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A WANDERER. 257
to have heard our own Church service on Christmas Day. By some fatality I have not had that privilege since leaving England; last Christmas Day having been spent in the hateful work of transhipping on our way from Fiji to New Zealand; and the previous one was spent in the mountains of great Fiji. It has been the same as regards Easter. We had to sail from Marseilles on Easter morning 1875. Easter of 1876 was spent in a little Fijian village in the isle of Koro, and Easter 1877 among the geysers of northern New Zealand. Where they may next find me, who can tell? I must close my letter that it may be sent on board the Daring at daybreak. The pretty Tahitian girls are working all to-night to finish arrowroot or bamboo fibre hats as parting gifts to the friends whom they will probably never meet again. “Telle est la vie l’—Good-night.
YoUR LOVING SISTER.
vol. II. R
THE ATO L L G ROUP OF TETIA R O A.
FAUTAwa, TAHITI, Christmas Day.
A GLAD Christmas to you all, dear people I Would that some good fairy could lend me a wishing-cap, that I might look in by turns on each home gathering in the various corners of England and Scotland. These marked anniversaries are always trying days, which awaken longings for the bodily presence of the dear kith and kin in the far country. But I confess I would rather that the said wishing-cap could bring all of you here, away from the bitter frosts and snows, to this paradise of sweet sunlight —and (selfish as it sounds when expressed in words) away from constant sight of the shivering ill-clad and half-starved people, whose deep-seated poverty you can in no wise alleviate, to these isles, where want, at least, never appears prominently. The whole family party of brothers and sisters, mother, aunts, cousins, and feudal retainers, moved
CHRISTMAS DAY. 259
out here again immediately after the departure of the big ship, and we have resumed the pleasant existence of delicious early bathes, and long idle days beneath the green shade by the lovely river.
I am sitting now in my favourite bower of dark hybiscus with lemon-coloured blossoms, which overarches the sparkling rivulet, as it branches from the main stream — an enchanting spot. I have just been reading the old Christmas service, which brings back many a vision of langsyne. There was a grand midnight Mass last night at the Catholic church, and of course service this morning, but none at the Protestant church, I believe.
Now I must go in to breakfast, alias luncheon, as a number of friends are expected. This evening one of the neighbours gives a large dance, to which, of course, we all go. Even non-dancers find such ploys attractive when they involve a pleasant evening drive in an open carriage, and no hot crowded TOOInS.
December 31st. I have had another small cruise in the Seignelay, which was ordered to the isles of Tetiaroa, distant about twenty-four miles, thence to bring back the king, who went there last week in an open boat. It was arranged that I should sleep at the Red
House, and go on board with Queen Marau at day-
OCEAN GARLANDS. 261
that, as a rule, all the low coral-formations are healthy, whereas the inhabitants of high volcanic isles are frequently subject to fever and ague. Though an imperfect atoll, this cluster was specially interesting to me, as a type of the eighty isles which form the Paumotus. Judging from this sample, I am satisfied that there is little to be seen from the deck of a ship. Could we ascend in a balloon, we should look down on a lagoon of shallow, very bright-green water, encircled by five palmclad isles, connected by bands of rainbow-tinted reef-say a garland of green roses and tri-colour ribbon. Could our balloon float above the Paumotu group, eighty such garlands would be seen scattered on the deep-blue ocean, each encircled by an outer belt of submarine prismatic colour, edged with white breakers, marking where lies the barrier-reef. At Tetiaroa, the only opening in the reef is so narrow as barely to admit a canoe. We had, however, fully intended to land, but the surf was so rough that we had to give up the idea, much to my regret, especially as the day was devoted to heavygun practice, which of course involves ear-splitting noise and smoke. However, I can stand fire pretty well, so took up a favourable position beside one of the cannons, and received instructions in artillery