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A TORCHLIGHT PIROCESSION. 207
their aunt's funeral; and the three brothers spent the afternoon together by themselves—a wise course, as Tamatoa had striven so hard to drown his grief, that he had attained a jocose-beatific condition, very annoying to the king, who all this time has been a model of sobriety, greatly to the delight of the admiral. This quiet little village presents the usual anomaly of a very large Roman Catholic church without a congregation, standing close to the original congregational church. The latter is a large cool building, in which I gladly took refuge to escape from noise and heat; for several friends who had driven down from Papeete to meet us, were so delighted to find a smooth carpet, that they commenced dancing immediately after late breakfast, and kept it up merrily all the afternoon. When the heat began to subside I found my way to the great lighthouse, where the French officials were most obliging, and did the honours of their lofty tower with all courtesy. From the summit there is a grand view of mountains, including Orofena, which is the highest point of Tahiti—height 7336 feet. At our feet lay the village, concealed by a sea of waving palms, only their crowns visible, and rippling like running water as the light breeze passed over them. It was a splendid sketching-point, and I held my ground till a party of the dancers came to summon me to the banquet. Then followed as pretty a scene as I have ever witnessed. We had to drive twelve miles to Papeete; and as the nights are dark, and the moon was not due till towards midnight, we knew that torches would be required—but only expected the necessary number. The Tahitians had, however, resolved on a demonstration, to show their appreciation of the course adopted by the admiral, and their gratitude for his sympathy. So when we had toiled up a long steep hill, about three miles from Point Venus, we were met by a company of stalwart men carrying blazing torches of cocoapalm leaves, about twelve feet long. These turned and preceded us, their numbers receiving continual reinforcements, some on horseback, some on foot, till they mustered fully a thousand, and the ruddy glare of the torches illumined the rich masses of foliage, gleaming on the glossy leaves of the bread-fruit, and the bright sword-like fronds of the palms, while the lurid smoke lent something of cloudy mystery to the whole. Add to this, the presence of all the inhabitants, who of course poured out from every birdcage cottage along the road and joined the procession, adding their quota of mirth and chatter to the general hubbub. Of course with so many walkers we could only progress at a foot's pace, and nine miles of this at last became somewhat bewildering; it seemed as if we were moving in a strange dream. A party of native drummers added their very trying “music” to the general noise; but happily the band fell into the spirit of the thing, and though their afternoon's work fully entitled them to rest, they played at intervals all the way. At the outskirts of the town there was a halt, and in obedience to municipal regulations every torch was extinguished, and we entered the ill-lighted town in almost complete darkness. It was a wise precaution, however, as the air was full of flying sparks, and a conflagration would make short work of the dry wooden houses. Happily the large crowd was quiet and orderly; and so far as I am aware, I myself am the only sufferer from that half-hour's darkness, during which my beloved green plaid was abstracted from the bundle in which I had placed it. I think I know the thief—at least I have the strongest reason to suspect a half-caste, in no way connected with Tahiti, save by residence. But I fear there is not the slightest hope of ever recovering it. It was a large green plaid, of “Black Watch” tartan, which has been my inseparable companion and delight for many a year, and in many a strange place. I have slept in it on the top of Adam's Peak, and in the wonderful jungle cities of Ceylon, and it has travelled to the remotest corners of Australasia and Polynesia, and many and varied are its associations with people and things.
“Oh, my plaid was dear to me!” and deeply do I abhor the covetous thief who has robbed me, so infinitely beyond the value of a few fathoms of tartan;
“For we cannot buy with gold
FURTHER PREPARATIONS. 209
Quite a number of the neighbours have called here to-day, and welcomed me back as if I were an old friend returning from a long journey. There is a cordiality and a heartiness about them all, which is truly delightful. How different from a return to England after a few years' absence, when the people you had supposed to be intimate friends vaguely ask you “if you haven't been somewhere abroad 7" and perhaps, if they are unusually hospitable, invite you to luncheon the following week
This morning Narii Salmon took me on board the Seignelay to see my old friends and my old quarters. They welcomed me back most heartily, and seemed really glad that I had seen the isle to such advantage—brt they themselves were all dull and sad. Time has as yet done nothing to heal their grief, and indeed the ship seems altogether changed, even externally, for she has been painted white, to match La Magicienne. I returned with Narii to breakfast with his sister, Mrs Brander; there we were joined by the admiral, who came to make arrangements with her for the next part of the programme; for she is as sensible as she is handsome, which is saying much, and her opinions and suggestions carry great weight with every one. Already preparations are being made for another grand expedition, for there are several lesser isles subject to the king of Tahiti; and next week the Seignelay is to convey the king and queen and their party to Moorea, the beautiful island which we passed on the morning of our arrival in Tahiti, and of which Mrs Brander is the high chiefess. I hear that there is a chance of letters being despatched by some vessel, so I may as well close this. . . . Your loving sister.
THE SEMAPHO):E-1MM UTABLE TIDFs—THE CORAL-REEF – SPEARING FISHNETTING-CATCH ING Sharks — A ROYAL MAUSOLEUM – SUPERSTITIONS or FAST AND WEST – CENTIPEDES-INToxic ATING DRINKS-INFLUENZA —DEATH OF M RS SIMPSON.
Chez Tite REv. JAMEs GREEN, Oct. 27th.
I have had a lay after my own heart. In the early morning Mr Green drove me to the foot of the semaphore hill, up which I toiled, and gave myself into the care of the old sailor who lives there, watching the horizon for the first glimpse of a sail, and then hoists signals by which the good folk of Papeete learn from what direction the new-comer may be expected. Then, as she draws nearer, the signals reveal her class and her nationality. I remained for several hours, working up an elaborate drawing, begun soon after my arrival. The view of the town and harbour, as seen from this point, is truly lovely, and the effect of a coralreef, as you look down on it from a height, is always fascinating. Every conceivable tint seems to play beneath the surface—browns and golds blending with pale aqua-marine and sparkling emerald, while turquoise and cerulean pass into delicate lilac and purply blue. The reef appears from the semaphore to lie in the form of a horse-shoe, so that it literally, suggests a rainbow beneath the waters. By the time Mr Green came to drive me back to breakfast, I was truly glad to escape from the blazing sun, and to rest in this pleasant home during the hot hours. Late in the afternoon Narii lent us a boat, in which we rowed out to the reef, always to me one of the most enchanting ploys that can be conceived; and here it gains an additional charm from an extraordinary phenomenon in the tides, which I am told occurs throughout the Society Isles, but in no other place that I ever heard of—namely, that they never vary from one year's end to another. Day after day they ebb and flow with unchanging regularity. At noonday and at midnight the tide is invariably at the
full; while at sunrise and sunset—in other words, at six o'clock morning and evening—throughout the year, it is low water. The rise and fall rarely exceeds two feet; but periodically, at an interval of about six months, a mighty sea comes rolling in from the west or south-west, and, sweeping over the reef, bursts violently on the shore. I do not know whether any scientific theory has been propounded concerning this tidal eccentricity, which is perhaps the most remarkable thing connected with the group. I believe some writers have tried to account for it by reference
to the trade-winds, which blow so steadily at certain hours of the
day; but these must have been very inaccurate observers, as the tides rise and fall with equal regularity in the most sultry calm or the most riotous sea-breeze. In fact they are sometimes rather higher in dead calms, and on the leeward side of the isles, which are sheltered from the trade-winds. In any case, these blow only in the daytime, and die away entirely at night. Curiously enough, they do not even affect the periodical flood-tides, or rather tidal waves, of which I spoke just now, as these invariably come from the westward, whereas the trade-winds blow steadily from the east. So punctual is the daily rise and fall of the tides, that the accustomed eyes of the people can discern the hour of the day by a glance at the shore or the reef, as at a marine chronometer, which here never loses or gains time. The peculiar charm of this, as concerns the reef, is that the low tide, which is the hour of delight, always occurs at the coolest hours of morning and evening, so there is no temptation to incur sunstroke by exposure to the noontide rays. And the reef at Tahiti is, beyond all question, the richest I have seen. It seems to me that all the marvels of the Fijian reef are here reproduced on a magnified scale—the mysterious zoophytes are larger, their colours more intense, the forms of the fish more varied and eccentric, and their scaly dress striped and zigzagged with patterns like those on an ingenious clown, or perhaps suggestive of quaint heraldry. To-night I saw some gigantic specimens of that wonderful starfish we first found in Fiji, with fifteen arms covered with very