Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/59

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35
THE WALLIS ISLES.

from which M. le Commandant reads illustrations of prose or poetry. He is himself literary, and writes very well, in the 'Revue des deux Mondes' and other papers. Monseigneur Elloi says that Captain Aube is a very distinguished man in the French navy, and one who is certain of rapid promotion.

He has another guest on board, M. Pinart, a scientific traveller. He belongs to a French Protestant family, but is such a thorough cosmopolite, that when we go about together in the native villages, and the people ask our nationalities, I always answer for him "American." He is most industrious in his various lines of work, and is at present busy copying out vocabularies of all manner of dialects. He is greatly interested in all ethnological questions, and has a collection of skulls, enough to supply a resurrection army. I do not think the sailors like it very much, and they are always afraid that some trouble will arise with the natives of various isles on the vexed subject of les cranes, which our savant scents out from old hiding-places in caves and clefts of the mountains, with all the instinct of a schoolboy hunting for bird's nests. He has just shown me some beautiful illustrations in colours, for the book he is bringing out on American Indians; also many good photographs, done by himself, of objects of interest in many lands.

I am so sorry that the Seignelay paid her visits to Fotuna (in the Southern New Hebrides), and to the Wallis Isles, on the way to Fiji. If only these had been reserved for the return journey, I should have had the rare luck of seeing them also. My kind friends are for ever regretting this, and give me tantalising descriptions of both isles and people.

Apparently les isles Wallis, or Uvea, must be the true earthly paradise—so green, so fertile, with people so industrious, so contented, and so hospitable. It is a group of four or five high volcanic isles, all richly wooded, and protected from the ocean, not only by the great barrier-reef, but by an intricate labyrinth of lesser belts and patches, which make navigation a matter of extreme danger, even after the difficult entrance, by a very narrow passage, has been accomplished. The approach to the anchorage