Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter VI.: SLEEPING AND WAKING. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 7
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Chapter VI.: SLEEPING AND WAKING. - 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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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.