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