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but who is at present in very bad health. The young chief seems inclined to hold the reins firmly and well. But at present the Vavau chiefs are in some disgrace with King George, as they are suspected of plotting against Unga, in favour of Maafu.1
Having eaten oranges to our hearts' content, we continued our walk to the Wesleyan Mission, and
on our way thither met the Rev. Fox on his
way to the ship, to see if we had a doctor on board. The latter having already gone ashore, we returned together to the house — a quiet pleasant home, but for the present saddened by the serious illness of the young wife, who, a few weeks ago, gave birth to her first child. As Vavau can furnish neither nurse nor doctor, the wife of the missionary in Happai had, at great personal inconvenience, come thence in an open canoe to officiate on the occasion. She had, however, been compelled to return soon afterwards to her own nurslings, leaving the young mother and her baby in charge of native women. A very slow recovery, accompanied with some unfavourable symptoms, had produced such depression and alarm, that just before our arrival, the poor husband had actually been making arrangements for his wife's return to Sydney for proper
1 A great Tongan chief, settled in Fiji, who, up to the time of annexation, contested with Thakombau for the supremacy. I have jnst received news of his death.
medical care. But, to get there, involved, in the first instance, a journey of about 200 miles in an open canoe to reach Tonga, whence she would have to proceed alone, in a wretched little sailing vessel, on a voyage of upwards of 2000 miles (as the crow flies)—a serious undertaking for a woman in robust health, but a terrible prospect for an invalid with a young baby.
Happily the timely arrival of the Seignelay dispelled this nightmare. M. Thoulon, the good kind doctor (himself pere de famille), at once vetoed the rash arrangement, and his well-applied wisdom, and kind encouraging words, have already restored heart to the dispirited young wife; while a congenial talk with M. Pinart on the subject of Polynesian dialects and races, has helped to cheer the husband, who, later, took us to see his schools, pleasantly situated on a wooded hill, commanding a lovely view of the land-locked harbour. Then strolling back through the orange-groves, we returned on board, where I am now writing. The captain and several of the officers have gone off duck-shooting, and expect good sport.
Yesterday morning, after a very early breakfast, I went ashore at 6.30 with M. Pinart and Dr
Thoulon. Mr Fox was waiting at the pier, and returned with us to the mission-house, where we found the patient already on the mend. I acted the part of interpreter for the doctor, who was happily able to supply, as well as prescribe, all needful remedies and tonics. So when we returned this afternoon to say good-bye, the young mother looked like a different creature — so bright and happy. Truly a blessed skill is that of the kindly leech!
The previous evening Mr Fox had undertaken to borrow some horses, and escort us to the summit of "The Pudding," a wooded hill, commanding a splendid map-like view of the strangely intersected land and water on every side of us. The isles lie so close, one to the other, that we could scarcely believe we were looking on the ocean, and not rather on a network of clear calm lakes and rivers. All the isles appear to be densely wooded, but at intervals along the shore we could distinguish villages nestling among the trees. One small island has recently been ceded to the Germans as a coaling station, and there seems some reason for anxiety lest this small foothold should be taken further advantage of.
Our ride in the early morning was exceedingly pleasant. I had insured my own comfort by bringing my side-saddle ashore. By some mistake we found that the stirrup had been left in Fiji; but happily, on such a ship as this, to want a thing is to have it, and I hear that a new stirrup and strap are to be ready for me ere we reach Samoa. On the summit of the hill we found breakfast all ready, a party of natives from the mission having made an early start with tea, yams, ham and eggs—all of which had been cooked gipsy-fashion. To this foundation we added the contents of a hamper, which the thoughtful captain had directed his maitre d'hdtel to send with us. So we had a royal feast, and then I settled down to do a bird's-eye sketch of the strange world outspread below, while gentle and rather pretty brown girls, with sienna hair, sat by, peeling oranges by the dozen, with which they fed us all incessantly.
It is the part of true hospitality to peel oranges for a guest, as their thick green skins contain so much essential oil, that the mere act of removing them makes the hands very oily and uncomfortable. Woe betide the rash and thirsty stranger who puts the green fruit to his lips to suck it, as he might a golden orange in Europe. For many hours the burning pain of almost blistered lips will remind him of his folly.
Eeturning to the village, we found a large tenoared boat waiting for us, the captain having most kindly placed it at our disposal, to enable us to explore the coast. Mr Fox guided us to a truly
exquisite cave, about five miles distant. Never before, in all my wanderings, had my eyes been gladdened by such an ideal fairy grot. We rowed along the face of beautiful crags, which we had passed on the previous day without a suspicion of the wonderful hiding-place within them. Suddenly we steered right into a narrow opening, and found ourselves in a great vaulted cavern like a grand cathedral—a coral cave, with huge white stalactites hanging in clusters from the roof, and forming a perfect gallery along one side, from which we could almost fancy that white-veiled nuns were looking down on us.
The great outer cave is paved with lapis-lazuli, at least with water of the purest ultra - marine, which was reflected in rippling shimmers of blue and green on the white marble roof. For the sun was lowering, and shone in glory through the western archway, lighting up the mysterious depths of a great inner cavern, which otherwise receives but one ray of light from a small opening far overhead, through which we saw blue sky and green leaves. No scene-painter could have devised so romantic a picture for any fairy pantomime. The French sailors were ecstatic in their delight. They collected piles of old cocoa-nut fibre and dry palmleaves and kindled bright blazing fires, whose ruddy lioht glowed on the dark crevices, which even the
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