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RETURN OF GILBERT ISLANDERS. 351
brought here as foreign labourers about nine years ago, on the understanding that they would very soon be sent home again, whereas they have been detained all these years. When Admiral Serres commenced critical inquiries on the various abuses at which previous governors had winked, this fact became known, and he decided that the labourers should be sent back soon after the New Year—an announcement which filled their masters with dismay, in view of ungathered crops, but was hailed by the Arawais with joy till they learnt by what vessel they were to travel. Then they were filled with alarm, believing that so large a ship would not dare to risk the dangerous navigation between their little isles; and that they would probably all be landed (as has often been done in similar cases) on one or two of the principal isles, where they would be left quite as much in a strange land as in Tahiti, and, moreover, with the certainty of being robbed, and the probability of being eaten by hostile tribes. So a considerable number have refused to go on this occasion. Indeed M. Puéch is himself much perturbed as to how to accomplish this really difficult business. He invited a few friends, including myself, to go on board at the last moment, to faire les adieu.c. The vessel presented a curious scene—picturesque, certainly, with abundance of bright colour, but more like an emigrant ship than a man-of-war. Le Limier is so constructed that she has not sufficient accommodation to allow of all the crew sleeping below at one time. So these wretched Arawais, including women and children, are taken only as deck passengers; and as the cruise, under steam, cannot take less than from sixteen to eighteen days, during which they must take their chance of whatever weather they may encounter, you can understand that the voyage does not promise to be a pleasuretrip. The vessel carries much extra coal, to provide against the danger of a calm. So half her deck is loaded with this dirty store, and the 200 Gilbert Islanders are huddled together on the main-deck. Each labourer has a trade box, containing a few clothes, a good deal of tobacco, and some cheap toys for children; and this is all they . carry home as the fruit of their long exile. Nine years of ceaseless toil in a far country, repaid by a little wooden box full of cheap rubbish
While we were on board, a little baby died on deck in its mother's arms. Some fellow-countrymen, who had come to see their friends start, undertook to carry the poor little body ashore for burial. The father opened his box of trade, and took out a few yards of coarse printed calico, which he gave to the said friends, apparently as payment for their trouble. The poor mother fell on her face at the gangway, wailing piteously. She appeared utterly miserable. It was a sad beginning for a voyage, and we all doubly regretted the departure of our friends with such an unpleasant three weeks in prospect.
When I saw how terribly overcrowded the vessel was, I thought Captain Pučch must surely repent of his kindness in offering to carry the big case of mango-stones; but on the contrary, he made it appear as though I had done him quite a favour in letting him take charge of the precious seeds, which, we trust, will hereafter become so valuable a boon to Fiji. Kind, good friend, we all wished him bon voyage with all our hearts; then returning to the shore we watched the good ship sail, amid hearty cheers from Le Seignelay, and with large bouquets on each mast, to mark that she is homeward-bound.
THE RED House, PAPERTE,
The Ségond, French man-of-war, has just arrived from San Francisco, bringing the new French governor—a fine jovial naval officer —with an A.D.C. who, like his chief, is well known in Tahiti for his strong liking for natives and native customs.
So while the appointment has caused great delight to one section of the community, others foresee a speedy relapse from the highpressure morality, and various reforms which, under the good admiral's régime, made Papeete so strictly respectable that its own inhabitants said the like had never been seen under any previous rule. But everything changes with the admiral and governor of
A FAREWELL BREAKFAST. 353
the day, and every one here declares that the ships in harbour during the last few months have been of such exceptionally good type that the result has been a model era, probably too perfect to last. To-morrow Le Seignelay is to sail for Valparaiso to restore M. D'Oncieue, M. Fayzeau, and the band, to La Magicienne. So to-day Mrs Brander gave a farewell breakfast at Fautawa to as many as could come, after which we all adjourned here, as being. more convenient for a great reception at Government House tonight, when the good band will play for the last time. Henceforth Papeete must be content with the feebler efforts of a band recruited from her own citizens, but as yet not up to the mark.
saturday, February oth.
Le Seignelay sailed this morning, and with most true regret I bade adieu to the pleasant companions of the last five months. With unchanging kindness they again offered me the hospitality of the ship, and placed a cabin at my disposal in case I cared to visit Valparaiso; but I do not feel tempted by that unpicturesque coast, and its very gay and gorgeously apparelled Spanish-German society. In a very few days the Maramma must return from the Sandwich Isles with her cargo of cattle, and then I hope to start for the volcanoes.
News has just reached us of an awful hurricane and tidal wave
which has swept the whole group of the Paumotus, and it is not
known how far its influence has extended. Nothing of the sort Z
has occurred in these seas in the present century. The French Resident and Mr Boosey, one of Mrs Brander's agents, have just arrived in the Elgin to ask for assistance, as the whole settlement of Anaa is a heap of hopeless ruin. It was a flourishing little town, about half the size of Levuka ; it had about 150 houses, good stores, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Mormon churches, Resident's house, &c. The Seignelay touched there on that memorable cruise to the Marquesas, so I missed the chance of doing a historical, antediluvian sketch. Mrs Brander is most anxious about the fate of her other manager, Mr Macgee ; indeed we all are so, for he is a very good fellow, and he has been staying with the family here for some time. He is supposed to have been out that night in a very small vessel, which is missing. The gale must have been appalling. It is calculated that on Anaa alone, 300,000 cocoa-palms must have fallen, and Mrs Brander's loss in produce, stores and buildings, boats, three small ships and their cargoes, is reckoned at 40,000 dollars, equal to about £10,000—a serious night's work. The Ségond is to be despatched to-morrow morning, loaded with provisions, timber, and all things likely to prove useful in this emergency. She is to go the round of every large isle in the group, and do what she can to help the wretched inhabitants. They say these tidal waves always accompany an eruption of
some volcaho. I hope I shall not find that I have just missed one at Hawaii
MAHENA PLANTATION, Point VENUs,
This is another place belonging to Mrs Brander, who sent me here with her manager, Mr Lander, a German, that I might have a few quiet days for sketching in this neighbourhood. There is a large house here, close to the sea, where the family occasionally come for a change. I was received by Toetoe, a handsome, stalwart lass, daughter of a chief of Tupuai, the romantic isle of which Byron sings in “The Island.” She introduced me to pets of all sorts— rabbits, cows, horses, cats and dogs, especially a wee brown dog
“Moosie.” She gave me milk without limit—always a luxury— and in the evening we wandered by grassy paths beneath the cocoapalms; and then in the clear moonlight started for a walk along the shore, which here is of a firm black sand, on which large waves break in as full force as on our own north coast. This is due to the fact that there is a passage through the coral-reef, just opposite the house; so the sea rolls in unchecked.
I have been rather worried for some days by prickly-heat, from which many persons suffer almost continually in all tropical countries. It is a general all-overish, tingling irritation of skin, very unpleasant to the sufferer, who, however, receives no compassion, as he is pleasantly informed that it is a symptom of excellent health, and a safeguard against possible fever ! Sea-bathing is generally recommended as a cure, so that sunrise and moonlight alike find me in pickle in the briny waters, where, borrowing courage from Toetoe's presence and good example (she being, as a matter of course, a perfect swimmer), I venture on a dash through the breaking waves to the pleasant calm water beyond; where, however, our peaceful enjoyment is considerably marred by the dread of sharks, which here venture close to the shore.
We have made various expeditions, walking and driving, to picturesque points on land and shore; and a day at the lighthouse enabled me to complete my previous sketch of Orofena, the highest mountain of Tahiti.
Now we are just starting to drive back along the coast to Papeete —a lovely route, by which, as you may remember, I last travelled by torchlight, on our return from the grand circuit of the isle.
PAPEETE, February 19th.
We have for some time been anxiously watching for the return of the Maramma, Mrs Brander's fine large ship, which is bringing cattle from the Sandwich Isles, and which will, I hope, take me there on her next trip, supposing no mischance has befallen her.