« PreviousContinue »
strung together on the mid-rib of a palm-leaf, which acts as the wick, and the oily nuts, each the size of a walnut, burn slowly with a dim light and oppressive smell. On our arrival here, we were met by a messenger from Papeete, announcing an outbreak of a serious form of influenza, from which the king's aunt died this morning. This is a great grief to the royal brothers, who at once started to attend her funeral. Ties of family affection appear to be very strong in Tahiti, and this sad news has cast a gloom on everything. It is very grievous for our hosts, who had made their preparations with great care, and were looking forward to this opportunity of testifying their loyalty. The river here is lovely. Marau and I bathed together, and I spent the afternoon sketching. During the evening himènes, we all sat in pleasant groups on the shore, or strolled along to the mouth of the river. For our night-quarters, this large district house has been divided by temporary screens, charmingly decorated with quaintly knotted palm-leaves and tree-ferns. I share one of these divisions with the queen, the admiral and his son occupy the next, and all the other gentlemen have disposed of themselves at the further end.
A HEARTY WELCOME. 41
PAPENoo, Tuesday, 23d.
Last night, for the first time, we were all devoured by fleas, and a chorus of aggravation arose from all sides of the pretty cheferie. Everything was beautifully clean, so we attribute the presence of these unwelcome intruders to the fact that the hay, which is always laid as a carpet on the wooden floor, must have been too old.
We all compared notes of distress over our morning coffee—then, as usual, forgot all save the beauty of the scenery as we drove along the shore to Tiarei, where a temporary avenue of faees, or wild banana, had been planted with infinite trouble and at a great sacrifice of fine fruit-bearing plants. The peculiarity of the faees" is, that instead of carrying its huge cluster of fruit pendent, beneath its broad leaves, it carries it upright in the centre. The faees invariably grow in the most inaccessible ravines and crevices of the rock; so it must have been a troublesome task to carry these down, without injury to the large delicate leaves.
We were welcomed by a large family of chiefs, and specially by a kind old lady, who kissed us all on both cheeks, down to M. Hardouin, A.D.C., when Marau's untimely laughter stopped her proceeding to the remaining eighteen officers 1 Though the absence of the king must have made it rather flat for the chiefs, the official speeches were made to the admiral, and the himènes sung as usual. Then followed a most lovely drive, the road cut along the face of basaltic cliffs, and here we are close to another very fine river, which of course implies pleasant bathing and sketching. This evening we had a delightful stroll along the shore, the wavelets breaking on a pebbly beach. At the last moment, the moon rose glorious from the sea—a vision of great beauty. We are very comfortably housed to-night in the chief's own house. Marau and I occupy one end, and his family have the other.
* Musa wramascopus.
Chez REv. JAMES GREEN, PAPEETE, Oct. 25th.
Late last night we returned to headquarters, and I to this pleasant nest, very glad of the prospect of a few days' rest. Yesterday was a long day, for I was out sketching with the first ray of light, and worked till it was time to start for the Haapepe district, of which the king's brother, Terii Tapunui is chief. He is distressingly lame, but is a very good fellow, with a particularly nice wife, a cousin of the charming Moë. She is noted for her skill in making pretty hats. They received us at Point Venus, so called because Captain Cook thence observed the transit of Venus in 1769.
POINT VENUS. 43
Pomare and Tamatoa rejoined the party after returning from their aunt's funeral; and the three brothers spent the afternoon together by themselves —a wise course, as Tamatoa had striven so hard to drown his grief, that he had attained a jocose-beatific condition, very annoying to the king, who all this time has been a model of sobriety, greatly to the delight of the admiral.
This quiet little village presents the usual anomaly of a very large Roman Catholic church without a congregation, standing close to the original congregational church. The latter is a large cool building, in which I gladly took refuge to escape from noise and heat ; for several friends who had driven down from Papeete to meet us, were so delighted to find a smooth carpet, that they commenced dancing immediately after late breakfast, and kept it up merrily all the afternoon.
When the heat began to subside I found my way to the great lighthouse, where the French officials were most obliging, and did the honours of their lofty tower with all courtesy. From the summit there is a grand view of mountains, including Orofena, which is the highest point of Tahitiheight, 7336 feet. At our feet lay the village, concealed by a sea of waving palms, only their crowns visible, and rippling like running water as the light breeze passed over them. It was a splendid sketching-point, and I held my ground till a party of the dancers came to summon me to the banquet. Then followed as pretty a scene as I have ever witnessed. We had to drive twelve miles to Papeete; and as the nights are dark, and the moon was not due till towards midnight, we knew that torches would be required—but only expected the necessary number. The Tahitians had, however, resolved on a demonstration, to show their appreciation of the course adopted by the admiral, and their gratitude for his sympathy. So when we had toiled up a long steep hill, about three miles from Point Venus, we were met by a company of stalwart men carrying blazing torches of cocoa-palm leaves, about twelve feet long. These turned and preceded us, their numbers receiving continual reinforcements, some on horseback, some on foot, till they mustered fully a thousand, and the ruddy glare of the torches illumined the rich masses of foliage, gleaming on the glossy leaves of the breadfruit, and the bright sword-like fronds of the palms, while the lurid smoke lent something of cloudy mystery to the whole. Add to this, the presence of all the inhabitants, who of course poured out from every bird-cage cottage along the road and joined the procession, adding their quota of mirth and chatter to the general hubbub. Of course with so