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THE REGENT STREET REFUGE. It is now more than five years ago that the “midnight meetings," set on foot by some benevolent persons, including ministers of all denominations, in behalf of that class of women usually designated “unfortunate,” attracted a large amount of public attention.
St. James's Hall was filled, at every meeting, with those who had been gathered in from the streets and lanes of the city, some of them no doubt attracted by the hope of escaping from the miseries which their sinful course of life had entailed upon them.
That many were prevailed with by the appeals made to them at those meetings, may be taken for granted ; but there was a great difference of opinion as to whether this was, in all respects, the best means that could have been adopted to attain the end proposed.
The Rector of St. James's--in whose parish Regent Street and the worst side of the Haymarket are situated—though taking no part in the midnight meeting movement, yet felt that it was highly desirable that in the neighbourhood of Regent Street, the hot-bed of vice and profligacy, there should be a temporary Refuge, into which any poor creature, desirous of abandoning her mode of life, might be received on application, and passed on to a Home or Penitentiary as opportunity offered. And if the midnight meetings had done no more, the fact that it was to them, in the first place, that this Refuge owed its existence, would entitle them to the credit of having been the means, under God, of rescuing many hundreds of young women from a dreadful life, and a still more dreadful death.
The first difficulty was to procure a house suitable for the purpose, in a parish where houses are not always—indeed, very rarely—to be found in the market, and then only at extravagantly high rents. This difficulty was at length surmounted-thanks to the benevolent persons who sent donations to the rector of the parish to enable him to carry out his design--and a house was taken in Glasshouse Street, at the back of the Regent Quadrant, in March, 1860, and in the following month was opened as the “Regent Street Refuge."
It is of this Refuge and its work that I now propose to offer a brief account.
How to make the Institution known to those for whose benefit it was intended was the first consideration, and, for this purpose, hand-bills were circulated among the female habitués of Regent Street, offering them a home and a kind welcome, if they would apply at the Refuge. Personal appeals were also made by ladies and others; but these measures had the desired effect only in a very few instances. The majority of those who had been pressed and entreated to enter the Refuge assumed the airs of persons who were conferring a favour, rather than receiving one. This plan was discontinued as the Refuge became more widely known, and in a few months it was found that there was no lack of applicants, but a great probability of a lack of room to receive them. It was impossible to make up more than half-a-dozen beds, the confined situation of the house rendering it dangerous to health to have the rooms quite filled.
But yet, when a poor girl came late at night, wet and cold (perhaps brought by some good Samaritan), and begged for admission, no one could have the heart to turn her away, if there were any possibility at all of affording her shelter; so a bed was often extemporised for her on the floor, until one of the former inmates going to a Penitentiary enabled her to appropriate the vacancy thus made.
The next difficulty was, as the numbers increased, how to get them into Homes sufficiently soon to be able to receive other applicants for admission; but this, thanks to the heads of the various Penitentiaries in town and country, was not so great a difficulty as it was at first feared it would be. The discouragements, however, were many. Girls who sought the Refuge only when compelled by cold and hunger, often left again when they had been warmed and filled; and even a privilege which was accorded to one (who for three weeks had gone on exceedingly well), of attending the parish church with the servant on a Sunday evening, was fatal to all the hopes which had been entertained of her. She had done the work of the Refuge cheerfully and readily, and had given fair promise of permanent amendment; but no sooner did she feel the pavement under her feet than all her good resolutions fled, and she came back with the servant, expressed herself very thankful for the kindness which had been shown to her, but " could stay no longer.” Entreaties were of no avail, go she would. Of course the privilege was thenceforth denied to others. All were given to understand, when they entered the Refuge, that they would not be allowed to go out until they were sent to a “Home.” It was found necessary to use this word “Home," as "Penitentiary” conveyed the idea to their minds of a place of punishment.
In spite of all drawbacks, the Refuge answered the purpose for which it was established even beyond the hopes of its most sanguine supporters. It not only afforded a home to poor girls from the London streets, but was largely used by persons from all parts of the country who, having to send girls to “Homes" in or near London, but which they could not enter for a day or two, obtained accommodation for them at the Refuge, until they could be passed on to their destination.
Thus the Institution became not only a metropolitan one, but almost national in its character. At the end of the year, only eight months from the opening, more than fifty young women had been admitted to partake of the benefits which it afforded, the majority of whom had been sent to “ Homes," and were going on well ; even some of whom little hope had been entertained at first. The managers have been permitted to see in
many cases the fulfilment of that passage of Holy Writ,“ Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days.”
One case in particular deserves special notice. It was the first received into the Refuge, and as unpromising a one as it was possible to conceive. After causing a good deal of trouble and anxiety, the girl was sent to a hospital, and afterwards to the Diocesan Penitentiary, Highgate. After remaining her time there, she was sent to service; and now, having been three years in her place, is one of the most respectable and respected of servants. Three or four times in the year she calls to see the matron, always receiving a hearty welcome, and an invitation to come again as soon as she can. She has not a relation in the world, and but few could recognise in the now well-dressed, respectable domestic, the poor destitute outcast, who was received into the Refuge about five years ago.
Three other former inmates have been married during the past twelve month-one at St. James's Church-an orphan, rescued while almost in a dying state, and who it is feared has within her the seeds of consumption, which must bring her to an early grave. Space will not allow of further details; suffice it to say, that the work progressed until at last it was thought desirable---on the ground of convenience and health to remove to more airy and commodious premises, as soon as such could be found. To find them was a work of time, but in the beginning of the present year the premises now occupied offered, and were taken immediately. Twice the number of beds can be made up here, if the funds will permit. Many comforts and conveniences are still needed, but of course their supply, like other things, depends on the financial support which the public are inclined to extend to the institution. Altogether, the house is far better adapted for the purposes of the Refuge than the former one, and in a sanitary point of view is all that could be desired.
In the appeal made by the Rev. J. E. Kempe, Rector of St. James's, in the columns of the Times, on December 6, it is stated, that during the two years which have passed since the last appeal was made, 207 poor girls have been received into the Refuge, the greater part of whom have been passed on to Penitentiaries, while seventeen have been restored to their friends, and six have been sent to service. One of these last is now filling a really good and permanent situation.
On the whole, taking a review of the work for the last five years and upwards, there is every reason to "thank God and take courage." It cannot be that the Christian public will allow a work so fruitful in good results to languish and ultimately die out for want of funds.
E D. The Rev. J. E. Kempe, St. James's Rectory, Piccadilly, will thankfully receive subscriptions; as will also the Editor of this Magazine, at the Office, Princes Street, Hanover Square, W.
THE PEARL GOBLET;
A FAIRY TALE,
BY MISS EDITH HERAUD.
TINY PRAYS AT THE MYSTIC FOUNTAIN.
It is night. The inmates of the castle are wrapt in slumber. Alaric is again absent, revelling at the festive board of Estelle St. Clair. The straggling moonbeams bathe the flowers and shrubs in the gardens of St. Valerie in a soft silvery effulgence of light. Solemner and solemner appears the garb of nature, as the pervading stillness grows denser and denser in the advancing midnight. Deeper and deeper become the shadows flung by the waving branches of the giant oaks, across the green velvetty grass-plat, over which the stars shine forth in their myriad particles of light. Holier and holier arise the feelings generated in the breasts of observant humanity, as nature's sympathetic heart pours forth its hidden balm upon the soul labouring with oppression, and smarting from the recent stab of unmerited reproach. Shriller and shriller, and fraught with a terrible symbolic meaning, comes the long piercing shriek of the night-owl, breaking upon the universal stillness like the cry of a lost spirit borne across the fiery chasm to the abodes of the unjust and perjured. Impregnated with a deeper, more spiritual interpretation, suggested only through the subtler medium of the soul's intuitive apprehensions, arise those mystical whisperings, wafted across the limitless expanse, conversing in a language disguised and enigmatical, joining together in pure melodious harmony of sound, and answering to the thousand leaves that ever and anon ripple up the sighing breezes of the night. And surrounded by all these holiest manifestations of the Eternal Presence-her form enveloped by the circling moonbeams, her bare knees resting on the stony gravel, her arms uplifted in devotional appeal-is Tiny, praying at the mystic fount. And long and fervent is her prayer for the regeneration of a once gallant nature, about to wreck itself upon the shoals of error.
Long and fervently she prays that the films may be removed from the light of his understanding, and the truth flash in upon his benighted intellect, no more to be obscured by the blinding cloud-dusts of intemperate passion and desire. Long and zealously she prays; the tones of her soft infantile voice sounding strangely in harmony with the deathless rush of the waters as they flow from the cleft in the hill-side into the basin of the miraculous fount. The moon rises, the shadows deepen, and the midnight approaches with rapid strides, and still kneels Tiny at the mystic fount, mingling her voice with the soft musical rush of the healing waters. And the pleadings of the zealous devotee penetrate the mists of the coming morning, for she has prayed away the hours of the stealthy night, and behold! the grey dawn streaks above the horizon in the rosy east. Still she prays that the spirit of peace may enter into the heart of the strayed sheep, and lure him from his long peregrinations on unhealthy soil, back beneath the loving shelter of the paternal fold. That by suffering his soul may be purified and strengthened in integrity. That he may be diverted from the infliction of irremediable wrong upon a trusting and self-sacrificing heart ; and that he may turn from the spells of the enchantress, and awake from his present intoxication as from a long unhealthy trance, into whose misty realms his spirit, once released, can never again be induced to trust itself unguarded.
The mists of morning are no longer visible; the rosy streaks disappear along the horizon ; the sun rises high and full above the awakened islands, and still is Tiny-her hair dishevelled by her lengthened vigil, her bare knees resting on the stony gravel-praying at the mystic fount.
“How long has he been gone, Tiny ?”
“Many days, my Winnifred."
Tiny and Winnifred were standing near an open casement in an apartment of St. Valerie Castle. It was late in the forenoon; the sun was at his meridian, and Winnifred was gazing wistfully in the direction of the long avenue that led to the castle entrance, as though expecting some one whose continued absence was a source of disappointment Her face, however, always the faithful mirror of her pure and trusting soul, betrayed no signs of vexation or displeasure ; and merely sighing, almost inaudibly, as she turned to Tiny, she said
Many days ! then he is an invited guest of St. Clair's ?" “Yes, my Winnifred, invited for an indefinite period. Estelle has assigned for his exclusive use a suite of apartments in the palace though, as I hear, he is but one of a numerous bevy of guests at present er tertained by the duchess."
Again Winnifred sighed, this time less inaudibly.
• It is a long time since I have seen him, Tiny; but he has a great object to pursue, and I must rest patiently until he has achieved it."