Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/302

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This is the view from the front of the Red House. The back windows look over green mango-trees, and past the spire of the Roman Catholic church, to the great purply mountains of the interior. So you see that, although this big square three-storeyed house of very red brick, encased in closed verandahs, is not in itself an ornamental building, its surroundings are very lovely. And of the kindliness that reigns within it, words fail me to tell. It is an atmosphere of genial cordiality, in which each guest is at once made to feel as welcome, and as thoroughly at home, as any member of the large family. It is a kindness as unconscious, but as real and as delightful, as the balmy air we breathe, and is as purely Tahitian. What would these warm-hearted open-handed people think of the measured cold reception of strangers in our grey British isles?

To begin with, I discovered, on arriving here, that Mrs Brander had actually given me her own charming suite of rooms, to secure my having the fullest enjoyment of the lovely view and of the cool verandahs; so that I virtually am in solitary possession of this whole flat, with its large handsome drawing-room and cosy boudoir. I compare myself to one of the hermit-crabs which curl themselves into desirable shells, to the exclusion of the rightful owners! But my most hospitable hostess will not allow that she suffers any inconvenience; though she and her children have moved downstairs to share one huge room with any number of friends and relations, who spread their soft mattresses and pillows, and very gay quilts, and make themselves cosy for the night, just as the fancy takes them. The fine old mother has a house near, but very often she and the pretty sisters prefer to sleep here: so do sundry cousins and friends. There are also a number of Tahitian women of good birth who find a home, almost by right, in the house of every high chief, and who in return do him, or her, such light service as may be required. But of actual servants, as we understand the word, there are none.

I find an element of great comfort in the presence of an English woman who acts as housekeeper—a most unexpected discovery in Tahiti! She brings my early breakfast of tea and fruit, and otherwise takes great care of me.