Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/365

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331
A NATIVE FEAST.

of plaited cocoa-palm leaves; while for pillars, strong young bananas were transplanted bodily, their broad cool leaves making a lovely canopy of freshest green. The golden leaves of the dracæna were strung together to form deep fringes and festoons along the rafters; while a still deeper fringe, carefully prepared from the fibre of hybiscus bark, and dyed pale yellow, was festooned all round the whole building. There must have been many hundred yards of this. Just think of the labour of preparing it! That, of course, had been done at leisure.

In lieu of a table-cloth, fresh green banana-leaves were spread upon the grass down the centre of the building, and on these were laid all manner of good things, in dishes made of plaited leaves. Dainty little sucking-pigs, turkeys, and various preparations of chicken, were, as usual, the foundation of the feast. These had been brought in hot haste from Mrs Brander's farm; while fish and all manner of crustacea seemed to have arrived by magic from the depths of the sea, the mountain streams, the mangrove-shore, and the coral-reef—each had sent its contribution. The delicious white wurrali, and their red relations, the cray-fish and lobsters, were there—shrimps and prawns, living and cooked, to suit all tastes. Raw fish and cooked fish, each with appropriate sauce; shell-fish of various sorts, including the delicate little oysters from the isthmus. Fruits of all sorts, mangoes and melons, strawberries, oranges, and bananas; yams, taro, and kumala'i.e., sweet potatoes—and sundry other vegetables.

The obnoxious national drink of the South Seas, made from the chewed root of kava, alias yangona, seems to have quite disappeared in Tahiti, and sweet young cocoa-nuts supplied the only native drink; but these were supplemented by many a brimming bumper of the best foreign wines, and champagne flowed like water. Thanks to the graceful unaffected courtesy with which Narii and Ariipaea Salmon, and several of the ladies of the family, themselves waited on all their guests, all went off admirably; every one was well cared for, and mirth and laughter reigned on all sides. Some of the naval guests, however, were not so well accustomed, as are all the rest of us, to sitting curled up on the fine mats, which were