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out to you, when writing fum Fiji, respecting the customs of its chiefs.
I have just heard that a very leaky ship is to sail for Sydney to-morrow, and a better one starts for New Zealand next week; so in order to lose no chance of a letter reaching you, I shall despatch this vid Sydney, and send you another vid New Zealand. Meanwhile, good-bya
l'APEETE—CATHOLIC MISSION—PROTESTANT MISSION—A CHRISTEN1NO PARTY —LA MAISON BRANDERE—TALES OF THE PAST—EVENINGS IN TAHITI— LA MUSIQUE—PLANS—SUNDAY.
Care of the Rev. James Green, Paofai, Papeete, Tabiti, Saturday, 13th.
Dearest Nell,—It is high time I sent you a cheerier letter than the last, which was written just after our dreary arrival in a dismal storm, and further overshadowed by the distressing manner in which our happy party was so summarily dispersed. With the exception of that one sad cloud, no drawback of any sort has arisen. The cordial kindness of every creature here, the easy luxury of very simple social life, a heavenly climate, and the dreamlike loveliness of the isles, all combine to make up as charming a whole as can possibly be conceived. It is the sort of place in which one is made to feel at home at once: from the moment I landed every one seems to have tried what he or she could do for the enjoyment of the stranger. It is a region of true hospitality.
Certainly this is a very pretty little town. Its simple village streets are all laid out as boulevards, and form pleasant shady avenues, the commonest tree being the pretty yellow hybiscus with the claret-coloured heart, so common in Fiji, where it is called surya. Here its name is boorau. The names of the streets recall Parisian memories. The shadiest and widest street is the Chinese quarter, and its poor little wooden houses are Chinese stores and
tea-shops. It rejoices in the name of Rue de Pologne, while the principal real street is the Rue de Rivoli, where are merchants' stores, cafes, grog-shops, and even hotels of some sort. Of course the pleasantest locations are those which face the harbour and catch the sweet sea-breeze; and the largest stores for provisions and dry goods are in the Rile de Commerce, each possessing its own wharf. I fear the word wharf may suggest the dirty prosaic wharves of England, an idea which you must banish at once; for business in its dingy aspect is not obtrusive, and the harbour-wall is but a stone coping for soft green turf, where girls with light rods sit fishing, and market-boats land their cargo of gay fruit and fish, while the motley throng pass and repass—Tahitians, French sailors and soldiers, Chinamen, black-robed French priests, and all the nondescript nationalities from the ships.
There is a considerable foreign population, including, of course, a large staff of French officials of all sorts—civil, naval . and military—and their presence seems a raison d'etre for a strong corps of gens dCarmes, who otherwise would certainly seem an incongruous element in the South Seas.
By a recent census I learn that the native population of Tahiti is somewhere about 8000; that of Moorea, 1500. That there are in the group 830 French, 144 citizens of the United States, 230 British subjects, and about 700 Chinese.
The French have both a Protestant and Roman Catholic Mission. The former was made necessary by the fact that, on the establishment of the Protectorate in 1843, the English missionaries were subjected to such very oppressive regulations as greatly impeded their ministrations among the people, all of whom were at that time Christians, and, moreover, still in the fervour of first love—a love which, it is to be feared, has now in a great measure faded to the light of common day, as might be expected from the large influx of infidel, or at best, wholly indifferent, foreigners.
The Church of Rome having resolved to proselytise this already occupied field, sent here a bishop and many priests, with a supplementary staff of "Freres et Soeurs de Charite*." I think the Sisters are of the order St Joseph de The foreigners connected with the Catholic mission number in all about forty persons. They have had large aid and encouragement from the French Government, who compelled the chiefs of Tahiti and Moorea to build a church for their use in each district. Nevertheless, out of the 8000 inhabitants, 300 nominal adherents is the maximum which the Catholics themselves have ever claimed, but fifty is said to be nearer the mark.
The French Protestant Mission, however, found it desirable to send French subjects to the support of the London Mission, of which Mr Green is now the only representative. His coadjutors are M. Viennot, M. Vernier, and M Brun—all married men and pkres de famille. The latter is pasteur of Moorea. M. Viennot has a large Protestant school both for boys and girls of pure French and pure Tahitian blood, and of all shades of mixed race. We went to see his charming house, which is the most romantic nest, for a school, that you can well imagine, with wide verandahs and a large pleasant garden. Several of the daughters of the early English missionaries assist in teaching; and everything about the establishment seems bright and healthy in tone.
The third French pasteur, M. Vernier, was a student friend of Lord Lorne's at Geneva (under Merle d'Aubign^), and returned with him to Inveraray for three months, ere resuming his own studies for a while in Edinburgh, Consequently he retains most loving recollections of everything linked with those very happy days; and it struck me pleasantly, in this far-away isle, to find in his little drawing-room many familiar photographs of Inveraray faces and places. Now his pretty wife is mother of half-a-dozen typical French little ones, the youngest of whom was the hero of a very pleasant dinner-party, given by his parents the night before last, in honour of his baptism. There were about a dozen persons present, including all the members of the Protestant Mission, Captain Guignon of the Bossuet (a most friendly trading-vessel belonging to the firm of Messrs Tandonnet of Bordeaux), and myself. All the time of dinner, the petit nouveau-baptise was laid on the floor, where he rolled about laughing and crowing with delight, while the other children played quietly beside him. It was a scene of LA MAISON BRANDERE.
graceful home life, and illustrates the easy unconventional pleasures of social existence in this sweet isle.1
It certainly is very strange how one invariably finds home links in all corners of the earth. If there was one place more unlikely than another to do so, I should have thought it was Tahiti. But, as usual, I find myself quite en pays de connaissance. The day after I landed, Mrs Miller drove me in her nice pony-phaeton to call on Mrs Brander. I naturally expected that our conversation would be on purely insular subjects. Imagine my astonishment when, after the first greetings, this beautiful Anglo-Tahitian turned the conversation to Scotland—Morayshire, Speyside, Elgin, and many friends there—and spoke of them all from intimate personal acquaintance!
Then, for the first time, it flashed across me that the name which had become so familiar to my ear as that of la Maieon Brandere, was simply that of a county neighbour in Scotland; and that Mr Brander of Tahiti was none other than a half-brother of Lady Dunbar Brander,2 who in his early youth left Elgin and went forth to carve his fortune in foreign lands. You know how little interest people in Britain take in watching the career of such lads, unless they chance to come home to spend their gold. Mr Brander did not come home. He found in the South Seas a field for his vast energies—embarked in trade, added ship to ship till he owned a considerable fleet, and so his connection spread from group to group; and he bought lands and built stores on all manner of remote isles, and in course of time amassed a gigantic fortune. His marriage with Titaua Salmon must have tended greatly to secure his position in these isles; and so his business went on ever increasing, till at length mind and body broke down under the
1 Soon after my return to England, I heard that this happy home had been invaded by ophthalmia of a virulent type, necessitating an immediate return to France, and long and anxious care; but nevertheless resulting in the partial blindness for life of two of those merry boys. Even the Tahitian paradise has its thorns.
• The late Sir Archibald Dunbar of Northfield, in the county of Elgin, married, firstly, my father's sister, Miss Gordon Cumming of Altyre and Gordonstown; and secondly, Miss Brander, heiress of Pitgaveny, whom, consequently, we have known all our lives, and loved much.
constant strain, and he died, leaving the whole care of his immense business to his young widow, who is only thirty-four now, the eldest of her nine children having been born when she was fifteen! She is the mother of as pretty a covey as you could wish to see, beginning with two lovely grown-up married daughters and one or two grandchildren, and ending with two darling little girls, one of whom bears the charming name of Paloma, the dove.
Mr Brander most wisely resolved that his wife's brothers and his own sons should have the advantage of a first-rate education in Britain. Several of the boys are still at school at St Andrews, whence Alexander, the eldest, recently came out here; but he must shortly return to England, to look after property belonging to his father.
In all these far countries people talk of a run to England and back as if it was the veriest trifle !—merely a run of fifty or sixty days, vid San Francisco, and across the United States; or, if economy has to be considered, a voyage of 140 days in a sailingship round Cape Horn!
This afternoon Mme. Fayzeau took me for an exquisite drive into the country. We drove along the shore on a road of fine green turf, skirting the lovely calm lagoon, and passing by an endless succession of small wooden houses, each almost hidden in bowers of blossom and shady fruit-trees, with pleasant lawns, where merry children played, while their elders sat or lay on mats sewing, or twining wreaths, or rolling cigarettes—all suggesting lives of easy-going happiness without undue care; and the air was made musical by rippling laughter and mellifluous voices.
I scarcely know why it is that Tahitian sounds so much more attractive than the sterner Tongan tongue. Individual words are actually less liquid, because of the frequent use of the aspirate. I am told, as rather a curious fact, that whereas the Samoans and Tongans are so very profuse in their expression of the word "thanks," the Tahitians, like the Kew Zealanders, have no equivalent for it.
For love of his master, we went to see Commandant Aube's poor sick dog Fox, and learnt that it died very soon after his departure.