Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/47

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25
THE DEVIL'S FIRE.

point of observation, whence, without being in the way, I can look down on the various manœuvres on deck—parades, gun-practice, fire-parade, and so forth. We embarked this morning early, the four Sisters, by special sanction of the bishop, coming to see the last of me, and to breakfast with M. Aube;—an outrageous piece of dissipation, they said, but almost like once again setting foot in France. Four of the priests likewise escorted the bishop, and we had an exceedingly cheerful ecclesiastical breakfast-party, after which came a sorrowful parting, and then we sailed away from Tonga, taking with us the Père Padel, a fine old Bréton Father.

We are now passing through the Happai group, and hope tonight to catch a glimpse of the volcano of Tofua, or, as it is also called by the natives, Coe afi a Devolo (the Devil's fire). It is a perfect volcanic cone 2500 feet in height, densely wooded to the edge of the crater. Strange to say, though the isle simply consists of this one active volcano, there is said to be a lake on the summit of the mountain. It is not stated to be a geyser; but the Tongans who visit it bring back small black pebbles, which they strew on the graves of their dead.

The Happai group consists of about forty small isles, some purely volcanic, and others, as usual, combining coral on a volcanic foundation. About twenty of these are inhabited.


Neiafu, Vavau, Thursday Evening.

The volcano proved to be quiescent. Not even a curl of luminous smoke betrayed its character. The sea, however, made amends by the brilliancy of its phosphoric lights. It was a dead calm, and from beneath the surface shone a soft mellow glow, caused, I am told, by vast shoals of living creatures, as though the mermaids were holding revel beneath the waves, and had summoned all their luminous subjects to join in the dance. I know few things in nature more fascinating than this lovely fairy-like illumination. Its tremulous glow and occasional brilliant shooting flashes are to me always suggestive of our own northern lights—a sort of marine aurora.