Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/305

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273
A SOUTH SEA STORE.

customers can possibly invent, from white satin shoes to ship anchors. For he has not only to provide for the island population, but must be ready to supply any ships that happen to come into harbour with whatever they require. Fresh meats and preserved meats, New Zealand beef, Australian mutton, condensed milk and tinned butter, Californian "canned" vegetables and fruits, candles and lamps, oils of various kinds, firearms and gunpowder, hair-oil and brushes, wines and spirits, letter-paper and ledgers, books and framed pictures, cutlery of all sorts—from a penknife to a cutlass, or from a hair-pin to a harpoon—wine-glasses and tumblers, necklaces and brooches, crockery and physic: these, and a thousand other items, are all on hand, and appear at a moment's notice.

And as the store is the centre of all business, it is a general rendezvous; in fact, a sort of club, where pleasant cooling drinks are not unknown, and where much amusing gossip may be heard, for that is an article not unknown even in Tahiti!

Provisioning large vessels for long voyages is no easy matter here, where all animals have to be imported, as these beautiful hills and valleys afford very poor pasture-land, being all overrun with guava scrub. So shiploads of cattle are despatched from the Sandwich Isles, at very irregular intervals, by sailing ships, which sometimes are detained so long by contrary winds and calms, that the poor beasts are almost starved. The sheep are equally lean; and in fact, pork and fowls are about the only satisfactory meat-supply.


Thursday, 22d Nov.

It is hard to think of you all, enduring the miseries of chill November, while we are revelling day after day, and night after night, in an atmosphere of balmy delight and clear blue heavens. Last night we all went to the admiral's big reception, au Gouvernement, and a very gay scene it was, so many pretty women in very fresh, simple muslin sacques—only a few French ladies adhering to Parisian fashions. The ball-room has an excellent inlaid floor; and as the music is most enlivening, and the French naval officers enjoy dancing quite as much as any of the girls, they kept it up