Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/321

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289
THE MARKET.

The fish here offered for sale are of every sort and size and colour. Large silvery fish, flat fish; long narrow fish with prolonged snouts, excellent to eat; the au or needle-fish, with long sharp-pointed head; and gay scarlet and green and blue fishes of every colour of the rainbow. I have seen gaudy fish in many tropical seas, but nowhere such brilliancy as here. There are rock-fish of all sorts, bonito, good fresh-water salmon with white flesh, eels, mussels, turtle, clams, echini, prawns, red and white cray-fish, &c., &c. Sometimes the market has a fair supply of poultry, turkeys, fowls, pigeons, and wild duck,—generally a few live pigs, which are carried hanging from a pole and squealing pitifully. They are very good, and clean feeders, being allowed to wander at large, and find themselves in cocoa-nuts and bread-fruit. The enterprising Chinamen, as usual, improve the vegetable supply, especially in the matter of what I venture to call Christian potatoes, in opposition to the indigenous potato, alias yam.

Every one brings to the morning market whatever he happens to have for sale. Some days he has a large stock-in-trade, sometimes next to nothing. But, be it little or be it much, he divides it into two lots, and slings his parcels or baskets from a light bamboo-pole which rests across his shoulder, and, light as it is, often weighs more than the trifles suspended from it,—perhaps a few shrimps in a green leaf are slung from one end, and a lobster from the other, or, it may be, a tiny basket of new-laid eggs balanced by half-a-dozen silvery fishes.

But often the burden is so heavy that the pole bends with the weight—of perhaps two huge bunches of mountain bananas—and you think how that poor fellow's shoulder must have ached as he carried his spoil down the steep mountain-path from the cleft in the rugged rock where the faees had contrived to take root. These resemble bunches of gigantic golden plums. As a bit of colour they are glorious, but as a vegetable I cannot learn to like them,—which is perhaps as well, as the native proverb says that the foreigner who does appreciate faees, can never stay away from Tahiti.

As you enter the cool shady market you see hundreds of those