Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter VII.: DIMISSION. - Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside)
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Chapter VII.: DIMISSION. - 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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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.