slovenliness in this respect; and as you see for yourself, they take care to keep their locks.' The girls are not dressed in uniform, which we consider to be advantageous.
A pleasant-faced schoolmistress presided over this room. The hours perhaps are a little longer than is absolutely necessary; but still, although morning lessons were just over, we searched in vain for one over-tired listless face. All the children looked happy and bright and clean, and most of them were so healthy in appearance that it was a real pleasure to watch them eagerly putting away their slates preparatory to scampering back to their various homes.
The school-room education is sound and practical, and suited to the position the girls will occupy on leaving the Village.
An animated scene met our view as we turned into the square around which stand the various Homes. About a hundred girls, from fourteen years old down to babies only just able to toddle, were laughing and chatting merrily as they hurried along the broad pathway, and gathered in clusters in front of each cottage, glancing shyly at the visitors walking behind ere they disappeared indoors like bees returning to their hives.
We entered the first Home; and as they are all alike in form and arrangement, a description of one will suffice for all. They are of red brick, detached, and of Gothic style, containing day-room kitchen, scullery, and pantry on the ground-floor, besides a tiny private sitting-room for the Mother. The sleeping apartments are up-stairs, five in number; four for the little family, and one small one for the Mother.
From half-past twelve to one is dinner-hour, so we arrived just in time to see the meal served. Each cottage is presided over by a woman carefully selected for the post she has to fill, capable of both firmness and gentleness, of an affectionate disposition, and accustomed to manage children. She is called Mother by the little ones under her care; her will is law; all in her cottage obey it; or if not, are treated as naughty children would be in homes of their own. The various arrangements of the household are made clear to each inmate, and the conscientious carrying out of them is inculcated on each member of the family for the comfort and well-being of all. The cottages are large enough to hold twenty girls, five in each bedroom; but when we were there, none of the cottages contained more than fifteen or sixteen.
The rooms in which the girls sleep are plain and homelike. Small iron bedsteads painted green, and covered with a counterpane bearing the name of the Village, woven in the centre, occupy the corners; a washing-stand with basin and jug and soap-dish of simple ware, is placed on one side, to enable the girls to learn to use and lift such breakable articles without fear or awkwardness; combs and brushes are kept in a drawer, and a square looking-glass hangs on the wall, that there may not be any excuse for untidy appearance.
Nothing is done in the Home by forced routine. The older girls take it in turn to help to cook the dinner, to lay the cloth, to keep the house in order, and to imitate Mother in everything she does. Each small domestic duty is performed over and over again, till each child learns to be quite an adept at cooking potatoes, or cleaning out a room, or washing and dressing a younger one; and takes a pride in her work, so as to be able to do it as well as Mother. The child is daily and hourly accustomed to perform small services for the household, to keep down her temper, to give sympathy and willing aid to those who have not been so long in the Home as herself, and to do all she can to help Mother; hence, when she enters service, she has already learnt in her Home to do thoroughly all the commonplace duties which are likely to fall to her lot as a servant. In these Homes every girl has a motive for which to work; she is taught to love truth, to be gentle and modest, and to give and accept the affection to which all have an equal right from Mother down to the youngest in the house. Family interest is encouraged in every cottage; the girls are taught to regard each other as adopted sisters; individuality of character is carefully studied by the head of the household, and as far as lies in her power, is trained into usefulness for the benefit of the whole community.
Every day, in each household one or two stay from school for an hour or so, in order to learn the art of cooking the simple dinner partaken by their sisters when they come home. The table is carefully laid; every article in the kitchen is scrupulously cleaned; the rice, if it be rice-day, duly weighed, washed, boiled, and constantly watched by the eager pair of eyes whose duty it is to see that it does not burn; and then, when all, with clean hands and faces, are seated round the table, the little cook of the day has to carry the plates full of rice to Mother, to add the treacle or sugar allowed, according to the wish of each child.
The furniture of the cottage throughout is solid and plain, and of a kind that can be kept clean by scrubbing. The children amuse themselves in the room in which they dine; at one end of which are shelves divided into pigeon-holes, in which each girl may keep her work and small treasures. These pigeon-holes are left unclosed, to teach the children to resist the temptation of touching a sister's things without leave. In this room they play, work, mend their clothes, darn their stockings, and talk to Mother, who sits with them for the greater part of the evening. She has her own private parlour at the side, from whence she can command a view of the kitchen and scullery and see that all goes on well there; and at the same time she can hear, without being seen, the conversation that takes place between her children and any relative who is permitted to visit them; an arrangement which often avoids harm from injudicious influence.
One of the special duties of the Mother is to inculcate habits of domestic comfort in a home on a small scale, and so to cultivate the powers of contrivance of each girl as to obtain the greatest possible amount of household pleasure for all.
Each girl's clothes are kept on a shelf in a press; the elder ones superintend mending operations, and the tidiness of the younger ones. There is no number marked on their things, not even on the shoes and boots, which are kept beautifully clean and ready for use in a recess at the foot of the press.
Everything about the cottage bears the stamp of ordinary home-life; nothing is institutionised. Every natural social feeling is fostered and developed in this Home life, so that when the time arrives for a girl to go into service, she carries with her into her new home not only a practical knowledge of the duties expected of her, which fits her to hold her own among her fellow-servants, but the firm conviction that she has only to do well to get on; added to which she wears in her heart the very best preservative against doing badly, the talisman of the love and affection of the family amongst whom she has been reared.
Each cottage is called at Ilford after the name of a flower—Hawthorn, Rose, Forget-me-not, Sweetbrier, and so on; and as far as possible the hats and cloaks for Sunday and holiday-wear are identified, each with its Home; so that the groups belonging to the various Cottages may be distinguished in church by the differing colour of the hat or style of the cape.
A large laundry is attached to the cottages. Here the girls learn laundry-work, from the clean washing and ironing of a coarse towel to the careful goffering and ironing of a lady's ruffle or a gentleman's shirt. They all take their turn in every department of the work, not doing a set piece and then leaving it because the task is done, but taking an interest in the part assigned to them, and each one vying with the other in quickness and thoroughness. The pride with which they exhibited their ironing shewed plainly that it was no forced task, but a labour of genuine