Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/376

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Then while the sailors busied themselves preparing coffee, we dispersed in search of pleasant pools for bathing, a luxury never more prized than after such a scramble in a tropical valley. Hitherto the day had been quite lovely, now it rapidly overcast, and heavy clouds came down and hid the Diadème—the beautiful crown-shaped mountain, that heads the valley. It is called by the natives Maiao, and though its height does not exceed 4363 feet, it is one of the most remarkable forms in Tahiti.

Ere we had finished our welcome coffee it began to pour so heavily that I voted for camping where we were; but the others feared a freshet, such as might make the streams impassable for days. So they voted for starting instantly, and of course carried the day; and we descended the steep mountain-path in blinding rain, which blurred all beauty, and rushed in rivulets beneath our feet. We were so thoroughly saturated, that crossing and recrossing the stream ceased to give us a moment's thought; and by the time we reached this house, I confess to having been thoroughly exhausted, as was to be expected, after a scramble of fully eight miles without any time to rest.

Of course, as soon as we got back the weather cleared, and we had a most lovely evening, followed by an exquisite moonlight night, and a sunrise which, seen from Fautawa, would have been too fascinating. It was with sore regret that I gazed upward to the sunlit peaks; while for days afterwards I felt too utterly done to do more than creep about the garden.

The upper heights of the valley are wellnigh inaccessible. They culminate in a crag-ridge about 4000 feet in height, forming a crest so narrow as to be a mere saddle barely three feet across—literally a gigantic crag-wall, wooded to the summit. Few are the bold spirits who have cared to scale this barrier in their endeavour to cross the island. Only by painful climbing from ledge to ledge, clinging to overhanging trees, trailing screw-pine, and sturdy vines, which act as natural ropes, is it possible to make any way. Indeed it is necessary to carry strong ropes in case of emergency; and little help can be expected from native guides, who never dream of expending toil so fruitlessly, unless worried into doing so by some