Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/301

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long and so heavy, that it is carried to market slung from a pole, resting on the shoulders of two men, just as in the old pictures of the Israelitish spies bearing the grapes of Eshcol, which were the delight of our childhood. It must be toilsome work to carry these weighty spoils of the mountains from the remote ravines where they chiefly flourish.

All these heaps of golden fruit form a brilliant foreground to the beautiful harbour beyond, which at this early hour reflects only the pale, glowing daffodil hues of a cloudless sky, against which the exquisite outline of Moorea stands out in clear relief. Suddenly its delicate pearly grey is flushed with rose colour, as the first ray of the rising sun touches those lofty summits, and veinings of tender blue mark the course of deep glens and corries, or the shadows cast by prominent crags and pinnacles.

Nearer—so near, indeed, that we can distinguish friendly faces on the decks—lie the French men-of-war; and as the light touches them, their dead white changes to cream colour, and they and their unfurled sails, and the clothes hung out to dry, are all reflected in the calm water. So, too, are the various trading-ships, and the great hulk of a large iron vessel, which caught fire fifteen months ago when she was near the Marquesas. Her crew took to their boats, and two of these arrived here safely. A good while after, the deserted ship, still burning, drifted down towards here. The Seignelay went out and towed in the wreck. She had been laden with coal, and this had run into a sort of semi-fluid, tarry condition, and to this hour it is still smouldering; and after a shower of rain, steam and smoke still rise from the poor old hulk, which is so red from rust that you would think she had been painted vermilion. It is a vexed question whether she can ever be turned to account, or whether she should not be towed outside the reef, and there sunk.[1]

Just beyond the shipping, inside the harbour, is a small island fortified by the French. The incongruity of ramparts and guns is hidden by foliage of hybiscus and palms; and it forms one item in the beauty of the scene.

  1. The question was decided in her favour. She has been refitted and renamed and now sails the Pacific as the Annie Johnson.