Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/342

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
310
A LADY'S CRUISE.

CHAPTER XXI.

A HEALING TREE—PLANTATION LIFE—VANILLA CROPS—CAT-AND-DOG LIFE—A FOILED ASSASSIN—THE TROPICS OF TO-DAY—ENGLAND IN DAYS OF YORE—AMONG THE CRAGS—INFANTICIDE—HEATHEN DAYS.
Chez Madame Brun, Papetoai,
Monday Night.

Another long day in scenes of dream-like loveliness. Early as I always awaken, the little trio were astir before me, waiting in their bathing-dresses to escort me to the shore, dancing joyously as sunbeams, and most carefully pioneering my path through the shallow water, so as to avoid the very unpleasant chance of treading on sea-hedgehogs and other spiny creatures. There are so very few places in the isles where sea-bathing is altogether free from danger of sharks, that it is a luxury on which we rarely venture, and therefore appreciate it all the more.

Immediately after early chocolate, a friendly gendarme lent me his horse (I had brought my own saddle), and, not without some cowardly qualms, I rode off alone in search of Madame Valles's plantation. The road lay along the shore—a lovely grass path, overshadowed by all manner of beautiful trees, of which the most conspicuous is here called the tamanu, an old acquaintance with a new name. In Fiji it is called ndelo. It is common not only throughout Polynesia but also in the East Indies, and in Mauritius.[1]

In all these lands this noble tree grows and flourishes, just above high-water mark, on what seems to us the most arid sandy shores, and outstretches its wide branches with their rich dark foliage, casting cool delicious shadows on the dazzling coral-sands, a boon to tired eyes, weary of the mid-day glare.

It is a tree for the healing of the nations. Its large glossy leaves, when soaked in fresh water, are valuable in reducing inflammation of the eyes; and its round green fruit contains a small grey ball, within which lies a kernel, which yields about sixty per

  1. Calophyllum inophyllum.