Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter IX.: COUSIN MARSHALL's END. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 3
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Chapter IX.: COUSIN MARSHALL's END. - 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 END.
It was some years before any tidings came of Ned that could be depended upon. At length a countryman called on the widow Marshall one market-day, saying that he had had a world of trouble in finding her out in the small place she had got into outside the city, but was determined not to meet Ned Bridgeman again without having seen her and delivered Ned's packet into her own hand. Mrs. Marshall had nobody living with her now but her youngest daughter, who happened not to be at home at this hour; and as Mrs. Marshall could not read, she was obliged to wait till evening to know what was in the letter, and what the guinea was for which the packet contained. She obtained great satisfaction from the countryman concerning Ned, sent him her love and blessing, and the promise of an answer to his letter when there should be an opportunity of sending one, which might happen by means of the present messenger within six months. Many times before the evening did cousin Marshall open the letter, and examine it, and admire as much of it as was apparent to her; viz. the evenness of the lines and the absence of blots. The guinea, too, was a very good sign. The letter proved that his workhouse schooling had not been lost upon him; and the money, that her methods of education had taken effect. Her answer, written down by her daughter, was as follows:—
“Your letter was very welcome to us, since you could not come yourself. I do not wonder you met with hardships and difficulty in settling. Such is the way with many people in these days who wish to be beholden to nobody; but such generally meet with their deserts at last, as I am glad to hear you have. We have put your guinea into the Savings Bank for you, my dear boy, as, thank God! we none of us want it at present, and there was half-a-guinea of yours there before. Now I dare say you are wondering how it came there? It is the half-crown of wages you left behind you at Titford that Mr. Burke took care of, and it has grown into half-a-guinea by not being touched, which I hope will be good news to you. I quite approve your wish about the Friendly Society, knowing how my husband did the wisest thing in belonging to one, and at times could have got through in no other way. There is nothing about your sisters that should give you any scruple. Sally, poor thing, is very contented in the Asylum; and, as the people there are fond of her, has fewer troubles than many that have their eyesight. I have not seen so many tears from her since she went in as when my Susan read your letter to her, and she sends you her love. Ann is pretty well off in service, having nothing to complain of but her mistress's temper, with which she will contrive to bear, I hope, for she has a sweet one of her own. She will write to you herself, and tell you as much as we know about Jane, which is but little, and that little very sad. She is quite lost, I fear; but you may depend on my keeping my eye upon her. I thank you, my dear boy, for your questions about me and mine. My children have all left me but the one that holds the pen, and she is going to marry too. I hope she will have an easier life than her sisters, who are much put to it with their large families. I begin to feel myself growing old when I see so many grandchildren about me; and perhaps it is owing to that that I feel far more troubled about how their parents are to get through than I ever did for John Marshall and myself, when we had another little family added, as it were, to our own eight. But God preserve me from failing in my trust!—trusting as I wish to do, not to other people's charity, but to one's own labour and thrift, which has His blessing sooner than the other. Many a merciful lesson has been given me about trusting, — one since I had your letter. On Saturday, my eldest grandson and daughter were both out of work. Today is Monday, and they have each got a place. Indeed God Almighty is very good to us. But Susan is tired, not having kept up her schooling, I am afraid, so well as you. However, it looks a long letter, though I have many more things to say to you if you were here. Old as I call myself, I may see you on this side the grave, or will try to think so till you say not. Till then, I send you my love and blessing, which I hope you know you have had all this long while.”
The close of cousin Marshall's very long life was not altogether so serene as the character of its days of vigour might seem to deserve. Her children were so burdened with families of their own that they could offer no further assistance than that she should lodge with them by turns. She was positive, however, in her determination to live alone; and a small room in a poor place on the outskirts of the city was her dwelling. In one way or another she earned a little matter, and lived upon it, to the astonishment of some who received twice as much from the parish and could not make it do. Her adopted children found the utmost difficulty in making her accept any assistance, clearly as it was her due from those to whom she had been a mother in their orphan state. It grieved Ned to the heart to see her using her dim sight to patch her cloak for the twentieth time, when he had placed at her disposal the guinea and half, with all that had accumulated upon it, in the Savings Bank.
“Not yet. When I want it. I can do for myself still,” were always her answers; and though, without consulting her, he laid in coals and bought clothes for her during the two only visits that he was able to make to that neighbourhood, and though these presents were, after some scruples, accepted, he never could prevail upon her to use the little fund during his absence for her daily comforts. She was somewhat unpopular among her neighbours, who did not relish her occasional observations on the multiplication of alehouses, or her reports of what a comely, robust man her John Marshall was, for all he had seldom a pint and pipe to refresh himself with when his day's work was done. Nobody was more openhearted and sociable; but he could not afford both ale and independence,—to say nothing of charity; and everybody knew he was a father to the orphan.—The neighbours observed that he was certainly very kind to the parish; but that, for their parts, they could not afford to give charity to the parish. It was more natural for the parish to give to them. Such degeneracy as this roused cousin Marshall to prophesy evil. She was rather too ready with her forebodings that those who thus spoke would die in the workhouse, and with her horror at the warning seeming to create no alarm. But what roused her indignation above everything was the frequent question how, after all her toils and savings, she was better off than her cousin, Mrs. Bell? Mrs. Bell had never more heard of her husband, and had at length been taken into the workhouse with her family; of whom one daughter had followed Jane's example, and gained her point of a pauper marriage; one son was an ill-doing pauper labourer; and another, having been transported for theft, was flourishing at Sydney, and likely to get more money than all cousin Marshall's honest children put together. Mrs. Bell was proud of this son's prosperity, and would not have been sorry to hear any day of the other getting transported in like manner. —Now and then it occurred to cousin Marshall that there was little use in answering those who could ask such a question as wherein she was better off than Mrs. Bell; but it oftener happened that her replies were given in a style of eloquence that did not increase her popularity.—Death came at last, in time to save her from the dependence she dreaded, though not from the apprehension of it. In crossing her threshold, one winter's day, with her apron full of sticks, she tripped and fell. She seemed to sustain no injury but the jar; but that was fatal. She survived just long enough to see the daughter who lived in the neighbourhood, and make a bequest of her Bible to one child, her bed to another, her few poor clothes to a third, pointing out the corner of her chest where was deposited the little hoard she had saved for her burial.
“God has been very good to me and mine,” she said. “They tell me I have not always said so; but I meant no mistrust, I may have been too much in a hurry to go where ‘the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest:’ but it is all right now that I am really going at last. Thank God! I can say to the last that He has been very good to me.”
She left her blessing for every one by name, and died.
Mr. Burke met the funeral train coming out of the churchyard, and immediately knew Ned, long as it was since they had met.
“Your cousin Marshall's funeral!” he exclaimed. “My wife and Louisa and I inquired for her in vain, a long while ago, and supposed she had been dead some time. She must have been a great age.”
In answer to Mr. Burke's inquiries how she had passed her latter days, and in opposition to Ned's affectionate report of her, a neighbour observed, with a shake of the head, that she was awfully forsaken at times.
“It was but the day before she died, sir, that she complained that the Almighty had forgotten her, and that she was tired of looking to be released.”
Ned brushed his hand across his eyes as he observed that her neighbours were not capable of judging of such a woman as cousin Marshall, and not worthy to find fault with what she let fall in her dark moments.
“My wife said at the time, however,” replied the man, “that it would be well if a judgment did not come upon her for such words; and, sure enough, by the same hour the next day she was dead; and not in a natural way either.”
Mr. Burke smiled at Ned, who gravely observed that his cousin had lived too late to be done justice to. By what he had heard her tell, he judged that a hundred years ago she would have been honoured and tended in her old age, and saved all she had suffered from fear of the parish, and have had it told on her tombstone how many children she had bred up by her industry. It would not be difficult, for that matter, to put up a tombstone now; but where would be the use of it, unless it was honoured? The want lay there.
“I hope,” said Mr. Burke, “that we may as reasonably say that your cousin lived too early as that she lived too late. The time will come, trust me, when there will be end of the system under which she has suffered. It cannot always be that the law will snatch the bread from the industrious to give it to the idle, and turn labour from its natural channel, and defraud it of its due reward, and authorise the selfish and dissolute to mock at those who prize independence, and who bind themselves to self-denial that they may practise charity. The time will come, depend upon it, when the nation will effectually take to heart such injustice as this. There is much to undo, much to rectify, before the labours of the poor, in their prime, shall secure to them a serene old age; but the time will come, though by that day yonder grave may be level with the turf beside it, and there may be none to remember or speak of Cousin Marshall.”