Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/208

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combining chemise and petticoat. Shoes and stockings are of course superfluous.

Having halted and feasted at the morning district, we started again about two o'clock, drove seven or eight miles further, always through lovely country, and so reached our night quarters, where we were again received by assembled multitudes and congratulatory himènes. Then the band played, as it had done at our noon-day halt, to the great delight of the people; and we strolled about, and bathed in some clear crystalline stream, reassembling for a great native feast, which, however, was served European fashion, as each district possesses its own crockery, glass, knives, forks, spoons, &c. The admiral provided French wines and bread.

Then followed more himène singing; while we sat listening, entranced, either in the great house, or on the beautiful sea-shore, in the perfect moonlight. Himènes are a new sensation in music, utterly indescribable—the strangest, wildest, most perplexing chants; very musical and varied, quite impossible to catch. They are a curious and fascinating sort of glee-chorus, in which every one seems to introduce any variations he fancies, but always in perfect tune, and producing a combination like most melodious cathedral chimes—rising and falling in rippling music, and a droning undertone sounding through it all. The whole air seems full of musical voices perfectly harmonised—now in unison, now heard singly; one moment lulled to softest tones, then swelling in clear ringing melody; voices now running together, now diverging. The singers compose their own words, which sometimes describe the most trivial details of passing events, sometimes are fragments of most sacred hymns—according to the impulse of the moment. Perhaps this last fact gives us a clue to the origin of the word hymn-ene; though I fancy that the words sung are often those of older and less seemly songs than the hymns taught by the early missionaries.

This is an outline of what has been our daily life for the last ten days. All has gone off without a single drawback, and it has been a spell of thorough enjoyment: nothing could exceed the kindness of every one, whether French or Tahitian. I think that