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Chapter V.: MORNING WALKS. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 6 (Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek, The Loom and the Lugger Parts 1 & 2) 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 6.
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The next dawn broke bright and clear, to the surprise of every body who was learned in the weather, and greatly to the disappointment of certain parties who had an interest in the continuance of the fog.
On a steep slope among the cliffs of Beachy Head, at the foot of a lofty wall of chalk, and sheltered by it, was collected a party of men, women, and children, who had little appearance of having just risen from their beds. The men, for the most part, were stretched at length, drinking, or looking out languidly to sea. The two women, one young, the other middle aged, and brown, weather-worn, and in sordid apparel, with lank hair hanging about her ears, were smoking, and busying themselves in the feminine employment of making a clearance. That is, they were stowing certain packages in the bottom of huge panniers, destined for the backs of three asses, which were looking up from the beach in vain longing for the inaccessible, scanty herbage of the slope. Two girls, as brown as the elder woman, were amusing themselves with picking up the balls of foam which had been thrown in by the fierce tide, and sending them trembling down the wind. Uriah Faa, in apparent forgetfulness of the disgraces of the preceding day, sat dangling his heels from a projecting piece of the cliff, aiming fragments of chalk at the auks and wills which flapped past him, or swept out to sea in long lines below. One man was seen apart from the group, who did not appear to belong to the place, the persons, or the hour. He stood leaning at the mouth of a cleft in the chalk precipice, sometimes yawning, sometimes buttoning his great coat closer, as the morning breeze passed him, and then glancing up apprehensively at one point after another of the cliffs overhead, as if he expected to see there the peeping face of a spy. Next, he looked at his watch, and seemed growing so restless and uncomfortable, that the younger of the women took upon herself to comfort him by giving notice that the sloop was expected every moment to arrive for its cargo of chalk, and that all would be safe before the spies could see so far off as a furlong.
“But the division is not made yet,” objected the agent. “My bandanas are stowed away with some of Solomon's packages; and you know Alexander makes over to me his venture of ribbons and lace, this time.”
“What put that into your head?” growled Alexander, half raising himself, and looking surlily at the agent. “Do you think I have risked running in in a fog, and wrought since midnight, to give over my share to anybody? You may take your chance next time. You'll find the matter well worth staying for.”
“But, you know, Alexander, we settled that I was to have the first batch that was landed;—for a consideration, you remember—for a fair consideration. One night suits you as well as another, living on the spot.”
“By no means; when one batch is safe ashore, and the other still at sea.”
“But, consider, I cannot spare two days. They want me at Brighton every hour, and I promised Breme that he should have the goods”
Alexander seemed to think that all this was nothing to him, while he had his package safe under his elbow. He applied himself to a fresh, dram of Hollands, and appeared to have done listening.
“Try Solomon,” advised Mrs. Draper. “He is liberal, and likes to accommodate. He will take the chance of another night, if you make it worth his while.”
“Here comes Solomon himself,” cried several voices, as a well-known whistle announced the approach of some one; and Mr. Pim appeared from a side path, (if path it might be called,) his hands crossed behind him, and his merry face shining through the dusk.
“I thought you would take your morning's walk this way,” observed Mrs. Draper, as she handed him a mug, and pointed to the right keg.
“It is time we were parting instead of meeting,” said Pim. “We shall have a bright morning upon us full soon enough.”
“Father,” shouted Uriah, “the fog is drawing off, and here is the sloop coming in below.”
“Trinity, bring the ass to yon point,” cried Mrs. Draper to her little daughter, who was scrambling on all fours up the steepest part of the slope.
“Here, Lussha, my beauty,” said old Faa to his grandchild, “help me to fill up the panniers, my bird.”
Uriah came to help, and a respectable load of chalk was presently heaped upon the packages in the panniers, which were forthwith carried down, and hung upon the shaggy asses. Old Faa then helped to set each bare-legged child astride on the beasts, and commended them to each other's care. Slowly and surely the animals took their way along the ribbed chalk which here constituted the beach, while the children looked back to hear what Pim was saying to-them.
“Trinity Draper, I hope you don't forget your catechism, my child. There is a lady coming to the school in a day or two, and it will be the worse for you if you cannot say your Catechism. Uriah and Lussha, you hear what I say. Remember your catechism.”
Their Saturday's train of associations being awakened by this warning, the children began involuntarily to gabble altogether, and their confusion of tongues made itself heard as they wound out of sight, till a stumble of Trinity's steed caused Uriah's gallantry to prevail over his scholarship, and occupied him in belabouring her ass with true gipsy grace and strength.
A pale yellow ray shot up from the horizon full into the cleft, beside which the unshaven and weary agent stood, making his bargain with Pim. This first break of sunshine was a signal not to be neglected. The laziest of the party sprang to their feet, and hastened to deposit their kegs and bales under the chalk which formed the apparent cargo of the sloop that pitched below in the light grey waters. As the fog disclosed more and more of the expanse, two or three of the men fixed their glasses from behind different projections, anxious to be assured that the lugger, which had approached under cover of the darkness, was scudding away before the light. She was just visible when the whole horizon became clear, making all speed towards her native coast. Though there was reason to hope that all was safe, as far as she was concerned, there was danger that the smuggling party might be surprised by the apparition of the revenue cutter from the east or the west, before all needful precautions were taken; and there was a prodigious stir among the more active and the more timid of the party. Within half an hour the fire was put out, and the embers scattered to the winds; the men wandered off in different directions, and nobody remained amidst the wild scene but Mr. Pim, who looked about him and whistled to the sea-birds, and Mrs. Draper, who lingered behind the rest of the gipsy party, to seek satisfaction to her maternal and friendly solicitudes about the progress of her child and the Faas at the school.
By dint of many questions, she learned that the young people were likely to be excellent Christians, as they were very ready at the Bible; highly moral, as they were always whipped when they did wrong; as patriotic as if they had not belonged to a foreign tribe, since they lost no opportunity of insulting the Preventive men; and finally, very scholastic, as they had learned to sit still by the half hour together, which had at first appeared a point impossible of achievement. The mother's heart was so elated with this report, and Pim found it so much pleasanter to walk and whistle in the wintry sunshine than to play the pedagogue, that the discourse was prolonged far beyond the hour when his duties ought to begin; he comforting himself with the assurance that Rebecca would take care that the little things had something to do.
In the midst of his holiday mood, he was disturbed by a voice calling him from overhead, and, looking up, he perceived Rebecca herself, earnestly gesticulating at the summit of the cliff. She shouted, she beckoned, incessantly, and seemed in such a fever of impatience that her father concluded that some disaster must have happened.
“Hi, hi, Beck!” resounded his mighty voice, in answer, from the face of the cliff, as he began to scramble up the track by which he had descended. “What, is the house on fire, girl, or do the spies want to get hold of me?” he asked, with prodigious tranquillity; “or,” and at the thought he quickened his scramble into a kind of kangaroo leap, “or has any harm come to some of the brats?”
“The ladies are come! the ladies! and nobody at home but I and the dame,” cried Rebecca; and her news seemed to be received with nearly as much vexation by her father as it was related with agony by herself.
“They will dodge the brats, and put them out,” he growled in his deepest tone: “after all the pains I meant to take to-day, the little things will be out in their Bibles, though they can say it all with me. The Faas and Draper will not be there, however; only the soberer sort of children.”
He was mistaken. The gipsy pupils were present with the rest, and formed a part of the class which Matilda had collected around her, and whom she was now engaged in examining.
“Think of your running away yourself!” muttered Pim to his daughter. “Why could not you have sent the dame? There would have been no harm in her knowing where I was.”
“She would hardly have hobbled there and back before dinner,” replied Kebecca. “We have been very quick, and the ladies can't have got far.”
They had got far enough to see that though the children had (in their own phrase) “got into the Bible,” they had not (to use their master's) “got through it” with the understanding, whether or not they had with the tongue. The children Matilda was conversing with were all between ten and fifteen years of age, and therefore capable of giving intelligent answers about the patriarchal tale they had been reading, if about any part of the Bible whatever.
“What did they do next,” she asked, “after determining where they should settle?”
“They pitched their tents before it grew dark.”
“Do you know how a tent is pitched?”; “Yes, my lady; it is daubed all over with tar.”
Uriah Faa, well-informed on this matter, set the mistake right.
“When they saluted each other, what did they do? What is it to salute?”
“They scolded each other right well.”
“If they had wished to scold one another, there would hardly have been such handsome presents given;—so many sheep and oxen, and asses and camels. What is a camel?”
“But they had been angry with one another,” observed a child.
“Yes; but they were now going to be friends, though they thought each other in fault. Should we be sorry or angry when others are in fault?”
“Because they have no business to do wrong.”
“And if others are angry with us, what should we do?”
“Give them as good as they bring.”
Matilda began now to despair of the much-vaunted morals of Mr. Pim's pupils; but, to give them a fair trial, she turned to the New Testament, and questioned them about a story that their master allowed they knew perfectly well.
“When the Apostle had neither silver nor gold, what did he give to the lame man?”
The explanation on the subject of halfpence led to a commentary on the story of the poor widow, and her gift to the treasury.
“Now, little boy,” said Matilda to one of the youngest, who had been playing stealthily with the end of her fur tippet, “what was the widow's mite? What is a mite?”
“He knows most about the Old Testament,” observed his master, anxious to shift his ground again.
“Yes,” replied Matilda, “he told me about Esau and Jacob, and the mess of pottage. What is a mess, children?”
“And what is pottage?”
“Sheep's head and taters.”
Matilda thought she would try them with the Commandments. “Is it right to covet?”
“Because it makes us comfortable to have things.”
As a last experiment, she turned back to the first page of the Bible, and found they could tell that the world was made in six days; upon hearing which Mr. Pim began to rally his spirits.
“What were the two great lights which were made to rule the day and the night?”
“Dungeness and the North Foreland.”
Matilda rose, and the schoolmaster put the class to flight in a trice, with a box on the ear to one, a shake to a second, and a kick to a third. Matilda's remonstrances were lost amidst the tumult of shrieks and yells which now arose. At the first moment that Pim could spare from correcting his pupils, he informed the lady that they had got on badly lately from the impossibility of getting the parents to send them regularly. When there was any work in hand, someway up the beach——
“Towards Birling Gap,” suggested Matilda. “But that sort of work is done in the night, is it not?”
“Yes; but the little things have enough to do the next day in making a clearance; and, at such times, up they start, and away, the first minute I turn my back.”
“You turn your back to go after the same business, I am afraid, Mr. Pim. If you like whistling among the cliffs, and driving bargains in the clefts better than keeping to your desk, how can you expect the children not to take the liberty of indulging the same taste when you give them opportunity?”
Mr. Pim looked about him to ascertain what o'clock it was, and would fain have made out that it was time for the children to go home; but Mrs. Storey would not let him off so easily. She convinced him that it was not yet eleven, and declared that she wished far more to see how matters ordinarily went on than to usurp the office of interrogator. When the children had recovered their spirits, and their master his composure, business was resumed; and Matilda was as much surprised at the cleverness with which some things were taught as she had been shocked at the deficiencies of the kind of learning in which Mr. Pim was the least versed. She now envied him his power over the children's minds, and the effect which he knew how to produce by a timely joke, or a familiar illustration, or an appeal to facts with which his pupils were already familiar. She only wished that he would pique himself rather less upon his morals while making the very most of the opposition of interests in the society about him. He could not speak of any virtue without pointing out that his friends had it, and the Preventive men not; and, even in the presence of the Lieutenant's wife, it seemed difficult to restrain the expressions of hatred which were on the lips of him who taught and of those who answered.
The ladies did not leave the school till it was emptied of the children, whom they followed, to see how some dropped into their several homes, and whither others betook themselves. The last who was left to trip along by herself was Trinity Draper, who cast a glance behind her at almost every step, as if not liking to have her return accompanied by strangers. They had no intention, however, of losing sight of her, as they were disposed for a walk, and found their curiosity excited by the mingled barbarism and civilization in the air of the children of this wandering tribe.
They began, after a time, to suspect that the little girl did not mean to let them see her place of abode, so manifold were her turnse and windings from the beach to the fields, and then upon the downs, and again to the beach. When she had led them through a long circuit, she finally struck up the country, and proceeded towards an unfrequented hollow way, where high banks excluded the view on either side, a rugged soil wearied the feet of the walker, and nothing was to be seen at the end of the lane but the grey sea, at the moment undiversified by a single sail.
“I wonder you are not afraid to set foot in this dreary place, so alarmed as you were by these very people yesterday,” observed Matilda to her companion, as they arrived in sight of a gipsy tent, spread on a patch of grass under shelter of the eastern bank. “I have been speculating all the way on when you would propose to turn back.”
Elizabeth replied that she had visited the encampment before, without fear, knowing that the men were absent at this time of day, and that there was nothing to fear from the women and children.
“They assemble at meal times, I fancy,” replied Mrs. Storey; “and there is the smoke of their cookery, you see.”
The thin blue smoke was curling up around the trunk of a tree, in the hollow formed by whose roots was kindled the fire, which Trinity now hastened to feed with sticks from the hedges. She peeped into the pot, which steamed from under the three poles that supported it, and proceeded to stir [the mess with a forked stick, affording glimpses to her visiters of a sort of meat whose shape and colour were new to them. On their inquiring what the stew was made of, Trinity pointed to a skin which lay in the ditch, and which was undeniably that of a brown dog. Matilda expressed her horror, and the child looked up surprised, observing, “Baba says the same hand made the dog and the sheep.”
“Who is Baba?”
“Her father,” replied Elizabeth. “Baba means Father. Where did you get this dog, Trinity? I hope it is not stolen.”
Trinity believed Uriah had found it under the hedge. She took up the head, which was left with the skin, and showed by the teeth that the animal must have been very old.
“Dear me! I suppose you pick up all the dead animals that lie about the country,” cried Elizabeth.
“Bebee says that beasts that have died by the hand of God are better than those that have died by the hand of man,” replied Trinity.
A low moan issued from the tent at this moment, which seemed to strike the child with surprise and terror: she sprang upon her feet, and looked eagerly towards the curtain which hung over the entrance, but did not venture to go in. When Matilda inquired if any one within was sick, the girl shook her head, replying, “No sickness, but there must be death. That is the death moan.”
Mrs. Storey instantly proceeded to the tent, thinking that assistance might be wanted; and, lifting up the awning, she saw Mrs. Draper standing beside the body of a very old woman, which was propped up in a sitting posture, and composed in attitude and countenance. Mrs. Draper's countenance was also calm, as she folded her arms in her red cloak, and rocked herself hackwards and forwards, giving the death moan at intervals. After a certain number of repetitions, The turned to the ladies, and, in a voice of indifference, asked their business, glancing with a smile towards their palms. Elizabeth did not seem to share Matilda's surprise at this transition from one mood to another, but returned Mrs. Draper's smile, not ungloving her hand, but pointing out divers blemishes in the gloves she wore, and remarking, “What shocking gloves these are! I used to get beauties of gloves at Brighton. I wish I could get such here.”
“We are only carriers,” observed the gipsy. “You must walk a mile eastward to find a batman's wife.”
And she pointed significantly in the direction of Alexander's cottage. Elizabeth insinuated that carriers might be paid for their services in goods as well as the bat or bludgeon men, whose office it was to fight the battles of the smugglers while contraband goods were being landed and distributed. It appeared, however, that the gipsies preferred having their pay in money to loading themselves with more incumbrances than were necessary. It was plain that Elizabeth must apply elsewhere for gloves.
Matilda was meanwhile trying to tempt Trinity into the abode, in order to learn from her some particulars about the deceased, whose departure seemed to be borne by Mrs. Draper with such extraordinary composure: but Trinity still shrank from the sight of the dead, though willing enough to tell all she knew of her. She could only relate that this woman had been with the gang as long as Trinity could remember anything; that she had been blind all that time; and had been carried from place to place on a donkey, which was always led by the most careful person in the company. She had outlived all her relations, and had been tended by the Faas and Drapers only because there was no one else to take care of her. All her days had been spent in wandering, Trinity believed, as she had heard her say that it was seventy years since she had slept in a bed. It did not appear that her death had been immediately expected, as the men of the gang who were engaged as carriers, the preceding night, were gone to Brighton, and some other places a little way up the country; and when Trinity went to school that morning, she had left the old dame making cabbage nets, as usual. Mrs. Draper here took up an unfinished net, and said that it had dropped from the hands of the old woman half an hour before, when the fainting fit came on in which she had died. It was rather a pity, Mrs. Draper observed, that the departure had been so sudden, as the wake of the first night could scarcely be as honourable as they could wish. They must do their best to collect a multitude of mourners by the second night. Meanwhile, Trinity must summon as many of the tribe as were within reach; and if the ladies would please to walk out of the tent, she would fasten down the curtain so that nobody could get in, and set the dog to watch while she went her ways.
It struck Matilda as rather strange to leave the body unguarded by human care at midday, in order to provide for its being watched at night by ten times as many persons as were necessary. There was nothing to be done, however, but to obey the gipsy's desire, as it was plain that the greatest offence that could be offered would be to propose to touch or to remain near the body.
As they bent their heads under the low hoop which supported the curtain at the entrance, Elizabeth foolishly remarked that it was very well the poor soul had not had a long illness in such a comfortless place.
“You that live in ceiled houses,” replied Mrs. Draper, haughtily, “dwell as your fathers dwelt. So do we.”
“But being ill and dying,—that is so different!”
“If we are content to die as our fathers died, who forbids? “persisted” the gipsy, in a tone which silenced the objector. Mrs. Draper slightly returned the farewell of her visiters, and stood watching them till they were nearly out of sight, when she fastened the dog to one of the hoops of the tent, took off the stew, threw water on the fire, and climbed the bank, in order to pursue her way over the down in an opposite direction from that along which Trinity was tripping.
Very different was the picture presented by the domestic establishment of the Alexanders, whom Elizabeth would not be restrained from visiting, in search of gloves, and with the hope of seeing many things besides which might delight her eyes, if her purse would not extend to the purchase of them. Matilda positively refused to accompany her, and walked on to pay a visit to her mother-in-law.
Mrs. Alexander was engaged with her young folks in tying the claws of the lobsters which had been caught that morning; a work requiring some dexterity, and assisted with some fear by the children, who were apt to start and let go at the critical moment, if the creature showed any disposition to friskiness. A technical question or two from Elizabeth sufficed to induce Mrs. Alexander to quit her task, wash her hands, and show her visiter into a light closet at the back of the cottage, where she promised to join her in a few minutes. Where she went Elizabeth had no idea; but she returned in ten minutes with an apron full of mysteries, and followed by two of her boys, bearing between them a package which was almost too large to be brought in at the narrow door. A girl was already seated on the outer door-sill, to give notice of the approach of any spy; and the eldest boy was directed to keep guard at the entrance of the closet, while apparently busy in carving his wooden boat of three inches long.
Mrs. Alexander intimated that besides gloves, she had an unusual choice of cambrics and silks, and a few pieces of valuable lace, out of which the lady might suit herself, if she chose, before the goods were sent up the country, as they were to be without delay. Elizabeth would not promise to buy, but, of course, accepted the invitation to examine; and then what tempting treasures were spread before her eyes!
“0 lovely!” she cried. “What a colour! I wonder whether it would wear well. So delicate! so rich! There is nothing like those French for colours.”
Mrs. Alexander, as in gratitude bound, joined in lauding the Lyons manufacturers, and their dyers.
“The hue is most beautiful, to be sure, but the fabric of this is better;—and this,—and this,” she continued, applying the scientific touch to each in turn. “It seems to me that all the pieces of that one pattern,—the olive green, and the blue, and the violet,—are of a poorer fabric than the rest. But the figure is completely French”, to be sure.”
Mrs. Alexander observed that the Brighton ladies, and some at Hastings, had taken a great fancy to that particular pattern; and it was selling rapidly at some of the principal shops.
“Well, now, if I had seen those pieces at a shop,—if I had met with them anywhere but here, I should have pronounced them English. It is very odd that all of that one figure should have less substance than the others. Did they come over as part of the same cargo?”
“Stowed cheek-by-jowl in the hold of the lugger that was but six hours out of sight,” Mrs. Alexander declared.
“I suppose they have been only just landed,” observed Elizabeth, “for you would not keep such a stock as this by you, with so many enemies about. I wonder you are not afraid.”
“It is only for a few hours, ma'am; just till the carriers come back from their present errand. I do not sell in any but a chance way, as you know, ma'am; and——”
“I always supposed your husband had been a batman, and I am told the batmen are often paid in goods,” interrupted Elizabeth.
“In part, ma'am; but the greater portion of what is before you is here only on trust. We take care to keep them out of sight of the few whose business it is to ruin the coast; but, for that matter, the hands that served to land and stow ten times as much as all this, are enough to defend what is left. But the carriers will be back soon, and then——”
“And then they will have something else to do than to set off for Brighton again immediately,—if you mean the gipsies.” And Elizabeth explained that they would have to attend the wake of the old woman, for two or three nights together.
This was such important news that Mrs. Alexander instantly sent one of the children in search of his father, and seemed now careless as to whether her visiter made a purchase or not. After selecting a package of gloves which was too large for her pocket, and was therefore to be left behind till a favourable opportunity should occur of conveying them unseen, Elizabeth detained a two-inch pattern of the silk whose figure she most admired, and which was somewhat cheaper than the rest, from the inferiority of its quality. She must consult her mother, she declared, and should probably send an order for a quantity sufficient for two or three dresses. Her desire' to obtain some of the benefits of this importation was enhanced by the woman's apparent indifference as to whether she indulged in a purchase. She resolved to make all speed homewards, and to persuade her mother, and, if possible, Matilda, to seize the opportunity of decking themselves in contraband fabrics.
She was not destined to arrive at home so soon as she imagined. Instead of Elizabeth, appeared a neighbour's child, breathless and excited, to request Matilda's immediate presence at a well-known house on the beach, and to urge the Lieutenant being sent for with all speed. It was plain that Elizabeth had been stopped by the Coast Guard, and conveyed by them to the house of the dame appointed to search all women who were suspected of having smuggled goods concealed about them. This was an act of audacity on the part of the guard that Matilda could not have anticipated, or she would have used more urgent persuasions with her sister-in-law against connecting herself in any way with the secret proceedings of the people about her. She was little aware that the adventure arose out of the reprobation of Brady's punishment of the gipsy-boy, which she and Elizabeth had testified the day before.
Brady had seen Miss Storey enter the suspected house of Alexander; he had remarked signs of movement within and about it during her stay; and had watched her leaving it with a hurried step on the way home. Brady did not see why a lady should make a mockery of his office any more than a poor woman, to whom the temptation was greater; and he was quite disposed to use his authority against one who had blamed him when he could not defend himself, and exposed him to be mobbed. He therefore planted himself directly in her path, on the beach, and requested her to deliver up the contraband articles which she was carrying about her.
The consciousness of what had just passed at Mrs. Alexander's deprived Elizabeth of the sense of innocence, and of that appearance of it which she might have justified by the fact that she had no smuggled goods about her person. She instantly thought of the pattern of silk, and tried to hide it, in a way which confirmed the suspicions of the foe. There was nothing for it but to go to the place appointed; but, on the way, she bethought herself of sending a messenger for some of her family. She appeared in so great tribulation when Matilda arrived, as to leave little doubt of her being actually in the scrape; and delay or evasion seemed therefore the best policy.
“Have you demanded to be taken before a magistrate?” asked Matilda.
“A magistrate! La” no! How dreadful to think of going to a justice! I dare not, I am sure. “Tis dreadful to think of.”
“Not so dreadful as to put up with such a piece of audacity as this. If I were you, I would give these people as much trouble as possible in the business they have brought upon themselves, and make them heartily sick of it before they have done.”
“Better not make such a fuss, and expose one's-self before all the folks on the way: better take it quietly,” said the search-woman, holding open the door of the inner room appointed for the process. Elizabeth peeped into the room, and then looked at Matilda in restless dismay, declaring that she had nothing about her that she would not have produced in a moment to the guard, if he had asked her quietly, instead of bringing half the population about her heels.
“Then go to the magistrate, and tell him so,” said Mrs. Storey, authoritatively. “It is a privilege which the law allows you; and an innocent person does wrong in not claiming it.”
Elizabeth could not bring herself thus to oblige Brady to declare what reasons he had to suspect her. She doubted and hesitated, till her foes could and would wait no longer. She was searched, and nothing found, except, at the last moment, the pattern of silk, squeezed up in her glove. This discovery was very discomfiting to the ladies, and was made the most of by Brady, who held it up in the face of the Lieutenant, when that gentleman arrived, breathless, to ascertain what disaster had befallen the ladies of his family.
“What! is that all you have got? I wish you joy of your share of the seizure,” said he to Brady, pushing his hand aside. “I hope you will make more sure of your game the next time you abuse your duty to insult a lady.”
Brady said he should discharge his office, let who would be the sufferer; and added, that he held in his hand what was a sufficient justification. He then proceeded to deposit the two inches of silk carefully in his tobacco-box.
“Let me look at it,” demanded the Lieutenant. Brady glanced towards the fire, as if fearing that that was destined to be the next place of deposit for his precious snip. The Lieutenant laughed contemptuously, and walked to the farthest possible distance from the fire, still holding out his hand for the pattern.
“Why, man,” said the officer, “you had better make haste to qualify yourself a little better for your business, or you will make yourself the laughing-stock of the place. This silk is no more French than your coat is Chinese. Here, take it back, and ask any knowing person you please, and you will find this was woven in Spitalfields or at Macclesfield.”
Brady muttered something about “humbug;” and the search-woman became extremely anxious to explain that it was no part of her business to choose her victims: she had only to discharge her duty upon all who were brought to her. The Lieutenant silenced her by pushing past her, with his wife and sister on each arm. The little crowd opened before them as they re-issued from the house, and closed again round Brady, to learn the result of his loyal enterprise. He was in too thorough an ill-humour to give them any satisfaction, anticipating (what, in fact, proved his fate) that he should be twitted with this deed for months to come, by every man, woman, and child who did not bear a due patriotic affection towards the Preventive Service.
The officer did not speak till it was time to deposit his sister at her own door.
“Now, Elizabeth,” said he, “I hope this will prove a lesson to you. You and my mother came to live here on my account, and on my account you must go away again, unless you can bring your practices into agreement with my duties. It is a lucky chance for you that that rag is of English make, or——”
“Oh, brother! do you really think it is not a French silk?”
“To be sure, or I should not have said so,” replied the Lieutenant, with much displeasure in his tone. “If I chose to tell lies to screen you, you might stay here, following your own fancies, till doomsday. It is because I always will speak the truth about those who belong to me that I request you to go away, if you must do things which make the truth painful for you to hear and for me to tell.”
“Well, my good sir, do not be in a passion. I only thought you were telling a convenient fib, such as everybody tells about such matters, in the Custom-house and out of it.”
“Not everybody, as you now find,” replied the officer; “and I hope this is the last time you will expose me to the suspicion of fibbing in your behalf.”
Matilda half withdrew her arm from her husband's, terrified at a mode and strength of rebuke which would have almost annihilated her; but Elizabeth bore it with wonderful indifference, wishing him good morning, as on ordinary days.
“She is a good creature,” the Lieutenant observed, in his customary phrase, after walking on a few paces in silence. “She is a good creature, but monstrously provoking sometimes. A pretty scrape she had nearly got herself and all of us into.”
“Remember how lately it was that you were defending the desire for foreign commodities in general, and Elizabeth's in particular,” observed Matilda.
“Well! all that I said was very true, I believe,” replied the officer, half laughing under a sense of his own inconsistency. “I have as firm a faith as ever in the truth of what I then said.”
“Your doctrine, then, is, that Elizabeth is right in having the desire, and in gratifying it; but that she is wrong in being caught in the fact.”
“Why, it does come pretty nearly to that, I am afraid. It comes to the fact that duties clash in a case like this; so that, one's conscience being at fault, an appeal to the law must settle the matter. I see no crime in Elizabeth's taste, apart from the means she may take to gratify it; but the law pronounces her wrong, so we must conclude she is wrong.”
“Duties do, indeed, clash,” replied Matilda; “and if so painfully in one case, what must be the extent of the evil if we consider all who are concerned? Even in this little neighbourhood, here is Mr. Pim unable to teach honour, as he says, without giving the notion that it is a merit to conceal fraud, and pointing out a whole class as objects of contempt and hatred. The dwellers near, almost to a man, look upon the government as a tyrant, its servants as oppressors, its laws as made to be evaded, and its powers defied. Oaths are regarded as mere humbug; and the kindliest of social feelings are nourished in direct relation to fraud, and pleaded as its sanction. There is not a man near us who does not feel it necessary, nor a woman who does not praise it as virtuous, nor a child who is not trained up in the love and practice of it. This is the morality which one institution teaches from village to village all along our shores,—mocking the clergyman, setting at nought the schoolmaster, and raising up a host of enemies to the government by which it is maintained; and all for what?”
“To help us in our national money matters, in which, in truth, it does not very well succeed,” observed the Lieutenant.
“And to protect the interests of certain classes of its subjects,” replied Matilda, “in which, if most people say true, they succeed as little.”
“Spitalfields is in a worse state than ever,” observed the Lieutenant; “and there are terrible complaints from our glovers and our lace-makers.”
“And if not,” continued Matilda—” if protection availed to these people, the case would be very little better than it is now. Money prosperity is desirable only as it is necessary to some higher good,—to good morals and happiness; and if it were, in fact, secured to our glovers, and silkmen, and lace-makers, it would be purchased far too dear at the expense of the morals of such a multitude as are corrupted by our restrictive laws. There can be nothing in the nature of things to make the vexation and demoralization of some thousands necessary to the prosperity of other thousands. Providence cannot have appointed to governments such a choice of evils as this; and——”
“And you, my dear, for your share, will therefore withhold your allegiance from a government which attempts to institute such an opposition.”
“It is rather too late an age of the world for me to turn rebel on that ground,” replied Matilda, smiling. “Such governments as we were speaking of are dead and gone, long ago. Our government is not granting any new protections or prohibitions, surely!”
“But I thought you would quarrel with it for not taking away those which exist. I thought you would give it your best blessing if they sent an order to all us Preventive people to vacate our station-houses and march off.”
“I certainly felt more disaffected to-day than ever in my life before,” observed Matilda. “To think that, in a country like this, anybody may be stopped and searched upon mere suspicion!”
“With the privilege of demanding the decision of a magistrate, remember.”
“Which magistrate may order the search, if he finds sufficient ground of suspicion. And this outrage is to take place as a very small part of the machinery for protecting the interests of certain classes, to the great injury of all the rest; and especially, as many of themselves say, to their own. It makes one indignant to think of it.”
“It is the law, my love; and while it exists, it must be obeyed. I must order my men to stop you, if you should chance to sympathize in Elizabeth's tastes. Hey, Matilda?”
“Do, by all means, when you find me smuggling; but perhaps my share of the temptation may soon be at an end. I trust all this distress that you speak of will end in bringing into an active competition with foreigners those of our people who are now sitting with their hands before them, perceiving how the gentry of England are apparelled in smuggled goods. No fear for our occupation, you know. There will still be brandy and tobacco, on which, as we do not grow them ourselves, government will call for so high a duty as will encourage smuggling. No prospect of your being useless yet a while.”
“Nor of our neighbours being as loyal as you would have them.”
“Nor of their living at peace, and in frank honesty.”
“Nor of Pim's making his scholars moral.”
“Nor of our manufacturers having fair play.”
“Nor of the same justice being done to the revenue. Alas! how far we are from perfection!”
“Yet ever tending towards it. Unless we believe this, what do we mean by believing in a Providence? since all evidence goes to prove that its rule is infinite progression. Yes, we are tending upwards, though slowly; and we shall find, when we arrive in sight of comparative perfection, that a system of restriction which debases and otherwise injures all parties concerned, is perfectly inconsistent with good government.”
“Then shall I have earned my dinner in some other, and, I trust, a pleasanter, way than today,” observed the Lieutenant. “I shall never get reconciled to my office, Matilda, especially while I hear of brother officers abroad——”
“Oh! you are dreading your patrol to-night, because it is beginning to snow,” said Matilda, smiling. “You shall go in, and fortify yourself with some duty-paid brandy and untaxed water; and then, if you will let me go with you again, we will defy the smugglers as manfully as if they were to be the enemies of good order for evermore.”
“You shall not go out in the dark again, my love. It took all my manfulness from me to see you so near the edge of the cliff in a wind which might drive you out as if you were a sea-gull. The place looks scarcely fit for you on the brightest of days; you have no chance out of doors on a gusty night.”