Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter V.: COUSIN MARSHALL's CHARITIES. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 3
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Chapter V.: COUSIN MARSHALL's CHARITIES. - 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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COUSIN MARSHALL's CHARITIES.
Marshall was a member of the benefit club which met at the Cow and Snuffers. He had followed his father's advice and example by enrolling his name in it while yet a very young man; and he was now every day farther from repenting that he had thus invested the earnings of his youth. His companions, who knew him to be what is commonly called ‘a poor creature,’ smiled, and said that his club served him instead of a set of wits. He was not a man whose talents could have kept him afloat in bad times, and his club served admirably for a cork-jacket. His wife, who never seemed to have found out how much cleverer she was than her husband, put the matter in a somewhat different light, She attributed to her husband all the respectability they were enabled to maintain, and which concealed from the knowledge of many that Marshall earned but moderate wages from being a slow and dull, though steady workman. She gave him the credit, not only of the regularity of their little household, (which was, indeed, much promoted by the sobriety of his habit,) but of the many kindnesses which they rendered to their neighbours, — from sending in a fresh egg to an invalid next door, to taking home two orphans to be maintained. If it had not been for her husband's way of storing his earnings, as cousin Marshall truly observed, these offices of goodwill would have been out of the question; and this observation, made now and then at the close of a hard day's work, when Sally was trying to knit beside him, dropping, unperceived, as many stitches, poor girl! as she knitted, and when little Ann was at play among his own children before the door, made the slow smile break over his grave face, and constituted him a happy man.
Sally's eyes grew daily worse. Mrs. Marshall had long suspected, but could never make sure of the fact, that she injured them much by crying. As often as Sally had reason to suppose she was watched, she was ready with the complaint “my eyes always water so;” and how many of these tears came from disease, and how many from grief, it was difficult to make out. She was seldom merry, now and then a little fretful, but generally quiet and grave. Her great pleasures were to sit beside cousin Marshall, on the rare occasions when she could turn out all the little ones to play, and mend clothes of an afternoon; or to forget how old she was growing, and be taken on John Marshall's knee, and rest her aching forehead on his shoulder when he had an evening hour to spare. From the one she heard many stories of her mother as a girl no bigger than herself; and from the other, tidings of Ned and Jane, when, as often happened, John had been to see them. Mrs. Marshall now began to intersperse frequent notices of the Blind Asylum in her talk, trying to excite poor Sally's interest in the customs, employments, and advantages of the place; and she gave her husband a private hint to do the same, in order to familiarise the girl with the thought of the place she must shortly go to. John obeyed the the hint; but he did it awkwardly. Whatever was the subject now started in his presence, it always ended in praises of the Blind Asylum, and declarations how much he should like to go there if it should please the Almighty to take away his eyesight. Sally was not long in fathoming the intention of this. At first she pressed down her forehead closer when John said ‘a-hem’ on approaching the subject; but soon she slid from his knee, and went away at the first sign.
“I think, John,” said his wife, one evening when this happened, John,“poor Sally has heard enough for the present about this Asylum. It pains her sadly, I am afraid; but the time must be at hand, for she is very nearly blind now; and as to a vacancy, some of the people are very old.”
“I was going to say, wife, one of them is dead, and Sally can be got in on Saturday, as Mr. Burke bids me tell you. I met him to-day, and that was his message.”
Cousin Marshall's thoughts were at once painfully divided, between satisfaction at having Sally thus comfortably provided for, and the sorrow of parting with her; between the doubt how her clothes were to be got ready, and the dread of telling the girl what was to come to pass. She decided on sending her to bed in the first place, in order to hold a consultation in peace; so she went in search of her, led her up herself to the little nook which had been partitioned off for her as an invalid, helped her to bed, instead of letting Ann do it, swallowed her tears while hearing the simple prayer she had taught her, kissed her, and bade her good night.
“Cousin Marshall,” said the little girl, after listening a minute, “what are you doing at the window?”
“Hanging up an apron, my dear, to keep the morning sun off your face.”
“O, don't do that! I don't see much of the light now, and I like to feel the sun and know when it shines in.”
“Just as you like. But what are you folding your clothes under your head for? You shall have a pillow. O yes; I have a pillow—I'll bring it.”
Sally nestled her head down upon it as if for comfortable repose, while her cousin went down to meditate on her concerns. It was settled between the husband and wife, that either Ned or Jane should be immediately taken home in Sally's place, and that circumstances at the workhouse should determine which it should be.
Mrs. Marshall was wont to sleep as soundly as her toil and wholesome state of mind and conscience deserved; but this night she was disturbed by thoughts of the disclosure she must make in the morning. She scarcely closed her eyes while it was dark, and after it began to dawn, lay broad awake, watching the pink clouds that sailed past her little lattice, and planning how the washing, ironing, and preparing of Sally's few clothes was to be done, in addition to the day's business. Presently she thought she heard the noise of somebody stirring behind the little partition. She sat up and looked about her, thinking it might be one of the many children in the room; but they were all sound asleep in their wonted and divers postures. After repeated listenings, she softly rose to go and see what could all Sally. She found her at the window; not, alas! watching the sunrise—for no sunrise should Sally ever more see—but drying her pillow in its first rays. The moment she perceived she was observed, she tossed the pillow into bed again, and scrambled after it; but it was too late to avoid explanation.
“It grieves me to chide you, my dear,” said cousin Marshall; “but how should your eyes get better, if you take no more care of them? Here is your pillow wet through, wetter than it could have been if you had not been crying all night, and you are looking up at the flaring sky, instead of shutting your poor eyes in sleep.”
“If I sleep ever so sound, cousin, I always wake when the sun rises, and I try sometimes how much I can see of him. It was scarce a blink to-day; so you need not fear its making my eyes ache any more. They never will be tried with bright light again! It is little more than a month since I could see yon tiled roof glistening at sunrise, and now I can't.”
“That is no rule, my dear; the sun has moved somewhat, so that we can't see it strike straight upon it. That tiled roof looks blue to me now, and dull.”
“Does it indeed?” cried Sally, starting up. “However, that is no matter, cousin; for my eyes are certainly very bad, and soon I shall not be able to do anything.”
“O, but l hope you will soon be able to do more than ever I have been able to teach you. If you have not me beside you to take up stitches in your knitting, you will learn not to let them drop; and that is far better. And you will make sashline, and the more delicate sort of baskets; and you are better off than most at their first going into the Asylum, in having learned to wash a floor neatly, and to join your squares by the feel, almost as well as we that can see. Miss Burke could scarcely believe you were Sally, the first day she came, you were washing the floor so nicely.”
Sally would have smiled at the compliment, but that she was too full of panic about the Asylum.
“But, cousin,”she said,“it will be all so strange! I don't know any of the people, and I shall have no one to talk to. And that brown stuff dress, and little black bonnet, and the white handkerchiefs, all alike! I don't like to wear a charity dress. I remember——”
Before Sally could relate what it was that she remembered, her cousin stopped her with a gentle rebuke. She did not mind what Sally said about the place and the people being strange; it was natural, and it was an evil soon cured, and she hoped there would be less to teaze the girl in the Asylum, than among the rough children at home; but she could not see what reason there was for so much pride as should disdain to wear a charity dress. Sally explained that it was not pride exactly; but she remembered how she and her sisters used to stare at the pupils of the Blind Asylum, as they met them going to church, and how she got out of the way in a great hurry, and followed them to see how they would manage to turn in at the gate; and sometimes when the master was not observing, she would look quite under their bonnets, without their finding it out, to see what their countenances were like. She should not like now to have anybody do the same to her. It was in vain that her cousin reasoned, that if she did not know it, it would not signify. The bare idea made her cry again as if she could not be comforted.
“You did not think at those times, Sally, of doing as you would be done by. If anybody had told you then that you would be one of those pupils, you would have left off following them. But it seems to me that blind people remember as soon as anybody to do as they would be done by; and so I hope you will find. I have often been in that Asylum, and it cheers one to see how cheerful the people are. ‘It is God's will,’ they say, when one asks them about their blindness. They are always ready with the word, ‘It is God's will.’ And it is not the word only, for they make the best of His will. If they make any little mistake, or do any little mischief unawares, they are thankful to be set right, and seem to forget it directly. But I hope you need not go there, Sally, to learn to say, cheerfully, ‘It is God's will.’”
Sally tried to stop her tears.
“And as for doing as you would be done by,” continued cousin Marshall, “now is your time. You have always found my husband tender to you, have not you?—and little Ann ready to guide and help you? Well, you don't know the concern John would feel, if he saw you leave us unwillingly, and I am afraid we could scarcely pacify Ann; but if you go with a steady heart and a cheerful face, they will see at once what a fine thing it is for you to be got into such a place. Just think now, if it was Ann instead of you, how would it make you most easy to see her?”
“O, cousin Marshall, I will try. Many's the time I have been glad it was not Ann. But when—when?”
Her cousin told her directly, that she was to go in the next day but one, so that she would soon be settled now, and find her lot come easy to her. After talking a while longer with her so as to leave her quite composed, and bidding her go to sleep, as it was far too early to get up yet, she left her, and set quietly about her business, keeping on the watch to prevent husband and children making any noise in dressing, that Sally might sleep, if possible, into the middle of the day. One object in beginning her toil so early, was to have time to go to the workhouse, in the afternoon, with the news of the release of one of the children there.
On entering the workhouse, she heard more news than she came to tell. A service had been obtained for Jane at farmer Dale's, a little way in the country, whither she was to be removed next market-day. Immediately on the announcement of the plan, Ned had disappeared, and had not been heard of since.
Jane seemed to regard this event but little, so occupied was she with making up her mind whether on the whole she liked the change or not. It was a fine thing, she supposed, to be out of the workhouse; but there would be an end of workhouse frolics, and perhaps harder toil than she had been accustomed to. On cousin Marshall's inquiry, whether she had not earned a little money to carry away in her pocket, she replied that she had been obliged to spend it as fast as earned. How? Chiefly in buying a dinner every Monday when she could; for she could never abide milk-broth; and the rest went for a better bonnet for Sundays, the one she brought with her being too shabby to wear at church and the gardens.
“Church and the gardens!” exclaimed cousin Marshall, very sternly. “It is mostly vain and dainty girls like you, Jane, that come to learn how welcome milk is to an empty stomach, and that are kept away from church, to say nothing of the gardens, for want of decent covering. It is a great misfortune, Jane, to be a parish girl, but it is a far greater to forget that you are one.”
There was much matter of concern for John when he returned from work this night, in speculating upon where poor Ned could be, and upon what would become of Jane, with her very handsome face, her bold manner, and her vain and giddy mind. The good couple hoped she was going to a hard service, where she would be out of the way of temptation.