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THIRD STANDARD. 51 you are a good girl in the main, and we'll do all we can for you.”
So Ruth went off to her place; so late in the evening that she had only her bread and cheese supper to eat, and then to go to bed amongst the children, of which there were four. Soon after seven Mrs. Stammers appeared.
“Why, Ruth, not up yet? Mr. Stammers must be at his office at eight. I hoped you would have lit the fire by this time.”
“Please, ma’am,” said Ruth, “I thought I was only to hold the baby; I never had any turn for house-work.”
“Dear me, child, don't lie there talking such nonsense to me. The children are your chief care, but how are you to wash and dress them while you are in bed ? I'll say no more to-day, but you must be alive to-morrow.”
Mrs. Stammers kept a small stationer's shop; she got through as much work in five minutes as other people did in ten; but, unlike Ruth's mother, she made those around her work also.
Glad enough was Ruth when she was told to put little Bertie, the baby, into his carriage and take him, and the two least of the others to the Gardens. There Ruth soon made acquaintance with other girls who, like her, possessed babies and perambulators—those excellent machines for neglecting babies. No doubt they are good things for long distances, and enable the children to get to fresher air, and pleasanter playgrounds than if they had to be carried, but it requires more care and thought than most girls pos
achines tables and with others. The
sess not to let them be hurtful. Little Bertie had had a careful nurse before Ruth came, who held a parasol over him when he was hot, or if it rained, and never kept him forlong together cramped up in his carriage. She used to take him out on her lap, and let him trot about on the grass, and try to catch a ball, or gather daisies ; but Ruth was full of talk with her companions, and the baby got tired, and cried incessantly. A woman with a basket of sweetstuff, and some halfpenny toys came up, saying,
“My dear, won't the dear baby like a bit of sweetstuff to stop his crying?”
“No,” said Ruth, “I have got no money.”
“Never mind, my dear, you will pay me to-morrow. Here are some sugar-balls that are certain to stop his crying; they will make him sleepy; they are no harm; they are what doctors give.”
“I wish I could,” she said, " for he is very tiresome; but till I get my wages I've not a farthing.”
“Well, dear, can't you slip a bit of soap or a few lumps of sugar for me into your pocket to-morrow ? See how baby enjoys it."
And, in fact, she put a little ball of brown stuff into its mouth as she spoke. And sure enough it was asleep in ten minutes, and continued to sleep till she got home.
“Why, Bertie, how is this ? Ruth, what has tired him so ? it's not his time for sleeping, and he seems so heavy.”
Ruth did not venture to say what she had done, but felt very unhappy, when, 'later in the day, the doctor was sent for, for Bertie was sick, and the doctor said he saw he had taken some sort of sleeping-stuff, and Ruth was questioned. She was a good girl in the main, and saw that she must speak the truth at once.
“Why, sir, baby cried so, and a woman who sold sweets came into the gardens and offered me a sugarball, and said it was no harm, it was what doctors
“Ah!” said the doctor, “I know that woman, and wish I could send her to the treadmill; she deserves it more than many that are there. Now, my girl, let this be a lesson to you, never give a child anything that sends it to sleep, for, in fact, it's poison. So far what she said is true; in case of violent pain in severe illness we do give opium sometimes, but only when we know that the pain must be subdued for fear of worse troubles. It's a mercy in this case the child was sick and got rid of the opium; if it hadn't it would more or less have been stupefied. Don't you often meet with one dull, heavy child in a family, that can hardly be taught anything, or get his own living? In many cases that has come from these wicked sugar-balls, which are given to quiet them, as it is called, and so they do; some are sent to their quiet graves, and to many others life is a burden.”
Ruth cried all the time he talked, and made many a resolution to have nothing to do with “quieting" things again. Bertie was too ill to go to the Gardens for some days; when Ruth next went there she paid the woman ld., out of her wages, but told her how ill the ball had made the child, and implored her to sell no more, but the woman laughed and said they
were the mother's blessing, and that she'd sold 1s. worth to the mother of a large family that morning.
Mr. Stammers wanted Ruth to be sent away, but his wife said,
“No, I won't do that, the girl spoke the truth and made no excuses or prevarications ; I should not like to part with her in disgrace. Still, I don't know that I can keep her, unless she gets more handy. She had no idea even of lighting a fire, never emptied out the cinders, or cleaned the bars, but wasted a whole bundle of wood in trying to make last night's ashes burn up. What she said she did like was children, and she's very good to play with them; but, dear me! if they tear their things she's no more idea how to mend them than the baby; says she never put in a patch in her life; still, she tells the truth and is good-tempered, and I'll give her a fair trial.”
And she did give her a fair trial; but it is not easy for a busy woman like Mrs. Stammers to spend her time in teaching a girl how to do common things, so they parted.
The next place Ruth heard of was a nursery maid's, under a nurse, at Mr. Rawlings's, where ten maids and four men were kept; but, to her surprise, she found she would be required to clean all the three nurseries, to carry up coals and water, as well as all the meals, and to light two nursery fires, and clean two grates. She declined the place, saying “she had no turn for house-work.” Next she heard that a dress-maker wanted an extra hand, and surely her needlework powers would make her valuable there. She was astonished to find that her close, beautiful, and exact stitching was of no account, to run up seams was now machine-business, and unless it was fixed for her the body of a dress was beyond her. And even then she was pursued by the house-work, for which she had no turn. The least useful worker had to put everything away, dust the room, and once a week sweep it. Again Ruth protested against doing housework.
“And who do you think is to do it?" said Miss Saunders, the mistress. “I only want an extra Land in the drive of the season; and if you are above taking the trouble of the charge of the room,' you had better be off at once.”
And so she was once more out of place. But worse trouble was at hand. Her mother was seized with a sudden and fatal illness; she knew she was going, and said so to her husband, who replied :
“Ah! you've been worn out, slaving and moiling for us all, and never giving yourself a bit of restyours has been a hard life, Annie, harder than you thought when you took me.”
“Don't say that, husband. I have worked hard, but it was with a good will, for who has had a better man to work for? In all these years you never have given me an ill word, or lifted your hand at me, or called me out of my name, and who can say as much ? No, mine has been a hardish life, but a happy one too, and I am going to have the long rest that remaineth for the people of God. But when one is going, things look so different, and one matter troubles me, and that's poor Ruth, I've not done my duty by her.”