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PONTO, THE VAGABOND.
TN this large enclosure were to be seen mango, tamI arind, kukui, bamboo, bread-fruit, Pride of India, royal palm, and the traveler's, together with many others; not omitting to mention by itself, the wonderful and much-loved, and deservedly-loved, cocoanut tree; which, by some unhappy mischance, I could but think, was growing far away from any beach or shore -miles inland, in this place of mine.
The cocoanut is a child of the sea, and never looks comfortable and happy but where it can see the face of its friend!
In the middle of these grounds was a circular mound of that exquisite green, such as is seen nowhere but in tropical climates. In the middle of this mound a deep pond, stone-lined and curbed; and a fountain, where the water was plentiful, and ever cool and fresh! Above the first basin was a smaller one, which overflowed, when the fountain was playing, into the larger one beneath. A crowd of doves frequented this pond for their daily ablutions. I wish I knew that all little boys were so happy in having their faces washed, and taking their bath, as were these lovely feathered children! I could not discover that there was actually
any quarreling among them; but, in watching them closely, I seemed to see some selfishness. When they came at nightfall, after an unusually warm day, I noticed that, in their eagerness, the big ones took the lead, and pushed the little ones off the edge of the basin! I would set the fountain gently running —not to scare them off—and they would fly in little groups, onto the upper basin, where the water would fall on them. There they would walk and prance about, round and round, picking and shaking, and cooing, and washing, until each feather was in full-dress and party order! They were of all sizes and colors. Never have I seen such exquisite white ones anywhere, not even in Venice. Oh, they were beauties!
But it was not for the doves I cared the most happy, jolly, rollicking dears that they were; and much as I loved them, and welcome as they were to share the coolness, and the water of the pond and the fountain ; and glad as I was when they came, and sorry as I felt when their daily bath was over! No, it was not for them my sympathy went out, nor in them that my interest specially centered. They were well fed, and housed, and cared for, and owned! Could I not see their neat little cotes, far over the way, among the cool, shady trees in a flower garden! Ah, yes! they had many friends, and lovers, and companions, for were they not choice birds at that—many of rare and expensive breeds—tumblers, and crowns, and crests, etc. No, no! They were not the only living things that wandered into my premises, for there was other two-footed life, besides them, that came! and they came with no fine plumage, and no coquetry! They came at all times of the day, and from the small hours of the morning, if there was a late moon-indeed, I could look for them any time in the night, if there was a wind; for then, they knew, the ground would be strewed with mangoes.
“Mango-o-o! Please, some mango-mango-o-o ! ” This appealing cry from the throats of little brownies, can be heard from sunrise until after sunset, during many months, for it is the fruit of which the natives are the most fond !
The mango-trees are often colossal in size—forty and fifty feet in height, with immense crowns loaded with fruit, hanging (literally, enough to feed an army) in strong, heavy, pendent clusters. A perfect mango is as large as a full-sized Bartlett pear. It is delicious, and of many flavors, no two seeming to taste exactly the same. When the new leaves are coming they take the beautiful shades and tint of autumn leaves in New England. Nature, displaying the same colors in living as in dying! When the fruit is ripe, or when there is a wind, it is thud, thud! Falling from so great a height, it is cracked and mashed often more or less; and with the heat is soon sour, so that the natives are always quite welcome to gather it up. No one but the natives can mount the cocoanut and other high trees! and they test the strength of a branch as they go on, and rarely make a mistake or get a fall. They will go up a mango-tree and to the outmost limbs, like little monkeys. This fruit is almost their only food during the season, so fond are they of it.
But it is an insult to offer a banana to a native, so little do they care for them. And this means, too, the perfect, firm, golden bunch, with no suspicion of black!
Neither were these little natives who had access to my mangoes homeless, or friendless, or poor, by any manner of means! In their own modes and fashions of living they are nature's richest, happiest children ! They sing and dance, and swim and ride. They love the moonlight; they will not sleep when the silver queen of night visits them. They revel in the sunshine—it is never too warm for them! For then they rest and lie under the trees, or go into the surf. They love the rain, and laugh and shout and run from tree to tree where the foliage is so dense that not a drop can find its way through! They love their friends, and they love Hawaii !
They were welcome to share my fruit and to drink of my pretty fountain. I liked their brown faces and laughing eyes. But when their pockets and hats were full of mangoes, they would shout “Aloha !” and be off for their own homes! They liked what I had to give, but with it all they were free and independent. I was not their only friend by scores !
The tamarinds, too, drop-hundreds of dry, brittle pods, thickly strewing the ground with the slightest rustle of a wind. They are a clean, light, pretty brown, as easily broken as a peanut shell, and con
taining in the tiny canoe three or four seeds, covered with rich sweet-and-sour jam, held together by long fibres, they, too, covered with the rich filling! A most perfect little vessel of preserve! A delicious drink was made by pouring onto them boiling water, letting it cool, and then straining it—adding loaf-sugar to the taste.
“Who else came to visit my garden besides the doves and the brownies?”
Well, little Portuguese girls came, expressly for my tamarinds; little maidens from the far-off Azores, whose fathers had come to work on the sugar plantations, and who in time had drifted back to the capital — Honolulu! They hired a little plot of land – put up their shanties — planted their squash, and melon seeds, and grape vines, and a few marigoldskept hens and goats, opened their little shops, their wives taking in washing, and in their thrifty, hardworking ways, were soon able to accumulate money!
These children were pretty little dark-eyed things, with a wealth of soft brown hair in long braids down their backs. Courteous as little Spanish grandees in their manners; and on Sunday or a fête-day, very gaily dressed in gaudy colors.
They would not hesitate to pick up a fine mango, if they saw one; but their mission in coming so often to see me was — the tamarind trees! “The nice lady who lets us fill our aprons with tamarinds," little Felicia tells little Pedro! “Good-night and thank you, ma'am!” And they, too, are gone!