Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter II.: CHILD'S GOSSIP. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 3
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Chapter II.: CHILD'S GOSSIP. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 3 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1832). Vol. 3.
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Much business was transacted at the Spread-Eagle on the Sunday by the Committee of the Union. It was the general opinion that a great struggle between masters and men was on the eve of taking place, and measures were adopted for finding out what was the disposition of the operative spinners respecting a general strike, if an equalization of wages was not to be obtained by other means. It had been agreed on the Saturday night that twenty-five members of the Union should employ the Sunday in obtaining the names of as many as were willing to turn out, of to subscribe for the assistance of those who should turn out, in case of opposition from the masters. These twenty-five men were to bring in their reports on Sunday night; after which, if the affair should look promising, a petition was to be addressed to the masters, for a public meeting, at which an equalization of wages was to be agreed on.
Clack was somewhat at a loss how to apportion his own business, and that of other people, on this occasion. Having a very high opinion of his own powers of persuasion, and being confident of his knowledge of law, he wanted to be everywhere at once, and to guide all the movements of the people he employed. As this was impossible, however, he thought it best to remain in some known place of appeal where parties might come to him for direction and information. He therefore sat at the Spread-Eagle all day big with importance, and dissatisfied only because his underlings could not be about their business abroad, and listening to him at the same time.
The Allens knew nothing of what was going forward. Mrs. Allen was so full of interest and curiosity about little Hannah Bray, that she had no thoughts to bestow on public affairs, as the transactions of the Union were commonly called. Her husband had gone early into the country with Bray this day dressed like other people, to visit some relations of the latter, who did not know what had become of him after he had been refused employment in Manchester, and obliged to betake himself to some new mode of obtaining a livelihood.
Little Hannah slept till the sun was high on the Sunday morning, and might have slept longer if Mrs. Allen had not feared she would not get breakfast over in time for church. Hannah jumped up with the excuse that the place was so quiet, there was nothing to wake her.
“Indeed!” said Mrs. Allen. “We think the children and the neighbours make a great deal of noise; but I suppose you sleep in public-houses for the most part.”
Hannah observed that people call so loud for what they want in public-houses, and they care so little for hours, that there is no knowing when you may sleep quietly.
“Have you no other frock than that, my dear?” asked Mrs. Allen. “I suppose you go to church on Sundays, and you cannot possibly go in all those gay ribands.”
“O no,” said Hannah. “I have a dark frock for Sundays, and a straw bonnet; but they are in father's pack, and I suppose that is at the Spread-Eagle.”
“And he is gone into the country for the day. Well, you must change with Martha when church time comes. Poor Martha has but one tidy frock; but she is too lame to go out to-day, even as far as the apothecary's; and I am sure she will lend you her frock and tippet to go to church in.”
Martha was willing to lend but had rather put on her factory dress than Hannah's red frock with yellow trimmings. Hannah hinted that she should like to stay within with Martha all day; and the indulgent mother, seeing Martha's pleasure at the prospect of a companion and nurse of her own age, left the little girls to amuse themselves, while she took the younger children to church with her as usual.
“Father says he heard you sing last night,” said Martha when they were left alone. “Will you sing to me?”
“I am so tired of singing!” pleaded Hannah. “I don't know many songs, and I sing them so very often! Won't that bird do as well? Let me get down the cage, may I?”
“Yes, do, and we will give him some water, poor fellow! He is my bird and I feed him every day. Somebody that could not afford to keep him sold him to father, and father gave him to me. Had you ever a bird?”
“No, but I had a monkey once. When we went away, father got a monkey, and I used to lead him about with a string; but I was glad when we had done with him, he was so mischievous. Look here how he tore my arm one day, when somebody had put him in a passion with giving him empty nutshells.”
“What a terrible place!” said Martha. “Was it long in getting well?”
“No; father got an apothecary to tie it up, and it soon got well.”
“My father is going to show my knees to Mr. Dawson, the apothecary. Do look how they are swelled; and they ache so, you can't think.”
“O, but I can think, for mine used to ache terribly when I walked and stood before the wheels all day.”
“But yours were never so bad as mine, or I am sure you could not dance about as you do.”
“Not so bad, to be sure, and my arms were never so shrunk away as yours. Look, my arm is twice as big as yours.”
“I wonder what's the reason,” sighed Martha. “Mother says I get thinner and thinner.”
“You should have meat for dinner every day as I have,” said Hannah, “and then you would grow fat like me. Father gets such good dinners for us to what we used to have. He says ' that, and being in the air so much that prevents my being sickly, as I used to be. I don't think I could do the work that I used to do with all that noise, and the smell of oil and the heat.”
“And I am sure I could not sing and dance as you do.”
“No, how should you dance when you are so lame?”
“And I don't think I can sing at all.”
“Come, try, and I will sing with you. Try ‘God save the king.’”
“It is Sunday,” said Martha gravely.
“Well, I thought people might sing ‘God save the king’ on Sundays. I have heard father play it on the drum, just before the Old Hundred. You know the Old Hundred.”
Martha had heard this hymn-tune at church, and she tried to sing it; but Hannah burst out a laughing.
“Lord! Martha, your voice is like a little twittering bird's. can't you open your mouth and sing this way?”
“No, I can't,” said Martha, quite out of breath; “and besides, Hannah, you should not say ‘Lord!’ Father and mother never let us say those sort of words.”
“Nor my father either. He is more angry with me for that, than for anything; but it slips out somehow, and you would not wonder if you knew how often I hear people say that, and many worse things.”
“Worse things?” said Martha, looking curious.
“Yes; much worse things; but I am not going to tell you what they are, because father made me promise not to tell you about any of the bad people that I have heard swear and seen tipsy. Was your father ever tipsy?”
“Not that I know of; but our neighbour Field is often tipsy. I am afraid every day that he will topple down stairs.”
“My father was tipsy once,” said Hannah, “and he beat me so, you can't think.”
“No, just after we began to stroll. Though it is so long ago, I remember it very well, for I was never so frightened in my life. I did not know where to go to get away from him; and the people pushed him about and laughed at me the more the more I cried. I asked him afterwards not to get tipsy any more, and he said he never would, and he never has. It was only because we had got more money that day than we ever got in a day before: but it soon went away, for when father woke the next morning, his pocket was quite empty”
“And did you soon get some more money?”
“O yes; we get some every day except Sundays. I carry the hat round every time we stop to play, and I always get some halfpence and sometimes a silver sixpence.”
“Ah! then, you get a great deal more than I do, Hannah. I brought home only three shillings this week.”
“I take much more than that, to be sure; but then it is my father's earning more than mine. His great drum sounds farther and brings more people to listen than my triangle.”
“Is your triangle here? I wish you would teach me to play,” said Martha. “Now do. If you will, I will ask mother to show us he pictures in grandfather's bible when she comes home.”
Hannah had been very fond of these pictures when she was recovering from the measles; and this bribe and her goodnature together overcame her disgust at the instrument she had to play every day and almost all day long. She indulged herself with a prodigious yawn, and then began her lesson. When Mrs. Allen came back, she found the bulfinch piping at his loudest pitch to the accompaniment of the triangle, Hannah screaming her instructions to her new pupil, and poor palefaced little Martha flushed with flattery and with the grand idea of earning a great many silver sixpences every day if her father would let her make music in the streets instead of going to the factory.