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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/510

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the deep maroon of the lower faces of its leaves with the green and silvery stripes of their upper sides; the delicate pink-flowered Oxalis, and the dainty "sensitive plant," whose modest shrinking from the slightest touch has been uncharitably attributed to a bad conscience, both by the botanist who named it Mimosa pudica and by the darky boys who call it "shame." Emerging at last into the full blaze of the tropic sun, which seems all the more garish by contrast, we cross the open for a time and soon begin the ascent, by a slight bridle path, of one of the steep hills that inclose the valley. Slowly but surely the horse creeps upward, now stopping with all four feet together to poise for a leap over a gully, then pressing on over a track that nothing else but a mountain goat could climb, close past and under trees that almost brush one from the saddle. At length we come out upon open ground near the summit, to be a hundredfold repaid by one of the fairest sights the fancy can paint. At our feet lies the sea of bananas; beyond and on either side stretches the amphitheater of hills, plumed with cocoanut palms and fringed with feathery bamboos, and covered with verdure. Back to the house by a good path, we taste true Jamaican hospitality in a cup of tea and that most melting and luscious of Jamaica's fruits, a Ripley pine—no one says pineapple here.

After cutting, it is important to ship the bananas as promptly as possible and to handle them carefully, for the less they have ripened or been bruised before reaching their market the better prices they bring. So each bunch is carefully wrapped with "trash"—dried banana leaves—and taken at once to the nearest shipping port. From the great properties like Golden Vale they are transported in two-wheeled or four-wheeled mule carts, the former drawn by two mules, the latter by three abreast, carrying, respectively, about twenty and forty bunches. These carts are lined with trash to prevent bruising. The mule team consists of a large mule in the shafts and a small one harnessed to an outrigger on one side or on each side, as the case may be. From the smaller clearings and dooryard patches of the peasants come single bunches on the heads of their owners, or lots of two or four bunches packed in trash and slung pannier-fashion across the backs of donkeys.

As the bunches are received at the wharf they are unpacked, inspected, and checked off by a tallyman, and placed in trash-lined bins according to their size and quality. A glance shows an experienced eye how many groups or "hands" of bananas a bunch contains. A bunch of nine or more hands is a whole bunch, and brings the full-bunch price either at the port of shipment or in the Northern market. I am told that bunches of sixteen hands are occasionally met with, but have never seen one of more than