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navy), when these, as one man, echoed an invitation given to me by the commander, to go for a cruise over half the South Seas, where they purpose touching at many isles, which I could by no possibility have any other chance of seeing. Several of these most kind friends had placed their cabins at the disposal of the captain, that he might offer me whichever he considered most suitable. For the first day or two after this invitation was made, we all treated it as a pleasant joke, never imagining that it could be quite in earnest; but when at length we all became convinced that it really was so, we agreed that there really could be no reason for refusing so rare a chance of an expedition, which will be to me most delightful.
So I am actually to embark this afternoon, Lady Gordon and dear little sailor Jack, and Captain Knollys, accompanying me on board, to see me fairly started.
This evening we sail for the Friendly Isles (Tonga), and thence proceed to the Navigator's Isles (Samoa), where there have been serious disturbances, and where my friend Mrs Liardet, wife of the British Consul, has for some time had about thirty chiefs living in sanctuary in her house. I have long promised to visit her, should an opportunity arise, so this is an admirable one. I shall probably take a return passage thence in a German
ship, and rejoin Lady Gordon at Loma Loma, a point in this group, about one hundred miles from here.
My French friends urge my going on to Tahiti, the loveliest isle in the South Seas; but the utter uncertainty of how to get back thence, either here or to Tasmania, where Lady Gordon hopes to spend Christmas, makes me hesitate. If I could reach the Sandwich Isles, I should then be on the direct line of the Pacific mail-steamers; but Tahiti is utterly out of the world, and till the Seignelay arrives there, she will not receive her further orders, and may perhaps be sent to Valparaiso, which has no attractions for me. So my line of march is at present somewhat undecided. I think I shall almost certainly return here from Samoa; but as B. long ago said, of my wandering propensities, that I was just like a knotless thread, I may perhaps slip through, and you may hear of my vanishing into space!
This place is looking lovely. It has improved wonderfully in these two years, and ha3 become so very homelike and pleasant, that I quite grudge leaving it, with even the vague feeling of uncertainty which attaches to any long journey; and though we all expect to return here, after a winter in Tasmania, still, so many contingencies may arise, that one always feels a home in the colonies to be a very insecure tenure.
Now I must finish my packing, which requires a good deal of consideration in case it should turn out that my locomotive demon urges me onward, and that I do visit the Hawaiian Isles, and then Tasmania, ere returning here.
I wish you could see my room here, now. It really is a museum—the walls covered with trophies of all the strange Fijian things I have collected during the last two years. I have just finished a series of about sixty studies of Fijian pottery, representing a hundred and fifty pieces, all different, and made without any wheel, by the wives of the poor fishermen. Some of the forms are most artistic, and the colour is very rich. No time for more. I will write next from Tonga.
UFE IN A FRENCH MAN-OF-WAR—CONVENT-LIFE IN TONGA—EARLY
On Boakd Lb Seiqnelay, Off Tongatabu,
Dear Lady Gordon,—I may as well begin a letter at once, in case of a chance of posting it by some stray ship, but as yet there is none even on the horizon.
Is it possible that it was only last Wednesday afternoon when you and Jack left me on board the Seignelay to try an entirely new experiment in ship-life—only three days since we ate our first mdringues in that charming little dining-room, of which I now feel such a thoroughly old inhabitant? I can scarcely believe it.
Still more wonderful, is it scarcely a fortnight since I first met the amethystine bishop, and this extraordinarily kind captain, who both seem like real old friends, as do, indeed, all the people on board, from the officers and quartermasters, down to Antoine, the Italian mattre d'hdtel, who takes me under his especial charge, and is as careful as any old nurse. I know that if I were sick he would insist on coming to the rescue, but as yet he has not had the smallest chance of showing me such attentions; for though we had one really rough day, the ship is so very large and steady, that you scarcely perceive any motion. You did not half see her; she really is a noble vessel, and all her machinery is so beautifully kept—such a display of polished brass and steel—brighter than on most English men-of-war. Of course I have been duly lionised over every corner of her, and I think the most novel sight of all, is serving out rations, and seeing wine pumped up from huge vats, to fill the small barrels, each of which represents eight men's daily allowance. What immense supplies must be laid in when such a ship starts on a long cruise! They are sufficiently startling on board such vessels as the Messageries Maritimes, where every soul on board drinks vin ordinaire at every meal, and where there is daily consumption of about two hundred bottles, and the store laid in at Marseilles has to suffice for the voyage to Yokohama, and back to Marseilles. The little cabin assigned to me is charming—so