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Chapter X.: CONCLUSION. - 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 Recruiting party was, as Ella had foretold, a frequent sight in Garveloch as long as the distress lasted; and one of the present consequences to her and her husband of the favourable season which followed was, that the red-coats ceased to appear, and the hated sound of the drum and fife to make them start. As soon as the fishery was resumed, there was work enough for all who remained on the island, and therefore little encouragement to serve the king out of his own dominions. News of Kenneth came very rarely—about as often as rejoicings for a victory. Some of Angus's neighbours were wont to come and tell him of such events as if they were certain of bringing welcome news, provided he knew that his son was safe. Fergus's lads, especially, who regretted that they were too young to enlist at the same time with Kenneth, seemed disposed to take the first opportunity of doing so that might occur, and to have no doubt that the best service they could render to their island was to leave it.
“How can you suppose,” said Angus to them one day, “that I can rejoice in the slaughter you tell me of? How can you imagine it can give me pleasure to look forward to our strong youths leaving our shores?”
“I thought, uncle,” said one— “I am sure I heard somebody say you believed that we wanted thinning, and that war must therefore be a very good thing.
“I said so,” said Captain Forbes, who stood within hearing. “You think, Angus, that there are too many people for the supply of food; and therefore the more that die, the better cheer there is for those who remain. Did you not tell Mr. Mackenzie so?”
“Better say at once, sir, that we ought to pray for a pestilence. Better send for our enemies to slaughter us as fast as they can, sparing only a proper number to enjoy what we leave behind.”
“But I am sure you used to complain of our numbers, Angus, and ascribe our distress to them.”
“But it does not follow, sir, that I would have them removed by violence. All I wish is, that society should be as happy as it can be made; and it would be somewhat strange to inflict the extremest misery with this view. I never had such a thought, I assure you, as of running into a greater evil to avoid a lesser.”
“Many people, however, think occasional wars and plagues very good things to keep down the population.”
“So I have heard, but I think very differently. The one circumstance which, above all others, cheers me respecting the state of society, is that population is, to a considerable extent, checked by better means than formerly. There are fewer lives lost by war, plagues, and the accidents of common life, while the increase of population is not in proportion to the removal of these dreadful checks.”
“How do you account for this?”
“Marriage is less general, and takes place at a later age—at least among the middling classes, whose example will, I trust, be soon followed by their poorer neighbours. Whenever any one class gains a clear understanding of the reasons why a thing has been, and why it should no longer be, there is room for hope that other classes will in time enter into their views, and act accordingly. There is hope that governments will in time cease to make war and encourage population,—that is, to call people into existence for the purpose of cutting one another's throat. There is hope that the poor will in time be more eager to maintain than to multiply their families; and then, lads, there will be no more drumming and fifing in Garveloch, and no need to wander abroad in search of danger and death, in order to show patriotism.”
“When will that be, uncle?”
“I am no prophet; but I will venture to prophesy that it will happen somewhere between the third and the thirty-thousandth generation from the present—that is, that it will take place, but not yet.”
“You have said a great deal,” observed the captain, “about the reasons why there should no longer be want; but you slipped quietly enough over the reason why there has ever been want.”
“It was not my intention to do so,” said Angus, smiling, “for it appears very clear to me. It was growing need which urged men towards all the improvements which have ever taken place. The appropriation and security of property, improvements in government, art, and sciences—in short, all the institutions of society took their beginning from the growing wants of men; and those growing wants were caused, of course, by increase of numbers. This is quite enough to satisfy us that the principle of increase is a good one; while, if we see that our institutions can now be preserved and improved under other and higher kinds of stimulus, it is time that we were controlling the principle within the bounds of reason and happiness.”
“It is done for us when we do not look to it ourselves,” the captain replied, sighing as he cast a glance around him. “How full is the burying-ground,—how empty are the houses compared with what they were but a few months ago! It reminds me of some of the places in the east, where we were ordered to march in the rear of the plague. They will soon be filled again, if the fishery does well. That is a comfort.”
“And it reminds me that I have no time to lose,” observed Angus. “Will you be my passenger to the station, captain?”
Nobody had time to lose this season in the island, but those who were willing to run the risk of future scarcity. Labour was in great request, and, of course, well paid. Angus found ample employment for his crane, and received very good interest for the capital laid out upon it. His younger sons worked it with as much zeal as Kenneth had shown in its construction; but their father, proud as he was of them, thought in his inmost heart that no other of his flourishing tribe equalled the eldest, or could make up for his loss; and the haunting dream of the night, the favourite vision of the day, was of Kenneth's return, to leave his native land no more. This was Angus's meditation while plying the oar, and this his theme in his own chimney corner. It was much to hear of Kenneth's honour and welfare, but while no hope of peace came with the tidings, they were not perfectly satisfying.
The only person to whom the improvement in the times brought any trouble was the widow Cuthbert. Her former lovers—not Ronald, but those who had broken off acquaintance with her when her young family seemed a dead weight in the scale against her own charms—now returned, and were more earnest than ever in their suit. Katie had discretion enough to be aware that the only respect in which she had become a more desirable match than before was in the growth of her boys, whose labour might soon be a little fortune to her, if she chose so to employ it. She was therefore far from being flattered at becoming so much in request, and honoured and valued the disinterested friendship of Ronald more than ever.
The present time, even with the drawback of Kenneth's absence, was the happiest period of Ronald's life. He made his little home at the station sociable and comfortable, by gathering his nephews and nieces about him; and his visits to Garveloch became more frequent and more welcome continually when his prosperous business allowed him leisure for the trip. Fergus, weighed down with care, had grown old before his time; and to Ronald's assistance it was owing that his family preserved their respectability till the lads were able to take on themselves a part of the charge which had been too heavy for their father.
Ella was the last of the family to show the marks of change. Her mind and heart were as remarkable for their freshness in age as they had been for their dignity in youth. Inured to early exertion and hardship, she was equal to all calls upon her energies of body and spirit. She was still seen, as occasion required, among the rocks, or on the sea, or administering her affairs at home. She was never known to plead infirmity, or to need forbearance, or to disappoint expectation. She had all she wanted in her husband's devotion to her and to his home, and she distributed benefits untold from the rich treasury of her warm affections. She had, from childhood, filled a station of authority, and had never abused her power, but made it the means of living for others. Her power increased with every year of her life, and with it grew her scrupulous watchfulness over its exercise, till the same open heart, penetrating eye, and ready hand, which had once made her the sufficient dependence of her orphan brothers, gave her an extensive influence over the weal and woe of Garveloch.