Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/285

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253
A DELIGHTFUL CLIMATE.

tive resting-place—the houses smothered in luxuriant foliage, both indigenous and exotic, ornamental and fruit-bearing; banyan, iron-wood, candle-nut, hybiscus, palms, bread-fruit, orange, citron, lemon, guava, South Sea chestnut, and ever so many other trees, all growing in richest beauty; and every rock and pinnacle is carpeted with mosses and grasses, or festooned with tropical vines. The precipitous crags all around are so thickly clothed, that they suggest green velvet draperies striped with lines of molten silver; these are merry cascades, falling from sources 3000 feet above the valley, and forming three large streams, which dash among rocky boulders on their seaward way.

But Mr Coan seems to award the palm of beauty to the valley of Atuona on Isle Hiva-oa. He says it is a broad, deep valley, umbrageous and peaceful, and watered by a limpid, babbling stream. The trees are magnificent, and the vines run riot in their luxuriance. The great rampart of rocks rising in the background is the highest point of all the islands, and it is usually wreathed with clouds. "The broken hills form columns, spurs, pinnacles, coves, and sharp lateral ribs. Some are round, some angular, some stratified, some laminated, some truncated, some pointed. They lie in all positions—horizontal, tilted, vertical—with heaps of scoria revealing their igneous origin. Rock is piled on rock, hill upon hill, ridge upon ridge, mountain upon mountain—serried, castellated, turreted, . . . forming masses of confused harmony, defying all the art of the limner, the pen-and-ink painter, and the descriptive powers of man."

Now I do hope you sympathise in my ever-increasing regret at having missed my chance of visiting so marvellous a scene of beauty!

The climate, too, must be delightful. It is soft and balmy, and the dense foliage affords such constant shade that even the rays of a tropical sun can only trickle through in bright gleams, while the cooling sea-breeze seems never to fail. Severe storms are rare, and hurricanes unknown in the group. In short, the climate is equable, mild, and wellnigh perfect.

The mission party sailed from one beautiful isle to another, to