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COALS OF FIRE. 221

many years ago by an English planter, who failed, and the place was bought by Dr Michelli, an Italian, who chanced just then to be conveying a cargo of Chinese coolies to Peru. So many died on the voyage that he determined to halt at Tahiti, and give the survivors time to recruit. Finding this very desirable property in the market, he concluded that the part of wisdom was to go no further. So here he settled with about fifty Chinamen, who work the land and give him a third of the profits, while he rides about the mountains, and shoots wild cattle for their common use.

His surroundings are somewhat polyglot. The cook is an Englishman; servants of various degree are Tahitian ; while the overseer, M. Bellemare, is a French externe-politique, who was exiled for firing at the late Emperor Louis Napoleon—a crime which the Emperor seems to have punished on the Biblical principle of heaping coals of fire, in the form of unmerited reward; for during his lifetime M. Bellemare received a regular pension and lived on the fat of the land—a clemency which certainly failed to awaken one thrill of gratitude in the would-be assassin. The pension having expired with the death of the Emperor, M. Bellemare has been obliged to seek remunerative occupation, which he has here found.

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Again a delightful sea-bathe, followed by real French chocolate, and then the charming little trio constituted themselves my guides, and led me by difficult, and to me undiscernable paths, over the wooded hills, and through la brousse, which consists of dense guava scrub, to various points, from which we obtained lovely views of the harbour. The walk involved an amount of severe scrambling which, even to me, was somewhat trying; but the children skipped along over rock and crag like young kids, only pausing, with charmingly pretty manners, to see if I required their aid, and bringing me all manner of treasures of fruit and flowers.

I fear no description can possibly convey to your mind a true picture of the lovely woods through which we wander just where fancy leads us, knowing that no hurtful creature of any sort lurks among the mossy rocks or in the rich undergrowth of ferns. Here and there we come on patches of soft green turf, delightfully suggestive of rest, beneath the broad shadow of some great tree with buttressed roots; but more often the broken rays of sunlight gleam in ten thousand reflected lights, dancing and glancing as they shimmer on glossy leaves of every form and shade—from the huge silky leaves of the wild plantain or the giant arum, to the waving

FRONDS OF COCOA-PALM. 223

palm-fronds, which are so rarely at rest, but flash and gleam like polished swords as they bend and twist with every breath of air. It has just occurred to me that probably you have no very distinct idea of the shape of a cocoapalm leaf, which does not bear the slightest resemblance to the palmettos in the greenhouse. It consists of a strong mid-rib, about eight feet long, which, at the end next to the tree, spreads out, very much as your two clenched fists, placed side by side, do from your wrists. The other end tapers to a point. For a space of about two feet the stalk is bare ; then along the remaining six feet a regiment of short swords, graduated from two feet to eighteen inches in length, are set close together on each side of the mid-rib. Of course the faintest stir of the leaf causes these multitudinous swordlets to flash in the sunlight. Hence the continual effect of glittering light, and also the extreme difficulty of securing a good photograph of a cocoa-palm. A little lower than these tall queens of the coralisles, rise fairy-like canopies of graceful tree-ferns, often festooned with most delicate lianas; and there are places where not these only, but the larger trees, are literally matted together by the dense growth of the beautiful large-leaved white convolvulus, or the smaller lilac ipomaea, which twines round the tall stems of the palms, and overspreads the light fronds, like some green waterfall. Many of the larger trees are clothed with parasitic ferns; huge bird's-nest ferns grow in the forks of the branches, as do various orchids, the dainty children of the mist, so that the stems are wellnigh as green as everything else in that wilderness of lovely forms. It is a very inanimate paradise, however. I rarely see any birds or butterflies, only a few lizards and an occasional dragon-fly; and the voice of singingbirds, such as gladden our hearts in humble English woods, is here mute—so we have at least this compensation, for the lack of all the wild luxuriance which here is so fascinating. I wonder if a time will ever come when these fairy isles shall have passed through changes as marvellous as those which geologists teach us to trace in Old England. Have you ever fully realised that “once upon a time” all the strange beautiful plants which we call tropical, were growing in rank luxuriance on English soil I believe that the curious diapered stem of the quaint papawa is one of our common fossil forms. In Dr Buckland's museum at Oxford, I remember seeing unmistakable fruit of a screwpine (pandanus) found in the Oolite, near Charmouth. As to the London Clay, the Isle of Sheppey seems wholly composed of relics of tropical plants, turtles, serpents, and shells, now unknown save in

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these warm isles. I have seen a drawing of the section of a fossil fruit found there, which might have been made from a split bread-fruit; also nuts greatly resembling those of the cocoa and areca palms. The custard-apple is found there, and the dracaena and yucca, and many another tropical leaf and fruit. Would that they grew there now !

Picture to yourself a time when the bleak Northumbrian coast was a forest like one of these, and the coals, of which we now so gladly heap up blazing fires, were all beautiful ferns and palms, waving in the warm sunlight ! Truly it is hard to realise. Even the dragon-flies and lizards of those antediluvian forests are preserved, and spiders and scorpions. As to the chalk and lias and limestone, they give us sponges and corals and Zoophytes enough to build up any number of coral-reefs; and there are great turban echini with heavy spines, like those we find here, and star-fish innumerable, and teeth and vertebrae of sharks and ray.

So that there really was a time when Old England must have been as fascinating as any South Sea isle. What she may have been in the days of the mammoth and megatherium, and all the gruesome race, restored for our edification at the Crystal Palace, is quite another matter; the very idea is suggestive of nightmare

VOL. II. P

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