Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/175

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151
UNDER EXTRA STEAM.

trace of land save two inquisitive boobies, which have for some hours been flying round us, it is hard to realise that to-morrow we are to enter the far-famed harbour of Papeete, and that by this time to-morrow evening we shall be ashore, listening to the himénes of the multitude assembled for the great feast which begins the next day—a great feast, by the way—held in honour of the anniversary of the Protectorate! I wonder how poor old Queen Pomare likes it!

We left Samoa on Monday, 1st October, and the next day was also called Monday, October 1st, to square the almanacs, so that we can say we had done the 1700 miles in just a week. The weather has been considerably against us, but extra steam was put on to insure catching this mail, as great stress is evidently laid on not losing a day in reporting the proceedings at Samoa to the Home Government. The amount of reports written since we started has been something prodigious! . . .

What with all this writing going on, and the extra motion of the vessel from travelling at such unwonted speed, life has not been so tranquilly pleasant as in the previous weeks. I have had quite to give up my cosy studios on the big gun-carriage, or my quiet corner of the bridge. Instead of these, I have found a place of refuge and a hearty welcome in le carré (the gun-room), which does not dance so actively as the captain's cabin, over the screw. In it at this moment a select set are either reading or writing their home letters, ready for the 'Frisco[1] mail, which is supposed to sail from Tahiti on Monday morning. . . .

(At this point, a wave breaking over the ship, trickled down on my head through the skylight. Hence the smudge. I wonder how you would write with the table alternately knocking your nose and then rolling you over to the opposite side of the cabin!)

Every creature on board is rejoicing at the prospect of returning to the Tahitian Elysium. To me this has been a dream ever since my nursery days, when the big illustrated volumes of old voyages that lay in my father's dressing-room were the joy of many a happy hour, combined with such sticks of barley-sugar as I can never find at any confectioner's nowadays! There we first read the romantic

  1. Colonial abbreviation for San Francisco.