Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/354

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A LADY'S CRUISE.

CHAPTER XXII.

LIFE ON MOOREA—AN ANCIENT PLACE OF SACRIFICE—ARRIVAL OF H.M.S. SHAH—HOSPITALITIES ON LAND AND WATER.

French Mission, Papetoai, Saturday Night.

This has been a glorious day of unclouded sunlight, and in order that I might enjoy it to the full, my kind hosts planned a family picnic on the other side of the bay. There was no available boat, only a tiny canoe, so we crossed in several detachments, till all were safely landed on the opposite shore, where we established ourselves beneath the shade of some noble iron-wood trees, whence the view of towering mountains, laughing valley, and blue waters was so entrancing, that I at once settled down to sketch, while the little ones disported themselves in the shallow waters, therein capturing small crabs, and sea-urchins, and many other treasures, till the kindling of a fire, and preparation of our gipsy breakfast, afforded them fresh occupation and delight.

What a pleasant feast they spread on the briny grass, and with what hospitality they ministered to our numerous self-invited guests, the hermit crabs! Less welcome were the inevitable mosquitoes, but to-day there was sufficient breeze to disperse them in a great measure; and after breakfast we wandered along the shore, and the strange lady from Beretania was introduced to the gentle inmates of many a bird-cage home!

Oh dear, how fascinating is this simple, kindly, island life! Each day leaves me more and more captivated by the loveliness of these isles of paradise, where our eyes always rest on some scene of beauty, wherever they turn. Each halting-place seems more charming than the last, and the only sorrow is having to leave it, to pass on to another, which in its turn becomes as attractive. Each week makes me wonder more how I shall ever be able to settle down to a humdrum existence in well-appointed English houses, with their regiments of fine servants, and wearisome conventionalities of social