Page images
PDF
EPUB

UNDER EXTRA STEAM.

151

trace of land save two inquisitive boobies, which have for some hours been flying round us, it is hard to realise that to-morrow we are to enter the far-famed harbour of Papeete, and that by this time to-morrow evening we shall be ashore, listening to the hiinenes of the multitude assembled for the great feast which begins the next day—a great feast, by the way—held in honour of the anniversary of the Protectorate! I wonder how poor old Queen Pomare likes it!

We left Samoa on Monday, 1st October, and the next day wa3 also called Monday, October 1st, to square the almanacs, so that we can say we had done the 1700 miles in just a week. The weather has been considerably against us, but extra steam was put on to insure catching this mail, as great stress is evidently laid on not losing a day in reporting the proceedings at Samoa to the Home Government. The amount of reports written since we started has been something prodigious! . . .

What with all this writing going on, and the extra motion of the vessel from travelling at such unwonted speed, life has not been so tranquilly pleasant as in the previous weeks. I have had quite to give up my cosy studios on the big gun-carriage, or my quiet corner of the bridge. Instead of these, I have found a place of refuge and a hearty welcome in le carre (the gun-room), which does not dance so actively as the captain's cabin, over the screw. In it at this moment a select set are either reading or writing their home letters, ready for the 'Friscoi mail, which is supposed to sail from Tahiti on Monday morning. . . .

(At this point, a wave breaking over the ship, trickled down on my head through the skylight. Hence the smudge. I wonder how you would write with the table alternately knocking your nose and 'then rolling you over to the opposite side of the cabin!)

Every creature on board is rejoicing at the prospect of returning to the Tahitian Elysium. To me this has been a dream ever since my nursery days, when the big illustrated volumes of old voyages that lay in my father's dressing-room were the joy of many a happy hour, combined with such sticks of barley-sugar as I can never find at any confectioner's nowadays! There we first read the romantic i Colonial abbreviation for San Francisco.

story of how Captain Cook discovered those isles of beauty, and named them after the "Eoyal Society" which had sent him to explore these unknown seas. The Tahiti of to-day is doubtless a very different place from the Otaheite of 1774.

Of course, in a highly organised French colony much of the old romance must have passed away with its dangers. But the natural loveliness of the isle cannot have changed, and I look forward with great delight to seeing it all.

Every one speaks in the highest terms of Mr Miller, our longestablished English consul, and his charming Peruvian wife (so Lord Pembroke describes her). Both are intimate friends of Captain Aube and the bishop, who will commit me to their care on arriving. I have also an excellent introduction to Mr Green, the head of the London Mission; and M. Vernier, of the French Protestant Mission, was once for some months at Inveraray. I hear golden opinions both of Mrs Green and Mme. Vernier, and of M. and Mme. Viennot, of the same mission. So amongst them all, I have no doubt that I shall be all right.

But I cannot quite forget what a hideous future lies beyond. The total distance I have travelled in this large comfortable steamer, from Fiji to Tahiti, including trips from isle to isle, has been 2985 miles. From Tahiti (after this good ship has sped on her way to Valparaiso) there remain two courses before me—either to go to New Zealand, 3000 miles, or to Honolulu, 3200 miles,—in either case in a small sailing vessel, starting at some uncertain period. There is a monthly mail to San Francisco, but that is only a schooner of about 120 tons; and vid San Francisco would be rather a circuitous route to Sydney! where I expect to meet Lady Gordon somewhere about Christmas. It is a hideous prospect, but I have too much faith in my luck to be deeply concerned about it. The worst of it all is, that I cannot possibly receive any letters till I arrive in Sydney, which may, I fear, be some time hence.

As my wardrobe will by that time be considerably the worse for wear, you will do well to send out a box of sundry garments to await my arrival, otherwise I shall be reduced to appearing in a graceful drapery of tappa, with fringes of crimson dracama leaves;

[ocr errors][graphic]
[blocks in formation]

but though the dress of Oceania is very becoming to the young and beautiful, the world of Sydney is hardly up to it,—and besides, I fear it would be scarcely suitable for old grand-aunts (presque grand'mere), as one of my French friends put it yesterday! It certainly is rather a shame to let you have all this trouble, while I have the fun of exploring such strange lands; but it is a sort of division of labour, whereby you pay your tax to the family locomotive demon, who drives all the rest of us so hard, but leaves you in peace in Britain, to do your share of wandering by deputy.

Now, as it is getting late, I must turn in, as I want to be up at grey dawn to see beautiful Moorea (the Eimeo of our childhood), and we shall sail close past it, as we make Papeete harbour. So good-night .

In Harrour, Papeete, Tahiti,
Sunday Morning, 7lh Oct.

Well, we have reached Tahiti, but really I am beginning to fear that, like most things to which we have long looked forward, this is likely to prove disappointing. We came in this morning in a howling storm, un gros coup de vent, and everything looked dismal. Though we coasted all along Moorea, the envious clouds capped the whole isle, only showing a peak here and there. Certainly such glimpses as we did catch were weirdly grand; huge basaltic pinnacles of most fantastic shape towering from out the sea of billowy white clouds, which drifted along those black crags. And below the cloud canopy lay deep ravines, smothered in densest foliage, extending right down to the grey dismal sea, which broke in thunder on the reef. With strong wind and tide against us as we crossed from Moorea to Tahiti, you can fancy what a relief it was when, passing by a narrow opening through the barrier-reef, we left the great tossing waves outside, and found ourselves in this calm harbour, which to-day is sullen and grey as a mountain-tarn. At first we could see literally nothing of the land; but it is now a little clearer, and through the murky mist we see a fine massive mountain rising above a great gorge beyond the town. But in

« PreviousContinue »