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Chapter VI.: THE SCOTCH ABROAD. - 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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THE SCOTCH ABROAD.
Angus's zeal had indeed been equal to that of the brothers; in addition to which his patience had been most meritorious. He waited till Archie was safe before he said a word of his errand to Garveloch or made any reference to his former friendship with Ella and her family. His turn to be cared for came at last. Ella recovered her courtesy when the little party was seated at the morning meal.
“Welcome to our board, Angus,” said she. “You will excuse our being so late in saying the words and offering the hand of welcome.”
“Far more easily,” said Angus, grasping her offered hand in great emotion; “far more easily, Ella, than the coldness with which you offer it at last. If I were an utter stranger, you could not look more haughty than you do at this moment.”
“Nay, Angus; you have yourself ordered your reception. If you have made yourself a stranger for five long years, you cannot wonder that we look upon you as such.”
“I have ever explained, Ella, why I could not come; and as it pleased you to take no notice of my reasons, I left off offering them, though not till after a longer perseverance than you would have condescended to use.”
Reasons! How offered? By whom brought? When were they sent? These and many more questions were asked in a hurry by the two lads, while their sister waited in evident anxiety for an answer, It appeared that Angus had written two or three letters before he entered into the service of the nobleman in whose suite he had gone to America. Being there employed in the interior, he had no longer any means of sending to Scotland, but hoped that his former letters had proved him trustworthy; and that when he returned to his native country, he should be able to obtain some intimation that he would be welcome among his old friends. None such having arrived, he now came in person to see whether he was forgotten, or whether the family was dead and dispersed like his own, or what else could have happened. It now appeared for the first time that Ella and her brothers knew neither that his mother had died in Lorn, nor that he had entered into anybody's service, nor that he had gone to America, or returned from abroad.
“Bless me!” cried Angus. “I do believe the fairies are in Garveloch, and Mr. Callum in the right after all! Come, Ronald, can you tell me who is king of England now!”
Ronald looked at Fergus, and Fergus at Ella, and Ella said she heard one of the seamen on board the Mary swear by king George.—Aye; but which king George? This was more than our islanders could tell; and they reminded Angus that till they boarded the sloop for the first time, they had not seen a strange face for years. The laird and Mr. Callum were their only visitors, and politics had never been talked in this island since the rebellion under the Pretender.
Angus said he could not be jealous of their ignorance about his proceedings in Canada, if no tidings of King George ever reached Garveloch. He looked grave, however, when he remarked that such complete separation from the world was a serious disadvantage in their traffic. As long as they knew nothing of the prices which their herrings and kelp bore in the market, they were Completely at the mercy of those who came to buy of them.
“There!” cried Ronald with great delight, “I always side we should go ourselves to Greenock instead of selling to sloops in the Sound.”
“I do not think so, Ronald. You would pay more in time and trouble than the information would be worth. If there was anybody here who could read a newspaper——”
Nobody within reach, but Mr. Callum, had ever learned the alphabet, and they could not take the liberty of asking him for information, even he came at the right time to give it. Angus observed that there would be an end of this difficulty if, as he hoped, he should settle in Garveloch.—In the midst of the shouts of the lads, and the shaking of hands caused by this hint, Angus looked down as bashfully as if he had never crossed the Atlantic and seen the world. He evaded all inquiries as to his plans, and seemed anxious to go back to the past.— He related that after being for some time in the service of the nobleman under whom he went out, he took office, at the particular request of his master, under the surveyor and agents appointed to measure and dispose of lands to new settlers.
“What made your master choose you for that service?”
“Many of the settlers were from our part of the kingdom, and the surveyor and agents were English. Quarrels arose out of their different ways of thinking and managing; and some one was wanted to mediate between them. I am heartily glad I was chosen, for I learned a great deal that I should never have known by other means.—It was not utter banishment either; for I now and then met a face I knew, and could talk with a countryman of friends at home. There was Forbes for one; you remember Forbes, Ella?”
“What! he that was suspected of pitching a man from his boat into the sea after a quarrel?”
“The same. He was innocent, I am convinced; but he was so weary of having it cast up to him, that he went abroad and settled in our district in Canada, He had two neighbours that I knew something of,—Keith, from Dumbarton, and Canmore the drover. Many a time did we look back together to the bare rocks and bleak moors of Scotland, while we were buried in the thickest of forests.—At those times, we used to wish, for the sake of all parties, that we could send you half our trees, for we were as much troubled with having too many as you with too few.”
“Nay,” said Fergus, “not too few. There are near a dozen birches on the farm above; and one may see a good many alders in the hollows near where we used to live.”
Angus laughed heartily at Fergus's idea of a sufficiency of wood, and explained to him the proportion of trees to an acre in a Canadian forest.
“What can they do with them?” Ronald asked.
“Get rid of them as fast as they can; but it costs vast labour.—Forbes, who was not driven there by poverty, and carried money, was saved the trouble of clearing. He took a fine fertile piece of ground on the understanding that he would have to pay the highest rent of anybody in the neighbourhood. Canmore was the next to settle; and he liking the axe little better then Forbes, paid a sum for having his land cleared; but as his land was not so good as Forbes's, he did not pay real rent for some time.”
“Did Forbes begin paying real rent?”
“No; for there was land equally good elsewhere, which he knew he could have for the cost of clearing and enclosing.”
“Then he paid the interest of capital laid out, as we do for this cottage and fence, and as Canmore did when he took possession of his land?”
“Just so. He first began to pay rent when Canmore raised corn enough to live upon. Forbes raised five quarters over and above what his neighbour could procure from his land; and then the agent came upon Forbes for rent, and he was willing to pay the surplus for the use of the best land. Then Keith arrived, with his axe in his hand, and two stout sons by his side, and no other wealth whatever; so they paid nothing. They cleared the land themselves, and built their own log-hut, and just managed to raise food enough to support them in the humblest way; and thus they were living when I arrived in their neighbourhood.”
“But why do landowners give away land in this manner?”
“They only lent it to Keith till he should have brought it into a condition to pay rent, till which time nobody would have given anything for it; and for this loan they paid themselves by taking rent of Canmore. He raised three quarters more than Keith, and was willing to pay them as rent to keep the land he held.”
“Then Canmore paid more than half as much rent as Forbes?”
“No—that would not have been fair; for Forbes's land was as much better than his neighbour's as it had been before, and the difference of rent ought therefore to be the same. Forbes now paid eight quarters”.
“That is, five for his land being better than Canmore's, and three for Canmore's being better than Keith's. Then if any body had taken worse land than Keith's, he would have had to pay rent for the first time, and the rents of his neighbours would have been raised.”
“Certainly, and very fairly: for no one would take land that was not worth cultivating, and any land which produces more than would make it worth cultivating can pay rent.”
“Forbes's time, then, for growing rich,” said Ronald, “was before he paid rent at all,—when he kept all the produce himself?”
“Yes; and a good deal of profit he made. He consulted me how he might best employ his capital, which was now double what he began with. He looked about for more land; but there was none but what was inferior to Keith's.”
“If he had taken that,” said Ronald, “poor Keith must have paid rent, and so must Forbes himself,—not for his new land, but an increased sum for the old.”
“I advised him to lay it out rather in improving his old land. He could not, by using double capital, make it produce doubly; but he could make it yield more than inferior new land: but this raised his rent as much as if he had taken in inferior land. If the new land would have produced only three quarters, while the improvement of the old yielded five, it was perfectly fair that he should pay the surplus two quarters for rent.”
“Why, then, did you advise him to lay out his capital upon his old land? Either way must have been just the same to him in point of profit, if whatever was left over was to go to the landlord.”
“By no means. Forbes had now a lease of his superior land, so that he could take for his own share all the difference between his present rent and that which be would have to pay when his lease expired. He went on growing rich, since he not only made the fair profits of his capital, but had the benefit of all improvements till the time came for a new lease.—He laid out more and more capital upon his land, and though each time it brought in a smaller return in proportion, and though each would cause his rent to be raised hereafter, he went on improving for a long time.”
“What made him stop?”
“Finding that he would not be repaid for a further outlay.”
“What did he do with his money then?”
“He came to the surveyor and agent and told them that the corn raised would sell much higher if there was an easier way of getting it into a good market. There were so few who wanted to buy corn within a convenient distance of this little settlement, that it was sold very cheap indeed, and was often changed away for things not half the value it would have had in a town. Forbes thought it would be worth while to make a good road to join a canal on which there was traffic to many populous places. He offered to advance a part of the capital necessary, if the agent would pay the rest. It was done, and all parties found the advantage of it. Poor Keith began to prosper now, though he had to pay rent, and to see it raised from time to time.”
“What! Rent raised again! Every thing seems to raise rent.”
“High prices do, as a matter of course. When the corn sold so well as to afford the settlers a fine profit, other settlers were in a hurry to come and grow corn, and the original cultivators improved their land more and more, and rents rose in proportion. Those who had long leases got up in the world rapidly, and the owners of the land were presently much more than paid for making the road.”
“But, Angus, rent seems to rise and rise for ever!”
“It would do so, if all countries were in the state of the one I have been describing. Wherever there is the greatest variety of soil, and the largest demand for food, rent rises fastest. The more equal in productiveness lands are made by improvement, and the more easy it is to obtain supplies from other places, the slower is the rise of rent. Forbes and Canmore were expecting to have their rents lowered when I left them, for it was so easy to get corn in abundance that the price had fallen very much, and would not pay for tilling some stubborn soils, which were therefore let out of cultivation.”
“I wish you would tell the Murdochs this,” said Ella. “They want me to think it hard of the laird to ask rent for my fisihery; and they say that the price of herrings will rise as fast as the islands pay rent.”
“The laird can have no rent unless it answers to you to pay it. You bargain for a mutual advantage. He receives money for the use of the land and sea belonging to him, and you have the benefit of a good station.”
“They say that the sea ought to be as free as the air, instead of rent being asked for it.”
“The air would be let, if there were degrees of goodness in it, and if it could be marked out by boundaries and made a profit of like the sea and land; and again, if all land were equally good, and all parts of all seas and rivers equally productive, there would be no rent paid for either the one or the other. The laird who owns all the islands within sight, owns the sounds which divide them, as if they were so many fishponds; and if one part yields more herrings than another, or, which is nearly the same thing, if the herrings can be got out at less expense of capital and toil at one point than another, it is very fair that a bargain should be struck for the benefit of both parties, whether the property in question be land or water.”
“Or rock either, I suppose,” said Fergus. “If we sold the feathers of Archie's birds, might not the laird ask rent for the Storr?”
“He would ask a yearly sum of money, which we might fairly call rent. The birds are not produced by the rock as corn is produced by the power of the soil; but as long as the situation is go favourable to sea fowl as to cause a constant supply on the same spot, it may be said that it yields rent as justly as when we say the same thing of the sea; and much more justly than of mines.”
“I used to hear my father speak,” said Ella, “of the lead-mines in Isla, and of the high rent they once paid.”
“Yet the mines did not produce more lead. in the place of that which was taken away, and therefore the lessees paid the proprietor merely a certain sum for the capital they removed from his property. They bought the lead of him, in fact, to sell again. They bought it buried in the ground, and sold it prepared for the market. Now, Fergus, tell me what rent is, before we begin to guess what I shall have to pay the laird, if I settle near you.”
“What farm will you have? Where is it? How large?”
“Answer me first,” said Angus, laughing. “What is rent?”
“The money that a man pays.—”
“Nay; rent may be paid in corn, or kelp, or fish, or many things besides money. Better say produce.”
“Rent is the produce that remains to a man——”
“Ella is to pay rent,” interrupted Ronald, laughing.
“Well, well Rent is the part of the produce paid to the landlord when his tenant has made as much as his neighbours on worse land will let him gain.”
“True, as far as your account goes; but not clear or full enough. You do not know yet, boys, how important it is for you to understand all this rightly before you pay rent yourselves, and even if you were never to pay. —Come, Ronald.”
“Rent,” said Ronald, “is that portion of produce which is paid to the landlord for the use of whatever makes corn and fish grow in the land or water which the tenant uses.”
“Or, as we say,” the use of the powers of production. “Very well; this is what we mean by rent. Now, what does rent consist of?”
“Of whatever the richest has left over what the poorest makes of the same quantity of land and of money laid out upon it.”
“Just so; and therefore if your kelp-ledge yields more than mine next season, with equal pains, whatever difference there is will go to the laird as rent. If I get the intelligence I talked of from the market, you may make more while paying a rent, than you would ever have done rent-free, without knowing what your prices ought to be.”
“Had Forbes and his neighbours such intelligence before they sold. their corn?”
“O yes; even before the road was made, newspapers found their way across the country; and afterwards we had intercourse with the towns at least once a week.”
“Then I wonder you did not stay where you were. The place seems to have been very prosperous.”
Angus answered, half laughing, that there was another kind of intelligence which he wanted, and could not obtain there, or any where but in Garveloch. Ella, seeing Angus's eyes fixed upon her, rose and bent over Archie's bed of heather, where the poor lad was still sleeping soundly.
“Your sister's wheel has never stood still all this while,” said Angus to the lads. “She shames us for being so idle. What shall we do next?”
All bustled about upon this hint, and Ronald and Fergus made haste to their out-door employments, supposing that Angus would accompany them. After letting them go out, however, he softly closed the door, and returned to Ella's side. He found no great difficulty in removing her feelings of displeasure at his long silence, when it was in his power to prove that he had indeed not been silent while he could persuade himself that he had encouragement to write. When Ella heard that he had been working for her all these five long years; that he had supported his hopes upon their tacit agreement when they parted; that he had returned for her sake alone, having no other tie than the natural love of country; when, moreover, he declared his willingness to settle in this very place, and adopt her sisterly cares as his own; when he kissed Archic's forehead, and promised to cherish him as tenderly as herself, Ella had nothing to say. She shed tears as if she had been broken-hearted, instead of finding healing to a heart sorely wounded; and the only thing Angus had to afflict him was the thought how much each had suffered.
“They that have called me proud and severe,” said Ella, when she began to return his confidence, “little knew what a humbled spirit I bore within me, and how easily I feared I should forgive at the first word. They little guessed, when they bid me not be so careful and troubled about whatever happened, that all these things were like motes in the sunbeam to me, compared with the hidden thoughts from which my real troubles sprang. When they half laughed at me and half praised me to my father, as being like a mother to these growing lads, they did not know that it was because I spent on them the love I could not spend as a wife, nor how glad I was that my cheek withered, and that years left their marks upon me, that I might fancy myself more and more like their mother indeed. If you see me grow young again, and be made sport of like a girt by these tall youths,” she continued, smiling through her tears, “you will have to answer for it, Angus. Will you take the venture? You were ever the merry one, however, and my part was to be grave for us both. Are we to play the same part still, to keep the brothers in order?”
In the midst of Angus's reply, the lads burst in, crying,
“The laird's bark! the laird's bark! and Mr. Callum is standing at the landing place, with his feet almost in the water, he is so eager to have the first word. You should have seen him waive us off with his cane.”
“He is welcome to the first word,” said Ella: “all that matters to us is, who shall have the last.”