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A TORCH-LIGHT PROCESSION. 45
many walkers we could only progress at a foot's pace, and nine miles of this at last became somewhat bewildering; it seemed as if we were moving in a strange dream. A party of native drummers added their very trying “music” to the general noise; but happily the band fell into the spirit of the thing, and though their afternoon's work fully entitled them to rest, they played at intervals all the way. At the outskirts of the town there was a halt, and in obedience to municipal regulations every torch was extinguished, and we entered the ill-lighted town in almost complete darkness. It was a wise precaution, however, as the air was full of flying sparks, and a conflagration would make short work of the dry wooden houses. Happily the large crowd was quiet and orderly; and so far as I am aware, I myself am the only sufferer from that half-hour's darkness, during which my beloved green plaid was abstracted from the bundle in which I had placed it. I think I know the thief—at least I have the strongest reason to suspect a half-caste, in no way connected with Tahiti, save by residence. But I fear there is not the slightest hope of ever recovering it. It was a large green plaid, of “Black Watch” tartan, which has been my inseparable companion and delight for many a year, and in many a strange place. I have slept in it on the top of Adam's Peak, and in the wonderful jungle cities of Ceylon, and it has travelled to the remotest corners of Australasia and Polynesia, and many and varied are its associations with people and things.
and deeply do I abhor the covetous thief who has robbed me, so infinitely beyond the value of a few fathoms of tartan ;
“For we cannot buy with gold
Quite a number of the neighbours have called here to-day, and welcomed me back as if I were an old friend returning from a long journey. There is a cordiality and a heartiness about them all, which is truly delightful. How different from a return to England after a few years' absence, when the people you had supposed to be intimate friends vaguely ask you “if you haven't been somewhere abroad 7" and perhaps, if they are unusually hospitable, invite you to luncheon the following week
Friday, 26th. This morning Narii Salmon took me on board the Seignelay to see my old friends and my old quarters. They welcomed me back most heartily, and seemed really glad that I had seen the isle to
FURTHER PREPARATIONS. 47
such advantage—but they themselves were all dull and sad. Time has as yet done nothing to heal their grief, and indeed the ship seems altogether changed, even externally, for she has been painted white, to match La Magicienne. I returned with Narii to breakfast with his sister, Mrs Brander; there we were joined by the admiral, who came to make arrangements with her for the next part of the programme; for she is as sensible as she is handsome, which is saying much, and her opinions and suggestions carry great weight with every one. Already preparations are being made for another grand expedition, for there are several lesser isles subject to the king of Tahiti; and next week the Seignelay is to convey the king and queen and their party to Moorea, the beautiful island which we passed on the morning of our arrival in Tahiti, and of which Mrs Brander is the high chiefess. I hear that there is a chance of letters being despatched by some vessel, so I may as well close this. . . . Your loving sister.
THE SEMAPHORE–IMMUTABLE TIDES-THE CORAL-REEF—SPEARING FISH-NETTING— CATCHING SEIARKS-A ROYAL MAUSO LEUM – SUPERSTITIONS OF EAST AND WEST – CENTIPEDES– INTOXICATING DRINKS–INFLUENZA-DEATH OF MRS SIMPSON.
Chez THE REv. JAMES GREEN, Oct. 27th.
I HAVE had a day after my own heart. In the early morning Mr Green drove me to the foot of the semaphore hill, up which I toiled, and gave myself into the care of the old sailor who lives there, watching the horizon for the first glimpse of a sail, and then hoists signals by which the good folk of Papeete learn from what direction the newcomer may be expected. Then, as she draws nearer, the signals reveal her class and her nationality. I remained for several hours, working up an elaborate drawing, begun soon after my arrival. The view of the town and harbour, as seen from this point, is truly lovely, and the effect of a coral-reef, as you look down on it from a height, is always fascinating. Every conceivable tint seems to play
IMMUTAELE TIDES. 49
beneath the surface—browns and golds blending with pale aqua-marine and sparkling emerald, while turquoise and cerulean pass into delicate lilac and purply blue. The reef appears from the semaphore to lie in the form of a horse-shoe, so that it literally suggests a rainbow beneath the waters. By the time Mr Green came to drive me back to breakfast, I was truly glad to escape from the blazing sun, and to rest in this pleasant home during the hot hours. Late in the afternoon Narii lent us a boat, in which we rowed out to the reef, always to me one of the most enchanting ploys that can be conceived; and here it gains an additional charm from an extraordinary phenomenon in the tides, which I am told occurs throughout the Society Isles, but in no other place that I ever heard of—namely, that they never vary from one year's end to another. Day after day they ebb and flow with unchanging regularity. At noonday and at midnight the tide is invariably at the full; while at sunrise and sunset— in other words, at six o'clock morning and evening— throughout the year, it is low water. The rise and fall rarely exceeds two feet; but periodically, at an interval of about six months, a mighty sea comes rolling in from the west or south-west, and, sweeping over the reef, bursts violently on the shore. I do not know whether any scientific theory has VOL. II. ' D