Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter III.: CLERICAL DUTY. - Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside)
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Chapter III.: CLERICAL DUTY. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside) 
Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside) (London: Charles Fox, 1834).
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October was not half gone before a sufficient portion of the Fellbrow house was made habitable to accommodate the family. Fanny’s rapture was great when the ugly high wall was in process of being demolished, to give place to the light fence which would not exclude such a view as her eyes desired to rest upon as long as the sun was above the horizon. These October mornings were glorious. One especially, when the whole family were anxious for fine weather, equalled any that she had enjoyed in a southern climate. It was to be a morning of fishing,—the first regular fishing party since their arrival; and Fanny was at her window before the rich hues of the sunrise had melted from the northern mountain tops, or the white frost evaporated from the unsunned lawn. The face of the limestone rocks opposite was grey in the shadow, and the stream below was yet black as if it had no bottom; but the rays were abroad which would soon make it gleam at every bend, and paint in it the reflection of the autumn leaves that yet danced above it when the breeze sported in the overhanging coppice on the hither side. Some of the loftiest trees in the park already began to be lighted up; and on a green platform of the retiring rocks, the blue roofs of a little hamlet glistened in the gush of sunshine poured upon them through the chasm which brought the waters from the heights to the cisterns at the doors of the inhabitants. Already might the hind be distinguished, pacing forth warily from the thicket, and looking from side to side, while her fawn bounded past her, breast-high in the hoar grass. Already might the shepherd and his dog be distinguished on the faint track of the sheep-walk, now driving their scudding flock, and now letting them disperse themselves over the upland. Already were lively voices heard below the window, and already were busy hands making a picturesque display of nets and wicker baskets on the grass. Never was there a lovelier morning seen; and Fanny’s spirits were braced to their highest pitch when she threw open her lattice,—(how much more willingly than she would have thrown up the sash!) and sent a greeting down to her brother James who was talking with one of the men.
“Who is going to ride?” she asked, seeing that a groom was leading a saddled horse. “Who wants Diamond this morning, James?”
“I do. Ah! it is a great plague that anybody should want to be buried this morning, of all mornings. But I put the people off before, and I cannot do it again. I can get it over, with what else I have to do, before you have finished your sport, if you will only make me sure where I may find you. That is what I am settling now; and then I am off.”
“But what else have you to do? A marriage or two, perhaps?”
“Very likely; and three or four more funerals. They find they must make the most of me when they can catch me. But the business I mean is, looking about to see where I shall build my house. You ought to be with me for that. If your mare was but here, I would make you give up the fishing for to-day, and ride over with me.”
“I will do that when you know there is to be a wedding or two. The little brides will not object to my seeing them married, I dare say; and I should like to make acquaintance with these mountain brides that you used to talk so finely about before—”
“Before I saw them:—before I knew how confoundedly they would come in the way of sport. I have seen none yet that it would be worth your while to ride seven miles to make acquaintance with. I don’t see how they are better than the Easter-Monday brides in Birmingham, in tawdry shawls and flying ribbons. If they have not such gay shawls, they are ten times more dull and silly: so, if you mean to keep your romance about them, you must keep your distance too. Good-bye: only be so good as not to leave Moystarn before two, unless you see me sooner. I’ll make Diamond do his duty this morning. Good-bye.”
Diamond had no other inclination than to do his duty. Once having cleared the park, he brought all the little children out of the cottages by the sound of his firm and rapid trot on the hard road. Their mothers curtseyed at the doors and windows, inspired with an equal respect for the handsome rider and his sleek steed; and the labourers turned round from their work on the fences and in the fields to smile the vacant smile with which they honoured passengers who took their fancy. It was not Diamond’s fault that he was urged on so nearly over a child as to be obliged to bolt to avoid the sin of manslaughter. It was not his fault that he could not, before he reached the brook, slacken his speed sufficiently to avoid splashing the fair horsewomen who were crossing at the time. For this last offence he received a more severe punishment from his master than for any preceding. The flogging was so vigorous, and Diamond’s resentment of it so strong, that he bolted once more into the water, and there made a splashing which sent the ripples of the clear stream in chase of one another, high and low. The boy on the foot bridge shrank from the wetting, and the horsewomen retired right and left to watch the issue. Each patted her pony’s neck; each laughed as Diamond turned round and round; each prepared to use the switch, when her own pony began to exhibit signs of restlessness. James was so far struck with this amidst his contest with Diamond, that he looked curiously at the pair when he came up finally out of the brook. He was as much amused as surprised at what he beheld. No twins that he had ever seen could compare with these for likeness. It was not only the colour of the eyes and of the hair, and the frame of the features; much less the perfect similarity of their dress, and of the animals they rode. The glance was the very same, revealing an identity of mind. They were now side by side, and he perceived that every touch of the rein was the same. Smiles came and went as if from one heart; and yet they did not look at each other, except to agree which should utter the words that were on the tongues of both. If they had been less pretty than they were, James could not have pushed on his way as before. His curiosity was so amused, that he laughed without restraint; and could scarcely repent having done so when he saw the blush and confused gravity of each little face which filled up its close straw bonnet.
“That boy is like you, though less like than you are to each other,” observed James. “I suppose he is your brother?”
“Yes, sir; our brother George. People think him most like father.”
“And you most like your mother? Your mother must be a very pretty woman. Is not she?”
There was no answer. The girls were too busy trying to help laughing. In order to find out whether this arose from the mother being otherwise than pretty, or from the daughters liking to be complimented, James went on to praise their riding. They took this as a matter of course, having been in the habit of riding almost as regularly as of dining, all their lives. How could they contrive rides for every day?
“We have always some place that we must go to, especially at this time of the year; and sometimes it is a weary round before we can get home. We are going one of our longest rides to-day.”
“To some market, I should have thought, if your pack-saddles had not been empty. Why do you use empty pack-saddles?”
“They will not be empty long, sir. Anne has begun to load her’s, you see.”
“So her name is Anne. What is your’s? Sarah? Very well; I shall know Anne from Sarah by her having a load on her pack-saddle. Pray do your parents know you from each other?”
“Dear, yes, Sir! except just in the twilight.”
“Yet your voices are the same. I would give a crown-piece to know whether one voice ever gets above the other,—whether you ever quarrel. I do not see how you can well help it; for you must often want the same thing at the same time—something that you cannot both have.”
What sort of thing did he mean? Almost everything that could not be divided might be used by them together.
“And do you always wish the same thing, and think the same thing?”
“We do presently, if we don’t directly. Good-bye, sir; we are going down this lane to the farm-house.”
“But you will have to come out upon this road again: there is no other path away from that farm-house. I shall go with you.”
“You must not; they will not want you. We shall not stay two minutes.”
“Then I shall wait for you.”
“Oh, thank you, sir! We will make haste. George has run on already, you see: he goes no farther than here; so we can get on faster than we have been going.”
“Stop! Why should you both go? There is George to take care of one. Anne, do you stay with me, and let the empty saddle go down the lane.”
Left alone with Anne, the gentleman began to animate her with praises of her native district. She agreed that it was a pretty part to ride in for pleasure. She supposed the gentleman rode for pleasure.
“Not exactly so to-day, though I do not pretend that my ride is not a very pleasant one just now. I am going to bury a child. Yes: you need not look so shocked; I did not say I was going to kill a child. You would have children buried when they die, would not you?”
“Yes, sir; but we did not know that you were a clergyman;” and she looked as if she had thoughts of dismounting to make a curtsey.
“O yes, I am a clergyman; and besides burying a child a good deal younger than you, perhaps I may have to marry a girl very little older than you.”
“That will be Catherine Scott, perhaps,” observed Anne; “she was eighteen last July. Do you think she will be married to-day, sir? I think she might have told us, however.”
“You had better ride on with me, and take her by surprise. Come, give your pony the switch a little. Never mind Sarah,” seeing her look back; “she will overtake us presently. Her saddle is not loaded, you know.”
Anne shook her head: Sarah was not in sight; and the faithful twin evidently meditated turning back. If the gentleman would go forward, she said, and not keep the family waiting for the burial, Sarah and she might come up in time to see the marriage, if it should be Catherine Scott’s. James muttered something about being late, and gave her pony such a cut with his whip as sent the animal forward at a rate that Sarah was scarcely likely to surpass; and, by keeping half a length in the rear, he sustained the pony’s panic, and baffled all the damsel’s attempts to check its speed. This lasted till they came within sight of a row of cottages, at the door of one of which was a funeral train, just beginning to form. It would not do, even James perceived, for the mourners to see him galloping to the churchyard in a race with a country girl. He turned her horse, as well as his own, into a field, and then stopped to laugh. In answer to Anne’s reproaches, he declared that he only wanted to make her do something unlike her sister for once. He rode between her and the gate of the field, saying that, before she went, she must tell him whether she did not think this field the very place to build a house upon. If she would only look up at the view to the north, and measure with her eye the distance from the church—
“There’s Sarah!” cried Anne, cleverly wheeling her pony round, and effecting her escape. She was off, like an arrow from a bow; and Sarah might be seen hastening hitherward over a heath, about a mile and a half distant.
“They will come together point-blank, like knights in a single combat,” thought James. “I must be there to pick them up, if they are unhorsed. I must find a gap in the fence, lower down, that these people about the cottages may not be scandalized. I must behave well to-day, when once I have seen what those girls are doing.”
When met, they were pacing side by side, looking equally offended. James could scarcely appear as penitent as he intended, so infinitely amused was he at the perfect resemblance of the twins being preserved and made more striking amidst their change of mood. If Anne looked heated by her violent exercise, Sarah was not less so through fear and resentment. Both glanced away from him; neither would turn the head when he spoke. The tendency to ponder the ground was rather the strongest in Anne: as she had lost out of her glove the sixpence she had brought to pay the turnpike. What turnpike?—where was it? Half a mile beyond the church.—Oh! that would do very well. If they would go on, and wait for him there, he would come to them when his service was done, and take their opinion about where he should build his house, and then Anne should not be left behind for want of a sixpence: they would proceed all together. He heard Anne say to her sister that he would serve her the same trick that he had played Sarah, and that she did not believe he had any child to bury, nor any such thing.
“Only come on and see, Miss Anne,” said he. “You shall get into the grave yourself, if you like, to make sure; only I suppose you would not go in without your sister. But, really now, if you will help me to settle where I shall build my house, I will help you with your business afterwards, if you will only tell me what it is.”
And he looked narrowly at the sacks with which the saddles were provided.
“Picking up poultry,” the girls replied, “to send to London by the van.”
“Poultry! I shall begin to listen for a cock-a-doodle-doo, such as once kept me awake all the way to London, when I went in a stage-coach. Shall we have a cock-a-doodle-doo presently?”
“We take the poultry up dead.”
“Ah! dead. Now, does this belong to a chicken, or a turkey, or what?” drawing out a long pheasant’s feather, whose tip had just peeped out of a hole in the sack. Sarah snatched the feather, and tickled Diamond’s nose with it, so that Diamond’s master had no attention to spare for more questions for some time. There was no doubt that Anne would have done the same, if she had chanced to be next him; for she did not laugh with surprise, but smiled, as at a corroboration of an idea of her own. The act was Sarah’s, however; and she had immediately the advantage of Anne in the gentleman’s estimation. He now saw that there was certainly a something more in the one sister than in the other,—a drollery in the eyes — an archness about the mouth. It was to Sarah’s side that he returned when Diamond was once more subdued. Before he sent them on to the turnpike, he had been almost whispering to her, saving something which Anne had not heard, though she now stooped forward on her saddle, and now leaned over behind her sister, and finally rode round to James’s other side to listen, being as yet unaware that anything would ever be said to either which the other might not share.
“You must go now,” said she, tired at last of not being able to catch what he was saying. “Those people are the weddingers. See to the bride’s silk gown! and it is no more like Catherine Scott—How came you to tell me so?”
When James had explained that he did not pretend to know brides’ names till they asked him to change them, he drew off from his companions, with a final glance in the direction of the turnpike, and directed his horse, with all sobriety of demeanour, towards the vestry. The sisters were at last convinced that he was a clergyman, when they saw the uncovered heads of the men, and the obeisances of the women and children, amidst which he moved to the discharge of his duty.
“There, I knew it would be so! How people do plague one—some with wanting to be married, and some with their squeamish troubles, as if nobody but the parson could do anything for them,” said he to himself when, on reaching the turnpike at last, no horsewomen were to be seen. “To be sure, I don’t know who else should serve the people’s turn hereabouts, unless they would step across the border to the blacksmith, and advertise for a methodist to hear them confess. But here are the blessings of having a living! These pretty creatures are tired of the very idea of me, I don’t doubt, after being kept waiting till they had no patience left.”
He was mistaken; the girls had not waited at all, but gone straight through, rather in a hurry than not, the gatekeeper said. One of them had explained that she had lost her sixpence on the road, and had left her silver thimble in pledge of payment, to be redeemed the next time she should pass that way. James, of course, redeemed the thimble, which he tried on his little finger end before he consigned it to his waistcoat pocket. It betokened as small a finger as need be seen; but that only made it the greater pity that the thimble was not Sarah’s.
The gatekeeper was deplorably stupid about the girls. He did not seem to know which was meant by the pretty one; and could give no further account of them than that they set off, at a brisk trot, along the cross-road to the right. He could not even tell whether they meant to go to the large farm-house that might be seen standing back from this road. There was nothing for it but going to learn on the spot; so James left the situation of his house to be discussed hereafter, and was presently at the gate of the farm.
The farmer knew the girls, he acknowledged; could not deny he had seen them to-day—just for a minute—an hour ago or more;—supposed they were at home by this time;—advised the gentleman to come in and have a snack and a glass of ale, and he would talk to him about ground for his house. James recollected, now that the chase had escaped him, that he really was hungry, and had some miles to ride, at the end of which he might find nothing in the shape of provisions but fish in their dying agonies. It was true, he had refused the hospitality of others of his flock;—of the old schoolmaster, who stood, hat in hand, at his humble door, ready to usher in the clergyman; of the late clerk’s widow, who had taken pains to spread her board for him; of the mourners, who had hoped to receive at home a confirmation of the words of solace which had been spoken at the grave. All this he had declined, on the plea of extreme haste; but this was no reason that he should not now avail himself of the farmer’s cakes and ale. He gave his horse to the boy who had just stopped from swinging on a gate, and entered the dwelling.
“Don’t let me disturb you, I beg, ma’am,” said James to the farmer’s wife, who was hearing her little boy say his letters when her husband and the clergyman entered. “While you go on with your lessons, Mr. Riley will tell me where to look for a piece of land to build upon. Your little boy will be all the sooner ready to say his catechism, you know, if you go on steadily. So do not let me disturb you.”
Mr. Riley bowed; Mrs. Riley blushed, and took up her scissars once more to point with: but apparently little Harry did not appreciate the desirableness of soon knowing his catechism, for he called every letter F, whether it stood at the top, bottom, or middle of the page. According to him, F stood for apple, F for fig, and F for window. He was told to turn his head towards his mamma, instead of quite away from his book; and the head was soon in its right place; but the eyes still wandered off to the extreme left, and F once more stood for pie. Then came loud whispers,—“Who is that gentleman?” “Will that gentleman fly my kite for me?” “May I look through that gentleman’s spyglass?” “Is that the parson that will frown at me if I don’t behave well at church?”
This was too much. Mr. Riley lost the thread of his discourse; Mrs. Riley escaped from the room, and James laughed, while the boy stood staring at him.
“So you have got a kite. Will I help you to fly it? Yes, that I will, some day.” And thus was the guest entertained, till the tray made its appearance, and the cloth was laid for a substantial luncheon.
“My dear sir, make no apologies. Here is quite a feast, I see. By all means, ma’am; a sausage, if you please. Your sausages are irresistible; and especially with such game as this. A leg, if you please, sir. A pheasant’s leg and sausage is the most superb thing in the universe.”
No wonder the Rileys were flattered. The most superb thing in the universe was under their humble roof!
“I will try some day,” James continued, “if I cannot supply you with another luncheon to equal this. I will send you in some game as I pass, the first time I shoot in your neighbourhood. You relish game, I presume, Mrs. Riley?”
Mrs. Riley assented; then hesitated, and hoped Mr. Cranston would not trouble himself to do as he had said. The farmer declared that Mr. Cranston was welcome to shoot over his farm, but they could not accept any game. While James was insisting, little Harry, who had been sent away, ran in crying, and complaining that he had lost his tail, and he could not get another.
“His tail? What sort of tail?”
Mrs. Riley explained that Harry was indulged with the tail feathers of pheasants, and that he therefore disliked the disappearance of game from the pantry.
There were so many this morning, the boy complained, and now they were all gone! There were a great many indeed, hanging all in a row, and Nancy had promised him all the tails. Now there was not one left. “O dear, O dear! what shall I do without my tail?” was the boy’s pathetic lamentation.
“If you will let me carry you on my horse after those young ladies who were here this morning, I dare say they can give us the very tails that were in the pantry,” observed James, looking askance at the farmer as he spoke. “But, Harry, don’t you like fur tails as well as feather tails? If you were a girl, you might make a fur tippet for your doll’s throat of a pretty, soft, white rabbit’s tail.”
Harry made a hop, skip, and jump to a cupboard, and brought out a string of hares’ and rabbits’ tails, tied together with string, which promised to be soon as long as the leech-line of a fisherman.
“I see how it is,” said James, smiling. “I am not the only person, I fancy, Mr. Riley, that you make welcome to shoot over your farm and in your neighbourhood.”
“Why, sir, to speak out, what else can we farmers say to those that help away with the vermin that do us all sorts of mischief?”
“Ah! I suppose the birds plague you with the people they bring upon your ground. I saw one cover, I remember, standing alone in the middle of some very wide fields of yours, with not a hedge near enough to tempt a bird to stray; and I thought I would try my luck there next.”
“You will be sure to find luck there, sir, however many may come before you. You may chance to see three hundred cock pheasants walking about there in one day. But the birds are nothing to the hares, sir; I was very nearly quarrelling with my farm, on account of the hares; and should have done so, if my landlord had not made me an allowance for them.”
“How much does he allow you?”
“Two sacks of wheat per acre, sir.”
“Upon my word, you have a very kind landlord.”
“Not on this head, sir. My loss is much greater than two sacks per acre, I can assure you. Take the year round, and a hare is as expensive as a sheep;—for this reason,—that the hare picks the last particle of vegetation. If my grain springs an eighth of an inch one day, and the vermin nips seven hundred of the sprouts in a day,—what sheep will ever cause me such damage as that? I can stand and see the pheasants picking up their berries and acorns, at this time of the year, without wanting to wring every neck of them; but, if you’ll believe me, sir,—and my wife will bear me out, I never see a hare cross the field I am in without swearing an oath at her.”
Mrs. Riley not only corroborated this, but added that Mr. Riley was still more cross with rabbits.
“The rabbits! And well I may! They do such mischief round the outskirts of my coppices, that the wood will not be so fit to cut at the end of twenty years as it would at the end of sixteen without them. You cannot wonder, sir, that we farmers cannot see poachers. They are a sort of thing we are blind to. If you consider, sir, that there are six hundred acres of wheat land in this parish, and that hares consume, at the least, two sacks per acre, there are twelve hundred sacks of corn taken from men to be given to hares. I cannot think it a great sin, at this rate, to let alone anybody that helps to root out the hares.”
“You should get your landlord to allow you to shoot over your farm.”
“ ’Tis done, sir; and what comes of that? Every labourer in the parish may go and inform, unless I do him some favour that will keep his good-will; and if his liking should be for sport, why, what can we do but let each other alone?”
“Then I am afraid the landlord’s only dependence is on his own servants,—the tenant and poacher being leagued against him.”
“That sort of dependence is but small, especially when gentlemen are not on the spot in all seasons; as I may say to you, sir. There may be such a thing as a league between the poacher and the woodman;—just such a sort of league to break the laws as there was till lately between gentlemen and their woodmen.”
“My dear, what are you saying?” interrupted Mrs. Riley.
“Only what Mr. Cranston knows to be true. He knows that, till the sale of game was allowed by law, gentlemen encouraged their servants to sell the game the gentlemen themselves shot. The woodmen that I have known used to receive a quarter of the money so brought in. And, after a sporting bout, when their masters had company staying with them for the purpose, there was a higher allowance to the woodman, from the consideration of the difficulty of disposing of a large quantity of game at once.”
“I wonder how much a servant might make in this manner?” observed James. “It is a pleasant way enough of making a fortune.”
“You must consider, sir, how many the gains have to be divided amongst. Where poaching is done by gangs, as it is here, there are a great number to share in the first instance. Then there are the coachmen or van-drivers that carry the game up to London, and the poiters that take charge of it there. Then the poulterers must have their commission; double what they have on poultry, on account of the risk. And then there is the waste,—which is more than is easily counted,—what with the game being mangled, and killed out of season, and sent up in a bad state. Pheasants are sent up long after January, and hares with young; and sometimes half a sackfull is good for nothing when it is unpacked. All this can leave but little gain for the woodman’s share.”
“And his gains must be most uncertain, too. When he sends up a fine batch of game, he may chance to find that the market is overstocked. There can be no regularity of supply where it is carried on in an illegal and underhand manner.”
“That is true, sir; and I have heard from people here, disappointed in the way you speak of, that in the very middle of the season, when every dinner-table in the London gentry’s houses had game upon it, full one-third of what was sent up was thrown away. After hawking about what was not quite past cooking, and selling birds for a few pence to anybody that passed by, one poulterer alone threw two thousand partridges into the Thames. This makes our people here so united as they are. They keep up a perfect understanding all the way to London, that there may be the less difficulty in poaching to order,—which is the surest way to make money.”
“To the poulterer’s order?”
“Yes. He sends down a message, perhaps, that he has engaged to furnish some thousand head a week for three weeks, and that he depends upon this district; and then poaching is the order of the day. By the time the job is done, the newspapers begin to cry out. There is often work for the coroner, before all is over; and account is laid for a few going to prison; but where all are banded together in prospect of this, the going to prison is no disgrace, and not much of a hardship; and the manslaughter comes to be looked upon as a matter of course.”
“I shall tell my brother all this,” said James, rising. “Not so as to implicate you,” he added, perceiving that Mr. Riley looked alarmed. “Now is the time, while I am at Fellbrow, to keep a watch over our poaching neighbours. Pray do they meddle with deer?”
“Your gamekeeper can tell you that better than I can,” replied the farmer, now grown wary as to his communications. “Would you like to step abroad, sir, and look at the bit of ground I told you of?”
“Why, yes: if you think the people below have got no more funerals ready by this time.—Yes; let us go,” he added gravely, upon seeing Mrs. Riley’s glance of astonishment. “Mrs. Riley, I owe you thanks for your hospitality. If I have injured your son’s learning, I must do my best to help him to make it up, by and bye, when he may come to church without fear of being frowned at.”
Mrs. Riley pronounced him a pleasant mannered gentleman, as she peeped between the climbers that covered the window to watch him and her husband up the hill at the back of the house.
“You will not be troubled with a heavy groundrent, you see, sir, in a situation like this,—(if you should pitch upon this place, where the land is not to be sold.) You will find the difference between building here, and building near the falls in the hills yonder, where the gentry are rearing their boxes and their villas. Here you will have to pay no great deal more than if the spot of ground was to be under the plough instead of under a roof.”
“Ah! you country folks know little yet of the difference in value of bits of land that measure the same to a hair’s-breadth. A friend of mine has been building a villa at Chiswick lately, and he pays four times as much for the ground as he gets as the ground-rent of a capital house in Winchelsea. This is all very fair. People must pay for good situations; but I dare say you have no idea of such differences here?”
“Enough to wish that the land-tax went a little more according to situation than it does. ’Tis really ridiculous, how one has to pay five times as much as another, without any reason that ever I heard tell.”
“We south people beat you there, too. The very place I was mentioning, Winchelsea, where there are not more than fifty houses that yield the house-tax, pays, within thirty pounds, as much land-tax as Bath; and if you could look down upon Bath as we now do upon your parish, you would see the absurdity of such a taxation. In London, the difference is wider still. I know of two parishes that pay above 9000l. in land-tax, with a rental of 116,000l.; while another parish that has now a rental of 720,000l. pays—how much land-tax, do you think?”
“To be in the same proportion with the parishes you mention, it should be 55,000l.”
“Instead of which it is under 500l. This is the fault of the way the tax was managed at first, and not of anything that is done with it now: but it sets one to inquire, before one begins to build or to purchase. While some parishes pay 2s. 4d. in the pound, and others half a quarter of a farthing, one likes to look into the matter.”
“I see no end to the inequality, sir; that is the worst of it. If a valuation once made is never to be altered, I don’t see but that every improvement, every new bit of waste that is tilled, and every new quarter of a town that is built, must increase the inequality. There is our neighbouring county of Lancaster, with all its fine towns and villages, almost as busy as London itself, paying no more land-tax than some four or five such London parishes as you mentioned just now. You see, its being made perpetual, some five-and-thirty years ago, and allowed to be redeemed, and half of it being redeemed, makes it difficult to touch now.”
“Except to redeem the remainder. That was what Mr. Pitt wanted, no doubt—to have done with this, without loss, and then to be free to lay on a new tax. For my part, I like neither making valuation nor tax perpetual; and to allow redemption is worse still, in principle. The sacrifice made in redeeming a tax is made for ever and ever. See what a scrape we are in now, in the case of this land-tax! The only way of escape the sufferers can think of is by violating the valuation which was declared unalterable. They cry out for a new assessment; leaving the redeemed portions of land exempt, and equalizing the rest at the same rate as formerly—4s. in the pound. They say that this would bring the Government between one and two millions a-year more than at present; and that if the assessment was kept equal, the whole would be gradually redeemed.”
“If the tax is to be got rid of, it may be more easily done now than by and by; and a farmer may be allowed to wish it done with.”
“Why? It does not fall upon you?”
“Ask the assessor, sir, if I do not pay it into his hands, year by year.”
“Yes; but you pay it for your landlord, and you stop it out of your rent. You know, if you run away to-night, the assessor comes upon your landlord for it, instead of running after you. You know it is levied on empty houses. Why, Mr. Riley, I never before heard anybody question that the land-tax falls on the landlords, however much the point might be doubted about the house-tax.”
“I assure you, sir, there is less corn grown, by far, than there would be without this tax; and is not that a bad thing for the farmer, when a tax is the cause?”
“A bad thing for everybody: but this is, so far, only like every other tax. Every tax stints production in its way; yet there must be taxes. If we are to go on taxing classes of people, I do not know that we could have a better tax than this, if it was but made equal.”
“It will never be that, sir.”
“Perhaps so; but a direct tax, like this, is the only kind that can be made equal; so we ought to take care how we quarrel with it, and show a preference for indirect taxes,—a kind which never can be made equal. Besides its capacity of being made equal, it has other good qualities. It is certain. It is levied in a convenient way; and it goes pretty straight to the Treasury. So that, (except that I should like to see a simpler method of taxation, which should save us from laying a burden on one class, and then balancing it with a burden laid upon another class,) I have nothing to say against a properly-managed land-tax.”
“But, sir, how are you to make it equal, while the land is so unequal? If you tax all land at so much per acre, the owner of those bleak hills above will pay much more than his share; and the fine land in our best counties will yield much less than its share. Then, if you tax according to the produce, people will not be long in finding out that your tax is a tithe, sir; and you and I both know what they think of tithe.”
“What should prevent its being levied—not in proportion to surface, or to produce—but to rent? It would be thus thrown on the landlords, as I said before. The exclusive taxation of a particular class is a bad principle to go upon. But, while we do go upon that principle, and while the poorer classes pay so much more taxes than their share, this tax (equalized) is one of the last to be complained of. Rent, you know, is naturally always rising.”
“Then I wonder governments do not maintain themselves on rent. If a government was a great landowner, it might live without taxing anybody.”
“The governments of new countries, where land enough is left without an owner, will be sufficiently wise, perhaps, to see this, in course of time. If a government kept a portion of land, and behaved to its tenants like a good landlord, it would find its revenues perpetually on the increase, (with no other checks than would, at the same time, reduce its expenditure), and not a farthing would be taken from the profits of the farmer or the manufacturer; not a particle from the rewards of anybody’s industry. A fine prospect that, for a new country, is not it?”
“A fine dream, sir.”
“A dream that might as certainly come true as my dream of a white house upon this slope, with a wood behind, and a sheet of water spread out where that stream is now wasted. No spot that I have seen compares with this, certainly. I should set about securing it before I leave the place, but that,”—and he half laughed, as if ashamed of his thought,—“I must bring somebody to see it first.”
“I hear, Mr. Cranston, that your sister—”
“No, not my sister.—But, what were you going to say?”
“Only what you have heard often enough before, I dare say. I hear that your sister is the prettiest and kindliest lady that has ever been seen here since—”
He was going to allude to her mother, but stopped.
“It depends upon how you happen to see her. If you find her in the clouds, you may speak to her ten times before you get an answer; and I doubt whether she looks pretty then. But when she is—I will positively get her a horse from Swallow’s. I am more tired than she is of waiting for her favourite mare. Nobody knows what Fanny is like that has not seen her ride,—seen her hunt. O, yes! I will bring her here when she begins to ride; and she will hear your little boy his alphabet. You should see her with children.”
The hour struck, and the sound came from the church tower below to remind James of his fishing engagement. He had ceased to care about the fishing; but he had some lingering hopes of falling in again with the twins, if he pursued the circuitous road (over moorland and through a park) which they had taken.
Once on his way, he relaxed his speed no more. To judge by the starting and shying of Diamond, Diamond’s master was nervous, or in excessive haste. The moor-hen and her brood fled away uncoveted from beneath the hoofs of the steed. The goats browzed unnoticed, or skipped from point to point of the grey rocks under which the road wound for a part of the way. The startling echo of the sportsman’s fowling-piece, sent back by these fells, only made James look round to see if any timid girls were in sight who might be alarmed by the shock. He was as much startled himself as any timid girl, when he heard, in his passage through the park, a rustling among the underwood and high ferns in just such a corner as the twins might have chosen, for its shade and retirement, to rest in. But it was only a fawn which burst away from his doubtful call, as Sarah had done from his appointment. He was sorry and out of humour at coming so soon in sight of the party he proposed to join.
They did not see him—so busy were they with their sport. The horses, which were loose and grazing near, looked up, tossed their heads, and began to graze again. A boatman, sitting in a skiff that lay in the dark reflection of the oaks and hollies which clothed the island in the middle of the river, touched his hat. But the party about Moy’s-pool (the most promising pool in the whole length of the river) were too much occupied with their sport to look behind them, or to listen for horses’ hoofs. Fish lay heaped and scattered on the grass; and more was being drawn. Richard, who was stretched at length, showed himself interested in as far as he had raised himself on his elbow. Fanny herself had hold of a net; and Wallace and the servants were as active as the occasion of so large a prey required.
“They do not want me,” thought James, half sulkily. “I shall ride on to the Paddock, and see about a horse for Fanny, and—whether those girls are home.”
Diamond’s hoofs made a crash on the small pebbles as he turned back to the road. Fanny had so much to tell and to show, about how long they had been expecting him, how they had wished for him, and what feats they had performed without him, that James dismounted to admire the plumpness of the char, and to verify Wallace’s boast that that fat old fellow that he had just caught weighed two pounds. It was not long before James was trying whether he could not draw one which would weigh two pounds and an ounce.