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Elizabeth Bennett and the Industrial Revolution

November 10, 2017 12:25AM
[Joe Majors]
[3811 Ave G]
[Austin Texas 78751
[Collin’s Longbourne]
[Joe Majors]

Aaron woke up as he did every morning, quickly getting dressed, wolfing down his porridge, and headed down to his shop. He was only 17, had worked at Dalrimple's spin and weaving factory for only five years, but he was bright and conscientious so he was responsible for running “shop”, the place where looms spinners and all other any other equipment associated with producing cloth was repaired and maintained. Aaron picked up a rod he'd removed from a loom last night, some brass tubing and stated a fast walk to a machine shop that made a lot of parts for him. He was hailed by a friend and had to stop. He greeted Silas, in surprise, he didn't usually see Silas so early. Silas a peculiar friend for someone who worked in industry. Silas was the supervisor of a group of waif's and delinquents who preyed on anyone who was not careful and watchful. They had become friends when Aaron attacked some boys who were attacking a young girl, one of Silas' waifs. From then on Silas gang left employee's at Dalrimples alone, and when Silas acquired a knife or some sort of tool that might be valuable if repaired, Aaron would use his connections to arrange for repair.

“Hello Aar! Glad you're about early!”

Aaron liked being called Aar. It was unique. He smiled. Silas pulled Aaron into a storefront, and pulled a small flint lock pistol out of a sack he was carrying. “We got this pistol in a fight with some Westies-- I was wondering if you could fix it? The hammer's busted.”

“Sure I can, but why, It'd be no good for the stuff you and your boys do! Too slow and unreliable.”

“It'd be mostly for show. It'd scare people if you could put them down fifty feet away. Have you heard about percussion caps?”

I've heard a little- so you were wondering about adapting to a percussion cap? Supposedly make the pistol a much better weapon. Sounds like a good idea to me. I'll look into it”. Aaron took the gun and sack said goodbye to Silas, and walked on to the machine shop. The machine shop was a large building with several water powered bellows and forges, several watered powered hammers, and a few water powered grinding wheels.

Aaron walked into the shop, found the manager and pulled out a rod from the the loom he and “Rotor” had disassembled last night. Wear had enlarged the hole where the rod attached to the guide so that the end off the rod would wobble rather than work smoothly back and forth. The wobble then caused the loom to occasionally “stick”. Aaron and Rotor had removed five of the worst rods and they were going to have the machine shop press brass fittings into the holes. Instead of a wood -wood contact between the rod and it's guide there'd be a brass -wood contact. The result would be a smoother running machine, and reduced wear on the rods and the guide. That was what was unique about Aaron. He was never satisfied with fixing a machine, he insisted on finding wear and stress points and and improving them with brass or iron so his machines were the smoothest, most durable in all of London. Normally the machine shop would take at least a day for such an order, but he got them to promise 5 parts by mid afternoon, then another 100 in three days. He was back to the office in less than an hour, and went directly to Mr Dalrimple

“I'll have the loom back up by the end of the day. I ordered five replacement rods for later today and 100 replacement rods in three days. We''ll get the loom going this afternoon, and replace all rods with any sign of war during routine maintenance. “

Mr Dalrimple asked “How many of these looms do we have?”

“Only seven, but we can sell some of these improved rods to other textile factories.”

“No, don't do that, this sounds like the sort of improvement we want to keep to ourselves. Well, it'll be OK to sell to Smithers and to Fitch. We do try to cooperate with those two, but no one else”. Get someone else to pick the parts up, a lawyer has asked me to make you available at 2:00 today. He'll be here with your brother Adam”

“That's great! I always love to see Adam, don't know why he's coming with a lawyer though.”

Aaron went down to the production floor, and watched over the looms that were working to be sure they didn't generate any delays. He needed a high level of operation to compensate for the loom that would be down until he got the replacement rods and installed them. He found Rotor. Rotor was the man who'd been repairing and maintaining equipment for twenty years He was called “Rotor” because from the time he started working at Dalrimples he been fascinated by lathes. Rotor kept the lathes operating at their best, but he didn't have Aaron's talent with the other machines. Aaron could fiddle with a loom or spinner for twenty minutes and he would have learned and memorized its workings, it's weaknesses, and could tell you which parts would need to be replaced soon. Even though Aaron was twenty years younger than Rotor, he was in charge of the maintenance and repair shop.

As two o’clock approached Aaron sent a runner to pick up the five replacement rods, and told Rotor to start installing them as soon as they arrived. He tidied up a bit, then went to Mr Dalrimple's office to meet with William and the lawyer. While he waited he asked Mr. Dalrimple “Do you know anyone who's had a Flintlock converted to percussion caps.?”

Mr. Dalrimple thought a minute-- “ The Coleman family all love to hunt Ducks. If anyone knows anything about this they would. You could go there, tell them about our problem with the rods on our looms and try to assess what we could get for sharing your solution. Don't let them know that you've done anything yet, they'd start sending visitors to see if they can steal your adaptation. Ask Coleman about percussion caps on fowling guns and he'll want to talk for hours. Aaron waited a brief time, then William and the lawyer showed up, along with a well dressed gentleman Aaron had never met, and the meeting started.

The Estate

William started the meeting. I regret to inform you that my uncle, Phineas Bennet has died, and his estate is entailed to me. I'm far too busy to take responsibility for the property, so I'm renouncing my claim to my brother, Aaron the next in line. Mr Cooper is the lawyer who will handle this, I'm asking you, Mr Dalrimple to be witness for this, along with Mr Darcy.

Mr Darcy spoke then. I'm also here as a friend to the Bennett family. I'm much indebted to the Bennet family for the kindnesses they have showed me in the past and I'm going to attempt help in any way I can.

This didn't surprise Aaron at all. Mr Bennett had been generous to many. He remembered that Mr Bennett had covered Adam's expenses in seminary, and had paid Aaron' apprentice fee when he went to work for Dalrimple. He also recalled when his mother had problems working due to health, Mr Bennett had helped. He made a mental vow at that point that the Bennett widow and daughters be the beneficiaries from his administering the Bennett estate. The lawyer took over, and quickly got all necessary documents signed and notarized. As everyone left Aaron noted how Mr Darcy gave a respectful bow. He was thinking-- I've gotta learn to be as slick as that.

Mr Dalrimple spoke. “Aaron. It's very pleasing to have an estate that will comfortably support you, but I earnestly suggest you not abandon the textile business. You're far too bright to spend your time riding about your estate tallying up rent and playing cards. I'm willing to reduce your hours to four days per week so you can spend weekends on you manor, at no reduction in pay! Hire someone to do the manorial management. A lot of people can do that but only you keep keep all this machinery running like you do.”
Aaron looked at Mr Dalrimple's pleading face and almost agreed on the spot. “You're probably right sir , but I need to assess Longbourne before I make a final decision. May I leave early friday so I can go to my estate?”
“ Absolutely, and you can take my horse, it'll be faster”

Aaron looked at Dalrimple's face and realized he had an obligation to Dalrimple . He had to have a way to not penalize Mr Dalrimple for counting on him.

Aaron smiled at Mr. Dalrimple, “ I'd better go see how Rotor is doing with that loom.”

The loom, it was almost ready. Rotor didn’t have a deep grasp of the complex actions of the machines, but he was fast at getting things done. Aaron helped finish the rods, then they rigged a trial run to be sure it was weaving satisfactorily. After they were sure the machine was working they rounded up two apprentices and they carried the loon back to production. The four of them quickly got the loom installed and the supervisor went to find an operator for the machine. An apprentice stayed to operate the machine temporarily. Jack stayed was an amiable friend who entertained Aaron with his stories from when his father had been an estate manager.. Everyone liked Jack but he had no particular talent such as bookkeeping, mechanics, textile artistry, marketing, so he was one of the apprentices who would probably not be kept after the apprenticeship was over.

Aaron asked “Your father was an estate manager?”

“Yes, a very good one. I’ve told you how he got fired because an accountant falsified the accounts. to make it look like my father was stealing. A few years later they discovered the truth, but my father could never get another job except as a farmer. That's what he's doing now.”

“If you suddenly become an estate manager, what's the first thing you’d do?”

“You've go to audit the books, but you also have to get to know your tenants. Find out which ones are making you richer, get rid of the ones that are making you poorer. I'd say hire a professional auditor if you can afford it so you can focus on getting operations going the way you need.”

“If you're sure the previous owner was honest, do you need to audit.”

“ An Audit will check if all tenants are paying what;'s due. If they're not, it'll be easier to get rid of them at the start. Why are you asking, are you getting that estate entailed to your brother.? “ Jack hesitated , interjected “I'd be a lot help figuring what to do. If the farm has been going with only a country gentleman for estate manager there’s going to a lot small problems, probably a few big problems . I worked alongside my father for twelve years and have seen him deal with every problem imaginable. Aaron had heard a lot of stories from Jack, and he was sure that was true….. I'll work for meals and a place to stay until we get the estate operating as a well run estate can. Any spending money I need I'll do some day labor, or use my savings from when I worked here. I think once I've demonstrated what I can do for your estate, I'll be able find an estate manager position….. Mr Dalrimple is a fair man, and I’m grateful to him for what I’ve learned, but I’ll never be happy in London “

“That's a fair offer…., it’s a deal Jack! ” From hearing Jack’s stories he was sure that making an estate operate at full potential was difficult, and he was glad he’ have jack to help.

The Bennets

The week was over very fast, Aaron did find the time to go to a gunsmith, talk to one of the technicians, see some adapted fowling pieces so he thought he could adapt a flint lock into a percussion cap weapon. He could tell that the owner of the shop was impressed at how quickly he grasped what had to be done, and hurriedly left before the owner offered him a job. He found one of Sila’ waifs, and sent a note to Silas that he knew how to do the adaptation, and would give him the adapted pistol in a week or two. He got up early friday morning, packed a lunch, and started of toward Longbourne. The horse was pretty old, and not used to such long rides but Aaron kept the horse at a sustainable pace so he'd get to Longbourn by late afternoon. The family saw him coming and greeted him outside the front door. The Bennets had farm laborer who watched over their two horses along with farm duties. He took Aaron's horse to the stable. The family was genuinely surprised to see Aaron.

“Oh, so you didn't get my letter, I posted it for special delivery so you'd get it.”

Kitty spoke up “We got it, we just didn't open it”At that Mrs Bennet looked quite annoyed, and all the daughters looked at their Mother in embarrassment. Aaron guessed that Mrs Bennet had refused to allow anyone to open the letter. Anecdotes of Mrs Bennet's behavior had led Aaron to conclude that Mrs Bennet was probably supremely illogical, and he'd have to be sure she had no control of the household. This event reinforced that conclusion.

“I'll be here tonight and Saturday night. I was thinking Lydia's bedroom should be available.”

Mrs Bennet spoke. “Oh no we can't possibly find room for you!”

Kitty spoke up again spoke up again. “Mother, you're being silly! Of course there's room for Mr Collins in his own house. Please don't embarrass us!”

At that tears formed in Mrs Bennet's eyes and she rushed upstairs.

Elizabeth bowed, started upstairs with her mother but stopped long enough to say “ I'm sorry Mr Collins, my mother has always been one to obey every impulse and whim. We'll all do our best to moderate her behavior, but often we won't succeed. “

Aaron smile warmly, it's a pleasure to meet my cousins. He turned to the other sisters, and you'll be Kitty— and Mary --my pleasure.” He bowed thought to himself, I’ve got to learn bow with all the grace he saw from Mr. Darcy. Then he asked “Where's Jane!”

Kitty spoke “ It's so romantic! Mr Bingley rode to Meryton to offer his condolences at father's death, but he couldn't contain himself. He swore he couldn't bear to see the only woman he'd ever loved so unhappy, and pleaded with her to elope with him on the spot. It took a day to get the formalities done, but they've eloped. Mr Bingley's sisters were quite put out, and found another place to live. And Jane has gone to live with Mr Bingley in London.”

Aaron answered“Oh, that is touching!! I’m so happy they each found a person they loved!”

Aaron handed his small bit of luggage to Mary, will you please put this in the room I'll use tonight. Who is best to show me around the farm?”

The man who'd put up Aaron's horse spoke “I think that will be me, sir.”

Mary spoke “ and I too. If that's ok with Mr Collins”

“Splendid!” Lead on please!”

They explored the stables, the outbuildings, the livestock sheds, the basements, leading to the quite normal conclusions that much space was wasted. In two cases maintenance had been so badly neglected that the building needed to be demolished. Two facts were clear, Jack was going to have a lot of work to do to get the farm back up to the what a manorial farm should be, and most importantly, Aaron didn't have the funds needed to do all the work needed.

“Let's go back to the stables, now. I need to see the smithy set up.”

The smithy set up had been for more than just horseshoes and tool repair. It had harnesses for a horse powered bellows, a track for the horse to power the bellows, ( now blocked by haybales) and it appeared he’d have the set-up needed to repair wheels for carriages, and carts . The tools associated with a smith were there, and it appeared Aaron believed he could get the smithy back into operation with the funds he had. He could then use the smith to repair and manufacture simple tools and carts, repair carriages. He was guessing he could use a power take off point to turn a boring tool, and a power take off was set up to drive a mechanical hammer. With that he could adapt flintlock pistols and muskets to percussion cap. His guess was he could generate a substantial income from that, then use that revenue to improve his farm. There were some rooms above the stable now used mostly for hay storage, but he could move the hay to an outbuilding, and use the upstairs for his sleeping quarters and offices. His plan was becoming clearer and clearer. He'd need to resign from Dalrimples as soon as he could set processes up to keep all Mr. Dalrimples equipment maintained . He’d probably need to come in to Dalrimples once per week . The time to get back and forth was a day each way, so he had a problem. He heard Mary calling him into dinner. He stopped at the well to wash and tidy himself, and joined the family for Dinner.

Elizabeth apologized that Mrs Bennet was “indisposed” and would eat in her room. From the look on everyone's faces Aaron guessed that this was common. The meal was simple, a mutton roast, cooked carrots, a fresh salad with a flavorful dressing, homemade bread with butter and a custard for dessert. Far better than what Aaron was used to. The conversation was about what Aaron had seen today, though he didn't mention the neglected maintenance.

Elizabeth spoke up. “I'm sorry the place is not better maintained. Our father was far too tolerant of our mother's extravagances, and frequently diverted spending toward her demands rather than to maintaining the farm. I assure you we will be supportive of your efforts to control her impulses.

Aaron was thinking “My God, what a woman! Mr Darcy must have been under appalling pressure from his family and friends to call off their wedding. Maybe she called off the wedding herself rather see Mr. Darcy go through the disgrace he would have endured.”. Aaron realized he needed to respond.
“Hopefully some plans I'm making will allow her some extravagance.”

From the look on Elizabeth's face he guessed she was very curious, but also somewhat skeptical.

I was thinking that tomorrow I should meet some of our best tenants. I 'd like a chance to assure them that their leases will not be affected. Maybe after that I can meet some of our worst tenants so I can think of how we'll deal with them.

Kitty spoke up. “Father was planning to evict the Jarrell's and the Marsh's. He spoke to the constable but for some reason they're still there.”

Aaron thought about this as he finished his dessert. He went to his room, got a change for his shirt and underwear, a washcloth, towel, and some soap. He bathed in the stables as he was not accustomed to sharing a washroom with women. After bathing he went to the library, saw that Elizabeth used the desk to record expenses and income, and spent some time studying them. The books were in good order, with complete annotations where needed. Some funds were set aside for household maintenance and repair, so he wouldn’t have to rely strictly on his own cash for the repairs he needed to do and for setting up the repair shop. He found paper and pen and took some time recording what he's seen, then went to bed.

The next morning Aaron was up early, went to the kitchen. “I'd prefer a quick simple breakfast, so I can get an early start.”

Elizabeth came into the room, “That's not surprising. I guess in industry that's normal. Actually in farming that's normal also in harvest and planting time. I'll go see what I can do. Would you like a cup of tea while you wait. We don't have coffee, I can arrange to order coffee if that's what you like?”
“ I drink cocoa instead of coffee. Later on when I have businessmen over, we'll probably need coffee, but that's several months away so let's wait on ordering coffee.”
“Yes sir, and anytime you want cocoa, tell whoever's in the kitchen. We always have cocoa.in the kitchen. We Bennett's did enjoy a few indulgences. She laughed quietly”

Aaron wolfed down a piece of toast, a small bowl of barley gruel, and two glasses of milk. He loved the milk. It was rich, the kitchen had heated it up enough to drive off the unpleasant taste that frequently came with raw milk. He was having a recurring thought. I'm going to like living here.”

Aaron got up. “I'll go get my horse ready.”

To his surprise Elizabeth bustled right behind him. “You'll need me, I'm the one who can tell you all about each tenant. How many children, which ones use their love to get children to pitch in, which one's beat their wife and children.....”

“I won't allow that ! Beating children only makes them devious and vicious. I don't know how I'll stop them, but if I have to I'll eject every family member before I let someone exhibit that kind of … behavior. It's destructive to the spirit of the community.” They rode for a few minutes, and stopped at small home surrounded by several outbuildings.

“G'morn yer honor welcome to my home.”

“You have a beautiful home here, sir, I don't see any children”?

“Yep our youngest left for the navy a few months ago... young men have to have their adventures! Our daughters are married. One's married to a deputy constable, so no one ever tries to give me trouble.”

Aaron laughed warmly, “...and are any of your sons thinking about moving in with you, help with your farm , so he can take over your lease?”

“So you're amenable to that? If I tell him you would be, it might help him decide.”

“Definitely, and any other of your other sons too. I expect a few of my tenants are laggards and I'll need to get more lessee's like yourself.”

A brief silence... Aaron spoke “I’m sure you need to get to work, I'll be seeing you., sir...” and they rode off.

“I didn't tell him that I'm going to have an estate manager... a long silence.. I think I'd enjoy dealing with tenants like we just met, but I have a friend who's been a farmer until a few years ago. I'll use his knowledge while I use my knowledge to establish a business doing things similar to what I did in London.”

Elizabeth finally spoke..”..mmmm.. a business enterprise at Longbourn. Probably necessary. I've been to lectures where they've talked about how this is an old system, suited to the past. The manor generates a substantial income but no longer enough for the consumption options a person of the manorial class expects. Sh laughed….. and here comes Mr Aaron Collins with a plan, let the lord of the manor not be merely a gentleman farmer, but also a person with considerable business acumen. Yes... yes.. I sure hope you succeed.”

Another long silence...I looked at your accounting records last night. It was very well done. Far better than my friend could ever do. I hope you'll continue to do that, and maintain accounts for my business too. It'll cause some friction between you and Jack, but he needs to learn that women are frequently smarter than their male counterpart”. They toured twelve farms, most were not as successful as the first. At one the owner refused to come out to talk to them. The farm seemed to be well tended, though with a shortage of fowl and pigs.

Elizabeth explained. “Father talked to his neighbors. He has neighbors work the farm for shares, he lives off his share, but has nothing left to pay rent. My father has twice demanded that the constable evict him. He was planning to meet with the Magistrate but his death intervened.

A silence. Aaron spoke “ I'll have to compose a letter to the magistrate today, That's disastrous to the whole structure of the manorial system.

A silence....Elizabeth spoke. “I composed a letter for my father, we can modify it as needed and get it off on tomorrow's post.”
The last tenant wouldn't come out to meet them. He wife said he was ill. As they rode off Elizabeth explained. He's always sick in the morning, then later in the day recovers enough to spend the evening at the pub, where he's well liked. My father was was going to evict him , but first he wanted to find a family willing to take in the two children. I can talk to some families about that if you'd like.
A long silence.... yes please do. I was thinking how fortunate I am to have you to guide and help me with this estate. …. I have vowed to myself and now to you that my management of the estate must leave you and your sisters as well off financially as if your father were still alive. Your being a capable accountant will make it much easier to accomplish that.”

Elizabeth sighed. Aaron was thinking “Yes, I can't see how no marriage offer can compare with the one from Mr Darcy of Pemberley.” but he certainly didn't say anything to Elizabeth. They arrived back at Longbourne and dinner was soon served. They were both famished since all the long day they had had only a pasty and a beer at a pub that was only some benches and tables spread under a tree. They enjoyed a leisurely and excellent dinner. One of the tenants had sent a freshly caught carp, and they had a rabbit that had been raised in the cages at Longbourne. The vegetables were picked just hours before dinner and were succulent and tasty. Once again the desert was a custard made from the eggs, milk, and honey from Longbourn They used duck eggs so the custard was very rich. The family went for a short walk, with the two younger daughter walking alongside Aaron so they had some time to become acquainted. After the walk Aaron and Elizabeth composed a letter to the magistrate asking for his help in evicting the tenant who was using income to pay for laborers and instead of paying rent. Elizabeth spoke “I’m suspicious that the constable didn’t evict him already. He may have one of his relatives working at that farm.” They composed a letter to the constable and magistrate asking for help in placing the two children whose father was a drunk, and instructing that they'd want that family evicted as soon as they found a place for the children. After that they talked about Kitty and Mary and agreed that they'd need to assign them more responsibilities. Aaron observed, “I've noticed that when young apprentices take responsibilities for certain tasks their mental acuity improves for handling non routine issues that arise.”

“My mother will object, she wants her daughters raised as princesses.”

“I'm sorry I won't be here to help you deal with her. From stories I’ve heard she might get angry and moves in with her sister or her brother -in law. If that happens send a servant so she won't be too big a burden. If they complain about her expenses, offer some assistance. After all, having her gone will save us considerable expense .

They sat for a time, then Elizabeth brought up the topic of attending the worship service. “As owner of Longbourne, it's going to be necessary to to go to service. If you don't they'll call you the atheist from London, and nothing else will matter. I think you can wear one of father's suits, just cinch up the waist a bit. No one else uses the pew that has customarily been ours as long as I can remember. We can go and you'll still get back to London before dark.”

“Yes. I agree, I might as well start that now.”

I have another question Aaron... your brother seems so well suited to the ministry, why didn't you follow your brother into that profession. “

Well, when my mother started to teach me Greek I rebelled. I wanted to study math and science. Not some language that only a few impoverished people in the Mediterrean spoke. Adam took my side, he said I was too smart for the ministry. He did some checking around and found Mr. Dalrimple. Mr Dalrimple was happy to take on an apprentice and arrange classes in math and science. He said he needed all the apprentices he could get who would study those fields. Adam said if I learned manufacture I'd earn far more money, and with money I'd have more respectability than a cleric. Our mother agreed, and your father Mr. Bennett paid the apprentice fee, so I got into an occupation that I have always loved.

Elizabeth laughed..”so my father gets some of the credit also, I'm proud that he made such an excellent decision.”

AAron said “My mother assured that your father assisted despite the fact he was always strapped for money”.

Elizabeth laughed again, “ I expect my father was glad to find a sound reason to deny our mother some of her whims.”

Aaron left to prepare for bed. He repeated yesterdays routine of bathing in the stable. He went to the library, read for a time, then went to bed early so he'd be well rested tomorrow.

Elizabeth Bennett and the Industrial Revolution

Joe78751November 10, 2017 12:25AM


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