Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/235

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207
A TORCHLIGHT PROCESSION.

their aunt's funeral; and the three brothers spent the afternoon together by themselves—a wise course, as Tamatoa had striven so hard to drown his grief, that he had attained a jocose-beatific condition, very annoying to the king, who all this time has been a model of sobriety, greatly to the delight of the admiral.

This quiet little village presents the usual anomaly of a very large Roman Catholic church without a congregation, standing close to the original congregational church. The latter is a large cool building, in which I gladly took refuge to escape from noise and heat; for several friends who had driven down from Papeete to meet us, were so delighted to find a smooth carpet, that they commenced dancing immediately after late breakfast, and kept it up merrily all the afternoon.

When the heat began to subside I found my way to the great lighthouse, where the French officials were most obliging, and did the honours of their lofty tower with all courtesy. From the summit there is a grand view of mountains, including Orofena, which is the highest point of Tahiti—height 7336 feet. At our feet lay the village, concealed by a sea of waving palms, only their crowns visible, and rippling like running water as the light breeze passed over them. It was a splendid sketching-point, and I held my ground till a party of the dancers came to summon me to the banquet.

Then followed as pretty a scene as I have ever witnessed. We had to drive twelve miles to Papeete; and as the nights are dark, and the moon was not due till towards midnight, we knew that torches would be required—but only expected the necessary number. The Tahitians had, however, resolved on a demonstration, to show their appreciation of the course adopted by the admiral, and their gratitude for his sympathy. So when we had toiled up a long steep hill, about three miles from Point Venus, we were met by a company of stalwart men carrying blazing torches of cocoa-palm leaves, about twelve feet long. These turned and preceded us, their numbers receiving continual reinforcements, some on horseback, some on foot, till they mustered fully a thousand, and the ruddy glare of the torches illumined the rich masses of foliage,