Sketches by Boz HTML version

6. The Ladies' Societies
Our Parish is very prolific in ladies' charitable institutions. In winter, when wet feet are
common, and colds not scarce, we have the ladies' soup distribution society, the ladies'
coal distribution society, and the ladies' blanket distribution society; in summer, when
stone fruits flourish and stomach aches prevail, we have the ladies' dispensary, and the
ladies' sick visitation committee; and all the year round we have the ladies' child's
examination society, the ladies' bible and prayer-book circulation society, and the ladies'
childbed-linen monthly loan society. The two latter are decidedly the most important;
whether they are productive of more benefit than the rest, it is not for us to say, but we
can take upon ourselves to affirm, with the utmost solemnity, that they create a greater
stir and more bustle, than all the others put together.
We should be disposed to affirm, on the first blush of the matter, that the bible and
prayer-book society is not so popular as the childbed-linen society; the bible and prayer-
book society has, however, considerably increased in importance within the last year or
two, having derived some adventitious aid from the factious opposition of the child's
examination society; which factious opposition originated in manner following:- When
the young curate was popular, and all the unmarried ladies in the parish took a serious
turn, the charity children all at once became objects of peculiar and especial interest.
The three Miss Browns (enthusiastic admirers of the curate) taught, and exercised, and
examined, and re-examined the unfortunate children, until the boys grew pale, and the
girls consumptive with study and fatigue. The three Miss Browns stood it out very well,
because they relieved each other; but the children, having no relief at all, exhibited
decided symptoms of weariness and care. The unthinking part of the parishioners
laughed at all this, but the more reflective portion of the inhabitants abstained from
expressing any opinion on the subject until that of the curate had been clearly
The opportunity was not long wanting. The curate preached a charity sermon on behalf
of the charity school, and in the charity sermon aforesaid, expatiated in glowing terms
on the praiseworthy and indefatigable exertions of certain estimable individuals. Sobs
were heard to issue from the three Miss Browns' pew; the pew-opener of the division
was seen to hurry down the centre aisle to the vestry door, and to return immediately,
bearing a glass of water in her hand. A low moaning ensued; two more pew-openers
rushed to the spot, and the three Miss Browns, each supported by a pew-opener, were
led out of the church, and led in again after the lapse of five minutes with white pocket-
handkerchiefs to their eyes, as if they had been attending a funeral in the churchyard
adjoining. If any doubt had for a moment existed, as to whom the allusion was intended