Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter IV.: THE PHENOMENON AGAIN. - Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside)
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Chapter IV.: THE PHENOMENON AGAIN. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside) 
Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside) (London: Charles Fox, 1834).
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THE 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.