Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter III.: KINDRED NOT KINDNESS. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 2
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Chapter III.: KINDRED NOT KINDNESS. - 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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KINDRED NOT KINDNESS.
It was not very long before Ella's fears on account of her brother Fergus were in part realized, though the evil day was deferred by an arrangement offered by Angus and eagerly accepted by his brother-in-law. The herring fishery being peculiarly abundant this year, Angus wanted more help on board his vessel; and as it was expected that the cod would be plentiful in proportion, Angus might in his turn assist Fergus, when the herring shoals were past, and the cod which follow to make prey of them should become the chief object of the fishery. Fergus laboured from July to October for a certain share of the herring produce; and Angus was to go out with Fergus in all the intervals of his coasting trips during the late autumn and winter. While Fergus was on board Angus's vessel, all went well; for Angus had no enemies. He might spread his nets to dry on the beach, He and his youngest child was guard enough to set over them. He never left his fish on board all night, while he was at home, thinking it wrong to put such a temptation to theft in the way of any one; but if he had, no harm would have been done out of malice to himself, as was too frequently the practice in this fishery. Poor Fergus was not so secure, as he had found before, and was destined to find again. Like most men of hasty tempers, who are besides subject to care, he had enemies among those who did not know how to make allowance for him, and were not disposed to forgive harsh expressions which the offender was apt to forget that he had used. Dan, easy and content as he seemed to be, had the selfishness common to lazy people; and there is no more inveterate enemy to good-will than selfishness. Dan was not, like many of his countrymen, ready with his oaths and his cudgel at a moment's warning, if anything went amiss; but Dan could drawl out the most provoking things imaginable, and enjoy their effect upon an irritable person, and show that he enjoyed it; and having thus encouraged a quarrel, in which he did not give his adversary the satisfaction of bearing his share heartily, he let it drop; but had no objection to see it carried on by somebody else. He amused himself with watching what befel Fergus, and with laughing at every little distress which arose subsequent to a certain dispute which had once occurred between them. He did no harm with his own hands, but people knew that he did not object to seeing it done; and such sympathy affords great advantage to the doers of mischief. Among these was Rob Murdoch, a doer of mischief by nature as some said,—at all events by habit, and very often by express will. Rob had never felt at case with Ella or any of the family since the day of his upsetting the boat; though there was never a look or word from any of them which could have made him uncomfortable, if his own consciousness had not. He was always ready to suppose offence, and found no difficulty in creating it where he was not liked, and only tolerated on account of long not neighbourhood and distant relationship. He kept out of Ella's way, for he was mightily afraid of her. He hated Angus, having been formerly taught by his father that Angus was a traitor who intended to supplant him, and the impression remained on his stupid mind long after the cause had been removed. Ronald was out of his way entirely; and Fergus was therefore the only one exposed to his poor spite, while he was the one least able to disregard it. The time had been when Fergus would have scorned the idea of being moved by anything Rob could say; but Fergus was more easily moved than formerly, and it stung him to hear Rob predict, as he lounged on the shore, that the wind would be contrary when Fergus wished it fair; to be met on his return from an unsuccessful expedition with the news that everybody else had caught a vast deal of fish; and, above all, to see the enemy fretting the children into a passion, which was a frequent pastime of Rob's when tie had nothing better to do. Out of these provocations arose quarrels; and out of quarrels, Rob's desire of revenge; a desire which he could gratify only in a small way as long as Fergus worked for his brother-in-law. Rob asked several times for the loan of Fergus's boat during the herring season; and as he made the request in his father's name, it was not refused; but when it was found that the boat received some injury each time, Fergus very reasonably desired Rob to repair the mischief as often as he caused it. Being too lazy to do this, the loan was denied to him, and then he made bold to use the boat without leave when he knew that Fergus was absent; and the exclamations of the children having brought their mother out to see what was the matter, the ill-will was not lessened by the addition of a woman's tongue. No terms were kept after the railing bout between Rob and Janet on the sands: they regarded and acted towards each other as enemies from that day forward.
Angus offered Fergus a benefit, as he called it, to finish off the season with; that is, all the fish caught in the last trip were to be Fergus's; and to the winnings of this trip he looked for the means of finally making up his rent, and of improving the clothing of the children before the winter. The signs of the weather were anxiously watched by himself and his family, the nets were carefully repaired, the casks looked to, more salt brought in from the station, and every preparation completed the evening before, when the nets and stores were carried on board, and all made ready for starting at dawn. It was a misty morning, such as would not have tempted either Janet or Ella abroad if this had been any other trip than the last of the season: but as it was, they attended their husbands down to the shore, with their children flocking about them. As it was too foggy to let them see the vessel at fifty yards distance from the beach they presently returned, walking so slowly, that before they reached home the mists had partly dispersed at the appearance of the rising sun, and opened a prospect along the shore.
“There's Rob turning the point,” cried one of the little ones.
“Rob at this time of the morning? Impossible!” said Ella. “They that have no more to do than he are not stirring so early. It is he, however. Look, Janet, how he peeps at us from behind the rock! I will go and speak with him, for he has no quarrel with me, and I do not forget we are cousins.”
It was not so easy, however, to catch him. When he saw Ella approaching, he withdrew from sight; and when she turned the point, he was already high up among the rocks, on a path which he could not have reached without exercising more activity than was his wont.
“I believe the man thinks,” said Ella to herself, “as Mr. Callum used to do, that I am a witch, for he flees me as a fowl flees the hawk. If I could but win his ear for half an hour, there might be an end of this ill-will between him and Fergus, which is a scandal to relations, and to those who, living far from war, ought to live in peace.”
Where enmity once creeps in, it is difficult to preserve peace with any of the parties concerned. After having missed Rob, Ella found that Janet was offended at her having sought him; and it was with some difficulty that she brought her sister-in-law to acknowledge that a quarrel has done quite enough mischief when it separates two families, and that no advantage call arise from its involving a third.
Before many hours had elapsed, the children came running to their mother, crying—
“The boat! the boat! She is warping into the Bay. Father will be on shore presently.”
“It cannot be our boat!” said Ella, turning pale, however, as she spoke. “It must be one of the station boats.”
A glance showed her that it was indeed her husband's vessel coming in already, instead of three or four days hence, as she had expected. Her only way of accounting for this quick return was by supposing that some accident had happened on board. The wind was contrary, so that it must be some time before the crew could land, and Ella was not disposed to wait for tidings. She commanded her children not to go out and tell Janet, who, being busy within doors, might not know of the return; and then went down to the place where Murdoch's old boat was lying, obtained a hasty leave to use it and help to launch it, seized the oars and pushed off, and was presently alongside her husband's vessel. Fergus was already half over the side, ready to jump down to his sister, and impatient to gain the shore, while Angus in vain attempted to hold him back.
“Push off, Ella!” cried Angus. “Do not come near till I bring him to reason.”
Seeing that her husband and brother were both safe, Ella repressed her anxiety to know what had happened, and by one vigorous pull shot off out of Fergus's reach. He threw himself back into the vessel, and trod the little deck like one in a towering passion.
“My husband! my brother!” cried Ella, in a tone which reached the hearts of both, “you have not quarrelled?”
“O no! nor ever shall,” said Angus, laying his hand on Fergus's shoulder, “and least of all this day.”
“Do you think I could fall out with Angus?” said Fergus. “No! I must be sunk indeed before I could do that. It is he who has kept me from ruin till now, and it is he who would make me think I am not ruined to-day.”
Ruined!—The truth was soon told. Fergus's nets were destroyed. They had been safe the night before. This morning, when he was preparing to throw them, he found them cut almost to shreds. If he had had money to buy more, they could not be provided in time. The season was over; his benefit was lost; and with it went all hopes of making up his rent by the day it would become due, and of supplying the additions he had proposed to the comforts of his little ones.
Ella's suspicions lighted upon Rob even before she heard Fergus declare that it could be nobody else. A sudden thought having struck her, she came alongside once more, and having communicated with her husband in a tone which Fergus could not overhear, she again departed, shaping her course for Murdoch's dwelling.
Rob was lying on the beach asleep, as she expected; and beside him was Dan, also asleep. If they had been awake, they would not have seen Angus's vessel which was now behind the point to their right. Ella stepped on shore and wakened Rob, saying,
“I see you have no business of your own this bright noon, Rob; so come and take an oar with me.”
Rob started up when he saw who was standing over him. He wished his tall cousin far over seas, or anywhere but at his elbow.
“Ask Dan,” said he. “Dan! here's my cousin Ella wants a trip. Take an oar with her, will ye?”
“No,” replied Ella. “Let Dan finish his dream.”
“Meg is stouter than I at the oar,” pleaded Rob.
“It is you that I want, and that this moment,” said Ella, pointing his way to the boat, towards which Rob shuffled unwillingly, like a school-boy going in search of the rod with which he is to be whipped.
Instead of giving him an oar, Ella took both; and as he sat opposite her with nothing to do, he felt very silly, and this feeling was a bad preparation for what was to follow. When they were fairly beyond the breakers, Ella rested on her oars, and, looking her companion full in the face, asked him where he had passed the previous night. Rob looked up to the sky, back to the shore, and around upon the waters, and then scratching his head, asked,
“What was that ye said, cousin Ella?”
“You heard what I said.”
“Well; where should I have passed the night?”
“That is for you to answer. I ask again where you were when the moon set last night?”
Rob shuffled in his talk as well as in his gait. He told how he oftentimes spent his time on the rocks rather than bear the smell of putrid fish under his father's roof; and how Meg had foretold a bad night, and it turned out fine; and many other things that had nothing to do with Ella's question. She let him go on till, by turning the point, they came in sight of the Flora standing south-west. She directed his attention to it, saying that the Flora was her object. Rob swore a deep oath and demanded to be set on shore again, cursing himself for having come without knowing whither he was to be taken. Ella's steady eye was still upon him when she asked the reason of this sudden horror of meeting his cousins and boarding their boat: adding,
“I fancy it is not so very long since you were on board the Flora of your own accord.”
Rob had sense enough to see that he only betrayed himself by showing eagerness to get back, and therefore held by showing his peace till they approached the Flora, when he hailed Angus, requesting him to help Ella on board; and then said to his companion,
“I'll take the boat straight back with pleasure, cousin, with your thanks, I suppose, to Duncan Hogg for the use of it.”
“Not yet,” said Ella; “I have more to say to you. Now, Rob, tell me honestly whether you were at home all last night, and here the mischief may end; but if you will not give an account to us, you must to the magistrate at the station. If you are innocent you can have no objection to clear yourself; if you are guilty, depend upon it you will meet with more mercy from your cousins than from a stranger who comes to execute justice?”
“As sure as ever anything happens, you always suspect me,” muttered Rob. “What care I what happens to Fergus, or what he makes of his benefit?”
“O then, you know what has happened,” observed Ella, “and yet I have not told you.”
Rob, finding that he only gave new occasion of suspicion by everything he said, took refuge in sullen silence, got on board at Ella's command, and sat immovably looking at the sea as they steered for Islay, having fastened the little boat to the stern of the Flora.
Rob's courage or obstinacy failed him when the station became visible, the white house of Mr. M'Kenzie, the magistrate, appearing at some little distance above and behind the pier, the cooperage, the curing house and the village. Ella, who watched an opportunity of saving the culprit from a public exposure, was by his side the moment he showed an inclination to speak.
“If ye will only just say ye are willing to make reparation, and will never play such an unkind prank again,” said she, “I will intercede with Fergus to forgive you.”
“What may be the cost of the nets?”
“More than you can make up without hard work; but it may be made up; and I would fain set ye home, Rob, without having seen the magistrate's face.”
Rob muttered that he did not see why he should be brought to justice more than others that did the same trick. It was but a prank; and when they were boys and no magistrate within reach, nobody talked of justice.—Ella reminded him that Mr. Callum had united all the offices of law and justice in his own person when the island was inhabited by few except themselves; but that circumstances had now changed, and relations multiplied, and that property must be protected from the player of pranks as well as from the thief.
Fergus, touched by the kindness of his brother and sister, controlled his passion, and received Rob's submission with more grace than it was tendered with, agreeing to take compensation as the offender should be able to give it, provided nets could be obtained at the station on promise of future payment.