Isabella Fyvie Mayo (2)

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CHAPTER III.

A GIRLS' SCHOOL FIFTY YEARS AGO.


LET us give a backward glance to what general female education was fifty years ago, before colleges, high schools, and public schools were inaugurated.  In England it was then rare to find a working woman who could read with enough freedom to give pleasure to herself, rare indeed to discover one who could write with facility.

    About 1860, when I had a Sunday class of girls, working men's daughters, who through the week attended a great London National School—their ages ranged from eight to twelve—only one of them could read a verse in the Gospels with pleasing fluency.  On inquiry, I found that she had spent six months of every year in the country with grandparents, and, while there, had attended a little "dame" school.  These "dames" did not teach much, yet what they did teach some of them taught thoroughly.

    Much of the "higher" education received by girls at that period was given in "boarding-schools."  Plenty of these were shabby-genteel, and "shoddy" to the lowest degree.  But not all.  The best type of private governess, when she no longer cared for the restraints of a "resident" appointment, generally sought this way of exercising her profession.

    There were, however, many people who would not send their daughters to boarding-schools, either because they thought them unnatural, and therefore pernicious (as did my father), or because they were not inclined to incur the expense of an artificial home where a real one already existed.  Yet in some districts, even of large cities, there was very poor provision for the daily teaching of girls.

    Any woman who felt it necessary to earn her bread, or who desired to increase her pocket-money, found it possible to secure pupils simply putting a "plate" on her door and sending round a few circulars.  Some of these "plates" bore high-sounding words.  "College for Ladies" might mean nothing more than a needy woman and a dozen little girls in the back-parlour of a lodging-house.  Nobody knew what the woman knew, or what was her faculty for imparting knowledge.  Worse still, she might be as superficial in morals as in mind, and she too seldom had standards higher than "gentility."

    The only hopeful feature in the matter was the inherently temporary nature of these efforts.  Even this, however, sometimes cut the wrong way.  Necessity constantly drove new competitors into the field, and some of these "ladies" had no hesitation in canvassing vigorously for pupils already placed.  I can give the educational history of one girl whose school-days ended only a few years before mine began.  It started in what seems to have been an exceedingly fair specimen of this sort of "establishment."  Its head was the middle-aged daughter of a deceased French gentleman who had been driven from his own country by earlier political troubles.  She was a gentlewoman, and full of dainty accomplishments.  The mother of the girl I write of had herself "finished" under this lady.  Yet her honest little enterprise was finally pulled down, while she herself vanished into depths of poverty, by the competition of a needy widow, shabby-genteel alike in mind and character, but who had well-to-do connections who besought their circle of acquaintance to give her their "patronage."  In this widow's house there was not the most elementary arrangement for a school, nor any preparation for it in her own habits.  Her effort had been able to destroy a better one, but could not uphold itself, and presently lapsed.

    The girl's next move was to another school just then started by the two daughters of a dead army officer.  From what I have heard, they were probably better bred and instructed than some of their compeers, but were worse in character, their habits proving to be decidedly irregular.  Their style of thought—or, rather, of the want of it—is indicated by one of them pleading pity for herself "as an orphan" when she was over fifty years of age, and, as my father said, might well have been a grandmother!

    This peripatetic pupil ended her school-life in the school wherein all mine was passed.

    This school was certainly a very different affair.  In some ways, indeed, it was so good that, making allowance for general social progress, I have felt that it is scarcely fair to infer that ordered female education began only with the "high schools," though I freely concede that they removed it further from mere chance, and lifted it to a more permanent basis.  Still, the type of lady-superintendent must ever remain a fluctuating quantity, and her possession of moral elevation, social grace, and intellectual culture, or her lack of these, will have always to be reckoned with.

    This school was kept by three ladies whose father had been a travelled and literary man.  They, too, had owed their earlier education to that French lady whose sad fate I have recorded, but they had kept up intellectual life by reading and moving in cultivated society.  They had started their school in their father's house, but it was so admirably suited for their enterprise that, when it succeeded brilliantly, they did not need to change.  It was an old roomy Charles II. house not far from Covent Garden.  It had an open entry, and an outer and an inner hall—a perfect arrangement for the attendants of younger pupils and for the toilet requirements of all.  Its sanitation was always carefully supervised.  The chief schoolroom was on the first floor, large and lofty, with three huge windows and other means of ventilation, and had great fireplaces at each end.  It was a tremendous room, as will be understood when I say that on the occasion of the "annual reception," though all the pupils—sometimes numbering seventy—all the staff, and sundry Visitors were present, there was not the slightest sense of crowding.  Everything about the place was stately and refined.  It was reached by a staircase with a noble curve.  There were life-size carvings of couching greyhounds over each of its lofty panelled doors.  Its mantelshelves bore great china vases of no mean quality, and its furniture consisted of three class-tables so polished that we could see our faces in them, a small round table, a cupboard, some bookshelves, chairs for the teachers, backless forms, alas! for ourselves, and a long line of desks.

    Behind this room was the apartment where music and singing lessons were given, and so well was this old house "deafened" that scarcely the faintest sound penetrated to the schoolroom.  Upstairs was a very pleasant chamber, where during certain hours one of the sisters gave instruction to eight or ten little boys, generally brothers of girls below.  Here, also, the same lady supervised all the needlework, which was her speciality.

    None of these boys, confined chiefly to the smaller schoolroom, were older than ten or eleven.  But many of the girls were of the same age, and as some of the boys joined in classes taught by visiting masters, a certain amount of rivalry went on.  I was something of a favourite with our first writing-master, and he used—very wrongly—to play off my tiny precocities against the heavy loutishness of a certain large lad.  He made me help this puzzled boy with his sums, and on one occasion he said to me: "How old are YOU?" (emphasis on the pronoun).  "Nine," I answered.  "And how old are you?" he asked the boy, who, having just made a special exhibition of stupidity, saw the drift of these questions, and answered with a big sob "Only nine, too."  "Ah," said the master, "and when were you nine?  When was your birthday?"  "Last January," booed the lad, the month being then November.  "And when were you nine?" asked the master of me.  "I shall be nine next December," I said; and the poor boy's attempt at self-defence met with a general titter.  It was an utterly wrong way of action on the part of the master, and left such shame and bitterness behind that, years after, when we were young man and maiden, that youth used to flee from the very sight of me!

    Another boy, lively and mischievous, took it into his head to favour me with something like "calf-love."  When school was over, the head-governess always dismissed each of us by name, so that we should not appear in crowds in the street, while it made it easy for her, as the observant of us soon discovered, so to manipulate our dismissals as to break up any companionship which did not seem to her to be desirable.  But though this boy might chance to be dismissed among the first, and I to linger till the last, it made no difference—there he was, lying in wait round a corner, a door or two below the school.  At last, incited by another girl, I very unkindly made complaint about this.  The governess, not without signs of suppressed amusement, punished him by tying on him a card marked "Idler."  Both complaint and punishment left us perfectly good friends.  I never heard of him after he grew too big for our school, but it was an odd coincidence that we were married on the same day (as I saw by the newspapers), and that, had I been wedded in the church where both my parents and grandparents had been married—as I should have been also, but for the merest accident—our bridal parties would have actually "met at the altar rails"!

    I give these trifling incidents as my little contribution to the new subject of "mixed education."

    Besides the three sisters, the resident staff also included two young women, generally former pupils, who instructed and helped the little ones, and thus received their own training in tuition.  Languages and "accomplishments," writing, arithmetic, English composition, and ultimately botany and geology, were taught by "visiting" masters.  In my earliest school-days the master who took all these English "branches" was a dear old gentleman of genial manners and clearest clerkly caligraphy, whose sudden death filled us all, teachers and taught, with almost filial grief.  He was succeeded by a much younger man of more progressive views, who threw aside the old "composition-book," one of whose exercises consisted in working out the number of transpositions of words possible in such an inspiriting sentence as "John was buried here."  This master set us straightway to write essays and stories.  But he had not much comprehension of the outlook of a small girl of eleven, or he would scarcely have proposed for my earliest effort, "The Four Capitals—Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and London—and their Influence on the World."  I broke my heart over it for a week, then I wrote something—what I can neither remember nor imagine.  The master made no remark, but future subjects were simpler.  He proved a severe critic, but just, and he knew how to commend.  He started a class for mental arithmetic.  In that I excelled my compeers, but the faculty afterwards quite deserted me.  He changed our botany and geology lessons into "lectures," thus accustoming us to take notes.  I hated dissecting the flowers, and generally kept my specimens.  I preferred the geology course, and worked it up in the geological section of the British Museum.  I think one of my fellow-pupils did the same.  I have often wondered why a master with such advanced ideas did not ask leave to take his class either there or to the Geological Museum in Jermyn Street.  Perhaps he did make the offer, and the head-mistress may have disapproved.  He also taught us "the use of the globes," but I never cared for it, and never progressed beyond some of the most rudimentary facts.

    In other schools this gentleman taught drawing, and he used models of houses, furniture, and classic busts instead of "copies."  Our own visiting drawing-master lived in constant fear lest he should be superseded by " this clever young man," as he called him.  Our drawing-master was an excellent artist, but an untrained teacher.  He gave us admirable "copies" of landscapes, but few hints how to observe in Nature.  He had met Turner, and told me of many of his oddities.  Out of the large school his class never attracted more than three or four, and sometimes I was his only pupil.

    Music was taught by a visiting master and Mistress, the youngest of the three sisters who kept the school undertaking the junior pupils.  I remember that one of these pupils had appeared quite satisfactory in her pianoforte work; then she was required to learn singing.  From her first effort she returned flushed and tearful, and the trouble was soon disclosed—she had absolutely no ear.  She had worked at the piano as she might at a typewriter or a sewing-machine.

    A dancing-master was also in attendance, but as his hours were fixed outside our school-hours, and I did not take his subject, I know nothing of him or his doings.

    French was taught by a visiting French lady, who was very careful to drill us well in the verbs, regular and irregular.  She remained for two hours three times a week, having two classes—elementary and advanced.  All her pupils were supposed to use only French in addressing each other during school-hours, but the rule was not very stringently enforced.  We were free to talk in French to each other when English speech would have condemned us to be "called out," and to take "the mark"—a backboard—until we could detect some other culprit to take our place—a horrid method.

    This "backboard" was a flat piece of wood of the average width of our shoulders, with a straight handle at each end by which we kept it in position.  I and two or three others enjoyed the exercise—or, rather, the severe attitude—and often asked for it voluntarily when we were not required to play spy.  There were also "poles," with which we went through sundry gyrations.  But all these matters were left much to our own sweet will, and those who most needed these exercises were allowed to shirk them.

    The earlier hours of every Thursday were free from visiting-teachers.  After a few small classes had been taken, the head-mistress, an alert lady, always clad in severely-cut dresses of rich brocade, marshalled us round the walls of the great room, not according to age, but to height.  We were then in rotation put through the Church Catechism.  I fear most of us chiefly studied the two or three answers which came about "our place" rather than the Catechism as a whole.  Of course, under such circumstances, the unexpected absence of three or four pupils above us caused some consternation.  We received neither explanations nor comments.  It was pure routine.  Next we went through a few simple gymnastics of the kind now known as "Swedish"; then we filed past the headmistress, each of us, when in front of her, making a profound obeisance after the style of a debutante at a Court drawing-room.  If we failed in dignity or grace, we had to stand aside and repeat our performance after the file had passed.  I may add here that in entering or leaving the big schoolroom we were always required to make a slight obeisance.

    After this march past the elder girls gathered round the head-mistress, and began a reading of one of the historical books of the Bible.  We each read one verse, and the reading generally passed round twice.  After this the head-mistress read aloud some work of fiction.  Thus we went through the whole of the lengthy "Fairchild Family."  Then she took up Miss Edgeworth's works, and one or two American story-books.

    Thursday afternoon, too, was the time when the head-governess gave us some simple lessons in astronomy, making them as practical as she could by using a very handsome orrery—a thing possessed probably by few schools of that period.

    English grammar, history, and geography were taught by the sister-proprietresses themselves, the youngest taking the juniors and the eldest the seniors.  Grammar was very well taught; history was poor.  We began with English, then went on to Roman, then Greek, then French.  No effort was made to help us to get these records into right relations.  We had good maps for that period.  One pupil and myself came to the end of the ordinary geography lessons, and were put on to ancient geography.  We were left to pronounce the hard words the best way we could, nor was there any connection set up between these and the historical characters or incidents which alone give them significance.  One day we two girls caught the head-mistress in an act of flagrant carelessness, into which, alas! I fear she was betrayed by the confidence which in a general way we two really deserved.  A half-written letter lay on her desk while we recited our lesson, and from time to time she added a few words to it.  Suddenly our knowledge came to an end, and we ventured to substitute a well-sounding word for the name we had forgotten.  Emboldened by success, we both went on so glibly that she suspected nothing, and we finished scatheless, save by prick of our own conscience.

    The objectionable system of prize-giving was then unquestioned.  Two prizes, junior and senior, were given in each subject.  I must say that, so far as such a function can be done fairly and well, it was so done.  A memorandum-book was assigned to each pupil, wherein "marks" were daily entered or blanks left by default.  There were four or even six marks for "lessons," allowing for some to be struck off without leaving absolute blank; two marks for "conduct," admitting of "good" and "fair"; one mark for punctuality, and so on.  These were read aloud daily as the school broke up, and protests or explanations were always listened to.  Among the prizes I got were the poetical works of Crabbe and Coleridge, and, much as I dislike the system, I must confess I thereby won a lifelong joy.

    The schoolroom had a "maid," who received in part payment of her services some lessons in English.  Some of us were rather sorry for her—these lessons were so continually interrupted, and a few of the girls treated her with great insolence.  One of the maid's functions was to bring up the hand-basin, soap, and towels for our use after luncheon.  This was the only "nasty" arrangement in the school.  All the sixty or seventy girls washed in the same little basin and in the same water.  It used to be a great art with two or three of us to manage to be among the first users.

    My school-life had few episodes.  The tragically sudden death of the old writing-master; the death by fireside burning of the youngest of a family who had four members in the school; the mysterious and sudden deaths before Monday morning of two sweet little girls who had been among us on the previous Saturday; the expulsion of a girl who flagrantly insulted one of the junior teachers; the visit of an old pupil, married, who brought her baby; a marriage in the house opposite the school, when a girl of nineteen espoused Charles Goodyear, the inventor of vulcanized India-rubber, then a man between fifty and sixty, broken and feeble—such were our short and simple annals.

    I remember, too, one mischievous girl, the tallest in the school, learning nothing, and ever in disgrace.  She once managed to busy herself with a work-basket near the dignified head-mistress's chair during her temporary absence from the room.  When the lady returned she sat down to the sharp "pop-pop" of crackers, one of which had been inserted under each leg of her seat.

    When I was about twelve years old I had a curious experience in connection with this school.  One night I dreamed that I was on my way there when I noticed in front of me a tall, elderly, grey-bearded gentleman, accompanied by two tall girls in deepest mourning.  The three went into the school-house, the girls going straight upstairs, while the old gentleman paused in the vestibule and spoke to me, but of what he said I had no waking recollection.  It was not near "a quarter:" I had no expectancy of new fellow-pupils; yet, on going into the schoolroom a few days afterwards, I found seated there the two willowy young mourners of my dream.  Many weeks after, while taking my drawing-lesson, the head-governess happened to address these girls by name.  The drawing-master turned and looked at them, and then, bending over me, asked: "Do you know where those girls come from?"  I said "No," but I believed they lived in a certain street opening off the Strand.  "Then," said he, "they are the ――― girls, in mourning for their father.  I often thought what a striking model his head would make, with his splendid grey beard."

    I never had the slightest association with those girls.  We never exchanged even a single word.  I felt no astonishment at the incident, and I do not think I mentioned it till long afterwards.  I was quite accustomed to live in an inner world where strange things happened. [I told this story with sundry amplifications unnecessary here, though few of them were imaginary, in a tale called the "Misses Lowman," which appeared in the Argosy.]

    The cost of education in this school was two guineas a quarter for all branches of "English," as taught by the mistresses and the English master, and one guinea per quarter for each other subject.  Most of the pupils took at least two of these extras, so that the full annual charge would average about sixteen guineas per annum, exclusive of books, music, and drawing and sewing materials.  German and Latin were offered on the prospectus, but during my school-days they were not asked for.

    It should be remembered that most of these sixty or seventy pupils, both by status and fortune, were of those who in these days would accept "State-aided education."

    It bears pathetic witness to the vastness and complexity of London that, though every one of my school-fellows came from within short walking distances, and though after I left school I remained in my own old home for fully ten years, yet I never again met any of my former comrades, save one, quite a near neighbour.  In recent years I have been told that a lady, accompanying her husband on a political lecturing tour, had remarked that she and I had been school-fellows.  Of course, her married name hid her girlhood's identity, and I can but wonder who she was in those far-away days.  All the rest have vanished utterly.

    Though I had not been a patient of his for several years, it was our old family doctor who advised my removal from school before I was fourteen.  I think he was right—in my own case certainly so.  I remained at home, occupied the early morning hours with domestic duties, took long walks with my eldest sister, assumed charge of my own wardrobe, and did much reading without any apparent direction, save what I could get from my old favourite Blair.  In those days I read Shakespeare's plays (I bought them with "saved-up" Christmas-boxes, in that little alley between Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road where Gissing lived in some of his hardest years), Milton's works (even some of his prose), Jeremy Taylor, Bacon's "Essays," Tasso's "Jerusalem Delivered" (in translation), Spenser's "Faery Queen," and the works of Crabbe, Campbell, Coleridge, Young, Pope, and Wordsworth.  Some of these poets I bought in a little plain tenpenny edition issued by Milner and Sowerby, of Halifax.  I read story-books as they came in my way, especially enjoying Jean Ingelow's tales as they appeared in the Youth's Magazine.  But I knew nothing of the popular fiction-writers of that day—I do not know who they were—and I never cared for prose if I could get poetry, though it may be seen that my poets were of granitic type.

    I think our old doctor's idea was that the young female brain, to get justice, requires a time safe from outside forcing, and that "scholarship" might be better renewed five or six years later.  But before that time it was in the School of Life that I was called to graduate.


 
CHAPTER IV.

THE BATTLE OF LIFE--WHO HELPED AND WHO
HINDERED.


AFTER so sheltered a childhood, perhaps when one was just seventeen it was a little hard to have it sprung upon one that the "business," which had kept all its promises for at least two centuries, was at last involved in debts of many hundreds of pounds.

    For this startling reverse there were several causes.  The environment had changed; residents had gone off to suburbs.  My mother had little business acumen or enterprise, and could not adapt herself to new conditions.  She waited for the return of the past!  Then she had insisted that my father should leave as his executor one of her own brothers, instead of the staunch old bachelor friend and neighbour whom he had desired to appoint.  The brother proved a broken reed.  He took no interest, gave no advice.  He knew how to prosper financially himself, but he never helped anybody else to prosperity (somehow, those two faculties very rarely go together).  Then, among her daughters, my mother had one who was a dead failure as a household help, and who regarded herself as injured by being "kept in the background."  My poor mother, withdrawing her more active eldest daughter, put the other into the shop, imagining that "business might wake her up."  Alas! she helped to put it to sleep.

    I, his youngest child, the confidante of my father's dreamy musings in his last days, knew how he had hated debt.  To his mind, the bankrupt—the man who had not "pulled up" before others were involved in his loss—was simply a thief.  At every point of his life he had proved that he regarded "a good name as better than riches."  How was I to retain this priceless heritage?  Out of his grave in the forlorn Camden Town graveyard he seemed to charge me to see that nobody lost by confidence which must have been mainly given to his high credit.

    The debt was all wholesale debt.  My mother may be absolutely acquitted of any active extravagance.  The largest creditor, I now feel, had only himself to blame.  He had allowed debt rapidly to accumulate (it did not begin till long after my father's death) because he thought that, though the business might be going down, my mother was certain to have private means, on which, of course, he could assert his claim.  He admitted this himself.  Alas! all such private means as my mother had ever had were exhausted before she had begun to get in debt.

    The other and smaller creditor was a comparatively poor man, and was much more sympathetic, always ready with counsel, and very resolute not to allow our debt to increase.

    But I, poor little soul! then thought neither of this nor of that.  I thought only how the stain of debt was to be finally removed, and how it might be at once possible to begin to earn enough money to fill the gap of business loss and keep things going just as they were.  I could not dream of change.  I could imagine no home except that dim old house.

    I had often thought of "literature," and had begun to write verses and pester editors.  But even before some of the best and kindest of these had sent me warnings I had begun to understand that in its earlier stages it offered no prompt rewards; so, now that urgent necessity had arisen, what could I do?

    Very few women of the middle-classes were at work in those days.  Indeed, the middle-classes had got into a snobbish way of dropping from their ranks any women who worked outside their own homes, or even actively within them.  Teaching was allowed, and politely patronized.  "Mantua-making" had ceased to be the refuge of the orphan daughters of officers and clergymen.  Few women served in shops, even the shops of their fathers or brothers.  Indeed, that melancholy state of things prevailed in which the daughters of the smaller professional men and of well-established shopkeepers did simply nothing, the fine embroidery, the pickling and preserving, and all the other handicrafts of their grandmothers, passing away from them, while nothing had come in their stead.

    I know all the strictures on the manners and customs of female education and training nowadays, and while I can see some truth in these strictures, yet I consider female education and training are now infinitely advanced from what in general went immediately before.  If after her school-days a girl trifled away six or seven years in idleness and frivolity, was she fitted either to face the world on her own account or to manage a home of her own?

    My first independent movement was not very ambitious.  I might dream of wonders in the future, but a few ready shillings were necessary even to buy one's gloves and shoes—those wretched things which will keep wearing out, and which wore out all the quicker on account of almost daily literary pilgrimages to Paternoster Row and Fleet Street.

    Therefore sometimes I turned my steps in another direction.  I went to the Soho Bazaar—a forgotten institution now—where "gentlewomen" kept stalls, and "ladies" came and made purchases.  I sewed a strip of embroidery, and ventured to offer it to one of these gentlewomen, whose stall was spread with dainty white garments.  She did not buy that day, but she said, if I brought three strips of the same kind, she might look at them.  I duly reappeared with three strips, and she bought them for 9d. each—2s. 3d. in all—and the strips had cost at least 3d., and the embroidery cotton about 1½d.  Afterwards she sometimes paid a shilling a strip, and for very much wider strips she occasionally gave a little more.  The average strip meant a row of button-holed "scallops," with a little open-worked sprig in each scallop.  It was a cruel task.  My eldest sister and I, using all our leisure time, could not possibly earn more than 1s.  6d. per week between us.  Good sound work was required.  I kept my strip at hand while I sat composing my "poems," and I sewed a sprig or penned a verse as inspiration came.

    I do not know why it was that I never offered any of our little industry at the stalls of the Pantheon, another bazaar then held in Oxford Street on the site of premises now occupied by Messrs. Gilbey.  The Pantheon got its name from being a round building, with stalls both on the floor and in the gallery.  I think it was a strictly commercial venture.  It had a pretty open-air aviary, stocked with gorgeous parrots.  This, with its picture-gallery, were my childhood's delights.  The latter, among many smaller pictures, boasted two gigantic canvases by Haydon—"The Raising of Lazarus" and "The Stoning of Aristides."

    Payments of 2s. 3d. at intervals of a few weeks would never make any impression on £800 of debt.  They could not even avert that debt's increase.  Something more must be done, and that speedily.  I took little counsel with my family, for I knew it would hurt their feelings, and that I should get discouraged.  I tramped about the streets, looking in certain shop-windows, where in those days advertisements were exposed, but I could see nothing that could possibly suit me.  Yet I did go to the address given on one placard.  It was somewhere in Clerkenwell—a poor court off a poor street, where, in a room uncommonly like a loft, a humble mechanic taught the sewing-machine—then a novelty—and found work for his pupils.  He charged no fee—only claimed a fortnight's free work.  He had one or two nice-looking girls in his employment, and everything seemed quite respectable and homely.  There was another applicant along with myself—a decent woman of seven or eight and twenty who told me that she had been a tailoress—hand sewing—but had recognized that sewing-machines were to be the order of the new day.  The "master" showed us his wage-book to prove that he really had work to give, but my experienced companion was not satisfied with its revelations.  The sums paid, said she, were more often of 8s. weekly than 15s.  The "master" told us that we could come again next day if we thought of entering his employment, and we both thanked him and left.  I do not suppose she ever returned, and neither did I.

    It was due probably to the singular atmosphere of exclusiveness in which I had been reared that I made these humble experiments with feelings not unlike what might be those of a Princess in exile.  They had got to be made, and I made them sincerely and honestly.  But I felt them essentially temporary—a "present necessity," disconnected alike from my prim past and from some strange future which lay in the background of my mind, as thought of return to the throne may be in the minds of exiled royalty.  I took everything as "adventure," though I could not then realize how priceless these experiences were to prove both in the development of my own nature and for future literary work.

    I made also a fruitless application at the Woman's Law Copying Office in Portugal Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, then conducted by Miss Maria Rye, a tall lady, severe of aspect and speech.  It was a branch of those efforts to extend women's employment which were then being made by Miss Bessie Parkes (Madame Belloc), Miss Emily Davies, and other ladies.

    When I was eighteen, some verses of mine brought me under Mrs. S. C. Hall's influence.  She, in advising me to postpone my search for literary work, set herself, in view of my circumstances, to make her advice practicable.  She introduced me to one of the directors of the Electric Telegraph Company, which was then a private enterprise.  She had previously done the same good office for a daughter of Seymour, the hapless artist who began the illustration of Dickens's works, but who, dying, had left his widow and young family in very precarious circumstances.

    The central offices of the company were in Telegraph Street, Moorgate Street—a huge building, but a mere pigmy to the present premises.  I passed through a very simple form of examination in rapid writing of difficult words from dictation, and received my appointment.  There were then a hundred young women employed in the central office, and the matron—a gentle and graceful widow-lady, who received me with great kindness—told me that, owing to my rapid writing, my ability to read French, and the power to understand and spell difficult and uncommon proper names—which my much reading had given me—my promotion was sure to be rapid.

    With the exception of two young women, who sat making entries in books in a little room off the staircase, all the one hundred women employees, with nearly as many machines, were congregated in one huge apartment at the top of the building.  The noise of the machines was incessant, and, without being loud, was most irritating to the nerves.

    Everybody was exceedingly kind to me.  The director who had secured my appointment had evidently "leaked" on the subject of my literary tendencies, which Mrs. S. C. Hall had confided to him, and these appeared to make me interesting.  All the girls joined in the matron's prophecy of my rapid progress, and they did so quite as if they themselves enjoyed my prospects.  But I was miserable.

    If there has been anything unbearable to me all my life, it is unceasing, mechanical noise.  Then, I have no love for machines, and I felt sure that I should never master these.  Further, the whole thing seemed to me a dreadful waste of woman-life.  Nothing we did made any claim on our womanly qualities—we might have been all boys or young men, only I suppose we were the cheaper "material."  I was especially worried by the sight of one bright girl, an exceptionally clever manipulator, to whom was entrusted the wire from Tattersalls, and who spent her whole time transmitting racing messages.  I have set forth much that I saw, heard, and felt in those days in the experiences of Mary Olrig, in "Rab Bethune's Double."

    I struggled on for a fortnight.  What! was I once more to fail ignominiously?  Above all, was I to throw away the influence which Mrs. Hall had exercised on my behalf?  Only when I felt that I could go on no longer did I write to her and disclose my misery, and seek her advice.

    Never shall I forget how kindly and sympathetically it was given.  She did not even express wonder.  "You must leave at once," she said.  "We must find you something else."  "When one door shuts, another opens" was a favourite proverb of hers.

    Next she gave me an introduction to Miss Bessie Parkes, at the Office for the Employment of Women, which was then in Langham Place.  A few days after delivering the letter, I called there, and, to my great delight, was at once despatched to a house where temporary secretarial work was at that time urgently wanted.

    It was at the house of a professional man who was then a candidate for a certain public office.  I found his wife in the library up to her knees in papers, and in the drawing-room three women were already busily writing.  One of these, who was accompanied by a pretty young niece, was quite elderly; a third, I learned afterwards, was a young daily governess, an orphan, who was thus employing her holiday leisure.  The work given us to do at first was the addressing of envelopes.  The lady in the library had informed me that payment would be given at the rate of 3s. per day of from nine to six, with an hour off for dinner, and afternoon-tea provided for us.  I fell eagerly upon my task.  The mistress of the house looked in once or twice, and took note of our performances, but said nothing.  My Companions remarked that "I was very quick."  I found I could address from 1,200 to 1,500 envelopes in the day given us.  I had never done such work before, and did not know whether that rate were slow or rapid.

    What was my surprise, on the third day, to find all my co-workers dismissed!  The old lady had told me that she had been engaged at 4s. a day, and doubtless the lower terms afterwards offered were due to the slowness of herself and her niece.  I do not think they addressed 500 envelopes a day between them.  The young governess got through about 500.  Consequently, all innocently, I had done as much for my 3s. as the three put together had done for 16s.  But what struck me painfully was that my wage was not raised, even to the 4s. which they had been originally inclined to give.  Worse than this, I was asked more than once to stay on till eight o'clock, and yet received only 18s. at the end of the week.  On another occasion, owing to a stationer's default, work was stopped at three, and at the end of that week the paymistress offered me 16s. 6d.  I demurred.  "You worked only five and a half days this week," said she.  "But I stayed late two evenings last week," I rejoined.  She silently added the withheld 1s. 6d.

    During that engagement I learned a little of the ways of wire-pulling and of corruption.  The master of the house was appealing for the help, both in money and furtherance, of all his brother professionals in the securing of this public office to their profession, since there was some danger of its passing to a candidate of another profession.  Such help was being liberally extended.  Yet he and his wife entertained proposals from the rival candidate, and would have retired from the contest if he would have made his offer ample enough to suit their views.  The conversation over this went on in my presence quite openly.

    Further, a well-known tradesman of the neighbourhood offended the lady by refusing to put her husband's election bills in his shop-window, all such advertisement being against his established rule.  I was with her when this news came in.  "He shall pay for this," she said.  I remembered her words when, a few weeks afterwards, in a periodical over which she had much influence, this gentleman was accused of adulterating the goods he sold, the adulteration consisting in the application of an article which journeymen in that trade were apt to use surreptitiously to screen their own mistakes in manufacture, and of whose presence this shopkeeper declared himself to be entirely ignorant.

    This lady did some literary work—in its nature not very remunerative.  A year or two after my first acquaintance with her she wrote to me, asking if I would make a fair copy of certain correspondence.  It appeared that she had begged for and got special permission to send up a son of hers for a certain public-school examination when he was under the age specified.  He had failed, whereupon she petitioned that he should be allowed to contest again—a course which would have been most unfair to other candidates and which I am glad to say was not permitted.  For my copying I charged her the usual terms for such work.  She chose to consider them exorbitant.  "Why," she said tauntingly, "is mere copying to be paid almost at the rate of literary work?"  I was doing some literary work by that time, and I quietly replied: "I do not find that is so!" I wanted nothing more to do with her.

    I afterwards had an engagement to copy out minutes of certain medical societies for Dr. Rutherford Russell, the well-known homeopath.  I went daily to his house for about a fortnight, staying there from ten till five.  He was always gentle and kind, and I did my work in a pleasant, quiet upper chamber, sparsely furnished, and overlooking a pleasant garden—an ideal workroom.  I saw three daughters of the house, one of whom was singularly sweet and attractive.  Mrs. Russell had much conversation with me.  She told me that several ladies had refused to do the doctor's copying on the score that the medical matters were indecent.  I never gave her any hint of my literary ambitions, and she expressed dismay at my giving myself up to a kind of work which, as she justly said, had no sound prospects.  She urged emigration on me, and I listened and assented to her remarks, for I knew they were both wise and kind.  I had my own reasons why I could not entertain her advice, but I kept my own counsel with a strange reserve, and I dare say she thought me as obdurate as foolish.

    From the same office I got many similar engagements.  Once I had a very busy "spell."  The secretary of the society wished to go for a holiday, and she suggested that I should take her place during her three weeks' absence.  The hours were from eleven to five, dinner and tea (which she always had in the office) were also to be served for me, and the cash remuneration was at the rate of ten shillings a week.  I may say that house-room was given to these offices by Lady Monson, who herself occasionally used some of the upper chambers, and it was her servants who catered for the secretary.

    But, at the same time, I was offered an evening engagement to act as amanuensis to a literary woman, the hours to be from six till nine, remuneration sixpence an hour.  Now I lived in Bedford Street, the society's office was in Langham Place, and the literary woman lived far beyond Highbury.  The remuneration did not leave much scope for omnibus fares, and, further, the omnibuses of those days were not conducive to punctuality.  To complicate matters still further, just at that time Mr. Stevens, of the Sunday at Home, sent me some beautiful cuts, with the request that I would supply them with some verses.  It was my very first literary commission, and so was on no account to be shelved.

    I managed thus: We had breakfast at eight, and when that was over I worked on my verses till ten, when I started off and walked to Langham Place.  Literary work there was impossible.  There was always something to be done in the office, and one was liable to perpetual interruption.  I got the servants to give me my tea at 4.30, had everything in good train, so that when the clock struck five I could instantly turn the key in the office door and depart on my northern journey.  I walked all the way, timing myself by clocks on the road (I never had a watch till my husband gave me one after our marriage), and hastening or slackening my footsteps accordingly.  When my three hours' work was complete, I walked back to Bedford Street, and the dark, empty suburban roads were sometimes a little creepily fearsome.  But I was so delighted with my week's product—nineteen shillings in hand, and something coming for my verses—that I only wished things could continue so permanently. Of course, it was tiring, and it was very nasty when it rained.  But each section of my work had its own interest, and if I went to bed very weary, still, it was with a happy sense of "something accomplished, something done."

    The work at the society's offices was rather depressing.  It meant confronting, advising, and making notes concerning an ever-flowing stream of feminine misfortune, misery, and incapacity.  Most of the women who came to the office belonged to the middle classes, and nearly all were middle-aged.  There was a deadly gentility about them, and though they represented themselves as in dire distress, or as dependent on relations not able or willing to maintain them, they were frequently very well dressed—quite grand, indeed, as compared with my own shabby little self.  They were "ready to do anything."  They could do nothing.  They seemed to hope for work on the plea that they were "so well connected."

    Those who really moved my sympathy were old governesses, who could no longer get pupils, and who, though they had earned considerable salaries, had saved nothing, often because they had supported aged parents, or had educated young brothers, now sometimes dead, but more often married and ungrateful. I remember one of these ladies, with a face still bright and winning, who took a sovereign from her purse, and holding it up, said, "This is my last."  I remember, too, an attractive young woman, with an earnest, anxious face, who gave her name with the prefix of "Mrs.," and was eager for work, because her husband was incapacitated by illness.  What became of those poor people?  Of course, when my little term of office ended, I heard no more about them.  It was rather a heart-breaking experience, the more so because I felt, even then, that most of these poor people needed to be helped out of themselves before anybody could give them any other help worth having.

    My "literary woman"—with whom my evening engagement continued for some time longer, and was frequently renewed—was decidedly a "character."  She was on the staff of one of the great London "religious" publishing houses.  She belonged to a "good family" of the Scottish Borders, well known historically for the lawlessness of its members.  She was alone in London, but was attended by a maid, whom she had brought from the North, also bearing an old historic name—that of a man whom some call a martyr and others a murderer, but who was herself an exceedingly upright and well-mannered woman.  They lived in furnished apartments, and the worthy Scottish maid often confided to me her righteous horror at the vulgarity and levity of the Cockney landlady and her daughter, whose "one joy," she said, "was to go to music-halls."  She and her mistress were of the straitest sect of the Pharisees, but the maid at least understood the pure pleasures of country life and genuine labour.

    My work consisted chiefly in writing from dictation as Miss Y―― (there is no need to give her name), reading aloud, translated a French book into English.  The book, I remember, was the "Life of Antonio Palermo."  She liked me to help her with synonyms, and to me she was always kindness itself, inviting me to join the supper table on an occasion when a well-known Scottish divine (resident in London)—Dr. Thain Davidson—was her guest.  Yet she was an aggravating woman, and I can understand that she could make herself most objectionable to many people.  She was in the habit of saying that the great fault of English people was that they had no respect for each other's pedigrees, that they had no "pedigrees" to respect.  Also, she was fond of talking of it "gutter blood."  If she did not like anybody, if anybody offended her, she always asked: "What can be expected from gutter blood?"

    She invariably decried all things English, comparing them with what she had known in Edinburgh.  She was very fond of dwelling on the humble calling by which she said that Isa Craig (afterwards Mrs. Craig-Knox) had secured independence before she made her mark in literature.  Of course, this story only enlisted my admiration and sympathy for the poet, but there was no doubt that the information was not given with this aim.  Miss Y―― sometimes met Isa Craig in society, and on one of these occasions that lady, probably anxious, in view of Miss Y――'s perpetual anti-Englishism, to relieve the feelings of English people present, said that in some ways she preferred London to Edinburgh.  "So might I," cried Miss Y―― brutally, "if I had lived in Edinburgh as you did."  There was an obvious retort, but Isa Craig gently refrained from it, and Miss Y―― considered she had scored a triumph.

    After my duty at the society's office ended, I often worked for the whole day with this lady.  Her parlour, where we sat, communicated by folding-doors with her bedroom, after the fashion of many London suburban houses.  On one occasion she reported herself as so tired and ill that she must lie recumbent on her bed, and would dictate to me seated at the parlour-table.  I noticed on the floor at her bedside a big case bearing the brand of somebody's "Old Tom," but not a suspicion of evil entered my mind.  I thought it had been used as a packing-case.  So it may have been, but future events suggested another and a lurid possibility.

    Presently she took a pretty little house one the top of Highgate Hill, within a stone's-throw of Lord Mansfield's park.  She brought a very young nephew from Scotland to live with her.  He was a brother's child, and as she decided that her brother's wife had "gutter blood," she professed herself glad to rescue the child from such low influence.  She still wrote to me from time to time, sometimes claiming my services, which I rendered when I was not otherwise engaged.

    In course of time I got a letter from her, saying that the boy was taking holiday with his parents; that her valued maid had had to go north to her dying father; and that, accordingly, she herself, disliking to be left alone in her little isolated house, had taken temporary lodgings; but, finding she could not work apart from her books, she purposed spending the daylight hours in her own house, and asked me to join her there.

    I went.  I was but a girl, and I had never once been in the society of an inebriated person, and knew none of the symptoms.  I only knew that she set me down to work which we could only do together, and then left me.  All that day she walked in and out of the rooms.  She never rested.  She talked and laughed incessantly.  She had provided us with a cold luncheon, but she did not touch it.  At last a violent rain-storm came on.  When it was over it was time for us to leave the house.  She said it was too wet for walking to the omnibus, and that she could not walk, and she called to an old man who owned a bath-chair, and wanted to get him to take us both in it.  She silenced all my protests, but the old man heeded them, and suggested that, instead of hiring the chair, we had better go to an old inn hard by, where a certain coach passed every evening at an hour not far off.  She took this advice.  To the inn we went, and the old-fashioned landlady invited us to wait in the little parlour opening on a pretty garden.  There my companion straightway fell asleep.  Presently an old gentleman came in, evidently an habitue of the place, and, making me a civil salutation, asked me if he might be allowed to smoke.  Feeling that it was we, and not he, who were out of place, I gave the permission.  By-and-by my companion awoke.  "What filthy smell is this?" she asked, rising with the air of a tragedy-queen.  "Man, let me pass."  I followed in voiceless dismay.  She now resolved not to wait for the coach, but to walk down to the omnibus, as we should have done at the beginning.  But what a walk that was!  The pathway was raised high above the road, and down this ridge staggered this woman, whose tall magnificent figure threatened at every moment to overwhelm little me.  We got to the omnibus at last, and though she addressed the conductor in mock heroics, we got in safely.  Her head was soon dropped somnolent on a gentleman's shoulder, while from time to time she roused herself to make irrelevant remarks.  It will be incredible to some that I did not realize the truth of her state till a lady beside me murmured, "What a terrible pity!" whereupon I promptly made what apology I could by saying: "She is such a clever woman, and so kind!"  The last I saw of her that night she was disappearing into her lodging, her bonnet hanging down her back, and her shawl trailing in the mud.

    I never worked for her again.  Presently she gave up her post at the religious publishing house, whose staff were not too pleased to find that she had long described them as vipers, snakes in the grass, etc.  She got another appointment in the Strand, and engaged as secretary a Miss Smith—a sweet, hard-working girl, who afterwards married Mr. Paterson, one of the pioneers of Trades Unionism, and who herself became till her death a devoted worker in the cause of toiling women.  Miss Y―― made Miss Smith's life very difficult.  She had ceased to disguise her fatal proclivity, and constantly demanded her pretty young secretary's companionship when she went to a drink-shop—"Short's"—near St. Mary-le-Strand, then famous for "its wines from the wood," and consequently ever filled by all the ribald and self-indulgent masculinity of the neighbourhood.

    Miss Y―― finally, at about fifty years of age, married, returned to Scotland, and was presently widowed.  I remember that, when I was the guest of Dr. Guthrie in Edinburgh, I thought of this poor woman, and wondered what I ought to do, as I scarcely liked to involve my hosts with such a person.  I told Dr. Guthrie her whole story, adding that she had always been very kind to me.  "Then go to see her, lassie," he said—"go to see her.  Never fail anybody who has once been kind to you."

    I did go to see her, in the company of Miss Jeanie Watson, author of "Bygone Days in Our Village," and other books of fresh, naïve beauty.  She received us most affably.  We happened unwarily to mention that we meant to visit the house called that of John Knox next morning in company with Jeanie Watson's cousin, the learned and philanthropic Sheriff Watson, pioneer of so much good public work.  To our horror, Miss Y―― at once resolved to join us there!  I shall never forget the dissipated and bedraggled appearance with which she met us—apparently quite unconscious of her own degradation—nor yet the astonished expression of the Sheriff's face.  For him, in his position, to walk down the High Street with such a figure would have been wellnigh a public scandal.  He was equal to the occasion, paired off with prim little me, and hurried me on well ahead of his good natured cousin and her weird companion.

    The unhappy woman did not die for many years afterwards.  I tried to see her again, going with my husband one evening to her house at Stockbridge.  We were admitted, and found the house in absolute darkness, and though she came down and talked with us awhile, there was no attempt made to kindle any light.  That was the last time we met.

    I never forgot my early experience with her.  It has helped me to sympathize keenly with any who are doomed to live out most of their days under such a shadow.  But I remain to this day very unwilling to accept that any person is intoxicated—an incredulity which once or twice has made me appear very ridiculous.

    Far different was another lady for whom I did spells of secretarial work. She belonged by both birth and marriage to the highest rank of the Scottish nobility, but for her station she was poor, and though she lived in Mayfair, it was in a tiny house with three maids and a man.  She herself was a pretty, petite creature, whom it was hard to believe was an old lady.  She was unassuming in manner and plain in dress, and when at the office of the Society she applied for secretarial assistance she was so scrupulous in saying that she could not pay much, and that any young lady coming to help her must leave her at any time if opportunity of more profitable work arose, "that," said the secretary to me, "I took her for some old governess trying to do literary work; and when she handed me her card, 'The Countess of B――,' I got quite a start."  And undoubtedly the Countess saw a wonderful change in the secretary's manner. "

    The Countess had "gone over" to the Romish Church.  She attended Farm Street, and invited me to join her on Sunday afternoons and take notes for her of a series of addresses to be given by Father Eyre, S.J.  We drove from her house in an ordinary cab, and I wondered why our cab attracted so much attention, till I realized that her liveried servant was on the box.  We went to seats not very far from the pulpit, and I found myself in a crowd of rank and distinction.  In front of us sat the Marchioness of Londonderry, that redoubtable dame who, when she feasted her colliers, and saw her aristocratic guests snigger as the worthy men drank out of the finger-glasses set before them, raised her own finger-glass and drank out of it herself.  By the Farm Street days she was elderly and unwieldy.  She took the seat at the end of her row, and when certain tall men, her offspring—some of those "Vane-Tempests" who had made the town ring with their knocker-wrenching exploits—arrived late, they had to stumble over their capacious mamma, who audibly rebuked them for their unpunctuality.  On my right hand sat Sergeant Bellasis, a pleasant-looking elderly gentleman, who went through the service most devoutly; beyond him sat Viscount Campden.  There were "titles" everywhere.

    The Countess showed the Jesuit preacher my notes of his sermons, and he sent me kind compliments on their fulness and accuracy.  Mrs. S. C, Hall did not approve of the whole affair.  She regarded it as a Popish plot to entrap a promising young woman.  I, she said, had no idea how "deep" they were, and how far-reaching and subtle were their projects.  She admitted that the Countess might be innocent of all "designs," but she would not believe it of the priests, who might be using her, said she, "as a tool."  She made me promise that if the Countess asked me to do such work again, I should make some excuse and decline.  The offer was shortly renewed, but by that time I was able to say truthfully that I was so hard at work during the week that I felt I must have absolute rest on Sunday.

    To me, the idea of a "Popish plot " was absurd.  The Jesuit's sermons, which were on the relation of pre-Christian nations to Christianity, did nothing but broaden my mental horizons, and really helped me to take my first step towards the truth on which I am now firmly planted—i.e., that no race or period has lived without receiving through its own teachers its special and fitting revelation of its relation to God.

    The Countess's house was a delightful place to work in.  The dining-room has remained one of my ideal chambers.  It had no furniture save the strictly necessary, the floor was covered by a thick old Turkey carpet, a fine oil-painting of the late Earl beamed from the wall, and one side of the room was almost wholly window, looking straight into a wild green garden, which did not belong to the house.  But what really made the place so pleasant was the unity that pervaded the little household.  The women had been long in their lady's service, and adored her—"our dear little lady," as they liked to call her.  The footman had entered it as a boy of nineteen, and was then eight or nine and twenty, and much valued in the houseful of women.  At last he threw down a determination which ruffled its quietness like a stone cast into still waters.  He announced that it was not right for any man to wear another's livery, and that therefore he must leave his place.  The women-servants cried out in dismay.  They were "used to John," and thought with horror of a "nasty strange man in his place."  One can sympathize with "John's" feeling, and the Countess herself did so.  She would have yielded the livery at once, but that she said she had gone against all her relations' views so often that she dreaded bringing still another storm about her ears.

    She had been her late lord's third wife, and had troubled times in dealing with his bankrupt estate and bringing up her stepchildren, who were all devoted to her.  She never alluded to this.  Her only mention of the past was to say that she often felt how much more useful and companionable she would have been to "my dear lord" had her education been sounder—above all, had she been a good Latin scholar.  For my own part, I thought the late Earl had every reason to have been satisfied with her.

    She spoke with the utmost plainness of the misery of much aristocratic marriage.  "You Gould scarcely believe what I could tell you," she would say.  "I think many of our upper-class women may well envy Mohammedan wives, for I understand that if their spouse misbehaves they can throw a shoe at him, and get quit of him."

    In after-years I was told a story which was very characteristic of her.  She and her husband and her stepchildren had been living quietly in some house of his near Edinburgh, struggling to get out of the mesh of debt in which they were tangled.  Some old ladies of the neighbourhood, paying calls, had also paid compliments to one of the stepdaughters, adding: "I suppose Lady Alicia will be soon going to Court."  "Lady Alicia," answered the Countess, "will go to Court as soon as her father is made an honest man."

    I saw her last in the spring of 1877, meeting her at Lord Ducie's house in Grosvenor Square, at a gathering convened to consider the formation of a Working Ladies' Guild.  I was invited on account of having then recently written an article in Good Words called "Forlorn Females versus Working Women."  The Countess of B―― arrived, and, seeing me, greeted me, and took a seat beside me.  Dr. MacLagan, who had been vicar of important London parishes before he received his bishopric, was the chief speaker.  We sat behind him, and he did not speak loudly.  "I am getting deaf," said the Countess.  "I cannot hear a word."  She occupied herself in surveying the audience, and then jumped up with emphatic suddenness, and said audibly (her deafness probably being to blame): "I am off.  There are too many priests' among the women, and it does not bode well for the women."  She hastened away quite nimbly, and I was left to the reproachful glances of our astonished neighbours.  She invited me, in my widowhood, to visit her in Edinburgh, but at the time it was impossible for me to accept the invitation, and I never saw her again, though she lived for some time afterwards.

    About this time I did a large piece of copying for the late Sir Edwin Arnold.  It was his work on Lord Dalhousie's "Rule in India."  Mr. Arnold told me that his handwriting was so difficult that he had hitherto failed to discover a satisfactory copyist.  He also added that I should find the work bristling with Indian words, which he would not expect me to decipher, but for which I could leave blanks.  I showed his copy to several people, none of whom could read it, the oddity being that to me it was easily legible.  Also, I made out all the Indian words, helped mainly by my former reading of Mrs. Sherwood's stories.  The author was very pleased, and was always so genial and pleasant that it was a joy to take back each bundle of copying as I completed it.  Indeed, I conceived so much regard for him and his work that I have never failed to follow it, and was overjoyed when, years afterwards, his "Light of Asia" brought him wide popularity.  Yet through him, though he never knew it, I once experienced a sharp panga cruel sense of the injustice possible even to kindness.  A lady who did not then know me told Mrs. S. C. Hall that Mr. Arnold had spoken of me to her, praising me for efficiency and general agreeableness, but adding: "I cannot think how such a well-bred girl dresses so oddly."  Even Mrs. Hall herself, though she knew my circumstances, which Mr. Arnold did not, never seemed quite able to realize that when one is piling up shillings to pay £800 one cannot afford to spend a penny save on the boots and small sundries which are absolutely necessary.  In all those years I had but two new dresses—one cost 6d. a yard, and another 3½d., and both were made up at home—the rest of my garments were old stores which I got out and wore.  I tried to turn an old shawl into a decent cape.  I find recorded in my diary as a joyful extravagance that I bought a jacket for 9s. 11d.  Yet my earnings that year were £60, and everybody who employed me knew they were paying me fair sums, and from all the outward appearances of our fine old shop and house, I must have seemed to be a well-to-do "daughter at home," earning a fair private income of my own.  I wept bitterly at the thought of Mr. Arnold's words, and I hope I learned that appearances may be deceitful in a good sense as well as a bad one.

    Mr. Edwin Arnold (as he then was) kindly endeavoured to secure me some secretarial work with Dr. Wardroper, who had been physician to George IV.  This gentleman lived in a street leading to the east side of St. James's Square.  The house was crammed with pictures, mostly "old masters."  They covered the walls, they stood on shelves, they even sat on chairs.  One feared to move lest one should knock over a Correggio, or to sit down lest one might crush another.  He had many Correggios, and many works with other great names, but whether they were genuine, or only fine copies, it is not for me to say.

    I found Dr. Wardroper to be a very aged gentleman, bordering on senility, though his manners were courtly in the extreme.  He lived alone, save for an old housekeeper and her daughter and son-in-law.  His wife was, however, still living.  She resided in an aristocratic little West End square, and I heard afterwards that, when not hindered by bad weather or illness, he paid her a daily visit.  The old gentleman purposed writing his memoirs, and I was destined to arrange and copy fairly the rough notes which he meant to make.  But so far as I know, he never got beyond the first paragraph, which, for some reason that I have forgotten, dealt with the descent of the Marjoribanks family from that Marjorie who sleeps in Paisley Abbey, and who had for her illegitimate father Robert the Bruce (I will never state this sort of fact in any other way), who "gifted" her with land by the Tweed, which he called "Marjorie's banks."  We never went further than this.  The old doctor became indisposed, and from his feebleness I could see he was little likely ever to persevere in his task.  I was confirmed in this opinion by all I heard during sundry calls I made in response to the housekeeper's daughter's request that I should suggest ways and means whereby she might carry on her education, an improvement which she had planned as a happy secret from her husband, whose family were "well educated."  This young woman told me that the then reigning Earl of Lonsdale (one can "place" him by the fact that he was nearing eighty about the year 1865), who had been in George IV.'s "set," a constant caller on Dr. Wardroper, the two being about the last left with certain memories in common.  In a conversation with her she told me apropos of some public matter in the newspapers at the time, that she often heard the talk of the two old men (courtiers of a dissolute Court) while she was doing little services about the bed-sittingroom where Dr. Wardroper spent most of his time and received his intimates, and where one might find a chair or two unoccupied by an "old master."  She said they would sit in front of the fire, and mention to each other this woman's name and that woman's name, and pause and sigh and shake their heads, and then say, one to the other: "Well, we never led astray anybody who was not ready to come—never—did we?  At least, we have not that on our consciences."  The housekeeper's daughter repeated this quite simply.  I scarcely think she saw how grim it was—these two withered dandies turning the soiled pages of their past, and by their very self-excuses revealing their inward self-dissatisfaction.

    Through all my miscellaneous secretarial engagements I acquired a mass of knowledge, both of facts and different ways of looking at them, and of human nature generally.  My first year's earnings amounted to £30—nothing to set against the terrible debt, though that year literally every penny was slipped into its maw.

    My position was not only inadequate, but uncertain.  I did not dislike irregularity of work, which left leisure for endeavours at literature, but I wished for something that one might hope would constantly recur.  I longed to obtain "law-writing," that quaint craft which has since been displaced by printing and typewriting.

    Oddly enough, I had got my ideas about law-writing, and even some preparation for it, from papers which had come into our house as "waste."  Among these were some old deeds whose quaint caligraphy at once charmed my eye and inspired me to imitation.  It was this peculiar handwriting thus acquired, and then most uncommon, which afterwards made me so quickly acceptable for secretarial work of any kind.

    Among these waste-papers there was also a number of Family Heralds, one of which contained a short story about a young man lodging with a widow and her daughter.  He earned his bread by law-writing, which he did in his own room.  The landlady's daughter, interested in his work, had amused herself trying to imitate what she saw on scraps of paper which he left lying about.  Presently he fell ill; his illness was likely to be a long one, with a fatal ending.  He had neither friends nor means; the landlady herself was a poor woman who needed his weekly payments, and a public hospital and lingering death among strangers stared him in the face.  Then the girl came to the front.  She finished some of his work which had dropped from his hands, and took it back to his employer.  As the man looked sharply at it, she feared he might notice some difference, so said timidly that his writer was unwell, and could not come out, but that she would take back any work there might be for him.  So she went backward and forward daily, till the lad for whom she had ventured so much passed peaceably away.

    It was a very quiet story, told, as it were, in a monotone.  There was no "love" in it, no unexpected "recovery"—only gentle, womanly pity and devotion.  But it was immediately after reading that story that I made my fruitless application at Miss Rye's office, then of only a year or two's standing.  More than that, it was a hint that some women could do things as well as some men if only they made the attempt.  That was a new idea in those days, though the old notion had waned weak in me, because my boy friends had always avowed great faith in my "cleverness"!

    After I had been fulfilling temporary engagements for about a year, the secretary told me that an ex-manager at Miss Rye's office was setting up business for herself, and wanted learners, for whom she would find work when they were proficient.  I jumped at the opportunity.

    I went to a house in Doughty Street—the house next door, I think, to that where Charles Dickens had once lived.  I was received by a smart, well-dressed woman, who assured me that she could secure me work, giving the practical reason that this work was to be her own reliance.  She had her mother and a little niece living with her.  She had the married title, and as she spoke of her vanished country home, I inferred that she was a widow.

    She had many applicants for the opening she offered.  She selected two—myself and a young woman a year or two my senior.  She told me in the course of the first week that I really needed little training—nothing beyond a clear comprehension of the different ways in which writing was "laid out" for briefs, affidavits, leases, etc., in their draft and their perfected forms.  My handwriting was already suitable, and the very first work I did under her supervision went straight to an office.  I did work unpaid for a fortnight, and in the third week I received payment pro rata.  We reckoned by the folio of seventy-one words, and I was paid at the rate of one shilling and threepence per twenty folios.  I knew, of course, that she got a considerable profit, which was only fair, as she procured the work, and provided office, fire, and light.  But she never disclosed what her own charges were.

    She told me a great deal about the office in Portugal Street.  It appeared that Miss Rye's appeal to lawyers and other professional men to give women opportunity of doing this work had met with so much response that the office had been deluged with work before the workers were prepared for it.  This naturally led to much disappointment, to unfavourable criticism, and to ultimate loss.  It is a danger which I have since observed to beset all enterprises of the same kind.  Capital and connection, after all, can do nothing without competent labour.

    I found that the house was full of lodgers, from a evangelical barrister, who had the drawing-room floor, down to a poor clerk earning £1 a week, who paid 15s. for an attic bedroom and for his meals, which he got with the "family" wherever they took theirs, whether in the back-parlour (which was also used as our receiving-office) or in the kitchen.  There were lodgers on the dining-room floor and lodgers on the second floor, and to wait upon all these—for the time of the mistress of the house was absorbed by her law-copying—there was one little servant-girl, aided only by the feeble help in cooking given by the landlady's mother, aged about seventy.

    This girl was called "Sophy," and had followed her mistress from Lincolnshire, the native county of both.  She was short and plain, but I simply never saw such a worker.  She rose about five, and I found that it was often near midnight before she retired to the beetle-haunted, underground back-kitchen where she slept.  She had an occasional "day out," but her only regular leisure was "Sunday evening."  I never saw her sit.  I never saw her otherwise than actively employed.  Let me add that she did all the washing, without outside assistance. I

    The old lady, who spent her days in the front-kitchen pottering over the vegetables in the morning, and afterwards knitting by the kitchen window, was a very pious person, quite sure that most of her fellow-creatures were going to perdition.  But when I once exclaimed on seeing her shaving slices for herself from the barrister's beef, she answered me that he was far too much of a gentleman to make any objection.  Her husband had been a doctor, evidently, from reported sayings—a clever man, but, as I afterwards learned, not in very reputable lines of practice.

    The mistress of the house generally did her share of copying in the little receiving-office.  My co-worker and myself sat in a front-room on the third floor.  It had no carpet, nor any furniture beyond a deal table and our two chairs.  A rag rug lay before the fireplace, and the only ornament on the dully-papered walls was the framed memorial-card of one of the old lady's sons, who had run away, enlisted, and died abroad.

    My companion had a melancholy history, which was simply a commonplace in those days.  Her father had been secretary to some institution or company.  He had a salary of £500 or £600 a year, and also a wife and ten children—six daughters and four sons.  At the time of his death, two of his sons had started in life for themselves, and the eldest was married.  The others were all at home, the eldest daughter being then the recipient of marked attentions from a gentleman in much the same position as her father.

    The father's death disclosed that nothing had been saved—nobody was provided for.  The mother and her six daughters and two younger sons went into furnished apartments on the south side of the river.  The elder of the two lads presently ran away to America, and enlisted in the Confederate Army.  The younger boy, who was not more than sixteen, and who was somewhat of an invalid, secured some little artistic work, at which he laboured at home.  One daughter became my co-worker.  The mother and the other five did "white sewing," by which, working all day, the whole six earned only the which they paid in weekly rent for their furnished rooms.  The ages of the daughters ranged from seventeen to thirty-three.  The lover had, not unnaturally, grown shy.  He was still unmarried, and when he encountered his old love he was said to treat her with great solicitude and attention.  Doubtless his default was solely due to his reluctance to take upon himself the burden of the whole family—or, at least, to share it with the two elder sons, who were themselves evidently restive under the doles perpetually demanded from them.  The eldest daughter, who thus suffered from the condition of the family, seemed, from what I heard, to be its most efficient member.  The second sister, who had awful ideas about "gentility," managed to impress them on the rest of the family, and to persuade them to remain in stagnation.  The second brother once offered to furnish a house for them from top to bottom, and guarantee the rent, so that they might let the best rooms, and while one or two would serve as housekeepers, the others would be free to work outside.  But the second daughter scornfully refused the idea of becoming "lodging-house keepers," and this brother, indignant, withdrew future aid, thereby leaving the heavier weight on the eldest brother.

    My co-worker was a tall girl of good figure and a certain wax-doll prettiness, but was a thoroughly unready, unresourceful creature.  She was constantly making mistakes in her "copy," and so having to destroy sheets which she had nearly completed.  She was terribly slow, and, under the circumstances, this was a special disadvantage, for our work came in big batches, to be quickly despatched, after which we might sit quite idle for days.  In a week, when I could earn 30s., she could not earn more than 13s., and it was always in the same proportion.  Morning and night she walked between Camberwell and Bloomsbury, for, as I have said, locomotion was dearer in those days than now, and her earnings were too small to spare threepenny and fourpenny fares.

    Then, too, she took no share in what I may call the unpaid part of our work.  I did all the word-counting by which we reckoned our payment.  For the reading aloud necessary to compare copies I discovered a perfect gift, being able to rattle on for indefinite periods without even pausing to take breath.  For some reason she was never allowed to go to the offices to return completed work—that duty always devolved on me.  I did not complain of these matters.  Far from it; I thoroughly enjoyed them as breaks in the monotony, and also unconsciously as building up the strange sense of power within me, so that I had energies for everything and plenty to spare.

    The strain of the masses of work to be done quickly or forfeited was sometimes intense.  On several occasions I stayed at the office working all night.  At a "spurt" I have done twenty folios in an hour, but when "keeping on" I could not do more than twelve or fifteen.  Once work came in—as it often did—in the evening, and the time marked for its return compelled me to work through that night, all the next day, the following night, and the day after till about seven in the evening.  During that time I paused only to snatch some food (generally a penny "saveloy," and, when busy, the addition of a few cheap figs) and for about two hours' sleep.  That was the longest spell of all, but such spells were often long!  I remember once, when a heap of work was finished, we could not be released for home at once, lest more work should come in.  I was so tired and sleepy that I laid my chair down on the rag rug, used one of its rungs as a pillow, and there I straightway enjoyed an incredibly sweet snatch of slumber.  What fun it all was!  One felt so very much alive.

    My companion continued so inefficient, and her possible earnings were so utterly inadequate to her toilings to and fro and her waste of time, that our employer resolved to be quit of her.  She chose to do this by telling us both that work was so slack that we need not come till she sent for us.  But she held me back to whisper: "I shall send for you next week, and I shall not send for her—that is all I mean."  This duplicity was meant to break the blow, but I think it was cruel, as duplicity always is.  Almost inevitably it would cause the poor girl to lose some time in suspense, and then would leave her ready to try a similar experiment with renewed failure.

    I remember a pitiful history of one of the lodgers—doubtless a typical history among a certain class.  He was the son of a lawyer, a widower, who at his death left each of his four children a fortune of £10,000.  The eldest son had already run through his portion, and was out in Australia doing hard work for rather rough daily bread, and writing home to his younger brother that he hoped he would be wiser.  "I write from bitter experience," said he.  The younger prodigal showed this letter to his landlady, saying "Well, I want to speak from experience, too."  He was ostensibly studying law.  His guardian had wished him to be one of his family, but he had soon proved that his unruly habits were wholly incompatible with those of a well-managed household.  One story told me was that on a certain occasion, returning to his guardian's house in the very small hours of the morning, that gentleman had reproached him for "disturbing people in their first sleep."  Next time he came in with the morning milk, demurely remarking that he had taken care to let them enjoy their first sleep in perfect peace.  Being relegated to lodgings, he went his own ways, turning night into day, attending races, running into debt, borrowing from money-lenders, and spending freely in the society of men all much older than himself, military, professional, or otherwise, one great favourite and constant companion being a solicitor who was subsequently the accused and convicted in a swindling case.  When the unfortunate youth came of age, he paid away at least one-third of his fortune on the very day he received it.  He was good-looking, pale, with a melancholy, devastated appearance.  I never heard the end of him.

    It was some of the remarks and reports concerning him made by his landlady, also my employer, which first shook my faith in her.  She had been always kind and friendly, and at first very considerate, but she was a woman of most unhappy experiences.  Her stories of life as she had known it in her Lincolnshire town would rival any of Zola's darkest pages.  Her marriage had had some unusual mystery about it, which she always inferred, but never unravelled, and it had been miserable.  She never spoke of her husband, save as an incidental figure in her narratives, and I, respecting the feelings, as I thought, of that unhappiest of widows—one who cannot even mourn—never asked a question.  By-and-by her levity of manner shocked my Puritan ideals, but as a certain head-clerk, a man whom I never even saw, often called and took her for drives and to theatres, I imagined I should soon hear she was to be married again.  Other men presently appeared on the scene, and there were many mysterious comings and goings, while she became so inconsiderate as greatly to increase the difficulties and strain of my work.  By-and-by she let slip that, when I had first known her, her husband was still living.  Seeing my consternation, she hastily added that he had since died.  But by that time I was alarmed, and felt I must sever our connection.

    Having now had experience of law-writing in all its branches, I resolved to start it on my own account.  My unfailing friend, Mrs. S. C. Hall, gave me introductions to a kind old solicitor who lived near Bedford Street, and also to a member of the great Tory firm of Baxter, Rose, Norton and Spofforth.  Both gentlemen promised me work, and were as good as their promise.  Mr. Spofforth told Mrs. Hall that he liked my handwriting better than any law-writer's he had ever seen, because it was always of uniform "colour," and had more "character," which made it less fatiguing to read.  In later days editors have never required me to "type" my manuscripts.  They have often specially requested me not to think of such a thing.

    For this old solicitor, Mr. Henry Phillipps, whose daughter I had often met at the Halls' house, I did a great deal of work—in short, all the work that he gave out of his office, where he kept only one clerk.  I remember once Mr. Phillipps opened his office-door to me himself, saying with a chuckle: "My boy has gone to get married—oh, the idiot!on seventeen shillings and sixpence a week.  Oh, the ass!"  Years afterwards my husband, seated in an omnibus, was shyly accosted by the conductor—no other than this rash clerk.  He had once seen my husband and me together when we did not see him, and thought he might venture to make inquiries after me.  His changed position was due to his total failure to get another clerk's place after Mr. Phillipps' death.  "He had to turn to something," he said.  He seemed content and happy, but he had been always a cheerful, sanguine soul.  I have known an ex-army officer who became an omnibus conductor.  He visited my husband's office with his leathern cash-bag hanging at his side.

    Somehow, Mr. Phillipps discovered my aptitude for rapid reading of law-papers for revision, and I was often invited into the office for this duty.  On one occasion four papers were under correction.  Mr. Phillipps had one, I had another; the third was held by a client himself, a barrister; and we waited vainly for Mr. Phillipps' partner, a youngish solicitor, who was to take the fourth.  "Where can that man be loitering?" fumed Mr. Phillipps.  "Oh, he is just curling his hair!" laughed the barrister, who had a curly head himself, and probably spoke from experience.  At that very moment the solicitor entered, bald!  We all burst into fits of laughter, the new arrival mildly inquiring: "What is the joke?  May I not share it?"

    At first I was handicapped by not knowing the regular charges for different kinds of law-writing when done direct for solicitors.  I thought I should best get information by candidly stating my position at the Portugal Street Law-copying Office, it being more or less still under the ægis of the Society for the Employment of Women.

    Miss Rye no longer ruled there.  She had become an Emigration Agent.  In her place I found a very plain-looking woman, who received me gloomily.  She was unknown to me, but scarcely needed to be told who I was or where I had learned my craft.  I said that I was afraid I might undercharge, and thought she was the best person from whom to seek information.  Thereupon she broke out in fury.  She would have nothing whatever to do with anybody who had been in connection with "that woman Mrs. X――," who, by the way, had been her own predecessor at Portugal Street.  I reminded her that I had been introduced to Mrs. X―― by the same society under whose auspices her office was conducted.  She "did not care—not she!"  I pleaded: "I want only to be told the proper rates, so that I may not underbid you or other people."  She blankly refused, and became insolent.  My temper flared.  I sprang to my feet, saying: "I have done my best to be just to you.  Henceforth my one care shall be that my charges are not more than yours."

    I was thoroughly roused.  I sent complaint to the office of the Society, saying that if mere contact with Mrs. X―― could be supposed to put me beyond the pale of civil treatment in another of their own advertised offices, how could they justify having introduced me to her?  They did not attempt justification, but were apologetic and kind.  Further, I sent out circulars to institutions, etc., likely to require circular writing or envelope-addressing, and in these cases I stated my terms simply on the basis of what I knew would give me a fair day's wage for a fair day's work.  As regarded the law-copying, a law-stationer gave me all the information I wanted, making no fuss or favour of so doing.  I was paid at the rate of two shillings and sixpence per twenty folios, and twopence per folio on parchment work.

    I soon got as much work as I could do.  My neighbour, the friendly old solicitor, kept me very steadily supplied.  I tried to secure female help, but two or three experiments convinced me that I risked my own work by doing so.  So I worked the harder myself, and the friendly law-stationer (from whom I bought my parchments and paper on usual trade terms) introduced me to a law-writer who took any surplus (what I could not possibly do, even by working day and night), and was invariably correct and punctual.

    I did not give up the idea of female help without a hard struggle.

    The society itself proved very unpractical.  Of course, glad to announce to its officials that I had succeeded in planting a little business for myself, and I applied to them first for temporary helpers in those departments where an ordinary fair education should suffice.  What did the society do?  In its next report it inserted a flourishing paragraph about me, giving my full name and address, and stating the possibility of my employing others.  Thereupon I, up to the neck in work, was harassed by streams of unemployed women with the vaguest ideas of what they wanted to do, and with no capacity or training for doing anything.  One day I had to interview twenty of these.  My mother herself was justly annoyed, as the interviews had to come off in the counting-house.  I made a vehement protest (I fear I was very vehement in those days, but my nerves were at high tension), and Miss Bessie Parkes, who had not herself been concerned in the production of that unthinking paragraph, wrote me a very sweet and soothing letter.

    Among the people who employed me was the secretary of the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy, which existed to extend aid to the destitute widows and daughters of deceased clergy of the Established Church.  Once, when the secretary was paying my account, he said to me: "I dare say it strikes you that it is strange that we, who exist to help these poor ladies, should expend money in employing a lady who is not one of them?"  I admitted that the thought had occurred to me.  He shook his head.  "We have tried to employ them to do what you have done," he said, "but it was a dreadful failure."

    That was in 1866.  My own experiences go to show that it was true then.  It certainly would not be true now.

    For some of this Corporation's work a handwriting more distinctly feminine than mine was required.  By applying at the society's offices, I heard of two ladies likely to be suitable.  I put myself in communication with them, and they did the work beautifully, and were quite gushingly grateful for it.  They were well-bred, well-spoken women over forty years of age, who pleaded pathetically: "Give us any more work you can and oh, we are so well-connected!"

    I had for some time done some copying for the old publishing firm of Saunders and Ottley, who had their place of business in Hanover Square.  Suddenly they asked me to undertake work which, from its nature, required to be done at the house of a member of the firm.  My law-work making it impossible for me to leave home, I suggested one of these ladies, and wrote to her to take the engagement.  She went, but when she found that she would have to sit in the gentleman's library, himself at work at another table, she refused to stay.  She said it was not proper, and she was so well-connected!

    In that case I supplied her place by another lady, much younger, but practical and sensible, and I understood that she, and the gentleman and his wife, had a hearty laugh over the dismay of the genteel spinster.  My sensible helper, being already a teacher, was not usually available, though she helped me in evenings and during holidays.

    On one occasion I undertook to address 36,000 wrappers, put newspapers into them, and stamp them.  It had all to be done in the course of a very few days.  Three of us worked steadily all day, and my occasional helper and a friend of hers supplemented us in the evenings, and I went on all night.  Some of the addressing was exceedingly difficult, being copied, not from printed lists, but from the signatures of letters, mostly from clergymen.  (This was, of course, paid for at a special rate.)  To illustrate the singular want of intelligence among girls at that time, I remember one of my helpers being utterly at fault over an undecipherable Christian name.  Said I: "It will find him if you put the Rev. ―― Smith, at his vicarage, wherever it is."  "Oh, is that what you do!" she said, and apparently did it.  To my horror, I found she had written in full, "The Rev. Dash Smith."

    The same girl, when I had to express dissatisfaction with her work, and to tell her I no longer required her services, went round to two or three of the people whom she knew had given employment to me, and gave vent to her grievances.  This I heard afterwards, the men telling me: "She came in and sputtered about a great deal, but, of course, we took no notice."

    These were risks I dared not run, as my first duty was not the philanthropic teaching and training of incompetent women, but rather of getting and keeping as much work as I could, always in view of the reduction of that terrible debt.  So I fell into the habit of seeking assistance only from the men law-writers, taking from the school-teacher what help she could give.

    This envelope-addressing turned up again about thirty-five years afterwards in a very amusing way.  I had been married, widowed, and long settled in Aberdeen.  A certain lady had been in the habit of calling on me — calls which I had rarely returned.  At last a neighbour said to an intimate friend of mine: "You should warn Mrs. Mayo that she should have nothing to do with Mrs. ――  She is a mischief-making, tattling woman."  There was small occasion for me to heed the warning, I having been never inclined to have "anything to do" with this person, who always approached me with professions of flattering admiration, but whose very greeting in the street I evaded when possible.  Long afterwards the same neighbour confided to my friend that Mrs.―― had been in the habit of saying: "Who is Mrs. Mayo?  She was just an envelope-addressing girl."  "Do not repeat this to Mrs. Mayo," said the gentleman, "for it might hurt her feelings."  My friend replied: "You do not know Mrs. Mayo: she is only too proud of the struggle wherein she conquered."  I may remark that Mrs. ―― was the daughter of a well-known and highly-honoured man, and started in life with splendid opportunities had she been adequate to them, but they did her little service.

    Many of my former employers from time to timer sent me literary and other MSS., which I copied for them at rates below those for "law-work," on which, of course, they had to wait.  Mr. Phillipps too, occasionally recommended me to clients who wanted writing done.  He introduced me in this way to Mr. Falconer, the once well-known actor-manager, who wanted a play of his own copied into "parts."  Mr. Phillipps gave me a hint "to look quickly for payment."  I did the work, but the play proved a dead failure, and I never got a farthing.  When I called at his lodgings in St. James's Place, the dramatist had flown.  I did not feel very vexed with him, he seemed so feeble and unfortunate.  "He would have paid you if he had had a penny," said Mr. Phillipps.

    He sent me on another occasion to a gentleman who wanted several copies of testimonials given to his son, a young medical man.  "Your money is quite safe there," said the old solicitor, with a curious chuckle.  I went to a house situated in one of the best of the Bloomsbury Squares, at that time uninvaded by private hotel or boarding house.  By the name on the door, I saw that the father was also a medical man.  At the sound of my very modest double rap the hall-door flew open, and revealed a scene which made me wonder.  In the foreground a bowing, liveried servant; just behind him a trim, elderly maid; in the middle distance two gentlemen, one elderly, the other young, both, as it were, in the act of beginning to bow; in the background one or two fluttering ladies.  I felt quite nonplussed, and before I could stammer out that I had been sent by Mr. Henry Phillipps, I heard the elder man say to the other, with an appearance of dismay: "Surely this cannot be she!  Oh, surely, surely not!"  My self-announcement broke the spell: the manservant straightened up, the maid retired, the ladies vanished, and the two gentlemen, with a vastly relieved air, came forward and led me into a sumptuous consulting-room, where my work was given me, and where I was received quite simply when I took back my completed task.  I discovered afterwards that the father, though a physician of orthodox degrees, with his menservants and maid-servants, his horses, and his luxurious family, all bespeaking a clientele of wealth and fashion, was yet engaged almost wholly in the under-ways of medical life, and that nearly every day of his life must have brought him some tragedy—some pitiful derelict of human passion and woe.  During my two interviews with father and son, they showed only as kindly, cheerful gentlemen, courteous and considerate.  But I have often asked myself the question: "Who was the unknown expected when I arrived?  And what gave such weirdness to the possibility of my being that expected unknown?"

    Here I think I must say that of all the stranger men, gentle or simple, of all kinds and characters, whom I encountered during those years of varied experience, either on the direct lines of my work or in its environment, there was not one who did not treat me with respect and courtesy—nay, often with real kindliness.  Well for me that it was so, for there were times when an uncivil phrase or an insolent glance would, I fear, have daunted my tremulous courage, and driven me off defeated.  But such a word or look I never once encountered.  I may also add, what will seem incredible to many people, that in all my goings to and fro at all hours, from six in the morning up to Midnight, whether those goings led me through Piccadilly Circus, the wilds of Clerkenwell, or across Drury Lane and Covent Garden, with all their theatres and music-halls, I had never a rude word spoken to me, nor even a rude look given me.  The rough costermongers in James's Street and Long Acre would draw aside their barrows or baskets, with a smiling, "Beg pardon, miss."  Above all, the clerks at the offices would receive me and put me through my business with simple gravity, as if the appearance of a girl among them was no strange thing, though in most cases I knew I was the first to put in that appearance.  In face of the customs and prejudices of the period (1862-1867), "going to the offices" was to me a terrible ordeal, and it remained so whenever any new "office" came into my sphere.  I have often walked up and down some back-street for ten minutes before I could summon courage to turn the corner, push open the door, and mount some great stone staircase.  My appearance might well have been resented as an intrusion—as the advance rank of that army of women, already clamouring in the background, who were soon, wisely or unwisely, to occupy so much of ground hitherto claimed by men.  But no adverse feeling was ever shown to me—nay, if it did not seem something like vain self-satisfaction, I should be ready to say that I was actually welcomed!

    My earnings in the first year of these efforts were, as I have said, £30.  In the second they were £60; in the third and fourth, about £80; in the fifth, my tiny literary earnings having somewhat increased, nearly £100.  That brings me up to the year 1867, when, having earned yet another £100, that "miracle" happened to me—of a publisher's asking an unknown girl to write a serial for an important magazine, paying her £300 for it, and inviting her to write another on the same terms.

    I had seen too much of the darkest side of life to have my head turned even by this sudden prosperity, though it was more than fulfilment of my wildest hopes.  I was so fearful lest my writing power should fail, or that in some way this "swallow" should not be herald of a long summer, that I kept on with my law-writing and my other engagements till the beginning of 1869, when, for many reasons, it became desirable' that we should leave the old house in Bedford Street, and set up a home (which we all recognized as distinctly temporary) in a little jerry-built villa near Stockwell Green, which, with Stockwell Park, was then still somewhat rural, though the smallpox hospital was built directly after our arrival.

    In the office of my good friend Mr. Phillipps there was amazement—almost incredulity—over this book that I had written.  The younger partner said to an acquaintance of mine: "And so that little Miss Fyvie has written something which is being praised.  I should not have thought she had it in her.  She never had a word to say for herself."  Mr. Phillipps' daughter told Mrs. S. C. Hall that her father said he did not see how it was possible that Miss Fyvie could have written a book, for it had often seemed to him incredible that she could do all the law-copying that she did for him alone.

    By that year1869the terrible debt was reduced by more than half, and the goal was fairly in my sight.  But repeated attacks of neuralgia had brought a sense of ever imminent breakdown, so that it was a great satisfaction to me when I discovered that by sub-letting our Bedford Street house at a rental so improved nearly £60 a year could be set aside towards paying off the remainder of the debt, a rate at which all would be cleared before our lease ended.  In the end the last years of our lease were bought up, and the whole of the debt at once wiped off.  All these fortunate arrangements, from first to last, were made under the counsel, and with the freely-given services, of a young solicitor, John Mayo, whose joyful wife I became in July, 1870.

    My life-and-death fight for bread and independence lasted from 1860 to 1869.  It left me for a time a wreck in nerves and health, but my Scottish visits in 1868, and the happy change in my whole environment after 1870, speedily restored me, and I felt as if the strength of the giants I had conquered had entered into myself.



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