Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/61

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59
VOLUNTEERS IN THE ORGANIZATION OF CHARITY.

She, in a quiet, friendly talk has found out all the old woman's tale. The committee are thus able to understand why she clings to the room she has lived in for so long, though the rent is high; why she works to keep a lodger, when she might live as cheaply alone; why she refuses to tell the names of those who help her. All is cleared up; and since her relations seem to be doing their duty, and the parish making the largest allowance which the guardians think it right to give outside the workhouse, a pension of two shillings a week is granted her for three months. The visitor will pay this pension, and in her weekly visit the friendship will grow. She, unconsciously, perhaps, will supervise the home, and at the end of three months, when the old woman will appear again to have her pension renewed, she will be able to tell of a life which has become quieter and happier.

Or perhaps a younger woman applies. She will tell how illness and misfortune have reduced herself and her husband to poverty. He has at length gone into the workhouse infirmary, where, possibly, he may linger on for months or years, and she has come to ask for help for herself. The committee see that the only result of a gift would be to destroy her power of self-help and tempt her to lean on the uncertain aid of others, while if they helped her adequately the tax on their own funds would be large, and she would be kept in idleness and prevented from fitting herself for future work. She pleads for a little temporary employment, but they tell her that as she has no children to need her care, she had better at once take a place as domestic servant. She says she is not strong enough for hard work. They elicit, however, that she is a good needlewoman, and therefore advise her to seek a place as young lady's maid, or wardrobe-keeper in a school. Her reply is, "Thank you, but I'd rather muddle on." The committee is no doubt right: its decision will help her to face her future, and to see that it is best now, while she is not old, to find an occupation by which