Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE JERSEYMEN PARTING. - Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside)
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THE JERSEYMEN PARTING. - 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 JERSEYMEN PARTING.
A BUSY MAN AT LEISURE.
There are but too many people in London who look upon a prison very much as they look upon any other building: but of such people few are from Jersey, or from any place where, as in Jersey, the inhabitants are prosperous, and the temptations to crime are therefore few. The family of Le Brocq had not been accustomed to see a sentence of death lightly received as implying nothing worse than a gratuitous removal to a country where, whatever other hardships there may be, there is no difficulty in procuring food and spirits. They had not been accustomed to the language of penal justice in England, where “transportation” may mean nothing more than removal to Woolwich, to sleep in a stationary vessel at night, and rest upon a broom in the dock-yard during the day, in the intervals of being watched. They had not been accustomed to see convicts adjusting their leg chain in the presence of strangers, as if it had been a boot or a gaiter; nor to hear the merriment of the disgraced; nor to witness calculations as to the economy of living in a prison for a while. To have seen an offender after conviction was to them a rare circumstance; and when such a chance had befallen, there had been a conflict of feeling between their extreme curiosity to see any one in circumstances so peculiar and interesting, and their fear of insulting the fallen.
Durell, though a Jerseyman, had lost some of this feeling through the familiarity with jails which was induced by his office. The idea of depriving a man of his natural liberty, of using force upon him in any way, was as repugnant to him as it will be to everybody a few ages hence; but, the outrage being an actual fact, the attendant circumstances had lost some of their power. If it had not been so, he would not have pronounced that Aaron might go home for the night of his arrest, as his peril was not such as could induce him to abscond. He was wrong. Aaron’s peril for working on unentered premises was of being taken before two magistrates, and sentenced to three months’ hard labour in prison. Whether three months, or three years, or three hours of hard labour, it would have been much the same to Aaron, if within the walls of a prison. Before daylight he was on the cold, foggy Thames, hastening he knew not well whither, and cared little, so long as he was out of reach of the arm of the law.
His father did not abscond, because he had a wife and daughter; but never was any man more perplexed how to choose between two dreadful evils than Le Brocq. Equal to a Jerseyman’s horror of a prison is his repugnance to pay money. Having at home but little money and an abundance of all that he really wants, he will make any shifts with his materials rather than buy. He will first impoverish his live stock rather than go to market to purchase proper food for them; and then, his live stock failing, he will impoverish his land rather than pay for manure. Thus, Le Brocq’s grand inducement to come to England having been the supposed exemption from paying taxes in money, he could not endure the idea of laying down a heavy sum as a fine, while any alternative remained. He persuaded himself, and declared to the court, that he could not raise the money; and went to prison. This was against Durell’s judgment, and in the firm persuasion that Aaron would appear in a day or two, to conduct the business and take care of the women. It seemed to him so utterly ridiculous to consider Aaron’s accident of working on unentered premises as a punishable offence, that there could be no danger of the young man’s being inquired after when he had been found “not at home” for twenty-four hours.
He also was wrong. Anna was alone when she drew near the prison to visit her father, after a few days’ confinement. She had never been out on so painful an errand. She walked past, two or three times, in hopes that the disagreeable-looking people about the gate would have gone away and left a clear path for her: but they stood a long while, leaning against the wall with folded arms, some chatting and laughing, and others abusing the powers within for keeping them waiting. Before they had disappeared, more came; and Anna saw that the time during which she might obtain admittance would pass away if she waited to go in alone. Nobody seemed to mind her, after all, and the turnkey was civil enough; so civil, that she found courage, after a moment’s struggle, to do what she considered justice to her father, and assure the turnkey, as he showed her the way, that it was for no crime that her father was there, but only for a mistake about a tax. The man seemed to think this no business of his; and indeed there was nothing in his manner to any of his charge to indicate that such a distinction signified at all.
It was a great disappointment to Anna to find that she could not see her father alone. Two persons were in the same apartment with him,—a dingy, close room, where it must be extremely irksome for three people to pass the day without employment. Anna saw at a glance how irksome it really was. Nothing but the extreme of ennui could have placed her father in the position in which she found him,—trying to play at cards with his companions. Such cards! such companions! and he, ignorant as he was known by Anna to be of modern card-playing! He had borne his part in a single ancient game of cards (though he preferred dominoes) on the gay nights of Christmas or New Year in his Jersey home, when the punch-bowl was steaming and cakes were heaped on the hospitable board round which he had gathered his family and neighbours; but his game and his card-playing notions were little suited to his present place and companionship. It was a dismal amusement here, in this cheerless room, with sordid accompaniments of every kind, and two of the players impatient at the incompetency of the third. Their voices were none of the most harmonious when first heard on the opening of the door; and when it appeared that Anna came to interrupt, Le Brocq’s partner threw down his cards in a pet. Le Brocq cast away his, exclaiming—
“My dear, what are you here for?”
“Only to see you, father. But I am in the way, I’m afraid,”—looking at the peevish man opposite.
“Never mind him,” replied her father. “We have time enough and too much for that sort of thing. Why did not you send Aaron, instead of coming yourself into such a place? You know I do not like—”
“I knew you would be vexed with me for coming; but my mother was so unhappy about nobody seeing you. When Aaron comes home—But, father, we have not seen him yet.”
“Not yet! Do you mean that he has never come back at all?”
“Nor written? What can the lad mean? Whenever he does come back, he shall learn—I will teach him what he may expect by playing such pranks.”
He saw by Anna’s downcast eyes that she thought such threats, if they could be overheard, were not the most likely means of bringing her brother back again. They put her too much in mind of the scolding mother’s address to her offending child, which she had overheard in the street,—“Come here, you little wretch, and let me flay you alive.” Le Brocq added more gently.
“You are not afraid of any harm having happened? Have you asked anybody?”
“Mr. Durell says—”
“Durell! That you should go and disgrace our family before that man, of all people! What has Durell to do with us, beyond getting us into mischief?”
“My mother asked him, because we thought he knew most about what people do when they get into trouble with the Excise.”
“Not he. He thought I should pay the fine rather than come here. That shows how much he knows. But what does he say?”
“He does not think Aaron will come back,” said Anna, with a faltering voice.
“He has enticed him away somewhere, then. What should make the lad stay away?”
“When they run away, they get disgusted with the law, Mr. Durell says, and set themselves against it. Too many, he says, turn to secret distilling, or to braving the law in some other way. And that is what we fear for Aaron.”
“Nonsense: he is safe enough with Malet by this time, I have no doubt. He has been rope-making there this fortnight, depend upon it.”
“He was not there four days ago, as we learn by a letter from Louise this morning. We were so glad to see the letter! But there is nothing about Aaron, except their supposing that he must be managing the business while—”
“I don’t think I need read the letter,” observed Le Brocq, pushing it away from him. He was afraid of the pain of seeing what his daughter might say about his being in prison. “Your mother is happy for to-day, I suppose, now she has heard from Louise?”
“Not very,” answered Anna, with a tear or two. “Father, she is always crying out for Louise to come. She seems as if she thought everything would be right if Louise was here. But I am sure I dare not think of it. It is something to think that one of us is safe; and why should Louise be more safe than anybody else, if she came? There are other snares yet, Mr. Durell says; and where no stranger can do anything hardly without falling into a snare, is not it much better that Louise should stay away? Is not it, father?”
“To be sure. It was mistake enough for us to come.”
“Then, you will let us go away again? May I tell Louise so?”
“O, yes. Tell her that, as soon as you hear of my being buried, you shall see if you can raise money enough to get back to Jersey; and that I charge her—”
“Yes. I am very ill, and it is my belief that I shall die here. So your mother is very unhappy?”
“Yes: but you don’t mean that you are really going to die? I am sure something might be done to persuade the king to take some of your stone-ware, if you have not the money. I am sure they would let you out in that way. And my mother is so miserable! Every footstep that I am apt to take for Aaron’s, she thinks must somehow be Louise; and then she thinks of how proud it would make her to see Louise’s husband setting all right, and—”
“Poor child! She taunts you with having no lover here! No wonder you look for Aaron back! She finds fault with you again for sending away poor François, who would indeed have been a great help to us now. But no wonder you look for Aaron back!”
“It was such a disappointment last night, father! There was a soft tap at the door, just before we went to bed; and we never doubted its being Aaron. I told him through the key-hole that I would open the door in a minute; and when I did, it was Mr. Studley. And now he will have it, from what I said, that Aaron is with us sometimes; and he would stay—”
“Your mother would not let him in, to be sure? She would not let the rascal in?”
“She could not lawfully prevent his coming in; but she would not allow him to stay there. I never saw such a spirit in her before. But we heard him outside for three hours after. If I could have persuaded my mother to go into the back room, so that he could not have heard her cry, I should not have minded it so much.”
“What! has the fellow overheard our lamentation? I thought your mother had—That should never have happened if I had been at home.”
“Then I wish you would come home, father. Never mind the loss. Never mind the ruin, if it must be ruin.”
Le Brocq answered doggedly, as he had always done before, that he had not the money. If any body had told him, when he took the business, that, independently of his scrape with the Excise Court, he should now be without money, he would not have believed it, after all that had been held out to him about the quantity of money he should make. It was not from spending. He had pinched and toiled more than he had ever done in Jersey; and all to plunge himself deeper. If he had been out of business, dressing his wife in velvet, and feasting on foreign fruits and claret, he would have paid less to the state than he had done as an employer of workmen, denying himself and his family, meantime, anything beyond the commonest comforts of life. It was the paying several times over that was enough to ruin any man. The workmen could not pay the taxes upon everything that they ate, and drank, and wore. Their wages were raised in proportion; so that their masters paid. No man should judge of his fortune by his returns till he knew what he had to pay in wages. O, yes; he charged these wages in the price of his bottles, so that the bottle consumers paid in their turn: but he, as a consumer of other things, paid in his turn, in like manner; till, among so many outgoings, he had no money left. And all for what? To contribute his share towards the expenses of government, which he might have paid, if he had been properly asked, at half the cost, and a hundredth part of the pain and trouble!
“But you did not like that way of paying when you were in Jersey, father.”
“Because I was told there was a better, and was fool enough to believe it. It is the most shameful hoax, the making me pay as I have paid since I came here! You need not look so frightened, as if I was talking treason,” he continued, seeing that Anna was uneasy at his being overheard complaining of being hoaxed in state matters. “I am saying no harm of the king; for he loses more than I. If I am hoaxed, he is double-hoaxed, as I could easily prove.”
“Could you? Then perhaps,” said Anna, timidly, “perhaps, if you told him so—”
“Ay; I could set the case plainly enough before him, if I could see him; but there’s the difficulty.”
“I will ask Mr. Durell, and he will ask the Board, I dare say,” exclaimed Anna. “We could say that you would not detain his majesty very long,—not more than half an hour, perhaps.”
“Not so much; but I am afraid that would not do. If you consider how many hundreds of people are in prison, or otherwise ruined by the Excise, it seems hardly likely that the king should give half-an-hour to each.”
One of the inmates of the apartment, who was keeping himself awake with playing Patience with the dirty cards, while the other dozed, here put in his word.
“If his majesty gave his time to every body that is injured by the Excise, there would be no time left for any other business; and you are simple people if you do not know that.”
“There is another thing,” observed Le Brocq. “If the king was on our side, there are his ministers to convince. Now, it seems to me that his majesty might not exactly carry in his head all I might say, to repeat to them; and it would be as well that he should have it in black and white.”
“O, a letter to him!” cried Anna, brightening. “Let me write down to your speaking, father; now, while I am here; and I can put it into the post-office as I go home. They say letters are most sure to reach people when they go through the post-office.”
Anna laid aside her bonnet, put her hair back from her face, and looked round for something wherewith to dust the shabby, rickety table. The card-player picked the pocket of the sleeper of his handkerchief, and handed it to Anna, who used it without scruple, rather than that the king should have to open a dirty letter. But where was the paper? If she went out to buy a sheet, perhaps they would not let her come in again; and her father had none. The card-player again offered to be their resource. He proposed to let them have a sheet of paper, and the use of his ink, pen, and penknife for a shilling.
“Money again!” exclaimed Le Brocq. “The English go on ruining one another, even in jail, with asking for money, money, for ever. I shall pay away no more money, I assure you, sir.”
“Well, then, money’s worth will do as well. That young lady has brought something for you in her basket, I believe?”
“I have, sir. I have brought something for my father, as you say; and for no one else. When we lived in Jersey, it was a pleasure to make and bake for those that wanted it, and to give it even before they asked for it. But what I have brought is for my father’s eating, and not to pay away for a sheet of paper, when it happens to be his need to write a letter. Father, I like this place less and less for you. I did not think there had been a place, even a prison, where people who sit at the same table would so take advantage of one another’s wants.”
“Even a prison!” said the man, smiling; “why, ma’am, I hope you don’t think the worst people are found in prisons? Let me tell you that those whom you would call the worst have the sense to keep out of prison. If you had lived in London as long as I have, you would see how a prison has lost its bad name; as it ought to do, if it is to be judged by the people it holds.”
“I should be afraid it would give a bad name to the people it holds, instead of getting a good one to itself,” observed Anna, sighing.
“No, no. You Jersey people know nothing about our English prisons. In your island, a man must be a really bad man, or have done some one very bad deed, to get himself shut up. But here, what do you see? Almost all the prisoners are in for debt, or for crimes against property, or for revenue offences. The first and last are not reckoned crimes in a country where it is so difficult to a great number to keep clear of money entanglements and of tax-gatherers; and under the other head come those who would not have done worse than their neighbours, but for such want as you do not see in Jersey. In our prisons, you meet more of the poor and the ignorant than of the guilty; and, this being seen, prisons are losing their bad name, as I said, among the people. You will hardly speak ill of them, from this time forward, your father having been in one, and hundreds more as good as he.”
Anna saw that there must be something very wrong about all this. It perplexed all her notions about guilt and punishment. She had till now looked upon her father as an injured man, and regarded him as an innocent person, detained by mistake in a horrible place, and among vile companions; and now to be told that the only mistake was in her notion of a prison, and that her father was no more than an ordinary inmate, dismayed her so that she desired to hear no more. She spread out Louise’s letter, and proposed to write on it in pencil what her father had to say to the king; and to copy it out fair at home. The card-player found it to no purpose to reduce his terms. His first overcharge had deprived him of a customer for his dingy paper and dusty ink. The letter was as follows:—
“I, John Le Brocq, have something to say to your majesty which may prove of equal consequence to us both, and to many more. I am sure your majesty cannot be aware how much harm is done by the way in which your majesty’s taxes are collected. I really think that if any one had set himself to work to devise a way for taking as much as possible from us people, and giving as little as possible of it to you the king, and hindering manufactures and trade at the same time, he could not have hit upon a cleverer scheme than that of the excise system of taxation. As for myself, I have only to say, that I would rather have paid twice over as much as your majesty has received of my money, than have been deluded and cheated as I have been; of which, however, I beg to add, I believe your majesty entirely innocent. The fault is in the system, sir; and I believe you did not make it. But here I am in prison. My son is gone away, we do not know where; and my daughter is under prosecution, having (as I will say, though she holds the pen) never had an evil thought of your majesty in her life. All this is from our having fallen into mistakes about taxes which I am sure we never made any difficulty about paying. Not having been told what a large capital I should require for advancing the tax on the stone-bottles I make, and for paying the high wages my men must have to buy taxed articles, I should have found it difficult to get on, even if I had not been fined for breaking laws which I defy any man to learn in a day; and which, I must say, do not tell much to the credit of those who made them. And how much of this goes into your majesty’s pocket, after all? for that is the chief point. I, for one, know of a crowd of fellows that have to be paid out of the money in question for spying and meddling about our premises in a way that hinders our work terribly. One in ten or twenty,—ay, one in fifty of these men would be enough to collect what we should have to contribute, if we each knew our own share, and might pay and have done with it. And these men are not all that profit by the plan. It affords a good excuse for making people give higher prices than the tax of itself would oblige them to give. Your majesty may have heard what the tavern-keepers did when a tax equal to twopence a bottle was laid on port wine? They clapped on sixpence a bottle directly; something in the same way that we put a higher price on our stone pots, which are not taxed, to make them more nearly equal with the bottles which are taxed. This saves us in part from the spite of the glass-bottle makers, who, I fancy, were the parties that got our article taxed; but it has the effect of stinting the use of them. Your glass-bottle duty brings you in a very little more than 100,000l., and that on stone-bottles little more than 3000l. a-year; while, if there were no such duties, there would be so much traffic in foreign mineral waters, and other liquids that people cannot get on account of the duty, as would much improve the affairs of the shipping, and the wealth of your majesty’s subjects, who would then easily make you welcome to more than the sums named above, if you could not do without them. Then the army of excisemen (who can hardly be a sort of persons much to your majesty’s taste) might be employed in helping instead of hindering others’ business. Then again, please to think of the injury to thousands of men from trade being cramped and put out of its natural order. To make soap and glass and my particular article, there is much coal wanted; and for paper-making, iron machinery; and for all, houses, and furnaces or coppers. Now, if the trade in each were not cramped by the dearness of the article, there would be more work for the woodcutter and the carpenter, for the miner and coal hewer, for the brickmaker and the shipmaster, and a great number more. O, your majesty may depend upon it, however much may be said about the riches and glory of this kingdom, it might be richer and more glorious, and far happier, if your people were allowed to pay to the state in a less wasteful and pernicious way; while you would find your advantage in it before the year was over. If you should please to consult your ministers about this, and to order them to let me out, I think I could engage to show them the difference, as far as my own share is concerned: though the experiment is by no means a fair one when tried on only one article. If your majesty thinks of travelling, perhaps you may manage to take Jersey in your way; and there I think you will own that the advantage of steady natural prices and a free trade are very evident in the comfortable condition of the people.”
“Had not we better stop here?” asked Anna. “I am afraid if we make it longer he will not read it.”
Le Brocq was sorry to leave off just when he was about to describe his own country; but he acknowledged the propriety of doing so. Anna just slipped in a postscript of her own.
“Perhaps your majesty will consider the mischief of a man like my father being shut up and treated like a criminal, in such a place as a prison, where he can only play cards to pass the day, (and that with disagreeable people,) instead of being industrious in his family, as he would wish. Perhaps this may lead you to take pity on my mother, who, for all her Bible can say, is worn down with grief; and on my brother, who is a wanderer from fear of a prison; and on me, who am in the like danger. Next to Him who bindeth and looseth, your majesty is our only hope,—not only for present pardon, but for altering the laws, that we may not fall into the like trouble again.—Your obedient servant,
“Anna Le Brocq.”
“How much of that letter do you fancy the king will ever read, if he gets it?” asked the card-player, smiling.
“It is hardly long enough to tire him much, if it is nicely copied; and ours is very good ink,” replied Anna.
“But I mean, do you think he will find it worth attending to?”
“They say he used to write frequent letters to his father and mother when he was young; and so he must know that when people write a letter, they like to have it attended to.”
“Then, if I write to you, ma’am, I shall expect an answer.”
“You can have nothing to say to me which you cannot say now to my face—an opportunity which we have not with the king,” replied Anna, quietly. She then turned to her father, and offered to bring him dominoes, which she thought he would like better than those cards. She also hoped she could borrow a book or two from the Durells. Permission was given to try; but she was warned that her request might be refused if it was really Durell’s doing that the family were persecuted and distressed. She knew that this was so far from being the case, that Durell himself was under extreme vexation from an imputation of Studley’s, that he had allowed himself to be bribed in his office by the Le Brocqs; but there was no hope of persuading her father yet that Durell was not an enemy. She succeeded better in another direction. She got leave to consult with her mother, and see whether the fine could not be raised. Le Brocq really looked and felt very unwell; and the unlimited prospect of confinement, dust, disagreeable companionship and dominoes, was far from cheering.
The sun now shot its level rays upon an opposite roof which glittered back into the apartment.
“This is just the weather and the time for seeing Coutances Cathedral,” observed the prisoner, as Anna was about to leave the room. She also was just thinking of Jersey, its wide views and pure atmosphere; but she had said nothing to tantalize him who was confined in a space of twenty square feet.
“You may leave me Louise’s letter, after all,” said he, forgetting what was written on the back. He was chafed at the circumstance, but would not read the epistle before witnesses. He would wait till Anna’s next visit; but, as soon as she was gone, he gave away the supper she had brought him, and rejected all amusement in his pining for news of his blossoming orchard, and of the fruitful pastures of his native island. While he settled within himself that Anna was an unexceptionable daughter, his mind’s eye was occupied with Louise, hailing her graceful kine, or pacing on her pack-horse through the deepest of the lanes. When he looked round him, he wished that it was dark, that he might fancy himself there.
KNITTING AND UNRAVELLING.
The pottery business was not brought quite to a stand in consequence of the master’s absence. The women could not undertake to carry it on as usual; and there was not money enough coming in to pay the people’s wages: but Anna was on the spot to read the letters that came; it was thought a pity that the horse should either be sold or stand idle; and, what was more, the boy Brennan seemed to have gained ten years in spirit and wisdom since he had been taken notice of by Durell. One of the workmen, who had been on the premises a good many years, and who cordially disliked Studley, was willing to do his best to keep the concern going, either till Aaron should appear or Le Brocq be released. The little fellow at the lathe remained, and one furnace was employed, just to execute the most pressing orders, and preserve something of the credit and custom of the establishment. Nothing more than executing orders was attempted; for it was very undesirable to add to the stock. Anna’s wish was to dispose of enough of this stock to pay her father’s fine and the law expenses, which together made no small sum: but, whether from a suspicion respecting the fair dealing of the family, arising from Le Brocq’s imprisonment, or from the absence of all the parties who could push the business, no sales could be effected. Durell put her in the way of advertising in the newspapers; from which nothing accrued but the expense of the advertisements. Brennan exerted all his ingenuity to embellish his handywork; but his endeavours brought no new customers. He was chidden by the man under whom he worked for his fancies about new patterns. He was grumbled at by his comrade at the lathe for keeping him after working hours, to finish some fresh device. He was gravely questioned by his mother about spending a portion of his hard earnings in buying some new runners which formed a remarkably pretty ring-pattern for his jars; and, after all, nobody bought a jar or a flask the more. Hour after hour, Anna sat amidst her stock, growing nervous over her work in listening for footsteps. Day after day, she came in to dinner, without any news for her mother, and almost afraid to meet her inquiring eye. The stock was offered at a low price. If she could have sold the duty-paid part of it, her father would have been injured by being compelled to sacrifice his interest upon the advance of duty he had made for his customers. As it would not sell, he was more injured still. He could not get back the principal of this advance. It seemed as if Le Brocq could not escape in any way from being injured by this excise system. So it was; and so it is with all who in this country buy any thing, or make any thing, or live in any less primitive manner than Robinson Crusoe or Little Jack.
There was another reason for Anna being nervous over her work, besides listening in vain for customers. The affair of the tea had never come to an end. From the quantity of business before the court, and from other circumstances, it had been postponed; and one or two of Anna’s friends had tried to persuade her that she would hear no more of it. But she was too anxious to be easily comforted. She knew Studley too well to believe that he would stop short of injuring the family to the utmost. She found that she was legally guilty; and she suffered little less than if she had been morally guilty. Day and night was the idea of approaching exposure and punishment before her. There were but few people,—not half-a-dozen of her nearest neighbours,—who would believe in her utter ignorance of the excise laws; and her character for fair dealing would be gone. If Aaron had not run away, she almost thought she should. She could now fancy how people might be driven to destroy themselves. The old feeling which had embittered her childish disgraces now came back upon her,—that if she could but get out of this one scrape, she would go somewhere where she could never get into another. If she forgot her apprehensions for an hour in her concern for her parents’ troubles, they came back to plunge her into redoubled misery. It may be doubted whether many criminals suffer so much in the prospect of their trial and punishment as did this innocent girl from the consequences of a factitious transgression. They who prepare the apparatus for such transgression can little know what demoralization and misery they are causing, or they would throw up their task.
She knew Studley best. She was the least surprised, though infinitely the most dismayed, when the crisis came at last. She heard her mother’s heavy tread in the shed below, and could trace her progress to the foot of the stairs by the jingling among the wares.
“Anna! Anna, child!” exclaimed the old lady, out of breath with her exertions. “Here is Mr. Studley! you must come down; he won’t leave his business with me.” After an interval, “Anna, child, do you hear?”
“Then, are you coming?”
“Well, make haste.”
Studley was there in his capacity of messenger. His errand was not, to his taste, so good as if he had come with a levy warrant, or a body warrant;—a summons was but a poor infliction; but, such as it was, he enjoyed it.
“When must I go, sir?”
“To-morrow, at eleven. You must be at the court by eleven precisely, remember.”
“And may I take any body with me, sir?”
“Do you mean as counsel, or merely as a support to your spirits?”
“I have nothing to defend, sir. I have no other excuse than my not knowing the law; and I can as well say that myself as get anybody to say it for me. I only mean that I should not like to be quite alone, if the law allows me to take any friend with me.”
“O, if you can persuade any body to appear with you, I have no idea that the court will make any objection.”
“Will you please to stop a moment, sir? Is it the same court that my brother was to have appeared in, or some other?”
“Bless me, what an idea! You do not take me for a servant of the police magistrates, I suppose? It was before two police magistrates that your brother was to have gone; and I summon you before the Excise Court of Summary Jurisdiction. There is all the difference in the world.”
It might be so; but to Anna’s ringing ears and bewildered comprehension they were much alike. Studley applied himself to explain. The police magistrates were, according to him, far less awful personages, inasmuch as they tried all sorts of people for all sorts of offences; while the Commissioners deputed from the Excise Board to sit as judges in the Court of Summary Jurisdiction concerned themselves in nothing but excise offences or complaints. They had a vast deal of business to do, and sat twice a week for nine months in the year.
“Then I think,” observed Mrs. Le Brocq, “there must be more breaking of the excise laws than of any other kind of law.”
“There is a great deal of that sort of thing. Miss Le Brocq will find herself by no means solitary. The court settled eleven hundred cases last year, do you know?”
“Well, if I were the king,” said the mother, “I had rather go without some of my money than have eleven hundred of my subjects brought into one court in one year, for not paying me properly, through mistake or otherwise.”
When Anna could think, she remembered her former determination to ask Mrs. Durell to go with her before the court. She lost no time in proceeding to her house to make the request.
“Sit still, Stephen,” said she mournfully, when she saw that Stephen was trying to shift out of sight, as was his wont when any of her family were known to be near. “Sit still, and put away your meek look before me. You have nothing to fear from any of us, even if I held proof in this right hand that you had done what we thought you did. We are ruined now. We have no heart to defend ourselves, or to try to punish our enemies.”
“Pooh, pooh! this is all about the tea. They have been troubling you about the tea,” said good Mrs. Durell; “and so you can see nothing but what is dismal this afternoon.”
“Indeed, Mrs. Durell, it is too true,” replied Anna, struggling with her tears. “I just came to ask you to go with me to-morrow morning—to be at the court by eleven o’clock.”
“I have no objection in the world, my dear, but this. It might not be thought well for the surveyor’s wife to be with you, perhaps. It might give occasion for something being said. Is there no other friend who might do you more service?”
Anna had no other friend. She could not think of taking her mother into a place so strange to her, and to see such a sight.
“Such a sight! Why, what sort of sight? How my husband would laugh at you, if he were here! One would think you were going to be tried for some foul crime. You will be surprised to find what a simple, easy thing it is, after all you have been fancying. O, I will go with you, my dear, if you can’t find a better person.”
“I do not think we need mind your being a surveyor’s wife,” said Anna, “when we consider how the court is made up of people that are connected together. The people of this court accuse me; and the people of this court summon me, and bear witness against me; and the people of this court judge and punish me. I never heard of such a court before; and I cannot say I think it a just one.”
“There you are only of the same mind with everybody else, Anna. It is a kind of court which might better suit some slavish country than Great Britain. Without finding any fault with the gentlemen who sit in it, one may venture that much. The gentlemen understand their business very well, people say; and there is great convenience, in so complicated a system, in our having a place where excise matters may be settled speedily and cheaply, in comparison with what they might be under some other plan: but all this does not mend the principle of the court; through which the court might, if it chose, ruin half the traders in London. It is too great a privilege for any set of men to have,—that of meddling with thousands of traders in the heart of the empire, and taking the accusing and judging and punishing all into their own hands. There now! there’s a sigh! as if they were conspiring against you. If you will believe me, it will be over in a few minutes; and everybody will forget all about you the moment you have turned your back, and a new case is called on.”
“No; not Mr. Studley.”
“O, yes: Mr. Studley too; and, what is more, you yourself. You will have forgotten what took you there by the time you come away again. At least, I never went there without seeing or hearing something that took me out of myself for the whole day after.”
There was not much comfort in this; and Anna found she must wait till the next day to know fully what it meant. Mrs. Durell’s next piece of advice undid all the little good she had done by making light of the occasion. She thought the intended visit to the prison had better be deferred till to-morrow afternoon, or the day after; as Le Brocq would perhaps lose his night’s rest in thinking about what was to happen in the court. This proved to Anna that she was not the only one who saw something serious in the affair.
How should she dress? If she wore her best, it might be taken for defiance. If her everyday dress, (now shabby,) it might look like wishing to attract compassion. Mrs. Durell assured her that there would scarcely be time for any one to note her dress; but she did the kindest thing in inducing Anna to look altogether Jersey-like, so that her true account of herself and her error might be corroborated by her costume.
“Did not your mother say kindly that she would teach Stephen to knit?” said Mrs. Durell. “Ay, who should forget old quarrels, if not such good people as you? And think of the benefit to Stephen to have such a resource! to have something to employ his hands upon in rainy weather, when my Jack is gone to school! It would be a good time to begin this evening, I think, if you like to take him home with you. Stephen will be glad to do his part towards the forgiving and forgetting, I have no doubt.”
Anna saw at once what a happy thought this was. Her mother liked nothing so well as teaching people to knit; and if a blind person, so much the better;—it took twice as long. It would help off this heavy evening, and save Anna from the tête-à-tête with her mother which she dreaded nearly as much as what was to follow. Stephen seemed on the eye of a yawn at the proposal; but he knew his own interest too well not to seize this opportunity of placing himself on good terms with the Le Brocq family; and he consented to accompany Anna home.
He made himself particularly agreeable, and fancied that he might have been more so if they would but have invited him to sing: but he did not choose to offer it, remembering where he had once volunteered a similar service before. As he could not sing, he told some of his adventures, by bits and snatches, in the intervals of letting down stitches and waiting to have them taken up again. The reserve of the old lady melted away under the glow of conscious benevolence, while imparting her own favourite accomplishment to another; and Anna relented as she saw her mother cheered; and the faster in proportion as she became so herself.
“Nothing is so strange to me,” she said, after a pause, when the evening was far advanced, “(and I cannot help thinking that it is a thing too strange to last,) how people shut their minds up,—how much they hide from one another, when they are brought as close together as face to face in water.”
“Ay, mistress, there you have Scripture for its not being so for ever.”
“And other signs, too, besides that Scripture saying. But, for an instance of what I mean, Mr. Stephen, here are you sitting between my mother and me; and for want of a window in your breast, we know no more of what we want to know, and of what you could tell us in two minutes, than if you were at one end of the world and we at the other.”
“I thought of that,” replied Stephen, “when I saw John Baker standing to take his trial for murder, when he had been beside me, and both of us like brothers, for a month. There, thought I, stands the man, with the secret in him: and when he was questioning and cross-questioning one and another, it seemed a ridiculous beating about the bush, just for want of a window in his own breast, as you say. But I wonder what makes you think it will ever be otherwise. If men were all made alike, I grant you there would be a chance of all being known; for they are the fewest, I fancy, who can never be melted into telling everything. I am sure when an old comrade gets me beside him under a sunny hedge, or when Mr. Durell and I are over our spirit and water, there is nothing that in some moods I can keep to myself.”
Anna inwardly wished that it might be so when he was sitting between two knitters, sociably learning their art.
“But,” continued Stephen, “there are, and always will be, men whose taste is for secrecy. There will always be men who will no more make a clean or an open breast than they would pull their hearts out.”
“They will be read, like others, for all that,” Anna said. “The longer men live together, and the more their eyes are turned upon each other, the more they learn to gather from signs. See how much doctors learn from marks which signify nothing to us, and the deaf from countenances, and the blind from tones of voice, and then tell me whether, if we were as observant as all these together, we might not read more of a man’s mind than we now think of. And if we also study the make of the mind as some have learned to do, we may get to know of things unseen, something in the way of the wise men who can tell us, years before, when a comet is coming, —”
“Or of the common man who knew the exact spot where a lion was, miles off, before it could be either seen or heard.”
“How was that?” asked Mrs. Le Brocq, with some scepticism in her tone.
“He saw a large bird of prey in the air, so far off that it seemed but a speck. It hovered, which showed that there was a prey beneath; and it did not drop, which showed that something was beside the prey which prevented the bird from seizing it; and, from the nature of the country and of the bird, that something could be nothing but a lion; and a lion it was. It was by putting things together that the man knew this; and it is by putting things together that men will be known, if ever they are known.”
“I am sure it is much to be wished that they should be,” sighed Anna.
“Well, now, I don’t agree with you there. I think half the fun in life lies in men puzzling one another, and watching one another in their puzzle.”
“It has been the amusement of your life, we have some reason to think: but we have only too much cause to wish that hearts could be laid open to man as they are to God. The greatest support that we have in God is in being sure that he knows all; and if men could read us as thoroughly, and be sure that they read aright, there would be an end of our troubles. My father would be seen to have meant no mistake, and I to have never had such a thought as cheating the king; and we should know where Aaron is, and exactly why he went away. It seems to me that men make almost every sin and trouble they suffer under; and that it is done by making mysteries and laying snares for one another.”
Mrs. Le Brocq had hitherto looked rather less solemn than had been her wont since the afflictions of the family began: but now her tears were falling on her knitting needles, and Stephen overheard a little sob. He entreated her not to vex herself, and to hope that all was well with Aaron, and so forth. But this is not the kind of consolation which will satisfy any mother’s heart; and Mrs. Le Brocq said so.
“If you would comfort me,” said she, “you must tell me where he is. How should I believe that all is well with him when there is the sea where he may be drowned, and the workhouse where he may find his way as a beggar, and plenty of prisons where he may be shut up, and snares spread every where for him to fall into? I never hear of any evil happening but I think that he may be in it; and when I pray—”
“O, mother, hush! Don’t speak so, mother.”
“I say, child,—it may be a sin, but I can’t help it,—I have often lately in my prayers fixed a time when I will despair of God’s mercy if my boy does not come or send: and always as the time passes away, I do the same thing again; and cannot set my mind either to give him up, or to hope with any certainty to see him more. You are a good child to me, Anna; and all that you say about trusting is very right; and I dare say it comforts you, though I have overheard you crying in the night oftener than you know of. But for myself I say, if you wish to comfort me, tell me where Aaron is.”
“Well, then, I will tell you where he is,” cried Stephen, throwing away his handywork. “I don’t know what I may get for it; but I can no more help it than I could help telling anything to poor John Baker, when we sat under a hedge, as I said, and he kept all his own secrets while I was telling him all mine.”
Neither Anna nor her mother spoke a word. It had never occurred to them that Stephen could know more of their nearest concerns than they did themselves.
“I will tell you where he is,” continued Stephen, “and you may trust me for knowing; for it was I that helped him off, and put him in the way of a flourishing business. But you must promise me to tell nobody what I say. That is, I suppose you must tell Le Brocq, but not till he has engaged to let it go no farther.”
The promise was readily made, and then Stephen told that, so far from its being reasonable to expect Aaron when any one approached the house, Aaron was far off on the sea. He was plying in a smuggling vessel between one of the Channel islets and the south coast of England.
“Aaron a smuggler!”
“Yes; and with all his heart. He had very little reason to like the law, while he was within its bound; and was not at all sorry to get out of its bound. Would it not be just the same with your father, now, it he could get away? Has he any reason to like the law? and do you think even he, though he is an orderly man enough, would hold it any great crime for a persecuted man to go beyond its reach?”
“I call it coming within the reach of the law, not going beyond it,” said Anna, mournfully. “The way to get out of reach of its oppression is to go back to Jersey; and that is what I trust my father will do. O, why did not Aaron do that?”
“He was afraid of being laid hold of either by the law or by your father,—and Aaron has no taste for tyranny, either way. The open sea, with a lawless calling, is much more to his mind. While he was here, he had no more chance for freedom than a midge in a field of gossamer; and now, he is like a roving sea-bird, lighting on a rock to rest when he likes, and then away again over the waters.”
“You will not deceive us any more, Stephen, by your way of hiding ugly things with fine words. The plain truth, dress it up as you will, is, that Aaron is living by braving the law. You know that he cannot show himself fearlessly among men: you know that he comes abroad at night because his works will not bear the daylight. You must have taken advantage of him in his distress, or he could never have thought of such a step. But I think no distress that I could ever fall into would make me follow your bidding, seeing how you have already deceived us to our ruin. O, why did not Aaron go back to Jersey?”
“I wish, mistress, you would be a little less hard upon me. I did the best I could think of for your brother. When he came to Mr Durell’s to learn what was likely to befall him, I thought it only kind to tell him, as soon as Durell had turned his back, that there were means at hand for getting away, and leaving the tread-mill far behind him.”
“So far we are obliged to you, I am sure,” observed Mrs. Le Brocq. “I should not have liked to see my boy on the tread-wheel.”
“So I knew, and I asked no reward beyond what it cost him nothing to give. I went with him myself, and introduced him on board a boat that you may have chanced to see off Gorey in the season. It is all very well to go and get oysters; but there is another more profitable sort of business to be done in those seas,—and will be, as long as the Customs duties of this country remain as they are. So, Aaron was off with a fair wind and tide; and I suppose he may now be cooling himself in a sea-cave, without leave of the law, since the law took him off from broiling himself beside a glass furnace.”
“Does Mr. Durell know where he is?”
“He never asked me; and, depend upon it, he will never ask you.”
“And what was the reward you desired of Aaron that it cost him nothing to give?”
“Only just a promise that I should hear nothing more of certain caps and handkerchiefs that you lost, once upon a time. You will have a letter from Aaron, (when he can send it so that you shall not know whether it comes from east or west,) to ask you, for his sake, never to mention that matter more.”
“So you did take them! I do believe you are a smuggler yourself,” declared Anna. There was a tremor in her voice which showed Stephen that she was more or less alarmed at sitting next a smuggler and a thief.
“Don’t be thinking of shifting your chair, Miss Anna. My pranking days are past. A cursed bitter wind, one cold night, inflamed my eyes, and brought me to the pass of being scarcely able to tell bright moonlight from pitch darkness; and then I could be of little use on the sea. I tried what I could do for our company on land, by discharging an errand or two for them, one of which was at your farm. But the hue and cry you made after me through all the island spoiled my game; and there was nothing for it but giving up and coming here, that I might not hurt those I could not help. So my pranking days are over.”
“Then you are only half blind? Where is our linen? How did you get away?”
“I shall tell you, because you cannot recover the goods, in the first place: in the next, your credit is none of the best, just now, and would not overbalance my denial in any court; and lastly, I consider that I have paid off my debt in saving your brother. Come, come: no sighing over my plain-speaking, or I shall leave off speaking plain. I am full three quarters blind, and so only one quarter a knave. I can see the candle on the table; but I should not know you from your mother, except by the walk and the voice. I can see a field from an orchard, but I could not have found my way if your brother had not first guided me. As for your linen, I did not steal it to make money by. It is bleaching on certain rocks beside the sea, or worn by some of the sun-burnt damsels that Aaron knows by this time,—who can keep watch as well as any coast-guard, or broil a fish handily when there is notice that the boat is creeping home through the land-shadow. They wanted a supply of such things; and I promised to bring some readymade: but I went to the wrong place. In England, one may carry off a crammed washing basket, and nobody thinks it much of a wonder; but in Jersey, one might almost as well steal the island charter, to judge by the hue and cry that was made after me. I never saw such simple people.”
“That comes of not making crimes of things that are innocent in themselves,” said Anna, proud of her native island. “If it was treated as a crime to make soap or burn glass in one way rather than another, people would soon grow careless of so common a thing as crime, and make much less difficulty about breaking the law whenever it suited them. They are the most moral people who know of no crimes but those which God has called such, and who, while they pray ‘lead us not into temptation,’ take care to add none to the temptations that God thinks enough for their strength.”
“But how did you get away?” asked Mrs. Le Brocq. “I was awake a long while that morning, and I never heard you stir.”
“That was because I was gone, I suppose. Knowing that it would take me some time to get down to the shore, I only waited till you all seemed sound asleep. The finding the latch of the door was a long job, wishing as I did to make no noise. When it was done, I expected to have come back again, for I made a great stumble on the threshold.”
“I wish you had done it as you came in,” observed Mrs. Le Brocq. “It would have been a token to us to look more closely after you.”
“If you had dogs,” continued Stephen, “they were so obliging as to be very quiet. There was only one creature that made a great noise,—and that I had no objection to,—an owl in the ivy about your chimney. I could not for the life of me help standing to shriek like an owl, to keep it up. I have often thought since how I stayed leaning over the palings, hooting, when my proper business was to slink away. Well, when I had got down to the brook-side, it took me some time to gather the linen together.”
“We have often wondered how you managed to carry it all away.”
“It was a heavy load for some way; but I left the half of it on the ridge, when I was once clear of your place,—left it for my comrades to fetch when I had got down to the boat, and told them where to go for it. Luckily for me, you had been washing a large bag—”
“My wool-bag!” exclaimed the old lady, piteously.
“Your wool-bag, was it? I am glad it had wanted washing that time. I crammed it full of the smaller things, and the rest made a great bundle tied with a coil of Aaron’s cord which I found in his coat-pocket. You remember I had his clothes on?”
This was a fact not likely to be forgotten.
“I went down with the bag, and left the bundle just on the off-side of the ridge. The boat was dawdling within hail, all as it should be, though they had nearly given me up; for I had been so long groping about that it was nearly time for you early Jersey people to be up and out of doors. Two of our comrades went up for the bundle, and carried—I dare say you will not believe what I am going to say now?”
“Because in Jersey you are not up to the smuggling ways which are well enough understood everywhere on the south coast of England. We expected that you would do as the people do there;—if your horses were found tired in the morning, or any convenient thing taken away, look round to see what was left in exchange, or trust that something would come, and hold your tongues about the trespass. Supposing you understood all this, we sent up a choice cask of spirits and a package of tobacco, and some prettier things for you ladies than any we took away. These were to have been left for you on the ridge; but we soon saw it would not do.”
“We should never have guessed,” said Mrs. Le Brocq; “and indeed I do not well understand it now. But how do you mean that it would not do?”
“By the fluster you made, our people saw that it would not do,—that you would have us followed, if we left any sign of who we were, and what part of the coast we had been upon. It was easy to see that you were not the folks who could take a hint. There were your fowls fluttering, and men’s and women’s voices shouting, and Le Brocq thumping with his great stick, and one of the poor young ladies leaning her head against her cow to cry.”
“Did they see Louise do that?”
“Miss Louise, was it? Yes, they saw it; and very sorry they were when they found how the thing was taken; but it showed them that it was time to be off. So they crept round under the rocks till they could stand out among the boats from Gorey, being pretty sure that they would pass unquestioned through the Thames and Medway men, who know something of what must happen on the Channel waters while the Custom-house interferes between the French and English as it does. Now, Miss Anna, let me have the pleasure of hearing that you believe my story,—that you perceive that I am not a common thief, and that you will fulfil your brother’s wishes in sparing me all future allusion to my Jersey adventure.”
“I cannot help believing your story, Stephen; and I only wish the King and his Ministers could hear and believe it; and see how, through their way of taxing, a man that scorns being a common thief is proud of being an uncommon one. Yes, Stephen, you are a thief, and you have helped to make Aaron one. You were a thief towards us, and Aaron is one towards the Government, getting his living as he does by robbing the State of some of its dues. God pardon those that made dishonest men of you both! I had rather see Aaron on the tread-wheel for an offence of mere heedlessness than out on the free waters on a guilty errand. You have done him no real good, Stephen. Boast no more of it.”
“I swear that I have,” said Stephen, with his usual good humour; “and I can do more: I can make the good extend to you. I know you want to get rid of some of your stock; Durell told me so. I can put you in the way; but Durell need not know that. It is a pity that your bottles, and your pretty stone spirit-casks should stand piled upon one another here, of no use to anybody, while Aaron and his party are bringing over liquors—”
“Now have done, Mr. Stephen. One might think you were a tempting spirit, sent to try us. You would sink my mother and me next, I suppose?”
“Not sink, but raise you, my dear;—get your father out of gaol, your fine paid (for I suppose it will end in your being fined to-morrow)— Plague on it! here is Durell,—come for me, I suppose. Very kind of him to come himself! Always kind, I am sure: but if he had left me another half hour—Not a word before him, remember.”
“I was afraid you would find Stephen a bad scholar, Mrs. Le Brocq,” said Durell, taking up the knitting from its dangling position over the side of the table. “Offer to give Stephen a lesson in anything, and it always ends in his giving you a story instead.”
“That is what I have been doing to-night, indeed,” replied Stephen. “But you never saw two people more in need of a story than these ladies. They are as frightened about this little matter of to-morrow—”
“My wife sends her love to you, Miss Anna,” said Le Brocq, “and she has been thinking, ever since you saw her, about going with you to-morrow; and she has made up her mind that it will be against your interest, that she, a surveyor’s wife, should appear with you. She adds that if you still urge it—”
“By no means,” said Anna, quickly. “I can go alone. If it is God’s will that I should have no friends, I trust it is His will that I can do without them.”
“You will never be without friends while my wife and I live,” replied Durell, calmly; “but I was going to add, for my own share, that I could not think of any member of my family appearing in that court as the friend of any offender. We know perfectly well that you are as innocent of any intended offence against the Government as my boy Jack; but the offence is real in law. I owe duty to the Government, and it would disgrace me in my office, it would be a failure of duty to appear to countenance any transgression of the law which it is my business to enforce. One of the penalties of such an office as mine is to have to speak and act in this way to a friend,—to one whose offence is merely legal, not moral—but you see—”
“Well: you shall not go alone. Brennan’s mother is a very decent good woman; and she is so obliged to your family for your kindness to her boy, that she will go with you with all her heart.”
“Do not say ‘with all her heart.’ Say rather because you asked her,” said Anna, feeling the humiliation of owing this kind of obligation to a stranger.
“Nay. Hear from the boy himself, if you will, whether his mother is not pleased to be of use to you; and if there is anything, my dear, that we can do for you without compromising my duty, only send for me. If you want any more law knowledge, I may be able to help you, knowing how little is learned and wanted in Jersey; and if you should happen to fall into further trouble, you may look far and wide for a better comforter than my wife. Come, Stephen, are you ready?”
Anna’s heart sank as they closed the door behind them. She and her mother looked at one another without speaking. They had been beguiled for a time by Stephen’s strange stories; but, this being over, they now found that the best thing they could do was to go to bed.
A MATE FOR MOTHER HUBBARD.
Do criminals feel glad or sorry when they wake and find it broad morning, two hours before their execution? Are they thankful to have been beguiled with sound sleep, or had they rather have had broken slumbers, finding again and again that it is still dark, or only just dawning yet? To those who love their beds, and dread the coming of the hour of rising, and nothing worse, there is something pleasant in being thus repeatedly reminded that it is not time to get up; but how it may be when a worse evil impends has perhaps never been told. Anna’s experience (and she felt that her case was very like a going to execution) could not throw any light upon the matter; for she did not sleep at all.
Breakfast was as much out of the question as sleep. She did not pretend to take any, even to please her mother, for she had something to do which would occupy her whole time till Mrs. Brennan came for her. During the night it had occurred to her that there could be no harm in carrying with her a copy of her father’s letter to the King, lest that which she had put into the post-office should not have reached its destination. The employment was good for her. It prevented her being in quite so disagreeable a state of palpitation and thirst as she might have suffered if she had been quite at liberty for watching the clock. The Brennans came at last before they were expected.
“Your boy with you, Mrs. Brennan! Do you mean him to go too?”
“He is so very anxious, ma’am, to be of use to you; and it struck him that you might wish, in the middle of the business, to send for somebody, or to have some kind of messenger at hand.”
Anna shook her head. Whom could she send for at her utmost need?
“I wonder,” said Anna, when she had put on her shawl, and was casting her last fluttered look around her,—“I wonder whether I should take a pound or two of that tea with me. The gentlemen may require to see it.”
“I should be disposed, ma’am,” said Mrs. Brennan, “to leave it to the informers to show the article that they complain of. It is not your part, I should think, to be aiding their cause.”
Anna had opened the door of the cupboard where her packages of adulterated tea were ranged as neatly as every other article which the house contained. She now quickly closed it, and seeing that there was no further pretence for lingering, solemnly kissed her mother and departed.
As they walked, Mrs. Brennan showed herself to be a partisan of Anna’s. In this leaning towards the defendant she was only like other people. Where the King is prosecutor, not paying for his law, the popular inclination is usually against him; and especially when he sues for his moneyed rights. This indicates the policy of contracting instead of multiplying such proceedings to the utmost.
“I am afraid the judgment will go against you, ma’am,” said the good woman, “and it is the best kindness to tell you so beforehand. There is little hope for you against the King, especially when he makes other people pay his lawyers. A gentleman that I knew was fined 50l. and the costs came to 500l. In this court, however, there are often no costs, and the business is done pretty quickly and cheaply,—which does not, as I say, make it the less a pity that it should have to be done at all. You are lucky, too, ma’am, in not having to do with a jury, as juries were, on excise cases, some time ago. Ma’am, the jury used to have two guineas and a dinner when they found a verdict for the Crown, and only one guinea, and no dinner, when they found for the defendant. You may suppose the accused seldom got his cause.”
“And yet juries seem generally to be thought good things for the accused,” observed Anna.
“Some people consider it a great stretch of power to do without them in excise cases, ma’am; but, dear me, there would be no end of trials by jury, if all that are informed against were so tried. The court would have to be open all day from the first of January to the last of December, and a thousand people a year would be ruined for law expenses. Besides, they say that the quick judgments given by these gentlemen, on the information of their own servants, strike a wholesome terror into folks, without which the laws would not be observed.”
Anna could answer for the terror. Whether it was wholesome was another question.
How she reproached herself for her terrors about her own fate when she witnessed some of the cases presented this day in court! She could have been amused at some, from the apparent frivolity of the charges, if the consequences had not appeared more grave than the accusations: but there were others which could be viewed only with intense commiseration.
What had Dennis Crook done that he was called upon to pay 4l. 15s. 4½d.? Dennis Crook was a paper-stainer, and had neglected to pay the duty of 2l. 7s. 8¼d., and he was therefore called on for the double duty in order that the single might be recovered, with costs. Poor Dennis declared that he had told the collector that he would pay the duty, and the costs with it, the first day that some money which was due to him should come in. It was very cruel of the collector to bring him here, knowing that he had no wish to evade the duty, and that the bringing him here was enough to ruin his business. It had got abroad already, and he had lost two customers by it. God forbid that he should be so inconsiderate to the person who had brought him to this by not paying him to the day! Dennis could not pay the penalty till this person yielded him his due,—not a bit the more for being brought here; but that person should not be exposed by him as he was exposed in this court, to the destruction of his business. If he should never pay another shilling of duty to the king, the court might ascribe it to his difficulties being laid open in this way,—difficulties which might have been got over easily enough if the court had not stepped in between him and his customers.—The court did not see what it had to do with all this. The single duty, with a small increase for costs, was squeezed out of poor Dennis, who went away, pulling his hat over his eyes, and saying that this would be the signal for his landlord to turn him out of the little shop in which he had carried on his business for many years; and God only knew where he was to establish himself next.
What could have brought hither that respectable elderly woman, who looked as if she could never in her life have broken a law or a rule? She came to save her son from a prison, it it might be within her small means to do so. On his coming of age, she had given up to him the small tenement she possessed. She had better have kept it till her death. He had been seduced into a “speculation,” and had set up a private still. The still and all the spirits on the premises were seized, and the mother was now here to pay the penalty of 100l. which was just half of the little portion she had destined for her daughter. She knew that it was more likely that she should have to maintain John than that he would ever repay this 100l., for his character was gone. She cast down her eyes while she held out the money, with a trembling hand, and did not speak to John as they went away, though he looked as if he longed above everything for a word from her. Mrs. Brennan found that much explanation was necessary before Anna could believe that all this ruin was caused by the act of distilling spirits without the leave of the government.
A widow, in shabby mourning, with a babe in her arms, was quietly crying in a corner. She had sold her furniture by auction, and had neglected to get a license. She had better have kept her furniture; for the penalty swallowed up nearly all the proceeds of the sale. Anna thought this the most cruel levy of a tax she had ever heard of; for this poor woman would not have sold her furniture if she had not been in want. To be compelled to pay for permission to do what was in itself a hardship, was a stranger piece of oppression than Anna had witnessed yet,—much as she had seen. She followed the widow, to make sure of the facts, and found that the poor woman had been on the point of setting up a little shop, and sharing a cheap lodging with a brother: but now that her money was almost all gone, she could see nothing before her but selling fruit in the streets; but, in that case, she must look about for some one who would take care of her baby, while the other two little ones must tramp the streets with her. If she had but sold her furniture in any other way! But her brother advised an auction, and had taken upon himself to be auctioneer; and how could she suspect what would happen?
The wonder was how those to whom the public money came at last could enjoy it if they knew of its being wrung in ways like these from the ignorant, the simple, and the distressed. The old and obvious question recurred,—why not ask the nation for the money that is wanted, instead of filching it? Why not settle openly how it is to be paid, and take it directly, as rent is taken, or as contributions for any other object are collected? Surely no objections to this simple method of taxation could long stand when our great nation of buyers and sellers had once found the comfort of natural and regular prices, of wages not arbitrarily and uselessly raised,—the luxury of being rid of the oppression of Custom-houses and Excise courts, and of the plague of a spreading host of revenue spies. Little could be said of the dignity of the circumstances out of which the State funds arise by any one who had seen others of the cases which Anna witnessed, and which really amused her, and beguiled her of her apprehensions for a time. It seemed ridiculous that the king should, by his officers, be seriously complaining of being injured by one man selling pepper without a license, and another removing wine without a permit, and a third having more brandy in his cellar than he declared he had, and a fourth having rum under a certain strength among his stock, and a fifth forgetting to keep an entry-book, and a sixth tying up his pasteboard in a wrong way, and a seventh having neglected one night to put down how much black tea he had sold in small quantities. It did not seem very dignified in any government to concern itself and worry its subjects about such matters as these. Anna could have laughed once, when the mention of black tea brought her back to a consciousness of her own awkward predicament.
What she had seen had much abated her horror, however. She was able, when called upon, to say that she found she had committed an illegal act, but that she was not the least aware, at the time, that she was doing anything improper, as was shown by her offering some of her thorn leaves to persons who were passing through the field. She could not think it very kind of those persons to pass by without giving her warning of what she was doing. She saw, to be sure, that they looked grave upon her; but how was she to know why, unless they told her? In Jersey they would not have treated a stranger so.
“And pray do they make tea of thorn leaves in Jersey?” asked one of the gentlemen.
“Very rarely, because tea is so cheap there that it would not be worth while; but anybody may do it that likes. I should not have thought of doing it here but for the dearness of tea; and I never could have supposed that the custom of the country was first to render tea so dear as to tempt us to make it for ourselves, and then to punish us for so making it;—a thing we should never otherwise have thought of.”
Studley, on whose information, supported by witnesses, the whole proceeded, smiled maliciously, and said that the young woman showed what family she belonged to by her enmity to the Excise. It went in the family; her brother having absconded to escape an excise charge, and her father being now in prison in consequence of one. This statement made the expected impression. How could the gentlemen do otherwise than think ill of such a family of delinquents? Studley followed up the matter by declaring what trouble the Excise had with the Le Brocqs. There was no other set of people that he had had to watch so closely; no other premises that he had been obliged to enter so often.
“It is very easy to watch people, Mr. Studley,” said Anna, “without showing that they have done wrong; and entering premises by day and night, week after week, does not prove that anything amiss is found there.”
“It answers another purpose, if I may say so, gentlemen,” interposed Mrs. Brennan. “If an excise officer has a spite against a family, nothing is easier than to take away their character by frequent search, which I believe is what Mr. Studley is trying to do with this family. I wish, gentlemen, that you would ask Mr. Studley what he has found in any of his searches from the day that Mr. Aaron went away.”
“Impossible,” said one of the commissioners. “We have nothing to do with the character of these people; as you, Studley, ought to have remembered before you entered upon matters with which we have no concern. The charge was admitted. That is all we have to do with.”
Studley was ordered to recover a fine,—a small one, for the gentlemen saw something of the nature of the case,—and to destroy or see destroyed the adulterated tea. Anna humbly listened to the unnecessary admonition not to repeat the offence, and then begged the gentlemen to let her father out of prison, where his health was suffering materially from the confinement. This kind of petition must be sent to the Board, accompanied by a medical certificate of the state of the prisoner’s health, one of the gentlemen was informing her, when Studley interfered to allege that Le Brocq was well able to pay the fine,—better able than a hundred men who had petitioned the Board in vain for their release.
“If that be the case,” said a commissioner, who had a little attention to spare from the case which his colleagues had now called on,—“if that be the case—Is it the case, young woman? Tell me the truth.”
“If my father’s stock could be sold, he might pay,” Anna declared: “but nobody comes to buy; and nobody will come now that Mr. Studley has taken away our good name by following us for evil as he has done.”
“He must do his duty. I can hear no complaints against him for doing his duty. If he has given you cause of complaint, you can have redress by applying in the right quarter.”
“But, sir, what can I do about the fine? My mother and I are willing to work night and day to raise the fine, if we knew which way to turn ourselves: but there seems to be so much danger in employments here that we are afraid to begin any new ones.”
“O, any one will tell you the law, if it is that you are afraid of. What sort of employment were you thinking of?”
“My having been asked for so much of my own tea made us think of selling tea and groceries: but I have seen people fined to-day for selling pepper without leave, and having tobacco in a private room, and forgetting to set down at night what they sold in the day, and also for finding that they had more on hand than they had given an account of. I should be afraid, sir, to sell groceries. But there is another thing that was partly put into my head, and partly thought of by myself, owing to our having a great quantity of duty-paid bottles unsold. My mother and I have always been used to make cider, and some kinds of sweet wine. There is talk of a great deal of ginger wine being likely to be drunk this year, for fear of the cholera. We might make it at little risk, as ginger is so cheap an article, and we have the bottles.”
“Well: you can but try. You are aware, I suppose, that ginger is not so cheap here as you can get it in Jersey? Ginger pays duty here.”
“And sugar is taxed too, and so is your little matter of spirit, ma’am,” interposed Mrs. Brennan. “You must not go to work, reckoning the cost of all your materials at what you might get them for before you came here.”
“She may easily learn the prices of things,” said the condescending commissioner; “and then she has only to take care to give in her name and place of abode, and of her rooms and utensils; and to renew her license (which will cost two guineas) every year; and to give notice when she intends to draw off her wine; and to be careful not to send it out in less quantities than a whole cask containing fifteen gallons.”
Anna looked dismayed, and asked,
“And should we have anything to do with Mr. Studley in that case, sir?”
“If his superiors find that he has reason for suspicion, he may enter at any hour, provided he takes a constable, at night. He may also break walls and pull up floors, if he believes that anything improper in his line is concealed there; but you would be careful to avoid dangers of this kind, and get yourself visited daily, according to law, to obviate suspicion.”
“Every day, sir!”
“Yes; if you make wine. If you only retail it, once in twenty-eight days is all you are subject to; and the annual license for mere retailing is only a guinea, the notices and entries being of the same kind required of makers. If you combine the two—”
“I cannot, sir. I dare not. Your gentleman would be bringing me up and fining me once a week, sir.”
“O, you could not get very deep into any scrape, I assure you; the state gets only between two and three thousand pounds from all the sweet-wine makers in the kingdom. There are four who pay less than 1l. a year, and no more than six who pay above 100l.; and only twenty-three makers altogether. Even the retailers are under nine hundred in number. It is an insignificant concern altogether.”
“To the king, perhaps, sir; but not to me, if I have to pay tax upon what my wine is made of, and a tax for making it, and a tax upon the bottles that hold it, and a tax for selling it; and if I am liable to be watched and tormented by Mr. Studley, or men like him. I think, sir, the government might really give up such a vexation, if it brings in so little—so very little.”
“And employs a good many people like Mr. Studley, at a hundred a year,” added Mrs. Brennan. “I think, ma’am, you must give up your idea of making wine.”
“Yes, indeed,” replied Anna. “Perhaps, sir, as it is for the king’s sake that I am prevented getting money for my father, as I otherwise might; and as you are one of those who manage these affairs, you will not refuse that this letter should go to his majesty. It is from my father, sir, copied by me, and asking no charity at all, but only consulting about what is best for both.”
The commissioner was unwilling to let such a curiosity escape. The letter was wafered, so that he could not ask to glance his eye over it. He would fain keep it, but did not like to deceive the poor girl with false hopes. Anna was pleased to see him hesitate. Studley stopped his laugh of ridicule. Mrs. Brennan could scarcely refrain from nodding triumphantly at him. The commissioner turned from them to say a few words to his colleagues, so that Anna could not see his face. He soon returned, quietly saying,—
“I am not sure that I can get this letter into the king’s hands; but you may leave it with me; and if your father cannot pay his fine by this day week, you may come here again, and we will consult upon his case. Studley, the fine to which this young woman has made herself liable is remitted. It is clearly a case of remarkable ignorance. The adulterated tea must be destroyed, of course. You will see to it; but treat her gently, if you please.”
The commissioner then explained to Anna that all who were discontented with any decision of this court might seek redress in the Court of Appeal. Anna found it difficult to understand exactly what was meant. The only clear idea she carried away was that nobody ever applied to this Court of Appeal; so that most people began to wish that it might be done away as one of the useless burdens of the Excise. She was sure that she should not be the next person to appeal. The court might be done away for anything she had to say against it. Its being seldom or never applied to seemed to show that the court she was now in was thought to conduct its business well; but it appeared to her that it would be a happy thing to sweep away both, and all excise jurisdiction whatsoever.
“Where is Brennan?” asked Anna, when she and her companion had made their low curtsies, and turned round, with lightened hearts, to go away.
“He was off some time since,” Mrs. Brennan replied; “to run and tell your mother how matters were going, I dare say. They have been merciful to you, ma’am; and I give you joy.”
“O, Mrs. Brennan, I think I never will dread anything again. I have often said so before, finding what I most dreaded come to a very little. I never was so frightened in my life before; but I really will try never to be afraid again.”
She spoke a moment too soon.
“And what do you want with us pray, Mr. Studley?” inquired Mrs. Brennan, perceiving that that person walked close to Anna, as if he regarded her as more or less in his custody.
“Going to discharge my duty,” replied Studley. “The adulterated tea is to be publicly destroyed, you know, as bad books are burned by the common hangman.”
“Publicly!” repeated Anna, in consternation. “Where? How?”
“In your father’s yard. There cannot be a more convenient place for a bonfire.”
“Do you mean to burn the tea in sight of all the neighbours?”
“That depends on whether they choose to look. I shall certainly not try to hang up any sort of blind.”
“I wonder at you, ma’am,” said Mrs. Brennan, “that you go on asking him questions, just to give him the pleasure of making sharp answers.”
Anna said no more. She was thrown back into her former state of trepidation. It was as much as she could do to walk straight. Mrs. Brennan seemed to think it a waste of time (or perhaps she considered it bad for Anna) to keep silence for so long a space. She began talking of her boy, and fished for a few compliments for him; but her companion seemed strangely careless of what she was saying.
“What a smell of burning!” Mrs. Brennan exclaimed when they drew near the pottery-yard. All three looked round for tokens of fire; and Studley observed that one might have thought the furnaces were all employed, as they had been in his time. Smoke was coming out of the window of the kitchen, and even oozing from under the door. Anna really believed that the place was on fire, and exclaimed accordingly; when Brennan put his head out at the window, and Mrs. Le Brocq opened the door. Both seemed terribly heated, and made a display of scorched cheeks which would have done honour to a Christmas fire. It was evident from their looks that nothing was the matter.
“Let me in,” said Studley, in a voice of authority. “Clear a space in the yard for the fire. Boy, call the workmen (if there be any now-a-days) to clear the yard for the burning; and if nobody is on the premises, fetch some of the neighbours.”
“What may you be pleased to be going to burn?” asked the boy, briskly.
“My tea,” faltered Anna. “Come this way, Mr. Studley, and I will show you the cupboard where every grain of it is; and if you have any kindness in you, you will be quick with the job, and finish it before the neighbours can gather about us. Mother,” continued she, as she entered the kitchen, whose atmosphere was rapidly clearing, “what have you been about? The hearth is piled up with ashes as high as the grate, and the grate is heaped half way up the chimney; and you look ready to faint with the heat and the vapour.”
“Mistress won’t mind it, since we have got done in time,” observed the boy, cheerfully; and then he began humming a tune. Studley had meanwhile advanced in slow dignity to the place which Anna had indicated to him. There was nothing in it. While he took an astonished survey of the shelves, Brennan went on from his humming to singing, and his words were some that every child is familiar with,—
“The poor dog, ha, ha!” repeated Mrs. Brennan, laughing. “And so the poor dog had none! So he put his tail between his legs, and slunk away, I dare say. Did not he, my dear?”
Studley was now obliged to do something very like this. The boy had been quick. The moment he heard the tea condemned to destruction by the court, he ran with all speed to discharge Studley’s errand for him. The last packet of tea was smouldering when he heard Anna’s exclamation that there must be a fire somewhere. Studley would have Mrs. Le Brocq’s tea-caddy brought down; and he fingered and smelled the contents. They were perfectly unexceptionable; and nothing remained for him but to go away. He felt to his back-bone the slam of the door behind him, and to the bottom of his soul the significance of the buzz of voices that came through the open window as he passed it. That Anna should escape thus easily was the last thing he had designed. And what an impudent little wretch that boy was, to be insulting him,—so lately his superior at the pottery,—with his nursery rhymes! All day, nothing would stay in Studley’s head but
FRIEND OR FOE?
Though Anna’s adventure in the court had ended much less unpleasantly than she had expected, she had no strong inclination to appear upon the scene again. The words “this day week” were for ever on her mind; and hour by hour she revolved the possibilities and improbabilities of her father being able to discharge the fine within the time specified. The first day passed over pretty well. Her mother and she were full of the satisfaction of her own escape. On the second day, they consulted about advertising their stock again, and wished they had done it yesterday. Anna went to get the Durells’ opinions; but nobody was at home except the maid, who could or would give no account of her master and mistress, and was not over civil in her manner. Night came before the question of advertising or not advertising was settled; and the next morning, Mrs. Le Brocq seemed rather disposed to have an auction, at which the stock, the household furniture, and the pottery business might be all sold together, so that the family might be off for Jersey the moment Le Brocq should be released. Anna was alarmed at the idea of an auction, fearing some difficulty or danger about the duty. Mr. Durell had offered to assist her with his knowledge of excise law, in all cases of need; and once more she sought him. This time the Durells were at home: but the maid scarcely opened the door three inches, and was positive that her master and mistress could see no person whatever, even for two minutes. Jack’s face was visible for an instant, peeping under the maid’s arm; but, on being spoken to, he disappeared behind her skirts, and would not be persuaded to show himself again. Mrs. Le Brocq was more bent than ever on having the auction when her daughter came home bringing no opinion against it. She had got a glimpse of the prospect of seeing her Louise again, and had much to say that had been said often before on the hardship of not having seen poor Louise ever since the first week of her marriage. Who could tell whether, if this auction should go off well, she might not, even yet, be with Louise before her confinement? She was not sparing of her reproaches to Anna because she would not begin her preparations this very evening: but Anna would do nothing without consulting her father, whom she could not see till the next afternoon; and so the third day passed without progress being made towards paying the fine, and there was every prospect of the fourth elapsing without any further advance than the formation of a plan. Her mother hurried her away, when the time drew near for her visit to her father; and so did her own inclination; though she hardly expected that the prison-doors would be opened any sooner on account of her impatience. Her mother and she had better have been more reasonable. She had not been gone more than four minutes, (and she had to wait ten at the prison gate,) before a stranger arrived on business. He came from the Board of Excise, on a little affair which would be easily transacted,—over in a quarter of an hour; there was no occasion to trouble any of the family further than just to show him the way to the stock-room. His people were behind with the cart; and he had desired them to be as quiet as possible, and give no trouble. He was an excise officer, come for the purpose of levying the fine for which Mr. Le Brocq was now imprisoned.
Nothing could exceed the old lady’s consternation. Her first idea was that it would be politic to carry herself high. She therefore declared that she could not think of admitting a stranger on any such errand. Mr. Durell was the gentleman they always employed on this kind of occasion.
The officer half smiled while he explained that it was the Board, and not traders, who were said to employ officers on excise business; and the Board must choose what officers it would send on particular pieces of service. He was aware that Mr. Durell was an intimate friend of the family; but Mr. Durell would not be seen by them on this occasion.
“And now, ma’am, here come our people. If you will just show us the way, as I said, we will not trouble you to stay. You may trust the affair to me. I have orders to be considerate; and you shall have no reason to complain. I will look in upon you when we have done, and leave with you the order for release, which you will allow me to wish you joy of.”
No such thing. Mrs. Le Brocq saw no joy in the affair. Here was Studley: there was the cart with another attendant; and her husband’s beautiful jars and filterers were being handed into it, to be carried off. She declared she would appeal to the neighbours. She would raise the neighbourhood.
“Let me advise you not, madam. I have desired my men,—Studley, be more quiet, will you?—I have desired my men to make no disturbance: and, if you make none, the neighbours will take us for customers, and you will be spared all disagreeable remarks. Be quick, Studley!”
Mrs. Le Brocq loudly exclaimed that they might well desire quietness when they came like thieves to carry away her property. They had good reason to fear being mobbed; and mobbed they should be. The officer quietly and civilly showed his warrant, and cited that clause of the Act which provides that all persons who oppose, molest, or otherwise hinder any officer of excise in the execution of his duty, shall respectively, for every such offence, forfeit two hundred pounds. The good woman dared do nothing worse after this than turn her back upon the trio and their occupation, and shut herself into her house. There she sat, rocking herself in her great chair, and not even knitting, when, in less than a quarter of an hour, the officer tapped at the door, and requested admittance. At first, she would not hear; and when she dared be deaf no longer, she became lame, and made him wait, on account of her rheumatism, as long as she possibly could. It gave him pleasure, he said good-humouredly, to deliver to her the order he held in his hand, his little business being now finished. Her hands were too busy, as she pretended, fumbling under her apron, to be at liberty to take the note. She bade him carry it back to those that sent it; and when he declined doing this, she sullenly nodded towards a table where he might lay it down. He obeyed orders, touched his hat, and departed.
She was still rocking herself in her great chair when Anna returned.
“O, mother, what has happened now?” cried Anna, seeing that matters had gone wrong during her absence. “Mother, speak! Have the Excise been upon us again?”
“To be sure: carrying off all we were going to sell by auction. They want to put me into prison, too. I shall never see Louise more.”
“O, mother, did they say so?” cried Anna, sinking into a chair. “I hope, at least, they will put you beside my father;—and me, too,” she faltered, as the idea crossed her of her being left alone on the premises, her parents in prison, and the Durells, from some cause, inaccessible. “Mother, how could they have the heart to tell you that you must go to prison? Was it Studley? I suppose it was Studley. And when, mother? When—”
Her mother let her go on tormenting herself till the frequent repetition of the question “when?” compelled her to admit that nobody had exactly said that she was to go to prison. But they could mean nothing else by robbing her of all that she had left. By degrees it came out that Studley had been very quiet, and in fact had said nothing at all; that if he had, it should have been the worse for him; that the officer who was set over him would not soon forget his visit, for Mrs. Le Brocq had shown him, when he offered that bit of paper (lying on the table there) that she would not touch with a pair of tongs anything brought by him.
Without the intervention of a pair of tongs, Anna took up the paper. Minute after minute, she stood with it in her hand, her mother not condescending to take any notice. She leaned against the table, and again began to ponder it, the intent of the whole proceeding opening upon her more and more distinctly.
“I could wish, mother,” said she at length, “that the gentleman had asked you to read this paper, or had told you something of what it means, that we might not seem to the Board to be ungrateful. As far as I can make out,—I am pretty sure,—our fine is paid, and my father may come home directly.”
Mrs. Le Brocq was in due amazement: but, when she had taken out her spectacles, and read the order for the release of her husband, his fine being paid, she comforted herself about her own manners by observing upon the improbability of her receiving any civility from the Excise; and that, after all, there was no occasion to thank them for letting her husband out of prison, when they had done him such a wrong as ever to put him in. She now found that it was possible for her to get as far as the prison; a thing hitherto not to be thought of. Anna would gladly have left her behind, so impatient was she of every moment which must elapse before her father could know of his release. Her mother was terribly long in getting herself ready for her walk; and such a walk Anna had never undergone, except in a dream. At last the moment came when the door of the well-known apartment was opened before her.
She had hitherto seen her father only at an hour when she was expected; and then he was always sitting at the table, or pacing up and down the room. She now found him lying at length along a bench, his face resting on his hands.
“He is ill!” cried Anna, pressing forward.
“Far from it, ma’am,” said the man who had offered to sell her a sheet of paper. “No worse than usual, ma’am. That is the way that he spends most of his time, except when he is expecting you; and then, who could look doleful?”
Le Brocq had started off his bench on hearing Anna’s voice, and shaken himself, to get rid of his sloth or his emotion, whichever it might be that kept him lying there. When he saw his wife, he was sure that something remarkable had happened; and most probably of a disastrous nature: for Mrs. Le Brocq’s leading taste, next to knitting, was for telling bad news. He was not sorry, however, to find that good news would serve her turn when there was no bad to be had.
It is surprising how people get good manners without teaching,—some very suddenly, on particular occasions of their lives. Le Brocq had been considered by his prison companions an under-bred, churlish sort of person: but now he was full of courtesy, from the moment he knew that he was going to leave them. He hoped they would find the improved space and air they would have in consequence of his absence a great advantage. He sincerely trusted that nobody else would be put there to intrude upon them as he had done. He was flattered at the groaning sigh and melancholy look with which this was received, not suspecting the nature of the regrets felt by his comrades,—regrets after the dominoes which he had not forgotten to pocket, and after the relief they had enjoyed from the irksomeness of double dumbie, if they played whist at all. They would now have willingly buried in oblivion all the faults of his playing, for which they had often pronounced him to his face incorrigibly stupid,—all would they gladly have forgiven and forgotten, if he could but have stayed to save them from double dumbie. But it could not be. Le Brocq was on the point of saying that he should be very happy to see them if ever they should chance to be travelling near his place in Jersey; but he remembered in time what was due to his family, and what had arisen already out of the visit of one questionable personage. He was sorry now that he had beguiled some irksome hours with exact accounts, perhaps too tempting, of his farm, and of his mode of life in Jersey, with all its advantages; and when his prison-mates asked what he meant to do with himself now, he gave an answer implying an intention to remain in London,—not a little to the dismay of his wife and daughter.
He seemed, when he came out, to be suddenly smitten with London. Brennan was waiting outside, with a smiling face. He had come, thinking he might carry his master’s clothes-bag. Le Brocq was sure there was no such place as London for having little services done for you, almost before you can wish for them.—The party crossed one of the bridges. Really, he believed there could be no such river in the world as this river in London; and he defied anybody to match St. Paul’s as he saw it now.—What a beautiful sunny evening it was! How the sun glittered on the water! His wife, who was puffing and blowing, wished it was not so hot; and Anna ventured to hint that he might perhaps think the more of these things from having been shut up so long. For her part, she liked a strait of the sea better than any river. This hint threw her sober father into an ecstacy about a strait of the sea; notwithstanding which, it was still difficult to get him off the bridge. When this was accomplished, however, the shops and carriages did as well; and a bunch of fresh flowers at a greengrocer’s made him mentally drunk. Anna, thinking him now in the best mood for friendship, paused when they came to the turn which led to Durell’s house, and proposed that they should go round, and tell their friends the good news.
“Ay, to be sure,” replied her father. “It would be a pity to go home yet,—such a fine evening as it is.”
Brennan observed that he could still carry something more, now he was so near the pottery. If Miss Anna would trust him with the basket, he would step on with the things. Anna gave him also the key of the house-door, and asked him to see that the kettle boiled by the time she should arrive to make tea. She saw by her father’s countenance that the very words were delicious to him, and he owned as much as that nothing gave such an appetite as the fresh air.
“But I am sure Mrs. Durell is at home,” said Anna, when the little girl once more declined letting anybody in. “I saw her cap as I passed the window. Tell her, my dear, that if she is offended with us, we wish she would tell us why; and, whether she is offended or not, I should like to see her for two minutes, to tell her something that I am sure she would be pleased to hear.”
The little girl looked behind her, and Mrs. Durell appeared, thin, and anxious-looking. She cast a glance up and down the street before she spoke, and then merely said that there was no quarrel; that her husband was ill and out of spirits; she would thank them to be so good as not to come in now; and as soon as she could, she would call in upon them, or send to know if Anna could spare her a quarter of an hour. But not now.
“We could not now, Mrs. Durell. Here is my father—going home with us to tea, you see. We have a great deal to tell you; and perhaps we shall have but a short time to tell it in. You must come and talk with us about Jersey. But I am sorry Mr. Durell is ill. Is it only just to-day? or has he been ill long?”
“He has had enough to make him ill these ten days. God knows what will become of us all! But he has done nothing wrong, Anna, if you will believe me. Good bye, my dear. I cannot tell you any more now.”
“Poor Mrs. Durell!” sighed Anna, as she left the door. “I wonder what has happened now. I am sure it is something very terrible. But I knew she could not have quarrelled with us.”
“Poor woman!” said Le Brocq, complacently. “This evening would be hardly the time to quarrel with us, however it might have been while I was away. They will keep on good terms with us now, I dare say. Poor woman! She looks very pale. She looks as if she had been shut up. She cannot have been much out of doors lately, I fancy. Ah, ha! Here we come near the soapery. We are near home now. There is the great ladle still! You have let the ladle stand, I see.”
“I hope it will stand there long after we are gone out of the way of the soapery and the pottery, and all the places here,” Anna ventured to say.
What could be the reason that they could not get into the house? Brennan was not visible and the door was locked. On looking through the window, the clothes-bag might be seen, and the fire was blazing, so that he had certainly been home. What could have become of him and the key? It was impossible to be angry with anybody this evening; so Anna found a seat for her mother in the yard, and she and her father went to the rear to look at the river from the wharf. There was so much to see and admire as the boats put off and returned, so much wondering how that wooden-legged waterman would manage to keep his footing, so much speculation as to whence such and such vessels came, and whither they were going, that tea was forgotten, after all, till Brennan came running to tell them that it was ready.
“There, now; this is what I call comfortable,” declared Le Brocq, as he entered the parlour, and saw, not only tea, but a pile of hot cakes and a jar of flowers. “How in the world do you get such flowers here? They might have grown in a Jersey meadow.”
“They seem to me the same that you admired in the shop as we passed,” said Anna. “And I know the pattern of the jar. It is one that Brennan has been making after his own fancy.”
Le Brocq could not but have thought this jar a very beautiful one, in any of his moods. This evening he was disposed to pronounce it the most elegant that had ever proceeded from any pottery; but Brennan modestly disclaimed this. It did not come up to the one that put the idea of this into his head,—one that he had seen at the British Museum.
“Bring the other one that you made after this,” said Anna; who explained to her father that there was one other jar which Brennan himself thought superior to this; and that a third had come off the wheel this morning which was likely to be the best of all. These jars were all the boy’s own property, as he had paid by extra work for the clay and the use of the apparatus. The boy did not bring the second jar, for the good reason that it was no longer within reach. He had parted with it to the green-grocer for the flowers, and money enough to buy these hot buttered cakes.
It was difficult to make the boy sit down to table near his own flowers; and then he was too modest to be easily persuaded to taste his own cakes. It was not for himself that he got them, he said.
“Did you ever get anything for yourself?” Anna inquired of him.
“O, yes, ma’am; many a time.”
“What was the last thing you got for yourself?”
“Some new runners for the jars. If you please to look, ma’am, this here is a new pattern quite.”
“If you had a great deal of money, what would you do with it?”
“I would belong to the Mechanics’ Institution, and learn to draw; and then I might get the prize,—a good many guineas.”
“And what would you do with those guineas,—help your mother, or marry a wife, or what?”
“I would get some marble to cut. Marble is very dear, they say; but I saw a good many marble things in the British Museum.”
Le Brocq, always ready with a word against Durell, wished he had taken the boy anywhere but to the British Museum, if he must meddle with him at all. He had heard the proper place to take boys to for a holiday was Sadler’s Wells. If he had gone there, Brennan would have had no extravagant notions about getting marble, or anything else that would come in the way of his being a good potter; and he reminded Brennan that the Scripture told of a potter at the wheel.
Anna looked at the jar before her, and wondered whether it would have been produced if the boy had been taken to Sadler’s Wells instead of the British Museum.
“You had better be a journeyman potter, boy,” said Le Brocq. “You may make money by informing against your master, if you watch him closely enough.”
Brennan coloured indignantly, and only said he should like to cut things in marble, because the excise had nothing to do with that, he believed. When the marble was once paid for, duty and all, there was no more meddling from anybody.
“You had better go with us to Jersey, then, if you don’t like the excise; and there you will be free of the customs too. There you may get what you want, without paying even duty. You had better go with us to Jersey.”
Neither Anna nor her mother attempted to conceal her delight at the mention of going back to Jersey; whereupon Le Brocq put on a grave countenance of deliberative wisdom, and, premising that he had no wish to exclude so discreet a boy as Brennan from hearing what he had to say, went on to declare that his conscience had long been uneasy about uncle Anthony’s son Anthony. He could not approve of parental displeasure going so far as to deprive an only son of his father’s flourishing business, and leaving it to comparative strangers.
“O, father, that is the best word you have said since uncle Anthony died!” exclaimed Anna, with clasped hands. “That is,” she continued, recollecting that she had uttered a speech of extraordinary freedom, “I have wished, this long while, that you might be thinking sometimes of how we came into this business, and whether it did not rightfully belong to another.”
“One could not see in a day what kind of a legacy it would prove,” observed Le Brocq; “and I have no doubt that, though it is not exactly the thing to suit us, it will be as fine a business to those who have been brought up in a taxed country as uncle Anthony said it was. Uncle Anthony did very wrong in leaving away his property from his only son. The wonder would have been if, being so bequeathed, the business had prospered. The proper thing to do next is to find out where the young man is, and to write directly to him to come and take possession.”
“And if he will not come?” said Mrs. Le Brocq, dreading delay.
“If he will not come, he must dispose of the business in his own way. That is his affair, not mine.”
“Then you do not mean to wait till you can hear from America? I am very glad,” observed Anna. “It would take some months to settle all about the giving up the property, as the owner is so far off. I am very glad you do not mean to wait.”
“I cannot think of waiting for him; or any longer than to settle two or three little affairs. Brennan, what has been done about those bottles that are to go abroad? that large order for bottles, you know.”
“They are almost ready, sir. We have been doing our best for them with the few hands we have: and they may be got off this week, if you so please, sir.”
“Very well. I shall just finish that and one or two others of the larger orders before I date my letter, and make an auction of the furniture; and then write my letter and be off.”
“Of this furniture?” said Anna, looking round her.
“To be sure. Then this boy’s mother, or somebody, will either come in, or agree to look after the place till the young man arrives or writes.”
“But,” said Anna, timidly, “if the business is rightfully his, are not the orders and the furniture his too? I thought we should have to pay him, if he requires it, for using his right so long.”
Le Brocq muttered that he ought rather to be paid for all that he had gone through with the pottery business, though he could not fix the payment which would compensate to him for what he had suffered. But he had no doubt, as he said before, that the young man would make a fine thing of it; and the young man should have it.
“Then we shall go very soon indeed, shall we?” said Anna. “Brennan does not like to hear us say so.”
The boy did indeed look grieved. He was too modest to interrupt their deliberations with the question what was to become of him; but it was struggling in his heart. Perceiving him just about to give way, Anna asked him to see whether it was a dog that was making a little noise against the door. Before he could get to the door, there was a shout which informed them that it was not a dog but a child. Jack Durell was not tall enough to reach the knocker, and he had tried pushing and tapping in vain; so now he shouted,
“Father says you are to come directly, and hear the damned bad treatment the people have given him.”
“Hush, my dear! hush!” cried Anna. “That is not the way you should ask us to go.”
“That was what father bade me tell you,—that you are to come directly, and hear —”
“Well, well: we will come. Did your father mean all of us, or which of us?”
“You are all to come directly. Father says every body shall know.”
“’Tis his turn with these fellows now, I suppose,” Le Brocq observed, looking rather pleased than otherwise. “Come, wife.”
Mrs. Le Brocq was still sipping her tea. As she cast her eye over the table, and saw how tempting the remnants of the cakes looked, she felt a distaste to moving away. She sent a long apologetic message to the Durells about being very tired after the agitations consequent on her husband’s release, and was left behind, much to her own satisfaction.
THE DARKENING HOUR.
How strange it is that the inanimate objects with which people surround themselves appear, even to strangers, to put on a different aspect according to the mood of those whom they surround. It is quite as much the case with the scenery of a house as with that which is not filled and arranged by the hand of man. The natural landscape varies in its aspects from other causes than the vicissitudes of clouds and sunshine. There may be a human being sitting in the midst, through sympathy with whose moods the observer may find the noon sunshine oppressive, or may feel his spirit dance with the brook, or carol with the birds under the murkiest sky. An infant’s glee at the lightning may almost make the thunderstorm a sport; and the full moon may shed no light into the soul of one who is watching with the mourner. So it is with the artificial scenery of our houses. There are ague-fits of the spirit when the crackling fire imparts no glow of mirth: and the coldest and dingiest of apartments may, when illuminated with happy faces, put on something of the light and warmth of a palace. Durell’s dwelling had always appeared to Anna a very cheerful one,—with the employments of an active mistress and a willing maid; Mary’s work-bag on the table, or its contents scattered under a chair, as it might be: Jack’s toys heaped up in one corner; drawings by the hands of many fair friends hung round the room; and Durell’s flute lying with his music books and a few of the poets on the book shelves. Thus were they arranged this evening; and there was a small clear fire, and a sufficiency of light; and yet the aspect of the apartment struck as deep a sense of gloom on Anna’s heart as the scene of her father’s imprisonment had ever done. The children were not there; Mary keeping by Betty’s side in the kitchen, officiously helping, in order to escape being called to her work in the parlour; and Jack slinking away as soon as his errand was discharged, to look for Stephen, he said. There were only Mrs. Durell, hovering about her husband, with a countenance in which there was as much terror as grief; and Durell himself, in his easy chair, looking so wasted, and even decrepit, as to make the Le Brocqs doubt, for a moment, whether he was the man they came to see. Anna did not attempt to conceal that she was shocked, and asked Mrs. Durell why she had not sent to their house for aid.
Her husband’s illness had come on so rapidly, she said, that she had scarcely known what to do: and he had been so unwilling to see any person whatever! Besides, it was only within a few hours that he had sunk to what they saw him now. Every ten minutes lowered him; and, notwithstanding what the doctor said, she did not know how to disbelieve her husband when he declared himself that he was dying.
“His eye is not the eye of a dying man,” said Anna,—the only consolation she could give. “Unless it has lighted up with our coming in—”
“It is not so,” replied her friend. “His eyes have been as bright as diamonds all to-day; and, I think, quite unnatural. O, my dear, if you could help me to find out what should be done for him—His heart is quite broken—”
She could not go on.
“I was afraid, by the message he sent—”
“O, my dear, that was nothing to what I have seen him go through. If you had been here when he threw himself on the floor because they told him he would never be allowed to serve the king or his country in any way again; if you had heard his prayer for those he must not serve, you would not wonder at his being as you see him now.”
“I am sorry to find you looking poorly, sir,” said Le Brocq, feeling that he was making a stretch of complaisance, but having in his mind something about not trampling on a fallen enemy. “I suppose these excise devils have been plaguing you as—as—”
“As I used to plague others, you were going to say, sir. Yes: I have had a few messages from the Board—a few gentle messages. They sent me word—”
He seemed scarcely able to speak, and Anna interrupted him with
“Perhaps, as you are so hoarse, Mr. Durell, you had better leave telling us that till another time.”
“No!” cried he, forcing his voice. “I can tell you, and I will, what their messages were. The first was that my business was to act and not to think; and that, whatever may happen, my part is to be silent and obedient. There’s a pretty message to a free-born man! That came out of what I said at the election where I could not vote; and of my defending it afterwards at your house.”
“O, dear! that is a great pity.”
“Not at all a pity, sir, I don’t repent a syllable I said there. I am only sorry (as sorry as they are), that they did not hear of that election affair before three months were over.—Why?—Because then they could have done worse with me than sending me a reprimand. They could have thrown me into prison for a fine of 500l., and declared—But they kept that for their next message. They could then have made a martyr of me, sir; such a system must have martyrs: and I had rather have died in jail, so that a few people would have asked why, than just be carried from my own door to my grave without having my revenge on those devils in power,—without any body supposing any thing but that I died, as other people die, in their beds.”
“But you will not die yet. You are almost a young man. You must not think of dying yet.”
“Only with a hope to live,” interposed Anna, to whom it was painful to hear people told that they must not think of dying.
“Hope to live!” exclaimed Durell, contemptuously. “What should I hope for? The only prospect that could ever have tempted me to make myself one of their vile crew, they have blighted and blasted. They took care I should know, after that election business, that I should never rise any higher,—that the best I had to expect was to be graciously allowed,—in return for promising not to think, but to be silent and obedient,—to go on being a king’s spy and a trader’s tormentor for life,—to keep my wife and children alive with scanty bread soaked in the tears of my degraded and broken manhood. This is what they offered in return for my promising not to think, but to be silent and obedient.”
“They little knew whom they were speaking to, indeed,” observed Anna.
“Did not they know they were speaking to a man? There are some men that would sooner watch an ant-hill than a hidden distillery, and that think of a lark’s nest when they wake in the morning, and are apt to be looking out after the stars when they should be asleep: and there are others that are never so happy as when they are smelling out soap, and sending a panic before them. The rulers have nothing to do with these men’s different tastes, as long as the poet and the meddler both do their work. But both these, and all between them, are men: and it is a foul crime to strip them of their sight and their strength,—of their reason and their will: and if it be true that the service they are on requires such outrage, it only follows that the service itself is foul. If it would but please God to restore me my strength for a little while, I would find a way yet to pull down their despotism upon their own heads.”
He made an effort to rise, but the ground seemed unsteady beneath his feet, and he sank down again.
“They have struck me a deeper blow still,” said he, “or you would not see me as I am now. They have believed in my dishonour, on the information of a scoundrel. They believe that you have bribed me.”
“That was the reason why my husband could not think of seeing you before: the only reason,” Mrs. Durell was in haste to explain. “But it is over now. They have turned him off, on what Mr. Studley said; and now they want him to be thankful that he is not fined 500l. Thank God we have done with them, I say. We shall be able—”
“We have not done with them. We shall not be able,” cried Durell. “The hounds can hunt me out of my rest wherever I may choose to seek it. They boast that they can. They give me notice that if ever I make an attempt to serve my country, they shall bring out their evidence to prove me incapable of ever holding any office or place of trust under the king.”
“But if they cannot do it, Mr. Durell?” suggested Anna.
“They can. Ay: you look surprised: but they can. I never forgot my honour. I never took a bribe; for you know that your Jersey pie and ale were no bribe. But they can prove against me some things which they can no more pardon than I can pardon certain of their practices. If a base wretch joins a better man in evading the law, and then turns traitor, he is excused and rewarded: but if a man with a heart in his bosom gives a friendly warning to the careless, or passes over the first offence of the widow that toils for her little ones, he is under ban, and can never again serve his king. Such things they may prove against me.”
“I doubt whether you may not still serve the king better than you have done yet,” observed Anna. “I cannot call it doing the king any service to make the people hate their duty to him, and to teach them to defraud him. People should love their king very strongly, for instance, to wish to yield him their cheerful duty through all that my father has undergone in paying his taxes. If you do not collect the king’s money any more, there are other ways of doing him service, which must be open to such a man as you are. Whatever makes his kingdom a more honourable and a happier place; whatever makes his subjects a better or more contented people, is, in my mind, a true and faithful service of the king.”
“That is what I have been saying,” observed Mrs. Durell.
“And what was my answer?” said her husband: “that not all that the wisest and the most true-hearted of the people can do to promote science, and public and private morality, can make any stand against what these—”
“Pray do not call them names,” entreated Anna. “They are men,—men said to be of honour and principle, whose lot it is to administer a bad system which they did not make. Do not let us blame them till we see that they take no pains to alter that which they cannot approve.”
“Well: call them men or devils, or what you will. They administer a system which is enough of itself to keep us back in knowledge and art till all the world besides has passed us, and to do worse for our morals than all our clergy can cure. I can prove it. As for knowledge, only look at the paper tax, keeping books and newspapers out of the reach of those who want them most, and stinting the class above them of their fair share of that which God has given every man as free a right to as to the air of heaven. As for art,—when was there a nobler triumph of it than when man fixed a yellow star out above the sea, to gleam on the souls of thousands of tempest-tost wretches, like the gospel they trusted in, and to give the wanderer his first welcome home?”
“Indeed we can say that,” said Anna. “Such a light through the fog was the best sight we saw in all the sea, in coming; and I never shut my eyes to sleep now but I could fancy I see that light, hoping to pass under it before long.”
“Well: there might now be a light far better than that, or any light that yet hangs above the sea; a light that would shine through the thickest fog, like a morsel of the copper sun that rises on an October morning,—a light that would save thousands of poor wretches that must now go down into the deeps with the moans of their orphaned little ones in their ears: and this light we may not use.”
“Because of the excise?”
“For no other reason. Glasses of a new construction would be required for the light-houses: and this new construction is not such as is set down in the excise laws. No glass-maker dares venture it, and the only hope is that we may get some foreign nation to do it for us.”
Anna thought it was a poor way of serving the king to drown his subjects, and employ foreigners to work upon discoveries made at home,—and all under pretence of taking care of the money of the state.
“This is only one instance out of many,” Durell declared. “As for what I said about morality, I know of cheats enough to fill a jest book.”
“A jest-book!” said his wife, in a tone of remonstrance.
“Nay, my dear, it is their fault, not mine, if, when they have sharpened wits to cheat, the witty cheats are laughed at as good jokes. Last year, a very good joke was spoiled. The wits who made it laughed in their sleeves as long as it went on; and when it came out, every body else laughed, the excise and all, though the crime is really as great as robbing the widow of her mite, since the widow’s mite must go to make up for the fraud. There is no duty on soap in Ireland; and some cunning Englishmen, who had made soap without paying the duty, packed it up for Ireland, got the drawback of 28l. a ton, just as if they had paid the duty, and sent it off, smuggled it back again, packed it afresh, got the drawback again, and sent it off, and again smuggled it back; and so on, four times over. Now, for the idea of this cheat, for the lies that were told, for the false oaths that were taken in carrying it on, and for the making a sordid crime into a joke, the excise is answerable. And this is what the excise does for morality.”
“And this is the way the money of the people is managed,” observed Le Brocq; “wrenched from the honest working man with one hand, that it may be given away to the fraudulent great trader with the other!”
Mrs. Durell had been well pleased at the turn the conversation had taken, seeing that, while her husband’s attention was occupied with matters of detail, he resumed more and more of his usual countenance, voice and manner. There was less fierceness in his eye, less effort in his speech, and he sat almost upright. But Le Brocq spoiled all.
“I cannot but wonder at you, Durell, especially as you are a Jerseyman, that you, knowing the system so well, should have left it to the gentlemen to turn you out.”
“Wonder at me!” said Durell, after a pause, during which he could not speak. “Wonder at me! Why don’t you curse me and loathe me for being an abject wretch, for the sake of my children’s bread? I thank God for taking their bread from them before my eyes, if it teaches them to despise their father and their father’s business.”
“O, husband!” cried Mrs. Durell.
“I mean what I say,” he continued, with a forced calmness of voice and manner. “I am going to leave them—to leave them in your charge; and I command you to bring them up in horror of everything that is dishonest, and vile, and cruel; and if you bring them up to abhor everything that is dishonest, and vile, and cruel, you must bring them up either to forget their father and his employments, or to despise him for being so employed. I give you your choice, and only pray God that I may hide myself in my grave before either comes to pass.”
“Don’t listen to him. Don’t believe him,” cried the wife, turning first to Le Brocq, and then to Anna. “You see he is not himself; you see he is talking like—”
“Like a man who is waking from a morning dream,” said her husband, whose excited senses caught looks and words which were not intended for him. “I am not drunk, Le Brocq, though I have no right to complain if you fancy me so; and I am not mad.”
“But angry,—very angry,” Anna ventured to interpose.
“Well; if I have been angry, it has nothing to do with what I am going to say, which is about you and yours, Le Brocq, with whom I have no cause to be angry. I am like a man waking from a dream; and I see many things that I wish it had pleased God that I should see long ago.”
“You cannot say you have no cause to be angry with us,” cried Le Brocq, moved by a sudden impulse of sensibility; “that is, with me. Anna has always been your friend; and if my wife has not, it is only because she has copied me. I have doubted you all along till now; and I am very sorry for it.”
“Doubted my honour?” asked Durell, bitterly.
“Doubted your being the friend you professed yourself. I thought that you might, with the power of your office, have prevented some of the misfortunes that have befallen us. But now I find—”
“Now you find that I have been a slave, obliged to stand by, and see those punished that I would fain have saved. Now you find that an exciseman must choose his friends by their trades, if there be any trades that the curse of his employment does not light upon. We used to think that God has shown how friendships should arise,—shown it by the meeting of the eyes that glance sympathy; and the grasp of the hands when men find that they had the same birth-place. But the power that has stepped in between us has set aside God’s arrangements altogether. You and I gathered nuts, as children, in the same deep lanes, and played about the same poquelaye; but as soon as I would have grasped hands upon this, what happened? You believed it the grasp of a traitor, and our enemies said we were giving and taking a bribe; and between you both, I am sunk to perdition, body and soul.”
“But that is all over now. Nobody will think any more—”
“It will never be over. The stain will be as lasting as the record of my name in the creation. When people shall see me carried to my grave, a few days hence, they will remember how they saw me last carried through the streets,—a brute, lower than the lowest of all other brutes. When they meet my wife in her weeds, they will look into her face to see if there is not joy hidden under it, because her torment of a husband is gone.”
“Do stop him. I cannot bear it,” said Mrs. Durell, putting her hands before her face.
“You will bear it very well, my dear. It is true, you will have no bread to give your children; and when you beg it, people will stop to consider whether they ought to help the children of the dissolute exciseman; but all this will not set against the relief of having got rid of the wretch himself. Ah! you don’t think so now, because you pity me, as you would pity a sickly child;—you pity me for sitting drooping here, with a perishing carcase and a worn-out spirit. But I don’t want your pity. I won’t be treated like a child—I say—”
He rose from his chair, and took a few strides towards his wife, evidently in a state of delirium. The urgency of the occasion seemed to inspire Le Brocq with the very sentiment which suited the moment.
“I say, Mr. Durell,” said he, “no man likes being made a child of; and I like it no better than other men; so I am going back,—come, you had better sit down again; take my arm;—I am going back to Jersey. Have you any messages for your old friends there?”
“To Jersey: ay; you are right there, Le Brocq. That was what I was going to say. Don’t stay here, where there is more misery caused by mere paying taxes than there is in Jersey by all God’s dark providences together. Go and tell them, whatever they do,” he continued, settling himself in his chair again,—“tell them, whatever they do, not to dare, for the sake of raising money for the state, to crush the simple and high-minded, and exalt the mean and crafty—”
“Ay; Studley! How that fellow is flourishing at the expense of us all!” cried Le Brocq.
Anna marked the flashing of Durell’s eyes at the name, and interposed.
“We shall soon be settled in our farm again, Mr. Durell; and perhaps you will be well enough to come and see us by the time we begin shaking the trees in the orchard.”
“Shaking the trees in the orchard,” repeated Durell slowly, as if the words revived some intensely pleasurable recollections.
“Your old friends were very sorry when you went away, and they will be heartily glad to hear you are coming back. You will come and see us, Mr. Durell.”
“Come, my dear! ay; that I will,—in body or in spirit. I will be at your apple-cropping. I will pelt you with apples; and if you cannot see where they come from, remember who promised you this. I will echo you when you go to call home your cows. I will rustle in the ivy when you pass the Holy Oak;—(that old oak is the first place I shall go to.) I will walk round and round you as you sit on the poquelaye; and if you feel a sudden breath of air upon your face, remember who it was that said he would haunt you. God will hear my prayer, and let me see Jersey again, whether I die first or not.—Jack! Come here, Jack!”
His feeble voice could not make itself heard further than half across the room; but Jack came in from the kitchen, in answer to Le Brocq’s effectual call. His father desired him to bring down the flute from the book-shelves; and his manner of obeying,—as if he was by no means sure whether he had to do with his father or with a ghost,—did not help to recover Anna from the chilly fit into which she had been thrown by Durell’s promises. She did not think she could ever go out to call home the cows, or pass the Holy Oak or the poquelaye. She had never feared Durell till this night; but he was strangely altered; and she thought that the impression of this night would be stronger than that of all her previous acquaintance with him.
“Stand here, boy; don’t go away,” said Durell to Jack, who was most unwillingly pinned between his father’s knees to hear the flute. Durell began an air which is sung by the common people in Jersey every day of the year; but his breath failed him directly; and he allowed the instrument to be taken from him.
“Then I may go,” said Jack, gently struggling to escape.
“Yes, my dear,” said his mother. “Your father is tired now; he has done enough for this evening.”
“No, no,” said Durell. “I must tell him what he is to see at home. I must tell him what little boys do in Jersey. When I was your age, Jack—”
“To-morrow, love,” said his wife. “You can tell him to morrow.”
“I should like to hear what boys do in Jersey,” declared Jack, his confidence returning.
“And so you shall, my boy. Sit still, Le Brocq. I shall want you to help me. When I was your age, Jack—”
And then he proceeded to tell how in his childhood he went out through thickets of the blue hydrangea to the dells where he spent the whole day in birds’ nesting; and of the hatfull of wild flowers that he treated himself with before he began to climb the trees whose ivy was his ladder. Not two minutes after he had soothed himself into a state of calmness by these recollections, he began to speak indistinctly, and to appear drowsy. Jack was admonished by gesture not to ask for any thing over again; not to be impatient for what was to come next. This was a hard admonition; and when his father sank back asleep, and he was gently withdrawn from between the knees which no longer held him, the poor boy was quietly weeping at having to wait for the rest of the story. Not even his mother suspected how long he would have to wait.
The Le Brocqs stole away. Jack was put quietly out of the room. Mrs. Durell hung a shade upon the lamp, fed the fire with the least possible noise, and sat down with her work opposite her husband, trusting that he was dreaming of the meads and coves of his native island, and that he would thus sleep on till morning. Long before morning, she had discovered that he would wake no more. The Le Brocqs were called up early by Stephen to be told that they had heard the very last words of him who had died of a broken heart.
It was a great blessing that his last words were words of peace. There was no need for Anna to implore little Jack to treasure up what his father was saying when he fell asleep. When Jack was grown up into a man, it was still a matter of mourning to him that he had not heard the whole of what his father had to tell about birds’ nesting in the dells of Jersey.
THE LAND OF SIGNALS.
The Le Brocqs were more anxious than ever to leave London when they had seen their friendly countryman laid in the ground. In order to repay himself as far as he could for the troubles he had incurred in business, Le Brocq determined to carry with him to Jersey as much as he could convey of his manufactured article. The cider-makers of the islands would be very glad of his bottles, he knew, if he could sell them cheap enough; and he believed he could sell them cheap, and yet secure a profit by obtaining the drawback on exportation allowed by law. After all the experience he had had of the duty-paying in England, it still did not occur to him that there might be difficulty in recovering the duty which the law professed to restore. Nothing can be more evident than that when a tax is imposed on the consumption of any article, and is advanced by the maker of the article, the maker should be repaid what he has advanced when the article goes to be consumed by the people of another empire, or by those in some other part of the same empire who may be particularly exempted from the payment of the duty. Le Brocq imagined that all he should have to do would be to show how much duty he had paid upon the ware he wished to export, and to receive the sum back again. He even speculated on whether the government would allow him interest on the money he had advanced. He considered it his due; but he would not delay his departure on account of any disagreement of this kind. He would not put off till another day the conclusion of a business which he supposed might be transacted in ten minutes. He little thought that the keenest and most practised exporter would laugh as much at the idea of finishing the affair in a few minutes as at that of receiving interest for the duty advanced. It might be that because he was discovered to be a novice, he was more strictly dealt with than those who are acquainted with the regulations of the excise and customs; but he found himself much mistaken in his calculations. It is not for the benefit of the king’s interests, or for the credit of his service, that practised persons are comparatively little watched, while novices are well nigh persecuted under the perplexing system of the excise and customs. It is unjust and injurious, but perfectly natural;—natural, because no human patience, industry, and vigilance can be expected to be always equal to the disgusting labour of spying and detecting. It is natural that those who have been made fully aware of the dangers they incur by fraud should be left under the influence of fear to swear truly and pay duly, though unexamined. Honour is a word out of use upon these occasions; or is employed merely as a word. Fear is the influence to which his majesty’s officers trust, when they leave a practised trader to declare his own claims and responsibilities, and show how he wishes his business to be managed. Fear is the influence they invoke when they impress the inexperienced with awe, or worry him out of his temper, with a view to saving themselves future trouble. Fear is the influence above all unfavourable to the interests of a king, and the security of a government; and that which should be used, not for the levying of its support, but only for the deterring of its subjects from crime, against which all other precautions had previously been taken.
The officers succeeded in inspiring the Jerseyman with fear, insomuch that he presently doubted whether he could at last get away without leaving his bottles behind. While others, happier than he, paid down small sums with one hand, and received larger with the other, after gabbling over oaths which none but the initiated could understand, and witnessing certain entries made on their own declaration, Le Brocq had a much longer ceremony to go through. He had to swear that the bottles he wished to export were none of them under the weight of three ounces; that he had given due notice to the officer of excise of his intention to ship his wares; that the contents of the package corresponded with the document signed by the excise officer; that they were all marked with an E X; that none were broken; that none had been used; that no prohibited article was in the package; that the wares were packed according to law, without vacant spaces or other improprieties; that they were believed to be entirely of English manufacture, and that they had paid duty; and so on. He was next told, as a friendly warning, that if the package was not properly prepared for sealing, (i. e. with a hollow scooped out for the purpose,) the goods would be forfeited: if any brand or mark was erased, the goods would be forfeited, and the offender would be fined 200l.: if the package was not on board within twelve hours from the time of branding or sealing, it would be forfeited; and so on. Moreover, the searcher had power to open and examine the package; and if it was found that the exporter was not correct in every tittle of what he had sworn, he would be indicted for perjury. Le Brocq had as much horror of a false oath as any man; but he now felt how easily a timid or a hasty man might be tempted into one, for the sake of escaping as soon and as easily as possible from the inquisition of the excise. He felt the strength of the temptation to a trader to swear to the legal preparation of a box, the packing of which he had not superintended.
In the next place, he found that, so far from obtaining interest upon the duty he had advanced, he must be at some expense to recover the drawback. The debenture, or certificate of the customs’ officer that he would be entitled to the drawback, is on a ten-shilling stamp; and he who would recover the amount of one tax could do it only by paying another. To recover an excise tax, he must pay a stamp tax. The dismay of the Jerseyman, thus haunted by taxes to the last, was highly amusing to a fellow-sufferer who stood by, and who proclaimed his own worse fate. He was receiving back the duty upon four packages of goods, and each debenture cost him 11s. 6d.; making 2l. 7s. the cost of recovering 10l. But this was not the last discovery that Le Brocq had to make.
It appeared finally that, as the goods were intended for the Channel islands, the drawback could not be allowed till a certificate of the landing of the goods could be produced, signed by the collector and comptroller of the customs on the island where the ware was landed. Le Brocq was not the less disconcerted by this news for its being made evident to him that such an arrangement is necessary under a system of taxation by excise and customs. It was clear, as he acknowledged, that without such a precaution, the drawback might be obtained upon goods which were not really destined for the Channel islands: but the arrangement did not the less interfere with his private convenience.
What was to be done now? He had no inclination to leave the goods, or to forego the drawback; and there was no one here to whom he could commit his affairs. After a long consultation at home, it was agreed that Le Brocq should, after all, stay till cousin Anthony, or instructions from him, should arrive; and that Mrs. Le Brocq and Anna should proceed to the islands, conducting and conducted by Stephen. Stephen was not exactly the kind of escort that the family would have thought of accepting, some time before: but circumstances were now changed. He could guide them to Aaron: he could secure for them, by ways and means of his own, a remarkably cheap passage. He was now adrift, there being no longer a home for him at Mrs. Durell’s; and he promised, for his own sake as well as that of his companions, to make the most, instead of the least, of such sight as he had left. As he could not expect to meet with another Durell to house and cherish him, it was his interest to find his way back to his old comrades, and see what they could do for him. While offering his parting thanks and blessing to Mrs. Durell, he intimated to her that, though he could not see to write, she should hear from him in a way which he hoped would be acceptable;—an intimation which she received with about the same degree of belief that she had been accustomed to give to the protestations of others of her husband’s protégés.
Mild were the airs, and cloudless was the sky when the vessel which conveyed the Le Brocqs and their escort drew near the Swinge of Alderney, and when the Channel islands rose to view, one after another, from the sunny sea. The stupendous wall of rock which seems to forbid the stranger to dream of exploring Alderney, rose on the left; the little russet island of Berhou on the right; and, beyond it, the white towers of the three Casket lighthouses, each on its rock, and all gleaming in the sunset, rose upon Anna’s heart as well as upon her eye. To her surprise, she met with sympathy.
“’Tis not often,” said Stephen, “that I care about storm or calm. Wind and weather may take their own course for me. But I had a choice for this evening. I wished for a wind that would bring us here before sunset, and for a sky that would let the sun shine.”
“You see those white towers,” said Anna, who perceived that he twinkled and strained his eyes in that direction.
“See them! yes, indeed,” said Mrs. Le Brocq. “Those must be stone blind that do not get dazzled with all that glare. I like Jersey, with the green ivy hanging from the rock over the sea. I want to be at Jersey, with my Louise.”
“All in good time, ma’am,” said Stephen. “We must land somewhere else first, and find your Aaron. How like ghosts they stand!” he continued, still looking towards the Caskets. “And one taller than the rest.”
“You see that too,” said Anna. “Then I am sure you must see Berhou. We are coming nearer every moment. Hark to the splashing in the Swinge!”
“Ay, ay; I’ll listen with the best,” said Stephen. “And I can see something in the Swinge, though the dark island is all one with the sea to me.”
“Which dark island? And what do you see in the Swinge?”
“Berhou has nothing to mark it to my eye. I can just trace out Alderney against the sky; but the something white that is leaping and gleaming there, I take to be the foam of the waters in the Swinge. Ah! here we go!”
While the vessel pitched and rolled, and took her zigzag course, as if spontaneously, between the black points of rock which showed themselves above the white billows, and seemed to tell of a hundred dangers as formidable as themselves, Anna was sorry for him who, either physically or intellectually blind, could see nothing in Berhou. Neither man nor child was visible; no human habitation; no boat upon the strip of beach which the rocks and the sea spared between them; but the grey gull sat, spreading its wings for flight, and the stormy petrel, rarely met within sight of land, were here perceived to lose the mystery of their existence. While Anna observed them going forth and returning, and hovering over the fissures of the rock in which they make their homes, she found that Mother Carey’s chickens are probably hatched from the egg, like other birds, and not wafted from the moon, or floated from the sea depths,—the especial favourites of some unseen power. The slopes of down which showed themselves in the partings of the rocks, looked green in contrast with whatever surrounded them; though no hand of man brightened their verdure, and they were not even trodden by any foot but those of the wild animals who had the region to themselves. While she was thus gazing, and her mother would look at nothing because it was not Jersey, the master and one or two of his crew seemed to be watching the coast of the other island in the intervals of their extreme care to obviate the perils of the passage through the strait. At this moment, a breath of air brought the faint sound of chiming bells from Alderney. Stephen instantly turned to listen, and waited patiently till it came again, and Anna was sure that it was wafted from a churchsteeple, and not from any region of fancy.
“Master,” said Stephen, “you will not be able to land us in Alderney to-night, I am afraid.”
The master was just going to advise the party to proceed to Guernsey. The state of the tide was such that he could not engage to set any one on shore in Alderney. The party had better go on to Guernsey.
“The vraicking season begins to-morrow, master. You have no mind to lose all your passengers that might like to stay and see the vraicking. Well; that is fair enough. But we cannot go on to Guernsey, having no call there. You may set us ashore on Berhou.”
The master supposed he meant some other place. The honey-bees and the rabbits might make out a good night’s rest in Berhou, but there were no lodgings for Christians. Stephen knew better; and knew, moreover, that the master might feel well enough pleased at being spared performing his promise as to Alderney, to land the party, without objection, in a more practicable place. This was true. The master had not the least objection to their supping with the rabbits, and sleeping among the sea-fowl, if they chose. Moreover, if they found themselves starving by the time he came back that way, he would toss them some biscuit, if they would only hoist a flag of distress. Stephen did not care a whit for the master’s mockery of his plans, or for Mrs. Le Brocq’s complaints at being landed any where so far from her Louise. He showed so much respect to Anna’s doubtful looks and words as to assure her that he knew what he was about, and that no delay would arise from his choice of an uninhabited island for a temporary resting place. Anna had no choice but to trust him; but a feeling of forlornness came over her when, having landed the old lady, and seated her on the sands to recover her breath and dry her tears, she and Stephen stood to see the vessel recede in the strait, and at length enter the open sea beyond, leaving them out of reach of human voice and help.
“Could that bell be heard here from Alderney if the sea was quiet?” she asked.
“I dare say it might; but this sea is never quiet,” he replied. “Day and night, summer and winter, it plunges and boils as you see. You are thinking that the sound of a church-bell would be cheering in this solitude; but yonder bell keeps its music for the folks on its own island; and a merry set they will be to-night on the south side, watching the tide going down towards morning, that they may begin the vraicking.”
“And what are we to do next?” asked Anna, with a touch of the doleful in her voice which seemed to amuse Stephen.
“Catch Mother Carey’s chickens, and run after rabbits, to be sure. You know there is nothing else to live upon here. We shall have a merry life of it, shall not we?”
“I wish you would answer me, Stephen. My mother cannot bear joking. What are we to do next?”
“You must watch for the lighting of the Caskets, and eat a biscuit in the meantime.”
It was a comfort that some biscuits were secured; for Mrs. Le Brocq was never wholly miserable while eating, whatever she might be before and after. The sun was fast sinking behind the Caskets, so that it could not be long before their now dark towers would be crowned with a yellow gleam, and more of Stephen’s little plot would be unravelled. Anna suggested that if they had to go any where to look for a boat or a lodging, it would be better to move before twilight came on. She concluded they were not to sit here on a stone all night, looking at Alderney. Stephen begged pardon. He knew every step of the way so well that he had forgotten how much more important daylight was to his companions than to him. He rose from the vetch-strewn sand where he had laid himself at ease, loaded himself with what he could conveniently carry of the family luggage, saying that the rest might remain where it was, as there was no chance of rain before morning, and set forward over the heathery waste.
This was the first ground the party had trodden since they left London; and even Mrs. Le Brocq observed the difference between Lambeth pavement and the turf on which they were now walking, matted with fragrant heath, with patches between of blossoming thyme. Little white-tailed rabbits trotted in all directions to their burrows; and swarms of the celebrated honey-bee (called the leaf-cutter, from its hanging its cell in the sands with rose-leaf curtains) hovered and hummed over the thyme-beds and the briar-rose bush which was now closing its blossoms from the honey-searcher. The dash and roar of the strait were left behind, and the deepest silence succeeded. None of the party spoke while they proceeded with noiseless steps, Stephen leading the way, with his staff for his protection. He would go first and alone, lest he should lose his way by relaxing his attention. At last, his step slackened, and he felt the ground about him.
“Is there a bit of grey rock hereabouts, like a sofa?”
“There is a stone seat that you might fancy like a sofa, twelve yards from your right hand.”
“Give me your arm round to the other side of it. There! now there is a path downwards, almost from your feet, is not there?”
“Yes; a very steep path,—difficult to get down, I should think. The honeysuckles are like a hedge on either side. You smell the honeysuckles?”
“It was the honeysuckles that guided me, after we had half crossed the heath. You were too busy with the thyme to attend to them, I dare say; but the honeysuckles were what I was on the look-out for. If we have to go to Serk, you will find the air as sweet as Paradise with them.”
“Why should we go to Serk?”
“I may be able to tell you within an hour or two, or we may have to wait till morning. In the last case, I know of a snug cave where we will light a fire with a little of yonder furze; and it will be odd if we do not fall in with something good to eat and drink, and something soft to sleep upon.”
“I sleep in a cave!” exclaimed Mrs. Le Brocq. “I cannot do any such thing. I never slept in a cave in my life.”
“If you see any place that you like better, I am sure I am very glad,” replied Stephen. “Yonder sofa would not be a bad place on a soft summer’s night. Only, a brood of Mother Carey’s chickens might chance to flap their wings about you and startle you; or, if you woke, you might happen to find yourself in the middle of a circle of strangers, all smoking their pipes; and then you might wish yourself down with me in the cave. If you look round, ma’am, you will see no blue roofs in all the island,—unless they have altered it since I knew it.”
Mrs. Le Brocq shuddered as she said that it was too dark to see blue roofs or any thing else.
“And there are the Casket lights,” cried Anna. “Only two! yes; there is the third. Look, mother! like three red stars.”
“Now,” said Stephen, “one of you must be so good as to help me down this path,—just to the turning.”
Anna guided him, her mother calling out all the way, that they must not go far: she did not choose to be left alone.
While they were for a few minutes out of sight, she had recourse to her prayers, finding herself in too strong a panic for tears. Those nasty birds would come and pick out first her eyes and then Anna’s; and then they two would be more blind than Stephen, and could never get away; and their bones would lie stark and stiff on the cold ground. Before she had done praying that she might live to die in her bed, her companions re-appeared, to save her eyes for the present from the birds.
When Stephen and Anna had reached the first turn of the winding path, he desired to know what was to be seen beneath. “Scarcely anything,” replied Anna. “Between the Casket lights and these rocks, there is nothing but the dark grey sea.”
“And nothing under these rocks?”
“Only a little patch of sand, with nothing upon it; and the white birds sailing out and in. Not a boat on the sea, nor a living person on the land! What a place to bring us to, Stephen!”
“Not a living person on the land! Do you suppose there are any dead, Miss Anna? Do you see any white skeletons among the dark rocks?”
“The place gives one as horrible an idea as any you can speak,” Anna replied. “This is a place where a poor wretch may be cast ashore, and drag himself up out of sea-reach, and mark the sun set thrice while he is pining with hunger and cannot die, and beholding land far off where he cannot make himself seen or heard, till all is one dark cloud before his dying eyes, and his last terrors seize him, and there is no one to take his hand, and speak the word that would calm his spirit. O, Stephen, what a place to bring my mother and me to!”
“Ay, is not it? You are making up your mind to die here, I see. Come; this is all I have to show you yet. We may go up to the sofa again, and see whether your mother is dreaming about dead men’s bones, or crying because she cannot get away.”
Anna was not disposed to make any answer. She led the way back in silence, and said no more to her mother than to remind her that remonstrance was in vain. Nothing could well be more cheerless than the companionship of the party for the next half hour, while the stars were piercing the heaven, and the sea-birds dropping into the caverns below, and the night breeze going forth on its course, and whispering the rocks which stood as sentries over the restless tide. Mrs. Le Brocq sat bolt upright on the stone sofa; Stephen lay down on the turf, as if to sleep; and Anna walked backwards and forwards, harassed by uneasy thoughts. At the same instant, she stopped in her pacing, and Stephen half raised his head, as a watch-dog does at any sound brought by the night wind.
“What is it?” asked Anna.
Probably her half-breathed question did not reach Stephen; for he yawned, and laid himself down as before. Anna could only suppose that she had heard nothing. There was no use in asking her mother; for she must doubtless be fully occupied with the noise in her head, of which she complained at all times, and especially when under any sort of agitation.
In ten minutes more, Stephen jumped up, saying briskly,
“Now, Miss Anna, I must trouble you once more.”
“To do what, Mr. Stephen?”
“To prevent my being lost in the honey-suckles, that is all.”
With some unwillingness, Anna again made herself his guide down the path. When she reached the turn, she stifled an exclamation of astonishment.
“Out with it, Miss Anna!” said Stephen. “You see none but friends. What are they doing below?”
“They have set up a boat sideways, to prevent the fire being blown out; or, perhaps, to hinder its being seen from the sea. What a fire they are making! and every man has his pipe.”
“As is fitting for those that help so many to a pipe which they could not otherwise get. How many are there? Do you see any face that you know?”
“I can scarcely tell yet. The light flickers so! One—two—there are five, I think. O, Stephen!—it never can be,—yes, it is,—Mr. Prince, the shopkeeper at St. Peter’s, that—”
“Why should not it be Mr. Prince? The shopkeepers are as likely a set of men to be out on a vraicking eve as any. Is he the only one you know?”
“Yes. I see all their faces now. There is no other that I have ever known, I think. How very odd it is to see Mr. Prince look just as he used to do when he stood smiling behind his own counter!”
“He smiles, does he? Well; I hope you ladies will not be afraid to trust yourselves with Mr. Prince; I have no doubt he will be proud to take care of you back.”
“To St. Peter’s! But we do not want to go to St. Peter’s. Stephen, I believe we shall never make you understand how much we wish to get back to Jersey. I wonder you can trifle with us so.”
“Have patience,” said Stephen. “You well know that there is one thing that you desire even more than to get back to Jersey.”
“About Aaron. There he is! behind the boat!” cried she, passing Stephen, and flying down the steep pathway, as if she had thought it possible for Aaron now to escape her by running into the sea. Aaron had no wish to flee away. Before his sister had made her way through his companions, he had opened his arms to her; and he had no less pleasure in the meeting than herself.
He was all surprise at finding Anna apparently alone on a desert island; and she that he was not expecting her. He knew that his family meant soon to return to their farm; but he would as soon have expected to meet the queen of England in the wilds of Berhou as his sister Anna.
His mother there too!—And his father also? he inquired with an altered voice. His father not being of the party, he became extremely impatient to join his mother.
“That is the way by which I came down,” Anna explained. “There,—by yonder little opening. Let me show you. And poor Stephen: I forgot him;—he is there; and he can neither get up nor down by himself, and I left him alone. O, Aaron, how could you go away as you did?” And all the way up the ascent, Aaron had to justify himself for going away as he did. He scarcely paused a moment to greet Stephen; but ran on to find Mrs. Le Brocq. When the first tears and exclamations were over, the question was heard again,
“Aaron, how could you go away as you did?”
“Why, mother, is not being here much better than drudging on the tread-wheel, or even than doing nothing in a prison? I tell you, mother, if you did but know the pleasant sort of life I have been leading lately—Well; if that won’t do, let me tell you that it makes me so merry to see you and Anna standing here,—so free, and so far out of the reach of such fellows as Studley,—that I could find in my heart to whiff away all laws like the smoke from one of those tobacco-pipes.”
Anna thought that the use of laws was to enable people to stand free, and out of the reach of knaves and revengeful men.
“To be sure, such ought to be the purpose of laws; but is such the purpose and effect of the excise laws? Nobody knows better than I, and the other men below there, that the raising money for the state is necessary for the security and quiet of the people; but if the money is so raised as to spoil their security and quiet, who is not tempted to wish the laws at the devil, and let the state take its chance for money? It is a fine thing for us to be here, at any rate, under this open sky, and with plenty of meat and drink below. Come, mother; we will have a good supper to-night, without asking the king’s will about what we shall have, or paying for his leave to enjoy one thing rather than another. We have plenty of vraicking cakes from Alderney, and some fine French wine to drink with them.”
“O, Mr. Stephen,” cried Mrs. Le Brocq, “we are much obliged to you for bringing us here. Here is Aaron so free and happy! and vraicking cakes, and French wine! We are much obliged to you, Mr. Stephen.”
“Yes, we are indeed,” said Anna, heartily. “I beg your pardon, I am sure, for doubting what you were doing for us. But it did seem very forlorn. How well and merry Aaron looks, to be sure! If we were but certain it was all right!”
“How can it be wrong when we are all as merry as children let out of school?” Stephen asked. “I found out your evil thoughts of me, Miss Anna; but now, perhaps, you will trust me another time. I may chance to hear more in a church-bell than the news that the vraicking begins to-morrow.”
“Was it that bell that told you that Aaron would be here to-night? I never thought of that. I never could have guessed it.”
“I dare say not. Some people that have more interest in such matters than you, are no more aware than you of the sly little markets that are held in many a cove and cavern, when an oyster-fishing or a vraicking gives opportunity for many boats to meet together. Such a bell as that we heard in Alderney is a signal to more ears than it is intended for; and lights like those” (pointing towards the Caskets) “serve many eyes for a dial, to show the hour of meeting. Aaron, are there many foreigners off the islands just now?”
“Above fifty small sail of French off Guernsey this morning. The Guernsey folks are fine customers to the French now; which is no little help to our business. We can get anything to order; and when by chance other things fail, there is always corn and wine for the boldest of us to carry; and I, for one, have never had to wait for a port to get them into.—But come; there will be no supper left if we do not make haste down. We jumped ashore with fine appetites, and I would not trust any body with a cooked supper, after such a pull as we have had to-day. Besides, we have not overmuch time, for we must be off Little Serk before the first farmer is up and overlooking the sea. We have a private errand there.”
“And you are going to leave us—all alone!” exclaimed Mrs. Le Brocq.
“Not if you wish to go with us, mother. At Little Serk you will be all the nearer Jersey, you know. We will take good care of you. Come, Anna; you are not afraid of supping with my partners, are you?”
“O, no; and yet, if anybody had told me—But they do not look at all wild and terrible, as I thought people did when they broke the laws.”
“It depends much on what sort of people break the laws,” observed Stephen; “and that again depends on what sort of laws they are that are broken. When it is not the violent and cruel, but such people as thrifty shop-keepers—”
“I cannot help laughing,” said Anna, “to think of Mr. Prince. I am sure nobody could ever dream of being afraid of him. Mother, will you come down, and speak to Mr. Prince, and have some supper?”
“And he will tell us the best plan for getting to Jersey, I dare say. I wonder whether he has been in the way of hearing anything of Louise lately?”
The old lady made little difficulty about the descent; and she and her daughter were presently so far demoralized as to be supping with a company of smugglers, almost as comfortably as if they had been honest men.
WELCOME TO SUPPER.
The party was off Little Serk, as Aaron willed, before the first farmer was abroad on the upland to overlook the gleamy sea. Two of the company had hastened over the heath, while the others were at supper, to bring the larger packages which had been left behind; and all had put off beneath the moon some time before midnight. Mr. Prince had found a little leisure for being civil to his former customers, though he had much to do, as well as his companions, in stowing in one of the caverns the goods he had brought from France, and loading the boat with the packages deposited there by some friendly vraickers and lobster-fishers.
It was not that in these islands any danger attended traffic of any kind; except in the one article of spirits which had not paid duty. There were here no guards patrolling the sands, or perched upon the steep, to look for thieves in every bark that cleaved the blue expanse, and anticipate murder when the twilight spread its shadows. There were here no questionable abodes,—spy-stations,—niched in places convenient for overlooking the traffic of housewifes with the fishermen who furnished their tables. Here there were no deadly struggles in the darkness, the comrade going down in deep waters, with the bitter consciousness that he was thrown overboard lest his wounds should lead his companions into danger; or left unclaimed upon the beach, while wife or parents are secretly mourning, and longing to give the exposed body the respectful burial which strangers will not yield. No such extraordinary arrangements deform the simplicity and mar the peace of the society of these islands; but, while the coasts of France and England cannot enjoy the same freedom, the islanders are tempted to share in the frauds and the perils of their neighbours. Not content with having corn, wine, and tobacco at their natural cost of production and carriage, they are willing to help others to the same privilege; and will continue to be so willing as long as, by their office of go-between, they can make a profit by the bad legislation of the two kingdoms within whose embrace they lie. There is no remedy for this but rectifying the faults of French and English commercial legislation. As long as taxes are levied by raising the prices of necessary articles so high as to make smuggling profitable, the island boats will steal along the shores, or cautiously cross the straits on the dishonest errands of a mediator between two defrauders; they will land their passengers short of their point, because they have something besides passengers on board; they will make a show of lobsters to hide tea and tobacco. To impose restraints on them, similar to those by which they now profit in pocket and suffer in morals, would only increase the evil by enlarging the field of temptation, and adding the demand of the islands to that of the two neighbouring coasts. There is no remedy but in putting all on an equality, not of restraint, but of freedom.
The lord of Serk and his people had not yet opened their eyes on the morning sunshine, when the boat containing Aaron and his party ran under the perpendicular rocks of the island, and several voices announced that they had arrived at their destination. No landing-place was visible; but the women had by this time become inured to wonders, and resigned to whatever of romantic might come in their way. They asked no questions, even when their boat grated against the rock, and moved uneasily in the ripple without being intended to make any progress. They made no objection when desired to lay hold of a rope which dangled from a ledge thirty feet above their heads; and quietly submitted to be hauled up they knew not whither. Up and down, forward and round-about they went, now seeing a cask taken up from a store-cavern, now dropping a message in a lonely cottage; and at last sitting down to repose in a cavern which was lighted only from a natural opening at the top, upon which the blue sky seemed to rest as a roof. Here the echoes were already awake with the blows of the mattock and the grating of the saw. Here boat-building went on, early and late; for a certain Englishman had found out how well the islanders are off for timber,—the best of timber, which pays no duty; and many a good bargain he made by going forth in a worn-out vessel, and coming home in a boat of Serk workmanship. Aaron was right in supposing that here he should pick up the means of conveying his mother and sister home with their heavy wares. Here he insisted on their resting, after their many fatigues and long watching; but it was not that he might himself repose. He had still a little trip to make.
“My dear, you will be tired to death,” said his mother. “I never knew you work all night in Jersey.”
Aaron laughed, and said that people are seldom tired to death when they work at no bidding but their own: and, as for working at night—
“It is a bad practice, Aaron, depend upon it,” said his sister. “Honest work is done by daylight.”
“Carry your objections to those who taught me to work at night,” answered Aaron. “And not me only, but hundreds more. They are but few who would naturally work when their part of the world is supposed to be asleep;—the nurse beside the sick-bed, and the watchmen that walk the streets of cities; the beacon-keeper that trims the lamps in his high tower, and the helmsman that fixes his eyes upon those lights far out at sea. All but these are supposed to be at rest when God has set his stars for night-lamps, and drawn the darkness about us for a curtain: but there are some who contradict his decree that night is the time for rest;—and they are such as make harsh and unjust laws.”
“But for laws,” said Anna, nearly as she had said before, “we might be subject to the robber by night, and the violent man by day. Without laws, none of us could lie down and sleep in peace.”
“Without some wholesome laws: but, if it were not for certain unwise and cruel laws, thousands more of us would lie down and sleep in peace. Ask the country justice in England, whose business it is to enforce the laws, how often it happens that labourers who cannot get work during the day because their superiors have a monopoly of bread, toil unlawfully all the night because their superiors have a monopoly of game. He may dispute the wickedness; but he will not deny what comes of digging pitfalls for men, lest they should set springes for birds. Ask, — (nobody could have told better than poor Durell)—ask any exciseman what time is chosen by certain traders for their traffic, and makers for their work; and he will tell you of the burning, and the boiling, and the distilling, and the packing and removing that take place by night. He will tell you that the noblest works that men can do, and that they ought to do proudly in the daylight, are done by night, because the law has fixed a sin and a shame upon them. To make improvements in human comfort is turned into a sin and shame, when those improvements are made too expensive by a tax; therefore they are tried by night. The exchange of the fruits of men’s labour is made a sin and a shame, when a tax comes in to make such an exchange unprofitable: therefore it is done by night. These innocent things being made a sin and a shame is the reason why tax-gatherers prowl about, like so many robbers, when the sun is down; and why the better men whom they entrap are carried to prison in the morning, to come out blasted and desperate, as if they had committed a crime against God’s majesty instead of against the king’s treasury.”
Mrs. Le Brocq stared in astonishment at her son. With a little hesitation, she asked him whether he had not adopted a new vocation, and turned preacher. The kindness of his manner to her, and the eloquence of his speech, concurred to impress her with the idea. He smiled as he answered, that there would be no lack of preachers or of eloquence upon this subject, if every one who had suffered were allowed to bear witness. A voice would rise up from all the land, and go forth over the sea, if every Briton who is injured by the mode in which he is obliged to pay his contribution to the state, might speak his mind.
But still,—Aaron talked so differently from what he used to do,—so freely,—so cleverly.
“There is all the difference in the world, mother, between— But I do not wish to say anything disrespectful of my father: so I will only mention that the reason why it is found to be prudent for governments to allow people to speak out, is because nothing makes men more eloquent than a sense of wrong; and the stronger the eloquence that is suppressed, the more doggedly will the sense of wrong show itself in some other way. A whole nation can mutter and be sullen, as I used to be; and its muttering and sullenness may prove of more importance than mine. Now I have got an occupation of my own, and am under nobody’s management, I could preach (as you would say) very strongly both to parents and governments about not being spies and meddlers,—that is to say,” (recollecting his father) “about not interfering more than is pleasant with the doings of their children and subjects. To make wise and merciful general laws, and then leave the will and actions free in particular instances, is the only true policy,—the only kind of government which is not in its nature tyranny.”
“But how do you apply that to the paying of taxes?” inquired Stephen. “How is the state to raise money on such a plan of government?”
“Far more easily than in any other way, in my opinion. Under a general rule that property is to pay such or such a proportion of tax, there is the least possible room for partiality and oppression; for the derangement of people’s affairs, and interference with people’s actions. There is an open and honest calling to account, at times that are fixed, in a manner that is established, and for purposes that are well understood: while, by meddling as excisemen and customhouse officers meddle, the king is defrauded of the affections of his people; the state is wronged in purse and reputation; and its agents are made masters to teach multitudes a livelihood which need never have been heard of. Which of us would naturally have dreamed of living by defrauding the government, for whose protection we were ready to pay our share?”
“Then you will not go on as you have been doing lately,” said Anna. “You will go home with us, and serve the government as you yourself think the government ought to be served.”
“I will see you home, and do my father’s errand at the custom-house,” replied Aaron. “The States shall never have cause to complain of me, as long as they go on to take our taxes as they do now. As for cheating them, I could not if I would: and I am sure I have no desire to do it while they treat me like a man, and ask no more from me than is due from a subject.”
“I am sure I hope they will go on to do so.”
“You may well wish it. If ever they begin meddling with your cider or soap-making, or setting spies upon me when I buy tobacco or hemp, I shall be off to some country,—Turkey may be,—where taxes are demanded and not filched.”
“Turkey! I thought that was a horrible country to live in.”
“So you would find it in many respects; but it is wise and free in its mode of taxation; and the effects of this one kind of wisdom and freedom on the happiness of the people, our neighbours on the north and south would do prudently to study and admit. However, yonder lies Jersey; as good a place as Turkey in this respect, and better in many others; so I have no present wish to sail eastwards.”
It seemed to Mrs. Le Brocq this afternoon that nothing more was necessary to happiness than to be sailing southwards, with Aaron trimming the sail, Anna looking as tranquil as if she had never been in an excise court or a prison, and the beloved island rising on the sight, in which was Louise, probably with a pretty baby in her arms;—a pretty baby, of course, as every thing belonging to Louise must be pretty. How cheerful looked that picturesque coast from Grosnez to Rozel, as promontory after promontory came into view, tapestried with verdure, or crested with cairns or church towers, and casting each its dark shadow to hide its eastern cove from the declining sun! How busy were those coves to-day! how unlike their usual solitude and stillness! At almost every other time, it was a wonder to see more than a solitary loiterer on the narrow path whose precarious line circled the rocks, and penetrated the bays, now winding up to the steep, now dipping to the margin of the water; and, as for the yellow sands, they were left printless from tide to tide while the islanders were busy about their farmsteads. But now, all was as animated as if the land was joyful at the Le Brocqs’ return. Carts were standing in the water to receive the vraic; and the red-capped boy who rode the horse, or the white-sleeved man who wielded his rake in the vehicle, looked bright in the evening sunshine. Here and there, a horse might be seen swimming home from a distant mass of rock, guided by a youth or maiden mounted on the heaped panniers. Boats were plying from point to point; and on every ledge where marine vegetation could be supposed to flourish without danger of molestation, children might be seen tugging at the tenacious weed, while their fathers did more effectual execution with their scythes. There was not an exposed place all along this coast where the lobsters could safely come up this day to sun themselves; and when the infant crabs should next propose to play hide-and-seek in what was to them a sort of marine jungle, they would find their moist retreat stripped and bare, and must betake themselves again to the tide. High on the beach might be seen parties busy at their work, or busier at their recreation,—spreading and tossing the ooze as if it were hay, or broaching the cider cask, and distributing the vraicking cakes. Mrs. Le Brocq once nearly upset the boat, by lifting up her ponderous self with the view of hailing the mowers on shore;—a feat about as practicable in her case as shaking hands with one on the top of Coutances cathedral. She was glad to reseat herself, and be no worse, and try to wait patiently till the boat should have rounded Archirondel tower, and given her up to tread one of the green paths from St. Catherine’s bay to the ridge, on the other side of which was Louise.
From that ridge might be seen the farm-house, just as was expected. It did not seem to have lost an ivy-leaf, nor to have gained so much as a lichen on its pales. The pigeons looked the very same. The fowls strutted and perched exactly as formerly; and the brook trotted over the stones as if it had never grown tired all these many months.
“Who could have thought we had been away?” was Anna’s first exclamation. Her mother was toiling on too fast to reply; but Aaron gave an unconscious answer to her thought when he presently overtook them, and delivered the result of the observation he had lingered on the ridge to make with his boat glass.
“Who do you think is in the porch, mother?”
“And who else?—No, not her husband, nor Victorine; but her baby. There is a bundle on her arm; I am sure it must be her baby. Charles is out vraicking, no doubt; and Victorine is milking, I see, behind there. Not so fast, mother, if I may advise. Let me go first. She will be less surprised to see me; and I think she cannot be strong yet, or she would have been out vraicking too.”
It was, in fact, Louise’s first evening out of doors after her confinement. What an evening it was!—Anna relieving her of all household cares; her mother overflowing by turns with affecting narrative and admiration of the infant; Stephen giving a droll turn to every thing; and no paternal restraint to spoil the whole! It was a pity that night was near, and that it would come to put a stop to the interesting questions and answers that abounded.
“When do you gather your apples, love? I have been thinking we must soon be setting about your cider.”
“But, mother, only think of your coming away from London without seeing the king!”
“My dear, your father did write to him: so it is not as if we had had nothing to do with him.”
“And what was the answer like?”
“Bless me, Anna! we never thought more of the king’s answer. But, really, my head was so full of things, I never recollected to send to inquire at the post-office. However, your father will be more mindful, I dare say. Well, Louise, I cannot think how you managed with the calf, to have such a misfortune happen, my dear. I never failed with one all the time I lived here.”
“And you say you never so much as tried in Lambeth. I do wonder you did not manage it, one way or another.”
“Nobody keeps cows there, love, but the brewers; and then the poor beasts live on the grains, and seldom taste fresh grass. They flourish, in a way, too. A great brewer near us had one brought in, intending that it should have the range of the paved yard, on Sundays, when the gates were shut: but the creature had fattened on the grains so that when the people would have let her out, she could not turn in her stall. When they had thinned her a little, so that she might get exercise, it was thought that the fumes of the liquor had affected her head, she capered about so among the casks. But I never heard but what she yielded very good cream, which you do not always see in London.”
“I wonder how they get cream at all, if, as you say, there are no cows but one in each brewery. Perhaps the excise makes the difficulty with taking some of the cream for the king; as they say the tithing man does for the parson.”
Aaron had not heard of an exciseman being yet instructed to thrust himself between the cow and the milk-pail; but he should not be surprised any day to hear of its being made part of an excise officer’s duty to peep in at a dairy lattice, and see what the milk-maids were about with their skimming dishes. Did not he hear horses’ feet outside? Could it be Charles? No; Charles was not coming home to-night. What old friend could it be? And he ran out to see.
“An old enemy,” the guest expected to be called. It was Janvrin, the tax-gatherer. Every body was struck with the strangeness of the circumstance that he should appear on this particular night,—to a party who had had so much to do with taxes since they had met him last. There was something much more astonishing to him in the cordiality of his reception.
“The last time I saw you all here,” said he, “you certainly wished me at the Caskets, or somewhere further off still; and now, you are heaping your good supper upon me, as if I were come to pay money, and not to ask it.”
“For our former behaviour,” replied Aaron, “you may call him to account,”—pointing to Stephen. “You heard him say what taxation was in England,—just paying a trifle more for articles when they were bought;—such a mere trifle as not to be perceived. He is not laughing in his sleeve now as he was when he told that traveller’s tale. It is to our having taken him at his word, Janvrin, and made trial of English taxation, that you owe your different reception to-night.”
Stephen expressed his sorrow that his words had taken so much more effect than he had intended. He really would try,—he would do his very best, to avoid telling travellers’ tales for the future.
“The oddest thing is,” said Janvrin, “that there are some who are no travellers that tell the very same tale. There are dwellers in England,—even speakers in her parliament, who ought to know the condition and interests of the people, who go on to insist that the filching system,—the taxing of commodities,—is the best way of raising a revenue. The wonder to me is why the mouths of such men are not stopped,—how such taxes come to be borne.”
“Because it is the ignorant who have to bear the worst of the burden,” Stephen thought. “The payment is made unconsciously by those who pay in the long run. The trader feels the grievance at first, and makes an outcry; but when the time comes for him to repay himself out of his customers’ pockets, he drops his cry, and nobody takes it up. It saves some people much trouble that all should be hush. But the time cannot be far off when honest men will be set to inquire, and then—”
“And what then?”
“They will report that the truest kindness to the people will be rather to preserve the worst direct tax, be it what it may, that was ever devised, than to go on taxing glass and soap, and many other things nearly as necessary.”
“If the people are so little aware as you say, I am afraid that day is a long way off.”
“I think it is near at hand; and for this reason; that there has been a beginning made with the excise taxes. The government has set free candles, beer, cider and perry, hides and printed goods. What should hinder their going on to glass and soap, now that the mischief begins to be understood?”
“Especially,” said Janvrin, “when they find what it is to have fewer officers to pay, and smaller regiments of spies to provide for, and less trouble in delivering money backwards and forwards, as they have to do now with drawbacks and import duties, and all such troublesome things. It is a pity they should not come here, and see what it is to have houses made of free bricks, and filled with furniture made of untaxed wood, and cleaned with home-made soap, and—but I need not tell the present company what it is to live in Jersey, before or after living in England. The English may have heard a little of our meadows, our cattle, and our fruits, the like to which they cannot make in a season, at their will; but they can hardly have heard much of our taxation, or else they would come and live here by thousands;—or rather, mend their own plans so as not to be beaten by us in butter-selling in their own markets,—not to be obliged to us for helping them underhand with such corn and oil and wine as we do not want,—not to reflect with shame that we have in proportion five newspapers to their one, and one tax-gatherer to their ten.”
“The comptroller at St. Heliers might well advise me not to go to England,” said Aaron. “He knew well what he meant in saying it. I shall tell him so to-morrow; and the more because I was inclined to take it ill at the time.”
“Saying, I suppose, ‘What’s that to you?’ Hey, Mr. Aaron?”
“Just so. I have had my answer, I assure you. I hope he knows as well how different his office is from that of an English custom-house officer. When he has done his search about wine and spirits, he may put his hands in his pocket and amuse himself. I well remember his doing so, of old. In England, there is not a package that comes on shore that is not suspected; and scarcely a thing that is brought over to be sold for touch or taste, that is not taxed or to be taxed.”
“That is going too far for any body’s interest. If the English would have no customs for protection, but only for revenue, they would presently find out what would bear customs duty without doing harm to any or all. They would tax outwards only what their country produced so much better than other countries that others would go on to buy, notwithstanding the tax; and inwards nothing at all. When China taxes her own tea, and Russia her own tallow, timber, and hides, and England her own iron and slates, and each country, in like manner, its own best produce, and nobody’s else, the curse of the customs will cease from off the earth.”
“Meantime, if the duties were proportioned to the natural prices of articles, and made to fall with the price, instead of rising—”
“Some of our islanders must change their occupation; or fish lobsters in earnest instead of pretence. Then there would be an end of the crowning curse of smuggling.”
Aaron and Stephen made no answer,—the one applying himself once more to his plate, and the other pressing the tax-gatherer again to eat. An interval was left for Louise to repeat to him, while Victorine stood open-mouthed to hear, some of the wonders of life in Lambeth;—the non-existence of cows, the dearth of baked pears and vraic, and the actual presence of a river in which nobody thought of washing clothes. This reminded Victorine to make haste and put away every stray article of apparel before Stephen retired to rest.
A WANDERER STILL.
“My mother is still asleep, I suppose,” said Aaron, the next morning, when followed by Anna as he was going forth. “I do not wonder; for I was drowsy enough to have slept on till noon, if I had not had this errand of my father’s to do at the Custom-house. I will take care that the certificate gets to his hands; and then you will soon see him. You shall have news of the pottery from time to time, Anna. Farewell.”
“What do you mean, Aaron? Now, do answer me. Are you not coming back?”
“O, yes; I shall look in upon you now and then at odd times. I may chance to enter when you are all asleep, or to drop in for a basin of soup on a winter day. You do not want me, you know. The rope-walk is Malet’s; and my father will take care of the farm.”
“No, no, Aaron. Nothing will prosper with us if you go out again with those law-breakers on the sea. We shall never be happy if you live by breaking the laws. God will never prosper us.”
“How can you say that, Anna, when I have prospered already as I never thought to prosper? The worst that can happen to me is to have my tobacco seized now and then. I assure you that is all; for I am only a trader. It is no part of my business to meet the coast-guard, and get murdered. They can only seize my goods; and that signifies little with tobacco, which costs me next to nothing, and brings me a fine profit from England, though I sell it far below the legal price there. Such a loss now and then is no punishment compared with the having spies set upon my honest business, as I had in London.”
“I thought that when we came back here, all would be right,” said his weeping sister.
“And so it is. I am getting rich; and I love the sea and the freedom I have upon it. You ought to be glad that I have found a way of life that I like, and left one that I hated.”
Anna only shook her head and wept the more; and then Stephen came groping out; and, guided by Aaron’s voice, approached also to say farewell.
“O, do not go yet,” cried she to Aaron. “When will you come back? When will your conscience be touched about your way of life, about living by cheating the state?”
“Whenever the state shows a little more regard to the consciences of the king’s subjects than it does now. What I do, I have been taught; and you know how, Anna. I shall come back to live by the land whenever they cut off my living by sea. Whenever the English un-tax corn and wine and tobacco, I shall come and be a Jersey farmer, and you shall milk my cows, unless—”
Stephen seized the occasion for a joke about the brown maidens of France, into whose company Aaron’s wild occupations sometimes brought him, and about the damsels of the neighbouring islets, who had learned to know the stroke of his oar from all others, as soon as its flash could be seen in the sunshine. Aaron laughed; and laughing, bade his sister again farewell.
She could not even smile. Little did she once think that it could ever make her sad to see Aaron merry; but as little did she then suppose that Aaron would ever live by a lawless occupation. Sadly did she watch him, leading away his companion till both were quite out of sight; and disconsolately did she then sit down in the porch, and grieve over the temptation which drew her brother away from the blossoming valley where his days might have proceeded, as they had begun, in innocence and plenty.
SCHOLARS OF ARNESIDE.
CHARLES FOX, 67, PATERNOSTER-ROW.
printed by william clowes, Duke Street, Lambeth,
SCHOLARS OF ARNESIDE.
CHARLES FOX, 67, PATERNOSTER-ROW.