Page images

which awaken longings for the bodily presence of the dear kith and kin in the far country. But I confess I would rather that the said wishing-cap could bring all of you here, away from the bitter frosts and snows, to this paradise of sweet sunlight—and (selfish as it sounds when expressed in words) away from constant sight of the shivering ill-clad and half-starved people, whose deep-seated poverty you can in no wise alleviate, to these isles, where want, at least, never appears prominently. The whole family party of brothers and sisters, mother, aunts, cousins, and feudal retainers, moved out here again immediately after the departure of the big ship, and we have resumed the pleasant existence of delicious early bathes, and long idle days beneath the green shade by the lovely river. I am sitting now in my favourite bower of dark hybiscus with lemon-coloured blossoms, which overarches the sparkling rivulet, as it branches from the main stream—an enchanting spot. I have just been reading the old Christmas service, which brings back many a vision of langsyne. There was a grand midnight Mass last night at the Catholic church, and of course service this morning, but none at the Protestant church, I believe. Now I must go in to breakfast, alias luncheon, as a number of friends are expected. This evening one of the neighbours gives a large dance, to which, of course, we all go. Even non-dancers find such ploys attractive when they involve a pleasant evening drive in an open carriage, and no hot crowded rooms.

December 31st.

I have had another small cruise in the Seignelay, which was ordered to the isles of Tetiaroa, distant about twenty-four miles, thence to bring back the king, who went there last week in an open boat.

It was arranged that I should sleep at the Red House, and go on board with Queen Marau at daybreak. It proved to be rather a stormy morning, with a good deal of sea on : the sunrise colouring was very striking-the mountains shrouded in heavy gloom,


dark storm-clouds revealing the edge of their silvery lining, and
a luminous prismatic halo playing all round the sun. Then the
cloud-masses dispersed; dainty pink cloudlets floated on a sky
which graduated from a pale-lemon hue to the colour of a thrush's
egg, so that the whole colouring suggested broken rainbow lights,
changing incessantly for half an hour.
Tetiaroa is a cluster of five low coral-isles, arranged in a circle,
connected by coral-reef, thus almost forming an atoll. The isles
are quite flat, nowhere rising more than four feet above the water.
By nature barren, they have been artificially rendered fertile by
the constant importation of vegetable mould from Tahiti; so now
each isle is a dense grove of cocoa-palms, whose roots are washed
by the salt spray.
Tetiaroa is to Papeete as Brighton is to London, a favourite
bathing-place, where the Tahitians betake themselves to recruit
their languid energies by a course of strong brine, though Tahiti
appears to me too healthy to require any sanatorium. It is, how-
ever, worthy of note, that statistics go to prove that, as a rule, all
the low coral-formations are healthy, whereas the inhabitants of
high volcanic isles are frequently subject to fever and ague.
Though an imperfect atoll, this cluster was specially interesting
to me, as a type of the eighty isles which form the Paumotus.
Judging from this sample, I am satisfied that there is little to be
seen from the deck of a ship. Could we ascend in a balloon,
we should look down on a lagoon of shallow, very bright-green
water, encircled by five palm-clad isles, connected by bands of
rainbow-tinted reef-say a garland of green roses and tri-colour
ribbon. Could our balloon float above the Paumotu group, eighty
such garlands would be seen scattered on the deep-blue ocean, each
encircled by an outer belt of submarine prismatic colour, edged
with white breakers, marking where lies the barrier-reef.
At Tetiaroa, the only opening in the reef is so narrow as barely
to admit a canoe. We had, however, fully intended to land, but
the surf was so rough that we had to give up the idea, much to
my regret, especially as the day was devoted to heavy gun practice,
which of course involves ear-splitting noise and smoke. However,

[ocr errors]

I can stand fire pretty well, so took up a favourable position beside one of the cannons, and received instructions in artillery practice. But I confess I was not sorry when, after the fiftieth shot, the look-out man (who sat aloft like the sweet little cherub) announced the approach of the king, and presently we discerned a great crowd of natives wading across the reef, and dragging his canoe. Shipboats put off to meet him; and though embarkation in such surf was no easy matter, it was safely accomplished, and a few minutes. later the Seignelay received, not his majesty alone, but also a large number of pigs, and heaps of cocoa-nuts, presented to the lord of the isles, as parting gifts from loving subjects. It was late ere we landed at Papeete, so I again slept at the Red House, where one of the Seignelay boats called for me at daybreak, and landed me at the beautiful avenue of Fautawa, where I had a most enjoyable morning of quiet sketching, till Mrs Brander sent her pony-carriage to bring me home to the noonday breakfast. Now the young folk are preparing for a midnight frolic. They intend to have a very merry dance at a neighbour's house; but as it is to be impromptu, and the hosts are not supposed to prepare any supper, each gentleman intends to carry a basket, ostensibly of fruit and flowers, beneath which lie concealed sundry bottles of champagne, wherewith to drink the New Year in. The girls are busy weaving garlands, that all may be flower-crowned to-night. Mrs Brander and her mother alone represent the more thoughtful element, and go to Papeete to attend a great native midnight service. I am too tired to do either, so can only say to you, as to the Old Year, “Good-night ! Good-night !”




FAUTAwa, New Year's Day, 1878.

The dancers of last night did not come home till 3.30, and at 7 A.M. the band of La Magicienne came here to serenade Mrs Brander, and played divinely. Many friends drove out to offer their New Year greetings, and so, as if by magic, the lawn was soon crowded with a joyous party, all the girls dressed in the prettiest, freshest of sacques, and their hair wreathed with bright flowers. What could they do but dance? The band, having Pledged their hostess in her best champagne, played with a will for a couple of hours, when they were provided with a substantial breakfast, and then all the gentlemen drove off to another place belonging to Mrs Brander, there to preside at a great breakfast to all her employés.

I drove into Papeete with pretty Pree, Manihinihi, and Naani, to call on Marau, Moč, and other friends; and so we began the New Year brightly and happily, in ideal, civilised - South - Sea fashion.

January 25th.

Ever since I arrived here, we have been planning an expedition to the French fort at some distance up this valley, at a height of about 1600 feet above the sea. So one beautiful morning last week, several friends from the Seignelay arrived here before sunrise, and Ariipaea Salmon undertook to be our guide. He had, unfortunately, hurt his foot, so he and I were privileged to ride, the others walking.

For a considerable distance the path winds through a dense thicket of guavas, all self-sown, and considered by the people as great a curse as the (equally imported) lantana in Ceylon, both plants having a fatal facility for spreading and taking permanent possession of every neglected corner. They are the Chinamen of the vegetable world, and are quite as useful in their way. The guava forms the principal firewood of Tahiti. It bears an abundant crop of excellent fruit, which is now ripening just as the mango season is finishing; and I think the Tahitian guava is better than those of India and Ceylon. Certainly it has a far less sickly smell. Cattle and horses alike munch both fruit and leaves with avidity, so I cannot see why the guava should be so generally despised; but the fact remains, strange to say, no one here seems ever to think of making the delicious crimson jelly which we, in England, prize so highly. The fruit is left to drop from the trees utterly unheeded. Further up the valley the track becomes steep and narrow, and in places runs along the face of the cliff, with the rushing stream immediately below, and overhanging boughs festooned with vines growing so rankly as somewhat to endanger a rider. The beautiful large granadilla passion-flower here runs riot, but its fruit is now all finished. When ripe it resembles a good-sized pumpkin of a bright golden colour, and contains a multitude of seeds like those of a melon, each encased in white jelly. These lie inside a sweetish pulp about two inches thick, which is generally thrown away, but is nevertheless quite worth cooking as a vegetable. I found the drooping branches so troublesome, that I foolishly abandoned my horse very early, and had a much longer tramp than I counted on. We had not gone very far ere we quite lost the foot-track, and coming to a place where two ravines and two streams meet, Ariipaea, who had not been here for a long time, quite forgot which we were to follow; so first we tried the right side, and clambered up a steep and difficult path, till we were convinced that we were on the wrong track, and returning to the junction, we tried the other ravine, crossing and recrossing the stream. At length, after much loss of time and energy, we concluded that our best course was again to return to the junction and there breakfast, trusting that by good luck it might prove to be the day on which “Père Fautawa” (as the old soldier in charge of the fort is commonly called) would be returning from Papeete with his

« PreviousContinue »