to be a cook,
her mother found a place for her as kitchen-maid, where she was under a
servant celebrated for her good cooking and bad temper.  The only time
Jane had for going out was Sunday afternoon, when she always went home to
see her mother.  For the first four weeks she brought home nothing but
complaints of her place: it was so hard; the tyrannical cook was
intolerable to live with; the kitchen was so hot, &c.  With many tears
and lamentations she besought her mother to take her away from the place.
The mother, after making careful inquiry, found that the cook was really
a difficult and trying woman to live with; but that she was a good
teacher; and that the toil of which Jane complained would, in the end, be
the means of her getting a more thorough insight into her work.  She
ascertained, too, that though Jane was fully occupied all day, she was
never kept up at night; therefore, she was not likely to suffer in
health: and as to the hot kitchen, that was the more trying to Jane, from
her having previously been accustomed to be out of doors half the day
with the children; but as cooking is usually accomplished in a hot
kitchen, the sooner she learned to bear that the better.

“The Sunday after all these inquiries had been made, Jane came home, and,
as usual, began her complaints; the mother stopped her, by saying—

“‘I have been inquiring this week all about your place, and I find there
are in it some things very uncomfortable and trying; but it is just the
place where you can learn to be a good cook, and, whatever you may think
of it, Jane, I mean you to stop there two years.’

“‘O mother!’ said Jane, ‘how can you be so cruel!’ and she burst into
tears.

“‘Jane,’ said her mother, ‘when the boys went out to work, you know how
Jim used to complain about how he was teased in the carpenter’s shop, and
how bad Harry’s hands used to get with the bricks; they used to come home
awful tired in the evening; but I said to them, as you know, “Well, boys,
it is no good to give in; we can’t have nothing in this world without
trying for it.  All this suffering and hard work will make men of you,
and make you worth something.  I don’t want my boys to be gingerbread
people, that can’t do nothing, and can’t bear nothing; you must just face
about, and meet your troubles, and it’ll be the making of ye by and by.”
And so, Jane, now I say the very same to you.  I had to pay something for
the boys’ learning their trades, and to keep ’em, too; but you are both
paid and kept while you are learning yours; and so you must make up your
mind to leave off grumbling, put your own shoulder to the wheel, and I
say to you, as I did to them, it will be the making of ye by and by.’

“Jane knew her mother always meant what she said, and after she had made
up her mind it was no use arguing with her; and she went back to her
place, feeling that, whatever she might have to endure, all she could do
was to make the best of it.

“At the end of the two years she left; but she was a good cook,—not hurt
by her hard work, although I know well—for I have heard her speak of it
many times—her work was very hard for the body, and trying to the mind.
She was immediately afterwards engaged by a family, who lived near her
old mistress; and had twelve pounds a-year.  After being there six years,
through some changes in the household, she left; but she enjoyed the
reputation of being the best cook in the neighbourhood, and was
immediately offered a situation in a large establishment, at wages of
sixteen pounds a-year.  Here she remained ten years, and then married,
having saved upwards of two hundred pounds: for, besides good wages, she
had occasionally received presents from various members of the families
in which she had lived, who valued her exceedingly, and speak of her to
this day with respect and affection.  She was married from her mistress’s
house, where a wedding breakfast was provided.  When she went off with
her husband, the whole family assembled to bid her farewell, and express
their good wishes; and one of the great boys did not forget to throw an
old shoe after them, for luck.  The last time I saw her, she was in a
most comfortably furnished cottage, nursing her baby; and, amongst other
things, she said to me—

“‘The best thing that ever happened to me in my life was my mother saying
to me, ‘Whatever you may think of it, Jane, I mean you to stay there two
years.’”

One of my party was a gipsy-girl, about thirteen years of age.  She
seemed to listen to this story with great interest; and after I had
ended, she exclaimed, without addressing herself to any one in
particular—

“I will learn to do something _well_; I am determined I will.”

“That is capital,” I said: “it is just that resolution which is wanted;
everything else is sure to follow.

“The best servant I ever had was entirely self-taught: she was the eldest
of ten children, and spent her life, till she was fifteen, in ‘holding
the baby;’ then she went to a house in our neighbourhood, as under-nurse,
and to help the other servants when required.  She was so obliging, that
she became a favourite with every one.  The nurse taught her to read and
sew; the young ladies taught her to write; the cook found her so handy
that, after she had been in the nursery three years, she begged her
mistress to allow her to have her in the kitchen.  She came to me two
years after that, able and willing to put her hand to any kind of work
required; she remained with me six years, and then married a respectable
carpenter.  She is now in America; and in the last letter which I
received from her, she told me that her husband was earning four pounds
a-week by his trade, and she could earn one pound a-week by her dairy.”

“But, ma’am,” said one of the women, “don’t you see, it wasn’t _all_ good
management that made these people you tell us about so prosperous; it was
partly good luck,—they got good places.”

“Yes, I see that; but it was their good name that got them the good
places, and their good behaviour that enabled them to keep them.”

“Ah!  I see,” said another; “’course they wouldn’t have stopped there, if
they hadn’t been worth something.”

“It is this ‘_being worth something_’ that has a great deal to do with
it, I assure you.  Supposing I were to send for a carpenter, and give him
some wood, and tell him to make me a box; and that in the evening, when I
looked at his work, I found that he had made such mistakes in cutting it
out and putting it together, that it was all spoilt; that there was no
possibility of making a box out of it; and all that he had done for me
was to make the material good for nothing.  I should say to him, ‘I
cannot pay you for your work.  You have deceived me in professing to be
able to do what it seems you cannot do; you have injured me by destroying
my property; and I cannot recommend you to any one else.’  Now, who would
call me unjust for this?  But what would be thought of a master if, when
he had sent away one spoilt dish after another from his table, he were to
send for the cook, and say to her—‘I engaged to give you a home in my
house, and to pay you certain wages, on condition that you cooked my food
nicely, and took care of the property committed to your charge.  I have
fulfilled my part of the engagement; you have not fulfilled yours.  If
you really cannot cook properly, then you did me an injustice in taking
my money, and accepting the shelter of my house.  Perhaps it only arises
from carelessness;—I will give you another trial, but I must be just to
myself at the same time I shall not pay you any wages for this day’s
work,—you have not earned any; and your being paid for the future will
depend upon whether you do what you engaged to do, or not.’  Now, who
could say this was unjust? and yet, I dare say, the self-styled cook
would go back to the kitchen and say, ‘She had never heard of such a
thing in her life.’

“I do not remember ever employing a carpenter who could not do what I
required of him; not so well always, perhaps, as it might have been done,
but still he did it.  But how many cooks, housemaids, and nurses have I
seen entirely fail in their engagements.  It arose, not from inferior
capacity, but from the great mistake which the girls had made, in
supposing that they could perform the very important duties assigned to
them in life, without preparation.  A boy who intends to be a carpenter,
begins, as early as he can, to observe how the work is done; he spends
years in patiently learning one branch of his trade after another, before
he asks for wages; consequently, he generally gives satisfaction to his
employers, and often remains with one master for many years.”

“But, ma’am,” said one, “how _are_ we to prepare our girls for service?
Our houses and our ways is so different from gentlefolk’s.  I really
don’t know what we can do.”

“I do not wonder at your saying this; I have often felt for you in this
difficulty.  I think your houses are not, perhaps, quite so much like
gentlefolk’s as they might be.  A person with good taste would prefer a
clean cottage, any day, to a dirty palace.  A bright, clean grate is just
as much an ornament to your room as to a lady’s drawing-room; and when
you set your eldest girls to clean, if you were more particular about
_how_ they did it, many a good lesson might be given.  But your principal
hope is, I think, in this kind of apprenticeship of which I have spoken.
Neither wages nor comfort, so long as the health is not endangered,
should be the chief consideration in choosing a girl’s first place.  She
should go from you with the impression on her mind that the future of her
life depends very much upon herself; that what makes people valued, is
their being valuable; that wealth is not to be obtained by wishing for
it, but by a long, determined course of patient continuance in
well-doing, and a resolution not to be daunted by difficulties.

“A girl prepared for her work in this way, would feel a self-reliance
that would tend very much to keep her from letting herself down to
anything low.  She would also be in a condition to make, what is called,
‘her own terms’ with her mistress.  By this, I do not mean to ask for
high wages,—there is no fault to be found with the amount of wages given
at the present day; but to ask for those privileges, without which a
servant cannot long continue to keep herself respectable.  I will tell
you what I think a girl, who could faithfully perform her part of the
contract, would be justified in asking.

“1st.  That she might have as much of the Sunday to herself as the
general arrangements of the household would permit.  The commandment
which tells us all to ‘remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy,’ has
especially said that servants are to rest on that day.  No one is likely
long to go on right who has no time to read the Bible—that great chart
intended to guide us through life,—without time to attend the public
means of grace, and without leisure to prepare for that world where the
serving and the served must stand side by side, to give up their account
to the great Master and Judge of all.

“2d.  She has a right to ask for the punctual payment of her wages on the
quarter-day.

“3d.  She has a right to ask that some little portion of the day may be
considered her own time.  The precise time must depend upon the habits of
the family.  Generally, after eight o’clock in the evening would be
convenient; but when the dinner-hour is late, and much company is kept,
some other hour must be fixed.  Sometimes—with nurses, for instance—it
has been found better to let them take all the needlework time, on one or
two days of the month, for their own work.  _Some time there must be_, or
a servant cannot do credit to her place, by keeping herself neat and
respectable.  But the time should never be _stolen_: a mistress pays for
time, and it is her right.  There must be a distinct understanding
between the mistress and servant; and I do not hesitate to say, from my
own experience, that such an arrangement would be found mutually
advantageous.”

After the meeting was over, several little groups might be seen in
various parts of the room, engaged in earnest conversation.  I heard one
of them say it was “a sight clearer to her than ever it had been before.”

About two years after this conversation, a woman called at my house, one
morning, bringing her two daughters with her, apparently about seventeen
or eighteen years of age.  I remembered she had formerly attended our
meeting, but she had since removed from the immediate neighbourhood.
After the first inquiries had passed, she said—

“I don’t know whether you remember, ma’am, about two years ago you talked
to us at the Mothers’ Meeting, one evening, all about servants and
missuses, and such like.  I was there, and these two girls.  We had been
puzzling ourselves a deal, for some time before, to know what was best to
do; and we understood what you said, and liked it; and it seemed to make
us see things better than we had ever done before.  I had heard of some
places for them; but we were afraid they would be overworked, and all
that.  As we were going home, the girls said they would try for it: they
didn’t want to be ‘gingerbread people,’ either.  So they took heart, and
went to work, and they have been hard at it ever since.  They ar’n’t very
stout, you see, ma’am; for they’ve had plenty of work, and none too much
to live upon.  But she’s a cook (pointing to the eldest), and I’ll be
bound no master’ll ever send for her to say she’s spoiled his dinner; and
she’s been in the nursery (pointing to the youngest), and learned to do
needlework well, as I can shew you (producing a piece of work).  There,
ma’am, ar’n’t that something like it should be?  She won’t have to
bargain for what she can’t do, that’s certain.”

There stood these two girls, looking rather pale and worn, but by no
means unhappy.  They were very plainly, though neatly, dressed; for no
finery could have been afforded out of the small wages which they had
received.  There was dignity about them, arising from a feeling of
conscious worth, and a sense that they were not simply asking for
employment as a favour: they were prepared honourably and truthfully to
give back in labour, the value of what they received in board and wages.
The contract would be advantageous to both parties, proving that our wise
and kind Father has allowed and designed all these distinctions for good;
that, by mutual dependence, we may be led to cherish those feelings of
respect and regard for each other which are the strongest cement of
society.

“For the body (of society) is not one member, but many.

“And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again
the head to the feet, I have no need of thee.”

“That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should
have the same care one for another.”

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.”

I need hardly say that places were easily found for such girls.  The
gipsy-girl, too, has kept to her determination of doing something well,
and has been in one place for the last fifteen months.



CHAPTER IX.
Our Missionaries.


                    “The poor are the poor’s best friend.”

    “Little words of kindness,
       Little deeds of love,
    Make this world an Eden,
       Like to heaven above.”

THOSE who have watched the “Mothers’ Society” from the commencement, will
see that every year has been marked by steady progress; and not merely in
numbers: the moral and spiritual tone has deepened, become more real,
more earnest, more active.  Nothing was so distressing to me, when I
first commenced this work, as to observe the unkind feelings which these
women manifested towards each other.  It was no unusual thing for me to
receive a call from one of them, for the purpose of telling me, that if I
allowed Mrs So-and-So to come to the meeting, then she should _not_ come.
“They hadn’t spoke for months, and never meant to speak any more; and
there was no pleasure in coming and seeing such a ‘ippocrit’ as she was,
‘sitten up there.’”  Then, again, I was warned not to take up with such a
one; for she was as false as she was high, and “nobody never believed a
word she said.”  Once, a mother came to complain against her own
daughter, telling me she was quite undeserving of the assistance I was
rendering her, and that the only thing that brought her amongst us was to
get all she could.  I often spoke to them very earnestly about these
accusations of each other, and assured them that this sin would be to our
meetings what Achan’s crime was to the camp of Israel; that we could
neither expect the blessing of a God of love ourselves, nor hope that our
united prayers for our children would be heard and answered, whilst we
were hating instead of helping one another.

But this is not so much a thing to be lectured against, as to be lived
down.  The constant reading together of the Word of God, especially of
His life who so loved us, sinners though we are, as to die for us, soon
had its effect upon us.  We have always, from the first, made a point of
referring in our prayers to any particular family affliction which had
occurred to any of our number, and also of sending kind messages to the
absent; and as I persisted in doing this to saints and sinners alike, and
never took any further notice of the evil reports brought to me, than to
pray more earnestly than ever, that we might _all_ be delivered from the
particular sins complained of, the evil spirit seemed gradually to die
out, and I hailed with joy many evidences of a very _different_ spirit.
The elder women began to remember that they could sometimes help the
younger ones, by nursing their babies, so that the work for the many
little ones at home might proceed the faster.  The younger members, in
their turn, would stop to thread the needle, which the failing sight of
some companion made a difficult operation.  The warmest seat by the fire
was given up to the poor invalid, who came with a bad cough, or to the
newly made mother, with her “wee baby.”  The only two footstools in the
room were given up to those who most needed them, instead of keeping
them, with the remark, “I got it fust, and I shall keep it,” which at one
time might have been heard.

One evening last winter I read to them, from “The Book and its Mission,”
some account of Marian, and what she was doing for her poor neighbours in
St Giles’s.  I saw they were extremely interested in the narrative; and I
said to them—“Now, many of you, I know, feel to those about you as kindly
as Marian; and if any of you think that you have time, and strength, and
spirit, for this work, I believe that, without giving up your whole days
to it (as, with you, that would be impossible), you might, by a little
planning and arrangement, accomplish a great deal of good.”  After the
meeting was over, three of the women came to me, and offered their
services in any way I thought best.  As it was then too late to go into
the subject, I invited them to tea on the following Wednesday.  The three
came, bringing with them a fourth, the mother of several little children,
who apologised much for coming, especially as she had to bring her baby
with her.  She knew she couldn’t do much, but she couldn’t bear to be
left out.  She thought she might take her baby, and sit with a sick
neighbour sometimes; or take care of some little children, with her own,
now and then, if that would do any good.  Two of the women were upwards
of fifty years of age, and had then no children living with them; the
other was one of those who attended our first meeting, and then told me,
that she thought, if we went on with the society, she might look in now
and then upon us: not that she wanted to learn anything; for, “I ’spect,”
said she, “I know everything better than anybody can tell me.”  In fact,
that _her_ visits would be to give us her patronage.  However, as we
became better acquainted, we were soon good friends.  She lost her
husband a few months afterwards, and was left to struggle alone, with a
family of boys, to whom she has done her duty, and they are truly rising
up to call her blessed.  With a very limited allowance from the parish,
she managed, by washing and mangling, to earn enough to support them, and
send them all to school; but the work was too hard for her.  After the
first year or two, I began to observe that she walked uneasily, and that
the expression of her countenance indicated constant suffering.  I soon
found that she was suffering from an internal complaint, which, I feared,
at first, admitted of no remedy.  But, notwithstanding all she endured,
she worked on, always saying she could bear anything but the workhouse,
and separation from her children; and managed, in spite of such
difficulties as would have sunk many a strong man’s heart, to keep her
little home to herself, and retain over her great boys an almost
unbounded influence.  She became so very ill last summer, that I took her
one day to “The London Home,” a kind of hospital for chronic diseases
just established in our neighbourhood.  The doctors spoke of her case,
not only hopefully, but as one that could certainly be cured; but it must
be by an operation; and it would be necessary for her to become an inmate
of the hospital for four or five weeks.  Under the skilful and humane
care of Mr Baker Brown, the cause of her suffering was entirely removed;
and the gratitude of this poor woman for so great a mercy seemed
unbounded.  During the evening on which she and her companions came to my
house, she said—“After I was sure I was going to be well again, I used to
lie in my bed in that hospital there for hours, with my heart lifted up
with gratitude to God; and I asked Him so many times to shew me what I
should do for Him for all His great love and kindness to me.  I really
did feel that love and thankfulness to Him, that I thought the first
strength I had I _must_ give to Him; but I couldn’t exactly see how.
Last Monday was the first time, since then, I have been able to come to
the meeting; and as you were reading about Marian, I says to myself,
‘There, that’s your sort of work; that’s what you’re to do;’ and I began
to think how God had tried me, and how I had suffered in almost every
way, and that He had helped me through everything, and never left me; and
I knew then that this was _His_ way of teaching me, and preparing me to
help others.  And now, ma’am,” she went on to say, “you see, people is
very kind to me; and my children’s beginning to help me; and I shan’t
have quite so much hard work as I have had; and though I can’t do a great
deal yet, I think I could give up _two_ afternoons in the week for doing
what I can for those who want help.  And I have thought of what you often
have told us, too, ma’am, that if we will but make a beginning in what is
right—even if we don’t see exactly how—that the way will open to us as we
go along, and God will send the light as we want it.  We don’t, none of
us, feel very wise about it at present; but we are all ready to do, as
far as we can, anything you think best.”

We spent a very pleasant evening together, and talked over various plans.
The women were of varied capacities, and I saw that they were not all
fitted for the same work; but they were all actuated by the same
spirit—love to their Saviour, and willingness to work for Him.

At our next meeting, in the following week, just as I sat down to read, a
little girl entered the room, and, coming up to me, said—

“Please, ma’am, mother sent me here to ask you to pray for her.”

“What is the matter with your mother?” I replied.

“She is very bad, ma’am, and hasn’t got nobody to do nothing for her.”

When the little girl was gone, I inquired if anybody knew this person
(Mrs S—), as she had only attended our meetings for a few times.  Only
one woman present knew anything about her, and she not much.

“I only know,” she said, “that she is a poor troubled thing, as has known
better days, and likes to keep herself to herself, like; for her husband
spends everything in drink, and never leaves her anything to make herself
decent with.”

I said to them, “I feel sure this poor woman wants just the kind of help
and sympathy that some of you know how to give.  I leave her in your
hands, and you can let me know if you want any help from me.”

The next afternoon, one of these newly appointed missionaries called on
me.  She said she had just come from Mrs S—, and described her visit as
follows:—

“I really could hardly help crying, ma’am, when I first went in, and saw
what a state the poor thing was in.  Her baby was born on Saturday
afternoon; and because she was too poor to pay the midwife the whole of
the sum due to her, the woman did not return to her the next morning, as
they usually do, to wash and dress the baby; but there she had been left,
without a creature going near to do anything for her.  She was too ill to
do anything for the baby herself; and there they and the other children
had been crying for hours.  I tried to speak cheerfully to her, and told
her I would soon set it all to rights; so I made up her bed clean and
comfortable, first, while the water was heating, and then I got a great
washing-pan and washed the poor miserable little baby in it, and put on
it some clean things, which I found in the bag of baby-linen that had
been lent her.  The little thing had been crying for hours; but it soon
felt comfortable, and went off to sleep before I had finished dressing
it.  I put it into bed with its mother, and then I got the Bible and read
a few verses to her; and then I knelt down and prayed with her as well as
I could.  I asked God to help her out of her trouble, and keep her from
thinking hard thoughts of Him, and make her to see He meant it for her
good.  Then I talked to her a good bit; and she told me how she had been
well off once, but that her husband’s drinking had ruined them all.  She
cried very much, poor thing, and said she had been praying all the
morning that God would send some one to help her.  I tried to comfort her
as well as I could, and told her that we would all pray for her, and that
God could change her husband’s heart.  Then I kissed her, and so I came
away: and now, ma’am, I am come to you, if you please, for some food for
them; for they all want that badly enough.”

The next morning another of these self-constituted missionaries went.
She was not so gifted in many ways as the one who first called.  She had
fewer words at command, and her hands were stiff, having suffered from
rheumatism, in consequence of which she found it impossible to dress the
baby; so she went for the mother mentioned above, who wished to do
something to help; and took care of her children while she was gone.
After this she returned, carried away everything that wanted washing, and
brought it all back clean in the evening.  This she continued to do for
three weeks: in fact, these three kind women took the entire charge of
the poor sufferer, and watched over her till she was able to work again.

I shall not easily forget the evening when Mrs S— came amongst us again,
bringing the new baby, as they usually do, to introduce to the meeting.
The regular business had not commenced, and I was going about from one to
the other, taking the money for the work.  After congratulating her upon
her recovery, and welcoming the new baby, she passed on to a seat by the
fire, that some of them were trying to make extraordinarily comfortable
for her.  I saw a little group gathering round her, talking about the
baby (we are rather in the habit of making a good deal of the last baby);
and presently, as in the course of my work I passed near this group, I
heard her say, “You have been just like kind sisters to me.  It was the
best day of my life when I came here, and I shall never forget how kind
you have been to me.”

“O Mrs S—,” said a kind, cheerful woman, who had the good sense to see
that the expression of strong feeling was too much for the poor, weak
mother just then, “never you mind about that; it did us good to do it:
and you must make haste and get well and strong, and then we shall come
upon you to help us some day.”

The sequel to this story is too pleasant to be omitted.

During the Christmas week, or as soon as possible afterwards, we invite
the poor women of this society, with their husbands, to partake of a
social cup of tea together.  The nicely lighted and prettily decorated
rooms presented last year a most cheerful appearance.  About a hundred
and fifty of these poor people assembled, with fifty or sixty of their
richer neighbours.

That evening I saw, for the first time, the husband of Mrs S—.  They were
sitting together, and she was nursing her baby; but they both looked
uneasy.  The drunkard and his family are so accustomed to “hide
themselves away from view,” that the bright light and numerous company
made them feel how shabby they were.  A few kind, encouraging words were
at first necessary to reassure them, and make them feel that they were
welcome.  Presently, I had the pleasure of observing that they had become
thoroughly interested in what was passing, and the clouds had passed away
from their countenances.

I do not think that any exhortation was given that night to drunkards
especially,—in fact, I believe that the subject was never once mentioned
in any way.  The platform was occupied by gentlemen of no common
standing.  Amongst the speakers, were some of the leading philanthropists
of the day; and it is not matter of surprise that the words of these
earnest men should have conveyed to their audience something of the
intense love and sympathy which pervaded their own hearts.  It was an
evening that many will long remember with pleasure; but to our poor
friend (Mrs S—) it was the beginning of a new life.  After the meeting
was over, her husband said to her—

“Wife, I am done for; I can never go back to those drinking ways again.
I can stand up against a good deal; but those people there would have
moved a post, let alone a man.”

This man was a fishmonger, and once had a business in this trade which he
sold for £300.  The greater part of this money was squandered in drink.
Since then, the only means by which he could support himself and his
family had been by hawking fish about the streets.  For many hours of a
Sunday morning, his loud voice might have been heard resounding through
the streets and squares of the neighbourhood; even the church doors were
not thick enough to shut out the noise; and the annoyance was often the
subject of complaint.

I went to see them, one morning about the beginning of March, but not in
the damp cellar where our acquaintance was first made.  They had taken a
neat little shop, and, though it was not well stocked, they were getting
on.

The eldest girl, who was appointed to look after the shop, certainly
looked as if she felt herself “a person of consequence.”  I could
scarcely recognise in her the poor “crushed-out” thing whom I had seen
working for the family in their former dark abode.  The other
children—who used to remind me of the plants which we shut up in our
cellars in the winter, keeping them without nourishment or light, that
they may not exhaust their powers in growing—were now gambolling about
the shop, while the sun was shining on them so brightly that they had to
shade their eyes with their hands as they looked up.  The mother, though
she had lost that look of abject distress, still seemed anxious.

“It is hard work, ma’am,” she said, “to get right when things have been
going wrong so long; but I hope, by God’s blessing, we shall get out of
trouble after a bit; for my husband keeps steady, thank God.  The
children go to school now, and the elder ones have joined the Band of
Hope.  I don’t think anything in the world would make these two boys
drink.  They go errands sometimes for people, and have drink offered to
them, but they will never touch it.  I do pray every day that they may
never know what it is to suffer and sin as we have done.”

                                * * * * *

And so the poor mother, with the full consciousness before her of the
cause of her own blighted life, looks at her children, and with uplifted
hands and streaming eyes prays—as none but the wife of a drunkard ever
prays—“Deliver them, oh, deliver them from evil!”  And the children, with
the recollection ever before them of their joyless childhood and
sorrowful home, band themselves together, trying thus by union to
strengthen their moral courage to resist evil, and they pray—“Oh, lead us
not into temptation.”  Let us kneel with them and pray too, that God, in
mercy to these poor captives, sighing for deliverance, will awaken the
consciences of those who still dare to offer the intoxicating cup as a
remuneration for labour.  If they will not pause and listen to the groans
of humanity, the wail of despair, that is ascending night and day from
every corner of this land through this accursed thing, let them, for
their own sakes, ponder the meaning of the terrible words too lightly
passed over, even by those who tell us that He who uttered them is their
Lord and Master.  “Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”  “It were
better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast
into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”

                                * * * * *

But to return to our missionaries.  One of them spends the greater part
of Monday morning in collecting money for the savings’ bank.  She has
occasionally brought me as much as £2 in the evening, all obtained in
small sums, even as low as a penny, and rarely higher than 2s. 6d.  This
poor woman suffers very much from a swollen foot and leg.  I have said to
her—

“I am afraid you must find it very painful to walk and stand about so
long.”

“Well, ma’am, ’tis rather,” she will say; “but it does me good: and I
think how happy I shall be when I take it back to them in the winter, and
they tell me it is all as if I had given it to them, for they haven’t
a-missed it.”

On Monday afternoon, they bring me their report of what they have been
doing during the week.  I learn from them the general state of things,
and what is actually transpiring, much better than I could from any
investigation of my own making.  The poor have no hope, in their dealings
with one another, of getting at a “blind side,” as they sometimes do with
a lady; and the positive facts which I obtain are of great use to me in
many ways, and have often saved me from making mistakes.

In order to keep up a vigorous and lively interest at the “Mothers’
Meetings,” the subjects that are brought forward must usually have some
reference to what is passing among them.  I have frequently, at home,
thought of a topic to form the basis of our conversation in the evening;
and on my way there, or even after I have entered the room, I have heard
of events which I knew must so absorb their attention, that there could
be little chance of their following out my train of thought; and that if
I wished to do them good, I must follow theirs instead.

I once heard our city missionary make a remark, which has been very
useful to me.  He said—

“We must remember, in our intercourse with the poor, that they have a
constant pressure upon their minds, as to how they are to provide for
their ever-returning wants; and we must not expect more abstract
attention from them than we feel we should be inclined to give ourselves,
supposing that we were so situated as not to know certainly how the
dinner for to-morrow was to be provided.”

I have thought that our interviews may be compared to meeting men on a
battle-field.  How absurd it would be to call them aside, and endeavour
to fix their attention on some of the abstruse metaphysical questions of
the day!  “Oh,” they would say, “pray do not trifle with us; we are ready
to sink under the heat and burden of this protracted contest!  Talk to us
of the battle, and how we are to sustain this conflict; and tell us, oh!
tell us, is there any hope of peace at last?”

None, I believe, feel more emphatically that life is a battle than the
poor mother, with her many children and few helps.  The demands made on
her strength, patience, and resources are beyond what those in easier
circumstances can conceive.  I have felt ashamed sometimes, after
speaking of the virtues of patience and forbearance, to think how utterly
I might fail in all these, were I tried as they are tried.

I once persuaded a poor man to attend a place of worship.  He went to a
dissenting chapel.  The next time I saw him, I asked him how he liked it.

“Well, ma’am,” he said, “I dare say it was all very good, if anybody
could have understood it.  I thought I should have got on a bit with the
prayer; but there were such a lot of hard words in it, I couldn’t make
nothing of it.  Parsons don’t understand nothing about us, or, instead of
praying for all them outlandish things, they’d pray a bit for us, now and
then, and for our poor wives at home, that can’t never get out to pray
for themselves, and got work to do that would frighten them to look at.”

This remark will shew the estimation in which the very poor generally
hold the services in our churches and chapels.  It would be unwise to
argue from it, that some great alteration must be necessary; that the
language and thoughts of every preacher should be so simplified as to be
brought to the level of the uneducated.  There would be a want of justice
in this.  The higher classes have a right to be considered, as well as
the poorer; their tastes and requirements must be thought of and provided
for; and as they are satisfied, edified, and instructed by things as they
are, for themselves, let things remain as they are.  What we want is
something in _addition_ to that which we already have, and, we think,
something very different.

The college education received by our ministers of religion would not be
the best possible preparation for our Ragged School Teachers and City
Missionaries.  The clearness imparted to the intellect by mathematical
studies, the extensive knowledge of words derived from the acquirement of
many languages,—in fact, the general discipline through which the mind of
the student passes, gives him a mental power which sets him at an
immeasurable distance from the man who does all his counting upon his
fingers, and whose only knowledge of language is derived from what he has
picked up in the streets.

Our City Missionaries are doing what they can to supply this want.  The
hired room where they sit, surrounded by the unwashed and uncombed,
picturing out to them a passage of Scripture, applying its lessons to
their daily life, and then praying to Him who can bless their daily toil,
and give them daily strength,—these are the services appreciated by the
“sons of toil,” and we thank God for having raised up these simple,
earnest teachers.

It is the deep conviction which I hold that the poor can be best helped,
as well as taught, by those who thoroughly understand them, that has
induced me to hail with delight the introduction upon the field of labour
of the Female Missionary.  A sensible, true-hearted Christian woman, very
little removed above the poor herself, will accomplish much more amongst
them than any lady, however well inclined she may be.  So many minutiæ
must be considered in endeavouring to improve the home habits of these
people, such a constant watchfulness is necessary to prevent a
degeneration into merely amateur work, that it requires all the method,
skill, and determination of the professional hand.

There are modes of argument which the poor know how to use with the poor,
which would never occur to people differently situated.  A few weeks ago,
I requested one of our missionaries to call upon a family, where there
were a number of children growing up in great ignorance, and to see if
she could not persuade the mother to send some of them to school.  Next
time I saw her, I asked her what success she had had.

“At first, ma’am,” she said, “I couldn’t get on at all; the mother did
not seem to care about the children’s knowing anything, and she said she
was sure she could not afford the school-money.  I told her I found it
was always a saving in the end; for their shoes didn’t get worn out so
fast, nor their clothes torn, and I hadn’t a-near so much washing to do
for ’em, as if they did run in the streets.  I told her, it often cost me
more in the holidays for mending their shoes than as though I had paid
the school-money.  She took up with this directly, and said, if that was
it, she’d send the most rackety of ’em; and if it answered, she’d send
the rest after a bit.”

Now, it is just possible that it might have occurred to a lady to use
this same kind of argument; but would have lost its force with the
mother, because she would have known it was not the result of actual
experience.

We hope, if spared to another winter, and if we are fortunate enough to
obtain the requisite funds, that we shall be able to establish a paid
missionary in the Potteries.  Great as the improvement has been, much
still remains to be effected.  This poor place, that was left so many
years _literally_ wallowing in the mire, is still much behind-hand in
cleanliness and home comfort.  The keen eye, the ready hand, and the
loving heart of some good Christian woman, who can devote the whole of
her time to the work, is just what we want.  We must trust in Him, who
has already done so much for us, that He will open the way as we go on,
and raise up for us, in our time of need, both the person and the pay.



CHAPTER X.
Our Baby.


    “The cup of life first with her lips she prest,
    Found the taste bitter and declined the rest;
    Averse, then turning from the face of day,
    She softly sigh’d her little soul away.”

I MENTIONED in the last chapter that I had often seen the necessity of
deferring a subject previously prepared for the evening of our meeting,
and adopting, in its stead, a topic more appropriate to passing events.
As I consider this point of much importance, I am glad that my journal
can furnish an illustration.

One evening, in the year 1854, as we were putting aside our work, one of
the women reminded me that the day of our next meeting would be a
fast-day; and she asked if we were to assemble as usual.  I replied,
“That as that day would be set aside for a special purpose, and one in
which we were all deeply interested, I thought it would be better for us
to make a point of all attending some place of worship, and uniting with
others in our prayers for the deliverance of our country from the great
evils which threatened it.”

Two or three voices exclaimed at once—“Then, if that is it, we shan’t go
nowhere.”  “Why not?” I asked.

One of them replied—“My master never lets me go to any place.  We have
neither of us ever been inside a church since we were married.”

Two or three of the others said that was just the case with them.

“How is it, then, that your husbands let you come here?”

“Why, ma’am, we goes on with our work here; and it helps us to get many a
nice bit of clothes, that we should have to go without if we didn’t get
them here, by paying a little at a time; and the children, too, you see,
ma’am, is mostly in bed before we come.”

“Do you not think that some of you could persuade your husbands to go to
church with you, for once?”

They shook their heads, and said they were afraid not.  There were a few
in the room who said they would go, if they could.  I told them, if they
would express to me what their wishes were, I would adopt any plan they
liked best.  With the exception of about six or eight, they said they
would rather the meeting were continued as usual.

“If that is the case,” I replied, “I will be here at the usual time next
week, to meet any of you who cannot make it convenient to attend any
place of worship; but remember, we must have no work done.  I should not
think that right on such a day.”

When I entered the room the following week, I found thirty of the poor
mothers assembled.  We sat and chatted together for about a quarter of an
hour; for we felt, on that occasion, that we were not bound to observe
our rules with our usual strictness.  I intended to read about our
Saviour’s entrance into Jerusalem, and to dwell particularly on the tears
He shed in the prospect of the destruction of that city, shewing from
this how unwillingly God allowed His judgments to descend upon a nation,
and that “He would rather they would turn from their wickedness and
live.”  The rest of the evening I thought we could occupy in the relation
of a few anecdotes of soldiers, that had reached me from the seat of war.
I had just begun to read, when the door opened, and a woman, passing
hastily up the room, took her seat on a low box by the side of the fire.
She leaned forward, resting her head on her arms, and began to weep
bitterly.  I looked up for an explanation.  One of the women said, “She
lost her baby, ma’am, a day or two ago, and she takes on terribly about
it.”  We all sat silently for some minutes, for we felt the sacredness of
the presence of grief; they were precious minutes to me, full of earnest
thought and feeling.

About ten months previous to the time of which I am speaking, this woman
first came amongst us, bringing her baby, then about six weeks old.  I
thought I had scarcely ever seen so sweet a child; the expression of the
little face reminded me of something holier and purer than is usually to
be met with in this fallen world; and I did not wonder that it was said,
“Of _such_ are the kingdom of heaven.”  I knew both the father and the
mother.  The father was a genius of no common order, and, but for the
fatal habit of drinking, would have risen in the world.  The mother had
known better days, and not having much spirit, she had too easily
resigned herself to her fate, and scarcely exerted herself as much as she
might have done, to avert the evils that surrounded her; consequently
their home was an unhappy one.

On the first evening of the introduction of these little ones, we are in
the habit of commending them in prayer to the especial care and
protection of our heavenly Father.  I am afraid the prayer that night was
not mixed with faith, as it ought to have been.  I remember thinking of
the home in which this child was to be trained, and of all the evil
influences to which he must be exposed; and I wondered _how_ he was to be
“led straight through this world of sin, and get to heaven at last.”  I
thought of him “tossed on the tumultuous sea of human passions and
temptations, without any strong, kind hand to guide the helm;” and I
could have wept, as I prayed that he might be shielded from life’s bitter
trials and temptations.

    “I long’d for that happy and glorious time,
       The fairest, and brightest, and best,
    When the dear little children of every clime
       Shall come to His arms and be blest.”

I could not sleep that night without again committing this sweet child in
prayer to Him who “carries the lambs in His bosom.”

This mother and baby were so constant in their attendance, that we should
have suspected something wrong if they had not made their appearance.  As
the baby grew, he became still more lovely; he smiled sweetly when he was
noticed, and we all loved him so much, that he was universally called
“_our_ baby.”  I occasionally took him on my lap when I was reading, that
the mother might get on the faster with her work.  He used to sit
quietly, making playthings of my fingers, or looking intently into my
face, that he might be ready with his sweet smile when he was noticed.

And it was for the loss of “our baby” that the poor mother’s tears were
flowing so fast.  No wonder that many hearts there sympathised in her
grief; and thoughts, too deep for words, kept us silent.  The mother was
the first to speak; she said—

“Ma’am, do you remember the first evening I brought him here?  You looked
at him so, and said he was a pictur’ child.”

“Yes; I was just thinking of it.”

“We liked that name for him so much, it made his father think more of
him; he would watch him asleep in the cradle, and say, ‘Well, that is a
pictur’ child, if ever there was one.’  I never had nothing so good
belonging to me before, and I never shall again.”

“Do you remember a little while ago,” I remarked in reply, “when the
weather was so cold, telling me you feared the baby suffered for want of
warmer clothes than you were able to procure for him, and that the coarse
food, which was all you could get, did not agree with him?”

“Yes, I mind; he made me feel how bad it was to be poor.  I never cared
about it so much before.”

“Supposing I had promised to take the baby into my house, and surround
him with every comfort, and care for him as for one of my own children,
would you have given him up to me?”

“Why—yes—I think I should, if I could have seen him very often; for
nothing troubled me so much as to see him suffer.”

“If I had taken him you would still have had to see him suffer; for
though I might have made him more comfortable than you could, I could not
have shielded him from the attacks of disease and death, But he is gone
now to a home where he will never suffer any more.  The kind hand of his
heavenly Father has wiped away the tears that distressed you so much.  As
the Scotch song says—

    “‘There’s nae sorrow there, Jean;
    There’s neither cauld nor care, Jean;
    The day is aye fair, Jean,
    In the land o’ the leal.’”

As soon as the mother could speak again for her tears, she said—

“Do you think, ma’am, he is gone there _for certain_? ’cause some of ’em
have been saying to-day that nobody goes to heaven, not even babes,
except they are ’lected.”

“That is quite true; but when Jesus died upon the cross, He did intend
all infants to be saved.  He there atoned for the sin we inherit from our
first parents, which is the only sin with which an infant can be charged,
as no one can be said to break commandments until they understand what
commandments are.  No one has so much cause to love the Saviour as
mothers of little children.  Ages before our children were born, their
safety was provided for by the death of Christ.  When you go home, I
should like you to take your Bible, and read the account of our Saviour’s
crucifixion; and as you are reading, just think—‘Now all this suffering
was to save _my baby_, amongst many others.’  God has told us that He is
_satisfied_ with the price Christ has paid for sin; therefore, of course,
there can be nothing else wanted.  And just think of this for a
moment—God has given up _His Son_ to _suffer_ for us, that we may give
Him back our children to be _happy for ever_.”

“O ma’am, I am so happy to hear about it!  You have made it clearer to my
mind than it ever was before.”

“I want to make it clear to you, also, that this Saviour, of whom we are
speaking, must be your Saviour, as well as the Saviour of your child; for
there is none other name given among men whereby any of us can be saved.”

“But, ma’am, you don’t mean that Christ’s dying has made it certain that
we shall all get to heaven!”

“Christ’s death was intended, and is sufficient in itself, to make all
safe for heaven; but there are many who will not accept this salvation.
Supposing, now that provisions are so high, I were to send to every man,
woman, and child in the Potteries, and say, that every day at one o’clock
I would have a good dinner provided for them at my house: I would take
care there should be room and abundance _for all_.  It is said, there are
a thousand inhabitants in the Potteries.  Supposing, out of this number,
only two hundred came.  Some might be too proud to accept my kindness;
others, too busy in seeking food in other ways.  But the most
extraordinary thing of all would be, that some should have forgotten all
about it.  They would go on eating the most miserable food, suffering in
every way in consequence, and grumbling at their unhappy fate; while, if
they would only come to me, I would receive them, and give them abundance
of the best.  Complaints might still reach my ears, how greatly the
people were suffering; but I should say—‘I really cannot help it; I have
done all I possibly can to prevent it.  It grieves me very much to see so
many vacant places at my table—to see bread enough, and to _spare_,
whilst they perish with hunger.  I wish they would come to me, instead of
suffering as they do.’  Now, this is just how it stands between us and
God.  He wishes all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the
truth.  It is not the will of our Father, who is in heaven, that _one_
should perish.  He has provided, by the death of Christ, for the
salvation of every one; and none that come unto Him will He cast out.
But we must _come_.  Just as certainly as those poor people would lose
the benefit of my dinner if they did not come, so shall we lose the
benefit of the great salvation provided, if we do not come.”

All present seemed much interested in this conversation, and several
began to ask me questions.  One woman told me that some ladies had called
at her house some time ago, and inquired particularly if her children had
been baptized; telling her, that if they had not, they had no chance of
being saved.

“That can’t be true, can it, ma’am?” she asked.

“If it were, it would, indeed, be a lamentable fact; for how many
children there are who are born and die, without the possibility of being
baptized.  This often happens at sea, for instance; and sometimes,
especially in the country, where the distances are great, it is not
unusual for an infant to die before there is time to obtain any minister
of religion to administer the ordinance.  How very imperfect would be the
salvation which God has provided for us, if our reception of it was made
at all to depend upon circumstances that we could not always control!
Think for a moment, again, of the comparison I was using just now.
Supposing, when I sent out my invitation for the people to come and dine
at my house, I should say, ‘Though you may come, I cannot admit you
inside the house, unless you bring a card of admission with you.’  I
should mention where these cards could be procured; but when applying for
it, you might find that the person, whose business it was to provide
them, was ill, or not at home, or something might prevent his attending
to you till it was too late; and, consequently, you must lose the benefit
of my dinner.  You would say, and justly, ‘Why, she is deceiving us in
professing to provide for our wants.’  It is of no use the dinner being
there, if there are obstacles which we cannot remove in the way of
getting at it.  And God would have deceived us, too, in saying—‘The blood
of Jesus Christ cleanseth from _all_ sin,’ if there were still something
left for us to do.  And Christ hath deceived us in saying on the
cross—‘It is _finished_,’ when all the time He knew, that if we were not
baptized by an ordained minister of religion, all that He had done and
suffered for us would be worth nothing.  There are few errors at which I
feel so indignant as this.  It is so dishonouring to our heavenly Father,
and it is such a reflection both upon the wisdom and justice of Him whose
work is perfect.”

“Then, ma’am, isn’t it any consequence whether children are baptized or
not?”

“I am glad you asked me that question; for I should have been sorry for
you to have gone away with the idea that it was of no consequence.  Do
any of you know what circumcision means?”

No one knew; it was simply a _word_ in their minds, unconnected with any
ideas.  At last, one woman said she thought it was something that the
Jews did.

“When I was talking to you about Abraham, a little while ago, do you
remember my telling you that God had called him away out of an idolatrous
country; because He intended, from Abraham and his children, to raise up
a nation, in which the knowledge of Himself should be preserved?  God
then commanded Abraham, that he and all his children—meaning all the
Jewish nation—should be circumcised; intending, by setting this mark upon
them, to shew that they were a distinct people, and not intended to mix
with any other nations of the world.  From that time, until the advent of
our Saviour, every male child amongst the Jews was circumcised on the
eighth day after its birth.

“After the resurrection of our Saviour, He commanded His apostles to go
into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  It was no
longer to be confined to this one nation.  Christ had died for _all_, not
for the Jews only: and all must hear this good news.  Circumcision was a
painful rite; and as Christ had suffered for us, He no longer enjoined
this upon His followers: in its stead, the simple, beautiful, and
expressive ordinance of baptism was instituted; and all who call
themselves Christians should thankfully use it, as making a line of
separation, as it were, between them and the heathen world, as the Jews
used circumcision to distinguish themselves from the idolatrous nations
by which they were surrounded.

“When, therefore, we take our infants to be baptized, it is as if we
said—‘I call the Church and the world to witness that I desire for my
child that he may be brought up in the faith and practice of a Christian.
I beseech you, that are here assembled, to unite with me in prayer to
Almighty God, that, through the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, He will
grant to this child that thing which by nature he cannot have; that he
may be baptized with water and the Holy Ghost, and received into Christ’s
holy Church; and that I may have grace given me so to train my child that
he may be a blessing to the world as long as he lives, and, finally,
through the righteousness provided by the death and sufferings of our
blessed Saviour, may come to the land of everlasting life and happiness,
and dwell in His bright presence for ever.’”

This explanation, although it was broken up and illustrated in a way that
it would be tedious to repeat here, was not perfectly intelligible to
them at first; but as they asked questions about it, a clearer light
seemed gradually to dawn upon their minds.  One woman said she “always
had a-done it, but never had no _thought_ in her mind about it before.”

We concluded the evening by reading of the little children who were
brought to Jesus; and then, in united prayer, we commended the sorrowing
mother to Him who came to comfort Martha and Mary concerning their
brother.  We thanked Him for the loan, though so short, of this sweet and
lovely child, whose mission on earth seemed to have been to awaken in its
mother a purer and holier nature.  And we thanked Him, too, that “ere sin
could blight, or sorrow fade,” the Good Shepherd, who had laid down His
life for this lamb of the flock, had resumed the care of this precious
one, had spared him the contest of life, and taken him to Himself, to be
safe and happy for ever.

I always feel tempted, when reviewing my journal, to linger over the
narrative of the “Fast-day evening.”  I recall how we sat and talked till
the daylight had faded into twilight, and then we watched the fire as its
flickering blaze occasionally rested on the placid face of some infant
sleeping on its mother’s lap.  I recall, as if it were but yesterday, the
earnest and fixed attention, with which this company of mothers listened
to the glad tidings of a Saviour for their little ones.  Had He been
presented to us as _our_ Saviour only, we must have loved Him; but how
much more when we realised that, at such infinite cost, He had stretched
forth His hand to save those dearer to us than life, from everlasting
destruction!

Some of the women that were there still speak of this evening with
pleasure; and there was joy in the presence of the angels of God, that
night, over more than one sinner that repented.

I have occasionally taken much pains to make the _doctrines_ of religion
somewhat clear to them.  It might not in every case be so necessary; but
in this neighbourhood, where the enemy is more than usually busy in
“sowing tares,” it is of great importance that they should be enabled to
give a reason for the hope that is in them.

The vicinity of Notting Hill has, unfortunately, been selected by the
Roman Catholics as the scene of their most active operations.  Whilst I
write, I hear from my open window the sound of “busy workmen” employed on
the rising walls of a nunnery of great size and importance.  They have
just purchased a piece of land in Pottery Lane, once the celebrated
Cut-throat Lane, on which they intend building school-rooms.  Only a few
days ago, I was told that a poor woman had called, seeking relief.  On
finding she was a stranger to me, and being already overdone with similar
cases, I sent a message by the servant, that I was truly sorry for her,
but it was not then in my power to attend to her case.  Her reply to the
servant was, “Ah! the Roman Catholics is coming amongst us, and they’ll
never stand by and see us poor people suffer, like you Protestants do.”

Whatever distinctions may prevail in the various sections among
Protestants, we surely all agree in this, that we are looking for
salvation simply and entirely through the merits of our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ.

Compared with _this_, the points on which we differ are few and
unimportant, affecting principally what we may call our outside
life—belonging to the “wood, hay, stubble” that attaches to the present
imperfect state of things, and, if not at last burnt with fire, will, at
least, be lost sight of, when, instead of seeing through a glass darkly,
the mind grasps the astonishing and overwhelming meaning of being _saved
to the uttermost_.

A voice from the enemy’s camp has reached us, that their great hopes of
success rest upon the disunion amongst the ranks of Protestants.  God
grant that these hopes may be disappointed!  In times of national
calamity, when homes and hearths are threatened by the invasion of a
foreign foe, the people are exhorted to let no private consideration, no
respect for individual property, _nothing_, in fact, prevent their rising
as with the heart of one man, to fight manfully for the defence of their
king and their country.  Let us, it would be said, only expel this common
foe, and mere personal matters can be arranged afterwards.

And now that the foe is bearing down with such a threatening aspect upon
the interests of our Master’s kingdom, is it still to be said—“The
children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of
light?”  Is it too much to expect that we should work for Him, who _died_
for us?



CHAPTER XI.
Letters.


    “Speak kindly, speak kindly; ye know not the power
       Of a soft and gentle word,
    As its tones, in a sad and troubled hour,
       By the weary heart are heard.
    Ye know not how often it comes to bless
    The stranger amid his weariness;
    How many a blessing is round thee thrown
    By the magic spell of a soft low tone.
    Speak kindly, then, kindly; there’s nothing lost
       By gentle words—to the heart and ear
    Of the sad and lonely they’re dear, how dear!—
          And they nothing cost.”

                                                                  WEBSTER.

HOWEVER desirous any President of a Mothers’ Society may be of being
constantly at her post, it must be obvious to all that occasional absence
cannot be avoided.  No assumed duties, however important, must for a
moment supersede the first claims of home and kindred.  Some have thought
that the one must necessarily interfere with the other, and,
consequently, both ought not to be attempted; but experience proves that
the faculties, from daily use, become rather brightened than worn, and
can accomplish more than when merely called up on especial occasions.
The “much” will be entrusted to those who are faithful in that which is
least, and not to those who stand all the day idle.  The Master for whom
we work does not employ us as the Egyptians did the Israelites, demanding
the tale of bricks, and yet saying—“Let them go and gather straw for
themselves.”

We acknowledge the hand of God perhaps less in the supply of our mental,
than in either our temporal or spiritual, wants, and this often makes us
unwilling to attempt work to which, in the prospect, we feel ourselves
unequal.  Who does not know the fear and trembling with which new
undertakings are usually commenced; like Mary going to the sepulchre, we
think only of the stone at the entrance, and say, Who shall roll it away?

I once heard a lady say that, to accommodate a friend, she had promised
to undertake the management of a Bible class for a few weeks; but as the
time for its commencement drew on, she found herself so completely
unnerved by her anxious fears and distrust of herself, that she was
obliged to send a message to say she could not possibly meet the class.
She has since learnt a different kind of preparation; and were she again
placed in similar circumstances, she would go, as we all must, like
Solomon, to the fountain of wisdom, and say—“I am but a little child: I
know not how to go out or come in.  Give therefore thy servant an
understanding heart.”

It is not necessary to have confidence in ourselves before we begin
important work, especially work through which we hope to influence
others; but the poor mind, conscious of innumerable weaknesses and
defects, must stay itself somewhere; it cannot carry its burden alone
without fainting under the load.  Our heavenly Father knows this, and
says to us—“Do not try to carry it.  Cast thy burden upon me; I will
deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”  How well that it should be so!
This at once places both us and our work in the right position—glorify
me, not ourselves.  We do not praise the tool that has chiseled out the
beautiful sculpture, but the hand that has wielded and directed that
instrument.

I remember one evening, when entering the room where our meeting was
held, feeling immediately conscious that something not quite pleasant was
going on there.  One of our members, a fine tall woman, was standing at
the work-table, with her great baby, about six months old, in her arms.
She was speaking in a loud angry tone, and as I approached the table I
heard her say, “It’s of no use, it’ll never fit my baby; and so I tell ye
I shan’t have it.”  The lady, who that evening kindly superintended the
cutting-out of the work, appealed to me, and said that the dimensions of
the article had really been carefully attended to, and was the same in
every respect as those generally received by the mothers with great
satisfaction, I saw directly that this case differed from most contests,
where both parties are usually wrong, for here both were right; the
uncommon size of the baby accounted for it all.  So turning to it I said,
“Ah! baby, I wonder you are not ashamed of yourself to be so big, and
thus to cause such a disturbance here; there’s no getting anything to fit
you.”  Then I said to the mother, “You should have observed that this
article you have rejected is the usual size; but if you will let your
baby be as big at six months as he ought to be at twelve, you must just
take the consequences.  I will give you some material that you must cut
out for yourself, and try to fit your great boy if you can.”  The baby
crowed and laughed, and seemed delighted at being such an object of
attention; the mother caught the infection, and laughed too, acknowledged
her mistake, apologised to the lady, and walked off to her seat, by no
means displeased at being convicted of having one of the finest babies in
the world.

A friend of mine happened to be there that evening who was wishing to
establish a similar society in her own neighbourhood, and had come to
look on upon us.  As we were walking home together she said, “I see how
it is you are so successful, you have so much tact.  I wonder how you can
meet all these cases as they turn up.”  I replied, “I should wonder very
much if I could not.  I never go there without asking direction from Him
who is ‘the giver of every good and perfect gift;’ and He who has said,
‘Ask and ye shall receive,’ simply keeps His promise, and gives me the
wisdom I petition for.  Whatever difficulties arise, I remember that the
Lord God of Elijah, of Solomon, and of David, is my God, and He is as
willing to make me wise to govern a society, as He was them to govern
kingdoms.”

In stepping aside for an instant just to shew that, with this help,
within the reach of all, we may become wise enough to do something for
our poor neighbours, and yet in no way be unmindful of our domestic
claims, I have wandered away from my starting point, which referred to
the necessity of occasional absence from home.

The influence I have obtained over some of these poor people, and the
respect and affection with which they have so abundantly rewarded any
little kindness they may have received, I regard in the light of a sacred
trust, for which I am accountable, and which I am under no circumstances
at liberty to set on one side, and treat as though it did not exist.
During these seasons of absence, therefore, by way of keeping up my
acquaintance, I frequently address to some of them little friendly notes,
generally expressing an interest in some passing event with which they
may be connected, or perhaps simply a few words of sympathy to some poor
sufferer “stricken of God and afflicted.”  The poor are quite aware that
this is a kind of attention that one lady might shew to another, and
there are few things they appreciate so highly.  A note that has perhaps
scarcely taken ten minutes to write, and whose only cost has been the
paper, envelope, and stamp, has won many a heart, and cleared the way for
further improvement.

But it will be obvious that, in a society numbering now ninety members,
it is not possible to give this individual attention to all.  That none
may feel themselves forgotten and neglected, I usually send one letter
addressed to all the members.  The two following have been selected as
referring to subjects of general interest.

   _Copy of a Letter addressed to the Members of the Mothers’ Society_,
                 _during a few weeks’ absence from home_.

                                            “4, NELSON CRESCENT, RAMSGATE,
                                                         _April_ 16, 1854.

    “MY DEAR FRIENDS,—

    “It gives me much pleasure to have this opportunity of continuing my
    intercourse with you.  I should have written to you earlier, if I had
    not been so very much occupied in various ways.

    “There are few days in which I do not think of you, and on this day
    especially (Wednesday, the usual day of our meeting) I never forget
    to spend part of the evening in earnest prayer to God, that He would
    bless you, and make you great blessings to all with whom you are
    connected.  I feel that your influence is so great, either for good
    or evil, that, in blessing and teaching you, God will be bestowing a
    rich blessing upon very many others.

    “We have so often spoken together, on the importance of our influence
    over our children, that I do not just now intend dwelling upon that.
    There is another view of this subject which has often been present to
    my mind of late, and I should like to try to interest you in it; I
    mean, the influence for good which God designs our children should
    have over us.

    “During the time I resided in Bath, I met with a circumstance which
    much impressed my mind with this view of the subject; and I was glad,
    on looking into my desk, the other day, to find I had kept an account
    of it, as I am thus able to give it to you more correctly.

    “I think I have told you, I used to manage a Female Friendly Society
    in Bath, that is, a society where a number of poor women pay in so
    much a week, to have out a certain sum when they are ill.  The rule
    was, that when they required this money they sent me a certificate,
    signed by a doctor, stating that they were ill; and as long as the
    illness continued, they sent to me every week for the money, each
    time producing lie certificate.  We used to meet once a fortnight, to
    pay in money, settle accounts, &c.  At one of these meetings, I said
    to a young woman—

    “‘I see, Esther, you have had money from this society four weeks.’
    She said—

    “‘Not four, ma’am,—only three.’”

    “I looked carefully over my accounts, and found that money had really
    been paid to her name for four weeks.  After much inquiry and
    investigation, we found that Esther’s mother, a wicked and abandoned
    woman, had, by some means, obtained the certificate, presented it;
    and had appropriated the money to her own purposes.  As soon as this
    was quite ascertained, I declared my intention of calling upon the
    woman, and talking to her about it.  All of them who knew her tried
    to dissuade me from this, assuring me that she was such a dreadful
    character that I should hardly be safe from personal violence.
    However, as such a thing could not be allowed to pass unnoticed, I
    felt it was right to go; and after earnest prayer to God for a wise
    and understanding heart, I set out.

    “It was with much difficulty I found her out: she lived in one of
    those deplorable places to be met with in all great cities, where the
    workers of iniquity seek to hide themselves.  At last, I was directed
    to a little room at the back of a very dirty old iron-shop.  On
    entering, I saw a very large woman standing in the room, her arms
    resting on her hips, her red face and bloodshot eyes telling their
    own sad tale.  She did not speak, but stared at me with the bold look
    of defiance.  I said—

    “‘I think your name is Alice R—?’  She replied—

    “‘I should like to know what the likes of you have to do with the
    likes of me?’  I said—

    “‘You have a daughter, I believe, named Esther?’

    “‘I wonder what business that is of yours?’ she rejoined, with a
    terrible oath, and clenching her fist.  I said—

    “‘Just now, that _is_ business of mine.’  Then taking a seat, dirty
    as it was, by way of assuring her I was not going to be frightened
    from her presence, I looked steadily at her, and said quietly—‘Alice,
    if you had trusted me with your money to keep for you for a certain
    purpose, and, when you applied to me for it, you found it had been
    used by others, in ways never intended, what would you say to me?’

    “‘Why, say you ought to look sharper after it, to be sure,’ she
    replied.

    “I then explained what was the object of my coming to her.  She did
    not attempt to deny what she had done; but said it was very well for
    the likes of me, who never knew the want of anything, to come and
    preach to poor folks about honesty.  But still, though she kept up
    this kind of bravado, I saw that, as we talked on, she softened a
    little.  I looked round the dark, dirty room, and said—

    “‘Alice, this room is very dark, and perhaps you think what passes in
    it is little noticed; but, indeed, there is a day coming, when
    everything that has been done or said, or even thought here, will be
    brought to light, and you will have to give an account to God for it
    all.’

    “She clasped her hands together, and said—

    “‘Then that will be a dreadful day to me.  I was born and brought up
    in the midst of curses and blows; and I have grown up to give curses
    and blows.  You think it is quiet enough here now; but come here an
    hour or two later, and you would see what you never saw before.  Why,
    bless you, I don’t think no more of knocking a man down, than I
    should of knocking that ere candlestick off the table;’ and as she
    suited ‘the action to the word,’ and raised her powerful arm, I could
    well believe this to be true.  I said—

    “‘But surely you did not bring up your child in such a place as
    this?’  For I remembered that Esther was gentle and modest—the very
    reverse of her mother.

    “‘No, indeed, I did not,’ she replied.  ‘When she was too little to
    leave me, I kept her out of the way as much as I could; and when she
    got older, I spent every penny I could get to pay _them_ for taking
    care of her, as knew the way to do it; and now I never let her come
    here, though I often go to see after her.’

    “‘But why,’ I said, ‘did you not, for her sake, try to alter your
    home?  Why did you not, then, give up your wicked companions, and
    bring her up yourself in a way you knew to be right?’

    “‘Ah!’ she replied, ‘you are a lady, and don’t know nothing about
    such people as me.  I have heard _God_ is powerful, but I know
    _Satan_ is; and we wicked people can’t get away from one another, as
    you think we can.’  I said—

    “‘Just now, when you were telling me about your early life, I was
    thinking you scarcely seemed to have had a chance of being better
    than you are; but I see now that God has not forgotten you.  That
    little child was sent to awaken the voice of conscience and love in
    you; and if you had only listened to it, you might have saved
    yourself, as well as your child.’

    “‘As we talked in this way; she wept very much; but said, that it was
    all now too late,—that God was her enemy, and there was no mercy for
    her.  I said—

    “‘Alice, you keep this window so duty, that the light can scarcely
    enter; and you never seem to open it, so that the air of this room is
    almost stifling.  But for all that, there _is_ bright sunshine and
    pure air, if you would let them come in: and God intended them for
    you as much as for me.  And in the same way you surround yourself
    with what is wicked, and must of necessity produce misery, and then
    complain that God has no mercy upon you.’

    “I asked her if she had ever heard of Jesus, who was so sorry for the
    misery of such unhappy persons as herself, that He came into the
    world on purpose to save them..  She said she had; but she knew He
    did not mean her.  When I rose to go she said—

    “‘It seems to me, that yours must be the first kind voice I have ever
    heard; but I shall never hear it again—no never; for you must not
    come here—indeed you must not: this is no place for the likes of
    you.’

    “‘Then, why,’ I said, ‘do you not determine to get such a home for
    yourself as I could come to?’  But she shook her head and said—

    “‘Ah! you don’t know nothing;’ and so we parted.

    “I dare say the thought will strike you, as it did me, when I was
    afterwards thinking over what had passed between us, what a wonderful
    influence for good this little child was intended to have over the
    poor mother!  It seemed to awaken in her a better nature than she had
    ever known before; it was, as the Bible expresses it, her ‘day of
    visitation;’ and if she had only permitted herself to come entirely
    under its influence, she might have been saved for both time and
    eternity.  In her earnest endeavours to instruct her child in what
    was true and right, she would have found it out for herself, and,
    instead of being the poor fallen creature I found her, she might have
    become a useful and valuable member of society.

    “God has wisely and kindly implanted in our minds such a feeling
    towards our children, that we value and strive to obtain what is
    good, more for their sakes than for our own: and we should feel
    thankful for this; for _whatever_ makes us hate sin, and love
    holiness, is a great blessing.

    “If we, my dear friends, truly and faithfully do our duty to our
    children, we shall have no time for bad company, bad books, idle
    gossip, or any other of those many temptations which ‘Satan finds for
    idle hands to do.’

    “Let us be thankful, then, for an honourable and useful occupation;
    and let it cheer us in the midst of employment, sometimes wearisome
    and painful, to think that, by exercising a right and holy influence
    over our children, we may be preparing them for usefulness on earth,
    and an eternity of happiness hereafter.

    “I know that some of you have to experience great suffering; that the
    toil of your lives is excessive.  I know of nothing that can tend so
    much to reconcile you to all this, as to remember that, whatever your
    lot may be, it is of God’s appointment; that He has wise ends to
    answer by it; and in another world, if not in this, you will know
    that the course you have had to take was the best for you.

    “There is much that is dark and mysterious in the present state of
    things: it is useless to attempt to explain it away, neither do I
    think we are called upon to do so.  The only state of mind, suitable
    to our present condition, is entire submission to the will and
    appointment of our heavenly Father.  We must _trust_ now; we shall
    _know_ hereafter.

    “When we are tempted, by the trials of our lot, to think hard
    thoughts of Him who has appointed it, let us remember—‘He that spared
    not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not
    with him also freely give us all things.’

    “I have written this amidst many interruptions; but I know you will
    believe me when I say, I have earnestly desired to say something to
    comfort and strengthen you for your daily trials.  May God bless you,
    my dear friends; may we have many more pleasant meetings here; and
    when the battle of life is over, may we all meet in that world where
    sin and sorrow can never enter.

                                    “I am,

                                                    “Your sincere friend.”

     _Copy of a Letter written during an absence of some months_, _in
                         consequence of illness_.

                                                “BATH, _November_ 6, 1855.

    “MY DEAR FRIENDS,—

    “I am truly sorry to be obliged to be absent from you so long.  It
    has always given me much pleasure to meet you at our weekly meetings,
    and I now miss them very much.  I shall be indeed thankful when it
    pleases God to restore me to health, and enable me to resume my usual
    place among you.

    “I have thought much and often, during my long illness, how entirely
    we are dependent upon God for every power we possess, both of mind
    and body.  We can work only by His permission.  In a moment, if He
    sees fit, He can withdraw from us all our powers; and we are
    perfectly helpless until it pleases Him to restore them to us.  To
    those who really love God, and are His children, it is a delightful
    thought that He controls everything.  It is the happiest thing in the
    world to know, that a wisdom which cannot err, and a love which
    cannot fail, are conducting us through the journey of life, instead
    of our own erring judgment.  I wish we could all _feel_ this, as well
    as know it.  It is God’s great gift that He is willing to bestow upon
    us all, if we constantly and earnestly seek it from Him.  The highest
    earthly station, and all that wealth can purchase, will bring no
    happiness compared with having our wills made one with God’s will.
    If you obtain this, my dear friends, poor as some of you are, you
    might be objects of envy to many of the great ones of the earth, who
    are wearied in the greatness of their way, not having yet learned the
    great lesson of submission.

    “There is much, just now, which makes us fear we are entering upon a
    winter of peculiar trial and difficulty.  The high prices of
    provisions must occasion many of you great anxiety; and much care and
    economy will, I am sure, be required to make you at all comfortable.
    Though _all_ departures from God’s law must be followed by suffering,
    it seems that _war_—which cannot be engaged in without breaking most
    of the commandments of God, and setting aside entirely the precepts
    of love and forgiveness of injuries—must be attended with great
    suffering to any nation that engages in it.  God, who made the world,
    knows exactly by what laws it ought to be governed; and we cannot set
    aside those laws, without bringing great sorrow upon ourselves.

    “We shall all, I fear, have much to suffer from the present war; and
    I truly grieve that such a considerable share of this suffering must
    be borne by the poor.  We must learn from it this great lesson, that
    it is an evil and a bitter thing to depart from God; and let it be an
    inducement to instil more carefully than ever into the minds of our
    children principles of love and kindness, teaching them, especially,
    to forgive injuries, as Jesus did, instead of revenging them, which
    He told us not to do.  Thus, when they grow up to have their
    influence as men and women, and to form a part of the great nation,
    they may in every way promote ‘_peace on earth_, and good-will
    towards men.’  I trust that He who hears the young ravens when they
    cry, and feedeth them, will, at this trying season, provide food for
    you and your children.  For nothing is too hard for the Lord; and
    those among you, who really love and trust God, may derive the
    greatest consolation from the beautiful promise—‘None of them that
    trust in me shall be desolate.’

    “I was reading, a little while ago, about a young woman who was early
    in life deprived by death of her nearest relations, and whose lot was
    to live with people who were extremely unkind, indeed even cruel, to
    her.  She was a very amiable person, and pleasing in appearance.  A
    gentleman, in a higher station of life than her own, was informed of
    her history; and, after a short acquaintance, made her an offer of
    marriage.  The persons with whom she lived, instead of being glad at
    the prospect of such an improvement in her circumstances, were only
    the more exasperated against her; and, having the power, they refused
    to give her up until she was of age; and endeavoured to make her more
    unhappy than ever.  A friend once remarked to her, that he wondered
    how she could bear such treatment.  ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I hardly feel
    it; it is to last so short a time!  I only think of myself as the
    future wife of that kind gentleman.’

    “I thought directly, that this was just the spirit in which we should
    pass through life.  We should then be brave of heart, and not
    disheartened at our difficulties.  It is, indeed, a wonderful thought
    that the poorest and meanest being who toils upon the earth may be
    heir to a state of happiness and glory too great for description; as
    it is said—‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered
    into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them
    that love him.’

    “But though it is plainly our duty to cultivate this spirit of
    submission and trust in God under all circumstances, yet it is most
    important that we should endeavour so to provide against calamity,
    that, if it comes, we may not have the pain of thinking how much our
    sufferings have been brought about by our own misconduct God has so
    ordered things in this world, that our success or failure will always
    depend much upon ourselves.

    “It has been truly remarked, that only in one relation of life is
    choice left to us.  You will see that I refer to the relation of
    husband or wife.  On this, however, more than on any other, depends
    our happiness and the happiness of those connected with us.  You
    will, perhaps, say that in writing to those who have already made
    their choice, and whose position, in this respect, is unalterable, it
    cannot be of any use to make such remarks.  But I feel, and you will
    feel with me, that, in our children, we live our own lives over
    again; and the more we have suffered from any particular mistake,
    which we may ourselves have made, the more anxious we should feel to
    shield those dear to us from similar misfortune.

    “There are many people at the present time who are thinking a great
    deal about the suffering of the poor, and are trying to find out how
    it arises, and how it can in some way be lessened.  One very general
    opinion is, that much misery is brought about by early and imprudent
    marriages.

    “One great difference between people in my position of life and in
    yours is, that, generally speaking, before incurring the expenses
    attendant on married life, we wait to reap the fruits of many years
    of careful industry.  We frequently defer marriage until both parties
    are even between thirty and forty years of age, instead of taking
    this important step without making any provision for the future, and
    often before either the one or the other has attained the age of
    twenty.

    “A lady once entreated a girl of eighteen to defer her marriage until
    she, or her intended husband, had saved sufficient money to provide a
    little comfortable furniture for their room, as well as to have a few
    pounds in hand to fall back upon in case of necessity.  She pointed
    out to her what sufferings might arise in many ways, if they did not
    follow her advice.  The girl replied—

    “‘I think, if John and I don’t mind it, nobody else need trouble
    their heads about it.  If trouble comes, we shall just have to bear
    it; and it is nothing to anybody else.’

    “I happen to know the history of this family, and all that followed.
    Work was plentiful at first, and John earned pretty good wages; but
    Sarah—for that was her name—had married before she had learned how to
    make the most of money, as you will suppose, when I tell you that she
    had to _pay_ for the making of her wedding gown.  The husband soon
    found the public-house was more attractive than his dirty home and
    miserably cooked meals; and you know, after that happens, how fast
    the money goes.  But the saddest part of all relates to the poor,
    unoffending, helpless children, who came one by one into this
    wretched dwelling.  Their mother was not badly disposed, and had she
    spent ten years longer, before marriage, in learning how to provide
    for the wants of the body, and train the mind, she might have done
    better than many women; but, as it was, on the whole face of the
    earth the eye could scarcely alight on a more completely wretched
    spot than this one room, where, day after day, the father, mother,
    and children suffered everything that can enfeeble the body and
    degrade the mind.

    “The united effect of cold, bad air, starvation, and neglect, was to
    consign seven out of nine of their children to the grave before they
    had reached their sixth year.  The other two are, I believe, still
    living, the inmates of a workhouse; their deformed and diseased
    bodies preventing the possibility of their earning their own
    livelihood.  As they pass their suffering days and wearisome nights
    in that dreary abode, with _nothing_ to hope so far as this world is
    concerned, how bitterly could they protest against their mother’s
    remark that her imprudent marriage was nothing to any one else but
    herself!  The father and mother are long since dead; disease, brought
    on prematurely by intemperance, cut short their lives before they had
    lived out half the time usually appointed to man on earth.

    “I feel sure that most of such suffering might be saved, if mothers
    would try from the first to present this subject in a right light to
    their children.  Much good may be done, too, by endeavouring to raise
    the tastes of young people so that they shall _like_ to surround
    themselves with what is good, and neat, and comfortable; for this
    _feeling_ belongs quite as much to your position in life as to mine.
    The only difference is as to the degree in which it can be carried
    out.  Believe me, it is anything but a _virtue_ for a young couple to
    begin life together, satisfied with just one room to live in,
    furnished with a bed stuffed with straw, a table, and a few broken
    chairs.

    “I once had a servant who lived with me many years.  At last, she
    became engaged to a respectable young carpenter in the neighbourhood.
    Out of their joint savings the furniture was provided, and a
    comfortable room downstairs and one above.  When she was telling me
    this, I said I supposed they were now ready to be married.  ‘No,
    ma’am,’ she said, ‘not yet.  I want to have some nice curtains to my
    window, and a plant-stand; and if I stay here a few more months, I
    can get that without touching the £30 I have in the savings’ bank.’
    I admired and respected her much for her good taste and resolution.
    I need hardly say, she is now an excellent wife and mother, and many
    pieces of furniture have been added to their little establishment
    since their wedding day—a bright contrast to those many cases in
    which, when the first difficulty arises, one thing after another is
    taken to the pawn-shop.

    “There is another way in which some of you may do good, and that is,
    by trying to shelter and protect young girls more than is generally
    done.  The character of a poor girl is quite as valuable as that of a
    girl in any other station of life, and ought to be as carefully
    watched over.  By taking care so to arrange the work that no errands
    are left till after it is dark, or if, when going out in the evening
    cannot be avoided, you accompany them yourself, or get a friend to do
    so, much mischief and sorrow would be saved.  I am sure, nothing
    would do more to raise the people of this country, and bring about a
    better state of things, than an improvement in the manners of young
    women.

    “If we are ever to have such an improvement as I hope for, it will be
    obtained chiefly by the influence of mothers on these young people;
    and for their sakes, if not for our own, we should strive to get a
    taste for ‘all that is good, and beautiful, and true.’

    “In bringing this long letter to a close, you must allow me to thank
    you very much for all the kindness and sympathy you have shewn me
    during my illness.  I continually hear of your kind inquiries, and
    they are indeed pleasant to me.  Thoughts of you have cheered many
    solitary hours, and I shall be delighted to come amongst you again.
    I have felt my absence from you one of the greatest privations which
    I have had to bear.  I have now the bright hope before me of being
    able to take my place among you in about a fortnight from this time.

                       “Till then, _then_, believe me,

                                                    “Your sincere friend.”



CHAPTER XII.
Obstacles: Who shall remove them?


       O royal island, beautiful and fair!
    There are who aid when ev’n thy statesmen sleep,
       With the soft voice of prayer.

EACH year’s intimacy with the interesting people of whom I have written
has afforded fresh information, so that I find myself embarrassed with a
multitude of facts; and after six years’ experience, selection from the
accumulation of details is the only difficulty.  It would be easy to
multiply scenes of interest, equalling any already described; but if
enough have been given to awaken sympathy, and stimulate to exertion, my
object is accomplished.  A few observations on subjects of great
importance, not prominently brought forward in any of the preceding
narratives, will be sufficient to close the whole.

One of the greatest obstacles which meets those who are striving to
improve the homes of the poor is the construction of dwellings.  There
are whole streets of houses in this neighbourhood, whose appearance gives
you the idea that they were originally designed for a higher class of
people; and yet the builder must have known that the supply of such
houses was already much beyond the demand, and that, if let at all, the
inmates must be poor.  Nothing, however, adapts them for this class of
inhabitants.  Five or six families may occasionally be found in one such
house, with no more provision for health, comfort, and decency, than
ought to be made for each one.

The houses professedly erected for the poor are still more deficient.
They are sometimes built below the level of the road, so that the
drainage is _to_ them, instead of _from_ them.  The basements are
consequently fearfully damp, and the whole atmosphere, in every part of
the house, is impregnated with the effluvia from stagnant sewage.

The materials used in buildings are so bad, and the workmanship so
inferior, that the floors are always loose, and everything seems
constantly getting out of order.  We have whole streets of small
six-roomed houses let out entirely to the poor; so that three families
frequently live in one house.  _There is no outlet to the air at the back
of these dwellings_, _either by door or by window_.  One long, blank wall
is all that is to be seen.  Frequent illness prevails among the
inhabitants of these streets, and I can never forget the scenes presented
there during the visitation of the cholera.  I cannot bear to dwell upon
them, but, for the sake of my subject, I must mention one case.  In a
small bed-room on the top floor of one of these dwellings I found, one
morning, that a woman and a child had died in the night; and another
woman in the same room, though still living, appeared in a dying state.
I shudder when I think of that room; no pen can describe its horrors.  It
was a close, hot morning in July, not a breath of air was stirring.  The
window was thrown up at the bottom; it could not be opened at the top;
and as there was no draught through the house to draw the air into the
room, very little relief could be obtained.  The dying woman was the
mother of little children, and I would have given anything to save her.
The only possible expedient that suggested itself to me was to have some
of the bricks forced out of the back wall.  This was done; but all was in
vain, the poor mother died, surviving her husband only a few days; and
the little children either cried in the street, or were cared for by a
neighbour, till they were taken away to the workhouse.

As I left that street, I could think only of the words—“It is of the
Lord’s mercies we are not consumed.”  The contrivances of men seemed so
fraught with destruction, that, if it were not for the interposition of
God, the consequences would be still more disastrous.

I sat down as soon as I reached home, and wrote a letter to the editor of
the _Times_, describing the scenes I had witnessed that morning, calling
his attention particularly to the construction of those houses; and then
asked, in the bitterness of my heart, if, with all our extensive and
costly paraphernalia of government, nothing could be done to stop this
awful waste of comfort, health, and life.  The importance of the subject
at once commended itself.  The narrative not only appeared, but was
backed by every argument and appeal that the talented pen of the editor
could bring to bear upon it.  But there it ended: no steps have been
taken to make the construction of such dwellings contrary to the law of
the land.  Many fathers, mothers, and children, too, have since died in
those streets; only, in these cases, by lingering fever, instead of by
sudden cholera.  Surely the cries of distress must have ascended again
and again, and have “entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth!”

But there is still a darker side to this grievance.  The death of the few
is less calculated to excite our compassion, than the miserable,
lingering existence of the many.  When I see the little boys and girls
playing before the doors, often with crooked backs or crooked limbs, with
emaciated forms and faces, if not with still more unmistakable marks of
disease, I cannot help thinking,—Are these boys to be our future
working-men, upon whose sinew and muscle we are to depend for cultivating
our soil, constructing our railways, sinking our mines, and defending our
country; and are these girls to be the mothers of the next generation?

There was mercy, as well as judgment, in the punishment that followed the
disobedience of our first parents.  The sentence, “In the sweat of thy
brow shalt thou eat bread,” is not an unmitigated evil.  The most active
persons are generally the most cheerful; and the hard workers are usually
happier than the deep thinkers.  But when the body, which God intended
and adapted for labour, has, by the habitual violation of the laws of
health, during all its first years, become enfeebled and deranged, the
necessity for exertion becomes a _painful_ reality, and may, indeed, be
looked upon as a curse—as “the dark cloud without a silver lining.”

There is a deeper meaning than some suppose in that constant application
for “light places,” of which we hear so much.  Some tell us, it is all
indolence; and thus on the surface it often appears.  But surely there
must be some cause, even for indolence.  A child of good constitution,
and where health has been judiciously cared for, becomes, as soon as he
is able to manifest his power, almost inconveniently active.  The nurse
complains that “he will never bide still;” that she “can’t get a minute’s
peace for him;” that “there is no end to the mischief he does.”  Now, a
child is not active from principle, nor because he feels it would be
wrong to be indolent.  He has not to be instructed to move, although he
sometimes has to be taught to be still.  Activity is the joy of his life,
and would doubtless continue so, if it were not for the evil influences
that are permitted to surround the body, marring God’s beautiful work,
and bringing down the dishonouring reflection upon the Creator, that man,
as he is constituted, is “not strong enough for his place.”

A friend of mine was changing her residence a short time ago.  She wished
to retain throughout the day the men who were employed in removing her
furniture; she therefore provided a dinner for them at her own house, to
prevent the necessity of their returning home.  Some meat-pies were
warmed for them, which had been made the previous day; and this, with the
addition of hot potatoes, made a nice dinner.  As the men left in the
evening, they thanked her for their good dinner, especially that she had
taken the trouble to have it made _hot_ for them; “for you see, ma’am,”
they added, “there is such nasty air in the places where we sleep, that
we never care to eat when we get up in the morning; nor yet much at any
other time, except it is made tasty, like, for us.”

If such is the case, whence is the strength for labour to come?  The
workman’s livelihood depends upon his ability to work.  He may not leave
off to rest because he is tired.  This is a sad subject, and it reveals
to us the great source of intemperance.  Is it any wonder that, if a man
has a few pence in his pocket, he cannot pass the doors of a public-house
without feeling a strong temptation to go in and purchase what, though
imparting no strength, enables him to forget for a time the miseries of
his existence?

There are two things which I cannot understand: 1st, That the government
should do so little for the people in the way of sanitary reform; and,
2d, that the people should so seldom ask them to do more.  It is a matter
of much regret that the only subjects which our legislators take up, when
they come among their constituents, are such topics as “Extension of the
Franchise,” “Vote by Ballot,” “Electoral Districts,” “Foreign Policy;”
while Education, Temperance, and Sanitary Science are completely
excluded.

It would be interesting to go through the Parliamentary reports of a
year, and note what proportion of time the representatives of the people
spend in doing or saying anything that has reference to the moral and
physical elevation or general well-being of their constituents.  I am
quite willing to acknowledge that my want of appreciation of what is
actually done may arise from an inability to comprehend the magnitude and
importance of these subjects to the country.  But, granting this, may it
not at the same time justly be said, “These ought ye to have done, and
not to have left the other undone?”

I must confess that, up to the present moment, I cannot comprehend how
_anything_ can be more advantageous to the country than the elevation of
its own people.  This need not, at the present day, be undertaken
hopelessly.  Enough has already been accomplished, through Ragged Schools
alone, to shew what can be done.  Most of the evils from which our poor
people suffer are fortunately removable.  They do not arise from bad
climate, unfruitful soil, determined hostility on the part of the
governed, or determined oppression on the part of the governors.

The way in which the poor usually respond to efforts made for their
relief, the patience and forbearance they manifest in times of public
calamity, are most encouraging to witness, and prove that “English hearts
and English hands” are worthy of the assistance which an active and
sensible government could extend to them.  I cannot think of anything, at
the present time, that would be so helpful to the poor as suitable,
well-adapted houses to live in.  The miserable places which they are now
compelled to call homes have a great deal to do with _all_ the immorality
that is to be found among them.  No one, who has taken the trouble to
investigate the matter, can doubt this for a moment; and as long as there
are people in the world unconscientious enough to erect such dwellings
for the poor as those we have described, it must surely be a right and
proper thing for the legislature to step in and say, “We will not stand
by and see our people mentally, morally, and physically degraded in this
way: we interpose our authority, and insist that such-and-such modes of
construction can no longer be permitted.”

But we must also consider the other side of the subject—the indifference
of the working-classes themselves in obtaining assistance from their
rulers.  The fact is, they so seldom hear that any but purely political
matters claim attention, that they can hardly realise the possibility of
being helped by government out of any domestic difficulties.  Nothing,
however, can justify their foolish clamour for what, if obtained, could
in no way benefit them.  I have often told working-men that, so long as
they continue to ask for stones when they want bread, they must expect
only to get stones.

I once witnessed a very exciting election, from the windows of a house at
Bath.  I shall never forget the sight of that sea of human faces, which
extended as far as the eye could reach, and all directed towards the
hustings.  It was a cloudless day in July.  The sun beat piteously down
upon the many uncovered heads, yet there they stood—this closely-packed
mass of people—from ten or eleven in the morning till two or three
o’clock in the afternoon, enduring an amount of torture that was worthy
of a better cause.  A gentleman, who was witnessing it from the same
window, was greatly distressed at the sight; and, at last, when some one
was carried out of the crowd in an unconscious state, he stamped his
foot, and, as if he could bear it no longer, exclaimed—

“I have no patience with it—such a set of muffs broiling themselves to
death under the sun, and shouting themselves hoarse, for they don’t know
what.  If there were any chance of their getting any good out of it, I
might respect them for their powers of endurance.”

“Yes,” I said; “if, for instance, they were agitating that a bill might
be brought into Parliament for making it the law of the land that all
windows should be made to open at the top as well as at the bottom.”

“Just so,” replied my friend; “or that wages were always to be paid
before four o’clock on Saturday afternoon.  Yes, I could respect them for
_that_, instead of despising them, as, upon my word, I now do, for their
much ado about nothing; that is, about nothing to them.”

I am, however, induced to think, from much which I have met in my own
experience, and also from what I have heard through other observers, that
among the better class of working-men (a class whose value and importance
to this country cannot be over-estimated) there is a sincere wish to
avail themselves of the assistance of any helping hand held out to their
relief.  They have often confided to me their troubles, with the
simplicity and earnestness of children, and have asked—

“Do you think, ma’am, you could do anything for us?  We should be so
glad, if you could put us up to some better way of getting on.”

This subject is worth every attention, even with those who take no higher
ground than what will _pay_.  How many of the victims of unhealthy houses
are now crowding into our hospitals, asylums, and workhouses, a burden to
their country, living upon its wealth, instead of adding to it by their
activity and skill!  Sin and sorrow, in this world, are inseparable.
Neglect and bad management have made the very class intended by a wise
and kind Creator as the spring of the country’s greatest wealth, to
become a source of great trouble and expense.

If there is any doubt as to the _duty_ of caring more for the poor, we
have only to look at the example of Him who went about doing good, who,
“when He saw the multitudes, had compassion upon them.”  We cannot, like
Him, heal the sick and cleanse the leper; but, by the use of appointed
means, how much sickness and moral leprosy may be prevented!

If the government of this country would, in this way, follow the steps of
“another King, even Jesus,” doing justly, loving mercy, and walking
humbly with God, then might we look for the fulfilment of the promise—“I
will open the windows of heaven, and pour out upon you such a blessing as
there shall be scarce room to contain.”  And now that dark clouds are
rising around our political horizon, and many hearts are failing them for
fear, is it not a time to turn unto God in the way that He has Himself
marked out?—“Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bands
of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free,
and that ye break every yoke?  Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry,
and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house: when thou
seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from
thine own flesh?  Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and
thy health shall spring forth speedily.”

When we contemplate how great a change would be wrought in a nation, were
its rulers men fearing God, and hating covetousness, and, like Daniel,
going many times a-day to ask counsel of the Lord, we seem to see the pen
moving in the hand of the recording angel, as he writes, “No weapon
formed against it shall prosper.”

We must return for a moment to our own more immediate work.  In
consequence of the disadvantage to which we have alluded, we have not
been able to effect all the improvement we could wish in the dwellings of
our poor mothers; but, by the introduction of cleanliness, order, and
ventilation, the aspect of many homes has been much changed.  Soon after
we commenced these meetings, we spent the greater part of one evening in
explaining the nature and effects of pure air and ventilation, and
illustrating the subject in various ways.  The listeners were startled at
the facts brought before them: and by their unfeigned expressions of
astonishment, it was evident that their ideas on the subject, and
nature’s intentions, were quite at variance.  Several months afterwards,
on entering a house where two of our poor mothers lived, I was pleased to
observe how clean and well-ventilated it was.  On remarking this, one of
the women said—“Ah! that was a wonderful evening when you told us all
about what air we could live upon, and what we couldn’t.  I says to Mrs
L—, as we were going home, ‘There now, we have been a-shutting up our
windows, and thinking we were shutting the _pizen_ out, instead of which
we were shutting of it in.’  I soon got my window made to open at the
top, and it has never been quite shut since; for we always sleeps six in
this room.  The neighbours did say, at first, that we should catch our
deaths; but they soon saw that we were so much better, that half the
people in the street open their windows at the top now.”

This same woman came to me a few weeks ago, and told me that she had
lately removed into another street, where the houses were apparently of a
better order than those she had left; but after the first week or two,
she found that, in consequence of a drain-pipe being out of order, they
were constantly subjected to an unpleasant smell.  “I tell my landlord of
it,” she said, “every Monday morning when I pay my rent; and he always
says to me, ‘I’ll send a man here in a day or two, and have it put to
rights;’ and that have been going on now for six weeks, and nobody has
been a-near the place to do anything yet.  I have two children ill with
fever; and we all wake of a morning now with that old miserable, sick,
tired feeling we used to have before you told us how to manage better.
My boys said this morning, ‘Mother, the work do seem so hard now, to what
it used to.’  You know, ma’am, the work isn’t no difference; but we are
all getting pizen’d with that nasty smell; and it do seem so hard to me,
for I have never had no illness to speak of among ’em all, for the last
four years.”

At a very early period in our meeting we introduced a whitewash brush.
This is lent to any of the mothers who apply for it.  It is very
frequently out; indeed, in the spring of the year, it is seldom at home.
As many as seven or eight of these brushes have been worn out in the
service of the society since its commencement.  A thick iron saucepan is
also kept at the house of one of our missionaries, and lent for the
purpose of soup-making.  Each member is supplied with a large printed
receipt, giving particular direction for the composition of this soup.
This receipt is so valuable, that I intend placing it at the end of this
book.

There is one other subject to which I wish to refer, before laying aside
my pen.  An objection has sometimes been raised to the establishment of
Mothers’ Societies, on the ground that it is wrong to offer these poor
women any inducement to leave their homes; that accident may arise from
their absence; that the husband may be dissatisfied, and so forth.  A
lady once reminded a working-man of these objections; he roughly replied,
“What’s the use of a woman being always at home, if she can’t do
nothing—no good, when she is there?  Now she does pick up something at
the meeting, and we are all a sight better off the rest of the week for
her going there a bit.”  Another lady, visiting at one of their houses,
asked the husband how he liked having to remain at home, and take care of
the children, while his wife was at the meeting.  His reply was, “I
should think, ma’am, that was little enough for me to do for all the good
my wife gets there.  She is always bringing home bits of clothes for some
of us that she makes there, besides lots of things to talk about.”

It must be evident to all, that it is not possible for any mother to
spend every hour of her life at home.  When, unfortunately, she is
obliged to assist in the maintenance of the family, many hours of absence
have to be provided for; and it is not more difficult to arrange for her
absence at the Mothers’ Meeting than anywhere else.  Children, from the
age of one to seven, are generally in bed before seven o’clock; older
children are not so likely to get into mischief; and the baby, if
necessary, can be brought with the mother.

It is not desirable, however, that any president should require
regularity of attendance.  The illness of their husbands or children, and
many other things that may arise, ought, of course, to keep the mothers
at home.  When they have come to me to apologise for their absence, as
they frequently do, I have generally to say, “I should indeed have been
sorry to have seen you here under such circumstances.”

There is surely some want of sympathy in the hearts of those who continue
to urge this objection.  A lady once not only declined subscribing to the
society on this plea; but said also, it was all owing to the “miserable
mothers that the servants of the present day were so bad; and she would
not have anything to do with such a set.”

Those who can dismiss their children, at pleasure, to the nursery or the
school-room, are apt to forget the sufferings of others differently
situated, whose lives are worn down by one constant and unmitigated
pressure.  I have thought that one principal reason why the poor mother
often fails so much in her duties is, that there are no _pauses_ in her
work.  The physical suffering and the weariness of spirit induced by this
constant toil have much to do with that fretfulness of temper which often
makes the homes of poor children wretched indeed.  A cord strained too
tightly, and too long, will snap at a touch that would otherwise have
produced the sweetest music.  The words of sympathy which meet the ear at
these meetings refresh the wounded spirit.  The thought is suggested,
that, painful and irksome as the work may often be, it is of God’s
appointment; and that to do it for Him, and with a view to His glory, at
once ennobles and sanctifies it.

A poor woman, whose heart had been renewed by Divine grace, once said to
me, “I used to think I was the poorest, miserablest thing in the world,
always slaving about after children; but now God has shewed me my work so
different, that I wouldn’t change with the parson.”

The following letter, which I received from one of our poor mothers, will
prove the truth of these observations better than anything I can add:—

                                            “POTTERIES, _January_ 7, 1856.

    “DEAR CHRISTIAN FRIEND,—

    “It was very much my wish to have spoken a few words on Thursday
    evening, but was unable to do so; therefore, to pacify my conscience,
    I write to you, stating a few of the advantages I have received since
    I became a member of your society.

    “1st.  That of sympathy.  If I have been in trouble and difficulty,
    you have ever lent a willing ear to my tale of sorrow, and led me to
    cast my care on Him who has promised to care for me.

    “2d.  That of training my children in the best way.  Being obliged to
    work very hard for them, I have found little time to spare for
    teaching them; but being reminded by you so often that a mother’s
    voice, a mother’s look, a mother’s actions, are all noticed by
    children, I must say it has often influenced me to bear with patience
    much that I should not have done, and offer a silent prayer for their
    welfare; and been more happy myself in thus acting.

    “3d.  We enjoy rest.  Often with hurried step we hasten there, and
    the first sound that salutes our ear is the calm voice of prayer,
    which seems at once to hush the mind to peace, and carry our sorrows
    to a throne of grace, where we find relief and comfort.

    “Again, there are the texts of Scripture, which often prove a word in
    season.  Sometimes we have been very tired, by reason of the way;
    difficulties have beset our path, and every hour of the day has been
    full of care; and perhaps we hear those kind words—‘Come unto me, all
    ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’  ‘Cast
    thy burden on the Lord, and he will sustain thee.’  ‘Call upon me in
    the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee.’  We thus leave the
    place of meeting relieved from much that would distress us.  I have
    thus written a few of the advantages derived from attending the
    Mothers’ Meeting.

    “Praying that a blessing may rest on you; and hoping you will never
    grow weary in this work of faith and labour of love,

                                                    “Believe me to remain,
                                                  Yours most respectfully,
                                                                        —”

In drawing this narrative of facts to a close, I would make one or two
concluding remarks:—

Dr. Chalmers used to say that most of us think too much of our abilities,
and too little of our influence.  The force of example is always great,
even though the exemplar be a fool.  A man of the narrowest intellect
will accomplish more by personal conduct than the large-brained man will
effect by mere verbal precept.  It is true not only that

              “A peasant may believe as much as a great clerk,”

but that he may _do_ as much.  Not only to hope and to faith are the “not
many wise” called, but to charity also.  We have seen in the preceding
pages that our Great Master has made use of the humblest servants to
achieve that which the professional philanthropist, with all his busy
schemes, had not been able to compass.  Therefore to the wise, who may
chance to look into this volume, I would say, “Be not over-confident of
success in undertaking the work of which I have spoken.  To charity, the
heart is a far more necessary and vital organ than the brain.  What you
do will have twenty-fold the force of what you say.  And in order to do
rightly, you must be content to learn of those whom you could teach
everything but this one thing.”  Those who are conscious of much
intellectual weakness I would encourage by the narratives of what has
been wrought by instruments of an even less keen temper than they.

But I would not be understood to slight the literature of philanthropy.
Facts and figures, statistics compiled with much toil and difficulty, are
the foundation stones of all legislative social reforms.  They are
indispensable in all cases where we wish the government of a country to
interpose.

Next, I would observe that we should “patiently wait” for results.  There
is a grand Eastern proverb which says, “Hurry is of the devil, but slow
advancing comes from God.”  Hurry is not progress; sure progress is
generally slow.  It may not be given to us, who sow the seed, to gather
in the harvest.  But if our faith is strong, we shall believe that
hereafter it will be our great reward to join the glad song of the
heavenly reapers, as they lay the bounteous sheaves at the feet of the
Lord of the harvest.

Lastly, there is one thing that is in the power of all of us.  However
difficult it is to _do_ our Father’s will on earth as it is done in
heaven, we can at least _pray_ that His kingdom will speedily come; each
may pray for those who are in “trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any
other adversity.”

             “More things are wrought by prayer
    Than this world dreams of. . . .
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
    For so the whole round earth is every way
    Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.”



APPENDIX.


RULES FOR THE REGULATION OF THE MOTHERS’ SOCIETY.


1.  THAT this meeting shall assemble one evening in the week, at seven
o’clock or half-past seven, according to the season of the year, and
close as nearly as possible at nine o’clock.

2.  That at every meeting a passage of Scripture shall be read, and
followed by prayer.  The work shall then be commenced, and deposits
received, both for clothing and savings’ bank.  The lady who presides
shall then read, or relate something suitable to the object of the
meeting, and if desirable and time permit, conversation shall ensue.

3.  Although remarks to the purpose will be highly valued from any member
of this Society, it will be necessary, to save confusion, that all such
remarks should be addressed to the President of the meeting, and that not
more than one shall speak at a time.

4.  That we all endeavour to cultivate a spirit of kindness and sympathy
with one another, in our common difficulties; and when cases of peculiar
sorrow and distress arise, they should be mentioned at the commencement
of the meeting, in order to be made the subject of special and earnest
prayer.

5.  That at these meetings no mention shall be made of our neighbours’
faults and failings, but that we all, faithfully and earnestly, seek to
obtain the greatest possible amount of assistance to aid us in our very
important and often difficult duties.

6.  That the Secretary will make a point of being at home an hour before
the commencement of each meeting, to see any member of this Society who
would like to speak with her privately.

7.  That the articles of clothing provided, and sold at a reduced price,
shall be obtained only by those who have regularly enrolled themselves as
members of this Society.

8.  That no article of clothing shall be taken away until finished, and
paid for, unless by permission of the lady who presides.

9.  That each member provide herself with thimble, needles, and cotton.

10.  That the work be continued until the time arrives for the concluding
prayer by the Clergyman or the City Missionary.



CHEAP COOKERY.
RECEIPT.
CHEAP SOUP AND VERY NOURISHING.

Two ounces of dripping                                             1d.
Half a pound of solid meat, at 4d. per lb. (cut into dice          2d.
one inch square)
Quarter of a pound of onions, sliced thin; quarter of a            1d.
pound of turnip, cut into small dice; two ounces of leeks
(green tops will do), and three ounces of celery, chopped
small
Half a pound of rice, or pearl barley                              1d.
Three ounces of salt, and a quarter of an ounce of brown           ½d.
sugar
Fuel to make it                                                    ½d.
Six quarts of water.                                              —
                                                                   6d.

HOW TO MAKE IT.


Take an iron saucepan (a tin one will not do); put into it, over the
fire, your meat cut small, with two ounces of dripping, and a quarter of
an ounce of brown sugar, shred in your onions, and stir with a wooden or
iron spoon till fried lightly brown; have ready washed and sliced your
turnips, celery, and leeks, add them to the rest over the fire, and stir
about for ten minutes.  Now add one quart of cold water, and the
half-pound of barley or rice, and mix all well together.  Then add five
quarts of hot water, made ready in the kettle, season with your salt,
stir occasionally till boiling, and then let simmer on the hob for three
hours; at the end of which time the rice or barley will be tender.

This soup will keep two or three days if poured into a flat pan, but it
is best made every other day.  You must stir till nearly cold, when you
take it off the fire, which will prevent its fermenting.  A little bread
or biscuit eaten with it makes a supporting meal, much better than a cup
of tea, and would go far to prevent the craving for gin.

Great care should be taken that the saucepan be perfectly clean, the
dripping and meat sweet, and the vegetables fresh.

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

               BALLANTYNE AND COMPANY, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH.

                                * * * * *



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FOOTNOTES.


{8}  See “The Book and its Mission,” vol. iii., p. 254.

{110}  This letter is given in the Chapter “Letters.”





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