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if even this refuge failed ? In these lands and Christian times it never does. A friend in need, then, is the friend indeed. We have here a gigantic House of Mercy, despised, and yet open to all; scorned, avoided, and yet only too thickly peopled. You rich, fortunate, and happy ones, who live at ease and enjoy your lives, though it may be but moderately, by reason of flaws and faults here or there, just pause a moment to dwell on your fellow-mortals' griefs. We are concerned with but a medium-sized city. Misery stalks the streets and lurks in the lanes, uncounted, unknown, each of the all but innumerable public houses forming its nucleus of disease and sorrow. We cannot reach half the smitten ones; still, to enumerate some of the attempts at affording aid is instructive. In addition to this great home for the destitute, the city contains amongst other charitable institutions many convents and monasteries, all doing good work, a Roman Catholic incurable hospital, a Church of Ireland ditto, a fever hospital, a blind asylum, two infirmaries, a refuge for fallen women, a children's hospital, a home for Protestant orphan children, and a lunatic asylum containing some eight or nine hundred souls.
There are no Protestant children in this great workhouse. These are all drafted at once, on admittance, to the male and female industrial schools. Any child caught in and convicted of begging, can immediately be placed in these abodes, where they are trained well. Amongst the 3,000 inhabitants of this union, there are but some hundred individuals of the reformed faith. And yet, of this latter is made up in Ireland nearly one-fourth of the population. None of the city Protestants here even ask or get out-door relief; while much is done for the Roman Catholic poor
thus. A large proportion of those admitted here are of course at once upon the sick list ; illness is often, in itself, the cause of their entrance. With the able-bodied the indulgences bestowed on the hospital patients creates much heart-burning and jealousy, and there is often such clever shamming of disease, that the doctors must keep their eyes well open. It is all the worse for some of them, however, when they are keen enough regarding such imposture. Not long since a man here who yearned vainly after infirmary fleshpots and relaxations of discipline, attacked the physician, who was unable to detect his dangerous symptoms, and all but killed him. There is no doubt of the fact that a stratum of fierce and brutal cruelty underlies the Celtic character, often so attractive and humorous on the surface.
There are castes and class distinctions everywhere, I suppose, and we should therefore, perhaps, not be surprised to find them here. At any rate they exist amongst the paupers, according to their own estimation at least, and of all curious ennoblers of weak humanity, within these walls it is Infirmity who touches with her wand and says to her minions, “Assert yourselves as above your fellows, despise and refuse to mingle with your compatriots.” Accordingly, at the great Christmas festival, which extends even to the beggars its crumbs of hospitality, the inmates of the infirm wards often insist that a separate feast should be spread for them, and as this is not granted, sooner than seat themselves with their companions in misfortune, they prefer dispensing with their share of beef and pudding. Thus too there is an individual aristocracy inherent in those persons belonging to any division who serve the sisters or other paid officials of the place. There are here ten nuns with a mother superior, who all live in a pretty ivycovered house with a garden attached. A much smaller compound is allotted to the two Church of Ireland sisters. Their time is principally devoted to the sick, whose wards they often visit hourly, and whose disputes they settle, it being often very fortunate when an absolute decision can stop jarring and war.
One day, not long since, a refractory male patient, for instance, would insist on keeping the ward door perpetually closed. He was very ill and unfit to move. Nevertheless, as the attendant opened he rose and shut, and contention waxed hot. Finally Sister Belinda was summoned, and issued her veto on his keeping the door perpetually closed. It is to be hoped that the sick man, when he recovers, may
did. Disputes amongst and with the men are, however, much rarer than in the female wards. Nurses invariably say, Oh, give me twenty sick men rather than twelve sick women.” The male invalids are far more grateful and less excitable, as a rule; also less jealous. In the female wards the Sisters have been obliged to request that visitors will not give oranges or any other little special favours to particular patients. By showing such kindnesses the patron only draws down misery on the individual, who is immediately persecuted. Books and papers alone it is well to lend. They are an extreme blessing, and eagerly sought, only less esteemed, perhaps, than the visit itself paid by the lender. Amid the tedium of life here, a new face brings healing and brightness with it from the out-of-doors world. The visitor's first im
pression will probably be, "How wonderfully clean and neat those old women are, and how comely! I never saw a poor old Irish woman look so well before, even in health, and the less said of an ailing one, perhaps, the better.”
The next consideration cropping up is, “Why they are all saints." As you move from bed to bed in the Protestant wards, one patient seems more religious than another. No doubt the poor folk think this takes well and creates favour, and half unconsciously they talk religiously and believe they feel and live it. It is at times rather amusing to observe little difficulties they thus get into. There is an idea afloat amongst them all, that the Bible and tracts and very manifestly religious publications are the only style of literature they should enjoy. I called one day with my hands full. As I came to one bed I observed a woman who had been engrossed in reading hastily hide her book. “ What is it ?” I said, “ you seem to have something very interesting there.” “No then,” she replied, “ 'tisn't a book I like at all, ma'am, only my sister brought it in to me, an' I has to read it."
With difficulty I coaxed it into view, and it was but an adventure book, just what she did and ought to like. I passed on to the next bed, and offered a choice of a religious or a fairy tale. The latter was hotly repudiated. I at once accepted the decision, and placed the alternative in this very old woman's hands (she is very religious.) The little book was turned over, and I was turning away. mind just showing me the fairy story, ma'am ? You see 'tis so seldom I can get the like. I fancy after all ’twould be nice to read.” I gravely made the exchange, and “ The Prince in search of a Wife,” with a picture of the Fairy Rosetta finding him one, went round the house, and drew applause, and was restored to me without a speck on the cover, and with boundless gratitude. This old lady has since died. The last time I saw her she asked me, did I really think she might read “Mabel Vaughan,” which I had lent her, on Sunday ? she had put it by the previous First Day, and the time was so long.
It was the same story in the male wards. Here I offered “ Thaddeus of Warsaw." It was scornfully put aside. “No novels for me, ma'am, 'tis another sort of book we want here !” I supplied the other sort, at once, but was recalled. The despised novel was looked into, and finally begged for, and when next I called to reclaim it I was told it was a "lovely book.” My old “ Saturday Reviews” too are highly appreciated here; and no wonder, if we remember how
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many are inmates here who have indeed seen better days. An officer who served as captain in the army has been here for a long time : a musician, who knows many languages, and has a fine tenor voice, bas passed the last seven years of his life here—intemperance brought on epilepsy, that induced ruin and beggary—he is often well for months together, and then plays the harmonium on Sundays during service. On an average one half the inmates are ill, about some three hundred insane, although not dangerously--rather humorously-one woman, for instance, being firmly sure she is a crow and can fly any moment to Heaven, is always hopping round to gather any commands for that quarter. A couple of hundred blind persons are here too. “But how do you make them all so clean ?” I asked. · Is that terrible story true, that sick or well, all who enter are at once plunged into a cold bath, they who never before used water, except to drink, and little of that, in all probability ?” The matron, a genial clever woman, smiled : “ The able-bodied are bathed, willy nilly, but no sick, or ailing, or infirm person ever is without a doctor's order. By degrees we wash these last : it takes six weeks perhaps to make them moderately clean. We burn the very bad clothes, and supply suits if the owners leave, from gifts ; or perhaps the garments of those who die serve the need. They are always dying, poor things." This indeed was true.
Accordingly we went to see the mortuary chapel. Here lay one poor dead inmate. For other furniture there was an altar, a crucifix, and a plain black timber cross with the inscription, "What I am now, will
you be soon: for me to-day, for you to-morrow.” Beneath comes a skull and cross-bones. The large chapel is very large indeed, and on Sundays witnesses three Masses and a Benediction. Besides this there is a hospital oratory, and a Church of Ireland chapel much smaller than the other.
It is scarcely safe to go amongst the able-bodied men, or even into their divisions. Their language is terrible, and they are quite capable of attacking strangers.
To fall on an official is common. We have just had an assault and battery anent too fat a chop supplied to a man. The matron observed to me that if all the savage men confined here were loose about the city, people could scarcely inhabit their homes peaceably at all.
About 300 children live here, and look forward daily to their long country walk as the chief feature which brightens the monotony of their existence. They go forth in two regiments, marching two and
two. No doubt their lives, poor little things, are dreary enough, and yet matters are improved vastly for them since the “Oliver Twist" times. Even if their parents are also in the House they are virtually wholly apart.
Families do not meet more than once or twice a week perhaps; and yet the whole game of life is at times played out within the walls. The children born here also have been known to marry and live on wedded. Visitors from without are supposed not to come, or be admitted to the able-bodied inmates ; but to the sick and infirm there are certain gala days each week, when relations or friends may enter. Every comer must give his or her name at the gate, and without a signed pass no inmates can go out, even for a message.
It is a painful and wearisome thing to walk through even half the hospital wards. It seems like accumulating an overwhelming weight of evidence of the existence of so much that is sad and dreadful. Here and there you see a cat or a couple of kittens, also an occasional coloured picture of some sacred subject, and those brighter features are certainly not unneeded or undervalued by the suffering inmates. I think it tells well for our reformed faith that amongst all the hundreds of fallen women here we have none to look after. And in another point of view this is well, as it is not easy to visit or speak to our people : there is so much dread and jealousy on the other side of interference. Before going amongst the inmates of such mixed abodes a pledge has usually to be given that no word of religion will be spoken one way or another to a Romanist; and no book must be lent.
Adjoining this great institution is a vast extent of rich waste halfdrained land, which no one now dares to till or use, as the Land League has taken possession of it, and caused to be burned down the house of the last too bold tenant. All such national triumphs cause very noisy testimonies of joy amongst our riotous workhouse friends. I have heard amazing shoutings issue thence, and have overheard with reluctance very savage conversations while within. On the other hand, I was much amused to find that the poor folk all speak of each other as ladies and gentlemen, “ This lady has it,” or “You lent it to that gentleman, ma'am.” I however know in the Infirm Protestant Ward two reduced ladies who were once rich in money and friends. One, who is now rather odd, has even titled relations. The other is quite blind, but most contented,—she was once beautiful and gay. You hear no murmuring from either of them.
Attached to the Protestant infirm ward there is a plot of stony