+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

Ah! Whither go the gold motes, and where the lilies white,
Borne onward by the torrent, resistless from our sight?
And whither goes the brooklet, and where the birdie's lay
Is it unto that Hereafter, whither all must pass away?


SCENE. — A court, leading out of another
court which communicates indirectly with
Drury Lane. Enter little girl carrying a
baby. To her enter second little girl,
much bedabbled with mud, and generally
disordered, as though newly returned from
some unauthorised expedition.

First little girl: "Ah, your mother's
looking after you everywhere. She's in
such a way. Wherever have you been?"

Second little girl (crying): "Only along
with all the others in the lane."

First little girl: "Ah, well, when your
mother gets hold of you she says she'll
skin you."

Exit second little girl, sobbing, to her

The above scene is one among many
others of a like sort which the writer has
witnessed, and by which the peculiar nature
of the relation between mother and child,
as developed among certain classes of
society, is plainly set forth. Such scenes
are unhappily far from uncommon. Any
one who is in the habit of passing through
the low neighbourhoods of London, will
meet every day with continually recurring
instances of the most cruel neglect and ill-
usage of children by their mothers. It is a
dreadful thought, but it is true, nevertheless,
that to many children's ears that word
mothersoft and sweet-sounding to most
of usmust simply be a word of terror,
embodying an idea of the most repulsive
and alarming kind. There are many of
these "mothers" who never seem to say
a kind or pleasant word to their children
from one year's end to another. Objurgations,
scoldings, threats alone come from
those maternal lips.

Nor is mere neglect and simple savagery
all that these poor little ones have to endure.
They suffer from a certain complication and
compound interest, so to speak, of ill-usage.
Thus, the child is neglected and allowed to
run wild, and to get into all sorts of scrapes
by the mother. This the father discovers
and fiercely resents. The mother, enraged
at such resentment, transfers it to the
unhappy infant. "Why don't you look after
that child?" says the father, coming in
cross from his work, and having just seen
the infant in question wallowing in the
gutter, and covered with dirt as with a
garment. This is a commencement of
hostilities, like the first gun fired in an
engagement. It is responded to fiercely, and
it is not long before hard words lead to
harder blows. Of course the mother wreaks
her vengeance for all upon the unhappy
child, which, after all, has only been following
its natural instincts in making
mudpies in the gutter.

"Sarah Jane," screams Alma Mater,
standing at the entrance of the court in
which home (!) is situated, with arms
akimbo, with a black eye recently
acquired, hideous, vindictive, terrible. "Just
you come here, you little devil."

Now, is any good purpose in this world
fulfilled by the leaving of this mother and
this child together? I know that the
inquiry has a startling sound, but still I cannot
help asking, would it be detrimental to
any human creature under the sun if these
two were separated? Do they benefit
each other in any possible way? Is the
bringing up which falls to the lot of that
little one a bringing up that can by
possibility conduce to good? Is it not almost
certain that a child growing up in the
midst of such scenes will in time come
to be imbued with the spirit of them, and
will, as soon as she is big enough, inflict on
others the same brutality of which she
herself has been the victim?

It is perfectly impossible to put this case
too strongly. As I write, the bad work is
going on and prospering. The poison seeds
are being sown, and the deadly growth
which follows is being nurtured and cultivated.
In a thousand homesto call them
sochildren are being reared in the midst
of sights which children should not see,
and of sounds which children should not
hear. Not one of those softening and
humanising influences which are needed for
the developing of the good and the
repressing of the evil, of which the germs
exist in every one of us, are brought to
bear upon these little foredoomed wretches.
And we allow it. We let these human
creatures be in their misery, and take no
stepsor none that are adequateto raise
them out of it. We dread a deterioration
in our breed of horses, and take counsel to
avert so terrible a calamity, and we let our
breed of men sink into what any one who
will take the trouble to frequent the poorer
quarters of our town will own to be a very
abyss of degradation.

What seems to be needed is some system,