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We have heard, somewhat too often, that charity is twice blessed. Let us see how it might bless those who thus engaging in its service would undoubtedly bless others. We know too well that nothing can be much more deplorable than the state of numbers of our single women. To take only one branch of these-a fatally numerous one-look at the advertisements for governesses' situations-graduating down from “moderate terms only expected," to “no salary is required," or a humble petition for kind treatment instead of pay.
We all know that no mother in the world treats the instructor of her children with the disdain or indignity that an English one too generally does. Perhaps, as in most other cases it may be said there are faults on both sides; at all events, it is obvious that were the supply somewhat less abundant, the case might be different. There is in England no way for women of the middle or professional class, to eke out a scanty income but by teaching. Their own education is too frequently proportioned to their future hopes of remuneration : they go perhaps from being a "half boarder," or articled pupil in some “ Happy home for young ladies," to enter with despondency on a life whose only object is that of earning their own bread, even should they be obliged to mingle that bread with weeping. There is no class much more to be pitied in England than that of women whose birth lifts them above earning their subsistence as domestics, while neither fortune nor abilities can place them in a position half so enviable. In France there are various channels of employment
open to women-in that country where woman certainly thinks more of herself, and men appear to think more of her, than is the case in England. Yet there she is seen employed in the offices of rail. ways, banks, money changers, and numberless others. Besides these, she has a large resource for another turn of mind. A very small dower enables her to join a community where an assured position to the end of her days is secured to her; a sum of money that would be nearly useless to her in common life, three, four, or five hundred pounds, is, as it were, her marriage portion, for which she is taken for better for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do her part from her community. Those to whom she renders unpaid services thank or bless her. The greater part of education in France is now carried on by Nuns, or Sisters of Charity. Thus she is free from care, and has the happiness of believing that she is working for God rather than for herself, for the bread that endureth, rather than for that which perisheth ; she is not subject to caprice or contempt from the parents of the children she teaches; she feels she is working for love, and the children are made to feel so too; and in general she leads a sufficiently comfortable as well as happy life.
One word yet. The single women of England who have no money, or very little money, are deeply to be pitied; their case is harder than it is elsewhere; but yet the single women who have money are almost more truly pitiable. I have been in a boarding-house at Paris, where there were forty ladies, English, Scotch, or Irish. The man of the house was afraid to dine at his own table, for he. would have been the sole specimen of his species.
Was this a sisterhood ? No; but each lady there belonged to an order very common in, and much dispersed over the continent-the order of British Idlers. Go where you will you meet them. What are they doing? Nothing. What are they learning ? Nothing. What are they living for ? Nothing. What are they seeking? Health, pleasure, change. Do they find one of the three? The last. Are they satisfied with it ? Dreadful! miserable ! Everything is bad. The change has been for the worse ; yet change only has been found; health and pleasure are still to be sought. Paris is to be left for Rome, and Rome for Madrid, and Madrid for Vienna, and Vienna for Jerusalem. Change is easily to be had, for these ladies have money; but health and pleasure—ah ! the poor governess would find these far sooner. As to health, if I were their doctor I could tell them their disease at once. I should whisper to each of the chronic invalids—You have nothing to think of but yourself.
If they asked me for a prescription I should reply—If you have not husbands or children, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces or cousins, to whom you are necessary, for whom you must be busy, whom you must assist, or for whom you must in some way work,the love of whom fills your heart and shuts out the sense of emptiness; go, and seek for those who in the love of Christ will be to you the same as “Mother and sister and brother.” Get something to do—something to think of that will draw you away from the constant mental declination of the first personal pronoun in its singular number. Health, pleasure, change-you seek them here in vain. Go home; and you may find them all if your hearts are filled and your time employed in doing good.
“I want an object of interest,” said a lady to me one day. Want it! in this wide world of God's creation ! How incredible seems the idea to one who has had almost too many of such !
Now these ladies whom one meets at home and abroad-widows as well as maids-objectless, homeless, dissatisfied, or at least secretly in unrest, in danger of becoming selfish, hypochondriac, and vexatious—in general belong to a veteran corps, from which it would be difficult and unwise to think now of obtaining recruits wherewith to form Sisters of Charity. But only think if many of them had entered the service ten, fifteen, twenty years ago!
She came to the Cross when her young cheek was blooming,
Oh! the ruddy cheeks I have seen, when the bloom of youth had long passed away, beneath that same white cap of which I have spoken so often! And no Sister of Charity can be received after twenty-eight years of age; so those cheeks had stayed, or grown ruddy a good long time.
I showed an Irish lady of the boarding-house the portrait of St. Vincent's sister. “Popish thing !" she exclaimed, and turned her head in disgust from the picture of the sister teaching the poor children to the card table where some of her large community were playing. Yet she too wanted something to do. Poor woman-it was not her fault, but she was, unconsciously to herself, afflicted with a grievous and very tiresome stutter. Soon after she had turned from my portrait, I heard her beg a young foreigner to give her some amusement, and promise her in return that she would “talk E-e-e-2gl-i-sh with her f-or f-o-u-r h-o-u-rs."
These things are ridiculous, but there are others much more so to be seen and heard, even among persons, not of this corps, but who very conscien- . tiously consider the Sister of Charity "a Popish thing,” but, very mistakenly, consider her work and life to be Popish things also, and therefore hold it to be unprotestant, if not exceedingly improper, to imitate her even in doing good.
Many of these persons, more than one might suppose, live in Roman Catholic France-even in Papal Italy. They spend their time, their money, their