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practice. But I confess I was not sorry when, after the fiftieth shot, the look-out man (who sat aloft like the sweet little cherub) announced the approach of the king, and presently we discerned a great crowd of natives wading across the reef, and dragging his canoe. Ship-boats put off to meet him ; and though embarkation in such surf was no easy matter, it was safely accomplished, and a few minutes later the Seignelay received, not his majesty alone, but also a large number of pigs, and heaps of cocoa-nuts, presented to the lord of the isles, as parting gifts from loving subjects. It was late ere we landed at Papeete, so I again slept at the Red House, where one of the Seignelay boats called for me at daybreak, and landed me at the beautiful avenue of Fautawa, where I had a most enjoyable morning of quiet sketching, till Mrs Brander sent her pony-carriage to bring me home to the noonday breakfast. Now the young folk are preparing for a midnight frolic. They intend to have a very merry dance at a neighbour's house; but as it is to be impromptu, and the hosts are not supposed to prepare any supper, each gentleman intends to carry a basket, ostensibly of fruit and flowers, beneath which lie concealed sundry bottles of champagne, wherewith to drink the New Year in. The girls are busy
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weaving garlands, that all may be flower-crowned to-night. Mrs Brander and her mother alone represent the more thoughtful element, and go to Papeete to attend a great native midnight service. I am too tired to do either, so can only say to you, as to the Old Year, “Good-night ! Good-night !”
NEW YEAR’s DAY IN TAHITI—ASCENT OF FAUTAWA VALLEY—OF PALM SALADs, SCREW-PINES, AND BREAD-FRUIT — PACKING MANGO-STONES – RETURN OF GILBERT ISLANDERS–DEPARTURE OF THE SEIGNELAY.
FAUTAwa, New Year's Day, 1878. THE dancers of last night did not come home till 3.30, and at 7 A.M. the band of La Magicienne came here to serenade Mrs Brander, and played divinely. Many friends drove out to offer their New Year greetings, and so, as if by magic, the lawn was soon crowded with a joyous party, all the girls dressed in the prettiest, freshest of sacques, and their hair wreathed with bright flowers. What could they do but dance 2 The band, having pledged their hostess in her best champagne, played with a will for a couple of hours, when they were provided with a substantial breakfast, and then all the gentlemen drove off to another place belonging to Mrs Brander, there to preside at a great breakfast to all her employés.
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I drove into Papeete with pretty Pree, Manihinihi, and Naani, to call on Marau, Moé, and other friends; and so we began the New Year brightly and happily, in ideal, civilised-South-Sea fashion.
Ever since I arrived here, we have been planning an expedition to the French fort at some distance up this valley, at a height of about 1600 feet above the sea. So one beautiful morning last week, several friends from the Seignelay arrived here before sunrise, and Ariipaea Salmon undertook to be our guide. He had, unfortunately, hurt his foot, so he and I were privileged to ride, the others walking.
For a considerable distance the path winds through a dense thicket of guavas, all self-sown, and considered by the people as great a curse as the (equally imported) lantana in Ceylon, both plants having a fatal facility for spreading and taking permanent possession of every neglected corner. They are the Chinamen of the vegetable world, and are quite as useful in their way. The guava forms the principal firewood of Tahiti. It bears an abundant crop of excellent fruit, which is now ripening just as the mango season is finishing; and I think the Tahitian guava is better than those of India and Ceylon. Certainly it has a far less sickly smell. Cattle and horses alike munch both fruit and leaves with avidity, so I cannot see why the guava should be so generally despised; but the fact remains, strange to say, no one here seems ever to think of making the delicious crimson jelly which we, in England, prize so highly. The fruit is left to drop from the trees utterly unheeded. Further up the valley the track becomes steep and narrow, and in places runs along the face of the cliff, with the rushing stream immediately below, and overhanging boughs festooned with vines growing so rankly as somewhat to endanger a rider. The beautiful large granadilla passionflower here runs riot, but its fruit is now all finished. When ripe it resembles a good-sized pumpkin of a bright golden colour, and contains a multitude of seeds like those of a melon, each encased in white jelly. These lie inside a sweetish pulp about two inches thick, which is generally thrown away, but is nevertheless quite worth cooking as a vegetable. I found the drooping branches so troublesome, that I foolishly abandoned my horse very early, and had a much longer tramp than I counted on. We had not gone very far ere we quite lost the foot-track, and coming to a place where two ravines and two streams meet, Ariipaea, who had not been here for a long time, quite forgot which we were to follow; so first we tried the right side, and clam