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I think I have already described this peculiar plant, which bears its enormous bunch of fruit growing upright from the centre of its crown of large leaves, instead of drooping below them, as is the manner of all other bananas and plantains. These clusters vary from two to four feet in length; and I constantly see a bunch so long and so heavy, that it is carried to market slung from a pole, resting on the shoulders of two men, just as in the old pictures of the Israelitish spies bearing the grapes of Eshcol, which were the delight of our childhood. It must be toilsome work to carry these weighty spoils of the mountains from the remote ravines where they chiefly flourish.
All these heaps of golden fruit form a brilliant foreground to the beautiful harbour beyond, which at this early hour reflects only the pale, glowing daffodil hues of a cloudless sky, against which the exquisite outline of Moorea stands out in clear relief. Suddenly its delicate pearly grey is flushed with rose colour, as the first ray of the rising sun touches those lofty summits, and veinings of tender blue mark the course of deep glens and corries, or the shadows cast by prominent crags and pinnacles.
Nearer—so near, indeed, that we can distinguish friendly faces on the decks—lie the French menof-war; and as the light touches them, their dead
white changes to cream colour, and they and their unfurled sails, and the clothes hung out to dry, are all reflected in the calm water. So, too, are the various trading-ships, and the great hulk of a large iron vessel, which caught fire fifteen months ago when she was near the Marquesas. Her crew took to their boats, and two of these arrived here safely. A good while after, the deserted ship, still burning, drifted down towards here. The Seignelay went out and towed in the wreck. She had been laden with coal, and this had run into a sort of semi-fluid, tarry condition, and to this hour it is still Smouldering; and after a shower of rain, steam and smoke still rise from the poor old hulk, which is so red from rust that you would think she had been painted vermilion. It is a vexed question whether she can ever be turned to account, or whether she should not be towed outside the reef, and there sunk." Just beyond the shipping, inside the harbour, is a small island fortified by the French. The incongruity of ramparts and guns is hidden by foliage of hybiscus and palms; and it forms one item in the beauty of the scene. This is the view from the front of the Red House. The back windows look over green mango-trees, and past the spire of the Roman Catholic church, to the great purply mountains of the interior. So you see that, although this big square three-storeyed house of very red brick, encased in closed verandahs, is not in itself an ornamental building, its surroundings are very lovely. And of the kindliness that reigns within it, words fail me to tell. It is an atmosphere of genial cordiality, in which each guest is at once made to feel as welcome, and as thoroughly at home, as any member of the large family. It is a kindness as unconscious, but as real and as delightful, as the balmy air we breathe, and is as purely Tahitian. What would these warm-hearted open-handed people think of the measured cold reception of strangers in our grey British isles? To begin with, I discovered, on arriving here, that Mrs Brander had actually given me her own charming suite of rooms, to secure my having the fullest enjoyment of the lovely view and of the cool verandahs; so that I virtually am in solitary possession of this whole flat, with its large handsome drawing-room and cosy boudoir. I compare myself to one of the hermit-crabs which curl themselves into desirable shells, to the exclusion of the rightful owners | But my most hospitable hostess will not allow that she suffers any inconvenience; though she and her children have moved downstairs to share one huge room with any number of
* The question was decided in her favour. She has been refitted and renamed, and now sails the Pacific as the Annie Johnson.
AT HOME IN TAHITI. 149
friends and relations, who spread their soft mattresses and pillows, and very gay quilts, and make themselves cosy for the night, just as the fancy takes them. The fine old mother has a house near, but very often she and the pretty sisters prefer to sleep here : so do sundry cousins and friends. There are also a number of Tahitian women of good birth who find a home, almost by right, in the house of every high chief, and who in return do him, or her, such light service as may be required. But of actual servants, as we understand the word, there are none. I find an element of great comfort in the presence of an Englishwoman who acts as housekeeper—a most unexpected discovery in Tahitil She brings my early breakfast of tea and fruit, and otherwise takes great care of me. We have a regular European breakfast and dinmer, at which, however, only my hostess and her big brothers, with the Belgian manager and a few French officers, generally appear. The others prefer eating a l'indigène, sitting on their mats in another room, or beneath the shady trees; in fact, the native element is pretty strong, which gives this house half its interest. All the connections of the royal family, and a number of pretty demi-blanche girls, dressed in flowing sacques, are continually coming and going; and once a-week Mrs Brander has a reception for all the young folk, and for as many French officers as like to come; and they all dance and make merry, rather more so, I think, than at the admiral's Wednesday receptions at Government House, which are, nevertheless, very enjoyable. I had heard the praises of my hostess sung in no measured terms by all the members of the mission, both French and English, as well as by our consul and his family; but only since I have lived under her roof have I realised what a very exceptional woman she is. To the affectionate kindliness of a genuine Tahitian, she adds the Anglo-Jewish strength of character and business capacity inherited from her father; and the combination is one which would be truly remarkable in any woman, but is doubly so in one of the gentle daughters of the South Seas. The born chiefess is revealed in her large-hearted generosity to every creature that comes within her reach ; though her extreme unselfishness makes her shrink from any expenditure that seems to tend only to her own comfort. She appears to be always thinking what she can do for other people—rich or poor, in all parts of the group. She has estates scattered all over these isles, and conducts all their business herself, as well as attending to everything connected with the great mercantile house created by her late