Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE JERSEYMEN MEETING. - 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)
Return to Title Page for 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)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
THE JERSEYMEN MEETING. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE JERSEYMEN MEETING.
The moral sense of some people is shocked by the sentiment that it is pleasant to stand in safety on the shore to watch the effects of a storm at sea; but perhaps none were ever found to dispute the pleasantness of standing idle on the heights above a shore to watch the proceedings of busy people at sea. There are parts of the coast of Jersey where this luxury may be enjoyed in absolute perfection; where not only the features of nature are full of beauty, but where the spectator is unmolested by the presence of any less happy than himself, and where the industry which he witnesses is sure of its due reward.
Such a station is the height of Anne Ville, which overlooks the thriving village of Gorey in Jersey. It is luxury to sit on the remains of the Druidical temple there, and think of nothing less animating than the congregation of objects near; the bay of St. Catherine behind, where green lanes lead from the very brink of the tide, each to its own snug farm-house and blossoming orchard on the hill-side, and the solitary tower of Archirondel, surrounded on its rocky station by the blue waters of the bay: close at hand, Geoffry’s rock, from which, instead of criminals being cast into the sea, as it is said they once were, white sea-birds take their flight, scared by the laughter of children near their haunts: the noble castle of Mont Orgueil overhanging the waters, and casting upon them the shadow of its ruined battlements, while its mantle of ivy waves in the evening breeze:—the fishing village below, sending out and receiving back the oyster boats which throng about the pier in the season;—the villages on the distant coast of France, when the western sun lights them up into brilliant contrast with the intervening expanse of dark blue; and far beyond these, on the extreme horizon, the dim cathedral of Coutances. To spend a May evening in the centre of this scene is a luxury to a stranger whose heart is not, like that of a native, in one of the farmhouses in the interior, or among the oysters on the beach below. A stranger is pretty secure, however, of having this Druidical seat to himself on a May evening. So many repairs are wanted for the boats, so much sail-cloth and cordage is called for, and so large a portion of supplies is required for the little market of Gorey, towards the close of the oyster season, that the men are more likely to be guiding their creaking carts through the bowery lanes, and the maidens carrying down the hills the produce of their far-famed cows, than to be looking abroad from the heights of Anne Ville.
On such an evening, however, a few seasons ago, some one might be seen keeping a look-out from the poquelaye, (as the Jersey people call a Druidical remain like that at Anne Ville,) whom no one could doubt to be a native. He was a young man of about twenty, whose sallow face bore testimony to his diet being that of a Jersey farmhouse, while his knitted garments pointed him out as the son of one of the thrifty dames of the island who look suspiciously on all manufactures which threaten to supersede the work of their own hands. Aaron le Brocq looked indolent enough as he leaned with his elbows upon the great stone, and his dull eye wandered over the ocean, never once lighting up when a sail caught the yellow ray which slanted from the west: but Aaron came hither on business. Never was cordage so much wanted as now; and Aaron’s stock of hemp was exhausted; and day by day he came hither to watch for the arrival of some one of the friendly vessels which must be on the way to supply his need. There were barks innumerable within sight; but even Aaron’s dull eye could perceive, almost at a glance, that none of those near were what he wanted. Besides the native-built boats, there were many English vessels sailing hither and thither. Several which had been accustomed to navigate the broad, smooth Medway, were now tossing and turning in the currents and eddies caused by the ridges of low rocks which nearly surround the island, and have proved its surest defence during the wars of the two countries between whose grasp it seems to lie. French homeward-bound vessels were gliding between the shores; and a few of other countries, bringing supplies as much needed as hemp, were crossing Grouville Bay on their way to St. Heliers. Aaron would go to St. Heliers too, in the morning, if he saw no vessel before dark which might be supposed to come from the Baltic. He would go and learn what other people thought of this scarcity of hemp.
It is to be supposed that Aaron fell into a reverie about this projected trip to the port, and that he was thinking more of the market-place or custom-house of St. Heliers than of anything within ken on sea or land; for he started as if at the touch of the conjuring rod that he was taught to fear in his childhood, when his friend, Charles Malet, laid one hand on his shoulder, while with the other he pointed southwest, saying,
“There will be no time for growing drowsy at the poquelaye after sunset to-morrow, if yonder vessel be from Riga, as they say she is. She will be in port as soon as we can get there, and perhaps we may find her cargo all gone in the scramble.”
Aaron was on his feet in a moment, wondering how his thoughts could have wandered away so far from the Baltic as to let a sail from that quarter cross the wide bay, and almost disappear behind La Roque Point unperceived by him. But there were many things besides hemp which this ship might be bringing to Jersey; tallow for the candles, or oil for the soap which some of the islanders were enabled to manufacture for a far larger market than their own; or corn for home consumption, while they sent their own to England. This may seem to some an ingenious project, designed to benefit the shipping interest. To permit ships from Russia to sail by the coasts of England, and land their corn in Jersey and Guernsey, from whence an equal supply has at last to be brought to England, seems like a benevolent scheme to give employment to some who would otherwise be paupers. It looks like an approach towards the fulfilment of the aspirations of the ship-owner, that every merchant-vessel should be permitted to sail three times round the island of Great Britain before landing its cargo. But, for whomsoever the plan was first devised,—whether for the ship or land owners of Britain,—its effect is to enrich the inhabitants of Jersey and Guernsey at the expense of the bread-eaters of England. These islands are exempt from the bread-tax, as from all the bad taxes of Great Britain, except tithes. Their inhabitants, being allowed to buy wheat, without restriction, wherever they please, can purchase it at 45s. per quarter, while that which their fields produce is bought by the English labourer at some price between 60s. and 70s. The benefit which accrues to the Jerseyman is the difference between the price he pays, and that which he receives when the amount of duty is deducted;—a benefit marked enough to induce him to call for supplies from a distant shore, and to retain the merchants of his own port in his service. No wonder that any foreign vessel which passed within sight of the heights above Gorey might be supposed to be bringing corn to the port of St. Heliers. No wonder that Aaron was bewildered in a manner which would have stamped him a half-idiot in England, when a perfectly new incident presently occurred.
As soon as the sea became dusky in the twilight, the two friends turned their backs upon it, in order to pursue their way to the dwelling of Aaron’s father,—a small farmhouse in the valley on the other side the first ridge of hills which stretched north and south. They had not proceeded far over the down when they were accosted by a person whose appearance excited their wonder, while his business surprised them yet more. Scarcely half-dressed, and unattended, though he was blind, he was a mystery to Aaron.
“What sort of charity do you wish me to show you?” he asked, in answer to the beggar’s petition.
“What you please, sir,” replied the beggar: “but I have not had a morsel to-day, and I have no place to lay my head in to-night.”
“How happens that? I’m afraid you have displeased Mr. De la Mare?”
“Mr. who, please, sir?”
“Mr. De la Mare, the hospital governor. You don’t know who he is? How came you here, then?”
Malet had seen more of the world than Aaron. He suggested that the beggar might have come over in some of the oyster vessels from Kent,—perhaps even from London; and that he might never have set foot in St. Heliers.
Would he get into the hospital among the blind? Aaron would take him to St. Heliers the next morning, and try to procure him admission. Stephen did not exactly wish this. He could find his way about, and did not like being shut up. If the gentleman would only bestow a little charity, that was all he asked;—by charity, he meant a little money for present use.
“But what will you do when it is gone?” asked Aaron. “You cannot work, I suppose, without the use of your sight.”
Stephen (for so the beggar called himself) had not been able to do a stroke of work these ten years. He trusted to the charitable and humane to take care of him.
“But you will not take their charity. You refuse the hospital! I don’t see what you would have.”
“He would live by begging, I dare say,” observed Malet, by way of elucidation.
“What! by asking every day for bread! I never heard of such a thing.”
Charles Malet had once been told that this was a very common thing in England. Besides the number of poor who were admitted into charitable houses, like those at St. Heliers, there were many who did not know, any morning of the year, where they should rest at night. Aaron thought this a miserable lot; but Stephen the beggar seemed wonderfully cheerful under it. He did not look ashamed, as a native would have done, of his being only half-clothed;—perhaps the not seeing his tatters had something to do with this. He had certainly been humming a tune, as he ambled along, when the young men were approaching him; and even now, though he spoke of hunger, he seemed ready to break out into singing or joking in the intervals of the piteous looks he assumed. Aaron, as a matter of course, took him home, but felt rather uncomfortable in doing so. He was afraid that his father might be displeased if it should turn out that the beggar was playing off a hoax; and that his mother might be alarmed if Stephen should prove a half-wit, or to be under a spell; and Aaron could scarcely doubt the one or the other to be the case. He took Stephen by the hand, however, and led him on; not failing to remark how marvellously his charge happened to escape hurting his ill-shod feet against the large sharp stones which lay in the road.
An opportunity occurred of introducing the stranger to a part of the family before reaching the farmhouse; an opportunity which Malet was the first to discern. Jersey is a land of trotting brooks. As every dwelling has hills somewhere near it, every dwelling has a stream within reach. There was one at the bottom of Le Brocq’s orchard; and there were the women of the family assembled this evening, when the young men crossed the ridge and descended into the valley—assembled on an occasion of great importance. It was the first day of washing week; and as washing week came but twice a year, it was sure to be a busy time. The profusion of snow-white caps spread on the grass formed the chief light in the landscape, for the grey stone farmhouse, roofed with dark thatch, nestled dimly among the trees; so that even if all had not been alike mantled with ivy, the dwelling would scarcely have been discernible. The brook was more heard than seen, and the high ferns on the opposite side presented the appearance of a smooth green carpet. But few blossoms remained in the orchard to distinguish it from the oak copse which sheltered it towards the east. Little could be distinctly seen but the heaps of linen on the bank, and the moving figures beside it. They were the two daughters of Le Brocq, and a damsel, the servant at the farmhouse. They were finishing their work for the night; and when Malet ran down to them with a lover’s speed, he found Louise rising from her knees beside the little pool which had been her station all day, and declaring that she could see no longer, and that it was time to go home to supper. Anna was meanwhile spreading more linen on the ferns, where it might be bleached by the morning sun; and Victorine, the maid, put the materials of their next day’s work in an appointed place, among the roots of an old oak. The brook, meanwhile, rippled and splashed, carrying down the defilements of soap which had offended it all day, and washing out the pools in which the work had been performed. Stephen made bold to ask his conductor what all this was about, and to declare what shameful waste it would be thought in England to wash linen in a running stream, where as much soap would be lost as would buy much of the linen. Stephen was right; but this was a consideration which the Jersey people had little occasion to regard. Their soap was not taxed either in its materials or its manufacture; and few articles can be obtained with more ease or less cost than soap, when this is the case. Any person in Jersey was at liberty to buy oil or tallow direct from the Baltic ships in the ports, without asking the leave of any custom-house officer. If he chose to buy the cheap potash furnished by the interminable Russian forests, he had no duty to pay. If he found sea-weed enough on the nearest shore to supply this as well as other purposes, he was subjected to no other interference than the injunction to cut it at the right season. He might make his soap when and where, and in whatever quantities he pleased; and the cost of it was next to nothing. No one there was obliged to sigh either at his children’s dirt, or at the cost of keeping them clean. The amount of soap used was little more thought of than that of the water which ran past his own door.
Stephen seemed much disposed to join the group beside the brook,—another proof to Aaron that he was not aware of the state of his costume. He was not allowed to descend, as he wished; but must submit to be led across a back field, and through the orchard, that he might reach the house, and be clothed before he was presented to the family. Aaron could not think of showing him in a state of such degradation as that in which he had found him.
“Who is this?” inquired Le Brocq, who was drawing cider from the cask which was niched near the door. “How can De la Mare let any one come to such a pass?” Then, as Stephen came within hearing, the farmer told him he should be welcome to supper and shelter for the night, and that he might depend on being forwarded to St. Heliers the next morning. In an aside, he desired his wife to fetch an old garment of his, wherewith to clothe Stephen, instead of using any of Aaron’s good clothes for the purpose.
Mrs. Le Brocq wanted to know when the girls were coming. It was too dark for them to see what they were about; and the soup was ready; and she was sure Louise would be over-tired if she staid at her work so long. She was comforted with the news that they would presently come in, and that Malet was with Louise, to take care of her.
By the time that Stephen was dressed, and seated somewhat nearer than he liked to the great fire of vraic (a sea-weed which is used, first for fuel and then for manure, in Jersey), the young washerwomen appeared. Mrs. Le Brocq and Anna took charge of the supper table, while Louise, who was, or was fancied to be, rather delicate, was tended by her lover, and Victorine was at every one’s call, besides having to lay down a bed for Stephen, as the hour of rest approached.
Stephen seemed less disposed for mirth at the supper table than when he was first met in his destitute condition. Hungry as he was, he could not eat the soup, made of lard and cabbage, which the rest of the party seemed to relish as if it had been made of gravy meat, and peas. After many attempts, he gave it up; and was so nauseated that he had little relish left for the bread, cheese, and cider with which Mrs. Le Brocq compassionately supplied him. He was sensible of the incessant motion of knitting needles all around him, in every interval of eating. All the four women were indeed knitting when doing nothing else; and Stephen felt rather awkward in the midst of so much industry. Nobody was very merry; there seemed to be some cause of discontent among the party, though Aaron showed that he was well pleased at the prospect of obtaining on the morrow the materials which would enable him to supply his customers with ropes.
“I am glad some luck has befallen you,” observed the mother, “since Charles is never to have any. I wonder whether there be another lad in the island so shiftless as he; to have courted my Louise, and not have a home to take her to.”
Le Brocq shook his head and muttered; Charles looked abashed, and Anna said, hesitatingly, and only loud enough for her sister and Charles to hear, that such ill-fortune could not, she trusted, last long. Such a thing had never happened before, she believed, as a sober man being disappointed of a settlement three times over. She hoped it would please God that the hand of the diligent should make riches, and that Charles would not lose heart.
Charles had lost heart many times lately; and now he left his supper unfinished, and sat pondering the charms of the various cottages of which he had missed the acquisition. He was not in poverty, being employed with Aaron in ropemaking, but the parents of Louise would not let him have her till he could take her to a home as comfortable as that which she must leave. He began sometimes to fear that he should be sent about his business, as being no proper match for Louise. Stephen made such advances of sympathy as the little conversation enabled him to do. He took up his glass of cider, and turning to Malet, begged to drink to the young man “finding something to set his hand to,” and to his “carrying the day with his lass, at any rate,” and he should be pleased to be at the wedding.
Malet thanked him kindly; and Stephen went on to suggest that it was a thousand pities to lose heart and let the time go by. Charles should do as people in England did, marry when the young lady was in the mind, and see what would come of trusting.
“And what comes of it in England?” inquired Malet, lending an attentive ear.
Stephen made rather a lame story of the happy consequences of this sort of trust, except on the point that he was quite sure of,—that there was always the parish to depend on at last. He helped out his explanation with a song about love and banishing care, which Malet would have ventured to praise very highly, but that Mrs. Le Brocq began to look angry. She muttered something about seeing Charles, some day or other, borrowing another man’s coat and craving another man’s supper, and then singing songs about not caring.
Charles showed by a gesture that there was the main difference between Stephen and himself, that the one was blind and the other not. Le Brocq was offended by his wife’s gross breach of hospitality; Louise was crying; and all went wrong. Stephen took the liberty of beginning another song by which he hoped to make every body laugh and grow good-humoured; but before it had had time to operate, he was obliged to break off by the entrance of some person whose horse he had heard stop before the door.
“If you are come to supper, Mr. Janvrin,” observed Le Brocq, “I am afraid you will not enjoy yourself as we could wish. If you had come half-an-hour earlier—”
“I am come on business; and when, I tell you that I was at St. John’s this morning, and am now come from St. Martin’s, you will guess what I am here for.”
“Well; out with it! What is in hand now?”
“Why, you know very well. You heard of the rate laid upon you and your neighbours, for the help of the government in the new improvements.”
“But I offered horse and cart and man for a week. That is enough for my share, surely.”
“For the new road. Yes. But the States call for money, too, as you must be aware: and here is what you must pay,” showing his list.
Le Brocq said something about the many calls on people for money in these days,—what with daughters marrying, and governments making new roads. Nevertheless, he sent Aaron for his money-bag, and counted out the sum, while the tax-gatherer refreshed himself with the remains of the supper. When Stephen heard the clink of the coin, he observed that the people in his country would never submit to pay taxes in this manner. It would be as much as the tax-gatherer’s life would be worth to ride about the country, taking money out of people’s pockets like a footpad. Janvrin wondered what the gentleman could mean; and Aaron inquired whether the English paid no taxes.
“Pay taxes! to be sure they do. How should such a fine country get on without taxes? But, bless your soul, paying taxes there is the easiest thing in the world. There’s no trouble whatever in it. The government takes all the trouble, and the people don’t so much as know when they are paying taxes.”
The family all thought this must be charming; and Aaron whispered to Malet that, after all, it might be better for him to go to England: for taxes were a consideration to a man who was going to marry. But Malet wished to hear a little more first. How was it that taxation was such an easy matter in England?
“O, I only know I never paid a tax in my life. I have not paid a tax these ten years. Why, yes: some people pay them; but it is only by giving a trifle more,—nothing worth speaking of,—for things that they buy.”
“Like our duty on spirits,” observed the collector, nodding to Malet, who was all ear.
“That is a very good plan,” observed Le Brocq. “I always liked that plan of laying a tax on spirits.”
“Well you may,” observed the collector, laughing: “for I believe you have never had a gallon of spirits in your house since its roof was on.”
“O, it’s a wise tax,” replied the farmer. “So the government in England is kept up by a tax on spirits.”
“They must drink a deal of spirits,” said Malet, “or there must be other dues;—harbour fees, like ours, or the like.”
Stephen did not deny that the spirit-tax was not the only one: but whatever the others might be, it was only laying a farthing or two here and there which nobody minded paying; and which, indeed, none knew that they paid. What were the taxed articles? Malet inquired.—O, there were several. Lace and silk stockings, he had heard: and a gentleman in Kent was saying that hops paid some sort of charge. Malet and Louise looked at each other. This would suit them exactly. They had never seen silk stockings or lace, except in the shop-windows at St. Heliers; and they drank cider.—Well: anything else? Any common articles? Mr. Janvrin asked. Bread or sugar, timber or linen, soap or tobacco? Any of these? Why, some of them: but the merest trifle! and it was uncommonly pleasant to live in a free sort of way, without any tax-gatherer to come to the cottage-door, and ask for so many shillings out of the poor man’s earnings.
“Uncommonly pleasant,” repeated Le Brocq, with a sigh, as Janvrin pocketed the money on the table, and made an entry in his book. “I think I shall ask one of the Constables to speak to the Bailly, and try whether we can’t get the States to think of taxing us as easily as the English. An uncommonly pleasant way it must be, to be sure.”
“Uncommonly pleasant,” observed Janvrin, “if the poor man does not pay pounds without knowing it, instead of shillings when he is asked. Your guest said something about footpads: but I had rather be robbed by a footpad than by a pickpocket.”
The girls asked their mother what was a footpad, and what was a pickpocket. She frowned, and whispered to them not to ask: it was something very bad indeed. They blushed, and could only hope that nobody had heard their question.
Upon Stephen’s half-smiling and saying, with a turn of the head towards Janvrin, that every man was in honour bound to defend his own occupation, but that he was proud to say, the English had no relish for getting out their moneybags when the government bade them, and preferred paying their little matter of tax their own way, the good-will of the family towards Janvrin was visibly overclouded. Nobody pressed him to stay; and when, on his departure, he once more mentioned that Le Brocq’s cart and horse would be expected to appear on the new road the next Monday morning, the farmer looked very grave in giving his assent.
Stephen was abundantly questioned about England before he was allowed to go to rest: and when, at length, Aaron led him to the corner where he was to sleep, and promised to leave no stone unturned to get him into the hospital, Malet was mourning with Louise that he had wasted so much time in seeking an establishment in Jersey; and the farmer determined that he would not close his eyes till he had calculated how much money he had paid over to the States since he began housekeeping, without reckoning the use the island had had of his horse and cart, as often as improvements had been carried on in his parish.
When Aaron stole to the bedside of his guest, early the next morning, to rouse him for his journey, he was surprised to find nobody there. Not only had the guest disappeared, but half the bedding,—the whole of which would not much encumber a strong man. The only supposition that could be entertained was that Stephen had gone out, with a blanket in addition to his scanty clothing, to please himself with the morning sunshine; an amusement to which there was no impediment of locks and bolts, in this any more than in the neighbouring farmhouses. But Stephen was not to be found in orchard or field; nor did he answer when his name was called, though everybody in the house was wakened by the shout. Louise appeared with her milk-pails, and Anna tripped down to the brook. Mrs. Le Brocq appeared at the window, knitting, and the farmer came out to harness his team, while Victorine swept the kitchen, and prepared to light the fire. Everybody appeared but Stephen. A general admiration of his talents prevailed when it was remarked as a singular thing that a blind man should be able to find the door, and pursue his way over ground that he had traversed but once. The fear was lest he should have lost himself, got entangled in the copse, or soused in the brook;—or,—suppose he should have fallen down the quarry! If he had escaped all these dangers, he must be as acute about finding his way as he had shown himself about taxation, and love and marriage. While this admiration was being expressed, up came Anna from the brook, with a gentle reproof prepared for Victorine, for carrying away the bleaching linen from the place where they had been left the evening before. There was no place where they could bleach more favourably, and Victorine had received no orders to remove them. It was not long before the conviction was forced upon everybody that the linen was stolen. The most valuable part of the clothing of the family was gone. Nearly eighty of the best caps belonging to the four women of the household were carried off, and so many other useful things that the maidens might do nothing but spin, knit, and sew, from this time till Christmas, and yet be obliged to have three or four extra washes. It was a dreadful misfortune. Louise leaned her head against the cow she was milking when the tidings were brought to her. Let Charles be as fortunate as he might, her wedding might be considered as deferred for an indefinite period. Anna hoped against hope that some happy explanation would arise. It seemed impossible that any one should be so wicked as to take, without payment, what did not belong to him. Father and son and Victorine were off in different directions to look for traces of thieves in the fields and highways. Not a cap was to be seen dropped on the grass, nor any shirt frolicking by itself on any bush. Victorine turned back panic-struck, only too well convinced of what she now thought she had suspected all along,—that the guest of the last night had arrived from a far more distant place than England, and that he needed no ship to bring him over the sea. She trembled to think what sort of feet might have been enclosed in her young master’s shoes, and what might have been the effects of his eyes, if he had not happily chosen to keep them shut. Aaron did not know that he could do better than pursue his way to St. Heliers, where it was possible that he might meet with either Stephen or the thief, if they should, after all, not happen to be the same person. So he harnessed a strong little horse of his father’s to the cart, drove to his rope-walk, wished that Malet would not be so late in the mornings, but would be at his business in time to help people with advice when they were in a hurry, and drove off. He had not gone far when his sister’s voice hailed him. She was running after him with a list of messages from his mother about articles that he was to purchase in the market at St. Heliers, and with a request that if he should be able to learn anything about the lost property, he would take particular care to recover Louise’s share first, as poor Louise was in sadder distress than anybody else.
“You will go to Gorey,” she suggested. “Some of the English may think there is no harm in taking our caps, and will give you them back again.”
“Ask Charles to go there. It will be as much as I can do to make this harness hold out, if I go as straight as an arrow and back again. I had better have kept the last coil of cord I sold to young François; this is as rotten as if the tow had never been twisted.”
It was provoking that the harness should break at this moment; and Aaron showed that it was. He twitched the horse’s head in its straw collar, knotted the rope rein with some very petulant gestures, told his sister that she deserved to be run over for coming in the way of the long axle of the cart, and finally urged on his rumbling vehicle without a word of farewell.
His haste did not, however, prevent his pausing on some high ground, where an opening in the ridge of hills afforded him a glimpse of the sea, and a distant view of the pier at Gorey. The English oyster-boats were departing for the season. A little fleet of them was standing out from the bay; and in one of them might have been found, as Aaron suspected, the lost property and the blind thief,—if blind he were. The sight of such means of escape stimulated the youth to his pursuit, if indeed it were yet possible to hunt out the guilty from any retreat between Grosnez and La Roque, and bring him to justice.
No person in the least resembling Stephen was to be seen on any of the quays of St. Heliers, nor in the pretty market-place. Mr. De la Mare had not heard of any blind stranger being in the neighbourhood. The vessel from the Baltic was in the harbour,—all safe, and bringing hemp, as Aaron desired. As it was still too early in the morning for the transaction of business on the quay, he thought it best to make his purchases in the market-place, telling every person he met of the family loss. Several people from the country had already taken their places under the piazzas, and had set out their butter, eggs, and vegetables; and the butchers’ carts were being unpacked in the centre. Every one was soon in possession of the story. While the early housewife was arguing with the butcher whether she should pay 3d. or 3½d. per lb. for his prime beef, she stopped to shake her head over the depravity of the age, in which an open theft had come to be committed in return for hospitality. The maid-servant, who took in the tale with open mouth, while the market-woman counted eggs at 4d. a dozen into her basket, promised to mention the circumstance wherever she went. The townsman who had risen early that he might have the first choice of fish, spoke of alarming the magistracy and rousing justice.—Then, when Aaron stepped to a shop or two within sight, to buy two pounds of three shilling tea (his mother made a point of having the best tea), and a supply of fine sugar at 4d., half the little boys that were abroad followed him, as if expecting that the thief would be found under the counter or in one of the canisters; and the shopman put on a countenance of concern; and the head of the firm looked mysterious; and altogether the impression was very profound.
All was known at the custom-house before Aaron betook himself thither to inquire about the arrival and departure of vessels. Every man in the establishment,—the principal, the comptroller, and the two subordinates,—was eager to question Aaron as he approached with an air of peculiar gravity. The unlading of Christiana deals upon the quay had proceeded without their notice, while engrossed with the tale of the Le Brocqs’ misfortunes;—not that it was any part of their duty to watch the unlading of Baltic timber; for here the people were allowed to get their timber from any part of the world they pleased, and to give no more than the natural price. They were neither compelled to pay the King for the liberty of using foreign timber at all; nor obliged, by the high duty put upon Christiana deals, to take up with the inferior wood of Canada. The custom-house officers looked upon the landing and sale of timber with their hands in their pockets, and as if they had no more concern in the matter than in a bargain about a bunch of asparagus.
Equally indifferent were they about the proceedings of the vessel which brought hemp and tallow. Indeed, the bustle of the port of St. Heliers,—a bustle which increases from year to year,—takes place altogether among the buyers and sellers. Tax-gatherers have little concern in the matter. When the harbour-master has collected the harbour dues, and the custom-house officers have ascertained that no wine or spirits are on board, or have levied that single tax, the government is satisfied, and no further impediments exist. The Jersey people could not possibly stand more in need of hemp than the English. Without rigging for her merchant-ships, England is impoverished: without cables and sails for her vessels of war, she is defenceless. How did she then supply this great necessity? But little hemp is grown at home; and, in order to obtain more, government adopted the means precisely adapted to defeat the end. Instead of facilitating to the utmost the obtaining of an article from abroad which is deficient at home, difficulties were thrown in the way of getting it from abroad, in order to force the production at home: a very high duty was laid on imported hemp. This made it less expensive to buy sail-cloth and ropes ready made from abroad than to manufacture them at home; and thus our manufacturers were ruined. It also stimulated the use of iron cables, so that the government found that there is a slip between the cup and the lip,—between laying on this tax and receiving the produce. The result of the whole was that government derived little from the tax; our manufacturers could not make their business answer; and we employed foreigners to prepare our ropes for us, while those at home, who would do the work cheaper, were standing idle. If government would have admitted hemp free, the multitude who were standing idle, and the larger multitude who paid for the collecting of the tax and for the dearness of the article, would have been thankful to subscribe the 70,000l. which was all that found its way into the Treasury. It is but lately that the consequences of such a policy have been recognised by the government and the country, and the duty on undressed hemp repealed; but it is now fully acknowledged that the country need never have paid the high prices demanded for hemp manufactures from 1808 to 1814, or any of the burdens which this absurd tax has imposed till now. It is to be hoped that this conviction will lead to the repeal of other taxes as bad in principle, and almost as mischievous in practice: but custom-house officers still interfere between the English builder and the timber of the Baltic, and demand so heavy a tax upon every cask of tallow or oil that is on its way to the soap-boiler as to involve hundreds or thousands in the factitious guilt of a breach of the revenue laws.
Aaron had a favourite phrase at his tongue’s end, whenever he was out of his father’s sight. Le Brocq had carried his authority over his son a great deal too far:—so far that Aaron was in a state of unremitting bondage to one person, while he was apt to carry his freedom to an extreme in every other presence. ‘What is that to you?’ was his invariable reply when questioned by sister, friend or stranger;—an expression which would never have occurred to him, if he had not been racked with questions by the only person whom he could not refuse to answer. His sisters were so well aware of his sensitiveness to the tone of interrogation that whatever was uncertain was put by them into a form of conjecture; and even Victorine appeared to be thinking aloud whenever she wanted to know anything which she believed her young master could tell. Custom-house officers cannot be expected to show such consideration for individual peculiarities, and it would have been scarcely safe to have allowed Aaron to go down to an English port to transact business about hemp or tallow. Ladies going to France now find it vexatious to be asked, “What have you in that bag?” “What do you carry in this little box;” and gentlemen turn restive under the inquiry what fills out their pockets, and whether they carry anything in their boots. Such inquisition, intolerable as it is, is less vexatious by half than that which the English merchant, priding himself on the dignity of his vocation, has to undergo when the amount of his purchases, and the value of his merchandise have to be investigated, and made known to those who ought to have no concern in the matter, that they may watch whether he discharges his duty to the state. These sufferers may not say (what they are incessantly prompted to exclaim,)—“What is that to you?” they may not make as free as Aaron did on the quays of St. Heliers.
The comptroller accosted him with,
“Your concern is with her,—yonder,—I see.”
“What’s that to you?”
“Why, no more than that I can tell you, within a minute and a half, how soon she will be alongside the wharf. You won’t have to wait long, I fancy; for there are half a score of people come in from the country at the first news of her being moored off the old castle. You must have found it a great vexation to be waiting for hemp when the time of the fishery was passing away.”
“What’s she?” inquired Aaron, pointing to a vessel which was making her way out of the harbour, before the anxious eyes of a group of men, now resting from the toil of putting the finishing stroke to her lading.
“What’s that to you?” replied the comptroller, smiling. “I see you do not like other people to take a fancy to your words. Well, then, she carries stone to the port of London; and a fine voyage she is likely to have with this wind:—a better one than the Riga vessels that have been in the Channel this fortnight, I fancy, and cannot get here. They will be all coming at once when you will want them less than you have done. But you have always a good market for cordage in England, I suppose.”
Aaron muttered that whether he sent his ropes to England or anywhere else, people in all places wanted cordage, and always would want it, he supposed.
“No doubt; and when one hears of young men’s sisters being seen turning the wheel in the rope-walk, and of young men themselves standing every evening by the poquelaye to look for ships that bring hemp, one can’t help, if one cares for the island, hoping that the manufacture is prospering.”
“Certainly; if one is thinking of the island. But what is to become of the island, if it is to be overrun with thieves? You heard of our being robbed last night.”
“Yes. Some London rogue that came by an oyster-boat, no doubt. What have you lost by him?”
“What’s that to you?”
“Why, really, Mr. Aaron, I don’t see how you are to find your property again, if you have an objection to say what you have lost. I must leave you to find the thief in your own way, and wish you good morning.”
“Well; but that is not what I meant to say,—if you think you can help me to the thief.”
“Nobody could, if many were to take up your way of speaking. Only conceive, now! ‘Pray, sir, have you any knowledge of the people that came by the Medway boats?’—‘What’s that to you?’ ‘Have you happened to see a blind man pass your way, Mr. So-and-so?’—‘What’s that to you?’ ‘Where was it — ?’ ”
Aaron half-laughed, and wished people would never be tiresome with their questions, and then —
“And then you would not make it a great mystery whether the thief took two pairs of stockings or six. Well, if I find Mr. Stephen and his booty in an empty wine-cask, I will make bold to let you know, if you will only allow me to ask whether the property belongs to you.”
Aaron gravely thanked him, when the comptroller began saying one thing more before they separated.
“Just bear this hint in mind, Mr. Aaron. Don’t be tempted to go and follow any business in England, till you have taken as great a fancy for being questioned as you have now taken against it. This is the country for you,—where nobody fingers your tow, or counts your strands, or measures your cables. Don’t be persuaded to go and live in England.”
Aaron stared. He had never had a thought of even crossing to England for a week’s pleasure. Had his companion heard of any scheme — ? What could put it into his head to offer such a caution?
“What’s that to you?” answered the comptroller, laughing as he retreated. “Only mind what I say.”
Aaron was not fond of minding what anybody said. He had had enough of that kind of observance enforced by his father. He looked dogged; and if any one had on the spot offered him a passage to England, he would probably have gone, at all hazards.
The fancy possessed him all day. While engaged in the purchase of his hemp, he made inquiries of the Russians whether they had been in England, and how they were treated there, and after what fashion purchases of hemp were made in the ports. He was in the midst of a reverie, deciding that it could be no more really necessary to answer impertinent questions in England than anywhere else, when he was stopped on his way out of town by an officer of justice who wanted a description of Stephen’s costume; and then by a housewife who had a mysteriously-obtained cap to show, which she supposed might be one of the missing stock. Over hill and over dale he jogged and jolted, letting his horse carry the cart after its own fancy, while he reviewed in his mind all the trades and professions he had heard of as being practised in England; and recalled the countenances of two Isle of Wight men who had looked far from being harassed to death. He was pretty sure it must be very possible for him to live in England: and what the comptroller could mean by so earnest a caution, given at this very time, he could not imagine.
The first person he saw on his arrival in the neighbourhood of home was Victorine. She was awaiting him on the orchard bank; and very sorry she was that she could venture no further on the road by which he was to approach; but the thief of the preceding night was as a lion in the path. No one of the women had this day gone out of screaming distance; and it was rather a stretch of boldness to have attained the orchard bank. There had been terrors to be sustained;—a toad had made the grass move in one place; and a large black bird, (Victorine did not look again to see of what species,) had rustled in the hedge, and flown out before her eyes; and a gruff voice had been overheard in the ditch on the other side;—a voice which made her heart beat so that she could hear nothing else, or she would soon have discovered that it was the grunting old sow. The greatness of the occasion alone enabled her to take her stand, notwithstanding all these alarms.
“Mr. Aaron,” cried she, “there is news at home. Mr. Aaron, the uncle is dead.”
“What uncle? Whose uncle? Our uncle? What uncle?”
“Uncle Anthony is dead. I thought I would tell you, sir; lest you should see the mother first, and fear something worse. Have you got news of our caps?”
Aaron did not answer the last question, he was so busy trying to remember who uncle Anthony was. He remembered having heard the name in childhood, and believed that the person it belonged to lived somewhere a great way off; but no passing thought of either name or person had been in his mind for so many years, that he was ill-prepared to take the news as it seemed to be expected that he should.
He found his mother moving about with a countenance of the deepest solemnity, and the same step that she would have used in a sickroom. Le Brocq was quiet and thoughtful, and Malet evidently in gay spirits.
“We have had a great loss, Aaron,” declared the mother. “You remember our uncle Anthony.”
“Did I ever see him, mother?”
He was told that this was a very ungrateful question, for that uncle Anthony had been his godfather. When it pleased God to send afflictions, it became people to be more sensible of them than Aaron seemed to be. By way of setting an example, Mrs. Le Brocq gave all the house-business in charge to Victorine, and sat down with her knitting to sigh very heavily, and look up reproachfully as often as any one spoke. Anna saw Aaron’s perplexity, and its near approach to a sulky fit, and found an opportunity of whispering a little desirable information.
“Uncle Anthony was father’s uncle, and he gave mother a tea-chest when she married; and he was your godfather, and lived near London; and he wants us to go and live there now.”
“But I thought he was dead.”
“So he is: but he left a letter, which I suppose father will tell you about. I am afraid we do not know how to take this dispensation as we ought: but pray God those may be supported that will miss him more than we can!”
“What does father look so grave for? Is it sorrow? or is he thinking of London?”
“Charles let drop that he should like to go to London; and he says ’tis like a providence, after what passed last night. Such a business offered! and so pressing! Father is turning it over, perhaps.”
“Why for Charles more than me? Everybody is thought of before me.”
“You would not have thought so if you had known how father was calling for you, three or four times before you came home. Whatever he may be thinking, he is not forgetting you.—But, Aaron, don’t be eager after changes. We are over-apt to like changes; but see the grave faces that we have had since this time yesterday, when our changes began!”
A change was meanwhile working to which Anna could not object, any more than her brother. Her father’s heart was opening towards Aaron under the influence of a strong excitement. He held out the letter at arm’s length, with the encouraging command, “Read that.” Aaron read as follows:—
“Dear Nephew—The reason why you have never heard from me for these seventeen years past is because I had a son and daughter of my own, as you know, to care for; and you were too far off to do me any good in the way of attention, which I always remembered in your favour when in want of it when my son turned disobedient. Also I remembered the overalls your wife knitted for me, and always determined you should hear of them again, sooner or later. But I had no mind to give up my business to anybody else before I had done with it myself; and for this same reason, though I am writing this letter now, I don’t mean that you should have it till after my death. Never mind my missing being thanked by you! I can fancy all you would say very well, and set it down to your credit.
“You are to come and take my business, instead of living in your outlandish place any longer, which is only a place for such as are half French in their hearts,—confound them! You have nothing like this Lambeth neighbourhood, let me tell you; and the sooner you come and see, the better. Indeed, the business can’t wait long for a master, though Studley will do very well to take care of it for the few weeks after my burial till you come. But make haste, lest you miss more than you think for. There is little in the pottery business that you may not learn, and teach your little boy after you, with Studley to help you: and it is a very pretty concern, and one which it is a mystery to me that my son should have sneezed at, and gone abroad, I do believe to get away from me, where he is doing very well, they say, with his wife and family in America; and so nobody can allege I do an unkind thing in showing my displeasure against him by leaving my business to one who never disobeyed me. My daughter, I should have said, died twelve years ago, and is buried in the same churchyard with my wife.
“You may be thankful that I have lived to this time to get up a pretty business for you. The stone pottery is a very different affair now from what it was when I first came into it, forty years ago. Not but that it was in one respect more flourishing twenty years ago than it is now;—viz., in soda-water bottles, of which we used to send out a great number till cut out in that respect by the glass, which is more secure of being clean, they say, and does not sweat, as stone used to do, though we have now cured the sweating. It is a pity, too, that glass is preferred for beer that is sent abroad. I don’t mean ginger beer or spruce beer, both which are bottled in stone, as being less apt to burst; and the people in Van Diemen’s Land and other foreign parts are very fond of such brisk drinks, as you will find to your profit. We made 130 cwt. with E X upon them last year. But this is a poor test, since a bare twelfth of our article is dutypaid. We send as many figured jugs to Ireland as ever; and what we make for ink and blacking is prodigious. There is an increase in spirit casks and large oil bottles; and the state of chemicals has improved in our favour since I took the business; so that I should scarcely have believed then what I should some time sell to chemists, and also for filtering. So here, you see, is a pretty sort of business, and only, I assure you, ten or eleven to divide it among them in London, and only sixty-nine in all England: and if prices have come down somewhat, it is quite as much because the clay can be got cheaper, and coals are lower, as on account of the meddling of the glass-bottle makers,—which you will perhaps wonder at my owning, considering what a grudge we owe these last: but I am for fair play on all occasions. So now you know what you have to expect, except about the house. It is a pretty pleasant house, joining the pottery, and opening into the yard: and there being only outhouses behind for some way, it is what I call airy; and the furniture you will find just as I leave it. So all will be ready for you to come directly.
“I think this is all at present. You may expect me to say something serious, as people generally do when they are settling their affairs to leave the world. But I am not particularly ill, though I have taken this opportunity of writing this letter, and finished my 75th year yesterday; and those things come time enough when the time comes: and my business now is, being of sound mind, to arrange matters for you, in case of my being cut off suddenly. So I shall just leave this open, in case of having anything to add at any future time.”
It appeared that nothing had occurred to be added in any future time, for this was all. Anna was sorry for it. While her father was talking about the letter being that of a good, kind, old soul, she was turning it round to find in some of its odd corners some word of relenting towards his disobedient son. Aaron waited in silence an intimation that Malet was to be presented with this “pretty business” in a country where people paid the merest trifles in taxes, and without being aware of it. The idea had even struck him that he would work upon Malet to let him become a partner, and thus free himself from his father’s strict rule, and settle himself where, as he grew older, no one would make him pay down money for the use of the State.
Malet looked blank when Le Brocq announced his intention of going to St. Heliers to-morrow, to inquire about a passage for England. The young man was asked the cause of his surprise. Why should any time be lost?
“Do you mean to go?” asked all the family.
Certainly. What else should he do? Malet should rent the farm, and take Aaron’s rope-walk, if he would. Aaron would be wanted at the pottery. Malet would fain have discovered that he should be wanted too. No one who had seen and heard Stephen thought anything so hard as to have to live in Jersey, when there was such a place as England to go to. Even with the certainty before them of being able to marry immediately, Malet and Louise looked grave. Any one would have thought that their marriage had been put off for a twelvemonth at least.
“You shall have the farm at a reasonable rate, in consideration of its being a place for my wife and Anna to come back to, if anything should happen to me before I have settled well in this business in London. You shall have the six acres for 40l., and no other charges but for the orchard; and you shall be married directly, that we may be gone. We will settle about Aaron’s rope-walk to-morrow, when I have questioned him a little more about it.”
Aaron did not slip away, as he usually did when there was talk of questioning. He was too happy in the prospect of living in England to throw any impediment in the way of getting rid of his rope-walk.
“And what are we to pay for the orchard, pray?” asked Louise, repiningly. “I’m sure I shall have no time to make cider, if you all go away and leave me.”
“Victorine will stay; and that will be just so much more help than your mother had when we married,” replied Le Brocq. “I shall not ask above 3l. an acre for the orchards, and cider enough for our own drinking, which I expect you will send us every year.”
“Anna and I shall make our own cider, I suppose,” declared Mrs. Le Brocq, forgetting her solemnity in the interest of the topic. “It will be a long way to send cider.”
Not farther than cider was sent every season, her husband replied; and he doubted whether it would be quite convenient to make cider on the premises of a Lambeth pottery; but as Mrs. Le Brocq was sure that, wherever she went, she should have an orchard at the back of the house, the point was left to be determined after their arrival.
There must now be entire silence, for the farmer was about to study over again the letter from uncle Anthony’s lawyer in which the foregoing epistle was enclosed. Louise therefore withdrew to meditate over her milk-pail, and Anna to take in the linen from the green bank, lest there should be a further theft this night. As she passed the hydrangeas at the door, and the flowering myrtles that half-concealed the paling, she felt sad at the prospect of leaving them;—at the prospect of leaving these particular hydrangeas and myrtles, not of quitting the region of flowers; for she never doubted there being a green path to the house in Lambeth, and a vine growing up to the thatch, and blossoming shrubs clustering on every side. She hoped they should all be happier when they were rich; but she could scarcely see how; for Louise must be left behind, and Victorine; and her mother’s head-ach and pain in the shoulder might perhaps continue, however rich they might be. But if Aaron should look lighter, and father be as kind to him as to Louise and herself, they should certainly be all much happier; and perhaps the being rich might bring this about. At any rate, it was God that raised up as well as brought low; and so all must be right: but this was a dear place to be obliged to leave. Aaron silently devoured his mess of conger eel, stewed with milk and young green peas, and grew in his own estimation every moment. When Victorine had done serving him, she placed herself where she might watch the family party, and perhaps discover what made her mistress sigh as she had never heard her sigh since the late king died.
LIFE IN LAMBETH.
It is needless to explain that there were neither myrtles nor vines about the pottery-house. Not that there was any deficiency of scent around the dwelling. A soap manufactory near obviated every charge of this kind. It had given out its odours in full power at the moment of the Le Brocqs’ first approach to their new abode, and had greeted them just when they paused to admire the symbols which were erected on their pottery wall. It was by uncle Anthony’s taste that the establishment bore this refined character. It was he who had mounted a huge filterer on one angle; and on another a ladle which seemed made to fish up Truth out of a well. Uncle Anthony had done much. Would he had done one thing more!—removed from the neighbourhood of the soap manufactory, or got it removed by indicting it as a nuisance. But he had lived for fifty years on good terms with this establishment, and never dreamt of hurting it. Indeed, when he had been persuaded, on rare occasions, to give himself a day’s airing at Hornsey, he relished the atmosphere of his native street on his return, as the fuller’s heart leaps at the sight of the dust about his mill, and the weaver’s at the sound of the click-clack of his loom. Mrs. Le Brocq did not take it so easily, nor believe what she was told of the certainty that she would enjoy the nuisance in time, as much as her neighbours. Anna felt it a sad addition to the excitements under which she had to labour from dawn till night. Every morning she was startled from sleep by the workmen knocking at the gate of the yard; and then came the peevish bell of the dustman, and then a gradual increase of street noises. If it rained, the sprinklings of white earth in the yard became mud; if the sun shone in, the dust danced thick in its beams, and she felt as if she drew it in with every breath. At her former home, little dust was to be seen, as everything was green around, except the gravelly lane; but here no efforts to keep the furniture in a seemly state availed anything. It would have been as easy to parry one of the plagues of Egypt. There was a good deal to be admired, however, when it was not boiling day at the soapery, or when the wind was south. The river, as seen from the wharf behind the pottery, was not so fine, she thought, as the channel between Jersey and France; but the bridge was very grand, and nothing could be more beautiful than her father’s finely arranged stock of stone-ware. Mr. Studley, the foreman, had assured her that the process of the manufacture was in some parts very elegant; but her father would not let her see it till Aaron should be competent to the exhibition, on some holiday, or other occasion when the men should be absent. Through the stock-room, however, she was allowed to range; and her awe of London, as a place of civilization and wealth, was much increased by what she saw there;—such beautiful jars and pitchers, and so enormous a congregation of blacking bottles! Thither she carried her knitting, when not wanted in kitchen or parlour. She thought she must leave off knitting, as her mother could do all that was now required. Nobody seemed to wear knitted smallclothes or petticoats in London, nor even shawls. If it was really true that she must no longer make her father’s and Aaron’s coats, she feared she should want occupation: but it was difficult to credit that in a fine country like England the men would condescend to such womanish work as tailoring. She had no doubt she should find this to be a joke upon her, as a new comer. She had, indeed, seen a young man sitting upon a table, and doing tailor’s work; but he was very small and pale, and most likely permitted to do this because he was fit for nothing else.
While deep in thought over her work, she was planning how to make her mother more comfortable than she could possibly be at present. Mrs. Le Brocq could not live without apples, and was very much discomposed at having to purchase them; and when she went to the shop, or stepped out after a fruit-woman in the street, the neighbours invariably followed to stare at her costume. The butcher had given out that the new family were preciously stingy people, eating meat only once or twice a week, which was a sin and shame in the owners of a pottery. Mr. Studley cast a look of disgust at her, the only time he had entered the house,—which happened precisely at the moment when the dinner of lard and cabbage soup was being served up. If Mrs. Le Brocq could not be made more popular in the neighbourhood, it was to be feared that the possession of a pottery would not insure perfect happiness to the family.
How different from Studley had been another visitor who entered at a similar important point of time! “A gentleman,” who did not declare his name, called to speak to Mr. Le Brocq, a few days after his arrival, and walked in, as a matter of course, without waiting to hear whether the person he sought was at home. He uttered a cry of delight at the spectacle of the soup, and kissed Mrs. Le Brocq and her daughter, in sign of being a countryman. Before he could be asked, he drew a chair, rubbed his hands, and sang a verse of a song in the French of the island,—the language which it refreshed their ears to hear. He had not done when Le Brocq came in, expecting to find a customer for his stoneware rather than his dinner.
“Ha! countryman!” cried the stranger. “Don’t try to remember me. For my own sake, don’t try to remember me. There’s no use in looking back too far, when all is done; but I could not slink away when once I had seen the hem of your wife’s Jersey petticoat. My name is Durell: there is no occasion to remind us all that you have heard it before.”
Mr. Le Brocq looked grave. A farmer, of the name of Durell, had committed an assault on the King’s highway, in the neighbourhood of Gorey, and had anticipated his sentence of banishment by making off in a fishing-boat, within an hour of the information being laid against him. Every one had been sorry for the offender, who was known to be of a passionate temper, and to have received such provocation as would have gone far to justify him. Every one was sorry that he had precipitately given up his pretty farm, and compelled his wife and child to wander after him to another land; but Le Brocq now wished to have some evidence of the respectability of Durell, before he admitted him as a guest on terms of familiarity.
“You should have such a love of country as mine, man, and then you would not look so cold upon me,” cried Durell. “If you knew how my heart longs for a word about the deep shady lanes, and those blessed little coves, where the sea comes to kiss one’s feet, and slips away again! I have not seen what I call a dell any where else; and the pastures, with a green that makes one’s eyes water! Heaven keep them so! And how are they?”
“Did you come to hear this sort of news?” Le Brocq inquired.
“The devil take what I came for! that will do afterwards. Can’t you tell me whether the doves coo as they used to do when the wind dropped? For the soul of me, I can’t believe you are a Jerseyman! If I had not thrown open my doors wider to poor Stephen, I should have doubted my being a Jerseyman myself.”
“Poor who?” inquired Le Brocq, hoping to obtain something in the form of a reterence.
“A poor helpless body that lives with me, and tells me every night what makes me dream that I am leaning against a mossy stone gate-post, or throwing pebbles into the ivy to bring out the birdies. You shall see him; and we will make ourselves all of a company.”
Le Brocq was going to rebuke this familiarity, when Studley put his head in, and respectfully told Durell that all was ready for him when he pleased to come. Durell’s air was immediately as sober and business-like as that of Studley.
“I believe,” said he, “you have not told your principal what I am here for. Ay, you think he must know by instinct; but let me tell you that no more is heard of the excise in Jersey than there is here of knit small-clothes. Had he told you to expect me?” he inquired of Le Brocq.
“He said something yesterday about sending a notice to the excise; but I do not rightly see what the excise has to do with my manufacture.”
“That you shall see presently. We have only to visit you once a day, and to see your bottles come out of the furnace, and make you count and weigh them, if we choose, and measure them across the neck, to see if they are of the legal size, and—”
“What is all that to you?” cried Aaron, who had just entered.
“In order to determine the payment we are to take from you.”
“Payment! What payment? People are to pay us for our bottles, I suppose, and not we them, or I see little use in making bottles. What payment can you mean?”
“The excise duty,—the tax on home manufactures. In your case—”
“But we were told that the people in England paid no tax, except a mere trifle that they give without knowing it. Father, did not you understand that the English pay no tax?”
“That is a little mistake,” averred Durell. “Their paying without knowing it is partly true. What you are going to pay me, for instance, is not the same kind of contribution as you have paid out of your own pocket in Jersey, when the States wanted to erect a new pier, or other public building. You will repay yourselves by putting such a price on your bottles as will defray the tax, besides yielding you a profit; and the buyers of your bottles will not know the amount they pay for the tax from that which buys the bottle. You advance the tax for them, that is all.”
“But that is very hard,” observed Aaron. “Why are we to be obliged to advance money for hundreds of people that we do not know or wish to serve?”
“Oh! you must pay yourselves by charging interest upon this advance. Studley will tell you that you clap on a little more still upon the price, as interest upon your advance.”
“Well, I think that is hard upon our customers, I must say. I don’t call it any favour to them to take their money in such a way, instead of giving them a choice whether they will pay directly, or wait awhile and pay the interest too.”
“The buyer of your bottles pays no more for interest than he gains in time. There is no cheat in making him pay interest upon this kind of loan, any more than upon other kinds of loans.”
“But there is a cheat in not letting him know how the matter stands, so that he may have a choice. It is like putting physic between bread and butter for a grown man, who had, perhaps, much rather swallow a pill of his own accord.”
“Well; every man has the power of looking between his bread and butter. Every buyer may know how much duty is paid upon any article he buys.”
“But he is not able to choose between the pill and the powder. If he won’t take the powder as it is spread, he must go without both physic and bread and butter.”
“And I am far from sure,” observed Le Brocq, “whether our customers be not cheated, after all. I was frightened enough when I came, as Studley knows, to find what wages we have to pay. I set down the concern as ruin when the first Saturday night came; and I like the plan but little better now I find that these high wages are paid, in the same manner as the tax and the interest, out of the price of the article. I believe that the high wages are owing to this very tax. I must think so, because our workmen are not nearly so well off with their high wages as our Jersey labourers with only half the sum.”
Mrs. Le Brocq wondered that English labourers used so many stone bottles as to make all this difference. Her husband explained that the same tax was laid on other articles, more used by labourers than stone bottles—on soap, and beer, and spirits, and tea. Now, if the tax made the articles on which the labourer subsists much more expensive than they would otherwise be, the labourer’s wages must be much higher to buy the same comforts than they would otherwise be; and the wages being high acts again on the price of the article made by the labourer; and so the buyer pays twice over, and everything is put out of its natural course.
Le Brocq heaved a deep sigh, which was echoed by his son. They had calculated, from the price of their wares, compared with the expense of production, that they should be abundantly rich in a year or two. They had been startled by the amount of wages; and now, when they found that the price of their bottles was also to cover the tax, and interest upon its advance, their golden visions began to melt into the twilight of doubt.
The first object now was to finish dinner, and go over the premises with the exciseman, to see what his visit was like. Durell declined all further hospitality on the present occasion, declaring, with a look of gravity very unlike what he wore when Studley came in, that though he had tasted a favourite old dish for once, to show his goodwill, it was but for once. He always avoided occasion of misinterpretation in his office, and should therefore desire his visits to be strictly confined to business. Considering how frequent they must be, it was necessary to come to an understanding from the beginning, especially with strangers who might not be aware of the strictness of the rules by which excise officers must be guided. He requested Mr. Le Brocq and all his family to take notice that it would be better to offer no kind of favour to him or his excise brethren, since none could be accepted.
“So we are to have the pleasure of seeing you often?” observed Le Brocq.
“You will see me often,—one or other of us every day; but I advise you not to call this a pleasure. It can never be a pleasure; but you may prevent its being a plague by letting us go and come, and by being perfectly correct in your conduct—Ah! I perceive you are offended at the word; but when you have lived here a few months longer, you will see that I mean nothing more than a friendly caution. Finish your dinner; and I will go with Studley, and learn what your people are doing.”
Aaron was on the point of saying once more, “What’s that to you?” but his father desired him to dispatch his meal, and follow as soon as he could, to take a lesson in excise visitations.
“You may wonder now that you have not seen us before,” observed Durell to Le Brocq, as they passed into the manufactory; but your predecessor was on very good terms with us; and, from his long connexion with us, could be trusted to send for us on all proper occasions, so as to save himself from a daily visitation; and the same favour was continued to Studley till we found that the management had gone into other hands. You cannot do better than follow his advice. He will inform you of all that is necessary in your dealings with us. Ho! ho! what a brickmaking here is! For how many thousand are you going to account to us, Studley?”
“Sir, we do not sell bricks,” protested Le Brocq.
“Nor tiles. But those tiles that are now burning in every one of your furnaces would have paid tax a few months ago.”
“What! tiles that are used only for our ware to stand upon while it is burning! Bless me! are all these charges to be paid by the article when sold? Our bottles may well be called dear.”
“Though I fancy you take a little off the price of the bottles, and put it upon the jars which are not taxed. Hey?”
Studley observed that this was a very fair way of defeating the intentions of the glass-manufacturers, to whose jealousy it was owing that stone bottles were taxed at all.
Le Brocq was quite out of humour at being threatened with a charge of 5s. 10d. a thousand for his bricks. Was he to be expected to buy bricks to build that upper story, while he had the clay on his premises? He might do which he pleased, he was told: he was to pay the duty either way,—in the price of bought bricks, or into the exciseman’s hand.
“By the way,” observed Durell, “that new upper story is not entered. How comes that?”
“We keep that for articles that are not exciseable,” answered Studley, “You have no concern with that floor. There is not an exciseable article in it.”
“Take care that there never is, then. You may find that your walls have tongues, if you give them anything to tell. You know, friend,” turning to Le Brocq, “that for each and every of premises not entered according to law, there is a heavy penalty. If you did not know it before, you know it now; and heaven help you to keep out of my hands! Ah! here are your tiles!—pitiful things to pay tax upon, indeed. I am glad to leave you to your own devices about that article.”
Studley looked very impatient while the visiter went on talking, and turning over the burnt tiles. When Durell next entered a kiln that was cooling, and looked round at the streaks of glazing that the salt had left upon the sides, and afterwards descended to the place where the clay was being milled, and watered, and trodden, and conversed with the blind horse, and joked with the boys, the foreman thought it time to speak out.
“Pray, sir, do you know how long we have been waiting for you? Do you please that we should proceed without you?”
“By no means. Are you going to fill the kiln, or draw?”
“You seem to forget our notice, sir. We drew five hours ago; and your officer weighed the wares in due form. They are standing now for you to weigh; and if you keep us here to the end of the six hours, it will be too late to pack them off by the present opportunity. Another half-hour is our last chance this week. I told you so before, sir,” continued the vexed foreman, following as Durell skipped up the stairs, taking two at a time. “If I told you once, I told you thrice; but that stinking hotch-potch put everything else out of your head, I think.”
“You will pack off the larger articles, I suppose, Studley,” observed Le Brocq, “whether the bottles are ready or not? You will get off all but the exciseable articles to-night?”
Studley explained that the bottles were to be packed in between the larger articles, as in the kiln, thus saving carriage in the one case as they saved fuel in the other. If the officers meant to grow very strict just now, it might become necessary to have a separate kiln for burning, and a separate package, rather than keep eleven twelfths of the manufacture waiting for the rites to be performed on the exciseable portion.
The weighing was more a matter of show than use; for Durell was anxious not to prevent the departure of the goods. He even tried his hand at packing, and was not out of humour when plainly told that they could do better without him. Studley hinted that he might be more acceptable among the ladies, who had probably something to tell him about Jersey cows and orchards; but Durell took his stand near a boy who was beginning the practice of his art. The exciseman crossed his arms, and leaned against the wall while watching and commenting upon the progress of the lad, in shaping his little pots upon the wheel.
“Very fair! very fair, lad! Round it,—with a delicate rounding,—and coax it,—and bulge it,—and draw it narrow. ’Tis as if it made itself, or grew with a touch of magic. Pshaw! you have brought it off awry. ’Tis but a slovenly piece, after all. I should think myself a clever fellow, too, if I could come as near the mark as that. You are a lucky one to have that kind of work under your hands.”
The boy looked up with an intelligent smile. He had lately been promoted from turning the lathe, and the sense of his new dignity shone in his countenance as the gentleman looked on. The gentleman still soliloquized.
“Young thoughtless things like you see no more in such occupation than making so much clay into so many pots, for so much wages; and, perhaps, the pride of being a skilled workman. But those that have spent their first years in the fields, and have wandered about the world since, see much blessing to you in having beauty before your eyes, and growing up under your hands. ’Tis well for you that there is something to keep you fresh in all the dust of this place, and all the glare and noise of the street. The spirit of beauty that hung the cloud curtains of God’s throne may look bright down upon you, even here. Blessings on her, and Him that made her!”
The boy’s rising colour seemed to show that he heard and partly understood, though he proceeded diligently with his work.
“Did you ever go into the country, lad?” inquired Durell. “Did you ever see a green field?”
“Not he, I’ll be bound,” answered the little boy at the neighbouring lathe, who became impatient to be noticed. “My father took me to Tottenham once, and I had some ale; but his mother never lets him go anywhere.”
“She does,” asserted Brennan, turning red again. “She lets me stay out on the wharf till bed-time; and when I got a new coat given me, she went all the way into the Park with me, one Sunday afternoon.”
“You saw some green grass, there?”
“Yes, Sir, and the swans.”
“And plenty of ducks?”
“I did not care so much about them,—just like soda-water bottles with wings, when they are flying. But I made a swan, sir, when I came back.”
“What do you do out on the wharf till bedtime?”
“Look at the boats passing under the bridge, sir. And there are heaps of things that look better as it grows dark.”
“What sort of things?”
“Baskets of things on the wharf, heaped up; and barrows and packages—”
The boy at the lathe interrupted his companion by laying an information against him. There was not such a thing as a bit of slate ever found upon the wharf that was not covered over with Brennan’s drawings of barrows, and boats, and baskets, and sometimes Mr. Studley’s greyhound.
“I made a greyhound,” observed Brennan, looking up; “and when it was baked, Mr. Studley knew it for his own.”
“When shall you have a new coat again?” asked Durell. “Confound the question! just as if we could not get you a coat among us! You shall go to a place, Brennan,—I will take you to a place where you will see something prettier than that pitcher you seem to be admiring so much;—something that I think you will like better than green fields.”
“On a Sunday, sir?”
“No; I believe not. Studley! The British Museum is not open on a Sunday, is it?—No, boy; it must be some other day.”
“But I can’t go any other day,” said the boy mournfully.
“O yes; cursed be he that shuts out such as you from feeding your genius,—from adoring God in using his gifts—”
“Perhaps you would ask for a part holiday, sir?” suggested the boy.
“Will I? Ay—” But Durell remembered that he was an exciseman, and must not ask favours. In a cooler tone, he promised the boy to remember him; and desired that the greyhound and the swan might be ready for exhibition the next time he came. He left the boy happy in devising an opportunity for asking some of the wise men about the pottery what the British Museum was. The information gleaned in the course of a week did not give him any clear comprehension of what he should see that he should like better than green fields. “There’s a monster of a wild beast on the stair, as I’ve heard,” said one. “There’s a power of stones, laid out in rows, as my own eyes saw,” attested another. “Gold and precious stones! Lord bless ye! nothing like it. Only what you may pick up in the road any day.” “You forget the skin of the head with the hair on it,” observed another. “A wild man’s hair and the skin of his head.” The boy could not conceive how any of these things could be prettier than swan or greyhound. He could only wonder whether the gentleman was in earnest about giving him a new coat, and would remember to take him to that odd place.
The ware was precisely in time for the waggon. It was as near missing as possible; and while Le Brocq wiped his brows after his toil and hurry, he looked reproachfully at Durell. He found that no farming labours were so fatiguing as waiting the pleasure of an exciseman, in the heat and dust of a pottery.
“You look at me,” observed Durell. “You wish me a hundred miles off, I see: but I can’t help the system; and I tell you, you are better off than many of your neighbours. Only one-twelfth of your manufacture is exciseable, and—”
“That is the very thing I complain of,” said Le Brocq. “To be worried and watched for such a little matter!”
“I think it our business to complain of that,” replied Durell. “There is some satisfaction in one’s supervision when one collects enough to make it worth while—a hundred pounds or two. But it makes us feel like so many fools to be trudging here, and riding there, to collect less than would mend our shoes or feed our horses. In your business, there are but nine men that pay more than a hundred a-year in duty; and of that, they get back a third part when they export.”
“No more than nine?”
“In all England; and seven pay less than 1l. a-year. Here are we bound to visit their potteries every day, and as much oftener as they choose to call us, to collect fifteen-pence, or seven shillings and sixpence, or a guinea a-year! ’Tis a farce.”
“I should think these people would pay three times the sum to have you keep off their premises, every day of the year; and that would save your salary;—for I suppose you have one.”
“To be sure; and hundreds more of us. How would you have the whole kingdom watched,—every maker of glass, and soap, and beer, of bricks, and paper, and starch, and spirits,—every grower of hops,—every maltster and seller of tea and sweet wines and hides,—how would you have all these people watched and made to pay their fines and forfeitures, without an army of excisemen? and who will be an exciseman without pay? You may talk of the church, (heaven preserve it!) but I know one thing like it. The church has its hierarchy,—its gradation from the archbishop to the curate, all salaried. The excise has its hierarchy, too,—from the gentlemen that sit as judges in the court, with their messengers always in waiting, down to the poor devils that are for ever tramping in the outrides and footwalks.”
Le Brocq would not hear another word in the way of comparison of a hierarchy which existed for the purpose of supplying the people with religious aids, and one which levied a most vexatious tax. Durell could not refrain from going on to magnify the body to which he belonged. He told of the fifty-six collections into which England and Wales are divided; and the subdivision of these into districts, each with its supervisor; and the further division into outrides and footwalks, with a gauger or surveyor in each;—as elaborate a spy-system, at the utmost possible cost, as had ever been invented, his Jersey friend thought.
“By no means,” protested Durell. “The Customs beat us in expense, in more ways than one. In one respect only, the difference is more than 180,000l. We excisemen can live in houses that were built for other people: but the coastguard must have cottages for themselves alone; and this 180,000l. is what they cost. And then, if we have excise duties that yield less than any customs, they have a vast number more that yield but little. When 566 articles pay customs duties, and 510 of them yield under 10,000l. a-year, the expense must be greater in proportion to the gain than in any folly that the excise can practise.”
“They are not quite foolish enough yet, I suppose, to interfere with an entire branch of trade, for the sake of raising a few shillings or pounds here and there?”
“The two are pretty much on a par there. If we plague all the stone-bottle makers in England for the sake of little more than 3000l. a-year, our brethren of the Customs pry into all the cordage that comes into the kingdom for the sake of less than 150l.”
Aaron could speak to the annoyance of having his cordage taxed at the custom-house on the south coast, when he had two or three times wished to sell in England such produce of his rope-walk as was not wanted in Jersey. Yet, as a Channel Island man, he had been treated leniently; being charged no more duty than would countervail what the English had paid in tax before they could bring their article into the market.
“Well; I am gone,” said Durell. “I only stayed to show you Jerseymen that we are not quite the worst set of tax-gatherers in the world. If you are willing to be on good terms, so are we: but I must tell you, Mr. Aaron, that it is not every man of our tribe that would bear to be scowled at, as you have scowled at me to-day; nor could I always bear it myself: for I do not boast of my temper. If you will consider your interest—”
“What’s that to you?”
“Very true: so good bye till to-morrow. If you should want me sooner, it may give you the least trouble to send to Finch’s glass-house, near at hand. I am going there now; and one or other of us will be on the premises till night. I wish you joy of that lad Brennan. If you make the most of him, you may find yourselves in luck. Good day.”
THE PHENOMENON AGAIN.
Mrs. Durell was the only acquaintance Anna wished to have in the neighbourhood of her new home. From what Durell had dropped about her, and from her being a native of Jersey, it seemed desirable that the women of Le Brocq’s family should know her. They gave broad hints to this effect; and Durell frequently promised that his wife should come and offer neighbourly assistance to the strangers: but she never came.
This neglect could not appear wonderful to any one who knew the parties. Durell projected more achievements for his wife than she could have executed if he had himself imposed no toils and cares upon her: and, besides, she had long learned to distrust his opinions of new people, and to dread his introductions to strangers; and for his sake as much as her own, she deferred to the last moment the forming of any new connexions, even of common acquaintanceship. She never reminded him, otherwise than by distant allusion, of the delightful family whom he had bidden her receive as friends, not thinking of doubting their honour because some mystery hung about them,—the family of dear friends who were afterwards all hanged or transported for coining. She never spoke of the runaway apprentice who had been housed by them that he might have the advantage of a fair trial on the stage, and who disappeared with his host’s best suit of clothes, with which to figure on some other stage. She allowed her husband to forget the scrape she had been brought into when taken up as a receiver of stolen goods, because she had been daily seen in company with the gipsies in whose society he delighted. She did not trouble him by a recurrence to past misfortunes; but she naturally grew more and more careful to avoid any future ones. On the present occasion, she held back, partly with the desire that something should be ascertained respecting the character of the Le Brocqs before she involved herself with them, and partly that her husband’s quarter’s salary might be in the purse before she was called upon to exercise hospitality. As often as Durell extolled Anna as the sweetest and softest of maidens, with a cheek which shamed the report that the lasses of a Jersey farm-house blush yellow, and an eye whose timid glance never fell before another, the wife assured herself that she should only see one more of the multitude of divinities who had caught her husband’s fancy without impairing his constancy to her. As often as he told her what she lost in not witnessing the initiation of Le Brocq and his partner into life in Lambeth, she felt that she could wait for the spectacle of their peculiarities till she wanted that variety at home which her husband’s caprices incessantly provided for her.
She was glad that his employment took him abroad during the early part of the day, that he might escape witnessing the toils which he imposed upon her. One morning, for instance, when she had evaded his question whether she would go that day to see Mrs. Le Brocq and the blessed Anna, she had to assist her maid in baking an extempore batch of bread, because one hearty person after another had been invited in, the night before, who had eaten up warm all that had just come out of the oven. An array of glasses, with remains of spirit and water, stood to be rinsed and put away. His coat lay craving mending in the flap, which had been almost torn off by the snappish dog, brought home because he thought it had lost itself. A beautiful piece of French china was to be put together again, if possible, the child having broken it after warnings duly repeated. Nobody could be more sorry for the disaster than Durell himself. He seemed ready to weep over his mother’s favourite bowl; but he really did not suppose the child would have let it down, and he had not the heart to take away any beautiful thing from before its eyes. It might please Heaven some day to take away the child’s eyesight, and then who would think of the china being broken, while in the sufferer’s mind it remained entire, an additional form of grace. It was impossible to dispute this reasoning while such a sufferer sat in the chimney-corner; and the bowl was carefully laid aside to be mended.
“Mother,” said Mary, “do let me take my work into the parlour. I can stitch and wait upon Stephen too.”
“Stay where you are, my dear. Jack can wait upon Stephen. If you finish your wrist-band in half an hour, you shall help to mend the bowl.”
Mary knew there was no use in repeating her request. She could only sigh when she heard Jack’s bursts of laughter at Stephen’s droll faces, and wish that Stephen would come into the kitchen, and make faces there. When Stephen began to sing, all went well; for he could be heard, not only in the kitchen, but across the street. Some time after the song had come to an end, when two inches of stitching still remained to be done, Mary heard a tinkling among the unwashed glasses, and looked up.
“O, mother,” cried she, “there’s Jack draining the glasses!”
The little fellow explained that it was in behalf of Stephen, who had asked for these remains of spirit and water, because he was dry with singing. Mrs. Durell shook the flour from her hands, filled a fresh glass of spirit and water, and carried it herself to Stephen, requesting him to be so kind as not to offer a drop to the child. If he would call when he had done his glass, Jack should return to wait upon him. She meantime encouraged the boy to talk to her, in order to prevent his stealing back to Stephen before he was called. Jack was already as like his father as an infant can be to a grown man; and it was undesirable to give him any pleasant associations with a dram. Jack began with his usual question,
“Why can’t Stephen see?”
He had been told by the maid that it was because Stephen had no eyes; and he wanted to see whether this would be the reply now given. His mother told him that Stephen’s eyes were not like other people’s. Jack was now baffled. He had prepared his answer,—that Stephen had two eyes, for he had walked round Stephen and counted his eyes.
“But,” said he, “if his eyes are not like ours, how did he see Betty just going to let down the milk?”
“He never did, my dear. He never sees anything.”
“O, but he did: for he pulled away his coat tail, for fear the milk should fall upon it. Besides, he has two eyes, for I saw them myself.”
Whether Stephen’s ears were as serviceable as his eyes were the contrary, may be left to conjecture: but, before Mrs. Durell could question the child as to what he meant about the milk, Stephen was groping his way into the kitchen, and jokingly asking whether he could not assist in the baking. He had kneaded bread in his day, he said, and no one was more fond of the steams of the oven. He and Jack were presently busy with blind-man’s-buff, while Mary made a finish to her wrist-band with terrible long stitches, in order to put away everything that might be knocked down, and join in the sport, till mother should be ready to mend the china.
While she stood breathless to see what would become of Jack, now penned in a corner, stifling his screams and stamping, as Stephen’s broad hands seemed descending on his head, a tap at the door was heard, and Mary was desired to open it. As Anna stepped in, with a gentle inquiry whether she might speak with Mrs. Durell, Jack had an unexpected escape. Stephen relinquished his search in the corner, and slipped cleverly into the back parlour to search for his victim, though the child shouted,
“I am not there, Stephen: indeed I am not there. I am here.”
Mary pushed the noisy child into the parlour, and shut the door, that her mother might be able to hear what the visitor had to say.
“I hope you will not take it amiss that I came, Mrs. Durell; but Mr. Durell told us we might ask you anything we wanted, as strangers, to know. Our name is Le Brocq.”
“A name I know very well, through my husband. Pray sit down, and tell me if I can be of any service to you. Mary, set a chair.”
“Mr. Durell said you would come, or I should have come before,” observed Anna. “He thinks as we do, that God makes men love their country that they may help one another when they chance to be far away from it. That is,—I don’t know that we can help you; but you may like to talk about Jersey sometimes.”
“O, yes. We are very fond of thinking of Jersey. But can I assist you? As new-comers, you may want to be put in the way of something.”
“Why, we do; and my mother thought you would tell us where you buy your tea. We are sure they cheat us as new-comers, and I don’t know what we shall do if it goes on.”
“You do not expect to get fine tea at half-a-crown a pound, I suppose, as you did at St. Heliers.”
“We did not know—I don’t exactly see—Nobody told us there would be such a difference.”
“The difference there always is where the king lays on taxes.”
“O, yes: but the taxes are such a mere nothing, we are told! And there is such a difference between half-a-crown and seven shillings! The king can never spend all that difference on all the tea that is sold; especially as they say the Company get as much as they wish, selling it at half-a-crown in Jersey and Guernsey.”
“The Company has not to keep excisemen in the neighbourhood of every tea-shop, to take stock, and weigh the tea, and measure the canisters; and to see that prosecutions are set on foot when the excise laws are broken. All this cannot be done without money; and so the king does not get all the difference we have to pay.”
“So you pay seven shillings a pound for tea?”
“We did; but now we find we must be content with a lower-priced tea. We pay 5s. 6d., and we don’t take it three times a day, or make it so good as we did in Jersey.”
“Ah! but my mother has no idea of any change from what we used to do at home; and my father says we shall be ruined presently, if we go on paying away money as we do now. Till we came here, we had seldom anything to pay for but tea and sugar, and the tax; but now we have to buy almost everything; and we get quite frightened. The tea cannot be done without, on my mother’s account: but I must see whether I cannot manage to make some things at home that we now pay high for.”
“That will hardly help you much; for if you happen to miss the tax on the manufacture, you will have to pay the tax on the materials. In this country, you can scarcely use anything that is not taxed either in the material or in the making; and there is the difference between this place and Jersey. But, to set against this, what you sell is dearer, as well as what you buy.”
“But not in a way that profits us, my father says. If he reckoned only the clay, brought from Devonshire, and the mill, and the wheel and lathe, and the furnaces, and the salt, these would not cost enough to prevent the ware from being very cheap. But the coals pay tax, and the bricks pay tax, as well as the ware itself; and, especially, the men’s wages are high, because all that those wages buy is taxed: and my father has to pay all these taxes, and wait so long before he is paid again, that it requires a great deal of money to carry on his business, just at the time that we have to spend more for our living than we ever did before.”
“Ah! my dear, you have not yet got used to the ways of living in England. You never knew in Jersey, nor we either, what it was to fall short of money, though there was never much more than enough for present small purposes. Here it is the custom to receive larger sums, and to pay away largely also: so that it requires very close calculation to avoid being out of cash sometimes.”
“You find it so!” cried Anna, in a delighted tone. “Now, let me mend that china bowl for you, while you tell me all about it.”
Mary put in her claim to be allowed to help; and while she worked the cement, and Anna nicely joined in bit after bit of the fragments, Mrs. Durell explained that she did not mean to say but that her husband was very properly paid; but that in a country whose custom is to charge the prices of commodities with a variety of taxes, the prices are not only high, but high in different proportions; and the charges get so complicated that people cannot at all tell how their money goes, and can with difficulty frame their calculations of expense when they come from a country where they have been accustomed to pay their contribution direct to the state. The only certainty is, that the articles they most need will bear the heaviest tax charge; because, in its choice of taxable articles, government naturally fixes on those which must be most extensively bought. And, as she shaped her loaf, she told how much bread, yielding duty, had been consumed within those walls since yesterday morning. Her husband had told her of a cruel method of taxation in Holland, in old times, when so much was paid to government for every loaf that passed the mouth of the oven. Disagreeable as this method must be, she doubted whether it could be so costly as the management by which the price of bread was raised in this country.
“Ah! I see you look surprised at the quantity of bread we bake: but my husband likes to be hospitable.”
“Such a man must like it,” replied Anna.
“What kind of man do you mean?” asked the wife, smiling.
“Men that give their best attention to what is of most consequence, instead of least. Mr. Durell looks very grave and attentive when he is talking to Mr. Studley, and counting the pots that come out of the kiln; but his mind is given to very different things from those. If Mr. Durell had but the shoes on his feet in all the world, he would give them to the first lame beggar he met, and go barefoot.”
“He would. You know him,” replied the wife. “He does as he would be done by.”
“He would leave the gleanings of the field, and the missed olives, for the widow, and the fatherless, and the stranger, if he lived in the Scripture land,” continued Anna; “and the reason why is, because he had rather see people happy than grow rich himself.”
“You should hear him when he speaks the piece of poetry that he loves above all others, though he knows a vast deal. It is about mercy that ‘blesses him that gives and him that takes.’ ”
“That is Scripture,” replied Anna, gravely. ‘And how the Lord Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
“The one comes of the other, no doubt; but it is in poetry that he tells it to me. He has mercy for ever on his tongue. It is a sort of rule of his, in judging of other people. But people are very apt to say that justice and mercy do not agree.”
“How can they think of God, then?” asked Anna. “But if such a man as Mr. Durell is not always as just as he should be, it may be owing to something else than his being merciful.”
“How do you mean ‘not just?’ ” inquired the wife, rather coldly.
“I am sure we have no reason to think him otherwise than just in the business he has to do in the pottery,” replied Anna. “He is very strict and honourable to the king; and when he seems hard on my father, we know it is not his fault. But he speaks a little unfairly of people sometimes—.”
“Only when they do mean things.”
“Well; but still harshly; and if he puts more upon you than is quite your share, and gives away money without always recollecting that he owes it—Nay, now, don’t pretend to think such things right—it may be owing to his having been badly taught, or more sorely tempted than we are, and not to his tender heart.”
“I would not hear so much from another,” said Mrs. Durell; “but you mean no pain to me, nor slight to him, I see. And so I will say that I am so much of your mind, that I do not grudge baking bread even for those that eat it only for the sake of the spirit that is to wash it down; and as to the money we owe, God knows how vexed I am when I cannot pay it without putting my husband in mind of it. There is a poor creature with us now—”
“Here’s papa,” cried Mary.
Durell entered, looking not quite so full of mercy as Anna had sometimes seen him. He asked his wife sternly, why she had allowed a stranger to come and ask as a favour that which she ought to have offered?
“Well, John, I am sorry. I can truly say it. I am sorry I missed knowing this young woman till now.”
Anna interposed with a piece of information that she had lately gained,—that it was dangerous to make new acquaintances in London, without a very precise knowledge who people were; and how should Mrs. Durell know who they were?
“What more has she learned of that since breakfast?” inquired Durell. Anna looked bashful while she acknowledged that Mrs. Durell had yet had no further testimony than her own word for her respectability.
“But she has,” replied Durell. “The impress of truth upon the brow—God’s own seal. She might have trusted me for knowing it at sight.”
“It having never deceived you, John, —do you mean to say? Ah! you are going to protest that you knew all the time when people were cheating you. I ask no more than that you should let me see for myself when there is truth sealed upon the brow. I will not be so long in looking for it, next time.”
“Mr. Durell,” said Anna, “Aaron has been with you this morning; did he—”
“I beg your pardon. Your brother has not been with me this morning.”
“I heard him directed to go, and to give you notice of something. I was going to ask whether he told you that Brennan is to be let off his work, as you wished, for some reason,—I don’t know what. He said something about it to Mr. Studley,—that you were going to get some new clothes for him.”
“Did I promise that? O, I remember. The lad’s a genius, my dear,” (to his wife,) “and we must find up a suit of clothes for him, in some way; and then—”
Mrs. Durell shrugged her shoulders, while Anna explained that after the clothes should come the holiday.
“I thank you much. I thank your father as for a favour done to myself,” replied Durell. “My very best thanks to your father.—Jack, my boy, what’s the matter now?” cried he, snatching up the child, who was whimpering, and only wanted encouragement to burst into a loud cry.
“Stephen won’t let me go with him. Stephen is getting out of the window, and he won’t lift me out that I may lead him.”
True enough; Stephen was found stepping out of the low parlour window into the street.
“Poor fellow! what fancy has taken him now?” said Durell, running into the parlour, followed by every body from the kitchen. “He is a singular character,” he proceeded to explain to Anna. “It has pleased the Almighty to lay a heavy hand upon him, and to permit us to lighten the burden. I always held that this outward darkening of the man was like the shrouding of the firmament in midnight, — making all that moves in it the brighter and clearer; and, since I have known this man, I am sure of it.”
“He is not blind,” said Anna, quietly. “We know him well; we have too good reason to know him. He carried off half our stock of linen.”
“You are mistaken,” averred Durell, with sparkling eyes. “He has been living in our house,—never out of our sight, ever since you came to London.”
Anna explained that she referred to a time before her family left Jersey. Mrs. Durell looked at her husband, as if appealing to him whether Stephen had not proved himself familiar with Jersey.
“Damn your suspicious glances!” cried Durell. “You give glances that you know the poor fellow can’t see, because you are afraid to speak your thought in words that he can hear. Curse your cold-hearted way of giving ear to every slander you hear!”
“Do not say slander,” replied Anna. “I charge Stephen before his face. Let him say how he left our farm. Could a blind man, seen to his rest at night, find his way through the kitchen and out at the door of a strange house, and through the yard, and past the orchard down to the brook, and over the narrow foot-bridge, before he could even get to the winding lane, and then—”
“Stuff! All nothing to do with it!” cried Durell. “It was another man.”
“Even my Jack found out that Stephen could see,” interposed Mrs. Durell.
“Shame on you! Shame to oppress an afflicted man on the word—the fancy of a child that has a fancy for marvels!” cried Durell. “God forgive me for such a scandal happening in my house! As if it was not enough that God’s blessed light is taken away, so that the afflicted cannot know his country by its lying green in the midst of the blue waters,—as if it was not enough that he must return daily thanks for daily bread to strangers that bestow charity, instead of to God that rewards toil,—but he must be insulted before those from whom he has his all! Have done with your sly looks, and your hinting that he is not blind! Bring me a dumb man that shall swear a perjured oath, and a deaf one that shall leer at a foul song, and I will believe that this sightless creature is he that robbed you. Then I will turn him out; but till then I will protect him. Sit down, Stephen.”
“I must go,” said Anna. “I say nothing now, Mr. Durell, about protection being every body’s right; and, as to insult—”
The tears sprang to her eyes, and she found it best to hasten away. She did not think she could stand another fiery glance from Durell, or bear to look again at Stephen, as he stood, the personification of resigned meekness.
“You will come again,” said Mrs. Durell, anxiously, as she followed Anna to the door.
“I don’t know, indeed. Mr. Durell would make one think one’s self wrong, in spite of every thing. He means only to be generous. He almost frightens me, lest I should have made a great mistake. I am sure, in that case, I could not do enough to make up for it. But, if ever I was certain, it is now.”
“There is no mistake, my dear, depend upon it. I have been suspecting, for some time, that Stephen is not so blind as he seems. Do not fret yourself about anything my husband said: but I am very sorry—the first time of your coming—”
“O, don’t be sorry. If it had been you, I should have minded it much more. Do you know, Mrs. Durell, I often wonder what would become of us all, if women quarrelled as men do.—Well; I know it is said that women’s quarrels are very sharp; it may be so, though I have never been in the way of seeing any: but there is something so deep and awful in men’s quarrels, that I can hardly fancy their being heartily made up again.”
Mrs. Durell looked as if waiting for a further explanation; but Anna caught another glimpse of Durell, and was gone.
AN ECONOMICAL PROJECT.
Anna spoke from strong feeling when she reported ill of men’s tempers. In her own family the maternal despotism had been very quietly borne; and the paternal rule, however strict, could not materially interfere with the objects and pleasures of the young women in a retired farm-house. But Aaron had never been quiet in the yoke; and Malet sometimes forgot the policy of the lover in resenting the dictation of the father of his beloved. Since the removal of the family to London, there had been frequent contests between Le Brocq and Aaron, each of which was more bitter and more useless than the last. It was as absurd in Le Brocq to treat his son as a child, as it was in Aaron to conclude that every order given him by his father must be more or less wrong. The effect of the mutual folly was to throw Aaron into league with Studley,—a league which began when Studley smiled at Le Brocq’s instructions to his son on matters which neither of them understood; and which was strengthened in proportion as Le Brocq became discontented with Studley’s assumption of authority in the establishment where he was only foreman, after all. The proprietor was now frequently heard to say that he had no power over his own workmen, and that his foreman and his son carried every thing their own way; while Aaron had so far advanced in his progress to independence as to refuse to answer every question because it was a question, and to consult Studley before he acted on any suggestion whatever. There was, in consequence, so much constraint in every meeting of the household, such grave silence or painful bickerings at every meal, that it began to be a doubt in the mind of each member of the family, whether it would not be better for the father and son to separate at once than to go on in the high-road to an irreconcilable quarrel.
On returning home, Anna walked straight through the yard into the manufactory, hoping that the emergency of the occasion would be a sufficient excuse with her father for the intrusion. She gave unintentional notice of her approach by jingling a pile of ware as she passed.
“Here they come,” said one and another within hearing, as she advanced to the kiln where some knocking was going on, and three or four persons seemed to be busy. A man, who was holding a candle stuck in a lump of clay, observed hoarsely, “Here they come.” “Here they come,” repeated the treble voice of the boy who was receiving the blocks of baked clay which had filled up the arch. “Are they coming?” asked the mounted man who was removing the blocks, and letting out the hot air of the kiln. “Let them come, if they can’t let us alone for once,” growled Le Brocq, who was satisfying his sight with the piles of spirit casks ranged one above another in the kiln, with each its four rims of brown ochre, while jars and bottles were nicely packed in the spaces between, no one touching another, but with scarcely room for a hand to pass.
“Back! back! Go in!” exclaimed Le Brocq, when he saw Anna’s timid face, instead of meeting the bright brown eye of Durell. “This is no place for you. You know I desired—”
“But, father, I have something very particular to say. I have seen Stephen.—No, I have not got back our linen. I am afraid we shall never get it back. Perhaps if you spoke to Mr. Durell —”
“I will—I will: when he comes this afternoon. Go in, child. Go!”
“But I rather think Mr. Durell is not coming this afternoon. He says he has not seen Aaron, nor heard from him.”
“Not seen Aaron! Not had the notice! Bless my soul! what are we ever to do at this rate? No more of him!” suspecting that Anna was going to say something for her absent brother. “He shall know my mind when I see him. Booth, do you think we may go on?”
Booth considered that it would be a vexatious thing to be informed against for such a trifle. It was an ugly thing, too, to run the risk of the penalty. He stood with the bar in his hand, ringing it against the bricks.
“You can bear witness that I did all I could, by sending my son with a notice,” observed Le Brocq. “I dare say we shall find it is some mistake of Anna’s. It is too late now to defer the drawing.”
“As you please, sir: not that I can exactly say I witnessed Mr. Aaron’s being sent with the notice; but I dare say it will be all safe enough, sir. Shall I go on?”
“You could not draw all the large, and leave the duty-paid, could you? No, no; I see that would not do. You may go on.”
Studley came up while the hot ware was being quickly handed from man to boy, and from boy to the ground where it must stand to cool.
“So! No spies to-day! We are in luck. I thought Durell would oblige me so far as to consider you, as I made a point of requesting that he would. I congratulate you on having your premises to yourself, sir, for once. I shall take care and thank Durell.”
“Speak for yourself, if you please, sir, but not for me. I am quite capable of thanking any person that I feel obliged to.”
Studley made a ceremonious bow; and immediately asked Booth whether, in his old master’s time, it had ever been allowed to place the ware for cooling in such a manner as he now beheld.
“Why, no,” replied Booth; “but such are my orders.”
“Do you mean to talk to my men about their old master before my face?” asked Le Brocq.
“A rather superfluous question, sir, if you heard what I said.”
“O, father!” interposed Anna, breathlessly. “How I wish you would take us back to Jersey, and let Malet and Louise come here. My mother is always talking about the cows, and—”
“And you want to be milking them again, child? Go away. Go to your mother. Nobody can leave me to my own business, I think.”
“If you think so, sir,” said Studley, “perhaps we had better part.”
“With all my heart, Mr. Studley. I should not have made the proposal first, as you are an old servant of my uncle’s; but since you offer it, I am quite willing; and the sooner the better, if I may declare my opinion.”
The work-people within hearing had all suspended their business to listen to this amiable dialogue; and the having an audience determined Studley to finish with dignity. He thought it a pity that Mr. Le Brocq had not been more explicit. He would have conferred an obligation by being so; for an office of high honour and profit had been within reach of his humble servant for some little time past, which he should certainly have accepted but for the promise he had given his old master not to refuse his best services to the new proprietor,—with a sort of understanding, moreover, that some acknowledgment in the form of some kind of partnership would follow.
Out of the question entirely, Le Brocq declared. While he had a son and a son-in-law—
Beside the question entirely, Studley averred. The son-in-law being in charge of the Jersey farm (unlike all other farms, if the family report were true), and the son being in course of establishing himself in a distinct line of business, there could be no competitor;—not that he now desired a partnership. He would not accept the largest share that the nature of his services could be supposed to authorise; the office he spoke of being, to a man of ambition like himself, so far preferable. He would take leave to commence his canvas immediately; explaining to all his friends (meaning no offence) the reasons of his appearing so tardily in the field.
A pang shot through the heart of Le Brocq at the intimation that his son was about to leave him. He made no inquiry, and had the resolution to avoid showing that the intelligence was new to him. While he commanded every man to resume his employment, Studley stalked out of the manufactory by one door, while Anna stole back by the way she had come.
In the yard she met Aaron. Her immediate object was to prevent his meeting his father at present. She wanted to know whether he had delivered the notice a sufficient number of hours before. No: he had had something else to do first. He meant to go presently. When told that it was too late, he supposed that it would not signify, but did not see why there should have been such a prodigious hurry about drawing the kiln. He was sure Studley could not have authorised it.
Anna had so much to ask and to tell that she wished Aaron would now go with her, as he had promised, on an expedition which must not be much longer delayed. It was time to be thinking about a washing of clothes; there having been none since the unfortunate one which Stephen had turned into an occasion of disaster. Anna and her mother knew nothing yet of English society which could lead them to suppose that there was anything peculiar in their methods touching the purification of their apparel; but as their stock had been somewhat circumscribed since the trespass of the thief, Anna began to think of arranging the circumstances of time and place; and in a few minutes, when she had accounted to her mother for her proceedings, her brother and she were on their way in search of a clear stream where the operation might be conducted after the only method she had yet heard or conceived of.
It seemed a pity to wander so far from home, when a prodigious river was running near the back door: but Anna had watched the Thames, through all its moods, for a fortnight, and had never found it sufficiently pure for her purpose. Besides, there were so many people always about that she should not have courage to sing at the pitch which was necessary to insure good washing. Her having seen no washing in the river since she came was a strong presumption that the Thames did not afford the proper bath. It must be some pure brook between two green hills, with alder bushes on which to hang the linen to dry, and some quiet nook where it might be deposited for a night or two in safety. Such a brook were the brother and sister now in search of, on a hot day in June, when alders and green banks would be peculiarly refreshing. They were prepared for having some way to go, which was very well. They were in no hurry, and promised each other not to return till they had accomplished their object. They little knew what they promised; for, though they were cured of the fancy of myrtles before the house and an orchard behind, they had no doubt whatever that “country” meant hill and dale, wood and stream. When they arrived at Kennington Common, they stood and laughed at the entire absence of trees, quite as much as from the pleasure of seeing an expanse of green once more. While panting with heat, they wondered that the Kennington people did not prefer high banks with overhanging hedges to white palings which fatigued the eye under a summer sun. The stream which flanks the Brixton road was the first thing they saw which could at all answer their purpose; and this was decided to be too public. On they wandered, tempted by the sight of rising ground, to some lanes near Herne Hill and Dulwich; and in these lanes, and the fields which bordered them, Anna found something at last which nearly satisfied her heart. There was a carpet of daisies under foot; and wild roses, some blushing and unfolding, others flaring and bleached in the sun, bloomed in the hedges. There were no sleek Jersey cows, with their delicate taper horns and countenances more refined than ever cows had before; and Anna was disappointed as often as she unconsciously looked for the blue sea through a gap in the hedge: but the smell of hay came from some place near, and a thorn which stood in a damp nook had still blossom enough to remind her of an apple tree. This thorn suggested a happy thought; and Anna was glad to perceive, on looking round her, that thorns were abundant in the neighbouring field. She had heard something of thorn leaves being dried to mix with tea. The most terrifying of the many fearful household expenses of the Le Brocqs was tea; and it would be a great relief to lessen it one-half by mixing a large proportion of English tea with the foreign.
“And there is the kiln to dry it in,” suggested Aaron. “The frying-pan full can be dried in no time; and I will look to the shaking the pan, if my father does not like that you should have anything to do with the kiln.”
“And if we find it really good tea, I may perhaps mix some for sale, and get enough profit to find us in tea. I am sure that would please my father; and my mother might drink as much as she likes.”
Anna lost no time in spreading her shawl on the ground, and plucking leaves from the lower boughs, while her brother climbed somewhat higher, and chose the most juicy sprouts from the youngest shoots. They agreed that some good might arise out of the extravagantly high prices which prevailed in England. In Jersey, where they paid for tea only one-third what was charged in London, they should never have thought of making use of the leaves of the thorn; and they supposed that, as they had been made inventive in this one particular, the people of England might be generally ingenious in a similar manner.
Several persons passed through the field before the green heap on the shawl had grown very large. A woman with a basket on her arm and a little boy at her heels looked back again and again, all the way to the stile, and then had to return to fetch away her child, who stood staring, as if longing to help.
“You have a basket, I see,” said Anna, smiling. “If you like to carry away any leaves, pray help yourself.”
“What may they be for?”
“To mix with tea. Tea is so very dear now! I suppose you drink tea?”
“O, yes, ma’am, we take tea,” said the woman: but, instead of filling her basket, she shook a handful of leaves from her child’s grasp, and, disregarding his roaring, took him up on one arm, and her basket on the other, and carried him till he was fairly past the stile.
Presently came two men, bustling along, as if it had been the coldest day in January. They halted, however, near the bush.
“I say,” cried one of them, after a whisper from his companion; “what are ye arter there?”
From out of the bush, Aaron made the same answer that his sister had before given.
“Smash me! if that baint a good ’un!” cried he, looking at his companion; and all the way as they proceeded, they were evidently talking of what they had seen.
Next approached a stooping old labourer, in a smock-frock, and with a scythe over his shoulder. He walked painfully, and stopped near the thorn to wipe his brows.
He kindly warned the young people to take care what they were about. He considered them very bold to do what they were doing by broad daylight, in a field which was a thoroughfare.
“We have just done,” replied Anna, colouring. “We are going away directly.” And she drew close to Aaron, to call him away, and tell him her fears that the owner of the thornbush would not like their gathering the leaves, if he knew of it. They had better go somewhere else for as many more as they wanted. As they tied up the shawl by the corners, and sauntered away, the old labourer shook his head at them several times; but was silent as an unquestioned oracle. There was no disturbance of the kind when they had transferred their exertions to a more private inclosure; and they obtained as large a supply as the shawl could possibly hold before they stopped to rest.
“Now, let us sit down, and I will tell you something,” said Anna.—Aaron stretched himself out at length on the grass, using his bundle for a pillow.
“You must not go to sleep,” continued Anna. “I have been to Mrs. Durell this morning,—(what an odd thing that she did not put me in mind of this way of getting tea, when I was conplaining of the price!)—and there I saw somebody else, besides Mrs. Durell and her husband. I saw Stephen.”
“Stephen!” cried Aaron, starting up, now in no danger of going to sleep. “You silly girl, why did not you tell me that before?”
“Because I was afraid you would go and be in a passion with Mr. Durell,—as I am afraid you will be when I have told you all he said,—though, I’m sure, I am very willing to excuse him. But, Aaron,—do sit down, Aaron. It will do just as well when we get home again.”
As if a man who had escaped once could not escape again! Aaron said. If Stephen was above ground, he would get hold of him,—not only because he had betrayed hospitality, and stolen the linen, but because he had told lies about the ways of going on in England,—with all his talk of nobody paying taxes in England, or merely such a trifle that they never found it out.
“But indeed he will not get away,” declared Anna. “Mr. Durell said he should keep him, and was so angry with me for being sure that it was our Stephen, that I quite expect Stephen will stay and brave it out. We will go together, and try what we can do to get back the linen, if—O, Aaron! if you will but try to keep your temper. But, indeed, Aaron, I had rather lose all the clothes I have left,—everything I have in the world,—than see you lose your temper as you do sometimes.”
“What is it to you?” asked Aaron.
“You have asked me that very often before, and I have always told you—”
“Yes; I know—I know. But I am not half so likely to be surly even to Stephen as to—I tell you, Anna, you have no idea what it is to be under my father, every hour of the day.”
“Have not I? I think I have; for, though I do not want more freedom myself, I know what it must be to you to want it. It makes me turn sometimes hot and sometimes cold when I hear him answer for you to strangers, as if you were a child, or settling all your little matters at home, without so much as ever looking in your face to see how you like what he is doing.”
“Really! Do you always see that? If I had known that—”
“You might have known it. You did know it; for I have told you so a hundred times.”
“But one can never be sure of it at the moment; and you always keep your head down so, when my father and I have any words.”
“Because I am always thinking what a pity it is that neither of you is ready with a soft answer; and I must say, you ought to be the readiest, from your being the son. But is it really true that you are going to leave my father?”
“Who said such a thing?”
“Mr. Studley told my father so, before several of the men, and they must have seen that he did not know it before.”
“My father must have put him into a passion, or he would not have let it out till next week. How much more did he tell you?”
“Nothing; but you must let me know all now; and my father as soon as we go home.”
“There is no reason for its being a secret, further than that the plans are not all settled yet. Studley happened to know of a glass-bottle work, where they will be glad to take in an active young partner, with the prospect of his joining the stone-bottle making with it, by and bye. Now, you need not look so shocked, as if anybody was thinking of making away with my father. The thing is this;—that Studley is sure my father will soon be tired of carrying on his pottery business by himself, and will be off for Jersey again; and then the business will come to me: and no two businesses can be more fit to go on together than the black-glass and the stone-ware. Studley says I shall be one of the first men in London, some day.”
“But where is it? Who taught you to make glass? What can you know about it?” asked the alarmed sister.
“If I told you I was going to break stones for the roads, I believe you would ask who had taught me. Why, it is not so difficult to make bottle-glass as our fish-soup. Put river sand and soapers’ waste into the furnace, and there you have it;—or, if you like it better, common sand and lime, with a little clay or sea salt. What can be easier than that? And where is the risk, with materials that you may pick up from under your feet almost wherever you go?”
“If that were all;—but there are so many things besides the making and selling that have to be attended to in this country!”
“Why, that is true; or I fancy we should see twice as much glass in people’s houses as we do. Everybody thinks glass beautiful, and everybody who has tried it finds it convenient; and yet, I hear, though there are nearly twice as many people to use it, and twice as much money to buy it with, there is less glass used in this country than there was fifty years ago.”
“Then I am sure I would have nothing to do with it.”
“I would not, unless I saw the reason, and was pretty sure that the state of things would change. ’Tis this meddling of the excise that plagues the glass-makers, and makes them charge the article high,—far higher in proportion than we have to charge our stone bottles.”
“That is what I meant when you laughed at me for being afraid. I did not doubt that you might melt sand and the other stuff properly; but I thought you might not understand all about the taxes.”
“Why not as well as another man? to say nothing of a particular good reason I shall have for knowing. O, I shall only have to give notice of drawing out bottles; taking care that the notice is given between six in the morning and eight in the evening; and that the pots are charged with fresh materials while the officers are by; and that the material is worked within sixteen hours after the time mentioned; and that I put down the right number of bottles when I write the declaration, for fear of being taken in for a fine of 100l.; and—”
“Why, this is worse than what my father has to attend to!”
“But not so bad as if I were going to make other kinds of glass besides the common black article. There are thirty-two clauses in the Act that the glass-makers have to work by; and several of them will not concern me.”
“I should think that is very lucky; for, you see, you don’t always remember to give notice, when you are sent on purpose.”
“I declare I did not forget it. I had something else to do first, that was all; and my father was in one of his hurries. However, if any mischief comes of it, I will bear the blame and the cost; and no man can do more.”
“I doubt that: I mean that you might be careful not to ruffle another mind as well as your own. I am sure, Aaron, if you were standing on our poquelaye, as you used to do, and could with a breath bring up or blow away thunder-clouds that were ready to blacken the old castle, and set the seafowl screaming, and throw a gloom over the wide sea and the green land, it would be your pleasure to keep all bright, and send the ugly shade down the sky; and yet, if my father and you find each other ever so calm—”
“What does it signify? The blackest clouds are soon gone, one way or another.”
“But it is not with our minds and our passions as it is with the sky and the sea. It is God’s pleasure that when the sky is cleared, the face of the earth should be brighter than ever: but when a quarrel has overshadowed kindness, the brightest of the sunshine is gone for ever.”
Aaron found it convenient to look up into the actual sky for something to say; and he declared that it was well he did, for some such clouds as his sister had described were making their appearance above the tree-tops which were beginning to rustle in the rising wind. They lost no time in returning, resolving neither to look for more streams, nor to turn aside to call at the Durells’.—Before they reached home, the streets were as plashy as any lane in Jersey, (which is saying a great deal,) and the wind roared among the houses like the fiercest furnace which was to be under Aaron’s charge. The wet was dripping from all the corners of the bundle they carried; and Aaron undertook to spread out its contents in the manufactory to dry, while his sister hastened into the house.
LESSONS IN LOYALTY.
In the house sat a merry party;—a really mirthful set of countenances surrounded the table. Anna wondered for a moment what could have called up a hearty laugh from her father, this day; but when she saw that Durell was present, there was no longer any mystery. He and a companion seemed in a fair way to demolish a pie which Anna knew her mother made a great point of for to-morrow’s dinner; and (of all odd companions) he had seated beside him Brennan, the poor boy who wrought at the wheel. Brennan sometimes made a little progress in diminishing the savoury food which his patron was heaping on his plate; and then drew back behind Durell’s broad shoulders, to hide the laughter which he could not restrain when jokes went round. Master Jack was upon the table, on hands and knees, looking into the pie and the ale pitcher by turns. Mrs. Le Brocq was plying her needle with all imaginable diligence, only stopping when an agony of mirth shook her ponderous form. Le Brocq himself had a glass of ale in his hand, and a twinkle of good humour in his eye. What could all this be about? Durell had been applying some of his natural magic to kindle hearts and melt resolves. He had so vehemently thanked Le Brocq for consenting to spare Brennan for a few hours, that he had obtained possession of the boy for this evening as well as to-morrow; had set Mrs. Le Brocq to work to diminish some hoarded clothes which Aaron had outgrown before they were worn out, and which would now be a treasure to Brennan; and had caused dull care to vanish before the spirit of genial hospitality in Le Brocq’s own heart.
“Hey, Anna!” cried he. “Look at her, dripping like a fish! Get yourself dry and warm, my dear, before you sit down. We wondered what had become of you. I fancied you were up in the clouds somewhere; and, I suppose, by your look, I was right.”
“Have you been up in the clouds?” demanded Jack, opening his eyes wide upon her.
“Not to-day, dear: but I was once in the middle of a cloud, Jack.”
“Were you? How? Where? Had you a ladder? Did you climb? Did you fly?”
A burst of laughter followed, which amazed poor Jack. His father stroked his head, and bade him not be ashamed. The last was a good guess, whatever might be thought about the ladder.
“I was on a high hill,” said Anna, as soon as she could be heard; “and the cloud came sailing—”
“Was it all golden and bright? Did it make you shut your eyes?”
Before Anna could answer, her mother sent her to change her clothes and bring her work-bag, undertaking to satisfy the child about the cloud. This she attempted in the antique method,—that is, by saying some brilliant things that were not true. She appended an account of such a thunder-storm as had just happened;—how two angry clouds ride up against each other, and when their edges touch, they strike fire, which is the lightning; and then one rolls over the other, and makes a great rumbling, which is the thunder. The frowning child, with his mouth open, took it all in, and might have got a desperately wrong notion of a thunder-storm for life, if his father had not interfered.
“Bless my soul, madam, what do you mean to tell the child next? That the clouds open and let down dogs and cats to worry naughty boys, I suppose? I will not have my boy made sport of, I can tell you.”
“Sport!” exclaimed the perplexed old lady, “I am sure I only meant to tell him what my mother told me.”
“Tell him nothing of the kind, if you please. Fairy tales, if you like,—as many as you like,—pretty allegories of God’s doings, which will speak one kind of truth to him in proportion as he finds they have not the kind of truth that he thought. But no lies, madam;—especially, no lies about God’s glorious works. Jack, you are not to believe a word the lady has told you. She was only joking with you, boy. When you have forgotten what she said, I will tell you a true story about a cloud.”
Jack looked offended at being thus at the mercy of two people who contradicted each other. Mrs. Le Brocq, who did not clearly understand what was the matter, not knowing any more about an allegory than about an alligator, and seeing no great difference between a fairy tale and an embellished fib, hung her head abashed over her work. This showed Jack which way his vengeance should be directed. He gave a sort of kangaroo leap, which brought him in front of Mrs. Le Brocq on the table, seized the top of her cap (the high Norman peasant cap), and pulled at it with all his might; albeit he held a handful of hair with it. Brennan was the quickest in rescuing the complaining lady. Durell caught up Jack, crying—
“Bravo, boy; thou’rt as like thy father! Never take a lie quietly, boy. But, Jack, you have hurt the lady; ask pardon for hurting her, Jack.”
Jack asked pardon; but he would not kiss Mrs. Le Brocq. Instead of urging the point against the child’s evident dislike, Durell made the propitiation himself. He respectfully replaced the cap, delicately stroked the hair on the forehead, and kissed the cheek;—precisely at which moment Studley entered the room.
He professed that he was extremely sorry to disturb the party, whom he perceived to be very agreeably engaged; and particularly as it happened to be a little affair of his own which brought him into their presence. The fact was, he had been a long round in search of Mr. Durell, who would be found, Mrs. Durell had told him, in the prosecution of his duty, as usual.
The office which Studley had referred to in the morning as being his object of desire in preference to remaining with Le Brocq, was that of Messenger of the Excise Court, with a salary of 78l., to which he added, in his own imagination, certain ‘advantages.’ He knew that the Court prefers candidates who are experienced in the manufacture of exciseable commodities; and he flattered himself that, in conjunction with other circumstances, his having been concerned in the glass and stone bottle manufactures, and having mastered the secrets of soap-making, might be powerful recommendations. In the excise, as in all spy systems, the rule of action is, ‘set a thief to catch a thief.’ None are found so apt at detecting revenue frauds, and so eager in informing against and punishing them, as those who, in their day, have defrauded the revenue. Studley’s pretensions were excellent, in this point of view; and he believed that if he could make sure of the interest of two more high personages, besides those whose good word he had already solicited, he should be pretty secure of the appointment.
“I have merely to ask one little exertion from you, Sir,” said he to Durell. “Everybody knows what interest you have with the gentleman who befriended you,—who procured you your appointment.”
“Everybody but myself and he, I suppose. Well, Sir.”
“Your influence is undeniable, I am well assured. I believe I am tolerably certain of being made messenger in the place of poor Haggart; but it would set my mind entirely at ease if you would speak in my favour to the gentleman in question.”
“Nobody can be more ready than I am, Sir, to set people’s minds at ease, when I can; but let me tell you, from the day you get this office, you will never have a mind at ease.”
“Ha! ha! very good! That is my own concern, entirely, you perceive. As I was going to say, you can speak to my fitness for the office, I am sure. As to politics, for instance, though I should never think of meddling, you are aware, (which a servant of the government is understood never to do,) yet I am decidedly a government man. Decidedly so. You remember the part I took in Gardiner’s election?”
“Perfectly well; from the pains I took on the other side to counteract you.”
“Well, well; that is past and gone. You will not object to a government servant being of government politics, or to bearing testimony that he is so. Your known liberality—Your humble servant, Miss Le Brocq,” setting a chair for Anna, as she appeared with her work-bag. “Let none depreciate the air of Lambeth who looks upon you, Ma’am.”
“I won’t detain you, Mr. Studley, to discuss my liberality or any thing else, now your time is so precious. I have no doubt, Sir, of your qualifications, from the little I have seen of you; and it gives me pleasure to serve my neighbours; but it is against my principles that one officer in an establishment like the Excise should stir to procure the appointment of another. A man should enter his office unfettered by obligation to any of the parties with whom he will have to do. This has been my reason before for declining to interfere in similar cases; and it is my reason now.—And now, Miss Anna, I have humbly to ask your pardon—”
“Excuse my interrupting you,” said Studley; “but I trust, Sir, you will let the matter remain in your mind, and think better of it.”
“My decision is final, Mr. Studley. God knows there is so little opportunity of acting freely on one’s principles in such an office as mine, that I am little likely to give up my liberty of conscience when by chance I can use it.”
And he turned to Anna, to seek forgiveness for his vehemence of the morning. His soul was so sick with the sight of oppression, that he lost his self-command (if ever he had any) at the remotest appearance of bearing hard on the unfortunate. He really had great confidence in Stephen. He would lay his life that Stephen was an honest fellow; but he admitted this to be no reason why he should have behaved like a brute to a lady, who had spoken under a mistake. Studley meanwhile had turned smilingly to Le Brocq.
“I shall have better success with you, I fancy, Sir. There is one little requisite, perhaps you are aware, which I believe I must be indebted to you for. This office of messenger is an office of trust. Infinite quantities of money pass through the hands of the messengers of the Court—”
“Though taxation is a mere trifle in England.”
“When I speak of infinite quantities of money, I do not, of course, intend to be taken literally; but the recovery of common charges, as well as of fines and penalties, is committed to the messengers; and theirs is a situation of infinite trust,—requiring security, of course;—small security;—not above 500l. Now, where should I look for this security but to the respectable house which I have served,—I will say, faithfully served, for so many years?”
“To any place rather, I should think. To say nothing, on my own account, of the doubt whether the extravagance of living in England will leave 500l. at my own disposal, it is a clear point that an officer who has to levy charges should not be under obligations to a man who is subject to such charges. You must know, Studley, that on the first disagreement, you must betray your duty to government, or do an ungracious thing by me; and if—”
“O, we shall have no disagreements.”
“I was going to say that if we have no disagreements, we lay ourselves open to the suspicion of collusion. If Mr. Durell is clear on his point, I am doubly so on mine. I cannot be your security, Sir; which I am sorry for, as I should be happy to show that I bear no malice on account of what passed this morning.”
“Bear no malice! you do,” exclaimed Studley, unable any longer to keep his temper. “Collusion, indeed! You talk of suspicion of collusion, when here I find you heaping favours upon favours on the surveyor,—a man you never heard of till you were in his power! Suspicion won’t be the word long.”
“What does the fellow mean?” asked Durell, his eyes lighting up.
“I mean, Sir, that here is an empty pie-dish, and an empty ale-jug; and that this is not the first time I have seen you feasting in this house; and that the very working boys are taken from the wheel, and dressed and feasted too at your request; and much besides, Sir. Little things, Sir, which you may call trifles, Sir, are indications,—are symptoms of great things, Sir—”
“Nothing truer,” said Durell, contemptuously. “Paltry things like you, Studley, are indications how despicable must be the little-great system to which you will presently belong. A writhing maggot is a symptom that the carcase is stinking.”
“O, Mr. Durell! Don’t provoke him,” cried Anna. “Do think of the consequences!”
“’Tis such angel-tempers as yours, my dear, forgiving rough men’s brutality, as you forgave me this morning, that encourage us to be brutal again. Don’t let me off so easily next time, if you wish me well.”
And he turned to Studley, as if about to apologize for the offensiveness of his language, when Studley observed, trying to conceal his passion.
“It is very kind of you, Madam, to bid him think of the consequences. He will not have long to wait for the consequences, if he blazes abroad his disaffection in this manner.—Disaffection! yes.—Do you suppose, Sir, that your exertions in favour of a certain anti-ministerial candidate at a late election passed unnoticed? We don’t want to be told that you could not vote; but there is little use in denying that you declared your opinion,—daily, hourly, wherever you went,—your opinion as to which principles ought to be supported. Join this with your avowed contempt of the establishment in which you serve, and what is the inference,—the clear inference? It is in vain, Sir, to deny the part you took in the election I refer to.”
“Deny it! I glory in it!” thundered Durell, who had started up in the midst of this attack upon him.
“Indeed!” muttered Studley, quite perplexed.
“Indeed! yes, indeed! What should a man glory in but in the use of that which God gave, and which men dare to meddle with only because they know too little of its force to dread it. When men once talked of shutting up the four winds in a cave, it was not from dread of their force, but because it was mortifying not to know, when those winds were abroad, whence they came and whither they went; and so when our masters would put a padlock upon our opinions, it is not because they guess the danger of shutting in what is for ever expanding, but because they covet the power of letting them fly this way and that, to suit their own little purposes, and puff away their own petty enemies. But this flying in the face of God Almighty is such child’s play, as well as something worse, that perhaps He may forgive in the infant what He would sorely visit upon the answerable man.”
“What is all this?” asked Le Brocq, while the countenances of those present corroborated the question.
“Why, just this,” replied Durell, putting a restraint upon himself, and stopping his rapid walk through the apartment. “The object of taxation is to support government. The object of government is to afford liberty and security to every man that lives under it. Yet those by whom the taxation of the people is managed are to be abridged of their liberty, if they mean to keep their security. In the most important point of all others,—in the choice of those who are to govern, they are to have no liberty of action, and their very thoughts and speech are to be prescribed. We excisemen are to do nothing towards providing that the oppressed shall be set free, and the industrious rewarded, and the ignorant enlightened, and an empire blessed:—we are to do nothing in the only way in which we could do much. Not only must we surrender our political rights while receiving our bread; but we must not stimulate others to do what we must leave undone. Even this is not enough: we must hush to sleep the will that has been wakened within us, and seem to believe that which we hate as falsehood, or hang on the foul breath of a spy, like that fellow, for our bread and our good name.—But, so be it! We are spies; and it is fitting that we should be at the mercy of a spy.”
“But why?” interposed Anna. And Jack seconded the question with, “Why are you a spy, I wonder?”
“You may well ask, boy. However, they shall never bind my thoughts, and chain my tongue,—come of it what may. They heard no complaint from me, from first to last, about the surrender of my right to vote; but if they think to prevent me from avowing who is the people’s friend and who the people’s enemy,—if they suppose I will submit to have it thought that I am with them when my heart is against them, I will fling back in their faces the mask they would put upon mine; and go with an unveiled front where God’s works are for ever drawing out their long tale of truth to shame man’s falsehoods.”
“Take me with you then, papa. Do take me with you,” cried Jack.
“The little master had better make sure of what sort of place he would have to go to,” observed Studley. “He might not altogether like a jail.”
“A jail!” cried every body.
“I mean no more than this,—that the penalty for certain excise offences is 500l.; and all people are not always ready to pay 500l.”
And Studley went out, now the confirmed enemy of the whole party he left behind.
“I am not going to justify that man’s spying and threats,” observed Le Brocq: “but I really do not see why the government should not make a point of its own servants being of its own political opinions; and, as for their not voting at elections, it is a favour done to the people, I conclude, from the consideration that so large a body of persons, supposed to be biassed by their dependence on the government, would often turn the scale in a close contest.”
“And where can there be a stronger proof of the badness of the system? Is there no better way of the people paying for government than by their supporting a host of tax-gatherers, who are first compelled to harass their supporters by daily ill offices, and then become the slaves of rulers in proportion as they become hated by the ruled? Let the people of England come forward like men and Christians, asking to have their state-subscription levied in the form of a periodical contribution, rather than wrenched and filched from them after the manner of a theft,—so that the gang of wrenchers and filchers, of whom I am one, may support themselves by a more honest labour, and once more become men in their social rights and their liberty of speech.”
“Do you mean to remain in your office till that day?”
“If they will let me exercise ordinary freedom of opinion. Yes: while the system exists, it is the duty of those who feel its evils to soften their operation as much as possible. If I resigned to-night, the next best-drilled spy would take my place, and in some lower rank there would be room made for some mischief-loving, shabby-souled tyrant;—for who but such would accept the most hateful of offices with the meanest of salaries? Frightful as is the sum which Englishmen pay for their standing spy-army, the forces are so numerous that the pay of each (considered in connexion with the odium of the office) is not enough to command the services of honest men. But if you had seen the half of what has come before my eyes, you would value the blessing of a tender heart, here and there, among such a tribe as hold the tyranny of the excise in their power; and you would entreat such an one to keep in his place for love of the widow and the fatherless, and the poor, and such as have none to help them.”
When Durell was persuaded to sit down again, and fill his glass, and Aaron had been summoned by his sister to come and listen, there were no bounds to the interest with which the surveyor’s tales of sorrow and crime were listened to. He set out with declaring that there was scarcely a possibility of a trader’s escaping persecution, loss, or even ruin, if the excise officer who was over him happened to be his enemy. He unfolded such scenes of strife, fraud, hardship, and bitter woe, as terrified the tender-spirited women, and made even Aaron look grave at the thought of committing himself to be acted upon by such a system. He trembled at tales of masters being betrayed by faithless servants; of false oaths taken by men who appeared weekly at church in a frame of decent piety; of fathers selling their children’s beds from under them to pay arbitrary penalties innocently incurred; of a widowed mother following her only son to prison, eagerly explaining to all who behold his shame, that it was not for any “real fault,” but for a factitious offence, —a boast alas! never repeated; for it is they who are imprisoned for factitious crimes who come out broken-hearted and reckless, apt to become, first smugglers, and then felons, like the youth whose tale Durell was telling. The more he told, the more he had to tell,—the more impassioned became his speech, and the more eager his recourse to his glass. Brennan had not yet moved from his attitude of fixed attention, and even Jack was still frowning and gazing in his father’s face, when Le Brocq perceived that his guest was no longer in a state to be listened to as one who knew what he was about. Perhaps he was overcome as much by intense feeling as by what he had taken; but he slid from his tone of solemn and reasonable denunciation to senseless invective, to ridicule, to mirth, to nonsense, till his friends could bear the humbling scene no longer. Anna hastened, in an agony of fear and shame, to tell Mrs. Durell that Aaron and his father were bringing her husband home. It was the only thing that could be done with him; for he had taken some imaginary offence, and would not remain in their house for a moment longer, and was too riotous to be kept on any other part of the premises.
“I know what you are come for,” said Mrs. Durell mournfully to Anna. “It is not the first time by many, since he was made an officer. If he should be cut off in his drink, I shall always say his office was answerable for it.”
Anna could not leave the unhappy wife when Durell was lying in the next room, breathing hard, and angrily muttering in his drunken sleep.
“You must not be too hard upon him to-morrow,” said she, thinking that she saw signs of wrath in the burning tears which could not be repressed. “You have reason to know the tenderness of his heart; and it is my belief that it is that tenderness that betrays him.”
“To be sure it is. Every day of his life he crosses somebody that he wishes well to, and feels that he can do nothing for others that he sees oppressed, and that as often as he shows mercy, he is betraying his trust. Hard upon him! When he begins to make light of God’s providence, and to slight the sorrows that he sees, I will be hard upon my husband.”
“You deserve to be the wife and the comforter of such a man.”
“Thank you for saying so while he is lying there!” exclaimed the wife, looking up through her tears. “You and I know that he is more fit to hold some friendly rule over the people than to dog them as an enemy. Some would laugh at such a thought, and say he cannot rule himself. But, depend upon it, if it were not for the misrule that is every day before his eyes, he would govern himself like the most moderate of them all; and then he would never be so wretched in his shame as he will be to-morrow.”
“Do you think Mr. Durell will be better to-morrow, so as to take me where he promised?” asked Brennan, who had silently followed into the room, and was now watching the rain-drops chasing one another down the window-panes.
Mrs. Durell shook her head, and the boy’s heart sank at the sight. He was told that he might sleep here to-night, to take the chance. It was not very likely that Stephen would come back to-night, having been abroad since he slipped out by himself in the morning. Anna did not now ask any question about Stephen, fearing that it might seem like reminding Mrs. Durell of her husband’s roughness on that subject when she was last within his doors.
“Will you please to come here, ma’am?” said Brennan, beckoning her to the window.
She saw Studley standing under a gateway, as if for shelter, but laughing, and pointing very significantly at Durell’s house. Brennan whispered that Studley had met master and Mr. Aaron when they were trying to make Mr. Durell walk straight; and that he had followed them all the rest of the way, talking about fair traders’ luck in choosing their time for making surveyors drunk.
HARDER LESSONS IN LOYALTY.
While Durell, as much ashamed of himself the next morning, as his wife had foretold, made an exertion to perform his promise to Brennan, notwithstanding a desperate head-ache, Anna was making experiments with the new tea her brother had helped her to manufacture. It was so good as to make her wonder why all but the wealthier classes in England did not mix a larger or smaller proportion of those leaves with the genuine tea. She resolved to try a variety of herbs for the same purpose; and hoped that when she had satisfied herself that she had obtained the best article in her power, she might make a profitable little business of her manufacture. Perhaps the reason why she did not hear of others doing so was that few had the advantage of a kiln in which to dry the material quickly, equally, and in large quantities. Meantime, there seemed to be customers ready before she asked for them. A woman, whom somebody pronounced to be Mrs. Studley, came to inquire, and carried away a pound, which she insisted upon paying for before she tasted it. The example once set, several of the people on the premises, or their wives, made similar purchases in the course of the next few days.
Aaron meanwhile recovered from the temporary alarm about his new business connection into which Durell’s disclosures had thrown him. He trusted that the perils of glass-makers had been exaggerated in the heated fancy of the surveyor; and would not believe Anna when she averred that Durell was perfectly sober when he told of the extent to which glass-masters are dependent on their servants. He had made a clear distinction between the present and the former times of the manufacture; showing how the present are an improvement upon the former, though restrictions and hardships enough remain to account for the manufacture being stationary while all circumstances but the interference of the excise are favourable to its unlimited extension. Durell had told a story of a respectable glass-manufacturer who had suffered cruelly, some years ago, from having accidentally affronted one of his men. The man put material into several of his master’s furnaces, and then went and laid an information against the proprietor for charging his furnaces without notice. The consequence was, that George the Third, by the Grace of King, &c., greeted poor Mr. Robinson, and “commanded and strictly enjoined” him (all excuses apart) to appear before the Barons of the King’s Exchequer, at Westminster, to answer his Majesty concerning certain articles then and there, on the king’s behalf, to be objected against Mr. Robinson. These articles of accusation were thirty-one! No wonder the king wished to know what Mr. Robinson had to say. There was, besides charging the furnaces without notice, a long list of other offences, (all, however, committed by the workman without his master’s knowledge,)—putting in metal after guage, unstopping a pot without notice, taking down the stopper without notice, filling five pots each day for fifty days without notice, omission of entering five hundred makings, and so on. Who can wonder that the father of his subjects was grieved at such a want of filial confidence? The king, however, had less reason to be grieved than Mr. Robinson; for the penalties on the thirty-one offences amounted to 138,700l. His Majesty, through his Barons, had compassion; or rather, perhaps, it might be evident to them that to throw a man into jail for the rest of his days, after stripping him of all that he had, for such a crime as his servant beginning to make glass without his knowledge, might be going too far for even excise-ridden England. They made him answerable for one only of the accusations, and let him off for 50l.—liable, however, to a repetition of the same misfortune, unless he chose to stand day and night beside his furnaces, to see that none of his people violated the law touching glass. Matters have mended since that day. Absurdity and hardship do not now reach such an extreme: but the principle remains. The tyranny of interference still subsists. The morality of glass-making is still an arbitrary morality,—complicated and annoying in its practice, and mercilessly punished in its infraction. There was still enough of peril and disgust to make Anna wish that her brother would think again before he entered upon glass-making. She prevailed no further than to induce him to bespeak a short trial of the business before committing himself irrevocably as a partner. She heard so much more of the ingenuity and taste of the manufacturer he was about to join, than of his experience in business, that she was in perpetual fear that the firm would not long be able to escape the clutches of some of the revenue laws, which seemed to be lying in ambush everywhere to entrap the unwary. Her father, too, was for ever prophesying that the wilful youth would fall into some scrape, and get into jail, sooner or later.
Mrs. Durell observed her husband to be particularly gloomy one evening, when he desired to have his supper earlier than usual. He sat looking at the wall, as he always did when his mind was full of something painful. He seemed relieved when Stephen left off singing in the next room, though he would not have taken such a liberty with a dependent guest as to interfere with his singing when he was in the mood. When the spirit-bottle was put down near him, he pushed it away. This was good as far as it went. He was not going to drink away his cares, whatever they might be.—A knock at the door.—
“Let him in. It is the constable,” said Durell.
“O, then, I know. You are going to watch,” said Mrs. Durell, being aware that entering premises by night could be done only in the presence of a constable. “I am afraid, love, you are going to distress somebody that you wish no ill to.”
“I wish ill to nobody but that cursed race of informers that is as much cherished in this country as if we had a Nero over us.”
“Only about the taxes, love, surely.”
“Only about the taxes! Well, what would you have, when almost everything that is bought and sold is taxed?—Sit down, Simpson. Have you supped? We may be detained some time.”
The wife probably still showed anxiety; for he said, while buttoning up his coat,
“You have no acquaintance among the soap-boilers, my dear, that I know of.”
“Oh, is it soap-boiling that you are going to watch?”
He nodded, kissed her, bade her not sit up for him, and left her relieved.
It was true that the first errand was to a soap-boiler’s,—a man who kept a chandler’s shop, and professed to do nothing else, but who had long continued to carry on an illicit trade in soap. His candles bore the blame of the scent with which his near neighbours were sometimes incommoded; and his being possessed of two handy daughters saved the necessity of his having servants who might betray him, protected by that odious clause of the Act which provides that participators in the offence shall be rewarded instead of punished, if they will inform against their masters or companions. This man found that he could make, very cheap, a particularly good soap, as long as he could evade the excise; and he had, of course, no lack of customers. In his shop, he sold none but dear, duty paid soap; but nobody knew but himself how many packages went into the country from the back of his premises. The temptation was enough to overpower any man who had his opportunities. His privacy afforded him the means of trying experiments to improve the article,—too expensive a practice for makers who cannot return the material to the coppers, in case of failure, without the sacrifice of the whole duty upon the portion so returned. Relieved from the duty, he could use better and more expensive materials than the regular manufacturer can employ. Instead of barilla, or the still inferior article, kelp, he could use common salt, which requires much less labour in its application to use, and, from its smaller bulk, might be smuggled into his premises and kept there with greater safety. Besides this, he liked to be able to take his own time about the production of the article, and to use such vessels as might be best fitted for his purposes, instead of having an exciseman standing over him to see that his soap was ready by a certain time, whether it was properly made or not; and that his utensils were of the shape and size required by law; whether or not the having them of that shape and size caused waste of the material. The mere circumstance of being able to discharge the alkaline ley from the copper by a cock inserted near the bottom, instead of by pump and hand, as ordered by law, was of no little consequence, regarding as it did an operation which was perpetually occurring. This chandler had, with an easy conscience, made a pretty little competence by his illicit manufacture; but his day of prosperity was over. Some keen nose or eyes had made the discovery, and the consequence was that the constable visited his premises by midnight.
How the girls started at the first gentle tap at the door! How relieved were they when, having called from the window, they were told it was only a neighbour wanting to light his lamp! How dismayed again, when four men rushed in, the moment the door was opened, and made their way direct to the place where the sinner was pouring off his curdling soap into the troughs! There was nothing to be said,—no license to produce,—no tokens of having paid duty. The whole apparatus and product must be seized, and the man taken into custody, and the daughters left to comfort themselves, and explain the matter to the world in the best way they could. They dreaded the loss of money far more than the loss of character, which could hardly be great in a country where the population professes (judging by the duty) to use no more than 6½lbs. a head per annum; while it is well known that half a pound a week each is the lowest quantity actually consumed. In a country where three-quarters of the soap used is not duty-paid, there can be no very deep or extensive horror of the sin of illicit manufacture. It is far more likely that the ignorant poor should be thankful to him who, in their inability to make soap at home, enabled them to buy for 1½d. what the law would prevent their having for less than 6d. Even some rich might be found who would pronounce it a monstrous thing that, while the cost of making soap is only 12s. per cwt., the duty should be 28s., and the expense of excise interference 16s. more; but the rich are not concerned like the poor in this matter. Not only is cleanliness,—and so far health,—less difficult, less a matter of question to them, but they pay a much smaller proportion of the duty than the poor. The duty amounts to two-thirds of the price of the soap which the poor man buys, while it forms only an inconsiderable portion of the cost of the refined and scented soaps of the luxurious. While these things are so, who can wonder at the reliance of the illicit trader on the support and good will of society, and his expectation of being blamed for nothing worse than imprudence in carrying on his work in a place liable to detection?
When the daughters had watched their father down the street, after helping to cleanse him from the tokens of his late toil, and had gone crying up to bed, knowing that a guard was left on their premises, Durell and the constable proceeded on another errand, much more painful.
Durell had received a hint from his superiors that all was not right on the premises of the glass-bottle maker, with whom Aaron was becoming connected. It was his belief that Studley had been the informer, both from the date of the occurrence, and from Studley’s knowledge of the concern. Whether it was his design to implicate Aaron, could not be known yet; but, if he really believed Le Brocq to be a rich, close, old fellow, it seemed very probable that he might adopt this means of squeezing a little money out of him; or, possibly, he might nourish revenge against more than one of the family because Le Brocq had refused to be his security for the office for which he was still waiting in uncertainty. However these things might be, Studley was with the men who stealthily let themselves in at a side door, during the twilight, and hid themselves behind some planks which happened to be set on end against the wall. He was with them when they skulked about, after the workmen were gone, peeping into the closets where the stock was placed, and whispering as often as they met with anything which could possibly be construed into a token of fraud. He was the one who called them hastily back to their hiding-place when steps were at length heard approaching. He watched and followed the proprietor when he hastily passed through, with a flaring candle in his hand, as if about to light himself to some dark place. It was Studley who beckoned the men to pursue, and burst into the portion of the premises which had been so contrived as hitherto to elude the notice of the excise. There they found the proprietors, Aaron, and a trusty servant of the establishment, all at work about a small furnace.
Studley stood afar off, and was left to his own reflections, when the door was shut. Durell and Simpson presently afterwards arrived.
“Has this apartment been duly entered?” inquired Durell of the offenders. Nobody answered.
“Has this furnace paid duty?”—No answer.
At length, the elder partner began to explain.
“The fact is, we think we have devised an improvement in our manufacture; and nobody knows better than you, Mr. Durell, that it is impossible to keep any secret to ourselves in our business, while the same excisemen who watch us, see half a dozen other establishments of the same kind in a day. There is really no possibility of improvement but in doing what is constantly done,—working a little in private before we make known our discoveries to the excise.”
“The expense, too, of wasting material, which must pay duty whether we obtain the desired product or not, is an insurmountable obstacle to improvement,” observed the other partner. “You will not deal harshly with us, sir. If you do, we shall suffer for the patriotic attempt to advance our manufacture.”
“I am certain,” declared the first, “that government will gain more by allowing us to complete our experiment, than by fining us to our last shilling.”
With all this Durell had nothing to do. His office was plain. His accustomed duty lay before him,—seizure of the goods and custody of the offenders. He was grieved that his friend Aaron could not escape, though he was not one of the partners. Studley was again at hand to insist that Aaron was liable to fine or imprisonment for being found working on an exciseable product in unentered premises. The informer (for so he was) was very unwilling that Aaron should be permitted to return to his home for the night. He hoped to have seen him marched through the streets to some place of confinement. But Aaron’s peril was not such as could induce him to abscond; and he was dropped at his father’s door, after having given his promise to appear when summoned before the court.
Studley need not have grudged him his home. There was little comfort in it. Before he had well finished his tale, the next morning, and before his father had well begun the series of reproaches which must be expected to follow, a messenger from the Court appeared, summoning, not only Aaron, but Le Brocq, to answer for drawing his kiln without notice, and Anna for an illicit adulteration of tea.
Le Brocq replied only by flinging the summonses under the grate, and by a deep curse upon Durell. Anna, who had sunk into a chair, exclaimed,
“O, father, why is he to blame? How has he wronged us?”
“Never tell me that this is not all his doing;—or, at any rate, that he might not have prevented it all, if he had pleased. What is his office for,—what is his power worth,—if his best friends and his countrymen,—strangers that he ought to protect,—are to be persecuted in this manner?”
“I will answer for it, he is more sorry for us than we are for ourselves: but he must do his duty, father.”
“I should like to know what way of doing one’s duty would please my father,” observed Aaron. “Whatever may happen is sure to be somebody’s fault.”
“Whose fault was it, pray, that my kiln was drawn without notice?”
“O, father! Aaron! all this cannot be helped now. Do not let us quarrel now. We must think what must be done.”
“We must go to prison,—that is clear,—unless my father can pay the fines,” said Aaron.
“If anybody goes to prison, it must be you, Aaron. My first duty is to your mother, and my next to your sister, who has never been a disobedient child to me.”
“Pray, father, don’t,” cried Anna. “Perhaps we may none of us have to go to prison.” Her voice faltered at the last dreadful word.
“It is my belief that I can never pay the fines,” replied Le Brocq: “and if they throw me into jail, I shall find some means of telling the king that they give him bad advice who encourage him to use such means as his of getting his taxes. I would willingly have paid him three times as much as he has yet got from me for leave to follow my business in peace. There is that fellow Durell skulking about before the window now!—to see how we take our troubles, I suppose.—Anna, come back! I won’t have you speak to him. I forbid everybody belonging to me to speak to him.”
“Your own countryman, father!”
“What does it matter to me whether he was born in Jersey, or any where else? He is an exciseman, and that is enough. How in the world to tell your mother of all this!”
“Perhaps we shall not be hardly used, when they find that we are strangers, coming from a place where nothing is known of the excise,” said Anna, trying to command her voice. “Perhaps the king will be merciful when he hears all we have to say; and I still think Mr. Durell is our friend. Perhaps we may not all have to go to prison together; and, at any rate, I suppose we shall soon know the worst.”
end of the first part.
CHARLES FOX, 67, PATERNOSTER-ROW.
Printed by William Clowes,
CHARLES FOX, 67, PATERNOSTER-ROW.
For some of the materials of this and the preceding No., I am indebted to Mr. Inglis’s very interesting volumes on the Channel Islands.
The next No. will conclude my work.