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CHAPTER XIV.

THE ROYAL PROGRESS ROUND TAHITI {continued)—FRENCH FORT AT TARAVOr —THE PENINSULA—LIFE IN BIRD-CAGE HOUSES—TORCHLIGHT PROCESSION—RETURN TO PAPEETE.

PcEtr, Thursday, 181k.

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 ro'ad 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 bettor 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. Himhnes, of course,—and then, while the band entertained the people, we, the unquiet spirits, wandered down to explore the shore, which is overA PLEASANT DAY. 199

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 tartan plaid, inseparable companion of all my wanderings east or west, act as good curtains.

This is a lovely place. In the afternoon wo 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 congre gation.

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 himhies. At a very short distance they sound like full-toned cathedral chimes.

Chez M. Damian, Taravou,
Friday, 19IA.

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 tin; 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. Wo 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 ame est souille de peches!x 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,

1 My soul is defiled with sin. THE PENINSULA. 201

probably uncultivated. The himenes 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.

Ir A Native House, Teahacpoo,
Saturday, 20IA.

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 Vairao, 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, it is beaten up with water till it becomes a glutinous yellowish mass, indescribably sticky, and with a slightly acid flavour.

To the initiated there is always a malicious pleasure in watching the undignified efforts of a new hand at dipping into this dish; for of course there are no spoons or forks in the question; and a stranger, seeing the neatness with which an experienced hand feeds himself, is apt to imagine that it is all plain sailing, and so plunges recklessly into this most adhesive paste, probably with the result of lifting the whole calabash, instead of the mouthful he expected. The correct method is to dip the forefinger of the right hand in the bowl, and as you draw it out smoothly coated with poi, give it u series of rapid twirls to prevent its hanging in glutinous strings; then with a final flourish, to keep it from dripping, land the finger in the mouth, and draw it back quite free from the past*, and ready to repeat the process. Two or more persons generally eat out of the same bowl, in which case they have cocoa-nut shells of fresh water beside them in which to wash their finger before dipping again in the poi; but it really does not much matter, as the preparation is so very sticky that you must of necessity appropriate every particle you touch, so you and your neighbour are in no danger of exchanging atoms! as you would be, in sharing a bowl of well-chewed kava.

That beverage of the isles did not appear at this native feast; in fact I have never seen it in Tahiti, and suppose it must have died out before the superior attractions of orange-rum and similar decoctions. On the present occasion, cocoa-nuts were the only drink, with the exception of pure water. As regards the latter, I was much struck by an ingenious substitute for water-jars. At every supporting post of the booths was fastened an upright bamboo, perhaps twelve feet in length, and pierced from end to end, only the lowest joint being left intact. Here a spigot was introduced, and the bamboo being filled with water, supplied drink for all the thirsty multitude. As drinking-cups, the people here still use cocoa-nut cups, scraped very thin and polished by constant friction on a stone in water, till they become as light, and almost as transparent, as tortoise-shell. The himenes here were the prettiest we

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