Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/225

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VANILLA PLANTATIONS.

dred thousand oranges are carried to San Francisco by every opportunity.

Imagine the joy of some poor ragged-school child, whose one treat is an orange at Christmas, and whose home is in the slums of any of our horrible cities, could it but wake to find itself in this elysium. I remember Dr Guthrie's ragged schools coming to spend one day at Winton Castle with dear old Lady Ruthven, and the teachers told me that there were many children present who had never before in their short lives set foot in the country. Would that they could all be transported for a while to the orange-groves of Tahiti!

To-day we also passed some large vanilla plantations, in admirable order. The vanilla is a creeper, and is planted at the foot of some shady shrub, up which it climbs and twines among the branches. To economise labour and space, two crops are combined, by training the vanilla over either coffee-bushes or the vermilion-tree, which carries its bright seeds in small pods. The vanilla itself is a precarious crop, requiring much watchful care at each stage of its growth, which, however, it well repays, as it fetches four dollars per pound. Moreover, it is a fragrant harvest.

This place is a military station; the French have a fort here, and some soldiers. I believe that political offenders are sent to Taravou to expiate their supposed misdeeds within its walls. M. de Damian, commandant of the fort, had provided comfortable quarters for the admiral and his party at his own house, and an excellent room was most kindly assigned to me. Marau and Ariiaue have gone on to another village, where we are to join them in the morning.

The French soldiers here employ some of their leisure hours in the care of a garden, which rewards them with excellent vegetables and glorious roses. I had the delight of arranging delicious nose-gays for the dinner-table this evening, and have a lovely bunch of roses now beside me.

It is again raining heavily, but we rejoice thereat, for generally a deluge of rain at night is followed by a clear balmy morning, and all the lovely vegetation appears in its freshest glory.

Now I must bid you good-night.