THE rice is now ripe for the harvest. Sobah has engaged the services of a half dozen sturdy men to aid in gathering the crop. Neighbors and friends, many of them women, have assembled to take part in celebrating the occasion, for rice harvest is a time of much ceremony and rejoicing.
The work is about to begin. The men are lined up at the end of the field, each with a sharp knife in his hand. Behind them stand two large boys with drums, and along the side of the field are gathered the neighbors, ready to do their part. The drums begin to beat, and the knives of the men to fly rapidly, cutting off the heads of the rice, while a peculiar swinging of the body keeps time to the music. Across the field the procession moves, the drums following close after the harvesters, and keeping up a continual beating, often rapid and work-inspiring. The men are dressed in special harvest garb for the occasion. On their heads are bright colored caps trimmed up in gorgeous style, while one is of coarse black hair in tiniest braids deftly joined. Around the loins a small piece of cloth is wound. Fastened to arms, legs, and bodies are strings, from which dangle ornaments that quiver in the air, as the bodies sway in time to the music. The men continually keep up a harvest song, while the women join in, clapping their hands in unison with the movement.
Thus the harvest is gathered to the sound of music and the song of rejoicing.
About five o'clock the work of the day is ended. The men retire to the farm-house to a bountiful feast of boiled rice and fowl-stew prepared by Mamenah, with the aid of other women. After their appetites were fully satisfied, the men gathered in a group at the foot of a great tree, to await the rising of the moon before returning to the village. All were in the best of spirits, and there was much good-natured chaffing and jesting. Sobah, who was well pleased with the day's results, knowing the fondness of the men for the stories he could tell so delightfully, said finally:
"Yo' do well, to-day; I go tell yo' story, now."
It was a generous offer, and the men were not slow in accepting it.