Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/364

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Still the question was undecided how the guests were to amuse themselves, as feeding could not last all the evening. Happily Captain Bedford came ashore to see my portfolio, and I ventured to ask if the band might come to Fautawa—a favour which was cordially granted, and I was able to drive off to Fautawa as the bearer of this excellent news. In less than no time, the large drawing-room was cleared for dancing, the wide verandahs gaily decorated with Chinese lanterns, and an admirable ball-room was prepared. It was all like a transformation scene, and accomplished so quietly. It would not be so remarkable in a large European house, with a full complement of carefully drilled servants; but here there really are no servants, properly so called, only friendly "helps." Certainly every one worked with a will on this occasion, and all was ready ere the arrival of the first carriage, full of middies.

The carriages, like everything else, bore testimony to Mrs Brander's thoughtful and generous care. She provided conveyance for every one, from the English admiral and French governor down to the smallest middy. Of course her own stable could not supply the demand, so every available trap was hired, and plied to and fro over the three miles, till all the guests were duly assembled. You will allow that this was a truly Tahitian phase of hospitality.

So also was the kind forethought which provided towels and a new pareo for every guest who cared to bathe in the lovely river—an invitation which few, if any, refused; so that a succession of joyous parties soon found their way to all the best pools, and therein revelled.

By the time the stragglers reassembled, a multitude of gay wreaths had been prepared by the Tahitian maidens, and all the guests were duly crowned. Some of the English officers were slightly taken aback by this unwonted decoration, but all submitted meekly; and we then marched in procession to the house of feasting, which was erected on the softest green turf, not far from the brook. It was a long building, consisting of a slight framework of bamboos, just sufficiently strong to support a thatch