Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/374

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

possession of every neglected corner. They are the Chinamen of the vegetable world, and are quite as useful in their way. The guava forms the principal firewood of Tahiti. It bears an abundant crop of excellent fruit, which is now ripening just as the mango season is finishing; and I think the Tahitian guava is better than those of India and Ceylon. Certainly it has a far less sickly smell. Cattle and horses alike munch both fruit and leaves with avidity, so I cannot see why the guava should be so generally despised; but the fact remains, strange to say, no one here seems ever to think of making the delicious crimson jelly which we, in England, prize so highly. The fruit is left to drop from the trees utterly unheeded.

Further up the valley the track becomes steep and narrow, and in places runs along the face of the cliff, with the rushing stream immediately below, and overhanging boughs festooned with vines growing so rankly as somewhat to endanger a rider. The beautiful large granadilla passion-flower here runs riot, but its fruit is now all finished. When ripe it resembles a good-sized pumpkin of a bright golden colour, and contains a multitude of seeds like those of a melon, each encased in white jelly. These lie inside a sweetish pulp about two inches thick, which is generally thrown away, but is nevertheless quite worth cooking as a vegetable.

I found the drooping branches so troublesome, that I foolishly abandoned my horse very early, and had a much longer tramp than I counted on. We had not gone very far ere we quite lost the foot-track, and coming to a place where two ravines and two streams meet, Ariipaea, who had not been here for a long time, quite forgot which we were to follow; so first we tried the right side, and clambered up a steep and difficult path, till we were convinced that we were on the wrong track, and returning to the junction, we tried the other ravine, crossing and recrossing the stream.

At length, after much loss of time and energy, we concluded that our best course was again to return to the junction and there breakfast, trusting that by good luck it might prove to be the day on which "Père Fautawa" (as the old soldier in charge of the fort is commonly called) would be returning from Papeete with his