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tone of mock seriousness, when the detection of the playful extravagance was left to the discernment or quick sympathy of the hearer; and I was blind to the fact, that neither my mother nor my uncle was distinguished by any natural liveliness of vision for the comic, or any toleration for the extravagant. My mother, for example, had an awful sense of conscientious fidelity in the payment of taxes. Many a respectable family I have known that would privately have encouraged a smuggler, and, in consequence, were beset continually by mock smugglers, offering, with airs of affected mystery, home commodities liable to no custom-house objections whatsoever, only at a hyperbolical price. I remember even the case of a duke, who bought in Piccadilly, under laughable circumstances of complex disguise, some silk handkerchiefs, falsely pretending to be foreign, and was so incensed at finding himself to have been committing no breach of law whatever, but simply to have been paying double the ordinary shop price, that he pulled up the soi-disant smuggler to Bowstreet, even at the certain price of exposure to himself. The charge he alleged against the man was the untenable one of not being a smuggler. My mother, on the contrary, pronounced all such attempts at cheating the king, or, as I less harshly termed it, cheating the tax-gatherer, as being equal in guilt to a fraud upon one's neighbor, or to direct appropriation of another man's purse. I, on my part, held, that government, having often defrauded me through its agent and creature the post-office, by monstrous over-charges on letters, had thus created in my behalf a right of retaliation. And dreadfully it an
noyed my mother, that I, stating this right in a very plausible rule-of-three form-namely, As is the income of the said fraudulent government to my poor patrimonial income of one hundred and fifty pounds per annum, so is any one special fraud (as, for instance, that of yesterday morning, amounting to thirteen pence upon a single letter) to that equitable penalty which I am entitled to recover upon the goods and chattels (wherever found) of the illadvised Britannic government. During the war with Napoleon, the income of this government ran, to all amounts, between fifty and seventy millions pounds sterling. Awful, therefore, seemed the inheritance of retaliation, inexhaustible the fund of reprisals, into which I stepped. Since, even a single case of robbery, such as I could plead by dozens, in the course of a few years, though no more than thirteen pence, yet multiplied into seventy million times two hundred and forty pence, minus one hundred and fifty pounds, made a very comfortable property. The right was clear; and the sole difficulty lay in asserting it; in fact, that same difficulty which beset the philosopher of old, in arguing with the Emperor Hadrian; namely, the want of thirty legions for the purpose of clearly pointing out to Cæsar where it was that the truth lay; the secret truth; that rarest of all "nuggets."
This counter-challenge of government, as the first mover in a system of frauds, annoyed, but also perplexed my mother exceedingly. For an argument that shaped itself into a rule-of-three illustration seemed really to wear too candid an aspect for summary and absolute rejection.
Such discussions wore to me a comic shape. But altogether serious were the disputes upon INDIA topic on separate grounds equally interesting to us all, as the mightiest of English colonies, and the superbest monument of demoniac English energy, revealing itself in such men as Clive, Hastings, and soon after in the two Wellesleys. To my mother, as the grave of one brother, as the home of another, and as a new centre from which Christianity (she hoped) would mount like an eagle; for just about that time the Bible Society was preparing its initial movements; whilst to my uncle India appeared as the arena upon which his activities were yet to find their adequate career. With respect to the Christianization of India, my uncle assumed a hope which he did not really feel; and in another point, more trying to himself personally, he had soon an opportunity for showing the sincerity of this deference to his spiritual-minded sister. For, very soon after his return to India, he received a civil appointment (Superintendent of Military Buildings in Bengal), highly lucrative, and the more so as it could be held conjointly with his military rank; but a good deal of its pecuniary advantages was said to lie in fees, or perquisites, privately offered, but perfectly regular and official, which my mother (misunderstanding the Indian system) chose to call "bribes." A very ugly word was that; but I argued that even at home, even in the courts at Westminster, in the very fountains of justice, private fees constituted one part of the salaries a fair and official part, so long as Parliament had not made such fees illegal by commuting them for known and fixed equivalents.
It was mere ignorance of India, as I dutifully insisted against "Mamma," that could confound these regular oriental "nuzzers" with the clandestine wages of corruption. The pot-de-vin of French tradition, the pair of gloves (though at one time very costly gloves) to an English judge of assize on certain occasions, never was offered nor received in the light of a bribe. And (until regularly abolished by the legislature) I insisted-but vainly insistedthat these and similar honoraria ought to be accepted, because else you were lowering the prescriptive rights and value of the office, which you locum tenens for some coming successor right to do upon a solitary scruple or crotchet, arising probably from dyspepsia. Better men, no doubt, than ever stood in your stockings, had pocketed thankfully the gifts of ancient, time-honored custom. My uncle, however, though not with the carnal recusancy which besieged the spiritual efforts of poor Cuthbert Headrigg, that incorrigible worldling, yet still with intermitting doubts, followed my mother's earnest entreaties, and the more meritoriously (I conceive), as he yielded, in a point deeply affecting his interest, to a system of arguments very imperfectly convincing to his understanding. He held the office in question for as much (I believe) as eighteen or nineteen years; and, by knowing old bilious Indians, who laughed immoderately at my uncle and my mother, as the proper growth of a priory or some such monastic establishment, I have been assured that nothing short of two hundred thousand pounds ought, under the long tenure of office, to have been remitted to England. But, then, said one of these
gentlemen, if your uncle lived (as I have heard that he did) in Calcutta and Meer-ut, at the rate of four thousand pounds a year, that would account for a considerable share of a mine which else would seem to have been worked in vain. Unquestionably, my uncle's system of living was under no circumstances a self-denying one. To enjoy, and to make others. enjoy - that was his law of action. Indeed, a more liberal creature, or one of more princely munificence, never lived.
It might seem useless to call back any fragment of conversations relating to India which passed more than fifty years ago, were it not for two reasons: one of which is this, that the errors (natural at that time) which I vehemently opposed, not from any greater knowledge that I had, but from closer reflection, are even now the prevailing errors of the English people. My mother, for instance, uniformly spoke of the English as the subverters of ancient thrones. I, on the contrary, insisted that nothing political was ancient in India. Our own original opponents, the Rajahs of Oude and Bengal, had been all upstarts: in the Mysore, again, our more recent opponents, Hyder, and his son Tippoo, were new men altogether, whose grandfathers were quite unknown. Why was it that my mother, why is it that the English public at this day, connect so false an image that of high, cloudy antiquity-with the thrones of India? It is simply from an old habit of associating the spirit of change and rapid revolution with the activities of Europe; so that, by a natural reäction of thought, the Orient is figured as the home of motionless monotony. In things religious, in