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command no better seedling, has expended endless pains on a common nettle.
1883, Friday. This has been my birthday, and in honour of it I gave a party. It is over now, and I am tired, having worked hard all day, but then we all enjoyed ourselves heartily. I had a Christmastree for my children, eight altogether ; but I must specify their individualities. Jack is a sturdy, fat little man of seven, with a funny round head and a philosophical manner. He is my godchild, and was only baptised one year ago. His eager little sister, Alice, aged three, was very recently baptised, and is also my godchild. She is like a canary bird, and can't well walk for hopping and trying her capabilities for flying—"That sense in the soul of the length of her wings,”—the poor dot hasn't lost it yet, 'twould seem, “ Trailing long clouds of glory do we come, from heaven which is our home." I take them both to church, but these two are no regular expense to me, being the children of a carpenter, a friend of mine, named Hackett.
Fred was one of my guests. He is a Roman Catholic boy, living in this block. I send Nance to school, and take her to church, so she came, of course, turning her big black eyes, with sharp intelligence, everywhere. I asked her once what harm the devil did to us ? “ Tempts us to swear," was the prompt reply. She has a little brother who is always in the streets, and could not, I believe, be tamed enough to let himself be civilised at present; but such occasions as this, and the thought of the summer treat, make him often nearly approach me with “Lady, will you send me to school ?” nearly but not quite ; and, indeed, I could not afford two new scholars now, as each not only means two pence a week, but clothes and boots : and I have only just taken Henry in hand. He promises to be a good steady child. I bade him come to me early to-day to be dressed for the party, but, to my dismay, found I had nothing which could do for his feet. I bade the poor lad come unshod, and so he did ; but, strange to say, when a friend, who came to help me, walked in and saw him without shoes, she opportunely took from a bundle she had brought me a fine pair of boots. “They can be made as good as new to-morrow for sixpence,” I cried ecstatically; and so they were. Meantime, for the party, I got Henry stockings of my own, and stuffed up the too long toes of the lucky present with cotton wool, and he was quite comme il faut. He bad come himself with the request that I would send him to school. His brother had just gone sadly astray from the temptation of the streets : I wished to do the little recruit all honour, and had a sixpenny knife and a fine rubber ball on the tree for him. Kate, a deaf little girl, is another of my children. I always think she hears and understands little or nothing of my teaching, and yet occasionally she says something wiser than all the rest. Tommy is another of my scholars, and little Lewis, a most noble and beautiful boy of nearly five, the son of a thriving artizan, completed the octave of my guests. This last child is my very especial pet. He is taught at home, and does not go to church at all, his parents being unwilling he should hear of his Creator until he can understand Him !
With the perversity of our nature the boy is consumed, it would seem, with a desire to hear and know about GOD. I found him on his knees one day, in his mother's room, by a bench. He told me he was trying if he could learn how to pray.
“But what were you saying ?” I asked.
"Dood LORD aliver us,' but I don't know well what it means," he sighed.
Well, this party takes so long to write about, I must cut it short if possible. The tree was nothing to signify, of course, and yet it gave some trouble and expense. We set it up in the washhouse in the top of the building, I and a couple of friends, who helped me to dress it with crackers, coloured balls, and little ornaments made in wax and sugar.
I had a doll for each little girl and a present for every boy. First we had a sort of pic-nic meal in my room; plenty of bread and butter and sweet cake, and excellent tea out of my kettle, for, of
course, my little spinster tea-pot was as insufficient as my little table and my couple of chairs—we had to make a seat of every box and ledge. When the children had done, my helpers and I had some refreshment, during which a postman friend looked in on us to say he was sorry he would not be through his delivery in time to aid, as he had promised, about lighting and stripping the tree. This was a great blow, but after much consideration I secured the services of another postman, who was through his work in time; and we elders went first to the scene of action, and set seats round the tree, and made all ready. The little rapturous flock was then marshalled in, and we had choruses of delight, followed by the singing of some pretty school songs and hymns. By degrees the poor evergreen resumed its normal condition. Towards the end of the distribution little Alice saw a box of cups and saucers. In great excitement she rushed up to me, holding out her tiny hands for it, and fairly balancing herself on her toe-tips. “Me, me,” she cried, in a cooing sort of tone; “Me, me, lady.” Nance pressed close on me too, and fixed her large beseeching eyes on my face. All the others gathered round, and Henry said, “ Lady, give it to Nancy."
I sat down on a chair, laughing, and they still went on, Alice now beating the palms of her hands on my knees and reaching up as high as ever she could. When I could stop laughing, I said, “ The cups and saucers are for Alice,”—and then, looking into Nance’s disappointed face, I added, “ but there is another box just the same for Nance.”
We left them all to play after this, and at eight they returned to my room for coffee and cake, for which they brought fresh and mighty appetites; though not, it seemed, large enough to suit their own ideas, for little Jack of the round head ended his feast with the thoughtful remark, “Well, I'm very sorry I can't eat any more of that good cake.”
Saturday After doing up my room to-day I had to go to market in such a downpour of rain! I expected a friend to dinner, and must get my meat into the oven betimes.
etimes. Everything is to be had so near at hand, however, that the hardship is not really great, even on such a day, but I certainly would rather not be obliged every afternoon to set out, jug in hand, for my own milk. I laugh sometimes, to myself, over what some of my partners at my balls, of not so many years ago, would think, if they met me thus engaged; or I wonder if Lord C- who so often took me in to dinner, would pretend to know me at all? Lady W— would most certainly put up her pince-nez, as she was wont, on occasions, in a supercilious way. After all it would be jolly fun to have an occasional old-time talk with cultivated folk. A woman's mind is shallow, and needs some of the treasures to be dived for out of the vaster ocean of the male intellect. Rain, rain, why persist in falling? My friend can't come if
continue. A woman who lives in a block ought decidedly to worship all the parsons in the parish, as they are the only gentlemen she is likely to
This is not always feasible however. Of course my friend did not come, and at half-past one I sat down alone to my beef and potatoes and mashed parsnips. I am becoming a better plain cook, and can now even make eatable baked pastry—not flaky: in vain do I laboriously follow all the rules for that, the result is always the sameshort. However, as my boiled paste is excellent I am not quite inefficient. After dinner I, of course, washed up, and then I went to see Mrs. Cutbush, an old lady whose husband was a gardener, and who is herself a great character. I have been doing for her” since before Christmas. She has been ill, and her bed-fellow and lodger was absent. I had to tell her I could not be with her on Monday; my friend would probably come to me then. But it was all right, her companion, Mrs. Lett, was to be back.
I find birthdays are all the fashion. Mrs. Cutbush is going to have one too, and talks about it much, and a possible party. She will be seventy-one, and, for that, is a wonderful old lady, with quantities of jetty soft, silky hair, with only a stray grey thread or two in it; and her teeth are all good, and her figure erect. She is very anxious to get out and about again, and delights in attending our beautiful parish church regularly. I doubt if the doctor thinks her likely ever to go again however ; but it pleases her to talk of it, only her mind is sadly exercised concerning ways and means. It seems a long black feather she has must be curled before she can go out at all; so after doing all I could for her and her room, I took it off to a neighbour to get it done up. Then I returned to my own quarters, wrote letters, read, had a visit from a friend, and then the children came in to talk and say
‘My mother washed my head this morning, and I said my prayers, lady," observed Nance, who can't often remember her duties in this particular.
“ Did it remind you to say them ?” I asked. “ Yes, lady." “That is, because your body belongs to GOD, and you know it,Nance."
We talked of the Creation, and on my asking what God made first ? stupid Kate replied, “ The light, because He wanted to see how to do the rest." “And then, when everything was made, and all the animals ?”
Why, He made Nimrod, of course," Henry said.
Yes, to be taming them,” shouted Nance.
Say it again, please.” “ Adam and Evening, lady.”
Thus one strives to bring knowledge out of ignorance by line upon line, and then we came to Moses, and Nance propounded that when King Pharaoh's daughter drew him out of the water she "wiped him.” I had intended to suggest the term "adopted,” but I suppose there is an order and fitness in things.
Sunday. This day is truly my holiday. I have such a quiet morn. ing, and do so enjoy the beautiful service. I took my cold dinner, and then sat and waited till the children came in to dress for church, for I keep their Sunday clothes here. When we were all at service, Nance's little street Arab brother crept into a seat near us.
Having by-and-by dismissed the children, I had my tea, and spent a quiet evening.
Monday. My friend did not come to dinner again, but a little later she arrived to bid me good-bye for the present.
She likes her hospital work, and is quite content now to bind herself for the three years ; and while we talked, Jane ran in to arrange about our going together to " Bethlehem,” on the 19th, as we have two tickets.
Later I went to Evensong, and while the short service progressed, Henry crept near me again with Nance's brother. I whispered to them only to remain while they kept quiet and to steal out if they must fidget. They were good for a while and then left. I think this weekday fever of attendance will soon die out. After service I went to the choral class.
Tuesday. To-day I went again to Mrs. Cutbush, but as she is up now, can get her own lunch ready and tidy the room, I had not much more to do than take down ashes, &c., bring up water, and take coal out of her cupboard. Mrs. Lett was not by, so I heard the usual burden of complaints which I receive, even when each is present, from the two in turn. It must be hard for them to live in any comfort together, and I dare say the relief of grumbling mends matters a good deal. I heard a great deal about the birthday party again. Mrs. Lett is to give it, but the heroine of the intended fête says they can't afford it. Still she is manifestly pleased and elate. She says it is to be “ quite simple ham-and-beef, and wouldn't I come? If I dropped in I would be made welcome.” I answered, that I never went out to suppers ; thanked her, and left, for I was going out to tea. Little Alice had scalded her foot, and I was to spend the evening with her mother. This Mrs. Hackett is a north country woman, and I feel sure pines a good deal for her own fresh breezes, but the husband is a staunch Londoner. They talk of going over the water, (viz. to the Surrey side ;) if they do I shall have a longish walk to look my godchildren up.