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Chapter V.: INTRODUCTIONS. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 8 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 8.
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The true cause of Mr. Temple's Sunday headache was spleen at the occurrence of the morning. That Dr. Sneyd should preach, and in a market-house, and that soldiers should come some miles to hear him was, he declared, a perfect scandal to the settlement. He could not countenance it.
The scandal continued, without the countenance of the scrupulous gentleman, till the autumn, when the reason of certain magnificent doings at Temple Hall began to be apparent. Probably the only persons who could have told what all this new building meant were forbidden to do so, as Mrs. Sneyd could never obtain a word from her daughter in return for all her conjectures about what the Lodge was to grow into at last, the builders having no sooner done one task than they had to set about another. There was infinite hurry and bustle about these last additions. Workmen were brought from a distance to relieve those on the spot, that no part of the long summer days might be lost. Wall rose above wall; beam followed beam from the forest, and planks issued from the sawpit with marvellous speed. One would have thought the President was expected on a visit before winter; and, in fact, a rumour was current in the village that some new capitalists were coming to look about them, and were to be tempted to abide on some of the great man's lands. This seemed the more probable as a substantial house was being built in the Lodge grounds, besides the new wing (as it appeared to be) of the mansion itself. Every body agreed that this house must be intended for somebody.
The truth burst forth, one day late in the autumn, that seats instead of partitions were being put up in the new building, and that the windows were to be unlike those of the rest of the house:—in short, that it was to be a chapel. The servants spread abroad the fact that company was expected in a few days; to stay, they believed, all the winter.—Ay! till the new house should be ready, every body supposed. Meantime, Mrs. Temple said nothing more to her family than that friends of Mr. Temple's were shortly coming to stay at the Lodge. She had never seen them, and knew but little about them:—hoped they might prove an acquisition to her father:—depended upon Arthur's civillties, if he should have it in his power,—and so forth.
It was seldom that Mr. Temple called on his father-in-law,—especially in the middle of the day, when less irksome things could be found to do; but, one bright noon, he was perceived approaching the house, driving the barouche, in which were seated two ladies and a gentleman, besides the heir of Temple Lodge. Dr. Sneyd stepped out of his low window into the garden, and met them near the gate, where he was introduced to the Rev. Ralph Hesselden, pastor of Briery Creek, and Mrs. Hesselden.
The picturesque clergyman and his showy lady testified all outward respect to the venerable old man before them. They forgot for a moment what they had been told of his politics being “sad, very sad; quite deplorable,” — and remembered only that he was the father of their hostess. It was not till a full half hour after that they became duly shocked at a man of his powers having been given over to the delusions of human reason, and at his profaneness in having dared to set up for a guide to others while he was himself blinded in the darkness of error. There was so little that told of delusion in the calm simplicity of the doctor's countenance, and something so unlike profaneness and presumption it his mild and serious manners, that it was not surprising that his guests were so long in discovering the evil that was in him.
Mrs. Sneyd was busy about a task into which she put no small share of her energies. She had heard that nothing that could be eaten was half so good as pomegranate preserve, well made. In concert with Arthur, she had grown promegranates with great success, and she was this morning engaged in preserving them; using her utmost skill, in the hope that if it should prove an impossible thing to make her husband care for one preserve rather than another while he was in health, this might be an acceptable refreshment in case of sickness; or that, at least, Temmy would relish the luxury; and possibly Temple himself be soothed by it in one of the fits of spleen with which he was apt to cloud the morning meal.—The mess was stewing, and the lady sipping and stirring, when her husband came to tell her who had arrived, when to request her to appear;—came instead of sending, to give her the opportunity of removing all traces of mortification before she entered the room.
“Mr. and Mrs. Who?—a pastor? what, a methodist?—chaplain at the Lodge, and pastor of Briery Creek?—My dear, this is aimed at you.”
“One can hardly say that, as I only preached because there was no one else.—I must not stay. You will come directly, my dear.”
“I do not see how I can, my dear,”—glancing from her husband to her stewpan, under a sense of outraged affection with respect to both of them. “To take one so by surprise! I am sure it was done on purpose.”
“Then let us carry it off with as little consternation as we can. Peggy will take your place.”
“And spoil all I have been doing, I know. And my face is so scorched, I am not fit to be seen.—I'll tell you what, my dear,” she went on, surrendering her long spoon to Peggy, and whisking off her apron,—“if I appear now, I will not go and hear this man preach. I cannot be expected to do that.”
“We will see about that when Sunday comes” the doctor turned back to say, as he hastened back to the party who were amusing themselves with admiring the early drawings of Mrs. Temple, which hung against the walls of her mother's parlour. The doctor brought in with him a literary journal of a later date than any which had arrived at the Lodge, and no one suspected that he had been ministering to his wife's good manners. Mrs. Temple was in pain for what might follow the introduction.
There was no occasion for her inward tremors, nor for Dr. Sneyd's quick glance at his wife over his spectacles. Mrs. Sneyd might be fully trusted to preserve her husband's dignity. She instantly appeared,—so courteous and self-possessed that no one could have perceived that she had been hurried. The scorched cheeks passed with the strangers for the ruddy health attendant on a country life, and they benevolently rejoiced that she seemed likely to have some time before her yet, in which to retract her heresies, and repent of all that she had believed and acted upon through life. It was cheering to think of the safety that might await her, if she should happily survive the doctor, and come under their immediate guidance.
The ladies were left to themselves while Temple was grimacing (as he did in certain states of nervousness) and whipping the shining toe of his right boot, and the other gentleman making the plunge into science and literature in which the doctor always led the way when he could lay hold of a man of education. One shade of disappointment after another passed over his countenance when he was met with questions whether one philosopher was not pursuing his researches into regions whence many bad returned infidels,—with conjectures whether an eminent patriot was not living without God in the world,— and with doubts whether a venerable philanthropist might still be confided in, since he had gone hand in hand in a good work with a man of doubtful seriousness. At last, his patience seemed to be put to the proof, for his daughter heard him say,
“Well, sir, as neither you nor I are infidels, nor likely to become so, suppose we let that matter pass. Our part is with the good tidings of great deeds doing on the other side of the world. The faith of the doers is between themselves and their God.”
“But, sir, consider the value of a lost soul—”
“I have so much hope of many souls being saved by every measure of wise policy and true philanthropy, that I cannot mar my satisfaction by groundless doubts of the safety of the movers. Let us take advantage of the permission to judge them by their fruits, and then, it seems to me, we may make ourselves very easy respecting them. Can you satisfy me about this new method,— it is of immense importance—of grinding lenses”
Mr. Hesselden could scarcely listen further, so shocked was he with the doctor's levity and laxity in being eager about bringing new worlds within human ken, while there seemed to the pious a doubt whether the agents of divine wisdom and benignity would be cared for by him who sent them.—Mr. Hesselden solemnly elevated his eyebrows, as he looked towards his wife; and the glance took effect. The lady began inquiring of Mrs. Sneyd respecting the spiritual affairs of the settlement. She hoped the population had a serious turn.
“Why, Madam,” replied Mrs. Sneyd, “every thing has so conduced to sober the minds of our neighbours, that there has been little room yet for frivolity among us. The circumstances of hardship, of one kind or another, that led us all from our old homes were very serious; and it is a serious matter to quit country and family and friends; and the first casting about for subsistence in a new land is enough to bring thought into the wildest brain; and now, when we have gathered many comforts about us, and can thank Providence with full hearts, we are not at liberty for idleness and levity. I assure you that Dr. Sneyd has had to enlarge more against anxiety for the morrow than against carelessness or vain-glory.”
“I rejoice to hear it. This is good as far as it goes. But I was inquiring about more important affairs.”
“In more important matters still, I hope you will find much that is encouraging. We are naturally free from the vices of extreme wealth or poverty. Among the few whose labours have proved fruitful, there is a sobriety of manners which I think will please you; and none are so poor as to be tempted to dishonesty, or driven into recklessness. The cry of 'stop thief' has never been heard in Briery Creek, and you will neither meet a drunken man nor a damsel dressed in tawdy finery.—By the way, Louisa,” she continued, addressing her daughter, “I am sorry there Is any difficulty about Rundell's getting more land, and Chapman's setting up a general store. I have some fears that as our neighbours' earnings increase, we may see them spent in idle luxuries, unless there is a facility in making a profitable investment.”
“Where is the difficulty, ma'am?” asked Mrs. Temple. “If Rundell wants land, I rather think Mr. Temple has plenty for him.”
“I understand not.”
Mrs. Temple was about to argue the matter on the ground of her husband's thousands of uncultivated acres, but recollecting that there might be more in the matter than was apparent to her, she stopped short, and there was a pause.—At length, Mrs. Hesselden, turning the fullest aspect of her enormous white chip bonnet on Mrs. Sneyd, supposed that as the neighbourhood was so very moral, there were no public amusements in Briery Creek.
“I am sorry to say there are none at present. Dr. Sneyd and my son begin, next week, a humble attempt at a place of evening resort; and now that Mr. Hesselden will be here to assist them, I hope our people will soon be provided with a sufficiency of harmless amusement.”
“You begin next week ?—A prayer meeting ?” asked the lady, turning to Mrs. Temple. Mrs. Temple believed not.
“We have our meetings for intercourse on the subjects you refer to,” replied Mrs. Sneyd; “but I understood you to be inquiring about places of amusement. My son presented the settlement with a cricket ground lately.”
“A cricket ground, was it?” said Mrs. Temple. “I thought it had been a bleaching ground. I understood, it was the ladies of the place who were to be the better for his bounty.”
“That is true also. The same ground serves the washers on the Monday morning, and the cricketers on the Saturday afternoon. You must know, Mrs Hesselden, there is much trouble here in getting soap enough,—and also candles,—for the purposes of all. There is some objection, I find, to a general store being set up; so that only the richer of our neighbours can obtain a regular supply of certain necessary articles; and the poorer ones are just those who find it most expensive and troublesome to make all the soap and candles they want. My son, knowing how much consumption is saved by association, as he says, had a view to these poorer settlers in opening the bleaching ground. They are truly glad to get their linen washed twice as well in the field as at home, and at half the expense of soap. They are very willing to clear the place for the cricketers three afternoons in the week; and are already beginning to pay off the cost incurred for the shed, with the boilers and troughs. I really hardly know; which is the prettiest sight,— the games of the active young men, when they forget the worldly calculations which are apt to engross new settlers too much,—or the merry maidens in the field at noon, spreading out linen and blankets of a whiteness that would be envied by most of the professional laundresses that I have known.”
“All these things,” observed Mrs. Hesselden, “are of inferior consequence. I mean——”
“Very true: I mention them chiefly as signs of the times—not as the limit to which our improvements have extended. We are anxious to provide a reading-room for the youths, at the same time that we open our school. My daughter has no doubt told you about the school which she is helping to form. We find that the newspapers and journals which were always deposited in the cricket-ground were so much relished by the players in the intervals of their games, that Dr. Sneyd and my son have determined to light up and warm the school-house every evening during the winter, to be the resort of all who choose to go. Dr. Sneyd carries there the humble beginning of a museum of natural history, which it must be the care of our neighbours to improve. They can easily do so by exchanging the productions of our forest and prairie for what may be obtained from the societies Dr. Sneyd is connected with in England and France, All the publications sent to us will find their way to the school-house; and when the snow comes to enable a sleigh to bring us the packages of glass we have been waiting for these eight months, the doctor will erect his large telescope, and send an inferior one down to the village for the use of his star-gazing neighbours.”
Observing Mrs. Hesselden's supercilious silence, Mrs. Sneyd proceeded, smiling,
“I have had my share in the ordering of the affair, and have carried two points, nem. con. The women are allowed as free ingress as their husbands and brothers. I mentioned that candles were scarce, and you do not need to be told that much sewing must be done in our households. By bringing their work to the school-house, (which is within a stone's throw of most of the doors,) many of our hard-working mothers and daughters will be spared the trouble and expense of making above half as many candles as if each must have one burning during the whole of the long evenings of winter. What is more important,—they will the benefit of the reading and other amusements that may be going on. My other point is the dancing. I told Dr. Sneyd that if he carried a telescope, and made them chill themselves with star-gazing, I must beg leave to carry a fiddle for them to warm their feet by when they had done. Two fiddlers have turned up already, and there are rumours of a flute-player; and I have half promised my grandchild to lead off the first dance, if he will persuade my son to take me for a partner.”
Mrs. Hesselden hoped that others would also be allowed to carry their points, and then there would be prayer on meeting and parting in the school-house. If it should be found that such an exercise was incompatible with the dancing part of the scheme, she trusted Mrs. Sneyd saw which must give way.”
Mrs. Sneyd would advocate no practice which was incompatible with religious duty. In the present case, she thought that the only concession required was that each exercise should have its proper season. None of the usual objections to dancing would hold good here, she continued. No shivering wretches stood without, while the rich were making merry. There was no inducement to extravagance, and no room for imprudence, and no encouragement to idleness. There was no scope for these vices among the working-class of Briery Creek, and dancing was to them (what it would be in many another place, if permitted) an innocent enjoyment, a preventive of much solitary self-indulgence, and a sweetener of many tempers. In a society whose great danger was the growth of a binding spirit of worldliness, social mirth was an antidote which no moralist would condemn, and which he would not dare to despise.
Mrs. Hesselden, fearing that she could never make Mrs. Sneyd comprehend how much more she and her husband were than mere moralists, quitted the subject till she could explain to Mrs. Temple on the way home, that though the presence of the Sneyds had undoubtedly been of great use in fostering a morality which was better than nothing, yet it was evidently high time that more should be added, and certainly a great blessing to Briery Creek that her husband and she had arrived to breathe inspiration into the social mass which was now lying,—if not dead,— yet under the shadow of death.
Mrs. Sneyd found time, before returning to her pomegranates, to take a last wondering look at the immensity of Mrs. Hesselden's chip bonnet, as it floated, splendid in its variegated trimming, over the shrubs in her passage to the garden gate.
“I can never make out,” she observed to her husband, “why so many of these very strict religious people dress so luxuriously as they do. Here is this lady,—infinitely scandalized, I perceive, at our having introduced dancing,— dressed after such a fashion as our maidens never saw before. If they begin to bedizen themselves with the money which might be spent profitably in increasing the means of subsistence, or innocently in procuring substantial comforts which are now difficult to be had, I shall lay the blame on Mrs. Hesselden's bonnet. I remember observing that I never saw so splendid a show-room for dress as the new church we attended, in—— street, the Sunday before we left London. It is very odd.”
“Not more strange, my dear, than that the Friends should addict themselves much to the furnishing their houses with expensive furniture, and their tables with more costly and various foods than other people. Not more strange than that Martin, the Methodist, should turn strolling player when he gave up his methodism; or that the Irish betake themselves to rebellion when stopped in their merry-makings; or that the English artizan takes to the gin-shop when the fiddle is prohibited in the public-house. Not more strange, my dear, than that the steam of your kettle should come out at the lid, if you stop up the spout, or than that”
“O, you put me in mind of my preserves! But how did you think Louisa looked to-day?”
“Not very well. There was a something—I do not know what——”
“Well, I wondered whether you would observe. It may be the contrast of Mrs. Hesselden's dress that made me remark the thing so much. It really vexed me to see Louisa so dressed. That collar was darned like any stocking-heel; and how she got her bonnet ribbons dyed in this place, I cannot think. What can be the meaning of her being so shabby? It is so contrary to her taste,—unless she has taken up a new taste, for want of something to do.”
Dr. Sneyd shook his head. He knew that Temple left his lady no lack of something to do. Temmy had also dropped a piece of information about wax candles lately, which convinced the doctor that the lady at the Hall was now compelled to economize to the last degree in her own expenditure, whatever indulgence might still be afforded to her tyrant's tastes.
“He looks wretchedly too,” observed Mrs. Sneyd. “Not all his spruceness could hide it, if he was as spruce as ever. But there is a change in him too. One might almost call his ensemble slovenly to-day, though it would be neatness itself in many another man. I believe he half kills himself with snuff. He did nothing but open and shut his box to-day. So much snuff must be very bad for a nervous man like him.”
“Do you know, my dear,” said the doctor, “I have been thinking lately whether we are not all rather hard upon that poor man——Yes, yes, I know. I am not going to defend, only to excuse him a little. I am as unhappy as you can be about all that Louisa has to go through with him, and about his spoiling that poor boy for life, —doing all that can be done to make him a dolt. But I am sure the man suffers—suffers dreadfully.”
“Nay, you need but look in his face to see whether he is a happy man or not; but what his ailments are, I do not pretend to say. His nerves torture him, I am certain—”
Mrs. Sneyd insinuated speculations about indulgence in brandy, opium, spices, &c., and about remorse, fear, and the whole demon band of the passions. Dr. Sneyd's conjecture was that Temple's affairs were in an unsatisfactory condition, and that this trouble, acting on the mind of a coward, probably drove him to the use of sufficient stimulus to irritate instead of relieving him. Great allowance, he insisted, should be made for a man in so pitiable a state, even by the parents of his wife. This was so effectually admitted by the good lady, that she not only sent a double portion of pomegranate preserve to the Lodge, but restrained her anger when she heard that Rundell could not obtain liberty to invest as he pleased the capital he had saved, owing to Temple's evil influence at tile land-office; and that Arthur's interests were wantonly injured by his interference. Arthur had taken great pains to secure a supply of fresh meat and fresh butter for the approaching winter; and besides the hope of profit from his fine sheep and cows, he had the assurance of the gratitude of his neighbours, who had grown heartily weary of salt pork and salt butter the winter before. But Mr. Temple now set up a grand salting establishment; and made it generally understood that only those who were prudent enough to furnish themselves with his cheap salt provision, rather than Mr. Sneyd's dear mutton, should have his custom in the market, and his countenance at the land office. Arthur's first-slain sheep had to be eaten up by his father's household and his own; and it was a piece of great forbearance in Mrs. Sneyd, when she heard that Arthur meant to kill no more mutton, to say only, “The poor little man punishes nobody so much as himself. I do not see how he can relish his own fresh mutton very much, while he prevents other people having any.”
“He cannot altogether prevent that, mother,” said Arthur. “He may prevent mutton bearing any price in the market, and cut off my gains; but we may still slay a sheep now and them for ourselves; and find neighbours who will quietly make such an exchange of presents as will take off what we cannot consume. But I wish I could see an end of this dictation,—this tyranny.”
“It does seem rather strange to have come to a land of freedom to be in the power of such a despot. I wonder the people do not shake him off, and send him to play the tyrant farther in the wilds.”
“They are only waiting till his substance is all consumed, I fancy. He has such a hold over the investments of some, and finds so much employment for the labour of others, that they will submit to everything for a time. But his hour will come, if he does not beware.”
“It may be all very well for those who have investments to take time to extricate their capital from his grasp,” said Mrs. Sneyd; “but as for the builders and gardeners he employs, I think they would be wiser if they carried their labour where they might depend on a more lasting demand for it. Anybody may see that if he spends more every year in undoing what he did the year before, his substance must soon come to an end, and his labourers become his creditors. If I were they, I would rather go and build barns that are paid for by the preservation of the corn that is in them, and till fields that will maintain the labour of tillage, and set more to work next year, than turn round a fine house from south to west, and from west to south, and change shrubberies into lawns, and lawns into flower-gardens, knowing that such waste must come to an end.”
“But some do not believe that it is waste, mother. They see the money that pays them still in existence, still going the round of the market; and they talk (as some people in England do about royal palaces, and spendthrift noblemen's establishments) of the blessing of a liberal expenditure, and the patriotism of employing so much labour.”
“Which would be all very well if the labourers lived upon the sight of the money they are paid with. But, as long as that money is changed many times over for bread and clothing, which all disappears in the process, it is difficult to make out that anything is gained but the pleasure,— which may be justifiable or not, according to the circumstances of the employers. In the end, the money remains as it was before, and instead of so much food and clothing, there is a royal palace. If you do not like your palace, and pull it down and rebuild it, the money exists as before, and for a double quantity of food and clothing, you still have a palace.”
“The wrong notion you speak of arises partly,” said Dr. Sneyd, “from a confusion between one sort of unproductive expenditure and another. People hear of its being a fine thing to employ a crowd of labourers in making a new line of road, or building a bridge, and they immediately suppose it must be a patriotic thing to employ a crowd of labourers in building any thing.”
“I think they might perceive that, though corn does not grow on a high road, that, nor bridges yield manufactures, the value of corn lauds may be doubled by opening a way to a new market, and that an unused water power may begin to yield wealth from the moment that there is a bridge over which buyers may come for it. It is a misfortune to Briery Creek that Temple is more of a selfish palace-fancier than a patriotic bridge and road maker.”
The first Sunday of the opening of the chapel, Temple appeared in a character which he had only once before attempted to support. On the occasion of using the market-house for service, he had approached the door, cast a glance within upon the company of soldiers, and the village population at their worship, while their aged friend was leading their devotions, and hastily departed, thankful that he was too pious to join in such a service as this. He took the part of a religious man that day, and now was the time for him to resume the character. Under the idea that the market-house might be opened as usual for Dr. Sneyd, making his own appear like an opposition place of worship, he spared no pains to secure a majority in point of audience. He had managed to ride past the military post, and be gracious with the soldiers. His domestics puffed gracious the chapel and chaplain at market, the day before, and the leading villagers received intimation of good sittings being appropriated to them. These pains might have been spared. All who desired might know that Dr. Sneyd, his wife, son, and servants intended to be present, as a matter of course.
When they entered, Temple looked nearly as much surprised as if they had at the moment arrived from England. He made a prodigious bustle about having them accommodated in a seat next his own, and condescendingly sent them books, and inquired into the sufficiency of hassocks. During the greater part of the service he stood up, as if he could not listen with sufficient attention while sitting, like other people. Yet he cleared his throat if any body moved, and sent his pert glance into every corner to command a reverential demeanour, while his chaplain was enforcing, as the prime glory and charm of a place of worship, that there, and there alone, all are equal and all are free. Little Ephraim cowered behind the coachman while the preacher insisted that here the humblest slave might stand erect on the ground of his humanity; and the butler stepped on tiptoe half way down the aisle to huff Jenkins the ditcher for coming so high up, at the very moment that something was quoted about a gold ring and purple raiment in the synagogue.
It was true the preacher and his message had not so good a chance of being attended to as they might have on future Sundays. The bustle produced by the anticipation of the occasion did not subside on the arrival of the occasion. The fine large chip bonnets had been procured, and the trimming and sending them home had been achieved by the Saturday night. But it remained to wear them for the first time: not only to support the consciousness of a new piece of finery, but to compare the fine bonnets with the shabby head-gear of other people, with each other, and, finally, with Mrs. Hesselden's. Then, while Mrs. Dods was thus contemplating the effect of her own peculiar species of architecture, her husband could not but look round him, and remember that every individual brick of this pile had been fashioned by himself and his lads. The builder scanned the measurements of the windows and the ceiling. Two or three boys and girls shuffled their feet on the matting which their mother had woven. A trader from the north gradually made up his mind to approach the ladies after service, for the purpose of recommending fur pouches for the feet during the severe season that was approaching. The Brawnees, unincumbered by any thing beyond their working-day apparel, were among the best listeners. Temmy was so alarmed at the prospect of having to give his father, for the first time, an account of the sermon, that he could not have taken in a word of it, even if he had not been miserable at seeing the tears coursing one another down his mother's cheeks during the whole time of the service. Her left hand hung by her side, but he did not dare to touch it. He looked at Mrs. Hesselden to try to find out whether she thought his mother was ill; or whether the sermon was affecting; or whether this was the consequence of something that had been said at breakfast against grandpapa. Grandpapa seemed to be listening very serenely to the sermon, and that was a better comfort than Mrs, Hesselden's countenance,— so grave, that Temmy feared to provoke a cross word if he looked at her again.
It was not known, till the ladies of the village ranged themselves round the work-table in the school-house, one chilly evening, soon afterwards, how great bad been the bustle of preparation before the fine chip bonnets made their appearance in the chapel. All hearts, even those of rival milliners, were laid open by the sight of the roaring wood fire, the superior candles, the hearty welcome and the smiling company that awaited them as they dropped in at the place of entertainment,—the women with their sewing apparatus, and their husbands and brothers ready for whatever occupation might have been devised for their leisure evening hours. While these latter crowded round the little library, to see of what it consisted, the sewers placed their benches round the deal table, snuffed their candies, and opened their bundles of work. Mrs. Dods made no mystery of her task. She was cutting up a large chip bonnet to make two small hats for her youngest boy and girl, owning that, not having calculated on any one else attempting to gratify the rage for imitating Mrs. Hesselden, she had injured her speculation by overstocking the market. The lawyer's lady had been reckoned upon as a certain customer; but it turned out,— however true that the lawyer's lady must have a chip bonnet,—that the builder's wife had just then entered upon a rivalship with the brickmaker's wife, and had stuck up at her window bonnets a trifle cheaper than those of Mrs. Dods. It only remained for Mrs. Dods to show how pretty her little folks looked in hats of the fashionable material, in hopes that the demand might spread to children.
“If it does, Mrs. Dods, Martha Jenkins will have the same reason to complain of you that you have to complain of being interfered with. It is unknown the trouble that Jenkins has had, following the river till he came to the beavers, and then hunting them, and preparing their skins at home, and all that, while Martha spared no pains to make beaver hats for all the boys and girls in the place. It will be rather hard if you cut her out.”
“And you can do it only by lowering your price ruinously,” observed Mrs. Sneyd. “I should think any mother in Briery Creek would rather keep her child's ears from freezing by putting on her a warm beaver, than dress her out prettily in a light chip, at this season. Nothing but a great difference in price can give yours the preference, I should think, Mrs. Dods.”
“Then such a difference there must be,” Mrs. Dods replied. “I had rather sell my article cheap than not sell it at all. Another time I shall take care how I run myself out at elbows in providing for a new fashion among the ladies.”
Mrs. Sneyd thought that those were engaged in the safest traffic who dealt in articles in the commonest use,—who looked for custom chiefly from the lower, i.e. the larger classes of the people. From their, numbers, those classes are always the greatest consumers; and, from the regularity of their productive industry, they are also the most regular consumers. It seemed probable that the demand for Martha Jenkins's beavers would prove superior in the long run to that for Mrs. Dods's varied supply, though poor Martha might suffer for a while from the glut of chips which occasioned loss to all sellers of bonnets, at present, and gain to all sellers of whatever was given in exchange for bonnets. Fat for candles was scarcely to be had since Temple had discouraged the sale of fresh meat. Mrs. Dods was deplorably in want of candles. She made a bargain with a neighbour for some in return for the hat now under her hands. How few she was to receive, it vexed her to think; but there was no help for it till somebody should supply the deficiency of candles, or till new heads should crave covering.
It now appeared that the ladies were not the only persons who had brought their work. When it came to be decided who should be the reader, it was unanimously agreed that some one who had no employment for his hands should undertake the office. Dods had leathern mittens to make for the less hardy of the woodsmen. Others occupied themselves in platting straw, making mops, cutting pegs to be employed in roofing, and cobbling shoes. Arthur drew sketches for Temmy to copy. Such was always the pretence for Arthur's drawings; but a neighbour who cast a peep over his shoulder, from time to time, could not help thinking that the sketch was of the present party, with Dr. Sneyd in the seat of honour by the fire-side, Mrs. Sneyd knitting in the shadow, that the full benefit of the candles might be yielded to those whose occupation required It; Isaac, who had received the honour of the first appointment as reader, holding his book rather primly, and pitching his voice in a key which seemed to cause a tendency to giggle among some of the least wise of his auditors; and, lastly, the employed listeners, as they sat in various postures, and in many lights, as the blaze from the logs now flickered low, and now leaped up to lighten all the room. Each of these was suspected to be destined to find a place in Arthur's sketch.
It was a pity Temmy was not here to take a drawing lesson, his uncle thought. These evening meetings afforded just the opportunity that was wanted; for Arthur could seldom find time to sit down and make his little nephew as good an artist as he believed he might become. It was not till quite late, when the party would have begun dancing if some one had not given a broad hint about the doctor's telescope, that Temmy appeared. Nobody heard his steed approach the door, and every body wondered to see him. It was thought that Mr. Temple would have allowed no one belonging to him to mix with those whom he was pleased to call the common people of the place. Unguarded, the boy would indeed have been exposed to no such risk of contamination; but Mr. Hesselden had promised to be there, and it was believed that, under his wing, the boy would take no harm, while Mr. Temple's object, of preserving a connexion with whatever passed in his neighbourhood, might be fulfilled.
Mr. Hesselden was not there; and if it was desirable that Temple's representative should make a dignified appearance on this new occasion, never was a representative more unfortunately chosen. The little fellow crept to his grandmamma's side, shivering and half crying. The good lady observed that it was indeed very cold, chafed his hands, requested Rundell to throw another log or two on the fire, and comforted the boy with assurances that he was come in time to dance with her. Every body was ready with protestations that it was indeed remarkably cold. It was thought the beauty of the woods was nearly over for this season. In a few days more it was probable that the myriads of stems in the forest would be wholly bare, and little green but the mosses left for the eye to rest upon under the woven canopy of boughs. Few evergreens grew near, so that the forest was as remarkably gloomy in winter as it was bright in the season of leaves.
When the window was opened, that the star-gazers might reconnoitre the heavens, it was found that the air was thick with snow;—snow was falling in a cloud.
“Do but see!” cried Arthur. “No stargazing to-night, nor dancing either, I fancy, if we mean to get home before it is knee-deep. Temmy, did it snow when you came?”
“O, yes,” answered the boy, his teeth chattering at the recollection.
“Why did not you tell us, my dear?” asked Mrs. Sneyd.
The doctor was inwardly glad that there was so good a reason for Mr. Hesselden's absence.
“No wonder we did not hear the horse trot up to the door,” observed some one. “Come, ladies, put up your work, unless you mean to stay here till the next thaw.”
A child or two was present who was delighted to think of the way to the school-house being impassable till the next thaw.
“Stay a bit,” cried Rundell, coming in from the door, and pulling it after him. “l am not going without my brand, and a fine blazing one too,—with such noises abroad.”
“Wolves. A strong pack of them, to judge by the cry.”
All who possessed sheep were now troubled with dire apprehensions: and their fears were not allayed when Temmy let fall that wolves were howling, as the groom thought, on every side, during his ride from the Lodge. The boy had never been so alarmed in his life; and he laid a firm grasp on uncle Arthur's coat-collar when there was talk of going home again.
“You must let me go, Temmy. I must look after my lambs without more loss of time. If you had not been the strangest boy in the world, you would have given us notice to do so, long ago. I cannot conceive what makes you so silent about little things that happen.”
Mrs. Sneyd could very well account for that which puzzled Arthur. She understood little minds, anti had watched, only too anxiously, the process by which continual checking had rendered her grand-child afraid to tell that there was snow, or that wolves were abroad.
“Come, lads,” cried Arthur. “Who cares for his sheep? Fetch your arms, and meet me at the poplar by the Kiln, anti we will sally out to the pens, and have a wolf-hunt.”
There was much glee at the prospect of this frolic; the more that such an one had not been expected to occur yet awhile. So early a commencement of winter had not happened within the experience of any inhabitant of Briery Creek. The swine in the woods had not yet exhausted their feast of autumn berries; and fallen apples and peaches enough remained to feed them for a month. The usual signal of the advance of the season,—these animals digging for hickory nuts among the rotting leaves,—had not been observed, In short, the snow had taken every body by surprise, unless it was the wolves.
Dr. Sneyd lighted and guided home his wife and Temmy, in almost as high spirits as the youngest of the wolf-hunters. The season of sleighing was come, and his precious package of glass might soon be attainable. Dire as were the disasters which befel the party on their way,—the wetting, the loss of the track, the stumbles, the dread of wild, beasts, and Temmy's disappearance for ten seconds in a treacherous hollow,— the doctor did not find himself able to regret the state of the weather. He fixed his thoughts ou the interests of science, and was consoled for every mischance.
If he had foreseen all that would result from this night's adventure, he would not have watched with so much pleasure for the lights along the verge of the forest, when the snow had ceased; nor have been amused at the tribute of wolves' heads which he found the next morning deposited in his porch.