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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 landlocked 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
A FAIRY GROT. 20
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 maître d'hôtel 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. Returning to the village, we found a large ten-oared 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 palm-leaves and kindled bright blazing fires, whose ruddy light glowed on the dark crevices, which even the setting sun could not reach, and blended with the blue and green reflected lights, and both played on the white coral walls, and the white boat, and white figures—(for of course, in the tropics, the sailors all wear their white suits). Soon these active lads contrived to reach the gallery, and glided behind the stalactite pillars, making the illusion of the nuns’ gallery still more perfect. Altogether it was a scene of dream-like loveliness. All this coast is cavernous, and most tempting to explore. Very near my fairy cave lies the one described by Byron, in “The Island,” which can only be reached by diving—
“A spacious cave
A huge rock, about 60 feet high, rises from the sea, with nothing to indicate that it is hollow; but at a considerable depth beneath low-water mark, there is an opening in the rock through which expert divers can enter, and find themselves in a cave about 40 feet wide and 40 in height—the roof forming rude Gothic arches of very rich and varied colour, and the whole incrusted with stalactites. The clear green water forms the crystal pavement, but two lesser caves, branching off on either side, afford a dry restingplace to such as here seek a temporary refuge. The place is quite unique in its surpassing loveliness; and the brilliant phosphoric lights which gleam with every movement of the water, and which are reflected in pale tremulous rays, that seem to trickle from the stalactites and lose themselves among the high arches, give to the whole a weird ghostly effect, quite realising all one's fancies of a spirit-world. This home of the mermaids was first discovered by a young Tongan, who was diving in pursuit of a wounded turtle. Filled