Lovaina lamented her loss, but counted her sovereigns. The Argentineans had English gold, and Lovaina passed the shining, new pieces from one hand to the other, enjoying their glitter and sound. She liked to play with coins, and often amused herself as did the king in the blackbird-pie melody.
“My God!” said Lovaina, as she pulled me down to her bench and rubbed my back, “that Argentina is good country! Forty dollars lime squash by himself.” She opened her purse, and poured out more gold. With it fell a cloth medallion, red letters on white flannel, “The Apostleship of Prayer in League with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”
“I find that on the floor two day’ ’go,” said Lovaina, “and I put it in purse to see if good luck. What you think? Argentinas come in nex’ day. I don’ know, but that thing is good to me. See those bottle’ champagne goin’ in?”
Perhaps I shall carry longer than any other memory of Tahiti that of the endearing nature, the honest heart, and the laughing, starry eyes of Lovaina, with a tiare-blossom over her ear, or a chaplet of those flowers upon her head, as she sat on her throne behind the serving-table, and I on the camphor-wood chest.
The Parc de Bougainville—Ivan Stroganoff—He tells me the history of Tahiti—He berates the Tahitians—Wants me to start a newspaper.
In the parc de Bougainville I sat down on a bench on which was an old European. He was reading a tattered number of “Simplicissimus,” and held the paper close to his watery eyes. I said, “Good morning” and he replied in fluent though accented English.
His appearance was eccentric. He was stout, and with a rough, white beard all over his face and neck, and even on his chest. He wore a frock coat and a large cow-boy hat of white felt. His sockless feet were in old base-ball shoes of “eelskin,” which were of the exact color of his coat, a dull green, like moldy, dried peas. Apparently the coat was his only garment; but it was capacious, and came almost to his knobby knees. Missing buttons down its front were replaced by bits of cord or rope. The pockets were stuffed with papers, mangos, and a hunk of bread. A stump of lead-pencil was behind his ear. His hair, a dusty white, met the frayed collar of the coat, and through the temporary gaps which he made in its length to cool his body, I saw it like a gnarled and mossy tree. His hands were grimy and his nails black-edged, but there was intellect in his eye, and a broken force in his huddled, loosed attitude. He was not decrepit, or with a trace of humility, but had the ease of the philosopher and also his detachment. It was plain he did the best he could with his garb, and was entirely undisturbed, and perhaps even unmindful, of its ludicrousness. He was as serene as Diogenes must have been when he crawled naked from his tub into the sun.