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- Sybil, or the Two Nations - 40/101 -


"But is there no redress for such iniquitous oppression," said Morley, who had listened with astonishment to this complacent statement. "Is there no magistrate to apply to?"

"No no," said the filer with an air of obvious pride, "we don't have no magistrates at Wodgate. We've got a constable, and there was a prentice who coz his master laid it on, only with a seat rod, went over to Ramborough and got a warrant. He fetched the summons himself and giv it to the constable, but he never served it. That's why they has a constable here."

"I am sorry," said Morley, "that I have affairs with such a wretch as this Hatton."

"You'll find him a wery hearty sort of man," said the filer, "if he don't hap to be in drink. He's a little robustious then, but take him all in all for a master, you may go further and fare worse.

"What! this monster!"

"Lord bless you, it's his way, that's all, we be a queer set here; but he has his pints. Give him a lock to make, and you won't have your box picked; he's wery lib'ral too in the wittals. Never had horse-flesh the whole time I was with him; they has nothin' else at Tugsford's; never had no sick cow except when meat was very dear. He always put his face agin still-born calves; he used to say he liked his boys to have meat what was born alive and killed alive. By which token there never was any sheep what had bust in the head sold in our court. And then sometimes he would give us a treat of fish, when it had been four or five days in town and not sold. No, give the devil his due, say I. There never was no want for anything at meals with the Bishop, except time to eat them in."

"And why do you call him the Bishop?"

"That's his name and authority; for he's the governor here over all of us. And it has always been so that Wodgate has been governed by a bishop; because as we have no church, we will have as good. And by this token that this day sen'night, the day my time was up, he married me to this here young lady. She is of the Baptist school religion, and wanted us to be tied by her clergyman, but all the lads that served their time with me were married by the Bishop, and many a more, and I saw no call to do no otherwise. So he sprinkled some salt over a gridiron, read "Our Father" backwards, and wrote our name in a book: and we were spliced; but I didn't do it rashly, did I, Suky, by the token that we had kept company for two years, and there isn't a gal in all Wodgate what handles a file, like Sue."

"And what is your name, my good fellow?"

"They call me Tummas, but I ayn't got no second name; but now I am married I mean to take my wife's, for she has been baptised, and so has got two."

"Yes sir," said the girl with the vacant face and the back like a grasshopper; "I be a reg'lar born Christian and my mother afore me, and that's what few gals in the Yard can say. Thomas will take to it himself when work is slack; and he believes now in our Lord and Saviour Pontius Pilate who was crucified to save our sins; and in Moses, Goliath, and the rest of the Apostles."

"Ah! me," thought Morley, "and could not they spare one Missionary from Tahiti for their fellow countrymen at Wodgate!"

Book 3 Chapter 5

The summer twilight had faded into sweet night; the young and star-attended moon glittered like a sickle in the deep purple sky; of all the luminous host, Hesperus alone was visible; and a breeze, that bore the last embrace of the flowers by the sun, moved languidly and fitfully over the still and odorous earth.

The moonbeam fell upon the roof and garden of Gerard. It suffused the cottage with its brilliant light, except where the dark depth of the embowered porch defied its entry. All around the beds of flowers and herbs spread sparkling and defined. You could trace the minutest walk; almost distinguish every leaf. Now and then there came a breath, and the sweet-peas murmured in their sleep; or the roses rustled, as if they were afraid they were about to be roused from their lightsome dreams. Farther on the fruit-trees caught the splendour of the night; and looked like a troop of sultanas taking their gardened air, when the eye of man could not profane them, and laden with jewels. There were apples that rivalled rubies; pears of topaz tint: a whole paraphernalia of plums, some purple as the amethyst, others blue and brilliant as the sapphire; an emerald here, and now a golden drop that gleamed like the yellow diamond of Gengis Khan.

Within--was the scene less fair? A single lamp shed over the chamber a soft and sufficient light. The library of Stephen Morley had been removed, but the place of his volumes had been partly supplied, for the shelves were far from being empty. Their contents were of no ordinary character: many volumes of devotion, some of church history, one or two on ecclesiastical art, several works of our elder dramatists, some good reprints of our chronicles, and many folios of church music, which last indeed amounted to a remarkable collection. There was no musical instrument however in the room of any kind, and the only change in its furniture, since we last visited the room of Gerard, was the presence of a long-backed chair of antique form, most beautifully embroidered, and a portrait of a female saint over the mantel-piece. As for Gerard himself he sat with his head leaning on his arm, which rested on the table, while he listened with great interest to a book which was read to him by his daughter, at whose feet lay the fiery and faithful bloodhound.

"So you see, my father," said Sybil with animation, and dropping her book which however her hand did not relinquish, "even then all was not lost. The stout earl retired beyond the Trent, and years and reigns elapsed before this part of the island accepted their laws and customs."

"I see," said her father, "and yet I cannot help wishing that Harold--, Here the hound, hearing his name, suddenly rose and looked at Gerard, who smiling, patted him and said, "We were not talking of thee, good sir, but of thy great namesake; but ne'er mind, a live dog they say is worth a dead king."

"Ah! why have we not such a man now," said Sybil, "to protect the people! Were I a prince I know no career that I should deem so great."

"But Stephen says no," said Gerard: "he says that these great men have never made use of us but as tools; and that the people never can have their rights until they produce competent champions from their own order."

"But then Stephen does not want to recall the past," said Sybil with a kind of sigh; "he wishes to create the future."

"The past is a dream," said Gerard.

"And what is the future?" enquired Sybil.

"Alack! I know not; but I often wish the battle of Hastings were to be fought over again and I was going to have a hand in it."

"Ah! my father," said Sybil with a mournful smile, "there is ever your fatal specific of physical force. Even Stephen is against physical force, with all his odd fancies."

"All very true," said Gerard smiling with good nature; "but all the same when I was coming home a few days ago, and stopped awhile on the bridge and chanced to see myself in the stream, I could not help fancying that my Maker had fashioned these limbs rather to hold a lance or draw a bow, than to supervise a shuttle or a spindle."

"Yet with the shuttle and the spindle we may redeem our race," said Sybil with animation, "if we could only form the minds that move those peaceful weapons. Oh! my father, I will believe that moral power is irresistible, or where are we to look for hope?"

Gerard shook his head with his habitual sweet good-tempered smile. "Ah!" said he, "what can we do; they have got the land, and the land governs the people. The Norman knew that, Sybil, as you just read. If indeed we had our rights, one might do something; but I don't know; I dare say if I had our land again, I should be as bad as the rest."

"Oh! no, my father," exclaimed Sybil with energy, "never, never! Your thoughts would be as princely as your lot. What a leader of the people you would make!"

Harold sprang up suddenly and growled.

"Hush!" said Gerard; "some one knocks:" and he rose and left the room. Sybil heard voices and broken sentences: "You'll excuse me"--"I take it kindly"--"So we are neighbours." And then her father returned, ushering in a person and saying, "Here is my friend Mr Franklin that I was speaking of, Sybil, who is going to be our neighbour; down Harold, down!" and he presented to his daughter the companion of Mr St Lys in that visit to the Hand-loom weaver when she had herself met the vicar of Mowbray.

Sybil rose, and letting her book drop gently on the table, received Egremont with composure and native grace. It is civilization that makes us awkward, for it gives us an uncertain position. Perplexed, we take refuge in pretence; and embarrassed, we seek a resource in affectation. The Bedouin and the Red Indian never lose their presence of mind;


Sybil, or the Two Nations - 40/101

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