Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/207

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

was especially charmed by the beds provided for us,—very large and soft, stuffed with the silky tree-cotton; abundant pillows; real mosquito-nets and light curtains, tied back with gay ribbons; and such pretty coverlets of patchwork, really triumphs of art needle-work. Those most in favour have crimson patterns on a white ground, but the designs are highly artistic. It seems that a Tahitian housewife prides herself on her snowy linen and downy pillows—a very happy adaptation of foreign customs. Whenever it was possible so to arrange it, Marau and I shared the same room, which was a pleasant arrangement.

Each morning our procession of fifteen wheeled vehicles started at 7 a.m., preceded by native outriders carrying the gay district flag, which made a pretty bit of colour as we passed through the green glades. A drive of seven or eight miles brought us to our halting-point, where we found masses of people assembled to sing himènes of welcome, all, however, dressed in black, relieved only by crowns and handkerchiefs of yellow, or else a wreath or hat of snowy white bamboo or arrowroot fibre, and in their hair soft plumes of snowy reva-reva,—a filmy ribbon extracted from the cocoa-palm leaf. All the women were supposed to have cut off their beautiful long black hair, as mourning for old Queen Pomare; but happily a good many had only shammed, so now there is no lack of glossy black tresses. Those, however, who affect deep mourning, still wear black straw-hats trimmed with crape, and look most lugubrious, their dark sallow complexions and raven hair giving them such a very sombre appearance.

All the women without exception have their dresses cut on the pattern of the old English sacques worn by our grandmothers—that is, a yoke on the shoulders, from which the skirt falls to the feet, and trails behind. The effect is very easy and graceful, and it is a matter of deep congratulation that the dress in fashion in Europe at the period when Tahiti adopted foreign garments, should have been one so suitable. It would be impossible to devise a cooler dress, as it only touches the neck, shoulders, and (very loosely) the arms. The one under-garment is low-necked, short-sleeved, and of such a length as to form a sweeping skirt, thus