Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - In the Slums, by the Rev. D. Rice-Jones, 1884 - Chapter 7 - The Hardest Trial of All

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WHEN I first made known my intention of coming to live in the district, all to whom I mentioned it expressed surprise, not excepting those interested in the work of the mission. "But leaving yourself out of the question,! they would say, "what about your wife and child? Is it a fit place for a lady and a child? and don't you think it may prove very trying to their health?" And they unanimously expressed the opinion that my project of coming with my family to live in the midst of my poor people was, to say the least, one which would be attended with considerable risk. My wife, however, agreed with me in thinking that it was my duty to come and live here, and that missionary clergymen and their wives had no more right to think of personal comfort or of risks, where duty was concerned, than soldiers or soldiers' wives. "You will never be able to do justice to your work unless you live amongst your people; therefore, go " she said, adding in the [-30-] words of Ruth, "And whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. And He will take care of us wherever we are."
    And He has taken care of us, and given us many proofs of His loving-kindness. But in the summer we had to submit to a severe trial. We had not been long here before my wife and child began to show unmistakable signs of declining health. The change to this place from South Kensington, with its beautiful gardens and parks close at hand, seemed to have the same effect upon the child as upon a number of plants which were sent up to us from the country. They had not been here many days before they began to droop. Then they all withered and died, as if smitten with a blight.
    The child did not die; but an eminent physician whom I brought to see him and my wife, requested me to take them away at once to the seaside, and said they must never return to this place, as the house and locality were quite unfit for them. Indeed the doctor expressed himself so strongly about clergymen having no right to sacrifice their wives and children even if they chose to sacrifice themselves, that I almost felt as if I had committed a crime.
    So I took them away, first to the seaside, then to my wife's old home in the beautiful west country; [-31-] and after a short holiday I returned alone, and with a sad heart resumed my arduous work; and for some months I continued to live here alone. But from day to day I was cheered in my loneliness by the news that the dear ones were regaining health and strength. And now they are with me here once more, as we hope that the winter season may not prove so trying to their health.