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Chapter I.: LANDLORD AND TENANT. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 2 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1832). Vol. 2.
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LANDLORD AND TENANT.
Among the islands which are clustered around the western shore of Argyleshire, there is a small chain called the Garveloch Isles, or the Isles of Rough Rock. There are four of them, divided from the coast of Lorn by a tossing sea, and by scattered islands larger than themselves; and from each other by narrow sounds, studded with rocks, and difficult to navigate, on account of the force of their currents. Tiffs difficulty would have placed the inhabitants nearly out of reach of intercourse with those of the mainland, even if that intercourse had been desired by either party; but it was not, at the date of our narrative, for they knew and cared little about each other. The islanders, consisting of only a few families scattered over Garveloch, (the principal of the group, which therefore gives it name to the whole,) thought of nothing but providing as they could for themselves alone; and their place of habitation was so wild and dreary that it presented no attractions to visitors. Garveloch was the only inhabited island of the four; Ilachann, the westermost and next largest, being a desert of rocks and moorland; and the eastern-most considerably smaller, not having even yet received the poor distinction of a name.
The lillegiblenillegibletillegible of Garveloch is about a mile and a half: hut its dwellers were, in the days of our tale, as little acquainted with each others concerns as if a chain of mountains had divided the north-western from the south-western parts of their island. The difficulties which lay in the way of their intercourse were so great from the nature of the land,—it being divided by steep rocks into cliffs and narrow valleys which were almost impassable,—that the rare communication which did take place was by coasting when the weather was calm enough to render the Sound safe for the crazy boats and small skill of the islanders. These boats were but two; one belonging to a farmer who cultivated his sandy fields on the southernmost and sunniest part of the land, and the other to the family of a fisherman who had tenanted a good cottage anti croft on the shore some way higher up. These boats were borrowed as they were wanted; and the intercourse of lending and receiving back again was all that ever took place, except on the rare occasions of a marriage, a birth, or a funeral, or the still rarer one of a visit from the proprietor. These visits averaged about one in the lifetime of each laird; for if it chanced that any one of the race was so fond of the wildest kind of scenery, or so addicted to any pursuit in which the productions of these islands could assist him, as to show his face a second time to his amazed tenantry, it as often happened that another was kept away entirely by the reports of those who had no love of dreary lands and perilous waters.
There are traces in all the islands of times when they had been more frequented; of times when the first introduction of a new faith into this remote region was followed up by rites which must have given to it an aspect of civilization which it had now long lost. Tombs of gray stone, with a cross at the head of each, are conspicuous here and there; and in the most secluded parts are mouldering walls which seem to have formed hermitages in the olden times. If these establishments were, as is most probable, connected with the cathedral of Iona, it seems strange that so great a celebrity as they must have obtained should have died away. There is not so much as one tradition, however obscure, among the inhabitants, respecting these, relics, and they therefore afford the less interest to the traveller, who can only look at the remains and go away as wise as he came.
There was once a laird, however, who was not willing to give up the whole matter as a mystery without examination. He came again and again, sometimes attended only by his steward, and sometimes by strangers as curious as himself. He destroyed the average we have spoken of, greatly to the joy of his island tenantry, and to the annoyance of the old steward who had the charge of this range of islands, together with many more ill the. neighbouring seas, and who much preferred talking big ill the name of the laird, and doing what he pleased among the people, to following his principal in his excursions standing by to hear principal statements of the tenantry, and receiving directions concerning their affairs.
Notice of a visit from the laird was sometimes given and sometimes not, according as Callum, the steward, happened to be ill Garveloch or elsewhere. He had all apartment of his own at the farm above-mentioned, which he occupied sometimes for a few days together, and which was therefore better furnished with, accommodations than any other. space between four walls in the island. The convenience of having this apartment prepared in case of the weather being too boisterous to permit a return on the same day to the mainland, induced the proprietor to send notice when Callum was on the spot to make arrangements. When he was not, such notice served no purpose, as the people at the farm had no power to levy supplies, and would not have known how to use them when procured, so uncivilized were their habits and manners. On one occasion, the omission of such notice caused the laird to witness a sight which he had never before beheld in all its simplicity,—a funeral among his tenants.
As the balk which contained himself and a party of friends approached Garveloch, one fine spring morning, he saw two boats nearing the landing-place before them. As these vessels were rocked in the surf, snatches of a hoarse and wild music came from them, rising above the roar and dash of the waves. The sound was not that of any instrument, but of the rough voices of men, and it ceased when the labours of landing began. This was done with all possible awkwardness, confusion and noise, anti then the companies of the two boats took their way up the rocks without perceiving the laird's vessel, which was still at a considerable distance. Some of the men bore on their shoulders the body about to be interred, and the rest followed at their own pace, not forming themselves into any order of march, or seeming to be united by any common object. The last of the stragglers disappeared behind a projection of the rock, while the laird was preparing to be carried through the surf by two of his boatmen. He pointed out to them, with great exactness, the spot where they should land the rest of the party when they should return from Hachanu to join him at dinner, and then took his way alone in the track of the funeral party.
He reached the burying-ground just as the ceremony was concluded; for funerals in the Highlands are hurried over with an apparent negligence and levity which shock thc feelings of those who have been accustomed to the solemnity which such a service seems fitted to inspire. The only solemnity here arose from the desolation of the place. It was unenclosed, so that the wild cattle had gone over it, defacing the tomb stones and cropping the coarse herbage which grew more plentifully here than elsewhere. Thistles and docks appeared where there were some traces of a path, and the fragments of broken crosses lay as rubbish beside the newlydug grave. The laird looked among the group for the mourners. They were easily distinguished by their countenances, though they shed no tears and spoke no word. They were three boys, the two elder of whom were strong, ruddy, well-grown youths, apparently of the ages of sixteen and fourteen. The third was either some years younger, or was made to look so by his smallness of size and delicacy of appearance. He fixed the attention of the laird at once by the signs of peculiarity about him. His restlessness of eye and of manner was unlike that which arises in children from animal spirits, and contrasted strangely with the lost and melancholy expression of his countenance. His brothers seemed not to forget him for a moment, sometimes holding him by the hand to prevent his wandering from them, sometimes passing an arm round his neck to control his restlessness, sometimes speaking to him in the caressing tone which they would use to an infant. The laird, learning from some who passed out of the burying-ground that these boys were orphans, and had been attending the funeral of their father, determined to learn more about them from themselves.
“You three are brothers, I find. Which of you is the eldest?”
“I am two years, older than Fergus,” answered Ronald, “and Archie is twelve, though lie looks less.”
“And have you any brothers and sisters younger than you, Archie!” enquired the laird.
Archie looked in the gentleman's face for a moment, and then away again.
“He, speaks to nobody but us.” said Ronald. “He heeds no other voice,—that is, no man's or woman's voice. He knows the low of the cattle and the cry of the sea-fowl when a storm is coming. He wants to be down among the rocks now, ye see. we're going, Archie, we're going. Stay a minute.—He's not like us, your honour sees.”
“I see, I see. He looks quite lost.”
“To a stranger,” said Fergus, “but not to us. We know his ways so well that we can always guide him, except when he is at the highest and lowest, and then it is best to leave hum to himself till the fit is over.”
“He must require a great deal of watching; is there no one to take care of him but you?”
“He takes to no folly, only to sport, Sir; and he is wiser than we about many things, and sees farther. He is always housed before a tempest, or safe in a hole in the rock, like the birds he seems to learn from, while we breast the wind as we may, far from home. When he is dull or low, Ella takes better care of him than we could do. She just puts fresh heather under him and sings, and he sleeps sometimes many days together.”
“And who is Ella?”
“Our sister, your honour; our elder sister. She is down by the boats, and she will be glad to see your honour, for we have much to say to you or to Mr. Callum. Where will your honour please to see Ella?”
“We will walk down to tho boats, Ronald; or, if your sister should wish to speak with me more privately, perhaps she will come up here.”
Ronald cast a hurried look at the new-made grave, and then said to Fergus,
“Run down, Fergus, and ask Ella to come up to the cross yonder. The laird will wait for her there: and let Archie go with you; he is in a hurry for the shore.”
During the few minutes that they waited at the cairn or heap of stones in which the cross was planted, the laird learned from his companion something of the domestic circumstances of this orphan family. Their mother had died at Archic's birth, and their father had been growing infirm for many years, so that almost the whole charge of the family had rested upon Ella since she had been old enough to support it. Her brother praised her only by stating facts; but these facts conveyed an impression that she must be a woman of extraordinary energy, and one who deserved all the respect and love with which her brothers could regard her. It was very natural that, while listening to a tale of peculiar interest concerning her, the laird should picture her to himself as corresponding in outward appearance to the elevated idea which was given him of her character; and it was with some disappointment that he looked upon her for the first time. She appeared as much older than she really was, as Arclne looked younger. She might have been taken for his mother, though she was. in fact, no more than five-and-twenty. Tall and gaunt in person, and thinking as little of adornment in dress as her country. women in general, on ordinary occasions, there was nothing at first sight to attract a stranger. Her feet were bare, according to the universal custom; her hair, unconfined by any cap, hanging down from under the plaid which she had drawn over her bead, the plaid itself strapped round her in preparation for rowing her boat home, she looked so unlike the maidens of a civilized country, that the laird, well as he knew his own tenantry, was startled. When he looked again, however, anti observed the strong expression of her eye, and of her weather-stained features, when he remembered what toils she had undergone, and that her heart was now troubled and striving with natural grief, he felt that he was wrong in expecting softness where it was not to be found.
“Have you anything to say to me, Ella; any complaint to make?”
“No complaint, your honour. Murmurs will not heal the grief of this day, and other troubles are nothing. I only wished to speak to your honour about the lads and myself; how we are to have and what to do.”
“Well; have you settled what you wish? and is there difficulty with Callum, or any body else?”
“Your honour knows our farm, where we have lived till now. Mr. Callum has given notice whenever he found my father ill, that we must quit it at his death. So we are going to quit.”
“And what else would you do? Your brothers are not old enough to manage a farm.”
“Mr. Callum is right, doubtless; and I have no desire to keep on what we could not keep up. As for where we are to go,—we should be quite easy in mind, if your honour would order the place down below to be made weather-tight for us, and fix a rent upon it. Your honour would not ask more than we could pay.”
“What, that half-ruined cottage in the bay, with the croft behind it! How could you live there? There is not a fence complete, and not an ear of barley has grown there these many Vents.”
“Your honour would have the fences mended at the same time with the cottage; and there is the fishing to depend on, as well as the ground, and the rocks shelve conveniently there for the weed, and Ronald could sell kelp when I sell fish; and Fergus could bring us in peat,—and as for Archie, the nearer the sea, the happier he is. So I hope your honour will let us try the place.”
“It is a wretched place, Ella, I think we might find something better for you. There are patches of richer soil in the vallies. Surely you had better settle in a more sheltered situation. The wind will blow away your soil and seed together before it has time to strike root.”
“We cannot get out of sight of the sea, on Archie's account, sir.”
“He would never be happy between green hills,” added Fergus. “We should ever be missing him from home, and finding him in the old places: but if we settle on the beach, he will not be tempted to stray.”
“Though he could not stray very far, your honour, I am easier to have him under my eye, which might be, if I lived by fishing.”
“That is scarcely a woman's business, Ella. It brings toil and hardship to the strongest men.”
“It is my business, your honour; and it is not the blackest night, nor the stormiest day, that can weary me, thanks to Him that gives strength where it is wanted. Would you be pleased to grant me what I ask, and let me know with your own lips, what the rent shall be?”
“Let us go to the place, and see what it looks like.”
While they proceeded down the steep to the beach, Ella leading the way, the laird marked her stern demeanour and masculine gait, and could not fancy her singing her idiot brother to sleep, and couching him on fresh heather. Presently, however, his idea of her was amended. Archie came sauntering along the shore to join them, and vet with every appearance of not observing them. He held a bunch of sea-bird's feathers, which he thrust into Ella's hand without looking at her, but glanced back when he had pasted, as if to see what had become of them. Ella had thrown back the plaid and stuck them in her hair, where they remained till he was out of sight, when she threw them away and resumed her plaid.
“The people at the farm arc relations of yours, I think, Ella?”
“They are fourth cousins of my mother's; and disposed to be kind to us for her sake: and that is another reason tot our settling here.”
“But what will they think of such a dreary place in comparison with their barley and oat fields, to say nothing of the house, with two rooms, each as large as this cottage, besides Callum's apartment?”
“It is what we think that matters most.”
“Very true. Now show me thc boundaries that you could mark out if you had your choice.”
“The rent will mark the boundary best: but we should like, besides this field, to have the slope of the hill behind for our pony to graze on. We must have the pony to carry the weed, graze and to draw the harrow, in case of my being out at sea at the time. And I should like to take in a corner of the peat moss yonder; that is all we wish for behind. Then Ronald must be free to cut weed some way along these ledges to the left: they shelve better than those on the other hand. Then the cottage should be new roofed, and the fence put up; and your honour will name the rent.”
“You shall not be pressed for that, Ella. It would not be reasonable in a situation like this.”
“I hope your honour sees we beg no favour,” replied Ella. “Ask Mr, Callum, and he will tell you our rent has ever been ready, whether we feasted or fasted: and ready it shall be, if it be God's will to let ttle sea and land yield us their own.”
“Better to fast and pay, than feast and owe,” said Fergus.
“Right, very right, Fergus. Well; yon shall have your way; and I will consult with Callum about the rent, anti have the place made ready as quickly as possible. Here he is. Let one of the lads come up to me at the farm, an hour or two hence, and I will name the rent; meantime, you can join your friends.”
Instead of going towards the boats, however, Ella slowly proceeded up the rocks, in the direction of the burying-ground. The lads looked as if they would fain have stayed to listen; but a glance from their sister sent Fergus to look for Archie, and Ronald to join the little funeral party, who were carousing as if it had been a wedding.
“There will be tears in those eyes within these few minutes, if there is nobody nigh,” said Callum, looking after Ella as he came up. “They have held tears, for as dry as they seem. Since her father began to fail, I, for one, have seen heart-drops, though she would have had me think it was but the wintry wind.”
“She has a proud spirit, Callum.”
“Proud! her pride ill becomes one that lives under your honour, and it is more than I know how to master. There is no bringing her down; and if she puts her spirit into her brothers, they will be beyond my reach quite.”
“How do you mean, Callum? Why should you bring their down?”
“Only to make them like others that live under such as you,—grateful and humble, and ready to obey.”
“To obey your pleasure, I suppose. No Callum, there has been far too much servile obedience among the lower orders of our people, one sign of which is their revengeful and turbulent temper. If they were less ready to watch our pleasure in matters that do not concern them, they would do fewer deeds that call for revenge, and have fewer causes of quarrel. This proud woman, as we call her, has a peaceable temper, I hope and believe?”
“Peaceable enough, your honour, or I own I should have picked a quarrel with her before now, for I do not like her any more than I fancy she likes me. But there has never been occasion for any words; for out comes the pouch as sure as I show myself to gather the rent; and there is the dinner and the whiskey on the table for me to take or leave, as I like. She never kept me waiting, or stinted her hospitality, or got into a quarrel with her neighbours that I could take hold of.”
“Then for what, in the name of wonder, Callum, would vou have her be grateful and ready to obey? I never did her any service that I am aware of, (though I hope to do some yet,) and I know of no title to her obedience that either you or I can urge. Can you tell me of any?”
Callum stared, while he asked if one party was not landlord and the other tenant.
“You are full of our Scotch prejudices, I see, Callum. as I was once. Only go into England, and you will see that landlord and tenant are not master and slave, as we in the Highlands have ever been apt to think. In my opinion, their connexion stands thus,—and I tell it you, that you may take care not to exact an obedience which I am far from wishing to claim from my tenants,—the owner and occupier of a farm, or other estate, both wish to make gain, and for this purpose unite their resources. He who possesses land wishes to profit by it without the trouble of cultivating it himself; he who would occupy has money, but no land to lay it out upon, so he pays money for the use of the land, and more money for the for labour which is to till it (unless he supplies the labour himself). His tillage should restore him his money with gain. Now why should the notion of obedience enter into a contract like this?”
“I only know,” replied Callum, “that in my young days, if the laird held up a finger, any one of his people who had offended him would have been thrown into the sea.”
“Such tyranny, Callum, had nothing to do with their connexion as landlord and tenant, but only witll their relation as chieftain, and follower You have been at Glasgow, I think?”
“Yes; a cousin of mine is a master in the shawl-manufacture there.”
“Well: he has labourers in his employment there, and they arc not his slaves, are they?”
“Not they; for they sometimes throw up their work when he waists them most.”
“And does he hold his warehouse by lease, or purchase?”
“He rents it of Bailie Billic, as they call him, who is so fierce on the other side of politics.”
“If your cousin does not obey iris landlord in political matters, (for I know how he has spoken at public meetings,) why should you expect my tenants to obey me, or rather you—for I never ask their obcdience? The Glasgow operative, and the Glasgow capitalist, make a contract for their mutual advantage; and if they want further help, they call in another capitalist to afford them the use of a warehouse which he lets for his own advantage. Such a mutual compact I wish to establish with my people here. Each man of them is usually a capitalist and labourer in one, and, in order to make their resources productive, I, a landholder, step in as a third party to the production required; and if we each fulfil our contract, we are all on equal terms. I wish you would make my people understand this; and I require of you, Callum, to act upon it yourself.”
The steward made no reply, but stood thinking how much better notions of dignity the old laird had, and how much power he possessed over the lives and properties of his tenants.
“Did this croft pay any rent before it was let out of cultivation?” enquired the laird,
“No, your honour; it only just answered to the tenant to till it, and left nothing over for rent; but we had our advantage in it too; for then yon barley-field paid a little rent; but since this has been let down, that field has never done more than pay the tillage. But we shall have rent from it again when the lease is renewed, if Ella makes what I expect she will make of this croft.”
“Is there any kelp prepared hereabouts, Callum?”
“Not any; and indeed there is no situation so fit for it as this that Ronald is to have. There is nothing doing in Garveloch that pays us anything, except at the farm.”
“Well, then, Ella can, of course, pay nothing at first but for the use of the cottage, and the benefit of the fences, &c. Is there any other capital laid out here?”
“Let us see. She has a boat of her own, and the boys will bring their utensils with them. I believe, sir, the house and fence will be all.”
“Very well: then calculate exactly what they are worth, and what more must be laid out to put them in good condition, and tell me; the interest of that much capital is all that Ella must pay, till we see what the bay and the little field will produce.”
The laird next gave particular directions what repairs should be made, and that there should be no delay in completing them, and then left Callum to make his estimate, bidding him follow to the farm when he had done.