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Chapter IX.: A FOOL's ERRAND - 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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A FOOL's ERRAND
The wild ducks were still fresh when Angus was sent for, as it so happened that Murdoch's wife came within an hour to say that the cattle were in the rye-field, (Murdoch having left the gate open,) and it was beyond the feeble strength of any of the household to drive them out. Angus goodnaturedly refrained from any reference to what had passed, returned, and saw the mischief the farmer's carelessness had done, and made no complaint thereof, but took his seat as usual beside the hearth, and amused the invalids with an account of his day's adventures. The farmer being, for some time after this, as irritable as ever, Angus avoided all mention of their quarrel, the cause of which, therefore, remained as great a mystery as ever. Murdoch saw no mystery in it, so prepossessed was he with the idea that his assistant meant to turn him out and triumph over him; and he founded all his arrangements on this notion. His jealousy was ever on the watch, and he felt he should have no rest till he could see Mr. Callum, give up his farm on condition that Angus should not have it, and obtain a promise of a cottage where he and his family might live by plying their boat and nets. When Angus returned from the field, one chill, dreary evening, he found Murdoch at the door, looking out for him.
“Where have ye been so late, Angus? It has been nearly dark this hour, and a killing fog.”
“I kept to my work to the last minute, neighbour, that's all. I had a particular reason for working hard to-day—”
“Aye, and every day, I think,” interrupted Murdoch. “Only remember that this desperate hard work is no desire of mine, and it is not to come into your wages.”
“Well, well, but you will not let one speak,” replied Angus, smiling. “I was going to say that I have been working for to-day and tomorrow, too, as I shall be on the sea the greater part of the day. Mr. Callum is in Scarba, and as I want to see him, I must be off early in the morning; and if I should not find him directly, I may not be back till night.”
“Mr. Callum landed in Scarba! Who told you?”
Angus pointed to the end of his telescope, which peeped out of his bosom. Murdoch peevishly observed, that Angus seemed to see and hear more than anybody in all the range of the islands.
“Very likely, as to the seeing,” replied Angus, “for there is not such another glass as this in all the islands, I fancy. I thank my old friend, the surveyor, for it every time I use it,— that is, every day of my life.”
“What do you want with Mr. Callum?” asked Murdoch, abruptly.
“What matters it to you?” answered Angus, looking steadily at him. “I take your wages for doing your work, but I am not answerable to you for my private affairs.”
“O, certainly; I only asked because I must go with you to–morrow. I want to see Mr. Callum, too.”
“Surely,” said Angus kindly, “you are not strong enough for the sea yet; and besides, Mr. Callum may not be near the shore, and there may be miles to walk to overtake him. Let me do your business when I do my own.”
Murdoch laughed scornfully at this proposal, and vet more, when Angus offered to persuade Mr. Callum to come to Garveloch. The farmer was bent on making the attempt, and was not deterred by the dreary weather of the next morning.
They landed in Scarba before they supposed. that Mr. Callum would have left his bed, but found that he intended to embark early from the opposite side of the island, after having slept in the interior, and that if they wished to reach him, they must take horse, and proceed as fast as possible. There was but one horse to be. had; and Murdoch, weary as he already was, would not lose sight of Angus for an instant. He insisted on mounting behind him, and thus they set off. The roughness of the roads, and of the horse's pace, irritated Murdoch, as every untoward circumstance, however trifling, was apt to do at present. From being sullen, he became rude, surly, and passionate, till Angus began to consider what mode of treatment would bring his companion to his senses.
“Take heed how you ride, I say, Angus. If you can bear jogging to pieces, I can't.”
“The road is terribly rough indeed, neighbour; but we shall find an even reach when we have turned yon point.”
“Even! do you call this even?” cried Murdoch at the end of a quarter of an hour, when they began to descend a steep.
“I did not answer for more than the reach we have passed, neighbour; and, what is more, neither that nor this was of my making.”
“But it was of your choosing; and never tell me that there is no better road than this across Scarba. You chose it to revenge yourself on me because you could not make me stay behind.”
“You're mistaken, neighbour.”
“Mistaken! I mistaken! Stop the horse, Angus; stop him this minute! I won't ride another step with you.”
“Do you mean that you wish to be set down?” asked Angus, who thought he now saw a way to tame his companion. “Do you wish to get off here?”
“To be sure—this moment, this very moment. I won't ride another step with you.”
Angus let him get down, and proceeded leisurely. In two minutes, he heard Murdoch calling him as he had expected.
“Let me get up again,” said he in an altered tone; and he began to mutter something about the way being far for walking, and then held his peace till they overtook Mr. Callum.
This important personage frowned on Angus, and cut short his conference with him as much as he decently could. He smiled on Murdoch when he heard the nature of his business, and favoured him with an audience of unusual length. He could not say, in answer to Murdoch's suspicions, that Angus had ever asked for the farm; but they agreed that he certainly meant to do it, and that it would be a great triumph to disappoint him. Mr. Callum had a distant cousin who was in want of just such a farm as Murdoch's, and he had no doubt he could influence the laird to let it be thus disposed of, and to build a dwelling for the Murdochs where they might pursue their fishing. If so the workmen should begin to build without delay, and it should be seen whether Murdoch's fishing might not begin as soon as Angus's traffic with his new boat, which was the talk of all Garveloch and the neighbouring isles.—Mr. Callum would not give Angus the pleasure of hearing this, or the progress which was making in the building of the little packet; but he described to Murdoch all its conveniences and beauties, and. told him how the laird himself made frequent inquiries about it, and had been more than once to see it on the stocks.
The two plotters having by mutual sympathy put themselves in mutual good humour, were full of consideration for each other, and pointedly neglectful of everybody else, when they returned from their long conference. Callum ordered refreshment for Murdoch, and recommended rest without consulting the convenience of Angus; and the farmer strove to contrast his own deference to the great man's wishes with Angus's independence of manner and speech. Both moralized on the beauty of sincerity and the foulness of treachery, till the supposed plotter but real plottee yawned without ceremony. They had rather he should have blushed or trembled; but his yawns furnished a new topic to Murdoch on his way home. In every respite from a hard trot on land and rolling on sea, he discoursed on audacity as an aggravation of malice, till, having reached his own door, he underwent a fainting-fit with a heroism worthy of a better cause.