Billeder på siden
[blocks in formation]


“ There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,

She had so many children she didn't know what to do." MANY people feel a pity for those women who are illustrations of that old rhyme. And there are plenty of them, for among modern improvements large houses at small rentals are not yet known, so that in cases where the number of olive branches is the largest, the table at which they gather is often wonderfully small.

Indeed in many English homes of to-day, among the working classes the children seem to fill the rooms from cellar to garret, and even then it is impossible to take many steps without danger of treading upon some of them. At Conway Church there is buried a man named Hookes, who was the forty-first child of his father, and he himself had twentyseven children. Such families are of course rare, but large families are as plentiful as blackberries in autumn. Still we confess we should like to have had a peep into the domestic arrangements of this family of Hookes, and to have seen where and how the children were disposed of. Had the house benches around the walls on which the children were set ? Did they take their meals in separate companies ? How did they sleep? In round beds, or in hammocks slung one above the other ? It is a pity they have left no record of their ingenious contrivances, for it would have been helpful to many women to-day who,

though more moderate than the Hookeses, “have so many children they don't know what to do.”

Is a large family a blessing or a curse ? Public opinion in these modern times is, upon many points, greatly different from what it used to be ; and upon this particular subject it has undergone a change. “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord; happy is the man that has his quiver full of them.” This was the ancient verdict. “ It is impossible for him to rise, poor man; he is to be greatly pitied, for he has so many children.” This is the modern opinion. There may be here and there a woman who prays, “ Give me children or else I die,” but probably they add to the words a mental reservation, “but not too many of them.”

And yet there is no doubt but that still as before children may be, ought to be, are intended to be, nothing but blessings. And that they are so is evident from the fact that the father-heart of the man who has to toil and save for them cannot bear to part with one. It is true that there are lines of care upon his face all the earlier for them, and his hair turns grey while he is yet young, but he would not give up one of them for all the world. If sickness should touch either of the little forms and change the bright eyes which are his delight, that would be a greater trouble than all his care for them has brought.

As for the mother, upon whom necessarily the greater part of the work and wear must fall, her life is so full and complete that she would be exceedingly loth to give it up even for “the rest that remaineth.' And though she works so hard, and has so much anxiety, she does not age so rapidly as those who were once her girl-companions, and who have remained in single blessedness. Perhaps we are old or young according as our hearts are. And the heart of the woman with a dozen children cannot grow old. It is warmed into youthful tenderness every day of her life by the little loving creatures who gather about her fect and nestle to her side.

“ Life is labour ; but love is rest,

And sweet to the feel of the brooding breast
Are the little brown heads within the nest."

It is true that she has to keep at work from early morning

« ForrigeFortsæt »