Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.
The new agent, Mr. Henry has a very stern manner when it comes to business and it intimidates Mr. Buxton, who’s managed his estates and accounts rather poorly. When it’s found out that one of his tenants, Crayston, a trusted family worker who’s been in their service as Bailiff and his father before him, has cheated him, Mr Buxton’s temper flairs; how could he be so ungrateful? Abuse his trusting confidence with deceit? Frank sees both sides, his fathers carelessness brought too much temptation, allowances should be made. But Mr. Henry fuels the fire with his pessimistic views that roguery is innate and condescendingly pins Frank’s concerns down as inexperience.
Good God! that money should have such power to corrupt men. It was all for money, and money’s worth, that this degradation has taken place.
Seeing the worst side of everyone, Frank feels dejected and his thoughts turn towards moving to a purer, simpler society: Australia or Canada, where life is newer and society not so old, complex, and embedded with corruption. The present day is so far removed from the Victorian era and I’ve heard many say how life was simpler and purer then; in some aspects it may have been. But of course there are frustrations, feelings, and questions that transcend time.
“What can you or I do? We are less than drops in the ocean, as far as our influence can go to model a nation?”
“As for that,” said Maggie, laughing, “I can’t remodel Nancy’s old-fashioned ways; so I’ve never yet planned how to remodel a nation.”
“Then what did you mean by the good those always can do who see evils clearly? The evils I see are those of a nation whose god is money.”
“That is just because you have come away from a distressing scene. To-morrow you will hear or read of some heroic action meeting with a nation’s sympathy, and you will rejoice and be proud of your country.”
“Still I shall see the evils of her complex state of society keenly; and where is the good I can do?”
“Oh! I can’t tell in a minute. But cannot you bravely face these evils, and learn their nature and causes; and then has God given you no powers to apply to the discovery of their remedy? Dear Frank, think! It may be very little you can do–and you may never see the effect of it, any more than the widow saw the world-wide effect of her mite. Then if all the good and thoughtful men run away from us to some new country, what are we to do with our poor dear Old England?”
“Oh, you must run away with the good, thoughtful men–(I mean to consider that as a compliment to myself, Maggie!) Will you let me wish I had been born poor, if I am to stay in England? I should not then be liable to this fault into which I see the rich men fall, of forgetting the trials of the poor.”
“I am not sure whether, if you had been poor, you might not have fallen into an exactly parallel fault, and forgotten the trials of the rich. It is so difficult to understand the errors into which their position makes all men liable to fall.