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another lot of beautiful isles; but after all, I suppose they are very much like these, and my brain already feels overcrowded with pictures, each lovelier than the last. So, for every reason, it seems best to stand true to my tryst, and be content with a run to the volcanoes, and then drop down to the comparatively commonplace scenes of Australia or New Zealand.
This has been quite a sad day of farewells. We dined with the Werniers and afterwards went to the admiral's reception—a very pretty and animated dance.
At nine this morning the Seignelay steamed close past our windows, and great was the farewell waving of hats and handkerchiefs. I grieve to part from the many kind companions of so many pleaSant days (and of sad ones too); and I would fain be going on with the good ship now, for I sorely regret the approaching end of my travels in these parts.
To - night we dined at Mrs Brander's. The party included a large number of officers from the Magicienne. It was a farewell entertainment, as Mrs Brander's son Aleck and Mr Darsie both go to Honolulu in the Maramma (the latter en route to England). They too are going to see the vol
canoes; but if they are rightly informed concerning the trips of the little Hawaiian steamer, I begin to have very grave doubts of the possibility of my visiting the southern isles at all, if I attempt to carry out my programme, even supposing we have a fair wind and quick passage to Honolulu, which is more than doubtful.
A wretched sleepless night, worrying over plans. Difficulties always do exaggerate themselves so absurdly if one lies awake. Out at daybreak to get a sketch from the shore. It is all working against time, and my heap of unfinished drawings is a serious nightmare. I have been struggling to get several duplicate sketches finished for various friends, and I feel like a graphic barrel-organ— an unreasoning machine for the multiplication of drawings; and the ever-recurring thought arises, Why not stay and have the delight of working from nature, as the kind friends here advise, when after all it is more than probable that the Christmas tryst will fall through ' But anyhow, I have missed the chance of Les Marquises, and it would seem too silly to change my mind now.
Mrs Brander came to-day to say good-bye, but added emphatically, “You’re not gone yet, however !” There's no doubt that her invitation to stay on is quite bond fide; but for two months at least ! What a visitation to inflict on any one l Mrs Miller drove me to call on the Bishop of Axieri, Monseigneur Tepano Janssen, who is most kind and courteous. He showed us all over his grounds, which are literally a garden of acclimatisation, so numerous are the useful plants of other lands which he is endeavouring to introduce. It is greatly due to his care that the mangoes of Tahiti have been brought to such perfection. The conversation turned on many subjects of interest. Amongst other things, speaking of the effect of many mingled sounds, he told us of the deafening noise produced by the cries of sea-birds on some of the isles where he has touched, on one of which he witnessed a strange instance of combined action by myriads of sea-birds and herons; the former, diving simultaneously, produced a noise like a thunder-clap as they struck the water. The dignified herons profited by their neighbours' work, and waited on the shore ready to catch the startled fish as they fled affrighted from the divers. This evening the admiral invited Mrs Miller, Madame Fayzeau, and myself, to dine on board La Magicienne. She is a very fine old-fashioned frigate, with vast accommodation, splendid broad decks of great length. The admiral has a large dining-room, and a sitting-room the size of an
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average drawing-room, with four large square windows opening into a gallery round the stern—a charming lounge in fine weather. Commandant Beique has rooms equally pretty, on the same level, each with a large square window (I cannot call them ports). They are so high above the water that they scarcely ever have to be closed—a true boon in the tropics. I never saw so roomy a ship. With all her big guns, five hundred sailors, and thirty officers, there was no symptom of crowding. Amongst the officers are two belonging to the Peruvian navy, who have come to study the French system of navigation. One of these is remarkable for his diminutive size and extraordinary strength; the biggest men in the ship cannot wrestle with him, nor fight him (in sport). After dinner we adjourned to Government House grounds to hear the band play, as usual; then all walked back by the shore to the British consulate, for a farewell evening, and finished it here in this sweet home-like nest. I do grieve that it should be the last evening, the more so as I am beginning to believe that what all my friends here agree in saying must be true—namely, that when I made my vague calculation of reaching Sydney for Christmas, it was on the principle of Jules Verne's ‘Round the World in Eighty Days.” They say that to attempt fitting the Sandwich Isles volcanoes into the time is preposterous folly. I think they are right, but it is too late to change now. What further concerns me is the thought, which had not previously presented itself, that very likely, after all this pushing and scrambling, and spoiling everything by useless hurry, Lady Gordon may have given up the idea, and may stay quietly in Fiji till she is obliged to take the children direct to England," and I may never know this till I reach Sydney.
Another weary night—perplexing and conflicting suggestions—the horrid feeling of being disloyal to a tryst, yet the certainty that nowhere else shall I find such beauty as I am leaving. Those unsketched dolomites of Moorea—those ferny ravines all unexplored—those glorious valleys of bread-fruit—the himènes that I shall never hear again And every one agrees in telling me that the Hawaiian Isles are not to compare with these in beauty,+that the hills are comparatively shapeless, the foliage poor, the bread-fruit sickly and blighted, the cocoa-palms mere ghosts of their southern relations, and the mangoes miserable fruits, not worthy to bear the same name as the luscious mangoes of Tahiti. They tell me, too, that the people are much less
* Which proved to be the exact state of the case.