Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/280

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of the islands, and who on one of his plantations employs forty Chinamen, and about sixty natives of the Gilbert Islands—for here, as in all other places where white men endeavour to cultivate the land, they find it necessary to employ labourers imported from other isles, as they cannot extract the same amount of work from men living on their native soil.

Hitherto only about a hundred Chinese, and as many Gilbert Islanders, have been imported, and cotton is the only article grown expressly for exportation. Of course where cocoa-palms are so abundant, a considerable amount of coppra[1] is to be obtained; but the natives have unfortunately been instructed in the art of making palm-rum, and trees which have been tapped for this purpose rarely recover their full strength as nut-producers. Happily, in this matter, self-interest leads the colonists to support the missionaries in their endeavours to dissuade the people from thus misusing the palm-trees; but, on the other hand, foreign traders are too ready to supply more fiery stimulants, and drunkenness prevails to a grievous extent.

Nearly all these isles supply one indigenous article of commerce—namely, a kind of fungus, which is much appreciated in China. It looks like dried-up leather, but is not unpalatable when stewed or served in soup. A considerable amount of this is obtained in most of the Marquesan valleys.

Of colonists, properly so called, there are very few. About fifty white men are scattered throughout the isles. Of these, some trade; others cultivate the soil; while a few wander aimlessly from bay to bay, island to island, living upon whatever the natives like to give them: they are either too lazy to work, or too dishonest to find employment. These men include waifs from all nationalities, including Scotch, English, Irish, American, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Although a French colony, there are only three or four French subjects who can be classed as colonists; but here, as elsewhere, the frugal and diligent Chinaman seems likely to take firm root.

Nukuheva bay (where the Seignelay is probably now anchored)

  1. Sun-dried nut, exported for the manufacture of oil.