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Chapter VII.: THE END OF THE MATTER. - 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 END OF THE MATTER.
The truth was not long in becoming known when the daylight called the villagers abroad. Temple was gone. He had fled from his creditors, and to escape the vengeance of the land-office for his embezzlement of funds which had come into his hands in the transaction of its business. His creditors might make what they could of that which he left behind; but his mansion, shrubberies, conservatories, and ornamental furniture could by no method be made to compensate for the property which had flown to the moon, or somewhere else where it was as little accessible. The estate, disposed of to the greatest possible advantage, could not be made worth more than what was spent upon it in its present form; and the enormous waste which had been perpetrated in wanton caprices could never be repaired.
Temple had spent more than his income, from the time he set foot in America, if not before. He was only careless at first, forgetting to provide for contingencies, and being regularly astonished, as often as he looked into his affairs, at discovering how much his expenses had exceeded his expectations. He next found it easier to avoid looking too closely into his affairs than to control his passion for ostentation: and from that moment, he trod the downward path of the spendthrift; raising money by any means that he could devise, and trusting that fate or something would help him before all was spent. Fate did not come in as a helper till he could turn nothing more of his own into dollars without the humiliation of appearing to retrench; and to submit to this was quite out of the question. So he compelled his lady to darn and dye, and make her old wardrobe serve; restricted her allowance for housekeeping in all the departments that he had nothing to do with; and betook himself to embezzlement This served his purpose for a short time; but, on the day of Arthur's funeral, a stranger was observed to have arrived in the place, without an introduction to Mr. Temple. Temple's unpaid labourers had lately taken the liberty of asking for their money, and, actuated by some unknown impulse, had this evening come up with torches through the rain: to call the gentleman to account, and show him that they would not be trifled with any longer. It was time to be off; and Temple waited only till the village was quiet, before he stole to the stables, saddled his horse with his own bands, just called to tell his wife that he could not at present say whether he should send for her, or whether she might never see or hear from him more, and turned his back on Briery Creek for ever. Whether his wife would choose to go to him was a question which did not seem to occur to his mind.
A passing traveller, looking down upon Briery Creek from the neighbouring ridge, might perhaps ask the name of the social benefactor who had ornamented the district with yon splendid mansion, presented the village with a place of worship, and the shell, at least, of a parsonage; had reclaimed those green lawns from the wild prairie, and cleared the woodland in the rear so as to leave, conspicuous in beauty, clumps of the noblest forest trees. Such a stranger ought not to use the term “benefactor '' till he knew whence came the means by which all this work was wrought. If from a revenue which could supply these graces after all needful purposes had been fulfilled, well and good. Such an expenditure would then have been truly beneficent. It is a benignant act to embellish God's earth for the use and delight of man. But if there is not revenue enough for such objects,—if they are attained by the sacrifice of those funds on whose reproduction society depends for subsistence, the act, from being beneficent, becomes criminal. The mansion is built out of the maintenance of the labourer; and that which should have been bread to the next generation is turned into barren stone. Temple was a criminal before he committed fraud. He injured society by exhausting its material resources, and leaving no adequate substitute for them. If he had lavished his capital, as Dr. Sneyd laid out his revenue, in the pursuit of science, it is very possible that, though such an expenditure might require justification in comparison with Dr. Sneyd's, the good he would effect might have so superabounded above the harm as to have made society his debtor,—(as in many a case where philosophers have expended all their substance in perfecting a discovery or invention,)—but Temple had done nothing like this. The beauty of his estate, however desirable in itself, was no equivalent for the cost of happiness through which it was produced. He had no claim to a share of the almost unlimited credit allowed, by the common consent of society, to its highest class of benefactors,—the explorers of Providence.
Arthur had done little less than Temple in the way of adorning Briery Creek; and how differently! His smiling fields, his flocks spreading over the prairie, his own house, and the dwellings of his labourers, increasing in number and improving in comfort every year, were as beautiful in the eye of a right-minded observer as the grander abode of his brother-in-law. There were indications also of new graces which were to arise in their proper time. The clearings were made with a view to the future beauty of the little estate; creepers were already spreading over the white front of the house, and no little pains had been bestowed upon the garden. Yet, so far from any suffering by Arthur's expenditure, every body had been benefited. A larger fund had remained had the close of each year for the employment of labour during the next; and if new labourers were induced to come from a distance and settle here, it was not that they might be kept busy and overpaid for a time, and afterwards be left unemployed and defrauded of part of their dues, but that they and their children after them might prosper with the prosperity of their employer. Temple had absconded, leaving a name which would be mentioned with either contempt or abhorrence as long as it would be mentioned at all. Arthur had departed, surrounded with the blessings of those who regarded him as a benefactor. He had left a legacy of substantial wealth to the society in which he had lived, and a name which would be perpetuated with honour.
It was hoped that the effects of Arthur's good deeds would long outlast those of Temple's evil ones. In all communities that can boast of any considerable degree of civilization, there are many accumulators to one spendthrift. The principle of accumulation is so strong, that it has been perpetually found an overmatch for the extravagance of ostentatious governments, and for the wholesale waste of war. The capital of every tolerably governed state has been found to be gradually on the increase, however much misery might, through mismanagement, be inflicted on certain portions of the people. It was to be hoped that such would be the process in Briery Creek; that the little capitals which had been saved by the humbler residents would be more freely employed in putting labour into action, than while the great man had been there to buy up all that was to be had. It might be hoped that the losses of the defrauded labourers might thus be in time repaired, and new acquisitions made. Again:—there was now no one to interfere with the exchanges in the markets, and thus perplex the calculations of producers, causing deficiencies of some articles and gluts of others;—inequalities which no foresight could guard against. Every one might now have as much fresh meat, and as little salt, as he chose; and the general taste would regulate the supply in the market, to the security of those who sold and the satisfaction of those who bought. It would be well for certain nations if those who attempt interference with commerce on a larger scale could be as easily scared away as Temple; their dictation (in the form of bounties and prohibitions) expiring as they withdrew. Greater, in proportion to their greater influence in society, would be the rejoicing at their departure, than that with which Temple's disappearance was hailed, when the first dismay of his poorer creditors was overcome.
The ease which was thus occasioned was not confined to those who had merely a business connexion with him. No one liked to tell his notions upon so delicate a matter; but a significant smile went round, some months after, when it was remarked how uncommonly well Mrs. Temple was looking, and how gracious she had become, and what a different kind of boy Temmy now promised to be from any thing that was expected of him formerly. The air of the farm was pronounced to be a fine thing for them both.
Yes; the farm,—Arthur's farm. Tide estate was of course left to his family; and it was the most obvious thing in the world that Mrs. Temple should establish herself in it, and superintend its management, with Isaac and his wife to assist her, till Temmy should be old and wise enough to take it into his own charge. The lady herself proposed this plan; and it was a fortunate thing that she had always been fond of a dairy and poultry yard, and of a country life altogether. The pride which had chilled all who came near her during “the winter of her discontent,” gradually thawed under the genial influence of freedom and ease. Her parents once more recognized in her the Louisa Sneyd who had been so long lost to them, and every body but the Hesseldens thought her so improved that she could not have been known for the same person;—even as to beauty,—so much brighter did she look carrying up a present of eggs and cream-cheese to her mother, in the early morning, than sauntering through the heat from her carriage, entrenched behind her parasol, with the liveried servant at her heels, burdened with her pocket-handkerchief and a pineapple for the doctor's eating.
She was never afraid of being too early at her father's. Dr. Sneyd was as fond of country occupations as she; and when he had not been in his observatory for half the night, might be found at sunrise digging or planting in his garden. His grievous loss had not destroyed his energies; it had rather stimulated them, by attaching him for the short remainder of his days to the place of his present abode. He had gradually relaxed in his desire to see England again, and had now relinquished the idea entirely,—not through indolence, or because the circle of his old friends at home was no longer complete, but because,— free from superstition as he was,—his son being buried there attached him to the place. Here he, and his wife, and their daughter, and grandchild, could speak of Arthur more frequently, more easily, more happily, than they could ever learn to do elsewhere. They could carry forward his designs, work in his stead, and feel, act, and talk as if he were still one of them. Not only did they thus happily regard him in the broad sunshine, when amidst the lively hum of voices from the village they were apt to fancy that they could distinguish his; but, ill the dead of night, when the doctor was alone in his observatory, or sometimes assisted by Mrs. Sneyd. (who had taken pains to qualify herself thus late to aid her husband,) bright thoughts of the departed would accompany the planets in their courses, and hopes were in attendance which did not vanish with the morning light, or grow dark in the evening shade. The large telescope was not, for some time, of the use that was expected, for want of such an assistant as Arthur. A sigh would occasionally escape from Dr. Sneyd when he felt how Arthur would have enjoyed a newly-made discovery,—how he might have suggested the means of removing a difficulty. Then a smile would succeed at the bare imagination of how much greater things might be revealed in Arthur's new sphere of habitation; and at the conviction that the progress of God's truth can never be hurtfully delayed, whether its individual agents are left to work here, or removed to a different destination elsewhere.
Hopes, different in kind, but precious in their way, rested now on Temmy,—soon to be called by the less undignified name of Temple. The boy had brightened, in intellect and in spirits, from the hour that he began to surmount his agitation at the idea of being some day sole master of the farm. There was something tangible in farm-learning, which he felt he could master when there was no one to rebuke and ridicule almost every thing he attempted; and in this department he had a model before him on which his attention was for ever fixed. Uncle Arthur was the plea for every new thing he proposed to attempt; and, by dint of incessant recourse to it, he attempted many things which he would not otherwise have dreamed of. Among other visions for the future, he saw himself holding the pen in the observatory, sans peur et sans reproche.
He was some time in learning to attend to two things at once; and all his merits and demerits might safely be discussed within a yard of his ear, while he was buried in mathematics or wielding his pencil; which he always contrived to do at odd moments.
“What is he about now?” was the question that passed between the trio who were observing him, one evening, when he had been silent some time, and appeared to be lightly sketching on a scrap of paper which lay before him.
“Ephraim's cabin, I dare say,” observed his mother. “We are to have a frolic in a few days, to raise a cabin for Ephraim, who has worked wonderfully hard in the prospect of having a dwelling of his own. It is Temple's affair altogether; and I know his head has been full of it for days past. He wishes that Ephraim's cabin should be second to none on the estate.”
“Let us see what he will make of it,” said the doctor, putting on his spectacles, and stepping softly behind Temple. He looked on, over the youth's shoulder, for a few minutes, with a quiet smile, and then beckoned his wife.
This second movement Temple observed. He looked up hastily.
“Very like my dear boy! It is very like. It is something worth living for, Temple, to be so remembered.
“So remembered as this, Sir! It is so easy to copy the face, the——”
“The outward man? It is a great pleasure to us that you find it so; but it gives us infinitely more to see that you can copy after a better manner still. We can see a likeness there too, Temple.”
Having illustrated the leading principles which regulate the Production, Distribution, and Exchange of Wealth, we proceed to consider the laws of its Consumption.
Of these four operations, the three first are means to the attainment of the last as an end.
Consumption by individuals is the subject before us. Government consumption will be treated of hereafter.