It is the inner coating of the flower-stalk, which is a hollow stem like that of hemlock, and grows to a height of about four feet. These stalks are soaked in running water till the green outer skin begins to decay. Then the stalk is laid on a flat wooden board, and a woman slits it open from end to end with a sharp shell, with which she then proceeds to scrape off every particle of green, and there remains a lovely ribbon, like very glossy white satin, ribbed longitudinally: with a sharp thorn she divides this into very narrow strips. And this is the material most in use in the art-world of Tahiti, being woven by deft fingers into all manner of pretty ornaments for hair, dress, and fans. Bamboo is prepared in much the same manner, but is a harsher material to work, and much less ornamental.
The house at Papara, and the large breakfast-room, were most tastefully decorated with great tree-ferns and bright yellow banana-leaves, plaited to form a sort of fringe. Wild melodious himènes were sung all the time of the feast, and afterwards the band played operatic airs till 3 o'clock, when we once more started on our journey.
In this district much cultivation has impaired the beauty of wild nature. Large tracts of land have been laid out for scientific planting of cotton and coffee; and after all, the fields have been abandoned, the crops left to run wild, and are now rank straggling bushes struggling for life with the overmastering vines. In itself the cotton is a pretty shrub, its yellow blossom with claret-coloured heart closely resembling the lemon-coloured hybiscus, while its bursting pods offer their soft white fluff to all comers. But a softer, silkier cotton for stuffing pillows, is that obtained from the tall cotton-tree, with the scarlet blossom and long green pod.
We halted at the melancholy deserted plantation of Atiamano, which in very recent years was the home of the manager for the Tahiti Cotton and Coffee Plantation Company—a reckless speculator with the capital intrusted to him. Never was there a truer illustration of the proverb concerning cutting broad thongs from other men's leather.
Mr William Stewart, an ex-cavalry officer, arrived in Tahiti