The princess suggests a walk to the falls of Fautaua, where Loti went with Rarahu—We start in the morning—The suburbs of Papeete—The Pool of Loti—The birds, trees and plants—A swim in a pool—Arrival at the cascade—Luncheon and a siesta—We climb the height—The princess tells of Tahitian women—The Fashoda fright.
The falls of Fautaua, famed in Tahitian legend, are exquisite in beauty and surrounding, and so near Papeete that I walked to them and back in a day. Yet hardly any one goes there. For those who have visited them they remain a shrine of loveliness, wondrous in form and unsurpassed in color. Before the genius of Tahiti was smothered in the black and white of modernism, the falls and the valley in which they are, were the haunt of lovers who sought seclusion for their pledgings.
A princess accompanied me to them. She was not a daughter of a king or queen, but she was near to royalty, and herself as aristocratic in carriage and manner as was Oberea, who loved Captain Cook. I danced with her at a dinner given by a consul, and when I spoke to her of Loti’s visit to Fautaua with Rarahu, she said in French:
“Why do you not go there yourself with a Rarahu! Loti is old and an admiral, and writes now of Egypt and Turkey and places soiled by crowds of people, but Rarahu is still here and young. Shall I find you her?”
I looked at her and boldly said:
“I am a stranger in your island, as was Loti when he met Rarahu. Will you not yourself show me Fautaua?”
She gave a shrill cry of delight, and in the frank, sweet way of the Tahitian girl replied:
“We will run away to-morrow morning. Wear little, for it will be warm, and bring no food!”
“I will obey you literally,” I said, “and you must find manna or charm ravens to bring us sustenance.”
I had coffee opposite the market place in the shop of Wing Luey, and chatted a few moments with Prince Hinoe, the son of the Princesse de Joinville, who would have been king had the French not ended the Kingdom of Tahiti. No matter what time Hinoe lay down at night, he was up at dawn for the market, for his early roll and coffee and his converse with the sellers and the buyers. There once a day for an hour the native in Papeete touched the country folk and renewed the ancient custom of gossip in the cool of the morning.
The princess—in English her familiar Tahitian name, Noanoa Tiare, meant Fragrance of the Jasmine—was in the Parc de Bougainville, by the bust of the first French circumnavigator.
“Ia ora na!” she greeted me. “Are you ready for adventure?”
She handed me a small, soft package, with a caution to keep it safe and dry. I put it in my inside pocket.
The light of the sun hardly touched the lagoon, and Moorea was still shrouded in the shadows of the expiring night. As we walked down the beach, the day was opening with the “morning bank,” the masses of white clouds that gather upon the horizon before the tradewind begins its diurnal sweep, to shift and mold them all the hours till sunset.