Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/380

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these more luxuriant southern isles I have never seen it eaten by the natives, only by the foreign labour—i.e., the men imported from the groups to the north-east, who are engaged to work on the plantations. In their own isles they have discovered a means of steaming and mashing the fruit which, when fermented, yields a strong and highly intoxicating spirit. The whalers who years ago settled among them, taught them to improve on this liquor by distillation, and also instructed them how to obtain a fiery spirit from the innocent palm-trees. So, thanks to their tuition, and generally civilising influence, the Line islanders have become infinitely more debased than they previously were.

It does seem too bad, does it not, to extract poison from these useful trees? But whether it be orange-rum in Tahiti, or barley-bree in the isles nearer home, I suppose the white race will find means to procure fire-water wherever it goes, and seems to turn every sort of plant to the same use. What with rum from the sugar-cane, and fiery spirit from the sweet dracæna root, and even from innocent bananas, it appears as if every good gift of heaven was liable to be misused in like manner.

I hear some people say that they weary of the monotony of the cocoa-palms; and certainly a low coral-shore, with an unbroken line of palm-trees, is somewhat dull. Here, however, there is an amazing variety in the foliage of the seaboard. Besides the many beautiful large-leaved shrubs, there are various handsome trees, which attain a great size, and, as I described to you, many grow so close to the shore that their boughs literally dip into the sea. Some of these are fruit-bearing. The vi bears bunches of large yellow plums, and the ahia[1] yields a lovely pink fruit, with white juicy flesh.

But of all the indigenous trees none can compare for beauty and value to the bread-fruit, which, though it demands a richer soil in the first instance, rivals the cocoa-palm in its manifold uses. Though it does not give drink to the thirsty, or coir for ropes and matting, its resin forms a strong glue which is useful in caulking the boats, and the bark of the young branches yields a fibre from

  1. The Malay apple, familiar to us in Fiji as the kaveeka.