Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/212

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patchwork quilts. These are the joy and pride of the Tahitian women, and so artistic in design as to be really ornamental.

To speak correctly, I should call this repast a faamuraai.e., a feeding: our fish should have been wrapped in plantain-leaves, and broiled on the embers; the pigs baked on hot stones in earth ovens, where the peeled bread-fruit and bunches of faes, or mountain-plantain, should likewise have been cooked; and the only salt provided should have been a little sea-water in a cocoa-nut shell. But Tahiti has gone ahead so fast, that I cannot answer for how things are done nowadays. I know that, instead of vegetable plates—i.e., layers of large round hybiscus-leaves—we ate off foreign plates, with knives and forks of best electro-plate, and drank our red wine from clearest crystal glasses, and snowy napkins were not forgotten.

There was a considerable consumption of raw fish, which is considered a very great delicacy, and one for which many foreigners acquire a strong liking. There is no accounting for tastes. King Ariiaue, who takes great care of me at meals, has been trying to teach me this enjoyment, and on my objecting, declares it is mere prejudice, as of course I eat oysters raw—we might almost say alive. To this I can answer nothing, well remembering the savage delight with which we have often knocked our own oysters off rocks and branches, and swallowed them on the instant! But then they are so small, and some of these fish are very large. Perhaps one's instinctive objection is to their size. Those most in favour are of a most exquisite green colour.

During breakfast, and afterwards, the glee-singers of the district sang himènes, which are the national music—most strange and beautiful part-songs. Afterwards dancing was suggested; but only a few men volunteered to show us the Upa-upai.e., the old national dance—which is merely an exceedingly ungraceful wriggle, involving violent exertion, till every muscle quivers, and the dancer retires panting, and in a condition of vulgar heat. It is the identical dance which we saw at the Arab wedding at Port Said, and in various other countries—always an unpleasant exhibition. Happily the band struck up some gay air, which delighted the people;