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Chapter VII.: CERTAINTY. - 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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Mrs. Millar was only too happy in being permitted to atone, by her most devoted attentions, for the evil she had caused by an expression, inadvertently dropped and completely misunderstood. Her lodgings happened to be empty; but, if they had not been so, she would have given up her own sitting-room, and all the accommodation her house could afford, to secure to Mr. Berkeley the repose he would so much want, after the fatigues he was undergoing. She left the shop to the care of her servants while she herself assisted Mrs. Berkeley in the needful preparations for Mr. Berkeley's comfort, on his return from his journey; a return which was made known by strangers before the anxious wife heard of it from himself.
The streets of D—were full of bustle from an hour before the bank opened in the morning News was brought by customers into Mrs. Millar's shop of expresses which had been seen going and returning, it was supposed, from the other banks which must necessarily be expecting a run. Everybody had something to tell;— what a prodigious quantity of gold and silver there was in large wooden bowls on the bank-counter; how such and such a carrier had left the market early to elbow his way into the bank, and demand cash, being afraid to carry home notes to his employer; how there was no use in going to market without change, as a note might travel the whole round of butchers' stalls without finding a hand to take it; how some of the folks would receive Bank of England notes, and others would be content with nothing short of gold. There were many laughs about the ignorance of certain of the country people respecting the causes and nature of the panic: of the young woman who carried Bank of England notes to be changed for those of the D—bank; of the old woman who was in a hurry to get rid of her guineas for notes, because she was told the guinea-bank was in danger; and of the market-gardener who gladly presented a note of a bank which had failed a year before, expecting to get cash for it. Later in the day, remarks were heard on the civility and cheerfulness of the young gentleman, the son of one of the partners, just arrived from London, it was said, and who seemed to understand the thing very well, and to be quite easy about everybody having his own. With these were coupled criticisms on the young gentleman's father, who was fidgetting about, trying to joke with the country people, but as cross as could be between times: to which somebody answered that he might well be cross when an old friend and business connexion, from whom he might have expected some consideration and gratitude, had sent his porter with two 105. and one ll. note to be cashed. No wonder Mr. Berkeley said, loud enough for everybody to hear, that Mr. Briggs ought to be ashamed of himself: for it was true that he ought.—A new comer explained that Mr. Briggs had nothing to do with it; and that he had, on learning what a liberty his porter had taken with his name, sent a note to Mr. Berkeley, explaining that he had issued strict orders to all his people, early that morning, not to go near the bank the whole day; and that the porter was dismissed his service, and might obtain employment, “if he could, from the persons who had no doubt sent him to get change for their notes, because they did not choose to appear in the matter themselves.
From the moment that Mrs. Berkeley heard of the arrival of her husband and son, she endeavoured to persuade herself that all would be well, and that the great danger was over, since the bank did not stop before supplies could be obtained from town. She sat by the window, and counted the hours till six o'clock, the time when the bank usually closed. Half-past six came, and the street appeared fuller of bustle than even in the morning; a circumstance which she could not understand, till Mrs. Millar came up to tell her that the bank was kept open an hour later than usual. This looked well, and did more to compose the anxious wife than all the slips of paper she had had from her husband during the afternoon, each of which assured her that there was no cause for uneasiness. As her spirits were thus somewhat raised, it was a grievous disappointment to see her husband come in with a miserable countenance, and even Horace looking more grave than she had ever seen him.
“And now, Horace, no more pretence,” said Mr. Berkeley when he had sunk down on a sofa, apparently transformed by the events of the last twenty-four hours into a feeble old man. “We have been hypocritical enough all day; now let us look as wretched as we are.”
“Some tea, mother,” said Horace. “My father's hard day's work is done; but I must go back to the bank, and possibly to London. They keep us terribly short of gold. We must get more out of them before noon to-morrow, or I do not know what may have become of us by this time in the evening.”
Mrs. Berkeley began to protest against the cruelty of stinting the supplies of gold at such a time.
“They cannot help it, mother,” replied Horace. “They are hourly expecting a run themselves—”
“A run on the London banks! Where will all this end?” Horace shook his head. He then observed, that it they could get through the next day, he should be tolerably easy, as it was not probable that the mistrust of the people would outlast a well-sustained run of two days and a half. If they had none but small amounts to pay, he should have little fear;—if it was certain that no more rich customers would come driving up in carriages to take away their seven thousand pounds in a lump.
Why, who could have done that? Mrs. Berkeley inquired.
“Who!” said her husband. “Who should it be but the sister of that fellow Longe! There he was with her in the carriage, grinning and kissing his hand when he caught a glimpse of me within. It was his doing, I'll answer for it. He would not let pass such an opportunity of annoying us.”
“The sister is evidently an ignorant person, who does not perceive the mischief she is doing,” observed Horace. “I should not wonder if it strikes her, and she brings her seven heavy bags back again to-morrow.”
“Then she may carry them away a second time,” said Mr. Berkeley. “I am longing to write to tell her, when this bustle is over, that we have closed accounts with her for ever.”
Horace wished they might be justified in spurning the seven thousands the next day. Nobody would enjoy the rejection more than himself', if they could safely make it; but seven thousand pounds would go a good way in paying small demands.”
“I suppose your bank is solvent?” timidly asked Mrs. Berkeley. “You are quite sure of this, I hope.”
Before there was time for an answer, the door was jerked open; and Mr. Cavendish appeared, nursing his white hat, and apologising for the rudeness of finding-his own way up stairs, against the will of Mrs. Millar, who was not aware what an intimate friend he was, and how impossible it was to him to keep away from the Berkeleys at such a time.
Horace made “a rapid sign to his father to command himself, and then coolly took a cup of tea from his mother, sugaring it with great exactness, and leaving it to Mr. Cavendish to begin the conversation. Mr. Berkeley saw the necessity of behaving well, and kept quiet also.
“I hope you enjoy your sofa, Sir,” observed Cavendish. “It must be very acceptable, after having been on your legs all day.”
At another time, Mr. Berkeley might have criticised the grammar; but he now vented his critical spleen on the accommodations at the bank.
“By the way, Horace,” said he, “there's a confounded draught from under Those doors. One does not mind it in common; and I have really forgotten it since last winter, till to-day. But the eternal opening and shutting of the outer door caused a perpetual stream ot air, going and returning. It is that which has made my ancles ache so to-night.”
“And the fatigue, no doubt,” added Cavendish. “You must have had a very busy,—an extremely harassing day, Sir.”
“Very indeed, and.”—yawning,—“as we are likely to have just such another to-morrow, I must go to bed presently. It is a great comfort, (for which I am obliged to my wife,) that I have not to ride as far as you have to-night, or to be up particularly early in the morning. We shall open an hour earlier than usual, but this leaves time enough for sleep, even to lazy folks like me.”
“An hour earlier? Indeed! Well, Sir, I hope you will sleep sound, I am sure.”
“It will be odd if I do not,” said Mr. Berkeley, yawning again. Mr. Cavendish proceeded,—
“I trust, Sir, you support yourself pretty well. There is something so harassing; in a bustle of this nature; so provoking;—so, if I may say so, exasperating! I hope this bar, no effect upon you;—you keep yourself calm,—you—”
“I, sir! Lord bless you, I am as cool as a cucumber.” Seeing an exchange of glances between Horace and Mrs. Berkeley, he went on, “There was I behind the counter, you know. That was my place.”
“True: so I understood.”
“Behind the counter, where I could talk with the country people as they came in; and, upon my soul, I never heard any thing; so amusing. To hear what they expected, and how they had been bamboozled! To see what a hurry they were in to squeeze their way up to the counter, and, after talking a minute or two, and handling their gold, how they thought the notes were more convenient to carry, after all; and they would have them back again, with many apologies for the trouble they had given us.”
“Ha! ha! very good. Apologies indeed! They ought to apologise, I think. And do you, really now, open accounts again with them!”
“With Such as knew no better, and will know better another time; but not with any who ought to keep ten miles off on such a day as this, and come clamouring for their five or seven thousand guineas.”
“Is it possible? You don't say so!”
“I do, though. And they may go and seek a beggarly banker who cares more for their trumpery bags than we do. We will not blister our fingers any more with their cursed gold. We will teach them—”
“No more tea, thank you, mother,” said Horace, rising and buttoning up his coat. “Mr. Cavendish, will you walk? I have just to go down the street, and it is time we were leaving my father to rest himself, which, as you observe, he needs.”
“With pleasure, Mr. Horace; but I have first a little matter to speak about,—a little suggestion to make,—and I am glad, I am sure, that you are here to give us the benefit of your opinion. It occurs to me, you see, that one friend should help another, at a time of need. There is no knowing, you perceive, what may happen in these extraordinary times to any of us,—bankers especially. Even I myself may be in a condition to be glad of the credit of my friends.”
“Very probably,” observed Mr. Berkeley.
“Well, then, my dear sir, allow me to make use of my credit on your behalf. It will give me the greatest pleasure to bring you through.”
Though Mr. Berkeley looked as if he would have devoured him on the spot, Cavendish went on pressing his offers of service, of patronage, of support, and ended with a pretty broad hint that he would take charge of Mr. Berkeley's estate on condition of raising the funds needful at present. In the midst of his rage, Mr. Berkeley was for a moment disposed to take him at his word, for the amusement of seeing how Cavendish would contrive to back out of a bargain which all parties were equally aware he could not fulfil; but having just discretion enough to see the mischief which such a joke must bring after it, he adopted a different air; bowed his haughtiest bow, was very sensible of Mr. Cavendish's motives, would ask for the patronage of the Haleham bank when he needed it, and was, meanwhile, Mr. Cavendish's very humble servant.
When Horace and the tormentor were gone, and Mr. Berkeley had vented his spleen against the impudent upstart, the coxcomb, the swindler, and whatever pretty terms besides he could apply to Cavendish, Mrs. Berkeley obtained some account of the events of the day, and was glad to find that there were instances of generosity and delicacy to set against the examples of Mr. Longe's sister and of Cavendish. A merchant had appeared at the counter to pay in a large sum; and a servant-maid, who had nursed Miss Melea, came to the bank in search of her husband, and carried him off without the change he went to seek. These, and a few other heroes and heroines, furnished Mr. Berkeley with subjects for as vehement praise as others of blame; and he retired to his chamber at war with not much more than half his race.
The most urgent messages and incessant personal applications failed to procure such a supply of gold from the corresponding bank in London as would satisfy the partners of the D—bank of their ability to meet the run, if it should continue for some days. It did so continue; relaxing a little on the third day, becoming terrific on the fourth, and obliging the partners to hold a midnight consultation, whether they should venture to open their doors on the fifth. The bank did not this day remain open an hour after the usual time: it was cleared almost before the clock struck six and though some of the people out-side were considerate enough to remember that the clerks and partners must all be weary, after so many days of unusual toil, and that this was reason enough for the early closing of the shutters, there were others to shake their heads, and fear that the coffers were at length emptied of their gold.
For the first two hours in the morning, the partners congratulated themselves on their resolution to take the chance of another day. The tide was turned: people were ashamed of their panic, and gold flowed in. A note to say this was sent to Mrs. Berkeley, who immediately began her preparations for returning home before night. The messenger, who went to and fro between D—and Haleham, was charged with good news for Melea; and all seemed happy again, when the fearful tidings arrived that the corresponding banking-house in London was exposed to a tremendous run, and required all the assistance it could obtain, instead of being in any condition to send further funds to its country correspondent.
All attempts to keep this intelligence secret were vain. Within an hour, everybody in D—— had beard it, and it was impossible to obviate the effects of the renewed panic. The partners did not defer the evil moment till their coffers were completely emptied. As soon as the tide had once more turned, and gold began to flow out a second time, they closed their bank, and issued a notice of their having stopped payment.
Horace was the main support of his family at this crisis. When he had communicated the intelligence to his mother, silenced the lamentations of the miserable Mrs. Millar, and brought his father home to his lodging after dusk, he went over to Haleham for an hour or two, to give such poor satisfaction to his sisters as might be derived from full and correct intelligence, Fanny had not yet returned; and as she was not there, with her matured and calm mind, and greater experience of life, to support her young sister under this blow, Horace could scarcely bring himself to communicate to his little Melea tidings BO completely the reverse of those which she evidently expected. Though many years younger, Melea was not, however, a whit behind her sister in strength of mind. She also understood more of the nature of the case than her brother had supposed possible; so that she was capable of as much consolation as could arise from a full explanation of the state and prospects of the concern, and of the family fortunes as connected with it.
Melea would have inquired into all these circumstances if only for the sake of tlie relief which it appeared to afford to Horace to fix his attention upon them; but she was also anxious to qualify herself to satisfy Fanny in every particular, on her return the next day: for her brother brought a message from Mrs. Berkeley, requesting that Melea would not think of joining her parents at D——, but would stay to receive Fanny, and to prepare for the return of the rest of the family, whenever Mr. Berkeley might feel himself justified in seeking the retirement of his own house.
“Is there anything else that I can do?” asked Melea. “Any letters to write,—any inventories to make out?” she continued, casting a glance round her at the bookshelves, the piano, and the Titian which had long been her father's pride. “Anything which can best be done before my mother comes home?”
“If you think, dear, that you can write letters without too much effort, it would be very well that three or four should be dispatched before my mother returns. There is no occasion for anything more, at present. Be careful, Melea, about making too much effort. That is the only thing I fear for you. Remember that you must reserve your strength for our poor father's support. He will need all you can afford him; and we must expect even my mother to give way when he no longer depends wholly on her. Do not exhaust yourself at once, dearest.”
Melea could not realize the idea of her being exhausted, though she made no protestations about it. She supposed that there might be something much worse in such a trial than she could at present foresee, and she therefore refrained from any talk of courage, even to herself; but, at present, she did not feel that she had anything to bear, so insignificant did her relation to the event appear in comparison with that which was borne by her parents and brother. She was full of dread on her father's account, of respectful sorrow for her mother, and of heart-wringing grief for her manly, honourable brother, to whom reputation was precious above all things, and who was just setting out in life with confident hopes of whatever might be achieved by exertion and integrity. For Horace she felt most; for Fanny and herself least: for Fanny, because she was another self in her views of life, in capacity for exertion, and in preparation for that reverse of fortune with which they had occasionally been threatened from the days of their childhood.
“Can I do nothing for you, Horace?” asked Melea. “While we are all looking to you, we should like to think we could help you. Is there nothing to be done?”
“Nothing, thank you. Whatever responsibility rests upon me cannot be shared. Only make me the hearer of some message to my mother, and of any little thing you can think of to show her that you are calm and thoughtful. Such a proof will be better than anything I can say.”
“I am going to write while you eat these grapes,” said Melea, who had observed that her brother was teazed with thirst. While Horace ate his grapes, and made memoranda, Melea wrote to her mother.
“Dearest Mother,—The news which Horace has brought grieves me very much. My great trouble is that I am afraid Fanny and I know too little at present what will be the extent of such a trial to feel for my father and you as we ought. We are aware, however, that it must be very great and long-continued to one who, like my father, has toiled through a life-time to obtain the very reverse of the lot which is now appointed to him, There is no dishonour, however, and that, I think, is the only calamity which we should find it very difficult to bear. Your children will feel it no misfortune to be impelled to the new and more reponsible kind of exertion of which their father has kindly given them frequent warning, and for which you have so directed their education as to prepare them. Fanny and I are too well convinced that the greatest happiness is to be found in strenuous exertion on a lofty principle, to repine at any event which makes such exertion necessary, or to dread the discipline which must, I suppose, accompany it. I speak for Fanny in her absence as for myself, because I have learned from her to feel as I do, and am sure that I may answer for her; and I have written so much about ourselves, because I believe my father in what he has so often said,—that it is for our sakes that he is anxious about his worldly concerns. I assure you we shall be anxious only for him and you and Horace. Horace, however, can never be long depressed by circumstances; nor do I think that any of us can. I mean to say this in the spirit of faith, not of presumption. If it is presumption, it will certainly be humbled: if it is faith, it will, I trust, be justified. In either case, welcome the test!
“I expect Fanny home by the middle of the day to-morrow; and I hope we shall see you in the evening, or the next day at farthest. My father may rely on perfect freedom from disturbance. I shall provide that nobody shall come farther than the white gate, unless he wishes it. I send you some grapes, and my father's cloth shoes, which I think he must want if he has to sit still much at his writing. I shall send you more fruit to-morrow; and the messenger will wait for any directions you may have to give, and for the line which I am sure you will write, if you should not be coming home in the evening.
“Lewis, who has been a very good and pleasant companion, sends his love, and his sorrow that anything has arisen to make you unhappy.
“Farewell, my dear father and mother. May God support you, and bring blessings out of the misfortune with which He has seen fit to visit you! With His permission, your children shall make you happy yet.—Your dutiful and affectionate daughter.
“P.S.—No one has been so anxious about you as. Henry Craig. If he thought it would be any comfort to you to see him, he would go over to D—on the instant. He said so when we were only in fear. I am sure he will now be more earnest still. As soon as Horace is gone, I shall write, as he desires, to Reading, and Manchester, and Richmond. If there are any more, let me know to-morrow. I hope you will not exert yourself to write to anybody at present, except Fanny or me.”
When Fanny turned her face homewards the next morning, ignorant (as it grieved her sister to think) of all that had happened during the week, she was charged by the friends she was leaving with two or three commissions, which she was to execute on her way home through Haleham, in order that the servant who attended her might carry back her purchases. She accordingly alighted from her horse at the entrance of the town, in order to walk to some shops. The first person she met was Mr. Longe, walking arm-in-arm with a young man, whom she did not know. She saw a significant sign and whisper pass between them, such as she had observed on sundry occasions of meeting the rector since her rejection of him; but she was not the less taken by surprise with the rudeness which followed. Of the two gentlemen, one—the stranger —took up his glass to stare, the other gave no sign of recognition but a laugh in her face; and both resolutely turned her off the narrow pavement,—looking back, as the servant declared, as if to find out what she thought of the manoeuvre. She thought nothing but that it was very contemptible, till she saw Henry Craig coming towards her in great haste, and beckoning as she was about to enter the shop.
“Let me help you upon your horse. Miss Berkeley,” said he, much out of breath from haste or some other cause.
“Thank you; but I must go to a shop first, Have you seen mv family this morning ? And how are they all?”
Henry answered that they were all well; that he was going there with her now: and that he wished she would dismiss the groom, with the horses, and walk with him by the field way, Fanny ‘was about to object, but she saw that Henry was earnest, and knew that he was never so without cause. She let him give such orders to the servant as he thought fit, draw her arm within his own, and turn towards the field-path. When she looked up in his face, as if wishing him to speak, she saw that he was pale and agitated. She stopped, asking him so firmly what was the matter, that he gave over all idea of breaking the intelligence gradually.
“It is said,” he replied,— “but I do not know that it is true,—it is said that there is some derangement in your father's affairs,—that the D—bank has stopped payment.”
“You do not know that it is true?”
“Not to this extent. I know that there'has been some doubt,—that there have been difficulties during the last week; but of the event I have no certain knowledge. Alarm yourself as little as you can.”
“I have no doubt it is true,” replied Fanny. “Such an event is no new idea to us. I have no doubt it is true.” And they walked on in silence.
“One thing, Henry, I must say before I know more,” continued Fanny, after a long pause. “Let what will have happened, I am certain that the honour of my father and brother will come out clear. If it were not for this confidence in them—”
“And I,” said Mr. Craig, “am equally certain that there will be but one opinion among all who have ever known you;—that no family could have less deserved such a reverse, or could be more fitted to bear it well. No family——”
He could not go on. When he nest spoke, it was to tell her that her parents were absent, and to give her a brief account of the events of the week, as far as he knew them; that is, up to the previous afternoon.
“You have not seen Melea or Lewis to-day, then? Not since they heard the news?”
“No. I left Melea cheered,—indeed relieved from all anxiety, yesterday afternoon, and did not hear till this morning the report of a reverse. I have not ventured to go, knowing that she would probably be fully occupied, and that you would be with her early to-day. I did walk up as far as the gate; but I thought I had better meet you, and prevent your going where you might hear it accidentally. I sent in a note to Melea, to tell her that I should do so.”
“Come in with me,” said Fanny, when they had reached the gate, “you know you will be wretched till you have heard what the truth is. You must come in and be satisfied, and then you can go away directly.”
Melea heard their steps on the gravel, and appeared at the parlour-door when they entered the hall. She looked with some uncertainty from the one to the other, when the sisterly embrace was over.
“Now, love, tell me how much is true,” said Fanny. “We know there is something. Tell us what is the matter!”
“Nothing that will take you by surprise. Nothing that will make you so unhappy as we used to imagine we must be in such a case. Indeed, we could not have imagined how much hope, how many alleviations there would be already. I have had such a letter from my mother this morning! Very few will suffer, she hopes, but those who are best able to lose; and even they only for a short time. They have great hopes that everything will be paid. And such generosity and consideration they have met with! And everybody seems to honour Horace. I had no idea he could have been so appreciated?
“And when may we be all together again?”
“My father cannot come home for two or three days yet; and my mother thinks it will be better to reserve our society for him till he settles down here. Indeed he is too busy to be much even with her.”
“I wonder what we ought to do next,” said Fanny.
“I will tell you,” replied Melea, “all I know about the affairs, and then you will be better able to judge. Nay, Henry, stay and listen. If all this was a secret, I should not have known it. You must not go till you have heard from us what anybody in Haleham could tell you before night.”
And she gave a brief and clear account of the general aspect of the affairs, as viewed by Horace. It was certainly very encouraging as to the prospect of every creditor being ultimately paid.
“If that can but be accomplished!” said Fanny. “Now, Melea, now the time is come that we have talked of so often. Now is the time for you and me to try to achieve a truer independence than that we have lost. I have a strong confidence, Melea, that energy, with such other qualifications as our parents have secured to us, will always find scope, and the kind of reward that we must now seek. We will try.”
Henry Craig started up, feeling that he was more likely to need comfort than to give it. He bestowed his blessing, and hurried away.
There was little for the sisters to do previous to Mr. and Mrs. Berkeley's return. Melea had already taken measures to prevent a situation as governess—in which she believed her services would be acceptable, and which offered many advantages—from being filled up: though without mentioning the name, or committing herself till she should have consulted her family. She had been at a loss, about what to say to the servants, one of whom seemed, through her long service, to be entitled to confidence, while the others could not, she thought, be trusted to behave well upon it. Fanny had no doubt that they knew all by this time; not only from the affair being generally talked of in the town, but through the messenger who had brought Mr. Berkeley's letter. It proved not to be so, however. The servant who had been to D— had had no heart to tell the tidings; and the astonishment of the domestics was as complete as their dismay, when they were at length made to understand the fact. Melea blamed herself for injustice to some of them when she found neither threats nor murmurs, nor even questionings about what was to become of them.
The next day was Sunday; anything but a day of rest to those of the Berkeleys who remained at D—. Of the Haleham people, some were touched, and others (especially the Cavendishes) were shocked to see Fanny and Melea at church, and filling their places in the Sunday-school as usual. While, in the eyes of some people, it was unfeeling, unnatural, altogether too like defiance, the young ladies did not perceive why their own anxieties should make them neglect an office-of benevolence, or exclude them from those privileges of worship which they needed more instead of less than usual.