You are here

قراءة كتاب Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 699 May 19, 1877

تنويه: تعرض هنا نبذة من اول ١٠ صفحات فقط من الكتاب الالكتروني، لقراءة الكتاب كاملا اضغط على الزر “اشتر الآن"

‏اللغة: English
Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 699
May 19, 1877

Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 699 May 19, 1877

No votes yet
دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 6


'No; she was not to blame. She told me that I could not see Nancy until the usual visiting day.'

'Then I am quite at a loss to understand'——

'I should not have ventured to trespass upon your time if it were an ordinary case, and I could wait until the next visiting day to communicate with Nancy, Mrs Gower. I know, for the proper management of a place like this, it must be necessary to make rules and enforce them. But I hope you will make an exception in this case. It is of the greatest importance to her as well as to me that she should know a friend came here to see her to-day.'

'A friend! That means, I presume, that you have taken up her case? I cannot suppose that you belong to her own class?'

I made a little bow serve for reply; and she very gravely went on: 'If it be so, I am sorry to be obliged to tell you that you couldn't have taken up a worse case. Dean is one of the most incorrigible characters I have had to deal with during a long experience. You are probably not aware that she is at present under discipline for bad conduct?'

'Bad conduct?' I repeated interrogatively, a little curious to hear her version of the story.

'Yesterday, she conducted herself in the most disgraceful way before the committee. Afterwards she got through the window of the room in which she was confined, and ran away. Then, I suppose in consequence of not being able to find any place of refuge, she presented herself at the gates again late last night, saying that she had returned to take the punishment for what she had done, and to try to reform. Of course the true reason is, she prefers staying here until her plans are more matured, and she can leave at her own convenience.'

'May she not be sincere in her desire for reform, Mrs Gower?'

'That is perfectly hopeless. A very short residence here would teach you the hopelessness of expecting any thorough reform in such as Dean.'

'It must be very painful to you to feel that of any human creature, Mrs Gower.'

'Of course it is painful'—a trifle snappishly; 'but such knowledge as, I am sorry to say, is gained here does not increase one's faith in human nature, madam. We have to face a great many unpleasant facts, and one of them is, that such women as Nancy Dean are altogether incorrigible.'

'It must be very discouraging to think so.'

'Nothing discourages us from doing our duty.' And here Mrs Gower very decidedly touched a hand-bell on the table.

Not appearing to notice the hint, I quietly rejoined: 'But great mistakes may be made in such cases; and I hope you will excuse my saying that I think you have been mistaken with respect to Nancy Dean, and taken her incorrigibility too much for granted.'

Mrs Gower drew herself up; if she thought it possible that she could make mistakes, she was evidently not in the habit of being told that she could. It was probably all the more unpardonable from the fact that the portress, who had noiselessly obeyed her summons, heard what passed. I had not of course intended her to hear it; but she must have entered so very quickly after the bell sounded, and moved so noiselessly, that I was quite unaware of her presence, until the direction which Mrs Gower's eyes took informed me of it.

Mrs Gower's colour was a little raised, as she begged to decline any further discussion upon so painful a subject with one who evidently had had no experience, and therefore could not understand it.

'But you will, I hope, oblige me so far as to let Nancy Dean know that her friend Miss Haddon came to see her, and will come again on the first visiting day?' I pleaded, seeing that it was no use to press for an interview.

'I cannot promise anything of the kind,' loftily returned Mrs Gower. 'Dean is under discipline; and the course of treatment I adopt will entirely depend upon her conduct while under that discipline.'

'I beg'——

'I cannot promise anything.' Then somewhat irrelevantly, as it appeared to me at the moment, but as I now think, for the purpose of pointing out to me that the fault lay with Nancy Dean, and not with the system, she added, glancing for a moment towards the woman, who stood with downcast eyes, waiting for further orders: 'This is one of our successes.'

'This' appeared to my eyes but a very poor success—a very doubtful one indeed, if the low narrow brows and heavy mouth and chin expressed anything of the character. She appeared to be quite accustomed to be so alluded to, no change in her face shewing that she was in any way impressed by it. There she stood, a success, make what you choose of it, she seemed to say, eyeing us with stolid indifference. I could not help contrasting her face with that of the 'incorrigible' whom I had seen the night previously, so open and honest even in its passionate anger. Nevertheless, in my anxiety upon Nancy's account, I ventured to make an indirect appeal to 'This.'

'I am glad to hear it. Her own reformation doubtlessly makes her more desirous to help her fellow-women, and poor Nancy Dean so terribly needs a friend just now.' Then turning again towards Mrs Gower, I added: 'I trust that you will allow Nancy Dean to be informed that I called, madam?'

I think she perceived my motive for repeating the request before the woman. She very decidedly replied: 'As I informed you just now, I cannot give any promise of the kind; and Downs knows her duty. And I must remind you that my time is valuable; I have already given you more than I can spare. Good-morning, Miss Haddon.—The gate, Downs.' And with a very slight inclination of the head, Mrs Gower gave us our dismissal.

Lilian and I followed the woman to the gate, where I paused a moment, trying to gather from the expression of her face whether it would be of any avail to make a more direct appeal to her. It seemed useless to attempt it; one might as well hope to influence a wooden figure. As I stood hesitating, unwilling to go without making one more effort, I said a few words to Lilian, more to give myself time than anything else, but which served the end I had in view: 'I would give a great deal to get a message conveyed to poor Nancy.'

A new and altogether different expression dwelt for a moment in Down's eyes, fixed straight before her; an expression which suggested an idea to me that I had not had in using the words. In a moment I had my purse out of my pocket, and a half-sovereign between my fingers; taking care, as I noticed she did, to turn towards the open gate and away from the house.

Brighter and brighter grew the expression of her face as she said in a low voice: 'I might perhaps just mention to Nancy Dean that you called this morning, ma'am—if that's all you want done?'

'That is all I want you to do; just to tell her that her friend Miss Haddon called, and intends to come again next visiting day.'

'Very well, ma'am; I don't mind telling her that,' she returned, looking wooden and dull again, as her fingers closed over the money; once more the same sullen, unimpressionable woman we had at first seen, as she closed the gates upon us.

'O Mary, what a dreadful place! How could any one be expected to be better for living there!' ejaculated Lilian. 'How could they select a woman like Mrs Gower to influence her fellow-creatures!'

'There certainly appears to have been a great mistake somewhere,' I thoughtfully replied. 'So benevolent a scheme might surely be better carried out.'

I may as well state here what came to my knowledge later—respecting the Home and its management. Mrs Osborne, the founder, had commenced her work of benevolence without sufficient experience and knowledge of the class she wished to benefit. Like many other benevolent people, she believed that love was all that was needed for the work; and the lady she had at first engaged to act as superintendent was as enthusiastic and non-executive as herself. The consequences were disastrous; and it told much in Mrs Osborne's favour that