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"She is in a scrape of some sort," Clare
thought, as she accompanied her uncle to his
wife's dressing-room. "What can have happened
since he left home? Can it have anything to do
with Paul Ward?"

IN PRAISE OF A ROTTEN BOARD.

I'VE been a metropolitan guardian these
twenty years, and I say the fuss that's being
made about paupers is disgraceful. I know
them root and branch, as you may say, and
a more ignorant idle vicious worthless lot
I'll defy you to point out. Coddle 'em, and
they'll turn on you; be kind to 'em, and they'll
cheat you to your very face; try to find 'em
employment, and they'll pretend they're too old
or too weakly to get on with it. Arm-cheers
and drawing-rooms, that's what they're all
hankering after, and if you don't give' it 'em,
you're abused in the papers, and called cruel and
heartless by a parcel of fellows who are paid to
write respectable tradesmen like us down. Why,
I'll warrant that if you was to go over our
workhouse this very minute, you'd find there's
hardly a soul in it who's any business to
be there. Extravagance, or drunkenness, or
worse, that's what brings people on the parish;
and I say it would be flying in the face of
Providence to make them too comfortable, or to
listen to their whims and grumblings. We sit
at this here board to prevent people dying of
starvation; that's our duty, and the moment we
go beyond it, why, we're robbing the people
that send us here, by burdening the rates. Don't
talk to me of common humanity to the sick and
old. I'm as humane as any man, in reason, but
if you once begin this messing and coddling
system with paupers, where is it to end? Every
other house in London a workhouse, and arm-
cheers and drawing-rooms in 'em, every one.
That's what it would come to, mark my words,
and I've seen something of these matters through
having been a guardian so long.

And we want to know, too, who's to pay for all
these fine improvements. We don't mean to, I
tell you flatly, and if you think by calling us names
to make us budge an inch from what we say, you
don't know your men. A pretty talk there's
been about sick wards, and doctors' salaries,
and trained nurses, and casual poor. Why, if
guardians were paid large salaries for looking
after things, there couldn't be more hard names
thrown at their heads. I've read most of this
stuff, and I've shown it to my fellow-guardians
when we've met to smoke a pipe at the Beadle's
Head, but none of us have made out exactly
what's expected of us. Arm-cheers and drawing-
rooms, nurses to faddle after 'em, and doctors
to send physic whenever their little fingers
ache, that's what the paupers are to have when
this blessed new system becomes law; but
what the guardians are to do, unless it's to
wash their feet and tuck 'em up in bed, is
more than we can tell. Idleness and extravagance
is to land a man in the workhouse, and
when he's there he's to be petted as if he was
something out o' the common, and deserved
pampering at our expense. Don't talk to me
of sickness constituting a claim, or of a man
being entitled to proper assistance, if he's
entitled to assistance at all, because that's cant,
and cant is a thing I hate. We have a medical
officer, and he's bargained to supply medicine
and attendance for a certain sum a year. I dare
say he doesn't think it enough. I've noticed that
very few people do think they're paid according
to their merits; and I'm sure if you were to ask
any man sitting at this board whether he wouldn't
like his shop to do better, he'd say yes. Trade
is often very dull, and by the hardest work and
the closest attention many of us manage to
make both ends meet, but that's all. Besides,
everybody would like to be better off than they
are. It's human nature, and I for one ain't
above owning it. But what I say is this: a
bargain's a bargain, and if Medical Officer Esquire
thinks he's so very hardly used, why did he ask
us to give him the situation, for which there were
plenty of applicants, and would be again, if he
likes to leave? However, we don't want to be
hard upon him, and we've made allowances
whenever a troublesome case has turned up, and
a pauper's died, and there's been an inquest,
with an impertinent verdict about neglect.
We've known that the salary given by the parish
wasn't enough to keep the doctor, and we never
pretended it was, so we've not looked for
impossibilities, but have let him have as much private
practice as he could get. What he's felt called
upon to do for the workhouse, he's done; but I
defy him to say that any guardian in the parish
ever bothered him or asked a question until he
got bitten with these new-fangled notions, and
wanted to raise the roofs, and recommended
day-rooms, and paid nurses, and exercise-yards,
and a lot of other things, which we've done
very well without, so far, and which we mean to
do without, in spite of all the twaddle written
and spoken.

Of course, we warn't a-going to be bearded
by our own officer, so after giving the doctor
rope for a little while, we up and plainly let him
see we weren't to be gammoned into wasting
this union's money, and that he might go on
recommending until he was black in the face,
before we'd allow ourselves to be bullied into
doing more than we thought proper. Hadn't
the Poor Law Board been telling us for years
that five hundred cubic feet of air was the
proper quantity for every inmate? And wasn't
it a piece of presumption in a parish doctor,
because he'd read a few one-sided books, to get up
and say "the highest scientific authorities are
against you and against the Poor Law Board,
gentlemen, and I feel it my duty to tell you
that a space of less than one thousand feet of
air to each sick bed is highly injurious and
improper"? Were we to put up with this kind of
conceit; when the doctor knew as well as we
did that the Poor Law Board had the size of
our wards, and the number of people they held,
sent in to their office regularly, and that they'd

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