Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter X.: WHAT IS TO HAPPEN NEXT? - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 2
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Chapter X.: WHAT IS TO HAPPEN NEXT? - 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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WHAT IS TO HAPPEN NEXT?
No contrast would be more complete or more refreshing to Angus than the state of affairs below to that which he was constantly witnessing at the farm. With Ella and her brothers everything prospered; and their external prosperity was not alloyed by troubles from within. The boys used in former days to think there was no fault in Ella, and would have been highly offended if any one had spoken of a time when they would love her better, and be happier with her. That time had, however, come. They were grateful to her for the new virtue to which time gave rise,—the virtue of remembering that they were no longer children, and of surrendering her authority accordingly, bv natural degrees, and before the change was demanded or even wished for. She waited to be consulted about their little plans, asked their advice about her own, and, still better, not only smiled indulgently upon their mirth as formerly, but took part in it as if years were rolling backward over her head. On her part, she felt that her brothers were her friends because they loved Angus devotedly; and, as for Angus, all was, of course, right in his eyes in a household whose chief bond was attachment to himself and devotion to the interests which were most dear to him. He passed every half hour that he could spare from his duties at the farm among his friends below, now pointing out what ought to be done in the field, now helping Ronald to strew and dry and stack his weed, now cutting peat with Fergus, now singing songs or climbing rocks with Archie, but oftenest talking with Ella in the cottage. He never could carry his point of rowing her out to fish. She always declared that it would keep him absent from the farm too long, and that she had had experience enough in managing her nets to perform all the labour of that kind that would be necessary till the herrings came again. She could not, however, prevent his following her with his eyes. He now prized his excellent glass more than ever, and twenty times in a morning he would fix it in the direction of her boat, and watch and admire her proceedings. How delicately and securely she kept clear of every sunken rock, how steadily she plied her oars against wind and tide, how courteously she answered a salute from a passing skiff, how firmly she stood on the thwarts to throw her nets, how powerfully she drew them in, how evidently she enjoyed setting her bark with its head to the wind, and making every sudden gust serve her purpose and help to bring her home! All this Angus saw; and seeing it, pronounced that there was no more fitting occupation for such a woman as Ella than fishing; but then, there were few such woman—and he smiled at the thought. He had seen young ladies angling in a trout stream; and this was pretty sport enough; but here was an employment requiring strength, presence of mind, dexterity, and patience: it was therefore a fitting employment for such an one as Ella, and none but such as Ella could pursue it with success.
That success was great and well husbanded, Ella remembered that this was, perhaps, the only year that she might appropriate the whole produce, and she therefore stored what she could as capital to improve the quantity and quality of her produce when she should hold her croft on lease. She hoped to have money to lay out in improving the soil, and not only to keep her nets and casks and boat in repair, but to purchase a better boat and various conveniences for procuring and salting a larger quantity of fish. She wished her brothers to do the same; and, to set them going, made certain purchases of each. She paid Fergus for whatever fuel was wanted for her own purposes, over and above that which was used for the common convenience of the household. She bought weed to manure her field from Ronald, and was pleased to find that he applied his little fund in taking in the lot of moorland which he always looked forward to rendering productive. She went every day to see what was done, and often listened to Angus's prophesy that it might be made a very serviceable field in time, and would probably yield enough the next season to prove that it was worth the tillage.
Thus were affairs proceeding when Angus appeared with a face of surprise, one fine spring evening, and asked who could be coming to settle in the next cove, round the point. As they did not know what he meant, he proceeded to explain that a dwelling was being built just above the beach. Ronald had not been visiting his shore for some days, and knew neither of the arrival of workmen with their rude materials, nor of any business of the kind going forward in the neighbourhood, Nothing could be learned from the workmen, more choice in respect of indolence and awkwardness than even the Highland workmen in general. All they could tell was that they came by Mr. Callum's orders, that they were to build a house with two rooms of certain dimensions, and to get the work finished as fast as possible for the purpose of being entered by the tenant at Midsummer. Murdoch only smiled when Angus told the fact on his return, and said that they must ask Mr. Callum what the new house was for.
“Suppose,” he continued, “your packet-boat, that you reckon such an advantage, should have tempted somebody to come and fish in rivalship of Ella! What would you say then?”
“What I have said before,—the more the better, while there is produce and a market. A market once opened, there is room for many; and then there are all the advantages of neighbourhood and traffic, while there are still enough for everybody, and will be for a long time to come. Ella will be very happy to pay rent, if at the same time she can sell her produce to better advantage, and buy what she wants cheaper, and with more ease, and have good neighbours around her.”
“We shall see all about it when Mr. Callum comes,” was Murdoch's reply.
“Yes, everything is to be done when Mr. Callum comes,” said Angus, smiling. “This new house is to be occupied, and Ella and the boys are to have a lease, and——”
“And you, Angus?——”
“And I am to take my first trip in my packet-boat, and——” Here he smiled again, for he was thinking of another event which was to be connected with this first trip; but Murdoch, as usual, misunderstood him, and took this for a smile of malice. “And I,” continued Angus, “am to be paid my dues, neighbour, I hope.”
“That you shall be, I promise you,” answered Murdoch, to whom the smile of malice properly belonged.
It was observed that the Murdochs took great interest in the progress of this new dwelling. They were now all as able to work as they had ever been, the spring weather having restored their strength; but their invalid habits accorded too well with the taste of the family to be readily given up. The father still muffled himself in his plaid, and sat with folded arms on a large stone on the beach, looking with half-shut eves at the builders, and leaving Angus to work his own pleasure at the farm. Murdoch's wife still complained as much of her fatigues and cares as if the cribs were yet occupied by patients in the fever. Rob still kept his fingers in his mouth and lay in the sun, when the sun shone, or before the fire when the day was foggy. Meg and her sister still disregarded their. mother's troubles, and whenever they could make their escape, ran down to play pranks with the workmen, and to do mischief to their work as soon as they turned their backs. All were clamorous alike when anything went wrong,—which happened every day, —and blame was divided between the two who alone kept matters going at all,—the farmer's wife and the farmer's man. If the poultry were missing, the cattle trampling the corn, the pig oversetting the milk-pails, the eggs broken among the oatmeal, the farming utensils injured or not to be found, there was a contention who should rail the loudest at mother or Angus; and the only means of restoring quiet was to turn out the young folks into the yard. Their father alone was strong enough both in limb and will to do this—-their mother not having bodily strength, nor Angus inclination for a scuffle. Even this extreme measure only removed the evil one degree, for the boy and girls, having pushed in vain at the door, and thrown everything within reach at the window, (which, being unglazed, received little injury,) ran down to plague the builders below, as they had plagued the authorities above. Murdoch often swore that it was time to give up farming, for it was a kind of life to kill a peaceable man like him, and then he appealed to Angus whether he did not say truth; and when Angus could not agree with him, the usual reply of the bitter laugh was sure to come.
At length, just before Midsummer-day, news arrived that Angus's boat was on its way, and that he might go in two days and meet her off the coast below Scarba, and bring her home to her destination himself. Mr. Callum sent word at the same time that he should land in Garveloch the next day from Oban, and expected that every one would be ready to transact business so as to occasion no delay. Nobody wished for delay. Murdoch fancied that he should find ease and domestic peace in a change of employment, and had already thrown his pride behind him. Angus believed himself within three days of the marriage on which all his hopes had been built for many years. Ella contented herself with saying that her rent was ready; and the lads were eager to be in possession of the lease which should secure to their sister and themselves the fruits of their industry.