Page images
PDF
EPUB

are found to average only half the height of those in Tahiti, the latter rising to upwards of 7000 feet, while the highest peak of Moorea, Afareaitu, is only 3976 feet. But the strangely varied forms of the latter are so remarkable, that a few thousand feet more or less seem a matter of indifference.

I did long to crave a few moments' halt from time to time, to secure ever so slight an outline of some specially striking scene, but of course I dared not suggest it, as we were evidently bound to "make good time" (that crime in travelling, which so many mistake for a virtue). The result was, that we reached Haapiti at 2 P.m. Mrs Brander, who had hurried on at once to make her preparations, had counted on our not arriving till four at the earliest, so of course nothing was ready.

The admiral went to examine schools, and I lost no time in settling down to a large sketch of the beautiful and fairy-like scene—the grand mountain amphitheatre of stupendous crags and precipices, a middle distance of richest foliage, and in the foreground, on a-lawn of greenest turf, the pretty temporary building of palm and bamboo, erected for the banquet. The interior was lined with tree-ferns and bunches of rosy oleander, and festooned with many hundred yards of deep fringe made of hybiscus fibre. The thatch was entirely composed of the long glossy fronds of birds'-nest fern,1 which, being tough and leathery, make a good permanent thatch, and one which lasts much longer than bananaleaves, though, of course, it is more troublesome to arrange in the first instance. It seems too bad to sacrifice such an incredible number of these beautiful plants. The only consolation is, that they grow in places so inaccessible that no human eye ever beholds them, save that of the goat-like cragsman who explores the deep ravines in search of the wild faees, which constitute the principal article of food on these isles.

Shortly before sunset all the people of the district assembled,

each with a piece of yellow native cloth thrown over their black

dresses like a shawl, to symbolise joy in sorrow. They formed" an

immense procession, headed by Mrs Brander as high chiefess. She

1 AspUnium nidus.

[graphic][merged small]

RECEPTION AT HAAP1TI. 229

was dressed entirely in black, only relieved by a most becoming crown of glossy white arrowroot, with a plume of snowy reva-reva. Immediately after her followed the gentlemen of her family, wearing very beautiful tiputas of bread-fruit bark cloth, covered with ornaments and flowers made of arrowroot and bamboo fibre, and all fringed with the delicate reva-reva. They made an address and sang the himknes of welcome which should have greeted the royalties oh their landing. Then the chiefs presented their beautiful garments to the principal persons present, and all the people laid their yellow scarves and pretty hats at their feet. One of the tiputas was intended for me, but as I sat apart to see the general picture, it was unfortunately given to some one else; but Mrs Brander reserved for me a most delicate hand-screen of the finest fibre.

Then followed a great dinner, admirable in every respect, the pretty booth being illuminated by a multitude of Chinese lanterns; and the himene singing, which was continued at-intervals all the evening, was particularly good. The sleeping arrangements were less satisfactory, there having been no time to make preparations for so large a party; so my hostess had only reserved one tiny room for herself, two children, two native women, and me. It was a foreign house, with windows. These were tightly closed, and a bright lamp kept burning all night,—both circumstances fatal to all chance of sleep,—so I preferred a shake-down in the sitting-room. Unfortunately, my experience of the luxuries of Tahiti had induced me to travel without my own mosquito-net; and the attacks of these persistent foes, combined with the perpetual movement of locomotive women, incessantly opening the door at my head and admitting n stream of bright light, effectually banished all hope of sleep. It was a night of feverish unrest,—a bad preparation for the morrow.

Again came a hurried morning start in good native boats,—the coast, beautiful as tha't of yesterday. We had a strong wind and tide against us, and made slow progress. After a severe pull of three hours, we stopped at a point where the rowers landed to rest and get cocoa-nuts; but hordes of mosquitos attacked and routed us, even following us on our way. Finally we landed, and walked the last two miles to Papotoai, on Opunohu Bay, where the Seignelay anchored last night.

Mrs Simpson's body was brought ashore this morning, and as the people were all too much fussed to mourn their old friend and clerical mother (at least externally), the coffin was carried to the church by French sailors; and they and their officers were the only persons present, besides the immediate relations, at a sort of preliminary service held by M. Brun, the Protestant pastor.

Breakfast, chiefly consisting of omelets which had been cooked at 7 a.M., was not served till noon; and as I had only succeeded in securing a bit of biscuit before starting, I was so famished that one of the officers went to forage on my account, and returned in triumph with a yard of bread! This proved so satisfying, that, craving permission to escape from the formal meal, I returned on board with my old shipmates, and secured a careful drawing of the wonderfully lovely mountains ere the rest of the party came on board. One young sailor came to great grief in trying to climb a cocoa-nut tree—an operation which appears very easy to the expert islanders, but sorely puzzles a foreigner. This poor lad fell from a considerable height, breaking his arm and severely injuring his head. So the kind doctor had his hands full, and no time to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

We steamed round to Pao Pao, commonly known as Cook's Bay, which is also very fine. Here we left the steamer, and, taking to the boats, rowed four miles to Tiaia, which is a pretty village by the sea. On one side of it there is a splendid grove of glossyleaved tamanu trees, and a few fine old iron-wood trees—the casuarina—all that now remains of what was once a very sacred grove surrounding the ancient marae. Now the Christian church occupies the site where formerly human sacrifices were offered to the cruel gods. At a distance of about two miles from this village there is a brackish lake—Lake Temae—about a mile in length. It contains good fish, and many wild-duck haunt its sedgy and very muddy shores. Under the impression that it was very much nearer, I joined the exploring party. We had to make a detour of

« PreviousContinue »