A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War/Chapter 4

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CHAPTER IV.

LIFE ON BOARD SHIP—THE WALLIS ISLES—FOTUNA—SUNDAY ISLE—CYCLOPEAN REMAINS ON EASTER ISLE—STONE ADZES—SAMOA—PANGO-PANGO HARBOUR.

From my Sofa in the Gun-carriage,
on Board the Seignelay
, Sunday, 16th.

My dear Nell,—I have asked Lady Gordon to send you a long letter to her, which I hope to post at Apia, so that I need not repeat what I have already written. We are having a most delightful cruise, with everything in our favour, and the kindness of every one on board is not to be told.

To begin with, Monseigneur Elloi, Evêque de Tipara, is a host in himself, so genial and pleasant, and so devoted to his brown flock. He is terribly unhappy about all the fighting in Samoa; and I think the incessant wear and tear of mind and body he has undergone, in going from isle to isle, perpetually striving for peace, has greatly tended to break down his own health, for he is now very far from well, and every day that we touch land, and he has to officiate at a long church service, he is utterly exhausted. It is high time he returned to France, as he hopes to do, at the end of this cruise.

His title puzzled us much when he arrived in Fiji, as we supposed him to be Bishop of Samoa. But it seems that a Roman Catholic bishop cannot bear the title of a country supposed to be semi-heathen, so they adopt that of one of the ancient African churches, which are now virtually extinct.

To-day, being Sunday, the bishop called together as many of the sailors as wished to attend, and held "a conference"—which meant that he sat on deck, and they sat or stood all round, quite at their ease, no officers being present, while he gave them a very nice winning little talk, ending with a few words of prayer. There was no regular service. There is always a tiny form of morning and evening prayer, said on parade by one of the youngest sailors, which is very nice theoretically, but is practically nil. At the word of command, Prière, a young lad, rapidly repeats the Ave Maria and Nôtre Père qui êtes aux cieux; he gabbles it over at railroad speed in less than a minute; then, as an amen, comes the next thing, Punitions, followed by a list of the various little trespasses of the day, and the penalties awarded.

At each point where the vessel has touched, she has taken or left some of the French priests, many of whom have been working in these isles for so many years, that they know every detail concerning them, and are consequently very pleasant companions. One of my especial friends is a dear old Père Padel, a cheery Bréton, who has been working in the Wallis group for many years, with the happy result of seeing its savages converted to most devout Catholics. He is now going to Samoa.

Much of the charm of this voyage is due to the kindly, pleasant relations existing between the captain and all his officers, from the least to the greatest—all are so perfectly at ease, while so thoroughly respectful. They are all counting the hours for their return to la belle France, where several have left wife and family; and their two years' absence apparently seems longer to them than the four years of our English ships would seem to be to less demonstrative Britons.

Nothing astonishes me more than the freedom of religious discussion on every side. Of course to the bishop and the numerous pères, personally, every one is most friendly and respectful, as well they may be; but as a matter of individual faith, c'est toute autre chose.

The evening tea-parties in the captain's cabin are particularly pleasant. Very often the conversation turns on some literary question, and then, from the ample library, are produced books from which M. le Commandant reads illustrations of prose or poetry. He is himself literary, and writes very well, in the 'Revue des deux Mondes' and other papers. Monseigneur Elloi says that Captain Aube is a very distinguished man in the French navy, and one who is certain of rapid promotion.

He has another guest on board, M. Pinart, a scientific traveller. He belongs to a French Protestant family, but is such a thorough cosmopolite, that when we go about together in the native villages, and the people ask our nationalities, I always answer for him "American." He is most industrious in his various lines of work, and is at present busy copying out vocabularies of all manner of dialects. He is greatly interested in all ethnological questions, and has a collection of skulls, enough to supply a resurrection army. I do not think the sailors like it very much, and they are always afraid that some trouble will arise with the natives of various isles on the vexed subject of les cranes, which our savant scents out from old hiding-places in caves and clefts of the mountains, with all the instinct of a schoolboy hunting for bird's nests. He has just shown me some beautiful illustrations in colours, for the book he is bringing out on American Indians; also many good photographs, done by himself, of objects of interest in many lands.

I am so sorry that the Seignelay paid her visits to Fotuna (in the Southern New Hebrides), and to the Wallis Isles, on the way to Fiji. If only these had been reserved for the return journey, I should have had the rare luck of seeing them also. My kind friends are for ever regretting this, and give me tantalising descriptions of both isles and people.

Apparently les isles Wallis, or Uvea, must be the true earthly paradise—so green, so fertile, with people so industrious, so contented, and so hospitable. It is a group of four or five high volcanic isles, all richly wooded, and protected from the ocean, not only by the great barrier-reef, but by an intricate labyrinth of lesser belts and patches, which make navigation a matter of extreme danger, even after the difficult entrance, by a very narrow passage, has been accomplished. The approach to the anchorage is by a network of such dangerous channels, as involve masterly steering for even small craft, and make it a matter of wonder that large vessels should attempt it. Indeed a French steamer, L'Hermite, was wrecked there not long ago, owing to one moment's hesitation on the part of her commander, who, meeting a strong tide running out, shifted the helm at a critical moment, and so the vessel was swept on to the reef—a helpless plaything for the overwhelming surf.

The Wallis Isles lie due north of Tonga, and are the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Oceania, and a strong clerical staff; also of a French sisterhood, who devote themselves to teaching children whose lives have been spared by their own once cannibal parents, and who now worship with them, in a handsome stone church, built by themselves, under the direction of the Fathers, and are in every respect pattern Catholics.

Three days' sail from Wallis lies Fotuna, which is a little world by itself. It consists of a single peak, rising abruptly from the waters, and broken up into towering masses of crag and pinnacles, seamed by deep ravines, opening up into fertile valleys, richly cultivated. Sparkling streams afford an abundant water-supply for the irrigation of the taro beds; bread-fruit, bananas, and palms grow luxuriantly: so it is an isle of great natural beauty, and though only fifteen miles in circumference, affords ample provision for its 900 inhabitants. They seem to be a happy, healthy community, and have all adopted Christianity, either in its Protestant or Roman form. The representative of the latter is a fine old priest, who has devoted the greater part of his life to work on Fotuna, and year by year adds a few inches to the walls of a very large cathedral, which he hopes some future generation will complete. The natives show their love for the good padre by bringing him the heavy blocks of coral-rock, which he hews at his leisure; but they are well content to worship in less solid buildings. The majority wear, as their badge, a little brass medal of the Virgin, or some other Christian amulet, which, in the case of the little children, is often their only raiment!

Apparently the adherents of the two great Christian bodies contrive to live in peace, instead of finding in differing faith a new occasion for enmities, as has been the case even in Polynesian isles. But is it not grievous that, when at length "the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light," it should not shine upon them in one undivided ray?

The people of this lonely isle are especially interesting, because they, and the inhabitants of Aniwa—a much smaller isle in the same region—are of a totally different race from those on the other isles composing the New Hebrides—the latter being Papuans, and these Malays, whose ancestors drifted all the way from Tonga in a canoe. Though their colour has darkened, they retain the dialect and the hair of their race.

Every one on board has treasures of some sort from Fotuna—especially very beautifully painted native cloth. I think some of the patterns are almost more artistic than those of the Fijians. Like theirs, these are principally geometrical; and in addition to the black and red dyes which are there used, the artists of Fotuna introduce a good deal of yellow. The printing is done in the same manner, the raised pattern being carefully designed with strips of cocoa-rib or bamboo on wooden blocks, on which the colour is stamped. It is the same principle as that of our printing-types, and was known in Polynesia long before the art of printing was invented in Europe.

The most remarkable productions of Fotuna and some of its neighbouring isles are gigantic cocoa-nuts, more than double the ordinary size. They are immensely prized as drinking-cups. Many are 18 inches in circumference after the husk has been removed. The largest grow on the isle of Niufau, which is described as being merely the rim of a great crater, from which smoke sometimes rises, and which is incrusted with sulphur. Apparently the warmth of the soil agrees with all vegetation; for the isle is exceedingly fertile, and the cocoa-nuts are the wonder and envy of all beholders.

I confess I should not care to live on one of these smouldering volcanoes. There are a good many such, scattered about the Pacific—and occasionally one subsides altogether. For instance, halfway between Tonga and New Zealand lies Sunday Isle. It is a volcanic rock-mass 1600 feet in height, and about four miles in diameter. It is exceedingly fertile, but steam rises from all the crevices of the rocks, and the people have only to scrape a hole in the ground, and therein place their food that it may be baked in nature's own oven. At one time there were a good many settlers in this warm corner, but in an evil day a Peruvian slave-ship touched here, and landed 200 poor creatures, captured in all parts of the Pacific. Typhoid fever had broken out among them; so they were thrown ashore to die, which they did, and most of the settlers shared their fate. The others left the island on the first opportunity, leaving only one white man with a Samoan wife and a dusky brood. These lived on in peace and plenty for about ten years, when suddenly the little fresh-water lake began to boil furiously, and from its midst a fountain of fire shot high in the air. Happily this mighty rocket served as a signal of distress, for a passing vessel descried the fiery column and came to investigate, greatly to the relief of the Crusoe family, who were taken on board, and for ever abandoned their home.

Evidently this isle must lie on the same volcanic chain as the White Sulphur Isle, which is a sulphur volcano to the north of New Zealand, connected subterraneously with that great tract in the province of Auckland, where geysers, solfataras, and all manner of volcanic phenomena abound.[1]

All these are reproduced on a smaller scale on the island of Tanna in the New Hebrides, within 30 miles of Fotuna. It is a circular island, about 40 miles in diameter. Near the harbour rises a volcanic mountain about 500 feet in height, densely wooded to the very summit, though seamed with fissures from which rise clouds of steam and sulphureous vapours. The whole island is exceedingly fertile—cocoa-palms, bread-fruit trees, bananas, sugar-cane, &c., grow luxuriantly, and the yams occasionally attain a weight of 50 lb.; one root being from 40 to 50 inches long—a very neat thing in potatoes. Yet the soil which produces this rank vegetation forms so thin a crust over the vast furnace below, that in some places the penetrating heat is painful to the naked foot. Nevertheless, the people have no fear of accidents; on the contrary, wherever they find a group of hot springs they build their huts, and, like the New Zealanders, they love to lounge on the steaming grass or hot stones. In every village a circular space is set apart as the marum, or place for holding council or feasting, and in these districts a warm spot is selected, where, after sundown, the men may combine the pleasures of a vapour-bath with the enjoyment of their bowl of kava, while discussing the affairs of the tribe.

The springs are in great favour as baths. They are of all temperatures—from the tepid water in which the natives play luxuriously for hours, to the boiling springs in which they place their food and leave it to cook itself. Some of these natural boilers lie so close to the shore, that the fishers who haunt the reefs, armed with long four-pronged spears, have only to throw their prize into the rock-caldron the moment they have secured it. No fear of tainted fish for them! Nor need they search far for drinking water. Probably the nearest spring is quite cold and excellent. Some of the springs are highly medicated, and many resort to the healing waters, some of which are especially efficacious for the cure of ulcerous sores.

Beyond the strangely fertile crust, covering the region of horror, lies an unveiled tract of cinders and black volcanic ash, forming a wide barren valley from which rises the principal cone. This valley is intersected by a multitude of fissures from which issue scalding sulphureous fumes. Here and there beds of the purest sulphur have been deposited, and trading vessels occasionally carry hence a cargo of this pale primrose-coloured mineral, to be turned to good domestic uses. Pools of boiling mud alternate with springs of cold water clear as crystal; and in fissures lying but a few feet apart the same strange diversity exists. One sends forth a blast of scalding steam, while in the next a dripping spring yields its slow but continuous supply of ice-cold water, falling drop by drop.

The cone, which is called Asoor by the Tannese, is about 300 feet in height. It is a gradual ascent, but fatiguing, owing to the accumulation of fine black ash or sand, in which the foot sinks at every step. Masses of scoria and vitreous lava, or obsidian, have been thrown up by the volcano, and lie scattered on every side.

On reaching the summit, you find yourself on the brink of a crater half a mile in diameter, within which lie five secondary craters. These act as so many chimneys for the great furnace, which roars and bellows below, and which day and night, with deafening roar, unweariedly throws up its fiery blast at intervals of five, seven, or ten minutes, according as its action is more or less vehement. Some travellers have visited it repeatedly at intervals of several years, and their accounts of the intervals of eruption never vary beyond this slight difference. Huge masses of black rock or liquid fire are tossed in the air, to a height of 200 or 300 feet, often falling back within the crater, or else hurled to the valley below. Clouds of white steam mingle with denser clouds of the finest dark-grey dust, which is carried by the wind to all parts of the island, coating every green leaf with a powder like fine steel-filings, which fills the eyes and nostrils of all breathing creatures in a most unpleasant manner. When rain falls, it absorbs this dust, and becomes literally a mud-shower.

From the position of the inner craters, it is obvious that even the most foolhardy scientific traveller could hardly venture to approach them to peer into the mysterious workings of that mighty caldron. Yet a native legend records, that in one of the fierce battles between the tribes of Tanna, one party was gradually driven backward, till they retreated to the summit of the cone, and even there they still fought on, contesting foot by foot of the sandy ridges of the inner crater, where a multitude of these savage warriors perished, having fought to the death, unheeding the wrath of the fire-gods.

But of the isles visited by the Seignelay, before I had the privilege of joining the party, there is none which I regret so much as Easter Island, or, as the inhabitants call it, Rapa Nui, where they touched on the way from Valparaiso, from which it is distant about 2500 miles, without any intermediate isle. I think it must be the loneliest spot in the Pacific, as there are apparently only two little isles anywhere within a radius of 1000 miles. It is a volcanic island, about 11 miles long by 4 wide. It is covered with extinct craters, in some of which are deep pools of water. The highest point is about 1000 feet above the sea-level. The hills are covered with hybiscus and other scrub. It is inhabited by a race of very fair natives, like the Tahitians, and very elaborately tattooed.

But the isle owes its interest to its mysterious relics of a forgotten race, who have utterly and completely died out, even from legendary lore; while their handiwork abides, written on the rocks, which are so covered with carving as to resemble the studio of some giant sculptor. Colossal stone images lie half buried beneath the creeping grass and encroaching scrub. At intervals all round the coast there are cyclopean platforms, from 200 to 300 feet in length, and about 30 feet high, all built of hewn stones 5 or 6 feet long, and accurately fitted, without cement. And above these, on the headlands, are artificially levelled platforms, paved with square blocks of black lava. On all these, stone pedestals remain, whereon were placed the great images, which, by some powerful force, have mostly been thrown to the ground and broken.

The average height of the figures is about 18 feet; some of those lying prostrate are 27 feet long, and measure 8 feet across the breast. You can infer the size of some of the upright ones from the fact that, so near noon as 2 p.m., they cast sufficient shadow to cover a party of thirty persons. Some have been found which measure 37 feet. They are all hewn of a close-grained grey lava, which is only found at Otouli, a crater on the east side of the island. On a platform near this quarry several gigantic images stand in perfect preservation. One of these measures 20 feet from the shoulder to the crown of the head.

They represent an unknown type. Very square face—short, thin upper lip, giving a somewhat scornful expression—broad nose and ears, with pendent lobes. All the faces look upward. The eyes are deeply sunken, and are supposed to have originally had eyeballs of obsidian.

All the principal images have the top of the head cut flat and crowned with a cylindrical mass of red lava, hewn perfectly round. Some of these crowns are 66 inches in diameter and 52 in height. The only place on the island where this red lava is found, is the crater of Terano Hau, which is fully eight miles from Otouli; and how these ponderous crowns were conveyed to their position on the heads of the grey rock-kings, is one of the mysteries of the isle. About thirty of them still lie in the quarry where they were hewn, ready for the heads which they were never destined to adorn. Some of these are 30 feet in circumference.

Well may we marvel by what means those unknown sculptors transported their ponderous works of art from one distant point to another on this lonely volcanic isle. The statues are literally lying about in hundreds, and the very rocks on the sea-beach are carved into strange forms—tortoises or human faces.

Besides these, all along the coast, there are cairns of small stones, and on the top of each pile are laid a few white pebbles. These have probably been burial-cairns.

Unless the face of the island has undergone some wondrous change, those mysterious workmen cannot even have possessed wooden rollers to aid them in the toil of transport, for there are literally no trees—nothing but small scrub. When Captain Cook discovered the isle, he only saw three or four little canoes, which were built of many small pieces of wood, sewed together with fibre, the largest piece being 6 feet long and 14 inches wide at one end, 8 inches at the other; and this, he thought, was probably drift-wood. These canoes were from 18 to 20 feet long, and could barely hold four people. He found that the most acceptable gift he could bestow on the people was cocoa-nut shells, to be used as cups, since the island produced no palms, and but few gourds. Their only drink is brackish water, obtained by digging wells on the stony beach, through which the salt water filters.

Wooden tablets, covered with hieroglyphics, have been found, which might perhaps reveal something of the old history of the race, but as yet no one has been able to decipher them. There are also stone slabs, covered with geometric figures, curious birds, animals, and faces, painted in black, white, and red—doubtless these also are hieroglyphs. They are ranged inside the quaint stone houses, of which about a hundred remain, at one end of the isle; and are built in lines, with the doors towards the sea. The inside measurement of these houses is about 40 feet by 13, and the walls are upwards of 5 feet thick; they are built of flat stones laid in layers. At about 6 feet from the ground, the slabs are so laid as to overlap one another, till they gradually close; and the small opening at the top is roofed with long thin slabs.

Till a Rawlinson arises to read the hieroglyphs of Rapa Nui, its mysteries must remain unsolved; and the cold proud faces, with the sightless eyeballs, will continue to gaze heavenward, and the great stone images, whether gods or heroes, must lie in fallen grandeur in this their sea-girt shrine, with none to tell us what unknown race devoted the labour of their lives to sculpturing the rocks on this lonely isle.

Unfortunately the Seignelay has no artist among her officers, so no one has any sketches which can give me any general idea of the isle, and though I have seen a few photographs of individual figures, I cannot from them obtain any impression of the whole effect. I confess I wish I had had the chance of doing a few panoramic and bird's-eye views of the whole scene. Though perhaps not artistic, I am quite convinced that by no other means can a traveller so fully enable friends at home to realise the scenes on which his own eyes have feasted.

The only other corner of the earth, in which I can hear of anything akin to these mysterious rock-sculptures, is the far-distant volcanic isle of Java. If you sail almost halfway round the world, heading straight for the west, you come to that wonderful isle, with its terrible volcanoes and amazing wealth of vegetation. Nowhere else are there so many distinct volcanoes in so small a space. No less than thirty-eight separate cones cluster round the great central range of mountains, from 5000 to 13,000 feet in height. Some are active fire-craters, and throw out molten lava; others are water-craters, containing milk-white lakes or sulphureous geysers: in short, volcanic action is there in every form of sublime terror, and the Javanese aborigines erected temples to appease the fire-giants, and from the solid rocks sculptured prodigious statues in their honour. In one spot 400 ruined shrines have been discovered, with altars, and images—all apparently built to propitiate the fire-gods.

It is very risky to draw inferences from mere descriptions of any sort of art, but so far as I can make out, these would appear to be the productions of the true aborigines, ere Hindu influence prevailed, leaving its mark in those marvellous Buddhist ruins at Borrobudua and Samarang, which we so unfortunately did not see, on our way from Singapore to Fiji.

It is, of course, possible that the platforms and sculptures of Easter Isle may simply have been an extraordinary development of the marai—i.e., the tomb-temple, which was the accepted form of ecclesiastical building throughout the south-east Pacific. They varied considerably in form, some being great pyramids erected on a stone platform; while on other isles (as, for instance, on Huahine, in the Society Isles) there are stone terraces, built irregularly, right up the face of the hill, with spaces left between them. On one of the principal platforms a row of tall monoliths stand upright, just as did the images on the Easter Island terraces. On Huahine these are called "the stones of dividing," and are said to have been set up as memorials of the division of land among the various tribes, each stone representing the title-deeds of a clan. To this day each tribe recognises its own stone, and, beholding it, recollects its unwritten legend,—just as at the present day in Fiji a messenger who is charged with a dozen different errands, will carry in his hand a dozen small sticks or leaves, and in fancy makes each stick represent a message. From this imaginary notebook he will read off each detail with unerring accuracy.

Whatever faint resemblance may suggest itself between the irregular terraces and monoliths of Huahine, and the equally irregular terraces and statues of Easter Isle, it is hardly conceivable that such vast energy could have been expended on a mere memorial of tribal divisions, especially where there was so little land to divide. Perhaps Easter Isle was a sort of Iona—the Holy Isle of the old Druids, who there erected the 360 great monoliths, which the followers of St Columba sanctified by carving them into the form of crosses, but which in later years were cast into the sea by order of a ruthless Protestant Synod, who declared them to be "monuments of idolatrie."

The only traces of any forgotten race which I have had the good luck to see on the present cruise, have been the cyclopean tombs of the old kings of Tonga, and a huge trilithon, concerning which the present islanders know as little as we do of Stonehenge.

While in Tonga I endeavoured to procure some stone adzes, but could only buy three very coarse ones without handles. They have long been in disuse there. M. Pinart, however, succeeded in getting some better specimens, which were carefully stowed away by some of the old people in the recesses of their homes.

What miraculous patience it must have required, first to make these stone implements, and then to work with them! They were generally made from basaltic stones, which were dug out of the earth with strong sticks, and then roughly chipped into shape with a heavy flint. Perhaps after many hours of severe labour the stone would break in two, and the workman had to select another and begin again. This time he might progress swimmingly, and spend perhaps whole days in carefully chipping, till the rough stone began to take shape. Then he would substitute a lighter flint, and work with still greater care, only chipping off the first fragments,—and after all his labour, perhaps one sharp tap would prove fatal, and the carefully chiselled axe would split in two, revealing an unsuspected flaw in the centre. So the work must all be begun again, and the patient, persevering savage go on with his chipping till he succeeded in producing a perfect axe.

Then came the slow process of smoothing it by such delicate strokes as only removed a fine white dust, and last of all came laborious polishing with rough coral and water and fine sand, till the axe at length became a serviceable tool, ready to be bound with strongly plaited fibre to the bent wooden handle.

After this it had to be periodically ground by rubbing it on a very hard rock. We saw several rocks in Fiji scored with deep grooves from having constantly been used for this purpose; and of course they must exist in all countries in which stone celts have been in use, which, I suppose, means all corners of the round world, Britain included. I greatly doubt, however, whether the ancient Britons ever produced such artistic carved bowls and spears with their stone implements as these Pacific Islanders have done.

The men who worked with these tools needed wellnigh as much patience as those who manufactured them. Imagine a squad of men taking from fifteen to thirty days to fell a tree! Saith the old proverb, "Little strokes fell great oaks," and these were little strokes indeed! Of course a more rapid process was to make a slow fire all round the base of the tree, and so burn it down; but the fire so often ran up the heart of the tree, destroying it altogether, that the slower process proved best in the long-run. However, as a good-sized tree could thus be felled in three or four days, the rafters of houses were often thus prepared, and the branches burnt off. Once down, fire could be better used to divide the tree into useful lengths; and if a canoe were required, a long narrow line of fire was allowed to burn the whole length, its progress being regulated by the slow dripping of water. Thus the work left for the stone axe was considerably lessened, though it would still have puzzled a British carpenter to work with such tools.


Tuesday, 18th.

We are enjoying the most perfect weather—a calm sea and a faint sweet breeze. The vessel glides on her way so smoothly that we scarcely perceive any motion, and all yesterday I was able to work up my sketch of the grotto, sitting in a delightful improvised studio on the tiny bridge (la passerelle). We are not making much way, as we are sailing to economise fuel; but the days pass pleasantly, and there is always some ship-life going on, which to me has all the interest of novelty—either parade, or fire-stations, or fighting-stations, or cannon practice (mercifully done in dumb show!)

We are passing through a great shoal of jelly-fish—I suppose I ought to say medusæ—filmy, transparent creatures of very varied form. Some are like mushrooms, some like great bells, with delicately marked patterns of pale green or pink, and long fringe of feelers. They are beautiful by day, and at night gleam like balls of white fire. They are here in myriads, and are of all sizes, from a teacup to a cart-wheel. There are also a great number of flying-fish skimming on the surface of the glassy sea.

I am told that we are now 630 miles from Levuka in a direct line; but our détour in the Friendly Isles has made our voyage thence amount to about 1100 miles.

We have just sighted Mount Matafae, the highest point in the isle Tutuila. It is a conical mountain 2300 feet high, and lies just above Pango-Pango, the most perfect land-locked harbour in all the Samoan group, with water six or eight fathoms deep close in shore, and surrounded by luxuriantly wooded hills. At present we are steering straight for Leone, where the bishop has work awaiting him. The place had an evil name in old days, as that where M. de Langle, who accompanied La Pérouse on his expedition in 1787, was barbarously murdered, with eleven men of his boat's crew,—hence the name of "Massacre Bay," and the character of treacherous and bloodthirsty savages which for so many years clung to the people, till Messrs Williams and Barff arrived here in 1830 with their trained Tahitian teachers, and made friends with them. Then they learnt the native version of the fray, and heard the invariable story of innocence suffering for guilt,—namely, that a poor fellow who had gone off to the ship to trade had been detected in some trifling act of pilfering, when he was immediately shot and carried ashore mortally wounded. Of course his friends determined to avenge his death, and so assembled on the beach, armed with stones and clubs, ready to attack the invaders the moment they attempted to land. They were only carrying out the example given to them, and combined revenge for evil done, with prevention of further assault.
 

Pango-Pango Harbour, Tuesday Night.

After all, we did come here, for the anchorage at Leone is simply an open roadstead, and is not safe in a strong southerly gale. Captain Aube feared the wind might shift, so the vessel merely lay to, to allow a young priest, Père Vidal, to leap on board from his canoe, and then we ran right to this lovely spot, where we anchored at sunset.

It is indeed a perfect harbour. We are lying close to the shore, in water twenty-one fathoms deep, clear as crystal, and calm as any inland lake. Steep, richly wooded hills rise round us on every side to a height of about 1000 feet, and you can discern no entrance from the sea. It seems like living in a vast cup. The hills all round are covered with bread-fruit trees, oranges, limes, pine-apples, bananas, and all the usual wealth of tropical greenery.

This has been a calm, peaceful evening of soft moonlight. We sat on the passerelle while one of the officers, who is an excellent violinist, played one lovely romance after another, sometimes soaring to classical music. The others lay round him listening in rapt delight.

The air is fragrant with the breath of many blossoms, and indeed all the afternoon we have had delicious whiffs of true "spicy breezes," such as I remember vividly off Cape Comorin, but which I have not very often experienced at any distance from the land.




  1. Vide 'At Home in Fiji' (C. F. Gordon Cumming), vol. ii.