Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/213

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185
A TAHITIAN DINNER.

and it continued to play till four o'clock, when our procession again formed, and another lovely drive along the shore brought us to Paea.

This is a charmingly situated hamlet of clean, comfortable houses, only divided from the white coral-sand by a belt of green turf and fine old iron-wood trees. Here our night quarters were assigned to us; and certainly we are in clover. I am now sitting in "my own room"—one of four good bed-rooms, opening off a large centre room,—all fresh and clean, and gay with bright quilts and snowy linen. The king and queen, and all the officers, and the band, have their quarters in different houses.

But the pride of the district is its very large house for public entertainment,—a long building, rounded at both ends like the Tongan houses, with heavy thatch, and very light bamboo sides, quite transparent. Here dinner was laid, in European style, for 300 guests,—an upper table at one end, where the chiefs of the district entertained the royal party. Other tables were ranged down each side of the building,—each family in the neighbourhood undertaking to provide for one, and there assemble their own friends. The whole great building is beautifully decorated in Tahitian style, with palm-leaves and tree-ferns, and festoons of deep fringe, made of hybiscus fibre, all dyed either yellow or white: there must be miles of this fringe on that house. Yellow is happily admitted in Court mourning; so the majority of the people have either a yellow neck-tie, or some yellow flowers in their hats—a symptom of mitigated affliction, to express the pleasure that now mingles in their grief for the good queen.

"Le Roi est mort,—Vive le Roi!"

But everywhere we find all the people clothed in long black robes, with black hats and cropped hair, instead of the customary bright colours, long glossy tresses, and gay wreaths. Here, even the district flag-staff is adorned with a deep fringe of black fibre.

We went to dinner in most orthodox fashion, the admiral conducting Marau, and Ariiaue taking me. The feast was warranted to be entirely à l'indigène,—all native dishes; but its great charm consisted in the table decorations, which were most ingenious and