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Our mother not to have her own way ! how should she bear it? How should we bear it for her? She was taken into her own room, however there was no help for ittaken from us who loved her soand now they would do what they chose. She was very ill, she was changed and strange. I understood so much; but mother, oh, my mother! Was it night that came next? It was darkness, but night means rest. I thought that rest was beginning after a time. The doors ceased to open and shut, the voices were stilled; for a little while no footsteps went to and fro. Perhaps mother is asleep, I thought; perhaps she is a little better. She will sleep and get well again, and everything will come right with us. With us, perhaps, but what about that beggar man? What about Uncle Llewellyn?
Whilst I was speculating in this way, I heard a rushing sound in the passage and a window being thrown violently open, and then came shriek after shriek from some one inside. What was the voice calling so passionately? Was it a name, or a sentence, or only an inarticulate cry that I heard. I raised myself to listen. Llewellyn! Llewellyn Llewellyn! over and over again. It was mother's agony I was listening to. They heard her too, and came and closed round her from many sides, and hustled her away. How could they? They might have let her cry her fill, and break her poor heart there before the pitiful night. Everything pitied her that knew her. The birds were wakened up by the noise, and the sparrows in the ivy twittered under the windows. The branches of the trees waved and moaned, and the wych-elm struck a pane close to my bed. Beneath the wych-elms used to be favour
ite hiding-places of Theodora's. I wondered did Theodora know about mother now?
There was no more rest for any one that night, nor all the next day, nor the night after that. This was the stage of tumult, incessant going and doing, and awful interludes of anguish that made itself supreme for the moment. Gladys and I became accustomed to it. We went about the house, no one interfering with us, and tried to occupy ourselves and silence our questionings.
On the morning of the third day after that Sunday—our last day, or our first, whichever we might elect to call it-Gladys and I sat together in the dining-room, or rather on the threshold of the wide French window, between its open panes. The gardener was changing the greenhouse plants, and a row of fuchsias, geraniums, asters, and other flowers stood on the gravelwalk close to the room. The scent of a double lilac petunia was very powerful on my side of the window; its fragrance came to me with a sense of luxury and ease, and I leaned back in my chair and shut my eyes, and enjoyed the warmth of the sunlight upon my eyelids. It was the first sensation of rest I had had that week. By-and-by we heard the sound of wheels along the drive: a carriage drew up before the house, and the front-door bell was rung. Gladys left the room to find out what was happening, but I did not open my eyes or move until the dining-room door opened and some one came in. Then I looked up. A lady in rather a strange dress stood in front of my chair, and looked down at me. I cannot recall one feature of her face, or tell in the least how it was that her presence affected me as it did; but as I returned her look a feeling awoke
in me which was quite new in my experience. I can see now how the days I had passed through made it possible for me to enter into that new experience. "Saved" was the word that formed itself in my mind, or rather it swam into my consciousness, complete and clear at the moment, and I surrendered myself and our enormous sorrow into the keeping of the person before me. It felt as if my heart was opening beneath her, as a flower might unfold in the sunlight and let the warm rays penetrate to its core. I thought that she was about to speak, when my stepfather and the doctor came in together in haste. Then her attention was turned away from me to them. I gathered from their conversation that she was a nursing sister, and that she had come on mother's account. Every word assured me and comforted me. Such a presence as this lady's would rest mother, I knew, and soothe her pain and bring her back to us somehow.
Yet what the lady did was to take her away. The hours of that day passed peacefully. This stage of the sorrowful time was quiet expectancy: the tension was loosened, it rested one to breathe. "It is well with mother, I know it is well with her," I kept on saying to myself, or at least I felt it deep down in my heart. Gladys did not share my repose and hope. She was as restless as ever, and said she could see no difference in any way excepting that there was less going on.
"And that may mean the worst, you know," she said. "It may be like the stillness there was before Theodora died."
Whilst it was still beautiful afternoon so soft, so calm, so clear that autumn day had been up to that hour that it lies in my
memory as a space becalmed inside a cyclone of distress-whilst it was still afternoon, during the hour which in the old days had been an especially social one, Martha came to us sobbing, with her apron held up to her face, and told us that if we wished to see our mother once more we must stand ready in the drawing-room and watch her go away with the nurse. "She's quite quiet and happy now, dear lady," Martha said, “and willing to go."
So Gladys and Wynne and I stood huddled together in the open doorway, and by-and- by, they passed us closely. A carriage stood ready outside. The two ladies came together towards it, chatting pleasantly as they walked along. Our mother, who was the taller of the two, leaned upon the nurse's arm, and her eyes rested upon the face below her with a look as of the returning confidence of a frightened child. I thought perhaps she would catch sight of us as she went, and I wondered how her expression would alter when she saw us, and how it would be with her when she said Good-bye to us. I felt a choking in my throat. How would she look? Would she cry very much? We should cry. Wynne and Gladys were crying already.
Well, her eyes certainly did see us as she passed the drawing-room door; she glanced our way, but instantaneously she looked from us and straight before her. the expression of her face did change, the change was so rapid that no impression was transmitted to me. We only noticed that she was still talking in a soft voice and with an animated manner to the nurse, talking as she crossed her threshold, talking as she got into the carriage, talking as she was being driven away.
When she was gone I knew how it feels to be alone, and the consciousness of my own misery and utter loss excluded any other thought and feeling for a long time, so selfish we are, each in her own small environment. We had lost her-but no, not lost. I began at last to realise the difference between the loss of her in her relation to us and the loss of her adorable self. In a sense she had been restored to us during the last peaceful hours.
Mother was mad. There was no need for Martha to tell us that in awestruck whispers; we quite understood. But oh, sweet mother! nobody can ever appal me by that word again. I had gone through the clash and the tumult of the crisis with you, and I saw the anguish stilled: I recall you now, and I have thought of you ever since that brief vision of you, as you were leaving us, as exquisitely beautiful, gentle, and helpless, borne up over the earth as a child that is nursed. Your hold on this life had been broken off by some wonderful spirit - tremor that, in breaking, had freed you at the same time, and the sphere in which you found a refuge has been sacred to me ever since.
Days and weeks of dreary monotony followed; I cannot think how they got over, but somehow they did. Shorter and shorter days, chillier and chillier mornings and evenings, reddening landscape, crisping leaves, gorgeous fungi, muddy footways, and the gathering together in flocks of the small
birds. We had been used to watch with interest these footmarks of the hastening year; but this autumn we took account of them with dimmed senses, as if they had been a painted show.
Robins were mother's favourites amongst birds. They almost always came into her stories about Uncle Llewellyn and her old home; and she used to declare that robins had followed her all her life with friendly and canny ways. It was in mid-October that year-when Gladys and Wynne and I were wandering along the highroad, lazily picking blackberries one Saturday afternoonthat we were startled by the song of one of these little friends, suddenly breaking out from the hedge above us. We hadn't heard robin until that day, and then he claimed our friendship with unusual persistence, following us from bush to bush, until Wynne grew pettish about it, and wished the tiresome bird would let us alone. But his song was like a bell ringing, which forced me to look the clock of Time seriously in the face.
"It's nearly three months, Gladys, since mother went away,' I said.
"Only that," Gladys answered wearily. Ages and ages
of life had passed, so many that we had ceased to observe them.
The day week after that Saturday afternoon we three stood together round an open grave. Gladys and I were orphans, and Wynne was motherless; but our sorrow was not for that day, it had begun long before.
Life and Thought have gone away
Come away; no more of mirth
Is here, or merrymaking sound; The house was builded of the earth, And shall fall again to ground.
THE PROBLEM OF THE SLUMS.
THE century was still in its earliest years when Robert Owen put forward his schemes for the amelioration of the condition of the very poorest and the rescue of the destitute; and its closing decade finds us still engaged in projects with the same end in view, and, we are sorry to say, with not much higher hopes of ultimate success than those with which we started. But if research for that philosopher's stone of modern times, a panacea for poverty, has made little progress in the century, poverty itself has not been standing still. Its increase has been in an appallingly high proportion to in progress every other department of the national life. Fast as wealth, commerce, and industry have increased among us, poverty and destitution have kept pace with them. An attendant poverty is the penalty of a high civilisation, and the depth of the one seems to bear an inverse ratio to the height of the other. In our great centres the extremes of wealth and poverty are drawn together in the closest juxtaposition, as if by the irony of natural law. "Darkest England" is conterminous with Brightest England, and yet they stand at opposite and remote poles.
We may honestly claim that there has been a growing desire throughout the present centurya desire increasing as the terrible realities of the confronting evil are more and more forcibly brought home to men—to bridge over this gulf between wealth and destitution. We have come to realise that to deal with the problem of poverty is one of the highest duties owing to our common humanity, and we have addressed ourselves
to the task in a multiplicity of ways. There is no brighter page in our history than the efforts which charity and liberality have put forth in the cause of suffering and degraded humanity-fortunes sacrificed, devoted lives spent in the work, noble examples of zeal and love manifested without number. The bare enumeration of workers and their efforts would occupy volumes. But where are the results? When we look to the slums of our great cities-to London, to Liverpool, or to Glasgow we may well ask the question.
That there has been good work done we know from many quarters; but when we look at what there is still to do, we have to confess in despair that our achievements are but as drops in the bucket. The hideous mass of poverty, vice, and crime still remains apparently impregnable in our midst, and we can scarcely say that we have carried even its outworks. To endeavour to storm its.citadel seems indeed a forlornhope.
This, however, is the work for which General Booth has volunteered; and his offer to undertake a duty which is daily being more and more felt to be the urgent necessity of the age must call forth our hearty admiration. The undertaking, as we have said, is of the nature of a forlorn-hope, and as such entitled to the sympathy due to such enterprises. Since Robert Owen's time, no Englishman has come forward with such a bold proposal, promising in its realisation-even in its partial success-so widespread and beneficial results; and the courage and self-confidence which
have made General Booth stand to the front, are qualities that will stand him in good stead in the desperate struggle in which he proposes to engage. He may go down in the conflict, but the world will even then be the gainer, as it was in the case of Owen before him. From Owen's failure we learned the valuable lessons of co-operation, and infant education, and shorter hours of factory labour. If, contrary to our best wishes, General Booth's schemes should fall short of realisation, we shall doubtless gather from them experiences not less valuable for use in a contest that will go on to the end of time. The Scriptural assurance that we shall have the poor always with us lies beyond the possibility of scepticism.
Any discussion of 'Darkest England and the Way out of it' must necessarily begin with a consideration of the capabilities of the man who has undertaken to show us the way. General Booth has the advantage of being a public character of note. He is the author and manager of the religious organisation known as the Salvation Army, which for five-and-twenty years has been working in our midst, and which has specially devoted its energies to the rescue of the destitute and the fallen. We gather from its statistics that last October the Army numbered 9416 persons wholly engaged in its work, 4506 of these being in the United Kingdom: the rest are scattered over the Continent, the Colonies, and India. It holds invested property amounting to £644,618, of which £377,500 is held in this country; and in addition, it owns plant and stock amounting to £130,000 additional. General Booth's organisation is thus what in the language of trade would be called a "going concern";
and the fact that it is his own creation, and its success due to his own ability and exertions, takes away from him any charge of presumptuousness or over-confidence in coming forward as he has done just now. Practically he has got his business started already; what he wants is the means of extending his plant and machinery, to enable it to meet the work which he has ready to hand.
But if the Salvation Army, already working heartily and successfully, be an advantage to General Booth at the outset of his scheme, we must admit that it is not without drawbacks which it requires a considerable exertion of Christian charity and liberality upon the part of the great majority of those who are now giving him their hearty support, to overlook. We cannot profess an intimate acquaintance with the theology which obtains in the Salvation Army. We fear that at the best it is but a rudimentary and imperfect form of Christianity. We know its ritual to be vulgar, noisy, and ludicrous that to devout and cultured minds it must even seem irreverent and blasphemous. General Booth will triumphantly point to the fact that it has made pious and decent men out of the godless offscourings of the streets, and the argument is a strong one. It is, however, a dangerous admission to allow that there may be one religion for the wealthy and educated and another for the ignorant and destitute; and had we had our choice we should have preferred to see the work carried on under more orthodox auspices. The time, however, is not one for hair-splitting. General Booth and his Salvationists have taken their stand in the gap; and their position constitutes their best claim to cordial support, and forbids