Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter II.: MATERNAL ANTICIPATIONS. - Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside)
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Chapter II.: MATERNAL ANTICIPATIONS. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside) 
Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside) (London: Charles Fox, 1834).
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As there must be no communication with Mrs. Arruther about the most important article of Ryan’s news, nurse would have had no objection to talk it over a little on her way through the village; but she found no opportunity to do so. There were no walkers to be seen enjoying the cool of the evening by the side of the placid Arne, as it flowed on towards the fall where it turned the wheel of Mr. Waugh’s paper-mill. There were no husbands and wives sitting outside their doors, after having put their children to sleep. There were no lingerers in the churchyard, talking over the sermon of the morning. A low, confused murmur of suppressed voices issued from the narrow opening of the ale-house door, as it stood ajar, and let a gleam of light from within fall across the road. Almost every interior was visible from being more or less lighted up; but no one offered encouragement for a word of conversation in passing. Mrs. Dowley was slapping her boy Tom because he would not go to sleep as she bade him; and Mrs. Green, whose children were more obedient in this one respect, was dozing with her head upon the table, by way of whiling away the time till her husband should come home from the Rose. Kate Jeffery was reading to her grandfather as he sat in his great chair; and it would not do to interrupt her, lest it should be the bible that she was reading. A knot of lads were gathered about the churchyard gate; but their voices sounded so rude, that nurse, who was a somewhat timid woman, made a circuit to avoid passing through them. The porter at Mrs. Arruther’s let her in with a studious haste which seemed to intimate that he thought her late; and she did not stay to be told so. In the housekeeper’s room she only tarried to see that her close cap looked neat, and to pin on the shawl she always wore when she sat up at night. Mrs. Arruther had asked for her six times in the last ten minutes; so there was not a moment to be lost.
“You were to come at nine o’clock, and it is ten minutes past, nurse,” said the sick lady. “This is always the way people treat me,—as if there was not a clock in Arneside.”
There were several clocks in Arneside, by one of which it was two minutes past nine, by another it wanted a quarter to nine; a third was at half-past eight, and a fourth was striking three as nurse passed its door. But Mrs. Ede never contradicted her patients. She told of Ryan’s arrival, and was admonished that no guest of hers could possibly be of half so much importance as Mrs. Arruther.
“I know how it is, nurse. It is those children of yours that can do nothing for themselves, any more than any other children that are educated as the fashion is now. They will want you to wash their faces for them, and put them to bed, as long as they live, if you go on sending them to that Sunday school.”
Nurse was very sorry to hear this. She did not know, in such a case, what they were to do to get their faces washed when she should be gone to her grave, where she hoped to be long before her three children. But indeed she must say for her little folks that they could all put themselves to bed, and had done it, even the youngest, these two years past.
“Ay, ay; that was before you sent them to the school. Keep them there a little longer, and they will be fit for nothing at all. You never will believe any warning I give you about it; but I tell you again, the three last housemaids I had this year, one after the other, were the worst that ever entered my doors; and they could all read and write. What do you think of that? O, my head! My head!”
Nurse thought it was time that the draught should be taken, and proposed to smooth the pillow, and shade the light. This done, she wound up the lady’s watch, and sat down behind the curtain, in hopes that the patient would sleep. Of this, however, there seemed but little chance. Mrs. Arruther tossed about, and groaned out her wonder why she could not go to sleep like other people, till nurse was obliged to take notice, and ask whether there was anything that she could do for her.
“Do! yes, to be sure. Bring out the light from wherever you have hidden it. It is hard enough not to be able to go out and see things, as I have done all my life till now; and here you won’t let me see what is in my own room. Where are you going to put the light? Not under that picture. You know I can’t bear that picture. And, mind, to-morrow morning—Bless me! what do you lift up your hand in that manner for?”
Nurse could only beg pardon. She had made an involuntary gesture of astonishment on hearing that the lady could not bear that beautiful picture of her own only son,—that picture which represented him in his chubby boyhood, standing at his mother’s knee, with hoop in hand. She was told not to be troublesome with her wonder, but to see that the picture was carried up into the lumber garret to-morrow, and something put in its place to hide its marks on the wall; anything that would not stare down upon people as they lay in bed, as that child’s eyes did. By rousing the wearied maid, just as she was falling asleep, nurse obtained a muslin apron, which, when she stood on the table, she could hang over the picture: and two or three pins, judiciously applied below, obviated all danger of the veil rising with any breath of air, so as to disclose the features of the boy.
“You had better take warning, and look to your children in time, nurse, before they grow up to plague you as my boy has plagued me.”
She had drawn back the curtain, and now showed herself as much disposed for conversation as if she had taken a waking instead of a sleeping draught.
“And you lay it all to education, ma’am? You think the university to blame for it? Well! ’tis hard to say.”
“What put such a notion into your head? Who ever dreams of objecting to the university for gentlemen? You would not have my son brought up as ignorant as a ploughboy; would you? No, no. I have done my duty by him in that way. He had the best-recommended tutors I could get for him, and every advantage at the university that was to be had; and the best proof of what was done for him is the credit he got there, and the prizes, and the reputation. He is a very fine scholar. Nobody denies that.”
Nurse pondered the practicability of putting the question she would have liked to have had answered; whether learning had had the same effect upon Mr. Arruther that the lady had anticipated for Owen and Ambrose. Nurse would fain know whether Mr. Arruther could wash his own face, and put himself to bed.
“Let us hope, ma’am, that the young gentleman will live and learn. If he is not able to do little things now, perhaps—”
“Little things! What sort of little things?”
“Well, ma’am, I thought if your late house-maids could not polish the fire-irons, or make your bed to your liking, and if you fear that my boys should not keep themselves clean when I am gone, because of their learning, perhaps. . . . But indeed, when I once saw the young gentleman, his gloves were as white as my apron, and the sunshine came back from the polish of his boots. I never saw a neater gentleman.”
“He is a puppy,” replied the tender mother. “I suppose it was that dandy show of his that caught the eyes of the low creature he has married. If I never get the better of this illness, she shall have none of my clothes to wear. No shopkeeper’s daughter shall be seen in the laces my mother left to me. I had rather give some of them to you, nurse, at once.”
“God forbid, ma’am! What should I do with laces? Such as I!”
“Very true. Now it is strange that a sensible woman like you, who knows what is proper, in her own case, should be so wrong about her children. What have they to do with education any more than you have with laces?”
Nurse took refuge under the sanction of the clergyman and of Mr. Waugh; and protested that she had as little idea of sending Owen and Ambrose to the university, as of asking that Mildred should wear the lady’s family Valenciennes and Mechlin.
“Well; I wonder what it is that you would have! I can’t make out what it is that you would be at!”
“Ma’am, if I had all I wished for—but I may as well be setting on a cup-full of broth to warm, as I fancy you may take a liking to a little, by-and-by.”
The lady let nurse do this. When she was tired of wondering whether she could take any broth when it should be warm, she languidly said,—
“Go on. What would you have for your children? Pray remember what I have heard you say yourself—that pride comes before a fall.”
“And a much greater one than I said that before me, ma’am. But I would not have my children made proud, because I should be sorry they should fall below what they are. If I had my wish, it would be that Owen should have work at the mill as long as he lives, so as to be pretty sure of eighteen shillings a week for a continuance; and that he should marry such a girl as Kate Jeffery, who would take as much care of his house as I would myself; and that they should never want for shoes and stockings for their children’s feet. And much the same for Ambrose.”
“Is that all? They might have all this without reading and writing.”
“Perhaps so, ma’am; but Kate reads to her grandfather of a Sunday evening, as I saw when I passed to-night; and the neighbours think, as well as I, that it is the boys that get on best with their learning that go straightest to their work; not swinging on the churchyard gate, nor swearing, to get a look that they may make game of from grave people passing by. As for Mildred, I don’t well know what to wish. ’Tis hard work for poor girls when they settle and have their families early: but then, I should be loth to leave her to live solitary in our cottage, spending her days all alone upon the hills. However, that will be as the Lord pleases. Meantime, I should best like that fifteen years hence, when the boys will be perhaps settled away, my girl should be keeping our place clean for me, and giving me her arm to church, and helping me with her little learning when, as often happens, I am at a loss to answer, for want of knowing. I have no wish to be idle, I am sure. I hope to knit her stockings and make her petticoats still, if she will clean the cupboard out, and entertain the clergyman better than I can do.”
The clergyman was not present to start the inquiry whether such were the sum total of the purposes for which spiritual beings were brought into a world teeming with spiritual influences. If he had been there, he might not, perhaps, have got a curtsey from nurse by telling her that her views were quite proper, and that she rightly understood what to desire for her young folks. Perhaps he might have thought little better of Mrs. Arruther’s aspirations.
“My boy has cruelly disappointed me,” she declared; “and yet I wished for no more than I had a right to expect from him. I wished that he should be a good scholar; and so he is. I wished that he should have the looks and manners of a gentleman.”
“And sure, ma’am, so he has?”
“O yes: and I hoped to see him in parliament, if it was only for once; and I carried this point, and mean to carry it again, if I can. He is in parliament with my money, and he shall have enough for the next election. But there’s an end. Instead of marrying as I wished, he has taken up with a tradesman’s daughter; and he may make the best of his bargain. Not an acre of my land, nor a shilling of my money that I can leave away, shall he have. If I am disappointed in him, I will have my satisfaction. I will do what I can to show people that they should take care what they expect from their children. He sha’n’t have all the laugh on his side. He sha’n’t say for nothing that my behaviour to him is unpardonable.”
Nurse wondered whether at the university they taught to forgive and forget. If they did, perhaps the young gentleman would be bent upon making up matters, if he thought himself put upon; and then there might be a coming round on the other side.
“I don’t know what they do there about forgiving; but I am sure they teach the young men to forget. He never wrote to me above once, the last year he was there; and that was for money. And he never thought more of his cousin Ellen, though I told him to marry her, and requested him to send her down a lap-dog like mine. When I asked him what he meant by it, he said Ellen and all had entirely slipped his memory. I told him my mind, pretty plainly; so I suppose it will slip his memory that I live hereabouts, when he comes down to his election. If he tries the gate—”
“O, ma’am! You will not turn him away?”
“No: it might cost him his election; and I don’t wish that. I should miss my own name from the newspapers then; and it would be hard to lose my pleasure in the newspapers. I will do nothing to hurt his election. He shall be let in to see me; and then I will say to him, ‘All that lawn and those fields, and all this house and the plate would have been yours very soon, (for I can’t live long,) if you had married your cousin Ellen, as I bade you: but it is too late for that now; and Ellen’s husband shall have every —, —What do you look in that way for, nurse? I am not going to leave it into another name. Ellen’s husband shall take my name before he touches a shilling.”
“And if a judgment should come upon us meantime, ma’am. If the heathen should—Did not you say there is to be a new election? Is not that the same as the government getting a new parliament?”
“To be sure.”
“And that is done when a danger is thought to be at hand, is not it?”
“Not always; and if it was, no harm can come to my property. The deeds are all in my lawyer’s hands,—in his strong-box,—safe enough.”
It was plain that Mrs. Arruther knew nothing about the approach of the Turks; and it would be cruel to tell her, when she might very likely die before they appeared in Arneside.
“What are you afraid of, nurse? I am sure you are in a panic about something. It is too soon for your boys to be marrying against your will, I suppose?”
“Yes, thank God. And they will never be able to marry so far below them as your young gentleman may do; for the reason that they will never stand so high as he. But yet I can fancy that if my Owen took to a giggling jade, with her hair hanging about her ears, and a sharp voice, it would weigh heavy on my heart.”
“And your money would weigh light in his pocket, hey?”
“I shall have no money to leave, ma’am; and as to—”
“No money to leave! I dare say. You never will have money to leave while you throw away your services as you do. I did wonder at you last week, when you managed to find somebody else to sit up with old Mr. Barnes, that you might nurse Widow Wilks’s child. I saw beforehand what would come of it. The child died, just the same as if you had been with Mr. Barnes; and you missed your chop, and brandy and water, and the handsome pay you would have had; and Mr. Barnes is a nice, mild old gentleman, that you might have been glad to nurse. I thought you knew your duty to your children better than to waste your services in any such way.”
Nurse was very sorry the lady was displeased with what she had done. She had acted for the best, thinking what an aggravation it would be of the weary widow’s grief for her child if she fancied, after its death, that it might have been saved by good nursing. Having acted for the best, she hoped her children would not remember these things against her when she was gone.
“You seem to be always thinking how things will be after you are gone. What will all that signify when you are cold in your grave?”
“It seems natural, ma’am, when one has children to care for. I hardly think that God gives us children only that we may play with them while they sprawl about and amuse us, and make use of them while they are subject to our wills, having no steady one of their own. I think, by the yearning that mothers have after their sons and daughters when they are grown up into men and women, that it must be meant for us to keep a hold over their hearts when they have done acting by our wills. And so, when I talk of what is to happen when I am gone, it is with the feeling that I dare not go and appear before God without doing my best to have my children think of me as one that tried to do her duty by God and them.”
“But if Owen married as you said, how should he, for one, think pleasantly of you?”
“Indeed I am afraid the thought of his folly would rankle. But my endeavour would be to make the lightest and best of what could not be helped. I would tell him that there could be no offence to me in his judging for himself in a case where nobody has a right to judge for him; and I should make no difference between him and the rest. My father’s bible is, as they know, to go to the one that can read in it best when I am on my death-bed; and the other few things are to be equally divided. My girl is to have my spinning-wheel; and the deal table will be Owen’s; and the chair and three stools—”
“Those things are to your children, I suppose, much the same as my lawn and this house to my son?”
“I dare say they would be, ma’am; and, in some sense, all property that is left by the dying to the living seems to be much alike, whether it be great, or whether it be little. To my mind, it is not so much the use of a legacy to give pleasures to those that can enjoy little pleasure when a parent or other near friend is taken away, as to leave the comfort of feeling that the departed wished to be just and kind. It is all very well, you see, that my girl should have the use of my spinning-wheel; but if it was made of King Solomon’s cedar wood, Mildred’s chief pleasure would be to think, while she spun, that I remembered her kindly when I lay dying; and for this, a spinning-wheel does as well as a room full of pictures, or a mint of money. And when I see a family quarrelling and going to law about their father’s legacies, I cannot but think how much better it would be for them if each of the daughters had but a spinning-wheel, and each of the sons neither more nor less than a deal table, or the chair their father sat in.—But,” lowering her voice, “here am I chattering on without thinking, while you are just asleep, which I am glad to see.”
Whether from a disposition to sleep, or from some other cause, Mrs. Arruther’s eyes were closed; and she did not move while nurse once more softly drew the curtain. When, in the silence, nurse began to consider what, in the fullness of her heart, she had been saying, she was thunderstruck at her own want of good manners in uttering what must have seemed intended for a reproof to the lady about her conduct to her son. Her heart beat in her throat as one sentence after another of her discourse came back upon her memory. What was she that she should be lecturing Mrs. Arruther?—But perhaps the lady had been too drowsy to listen. It was to be hoped so, rather than that she should suppose that nurse was paying her off for her opposition to the children’s going to the school.
When sufficiently composed for the nightly duty which she never omitted, nurse added to her usual prayers the petition that this suffering lady might be spared till she could see clearly what it was just that she should do towards the son who had displeased her. Before she had finished, there was another movement, and a mutter of “O dear!” from within the curtain.
“I hoped you had been asleep, ma’am. Can’t you find rest?”
“No, nurse; but you cannot help that. I will see my lawyer to-morrow. It is too late to be thinking about wills to-night. But I don’t believe I shall sleep a wink to-night. Do you take that broth, nurse. I cannot bear the thought of it. It prevents my getting to sleep. I believe I shall never close my eyes all night.”
Nurse really thought she would, if she would only take the other draught, and settle her mind to trouble herself about nothing till to-morrow.