Establishments of Mr. John Bost at Laforce
by John De Liefde
How Mr. Bost commenced a work of Charity at Laforce, and made a happy Schoolmaster of a miserable Beggar.
LAFORCE is a small village situated on the top of a hill, at about three miles from Bergerac, in the Department of Dordogne. The Protestants of that place, who form by far the minority of the population, seceded from the Protestant National Church about the year 1845, on account of some controversies with the consistoire concerning the election of a pastor. "This circumstance", Mr. Goy writes, "might have proved fatal to those people, by throwing them into a movement of opposition which could not be very favourable to the development of their Christian life. Happily it had not this effect upon them. They were so fortunate as to find in Mr. John Bost a pastor who was perfectly qualified for his delicate mission. Being a man full of faith and zeal, and, notwithstanding the very peculiar and very stereotyped form of his doctrinal convictions, animated by a truly Christian and large hearted spirit, he took the position of the congregation as un fait accompli, though he was not at all, from principle, opposed to the National Church. In this spirit he constantly exerted himself to raise his flock above ecclesiastical prejudices, to extinguish party spirit, and to turn their minds towards a devout, active, Christian life."
Even before he was a minister, and while yet preparing himself for the pulpit, Mr. Bost had conceived a plan which gained in clearness every day. He had observed that there was a sad defect in the Protestant charitable Establishments of France; that they were too much bound by rules and regulations. The orphan-houses, for instance, were not at liberty to take a child under six or above 12, nor were they permitted to open their doors for illegitimate or abandoned children. Mr. Bost was of opinion that a poor orphan of five or thirteen years needed no less help than one of six or twelve, and that a child which had lost its parents through desertion was quite as miserable as another child which had lost its parents through death. He resolved to found a house of refuge for such children. It should at the same time be a place of training for such poor Protestant children as were living too far from any Protestant school, and consequently were in danger of becoming the prey of Popish proselytism at the Roman Catholic schools.
No sooner had Mr. Bost taken up his residence at Laforce than he set to work to realise his plan. As it was a matter of Christian charity which regarded the whole Protestant Church, he felt entitled to claim the sympathy and co-operation of the National Church as well as of the seceders. Accordingly he went to Montauban, where M. Adolphe Monod, M. de Felice, and M. Bonifas, professors of the Protestant College, and M. Marzials, President of the Consistory, gave him a cordial welcome. They examined his plan and highly approved of it. Their recommendation was indispensable for dispelling the clouds of prejudice which his secession from the National Church raised against him, and which it has taken many a year altogether to dispel. Not less than 40,000 francs were required. To collect money he travelled through France and England. The result proved worth the trouble. The successful pilgrim returned to his home with just as much as he had prayed for before leaving.
This was in 1846. His congregation had just finished the building of their chapel when he reappeared amongst them. It was clear that no better site could be chosen for the new Establishment than the piece of ground which was connected with the chapel. It was a dry, healthy spot, surrounded by vineyards and pastures and cornfields, and close to the highway that led up to the village, from which it was only separated by a distance of a couple of hundred yards. The best plan, apparently, was to connect the Establishment with the chapel as one building. Thus the house of charity was sure to be a house of prayer. Heavily drained as his good people were by the building of their chapel, they yet yielded a surprising amount of help for the erecting of the new Establishment. Money they had not, but, being farmers, they had carts and horses, and draught-oxen; and though numbering only twenty-four families in all, those good people supplied not less than 8000 cartloads during a period of two years; which, valued at their minimum, represented a contribution of 16,000 francs (£720). But these services might be estimated at more than double that sum, taking into account the trouble which they cost: for, as at daytime the farmers were occupied in their fields, they could only work for the Establishment during the night. They did not so much mind that fatigue as far as regarded their own persons, but their beasts, too, had to give up a considerable part of their rest. And to farmers like the Laforce husbandmen, who "regard the life of their beasts", such a sacrifice is not a small thing. Viewed in that light, each cartload at Laforce was, perhaps, worth more than many a bill of a hundred francs given at Paris, or than many a ten-pound note dropped in London.
Well might those excellent people have a good dinner after the work was finished in 1848. It was a happy day on which Mr. Bost, to solemnise the opening of the house, gave a festive repast to his friends—his chers bouviers, i.e., his dear cartmen, as he used to call them. There were about a hundred guests; all LaForce was lost in wonder at such a colossal dinner-party. Among those guests were the good directress whom Mr. Bost had been so fortunate as to find, and the first three children who were intrusted to her care.
But Mr. Bost, like all good shepherds, was to experience that no lambs can be gathered where there is no danger of wolves. The local authorities, and especially some of the agents of the Inspection Académique, owed a grudge to Mr. Bost, to his ministerial work, and to his flock. This feeling was not improved when they saw the Establishment rise as a monument of the power of his principles, and as a rival institution threatening to put their Catholic schools in the shade. As usual, calumny was resorted to. The most absurd accusations were made against the heretical pastor and his friends. One moment everything seemed to be lost. There came an order from high quarters that the house must be shut up within a few days; but these "few days" were to Mr. Bost days of fervent prayer and indefatigable activity. The Préfet of Dordogne was acquainted with the case. He went to the place in person to get thoroughly to the bottom of the matter. "Why", he said to Mr. Bost, after having inquired into everything, "the only fault of your Establishment is that it is not larger." Three months later the Establishment received mention honourable from the Minister of Instruction, and at the same time an order was issued for closing the free Catholic School. This was, on a small scale, the story of Haman and Mordecai.
The Famille évangélique—this was the name which Mr. Bost gave to his Establishment—now grew up like a tree planted by the rivers of water. He had travelled many a mile to obtain francs and sovereigns. He did not need to travel to get pupils, they came from all directions; and soon there were fifty crowding the schoolroom by day and the dormitories by night. They were all girls. Mr. Bost thought that it was as well to commence with the weaker part of the human race. He was quite right there, for where a colony for both sexes is in prospect, it is desirable that the girls should be well managed first, before the boys come. Had the director of Sainte Foy had it in his power to start his colony on that principle, perhaps he would not have been compelled to give up the training of girls.
Mr. Bost could rejoice in a full house, but that full house soon emptied his purse. The problem how to found a charity of this kind was successfully solved; but another problem, and a not less difficult one, was now to be grappled with, —how to support it. It was calculated that each child would cost at least 250 francs a year. Of course parties who sent children were required to pay for them; but most children were sent by friends or relatives, who were scarcely able to support themselves. It was found necessary to try to raise purses of 250, or half-purses of 125 francs, by voluntary subscriptions. The adoption of this scheme caused Mr. Bost many a journey every year through France and Great Britain. This part of his work must have been a painful burden to him. It is true he never returned home without having made some progress, but that progress was not so great as the demands of his Institution required. I find, for instance, that in 1854, when there were 75 children in the house, the number of the whole purses amounted to 54, and of the half ones to 22; but the next year they fell off to 41 and 14; and in 1858 there were only 30 whole and 13 half purses. This fluctuating state of income could not but cause a constant succession of deficits. In 1854 the books closed with a deficit of nearly 13,500 francs, in 1855 with 16,500, and in 1858 with nearly 13,000. Such difficulties must have been very trying.
One dark, cold, winter evening, Mr. Bost, on his way home, fell in with a poor beggar, who was in a most wretched condition. The poor fellow held a wax image of the Virgin Mary in his hand, with which he begged his livelihood from door to door. Destitution and sickness, however, had at length so thoroughly exhausted his strength that he was now lying on the grass, scarce able to walk, and prepared to die from starvation. Mr. Bost helped him up, and succeeded in leading him to his parsonage, where he gave him supper and a bed. The next morning the poor man was no better, and quite unable to walk. On examination it was seen that he was suffering from an anchylosis of the hip, and that it would take some length of time before he would be able to move his limb. The history of poor Bartier —such was the man's name— was very sad. Even from a child of six he had been a beggar. Bodily weakness had prevented him from learning a trade. Homeless and friendless, he was cast into the world to wander about from place to place. He was often taken up by the police as a vagabond, and had spent a considerable portion of his life in prison. The cold, damp, prison-cell proved a poor abode for the weak, half-starved man. He became much worse, and contracted the anchylosis. Good nourishment would have brought him round, no doubt. But when released from prison he could do no work, owing to the defect in his limbs. Mr. Bost allowed him to rest till he should be able to walk better. And now happy days, such as he had never dreamed of before, dawned for poor Bartier. He proved a very intelligent man. He learnt with ease to read and to write. But his heart not less than his understanding proved susceptible of the good impressions which Mr. Bost tried to make upon him. The Gospel, which he not only read of in a book, but also saw realised in the practice of that love of which he himself was the object, came powerfully home to his heart. He threw away the wax image, and embraced the living Saviour. One can hardly picture to one's-self the joy which Mr. Bost experienced at this surprising result of his charitable hospitality. But, cordially as he loved his guest, he could not help feeling a little perplexed. What was he to do with the good man? Already Bartier had spent eighteen months at his house. He was still a weak creature. To bid him go would be to send him back to his misery. Yet Mr. Bost could not keep him for ever. He was a young man, and, though infirm, he might still live fifty years.
But Bartier himself soon perceived that matters could not go on in this way. The thought of being a burden to his benefactor became more and more painful to him. One day Mr. Bost received a long letter. It came from Bartier, who was too bashful to speak to Mr. Bost about the matter. He expressed his wish to become a teacher, requested Mr. Bost's aid and protection, and promised to do his utmost to reward the trouble that would be taken for his instruction. Mr. Bost sent this letter to the Ecole normale protestante at Paris, and some time later Bartier was admitted to the training-school at Courbevoye. At the close of two years and a half he presented himself for examination to obtain his licence. There were sixty-five other aspirants to be examined along with him. He stood at the top of the list. One may imagine the joy of the good man, and the glad surprise with which his friends received him at Laforce. He was at once appointed teacher of the newly-built school. Soon after, he married one of the pupils of Mr. Bost's Establishment. To crown his bliss, he took into his house his old father, who ended his life in peace under the care of tender filial love.
Thirteen years have elapsed since Bartier took charge of the school, and he is still the highly-respected teacher of the Protestant boys of Laforce.
The Idiot — Foundation of Bethesda — The Incurable Boy — Foundation of Siloé — The unhappy Father and his epileptic Son — Foundation of two new Establishments.
Meanwhile the Famille évangélique increased so much that an enlargement of the house was urgently required. It was so connected with the chapel, that on its right side it formed a right angle. Another building similar to, and parallel with, the chapel was raised on the left side of the house, and thus the house obtained its present regular and symmetrical form. The funds for defraying this considerable expenditure were again collected in France and England. It is a two-storied square building, which, besides the chapel, contains a spacious sewing-room, a school-room, a dining-room, dwelling-rooms for the directress, etc., and excellent dormitories on the first floor. It is separated from the public road by a large garden, and at its rear there is a large yard enclosed by several adjacent buildings, —a bakery, a wash-house, a bath-room, a butchery, a stable, etc.
All this cost nearly 80,000 francs (£3200). One would think that this was quite enough for a single man to have to care for. And so thought Mr. Bost. But charity and calculation are often bad companions. Charity told Mr. Bost that all this was not half enough. Every month, nay, every week, children were sent to him, the sight of which touched the most tender chords of compassion in his heart. These nevertheless he could not receive, not only from want of space, but also from the peculiarity of their condition. Some were suffering from severe chronic diseases which defied all medical treatment. Some laboured under bodily defects which were declared incurable. Some also were idiots, and some were insane. What was he to do? Take them into the house? That would be injurious to the other children. Send them back? Where were the poor creatures to go? There was no Establishment in France that could receive them. And was he, then, to send away the very children which required more help than any other in the world? Indeed, it was a very serious question. But calculation continually chimed in its stubborn observation that there were only 100 centimes in a franc. And charity could make no reply.
But an event happened which put a decisive weight in the scale in favour of charity. It was in 1854. A girl, who was a perfect idiot, stood one day in Mr. Bost's lobby. The aspect of the hideous-looking little creature was so sickening, that Mr. Bost could not possibly permit her to be taken into the Establishment; but still less could he send her away. If ever there was a subject for compassionate, saving love, it was here. The power of prayer and the perseverance of charity could now be put to the test. Mr. Bost resolved to keep the girl in his own house. The doctors declared it perfect folly. He had better try to train a monkey or a dog. He suggested the establishment of an Asylum for such creatures, but his proposal was listened to as if it was for a drawing-school for blind people. So he was left alone with the miserable girl. With that pertinacious decisiveness which is one of the prominent features in his character, he set about trying to strike a few sparks of intellect out of this hard flint. During three months he felt as if dealing with a brute of the lowest species. All his efforts, unwearied and varied as they were, proved a total failure. Still he continued praying and labouring, hoping against hope. One evening at worship, while the hymn was being sung, he heard an articulate and harmonious tone proceed from the brutishly-shaped mouth. The child evidently tried to put its voice in accord with the sounds which it was hearing. This was a gladdening ray of light. Now, Mr. Bost is a musician, and an excellent performer on the piano. On discovering that the mind of the child could be best approached through the medium of music, he at once applied his talent to the benefit of his unhappy pupil. Under the softening and cheering influence of sound, it was most affecting to see how gradually, first with painful struggles, then with growing ease, the mind of the child emerged from the dark deep in which it had been confined. By little and little the idiot succeeded in uttering articulate sounds, then in uniting them into syllables, and finally into words. At the same time her health improved visibly, her nervous system became less irritable, her face assumed more and more a rational expression. She began to show joy and surprise when receiving something that was agreeable to her. Then tokens of gratitude and affection followed. In short, after a lapse of two years the idiot had disappeared, to make room for a child which appeared to be behind by a few years only, when compared with other children of her age. At the present moment that same child, formerly beneath the level of the brute, speaks well, sews and knits like sane children of her age, and might be the teacher of those whose intellect is not sunk to such a low pitch as hers was when she first put her foot on Mr. Bost's threshold.
This marvellous result was a perfect victory over the obstinacy of the doctors. It was at the same time an answer to the question, whether or not an Asylum should be built. While looking out for the required funds, Mr. Bost took idiot and incurable girls into his parsonage. Among the latter there were some peculiar specimens of human diseases. There was one who suffered from the serious and rare disease of hydropsy of the spine (Spina bifida). Then, as the number of applicants increased, he desired to hire a small house. There was one only a few yards from the Famille évangélique connected with a vineyard, pastures, arable land, and a farm-yard. No property could be more desirable as a habitation for children whose chief solace was fresh air, and a continuous conversation with the flowers of the fields and the birds of heaven. But the magistrate of the place was a declared adversary of Mr. Bost. He would often publicly aver that Mr. Bost's efforts only served to render his position more and more disagreeable. And yet—such are the wonderful ways of Providence—it was the magistrate himself who enabled Mr. Bost to get possession of the house. Mr. Bost's enemy left the community, and his successor (who was owner of the property) offered it to Mr. Bost for the use of his idiots and incurables.
This was a considerable step towards the realisation of Mr. Bost's wishes. But one great barrier was still to be removed. Between 40,000 and 50,000 francs (£1600 to £2000) were asked for the place. Mr. Bost again took his staff and travelled through France and Great Britain, knocking at the doors of his Christian friends. He was responded to most liberally. In England and Scotland he collected 20,185 francs (£807); in France. 19,691 francs (£788); from Switzerland, Bremen, and Holland, he obtained 955 francs. So he returned home with 40,876 francs, or £1633. But the house had to be altogether rebuilt. It is a simple, well-arranged, and cheerful-looking Establishment. Its name is Bethesda. Mr. Bost entered it in 1855 with five children. The day on which it was solemnly opened was a real festival for the good people of Laforce.
No sooner was it known that there was an establishment for imbecile and incurable girls at Laforce, than Mr. Bost received numerous requests to admit boys also. He answered that he could not think of it. But that answer did not discourage the friends of the unfortunate boys from trying to persuade him by continuous applications. "What?" a poor crippled boy said, to whom admission to the Establishment was refused, "is Mr. Bost of opinion that a boy does not deserve as much compassion as a girl?" Now, that was certainly not Mr. Bost's opinion, but he found that it was not always possible to give to everybody what he deserves. "But could you not appropriate one of the rooms of Bethesda for boys?" some friends would ask. "No, I cannot", was the short answer; and at length he gave no answer at all. The numerous applications, advices, and suggestions so perfectly bewildered him, that he felt he must barricade himself behind a profound silence, if he was not to be lifted out of his place. But although this silence guarded him from further attacks from without, it could not protect him against attacks from within. The matter weighed heavily on his heart. It pressed on him all day like a burden; it went to bed with him in the evening, it disturbed his sleep during the night, and it rose with him in the morning. "As in Christ", he heard an inward voice whisper, "there is neither male nor female, so is it in misery." True; but another voice, less tender but more clamorous, cried, "Where is the money to come from?"
One day he was on business at a neighbouring populous town. A poor boy attracted his attention. The aspect of the miserable creature was heartrending. His head was incessantly shaking to and fro in convulsive jerks like the balance of a clock-work; his left arm and left leg were lame, and his right eye was blind. Crowds often assembled round him, showing their curiosity more than their compassion. "This is a Protestant boy", a friend said to Mr. Bost. "It is urgently desired that he should be removed from the inspection of the public, but where is he to be sent? His parents are poor. He lives with his aunt, as his stepmother hates him and treats him cruelly. His aunt is also poor, and it is likely his father will take him back to use him for begging." A few days later Mr. Bost received a letter from the Protestant clergyman of the place requesting him to take the boy.
Mr. Bost could resist no longer. "Send the boy to me", he wrote; and from this moment his mind was made up to found Siloé, the third Establishment. He followed the same course which he had taken with the girls. He took the boy into his own house. Soon there were five. It must have been a touching sight to witness Mr. Bost in the midst of this pitiful family. It was a literal realisation of that precept of Christ, "If thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maim, the lame, and the blind."
He felt that a house must be got for them. Two little dwellings, situated a quarter of a mile from the parsonage, were for sale. Though they were little more than a heap of rubbish, 5000 francs were asked for them. But the situation was all that could be desired; a splendid, garden, with a spring of the purest water at its edge. Much, however, had to be done to make them habitable. Windows had to be cut, and doors and chimneys built, and flooring laid down. Instead of ladders which led up to the first floor, staircases had to be constructed. "These houses very much resemble your poor boys", some friends said. Still they did pretty well for a commencement, and in September, 1858, Mr. and Mrs. Deymier, whom Mr. Bost engaged for the direction of the Establishment, took their places at the head of the family.
Before two years elapsed Siloé contained fourteen boys, idiots and incurables. Great was the satisfaction with which Mr. Bost bestowed his care upon this Establishment, but great, too, was the ingratitude which he experienced from many parents. Some took their imbecile boys away because they did not turn sagacious within twelve months, and some took their crippled boys away because they had not learnt to walk. Then, finding that they could not make them walk either, they would humbly beg for their re-admission. But Mr. Bost was not such a fool as to allow the holy cause of charity thus to be trifled with. The request was declined, and the open places were filled up with children of parents who could better appreciate the blessings of such an Institution. Besides these bitter experiences, he had also to bear the burden of financial straits. The books of Siloé showed on the 1st of April, 1860 —i. e., in the second year of its existence— a deficit of nearly 18,000 francs (£720), not to speak of the deficits of the two other Establishments, which were also considerable.
But the building of establishments had not yet come to an end. Silod soon proved too strait. And there was another inconvenience connected with it, which threatened serious consequences. The grounds of Siloé bordered upon those of Bethesda. The garden of Siloé, not being spacious enough to afford sufficient opportunity of employment for the increasing number of boys, the garden of Bethesda was resorted to. But this arrangement brought the boys too much into contact with the girls. Prudence commanded the removal of the boys to some more distant spot, and to some larger building.
Many instances might be cited of the numerous requests which came in from all quarters, even from a country so far away as Russia. The replies of Laforce were like those of the Vatican: Non possumus; but it was soon proved that they proceeded from a less stubborn spirit. The postman one day brought a letter which at length snapped the cords of Mr. Bost's resistance:—
"It is in the name of the Chambre de Charité of N… that I take the liberty of inquiring whether you would consent to admit to your Establishments an unfortunate boy, with whom we do not know what to do; since in him there are so many miseries and infirmities combined, that not one of the public Establishments to which we have applied will consent to take charge of him. Arthur P… is a boy of ten. Owing to disease he has totally lost his hearing. One of his eyes is also completely lost; and he has only a partial use of the other, since little spots dim the sight. Moreover, he is subject to nervous epileptic fits, and sometimes to maniacal violence. His speech begins to become more and more unintelligible, etc."
So Mr. Bost resolved to build a new establishment. At two miles west from Laforce, in the valley of the Dordogne, there is an extensive tract of ground, through which a rivulet pours its pure and fertilising waters. There two houses, a large and a small one, were founded, separated from each other by a yard, into which an iron gate gives access from the public road. A spacious kitchen garden was laid out, and fruit-trees were planted. The family of Siloé was then transplanted to the larger house, which then received that name; while the house which before was called Siloé received the name of Eben-Hezer. The smaller house was called Bethel, and appropriated for the reception of epileptic boys; whereas, Eben-Hezer, now left by the boys, was destined for epileptic girls.
What had especially retarded Mr. Bost in the founding of a new establishment was the difficulty of finding a fit person as director. Mr. and Mrs. Deymier did not continue long, and Siloé had during the last three years been without a director. One day, however, being at a bathing-place, Mr. Bost made the acquaintance of the Rev. Mr. Castel, a retired minister, and his excellent wife. The happy couple, still in the prime of life, showed a desire to find some situation which might enable them to be useful in the vineyard of their heavenly Master. Their independent position, as well as their sympathy with the lost and the miserable, rendered them exactly the people who were wanted for such Establishments as Siloé and Bethel. They as gladly accepted Mr. Bost's proposal as he made it; and in the summer of 1864 Mr. and Mrs. Castel entered Siloé and Bethel in their capacities of director and directress of these interesting Establishments.
It may readily be imagined that by these proceedings the debt which already was pressing upon Mr. Bost was greatly increased. Indeed, as early as March, 1864, the books showed a deficit of 38,000 francs (£1520). And yet four months later he could write: "We have no debts. Since the foundation of our Establishments this is the first time we have been able to proclaim such good news. We uttered a cry of distress. It was heard, and within six months our debt was paid. Both the rich and the poor, were moved when they learned what we suffered. They found fault with themselves for having forgotten our Asylums in the distribution of their charity. People who knew nothing of our work hitherto, have promised us their help for the future. We depend upon it. Our friends at Geneva have twice over sent us considerable gifts", etc.
Indeed, nothing can be more delightful than thus to see a good man, whose only fault is that his faith is greater than his calculating power, and whose heart is richer than his purse, helped out of his difficulties by the united efforts of friends of all classes, who, far from rebuking him, on the contrary rebuke themselves for having allowed him to struggle alone in carrying on a work than which no other work deserves more the name of charity; and no charity deserves more the title of a labour of love.
I Had intended to visit Laforce in the summer of but unlooked for circumstances compelled me to delay doing so till December of that year. Winter is a bad season for visiting charities. Not only are the days short, so that comparatively little can be seen between dawn and dusk, but the gardens are also withered, and the fields are covered with snow, and the Establishments look dull and dreary in the midst of the desolation. You are told how the inmates exercise themselves in summer by digging the soil or reaping the corn; and how the children enjoy themselves in the garden or in the orchard—but you see nothing of this, for young and old take to the workshops or the schools, longing for the day when the cuckoo will again be heard in the wood and the cattle rove through the meadows.
It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when the stage-coach jolted over the large stones that pave the main thoroughfare of Bergerac, the nearest town to Laforce. I was advised to take that route, as I would be most likely to find a conveyance from thence to Mr. Bost's Establishments. The town, which numbers a population of 8000, is more famous for the choice white wine which bears its name than for the beauty of its streets. It is one of the worst built places on the right bank of the Dordogne. I cannot tell how it looks in summer, but I found so many pools in its streets, that I thought even the longest and warmest summer would hardly suffice to dry them all up. The country round, however, which is slightly undulating, presents a charming rural aspect. Beeches, elms, and firs skirt the meadows, corn-fields, and vineyards, which extend in. variegated succession through the valley of the Dordogne.
The landlord of the chief inn told me that Mr. Bost, who always calls at his house when in town, was absent hi Paris. This was sad intelligence, to which his information that there was no means of getting to Laforce till five the next morning, added little consolation. The distance was only three or four miles, but it was dark; and what was the use of taking a private conveyance in such circumstances? Mr. Bost's absence would prevent me from seeing him, and the sun's absence would prevent me from seeing his Establishments.
"Moreover", the talkative landlord said, "there is no inn at Laforce where you can put up. You had better stay here. I will give you a good dinner and a first-rate bed, and tomorrow morning at five you will be able to proceed comfortably with the post-chaise."
The prospect of a " first-rate bed" after a long day's journey all the way from Tours was enticing enough, but I was afraid the better the bed the more difficult it would be for me to get up at four the next morning, to take my seat in a post-chaise.
"Is it a covered coach?" I asked, not without reason.
"Well", the answer was, "I think it is. I don't know, I am sure. But —yes— of course it is covered. It is winter, you see. Sans doute, Monsieur, sans doute, la voiture est converte."
The bed was really first-rate, and in it I soon forgot all my petty troubles and trials of the day. I cannot exactly tell what I had been dreaming about, but I awoke with the feeling that I was out in a storm of thunder and lightning. The thunder proved to be the stentorian voice of a stout broad-shouldered ostler who was standing at my bedside, and the lightning the glow of the candle which he was holding between his thumb and finger.
"Get up, sir", he said with a voice which seemed to issue from the bowels of the earth. "It is four o'clock."
"Very well", I answered, "put down the candle and fetch my boots."
"Here are your boots. I haven't got a candlestick, but dress and I will light you."
"So you are my candlestick", I observed; "very convenient indeed."
He was very patient, and looked with an air of bonhommie at my struggle to pass the Rubicon that separated the world of dreams from the world of Bergerac.
"This way", the walking candlestick said, leading me down a narrow staircase. He opened a door, blew out the candle, and we found ourselves in the street.
" Where is the coach?" I asked, trying in vain to discover anything of the kind in the dark shades of the night.
"I am the driver", he said, "my chaise is ten minutes" walk from this.
His calculation was not overstated. We really walked through the whole of the town till we reached a narrow lane. It was blocked up by an open two-wheeled post-gig, beside which an old man was standing, lantern in hand. I looked round in despair.
"Is this the conveyance?" I asked, in a voice of alarm.
"Of course it is", Mr. Stentor replied, and in the narrow lane his words echoed like a peal of thunder.
I heartily wished myself back in my bed again, but no alternative was left but to turn the necessity into a virtue. The stars were glittering brightly. I climbed to my seat, wrapped myself in my rug, and off we trotted at a speed of four miles an hour.
I tried to keep up a conversation with the driver, but found it difficult, as he had to give nearly all his attention to the road, which at many spots was all but impassable. He was a Protestant, so I could speak more freely with him.
"Of course you know Mr. Bost and his Establishments?" I said.
"Don't I!" he answered. "And who doesn't in ten, twenty kilomètres round about!"
He told me that he had known Laforce before Mr. Bost came there, and that he was able to make a comparison between what it was in those days and what it is now. "You can have no conception", he said, "of the great change which Mr. Bost has brought about. There were no roads which a man could pass along without risking his neck: now you will find good thoroughfares. Laforce is still a small out-of-the-way hamlet; but besides Mr. Bost's Establishments, which are fine buildings, you will see many a respectable house where formerly there were only miserable sheds scarcely fit for human beings. Monsieur Bost supports 200 children in his Establishments. You may perceive what an effect that must have upon the prosperity of the place. Ah, c'est un bon homme. Monsieur Bost—un très bon homme"
In this manner my coachman chatted away, showing that I had started a topic upon which he loved to dwell. I tried to give a more spiritual turn to the conversation by asking about the religious condition of the place; but here I found that the poor man was out of his element, and that, though a Protestant, he did not possess a much greater knowledge of the Gospel than I had seen among his Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen.
We reached a spot where the road became on a sudden so steep that I thought we were at the bottom of a high wall.
"We must go out here", the driver said, jumping down. "This is a very bad place. The poor animal can hardly pull up."
Of course I alighted, not observing the muddy pool in which I had to stand, for all the water of the hill seemed to be collected in this spot. The coachman took the horse by the reins, and while he pulled the gig in front, I took my stand behind and pushed to the best of my ability. This was an instance of the "world turned upside down,"—the passenger bearing the conveyance instead of the conveyance the passenger. "The next time", I thought, "the coachman will take out the horse and put me in."
At the top of the hill we resumed our seats, and soon found ourselves at the entrance of the village. There was no living creature to be seen, nor was there anything like a lamp-post. The only light visible came from a house, at the door of which we stopped.
"This is the inn", my friend said.
I paid my fare—only one franc—and opened the glass door of the tavern. I found myself in a butcher's shop. Joints and shoulders of mutton were suspended from the ceiling. A little man of middle age, dressed in a shirt and trousers, with naked arms, was cutting meat at a table that ran along the wall to the right. To the left there was a broad hearth with an outstanding chimney. A kettle was merrily humming over the wood fire. I looked at my watch. It was six o'clock.
"Is this an inn?" I asked.
"Oui, Monsieur" the butcher said, cutting away, and leaving me to my own reflections.
"Can you give me breakfast?"
"Oui, Monsieur" He took a pole, to the end of which an iron hook was fastened, and taking down from the ceiling a large joint, which seemed to be a little too heavy for his balancing power, staggered away with it like a drunken man. Soon he made his appearance again.
"When will you give me my breakfast?" I said.
"We cannot give it you before eight", he answered, taking down another joint, with which he again disappeared. A few minutes elapsed, and he came again.
"Why can't you give it me now?" I asked.
"Because we have no milk yet", was the answer, and away he staggered with the third joint.
As it seemed that between each question which I put to him a joint had to be carried away, and as I found that the removal of each joint took four minutes, I counted the joints which were still hanging; and as there were thirteen, I calculated that our conversation would in this way take nearly an hour. With this prospect before me, I thought I was justified in taking a seat near the fireside.
No sooner was I seated, than the landlady made her appearance—a tall, slender, middle-aged woman, with a fair complexion. She was followed by a servant, who carried a pot, which she placed on the iron hearth-plate at my feet. By means of the tongs she raked a few pieces of burning wood under the pot, and thus gave me the benefit of two fires at once. In five minutes, however, she came with a second pot, and soon I saw a third fire blaze up. A third pot thereupon made its appearance, and a fourth; till in the course of half an hour there were a dozen pots, each provided with its own little fire, arranged round the main fire. Each time a pot was added, I pushed my chair some inches backward, until I found myself seated in the middle of the parlour, having twelve boiling pots on my right side, as many heaps of cut meat on my left, and as many joints over my head.
"Is all that destined for my breakfast?" I asked.
"Oh dear no", the landlady answered. " Today is market-day, and we'll have the country people to dinner."
Then the landlady put both her hands to her mouth to form a sort of trumpet, and, giving free play to her lungs, called the name of " Jeannette" with such a shrill, piercing sound, that I wondered the joints did not tumble down from the ceiling. Soon Jeannette made her appearance, two butcher's axes in her hands, one of which she gave to her fellow-servant. They placed themselves at a block behind my back, and began mincing meat. The noise of the strokes, wonderfully regular and rapid as they were, put all attempts at conversation out of the question. At the same time a fine little boy of six jumped in, to show his mother a rattle which he had received on the occasion of the market-day. As the parlour was nearly full, the little fellow took his stand at my knees, and there began to turn his rattle with might and main. This musical performance, though perfectly in keeping with the noise of the mincing, was yet a little too much for my tympanum; so, as the daylight was breaking, I opened the door and took a walk through the village.
Having proceeded a few steps, I noticed a sort of coach-office, the door of which was open. I thought I might just inquire whether a conveyance could be got to take me back to Bergerac in the afternoon. To my surprise I saw my landlord and driver busily engaged in cleaning a gig. He told me that he was the only carriage-proprietor of the place, and that he could give me no conveyance, as the market-day required all his servants.
I walked on a quarter of a mile, but the cold foggy weather soon drove me back. Having returned to the neighbourhood of the inn, I saw a baker's shop, and as I was really in want of some food, and did not know when my breakfast would be served up, I entered to buy a roll. Whom should I see but my landlord again, standing behind the counter and weighing large loaves on wooden scales!
"So you are also the baker of the place?" I said.
"Dear me", I answered, "you must be a clever fellow"; and calculating his professions on my fingers, I said, "you are the coachman, the innkeeper, the butcher, and the baker. Now I want to be shaved—are you also the barber?"
"Non, Monsieur" he answered, shaking his head with an expression of resentment, as if I had asked him whether he was the executioner. Still, his indignation did not go so far as to make him unwilling to call the required individual.
The breakfast which my landlady served up, though not very substantial, was still a real refreshment in my then circumstances. I now came to understand why everything was put off till the milk came;
for a large basin of it, hot from the cow, formed the chief part of this simple rural repast.
But a truce to these gossiping reminiscences, by the way.
The reader will have gathered from the preceding chapters that there are five Establishments at Laforce. They are as follow:
1. La Famille évangélique, which receives—
a. Orphan girls of every age.
b. Young girls who are in circumstances which expose them to dangers of various kinds.
c. Young girls of scattered Protestant families.
2. Bethesda, which receives young girls who are—
a. Infirm or incurable; or
b. Blind, or threatened with blindness; or
c. Idiots; or
d. Lunatic, or deranged in mind.
3. Eben-Hezer, which receives epileptic girls.
4. Siloé, which receives orphan or poor boys, who at
the same time are—
a. Infirm or incurable; or
b. Blind, or threatened with blindness; or
5. Bethel, which receives epileptic boys.
Mr. Schneider, whom Mr. Bost had recently engaged as his secretary and assistant in the superintendence of this extensive work, was so kind as to guide me through all the five houses. We began with the inspection of the three girls' houses, which are situated only a few yards from each other. What struck me at the outset was the cheerful and bright appearance of the buildings. In point of architecture, they presented nothing that attracted attention; neither were the gardens which separated them from the public road in any way remarkable. But the inside of the houses showed that the builder had spared nothing to promote the health and cheerfulness of the denizens by an abundant supply of air and light, both in the sitting-rooms and bedrooms. The schoolrooms alone appeared to me to be a little too low in the ceilings and wanting in light. But this is a defect which is common to many schools, especially those connected with establishments.
Two ladies conduct the direction of the Famille évangélique; the one the household and the other the school department. I found no servants in the house, all the work being done by the girls themselves. There were seventy-five, some of whom I found engaged in the sewing-room; while others were in the adjacent schoolroom. In both places the girls receive such instruction as will make them good servants and seamstresses. The hours from nine to twelve and from one to five, are devoted to teaching; from twelve to one and from six to seven, to playing. What I could notice of the school-teaching, which was imparted by the directress and an assistant lady, appeared to be just what is wanted for girls of that class. At my request various hymns and songs were sung by the united pupils of both rooms. Their performance showed an amount of taste and refinement which girls like these, some of whom looked very coarse and uncouth, could never have acquired at their homes. And no wonder; for Mr. Bost, who is himself a good singer, and a composer, is very particular about this part of the instruction, from which he, in my opinion, rightly expects much aid in the cultivation of the mind and the softening of the habits. Nor is he less careful about the religious and biblical instruction, to which an hour is devoted every day.
The family rises at six, and has worship at half an hour after. The hour from seven to eight is given to sewing or knitting for the household. The breakfast, which is at eight, consists of bread and broth, or milk; the lunch, which is at twelve, consists of a piece of bread; the dinner, which is at five, is composed of potatoes and vegetables, and three times a week the girls have meat. There is plenty of opportunity for bodily exercise, since, as I have said already, all the work, the cooking of the meals, the cleaning of the house with its numerous rooms and adjacent buildings, and the cultivation of the garden, is done by the girls themselves. The girls are also taught to make purchases for the Establishment at the market and the shops. They go out two and two, under the direction of an adult person, or of an elder fellow-pupil, who is able to show them what they have to attend to, and how to get the best articles at the lowest prices. Besides, the afternoon of every Thursday is set apart for walking. The wholesome effect of this system of training is noticeable in the fresh, buoyant look of the girls. It cannot be doubted that they must thus get thoroughly initiated into everything that belongs to the department of a servant or housekeeper. The Establishment has also its own stock of cattle, a bakery, and a butchery, which are placed under the management of a man, who is also the gardener of the house. And such girls as are destined for service in the country have an opportunity of becoming acquainted with what a farmer's servant is supposed to be familiar with. The house itself is a proof that the girls learn to do their work well. Though my visit was not announced beforehand, and took place early in the forenoon, yet I was requested to go through the whole of the house, from the cellar and basement up to the bedrooms; and I found everything in the most perfect order. I never witnessed more untidiness in human dwellings than in the country-places of Southern France; but the Establishments of Laforce were as clean and neat as the houses of Holland. The two bedrooms, one with forty, and the other with twenty-four beds, as well as the infirmary with eight beds, left nothing to be wished for in this respect. The dress of the girls, too, is clean and becoming. It is as simple as possible. A white cap or a kerchief covers the head; a black pelerine the chest; a gown of cotton the rest of the body. If there is anything reminding one of a uniform, it is merely accidental.
I could not obtain any statistics as to the results of this work; but I was glad to learn that, as far as could be ascertained, those girls who have turned out badly form by far the minority; and that of these even many, after having gone astray for a while, returned to the right way. It must be understood, however, that many of the girls trained at the Famille évangélique are children of evangelists and colporteurs, and consequently enjoyed a religious education from their childhood. The Famille évangélique is not a penitentiary, nor a Magdalene institution. It is true there are girls among the pupils who but for their being sent to this house would have been sure to fall into a disorderly life; but they constitute the minority. On the whole, the children of the Famille évangélique belong to a poor but respectable class. For many the reception into the house was necessary, more to guard them against the errors of Popery than against the dangers of seduction. Though the object of their education is to make good servants of them, yet to some, who show a talent for a better position in life, a higher training is given. Thus some are enabled to pass their examination as teachers of popular and of ladies' schools. Some are at present engaged as nursery-maids, bonnes, or governesses in England and Scotland. The two first directresses of Bethesda were pupils of the Famille évangélique; and so were the linen-maid and the cook of the same Establishment. Many pupils have turned out faithful Christian servants, or pious, godly mothers. Mr. Bost has often been encouraged in his arduous but important task, by striking proofs of the heart-renewing effect of God's Word upon these girls. The few Reports which I could lay hold of contain accounts of death-beds, which give certainty that among those who sing the song of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem there are many pupils of the Famille évangélique.
From the Famille évangélique we proceeded to Bethesda. I found this house almost crowded with girls whose aspect excited feelings of the deepest compassion. There were fifty-eight, of various ages, from five or six to twenty or twenty-five years. Twenty-five of them were idiots; the rest were suffering from complaints which were deemed incurable. Hopes, however, were entertained that some would be restored to health. I found the directress engaged in the affecting task of trying to keep a sort of school among these imbecile creatures. The hours from nine till twelve and from two till five, are set apart for this work; but in summer the greater portion of the day is devoted to garden-labour and exercise in the open air. In another room a teacher instructed half-a-dozen idiots in sewing; and in a third room I found about a dozen girls, some of whom were incurables, grouped round a harmonium, on which a teacher was playing a tune which they were trying to sing. The music was, of course, very deficient; but still it was touching to notice how these poor girls attempted to produce something like the melody which was being played. In each of the rooms the same touching sight presented itself, viz., the continuous and sometimes apparently hopeless struggle of patient charity to untwist the strings of imbecility with which the minds of those poor creatures were tied down. I do not believe that there is a place in the world where the patience and perseverance of love is put to a stronger test than in a school of idiots. It even requires a considerable amount of patience to teach an ordinary child the letters of the alphabet in a week or a fortnight; but what must that be which is needed to teach a child who can hardly master a single letter in two months! Only fancy yourself sitting down beside a child with no other object during a whole hour than to make it pronounce and write an o! and, when you have got through that hour, you find that the figure the child scribbles down resembles as much an o as a pair of tongs resembles an egg. Or imagine yourself engaged for another hour in trying to teach a girl of ten or twelve years to shift a little piece of wood from the left to the right side of another piece, and at the close of the hour, during which you have corrected her a couple of hundred times, you find that she fancies she is doing exactly what you want her to do by laying one piece across the other! Indeed, such work would, in the long run, make you an idiot also, if love did not continually refresh your consciousness of being engaged in a most useful labour.
Till recently, the incurables who inhabit this house with the idiots were employed in instructing the latter. I was glad to find that Mr. Bost had done away with this method of teaching, which could not be other than unfavourable to the education of both pupils and teachers. The idiots are now separated from the incurables in the hours of teaching and during the night. The bedrooms, which are upstairs, are comparatively small, it being found injudicious to have more than four or six of these unfortunate creatures in one room. I counted nine such bedrooms, besides an infirmary containing fifteen beds. In another room I found a blind girl engaged in teaching two other blind girls to read by the touch, and to write after the system of Kilian de St. Hippolyte. She showed me three big books which she had written, containing the Psalms and the Epistles of Paul.
Eben-Hezer, the third building, contained twelve girls, seven of whom were epileptic and five insane. I found them engaged in sewing. Of course there could be no such thing as a school for those unfortunate girls. They were simply kept busy during the day with a little sewing, walking, and playing, the teacher having to be constantly on the alert, as every moment a fit of epilepsy, or an outburst of insanity, might take place. The insane ones, generally, are of a quiet, mild character, except at odd times, when some one or other may turn a little unmanageable. In that case no confinement is resorted to, the strait jacket being found to do all that is required. I found but one dormitory for the whole of the inmates.
After half an hour's walk we arrived at the establishments called Siloé and Bethel. The Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Castel received us with kind, cordial hospitality. They appeared very happy in their office, which they had entered on recently. We took a seat at their fireside in the large, cheerful sitting-room, which is at the same time the dwelling-room of the whole household. We afterwards walked through the Establishments, which, being recently built, were in such a style as Mr. Bost's experience at Bethesda and Eben-Hezer had taught him would best answer the purpose. Siloé, the larger of the two, contained twenty-nine boys, of whom fourteen were idiots and fifteen incurables. Among the latter two were blind and one suffered in a frightful degree from St Vitus's dance. Bethel, the smaller house, which is destined for epileptics, was still unoccupied, as the number of patients was not yet large enough to make it worth while to set up a special household. There were five, who, for the time being, were lodged at Siloé. The rooms of Siloé are lofty and well lighted. The ground floor contains a school-room, a dining-room, a large bedroom with eight beds, and two smaller bedrooms. There is the same number of bedrooms on the first floor, where Mr. Mialhe's study, an infirmary, and the parlours for the assistants and servants are also to be found. An entrance to the first floor may also be got by an outside staircase, which leads up to a large balcony, sheltered by an awning, under which invalids may sit to take fresh air, and to enjoy the aspect of the country round about. The smaller bedrooms are destined for such patients as, from the peculiar nature of their disease or character, require to be separated from the rest. At this time one of the smaller bedrooms on the ground floor was occupied by a young man, whose happy, quiet, jovial look amused me, despite the sadness of his case. The poor fellow fancied himself king of the world. As it did not become such royalty to sleep with the common people in one dormitory, he was determined on having a bedroom for himself: and so the smaller one was given to him. It would have been injudicious, however, to permit him to be alone during the night, but fortunately he allows another young man, who is not insane, to sleep in the same bedroom, under the title of his majesty's adjutant."
Siloé is destined to be an agricultural colony, under the management of Mr. Mialhe. Those of the invalids whose infirmities do not prevent them from doing some work, will here find an opportunity
for wholesome and useful labour. Those who are compelled to stay at home, will be kept busy with a little handiwork, such as knitting, matting chairs, making mats, etc.
A Glance at the Spirit and Method of Treatment of the Incurables and Idiots.
It is not my intention here to enter into a detailed account of the way in which Mr. Bost treats idiocy, epilepsy, and diseases called incurable. So far as I can judge, it appears to me that the principles which he lays down in his Reports are recommended by common sense. His main principle, upon which all the others rest, is expressed in the well-known proverb, "The best physician under God is Nature." In his Report of 1860, Mr. Bost says upon this subject, "I never visit the hospitals in our great cities without a feeling of distress. What then, you ask, is wanted in those large establishments? Are the patients not cared for? Are there no able medical men, no remedies, no order, no cleanliness, no wholesome and abundant nourishment? No doubt there is plenty of all that. I have with admiration accompanied the medical men on their morning visits. Everything art could contrive for restoration to health was applied, yet the cure was slow, attended with horrible pains, and often terminated in death. I will tell you what was wanting: the country air, the fragrance of the flowers and of the earth, the morning dew, which is more refreshing than many baths taken in town or even in rivers. What is wanting is the beneficial rays of the sun, the harmony of nature, the carol and warbling of birds, so adapted to cheer those hearts which are broken by suffering, and to whom no other recreation is offered but the sight of rows of beds upon which sufferers are sighing and groaning from morning till evening, and from evening till morning."
Indeed, it is amazing to read the almost miraculous cures which, simply by the application of this principle, have been effected at the Establishments of Laforce. Consumption of the lungs, already in an advanced stage, has quite disappeared from some, hysteria from others; an amputation was prevented in one case; and a girl, who suffered from a disease of the hip and was sent away from the hospital as incurable, was enabled to walk well, etc.
With regard to idiocy and lunacy, this principle is now generally acknowledged to be the only true one. It seems that Mr. Bost learnt to value its application on a visit to Scotland. "I visited a lunatic asylum in that country", he writes. "Upon entering the yard I saw three large omnibuses, capable of containing ten persons inside and ten out. I gave my letter of introduction to the director, who, with a smile, replied, "I will attend to you directly, but I must first see my pupils off." These omnibuses were filled with insane males and females; some carried provisions for the journey, some had books, some drawing-albums, and some lead pencils. "Now you must draw the large oak", the director said to some, and "you the church", etc. This scene produced a deep impression upon Mr. Bost, and confirmed him greatly in the principle of rural training which he had adopted.
From my personal acquaintance with Mr. Bost, and my conversation with several of his assistants, I believe I am safe in saying that, if one wish to witness the right administration of the Gospel as a healing power both for body and soul, he can do no better than spend a week at Laforce. The method which Mr. Bost applies is very simple. He tries to restore peace and joy to the minds of his patients by constantly telling them the good news that there is a Saviour who cordially loves them; who thoroughly understands their sufferings, because He Himself suffered even more than they; who, in order to rescue them from all sufferings, and to restore them to perfect everlasting happiness, came down from Heaven to do all that was required for their redemption. Hearts broken under the strokes of suffering and misery are, with few exceptions, prepared to receive and to believe such gladdening intelligence. The calmness which this belief imparts to the mind cannot but operate most beneficially upon the body. Prayerful submission takes the place of rebellious resentment. And if the cheerful state of mind which enlivens the patients cannot always remove the complaints that vex them, it at any rate makes them feel less miserable in their sufferings and more thankful for their comforts. Mr. Bost's Reports lead us to many sickbeds and death-beds which, in a most affecting way, confirm this observation. It is there shown how Christ is mighty to change a poor, weak, miserable child into a hero, fighting the hardest battle with unflinching courage, till it leaves the field as a conqueror. In the case of the idiots, Mr. Bost tries to revive the intellect through the heart, and the heart through the love of God. It is a well-known truth, the force of which was felt by Mr. Bost from the commencement of his work, that the heart has its reasonings, which reason itself cannot always understand.
The result has shown that a work carried on in this spirit is not in vain. I was quite astonished, when walking through the Establishments, to learn that those children, whose countenances bore evidences of a rational thinking mind, and who, though in an imperfect way, were able to understand and to reply to what was said to them, had entered the place in a brutish, and often lower than brutish state; and I was not less agreeably surprised on being told that, long before they could catch the idea of shifting a piece of wood from the left to the right, they had given evidence of being pleased by an act of kindness, and of being grateful for a benefit bestowed upon them. This shows that, when all the entrances to the human mind are locked, the door of the heart is the first that will open if gently and constantly knocked at. Nay, it appears that whereas, with human beings whose minds are in a sound state, the intellect often develops at the expense of the heart, with idiots, on the contrary, the heart often develops faster the more the intellect lags behind. Laforce has witnessed most touching proofs of this wonderful tendency of the human mind. One day, for instance, a poor girl, an object of the deepest commiseration, deaf, dumb, blind, paralytic, and epileptic, was brought to Bethesda. It required some courage to keep one's eyes fixed on the miserable creature, with her dried-up, contracted limbs, her repulsive face, the features of which were constantly contorted in the most hideous way. Well, an idiot took charge of that child, guarded and nursed it, and stood by its death-bed to administer to it the last solace of love! And such was the indefatigable care, and even intelligent thoughtfulness with which she tended her poor helpless charge, that Mr. Bost said, "When I lie on my death-bed, I shall count it a blessing to be nursed in this way." I do not wonder at such hearts being able to understand what is the meaning of the simple sentence, "God loveth you", long before the intellect is able to catch the difference between two and three. Nor can I be surprised at what Mrs. Castel told me, that the same children who do not know whether a shoe ought to be on the foot or on the head, or who, if not prevented, would, like animals, walk on all-fours, and lick the dirt, may yet sometimes be heard ejaculating,
"Mon Dieu ! prends pitié de moi ! J'en ai bien besoin !"
• Six Months Among the Charities of Europe, Establishments of Mr J. Bost at Laforce, by John De Liefde (1865)
• The Romance of Charity, Establishments of Mr J. Bost at Laforce, by John De Liefde (1867, new edition)
• A visit ot the Asylum of Laforce, in Christian's Penny Magazine (1875)
• John Bost, Pastor and Philanthropist, in The Quiver (1883)
• Asiles de Laforce en 1878 : liste des bâtiments & résidents
• La Famille - Béthesda - Ében-Hézer - Siloé - Béthel - Le Repos - La Retraite - La Miséricorde
• John Bost : index des documents
• portraits de John Bost : photographies