Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/226

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
198
A LADY'S CRUISE.

CHAPTER XIV.

THE ROYAL PROGRESS ROUND TAHITI (continued)—FRENCH FORT AT TARAVOU—THE PENINSULA—LIFE IN BIRD-CAGE HOUSES—TORCHLIGHT PROCESSION—RETURN TO PAPEETE.
Pueu, Thursday, 18th.

We woke this morning to find this beautiful world bathed in sunshine, and I slipped out for a lovely early stroll along the shore. There was a great calm, the sea literally without a ripple, reflecting the mellow tones of the sky. I followed a wide grass road passing through a cocoa plantation—luxuriant young palms of all ages, the ground beneath them carpeted with succulent grasses; a combination of fresh greens delightful to the eye. I think the heavy rain must have driven all the land-crabs out of their holes, for truly they were legion, and all were busily feeding, till, aware of a foot-step, they darted back to their burrows. In some spots they clustered in such numbers that the whole bank seemed in motion. Some of these are as large as a good Scotch "parten;" but there are also a vast number of the tiny crab, with one large bright-coloured claw, which love the muddy shore at the mouth of the rivers, where you may see them by the thousand, feeding busily with a tiny claw while holding the large one before them as a shield. Evidently, however, they know discretion to be the better part of valour, for at the faintest movement which reveals the approach of danger they vanish into their mud-holes faster than the twinkling of an eye.

Our morning halt was at Afaahiti, a small village of which the king himself is the chief, for which reason it had been arranged that he should sleep there last night. We found Marau and the ladies of the village stringing wreaths of sweet white blossoms, with which they crowned themselves and us; and then we all adjourned to breakfast in a bamboo house, decorated in the usual style with twisted and plaited leaves, and deep fringes of dyed fibre. Himènes, of course,—and then, while the band entertained the people, we, the unquiet spirits, wandered down to explore the shore, which is over-