Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/350

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fruit, the size of a big man's fist. Within its green rind lies the softest melting pulp, really like vegetable butter, with a large round seed in the centre. This fruit is either eaten with pepper and salt, or else beaten up with lemon-juice and sugar; and it is excellent in either form. The chief difficulty is to secure it, as all animals have a passion for it; cows, horses, even dogs and cats, watch for the falling of the ripe fruit, and quickly despatch it.

After breakfast I rode back here, and found my host and hostess just starting for the village, so I strolled along with them to see the big coral church, memorable as having been the first built in this group, a monument of early zeal, and a wonderful triumph of will over difficulties. But now, whether from diminished energy or decreased population I know not, the place is falling into disrepair, and suggests retrogression.

But the bird-cage homes of the people are charming, and the inmates are charming, and the brown-eyed olive-coloured babies, and their most careful little brothers and sisters, are especially attractive. To-day I have seen the loveliest baby I have ever yet met with. Of Italian and Tahitian parentage, it receives a double heritage of beauty, and the little Aurora is destined hereafter to take her place among the fairest maidens of Italy.

Certainly children here have a very happy time of it. What with idolising parents, and friends who seem always ready to play with them, their only danger lies on the side of excessive spoiling. And yet, in heathen days, the Tahitians were as noted for infanticide as the Sandwich Islanders,—with the one difference that here, the poor little unwelcome guests were disposed of at the very moment of their birth, and if spared for even a few minutes they were generally saved; whereas in Hawaii, the system of child-murder was much more deliberate.

The extent to which it was practised in both groups makes one marvel how the isles failed to be wholly depopulated. Though offspring were generally numerous, few parents cared to rear more than three children; a man with four was looked upon as a taata taubuu buu—that is, a man with a heavy burden. The majority of Tahitian women in pagan days spoke openly, and without the