The rain began to fall again, and the wind came stronger, but now we were going down in earnest. The sea shone again, but it was on the Oomoa side. We passed under trees hung with marvelous orchids, the puaauetaha, Orivie said, parasitic vines related to the vanilla as the lion is related to the kitten, cousins, but with little family likeness.
The trail became very dangerous at this point, a rocky slide, with steps a foot or two apart like uneven stairs, and all a foot, or sometimes two, under running water. I jumped and slid and slipped, following the unhappy plunging horse. Darkness came on quickly with the blinding rain, and the descent was often at an angle of forty-five degrees, over rocks, eroded hills, along the edge of a precipice. I fell here, and saved myself by catching a root in the trail and pulling myself up again. I would have dropped upon the roof of the gendarme’s house a thousand feet below.
We heard the sound of the surf, and letting the horse go, Orivie led me, by that sense we surrender for the comforts of civilization, down the bed of a cascade to the River of Oomoa, which we waded, and then arrived at Grelet’s house. We had come thirteen miles. I was tired, but Orivie made nothing of the journey.
Covered with mud as I was, I went to the river and bathed in the rain and, returning to the house, looked after my health. A half ounce of rum, a pint of cocoanut-milk from a very young nut, the juice of half a lime just from the tree, two lumps of sugar, and I had an invigorating draught, long enough for a golf player after thirty-six holes, and delicate enough for a debutante after her first cotillion. The Paumotan boys and Pae looked on in horror, saying that I was spoiling good rum.
Return in a canoe to Atuona; Tetuahunahuna relates the story of the girl who rode the white horse in the celebration of the fete of Joan of Arc in Tai-o-hae; Proof that sharks hate women; steering by the stars to Atuona beach.
The canoe we had followed to Hanavave stopped in Oomoa on its way to Hiva-oa, my home, for I had bargained with Tetuahunahuna, its owner, for my conveyance to Atuona. Grelet would eventually have transported me, but so great was his aversion to leaving Fatu-hiva that I felt it would be asking too much of him. He reminded me that Kant, the great metaphysician, had lived eighty years in his birthplace and never stirred more than seven miles from it.
The canoe had come to Hanavave to bring back two young women. One was dark, a voluptuous figure in a pink satin gown over a lace petticoat. A leghorn hat, trimmed with shells and dried nuts, sat coquettishly upon her masses of raven hair. Upon her neck, rounded as a young cocoanut-tree, was a necklace of pearls that an empress might have envied her, had they been real and not the synthetic gift of some trader. Small and shapely feet, bare, peeped from under her filmy frills. Her eyes were the large, limpid orbs of the typical Marquesan, like sepia, long-lashed; her nose straight and perfect, her mouth sensuous and demanding. Ghost Girl, her name signified, and she flitted about the islands like a sprite.