Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/211

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about twenty French officers, Mr Barff as interpreter, and Joseph Miller.

The weather was perfect—not too hot; a brisk trade-wind brought the sea roaring and tumbling in heavy breakers on the coral-reef, about a mile from the shore, where our road skirted the calm lagoon, so blue and peaceful and still. We drove through districts which seemed like one vast orchard of mango, bread-fruit, banana, faes, large orange-trees, lemons, guavas, citrons, papawas, vanilla, coffee, sugar-cane, maize, and cocoa-palm,—together forming a succession of the very richest foliage it is possible to conceive. Sometimes we amused ourselves by counting such few trees as are not fruit-bearing. Here and there the broad grass roads are edged with avenues of tall plantains,—very handsome in a dead calm, but too delicate to endure the rough wooing of these riotous trade-winds, which tear the huge leaves to ribbons, so that the avenues are apt to have a disjasket look.

Even the commonest crops are attractive,—the Indian corn and the sugar, each growing to a height of eight or ten feet, with long leaves like gigantic grass, and pendent tassels of delicate pink silk.

We halted at various points, where deputations had assembled to welcome the king, and about eleven o'clock reached Punavia,—a lovely spot on the sea-shore, at the mouth of a beautiful valley, above which towers Le Diadème (that same crown-shaped mountain which I told you is so grand as seen from Fautawa valley).

Of course I had not failed to bring my large sketching-blocks; and, thanks to the kindness of Mr Green, I had been able to replace my mildewed paper by a store of French paper, sold by the Government offices at Papeete as unfit for use; but to me, after long experience of Fijian mildew, it proved an unspeakable prize. M. Fayzeau, himself a graceful artist, helped me quickly to select the very best spot for a sketch,—from near a ruined French fort on the shore. Two small forts, further up the valley recalled the days when Tahiti made her brave but unavailing struggle for independence.

Ere long we were summoned to breakfast,—a native feast in a native house, which was decorated in most original style, with large