Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/324

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themselves joyously at all hours of the day; and the first hospitable offer made to callers, is that of a pareo and towels, that they may at once enjoy this most refreshing luxury.

I, being a foolish non-swimmer, and moreover somewhat ungregarious, have discovered a bathing paradise for myself some way further up the stream, where the interlacing boughs of cool blue-grey hybiscus foliage form an immense arbour—a dressing-room of leafy shade, through which the gurgling waters flow gently, with rippling, liquid, most musical tones—the voice of hidden streams. Here a rivulet leaves the main river, and its sparkling waters play over a thick velvety carpet of the softest, greenest mosses, forming the most delightful couch you can imagine; while from the leafy canopy overhead drop pale lemon-coloured blossoms, which float idly down the stream; and from the wild guava bushes I can pluck any number of ripe guavas, or, to be still more luxurious, I may gather luscious mangoes on my way from the house. Can you wonder that so fascinating a bower is not only my first attraction at early dawn, but a favourite retreat at all hours? Sometimes I end the evening with a moonlight bathe, but am inclined to think that this is imprudent, as it is always followed by a feeling of chill, though the water and air both feel warm and delicious.

My hostess has presented me with a couple of sacques like those worn by all Tahitian ladies. They are the perfection of dress in this climate, being so delightfully cool. They are literally flowing garments, for they only touch you at the shoulders, and thence fall in long loose folds. So when the first ray of light gilds the high mountains in which this lovely valley lies embosomed, I slip on one of those simple dresses, and start barefoot across the dewy lawn and by the grassy paths that lead to the stream. Going barefoot is only a preliminary stage of bathing, for the grass is saturated with moisture, and an early walk across a field is about equivalent to walking knee-deep through a river.

Curiously enough, it is to this heavy night-dew that the royal family of Tahiti owe their name of Pomare, which literally means "night cough." About four generations back the king chanced to be sleeping on the mountains and exposed to the penetrating dew