« НазадПродовжити »
gentle with them, as a shepherd with a flock of lambs ; but they are to her as a mass of human life, and one rule must answer for all.
Few situations in life can be more desolate than that of a young orphan pauper girl. While she is in the workhouse, surrounded by school companions—if she was placed there when very young-she does not comprehend her isolated position in the world ; but when she is sent out to work for her bread, then her friendliness is realized. Who is there to pity her when she feels overpowered with the languor which often oppresses the young? Who to bear with her weaknesses, and to cheer her on by love ? Is she not-
“Without a hope on earth to find
A mirror in an answering mind ? "
We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that a race of girls is springing up around us (girls who have been educated in the workhouse), who are without shame, and whose influence upon girls younger than themselves is most corrupting. Is it not our plain duty to do somewhat to stem this torrent of sin which is flowing forth from many of the five or six hundred workhouses in our land ? Let us, at least, turn our attention to the orphan paupers, and endeavour, in regard to them, to check the evil at its
As soon as possible after a little orphan girl has been acknowledged destitute, I would propose that we should step in and assist in the training up of one so left alone in the world, without father or mother to guide her, or pray for her, and watch over her for good.
Many charitable persons in various parts of the country, since it has been proved by sad experience that girls
brought up in a workhouse turn out so badly, are endeavouring to establish institutions called “Homes," for the better education of orphan pauper children ; and others are warmly advocating the general adoption of schools under poor law management, but separate from the workhouse. Apparently there are many difficulties in the way of both these remedial measures ; and even if they could be brought about, the scholars in such institutions could not learn the home duties so necessary in a girl's education, and which can only be properly acquired by living in a well-ordered domestic circle. An industrial school may be a great boon as regards the education of paupers who have parents or relatives to return to from time to time ; but the orphan pauper, the little destitute child, whose relatives are too poor or too careless to look after her, would fail in getting a sufficient knowledge of life in a place where the inmates live by rule, and duties and relaxations are periodical—each hour of the day having its stated occupation. Think of a well-trained child in a decently kept cottage; how soon she learns to take pride in helping to do the various work of the house ! She is taught, betimes, to fold and iron plain clothes, and, as soon as she is able, assists in washing them ; she learns to light a fire, to carry a pail of water, or to draw it from the well ; she gains experience in cooking plain food for a small family meal, and to set it neatly on the table. She helps to put a polish on those things about the house which give it the stamp of being cared for. She delights in every new display of crockery, and learns to handle carefully things likely to break. She is taught economy in the use of firing, if brought up in a neighbourhood where fuel is scarce ; as well as to guard against ail kinds
of waste, and to make the most of things in regard to provision and clothing. She acquires habits of attention and responsibility by being entrusted to go shopping, and thus, too, she learns the value of the necessaries of life, which is an important point in the education of a girl. She gets her book-learning at a neighbouring school, but, having daily intercourse with grown-up persons, she naturally acquires a store of useful knowledge which she never could have gained from books in a school-class. I could enumerate many other points in which a cottage child has an advantage over one brought up entirely in a school-establishment, but I think it unnecessary, as it has been admitted by many competent authorities that no substitute can be found which would equal home training
Since, then, the instruction given to a child in a wellordered domestic circle is allowed to be far superior to that which she could obtain in an educational establishment, I think it will be admitted that we should do right in making an effort to place young orphan pauper girls under the care of respectable cottagers, where they could be duly taught all that is needful. And beside the instruction which an orphan child thus well trained would receive, may we not suppose that she would naturally, in her early years, find friends and well-wishers to encourage her forward in the path of duty ? A real friend is no mean acquisition in life. Let us, then, give little helpless orphans a chance of winning such, as soon as may be, after they have been classed among the destitute. But, it may be asked, could not Boards of Guardians do this? Could they not require relieving officers to find proper cottage homes, in all cases, for young orphan pauper
girls ? It appears to me that there are obstacles to their making any such rules, or they would certainly do so, since the allowance usually given to a child for outdoor relief is much less than the cost of a child's maintenance in the workhouse. No doubt, guardians frequently hear reports of the mismanagement and neglect of some of the orphan children who are receiving outdoor relief, and have decided that thus they are not so well cared for as they would be under the workhouse authorities. But should we not be able, in a great measure, to remedy this grievance by taking upon ourselves the oversight of such children, and giving them a little tiniely help when they stand in need of it, instead of leaving them, as at present, to the sole supervision of relieving officers ?
Many of the orphan children now receiving outdoor relief, no doubt, are under the charge of poor relatives, who have been prompted by love and affection for one or other of the deceased parents to undertake to bring up their helpless little ones ; but we cannot suppose that the allowance which is given, usually averaging, I believe, about two shillings a week, is really sufficient for a child's clothing and maintenance. “I should like my children to go to the workhouse when I am gone,” said a poor young widow to me when she was lying on her death-bed, and
you will look in upon them there sometimes, I am sure, ma'am.”
Of course I promised her that I would do Her relatives were all very poor ; and, no doubt, the dying woman had imagined, while lying awake hour after hour, during days and nights of pain, how much her children might suffer if her poor relatives were burdened with them, having no other help but the parish allowance. In such a case of destitution, how would the heart of the
dying parent have been cheered if she could have been told of the formation of societies of benevolent ladies for specially taking oversight of destitute orphans, and placing them where they might be well fed and clothed and trained up virtuously in a better home than the workhouse! To find proper cottage homes for orphan paupers would be one of the duties of the members of the proposed associations, as well as to contribute and collect alms for their benefit. If a registry were kept of the young orphan girls needing assistance, we might hope that many a handmaid of the Lord would feel herself called upon to share in the good work of at least watching over them. And how beneficial it would be to the orphans to know that their conduct was being marked by those who had the power of helping them ! and how pleasant it would be to them, especially in times of sickness, to feel that there were friends at hand to see that they were not neglected! And to descend to minor particulars, how many a heart-pang would be spared to orphan children if kind considerate ladies would take upon them to see that their little feet were not pinched by wearing shoes which they had grown out of! Mothers who have had the superintending care of children know how often they have had to listen to the well-understood complaint, “ My shoe pinches ; ” and they know, too, that to make a child walk about in shoes much too large for her would give her great uneasiness. But orphan children, it is to be feared, often cry out in vain—their relatives not having the power to help them, and yet not willing to subject them to the dreaded atmosphere of the workhouse, which is their only alternative when times are hard, and the children, as they would say, "growing out of everything." In befriending