Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/304

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signature. But she never seems to forget anything or any one; and, moreover, has time to prove herself a most devoted mother to her nine children—of whom one is married in Valparaiso, another here, some of the sons are at school in Scotland, and the baby daughters are the pets and darlings of this house.

Mrs Brander owns a fleet of about twenty smart trading schooners, which run backwards and forwards between Tahiti and such points as San Francisco, Valparaiso, and New Zealand, carrying the cargoes of all sorts collected by other vessels (of the same fleet) in the surrounding isles and the neighbouring groups.

These cargoes consist chiefly of coppra—that is, dried cocoa-nut kernel, broken into little bits for convenience of stowage on the far journey to England or other lands, where it is subjected to such heavy pressure as extracts the oil, leaving a residue of oil-cake for the fattening of British beeves. For the gourmet of China, quantities of edible fungus and dried bêche-de-mer are sent to San Francisco, whence they are passed on to Hong-Kong. Tons of large pearl-shells, measuring about eight inches across, with beautifully iridescent lining, go to make buttons and such articles, in all parts of the world; true pearls of considerable value are occasionally found in these, and a large number of average size. Of the fruits of the isles, oranges form the largest export, but vanilla, coffee, and various other products swell the list. At one time cotton was a good article of export, but it appears to have fallen into disfavour.

The vessels return from their several destinations laden with every conceivable variety of goods. There is nothing that luxury can desire which does not find its way to these remote isles, from the newest scent to the finest dress materials—not even excepting silks and velvets, though for whose benefit these are imported, passes my comprehension.

Truly wonderful is that compendium of all things needful, known as "a store," and that of La Maison Brandère is the largest in Papeete. Like "the merchant" of a Scotch village, magnified a thousandfold, the owner of a South Sea store must be ready to supply all the most incongruous demands which his