Mrs Becher's Diary


Miss —

She lived all alone in her old age in one room in a cottage down Nursery Lane. The Vicar gave me the job of fetching her for Evensong every Sunday night. She was a tough old lady of about 70 and had worked on the land as a young woman and the hours had been long and hard.

I took her to sit with me in my usual seat which was the front pew. I shall never forget the first evening. The Choir took their places and the Vicar gave out the hymn. She took the hymn book I handed to her, but finding she could not see the words, she produced a pair of glasses from a pocket in her petticoat. Finally with quiet deliberation she removed her hat and placed it, without hurry or shyness on the pew rest in front of her. Having arranged the glasses to her comfort she once more put on her hat, pinning it firmly to her coil of hair; and taking up her hymn book she joined heartily in the singing.

I took her to Church regularly for a long time and then one evening when I went to call for her, she would not come – and I learned that she was “courting”. She had incautiously boasted that she had money saved and I fancy the man was trying to get hold of it. I called several times, but she never came again. Some months later she fell very ill and I went to see her. The loneliness of these old women seems so pathetic. There was no one to look after her and though the neighbours did what they could, she became full of bedsores and had finally, much against her will, to be taken away to die in Amersham Workhouse. They call it the Institution now, to make it sound better, but I can never see a caged animal without thinking of these old folk carried away to cleanliness and to comfort perhaps, but with a feeling in their hearts that the prison walls have closed round them.