Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/320

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hats, are now again suffered to hang at full length in two silky plaits, and hair and hats are wreathed with bright fragrant flowers of double Cape jessamine, orange-blossom, scarlet hybiscus, or oleander. Many wear a delicate white jessamine star in the ear in place of an ear-ring. The people here are not so winsome as those in remoter districts. Too much contact with shipping and grog-shops has of course gone far to deteriorate them, and take off the freshness of life; but a South Sea crowd is always made up of groups pleasant to the eye; and a party of girls dressed in long graceful sacques of pale sea-green, or delicate pink, pure white, or bright crimson, chatting and laughing as they roll up minute fragments of tobacco in strips of pandanus or banana to supply the inevitable cigarette, is always attractive.

The men all wear pareos of Manchester cotton stuff, prepared expressly for these isles, and of the most wonderful patterns. Those most in favour are bright crimson with a large white pattern, perhaps groups of red crowns on circles of white, arranged on a scarlet ground, or else rows of white crowns, alternating with groups of stars. A dark-blue ground with circles and crosses in bright yellow, or scarlet with yellow anchors and circles, also find great favour; and though they certainly sound "loud" when thus described, they are singularly effective. It is wonderful what a variety of patterns can be produced, not one of which has ever been seen in England. With these the men wear white shirts, and sailor's hats, with bright-coloured silk handkerchiefs tied over them and knotted on the ear; or else a gay garland.

On entering the market, it struck me that many of the sellers must have taken up their quarters over-night, for their gay quilts and pillows lay near, as they sat on their mats snatching a hasty breakfast of fruit or raw fish.

The latter is always in favour. Little fish or big fish of certain sorts are swallowed with apparently the same delight as you might hail a basket of ripe cherries; in fact, a green banana-leaf full of skipping shrimps, is a dainty dish for any pretty maid, who crunches the wriggling creatures with her gleaming white teeth, or lets them hop down her throat with the greatest coolness.