Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/37

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35
BLANK COURT; OR, LANDLORDS AND TENANTS.

guide me up the pitch-dark stairs. Such was Blank Court in the winter of 1869. Truly, a wild, lawless, desolate little kingdom to come to rule over.

On what principles was I to rule these people? On the same that I had already tried, and tried with success, in other places, and which I may sum up as the two following: firstly, to demand a strict fulfillment of their duties to me,—one of the chief of which would be the punctual payment of rent; and secondly, to endeavor to be so unfailingly just and patient, that they should learn to trust the rule that was over them.

With regard to details, I would make a few improvements at once—such, for example, as the laying on of water and repairing of dustbins, but, for the most part, improvements should be made only by degrees, as the people became more capable of valuing and not abusing them. I would have the rooms distempered, and thoroughly cleansed, as they became vacant, and then they should be offered to the more cleanly of the tenants. I would have such repairs as were not immediately needed, used as a means of giving work to the men in times of distress. I would draft the occupants of the underground kitchens into the upstair rooms, and would ultimately convert the kitchens into bath-rooms and wash-houses. I would have the landlady's portion of the house—i. e. the stairs and passages—at once repaired and distempered, and they should be regularly scrubbed, and, as far as possible, made models of cleanliness, for I knew, from former experience, that the example of this would, in time, silently spread itself to the rooms themselves, and that payment for this work would give me some hold over the elder girls. I would collect savings personally, not trust to their being taken to distant banks or saving clubs. And finally, I knew that I should learn to feel these people as my friends, and so should instinctively feel the same respect for their privacy and their independence, and should treat them with the same couresy that I should show towards any other personal friends.