Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/43

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41
BLANK COURT; OR, LANDLORDS AND TENANTS.

earned is a stimulus, and they often take an extreme interest in the work itself. One little girl was so proud of her first cleaning that she stood two hours watching her passage lest the boys, whom she considered as the natural enemies of order and cleanliness, should spoil it before I came to see it. And one woman remarked to her neighbor how nice the stairs looked. "They haven't been cleaned," she added, "since ever I came into this house." She had been there six years! The effect of these clean passages frequently spreads to the rooms, as the dark line of demarkation between the cleaned passage and the still dirty room arouses the attention, and begins to trouble the minds, of its inmates.

Gradually, then, these various modes of dealing with our little realm began to tell. Gradually the people began to trust us; and gradually the houses were improved. The sense of quiet power and sympathy soon made itself felt, and less and less was there any sign of rudeness or violence towards ourselves. Even before the first winter was over many a one would hurry to light us up the stairs, and instead of my having the rent-book and money thrust to me through the half-open door, and being kept from possible entrance by a firmly planted foot, my reception would be, "Oh, can't you come in, Miss, and sit down for a bit?" Little by little the houses were renovated, the grates reset, the holes in the floors repaired, the cracking, dirty plaster replaced by a clean smooth surface, the heaps of rubbish removed, and we progressed towards order.

Amongst the many benefits which the possession of the houses enables us to confer on the people, perhaps one of the most important is our power of saving them from neighbors who would render their lives miserable. It is a most merciful thing to protect the poor from the pain of living in the next room to drunken, disorderly people. "I am dying," said an old woman to me the other day: "I wish you would put me where I can't hear S—— beating his wife. Her screams are awful. And B——, too, he do