Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/343

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SEED-STREWN SHORES.

cent of a green-coloured bitter oil, worth about £90 a ton in the Anglo-Indian market. It is an invaluable remedy as a liniment in all forms of rheumatism, rheumatic fever, bruises, stiffness, and similar ailments. Throughout the isles its virtues are fully recognised, but it is only prepared in small quantities for domestic use, and stored by prudent householders, in hollow gourds, which are the correct substitute for bottles. The labour of expressing the oil, by any hand process, is so great as to prevent an extensive manufacture; and I am not aware that any machinery for this purpose has found its way to the Pacific, though it does seem a pity that so valuable a product should be wasted, as it now is.

Wherever we go, in any of these isles, the sea-beach is strewn with myriads of these, and other seeds, some of which, such as the gigantic climbing-bean,[1] have been washed down by the mountain streams; while others, such as these grey balls, and the curious square-shaped seeds of the Barringtonia, in their outer case of nature-woven fibre, drop from the boughs which overhang the sea. The white blossom of the tamanu trees is both fragrant and ornamental, and many a pleasant hour have I spent on many a lovely isle, alone (save for the omnipresent army of hermit crabs) beneath the shade of these grand trees, beside the cool blue waters of the Pacific.

I had no difficulty in finding Madame Valles's home—a lovely nest, perched high on the hillside, with a background of grey rock-pinnacles and crags. The house is embowered in greenery, and from its verandahs you look through a frame of pure scarlet hybiscus to the bluest of lagoons, divided from the purply ocean beyond by the line of gleaming white breakers which bound the coral-reef.

M. Valles is at present very unwell, and quite a prisoner, so double work falls to the lot of Madame Valles, who has to do most of her own cooking and house-work, milk her own cow, and attend with unwearied care to that most precarious of all crops, vanilla. So you see that even in Moorea plantation life is not luxurious.

The great difficulty here is to obtain labour; and there is not

  1. Entada scandens.