Page images
PDF
EPUB

352

carry home as the fruit of their long exile. Nine years of ceaseles? 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 fewyards 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 Puech 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 Rrd HotisK, Papeztz,
Friday, February 8M.

The Segond, 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 rSgime, 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 hand, 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 9th.

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.

CHAPTER XXV.

HURRICANE AT THE PAUMOTUS MAHENA PLANTATION WATCHING

FOE VESSELS FAREWELL TO TAHITI.

Fautawa, Tuesday, 12th.

News has just reached us of an awful hurricane and tidal wavo 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 nourishing little town, about half the size of Levuka; it had ahout 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 Segond 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 volcano. I hope I shall not find that I have just missed one at Hawaii!

Mahena Plartation, Poist Vrhct,
Thursday, Ftb. Ulh.

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 PRICKLY-HEAT. 355

"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.

Monday, isrt.

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.

Pafeete, 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 But she is now considerably overdue, and fears are expressed that she may have disobeyed orders, and gone to the dangerous coast of Kauai, thence to fetch cattle. Or she may have encountered the hurricane.

February 20IA.

A vessel has just come into port from Honolulu, bringing cattle. She has been nineteen days on the voyage, and reports that the Maramma is following.

In the evening the lovely moonlight tempted us to visit our old haunts, the place where the admiral's band used to play every evening, but where, under the new regime, the hideous upa-upa is now nightly danced for the edification of the admiring crowd There was the usual large picturesque assemblage, but their gaiety was of a more demonstrative type than heretofore. In short, the admiral's excellent restrictions, which were to inaugurate quite a new era in Tahiti, have already melted "like snowdrift in thaw" before the cheerful presence of the new ruler; who, on the very night of M. D'Oncieue's departure, summoned many damsels (friends of former days, and noted dancers of the obnoxious native wriggle) to Government House, where they were hospitably entertained. Of course news of this complete subversion of six months' compulsory reformation quickly spread to the remotest districts, and from all parts of the island all the dancers flocked to Papeete, where they now assemble every evening before Government House, and the crowd thus attracted is of a sort such as ladies would not care to mix in for long. To-night there was some rather pretty singing, but not to be compared with the true himbies—and from the laughter of the crowd it might be inferred that the words would not bear translation.

Friday, Sid.

The Segond has returned from the Paumotus with a lamentable tale of disaster. We are all, however, much relieved at hearing that our friend Mr Macgee is safe; though he had a most narrow escape on the awful night of the hurricane, when he happened to

« PreviousContinue »