We descended by the route we had come, picking up her shoes and stockings and our hats by our couch, and with the princess leading, hurrying along the obscuring trail. We passed a Tahitian youth who had been gathering feis, probably near the tarn, and who was bringing them to the market of the next morning. He was burdened with more than a hundred pounds of fruit, which he carried balanced on a pole over his shoulder, and with this he was to go seven or eight miles from their place of growth. He was a pillar of strength, handsome, glowing with effort, clad in a gorgeous pareu of red, and as we went by him, he smiled and said, “Ia ora na! I hea! Vaimato?” Greeting! Where have you been? The waterfall?”
“E, hitahita. Yes, we are hurrying back,” the princess called vivaciously.
“Those are our real men, not the Papeete dolts,” she said. “If we had time, we would catch shrimp in the river. I love to do that.”
When we came to where the habitations began and the road became passable for vehicles, Noanoa Tiare sat down on a stone. She put on her pale-blue silk stockings and her shoes, and asked me for the package she had given me at starting. She unfolded it, and it was an aahu, a gown, for which she exchanged, behind a banana-plant, her soiled and drenched tunic. The new one was of the finest silk, diaphanous, and thus to be worn only at night. The sun was down, and the lagoon a purple lake when we were again at the bust of Bougainville.
I thanked her at parting.
“Noanoa Tiare,” I said, “this day has a heavenly blue page in my record. It has made Tahiti a different island for me.”
“Maru, mon ami, you are sympathetic to my race. We shall be dear friends. I will send you the note to Tetuanui, the chief of Mataiea, to-morrow. Au revoir and happy dreams.”
The beach-combers of Papeete—The consuls tell their troubles—A bogus lord—The American boot-blacks—The cowboy in the hospital—Ormsby, the supercargo—The death of Tahia—The Christchurch Kid—The Nature men—Ivan Stroganoff’s desire for a new gland.
I played badminton some afternoons at the British consulate. The old wooden bungalow, with broad verandas, stood in a small garden a dozen yards from the lagoon, where the Broom Road narrowed as it left the business portion of Papeete and began its round of the island. There was just room enough on the salt grass for the shuttlecock to fall out of bounds, and for the battledores to swing free of the branches of the trees. The consul, though he wore a monocle, was without the pretense of officialdom except to other officials and, of course, at receptions, dinners, and formal gatherings. After the games, with tea on the veranda, I heard many stories of island life, of official amenities, and the compound of nationalities in our little world.