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FOR EACH AND FOR ALL. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 4 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 4.
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The season was more than half over, and was about to be pronounced remarkably dull, when a promise of novelty was given out in the shape of a rumour that lord F——and his lady, who had been travelling abroad from the day of their marriage, had arrived in town, and that the bride's first appearance would take place at the Duke of A——'s ball on the 20th. This information was circulated in various forms of words, all bearing a relation to what lady F——had been before she was lady F——. At the clubs, in the shops, in drawing-rooms and boudoirs, it was related that lady F——'s debut would take place on the 20th. Her first appearance on a new stage,—her return from a tour in the provinces,—her first night in a new character, all were referred to the 20th, in a manner which should prevent any one forgetting that lady F——had quitted a profession on her marriage. The curiosity was not confined to mothers aud daughters, to whose observation au extraordinary marriage is the most exciting circumstance that life affords in this case, the interest was shared by their husbands and fathers. Some wondered how the proud old earl would stand the introduction of his daughter-in-law into his own society; and others, who had told lord F—— that he was a lucky fellow to have won such a glorious creature, speculated, notwithstanding, on the awkwardnesses and difficulties which must hourly arise from the choice o one so far below him in rank. He was an odd personage, however,— lord F——; and there was no telling how he would think and feel on occasions when everybody else felt alike. On the whole, greater sympathy was expressed for his sister, lady Frances, who was more likely to be mortified, —who certainly was more mortified at the connexion than the rest of her family. Her father was understood to have insisted on her making the best of the affair, since it could not be helped; but, whatever her outward demeanour might appear, it would be too hard upon her to suppose that she could do more than barely keep on terms with a sister-in-law who had been on the stage. A solitary voice here and there reminded the speculators how it was that lady F——had adopted a profession, and asked whether the connexion would have been thought very preposterous if she had been known only as the highly educated daughter of an eminent merchant; or whether the marvellousness of the case rested on her father's misfortunes, and her choice of a way of life when he was no longer living to support and protect her: but these questions met with no other answer than that such a marriage was so very strange an one that the speculators longed to see how all the parties carried it off; though, to be sure, such beauty as lady F——'s went a great way towards making tile thing easy;— almost as far as her husband's carelessness of the opinion of the world.—Meanwhile, who had seen her riding in the park? Was she more or less beautiful than on the stage? Was lady Frances with her? Who had called, and who had not? How was it to be the fashion to treat her? And so forth.
How much did all this signify to lord and lady F——, to the earl, and to lady Frances? The bride fancied little, and feared nothing. She had been conversant with many ranks of society, and had found them all composed of men and women; and she never doubted that in that with which she was about to become acquainted, she should also have to deal with men and women. Her husband guessed what speculations were going on, and did not care for them. The earl also knew, and did care, as did lady Frances; but they disposed differently of their anxieties; the earl repressing them in order to the best disposition of circumstances which he could not prevent; his daughter allowing them to fill her mind, appear in her manners, and form a part of her conversation with her intimate friends.
Lady F—— and her husband dined alone on the day of the Duke of A——'s ball. As the bride entered her dressing-room, she met her lady's-maid fidgeting about near the door.
“O, dear, my lady,”said Philips, “I am glad you are come. I was just going to take the liberty of venturing to send Thérèse, to remind your ladyship how very late it is growing. It would scarcely be justice, either to myself or your ladyship, to cramp us for time in our first toilet; and I was not able so much as to lay out your dress; for Thérèse was so idle, I find, as not to have ascertained what your lady ship intends to wear.”
“I have been so idle as not to have made up my own mind yet, Philips. There is abundance of time, however, if you are no longer dressing my hair than Thérèse and I shall be about the rest.”
Philips immediately looked very solemn; and though the toilet lamps were duly lighted, and all was ready for her operations, she stood with her arms by her side in the attitude of waiting.
“Well, Philips, I am ready.”
“Will you please, my lady, to send Thérèse and her work elsewhere? It cannot be expected that I should exhibit my ways so as a mere novice may supplant me any day, my lady.”
“This is Thérèse's proper place, and here she shall stay,” replied the lady. “However, she shall read to us; and then, you know, she cannot be a spy upon your doings.”
Thérèse read accordingly till the hair was dressed. At the first pause; Philips observed that she must brush up her French, her fluency in which she had lost from having missed the advantage of visiting Paris last year.
“Thérèse will be obliged to any one who will talk with her in her own tongue, Philips. Suppose, instead of having fancies about supplanting one another, you make the best use you can of each other, since you must be a good deal together.”
“I will do my best, I am sure, my lady, to instruct the girl in all that relates to her own sphere, without encroaching on mine. I will do my best to reform her dress, which really bespeaks her to be a green-grocer's daughter, if I may venture to say so. But as to dressing hair,—allow me to appeal to lady Frances whether it can be expected that I should disseminate my principles out of my own sphere.”
“See who knocks, Thérèse.”
The earl and lady Frances were below, and lady Frances would be particularly glad to speak to Mrs. Philips, if not engaged with my lady. Mrs. Philips, at her lady's desire, went to receive her late mistress's commands, and Théré.se enacted the lady's-maid, as she had done from the time she had left Paris in lady F''—s train.
“Come, Thérèse, let us have dune before anybody arrives to criticise us novices. How nervous you look, child! What is the difference between dressing me to-day and any other day?”
“There is no toilet in travelling, madame,—no fêtes like this; and in the inns there was so much less grandeur than here. I have not been educated to serve you, like Mrs. Philips, or to live in a great house.—I am more fit to sew for you, madame, or read to you, than to help you instead of Mrs. Philips.”
“I do not want two Mrs. Philipses, you know; and as for the grandeur you speak of,—if we do not find it comfortable, we will have done with it. What have we too much of,—of light, or of warmth, or of drawers and dressing boxes, or of books? You like old china, and I like old pictures, and here are both. Which of all these things do you wish away”
“O, none of them, I dare say, when I grow used to them: but they are so little like my father's house! I felt the inns very grand at first, but they are bare and tarnished, compared with what we have here.”
“Yes. You would have been glad of such a rug as this under your feet in those cold rooms at Amiens; and I should have liked such a mirror as this instead of one so cracked, that one half of my face looked as if it could not possibly fit the other. I see much to like and nothing to be afraid of in rugs and mirrors.”
“You, madame, no! You are made to have the best of everything come to you of its own accord; and you know how to use everything. You. . . .”
“And yet, Thérèse, I was once as poor as you, and poorer. If I know how to use things, and if, as you say, they come to me of the best, it is because I think first what they were made for, and not what they are taken as signs of. If, instead, of enjoying the luxuries of my house, I were to look upon them as showing that I am lady F—, I should be apt to try to behave as people think lady F—should; behave; and then I should he awkward. Now, if you consider all the pretty things you have to use, not as pointing you out as lady F,—'s lady's-maid, but as intended to make me and my little friend comfortable, you will not be distressed about being unlike Philips: you will know that I had rather see you the same Thérèse that I always knew you.”
“O, madame, this is being very good. But then, I cannot feel as you do, because there is more occasion for me to think about the change. There is my lord to take off your thoughts from such things; he is with you in every new place, and you see how accustomed he is to everything that is strange to you.”
“That does make some difference certainly,” said the lady, smiling, “but then you should consider how many more new places and people I have to make acquaintance with than you. Except Philips, or two or three of the servants below, you have nobody to be afraid of, and I am never long away. You will feel yourself at case in one room after another, and with one person after another, till you will learn to do all your business, and speak all your thoughts, as simply and confidently as you once watered the salads in your father's shop, and made your confession to good old father Bénoit.”
Thérèse sighed deeply, as she finished her task and withdrew to the fireside, as if no longer to detain her lady about her own affairs.
“I have not forgotten, Thérèse, about finding a confessor for you. I am only cautious lest we should not observe exactly your father's directions.”
“Madame—they are so very particular!—that the priest should be a devout man, and very old and experienced in the confession of girls like me.”
“I know; and we thought we had found such an one; but he has forgotten almost all his French, and you could hardly confess in English. But make yourself easy; your conscience shall soon be relieved.—Good night. Philips will sit up .... More work, do you want?—You may give Philips a French lesson. O, you have read all these books. Well: come with me into the library, and I will find you more.”
On the stairs they met lord F—.
“Where are you going, Letitia? Frances is closeted with Philips in the library.”
Thérèse immediately stole back to the dressingroom; but before the carriages drove off, she was furnished with a fresh volume wherewith to be occupied when she should have made tea for Mrs. Philips and herself.
The earl had dreaded lest he should find Letitia nervous at the prospect of the formidable evening she was about to pass. His visit was meant to reassure her, and she understood the kindness of the intention, and showed that she did. When lady Frances came in from her conference with Philips, she found them side by side on the sofa, —Letitia quiet and self-possessed, and the earl regarding her with as much admiration as kindness.
“I am sure you may be obliged to me for giving up Philip's to you,” said lady Frances to Letitia. “She has dressed you beautifully tonight. Is not she a treasure?”
“A great treasure to you, Frances,” said her brother, “so pray take her back again. Letitia has one treasure of a maid in her dressing-room already, and it is a pity she should rob you of yours.”
“Indeed it is,” said lady F—. “Philips's accomplishments are thrown away upon me, I am afraid. If you wilt allow her to give my little French girl a few lessons, I shall be just as much obliged to you, and shall not deprive you of your servant.”
Lady Frances protested; but her brother was peremptory, to her utter astonishment, for she had never known him speak of lady's maids before and would not have believed that he could ever learn one from another. She did not perceive that he did not choose that his wife's beauty should be attributed to the art of her toilet.
Not the slightest trace of trepidation was observable in the bride when she alighted from her carriage, when her name was shouted up the staircase, or when all who were within hearing turned to gaze as she entered the crowded saloon, leaning on the arm of the earl. There was something much more like girlish glee than fear in her countenance; for, the truth was, Letitia had a taste for luxury, as all simple-minded persons would have, if their simplicity extended as far as a disregard of the factitious associations by which luxury is converted into an incumbrance. Having been early accustomed to so much of it as to excite the taste, then deprived of it, then baulked and tantalized with the coarse and tinsel imitation of it which had met her during her short professional course, it was with lively pleasure that she now greeted the reality. The whole apparatus of festivity inspired her with instantaneous joy:—the bowers of orange and rose trees, light, warmth and music together, the buzz of voices, and above all the chalked floor,— all these set her spirits dancing. A single glance towards her husband told him enough to have placed him perfectly at ease respecting the affairs of the evening, even if he had been a man who could be otherwise than at his ease. He knew perfectly well that it was impossible for any one of good sense and taste not to admire and respect Letitia, and he cared little under what pretence others might depreciate her accomplishments.
“Lady F—is the star of the night, as every one is observing,” said an old friend of the earl's, who was absorbed in watching the dancers, among whom was Letitia. “The brightest star, we all agree, and shining as if in her native sphere.”
“This is her native sphere,” replied the earl. “She is in her own sphere wherever there is grace, wherever there is enjoyment.”
“True: so young, so simple as she appears! She seems perfectly unspoiled.”
“Perfectly. She has gone through too much to be easily spoiled. Change,—anything more than modification impossible in her ease, do with her what you will. You are an old friend, and I have no objection to let you see that I am proud of Letitia.”
“I am truly glad.... I felt uncertain.... I did not know . . . .”
“Nor I till to-night,” said the earl, smiling. “But I find I have no more wish than right to question my son's choice.”
“But you must expect the world to criticise it.”
“Certainly. If my son acts so as to imply contempt of conventional marriages, there will be contempt cast on his marriage of love. If both parties carry off their contempt inoffensively, both are welcome to their opinions.”
“Well! there are many here whose parents have had occasion to use your philosophy, or some other to answer the same purpose.”
“Lady F—is the star of the night,” observed lady Frances's partner, gazing at Letitia through his glass. “Peerless indeed!”
Lady Frances made no answer, which emboldened the gentleman to proceed.
“The star of the night, as she has often been vailed, and never more justly. Never, in the proudest moment of her glory, was she more lovely.”
Still lady Frances was silent.
“Perhaps your ladyship feels this to be the night of her glory; and, indeed, it is a triumph to have risen, through her own radiance, into a higher sphere.”
“I question whether she feels it so,” replied lady I Frances. “Letitia is very proud, and her pride takes rather an odd turn. She would tell you that site considers it a condescension to come among us, who are only born to our station.”
“Surprising! And what inspired her condescension”
“O, love, of course; pure love. Nothing else could have prevailed with her to submit to marriage. You should hear her talk of the condition of wives,—how she pitied all till she became one herself. You cannot conceive what poor slaves she thinks them.”
“And what says lord F—?”
“He is fired by her eloquence. You have no idea how eloquent she is. She pours it out as if . ...”
“It was in her heart, as well as by heart. How will she keep it up, now she has no practice?”
“They will have private theatricals down at Weston, I have no doubt.”
“I beseech your ladyship's interest to get me invited. It will be such a new thing to see lord F—on the stage. Of course he will play the heroes to his wife's heroines. Whatever may have been hitherto, he will scarcely like, I should think.... he is scarcely the man .... Faith! if she is proud and high-spirited, as you say, she has met her match.”
Lady Franees smiled; and as she was led away to supper, assured her partner that nothing could be pleasanter than the terms they were all on with lady F—; for she was, after all, a noble creature; which information was received with a deferential bow.
In every group of talkers, lady F—'s merits were canvassed. Some ladies would give any thing in the world for her courage, till reminded by their mammas that she had been trained to self-confidence, when they suddenly became contented w;th their own timidity. Others would have supposed her not out of her teens, by the girlish enjoyment she seemed to feel; but these were reminded that this kind of scene was as new to her as if she had not been seen and heard of in public for nearly four years. Everybody agreed that she was beautiful, and very amiable, and astonishingly simple, and conducting herself with wonderful propriety: and everybody admired the good-natured earl's manner towards her, and wondered whether it was lady Frances's own choice to come with her, and conjectured what lord F—'s happiness must be to witness his bride's flattering welcome to the rank the had given her.
Lord F—'s happiness, though as great as these kind friends could wish, was not altogether of the character they supposed.
“You have enjoyed yourself, Letitia,” he observed, as they were going home in the grey of the morning, and when she made the first pause in her remarks to let down the glass, as a market cart, laden with early vegetables and flowers, passed for a few moments alongside the carriage.
“How sweet!—O how sweet those violets are!” she exclaimed, as a whiff of fragrance was blown in. “Enjoyed myself! Yes,—it is a new page,—quite a new page of human history to me.”
“Your passion is for turning over such pages, What next”
“If I had a market-woman's cloak and bonnet, I should like to step into that cart and go to Covent-Garden, to see the people dressing it up against sunrise. I should like, some morning, to go into the city when the sun is just touching the steeples, and see life waken up in the streets.”
“I wonder you did not stand in the door-way to night,” said her husband, smiling, “to see the contrast between speculating life on the pavement and polished life in the saloon.”
“I saw enough, without standing in the doorway,” replied Letitia, gravely. “It was more different than I had supposed from something of the same kind that I had seen often enough before. I had seen the great and the humble throng about our theatre doors; but then there was room for each, though far apart. All went to share a common entertainment, —to be happy at the same time, though not side by side. Here there were peers within and paupers without; careless luxury above, and withering hardship below. This is too deep a page for my reading, Henry; and not the easier for my having been in both conditions myself.”
“Why wish then for more experience, till you have settled this matter?”
“Because we cannot tell, till we have tried, what we may find in any matter to throw light upon any other matter.”
“Suppose you should find all wrapped in darkness at last, as Faust did when he had gratified his passion for experience.”
“Impossible,—having Faust before me for a warning. He kindled his altar fire from below when the sun was high, and he let somebody put it out when both sun and moon were gone down. Where was the use of his burning-glass then? How should he be otherwise than dark?”
“True; but how would you manage better?”
“I would never quit stability for a moment. Faust found out that the world rolled round continually. He jumped to the conclusion that there was no such thing in nature as a firm footing, and so cast himself off into perdition. If he had taken his walks in God's broad sunshine, he would have found that the ground did not give way under him, nor ever would, he was etherealized enough to stand on air.”
“So instead of speculating on the incompatibilities of human happinesses, and concluding that there is no such thing as a common welfare, you would make trial of all conditions, and deduce the, summum bonum from your experience.”
“Yes; that is the way; and if you would help me, the thing would be done twice as well. If we were each to go a pilgrimage through the ranks of society, (for we would settle the affairs of the moral world before we began upon the natural.) . . . .”
“Very reasonably, certainly,” replied her husband, smiling, “since it is easier to get into palaces and hovels, than into thunder-clouds and sea-caves.”
“Well;—if you began at the top and I at the bottom, if we were to meet in the middle, I do think we might see how all might dance amidst fragrance and music, and none lean starving on the frosty area-rails. You should be king, minister, peer, and so on, down to a tradesman; and I would be a friendless Italian boy with his white mouse, and a pauper, and a cotton-spinner, and a house-servant, and so upwards, till I met you at the tradesman's we spoke of.”
“My dear, why do you put yourself at the bottom instead of me?”
“Because you would be longer in learning what to make of poverty than I. I know a good deal about it already, you are aware.”
“Since we cannot rove up and down as we will through the mazes of society, Letitia, we will do what we can by varying our occupations. Variety of research may partly stand in the stead of migration from rank to rank.—You spoke at random just now, of my being minister. What would you say if I were to become a servant of the crown;—that is, in other words, a servant of the people?”
“That I would serve you,—O how humbly, how devotedly!—as the servant of the people,” cried Letitia, colouring high. “You know. ...”
“I know that in marrying me you dreaded, above all things, falling into the routine of aristocratic idleness. I know that you felt it a sacrifice to surrender your public service and influence; and this is one reason among many, Letitia, why I should like to accept office;—that you might espouse another kind of public service in espousing me. But here we are at home. I shall be able to tell you more after dinner to-morrow than I know at present of this matter.”
Letitia's experience of this day was not yet over. She found it very painful to be undressed by a yawning, winking lady's-maid; and she resolved that her engagements should never more deprive Mrs. Philips of her natural rest, however lady Frances might teach Mrs. Philips herself to laugh at the absurdity of a lady of rank troubling herself to lay aside her own trappings.
Lady F—'s “experience” might have been of a very different kind from that which now lay in her way, if her regard to “stability” hail been less. When very young,—at the period of her father's misfortunes and death,—she had been strongly tempted to marry Mr. Waldie, a merchant, who was thought by the few friends of the destitute girl to have done her great honour by offering her his hand at such a crisis, and to have proved the disinterestedness of his attachment in a way which should have ensured it a better return. Letitia refused him, however; giving to her protectors the very sufficient reason that she did not love Mr. Waldie; and keeping to herself the further justification that she had no confidence in the steadiness of his principles and conduct. His impulses were generous, but fitful; and there was an excitement about him which had never yet been absorbed by any pursuit, or allayed by any possession. This might take any turn as he grew older,—either benevolent or selfish. It might be philanthropy,— but it might also be wine, billiards, roving, or many other things which would involve the slavery of his wife;—and Letitia, unblinded by passion, was able to perceive that there is little enough of rational freedom at the best in the condition of a wife, and that a woman's only hope of that which the marriage law at present denies her rests in the steady principle as well as the enlightened views of her husband. Her friends soon after exclaimed against Mr. Waldie's fickleness in a case which did not, in her opinion, testily fickleness of affection so much as rashness of conduct. He offered (as soon as he found his cause hopeless with Letitia) to her elder sister; and Maria, being really, and having been long, attached to him, married him, not unwarned by her sister of the tendency of his failings. The tenderest affection henceforth subsisted between the sisters. Maria was full of gratitude to Letitia for having refused Mr. Waldie; and Letitia as full of respectful compassion for Maria when she witnessed her devotion to her husband, and could not stifle the conviction that that husband's first affection had not died out the more rapidly for being too suddenly repressed. Maria was satisfied that she had as much of Mr. Waldie's affection as he would ever have to bestow on one permanent object; and that she was much happier than she could ever have been without him, so that she called herself, and all who spoke on the matter called her, a very fortunate wife.
Mr. Waldie had begun life as a rich man. His business was almost as considerable as any in the city; his abode on the Surrey side of London was elegant, and beautifully situated, and he kept two carriages. The wonder had been, during all the four years of Letitia's professional career, why so rich a brother-in-law should have allowed her to live by any such means. Mr. Waldie incessantly and truly pleaded that he could not help it; and much was said of her unconquerable love of the fine arts, and of the eccentricities into which her passion for independence led her. The sisters knew of very good reasons besides these why Letitia should not submit to live on the bounty of a brother-in-law, even if he were as generous as Mr. Waldie; and when the matter ended in Letitia becoming lady F—, her eccentricities met with all due respect.
Lady Frances never could conceive why Letitia called her present life an idle one, and seemed to think entertaining her sister's children the most serious business she had. Lady Frances thought no life so busy as that of persons of rank during the season. For her part, she saw tradespeople loiter about much more than she had time to do. Did not the baker's man stop for a few minutes' talk with the kitchen-girl in the area? Were not fishmongers seen leaning with folded arms against their stalls? Did not shopmen read newspapers behind the counter, and merchants' clerks stop in the Strand to look at caricatures? All this while, ladies of her rank never could get through all the shopping they planned for a morning, unless they gave up one or two of the exhibitions; and nobody ever went down Regent-street in such a hurry as lord B. or the duke of C.; unless it was the newsman or letter-carrier. She, for one, had been intending for weeks to call on poor old lady Y., and had never found time; while Letitia, who had such superior tastes too, complained (if you asked her) that she had not enough to do. With her books, and her harp, and her singing, —she was very careful to keep up her singing,— with all these in addition to her “social duties,” so engrossing during the season, one would have thought she had had enough on her hands; but she had asked her husband to read German with her; and they actually sat down, like school children, with a dictionary between them, every morning before his lordship went out. Moreover, she was polishing up her little French girl, —perhaps for a governess for her sister's children. Very sweet children those were; and it was natural that Letitia should love them, as being her sister's; but it seemed realty to be giving up too much to them to refuse a sweet spring ride to Hampton Court, because she had promised to take the little things into the park with her, that particular day. The worst of it was, Letitia was infecting her husband with this notion of not having enough to do. He ....
“You will hear no more of that,” quietly observed the earl. “Henry will have quite enough on his hands henceforward. He has accepted office.”
“Poor Letitia!” exclaimed lady Frances, laughing. “She will have more time hanging heavy than ever, unless, indeed, Henry makes her his private secretary.”
“He might do worse,” observed the earl.
“And, proud as you think Henry, he will not disdain to let his wife cast many lights into the affairs he is taking in hand. If he knows most of the theory and practice of trade, she has had the most to do with individual and social character.”
“Of course, sir, as she had to make human nature a professional study. When Henry has to do with bonds and liabilities, she can enact Portia; when he studies insurance, she will find something à propos in the Tempest; and she must have many a fine smuggling scene at her tongue's end.”
“True. It is a happy thing for a man of business, as Henry will find, to have an accomplished wife to lighten and recompense his toil.”
This was one of the many thoughts in lord F—'s mind when he sought Letitia to tell her that the negociation was concluded, and that he was to take office immediately. He found her and Thérèse in the music-room, busy with the three little Waldies. The youngest was sitting on the table, clutching aunt Letitia's curls, while she was explaining to the eldest what Bewick's old man was doing in the churchyard. The second kneeled on Thérèse's lap, babbling French, of which she knew about as much as of English. A charming discord of sweet sounds greeted lord F—'s ears as he entered the room. The “Da, da, da,” of the baby; the coqueting in French about a kiss between Thérèse and her charge; and the anxious questions and explanations of the two engaged upon Bewick, made the uncle prefer looking on in silence, till Letitia turned to him with,
“It will not do. We must give it up at present. There is no making little children understand about old age, and death, and churchyards.”
The child turned her frowning face upon her uncle, as if appealing to him for light. He could not but try. He found she had seen Brixton church, seen something there this very morning; whether a wedding or a funeral, it required some time to find out; and this involved a description of each. Then came the question.
“Why are people white when they are married, and black when they are buried?”
In the middle of the explanation, she turned to the picture,
“Is that little boy with his hoop going to be buried? Is that old man going to be buried?”
No: they were neither of them dead yet; but the old man would be before very long, for he was very, very old ....
“Then, was he rather new once?”
Uncle could no longer keep so grave as the subject required, and besides, did not know how to convey that old and new would not do in all cases so well as old and young. He too gave up.
“Shall we ride?” asked Letitia, as lord F—looked at his watch. “I can send Thérèse home with the children.”
“Suppose we take them ourselves. This may be the last morning for some time that I shall be able to devote to you and yours.”
“It may be the last time we shall see Maria for some weeks,” replied Letitia. “I am glad you can go.”
As soon as they were seated in the carriage, lady F—explained that Waldie was so much out of spirits, and looked so wretchedly ill, that his wife was bent on getting him from home. She was sure he must have overworked himself at business, and he did not attempt to account for his depression in any other way.
“You had better take them down to Weston with you,” said lord F—. “It will be a comfort to you to have your sister with you till I can join you.”
“None whatever,” said Letitia, smiling. “While you are a man of business, I will not be a woman of pleasure. I will stay in town till you can introduce Weston and me to each other.”
And Letitia would hear nothing about the heat, the emptiness of the town, the solitude to which she would be doomed while her husband was being initiated into his office. In town she would stay while her husband remained; and so it was settled, as this happened not to be one of the points which his lordship had fixed unalterably within himself.
“There is papa!” exclaimed the eldest child, quitting her stand at the carriage window, and clinging to her aunt's neck, as soon as they entered the sweep which led up to Mr. Waldie's door.
“Yes; it is your papa. I wonder what brings him home so long before dinner to-day.”
Waldie had been standing with his hands in his pockets, gazing on vacancy, till the sound of the carriage wheels roused him. When he saw who was come, he appeared suddenly busy among his shrubs, and turned his back towards the house door.—Maria appeared, with a smile; but there was discomposure under it.
“Go and tell papa, my dear. He did not see the carriage. Go and ask him to come in.”
But the child for once was slow to obey. She clung closer to her mamma the more she was bid to go.
“We will go together,” said Letitia, leading the way to where Waldie was half buried among the shrubs. When he could no longer pretend not to see them, he came forward and shook hands; but his countenance was black as night. His anxious wife busied herself in pointing out how grievously the Portugal laurels were blighted.
“Blighted! aye, look! Not a leaf that does not crumble like ashes in my hand,” said Waldie, twitching off a spray and crumbling the leaves. “I had set my heart upon these laurels, and now to see them ruined in this way .... Damn the blight!” muttered he between his teeth.
“I hear there is much mischief done in Kent,” observed lord F—.
“in Kent! Yon would think there had been a shower of Gomorrah rain by the look of the place. Young ash plantations, miles long, with their shoots crisped and black, worse than my laurels. Curse the blight!”
“And the hops . . . .” lord F—was going on to inquire; but Mrs. Waldie held up her finger to stop him. He broke off suddenly, and Waldie turned round upon his wife with a look which made her change colour. In order to relieve everybody, lord F—summoned up all his experiences of the mischiefs done by blight at Weston, diverging gradually upon topics nearly related,—modes of improving, embellishing, &c., and ending with an invitation to the Waldies to go down and occupy the place for the few weeks of its greatest beauty. Waldie glanced quickly from one to another, as if suspicious of some plot to humour and amuse him, and then bluntly intimated that his going from home at present was out of the question. Scarcely another word could be got out of him, even when the ladies had walked away into the greenhouse, and the children had tried who could run fastest from papa, leaving him alone with lord F—.
“Do not you think him looking very ill, —very much altered.” inquired Maria of her sister, with a quivering lip.
“Very unlike himself to-day, certainly. Something has discomposed him. But you must not fancy him more ill than he is. No man varies more from hour to hour, you know. He may be quite a different man to-morrow.”
Maria shook her head, and then asked Letitia to observe what they came to see, without delay. She should not like her husband to think they were consulting about his looks. Letitia snatched up the plant in question, and carried it to lord F—to ask whether there were any of the kind in the Weston greenhouses.
“You had better take it with you,” said Waldie. “It requires a greenhouse, and we shall have no greenhouses when we remove.”
“Remove!” said his wife faintly.
“Remove! yes, my dear. You would not stay here, would you? The blights ruin everything I set my heart upon; and you know I cannot bear to see a house so exposed as ours, with not a tree to cast a particle of shade on any part of it. There is Erpingham's house, down below, with those fine spreading sycamores beside it.... that is something like a house. We could live there for a lifetime, and never grow tired of it. But you see it will take a lifetime for our clumps to grow roof-high. I shall move into the city.”
“Nevertheless we shall find you still here, five years hence,” said lord F—, smiling. “When the blights are over, you will love this pretty place too well to leave it.”
“Curse the blights!” was the reply.
“You have not been in town to-day, Waldie?” said lord F—. “Then you have probably not heard that I have taken office . . . .”
“At the Board of Trade?—Well! I suppose one ought to be glad of it, —I suppose you expect to be congratulated; but, upon my soul, I do not know how to feel upon it. There is such a curse clinging to trade. People talk of the honour and glory of being a British merchant, and of legislating for British merchants. I wish both you and I, my lord, may not find more plague than profit in it.”
“I know I am about to encounter much perplexity,“Waldie—perhaps some abuse, and certainly, much painful knowledge about the distresses of the country. Nevertheless, I have accepted office—or I should the say, we have taken office; for Letitia remains in town as long as business detains me here.”
“I am glad you allow wives to be official too,” said Letitia, smiling. “Come plague, come profit, brother, it is hardly fair that they, should have double the one and only half the other; which is the case when they are shut out from that department of their husbands' concerns.”
“‘Double, double toil and trouble’....” said lord F—.
“And watchfulness, and struggle, and woe,” continued Letitia, “when they feel they could solace and help, and are not allowed. When I find I can do neither, I will go down to Weston without another word.”
“My dear,” said Waldie, “would you like to take the children down to Weston? I must stay in town, but . . . .”
“O, indeed, we want no change. Unless you .... you . . . .”
“Then we will remain at home this summer, lord F—, thank you. Our wives both prefer it, I see.”
And Mr. Waldie put some cheerfulness into his manner as he handed lady F—into the carriage. At the first opening in the trees, Letitia saw him draw his wife's arm within his own, and walk with her towards the house.
“It cannot be the blight that has soured him so,” observed lady F—to her husband. “That must be a mere pretence.”
“Blights destroy other things besides Portugal laurels,” replied her husband. “Did not you see how I was forbidden to enlarge upon hops?”
“What can he have to do with hops? O! I begin to see. Speculation is to be his ruin,—not wine, or gaming.”
“Must he he ruined?” enquired lord F—.
“Yes. There is wide ruin in success, where it comes from speculation. Ruin of peace.—Who would possess paradise, if it were on an island which might be sunk in the sea at any moment? O! poor Maria!”
Week after week the steward sent reports from Weston of the beauty of the place, and the high order it was kept in for its lady's approval, and the impatience of the tenants and the villagers for my lord and lady's arrival. Week after week did friends and acquaintance leave town, till it became what the inhabitants of Westminster call a desert, though it would still puzzle a child to perceive the resemblance between it and the solitary places where lions await the lonely wayfarer. Week by week did Mrs. Philips expatiate on the delights of watering-places, and the charms of the country, and the intolerableness of town in the summer,—and still neither master nor mistress seemed to dream of stirring. “A few weeks in the autumn! Was that all the change they were to have? And how were they to exist till the autumn, she should like to know?” Lady F—was so far from wishing that Philips should not exist, that on learning her discontents, she took immediate measures for forwarding her to her dear lady Frances, more than half of whose pleasure at Brighton had been spoiled by her having no one to manage her toilet on whose taste she could rely as a corroboration of her own. The day which saw Philips deposited in a Brighton coach brought ease not only to herself, but to those who lost, and her who gained her. Philips was certainly right. Her talents were not appreciated in her new home; and she would indeed never be able to make anything of her new lady. Like other persons of genius, mere kindness was not enough for Philips; she pined for sympathy, congeniality, and applause, for which London affords no scope in the summer season.
How Thérèse sang as she watered her lady's plants, that day! How many confessions had she to pour forth to her old priest of feelings in which he traced incipient envy and jealousy, but in which she acknowledged only fear and dislike! How long a letter did she write to her father to inform him of her promotion to Mrs. Philips's place, and consequent increase of salary;—of her intention to take a few lessons in hair-dressing, now that she could afford it, and felt it to be due to her mistress; and how happy she should be, when this duty to madame was provided for, to send money enough to put Annette to school, and perhaps even to place a new hotbed at her father's disposal!—How charming a variety was made in the household by a passing visit from the earl! And how pleased he looked when, on popping his head in at the library-door, late one evening, he found Letitia acting as secretary to her husband, looking over books, making notes, and preparing materials for a reply to a deputation which was to wait on him the next morning.
“I hope you like hard work as well as you thought you should,” said he, laughing. “Have you begun to think yet of petitioning for a more equal division of it,—for a multiplication of places?”
“Heaven forbid!” exclaimed Letitia. “A multiplication of places now, when there is such an outcry against places and placemen! It would be as much as our lives are worth.”
“And, what is more to the purpose,” said lord F—, “it is unnecessary. It matters little that it is the fashion to mix up in ignorant minds the odium of holding a sinecure, and the honour of filling a laborious office;—it matters little that all the people have not yet learned to distinguish the caterpillars from the silk-worms of the state; for they will soon learn to hold the servants of the nation in due honour. Meanwhile, all that we want is a more equal distribution of the toils of government.”
“All that we want, son! It is much to want. What an absurdity it seems that a nobleman should, from having merely his private affairs to manage, be suddenly burdened with the responsibilities of an empire;—a burden, under which how many have been crushed! Again, there is your old school-fellow, lord H—, yawning half the day on the pier at Brighton, and airing his horses the other half, while you are sitting here, pen in hand, from morning till night.”
“I have no objection to it, sir. “It has been a serious grievance to me, ever since I returned from my travels, that I had nothing better to do than what I have been doing.”
“Studying, growing accomplished, falling in love, and marrying,” replied the earl, laughing. “What would you have been doing more?”
“As it happens, sir, all this proves an excellent preparation for my present business. But I did not know that it would; and I was perpetually asking myself,—moreover, Letitia was perpetually asking me, —the end and aim of my employments.”
“That was the secret, I dare say,” said the earl, “of your difficulty in winning her. Eh, Letitia?“
“Indeed it was,” replied Letitia, blushing. “God knows what difficulty I found in making it a difficulty; but I dared not at once give up the calling which nature had sanctified to me, without providing for my race being served in an equal proportion in some other way. If there be one note sooner than another to which conscience awakes in these times, it is to the cry of unserved humanity; and mine, having been once thus awakened, could not be lulled asleep again; and even your son could not soothe it till he began to promise that we should labour together for all, as well as for each other.”
“So you married to be useful;—for no other reason on earth, my dear?”
“No, no, no. I was useful before. I married .... for the same reason as your son. But this reason did not make me forget my responsibilities; that is all.”
“Ah, my dear: you do not know,—highly as you rate your art,—what you have deprived society of by shutting yourself up here. Why,—I saw that sot, colonel Bibber, turned into a patriot for full three hours under your influence; and poor little lord H. that we were speaking of just now, grew almost magnanimous for the same space of time. These, and hundreds more, owe to you, my dear, the greater part of whatever virtue has visited them for the last five years.”
“If so.” said lord F—, “what was the effect on better people?”
“The effect that the fine arts are ordained to produce,” said Letitia. “They have much to answer for who defame them,—who perceive nothing in them besides colours, and sounds, and motion,—who put a kaleidoscope and Raphael's Transfiguration on a level, and recognize nothing more in a symphony of Mozart than in an Eolian harp and see no matter of choice between a merry Andrew and Kean in Hamlet. They who perceive not that the fine arts are the fittest embodiments of truth and beauty are unconscious of the vastness of the department in which they would have man remain unserved. Such would wonder or laugh at my view of my profession, and discredit my hesitating to leave it for lord F—.”
“You were satisfied that you held a commission to serve man, by means of the fine arts; you were right, my dear, as is proved by your having made the colonel a patriot, and the little lord a hero.”
“That it was only for three hours at a time,” said Letitia, “was not my fault, but that of the arrangements by which means and ends are sometimes separated as far asunder as if the world would be perilled by their coming together. In this, we might wisely copy from man In his state of nature. Indian savages have their songs and dances immediately before have battles; and, as long as prayers imply devotion, they are everywhere used in senates as a prelude to the business of the nation. But we go straight from an oratorio to dinner, from a tragedy to sleep, from the Elgin marbles to shopping in Regent-street; while, on the other hand, if a great national question has to be debated, a mighty national achievement to be wrought, the last thing its conductors would think of would be to spiritualise the passions, and elevate the emotions, and animate the faculties by the most appropriate means which Providence has given for that end —I know that this union can be only partially effected yet. I know that the passage of the Reform Bill would have been but little helped by any such appliances as we can at present exhibit; but it will be different hereafter, when men have learned the true office of the fine arts, and the ultimate objects of political reforms. Then, hundreds of years hence, it may be,—if a new question of national renovation should be brought forward, the senate to whom it is committed may lay hold, with one accord, on whatever prior observance may best soothe down their animosities, and banish their petty self-regards, and establish their minds in that state of lofty tranquillity which alone beseems the master-spirits of an empire.”
“In those days,” said lord F—, “there will be an end of the absurdity of admitting the ennobling influence of the fine arts, and at the same time holding its professors in contempt.”
“Is it, even now, anything more than a nominal contempt?” asked Letitia. “Do not people mix up the profession and the vices of its professors together, and then talk of contempt?”
“But those very vices are caused by the treatment of the profession.”
“True; like all other professional vices—like all the peculiar failings of certain classes,— like the avarice of Jews, the romancing of travellers, the spiritual pride of sectaries, the vanity of authors. When prejudices are so far surmounted as that no class shall he regarded with factitious deference or contempt, there will be an end of all occasion to reproach painters, musicians and actors with their tendency to selfindulgence, at the same time that proverbs and by-words against Jews, methodists, travellers, and poets, will fall into oblivion.”
“In those days,” said lord F—, “perhaps our peerage may honour itself by taking up the profession of the fine arts. The time is coming when no class of society may be idle; and if the aristocracy plumes itself upon its refinement, this seems to be the pursuit most congenial to its constitution.”
“If you preach your doctrine,—that all must work,——to those of your own condition,” said the earl, “they will ask you where you got the notion,—whether you are intimidated by the clamours of the lower classes.”
“Not intimidated by their clamours, but moved by their condition, I would tell them, sir; and that I derive my notion from the nature of man and of society, and not from the dictation of any class whatever. It is enough to melt a heart of stone to read and hear of such distresses as have come to my knowledge since I entered office; but I am convinced that many of the sufferers look in the wrong direction for the causes.”
“Yet there must be much cause for complaint,” said Letitia, “when our institutions lead to such an opposition of interests as there now is between different ranks. They should surely work together . . . .”
“The present opposition of interests, my dear, arises from a scarcity of the prime necessaries of life. If there were food enough for our people, their occupations and interests, be they as various as the minds that adopt them, would assist and promote each other from end to end of society. If there be a scarcity of food, men will snatch from one another's mouths, be they huddled together in our manufacturing cities, or duly distributed in a Moravian settlement. Where there is plenty, there will be a harmony,—Where there is want, there will be an opposition of interests; and it is folly to assign co-operation and competition as the remedy and cause of distress.”
“Nay; but can it be right that starving thousands should bid their labour against one another for bread? Can it be right that whole families should, at this moment, be crouching down supperless in their litter of straw, while we.... O, I am ashamed of our luxuries!.... our mirrors, and harps, and lamps,—and my very dress. I am ashamed of them all.”
“If we gave them all away this moment, my dear, they would not be food; and if exchanged for bread, they would only take food from the mouths of some who want it, to give to those who cannot want it more. Believe me, the inequality of condition we are complaining of is rather checked than promoted by competition. Competition equalizes the profits of industry, and increases instead of lessening its productiveness.”
“Whence, then, comes all this misery? all this tremendous inequality?”
“The misery arises from a deficiency of ood. . . .”
“Well; whence this deficiency of food?”
“From the tendency of eaters to increase faster than the supply of food.”
“But if we can raise more food by co-operation than without it . ...”
“Even supposing we could, — unless co-operation also checked the increase of numbers, it could prove no more than a temporary alleviation of our grievances. In my opinion, it would, if it included equality of condition, leave us in a worse state than it found us, in as far as it would relax the springs of enterprise and industry, and, in time, bring the community down into a deplorable state of sameness; it would, if persevered in, make us into a nation of half-naked potatoe eaters, and water-drinkers.”
The earl inquired whether anything had been heard lately of the co—operative society formed in the neighbourhood of Weston. “O yes!“replied lord F—. “They are enjoying the benefits of competition to the utmost. They ascribe their prosperity to their co-operation; but they are, in fact, a large partnership in competition with smaller ones. They do not see how their relative position would be altered by their absorbing all their competitors into their firm, with no cheek to their numbers, while nature has imposed perpetual checks upon the growth of their capital.”
“But cannot numbers be checked,—cannot the checks upon the growth of capital be evaded, while we have such a wide world to move about in?”
“Certainly, my dear: but there is no need of equality of condition to help us to do this. Competition is more likely than co-operation to induce prudence and foresight; and it will quicken our activity in carrying our surplus numbers to distant fer tile lands, or in bringing the produce of distant fertile lands among our own people, instead of tempting us to waste more and more of our capital continually in turning up inferior lands at home, as the co-operatives would have us do.”
“But were not you telling me that your rentroll becomes more valuable as time passes? Are not landholders' incomes increasing perpetually under the present system?
“They are; but this is the consequence, not of competition, but of the varying qualities of the land, the tillage of every new grade of which tends to lower profits and raise rents. No plan for the distribution of home produce can affect the law by which the returns to capital are perpetually diminished.”
“But what will be the end of it under the present system?”
“There are two extremes to which the systems of equality and inequality of distribution respectively tend, in as far as they involve restriction upon food by using only the produce of our own lands. Under the equality system, there would be an ultimate scramble for potatoes, or a worse diet still, if there were such a thing. Under our present system, the whole produce must in time be in the hands of the land-owners and tax-takers. we must change our system; not, however, Of course, by discouraging competition, or abolishing private property, but by removing all artificial restrictions upon food, and by regulating our numbers according to our resources. The way to bring down landlords' rents, and to increase the profits of cultivators, is to procure food from some better source, than our own inferior lands; and this I will prove to you by figures, the next time my steward brings me the accounts of my farms.”
“O, that Moravian village!” exclaimed Letitia “How often I think of the day we spent there! There was comfort, there was abundance, there was mutual assistance and agreement.”
“Are you quite sure, Letitia, that there was nothing in the situation and peculiarities of the place which called off your attention from the principle on which the society was constituted? Remember the sunset, that evening; the golden light on the green hill side, above the rows of Moravian dwellings. Remember your admiration of the internal regulations,—of the women's uniform, of the music in their church, of the simplicity of their way of life. Remember that all this has nothing to do with their principle of association.”
“You must no more set the accomplishments of the Moravians to the account of community of goods, than the absurdities of the Shakers,” observed the earl.”That some sing beautifully, and others dance ridiculously, has nothing to do with the distribution of their wealth.”
“No more than the ordinances of the Harmonites,” continued lord F—. “Mr. Owen's followers very properly refuse to be mixed up with Moravians, Shakers, and Harmonites. Superstition has no part in their system, either under the form of ritual observance or celibacy. Yet they are apt to incorporate extraneous matters with their system, which serve as allurements to a greater extent, I doubt not, than they intend. They owe more converts than they suppose to their promises of mansions, pleasure-grounds, coffee, alabaster lamps, and so on. My wonder is that more are not enticed by descriptions like these, accompanied with promises of ease, and leisure, and many other things to be obtained in a short time, which the poor man now sees little chance of his children's children ever enjoying.”
“There might be alabaster lamps and damask furniture in every house under the present system,” observed the earl, “if food enough could be got to keep the production of capital going at its natural rate; aye, and ease and leisure too, if our numbers were kept within bounds. It is not so very long since shoes and stockings were worn only in courts; and that they are now worn by peasants proves that our capital has grown under a system of competition. That multitudes have little ease and no leisure is the fault of overpopulation, which would be rather aggravated than lessened under a system whose very essence it is to cast each man's burdens upon all. No man need scruple to have twenty of his children gracing the dinner-table of a co-operative establishment, till he should find, too late, that not all the savings caused by extensive association can compensate for the falling off in the produce of inferior lands, and for the new impulse given to population. His sons and his sons” sons must add more and more labour to the common stock; must give up, first, damask and alabaster, then broadcloth and glass; then descend to sackcloth and wooden trenchers, then to tatters, potatoes and water, and trenchers, then . . . .”
“Then would ensue a scramble; if anything should be left, competition would come into play again; society would rise by its means, and might possibly attain once more to a state in which they might speculate on the universality of damask and alabaster.”
“Well!” exclaimed Letitia, “I shall ask to look at your steward's accounts, and to have an explanation of them; for I do not at all like our present position, We must reach the extreme, you say, of having our whole produce in the hands of land-owners and tax-takers, unless we change our system.”
“Yes, my dear: but by change of system, I do not mean convulsion. All might be set on a safe footing by timely care, the removal of restrictions, the diffusion of intelligence. There is nothing in all this, threatening to public dignity or private safety. There is nothing to lessen the security of property, or to endanger the rights of any class; but quite the contrary: for property is never so secure as when it most abounds; and rights are never so well respected as in the absence of temptation to infringe upon them.”
“By change, then, you mean progression, without fear of subversion.”
“Just so; the progression of society from an advanced into a higher state. What is there in such progression that is not as beautiful in theory as it is found to be necessary in practice?”
From this hour, the progression of society, of which Letitia had long dreamed, on which she had often speculated, began to assume distinctness in her mind, and to form a large part of her conversation when she happened to be with those to whom she could speak most of what was most in her thoughts. Whenever she heard of misery and crime on a large scale, she satisfied herself that the national demand of progression had not yet been sufficiently attended to. When she heard that her lord's rents ought to be more, but were, from the difficulty of collecting them, less than formerly, she sighed for the time when an unrestricted provision of food (unrestricted by state-laws) should check the rise of rents. Whenever she sat down by her husband's side to hear curious tales of the doings of large speculators or eminent merchants, or of the sufferings of large classes of agricultural or manufacturing labourers, she learned something that made her wonder and lament, that, while the natural laws of production and distribution work out evenly their balance of results, the tendency of legislation thus far seems to be to clog and thwart them, and delay the progression in intelligence and comfort which must arise out of their unobstructed operation. She saw that, if the universal interest of society was allowed to be the moving spring of the social economy, all would be served; and that if many yet remain unserved, it is on account of other movements being made to interfere with it—the petty springs of narrow and mistaken interests; so that partial protection brings on general hardship, and arbitrary stimulus, a condition of general suffering.
Before going down to Weston, Letitia had become prepared to make her way with the steward, the co-operating workmen in the village, and all who could throw light on the past and present state of property in the place. Many a conversation and calculation had she also gone through with Thérèse on the subject of shopkeeping in Paris; and all that Maria told of Waldie's business went to the same account of information. It made poor Maria smile sometimes in the midst of a fit of anxiety to find that her children's babble savoured of political economy, when they had been spending a morning with their aunt. They were more ready then than at other times to wonder why they had dolls in the nursery, and picture-books in the parlour, and a shell-grotto in the garden, when many other little children had no playthings; and why poor Ned who swept the crossing was so much more ragged than their errand boy, when Ned worked the hardest of the two, and was often out in the cold and the rain besides. Almost babies as they were, they could sometimes find out very sage little reasons for these things, when put on the right scent by aunt Letitia or her pupil Thérèse.
At length came September, with its utter dulness in town, and its busy brightness in the country. No parliament, no ministry, no court, with whose proceedings to diversify the daily papers; but instead, a reporting of the progress of certain noble lords and patriotic gentlemen from one country seat to another, with accurate calculations of the quantity of game bagged by each. Now were expresses hurrying to and for in search of the runaway men in power. Now were ancient ladies proudly leaning on the arms of sons, who were happy in being allowed breathing time to watch the autumn sunsets from the terraces of their stately castles. Now were the young heirs of rank and wealth initiated by playful papas into the mysteries of riding and sham shooting. Many a little lord was now mounted on his pony to adventure forth as far as the park gates, while mamma and sisters waved their handkerchiefs from afar, and careful grooms waited to lead him back safe. Many such a little rogue carried his mimic fowling-piece into the stubble, and learned not to wink or flinch when papa brought down a bird, or coaxed the gamekeeper to lend him a brace or two to carry when they should come in sight of home and the girls. Many a tenant now put himself in the way of a greeting from his landlord, resting on a stile, or pacing his way slowly th, rough a field. Many a state secret, that the public would fain have known, was dismissed for some such freak as snatching at a high hazel twig, or leaping a gate. Many a fair family group of riders was seen threading green lanes, or cantering over downs, or appearing and disappearing in the clumpy drives of a park,—graceful boys, and high-born girls, leading their father in search of some new beauty which it turns out he discovered in like manner, when he was a pleasure-loving youth instead of a statesman. Now, in the golden noon, was the boat seen to unfurl its snowy sail, noon, and glide in rivalship of grace with the swans which diverged on either hand to let the vessel have its way without disturbing their serenity. He who has guided, or may guide, the helm of the state, now condescends to steer a less majestic bark on a calmer element; and instead of the prayers, threats and blessings of an empire, bends his ear to the prattle of his little ones, or to the rustling of a startled deer, bounding from the thicket as the vessel nears the shore. Not now too busy to observe whether rain or sunshine be without, the recreated statesman finds in either case equal pleasure and repose. His lady's nursery lan boudoir, his sons' classics, his daughters' music, his library, his billiard table, and withal some peculiar and long relinquished pet pursuit, give him as much pleasure on a rainy day, as the flower-garden, the fish-pond and poultry-yard when the sky is blue overhead. He sighs over his past toils, reminds his spouse of their wedding sojourn at Chamouni, and at intervals quotes Virgil to the lad behind his chair, and whispers Pope to the little lady netting at his elbow. Statesmanship should have pleasures worthy of its toils; and so thought Letitia when her husband first mutely pointed out to her the woods of Weston.
Sweet was the leisure of the first afternoon, which gave promise of what should be done at future intervals of leisure;—intervals not likely to be too frequent to retain their charm. His lordship had brought his business and its apparatus with him; but for this day all was laid aside. Within half an hour after alighting from the carriage, and while dinner was being served up, my lord and lady were in the rosery, observing on what must have been its beauty a few weeks before, and the one pointing out and the other following with eager eyes the tracts among the hanging woods which had to be explored, the points of view which must be visited, one at sunrise, one in the glowing noon, another in the still evening. As soon as dinner was over, they were out again, that Letitia might see the ruins of the old, abbey before the sunlight should have departed. Her heart melted within her when she saw the long shadows of the lofty arch extended on the velvet turf, motionless except when a bird took wing from among the ivy, and set its boughs dancing. The rooks sailed in circles above the stately ruin, and the thrush piped from the evergreen covert which shut in the retired nook in which it stood. The sun-dial also marked the silent lapse of time, although there was usually none to lay the lesson to heart.
“This is the place, love,” said lord F—.
“And you would have had me come without you,” said Letitia, after a long pause.
“We have some weeks yet, to be sure, to enjoy it. This is the last spot that looks desolate as winter comes on. No leafless trees, no strewn blossoms! The wall-flowers there on the pinnacle flourish late; and all is green and bright till the snow falls.”
“And after, surely,” said Letitia. “I should like to see icicles glistening on these arches, springing grey from the sheeted snow. I should like to see the ivy sprays bending under their white burden, or shaking it off in a shower of sparkles at the breeze's bidding. O let us come here at Christmas!”
“If we do, you may chance to see another sight. You will see tracks of small feet in the snow, and catch some little girl, in her red cloak, stealing from the Wishing-Well.”
“The Wishing-Well! O where?”
“It springs from under an old stump behind this wall. Have you any wishes?”
“I will make some for the superstition's sake.”
And immediately Letitia might be seen unbonneted, kneeling on the consecrated stone, and drinking the draught her husband had filled for her. Thus was she seen, as presently appeared. A voice reached them from one side, praying that her ladyship's wishes might come to pass, be they what they might, as they must be for good and no harm to the people under her. Letitia sprang up, laughing, and her husband replaced her hat, calling to the well-wisher to show himself. He did so, not in the shape of a hardy labourer, with his farming or gardening tools on his shoulder; nor yet of a picturesque old man bending beneath his faggot. Such might better have beseemed the place: but this was a middle-aged, shrewdlooking little man, whom one would have guessed to be town-.bred. He came forward, saying that he had a message for her ladyship from his wife; —my lord knew his wife.
“Not I,” said his lordship. “I did not know you had a wife.”
“May be not, my lord; but you know the woman. She that keeps the grocery shop, as you turn the corner in the village, your lordship remembers.”
“What! Nanny Sweet? So you have taken her to wife since I saw you last.”
“Yes, my lord. She has a very good business, or had before the equality folks set up a store against us. I don't like equality, not I. But my wife sends word, my lady . . . .”
“You do not like equality!” interrupted Letitia. “If there was equality, you know, you would not need to mind who set up a store, and what came of your wife's grocery business.—And do not you like this place too,—these woods, and the deer, and the lake?”
White lauded the grandeur and beauty of Weston.
“Well; this place would be as much yours as ours if there was equality. You might fish on the lake, and shoot in the preserves, and . . . .”
“And lie down to sleep in the sun here beside the well,” continued lord F—;and all without asking anybody's leave.”
“I thank you kindly, my lord; but I like sleeping in my bed, if I sleep at all, unless it be dozing over my pipe, while Jack is reading the news at the Duke's Head. The only time I went fishing, I fell into the water; so you'll not soon find me in a boat again. My wife and I like a chicken now and then, on Sundays; so a share of your poultry-yard would be welcome perhaps; and, as for the deer and game, I leave it to other folks to get out of their warm beds for the sake of it. It would not answer to me to be laid by with the rheumatism for such a cause, you see.”
“But there would be no poaching if there was equality,” said Letitia, laughing. “Cannot game be shot in the daytime?”
“By none but gentlemen, my lady, as I have always heard. However, the equality folks have no more game, as far as I know, than other people. The most they pretend to is to have plenty of butcher's meat.—What I pretend to, and Nanny too, is to get our bread honestly; and so, my lady, she bade me tell you that she has laid in a new stock, hearing your ladyship was coming, and has lost already by its being September instead of June. Light ginghams for morning wear . . . .”
“I thought your wife was a grocer.”
“Grocer and draper, my lady. If your ladyship should find the mornings chilly, as they will be soon, perhaps you would look at her stuffs;— a very pretty variety of browns, as you will see, my lady. And her tea and sugar is of the best and as for her snuffs . . . .”
“O, I must make acquaintance with her snuffs, of course. Have you a pinch about you?”
“And what is your occupation now, White?” inquired lord F——.
“The last thing I had to do, my lord, was lining your lordship's pew at church, and covering the hassocks.”
“And what did your priest say to that.?”
“Lord, sir, I cleared scores with the priest long ago; ever since I was employed to whitewash the Baptist chapel.”
“Were you once a Catholic?” inquired Letitia.
“Yes, my lady. There was carving work to do at Sir William's chapel, and I got a good long job.”
“And were a Catholic while it lasted, and a Baptist after white-washing the meeting-house?”
“To be sure, my lady; I took a part in the week-day meetings after that.”
“Till you were employed to line my pew; and now, I dare say, you are a very good churchman?”
“I hope to be so, my lord. Your lordship may laugh, but I know what manners is. I wouldn't be so unhandsome as to take work at one place, and attend at another.”
“So your interest has nothing at all to do with it, White; only manners. But I'wonder now what you think your religion is worth, if you can change and change again as you have done?”
“Why, my lord, I think religion is a very good thing, as long as it does not come in one's way: but one must make sacrifices to duty, as all the clergy tell us; and is it not my duty to get my living the best way I can?”
“Well, White; tell your wife I will step down to see her stock, some day soon. I do not at present take snuff'; but whenever I do, I will be her customer.”
Thérèse and her mistress kept one another waiting this night. The housekeeper, who was much amused with Thérèse's broken English and unbroken simplicity, invited her out to a turn in the shrubberies when tea was sent in, and she was sure of not being wanted for an hour or two. When they came in again, they found that their master and mistress had once more wandered forth, tempted by the rising of the clear full moon behind the woods. After sitting nearly an hour in the dressing-room, Thér`se put faith in the housekeeper's prophecy that her master would stay abroad till after midnight, like a child as he always was, or one that lived on air, the first few days after his coming down from town. Thérèse looked out and longed for another ramble. The dressing-room lamp shed a pearly light through the room; but a golden planet hung over the opposite beechen grove: a small bright fire burned in the grate; but it was less cheering than the bracing evening air: the time-piece ticked drowsily amidst the silence; but it was less soothing than the coming and going of the night-breeze among the elms in the green walk. Thérèse could not resist. Once more she ran out, promising herself that she would be back in ten minutes,—long before her mistress should be ready for her. In an hour, startled by the striking of the village clock, she returned, and found Letitia, half undressed, still gazing from the window.
“Ah, madam!” cried Thérèse, terrified; “I am very, very wrong . . . .”
As she hastened, with trembling hands, to throw off her cloak, and arrange the toilet-table, appealing the while to the moon and other temptations, Letitia, under a sudden impulse, ran and kissed the astonished Thérèse, crying, “O Thérèse, how happy we shall be here!” Thérèse returned the kiss again and again before she stopped to consider what she was about. As soon as Letitia could repress her inclination to laugh, she observed that they seemed all to have set aside common rules to-day, and to have their heads turned alike by coming into the country. After this, Thérèse would be in waiting at the proper hour, and she herself ....
“And you, madam . . . .” said Thérèse, half smiling. “You will not make me forget that there is one in this country who loves me as some love me at home; but this will redouble my respect, madam.”
“I hope it will, Thérèse; for I need to be reminded now and then .... I was not always lady F——, you know; and a moon-light night makes me forget these things sometimes. We are all equal in reality, except when ignorance, and all that comes of ignorance, separates us from one another; so there may be friendship,—there is friendship between you and me, Thérèse.”
“The knowledge which you have given me, madam, will make this friendship my secret treasure. No one will know it who cannot also be your friend.—But many ladies put confidence in their maids, and tell them such things as I have never heard from you. Mrs. Philips . . . .”
“Mrs. Philips, I suspect, Thérèse, had much more to tell than she ever was told; at least, her secrets were of a kind that will never be known to come from me. Your confessor shall never have to warn you against me,—unless, indeed, it be my heresy. I would not spoil you, my dear; and that is the reason why I keep you so much with me. It would be hard if I did not love you and let you love me. Now go to bed; and when the sun shines, instead of the moon, we must forget all the wild things we have done this first day.”
“I shall never be fit to be a countess,” was her confession to lord F——; “I kissed my maid last night.”
“O no, no. That would be idiotcy. Philips is at Brighton, you know, where lady Frances spoils her by a more pernicious familiarity than mine with Thérèse. But really this girl wins one's heart as if she had been born one's younger sister.”
“I dare say she is some countess, or countess's daughter in disguise; or so some romantic ladies might fancy.”
“Ladies who think that nobility is only hereditary. There is disguised nobility in Thérèse; but her patent is sealed with an impress which there are few to recognize, and it is deposited where not many trouble themselves to look for it.”
“Side by side with yours, love. Happily, your nobility of that better kind needs be disguised no more than the lesser which you have acquired. This was the chief satisfaction I had in giving you the lesser.”
“We will look among the equality folks, as White calls them, for specimens of natural nobility. According to their theory, such always assumes its rank among them, does it not?”
“This is one of the professed objects of their system; but it is not fair to look for its fulfilment in such small societies as they have yet been able to form. Master minds are thinly sown.”
“There needs not equality of outward condition,” observed Letitia, “to make the best minds master minds. Those who, by virtue of a patent of mental nobility, have held sway over the national mind, have been of all ranks.”
“And will so continue to be; for, as long as men are unlike one another, there will be a distinction of ranks, though the distinction may be maintained by a better principle than heritage. Rank and wealth will, I trust, be in time distributed according to natural laws; but degrees of rank and wealth there will always be; and the advocates of a system of equality would greatly promote their cause by a frank recognition of this truth. While all evidence from which a judgment can be formed is before them, and they come to a conclusion in direct opposition to the evidence, I cannot, however much I may respect them on some accounts, think them wise and safe guides of the people. The necessity of inequality of condition may be established thus.”
“But first tell me whether their favourite principle of co-operation necessarily involves equality of condition.”
“They would tell you ‘yes’. I say ‘no.’ They hold that competition is both the cause and effect of inequality of condition; whereas certain advocates of co-operation in another country hold, (and I think wisely,) that their principle stands a better chance where a gradation of rank and property is allowed. I so far agree with these last as to believe the time to be discernible when co-operation, in a certain sense, shall prevail,—meaning thereby, when all interests shall be harmonized instead of opposed; but that this includes equality of condition, I cannot allow, since varieties of character seem to me to forbid such equality.”
“There must be an inequality of physical and mental powers, at all events.”
“Surely; and therefore an inequality in the produce of individual labour. No one labours, or ever will labour, without a view to the fruits; and those fruits, however appropriated, are property. If a giant produces ten times as much as a dwarf, and each is allowed the same middle portion of the fruits, for his maintenance and enjoyment, is it to be supposed that the giant will trouble himself henceforth to produce more than the dwarf?”
“He will be more likely to seize some of the dwarf's portion.”
“Certainly; and hence it is clear that the only security of society lies in awarding to all their rights, and enforcing upon all their duties; and what are rights but a man's exclusive power over his own produce? What are his duties but allowing to others the possession of their produce?”
“You do not think then that the giant and the dwarf would be alike contented with having everything they could want or wish for administered to them in return for a certain Portion of their labour. You do not look forward to the lion dandling the kid.”
“I should be afraid the lion would be dandling the kid when he ought to be out in quest of food. If there was no inducement to giants to produce more than dwarfs, there would soon be little to administer to anybody. The consumption of giants would soon have to be provided for by the labour of a community of dwarfs.”
“The giants would foresee this, and then . . . .”
“Instead of working harder for no recompense, they would withdraw,— the mightiest first, and then the next strongest, and so on, till the weakest of the dwarfs would be left to shift for themselves as they best might.”
“And then would come the days of potatoes and wooden trenchers, of which you were speaking one day.—But this is supposing men to have the same passions and desires that they have now; whereas they are to be educated into a better state.”
“With all my heart: but the utmost that education can do is to extend man's views, to exalt his aims, to strengthen and vivify his powers,— not to change his nature. His nature involves inequality of powers; and this decree of Providence can never be set aside, or its operation neutralized by any decree of man that the fruits of those powers shall be equally divided.”
“Certainly not; for such a decree of man involves injustice. If the giant feels it to be unjust that he must give to others the fruits of his labour, the dwarf may also complain that he enjoys no more than the giant, though he works ten times as hard.”
“The dwarf's complaint would thus be against Providence, and the giant's against man; but both show that equality is an arbitrary state, good neither for each nor for all. Nothing but compulsion would retain the giant in it long; and thus it is clear that, where there is liberty, there cannot be equality.”
“What becomes of the old cry of Liberty and Equality?”
“It relates, I imagine, to an equality of rights; It means an open field and fair play to every one. This kind of equality I am doing all I can in my office to procure, by doing away with the protection to some which imposes burdens upon others. By the same principle I am bound to oppose that arbitrary equality which enriches the weak with the fruits of the strong man's labours.”
“But there is no force used. All who bind themselves to equality do it voluntarily.”
“Certainly. The only applicable force is force of argument, and the opposition I bring is an opposition of reasons. If these should not prevail, a little experience will soon finish the business. I am only sorry that any should be dazzled with a delusive prospect of ease and luxury, when their efforts should be guided in another direction for the relief of their grievous burdens. At a time when every one should be bent on regulating the labour market, providing for the utmost permanent growth of capital, and lessening the burdens of taxation, we cannot spare any from these grand objects to be urging on the increase of capital at the expense of a much greater increase of population, and amusing themselves with visions of what can never be achieved by the means they propose. Man must and will be better served as the world grows older; but it will be by giving the eternal laws of society fair play, and not by attempting to subvert them. I shall be surprised if you hear anything from our neighbours in the village which will not bear the construction I have put upon the system as laid down by its originators.”
“Suppose I make myself popular among them at once by telling them my tale of last night.”
“There is no need, my dear. I trust they do us the justice to believe that our affections graduate according to a truer scale than that of hereditary rank.”
“You have shown that they do by marrying me.”
“All people show it in the most important circumstances of their lives,—in their attachments. Alas for man, if the movements within must correspond with the outward state! Whom then would kings love?”
“And (what is more important) how should the poverty-stricken look up through the ranks above him, and say, with hope in his eye and assurance in his voice, ‘I am a brother?’ How else should the stirring thought be kept alive in him that his rights will not be for ever overlaid, his claims not be for ever incompatible with those of his brethren? Natural affinities are ever acting, even now, in opposition to circumstance. They will in time direct us to the due control of circumstance. Meanwhile, let no class imagine that any other class denies the existence of these affinities, or resists their workings..—I will go and see how they are acting in the village.—Shall I bring you some of Mrs. White's snuff?”
“Why, thank you, I am not aware of any affinity between a rappee canister and my nostrils. But the old sexton is a snuff-taker. Call upon him by all means, and show him that you understand his likings. He will gratify some of yours, if you find him in a talkative mood.”
OBSERVING AT HAND.
A tribe of little children had gathered round Mrs. White's windows before Letitia and Thérèse arrived at the shop; the reason of which was that the grocery and drapery goods were disposed in a new style of elegance, in honour of her ladyship. Such tempting candies in the one window; such shining pins, such a rainbow box of cottons, such rolls of ribands, stuffs, calicoes, and flannels in the other! The little things could not be persuaded to move off even when White, who was on the watch, bustled about to make a clear path for the lady. There was plenty of bobbing from the girls, and pulling of forelocks from the boys; plenty of elbowing, and pushing, and signing, when it became necessary for somebody to speak in answer to her kind questions; but there was no inclination to make way. They were even rude enough to crowd about the door and peep in, while she was buying snuff and sugar-candy.
Letitia soon found that if White was shrewd in changing his occupation and profession according to circumstances, his wife was no less shrewd in understanding and conducting her own. It would be a wonder, the lady thought, if between them, they did not prove a match for their co-operative neighbours “I charge you the lowest, ma'am, the lowest, I assure you; and as low as is fair . . . .”
“O, I have no doubt of it, Mrs..... White. I am not going to dispute your prices, I assure you.”
“Indeed, my lady, I don't go by the rules of the folks over the way; and why? Because they talk of charging only the interest of what their stock costs them; while I must have profit too, and that is interest twice over.”
“The other half is what you live on, Mrs. White, instead of consuming part of their stock, you know.”
“True, madam. Double interest is fair profit, as my father used to say; and he, being a schoolmaster, knew the right of such things.”
“And taught them to you, it seems. But you do not mean to say that all profit is double interest. There is your neighbour, the apothecary, he charges at a much higher rate for his medicines.”
“Aye,” said White. “His is a fine conjuring trade. He shakes up three or four things in a bottle, and what was worth twopence is directly charged two shillings.”
“But consider, John, this is not all profit. Think what he paid for his learning, and what time he gives up to his patients. He has to pay himself for all this out of his drugs.”
“Then why not call some of his gains wages at once, and charge his patients for such, instead of pretending to give his time and labour, and charging his medicines ten times dearer than he need?”
“Many wish to be allowed to do this, I understand,” said Letitia. “They dislike the temptation to cram their patients with medicine, in order to repay the expenses of their education; and they wish it to be understood, that when we pay for a blister or a powder, we pay for medical skill and aid, as well as for Spanish flies or bark. In the same way, nobody supposes that great physicians charge guineas for writing five lines of a prescription, or lawyers for reading over a sheet of parchment.”
“There is the risk in their case,” observed White, “as well as the education. For one that gets rich in their profession, there are many that make but little; and this uncertainty ought to have a large reward.”
“If it was not for such uncertainty, my lady, I could sell some of my goods cheaper. But in a place like this, I can never make sure of selling a new article, as I could in a large town; so, when I venture upon any thing new, I must charge it high to make up for my money being locked up, perhaps, and for the damage of the goods from lying by.”
“Like a hackney coachman in a town,” observed Letitia. “Coach fares are complained of, as if a driver had to charge only for driving from one point to another; but besides the interest of the money his coach and horses cost him, and the expense of repairs, he must charge the wages of the many hours and days that he and his horses are idle on the stand.”
“Well now, ma'am, there is one set of people whose gains make me more angry than almost any thing I can mention; and they are the public players and singers, and such like folks.”
White here came round the counter to his wife's side, and kicked, and winked, and coughed, till Nanny and Thérèse were amazed, and Letitia laughed. Nanny went on,
“Lord, John, I know more about that sort of people than you think, from there being a company playing in Mr. Jarvis's barn; and I assure you, ma'am, the satins they pretended to wear were all glazed calico; and the jewels, my lady, were all made of tinfoil. Well; they got, even in a poor place like this, ever so much more than their living could have cost them; and I have heard of some of the better sort,—London actresses, and such,—making more in a night than an apothecary in a whole year. Why now, John, what should you know about it, to object in this way? I tell you . . . .”
“I can tell you that is true,” said Letitia; “and I can tell you the reason. Besides the uncertainty, which is much greater in those professions than in any other, there is a kind of discredit belonging to them; so that it requires a very strong inducement to tempt people of great talent to engage in them. When the time comes,—and I expect it will come,—for public singers and actors to be treated with proper respect, the best of them will not be paid extravagantly, and the inferior ones will not be half starved, as they are now. There will be no disgrace, and less uncertainty; and payment will therefore be more equal.”
“Then perhaps scavengers will be paid no more than plough-boys; for really, it seems to me wrong that there should be any reproach against scavengers on account of their occupation. You ladyship will excuse my mentioning them before you.”
“To be sure, Mrs. White, since we both think them a respectable class, in as far as they are useful. But they are paid high, as much on account of the disagreeableness of their business as its being ill thought of. Plumbers, and gilders, and miners, and distillers are paid more than shepherds and gardeners, because their business is less healthy and agreeable than those which are carried on in the open air, and in perfect safety.”
“Well, ma'am, I suppose it is all fair and even in the end; but it seems very much like chance; for people do not stop to consider the pleasantness, or the easiness, or the constancy, or the certainty of the business of the person they are paying, or the trust they put in him. They think of no such things when they go to the play, or buy early strawberries.”
“True; there are no such nice distinctions on all occasions; nor are they necessary; but yet there is no chance in the matter. When a duke fees l, his physician, and his duchess pays her jeweller's bill, the nobleman does not calculate the expense at which his physician acquired his profession, and the long time he waited for practice; nor does the lady think of the costly stock of her tradesman, and the delicate nature of his workmanship; and yet, these are the circumstances which determine the recompense of each. If it was as easy to be a physician as a ploughboy, there would be as many physicians as ploughboys; and if a diamond necklace required no more capital and skill than a bunch of asparagus, there would be as many jewellers as greengrocers; and then physicians and jewellers would be paid no more than ploughmen and green-grocers.”
“But, my lady, we do not want so many physicians as ploughmen.”
“True: and it is therefore a very happy thing that fewer can be the one than the other. If we leave the rewards of labour to take their natural course, we shall find that there always turns up a larger quantity of the sort we want most, and a lesser quantity of the sort we want least. In profits, I suppose, Mrs. White, you find less variety than in wages. It is of wages, you know, that we have been talking since we began about the apothecary.”
“Why, my lady, there is a disagreeable and an agreeable way of making profits of stock; and there is, I am sure, much more risk in some cases than others.”
“Yes; but there is no consideration of the easiness or the difficulty of selling things, or of the trust put in the seller, as there is in the manufacture of the thing sold. A smuggler, or any other kind of speculator, may make more one month, and lose more the next, than the regular trader pretends to calculate; but, I fancy, if we were able to see into the affairs of all the people in this village, or in any town, we should find less difference in what people make from an equal amount of stock, than from an equal quantity of labour. Your rule, of double interest being fair profit, shows this.”
“Certainly, my lady; or there would not be steady sellers of so many kinds of stock. People would choose the most profitable; which they might do more easily in selling goods than making them. My husband shifts his labour, as I believe he told you, from one employment to another;—(well for him that he can!) And I should shift my little capital from one kind of goods to another, if there was any real and lasting difference in the profits they would bring. But I don't find that crockery would bring higher profits than grocery, and so I go on being a grocer; and the butcher down the street finds he makes as much of his joints as I of my stuffs, one time with another; and if he did not, I suppose his wife would turn draper.—We all find means to live; though I am sorry to say our profits are lower than they were; and if all my good father said be true, they will be lower still ten years hence.”
“Is that the sexton?” inquired Letitia, seeing an old man pass with a large key in his hand. It was, and John White must be going to see if all was right in his lordship's pew, as the sexton was evidently about to open the church. Letitia paid for her purchases and followed, as one of her objects was to see the church as well as the sexton. Several neighbours popped into Nanny's shop before she had cleared her counter, to hear what the lady could have been saying and doing all this while. Nanny looked rather grand and mysterious, chiefly observing upon the comfort of having got somebody into the neighbourhood that one might speak to with some chance of being understood. She was a lady of sense and learning ....
“Though she did not go to school to your father, Nanny.”
“If she did not, she went to school to somebody that taught her to respect what my father taught me, neighbour; and so far, there are some folks that might take a lesson from her.”
On this, the wink went round, and the neighbours dropped off, leaving Nanny to muse on what fancy could have possessed her husband to tread on her toes and twitch her gown when she spoke of the strolling players.
The old sexton pursued his way to the church without looking behind him, though made aware by the bustle around that strangers were in his rear. It was not old Joel's way to alter his pace or his purposes for man or woman, be they who they might. Children only had any power over him: and they only as long as they were unconscious of it.
“is the sexton one of the equality folks?” asked Letitia of White.
“What, old Joel? Really, madam, there is no saying what he is, further than that he is discontented with everybody's ways of thinking in turn.—Joel! Joel!” he cried, as the sexton was busied in unlocking the white gate of the churchyard, “my lady asks if you are an equality man”.
The old man muttered something unintelligible while engaged with the lock; but when he looked up and met Letitia's eye, her countenance,—not its beauty, but the sincerity of its expression,— acted as a charm upon his reserve, They exchanged smiles, and understood one another immediately. Joel did not, like Nanny White, congratulate himself aloud on having met with a congenial, companion, but he felt himself happy in having done so.
“Will you please to tell me, madam, what you are here for?”
“To see the church, and to make acquaintance with you, Joel.”
“Because you are curious about my way of thinking?”,
“I have no idea what your way of thinking is; but I should certainly like to know, because it is the first tiling I try to find out when I make new acquaintances.”
“Then, madam, you and I shall suit. If such is your custom, you will not do as the world for the most part does; you will not first suppose that a man must be wise for having gone through all the chances and changes that can be crowded into a long life, and then think his opinions very wicked or very foolish because they may be such as you did not look for. Why, say I, should I feel and think like you.? Have you been first young and then old? Have you been looked upon as a scholar in your prime and an oddity in old age? Have you been on the other half of the world, and have you now only the sunny side of a churchyard for your range? Have you had ten children round your table, and do you now come to eat your solitary crust upon their graves? If not, why should you expect me to think like you? And how will you dare to point at me and pity me because pain and pleasure have sharpened my mind's sight to pierce further into things than you, who, may be, see only the outsides of them, or, may be, only the mists that cover them? Follow me, madam, unless your limbs are more feeble than all old man's, as many a fine lady's are.”
As Joel turned to lead the way, White ventured upon a sly wink to the lady, but presently fell behind, abashed by the steady gravity with which it was met.
The church stood on a mound, and its tower, therefore, though of moderate height, rose conspicuously above the trees which belted the churchyard; and from its parapet might be obtained a glorious view of the surrounding country. Joel did not pause or speak till he had conducted Letitia and Thérèse out upon the leads. —Instead of fixing her attention on the nearer beauties of the park and village which lay stretched beneath, the uplands that rose beyond, and the towers and spires of the great city which might just be discerned on the western horizon, Letitia gazed eagerly towards the south, where a dim haze stained the blue of an autumn sky.
“It is .... is it possible? .... yes, it must be the sea!”
“What is it you see, my lady?”
“I see a faint yellow strip of beach, and an even grey line which must be the ocean. O yes! there is a sparkle, and no other light or motion can be seen so far.”
“Aye,” said Joel, laughing, “that is ever the way those pronounce who have seen little. What think you of volcano fires, my lady, quivering over two hundred miles of a midnight sea? What think you of an avalanche sparkling as it slides from the highest pinnacle of the Andes? There are things, for that matter, that you have seen. What think you of the northern lights, or of our own shining, changing moon? Is she not so far off as yonder sea?”
“I was rash in what I said, Joel. But I wish that mist was away that I might find a sail. Look, look, Thérése! Is there anything?. . . . Do you see any form come out from amidst the haze?”
Théèse not having fixed her sight so long, could discern nothing; but her mistress satisfied herself that a vessel was visible, and at length, by dint of attention, could make out first the hull, then the sails, then one, then two more vessels in its train, and at last, a whole fleet.
“Why do you not insist on your servant seeing them too?” asked the old philosopher. “‘Twould be just as reasonable as quarrelling, as the people do down below, about what they see with their minds’ eyes. Bring them up here. One will say that yonder haze is nothing more than a blotch upon a bright sky; another won't trouble himself to look, but believes it is a mountain, or a city, or whatever other folks tell him it is. You, madam, see that within the mist which interests you more than the whole landscape besides; but, depend upon it, you will find plenty of people to assure you that 'tis all fancy that you perceive anything.”— Turning to Thérèse, he said, “Now you believe the lady that she sees a fleet, I dare say?”
“I do. Madame is not apt to see vision, and she ever speaks truth. Do not you believe?”
“I do. What a world of trouble it would save if we had a few people that could discern as far off, and tell what they saw as faithfully about things that will outlast the sea; or even about some notions that will pass away long before yon fleet has all been sunk, or beaten to pieces, or decayed!”
“You mean,” said Letitia, anxious to prove the old man's scholarship, “what a pity it is that there is nobody to look out and tell us what truths there are holding their course within the mists in which our systems of religion, and politics, and science, and—above all—of society, are shrouded.”
“Yes, madam: but, after all, if there were such, would any believe them? Or, if some did and others did not, would there not follow a quarrel? Believe me, madam, (for I know every man, woman, and child, that lives beneath the roofs we are looking down upon,) there is not a spot beyond the belt of this churchyard,— bright and quiet as all looks, with not a leaf stirring in yonder woods,—there is not a spot where human beings are content with each other,—not a place above the sod where they can dwell side by side in perfect peace.—Some even quarrel about what is to become of themselves and their neighbours when they are laid under the sod. The children, indeed, tell one another such tales as it is pleasant to hear about the pretty place under ground, all cool and green and daisied, where they are to lie and sleep till all are gathered together; but as they grow up and are taken, one to Sir William's chapel on the hill there, and another to the meeting-house in the village below, and another here . . . .”
Letitia, perceiving that Thérèse began to look alarmed about what might be coming, interrupted Joel with the remark that it would be surprising if there were not difference of opinion on a subject so remote from human ken as the modes of future being. It was far more desirable that there should be agreement as to what should be done above ground to make life peaceful and happy; the most to be enjoyed in itself, and the fittest possible preparation for a higher and better.
“There is full as much quarrelling about this as about the other matter,” said old Joel. “There is your own mansion, madam. There, if I am rightly told, sits lord F—, sighing over the distresses-of thousands, and finding fault with the management of those that have held his office before him. In yonder new farm lives a man who is annoyed by the complaints of his neighbours on account of his having undertaken the tillage of some inferior lands, owing to which, the profits of their several occupations must fall. In the old abbey farm below, there is discontent at rents being raised by the same means. In our village shop, there is jealousy of the neighbouring co-operatives; and these co-operatives themselves, congratulating one another as they do on having found out the road to prosperity, shake their heads in a very melancholy way over the impiety of holding lands, and the injustice of rewarding labour in such a faulty manner as by paying coin. There are much worse things than these. There is life lost in smuggling contests on the coast you are looking at; and life wasted and worn in ill-paid labour in the rich fields below; and life embittered by hunger and cold in yonder hovels where the jolly hunt is now sweeping by. Everybody sees all this, and everybody boasts that he could cure it. All set about it in different ways, and nothing is done.”
“I would scarcely say that nothing is done,” said Letitia. “Though labour-notes may not prove so good a circulating medium as gold and silver, it is something done for any body of men to have become practically convinced that it is labour which gives value to what we would exchange. Though it is not at all likely that property in land will be given up because the Jews, peculiar in all their institutions, held theirs under a peculiar tenure, it is something gained that common attention is turned upon the tendency of our present system of land-holding, that so the causes of the increase of this species of property may be discovered in time to remove the impediments to a just distribution. Depend upon it, something is gained by these divisions of opinion; and the more various they become, the nearer we are to a better plan of society. The more quickly opponents demolish the hinderances set up by one another, the sooner will the natural laws of distribution be left free to work.”
“Why should they not do the thing more quickly still, madam, by watching the natural course of things? There might be an old man found in every village able to tell the changes that have come to pass since his boyhood in the value of the property, and the prosperity of the people around him, and wise enough to separate what belongs to the matter from what does not. I, for my part, can prove that our people here would not have been richer if they had paid one another ill labour-notes or goods, had instead of coin; and that if all the people within five miles round had made an agreement fifty years ago to have everything in common, there would now have been less wealth within these bounds, and far more people to consume it,—though we have too many already.”
“Point out to me, Joel, any spot within sight where you have watched the operation of the natural laws of distribution, of which we hear so much.”
“Alas! madam, there is no such spot in this kingdom. If there were, there would be abundance and content everywhere, instead of the differences we have been talking of. What is the first of these laws? That all labour should be free and voluntary.—Well; our people are not slaves, it is true; but can labour be called voluntary as to its amount, when a man must work sixteen hours a day to get just enough to keep him from starving?”
“This comes of there being more labour than food; and this therefore cannot be remedied by equalization of property, since the rich man consumes little more food than the poor man. It can be remedied only by bringing in more corn, or by sending out a portion of our surplus labour from among us.”
“True. Well; the second law is that all the fruits of labour should be secured to the producer. This is not done; for taxation swallows up a grievous portion of what is produced.”
“But the labourer chooses to exchange part of the fruits of his labour for the sake of protection of a government.”
“The third law,” interrupted Joel, “is that all exchanges of these fruits ought to be free and voluntary. Let our labourers give something in exchange for social protection, and welcome; but never tell me that they would willingly give as much as is now required from them in taxes, unless food was allowed so to abound as to afford a better recompense to their toil. While government checks tile supply of food, the labourer cannot think tiletile wealth he creates naturally distributed between the government and himself.”
“Tile co-operatives propose, I believe, to go on tilling more and more land as more food is wanted, and to give a sufficiency of its produce to every labourer.”
“Aye, madam, and many besides the co-operatives; but it would puzzle the wisest man among them to say where tile sufficiency is to come I?om, after a time; the return from land. being less and less as time passes on. Take the worst soil at present tilled. . . .”
“Or a better soil, subtracting the rent; for the return from all land is equal when the rent is deducted.”
“Very true, madam. Tile produce is to be shared between the cultivator and his labourers, rent having nothing to do with the profits of the one or the wages of the other,—being the consequence entirely of the different qualities of the land. Well; let this produce be divided into wages and profits ill what proportion you will, both decline as numbers increase and more food is wanted.”
“How is it then that farmers' labourers have many things in their possession that farmers' labourers used not to have? More shoes and stockings, and cloth coats, and other manufactured articles?”
“Because these things are more easily made, and cost less. A labourer may now have a pair of shoes for half as much corn, we will say, as he must have given for them some years ago. The same is the case with the farmer who employs him; so, though each may receive double the quantity of certain goods that they did some years ago, it does not follow that the rate of profits and wages is increased. If you reckoned the labourer's gains in shoes, you might say that his wages are doubled; but if you reckon them in relation to the farmers' profits, you may find them at the same time lowered; or that both wages and profits have in one sense increased; in another not. This blinds many people to the fact that wages and profits are continually declining.”
“Of course, if land produces less and less, there must be a smaller produce to divide between the capitalist and his labourers; and on the whole, they must share the decline pretty equally; since the farmer would not farm unless he could make some profit, and the labourers would not labour but for subsistence. But I am afraid this decline pulls down the profits of manufactures too; for farmers would turn manufacturers if they could make higher profits thereby; and then there would be a new demand for corn; the price would rise; farmers would return to farming, and would take in new land, the diminished produce of which would lower profits again.”
“Yes, madam: this is the way that agricultural profits determine all profits; and that all are perpetually sinking. You see labour becomes dearer when corn is; that is, the labour must have a certain quantity of corn in return for his labour, bc its price what it may; and these higher wages lessen profits again, without any advantage to the labourer.”
“Well, but the corn the farmer retains is higher in price.”
“But less in quantity, my lady; and he has the prospect of employing dearer labour for a less return.”
“It seems, then, as if wages determined profits, instead of profits determining wages. But I suppose it comes to the same thing where there are only two shares to depend on each other.”
“There are greater changes, madam, in the supply of labour than in the manner of using it; and while there are multitudes of eager, hungry labourers, they will take care that the profits of stock shall not commonly rise higher than just to make it answer to the capitalist to carry on his business.”
“But do these things actually take place? Do farmers turn manufacturers, and turn back again into farmers? and have you known any cases of their profits falling?”
“I am as sure of it, my lady, as the co-operatives themselves, whose theme it constantly is. As for farmers changing,—you must remember that almost all capitalists use borrowed capital, and that this capital floats about continually, and is taken in where it is most wanted: so that capital may be largely invested in one concern at one time, and another at another, without much visible change in the occupations of capitalists. As for the other matter,—I know a manufacturer in yon city, and the farmer in the abbey farm to have each employed ten men at 25l. wages per annum, the highest they could afford to give, they said, since they had now to pay 250l. instead of 200l., as formerly . A new man came and took new land of the old farmer's landlord; and he had to employ eleven men to raise the same produce as the abbey farm yielded, and the price of corn rose. When the old farmer's lease expired, he was charged 25l. more rent to make him equal with the new farmer.”
“So they paid 275l.,—one for wage only, and tile other for wages and the additional rent; while the manufacturer paid only 250l.”
“Yes; but it was made up to them by the increased price of their produce; so tile profits of all were still equal. When labour should become dearer in consequence of this rise of price, the profits of all three would fall together.”
“And the labourer would not be better off, after all, Joel: only the land-owner, whose rent is incessantly rising. All this is exactly what the co-operatives are complaining of, is it not?”
“Yes, madam. But how would co-operation mend the matter? However the total produce is divided, it still goes on lessening, while numbers increase. This is the point, my lady. Do away as you will with the very names of rent, profits, and wages,—throw all together in a lump into a public treasury,—and there will still be less and less return to capital, and more and more consumers to divide it. Co-operation, equalization, and all those things, cannot make all lands equally fertile, they cannot make capital grow as numbers grow; and unless they could do these things, they can make no permanent provision for unlimited numbers; they cannot prevent tile decline of profits, whether those profits are taken by individuals, or thrown into the common stock.”
“But how do you answer these co-operatives, Joel, “when their complaints of the distresses of our peasantry are undeniably true?”
“I answer by agreeing with them so far. Who can help it, for that matter? Where is the town in this wide kingdom where hunger does not stalk ferociously through the streets, and howl in the dark alleys? Where is the village where want does not wet the mother's pillow with tears, and open untimely graves for the gentle and the manly? No, no! I have seen too much to deny what so many are suffering: but this only makes me the more anxious that false means of relief should not be tried. W hen I hear some crying out for this park of yours, my lady, to be cut up into corn-fields and potato-gardens, or for cultivation to be carried to the tops of yonder hills, for all property to be held in common, I see that all this would only le ad to tenfold misery, and I cry,—but nobody listens to an old man,—get corn whence you can get it cheapest;—send away as maul: of your people as you do not want to where they are wanted;—and take care so to manage matters as that you may never be overburdened with numbers again.—Often as I have said this, madam, I never before said it with so much hope of being attended to. My lord can speak so as to be heard from one end of the empire to the other, and . . . .”
“And he likes to hear whatever is said from one end of the kingdom to the other on these matters, Joel. He would fain have a wise old man out of every town and village, as you say, to relate the changes he has seen from boyhood till now. You must come one day soon, when lord F—is at leisure, and tell us more of what you have seen at home and abroad.”
As they descended into the church, John White was seen standing at the entrance to the gallery in a state of great impatience. He had been kicking his heels, tapping the door-posts with his rule, and amusing himself in sundry such ways for half an hour, while waiting for the party, and now hastened forward to do the honours of her pew to lady F—, pointing out the comforts and elegancies of fire-place, cushioned chairs, curtain, &c.
“Is this our seat.?” said Letitia. “I do not like it at all.”
White stared in amazement. Thérèse was too busy remarking the bareness of a Protestant church to take notice of what was going on.
“It is a small, inconvenient church,” added Letitia, “and by no means made the most of, Where do the school children sit?—What! down in that narrow corner? This gallery is the proper place for them. After all your trouble, White, we must have another arrangement.”
“And where will your ladyship have all these things shifted?”
“Nowhere,” replied she, smiling. “If a fireplace is wanted here at all, it is for the half-clad, and not for those who can wrap themselves in furs; and this show of damask furniture does not beseem the place. I will speak to lord F— about a pew for us next that of the curate's family, and fitted up in the same way.”
“With matting underfoot, my lady, and dark green cushions, and below stairs too? Well to be sure! But your ladyship will have a curtain hung round?”
“I see no use in it. Lord F— does not sleep at church, or wish to be supposed present when he is not.”
“And the earl, and lady Frances,” said Joel, in a whisper. “What will they think, my lady?”
“They will, as our guests, be satisfied with our accommodations, Joel. And now show me down, that I may go and arrange this with lord F—, that our pew may be ready by Sunday.”
“The old family monuments, my lady.”
“I will wait to see monuments, those till lord F— is with me. We will call for you, the first morning he is at liberty. Meanwhile, there is much to study in the churchyard. We shall meet there sometimes, Joel.”
The lady and the old sexton did often meet there. Sometimes she went, sketch-book in hand, to sit in the porch or on the tombs; and then old Joel kept on the watch, just within sight, in hopes of being beckoned and invited to a conversation. At other times he would be there first in the performance of his duty; and the lady, warned by the passing bell, would come down and watch the process of grave-digging, gathering from him many a tale of joy and sorrow; many a touching notice of repented sin; many an animating narrative of struggling virtue. Severe as old Joel was on the follies of the pre sent times, no one could review the past more tenderly. It was soon perceived, however, that he became less reserved in his conduct, and less severe in his judgments towards the neighbours, as his friendship with lady F— ripened. By
the time he got to call her “my dear,” lie had grown so familiar with one and another as to express his admiration of her. It was a pretty sight, he observed, to see her out riding with a train of noble guests about her, and a pleasant thing to hear that she was the gayest and fairest at all the lordly festivals in the country round; but it did an old man's heart good to have her come and watch the opening of graves, in which she never forgot that the young and graceful are often laid before the old and weary. She ever kept herself in mind of this, by coming as she did, to mourn at every funeral. It was not idle curiosity, as some people might think. There was her face to read her thoughts in; and where were thoughts ever written plainer? Let the train behind the coffin be as long as it might, there was not a face more serious, there were not any tears more ready than hers. The very children that used to be sporting upon the graves at such times, had learned to he quiet without her even holding up her finger. Who should dig his grave, the old man did not know; but tie prayed his hour might come when the lady should be at the hall. She would see him laid under the sod, he was sure; and perhaps, at the moment, some things might come into her mind that they had said together at times when things are said that are worth remembering.
ONE FOR HIMSELF.
Lord and lady F— found, as all people find, that drawbacks and trials attend the most exact fulfilment of wishes. Lord F— had power, was conscious of usefulness, and was therefore freed from the discontent with himself and his position which had tormented him from his college days till now; but new trials came with office. Not only toil, perplexity, and difficulty, but the relinquishment of pursuits which lie loved, and the deprivation of much of his wife's society. She felt this deprivation yet more. It was painful to know that he was in his study, and to be obliged to spend three-fourths of the day alone; but she had also to bear to have him called away suddenly, and to be disappointed of his return day after day.
On one occasion, some weeks after they settled themselves at Weston, this happened while their abode was full of guests, among whom were the earl and lady Frances. Lord F— was called to town,—believed he might have to go farther,—could not tell how soon he should be able to return. The first two days passed heavily away,—not to the guests, who enlivened the country round with their outdoor sports, and the rumours that went abroad of their indoor revelry,—but to the wife who was far more busy watching for Henry's return than playing the hostess, gracefully as she filled her office. The happiest part of her day was when shut ill with her father-in-law in the library, or reading in her boudoir, or taking her solitary morning walk when her guests were dispersed whithersoever their pleasures led them.
One day, about noon, having watched for the cessation of a heavy shower, she went out with the first returning sunbeams, and took her way towards the ruin, with her sketch-book in her hand, as usual. She was quite alone, this being the hour for Thérèse to go to her priest, and Letitia not caring to be attended by any one with whom she could not converse. The grass was too wet to allow her to sit down to sketch, and the place too beautiful, glowing in the mellow light of an October noon, to allow her to wander elsewhere in search of a subject for her pencil. She seated herself on a stone in a sheltered corner of the ruin, and began, while studying the perspective of an arch, to take notice of the trilling of a thrush which was hid among the ivy. As often as the bird ceased, she mimicked its note, to incite it to begin again; and with such success, that the bird and the lady were presently engaged in a very noisy and merry duet, answering, following one another, outtrilling each other, till the nook rang again. In the midst of this, Letitia suddenly stopped, fancying she saw a slow-moving shadow among the ivy at some distance. She sprung up, and looking through the arch, saw that some one was leaning on the sun-dial, with his face buried in his hands. She retreated, without another look, further into the recess where she had been sitting, believing the stranger more likely to think himself unobserved than if she were to show herself in the open space round the ruin. Hearing no sound of footsteps near, she hoped, after a few minutes, that he was gone, and began to draw; but, before long, she perceived that lie was leaning against the wall at some distance, and gazing fixedly at her. The moment she saw his face, she knew him, though he stood within the shadow.
“Mr. Waldie!” she exclaimed, “what brings you here?”
He approached, and sat on the ground at her feet, without answering.
“What brings you here?” repeated Letitia, in her quietest tone, perplexed by the expression of his countenance.
“Indeed, I scarcely know. I can get no rest. I felt I must go somewhere, so I came here. I thought I should find you; and it was just what I wished, to meet you without going to the house.”
“Maria—the children—are they well, or has anything happened?”
“All well yet: but something will happen soon. Letitia, I am on the verge of ruin.”
“I thought as much. Then why are you here? Lord F— is absent, and I cannot help you. Away and be doing, Mr. Waldie! Do you quit your home, and saunter about here, when you are on the verge of ruin? Is this wide? Is this manly?”
“I cannot conceive what made me come,” cried Waldie, starting up. “But I suppose it was because I was afraid to stay where I was. O Letitia, tell me what to do, for my head is so confused, I can devise nothing;—go with me and I will hasten home!”
“What are your difficulties? What way of escape is there? Tell me all, or I will advise nothing.”
“Tell you all! When have I not done so? Do not you— are not you— have not you always....”
“Tell me the whole, brother, as you would tell your wife; or hasten hack, and save her if there be yet time.”
With more distinctness than Letitia had hoped, Waldie explained to her that he had been engaged in several speculations, all of which, except one, the largest, and still undecided, had turned out badly. Upon this one, everything now depended; and its only chance of success rested upon several thousand pounds being raised within two days. He had bought up tile whole of certain kinds of India spices which had vet arrived in the market; another cargo, the last of the season, was daily expected to arrive; and upon its purchase depended tile price of the commodity, and the returns to the capital he had invested in it. This was no time for reproaching him with the folly of such a speculation, or his weakness in wandering down into the country, and leaving his fate to be decided by chance. His credit, he declared, was exhausted; he had no further securities to offer; he did not know which way to turn himself; and so he had left the whole affair behind him. “O for lord F—!” thought Letitia: but she did not even know where he was this day and would be the next; and the post which was to tell her would not arrive till the evening. She suggested all the ways she could think of to raise money; some of which were received with a melancholy smile, some with a painful laugh. Confused as Waldie seemed to be, he admitted clearly and repeatedly that if furnished with securities for the amount required by noon the next day, he had great hope of being able to obtain it at more or less cost. This decided Letitia what to do. Site made distinct memoranda of the particulars, promising that they should be communicated to no more than one adviser; she desired Waldie to hasten back to town, without a moment's delay, in order to commence the negotiation for funds, and promised that some one from her should meet him at his office in towel at two o'clock the next day, with the necessary securities, if they could be obtained, and with news of failure if they could not. She did not tell him that she meant to go herself; but the hope of obtaining her husband's assistance, and the conviction that Maria must stand in need of her support, determined her to undertake the journey. Having, by dint of peremptoriness, got rid of Waldie, she walked rapidly towards the house, gave her orders to Thérèse to prepare for their journey, and to the housekeeper to provide for the comfort of her guests during the three days of her absence; desired the carriage to take her up at the east gate in twenty minutes, and proceeded to seek the earl in that part of the grounds towards which he was seen last to wander. She found him reading the newspaper in the sun, ready to welcome her as he saw her approach, but struck silent when he observed the expression of anxiety in her flushed countenance. She rapidly charged him with her apologies for leaving home so suddenly and strangely, and begged to depute her office of hostess to lady Frances. She then inquired, to the astonishment of the earl, how she might best obtain legal advice in a hurry, if it should be necessary, and whether the earl could put her in the way of obtaining securities for the required amount within a few hours. On her promise to take no step without the advice of her husband or of the lawyer to whom he would give her an introduction, the earl furnished her with some valuable information, wondering all the while what sudden fancy had possessed her; for he had no idea that she could have seen any one, or received any letter, since they parted in the breakfast-room an hour before.
“Time was,” said she, while the earl wrote a few lines to his lawyer, “when I could have raised this money by pledging my own exertions. Now, not all my jewels,—not all my resources of every kind will avail me so well as three months of my old profession would do. It is well Henry has gained power; for I have lost much.”
“Take care you are not tempted to resume it,” replied tile earl, smiling. “You want money, and the way to get it is open. If you are tempted, remember how it would dismay Henry at his breakfast-table to see the announcement of lady F—'s reappearance. Remember that though we talked of the peerage taking up that the profession of the fine arts, that day is not come yet;—nor will it have arrived by the time you enter the peerage, my dear. Which will be home first, you or Henry?”
Letitia tore a leaf out of her sketch-book, which she still carried, and wrote a note for her husband in case of his immediate return. The earl charged himself with it, as she had no time to go back and seal it; and putting her ann within his own, led her to the gate where the carriage was to meet her. He thought, as she did, that it was best to avoid the risk of encountering anybody who might look for an explanation.
“Farewell, my dear,” said he, as the carriage stopped. “We shall be glad to see you back again; meanwhile, all success to your measures!”
“How good you are to trust me for meaning something better than folly, as I see you do!” said Letitia, with tearful eyes. “This looks so like a madcap expedition!”
“When I have seen you do a foolish thing, my dear, I will believe that you may do another. Till then, my faith is strong. Nay, give me a happier smile before you go. Has your power ever failed you at need? I do not know what you expect from it, but I will venture to predict that it will not now fail you for the first to time.”
Before the carriage had well cleared the gate, it stopped again at the earl's command. He appeared at the window to say,
“It never occurred to me to ask whether I can be of use by going with you. Say that you wish it, and I am ready, this moment.”
“You are kind; but I do not wish it:” and again the carriage rolled on.
With a beating heart, Letitia made her inquiry at the door of her town-house. Lord F—was not there. He had gone down into the country,—(not to Weston),—that afternoon, leaving a letter to be forwarded to her, which had been put into the post-office some hours before. Letitia's best hope was over. It was midnight;—too late to go to her lawyer. She gave orders to be driven to her sister's, thinking it better to alarm her a few hours sooner than to risk any loss of time or of counsel.
She carried little new alarm into Maria's abode. There were lights seen in the windows, and Maria herself was up and dressed. This was the second night that she had not gone to rest, for it was the second that Waldie was absent without notice, or any intimation where he might be found. notice, The unhappy wife flew to the door on hearing the carriage-wheels. When she saw her sister and Thérèse alone alight, she assumed a forced calmness of manner, as if bracing herself up to bear the worst. Letitia judged it best to use no disguise, from which Maria had suffered all too much already. Inwardly moved by the downcast look of perplexity with which the tidings were received, she told of Waldie's appearance at Weston, of his errand,—if errand it might be called,—and intended return. It was some relief to Maria to suppose him engaged in town, providing for the approaching crisis, instead of being kept away by any of the horrible causes which she could not prevent from filling her imagination by turns.
The lawyer, Mr. Bland, was—not much to his content — called away from his breakfast and newspaper, the next morning, by tile ladies, whom, being ladies, he could not think of keeping in waiting till he had made himself master of all the news. Coldly and solemnly he sat himself down to listen to their affair, and prepared himself with his snuff-box to get over as well as he could the tedium of hearing a business statement from women. He would have cut the matter short near the beginning, with assurance of the impossibility of raising securities for so large an amount before two o'clock; but Letitia would not be silenced. She showed that she understood the case, pointed out the advantage that might accrue to all parties from the transaction, and indicated such satisfactory means of ascertaining whether the speculation could in reality fail, if the proper funds were provided, that the surly Mr. Bland was won over to promise that he would see what could be done; whereupon the ladies immediately left him, promising to return in four hours, to convey him and his securities to the place where tile business was to be transacted.
“Where shall we go?” asked Maria. “What can we do with ourselves for these long four hours?”
“If you have courage to go with me,” replied her sister, “you will find ample employment for the time. If not, we part here, and I advise you to take a country drive to refresh yourself. I am going into the depths of the city to find up a money-lender, who has proved a very convenient help to certain young gentlemen of lord F—'s acquaintance. One may as well try to have two strings to one's bow, since the worst that can happen is to be laughed at, as women are every day when they propose to meddle with business.”
“Is this the worst that can happen?” asked the timid Maria. “Do you understand the law in such matters? I would not have you involved, Letitia, even to save us.”
“Trust me for doing nothing that my husband would not have me do,” replied Letitia. “Will you come? Our dress tells nothing, does it? It might belong to anybody, from a milliner to a maid of honour. Will you trust yourself with me?”
Maria gave herself up to her sister's guidance, They quitted the carriage about half a mile from the house they were in search of.
“I know the lane,” observed Letitia, “but not the number. We must venture a guess upon the house. I wilt make no inquiries.”
They walked two or three times along the narrow and dark lane, all the dwellings of which appeared to Maria equally desolate and unpromising; but her sister, who had fixed on one from the beginning, was confirmed in her opinion by seeing half a pint of blue milk taken in at the front door, while a fruiterer's boy, taken carrying a covered basket, through whose sides might be discerned the richest of grapes, sides turned into a court which led to tile back of the premises.
“Blue milk in public for the serving man's breakfast,” said Letitia, “and purple grapes in private for the master's luncheon. This suits the man exactly. This must be the place.”
So saying, she walked up as the milkman made way, and asked for Mr. Simeon. The wizened, sly-looking old serving-man replied that Mr. Simeon was engaged on business. Perhaps the ladies had mistaken this place for the shop in — street. Only the wholesale jewellery business was carried on here. No; they wanted Mr. Simeon, and would wait till he was at liberty. After several messages backwards and forwards, the ladies were beckoned in, with apologies for the parlour not being at liberty. A dingy wareroom having been passed, it was next required of them to mount a sort of ladder into what they supposed would prove a loft, but was in reality a counting-house, so dark that it appeared questionable whether any business could be carried on at any hour of any season without lamps. Maria would have sunk down on the first chair, if chair there had been: and in the absence of any, was fain to perch herself on the high stool, which afforded little rest for want of a footstool. Letitia, who was always conscious of inward enjoyment when in strange scenes and circumstances, peered round in the gloom to make her observations. It was well that she kept to herself her remarks on chests and padlocks, on the flask which stood on a corner shelf, and on the bareness of the whole place, which left nothing but the said flask which could be carried away: it was well that she made no audible remarks on these things, as some one was present before either she or her sister was aware. Mr. Simeon had entered by an unseen door, and his compliments to the ladies were the first intimation of his presence. She observed a manoeuvre to get them placed opposite the little light throe was, and disappointed it: being disposed to reconnoitre the person with whom she was about to deal. She was surprised to find him a well-made, middle-aged man, whose countenance, as far as she could see, corresponded with his address, which was mild and courteous. She explained, without delay, that her business was to ascertain on what terms so many thousand pounds could be borrowed for a month.
On no terms which were not sanctioned by the law of the realm. Perhaps the ladies were aware of the law?
Letitia replied that the same terms might suit the present ease as had been agreed upon by Mr. Simeon for loans of five, ten, and forty thousand pounds, at such, and such and such dates.
This proof of some knowledge of his transactions. This caused the money-lender to pause and attentively consider his guests; after which he observed, consider as if half to himself, that debts of honour were troublesome things, and especially to ladies, to whom ways and means were less open than to gentlemen. Letitia supposed that Mr. Simeon knew best, from the nature of his business; but she had believed that gaming was obsolete among ladies. She knew no ladies who were addicted to play. Simeon's further remarks glanced upon unpaid jewellery, the flight of Chancery-wards to the continent, and divers other suppositions, all of which were baffled by one or other sister, who did not choose to allow occasion for any scandal against themselves, in case of the present transaction becoming known. Letitia cut the investigation short by requesting to look at the statute which regulates the rate of interest on monies lent, and which she concluded to be in the possession of a money-lender. It was brought, and with it a taper, by whose light Mr. Simeon was enabled to perplex himself still further about the quality of his fair visitors.
“It is an unjust law, madam, a cruel law, worthy only of the Mahomedans, who call it a sin to lend monies on interest; but it is the law....”
“And must therefore be obeyed, Mr. Simeon. The forfeit—' the treble value of the monies, or other things, so lent, bargained, &c.'—I wonder they do not ordain the treble value of silks and sugars to be forfeited when the price rises. As well one commodity as another.”
“Ah, madam, that would raise the prices unconscionably. People must have commodities; and if they cannot get them by a straight-forward course, they must have their little plans and managements. There is risk and trouble in such plans; and for this the planners must be paid. So much being added, the prices would rise unconscionably.”
“That is to say, sir, that we are to pay you unconscionably, if you can make a little plan to furnish us with this money. Let us hear your terms, supposing we can furnish you with unquestionable security.”
Mr. Simeon seemed disposed, however, to descant a little longer on the hardship of the law, which not only, he observed, obliged him to be wary and even apparently rigid in his proceedings,—not only was a perpetual and most injurious hinderance in the way of commerce,— not only showed that the makers of the statute did not understand the office of a circulating medium,—not only brought the holy law of Moses (by which the taking of interest was falsely supposed to be forbidden) into contempt,—but had actually brought two charming ladies from their native regions of refinement into a dark hole quite unworthy of their presence! He was recalled to business, and obliged to state the rate of interest he would receive through one of the circuitous and safe methods which necessity has invented. He was not sufficiently aware with whom he had to deal.
“Your terms, Mr. Simeon, would suit a time when money is scarce; whereas you know as well as I that it is plentiful, and that the rate of profit has not for many years been so low as at present.”
Mr. Simeon endeavoured to mystify her by pointing out that the kind of profit in question had nothing to do with other profits, the lending of money being an unique ease. It would not do.
“Consider interest in what light you will, sir, it comes to tills. Interest is the nett profit on capital, and that nett profit cannot but be low in the present state of the market. There is a money-lending market, as you well know, though your department of it is discountenanced; and we are not in such a hurry but we can walk through it and learn what terms some of your neighbours have to offer. Our object is gained in finding that you can advance what is wanted.”
Mr. Simeon shook his head, and observed that the securities were not yet before him, that he had entered into large engagements already this morning, and that there were sundry other difficulties in the way of a conclusion of the bargain. To which the ladies replied that both parties had better take time to consider; and that a messenger should wait on Mr. Simeon at three o'clock to put an end to the treaty, or conduct him to the place where the securities would be waiting for him. To this the man of money agreed, only requesting to appoint a later hour, on account of prior engagements.
The ladies were urged to refresh themselves with some rare foreign wine, to accept an escort home, and to do or permit many other things which might afford a chance of their revealing themselves: but in vain.
On leaving tile place, Maria proposed making a circuit to join the carriage.
“Why?” asked her sister. “We have done nothing to be ashamed of.”
“Why then conceal your name?”
“Simply because it had nothing to do with the business, our errand being merely exploratory; and it might have altered the terms ill a way injurious to your husband. Now that our errand is done, let them follow us and see who we are, if they like.”
“But tile errand itself!”
“Is anything but a pleasant one, certainly; but my conscience is at ease as to my share of it. We keep the letter of the statute, you know, and that is enough. No one is bound to keep the spirit of a bad law, since evasion is the only means of bringing on its repeal. As for the usury laws,—they have been repeatedly condemned by committees of the legislature; and the more they are evaded, the better is the chance of getting rid of them. Do not you see this? Do not you see that perpetual evasion of any law is a sufficient proof of its badness?”
“You have such courage!” exclaimed Maria. “All I wish for is to get through life as quietly as I can, and bring up my children to do the same.”
“Beware of teaching them blind obedience, Maria,” said Letitia, when once more seated in the carriage; “your girls equally with your son. Obedience, by all means; but a rational, discriminating, and therefore loving and hearty obedience to the public laws as well as to those of your own house. Your little ones will learn hereafter that your object in forbidding them to set foot on the hearth-rug in your absence, is to guard them from being burned. Let them learn at the same future time the purposes of the laws under which they live, that they may be ready to do their part in that renovation of the system which is required as years roll on. If you would not have your children retain a superstitious dread of a hearth-rug through life, neither would you have them cling to laws enacted in the infancy of the state, and inappropriate to its present condition,”
“Implicit obedience is at least safe,” observed Maria.
“Safe to a certain point, but no father. If you continue the law of the hearth-rug for twenty years to come, your obedient children will never be burned by crossing it; but do you suppose they will not by that time have discovered other means of getting the warmth they wish for? They will creep under it; they will creep round it; they will jump over it. So is it, and so should it be with absurd, antiquated laws.”
“Who is to judge which are absurd and which sound?”
“The bulk of tile subjects of them. A sound law can never be evaded by more than a solitary simpleton here and there, against whom society will rise up; since it is the paramount interest of society to keep good laws in effectual operation. When the time comes for the bulk of society to approve and enforce the usury laws, you and I will pay no more visits to Mr. Simeon. Till then, or till their repeal, let there be opposition to the spirit and grudging obedience to the letter, unless we are prepared for the consequences of a breach of both.”
“Not I, nor, I hope, anybody belonging to me,” replied Maria. “O, Letitia, what o'clock is it? I cannot trust my watch.”
“Far enough from two o'clock, my dear. So you will not be amused, even with talk about the usury laws. Well? I will keep all drowsy subjects to lull you to sleep with to-night, when all will be settled;— all redeemed, I trust; and when you will own at last that watching has nearly worn you out.”
Mr. Bland looked as immitigably solemn as ever, when he appeared at his own door on the carriage stopping. He would have had the ladies wait the result at his house; but Letitia's business was not finished till she had ascertained whether Simeon's help would be wanted or not. Mr. Bland was obliged to let his law papers be tossed into her lap, and to edge in his stick and portly person as well as he could. He had been busy since the morning interview, and had fully satisfied himself in the matter of the spices; but he said to himself, while being whirled along, that the affair could hardly be brought to a satisfactory conclusion, since a woman had so much to do in it. If it had not been for the Earl's recommendation of the case, he would have eschewed the whole matter; and the oddest thing was that his lordship did not say whether he was himself informed of the particulars.
“Is Mr. Waldie here?” inquired the trembling wife, in a choking voice, of one of the clerks who appeared when the carriage stopped.
“He is, madam; but particularly engaged at present, except—”
“Except to this gentleman,” said Letitia, handing Mr. Bland's card with her own, which brought an immediate request that the party would alight.
Mr. Waldie was in the act of shutting somebody into an inner room when his wife appeared at the door. He looked pale and worn, but composed and active. He received his wife and her sister as if nothing extraordinary had happened, stated that the money would be forthcoming if the securities were so; and went straight to business with Mr. Bland.
As soon as satisfied that all was likely to be well, the ladies proposed to withdraw into the inner room, and await the issue.
“That room? No; not there, my dear,” said he. “Yet you will not mind my other man of business being there. He will not be in your way long.”
So they were ushered into the apartment where stood—Mr. Simeon.
“You will be saved the trouble of another excursion at four o'clock, Mr. Simeon, observed Letitia.” We have only to regret having consumed some of your time already this day. You will hardly see us again till we have debts of honour to pay, or a Chancery elopement to provide for.”
Mr. Simeon considered himself a gainer by the transaction in proportion to the honour his poor counting-house had enjoyed; an honour the more precious for its being confined within his own breast. He knew his duty too well to reveal what had passed.
“Do as you please about that,” replied Letitia. “You and Mr. Waldie must agree about your keeping Mr. Waldie's secrets; but, for my part, I have none. You owe neither honour nor duty to me, aware, as you no doubt are, that I did not come to borrow money on my own account.”
Mr. Simeon merely mentioned the temptation of talking about the affair, because it was really an extraordinary case. Not that it was a rare thing for ladies to want money; but that they usually employed agents to procure it., How indeed should it be otherwise? since not one woman in five thousand understood even the forms of business; and these solitary exceptions were in a class which had no dealings with moneylenders. On this, followed a meries of narratives of fair ones' difficulties for want of cash, which amused Letitia exceedingly, from the romance of adventure which was mixed up with the most sordid borrowing transactions. Tile heroines were only A. B. and C.; but they became real personages in Letitia's imagination on the instant; and she was almost sorry when Mr. Simeon was called into the next room to review his securities and perform his promises.
It seemed an age before Mr. Waldie threw open the door, announcing that all was well. tie briefly thanked Letitia for having saved him; urged them to return home and rest from their anxieties; and was only sorry that he could not accompany them, or even promise to follow them for some days, as he should be incessantly occupied till the expected cargo was secured. He perceived that his wife's countenance fell on hearing this, and rallied her; asking what there was now left to be afraid of?—She did not know, but—
“She is worn out,” said Letitia. “I will take care that she shall recruit herself, and wait patiently, unless you try her too long.—You may he quite easy,” she continued to her sister, when Waldie's last grave smile dismissed them. “All is safe, with him as well as with his affairs. How calm he is! How entirely himself! He will speculate no more, believe me.”
Maria shook her head, as her tears fell fast. It was not only that her nerves and spirits were shaken by what she had gone through. Her confidence was utterly overthrown, and she felt the present relief to be no more than a respite.
Those who had educated Waldie were partly answerable for his propensity to speculation, which arose more from a restless ambition than from a desire of overgrown wealth. The foundation of the fortunes of his family was laid by an ancestor who, a few hundred years ago, introduced a new manufacture, which he had learned abroad, into this country. Though, from having to take workmen away From other manufactures, and to engage them to learn his own, he gave higher wages than any of his neighbours, his profits were also very great, as his article bore a high price in the market, in the way that new articles of convenient manufacture generally dr. If profits may be said (as they are by some said) to be as much the reward of labour as wages,— that is, the reward of present superintendence, and of the labour out of which arose the capital employed, it is certain that this first rich member of the Waldie family reaped as large a proportionate reward as his workmen; for long after their wages and his profits were lowered by his silk stuffs becoming more common, and the difficulty of getting workmen being less, he continued to grow rich from his having more capital to employ in bringing him profits. If every hundred pounds did not produce seventy-five, he had, in course of time, for every such hundred, five that brought 50 per cent., and afterwards fifteen that brought 25 per cent.; so that he continued to grow rich, just as individuals and countries may in these days, if accumulation proceeds faster than profits fall. His descendants for some generations carried on this manufacture, for which there was a permanent demand, and so steady a one that the variations in its price arose only from the variations in the prices of other things, and not from changes of fashion. Now and then the price of provisions fell, which enabled these manufacturers to lower their men's wages, these and enjoy larger profits, till the time came for profits to fall also; and sometimes the reverse happened, when the price of provisions rose. Sometimes complaints were made against the largeness of their profits, when the fact was that largeness they gave precisely the same proportion of their produce to their workmen as before, but there were more workmen to divide this proportion; which was no fault of their masters. With these few variations, the family continued to prosper, being for the most part content with the ordinary rate of profits, and making up by continual accumulation for their gradual fall;—that fall which must take place wherever the supply of food is restricted. They were all proud of the ancestor who had founded the wealth of their family, and sent his praises down from generation to generation. The present Mr. Waldie had been early accustomed to listen to them, and impressed with the idea that it was time for somebody else to be adding glory to the family, as it had become much less distinguished in these times of improvements than in the first days of its wealth. He quitted the manufacture, and became a merchant, thinking that this occupation would afford better opportunities for the gratification of his ambition than the straightforward old manufacture. No wonder he was tempted by schemes which promised a higher than extraordinary rate of profits! No wonder he dealt in articles whose extremely varying prices were determined by other than the usual circumstances,—which prices he hoped to catch at the highest, and then to have done with the article! No wonder that he guessed respecting such uncertain circumstances as the changes of fashion, wet and dry seasons, the extent of particular crops on the other side the globe; and then proceeded to act upon these guesses! Sometimes he was right, sometimes wrong. Sometimes he made five thousand pounds at a stroke, sometimes lost ten in a season. Much as his capital was lessened on the whole by his speculations, this was by no means the worst result of his proceedings. Like all other gamesters, he became so fond of the excitement, that, much as he often suffered from it, he could no longer live without it; and the domestic influence which is tile most powerful means of winning a man from bad habits of any kind, was not so powerful in Waldie's case as if his first affections had not been disappointed. Attentive as lie always was to his wife when with her, kind as he had till lately been to his children, vehement as were the fancies he took, now to Portugal laurels, now to tall trees, now to bay-windows or new drawingroom furniture, his happiness was not in his home, but in the heats and chills of his hopes, in city news of disasters at sea, of changeable weather, of new inventions or improvements of manufactured articles, and of political changes,—of anything that might affect his speculations. His poor wife knew nothing for a long while of his unfortunate ventures, though she heard enough of exultation over his good ones. She believed that he must be growing enormously rich, and sighed over the idea, since it seemed that the richer he became, the less pleasure he took in his home. When he first began to alter his tone, (which he did very suddenly,) when he talked one day of bringing up their children to provide for themselves, and moving into a small house in the city, and the next of purchasing some splendid estate, and again of giving up his carriages and sending away half his servants, she was confounded; not knowing how much to believe, or to wish to believe; whether to suppose poverty to be in prospect, or her husband to have lost the soundness of his judgment. It was now some comfort to know how their affairs stood, though she would rather have heard it from her husband than from Letitia. She had long seen that Waldie's family ambition could not be gratified. Whichever way the scale might turn at last, whether he left his family in poverty or magnificence, it was impossible that his memory should be honoured like that of the ancestor who had prospered by uniting prudence and industry with his zeal of enterprise. Whether all was to be swallowed up in Kentish hops and Russian tallow, or all redeemed and even doubled by India spices, those of Waldie's descendants who knew his history, would, in either case, pity or despise him as a gambler.—How much of pity his fate would call for, not even the most alarmed imaginations of his timid wife had fully conceived. She had fancied him, over and over again, in gaol, in poverty; the idea of suicide even had flashed across her mind; but that which actually happened took her more by surprise than arrest, or ruin, or death by his own hand.
Two anxious days were passed by the sisters in expectation of the decision of Waldie's affairs, and still he did not appear. Notes came two or three times a day from himself or from his clerk, who wrote at his desire, requesting Mrs. Waldie not to leave home, as her husband did not know how soon he might be with her, to take a few days' repose on the conclusion of his business. Letitia heard from her husband also on his arrival at home, and from the earl, both desiring her not to leave her sister till she could do so with comfort; which, in Letitia's mind, meant till Waldie should have come home. On the third morning arrived this extraordinary note.
“My own dearest Maria” (substituted for “Letitia,” scratched out)
Coming, coming, coming, as rich as Croesus! Light tile bonfire. Ring the bells. Hurrah! Spices for ever! Coming, coming, coming!
“I do wish Waldie would control his spirits a little,” said Maria, showing the note to her sister, and then looking as if she would fain have withdrawn it. “How can he bring himself to write in such a way?”
Letitia had nothing to say at the moment; not even congratulations on the wealth of Croesus having crowned all these vicissitudes. She asked for the children. They were gone out with Thérèse and their own nurse-maid. She offered a turn in the shrubbery; but Maria was not, she presently saw, strong enough to walk. She threw open the bay-windows, and beckoned her sister to come and be refreshed by the feel of the mild autumn air, the bloom of the autumn roses, and the tranquil beauty of the green prospect. There they sat, watching and working, letting drop a few words now and then, but keeping up nothing like conversation, and looking out as often as a horseman might be seen through the trees, or a carriage heard in the road. At last, the sound of a horse's hoofs reached them, far too rapid for safety, they were sure; and immediately Waldie was seen on horseback, approaching at tremendous speed, with something white before him, which proved to be his two elder children.
“Mercy! Mercy!” cried his wife, putting her hands before her eyes.
“Thank God! the gate is open. They are in! Safe!” exclaimed Letitia, as the horseman wheeled round the corner and up to the window, checking his steed so suddenly as to throw it on its haunches, setting the pebbles flying in all directions, and mingling his loud hurrah with the laughter of the younger child, who saw nothing but fun in all this. The elder one was convulsed with terror.
It was well some one was on the spot; for Waldie threw down both the children as if they had been mere bundles of clothes. They were caught,—not, however, without so much slight bruising as called forth their cries to add to the confusion.
“O Waldie,” shrieked his wife, “what are you about?”
“Look, look, look!” he cried, flourishing his whip over his head, clapping spurs to his horse, and trampling the beds, walks, and lawn alike, and finishing by making his horse leap high and still higher shrubs. He finished by fixing his eye upon the greenhouse, as if he contemplated a leap there too.
“Mr. Waldie,” said Letitia, in her steadiest tone, “what are you doing?”
In a moment he was oil had flung the bridle on the neck of the sweating and trembling horse, and was by her side, swearing deep oaths that she had ever governed his life and ever should govern it. With her in wealth, as with her in poverty, he would. . . .
Maria had rushed into the house upon this, but not the less did Letitia by eye, and gesture, and word, command him from her, and prevail for the moment. He obeyed when she pointed his way into the house, and she was still standing, faint in body and spirit, with the poor children clinging to her, when Thèrése came in from the road, breathless, and sinking with terror. When she saw the children safe, she burst into tears: she had feared that she might have to answer for their lives, from not having had presence of mind to evade Waldie's vehement desire that the children should have a ride.—Her mistress gave her a few directions, which she hastened into the house to execute, and Letitia, after giving the servants a charge to take the children into the nursery and keep them there, repaired to her sister. She found Maria lying across the bed, groaning in heart-breaking grief.
“Sister!” said she, gently, after watching silently beside her for a few moments—“Sister, your husband wants you. He is ill, fearfully ill; and who should tend him but you?—Nay; why this despair? A brain fever, all may be well. . .”
“Letitia; do not deceive me. it is mockery to attempt it.”
“Maria, if I wished to deceive you, I dare not. What I have done will prove this. Thèrése is packing up, and I am going in half an hour. It grieves me to leave you; but I must
“O yes, yes; you must go.”
At this moment, there was a tremendous knocking at the room door, which was luckily fastened. It was Waldie, still calling upon Letitia, who would not answer. Maria dared not. The knocking went on till there seemed some probability of the door giving way, when,
perhaps from having his attention diverted by the servants, the madman quitted his object, and ran down stairs.
“Yes, yes: you must go,”ted Maria, bitterly.
Letitia could forgive the tone in which this was spoken,
“Listen, Maria, what you must do. Command yourself, and go and tell the butler that his master has a brain-fever, and desire him not like yourself, till some one comes to relieve you of your charge. I will immediately send proper advice and help from town.—Farewell, sister. I shall not come again till you send for me. As soon as I can be of any comfort, send. My husband will wish it.”
“But Waldie will insist on going with you. He will never let you drive off. He will. .. .”
“All this is provided against. I can plead an errand near the turnpike, and shall go out with Thèrése by the little shrubbery gate. The carriage will overtake us. Do not detain me. Farewell.”
Letitia said nothing about removing the children. She thought that if, as was probable, Waldie's state should prove such as to render Maria's presence improper, her children would be her best comfort.— in a few minutes, Maria saw, but diverted her husband from seeing, Letitia and Thèrése hastening from the back of the house through the shrubbery, and disappearing down the road. It was with a strange mixture of bitter and yearning feelings that the unhappy wife witnessed such a conclusion as this of a visit which had been planned and endured for her sake.
There was ample time in after years for the sisters to explain, and forgive, and renew the confidence which had been unshaken till this day. Waldie was never more an impediment to their intercourse. He was kept under close restraint from the hour after Letitia's departure, when he insisted on searching every corner of the house for her, and was frantic at having sought in vain, up to the moment when, after years, first of madness and then of imbecility, death released himself and his friends from the burden of his existence.
More than once Maria tremblingly asked the confidential physician whether her sister's presence was likely to be of any service; and almost rejoiced to be answered with a decided negative.
It was perfectly true that Waldie had become, as is commonly said, as rich as Croesus. But what to Maria was all the splendour in which she might have henceforth lived, if she had so chosen? What to her was the trebling of the fortunes of her children? As a compensation for the love which had been disappointed, the domestic hopes which had been rudely overthrown, these things were nothing, though there were some in the world who called them prosperity.
EACH FOR ALL.
Lady F——remained a few hours in London to learn the physician's opinion of Waldie's state, and to give notice at home of her approach. She had no rest, in town or on the road, from the visions which haunted her of what she had lately seen. Waldie's countenance of fierce glee was for ever before her; his raised voice startled her imagination perpetually. She had no repose till her husband met her some miles from Weston, suffered her to alight at the parkgates, and invited her to wander with him to the ruin, and through the autumnal woods, to her beloved seat beside the stream that fed the lake. Refreshed aud composed, she joined her guests at the dinner table, and was warmly welcomed back again: not the less so for no one but the earl and lady Frances having an idea what had caused her'absence. All were ready with that delicate homage which may be supposed to have been as gratifying in its way to Letitia as, it is to many who relish a grosser flattery than she would ever endure. All were ready with tidings of her protegés, from pheasants to men and women. One could assure her that a very favourite plant had not suffered from the frosts of the night after she left Weston. Another had tasted the cream of her dairy; a third admired her bantams; a fourth amused himself with Nanny White; a fifth conversed with the old sexton; and lady Frances herself condescended to hope that that good girl, Thèrése, had not been left behind in London. She was such a treasure! Thereby hung a confession, afterwards given in private, that Philips was really very much spoiled, and becoming a great trouble. Her manners were anything but improved, to say nothing of her temper. Miss Falconbridge, whom she knew to be as intimate as a sister with lady Frances, had taken a fancy to lady Frances's style of hair; and as the easiest way of gratifying her, lady Frances had ordered Philips to dress Miss Falconbridge's hair the day before; whereupon Phitips sent word through Miss Falconbridge's maid that she must beg to decline the honour! Lady Frances had insisted, and her maid in some sort obeyed: but never was anything seen so absurd as the young lady's head. What was lady Frances to do? To part with Philips was altogether impossible; and to bear with her now was scarcely less so. Letitia could not answer for what she should do if compelled to retain such a person as Philips: she could only appeal to her own management of Thèrése as a proof of how easy a matter it is to make a valuable friend out of a hired attendant.
“O yes! by taking the trouble of educating her,”no doubt. But that is a task I could not submit to. That reminds me—how does Thèrése get on with politics? I remember her one day, so eloquent about the revolution her father remembers, and the prospect of another revolution, and the glory of having seen Lafayette.”
“She knows more than she would probably have learned in the very heart of Paris. She has left off assuring me that all the kings of France have been royalists.”
“I suppose it is for the sake of keeping her innocent of some things which lady's maids learn soon enough that you let her read and talk politics as she does?”
“Partly; and partly with a more direct view to my own interest. It will be of very great consequence to me that she should be, not only pure in her conduct, but well educated up to as high a point as I can carry her.'
“Ah! you mean for the sake of your little heir. I see Thèrése is as busy about the preparations as if she had taken her office upon her already. But you began your care of Thèrése from the day you knew her, she tells me.”
“I did; and so I should do still, if there were no heir in prospect. Should I be justified, think you, in placing any one where I myself order the circumstances which are to form her character, and at tile same time neglecting to order those circumstances well?—It is perfectly true that, those in engaging servants, we undertake a great task. In the case of Thèrése, however, the task has been all pleasure.”
“Well, for your reward, I suppose you will keep her always. You will not let her marry, I conclude; or, if she marries, will insist on her remaining with you. It would be too hard to lose all your pains.”
“Whenever Thèrése loves,—and I think I can trust her to commit no folly with that sound heart of hers,—she shall marry; and she shall enter upon her new state as I entered upon mine. with the view of being all and doing all for society of which that state admits. This may best be done by being wholly her husband's, and a fixture in his home. I shall surrender my part in her on her marriage day.”
“By Which, I suppose, you hope to retain at least half her heart, if none of her services. But, my dear, what a prospect for you!”
“A goodly prospect indeed, either way. Either a friend at hand, and a fit guardian of my children in my absence; or a successful experiment in happiness-making, ever before my eyes. 1 hope ever to rejoice in Thèrése.”
Lady Frances sighed, and began to ponder whether, even if she could learn to live without Philips, she could make to herself a maid in whom she might rejoice.
Not only from her husband did Letitia learn how welcome she was back to Weston. The days of her absence had passed like other days, when people who prefer the town, and whose lives are formed for that destination, are thrown together in the country. There were means of enjoyment in abundance; but not of a kind to be permanently relished by those before whom they lay. Letitia's music was wanted in the evenings; Letitia's conversation, artless and sprightly as a girl's, rich as a matured woman's, and entertaining enough to suit everybody, was sighed for at table, and when it rained, and especially when the ladies were called upon to amuse each other in the absence of the gentlemen. It was only on rare occasions, however, that she relinquished her privilege of reserving several hours of the morning for herself and her husband. On one desperately rainy day, she was found ready for chess or music before dinner; and at another time, when all tile gentlemen were absent for the whole day at a political meeting in the neighbouring city, she did not leave her guests at all. But these occasions were rare. On the last mentioned one, she had some view to her own interest as well as that of her guests. Lord
F——meant to speak at the meeting; his speech
must, from his office, be one of the most important of the day; and he was doubtful both how he should accquit himself, and how that which he had to say would be received. Letitia was, of course, far from being at ease, and was glad to conceal, and to carry off some of her anxiety at the same time by being “on hospitable thoughts intent.” It was the last day of the last of her visiters; the gentlemen having waited only for this meeting. Their carriages were ordered for the next morning, and they did not return till late at night.
They were nearly as eloquent in describing the effect of lord F——'s speech, as, by their account, had been the speech itself.—One swore by his soul that it was the most good-natured sort of thing he had ever heard in his life: another, that the government and the government candidate ought to feel themselves much obliged to him; another, ought that lord F—'s constituents would be more proud of trim than ever; another, an M.P., a representative of the commercial interest, that lord F—— had enlightened the people not a little on the question when low profits were harmless, and when bad things, and why; and all, with the earl among them, that this day might prove the beginning of a new era in lord F——'s public life. He would now have as potent a voice out of the house as his friends had ever hoped he would in time have in it.
“How happens all this, Henry?” asked Letitia, aside, with a glowing smile. “You gave me no expectation of anything like this.”
“Because I had none myself. The charm lay in the burden which I adopted from our neighbours down in the village;— ' for each and for all.'”
“I see; I understand. Now leave the rest till you can give it me all in order.”
It was accordingly given, all in order, when the last carriage had driven off, the next morning, and Henry and Letitia shut themselves into the library, to enjoy the uninterruptedness of the first fall of snow. This was no day for the approach of deputations, for the visits of clergyman, lawyer, lady callers, gentleman loungers, or even petitioners from the village. The guests had been urged to stay for finer weather; but, as peremptory in their plans as people of real business, provided change of place is the object, business, they could on no account delay an hour; and, to be sure, the snow signified little to any but the postilions and the horses.
“Well, now, the speech, the speech!” cried Letitia.
“I told the people that nobody doubts that changes”are wanted, in order to remedy the evils so large a portion of society is justly complaining of; and that the thing needed is a wider agreement as to what those changes must be, and therefore a sounder and more general knowledge of the causes of existing evils. I led them, as an instance, into the consideration of the common complaint of low profits and low wages, and showed them, I hope, that proportional wages are much higher at present than some complainers suppose; the fact being lost sight of from the enormous increase of those among whom the wages -fund in divided. However little each labourer may, from this cause, obtain for his own share, the division of produce between capitalist and labourer, —that is, the proportion of profits and wages, is more equable than is supposed by capitalists who more equable of their low profits, and labourers of their l wages. Neither of them will gain by demanding a larger share of the other, which neither can afford. They must look elsewhere for a remedy; and I directed them where to look by giving them the example of Holland and its commercial vicissitudes.”
“Rich to overflowing in the fifteenth century; since, well nigh ruined. How was this? From too much capital leaving the country?”
“From the causes which led to such transfer of capital. While Holland was accumulating its wealth, profits were first high, and then gradually lowered in proportion to wages, though still increasing in total amount. It was not till heavy taxation reduced the rate of profits below that of other countries . . . .”
“But does not taxation affect wages too?” “Assuredly; but the labourer uses fewer commodities than the capitalist, and therefore there is a limit to the labourer's taxation, beyond which taxes must fall on profits, and reduce them as effectually as a deterioration of the land could do. Well; this being the case in Holland, more than in the neighbouring countries, Dutch capital flowed into those countries; and the Dutch have engaged largely in the carrying trade, in foreign funds, and in loans to the merchants of other countries, because all this capital could be less advantageously employed at home. No country need or ought to come to such a pass as this; for, where there is an economical government, taxation may be a trifle compared with what it was in Holland after the wars of the Republic; and where there is a liberal commercial system, —that is, no unnecessary check upon the supply of food, accumulation may proceed to an undefinable extent without an injurious fall of wages and profits. Thus may the cultivation of poor soils be rendered needless, the consequent rise of rent be checked, and the fall of profits and wages obviated.”
“What we want then is, a regulation of the supply of the labour market, a lightening of taxation, and a liberal commercial system. But, Henry, where is the eloquence of all this?—that which is commonly called eloquence? It seems to me more like a lecture than a speech.”
“And so it was; but these are days when, to the people, naked truth is the best eloquence. They are sufferers; they look for a way out of their sufferings; and the plainest way is to them the fairest. However, I said to them much that there is no need to say to you,—because you know it already,—of my views of what the spirit of society ought to be, in contrast with what it is. I enlarged,—whether eloquently I know not,— but I am sure fervently,—as fervently as ever any advocate of co-operation spoke,—on the rule 'for each and for all;' showing that there is actual co-operation wherever individual interests are righteously pursued, since the general interest is made up of individual interests. I showed that justice requires the individual appropriation of the fruits of individual effort; that is, the maintenance of the institution of property; and that producers do as much for all, as well as for each, by carrying their produce to market themselves, as by casting it into a common stock.”
“For instance, that A. does as great a public service by bringing a hundred hats to exchange for tables and stockings, and whatever else he may happen to want, as B. by letting the exchange be conducted as an affair of partnership.”
“Yes. Let people have partnerships as large as they like, and make savings thereby, if they find they can. But let them beware of the notion that any competition but the struggle for food is the cause of hardship; and that struggle must take place under both systems, unless the same means are used by both to prevent it. As for the question of time, the struggle will take place soonest under that system which affords the least stimulus to productive industry. “And, now, love, you have the pith of my speech, except of those best parts which you have many a time rehearsed to me, and I to you. Of the ' hear, hears,' and clappings, you learned enough last night.”
“I wish I could have been there,” sighed the wife.
“So do I. Well as you know the aspect of an attentive crowd, you can have little idea of the stimulating excitement of political meetings just now.”
“I can imagine it. The true romance of human life lies among the poorer classes; the most rapid vicissitudes, the strongest passions, the most undiluted emotions, the most eloquent deportment, the truest experience are there. These things are marked on their countenances, and displayed by their gestures; and yet these things are almost untouched by our artists; be they dramatists, painters, or novelists. The richest know best what is meant by the monotony of existence, however little this may appear to their poor neighbours who see them driving about as if life depended of their speed, and traversing kingdoms and continents. Yet from the upper and middling classes are the fine arts mainly furnished with their subjects. This is wrong; for life in its reality cannot become known by hearsay; and by hearsay only is there any notion of it among those who feel themselves set above its struggles and its toils: that is, by the greater part of tile aristocracy.”
“Thank heaven! not by you or me,” replied her husband. “An uninformed observer might think that there is monotony before us at present, sitting as we are, watching the snow-flakes fall with tile few leaves which had lingered aloft till now,—with weeks of retirement in prospect, and nothing apparent to wish or work for. Yet you have had enough, love, of struggle and toil to know what real life is; and I have, of late, begun to learn the same lesson. No fear of monotony for us!”
“No fear; since there are all to live for as well as each, and each other. But, Henry, how is it that there is so little made known where it most wants to be known, of what real life is when trained by that best of educations, vicissitude?”
“Because our painters of life do not take into the account,—in fact know little of,—some of the most important circumstances which constitute life, in the best sense of the word. They lay hold of the great circumstances which happen to all, the landmarks of universal human existence, and overlook those which are not less interesting, though not universal. They take Love; and think it more becoming to describe a Letltia going to the altar with a lord F——, than a weaver and his thoughtful bride taking possession of their two rooms, after long waiting and anxiety. They take Bereavement; and think it the same thing whether they describe the manly grief of an Ormond for his gailant Ossory, or the silent woe of a poverty-stricken widow for her laborious and dutiful son. They take Birth; and would rather have a lady F——bending over tile infant heir of a lordly house, with a Thèrése in waiting .... (My dear, why not describe that which shall be as well as that which has been?)—a lady E——and her infant, I say, than some rustic Mary holding up her boy to smile in father's face when he comes home from the plough. There is no harm in all this, provided the mighty remainder is not overlooked, which is at the bottom of the most portentous heavings of society, —which explains all that is to many unaccountable in the doings of the world they live in. If the aristocracy cannot, by their own experience, get to know all that life is,—though they are born, love, marry, suffer, enjoy, and die, let some idea be given them of it by true images held up in the mirror of their studies.”
“Yes; let humble life be shown to them in all its strong and strange varieties; not only in faithful butlers and housekeepers,—in pretty dairy-maids and gossiping barbers. Let us have in books, in pictures, and on the stage, working men and women, in the various periods of their struggles through life. In the meanwhile, these people should in fairness know that the aristocracy are less aware than is supposed,— less than they will be,—of what is being done and suffered on each side of their smooth and dull path.”
“Let the artists be compassionately considered too, I pray,” said lord F——, smiling. “Granting all that can be urged about their limiting their choice of objects, let us be considerate till they have placed themselves at large. What, for instance, could a weaver of fiction make of our present life?”
“Nothing of a story; only a picture; there being, as you said just now, apparent monotony without, and deep stirrings within. Such a writer, if wishing to make a narrative, must take either my former life, — its perplexities, its poverty, its struggles under its first publicity, its labours, its love, and migration into a new state; —or your future one,—the statesman's honourable toils, joined with the patriot's conflicts and consolations.”
“But if there was good reason for taking up precisely the interval,—-from our marriage till this hour;—what then?”
“Then writer and readers must be contented with little narrative; contented to know what passes within us, since so little happens to us. Would there be nothing to instruct and gratify in pictures of our position, in revelations of our hearts, and records of our conversations?”
“Let us comfort ourselves, Letitia, with deciding that it must be the fault of the recorder if there were not.”
Summary of Principles illustrated in this volume,
The produce of labour and capital, after rent has been paid, is divided between the labourer and the capitalist, under the names of Wages and Profits.
Where there are two shares, each determines the other, provided they press equally upon one another.
The increase of the supply of labour, claiming reward, makes the pressure in the present case unequal, and renders wages the regulator of profits.
The restriction of the supply of food causes the fall of both profits and wages.
The increased expense of raising food enhances its price: labour, both agricultural and manufacturing, becomes dearer, (without advantage to the labourer:) this rise of wages causes profits to fall; and this fall brings after it a reduction of the labourer's share, or a fall of wages.
The fall of profits and wages is thus referrible to the same cause which raises rent;-—to an inequality in the fertility of soils.
It is supposed by some that these tendencies to the fall of wages and profits may be counteracted by abolishing the distinctions of shares, and casting the whole produce of land, capital, and labour, into a common stock. But this is a fallacy.
For, whatever may be the saving effected by an extensive partnership, such partnership does not affect the natural laws by which population increases faster than capital. The diminution of the returns to capital must occasion poverty to a multiplying society, whether those returns are appropriated by individuals under the competitive system, or equally distributed among the members of a co-operative community.
The same checks to the deterioration of the resources of society are necessary under each system.
These are, (in addition to the agricultural improvements continually taking place,)—
London: printed by W, Clowes, Stamford Street.