they, of course, can always contrive to pick up a living somehow—but the bulk of the large village of wooden houses, once tenanted by master and men, now stands empty, the plantation is utterly neglected, the cotton-fields are all overgrown with guava scrub, and the whole place is a picture of desolation; nothing flourishes save the long avenue of plantains, which, Tahiti fashion, are planted on either side of the road.
It seems strange that no enterprising person should have stepped in to buy up the estate which, at the time of Mr Stewart's death, was in such good working order; but, like everything else in this country, it has suffered from the meddling propensities of the French Government, which, when the estate was declared bankrupt, fixed on it an upset price so exorbitant, that no purchaser has yet been found, nor is any likely to come forward.
We have now got into the true orange country. Some of the trees here are much larger than the parent trees, which we saw near Sydney; and yet, as compared with the orange-groves of Malta, we thought the Australian trees were perfect giants—that is to say, we could walk upright under their lowest branches. The whole air is perfumed with the fragrant blossoms, and boughs have been gathered to adorn our rooms.
Here, though the dining-hall is as fine as in other districts, the sleeping quarters are less inviting, so Marau offered me a room in the house assigned to her. Being a native house (i.e., not built of wood, as many now are), it is rather like living in a bamboo cage, exceedingly airy and transparent; but it is lined with temporary curtains, so we are screened from the general public. This afternoon we strolled along the coast till we found a most delightful bathing place, where the Anapu, a clear delicious river, flows into the sea. The two pretty girls, Manihinihi and Vaetua, of course bore us company, as also the queen's handmaid, who was laden with pareos and towels; the pareo being simply a couple of fathoms of bright-coloured calico, which, knotted over one shoulder, forms an efficient and picturesque bathing-gown.
We returned just in time for such a fish-dinner as Greenwich never equalled. Fish of all sorts and kinds (cooked and raw to