I am becoming an impossible member of society."
To which one can reply that society would be all the better for a few more such " impossible members." We should hear fewer taunts about the idle rich, and less demand for class equality, if those possessing rank and wealth recognised, in the same degree as the Duchess of Sutherland, that the power for doing good lies with people in high places. Her Grace is a woman who does not, like many other society ladies, take an interest in charitable and philanthropic schemes because she suffers from ennui and seeks some new sensations. She is a woman whose interest in the condition of the masses is real and genuine, and for a number of years past she has devoted the greater part of her time to alleviating distress among the less fortunate, and endeavouring to brighten the lives of those whose existence is drab and colourless.
Had anyone, like the writer, been present some years ago at a certain meeting in the East End, where the Duchess of Sutherland distributed prizes to some little maidens belonging to the quaintly named " Anti-pin-my-rags-together Society," they could not have doubted her Grace's sincerity and the genuine interest she took in the poor. It was a very hot summer day, and the atmosphere of the Mile End Road was insufferably warm; but as the little girls, in their big pinafores of gay muslin, tripped on to the platform there was no sign of weariness or apathy on the part of the duchess, and her kindly way of treating
I X these little London waifs won the hearts of the bedraggled mothers who gathered to witness the ceremony.
We have an example of the whole-hearted manner in which the Duchess enters into philanthropic projects in the story of how the Potteries Cripples' Guild came to be founded. Eleven years ago she gave a treat to a number of these unfortunate youngsters in the gardens of Trentham Hall, the Duke of Sutherland's country seat, situated about three miles from Stoke. The helplessness of. these poor children made a deep impression upon the mind of her Grace. She recognised that to lavish charity indiscriminately upon them would be a mistaken kindness. She therefore consulted the leaders among the workpeople of the Potteries, gathered practical information, advice, and hints from them, and the result was the founding of this guild, which has been the means of brightening hundreds of what might otherwise have been hopeless lives.
The Duchess, however, did not found the guild and then leave it to others to carry on the work. Every year she has held sales and exhibitions in the West End of London in order to bring the work of these cripples under the notice of those who could help the idea forward by making purchases and giving orders. She has canvassed among her friends for orders, invited them to visit the workshops of these crippled boys and girls, and thus endeavoured to get them interested in this splendid scheme. Among the workers, she will tell you, is one who has a stiff leg, but earns a pound a week as a silversmith; another has his feet turned in, but this does not prevent him fashioning exquisite rose-bowls; this hammerman has a short leg; this repousse worker has his fingers joined; that boy cleaning metals has nearly lost his eyesight, but, as he says, "he does his best."
The Cripple's "Theatre"
And many are the quaint stories the Duchess tells of her crippled proteges. " A little pet of mine (Julia)," she says, " was in the North Staffordshire Infirmary awaiting a very severe operation. She heard the doctor tell the nurse to prepare her for the theatre on the following day. She lay in bed thinking of the treat in store, and wondering what the play would be. She told me since, with a grim humour, that next time she goes to the theatre she hopes all of her '11 come out of it again. She left three ribs in the last."
Her Grace, too, with tears in her eyes, has related the story of another little mite whom she encountered when paying one of her weekly visits to the children's ward in the Workhouse Homes at Stoke-on-trent. Some of the mites are so friendless that they see few people beyond the nurses of the institution, and have acquired the habit of saying
"Yes, nurse," and " No, nurse," to every remark addressed to them. One day the Duchess, while going round the cots, came to one in which a little girl was lying, prostrate from weakness. A gentle inquiry as to whether the sufferer was getting better elicited the answer, "Yes, nurse."
" You should not say ' nurse.' You should say, ' your Grace,' " observed the nurse who accompanied the Duchess.
The simple child at once clasped her hands in a devotional attitude, and closing her eyes repeated, with much fervour, " For what we are about to receive, the Lord make us truly thankful." Much touched, the Duchess gave the little one a loving kiss, for which the little girl seemed, indeed, to be "truly thankful."
Stafford House The Potteries Cripples' Guild, however, is only one of numerous institutions in which the Duchess takes the deepest practical interest. It was she who was instrumental in getting the Government to go into the question of lead poisoning in the Potteries, and no one has worked more indefatigably on behalf of the Scottish crofters and their home industries. Each year, for a number of years past, the magnificent residence of the Duke of Sutherland - Stafford House, St. James's, S.w. - has been opened in the interests of the Scottish Home Industries Association. Stafford House, it might be mentioned, is one of the most magnificent mansions in the metropolis. Was it not the late Queen Victoria who, when visiting a former Duchess of Sutherland, remarked, a propos of the magnificence of this residence, " I come from my home to your palace " ?
And it was Mrs. Bancroft, the wife of the American historian and Minister in England, who wrote, on June 17, 1847 : " On Wednesday was the great fete given by the Duchess of Sutherland to the Queen. It was like a chapter in a fairy tale. Persons from all the Courts of Europe who were there told us that nowhere in Europe was there anything as fine as the hall and grand staircase where the Duchess received her guests. The vast size of the apartments, the vaulted ceilings, the fine pictures, profusion of flowers, music, flourish of trumpets as the Queen passed backwards and forwards, the superb dresses and diamonds of the women, the particoloured full-dress of the men - all contributed to make a scene not to be forgotten." And this magnificent residence the Duchess has often used to display the homespun tweeds, the knitted stockings, etc., manufactured by the peasants on the Duke's estate at Dunrobin Castle and in other parts of Sutherlandshire.