Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/232

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204
A LADY'S CRUISE.

course we all arrived soaked, and have spent the day in trying to get dry. I think most of the gentlemen have managed a few hours of sleep.


In the Cheferie, Mahaena, Monday, 22nd.

An early drive brought us to Hitiaa, the house of little Hinoi's mother, the pretty young widow of the Prince de Joinville. Everything here was very gracefully done, and the festival as purely native as possible. Here the severity of Court mourning was not mitigated, and all the women wore crowns of fibre dyed black, which looked very sombre.

Immediately after breakfast we started for Mahaena, preceded by a party of six or eight picturesque lancers, who had formed part of old Queen Pomare's body-guard. They added a pleasant feature to the beautiful scenery as they rode along the green glades, through the usual successions of glorious foliage;—groves of magnificent bread-fruit trees, indigenous to those isles; next a clump of noble mango-trees, recently imported, but now quite at home; then a group of tall palms, or a long avenue of gigantic bananas, their leaves, sometimes twelve feet long, meeting over our heads. Then came patches of sugar or Indian corn, and next a plantation of vanilla, trained to climb over closely planted tall coffee, or else over vermilion-bushes. Sometimes it is planted, without more ado, at the root of pruned guava-bushes. These grow wild over the whole country, loaded with large, excellent fruit, and, moreover, supply the whole fuel of the isles, and good food for cattle. They are all self-sown,—descendants of a few plants introduced as garden fruit-trees,—and now they have overrun the isles and are looked upon by the planters as a curse, because of the rapidity and tenacity with which they take possession of any patch of neglected land. Yet a plant which so generously yields food for man and beast, and abundant fuel, is surely not altogether evil! Amongst all this wealth of food-producing vegetation, I sometimes looked in vain for any trees that were merely ornamental; and literally there were only the yellow hybiscus, which yields the useful fibre, and the candle-nut, covered with clusters of white blossoms, somewhat