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Chapter II.: THE WIFE'S HOLIDAY. - 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 WIFE'S HOLIDAY.
So complete a revulsion in the affairs of individuals had taken place throughout Haleham, that it would have been surprising if, while all other people were busy talking about the state of the currency, the Haleham folks had not been pre-eminently occupied with it. A grand crisis was thought to be at hand, and those who had profited and those who had suffered by past changes were equally eager, the one party to look forward, the other to look back, in order to gain some degree of insight into their state and prospects. All had dearly purchased the knowledge that bank-paper is not all alike, however carelessly one sort or another may pass from hand to hand. Everybody in Haleham now knew the difference between a paper currency that depends on confidence, and one that rests on authority. Both are in fact circulating credit; but the credit of Bank of England notes is avouched by government authority, and that of private banks rests only on private confidence. It was pretty clear that confidence had been in both cases betrayed. The Bank of England had not wisely regulated its issues, and had thereby impaired the sanction of government authority. Cavendish had acted knavishly, and thus injured commercial credit. Out of the evils of the system it arose that the honourable, and (at the time) solvent firm of the D—bank had stopped, and been thus compelled to aggravate the decline of public confidence. The consequences of these shocks tended to ruin the classes who had kept their ground during the former alterations in the currency, while they could not be said to repair former injuries. Some people were at first very ready to say, that the sudden reduction of the quantity of money was a fine thing, because all who had suffered from there being too much would now win back again what they had lost; but this was soon found not to he the case, so far as to make the new change anything but an evil. In many instances, the suffering parties had suffered beyond the reach of reparation. Besides those who had died, and those who had failed, and those who had mortgaged and sold their property, there were multitudes Whose contracts (originally advantageous and ultimately ruinous) had expired; and multitudes more whose loss of credit precluded them from sharing the advantages of a change in the amount of currency. Nobody had suffered more in proportion than the owners of house property, during the superabundance of money: but they did not profit by the reduction of its amount, for it was difficult to let houses at such a time of wavering credit; and house-rents fell with the prices of other things. All who had incurred debts through the previous rise of prices were injured anew by their fall; because, though their income might be increased, their debts were increased in the same proportion; and the injury outweighed the advantage by so much exactly as the debts exceeded the portion of income which was spared from consumption to pay them. A capricious good fortune attended those who had just made new contracts; but this was at the expense of the other party to the contracts. Annuitants and stipendiaries were richer than before, and thought it all very fair, in return for their season of adversity: but the productive classes felt it to be very unfair: and this very difference of opinion and feeling, by giving a new shock to mutual confidence, destroyed the partial advantages which might otherwise have arisen. Thus, while manufacturers, who had bought their raw material dear, and now had to sell it, in its manufactured state, cheap, pointed enviously to the owners of the houses they dwelt in, those owners would have been glad if things had remained as they were, rather than that they should have the prospect of lowering their rents, or having their buildings stand empty. While the shopkeeper, who had bought his stock dear, and was now selling under prime cost, was grumbling at his physician's fees, the physician would have been well pleased to buy as little as formerly with his guineas, on condition of having as many patients. They declared that the present was a fine harvest-time fur quack doctors; and that the undertakers were likely to profit by the numbers who killed themselves, or let themselves die, from not being able to afford a doctor. Few were contented; and the content of these was of a kind to impair and not strengthen the security of society; for it did not spring out of the recompense of toil and prudence. Their prosperity seemed to come by chance, and had therefore no good effect on themselves or others; while it weighed light in the balance against the evils which the same revulsion brought to ten times their number. One action on the currency, all wise men agreed, is a tremendous evil. A second, though of a strictly antagonist character, can be no reparation, but only a new infliction; and a third, if any one could harbour so preposterous an idea for a moment, can only augment the confusion, and risk the entire forfeiture of public faith,—the annihilation of commercial credit.
At the then present time, in 1818, it was no longer a question whether a change should or should not take place. The change was perfectly involuntary. It had already taken place to a large extent, as the natural and unavoidable consequence of the previous action on the currency. The over-issue of former years had caused a tremendous destruction of bank-paper, and had made all banking firms cautious about issuing more. Whether there should be a reduction of the quantity of money was, therefore, no more a matter of debate. There had been, in two years, such a reduction as had raised bank-paper to within 1/2 percent. of the value of gold. The only question was, whether advantage should be taken of this existing reduction to oblige the Bank of England to return to the old system of convertibility. Many who had prophesied for years that the Bank of England never would return to cash payments, persisted still that it was impossible. Others, who believed that to have plenty of money was to have plenty of everything, protested that the privilege of inconvertibility ought to remain. Others foretold a dreadful increase of the crime of forgery, and did not perceive that there would be a proportionate decrease in that of coining, and an end to the offences of melting and selling gold coin. Not a few prepared themselves to forget their chronology, and to declaim in future years on the effect of the return to cash payments in impoverishing half the traders in the country; as if this return had not been the consequence instead of the cause of a reduction in the quantity of the currency. Some who had been concerned in procuring the Restriction Act, and had borne their share in that measure with fear and trembling, were now not a little astonished to find that one party of debaters took what they had meant as merely an unavoidable expedient to be a permanent improvement in the currency system; and that they regarded the return to cash payments with an evil eye, not only as inflicting immediate hardship, but as a going back from an enlightened to a barbarous system. If all had thought like this party, the originators of the Restriction measure might have spared themselves their scruples and apprehensions in introducing a state of things during which light guineas were worth more, in a legal way, than heavy ones; during which men were tried, convicted, and punished for getting less in exchange for a heavy guinea than they might lawfully have gained for a light one: during which there was no measure for proportioning the amount of the circulating medium to the quantity of commodities; during: which the most tremendous and incessant fluctuations of price might take place without any check; during which the commercial credit of the whole nation rested between the hands of the Directors of the Bank of England. Some of our legislators thought that nothing but a desperate state of affairs could have warranted the adoption of so desperate an expedient; and were simple enough to think that the sooner it could be obviated, with safety to public credit, the better; and they would have been amused, if they had not been shocked, at hearing that the state out of which the currency was then able to emerge, was actually better than the system of security by checks which they now wished to substitute.
Among all these differences of opinion, there was abundance of discussion wherever there were people who were interested in exchanges; that is, in every corner of England. The children every where grew tired of the very words “cash payments,” and the women were disappointed at finding that when their husbands and brothers had exhausted the argument, whether there should and would be a return to cash payments, another subject for argument remained;—how this return could and should be effected: whether a definite time should be fixed, after which the privilege of inconvertibility should cease; or whether the cessation should take place, -whenever—be it sooner or later—Bank-paper and gold should be of exactly the same value.
A still further subject of debate was, whether the Bank should pay in coin, or in metal under some other shape. As paper-money is far more convenient in use than coined money, and would be liked better by every body, if it could but be made safe any plan by which security could be obtained, while the great expense of coinage is saved, was likely to be received with much attention. Such a plan had been proposed before this time, and was now much discussed. It was proposed that the Bank of England should pay its notes on demand, not in coin, hut in bars of metal, proved to be of the proper fineness, and divided into the proper weights. The being obliged to pay in precious metal on demand would be as great a security against an over-issue of paper as if the Bank had had to pay in coin, while the expense of coinage would be saved, the danger of runs would be prevented, and the people be kept supplied with the more convenient kind of currency. Such were the advantages expected by those who were friendly to the scheme; while such as were averse to whatever is new, offered all kinds of objections to it; and the advocates of a metallic currency were perpetually reminding the arguers that it would be as well to see whether there was any likelihood of the Bank resuming cash payments at all, before they settled how it was to be done.
There was talk in every shop in Haleham of bars of bullion; and many questions were put from one to another about whether any man would like to have his payment in bullion as well as in coin; and much information was given about the ease with which these bars might be turned into coin, by just carrying them to the Mint. Hester was much looked up to, both as being the wife of a person connected with the Mint, and as the bringer of anew supply of small notes into the little town. She found herself admirably served in the shops. The shirting she bought was warranted strong enough for the mainsail of a man-of-war, notwithstanding its beautiful fineness. The cover for her parlour table was of the richest pattern, picked out from an assortment of purple grounds and orange borders, of green grounds and yellow borders, of yellow grounds and blue borders. The stationery was of Enoch's very best. The writing-paper came from the heights, the account-books from the depths of his shop; and the pens, in symmetrical bundles, were brought out from recesses whence they issued as free from dust as if they had been plucked the hour before. When Hester took out her roll of notes to pay ready money for whatever she bought, the tradespeople and the loungers who beheld, all agreed that she had indeed made a very fine match.
“Very busy at the Mint, I trust, Mrs. Morrison,” was the address of many a shopkeeper to her. “I am sure I hope they mean to send out plenty more coin yet. There is a terrible scarcity, Ma'am; and it is a sad hinderance to business. Very little money stirring since the crash of the banks; and the gold that has come out of holes and hiding-places is nothing in comparison of the paper that is destroyed. Mr. Morrison is of my opinion, I hope, Ma'am?”
Hester was not aware what her husband thought of the matter, one way or other; but she did not say so; and began to think it odd that she, a Londoner, should know so little about the currency, while in the country every body seemed full of the subject.
“If there is so little gold and so few notes,” said she, “why is not more silver used? If the banks break and leave us very little paper, and if people have hidden, or melted, or sent away their guineas, it is the most improbable thing in the world that all the silver should be gone too. Such a quantity of silver would be a little troublesome to carry about, to be sure; but that would be better than such a stoppage of business as you are all complaining of from a want of money.”
The shopkeeper supposed that either there was not silver enough, or that it cost too much to coin it, or something.
“I should have thought you had understood your own affairs better,” said a voice from behind, which was at once known to be Mr. Craig's, and he came forward smiling to join in the conversation. “Where could you have been in 1816,” he said, addressing the shopkeeper, “not to know that silver is a legal tender only to the amount of forty shillings? If you, Mrs. Morrison, had bought three pounds worth of shirting here, your friend behind the counter might insist on your paying one pound out of the three in gold. You cannot lawfully pay more than two pounds in silver; and it is only by mutual consent that a larger payment is ever made in that kind of money.”
The shopkeeper looked as if this was news to him. Hester thought it a very absurd and unjust thing for the law to interfere with the kind of money in which people pay their neighbours. What objection in the world could there be to people using both gold and silver money to any amount that they chose to trouble themselves to carry?
“The experiment has been tried,” said Mr. Craig, “in many countries, and for long periods, and it does not answer; and therefore the law steps in to declare that gold shall be the only legal tender for any sum exceeding forty shillings. You know it is necessary to fix the relative value of gold and silver, and to keep to it, if both are used as money on equal terms.”
“And such fixed value does not always agree, I suppose, with its natural value. It may sometimes cost more to obtain gold, and sometimes silver; and then it is either impossible or injurious to make them keep the value originally fixed. Is this the reason?”
“This is the great objection to a double standard. If, from any circumstance, silver became more plentiful than it had been, a man would be anxious to pay his debts in silver. If he owed 100l. to his landlord, he would not pay him 100 sovereigns; he would go and get as much silver with his sovereigns as would coin into a hundred and ten pounds, and then pay his landlord the hundred, and keep the ten. Other people would do the same, and we should be deluged with silver coin, while the gold went to the melting-pot.”
“And all money would be worth less, from there being much more of it, I suppose?”
“Yes. There would thus be the two inconveniences of a needless fluctuation in the value of the currency, and of a new coinage being necessary as often as the one metal may be more easy to be had than the other.”
“Yes. If gold were the more plentiful of the two, people would be just as anxious to pay their debts in gold; and then the silver coin would disappear.”
“Certainly. Now, why should we expose ourselves to these inconveniences of a double standard, when a single one does quite as well, except for small payments?”
“But why may we tender so much as forty shillings in silver ? Why more than twenty 2”
“Because it is not worth any body's while, for the sake of the profit on payments of forty shillings, to coin more silver than the market will bear. Up to this amount, and not beyond it, we can reconcile the advantage of a variety of money with the safety of a single standard. Surely it is the simplest way to fix one standard, that is, to order what shall be the legal fineness and weight of coin of one metal, and to leave other kinds to the natural variations which they cannot be prevented from sharing with all commodities.”
“Why is gold made the standard? It cannot well be divided into money so small as shillings and sixpences; and surely, it would be better to have the legal tender uniform, instead of gold down to two pounds, and then silver. For that matter, copper would be better still, if it were not so heavy and bulky.”
“There are different opinions among wise men as to which of the two superior metals should be the standard. Nobody, I believe, wishes for copper.”
“But copper is a legal tender, I suppose, up to a shilling; or perhaps beyond it, as silver is to more than a pound.”
“Copper is a legal tender to the amount of fifteen shillings,”
“Well; I am sure that is enough. Nobody would wish for more. But why should we not have the easiest kind of legal tender of all,— paper money of all values? A note for a penny and a note for 100,000l. would be equally convenient; and both more so than any coin whatever.”
It was presently pointed out that paper-money being, in fact, circulating credit, and not a commodity, could not be made a standard, though it may represent a standard, and be used as its substitute. Bank-notes might, Mr. Craig observed, be made a legal tender, if so strictly convertible that their value should never vary from that of the metal they represent. No means had yet been found to make such an identity of value permanent; and while any variation existed, all dealers in money would be exposed to the evils of a double standard. He supposed the country had had enough of the legal tender of an inconvertible paper currency.
“Has paper then ever been made a legal tender in this country?”
“It was rendered so to all practical purposes. —though not under the very terms,—by the Restriction Act. Bank of England notes were received as cash in all government transaction and by almost all individuals after the crisis of 1797. The effect upon the country was much the same as if they had been avowedly legal tender; and it is thought that not one man in twenty was aware of their being any thing else.” “Nor is, to this day,” observed the shopkeeper. “Every man in this town who holds Bank of England notes would be confounded if you told him that his creditors are no more obliged to be satisfied with payment in those notes than in Cavendish's rotten rags. Would you have them no longer a good lender for practical purposes, when the Bank returns to cash payments?”
“I think one kind of paper might be legal tender for another. Country bank-notes being made convertible into Bank of England notes instead of coin, might, as it seems to me, be a very good thing for all parties, (if the Bank is to continue to hold its present station and privileges,)—provided, of course, that this Bank of England paper is strictly convertible into the precious metals”
“But would not that be hard upon the Bank of England? Should the Bank be thus made answerable for the issues of the country banks,?”
“Nay; the hardship is under the present system; for, according to it, the Bank of England is made answerable, without having any of that power of control which it would have under the other system. We know that country bankers do not keep much coin in sir coffers. As soon as a panic arises, they pledge or sell their government stock, and carry the notes they receive for it to be changed for gold at the Bank to answer the demands of their country customers. Thus the Bank is liable to a drain at any moment, without further limit than the stock held by all the country bankers. Now, as it need not issue more paper than it can convert on demand, it is not answerable for any proceedings of the country bankers, and holds a direct check over the issuer of all who are not careless of their credit.”
Hester had heard her husband tell how hard the Mint was worked during the panic, three years before. Demands for told came in from the country so fast, that, though all the presses were at work, night and day, they could scarcely turn out coin enough to keep up the credit of the Bank: and the stock of bullion in the coffers got illegible low. At least, so it was suspected by the people at the Mint. How much of this outcry for gold did Mr. Craig think would be superseded by the customers of country banks being referred to the Bank of England for metal money, instead of having it of their own bankers?
“As much,” replied Mr. Craig, “as the Bank may choose. It can proportion its issues to country bankers as it likes. But, in case of the adoption of this plan, it will be necessary that branch banks should be established by the Bank of England in all populous districts, so that the people may have every facility for converting their notes. Much less business would be done. much less confidence would exist, if there were delays and difficulties of any kind in converting notes which are convertible at all.”
“It is, then, only to prevent drains on the Bank of England coffers, and their consequences, that you would make its notes a legal tender for country paper? It seems to me odd,—likely to make confusion,—to have the same money,—the identical notes, legal tender in one sense and not in another.”
“If any other method of obviating such a drain can be found which involves less inconvenience, let it be so; but this peril of a drain is so illegible that it would be worth trying a few experiments to be rid of it. If means could also be devised for permanently rendering paper the precise representative of gold, Bank of England notes might become a uniformly legal tender.”
Hester supposed that to alter the value of the standard would be the worst measure of all; as its very name conveyed that it ought to be unchangeable. That which is used to measure the values of all other things cannot have its own value changed without making confusion among all the rest. Mr. Craig replied that the necessity of changing the value of a standard was the great objection, as they had just agreed, to the use of a double standard, one or other part of which must be changed from time to time to make them perfectly equal. He went on,
“The most fatal blow that the government of a commercial nation can inflict upon the people is to alter the standard;—whether by changing the denominations of money, or by mixing more alloy with the precious metal of the coins, or by issuing them, not less pure, but smaller. Of these three ways, the first is the most barefaced, and therefore the least mischievous in deceiving those who are injured; but the consequences of all in raising prices, in vitiating contracts, in introducing injustice into every unfinished act of exchange, and confusion into every new one, and consequently in overthrowing commercial credit, are alike fatal in all times, and under all circumstances.”
“And yet many governments have tried the experiment, after watching the effects upon their neighbours.”
“Yes. Each hopes to avoid take retribution which has overtaken the others: but, if they were wise, they would see why such retribution was inevitable. They would see that the temporary saving of their gold would soon be dearly paid for by the increased prices of whatever the government has to buy; and that if they would meet this evil by an increase of taxation, their design must he baffled by the impoverishment of the people. They would prepare themselves to behold in every corner of the land, profligate debtors exulting' in their advantage over their frugal and and laborious creditors, the aged servants of society stripped of the proceeds of their hoarded labour, the young brought up to witness the violable quality of public faith, and distrust of the government and of each other striking deep root into the heart of every class.“
“Our government will, surely, never try such an experiment?”
“We are now, you know, suffering under the effects of such an one. When the Restriction Act passed, nobody said anything about this. measure being, in fact, an alteration of the standard; but as inconvertible: bank-notes are practically a legal tender, and as their value depends, on the price of bullion and on the extent to which they are issued, these circumstances keep the standard, in fact, in a state of perpetual variation, instead of its being preserved invariable by law, as it pretends to be.”
“So, then, my mother suffered from a variation in the standard when her pension was swallowed up by high prices; and farmer Martin is injured in the same way by an opposite change in the standard.”
“And you, Mrs. Morrison.” said the shopkeeper, “profit by the same thing; for, I assure you, I must have obliged you to change one more note at least for that parcel of shirting, three years ago.”
“Is it possible,” asked Hester, “for the value of money to remain the same from one century to another ?—0 no; it certainly cannot; so many new mines as will be, discovered; and so much difference as there will be, as the arts improve, in the cost of producing the precious metals, and all other commodities. The value of metal money will gradually decline on the whole, I should think.”
“Then what will become of creditors? How are they to have their rights?”
“The equitable right of a creditor is only to the quantity of gold for which he contracted. If he is paid in less than this quantity, through any arbitrary interference, he is injured; but he must take the chance of any natural variation between the value of gold and other commodities. No law need pretend, or could avail, to fix this relative value, which depends on causes over which laws have no control. If a man enters into a long contract, he should take into his estimate the probability of money being worth less at the end than at the beginning of his bargain, if he satisfies himself that the value of money does, on the whole, deteriorate: and if he neglects to do this, he alone is to blame for his loss; for this is not a matter for government to charge itself with. If it ensures him his quantity, it has done its duty.”
The shopkeeper looked round his shop with a sigh, and wish ed that, when he entered upon hilease, and filled his shelves he had had no further loss to guard against than the natural decline of money. He had suffered, and was a suffering from the present reverse tendency of money. He had bought his linens and flannels, his gloves, illegible and ribbons dear, and was now, obliged to sell them cheap, while his rent was. though nominally the same, very much raised li! fact. He was less grieved for himself, and such as himself, however, than for families, like a certain one in the neighbourhood, which, through fluctuations in the currency, was reduced, without any fault, to a situation so far below what it ought to hold. He understood that though the D— bank was likely to pay even shilling in time, it might have done so directly, but that the debts which were contracted in one state of the currency must be paid in another, while the property in which the partners had invested their capital had fallen in value, in proportion to the rise of money. It was too hard that the very crisis which destroyed their credit should have at the same time almost doubled their debts, and depreciated their property. He wished to know whether it was true, if Mr. Craig had no objection to tell him, that there was money owing to Mr. Berkeley from abroad—a debt which nobody had thought of recovering till lately, and which Mr. Horace was going into a foreign country to look after? Mr, Craig believed that there was some truth in what was said about the debt; but none in the report of Horace's stirring in the matter. He then asked for what he came into the shop in search of;—a pair of gloves; and was furnished with home at what was mournfully (declared to lie considerably under prime cost.
Hester at the same time concluded her long task of shopping, and went to pay her respects to Mrs. Berkeley. She felt Very full of wrath at all tamperers with the currency as she opened the little green gate, and mounted the single step at the door, and lifted the slender stiff knocker, and cast a glance over the red front of the house, as she was waiting for admission. All these things were in sad contrast to the approach to their former abode.
As she was shown in, she felt how much more she had been at her case in old days, when, in visiting them, she found herself in the midst of unaccustomed luxuries, than now, when their abode was a good deal like her mother's. She scarcely knew how to be respectful enough to Mr. Berkeley when she saw him doing many things for himself that he had been used to have done for him, and when she heard of his performing his own little illegible in the town, where his servant had of old been daily seen going to and illegible for his bustling master. It was affecting to see Mrs. Berkeley reviving her knowledge and practice of many things which her condition of affluence had rendered it unnecessary for her to attend to for many years past.
She made no hardship of these things. She cheerfully said that she should want employment in the absence of her daughters if she had not to attend to her household affairs. Mr. Berkeley was very exact about the matters of the table, and Mrs. Berkeley did again what she had done in her youth;—she made such hashes and ragouts and fancy dishes of various kinds, as no cook she had ever had could pretend to. She kept her work basket at her elbow almost as constantly as Mrs. Parndon herself; and with Lewis for a helper, made the most of the shallow poor soil in their little garden, undeterred by recollections of the beloved green-house and the flourishing rosary of her late abode. She was encouraged in this by finding that Mr. Berkeley did not dislike her roses, though they came out of a garden next the road, instead of his favourite nook.
He now, on seeing Hester in the parlour, came up to the window with a bunch of roses in one hand and the newspaper in the other. He brought news that the pyrus japonica looked drooping, and that a company of ants had found their way to the apricot at the back of the house. There must be an end to them, or there would be an end to the apricots for this year.
“You have found nothing so important to us as that in the newspaper, I dare say,” observed his wife.
Mr. Berkeley threw the paper in at the window, peevishly declaring that there was nothing in newspapers worth reading now-a-days. He forgot that he did not think so at noon-time every day, when he was apt to swear at the offender who happened to be five minutes past the time of bringing the paper.
“There is one piece of new by the by,” said, “unless you have heard it already from Craig. Longe is married.”
“Indeed ! “To Miss Egg?”
“No, no. Too good a match for him by half. A fellow who begins looking; about him so impudently as he did. is sure to finish with marrying his cook.”
“His cook ! “What, the servant that went from the Cavendishes. It never can be, surely.?”
“Nay; I do rot know whose cook she is, or whether any body's cook. I only know that such is the way such fellows pair themselves at last.”
Hester was wondering what fellows;—rectors, or Cavendishes' cousins.—Mrs. Berkeley remarked, that she should wish to think well of the rector's lady for Henry Craig's sake. The curate should never be the worse off for the marriage of his rector.
“The curate's wife, you mean, my dear. You are looking forward to little presents of tithe pigs and apples, and an occasional pheasant. But, mind you, I will never touch a pheasant that comes out of Longe's house. I had rather be in the way of his gun myself.”
Hester took tins as a permission to speak of Melea's prospects.—happy prospects, as she called them.
“The young people talk of some such thing,?” said Mr. Berkeley, carelessly.” Young people always do, you know. But it is nonsense talking. Craig is as poor as a rat, and Melea will be long enough earning her wedding clothes.?” And he began hoeing up very diligently the weeds that were just visible in the border below the window. While he was not looking, Mrs. Berkeley held up with a smile the work she was doing. Hester had before observed that the work basket was piled very high.
“Is this for Miss Melea?” she delightedly enquired. Mrs. Berkeley nodded assent, and then gave the cautionary explanation that this was no sign that Melea was to be married soon, but only that a wedding wardrobe was not so very difficult to earn. She had pleasure in doing this work; it seemed to hasten the time when she and Mr. Berkeley should have a daughter near them once more.
Before they had time to pursue the topic, Mr. Berkeley came in, complaining of the heat. The first thing he did was to pick up the newspaper he had thrown away, fix himself in his reading light, give the paper the pat which was necessary to stiffen it in its full length, and mutter over it, as much at his ease as if nobody was by. Amidst the mutterings and occasional interjections, the other two carried on their conversation in an under tone. It was all about the curate, and the curate's house, and the curate's small accession of income, and large accession of pupils, which was as much for the advantage of Lewis in the way of companionship, as for Melea's, in a different way. At the close of a very cheerful picture of what was to be, Hester looked up and saw Mr. Berkeley still in reading posture, but looking over his spectacles at his wife, and evidently listening to what was passing. As soon as he saw himself observed, lie said, “Go on, my dear, pray. There is nobody here to be taken in by a fancy picture,—no novices that think people are all born to be married, and nothing else. Mrs. Morrison knows by this time that this is too cold a world for love to warm every corner of it. She knows—”
“I wonder you can be to unjust to Henry,” cried Mrs. Berkeley, who saw that Hester did not altogether relish the appeal made to her. “You know very well that if Melea's engagement was at an end to-day, you would wander about the house like a ghost, and find that the world had grown much colder all in a moment.”
“When did I ever say a word against Craig, pray?—at least, for more than three years. What I mean is, that the less people connect themselves, in such days as these, ihe better for them. That is the only way to slip through the world quietly, and to get out of it without having one's heart and soul torn to pieces before one's breath is out of one's body.”
“You would not have daughters, Sir,” Hester ventured to say. “You had rather be living all alone, with only your physician to feel your pulse when you die.”
“Mr. Berkeley's daughters and Mr. Berkeley's wife are not like any other wife and daughters,” said Mrs. Berkeley, smiling; “and Horace is also unique. Mr. Berkeley's doctrine is only generally applicable, you know; so we need not be offended.”
“I never choose to bo personal,” observed Mr. Berkeley. “I point out nobody's wife and children as the proper ones not to exist. I only mean that it must be a heavenly thing to have only one's self to care for.”
“I will believe it, my dear, when I find you in heaven, caring only for yourself.”
“I only speak to what I know,” replied Mr. Berkeley; “and. depend upon it, half the soft-hearted people that Craig and Melea are imitating', would be glad to shake off their vows and their cares together.”
Hester bore his enquiring look very well; for she still loved Edgar. She smiled, and hoped that these were not the notions Melea was to illegible entertained with when she came home to be Married.
“I say what I think, let who will be by.” replied Mr. Berkeley. “But it does not signify whether I hold my tongue or speak. “We are all made romantic when we are young, that we may be broken down with cares, in time to make room for others to go the same round. I and my children, like everybody else.-—My dear, do send some one to destroy that ants' nest. They are eating the apricots all this time.—Stay. I'll do it myself.”
In another minute, lie was busy with the ants, and Heater was left at liberty to hope that Melea might, by some chance, be happy, notwithstanding the romance of loving Henry Craig.
Fanny was, she found, pronounced much wiser, and more likely to die a natural death, as she was not going to be married. It was very true that she had at present few cares, though she had not yet seriously taken her father's advice to care for nobody but herself. She bestowed some little thought and feeling on her pupils, and on her family. What romance she had tended that way; but as it afforded no threatening of ultimately breaking her down with solicitude, her father acquiesced in her cheerful looks and even spirits, and thought this kind of romance very harmless.
These facts being fully ascertained, Hester took her leave before the last hapless insect had been hunted from its retreat in the shadow of an apricot leaf. Soon after she was gone, Mrs. Berkeley missed the apex of the pyramid of which her work basket formed the base. It was clear that Hester intended that the bride's wardrobe should be graced with some of her handy work. She had, indeed, carried off enough to employ her needle for as long a time as Edgar was likely to allow her to stay. When Mrs. Berkeley sent to beg that she would not consume her short leisure in an employment that she must have quite enough of at home, she replied that it was a most refreshing rest to her to sit at work by the open window, in the long summer afternoons, enjoying the smell of the sweet-williams in the court, and the striking of the old clock, and hearing from her mother anil the neighbours long stories of all that had happened in Haleham since her wedding-day.