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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 1" and perhaps, if they are unusually hospitable, invite you to luncheon the following week!
This morning Nam 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—bvt 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 Erander; 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.
THK SEMAPHORE—IMMUTABLE TIDES—tHE CORAL-REEF—SPEARING FISH— NETTING — CATCHING SHARKS — A ROYAL MAUSOLEUM—SUPERSTITIONS OF EAST AND WEST—CENTIPEDES—INTOXICATING DRINK8— INFLUENZA —DEATH OF MRS SIMPSON.
Che: The Sey. James Green, Oct. 27th.
T have had a day after. my owu 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 ihe 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 IMMUTABLE TIDES. 211
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 sharp grey and orange spines like those of an echinus, and an underside of pale-yellow fleshy feelers with suckers like those of the sea-anemone1—a marvellously uncanny-looking compound. I also saw thousands of prickly sea-urchins of divers sorts, from the heavy acrocladia,2 with spikes as large as your fingers and heavy as 3tone, to the very brittle species no larger than a pigeon's egg, and covered with piercing needles five or six inches long—a particularly unpleasant creature to step upon, especially with bare feet, as the natives have. These echini are of all colours, from the richest maroon and claret to purple and blue. Some are suggestive of large full-blown thistles, and all more or less resemble hedgehogs or porcupines. One very delicate flat kind is pure white, and marked on the back with a very finely traced double star.
Some of the water-snakes are very beautifully marked with blue, gold, or green bars on a velvety black ground; they glide and coil themselves in and out of the coral branches. I was much struck by the immense size of some sea-anemones, as large as a wash-hand basin: these also, are of all sorts of colours. These are the chosen play-fellows of most exquisite tiny fish, like morsels of black velvet, with a pattern exactly like a fairy peacock's feather on either gill . Not one of these exceeded two inches in length; and I watched a shoal of about thirty playing hide-and-seek among the feelers of the polype. You can hardly conceive anything so fascinating as the glimpses of fairyland to be obtained by allowing your boat to float at will in the shallowest possible water, while you peer down into the wonder-world beneath you, where the many-tinted corals, seaweeds, and zoophytes, form wonderful gardens, of which the brilliant blue star-fish, and strangely beautiful sea-anemones, are the gay blossoms.
The butterflies which woo these flowers of the sea are shoals of the most exquisite minute fishes, which dart through the crystal water like rays of opal . Now it is a group of turquoise blue, like forget-me-nots of the deep, and as they vanish among green seaweeds, out flash a merry party primrose-coloured. Then come a little family of richest Albert blue, which pause a moment to greet 1 Acanthaster solarii. * Acrocladia mamittata.