Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/222

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

ting that we drove through a most lovely ferny pass at a moment when all our umbrellas were striving to exclude the rain, in which they failed, and only succeeded in hiding the view.

Near the village of Papeari we found all the children of the Catholic school, headed by a very pleasant, keen-looking young priest; drawn up with the himène singers to welcome the king and the admiral. Of course they were all drenched, but none the less musical. At the head of the singers stood Marau's aunt, Minito, a true Tahitian chiefess, sister to Mrs Salmon, and widow of Mr Sumner, a Sandwich Island half-white.

The rain having ceased, we all walked together to Mrs Sumner's house, where we were partially dried—no fear of fever in this blessed climate. We then proceeded to the large cheferie, where breakfast was prepared in the usual style—the house prettily decorated with flags, tree-ferns, and plaited cocoa-palm leaves. The tables were all adorned with ornaments made of the solid white banana-stalk, in which were set branches of thorny lemon, and on each thorn were stuck different blossoms, scarlet or yellow hybiscus, canna, and gardenia. When we were seated, women came round bearing garlands of the delicate artificial arrowroot flowers, and crowned every one of us. Many of the party had already secured filmy plumes of the snowy reva-reva; and the majority of the women, following the good example of Marau, no longer pretend to have cut off their beautiful hair, but now wear it in two long jet-black tresses, adorned with gardenias or such other fragrant blossoms as they may find. With flowers as necklaces and ear-rings, the Court mourning is becoming less lugubrious.

After breakfast, himènes as usual, with interludes of most hideous dancing. There is never any variety, always the same utterly ungraceful wriggle. Happily the band generally comes to the rescue, with some attractive air, which puts the dancers to flight. There never seem to be more than two or three, and these do it as a professional exhibition—as a curious relic of olden times.

It does seem strange (accustomed as I now am to the endlessly varied and most graceful dances of the Fijians) to find that these