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Chapter II.: MATTERS OF TASTE. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 6 (Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek, The Loom and the Lugger Parts 1 & 2) 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 6.
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MATTERS OF TASTE.
Though M. Gaubion was himself too shy to be very eager about the society of his neighbours, he had no wish to place any restraint upon the inclination of his household for intercourse, not only with the families to whom they had brought special introductions, but with those whose near residence tempted to an acquaintance. Mr. Culver and he merely exchanged bows and slight greetings when they passed; but that was no reason why Mr. Culver's daughters, who met his little sister Adele at children's parties, should not be her companions at other times; nor why Mademoiselle Gaubion, the elder sister, and his housekeeper, should not indulge her hospitable disposition, and make as many friends as she could.
It was a great mortification to this lady to see her brother looked coldly upon by those who ought, she believed, to be capable of appreciating his manifold merits: but she conceived that this coldness would only be increased by her becoming reserved also; and that the best justice and kindness to him was to endeavour to interest those whom he could not exert himself to propitiate. She made herself popular for his sake, and earnestly hoped in time to see her own popularity merge in his. Mr. Culver already pronounced her a very amiable and accomplished young person, and declared himself happy in allowing Charlotte and Lucy to visit Adèle, though nurse was somewhat lofty in her way of talking about the freedom which the foreigners were so ready to use with her young ladies.—The time had been when a sentence from nurse would have settled the matter any way she chose; but the girls were growing up now to an age when it was proper to consult them about their undertakings and pleasures; and nurse had never been what she once was since the loss of her son. She was more prejudiced and more peevish than ever, and had, therefore, lost much of her authority over her master as well as her charges. As she did not choose herself to lift the knocker of a Frenchman's door, there was nothing for it but to order Susan to go with the girls instead.
Before Charlotte and Lucy had been long seated, they were observed to be exchanging looks and whispering about something which stood on a table at one end of the room.
“My flowers! You envy me my flowers,” said Mademoiselle Gaubion. “Smell them then. Are they not sweet as they are full blown?”
Not all the politeness which Charlotte could muster enabled her to say that the smell was very sweet. Instead of white-thorn, mignionette, and carnation, the perfume was rather that of musk. She caught Mademoiselle Gaubion's hand in the midst of its flourishes to and from her nostrils, and obtained a close view of the bouquet. It was artificial.—Lucy agreed with her that neither had ever before seen such artificial flowers; and it was long before they were tired of placing them in various lights, and trying how easy it would be to deceive nurse and their youngest sister as they had themselves been deceived. Harriet Breme would hardly wear her lily of the valley any more if she could see these. She might look through her father's stock many times before she would find any so fresh looking,—so very natural.
In a little while, Mademoiselle Gaubion observed, such flowers as these might be had in every shop in London where such goods were sold. In July——
“O, that is when French silks may be had, papa says. But these flowers cannot be made of silk.”
Mademoiselle Gaubion explained that the cocoons of silk-worms were used for these flowers, and showed how they were painted and embroidered into the semblance of real flowers. She offered to teach Charlotte how to make them, if it was thought worth while. Charlotte thought it would be well worth while, as all flowers except such coarse-daubed bunches as she did not like to wear, cost a great deal of money.
Adèle also had yet to learn. She had had plenty of flowers for her doll's robe and turban at Lyons; but she had bought them, as they cost next to nothing there.
“Ah,” said Lucy, “we were wondering how some French things can be made so cheap. Nurse has a beautiful box that her son got somehow from France, and it cost only a shilling. He told her so, for fear she should think he had done an extravagant thing. There is a glass at the bottom; and the sides are of pink paper, beautifully plaited; and there is an enamelled picture of the Virgin and St. Somebody; and round the picture, the prettiest wreath of flowers;—tiny roses and forget-me-not, and yellow buds and green leaves between. It is a large box,—as large as my hand; and it cost only a shilling. The flowers alone would cost two, papa says, if “we ordered such to be made here.”
“We would show you that box,” said Charlotte, “but that we do not like to ask nurse now for anything that her poor son gave her. She can think of nothing but him all the day after, if we do.”
“Poor nurse! has her son left her?” asked Mademoiselle Gaubion.
“O, he died,—and so shockingly! It is more than two years ago now; but nurse is as grieved as ever when anything puts her in mind of it. It was so dreadful for the first few days,—before it was known exactly what had become of him! Nurse would not believe he was dead; and she was always saying that the smugglers had carried him out to sea, and sold him for a sailor, like somebody she once heard about. She was sure he would come back one day, either a rich India merchant, or begging at the door,—or somehow. And then, when the next letter came——”
“Did it tell? Was he dead?”
“O yes. Papa would not let us tell Maria, for fear of its making her afraid to go to bed; and I believe he did not mean us elder ones to know; but nurse set us to ask my brother Robert; for she never believed that papa had told her everything. Do you know, when they had shot him dead, they put his body into a cavern in the cliff, on the top of a flight of steps, and sitting us so that he looked as if he was alive, the first moment they found him.”
“But O, what do you think put it into their heads to look for him there?” interrupted Lucy. “They saw two cliff-ravens fly out when somebody went near the cavern; and then they knew that there must be a body there.”
Lucy stopped short at a sign from her sister, who thought the rest of the story too horrible to be told. Since Adèle could not make out by any mode of cross-questioning, what these further particulars were, she wanted next to know what caused Nicholas to be murdered. Her sister explained to her, with so much feeling, the nature of the service on which he had been engaged, and showed so much concern at his fate, that Lucy said, half to herself, and looking wistfully at Mademoiselle Gaubion,
“I shall tell nurse how sorry you are.”
“Tell her, if it can comfort her to have the sympathy of a stranger.”
“A stranger,—a foreigner,” repeated Lucy, still half to herself.
“I said a stranger, not a foreigner,” replied Mademoiselle, smiling. “As long as it is a stranger who sympathizes, what matters it whether she be native or foreign?”
“Nurse thinks,” replied Charlotte, “that French people are not sorry when any harm comes to those who try to prevent their smuggling. She was saying this morning——”
Another sign from Charlotte.
“Tell me what she said,” replied Mademoiselle, smiling in a way which emboldened Lucy to proceed.
“She said she did not want to have anybody in the neighbourhood that had helped to murder her son; and that every French person had helped to murder him, because it was the trying to get in French goods that made all the mischief.”
“Nurse does not know, perhaps, that the French suffer no less than the English in this kind of struggle. Frenchmen are sometimes thrown overboard into the sea, or shot on the shore. Frenchmen run the risk of losing their goods; and in such a contention, I am afraid it sometimes happens that a Frenchman hates an Englishman.”
“What! for smuggling each others' goods? If they want each others' goods, why do not they buy and sell them at once, without loss and fighting and cheating and murder?”
“Are you French really sorry about smuggling?” asked Lucy. “Because, if you are——”
“You may see in a moment that my brother is sorry. Why else should he leave his country, and come to live here? he comes to make silk here which may be sold without cheating and fighting.”
“And if papa went to Lyons, would the people there be glad or sorry to see him?”
“If he went to make silks, they would not be either particularly glad or sorry, because the people at Lyons make silks better than your papa, or any other Englishman, knows how to make them yet. But if your papa went to make cotton goods, or knives and scissors, or if he set up iron works, they would be very glad to have him; for all these things are made by the English better than by the French.”
“Then you would get artificial flowers ‘ or so cheap that you need not make them yourselves,” added Adèle: “and you would have silk frocks, like the Bremes; for the prettiest silk frocks cost twelve or fourteen shillings less there than here.”
Charlotte thought she should like to go to Lyons; it would be such a saving of money; and she thought the Lyons people must like coming to London, if they could get things made of iron, and steel, and cotton, cheaper than in France. Adèle proposed that there should be a general change; that all the Lyons people should come to London, and as many Londoners go to Lyons. As it was plain, however, that this would leave matters just where they were at first, as the French could not bring their silk-worms from the south with them, nor the English carry their iron mines on their backs, the simple expedient occurred to the young ladies of the inhabitants sending their produce freely to one another, instead of wandering from home to produce it.
“If the French would send me my silk,” observed Charlotte, “I might save my fourteen shillings here just as well as at Lyons; and if I had to pay a little for the bringing, some Lyons girl would pay papa for the sending of the cotton gowns she would buy of him. What a capital bargain it would be for us both! Do not you think so, Mademoiselle?”
“I do; but there are many who do not. When some of our French rulers wished that our people should save their money by buying your cottons where they could be had cheapest, our people were frightened. They sent and told the king that France was ready to bathe his throne with her tears in agony at the idea of buying English goods so easily: and now, you know, some of you English are just as much alarmed at being allowed to get silks cheaper than you can make them.”
“But it is so very silly!” exclaimed Charlotte. “Such people might as well prefer paying five shillings for a bad bouquet to paying half-a-crown for a pretty one, like that. I do not see why they should give away money to bad flower-makers at that rate.”
“Especially when the bad flower-makers might get more money still by doing something which they could do much better. Yet this is just the way that Buonaparte made his people waste their money, some time ago. He would not let them have sugar and coffee from the places where they could be had best and cheapest, but would try to produce them at home. He made people press out the juice of carrots and beet-root, and whatever tasted sweet, as the sugar cane will not grow in France; and, with a world of trouble, they made a little sugar; but it was far too dear for many people to buy. They tried to make tea of many kinds of herbs, and coffee of bitter and burnt roots; while, all this time, there was plenty of tea in China, and sugar and coffee in the West Indies.”
“I would have left off all those things, if I might not have had them properly,” said Charlotte.
Lucy thought it would be very hard to be so stinted by any man's caprice and jealousy; and she saw that the saving would be only in one way, after all. The French might save the money they were bidden to spend on dear sugar and bad tea, but they would still lose the opportunity of selling the goods of their own manufacture which the Chinese and the West Indians would have taken in return for their tea and sugar. It was very odd of Buonaparte not to see that his plan caused a loss in every way.—Mademoiselle thought that he did see this; but that he did not mind the loss to his own people, provided he made the English suffer. She had nothing to say for the good-nature of this; but who thought of good-nature when kings go to war, with the express purpose of ruining one another as fast as possible, while they each boast that God is on their side? She remembered that her father admired Buonaparte as much as anybody could; but even her father could not thank him for making many of the necessaries and comforts of life so dear as to prevent his getting on in the world. She remembered the day when the news came that foreign trading was to go on again. Her father found himself able then to make her brother Marc a farmer. Marc had long wished to be a farmer; but his father had not had the power to do anything for him while much of his money was swallowed up in the consumption of things which were only to be had dear and bad as long as the ports were shut.
“I suppose,” said Charlotte, “that must have been the case with many people besides your father. Everybody that kept house must have saved as soon as the ports were opened. I wonder what they did with their savings!”
“Madame Mairon began to dress her daughters in the prettiest English muslins that ever were seen. All Lyons began to admire those girls, though some complained that they spent their money on foreign goods. But I am sure they laid out a great deal on native ribbons and lace at the same time, which they could not have afforded if tea and sugar had been as high as ever. Then there were the Carillons. They set up a hundred more looms directly; and every body called them proud and speculative; but the looms are still busy, I fancy.”
“Ah, that is the worst of it,” observed Charlotte. “While their looms are going, ours are standing still.”
“Not because theirs are going. Witness my brother's. The Carillons made silks for many countries, but not for England; for they have never smuggled, I believe. When your father's weavers see the goods the Carillons will send over, after next July, they may learn to weave as well; and then your father may sell as many; for there will be more people to wear silks every year, in proportion as more countries send us goods, and want some in return. There is plenty of room in the world for your father, and my brother, and the Carillons.”
“I wish,” said Adèle, “you would show Lucy the shells M. Carillon gave you.”
“What sort of shells?” Lucy asked: and for an answer she was shown into a room at the rear of the house, which was unlike any room she had ever seen before. One side of it was occupied by cases of stuffed birds, some from all the four quarters of the world. There were other curiosities in great abundance, less captivating to young eyes than gold-dropped African partridges, and burnished American humming-birds; but the shells transcended the most brilliant of the winged creatures. Speckled, streaked, polished, they were held before the eye. Fluted, indented, ribbed in waving lines, they were examined by the touch. Murmuring, they were held to the delighted ear. There was no end of admiring the pearly hues of some, the delicate whiteness of others, and the fantastic forms of those which lay in the centre of the cabinet.
“So M. Carillon gave you these shells!”
“Some of them. Those in the compartment that Lucy is looking at. M. Carillon's sons have not quite all the world to themselves to trade in; though they do sell their father's goods on many shores. When your brothers grow up to be merchants, and sell your father's silks in many countries, they will bring you shells as beautiful as these, if you ask them.”
“I should like a parrot better,” said Lucy.
“I should like some plums and chocolate, like those that Pierre had sent him from South America,” observed Adèle.
“Well, anything you please,” replied Mademoiselle. “Only let the nations be in good humour with one another, and we may all have what we like. I know I should never have possessed this pretty museum if Jean Carillon had not been trading to India, and fallen in with these shells; and there is not a museum in Paris that will not be improved, year by year, as our ships go into new countries, and bring fresh curiosities for us to study and admire.”
“But I suppose these shells cost a great deal; and the birds, too?”
“They do at present, because it is a sort of new taste, and very little pains have been taken to gratify it. But there are shells enough in the deep and wide Indian seas to furnish the cabinets of the world; and there are birds enough in the western forests and gardens to show every child in our close cities what beautiful creatures God has made to flutter in his hottest sunshine. The taste will be sure to spread, as it is for the good of everybody that it should spread. Many natives of foreign countries who now lie dozing on the burning shores, trying to forget their hunger and not to regard the heats, will dive into the green sea for the beautiful things that are hidden there. They will be up and busy when they see European ships on the horizon, and sing as they sit polishing and preparing the curiosities which are to bring them bread for their children, and raise a roof over their own heads.”
“But we must pay for these curiosities,” objected Lucy. “We must pay very high; and I think that is not fair, when birds can be had for the catching, and shells by being just taken out of the sea.”
“When those days come, my dear, we shall pay what will be a high price to those natives, but a low one to us. People in their country will begin to wish for our curiosities, as we wish for theirs. A savage gave this noble shell, as large as my hand, and more finely veined than any marble in the world, for six nails; and when that savage's children grow a little more civilized than we are now, they will give another such shell for a square inch of your Derbyshire lead ore, or half-a-dozen dried English plants. Then the drying of plants here, and the diving for shells there, will be a business which will support a family; and both countries will be wiser and happier than they were before, by having obtained something new to study and admire.”
“I think,” said Adele, “that people will not know, till that time, all that they might and should know of what God has made for them.”
“They will certainly not know all the happiness that God has made for them, till they share as equally as possible what He has given to each; whether it be that which belongs to sea, air or earth, or the produce of man's skill. Whatever any country produces best, that let it exchange for what other countries produce best. Thus will all be best served, and in the best humour with each other.”
“If you might choose what you would have from the finest country in the world, what should it be?” asked Lucy of Mademoiselle.
“I should like a great number of things to make our museum more complete. Here are only a few stray treasures.”
“But M. Carillon is going to send you something very strange and very valuable,” observed Adele. “Something from Egypt, is not it!”
“Yes; and I shall be very glad of whatever he may send me; but he cannot give me what I should like best.”
“I know what you mean. You want some plants. Well, perhaps this may be a dried lotus, or the flowering reed of the Nile. His son has been in Egypt; and how do you know that he may not be sending you plants?”
“I should like them alive,” replied Mademoiselle. “The potato was brought alive, and it grevv and flourished; and I should like to try whether some of the American shrubs could not be made to grow here. There are some of the Madeira mountain plants which I would rather have than wine and oranges.”
“But what would you do with them? There is no room here for such a garden as we had by the river-side at Lyons; and even in a conservatory the plants would get smoked.”
“Why, that is true,” replied Mademoiselle, sighing. “We must be content with our little museum.”
“Are you very fond of plants?” enquired Charlotte. “Then I will take you to two or three of papa's weavers——”
She stopped short, and bit her lip, and Lucy frowned at her. Mademoiselle asked with a smile,
“What of the weavers? Will they show me flowers?”
Charlotte answered constrainedly that the operatives of Spitalfields were very fond of their little gardens, and succeeded in raising beautiful tulips and auriculas.
“O, let us go! It cannot be far, and it is a very fine evening,” said the eager little lady, looking up to the yellow sunshine which streamed in from between two opposite chimneys. Charlotte and Lucy glanced at each other, and neither offered to move.
“Why, my children, is it possible?” cried Mademoiselle, putting a hand on the shoulder of each, and looking them full in the face with a smile. “You are afraid, I see, to introduce me to your father's weavers. You are afraid to tell nurse that you have done so, because poor nurse is jealous of the French gentleman, and his little French sister. Is it not so?”
The girls seemed about to cry. Mademoiselle went on,
“You shall request your father to introduce ms to a florist or two. Meantime, we will ask my brother whether there are such among those whom he employs. My girls, we are of one country now,-—you and I. Why should there be any tormenting, unworthy jealousy? Tell me why.”
Charlotte only knew that some people thought,—some people feared,—it seemed so very natural that manufacturers should get the best weavers from one another.
“So very natural!” exclaimed Mademoiselle. “I tell you, my girl, that my brother, has it not in his nature to feel jealousy of a neighbour; and I tell you also that my brother will in time give good weavers to your father and to all of the same occupation in this neighbourhood. If the suspicion you speak of were natural, it would be for my brother to feel it; yet, I will take you among his men without fear, if we find that they have tulips and auriculas.”
Before Charlotte had quite ventured to look again in Mademoiselle's face, M. Gaubion came in, and gave her the address of several of his men who were as fond of flowers as herself. When she gaily asked him if he was afraid of the Miss Culvers being admitted to intercourse with persons who were working for him, he smiled and added the address of a woman who was weaving velvet of a particularly curious pattern, which he thought the young ladies might like to see. This woman might have auriculas too, for aught M. Gaubion knew; and the party set out to ascertain the point.
Mrs. Ellis was found at her loom, and over-heard to be scolding lustily till her visitors popped their heads through the pap by which, the stairs opened into the room. Her natural tone of voice was not immediately recoverable, and she spoke in something between a whine and a scream, which suited ill with the languid air with which she hung her head aside, and fumbled with the gilt locket which hung by a worn hair-chain round her neck. She had so much the appearance of an actress of the lowest grade, that Mademoiselle thought there could be no mistake in conjecturing that she had not always pursued her present occupation, nor offence in asking how the confinement suited her health. She had sat at the loom, she said, since she was the age of that boy,—pointing to a lad who had evidently been the object of her wrath. Not that she had had work all that time. O, no! She had suffered her share from want of work. Indeed, it was hard to tell which was worst for the health;—the load on the spirits of having no work, or the fatigue of weaving. If the ladies would believe her, it was a killing occupation. It sat very hard upon her stomach, and her heart turned half round; and her lungs,—O, if they knew what lungs she had!
“You let us know that before we came up to see you,” observed Mademoiselle. “If you think your lungs weak, is it not a pity that you should exert them as you did just now? And, this minute, you spoke much louder than we need trouble you to to.”
“Ah! ma'am, 'tis the way with my voice. When it once gets up, I can't, somehow, get it down again.”
The boy at the loom confirmed this by a sidelong look of great meaning. His mother sighed so as to show a fine remaining capacity of lung, and was about to proceed about her infirm head, and a weak ancle that she had had all her life, when her visitors turned the current of her complaints upon the times. Poor wages! very poor wages! and hard work. It was a bad sort of employment.
“Why, then, do you bring up your children to it? Here are five looms in this room.”
“Yes, ma'am; but only three for my own family. My eldest girl is a filler. Those two farther looms are let to neighbours.”
“And both with work in them, I see. This seems a pretty piece of black silk that your boy is about; and he seems to be doing his work well.”
“Pretty well, ma'am: pretty well, for the time. I thank the Almighty, Tom is a middling boy.”
The little lad had all the appearance of being better than a middling boy. He worked with might and main while the ladies stood by, shouting the shortest possible answers to their questions, amidst the noise of his machine. His mother gave him a smart rap on the head, and asked him where his manners were, to go on with his weaving while the ladies spoke to him. His looks conveyed his apprehension that he should have been equally found fault with if he had quitted his grasp of his shuttle without leave. He now related that he was twelve years old, had learned to weave three weeks, and had in that time woven sixteen yards, for which he was to have sixpence a-yard. The ladies thought that, in relation to him, his mother's voice ought to be made to come down again, to whatever pitch it might have risen.
“And whose work is this?” asked Charlotte, examining a piece of slight French-white silk, carelessly covered with a brown-looking cloth.
“That's Peggy's,” replied Tom. “She has left it for to-night, to make the beds.”
The girls had observed, as they mounted the stairs, that though there was a green baize on the floor of the room below, a handsome mahogany chest of drawers, a tea-tray with a tiger upon it, and above it two fine pictures,—viz., the Duke of Wellington staring mightily upon his companion, a Madonna, as if meditating war against her child—though all these things testified to the means of comfort being in the house, there existed the deplorable discomfort of unmade beds late in the evening. A curl-papered girl, with a face grimed with dust from her loom, was lazily undrawing the curtains, and about to let in the flesh air for the first time that day. Mademoiselle did not know much about how far money went in this country; but she consulted with Charlotte as to whether the times ought to be called very bad by a family who earned respectively, three, five, ten, and twenty shillings a-week, besides letting two looms at three shillings per week each. Charlotte thought they must be so well off that it would be worth while to spare the second girl from her loom, and give her time to take her hair out of the paper with which it bristled, to make the beds in the cool air of the morning, to new paper the staircase, where tatters hung to gather the dust, revealing the most snug mouse-holes possible; to brush the green baize, polish the tiger, and dust the Duke of Wellington; and, finally, to purify the atmosphere of the weaving-room, by certain appliances which seemed at present not to be dreamed of. But Mrs. Ellis appeared to think that it would be time enough to clean when days of adversity should come.
She resumed her curious velvet weaving, that the young ladies might observe the action of the machinery; in the course of which investigation Adele was sensible of a descent of dust into her mouth as she looked up, and Lucy's cheek was tickled by a floating cobweb. Seeing the one make a grimace, and the other rub her cheek indignantly, Charlotte asked Mrs. Ellis how often she whitewashed. The lady with the locket smiled at the simplicity of such a question, addressed to a weaver; and when asked whether dust did not injure her work, she reached out her hand for a brush which lay near, gave one stroke with a skilful flourish, and looked with a triumphant face through the cloud she had just raised, as if to say, “You see!” Part of the gesture was, however, lost upon her visitors; for Mademoiselle had run to the window on the first hint of what was going to happen; Charlotte was coughing; and Lucy and Adele had their hands before their faces.
Mademoiselle returned, after awhile, to suggest a modest doubt whether it was not better to be without dust, than to brush it from one place that it might fall upon another—into Mrs. Ellis's weak lungs, among other receptacles; but Mrs. Ellis seemed to agree with old Short, that a loom would be nothing without cobwebs; and all that remained, therefore, was to ask about the auriculas.
Tom brightened up at the word. The poor lad had none to show at home; for his mother had no idea of sparing him time enough to make any use of the small patch of soil behind the house, which presented a fine study of cabbage-stalks and broken crockery to any painter who might happen to be passing by the back lane. But Cooper lived at hand; and Cooper happened to like auriculas, and to think Tom something more than “a middling boy;” and he encouraged him to come at spare minutes, and watch the progress of his friend's gardening; and, moreover, allowed him a corner in which to set a root or two of his own. At the first sign of permission from his mother, Tom now pulled down his wristbands, flung on his coat, and stood, cap in hand, to show the ladies the way.
It was not till the Miss Culvers drew one another's attention to old Short, as his grizzled head was seen from the garden to be moving in his loom, that it occurred to Mademoiselle that she might be trespassing on the premises of their father's weavers, after all. Next popped up at the window the round face of Ichabod, kissing the palm of his hand as he saw his father, though Charlotte flattered herself that this act of courtesy was intended in answer to her nod.
“O dear!” said Mademoiselle, “we are in a forbidden place. Come, Charlotte, come and hear that I am not begging to know any secrets about weaving, but only about flowers: and, Lucy, do you keep beside Adèle; and if she asks any questions that nurse would not like, tell me.”
Cooper laughed, and said that he was the one to learn, instead of communicating secrets to French manufacturers; and Miss Charlotte need not fear his leaving her father's service, as he had told his wife, but a little time ago, that Mr. Culver had been a good master to him, and he was determined to work for him still, if all the foreigners in the world came to settle near. He explained that he meant no incivility by this, offering the choice of some fine roots to Mademoiselle, giving her advice as to the cultivation of them, and inviting her to come whenever she liked to consult him on this matter of mutual taste.
“How is it,” asked Mademoiselle, smiling, “that you will treat a foreigner, as to flowers, as if she was an Englishwoman? Do you forget that I am French, that you thus offer me the choice of your tulips?”
Cooper replied that God had made flowers to grow in all parts of the world as a common possession; and that for people to be jealous of one another's methods of cultivation was a meanness that he, for one, would be ashamed of. He knew that a neighbour of his had wrung off the head of a pigeon of a rare kind, that he might be master of the only pair of that kind in existence; but this was, in his opinion, making sport of God's works, and encouraging bad feelings towards men, in a way which was irreligious, if anything was. If he saw a party of his neighbours' children in the fields, one taking possession of all the violets, and another of all the primroses, and a third of all the buttercups, and preventing those to whom only daisies were left from having any benefit of what God's hand had scattered for all, he should get his bible, and show them plenty of sayings in it which should make them ashamed of themselves.
“And why not so, likewise, with that which is produced by man?” inquired the lady. “Are not the faculties of man roots from which proceed designs; and are not the fruits of those designs as clearly given for common use in the end as the blossoms which are scattered over the fields and meadows? Let him that gathers call them his; but let him be free to impart when he meets with another who also desires to impart,—free from the interference of authority—free from the envious remarks of those who look on; and if one has more skill than another, let them learn of one another.”
“To be sure, madam: just as I am willing to show you my method with my tulips.”
“And as my brother is willing to improve your silk manufacture. But you will not learn what he has to teach, because he is a foreigner.”
Cooper was willing enough to learn as much as he could find out by examining what was wrought in the Frenchman's loom; but working for him, when English masters were to be had, was altogether a different thing.
One would think, Mademoiselle observed, that God had made the flowers of the field, and that man had made himself, by the distinction thus set up between those possessions which were allowed to be given for the good of all, and those which were proposed to be kept for selfish purposes. Clothing of silk was as much furnished by Providence as the raiment of the field-lilies; and to forbid the transference of the one or the other is to oppress both those who would transfer and those who would receive: it was to condemn violet-gatherers to have nothing but violets, and primrose-lovers to grow tired of primroses; while they would have been made perfectly happy by the mixed garland, whose materials were all within their reach.
Cooper observed that his little Ichabod had grown tired of buttercups lately, and had got the habit of throwing them out of the window. It was sometimes difficult to amuse so young a child, who had no companions at home. He often thought of taking him to the infant school, where the little ones had sham gardens, which it was pretty to look at.
“Let your child carry his lap full of buttercups,” replied Mademoiselle, “and he will exchange them readily for things which he will not throw out of the window; and from this infant traffic we will go and take a lesson in mutual confidence and mutual help.”