Page images
PDF

SUNDAY MORNING. 181

whole laden bough has been recklessly cut off. Pine-apples, bread-fruit, cocoa-nuts, all are there, and baskets of scarlet tomatoes, suggestive of cool salads. But tempting above all are the luscious mangoes, whose thin skins are ready to burst at a touch, and yield their treasure of delight to thirsting lips. Purple, or golden, or pale yellow, long-shaped or egg-shaped, I know not which to prefer; each in turn seems more delicious than any other, and the only difficulty is to stop feasting before the basket is empty If Tahiti owns no other debt of gratitude to France, she at least has to thank a French governor for this excellent fruit, which is now so thoroughly acclimatised, that it has attained a perfection rarely equalled in any other country, and, moreover, grows so luxuriantly and bears fruit so abundantly, as to form an important item in the food of the people. Returning from the market to a pleasant early breakfast on the cool verandah, I rested in luxurious quiet till the bells of the Roman church close by, summoned the faithful to the nine o'clock service, which I generally attend, in preference to walking in the heat to the large native Congregational church—“le temple Protestant”—where the long service, in a tongue to me unknown, is a weariness of flesh and spirit. Moreover, it lacks the picturesque element which was to me so attractive in the simple Fijian churches, where soft mats are the only furnishings required. Here the congregation are penned in hideous pews, which make it difficult, if not impossible, to kneel—a natural attitude of worship, which, in the early days of Tahitian Christianity, was as common as it now is in Fiji, but from which the modern Tahitians refrain in church, as savouring of Romish ritual At the Catholic church, the bishop preaches half in French, half in Tahitian, that all his hearers may carry away some message in their own tongue; and the singing by the French Sisters and their school-children is always sweet and harmonious. I cannot say the congregation is large—merely a small handful of natives; such of the French as are compelled to be present at all, having already been in official attendance at the eight o'clock military Mass, which is to me a very distasteful form of worship. I think that good Père Collet looks on me as rather a hopeful convert; but I tell him I only appear as the representative of my naval friends, who all consider church-going in any form as altogether unnecessary, neither officers nor sailors ever attending service since our arrival here. After church, we went to breakfast on board Le Seignelay, and then to see Queen Marau, whom we escorted to the Government House gardens, where

SUNDAY EVENING. 183

we were joined by several friends. The great attractions there are two newly arrived Russian bears, passengers by Le Limier—nice brown beasts, and very tame. We returned here just in time for the family dinner, from which, as usual, Mrs Brander and I made our way to the evening service at the little Congregational chapel, at which only a tiny handful of the foreign residents assemble. All the members of the Protestant mission officiate by turns, in French or English ; and this evening M. Wernier conducted the service in admirable English. But a strong counter-attraction is offered by the pleasant gardens, where the band always reserves its most attractive programme for Sunday night; and we catch tempting snatches of lovely operatic airs as we walk homeward by the hybiscus-shaded lanes.

FAUTAwa WALLEY, Thursday, 6th Dec.

Last Monday the whole party moved out from Papeete to this lovely country-home. It is a delightful bungalow, built by Mr Brander—a cool one-storeyed house, with wide shady verandahs; a pleasant garden, bright with summer flowers; masses of cool shade; and a clear, beautiful river, which affords a dozen delightful bathing-places of varied depth, so that every one can select a spot according to his own heart's desire. All the family and their friends can swim like fishes, so of course they prefer the deep pools, and have a favourite spot just below the house, where they disport themselves joyously at all hours of the day; and the first hospitable offer made to callers, is that of a pareo and towels, that they may at once enjoy this most refreshing luxury. I, being a foolish non-swimmer, and moreover somewhat ungregarious, have discovered a bathing paradise for myself some way further up the stream, where the interlacing boughs of cool blue-grey hybiscus foliage form an immense arbour—a dressingroom of leafy shade, through which the gurgling waters flow gently, with rippling, liquid, most musical tones—the voice of hidden streams. Here a rivulet leaves the main river, and its sparkling waters play over a thick velvety carpet of the softest, greenest mosses, forming the most delightful couch you can imagine; while from the leafy canopy overhead drop pale lemon-coloured blossoms, which float idly down the stream; and from the wild guava bushes I can pluck any number of ripe guavas, or, to be still more luxurious, I may gather luscious mangoes on my way from the house. Can you wonder that so fascinating a bower is not only my first attraction at early dawn, but a favourite retreat at all hours ? Sometimes I end the evening

ORIGIN OF NAMES. 185

with a moonlight bathe, but am inclined to think that this is imprudent, as it is always followed by a feeling of chill, though the water and air both feel warm and delicious. My hostess has presented me with a couple of sacques like those worn by all Tahitian ladies. They are the perfection of dress in this climate, being so delightfully cool. They are literally flowing garments, for they only touch you at the shoulders, and thence fall in long loose folds. So when the first ray of light gilds the high mountains in which this lovely valley lies embosomed, I slip on one of those simple dresses, and start barefoot across the dewy lawn and by the grassy paths that lead to the stream. Going barefoot is only a preliminary stage of bathing, for the grass is saturated with moisture, and an early walk across a field is about equivalent to walking knee-deep through a river. Curiously enough, it is to this heavy night-dew that the royal family of Tahiti owe their name of Pomare, which literally means “night cough.” About four generations back the king chanced to be sleeping on the mountains and exposed to the penetrating dew, which brought on a troublesome cough. His followers spoke of the po mare, and the sound of the words pleased the royal ear; and thenceforth the king adopted this euphonious

« PreviousContinue »