Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/45

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23
NIGHT CHILLS AND DEWS.

The feast being over, le Roi kanaque departed amid blue and green lights, one of which was reserved for us—i.e., the ecclesiastical party—returning to the priest's house and to the convent, where the pleasant Sisters awaited me with kindest welcome; and we all sat on the mats in my cell and chatted for a while.

Now I am so very cold that I must go to bed. I think this climate must be far more trying than that of Fiji. The heat in the daytime feels to me greater, and every night is bitterly cold, necessitating piles of rugs and blankets; while the dew is so drenching that the roofs always drip as if there had been heavy rain. I do not wonder at the delicate little Sœur Marie having fallen into consumption. It carries off many strong natives.

Tuesday Night.

Wasn't it just cold when I left off writing! I lay awake shivering for two hours, though wrapped up in blanket, cloak, and big tartan plaid. I find that the island of Tongatabu is known all over the group as the cold isle, and I am ready to endorse the title.

I devoted this forenoon to a sketch of this hospitable cottage-convent, and in the afternoon went alone to see Mrs Baker, who took me to visit the queen—a fine old lady, but very helpless, having dislocated her hip by a fall eight years ago. She was sitting on the bare boards in a wretched little room of a small house close to the large villa or palace in which King George receives his guests, but in which he never lives, preferring that his home should be faka Tongai.e. adhering to native customs so far as is consistent with keeping up appearances. But here, again, we were struck by the uncomfortable substitution of a hard wooden floor for the soft mats of a truly native home. As civilised houses are glazed, the poor old queen, though much oppressed with heat, sat beside a glass window, shaded by a filthy tattered rag which had once been a curtain, but which in its palmiest days had been immeasurably inferior to a handsome drapery of native cloth: indeed the only symptom of comfort in the place was a curtain of Fijian tappa.