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Chapter II.: THE PRIDE OF HALEHAM. - 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 PRIDE OF HALEHAM.
Before the summer was much further advanced, a new interest arose to draw off some of the attention of the people of Haleham from the great Mr. Cavendish and the gay Mrs. Cavendish, and the whole tribe of charming Master, and Misses Cavendish. A favourite of longer standing was in everybody's thoughts for a least three weeks. Hester's marriage was evidently at hand; and besides a wedding being a rare thing in Haleham, at least anything above a pauper wedding,—the Parndons were an old-established and respected family, and Hester in particular was looked upon as an ornament to the little town. Her father had been engaged in some public service in which his talents as a draughtsman had distinguished him, and which secured a small ‘pension’ for his widow. As he found no capabilities in his son Philip which could serve as qualifications for assisting or succeeding him in his office, he bestowed his chief attention on his little girl, who early displayed a talent for drawing which delighted him. Ho died, however, before she had had time to make the most of his instructions; and she stopped short at the humble employment of designing frontispieces for Mr. Pye's new books. Her mother liked the arrangement, both because it enabled her to keep her daughter with her without preventing Hester from earning money, and because it afforded much occasion of intercourse with Mr. Pye, whom she liked to continue to see every day, if possible. Hester's townsmen were very proud of her achievements, as well as of her sprightliness and pretty looks.
Every one felt as if he had heard a piece of family news when it was told that the young man who had come down with Philip, the summer before, and had been supposed to be a cousin, was going to carry off Philip's sister. All were ready to believe it a very fine thing for Hester; —so well-dressed and handsome as Edgar Morrison was,—such a good place as he had in the Mint,—and such an intimate friend of her brother's as be had long been. Hester was told twenty times a day that her friends were grieved to think of losing her, but that they would not be so selfish as not to rejoice in her engagement. No engagement ever went on more smoothly. Everybody approved; Edgar adored; Hester loved, confidently and entirely. There were no untoward delays. Just at the time fixed long before, Edgar came down to Haleham, and people said to one another after church, that as it was not probable he could be long spared from the Mint, the wedding would most likely be in the course of the week. On Tuesday, it got abroad that Philip was come; and as he had, no doubt, in virtue of his occupation, brought the ring, it was no sign that Thursday was not to be the day that John Rich had sold no plain gold rings for more than a month,
Thursday was indeed to be the day; and as it was found, on the Wednesday morning, that everybody knew this by some means or other, no further attempt was made to keep the secret. Hester's friends were permitted by her vain mother to understand that they might come and bid her farewell. Wednesday was the market-day at Haleham; and the present was a particularly busy market-day; that is, out of the twelve people who from time to time sold things in general on either side the main street, all were present, except a gardener whose pony was lame, and a tinman, mop and brush-seller, whose wife had died. This unusually full attendance was caused by a notice that the new notes of Cavendish's bank would be issued this market-day. Some came to behold the sight of the issuing of notes, with the same kind of mysterious wonder with which they had gone to hear the lion roar at the last fair. Others expected to suit their convenience in taking a new sort of money; and most felt a degree of ambition to hold at least one of the smooth, glazed, crack ling pieces of engraved paper that everybody was holding up to the light, and spelling over, and speculating upon. The talk was alternately of Edgar and Mr. Cavendish, of the mint and the bank, of Hester's wedding clothes and the new dress in which money appeared. A tidy butter and fowl woman folded up her cash, and padlocked her baskets sooner than she would have done on any other day, in order to look in at Mrs. Parndon's, and beg Hester to accept her best bunch of moss-roses, and not to forget that it was in her farm-yard that she was first alarmed by a turkey-cock. A maltster, on whose premises Hester had played hide and seek with a lad, his only son, who had since been killed in the wars, hurried from the market to John Rich's, to choose a pretty locket, to be bestowed, with his blessing, on the bride; and others, who had less claim to an interview on this last day, ventured to seek a parting word, and were pleased to perceive every appearance of their being expected.
Mrs. Parndon, in her best black silk and afternoon cap, sat by her bright-rubbed table, ready to dispense the currant wine and seed-cake. Philip lolled out of the window to see who was coming. Edgar vibrated between the parlour and the staircase; for his beloved was supposed to be busy packing, and had to be called down and led in by her lover on the arrival of every new guest. It was so impossible to sit below, as if she expected everybody to come to do her homage! and Edgar looked so particularly graceful when he drew her arm under his own, and encouraged her to take cheerfully what her friends had to say!
“Here is somebody asking for you,” said Edgar, mounting the stairs with less alacrity than usual. “She hopes to see you, but would be sorry to disturb you, if others did not; but she will not come in. She is standing in the court.”
Hester looked over the muslin blind of the window, and immediately knew the farmer's wife who had let her try to milk a cow, when she could scarcely make her way alone through the farm-yard. Edgar was a little disappointed when he saw how she outstripped him in running down stairs, and seemed as eager to get her friend properly introduced into the parlour as if she had been Miss Berkeley herself.
“You must come in, Mrs. Smith; there is nobody here that you will mind seeing, and you look as if you wanted to sit down and rest.”
“It is only the flutter of seeing you, Miss Hester. No; I cannot come in, I only brought these few roses for you, and wished to see you once more, Miss Hester.”
“Why do you begin calling me ‘Miss?’ I was never anything but Hester before.”
“Well, to be sure,” said Mrs. Smith, smiling, “it is rather strange to be beginning to call you ‘Miss,’ when this is the last day that anybody can call you so.”
“I did not remember that when I found fault with you,” said Hester, blushing. “But come in; your basket will be safe enough just within the door.”
While Mrs. Smith was taking her wine, and Hester putting the moss-roses. in water, the maltster came in, with his little packet of silver paper in his hand.
“Why, Mr. Williams! so you are in town! How kind of you to come and see us! I am sure Hester did not think to have bid you good bye, though she was speaking of you only the other day.”
“None but friends, I see,” said the laconic Mr. Williams, looking round: “so I will make bold without ceremony.”
And he threw over Hester's neck the delicate white ribbon to which the locket was fastened, and whispered that he would send her some hair to put into it: she knew whose; and he had never, he could tell her, given a single hair of it away to anybody before. Hester looked up at him with tearful eyes, without speaking.
“Now you must give me something in return,” said he. “If you have the least bit of a drawing that you do not care for——You know
I have the second you ever did; your mother keeping the first, as is proper. I have the squirrel, you remember, with the nut in its paw. The tail, to be sure, is more like a feather than a tail; but it w as a wonderful drawing for a child”
“Shall I do a drawing for you when I am settled?” said Hester, “or will you have one of the poor things out of my portfolio? I have parted with all the good ones, I am afraid.”
“You will have other things to think of when you get to London than doing drawings for me, my dear. No; any little scratch you like to part with,—only so that it has been done lately.”
While Hester was gone for her portfolio, Philip took up the silver paper which was lying on the table, and began to compare it with the paper of one of the new notes, holding both up to the light.
“Some people would say,” observed Edgar to him, “that you are trying to find out whether it would be easy to forge such a note as that.”
“People would say what is very foolish then,” replied Philip. “If I put my neck in danger with making money, it should be with coining, not forging. We shall soon have notes as plentiful as blackberries, if new banks are set up every day. Golden guineas are the rare things now; and the cleverest cheats are those that melt every guinea they can lay their hands on, and send out a bad one instead of it.”
“But it is so much easier to forge than to coin,” remarked Edgar: “except that, to be sure, people seem to have no use of their eyes where money is concerned. You never saw such ridiculous guineas as our people bring to the Mint sometimes, to show how easily the public can be taken in.”
“Everybody is not so knowing as you and I are made by our occupations,” observed Philip. “But a man who wishes to deal in false money may choose, I have heard, between coining and forging; for both are done by gangs, and seldom or never by one person alone. He may either be regularly taught the business, or make his share of the profits by doing what I think the dirtiest part of the work,—passing the bad money.”
“Don't talk any more ahout it, Philip,” said his mother. “It is all dirty work, and wicked work, and such as we people in the country do not like to hear of. Prices are higher than ever to-day, I understand, Mrs. Smith.”
“If they are, ma'am,” replied the simple Mrs. Smith, “there is more money than ever to pay them. I never saw so much money passing round as to-day, owing to the new notes, ma'am.”
“I am sure it is very well,” observed the widow, sighing. “It makes mothers anxious to have their children marrying in times like these, when prices arc so high. Edgar can tell you how long it was before I could bring myself to think it prudent for these young folks to settle. I would have had them wait, till the war was over, and living was cheaper.”
“We should make sure first, ma'am,” said Edgar, “that the high prices are caused mainly by the war. The wisest people think that they are owing to the number of new banks, and the quantity of paper money that is abroad.”
“How should that be?” inquired the widow. “The dearer everything is, you know, the more money is wanted. So let the bankers put out as many notes as they can make it convenient to give us, say I.”
“But ma'am,” pursued Edgar, “the more notes are put out, the faster the guineas go away. I assure you, Sir,” he continued, addressing himself to Mr. Williams, “we go on working at the Mint, sending out coin as last as ever we can prepare it, and nobody seems the better for it. Nobody can tell where it goes, or what becomes of it.”
“Perhaps our friend Philip could tell something, if he chose,” observed Mr. Williams; “such dealings as he has in gold. And perhaps, if you servants of the Mint could see into people's doings, you might find that you coin the same gold many times over.”
“One of our officers said so the other day. He believes that our handsome new coin goes straight to the melting-pot, and is then carried in bars or bullion to the Bank of England, and then comes under our presses again, and so on. But much of it must go abroad too, we think.”
“And some, I have no doubt, is hoarded; as is usually the case during war,” observed Mr. Williams; whereupon the widow turned her head quickly to hear what was passing. “But what waste it is to be spending money continually in coining, when every week uncoins what was coined the week before!”
“Waste indeed!” observed the widow. “But if it has anything to do with high prices, I suppose you do not object to it, Mr. Williams, any more than Mrs. Smith; for the high prices must he a great gain to you both.”
“You must remember, Mrs. Parndon, we have to buy as well as sell; and so far we feel the high prices like other people. Mrs. Smith gets more than she did for her butter and her fowls; and even her roses sell a half-penny a bunch dearer than they did but she has to buy coals for her house, and shirting for her husband; and for these she pays a raised price.”
“Those are the worst off,” replied Mrs. Parndon, sighing, “who have everything to buy and nothing to sell. I assure you, sir, my pension does not go so far by one-fourth part as it did when I first had it. And this was the thing that made me so anxious about these young people. Edgar has a salary, you know; and that is the same thing as a pension or annuity, when prices rise.”
“True. Those are best off just now who sell their labour at an unfixed price, which rises with the price of other things. But for your comfort, ma'am, prices will be sure to fall some day; and then you will like your own pension and your son-in-law's salary as well as ever.”
“And then,” said Edgar, “you and Mrs. Smith will be reducing the wages of your servants and labourers, and will buy your blankets and fuel cheaper, and yet find yourselves growing poorer because your profits are lessened. Then,” he continued, as Hester came into the room, “you will leave off giving lockets to your young friends when they marry.”
“I shall never have such another young friend to give one to,—never one that I shall care for so much,” replied Mr. Williams, who found himself obliged to rub his spectacles frequently before he could see to choose between the three or four drawings that Hester spread before him.
When the pathos of the scene became deeper; when Mr. Williams could no longer pretend to be still selecting a drawing; when Hester gave over all attempts to conceal her tears, when her lover lavished his endeavours to soothe and support her, and Mrs. Smith looked about anxiously for some way of escape, without undergoing the agony of a farewell, Philip, who seemed to have neither eyes, ears, nor understanding for sentiment, turned round abruptly upon the tender-hearted market-woman, with—
“Do you happen to have one of the new notes about you, Mrs. Smith? I want to see if this mark,—here in the corner, you see,—is an accident, or whether it may be a private mark.”
“Mercy! Mr. Philip. I begin pardon, sir, for being startled. Yes, I have one somewhere.” And with trembling hands she felt for lier pocket-book. “Let's just go out quietly. Mr. Philip. She won't see me go, and I would not pain her any more, just for the sake of another look and word. I shall find the note presently when We are in the court, Sir.”
Philip looked on stupidly when he saw his sisters tears, and undecidedly, when Mrs. Smith was stealing out of the room. At last, he bethought himself of saying,
“I say, Hester—would you like to bid Mrs. Smith good bye or not / You need not unless you like, she says.”
Hester turned from the one old friend to the other; and now the matter-of-fact Philip was glad to shorten the scene, and let Mrs. Smith go away without putting her in mind of the note. As he had a great wish to see as many notes and as few scenes as possible, he left home, and sauntered into the market, where he found people who had not yet set their faces homewards, and who were willing to chat with him, while packing up their unsold goods.
Mrs. Parndon's chief concern this day, except her daughter, had been Mr. Pye. She wondered from hour to hour, first, whether he would come, and afterwards, why lie did not come. She concluded that he would use the privilege of an old friend, and drop in late in the evening, to give his blessing. She had been several times on the point of proposing that he should be invited to attend the wedding; but scruples which she did not acknowledge to herself, kept her from speaking. She liked the appearance of intimacy which must arise out of his being the only guest on such an occasion; but behind this there was a feeling that the sight of a daughter of hers at the altar might convey an idea that she was herself too old to stand there with any propriety an idea which she was very desirous should not enter Enoch's mind, as she was far from entertaining it herself. As it was pretty certain, however, that Mr. Pye would be present, she settled that it would be well for her to be at his elbow to modify his associations, as far as might be practicable; and she suggested, when the evening drew on, that, as poor Mr. Pye (who was certainly growing deaf, however unwilling he might be to own it) could hear the service but poorly from a distance, and as his interest in Hester was really like that of a father, he should be invited to breakfast with the family, and accompany them to church. Everybody being willing, the request was carried by Philip, and graciously accepted.
By noon the next day, when “the post-chaise had driven off with the new-married pair from the widow Parndon's door, there was no such important personage in Haleham as Mr. Pye. He was the only one from whom the lonely mother would receive consolation; and when he was obliged to commend her to her son's care, and go home to attend his counter, he was accosted on the way by everybody he met. It was plain, at a glance, by his glossy brown coat, best white stockings, and Sunday wig, pushed aside from his best ear in his readiness to be questioned, that he had been a wedding guest; and many times, within a few hours, did he tell the story of what a devoted lover Edgar was, and what a happy prospect lay before Hester, both as to worldly matters and the province of the heart; and how she was nearly sinking at the altar. and how he could not help her because her mother needed the support of his arm: and what a beautiful tray of flowers, with presents hidden beneath them, had been sent m by the Miss Berkeleys, just when the party were growing nervous as church-time approached; and how Mr. Cavendish had taken his hat quite off, bowing to the bride on her way home; and how finely Mr. Craig had tone through the service; and how.——but Enoch's voice failed him as often as he came to the description of the chaise driving up, and Philip's superintendence of the fastening on the Luggage he could set no further; and his listeners departed, one after another, with sympathizing sigillegible. when was there ever a wedding-day without sighs.’