Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/349

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317
AMONG THE MOUNTAINS.

above my fellow-men, sitting quietly sketching among black crags and floating mists, alone with a would-be murderer, who, glorying in his shame, entertained me at great length with a most animated description of the whole story, nor spared me one of his poignant regrets at the failure of his vile attempt.

The scenery on every side was magnificent. Huge indigo-coloured mountain-masses looming out awfully through the floating cloud-wreaths—tremendous precipices—deep mysterious ravines—right above me towered a gigantic square-shaped mountain, and beyond it one vast pinnacle. You never can lose the impression of Cyclopean fortifications and watch-towers. The higher ridges are absolutely inaccessible; but adventurous cragsmen sometimes find their way by tracks which wild goats would shun—narrow ledges by which they can creep along the face of a precipice, and so pass on to another ravine, or scramble from ledge to ledge with the help of ropes. "Le jeu vaut-il la chandelle?" I should say not.

From the highest point we reached, I obtained a grand view of the valley, which lay bathed in sunlight, while we were shrouded in mountain gloom, with a storm fast gathering overhead. Far below us, beyond the orange-groves and the cultivated lands, lay the two harbours, Pao Pao and Opunohu—two calm lagoons lying to right and left of a mighty rock-pyramid, which is crowned with trap ridges, so narrow as here and there to have altogether worn away, leaving arches and apertures through which the sky is seen, as through the eye of a needle. This is a common feature of the ridges which form the centre of this strange isle, and which are thus pierced in many places—a phenomenon duly accounted for in Tahitian legends by the spear- thrusts of certain demigods and heroes.

A few heavy rain-drops, with a prospect of abundance to follow, compelled me to abandon this splendid sketching—ground, and return to the lower world, where the Doctor awaited my return, to share an excellent breakfast, with all the delicacies of Moorea. One of these, which is perhaps unknown to you, is the Abercarder pear, or, as it is called in India, "subaltern's butter," a pear-shaped