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"THE GENUINE MINDER."
"THE Genuine Minder" was a character that flourished in my district
in days when School Boards were not, and the Creche system, now happily
making such way in this country, was a thing undreamed of in the philosophy of
English philanthropists. In these days, in so poor a district as mine,
"minding" was even more prevalent than is the case now, and, it must
be added, was even more incompetently and callously practised than in these
days. The Genuine Minder was not only one of the characters of the district, but
was also, if I may be allowed the expression, one of its institutions, and a
valuable one, as will be seen when the reason .and significance of the title
bestowed upon her has been explained.
I first heard of the existence of the Genuine Minder through an old cobbler, who was himself regarded as somewhat of a character in the district by reason of his having "the gift of the gab," and being given to display that gift in connection with local politics, and those phases of the Revival movement more particularly brought to bear upon the poor and outcast classes. In [-427-] a room of the house next to that in which he lived a little girl of seven years had one winter's day been left to take care of an infant scarcely a year old, and the child-nurse going too near to the unguarded grate, her clothes caught fire, and set fire to those of the baby. Hearing her screams, the cobbler had rushed in, and succeeded in extinguishing the flames before either child had been fatally burned. In doing this he so injured his hands, that for several weeks he was unable to follow his employment, and, his labour being all he had to depend upon, and the shoe-mending custom of the neighbourhood not of a class to afford much opportunity for providing for a rainy day, things began to look black with him. He made no complaint on this score, but, knowing how he was circumstanced, I mentioned the matter to a friend, who immediately empowered me to assist the brave and patient old man. With this object in view I called upon him, and having handed over the means with which I was entrusted, together with a kind message from the donor, which were very gratefully received, I got into conversation with him, and among other topics of discourse, that of the accident through which he had sustained the injury to his hand naturally came up. I was new to the district at the time, and speaking warmly, and therefore, perhaps, thoughtlessly, I exclaimed that for a mother to go out, and leave her infant to the care of one that was herself little more than an infant, was a most shameful piece of neglect.
" No, don't say that, sir," said the cobbler, with a [-428-] deprecatory shake of the head; "if a woman neglects her children to go on the drink, or even to go on the gossip, as it's more the pity many do, that is a shameful thing; or for any one to have wilfully left two such infants to the chance of setting themselves on fire would have been a shameful thing; but this poor mother didn't do it wilfully. Circumstances alter cases ; and hers was a case of must. She loves her children as dearly as any lady in the land could love hers - loves them so that she would lay down her life for them, in fact, you may say that she is laying down her life for them, for she is killing herself by inches to earn a living for them. She was left a widow when her infant was a few weeks old, and at that time was a strong, able-bodied woman. If she had thought only of herself, she might have done fairly well at charing, or in a laundry; but to be as much with her children as she could, she preferred to take in slop needle-work, and put up with the wages of slop needle-work - 'a crust of bread and rags.' That is really about all that she gets, for she thinks of her children first; and the hard work and the hard living are killing her - slowly it may be, but surely for all that. She has to go out sometimes to take her work home, and that was the errand she was on when the accident happened."
I had intended no reflection upon this particular woman, I said, and I could quite understand that a poor woman left a widow, and with children dependent upon her, must be in a very difficult position.
"Yes, and other women beside widows are placed in [-429-] the same difficult position," said the cobbler. "in many families both mother and father must go out to work in order to keep the wolf from the door; and in other cases it is worse still, the mother has to work doubly hard because the father is an idler or a drunkard, or both, and brings the wolf to the door, and keeps it there, instead of helping to fight it off."
"I know that the latter is but too often the case," I said, "and I know, too, that in such cases the sins of the father are visited upon the children."
"Well, yes, that is so," said the cobbler, "but in the other cases, too, the poor children suffer if mothers have to go out to work; whether from fault or misfortune, the result to the little ones is much the same; they must be left to take care of themselves, or of each other, as best they can or else be handed over to the minders."
"Minders!" I echoed.
"Yes, women who make a trade of baby minding, taking them by the day at so much a head."
"Well, better put children in charge of such women, than lock them in a room all day by themselves, with the chance, among other things, of being burnt to death, or leave them free to run or crawl about the gutter, with the chance of being run over."
"That all depends, sir," said the cobbler, argumentatively; "there's many things go to everything, and there are two sides to this question, as there are to most others. It's a choice of evils; and bad is the best of choice for the children. If your minders acted up to their names, [-430-] and were baby-minders, that would be all right; but as it is they mind themselves, and pretty well leave the infants to do the same. I don't know why it should be so, but, somehow or another, your minder is generally a bad lot. If she is an old woman, she has neither strength nor patience for the work; if she is a young woman, she has taken to it thinking it a lazy life, and makes a lazy life of it; and if she is middle-aged, she most likely sets up on the strength of having children of her own, and then neglects other children even worse than other minders, on the plea that she has her own to look after. They have no conveniences for the work they undertake, and no sense of responsibility, and most of them drink. They huddle the children together, sickly and sound, dirty and clean, they half-and sometimes more than half-starve them, and to get quietness for themselves, they dose them with - 'quietness' as they call their sleeping-drugs - till they gradually sleep them away altogether, or else pretty well sleep away their little senses. I'll be bound to say that there is many a case of deficient intellect that, if traced back, would be found to come from 'quietness' given in infant days."
"That is a bad state of affairs," I said.
"It's a bad state, and a sad state," he answered; "but you may take my word for it that it is not more sad than true. Many a sweet little human flower have I seen wither away under 'minding,' and I hardly know whether I was more grieved or glad to see it. It has made me heart-sore to think of their sufferings; and yet I knew [-431-] that they were transplanted to the better land, and that as the poet says,-
'Saints upon their garments white,
These sacred blossoms wear.'
Understand me, sir," the cobbler went on, after a pause, "I'm not driving at any one in particular; the subject happened to come up, and I'm merely speaking in a general way, and because, being fond of children, I feel rather strongly on the point, so strongly, in fact, that I'm sure I should make a better minder myself than any that I've yet seen, with one exception. Of course, there is no rule without its exceptions, and the Genuine Minder, as they call her, richly deserves her title. If we had only half-a-dozen more such as her in the neighbourhood, it would be a blessed thing for the children. But unfortunately for the little ones, she is herself alone, and her hands are always full. If you want to see what a minding establishment should be and can be, go and have a look at hers; if you want to see what as a rule they are, and ought not to be, go and see some of the others."
I had heard sufficient to make me feel interested in the subject of minding, and having obtained from the cobbler the addresses of a number of the establishments, including that of the Genuine Minder, I acted upon his advice, and visited a number of them as opportunities for doing so arose. I purposely left the Genuine Minder's till the last, in order that I might be able to judge of its [-432-] merits relatively as well as absolutely; and I must say that what I saw of the others brought me to be pretty much of the cobbler's opinion regarding them - that the choice between their care and no care was indeed but a choice of evils, so far as the children were concerned. The establishment generally consisted of but a single room, which served as living and sleeping room, and nursery. There were no cots or other special appliances for the infants, who, to the number of about half-a-dozen, were usually to be found crawling about the floor, so that, until I had learned caution by experience, I was frequently in danger of treading upon some child on entering the places. The charge per child was from four-pence to sixpence per day, the higher figure generally included the responsibility upon the part of the minders of finding "keep;" but the food provided by them was insufficient in quantity, and so sour and clammy in quality, that it would have been detrimental to the health of adults, much more of infants. The children ranged from three years of age down to one month, and had for the most part a stunted, sickly, dull appearance, the result of the systematic dosing with opiates, which under the generic term of "quietness" formed a leading feature in minding practice. Whooping cough, measles, and the various other ills that infant flesh is more particularly heir to, were rife among the children, as was also a tendency to a deformed growth of limb, arising from neglect and rough usage. But in some respects the most painful feature of the case was the brutality of feel-[-433-]ing of the women misnaming themselves minders. Most of them were evidently "given to drink, all were slatternly, and all - to judge by their conduct - wanting in those feminine traits of character that make women gentle in their dealings with the helpless. Nor did they attempt to disguise their ruthless indifference to the welfare of their charges. "Such treatment as this," I said to one of them, "must undermine the constitutions of the children."
"Undermine their constitutions indeed," she answered, with a sneering laugh, " that's all you know about it. Just let me tell you that most on 'em ain't got no constitutions to undermine. Women as have to go out to work, and as are most likely half-starved at that ain't the sort to have children with much constitution. They're born'd with their constitutions undermined, as you call it; not to speak of best half on 'em being weaned on gin, - which that's the 'quietness' which a good many of the mothers take."
"And a good many of the minders too, I'm afraid," I said.
"Well, that's their bisness as long as they don't ask no one else to pay for it," she answered, with the air of one putting down an opponent; then, coming back to the subject under discussion, she observed in the same hard sneering tone, "Talk about yer quiver full of 'em! that may be all very well for the rich, but among them as is so poor as to have to put a kid out to mind, so as the mother can go out to work, it's blessed is them as [-434-] ain't got their quiver full. It's very fine to say that mouths ain't sent without meat to put into 'em. You know different than that, you've seen mouths where there's been no meat before to-day, I know. Them as talks agen minders, and about how minded children die off; would do better to see to their own bisness till they know'd what rickety dead-alive sort of children they are when they come into our hands. Them's my sentiments, and I speak 'em plump up, and can snap my fingers at any one."
There was a considerable degree of truth in what she had said as to the natural want of constitution among the general run of the unhappy little creatures whose ill-fate it is to be committed to the hands of minders. It was not so much what she said, as her manner of saying it, and the fact that she was only a fair specimen of her class, that made her tirade so sadly significant.
Having seen and heard more than enough of the ordinary type of minder to be fully qualified to make comparisons between them and any of their craft who might be either better or worse than the average, I at length paid a visit to the establishment of the woman who was honourably distinguished as the Genuine Minder. It was situated in a rather better class of street than any of the others I had seen, and a first glance at its outside gave promise of the better state of things to be found within. The windows were clean and neatly curtained, the door-step well stoned, and the green painted door itself looking bright from the use of soap [-435-] and water. In a word there was a fresh look about the house, and I afterwards knew that it was the habit of the Genuine Minder to rise betimes each morning and freshen - by thoroughly cleansing - her place before her young charges arrived. It was a mild spring day when I made my call, and the door stood open, so that on coming up I at once caught sight of the Minder, with one child on her knee, and some half dozen others playing about at her feet, Minder and minded upon this occasion making up a picture, the pleasantness of which contrasted strongly with the squalid scenes presented by my first glimpses of other minding establishments. The child she was holding had been having food from a little "willow-pattern" plate, and using a tea-spoon as a pointer, the Minder was amusing the little one by describing the well-known "willow" design in a nursery rhyme, which ran-
"Two little birds flying high,
A little ship passing by,
Forty apples on a tree,
Three little men going to sea."
So much I had taken in at a glance, before the woman was aware of my presence. When on raising her head she saw me standing in the doorway, she put down the child, and coming forward smilingly bade me good morning. I returned her salute, and then mentioning who I was, said that I would like to have a look over her establishment if she had no objection.
"Oh dear, no," she answered, in a tone of cheery [-436-] welcome, "I am very pleased to see you," and so saying she ushered me into the room. In point of size it was much the same as the others I had seen, but there the likeness between it and them ended. In the others the floors had been littered, rather than covered, with dirty old carpets or mats, no regard was had to ventilation, and that, combined with a general want of cleanliness, led to their atmosphere being of a markedly unpleasant character, and such as was specially calculated to generate or aggravate disease among children. In the Genuine Minder's the boarded floor was bare, and as the result of regular scrubbing looked so clean and sweet that, to use a homely phrase, you might have eaten your meals off it, and the same might be said of the stout deal table, two wooden chairs, and three or four little stools, which made up the furniture of the room. The walls too had the same fresh and cleanly look, and were, moreover, brightened by a number of coloured prints, while scattered about the room was a tolerably extensive supply of toys - a feature which had been conspicuous by its absence in the other establishments. The clothing of the children was poor - in some instances remarkably so - but it was in keeping with the place in being thoroughly clean. Some of the children were rosy and robust, while others were evidently of more or less weakly constitution; but in no case was there the dull, pallid, heavy-eyed look invariably to be seen in children who are habitually drugged with "quietness." The Minder was a stoutish woman of about fifty, comely of countenance and cheery [-437-] of manner, though, as I afterwards knew, she had undergone much of sorrow and trial in her day.
"Ah, your children look as if they were minded," I said, looking round me.
"Well, they are certainly not neglected, though I say it," she answered; "but still there are some of them, poor little things, that don't look near so well as I would like to see them. You see, you haven't always a good foundation to work upon. Some of them are born weak, and then the best of minding is but a poor best, a mother's care is what they want, and that is just what they can't have."
"Such children are much to be pitied," I remarked.
"They are, sir," she assented, "but I suppose it can't be helped."
"Well, I don't know," I said; "I have often thought that the saving of the money paid for minding a child, and of the waste in household management that must take place when a woman is from home all day, would make it really more profitable in the long-run for the wife and mother to stay at home."
"That sounds very well, sir," she answered, shaking her head, "and there would be no doubt about it being right, if it was a case of women going out to earn extra money, but it isn't that. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred those who put their children to be minded have to go either because they have no one to work for them, or because they must do it to make bare ends meet. Take the case of a poor widow left with three or four [-438-] children, one of them an infant, and the others too young to either work or want. She must earn a living for them somehow, and if she cannot do it by indoor work she must by out, and the infant has to be put to a minder. Again, take a woman who has a young family, and whose husband is a chance labourer, earning on an average perhaps only ten shillings a week; if she and her family are not to starve, she must put her shoulder to the wheel, must look out for a day's charing or washing, or something of that sort, and must send her infant to a minder's."
"Well, in such cases as those," I said, "and I know how many such cases there are among the poor, it is indeed hard to see how this minding is to be avoided, and since it is so, I sincerely wish, for sake of the little ones, that minders in general were more like you."
"Well, it is hardly for me to say much on that head," she replied, speaking with unaffected diffidence, "still I'm afraid there are many minders that are not what they should be. You see, in our business you must have your heart in the work to do it properly, and that is just what some of those who take to it don't put into it. They think only of the money, and of doing as little as they can for it, and so the helpless suffer."
"Exactly," I said, "and discreditable as it is to them, your ordinary minders scarcely care to deny that it is so. Indeed," I added, "they rather justify themselves than otherwise, by pleading that the mothers are as regardless about the children as they are;" and then I repeated to [-439-] her what the other minder had said to me upon this point.
"Ah, well, sir," she said, rather sadly, "it would be very easy for a don't-carish minder to talk so, and with a good show of truth too - on the surface. When poor people - such very poor people as have to put their children out to mind - have already a larger family than they can well make a bare living for, they certainly are inclined to think, and to say, that any addition to their number would be a bad job for them all; the new comer included. But though they would rather be without it, still if another child is sent, the mother's love is sent with it, though outsiders may not always see it, through the trouble that comes of the thought of how another mouth is to be filled. When you think of how these poor mothers are placed, there is great allowance to be made for any hard words that may drop from them at times when the spirit is sore vexed. Many of them are widows with none to help or cheer them in their single-handed struggle with the world, and some are worse off than even widows, are women with drunken, good-for-nothing husbands, or those whose children are their shame. They slave hard, and live hard, and no doubt but at times they may say hard things of the children they have to support; but they don't really mean them. I have had mothers who, when things have been more than usually bad with them, have grumbled about their hands being tied, and spoken of their little ones as burdens, and even wished them dead; so that any stranger [-440-] hearing them might well have thought that there could be no mother's love in their hearts. But I have seen these same women when their children lay dying; I have seen them all but mad with grief; and some that had never in their lives said a prayer before, praying in bitter agony that the little lives might be spared; and I have heard, too, how they have reproached themselves for the wicked words that had fallen from them in their thoughtless anger. I have known them mourn for a little lost one as sincerely as any lady in the land could do, and treasure through life some little memorial of them. You know, sir, such as these poor mothers have much to try them, and they shouldn't be judged by what they may say in their haste. When we think how very bad a woman must be who has no love for her own child, we should be slow to believe that there could be many such. I ought to know something on that head, seeing that I have been a minder these twelve years; and though I have met mothers who have not loved their children as dearly as mothers generally do, I think I may safely say that I have never found one who had no love for her child, or really wished it away."
She spoke eloquently in defence of the mothers, and I had had sufficient experience among the class myself to feel that there was a good deal in what she had said; that under the rough exteriors and rough words of the poor there is much real goodness of heart. I expressed my concurrence with her views, and then, by way of continuing the conversation, observed that from what I [-441-] had heard of her reputation, I should have thought that she would have had more children to mind than those I saw.
"So I have, sir," she answered with a smile, "this is only one of my rooms, the general room as I call it. Here," she continued, opening the door of the adjoining apartment, "is the sleeping-room." Two sides of the walls of this inner room were occupied by low wooden structures, looking very much like long dough troughs, each of them being partitioned into three parts, and in each of the cribs thus formed a child was lying asleep their slumbers being watched over by a young woman who assisted the minder in her work, and who was seated in a corner of the room sewing, but with ears alert for any sounds of restlessness from the little sleepers. The baby faces looked beautifully calm in their sleep, and even with the little experience I had already had, I could at once see the difference between their sleep, and the heavy torpid sleep that comes of the administration of "quietness."
"Ah! theirs is natural sleep," I said.
"It is," she assented, "and while there is nothing worse for children than drugging them to sleep, there is nothing better for them than a good allowance of natural sleep. I always try to give mine as much as I fairly can. Of course the youngest require the most, but I try to give them all a turn; the cribs are generally full, except for half an hour or so morning and afternoon to freshen the air of the room. Up here, she went on, closing the [-442-] door of the sleeping apartment and leading the way upstairs, "is a room which is, and yet isn't, a sick-room."
In the room in question were four little cots, two of which were occupied by children who looked more wan and worn than any of the others I had seen in the house.
"Of course," said the Minder, in an explanatory tone, "I don't keep children who are suffering from any serious, and above all any catching complaint. That wouldn't be fair to the others, but any that may just have a passing cold, or who are weakly as you may see these two are, I put here quietly by themselves, and divide my time between them and those in the general."
"Do you find many weakly children among those brought to you?" I asked.
"Well, yes," she answered, after a moment's reflection; "some of them very weakly, but born, as you can see, to die. Some of the little darlings that I have tended in those cots are with the angels now; and though their parents sorrowed for them, and I sorrowed for them - for you can't be with children as I am without coming to love them, and you generally think most of the weakest - they at least are better off."
"Up to about what age are children generally given out to be minded?" was my next question.
"Three years," was the answer. "Then they are packed off to little schools, or are let to play about with some child a little older, or some neighbour to give an eye to them; and though you would hardly think it of such mere infants, they soon learn to pretty well look [-443-] after themselves. You see it's a case of necessity, and, as the proverb says, the back is fitted to the burden."
"And what sort of labour are the parents engaged in?" I asked.
"Different sorts," she answered. "Some are firewood-choppers and bundlers, some work in the market-garden, others in the laundries, and others, again, go out hawking or charing; but all are poor enough, and have no choice between putting their children out to be minded, or letting them starve."
So much I learned from the Genuine Minder on the occasion of my first call upon her, and when on subsequent occasions I chanced to drop in upon her, I always found her the same cheerful, kindly, motherly personage. To one who, like her, really took trouble and interest in her work, the occupation of a minder was calculated to be a very trying one to the temper; but never did I see her allow her temper to get ruffled even for a passing moment. She was pre-eminently the right woman in the right place. She had a wonderful talent for managing children, and understanding their ways and wants. She was quite a repository of nursery rhymes and stories, and an adept in reciting them in a manner suitable to children. In its way, there could be no prettier sight than she presented when telling one of her stories with a child on either knee, three or four others clinging around her, and all gazing up in her face with widely staring eyes. It was a pleasant sight, too, to see the mothers bringing their children in the morning, and taking them away [-444-] again at night; to see how lovingly they parted from them, how longingly they clasped them to their breasts again. Often the poor mother would bring back with her a little packet of sweets, or something of that kind, bought out of the day's hard-earned money; and now and again, some small present would be brought for the Minder herself; a present whose intrinsic value might be infinitesimal, but which, nevertheless, had a value beyond price as being given in true kindness and gratitude of heart, and as a token of appreciation of duty well done. Parents as well as children took to her, and she was one of the best-known as well as best-respected of the characters. She was a simply and sincerely religious woman. She was one of the go-to-meetingers of the neighbourhood, and one of the very few among them to whom the non-go-to-meeting section (a very large majority unhappily) gave the credit of being really religious-most of the others being accused of only going to meeting with a view to "feeds" and tickets, or to curry favour with their betters. But though her neighbours thought much of her, they knew very little about her beyond her present, every-day life: and it was not until I had known her for. some considerable time that I incidentally learned her history.
"Did you serve an apprenticeship to the minding?" I said one day, half jestingly, and referring to her thorough knowledge.
"No," she answered; "I just drifted into it. At one time I didn't even know that there was such a thing as [-445-] minding, let alone any idea of becoming a minder-not, mind you, that I regret having become one, for I am happy in it, though the way that led to it was a path of tribulation to me."
She stopped, but noticing that I looked specially interested, she at once resumed speaking.
"It is a simple enough story, sir," she said, "and if you care to listen to it, I will tell it to you."
As she did not object, " I would be very happy to hear it," I said, "as there was often a valuable lesson to be learned from even the simplest story of a life."
"Well, you must know, sir," she began, "I was born at Portsmouth, and of poor parents. When I was about eleven years of age, I was left an orphan, and friendless. A lady, who heard of my case, got me a situation as under kitchen girl, and I stayed in that service and worked my way up till, at twenty, I was first housemaid. I had no friends of my own, but the parents of one of my fellow-servants lived in the town, and she used sometimes to take me along with her to visit them. At their house I met her brother, who was a steward on board one of a line of large steamers running to the West Indies. I suppose we fell in love with each other, and after keeping company for two years - so far as his being at sea a great part of his time allowed of company keeping - we were married. We had one child, a little girl, and we were very happy, the only drawback being that he had to be so much away from home. However, we hoped to get over that in good time. We had each [-446-] of us saved something in our single days, and we could put by a trifle each voyage, and we intended, after a few years, to set up in business on shore as eating-house keepers. But man proposes and God disposes; it wasn't to be. It was a case of slip between cup and lip. When he started on the voyage that we had arranged was to be his last, I went on board to bid him good-bye, and in high spirits he whispered to me as he kissed me, 'No more of these partings after this one; think of that, dear, and dry your eyes;' for I had been crying."
She paused here with the air of one nerving herself, and, drawing a long sighing breath, resumed-
"And but too surely there was to be no more such partings, for that was to be our last parting in this world. I was never to see him again, not even in death. The daisies don't grow over his grave, sir; he lies buried in the ocean. I felt it very bitterly at first, that I could not, as most others can, know or see the last resting- place of the husband I had loved; but I soon got over that; for, after all, Heaven is as near by water as by land, and the sea as well as the land must give up its dead when the time comes."
Again she paused for a brief space, and then, continuing her narrative, said-
"When the vessel came home, I, with other wives, hastened down to the docks, and the first thing we saw on board was the black flag hoisted. I hadn't lived in Portsmouth all my life without knowing what that meant. The yellow fever - ' yellow-jack' as it was called by the [-447-] sailors - had been among the crew, and carried off some of them, and no one from shore was to go aboard. We women waited outside the dock-gate, and you can fancy in what a state of mind. In a short time, though it seemed hours to us, a list of the dead was put out, and I read my husband's name among them. To this day I couldn't tell you how I got home, but I found myself there; and at last, when I felt my child in my arms, I was able to cry.
"From that time I couldn't bear Portsmouth, everything there putting me in mind of my loss. I could have gone into service again, but to have done so I would have had to part from my child, and I couldn't endure the thought of that; so I determined to put what money I had into some business, and, after looking about for some months, I bought the goodwill of an eating-house business in London. It turned out a bad business for me; I had been deceived as to the trade done; and at the end of a couple of years I had to come out of it beggared. London had never agreed with my little girl; and now, under the hard living to which we were reduced, she began to pine away; three months later I lost her, and then I fairly broke down and was laid helpless on a sick bed. I was friendless, and so the people in whose house I had rented a room had me removed to the workhouse. There, after I had got over my illness, I was put to help to look after the children; and it was then I first found out that I had the art of getting on with children, and managing them, and that they returned [-448-] my liking by taking to me at first sight. I was sent into the children's ward a week before the woman whose place I was to take took her discharge, and during that week we got acquainted. She lived in this neighbourhood; and as, when I came to take my discharge, she was about the only person I knew, I came and settled in this neighbourhood too. I got needlework to do; and being indoors, I sometimes volunteered to take care of children for neighbours who had to go out, and others hearing of this, and that I really did take care of them when I said I would, brought their children to me, and offered to pay me to mind them. In this way things went on till I saw my way to setting up my present little establishment and making a business of child-minding. I have done fairly in it, thanks be to the Lord; and at the same time I hope that I have done fairly well by the little ones that have been through my hands, and by those who have trusted them to me. I have to make a trade of my minding, it is true; but, apart from that, I love the little ones for their own sake. God bless them all."
Such was the life-story of the Genuine Minder. Of the value of her labours as a minder, within the limited range to which they were restricted, readers will be able to form some judgment from what has already been told here. Her minding was, as she said herself, a trade with her it was a necessity of her circumstances that it should be so; but it was also a labour of love, and dis. charged in a loving spirit. As occasion required, she engaged also in other labours of love, that were such in [-449-] the fuller sense of the phrase, in that her services were given freely, without money and without price. She was skilful in the treatment of those complaints to which infant flesh is more especially heir; and she was always willing to give the benefit of her advice and assistance in the case of a sick child, and that irrespective of whether or not it was one of those entrusted to her minding. Many a long weary night had she kept watch by the sick-bed of some little one sick nigh unto death; more than one grateful mother has said to me that she owed the life of a child to the care and kindness of the Genuine Minder. She, however, took no credit to herself in the matter; and certainly never, for a moment, hesitated as to any risk to her own health that she incurred, though at last, some five or six years after I had first made her acquaintance, her goodness in this respect proved fatal to herself. A malignant fever was prevalent in the district. A poor widow, living near to the Minder's, had died of it; and her only child, a girl of nine, had sickened of it, and none could be found to go into the house to nurse her, until the state of affairs reaching the ears of the Genuine Minder, she at once went. She stayed all that night and the next day, till nine o'clock at night, when the child was taken away to the fever hospital. Then she went back to her own home, stricken, and knowing it. She sent her assistant round to tell the parents not to send the children in the morning, as there was fever in the house; then she laid her down - to die, as the event proved. She never left her bed again alive.
[-450-] When, on hearing of her illness, I visited her, she was unconscious, and remained more or less so until the day before her death. Then the cloud lifted from her mind, and she knew that she was dying; but the knowledge brought no fear. In the days of her health and strength she had put her trust in her Saviour; and now that she was about to enter the valley of the shadow of death, she feared no evil, for He was with her. She spoke with a gentle regret of leaving the little ones who had been under her care, with confidence and hope of meeting in the better land those of her little charges who had gone before; and so, her work done, at peace with all the world, and strong in Christian faith and hope, she calmly passed to her rest.
Her death created a sincere feeling of sorrow among her poor neighbours; but those who had the greatest cause to mourn her loss - whom that loss consigned to other minders - were too young to understand it.