Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter IV.: GOSSIPING AUTHORSHIP. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 9
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Chapter IV.: GOSSIPING AUTHORSHIP. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 9 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 9.
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The only article of his father's property that Henry coveted was the bird, which Peek had rightly supposed was to be Jane's. Henry beheved that Teddy had originally been admitted into the household for his sake, so expressly had it been given into his boyish charge; but he would not now ask for it the more for this. He would not have allowed his wife to pick up a pin from any floor of that house, or have stopped a cough, unasked, with a morsel of candy from the window. But there was one who remembered how he had begged candy for the bird, in old days, and helped it to sing, and been mindful of its wants when every oue else was too busy to attend to them. There was one who not only remembered this, (for Jane had quite as good a memory,) but acted upon the suggestion. Morgan made bold to carry the bird to Mr. Henry's lodgings, with his sister's love, and moreover with an ample supply of seeds, and a choice bit of candy to peck at.
There was it amusing itself, now gently twittering, and now pouring out its song, as one of the short days of winter closed in, and the little party in Henry's lodgings prepared for their evening labours. These three,—Henry, his wife, and his father-in-law,—were at no leisure to loll by the fireside and talk of war and revolution; or to pass from gaiety to gaiety, shaking their heads the while about the mine of treason which was about to be sprung beneath their feet, the perversity of tobethesprung people, and the approaching downfall of monarchy. They were neither treasonable nor perverse, nor desirous of overthrowing the monarchy; but they resembled the people in so far as it was necessary for them to work in order to live. These long winter evenings were favourable to their objects; and now Marie lighted the lamp, brought out paper and ink, and apphed herself to her task, white her father and her husband sat down together to compose that which she should afterwards transcribe. Henry's literary occupation was not merely classical proof-correcting; though this was his ifrincipal resource for bread. He was the largest,—almost the sole contributor to a very popular publication, which, by its talent, and, yet more, its plain speaking, gave great annoyance to certain of the ministry, much satisfaction to the opposition, and to a large proportion of the reading population of London. Henry would have acknowledged to all the world, if he could, that the work owed much of its value and attraction to the assistance of his father-in-law, who had lived long enough in England to understand a great deal of its domestic as well as foreign political interests, and brought to his task a large share of knowledge and wisdom from his observation of the affairs of the continent, and his experience of their vieisdtude. M. Verbhnc was one of the earliest emigrants to this country, whither he came intending to deposit his daughter, and return to be useful; but the march of events was too rapid. Moderate men had lost their influence, and ran but too much risk of losing their beads, and he stayed to be useful here till his country should stretch forth her arms again to welcome such men as he. Henry Farter had become attached to his daughter while she was residing with the Stephenses; and as there seemed to M. Verblanc a strong probability that the children of two very rich fathers would not long remain very poor, he countenanced their early marriage, resolving to work to the utmost in their service till he should be able to recover some of Marie's intended dower.
Marie was writing out an article from her husband's short-hand,—an act to which she had become so accustomed that it did not interfere with her attention to what was going on at the other end of the table, or prevent her interposing an occasional remark.
“And are the Mexican cucks benefited?”
she asked, in allusion to something they were talking about. “Do the cock-fighters give up their sport on account of this tax?”
“The sport is much checked, my dear. The government gets only about,45,000 dollars a year by this tax, so that there cannot be much cock-fighting.”
“Well, then, I wish you would put in your advice for a very heavy tax on guillotining. Where is there so barbarous a sport?”
“You are for putting a moral power into the hands of government, Marie,—a power of controlling the people's pursuits and tastes. Is such a power a good?”
“Is it not? Cock-fighting may be checked; therefore may the drinking of spirits, and the playing with dice. And no one thinks worse than you of gin and gaming. I am just copying what you say about gin.”
“But the same power may tempt the people to game in lotteries, and drive them to engage in smuggling; and tyranmze over them in many ways. When taxes are raised upon what men eat and drink and use, there may be, and there always is, a great inconsistency in the moral lectures that they practically give the people. They say, for instance,—‘You must not use hair-powder or corn; but come and try your luck for a 30,000l. prize.’ ‘ If you wish for tobacco, you must smuggle it: but we must make you pay for keeping yourself clean with soap, and putting salt into your children's food, and trying to let light and air enough into your house for them to live by.’”
“Welt, but this would be abusing their power. Could they not do like the Mexican people—tax bad sports—tax luxuries?”
“And who is to decide what sports are bad, and what articles are luxuries? If there is nobody to contend that cock-fighting and bull-baiting are virtuous sports, there are many opinions on fox-hunting, aud snipe-shooting, and country fairs, and village dances. And as for luxuries,— where is the line which separates them from necessaries?”
“All! our washerwoman looked very earnest indeed when she said, ‘I must have my little dish of tea—1 am fit for nothing mylitt.’ And I suppose our landlord says the same of his port-wine; and certainly every nobleman thinks he must have men-servants and horses and carriages.”
“I do not see, for my part, how government has any more business to decide upon what articles must be made dear to the people, than an emperor has to settle how his subjects shalt fasten their shoes.”
“Well, but what are they to tax?”
“Property. All that government has a right to do in taxation, is to raise what money is necessary; and its main duty is to do it in the fairest proportion possible. It has nothing th e with how people spend the rest of their money, and has no business to alter the prices of things, for the sake of exercising a moral power, or any power.”
“Perhaps the meddling would be saved by the government taking the articles of luxury themselves, instead of taking money upon them. But they would need large warehouses for all the strange things that would be gathered in; the they must turn merchants. I wonder whether that plan has ever been tried?”
“Yes, in China. The Sun of the Celestial Empire took his taxes in kind,—chiefly in food.”
“And so became a great rice-merchant.”
“And agriculture was improved to a prodigious degree.”
“Improved! then I suppose there would be a great increase of whatever good things your government might choose to levy?”
“Up to a certain point, taxation of every kind acts as a stimulus. But that point is easily and usually passed. The necessity of answering the calls of the state rouses men's industry and invention; and if the taxation continue moderate, the people may be gainers, on the whole, by the stimulus. But if the burden grows heavier as men's exertions increase, they not only lose heart, but that which should produce future wealth goes to be consumed without profit; and the means of further improvement are taken away.”
“Ah! how often,”exclaimed M. Verblanc, “have the late rulers of France been told that taxation takes from the people, not only the wealth which is brought into the treasury, and the cost of collecting it, but all the values of which it obstructs the creation! How often were they exhorted to look at Holland, and take warning!”
“There is a case apropos to what we are writing. Down with it! ‘What country could compare itself with Holland, when Holland was the empress of commerce, and the nursing mother of wealth? What befell her? Her industry slackened, her traffic declined, her wealth wasted, and she knew, at length, the curse of pauperism. Why? Her own committees of investigation have declared that this change is owing to the devouring taxation, which, not content with appropriating her revenue, next began to absorb her capital. First, the creation of values was limited; then it was encroached upon; and from that day has Holland been sliding from her pre-eminence. From the very nature of the decline, it must proceed with accelerated speed, if it be not vigorously checked; so that Holland seems all too likely to forfeit her place among the nations.'— Will that do, Marie?”
“O yed; but you must give two or three more examples. At least, when I wrote themes at school, I was bidden to give always three examples.”
“With all my heart. It would be but too easy to find three times three. What next, sir? Spain?”
“Spain, if you will. But one need go no farther than Marie's own unhappy country. Would her king have been murdered,—would the people have defiled their emancipation with atrocities, if they had not been sunk in poverty, and steeped in injuries, by a devouring taxation? That taxation might, I verily believe, have been borne, as to its amount; but that amount was taken, not at all from the rich and noble, but wholly from the industrious. The rich and noble spent their revenue as much as if they had been duly taxed; while the industrious paid, first their income, and then their capital, till the labourers, whose hire was thus kept back from them, rose up against the rich, and scattered them to the winds of heaven. The oppressors are removed; but there is no recovery of the substance which they wasted. The impoverished may now come forth, and raise their cry of famine before the face of heaven, but the food that was taken from them there is none to restore.”
“So much for poor France!” said Henry, writing rapidly. “Now for Spain.”
“Take but one Spanish tax,—take but the Alcavala, and you have sufficient reason why, with her prime soil, her wealth of metals, her colonies whither to send her superfluous consumers, Spain is wretched in her poverty. The alcavala (the monstrous per centage on all articles, raw or manufactured, as often as they are sold) must encroach more and more largely on the capital which is the material of wealth. Under the alcavala, Spain could not but be ruined.”
“Except in those provinces where there was no alcavala—Catalonia and Valencia. They bore up long after all others had sunk. There, Marie! There are your three examples. We have no room for the many more that rise up.”
“Not for England?”
“England! You do not think England on the road to ruin, my dear? You do not yet understand England's resources.”
“Perhaps not. But you told me of eight hundred bankruptcies within the last seven months. Have you no practice of taxing your capital?”
“We have a few taxes,—bad taxes,—which are paid out of capital,—as my sister Jane will tell you. She knows something now of how legacies are reduced by the duties government deauds. It is a bad practice to lessen property in the act of transference. Such taxes consume capital, and obstruct its circulation. But we have not many such. In one sense or another, to be sure, every tax may be proved to come out of capital, more or less; but almost all ours are paid out of our revenue: and so will be almost any that can be proposed, provided the amount be not increased. With the revenue that England has, and the ambition that her people entertain not to sink in society, exertion will be made to keep her capital entire, as long as there is any reasonable hope of success. We shall invent, and improve, and save, to a vast extent, before we let our capital be sacrificed.”
“In the case of your property tax?”
“Whynot? The purpose of a property tax would be to take from us, not more but less than we pay already; less by the cost of collection which would be saved. If our revenue now pays the greater sum, it would then well serve for the lesser; and all the better from taxation being then equalized;—the rich man thus diverting a portion of his unproductive expenditure,—to the great relief of the industrious capitalist who now pays much more than his due share. O, it must be a huge property tax indeed that would trench upon our capital! Why, my dear, we might pay off our great national debt of nearly 300,000,000l. next year, without using our capital for the purpose”
“Then I think you had better do it before your great debt gets any larger. Do you think it will go on growing?”
“Our ministry and parliament seem determined that it shall. Meantime, we are playing with a Sinking Fund, and making believe to pay off, while we are only slipping the Dead Weight round and round our necks, and feeling it grow heavier at every turn.”
“I think this is child's play but too much like our poor French administrations that have beggared a nation,” observed M. Verblanc. “Get rid of your debt, yon wise English; let a Frenchman advise you. If indeed you can pay off your 300,000,000l. without impairing your capital, do it quickly.”
“We are at war,” said Henry, despondingly; “and, what is worse, the debt is declared to be popular.”
“The time will come when a burdened peace will find you tired of your debt.”
“Or rather our children. Even then I would advise an immediate exertion to pay it off,—yes, even if it should amount to twice three hundred millions.”
“Six hundred millions! Was ever such a debt heard of! What must your future rulers be if they thus devise the ruin of your fine country!”
“If they exceed that sum again, I would still struggle to pay it,” persisted Henry. “To be sure, one can hardly conceive of a debt of more than 600,000,000l.; but one can still less conceive of a nation being willing to pay the annual interest upon it. Let us see! I dare say nearly thirty millions1 .”
“Ah! that interest is the great grievance. If the debt be allowed to accumulate, your nation may be subjected, within half a century from this time, to a permanent charge of interest which would of itself have sufficed to pay for all the wars from the time the debt began. Yes, this annual raising of interest is the grievance;—the transferring such enormous sums from the pockets of some classes of men into hands where it would never naturally find its way. Your ministers may say what they will about the debt being no actual loss to the country, since the whole transaction passes within the country;—this does not lessen the burden to those who have to pay over thetr earnings to the national creditor, whose capital has been blown away in gunpowder at sea, and buried with the dead bodies of their countrymen abroad.”
“Besides,” suggested Marie, “if there is no mischief in carrying on the debt because the transaction passes within the country, there could be no harm in paying it off, since that transaction would also be only a transference.”
“Very true. If all were assessed to pay off the public creditor, there would be no total loss. And as for the real evils,—the diversion of capital from its natural channels, and the oppression of industry,—the remedy of these would be so inestimable a relief, that in a little while the parties who paid the largest share would wonder at their own ease, and at the long delay of the nation in shaking off its burdens.”
“Like the heir who has resolution to sell a part of his mortgaged estate in order to disencumber the remainder. But who are they that would pay the largest share?”
“The richest, of course. All must contribute something. Even the labourer would willingly sparo a portion of his earnings for the sake of having his earnings to himself for ever after. But by the aristocracy was this debt proposed; for their sakes was it incurred; by them is it accumulated; while it is certain that the burden is very far from being duly borne by them. From them, therefore, should the liquidation chiefly proceed.”
“But did not you say that parliament claps its hands at every proposal to burden posterity?”
“Yes: but what kind of a parliament? If Mr. Grey should ever obtain his great object,— if there should ever be a parliament through which the people may speak, and if the people should then declare themselves content to go on bearing the burden that the aristocracy of this day is imposing upon them, why, let the people have their way; and I, for one, shall wish them joy of their patience. But if, when the people can protest, and make their protests heard, they call for such an assessment as shall include all, but fall heaviest on those through whom the debt was incurred, they will do that which is not only just in the abstract, but (like all that is essentially just) that which is most easy, most prudent, and must prove most fortunate.”
“So you venture to write that down as you speak it,” said Marie. “Will you let the word ‘easy’ stand?”
“Yes; because it is used as a comparative term. Almost any plan would be more easy than sustaining this burden from year to year. A temporary inconvenience only would be the result of getting rid of it. I question whether any one person would be ruined; and of the many who must sacrifice a part of their property, every one would reap certain advantages which must in time compensate, or more than compensate, himself or his children. To the bulk of the people the blessing would be incalculable. It is not for those who most proudly boast of the resources of the country to doubt whether the thing can be done.”
“A rich and noble country is yours,” observed M. Verhlanc; “and the greater is the wonder and the shame that it contains so much misery,—such throngs of the destitute. Enormous as has been and now is the expenditure of your government, how have you not only sustained your resources, but augmented them! How have you, while paying for your wars, improved your lands, and your shipping, and your manufactures, and built docks, and opened canals, and stretched out roads! And while the nation has thus been growing rich, what crowds of your people have been growing poor!”
“And how should it be otherwise, when the pressure of pubhc loans falls so unequally as in England? Fearful as is the amount, the inequality of pressure is a far greater evil. It is very possible,—when we consider the excitement afforded to industry and invention by a popular war,—that the capital of the country would not have been very much greater than now if we had beenspared the wars and other wasteful expenditure of the public money of the last twenty years; but the distribution is in consequence most fault, and the future incumbrances of the people fearful to contemplate.”
“From your rulers having carried their system of borrowing too far. There is, to be sure, all the difference in the. world between an individual borrowing for the sake of trade, or profit in some form or other, and governments borrowing that which is to be dissipated the air or the sea, or shed upon the ground, so that it can be no more gathered up again than the rain which sinks into the thirsty soil.”
“Why cannot war-money be raised from year to year,” asked Marie, “so that the nation might know what it was about in undertaking a war? When my father rebuilt his chateau, he paid for each part as it proceeded, and so brought away with him no reproach of debt.”
“When people are careless of their heirs, love, “as rules are of the people's posterity, they find it easier to borrow and spend, than to make their spendings and their levies agree. When rulers are afraid to ask for so much as they desire to spend, they escape, by proposing loans, the unpleasantness of taxing. Heavily as our governments have taxed us, they have been actually afraid to tax us enough;—enough for the purposes proposed to the nation.”
“They were afraid of making the people impatient.”
“Just so; and the people have shown what the rulers of many centuries have considered an ‘ignorant impatience of taxation.’ That is, the nominal representatives of the people have encouraged expensive projects for which tke people have shown themselves unwilling to pay. The rulers and the people thus appear unreasonable to each other; while the blame chiefly rests in calling those the representatives of the people who are really not so. Mr. Grey and the friends of the people are doing what they can to bring the two parties to an understanding. When this is done, I trust there will be no going to war at the expense of future generations,—no running into expenses for which the means are not already provided.”
“They who first devised these public loans could not have guessed what they were doing, Henry.”
“They never imagined that any one would so improve upon their practice of borrowing, as not to provide for the payment at some definite time. If,—as may happen on the unexpected breaking out of a war when the nation is not in very favourable circumstances,—it is psriious to tax it heavily and suddenly, it may be expedient to raise the supplies in a way which will enable the people to pay more conveniently, at their own leisure. But the period should be fixed when the money is raised. The money should be raised upon terminable annuities; so that, at least, every one may know how long the burden is to endure. This is a plain rule; and happy would it have been for the country if it had been observed from the day when—”
“When its system of loans began?”
“I would hardly say that; for I do not see how the rulers in the troubled times of the Revolution could have governed the country without loans. The tax-payers were so divided in their loyalty at the time, that King William and his couneiltam would not have been able to raise money mhough for the struggle by taxation, and wouId only have made themselves hated for the attempt. But a foreign war, undertaken by an undivided people, is a wholly different affair; and the advisers of George II. had no business to carry on the borrowimg system.”
“They found the debt large, I suppose, and left it larger; according to the methods of borrowers from posterity.”
“Yes; it amounted, when it came into their hands, to fifty-two millions, having grown to this since the Revolution, when it was only 64,000l. It is now five times fifty-two millions.”
“O, make haste and tell these things to your rich men; and they will plan how soon this monstrous charge may be got rid of.”
“There is a great deal to be done first, my dear. We have first to convince them that this debt is not a very good thing.—As long as they escape paying their due share of the interest, and are aware that the liquidation must, in a considerable proportion, proceed from them, there is no lack of reasons, convincing to their minds, why a large national debt must be a great national blessing.”
“It attaches the people to the government, perhaps. Is that what they say?”
“Yes; as if the people will not always be the most attached to the government that most consults their prosperity. What can they think of a government that—-”
He stopped suddenly as Marie put her fingers on her lips, and appeared to be listening. She ran to the door and threw it wide open,—in time to hear a shuffing down the dark stair-case.
“I am sure there was somebody at the door,” said she, hesitating whether to shut it again. Her father shrugged his shoulders as the cold air blew in. Henry observed that if the people of the house wanted anything, they would come again; and Marie therefore, after calling from the landing and receiving no answer, returned to her seat as before; observing that it was not the first time she had believed some person to have remained outside the door.
Her husband was writing down to her father's dictation about fallacies in regard to tim debt;— such fallacies as that the parchment securities of the public creditor were an absolute creation of capital; whereas they were only the representataltives of values which were actually sunk and lost; —that the annual transfer of the millions required for the interest was so much added to the circulation; whereas this very sum would, in the absence of the debt, have been circulating in a more profitable manner;-—that the public funds afforded a convenience for the prompt investment of unemployed capital; whereas there would be no lack of good investments for capital if industry were left free;—and, finally, that the stocks are an admirable instrument for the ascertainment of public opinion; whereas a very small amount of debt would answer this purpose as well as the largest. Nobody would object to retaining the 664,000l. of the revolutionary times for this simple object.
Marie could not settle well to her employment after this interruption. Henry forgot it in a moment. He grew earnest; the grew eloquent; and, in proportion, he grew loud. Nobody came from below, as he had predicted. Nobody could have wanted anything at the door when Henry was asking so loudly how it was “possible for the people to be attached to a government which, &c.” And now, when he was insisting on the first principle of taxation,—equality,—when he was offering a variety of illustrative cases, all of which resolved themselves into equality or inequality,—his little wife came behind him, and laying her hand on his shoulder, asked him in a whisper whether it was necessary to speak quite so loud.
“My love, I beg your pardon. I am afraid I have been half-stunning you. Why did not you speak before? I am very apt to forget the dimensions of our room,” and he started up laughing, and showed that he could touch the ceiling with the extremities of his long fingers;-— “I am apt to forget the difference between this chamber and the lofty places where I used to hold forth at college. Was I very boisterous, love?’”
“O, no: but loud enough to be heard beyond these four walls.” And she glanced towards the door.
“If that be all, any one is welcome to hear what I have to say on taxation. It will be all printed to-morrow, you know, my dear.”
Marie did know this: but she was not the more willing that her husband should be overheard exclaiming vehemently about equalitv,—a word held in very bad repute in those days, when, if a lady made inquiries of her linen-draper about the equality of wear of a piece of gingham or calico, the shopman would shake his head at her for a leveller, as soon as she had turned her back.
“How,” said M. Verblanc, looking tenderly at his daughter, “how shall I forgive those who have put dread into the heart that was once as light as the morning gossamer? How shall I forgive those who taught my child suspicion?”
“O, father, remember the night—.”
“Yes, Marie; I knew it was the thought of that night that prompted you to caution now.— The night,” he continued to Henry, “when our poor friend La Raye was arrested at our house. We have reason to believe that we had all been watched for hours,—that eyes had peeped from every cranny, and that ears were planted all round us. I myself saw the shadow of a man in ambuscade, when a passing gleam from the court shone into my hall. I took no notice, and rejoined La Raye and my child. He slipped out by a back way, but was immediately taken in the street; and for words spoken that night, coupled with preceding deeds, he suffered.—Well may my Marie have learned dread and suspicion!”
“No, father; not well! Nay, Henry, you do not know what warning I had against it;— warning from one who knew not dread, and would not have saved her life by so vile all instrument as suspicion.”
Henry bent himself to listen with his whole soul, for now he knew that Marie spoke of her friend, Madame Roland.
“Yes, I was warned by her that the last impiety is to fear; and the worst penalty of adversity to suspect. I was warned by her that the chief danger in civil revolution is to forget green meadows and bright skies in fields of blood and clouds of smoke; and that those who shrink from looking fully and kindly even upon those who may be the reptiles of their race, are less wise than the poor prisoner in the Bastile who made friendship with his spider instead of trying to flee from it.”
“And she observed her own warning, Marie. How her murderers quailed before her open gaze!”
“Ah, yes! In her prison, she brought home to her the materials of happiness; and with them neither dread nor suspicion can co-exist. She brought back into her own bosom the wild flowers which she had worn there in her childhood; and the creations of her father, the artist; and the speculations of her husband, the philosopher; and opened up again the springs of the intellect, which may gush from the hardest dungeon walls; and wakened up the voice of her mother to thrill the very heart of silence; and dismissed one obedient faculty at morn to travel with the sun, and ride at eve down his last slanting ray with tidings of how embryo man is working his way into light and freedom; and summoned another obedient faculty at midnight to paint upon the darkness the image of regenerated man, with his eye fixed upon science, and his hand supporting his fellow man, and his foot treading down the painted trifles and deformed usurpations of the world that is passing away. Having gazed upon this, what were any spectres of darkness to her, —whether the scowts of traitors, or an axe hanging by a hair?”
“Would that all who desire that women should have kindliness, and domestic thoughtfulness, and cheerfulness, and grace, knew your friend as you knew her, Marie!”
“Then would they learn from what quarter of the moral heavens these enduwments may be fetched by human aspiration. Would they behold kindliness and lightness of spirit? They must give the consciousness of being able to bestow, instead of the mere craving to receive, the support which intellect must yield to intellect, if heart is to answer to heart. Would they have homely thoughtfulness? They must not obstruct that full intellectual light in which small things dress themselves in their most shining beauty, as the little fly that looks dark beneath a candle shows itself burnished at noon. Let men but lay open the universe for the spirit of woman to exercise itself in, and they may chance to see again with what grace a woman about to die can beseech the favour to suffer more than her companions.”
Of this friend, Marie could not yet speak long. Few and frequent were her words of remembrance; and Henry had learned that the best kindness was to let her break off, and go, to carry her strong associations of love and admiration into her daily business. She now slipped away, and stood tending her bird, and flattering herself that her dropping tears were unnoticed, because her face was not seen. Then she filled a chafing dish, and carried it into the little closet that served her father for a bedchamber. Then she busied herself about Henry's coffee, while he, for her sake, applied himself to finish his task. Presently, even he was convinced that there was some one at the door who had not knocked.— Without a moment's delay he threw open the door, and there stood—no political or domestic spy—but Jane, with a somewhat pale countenance, wearing a very unusual expression.
“We are glad to see you here at last, Jane. You are just in time to see what coffee Marie makes.—But where is Morgan?” looking out on the dark landing. “You did not come alone in the dark?”
“Yes, I did. I have something to tell you, Henry. Michael is home.”
“Thank God! I hope it is the last time he will alarm you so thoughtlessly. I dare say he knew all that has happened, though he hid him-self from us.”
“O yes; there was one who must have known where he was all the time, and told him every thing; for, do you know, he has come home in a curricle of his own! The first thing he had to say to me was about his horses; and the next was—”
“He is going to be married to-morrow morning!”
In spite of a strong effort, Jane's countenance was painfully moved while she announced this. Henry did not convey the comfort he intended by not being sorry to hear any of the news. He was much relieved by learning that that which was by nature a marriage long ago, was now to be made so by law. As for the curricle and horses, though such an equipage might be unsuitable in appearance with the establishment of a grocer in Budge-row; this was altogether a matter of taste. It was certain that Michael couhl afford himself the indulgence, and it was therefore a very harmless one.
Henry's cheerful air and open countenance made his sister feel half envious. He did not seem to dread the risk of her father's hard-earned money being spent much more easily than it had been gained. He seemed to have forgotten what it is to have made many hundred thousand pounds; and he certainly knew nothing about She anxiety of keeping it. How should he?
Marie laughed as she asked how Michael looked in his curricle: it must be such a strange situation to him! She had never seen Michael. She wondered whether he looked at all like Henry; and then she sighed. She thought of the carriages that had been at her disposal in France, and that she now had not one to offer to her disinherited husband.
“Some more sugar, Marie,” said M. Verblanc, when he had tasted his last cup of coffee.
Marie went to her cupboard, and brought out the little powdered sugar that remained at out bottom of the last parcel she had bought. She had tasted no sugar for some time; and it was by very nice management that she had been able to procure any for her father. She hoped that what had been written this week might supply comforts for the next. Meantime, Jane's en-rance had baffled her calculations about the sugar. Henry smiled at the disclosure, and helped himself to another the of coffee, without sugar. Marie would have borrowed from the woman of the house; but her father would not allow it. His daughter rightly imagined that he felt uncertain of being able to pay a debt of a mere luxury, and therefore did not choose to incur it.
“Ah, well!” said she; “everything will cost us less money, let us hope, when men have left off fighting like dogs, that they may render peaceable men beggars. They make us pay for their wars out of our tea and our sugar,—and out of our heart's blood, papa, when they make us deny our parents what they expect at our hands.”
M. Verblane wished that Marie could have, during this time of war, the sugar that was now growing in her beloved garden at home. Beetroot was now largely used for making sugar in France; and M. Verblanc had learned that the produce of his estates was considerable. These estates had been bought in by a friend; and it was hoped that they would in time be restored to the rightful owner.
Marie's scorn was excited by the idea of beetroot growing where her parterres had looked gay, and where the urns, and statues, and small fountains, originated by her taste, could have little congeniality with so thoroughly common and useful a produce as beet-root. She mentioned one field, and another, and another, which would answer the purpose quite as well as her garden. As she lightly mapped out the places she mentioned, Jane's eye followed her pencil as eagerly as Henry's. She asked of M. Verblanc, at length, whether the tenure of laud was yet considered secure in France.
“Of some lands, yes,” answered he. “If, for example, you will buy our estates, and grow beet-root, no one will turn you out; and it will give us true satisfaction to see our lands pass into such honourable hands.”
To Henry's surprise, his sister seemed meditative. Marie looked up, smiling. “Will you buy our lands?”
“She cannot,” said Henry. “The law is against investing capital in an enemy's country.”
“Is it?” said Jane, quickly.
“One would suppose you were really thinking of it, Jane. If you want to try your hand at farming, there is abundance of land in England.”
Jane muttered that in England there would also be an income tax immediately.
“And what of that? If you invested your money abroad, you would not go and live there, would you?”
“I am sure an income tax is enough to drive away all who have any substance. To-leave one no choice! To make one pay, whether one will or not! I should not wonder to see every inde-pendent man in the kingdom contrive to get abroad with his money, somehow or other.”
“I should. Every person of substance has not a brother Michael, with a doubtful wife and an ambiguous family; or a brother Henry, livhag in two small rooms, with a little French-woman for a, wife.”
“Tis not that, Henry. But, as I said, this way of taxing leaves one no choice—”
“But of paying one's due share of what ought to fall equally upon all. Now tell me, Jane, what choice has the man whose family obliges him to spend his whole income in commodities? What choice have Patience and her husband, for instance, of how much they shall pay to the state? It is not with them as it is with you, that you may contribute to the war or not, according as you choose to have wine, and servants, and a carriage. The necessaries that you and Morgan consume cannot cost you much, I should think, —cannot yield much to the state.”
Jane cautiously replied that everything depended on what was meant by much and little.
“Well; I mean that Patience's eight children and three servants nmst consume much more butter, and fuel, and calicoes, and bread, and soap, and shoes, than you and Morgan.”
This could not be denied.
“What choice, then, is left to them? Under the system of taxing commodities, there is a choice left to those who least need it; while, if they do not choose to contribute, the poorer, who have no choice, must bear an increased burden. Oh, Jane! I could not be sorry to see you contributing as much from your wealth—money,— as the man who makes your shoes in his wealth —labour! He pays something to the state from every shilling that pass through his hands. Whether you pay something from every guinea you touch, I need not ask you. Has Peek told you of the rhyme that our labourers have at their tongues' ends just now?”
“Peek has not; but Michael told me of one he had heard several sing by the road-side,— something about how they divide their labour between one and another;—among all but themselves, they seem to think.”
“It is tim same:—
While Marie was pitying the labourer, and wondering how far his statement was exaggerated, Jane was thinking aloud how willing she should be to work with head and hands for Church and State, the Army and the Law.
“You had rather do this than pay, because your labour is not to you the wealth that labour is to a poor man.”
“And partly because I really have not enough to do,” said Jane. “Michael does not seem to wish that I should keep the books any longer; and I cannot be making frocks for Patience's children all day long, so little as I have been accustomed to needle-work for some time. I wish you could put me in the way of paying my taxes in the way the poor man does.”
“And so take the work out of the poor man's hands? No, Jane. You must pay in gold, sister.”
“Is there no sort of work that poor labourers cannot do?” asked Marie, with a private view to earning sugar and snuff for her father.
“Not that will serve the purposes of the government, my dear. I remember hearing, some time ago, of a benevolent lady who was making bread seals to convert the Jews.”
“And I,” said M. Verblanc, “of at least twenty gentle creatures who distilled rose-water one whole summer—”
“To wash the blackamoor white?”
“To civilize the Hottentot. But the results—”
“History does not record, any more than Jane's feats of knitting, and other worthy exercises. Why, Jane, when you have the money ready—the very thing wanted—why should you offer your taxes in any other form? If you really want to help the state, suppose you raise a regiment yourself. You and Morgan can make the red coats, if you want something to do; or, if that is too fearful a service for a peaceable woman, you can take upon yourself the half-pay of some fine old officer or two; or you might build a bridge, or set up a Preventive establishment, (nothing is more wanted just now,) or do a hundred things that would save the poor labourer's pocket, and not interfere with his market for labour. Such a free gift to the state would immortalize you; and, depend upon it, it would be far better for you than buying French land in violation of English law.”
“How they make a mockery of us helpless women, whom they have first made helpless!” said Marie, while wrapping Jane in her shawl. “We will not mind them till we have reason for shame at being helpless.”
Neither Jane nor any one else could feel uncomfortable at anything that Henry said, his manner was so playful and kind. He was now reaching his hat, in order to walk home with his sister, whom no inducement was strong enough to tempt into a vehicle which must be hired. She preferred walking, she always declared, being conscientious enough, however, to protest invariably against any one accompanying her; but Henry actually wished to carry his manuscript to the printer this evening, and the brother and sister set off together.
The weather was most disagreeable,—bitterly cold, with a fog, irritating alike to the windpipe, the vision, and the temper. The glow-worm lamps, with each its faint green halo, lost their use among the moving lights that perplexed the middle of the street. Jane had judged rightly this time in wishing to walk; for the groping on the foot-way was undoubtedly a less evil than the confusion of carriages. The occasional backing, the frequent clash, the yells, the oaths of the drivers, and now and then the snorting of a frightened horse, and the groans of a wounded one, showed that riding in a carriage is not always the extremity of bliss that some little children believe it to be. Henry held his sister's arm tight within his, and she held her peace no less tenaciously while they were every moment walking point blank up against a broad man, or a slender lamp-post, or innocently knocking down a wearied woman, or a child who was tracing his mother's apron upwards in hopes of at length finding her hand. After a while, it struck Jane that this was a case in which the longest way about would prove the nearest way home. By striking down one of the small streets leading to the river, they might escape all the carriages, and most of the people, and get to Budge Row all the sooner for making a small circuit. She believed she could engage not to lead her brother into the river; which was the chief peril in this path.
“I think there is an opening to the left, here, Jane.”
“Which way does the fog drift? I think there is a draught from the right, from the west.”
“Nay: surely it comes in our faces. No matter! you shall not go a step farther till I have made out whether we cannot now turn eastwards. Do stand still a moment.”
While he was down on his knees, poring over the pavement, to see which way the stones were laid, Jane observed that it was a shame they had no more light from the lamps, as they paid for the great new improvement in lighting,—viz: adding two threads to each burner.”
“It is no fault of any one's,” said Henry. “We may go on thickening wicks till we use up all our cotton, and we shall make no progress in lighting. We must make out some new principle.”
“O, if I knew, I should not have left it to be told now. All I know is that our streets are not perfectly lighted, and so I conclude that some better principle remains to be discovered. That is all.”
“All!” thought Jane. “I think it means much;—every thing,” she continued within herself, while rapidly following out the clew afforded by this simple act of faith of her brother's.
There was an opening to the eastward; and they pursued it, feeling rather than seeing that the river lay open on their right hand. They seemed to have this bank all to themselves. Except a public house or two, with open door and lighted windows, all was dark and silent;— so silent, that when three clocks had done striking their long story, one after the other, the plash of oars was heard from the water. Presently, there was a little clatter among the boats moored near the margin, and the walkers pitied the rowers who had to encounter worse perils than those of Eolborn and the Strand. In another instant, they stood stock still in a prodigious consternation. The yells and oaths left behind in Fleet-street were nothing to those which now burst forth immediately in front of them. There seemed to be threatening, struggling, grappling, fighting, —all in noise and darkness.
“Back! let us go back!” cried Jane.
There was no use in attempting it. People poured out of the public houses, and seemed by their multitude, to drop from the clouds or come up in swarms from the river. As soon as Jane moved back, she met with a buffet; and was so pushed about, that she began to fear slipping into the water if she left the spot she occupied. The only thing to be done was to plant themselves against a house, and wait for an open way, or for light. Light came;—a gleam or two from an opened upper window, whence black heads projected, marvellously exaggerated by the fog; and then, after several abortive experiments with naked candles, a torch,—a flaring red torch, which did more execution on the gloom than all the cotton wicks in Cheapside could have done.
“A smuggling fray! Those are smugglers. How daring! to come up so far,” said Henry.
Jane was making her observations, and correcting her imaginings. She was scarcely aware till now that she had always fancied a smuggler a large, stout, grim man, with a bit of red drapery dangling somewhere about him; a leathern belt; a pistol in his hand, and a keg just before, or just behind, or just on one side of him. But one of these men was slight and wan; and another was deformed; and a third wore a brown coat, like any other man; and none scowled as smugglers and patriots always do in pictures, but one laughed, and the rest looked vexed or angry in a plain way. She even thought that the one in a brown coat looked very like a shopman,—very like Michael.
Thus much was ascertainable while the shihing light from the torch danced from tub to face, and from the packages on the shore to the shadowy boat behind, with still a black figure or two in it.
“How very daring!” exclaimed Henry again.
“Yes,” said a voice from a window immediately in their rear. “These are the days for smuggling frolics. These fellows hold that they are in favour with the minister, as tis certain they are maintained by him.”
“By his multiplying the customs and excise duties, you mean.”
“Ay, sir. Multiplying and raising them. The story goes that these fellows drink the minister's health first, in every keg they open; and the saying is, that if the seditious do as they say,—pull the minister's carriage about his ears some day,—he will have a guard of smugglers rise up of their own accord to bear him harmless. But they don't like the talk of an income tax, sir.”
“It is no longer mere talk. The assessment has begun.”
“Sure, sir, it has. And that may have made them desperate in their daring, which their coming here looks like. But they could not have chosen their night better. 'Tis a wonder to me how any body could watch them. Fudge! What are they after now?
A strnggle ended in making the torch more efficacious than was contemplated. A smuggler staved a cask. Whethcr by accident or desigu was never known,— but the torch dropped into the rivulet of spirit, and it turned to fire. The blue flame shot up, waved, hovered, looked very beautiful in itself, but cast a fearful light on the brawlers who ruslied over one another to extricate their shins from the flame. Jane saw a really grim face at last. A man in a prodigious rage had been fighting with the brown-coated smuggler who was like Michael. The angry man had got the better of the other, and was now lifting him up at arms length, with the strength of an elephant, and the ferocity of a tiger. He dashed him down with a sound that was heard through the din.
“It is Michael!” cried the brother and sister at the same moment. They had both seen his face high in the air. They burst through the throng, and reached the body, —the dead body; for the neck was broken against a cask.
As Jane kneeled beside him, in front of the flickering blaze, she replaced the head, horribly bent backwards as it was, and then looked up in Henry's face with kindled eyes, to say,
“He is gone; and he is not married. tosay. He is gone this time.”
Lest there should be any man, woman, or child in England who requires to be reminded of the fact, we mention that our national debt amounts at present to 800.000,000l, and that the annual interest upon it is 28,000,000l.