Front Page Titles (by Subject) A TALE OF THE TYNE. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 7
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A TALE OF THE TYNE. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 7 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 7.
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A TALE OF THE TYNE.
NO NEWS FROM THE PORT.
Walter was so busy trenching in his garden, one late autumn afternoon, that he paid no attention to any thing that passed on the other side of the hedge. Tram after train of coal-waggons slid by on the rail-road from the pit to the staithe, and from the staithe to the pit, and he never looked up, till a voice from one of the vehicles shouted to him that he was a pretty ferryman to let a passenger stand calling for his boat, for minutes together, while he gave no heed. Walter just turned to the cottage to shout, in his turn, “Father, the boat!” and then went on with his trenching.
The days were gone by when Walter used to uprear himself from his weeding or pruning, or stand resting on his spade, to watch his father putting off for the opposite bank, or speculate on who the passengers might be, whence they came, and whither they might be going. His garden was a tempting place whence to overlook the river, sloping as it did down to the very bank; but Walter had now too much to do and to think about to spare. time for the chance amusements of former days. His father had duly and perpetually assured him in his childhood that “the hand of the dihgent maketh rich,” and that “if a man will not work, neither should be eat;” but. though these quotations had their effect, there were thoughts in Walter's mind which were yet more stimulating to his exertions.
He threw down his spade in no little hurry, however, when, in a few minutes, he heard him-self called from behind. His cousin Effie was running up the slope of the garden, crying,
“Walter! Walter! is my father here? You need not be afraid to tell me. Is my father here?”
“Your father, no! I have not seen him since church, last Sunday.”
“Well, uncle Christopher said just so; but I got him to set me over, I was so unwilling to believe you did not know where my father was. O, Walter! cannot you give the least guess where he is? I dare not go back to my mother without news.”
Walter's grieved countenance showed that he would afford news if he had any to impart. He hesitatingly mentioned the public-house.
“O, there is not a public-house between this and Newcastle, nor all over Shields, where one or other of us had not been before twelve o'clock last night. I did not know whether to be glad or sorry that he was not in one of them. Now I should be glad enough to see him in almost any way.”
“Before twelve o'clock last night! How long have you missed him?”
“He quitted the keel, they say, just at dark, when she came alongside the collier,—only be-cause he had broken his pipe, and went to get another; but he did not come back.”
Walter was silent; but Effie could interpret his thought.
“It is certain the press-gang was out last night,” she observed.
“Where is the tender stationed?” asked Walter, pulling down his shirt sleeves, and looking round for his coat.
“Just in the river's mouth; but there is no getting at her. Half the boats in Shields have been hanging about her; but, there being only women in them, they do but, make sport for the officers. Nobody but an officer or two is to be seen on deck—”
“Ay, ay; the other poor creatures are kept close enough down below. I suppose, if there are few but women in the boats, her business is done, and she will make little further stay.”
“There is not a seaman to be seen in all Shields since the day before yesterday, they say; and so the jail has been half emptied to make up the number. Walter, you must not think of going to look for my father. There has scarcely a keel passed all this day, because the men will not venture to the port any more, while the tender is there. You will not think of going, Walter? I am not quite sure that it is safe for you to be working here, full in sight from the river. From the other side I saw you as plain as could be.”
“Why, Effie, what do you think they could make of a gardener on board a king's ship?”
“What they make of other landsmenillegible I suppose. “Tis certain they have got some who never were on ship-board in their lives.”
Yes, indeed. So I do wish you would work, in you must work, under the hedge, or behind that plot of hollvoaks. Do you know I saw you stop and take off your cap, when you came to the end of this ridge, and then stool—”
“What! while your head was full of your tather; bless you!” murmured Waher, in a low fone, and with a blush of satisfaction.
“Is not it my duty to think of you first?” asked Effie; “and if it was not, how could I help it?”
Walter was in no hurry to answer this, and Effie went on.
“As to saying it, I cannot help that either; and why should I? It makes me wonder to see Bessy Davison pretending that her lover is the last person in the world that she thinks of or cares about, when she knows what a sin and shame it would be to pretend the same thing when he is her husband—which he is almost— for they are to be married next week.”
“I am sure we are much more like being husband and wife than they are, Effie; I wish we were going to be married next week.”
“I cannot talk about that, Walter, till I have heard something of my father, and made out what is to become of my mother, if he is really gone; but he may get back. There have been some set ashore again two days after they were carried off.”
Walter did not say what he knew, that those who were thus returned to their homes were persons unfit for the king's service:—a poor tailor who might, by long training, have become a sail-maker, but would never be capable of more arduous service; a ploughman, who was gaping with amazement at the first sight of the sea, when he was surprised and carried off; and a pedlar, who seemed likely to bie in a week for want of a wider walking range than the deck of a tender. Eldred was too good a man for the kings purposes, as Walter knew, to be set at liberty again on the same footing with such helpless creatures as these.
“What will your mother do, Effie, if your father should really be away a year or two, or more?”
“Eh! I cannot say. There has been no time—Walter, if you could have seen her, all last night, it would have half broke your heart.”
“I am sure it has half broken yours. You look sadly worn, Effie.”
“O, I am used to her—to her ways of feeling and doing. But she did sob and complain so grievously, we were wholly at a loss what to do with her—poor Tim and I, for Adam was not to be found. I sent to his master's to beg leave for him for a few hours, but he was out of bounds, and so I had no help. For a long time she kept blaming my father, till I was pained that Tim shouht hear all she said. When I had got him to bed, I left off trying to reason with her, which I know l am too apt to do. But, Walter, I am afraid to meet her again; and that is why I am lingering here, doing no good.”
“But what will she do!” Walter again inquired.
“I suppose we must all get work, as those do who have no father to work for them,” replied Effie.
“We had better marry at once,” said Walter, who seemed quite able to prove his point, that it would, be a relief to Mrs. Eldred to see her daughter settled at once, instead of having to go back to the pit-mouth, where she had worked in her childhood, and where all parties had believed she would never need to work again.
“It never came into my mind till now,” said Effie, after considering her lover's proposal for a moment; “but I will think about it as I go home, and try to find out what we ought to do.”
Waiter's blush of satisfaction returned while he said something about his wonder how people had any comfort of each other who were off and on, and pretending, like Bessy and her lover, not to understand each other, instead of being straightforward, and agreeing on what was right and fit, so that they might depend on each other without drawback. It was difficult enough sometimes, at best, for people that had consciences to settle their minds so as to be at pcace; and to perplex one another further was, in his opinion, but a poor sign of love. He might feel this the more strongly from his being too timid and undecided. He knew he was; and if Effie could but be aware what a blessing it was to him to be never made sport of—never put off with false reasons—
Effie coloured with indignation at the idea of any one taking advantage of Walter's modesty to make sport of him. In her own heart she daily felt, (and sometimes she relieved herself by saying so,) that there was no one virtue she should like so much to have as Waher's modesty, and that there was no one thing she feared so much as learning to abuse it, by accepting the supremacy he was willing to allow her. Walter's objection, as far as he chose to make any, was that she was too tractable; while his father entertained an idea much more serious. He doubted whether they had grace enough between them to secure a blessing upon their union.
“Uncle Christopher seems too busy to speak to me to-day,” observed Effie. “He has always been engaged with his invention when I have come lately; but I thought to-day he would have come out to advise with me what we must do about nay father.”
“He is bringing his invention to a point,” replied Walter, “and he will soon be ready to take it to London, and look after a patent for it. This fills his mind at present; but you need not doubt his feeling very much for you all, as soon as he can listen to what I shall tell him,”
“But what will he say to your notion of marrying next week—of your marrying while Adam is not out of his apprenticeship yet?”
“He can only say that Adam is an apprentice, and l am not. You and l may be as glad as we please, between ourselves, that I am a gardener, and not a rope-maker.”
“Ah! you would have had another year to serve, trom this time, and then to set up for your self. But, surely, gardening is a much more difficult business to learn than rope-making. Why should Adam be obliged to spend seven years in learning to twist hemp into ropes, when you learned long ago a great deal about the seasons, and the soils, and the nature of different kinds of plants, and how to manage a vast number of them? I should have thought that it would take more time and pains to learn to produce fine peaches, and such capital vegetables as yours, than to become a good ropemaker.”
“So should I; but all works ot tillage have been mixed up together under the name of unskilled labour; and all that belong to manufactures, as skilled labour, which requires apprenticeship; so that the man who grows the finest grapes that care and knowledge ever produced, is held by the law to be a less skilled workman than one who dabs brick-clay into a mould all the summer through. If I were to turn pippin-monger instead of pippin-grower, I should have inquiries in plenty after my seven years of apprenticeship, and should be liable to suffer for not having served them. But I am a gardener, and never was bound to a master, and am now free to turn my hand to any occupation that comes near my own, if my own should fail, which is a sort of security for you, Effie, that it gives me pleasure to think of.”
“Security!” said his father, who had at length found time to come out and inquire into the afflictions of his niece and her family. “It is the notion of young people, who have not seen God's ways in his works, to talk of security. Of what use is the watchman's waking, unless the Lord keeps the city?”
“Indeed, uncle,” said Effie, “we want no teaching to-day about change and danger. Yesterday at this time we were looking for my father home from work, and now I much fear.—”
“Fear nothing, child. Fear is sinful.”
“O, but, uncle, do you think you yourself could help it if Walter was gone, and you did not know where? Would not you fancy him shut down in that horrible tender? And could you help being afraid that he was miserable, being afraid that he would be ill, being afraid that you would be unhappy for many a long year, for want of him?”
“I dare say you think,” said uncle Christopher, seeing that Effie bit her lip to repress her tears,— “I dare say you think that I am a cruel old man, who has no compassion for what other people are feeling. Worldly people would say—”
“O, never mind what people would say who do not see and hear us: but I do not think you cruel, uncle. Only—”
“Only what?” inquired uncle Christopher, setting his hps in a prim form, as he always did when he expected to hear something unaeceptable about himself.
“Only,—very pious people expect other people to feel exactly as they do, aud make out that every difference is a difference of trust in God. Now, I trust in God that my father will be supported, and my poor mother—”
She was obliged to stop a moment, and then went on,
“But all this trust does not make me the less afraid that they will have to be unhappy first.”
Uncle Christopher shook his head with a condescending smile and sigh. This was what he called trust with a reservation; but prayed that the true faith might grow out of it in time. He could suggest nothing to be done, Eldred's recovery being quite hopeless, he considered, if he was on board the tender. All that uncle Christopher could promise, was to go and pray with the widowed wife, on the Sabbath morning; —the day that he could not conscientiously give to his own engrossing pursuit,—the invention for which he hoped to take out a patent.
Walter had no intention of waiting till Sunday. He was going now, but that Effie would not allow it. The press-gang was before her mind's eye, whichever way she turned ; and she had no apprehension so great as of her lover falling in with it. Nowhere could he be so safe as in his father's premises,—ferrymen being everywhere exempt from impressment, He parried her request of a promise not to show himself in his garden so as to be an object of observation from the river, and now saved his father the trouble of depositing Effie on the other side. He had a few words to say to her while they were crossing. His advice was not to harass herself with running about from place to place in search of her father, (who could have no motive for concealing him self from his family,) but to acquiesce in his being made a defender of his country against his will, and to hope that he would prove a faithful and valiant seaman amidst the perils and honours of war.
Effie thought that the very way to prevent this was so to treat a man as to make him hate the government he served, and to paralyze his arm by that sickness of heart which must come over him as often as he thought of his deserted wife and unprovided children. She believed a ready will was the soul of good service, on sea or land.
She had no very ready will to go home to her mother without tidings. She lingered to see her lover recross the river, being aware that he was an inexperienced ferryman, and that the tide was now running very strong. A barge was coming up, in fine style, and it seemed likely that Walter would have landed in time to watch its course, like herself, and perhaps to suspect, as she did, that certain of his Majesty's agents were in it, seeking whom they might entrap. But Walter mismanaged his boat, causing it to make a zigzag course, till he brought it very near the barge, and then seeming to lose his presence of mind so as to put himself directly in the way of being run down. Effie was in momentary expectation of witnessing the clash, and there was a movement on board the barge which terrified her no less.
“They have found him out to be no ferryman,” was her agonized thought. “They will carry him off too, and then my mother and I shall be widows together!”
She ran to the water's edge, and would probably have tried to walk through it, if the boats bad not parted so as to allow her breathing time again. She was then struck with the improbability of the gang offering violence to the manager of a ferryboat, while in the actual discharge of his office; but this conviction did not at once restore strength to her shaking limbs, or remove the deadly sickness from her heart.
She was usually fond of this walk,—for other reasons than that Walter was at one end of it: but to day everything appeared disagreeable. The rustling of the autumn wind in the leafless clump of trees under which she had to pass teazed her ear. She tried to find a path where she might walk without making a commotion among the dead leaves. When it became necessary to cross the rail-road, it seemed to her that it was the most difficult thing in the world to escape the trains of waggons. She felt pretty sure of being run over before she got home. The smoke from the colliery half stifled her, and the voices from the rows of cottages were more shrill and unfeeling than she had ever heard them before. the river side had been cold; the colliery was too warm; and the wind, or something else, prevented her getting forwards. She could almost have declared that her feet were tied.
While site was toiling on, somebody touched her shoulder. She turned, in attitude to run away; but it was only her eldest brother.
“What! did I frighten you, lass?” cried Adam, gaily.
“O, Adam! It would be well if you never did worse than frightening me in this way.”
“Hoot, toot ! you are coming round to the old story of my having my indentures broke. Let them be broke, if my masters so please! I know my business well enough,—I knew it three years ago well enough to make my bread like another man; and so it is no wonder I am tired of working so long for another, when I am as fit as I ever shall be to work for myself.”
“But the disgrace,—the loss,—if you have your indentures broke!” exclaimed she. “How are you to get on a footing with those who have served their time properly, if you cannot submit to the law?”
“I wish I had been born where there is no such law,” declared Adam. “If I had been a Manchester or a Birmingham man, my apprenticeship might have been as long or as short as any business requires, Or if I had been an American I might have learned rope-making without being bound at all.”
“In America, I have heard tell,” replied Effie, “the people are mostly well to do in the world, and can take their manhood upon them earlier than the youths here may do. They can set up for themselves, and marry, and have their rights earlier than here, where there are so many in proportion to the means of living. As to Birmingham and Manchester,—I do not know what is the character of the working youths there,— but I have heard it said that long apprenticeships are good for the morals of the young people.”
“Then I must be a much more moral person than Walter—Eh, Effie? But I should like to know what there is in my being bound to tread the length of the rope-walk so many times a-day, for my master's profit, that is good for my morals. I hardily think that it, is good for one's morals to be running off as often as one can slip the noose, and sulky and grumbling all the while one is under a master's eye.”
Effie did not see the absolute necessity of either playing truant or sulking. She thought a well-disposed youth should be grateful for being under the eye of a master at a time of life when guardianship was peculiarly needfull.
“All very well two hundred years ago, Effie, —at the time of such apprenticeships as our great grandfather used to tell us of,—when the apprentices used to sit in the same room, and eat at the same table with their masters, and walk behind them to church. But times are changed now. I could tell you such things as you little dream of, if I chose to prove to you how much management our masters have over our pleasures aud our morals. What is it to them what we do with ourselves When work is over? And as for the time that the wheels are turning, the masters must be clever men if they get half as much work out of their oldest and best apprentices as out of any one of their journeymen?”
“How were apprentices so different in our great grandfather's time?”
“I dare say it might be more difficult to learn arts at that time; and so a longer apprenticeship might be wanted. Neither was there such a rush to get one's bread as there is now; nor, consequently, so much provocation at being kept out of it at a great expense to everybody, when one is capable of shifting for one's self. You cannot wonder, Effie, at my flitting from time to time, when a chance offers of winning a penny, or When I can amuse myself, instead of toiling for nothing.”
“But I do wonder, Adam. You forget what you owe your master for teaching you your trade; and you forget what you forfeit, if you have your indentures broke.”
“Not I. I paid my master long ago for everything but the meat and drink that I would rather earn for myself. And you need not begin to talk of how foolish we should all be in marrying too early if our being bound till twenty-one did not prevent it. It may chance that worse things than early marriages happen when high spirited apprentices are led or driven into a disposition for idleness. In my mind,—the best way to keep a young man steady and sober is to let him work, as soon as he is fit for it, with tlle hopefulness which comes from working for one's self. You will see how steady I shall be as soon as I have something to work for.”
“And if your master casts you off, mean time?”
“Then I must go somewhere away from yon great town, where one can do little without a title of apprenticeship. When the Deep Cut is made,—as they say it certainly will be,—ropes will be wanted there in plenty, for ships that will put in. l'll go and settle near the Deep Cut.— Tis a fine place,—that sluice that is to be. Tommy Thorn and I got over to see it in one of our trips; and there was—”
“Tell me nothing about it now,” said Effie: “but go home to your master, that I may tell my mother that you are there: and so carry her some little comfort in her misery.”
“Misery! what misery?”
“Ah! Now you are almost the only person within five miles that does not know what an affliction has befallen your; own kin. I kept putting off the telling you, being at last hopeless—”
“And I saw how you had been crying, but thought Walter might have been either rough or particularly tender. But O, Effie, what is it? Is poor little Tim—”
Tim was well again: and Adam was horrorstruck at finding the family misfortune so much greater than he had anticipated. When he learned that Cuddie was absent,—making his first voyage in a collier to London.—he was full of remorse that his mother had been left without the support of either of her eider sons on such an occasion. Instead of going home to his master, he must first see his poor mother; and when Effie recollected that such a visit might serve as a plea of excuse to his master, and give his indentures another chance, she made no further opposition.
Effie found little promise of comfort on approaching home. About the spout or staithe, whence coals were shot from the waggons into the keels on the river, were gathered groups of people telling and hearing of one and another neighbour who had not returned when expected. This news rendered Eldred's restoration less probable than ever, and all that could be hoped was that Mrs. Eldred was already prepared for this.
If she was, she did not look out the less eagerly for her daughter, or show less disappointment when she found there were no tidings.
“It was silly of me to trouble you for any,” she declared. “I am the last person ever to get tidings that I want. I am the last person to be helped by anybody,”
“Do not you think—” —Effie began, but checked herself, in consideration of the trouble of spirit that her mother was in. The poor woman went on,
“One would think the time was gone by for your father to have the notion of deserting his family. He had better have done it years ago, when I was more fit for the charge. I am worn out now. But I always said there would be no rest for me till I was in the grave.”
“Is there no one who asks us to come and he will give us rest?” inquired one who was sitting beside the hearth, with little Tim on his knee. It was Mr. Severn, the clergyman, one of poor Tim's best friends. Tim was only six years old; but he had lost his sight by an accident at the coal-pit, two years before. He was not an unhappy child at any time; but he was seldom so happy as when Mr. Severn's cheerful voice and steady step came near, or when there was something new to be told or taught, which required that Tim should stand between the gentleman's knees, or sit with an arm over his shoulder. He heard Mr. Severn's question now, and asked who made that promise. The answer brought his mother to tears; but whether they were tears which would do her good seemed doubtful to those who watched with alarm the force of her emotions.
“Mother, you cannot think,—surely you cannot think that nay father has left us of his own accord?” remonstrated Adam.
“if he has, it is you that have helped to send him away. No man was prouder than your father that no vagabond ever belonged to him; and many a time of late has he prophesied that you woul'd turn out a vagabond;—many a time, I can tell you, Adam, when he has heard of your being missed from your work. I hope you will take it to heart, Adam.”
“Mother! mother! this is not the time,” said Effie, in a terror lest Adam should quit the cottage, never to return. “Mother, my father never spoke harshly about Adam, I am sure.”
“Harshly! no. He never spoke harshly to anybody in his life, and always let any one talk him over, and do what they would with him; and that is the case now, I'l1 answer for it. I thought I had brought up my sons free from his fault; and now they are to break my heart in another way, I suppose. Well! among one and another, I shall soon be in my grave.”
“How is Cuddie to break your heart, mother? I wonder what is the matter with him, good lad!” said Adam, with an affectation of coolness.
Effie east an imploring look at him, and at the same moment Tim began to make his voice heard,—
“O, don't go! don't go! Sir, sir; don't go !”
“I must, my dear boy. I will come back again when—”
“When my mother does not insult me before you, sir,” said Adam. “But you will hardly find me here next time, after what you have heard to-day.”
“yes, Adam, I trust I shall. I shall forget what I have heard, because it was said in a moment of irritation; and you will remember, I trust, that your mother is in deep affliction, and that her words should not be reckoned too strictly against her,—least of all by her son.”
“I cannot be spoken of in this way,” cried Mrs. Eldred. “I have been accustomed to have people against me, all nay days; but I cannot hear myself so spoken of to my children, by anybody, Mr. Severn.”
“Tell us, then, how we shall think of you,— how we shall pray fur you in your sorrow?”
“As one that was able to bear whatever it might please God to lay upon her,” she replied. Her violent weeping did not interrupt her declarations that she could go to the pit-mouth, and work for her living, and preserve the independence and good name she had always sought for herself and her children. She spoke proudly of her family, though she had just betore been bitter against them. She talked of her strength, though she had so lately declared herself worn out. She did not want any comfort but what her own mind could supply her with, well as people meant, she did not doubt, by coming to comfort her. She forgot how she had complained, just before Mr. Severn entered, that nobody eared for her, and that she might bear her troubles as well as she could, without sympathy.
Mr. Severn, who abhorred officious interference, kindly wished her strength and comfort according to her need, and was departing, when little Tim, who bad bustled after him to the door, reached out a hand to catch the gentleman by the skirt of his coat, missed his aim, and fell from the door-step. He merely slipped on his hands and knees: but the boy was first startled by the fall, and then thoroughly alarmed by his mother's passion of terror. Any child must have concluded himself very much hurt, white his mother was sobbing over him so piteously.
“Indeed, mother, I don't think he has hurt himself.”— “Do but let him walk across the room.”— “He does not seem to be in any pain,” —urged the son and daughter, in vain. Mr. Severn touched Adam's arm, and made a sign to let the paroxysm exhaust itself. Effie quietly placed a cup of water within reach, and closed the door against any prying eyes that might be near. The time had been,—but it was now long past,—when her mother's emotions had invariably opened the flood-gates of her own tears. Her heart was still heavily oppressed when she witnessed passion; but it was now only quiet grief that touched her sympathies. When the sobs were hushed, and only gentle tears flowed over poor Tim, Effie could refrain no longer, but became the most sorrowful weeper of the two. Adam did not know what to do with himself, and therefore did the best thing that remained. He took his mother's hand, and signified a hope of being a greater comfort to her than he had been. He mentioned Cuddie; and here was something pleasant for every one to speak of. Mr. Severn considered Cuddie one of the most promising lads in the parish. Mrs. Eldred told how early she had discovered and pointed out to his father what Cuddle might become; but plaintively added a supposition of his being impressed during the voyage. All, with one voice, reminded her how young he was, and how unlikely it was that his Majesty should pick out lads of seventeen for impressment, when an ample supply of full-grown men might be obtained. Tim had his little story to tell of what Cuddie was to do for him when he came back; and his mother smiled, and blessed the boy aside for forgetting his terrible fall so easily. In ten minutes more, Mr. Severn left her, fully convinced that it would be much easier to count her troubles than her blessings; that Providence has a wise and kind purpose in all that it inflicts; and that the best welcome she could offer her husband on his return would be the sight of what she had done in his absence for his sake.
NEWS FROM THE PORT.
Mrs. Eldred did not give too good an account of herself when she declared herself able to do for her family whatever circumstances might require of her. Within five days of her husband's disappearance, she might be found in a situation which she had not expected ever to fill again. She was sorting and screening coals at the mouth of the neighbouring pit. She would not hear of Effie joining her in her labours. Her great desire was that Effie should marry Walter as soon as she pleased. This would be one care off her mind, she declared,—one duty discharged to her absent husband, whose only daughter should not suffer by the unhappy chance which had taken him away. The only argument was as to what should be done with Tim, during working hours. Effie was for keeping him beside her, —not only at present, while she was still in her mother's cottage, but when she should have roved to Walter's. She thought it more seemly that the child should play among the flower-beds than among the coal-heaps, and hinted the posibihty, of his falling down the pit, or into the river, while no one was heeding him. But the plea of danger would not do. No child of his age could be more fit to avoid danger from the pit and the river than Tim. His ear served him better than the eyes of little ones who do not think of taking care; and Tim might always be trusted to discover, by stamping on the ground, how near he was to hollow places. He might always be trusted to calculate the certainties of crossing the waggon-way before the train should come up, and to find his own path down the sloping bank to the stone which formed Ins favourite seat by the river-side—where he might sit, and pull rushes, and hear the water ripple. His mother hinted that he would run more risk among Walter's bees than anywhere else. It was left, at last, to the child's own taste; and he decided to go with his mother. Of all people, he knew least of the hastiness of her temper; for he rarely or never had to feel it himself, and could not yet understand its manifestations to others. He was very fond of Effie, but there was a charm about the corner of his mother's apron which eclipsed all the blandishments of any one else. Besides this, Tim loved society,—not ouly as being a child, but as being blind. He quitted even the corner of his mother's apron when he heard young voices, and pushed into the midst of every group of children he could find his way to. He had an ambition to work as other little ones worked, and to play as they played; and his mother's occupation afforded him the opportunity. The sorting coal may be done by the touch as truly though more slowly than by the eye; and the work which Tim would not haw; been set to these five years, if he had had his sight, he was already permitted to do for amusement, because he was blind. His mother rectified his mistakes when he chanced to carry hie contributions to the wrong heap; and his companions learned to be patient with him when he unwittingly spoiled their little arrangements, throwing down their coal-houses, trodging straight through their coal-gardens, anti stumbling over their coal-mountains. No one seemed to enjoy the burning of the refuse coal more than he, though to him it was no spectacle. He always carefully ascertained the situation of the heap to be burned, and stood opposite to the conflagration, shouting when his companions' shouts told that the flame was spreading, and rather courting than avoiding the heat and the smoke. There was some question among observers whether the glare did not excite some sensation through the veil of his blindness. He could give no account of it himself; and the point was left to be decided at some future time, when he should be better able to understand his own pleasures.
Mrs. Eldred was at the pit, as if nothing had happened, the morning of Effie's marriage, with in a fortnight of Eldred's disappearance. There was nothing to stay at home for when Effie was gone; and no one ever shrank from being alone more painfully than the widowed wife did at present. She plied her labour busily at the pit's mouth,—now helping to receive the coal which was brought up by tim gin, now screening it, and depositing the large pieces for the London market in one place, and the small for other uses, or for destruction, in another place.
“Eh! bairn, what makes you turn that way, and listen so?” she asked of Tim. The boy jumped and clapped his hands as a distant shot arose. It spread nearer and nearer; and the sound of a carriage,—of several carriages,—was heard. What could it be? It turned out a very fine procession indeed,—the wedding-party in whose honour the bells of St. Nicholas, Newcastle, were ringing, as had been observed by several people about the colliery this morning. The Rev. Miles Otley, a neighbouring rector, had married the daughter of the rich Mr. Vivian of Newcastle; and everybody near was thinking a good deal about it,—not only because the marriage of the rector was a matter of real importance, but because it was a curious thing to the elderly folks to see such a boy as Miles Otley had but lately been, grown into so important a man as he now was. He had had extraordinary luck they thought, in respect both of education and preferment;—luck greatly exceeding that of Mr. Severn, his curate, who was much more popular on all points but one;—the one which constituted the rector's chief importance at present to the people about him. Mr. Otley's sporting was admired, his equipage praised, his preaching was a matter of question, his parties a matter of notoriety; but that which found him favour in the eves of his neighbours was his opposition to a scheme for a public work which they thought would do a great injury to their colliery,—a scheme of which Mr. Severn could not be brought to say any harm.
Some way up the coast there were materials for a colliery which would have been opened long ago, if it could have competed with those which had superior advantages of carriage. A waggon-way to the river, or at once to the port of Shields, might have been made; but it was thought likely to be less expensive, and much more advantageous to the whole district to make a short cut through the rock of the coast, just at hand, and build a small pier, to aid the loading and unloading of vessels. This opening might also afford a shelter for small vessels on a very exposed coast; and there seemed to impartial persons no conceivable objection to the undertaking, if the company who proposed it were satisfied that it would yield them a profit. There was a jealousy about it, how ever, among some coal-owners who did not desire the opening of new works; and this jealousy, of course, spread to their dependents. It was taken up by the gay young rector with an earnestness which could not be accounted for otherwise than that this was the first object out of himself which had ever been known to interest him, and it might therefore have the charm of a new pursuit. He had talked of getting the bill thrown out in Parliament, had visited the proprietors of the land in the line of the Deep Cur, to endeavour to gain their dissent from the measure, and had been thought to come very near the matter in the last sermon lie had preached (on innovations) previous to his marriage.
Mr. Severn was so far from seeing that the scheme was objectionable, that he firmly believed it would benefit all the parties concerned in its discussion. He knew that more coal was wanted in the south,—not that the people in the south could purchase more of the article, burdened as it now was with duties arid unnecessary charges of various kinds,—but he knew that many manufacturers were pining for want of an abundant and cheap supply of fuel, and that thousands of poor creatures were shivering in their chilly homes, while an inexhaustible deposit of coat lay in the ground; and there were plenty of hands to work it, and an abundance of ships to transport it, if its charges could but be reduced to such a level as that those who needed might obtain. Every means by which a larger supply could be brought into the market would prove, he believed, a stimulus to the whole trade, and tempt more consumers to the purchase. Not only, therefore, would the land proprietors on the line of the Deep Cut, and the labourers, and the ship builders, and the rope-makers, and the pitmen, be benefited in a direct way, but all connected with other coal-works in an indirect manner. It was true that other means existed of supplying the people move amply with the fuel which they wanted; but those means could not at present be made use of. it was true that coal enough,— and no little of a prime quality,—was destroyed at the pit mouth to afford warmth to crowds of those who pass tire dreary winter night in darkness and in cold, in many of the cities of England. It was true that this destruction was sorely grudged by the coal-owners, and corn plained of by the dwellers in the neighbourhood, to whom these wasteful fires were a terrible nuisance; but it was also true that, while the corporation of London had the privilege of measuring the coal which was to warm London, and would admit none which was not in large pieces, there was little probability that the small coal would have any chance yet awhile; and the best hope was in the supply of large coal being increased, so as to lower the price, as far as it was possible for it to be lowered under the officious management of a corporation. As for the means of carrying the projected improvement into effect, as it was a work too expensive for individual enterprise, a company, privileged by Government, seemed the right instrument. Such companies are the fitting subjects of royal and parhamentary favour, when their undertakings serve to promote instead of impeding the lndustry of the many, and the rewards of. that. industry. A company to monopolize the production of coal would have been a curse against which Mr. Severn would have protested with all his might; a company Lo open a new channel for the distribution of coal was a public servant, whom he thought deserving of all honour and encouragement, Inasmuch as government would be bound, by its duty of protecting the industry of its subjects, to discountenance the former, was bound to countenance the latter: therefore Mr. Severn exerted himself to subdue the prejudices against the scheme which existed in his parish: and, furthermore, did what in him lay to disabuse Parliament respecting the misrepresentations of the counter petitioners. It is so much more easy, however, and so infinitely more entertaining, to join in a clamour against a proposition than to listen to reason in favour of it, that Mr. Severn was not at all surprised to hear the shouts which followed the bridegroom's carriage,— “Otley for ever!” “He has cut up the Deep Cut?” “No new piers; the old ones will do.” “Don't let the Cut go out of your mind, Otley. We'll stand by you.”
Mr. Severn was visiting a poor man who was laid up with a hurt received m the p't. He turned to the window with a smile as the gay cavalcade passed, consisting of carriages, in which appeared to be all the relations of the bride, and half” those of the bridegroom. Her father, the great Mr. Vivian, perhaps struck the most awe into the beholders,—he was such a very great man!—though he himself seemed less aware of the fact than other people. He had once sat next the Duke of Wellington, and been asked a question by him. He had given a luncheon to the Duke of Northumberland; and the Duchess had taken his arm in the Assembly-room at Newcastle. He was a very powerful man in the Trinity-house; and had had an audience of the First Lord of the Admiralty once upon a time in London. Mr. Vivian himself would have been surprised to know what a great man he was. One sort of proof of the fact was now offered him, the surgeon of the colliery,— also a great man in his way,—arrived in the distance just in time to learn what an event was taking place on the road below, in the was of the bridal party. This gentleman had an earnest desire to be appointed surgeon to the Trinity-house, and had long wished to distinguish himself in the view of Mr. Vivian. He did so now, though not exactly in the way to secure a presentation to the office he sought. He urged his grey pony forward, that he might be within reach of Mr. Vivian's notice, if the carriages should stop to allow the rector to male his acknowledgments to the people. The pony did not want urging, except when it was in one peculiar position. of which it was by no means fond—in the middle of a waggon-way, bestriding the twirling cable by which the waggons are worked. While standing rims, as horses in that neighbourhood are sure to do occasionally, it required no gentle persuasion to induce the pony to draw its hind-legs after its fore-legs over the rope; but that effort once made, it was sure to go on its way rapidly enough to satisfy the most impatient rider. So it was on the present occasion. The animal leaped down the ridge, dashed over the black level which lay between it and the colliery, and ended by shaking off his master, and giving him a roll in the dust, in full view of the wedding party. The surgeon's purpose was doubly answered. Not only had he distinguished himself before Mr. Vivian, but the carriages stopped, and opportunity was thus afforded for requesting the patron's interest at the Trinity-house. Poor Mr. Milford was, however, too dusty, too much out of breath, too anxious about his runaway pony, to give a very clear account of his wishes and his claims; and the matter ended with his handing his card to the patron, and receiving permission to call on him in Newcastle.
Three men now appeared with the recovered pony, holding its head as carefully as if it was likely to start off without the rest of the body. Four women held open their doors, with an invitation to the gentleman to walk in, in order to being dusted and brushed; and a score of children gathered round to point out a torn coat-flap, a burst elbow, and a bent hat. Somewhat annoyed and ashamed, the gentleman turned into the house of the patient he came to visit, where Mr. Severn was still standing, looking upon the bustle before the door.
“Sit down, sir, pray do; and don't think of me yet,” said the patient, looking compassionately on the panting Mr. Milford. “My wife will get you a glass of gin, sir, to cheer your spirits.”
“And if,” said the wife, “you would take a word of advice, sir, you would turn your left-leg stocking, to prevent any more harm coming of the affair.”
Mr. Milford gravely accepted both the gin and the advice, It was a great object with him to make himself popular with, the people, even when the curate was by. He protested that he did not regard the nnsadventure, as it gave him the opportunity of paying his respects to the bridegroom, whom he honoured for his public spirit about the Deep Cut.
“When he was a lad at school,—and none of the brightest, sir,—how little anybody thought what a great man he would be in the church! It was his father's being ruined that destined him to the church. Nobody would have thought of it else.”
“Indeed! I should have supposed the long and expensive education necessary to a learned profession would have been the last a ruined man would have thought of for his son.”
“if he had had to pay the expense himself, certainly, sir. But so much is provided already for a church education, that, if a gentleman has interest, it is one of the cheapest ways that he can dispose of his sons, they say. But for this, they would never have thought of making Master Miles a clergyman, to judge by what I used to see of him as a boy. The big boys used to plague him, as he plagued the little ones; and the master and he plagued each other equally. If Miss Vivian had seen what I saw once, she would hardly have married him, altered as he is. The boys had buried him up to his chin in the middle of the play-ground, and when he screeched and roared, they let him have one arm out to beat the ground with. the did not then look much like a youth, thinking of giving himself up to holy things.”
“Nor many another school-boy, who has yet turned out a good clergyman,” observed Mr. Severn gravely. “I have often thought that much harm is done by expecting ministers of the gospel to be different from others when they are men; but I never before heard that they must be a separate race as boys.”
“Nor I, sir. I only mean that one would not expect a stupid boy, with a bad temper, to choose the church, if left to himself; and its being all settled just when his father fell into difficulties makes one doubt the more whether it was pure choice.”
“Certainly,” observed the surgeon, “there are helps to a clerical education which we, in other learned professions, should be very glad of;—a great many pensions, and exhibitions, and bursaries, and such things, which we poor surgeons never hear of.”
“These are all evidently designed,” Mr. Severn observed, “to provide for religion being abundantly administered in the land. It is piety which founded all these helps to a clerical education.”
“No doubt, sir; but that does not lessen the temptation to enter a profession where so much is ready to one's hand. It is plain to me, sir, that many are drawn into this department who would not otherwise think of it; and nothing will persuade me that they do not, so far, stand in the way of those whose hearts incline them to make the gospel their portion. I do not scruple saying this to you, Mr. Severn, because you are one of those who have not profited, but lost, by the plan. You will hardly deny, sir, that after all your toil and expense at college, one that cares less about his business than you has stepped into the living which you might have had if there had been no other rule of judging than fitness for the work.”
Mr. Severn could not allow this kind of remark, even from an old friend of his family. How was the broken arm? When did Mr. Mil-ford suppose the patient might be allowed to go to his work again?
“I beg your pardon, I am sure, sir,” observed the old friend of the family;” but I meant no offence to you or to Mr. Otley. All I was thinking of was, that in the church, as everywhere else, the best rule for having everything done well is ‘a fair stage and no favour;’ and, indeed, I know no case where favour is likely to do so much harm and so little good: for those that have their profession most at heart are just those who are most likely to struggle on, gleaning only what the favoured ones have left them, and giving up half the fruits of their labour to those who would not have thought of coveting them, if the piety of which you were speaking had not offered them a bribe.”
“I am afraid you think the gospel in a bad way in this country,” observed Mr. Severn.
“I am afraid of something worse,” interposed the surgeon: “I am afraid you are a dissenter, my good man.”
“By no means, sir. I am such a friend to the church, that it vexes me to see spurious labourers bribed into her, and true labourers shut out, or kept under. I believe that there is so much need of the gospel, that the need will always be naturally made known and supplied; and that it is only sported with when it is made a pretence for getting people on in the world who are much more fit to get on in inferior ways. I do not much admire the piety of those who call in strangers to take shepherds' hire, and doom the true pastor to be only a shepherd's dog.”
“A dog!” cried the surgeon, excessively scandalized. “My good man, consider what you are saying: it actually amounts to calling Mr. Severn a dog.”
“There are two ways of calling a man a dog,” observed. Mr. Severn, smiling: “the one in the sense of fidelity, and the other of brutishness. It is the compliment, and not the offence, that our friend means.”
“And there is a third sense,” pursued the old friend of the family. “The dog is fed from the leavings in his master's wallet, and who will say that the curates have any thing better for their care of the fold? Has not the law again and again ordered that the curate should be made at least equal in condition with the common mechanic? and has the law ever availed?—And why has it not? Not because the higher elergy are by nature a hard-hearted set of men; not because the people disregard the interests of the keepers of the fold; but because theirs is one of the cases which no law can reach. We should see the folly at once of the law ordering that every pitman should have good wages, if there were twice as many pitmen as there is a natural call for; but we wonder at the plight of our poor clergy while we tempt idle and foolish men into the profession, to engross the hire of those who take 20l. a year because they must starve if they waited for 100/.; though 100l. would be a grievously scanty recompense for the toil and expense of an education like theirs.”
“It would be all right if there were no dissenters,” observed the surgeon, who had now satisfied himself respecting the sit of his coat flap, which had been mended by the silent and thrifty hostess. “These dissenters are shocking people. They ought to be put down,—interfering with the church as they do,”
“Friend Christopher, over the water there, would tell you that the church interferes with the dissenters, seeing that they have two churches to support, while we have only one.”
“But only conceive how they interfere with the religious administration of the country! Do you mean to say that if all their dissenting clergy were swept off, there would, not be more room for our clergy?”
“As there is no reason to fear any such desolating plague as that must be which would sweep off so great a body of men,” observed the clergyman, “our endeavour should be to bring our operations into harmony with theirs, that———”
“Harmony with dissenters! And this from a clergyman!” cried Mr. Milford.
“Why opposition?” asked Mr. Severn. “To say nothing of the folly of opposition to a body which outnumbers ourselves, the times are past for men supposing that the interests of religion can be served by strife, or opinions changed by opposition. Since nobody thinks of getting the dissenters back into the church by fighting, it only remains for all professing Christians so to co-operate as that they may not interfere with each other, to the scandal of their common faith”
“If every church supported its own clergy, Mr. Milford, and if no one church held out inducements to double the number of clergy wanted——”
“But we hear perpetually that there are too few of the established clergy for the number of souls to be taken care of.”
“See it there would be, if every clergyman bv interest were transformed into a clergyman by choice. All I ask is, that there should be no interference in the matter,—no coming between the religious wants of the people and the mimstering to those wants;—whether that interference be on the part of government, or of a corporation, or of pious people who unconseiously curse the church as often as they offer a premium upon false pretension and interested service.”
“Come, come, my good patient, let me examine your aim, now I have recovered my breath a little. It will be a kindness to get you back to your wink in the pit, if this is the manner you talk when out of it. We shall have the rector coming to call you to account tor flat blasphemy.”
“Is it blasphemy to complain that Christ's church is not tended as Christ would have it? Is it blasphemy to point out how it is that he has not due honour? Is it——”
“No, no,” said Mr. Severn. “Mr. Milford knows, as few out of his profession can know, where dwells blasphemy, and where piety: in how few places the one; under how many roofs the other. He sees men under the severest trial,—that of varied suffering; and if the natural language of complaint sometimes meets his ear, he will tell you how much oftener looks of patience and words of resignation are to be found in the sick chamber. He knows that if you sometimes say what he may think unwise, you have not, in your suffering, given vent to that which is irreligious.”
Mr. Milford was ready to testify to his patient's Christian bearing under his late trial. When he spoke of blasphemy, it was only in the sense in which he often heard it used about those who speak against the church.
“One would think,” said Mr. Severn, “that if any were jealous for the church, it, should be myself, to whom the church is my all in every sense. Yet I deciare that what we are wont to call blasphemy is much seldomer any irreverence to God than discontent with man's doings. As soon as any of man's established ways of honouring God are found to be faulty, the cry of blasphemy is raised against the fault-finder, though the glory of God may be his aim as well as his plea. It was once blasphemy to blame the Pope. it is now blasphemy to hint that poor curates might be better used. This sort of blasphemy may now, however, be found in every other house within these realms; while the real blasphemy is rare, very rare. Milford, how many blasphemers have you met with among your patients? I, for my part, never saw one,—out of the gin-shop. Within it, two legged creatures are no longer men, however they may still use their tongues to bless or curse at haphazard.”
Mr. Milford tried to recollect. He could remember only two instances;—one of a man in the extremity of pain, suddenly blinded by a horrible accident in the pit. This was no case, as sanity was lost for the time: but it made the beholder's blood run cold so that no other such instance could ever occur without his remembering it, he was sure. The other was also a case of agony,—of the agony of disappointed hope. A very poor man, with a sick wife, had been promised work, and the promise was broken. He reviled heaven and earth when he saw his wife sinking from want. But at the first moment of her revival he repented, and the last of his sorrows to be got over, was remorse for his impiety.
“You would find it less easy to reckon the cases of piety you meet with, in and out of the pale of the church.”
“There are so many degrees of piety, one hardly likes to say that any body is wholly without. It is my lot to be much with sufferers; and while there are some aged folks, and strong men laid low, who give themselves much to psalms and prayers, it is rare to meet with parents who do not tell their children that it is God's hand which is upon them for good, or with children who do not more or less strive to lie still under their sickness, ‘like a dumb lamb before the shearer,’ as their parents say.—There is one such, sir, one of those patient little ones,—as you can testify, for I know you have held him in your arms for many a half hour.”
“What! little Tim? I have often wondered, hat is passing in that poor child's mind, when he has lain breathing his feverish breath on my bosom. Other children, while thus lying still from feebleness, turn their eyes from the clock to the kitten, and from the flickering fire to follow their mothers' or sisters' doings about the house. This child's eyes roll in vain, but not the less patiently does he watch his pain away. I often wonder what is working in his little mind.”
“The thought of my pony will work in his mind the next time he is ili, I fancy,” observed Milford. “Do but see how he pats him, and feels out the mane, while his mother lifts him up?”
The hostess remarked that the best smiles seen on Mrs. Eldred's face of late had been won from her by this little lad.
Mr. Milford gave Mr. Severn leave to indulge the child with a ride backwards and forwards, while he finished his business with his patient. Mr. Eldred could not be persuaded to make herself quite easy about the pony's quietness, and go back to her work. She lingered, and turned, and watched, as the animal sauntered to and fro, with a man at the bead, a dozen boys at the heels, Mr. Severn holding on little Tim, and Tim himself now quietly laughing, now encouraging his steed as he heard others do, and for ever turning his head from side to side, as if gathering by that motion all the floating sounds which could tell him what was passing.
A sound soon came rushing instead of floating through the air, so vehement as to make the sell restless pony rear bolt upright, jerking the child into Mr. Severn's arms, and calling upon the man at the head for all his energies. The cry, loud as it was, came from some distance,—from the spout or staithe where a waggon was at the moment being emptied into a keel. A crowd soon collected on the spot and it became certain that the shouts were of a joyous character There was talk of “the gang,” “the tender,” “the pressed men”; but the tone was one of triumph, and cries of “Welcome!” were intermingled.—Mrs. Eldred heard part, and believed every thing,—every thing that in another moment would have been absurd,—that the king had had mercy upon her,—(as if, alas! he knew her heart-sorrow;) that peace was made on purpose to restore a father to her children; that Eldred had bid successful defiance to the gang, and was upheld by the whole people; that the world had been, somehow or other, turned upside down for her sake. She pushed her way, with an exulting countenance, among the crowd. She met Ned Etliott, the lame pitman, and passed him by; and she passed by several other returned captives:—Croley, with the weak right arm, and Pullen, the sickly steersman, and Gilbert, the half idiot, who was allowed to lounge about the works. All these she pushed past, and, from the extreme end of the little pier, looked down into the boat which had landed them. There was no one else. Eldred was neither a cripple, nor sickly, nor foolish; he was of the first order of labourers, and therefore snatched from his voluntary occupation, and made a slave. Most who had leisure to observe their heart-stricken neighbour gazed in silence; but the half idiot snapped his fingers, and blurted out that her husband was far down towards the south by this time, but he sent his love, and——
With a long moan,—the cry which conveys a refusal to endure, the poor woman pushed her informant from her with a force which startled him. She wrenched hands, shoulder, apron, from all who would have held her to comfort her, and cast herself against one of the waggons.— not to wrestle with her sorrow, but to let herself be overcome by it. Mr. Severn and one or two others kept themselves in readiness to aid her when it should not be an insult to speak to her. Her passion was moving,—but far less so than that of another sufferer who silently walked away with face unhidden, and steady step,—unable to join in the feelings of those about her, but not expecting them to regard hers. She quickened her pace, but showed no sign of anger when laughter overtook her,—noisy mirth which her heart loathed.
“A fine bargain his Majesty had of your Eighteen pounds a piece you cost him. I Wish him joy of you.”
“They might have let us have some of it, though.”
“Never mind that, now you are back. Come, lads, wish the king joy of catching cripples at eighteen pounds a piece, just to be let go again!”
“I wish the gang may be within hearing. Give them a shout, lads! Now for it!”
“Whisht! whisht! O whisht! I cannot bear it!” shrieked the miserable wife, “O, you barbarous———you mocking wretches———O, whisht, I tell ye!”
Shrill as her voice was, it was not heeded by many, who were all too much used to its shrillness. Her fellow sufferer regarded it, and turned back to beckon her away.
“Leave them alone! They don't heed. Why should they?
“Heed! Nobody heeds me. Nobody ever cared for me but one, and he is snatched from me. Nobody heeds me.——”
Something fumbling with her apron caught her attention at this moment. Little Tim clung to her knees, trembling, and his face convulsed, as she had seen it before, when her voice took a certain tone, of which she was not otherwise conscious. She parted his hair on his forehead, lifted the child, and put his passive arms around her neck, and went home as mute as he.
GROWN CHILDREN's HOLIDAY.
Though it was not true that nobody heeded Mrs. Eldred and her interests, her querulous complaint to that effect was in some degree excused by the substantial injuries she underwent, through interference with, and mismanagement of, the industry of all who were most dear to her. Nothing was further from the thoughts of society than injuring this poor woman and the thousands of others who suffered with her; yet it is certain that if an account had been drawn between her and the administrators of public affairs, her charge against them would have been a very heavy one.
Her husband was carried off by force to pursue a calling which he dreaded and detested, instead of one which was his choice, and in which he had been prospering in the bosom of his family. Instead of standing at his oar while passing up and down the placid Tyne, he was compelled to face the belching cannon, and encounter toils and wounds, or death, on the tossing sea. Instead of going forth to his chosen labour with a jest, and returning with a whistle, he was driven reluctantly to his enforced duty, where he brooded over his wrongs till his countenance grew unaccustomed to a smile. Instead of catching up the chorus of the loyal songs he was wont to hear among the shipping at Shields, he now preserved a gloomy silence as often as King George was mentioned, seemed to have lost much of his scorn of the French, and turned a quick ear to any word that was dropped about America.
Adam felt himself interfered with, too. If he fulfilled the apprenticeship made by law the necessary condition of advantages which should be the right of every industrious man, if of any, he must not only be denied the power of working for himself for three years after he had become as capable of working as he could ever become, but the very advantages to be obtained by the sacrifice must be forfeited if he carried his labour to any market but one, where it might or might not be wanted. If he did not fulfil his apprenticeship, he had no chance in the same town with those who did. and must go somewhere else to work out the rights of citizenship by like arbitrary means. His privileges were also as precarious as they were arbitranly gained. If he lost a limb,—and all the limbs are needed in rope-making, —he could not turn to another trade without forfeiting his rights. It was believed that he could not even take his place at the wheel, instead of walking along the line; for, as it had been decided that turning a grindstone was not cutlery work, it might be proved that turning a wheel was not rope-making. There was no knowing what he might give his hand to, however resembling his regular employment; since the law told saddlers that the girths were no part of a saddle; that cutting the hoofs of a horse was the business of neither the farrier nor the smith; and that though a wheelwright may make a coach, a coachmaker may not make a wheel. What he did know was, that, however frequently and skilfully the law of apprenticeship might be evaded, he could not, under that law, obtain a settlement, be a master, take apprentices, or exercise his calling in his native place, without having served an apprenticeship of seven years. Many and many a time he wished that rope-making had been a business unknown to Queen Elizabeth; or that he had not been born in a market-town; or that the inventors of trade-corporations had been carried out of the world before completing their invention; or that he had been early transplanted to Manchester, or Birmingham, or some other of the happy places he had heard of, where the trammels by which he was bound are never spoken of but as a matter of marvel. He just contrived to have patience to finish his term of apprenticeship, that he might possess himself of the rights it would secure. His temper and character had suffered much under the pretended control and actual license of the latter part of his term; and fluctuations of health or trade might rob him of his privileges any day; but he was wise enough, by Effie's help, to take them while they could be had. While doing so, he could have treated any inquirer with a good deal of rough eloquence about the policy and the duty of leaving free scope to all labour to find its field of exercise and its reward.
Cuddie had his list of grievances, too—some actual, and others prospective, —all arising from his being meddled with by powers whose duty it was to take care that he was let alone in his industry. Cuddie was just seventeen; and, young as he was, he was liable to be taken from a peaceful to follow a warlike occupation on the seas. In the present day, he would have been safe till twenty-one: then, he was the lawful prey of any pressgang he might happen to encounter. When he should become capable of earning wages, there were many impediments to his working freely and being freely paid. There is actually an Act of Parliament to enforce all colliers in the Tyne being loaded in the order in which they arrive,—as if the coal-owners were not fit to judge for themselves of the state of their trade, and to proportion the number of ships employed to the demand for coal. Thus, if there were too many ships occupied, instead of some being laid by till they were wanted,—all being favoured by law with a certain portion of employment,—it must often happen that the depression falls upon the whole trade. Cuddie would thus be exposed to wait for his turn, however many colliers might be in the river, while his master was losing by the detention in port. No such regulation is found necessary in the Wear. The masters there are exempted from the irritation of being trammelled under the pretence of protection. Then, again, Cuddie must not presume to throw an ounce of coal from his ship into the lighter in the Thames. This office is the privilege of the coal-whippers or heavers, to whom the good people of London are obliged to pay 90,000l a-year for a service which, in the outports, is performed for nothing. Everywhere but in the Thames the crews of colliers discharge the cargo; but within the dominion of the corporation of London they are not at liberty to undertake the work, even though they would do for 2d. what a privileged coal-heaver asks Is. 7d. for doing. Cuddle must not only see the coal-trade discouraged by the enormous unnecessary charges laid upon the article by the Corporation of London, but he must be prevented selling his labour in discharging the cargo, to those who would be eager to purchase it, if they were allowed by those who have naturally no business to interfere in the bargain.
The evil of such meddling extended also to another member of the family—Effie, in her dwelling by the river side. Out of the interdiction to sell coal by weight came manœuvring and bargaining as to the mode in which coal should be measured. As it was found that large coal measured one-third more when broken to a certain extent, and nearly double when broken small, it became the interest of the shippers to buy coal large, and break it down before delivering it to the retail dealers in London, who, in their turn, broke it down further, to the injury of the consumer. Out of this management came the arrangement of screening the coal at the pit mouth; and out of this arrangement came the accumulation of small coal, which, instead of spreading comfort through a thousand dwellings, spread smoke and ashes over the neighbouring fields, injuring the harvests, and ruining some of Walter's plants and vegetables. The owners had no choice but of choking up their own works, or subjecting themselves to the penalties of a nuisance, incurred by the very act of wastefully destroying their own property. Thankful would they have been for the services of some such strong-backed demon as the ancient stories tell of, who would have cleared off at night the refuse of the labours of the day, transporting it three or four hundred miles to those to whom this refuse would have been wealth. Happily, this long-protracted absurdity has been abolished. It has at last been agreed no longer to sacrifice the interests of the original producers and the consumers of coal to that of the carriers and middle dealers, and coals may be sold by weight. But, for long after Effie married, her husband had sad tales to tell at his dinner-hour,—sad sights to show in the summer evenings of the devastation which the neighbouring burnings had caused in his garden. Compensation, scanty, and capricious, was given; but it was asked with trouble and pain, and bestowed unwillingly. It seems strange that while ruling powers are laudably anxious about the execution of public works,—to make their roads level and their pavements smooth, — they should so industriously perplex the paths of industry, and roughen the media of commerce. It is a bad thing to lame horses, and break carriages, and weary human feet; but it is infinitely worse to discourage industry, and to compel men to jostle and injure each other where there is naturally room for each to greet his neighbour kindly, and pass on.
Uncle Christopher looked one evening with concern, on a hedge which as much deserved the name of verdure as the shrubs in certain small squares in London, the morning after a fire in the neighbourhood. He was on the point of setting out on his long talked-of voyage to London, on the business of his patent; and he wished to take a parting view of the premises he had not quitted for twelve hours together, since, the day he was made a ferryman many years before. Strongly as he was persuaded that Walter and his young wife were, as yet, in danger of a much fiercer fire than any of the vast number which could be seen round the horizon on a dark night, he preserved such an affection for the results of their toil that he was full of wrath that mortal hands should kindle a fire against them. As he here shook his head mournfully over a row of shrivelled anemones, and there groaned at seeing the young asparagus waving grey instead of green, any brother leaders would have supposed that they were children of grace to whom all this sympathy was given. At the bottom of his grief lay the thought that, if this nuisance continued, Walter would be compelled to carry his gardening skill elsewhere. He could not carry the ferry with him, and then would come a sore struggle to choose between his son and his occupation. Walter would have been highly flattered if he could have looked into his father's heart, and seen how equally the struggle was maintained.
“I see the boat coming for you, with Cuddie in it—below the bend of the river there,” said Effie; “but you will have time to look at my young apricot, and tell me whether you think there is any chance of its bearing.”
She received a very broad hint about setting her heart upon favourites, but was comforted notwithstanding, by an encouraging opinion about the apricot: Walter was further told that he might just mention the asparagus and the apricot together in the first letter he should write after hearing of his father's arrival.
“Why, father ! do you really mean to write to us ?” cried Walter, in joyful surprise.
“No, no,” said Effie. “He means that we shall hear from Cuddie of his getting to London.”
“I mean that if, by grace, I get safe through the dangers of the deep waters, i shall give you the opportunity of being thankful for me.”
“And when will it be, father ?”
“The times are not in our own hands. Effie, you say the boat is to he chiefly your charge.”
“Yes, father, you know I have practised ferrying a good deal lately, on purpose.”
“She is more sure of her oar than I,” observed Walter.
“What of that ? Why do you puff her up ? Except One guide the boar, as well as build the house, we labour in vain, with our weak arm of flesh.”
“Indeed I am not puffed up about ferrying,” said Effie. “I know I cannot do it half so well as you. But I hope to improve before you come back.”
“May my office be given you in full! My outward oar is only a sign, child.—a type of the corresponding office which I hold, of setting souls safe over the abyss where they are like to be drowned, without some servant of mercy, like myself, to lodge them on plain ground. Think of this, my dear, as you pass to and fro.”
Effie could honestly promise not to forget this new interpretation of her office. Cuddie's skiff was now very near, and he was seen waving his hat as a signal; and immediately his uncle Christopher began assuring his son and daughter of the strength in which he went forth, and the faith with which he looked for protection by the way, and a safe return. There was a tremor of the hands, however, and a quaver of the voice which belied what he said, and gave an idea that he felt much as other quiet, elderly people feel on going forth, after years of repose in their own habits, to he startled by new objects and jostled amidst a busy new world.
“I believe he would give both of us for Cuddie at this moment,” observed Effie to her husband, as they stood in the ferry-boat from which the skiff bad just pushed off, with the would-be patentee sitting bolt upright, nursing the model of his invention, and looking the picture of resignation. “I do not know what he thinks of Cuddie's spiritual state; but it is my belief that he would part with us both rather than give up Cuddie just now. However little he thinks of young people, he looks up to Cuddle as his main dependence in the ship and on landing. I am sure he does; and I doubt whether he would have gone at all without Cuddie at his elbow.”
Walter thought so too, but wondered what was to be done about the matter of the patent, if his father should still be nervous. Cuddie could not help him there. It was to be hoped he would get warmed for the sport, when he should be once more mounted on his hobby.
“Come, let us go up into the garden,” said Effie. “We can watch them longer there.”
Much longer,—past the bend of the river, and then once more at the next curve, till nothing was to be distinguished amidst the grove of masts.
“Gone ! gone !” cried Effie, putting her arm within her husband's, and tripping up the slope with a step much more like a dance than any she had ever indulged within the notice of uncle Christopher,—as she had not yet cured herself of calling him. “Now, Walter, tell me. If we have to remove, where shall we go?”
“You seem to like the idea or flitting, Effie.”
“Fond as I was of this place before I came to live in it, you are thinking. Why, as for the place, I love it as much as ever, as we see it now, —with these laburnums hanging in this corner, and the acacia growing up to be a veil and not a blind. When I saw the moon through it last night, I thought it would be a sin ever to leave the place. But——”
“But there is something about it still that prevents your being happy here.”
“O no, no. Nothing to prevent my being happy. I am very happy,—happier than you will ever be, I am afraid, Walter; for, try as you will, you always find something to be fretted and anxious about, though you take more and more pains to hide it, even from me.”
“I am sure,” said Walter, very seriously, “I grow less and less anxious and distrustful;—ever since——not exactly ever since I knew you, for we knew each other before we could talk; but ever since I knew——”
“Very well; I understand what you mean; and you began describing that moment to me one day, just as if I knew nothing of it myself. O, Walter, do you really think there are any people that have passed through life without knowing what that moment was,—that stir in one's heart on being first sure that one is beloved? It is most like the soul getting free of the body, and rushing into Paradise, I should think. Do you suppose anybody ever lived a life without having felt this?”
Walter feared it might be so; but if so, a man missed the moment that made a man of one that was but an unthinking creature before; and a woman, the moment best worth living for, and that which joined her past life to the nothing that went before, and her future life to the heaven of realities that was to come after. But one thing he grieved to be sure of;—that this moment was not received as the token from God which it was designed to be; but in far, far too many cases, put away and denied. If this was done as a duty, and altogether as an act of the conscience, it only remained to be sorry that such a putting away was a duty,—but he was more than sorry, —he was ashamed and angry to witness the expectation in so many that they could bring back this moment whenever they pleased;—that they could call upon God to breathe into their hearts as often as they could bring their worldly interests to agree with His tokens.
“It seems to me,” said Effie, “that though God has kindly given this token of blessedness to all,—or to so many that we may nearly say all,—without distinction of great or humble, rich or poor,—the great and the lowly use themselves to the opposite faults. The great do not seem to think it the most natural thing to marry where they first love; and the lowly are too ready to love.”
“That is because the great have too many things to look to, besides love; and the lowly have too few. The rich have their lighted pa-laces to bask in, as well as the sunshine; and they must have a host of admirers, as well as one bosom friend. And when the poor man finds that there is one bliss that no power oil earth can shut him out from, and one that drives out all evils for the time,—one that makes him forget the noonday heats, and one that tempers the keen north wind, and makes him walk at his full height when his superiors lounge past him in the streets,—no wonder he is eager to meet it, and jogs the time-glass to make it come at the soonest. If such a man is imprudent, I had rather be he than one that first let it slip through cowardice, and would then bring it back to gratify hm low ambition.”
“And for those who let it go by for conscience' sake, and do not ask for it again?”
“Why, they are happy in having learned what the one feeling is that life is worth having for. They may make themselves happy upon it for ever, after that. O, Effie, you would not believe,—nothing could make you believe what I was the day before and the day after I saw that sudden change of look of yours that told me all. The one day, I was shrinking inwardly before everything I had to do, and every word of my father's, and everybody I met; and was always trying to make myself happy in myself alone, with the sense of God being near me and with me. That other day, I looked down upon everybody, in a kindly way;—and yet I looked up to them too, for I felt a respect that I never knew before for all that were suffering and enjoying; and I felt as if I could have brought the whole world nearer to God, if they would have listened to me. I shall never forget the best moment of all,—when my mind had suddenly ceased being in a great tumult, which had as much pain as pleasure in it. I had left my father getting up from breakfast, and I was just crossing yonder to take up my rake, when I said distinctly to myself, ‘she loves me,’ and heaven came down round about me that minute.”
Effie could have listened for aye; but the cry was heard from below—“Ferry !”—and she must go. Her husband “crossed to take up his rake,” and found occasion to remark at the instant that Effie tripped along as like the Effie of that day as if no day had intervened. Only her face showed the difference; and that was as if a new and higher spirit had come down to dwell in her.
On her return, the question recurred,
“If we have to leave this place, where shall we go?”
“Somewhere near the Deep Cut, it is my opinion. There will be much custom of all sorts there, when it is opened as a place of trade.”
“But there will be collieries near, and more burnings.”
“Not so as to trouble us, for some time to come. The proportion they have been in the habit of burning here, you know, is about 20 per cent. It will be some time before this becomes of much consequence in a new situation; and we will choose our place carefully. Besides, I cannot but think that, before long, everybody will see the folly of making such waste, for the sake of selling coal by measure instead of weight. If so, there will soon be an end of the burning.”
“And you think garden stuff will be much in request in the Deep Cut.”
“No doubt. There will be such a settling of people about that beautiful sluice, that there will be room for more gardeners than one.”
“And for ropemakers, among other craftsmen. I think Adam had better go, and make new ropes for the new ships that will carry away the new coals.”
“Ah ! if he was settled down with us in a place where he might work prosperously for him-self, he might prove steadier than his mother expects he will.”
“Beside us,—not with us,” said Effie. “You would not think of having any one to make a third again, would you? How comfortable every thing is this evening, while we are alone!— But how do you think your father will get on by himself?”
Walter had never entertained the idea of being of much consequence to his father, from the day of his childhood, when he was surprised at being searched for, at night-fall, among the haycocks, to this very afternoon, when he was full as much astonished to learn that his father meant to write to him. He agreed, however, that his parent ought not to be left, unless the destruction of the garden should make the removal a matter of necessity.
“If we must go, it will be a happy chance that such an opening offers in the neighbourhood.—What could the rector mean by throwing difficulties in the way?”
“He knows best; but I suppose he has some such fears as I have heard certain gentry had when turnpike roads were first introduced into this country. There were petitions in those days from the proprietors of land near London, that turnpike roads might be forbidden in distant counties, for fear there should be too much competition in articles of agricultural produce.”
“They have managed to have their own way, and regard their own interests pretty well since, for all the competition and the roads,” said Effie. “They seem to have been of the same mind with Queen Elizabeth, when she sent out orders to put a stop to the increase of London. They all seem to have fancied that whenever some people gain, others must certainly lose.”
“If this is not our reetor's notion, I do not know what is. But the fact is, whatever this company may gain by opening the Cut is neither more nor less than what is given them in return for the benefit they bestow upon the payers. As for the coal owners on the Tyne, they are as safe as they ought to be. If a demand rises up for all the coal both parties send out, every body will prosper. If not, those who can send out coal cheapest will have the most custom, as is perfectly fair.”
“And there is not the same reason for jealousy as there might be if one great rich man had opened this Cut at his own expense, to serve himself alone, and get all the coal trade to himself. I do not say that he would not have the right; but it would account for a jealousy which would be ridiculous when shown towards a company.”
“No man in our borders is rich enough to do such a work as this. It is the proper undertaking for a company; and I am heartily glad parliament has given them all the leave they asked for. In my opinion, it is the business of a company to do that which individuals have not wealth or power to achieve; and it is the duty of government to smile on undertakings which favour the industry of the people, as much as to frown on the selfish who would get its grace to enrich themselves at the expense of others. In this view, I think parliament as just and kind in countenancing the Deep Cut, as Queen Elizabeth was unjust and unkind in giving patents to her courtiers for the sale of soap and starch, and other things that everybody wanted.”
“Courtiers selling soap and starch! What sort of courtiers could they be?”
“Why, not exactly like the gentlemen who are about the king in these days. But those courtiers did not sell their soap and starch with their own hands. They sold their patents to companies of merchants, who, of course, laid a pretty profit on the articles, as the patentees had done before; and so the people were cheated.”
“Cheated indeed ! we are better off than they, to be sure.”
“Yes, indeed; it cheers one's heart to think how free our industry is left in comparison with what it was, and how the fashion is passing away of enriching the few at the expense of the many. Great things have been done for the people, indeed; and it almost makes one ashamed to complain of the restraints on their industry that yet remain, when one thinks of what they once were.”
“Nay, I do not see why that should be, as long as there is any mischief which may still be done away. If it is really a hardship that handicraftsmen in particular places, and of particular kinds, should be tied down to a seven years' apprenticeship, and that masters, in certain crafts, should be allowed to take only a certain number of apprentices, and that the Corporation of London should make the London people pay shamefully dear for their coals, and hurt our fields and gardens, and that men should be taken from a prosperous occupation to follow one that they hate, like my poor father,—it is our duty to complain till the government sets these things right, how-ever grateful we may be for what they have already done, and however we may be better off than our fathers. It would be a sad thing indeed to have to pay any price for our starch that our Duke of Northumberland might choose to sell it for.”
“And the practice spread to so many articles! When the list of them was read over, (I have heard my father say,) in Queen Elizabeth's parliament house, some gentleman called out to ask if bread was not among them: and when everybody stared, he said that unless the matter was looked into, there would be a monopoly of bread before the next parliament.”
“And was there? I suppose nobody dared.”
“Nobody: but wondrous things were dared in the reigns that came after. King Charles, who managed to offend his people in more ways than almost any king I ever heard of, took 10,000l. from some soap-merchants for allowing them to manage the snap manufacture all their own way, and put as high a price upon it as they pleased. They gave him further eight pounds for every ton of soap they made, so you may guess how dear it came to the people.”
“That was a very different sort of company from the one which has managed the Deep Cut. This last is making coals come cheap to the people. I suppose you think they have a fair right to any profits they may make, however large.”
“This particular company, certainly; because they do not offer advantages which people must have, and which cannot be had in any other way. There being so many other coal works, and such outlets as the Tyne and the Wear not far off, will prevent the company making such over-grown profits as the people would be right to grudge: but the case is different in different sorts of undertakings. If a company opens a road, and charges too high a toll, another company may open another road, and cause a competition; but if a company opens waterworks, and possesses all the springs within a certain distance, almost any price may be put upon the supply: and therefore I think government should, while giving privileges, take care that they do not overgrow just bounds. A man cannot change his water-merchant as he can change his baker or brewer; and therefore, if government makes him a customer of the mighty water-merchant, it should take care that he is not overcharged. I have heard my father talk a good deal about these things. He has looked much into them,—not only because he particularly dislikes being overcharged, but because his thoughts of taking out a patent have led him to learn all he could about privileges given by governments to trade and to ingenious undertakings.”
“Ah, I was thinking of him when you talked about those patents. I never found out, from your manner, that you thought ill of what he is gone to seek?”
“Nor do I, if it answers its purpose. There is all the difference in the world between a patent to sell what lies before everybody's industry, and a patent to sell what a man has invented by his own ingenuity, and perfected at his own trouble and expense. If a patent could secure to a man the sale of his own article till tie has reaped the reward society owes him, I should think very highly of a patent: and it is only because it is so difficult to secure this, that I have any doubts about my father's trip to London. But it is a hard thing to manage. A world of difficulties are sure to crowd in whenever legislation is brought to bear directly upon industry. There are so many interests to be considered, and it is so impossible to foresee how and where they interfere, that my wonder is how governments can like to meddle as they used to do. One would think that they would be glad to let industry alone, to find its own channels and nourish its own harvests. Indeed the time does seem to be coming when legislatures will leave off troubling themselves to meddle with those whose interest lies in being let alone.”
“Do you think it really signifies very much to so many trading people as there are in this country whether government lets them alone, or meddles here and there?”
“Why, Effie, it signifies altogether,—as much as possible. How many trading families do you fancy might be affected by government interference, in one way or another?”
A few hundred thousand, Effie supposed.
“Do you know that there are not more than 160,000 families in Great Britain deriving any income at all from trade, manufactures, and professions?”
“No more than that? And, to be sure, many of these must be so rich that they can very well bear such interference.”
“Not so many,” replied her husband, smiling. “Fewer than 4000 have more than 1000l. a year; and not more than 40,000 have an income above 150l. a year.”
“Leaving 120.000 with an income below 150l. a year. These last must feel the effect of restraint very much; and I think, if there are no more than you say, that all must feel it more or less.”
“And through them many that have nothing to do with trade,” observed Walter, looking sorrowfully at a favourite shrub which was already dropping its yellow leaves. “What a mistake it seems, Effie, to be lighting those red and yellow fires within sight of this brimming blue river, and the sloping banks, that look so green in the evening sun! What a cruelty it seems to be sending puffs of smoke over the water to touch and shrivel this hanging laburnum, that you put into the ground!”
Effie well remembered the planting of that laburnum. When she and Walter were children, and used to bring wild strawberries from the wood, and plant the roots at noon, shading them from the hot sun under a suspended pinafore; when Effie used to dig a pond which would hold no water, and Walter a grave in which he used to lie down to see what being buried was like; when they mounted the wheel-barrow to took over the hedge and count how many left legs were jerked backwards as the keelmen pulled the oars in the keels that passed;—in those old days, somebody had given Effie a few lupin seeds, which Walter carefully planted, while Effie stuck in a twig—dead, as she thought,—to mark the spot. This twig burst into leaf, and grew into the tall laburnum which was now waving its branches against the blue sky; and every time that Effie had looked upon it, a feeling of complacency had come over her, as if she had performed a feat—given life to a tree, or been the occasion of a miracle. There was scarcely a growing thing in Walter's beautiful garden that she would not have devoted to the smoke in preference.
The smoke looked surly and encroaching as it rose and spread itself in the darkening sky, after the sun had gone down. It did not, how ever, deter Effie from going into the midst of it, when it was really too late for Walter to work any more, and he could attend to the ferry while she just ran to tell her mother that uncle Christopher was gone; that Cuddie and he had been watched in safety a good way down the river, and that tidings of their further voyage might be soon expected by letter.
The letter arrived quite as soon as expected.
“My dear son and daughter,
“By the blessing of Providence we got safe down the river, though the press of vessels near the port is very awful. I strengthened my heart when we crossed the bar, and the port and the shipping seemed to be going back from us, and to leave us in the arms of the Lord on the wide sea,—now growing very chilly. My eyes were mercifully directed to Tynemouth for comfort,— not from the light in the light-house, which however began to wax bright, but from seeing how many goodly red houses have sprung up on the cliff, while the dusky priory stands a ruin;—red houses where there are some who take God's word rightly to heart,—while in the priory (where this blessed work never went on) there is martial music sent forth over God's sea, as sure as ever the moon rises out of it. This music of horns I myself heard, and I saw the bonnets of women, and the uniforms of fighting men, over the para pet of the castle yard. But when the word has rightly spread from the new meeting-house, there will be no place left in Tynemouth for scorners. It pleased Providence to try us much during the rest of the voyage. I found the night very cold, even before I was wallowing in the fearful sickness which was laid upon me. The wind also failed, which was a more merciful appointment than if it had blown a great storm. Nevertheless, when we were pitching about, and making no way, I found the collier but a poor, narrow place, and very dismal from the strewings of coal, insomuch that I turned my face to the wall, and found no comfort; but was strengthened to keep an eye on my invention, which, owing to good packing, received none of the harm which I desired might be averted from this apple of mine eye. I was in deadly fear for it during the adventure in which Cuddie was—”
“Cuddie was—something or other. I can't read the word, Effie,” said Walter. “I wish it was written a little plainer.”
“And I wish he would say a little more about Cuddie,” observed Effie. Her husband went on reading.
“But though hinderances were planted round about us, they did not touch my invention, to destroy it. The time spent in going up the river seemed long, especially from Cuddie not being at hand.”
“Why, there again!” exclaimed Effie, “What can he mean? I declare it frightens me, Walter.”
“No need, Effie; see how the letter goes on about business matters, and working up the river! Ah! here it is accounted for,—Cuddie's not being with him.”
“We went up the river as slowly as if we had been set as a watchman therein; and that because the seamen were tossed in spirit through fear of the press gang, and would not work the vessel; insomuch that none but a very old man and a young apprentice lad would go up with us to the mighty city. The master was obliged to hire protected men, and to pay them three pounds a piece to work us up, which being charged on the articles we carried, caused our cargo to be of great value before it was landed. It is wonderful to the discerning eye to perceive how small things work out large ones;—how, from this single need of protected men, there arises a tax upon coals to the inhabitants of London of much more than a million of money. Nor was this the last hinderance. Some lighters came about us, with willing men ready to empty our cargo upon the wharf. Grace was written in the face of one of these men, and the master knew him for an honest and a skilful youth. Yet it was not permitted to employ him, though he would have performed the work for less than those who came after him. These last were lightermen who had been apprentices, and had wrought for seven years on the river. They charge 2s. for the work which others would gladly have done for 8d. I never learned before how far better men that have been apprentices are than other men. I hope the citizens of London are duly aware of this truth. as they have to pay so very dearly for it. But these favoured men use their favour in a way which is not seemly—persecuting and driving out those that would also have boats and yield service. I much fear that as some of the elect misuse their grace in divine things, those who are elected into corporate bodies misuse the powers which were given them first, as means of protection against the barons and rich men who used to oppress the trading and working men in a very ungodly manner. These corporations are now too much like those barons of old; for they oblige those who consume to pay for the good of those who are privileged—him who burns coal, for the great profit of the lighterman. It should not be forgotten that another office of corporations was formerly, and is now said to be, to warrant and verify the quality of whatever is sold; but it seems to me that the best warrant is in the interest of him who produces, knowing that there shall be no wings of favour under which he may take refuge; and buyers who are fairly treated will be sure to verify for themselves. Indeed the one thing which these unhallowed bodies seem now to make their business—as they therein find their interest—is to entangle the paths of trade to all others, while they keep a wide and smooth road to themselves. This is plain to me in the particular of measuring the coal, which, in old times, might not be done without the permission of the Lord Mayor, and has always been since permitted as a profitable work to the Corporation of London. A profitable work it is—no less than 8d. a chaldron being the charge, out of which only 5d. goes to the labouring meters, and the other 3d., mounting up to 20,000l. a year, goes into the treasury of the extortioners. Verily the hire which is thus kept back cries out, not in favour of the meters—for they are well paid—but of the artizans who owe no such gratitude, in respect of measuring coal, as that they should pay 20,000l. for it. Why, also, should they pay in their use of coal for the improvements which the Corporation chooses to make in the city? If money was thus raised to build up what the awful judgment of fire had laid low, in the time of the profligate Charles, why should it still be raised, without the choice of the citizens, who must pay the orphan's tax of 10d. a chaldron till 1838, to improve the approaches to London Bridge? The citizens, I fancy, would much more admire the improvement of having coals cheap, and would the more willingly pay out of what they could better spare for the improvement of their streets and bridges. It was marvellous indeed to see so common an article as coal growing into importance as it ascended the river, and after it was landed, so that it had gained in its passage from just below London Bridge to the cellars of the houses, as much value again as it cost altogether in the North. It was marvellous indeed to hear of all the dues charged by the Corporation, considering that they have no more natural business with the citizens' coals than you or I;—the metage, the orphans' dues, the market dues, the Lord Mayor's groundage, the grand metage, the coal-whippers;—no wonder we see in London what strangers from the north are surprised to see,—women stooping in their path to pick up morsels of coal, and trades people measuring out a scanty measure of fuel to their servants, while hundreds of chaldrons are being wasted within sight of your garden.——Of my invention, it is not good to speak at this time and in this manner. Much care has been laid upon me respecting it; it being told me by some who know, that not one patent in a thousand is good for any thing, owing to the difficulty of making it out, and the easiness of invading it. As there is also no security whatever between the time of asking for my patent and its being sealed, you will discern the reason of my not now enlarging on the particulars which you are doubtless craving to know. But to put a bridle on the cravings is a great matter, and I commend it to you in this affair, trusting to be soon brought face to face; though when, it is not for blind creatures like us to determine.”
“How wonderfully he has enlarged about some matters!” cried Effie, “and nothing yet about Cuddie, or whether they have learned any thing about my poor father.”
The letter went on,
“Having thus told you some few things about myself—(though much remains respecting the manner of my entrance upon this great city, and the blessing which has been given upon my Bible-readings in this house,)—I pass on to matters of a different concernment,—though but little time remains before I must close up my large packet, written in the evenings for the solace of my mind. Having, I say, told you of myself,— except that the left wrist, which was weak, has become somewhat stronger,—I proceed to mention that I have not met Effie's father any where in the streets, as she desired I would mention, if such a thing should happen. It is my purpose to inquire for him whenever I shall be able to go down to the river side. But when I hear what things are done by the press-gangs, I have little doubt in my mind that he disappeared in the same way as Cuddie; which circumstance remains to be related.”
“Mercy! mercy!” cried Effie, “what does he mean about Cuddie?”
Walter ran over very quickly:— “not a sea man to be seen”— “women wringing their hands on the quays”—“mutiny on board a tender”— “a porter and two shopkeepers carried off”— “shameful expense”—“every unwilling man costs several hundred pounds”—“loss by injury of trade”—“dark night,”—“O, here it is! Dear, dear! Cuddie is impressed, sure enough! How shall we tell your mother?”
Effie snatched the letter, and read.
“It was a dark night, so I cannot give a very clear account of what happened,—besides having been for the most part asleep,—which was a great mercy, as I might have been more alarmed than a chosen Christian needs be. Besides, they might have taken me, but that I look older, I believe, in my night cap than in the comeliness of my day attire. By the blessing of God, I escaped; but my trust well nigh failed me when I heard a voice waking me with the cry of ‘Uncle Christopher! O, uncle Christopher!’ I had very nearly given place to wrath when I heard that cry from over the side of the ship; but on thinking further, it grieved me yet more that Caddie, of whom I began to have hopes of grace, should have leaned, in such an hour, on a broken reed like me. But I feel his loss much, as he was a great help to me; and there is no knowing when he may come back. I have not forgotten his cry, and his fellow apprentice says that never struggle was seen like his, when the gang, having stolen on board, while almost every one was asleep in the calm, laid hold of him by head and heels to carry him away. He cried out his mother's name; but it has since occurred to me that he may meet his father somewhere abroad; though, to be sure, the world is so wide that they may very well miss each other.”
“The air is wider,” said Effie. in a hoarse voice, “and they may meet there,—both murdered in the same battle.” There was a little more about Cuddie.
“It was a very calm night, as I said; and before I went to sleep again, I heard a little splash in the water. It was certainly from the king's ship, and the news spread that it was Cuddie who made the noise,—sliding down the cable, some say to try to get back to us, while others believe that he sought to drown himself. If he were indeed so given over to Satan, it may be well for him that he is in trouble, paying the toils and perils of the body for the sin of the soul. You may tell Effie that I prayed for him before I went to sleep.”
Effie was in no condition graciously to acknowledge her father-in-law's benevolence. Pale, cold, and trembling, she sat in the sunshine which streamed upon her from the window, looking like a wretch whom the ague had stricken. Walter had no time now to attend to his father's further consolation about the fact that the coal trade can man a navy on an emergency, and that one coal owner's possessions alone cause above two thousand seamen to be in constant readiness for the king's service. Neither did he read the concluding account of himself, or of his father's notions of him: of his having been in his childhood a bubbling fountain of iniquity, in his youth a spring yielding sweet anti bitter water, and even yet not past being wholly purified. This last hopeful hint was unregarded in the sight of Effie's grief.
It is difficult to imagine now what social life could have been in those old despotic times when the practice of impressment was general, and the king could, by the very law of allegiance, dispose of every man's wealth and labour as he chose. It is difficult to imagine what comfort there could have been in daily life when the field labourer did not know, as he went out at sunrise, whether he would be allowed to return to his little ones at evening; when the artizan was liable to be carried off from his work-shop, while his dinner was cooling on the board, and his wife looking out for him from the door; when the tradesman was apt to be missing, and not heard of till some king's messenger came to ransack his shop of what soever his Majesty might be graciously pleased to want; and when the baron's lady watched from the terrace her lord going off to the boar-hunt, and the thought darted through her that he might not greet her again till he had hunted Saracens, or chased pirates, over many a strange land and sea. Then, all suffered together, in liability, if not in fact. All suffered in fact,—whether impressed or not; for all suffer when property is rendered insecure, and industry discouraged, and foresight baffled. Nobody now questions this. Nobody denies that it was right to exempt class after class from such compulsory service; and, so long ago as the time of Charles I., it was found necessary to emancipate solders from this tyranny,—though there were not a few to predict that no British king could ever again raise an army,—that England must from that day bid adieu to victory, and royalty to a throne. Yet, a more wonderful thing remains than the fame of Blenheim and Waterloo, and the actual existence of an English monarch—the fact that some are found in the present day to argue for the enforcement of this tyranny on a single class, when all other classes have long been relieved from it; to argue about the navy as their fore fathers argued about the army;—that Britannia will no more rule the waves,—that there will be no more glory in a sailor-king, no more hope for a maritime people, when impressment is done away. Why so? If the service is pleasant and profitable,—as those maintain who see little hardship in impressment,—there is no need of compulsion to make men enter it,—even on the briefest emergency,—to judge by the universal readiness to embrace what is honourable and profitable. If the service be not thus desirable, why it is not? That smugglers and felons should be delivered over to the king's officers, with the admission that five years' service is a prodigious punishment for their crimes; that the wages of the king's service are low, at the same time that the wages of merchant vessels are raised exorbitantly by the practice of impressment; that the king's pressed seamen are sometimes paid once in five, tell, or fifteen years, while in the merchant service the payment is regular; that the enforced service may be perpetual, while all other service has a defined limit,—all thus is surely no necessary part of naval management, while it fully, accounts for the supposed necessity of getting men by force, because they cannot be had in any other way. All this fully accounts for seamen dispersing before a press-gang, like a flock of birds from beneath a hawk; it accounts tor their changing their names, dressing in smock frocks, hiding under beds, and in lofts and closets; but it shames the attempted justification of impressment. When the trial has been made of the usual means of rendering this service as desirable as any other, (and its natural charms are great;) when the attempt has been made to train up, in time of peace, a supply of seamen to carry on a war, there may be ground for argument as to whether impressment be or be not necessary. It is wholly an experimental question, and has as yet been argued only a priori. It is too serious a matter to subject to injury men's lives and characters and fortunes, the happiness or existence of their families, and the industry of a considerable portion of society, through adherence to a false mode of argumentation, and to modes of procedure too well suited to a former barbarous age to be congenial with the present. The more willingly and extensively society is freed from ancient restraints on its freedom and industry, the more conspicuously stands out, monstrous in its iniquity, the practice of the impressment of seamen.
NOTHING BUT A VOICE.
In process of time, the Deep Cut was finished, and announced to be formally opened on a certain day, when the tide should be favourable for showing it off to the greatest advantage.
It was thought that a damp would be cast over the proceedings by the present unprosperous state of the coal trade, which seemed to render it less probable than it had at first appeared that the undertaking would soon repay its expenses. The war still continued, and with it the practice of impressment; so that colliers could not be manned but at a very high cost. Wages in colliers were now just four times what were given in king's ships. The difficulty mentioned by uncle Christoper of getting colliers worked up the Thames was also greater than ever; and the price of coal rose so much that the demand slackened, week by week. This was an awkward state of things in which to begin a grand new experiment; but the cost of the Deep Cut had been already incurred, and the only thing to be done was to make use of it, as fast as possible. Some persons wondered that Mr. Otley, who loved a joke, did not make use of this season of adversity for ridiculing a scheme whose execution he had been unable to prevent. No light sayings of his upon the matter were going the round of his neighbour hood; and such members of the Company as had the honour of his acquaintance, were surprised that they had not yet been jeered by him about the large attendance they were likely to have at the opening, from the great number of people about the collieries who were out of employment. But Mr. Otley was quite as loyally occupied in another way—in attempting to draw tighter the restraints of the apprenticeship laws, and to extend the infliction to the flourishing towns which had grown into their prosperous maturity exempt from the privilege, or curse. (whichever it might be called.) of a law of apprenticeship. It was quite the fashion, just now, among loyal men, to petition after the manner which the rector had adopted; and an opposite fashion spread, among those who had been tripped up in the 'old paths,' of going down to the origin of things, and mounting up to their consequences. These latter began to discover not only how impracticable was the apprenticeship law of Elizabeth, how nearly it went to subvert the common law, how it could retain even a nominal force only by evasion; but they saw that if parliament should be prevailed on to enforce it afresh, the next step of the loyal might be to revive the old statutes, that he who should sell abroad sheep, rams or lambs, should lose all he had, then part with his left hand, and for a second offence suffer death; or that a like penalty should be made once more to visit an exporter of fullers' earth; or of tobacco-pipe clay, because such clay is like fullers' earth.
While Mr. Otley was trotting about the country, representing the blessings that arise from compelling every merchant ship to have so many apprentices and no more, and the advantage of keeping businesses within bounds by allowing the corporations of towns to regulate the number of apprentices,—that the Sheffield cutler shall take but one. the Norwich weaver only two, hatters every where at home and in the colonies, only two,—while the rector was thus straining his sight into the regions of times long past, he seemed to have no leisure for observing what was before his eyes. Long rope-walks were extended beside the sluice; the boat-builder's mallet made itself heard from among the rocks; the fisherman's cottage began to show itself on the narrow strip of beach below; and the last finish was being given to the rail-road which led to the sluice. If there had been no practical evasion of corporation laws, this supply of skilled labour would not have been in existence to answer the demand. If all kinds of skilled labour had been subjected to corporation laws, there would have been no liberty to settle in a new field, without the loss of such privileges as would not have been risked on such an uncertainty as the speculation offered at best.
The day of opening was the brightest of April mornings; and it brought spectators from all parts of the country. Long before the Company's train of carriages was looked for, the fruit and gingerbread stalls were resounding with mirth and gossip. Troops of little children, already as black as if coal had been their plaything from their birth, were accosting strangers, to ask for a token to remember the day by.
Business-like-looking men walked straight to the Cut, and seemed to be computing its width and depth,—most of them expressing great admiration of the work. To the lover of beauty there was much to admire, when he had turned his back on the wooden bridge, and the gates, the vehicles of those who came to see these gates swing open, and the stalls which were but a temporary feature of the landscape. The hewn rock, raw and bright coloured as was its upper part, was already more favourably tinted below by its contact with the water. Small shell fish were clustered upon it, and weed rested wherever a ledge or crevice could be found. The water in the inlet showed the purest green, over its deep bottom of white sand, on which a star-fish here and there was distinctly visible, and from which the sea-anemone slowly rose, like a variegated parachute, which astonished the watcher by its tokens of being alive. Now and then a stray fish came in by mistake, not being aware that any sea path led so directly into the regions of art. As such a poor wanderer darted from side to side of the narrow inlet, striking against the rock and bewildering itself, many a child shouted in glee from the parapet, and ran to and fro to watch till the fish had disposed of itself, either out at sea once more, or beneath some friendly shadow.
These new operations must have been very perplexing to the fishy tribes in general, which might happen to pass that way. Not only was there this treacherous Cut to beguile them landwards, when they least dreamed of such a destination, but there was a labyrinth at sea, in the shape of the foundations of the new pier. The young fry had not yet been taught by their wiser parents (if indeed the parents knew any better themselves) to avoid these piles, and the perils that lurked among them: and young fry of a more powerful species were already kneeling on the beams of the pier, and catching, through the interstices which were left between the planks, a goodly prey of infant fish,—the greater part of which were mercifully thrown over from the end of the pier. Flags waved from every con spicuous point of the rocks and the works. A medley of music came from the midst of the throng about the parapet; and all bore the appearance of a new settlement as completely as if a slice of an American shore had been once more annexed to his British Majesty's dominions.
On the parapet sat one of the last persons who might have been expected to join in the festivity—little Tim. His mother had taken him to the ferry-house, to know if any of the family thought of going, and would take her poor boy, who was fond of doing what other people did, if he could not see what they saw. Walter meant to go, and he readily took charge of Tim. Effie did not quite like the tone in which this request was made. There was a despondency in it which alarmed her, especially as she knew that there was, just now, a scarcity of work at the pitmouth, and low wages to the women and boys employed there. Mrs. Eldred made so much difficulty about accepting the little she could do for her, that to press more upon her was certainly to offend her. But Walter feared she was in great poverty; and when he observed how she was wasted and worn with long looking for her husband's return, the apprehension suddenly crossed him that she had some design to get rid of her miseries in the most fearful way in which impatience exhibits itself. The idea was but momentary, however, as she had immediately referred to things to be done by her own hands, and to be told when she should have more time to stay with her daughter. Tim had quitted her apron, (which he continued to hold for guidance, great boy as he was.) surrendered her for Walter, in the prospect of this trip, and was now seated on the parapet, with Walter's arm about him, and apparently enjoying the bustle as much as those who more reasonably came into it.
“Let me run along by the wall with them!” said he, struggling to be set down. “Let me run with those boys!”
“Better not, Tim. They are only running to see a fish that swims away faster than they can follow.”
“I know that; but I can always run along by a wall.”
And away he would go, his brother-in-law keeping an eye upon him, to see how he defended himself from the knocks and pushes he was exposing himself to. He managed very well, always being one of the first to turn when others were about to do so, from his quickness in gathering up the guiding remarks of those about him. He had generally a word for Walter when he came back towards him.
“Walter, have you spoken to Adam yet?”
“Adam, no; you don't suppose Adam is here, do you?”
“Yes, but I do. I am sure it was his voice I just heard from over yonder, You will see him soon.”
And away went Tim again. The next time it was,—
“The show will soon be here now, Walter.”
“How do you know?”
“Because of the tide coming up. Don't you hear it,—lap, lap, lap?”
“How do you know it is not going down—if you can hear it at all, in this din?”
“O, it is quite a different sound, going out; a—a—I can't tell you what; but quite a different sound.”
“Poor boy!” said a by-stander. “I wish you could see how pretty the water looks, with all the gay flags above it, and the smart people.”
“Thank you,” said Tim, and he shuffled off once more.
“Do you think that is the best way of comforting people for such a loss as that poor boy's?” asked Walter, who was not the person to ask such a question, unless roused on poor Tim's behalf.
“Why, it is what one feels, you see; and what one hears people say every day,” replied the man.
“Well, that's true; but I don't think it is the kindest thing to say. If you can give him a knowledge of what is going on, it is all very well; but not merely to put him in mind uselessly that he cannot enjoy it. At least, such is my rule.”
“And a very good one, I have no doubt. To be sure, to make it one's own case for a minute, one can hardly fancy what answer one would make.”
“Ah! it is not every one that could say, like Tim, 'thank you,' and directly run off to amuse himself.”
“Indeed there are but few; and the great thing is to find out how they take their misfortune themselves. There are some that look as if they would knock you down if you do but come near the matter with them; and others shake all over, or put on a sort of affectation that is worse; and some like to talk and be talked to about it; and others (and they are the wisest) just take it simply and naturally, so as to remove one's difficulty, almost entirely.”
“Tim is one of these last,” said Walter, patting the boy's head, as he came near.
“What am I, Walter?”
“Heating yourself sadly, with getting so pushed about.”
“O, I'll get cool when the show comes, and I sit on the wall again. But if you want to go somewhere else, I'll come any minute ; only, the water is getting so high, it would be a pity to go away and lose our place.”
“So it would, pray away, as you like.”
“Just as if he could see! He talks about the show like any other boy.”
“Ay, and you would be surprised to hear the account he will give his sister when we go home. He picks up a world of odd things that we let slip: and that, and his great mistakes together, make his stories very strange ones sometimes.”
“Yet he seems easy enough to treat and deal with. A kind heart and a little thought may do all that he wants from us.”
“And all that the others want that you mentioned just now. If we let our good will have its way, without being held back and twisted by shyness and doubt, we shall be sure to please people who depend upon kindness more than any others. The only thing I cannot pardon is the giving way to shyness when—”
“And yet I should guess you to be shy your self.”
“Well, so I am; and yet I should be more struck with any body being shy about helping Tim in his little devices than he himself would, though he has no shyness. It always strikes me that when these sufferers have had so much more awkwardness to get over, it is not to be pardoned that we should renew their trouble with ours. But where is Tim gone now? Slipped away in a minute ! He cannot be far off, but what were we about?”
Walter cast an involuntary fearful glance down the inlet, where nothing was happening, however, to disturb the solitary sea-gull which was very quietly balancing itself on the surface.
“Were ye looking for the little blind lad?” asked a woman near. “He met with a friend in the throng, and they went off together.”
In another minute, Tim merged from behind the awning of a stall, holding Adam by the right hand, and a huge orange in the left.
“Tim said you were here,” observed Walter, “and I did not believe him. He heard you half an hour ago.”
“Tim, what did you hear me saying?”
“I did not catch your words, but I was sure it was your voice.”
“I am glad to see you buying oranges, Adam. I suppose this orange came out of yonder rope-walk.”
“Not it; and it is the last I am likely to buy; and I would not have got it for any one but Tim. I am not going to lose my settlement, I can tell you. The place that took such pains to settle me may keep me till there is work for us all again.”
“Keep you ! How?”
“There is no lack of means. There are the rates, and fine corporation funds.”
“And pienty of your sort of work wanted to be done here, it seems. There is a great call for rope-makers.”
“And a great call for work among the rope-makers belonging to the town. But we of the town hold back, you observe, to see who will come forward first and lose his privileges. For may part, I mean to hold back till I can be a master, and have apprentices, and do things in proper style; and then Tim shail turn the wheel, and get money like other lads. “Will you, Tim?”
Walter allowed that it was a thing out of the question to give up a settlement in a corporate town in exchange for one in a district like this, whose prosperity must long remain precarious. He scarcely saw how this precariousness was to be remedied if there was a dearth of workmen to do the business essential to the improvement of the place, while there was elsewhere a super abundance of the very sort of workmen wanted. If it was necessary to give very high wages here for work which received very low wages elsewhere, it was difficult to perceive how any fair competition was to be maintained, and the subsistence fund duly husbanded.
“I suppose,” said he, “you may thank the law that gave you your apprentice privileges for the low wages you have had of late, Adam?”
“O yes; plenty to thank that law for. People generally complain that it raises wages higher than natural. I am ready to testify to its sinking them lower.”
“Both are right, I fancy. Wages are raised, as said, by crafts being confined to fewer hands than need be; and this mischief goes on from generation to generation.”
“Why, yes ; if they first make it necessary to be an apprentice, and then forbid the taking more than a certain number of apprentices, It is easy to see how many willing folks will be hindered of entering into a trade; and those that are in it may keep up wages as long as their handwork is wanted. But when——”
“Ah! when the balance turns, and times are bad, wages may fall to the very lowest point, or cease, if the craftsmen are hindered from with drawing some of their number, and turning their hands to some other trade, it does seem an uncommonly stupid plan, to be sure; and when men were beginning to get the better of it, and outgrow and step over it, what a strange thing it seems that a clergyman, like Mr. Otley, should be doing his best to fasten us down under it again, tighter than ever!”
“And at the very time that his lady is sending here and sending there for articles that she cannot content herself to buy in her native place. If the gentleman does his best to prevent his neighbours working out of corporation bounds, the least his lady can do is to employ those neigh hours, instead of buying what she wants from a distance.”
“I think so. But what puts such a fancy into her head?”
“She complains that the workmanship of articles is inferior at home to what it is in newer places. And if it is, who is to blame for it but those who meddle to spoil competition, and persuade their own workmen that they have a sure dependence otherwise than on their own skill?”
“I have heard of such a thing happening, in some strict corporate towns, as the very gentlemen of the corporation themselves passing by their own people to get their work done in the out-lying villages, and having it brought in secretly. Such men are guilty, one way or an other, it seems to me. Either let them bestir themselves to have trade allowed to go free, or submit themselves to the restraints they put on others.”
“They are full as foolish as wrong, however; for what do they do by such management but bring so many more paupers on themselves to be maintained? It won't do to try to persuade their idle workmen to go elsewhere. The masters elsewhere do not like hiring so as to give a settlement, any better than we like being so hired. We stick like burrs to those who fastened us upon them, and they may make what they can of us.”
“I wonder what they think of all this in other countries.”
“In America (our seamen tell me) they laugh mightily at us for tying our legs, and then complaining that we cannot walk. In America, they have none of this mischief of trade corporations and apprenticeships; and how are they the worse for their absence? If American handiworks, and the handiworks of our own new, free towns are better (as every one knows they are) than those of our corporate towns, what can we conclude but that corporate restraints are bad things? I have half a mind sometimes to step away into a free country myself.”
“A free country! As if England was not a free country!”
“It is freer than most; and so much freer than it used to be, that I have hopes of our grandchildren seeing themselves as unfettered in their callings as the Americans. But just now, none of us are practically free. Everybody is ready enough to call out about poor Cuddie ; and with just reason. But my case, though not so hard an one as his, is not altogether to be over looked beside it. Instead of being forcibly turned from a labour I like to one that I did not choose, there is a moral force used to prevent my turning from an unprofitable occupation to a profitable one. Now, the labour of a man is his birthright,—his sole property; and any power that comes between him and its exercise is tyranny. Never mind how it may be softened down, and disused, and in some places nearly forgotten. As long as there is such a power lying ready to be put forth against the labourer, that labourer is not a free man.”
“These powers will grow less and less mischievous as time rolls on. No corporation in the world can stand against the will of the public to be supplied with what they want. There will be apprentices enough in Norwich and Sheffield to keep the trade going as it should, if the world really wants more knives and stuffs.”
“Yes, yes; and look what a list of great men we have got,—no thanks to our trade rules! but in spite of them. Think of Arkwright, and Brindley, and Brunel!”
“And Smeaton. and Rennie, and Watt, and Fergusson, and Hunter. These were never apprenticed.”
“No, nor many more that have made themselves a great name. My doubt is whether they would have had such a name if they had been kept listless and longing,—or downright idle, from having no interest in their seven years' work. If,—I will not say I.—but many others, had been kept at our education a year or two longer, who knows what we might have done in the world?”
“Especially if you had been born in some of the spirited new towns, which were little more than villages a hundred years ago, and now rank far before York, and Canterbury, and Norwich, and Lichfield. As for London itself, the most blessed day in its existence will be when its hundred companies dissolve their monopolies, if not themselves. I venture to say this, because we have before our eyes what has happened else where. Look at Spain, now full of corporation glories; and France, where industry and art began to thrive from the day that her corporation and apprenticeship laws were swept away.”
“In France, I'm told, they have made an experiment of everything, from the worst meddling to perfect freedom. I do not know that it was ever settled there, as it is in India, that every man must follow his father's profession, but they did some things almost as wise, in old times.”
“And some with such good intentions as to afford a fine warning against governments meddling at all with production. In one sense, to be sure, governments influence production by whatever they do; (which should make them very careful about every step they take.) But I now mean direct interference. It seemed only prudent and kind to the people to make rules about felling trees, some parts of the soil being absolutely good for nothing unless they had trees in the neighbourhood to encourage moisture; yet the first consequence of these rules was to prevent people planting trees.”
“That is good; but the story of the cock-chafers is better. Do not you know that story? Some district abroad, in Switzerland, I think, was plagued with cockchafers; and to get rid of them, the government obliged every landholder to furnish certain quantities, in proportion to the land he held. The landholders paid the poor people for collecting them; and after a time it was found out that cockchafers were regularly imported in sacks from the other side of the lake.”
“Very good. But there was one instance among many of positive loss in France, through meddling with industry, which is a fine warning to such men as Otley, if they would take it. Before the revolution broke the corporation fetters of the workpeople, there could be no manufacture of japanned hardware in France. The process requiring the art and tools of several different trades, and that a man should be free of them all, this kind of production was left to strangers.”
“This is very like passing a law that there shall be no new inventions; or that every man shall follow his father's occupation.”
“And the practice of these lawmakers agreed with their principle. Did you ever see an Argand lamp?”
“O, yes. Not so good as some gas lamps.”
“But yet giving out three times as much light at the same cost as any lamps that were known before. Argand was publicly persecuted by the company of tinners, locksmiths, and ironmongers, who disputed his right to make lamps.”
“And if they would do that, they would most likely not admit him of their company if he had chosen to trouble himself to canvass for it.”
“Then there was Lenoir, the great French philosophical instrument maker. He set up a little furnace to heat his metals in; and straightway came certain of the Founders' Company to pull it down; and Lenoir was obliged to appeal to the king.”
“There might just as well have been a hotbed company that would not have let you growcucumbers without their help; or a scare-crow company to prevent your hanging up your old coat among the cherry-trees.”
“And here comes a company that would give you plenty of rope-making to do, if you would leave your privileges behind you, and bring your still to their market.”
“Aye: and then as soon as people at home have forgotten me, and my place there is fairly filled by some one else, and there begins to be a talk of business falling off. I may be warned out of this field by some frightened old woman of a church-warden, or some spiteful overseer, who will bid me be gone to my own place. No, no. The company must make a hue and cry for rope-makers indeed, before they will get me to pass out ot bound. Yet, trespassing out of bounds was what I best liked to do, when I was not my own master.—How bravely they come on, in their open carriages, with their flags and their boughs! Well! really it is a pretty sight.”
“Do look at Tim, with his oak bough as big as himself! He must be a fine fellow that gave it him,—that tall lad who keeps a hand on Tim's shoulder to guide him. I'll go and take his place. It is not fair that a stranger should have the trouble of poor Tim.”
“And I think it would be a charity in me to offer myself to some of the gentlemen as a handshaker. Did you ever see? How the folks are reaching up to shake hands! The black pitmen, and the keelmen, with their brown hats in the other hand, and their wives holding up the little ones that will be pitmen and keelmen some time or other.”
“And Mr. Severn too! Look! there he is on the box of yonder barouche, smiling and nodding so cheerfully, thin and worn as he looks.”
“Aye: when we make our many trades as free as we boast we already are, Mr. Severn will get something like a recompense of his toils. In those days, if he but lives to see them, it will happen always as it happens by accident to-day, that he will be full in view of the people that are always ready to welcome him, while Otley slinks away, to follow his own devices out of sight.— Stand back! stand back, and make way for them! Now is your time to look to Tim!”
The gates were now beginning gently to open one way, and the little bridge to swing round the other way. The din was hushed,—music, laughter, children's cries, men's shouts, the whining of dogs, and the tramp of horses. All was still, except the ripple and lapse of water, as a thousand eyes were bent to watch the first vessel that ever passed this way, noiselessly turning the point from the open sea, and gliding along the Cut. It was the first time that the gazers had ever had an opportunity of looking down into a vessel so immediately beneath their feet, (except during the few moments required for shooting a bridge.) It was a singular sight,—some of the tackle almost sweeping the rocks as it passed, and its bulk casting a black moving shadow on the bed of pure sand below the green water. The smutty-faced crew looked up to the thousand eager faces far above their heads, and gave a silent signal that all should be ready to cheer when the gates should be passed.
“There it goes!” said Tim, softly, as he sat on the parapet, with Walter's arm about his waist, and the vessel passing just beneath him. “There it goes!” he whispered again, turning his head in due proportion to its progress.
“Does it graze the rocks or the sand?” asked Walter, wondering at the boy's accurate knowledge of what was going on.
“No: but it makes a great stir in the air. I feel the wind upon my face. Tell me when I may speak, Walter. I have something to tell you.”
A vehement shout now rose on all hands, to put an end to Tim's scruples about speaking amidst a dead silence. All the seamen present pushed, cuffed, and scrambled to get a good sight of the vessel's farther progress when she had passed the gates. While the rivalry of blue jackets and gruff voiccs was going on, Tim uttered his strange communication.
“Waher ! Walter ! I am sure Cuddie is here.”
“My dear boy, what a fancy!”
“Ah ! it seems an odd thing; but I heard Cuddie's voice, just as I heard Adam's before.”
“You know Adam's voice well, hearing it so often as you do. But, remember, it is four years since you heard Cuddle's; and I am afraid it may be more than four years before you hear it again.”
Well! Tim thought it better to be only almost sure.
“Besides,” said Waiter, “there is no king's ship near us now. All the king's ships are at the wars.”
Tim had no more to say. The next thing that happened was an outcry on the skirts of the crowd. Everybody thought it was an accident, and rushed towards the spot, or, in order to inquire, stopped others who were doing so. It was only some thief or quarrelsome person, or other kind of vagabond, that the constables and their helpers had failed to catch. The fellow had got off. Who was he? what had he done? everybody asked. Nobody at a distance could tell, and nobody near would tell. It was hinted that, whatever the offence might be, it was of some popular kind; and that the offender had been helped by the people to escape. The incident took a firm hold of Tim's imagination. He cared no more about what took place during the next hour than the many spectators present who belonged to the class that, having eyes, see not. When the parapet was left to him and Walter, when the tide had gone down, when the train of carriages had disappeared, he was still plying his brother-in-law with questions about his conjectures: and when at length advised to go to sleep in his unaccustomed lodging in a public-house, he went on to weary the sleepy Walter with—
“I should think he will lie in the fields tonight, while we are so snug and comfortable here? If he has murdered anybody, perhaps a ghost will come and scare him? I wonder whether his wife or his mother know where he is? Every foot that stirs, he will think it is the constable come to take him up. Do you know, I have been thinking whether that might not have been Cuddie's ghost that I heard to-day. They say many seamen are shot in these wars, and if we should find that Cuddie was killed just at the very time—What o'clock do you think it was?”
Walter now replied in no sleepy tone. He was not a believer in ghosts, but his mind was interested, more than he could justify, in Tim's persuasion that he had heard Cuddie speak, Tim was so seldom mistaken about these matters! Yet the war was still prolonged, and if poor Cuddie was not ere this at the bottom of the sea, he must be too far off on its surface for the fairy Fine-Ear to have caught the tones of his voice, if Fine-Ear had been this day among the crowd.
SLEEPING AND WAKING.
While Walter was settling this matter with his reason, Effie was sauntering in his garden, —his garden, of late as much improved in beauty and productiveness as the coal-trade was depressed. Sorry as Effie was that her mother was not able to get full work, she could not help rejoicing in the vigour and verdure of Walter's favourites. Her half wish to go away had subsided into perfect contentment with remaining, though uncle Christopher still abode with them. His contempt for them, in a religious view, signified less as they gathered more years upon their shoulders. It became easier to act as if his censorious eye was not upon them, and to take whatever he might do and say as being his way. He enjoyed exceedingly all the creature comforts that Effie put before him, though he could not think of spoiling her by any appearance of acknowledgment of her care, till she should allow him to cater for her spiritual good. He ate his little fowl, or sipped his evening cordial, full of pitying amazement that Effie would not let him lead her devotions, or grant her a gracious permission to sing psalms with himself and his few chosen friends.
It was a prayer-meeting of this kind which kept Effie abroad late this evening. The common room was occupied, and it would have appeared ungracious to shut herself up in her chamber. She therefore carried her work into the arbour after tea, and sat sewing, and looking abroad, and plucking little sprigs of one fragrant thing or another, till every bird within hearing had dropped off from the choir, and left nothing to be heard but a stray grasshopper, and nothing to he done but to cease poring over her stitching and take a turn in the green alley. There she turned and turned again, looking for the young moon and her attendant star among tim fleecy clouds tlmt now parted opportunely, and now melted into a mass, just when she wanted to see what was behind them. Thinking that she could catch a reflection of the crescent in a bend of the river, she ran up the hedge, and leaned over as far as she could, without falling, head foremost, into the ditch on the other side. She was very near so falling when a rustle in the same ditch startled her. She jumped back, expecting to see something follow her. Nothing appeared, and she satisfied herself that it was only a dog or a stray pig, or a sheep about to leave a tribute of wool on the briars, in return for a bite of particularly delicate grass. She turned again along the alley, and amused herself with planting erect any props that might have declined from the perpendicular. While doing so, she perceived the faint, yellow light of a glow-worm on the bank, which her husband gave her for the indulgence of her own fancies about primroses and blue hyacinths. Eagerly she kneeled down to watch the creature, and played with it for some time, now with a gentle finger-tip, and now with a stout blade of grass. The psalm from within doors meanwhile came, softened by distance, into a not unpleasing music. Effie's mind and heart joined in this music more than her uncle would readily have believed. She invariably laid aside amusements and light thoughts when it reached her; and sympathized all the better in the devotions of the company from their psalms being stripped by distance of all that appeared to her harsh and unduly familiar in their sentiments and language. She now instantly arose, leaving the worm to find its way back to its covert; but—straight before her— stood a man, peeping at her through the hedge, He ducked, the moment he saw that he was ob-served, and she could get no answer to her questions and remarks— “What do you want?— If you are looking for the ferry, it is just below, to your right hand.—If you want our people, you had better come round to the gate.” She retreated towards the house, to shelter herself under the sounds that issued thence. She had no fear for her safety while in such neighbourhood; but she pondered the probability of the garden being robbed. There was little in it at present worth removal; but she thought she should do what she had done before when left in the guardianship of her husband's goods—sit up in the star-light, and look out upon the garden, till her uncle, who was an early riser, should be heard stirring in the morning. This measure she presently decided upon; and the decision brought in so many thoughts of chill, and drowsiness, and startings, and nervous fancies,—with all of which her watchings had made her well acquainted,—that when she went back to the arbour for her work and implements, she snatched them up as if a thief had been in hiding there, and fled home as if he were following at her heels.
Uncle Christopher had just left the house with his guests, in order to ferry them over to their own bank of the river. Before putting the circle of chairs in their places, and depositing the hymn-book on its shelf, Effie closed and locked both doors of the dwelling. She had not been seated at her work a minute before there was a tap, and then a push at the door which opened into the garden.
“Who is there?”
“Effie, Effie, let me in!” said a low voice which thrilled through her. For the first time since her childhood, a superstitions terror seized her; and she sat staring, and neither spoke nor moved.
The lattice was not quite fastened, and she saw it open, and a face appear within it which produced the same effect upon her as the voice had done.
“O, are ye Cuddie, or are ye not?” cried she, shading her eyes from the candlelight, and gazing intently.
“Yes, I am Cuddie,” said he mournfully, as he entered by the lattice. “But it is hard to believe you are Effie, so unwilling to let your own brother into your own house.”
This was said, not like the Cuddie of old, but so like her mother, that Effie no longer doubted.
She poured out a multitude of questions, Whence did he come? When did he arrive? Was he here for good, to follow his own business again? And had her father returned also?
He put aside all her questions, desiring only, for the present, that she would help him to enter the house when uncle Christopher was gone to bed. Uncle Christopher would be back in five minutes, and there was no time to lose in settling how—
“But you are not going away before you have spoken to me, or given one look that I dare to rest upon. Why, Cuddie”
“Well, Effie, I am not going to meet uncle Christopher; I can tell you that. There he lay, muttering his cant, the night I was carried off, and did not so much as put a foot out of bed to help me. He may talk of how many souls he has saved. He has lost one, I can tell him; and if I ever meet him,—and it will be only by chance, I shall tell him”
“There he is!” cried Effie, hearing the rattle of the chain by which the boat was fastened. Cuddie instantly let himself out by the back door, intimating that he should return to be admitted, as soon as his uncle could be supposed asleep. This event was not long in happening, as Effie was not, this evening, very lavish of remarks which might tempt him to linger over his pipe and glass.
When Cuddie re-entered from the garden, his first act was to desire his sister to fasten the door at the foot of the stairs, and hang up blinds against both windows, he standing in the shadow till this was done. Effie timidly objected to blinding the front window which looked down upon the ferry; it was not yet too late for the possibility of passengers. This seemed to serve as a new reason; and she was obliged to hang up her shawl.
“If you want to know the reason,” whispered her brother,— “I am a deserter. Hush! No noise! or you will be the death of me, as Adam was near being this morning.”
“Won't you sit down?” said Effie,—as she might have spoken to an intruder from Bedlam.
“Effie, you always used to say what you felt, and all that you felt. Are you changed too? Come; tell me what you are thinking.”
“I think I am in a dream, and do not know whether you be Cuddie, or a fancy of my own. O, Cuddie, I have always loved you next to Walter, and looked upon you as the pride and hope of the family; and as often as I have started from sleep, these four years past, it has been with dreaming over again your being taken at dead of night, and especially your slipping down the cable. The worst moments I have had from the time you rowed away from this ferry, that bright evening, are those between sleeping and waking, when I saw you cold and altered before me, and I could not by any means make you smile. I never, no I never believed this last would come true. And now,—and now,” she uttered between her sobs, “you know what I am thinking about.”
Cuddie cast himself on the ground, laid his head on her knee, as he had done in many a childish trouble, weeping so that he could not for long be persuaded to look up.
“You are not altogether altered, I see,” said Effie, striving to speak cheerfully. “You are not come back the round-faced, weather-brown seaman I always fancied you would be, but instead, far too much as if you had been famished. Yet your heart is the same.”
“O, yes. But you have known want lately, and you are discouraged. I much fear you have known want.”
“ 'Tis not that which has bowed my spirit. Effie, I am altogether heartbroken.”
“Do not dare to say that. We must bear whatever Providence”
“But it is not Providence that has done it; it is my king and country,” cried Cuddie, starting up, the flush fading from his face, and leaving it of a deadly paleness. “If it had been the will of Providence, Effie, to take a limb from me. I would have made my way home on crutches, with a stout heart, and none of you should have heard a bitter word from me. If lightning from above had scorched out my eyes, I would have taken Tim for an example, and been thankful through the live-long day. If the fever had laid me low on shipboard, I would have been a man to the last, knowing that my corpse would make the plunge before midnight. But to have one's king and country against one is what is enough to break any man's heart that has ever loved either of them.”
“To be sure it is. What have they been doing to you?”
“Things that I do not hold myself bound to bear, as if they were done according to the will of Providence, and not against it. They first turned my very heart within me with carrying me away, as if I had been a black slave; carrying me away from all I cared about, and the occupation I could most willingly follow. Then, when I had little spirit for my work, and many bitter thoughts to distract me in it, and hurt my temper, the next thing they must do is to flog me. What surprises you in that? Don't you know that impressment brings flogging? Carry away a man as a slave, and next thing you must whip him as a thief, and that brings hanging like a dog. Yes, they flogged me, and my head grew down on my breast from the time that scornful eyes were for ever upon me. This morning I have been hunted by my countrymen, by many an one that I knew when nobody dared look scornfully on me. It was my own brother's doing that they were set on. My country has but one thing more to do with me; and that is to make away with me for desertion.”
“Then you do not mean to do it yourself, thank God!” cried Effie.
“No, Effie. I have been tempted many a time, from the night I slipped down the cable, as you mentioned, till this very afternoon, when I hid in an old coal-pit, and was but too near throwing myself below. I shall make a trial of what is to be done by going where there is no king, and where one may forget one's country. There is not a saint in heaven that could make me forgive them; but there may be ways of forgetting them. I will make the trial in America.”
“Then we shall lose the best brother, and my mother the child she has looked to through every thing, and your king a servant that may ill be spared during this war.”
“Never mind the king. If he knows no better how to get his subjects to serve him——”
“Hush, Cuddie! You a seaman, and talk so of your king!”
“I am not a seaman now. However, say the country, if you will: if she knows no better how to get served than by first making slaves of her free-born men, let her do as well as she can when they leave her to turn against her. As soon as she takes a man's birthright from him, his duty ceases. Mine was at an end when they carried me off, neck and heels, and turned me, in one hour, from a brave-hearted boy into a mean-souled man.”
“Yes, yes. I say; but though it was so, they had gained no right to disgrace me. That flogging might possibly have been thought justifiable by some people, if I had entered the service of my own free will: as I did not, they had no more right to flog me than the showman yonder has to goad the lion he enticed into his trap. If that lion should ever get out a paw to revenge himself, it would go hard with me to help the human brute.”
Effic was confounded. In casting about for an argument wherewith to stop this method of discourse, she could find none out of the Bible. Christian forgiveness of injuries was her plea.
“There is the difference, certainly, between the lion and me,” said Cuddie: “the Bible is out of the question in his case. It shall be minded in my own, so far as this: I will not lift a hand against my country, and I will go where I may possibly learn to forgive her; but I cannot do it here, Effic, even if my life were safe, I could not do it here. My country loses a stout-bodied, willing-hearted member, and I lose all I have ever lived for; but there the mischief shall stop, for me.”
“Aye, for you; but how many more are there lost in like manner? I think some devil, in the service of our country's enemies, has come to blind our eyes, and harden our hearts, and make us a sad wonder for the times that are to come. Will men believe such a story as yours, such an one as my father's,—a hundred years hence?”
“Yes, they will easily believe, because they will look back to what the service now is, and how it is regarded, and contrast these things with what, I trust, will be the state of things in their day. They will look back and see that merchant seamen are now paid more than they need be, because naval seamen are paid so much less than they ought to be, and made subject to violence. If, as I hope, in those days, the one service will be as desirable as the other, (or the king's, perhaps, the most so of the two,) it will be found that our colliers will man a navy at the first call; and then men will believe that when it was otherwise, there was some fearful cause of wrong that came in between the king and his seamen.”
“It does seem, indeed, as if there was no lack of loyalty among our people, when their minds are not turned from their king by some strange act; and we hear few complaints of the service from those who go willingly to it.”
“There is none that would be liked so well, if it had fair play. Besides the honour of keeping off the enemy, and the glory of helping to preserve one's country, there is so much variety, and so many adventures, and so many hundred thousand eyes looking on, that a sea-life in his Majesty's service has many charms. But honour is a mockery to one's heart, unless it is won by the heart; and what are varieties of adventure to him whose body may be roving, but whose spirit sits, like a gloomy, unseen ghost, for ever by his own fire-side?”
“He who goes of his own will has most likely made provision for those he has left behind; and then the thought of them will come only when it can animate him, and never to discourage him.”
“Oh, you should see the difference between the volunteers and certain slaves like me!—how the one are impatient with the captain till he gets boldly out in search of the enemy; and how the other would fain have the vessel creep for ever along the shore, that he might have a chance of stealing out, and forgetting his present disgraces by daring a worse reproach still. You should see the difference of their patience on the watch, and of their courage before a battle.”
“I am sure I should not care to show bravery in a danger I was thrust into against my will, as I should in one that it was my own choice to face. I should be apt to get away, if I could.”
“My wish would have been just the opposite, that there might be an end of me, Effie, if I had happened to be in a battle since I was flogged: but the battles I was in happened first; and if I was not a downright coward, I had no spirit to fight as a freeman would. It cooled my blood, and kept down my heart, to remember the night when they took me in my sleep to defend others when I was myself defenceless.”
“If it was so with you,—you, who always used to walk first when, as children, we had to pass neighbour Topham's bull,—you, that were ready to go down doubtful places in the mine when nobody else dared, and that brought out the soldier, just drowning in the current by Cullercoat Sands, if it was so with you, how much more it must happen with others, not naturally so brave! But, Cuddie, do sit down quietly, and tell me, as if you were telling of being punished for bird-nesting, what it was that they blamed you for on board ship.”
“Blamed me! They”
“Yes, yes I know; but what was it for?”
“I did nothing well, all the time I was there. Whatever might be going on, I was always thinking of getting away; just the same, whether I was on watch, or going into the middle of the fight, or hiding my face in the blanket, when laid by under my dog punishment. There was enough to flog me for, if the quality of my service had been all that was looked to.”
“You that did everything well that you set your hand to, from the time you were a child! But the getting away you managed cleverly, I dare say.”
“A good many contrive to do that, notwithstanding all the difficulties that are put in the way of desertion, and the punishment that visits it.”
“That punishment cannot always take place, if so many desert. There would be a constant putting to death.”
“Why, yes; considering that above five thousand able-bodied, and four thousand ordinary seamen have deserted within two years, the execution of the whole is a sight that men would be rather unwilling that angels should look upon.”
“Mercy, mercy! Only think of them all in one crowd before a judge, pleading how they were torn, many of them, from their busy homes, and that these same homes were the temptation to desert.”
“Think of them before another kind of judgment-seat, Effie. Where would the balance of crime be laid then?”
“I think no one would dare to carry there any quarrels that grew up out of war,” Effie replied. “Whatever noise of war there may be on this earth, I fancy all will be glad to keep utter silence upon it in another state.”
“Aye, if they could. But how is it to be kept out of knowledge? How am I to account for my temper being bitter, that once was kindly; and my habits being lazy, that once were brisk; and my life being short and troublesome to everybody, that might have been long and busy for others' good; and my death being fearful, like an eclipse, when it might have been as the shutting in of the summer twilight? How am I to account for all this, without any plea of going out to war on the high seas? Why do you look at me so, Effie? I cannot bear being so looked at.”
Effie had often tried to fancy the aspect and demeanour of persons under sentence of death; but she had never imagined anything so awful as the lot seemed to be when it sat upon her brother. To have seen his corpse stretched before her would not have been more strange than to look on his familiar face, to listen to his accustomed voice, and to think that this motion and this sound were awaiting extinction, while the thinking part was fluctuating between this world and the next, not in the frame of calm faith which abides the summons of its Maker, but in the restless mood which attends upon the tyranny of man. Effie had seen her brother once awaiting death as the issue of an illness. What she had then beheld caused her heart now to sink on perceiving the starting eye and curled lip, which told her that her brother was a less religious man than he had been, less humble, less strong, less hopeful, less thoughtful for others than before. She was not fully aware of the difference of the cases, how darkly God's agency is shrouded in the gloom of man's injustice; how the sufferer's whole nature is out raged by dependence upon his fellow-man for the breath of life; and how infinitely the agony of such outrage transcends the throes of dissolution. The humblest convict may feel this, though he may not be able to express it in words, as well as the noblest patriot that ever encountered martyrdom; and it may be this sense of outrage that parches the tongue and enfeebles the knees of one, while it strings the nerves of another on the way to the scaffold; while both may equally disregard the parting convulsion, and long rather than dread to know “the grand secret.”
“No, no, Cuddie, you do not mean that you who sit there are doomed to be laid in the cold ground so soon, unless you can banish yourself?”
“I do; and for a token you must either help me away this very hour, or see me carried off to death, as one of the doomed five thousand. I tell you I was nearly caught this day. If it had not been for an acquaintance, more thoughtful than Adam, (who spoke out my name the moment he saw me,) I should have been beyond hope at this hour. The whisper passed along, however, 'a poor deserter,' and they opened a way for me, and blocked up the enemy in a crowd, and then gave out that it was only a petty thief they were running after; and in this manner I got off for the time.”
“And so you will again. God will not let such as you so perish.”
“I shall not tempt the risk further by staying. God forgive me for saying so! but I cannot, and I will not, so die.”
“Hush, hush! What would uncle Christopher, what would all religious people say, if they heard such a word from you as that?”
“They might say that if one man presumes to declare 'You shall die at my lidding, for a crime invented by such as myself,' another man may, without presumption, say, 'I will not die for such a cause;' and that he may, with as little presumption, do his utmost peaceably to make good his words. I will be gone this very hour, to make good my word.”
“Our poor mother!”
“Do not tell her that I have been here: she will be for ever hearing the whoop of my hunters, and fancying my death-groans at midnight. Let her suppose me fighting creditably, like any honest volunteer, till you hear what becomes of me.”
“And can you be so near, and yet”
“O yes; I can do many things that you would have sworn, when we last parted, that I never could. You do not know, I dare say, what it is to grow careless of those one most loved, to be able to pass lightly near a mother's door, on one's way to a new world, and not look in. You——”
“Cuddie, what brought you to see me?”
“What would you say if it was to get Walter to give me a coat that might disguise me, and you to supply me with food, that might prevent my needing to speak to any one on the road?”
“I shall not believe any part of your story, if you dare to say so much that is false,” said Effie, rising, however, to see what her humble hospitality could furnish. “I did hope, indeed, that there were some, besides your mother, that you would have thought worth inquiring after.”
''I saw your husband and the others to-day, you know, except uncle Christopher, and him I will look upon now;” and he snatched the candle to go up stairs. His sister stopped him eagerly, to inquire whether he had really seen her husband.
“Aye, that did I. Adam, as I told you, I saw full enough of. And Tim, poor child, was telling Walter that he had heard my voice just before, and Walter gave him a world of good reasons why it was impossible, while I was standing just behind him, as Tim might have seen, if—But how that boy is grown! And a fine unbroken spirit he seems to have!”
“And without any bitterness, Cuddie, though the burden of affliction is laid upon him. We may take a lesson from him: for his is not the content of one that does not know what the blessings are that he must forego. He tells me sometimes what he remembers about the green fields, and the blue river, and the star-light nights; and if his remembrance of them seems more beautiful than the things themselves appear to us, this is only a proof of the greater depth of his patience. O yes, we may take a lesson from him!”
“Ah! I thought when I saw him to-day,” said Cuddie, setting down the candle, as if forgetting his purpose of visiting his uncle's bedside, “when I saw him sitting with his placid face raised, and his ear intent to learn all that was going on, I thought of the day and night after his accident, when he was fretting and fretting, as if it was our fault that he could not see which neighbour it was that came to ask after him. nor know when it was day or when it was dark.”
“Aye, before he learned to know everybody by the voice, and to tell by the feel when the sun was going down. It was you, Cuddie, that sat beside him during those nights, and brought comfort to him as often as you could step in from your work. Did you think of that, too, when you looked upon him this day?”
Cuddie seized the candle again, and was going.
“Tim himself remembers your nursing, and he shall not forget it, when you are no longer a brother and a countryman. He shall never learn from me that you were here, and left without laying your hand upon his head, or a kiss upon his forehead.”
“There will be Adam to watch over him, besides you and Walter.”
“And you, when the war is over. You will surely come back, and ply on this very river, and show yourself in the old port, when the cry after deserters is over, and the press-gangs are broken up?”
“Never. I shall make myself altogether an American. King George will never more have me for a subject or a servant; and if he has me for an enemy, by going to war with America, he may thank his own press-gangs for it;—and not only on account of me, but of the thousands more that seek a home in foreign ships because the British navy has been to them nothing better than a prison.”
Cuddie was some time up stairs while Effie hastened to pack such provisions as she had in the house. Indifferent as her brother's manner was when he came down, she thought there were signs of emotion passed away.
“You have not insulted his sleep, I am sure, Cuddie? You have not breathed out ill will over him?”
“No: he first taught me the story of the Prodigal Son, as I remembered when I saw his Bible near him. Besides, I shall never see him again.—Now, leave me to make my way over the ferry. You had better let the boat be found on the opposite side in the morning. They will come hunting for me here, and you must not be found aiding and abetting in my escape. You will have uncle Christopher for a witness to my not having been here; and if he should chance to wake while you are out”
“Whisht! he is stirring! Hark to his step overhead!”
Cuddie and his basket were past the threshold, the door was closed, and Effie bending over her work before uncle Christopher's night-capped head appeared from the stairs.
“I thought I heard Walter?”said he. “I thought Walter had come home?”
Walter was not to be home till the middle of the next day, the old man was reminded.
So he had thought; but he had been dreaming, it seemed to him for hours, of a weary sobbing, the deep sobbing of a man near him; and when he woke up from his dream, there was a gleam from the keyhole on the ceiling; and he next fancied he heard whispers below, so he got up, and partly dressed himself, and came down
“And found me just finishing my work, that I was bent upon doing before I went to bed,” said Effie.
“You are not going to sit up much later, child? If you must watch, you might as well occupy your watch with holy things.
Effie thought of the times when Christopher used to spend half the night in perfecting the invention which had enabled him to gather a good many carnal comforts about him. She merely said that she was working for her husband. She would just lock the chain of the boat——
“What! that not done yet? I heard the chain clank just now. Nor the door fastened, I declare! You are a braver woman than your mother, child.”
Effie did not know that she had anything to fear. Her uncle feared rheumatism, and therefore hastened to bed again, before she went down to the boat with her lantern.
Cuddie was just pushing himself off, and would not heed her signs to stop. She set down her light on the bank, and laying hold of the boat, scrambled in, at the expense of a wetting. She could never have forgiven his departure without saying a final farewell. Neither of them spoke while crossing; and it was necessary to make haste, as some moving lights on the distant water gave token of the approach of witnesses. The wind blew chill, the young moon was disappearing, and the few and faint yellow fires looked dreary as they flickered through the darkness. Cuddie's hand had felt cold and clammy as he gave up the oar to Effie. She had never before attempted to deceive or mislead any one, and she dreaded meeting uncle Christopher by daylight, as much as if she had been abroad on a housebreaking expedition. It would be many hours yet before she could tell Walter; and how often might it be her lot to hear the family and neighbours speak of Cuddie, and to have to appear to know no more of him than they! Then the news would come to her mother, sooner or later, that he was a criminal Who had fled for his life. She was very wretched.
“Cuddie! you are not going without one word?” she cried, seeing him turn to step out of the boat as it touched the bank.
Without one word he went, for no words would come; but not without giving her some comfort. The agony of his last embrace eased her heart, which a light farewell would have well nigh broken. She dwelt upon it with a strange satisfaction as she recrossed the river; and as she closed her doors, and put out her light to weep in darkness till the morning; and when she related the story to her husband; and when, long after, they heard of the loss of Cuthbert Eldred among others of the crew of an American merchant vessel; and when, in subsequent years, Tim and she used to talk of the brother Cuddie who was the gentlest nurse and playfellow, the most generous brother, and the bravest youth that ever gave promise of being an honour to his class, and an assistance to his country in her times of need.
Next day, there appeared a sufficient reason for Mrs. Eldred's there great desire that Tim should attend the opening of the Deep Cut. She was not found at her old place when Walter went to restore his charge. The cottage was shut up, and a friendly neighbour came out to deliver to Walter the message with which she had been entrusted for him. Mrs. Eldred had for some time found it difficult for her to live and maintain her blind son, and finding that she and her family, except her daughter, had been impoverished by interference with their industry in one form or another, she had brought herself to do that which if free, she would have despised. She had sued for a place in an almshouse, supported by the vaunted charity of a corporation which caused infinitely more want than it relieved. She had carefully kept this secret from Walter and his wife, knowing what efforts they would make to preserve a proud spirit like hers from the degradation of accepting charity. But she declared that she felt it, though a misery, no degradation. If the trade of the collieries was injured by a corporation in London, so as to deprive her of work, and if her eldest son was hindered by a corporation nearer home from carrying his labour to the best market, she felt that a maintenance was due from corporative funds, and she should receive it without any acknowledgment of obligation till the labour of the family was once more placed at the disposal of the family. The reproach of the pauper dress which she and Tim must henceforth wear must rest with those who had prevented her earning more honourable apparel; and she hoped her son and daughter would not take the matter too much to heart. It appeared that Mrs. Eldred had made these, her explanations, very fully and not very coolly to Mr. Milford, the surgeon, who had argued the matter with her: not attempting to deny that her connexions had been interfered with, but pleading that the interference had been more for good than for evil. But Mr. Milford liked corporations. An idle brother of his, who had been a great burden upon him, had been suddenly provided for by a corporation living; and he himself was still in possession of the Trinity House appointment for which he had canvassed Mr. Vivian some years before. He contended that government had, it appeared, (contrary to his expectation,) done a fine thing in authorizing the company to open the Deep Cut. Everybody knew how much rope was being manufactured there, and how much more was wanted; and when told of the impediments was to the removal of Adam's labour thither, he lauded the arrangements by which Adam could be maintained as a pauper in his native town, instead maintained of being left to casual charity. He insisted much on Christopher's prosperity; on the benevolence and usefulness of the interference of government in securing to him the rewards of his ingenuity, and thus enabling him to assist his connexions materially, if he would. Mrs. Eldred did not impute it to the government that Christopher did not seem more inclined to part with his worldly wealth than if he had openly valued as much, as he professed to despise it: but it was not the less true that Christopher's constant plea for economy was his expectation that his patent would be invaded, and that he should cease to gain by his invention, even if he were not involved in law proceedings to defend it. the principle of the patent law Mr. Milford might praise unopposed; and the practical arrangements might be improved in time; but Mrs. Eldred could not allow it to be right that Adam should first be made idle by an absurdly long apprenticeship, and then kept idle by corporation restraints; and she would not acknowledge herself half so grateful for almshouse bounties as the surgeon thought her in duty bound to be. Many thanks for their charity, indeed! Mrs. Eldred said. Many thousands in a year might they well give away, considering how they prevented the earning of many more thousands; but the newspapers might as well be silent about their great generosity: for it behoved bodies of men, as well as individual men, to be just before they were generous; and there was little justice in tying a man's hands, however liberally they might put food into his mouth.
Fain would Walter and his wife have taken home the little lad, who seemed to have small relish for the almshouse, in anticipation or in reality. Adam, also, from time to time during the two years which passed before the peace, offered to take the boy home as often as a supply of work afforded him a home. But Mrs. Eldred could not part with Tim; nor could Mr. Severn, still her steady and kind friend, urge upon her a sacrifice which would have caused her restless mind too dangerous a leisure. When peace came, there were many symptoms of a revived querulousness. From the day of the general rejoicings, which offered no charms to her, she dropped expressions which gave as little pleasure to everybody as to herself, about Eldred's being in no hurry to return home. It was a folly in her to have ever expected it. Had he sent her a farthing of money, from the day he went away? It was known that he had changed his ship; had he come in the interval to visit her and his children? No no. She had heard much of the charms of a roving life, and of naval glory; and, doubtless, no such pleasures could be offered by a melancholy, distressed family as he could find in the service; and if he was looking after glory, he would hardly return to the dull duty of taking care of his own—a duty which his dullest neighbours had been discharging while he was away. She vehemently silenced poor Tim's suggestion that his father might not be still living. She would listen to no excuses on Eldred's behalf from Effie or Adam, till the latter had recourse to his old practice of taking his hat, and walking away; and Effie, with her usual ingenuousness, declared her uneasiness at hearing her father so spoken of. The readiest way to bring her mother round was to appear to agree with her ; but Effie could not pay the price of such disguise, even for the pleasure of hearing her mother speak the tenderness which lay at her heart.
The rebuke which attends upon querulousness more closely and constantly than upon almost any other fault, presently arrived. Effie had just left her in grave compassion, mixed with displeasure ; Tim was silently occupying himself in his new art of netting; and Mrs. Eldred was stalking about the little room, making a great bustle to carry off her own excitement, when a few stray words from the court=yard came in at the open window, and made Tim quit his seat.
“Take care, lad; you will stumble over the chair in the middle of the room. Why cannot you ask me for what you want?”
Tim steered cautiously round the chair, and gained the lattice.
“There's one below asking for us, mother,” said he.
“That is impossible. You cannot tell what they are saying below, in all the noise I am making. There is nobody but Adam that can be wanting us,” she continued. “I wish Adam would choose better times for coming: he is always sure to show himself when I am particularly busy, and there is nothing comfortable about us.”
Tim thought to himself that this was rather strange, so much complaint as he was accustomed to hear of Adam's coming so very seldom, and so often as it happened that his mother was particularly busy, and had nothing comfortable about her. He made no answer, however, being convinced that the inquirer below was not Adam. He presently went on,
“Mother, can you spare a minute, just to look out of the window at this person in the court?”
There was a something in Tim's manner that struck her. Instead of throwing down her brush impatiently, as he expected, she came silently, and laid her hand on his, as trembling it grasped the sill. She sank down on a seat after one glance, whispering,—
“My boy, it is your father!”
If Tim could have seen, he would not have known his father. Instead of the black-skinned, closely-cropped, and somewhat awful-looking person that he remembered his father, Eldred was now a weather-browned, blue-jacketed sailor, with a ringlet hanging duly down either cheek, and a little hat, which set off very favourably his broad, round face, now a little shaded by anxiety, but evidently meant to express a true sailor's joviality. Few eyes but a wife's would have recognised him at a first glance. A feeling of pride in him arose as she saw him stand in the doorway; and it tempered the bitter mortification which, in spite of all her professions and self-deception, she felt at being found by him in this place.
When her passion of joy and surprise was over, and her spirits began to dance in girlish lightness, her feelings of mortification found vent in a few slight hints of wonder and discontent. Eldred, with his wife beside him, Tim seated at his feet, and in momentary expectation of Effie's arrival, was disposed to take such hints kindly, though not perhaps with the fidgetty submission which he might have shown in old times. He had not sailed so much about the world for nothing ; nor fought so hard against the enemy to be drilled at home, as formerly. It was easy to be a great man to-day, his companions being more disposed to adore his greatness than to find any flaw in it.
“Send you money !” said he. “Why, you know very well that if I had had any you would have had it all, as soon as I could send it.”
“You do not mean that you have been working all these years for nothing?”
“I have got my wages at last; but, besides the hardship of the wages being so much lower than I had been accustomed to on our river, during the war, there was the worse hardship of our not being able to get our dues.”
“There would be few seamen in our colliers if such was the practice there.”
“And they must go on impressing for the navy as long as it is the practice in any part of it. Poor Cuddie! How I have been turning it in nay mind whether he would chance to be at! home, or whether he would be gone to London I never fancied his being so far out of reach.”
“Father! were you ever flogged? Did you ever try to desert?” inquired Tim.
“I flogged! I try to desert!” exclaimed Eldred, amidst a painful consciousness that his indignation at the words conveyed a reproach to his dear, absent son. “No, Tim, I had a good ship, and a good captain, and”
“And went into the service with more heart than Cuddie,” interrupted Mrs. Eldred; “and would not give it up till the last minute, and then were sorry to leave it for home and a dull keel on the Tyne.”
“You are out there, my woman. The time in my life when I had the most mind to drown myself was when I was stopped in my way to you, a year and a half ago You would not have said much of my liking for a sea-life, if you had seen me,—how I raved for the land as they forced me back from it, just when I thought five minutes more would have set me ashore.”
“What do you mean? and when?”
“A year and a half ago. as I tell you, when I was impressed a second time. I never cursed a Frenchman as I cursed the boat with the infernal gang in it that met us point blank, as we were turning into harbour, and boarded us. Some of the poor fellows with me let themselves out about home. I did not, because I knew it would be of no use ; but, to be sure, one or two of them had served as much as twelve years without seeing their families, and my case was not so bad. But
should have knocked the gang overboard with my bundle with right good-will. I hated my bundle as much as I hated them at the moment, because of having to take it back and unpack it, when I had put it up for home. So you never knew I had been pressed a second time, love?”
“Knew it, no! If I had, I believe the law would have been altered by this day. I would have got all the women, injured like myself, to go up on our knees to the king's own presence, and we would not have left him till we had melted his heart, and got his promise to do away the law.”
“The best of it is that the law of the land is against impressment; it is against violence being offered to an innocent man in any way.”
“Then I suppose there is a particular law to allow impressment.”
“No; no further than that there is a list of those who may be legally exempted, seamen on special service, or protected by the proper authorities, and so on. The marking out in this way who is to go free, looks like countenancing the practice ; but, beyond this, the law is against the practice. I used to insist on this, at favourable times, but, as you may suppose, to no purpose, owing, perhaps, in part to my endeavour to reconcile myself to my lot. The people at home are they that must make a stir about it. If we pressed men manage to make ourselves tolerably happy, we are sure to be asked, ‘Where is the hardship?’ And if we are dull and indolent, (as I fear poor Cuddie was, and with too much reason,) they despise us and flog us, and ask what the testimony of a flogged man is worth. So, for the remedy, we must look to the people at home; and they have, too many of them, some grievances of their own to complain of I am sorry indeed to find poor Adam in such an uncertain state, now high and now low. Is it the danger from the overseer that keeps him from settling at the Cut?”
“Yes, and reason enough. He has no notion of putting himself at the mercy of any overseer or churchwarden who might choose to send him home to his parish on the mere prospect of work falling off. The thought of it chafes me as much as seeing Mr. Severn still no more than 0tley's poor curate, when I know that if each had their deserts, if the people were allowed to interest themselves in choosing the pastor that would do his duty best, Mr. Severn would be one of the first in honour and in place, and Otley (if he had not been anywhere but in the church) would have had to wait for a flock till he grew as wise as the children that are now under him, and as sober as our Adam,—and that is not supposing much.”
“And what does Mr. Severn himself say?”
“Nothing about Otley; but he speaks up for some things that I should like to see done away. I detest the very name of a corporation, or of any kind of meddling, after all we have suffered.”
“I think you are wrong there. A corporation may do many fine things, as long as it keeps to its proper business, which is not to meddle with industry in any way, religious or other. But when it is desirable that a thousand persons should speak with one voice, and that that voice should be authority, and should go down to the next age,—and when it is wanted to give a single responsibility (that shall not be always changing) to a party whose members must change. I think a corporation is the best way of making many into one. I mean where learning has to be taken care of, as in the universities, or inferior governments, like those of our great towns. But when corporations take upon them to favour some, and exclude others, and to fetter all that belong to them, I will go as far as you in complaints of them. Walter seems the most prosperous of you all.”
“Yes: now his garden is not smoked. It was a glad day for him and Effie when leave was got to sell coal in London by weight. It put an end to screening and burning. It fell out ill for me, as everything does. But things will prosper better now,” she continued, after a glance at her husband's countenance.
“It seems to me as if Effie was long in coming,” observed Eldred. “How long will it take you to move out of this place, when she is once here?”
“Move! O, not half an hour.”
“Well, you don't suppose I mean you to stay another hour here. Make ready to be a keel-man's wife again, and leave this room for some poor creature”
“That will be more thankful for it than I have ever pretended to be. But—suppose the pressgang”
“We are safe till the next war; and by that time, perhaps, there may have gone up such a cry from the whole empire as will make our rulers man our navy with men instead of slaves. It cannot be done in a day; but neither, I hope, shall we go to war in a day; and if we set about training our willing youth in time, we may have a navy manned against the day of need as no navy has ever yet been manned. When I was last in the channel Bless her dear soul, here is Effie! And Walter behind her! And his father too! That is what I did not expect. Now, if we had Adam ”
He stopped short, and during the silence, many a tender thought was sent after Cuddie.
Tim was the first to lead the way out of the alms-house; and no inmate ever left it followed by so few regrets as his mother. For her part, having shown no gratitude while in it, she never afterwards forgave the indignity of having been its inhabitant, though the immediate act of becoming so was her own.
As for the rest of the family, their interests were so far from being injured by the growing prosperity of the Deep Cut, that they all benefited by the impetus given to trade, and the new capital and enterprise, unfettered by legislative interference, which it put in motion in their neighbourhood. Their worst grievance henceforth was when rumours of wars brought tribulation among them. Then schemes of flight an hiding were whispered abroad, and discussed by the fire-side, and Tim was regarded half-enviously not only as usual for his virtuous cheerfulness but for his security from the perils and woes of impressment. There has never since been a war, however ; and it is happily yet possible that before the day of strife shall arrive, if arrive it must, Great Britain will have incalculably improved her resources by rendering the service of her sons voluntary, and their labour wholly free.
Summary of Principles illustrated in this Volume.
The duty of government being to render secure the property of its subjects, and their industry being their most undeniable property, all interference of government with the direction and the rewards of industry is a violation of its duty towards its subjects.
Such interference takes place when some are countenanced by legislation in engrossing labours and rewards which would otherwise be open to all;—as in the case of privileged trading corporations;
When arbitrary means of preparation are dictated as a condition of the exercise of industry, and the enjoyment of its fruits, as in the case of the apprenticeship law;—
When labourers are compelled to a species of labour which they would not have chosen,—as in the ease of the impressment of seamen.
The same duty of securing the free exercise of industry requires that companies should be privileged to carry on works of public utility which are not within the reach of individual enterprize, as in the case of roads, canals, bridges, &c., and also,
That the fruits of rare ingenuity and enterprize should be secured to the individual,—according to the design of our patent law.
In the first mentioned instances of interference, the three great evils arise of
The restraint of fair competition in some cases;
The arbitrary increase of competition in other cases;
The obstruction of the circulation of labour and capital from employment to employment, and from place to place.
In the last mentioned instances of protection, none of these evils take place.
London: Printed by William Clowes, Duke-street, Lambeth