Essays in Rebellion eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 277 pages of information about Essays in Rebellion.
that times have changed.  Certainly times have changed, and it was deliverance from Protection that changed them most.  But if landowners have changed, if they are now more alien from the people, and richer from other sources than land, we have no reason to suppose them less greedy or more pitiful; nor can a nation live on the off-chance of pity.  Seventy years ago the net encompassed the land.  We have seen how the people suffered under its entanglement.  In the sight of all, landowners and speculators are now trying to spread that net again.  Are we to suppose the English people have not the hereditary instinct of sparrows to keep them outside its meshes?

XIV

THE GRAND JURY

When Mr. Clarkson, of the Education Office, received a summons to attend the Grand Jury, or to answer the contrary at his peril, he was glad.  “For now,” he thought, “I shall share in the duties of democracy and be brought face to face with the realities of life.”

“Mrs. Wilson,” he said to the landlady, as she brought in his breakfast, “what does this summons mean by describing the Court as being in the suburbs of the City of London?  Is there a Brixton Branch?”

“O Lordy me!” cried the landlady, “I do hope, sir, as you’ve not got yourself mixed up with no such things; but the Court’s nigh against St. Paul’s, as I know from going there just before my poor nephew passed into retirement, as done him no good.”

“The summons,” Mr. Clarkson went on, “the summons says I’m to inquire, present, do, and execute all and singular things with which I may be then and there enjoined.  Why should only the law talk like that?”

“Begging your pardon, sir,” replied the landlady, “I sometimes do think it comes of their dressing so old-fashioned.  But I’d ask it of you not to read me no more of such like, if you’d be so obliging.  For it do make me come over all of a tremble.”

“I wonder if her terror arises from the hideousness of the legal style or from association of ideas?” thought Mr. Clarkson as he opened a Milton, of which he always read a few lines every morning to dignify the day.

On the appointed date, he set out eastward with an exhilarating sense of change, and thoroughly enjoyed the drive down Holborn among the crowd of City men.  “It’s rather strangely like going to the seaside,” he remarked to the man next him on the motor-’bus.  The man asked him if he had come from New Zealand to see the decorations, and arrived late.  “Oh no,” said Mr. Clarkson, “I seldom think the Colonies interesting, and I distrust decoration in every form.”

It was unfortunate, but the moment he mounted the Court stairs, the decoration struck him.  There were the expected scenes, historic and emblematic of Roman law, blindfold Justice, the Balance, the Sword, and other encouraging symbols.  But in one semicircle he especially noticed a group of men, women, and children, dancing to the tabor’s sound in naked freedom.  “Please, could you tell me,” he asked of a stationary policeman, “whether that scene symbolises the Age of Innocence, before Law was needed, or the Age of Anarchy, when Law will be needed no longer?”

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Essays in Rebellion from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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