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SACRED TEMPLE TREES. 327
smote their breasts, their heads, even their faces. One of these useful implements formed part of a girl's bridal trousseau, that she might be ready to take her part in whatever scene of sorrow or of joy might present itself. For, strange to say, the same ceremonies were observed, though in a less excessive degree, to mark great happiness; and the safe return of a member of the family, or his escape from danger, was, and still is, marked by the shedding of what might be mistaken for bitter tears. Happily, however, the horrible custom of cutting and bruising one's own flesh is a thing of the past; and friends no longer express sympathy with the bereaved by giving them strips of tappa saturated in the blood thus voluntarily shed, to be preserved as precious memorials of affection!
The one pleasant feature connected with the marais, as with so many forms of heathen worship, was the beautiful grove of old trees which surrounded them. Different tribes adopted special trees as clan badges, and planted these round their family shrines. Thus some were overshadowed by huge banyan-trees, others by the noble tumanu, or native mahogany; and others, again, were distinguished from afar by the gorgeous blossoms of the coral-tree,1 which dripped its blood-red petals on the altars below it. This beautiful tree is almost imperishable; but unluckily it shared in the fate of too many of those sacred temple trees, which were ruthlessly cut down by the early converts, in their iconoclastic zeal . Now the mournful casuarina (the noko-noko of Fiji), with its dark hair-like drooping needles, is almost the only distinctive foliage which marks the resting-place of the dead.
We lingered at this weird and horribly suggestive spot till the evening, and as we rode back to Haapiti, the crags and pinnacles towered in purple majesty against a background of luminous gold, and one divided ray from the setting sun threaded the eye of the great rock-needle. Later, when the moon had risen, we went to the village to see the native minister, who is going to Papeete tomorrow, and has agreed to give me a passage in his boat. We are to start early, so I must now have a sleep. Besides, the mosquitoes 1 Erythrina corallodendrum.
are troublesome, and the only refuge from them is beneath my nets. So good-night.
La Mairon Rouue. Papeete,
Once more I find myself "at home" beneath this hospitable roof. We started at daybreak and rowed leisurely along the lovely coast to Afareaitu (the place where I told you that Mr Ellis, the early missionary, established his first printing-press). At a short distance further we came to Nuupuru, where we landed to explore another great marae, likewise overgrown with casuarina and palmtrees. It stands on the coral-shore, which there, as in most parts of the isles, is shaded by dark trees with wide-spreading branches. Just behind this huge coral-altar, rises a gigantic rock-needle—a cyclopean natural monolith, such as might have accounted for the position of the altar, in lands where nature - worship prevailed, which, however, does not appear to have been the case in these isles.
Here we left the friendly shelter of the reef and passed into the outer ocean. Happily a fair breeze favoured us, and we entered Papeete harbour soon after noon. Great was the amazement of my native friends as they realised the huge proportions of HM.S. Shah, probably the largest ship ever seen in these waters. I believe she weighs about 7000 tons. Certainly she makes all the other vessels in harbour look like pigmies. The little Daring is only 700 tons; Le Limier, 1000; and my trusty old ship Le Seignelay, 2000. The Shah carries nearly 700 men and 50 officers, so England is well represented. My boatman rowed right under her bows, the better to estimate her vast size.
On landing, I found that Mrs Brander and all the family had moved back to town on account of the arrival of so important a vessel, which, of course, involves much work for the house of Brander. I had just time to feed, change my dress, and accompany my hostess to the palace to "assist" at the king's state reception of Admiral De Horsey and his suite, which, of course, was as stiff as stiff could be. We had a pleasant evening, however, at the band. Lovely full moonlight.
CORDIALITY OF A SMALL SOCIETY. 329
The Bed Hodse, Friday, fta.
Papeete is surpassing itself in its graceful hospitalities. On Wednesday, M. D'Oncieue had a very large reception au Gouverneinent, and the French admiral's band played "God save the Queen" as the British admiral entered. To you, doubtless, that conveys little, but to a stranger in a far land it means much. To me, who had not heard the grand old air since I left Australia, more than two years ago, it was most thrilling music, for you have no idea how patriotic we become when we reach the antipodes!
The French and English bands played alternately the whole night, and as all the ships were (for once) well represented, and all the dancing world of Papeete present, in their happiest mood and prettiest toilets, it was a most successful ball, and well kept up. The lovely moonlight drew all the non-dancers to the gardens, much to the edification of the crowds assembled outside the railing. I found several pleasant acquaintances among the newcomers, and many more proved to be "friends' friends "—a title which in these far countries means more than you dwellers in over-crowded Britain can possibly be expected to understand, though you may perhaps realise the unwonted pleasure of meeting so many real English gentlemen.
The evening was far too beautiful for carriages, so the revellers dispersed on foot, to walk home by bowery streets or peaceful shore. Yesterday Mrs Brander gave us a startling proof of her skill in organising, and of the resources at her command. At the governor's ball it suddenly occurred to her to invite all present to a great native feast on the following day, at her country home. At daybreak she started to commence preparations, on a scale which, in most hands, would have involved a week's hard labour. Messengers were despatched in every direction to collect fowls, turkeys, sucking-pigs, vegetables, fruit, &c., &c . A party was told off to build a green bower in which to spread the feast. Glass, crockery, silver, and wines had to be brought from the Red House and the store; for the ordinary service required for even so large a party as habitually assemble at Fautawa would not go far among such a multitude as were invited to this impromptu gatheiing.
Still the question was undecided how the guests were to amuse themselves, as feeding could not last all the evening. Happily Captain Bedford came ashore to see my portfolio, and I ventured to ask if the band might come to Fautawa—a favour which was cordially granted, and I was able to drive off to Fautawa as the bearer of this excellent news. In less than no time, the large drawing-room was cleared for dancing, the wide verandahs gaily decorated with Chinese lanterns, and an admirable ball-room was prepared. It was all like a transformation scene, and accomplished so quietly. It would not be so remarkable in a large European house, with a full complement of carefully drilled servants; but here there really are no servants, properly so called, only friendly "helps." Certainly every one worked with a will on this occasion, and all was ready ere the arrival of the first carriage, full of middies.
The carriages, like everything else, bore testimony to Mrs ISrander's thoughtful and generous care. She provided conveyance for every one, from the English admiral and French governor down to the smallest middy. Of course her own stable could not supply the demand, so every available trap was hired, and plied to and fro over the three miles, till all the guests were duly assembled. You will allow that this was a truly Tahitian phase of hospitality.
So also was the kind forethought which provided towels and a new pareo for every guest who cared to bathe in the lovely river— an invitation which few, if any, refused; so that a succession of joyous parties soon found their way to all the best pools, and therein revelled.
By the time the stragglers reassembled, a multitude of gay wreaths had been prepared by the Tahitian maidens, and all the guests were duly crowned. Some of the English officers were slightly taken aback by this unwonted decoration, but all submitted meekly; and we then marched in procession to the house of feasting, which was erected on the softest green turf, not far from the brook. It was a long building, consisting of a slight framework of bamboos, Just sufficiently strong to support a thatch A NATIVE FEAST. 331
of plaited cocoa-palm leaves; while for pillars, strong young bananas were transplanted bodily, their broad cool leaves making a lovely canopy of freshest green. The golden leaves of the dracama were strung together to form deep fringes and festoons along the rafters; while a still deeper fringe, carefully prepared from the fibre of hybiscus bark, and dyed pale yellow, was festooned all round the whole building. There must have been many hundred yards of this. Just think of the labour of preparing it! That, of course, had been done at leisure.
In lieu of a table-cloth, fresh green banana-leaves were spread upon the grass down the centre of the building, and on these were laid all manner of good things, in dishes made of plaited leaves. Dainty little sucking-pigs, turkeys, and various preparations of chicken, were, as usual, the foundation of the feast. These had been brought in hot haste from Mrs Brander's farm; while fish and all manner of crustacea seemed to have arrived by magic from the depths of the sea, the mountain streams, the mangrove-shore, and the coral-reef—each had sent its contribution. The delicious white uourrali, and their red relations, the cray-fish and lobsters, were there—shrimps and prawns, living and cooked, to suit all tastes. Raw fish and cooked fish, each with appropriate sauce; shell-fish of various sorts, including the delicate little oysters from the isthmus. Fruits of all sorts, mangoes and melons, strawberries, oranges, and bananas; yams, taw, and kuinala—i.e., sweet potatoes —and sundry other vegetables.
The obnoxious national drink of the South Seas, made from the chewed root of kava, alia* yangona, seems to have quite disappeared in Tahiti, and sweet young cocoa-nuts supplied the only native drink; but these were supplemented by many a brimming bumper of the best foreign wines, and champagne flowed like water. Thanks to the graceful unaffected courtesy with which Narii and Ariipaea Salmon, and several of the ladies of the family, themselves waited on all their guests, all went off admirably; every one was well cared for, and mirth and laughter reigned on all sides. Some of the naval guests, however, were not so well accustomed, as are all the rest of us, to sitting curled up on the fine mats, which were