Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/23

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than that which Mr. Dickens shows in "Hard Times"—the fact that every man has an imagination which needs development and satisfaction. Mr. Slearey's speech, "People mutht be amoothed, Thquire," is often recalled to my mind in dealing with the poor. They work hard; their lives are monotonous; they seek low places of amusement; they break out into lawless "sprees." Almost all amusements—singing, dancing, acting, expeditions into the country, eating and drinking—are liable to abuse; no rules are subtle enough to prevent their leading to harm. But if a lady can know the individuals, and ask them as her invited guests to any of these, an innate sense of honor and respect preserves the tone through the whole company. Indeed, there can hardly be a more proudly thankful moment than that, when we see these many people to whom life is dull and full of anxiety, gathered together around us for holy, happy Christmas festivities, or going out to some fair and quiet spot in the bright summer time, bound to one another by the sense of common relationship, preserved unconsciously from wrong by the presence of those whom they love and who love them. Such intervals of bright joy are easily arranged by friends for friends; but if strangers are invited en masse, it is difficult to keep any of these recreations innocent.

All these ways of meeting are invaluable as binding us together; still, they would avail little were it not for the work by which we are connected—for the individual care each member of the little circle receives. Week by week, when the rents are collected, an opportunity of seeing each family separately occurs. There are a multitude of matters to attend to: first, there is the mere outside business—rent to be received, requests from the tenant respecting repairs to be considered: sometimes decisions touching the behavior of other tenants to be made, sometimes rebukes for untidiness to be administered. Then come the sad or joyful remarks about health or work, the little histories of the week. Sometimes grave questions arise