Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/185

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159
A NOBLE TREE.

ing musician, and most graceful artist, and has promised to make my way easy for several sketching expeditions.

I had not been an hour ashore, when (on the strength of a letter of introduction from Dr Turner of Malua) I received the very kindest invitation from Mr and Mrs Green to come and stay with them in this their lovely home, just out of the town, and close to the consulate—a delightful nest, embowered in mango and bread-fruit trees, with oleanders and hybiscus to lend colour to the whole. It is only separated from the sea by the pleasant garden and a belt of turf; so there is nothing to impede the view of the beautiful harbour and blue peaks of Moorea, while the valley behind the house runs up to a background of fine hills, which all to-day have been bathed in soft sunlight—that clear shining that comes after rain.

On one side of the little lawn stands a noble old banyan-tree, from the very heart of which grows a tall cocoa-palm,—a curious tree-marriage, greatly admired by the people; but in an evil hour an idiotic surveyor ascended this tree to take observations, and fastened a wire to the primary fronds, thereby of course cutting them, and so killing the palm, which now remains a poor dead monument of ignorant stupidity. The banyan suffers from another cause. The Tahitians believe that a decoction of its brown filaments and rootlets is a certain remedy for some forms of illness. They are therefore continually appealing to Mr Green for permission to cut them; and thus the growth of the tree is considerably checked. However, it covers a sufficient space to form a famous playground for the children, of whom there are a cheery little flock, though here, as in most remote colonies, the absence of all the elder ones forms the chief drawback to the happiness of their parents. But education in all its aspects has to be sought elsewhere than in beautiful Tahiti, by those who do not wish their families to become altogether insular; and my host and hostess retain far too loving memories of their own early homes in Wiltshire and Devon to allow their children to grow up estranged from their English kinsfolk.

This, like the majority of houses here, is a wooden bungalow,