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Chapter I.: WHAT HAVE THEY LEFT US? - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 1 (Life in the Wilds, Hill and the Valley, Brooke and Brooke Farm) 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1832). Vol. 1.
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WHAT HAVE THEY LEFT US?
There are few climates in the world more delightful to live in than that of the south of Africa. The air of the mountains behind the Cape of Good Hope is pure and wholesome; and the plains which stretch out towards the north at a great height above the sea, are fertile in native plants when uncultivated, and richly repay the toil of the farmer. The woods are remarkable for the variety of trees and shrubs, and there are as many animals which may serve for food or for beasts of burden as in this country. These advantages would lead numbers of our countrymen to settle in southern Africa, who now go elsewhere, if it were not for one great drawback. It is not that there are beasts of prey; for lions, leopards, and panthers, may be kept away from a settlement by the use of proper precautions: it is that a race of men, more fierce than wild beasts, and full of cunning, inhabit the mountains on the northern frontier of the European settlements, and descend, from time to time, upon the lonely farms or small villages scattered over the plain, and slaughter the inhabitants, burn their dwellings, and carry off their cattle and their goods. It is nearly impossible to guard against the attacks of these savages; and as a considerable force is required to resist them, it is no wonder that settlers are disposed to sacrifice many advantages of climate, soil, and productions, rather than be subject to the continual dread of a visit from the Bushmen, as these people are called. The settlements towards the northern frontier are therefore few and small, and consist of those whose poverty induces them to brave danger, and whose courage is improved by constant exercise.
The Bushmen were the original possessors of much of the country about the Cape, which the British and the Dutch have since taken for their own. The natives were hunted down like so many wild beasts. This usage naturally made them fierce and active in their revenge. The hardships they have undergone have affected their bodily make also; and their short stature and clumsy form are not, as some suppose, a sufficient proof that they are of an inferior race to the men they make war upon. If we may judge by the experiments which have been tried upon the natives of various countries, it seems probable that if Europeans were driven from their homes into the mountains, and exposed to the hardships of a savage life, they would become stunted in their forms, barbarous in their habits, and cruel in their revenge. They might, like the Bushmen, visit the sins of the first invaders upon their innocent successors, and cause as much undeserved distress as that we are about to relate.
It was in the month of September—a season of extreme heat in the climate we have described — when the inhabitants of a small British settlement in the north of the European territories of South Africa, met to consider what should be done to relieve the want to which they were suddenly reduced. The evening before, their village looked thriving, and its inhabitants gay and prosperous; and now, just when morning had dawned, they assembled to look on the ruin of their habitations, and the nakedness of their meadows, from which all the cattle had been driven away. The savages had carried off their tools and their arms, burned their little furniture with the houses, and left them nothing but the clothes they wore, and the seed which was buried in the ground. Happily, but few lives were lost, for the attack had been so sudden, that little resistance had been attempted: but yet some were gone whose services could ill be spared, even if they had not attached their companions to them by having shared the same toils, or by their several good qualities. Williams, the carpenter, was found dead among the ashes in the saw-pit ; and “Humby had been slaughtered on the threshold of the new hut he was building on his little farm. Some of the children, too, had perished in the flames; but the loss of life was found to be much less than every one had supposed before the numbers were called over. The most general and eager inquiries were for the safety of Captain Adams, and of Mr. and Mrs. Stone and their child, who were all alive and unhurt.
Mr. Stone was the best-educated man in the settlement, and was therefore much valued as a chaplain and teacher, as well as in his character of a practical farmer. His wife was an amiable, strong-minded woman, who assisted her husband in his labours abroad and at home. She was, by common consent, called the Lady of the settlement; but she refused the title; not because she was not really a lady, but because she thought there was no reason for such a distinction in a place where all were obliged to exert their own power for their own subsistence. She had one child, a girl of three years old.
Mr. Adams was called Captain only because he, in a manner, took the direction of the affairs of the settlement. Having been long accustomed to the climate, and acquainted with all the peculiarities of the country, he was well qualified to advise respecting the proceedings of his neighbours, who looked up to him as if he had really been what they called him, and had a captain's authority over them. It was he who now assembled them under the shelter of a few trees which grew in a nook between two hills.
When they met, they looked on one another, and no one seemed disposed to speak. The captain was about to break silence, when the sobbing of one of the women who had lost her child, and the wailing of the carpenter's widow, affected him so much that he could not command his voice. Mr. Stone, who was remarkable for his self-command, next came forward, and said that the friends around him had been called together that they might determine what measures should be taken for their safety and subsistence; and that it appeared to him that the right way to begin was by addressing God in a spirit of resignation for what they had lost, and of thankfulness for what remained. This was the readiest means of consoling the mourners who were among them, and of so calming the minds of all, as that they might deliberate soberly, and judge wisely in an extremity so awful.
To this there was a general assent; and all heads were bowed, and all sounds, except the voice of Mr. Stone, hushed in prayer.
When this was over, and a pause had succeeded, the captain observed that the first consideration of every man among them must be to secure food and shelter,—food for the present day, and shelter for perhaps one night only: for the next question was, whether they should remain in the settlement and build up its ruins as well as they could, or set out southwards with the hope of finding a safer resting-place, or aid from their countrymen. In the first place, then, he must declare his hope that every individual would lay aside all selfish thoughts and come forward to say what provisions remained in his hands or upon his portion of ground.
Mr. Stone offered an antelope which had been snared the day before, and fastened within an inclosure which the savages had not entered. He feared that but little was left of his first crop of fruit, and that the next would not be ripe for some weeks; but said, that whatever remained should be carried to any appointed spot. Campbell, the herdsman, said he had not a beast left of all the flocks he had charge of; but he would venture to follow on the track of the savages for a few miles, and if a stray ox or sheep should be left behind, it should be in the camp before nightfall. Upon this, two or three men offered to go out hunting if weapons were furnished; and others proposed fishing, if they had but tackle.
“This is all very well,” said the captain, who suspected that neither weapons nor tackle were to be had; “ but our object is to find out what food is actually in our possession.”
Alas! this was soon made out. There was only Mr. Stone's antelope, a few oranges, grapes, and figs; some eggs which were found near the roosts, and some fowls which began to appear again after having been scared away by the fires. This was all the provision that could be collected for fifty-four persons.
“It is clear, then,” said the captain, “that the greater number of us must disperse in search of food, and that all considerations of removal must be deferred till tomorrow, at least. We are in no condition to travel this day. But our night's shelter must also be thought of. Let any one speak who has a plan to propose.”
Here again there was a pause, for every one was wishing that poor Williams, the carpenter, was among them. At length, Robertson, a farmer said,
“If we could find up tools enough, we might have a sort of roof over our heads before night, for I believe there are several here who have been used, like myself, to handle a hatchet, though not as a regular business, like poor Williams who is gone. But if we cannot have tools, I see nothing for it but to sleep under the open sky. It is damp in the woods; and besides, the beasts would couch in our neighbourhood, and the women and children would not sleep for their roaring, even supposing we men could.”
“ The nights are frosty,” said Mr. Stone; “ it is dangerous to sleep unsheltered after such hot days. Who has a hatchet to produce?”
Not one was forthcoming, and each looked at his neighbour in dismay.
A labourer then proposed that a party of two or three should explore the pass of the mountains to the east, and see whether there were caves, or any places in the rock which might be covered in with boughs and rushes so as to make a convenient sleeping-place.
“Excellent!” cried the captain. “And lest this plan should fail us, let another company go into the wood, and try whether we cannot get possession of some stout branches, though we have no tools. Some must have snapped in the wind last week, I should think; and so dry as the weather has been for many weeks, some will yield to force, if we put our strength into our hands. We must remember that our hands are our tools to-day, and we must ply them well.”
“I do not see,” said Mr. Stone, “why the weakest should be idle. Cannot the children pluck dry grass and brushwood to make fires round our sleeping-place?”
“My child shall do her part,” said Mrs. Stone. “She shall look for eggs about the roost; and some of the boys and I will gather the fruit and cook the antelope, and whatever game may be brought in.”
“And I,” said her husband, “will see that the bodies of those we have lost are buried without delay, and with proper respect. Let the mourners of their families follow me.”
When Mr. Stone and about eight of the company had retired, the captain proceeded to appoint to the others their various tasks. His office of superintendent was enough for him. His advice and help were wanted every moment; for it was no easy matter to perform tasks, all the materials for which were wanting.
First of all, Campbell, the herdsman, was sent with two of Robertson's labourers to follow the Bushmen, and pick up any stray lamb or wearied beast which might have been left behind. They looked round wistfully for a noose, thinking that they might snare an antelope by the way; but not a thread of cordage was left. They were obliged to be content with a stout cudgel each, which they took from the trees as they passed.
Jack, the tanner's man, set off with two companions up the pass in search of a sleeping-place; while his master, who was accustomed to go into the woods to obtain bark for tanning, guided a party of labourers to a tree of remarkably hard and tough wood which he had barked and stripped of its branches, of which he thought tools of a rude kind might be made. It occurred to him also that the want of ropes might be supplied by thongs of leather tanned and prepared according to the manner of the natives; and he wished, therefore, to proceed upon the antelope's skin without delay. So his object was to obtain hard wood to make a rude sort of tools, and bark for tanning.
Hill, the barber-surgeon, had explored the whole neighbourhood in search of herbs for his medical purposes; and he told of a pool of remarkably fine water, about two miles off, which abounded with carp. They had only to pass a net through the water, he said, and they would soon catch enough to feed their company. This might be true, but where was the net? Hill could not furnish one; but he could tell how one might be obtained within a short time. He could shew where flax grew in abundance; and if two or three clever pairs of hands would help him, the fibres might be dried and pulled out and twisted and woven into a net, and in three days they might have a plentiful meal of fish. Hill's wife and her sister Kate, and the three children, went with him about this business.
“If they had but left us our dogs,” said Arnall, a great sportsman and one of the partners of the store or shop where all the commodities of the settlement were exchanged,—“if they had but left us our dogs, we might have started game in abundance.”
“And much use it would be of to us,” replied his partner, Mr. Duan, “when we have no guns to bring it down.”
“I shot a partridge without a gun, the other day,” said George Prest, the butcher's son. “Mr. Arnall laughed at my bow and arrows then; but perhaps he would like such an one now very well.”
“If you will bring me such an one to-morrow, my boy,” said Arnall, “you shall have the first bird I bring down.”
“I am afraid your arrows are not strong enough to kill a hare,” said Dunn. “If you help me to a hare, you shall have her skin to make a cap of for your bare head.”
“If your dogs will run me down a porcupine,” said the boy, “you shall have your hare and her skin into the bargain. A hedgehog's bristles are strong enough to wound a partridge, but nothing less than a porcupine quill will reach larger game.”
So saying, George ran off to beg a string of the gut of the antelope from Mrs. Stone, and to find a suitable slip of wood for a bow, and some lighter pieces for arrows, with tufts of the soft hair of the antelope, which must serve instead of feathers till a bird could be brought down. Meanwhile, Arnall climbed a hill, and whistled shrill and long for his dogs, one of which at length made his appearance, limping and wearied. Jowler had, however, sport enough in him to turn out a hedgehog, which was immediately killed, stripped of its bristles, and put away to be cooked the next day, after the manner of tim natives, if better food should fall short.
The rest of the labourers, meanwhile, were employed under the captain's direction in various tasks. Some assisted at the burial of their companions. As they had not the means of digging graves for the dead, and as it was necessary, on account of the extreme heat, not to defer the rite, the bodies were deposited together in the saw-pit, which was afterwards filled up with sand and earth. Others of the men built a sort of oven with stones; one large fiat one being placed at the bottom of a hole scooped out in the sand, and others placed upright round the sides of the hole. This was filled with burning wood till the stones were thoroughly heated; then the ashes were swept out, and the meat (which had been skinned and cut up with fragments of granite) put in, and the whole closed with a hot stone; and lastly, fire was heaped above and round the whole.
“I wonder whether it will be good,” said one of the children, who watched the whole proceeding. “There is no flour to sprinkle it with, nor yet salt. There will be very little gravy.”
“And what there is will all run out between the stones into the sand,” said another. “And what shall we eat our dinner off? We have no dishes or plates. I never had my dinner without a plate.”
“If you cannot eat without a plate,” said Mrs. Stone, “suppose you try to find or make one, instead of standing with your hands behind you. If you and your brother go into that quarry which is just opened, I should not wonder if you find a service of plates which will answer our purpose very well.”
“There is nothing there but slates,” said the boy. “They are flat enough for plates, to be sure; but they have no rim; and even Jowler's trencher had a rim.”
Being again reminded, however, that there was likely to be no gravy to run over, little Harry set off in search of a dinner service. He looked out a great many flat pieces of slate, and rubbed them so clean with dry grass, that no dust remained. His brother, meanwhile, broke stones against the hard rock, and picked out the sharpest bits to serve for knives.
When they had done this, Mrs. Stone called them to help her to gather fruit; and they climbed the trees in the orchard, where a few oranges were still hanging among the dark leaves. Some plums and apples also remained, and a purple bunch of grapes here and there upon the trailing vines. Little Betsy, their sister, had a quick ear; and while she was picking up oranges, she heard, some way off in the wood, the cry of a bird which she knew very well. So she slipped away, without being missed, to try whether she could not add something acceptable to the dessert, by the help of this bird. The Honey-cuckoo, as Betsy's friend is called, lives on the honey which the wild bees store in the hollow trunks of trees. It is sometimes called the Indicator, because by uttering its peculiar cry whenever it meets with a stock of honey, it points out the way to the honey-tree. Betsy had often followed this bird from tree to tree; and when the bees were absent, (as wild bees usually are on a sunny day,) it was her custom to place a leaf on the ground with some honey on it for the bird, and then to carry off a part of what remained. Nothing had been easier, hitherto, than to obtain and bring away this honey, which was as clear and liquid as water. Betsy brushed it out of the hollows of the wood with a painter's brush which she kept clean for the purpose; and she let it run into the white basin out of which she ate her breakfast. But now, the brush was burned and the basin gone; and when she had overtaken the bird in the wood, she did not know what to do for want of her utensils, and her guide fluttered onwards and did not like to be kept waiting. She twisted a wisp of dry grass, which did very well instead of her brush: but after she had taken possession of a leaf-full of honey, and found that it ran over and escaped between her fingers, she found she must devise a better plan or leave the honey behind. She had nothing on that she could make into a basket or basin;—no hat, no pocket; nothing but her shoes, and those she could not spare. At last, she bethought herself of marking the trees and returning for the honey when the bird should be gone: so she picked up a piece of red earth, and marked each honey-tree with a cross. When she had marked six and began to be tired, she followed the bird no farther, but sat down beside a pool of water where rushes grew in plenty, and began to weave them into a sort of basket or basin. She had been accustomed to make caps of rushes for her brothers in play, and was expert. She made just such an one now, and lined it thick with the large leaves of the fig-tree, and tied twigs crosswise over the top to keep it in shape. By the time this was done, she was rested, and made her way back merrily through the wood, delighted to find how abundant the honey was, and how well her vessel held it. On the way, it occurred to her that it would not be pleasant to eat honey by dipping the fingers into it when other persons were doing the same; and no better mode seemed to be left. She wondered whether she could make a spoon-brush, such as she had seen the natives prepare and use for taking up liquids. The plant of which this sort of brush is made grows in great abundance in those parts, and she had no difficulty in finding it. Its stem is hard and fibrous, and flat: being about two inches broad, and very thin. Betsy cut the stem off in the middle with a sharp stone, and then beat it till it was bruised so that she could separate the fibres with her fingers. When it was done, she dipped it into the honey, and found that it took up quite sufficient for a mouthful. She made six before she turned her face homewards. As she took down her honey-basket from the bough on which she had hung it, she was rather alarmed to see that the sun was getting low in the sky, and pursued her way as fast as she could; lest she should hear the roaring of wild beasts before she got out of the wood.
Just when she was quitting the shade, and going to cross the meadow, she heard a rustling in the bushes close beside her. She did not scream, but her limbs bent under her, for she expected to see a panther, or perhaps a lion, ready to spring upon her. She looked behind her for the fiery eyes which she supposed were glaring amidst the underwood. Her delight was great to see that it was the herdsman's dog—an old acquaintance, whose bark now sounded cheerily, when she had listened only for a savage growl. Campbell himself soon appeared with a lamb on his shoulder, which he had overtaken feeding by itself upon the hills.
Betsy wished him joy of his prize; but he did not answer her, and looked very melancholy.
“Has any new tiring happened?” asked the little girl. “Are Will and Richard safe?”
“Yes; they are behind, driving home a bullock; and Will has got a hare that Keeper took by the ears for us.”
“O, what good luck!” cried Betsy. “But one would not have thought it by your looks. What makes you look so gloomy?”
“Why, it seems ungrateful to say that it is this lamb,” said Campbell. “It is not that I do not like to have it back again; but it makes me pine for the rest. This morning, when I went out, I thought, as was fit, less about the poor beasts than about the folks we are going to, seeing how little prospect of food there was before them. But when I heard the bleat of this lamb, and I saw it come skipping towards me, I thought to myself, ‘Where are the rest?’ And then it seemed hard to see the very traces of them in the track, and to know what a little way they were before us, and yet to turn back and leave them to be slaughtered by those savages. I little thought when I called home the cows, and penned the sheep, last night, that I should never see one of all of them again but this poor beast.”
Little Betsy did not know what to say; and so she plucked a handful of grass for the lamb.
In a few minutes they reached the place where dinner was going forward. Though it was the first meal that day, many of the people had eaten sparingly, not knowing whether anything might be provided for the next day. When they saw the lamb, however, and heard of the bullock, they helped themselves again. They did not relish their hard-earned meal the less for the clumsy manner in which they were obliged to eat it.
Campbell would not join them till he had disposed of his charge. The fences were so injured that it was necessary to pile up all the wood that could be laid hold of to stop the gaps. This done, the herdsman cast a mournful glance at these poor remains of his droves and flocks, and sat down to refresh himself.
Mrs. Stone, and Betsy's mother, Mrs. Links, the smith's wife, had grown uneasy about the little girl, on account of her long absence: but they could not blame her when they saw what she had been doing. They bade her carry the honey and brushes to the captain, who acted as storekeeper, and receiver-general of whatever was brought in. He patted her on the head, and said she had done her part; and he moreover gave her his share of fruit, without which she would have had none, for there was not enough for everybody. The captain said that the honey should be for those who came too late for the fruit, that all might have some kind of vegetable nourishment. And as for the spoon-brushes, they were so useful that everybody must have one. So little Betsy determined to make plenty more the next day, and was quite happy.
“And now,” said the captain, “it is high time we were setting off to our sleeping-place. Jack, kindle your torch and go first, and Hill and Robertson will follow with lights. The rest of you must take care of your own families, and see that none are left behind but the few who have not returned from the woods. I will just stay to light the fire we have piled for them, and then follow you. If they do not come by the time that wood-heap is burnt, we shall not see them tonight.
So saying, the brave captain took his stand, and hurried the people away, first lighting his torch, and promising to follow soon. All the way as they went, Mr. Stone looked back, in hopes of seeing his friend advancing; but it was not till they had been settled at their sleeping-place nearly an hour, that they saw the glimmering light of his torch coming slowly up the pass between the rocks.
The sleeping-place was such an one as the whole party were very thankful to have found, though its distance (two miles) from the settlement was likely to add considerably to their daily toils. It consisted of two caverns, one within the other, sufficiently dry and open to the air to be wholesome, but not lofty enough to admit of a fire being kindled within, or even of a torch being burned there for any length of time. The inner cave, which was set apart for the women and children, had been swept out with bundles of rushes, and the floor thick-strewn with dry grass, by the men who had explored it in the morning. Mr. Stone entered it first this night, in order to satisfy himself that there was no other passage to it than from the larger cave; and when he came out, he delivered the torch to his wife, desiring her to give it into no hand less careful than her own, while her companions were laying themselves down to rest, and to return it to him before she should herself retire; for if a single spark should fall on the dry grass, they would inevitably be driven from their shelter.
“What a beautiful room!” cried some of the little children, as they opened their sleepy eyes, and saw how the sides and roof, glittering with crystals, sparkled in the torch-light.
“If they do but keep up the fire on the outside,” said one of the mothers, “we may sleep as safely and warmly as in our own houses.”
Perhaps she would not have said this if she had known what Jack could have told, but wisely kept to himself, that he had found in that very cave traces of a lion, which had perhaps couched there the night before. Jack properly considered that this was not a sufficient objection to the place, as there were few spots in the neighbourhood where lions had not couched some time or other, and as a good fire at the entrance of the cave was always a perfect security against the attack of wild beasts. Lest others should not think so, however, he held his peace towards everybody but the captain, taking care that brushwood enough was stored to keep up a large fire till sunrise.
When the captain had joined his people, Mr. Stone offered to conduct their devotions, as he had done this morning. Standing at the entrance, between the two caverns, so that he could be heard by those within and those without, he offered thanks giving for their preservation during so eventful and perilous a day, and besought protection during the night.
He and the captain then took their station as watchers just within the outer cave, having promised that Robertson and Arnall should be called up to take their place when half the night had passed.