Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter VII.: GREAT CHANGES AT BROOKE. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 1 (Life in the Wilds, Hill and the Valley, Brooke and Brooke Farm)
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Chapter VII.: GREAT CHANGES AT BROOKE. - 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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GREAT CHANGES AT BROOKE.
Brooke looked like a different place at the end of a very few years. In our own house, nothing remarkable had happened, unless it was the growth of my brothers, which was pronounced wonderful every time they appeared from school at Christmas; or that Billy Gray (now called William) had become quite an accomplished little footman. The improvement of his family had advanced as rapidly as his own; and one of the pleasantest changes visible in the place was that which every body observed in the outward condition of George Gray, his wife, and children.
George was a pattern of industry. Before and after his hours of daily labour he was seen digging, hoeing, planting, and pruning in his garden, his boys and sometimes his wife helping him; his eldest girl tending the cow; and the others mending or knitting stockings, or cleaning the house. Even the very little ones earned many a shilling by cutting a particular sort of grass in the lanes for seed for Mr. Malton's pasture land. Each with a pair of scissors, they cut the tops off about six inches long, and filled their sack in a few hours. Mr. Malton's steward paid them threepence a bushel for it, measured as hay. Their work was made easier by this grass being sown in lines along the hedges; and it was well worth the little trouble this cost to secure a constant supply of the seed, which was greatly in request; the sheep being very fond of this pasture.
Gray's boys had all shoes and stockings now, and the girls were tidily dressed. The rent was regularly paid, and their fare was improved. How happened this?—from having ground, and keeping a cow?—Not entirely, though in some measure. The wages of labour had risen considerably at Brooke since the common was inclosed, as there was more work to be done, and the number of hands had not increased in proportion, though the population was already one-third larger than five years before. Gray felt the advantage of this rise of wages, and of having his family employed. He now wondered at his neighbours for letting their children be wholly idle as much as we once wondered at him. When he saw Hal Williams's little boys engaged in mischief, he observed to his wife that one might earn a trifle in weeding, and another in gathering sticks and furze for fuel, and sweeping up the dung and dead leaves from the woods and lanes for manure. But neither Hal nor his boys liked to work when thev could help it, though Hal's wife set them a better example than her neighbours once expected of her. Many a mother shows an energy which never appeared while she was a giddy maiden. So it was with Ann: but it was a pity that she was ignorant of the ways of turning her industry to the best account, so that her desire for the comfort of her husband and children did not do them so much good as she intended.
Hal once observed to Gray that he wondered he could spend so much time and toil on his bit of ground, such a trifle as it was.
“It is no trifle to me,” said Gray. “The time I spend upon it is not great; and as for the toil,—a man with eight children must never grudge labour.”
“Why now, Gray, how much time do you spend on your plot? I see you at work when I get out of bed every morning; and when I come back from the Arms in the twilight, I hear your everlasting spade behind the hedge.”
“That is because I have no hours I can call my own but those before and after work. A couple of hours a day is the most I can spare; and surely it is worth that to be able to keep my cow.”
“What is her value to you, do you suppose?”
“One time with another, she yields five quarts a day, and that is worth two days' wages a week, or perhaps three.”
“Five quarts a day! That never can be. Mine never gave three all the time I had her.”
“Nor mine while she fed on the common: but you know the keep is everything with a cow; and it is no more likely that a cow in the lanes should yield like mine, than that mine should yield thirteen pounds and a half of butter weekly, four months after calving, like a fine North Devon cow of Mr. Malton's that I was admiring the other day. But I call my cow pretty well kept now, and she is worth the keeping. I manage to get many a good dish of vegetables for ourselves, too, out of my garden.”
“But no fruit, I see, neighbour. I like to see fruit-trees in a garden.”
“So do I, where there is ground and money and time enough; but it would not suit me. My cabbages would not thrive if the ground was shaded; and I could not raise fruit enough, or of a sufficiently good quality, to sell to advantage.”
“But it would be a great treat to the children.”
“My children must wait for such a treat till we grow richer. I am thankful enough to be able to give them bread and sometimes a bit of meat, instead of the potatoes we used to live on. Apples and gooseberries will come all in good time. Bread and clothes must be thought of first.”
“And yet you managed to get a pig.”
“Yes. I knew, if I contrived to buy one, I could easily keep it. So we made an effort to save in the winter, and in March I got a fine pig of four months. He was able to graze and eat cabbages and turnip-tops, and we have plenty of wash for him; so I hope, as he has thriven so far very well, he will be in fine condition for killing at Christmas.”
“Will you be able to fatten him liberally?”
“I hope so. He shall have as much barley-meal as he can eat, if I can afford it; if not, pease must do.”
“You will have a houseful of meat at that time. Bacon in plenty, griskins, chines, cheeks, and I don't know what besides; and hog's-puddings and lard for the children! Why, you will live like an alderman's family for weeks. It is a fine thing to keep a pig!”
“It is a great advantage; and considering that, I wonder you don't try, neighbour.”
“When I have eight children perhaps I may; but we get on somehow as it is; and I have quite enough to do, for I don't pretend to work as hard as you.”
“No,” thought Gray, “You make your wife do it instead, while you go and smoke at the Arms.”
Hal's cow had been sold long ago to pay his debts. It had been done during one of his wife's confinements, and it was bad news for her, when she got about again, that it was actually sold and gone. It was some comfort that they owed no money; but it was a comfort which could not last long; for she knew that milk is a dear article to buy, while it is absolutely necessary where there are young children.—It was grievous to see in a short time how poorly they lived. One thing after another was given up. They had long contrived to do without meat; but now they could not afford beer, except a little on Sundays. Hal did not relish milk as when it came from his own cow, but took a fancy to have tea,—the least nourishing and most expensive diet a man can have. To indulge this fancy, the fire was kept in all day, the whole year round. There was an everlasting boiling, of the kettle in the morning, the potatoes for dinner, and the kettle again in the afternoon. Upon this miserable diet they grew thin and sickly; they ran in debt to the grocer till he refused their custom; and to Johnson's wife for milk, till she declared she could not let them have any more. We were passing Hal's door one day, when one of the children entered with an empty pitcher, on seeing which his mother burst into tears. There was but too much cause for her grief. Her hungry children must be content with a drink of water with their crust of bread, for Mrs. Johnson could afford no longer credit. My mother could not bear to see the cravings of the little ones; and she promised to go back with the messenger to Mrs. Johnson and persuade her not to disappoint them for this one day, and to see what could be done for the future: but she declared that the tea must be left off if the milk was to be continued. The poor woman said that she was willing to live in the cheapest way, if the children could but be fed; but that her husband made such a point of his tea that she had little hope of persuading him to give it up.
We took the child back to Johnson's; and there we saw a cheerful sight. Mrs. Johnson was milking one of her fine cows, while the other two stood by; and her daughter was measuring out the milk to the various messengers from the village. There were Miss Black's maid, and Wickstead's boy, and Gregson's apprentice, and Harper's servant, and half a dozen children from the neighbouring cottages, having their pitchers filled with the warm, fresh, rich milk. My mother smiled as she observed to me that the division of labour was not fully understood by our people yet, or they would have devised a better plan than having the time of a dozen people wasted by coming for the milk, instead of employing a boy to carry it round. It struck us both at the same moment that Hal's eldest boy might earn a share of the milk by saving the neighbours the trouble of sending for it. He might soon learn, we thought, to measure the milk and keep the tally.
“I hope we are in time, Mrs. Johnson,” said my mother. “I was afraid your pails might be emptied before we came. You must fill this child's pitcher, if you please, and I will pay today.”
“I assure you, ma'am,” replied Mrs. Johnson, “it made me very sorry to send the boy away; but what can I do? They have not paid me these six weeks, and I cannot afford them a quart a day at my own expense. I have often threatened to send them no more, but I never had the heart to refuse them till to-day.”
“You cannot be expected to lose by them, certainly,” replied my mother; “but I am very sorry they are such bad customers to you. I am sure such milk as that is far better for them than the tea they make.”
“Do you know, ma'am,” said the busy Mrs. Johnson, as the milk went on spurting and fizzing into the pail, “I do believe that tea-drinking alone is enough to ruin a very poor family. We tried it once, and fond enough we are of it still; but though we might afford it better than some people, we now never touch it but on Sundays and particular occasions. Now, can you wonder that I refuse to give further credit to my neighbours, when I know they might pay me, if they chose to manage better, and to give up a luxury which I cannot afford?”
“Certainly not, Mrs. Johnson.—What very fine cows yours are! I suppose you are glad your husband did not dispose of the first you had, when he was tempted to do so?”
“Glad indeed, ma'am. I was always fond of a dairy, and desirous of having one of my own. If you would please to wait a few minutes, I should like to show you and Miss Lucy my dairy. My husband has been making it larger and improving it very much, for I find it a profitable business now, and I believe my neighbours think it answers to get their milk of me; for I could sell the produce of three more cows if I had them.”
“Perhaps we shall see you with a dairy of twenty cows one of these days, if our village flourishes.”
“No, ma'am. Three are as many as I can well manage now, and as many as we can feed. Our lot of ground is carefully managed; and we brew at home now, and the grains come in very well for the cows; so that we are at no loss, so far. But if we were to take in more ground, my husband would not have time to attend properly to it; and we are particularly anxious that he should not neglect his work, so good as wages are now.”
When the milking was finished, Mrs. Johnson took us to the dairy. It was clean, cool, and in beautiful order. A range of cheeses was on a shelf, and they were to be sent to M— for sale. The butter she made was sold to the neighbours. My mother understood the management of this most delicate part of household economy, and agreed with Mrs. Johnson that the habits of cleanliness and care which are necessary to the success of a dairy are most useful to young people, and cannot be more effectually taught than by making them assist in the management of cows.
“My girl was telling me, ma'am, how a neighbour wondered why her cow's milk was not so good as ours, and how, with all the trouble she took, her husband complained, and the children left half their breakfast in their basins. The thing was clear enough. She milked her cow into the first pail that came to hand and let the milk stand in the heat and smoke of the kitchen, in pans that had been used for potatoes, or any thing else they might have had for dinner the day before. My girl told her she might take a lesson from the cow herself; for no cow will taste a drop from a vessel that has held grease. The very breath of the cow is sweet enough to show what care should be taken to keep her milk pure. There is nothing so disgusting in the way of food as tainted milk; and nothing to my mind, ma'am, so wholesome as fresh, rich milk, as sweet as the new-mown grass. Do me the favour to taste some, miss, and I think you will say so too.”
When we had finished our delicious draught, we took our leave of Mrs. Johnson, agreeing that it was certainly a good thing for her that her husband followed my father's advice about his allotment of land, as she seemed so happy among her cows that it was difficult to imagine how she would have lived without one.