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Chapter IX.: ALL QUIET AGAIN. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 1 (Life in the Wilds, Hill and the Valley, Brooke and Brooke Farm) 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1832). Vol. 1.
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ALL QUIET AGAIN.
Paul was one of the very few whom his employer selected to remain with him till the stock should be sold off and the concern closed. The Jones family had been one of the first to depart of the many who were gone to seek employment and a home. They settled in the place where their sons were apprenticed to different trades, and where they had a good name for honesty, industry, and prudence. the fund which they had saved in better days was sufficient to maintain them for some time, if, as was not likely, people so respectable should find it difficult to obtain employment. They left Paul in possession of their cottage, as he was unwilling to shift his work-bench, or leave off cutting corks till the last moment.
As he was thus employed late one evening, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace came to him. Sir. Wallace had heard from a friend of his engaged in a neighbouring iron-work, who wished to know whether an able over-looker could be recommended to him from among those who would be thrown out by the closing concern. Mr. Wallace was glad of this opportunity of securing a good situation for Paul, to whom he felt himself greatly indebted for his conduct during the riots, and whom he knew to be competent to the duties of such an office. Paul was duly obliged by this offer, but requested time to consider of it, as he had already the choice of two modes of investing his little capital,—one in a shop in London, and another in a Birmingham concern.
Mr. Wallace was surprised at the good fortune which placed before one man, in days like these, three employments to choose out of. Paul answered with a stern smile, that he owed it to his reputation of being a miser; misers having two good qualifications for partnership,—the possession of money, and a close attachment to the main chance.
“I wish I could see any aim in this desperate pursuit of money,” said Mr. Wallace, gravely.
Paul answered by going into the inner room and bringing out the picture which hung there.
“Can you guess who that is?” said he.
“It has occurred to me that it might be yourself; but I can trace little or no likeness now.”
“No wonder,” said Paul, looking at his blackened hands and sordid dress. “It is not myself, however, but a brother,—an only, elder brother, who died when I was twenty, and he twenty-one, just entering on the enjoyment of his property.”
“And did that property come to you?” asked Mrs. Wallace, in surprise.
“Every acre of it, with the mansion you see there. I lost it all by gaming and other pleasures-—pleasures indeed!—and in ten years was sitting in rags, without a crust in my wallet, as beggars usually have, on yonder hill where I traced the map of my future fortunes. I have an aim, sir. It is to get back that estate; to plant an oak for every one that has been felled; and to breed a buck for every one that has been slain since the gates were shut upon me for a graceless profligate.”
“Do you think you should be able to enjoy your property if you got it back again?” asked Mr. Wallace. “Or, perhaps, there is some family connexion to whom you wish to restore it by will?”
“Neither the one nor the other,” replied Paul. “I have not a relation in the world; and I see as clearly as you can do, that I shall be by that time too confirmed in my love of money to enjoy the pleasures of a fine estate. I shall screw my tenants, and grudge my venison, and sell all the furniture of the house but that of two rooms.”
“Then do propose to yourself some more rational object?” said Mrs. Wallace, kindly. “Let those have your estate who can enjoy it, and leave off accumulating money before it is too late, As soon as you have enough to buy and furnish a cottage, and afford a small income, give up business, and occupy yourself with books, and politics, and works of benevolence, and country sports and employments; with anything that may take off your attention from the bad pursuit which is ruining your health, and your mind, and your reputation.”
“If you do not,” said Mr. Wallace, “I shall wish, as the best thing that could happen to you, that you may lose all your gains.”
Paul raised his clenched fist, and ground his teeth at the mention of such a possibility. Mrs. Wallace turned pale at such a symptom of passion; but she thought it right to add,—
“You have twice had warning of the fleeting nature of riches. You have lost your own fortune, and seen the prosperity of this place overthrown. If you still make wealth your god, I hope you prepare yourself to find it vanish when you need it most. I hope you picture to yourself what it will be to die destitute of that for which alone you have lived.”
“Yet this,” added her husband, “is a better lot than to live and die miserable in the possession of that for which alone he has lived. Take your choice, Paul; for the one lot or the other will be yours unless you make a grand effort now.”
Paul was not inclined to dispute this; but he was not, therefore, the more disposed to make the effort. He was pronounced by everybody a man of strong character. Whatever pride he had in himself was in his strength of character. Yet he was weak,—weak as an idiot,—in the most important point of all.
He was once seen to smile compassionately on the perseverance of a little child who laboured through a whole sultry day in digging a little pond in his garden. By the time it was finished, and before it could be filled, it was bed-time, and a rainy night rendered it useless.
When Paul despised the labour of this child, he little thought how his own life would resemble that sultry day. He, too, spent his sunshiny hours in laborious preparation; and fell into his long sleep to find on waking that his toil had been in vain.
When the Wallaces at length took their final leave of the place, they alighted at Armstrong's, on their way, to say farewell. The old man was, as usual, in his garden.
“Are you the last, the very last?” said he.
“Except two or three workmen and servants who stay to pack a few things and lock up our house.”
“I hope then they will take down yonder clock which sounds to me like a funeral bell.”
“Can you hear it so far as this?”
“O yes. Hark! It is beginning to strike noon. I used to like its stroke when it brought the work-people flocking from their cottages in the morning, or when they came pouring out as it told their dinner hour. But now it only puts one in mind of days that are gone, and I shall be glad when it is down.”
“You do then see something to regret in the days you speak of?” said Mr. Wallace. “This is more than I expected from you.”
“I might not say so, perhaps,” returned the old man, “if yonder valley could be made what it once was. But that can never be; and there is no comparison between a settlement where art and industry thrive, and a greater number of human beings share its prosperity every year, and a scene like that, where there is everything to put one in mind of man but man himself.”
“And where,” said Mr. Wallace, “we are chiefly reminded of the ignorance and folly to which the change is owing. I should wish for your sake that we could raze all those buildings, and make the ground a smooth turf as it was before, if I did not hope that the works might be reopened,—though not by us,—in happier days.”
“I should be more glad to see such a day than I was to witness that which brought you here,” said the old man. “But my sands are nearly run; and, even if nobody shakes the glass, I can scarcely hope that anything will bring you back within my hour. But come,” he added, swallowing his emotion, “where's your lady?”
“Gone to speak to Mrs. Margaret. Will you gather her a bunch of your flowers before we go?”
“Aye, and a choice one; for she is a choice flower herself,” said the old man. “From the hour that I saw her walking over the heath in the wintry wind in her cloak and thick shoes to show a poor neighbour how to manage a new dropt calf, I pronounced you, sir, a happy man. Whatever fortune betides you, you will find a companion and helper in her.”
Mrs. Wallace appeared in time to put a stop to further praise of herself. She had left Mrs. Margaret engaged in admiration of a painting by the lady's own hands, which she wished to leave as a remembrance, and which henceforth ornamented the chimney-piece of the cottage, and occasioned more discourse than any other possession they had ever had.
Armstrong handed the lady gently down to the chaise. When it was out of sight, he was a long time tethering the gate; and the housekeeper observed that he drew his band across his eyes as he turned into his orchard plot.