Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter IV.: FRIEND OR FOE? - Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside)
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Chapter IV.: FRIEND OR FOE? - 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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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.