Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter III.: SATURDAY MORNING. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 8
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Chapter III.: SATURDAY MORNING. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 8 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 8.
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The settlers at Briery Creek followed the old custom of the mother country, of holding their market on a Saturday. Saturday was an anxious day to some, a joyous day to others, and a busy day to all. Many a mother bent her steps to the market-house, doubting whether she should be able to meet with the delicate food she desired for her baby just weaned, or for her invalid husband, getting up from the fever, and following her cookery with eager eyes. Many a child held its mother's apron, and watched her bargaining in the hope that some new and tempting article of food would be carried home, after a long sameness; or that the unexpected cheapness of her purchases would enable her to present him with the long-promised straw hat. or, at least, a pocket-full of candy from the Brawnees' sugar pans. The whole village was early astir; and Dr. Sneyd, when he preferred a stroll along the bank of the creek to a turn in the market-house with his lady, could distinguish from a distance the solitariness of the farm-yards and dwellings, and the convergence of driver, drover, rider, and walking trader, towards the point of attraction.
Arthur was the centre of all observation. He offered more for sale than anybody else: he bought more; and he had the largest division of the market-house, excepting always the corner reserved for the passing trader, who could spread out riches far transcending what even Arthur could boast. To such, the young farmer left it to exhibit bear and beaver skins, leather, and store of salted venison, If he came from the North or West; and hardware, cotton, cloth and silk goods, books and stationery, if he was on his way from the East. Any of these, or all in their turn, Arthur bought: but his sales, various as they were considered, were confined to a few articles of food. He traded, not for wealth of money, but of comfort. His purchases were of two kinds, neither of which were destined for sale, as were those of the trader to whom he yielded precedence in the market-house. He bought implements to replace those which were worn out; and this kind of purchase was a similar sort of expenditure to that of the seed-corn which was put into the ground, and the repairs bestowed upon his fences and barn;—it was an expenditure of capital—capital consumed for purposes of reproduction with increase. With the surplus left after thus replacing his former capital, and perpetually adding to it, Arthur purchased articles of unproductive consumption; some for his house, which was becoming so much prettier than a bachelor could want, that the gossips of Briery Creek began to speculate on whom he had chosen to share the occupancy; some for his table, as the sugar of the Brawnees; some for his person, as the stout leggings which Dods occupied himself in making in rainy weather; and some for his friends, as when he could lay hold of a political journal for his lather, or of a fur tippet for his mother, or of a set of pencils for Temmy. to sketch with when he came to the farm. (Arthur seldom went to Mr. Temple's; but he found time to give Temmy many a drawing-lesson at the farm.) Now that Arthur had not only a growing capital, but a surplus after replacing it—a revenue, which furnished him with more comforts perpetually, he was unwilling that his sister should feel so hurt as he knew she did at her husband not having assisted him with capital, from the time that he took his farm in the shape of a patch of prairie. In the early days of his enterprise, he would have been truly thankful for such an addition to his small stock of dollars as would have enabled him to cultivate a larger extent of ground, and live less hardly while his little property was growing faster; but now that be had surmounted his first difficulties, and was actually justified in enlarging his unproductive expenditure, he wished Mrs. Temple to forget that her husband had declined assisting her brother, and be satisfied that the rich man had not been able to hinder the prosperity he would not promote.
The prosperity of the whole village would have increased more rapidly than it did, if all the inhabitants had as careful in their consumption as Arthur. Not only did Temple expend lavishly in caprices as well as luxuries, and the surgeon-tavern-keeper tempt many a labourer and small proprietor to spend that in whisky which ought to have been laid out (if not productively) in enjoyments that were innocent,— but there was a prevalence of wasteful habits, but which Arthur and his establishment might have served as a sufficient example. The merit of the order which was observable on his farm was partly due to himself, partly to Mrs. Sneyd, (who kept a maternal eye on all his interests,) and party to Isaac's wife, who superintended his dairy and dwelling-house.
On this market morning,—after a day of extraordinary fatigue,—the state of the place at six o'clock might have shamed many a farm-house in a region where there is a superabundance instead of a dearth of female service. Isaac's wife had no maid to help her but her own little maidens of four and three years old; yet, by six o'clock, of her employer was driving his market-cart to the place of traffic, the milk was duly set by in the pans, the poultry were fed, the tallow with which she was about to make candles was preparing while she made the beds, and the little girls, were washing up the breakfast things in the kitchen—the elder tenderly wiping the cups and basins which the younger had washed in the basins bowl which her mother had placed and wooden for her in the middle of the floor, as the place whence it was most certain that it could fall no lower. The pigs were in their proper place, within a fence, which had a roof in one corner for their shelter in bad weather. The horses and cattle were all properly marked, and duly made musical with bells, when turned out into the woods. There was a well of pure water, so guarded, that the children and other young animals could not run into it unawares; and all the wild beasts of the forest had tried the strength of the fences in vain. Arthur had not, therefore, had to pay for the luxurious feasts of his enemies of the earth or air, or for any of that consumption which may, in a special sense, be called unproductive, since it yields neither profit to the substance nor pleasure to the mind. If a similar economy had pervaded the settlement, its gross annual produce would have more rapidly increased, and a larger revenue would have been set at liberty to promote the civilization of the society in improving the comfort of individuals.
Brawn and his daughters could never be made to attend to this. The resources which they wasted would have tilled many an acre of good land, or have built a school-house, or have turned their habitation of logs into a respectable brick tenement, with grassy field and fruitful garden. They preferred what they called ease and liberty; and the waste they caused might be considered as revenue spent on a pleasure,—a very unintelligible pleasure,—of their own choice. As long as they supported themselves without defrauding their neighbours, (and fraud was the last thing they could have been made to understand,) no one had a right to interfere with their methods of enjoyment any more than with Temple's conservatory, or Dr. Sneyd's library, or Mrs. Dods's passion for mirrors and old china; but it was allowable to be sorry for so depraved a taste, and to have a very decided opinion of its injuriousness to society, and consequent immorality. This very morning there was dire confusion in their corner of the settlement. For some days the girls had been bee-hunting, being anxious to bring the first honey of the season into the market. In order to make up for the time spent on the new bridge, they were abroad at sunrise this day to track the wild bees in their earliest flight; but after such a fashion, that it would have answered better to them to be at home and asleep. Yet they succeeded in their object. The morning was just such as to tempt all things that fly from the hollow tree, from which the mists had drawn off, leaving a diamond token on every leaf. The sun began to shine warm through the summer haze, and the wild flowers of the prairie to look up and brighten at his presence. As the brown sisters threaded the narrow ways of the woods, bursting through the wild vines, and bringing a shower of dew on their heads from sycamore and beech, many a winged creature hummed, or buzzed, or flitted by the languid drone, or the fierce hornet, or white butterflies in pairs, chasing one another into the loftiest and greenest recess of the leafy canopy. Presently came the honey-bee, winging its way to the sunny space—the natural herb-garden, to which the girls were hastening; and when there, what a hovering, and buzzing, and sipping, and flitting was going on! The bee-women laughed in anticipation of their sport as they drew on their leathern mittens, and applied themselves to catch a loaded bee in each hand. They agreed on their respective stations of experiment, and separating, let fly their prisoners, one by one, tracking the homeward course of each, with a practised eye, through a maze of boughs, and flickering lights and shadows, and clustered stems, which would have perplexed the vision of a novice. The four bees being let fly from different stations, the point at which their lines of flight must intersect each other was that at which the honeycomb might be surely found; and a rich store it was,—liquid, clear, and fragrant,—such as would assuredly make the mouth water of every little person in the village who had advanced beyond a milk diet. Another and another hollow tree was found thus to give forth sweetness from its decay, till the bee-women shook back the lank hair from before their eyes gathered up such tatters of their woollen garments as they had not left on the bushes by the way, and addressed themselves to return. On their walk it was that they discovered that they had lost more this morning than many such a ramble as theirs could repay.
A vast cluttering and screaming of fowls was the first thing that drew off their attention from their fragrant load. Some of the poor poultry that their father had been plucking alive (as he was wont to do six time a year) had evidently made their escape from his hands half plucked, and were now making short flights, higher and farther from home, so that it was more probable that they would join their wild acquaintance, the turkeys or the prairie fowl, than return to roost among the logs. Next appeared,—now entangling its hind legs among the vines, now poking its snout into a ground-squirrel's nest, and now scuttling away from pursuit,—a fine young porker, which had been shut up from its rambles for some time past. The sisters gave chase to their own property; but all in vain: their pursuit only drove the animal farther into the wood, and they hastened home to give notice of the disaster. They could see nothing of Brawn about the house, but could not look farther for him till they had discovered the meaning of the light smoke which issued from the door and the crevices of the log-wall. Black Brawnee's best gown was burning before the fire,—the splendid cotton gown, with a scarlet ground and a pattern of golden flowers, which, to the astonishment of every body, flowers, she had taken a fancy to buy of a passing trader, and which she had washed and hung up to dry in preparation for the market: it was smouldering away, leaving only a fragment to tell the tale. Next came a moan from an enclosure behind the cottage, and there lay a favourite young colt with two legs so broken that it was plain the poor animal would never more stand. How it happened could not be learned from the dumb beast, nor from the two or three other beasts that were huddled together in this place, where they had no business to be. It seemed as if, in some grand panic, the animals had tumbled over one another, leaving the colt to be the chief sufferer. But where was Brawn himself? He was moaning, too, in a hollow place in the wood, where he had made a false leap, and fallen so as to sprain his ankle, while in pursuit of the runaway porker.
“What brought ye here?” asked the brown damsel, as she raised her father with one application of strength.
“What carried the porker into the forest?” he asked, in reply.
“Ask him. We did not give him room,” said one.
“No need,” retorted the other. “Who left the gate open?”
“That did we both, this morning, for the cause that there is no fastening.”
“No latch; but a fastening there is. I knotted the rope last night, and so might you this morning. The loss of the porker comes of losing the lamb.”
“My lamb!” was repeated, with every variety of lamentation, by both the damsels. It was too true. For want of a latch, the gate of the enclosure was tied with a rope. The damsels found the tying too troublesome, and merely pulled it after them. Little by little it had swung open. A sharp-set wild cat had stolen in to make choice of a meal, and run out again with the pet lamb. The master had followed the lamb, and the porker made the best of his opportunity, and followed the master. Then ensued the hue and cry which drove the beasts over the poor colt; and, meantime, the scarlet gown, one sleeve of which had been puffed into the fire by Brawn's hasty exit, was accelerating the smoking of the dried beef which hung from the rafters. A vast unproductive consumption for one morning!
The damsels made nothing of carrying their father home, and, after bathing his ankle, laying him down on his back to study the rafters till they should return from the market. It was a much harder task to go to market; the one without her scarlet and yellow gown, and the other with grief for her lamb lying heavy at her heart.
They found their pigs very trying to their tempers this morning. Instead of killing them, and carrying them to market in that quiet state, as usual, the damsels had resolved to make the attempt to drive them; as from the abundance of pork in all its forms in the market just now, a sale was very uncertain. To drive pigs along a high road is not a very easy task; what then must it be in a wild country, where it is difficult even to follow their vagaries, and nearly impossible to reclaim them? The Brawnees agreed that to prevent such vagaries offered the only hope of getting to market in time; and one therefore belled the old hog which was to be her special charge, while the other was to promote to the utmost the effect of the bell-music on the younger members of the drove. The task was not made easier by the poor beasts having been very ill-fed. There was little in the coarse, sour prairie grass to tempt them: but patches of juicy green were but too visible here and there where travellers had encamped, feeding their beasts with hay, and leaving the seeds of the perennial verdure which was to spring up after the next rains. Nothing could keep the old hog and the headlong train from these patches, whether they lay far or near; insomuch that the sisters were twenty times tempted to leave their swine to their own devices, and sell no pork that day. But the not selling involved the not buying; and this thought generated new efforts of patience and of skill. When they arrived at the scene of exchange, and cast a glance on Mrs. Dods's display of cotton garments set off with here and there a muslin cap, and paraphernalia of pink and green; or on a pile of butter which they were not neat-handed enough to rival; or into wicker baskets of crockery, or upon the trader's ample store of blankets, knives, horn spoons, and plumes of red and blue feathers, they felt that it would indeed have been cruel to be compelled to quit the market without any of the articles that were offered to their choice. Nobody, however, inquired for their pigs. One neighbour was even saucy enough to laugh at their appearance.
“You had better buy a load of my pumpkins,” “Said Kendall, the surgeon and tavern-keeper. Your swine will be more fit for market next week, if you feed them on my fine pumpkins in the meanwhile.”
“When we want pumpkins,” said one of them, “we will go to those that have ground to grow them on. You have not bought a field, and grown pumpkins since yesterday, I suppose?”
“By no means. I have a slip of a garden, let me tell you; and, though it is but a slip, it is of rare mellow mould, where the vines strike at every joint as they run. My wife has kept enough for pies for all the travellers that may pass before next spring. One load is bespoken at four dollars; and you will take the other, if you are wise. There are a few gourds with them. too.”
“Gourds! Who cares for gourds?”
“Who can do without gourds, say I? I am sure we, at the tavern, could not, so dear as crockery is at this place. Cut off the lop, and. you have a bottle; cut off top and tail, and you have a funnel; cut it in two, and you have cups; slice off one side and you have a ladle. Take my gourds, I advise you, and set yonder crockery-man at defiance, with his monstrous prices and brittle ware.”
“We have no drunken guests to break our cups and bottles; and as for prices, how do you know that they are a matter of concern to us? If we take your load, it shall be the pumpkins without the gourds.”
“You will take the pumpkins, then?”
“If you take the sum out in pork or honey. We want our dollars for the crockery-man.”
“Pork, no! I think we shall all grunt soon. We are pretty sure to have no Jews come our way. We all have bacon for the morning meal; and a pig for dinner, and salt pork for supper. When one whistles to the birds, there comes a squeal instead of a chirp; and as sure as one walks in the dark, one stumbles over a pig. Our children learn to grunt before they set about speaking. No pork for me! We have a glut of pigs.”
“Honey, then. Your wife wants honey for her pumpkin-pies; and I have heard that you set out mead sometimes at your tavern.”
“And till you cheapen your sugar, we want honey to sweeten our travellers' coffee, and treat the children with. How much honey will you give me for my load?”
The damsel was checked in her answer by her sister, who perceived that many eyes were turned towards their fragrant store, and that no other bee-hunters seemed to be in the market. A dollar a gallon was the price announced by the sisters, after a consultation. Mr. Kendall shook his head, and stood aside for awhile. The truth was, he was full as much in want of honey for his purposes as an apothecary, as his wife for her coffee and pies. He was resolved to get some, at whatever price, and waited to put in his word at the first favourable opportunity.
Arthur was no less determined upon a purchase of sweets. His mother began to be in distress about her preserves. Her fruit was all ripe, and craving to be preserved; but the destined sugar had gone to sweeten the waters in the Creek. She entreated her son to bring her some honey. None could be found in the woods near the farm. Every body was hay-making, or about to make hay, and could not go out bee-hunting. The Brawnees were the only resource.
“I want some of your honey,” said he, catching the eye of the damsel of the burned gown, over the group which intervened.
“You shall have it, and no one else,” was her reply.
She was again checked by her sister, who knew her disposition to serve Arthur, at the expense of her own interests, and those of every body else.
“What will you give?” asked the more prudent one.
“Pigs; we can agree on the price.”
The one sister shook her head; the other suddenly discovered that it would be a good plan to improve and enlarge their wealth of swine while swine were cheap. She offered her five gallons of honey for one fat pig; which offer caused her sister much consternation, and made Kendall hope that the honey would be his, after all.
“No, no,” said Arthur. “Your terms are not fair—”
“Then I will get another gallon or two before the sun goes down, to make up——”
“I mean altogether tile other way,” replied Arthur. “I do not want to force my pigs upon you; but if you take them, you shall have them cheap, since there is but a poor demand for them to-day. You shall have two of those pigs for your five gallons; and if your sister thinks that not enough, the difference shall be made up in fresh butter.”
While the bargain was being discussed, one sister controlling the generosity of the other, and her admiration of Arthur's generosity, while Arther was thinking of nothing but fair play, Kendall wandered away discontented, seeing that his chance was over.
“You do not happen to have any honey to sell, Mrs Dods?” said he, as he passed the stall of cottons and muslins.
“O, dear, no, Mr. Kendall. It is what I want above every thing. Really, it is impossible to persuade an eve to look at my caps to-day, though the pattern has never been introduced here before. There is no use in my attempting to deal with ladies who dress in such a strange style as Brawn's daughters. Nothing would look becoming on them; or I am sure I would make a sacrifice even on this tasty new thing, to get something to sweeten my husband's toddy with. Indeed I expect to be obliged to make a sacrifice, at all events, to-day; as I beg you will tell Mrs. Kendall. There being such a profusion of pigs, and so little honey to-day, seems to have put us all out as to our prices.”
“How happens it, Mrs. Dods?”
“In the first place, they say, there was never such a season known for young pigs. The price has fallen so that the plenty does more harm than good to the owner; as is the complaint of farmers, you know, when the crops are better than ordinary you they cannot enlarge their market at will. Then, again, cannot seems to have been miscalculation;—no one appears to have been aware that every body would bring pigs, and nobody any honey, expect those slovenly, young women.”
“Ah! both causes of glut in full operation!” exclaimed Kendall. “The caprice of seasons, and the miscalculation of man!”
“And of woman too, Mr. Kendall. If you will believe me, I have been at work early and late, after my fashions, this week; ay, I declined going to see the bridge finished and put off our wedding-day treat, for the sake of getting my stock into pretty order by to-day; and I have scarcely had a bid yet, or even a word from a neighbour, till you came. I did not calculate on the demand for honey, and the neglect of every thing else. Every body is complaining of the same thing.”
“It seems strange, Mrs. Dods, that while we all want to sell, and all to buy, we cannot make our wants agree. I bring my demand to Mr. Arthur,—my load of pumpkins and request of honey or sugar. He wants no pumpkins and has no honey. I bring the same to you. You want no pumpkins, and offer the caps. Now I might perhaps get dollars for my pumpkins; but I want only one cap—”
“You do want one, then! Here is a pretty thing, that would just suit your wife——”
“Let me go on. I bring my demand to those dark girls: and the best of it is, they do want pumpkins, and could let me have honey; but the young farmer comes between, with his superfluity of pigs, to offer a better bargain; so that I suffer equally from the glut of pork and the dearth of honey.”
“We are all suffering, so that any stranger would say that there is a glut of every thing but honey. Neither millinery, nor blankets, nor knives, nor flower-seeds are selling yet. But I believe there is no glut of any thing but pigs. If we could put them out of the market, and put honey out of people's heads, I have little doubt we should exchange, to our mutual satisfaction, as many articles as would set against each other, till few would be left.”
“I hope to see this happen before night, and then I may be rid of my pumpkins, and carry home a cap at a price we should neither of us grumble at, and keep the rest of my dollars for honey hereafter.”
“Next week. No doubt, there will be a fine supply of it next week. Perhaps a glut: for a glut often follows close upon a scarcity.”
“Which should make us careful to husband our stocks till we are sure we can renew them; like the wise Joseph in Egypt.—That puts a thing into my head. I have a good mind to take the girls' offer of pigs for my pumpkins. Who knows but there may be a scarcity of pork after all this plenty—which is apt to make people wasteful? If they will, they shall have half a load for two of their lean animals; and I will keep the other half load to feed them upon.”
“Ah! that is always the way people's wishes grow with opportunity. This morning, you thought of no such thins; as keeping pigs; and now, before night, you will have two.”
“To be sure, Mrs. Dods. Very natural! The demand always grows as wealth grows, you know. When the farmer makes his land yield double by good tillage, he demands double the commodities he demanded before; and if nature gives us a multitude of pigs, a new demand will open in the same way.”
“And there is a double supply at the same time,—of corn by the farmer, and of pigs by the porkseller. Well! in either case, there is a better chance opened for mv caps. The more wealth there is, the better hope of a sale of millinery. You must not forget that, Mr. Kendall. You promised to take one of my caps, you know.”
“Why, so I did; but how to pay for it, I am sure I don't know. I am not going to sell my load for money, you see.”
“Well, I will tell you how. Get three lean pigs, and part with a few more pumpkins. I will take a pig for this pretty cap. I am somewhat of your opinion that pigs will soon be worth more than they are now.”
“And so you help to quicken the demand.”
“Yes. My boys will manage to keep the animal,—behind the house, or in the brickfield. And it would be a thousand pities your wife should not have this cap. I had her before my mind's eye while making it, I do assure you:— and it will soon lose its bloom if it goes into my window, or upon my shelves again.”
The negotiation was happily concluded; and, by the end of the day, when pigs and honey were put out of the question, a brisk traffic took place in the remaining articles, respecting which the wishes of the buyers and sellers agreed better than they had done about the disproportioned commodities. All had come with a demand; and each one's instrument of demand was his neighbour's means of supply: so that the market would have been entirely cleared, if they had but known one another's wishes well enough to calculate what kinds of produce they should bring. If this had been done, there would have been more honey; and if, from a caprice of nature, there had been still more pigs than usual, the only consequence would have been that the demander of pork would have received more of it to his bargain, or that the supplier of pigs would have kept back some of his pork, to be an additional future instrument of demand. In this case, no one would have lost, and some one would have gained.
As it was, Arthur was a loser. He paid much more for honey than would probably be necessary the next week. But he thought himself in another sense a gainer,—in proportion to the pleasure of obliging his mother. The Brawnees carried home two thirds of a load of pumpkins, two fat pigs, and a cherished store of fresh butter, in the place of their five gallons of honey and three lean swine. They were decidedly gainers; though not, perhaps, to the extent they might have been if they had been unscrupulous about pressing their customer hard. Any one but Arthur would have been made to yield more wealth than this; but they were well content with having pleased him, and repaired in part the losses of the morning.
Other parties left little to be removed in preparation for the Sunday. Having carried home their purchases first, they returned for the small remainder of their stock; and the evening closed with a sort of minor frolic, the children running after the stray feathers their mothers were sweeping away, and the men ranging logs for seats, and providing a platform and desk for the use ot Dr Sneyd. One or two serious people were alarmed at the act of thus turning a house of merchandise into a temple of worship; but the greater number thought that the main consideration was to gather together as many worshippers as could be collected in the heart of their wilderness. Such an accession as was now promised to their congregation seemed to mark an era in the history of their community.