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I DO not know that anybody in going back
to what is called, whether fabulously or not,
the Golden Age. pretends to show that the
houses of the poor were then built with
reference to their inhabitation by Christians.
At all events, if, at that period, they were so
built, they have long ago been pulled down,
or have fallen into ruins, and no trace of
them now remains.

No trace of them, at any rate, in the rural
parish of Lightlands; for there, I know, the
cottages are in just the same barbarous
condition, in regard of accommodation, as they
have been these fifty years or longer. This fact
goes far enough to prove it. There are, at
least, twelve hundred poor inhabitants in that
parish, and hardly one family among them,
however numerous, knows what it is to have
three upper chambers in which to take their
nightly rest; while not more than one in ten
knows what it is to have even two.

Before I marriedalthough I had always
been interested about the poor, and was full
of sympathy for what I knew of their
distresses; and although from my infancy I had
lived, as it were, but a stone's throw from
ordinary samples of their dwellingslike
most other young ladies, I was very little
aware of the wide distance between the
charming fictions of the poets, concerning
cottage homes, and the real truth; so that
the idea of helping my husband to work in
his parish, by visiting the poor, presented to
my mind quite a delightful prospect. When
I did marry, and when I did visit among
them, the prospect somewhat darkened, and
a sort of hopelessness about being able to do
much good, unless we could approach a little
nearer to the poetical idea of a cottage home,
crept gradually but surely upon me. And
yet, in general, I am by no means given to

I shall never forget the first autumn of my
residence at Lightlands, for it was then that
I knew, for the first time, what was the real
and general state of the homes of country
poor people. It was a time of almost
unprecedented sickness in the annals of the
parish: never, at any time, a very healthy
one. The complaint among the people
was characterised by them simply as the
fever, and by the parish doctor as a sort
of low fever; but, whatever it was, high or
low, it seized upon, I should think, at least a
fourth of the population, and, visiting one
family after another, seldom left it without
creating a blank in it, wide or narrow.

We had then been about three-quarters of
a year in the parish, and had come to feel a
deep interest, not only in the parishioners
generally, but in a great many individuals
among them in particular; though the
interest, in the majority of cases, was rather of a
painful than a pleasurable nature. Many of
the objects of it are, I know, still living in
their old houses, in their old way, though I
no longer see them, and, in all probability,.
never may again. But, to some I have bidden
a far more certain and lasting adieu, having
seen them on their death-beds, and known
that they were laid to rest in the church's
shadow by one who now, like them, has
passed away.

I call up the old names and old scenes
with some pain, associated as they are with a
part of my life now gone by for ever; but, I
call them up, notwithstanding, hopeful of
doing some good, however little, for the cause
I have at heart.

First and foremost arises in my mind a
scene connected with that time of the great
fever which made a deep impression upon
me. There is in Lightlands churchyard a
stone to the memory of Charlotte Ranger,
and she is the principal figure in the scene.

It is a chill September evening, and I hear
cheerful little Mrs. Appleby's voice at the
parsonage parlour-door, telling us that Charlotte
Ranger, who has obstinately refused to
see either her minister or myself, for the
whole term of her illness, now wishes very
much that we would both go to her directly,
or she fears she will never see us alive, and
she has some question in her mind to ask
which she cannot rest without having answered.
We rise together, my husband and
I, and, hurrying up stairs for my bonnet, I
hurry down again, and accompany him to
Charlotte Ranger's home.

In a bare, wretched chamber, having four
beds in it, lies the sick young woman; and
by her side, to my surprise, is a little dead