Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/86

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

be replaced by a much larger building, the foundations of which are already raised, and the great event of this afternoon has been laying its first stone.

Immediately after breakfast at the Fathers' house, I started with M. Pinart and M. de Kerraoul for a long, most lovely walk along the coast, by a path winding among dark rocks and rich ferns, with great trees overhanging the sea, which breaks in real surf below them, washing their roots, which seem alive with myriads of crabs of all sizes, which also wander at large among the branches, like so many birds. Many of the lower boughs are actually fringed with shells and sea-weed, while the growth of parasitic ferns on the upper branches is wonderful to behold. The muddy shore of the river seemed literally moving, from the multitude of burrowing crabs, with one large pink claw; and every now and again a great land-crab would peer at us from some fruit-laden branch, with its curious eyes projecting on movable stalks, which turn about at will.

This is the first place in the Pacific where I have seen grand green waves break on the shore. Throughout the Fijian isles they spend their force on the barrier-reef, and only the gentlest ripple washes the coral sand. The rainfall here is greatly in excess of that in Fiji, consequently vegetation is richer, and the intensity of green more remarkable. So far as I can judge, the general foliage here is identical with that of the most fertile of "our" isles. The cocoa-nuts are much larger.

I am afraid to confess how hateful to me is the very thought of returning to long weary winters in Britain, with six dreary months of leafless undress. Do you realise that in all these isles there are only two or three deciduous trees, and that the majority put forth their wealth of young leaves almost faster than the old drop off? They are "busy trees" indeed, laden at once with bud and blossom, ripe and unripe fruit, and in many cases bearing several crops in a year. No wonder that these light-hearted people care so little to weary themselves with digging and delving, when the beautiful groves yield them fruit in abundance, and the mountains supply