Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/395

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361
TAHITI WHEN AT REST.

wanderers, but no cheering sign appears. It is very trying for my kind dear hostess, who has so much at stake, and whose eldest son Aleck is expected to return from Honolulu in the missing cattleship.

Otherwise life is running on in strangely even tenor, and I begin to realise that in the South Seas, as in other places, delirious gaiety is only an occasional accident, and even music is only practised by fits and starts. Certainly it has been well for the truthfulness of my impressions of travel that I stayed here long enough to see a little of the dessous des cartes, instead of seeing everything only through the roseate glasses of the hopeful admiral, who was so sanguine that his multitudinous reforms would all flourish. I am glad that I have seen Tahiti in all its phases, especially in its quiet ordinary state, which no one travelling in a man-of-war, or in any other large ship, can ever see, as the kindly people are always glad-of the smallest pretext for getting up festivities.

Amongst other wrong impressions, I should certainly have carried away an idea that himène singing was the normal condition of Tahitian life—that all the people were for ever warbling like birds, as naturally as they breathed, and that the very air was musical. I now find that this is by no means the case. Since the outburst of song which everywhere greeted King Ariiaue on his accession, all the birds have been mute. I have only heard one himène, and that was got up to order, in honour of H.M.S. Shah, and a very poor specimen it was.

But chiefly I rejoice that my prolonged stay here with this fine family of real old Tahitian chiefs (who have treated me with the same loving kindness they heap on one another), has not only shown me whatever still remains of the true Tahitian element, but has also enabled me to realise, in person, the existence of the warm-hearted unbounded hospitality which (now necessarily well-nigh a tale of the past, in over-crowded British isles) still flourishes and luxuriates beneath these balmy heavens.

But as all things must have an end, and my visit to Tahiti has already extended to five months, I now only await the arrival of