At last Alfred’s discharge paper came from the workhouse, and he trudged down the road to the station, carrying a wooden box with his outfit, valued at L7. He had been in charge of the State for six years, and had quite forgotten the outside world. His nurture and education had cost the ratepayers L180. He was now going to a home provided by benevolent persons as a kind of featherbed to catch the falling workhouse boy. Here the manager found him a situation with a shoemaker, since shoemaking was his trade, but after a week’s trial his master called one evening at the home.
“Look ’ere, Mr. Waterton,” he said to the manager. “I took on that there boy Reeve to do yer a kindness, but it ain’t no manner of good. I suppose the boy ’ad parents of some sort, most likely bad, but ’e seems to me kind of machine-made, same as a Leicester boot. I can’t make out whether you’d best call ‘im a sucklin’ duck or a dummercyle. And as for bootmakin’—I only wish ’e knowed nothing at all.”
So now Alfred is pushing a truck for an oilman in the Isle of Dogs at a shilling a day. But the oilman thinks him “kind of dormant,” and it is possible that he may be sent back to the school for a time. Next year he will be sixteen, and entitled to the privileges of a “pauper in his own right.”
Meanwhile little Lizzie is slowly getting her outfit ready for her departure also. A society of thoughtful and energetic ladies will spend much time and money in placing her out in service at L6 a year. And, as the pious lady said to herself when she wrote out a good character for her servant, God help the poor mistress who gets her!
But in all countries there is a constant demand of one kind or another for pretty girls, even for the foster-children of the State.