A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 15 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 762 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 15.
of wearing or sleeping upon, and many are merely ornamental.  The last are chiefly made from the tough membraneous part of the stock of the plantain tree; those that they wear from the pandanus, cultivated for that purpose, and never suffered to shoot into a trunk; and the coarser sort, which they sleep upon, from a plant called evarra.  There are many other articles of less note, that employ the spare time of their females; as combs, of which, they make vast numbers; and little baskets made of the same substance as the mats, and others of the fibrous cocoa-nut husk, either plain, or interwoven with small beads; but all finished with such neatness and taste in the disposition of the various parts, that a stranger cannot help admiring their assiduity and dexterity.

The province allotted to the men is, as might be expected, far more laborious and extensive than that of the women.  Agriculture, architecture, boat-building, fishing, and other things that relate to navigation, are the objects of their care.[179] Cultivated roots and fruits being their principal support, this requires their constant attention to agriculture, which they pursue very diligently, and seem to have brought almost to as great perfection as circumstances will permit.  The large extent of the plantain fields has been taken notice of already, and the same may be said of the yams; these two together, being at least as ten to one, with respect to all the other articles.  In planting both these, they dig small holes for their reception, and afterward root up the surrounding grass, which, in this hot country, is quickly deprived of its vegetating power, and, soon rotting, becomes a good manure.  The instruments they use for this purpose, which they call hooo, are nothing more than pickers or stakes of different lengths, according to the depth they have to dig.  These are flattened and sharpened to an edge at one end, and the largest have a short piece fixed transversely, for pressing it into the ground with the foot.  With these, though they are not more than from two to four inches broad, they dig and plant ground of many acres in extent.  In planting the plantains and yams, they observe so much exactness, that, whichever way you look, the rows present themselves regular and complete.

[Footnote 179:  How remarkably does Captain Cook’s account of the employments of the women and men here, agree with Father Cantova’s, of the Caroline Islanders?—­“La principale occupation des hommes, est de construire des barques, de pecher, et de cultiver la terre.  L’affaire des femmes est de faire la cuisine, et de mettre en oeuvre un espece de plante sauvage, et un arbre,—­pour en faire de la toile.”—­Lettres Edifiantes et Curieuses, tom. xv. p. 313.—­D.]

The cocoa-nut and bread-fruit trees are scattered about without any order, and seem to give them no trouble, after they have attained a certain height.  The same may be said of another large tree, which produces great numbers of a large, roundish, compressed nut, called eeefee; and of a smaller tree that bears a rounded oval nut, two inches long, with two or three triangular kernels, tough and insipid, called mabba, most frequently planted near their houses.

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