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Another day we breakfasted on board Le Seignelay, and in the afternoon a large party assembled on La Magicienne to see the boat-races. A pretty sight, and seen from a beautiful and most luxurious ship.
On Wednesday, the admiral held his last reception at Government House, at which there was a very large attendance; and Mrs Brander had most mirthful dances here on Monday, and again last night. The latter was a farewell, and I fear that to many of the young folk it was really a very sorrowful one.
This morning we watched La Magicienne steam out of harbour on her way to Valparaiso. The admiral leaves a pleasant vice - governor in M. D'Oncieue de la Battye, who is happily allowed to retain the excellent band till the arrival of the new governor; when the Seignelay is to convey him and it to Valparaiso. So the Tahitians find Some consolation in this arrangement.
I think our Sundays would seem to you rather a curious medley, so I will give you a sketch of today from morning till evening. I was, as usual, awakened at 5 A.M. by the chattering of many voices, as the boats discharged their cargoes of
fruit and rainbow-coloured fish beneath my windows. It was an exquisite cloudless morning, and I was seized with a sudden impulse to follow the crowd to the market, which hitherto I had only seen in its deserted afternoon aspect. Passing by roads which are called streets, but are rather shady bowers of yellow hybiscus and bread-fruit trees, I entered the covered marketplace, where were assembled as gay a throng as you could wish to see, many of them dressed in flowing robes of the very brightest colours; for the people here assembled are chiefly le peuple, whose days of ceremonial mourning for their good old queen are drawing to a close ; so the long tresses of glossy black hair, hitherto so carefully hidden within their jaunty little sailor hats, are now again suffered to hang at full length in two silky plaits, and hair and hats are wreathed with bright fragrant flowers of double Cape jessamine, orangeblossom, Scarlet hybiscus, or oleander. Many wear a delicate white jessamine star in the ear in place of an ear-ring. The people here are not so winsome as those in remoter districts. Too much contact with shipping and grog-shops has of course gone far to deteriorate them, and take off the freshness of life; but a South Sea crowd is always made up of groups pleasant to the eye; and a party of girls dressed in long graceful Sacques of pale WOL. II. M
sea-green, or delicate pink, pure white, or bright crimson, chatting and laughing as they roll up minute fragments of tobacco in strips of pandanus or banana to supply the inevitable cigarette, is always attractive. The men all wear pareos of Manchester cotton stuff, prepared expressly for these isles, and of the most wonderful patterns. Those most in favour are bright crimson with a large white pattern, perhaps groups of red crowns on circles of white, arranged on a scarlet ground, or else rows of white crowns, alternating with groups of stars. A darkblue ground with circles and crosses in bright yellow, or scarlet with yellow anchors and circles, also find great favour; and though they certainly sound “loud” when thus described, they are singularly effective. It is wonderful what a variety of patterns can be produced, not one of which has ever been seen in England. With these the men wear white shirts, and sailor's hats, with bright-coloured silk handkerchiefs tied over them and knotted on the ear; or else a gay garland. On entering the market, it struck me that many of the sellers must have taken up their quarters over-night, for their gay quilts and pillows lay near, as they sat on their mats Snatching a hasty breakfast of fruit or raw fish. The latter is always in favour. Little fish or big
fish of certain sorts are swallowed with apparently the same delight as you might hail a basket of ripe cherries; in fact, a green banana-leaf full of skipping shrimps, is a dainty dish for any pretty maid, who crunches the wriggling creatures with her gleaming white teeth, or lets them hop down her throat with the greatest coolness. The fish here offered for sale are of every sort and size and colour. Large silvery fish, flat fish ; long narrow fish with prolonged snouts, excellent to eat; the au or needle-fish, with long sharp-pointed head; and gay scarlet and green and blue fishes of every colour of the rainbow. I have seen gaudy fish in many tropical seas, but nowhere such brilliancy as here. There are rock-fish of all sorts, bonito, good fresh-water salmon with white flesh, eels, mussels, turtle, clams, echini, prawns, red and white cray-fish, &c., &c. Sometimes the market has a fair supply of poultry, turkeys, fowls, pigeons, and wild duck, -generally a few live pigs, which are carried hanging from a pole and squealing pitifully. They are very good, and clean feeders, being allowed to wander at large, and find themselves in cocoa-nuts and bread-fruit. The enterprising Chinamen, as usual, improve the vegetable supply, especially in the matter of what I venture to call Christian potatoes, in opposition to the indigenous potato, alias yam.
Every one brings to the morning market whatever he happens to have for sale. Some days he has a large stock-in-trade, sometimes next to nothing. But, be it little or be it much, he divides it into two lots, and slings his parcels or baskets from a light bamboo-pole which rests across his shoulder, and, light as it is, often weighs more than the trifles suspended from it, perhaps a few shrimps in a green leaf are slung from one end, and a lobster from the other, or, it may be, a tiny basket of new-laid eggs balanced by half-a-dozen silvery fishes.
But often the burden is so heavy that the pole bends with the weight—of perhaps two huge bunches of mountain bananas—and you think how that poor fellow's shoulder must have ached as he carried his spoil down the steep mountain-path from the cleft in the rugged rock where the faees had contrived to take root. These resemble bunches of gigantic golden plums. As a bit of colour they are glorious, but as a vegetable I cannot learn to like them,--which is perhaps as well, as the native proverb says that the foreigner who does appreciate faees, can never stay away from Tahiti.
As you enter the cool shady market you see hundreds of those golden clusters hanging from ropes stretched across the building, and great bunches of mangoes and oranges. These last lie heaped in baskets, among cool green leaves. Sometimes a