pleasure. Bright pleasant-spoken women superintend this part of the Home, inculcating that 'everything that is worth doing at all is worth doing well,' and seeing that nothing is left till it is finished. Although it was the dinner-hour, several of the girls were still busy at the tables.
'It won't take you five minutes to finish that shirt, Lucy,' we heard one of the women say to a rosy-cheeked girl; 'and it would be a pity to leave it; the starch will get so dry.' The girl answered with a smile, and went on ironing cheerfully, quite as anxious that her work should look nice as the Mother was for her. Such training as this cannot fail in its desired effect; and girls taught thus early to take an interest in the labour of their hands, cannot fail to do honour to the Home they have been reared in, and the kind Mother, whose affections they hope to retain to the end of life.
A girl who had been thus trained for two or three years waited on us at lunch at the governor's table. She is about thirteen, and not very big for her age; but she managed not only to supply us with all we required in a handy way, but to carry up to the nursery the babies' dinner. Her movements were quiet, her manners dignified and self-contained, and she kept an eager watch on us, to observe if we had all we needed. She was evidently intent on doing her best, and was ambitious enough to even try and divine if anything was missing. We were informed when this girl left the room that she had been in the Home some time, that she had a fearful temper, but that great hopes were entertained of her turning out at sixteen a good useful servant.
We were all the more impressed with this specimen of the results of the Home training system, as we had only a short while since had in our house a pattern girl from one of the workhouse schools. She was sent to us as quite fit to enter service. She was fourteen, a year older than the Ilford little maid, and had been brought up from a baby in the Union. She could read and write perhaps better than most young ladies of her age; she knew a smattering of geography, a jumble of history and poetry, but such an amount of bad language and viciousness that we were horrified at her knowledge. Not one simple piece of household work did she know anything about or cared to learn to do. She was stolid and indifferent if shewn how to clean, insolent if reproved for a fault, and not to be trusted either in what she said or in what she did. She had no standard of morals; stared absently, as if one were addressing her in an unknown tongue, if spoken to about trying to do her best to please her mistress; and when waiting at table or performing personal service, merely acted like a machine; and yet she was naturally a much cleverer girl than the Ilford child; and if she had been subjected to the refining and humanising effects of Home surroundings, might have developed into a thoroughly useful maid.
Dr Bernardo entreats all who can to join him in carrying on the work he has begun of rescuing vagrant girls from destruction. Like many institutions dependent on precarious contributions, it is sadly in need of funds, and will gratefully receive presents either in linen, simple stuffs for girls' frocks, or in money; and we can answer for it, that all those who are interested in the Home and would like to see it, will be kindly greeted by the governor if they will take the trouble to visit the pretty little Village at Ilford.
CHAPTER XXXII.—BENT, BUT NOT BROKEN.
An hour later I slipped noiselessly in at the cottage door, which stood hospitably open for me, passed the parlour, where I could hear Mrs Tipper and Lilian talking together, and stole up to my own room. Gusts of wind and rain were beating in at the open window. I afterwards heard that a terrible storm had swept over the country that night, laying waste the crops and spoiling the harvest in all directions; I only knew of the storm which had devastated my hopes. I imagined that I had myself sufficiently under control to venture to return—but alas! Another bitter struggle, another wrestle with my weaker self, amidst wild prayers for help—for death.
Then I was on my feet again, telling myself, in a pitiable would-be jaunty strain: 'No; you will never slip out of your misery in that way, Mary Haddon, and it is folly to hope it. You are not the kind of person, you know. You could not die of a broken heart if you were to try. Your vocation may be to suffer, but you will not die under it—certainly not without a long preliminary struggle to live. You are not made of the material which fades gracefully away under pressure; and yesterday you would have affirmed that you did not wish to be made of it. You have always scouted the idea of being at the mercy of circumstances; you have been a little hard upon those who succumbed under trial—in your inmost heart, you know that you have not had much patience with weakness; and now has come the opportunity for proving your superiority to ordinary mortals.'
Then my mood changed. I dragged myself towards the dressing-glass, thrust the damp hair from my brow, and stared at my face with miserable mocking eyes, as I reviled it for its want of loveliness, and taunted myself with not being able to keep a good man's love. Then I fell to weeping and pleading again; and thank God, it was this time for help to live. Alas, would the victory ever come? Do others find as much difficulty as I did in overcoming? Have others as much cause to feel humble in the hour of victory as I had? I know that it is all very pitiful to look back upon; though the consciousness of my weakness under trial did me great service afterwards. Weak and faint, but thank God, not worsted, I at length rose from my knees, bathed my face and hands, and after a while had my feelings sufficiently under control to think over the best way of doing what it was my resolute purpose to do. My power of self-command was very soon put to the test. I was conscious of another sound besides that of the sighing and sobbing of the wind, which like a tired child who has spent its passion, was sinking to rest again. Some one was tapping rather loudly at the door.
Alas! how weak I still was. How could I meet Lilian's eyes? Not yet, I dared not. But whilst I stood with my hands pressed against my throbbing heart gazing at the door, I recognised Becky's voice. What a reprieve! I hastened to admit her, and then locked the door again.
'If you please, Miss, Mrs Tipper was afraid you was out in all this storm, and'—— She stopped; looked at me for a moment with dilating eyes, and then her tears began to flow. 'O Miss Haddon, dear, are you ill? What's the matter?'
'You must not cry, and you must not speak so loud, Becky.'
She saw that I waited until she had ceased, and hastily rubbed the tears out of her eyes.
Then in a low quiet voice, I said: 'A great trial has to be gone through, Becky. It must be borne, and I think you can help me to bear it.'
'I knowed it was coming—I knowed it!' said Becky, under her breath.
'What did you know was coming?'
She appeared for a moment to be searching in her mind for the best way of telling me, and at the same time expressing her sympathy; then with lowered eyes replied: 'I loved Tom—I always shall love him—and he can't love me.'
She knew then! Probably every one but myself had seen it!
'In that case, you know that such things are not to be talked about, Becky.'
'Yes, Miss; only'——
'I know that it was your regard for me which made you mention it. But we need all our strength just now—you as well as I—and we must not think or speak of anything that will weaken it. I want your help, and to help me you must be cool and quiet and strong. Will you try to be that?'
'Yes; I will—I