Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter I.: BUDGE-ROW AGAIN! - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 9
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Chapter I.: BUDGE-ROW AGAIN! - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 9 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 9.
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“Pray open the window, Morgan,” said Jane Farrer to the old servant who was assisting her to arrange for tea the room in which the tamily had dined.
“Perhaps you don't know, Ma'am, what a cutting wind it is. More like December than March, Miss, Jane; bitter enough to help on your rheumatism, my dear.”
And Morgan paused, with her hand on the sash. Miss Farrer chose that the room should be refreshed. She was aware that the scents from the shop were at all times strong enough for the nerves of any one unaccustomed to the atmosphere she lived in; and she did not wish that her brother Henry should have to encounter in addition those which the dinner had left behind. She tied a handkerchief over her head while the March wind blew in chilly, and Morgan applied herself to light the fire. When the dinner-table was set hack against the wall, and the small Pembroke table brought forward, and the sofa, with its brown cotton cover, wheeled round, and the two candlesticks, with whole candles in them, placed in front of the tea-tray, Miss Farrer thought she would go up into Henery's room, and see that all was right there, before she put off her black stuff apron, and turned down the cuffs of her gown, and took her seat beside the fire.
She tried to look at everything with the eyes she fancied her young brother would bring from the university. She, who had lived for five-and-thirty years in this very house, at the corner of Budge Row, among this very furniture, could not reasonably expect to view either the one or the other as it would appear to a youth of two-and-twenty, who had lived in a far different scene, and among such companions as Jane had no idea of. It was some vague notion of this improbability that made her linger about Henry's little apartment, and wonder whether he would think she ought to have put up a stuff curtain before the window, and whether he had been accustomed to a bit of carpet, and whether the soap out of her father's shop was such as he could use. Then came the odd mixture of feelmgs,—that her father's youngest son ought not to dream of luxuries that his elder brother and sisters had not had,— and yet that Henry was a scholar and a gentleman, and therefore unavoidably held in awe by the family. When she reverted to the time, well remembered, when she upheld the little fellow, and coaxed him to set one tiny plump foot before the other, the idea of being now half afraid to receive him made her smile and then sigh, and hope that good might come of her father's ambition to give a son of his a university education.
Before she had finished making herself an neat as usual, and rather more dressed, she beard, amidst all the noises that came in from the narrow bustling street, her own name called from the bottom of the stairs.
“I'm coming, father!—It never can be Henry yet. The postman's bell is but just gone by, and the six o'clock cries are not all over; and there sound the chimes. It is full five minutes' walk from Lad-lane, too. Perhaps there is something more to be done at the books: so I will carry down my apron,—Why, Morgan, it is well I did not throw you down stairs.”
Morgan's face, entrenched in its mob cap, was just visible in the twilight, peeping into the room from the steep, narrow stair upon which the chamber-door directly opened. She came to say that her master wanted Miss Jane; that he was in a great hurry, and seemed to have some good news to tell.
Mr. Farrer was bustling about, apparently in a state of croat happiness. His brown wig seemed to sit lightly on his crown; his shoes creaked very actively; his half whistle betokened a light heart, and he looked the fire as if he had forgotten how much coals were a bushel. He stretched out his arms when his daughter came down with a look of inquiry, and kissed her on either cheek, saying,
“I have news for thee, my dear. I say, Morgan, let us have plenty of buttered toast,—plenty and hot. Well, Jenny,—life is short enough to some folks. Of all people, who do you think are dead?”
Jane saw that it was nobody that she would be expected to grieve about. She had fallen enough into her father's way of thinking to conjecture aright,—that some of the lot of lives with which her lather and she were joined in a tontine annuity had failed.
“Poor souls! Yes: Jerry Hill and his brother, —both gone together of a fever, in the same house. Who would have thought it? Both younger lives than mine, by some years. I have no doubt they thought, many a time, that mine would be the first to fail. But this is a fine invention,—this way of purchasing annuities,— though I was against it at first, as being too much like a lottery for a sober man to venture upon. But, I say, Jane, I hope you are glad I made yon invest your money in this way. You had a right to look to coming into their lives, sooner or later; but one would hardly have expected it in my time; though, somebody, I always had a notion it would turn out so.”
Jane's colour had been much raised, from the first disclosure of the news. She now asked whether these were not the last lives of the lot, out of their own family;—whether her father's, her brother Michael's, and her own were not the only ones now left.
“To be sure they are! We have the whole thing to ourselves from this time. I think the minister will be for sending Michael and me to the wars, to have us killed off; though I hope, in that case, you would live on and on, and enjoy your own for many a year, to disappoint him. But, to be sure,” said the old man, checking his exuhation as he saw his daughter look grave, “life is a very uncertain thing, as we may see by what has just happened.”
“I am sure it is the last thing I thought of,” observed Jane.
“Ay. It is a pretty yearly addition to us three;—two dropping together in this way: and, as I said, I hope you will enjoy it for many a year when I am dead and gone; as I am sure you deserve, for you. have been a good daughter to me,—keeping the house as well as your toother did before you, and the books better than I could myself leaving me free to attend to the shop. But, let us see. The room is half full or smoke still; and you will say that comes of my poking the fire. What have you got for Harry's tea? The lad will want something solid, though he be a student. I remember his telling me last time that no folks are more hungry than those that have been a long while over their hooks.”
Jane moved about like one in a dream, till, the shop-boy's heavy treat having been heard in the passage, Morgan put her head in at the parlour door to say that Michael and a gentleman with him might be seen from the shop-door to have turned the corner at toe other end of the Row.
“'Tis a pity Patience can't be here to-night, now really,” said the old man: “but she always manages to be confined just when we have a merry-making. 'Tis as perverse as her husband not choosing to buy a tontine annuity when he had the cash by him. He will find now he had better have done it. I wish I had thought of it in time to have made it. a condition of his marrying Patience.—Well, Harry, lad! I hope you are come home hearty. What! You are not ashamed of your kin, though you have been seeing lords at every turn?”
“How well Jane looks!” was Henry's first remark, after all the greetings were over. “She is not like the same person that she was the last time I came home.”
Henry was not the only one who saw a change in Jane, this evening. Her eyes shone in the light of the fire, and there was a timidity in her manner which seemed scarcely to belong to the sober age she had attained. Instead of making tea in the shortest and quietest way, as usual, she was hesitaring and absent, and glanced towards Henry as often as her father and Michael joked, or the opening of the door let in a whiff of the scent of cheese and the et ceteras of a grocer's establishment.
Mr. Farrer remarked that Henry would find London a somewhat buffer place just now than he had been accustomed to. London had been all in a bustle since the King's speech, so that there was no such thing as getting shop-boys back when they had been sent of an errand. What with the soldiers in the Parks, and the fuss upon the river when any news came, and the forces marching to embark, and the shows some of the emigrants made in the streets, there was enough to entice idle boys from their duty.
“Not only from their duty of coming home,” said Michael. “There was our Sam to-day,— tis a fact,—left the shop while I was half a mile off, and the Taylors' maid came in for half a pound of currants, and would have gone away again if Morgan had not chanced to pass the inside door and look over the blind at the moment. 'Tis a fact: and Sam had nothing to say but that he heard firing, and the newsmen's horns blowing like mad, and he went to learn what it was all about.”
“I'll teach him! l'll make him remember it!” cried Mr. Farter. “But we want another pair of eyes in the shop, sure enough. 'Tis not often that you and I want to be away at the same time; but——”
And the father and son talked over their shop plans, and prepared vengeance for Sam, while Henry told his sister what signs of public re-joicing he had seen this day on his journey;— flags on the steeples, processions of little boys, and evergreen boughs on the stage coaches. The war seemed a very amusing thing to the nation at present.
“Stocks are up to-day. The people are in high spirits.”
“When people are bent on being in high spirits, anything will do to make them so. We were in high spirits six years ago because a few bad taxes were taken off; and now we are merrier than ever under the necessity of laying on more.”
“Come, come, Hal,” said his father, “don't grudge the people a taste of merriment while they can get it. You will see long faces enough when these new taxes come to be paid. I hope you are not so dead set against the minister as you used to be when younger; or so given to find fault with all that is done.”
“So far from being an enemy to the minister, father, I think it is very hard that the nation, or the part of them that makes itself heard by the minister, should be so fond of war as to encourage him to plunge us into it. These very people will not abuse him the less, in the long run, for getting the nation into debt.”
“Well, well. We won't abuse the debt, and loans, and that sort of thing to-day,—eh, Jane!” And Mr. Farrer chuckled, and Michael laughed loudly.
“For my part,” continued the old man, “I think the debt is no bad thing for showing what sort of spirits the nation is in. You may depend upon it, Peek, and all other husbands who have wives apt to be high and low, would be very glad of such a thermometer to measure the ladies' humour by. 'Tis just so, I take it, with Mr. Pitt and the nation. If he wants to know his mistress's humour, he has only just to learn the state of the stocks.”
“Just the same case,” said Michael, laughing.
“Not quite,” said Henry. “Peek would rather do without such a thermometer, or barometer, if Patience must ruin herself to-pay for it: much more, if she must leave it to her children to pay it after her. I should not have expected, father, to find you speaking up for war and the debt.”
“Why, as for war, it seems to make a pretty sort of bustle that rather brings people to the shop than keeps them away, and that will help us to pay our share of the new taxes, if we only keep to the shop, instead of fancying to be finc gentlemen. But I am of your mind about the minEter. If the people are eager for war,—and full of hope—of—of——”
“Ah! of what? What is tbe best that can come of it?”
“O, every true Englishman hopes to win, you know. But if they will go headlong into war, they have no right to blame the minister, as if it was all his doing that they have to pay heavy taxes.”
“Yet he ought to know better than to judge of the people by a parliament that claps its hands the more the more burdens are laid on their children's children. He ought to question their right to tax posterity in any such way. I cannot see how it is at all more just for us to make a war which our grandchildren must pay for, than for our allies to make a war which the English must pay for.”
“I am sure we are paying as fast as we can,” replied Mr. Farrer. “It has kept me awake more nights than one, I can tall you,—the thinking what will come of these new taxes on many things that we sell. As far the debt, it has got so high, it can get little higher; that is one comfort. To think that in my father's young days, it was under seven hundred thousand pounds; and now, in my day, it is near three hundred millions!”
“What makes you so sure it will soon stop, father?”
“That it can't go on without ruining the nation, son. I suppose you don't think any minister on earth would do that. No, no. Three hundred millions is debt enough, in all conscience, for any nation. No minister will venture beyond that.”
“Not unless the people choose. And I, for one, will do all in my power to prevent its proceeding further.” “And pray how?”
“That depends on what your plans are for me, sir.”
“True enough. Well, eat away now, and let us see whether book-learning spoils buttered toast. Come, tell us what you think of us, after all the fine folks you have been amongst.”
Jane was astonished that her father could speak in this way to the gentleman in black, who, however simple in his manners, add accommodating in his conversation, was quite unlike every other person present in his quiet tone, and gentle way of talking. She could not have asked him what he thought of the place and the party.
Henry replied that he was, as he had said, much struck by his sister's looking so well; and as for Morgan, she was not a day older since the time when he used to run away with her Welsh beaver——
“And make yourself look like a girl, with your puny pale face,” interrupted Michael.
“Well, but, the place, —how does the old house look?” persisted Mr. Farrer. “You used to be fond of prying through that green curtain to see the folks go in and out of the shop; and then you raised mustard and cress at the back window; and you used to whistle up and down stairs to your attic till your poor mother could bear it no longer. The old place looks just as it did to you, I dare say?”
Henry could say no more than that he remembered all these things. By recalling many others, he hoped to divert the course of investigation; but his father insisted on his saying that the dingy, confined, shabby rooms looked to the grown wise man the very same as to the thoughtless child who had seen no other house. It was as impossible for Henry to say this as to believe still, as he once did, that his father was the wisest man in the world; and Mr. Farrer was disconcerted accordingly. He thought within himself that this was a poor reward for all that he had spent on his son Harry, and pushed away his cup with the spoon in it when it had been filled only four times.
“Are you tired, Jane?” asked Henry, setting down his tin candlestick with its tall thin candle, when his father had done bidding him be careful not to set the house on fire, and Michael was gone to see that all was safe in the shop. Jane was quite disposed for more conversation; and would indeed have been darning stockings for at least another hour if Henry had gone to sleep at ten, like his brother. She brought out her knitting, carefully piled the embers, extinguished one candle, and was ready to hear Henry's questions and remarks, and to offer some of her own. She could not return the compliment she had received as to her looks. She thought Harry was tbin, and nearly as pale as in the old days when his nankeen frock and drab beaver matched his complexion.
Henry had been studying hard; and he acknowledged that his mind had been anxious of late. It was so strange that nothing had been said to him respecting his destination in life, that he could not help speculating on the future more than was quite good for health and spirits. Could Jane give him any idea what his father's intentions were?
Henry now looked so boyish, with feet on fender, and fingers busy with an unemployed knitting-needle, that Jane's ancient familiarity began to return. She hoped there were no matrimonial thoughts at the bottom of Henry's anxiety about the future.
“Must no man be anxious about his duties and his prospects till he thinks of marrying, Jane? But why have you hopes and fears about it?”
“Because I am sure my father will not hear of such a thing as your marrying. You know how steady he is when he once makes up his mind.”
Henry glanced up in his sister's face, and away again when he saw that she met his eye. She continued,
“I am not speaking of my own case in particular; but he has expressed his will to Michael, very plainly, and told him what sort of connexion he must make if he marries at all. And Michael has in consequence given up all talk of marriage with a young woman he had promised himself to.”
“Given up the connexion! A grown man like Michael give up the woman he had engaged himself to, at another man's bidding! How can he sit laughing as he did to-night?”
“I did not say he had given up the connexion,” replied Jane, very quietly; “but he has given up all talk of marriage. So you see——”
“I see I shall have nothing to say to my father on this part of the subject of settling in life. But you, Jane,—what are you doing and thinking of? My father knows that he is on safer ground with you than he can be with his sons. How is it with you, sister?”
“What you say is very true. If he chooses to speak for his daughter, keeping her in the dark all the while, what can she do but make herself content to be in the dark, and turn her mind upon something else? If mine is too full of one object or another, I hope God will be merciful with me, since I have been under another's bidding all mv days.”
“It is hard—very hard.”
“It is hard that others,—that Morgan, and I dare say Michael, should know more of what has been said and written in my name than I do my-self. Yes, Morgan. It is from her that I know——”
“About Peek? That he wanted you before he thought of Patience?”
“Not only that. Patience is welcome to her lot,—though I do not see what need have pre-vented her taking my place at the books, if my father had not made up, his mind to keep me by him. But that is nothing in comparison with—some other things that have been done in my name; the treating a friend as if he were an impostor, and I a royal, princess; while, all the time, I had no such prvud thoughts myself, God knows.”
“How came Morgan to tell you anything about it?” cried Henry, eager to find some one on whom to vent the indignation that he was unwilling to express in relation to his father.
“Morgan was made a friend of by that person; and she is the kindest friend I have, you may believe it, Henry. She would have upheld me in anything l might have chosen to do or to say. But I was doubtful whether it was not too late then; and altogether I fancy it was best to get on as I did for a time. And now I am settled to my lot, you see, and grown into it. I am fully satisfied now with my way of life; and it is not likely to change.”
“Do you mean that you expect to keep the books, and be a thrifty housewife, as long as you live? If it was necessary, well and good. But my father must be enornmusly rich.”
Jane shook her head as she carefully mended the fire, and observed that the times were such as to alarm the wealthiest. While her brother made inquiries about the business, and her share of profit for her toils, site answered with her habitual caution, and made no communication about the increased income which the three members of the family would receive in consequence of the deaths of which she had this afternoon heard.”
“So you have no idea,” said Henry, “how long I am to remain here, and what I am to do next?”
“Ah! indeed I am afraid you will hardly know what to do with your days here, Henry. I have been thinking what can be managed as to that. You see we have no books but the one shelf-full that you have read many times already. And we have no friends; and we dine so early; and the house itself I am afraid, is the kind of thing you have been little used to. You may speak out to me more than you liked to do to my father.”
Henry was looking about him with a half smile, and owned that the slanting glass between the windows did not appear quite so grand a mirror as when he looked up into it fearfully, in his childhood, wondering by what magic the straight floor could be made to took so like a very steep carpeted hill. He then thought that no entertainment could be grander than the new years eve, when Mr. Jerry Hill and his brother used to come to drink punch, and were kind enough to take each a boy between his knees. But now, it seemed as if there would be barely room for Mr. Jerry Hill and his brother to turn themselves round in this very same parlour.
They would never spread another new year's eve here! They were dead! How? When? Where? The news only arrived this day! and his father and Michael so merry! Henry could not understand this.
“But, Jane, do not trouble your head about what amusement I am to find at home. If it comes to that, I can sit in my old place in the window-seat and read, let the carts clatter and the sashes rattle as they may. What I want to know is how I am to empioy myself. I shall not live idly, as you may suppose. I will not accept of food and clothes, to be led about for a show as my father's learned son that was bred up at the university.”
“Certainly not,” said Jane, uneasily. “Perhaps in two or three days something may turn up to settle the matter. I dare say you had. rather go back to college than do anything else?”
No. Henry now fell into praises of the life of a country clergyman, living in just such a parsonage as he saw at Allansford, when he was staying there with his friend, John Stephens.
“Are there any ladies at Mr. Stephens's?” inquired Jane.
“Mrs. Stephens and her daughter, and a friend of Miss Stephens's. Ah! that is just the kind of settlement that I should like; and how easily my father might, if he would——But, as you say, a few days will show; and I will have patience till then. I cannot conceive what made him send for me, unless he has something in view.”
Jane knitted in silence.
“Will you go with me to-morrow morning, Jane, to see poor Patience?”
Jane could not be spared in the mornings; but she could step over before dark in the evening, and should be glad to introduce to Henry some of his new nephews and nieces; there having been two brace of twins since Harry had crossed the threshold. Harry thought Peek was a very dutiful king's man. He not only raised taxes where with to carry on the king's wars, but reared men to fight in them.
“Why, Morgan,” said he, “I thought you had gone to bed without bestowing a word on me. Cannot you sit down with us for five minutes?”
Morgan set down the little tray with hot water and a bottle of home-made wine, which she had brought unbidden and half fearfully. She was relieved by seeing her mistress bring out the sugar and glasses cheerfully from the cupboard, and invite her brother to help himself. He did so when he had filled a glass for Morgan.
When the candlewicks had grown long, and the fire had fallen low, so prodigious a knocking was heard overhead as nearly prevented Morgau from carrying her last mouthful straight to its destination. Mr. Farter had heard their voices on waking from his first sleep, and had no idea of thoughtless young people wasting his coals and candles in such an idle way,—as if they could not talk by day-light! The glasses were deposited so carefully as to make no jingle; the slender candles were once more lighted, and Honry found time just to assure his sister, in a whisper, that he had not seen a truer lady than Morgan since they had last parted. He picked out one favourite volume from the single row of books, to carry to his chamber; shook hands with his sister, and edged his way up the narrow stairs. As he found that the room seemed made to forbid all reading, unless it were in bed, he left his book unopened till the morning. It was the first volume of poetry that he had ever studied; but as the window-curtain was puffed to and fro, and a cutting draught entered under the door, and the whole room was divided between the two, he put out his flaring candle, and lay thinking poetry instead of reading it, while the gleams on the ceiling, and the drowsy sounds from below, called up visions of his childhood, which at last insensibly mingled with those of sleep.