Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/101

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
77
UNDER THE UNION-JACK.

their own use; and Mrs Liardet has given them her tin-lined piano-case, which they have converted into a very good comfortable bath. They have sunk it near the well, and fenced it round, so it answers capitally, and has the merit of being quite a novel use for a piano-case!

All their arrangements are very tidy; and they are a fine, dignified lot—especially the chiefs; and all are so very nice and respectful, that their presence in and about the house is not half such an inconvenience as you might imagine. Indeed Mrs Liardet and Mrs Bell have grown quite fond of them; and they in their turn delight to play with Mrs L.'s baby, who is a bright little laughing pet. Indeed they act as a splendid guard, and are always quiet and well-behaved. But some of the poor fellows have terrible coughs, which keep themselves and us awake half the night; and being awake, they do talk a good deal, which diminishes the chance of our falling asleep again.

They are a handsome race, pleasant to the eye, and happily do not, like so many of the Tongan chiefs, affect foreign dress. They either wear fine mats, or else very thick handsome native cloth of bread-fruit or paper-mulberry fibre. Very few wear any covering on the shoulders, so the fine bronzed figures are seen to full advantage; and as I look down from this verandah I see on every side of me such groups as an artist would love to paint. Picturesque men, women, and children, bright sunlight and gay blossoms, rich foliage, and palm-leaves flashing like quicksilver as they wave in the breeze, framing the blue waters of the harbour, where the foreign ships lie anchored.

But all these poor people do look so sad, and no wonder; for even if their lives are saved, all their property is lost, and many of these were the wealthy nobles of the land. Some people here say that they might now safely return to their usual life; but others, equally old inhabitants, and equally well informed, say they are in as great danger as ever. It seems just touch-and-go whether a few days will see the renewal of a very bloody war, or whether all will agree to an unconditional cession to England. There is a strong impression that if Sir Arthur Gordon were to arrive here now, the