Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/328

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beneath the shadow of very large trees, whose great boughs overhang the white coral beach,—shell-strewn and crab-haunted. At high tide the silvery waters creep upward till the far-spreading roots are half bathed in the brine, while the other half are buried in a tangle of lilac marine convolvulus, wherein myriads of hermit-crabs disport themselves.

Madame Valles came to breakfast. She is the daughter of that dear old lady Mrs Simpson, of whose death I told you in a former letter. Her husband is a retired French naval officer, who has settled in this beautiful valley as a planter.

This evening several members of the congregation met here to hold a prayer-meeting, after which they sang most harmonious sacred himènes—the very first I have heard since I was last on Moorea.

I have rarely in any land seen a nicer and more thoroughly respectable-looking body of people than these; so gentle and courteous in their manners, and apparently so reliable. I fancy that in this secluded isle the people have retained more of their primitive Christianity than they have done in Papeete, where French influence and utter infidelity are continually acting as a leaven of evil, and where the fervour of first love is certainly a thing of the past, as regards the mass of the population.

Such at least is my own impression, seeing only the surface of life, and naturally comparing things here with the very high standard now existing in Fiji, which has been my home for the last two years. The impulsive children of the South Seas are readily influenced for good or for evil; and as they quickly and whole-heartedly turned from their idols to embrace the purer faith taught them by devout white men, so now they are in danger of becoming even more careless than the average foreigners. I do not, however, mean to imply that the Tahitians or any of the islanders who have once adopted Christianity, have yet fallen away from its practice, so far as the bulk of the people in any European nation. In such matters as meeting for family prayer, and thanksgiving at meals, probably a much larger proportion of Tahitians than of Britons are still true to their early teaching.