Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter XI.: WHAT MUST COME AT LAST. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 1 (Life in the Wilds, Hill and the Valley, Brooke and Brooke Farm)
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Chapter XI.: WHAT MUST COME AT LAST. - 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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WHAT MUST COME AT LAST.
My father is a justice of the peace. Every body connected with one who holds such an office knows what interest arises out of its transactions to those who care about the joys and sorrows, the rights and liberties of their neighbours. It was not my father's custom to allow his family to form a little court before which a culprit might tremble, or a nervous witness be abashed. He received the parties who came to him on business in a hall, where it was not possible for the young people to peep from a door, or for the servants to listen from the stairs. My brothers were sometimes present at examinations, that they might take a lesson in what might at some future day become their duty; and we generally heard after dinner what had passed; but there was no gratification allowed to our curiosity in the presence of the parties.
On one occasion mine was very strongly excited, and I did long to gain admittance to the justice hall. I came in, one fine summer morning, from the garden, and passed through the hall, not being aware that any one was there. But there stood Norton with a gloomy brow, and Hal Williams, evidently in custody, looking the picture of shame and despair. He turned half round as I entered, to avoid meeting my eye, and pretended to brush his bare brown hat. My father appearing, I made my retreat, and was obliged to wait till the afternoon for further satisfaction. If it had not been too warm a day for walking, I should have learned the event out of doors, for the whole village rang with it. Hal was committed for sheep-stealing.
Nobody could be surprised at this, who observed how the unhappy man had been going on for some time. My father had known him to have been guilty of poaching to a great extent the winter before; but there was never evidence enough to justify his being apprehended. The next step to poaching is sheep-stealing; and this step Hal had taken. The evidence was so clear, that it was useless to attempt any defence. Norton had lost a lamb in the night. Search was made in Hal's house; and three quarters of lamb, not cut up by a butcher, were found under some straw in his cottage; and the hide, bearing Norton's mark, was dug up from where it had been buried, behind the dwelling.—As soon as Hal went to prison, his drooping wife, and idle unmanageable boys became chargeable to the parish.
When Norton had finished the painful task of giving his evidence against an old neighbour, he proceeded to Mr. Malton's to do a thing more painful still. He went to offer his little farm for sale, and to let his labour where it would obtain a better reward than his two poor fields could afford. It was a sore necessity; and long was it before he could bring himself to entertain the thought. Even now, when he was quite determined, he could with difficulty nerve himself for the interview with Mr. Malton. He slackened his pace more and more as he drew near Brooke Farm; and just as he was about to enter the chesnut avenue, he remembered that he should be more likely to meet Mr. Malton if he went by the lanes; so he turned back and approached by the path which I have described as my chosen one. He stopped to watch a frog leaping across the road till be saw it safe into the opposite ditch. He plucked some wild flowers tor his button-hole, but forgot to put them there, and pulled them to pieces instead. He lingered to watch the rooks as they sailed round the old elms: but their “caw, caw” which most people find rather a soothing sound, made poor Norton fidgety to-day. He was going to walk away when he heard the pacing of a horse's feet in the dust of the lane. He looked round and started to see Mr. Malton.
“Why, Norton, you are in a reverie,” said Mr. Malton, who observed the start. “I suppose it is a holiday with you that you stand watching the rooks with your hands in your pockets?”
“It is an odd sort of a—.” Norton choked at the word “holiday.”
Mr. Malton's face was full of concern instantly. He dismounted and led his horse by the bridle while Norton walked beside him. Both were silent for some time.
“Have you anything to say to me?” inquired Mr. Malton at length. “You trust in me, I hope, Norton, as a friend?”
“If I did not, sir, I should not be here now. If I thought you an enemy or only indifferent, I would go into the workhouse before I would tell you a syllable of what is in my mind. I came, sir, to say that I find I must give up my farm; and I wish to know what you would advise me to do with it.”
“I am glad it is no worse, Norton. I do not at all doubt that it is a sad pinch to you to give up a plan from which you once hoped so much; but you will be repaid for the effort, trust me. If you are steady in your determination, the worst of your difficulties is over.”
“I don't think I shall change my mind again, sir. It is a sad thing to walk through my fields after crossing one of yours. One can scarcely get a finger in between your wheat stalks, I find; and mine rise as thin and straggling as thorns in an ill-grown fence. There is nothing but ruin in such harvests as mine are likely to be.—I should be glad to sell my land, sir, and my stock, either to you or some one else, and to have work under you again, if you have it still to give me.”
“I will take your land and stock on a fair valuation; and as for employment, make your mind easy about that. One of my largest tenants is looking out for a bailiff, and I should think the situation would just suit you, Norton. I can answer for your being fit for it.”
Norton's face crimsoned at the idea that he should not have to become a labourer on the ground which he had possessed. He had a good deal of pride left; and he was more obliged to his rich neighbour for his tenderness to this weakness than if he had given him capital to carry on his farm.
“If you obtain this situation,” continued Mr. Malton, who saw what was in his mind, “your cottage goes with your land; and you will find you have changed for the better, I assure you. My tenant gives his bailiff a very comfortable dwelling; and. when you find yourself under a whole roof, with a mind free from dread and care, I think you will not repent the step you have taken.”
“I believe it, sir; and I hope you will see that your kindness is not lost upon me. Now I have felt the value of gentle treatment in misfortune, I think I shall never be hard upon those under me. I am quite ashamed, sir, to think of the strange things that I fancied I might have to go through in giving up my farm. It all seems straightforward enough now, if I can but get this appointment.”
When the mode of valuation, and the time when Mr. Malton should take the land into his own hands, were settled, the good man mounted his horse and trotted off with a kind “Good day to you.”
As soon as he was out of sight, Norton stretched himself as vigorously as if he had been bent double for twenty-four hours. He returned home, forgetting to quarrel with the rooks, or to pull wild flowers to pieces by the way.