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WANILLA PLANTATIONS. - 197
dred thousand oranges are carried to San Francisco by every opportunity. Imagine the joy of some poor ragged-school child, whose one treat is an orange at Christmas, and whose home is in the slums of any of our horrible cities, could it but wake to find itself in this elysium. I remember Dr Guthrie's ragged schools coming to spend one day at Winton Castle with dear old Lady Ruthven, and the teachers told me that there were many children present who had never before in their short lives set foot in the country. Would that they could all be transported for a while to the orange-groves of Tahiti ! To-day we also passed some large vanilla plantations, in admirable order. The vanilla is a creeper, and is planted at the foot of some shady shrub, up which it climbs and twines among the branches. To economise labour and space, two crops are combined, by training the vanilla over either coffee-bushes or the vermiliontree, which carries its bright seeds in small pods. The vanilla itself is a precarious crop, requiring much watchful care at each stage of its growth, which, however, it well repays, as it fetches four dollars per pound. Moreover, it is a fragrant harvest. This place is a military station; the French have a fort here, and some soldiers. I believe that political offenders are sent to Taravou to expiate their supposed misdeeds within its walls. M. de Damian, commandant of the fort, had provided comfortable quarters for the admiral and his party at his own house, and an excellent room was most kindly assigned to me. Marau and Ariiaue have gone on to another village, where we are to join them in the morning. The French soldiers here employ some of their leisure hours in the care of a garden, which rewards them with excellent vegetables and glorious roses. I had the delight of arranging delicious nosegays for the dinner-table this evening, and have a lovely bunch of roses now beside me. It is again raining heavily, but we rejoice thereat, for generally a deluge of rain at night is followed by a clear balmy morning, and all the lovely vegetation appears in its freshest glory. Now I must bid you good-night.
The Roy AL PROGREss Rou ND TAHITI (continued)—FRENCH Fort AT TARAvous —THE PEN INSULA— LIFE IN BIRD-CAGE HOUSES-TORCHLight PROCESSION.—Retu It N TO PAPEETE.
We woke this morning to find this beautiful world bathed in sunshine, and I slipped out for a lovely early stroll along the shore. There was a great calm, the sea literally without a ripple, reflecting the mellow tones of the sky. I followed a wide grass road passing through a cocoa plantation—luxuriant young palms of all ages, the ground beneath them carpeted with succulent grasses; a combination of fresh greens delightful to the eye. I think the heavy rain must have driven all the land-crabs out of their holes, for truly they were legion, and all were busily feeding, till, aware of a footstep, they darted back to their burrows. In some spots they clustered in such numbers that the whole bank seemed in motion. Some of these are as large as a good Scotch “parten;” but there are also a vast number of the tiny crab, with one large brightcoloured claw, which love the muddy shore at the mouth of the rivers, where you may see them by the thousand, feeding busily with a tiny claw while holding the large one before them as a shield. Evidently, however, they know discretion to be the better part of valour, for at the faintest movement which reveals the approach of danger they vanish into their mud-holes faster than the twinkling of an eye.
Our morning halt was at Afaahiti, a small village of which the king himself is the chief, for which reason it had been arranged that he should sleep there last night. We found Marau and the ladies of the village stringing wreaths of sweet white blossoms, with which they crowned themselves and us; and then we all adjourned to breakfast in a bamboo house, decorated in the usual style with twisted and plaited leaves, and deep fringes of dyed fibre. Himènes, of course, and then, while the band entertained the people, we, the unquiet spirits, wandered down to explore the shore, which is over
shadowed by large trees, beneath which we found various kinds of large shells. At noon we drove on to Pueu, where we were welcomed by a very large assemblage, and conducted to the cheferie or district hall, really a splendid room, with a beautiful floor: it is like a great ball-room. All the dining-tables were set at one end, while nine very pretty beds, with artistic crimson and white quilts, and mosquito-nets tied up with bright ribbons, were ranged down one side of the room. I am ashamed to say that we all took a most uncourteous fit of laughing; for really at the first glimpse the row of beds seemed to multiply, and we fancied we were all to occupy this one room; but we soon discovered that only the junior officers were to share it, and that excellent quarters had been prepared for us all in different houses. The best house of three rooms was assigned to the admiral, his son, and myself; and here I am now cosily ensconced for a chat with you. My room, which opens out into the verandah, has no doors, so my black waterproof sheet and the green tartam plaid, inseparable companion of all my wanderings east or west, act as good curtains. This is a lovely place. In the afternoon we roamed through fragrant orange-groves, and along the beautiful shore, and I managed to secure a sketch of the village. As a matter of course there is a large Protestant church, of which all the population are members, and a tiny Roman Catholic chapel, without any congregation. An exceedingly pretty banquet awaited us in the large cheferie, after which we strolled about in the lovely moonlight, while the village choirs sang their melodious himènes. At a very short dis
At grey dawn Queen Marau came to my room to early tea, and told me that the house which had been assigned to her and the king was so purely native, that they had no beds—only mats and pillows—no hardship in this delightful climate, but a curious distribution of hospitality, when to each young lieutenant had been assigned so luxuriant a couch. The drive along the peninsula was most lovely. Always by the broad green road running close to the sea, and passing through richest foliage of all sorts and forms; crossing crystalline streams which flowed down beautiful glens, with great shapely hills on either side, and some lonely peak towering at the head of the dark ravine. We came to one broad river whence the view was so lovely that the admiral most kindly decided to let one of the carriages wait while I sketched; an arrangement highly satisfactory to its occupants, who went off for a bathe in the clear delicious stream, while I stood on the bridge and worked diligently till the last of our heavy baggage-carts came across, and proved to be the last straw which that poor bridge could bear. An ominous crack, then a crash, and the heavy fourgon had broken through the bridge, but happily rested on the strong cross timbers, and with infinite trouble it was unloaded and raised. Then the bridge had to be repaired, as we were to retrace the same road in the afternoon; when the other end gave way and broke down, happily without doing serious damage. A short drive brought us to Tautira, a large, very pretty village, where the men were playing at spear-throwing. This is the first place where we have seen any sort of game played. The admiral, according to his custom, inspected the schools, and pronounced a verdict not altogether encouraging on the work of a young priest, who was setting the children to such useful tasks as copying “mon âme est souillé de péchés off a large black slate; they being almost as ignorant of French as he of Tahitian. The admiral discourages the teaching of French, especially to the girls, rightly judging that such knowledge will prove by no means to their moral weal. We were, as usual, most hospitably entertained with all the village could give, of fish and fruit, flesh and fowl. Everywhere those excellent white crayfish, the varo, are our chief delicacy. Here and there pine-apples are produced, but they are very poor,
THE PENINSULA. 201
probably uncultivated. The himènes at Tautira were exceedingly pretty, and we left that pleasant “world's end" with much regret. The carriage-road does not extend round the peninsula, so we had to return to the isthmus to start afresh. We reached Taravou in time for dinner, and found the roses beautiful as before.
IN A NATIvE House, TEAHACPoo,
Early this morning we were once more en route, and drove to the other side of the peninsula, which is, if possible, even lovelier than what we saw yesterday. Marau and the king had preceded us to the village of Wairao, where the ladies had employed the morning in preparing garlands of a white flower, like jessamine, with which they crowned us. This village is poor; so instead of receiving us in a fine district house, the people had erected very picturesque booths on three sides of a square. The chorussingers were grouped on the grass in the centre, where were also heaped up the usual ceremonial offerings of fruit and pigs—apparently for show—as there is always an ample supply of food on the tables.
Here, in addition to the usual vegetables, yams, and taro, sweetpotatoes, bread-fruit, and faees roasted in wood-ashes, we had calabashes of sticky poi, which is a preparation of ripe bread-fruit, greatly in favour with the natives, and which in old times was the principal food of this island, as it still is in Hawaii. I do not think it was ever used in the isles further west, where the breadfruit is a very inferior tree to what it is in this, its native home, Most of the poi which is consumed in Hawaii is made from taro, and is of a pinkish colour. Here taro is the luxury, bread-fruit the staff of life, so it alone is used. When eaten fresh with milk it tastes rather like gooseberry-fool; but the natives prefer it fermented, and consequently sour.
The pulpy fruit is first pounded with a stone pestle in a wooden bowl, till it attains the consistency of dough. It is then wrapped in leaves and baked in an earth-oven over red-hot stones. Finally,