Our work was now before us; but, previous to commencing operations, I endeavoured to engage the Yankee in a little further friendly chat concerning the nature of virgin soils in general, and that of the valley of Martair in particular. So masterly a stratagem made Long Ghost brighten up; and he stood by ready to join in. But what our friend had to say about agriculture all referred to the particular part of his plantation upon which we stood; and having communicated enough on this head to enable us to set to work to the best advantage, he fell to, himself; and Shorty, who had been looking on, followed suit.
The surface, here and there, presented closely amputated branches of what had once been a dense thicket. They seemed purposely left projecting, as if to furnish a handle whereby to drag out the roots beneath. After loosening the hard soil, by dint of much thumping and pounding, the Yankee jerked one of the roots this way and that, twisting it round and round, and then tugging at it horizontally.
Come! lend us a hand! he cried, at last; and running up, we all four strained away in concert. The tough obstacle convulsed the surface with throes and spasms; but stuck fast, notwithstanding.
Dumn it! cried Zeke, well have to get a rope; run to the house, Shorty, and fetch one.
The end of this being attached, we took plenty of room, and strained away once more.
Give us a song, Shorty, said the doctor; who was rather sociable, on a short acquaintance. Where the work to be accomplished is any way difficult, this mode of enlivening toil is quite efficacious among sailors. So, willing to make everything as cheerful as possible, Shorty struck up, Were you ever in Dumbarton? a marvellously inspiring, but somewhat indecorous windlass chorus.
At last, the Yankee cast a damper on his enthusiasm by exclaiming, in a pet, Oh! dumn your singing! keep quiet, and pull away! This we now did, in the most uninteresting silence; until, with a jerk that made every elbow hum, the root dragged out; and, most inelegantly, we all landed upon the ground. The doctor, quite exhausted, stayed there; and, deluded into believing that, after so doughty a performance, we would be allowed a cessation of toil, took off his hat, and fanned himself.
Rayther a hard customer, that, Peter, observed the Yankee, going up to him: but its no use for any on em to hang back; for Im dumned if they haint got to come out, whether or no. Hurrah! lets get at it agin!
Mercy! ejaculated the doctor, rising slowly, and turning round. Hell be the death of us!
Falling to with our hoes again, we worked singly, or together, as occasion required, until Nooning Time came.
The period, so called by the planters, embraced about three hours in the middle of the day; during which it was so excessively hot, in this still, brooding valley, shut out from the Trades, and only open toward the leeward side of the island, that labour in the sun was out of the question. To use a hyperbolical phrase of Shortys, It was ot enough to melt the nose hoff a brass monkey.
Returning to the house, Shorty, assisted by old Tonoi, cooked the dinner; and, after we had all partaken thereof, both the Cockney and Zeke threw themselves into one of the hammocks, inviting us to occupy the other. Thinking it no bad idea, we did so; and, after skirmishing with the mosquitoes, managed to fall into a doze. As for the planters, more accustomed to Nooning, they, at once, presented a nuptial back to each other; and were soon snoring away at a great rate. Tonoi snoozed on a mat, in one corner.
At last, we were roused by Zekes crying out, Up bys, up! rise, and shine; time to get at it agin!
Looking at the doctor, I perceived, very plainly, that he had decided upon something.
In a languid voice, he told Zeke that he was not very well: indeed, that he had not been himself for some time past; though a little rest, no doubt, would recruit him. The Yankee thinking, from this, that our valuable
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