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Act also declared that, if any teacher refused or neglected to fill up the form required for the said return, or refused to allow the inspector to inspect the school-house or examine any scholar, “such school shall not be taken into consideration among the schools giving efficient elementary education to the district.” Of this power the Education Department availed itself, and appointed between sixty and seventy inspectors of returns, who entered on their duties in the course of May 1871. The schools from which returns were received were broadly divided into three classes-public schools, where the premises were secured by deed, with managers acting under that deed, who appointed and controlled the teacher; private schools, governed by private managers or by a committee not acting under any deed; and, lastly, adventure schools, of which the number was nearly two thousand, where the teacher gained a livelihood by his or her vocation. It is with reference to this last class, as they exist in London, that we intend to make some remarks.
A large proportion of them consists of dames' schools. The word “dame" in this case does
not signify a baronet's wife, or a man in charge of forty boys at Eton, but a middle-aged woman, not unfrequently the possessor of a beard, and suggestive of the fairy who is not invited to the traditional christening, and arrives to spread dismay in the middle of the ceremony. The quietude of this ancient race has been sadly disturbed during the present year. Rumours of startling innovations reached their ears, and hints of a general inquiry into their schools alarmed them. Bitter complaints of such unwarrantable interference made themselves heard. Where indeed might not the province of Government be expected to extend if old women could not be left in the peaceable charge of many varieties of infant life during five hours of the day? The evil hour came at last, and the , sanctity of the parlour and the repose of the
kitchen were invaded. The first indication of trouble was a visit from the School Board official, who asked a quantity of minute questions which evidently did not bear upon the subject. Why should an old lady be asked to fill up a sheet of paper almost exceeding the size of her school with a host of irrelevant particulars ?
Was the room in which the education of her scholars was carried on exclusively appropriated to education ? With the exception of a little cooking and eating and washing and sleeping, it undoubtedly was so appropriated; circumstances, however, which obliged her to enter “not strictly” as an answer to this interrogation. What was the size of her room? How should she know? It probably answered to the definition of a point, having no magnitude, but position only. At any rate she felt certain that there was plenty of air, for she had room for more scholars. What was her tenancy? Probably monthly, possibly weekly, certainly precarious. What was her age? An impertinent question, as one old lady wrote in reply. Then-hardest task of all—she was expected to write her own name at the end of this inquisitorial document, and also that of the month, which, being February, proved often the most terrible undertaking of all. When these particulars had at last been given, her young ladies disturbed, their nerves unhinged, and herself put out, was she, instead of being left in peace, to undergo another examination from another official three months afterwards, whose language was still more unintelligible and confused, and whose proceedings were wholly incompatible with living in a free country? Was it indeed a free country? The dame, however, has had some circumstances in her favour. It is one thing to look for her and another to find her. Extraordinary difficulties attend the discovery of her lurking-place, even though the Argonaut sallies forth in a hansom-cab furnished with gigantic maps. There are streets in which objections seem to exist against any number above 8, and where the inhabitants may with great truth be described as living at sixes and sevens. Sometimes there are five numbers marked 4 within a hundred yards. There is nothing to be done except patiently inquire on all sides. Mrs Smith, the object of your search, is unknown, though the name suggests recollections to the neighbours, who propound different theories to account for her disappearance. The greatest interest is felt, the excitement is intense, traffic and business are suspended, and Mrs Smith, could she be found, would be the heroine of the moment. The butcher is sure to
know, and the crowd surges hurriedly to his shop. Unfortunately, his knowledge does not go beyond the impression that a lady of that name did live in the street; nor has his neighbour the grocer any clearer view upon the subject. In the mean time the cabman, who is far beyond the radius of four miles from Charing Cross, and consequently as helpless as a fish out of water, is holding a separate court of his own, attended by many children and mothers, the latter engaged in the duties of maternity, but all actuated by a not unreasonable desire to know why Mrs Smith is “wanted.” “That's a good boy,” shouts one to the bewildered official, whom she very probably mistakes for an attorney, “and if it's a legacy, you'll give me some.” If it is, the official promises he will. . Nothing can be kinder or more genial than the general disposition to give information; nothing can be more useless than the information when given. At last a girl, whose body emerges in a most dangerous manner from a top garret, gives a clue; there are, of course, six streets, places, and courts of the same name in the immediate neighbourhood, each sub