|Chapter Number||PART II. VI|
|Chapter Title||MILDRED HOPE.|
|Newspaper Title||The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Under the Great Seal|
[NOW PDÎST PUBLISHED.!
UNDER THE GREAT SEAL,
Anthor of " Clytie," " By Order of the
Czar," " John Needham's Double,"
"Cruel London," Ac.
CHAPTER VI. Mildred Hope.
A corner house on the South quay. The front door is ia a short street looking upon the old Town Hall. The short ~ street leads into Middlegate. Next door
' is the Royal Oak, where sailors come to
drink and meet skippers on the look out for new hands. A quaint old tavern with a bit of garden in front and red blinds to its small square paned windows. The old house (not the tavern) extends round the corner upon the quay. To-day it is fronted by a railroad, running betwoen the highway and the ships. In the days
"of David Keith the vessels were loaded or unloaded*by the aid of carts and waggons. To-day there are steamers moored to the quay, and on the other side of the docked river there are great flour warehouses and other important build- ings. In David's boyhood the outlook consisted of sailing ships, coasters, Larges, picturesque sheds in the fore- ground, and in the distance a windmill with grey timbers and great swinging sails, such as Don Quixote tilted at in the famous Spanish romance. Along the quay foreign sailors went to and fro, and fishermen with clusters of fish on a string, contributions from the day's catch for the mawther's supper.
The old house was Petherick's office. The owner's name was set forth on a
', brass plate that shone like the sun. The
i room with the bay window overlooking
the quay was the general office in which David Keith had a desk all to himself.
Frequently he had the room all to him "self, to read his books other than legal treatises or to sit and watch the ships as they came and went, moored to the quay for a time presently to disappear, and make their way out of the river*at Gor
leston, into the North Sea, whence David pictured them in all weathers on their varied journeys.
He gave them many and strange adven- tures, sent them ploughing their way into unknown seas, had them captured by pirates and their crews sold into slavery,
1 sent them out sometimes with masked
batteries, and wonderful sailing powers to meet an enemy who had counted on an easy capture to be himself taken as a prize. He sat upon his tall desk, pen in ' thand, but he was far away in imagination ; v and since the news about Newfoundland
'*' he looked further afield and with more
certainty of latitude and longitude; for
he consulted the office atlas and found both Heart's Delight and St. John's, and, furthermore he bad talked to sailor men who had traded to those seas, knew_the Atlantic,"ani-could tell grim stories of Labrador and Demon's Isle.
Miss Mumford now found him keen on
every point that belonged to Newfound i land and his father's history, and Mildred Hope would look in upon Sally and her
foster lad as she loved to call him and
help David to cross-examine Miss Mum- ford concerning her many and curious experiences. Mildred Hope lived in two rooms in Hartley's Row close by Miss Mumford's house.
Mildred, though but a few years older than David, was well known in Yar- mouth. Among the poor she was as familiar a figure as the bellman or Lias Webb, the smack owner. Mildred was a remarkable young woman. She was an orphan, and known in the town as " the prison visitor." She lived on an annuity of fifty pounds a year, which she aug- mented by working embroidery and teach- ing the rudiments of music. She was of a distinctly religious tone of mind, but belonged to no sect or denomination ; she worshipped in every church, even deign- ing to attend Mass occasionally at the little Catholic Chapel.
If there had been a friends' meeting house in Yarmouth, she would, to all out- ward appearnce, have looked mo9t at home there, for she dressed very much in the quaker fashion and never varied it, except to don for Sundays and feasts and cele* brations, a superior texture of gown to that she wore every day, once in a way appearing in silk. She usually wore a dov9 coloured grey dress, and a small straw bonnet with dove coloured strings tied beneath her chin. She was under
the average height, and small in figure, aeat, dainty, and of a comely presence. Her face was pale, she had large soft grey eyes, soft flaxen hair bound close to her small shaped head, wore strong, laced thick soled shoes, and generally carried a rather capacious reticule, in which there were tracts, sewing implements, a packet of sweets known as bull eyes, and a small leathern purse. She was bom at Caister, ' but on the death of her mother, had gone
to live in Yarmouth row, where she rented the two upper rooms in a tradesman's house, and became the attached neighbour of Miss Mumford, and deeply interested in the work and welfare of David Keith.
Mildred Hope was seventeen when she felt the philanthropic impulse which ab- sorbed her young life; she was only twenty five when the reader makes her acquaintance ; yat she had done much to reform the cruel discipline of the local prisons, and had earned for herself more than a lo'cal celebrity.
Miss Mumford was never tired of talk-
ing with Mildred, and David often sat and listened to her j but for his ambition her views of life were too restricted in their scope and purpose. She had found her mission, as many other priestess and apostle of Charity had before and since in a casual visit to a church with open doors that invited her to enter in. She was walking from Caister to Yarmouth on a summer day in her eighteenth year, and went into the house of God. The
preacher took his text from the Corin- thians, and the words were, " We persuade
She was deeply impresssed with the homily. It went straight to her soul, she
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said, in one of her talks with Miss Mum ford ; she felt as if God spoke to her and warned her of the slavery of sin in which she had been living ; and from that morn enc she began to feel that she had a mis sion, that Christ inspired her to do the duty that was nearest. She began to visit the aged and the sick, the fatherless and widows; she obtained permission to go into the workhouse and read to the poor. On Sundays she taught in Sunday
For a time opposing denominations de dined her services ; bat she did so much good, her life was in itself such a grac- ious lesson of piety and benevolence that she found her way wherever she would.
There was no dogma in Mildred's teach- ing. She preached Christ, not in pulpits, but at firesides, in garrets, in pauper wards, and at last in the miserable and ill kept gaols. The old toll house prison was in those days, one of the worst, prob- ably, of the houses of punishment and de- tention that any prison reformer could have visited. It had no chaplin, no school master. There was no divine service of any kind on Sundays. The only relief which the prisoners had from their mis- erable condition lay in the fact that they herded together, and visitors were admit- ted to them with little or no restriction. Possibly this was one of the worst features, however, of the general lack of discipline. Without it, however, the place might have developed into a lunatic asylum.
The Russians of to-day know what sol- itary confinement will do ; and in their banding of prisoners together, they still maintain the system or want of it which disgraced our own houses of detention at the time when Mildred Hope took upon herself the onerous duties of prison visitor at Yarmouth. The cells were below ground, dark aud unventilated.overpower ingly hot in summer, chilly and damp in
Many a time before Mildred had sum- moned up courage enough to ask for admission she had longed to go in and read to such prisonsr8 as might listen to her in the intervals of their gaming and drinking and cursing and swearing. At last she was admitted to see a poor woman who was incarcerated for cruelty to a child. The woman had given way to a passionate rather than cruel nature, and received the unexpected ministrations of Mildred with bitter but grateful tears. The visitor read to her, as she informed Miss Mum- ford, "the twenty-third chapter of St. Luke, the story of the malefactor, who albeit suffering from man's judgment, and that justly found mercy from the Saviour." Encouraged by this first visit she went again and again, and after rebuffs and difficulties df many kinds she became a regular visitor at the prison, and obtained a wonderful influence over the prisoners. Something like an improved discipline grew up with the better conduct of the delinquents ; and after two or three years of persistent work Mildred, perceiving that idleness in the prison as well as out of it was a fruitful source of viee, devised plans of employment for both men and women. A townsman gave her a sovereign towards her prison charities, with this aud a contribution from her own scant purse she bought materials for work, taught the women to sew, helped the men in the same direction, and in time took in mataríais and-brought thom uut manufac- tured articles, which she sold for the benefit of the prisoners, many of whom in this way on being discharged found themselves in possession of little sums of money to start life with, and what was more, the means of earning a livelihood. A fund was founded to help the little prison visitor, but it fell far short of her desires, and she longed to enlarge her field of operations. She often parted with her last shilling, and pinched herself for food that she might help a poorer sister
or send some comfort to some sick man who was unable to help himself.
The tracts which Mildred distributed were not of the usual pattern. She wrote them herself. A kindly disposed printer gave her credit, so that she need not check her work for the immediate want of funds. They were short homilies, friendly words of advice, contained no threats of hell, made no difficulties in the way of repent- ance and forgiveness.
It was from these humble, kindly, generdus leaflets gospels of good conduct and honest lives, gospels of true hearts and cleanly living, gospels of rewards not only in heaven, but on earth ; it was from these leaflets that she taught many of her ragged, dissolute, -wretched pupils to read; and to many a poor creature they were notes on the Bank of Prosperity and Happiness, these simple pages, issued by the sympathetic Yarmouth printer.
" I was often penniless, fireless, supper less," she told Miss Mumford, "nut I knew that God had called me into the vineyard, saying whatever is right I will give you. I felt that God was my master, that I was His servant, and He would not forsake me. I knew also that
it sometimes seems good in His sight to try the faith and patience of His servants by bestowing upen them very limited means of support-aa in the case of Naomi and .Ruth, of the widow of Zare phath and Elijah-and my mind in the contemplation of such trials seemed exalted by more than human energy ; for I had counted the cost and my mind was made np. If while imparting truth to others and helping those who groaned in poverty and sin, I became exposed to temporal want, the privation, so moment- ary to an individual would not admit of comparison with following the Lord and thus administering to others. Besides, I had fifty pounds a year-think of it! And I could nearly make another by embroidery and teaching. I was rich, I had enough for food and clothes, what else does any one want ? And I could give the remainder to those who needed it, women in distress and tribulation, starv- ing children, raen dying of prison pesti- lence and the famine that comes of drink
and crime and no knowledge of the
[To be continued on Saturday.']