Farming in Polynesia
The planters were both whole-souled fellows; but, in other respects, as unlike as possible.
One was a tall, robust Yankee, born in the backwoods of Maine, sallow, and with a long face;the other was a short little Cockney, who had first clapped his eyes on the Monument.
The voice of Zeke, the Yankee, had a twang like a cracked viol; and Shorty (as his comrade called him), clipped the aspirate from every word beginning with one. The latter, though not the tallest man in the world, was a good-looking young fellow of twenty-five. His cheeks were dyed with the fine Saxon red, burned deeper from his roving life: his blue eye opened well, and a profusion of fair hair curled over a well-shaped head.
But Zeke was no beauty. A strong, ugly man, he was well adapted for manual labour; and that was all. His eyes were made to see with, and not for ogling. Compared with the Cockney, he was grave, and rather taciturn; but there was a deal of good old humour bottled up in him, after all. For the rest, he was frank, good-hearted, shrewd, and resolute; and like Shorty, quite illiterate.
Though a curious conjunction, the pair got along together famously. But, as no two men were ever united in any enterprise without one getting the upper hand of the other, so in most matters Zeke had his own way. Shorty, too had imbibed from him a spirit of invincible industry; and Heaven only knows what ideas of making a fortune on their plantation.
We were much concerned at this; for the prospect of their setting us, in their own persons, an example of downright hard labour, was anything but agreeable. But it was now too late to repent what we had done.
The first daythank fortunewe did nothing. Having treated us as guests thus far, they no doubt thought it would be wanting in delicacy to set us to work before the compliments of the occasion were well over. The next morning, however, they both looked business-like, and we were put to.
Wall, bys (boys), said Zeke, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, after breakfastwe must get at it. Shorty, give Peter there (the doctor), the big hoe, and Paul the other, and lets be off. Going to a corner, Shorty brought forth three of the implements; and distributing them impartially, trudged on after his partner, who took the lead with something in the shape of an axe.
For a moment left alone in the house, we looked at each other, quaking. We were each equipped with a great, clumsy piece of a tree, armed at one end with a heavy, flat mass of iron.
The cutlery partespecially adapted to a primitive soilwas an importation from Sydney; the handles must have been of domestic manufacture. Hoesso called we had heard of, and seen; but they were harmless in comparison with the tools in our hands.
Whats to be done with them? inquired I of Peter
Lift them up and down, he replied; or put them in motion some way or other. Paul, we are in a scrape but hark! they are calling; and shouldering the hoes, off we marched.
Our destination was the farther side of the plantation, where the ground, cleared in part, had not yet been broken up; but they were now setting about it. Upon halting, I asked why a plough was not used; some of the young wild steers might be caught and trained for draught.
Zeke replied that, for such a purpose, no cattle to his knowledge, had ever been used in any part of Polynesia. As for the soil of Martair, so obstructed was it with roots, crossing and recrossing each other at all points, that no kind of a plough could be used to advantage. The heavy Sydney hoes were the only thing for such land.
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