Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE TENTH HAYCOCK. - 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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THE TENTH HAYCOCK. - 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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THE TENTH HAYCOCK.
Widow Lambert liked to be told, a very few years ago, that the Abbey Farm was as great an ornament to her native district as the abbey itself could ever have been in the days of its splendour. She recalled the tales with which she had been struck in her childhood, before her sober father forbade her climbing old apple-trees, and her strict mother ordained the adoption of the quaker cap, and the handkerchief she had worn ever since;—tales of the former grandeur of this religious house, with its eighty monks and its hundred and ten servants: and it gratified her maternal pride to be assured that her two comely sons and their labourers kept the estate in as flourishing a condition as their predecessors,—the ecclesiastics and their lay brethren who were subordinate to them.
This abbey was believed to have held a distinguished rank among the religious houses which existed before there was any division of land into parishes, or when a parish meant the same as a diocese does now: when every man paid his ecclesiastical dues to any church he thought fit, provided he paid them to some; and when these dues were delivered into the hands of the bishop, to be divided among the four objects to which they must be appropriated,—the ease of the bishop, the aid of the church, the relief of the poor, and the support of the administering clergyman. Nor was it afterwards in less repute, when the dignitaries of the church were otherwise amply provided for, and the tithes were appropriated to three objects instead of four. The monks were of opinion that a very small sum was sufficient for the maintenance of the officiating priest; and they were active in gathering in their dues on the plea of the wants of the poor, while their train of servants was lengthened, the beauty of their abbey improved, and their fields and gardens were made to abound in the means of luxurious living. By a liberal expenditure of their peculiar purchase-money, masses and obits, and sometimes by a sacrifice of solid gold, they obtained all the advowsons within their reach, and became patrons of a great many benefices. It was made worth while to royalty to grant its license for such appropriation; and the consent of the bishop was regularly granted in return for the promise that the service of the church should be duly cared for. The brethren, therefore, were enriched from year to year with tithe and glebe; while, instead of presenting any clerk, they themselves contributed as much as they chose to the spiritual aid of the flocks they had thus gathered into their own ample fold. This process of appropriation went on very smoothly, (to the brethren, however it might be to the people under their charge) till this spiritual corporation was dissolved by Henry VIII; his bluff majesty constituting himself parson in their stead. There was little wonder that he busied himself about the Faith when he became at once parson of more than one-third of the parishes of England. However zealous he might be in his office, it was too burdensome for any man. The work of appointing vicars to so many benefices was more than the king could undertake. He sold the appropriations,—not always to holy men, (for he had himself deprived the holy of the power of bidding high for the property he had to sell,) but to laymen who transmitted them to their children, or disposed of them to other laymen, without any scruple as to thus alienating the pious contributions of believers to the church. This alienation was made the more extensive by a statute of the same monarch which ordained that the church lands purchased by laymen should remain exempt from tithes, as if they still belonged to the ecclesiastics. In this respect alone did the Abbey Farm of Mrs. Lambert’s time resemble the abbey domain of the day of Henry VIII. Instead of the cowled company whose members issued in state from the splendid building, to mount their sleek steeds to go forth and counsel the punctual payment of their dues, there was now Sir William Hood, the impropriator of the parish, marking with quick eye, from the rectory window, the luxuriance of the abbey fields, and calculating the loss to himself from their being tithe-free. Instead of the shaven priest who went down when required to perform some spiritual service, there was the gowned student muttering Hebrew in the little vicarage garden, or allowing himself to be talked to by his daughter Alice, when she tempted him abroad among his people. Instead of travellers of high and low degree craving hospitality at the portal of the monastery, there was the staid widow Lambert moving quietly between the poultry yard and the dairy, while her sons were training their fruit-trees against the grey unroofed walls which had once echoed back the prayers of the devout and the jests of the convivial. All these things were changed; but the neighbouring soil still yielded its produce, as formerly, unquestioned as to the amount of its tenths.
Very unlike indeed was any thing that passed in these grounds in monkish times to the preparation now made by the Lamberts for the reception of the minister, the churchwardens and the parishioners on occasion of their annual perambulation of the parish. The widow, more neat, if possible, than usual, in her plaited cap, silk mittens and muslin handkerchief, consulted with her son Charles as to the sufficiency of the beer and buns provided for the host of visiters they were expecting: while Joseph gave another brush to his broad brim before he went to station himself at the gate by which the crowd must enter. The intercourse between the vicar and this family was not very frequent, and of a somewhat strange character. He could not help admiring Mrs. Lambert’s kindliness of spirit as much as he marvelled at her thrift; while she, distinguished above all things for good sense, was no less astonished at the manner in which he passed his time, and the mode in which he brought up his little daughter. She was at the same time drawn towards him by the simplicity of his manners and the evidence which his whole demeanour bore to his piety. On Sundays, he woke out of a reverie on his way to the church, when Mrs. Lambert passed him and bowed her head with a cheerful “Good morning to thee;” and on week days, the young men, however busy, were always ready to listen to the vicar’s suggestions in any affair which concerned the interests of their neighbours. Charles was his favourite of the two, when he had once learned to distinguish them; for Charles listened without distraction to what was said. Joseph wished to do the same; but he could not conquer his confusion when Alice looked likely to laugh at his calling her father Mark Hellyer. He was apt to twist his sentences, and be thinking how he should avoid Quaker peculiarities of speech, when Mr. Hellyer wanted his whole attention; and Charles was therefore pronounced by the vicar the more promising young man, and the most like his mother.
Joseph, however, was the first at his post this morning. When, standing at the gate, he heard the shouts from a distance, and could distinguish the tips of the white wands carried by the churchwardens, he took one more survey of his well-brushed suit, smoothed once more his sleek beaver, and was ready with a broad smile to welcome the crowd. The vicar was in the midst, smiling as broadly as any one, and as heartily amused as he had ever been by the choicest Greek epigram. The men and boys about him were equally diverted by the fulfilment of their prophecy that the vicar would not know the bounds of the parish any better this year than any preceding year. All possible pains had been taken, from his first entrance upon the vicarage, to instruct him in the localities which he had a direct interest in understanding; but he looked as much astonished as ever when informed that he must not go along this path, or through that gate, but must lead the way in traversing this fallow, and climbing the gap in that hedge. Mr. Peterson, a neighbour, who took a kind interest in his affairs, was now on one side of him, and Byrne, a labourer of the Lamberts, on the other; and all the little boys in the parish were at their heels, watching for his reverence’s mistakes, and daring each other to offer him cowslips from every field they passed. While in full progress towards Joseph, Mr. Hellyer was carried off to the right, to make an unwilling circuit before he could reach his young friend; and while he was performing this task, Joseph learned something of the events of the morning;—how there was no difficulty to-day about their crossing the rectory garden, Sir William Hood not being there to murmur at the ground lying half in one parish and half in another, and his lessee not having arrived: how Miss Alice had earnestly wished to be one of the perambulating party, and had been pacified under the impossibility only by being permitted to view the ceremony from the cottage of her nurse,—Byrne’s wife, who had married from the vicarage. The young lady had amused herself with the annual joke of throwing water upon the perambulators; and it was thought that her own father had not escaped a sprinkling. No such greeting had awaited the party as they passed Miss Fox’s school, where not a window was opened, and nothing could be seen but the sudden apparition of a dozen curled heads above the blinds, and their equally sudden disappearance. The poor young ladies there were kept in better order than Miss Alice. Mr. Parker had been more surly than ever, this morning, about the churchwardens crossing his hop ground; though the boys had been sent round by the lane, and not half a dozen hop poles thrown down. The vicar’s spirit had been roused, and it was thought he had made Mr. Parker ashamed of himself. He might take a lesson from old Mrs. Beverley. The gentlemen were very sorry that her house stood on the boundary, so that they had to pass through her little hall and out at her back gate; but the poor old lady made light of the disturbance, and desired her maid to let every body through that wished to pass, and always had her glass of gooseberry wine ready for the vicar and the churchwardens, even when (as was the case this year), she was too feeble to be brought down stairs to bid them welcome. She had said nothing about having lost one of her bantams last year. It would not have been known, but that the maid was observed to look very anxiously after the fowls this morning. The gentlemen were duly concerned, and had alarmed the maid with promises of such reparation as she feared would bring her mistress’s anger upon her for having betrayed the circumstance. The narrator concluded with an opinion that Mr. Parker might also take a lesson from Charles and Joseph Lambert, who always threw open their gates cheerfully on these occasions.
“My mother hopes thou wilt rest at the farm,” said Joseph to the vicar, justifying the compliment which he had just received, “and any of thy friends will be welcome also. My brother is expecting the whole company at the farm.”
The whole company poured into the field, appearing fully disposed to accept the invitation.
“If thou hast no objection,” he presently added, “I will step to John Byrne’s for thy daughter, and bring her to our summer house on the hill. We conceive that the finding the boundary this year, among the new enclosures, will be amusing; and I could conduct thy daughter and Jane Byrne to the summer house, while our friends here are refreshing themselves at the farm. Have I thy permission?”
“Alice? Yes; it is a pity Alice should not be here. You are very good. I think it is a pity Alice should not be here.”
The obliging Joseph only waited to see his guest under his brother’s charge, and then set off for Byrne’s cottage. He knew how fond the little girl was of this summer house on the hill, when the dog was silenced and chained up, and she was at liberty either to gather the wallflowers which grew around as profusely as common grass, or to look abroad over the vast prospect which was spread out below the high hill from which this building projected. As two fields and an extent of down had to be traversed before the hill could be climbed, no time was to be lost; and Joseph made all speed: and though Alice overheated herself with running, and left Mrs. Byrne to clamber up the ascent as she best could, she was only just in time to see the crowd leave the Abbey Farm house. When she had taken courage to rush past the chained dog, and was at length leaning out of the middle window, she said amidst her panting,
“What a little way they have to go now! It will be all over presently. I wish I had come here at first.”
Joseph pointed out to her that the extent of the landscape had led her into a mistake. The church, the vicarage, and Mr. Parker’s hopground were as far apart as usual, though from this height they appeared to lie close together.
“And all this farm of yours looks like a bit of a garden,” observed Alice; “and there is the farm house where uncle Jerom lives, and his little church. They seem to belong to us,—they lie so near.”
“Dost thou see thy uncle Jerom himself?” asked Joseph.
Alice looked every where, she thought, and could not see him;—down the steep white path which descended from the summer house, past the sheep-fold to the stile, but no one was there but Mrs. Byrne, mounting step by step;—along the grey abbey wall,—but nothing cast a shadow there in this fine May sunshine, but a ladder placed against the wall among the fruit-trees:—into the farm yard,—but if uncle Jerom was one of the moving group there, she could not distinguish him. Mrs. Lambert, with her white cap, and the churchwardens with their wands were alone recognizable. Somebody was stealing about in the churchyard, but so feebly, that he must be thirty years older than uncle Jerom. She saw, finally, a black dot or two on the green meadow which stretched far away to the right; but whether these were horses, cows, or men, she could defy Joseph to pronounce. She had not looked every where yet. Mrs. Byrne had by this time entered; but she was too breathless and dizzy to supply any effective eyesight. Alice must try again, assisted by a broad hint from Joseph. “O, I see, I see! but who would have thought of looking there?—in that bare field,—all in confusion with new banks and ditches. That is uncle Jerom, however; I know by his leaning backwards upon his stick, with both his hands behind him. What is he standing there for, as if he was looking for the stars to come out?”
“I dare say he is waiting for our friends,—perhaps to shake hands with thee across the boundary. The boundary passes along those new enclosures, as we shall see presently.”
“There, Jane,” said Alice to her nurse; “you are the only person, I do believe, that would not let me go the rounds. I am sure papa would have let me go, if you had said nothing about it; and there is uncle Jerom waiting for me now. I will go, after all,” she declared, jumping down from the chair on which she was lolling.
Mrs. Byrne believed uncle Jerom would be as much surprised to see his niece under such circumstances, as to behold the stars come out which Alice supposed him to be looking for through the sunshine. Joseph declared that the whole ceremony would be over before Alice could reach the new enclosures.
“Thoud’st better stay, and see what thou canst from this place, if I may advise,” said he. “It is my opinion that they are going to leave our farm yard now.”
“There they go! how slowly they seem to move!” cried Alice. “Those boys with the green boughs are certainly running as fast as they can go; but they scarcely get on at all. Though you say I must not go, there is Mrs. Lambert following them, you see. Look, Jane! why should not we be walking there as well as Mrs. Lambert?—O dear! she is turning back. She only went to see that the gate was shut,—that those staring calves might not take it into their heads to go too, I suppose.—No. They had rather stay with her. Do look how they rest their heads on her shoulders!”
Mrs. Byrne was now rested; and she came to see what was the reason of the shout which seemed to be prodigious, however faint it was made by distance. Joseph believed that there had been some jealousy between this parish and the next about the tithes being unequal, or something being wrong about the provision for the clergyman. He did not well understand the matter, as he paid no tithes, and did not interfere in disputes which arose out of them: but he hoped all jealousies were to be buried in these new enclosures, and that this must be what the people were shouting for.
“Then, if you do not pay tithes,” said Alice, — “But you will have quantities of hay, I am sure; and you see you have calves. Why do not you pay like other people?”
Joseph and Mrs. Byrne answered at the same moment. “My brother and I do not think it right to pay tithes. The Friends never pay tithes.”
“No body that rents the Abbey Farm pays tithes.”
“Well: if you do not pay tithes, I suppose there will be no hay-making for me to do in your meadows. I am to help to make papa’s haycock in the rectory field.”
“Has the vicar any claim upon the rectory field?”
“Yes; because papa says he is a specially endowed vicar.”
“Dost thou know what that means?”
“No: I only know that we have had three dear little chickens from Sir William Hood’s broods; and papa says we are to make a haycock, and to have some turnips by and bye, from the glebe.”
“And he has some glebe land too, has not he?”
“Yes to be sure: you know our field very well. I have not forgotten what a race you once gave me there, when you made me run over the young beans.—How they do shake hands!—papa and uncle Jerom. Uncle Jerom is going home with papa to tea, I think. He steps over the new bank into the field, you see. I wish I might gather some wall-flowers to carry home for them.”
Mrs. Byrne begged Joseph to be Alice’s guardian, as he knew best how to silence the dog which would certainly bark, and frighten Alice. He must be particularly careful not to let her go too near the edge of the projection on which the summer-house was built, and where the very finest of the wall-flowers grew. She, meanwhile, would watch from the window, and call them if any thing more was to be seen.—It was not long before she gave notice that the boys had thrown their green boughs into a corner of the churchyard, and that the ceremony seemed to be finished, as many were dispersing to their homes. As soon, therefore, as Alice had gathered more wall-flowers than she could conveniently carry, she was ready to proceed towards the vicarage, provided her companions could settle whether she was to rest on the way at the Abbey Farm, or at Mrs. Byrne’s cottage. It was certainly the Lamberts’ turn, as she had been at her nurse’s already to-day: but Mrs. Byrne had a little cream-cheese in readiness for the vicarage table, and she must go home with Alice, for the sake of carrying this cheese and a bunch of radishes for the gentlemen’s supper, as they were to sup together to-night. So Joseph had no more to do than to see his charge safe down the hill, before he hastened home to refresh himself with a draught of the ale that might be left, and to tell his mother that cream-cheeses were liked at the vicarage.
Alice did not reach home before she was wanted. She found her father making tea;—the single domestic accomplishment in which the most abstracted student is seldom deficient. Mr. Hellyer knew his way to the tea-caddy, however he might lose himself in any other destination; and the tea made by him was never to be complained of, however much might be spilled by the way. His brother seemed to have intuitions equally bright respecting bread and butter. He could cut up a loaf with as much speed as he could demolish a bad argument; and the provision of the tea-table had half disappeared before Alice entered. A look from her uncle towards the radishes seemed to ask whether it was necessary that they should be left for supper. The fact was, that uncle Jerom had been on one of his literary excursions this day;—that is, that he had dined on a crust of bread which he had put in his pocket in the morning, to be eaten while looking over some books in the bookseller’s shop at Y—, where he had liberty to go, from time to time, to keep himself on a level with the age, without buying any thing. Uncle Jerom rarely bought any thing; for the sufficient reason that he had scarcely any money to spend. When he had paid the low sum required for his board and lodging in a farm-house, he had just enough left to purchase a coat every two years, and new shirts when the old ones would hold together no longer. Hats were obliged to take their chance; and a poor chance it was, as any one might see who happened to meet him in the lanes with the brown, crooked-brimmed covering which hung down almost over his eyes. When his engagements allowed him to sit down to the common farm-house diet, his heart was strengthened with solid fat bacon, or bread and milk: but when he chanced to be elsewhere at meal times, he was sure to repair before night to his brother, with desponding views of the prospects of the church, and of the interests of mankind in general.—Thus it was to-day; and while the vicar gave half his mind to investigating whether the water boiled, Jerom required of the other half to prove that the spirit of innovation which was spreading over the land was not threatening to uproot the very foundations of religion, as incorporated with the church of England. His spirits were not cheered by the apparition of Alice, ornamented with the hat he had left in the hall,—the very brownest and most misshapen of all that he had ever exhibited.
“Papa, what a pity uncle Jerom’s hat did not lie in the way when you spilled all that ink, this morning! I am sure it is browner than the carpet you spoiled.”
The vicar believed that he and his brother ought both to be thinking about new hats. It had occurred to him several times lately.
“Then you must let me have your old one, uncle. You cannot want it any more when you have a new one; and I want one for a scare-crow, for my radish bed. I shall never get another so ugly. Let me put it on you. Do be my scare-crow for a minute.”
Jerom put the little girl away, bidding her pour out his tea, and occupy herself with her own. He could not spare the hat. The clergy were fallen on evil days, and had not need give away any thing till something was done for them, instead of the little they had being taken away.
“I have reason to complain of the last,” observed the vicar; “but can you exactly say that nothing is done for the church? I suppose you mean, new measures. But this Bounty is something to you, is not it? You were very eager for it, I remember.”
“It is Queen Anne that we must thank, if we must thank any body. But this bounty ought not to be so called. It is a mere restoration of the property of the church, which had been usurped. It is folly to call it a gift.”
“Still, it is something done for the church, to take these first fruits and tenths from the rich clergy and give them to the poorer. It is something done for you, Jerom.”
“My first consideration is the church at large: and in that view, what is this bounty, after all? Its operation is slow and inconsiderable. Let it be managed as well as you will, it will be between two and three centuries before all the livings already certified will exceed 50l. a year. In the meantime, I must come back out of my grave, if I am ever to have 50l. a year from my living.”
“But it will be a great thing to see you settled in a parsonage house. It will be but a small one that can be built for 200l.: but I confess I am concerned for the dignity of the church; and I agree with you so far as to desire to see every living with the parsonage house and glebe land to which it is entitled by common right. I shall look with pleasure on the building of your little parsonage, and thank Queen Anne.”
“You will see no such building in my time, brother. What am I to do with a parsonage, when I have not the means of living in it? As soon as I heard that the lot had fallen upon me, I requested that the 200l. might be applied in some better way than building me a house that I could not afford to live in.”
“Do you mean to exchange it for tithes, or to let it be invested in lands? I hope, as you have objected to the house, that you will accept the amount in land.”
“Why? The rules allow me to exchange the bounty for an equal or greater amount of tithes, as well as for a different portion of land.”
“True: but I cannot make up my mind,—I have been long trying to make up my mind,—as to how far any traffic in tithes is agreeable to the divine law. I am sure, also, that you will be wise to keep clear of all unnecessary dealings with so uncertain and vexatious an article as tithes are now made. This last is only a secondary consideration; but —”
“I am not sure of that,” replied Jerom.
“The dignity of the church must be first consulted, Jerom: and I have a certain repugnance to any thing like speculation in so sacred a property as tithes. In my opinion, the worst omen for the church is this peculiar revenue being in the hands of any laymen: and I much question whether the royal act of allowing lay impropriations be not the cause of the present adversity of the establishment.”
Alice looked up from her cup of tea, on hearing that tithe property was sacred. She asked, with a look of mortification,
“May not I play with the tithe lamb Mr. Parker sent this morning, papa? And he sent some eggs, too; and I bade Susan make a custard with them. Must not we eat any custard?”
“To be sure, my dear child. Why not?”
“I thought you said that what was tithe was sacred, papa.”
“Well, my dear, that does not prevent its being used. Do you forget what your Latin lesson was about, this morning?”
“About the bullocks that were offered to Jupiter. People did eat them, to be sure; and they were sacred. But those people were not Christians.”
“Which only shows, my dear child, that there are some things which are inherently sacred,—shown to be so by the light of reason and nature: and among these are tithes. You will find, hereafter, that the Phenicians paid tithes. So did the Egyptians and the Hindoos, as well as the Greeks and Romans: all which seems to prove that these nations must have been under one common guidance as to this institution. This is confirmed by a reference to the attributes of some of the heathen deities. Thus Apollo —”
“O, Apollo! The author of light —”
“Exactly so. Now mark what is conjoined with his being the source of light. He was emphatically called the ‘tithe-crowned,’ the ‘taker of tithes,’ and so on.”
“Then, papa, I will put some of Mrs. Parker’s mint and sage and parsley upon your head, and then you will be like Apollo.”
“As the Jews paid tithe in consequence of a divine revelation,” observed Jerom, “I should be disposed to doubt whether the tithe system arose from the light of nature.”
“Whether we so consider it, or conclude that it arose from some unrecorded revelation made to Adam,” returned the vicar, “my doubts remain as to whether this kind of property may be made the material of speculation, like any other kind of property.”
“But, papa, who took Adam’s tithes? Did he pay them to Eve, or to the angels? or, perhaps, to himself? Only, there would not be much use in that. If every body did so, I don’t know what would become of us.”
“I do not speak as from knowledge, child. I only mention what seems to me the most probable solution.—But, brother, there is further evidence, from its wide extension, of this being an institution of the highest origin, whether natural or revealed;—evidence which has not yet been duly improved. Governments have been supported in a vast majority of countries, by contributions analogous to our tithes;—contributions from the produce, not from the rent, of land.”
“Ancient Egypt, for instance. There the sovereign appropriated the fifth part, I believe, did not he?”
“A fifth, I believe: and the same was the case under the Mahomedan government in Bengal. In China, they take our exact proportion, one-tenth, which is a remarkable coincidence. Not that they are able to raise one-tenth —”
“Any more than ourselves.”
“Any more than ourselves; which extends the coincidence. In some provinces, a thirtieth is the utmost that can be levied.”
“Then I hope the coincidence will extend no further.”
“Indeed I don’t know,” sighing: “but my proportion becomes less every year. Those Asiatic governments have a power which we English clergy have not. They can help to improve the country from which they levy their tenths, while we can only claim the tithe, without having any title or power to aid its production. There is no inducement to a vicar, like myself, to plan a road, for instance, to some new market for produce, though my tithe might be much increased in value thereby. If I were a prince, on the other hand, I should do this directly, and profit by it.”
“And the land also; which seems to point out that this method of raising funds is better for a state than for a church, whose ministers can never have the same power of promoting improvement with those of a government.”
“But, papa, does the emperor of China take his fortune in hay or fruit, like you and Apollo, not in money? I should think it would be very easy to cheat him: and what a quantity of things he must have to stow away! And so must a clergyman in a very large parish.”
“Yes,” replied Jerom; “and that is the reason that tithes are generally paid in money, in large parishes. The tax would be so in China, too, I dare say, but that the mandarins like to have the collecting of it.”
“I think papa had better get a mandarin to collect his for him, if he finds that people cheat him, and do not pay him so much as they ought. Papa, I wish you would make me your mandarin. I should like to go about gathering eggs, and apples, and all the things that people pay you.”
“The mandarins have a different reason for liking to make these collections. They can cheat as well as the people under them. But yet, collecting under my own eye, as I do, mine is a hard case;—it is hard that I cannot get my tenths of the articles which are as much the property of the church as of the farmer who refuses me my due.”
“Mrs. Byrne says, however, that her husband’s is a hard case. He has all the trouble of planting and rearing, she says; and ever so much goes to those who have had none of the toil and the cost.”
“Mrs. Byrne shall have a rebuke from me, my child, if she talks so to you. So long as she has lived in this house, she must have heard me say, that the whole of what grows out of the ground is no more the property of the grower, than the parsonage is the property of the bricklayer that builds it. Mr. Parker’s hops never were all his; and it is quite wrong in him to murmur about any of them being taken away. He has a partner. Sir William Hood is his partner; and yet Mr. Parker repines at every payment, as if he were obliged to give something that belonged to himself.”
“I would give something to Sir William Hood to persuade him to leave off being a partner,” Alice observed: “for it must be very provoking to have so much trouble about another person’s share of hops.”
“Our first duty is, child, to maintain the claims of the church; and now that discontent is spreading, every good minister of the church will assert his right rather than suit his convenience.—And, besides, I doubt whether any clergyman or other tithe-holder, has a right to make any arrangement which would be objected to by those who will come after him. The property is that of the church, not of the individual; and he must keep it inviolate, for his successor: not even planning any disposal of it which the church may not approve a thousand years hence.”
“That was precisely the argument used by our predecessors,” observed Jerom, “when they scrupled about paying their first fruits and tenths to any but the Pope. They feared not only excommunication, but what the church might say five hundred years afterwards. But we hear little now of excommunication, and nobody wishes to pay to the Pope. Seeing, therefore, how little can be known of what is to come after, and that nothing is at present done for the relief and aid of the church, I should be disposed to make such agreement as should yield advantage in our own day, leaving it to Heaven to protect its own gospel in time to come.”
“Would you really, then, advise my letting my tithes to Peterson, as he desires? Is that what you would say?”
Jerom knew nothing of Peterson’s desire to be the lessee of the vicar’s tithes. He was thinking now of his own affair,—the application of the share of Queen Anne’s Bounty which had fallen to him. He had the power of getting it invested in the land now in course of enclosure in his parish. An inducement to such an arrangement was added in the wish of the landlord of the Abbey Farm to give Jerom a slice off his new fields, in lieu of tithe for the remainder. The Lamberts were taking in these new fields, and were evidently watching, with some anxiety, what would be done about the tithe. Being quakers, they would not countenance this claim of the church; and it was natural that they should be desirous of the matter being settled in a way which should save the necessity of resistance hereafter on their part, and aggression on that of the neighbouring clergyman. The matter remained in Jerom’s choice,—whether he should seek the consent of the patron and ordinary to his accepting, for the period of his incumbency, an addition to his allotment in lieu of tithe on the Lamberts’ new fields, or levy tithe upon his quaker neighbours. This was the argument which his spirit was revolving when Alice saw him from the summer-house, and thought he was watching for the stars to come out, while the sun was yet high.
The vicar looked full of consternation when he asked his brother whether he really meant to turn farmer. He knew the present law allowed the clergy to cultivate their allotments; but, in these evil days, when the holiness of the profession had suffered in the eyes of the people, no true church minister would run the risk of offence, by giving his attention to secular cares.
Very true, Jerom thought, if the church were duly protected: but, till its humblest ministers were sufficiently provided for, they must use the means that God put before them, to obtain bread. The employment of tilling the ground was a remarkably innocent and a primitive one, and there was less disgrace to the church in pursuing it, than in appearing in such a garb — in such —
“O, yes, your hat is very shabby indeed, uncle,” observed Alice. “But you would not object to uncle’s fishing, papa: would you?”
“Fish, my dear, do not yield tithe of common right, though, in some places, they are titheable by custom. Where tithed, it is only a personal tithe, and must be paid to the church where the payer attends divine service and receives the sacraments; and in your uncle’s parish, or mine, where there is neither sea nor a river where fish is taken for profit, there is no such tithe due. We have only ponds near, where fish are kept for pleasure; and it is agreed, as the law is uncertain on the point of such preserves of fish, that no claim for tithe shall be preferred. I have reason to know —”
“But I did not mean all this, papa. I asked you whether you would object to uncle Jerom’s fishing. I suppose farming is no worse than fishing, and some of the Apostles were fishermen.—And you are often busy about other things besides your preaching, papa, or your books either. Remember the battle you had with Mr. Byrne, about the turkey, in the winter. Mrs. Byrne could scarcely help laughing, though you and Mr. Byrne seemed likely to pull the poor thing to pieces between you. O, uncle, you should have heard the noise, when papa was talking very loud about the church, and Mr. Byrne was in a great passion, and the turkey gobbled as loud as either of them.”
“Why, brother,” said Jerom, “did not you know that it was decided in the case of Houghton and Prince, that turkies are to be ranked among the things that are feræ naturæ; and consequently not titheable?”
“On the other hand, it was affirmed in the case of Carleton and Brightwell, that it does not appear but that turkies are birds as tame as hens, or other poultry, and must therefore pay tithes; and this was in the face of the plea that turkies were not brought from beyond sea before the time of Queen Elizabeth. My distinction is between their being sold and spent in the house. However, I am willing to acknowledge that it would satisfy me well to place this part of my duty in the hands of a lessee, if I could be thoroughly persuaded that I should not thereby betray my responsibility and the dignity of the church.”
Jerom thought that if turkies must be wrestled for, it was more for the dignity of the church that it should be done by Peterson than by the vicar. He was by no means bent on farming his own land. He was rather disposed to let it. If the vicar would also let his tithes, he believed that both might be easy in conscience as to the guardianship of their trust.
“Moreover,” observed the vicar, “it will be in some sort an advantage to the church that Peterson should have the collecting of its dues in this parish, inasmuch as, with all my endeavours, I am compelled to forego many claims which I know to be just; and for another reason which I will presently relate. As to foregoing my claims,—I am well assured that I do not recover more than two-thirds of that to which I have a just claim; and I thus become guilty under the article of the ecclesiastical constitution which declares that those who, from the fear of man, shall not demand their whole tithe with effect, shall be liable to pay a fine to the archdeacon for disobedience.”
“If that article were put in force, how many of our brethren would be proved liable! On the average, they are thought to forego forty, and some say fifty per cent, of their dues.”
“God knows I have laboured diligently to avoid this sin! No pastor has brought more actions for an equal amount: and I have written to the justices so often that they begin, I fear, to be weary of my informations. But what can I do else for the ease of my conscience? The distraint and sale of Stratten’s goods last year caused me to lie awake a whole night from concern for the recusant; and I believe I could not have gone through with the affair but for the fear of being myself disobedient to the law of the church.”
“I saw little Mary Stratten to-day, sitting at the workhouse gate as you went by,” observed Alice. “She is not nearly so puny now,—since they all went into the workhouse,—as she was when you brought her in to be warmed and have a bit of bread that day in the winter. But, papa, Mr. Peterson will not prevent my making your hay, will he? You know you promised that I might make up your haycock in the rectory-field: and I told Joseph Lambert so, this afternoon.”
“It will be Mr. Peterson’s haycock, my child: but he will allow you to make sport with the haymakers, I do not doubt. And this reminds me, brother, of my other reason for allowing Peterson to become my lessee. I may thereby avoid all intercourse (unless on purely spiritual matters) with the person who is about to inhabit the rectory.”
“Ah! I heard that Sir William had let the rectory to a gentleman for two or three years; and I hoped he might be a prop to the church in this neighbourhood.”
“So far from it, that I must be incessantly vigilant lest he should poison the streams at which our flocks must drink.”
“Poison!” exclaimed Alice. “O, papa! is Mr. Mackintosh a bad man?”
“Go, my dear child, and occupy yourself in something pleasant till we send for you,” said the vicar.
“Papa, uncle Jerom has not done eating yet: and you know if you once send me away, you will forget to send for me again. You always do.”
The vicar, however, did not choose that his little daughter should have her mind contaminated by any ideas about infidelity, and uncle Jerom therefore resolutely pushed from him the last remains of the loaf, and Alice withdrew, full of curiosity about poisoning, and the dreadful thing, whatever it was, that was the matter with Mr. Mackintosh. She chose to employ herself in watering the flower-bed below the parlour window,—not for the purpose of overhearing, which was out of the question,—but that her father might, by seeing her, be reminded, in the midst of his affection for mother-church, that he had a daughter. She could not give up her privilege of being called ‘dear child,’ the last thing before she went to bed. She saw that papa and uncle had drawn their chairs close together, and that they looked very much like people talking secrets. And so they were.
“What! absolutely deistical? Well; such an open boast is better than concealed infidelity. Will have nothing to say to a clergyman? Then we are saved the trouble of declining his acquaintance. But how came Sir William to let his house to such a man? Living upon the church, as Sir William does, he might refrain from setting her interests at defiance by showing any countenance to such a man. You will begin a course on the Evidences directly, I suppose.”
“Immediately; though my custom has been to deliver them in the winter. But, Jerom;—your hat. It is not becoming that such a hat should be seen within the precincts of your church; and I would not give occasion of scandal to this unbeliever. I am afraid, Jerom, that you have no money.”
Jerom threw down two half-crowns,—the whole of his present wealth. The vicar shook his head, and drew out of an unlocked drawer his canvas money-bag. It was not very rich; but he concluded that it should furnish Jerom and himself with new hats, and that the supply of their further wants should be left to the evolution of circumstances.
“And now, about the purchase of them,” said the vicar. “One of us may as well put the vicarial office upon the other: for it is disagreeable to buy a hat; and no more awkward to buy two than one.”
“But our heads are not of the same size,” objected Jerom. “If it were not for the shabbiness of my own hat, I should propose that we should go together to the hatter’s, the next time I am called by the new literature to Y—. As it is, I propose that you should make the adventure first; and then I will borrow your hat for the occasion, and follow your example.”
It was finally settled thus; and that Jerom should accept an allotment in the new inclosures, to be cultivated by a tenant, while the vicar was to let his dues, consisting of his endowment of hay, and of his small tithes, to Peterson; it being kept a secret from his parishioners that Peterson had anything to do with the tithes but to collect them. The vicar feared lest the bargain being known should lessen the little respect there was among the people for the claims of the church. All this had long been settled, and the brothers were deeply engaged in an argument upon a point of ecclesiastical history, when Alice tapped at the window, and asked disconsolately if she might not come in, because she had left her doll’s right shoe under the parlour table, and she could find nothing more to do in the garden. Susan said she would drown the flowers if she went on watering them any longer. And, besides, it was almost time now for the cream cheese: they had been so long, Susan said, over their tea.—Leave granted.
Mr. Mackintosh came and took possession of the rectory at Midsummer. He was a single gentleman, everybody was surprised to find. Nothing was heard of either mother or sister who might make his home comfortable; and why such a handsome gentleman, rich enough, it was supposed, and certainly not past middle age, should be still single, was more than could be comprehended by the people of the parish. His housekeeper was questioned; but the housekeeper knew nothing of the how and the why. She could only tell that her master was sometimes low-spirited, and apt to find fault with people; and that he was so fond of his books and of business that he did not seem to have time for the society of ladies. She had never heard anything of his being engaged to be married; and, for her own part, she could not believe that it was so at present; for her master seemed to be as anxious about matters within his little domain as if he had nothing to look to beyond.
It was indeed true that he looked into his business with a keen eye;—with the keen eye of one who wants occupation, and therefore vehemently takes up whatever comes before him. He was the owner of the Abbey Farm, and of another in the neighbourhood, — the Quarry Wood farm, — which was now out of lease; and there were no bounds to the diligence with which he walked over both, from day to day, in order to investigate the condition of every part in every conceivable respect. Both the Lamberts were sure to tell, every day at their early dinner, that they had met their landlord in two opposite directions, while their mother had nearly as often to mention the variety of questions she had been requested to answer, and the odd kind of chat she had had with friend Mackintosh. He was incessantly visiting the cottage at Quarry Wood, to know if any one had called to view the vacant farm; and his housekeeper believed he knew almost every blade of grass in the rectory garden, and was sorry he did not rent the glebe as well as the dwelling, as it would have afforded him something more to do. He was no favourite with the neighbours; for his manners were haughty and careless. Byrne was the only person known to take heartily to him: but Byrne seemed on such friendly terms with him that there must certainly be something kindly in him; for Byrne was not apt to attach himself easily. He had actually left his work at the Abbey Farm, several times, in order to serve Mr. Mackintosh. When tried by the common and best test of kindliness, Mr. Mackintosh, however, was found wanting. He was not always kind to children; as Alice could testify.
She ran in, one day, at her nurse’s, in tears,—in a passion of mingled anger and woe. She had been watching, this fortnight, for the symptoms of an intention to cut the grass at the rectory. She had looked through the garden paling, every day, and had seen the grass growing longer and longer on the lawn, till the wind waved it as if it had been ripening corn. Papa had promised for a whole year, that she should make his haycock; and Susan had given her a hay-rake, just tall enough for her, on her last birth-day. Mrs. Byrne herself had told her on Tuesday, that the grass was to be cut this day, if the weather should be fine. Alice had jumped out of bed an hour before Susan called her, to see how bright the sun was shining; and now, after all, Mr. Mackintosh would not admit her to make hay because she was the vicar’s daughter.
“My dear, that cannot be the reason. There has been no time yet for Mr. Mackintosh to quarrel with your papa. I dare say he does not like to have little girls running about his grass plat; though I see no great harm that you could do him and his grass.”
“But he said himself that it was because I was the vicar’s daughter; and that he would have nobody belonging to a clergyman go near him.”
“Well, that does agree with his saying that he would not let the Quarry Farm to any religious people; superstitious people, as he calls them.”
“I don’t think I am very religious. He might as well let me go in and make hay,” murmured Alice, relapsing into tears.
“Come and look at my bees,” said Mrs. Byrne. “You should see how they have got on with the comb since you were here. Since we laid out the bed for the thyme—Take care, my dear; you will upset the milk. There! there goes your hat into it! Dear! dear! how came you not to see the milk pail?”
While she plunged the straw bonnet in water, to get rid of the milk in which it had already been dipped, Alice asked how the milk pail happened to stand there, full in the sun, where the milk would be sure to turn sour before night. How could she help stumbling over it?
And she was about to remove it into a better place; but Mrs. Byrne stopped her. Byrne would be angry if it was moved. She had promised that it should stand in that place and nowhere else. If Alice’s bonnet should be quite spoiled, Byrne and Mr. Peterson must settle it between them which should buy her another, for Mrs. Byrne could not take upon herself to say which was answerable for the milk standing there. It did seem a sin and a shame that the milk should be turning sour there, when the neighbours she usually supplied were doing without.
“Then why do not you let them have it?”
“It is tithe milk. As we do not make cheese, Mr. Peterson will have us set by every tenth milking for your papa’s tithe. There is a dispute between him and my husband as to which ought to carry the milk. Mr. Peterson says that my husband is bound to carry it, either to the vicarage or to the church porch; and I would have taken it myself to the church porch, to save quarrelling, but my husband stopped me. He is sure that he has the law on his side in making the tithe-taker send his own pails for the milk; and so here it stands spoiling. I make the less stir about it that Mr. Peterson now collects the tithes instead of the vicar himself.”
Alice was immediately bent on going to tell Mr. Peterson that he had better send for the milk; or, perhaps, authorize her to carry it. This was exactly such an enterprise as suited Alice. She seized every opportunity of following a swarm of bees, or of driving pigs, or of helping to push sheep into the water before shearing. She had never recovered the prohibition to go the bounds of the parish; and had a secret plan to do it by herself some day, to show that she could. Mrs. Beverley would let her through her house, she was sure; and Joseph Lambert was too good-tempered to quarrel with her for climbing his hedge. Meantime, it would be good entertainment, in a small way, to haul a full milk-pail half through the parish, without spilling a drop; and she could sit down in the church porch to grow cool when the task was done.
Mrs. Byrne would not allow this; that was the worst of it. Alice grew cross. Nobody would let her-do as she liked this day. She would not now look at the bees; nor gather herself a nosegay; nor try whether she could not find green peas enough ripe to make a little dish for her papa’s supper; nor dust Mrs. Byrne’s prized collection of shells and birds’ eggs. Nothing would she do but go down again to the rectory garden, and peep through the palings to watch the mowing, and the process of tedding the grass, the delicious process which she must not aid. Mrs. Byrne foresaw that the smell of the hay would be a provocative to melancholy, and sighed when she found all her blandishments in vain, and that the wilful girl would have her way.
She was still looking grave over the kneading of the dumpling for her husband’s dinner, when Alice came back, seeming much disposed to fly but for the care she was taking of something in her frock, which was turned up round her, and made the depôt of something very precious. The hay-making seemed all forgotten, with every other grief, and Alice was trembling with pleasure.
“The milk-pail! the milk-pail, my dear,” cried Mrs. Byrne. “Bless me! how nearly you were in again, you giddy thing! What can you have got in your lap? What a lot of eggs! Partridge’s eggs! What a number!”
“O, they will get cold, if you don’t make haste,” cried Alice. “I came as quick as ever I could without breaking them. Mr. Byrne says they will be hatched, if you put them near the fire before they have grown cold.”
“I did not think he would have ventured to take them from under the hen. I wonder what Mr. Mackintosh will say if he finds it out,” observed Mrs. Byrne, bustling about to seek a shallow basket, which, lined with a flannel petticoat, and placed near the fire, might serve as a warm nest for the fourteen eggs.
“The poor hen partridge is dead,” said Alice. “She was sitting on the eggs when Mr. Byrne cut off her head, poor thing, with his scythe. He saw me through the pales, and gave me the eggs, and bade me come to you with them; but before I left, the cock partridge came home; and there he is walking about, poor fellow, in the middle of the grass, just as if he was too unhappy to be afraid of any body. But when do you think these eggs will be hatched?”
Very soon, if at all, Mrs. Byrne thought. She advised Alice to stay here and watch, instead of going down to the rectory any more to-day. It was not likely that more partridges’ eggs would be found; and she had remembered since Alice left her—(she was sorry she had forgotten it before)—that she might make hay, after a manner, in this garden, though she did not pretend that it could compare with the rectory garden.
“You see, however, that it is very well I went,” said Alice, with a superior air. “Now I should like to stay and watch the eggs. Papa will not mind about my going home to dinner, just to-day.”
Mrs. Byrne forthwith made another dumpling, and Alice stood, growing hotter every moment, close by the fire, peeping in between the folds of the flannel, in the incessant expectation of seeing a tiny bird’s head pop up. Mrs. Byrne soon perceived that she would at this rate totally exhaust herself before anything could come to pass, and opened up again her proposition about hay-making in the garden. The grass borders were somewhat overgrown, and there was a little plat,—a very small one, to be sure,—behind the cottage, where Mrs. Byrne hung out the linen to dry. From this plat a good deal of grass might be cut with Byrne’s shears; if they could be found; and Alice could be called in the first moment that a bird was hatched. It would be a fine thing to show people that Alice could make hay in other places besides the rectory garden.
Alice looked at the borders, and thought it would be a prodigious condescension. The sight of the rusty shears, however, subdued her pride; and as soon as Mrs. Byrne’s coarsest blue apron could be tied over the young lady’s frock, she was down on her knees, clipping and hacking at the dry grass, and severing as much as a handful in a quarter of an hour. She actually forgot her new property of eggs till Byrne came home to dinner, and startled her with his gruff voice, while she was trying to clip a bunch which was too obstinate for her shears. She looked up, vexed at being interrupted, but sufficiently exhausted to be in need of her dinner; and no vexation could withstand the news that three little partridges were huddling together and tumbling over one another in the basket.
No vexation of hers could withstand this news. Byrne’s was too highly wrought to be conquered so easily. He came home in a most terrible temperindeed. His wife was aghast when she heard how he abused Peterson, the church, and even the vicar himself, before Alice. Peterson had come down to the rectory to demand tithe of the mown grass, which Mr. Mackintosh had contemptuously refused, on the ground of there being no claim. Mr. Mackintosh had said that while the church had taken care that every other party should pay to the church, it had also taken care of itself, and had decreed that the church should not pay to the church. The parson might not pay to the vicar, or the vicar to the parson. Much as he hated the church, therefore, he was now sheltered under its wings; and not a blade of rectory grass should the vicar touch.—Well; what answer did Peterson make? Why; it was the most provoking thing in the world; he had his law book in his pocket, (as he seemed always to have,) and he showed that in the case of a vicar being specially endowed, (as Mr. Hellyer was,) small tithes, and even hay, might be levied upon the impropriator’s ground, as well as other people’s. Mr. Mackintosh said some very sound, good things, Byrne thought, when he found he really was liable. He said he thought it would be no more than fair to leave people to choose whether they would have a religion or not; and that they might as well demand from him his meat and drink to maintain Punch in a puppet-show—
Mrs. Byrne stopped her husband by throwing a bit of partridge’s egg-shell at him to make him look up, just when Alice’s eyes began to open wide with expectation of what it was that was to be likened to Punch in a puppet-show. It was grief enough to Mrs. Byrne that her husband should snatch up Mr. Mackintosh’s revolting sayings about religion; she would not have this child exposed to the evil under her roof; and so she had told her husband. He went on muttering, while he tore his dumpling to pieces, that he did not believe Mr. Mackintosh would allow the grass to be carried away; and, for his part, he hoped he would not. It was time somebody was beginning to resist encroachment, or there was no saying what pass the parish would come to. He had seen, and so had his father, how the burden of tithes grew and grew; but it was not till he told the facts to Mr. Mackintosh, and Mr. Mackintosh explained them, that Byrne knew the reason why the burden must always go on to increase, unless the church should —
Here he was again stopped. His wife wondered whether Mr. Mackintosh could explain why tithes were only half the amount in the next parish. If the soil was really equally good in the two parishes, it was very odd that wheat land should yield twelve shillings per acre of tithe here, and only six shillings in the next parish.
“I have known a worse case than that; where fourteen shillings were paid for an acre on one side a hedge, and five and sixpence for an acre on the other side, of precisely the same quality of soil. But, bad as it is to have to depend on parsons’ tempers, and such accidents, it is not so bad as seeing the tithe go on growing and growing, and knowing that it will never stop, unless such men as Mr. Mackintosh put a short stop to it. Ah! you look frightened; but you had better look frightened at the tithes than at any thing that I say about Mr. Mackintosh. In my father’s time and mine, I’ll tell you what has happened. Rent is higher, as you know only too well from every farmer you meet. The rise of tithe helps rent to rise; and the tithes have trebled while rent has risen one-fourth. Rent has risen fast enough; but tithes have risen twelve times as much.”
Mrs. Byrne thought this must be a mistake; because if matters went on at this rate, there must come an end of tithe, and tillage, and all.
“And so there will, it tithe goes on. Tithes are higher than the rent now, in some spots hereabouts, where hops and other expensive articles are grown. And the reason why it must be so is so plain, that Mr. Mackintosh does not believe but that those who made tithe foresaw all that is coming to pass. The tithe is part of the crop, which cost a vast deal of toil and expense to raise; and as the toil and expense of raising a crop increase, the tithe must become a larger and larger share of the profit. Don’t you see?”
“To be sure, the more it costs to grow a bushel of corn, the dearer the corn will be, and the more value there will be in the tenth part. But if the tithe makes corn and other things dearer, and their being dearer raises the value of the tithe again, there can be nothing but ruin before us.”
“Except to the church, which is to fatten on our starvation, Mr. Mackintosh says.”
“But this makes a fine profit for the Lamberts, and those who pay no tithe, and yet sell their corn as dear as other people.”
“To be sure it is; for every farmer, in Wales or Scotland, or wherever else in the kingdom he may be, that holds tithe-free land. Where some are obliged to sell dear, as the tithe-payers are, those few that could sell cheaper are sure to follow, as long as there is too little instead of too much of what they have to sell; and the tithe-free thus profit at the expense of those who buy bread and hay. However, we should not talk of the farmers profiting, except as far as they can get their burden of tithes lightened during their lease. The Lamberts pay a fine rent for the Abbey Farm, in consideration of its being tithe-free; and if tithes were to be done away by the time their lease is out, their rent would be lowered to meet the fall of prices that would take place. So it is their landlord that gains from their land being tithe-free, except for the convenience of having no mischief made in their field, and for the price of corn rising as tithe rises while their lease runs. Their rent will be raised again, Mr. Mackintosh says, if tithing goes on at the present rate in the parish.”
“I always think no people look so like prosperous folks as the Lamberts.”
“Ah! the old man was a thrifty one; and ’tis said there are no better farmers in the county than his sons. Sir William will make no difficulty of letting them keep the Abbey Farm in the family as long as he and they have to do with lands, as long as they keep on this side Sticks, as Mr. Mackintosh says; but I don’t know what he means exactly.”
“I do,” said Alice; “Styx is the river where dead people get across in a boat.”
“Well; do you believe that, now? I would as soon believe what your father preaches —”
“O, no, nobody believes about Styx now,” said Alice. “Mr. Mackintosh only talks as some people used to talk, hundreds of years ago, because he does not choose to talk as people talk now.”
Byrne shook his head. His opinion of Mr. Mackintosh was lowered. It was a pity Mr. Mackintosh did not speak of something that he really believed, instead of something that had been already disbelieved hundreds of years ago.
“How neat Mrs. Lambert looks now! and how quick she always walks!” said Alice, quitting her dinner. “I will call her in to see my birds and the eggs.”
There was no occasion to make haste to call Mrs. Lambert. She was coming to Byrne’s cottage. She had a smile for Alice, though she was evidently in haste to say something.
“I wish, friend,” said she to Byrne, “that that thou wouldst make haste down to the rectory. They want thee there; and thy dinner will keep, I dare say.”
“What’s the matter?” cried Byrne, seizing his hat. “Is that scoundrel Peterson kicking up a row?”
“I scarcely know,—being a little dull of apprehension, compared with thee, as to who is the scoundrel when people fall out, and whether there must be one. However, I can tell thee this;—that there is a great empty waggon, with five horses in it, at the rectory gate, and Peterson is making a show of it; and George Mackintosh stands at his garden pales, trying how provoking he can look, as it seems to me. The people are gathering, and the quarrel runs high. If thou canst bring either to a soft answer, thou wilt do a good deed. But, Byrne,” (calling after him,) “I assure thee they are ready enough with the word scoundrel already. Do not thou help them.”
Alice flew after Byrne. Mrs. Byrne thought it necessary to follow Alice; and Mrs. Lambert had been on her way to Mr. Mackintosh on business, when the gathering of the crowd made her turn back. She therefore walked down the road once more, hoping that her landlord would soon be able to listen to what she had to say.
All was in uproar at the rectory. The garden gate was laid by itself on a bank in the road. The heavy waggon was making deep ruts in the grass plat, which the feet of the five cart-horses had already torn up. The tithe of grass was being thrown in, amidst the laughter of the spectators, any one of whom could have carried it home in a well-packed wheelbarrow. The housekeeper was crying at one window, and her master was standing at another, with his hand in his bosom, no word on his tongue, but awful threatenings of the law on his brow. Byrne was evidently in a fury, though a sign from Mr. Mackintosh positively forbade his offering any opposition to Peterson and his team. He struck his toe into the cut turf, as a bull would have struck his horns; and like a bull, threw up clods into the air.
Peterson coolly expounded the law, the whole time, though none seemed disposed to take note of it, unless it was the horses, who certainly strained their muscles more zealously, and struck their hoofs deeper, and jingled their harness more emphatically, when he cracked his whip in the pauses of his lecture.
“I have spared you some of the trouble I might have given, if I had enforced my right,” said he. “By common right, the tithe grass may be made into hay upon the spot, and I might have turned in labourers to work on the ground for a couple of days. And then, again, I have not suffered my horses to touch a blade of your grass, Mr. Mackintosh.”
Somebody observed that he would have had to answer for it in law if he had permitted his horses so to act.
“By no means,” replied Peterson. “What does the law say?” (Reading.) “ ‘And when he comes with his carts, teams, or other carriages, to carry away his tithes, he must not suffer his horses or oxen to eat and depasture the grass growing in the grounds where the tithes arise; much less the corn there growing or cut. But,’ ” (with emphasis,) “ ‘if his cattle do in their passage, against the will of the driver, here and there snatch some of the grass, this is excusable.’ ”
“Against the will of the driver,” repeated some. “No thanks to you, Peterson.”
“It seems to me that making little laws like this is quite fit work for the pharisees,” thought Mrs. Lambert. “The weighty matters of the law seem to find no room here, any more than among those that were so busy with their mint, and anise, and cummin.”
Peterson proceeded. “ ‘If any person do stop or let the parson, vicar, proprietor, owner, or other of their deputies, or farmers, to view, take, and carry away their tithes as above said; he shall forfeit double value, with costs; to be recovered in the ecclesiastical court.’ 2 and 3, Edward VI. c. 13. s. 2. ‘And if the owner of the soil, after he has duly set forth his tithes, —’ ”
“I wish the devil had taken me before I set out the tithe, let the law say what it will,” thought Mr. Mackintosh. “I wish I had bid defiance to the law and the fellow at the same time.”
“ ‘Will stop up the ways,’ ” proceeded Peterson, “ ‘and not suffer the parson to carry away his tithes, or to spread, dry, and stack them upon the land, this is no good setting forth of his tithes without fraud within the statutes; but the parson may have an action upon the said statute, and may recover the treble value; or may have an action upon the case for such disturbance; or he may, if he will, break open the gate or fence which hinders him, and carry away his tithes.’ Which is what I have been and am doing, Mr. Mackintosh.”
“So I perceive.”
“Well, sir. What do you say to what I have just read?”
“That you shall hear in court.”
“You cannot say that I have not, in the words of my authority, been ‘cautious that he commit no riot, nor break any gate, rails, lock, or hedges, more than necessarily he must for his passage.’ You cannot say so, sir.”
“I have nothing to say to you,” replied Mr. Mackintosh, stepping out upon his mangled lawn from the window. “Whatever I have to say relates to your principal and to his church.”
“Take care how you blame my principal, sir,” said Peterson; concealing, as desired by the vicar, the fact that these tithes had become his own property. “My principal, sir, asks no more than his right: and if he is guilty at all in the eye of the law, it is for requiring much less than his due.”
“Well, if your principal chooses to live by such a right, let him. If he chooses, for the sake of a mere life interest in such an institution, to pay his rent of servility and dependence to the oligarchy, I wish him joy of his contentment in his holy office. The church is the patrimony of the oligarchy,—that is, the emoluments of the church;—and these emoluments purchase support for the oligarchy. If your principal hopes for salvation while he is helping his employers to confirm their own corrupt dominion, for the oppression of the people, he is even a greater simpleton than I take him to be. And so you may tell him, if you happen to understand what I say.”
Everybody present understood that something was said about the vicar and being a simpleton; and a smile went round. Byrne had no doubt that, so much being true, all the rest must be very fine; and he was vehement in his applause. Peterson turned round to him, and declared that he had some business with him which he would not be long in disclosing. With an air of defiance, Byrne invited the lessee to come and hear his opinions on his own premises. Mrs. Byrne trembled for the consequences of the proposed visit; and earnestly hoped that it would not take place till the minds of both parties had cooled. She would do her utmost with her husband to convince him of the uselessness of contending with the law. If Mr. Mackintosh chose to go into court, that was no reason why a labouring man should incur such expense and vexation. It would be far better to pay tithe out of their garden, which was what Peterson was going to demand, she supposed, than to run any risk by refusal. The vicar had always paid her wages readily when she was a servant in his family, and she should be sorry to make any difficulty about paying his dues, now that it was her husband’s turn to recompense service.
The throng of gazers and mockers naturally followed the waggon. Byrne and another labourer began lifting the gate, in order to set it again upon its hinges; but Mr. Mackintosh desired that it might lie where it was, till a legal opinion should have been obtained as to whether more force had been used than the occasion required, and than the law could justify. Presently, no one was left but the gentleman and Mrs. Lambert, who was not disposed to leave her business to be propounded on another occasion, merely because Mr. Mackintosh had lately been in a passion, and was now out of humour.
“I thought thou hadst been wiser,” observed Mrs. Lambert, in her plain way, “than to cause thyself all this mischief. It seems to me a pity to spoil a pretty place in this manner, without doing any good that I see.”
“No good! It is doing good to resist paying tithe.”
“I agree with thee there. We Friends think it not lawful to pay tithes.”
“No; you let the parson come and seize them. This is a degree better than paying them; but what good has been done by such a resistance as that?”
“I might ask what good has been done by your resistance. Here is your little lawn spoiled; and ill-will confirmed between the vicar and his people. It will not affect thee so much as me, perhaps, that there has been a scandal to religion, too. Ah! I see thee smile; and I am far from thinking that there is religion in taking tithe: but the man who preaches religion in this parish has been held up to scorn; and I fear the contempt may spread to what he preaches. Thou wouldst not object to this? Well, now, if thou wilt let me say so, I do wonder that one who talks of liberty as thou dost, should be so unwilling to allow liberty of judgment to others.”
Mr. Mackintosh protested that the one thing he was always striving after was to emancipate people’s judgments from the monstrous superstitions, the incredible follies which they called faith and religion, and so on. He was for ever trying to set people’s judgments free.
“Rather, to make them think like thee, shouldst thou not say? There is a contempt in thy way of speaking of Christians, and others who differ from thee, which I should be apt to call oppression, dost thou know? No person hinders thee from saying what thy own opinions are, and where other people’s are wrong; and, therefore, what occasion is there for trying to persuade thy neighbours that their clergyman must be a bad man, if he be not a fool. I think thee wrong in doing this, and I say so when opportunity offers, though I have no better an opinion than thou of his clergyman’s gown, and of all the forms which he mixes up with his public worship.”
“Then you must let me declare you wrong.”
“That such is thy opinion. Certainly. But I wonder thou art easy in making thyself answerable for mixing up with Martha Lambert’s follies some things which are of graver importance;—things which, true or false, make or mar a great deal of happiness, and cannot, therefore, be whiffed away, like trifles, with a joke. Thou wert free, last Sunday, to go into the fields instead of the church, and to tell every one that passed why there should be, as thou thinkest, no church going: but I do not see that it was more proper for thee to point at thy neighbours of the church and the meeting, and say that they differed only in going to see Punch in a wig and Punch in a broad-brim, than it would be in the Lamberts to say that thou desirest the perdition of mankind because thou dost not worship as they do.”
“Whoever told you of that speech of mine should have added what I said besides;—that the Quakers are the only Christians I respect, on account of their—”
“That is all very well in its way: but I do not ask for compliments to the Friends, but for justice to everybody. I could wish to see thee go to law, (as thy conscience allows it,) rather than hold up the good vicar to scorn. Thou wilt allow the suggestion.”
“Ah! you have not that resource. The Friends do not go to law when they believe themselves wrongfully tithed.”
“Their reference is to the divine, not to human law. Their pleas against tithe are three, which would avail nothing in a court of law;—that the interference of civil governments with spiritual concerns is unauthorized and unholy—”
“That the tithe system is a return to the Levitical law, which can have no place under a profession of Christianity.”
Mr. Mackintosh smiled his utter contempt of both Judaism and Christianity.
“And that religion can never be lawfully made a trade; the rule of the case being the precept, ‘Freely ye have received; freely give.’ If thou dost not agree in this last, but thinkest, as the generality do, that the setting forth of spiritual things deserves hire in the same way as the teaching of the mathematics, and other things that belong to the mind, there is the less reason for thy pronouncing that the vicar must be a bad man or a simpleton for requiring the maintenance that the law allows him.”
“It is an infamous practice! The oppression is intolerable. The injustice is what nobody ought to endure. That we should have the church of Rome over again at this time of day! Your favourite vicar may be just such a simpleton of a priest as one might find in the old Popish days, in country villages: but what a poor wretch to set to teach the people!
“Suppose, then, we try to mend the law that displeases us both so much. If the law makes the vicar do and expect what thou thinkest folly, a wiser law might enable him to conduct himself more wisely in thy eyes. My sons will be happy to conduct thee to affix thy name to a petition of the Friends against tithes, which is lying for signature in the next town.”
Mr. Mackintosh would have a petition of his own, whenever he signed one for such a purpose. He would not mix himself up with Christians in any way. He should petition at once for the overthrow of all superstition in this country.
“And, of course, that thou shouldst be appointed judge of what is superstition, and what is not; for I fear thou art not else likely to be satisfied. Meantime, I fear thou wilt not let the Quarry Wood farm to superstitious people.”
“Not unless I were sure that their superstition did not make them cheats: as superstition generally does.”
“Have the Lamberts cheated thee in their management of the Abbey Farm?”
“No. I had rather let your sons have the Quarry Wood farm than any soft, sneaking tithe-payer. Every man that is a slave to the church is an enemy to me.”
“And all who pay tithes are slaves to the church. I am sorry for thee, George Mackintosh, for I think, at this rate, no man has ever had so many enemies. I presume that thou, as a scholar, hast as long a list of the tithe-payers of all the world from the beginning, as the vicar himself. He would make one believe that the Friends alone are, as thou sayst, not slaves to the church, and therefore thy allies.”
“I offered the Quarry Wood farm at a very low rent, if I could find a tenant that I approved,” said Mr. Mackintosh. “Your sons shall have it at that low rent, in consideration of—of—”
“Of their opinions on one point happening to suit thy own. This is the principle by which thou wouldst secure perfect liberty of thought and speech. However, I shall be glad if my sons can come to an agreement with thee in time to prevent any one from professing himself an infidel in order to obtain thy farm at a low rent. It is creditable to the public that thy advertisement to such persons has not already answered to thy satisfaction.”
Superstition was too strong and too popular yet for individuals, Mr. M. replied. Most men had not the courage to put themselves in a position of defiance, such as he had in this case offered.
“Thou wilt now withdraw thy advertisement,” urged Mrs. Lambert. “There is no fear of my sons being taken for any thing but what they are by those who know them: but I should be sorry they should be obliged to disclaim in the public papers any character that thou mightst seem to fix upon them.”
Not only was this promised, as a matter of course, and an arrangement made for an interview at the Quarry Wood farm, when all the terms might be discussed; but Mrs. Lambert obtained permission to call upon the crying housekeeper, and the gaping foot-boy, for aid towards securing the pretty garden from the intrusion of pigs and other trespassers. Before sunset, the gate swung once more on its hinges; and the grass was rolled and rolled again till half its disasters were repaired. It was as much a labour of love as teaching in a school, or cooking broth for a sick neighbour; and when Mrs. Lambert found she must go home, the foot-boy ran before her to open the gate; the housekeeper blessed her; and even Mr. M. sent a message after her to beg that she would not go till she had rested herself.
Peterson was not long in performing his promise or threat of visiting B.’s cottage. Indeed, he had so much to do now that it was necessary to fulfil his engagements as they arose, if he meant to discharge them all. He was not only the lessee of the vicar’s tithes, which cost him no small trouble to gather in. He was also the collector of Sir William Hood’s; and the time approached for making the usual valuation of the crops before harvest. Some of the land was, as has been said, tithe-free. A small portion besides, which seemed to lie within the verge of the parish, caused him no trouble. It had never been included, with certainty, within the bounds of any parish; and the tithe thereof, being extra-parochial, was the prerogative of the king, with whom Peterson had nothing to do. A composition had been agreed upon for the tithes of other lands, for a certain number of years; but there still remained a large extent of ground on which the great tithes had either to be compounded for on a valuation, from year to year, or where the contribution to the parson was to be levied in kind. His own property by lease, the small tithes and hay which he rented from the vicar, he determined to levy in kind: and his first step was to study the precise extent to which they were due, and to levy them to the utmost. Of the prædial tithes,—those which arise merely and immediately from the ground, the grain and wood had to be valued in order to a composition. The hay, being the vicar’s by special endowment, had to be levied in kind with the other prædial tithes which came under the denomination of small tithes; viz.: fruit, vegetables, and herbs. He had not only been the round of the hayfields, but was looking into all the gardens, and casting a calculating glance over the orchards, in anticipation of a tenth of their produce. Then the mixed tithes gave him much trouble; tithes of produce which arises not immediately from the ground, but from things immediately nourished by the ground, and which, according to the murmuring parishioners, paid tithe twice or three times over. When they had paid tithe of grass, they contended, it was hard to have it to pay again in the shape of a calf, and again in that of milk. In like manner, the grain on which their poultry fed paid tithe; and then the poultry; and also eggs. In like manner, the sheep pasture paid tithe; and then the tenth lamb must be given; and lastly, the wool. Endless disputes arose out of the lessee’s claims, and he was perpetually sent to his tithe gospel, as he called his law-book. There he found a provision by which he might annoy Byrne, and every parishioner in Byrne’s rank of life. There was another kind of tithe, besides the prædial and the mixed;—the personal tithe, which might be made, if possible, more offensive than the mixed. He knew that by a claim for this kind of tithe, at least, he could punish Byrne for his partisanship with Mr. Mackintosh in the morning.
When he arrived at Byrne’s, both the labourer and his wife were occupied in helping Alice to feed her little birds, the twelve young partridges which bore testimony to the efficacy of flannel and fire in June. Byrne did not trouble himself to look up when his foe entered; but observed, while guiding an infant beak to the mess which was prepared, that Peterson need not flatter himself that he would be permitted to carry away any of Miss Alice’s birds. The little girl’s own father should not rob her of her pleasures. Peterson thought it a pity such a defiance should be wasted; but he really never thought of such a thing as tithing wild birds. Pheasants and partridges are decided by law to be feræ naturæ, and therefore not titheable. Though their wings be clipped, they would still fly away if they could; and if they should breed, their young, though imprisoned, are still wild, and therefore not bound to support the clergyman. Alice’s pleasures were safe.
“O, I am so glad!” cried Alice; “and now we need not be afraid about the bees either, I suppose.”
“Ay; your bees, Mrs. Byrne,” observed Peterson, smiling. “You need not twitch the young lady’s sleeve, Byrne; I thought of the bees before; and, in fact, they made part of my errand. I see you have a fine range of beehives at the south end of your garden; and that spreading jessamine, and the thyme bed, and the tall honeysuckle must yield plenty of wax and honey. You must keep my share for me, remember.”
“If partridges are wild, so are bees, I should think, Mr. Peterson.”
“So the law says: and I am of opinion the law is therein defective: since, though bees can fly away individually, they are stationary, as a swarm, when once fixed in a hive. I should recommend that every tenth swarm should be set apart for tithe: but the law does not so ordain. The wax and honey, however, do not fly away, and it is of them that I spoke when I said you must remember the vicar’s share.”
“The vicar would have been sure enough of his share,” said Mrs. Byrne, somewhat heated, “if you had let me alone to offer it. Miss Alice will tell you that every year she has had much more than a tenth of my honey; and so she would still, without your interfering to make that a debt which was much more precious as a grace.”
“Mr. Peterson shall not bring me my honey,” protested Alice. “I won’t take it, unless you let me carry it home myself, Jane.”
Peterson wondered what would become of religion, if it was to be left to be supported by free will, instead of by dues.
How little was he aware what was included in this question! How little was he aware with whom he identified himself while asking it! This has been the faithless question of all the perverters of the quenchless religious principle in man, from the beginning of time,—of all the priests of all the trinities that the world has known. This is the question asked by the wise man of the Egyptian temple, when he unveiled the hawk-headed Osiris, and the swaddled Orus, and the crocodile-shaped Typhon, and told the prostrate people what to pay for housing the triad of creators that they came to adore.—This is the question asked by the ancient Hindoo priest, when he finished his evening meal of rice in the echoing recesses of the rocky temple, and waited only for the departure of the last impoverished worshipper, to go and see how much wealth was deposited for Brahma, and how much for Vishnu, and how much for Siva, and how many bribes were offered for admission into each of the seven paradises of the seven seas. This is the question asked before the Greek altars, when goats and horses and black bulls were sacrificed there, to the gods of the earth, and the sea, and the infernal regions, and tithe was demanded to be yielded to the one on his ivory seat, and another in his car of sea-shell, and the third on his throne of sulphur. This is the question asked by the skin-clothed ministers of the Gothic deities, Odin, Vile, and Ve, when they called upon their barbarian brethren to offer the hides of wolves, and the flesh of boars, in homage to the three sons of the mysterious cow. This is the question asked by the Mexican priests of old, when they forbade the feathered and jewelled warrior companies to come empty-handed to the sanctuary of the father-sun, the brother-sun, and the son-sun; the trinity of unpronounceable names. This is the question asked by the monastic orders of the Catholic church, when they ordained, as penance, that the children’s inheritance should be made over to the church, to the glory of the Gnostic triad which they enthroned on the Seven Hills, and to which they dared to invite adoration in the name of Christ. This is the question now asked by our Episcopal preachers of the three-fold deity, the Avenger, the Propitiator, and the Sanctifier; and enforced for the support of their tri-partite form of religion, compounded of Heathenism, Judaism, and Christianity.—This is not the question asked by Jesus, when he sent forth the Seventy, bidding them have faith that they should be supported by free-will offerings better than by dues; or when he cleansed the temple from the defilements which but too soon returned to harbour there; or when he sat on the well in Samaria, and declared who it was that the Father sought to worship him; or when he strayed in the wilderness, despising the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, and asking instead, the heart of man; or when he sat on the mountain-side, gazing on the temple towers which were bathed in the evening light, and telling of the time when the young pigeons should try their first flight from the summit of Moriah, instead of fluttering in death on the altar of sacrifice; and when the husbandman should plough up the foundations of the sanctuary, finding, through the gospel, that his own heart was a holier place.—What is included in this question,—whether religion can be supported by free will, and not by dues? To ask it is to doubt whether God has vivified the human heart with a principle of faith, and whether man be not really made to grovel with the beasts which perish, or, as the only alternative, to pursue shadows till the grave swallows him up like a pitfall in his path. It is to suppose that by mere accident alone has the northern barbarian been found watching for signs in the driving clouds; and the western Indian looking abroad over the blue Pacific; and the Persian hailing the sunrise from the mountain-top; and the Greek lawgiver waiting upon the voice of the oracle; and the Christian child praying at the knee of its parent. It is to question whether there be more in a sunrise than yellow light, or in a pestilence than so many dead, or in a political revolution than a change of actors in an isolated dramatic scene, or in the advent of a gospel than the issuing of a new and fugitive fiction. It is to deny that every man needs sympathy in his joys, and consolation for his sorrows; that he ever questions whence he came and whither he must go; that he ever feels the weight of his own being too vast to be sustained without reposing on Him who called it forth. It is to question whether there be faith on the earth, except within the pale of two or three churches; whether, for the rest of the world, the sea does not raise its everlasting voice, and the starry host hold on their untiring march in vain. It is to question whether the decrepid can truly worship in the aisles of our churches; or the lordly care for the things of the Spirit, unless those things are joined with worldly pomp. It is to pronounce the apostles profane in their fishing and tent-making, and foolish in their fully-justified reliance on the faith and charity of their disciples. It is to declare Jesus wrong in saying that to the poor the gospel is preached, and that his kingdom was not of the old world,—belonging to the formal Judaical dispensation. It is to put his gospel for correction into the hands of the prelates who legislate for its security, and who predict its permanence, if it be sustained by the means they prescribe,—by gifts and offerings wrung from the reluctant; by endowments, by bounties of first-fruits and tenths, by tithes and oblations. To question whether religion can be supported by free-will instead of by prescribed dues is to libel man, to doubt the gospel, and to stand with a sceptical spirit amidst the temple of God’s works.
Would that the vicar had had sufficient faith in the gospel he preached to believe that it might be supported without exactions which it does not sanction! Would that he had been wiser than his tithe-gatherer, and had foreseen the consequences, as well as been aware of the guilt, of alienating the spirits which it was his express office to win! He looked very grave at his little daughter, when she loudly complained that Peterson wanted to take away some of Jane’s honey for him, when she knew he had much rather that Jane should give it him herself. He told her that she must not speak of matters that she did not understand:—a rebuke which astonished Alice more than all the rest, as she thought she had never heard of anything more easy to be understood.
There was little show of respect to the vicar, this evening. When he entered Byrne’s cottage, Peterson was traversing the garden, making notes of potatoes, turnips, and cabbages, of onions, parsley, and sage. He counted the currant bushes, and looked up into the cherry-tree. Mrs. Byrne attended, in terror lest there should be a quarrel. She tried to persuade her husband to go and make his bow to the vicar; but Byrne would do no such thing. He dogged the tithe-gatherer’s heels, disputing where he could, and threatening where he could not dispute. He did not mean to pay tithe these seven years, for the new bit of garden which he had just taken in. He would contest it to the death. He hoped the turnips would prove tough enough to choke the tithe-gatherer. He would not gather his cherries at all, if he must pay tithe of them. They should be left for the birds, and for any village children who might come to take them.
“That is all very fine talk,” replied Peterson: “but I can tell you this. If your fruit is taken by the birds, or other downright thieves, I must bear the loss with you: but if it be taken with your knowledge and consent, whether by school-children or anybody else, you must pay me the tithe of what was taken: and if left to drop from the tree, I must have the tenth of what so falls. Pray, are these peas and beans for sale, or for domestic use?”
Byrne could not tell till they were gathered; and his wife did not pretend to have made up her mind, any more than he.
“Well; if you won’t tell me, I must be on the watch to see whether your hog touches any of them, and how many find their way to other people’s tables. And then, you will have no right to call me prying, remember. I asked you the fair question, which you would not answer.”
Byrne thought he might as well live under Bonaparte, or any other tyrant, at once, as be liable to sow and tend and reap for another, in this way; and to be watched by a spy, as if this was not the free country it prided itself on being.
“What would you say if you were a farmer?” cried Peterson, with a smile. “Here you have only to pay a little honey, and a few vegetables, and a little fruit, and—one thing more, for which I find the vicar has strangely omitted to charge you hitherto. See here,” producing his lawbook. “By a constitution of Archbishop Winchelsea, and the statute, 2 and 3 Edward VI., c. 13., tithes are payable for profits arising from personal labour or merchandise. They are payable, you see, where the party hears divine service, and receives the sacraments; but only the tenth part of the clear gain, after all the charges are deducted. Now I find your wages are per week—”
“Do you dare to want to strip my husband of his wages?” cried Mrs. Byrne. “I will call the vicar to put an end to this.”
Peterson’s triumph was complete. The vicar was full of concern that anybody suffered pain or inconvenience about the matter: but it was not for him or his parishioners to alter the constitution of the church. His duty to his church and to his successor required that the ecclesiastical law should be obeyed in all its provisions. Two or three zealous clergymen had lately revived this claim, after it had lain dormant for very many years, throwing into gaol the labourers who opposed themselves; and he would support them through evil report and good report.
“Then you may throw me into gaol,” cried Byrne. “As for attending your services, neither I nor mine will ever do it more, Mr. Hellyer: and I never wish to see you within my gate again, sir.”
“O, John!” cried the terrified wife.
“I am not going to be angry,” said the vicar to her, with his usual air of quiet complacency. “I have long feared that the infidel who has come among us would corrupt your husband, and I see he has done so completely. Nay: do not cry so, Jane. All our hearts are in the hand of God: and you should trust, as I do, that he will sustain his church under the attacks of the unbelieving.”
“Not if such as you have the management of it,” cried Byrne. “You talk of Mr. Mackintosh: but I tell you that nothing that I ever heard him say turned my heart from you and your religion as you yourself have done to-day; and I rather think that Mr. Mackintosh owes to you much of such power as he has. We shall soon see that. Send the labourers of this parish to gaol for their tithe of wages, break gates, and pry into gardens, and you will see what a congregation Mr. Mackintosh will have on his lawn, to hear what he has to say about a religion that teaches such oppression.—Be pleased to hold your tongue, sir, and walk out of my garden.—Hush, Jane!” he cried to his weeping wife. “There is nothing in their tithe-law that prevents my saying that.—Go, go, and milk the cow.” And he turned over the pail, which still stood with milk in it, as in the morning. He declared that he knew something of tithe-law as well as Peterson, and therefore claimed the liberty of spilling the milk which had not been removed, after due notice, so as to restore the pail in time for the afternoon milking. Peterson could not deny the correctness of Byrne’s law.
“Well; but, why not come to church?” mildly inquired the vicar.
“To hear you thank God that you are no extortioner, I suppose. I am sick enough of that.”
“But, John,—do listen, John!—He can’t help it: it is no fault of his: he only asks what the law gives him.”
“Then let the law leave off making a man contradict in the pulpit on Sunday all he has been doing during the week. ’Tis a hypocrisy that I am sick of, and I’ll never enter the church door till there is an end of it. You see the gate, sir. You are welcome to go away as soon as you choose.”
There was nothing for the vicar to do but to walk away, however Mrs. Byrne wished to detain him till her husband had cooled. Peterson had found his way over the fence, rather than cross the path of the angry man. Byrne saw this, and shouted after the vicar, loud enough for Peterson to hear,
“You are mightily afraid of a deist, Mr. Hellyer: but if you care for your church, look to your tithe-gatherer.”
“Run after your papa, my dear,” said Mrs. Byrne to Alice, who was contemplating the spilled milk: “never mind your birds; I will put them under a coop till you come again.”
“Papa looks so odd!”
“The more reason you should go. Run after him, and talk about every thing you can think of.”
Alice hopped and skipped down the road, while Jane wept as if her heart would break. Her grief could scarcely have been greater if she had known the truth that time revealed,—that from this hour, her husband hated the vicar with an intense hatred.
Before two years were over, the experiment of a close exaction of tithes was considered by good judges to have been fairly tried, and to have produced consequences as apparent as could be expected to arise in any given case.
First. There were three law-suits.—The vicar was plaintiff in a cause where his late friend, Sir William Hood, was defendant. He claimed tithe for the produce of a portion of the Abbey Farm; (or suffered under the imputation of doing so, from still keeping the secret of having let his rights to Peterson.)
The Lamberts were not a little astonished at such a claim being made on their tithe-free farm: but the vicar alleged that the exemption ceased when the land was turned to other uses than those which prevailed when the exemption was granted. The prescription was at an end, he contended, when, as in this case, land which was in a state of tillage when exempted was converted into pasture land. Much trouble was given to the Lamberts, at the same time, by their being called upon to show the requisites for the exemptions which had never been disputed;—that the lands they held had been really abbey lands, and that they had been immemorially discharged of tithes. Another suit was instituted against Mr. Parker, to set aside a modus with which all parties had hitherto been pretty well satisfied. By this modus,—or composition whereby the layman is discharged from rendering his tithes, on his paying in lieu there of what immemorial custom, or the custom of the place, directs,—Mr. Parker paid fourteen pounds for produce which, paid in kind, would have yielded twenty. He had often thought himself unlucky in his bargain in comparison with some who had a good bargain of their modus, paying two-pence an acre, as their ancestors had done; or a fowl instead of the year’s tithe of eggs: but he had little expected that the vicar would lodge a complaint in a court of law of the modus being too large. It accorded with six out of seven of the rules which constitute a good and sufficient modus; but it violated one. It was certain and invariable: it benefited the tithe-taker only: it was different from the thing compounded for: it did not discharge from the payment of any other species of tithe: it was, in its nature, as durable as the tithes discharged by it: and it was immemorial without interruption; that is, it had existed from the beginning of the reign of Richard the First, which is the period fixed by the law as “the time of memory.”
All this was indisputable; but the seventh condition was, that the modus should not be too large;—that it should not be a rank modus. If Mr. Parker had been paying four shillings, instead of fourteen pounds, the modus might have been held a good one; but this was so doubtful as to be supposed worth contesting, according to the decision, “the doctrine of rankness in a modus is a question of fact to be submitted to a jury, unless the grossness is obvious.”
The third suit was of more consequence than either of the other two. It had always been believed in the parish that the glebe land, which was now annexed to the vicarage, had been once upon a time offered and accepted as a substitute for the lesser tithes of a farm at present occupied by one of the most respectable of the parishioners. Now, however, for the first time, Mr. Pratt was called upon, either to show evidence of such a bargain having taken place under all due formality of circumstance, or to pay full tithe. Mr. Pratt was indignant when he ceased to be astonished, and refused to pay the tithe unless he had the glebe land back again. This was refused; and the law, as of course, was made the arbitrator between the parties.
Every body in the parish who paid a composition, now began to hunt up the evidence of the ordinary having consented to it; of its being old enough; and of its not having run on for a longer term than twenty-one years, or the lives of three parsons.
These proceedings did not improve the influence of the clergyman in the parish. One after another of his flock wandered away to the Friends’ Meeting house. There was talk of encouraging the methodists to build a chapel, though an attempt to do so had failed three years before. Subscriptions were withdrawn from the parochial library which the vicar had set up: and in proportion as the law-suits were discussed, did the respect with which he was once regarded change into rudeness. Few heads were uncovered before him. Men turned their backs at his approach, and the women did not look up from their work when the children gave notice that he was passing by. He bore this, as he said, very patiently; praying to God to turn the hearts of the flock once more to true religion and reverence for the church. He declared himself resigned to having fallen on evil days, and could wait till his parishioners should repent of their treatment of him. He heroically adhered to his habits, amidst the change of times; taking his walk past the houses which were chalked with maledictions on him, and over the green where every one put on a solemn look as soon as he came in sight. Alice could never prevail on him to go round by the back lanes, though is was evident that she suffered much pain, if not absolute terror, whenever she was his companion amongst his alienated people.
Those who suffered most, next to the vicar and his daughter, were perhaps the Lamberts. Through the exterior of calmness which they considered it a religious duty to preserve, it might be discerned that their lightness of heart was gone. No lads could well be merrier than Charles and Joseph used to be; and their mother’s influence was formerly more frequently exerted in mildly chastening their mirth than in any other way. When they had masqueraded, under pretence of amusing Alice, or from singing a ‘ditty’ in the farm-house parlour had advanced to some high thoughts about the cultivation of music, she had told tales of the sobriety observed in her young days. Now, her endeavour was to cheer them when they came in dispirited from their farm. She now asked for ‘a ditty,’ and taught them two or three which their father used to sing to her before they were born. She encouraged Joseph to use his pretty talent for drawing, and was always ready to be read to when Charles seemed disposed to take up his book in the evenings. It was the least she could do, she thought, to keep up their spirits as well as her own, since she had sanctioned their taking the Quarry Wood farm, which seemed likely to run away with the gains they had made on the Abbey Farm; and with more besides, if this season should turn out one of as great scarcity as was apprehended. It was the least a mother could do, while discouraging Charles from marrying Henrietta Gregg till his prospects should clear, to make his home as little irksome as possible, and occupy his thoughts with other things besides his love and his disappointments. Some people thought (and they declared the vicar to be on their side) that the ill success of the Lamberts on the Quarry Wood farm was no more than might have been expected from their having any thing to do with such an infidel as Mr. Mackintosh; and they had little pity, in some quarters, for their failure: but they thought the whole might be sufficiently accounted for without supposing that a special judgment had overtaken them. Thus much, at least, was true: that no disasters had befallen them in their management of the abbey farm, though Mr. Mackintosh was their landlord; and that the Quarry Wood farm might have been made to answer if it had been tithe-free. The natural conclusion was that the tithes of the church were to blame, and not the infidelity of Mr. Mackintosh.
The rent of the Quarry Wood farm was low; and this had been the chief temptation to the Lamberts to take it. They were aware that it required much improvement, and were prepared to lay out a good deal of capital upon it. The composition for tithe which had been formerly paid was very moderate, and every body had supposed that it would, as a matter of course, be continued. But the new tenants had not been in possession half a year, before Peterson found means to set aside the composition, and gave notice that he should demand tithe in kind. They hoped that, at least, their improvements would remain exempt for seven years, according to the statute:—a vain hope; as it was proved that the land, though long left in wild condition, was not what the law would call barren. The tithe seized the first year swallowed up so much of the returns as to leave by far too little to pay for the enclosures. There was, indeed, so much capital thus locked up that the young men declared they should have let the land alone if they had known how they were to be taken in about the tithes. The same was the case with an extent of wood land which they had stubbed and grubbed, and made fit for the plough. As it had borne wood, it was not ‘barren’ land, and it came under the tax. Of course, the improvements were put a stop to presently, amidst many regrets that the money had not been employed on some far inferior land on the tithe-free farm. It had better have lain idle in their iron chest than have been thus expended to a loss. If they had known more than they did of the history of tithes, they would have been better aware of the policy of idleness under such a system;—that idleness, both of labour and capital, on which tithes offer a direct premium. They would have known that the cultivation of flax and hemp in Ireland was suspended till a low modus was fixed by law, under which it has flourished ever since. They would have known that the production of madder was long confined to the United Provinces, which, being Presbyterian, offered no ecclesiastical tax on its cultivation; and that its growth in England began from the time when, by a special provision, 5s. per acre were to be taken in lieu of tithe of madder. They would have known that the reason why Edward VI. exempted barren land from tithe for seven years was, because, without this provision, the land would never have yielded at all, either to the public or to the church. They would have known how tremendous is the waste, to the public, to the farmer, to the landlord, and eventually to the church, by a method of taxation which causes worse land to be cultivated while the better lies waste—by a method of taxation which reaches land untouched by rent, and which, by absorbing a larger and a larger share of profits which are perpetually decreasing, raises prices to a degree quite inconsistent with the prosperity of all the parties concerned. If the Lamberts had duly studied the tithe question, they would have foreseen the disasters which must arise, instead of being taught by bitter experience. Their case was just this;—and it is a fair specimen of what is taking place wherever the tithe system is adopted.
The best land on their two farms yielded an equal produce. As the Quarry Wood land paid tithe, they would have been obliged to raise the price of their corn so high as to cover the cost of the impropriator’s share, as well as the expences of cultivation, if this had not been already done by the body of tithe-paying corn growers. Corn was already dearer in the market, by the parson’s share, than it would have been if the parsons had had no share. The produce of the abbey farm brought in a larger profit through this elevation of prices; but this circumstance had been considered in fixing the rent; and the surplus profit went, not to the Lamberts, but to their landlord, in the shape of higher rent. Thus far, they neither lost nor gained. The consumers of corn lost, and Mr. Mackintosh gained. The same took place on a few inferior kinds of land. But there was soil which would have paid profits of stock as well as rent, if there had been no tithe, but which should have heen left uncultivated (because tithe would swallow up the profits) if the Lamberts had been aware of the claim which would be advanced by the parson. On this soil their labour was lost: landlord and parson being paid, nothing remained for them. This land, therefore, was to be let out of cultivation; and the capital and labour employed upon it were transferred to an inferior kind of land on the tithe-free farm, which required a much larger expenditure to produce an equal return. In this case, the Lamberts lost by their unprofitable expenditure of labour and capital; and nobody gained. A yet lower quality of soil was next taken into cultivation, requiring a yet larger proportionate outlay of capital and labour, and yielding a sufficient return to the cultivator only because it was exempt from rent as well as tithe. The rise of price, caused by the relinquishment of the better land for the sake of cultivating the worse, was injurious to all the three parties, and particularly to those—viz., the Lamberts—who had to pay the most wages. It would have answered incalculably better to have paid over to the church the capital which was arbitrarily buried in the lower soils, than that portion of produce which caused it to be so buried. Rent would have been equalised between the two estates; prices would have kept their natural elevation; the better soil would have been tilled, and the worst let alone; the parson would have had as much gain and cheaper bread; the landlord would also have had cheaper bread, and a larger rent for the one estate, as well as a smaller for the other; and the Lamberts would not have lost on the one hand by being deprived of their profits, and on the other by the rise of wages. The only persons anywhere who had ground for unmixed rejoicing in this state of things were the landlords of none but tithe-free estates. By the rise of rent, they gained, and they alone: and their gain was by no means in proportion to the collective loss of the other parties. But it was a curious fact that, while the church was complained of (and justly) on all hands, for the tremendous injury occasioned by its tithe system, the benefits of it went into the pockets of landowners amidst the hills and dales of Scotland, where a commutation long ago placed them beyond the hazards of the desperate game; and of all who could take their stand on abbey lands, or on some lucky ancient modus, or equally happy modern composition.
From the circumstances of the case, the Lamberts suffered all the injustice which must accrue upon the first institution of this most pernicious tax. When it has been long enough paid to become calculable, it is allowed for in the rent, and falls next, like other land taxes, on the landowner—the person most able, from the perpetual tendency of rent to rise, to bear the burden. But it is not long a burden to him, except as a consumer; for, as it operates in increasing the expense of cultivation, it raises prices; and the consumer ultimately pays. The hardship of a new institution, or, as in this case, of a revival of tithe, is very great upon the tenant, and is a sufficient exponent of the pernicious nature of the impost. The lease of the Quarry Wood farm had not many years to run; but the experience of the first two years, and the opening of the third, left the prospect of the young farmers anything but bright. The present spring had been most unfavourable to the crops. The doubt was whether so much rain was not rotting the vegetation in the ground. The view from the summer-house was dreary,—of sodden fields, and lanes lying under water. The very wall-flowers languished for want of sun, Mrs. Lambert found when she one day climbed the hill: but they did not droop like her poor son Charles, whom she found there, looking out of the window, with his head leaning on his hand, and listening to the patter of rain-drops which again began to fall, and to drop from the broad thatch into the little dell over which the summer-house projected. It was a dispiriting thing to wander over the lands of Quarry Wood farm, and see enclosures deserted when half finished, and fields from which golden harvests had been anticipated, grown over with briars and thistles. It was in such a place that Mrs. Lambert met Joseph, one April afternoon, when the twilight was settling down.
“What hast thou got there, mother?” said he: “A heavy load for thee to carry.”
“Not so heavy as large. These stringy, branchy roots make a fine blaze to drink tea by; and I thought it a pity this one should lie and rot yonder. But thou hast thy hands full, seemingly. Where art thou taking that poor thing to?”
It was a ewe, very near its time of yeaning. Joseph explained that Peterson’s eagerness about where the ewes couched and fed had put into his brother’s head and his own a device which it was very well to have thought of. In the next parish, tithes were only half the amount that they were in this; and Charles and he had prepared the bit of land they had in that parish for their ewes. The animals were now being transferred thither, gradually and quietly, lest Peterson should set up a plea of fraudulent removal. The lambs would remain there till the tithing was over: and it was much to be wished that there was room for all their flocks till shearing time should have also passed.
“But I am afraid we must go a long circuit, before we can get to the ground,” continued he. “This field is too deep in wet for the poor thing to cross. ’Tis like a ditch, from end to end.”
“I should not have thought there had been rain enough of late to soak the meadow in this way,” observed the widow.
“Except by filling the drains,” replied Joseph. “They are choaked up, too, from our having left the whole concern hereabouts to itself, this year. But how in the world am I to get this animal over? She will make herself heard with her bleating after the flock.”
“These are strange times, surely, Joseph, when a ewe may not bleat her own bleat, and when a son of mine skulks under a hedge on his own farm.”
“And the cause is full as strange, mother,—fear of man. I little thought to fear men; but there are two that I would go a mile round to avoid.”
“And they would say it is because thou art trying to cheat them;—in the very act of carrying thy ewes to yean out of their dominions.”
“Let them say so. It is not such a charge that I fear. Disclaiming, as we do, the ordinance of a priesthood altogether, my conscience leaves me free to put my beasts to couch and feed where it is most convenient, without regard to the parson. My fear is that I should hate those men. They injure me, and I cannot resist; and I have lost patience of late. I would rather walk close under my own hedge, and keep my ewe from bleating than speak, even to myself, as I hear some speak of the collector, and of the vicar, who countenances him in his strictness.”
“I sometimes think that if the vicar’s wife were still living, she would be rather uneasy about his terms with his people. She would hardly like his being much from home after dark.”
“So, that has struck thee too, as well as Charles and me. It was only this morning that I was saying to Charles, that perhaps it is a blessing that Alice is too young to have such fancies as she may live to suffer from. I suppose she is in bed and asleep when he goes and comes through that lonely lane at the back of the vicarage, as he visits his brother of an evening. That lane is hardly the place for a man who has so many enemies.”
“I trust thou hast no apprehension of anything worse than a few insults; or at most a beating, to show contempt.”
“Indeed, I thought of something much worse. There is less contempt than hatred of this man. He is so persuaded that he is right in all that he does that it is impossible to despise him as if he defied the inward witness: but he is the more hated as people see no end to their troubles with him. If I am not mistaken, there are some in the parish who have diligently inquired his age; and not precisely for the purpose of wishing him many happy birth-days.”
“Is the ewe by thy side?” asked Mrs. Lambert, in a low voice, and peering through the gathering twilight; “or was it something else that I heard stirring in this ditch?”
It was not the ewe, but Peterson, who had come, as he said, over a gap in the hedge. In the darkness, it would have been impossible to make out whether he had heard anything of what had been said. Mrs. Lambert therefore asked him.
“Friend, didst thou hear what we were talking about?”
“Tones of voice tell as much as words, mistress: and I wonder at a plain-spoken person like you calling me ‘friend,’ when both you and I know that you hate me like the devil. However, I am going to make you hate me more still, I fancy. Mr. Joseph, you have let this land go to waste in a very sad way; and a field yonder, too. The water stands a foot deep in this meadow; and my children play hide and seek among the whins yonder, where you might have corn growing, if you would.”
Joseph supposed he might do as he pleased with the land till his lease was out.
“But my employer is not to suffer for your neglecting your land. The law makes a distinction between land that is really barren, and that which is needlessly inundated, or overgrown with briars. ‘The field of the slothful,’ you know. My eldest girl got her frock so torn with your briars, that she brought a pretty scolding upon herself, I can tell you.”
“Send her up to me, and I will mend her frock,” requested Mrs. Lambert. “I will give her a new one if thou wilt let my son alone as to whether there shall be briars or anything else in his field.”
“No objection in the world, ma’am, if he pay the due tithe.”
“I’m sure thou art kindly welcome to a tenth of the water in this field, and of the stones in the one above,” observed Joseph. But this offer was declined, and the old composition for these two fields proposed instead.
Before there had been time for the dispute to proceed further, a strange sound from the church tower arrested Peterson’s attention. The bells seemed about to be rung, and Peterson was gone.
What the occasion of rejoicing could be, the Lamberts did not know; nor did they very much care. They had grown listless about good news, and were now most anxious to conclude the business of the evening. As Peterson had crossed the meadow, it must be possible for them and their charge to do so too. The little ridge which stood out of the water was found, and, one by one, several of the teeming ewes were removed and penned into their new inclosures before Joseph went home; and no tormentor appeared.
Joseph told his mother that the labourers who had cut the osiers for hurdles had been questioned whether the article was intended for sale or gift, or for use on the farm. The labourers were glad to be able for once to repulse the tithing man, whom they were weary of having for ever at their heels. There was no small pleasure in seeing the meek animals comfortably provided for on the outskirts of the farm; as if they were as conscious as their owners of the inhospitable character of the parish whose bounds they had crossed. It does not appear that lambs know a tithing-man by instinct; but Joseph put expressions of pity into his farewell for the night which might seem to imply that he felt them to be fellow-sufferers with himself under the rule of the parish tyrant.
After running home in the dark, with sleet pelting in their faces, the mother and son liked the aspect of their house, with its old-fashioned windows lighted from within.
“See what it is not to wear curled hair,” cried Mrs. Lambert, wiping the cold drops from her short, grey locks, combed straight down on her forehead. “If I had had such ringlets as some fine ladies, now, what a figure my sons would have thought me all this evening, with hair as lank as a melancholy queen’s in a tragedy! I call it neat as it is.”
Joseph had not observed his mother’s hair, he was so taken up with examining a letter which had lain among the tea-things on the table. He guessed its contents; and they were indeed such as would have damped a far greater cheerfulness than could arise from the aspect of a warm parlour on a chilly evening. Mrs. Lambert’s only sister, a widow, was dead, and had left five children with a very inadequate provision, if any.
When Charles entered, a short time afterwards, he knew from the first glance at his mother, sitting with crossed hands and a countenance of placid gravity, that something was the matter. Joseph was standing in the chimney corner, gazing into the fire. Charles looked from one to the other. His mother roused herself.
“We are not made to choose our own duties, son,” said she. “I know that it is thy wish to be a husband, Charles; and Joseph and I wish it for thee. But here are thy five cousins left helpless. Their mother is dead; and while I live, they must be my children, as much as you. I must take them into this house, and let them eat at my table.”
“And do you think we will not help you, mother? I will go to-morrow and bring them; and if it shall please God always to disappoint me, I must bear it as well as I can.”
“I hope he will let it be with thee as it has been with me, Charles. All the worst troubles that I have known have been unlooked for; and every thing that I have particularly dreaded has turned out better than I expected. I know that this is a blow to thee, though thou bearest it well at present. I hope that thou wilt not have to wait so long for Henrietta as we now expect.”
“I wish thou wouldst not speak of me, mother, when I know that this death is a matter of great concern to thee. When my aunt was last here, and every one said that she looked more like thy daughter than thy sister, we did not think that we should not see her again.”
The crossing of the hands again, and the slight change of countenance showed that this subject was very painful. Next to her sons, there was no one in the world that Mrs. Lambert loved so much as this sister—many years younger than herself, to whom she had been, in early life, as a mother.
Presently she moved about, much as usual, doing all that she would have done if no bad news had come,—only with somewhat more gravity and silence. She did not forget to put on the dry root to burn; and it blazed and crackled as busily as if it had been ministering to the comfort of the merriest tea-party in the world.
“There are the bells again!” cried Charles. “I thought I had stopped them. I wish thou wouldst go down, and try to stop them, Joseph.”
There was an odd reason for the ringing of these bells. A stranger who had been seen loitering in the parish for a day or two was supposed to be the person who had told the publican that the vicar had received a remonstrance from his ordinary respecting his strictness in the exaction of his tithes; and that it was probable that he might be removed ere long, to give place to some one more acceptable to the parishioners. The publican had made the most of the news; and some of his customers, warmed with his good ale, had sallied forth, and found easy means of setting the bells ringing. Peterson was trying in vain to silence them, when Charles went down to enquire; but Charles had prevailed where the tithe-gatherer had met with only defiance. The bells, however, were now ringing again.
Joseph thought that enough had been done. In a better cause, he would not have regarded the sleet and the north wind that he must encounter in his way to the church; but he now preferred sitting in the chimney corner, hearing the merry peal by fits, as the gust rattled at the window and passed on. Besides, his mother wanted him to help to lay plans for these orphan children.
When the Lamberts had been more prosperous than they were now, they had planned an enlargement of their house, which was scarcely large enough for themselves, and would have required an addition on Charles’s marriage, if only from respect to Henrietta. It was particularly conveniently placed for receiving an addition of two or three rooms on the south side; and a pretty parlour, with a bay-window, was to have ornamented the dwelling. Prudential considerations had caused the scheme to be given up; but this evening it was revived. Charles produced the plans which his brother had drawn, and which he had hoped would next see the light in Henrietta’s service. He suppressed a sigh when his mother’s decided pencil scored out the bay-window; and he roused his best powers of judgment to discuss the necessary questions of convenience and economy.—There was some good brick clay in one corner of the farm, and timber enough for their purpose; and the young men thought that, by dint of their working like labourers, and their mother’s superintending during their unavoidable absence, the enlargement of their dwelling might be effected without any very ruinous expense. The brick making was to be set about immediately, if the weather should but prove fine enough. Bricks were very dear this wet season; and the supply now wanted must be made at home, if possible.
The bells, or the rumours of them, made themselves heard beyond the parish. The vicar was little moved by them; but uncle Jerom was seen by Alice, the next morning, approaching in a state of sad perturbation. As he could not prevail upon his brother to modify his system through a consideration for his personal safety and dignity, he now tried a different kind of appeal. He asked whether it was not a deplorable scandal to the church that there should be bell-ringing at the prospect of a clergyman being taken from his flock.
“It was less that than the belief that I had been rebuked by my superior which caused the exultation,” quietly replied the vicar. “But you know that neither the one nor the other is true. I will not, by yielding my own claims, give occasion for the supposition that my superior yields those of the church.”
“But if you allow proprietors to buy up the tithes on their own lands,—Parker for instance,—you will cease to have such for enemies; and it will be a very different thing from selling the dues of the church to an intermediate layman.”
“Ah! Jerom, there you touch my conscience in the only tender part. I have long repented letting my tithes to Peterson, as you recommended. It was bad advice, Jerom, as is all advice to rate at an average a revenue for sacred objects, of which revenue it is the primary quality that, as God’s seasons vary, it must vary. Jerom, your’s was bad advice.”
“Indeed it seems to have been so, by the aggravation of your troubles since Peterson became your lessee. But I find from him that Sir William Hood is about to allow the great tithes to be bought up, in order to put a stop to the deterioration of husbandry in the parish; and I really think you could not do a better thing than follow his example when so good an opportunity offers.”
The vicar spread both hands before his brother, in emphatic refusal.
“Papa,” said Alice, “I wish you would do as you are bid, sometimes, as you are always telling me to do. Why don’t you mind what uncle Jerom says, and what every body says? Well, it may not be every body’s business; but I know what Jane says; and I am sure she is as fond of you as any body can be.”
The being fond of him argued such a right mind towards the church, that the vicar was immediately prepared to hear what Mrs. Byrne had to say.
“She says that she is frightened to hear how people talk; and that she shall never be easy to see you out walking till you have somehow put other people into your place about collecting the tithes. If there must be tithes, so that Mr. Parker must always look out of humour, and the Lamberts grow sad, and Mr. Byrne give up more and more things in his garden, the blame ought to go where it is due, she says; and that is to the church, and not to you. And it would be so, she thinks, if people all bought their own, and there was an end of the quarrelling that there is now, twice a year.”
“I wonder who suggested the idea to her,” observed the vicar. “If I thought it was Mr. Mackintosh—”
“I think it was not Mr. Mackintosh, papa. I think it was the man that—”
“I know whom you mean,” said Jerom; “the stranger who has been hanging about the parish lately,—no one can tell why. Some of my people suspect that he is an agent in the rickburning plot. I am sorry that Byrne lets him within his doors.”
“And so is Jane, I think,” said Alice. “She always tries to prevent my seeing him, if he happens to be in the cottage; and once I observed her cry the moment she saw her husband bringing him up the road. Perhaps he will go away, papa, if you will do as they wish you should.”
This was not the very best kind of appeal that Alice could have used. He yielded so far, however, as to allow his brother to bring him word how the bargains for the great tithes between Peterson and the payers were framed, and what effect they appeared to produce on the minds and manners of the discontented. He would determine accordingly as to revising his scruples, or dismissing the matter entirely from his thoughts.
Of course, those who were visited by Mr. Peterson and his companion varied in their eagerness to buy up their tithes, in proportion to the duration of their interest in the land. A farmer who had just entered upon a long lease offered a twenty years’ purchase at 7l. per acre, all round,—arable and pasture. Others who were near the end of their lease, and were discouraged by the unfavourable aspect of the season, desired to buy up their tithes year by year, if they could but be secure against competition. Mr. Parker was willing to make a liberal thirty years’ purchase, in order to free his own estate, and leave himself at liberty to improve it without discouragement, or bequeath it to his son without disadvantage. The sum demanded from him, as a hop-grower, was, however, so enormous, that he declared he would rather give up growing hops, as others had done before him, than pay such a merciless impost. Peterson asked him what he would have; and showed him that other people’s hop-grounds had yielded at the rate of 3l. per acre. Mr. Parker wished to proceed upon the basis of an average of the last five or seven years; but this was declared to be the most fallacious of guides. Peterson contended that the seasons had been peculiarly unfavourable, and that the modes of management had so varied within six years as to leave no reasonable average. He proposed to value the land and the tithe, deducting the poor-rate and a per centage for the owner’s trouble in stacking, thatching, and threshing his farm produce, and carrying his hops to market. He considered it very liberal to offer a further reduction of 20 per cent. in consideration of the security of the impropriator from the accidents of chance and change: but Mr. Parker hesitated and grumbled, and treated Peterson’s companion with nearly as fine a lament over the assimilating qualities of the church as Mr. Mackintosh himself could have offered. He related that he had a pretty farm near town which had never before been let by him for less than 5l. per acre. It was with difficulty that he could now get 3l., on account of the enormous tithe. It was bad enough to have the poor’s-rate as high as 13s. per acre, and the sewer’s-rate perhaps 7s. or 8s. more; but the amount of tithe paid in addition was intolerable. The three rates together amounted to nearly 3l. per acre over the whole farm. He hoped Mr. Hellyer thought he contributed his share towards promoting the piety of the nation, when his land thus paid 3l. per acre to maintaining a single clergyman.
Peterson wished to know in what proportion the different kinds of produce yielded. Mr. Parker was remarkable for a good memory as to the several amounts of tithe.
And garden and farm-yard poultry according to circumstances. A certain amount was to be paid for all small tithes, whether the tenant produced the titheable articles or not.
“There are plenty of men like you,” observed Mr. Parker to Peterson, “who talk of an average of a few years on each separate estate,—five or seven years,—and would have any commutation that is proposed proceed upon such an average. Now, here is a case which shows you the injustice of such a principle. My interest in my land would be almost annihilated if I allowed it to be calculated to yield 2l. per acre to the church. To perpetuate such a charge as this would be to ruin the owners of land near London, and in many other situations. They say the price of produce would rise accordingly; but before it could rise enough to repay me for such a sacrifice, the people would be boiling acorns and stewing nettles for food.”
“And it would ruin the church in some other districts,—” Jerom was going on to say; but Mr. Parker interrupted him with,—
“Not so completely as the present plan, sir. The worst enemy of the church,—Mr. Mackintosh himself,—could not desire more than to see the church consuming the state, as it is doing now. As for men that we think wiser than Mr. Mackintosh, they are of opinion that religion was given us to bless our bread, to prosper us in basket and store, and not to devour our plenty. The people cannot but see that the reverse is the case with the established religion of this country;—that in plentiful seasons, the clergy take much, (legally, I allow,)—and that in bad seasons they take more, (legally, and therefore the more gallingly.) The people cannot but feel that as the net produce of the nation grows smaller in proportion to the gross, and as the clergy seize a larger proportion of the net produce, the question must come to this,—whether the people shall have state-priests or bread. How the clergy are likely to fare in such an alternative, I leave it to you to guess.”
“So, you allow that this is a question pertaining to the people. You allow that the landlord does not alone support the church.”
“Look at the owners of tithe-free lands, and see the folly of such a question. They are getting rich under the operation of our precious system of inequality. And how? Not merely because their farms are in an universally better condition than the tithed: not only because the abbey farm is better worth 20s. per acre rent than the Quarry Wood farm is worth 13s., for the reason that the one does not pay tithe and the other does,—and so on, through all farms that bear this distinction; but because these landowners are profiting by the high prices of produce which must cover the sacrifice of the tithe-payer. No, no: landowner as I am, I never was heard to say that the landlord pays the tithe, in a general way, any more than the farmer. They both have their grievances, and their occasional losses under the system;—they are vexed from month to month, and eat dear bread and meat in their own families, and pay high wages to their labourers; but these sacrifices are made by them in their character of consumers; and it is the people who pay the tithes; the poor Stockport weaver in his garret, and the half-starved apple-vender in her cellar, as truly as the Lamberts and myself.”
“You would sweep away tithe, at once and for ever, I suppose, in pity to these poor people; and set your vicar and myself to weave in a garret, or sell apples in a cellar.”
“No; it may be left to Mackintosh to preach up such a scheme of spoliation as that. If the clergy alone were concerned, I might be willing,—not that they should weave and sell apples,—but that they should obtain their support, like other servants of society, from the hands of those whom they serve. But tithe property has become so complicated with other property as to be equally sacred with that other property: and I should cry out as vehemently against its abolition (without compensation) as against reducing the interest of the debt. No wise man—no man of honour—can advocate either kind of public robbery.”
“Since there is this complication of tithe with other property, it had better be let alone. You can no more disentangle it than you can pay the debt. You will never achieve a scheme which will satisfy both tithe and land owner.”
“Probably. It would be strange if a perfectly unobjectionable plan could be formed to lead us out of the mischiefs of a pernicious system whose evil influences have been accumulating for centuries. But, if the church and the landowners understand anything of their own state and prospects, they will be anxious for a final settlement of their accounts within a defined and early period. Such a settlement must take place, sooner or later, since this tax involves the very principle of perpetual growth. Nothing but absolute transformation can prevent it enlarging till it swallows up everything.”
“I am sure my brother and I do not find it so.”
“Because you cannot recover your dues; but the farmer can instruct you here. My father had a favourite little farm of a hundred acres, which was left to him in 1791, and came into my hands in 1812. When he first let it, the rent was 80l., and the tithe 14l. 9s.; in 1798, the tithe had risen to 17l. 12s.; in 1805, rent was 95l., tithe 23l. 7s.; in 1812 the tithe had risen to 29l. A farm of mine, which let, a few years ago, for 240l., then paid 30l. in tithes. It now lets for 689l., and the tithes are 140l.: that is, the tithes are nearer five-fold than the rent three-fold what was paid before. And, in like manner, there must be an increase all over the country, since the same proportion of the gross produce must be paid in tithe, through every increase of the expense of such production. Therefore, above all things, let us know, in rectifying our tithe system, that we really are to have done with it by and by; and when.”
“And how do you propose to reconcile the clergy to the tithe system thus being brought to an end?”
“Those of them who understand their own position see, like other men, the folly of the clergy stickling for tithes. The clergy have only a life-interest in tithes; and the possession of a certain income is the circumstance which is of most consequence to them. Some contend for tithes as if they were the most secure source of income in the world, or as if they were an inheritance for a future generation; but many more would be glad to depend on a fund less precarious, and less odious in the collection.”
“Do you allow nothing for attachment to ancient ecclesiastical institutions?”
“In your simple brother: but there are faithful churchmen, just as much attached as he to ancient ecclesiastical institutions, who have eyes to see the different effects of the tithe systems of Ireland and Scotland, and who reason from them. They see how, in Ireland, the farmer becomes a peasant, and then is hunted out of house and home by the tithe-procter, and then turns on the proctor to maim and murder him; while in Scotland, the farmer carries home his harvest without interruption, and looks with compassion on his English brother. In the first case, appears an aggravated repetition of the abuses of the English system; in the other, the tithes are drawn with comparative harmlessness, whether by the crown, the clergy, or laymen, in the form of a fixed rent. So long ago as Pitt’s time, there were not wanting bishops to approve of the church being supported by a civil fund. It is true, the plan would have been all for the benefit of the clergy, in the very point in which it is most important to obtain relief.”
“In that of the perpetual increase of which you complain?”
“Yes. When the tithe should have been bought up, in the same way that it was intended that the land-tax should be, and the proceeds invested in the funds, the people were not to flatter themselves that they had done with the tax. The income was to be so adjusted as to admit an increase, from time to time, in proportion to the rise in the price of grain. The bishop who recorded this scheme breathed no syllable about the desecration of the church by this mode of augmenting its funded income: and the objections of his brethren were of a different cast.”
“As different, probably, as mine from my brother’s, when we sit down to talk over the prospects of the church. I have not the least objection, as he will tell you, to an alteration in the source of our incomes, if the change could be innocently brought about; but I never could see how injustice and tyranny, towards one party or the other, are to be avoided. It is tyranny to the landowner to compel the universal and immediate purchase of the tithe; and it is injustice to the clergy to prohibit that natural increase of their revenue which they consider to have been guaranteed to them by the very institution of tithes.”
“Suppose a plan which should contain an alternative by which both these objections should be answered. Suppose a scheme of commutation under which a tithe-rate should be instituted, subject to increase upon a demand for a revaluation of land, from time to time; while an option should be given to the landowner, to be subject to this increase, or to make a twenty or thirty years’ purchase,—that is, a final purchase of the tithe. I think there might be such a plan.”
“And then those who paid the most tithe would be the first to redeem. But how would you set about ascertaining a tithe-rate, afraid as you are of taking an average of a few years as a rule?”
“That objection applies only to perpetuating the limited average of an individual estate. If the average is extended over a parish, or over a county, the calculation becomes a much fairer one. I see no other principle to proceed upon than that of taking an average; and the question of fairness lies between taking in a longer period of time and a larger extent of space. I feel that it would be hard upon me to perpetuate the tithe of my farm near town at 2l. per acre; and though it would be fairer to take for a basis the average of tithe which it has paid for fifty years, a better plan still would be to find out the proportion of tithe to yearly value of land all through the county, and to fix the tithe-rate according to this proportion.”
“You could never get such a valuation made fairly. When you meet with a modus, what are you to do with it? And how are you to settle what is arable land and what pasture? And every farmer will protest against some kinds of produce that are particularly profitable being no more taxed than others. There would be complaints of you,—a hop-grower,—being let off as easily as a grower of corn.”
“All these matters of detail might be settled when once the general principle is agreed upon. If hop-grounds now pay considerably more, from the nature of their produce, than other lands, let them be subject to a fair extra charge. Let a term be fixed,—five years, perhaps,—within which the tillage of lands shall cause those lands to be called arable. And what is easier than to deduct any modus from the tithe-rate? Give us the principle of a good scheme, and its application will not be long delayed by difficulties about these minor matters of detail.”
“Your plan would be to have an ascertainment of the annual value of the land, and of the tithe, upon an average of a few years. You would settle their relative value, and declare it in the form of a poundage upon rent for the county. You would allow a periodical revaluation on the application of the tithe-owner—”
“Or of the landowner.”
“Of either party, of course. So the tithe remains liable to increase or decrease—”
“It would be increase. The nature of the tax insures its perpetual increase. But the bad effects of this increase would be guarded against by obliging the tithe-taker to accept from the tithe-payer a twenty-five years’ purchase of the tithes, as a final redemption of his land from tithes. If this tax be really the grievance it is declared to be, the permission to redeem will be made ample use of. And the church—”
“Ah! how do you propose to reconcile the church to the extinction of tithes?”
“To the perpetuation, I suppose you mean. If you should happen to live a few years longer under the present system, you might chance to be taught a little more correctly what extinction is. If you now find it impossible to collect all that is due to you, you may have no chance of collecting any thing twenty-five years hence. The church may be very thankful to have its present amount of revenue secured to it, and to be allowed the opportunity of making a permanent property of it. My great doubt is—”
“Under what agency the commutation is to be effected so as to satisfy the parties. Who will undertake it?”
“Agents so various as to secure impartiality. Royal Commissioners, perhaps, might make the original valuation: and they might be followed by arbitrators who should settle disputes. Then the mechanical part of the business,—the ascertainment of the tithe-rate,—might be done by the justices. The business which most nearly concerns the church,—the final bargain with the landowner, and the investment of the purchase-money either in land for glebe, in the funds, or in mortgages, might be managed by a corpo ration of churchmen.”
“But how many landowners who may wish to redeem will be ready with the cash?”
“Why must the church be paid in cash? A mortgage on the land to be redeemed, with, a good rate of interest,—say 4 per cent.,—would suit the convenience of all parties. A small per centage on the tithe-rate collected would defray all expences.—I do not see how any difficulties which can attend a scheme like this can be shown to bear any comparison with the evils daily endured under the present system. The doubt I spoke of is whether the great body of the people would not complain of the church being too well treated, its chances of existence being too favourably computed, under such a scheme as I have given you an outline of. I, for one, should say so, if I supposed that the church must either retain its present form or perish. But, believing that there is an alternative, I am willing to do my part in such a compromise as I have proposed.”
“What kind of an alternative?”
“The transformation of the church, so that it may fulfil the original purposes of its establishment. When the church was established for the promotion of religion, religion was the only kind of education which could be given to the people. The time is come when not only must the church be made an educational institution, in order to fulfil its original design, but the religion which it professes to protect cannot be supported without the aid of education. If it could be, it would be superstition, and not religion.—Yes, the days of the present mode of existence of the Church of England are numbered. Religion flourishes so much more eminently, so much more extensively when supported by the free-will of the worshippers, and has been so indisputably proved incapable of an incorrupt union with the state, as to leave no doubt that the Church of England, already a very minute sect among the worshippers of christendom, will soon become too insignificant and weak to maintain its place, unless it quits the ground of its present monstrous assumption, and takes its stand on the cultivated reason of its supporters. I do not know why you,—a clergyman as you are,—should look surprised at what is far from surprising to those who are not clergymen. Look at the map of christendom, and see what space is occupied by our church. Look at Great Britain alone, and mark what proportion the dissenters bear to the church. Observe how many are coming forth from her,—and those the zealous and the dissatisfied, while, from the very nature of the case, the lukewarm and indifferent remain in the bosom of the establishment. Mark the certainty that the worldly and careless will go over to the dissenters from the moment that dissent reaches the point of ascendancy over conformity, and then say whether there be any other alternative than this,—that the Church of England must enlarge its office, and improve its ministrations, or fall.”
“My brother will preach against you for a person as dangerous as Mr. Mackintosh.”
“He will not make Mr. Mackintosh less dangerous, but more so, by preaching against him; and as for me, he might perhaps do more wisely in hearing me than in marking me out to be questioned by those in this parish who do not love the church as they once did.”
“And you would tell those questioners that they must not love their church any more till it is no longer a church, but a school.”
“Till the vices of the institution are exploded,—till the clergy cease to be the organs and tools of the oligarchy, for whose purposes the corrupt system of church patronage is kept up. If the clergy were paid according to their services by those whom they serve, instead of being made the pretext for keeping up an ecclesiastical fund useful for filling the pockets and disposing of the younger sons of the aristocracy, there would be an end of the overgrown wealth of some of our dignitaries, and the disgraceful poverty of too many of our working clergy. There would also be some chance of the clergy ceasing to be below every other class of men in a reputation for moral and political independence.—‘By teaching we learn;’ and there may yet be hope that such of the clergy as shall be qualified to begin imparting the elements of the morals required by an advancing age, may be able to bear the ark of christianity through the troubled waters which they must soon encounter. Such of them as are unfit for this office will sink, and, while sinking, will cry that the ark has perished. But there will not be many to believe it.”
“God will support his own church.”
“God will support the true faith; and his support must be looked for in the usual mode of manifestation,—in the support of man,—in the recognition by man of what is just and right.”
“Your proposed method of commuting some of the property of the church is to be recognized as just and right, I suppose.”
“I believe it has a pretty good chance of being so, if one great consideration be attended to in time;—a consideration which is at present by far too little regarded. This measure can hardly be called just to the people at large, unless it be followed up by another.”
“Ah! that is the way. Every innovation brings another after it.”
“How else is the race to advance? You yourself believe that the great innovation of christianity brought many others after it; and, you may believe me, these of which we are speaking form part of the sequence. Justice requires that there should be an alteration in our corn-laws, to meet the enlargement of demand that must follow upon the relief of land from the burden of tithe.”
“You do not mean that the clergy now eat more corn than they will eat then?”
“No; but the price of corn is now higher than it will be then. No one knows better than you, as a clergyman, that not above one half of the sums drawn out of their natural channel under the tithe system goes to the clergy. Half of it goes into the pockets of the owners of tithefree land, in the shape of increased rent. This rent would fall; and after it, the price of produce; and the fall of price would be followed by an increased demand; and this demand would be supplied,—not only by increased importation, (the import duties having previously risen with the fall of prices at home,) but by the cultivation of inferior soils, now no longer subjected to the burden of tithe. A quantity of the capital of the nation must thus be buried in inferior soils, and tend to increase rent,—i. e. to enrich the landlord, and, once again, the church, at the expense of the people.”
“But the great obstacle to the repeal of the corn-laws at present is the amount of capital which is invested in inferior soils.”
“The very best reason for not tempting or compelling a further investment of the same sort. The whole benefit of the commutation depends upon this. If the import duties be so lowered as to admit of the usual supply from abroad, our people will obtain the desired relief from the change of system. If not, it will matter little to the weaver and the apple-vender, at the end of five years, whether they pay their tax to the clergy, or to the barrenness of the ground. It should not, in this conjuncture, be forgotten that the plea of landlords for maintaining the corn-laws has always been the taxes upon agricultural production,—and tithes above all the rest. If, when tithes are commuted, the landlords should change their plea, and declare that it was not they who formerly paid tithes, but the public, and that they therefore need the protection of the corn-laws as much as ever, I trust the legislature will perceive that the corn-laws ought not to have been kept up thus long, instead of fancying that they must be maintained yet longer.”
“You are hard to please,” observed Jerom, with a grim smile. “Though a landowner, you are no more fond of corn-laws than of tithes.”
“I grant that you and I should find it difficult to settle which is the worst,—for ourselves, and for the people at large. I only wish I could make you, a clergyman, as discontented with tithes as I, a landowner, am with corn-laws.”
“Some people,” observed Jerom, “complain of tithes as being bad in a deteriorating country; but you have been murmuring at their operation on your father’s improving farm.”
“For the good reason that tithes are injurious in the extreme, in either case. In an improving country, where there is capital ready for application, tithes are bad as discouraging the application of that capital. Witness that pretty field of mine which must lie waste till I can cultivate it without having all my profit swallowed up by the church. In a deteriorating country, the tithe is bad, because it tempts to the cultivation of inferior in preference to superior soils, and raises wages, and augments, both in value and amount, with scarcity. Witness its effects upon the Lamberts,—the poor ground they have sown this year, and the better that they have let alone, and the general air of deterioration caused by the higher price of labour. I am afraid Peterson is plaguing them again about some new claim or another. He left us long ago, and walked that way. He is fond of doing business with them, because, as Quakers, they can offer no resistance. Shall we go and see?”
As was anticipated, Peterson was found worrying the Lamberts. Wherever the axe and mattock were heard, there, as a matter of course, was Peterson; and his quick ear had caught the sound of the chopping of wood while Mr. Parker and Jerom were arguing. The Lamberts’ labourers were busy in making faggots of a good deal of wood which had been cut some time before; and of these faggots Peterson was claiming his share.
“Do look at him!” said Parker. “He is going to measure trees, I do believe, to see if they are of the required twenty years’ growth. He carries his measure about with him, as a surgeon does his lancets.”
“If thou wilt only go and ask any lawyer,” said Joseph, who was much heated, “he will tell thee that thou hast no more right to the tops and lops of our pollard oaks than thou hast to the tenth chamber of any house. With all thy boast of law, thou mightest know that, I think. The loppings are exempted as much as the bodies.”
“We shall see that, friend. Meantime, I shall take leave to measure what I call, in a legal sense, underwood, and you timber. You will please to show me the beeches from which all this wood was cut.”
“Thou mayst try and find them out. But, friend, I give thee notice that it will do thee no good, if thou shouldst chance to find the right tree, and that it is twenty-five inches in the girth. Thou hast apparently forgotten some purposes that wood may be cut for.”
“By no means; but you cannot deny that these ash-poles are for sale to Mr. Parker for his hops, and these faggots for the market.”
Mr. Parker denied that he meant to purchase any ash-poles of the Lamberts; and Joseph declared that the faggots were for use on the farm. Peterson would not believe it, so great as the quantity was. Was he to believe that these half-dozen men, all chopping and binding, as if to supply the parish with fuel, were merely preparing wood for farm purposes?
“Yes: we have to burn bricks; and, in this rainy season, there is no time to be lost. And now, friend Peterson, art thou satisfied?”
“By no means, till I know what the bricks are for. They may be for sale.”
“They are for enlarging our house on the Abbey Farm.”
“Enlarging. Hum. Not repairing. If it had been mere needful reparation, the wood for burning the bricks would not, as you say, have been titheable. But enlarging is a different matter, as my book will show you. You must set out tithe of this billet wood, and these tops and lops.”
“I assure thee, it is not for our pleasure, or for any purpose of vanity, that we are going to enlarge our house. Indeed, the times are not suited to such an intention. We are merely preparing to receive a family of orphans who have no other home to look to.”
Peterson had nothing to do with this. Sir William Hood was not to suffer for there being orphans in the parish.
“Cannot you contrive, now,” asked Mr. Parker, “to tithe these orphans, as well as the wood that is to burn the bricks that are to build them a dwelling? If there happen to be ten of them, I dare say Mrs. Lambert will not grudge one of them to the church.”
Joseph could have made a long and eloquent reply to this; but he was particularly anxious not to detain the tithe-gatherer, lest any accident should lead the conversation round to his precious ewes, so as to put Peterson upon missing them from their accustomed places. He briefly said that he and his brother should, as usual, decline to set out tithe of wood; and if the agent chose to seize it, the proceeding must be at his own risk. He took up a hatchet, and made noise enough to show his troublesome visitor that no more conversation was desired. There was no use in entering with the Lamberts on the subject of a sale of their tithes, as their principles forbade their admitting the right to levy a tax for the support of religion.
Mr. Mackintosh could not bend his spirit to a compromise. His tithes must be taken by seizure, if at all, so long as he remained at the rectory. Others were more ready to compromise,—particularly those who wished to free land of their own from an interference which made them feel very much as if the land was not their own; but there was so much trouble in settling the averages, in agreeing about the deductions, and determining the proportions according to the longer or shorter term of years for which the purchase was to be made, that, before it was over, all parties began to wish that some principle had been established for general guidance;—that, in a case so peculiar, the negociators could have been assisted and protected by government sanction.
There was no hope of the vicar’s becoming such a negociator, when a reduction of 20 per cent. in consideration of contingencies, had once been mentioned as one of the grounds of an agreement. He would never consent to surrender any of the dues of the church,—more especially as a letter from a lawyer this day gave high hopes that the authority of the church was about to be vindicated by the issue of his lawsuits with his parishioners being in his favour. This was an encouragement to his firmness and zeal which he could not disregard.
Two of the law-suits were soon decided. The vicar lost that which related to the Abbey Farm, and gained that which disputed the reality of the composition by which the defendant declared the glebe-land belonging to the vicarage to be held. The defendant firmly believed that the evidence of this composition existed; though, from its never having been disputed before, it had been taken no care of; and to lose the cause and pay the new claim of tithe would, he found, be a less expensive process than recovering the evidence on which his defence must be based. He declared that he should assert to his dying day that the vicar, like many another litigious priest, paid himself twice over, keeping the land and taking the tithe. The parishioners only waited, it was said, for the decision of the third cause, to toll the bell, and give their pastor his second warning of the consequences of making war against his flock.
There were now, however, some peace-makers in the parish,—five little peace-makers, who might be seen on a Sunday, walking hand in hand, all in a row; three of them in sleek brown coats and overshadowing drab beavers, and two in plain white frocks and close straw bonnets. The parties between whom quarrels ran highest were united in showing kindness to these orphans. The new rooms at the farm being yet scarcely begun, many friends of the widow Lambert wished to take in the children till she could comfortably accommodate them. Mrs. Byrne begged hard for one of the boys, if he would not mind sleeping in the little bed that Miss Alice had had good rest in, many a time. It would be an amusement to her husband, who had been much out of spirits of late; and the little gentleman would be a companion for Miss Alice when she came to watch the bees, and do what she liked with the garden. Mrs. Beverly thought that she and her maid could make the two girls happy, by setting them to work upon some extraordinary patchwork, and to play with the baby-house which had been Mrs. Beverly’s amusement on birthdays when she was their age; but Mrs. Beverly spoke too late; the girls were already promised to the vicarage.
Well; she and her maid would have liked the girls best; but, since they were engaged, they thought they could manage the two little ones,—the youngest now running alone very prettily. But Mrs. Lambert could not part with them all; and those she kept must be the two little ones, who could sleep in her room. With her they therefore staid; and whenever they had the rare luck of a fine morning, this rainy season, they might be seen, the one trotting at cousin Joseph’s heels, in loving company with the dog, and the other riding to the field on cousin Charles’s shoulder.
“Mother,” said Charles, on the day of their arrival, when he had succeeded in stopping Rachel’s tears,—the tears of the stranger,—by employing her to sew a button upon his gaiter,—“Mother, dost thou not think that people may be too tender-hearted sometimes?”
“Is thy mother too tender-hearted? Then I am afraid thou art too like thy mother, Charles.”
“I should not have been like thee to-day. If it is really right that Rachel and Margaret should go to the vicarage, I am glad that the vicar did not fall in with me on his way here. I should have refused his offer; and, I really think, so wouldst thou, but for the thought how the children would enjoy one another’s company.”
“I do not see what harm can befal them at the vicarage. It is a very sober place. At least, I never heard of any dissipation that was going on there; and the vicar reads the Bible in the family every day. They will not have any gaiety beyond gardening with Alice, and playing with her old doll. Will they?”
Charles was thinking of something quite different from this. He could not have brought himself to accept a favour for these children from one who had conducted himself as the vicar had done.
“Well, now, son, I do not see much reason in that speech of thine. If the vicar has done ill by us, why should we hinder his doing better by somebody else? I am afraid there is a little pride in thy objection. What dost thou think?”
“Perhaps there is some pride; but I do not much value the kindness of one who can be so hard as he has shown himself in many instances. I should be apt to think it flattery.”
“Not in this man. He cannot flatter; and where he has been most wrong, he thinks himself right. Ay; it is a strange delusion; but I think him as sincere as he thinks me,—and thou knowest what reason he has to think that. Dost thou know, I felt glad of the opportunity of letting his people see how well he means, and what kind things he does when he is a Christian; that is, when nothing puts him in mind that he is also a churchman.”
Charles was once again surprised at the deceitfulness of the human heart. He was actually wishing to return evil for evil when he thought he was consulting the dignity, (or other welfare,) of the children. He would take them down himself to the vicarage, and go in to make his acknowledgments on their behalf to the vicar.
No children could be happier than Rachel and Margaret during their stay;—patronised by Alice, stroked on the head by the vicar, kept in no more than due order by Susan, visited by aunt Martha, invited by Mrs. Beverly to make patchwork and play with the babyhouse; smiled at by Miss Fox and all her school when they passed in the lanes; and allowed to gather peas for Mrs. Byrne, when they went to her cottage to see Jonathan. A long-expected day was, however, approaching, which was to throw into shade all other days of delight.
Alice had not yet been permitted by Mr. Mackintosh to make hay on his lawn. Last year, indeed, she had felt herself too old and too proud to ask the favour. Finding herself, from her parentage, shunned by other people in her neighbourhood who were liable for tithes, she had not yet attained her wish of once more handling a rake, and tedding the sweet-smelling grass. This year, however, there was a prospect,—if the sun would but shine so as to give the grass a chance of being dried. Mr. Piatt, whom her father had conquered at law, was to pay his dues to the vicar direct, and not through Peterson; and Alice persuaded her father to prefer the tenth haycock, to be prepared and carried at his own cost, to the twelfth, delivered at the loft. She and her five little friends could almost make the hay: and O! the anticipations of the day! Rachel and Margaret could never be sufficiently instructed and enlightened as to what they were to do and to expect; and Susan had no rest till she had promised buns and a bottle of cider, to be eaten and drunk upon a haycock. The farmer took them by surprise with his notice at last, and no buns were ready: but Susan promised that the young folks should not die of famine in the hayfield, but that something eatable should follow them at noon. She shrewdly perceived that this would be the more necessary, as the children could eat but a small breakfast. They sat still, and looked calm, as little quakers should: but they had not much appetite.
“How hot the sun is here!” cried Alice, laying her hand on the window-shutter, which had been but too little noticed by the sun this year. “Come and feel, Rachel! That sun will do for hay-making, if any will.” And she stood on tiptoe, peeping over her papa’s shoulder, to see how much tea he had forgotten to drink while absorbed in his book.
She whispered to her companions that they might go and get ready, and that they should not have to wait for her long. Because she whispered, her papa heard her. He looked round him, and particularly at the room door, as if wondering whether that slam was its own: then gulped down his tea, and desired the dear child to go and make herself happy.
“But, papa, you are going with us.”
Impossible! What could the dear child be thinking of? There was an absolute necessity for his clearing up a doubtful point which he had promised uncle Jerom to solve; and he expected letters—
“Ah! about that law-suit that makes everybody so rude to you! I wish you would not have any more of those law-suits. People would like you much better if you would go and make hay. Let this be the very last law-suit, papa.”
She could not wish this more than he did. If his people would only not fail in their duty to the church, he should be the last person in the world to resort to law.
“Well, but do make hay, at any rate, papa.” And before her long string of good reasons was fully drawn out, Rachel and Margaret were standing, side by side, before the vicar, ready to say—
“We wish thou wouldst go.”
The vicar had seldom known Alice so eager and urgent; and if it would really spoil the dear child’s pleasure that he should be absent, he would put off his gown, and put on his coat, and go. It was particularly inconvenient. He thought he must carry his book in his pocket, and read in the shade—
“But thou wilt let us topple thee,” remonstrated Margaret.
This might be determined in the field. He supposed this was Alice’s inducement to press him so earnestly to go. Here his opposition ceased. He remembered how perpetually he was thwarting his daughter’s desire that he should stay at home after dark, and resolved to gratify her much more reasonable wish that he should walk abroad in the morning sunshine. He was ready nearly as soon as she, and only stipulated for being allowed to go whither he pleased, when he had been “toppled” to their full satisfaction.
It was indeed a glorious day,—a day of more genial sunshine than had been seen during the season,—the first day which a kindly shepherd would acknowledge to be warm enough for the washing and shearing of his flock.
“Look, look!” cried Rachel, who had run on before the rest of the party. “What are those cruel people doing to the sheep? I do believe they are going to drown the sheep in the pond! Canst thou not make haste and prevent them?”
Alice looked rather contemptuously on the town-bred child, and was anxious to lead her companions round by another way;—not that any one could enjoy a sheep-washing more than she; but she dreaded that further disputes about tithe, and more hatred to her father might arise out of his being present at the shearing. She need not have hoped to prevail, however. Her father stalked on, unconsciously resuming his official air; and the little girls were too anxious to know what became of the sheep to think of staying behind.
It was a great relief to discover that the sheep came out safe at the other side of the pool; and that the dogs, however much noise they might make, did not eat the poor animals. The men and boys, too, looked merry; and presently Charles was seen giving his baby cousin a ride on a sheep’s back into the water; which feat would hardly have taken place amidst any desperate intentions towards the flock. Margaret next concluded that all this was pure play.
“I am sure cousin Joseph told me that old Sam had no time to play with me, and that nobody had time to play at the farm till afternoon; and there they are,—cousin Joseph, and old Sam, and plenty more, playing with brothers, though they will not with us, Rachel.”
“I don’t think it is any fun to the sheep,” observed Rachel. “They bleat as loud as the dogs bark. But I never saw such large sheep in my life. Look at that big thing, standing dripping on the grass! Didst thou ever see such a fat creature, Margaret?”
“It will be thin enough presently,” said Alice, “when the shearers have cut off all that load of wet wool. Come, now, you have seen all you can see. Let us go over this slope, where we can get as many cowslips as we please, instead of passing all those people.”
The little girls had not, however, seen half as much as they wanted. They wished to make out whether there was any soap in the pool to wash the wool so white; and they were willing to take the chance of a ride into the water; and desired to persuade their brothers to go on to the hay-field with them. Alice perplexed them with signs that she wished to pass on.
“Thou squintest thy eye,” observed Margaret. “What dost thou mean?”
“Never mind now,” replied Alice, somewhat sharply. “It is too late now. If you had minded me a little more than the sheep, papa would not have thought of anything but going straight on.”
“Art thou afraid of that man? He is not gaylooking,” remarked Rachel. “He would see much better if he would come on this side the hedge, instead of prying.”
Alice now saw the man whom Mrs. Byrne disliked as a companion for her husband, peeping through the hedge, and evidently watching the vicar, while he handled the fleece of one and another of the flock, and looked on more like a proprietor than a spectator. She ran down to tell her father,—she scarcely knew why: but he was then too busy to attend to her.
“Halloo, parson, what are you about?” cried one of the many who had long ago put away all pretence of respect in addressing their clergyman. “There is nothing about them sheep belonging to you.”
“How so, friend? You are going to shear the flock, I see.”
“Ay: but this flock belongs to another parish. They are only brought here to be washed. You will find, for once, that some things are out of your reach.”
The vicar argued the point for some time; could not understand the case; must send Peterson to see into it; had been struck with the non-appearance of his tithe of lambs this season; and should expect the Lamberts to reconsider the matter, and employ somebody to set out the tithe of wool before he should pass that way again in the evening, if they would not do it themselves. He should be firm, as they had found, on other occasions, he could be.
Alice persuaded him to leave the rest of his argument to be finished in the evening, and ventured to tell him, as soon as he began to walk away with her, that she thought, and so did Mrs. Byrne, that the Lamberts had taken that bit of land in the next parish for the very purpose of putting titheable produce out of his reach. If he would ask no more than was asked in the next parish, he would not be altogether cheated of his lambs and his wool in this way. As usual, she was told that she knew nothing about the matter. She was sorry for it. She wished she could do some good. It was much wanted. When she now looked behind her, she saw that many were laughing at the Lamberts’ victory, and some sneering at her father; and the renewed shouts and barkings and bleatings seemed to have something of mockery in them.
No one was to be found behind the hedge when Alice would have pointed out the peeper: but the grass of the dry ditch was laid in a way which showed that some one had been stretched at length there. The vicar was not surprised. Bread was so dear, this year, and wages in consequence so high, that a great many people were out of employment. He had never before seen so many idle people lying about in the fields on dry days, and under sheds in wet weather: and Alice was aware that in no former season had the vicar’s alms been so liberally distributed.
“O dear! they have half made the hay, I do believe. See how busy they are!” cried Alice, when her party came in sight of the gay scene where a long row of men and women were tedding the grass; the women with their gowns tucked up, and their arms made bare, and the men uncoated, and frequently resting their rakes against their shoulders to wipe their brows. The usual pastimes of the hayfield were going on. Children were shouting with delight, and rolling one another in the grass, or pretending to make hay with rakes far too unwieldy for their strength; while the bigger girls who were sitting under the shade of the hedge with babies on their knees, looked on enviously, and began to wonder whether their charge would not be very safe sprawling on the ground. Baskets and cans helped to make a show in the corner with the discarded coats, and the dog that sat as guard, perking its head at every noise, and looking fully satisfied with its own importance.
This dog alone seemed to undergo no alteration when the vicar entered the field. The first hay-maker who saw him sent the news along the line, and laughter gave place to instant silence. It came full into every one’s recollection that this gentleman would claim a tenth of the fruits of this day’s toil. Byrne was only one of many whose wages were tithed. The children got up from among the hay, and stared at him,—each with thumb or finger in its mouth. They had seen a pretty little chicken, or a yellow gosling taken from the rest of the brood, in the vicar’s name. The boys stood in greater awe of him than the girls; for some wag had told them that they had better take care how they played when the vicar was abroad, lest he should tithe their marbles. The deputy nurses under the hedge elbowed each other, and laid their heads together to whisper. They were telling how grandfather taught them where to put the eggs they found among the nettles, and never, on any pretence, to count them; and how uncle forbade them ever to tell how many pigs the sow farrowed of; and how it was a shocking thing for a gentleman to pretend to give charity, when all he had to give came, mammy said, out of the labour of people quite as poor as some he gave to.—The party from the vicarage soon saw that there was no fear of the vicar’s hay being made for him. There lay the grass, untouched. Moreover, it might be observed that no hay was allowed to remain where the vicar walked. As soon as he approached, the labourers turned a shoulder or back towards him, and whisked away the hay, so as to leave him standing alone. He could not help feeling this, and, as usual, he tried to conciliate by kind words: as usual, he received impertinent answers, and, as usual, comforted himself with the thought that he was suffering for conscience’ sake.
In these circumstances, it would not do to let himself be “toppled.” Rachel and Margaret were told that they must not expect it. They, therefore, began to look about for rakes, in order to obtain the second best amusement in their power.
“Papa, what shall we do for rakes?” asked Alice. “The last time I made hay, Byrne lent me a rake, and I thought we should certainly find rakes with the hay.”
“Dear child, we should have thought of that. It is a negligence of ours; for the fair construction of the law is that the parson, or endowed vicar, should, in making his own hay, provide the instruments necessary for making it. But these people have doubtless rakes to spare, and will lend them.”
He tried whether it was so. He was sure the labourers must have rakes to spare.—They looked at one another, and nobody made answer.—He was sure they would not let Alice be disappointed;—Alice came to make hay.—No one looked up.—That little boy appeared very tired with trailing his long rake; perhaps he would lend it to Alice till he had rested himself.—The child began, at his mother’s bidding, to make hay more diligently than ever.
“See, dear child—” the vicar was beginning to say, when Alice came up to entreat him to ask no more favours. She had far rather not make hay to-day: indeed, she did not wish it.—This was more than Rachel and Margaret could, for their part, aver. There is no saying what aunt Lambert would have thought, if she had seen how nearly they were crying. The vicar perceived it, and, advising them to sit down and rest themselves during his absence, said he was going in search of rakes, and would bring some from the shop, if not from a nearer place, within an hour.
They did not rest themselves so much as a minute and a half. They began showering grass upon one another: but, the very instant that the vicar disappeared from the field, more rakes were offered than they could use. “Papa! Papa!” cried Alice, in hopes of bringing her father back: but one of the women held up her finger in a very forbidding way; and Alice saw that if she was to hope for hay-making, she must leave papa uncalled for. She almost wished now that he would not return.
He did return, however, when the work was far advanced. Upon his own shoulder he brought three rakes, which he offered,—not to the Quaker boys, who had arrived and were eager for them,—but to the labourers or their children who had accommodated Alice and her friends. But they lay disregarded till the Quaker boys were allowed to take them up, because it was clear that no one else would.
The little folks had been offered some of the contents of the baskets and cans; but had declined eating and drinking till they should have made something like a haycock on which to sit and refresh themselves. Just in the right point of time, appeared a messenger from Susan, with a savoury-smelling basket, and two cool-looking green bottles.
“I am sure we may make our cock now,” said Alice. “These people have made some of theirs, you see, before they sat down to dinner.”
“And we can spread it out again afterwards, if it is not dry,” Margaret observed.
“Dost thou find thyself hungry with seeing those people eating in the corner?” Rachel inquired.
So the basket was unpacked by some, while others drew the grass together near the hedge, and piled it up till it appeared the largest in the field.
“One, two, three,—seven,—nine,—yes, papa, ours is the tenth haycock. Do not you think there will be another for us to make? Do not you think there will be ten more at the other end of the field?”
The vicar feared that the remaining grass would be made into seven, eight, or nine cocks, to avoid paying the church its due.—Alice was immediately anxious to change the subject; and she made a prodigious bustle,—calling one to sit here, and pushing down another there, and raising the youngest little fellow, in the nankeen frock, to sit on the top of the haycock, as on a throne. While she was carving the pie, the child called out “Man! man!”
“Yes, dear; a great many men, and a great many women too,” said Alice, over her task, supposing the child was amused with the circle of labourers.
Her father had not sat down. He was contemplating, perhaps calculating, the size of the field. His back was therefore turned to the party of merry children. The next moment came something which stunned them like a thunder-bolt,—the report of fire-arms as if among them,—as if out of the haycock. They sat immoveable, for a second or two, till the vicar, who seemed to be balancing himself on his feet, staggered, fell sideways, and rolled over on his face. None who heard Alice’s shriek ever forgot it. She alone started up; her companions sat mute; the haymakers were all looking, but they did not come. How the poor thing pulled her father’s arm, in the attempt to raise him! How the complaining sound “I can’t! I can’t!” went to his heart,—which had not ceased to beat. He tried to turn himself, and did so.
“Turn me, dear child; do not raise me,” he said.
“Come, come! O, why don’t you come?” cried Alice, waving her arms towards the haymakers. Her companions joined her in shouting for help; and, at length, several men came forward. Nobody asked who had done this; but one offered to go for the doctor, and another for her uncle Jerom, and a third for Susan. Her father himself settled what should be done. His brother and the surgeon were to be summoned, and he would not be removed till they came; only propped up with hay, so as to breathe a little more easily. He asked if any one knew who had done this?
“It is more like you can tell than I,” observed the man he seemed particularly to address. “Perhaps you may recollect having offended somebody.”
Alice sprang to the child on the haycock, and asked where he had seen a man just now. The child pointed to the other side of the haycock. Somebody had been crouching there; and he must have entered and departed through a hole in the hedge, which seemed to have been made for the purpose.
Half a dozen of the haymakers passed through this hole; but they all came back with the same story,—that no trace of any person was to be found in the next field. Alice believed, in her impatience, that she could have found the murderer if she had been the pursuer; but who but she would chafe her father’s clammy hands, and pass an arm beneath his head, and fan him as his faintness increased? While listening, in hope that he would speak, a distant sound smote her heart,—the tolling of the church-bell. Her father felt the throb of her heart, and smiled as he said,
“It is not so, dear child. They are not tolling for me before I am dead. It is the lawsuit—I was aware—I expected a letter to-day, you know.”
“O yes; and I brought you out. I made you come here when you wished to stay at home,” cried she in agony.
“My dear child, it would have happened to-morrow if not to-day. It would have happened in my pulpit if not in this hay-field, Alice. Times and seasons are not in our hands, my child.”
The surgeon soon came, and pronounced that his patient had judged rightly in refusing to be removed. There were several hours of daylight left.—Every one felt that this was the same as saying that the vicar could not live till sunset.
Half the parish were in the field before Jerom appeared. Every one looked grave, and some changed countenance on witnessing Alice’s despair; but there was no expression or semblance of grief for the approaching departure of their pastor. Everything was done that could be done; but more as an office of humanity than of affection. This was not lost on the dying man, and must have caused him the keenest pang of all.—He eagerly welcomed Jerom; for he had much to say to him.
“This is a sad ending of my ministry,” said he; “but it is by no means a new thing for Christ’s ministers to die in upholding the rights of his church. God knows I have always been willing; but I grieve, (may he pardon me!) that he has seen fit to make crime the instrument.”
“Can we forgive the criminal?”
“I do from my heart, and have long done so. Yes. I thought it would end in this way, and prepared for it, as you will see when you come to undertake the charge of Alice. You will go home with her, Jerom, and stay till she has to leave the vicarage. See that she has her full right,—that she stays till she has fulfilled the month’s warning of my successor, after his induction. Do not let her remove a day earlier than the law obliges her. I am urgent about this, because I believe the people will run riot against the church as soon as I am gone; and I am anxious that all decencies and proprieties should be observed.”
“I have left enough, I trust, for her support; and I bequeath to you the corn and other crops in the ground. If my successor should be inducted before the severance of any crops in which he has an interest, you will, of course, aid him in recovering his dues, as you would aid me. If not inducted till after severance, he may be spared the battle till next year. But, Jerom, be mindful that the clergy must fight, side by side, like brothers, in the present fearful state of the church, when its rights are evaded, and its claims mocked at, and its ministers murdered in the scene of God’s bounties!”
Jerom checked his vehemence; and the dying man presently declared himself willing to leave the care of the church in the hands of Him who founded it. He died without one suspicion that the church for which he had sacrificed himself was not indeed the church of Christ in all its parts, as much as in the name which it has dared to assume. Not a doubt entered his mind that his devotion to his office and its claims was not of the true apostolical character. It never occurred to him, that he or his church might be answerable for the degradation of Christianity and the deterioration of morals in his parish.
He died,—just as the sun was declining over the scene of God’s bounties, as the vicar had truly described this place. There was a joyous twittering of birds in the hedges, and the light breeze which fanned the hair of the dead man brought sweet scents to those who surrounded him. The cattle in the meadows rose from their grassy couch, and moved homewards as the shadows of the willows lengthened. The sheep that had been shorn stood bleating on the slope, or beside the pool, as if wondering why the shearers had left them alone after stripping them of the fleeces that lay strewed upon the grass. The old church looked beautiful, dressed in ivy, and brightened with the latter sunshine, and overshadowing the tombs around it. Yet this fair scene was one of misery. The very church-bell was tolled in malice. The hedge concealed a murderer. The milk-maids and the shearers were gone to gaze with more awe than love on the passing away of him who should have taught them a better evening thanksgiving than this. If there was any acknowledgment of God and his bounties, it was in one or two who made it in humiliation rather than in joy. What kind of Christianity could have been here taught, producing such a result as this?—a Christianity mixed up and defiled with superstition and worldliness; and which could therefore no more bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness than a sun in eclipse can shed broad day.
As the body was carried home, all the people who had not been in the field came out of their houses. Mr. Mackintosh was seen standing at his gate, looking grave, but unmoved. He had something to say on the occasion, though there was less of triumph in his tone than some who knew him would have expected.
“This comes of making a clergyman a revenue officer,” he muttered. “Poor Hellyer might have made a very good clergyman, or a very good revenue officer; but it is beyond any man’s power to be both, without betraying the one trust or the other.”
His housekeeper appeared,—tearful,—to ask leave to bring Miss Alice into the house. She ought not to be in such a crowd as that, in all her grief, and none of her friends with her.—Leave was eagerly given: but the housekeeper hesitated.
“Why don’t you go? Do not lose a moment.”
“If I was sure, sir—if you would promise not to be very ready to tell Miss Alice that there is no chance of her meeting her father any more—”
“Certainly not. Certainly not. I am not clear on the point myself, and never professed to be so. It is only when they build up upon their absurd superstitions—But go.”
Alice was brought in, and was not long without a friend by her side. Mrs. Lambert, who had been too far off to hear the news, had observed from the high summerhouse the crowd just leaving the field, and moving along the road. She had hastily descended, and had joined the people just as they were passing the church,—just in time to hear the remarks upon the tolling of the bell.
“Ay; that’s for the gaining of his lawsuit,—and much good it will do him now! They say he was loth to come abroad this morning, because he expected good news of his lawsuit.”
“He did worse in beginning that lawsuit than in coming abroad this morning. ’Tis my opinion that it was that lawsuit that killed him.”
“Did ye hear his order about the wool-tithe, as he went by the pool this morning? So proud! He desired it might be set out for him against he came back.”
“I hope, friend,” Mrs. Lambert had observed, “that thou art observing these things rather as a lesson on the frailness of life, than as taunting the departed.”
The man thought that if the vicar had been paid like the dissenting ministers of the next town, and had given himself up to his office, without extorting tithes, his life would have been no more uncertain than any other man’s. He should not say this the less now that the vicar was being carried dead before him, than he had always said it when the vicar was standing up in the pulpit on Sundays, or handling fleeces on Mondays.
Where were all Alice’s friends?—Uncle Jerom was following the body. Mrs. Byrne was nowhere to be seen. It was many days before she visited Alice; and when she came, she could do nothing but weep. Mrs. Byrne was remarked by every one to be an altered woman from that day.
Byrne was in the crowd; but Alice was afraid of him, and always kept out of his way. Charles and Joseph were in pursuit of the murderer,—whom, however, they could not find. It is believed to this day, that he was harboured by some one in the neighbourhood; or he could not have evaded the strict search instituted by the magistrates, as soon as the event became known to them.
“I am glad you are come, Mrs. Lambert,” said Mr. Mackintosh, when she made her appearance, after delaying a moment to recover an appearance of calmness. “I am glad you are come. We do not know what to do with this poor child.”
“Thou hast not the heart to attack her faith at such a moment; and thou dost not know how to speak on matters of faith, but in the way of attack. Is that it, friend Mackintosh?—I agree with thee, that there is no worldly comfort which will to-day soothe this poor child.”
“All you say about my fondness for attack may be very true; but see whether it has half the effect in this parish of the superstition of its pastor,—or of the system which made him its pastor:—I care not which may claim the honour of doing most mischief.”
“I grant that thy principles have led to no murder here, and that the vicar would have been wise to ask himself, while censuring thee, whether he was not playing thy game for thee better than thou couldst do it for thyself. But, friend, that is no excuse for thy being as intolerant to others as the church has been to thee. Between you, religion (or, as thou wouldst say, morals) has had so little chance, that I would not advise either of you to boast of the other’s delinquencies, lest the argument should end in the display of thine own.—I will only just mention the name of Byrne, as a sanction to my charge.”
“You do not think he is the—” And Mr. Mackintosh’s countenance now showed some emotion.
“I have heard no one named as the murderer,” Mrs. Lambert quietly replied.
Mr. Mackintosh presently repented having allowed Alice to be brought in. It made him completely wretched. Whether her grief was ungovernable, as at first, or mild and reasonable, as it was when Mrs. Lambert had been with her awhile, it was equally painful to him. He could do nothing with minds but question and taunt them; and here, where the mind was too childish to be questioned to any purpose, and too much harassed to allow of taunting, there was no inducement to him to bear to witness the suffering. When he was tired of being first ashamed of his own helplessness, and then of being cross with his housekeeper, (who would not quarrel with him, because she saw he was trying to carry off some troublesome tenderness) he seized his hat, and walked out.—Mrs. Lambert observed, that he went in the direction of Byrne’s cottage.
BENEFIT OF CLERGY.
Sir William Hood (who was travelling abroad) supposed, like everybody else, that the vicar was alone to blame for what had happened. Nobody but those on the spot,—none but the sufferers,—dreamed of finding fault with the system under which precisely the same grievances might recur. They saw but too well that the virtues of the clergyman must, under such a system, injure himself or them. If his virtues were like those of the late vicar, centring in zeal for the church, he would oppress the parish as the late vicar had done. If they consisted of disinterestedness and mercy, they must injure himself in his worldly interests. The same temptations must also again beset the parishioners;—temptation to withhold the extreme dues of a moderate pastor, and to defraud a strict one. The sufferers agreed, in short, with him who said of the tithe system, “It has made the clergyman’s income to fall with his virtues, and to rise with his bad qualities; just as it has made the parishioner to lose by being ingenuous, and to save by dishonesty.”—They mourned over their liability to a repetition of their grievances; and their only comfort was in the hope that Peterson would not be again appointed to rule over them.
In this hope they were not disappointed. It was thought fitting by the ordinary and impropriator, that the circumstances of the scene should be changed as much as possible, in order that future irritation might be avoided; and Peterson received notice that his services would not be required by the future incumbent. He quarrelled with the vicar’s executor, before going out of office, respecting the amount of rent due for tithes received up to the day of the owner’s death, which unfortunately left room for a dispute of this kind, from not having happened on a quarter-day. The vicar’s tithes were collected in kind by the churchwardens, for the benefit of the future incumbent, the services of the curate being meantime paid out of the fund. Sir William Hood appointed another agent to collect his tithes.
During Jerom’s residence at the vicarage,—that is, during the few weeks which Alice’s friends thought long enough for the assertion of that dignity on which her father had bestowed some of his last thoughts,—it occurred to many people that Jerom would like very much to be the future incumbent of this vicarage —Jerom did indeed wish it. The allotment of new land, in which he had invested his share of the bounty, did not answer. The tenant did not, he thought, cultivate it properly; and he had no influence over the tenant, whom he had allowed to build on the ground, and from whom he had no means of purchasing the new erections. He was almost as poor as before he obtained the bounty; and could not well have got through the year but for his brother’s legacy of the little crops that were in the vicarage-ground.—He must get on, however, on this little wealth, as well as he could; for the parishioners had no intention of allowing anybody connected with the late vicar to be their pastor. They gave Jerom to understand this very plainly.
That wealth of his was indeed but small. The season turned out even worse than was expected; and so generally, that its effects were felt by every class in society. Wages had been rising all the year, and this occasioned a further rise in the price of produce; and these things all together proved to such as had eyes to see, the essential vices of the tithe-tax. Never had there been a greater outlay with a smaller per centage of gain to the cultivator than this season: never had tithe been so expensive to him as this year, when he could least afford it: never had the labourers, whose increased wages would not suffice to buy them a sufficiency of bread, so enviously regarded the increase in the revenue of the church;—an increase which arose from the same cause as their privations. Many were now convinced who had not been convinced before, that the bread-eaters of Britain pay a capitation tax to the church. The average consumption of grain being commonly allowed to be equivalent to a quarter of wheat a head, wheat pays a shilling a bushel as tithe, when wheat sells at 80s.; so that, at that price, the church exacts a capitation-tax of 8s.; it being clear that 72s. would be a remunerating price to the grower, if he had no tithe to pay. Many now allowed, who had not been fond of the subject before, that it is unjust that the religion of little more than half the nation should absorb a larger portion of the national resources, in proportion as these resources fail. Many now hinted, that if the preachers of the gospel had no power to feed the hungry with loaves in the wilderness, they ought not to be entitled to exact larger tribute from their hearers, the more their hearers hungered.
There were many dreary days this autumn; but it was on one of the very dreariest that Joseph ran out of the farm-house to invite his landlord to shelter till the storm should be over. “Indeed,” he added, “we wish particularly to speak to thee on a matter of some importance.” Mr. Mackintosh was not so fond of a pouring rain as to be unwilling to let his horse be led to a stable, and himself to a crackling wood fire, from which orderly children moved away to make room for him.
“I hope you have not heard of another suspected murderer,” said he. “I am quite tired of receiving intimations on that head, convinced as I am that we shall never be any wiser.”
“We have nothing to say to thee of any new suspicion: but why shall we never be any wiser?”
“Because we all have a pretty clear notion that there are many who could tell if they would: and if they have not told yet, notwithstanding the fair opportunity that has been given them, and the high reward offered, it is scarcely likely that they will change their minds now. Every new information is meant to put us on a false scent, depend upon it. I hope the people will leave off playing such a farce. We have all our own guesses, I dare say, as to which was the fellow, and where he might have been found the next night, and why a stranger should have been the one to deal the blow. He considered himself perhaps, as others have done before him, as filling an office like the hangman’s,—putting the finish to a criminal.”
“I call this unprofitable talk,” observed the plain Mrs. Lambert. “Wilt thou hear the favour my sons have to ask of thee?”
Mr. Mackintosh was not fond of being asked favours; but he could not refuse to listen, in return for shelter, warmth, and good ale. The young men were very urgent to be released from their agreement about the Quarry Wood farm. Three years only of their lease had run; but their losses had been so great that they earnestly desired to give it up.
Mr. Mackintosh thought he had great reason to complain;—so much reason that he did not feel himself bound to consider the interests of the Lamberts in any such way as this. Was it not a subject of complaint that the land was ill-managed? Might not any one see at a glance how far inferior its condition was to that of the Abbey Farm?
“And whose fault was that?” Charles asked. “Did it not arise from the one being titheable, and the other, tithe-free?”
“Which was known to thee when thou gavest thy money for it, I suppose,” added the mother.
“I would really advise thee,” interposed Joseph, “to find another tenant who does not labour under our scruples regarding the tithe, and who has therefore a better chance of making the undertaking answer.”
“You seriously advise me. I really am much obliged to you, Mr. Joseph.”
“I seriously advise thee,—for this reason: that if we do contrive to pay thee rent, it can only be by cropping and exhausting the best land on the farm in a manner which will not please thee, but to which we shall be driven. Therefore, if thou canst find a capitalist who will diligently set himself to contend about the tithe in a way which we, for conscience sake, cannot do, it may be equally for thy interest and ours.”
“If you choose to find such an one, perhaps I may listen to what you have to say.—But I won’t promise.”
“Why? does it give thee pleasure to hold us to a bad bargain?”
“Or to have my sons for tenants, perhaps,” said Mrs. Lambert, who sometimes accused herself of being a partial mother.—Mr. Mackintosh nodded at her, and said he had so little to complain of with respect to the Abbey Farm, that he would offer this much;—to let the young men have the Quarry Wood Farm rent-free for the remainder of the lease, they bearing the charges on the land.
They were obliged by this offer of compromise, but as far from hopeful as ever. They had much rather give up the undertaking altogether: but Mr. Mackintosh would go no further. He had every reason to believe that the farm would not let rent-free, on condition of the tenant paying the taxes, civil and ecclesiastical.
The lease must run out before it changed hands, even at the risk of its being left in bad condition,—half neglected and half exhausted.
“Come, cheer up, sons!” said their mother. “Gloomy faces are not becoming in us who profess to be more free of the world than some others. You know I never encouraged high notions in you when we thought we were growing rich; and I will not praise you for being low-spirited while you are doing your best—”
“For these children, as well as yourselves,” observed Mr. Mackintosh.
“These children will grow up to take care of themselves, and help us in turn, if we want help. And before that time, let us hope, other Christians will find, as we do, that they can worship without taking the bread out of one another’s mouths. There will be more people willing to worship then, I fancy. My sons may live to see the gospel esteemed as able to support itself as when Christ preached it.”
“And you may live to see it, ma’am. It is an experiment which cannot be very long delayed in this country,—as I believe a large majority of thinkers agree in deciding, however they may differ as to what is superstition and what is not.”
“Thou wilt not find many who will agree with thee, friend, that there must be superstition in believing in things unseen;—no, not if thou shouldst live a thousand years. But thou art pretty secure of good company in declaring some things to be superstition which were so a thousand years ago,—such as asking in God’s name for gifts that are not gifts, and setting up a priesthood in Christ’s name, when, if Christ said one thing more plainly than another, it was that there should be no more priesthoods.”
“And to suppose that men will care for any matters of faith, be they what they may, when the bread of these men is taken to uphold that faith—it is folly!”
“Worse folly than any faith can be, I agree with thee in thinking. This is what we call shutting up the kingdom of heaven against men. It occurs to me, friend, that though thou hast a taste for being singular, thou art of the same mind with some who took these matters to heart very long ago. I ask thy pardon for observing (I know thou dost not like to agree with any thing in Scripture,)—that some one said before thy time and mine, that the Lord is not pleased with offerings, such as thousands of rams and calves of a year old. He had rather have justice and mercy. I wish the church could be persuaded to go back to this old Scripture.”
London: Printed by William Clowes, Duke-street, Lambeth.
CHARLES FOX, 67, PATERNOSTER-ROW.
Printed by William Clowes,
Duke Street, Lambeth.
CHARLES FOX, 67, PATERNOSTER-ROW.