Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/58

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sailors as wished to attend, and held "a conference"—which meant that he sat on deck, and they sat or stood all round, quite at their ease, no officers being present, while he gave them a very nice winning little talk, ending with a few words of prayer. There was no regular service. There is always a tiny form of morning and evening prayer, said on parade by one of the youngest sailors, which is very nice theoretically, but is practically nil. At the word of command, Prière, a young lad, rapidly repeats the Ave Maria and Nôtre Père qui êtes aux cieux; he gabbles it over at railroad speed in less than a minute; then, as an amen, comes the next thing, Punitions, followed by a list of the various little trespasses of the day, and the penalties awarded.

At each point where the vessel has touched, she has taken or left some of the French priests, many of whom have been working in these isles for so many years, that they know every detail concerning them, and are consequently very pleasant companions. One of my especial friends is a dear old Père Padel, a cheery Bréton, who has been working in the Wallis group for many years, with the happy result of seeing its savages converted to most devout Catholics. He is now going to Samoa.

Much of the charm of this voyage is due to the kindly, pleasant relations existing between the captain and all his officers, from the least to the greatest—all are so perfectly at ease, while so thoroughly respectful. They are all counting the hours for their return to la belle France, where several have left wife and family; and their two years' absence apparently seems longer to them than the four years of our English ships would seem to be to less demonstrative Britons.

Nothing astonishes me more than the freedom of religious discussion on every side. Of course to the bishop and the numerous pères, personally, every one is most friendly and respectful, as well they may be; but as a matter of individual faith, c'est toute autre chose.

The evening tea-parties in the captain's cabin are particularly pleasant. Very often the conversation turns on some literary question, and then, from the ample library, are produced books