Proofed and corrected from the original edition for enjoyable reading. (Worth every penny spent!)
"Bread Upon the Waters" was published in 1852 by the Governess's Benevolent Institution, an organization that provided temporary relief for governesses who were too ill to work and small emergency pensions for those who became destitute in their old age. Craik's purpose — to raise money for the Institution and enlist sympathy for its cause — partly determined the story's tone and shaped its events.
The story about a young woman, Felicia Lyne, who is twenty when her father remarries. Her wicked stepmother cause Felicia and her two young brothers to leave home. She supports them by working as a daily governess. She keeps a journal. It is filled with ordinary, and mundane notes about her job: the energy it takes to make her pupil learn, the new skills needed to teach even if one has an adequate education, the exhaustion that comes simply from talking all day, the worry about housekeeping expenses and about leaving the boys alone in lodgings while she works, the occasional embarrassments of walking alone through the street. However, by constant effort, Felicia manages and after several years she again meets the young man she had once been fond of — now Sir Godfrey Redwood — and realizes that the years and the work have made her dream of love impossible; her looks and her character have changed so that she could no longer be the "doll" that once pleased Redwood. She settles into her middle years, content with independence, self-sufficiency, and the lack of turmoil in her physical and emotional life.
With excerpts inserted into the story from the journal, we can see a transformation of Felicia from an intense adolescent to a mature woman.
Felicia is finally crippled in an accident so that she can no longer earn her living as a governess. However, she has a loving relation as beloved maiden aunt to her brother's children.
For the purposes of the Governess's Benevolent Institution, this solution is possible because Felicia has someone to fall back on when she is unable to work. Her brother repays her for the care she gave him when he was a child. Clearly, any person who ever had a governess should do the same by contributing to the cause.