Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter VI.: LESSONS IN LOYALTY. - 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 VI.: LESSONS IN LOYALTY. - 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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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.