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Chapter I.: THE HALEHAM PEOPLE. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 5 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 5.
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THE HALEHAM PEOPLE.
“The affair is decided, I suppose,” said Mrs. Berkeley to her husband, as he folded up the letter he had been reading aloud. “It is well that Horace's opinion is so boldly given, as we agreed to abide by it.”
“Horace knows as much about my private afl'airs as I do myself, and a great deal more about the prospects of the banking business,” replied Mr. Berkeley. “We cannot do better than take his advice. Depend upon it, the connexion will turn out a fine thing for my family, as Horace says. It is chiefly for your sakes, my dear girls.”
“May I look again at Horace's letter?” asked Fanny, as her father paused to muse. “I did not understand that he thought it could be more than a safe, and probably advantageous, connexion. Ah! here it is.— I like the prospect, as affording you the moderate occupation you seem to want, and perhaps enabling you to leave something more to my sisters than your former business yielded for them. Times were never more prosperous for hanking; and you can scarcely lose- anything, however little you may gam, by a share in so small and safe a concern as the D——bank.’”
Fanny looked at her father as she finished reading this, as much as to inquire where was the promise of fine things to arise out of the new partnership.
“Horace is very cautions, you know,” observed. Mr. Berkeley: “he always says less than he means—at least when he has to give advice to any of the present company; all of whom he considers so sanguine, that, I dare say, he often congratulates us, on Laving such a son and brother as himself to take care of us.”
“He yields his office to Melea only,” observed Mrs, Berkeley, looking- towards her younger daughter, who was reading the letter once more before giving her opinion. “Tell us, Melea, shall your father be a banker or still an idle gentleman?”
“Has he ever bean an idle gentleman?” asked Melea. “Can he really want something to do when he has to hurry from one committee-room to another every morning, and to visit the-workhouse here and the gaol at D—, and to serve on juries, and do a hundred things besides, that prevent his riding with Fanny and me oftener than once a month?”
“These are all very well, my dear,” said her father; “but they are not enough for a man who was brought up to business, and who has been accustomed to it all his life, I would not, at sixty five, connect myself with any concern which involved risk, or much labour; but I should like to double your little fortunes, when it may be done so easily, and the attempt can do no harm.”
“I wish,” said Fanny, “you would not make this a reason. Melea and I shall have enough; and if we had not, we should be sorry to possess more at the expense of your entering into business again, after yourself pronouncing that the time had come for retiring from it.”
“Well, but, my dears, this will not be like my former business, now up and now down; so that one year I expected nothing less than to divide my plum between you, and the next to go to gaol. There will be none of the fluctuations in my new business.”
“I am sure I hope not,” said Fanny anxiously. “Fanny remembers the days,” said her mother, smiling, “when you used to come in to dinner too gloomy to speak while the servants were present, and with only one set of ideas when they were gone,—that your girls must make half their allowance do till they could get out as governesses.”
“That was hardly so bad,” observed Fanny, “as being told that we were to travel abroad next year, and have a town and country-house, and many fine things besides, that we did not care for half so much as for the peace and quiet we have had lately. Oh! father, why cannot we go on as we are?”
“We should not enjoy any more peace and comfort, my dear, if we let slip such an opportunity as this of my benefiting my family. Another thing, which almost decided me before Horace's letter camp,” he continued, addressing his wife, “is, that Dixon's premises are let at last, and there is going to be a very fine business set on foot there by a man who brings a splendid capital, and will, no doubt, bank with us at D—. I should like to carry such a connexion with me; it would be a creditable beginning.”
“So those dismal-looking granaries are to be opened again,” said Melea;” and there will be some stir once more in the timber-yards. The place has looked very desolate all this year.”
“We will go to the wharf to see the first lighter unloaded,” said Fanny, laughing. “When I went by lately, there was not so much as a sparrow in any of the yards. The last pigeon picked up the last grain weeks ago.”
“We may soon have pigeon-pies again as often as we like,” observed Mr. Berkeley. “Cargoes of grain are on the way; and every little boy in Haleham will be putting his pigeon-loft in repair when the first lighter reaches the wharf. The little Cavendishes will keep pigeons too, I dare say.”
“That is a pretty name,” observed Mrs. Berkeley, who was a Frenchwoman, and very critical in respect of English names.
“Montague Cavendish, Esq. I hope, my dear, that such a name will dispose you favourably towards our new neighbour, and his wife, and all that belongs to him.”
“0 yes; if there arc not too many of them. I hope it is not one of your overgrown English families, that spoil the comfort of a dinner-table.”
Mr. Berkeley shook his head, there being, at the least, if what he had heard was true, half-a-dozen each of Masters and Misses Cavendish; insomuch that serious doubts had arisen whether the dwelling-house on Dixon's premises could be made to accommodate so large a family. The master of the “Haleham Commercial, French, and Finishing Academy” was founding great hopes on this circumstance, foreseeing the possibility of his having four or five Masters Cavendish as boarders in his salubrious, domestic, and desirable establishment.
The schoolmaster was disappointed in full one-half of his expectations. Of the six Masters Cavendish, none were old enough to be removed from under their anxious mother's eye for more than a few hours in the day. The four elder ones, therefore, between four and nine years old, became day-scholars only; bearing with them, however, the promise, that if they were found duly to improve, their younger brethren would follow as soon as they became unmanageable by the “treasure” of a governess, Mrs. Cavendish's dear friend, Miss Egg, who had so kindly, as a special favour, left an inestimable situation to make nonpareils of all Mrs. Cavendish's tribe.
How these children were to be housed no one could imagine, till a happy guess was made by the work-people who were employed in throwing three rooms into one, so as to make a splendid drawing-room. It was supposed that they were to be laid in rows on the rugs before the two fire-places, the boys at one end and the girls at the other. This conjecture was set aside, however, by the carpenters, who were presently employed in partitioning three little rooms into six tiny ones, with such admirable economy of light that every partition exactly divided the one window which each of these rooms contained. It was said that an opportunity of practising fraternal politeness was thus afforded, the young gentlemen being able to open and shut their sisters' window when they opened and shut their own, so that a drowsy little girl might turn in her crib, on a bright summer's morning, and see the sash rise as if by magic, and have the fresh air come to her without any trouble of her own in letting it in. It was at length calculated that by Miss Egg taking three of the babies to sleep beside her, and by putting an iron-bedstead into the knife-pantry for the servant boy, the household might be accommodated; though the schoolmaster went on thinking that the straightforward way would have been to send the elder boys to him, for the holidays and all; the builder advising an addition of three or four rooms at the back of the dwelling; and everybody else wondering at the disproportion of the drawing-room to the rest of the house.
When the total family appeared at Haleham Church, the Sunday after their arrival, the subject of wonder was changed. Every one now said that the housing the family was an easy question in comparison with that of housing their apparel. Where could drawers ever be found large enough for the full-buckramed fancy dresses of the young gentlemen, and the ample frocks, flounced trousers, huge muslin bonnets and staring rosettes of the little ladies, who walked up the aisle hand in hand, two abreast, tightly laced and pointing their toes prettily? ‘Their father's costume had something of the appearance of a fancy dress, though it did not take up so much room. He was a very little man, with shoes and pantaloons of an agonizing tightness, and a coat so amply padded and collared as to convert the figure it belonged to into as strong a resemblance to the shape of a carrot as if he had been hunchbacked. A little white hat perched on the summit of a little black head, spoiled the unity of the design considerably; but in church this blemish disappeared, the hat being stuck under one arm to answer to the wife on the other side.’
Mr. Berkeley, who was disposed to regard in a favourable light every one who caused an accession of prosperity to the little town of Hale-ham, would not listen to remarks on any disputable qualities of his new neighbours. He waited in some impatience the opportunity of learning with what bank this great merchant meant to open an account; and was in perpetual hopes that on the occasion of his next ride to D——. whither he went three times a week to attend to his new business, he might be accompanied by Mr. Cavendish. These hopes were soon at an end.
Mr. Cavendish was going to open a bank at Haleham, to be managed chiefly by himself, but supported by some very rich people at a distance, who were glad to be sleeping partners in so fine a concern as this must be, in a district where a bank was much wanted, and in times when banking was the best business of any. Such was the report spread in Haleham, to the surprise of the Berkeleys, and the joy of many of the inhabitants of their little town. It was confirmed by the preparations soon begun for converting an empty house in a conspicuous situation into the requisite set of offices, the erection of the board in' front with the words HALEHAM BANK, and the arrival of a clerk or two with strong boxes, and other apparatus new to the eyes of the townspeople. Mr. Cavendish bustled about between his wharf and the bank, feeling himself the most consequential man in the town; but he contrived to find a few moments for conversation with Mr. Berkeley, as often as he could catch him passing his premises on the way to D——.
This kind of intercourse had become rather less agreeable to Mr. Berkeley of late; but as he had admitted it in the earliest days of their acquaintance, he could not well decline it now.
“I understand, my dear sir,” said Mr. Cavendish, one day, crossing the street to walk by his neighbour's horse, “that you have but lately entered the D—— bank. It is a thousand pities that the step was taken before I came; I should have been so happy to have offered you a partnership. So partial as we both are to the business, we should have agreed admirably, I have no doubt.”
Mr. Berkeley bowed. His companion went on: “There would have been nothing to do, you see, but to step down a quarter of a mile, on fine days, just when you happened to be in the humour for business, instead of your having to toil backwards and forwards to D——so often.”
Mr. Berkeley laughed, and said that he never toiled. He went when it suited him to go, and stayed away when it did not.
“Aye, aye; that is all very well at this time of year; but we must not judge of how it will be in every season by what it is at Midsummer. When the days get damp and dark, and the roads miry, it becomes a very pleasant thing to have one's offices at hand.”
“And a pleasanter still to stay by one's own fireside, which I shall do on damp days,” coolly observed Mr. Berkeley.
“You have such a domestic solace in those sweet daughters of yours'. “observed Mr. Cavendish:” to say nothing of your lady, whose charming mixture of foreign grace with true English maternity, as Miss Egg was saying yesterday, (there is no better judge than Miss Egg,) would constitute her a conspicuous ornament in a far more distinguished society than we can muster here.”
Again Mr. Berkeley bowed. Again his companion went on.
“Talking of society,—I hope you will think we have an acquisition in our new rector. Perhaps you are not aware that Longe is a relation of my wife's,—a first cousin; and more nearly connected in friendship than in blood. An excellent fellow is Longe; and I am sure you ought to think so, for he admires your daughter excessively,—Miss Berkeley I mean;—though your little syren did beguile us so sweetly that first evening that Longe met you. He appreciates Miss Melea's music fully; but Miss Berkeley was, as I saw directly, the grand attraction.”
“You have made Chapman your watchman, I find,” said Mr. Berkeley. “I hope he will not sleep upon his post from having no sleep at present; but he is in such a state of delight at his good fortune, that I question whether he has closed his eyes since you gave him the appointment.”
“Poor fellow! Poor fellow ! It affords me great pleasure, I am sure, to be able to take him on my list. Yes; the moment he mentioned your recommendation, clown went his name, without a single further question.”
“I did not give him any authority to use my name,” observed Mr. Berkeley. “He merely came to consult me whether he should apply; and I advised him to take his chance. Our pauper-labourers have taken his work from him, and obliged him to live upon his savings for a twelvemonth past, while, as I have strong reasons for suspecting, he has been more anxious than ever to accumulate. You have made him a very happy man; but I must disclaim all share in the deed.”
“Well, well: lie took no improper liberty, I assure you. Far from it; but the mention of your name, you are aware, is quite sufficient in any case. But, as to sleeping on his post,— perhaps you will be kind enough to give him a hint. So serious a matter.—such an important charge——”
Mr. Berkeley protested he was only joking when he said that. Chapman would as soon think of setting the bank on fire as sleeping on watch.
“It is a mis-fortune to Longe,’” thought he, as he rode away from the man of consequence, “to be connected with these people. He is so far superior to them! A very intelligent, agreeable man, as it seems to me; but Fanny will never like him if he is patronized by the Cavendishes, be his merits what they may. He must be a man of discernment, distinguishing her as he does already: and if so, he can hardly be in such close alliance with these people as they pretend. It is only fair she should be convinced of that.”
And the castle-building father bestowed almost all his thoughts for the next half-hour on the new-rector, and scarcely any on the curate, who was an acquaintance of longer standing, and an object of much greater interest in the family.
This curate was at the moment engaged in turning over some new books on the counter of Enoch Pye, the Haleham bookseller. Mr. Craig was a privileged visiter in this shop, not only because Enoch could not exist without religious ministrations, given and received, but because Enoch was a publisher of no mean consideration in his way, and it was a very desirable thing to have his own small stock of learning' eked out by that of a. clergyman, when he stumbled on any mysterious matters in works which he was about to issue. He put great faith in the little corps of humble authors with whom he was connected; but it did now and then happen that the moral of a story appeared to him not drawn out explicitly enough; that retribution was not dealt with sufficient force; and he was sometimes at a loss how to test the accuracy of a quotation. On this occasion, he would scarcely allow Mr. Craig to look even at the frontispieces of the new books on the counter, so eager was he for the curate's opinion as to what would be tho effect of the establishment of the bank on the morals and condition of the people of Haleham.
“The effect may be decidedly good, if they choose to make it so,” observed Mr. Craig. “All fair means of improving the temporal condition are, or ought to be, means for improving the moral state of the people; and nothing gives such an impulse to the prosperity of a place like this as the settlement in it of a new trading capitalist.”
“Aye, sir; so we agreed when the brewery was set up, and when Bhgh's crockery-shop was opened: but a bank, Sir, is to my mind a different kind of affair. A banker deals not in necessary meats or drinks, or in the vessels which contain them, but in lucre,—altogether in lucre.”
“By which he helps manufacturers arid tradesmen to do their business more effectually and speedily than they otherwise could. A banker is a dealer in capital. he comes between the borrower and the lender. He borrows of one and lends to another——”
“But he takes out a part by the way,” interrupted Enoch, with a knowing look. “He does not give out entire that which he receives, but abstracts a part for his own profit.”
“Of course he must have a profit,” replied Mr. Craig, “or he would not trouble himself to do business. But that his customers find their profit in it, too, is clear from their making use of him. They pay him each a little for a prodigious saving of time and trouble to all.”
“Yes, yes,” replied Enoch; “a man cannot have been in such a business as mine for so many years without knowing that banks are a great help in times of need; and I am willing to see and acknowledge the advantage that may accrue to myself from this new bank, when I have payments to make to a distance, and also from a great ease which, in another respect, I expect it to bring to my mind.”
“I suppose you pay your distant authors by sending bank-notes by the post.”
“Yes; and sometimes in bills: especially when there is an odd sum. There is risk and trouble in this, and some of my fair correspondents do not know what to do with bills when they have got them. See. here is one actually sent back to me at the expiration of the three months, with a request that I will send the money in notes, as the young lady does not know any body in London whom she could ask to get it cashed for her.”
“Henceforth she will be paid through the bank here and the bank nearest to her, instead of putting the temptation in your way to throw the bill into the fire, and escape the payment.”
Enoch replied that he was thankful to say, it was no temptation to him; and Mr. Craig perceived that he was waiting to bo questioned about the other respect in which the bank was to bring him ease of mind.
“Far be it from me,” replied the bookseller, “to complain of any trouble which happens to me through the integrity for in it has pleased Providence to give me some small reputation; but I assure you, sir, the sums of money that are left under my care, by commercial travellers, Sir, and others who go a little circuit, and do not Wish to carry much cash about with them, arc a great anxiety to me. They say the rest of the rich man is broken through care for his wealth. 1 assure you, Sir, that, though not a rich man, my rest is often broken through such care;—-and all the more because the wealth is not my own.”
“An honourable kind of trouble, Mr. Pye; and one of which you will be honourably relieved by the bank, where, of course, you will send your commercial friends henceforth to deposit their money. There also they can make their inquiries as lo the characters of your trading neighbours, when they are ahout to open new accounts. You have often told me what a delicate matter you feel it to pronounce in such cases. The hank will discharge this office for you henceforth.”
Enoch replied shortly, that the new banker and his people could not know so much of the characters ot the townsfolks as he who had lived among them for more than half a century; and Mr. Craig perceived that he did not wish to turn over to any body an office of whose difficulties he was often heard to complain.
“Do not you rind great inconvenience in the deficiency of chancre?” asked the curate. “It seems to me that the time of servants and shopkeepers is terribly wasted in running ahout for change.”
“It is, Sir. Sometimes when I want to use small notes, I have none but large ones; and when I want a 207. note to send by post, I may wait three or four days before I can get such a thing. I can have what I want in two minutes now, by sending to the hank. After the fair, or the market day, too, I shall not be overburdened with silver as I have often been. They will give me gold or notes for it at the bank, to any amount.”
“If there were no banks,” observed Mr. Craig, “what a prodigious waste of time there would be in counting out large sums of money! A draft is written in the tenth part of the time that is required to hunt up the means of paying. 1 hundred pounds in guineas, shillings, and pence, or in such an uncertain supply of notes as we have in a little town like this. And, then, good and bad coin——”
“Aye, Sir. I reckon that in receiving my payments in the form of drafts upon a banker, I shall save several pounds a year that i have been obliged to throw away in bad coin or forced notes.”
“And surely the townspeople generally will find their advantage in this respect, as well as yourself. But a greater benefit still to them may be the opportunity of depositing their money, be it much or little, where they may receive interest for it. Cavendish's bank allows interest on small deposits, does it not.’”
“On the very smallest,” replied Mr. Pye. “People are full of talk about his condescension in that matter. He even troubles himself to ask his work-people,—aye, his very maid-servants,— whether they have not a Tittle money by them that they would like to have handsome interest for.”
“Indeed.” said Mr. Craig, looking rather surprised. “And do they trust——do they accept the offer?”
“Accept it! aye, very thankfully. Who would not? There is Chapman that is appointed watchman: he had a few pounds of his savings left; and he put them into the bank to bear interest till Rhoda Martin's earnings shall come to the same sum; so that they may have something to furnish with.”
“And where will she put her earnings?”
“Into the bank, of course. You know she has got the place of nursemaid at the Cavendishes; and she would not be so unhandsome, the says, a;i to put her money any where but into the same hands it came out of. So she began by depositing ten pounds left her as a legacy. It is quite the fashion now for our work-people to carry What they have, be it ever so little, to the bank; and Mr. Cavendish is very kind in his way of speaking to them.”
“Well: you see here is another great advantage in the establishment of a bank, if it be a sound one. In my country, Scotland, the banks are particularly sound, so as to make it quite safe for the people to lodge their small deposits there, and society has the advantage of a quantity of money being put into circulation which would otherwise lie dead, as they call it,— that is, useless. Many millions of the money deposited in the Scotch banks are made up of the savings of labourers; and it would be a loss to the public, as well as to the owners, if all this lay by as useless as so many pebbles. I wish, however, that there were some places of deposit for yet smaller sums than the Scotch bankers will receive* . They will take no sum under 10l.”
“If one man is kind-hearted enough to take the trouble of receiving such small sums,” observed Enoch, “I think others might too. I was very wrong to hint any doubts about Mr. Cavendish's trading in lucre, when it is so clear that he thinks only of doing good. I take shame to myself, Mr. Craig.”
“At the same time, Mr. Pye, one would not be urgent with the people to trust any one person with all their money. In Scotland, there are a great many partners in a bank, which makes it very secure.”
Enoch looked perplexed; and while he was still pondering what Mr. Craig might mean, his attention was engaged by a young woman who entered the shop, and appeared to have something to show him for which it was necessary to choose an advantageous light. Mr. Craig heard Enoch's first words to her, whispered across the counter,—“How's thy mother to-day, my dear.” and then he knew that the young woman must be Hester Parndon, and began again to look at the new books till Hester's business should be finished.
He was presently called to a consultation, as lie had been once or twice before, when Mr. Pye and the young artist he employed to design his frontispieces could not agree in any matter of taste that might be in question.
“I wish you would ask Mr. Craig,” observed Hester.
“So I would, my dear; but he does not know the story.”
“The story tells itself in the drawing, I hope,” replied Hester.
“Let me see,” said the curate. “0 yes! there is the horse galloping away, and the thrown young lady lying on the ground. The children who frightened the horse with their waving boughs are clambering over the stile, to get out of sight ab fast as possible. The lady's father is riding up at full speed, and her lover——”
“No, no; no lover,” cried Enoch, in a tone of satisfaction.
“Mr. Pye will not print any stories about lovers,” observed Hester, sorrowfully.
“It is against my principles, Sir. as in some sort a guardian of the youthful mind. This is the heroine's brother. Sir; and I have no fault to find with him. But the young lady,—she is very much hurt, you know. It seems to me, now, that she looks too much as if she was thinking about those children, instead of being resigned. Suppose she was to lie at full length, instead of being half raised, and to have her hands clasped, and her eyes cast upwards.”
“But that would be just like the three last I have done,” objected Hester. “The mother on her death-bed, and the sister when she heard of the sailor-boy's being drowned, and the blind beggar-woman,—you would have them all lying with their hands clasped and their eyes cast up, and all in black dresses, except the one in bed. Indeed they should not be all alike.”
So Mr. Craig thought. Moreover, if the young lady was amiable, it seemed to him to be quite in character that she should be looking after the frightened children, with concern for them in her countenance. Enoch waxed obstinate on being opposed. He must have the riding habit changed for a flowing black robe, and tlie whole attitude and expression of the figure altered tu the pattern which possessed his imagination,
“What does your mother say to this drawing, Hester?” inquired Mr. Craig, when he saw the matter becoming desperate.
“She thinks it the best I have done; and she desired me to study variety above all things; and it is because it is so unlike all the rest that she likes it best.”
Enoch took the drawing out of her hands at these words, to give the matter another consideration.
“Do persuade him,” whispered Hester to the curate. “You do not know how people begin to laugh at his frontispieces for being all alike; all the ladies with tiny waists, and all the gentlmen with their heads turned half round on their shoulders. Do not be afraid. He is so deal' he will riot know what we are saying.”
“Indeed! I was not aware of that.”
“No, because he is accustomed to your voice in church. He begins to say,—for he will not believe that he is deaf,—that you are the only person in Haleham that knows how to speak distinctly, except the fishwoman, and the crier, and my mother, who suits her way of speaking to his liking exactly. But, Sir, tlie people in London laughed sadly at the frontispiece to ‘Faults acknowledged and amended.’”
“What people in London?”
“O! the people,—several people,—I know a good deal about tlie people in London, and they understand about such things much better than we do.”
“Then I wish that, instead of laughing at you for drawing as you are bid, they would employ you to design after your own taste. You are fit for a much higher employment than this, and I wish you had friends in London to procure it for you.”
Hester blushed, and sparkled, and looked quite ready to communicate something, but refrained and turned away.
“I like this much better, the more I look at it, my dear,” said Enoch, relieving himself of his best spectacles, and carefully locking up the drawing in his desk: “stay; do not go without your money. I shall make you a present over and above what we agreed upon; for, as your mother says, it is certainly your best piece. Now, I don't mean to guess what you are going to do with this money. There come times when girls have use for money. But if you should just be going to give it to your mother to lay by, I could let you have a guinea for that note and shilling. Guineas are scarce now-a-days; but I have one, and I know your mother is fond of keeping them. Will you take it for her?”
Hester was not going to put her money into her mother's hands. Into the new bank perhaps?—No, she was not going to lay it by at all. And she blushed more than ever, and left the shop.
Enoch sighed deeply, and then smiled dubious! v, while he wondered what Mrs, Parndon would do when her daughter married away from her to London, as she was u-t about to do. It was a sad pinch when her son Philip settled in London, though he had a fine goldsmith's business; but Hester was so much cleverer, so much more like herself, that her removal would be a greater loss still.
“Why should she not go to London too?” Mr. Craig- inquired.
O no, Enoch protested; it was, he believed, he flattered himself, he had understood,—quite out of the question. He added, confidentially, that it might be a good tiling for the new bunk if she would lodge her money there, for she had a very pretty store of guineas laid by.
“Does she value them as gold,—I mean as being more valuable than bank-notes,—or as riches?” asked Mr. Craig. “If the one, she will rather keep them in her own hands. If the other, she will be glad of interest upon them.”
“She began by being afraid that the war would empty the country of money; and now that less and less gold is to be seen every day, she values her guineas more than ever, and would not part with them, I believe, for any price. As often as she and I get together to talk of our young days, she complains of the flimsy rags that such men as Cavendish choose to call money. ‘Put a note in the scale,’ says she, ‘and what does it weigh against a guinea? and if a spark flies upon it out of the candle, where is it?’—Many's the argument we have had upon this. I tell her that there is no real loss when a bank note is burned, as there it. if an idle sailor chucks a guinea into tin; sea.”
“If a magpie should chance to steal away a five-pound note of yours,” said the curate, “or if you should chance to let your pocket-book fall into the fire, you ill have Mrs. Parndon coming to comfort you with assurances that there is no real loss.”
“To me, there would be, Sir. I do not deny that. I mean that no actual wealth would be ue. destroyed, because the bank note I hold only promises to pay so much gold, which is safe in somebody's hands, whether there be a fire or not. When gold is melted in a fire, it may be worth more or less (supposing it recovered) than it was worth as coin, according to the value of gold at the time. If the enemy captures it at sea, it is so much dead loss to our country, and so much clear gam to the enemy's. If a cargo of precious metals goes to the bottom, it is so much dead loss to everybody. So I tell Mrs. Parndon.”
“As she is not likely to go to sea, I suppose she determines to keep her guineas, and guard against fire.”
Enoch whispered that some folks said that fire would improve the value of her guineas very much, if she put them into a melting-pot. (Guineas were now secretly selling for a pound note and four shillings; and there was no doubt that Philip, the goldsmith, would give his mother as much for hers: but she hoped they would grow dearer yet, and therefore still kept them by her.
The curate was amused at Enoch's tolerant way of speaking of Mrs. Parndon's love of lucre, while he was full of scrupulosity as to the moral lawfulness of Mr. Cavendish's occupation. The old man acknowledged, however, by degrees, that it could do the Haleham people no harm to have their time saved, their convenience and security of property promoted, their respectability guaranteed, their habits of economy encouraged, and their dead capital put in motion. All these important objects being secured by the institution of banking, when it is properly managed, prudent and honourable bankers are benefactors to society, no less, as Mr. Pye was brought to admit, than those who deal directly in what is eaten, drunk, and worn as apparel. The conversation ended, therefore, with mutual congratulation on the new bank, always supposing it to be well-managed, and Mr. Cavendish to be prudent and honourable.
[*]Savings-banks were not instituted when this was said: viz., in 1814.