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Chapter III.: EARN YOUR BREAD BEFORE YOU EAT IT. - 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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EARN YOUR BREAD BEFORE YOU EAT IT.
During the first day of the troubles of our settlers, before the impression of their terror was worn out, and when it remained doubtful whether their immediate wants could be supplied, there was a general concern for the good of the community, and forgetfulness of petty personal considerations. None but the little children were heard that day to cry, “what will become of me?” One little boy complained, as we have seen, that there was no rim to his plate; and it was said that one baby girl lifted up her voice in weeping for her doll: but the grown children of the society seemed to have laid aside their childishness on so great an occasion. It was not long in appearing again, however; for amidst the winding course of human life, character is sure to peep out and show itself at every turn, however it may occasionally be hidden. There was as great a variety of habits and dispositions among these settlers as there is among the same number of persons all the world over: and when the first fears and difficulties were surmounted, this variety began to be quite as evident as before any misfortune had befallen. It would have been a curious study to an observer,—it was so to Mr. Stone,—to mark the different department of the people who attended the morning's consultation on the general state of their affairs. Some were in high spirits, excited by the novelty of their situation and full of a spirit of enterprise. These were principally labourers, who had had little or nothing to lose, or young men whose activity was greater than their love of property. Some were gloomy and panic-struck: the old and the weak, whose terrors made them equally afraid to attempt, unprovided, a journey southwards, and to remain within reach of the Bushmen. Some were more careful of their own dignity than of all besides, ready to plead their rights, to refuse any employment they might fancy degrading, and to resent any hint that the less was now said of distinction of ranks the better.
At the head of these was Arnall, the storekeeper, who had always been disliked for his haughtiness. He had complained of his partner, Mr. Dunn, ever since their first connexion, for being on such familiar terms with the customers of all ranks who came to their shop; and it spoke well for Mr. Dunn that this was the only fault of which his fastidious partner did complain. Arnall was as obsequious as any man to the public as a whole. No petitions for custom were so full of compliments and protestations as is; but he of was not the less insolent for this. His insolence was particularly evident this morning, when the captain was offering his advice respecting the manner in which the various members of the society should employ their industry. Arnall was anxious to be sent out shooting, which he thought a very gentlemanly amusement; but as he had no gun, and had never practised with bows and arrows, it was thought best that he should yield the sport to the boys who were skilful at it, and assist, with all the hands that could be spared from other occupations, in carrying on the trenching, on which the growth of the crops depended. In very dry. seasons in that climate, there is no means of preserving the young corn but by digging trenches from the neighbouring streams through the fields. A large trench, from which several smaller ones were to branch out, had been nearly finished in Mr. Stone's field when the savages made their attack; and as the spring rains (for our autumn is their spring) were not expected for a month or more, it was of the utmost importance that water should be conveyed to the crops. Even if the settlers should wish to remove, they could not stir till they had provision for their journey, as, in a country like that, there was nothing to depend on by the Way. Many were eager to be employed in a work of such pressing importance: but not so Mr. Arnall.
“Do you actually mean, captain,” said he, “that I am to work in a ditch with ploughmen and hedgers? I am as willing as any body to do my part; but I assure you I have not been used to such companionship.”
“Nor have I,” said Mr. Stone, “yet I am going about my work without delay.”
“But it is contrary to all my habits,” persisted Arnall.
“Not more so than to your partner, Mr, Dunn's,” said the captain; “and there he is at work already. He and Jack made a very pretty spade between them this morning, of a piece of hard wood, which they sawed and burnt into shape with the fragments of the saw left in the pit, and with heated stones. They will give you that spade and make another, if you will go and ask them. Then you can work by yourself, which will suit your dignity better than helping those men who are turning out the clods so cleverly by crossing the stakes they have taken from the fence.”
“You must excuse me, indeed,” replied Arnall. “I must beg some other employment. Could not I be your messenger to Cape Town, and send out tools and all that you want? I shall have pleasure in undertaking the journey, and will represent your case forcibly to the Governor.”
“I am afraid, Sir, you are scarcely the man to be the representative of a hard-working agricultural community as ours must be now. There is a rival candidate in the person of Richard the labourer. We can ill spare him; but he is a hardy traveller on foot, and is, besides, a good judge of implements, which, by your own statement, you cannot be for want of experience. Stand aside, Sir, if you please, for my time is precious this morning. Choose. Your own occupation; but remember that you must find your own food unless you do our work.”
“The tables are turned, you ” see, “said one of the labourers to Arnall as he was retiring. “You held your head very high a week ago, because you had a genteeler employment than ours, as you thought. And now that 'we are all put to the test, see what a poor figure you make! I always said a farmer ought to rank above a shopkeeper.”
“Hey-day! what is that I hear?” said the captain. “Let me tell you, you are qute in the wrong, my friend. What our society is now, is no test of the value of its members a week ago. Because we cannot have a shop to-day, it does not follow that a shop was not a good thing when we had goods to buy and sell. If Mr. Arnall transacted his business properly, he deserved as well of society as the farmer who did his part honestly. As far as their labour is concerned, they rank equally.”
“But farmers do not give themselves airs like some shopkeepers I have known,” persisted the labourer; “and I see no gentility in such airs.”
“Nor I,” said the captain; “ but I have seen farmers as haughty with their men as any shopkeeper. All this has nothing to do with the question. A man may make himself liked or disliked by his manners; but they do not affect his rank as a labourer in the community.”
Arnall did not much relish being called a labourer in any sense, having a very narrow notion of the meaning of the word. Some others who were present fell into the same mistake, as we shall see by-and-by. Business was so pressing just now, however, that there was no time for conversation: but many minds were active that day in thinking over what was happening, while the hands were busily employed in various tasks.
It was soon settled that no removal should be thought of till after the rains, at any rate, as the settlers could not hope to establish themselves elsewhere in the interval, and were unwilling to desert their fields after all the labour which had been spent upon them. With heart and goodwill, therefore, men, women, and children set about improving their condition, determined to try what industry could do to make up for a scarcity of hands, and an almost total deficiency of tools.
Betsy's father, the smith, was in high spirits at having found the fragments of the large saw. Of one part he believed a serviceable hand-saw might be made, and of another a hatchet, if he could but fix handles go them. This he thought he could do by burning grooves in two pieces of wood which he fixed at each end of the fragment, and tying them on with thongs of the leather cordage we have mentioned, the thongs being passed from one end to the other through holes also burned in the wood. Fulton, the tanner, was, meanwhile, twisting and tanning his thongs as expeditiously as possible, for as many were wanted as he could prepare. They could not even make houses without his help, for cordage must now supply the place of nails.
There was some deliberation about what these houses were to be made of. They were to be only temporary sheds to sleep in, to save the extra labour of walking two miles up the pass every night to their cave. It was evident that they could not be built like their former habitations with timbers. Till tools should arrive, this was impossible.—Harrison, the brickmaker and potter of the settlement, (for in several instances two somewhat similar employments were undertaken by one man,) was urgent to be allowed to begin brick-making, as the clay-pits were open, and stones and wood were all the implements he should require. But a quicker method was devised, and Harrison was to build in a new fashion. The huts of the natives were composed of reeds, bound together and plastered over with clay, inside and out. The roofs were covered in with branches of trees and dry grass. Such were to be the sheds of the settlers.
Thus there was work for everybody. The men were some digging, some tanning, some smoothing a space among the trees for the sheds, for, as no foundations could be dug, it was necessary to make the trees themselves the corner-posts. The boys were busy scooping out and working the clay, or making bows and arrows, or cutting reeds. The women were preparing flax or cooking the dinner, or, with their little girls, collecting brushwood and dry grass for the fires, and to thatch the sheds with. The captain meanwhile went about from one party to another, ready to advise, and encourage, and assist, whereever he could.
One little party, however, escaped his notice, and that of everybody else. Little Betsy had taken her cue from what the captain had said the night before about her spoon-brushes and her basket. She could teach her little companions to make spoon-brushes, while she fancied that, with help from her brothers, she could make what was wanted much more, a strong substantial basket. There was a difficulty about carrying away the earth from the trench; and it occurred to her that, in the absence of barrows and all means of making them, it would be a good thing to have baskets which would take it all away in time, though it would certainly be slow work. Her brothers and she collected twigs in the wood, and she went for rushes to the waterside, and then they sat down to their work.
Having found, the day before, that she had no means of fastening the bottom in firm, she did not attempt to make a basket that would stand. She bent the twigs into the same shape she had been accustomed to make, only on a much larger scale, so that the basket, when finished, would look very like a sieve. She was particularly careful to fasten the ends of the twigs firmly to the stronger ones that made the rim, and to twist in the handles so that they would not easily give way. She tied the twigs wherever they crossed with bands of rushes, and then wove in the whole as closely as possible. This was not done in an hour's time. She and her companions made many attempts before they could get the twigs into any shape at all, and their fingers were scarcely strong enough to twist the rim firmly. Once, just when she thought she should succeed, the little bays left hold, saying they were tired and hungry. She was very near crying; but she thought the wiser way would be to let them rest, and find them something to eat, when they would, perhaps, help her again; for she little expected that any better assistance would come. She desired one of the boys to watch her basket lest the monkeys, which abounded in the wood, should destroy it; while, with the other brother, she looked about for wild strawberries and chesnuts. There were a few strawberries still left, and a great many chesnuts lying in the grass, and more to be had by throwing stones at the monkeys in the trees, which provoked the animals to pelt them with chesnuts in return. After a hearty laugh at these mimics, Betsy returned wtth her treasure of fruit; but the young gentleman who, tho day before, was mourning for gravy, could not, hungry as he was, cat his chesnuts unless they were roasted. Betsy cared much less about eating than about her basket; but she was a good-natured little girl, and ready to remember that her brother was younger than herself. So she advised him to run home and roast his chesnuts at the oven-fire; and told him not to come back again unless he liked. She sent a message to her mother to say that she was quite safe, and would be back before dark; but she charged Ned not to tell any body what she was busy about. Then she sent her other little companion with some chesnuts to the children who were making spoon-brushes some way off; and as soon as he was gone, she looked at her basket and sighed; for she feared she should not be able to finish it. Just then she heard some one coming through the bushes, and looking up, she saw it was Mr. Arnall. He had his hands in his pockets, and anybody would have thought by his appearance that it was a holiday in the colony.
“So you are eating chesnuts, my little girl,” said he. “Can you spare me some?”
“Yes, sir,” answered Betsy, pointing to the little heap beside her. “Will you help yourself?”
Arnall went on eating for some time in silence. “Where did you get these chesnuts?” he asked at length, when he had nearly made an end of them.
“Yonder, under the trees there.”
“They are very good. I dare say you will be my little maid, and get me some more: and here comes your brother; I will send him to roast them by the fire.”
“You must do it yourself, if you please, sir. We are very busy.”
“Indeed! What can children like you be busy about? Basket-making! Why, that basket will never stand.”
“It is not meant to stand,” said Betsy, who began to wish her visitor would go away and leave her to her business.
Arnall sat idly watching the little work-people, till seeing that greater strength of finger was what they wanted, he offered his services, which Betsy was very willing to accept. He became more interested as the affair went on, and continued his assistance till the framework was complete and the rim secure.
“And now,” said Betsy, jumping up joyfully, “now I will get you some chesnuts and welcome. I can easily finish the rest, for the weaving part will soon be done; and I should never have got so far without you.”
As soon as she was gone, Arnall took up the remainder of the twigs, and began another basket. He was really ashamed of doing nothing, and was glad to have found an employment which did not reduce him to toil with labourers or to provide his own dinner. He flattered himself that Betsy was saving his dignity by procuring his food; while she, in the innocence of her heart, thought he was working as much for her as she for him, and was grateful to him accordingly.
When it began to grow dusk, the little party in the wood made haste to gather up their materials and be gone. Arnall was no coward, as some very haughty people are. He had been long accustomed to the dangers of the woods, and if he had had his gun, would have been as ready as any man to make a defence against wild men or beasts: but it was only prudent, as he was unarmed, to leave the shade before night-fall. He did not choose to return to the settlement in company with the children; neither would he carry any of their goods. He lingered a while, till they were some way before him, and then appeared with his usual lounging gait, and his hands in his pockets. Of those who had time to observe him, some smiled at the unsuitability of his appearance to his circumstances, and others were indignant at his seating himself to eat that which they supposed he had done nothing to earn.
“Pardon me, sir,” said the captain; “but I hope you have your dinner in your pockets, or I am afraid you will have none. Our provisions are the right of those who work for them.”
“Mr. Arnall helped me to make my basket,” said little Betsy, “and he has got a great way with another; so I hope he may have the dinner I should have wanted if I had not found the chesnuts, and some for his own share besides.”
“Hold your tongue, child,” cried the gentleman, who was quite above owing his meal to the request of a little girl. “Who has any business with what I have been doing? Things have come to a pretty pass when one must account to anybody that asks for the use of one's time and hands.”
“By sitting down to table, sir”———
“To grass, you mean,” said Arnall. “We are in a fair way to eat in Nebuchadnezzar fashion, I think. Was ever a meal so served before?”
“If you will make us a table, we shall very thankfully accept it,” said the captain. “Meanwhile, as I was saying, by asking food, you demand the wages of labour, as we have agreed to live by the natural law, that food cannot be obtained without labour. You are accountable to us in no other way than all labourers are accountable to those who pay them wages. Little Betsy has settled your account with us: allow me, therefore, to help you to a lump (I wish I could say a slice) of lamb; or would you prefer hare?”
While the gentleman was picking his bone in silence, wondering when he should again be blessed with a knife and fork, Betsy placed beside him a pretty dessert of wild strawberries on a leaf.
He seemed barely to thank her, but began to resolve that he would either find some mode of being more useful, and thus feeling himself on equal terms with other people, or take himself off, where he need be accountable to nobody.