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inefficient. She is, perhaps in rather a to say, "Ain't he beautiful ?” “ Ah, but rough way, but as well as she knows how, you can't see un so well as he did ought to kind to her helpless charges, and she is be seen, not therefrom you can't," said certainly popular with them. For she is Hannah regretfully;"you can't see but a bright and lively, with a ready laugh, and part of un therefrom. But he do look a droll tongue, and “the old ladies do like lovely from the men's yard. Do 'ee know to be put in Hannah's ward,” we were what I did do this mornin', ma'am ? The once told.
door were open, so I just slipped in an' Hannah advanced to meet us that day had a good look at un. I hadn' no busiwith a broad smile of welcome, and ness there, you know, but nobody didn' greeted us with the exclamation
see me.” “ There! to be sure! Ain't I glad you Hannah had a real love for flowers. be come to-day!"
Those three geraniums standing on one And as we advanced to the fireplace the of the window ledges are hers, and she cthers endorsed the sentiment with various shows them to us every time we come, more or less energetic expressions of satis- and points out every fresh leaf or bud with faction.
pride and satisfaction. She has her pet “Yes, Hannah was just a saying,” ob- name for each of them. There is her served one, “ that she did wish you might beauty, her great beauty, and her little happen to chance to come to-day.” beauty, the last being a little slip of a plant
“ So I was," put in Hannah, rather growing in an old tin mug. quickly (she is a favorite of ours, but we Once she was threatened with the loss must confess she did rather like to keep of her plants. Somebody, at this moment the lead in the conversation), “but I wasn't I forget who, made an official progress expectin' of 'ee much, 'cause don't 'ee see, through the wards, and the unlucky plants ’tis such heavenly weather ! I thought caught his eye, standing, as they did, on you'd be goin' out into the country some- an unauthorized bit of board which Han- . where. I would, I know, if I was a lady! nah had somehow contrived to add to the Now I'll tell 'ee, ma'am, why I did want narrow window-sill to make it wide enough for 'ee to come. 'Tis 'cause o' the pear- to support her pots, and he pronounced tree in the master's garden. He's out in them to be untidy, and desired that they blossom, ma'am, and he do look that should be removed. beautiful, I thought if you could but see Hannah was furious! The plants unit !"
tidy! The chief ornament of the room What an answer to our thoughts ! Did untidy! The chief ornament of the room spring make no difference in a work-house to be removed! But as to that, they ward? Arrogant fancy! Why, every should never be removed; she should wrinkled countenance before us was look- stand in front of her beauties and not let ing brighter than usual merely because of anyone touch them. Poor Hannah! She the blossom on one pear-tree.
well knew her own impotence, even whilst Of course we said we should like of all talking defiant nonsense, and every now things to see it.
and then wiped away a tear at the thought “So you shall, ma'am, if you don't mind that if her flowers must go, they must. standing up upon a chair. You can see But somehow or other that order for their un from these very windows if you do removal was never executed. Perhaps squeeze yourself against the wall a little, the official personage who gave it relented an' look sideways.
when he saw how much pain it would Who would not mount a chair and
cause. At any rate, Hannah's plants were look sideways at such an invitation ? We never touched, and continued to beautify did so at once, and we saw the pear-tree the window-sill for many a long day after. -or rather part of him, for his full glory was not visible from that point of view.
PART II. And when we descended from that exalted position, all the old faces were looking quite
WHAT WE TALKED ABOUT. pleased and eager, and the most phlegma- SOME years ago when we used to be in tic old woman in the room, who rarely the habit of visiting the old women (in opened her lips, or showed any interest in H— Workhouse rather frequently, we anything, astonished us by being the first used to notice, with some amusement, how
curiously apt our conversation was to re- whole way back, but, by some mistake, peat itself; how, time after time, we found the friendly cart in which she had reckoned ourselves saying almost exactly the same on obtaining a place, started without her, things, and that, not from wearisome lack and she set out on foot, thinking, however, of matter, but because the old familiar that she would most likely be overtaken topics recurred more naturally and plea- by some conveyance or other before she santly than any others.
had gone far, and get the offer of a lift. Thus, after the chapter in the Bible, that "But I'd bad luck," she said ; "every used to be asked for as soon as the first conveyance as went past me were full. greetings were over, had been read, first 'Twas such a disappointment to me every one and then another would almost always time I heard wheels, and thought I'd get begin to inquire whether we had lately took up. I could ha' cried last time I did chanced to visit any of those neighboring hear summat comin', an' 'twas Squire villages in which their homes used to be, M-'s carriage. I know if they'd known and, if we had, they would proceed to how tired I were they'd ha' took I up, for name any families with whom tey knew they be kind folk-an' there was room on we were, or thought it within the limits of the box, but they went by at a gallop." possibility that we might be acquainted, Perhaps it will raise a smile when we go and ask, did we know them, and when had on to say that another favorite subject of we seen them last, and so on.
conversation amongst these old women, There was one frail old woman-she is was the Queen and the Royal Family! gone to the Home beyond the grave now— We do not know what private sources of who used to look so wistfully at us, if we information we were supposed to have answered her question whether we had been respecting the doings of these august perto E-lately, in the affirmative! We sonages; but we were generally asked do not think that anyone near and dear to whether the Queen was quite well, and her was still living in her old birthplace, how all the Royal Family were going on, but she had acquaintance there, and now as though, as a matter of course, we must and then she used to ask leave to go out, know all about them. Somebody or other and would make a pilgrimage there, per- had once given them a portrait of Her haps to look at the graves of her dead in Majesty, taken out of some cheapillustrated the village churchyard-who knows? paper, and this Hannah had fastened up
The last time she went was in early over the fireplace, and regarded with great spring. All the winter she had talked of pride. Afterwards, when in the course of going to E- when the fine weather time the royal picture became defaced came, but when it arrived it found her so with smoke and dust, it was replaced by weak and failing, that Hannah and the two smaller portraits of the Queen and the others tried to persuade her that she was Prince Consort, and, the last time we saw not fit for the exertion. But go she would. the room, its bare white walls were further
“I shan't get no stronger if I do wait," adorned with the likenesses of the Prince she said, “ an' I do want to go there once and Princess of Wales, and, if we recollect again.”
right, of Princess Alice. So she went; but the eight-mile walk, How well we remember going to see four miles out and four back, was too them once, about a week before the Prince much for her little strength. It was all she of Wales's wedding, and telling them of could do to creep back to the workhouse, the various festivities with which it was and, once there, she took to her bed, and, proposed to celebrate that event. we believe, never left it till her death, "Well, I declare," said Hannah, “I wish which occurred some months later.
I was twenty years younger, to enjoy it Poor Rachel! If we had but heard of all! But I'll tell 'ee a secret, ma'am. We. her intentions beforehand, we might have bain't goin' to be left out. Us old women helped her; but we knew nothing of it till is going to have our 'lumination so well as we chanced to visit the workhouse a few the rest! We be savin' up all our candledays after her return, and found her in bed, ends out of our 'lowance o'candles, an' not greatly concerned at her exhausted the messenger (you do know th' old man condition, but full of triumph at having what do go out wi' messages-gets us our accomplished her wish of seeing E-snuff an' such when we've a few pence to again. She had not meant to walk the lay out), he's a-goin' to bring us in some
large pertaters; an’ what do 'ee think we and why not? What instinct more natural be goin' to do? I be goin' to scoop out to old age! And would any deeply essenthem pertaters, an' stick the candle-ends in tial rule of poverty be outraged if they did 'em, an' range 'em on the ledges o' the win- actually possess a few trifles of their very dow. Ha! ha! ha! ha! I wonder what own ?—if, for instance, each old women the Queen 'ould think if she knowed us old had her especial cup and saucer, saved, it women. was goin' to have our 'lumination may be, out of the wreck of her household too."
goods, or the gift of some friend or visitor. And she burst into a hearty fit of laughter Nor do we suppose that it would be at the idea, in which almost everybody against any imaginable principle of justice joined. “Nor we ain't goin' to want (i. e. or prudence, if a few arm-chairs and footlack) our feast neither," Hannah continued. stools, perhaps even a bright-colored rug “I don't mean the doin's they be goin' to to lie in front of the fireplace, were to find have for all the workhouse folk, that ain't their way into the infirm wards of our much good to me. . My dear soul! when workhouses. We do not mean that the you be goin' on for threescore an' ten, an' Board of Guardians should provide these not a sound tooth in your head, roast beef articles; but we see no reason why the isn't much enjoyment to you. You do gifts of kindly-disposed persons to the know what we do like, don't you ? 'Tis our poor should not sometimes take this cup o'tay. We've got some of Mrs.--'s shape. tay, which we do consider the best tay There is a fashion, however, even in we do ever get-I be very choice over it, doing good, and somehow or other the I do assure 'ee. An’ we be goin' to drink aged poor are not favorite objects of popthe health of the Prince an' Princess in a ular benevolence. It is rather a curious cup of tay, an' long life to 'em both, I say.” circumstance that in the conspectus of
The ordinary workhouse beverage is London charities published some time ago coffee, which is, we believe, more econo- in the Times, the sum annually expended mical than tea. We never heard the old on the relief of the aged fell short of that women make any complaint about it, but spent on any other kind of charity; and, we do not think they can have liked it only the other day, we heard of a sug. much because of the jubilation with which gestion on the part of a most estimable a present of tea was always received. But kind-hearted gentleman, who, we feel confidon't you think that half the satisfaction of dant, never in his life intentionally dealt the cup that "cheers but not inebriates” hardly by anybody, that it would be a very must have been neutralised to them by desirable reform to divert to the pet obhaving to drink it out of a tin mug? We ject of the day, “educational purposes," a appeal to any lady who reads this paper. certain bequest which was being wasted Would you not, madam, reject with (according to the intentions of the testascorn that five-o'clock cup of tea which is tor, of course ; but who at this enlightened your pet luxury, if it were offered to you period cares about the intentions of the in any such vessel ? And supposing re- testator ?) in pensions to the aged poor. fractory paupers have a tendency to break Well! we must not quarrel with nature. everything that is provided for them which we cannot help feeling more interest in the necessitates tin in their case, is that a valid little child just starting on life's journey, reason why quiet old people should go for whom we think we can do so much, without cups and saucers ?
than it is possible for us to do in the travelThese old women, too, have a rooted stained old pilgrim, on the very brink of detestation of communism, and establish another world, for whom we know we can their little rights of property, unacknow- do so little. Nevertheless, the little we ledged by authority, but not the less strictly can do should at least be done ; and does respected amongst themselves, to every it not strike one that if to the sturdy tramp, individual thing they use. Exactly alike who wilfully encumbers the rates, the as those tin mugs appear to your inex- workhouse should be made more of a perienced eyes, we believe that each old prison than a refuge, to the aged poor, woman could, and would, swear to the who have come there to die, it should no personal appearance of her own particular less certainly be made more of a refuge mug in any court of justice. They like to than a prison ? play at having something of their own; There are the windows, for example;
perhaps some one, reading the first part of penal aspect, do lie in human power to this paper, may have exclaimed at the idea withhold or to bestow. of having to mount a chair to see out of Hannah's invincible liveliness always window,“ Windows are not usually placed seemed to us to have a sensible effect on at such an inconvenient elevation." the spirits of those around her. There
Yes; in workhouses they are. Proba- was quite a marked contrast between the bly the very first thing that would strike a tone of her ward and the next, where the stranger on entering such a ward as I have woman who held a corresponding post to been describing, would be the curious hers was depressed and querulous, and anomaly that all its four windows are situ- generally talked about her rheumatism. ated so much nearer to the ceiling than to Yet even in Hannah's ward, the element of the floor, that they look like windows melancholy was not absent. Far from it. down to the ground reversed, and turned It was but thrown a little into the backinto windows up to the ceiling. They are, ground. For example: to take ten or a of course, as useful, as mechanical con- dozen old people and shut them up totrivances for admitting light, as any other gether in a large room may be the only windows; but beyond that, people who by way of sheltering them when utterly destithe laws of gravitation are compelled to tute, and does not work badly on the reside, not upon the ceiling but upon the whole; for, in spite of the universal dislike floor, cannot possibly derive much pleasure to coming in, they do not appear unhappy, or advantage from looking out of them. and are often wonderfully cheerful and
Of course, there are reasons, and, we contented; but it does not strike one as doubt not, sufficient reasons, for this pecu- the natural mode of providing for the liar style of architecture. A great many comfort of the aged, whose infirmities have very unruly and troublesome inmates are a tendency to unfit them for social life, and apt to find their way into workhouses, and to render them irritable, querulous, and inaccessible windows may, very likely, be exacting ; so there is nothing very astona wise arrangement as far as they are con- ishing in the fact that many mope and fret cerned. Another reason, perhaps, may be for weeks after their first entrance, and that when the windows are thus packed some never get over their misery at being up aloft, more space to arrange the rows parted from their relations, and their inof beds is acquired, and more certain tense dislike to being herded with others. freedom from draughts obtained; but it is I remember one old woman of this dea plan that makes a room look uncommon- scription, who used to sit in the corner on ly dull, and often have we wished that one side of the fireplace in Hannah's we could drag down even a single one ward. Her right arm was paralysed, but from its lofty situation to a height at which that was not the grief that caused the ready it would be possible for the old people to tears that used to spring forth at the mere look out, as well as for the light of day to question," How are you to-day, Jemima ?” come in. Might not such a sin against “I don't know how I be, an' I don't outward uniformity be forgiven in consi- seem I cares! They haven't been to see deration of the letting in of a little more me this week. They puts me in here, an' brightness upon some very monotonous forgets me. Oh, ma'am, I be so unhappy lives?
here!" Women of sixty-five and upwards are “There, that's how you do always go not the material out of which refractory on," interposes Hannah. The words paupers are made. They have been driv- sound harsh, but they are not spoken unen to the workhouses by the pressure of kindly, and, oddly enough, do not seem to extreme poverty and the infirmities of age : offend. “ Your daughter-law can't be for should we not try to make the refuge in ever runnin' over to see an old woman which their short remaining span of life is like you. Don't be so unreasonable; I to be spent as pleasant to them as we can? dare say she'll come to-morrow. I declare The "smile of home,” indeed, we cannot you ain't a bit reconciled, though you've give them ; but such minor adjuncts to been here two years.” happiness as a bright room, with cheerful “No, I ain't a bit reconciled, an' I nevwindows, and exemption, as far as is con- er shan't be,” weeps poor Jemima, lifting sistent with good order, from such work- her apron, with her unmaimed left hand, to house regulations as have somewhat of a wipe away her tears.
NEW SERIES.-Vol. XVI., No. 6
Here is another instance of the same a time. But do not grudge it! In the feeling, pitiable enough, though it does not caged monotony of these old women's excite the same compassion. Look at lives, the coming in of a visitor now and that stately old woman, propped up in then makes a welcome break, and gives bed with pillows, who makes an impera- so much pleasure. And, after all, the tive sign that the lady is to come and speak predominant impression that we carry to her. What an expression of settled away with us from the door of the hospidiscontent there is in her face!
tal will not be a gloomy one. For those “ I'm very glad to see you come in, old women seemed wonderfully happy and ma'am,” she says in a complaining tone, contented on the whole; and if we have “I'm sure 'tis a pleasure to see anybody hinted, in passing, at one or two little matcome in. I'm not treated as I ought to ters in which they might be made more be, ma'am,”—lowering her voice to a comfortable, we must not forget that in a whisper—“I oughtn't to be here at all. far more important matter, and one with I've paid rates myself, I have, an' had which not merely their comfort, but their things so different. 'Tis harder on me happiness, was most closely bound up, than 'tis on any of them ! I'm sure I feel their lot was fortunate indeed. We refer quite ashamed that a lady should see me to the large and overflowing measure of in such a place.”
kindness with which they appeared to be It is curious to see how often people get treated by the hospital authorities. what they claim. We used to fancy we They used to talk to me of the doctor could perceive that this self-asserting per- as if he were a personal friend of their sonage received quite the lion's share of own, and the kindly interest which he took attention and respect from the others. in all their little concerns was evident, by They addressed her as Mrs. H-in- the way in which his opinion used to be stead of calling her by her Christian name, quoted, à-propos to almost everything. As and even Hannah seemed to defer to her. to Hannah's plants, we think he must
Do you hear a faint, catching sigh from have come to regard them as supplementary the other side of the room—a sigh that patients, so continually did he appear to would have been a groan if the expression be asked to prescribe for their health. of suffering had not been checked by the And then there was “nurse!" If you consciousness of the presence of others ? were to ask the old women if "nurse" Let us go to the bed from whence it comes. were kind to them, they would be almost There lies a woman, younger, perhaps, than indignant at so cold a question. “Kind!" some of the rest, but chained to her couch we think we hear out-spoken Hannah by some acutely painful, lingering disease. ejaculate. “ Kind! why, she's just a What a patient, pain-drawn countenance! mother to us!" The pale lips absolutely smile an answer to As we write, there rises before our mind your greeting, though the voice is so faint the recollection of one of the very kindest you must bend down to catch the words. faces that it has ever been our happiness
“ It is rather a bad day with me to-day, to behold; the face of a woman who has ma'am; but I suffer always. I seem grown old amidst the toilsome duties of .sometimes I can't hardly bear myself. I her post, but who, in all the years she has hope the Lord 'll send for me soon spent in the workhouse, has never ceased .but I seem 'tis so long to wait.”
to put such a warm, loving heart into the Ah, yes! two or three years of utter performance of those duties, that for her helplessness, of almost constant pain in a they have never stiffened and hardened workhouse ward amongst strangers, with into an official routine. Hers was that everybody she cares for either far away or service of the heart which money cannot gone to a better land, must seem long in- buy, but which springs unbidden- wherdeed. “God grant her speedy release," ever there is an unfailing fount of that you say in your heart as you turn away, divine pity for the sorrowing and the sufpained at the sight of pain that you can fering which is, indeed, “akin to love." neither relieve nor alleviate.
The touch of her kind hand, the sound But it is time to say good-bye and leave of her kind voice—these are the last imthe workhouse; perhaps, indeed, you may pressions that we carry away with us, as even now be murmuring against the tedi- we retrace our steps through the long ousness of having been kept there so long brick passages; and glad indeed we are to