Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/198

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

up like a sheet of parchment and tied with a strip of bark. A plantain-leaf being about fifteen inches wide, and perhaps six feet in length, would allow of a very long message being written on one scroll, and answered very well, provided the letter had not far to travel; but of course the leaf would shrivel and split within a few days. Now letters are written on common note-paper, and bear the postage-stamps of the French Republic.

No longer are children summoned to school, and congregations to worship, by the king's messenger, lightly draped, but gaily wreathed, passing swiftly round the village, blowing loud blasts on his great trumpet-shell, and pausing at intervals to invite the presence of the people. Now his place is filled by the very commonplace bell of civilised life.

In the matter of dress, too,—though we may be thankful that Prince Alfred's strong commendation of the graceful sacque has caused it to triumph over all varieties of changeful and unbecoming fashion, which for a while found favour here, and which ere now have covered these comely heads with English bonnets and close-fitting white caps(!)—the artistic eye would certainly prefer the dress of olden days: that of the women consisting of soft drapery of beautiful cream-coloured native cloth, wound round the body, passed under one arm and knotted on the other shoulder, revealing the shapely neck and arm, while gay garlands wreathed their hair; and for ear-rings, some wore a fragrant blossom passed through one ear, and, in the other, two or three large pearls fastened together with finely braided human hair.

The men, so many of whom have now adopted coat and trousers, then wore either a very finely plaited, fringed mat, or a pareoi.e., kilt of native cloth, made either from the bark of the paper-mulberry or that of the bread-fruit, or else from the filaments of the banyan-tree. Of these the former was the whitest, and preferred for women; the latter was very thin and brown. The cloth made from the bark of the bread-fruit was very strong, and was dyed according to taste—either of a rich chocolate, a brilliant yellow, or red. The two last were the favourite colours, and were obtained from the sap and berries of different trees. Sometimes the cloth