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Polecaj historie

The Marriage of Loti

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ZkcMarriage of Cotí

Rarahu and her cat

ZkeJWarriage of Coti PierreCoti


The University Press of Hawaii Honolulu









Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Viaud, Julien, 1850-1923. The marriage of Loti. Translation of Le mariage de Loti. I. Title. PZ3.V658Mar3 [PQ2472] 843'. 8 ISBN 0-8248-0394-7




Acknowledgments Introduction



Translators' Note Part One


Part Two



Part Three


Part Four


Illustration Credits



Rarahu and her cat


The palace of Queen Pomare Queen Pomare IV Huamahine








Bay of Papeete


The little house in the coconut forest Tahitian landscape with falls The Queen of Bora-Bora


94 104

Julien Viaud (Pierre Loti) in San Francisco in 1872 Paopoa Bay, Moorea Queen Moe



ê Acknowledgments ®

W E are grateful for assistance and encouragement from Renée Heyum, Curator of the Pacific Collection, University of Hawaii Library. We have derived both pleasure and profit from our conversations about Loti with Bengt and Marie-Thérèse Danielsson and Aurora Natua of Tahiti. In rendering the Tahitian language into English we have enjoyed the cheerful counseling of Dr. Kenneth P. Emory, Senior Anthropologist, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, and of Mrs. Emory; of Professor Jack H. Ward, Department of Indo-Pacific Languages, University of Hawaii; and of Mrs. Simone Leverd Mossman. Ultimate responsibility of any errors rests, of course, with us. Finally, we wish to thank the Director of The University Press of Hawaii, Robert Sparks, and his staff for their cordial cooperation.


ê Introduction é

THE Cook bicentennial observances would seem an appropriate moment to offer a new translation of the work which a century ago set the tone and attitude that was to prevail in French letters concerning the South Seas for the next several generations. Gauguin is only the most famous of all those whose imaginations were filled with the visions of Tahiti inspired by Loti. "Votre nom est partout, tout le monde est fou de Rarahu' (original title of Le Mariage de Loti), writes Alfonse Daudet in June, 1880. 1 And he adds, "Goncourt me charge de vous dire que vous avez un rare talent." A few years later Loti was elected to the Académie Française. As late as 1916, Albert Guérard could charac1 Pierre

Loti, Journal

intime, 1878-1881,


vol. 1, Paris, 1929, p. 159.


erize Loti as "a new Chateaubriand" and "the most original, the most delicate, and yet the most popular of contemporary French novelists.' 2 During our strenuous century Loti's reputation has dwindled; but with the current nostalgia for the past, plus the renewed interest in the primitive cultures of the South Pacific, it may be due for a revival. As for his style and technique, one must no doubt have a taste for romantic prose (as do the translators) to patiently accept Loti's occasional prolixity, extravagance, and sentimentality for the sake of his aesthetic sensibility and psychological acuteness. But the latter qualities are impressive. If, as in the case of Chateaubriand, Loti's forte is picturesque description, one fails to recall in the predecessor a character developed with the sensitive understanding Loti devotes to Rarahu, or one drawn with such realistic brush strokes as his Pomare IV. "When it is all over," as Professor Gray has said, "Loti has left us with what is still perhaps the most memorable love story of the South Pacific, the most sensitive description of Polynesia, and the most sympathetic approach in the literature of fiction to an understanding of Tahiti caught in the press of European expansion." 3 Pierre Loti was born Louis Marie Julien Viaud in 1850 at Rochefort to a Protestant family of old Huguenot stock, in what Guerard calls one of "the most desperately flat provinces in the whole of France. " 4 He had a serene childhood surrounded by tenderness and solicitude, yet one in which joy and gaiety were missing. He associated little with children of his own age. Everybody spoiled him. He received 2 Albert Leon Guerard, Five Masters of French Romance, London, 1916, pp. 24, 137. 3 F. C. Gray, Tahiti in French Literature from Bougainville to Pierre Loti (U.H. microfilm 4557), Ph.D. dissertation, University of Arizona, 1970. "Guerard, p. 139.


his initial education at home so as not to be exposed to the wickedness of the Rochefort schools. His old aunt Claire, his mother, and his sister, Mme. Marie Bon, took turns at instructing him. Under the tutelage of his sister he learned how to draw, and to form his style in writing he began jotting his impressions in a journal. From the time of his childhood, little Julien dreamed of Tahiti. His older brother Gustave, a naval physician, had resided for a time in the Polynesian islands. His enthusiastic letters, and, on his return, his souvenirs of Tahiti excited the child's imagination. At the age of twelve, Julien matriculated at the collège (secondary school) of Rochefort, where he drew attention because of the singularity of his character. He was unhappy there, a dreamer, a solitary, persuaded that he was different from others, already accustomed to regarding minor incidents of his life as important events worthy of recording in his journal. The lure of the exotic induced Julien to decide to embrace the career of naval officer. His family was opposed, but after the death of Gustave at sea in 1865 and the subsequent reversals of the family fortunes, permission was granted, and he was at last able to go off to Paris to prepare for the examination for admittance to the Naval College. Though living on the Left Bank while attending the Lycée Henri-Quatre, he seems to have taken no part in the bohemian student life; but he did meet several poets and authors at the home of his aunt, Nelly Lieutier-Besson, herself a poet and novelist, who later was to present his first writings to a publisher.5 He left Paris in July, 1867, having passed his examinations for a billet as cadet on the training ship Borda. One of his shipmates has pictured him as a delicately fea5 C. Wesley Bird, Pierre Loti, correspondant 1947, pp. ix, x.

et dessinateur,




tured young man, enamored of music, painting, and sculpture, in all of which he showed amazing facility.6 In October, 1869, Viaud embarked as aspirant for the grade of midshipman second-class aboard the Jean-Bart, calling at Gibraltar, Algiers, and other Mediterranean ports, at the Canary Islands, Brazil, New York, and Halifax, returning to Brest the end of July, 1870. The Franco-Prussian War had broken out. Viaud, having passed his midshipman's examinations, was ordered to the corvette Decres which patrolled the North Sea and the Baltic. At the conclusion of the war, he was assigned to the dispatch vessel Vaudreuil for a long cruise to South America. At Valparaiso on November 1, 1871, to his delight, he received orders to report to the frigate Flore at anchor there, flying the flag of an admiral, and bound for Tahiti. In the course of its voyage, the Flore put in at Easter Island and Nuku Hiva. These were Viaud's first encounters with the primitive races of the Pacific. He read their histories in the admiral's library and became much interested in these "savage" people who had suffered so greatly from their contacts with civilized man. He also kept a journal whose Nuku Hiva entries were later incorporated in Le Mariage, supposedly the result of an excursion of the Reindeer during her stay in Tahiti. At last, on January 29, 1872, Viaud's ship dropped anchor in the harbor of Papeete, and he beheld the object of his childhood dreams. This first visit lasted only till March 23, a period the novel extends to over a year. Viaud's second sojourn (following the voyage to San Francisco and Vancouver) was, as in the book, quite brief: June 26 to July 4, 1872. These facts make the imaginative feat of creating an absorbing romance, buttressed by penetrating observations of Polynesian life, a remarkable tour de force. 6Nicolas

Serban, Pierre Loti, sa vie et son oeuvre,

Paris, 1924, p. 25.


In the novel the author does not employ the same names that he uses in the original notes of his journals. 7 Gustave becomes Rueri (Rutane in the notes); Gustave's compagne becomes Taimaha (vice Tarahu). As for the central character, let Loti speak: " . . . j'ai combine plusieurs personnages réels pour en faire un seul: Rarahu, et cela me semble une étude assez fidèle de la jeune femme maorie." He adds that "Tout ce qui concerne Taimaha est rigoureusement vrai." 8 Presumably for purposes of aesthetic distancing, the author undergoes a sea change to become Harry Grant, an ensign in Her Britannic Majesty's navy, serving as an aide to the admiral commanding the "Rendeer" (Loti's spelling), and hailing from Brightbury, Yorkshire, instead of Rochefort. Gustave (Rueri) thus becomes George. When Harry receives his Tahitian baptism, he assumes the name of Loti, a strategic corruption of the Tahitian roti meaning "rose," since the French association would be more culinary than botanic. Thus was derived the pen name under which Julien Viaud was henceforth to publish. Loti's apprehensions that his brother might have been forgotten are soon dispelled by Queen Pomare's warm welcome, and he sees the hut George used to occupy, now empty and abandoned, overgrown with verdure, but still known as Rueri's cottage. During his entire first visit to Tahiti, the young officer, though curious about his brother's former consort, fails in searching for Taimaha (somewhat unbelievably, since the time extends over a year) until the night preceding his departure. But his determined investigation during his second visit eventually reveals that Taimaha's two children, the putative offspring of her union with Rueri, are in fact the fruit of a subsequent liaison. Clive 7 See A. Ropiteau, ed,,]ournale intime de Pierre Loti à Tahiti, Papeete: Société des études océaniennes, 1934. ojournale intime, 1878-1881, pp. 62-63.


Wake characterizes this phase of the story as "an Orphic descent into the past in order to renew his links with Gustave by attempting to trace his dead brother's presence and descendence on the island. " 9 There are thus three main motifs: the central love story, the portrayal of the court of Pomare IV (and of Vaikehu on Nuku Hiva), and the search for the brother's children. Rarahu is a highly individualized, sensitively delineated character, in addition to being, as Loti says, a convincing study of a typical Maori girl. Taimaha, purportedly drawn from real life, is likewise typical from another angle: "friendly but secretive, obstinate, irrational, untruthful, procrastinating, changeable, unpredictable, infuriatingly nonchalant towards matters of desperate importance in the European view, careless and unrepentant. "10 Loti's portrait of Pomare is unflattering (the previous translator could not bring herself to include the episode of the outhouse) but warm and sympathetic, memorable alike for her penchant for cheating the popaa at cards, for her maternal advice to Rarahu, for her persistent and intense love for both the ailing little Pomare V and the erring Tamatoa. Initially much taken with the royal princess Ariitea, Loti is at first merely acquiescent in the affair with Rarahu, prompted and abetted at each stage by others, notably the Queen. Thus we are enabled to see the relationship develop gradually in depth and complexity, while at the same time the responsibility for it is diffused. At the end, of course, the ship sails away, the girl is left behind to repine and, obligingly, to die (Loti's allusions to her impending dissolution giving her an added charm rather put one's teeth on edge); and the poetic sailor, as Guerard puts it, "is sorry, very sorry 9 Clive Wake, The Novels of Pierre Loti, The Hague and Paris: Mouton & Company, 1974, p. 67. 10 Gray, p. 114.


indeed. Not so much for her as for himself. . . and he finds in this very remorse and in his self-pity a delicious torment of which he gives his readers the benefit." 1 1 But he goes on to add that in the case of Loti's exotic tales, When we read the text itself we do not criticize. The books are rambling, without definite plot, a medley of pictures of exotic life, descriptions of nature, love scenes, lyrical notes; but they are so young, so spontaneous, so artless, so deeply tender withal, that we forget and forgive all literary and moral blemishes: we no longer see the dunghill of selfishness in which those flowers are rooted.

Unfortunately, Loti's journal for the period of his first visit to Tahiti has never been discovered, but a comparison of the entries for the second with Part 3 of the novel shows how closely they correspond, often verbatim except for proper names. As for Harry Grant and Plumkett, he had these characters already at hand, having introduced them into Aziyade, published before Le Mariage but dealing with events set at a later date. "Plumkett" was in real life Jean-Herve Josselin, and in 1878 we find Viaud writing him to try to enlist his aid in an elaborate scheme to smuggle Aziyade out of Constantinople and bring her to France. 1 2 Viaud/Loti seems to have been forever and perpetually in the ecstasies of love or agonies over its loss. At the time he was preparing Rarahu for the press he became much smitten with Sarah Bernhardt, to whom we are told he contrived to introduce himself by being rolled up in his gift of a handsome Persian carpet a la Cleopatra. 13 But soon the divine Sarah was off to London, and for Loti it was once again "Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu," as he wrote his humble dedication. " G u e r a r d , pp. 146-147. 12 Pierre Loti, Notes of My Youth: Fragments of a Diary Assembled Son Samuel Viaud. Translated by Rose Ellen Stein, New York, 1924. 13 Joanna Richardson, Sarah Bernhardt, London, 1959, p. 66.

by His


Loti sold his manuscript to Calmann-Levy in May, 1879. Six months later, when it was in print and ready to appear, Juliette Adam obtained it for the Nouvelle Revue, where it ran in four installments during January and February, 1880. (The original manuscript with Plumkett's handwritten annotations was bequeathed by Pierre Loti to his friend Louis Barthou.) Mme. Adam, who at that time was not acquainted with Loti, took it upon herself to modify the title of the work, transforming Rarahu into Le Mariage de Loti. Calmann-Levy then published the book as Le Mariage de Loti, Rarahu, par I'auteur d'Aziyade, with a dedication to Mile. Sarah Bernhardt. Beginning with the sixth edition in 1884, par I'auteur d'Aziyade was replaced by par Pierre Loti. When Calmann-Levy published an edition of the complete works, in 1893, Rarahu was no longer mentioned in the subtitle, and Mile. Sarah Bernhardt in the dedication became "Madame." An edition of 1898 by the same publisher contains, besides drawings by A. Robaudi, a number of wood engravings made from original sketches brought back by Loti from Tahiti, Easter Island, and the Marquesas Islands. Certain ones of these have been reproduced herein. Le Mariage de Loti was translated by Clara Bell as The Marriage of Loti: Rarahu (London and New York, 1925). The watercolor reproductions it contains represent Melanesian landscapes of the Solomon and New Hebrides islands done by Norman H. Hardy in 1914. It is out of print. And now, ia ora na, Loti. J. W. F. E. B. F. Honolulu September,


Translators''flote %

FOR our translation we have followed the 211th Calmann-Levy edition of 1926. We have attempted to reproduce faithfully the tone and spirit of Loti's romantic prose, to the point of tracing the French syntax when it would not result in too cumbersome or cloudy English idiom. Our principal changes have been the consolidating of some of Loti's pseudo-paragraphs and the connecting of fragmentary sentences by means of semi-colons. Only rarely have we departed from the literal translation in order to render more effectively in English what we deemed to be the essence of Loti's thought. Loti generally adopts a shift of the Tahitian w to ou in order to approximate the original sound for his French readers. We have, except in the case of certain proper names, reversed this change. Loti also often adds a silent French h; thus: toupapahou, which we have rendered tupapa'u, using in this instance a glottal stop mark to insure vowel separation, although we have not done so elsewhere.


ZheMariage of Coti



To you who shine so high above, the very obscure author of Aziyade humbly dedicates this rude narrative. It seems to him that your name will shed on this book a little of its great poetic charm. The author was very young at the time he wrote this book; he lays it at your feet, Madame, while asking of you much, much indulgence.


E hari te fau, E toro te faaro, E no te taata.

The palm tree will flourish, The coral will spread, But man will perish. (Old Polynesian saying.)


« Part One ®


L O T I was baptized on the twenty-fifth of January 1872 at the age of twenty-two years and eleven days. At the hour the ceremony was performed, it was about one o'clock in the afternoon in London and Paris. But it was almost midnight on the other side of the globe, in the gardens of the late Queen Pomare. In Europe it was a cold and dismal winter day, while there, in the Queen's gardens, was the serene languor of a summer night. Five people attended Loti's baptism amid the mimosas* and orange trees. The atmosphere was warm and fragrant under a sky bright with southern constellations. They were Ariitea, princess of the blood; Faimana and Teria, ladies*Loti uses mimosa for what is, in fact, a kind of acacia.


8 in-waiting to the Queen; Plumkett and Loti, midshipmen of Her Britannic Majesty's navy. Until that day, Loti had been called Harry Grant. He kept that name in civilian records and on the rolls of the Royal Navy, but the name of Loti was generally adopted by his friends. The ceremony was simple—there were no great preparations or long speeches. The three Tahitian women wore crowns of fresh flowers and gowns of pink muslin with trains. After trying to pronounce the barbarous names of Harry Grant and Plumkett, whose harsh sounds stuck in their Polynesian throats, they decided to call them Remuna and Loti—the names of two flowers. Next day, the entire court was informed of this decision, and the names Harry Grant and Plumkett were no longer heard in Oceania. It was further agreed that the first notes of the native song "Loti taimane" etc., sung discreetly at night at the approaches to the palace, would mean "Remuna is here, or Loti, or both of them together. They ask their friends to come out at their call, or at least to come noiselessly to open the garden gate." II BIOGRAPHICAL N O T E ON RARAHU: PLUMKETT'S RECOLLECTIONS

Rarahu was born in January, 1858, on the island of BoraBora, situated at 16 degrees south latitude and 154 degrees west longitude. At the time this story begins she had just completed her fourteenth year. She was a remarkably attractive young girl whose striking and savage charm defied all the conventional European standards of beauty.

9 When very young, she had been taken by her mother aboard a sailing canoe bound for Tahiti. She remembered nothing of her lost island except for the immense intimidating bluff that towers over it. The silhouette of that mass of basalt, standing like a monstrous seamark in the middle of the Pacific, remained in her mind as the sole image of her native land. Later on, strangely moved, Rarahu recognized a drawing of it in Loti's sketchbooks. This chance occurrence was the beginning of her great love for him. III CONCERNING SOCIAL ARRANGEMENTS

Rarahu's mother had brought her to Tahiti, the main island, the Queen's island, to offer her to a very old woman of the district of Pirae who was her distant kin. She was following an ancient custom of the Maori* race by which children rarely remain with their real mother. Among these people, adoptive mothers and fathers ifaa amu) are predominant, and the family is recruited haphazardly. This traditional exchange of children is one of the oddities of Polynesian manners. IV H A R R Y G R A N T ( L O T I B E F O R E HIS BAPTISM) TO H i s S I S T E R , IN B R I G H T B U R Y , YORKSHIRE ( E N G L A N D )

Roadstead of Tahiti, January 20, 1872 "My beloved sister, "Here I am before this faraway island that was so dear to our *Loti follows the Tahitian in referring to all Polynesians as Maoris—the Tahitian word maori or maohi means 'native or indigenous'. In current English usage, this has been restricted to the Polynesians of New Zealand.

The palace of Queen Pomare


brother, the mysterious place that long haunted my childhood dreams. A strange desire to come here contributed not a little in my becoming a naval officer, a profession I already find tiring and dull. "Years have gone by and made a man of me. Already I have roamed around the world, and here I am at last in view of the island of my dreams. Yet there I find only sadness and bitter disenchantment. "It is indeed Papeete, however. The palace of the queen over there beneath the foliage, the bay lined with great palms, the tall mountains with their jagged outlines—I know them all. For ten years I have seen them in the sketches, yellowed by the sea, glamorized by enormous distance, that George sent us. It is the very same corner of the world that the brother we have lost used to speak of so fondly . . . "It is all that, but with its great charm diminished—the charm of ill-defined illusions, of the vague and fantastic impressions of childhood. . . . But now, dear me, it's a landfall like any other and I, Harry, who find myself there am still the same Harry I was at Brightbury, or London, or anywhere. So much so that I seem never to have gone away. "To have kept the magic of this land of dreams I should never have laid a finger on it. "And now those about me have spoiled my Tahiti by showing it to me in their way. Everywhere they go they drag with them their banal personalities, their vulgar ideas. They cast their scoffing slobber, their own insensitivity, their own ineptitude on all poetry. Also, civilization has already reached too far, our sorry colonial civilization with all our conventions, all our habits, all our vices. And the wild Muse is driven out with the customs and traditions of the past. "So it is that for the three days since the Reindeer dropped

12 anchor off Papeete, your brother Harry has stayed aboard, sad at heart, disappointed in imagination. "John, however, is not like me, and I believe he is already enchanted by this land. I've scarcely seen him since we arrived. But he is still the same faithful and blameless friend, the same good and tender brother who watches over me like a guardian angel and whom I love with all my heart. . . . " V Rarahu was a little creature unlike any other, even though she was a perfect specimen of the Maori race that inhabits the Polynesian archipelagoes and is considered one of the most beautiful in the world—a distinct and mysterious race whose origin is unknown. Rarahu had tawny black eyes, full of exotic languor, of wheedling softness, like those of kittens when one strokes them. Her eyelashes were so long, so black, that one might have taken them for painted feathers. Her nose was short and delicate, like that in certain Arab faces. Her mouth, a little wider and more cleft than the classic type, had deep corners with a delicious contour. When laughing, she uncovered her teeth completely. They were a trifle large, white as the whitest enamel, teeth which the years had not had time to polish, so that they still showed the light striations of childhood. Her hair, perfumed with sandalwood, was long, straight, and a little coarse. It fell in heavy tresses onto her bare, rounded shoulders. Her entire body from head to toe was the dusky brick-red hue of the light earthenware of ancient Etruria. Rarahu was small, well-formed, admirably proportioned. Her bosom was firm and smooth; her arms had a classical perfection. Delicate blue tattooings simulated anklets; across her lower lip were three faint little blue lines, like


those of Marquesan women; and on her forehead a paler tattoo suggested a diadem. Her most characteristic racial feature was her very closeset eyes, prominent like those of all Polynesians. When she was laughing and gay, this gave her childish countenance the mischievous slyness of a young marmoset. When she was serious or sad, there was something in her that can only be described by two words: Polynesian grace. VI On the day I first set foot on Tahitian soil, Pomare's court was decked out for a small reception. The English admiral of the Reindeer was going to pay his respects to the sovereign (an old acquaintance of his), and I had gone, in full dress uniform, to accompany him. The dense foliage filtered the rays of the scorching two o'clock sun. The shady avenues making up Papeete, the Queen's city, were quiet and deserted. The small houses with their verandas, set in gardens beneath great trees and huge tropical plants, seemed, like their inhabitants, submerged in the voluptuous drowsiness of the siesta. Around the palace it was likewise empty and peaceful. One of the Queen's sons—a kind of bronzed colossus in a dress coat—came to meet us and showed us into a parlor with drawn blinds where some dozen women were seated, still and silent. In the middle of this room, two large gilded armchairs stood side by side. Pomare, who occupied one of them, invited the Admiral to be seated in the other, while an interpreter exchanged official compliments between the two old friends. That woman whose name used to be mingled with the exotic dreams of my childhood I now saw before me in a long

i4 sheath of rose-colored silk, in the guise of an aged copperskinned creature with an imperious and harsh bearing. Yet even in the massive ugliness of her old age, one could still discern what had been the charms and the glamour of her youth, acclaimed in the accounts of earlier navigators. The women of her retinue in the semi-obscurity of the closed chamber, in the tranquil silence of the tropical day, had an indefinable charm. They were nearly all beautiful in the Tahitian manner: black eyes full of languor and the amber complexion of gypsies. Their unbound hair was adorned with fresh flowers, and their flowing muslin gowns, free at the waist, fell about them in long folds. My gaze kept lingering involuntarily on Princess Ariitea—Ariitea with her gentle face, pensive, dreamy, with pale Bengal roses fastened at random in her black hair. VII The compliments over, the Admiral said to the Queen: "Here is Harry Grant, whom I wish to present to Your Majesty. He is the brother of George Grant, a naval officer who lived in your beautiful country for four years." The interpreter had barely finished translating when Pomare offered me her wrinkled hand. A good-natured smile, which no longer had anything official about it, lit up her old face: "The brother of Rueri!" she cried, calling my brother by his Tahitian name. "You must come to see me again." And then she added in English, "Welcome!"—apparently a very special favor, as the Queen never used any language other than that of her country. "Welcome!" repeated the Queen of Bora-Bora, who extended her hand, giving me a smile that showed her long cannibal teeth. And I went away charmed by this strange court.

Queen Pomare IV

i6 VIII Since early childhood, Rarahu had scarcely ever left the hut of her old adoptive mother, who lived in the district of Pirae, beside Fautaua stream. Her pursuits were extremely simple ones: dreaming, bathing—bathing above all—singing, and walking in the woods accompanied by Tiahui, her inseparable little friend. Rarahu and Tiahui were two carefree and laughing little creatures who practically lived in the water of their brook, where they frolicked and played like two little flying fish. IX One need not assume, however, that Rarahu was unlettered. She could read her Tahitian Bible and write, in a large and steady hand, the gentle words of the Polynesian language. She was even good at the conventional orthography established by the brothers of the Picpus order who composed, using the Latin alphabet, a vocabulary of Polynesian words. Many little girls in our European countryside are assuredly less cultivated than this uncivilized child. But this instruction, acquired at the missionaries' school at Papeete, could not have cost her much effort, since she was very lazy. X After following the road to Pirae for half an hour, then turning right into the brush, one came upon a large basin hollowed out of the natural rock. Into this pool Fautaua stream tumbled in a cascade and poured live water of an exquisite freshness. There throughout the long hot tropical day could be found a bevy of beautiful young women from


i8 Papeete, stretched out on the grass chatting, singing, sleeping, or else swimming and diving like agile dolphins. They entered the water attired in their muslin sheaths, and like naiads, kept them on, all damp against their bodies, while sleeping. To this spot often came visiting sailors to try their luck; there many oranges and guavas were consumed in the shade; there sat enthroned Tetuara the Negress. Tetuara belonged to the race of black natives of Melanesia. A ship coming from Europe had picked her up one day from an island near New Caledonia and deposited her a thousand leagues from her homeland, at Papeete, where she stood out like someone from the Congo who had been misplaced among English girls. Tetuara with inexhaustible good humor, simian gaiety, utter shamelessness, was a constant center of noise and activity. This characteristic made her dear to her carefree companions. She was one of the distinctive personages of the brook of Fautaua. XI INTRODUCTION

It was around noon, on a hot, still day, that for the first time in my life I caught sight of1 my little friend Rarahu. The young habitues of Fautaua stream, overcome with drowsiness and heat, lay about on the grass, dangling their feet in the clear cool water. The still shadow of the thick foliage fell straight down upon us; large butterflies, velvet-black with great lavender eyes, fluttered slowly by, or alighted on us as if their silky wings had become too heavy to support them; the air was laden with languorous and unfamiliar perfumes. Gradually, I abandoned myself to this indolent existence; I gave myself over to the charms of Oceania.


To the rear of this tableau, all at once the mimosa and guava branches opened up, a slight noise of rustling leaves could be heard, and two little maids appeared, surveying the situation like mice emerging from their holes. They were crowned with wreaths of leaves that protected their heads from the ardent sun. Around their hips were dark blue pareu with broad yellow stripes; their tawny torsos were slender and bare, their black hair long and free. . . . No E u r o p e a n s — n o s t r a n g e r s — n o t h i n g disquieting in sight. . . . The two little ones, reassured, came out and lay down under the waterfall that splattered clamorously around them. The prettier of the two was Rarahu; the other, Tiahui, her friend and confidante. At this point Tetuara, roughly seizing my arm in its sleeve of navy blue broadcloth upon which glistened a band of gold braid, raised it up above the grass in which I was concealed, and exhibited it to them with an indescribable expression of clownishness, waving it like a scarecrow. The two little creatures, like two sparrows on spotting a baboon, scampered off in terror—and that was our introduction, our first encounter. XII Tetuara then informed me more or less as follows: "Those are two silly little things who are not like the others, and don't behave at all like the rest of us. Old Huamahine, who takes care of them, is a woman of principles who forbids them to associate with us." Tetuara personally would have been quite pleased to see these two little girls tamed by me; she urged me quite eagerly to attempt the venture. According to her instructions, all you had to do to find them was to follow a faint trail

20 beneath the guavas, which after a hundred paces led to a pool higher than the first and also less frequented. There, too, she declared, Fautaua's stream poured into a cavity of rock that seemed expressly designed for conversation between two or three intimates. This was the special bathing place of Rarahu and Tiahui. One could almost say that their entire childhood had been spent there . . . It was a quiet, sheltered nook, over which some tall breadfruit trees with their dense foliage formed a kind of overhead vault, beneath which were mimosas, guavas, and frail sensitive plants. The cool water gurgled over smooth pebbles. From afar, lost in a confused murmur, could be heard the hubbub from the large pool, the laughter of the young women and the rasping voice of Tetuara . . . XIII "Loti," Queen Pomare said to me, a month later, in her gruff, hoarse voice, "Loti, why don't you marry little Rarahu of the Pirae district? I assure you that that would be much better, and it would put you in a more favorable position in the community." W e were on the royal veranda when this question was put to me. I was lolling on a mat and held in my hand five cards that had been dealt me by my friend Teria; opposite me lounged my bizarre partner the Queen, who doted on ecarte* with an intense passion. She was wearing a yellow dressing gown with large black flowers and smoked a long pandanus cigarette, made of a single tightly rolled leaf. Two attendants crowned with jasmine kept score, shuffled the *Ecarte: "A card game for two persons, originating in France in the nineteenth century and played with thirty-two cards from seven to ace, the king highest and the ace b e t w e e n jack and ten" (The Columbia Encyclopedia).

j Tetuara


cards, and gave us the benefit of their advice while leaning curiously over our shoulders. Outside, the rain fell—the torrential rain, warm and scented, of a summer thunderstorm. The great coconut fronds bent beneath the deluge, their mighty midribs streamed with water. The cloudbank over the mountain formed a dreadfully somber and heavy background. In the distance, jutting above this fantastic scene, was the black peak of the bluff of Fautaua. The forebodings of the storm in the air stirred the senses and the imagination. "Marry little Rarahu of the Pirae district." This proposition caught me off my guard, and gave me a lot to think about. It goes without saying that the Queen, who was a very intelligent and sensible person, was not suggesting to me one of those marriages according to European laws that bind for life. She looked indulgently on the easygoing ways of her country, even though she often tried to make them more proper and conformable to Christian precepts. This, then, was simply a Tahitian marriage that was being offered to me. I had no very good reason to resist this desire of the Queen's, and little Rarahu of the Pirae district was quite charming . . . Nevertheless, with much embarrassment, I pleaded my youth. I was besides somewhat under the guardianship of the Reindeer's admiral, who might look askance at this union. And then, a marriage is a very expensive affair, even in Oceania. Moreover, and above all, there was the eventuality of an early departure, and to leave Rarahu in tears, an inevitable consequence, would assuredly be most cruel. Pomare smiled at all these reasons, none of which, obviously, she had found convincing. After a moment of silence,


she proposed that I take Faimana, her lady-in-waiting, and this time I refused point-blank. At this, her face took on an expression of shrewd mischief, and very slowly she turned her gaze toward Princess Ariitea: "If I had offered you this one," she said, "perhaps you would have accepted with greater alacrity, my little Loti?" The old woman showed by these words that she had guessed the third and certainly the most serious of my heart's secrets. Ariitea lowered her eyes, and a faint blush appeared on her amber cheeks; I felt my own blood rush tumultuously to my face. And just then thunder began rolling in the depths of the mountain like a great orchestra accentuating a moment of intensity in a melodrama. Pomare, delighted by her jest, laughed up her sleeve. She had taken advantage of the disturbance she had created to score te tane (the man, that is to say, the king) twice. Pomare, one of whose favorite pastimes was the game of ecarte, was a great cheat; she even cheated at official receptions, in the games she played with the admirals or the Governor, and the few gold pieces she might win were no small part of the pleasure she got out of taking all the tricks. XIV Rarahu had two muslin gowns, one white, the other rose, which she wore on alternate Sundays over her blue and yellow pareu to go to the church of the Protestant missionaries in Papeete. On those days, her hair was arranged in two very thick long black braids. In addition, she placed over her ear (at the spot where old clerks stick their pens) a large hibiscus flower, and its bright red lent a transparent pallor to her bronzed cheek. She wouldn't spend much time in Papeete after the religi-


25 ous service, avoiding the society of the young women and the shops of the Chinese vendors of tea, pastry, and beer. She was very well-behaved, and, hand in hand with Tiahui, she returned to Pirae to disrobe. A faint, reserved smile, a slight, discreet pout, were the only signs of recognition these two young girls showed me if we happened to pass in the streets of Papeete. XV We had already spent many hours together, Rarahu and I, beside the Fautaua stream, in our bathing spot beneath the guavas, when Pomare made me that strange proposition about a marriage. And Pomare, who found out everything she wanted to know, was well aware of this. For a long while I had hesitated. I had resisted with all my strength, and this unusual situation had been prolonged, beyond all likelihood, over a period of several days: when we stretched out on the grass to take a midday nap together, and when Rarahu would put her arms around me, we would sleep alongside each other almost like two brothers. It was certainly a childish comedy we were playing, and undoubtedly no one would have believed it. To feel the sentiment "that made Faust hesitate at Marguerite's doorstep" toward a young girl of Tahiti would perhaps have made me smile at myself, given a few more years. It would have greatly amused the wardroom of the Reindeer in any case and have exposed me to ridicule in the eyes of Tetuara. The old foster-parents of Rarahu, whom I had at first feared to grieve, had, on these questions, some quite singular ideas not at all current in Europe. It did not take me long to realize that.

26 They considered that a big girl of fourteen was no longer a child and was not created to live alone. She did not go to Papeete to become a prostitute, and that was all they demanded of her propriety. They had decided that Loti was to be preferred to another—Loti, like her very young, who seemed to them gentle, and appeared to love her. So, on reflection, the two old people had concluded that it was all right. As for John, my beloved brother John, who saw everything with eyes so astonishingly innocent, who felt a pained surprise when told about my nocturnal strolls with Faimana in the Queen's gardens—John was full of indulgence toward this little girl, who had entranced him. He liked her childlike frankness and her great affection for me. He was willing to pardon his brother Harry anything when it came to her. And so, when the Queen proposed that I marry little Rarahu of the district of Pirae, the Tahitian marriage between us could be no more than a formality.


Ariifaaite, the Prince Consort, played an altogether unobtrusive political role at Pomare's court. The Queen, who was bent on giving the Tahitians a fine royal line, had chosen this man because he was the biggest and the best looking to be found in the archipelago. He was still a magnificent old man with white hair, majestic stature, and a noble and regular profile. But he was hardly presentable, insisting on the minimum of clothing. The simple Tahitian pareu seemed adequate to him; he had never been able to get used to a dress coat.


Moreover, he was often tipsy. Thus, he was seldom seen in public. Of this marriage were born some veritable giants who all died of the same irremediable malady, like those large tropical plants that flourish in one season and die in the fall. All of them died of consumption, and the Queen, with an inexpressible sorrow, watched them go one after the other. The eldest, Tamatoa, had had by his wife, the beautiful queen Moe, an exquisitely pretty little princess—heir apparent of the throne of Tahiti, little Pomare V, upon whom was lavished all the tenderness of her grandmother Pomare IV. This child, six years old in 1872, already showed signs of the hereditary malady, and more than once the grandmother's eyes filled with tears upon looking at her. This predictable sickness and certain death lent an additional charm to this little creature, the last of the Pomares, last of the queens of the Tahitian archipelago. She was as entrancing, as capricious as a sick little princess can be whom no one ever thwarts. The affection she exhibited toward me had helped to attract that of the Queen . . . XVII In order to speak Rarahu's language and to comprehend her thoughts, the most amusing or the most profound, I had resolved to learn the Maori language. With this in mind, one day in Papeete I acquired the dictionary of the Picpus missionaries, a little old volume that had never gone past one edition and of which it is now almost impossible to find copies. This was the book that first opened for me strange perspectives on Polynesia, a whole unexplored field of dreams and studies.

28 XVIII I was at once struck by the great number of mystical words from the old Maori religion, and then by those sad, frightening, untranslatable words that express vague terrors of the night, mysterious sounds of nature, barely discernible dreams of the imagination. First of all, there was Taaroa, supreme god of the Polynesian religions. The goddesses: Ruahine tahua, goddess of the arts and of prayer; Ruahine auna, goddess of tender care; Ruahine faaipu, goddess of sincerity; Ruahine nihoniho roroa, goddess of discord and of murder. Romatane, the priest who admits souls to heaven, or excludes them. Tutahoroa, the path the souls follow to make their way into the eternal night. Tapaparaharaha, the foundation of the world. Ihohoa, the spirits, the ghosts. Oromatua ai aru nihoniho roroa, a cadaver that returns to kill and eat the living. Tuitupapau, prayer to a dead person not to return. Tahurere, to pray to a dead friend to injure an enemy. Tii, evil spirit. Tahutahu, magician, sorcerer. Mahoi, the essence, the soul of a god. Faa-fano, departure of the soul at death. Ao, world, universe, earth, sky, happiness, paradise, cloud, light, source, center, heart of things. Po, night, olden times, unknown and dark world, hell. And words such as these, chosen at random from a thousand: Moana, depths of the sea or sky. Tohureva, premonition of death. Natuaea, confused and mistaken vision.


Nupa nupa, obscurity, mental disturbance. Ruma-ruma, darkness, melancholy. Tarehua, to have the senses dimmed, be a visionary. Tataraio, to be bewitched. Tunoo, evil spell. Ohiohio, sinister look. Puhiairoto, secret enemy. Totoro ai po, mysterious repast in the dark. Tetea, pallid individual, ghost. Oromatua, a relative's skull. Papaora, stench of a cadaver. Tai hitoa, frightening voice. Tai aru, voice like that of the sea. Tururu, noise made by the mouth to frighten. Aniania, dizziness, breeze that springs up. Tape tape, limit bordering deep waters. Tahau, to whiten with dew. Rauhurupe, old banana tree; decrepit person. Tutai, red clouds on the horizon. Nina, to dispel a sad idea; to bury. Ata, cloud; flower stem; messenger; twilight. Ari, depth; emptiness; sea wave. XIX Rarahu owned an extremely ugly cat upon which, before my arrival, she had concentrated her warmest affections. Cats are prestigious animals in Oceania even though the local species is altogether inferior. Those that arrive from Europe soon adapt and are much in demand. Rarahu's cat was a large, gaunt, long-legged beast who spent his days sleeping, his belly to the sunlight, or eating blue lizards. He was called Turiri. His erect ears were pierced at the tips and decorated with little silken tassels, as was the fashion among Tahitian cats. That headdress completed in a very comical manner his feline countenance, already most extraordinary by itself. He made so bold as to follow his mistress to her bath and passed long hours with us, stretched out nonchalantly. Rarahu lavished upon him the most tender names, such as "my dear little thing" and "my little sweetheart" (tau mea iti here rahi and tau mafatu iti).


XX No, those who have lived down there, among the halfcivilized girls of Papeete, who have learned with them the easy and corrupt Tahitian of the seashore and the morals of the colonial town, who see in Tahiti only an island where everything is made for sensual pleasure and satisfaction of physical appetites—they comprehend nothing of the charm of the land. Those others, undoubtedly the more numerous, who look upon Tahiti with a more discerning and artistic viewpoint, who see a land of eternal spring, ever gay and poetic —country of flowers and beautiful young women—they likewise fail to understand. The charm of this land is elsewhere and is not to be appreciated by all. To find it you must leave Papeete. Go out where civilization has not arrived, out where—beneath the slender coconut palms, beside the coral strands, before the immense deserted ocean—one finds the Tahitian districts, the villages with their pandanus roofs. Behold the immobile and dreamy natives; observe those silent groups, indolent and idle, at the foot of great trees who seem to live only through the spirit of contemplation. Listen to the deep calm of nature, the monotonous and eternal soughing of the waves breaking on the coral. Look upon those awe-inspiring scenes, those basaltic cliffs, those forests hanging upon the somber mountainside, and all of that lost in the midst of this majestic and limitless solitude: the Pacific.

XXI The first occasion on which Rarahu came to mingle with the young women of Papeete was on the evening of a great celebration. The Queen was giving a ball for the officers of a frigate that happened to be in port.

3i In the wide-open salon the European officials, the ladies of the court, all the members of colonial society, were already lined up in full dress. Outside, in the gardens, there was a grand hubbub, a great confusion. All the attendants, all the young women, in festive attire and bedecked with flowers, were organizing an immense upaupa. They were preparing to dance till dawn, barefooted, to the beat of the tom-tom, while in the Queen's hall there would be dancing in satin slippers to the strains of the piano. And the officers who already had friends within and without, in these two worlds of women, circulated from the one to the other openly, with the peculiar latitude that Tahitian customs allow. Curiosity and, especially, jealousy had impelled Rarahu to this particular escapade, long premeditated. Jealousy, an uncommon passion in Oceania, had undermined her wild little heart. When falling asleep alone at sundown in the hut of her old parents deep in the woods, she would ask herself what those Papeete evenings could possibly be like that her friend Loti was spending with Faimana or Teria, the Queen's attendants. And then there was that Princess Ariitea in whom, with her feminine instinct, she sensed a rival. "Ia ora na, Loti!" (I greet you, Loti!) a well-known little voice suddenly spoke behind me, one that seemed still too young and too fresh to be involved in the tumult of this celebration. Astonished, I replied, "la ora na, Rarahu!" It was indeed Rarahu, in a white gown, clutching Tiahui's hand. It was truly these two, who appeared intimidated at finding themselves in this unaccustomed environment, where so many young women were looking at them. They came up to me with expressions half-smiling, half prim, and it was easy to see that a storm was brewing.

32 "Don't you want to stroll with us, Loti? Is it that you don't know us here? And aren't we just as well-dressed and pretty as the others?" They knew full well that they were, on the contrary, even more so than the others for without that conviction they probably would never have embarked on the adventure. "Let's go closer," said Rarahu; I want to see what they in the palace are doing." And the three of us, hand in hand, amid the muslin frocks and the wreaths of flowers, went over to the open windows so that we could look on that affair singular for more than one reason: a reception at the abode of Queen Pomare. "Loti," straightway demanded Tiahui, "those people there, what are they doing?" She pointed to a group of slightly swarthy women clad in brightly colored long tunics who were seated with some officers around a table covered with a green cloth. They were handling gold coins and numerous little squares of painted cardboard that they moved rapidly through their fingers, while their black eyes maintained their impassive expression of cajolery and exotic nonchalance. Tiahui was absolutely ignorant of the secrets of poker and baccarat. She only vaguely understood the explanations I was able to give her. When the first notes of the piano began to reverberate through the warm and echoing atmosphere, silence reigned and Rarahu listened in ecstasy. Never before had she heard anything like that. Surprise and rapture dilated her strange eyes. The sound of the tom-tom died, and behind us groups gathered silently. One could hear only the rustling of light fabrics, the fluttering of the large moths that brushed the flame of the candles with their wings—and the distant murmur of the Pacific.

33 Then Ariitea appeared, leaning on the arm of an English commander, and preparing to waltz. "She is very beautiful, Loti," said Rarahu softly. "Very beautiful, Rarahu," I replied. "And you are going to attend this party and have your turn to dance with her, holding her in your arms, while Rarahu will return all alone with Tiahui and go sadly to bed at Pirae." "No, Loti, you will not go!" she declared excitedly all of a sudden. " I have come to fetch you." "You will see, Rarahu, how well the piano will sound under my fingers; you will hear me play, and never shall music so sweet reach your ear. Then you must go, since it is getting late. Tomorrow will come soon, and tomorrow we shall be together." "By heaven, no, Loti; you shall not go!" she insisted again, her childish voice trembling with rage. Whereupon, with the quickness of a nervous and angry kitten, she tore off my gold shoulder cords, rumpled my collar, and ripped from top to bottom the faultless front of my Britannic shirt. The upshot was that, thus ill-used, I was unable to present myself at the Queen's ball; I had no choice but to put a brave face on things, and, with laughter, to follow Rarahu into the woods of the district of Pirae. But when we were alone in the countryside, far from the noise of the festival, amid the woods and the darkness, I found everything around me absurd and dull: the calm of the night, the sky sparkling with unfamiliar stars, the scent of the Tahitian plants, all, even the voice of the delightful child who walked beside me. I was thinking of Ariitea, in her long gown of blue satin, waltzing there at the Queen's, and an ardent desire drew me toward her. This evening, Rarahu had taken the wrong tack by dragging me into her solitude.


Papeete, 1872 "Dear little sister, "Here I am under the spell—yes, even I—under the spell of this land that is like no other. I believe that I see it as George did years ago, through the same enchanting prism. Barely two months ago I set foot on this isle, and already I have become enthralled. The disappointment of the first days is very far off today, and I believe that it is here, as Mignon* said, that I would want to live, love, and die. "We will stay here six more months. The decision was made yesterday by our commanding officer, who also likes it better here than anywhere else. The Reindeer will not leave before October; by then I shall have grown completely accustomed to this sweetly languid existence, by then I shall have become more than half native, and I fear that at the hour of departure I may suffer terribly. "I cannot tell you all the strange impressions I experience, recognizing at each step memories of twelve years ago. As a little boy in the family home, I dreamed of Oceania. Through the fantastic veil of the unknown I had understood it and imagined it just as I find it today. All these scenes are déjà vus, all these names were known, all these personages are those that formerly haunted my childhood dreams, so much so that at times I believe that today I am dreaming. "Look through George's old papers for a photograph already faded by the passage of time showing a little hut by the seashore, built at the foot of gigantic coconut trees and almost hidden beneath the vegetation. It was his. It is still there, in the same place. *Mignon is a character in the opera of that name by Ambroise Thomas, 1866.

36 "Someone pointed it out to me, but that was unnecessary—I would have recognized it by myself. "Ever since he left, it has remained empty. The sea wind and the years have broken and bruised it. Bushes have covered it over, the vanilla vine has interlaced it—but it has still kept George's Tahitian name; they still call it Rueri's hut. "The memory of Rueri remains honored by many natives—particularly with the Queen, by whom I am liked and welcomed in his memory. "You had George's confidences. You undoubtedly knew that a Tahitian girl whom he had loved had lived with him during his four years of exile. "And I, who was then but a little child, sensed by myself what nobody would tell me. I even knew that she wrote to him—I had seen some letters lying about on his writing table, written in an unknown language, which today I am beginning to speak and to understand. "Her name was Taimaha. She lives near here, on a neighboring island, and I would like to see her. I have often wanted to seek her, and then, at the last moment, I hesitate—an indefinable feeling, a kind of scruple, stops me on the point of stirring up these ashes, and of digging into the intimate past of my brother, over which death has cast its sacred veil. . . . " XXIII The character of the Tahitians is a bit like that of little children. They are capricious, whimsical, sulky all of a sudden and without cause, always fundamentally decent, and hospitable in the most complete sense of the word. The contemplative disposition is extraordinarily well de-

37 veloped among them. They are sensitive to the gay or sad aspects of nature, subject to all the reveries of the imagination. The solitude of the forests, the darkness, terrify them, and they incessantly people them with phantoms and ghosts. Nocturnal bathing is in vogue in Tahiti; on moonlit nights, bands of young girls go to the woods to plunge into natural pools of a delightful coolness. It is then that the simple word tupapa'u cast into the midst of these bathers will put them into flight as if they were mad. (Tupapau is the name of the tattooed phantoms who are the terror of all the Polynesians; strange word, frightening in itself and untranslatable.) In Oceania, work is a thing unknown. The forests produce by themselves everything necessary for nourishing these carefree people. The fruit of the breadfruit tree and wild bananas grow for all and suffice for each. The years go by for the Tahitians in an absolute indolence and a perpetual revery, and these big children do not suspect that in our beautiful Europe so many poor people exhaust themselves in earning their daily bread. XXIV A CLOUD

The carefree and indolent group was all together beside the Pirae stream, and Tetuara, who was in a jolly mood, regaled all of us, half asleep on the grass, with Rabelaisian quips, all the while stuffing herself with pieces of coconut and oranges. One scarcely heard anything except her rasping voice, mingled with the humming of crickets who were singing their noonday song, at the very hour when, on the other side of the globe, my friends of former times were leaving the

38 theaters of Paris, chilled and muffled up, in the icy mist of the winter night. Here, nature was tranquil and languid. A balmy breeze softly stirred the treetops, and a crowd of little sunbeams danced gaily upon us, infinitely multiplied by the airy sifting of the guavas and the mimosas. Suddenly we saw coming toward us a figure clad in a long tunic of aquamarine voile, her long black hair carefully dressed, and, on her brow, a coronet of jasmine. One could see, through the thin cloth, the smooth maidenly breasts that had never been confined. One could also see that she had draped around her hips a sumptuous pareu, whose large white flowers on a red background were visible beneath the filmy voile. I had never seen Rarahu so beautiful, nor taking herself so seriously. A great accolade of admiration had greeted her appearance. The fact is that she did look very pretty, and her embarrassed coquetry made her even more charming. Abashed and intimidated, she had come to me. Then she had seated herself upon the grass beside me and remained there without moving, her cheeks flushed beneath their tan, her eyes lowered, like a guilty child who trembles lest one should question and blame her. "Loti, you do things in style," someone said among the lookers-on. And the young women upon whom my astonishment had by no means been lost gave vent in the tall grass to little bursts of suppressed laughter that spoke a host of malicious things. Tetuara, shrewd and merciless, delivered upon the beautiful dress of voile this pronouncement: "It is made of Chinese material!" And the laughter redoubled—it came from behind every one of the guavas, it came from the water of the brook; it came from everywhere, and poor little Rarahu came very close to dissolving in tears.


"It is made of Chinese material," Tetuara had said. A comment pregnant with venomous implication, a triply pointed comment that kept coming back to my mind. In truth, I had had nothing to do with this gown of green voile. Nor had Rarahu's parents, who lived half-naked in their pandanus hut, launched into such extravagance. And I remained deep in thought. The Chinese merchants of Papeete are for the Tahitians an object of distaste and aversion. There is no greater shame for a young woman than to be convicted of having listened to the amatory proposals of one of them. But the Chinese are cunning and they are rich, and it is well known that many of them, by virtue of presents and of silver coins, obtain clandestine favors that compensate them for the public contempt. I was, however, very careful about communicating this horrible suspicion to John, who would have heaped with anathema my little friend Rarahu. I had the good taste to make no reproaches nor scandal, determining only to observe and to wait. XXVI PERSISTENCE OF THE C L O U D

When I arrived at the Pirae stream, at our special bathing place beneath the guavas, it was three o'clock in the afternoon, an unaccustomed hour. I had approached noiselessly. I spread the branches aside and I peered out. Astonishment rooted me to the spot. A repellent thing was there in that


place we considered as belonging to us alone: an old Chinese entirely naked, washing his ugly yellow body in our limpid stream! He seemed much at home and quite at his ease. He had raised his long queue of braided gray hair and wound it in the manner of a woman's chignon on the tip of his bald cranium. He was complacently washing his bony limbs, which looked as though they had been coated with saffron. And the sunlight shone on him just as it did for us, with its rays discreetly veiled by the vegetation, and the cool, clear water murmured just the same around him, with as much naturalness and gaiety as it might have done for us. XXVII I watched, stationed behind the branches. Curiosity held me there, attentive and motionless. I had condemned myself to the spectacle of this bath, waiting anxiously to find out what would happen. I did not havfe long to wait. A light rustling of branches, a sound of soft voices, soon told me that the two young girls were coming. The Chinese, who had also heard them, jumped to his feet as if propelled by a spring. Whether from modesty, or from the shame of exposing such unsightly things to the sunlight, he ran for his clothes. The numerous muslin robes which, in layers, comprised his costume were hanging here and there from the branches of the trees. He had had time to put on two or three when the young girls arrived. Rarahu's cat, who led the procession, arched his back very menacingly upon perceiving the yellow man and reversed his route with an indignant air. Then Tiahui made her appearance. She paused for a moment with her hand to her chin, chuckling, as someone does on perceiving

4i something very droll. Rarahu peered over her shoulder, laughing also. After which, they both advanced resolutely, saying in a bantering tone: "la ora na, Tseen-Lee! Ia ora na tinito, mafatu me iti!" (Good-day, Tseen-Lee, good-day, Chinaman, dear heart!)* They knew him by name, and he had called out Rarahu's. He had let his grizzled queue fall with a great air of coquetry, and the lustful old man's eyes glittered hideously.

XXVIII He drew from his pockets a quantity of things that he offered the two children: little boxes of pink or white powder; elaborate little toilet articles, like tiny silver spatulas for scraping the tongue, for all of which he explained the usage; and finally Chinese sweetmeats—fruits preserved with pepper and ginger. Rarahu, especially, was the object of his ardent attentions. And the two young girls allowed themselves to be coaxed a little but accepted all the same, to the accompaniment of disdainful poutings and monkeylike grimacings. There was a large pink ribbon, for which Rarahu allowed him to kiss her naked shoulder. And then Tseen-Lee sought to go further, and drew his lips close to those of my little friend, who ran offas fast as her legs could carry her, followed by Tiahui. The two of them disappeared into the wood like gazelles, bearing their presents by the handfuls. One could hear them laughing still from a long way off across the forest, and Tseen-Lee, incapable of catching up with them, remained where he was, woeful and mortified. *Mafatu me iti actually means "of little heart," but Loti translates it as "raon petit coeur," evidently not intending an insult.


Next day, Rarahu, her head in my lap, wept profusely. In the heart of this poor little girl growing up without guidance in the woods, the apprehension of good and evil had remained imperfect. One found there a host of quaint and incomplete ideas absorbed haphazardly beneath the shade of the great trees. Guileless and honest feelings predominated, however, and mingled among-them were also some Christian concepts drawn helter-skelter from her old foster parents' Bible. Coquetry and greed had impelled her away from the right path, but I was sure, absolutely certain, that she had given nothing in exchange for those curious presents, and the evil could still be mended by her tears. She understood that what she had done was very bad. She understood above all that she had caused me distress, and that John, sober John, my brother, would turn his blue eyes away from her. She had confessed everything, the story of the gown of green voile, the story of the red pareu. She wept, poor little thing, with all her heart. Sobs wracked her breast, and Tiahui wept likewise, to see her friend weeping. These tears, the first that Rarahu had ever shed in her life, produced between us the effect that tears so often bring: they made us love each other the more. In my feeling toward her, affection assumed a larger role, and the image of Ariitea faded for awhile. The strange little creature who wept there on my knees, in the solitude of a forest of Oceania, was revealed to me in a way that I had not known before. For the first time, she seemed to me someone, and I began to imagine the lovely

43 woman that she might have become, if anyone other than those two old savages had taken charge of her young faculties. XXX From that day on, Rarahu, considering herself to no longer be a child, ceased to appear bare-breasted in public. Even on days that were not holidays, she took to wearing dresses and braiding her long hair. XXXI Mata reva was the name Rarahu had given me, wanting nothing to do with that of Loti, which had come to me from Faimana or Ariitea. Mata, in its literal sense, means eye. It is according to their eyes that the Maori designate people, and the names they give are generally well chosen. Plumkett, for example, was Mata pifare (cat's eye); Brown, Mata tore (rat's eye), and John, Mata ninamu (blue eye). Rarahu had not wanted any animal characterization for me; the more poetical name of Mata reva was the one she had selected after much deliberation. I consulted the dictionary of the venerable Picpus missionaries and discovered the following: Reva, firmament; depth, profundity, mystery. XXXII LOTI'S JOURNAL

The hours, the days, the months flew by in this country differently than in others. Time rolled along imperceptibly, in the monotony of an eternal summer. One seemed to be in an atmosphere of calm and fixity, where worldly agitations no longer existed . . .

44 Oh! the delightful hours, oh! the hours of summer, gentle and warm, that we spent there each day beside the brook of Fautaua, in that nook of the wood, shady and secluded, that was the nest of Rarahu and Tiahui. The stream ran softly over the smooth stones, carrying along schools of minute fish and water-flies. The ground was carpeted with fine grass, with delicate little plants, from which emanated a fragrance equal to that of our European hayfields during the beautiful month of June, an exquisite perfume, expressed by the Tahitian term pua miri ra ia, which means "a pleasant odor of plants." The air was all laden with tropical vapors, in which the perfume of oranges overheated in the branches by the midday sun predominated. Nothing disturbed the overpowering silence of these South Sea noontimes. Tiny lizards, blue as turquoises, reassured by our immobility, ran round about us, accompanied by black butterflies marked with large violet eyes. One heard nothing but the light rustling of water, the low songs of insects, or from time to time the falling of an overripe guava, which burst on the ground with a scent of raspberries. And when the day wore on, when the rays cast by the waning sun upon the branches of the trees grew more golden, Rarahu would return with me to her isolated hut in the forest. Her two old parents were always there, stationary and solemn, squatting in front of their pandanus hut, and watching us approach. A sort of mystical smile, an expression of careless benevolence, would momentarily light up their impassive faces: "We greet you, Loti!" they would say in guttural tones; or else: "We greet you, Mata reva!" And that was all. Time to go, and I would leave between the two of them my little friend, who followed me with smiling eyes and seemed a fresh personification of youth beside these two somber Polynesian mummies.

45 It was the hour of the evening meal. Old Tahaapairu would extend his long tattooed arms toward a pile of dead wood. He would take from it two pieces of dry purau and rub them one against the other to make fire, the old native process. Rarahu would receive the embers from the hands of the old man. She would light a sheaf of branches and cook in the earth two maiore, breadfruit, which constituted the family repast. That was also the hour at which the group of bathers from the brook of Fautaua returned to Papeete, led by Tetuara. And so for the return trip I always had jolly company. "Loti," Tetuara would say, "don't forget you are expected tonight in the Queen's garden. Teria and Faimana want you to know that they are counting on you to escort them to the Chinaman's for tea, and I also would be glad to go if you want me to." W e would go back singing, by a road from which the view overlooked the great blue ocean, glowing with the last rays of the dying sun. Night would descend on Tahiti, clear, starlit. Rarahu would be falling asleep in the forest; in the grass, the crickets would tune up for their evening concert; the moths would flit beneath the great trees—and the maids-in-waiting would soon be strolling in the gardens of the Queen. XXXIII Rarahu, who was walking with me down one of the shaded avenues of Papeete, delivered a greeting, half friendly, half mocking—a little frightened also—to a quaint creature who was passing by. The tall, gaunt woman, Tahitian only in costume, responded with a stiffness full of dignity and turned around to look at us. Rarahu, vexed, stuck out her tongue at her, after which

46 she told me laughingly that this old maid, half-white, lanky cross between an Englishman and a Maori woman, was her former teacher at the school of Papeete. One day, she had told her pupil that she had the highest hopes for her to succeed to this position because of the great facility with which the child was learning. Rarahu, seized with terror at the thought of this future, had straightway set off for Pirae, quitting at that instant the haapiirara (schoolhouse), never to return. XXXIV One morning I went back on board the Reindeer, bringing the sensational news that I had spent the night in the company of Tamatoa. Tamatoa, eldest son of Queen Pomare, husband of Queen Moe of the island of Raiatea, father of the charming little invalid, Pomare V, was a man who had been kept secluded for several years between four thick walls but was still the legendary terror of the country. In his normal state, Tamatoa, they said, was no more malicious than anybody else, but he drank, and when drunk he saw red, and he had to have blood. This was a man thirty years old, of prodigious stature and of herculean strength. Several men together were incapable of controlling him when he ran amuck. He killed without motive, and the atrocities he committed go beyond all imagining. Pomare nevertheless adored this colossal son. It was even rumored in the palace that for some time she had been opening the door for him and that he had been seen at night prowling around the gardens. His presence caused the same terror among the young women of the court as that of a wild beast whose cage one knew to be inadequately secured at night.


At Pomare's court there was a hall reserved for strangers, open night and day. On the floor there were pads covered with clean white matting that were available to traveling Tahitians, to chiefs held up from returning to their districts, and, sometimes, to myself. The gardens were silent and in the palace all were asleep when I made my way into the hall of refuge. I found a single figure seated there, bent over a table upon which was burning a coconut oil lamp. He was a stranger, of a superhuman height and breadth. With one hand he could have crushed a man as one might a goblet. He had the thick, square jaws of a cannibal. His enormous head was harsh and savage, his half-closed eyes held an expression of bewildered sadness. "Ia ora na, Loti," said the man. I had paused at the door. Then there began the following conversation in Tahitian between the stranger and me: "How do you know my name?" "I know that you are Loti, the young aide to the Whitehaired Admiral. I have often watched you pass close by me at night. Are you going to sleep here?" "And you? You are a chief of some island?" "Yes, I am a great chief. Lie down in the corner over there; you will find the best matting there." When I had stretched out and rolled up in my pareu, I closed my eyes just enough to let me watch the strange character who had now got up cautiously and was moving toward me. At the same time that he was drawing near, a slight noise caused me to turn my head in the opposite direction toward the door, where the old Queen had appeared. She was walking on tiptoe, barefooted, with infinite precaution, but the mats still creaked beneath the weight of her stout body. When the man got close to me, he took up a mosquito netting which he spread carefully over my head. After

48 which, he placed a banana leaf in front of his lamp to shield the light from me and resumed his seat, his head supported on his two hands. Pomare, who had been anxiously watching the two of us while hidden in the dark doorway, seemed to be satisfied with her examination and disappeared. The Queen seldom came into these precincts of her residence, and her appearance, having confirmed in my mind the notion that my companion was dangerous, dispelled any idea of sleeping. The stranger, however, did not budge; his gaze was once again vague and dull; he had forgotten my presence. In the distance could be heard some of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting singing a himene of the Paumotu islands in a two-part round. And then the deep voice of old Ariifaaite, the Prince Consort, cried "Mamul" (Silence!), "Te hora ahuru ma pitil" (Silence! It is midnight!). And silence fell as if by enchantment. An hour later, the shadow of the old Queen appeared again in the doorway. The lamp was going out, and the man had just fallen asleep. I was soon doing likewise. It was a light slumber, however, and when at daybreak I arose to depart, I saw that he had not changed his position, except that his head had sunk and was resting on the table. I made my toilet at the foot of the garden under the mimosas in a stream of fresh water. After which, I went onto the veranda to greet the Queen and to thank her for her hospitality. "Haere mat, Loti," she called from a distance upon seeing me, "haere mai paraparauY' (Come here, Loti, and let's chat a bit!) "Well! did he receive you properly?" "Yes," I replied. And I saw her old face light up with pleasure when I told her of my appreciation for the care he had taken of me. " D o you know w h o he w a s , ' ' she i n q u i r e d

49 mysteriously—"oh, don't tell anyone about it, my dear Loti . . . it was Tamatoa!" A few days later, Tamatoa was officially given his liberty, on condition that he would never leave the palace. Many times I had occasion to speak with him and shake his hand. This lasted till the time when, having escaped, he murdered a woman and two children in the garden of the Protestant missionary, and perpetrated in a single day a series of sanguinary horrors that cannot be written, even in Latin.

xxxy Who can say what gives a country its charm? Who can express that intimate and elusive quality that just is not in the human vocabulary? There is in the charm of Tahiti a great deal of that strange sadness that broods over all these islands of Oceania—the isolation in the immensity of the Pacific—the sea breeze—the sound of the surf—the dense shadows—the husky and sad voices of the Maori who move about singing among the trunks of the astonishingly tall, white, and slender coconut trees. One exhausts oneself trying to seek, to grasp, to explain; a useless endeavor—that something eludes one and remains uncomprehended. I have written many pages on Tahiti. Therein may be found details concerning the appearance of trifling little plants—even down to the characteristics of the mosses. You can read all that with the best will in the world and will you have understood? Assuredly not. For after reading it, have you listened at night on those Polynesian beaches of white coral sand; have you heard at night the plaintive sound of a vivo* from out the depths of the forest, or the far-off moaning of conch-shell horns? *vivo: reed flute. (Loti's note.)



. . . "The flesh of white men tastes like ripe banana. " . . . This intelligence comes to me from the old Maori chief Hoatoru, of the island of Rutuma, whose competence in this matter is indisputable. XXXVII Rarahu, in a fit of indignation, had called me "long lizard without feet"—which I had not understood very well at first. The snake being an animal utterly unknown in Polynesia, the half-breed who had taught Rarahu, in order to explain to her in what form the Devil had tempted the first woman, had had recourse to this periphrase. Rarahu, had thus become accustomed to considering this "long lizard without feet" as the most wicked and most dangerous of all earthly creatures. It was for that reason that she had hurled this insult at me. She was jealous again, poor little Rarahu: she was hurt that Loti did not want to belong exclusively to her. Those evenings spent in Papeete, the pleasures of the other young women, in which her old parents forbade her to take part, exercised her childish imagination. Above all, there were the tea parties given at the Chinamen's, concerning which Tetuara gave her fantastic descriptions; teas at which Teria, Faimana, and several other silly girls of the Queen's court drank and became intoxicated. Loti attended them, even at times presided over them, and this confused Rarahu, who could no longer understand. When she had thoroughly abused me, she wept—a much better argument. From that day forward, I was rarely seen in Papeete in the

5i evening. I tarried later in the wood of Pirae, even sometimes partaking of breadfruit with old Tahaapairu. Nightfall was sad indeed in such solitude, but that sadness had its great charm, and the voice of Rarahu had a delightful sound in the evening, beneath the high and somber vault of the trees. I would remain until the hour w h e n the old people said their prayer, a prayer spoken in a bizarre and barbarous tongue, but which was the very same I had learned in my childhood: " O u r Father, w h o art in H e a v e n , " the eternal and sublime prayer of Christ, would resound in a strangely mysterious way there at the antipodes of the old world, in the obscurity of those woods, in the silence of those nights, spoken by the slow and grave voice of this ghostly old man.

XXXVIII There was something Rarahu was already beginning to sense, and that she was bound to feel bitterly later on, something that she was incapable of formulating in her mind in a precise fashion or of expressing with the words of her primitive language. She understood vaguely that there must b e some gulf b e t w e e n her intellectual world and that of Loti, entire worlds of unknown ideas and knowledge. Already she was grasping the radical difference b e t w e e n our races, our conceptions, our slightest feelings: even our notions concerning the most elementary things in life differed. Loti, who dressed like a Tahitian and spoke her language, remained for her a popaa, that is to say, one of those men w h o came from fantastic countries beyond the great seas, one of those men who of late years had b e e n bringing many unheard-of changes and unforeseen novelties into tradition-bound Polynesia. She knew also that Loti would b e off again soon to return no more, going back to his far-off country. She had not the

52 least idea of these giddy distances, and Tahaapairu compared them to those that separated Fautaua from the moon or the stars. She thought she represented in the eyes of Loti—child of fifteen years as she was—only an odd little creature, a transient plaything who would quickly be forgotten. She was mistaken, however. Loti was beginning to realize that he was experiencing toward her a feeling that was no longer commonplace. Already he had feelings for her that came from the heart. He remembered his brother George, the one the Tahitians called Rueri, who had carried away indelible memories from this country, and he felt that it would be the same with himself. It seemed very possible to Loti that this adventure, begun by chance through a whim of Tetuara's, might leave profound and durable traces on his whole life. While still very young, Loti had been thrust into the excitements of European existence. Very early he had lifted the veil that hides the worldly scene from children; launched abruptly, at the age of sixteen, into the vortex of London and of Paris, he had suffered at an age when ordinarily one begins only to think about life. Loti had returned very fatigued from this campaign undergone so early in life, and already counted himself very blase. He had been profoundly disgusted and disappointed, because, before becoming a lad similar to other youths, he had been an innocent and dreamy child, brought up in the gentle peace of the family. He too had been a little savage, upon whose heart had become inscribed in isolation a host of fresh ideas and radiant illusions. Before going to dream in the woods of Oceania, as a child he had long dreamt alone in the woods of Yorkshire. There were a great many mysterious affinities between

53 Loti and Rarahu, born at the two extremities of the world. Both were accustomed to isolation and contemplation, to the woods and to the solitudes of nature; both contrived to spend long hours in silence, stretched out on the grass and the moss; both were passionately fond of revery, music, beautiful fruits, flowers, and fresh water. XXXIX For the moment there existed no cloud on our horizon. There were still five long months to spend together. It was indeed useless to worry about the future . . . XL Rarahu's singing was delightful. When she sang by herself, her voice held tones so fresh and so sweet that only birds or little children could perform likewise. When she sang in a group, she improvised extravagant variations above the song of the others, pitched in the highest notes of the scale, always very complex and admirablv true. In Pirae, as in all the Tahitian districts, there was a choir called himene, which performed regularly under the direction of a chief and was heard at all the native festivals. Rarahu was one of the outstanding members of the choir and altogether dominated it with her pure voice. The voices of the choir that accompanied her were hoarse and somber—the men especially brought in low and metallic tones, a kind of roaring that characterized the dominants and seemed more like the sounds of some savage instrument than those of the human voice. The ensemble had a precision to rival the choristers of the Conservatory and produced in the woods of an evening effects that cannot be described.

54 XLI It was the hour at the close of day. I was alone by the seaside, on a beach of the district of Pirae. In this isolated spot, I was waiting for Taimaha, and I had an odd feeling at the thought that this woman was going to come. A woman soon appeared, perceived me under the coconut trees, and came toward me. By now night had fallen. When she was quite close, I distinguished a horrible face that was regarding me with laughter, the laugh of a savage: "You are Taimaha?" I said to her. "Taimaha? . . . No. My name is Tevaruefaipotuaiahutu, from the district of Papetoai. I have just gathered some pearl shells on the reef, and some pink coral. Would you care to buy some from me?" I waited until midnight. I learned the next day that early in the morning the real Taimaha had left for her island. My message had not been delivered; she had gone away without realizing that for several hours the brother of Rueri had waited for her on the beach.


Reindeer. Taravao,


"My good brother John, "The messenger who brings you this letter is charged at the same time with delivering a lot of presents that I am sending you. First of all, there is a plume of tail feathers from red phaethons, a very valuable object, the gift of my host, the Chief ofTeahupoo; next a necklace of three strands of little

55 white shells, the gift of the Chief s wife; and finally two tufts of reva-reva, which a great lady of the district of Papeari placed on my head yesterday at the festival of Taravao. "I shall remain several more days here, with the Chief, who was a friend of my brother's. I shall use up every bit of leave the Admiral granted. "Your presence is the only thing lacking, brother, to make my visit to Taravao truly delightful. The environs of Papeete are incapable of giving you any idea of this little known region called the peninsula of Taravao: a peaceful nook, shadowy, bewitching, with gigantic orange groves, the fruits and flowers of which are strewn over a delightful terrain, carpeted with delicate grasses and periwinkles. "Some huts of lemonwood are scattered there where oldtime Maori live as they always have. Down there one finds the old native hospitality: repasts of fruit beneath canopies of interlaced verdure and flowers; music, the plaintive strains of reed flutes, himene choirs, songs, and dances. "I am sole occupant of an isolated hut, built on piles over the sea and coral. If I lean out a little from my bed of white mats, I see splashing about beneath me a little world apart that is the world of coral. Amid the white or pink branches, in the intricate boughs of the coral, move thousands of tiny fish, the colors of which can only be compared to those of precious stones or of hummingbirds—geranium reds, Chinese greens, blues one would not know how to paint—and a host of little creatures striped with all the shades of the rainbow, having the form of everything except that of fish. During the day, in the tranquil hours of the siesta, absorbed in my contemplations, I admire all this which is almost unknown, even to naturalists and explorers. "At night, my heart sinks a bit in this Robinson Crusoelike isolation. When the wind sighs outside, when the sea

56 utters its loud ominous voice in the darkness, then I feel a kind of anguish of solitude, here, at this most southerly and deserted point of this far-off island, before this vastness that is the Pacific—immensity of the immensities of the earth, that extends right to the mysterious shores of the polar continent. "In a two-day excursion in the company of the Chief of Teahupoo, I saw that lake of Vaihiria that fills the natives with a superstitious dread. One night we camped on its shore. It is a strange spot that few people have beheld; at long intervals a few Europeans come there out of curiosity. The road is long and difficult, the surroundings wild and forsaken. Imagine, at an altitude of a thousand meters, a dead sea, lost in the central mountains; on all sides, tall and grim bluffs thrusting their sharp silhouettes into the clear evening sky. A water cold and deep that nothing enlivens—no whisper of wind, no sound, no living creature, not even a fish. Long ago, said the Chief of Teahupoo, tupapau of a special tribe would come down at night from the mountains and strike the water with their great albatross wings, "If you go to the Governor's house to the party Wednesday evening, you will see there the Princess Ariitea. Tell her that I have by no means forgotten her in my solitude, and that I hope to dance with her next week at the Queen's ball. If, in the gardens, you should run across Faimana or Teria, you may tell them for me anything that comes into your head. "Dear fellow, do me the favor of going to the brook of Fautaua, to give news about me to little Rarahu, of Pirae. Do this for me, I beg—you are too good not to pardon the two of us. Truly, I swear to you I love her, poor little thing, with all my heart."

57 XLIII Rarahu knew nothing whatsoever about the god Taaroa, not to mention the numerous goddesses of his entourage. She had never even heard of these personages of Polynesian mythology. Queen Pomare alone, out of respect for all the traditions of her country, had learned the names of those ancient divinities and remembered the strange legends of former times. But all those bizarre words of the Polynesian language that had struck me, all those words of a vague or mystical meaning, without equivalents in our European tongues, were familiar to Rarahu, who employed them or explained them to me with a rare and remarkable poetry. "If you would spend the night more often at Pirae," she told me, "you could learn with me much more rapidly a lot of words that those girls in Papeete don't know. When we shall have known fear together, I will teach you, concerning the tupapa'u, very frightening things of which you are ignorant." Indeed there are in the Polynesian language many words and images that only become intelligible in time, when one has lived with the natives, at night in the woods, listening to the moaning of the wind and the sea, with the ear strained for all the mysterious sounds of nature. XLIV One hears no song of birds in the Tahitian woods. The ears of the Maori are not acquainted with this simple music which, in other climes, fills the forest with gaiety and life. Beneath that dense shade, in the vines and the great ferns, nothing flies, nothing stirs; there is always the same strange silence

58 that seems to reign likewise in the melancholy imagination of the natives. One sees only the phaethon, soaring in the gorges at terrifying heights, a little white bird that bears in its tail a long white or pink plume. The chiefs in the old days used to fix in their hair a tuft of these plumes, and it took much time and perseverance to put together this aristocratic ornament.


There are certain necessities of our miserable human nature that seem made expressly to cause us to remember to what extent we are imperfect and gross—needs to which queens are as susceptible as shepherdesses—"the guard who watches at the gates of the Louvre," etc.* When Queen Pomare is forced to comply with the demands of nature, three women go with her into a certain mysterious retreat concealed beneath the banana trees. The first of these initiates has the duty of supporting the heavy royal person during the operation. The second holds in her hand some purau leaves, carefully selected from among the freshest and most tender. The third, who commences her function when the first two have achieved theirs, bears a vial of coconut oil perfumed with sandalwood (:monoi), with which she is charged with anointing the parts that the rubbing of the purau leaves might have momentarily irritated or made painful. The meeting adjourned, the procession returns gravely to the palace. *"Et la garde qui veille aux barrières du Louvre N'en défend pas nos rois."—Malherbe, Consolation à M. du Périer.

59 XLVI Rarahu and Tiahui had been abusing each other in an extremely violent fashion. From their pretty mouths had issued in the course of several minutes, without interruption or embarrassment, the most childish and absurd insults—the most indecorous also (Tahitian like Latin "in words defying decency"). This was the first dispute between the two little girls, and it, amused the spectators greatly; all the young women stretched out on the banks of the stream of Fautaua roared with laughter and urged them on. "You are lucky, Loti," said Tetuara, "it's about you that they are quarreling!" The fact is that it was indeed about me. Rarahu had had a fit of jealousy toward Tiahui and therein lay the origin of the argument. Like two cats about to start grappling and scratching, the two young things stared at each other livid, motionless, trembling with anger: "Tinito ufa\" cried Tiahui, running out of arguments, making a cruel allusion to the beautiful gown of green voile (Chinaman's sweetheart!). "Oviri, Amu taatal" (savage, cannibal), retorted Rarahu, who knew that her friend had come as a young child from one of the most distant of the Tuamotu Islands, and that if Tiahui was herself by no means a cannibal, assuredly there had been some in her family. On both sides the abuse had hurt, and the two girls, grabbing each other's hair, scratched and bit one another. They were; separated. They burst into tears, and then, Rarahu having thrown herself into Tiahui's arms, both, who adored each other, ended by embracing with deep affection.

6o XLVII Tiahui, in her effusiveness, had kissed Rarahu with her nose, after an old forgotten custom of the Maori race—a custom that came back to her from her childhood and her barbaric island. She had kissed her friend by placing her little nose on Rarahu's round cheek and inhaling very hard. It is thus, by sniffing, that the Polynesians used to embrace long ago, while kissing on the lips was brought to them from Europe. And Rarahu, in spite of her tears, could still look toward me with a comical smile of knowingness that conveyed something like this: "Look at this little savage! How right I was, Loti, to call her that! Yet I love her dearly all the same!" And with all their strength the two little ones hugged each other, and, an instant later, everything was forgotten. XLVIII As one walks along beneath the slender coconut palms on the white Tahitian beaches, one will from time to time—at some solitary point overlooking the blue immensity, a spot chosen with a taste for melancholy by men of generations gone by—come upon burial grounds, great barrows of coral. These are the marae, sepulchers of the chiefs of olden times, and the story of the dead who lie beneath them is lost in the fabulous and unknown past that preceded the discovery of the Polynesian archipelago. In all the isles inhabited by the Maori, the marae can be found on the beaches. The mysterious islanders of Rapa Nui* erected on these tombs gigantic statues with horrible masklike faces while the Tahitians only planted clumps of ironwood there. The ironwood is their cypress. Its foliage is *Easter Island.

6i sad; the sea wind has a special sort of whine when passing through its rigid branches. These mounds still white, despite the years, with the pallor of the coral and surmounted by great black trees, evoke memories of the terrible religion of the past. They were also the altars where human victims were sacrificed to the memory of the dead. Tahiti, related Pomare, was the only island where, even in the most ancient times, the victims were not eaten following the sacrifice. Only a simulation of the macabre feast was carried out. The eyes, lifted from their sockets, were placed together on a salver and served to the Queen—a horrible prerogative of sovereignty. (Gathered from the lips of Pomare.) XLIX Tahaapairu, the foster father of Rarahu, pursued an activity so original that in our Europe, so prolific in inventions of all kinds, surely no one has yet imagined anything like it. He was quite old, something not common in the South Seas. Moreover, he had a beard, and a white beard at that—a thing even more rare in those parts. In the Marquesas Islands, a white beard is an almost unobtainable article, which serves for the fashioning of precious ornaments for the headdress and the ears of certain chiefs, and a few old men are sedulously maintained for periodic trimmings of this portion of their persons. Twice a year, old Tahaapairu cut his and sent it off to Hivaoa, the most barbarous of the Marquesas, where it fetched a very high price. L Rarahu examined with a great deal of attention and terror the skull that I was holding on my knees.

62 W e were seated at the top of a coral mound, at the base of some big ironwood trees. It was evening, in the littlefrequented district of Papenoo. The sun was sinking slowly into the wide green sea amid an astonishing silence of nature. This particular evening, I was contemplating Rarahu with greater tenderness for it was the eve of a leavetaking—the Reindeer would be sailing away for awhile to visit the Marquesan archipelago to the north. Rarahu, serious and reserved, was immersed in one of her childish reveries, which I never quite knew how to penetrate. One moment she had been bathed in a golden light, and then, the brilliant sun having sunk in the ocean, she was now outlined in slender and graceful silhouette against the evening sky. Rarahu had never inspected so closely that lugubrious object I had set on my knees and which, for her as for all the Polynesians, was a horrible bugbear. One could tell that this sinister relic aroused in her uncultivated mind a great many new ideas, without her being able to give them a precise form. This skull must have been very old. It was nearly fossilized and of that rusty hue the earth of this country lends to rocks and bones. Death loses its horror when it dates back that far. "Riarial" said Rarahu. Riaria, a Tahitian word that is only imperfectly translated by the word frightful, because it designates that particularly somber terror associated with ghosts or dead people. "What is it that is so frightening about this poor skull?" I asked Rarahu. She replied by pointing her finger at the toothless mouth: "It's his laugh, Loti; it's his tupapau laugh."

63 It was very late at night when we returned to Pirae, and all along the way Rarahu had experienced very great terror. In this land where a person has absolutely nothing to fear, neither from plants, nor from beasts, nor from men; where one can go to sleep anywhere in the open air, alone and unarmed, the natives fear the night and tremble in the presence of ghosts. In the open spaces, on the beaches, it wasn't too bad; Rarahu held my hand tightly in hers and sang some himene to give herself courage. But there was a certain large coconut grove that was very diificult to traverse. Rarahu walked ahead of me, giving me her two hands behind—-a procedure ill adapted to swift travel. She felt better protected that way and less fearful of having her hair seized by the brick-colored death's-head. It was completely dark in this forest, and one could smell the agreeably pervasive odor from the Tahitian plants. The ground was strewn with large dried palm fronds that crackled under our feet. One could hear in the air that sound unique to coconut groves—the metallic noise of the fronds scraping upon each other. One could hear behind the trees the laughing of the tupapau ; and on the ground there was a repulsive and horrible slithering: the precipitate flight of an entire population of blue crabs, who at our appearance hastened to return to their subterranean dwellings. LI The next day was one of very agitated farewells. That evening I was counting on seeing Taimaha at last. I had been told she had come back to Tahiti, and, through the intermediary of one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, I had made a rendezvous with her on the beach of Fare Ute at nightfall. When, at the appointed hour, I arrived at this isolated

64 spot, I perceived a motionless woman who appeared to be waiting, her head covered with a thick white veil. I approached and called, "Taimaha!" The veiled woman let me repeat that name several times without responding; she averted her head, and laughed beneath the muslin folds. I pushed the veil aside and discovered the familiar face of Faimana, who made off while bursting with laughter. Faimana did not tell me what amorous adventure had brought her to that spot—where she was vexed to have encountered me. She had never heard of Taimaha and was unable to give me any information concerning her. Thus, I was obliged to put off till my return another attempt to see her. It seemed as if this woman were a myth, or that a mysterious power took pleasure in separating us, reserving for us a later, more dramatic interview. We sailed next morning a little before dawn. Tiahui and Rarahu came with me as far as the beach while the last stars were still in the sky. Rarahu wept profusely, even though the duration of the Reindeer's voyage was to be no longer than a month. Perhaps she had a presentiment that the delightful time we had been spending together would be no more. The idyll was over. Contrary to our natural expectations, those hours of peace and of simple happiness spent on the banks of the brook of Fautaua had gone, never to return.

ê Part Zwo é


(Which one may dispense with reading, but which is not very long) JUST the name of Nuku Hiva brings with it the idea of confinement and of deportation, even though today there is no longer anything to justify this unfortunate notion. Many years ago, the convicts left this beautiful land, and the useless citadel of Taiohae is already nothing but a ruin. Free and savage till 1842, this island has belonged since that time to France. Carried in the wake of the fall of Tahiti, of the Society Islands, and the Tuamotus, it lost its independence at the same time that these archipelagoes voluntarily gave up theirs. Taiohae, the island's capital, contains about a dozen


66 Europeans: the governor, the pilot, the missionary bishop, the religious brothers, four nuns who run a school for young girls, and finally, four constables. Amid all this society, the deposed queen, bereft of her authority, receives from the government a pension of six hundred francs, plus a soldier's ration for her and her family. Whaling vessels used to like Taiohae as a port of call, and this land was exposed to their harassments; undisciplined sailors overran the native settlements and created a big uproar. Today, thanks to the imposing presence of the four constables, they prefer to disport themselves on neighboring islands. The islanders of Nuku Hiva were once numerous, but recent epidemics of European importation have severely decimated them. The beauty of their figures is celebrated; and the people of the Marquesas Islands are reputed to be among the most handsome in the world. Nevertheless, it takes a certain amount of time to become accustomed to those unusual features and to discover their charm. These women, whose forms are so graceful and so perfect, have harsh features as if hewed by hatchet blows, and their kind of beauty violates all the rules. At Taiohae they have adopted the long sheaths of muslin worn in Tahiti; they wear their hair cut half-length, tousled, frizzy, and use sandalwood as perfume. But in the interior of the country these feminine costumes are extremely simplified. The men are everywhere contented with a scanty loincloth, tattooing seeming to them an eminently suitable apparel. Thus, they are tattooed with infinite care and art; but, through a strange fantasy, these designs are localized on only one half of the body, right or left, while the other half remains unadorned, or nearly so. Dark blue stripes across their faces give them a great air of

67 savagery by the strange contrast with the whites of the eyes and the polished enamel of the teeth. In the neighboring islands, rarely in contact with Europeans, all of the eccentricities of feather headdresses are still used, as well as teeth strung in long necklaces and tufts of black wool attached to the ears. Taiohae stands at the head of a deep bay, rimmed by high and precipitous mountains in whimsically contorted shapes. A thick verdure is strewn over all this country like a splendid cloak. There is in every part of the island the same jumble of different kinds of useful or precious trees, and thousands of coconut trees with tall, flexible trunks sway above the forests. The dwellings, few in number in the capital city, are fairly well spread out along the shaded road that follows the contours of the beach. Behind this charming, but single, road, several wooded footpaths lead to the mountains. The interior, however, is so entangled with forests and boulders that people rarely go to see what is happening there, and access between the different bays is had by sea, in the native canoes. It is in the mountains that the old Maori cemeteries are perched, objects of fear for all-—the abode of the terrifying tupapau. In the street of Taiohae the passersby are few; the incessant activities of our European existence are utterly unknown on Nuku Hiva. The natives spend the greater part of the day squatting before their huts in a sphinxlike immobility. Like the Tahitians, they are nourished by the fruits of their forests, and all labor is meaningless to them. If from time to time some of them still go fishing to satisfy a special craving, most prefer not to give themselves that trouble. Popoi, one of their choice dishes, is a barbarous mixture of

68 fruits, fishes, and crabs fermented in the ground. The stench of this concoction is beyond words. Cannibalism, which still prevails on the neighboring island of Hivaoa (or Dominica), has been forgotten on Nuku Hiva for many years. The efforts of the missionaries have brought about this happy modification of the national customs. From any other point of view, however, the superficial Christianity of the natives has had no effect on their way of life, and the dissoluteness of their habits is past imagining. One still finds in the possession of many natives images of their god. It is a figure with a hideous face, resembling a human embryo. The Queen has four of these horrors embossed upon the handle of her fan. II FIRST LETTER FROM RARAHU TO LOTI

(Carried to the Marquesas by a whaling Pirae i te 10 mati 1872


Pirae, May 10, 1872

E Loti, tau taiorahi e, E ta u tane iti here rahi, ia ora na oe I te Atua mau.

O Loti, my great friend, 0 my dearest little husband, 1 greet you in the name of the true God.

Tau mafatu merahi peapea no te mea ua rave atu oe, no te mea aita nau m ¡rimiri faahou ia oe.

My heart is very sad because you have gone so far away,

I tui nei ra, O tau hoa iti here rahi, la tae mau atu teie nei rata ia oe, epapai noa mai oe ia u, I to oe na mau mano rii,

I pray you now, O my dear little friend, when this letter reaches you, to write me in order to let me know your thoughts

because I don't see you any more.

69 la mauruuru noa e a vau Eriro ra paha ua ruri e to oe na mânao,

so that I may be happy. Perhaps it has happened that you are no longer thinking of me, as it happens here with men

te huru iho a rahoi ia te taata nei, la taa e atu i taua ra vahine. Aita roa tue pauau rii api i Pirae nei, maori ra e o Turiri,

when they have left their wives. There is no news at Pirae at this time, except however that Turiri,

tau pifare iti here rahi, ua merahi mauiui, e pohe paha rao ino ia oe e haere mai faahou.

my beloved little cat, is very sick, and will perhaps be quite dead by the time you get back.

Tiarara tau parau iti.

I have finished my little discourse.

la ora na oe.

I greet you.




On following the street of Taiohae to the left, you come to the quarters of the Queen next to a clear stream. A banyan tree, grown to gigantic proportions, spreads its gloomy shadow over the royal residence. Amid its contorted snakelike roots, one finds women sitting, clad most often in sheaths of a yellow golden color that lends the look of copper to their complexions. Their countenances are of a fierce hardness; they watch you approach with an expression of savage irony. Seated the whole day in a half-doze, they remain motionless and silent as idols. That is the court of Nuku Hiva, Queen Vaekehu and her retainers.


Beneath this hardly engaging appearance, these women are gentle and hospitable. They are pleased if a stranger sits down beside them, and they always offer him coconuts and oranges. Elizabeth and Ateria, two attendants who speak French, will address to you, on behalf of the Queen, some preposterous questions concerning the late war with Germany. * They speak loudly but slowly and accentuate each word in an unusual fashion. Battles in which over a thousand men are engaged provoke their incredulous smile; the size of our armies goes beyond their conception. The conversation, however, languishes before long. The exchange of a few sentences suffices them, their curiosity is satisfied, and the reception is concluded. The mood of the court then alters, and, regardless of what you do to try to reawaken their attention, they take no further notice of you. The royal dwelling, constructed by courtesy of the French government, is situated in a solitary nook surrounded by coconuts and tamarinds. But on the seashore, close by this modest residence, another house, an ostentatious structure, built with all the native refinements, still manifests the elegance of this primitive architecture. Upon a foundation of large black stones, heavy posts of magnificent native wood support the frame. The vault and the walls of the edifice are made of lemon-tree branches selected out of a thousand, straight and smooth as rushes. All these woods are fastened together by lashings of cords of different colors, arranged so as to form regular and complicated designs. There again, the court, the Queen, and her sons spend long hours of immobility and repose, watching their nets dry in the hot sun. * Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871.

7i The thoughts that contort the strange face of the Queen remain a mystery to all, and the secret of her eternal reveries is impenetrable. Is it sadness or stupor? Is she dreaming about something or of nothing at all? Does she mourn for her independence, and the savagery which is disappearing, and her people who are degenerating and becoming estranged from her? Ateria, who is her shadow and her watchdog, might be in a position to know about that. Maybe that constant companion could tell us about it, but everything leads one to believe that she doesn't know. Maybe she has never even given it a thought. Vaekehu consented with perfect graciousness to pose for several sketches of her portrait. Never did a more poised model allow herself to be examined at such leisure. This deposed queen, with her great shock of coarse hair and her silent pride, still retains a certain grandeur. IV VAEKEHU AT DEATH'S DOOR

One moonlit evening, while I was walking alone in a wooded footpath that led to the mountain, the ladies-in-waiting called to me. Their sovereign, who had long been ill, was about to die, they declared. She had received extreme unction from the missionary bishop. Vaekehu, stretched out on the ground, writhed her tattooed arms with all the signs of the most acute suffering. Her attendants, squatted around her, their luxuriant hair disheveled, were uttering groans and lamentations (this Biblical expression perfectly expresses their particular way of mourning).


One rarely sees in our civilized world such gripping scenes. In this bare hut, free of all the lugubrious display that in Europe adds to the horrors of death, the agony of this woman revealed a strange poetry full of a bitter sadness. Next morning very early, I left Nuku Hiva never to return and without knowing whether the sovereign had gone to join the old tattooed kings, her ancestors. Vaekehu was the last of the queens of Nuku Hiva. Formerly a pagan and something of a cannibal, she became converted to Christianity, and the approach of death caused her no terror. V FUNEREAL

Our absence had lasted exactly one month, the month of May, 1872. It was after dark when the Reindeer dropped anchor in the roadstead of Papeete, the first of June, at eight o'clock in the evening. When I disembarked on the delightful island, a young woman who seemed to be awaiting me under the dark shadow of the purau, came forward and spoke: "Loti, is that you? Don't be concerned about Rarahu. She is waiting for you at Pirae, and she asked me to bring you to her. Her mother, Huamahine, died last week; her father, Tahaapairu, died this morning, and she is staying beside him with the women of Pirae for the wake. "We have been expecting you every day," Tiahui continued, "and we have often searched the horizon of the sea. This evening at sunset, as soon as a white sail appeared on the high seas, we recognized the Reindeer. We afterwards saw her enter by the pass of Tanoa, and it is then that I came here to wait for you."

73 W e followed the beach to reach the countryside. W e were walking fast, along sodden roadways. All day long one of the last great rains of the season had fallen, and the wind was still driving thick black clouds. Tiahui informed me on the way that a couple of weeks before she had married a young Tahitian by the name of Teharo. She had left the district of Pirae to live with her husband in the district of Papeari, located two days' walk to the southwest. Tiahui was no longer the merry and lighthearted little girl I had known. She conversed gravely; one sensed that she was more of a woman and more settled. Soon we reached the woods. The brook of Fautaua, swollen like a torrent, rumbled over the stones. The wind shook the wet branches over our heads and covered us with large drops of water. A light appeared from afar, gleaming through the trees, from within the hut that contained the corpse ofTahaapairu. This hut, which had sheltered the childhood of my little sweetheart, was oval, low like all the Tahitian huts, and built on a platform of large black stones. The walls were made of slender upright branches of purau, with open spaces between them like the bars of a cage. Through them, one could distinguish motionless human figures whose shapes, outlined by the lamp swaying in the wind, cast fantastic shadows. At the moment I crossed the funerary threshold, Tiahui abruptly shoved me to the right—I had not seen the two big feet of the dead man that stuck out to the left in the doorway. I had nearly stumbled over them. A shiver ran through my body, and I averted my head so as not to see them. Five or six women were there, seated in a row along the wall, and, among them, Rarahu, concentrating an anxious and somber gaze upon the door.

74 Rarahu had recognized me by the sound of my footfall; she ran to me and led me outside. VI We embraced for a long while, clasped in each other's arms, and then sat down on the wet moss, close by the hut where the cadaver rested. She had no more thought of fear, and we chatted softly, as one does in the neighborhood of the dead. Rarahu was alone in the world, completely alone. She had decided to leave next day the pandanus-roofed hut in which her old parents had died. "Loti," she was saying, so low that her soft little voice was just a whisper in my ear, "Loti, would you like for us to live together in a cottage in Papeete? We'll live the way your brother Rueri and Taimaha lived, the way lots of others live who are very happy, and concerning whom neither the Queen nor the Governor find anything to criticize. I've no one left in the world but you, and you can't abandon me. You know that there are even men of your country who like this sort of life so well that they have become Tahitians so that they won't have to go away." I knew that very well; I was only too aware of the compelling charm of voluptuousness and indolence, and it is for that reason that I feared it a little. Meanwhile, one by one, the women from the wake had departed silently and had taken the footpath toward Pirae. It was growing very late. "Now let's go back inside," she said. The long naked feet could be seen from outside. We passed by them, both of us with the same shiver of dread. There was no one beside the corpse now except a bent old woman, a relative who muttered to herself in low tones. She

75 bid me good evening in a subdued voice and said to me, "A parahi oe!" (Sit down!). Then I looked at the old man, upon whom trembled the fitful light of a native lamp. His eyes and his mouth were half open. His white beard must have grown since death—one might compare it to lichen on a brown stone. His long blue-tattooed arms, rigid as a mummy, were extended straight along each side of his body. The most striking feature of the head was its strong Polynesian aspect, the Maori strangeness. The entire figure resembled the typical tupapa'u. Rarahu having followed my glance, her eyes fell upon the body of the dead man; she shuddered and turned her head away. The poor little thing stiffened herself against fear; she still wanted to remain near the one who had been a part of her childhood. She had sincerely mourned old Huamahine, but this rigid form had done little more than allow her to grow. She was attached to him by a sentiment of respect and duty but now his corpse only filled her with immense horror. The old relative of Tahaapairu had fallen asleep. The rain was falling in torrents upon the trees, upon the roof thatch, with strange noises, the crash of branches, dismal cracklings. The tupapau were there in the woods, pressing around us, looking through all the cracks in the wall at this new figure who since morning had been theirs. One expected any minute to see their ghastly hands stick through the bars. "Stay here, dear Loti," said Rarahu. "If you were to leave, tomorrow would find me dead of fright." And so I remained all night beside her, clasping her hand in mine. I stayed with her till the moment when the first gleams of daylight began to filter through the bars of the hut. She had finally gone to sleep, her sweet little head, its face



grown thin and sad, resting upon my shoulder. I laid her down gently on the mats and departed silently. I knew that with the morning the tupapau vanished, and that then I could safely leave her. VII SETTLING DOWN

Not far from the palace, behind the Queen's gardens, on one of the greenest and most peaceful avenues of Papeete, there was a cool and isolated little cottage. It was built at the foot of a clump of coconut trees so tall that one might have taken it for the abode of Lilliputians. On the street side it had a veranda hung with garlands of vanilla. Behind was an enclosure, overgrown with mimosas, oleanders, and hibiscus. Periwinkles grew everywhere, blossoming on the windows and even in the rooms. All day long there was shade in this nook, and its quietude was never troubled. There, eight days after the death of her foster father, Rarahu came to live with me. It was her dream come true. VIII MUO-FARE

On a beautiful winter evening in the southern hemisphere, the twelfth of June, 1872, there was a big reception at our house; this was the muo-fare (consecration of the home). We were giving a large amuraa maa, a supper and tea. There were many guests, and two Chinese had been engaged for the occasion, men skillful at preparing fine ginger pastries and in constructing centerpieces in fantastic shapes.

78 The first person we invited was John, my brother John, who in the local social gatherings seemed a beautiful, mysterious figure, inexplicable to the Tahitian women, who could never find the way to his heart, nor the vulnerable side of his virgin purity. There was also Plumkett, called Remuna; Prince Tuinvira, the youngest son of Pomare; and two other good friends from the Reindeer ; and then there was the whole voluptuous band of the court attendants: Faimana, Teria, Maramo, Raurea, Tarahu, Ereere, Tauna, even black Tetuara. Rarahu had forgotten her little girl's rancor against all these women, now that she could greet them as the mistress of the house—just as Louis XII, King of France, forgot the wrongs done the Duke of Orleans.* None of the invited guests failed to arrive, and by eleven o'clock the little house was filled with young women in muslin gowns, crowned with flowers, gaily drinking tea, syrups, beer, munching sugar and cakes, and singing himene. In the course of the evening a very regrettable incident occurred, from the point of view of English decorum. Rarahu's big cat, brought that same morning from Pirae and prudently locked up in a wardrobe, made a sudden appearance on the table, frightened, emitting cries of despair, overturning glasses and leaping at the windowpanes. His little mistress embraced him tenderly and put him back in his wardrobe. The incident was concluded in that way, and a few days later this same Turiri, completely tamed, had become a town cat, one of the best brought-up and most sociable. *Having rebelled, as Duke of Orleans, against the regency of Anne de Beaujeu, Louis was imprisoned (1488) but was released (1491) by his cousin Charles VIII, whom he succeeded to the throne (1498).

79 At this Sardanapalian* supper, Rarahu was already scarcely recognizable; she wore a new outfit, a beautiful gown of white muslin with a train, which gave her a very grand look. She performed the duties of hostess with ease and grace, getting a little confused occasionally, and afterwards blushing, but always charming. The guests complimented me on my mistress. Even the women, Faimana first of all, said"Mearahi, mea nehenehel" (Isn't she pretty!). John, though a bit serious, nevertheless smiled upon her with benevolence. She glowed with happiness: this was her debut in the world of the young women of Papeete, a brilliant introduction that surpassed everything her childish imagination had been able to conceive or to desire. It was thus that she joyfully took the fatal step. Poor little wild plant, raised in the forest, she had just fallen, like so many others, into an unwholesome and artificial atmosphere where she was going to languish and droop. IX STILL PEACEFUL DAYS

Our days glided by very gently at the foot of the enormous coconut trees that shaded our dwelling. To get up each morning, a little after sunrise; climb over the fence of the Queen's garden; and there, beneath the mimosas, to enjoy a very long bath in the palace brook—each of these had a special charm in the freshness of these limpid mornings of Tahiti. This bathing was usually prolonged by indolent conversations with the ladies of the court and would take us up to the midday meal. Rarahu's lunch was always very light—as formerly at Pirae, she con*Sardanapalus: legendary Assyrian monarch who lived in great luxury.

8o tented herself with baked breadfruit and with a few sugar cookies that the Chinese came each morning to sell us. Sleep took up the greatest part of our days. Those who have lived in the tropics are familiar with the languid contentment of the midday siesta. Underneath the veranda of our dwelling, we hung some fiber hammocks and there spent long hours dreaming or sleeping to the soothing sound of crickets. In the afternoon, Rarahu's friend Teurahi usually arrived to play cards with her. Rarahu, who was being initiated into the mysteries of ecarte, passionately loved, like all the Tahitians, this game imported from Europe, and the two young women, seated opposite each other on a mat, spent hours, attentive and serious, absolutely captivated by the thirtytwo little painted figures that slid between their fingers. We also went to gather coral on the reef. Rarahu often accompanied me in a canoe on these excursions, when we explored the tepid blue water in search of rare madrepores or shells. In our unkempt garden, beneath the cover of orange trees and gardenias, could always be found shells drying and coral whitening in the sun, mingling their complicated branches with the grasses and the periwinkles. This was that exotic life, tranquil and sunny, that Tahitian life just as my brother Rueri had led it long ago, just as I had imagined and longed for it in those strange dreams of my childhood that ceaselessly brought me back to these far-off lands of the sun. Time was slipping by, and gradually those thousand little inextricable threads made of all the charms of Oceania were being woven about me; threads which at length form dangerous webs, veils over one's past, one's country, and one's family, and end by enveloping one so thoroughly that it is impossible to escape. Rarahu always sang a great deal. She made different little

8i birdlike notes, at times shrill, at other times soft like the voice of larks, which rose to the extremes of the scale. She had remained one of the principal members of the hitnene choir of Pirae. From her childhood spent in the forest, she had retained the feeling for a contemplative and dreamy poetry. She translated her original conceptions into songs. She composed some himene, the vague and wild meanings of which would remain unintelligible to Europeans if you tried to translate for them. But I found in these bizarre songs a singular sad charm, especially when they rose up softly in the great silence of the middays of Oceania. When evening came, Rarahu busied herself in preparing wreaths of flowers for the night. But she seldom made them herself. There were certain well-known Chinese who knew how to put together very extraordinary ones—by combining the petals and leaves of real flowers, they managed to create new and fantastic flowers like those of porcelain vases, marked with an artificial and Chinese grace. White gardenias, amber-scented, were always profusely employed in these remarkable large head wreaths that were Rarahu s greatest luxury. Another object of ornamentation, more dressy than the simple wreath of flowers, was the wreath of piia, made of fine white fibers like rice straw and braided by the hands of the Tahitians with infinite delicacy and art. Upon the wreath of piia rested the reva-reva (reva-reva: to float), which completed this festive headdress and spread out like a cloud at the least breath of wind. The reva-reva are thick tufts of transparent and filmy ribbons of a green-gold shade that the Tahitians pull out of the heart of the coconut palm. At nightfall, when Rarahu was adorned and her long hair loosened, we would set out together for the promenade. We

82 would circulate with the crowd in front of the lighted stalls of the Chinese merchants on the main street of Papeete, or perhaps join the circle in the moonlight around the upaupa dancers. At an early hour we would return home, and Rarahu, who seldom took part in the pleasures of the other young women, was everywhere reputed to be a very good little girl. For the two of us, this was still an era of tranquil happiness, and yet it was no longer the days of deep peace, of careless gaiety, in the wood of Fautaua. Already it was something more troubled and more sad. I loved her more, because she was alone in the world, because, for the people of Papeete, she was my wife. The gentle routine of our life together united us more closely each day. Yet this life that delighted us had no possible tomorrow; it was soon going to be dissolved by departure and separation. Separation of separations, which would thrust between us continents and seas and the dreadful mass of the world. X It had been decided that we should go together to pay a visit to Tiahui, in her distant district, and Rarahu had been looking forward to this trip for a long while. One lovely morning we set forth on foot in the direction of Faaa, carrying on our shoulders the light baggage of Tahitians: a white shirt for me, two pareu and a rose-colored muslin gown for Rarahu. One travels in this fortunate country as they must have in the golden age, if travels had been invented in that remote era. There is no need to carry with you either arms or provisions or money—hospitality is offered you everywhere, cordial and free. On the entire island there exist no dangerous animals other than a few European colonists;

83 even they are rare and virtually confined to the town of Papeete. Our first stopping place was at Papara, where we arrived at sundown after a day's walk. It was the hour at which the native fishermen return from the open sea in their slender outrigger canoes. The women of the district, gathered on the beach, were awaiting them. For us there was only the embarrassment of having to choose between lodgings. One after another, the narrow canoes were beached beneath the coconut trees. The naked oarsmen flayed the calm water with great paddle strokes and noisily blew their conchshell trumpets like ancient Tritons. All this was lively and original, simple and primitive like a scene from the first ages of the world. At dawn next day we started on our way once again. The countryside around us was becoming more imposing and more wild. W e were following a solitary footpath on the flank of the mountain, the view from which dominated all the immensity of the sea; here and there some low islets, covered with an unbelievable vegetation—pandanus of antediluvian appearance, woods that looked as though they had escaped from the Jurassic Age; a sky heavy and leaden like that of vanished eons; a sun half-hidden, casting pale trails of silver upon the gloomy Great Ocean. At long intervals, we came upon villages hidden beneath the palm trees; oval-shaped huts with thatched roofs; grave Tahitians crouching half-asleep, engaged in their eternal reveries; tattooed old men, sphinxlike, with the immobility of statues; something strange and wild that threw the imagination into unknown regions. What a mysterious destiny is that of these Polynesian

84 tribes, who seem the forgotten remnants of the primitive races, who live there in immobility and contemplation, who are gradually dying out in contact with civilized races, and whom another century will probably find to have disappeared.

XI Halfway to Papeari, in the district of Maraa, Rarahu had a moment of surprise and admiration. W e had come upon a cave that opened up in the side of the mountain like the door of a church, and which was full of little birds. Inside, a colony of small gray swallows had covered the rock walls with their nests. They flew about by the hundreds, a little surprised by our visit, and exciting each other to cry and sing. For the Tahitians of former times, these little creatures were varua, spirits, souls of the departed; for Rarahu it was nothing but a numerous family of birds. She had never seen so many, and it was something new and charming. She would gladly have stayed there, ecstatically listening to and imitating them. An ideal country in her opinion would have been a land full of birds, where one could hear them all day long singing in the branches. XII Shortly before coming to the lands of the district of Papeari, we stopped in a strange village built by savages from Melanesia. Afterwards, we encountered Teharo and Tiahui who had come to meet us. Their joy at coming upon us was extreme and boisterous. Great demonstrations between friends who meet again are very much part of the Tahitian character.

85 These two good little natives were still in the first quarter of their honeymoon, a thing very sweet in Oceania as elsewhere. They both were very kind, and hospitable in the most cordial sense of the word. Their dwelling was clean and well cared for, classic Tahitian even in its smallest details. There we found a large bed, which had been prepared for us, covered over with white mattings and enclosed with native curtains made of the beaten and softened bark of the paper mulberry. They made much of us at Papeari, and we spent several delightful days there. The evenings were sad though, and in the darkness, no matter what they did to cheer us up, I felt the solitude and the savagery of this remote corner of the world. At night, when one heard the far-off, plaintive sound of reed flutes or the dismal moan of conchshell trumpets, I became conscious of the terrifying distance of my country, and an unfamiliar feeling wrung my heart. There were magnificent feasts at Tiahui's house in our honor to which all the inhabitants of the village were invited; very special fare—little pigs roasted whole in the ground, exquisite fruits for dessert—and then dances and charming choirs of himene. I had made the trip in Tahitian dress, feet and legs bare, dressed simply in a white shirt and the national pareu. Nothing prevented me, at certain moments, from taking myself for a native, and I was surprised from time to time to find myself really wishing to be one. I envied the tranquil happiness of our friends Tiahui and Teharo. In this environment that was her own, Rarahu became more herself, more natural and charming. The gay and merry girl of the brook of Pirae reappeared with all her delightful artlessness, and for the first time I imagined that there could be an overriding charm in going to live with her as with a little wife in some very remote district in one of the most-distant and

86 least-known islands of Pomare's domain; to be forgotten by all and dead to the world; to keep her there the way I loved her, strange and wild, with all the freshness and innocence that was hers. XIII The year 1872 was one of Papeete's finest epochs. Never had one seen so many parties, dances, and amuraa maa. Each evening, it was like a giddiness. At nightfall, the Tahitian women adorned themselves with brilliant flowers; the quick beats of the drum summoned them to the upaupa. Everyone came running, hair flying, body barely covered with a muslin tunic, and the dances, wild and lascivious, often lasted till morning. Pomare lent herself to these old-time saturnalias, which a certain governor tried ineffectually to prohibit: they entertained the young princess, who was declining from day to day, no matter what one did to arrest her sickness, and any expedient was good if it distracted her. These celebrations, at which all the women of Papeete forgathered, were usually held in front of the palace terrace. The Queen and the princesses came forth from their dwelling to stretch out on mattings in the moonlight as nonchalant spectators. The Tahitians clapped their hands and accompanied the tom-tom with a rapid and frenetic chant in unison; each one of them in turn performed a movement. The steps and the music, slow at the beginning, soon accelerated to the point of delirium, and, when the exhausted dancer came to an abrupt halt upon a great drumbeat, another sprang forward in her place, going beyond her in shamelessness and frenzy. The Tuamotuan girls formed other more savage groups and vied with those of Tahiti. Wearing headdresses of ex-

8/ travagant crowns of thorn-apple, disheveled like crazy women, they danced to a rhythm more j e r k y and more bizarre, but also in a manner so charming that b e t w e e n the two one knew not which h e preferred. Rarahu passionately loved these spectacles that made her blood burn, but she would never dance. She attired herself like the other young w o m e n , allowing the heavy mass of her hair to fall upon her shoulders, and crowned herself with flowers. T h e n for hours she would remain seated beside me on the palace steps, rapt and silent. W e would leave with heads on fire. W e would return to our home intoxicated with the action and the commotion, and responsive to all kinds of strange sensations. Those evenings it s e e m e d that Rarahu was a different creature. T h e upaupa awoke in the depths of her wild soul a feverish voluptuousness and savagery.

XIV Rarahu wore the native costume, loose, free-flowing tunics called tapa* Hers, which w e r e long and trailing, had an elegance that was almost European. She could already distinguish certain n e w cuts of sleeve or waist, certain ugly or graceful styles. Already she was a civilized and coquettish little person. D u r i n g the day, she wore a large hat of fine white Tahitian pandanus, which she set forward over her eyes. O n the crown, flat like that of a sailor's cap, she would place a wreath of fresh leaves or flowers. She was b e c o m i n g paler, out of the sun, living the life of a townswoman. Without the faint tattooing of her brow, about *Tapa: native cloth made from bark, a term Loti extends to include muslin garments.

88 which the others teased her but which I myself loved, one might have thought her a young white girl. And yet on certain days there were tawny reflections, exotic tints of roseate copper which reminded one again of the Maori race, sister of the red-skinned races of America. In the world of Papeete she was establishing herself and asserting herself more and more as the well-behaved and accepted little wife of Loti, and at the official receptions the Queen would say to me upon oifering her hand: "Loti, how is Rarahu?" In the street, people would observe her when she passed. The newcomers of the colony would ask her name. Even at first glance one was captivated by that look so expressive, by that fine profile and admirable hair. She was also more of a woman; her perfect figure was more shapely and more rounded. But her eyes were encircled from time to time with a bluish ring, and a very slight cough, like that of the children of the Queen, occasionally disturbed her breathing. Mentally, a large and rapid transformation was taking place in her, and I could scarcely keep up with the development of her intelligence. She was already civilized enough to like it when I called her "little savage, " to understand that this charmed me, and that she would gain nothing by copying the manners of the white women. She read a great deal in her Bible, and the radiant promises of the Scriptures put her into ecstasies; she had her hours of ardent and mystical faith. Her heart was full of contradictions; it held the most disparate sensations, mingled and jumbled. She was never the same creature two days running. She was barely fifteen years old; her notions on all subjects were false and childish; yet her extreme youth lent a great charm to all this incoherence of ideas and conceptions.

«9 God knows that, within the limitations of my feeble faith, I guided her with love toward all that seemed to me good and honest. God knows that there was never a word or a doubt on my part to shake her naive faith in eternity and redemption, and, even though she was only my mistress, I behaved toward her almost as if she had been my wife. My brother John spent a portion of his time with us; several European friends, from the Reindeer or French colonial society, also visited us often in our peaceful cottage. All felt at ease there. Most of them did not understand Tahitian, but the sweet young voice and the fresh smile of Rarahu charmed those who could not comprehend her language; everybody loved her and recognized her as a distinctive personality, entitled to the same consideration as a white woman. XV For a long while I had been able to speak fluently the Tahitian of the beach, which is to pure Tahitian as pidgin is to French, but I was also beginning to express myself without difficulty using the proper words and constructions of long ago, and Pomare consented to engage in long conversations with me. I had two people to assist me in the study of that language which soon would be spoken no longer: Rarahu and the Queen. The Queen, in the course of our lengthy games of ecarte, corrected me with interest, delighted to see me study and love that language destined to disappear. I took pleasure in questioning her about the legends, the customs, and the traditions of the past. She spoke slowly, in a low, hoarse voice. I gathered from her lips strange tales of olden times, about those mysterious and forgotten ages that the Maori

9» call the night. The word po, in Tahitian, means at the same time night, obscurity, and the legendary epochs that the old people can no longer recall. XVI THE LEGEND OF THE PAUMOTUS

(Told by Queen


"The Paumotus (islands of the night or subjugated islands), whose name we have now changed to that of the Tuamotus (distant islands), still harbor, as you know, poor cannibals. "They were the last settled of all the islands of our archipelago. Water spirits protected them in olden times and lashed the sea so furiously with their great albatross wings that no one could approach them. A long time ago they were defeated and destroyed by the god Taaroa. "It was after their defeat that the first Maori were able to inhabit the Paumotus." XVII LEGEND OF THE MOONS

"South Seas legend tells us that in ancient times five moons were in the sky above the Great Ocean. They had human faces, more distinct than that of the present moon, and cast evil spells on the first men who settled in Tahiti; those who raised their heads to gaze at them were seized with a strange madness. The great god Taaroa set about exorcizing them. Then they became agitated. They were heard singing together far off in the vastness with great, terrible voices. They sang magical songs while moving away from the earth. But under the power of Taaroa they began to tremble, were seized with vertigo, and fell with the sound of thunder into the ocean, which boiled open to receive them.

9i "These five moons tumbling down formed the islands of Bora-Bora, Eimeo,* Huahine, Raiatea, andTupuai-manu."

XVIII Prince Tamatoa was seated beside me on the veranda of the palace. This was a little before the atrocious acts that caused him to be shut up once again in the prison of Taravao. He held on his knees his pale little daughter, Pomare V, whom he caressed gently with his large terrible hands. And the old Queen regarded the two of them with an expression of infinite tenderness and unutterable sadness. The little Princess was very sad also; she held in her hand a dead bird and gazed at an empty cage with eyes full of tears. It was a songbird, a creature little known in Tahiti, a rarity that someone had brought her from America, and it had given her much joy to have it. "Loti," she said, "the White-haired Admiral has warned us that your ship will soon sail for the land of California (i te fenua California). When you come back from over there, I want you to bring me a very great number of birds, a cage filled with them, and I shall make them fly oif into the woods of Fautaua so that when I grow up there will be birds who sing in our country, as in others."

XIX On the island of Tahiti, life is concentrated along the seashore; the villages are all strung out beside the beaches, and the central portion is deserted. The interior areas are uninhabited and covered with deep forests. These are wild *Eimeo: ancient name for Moorea.


regions, intersected by ramparts of inaccessible mountains where an eternal silence reigns. In the strangely boxed-in valleys of the interior, nature is somber and imposing; great bluffs overhang the forests and sharp peaks rise in the air. It is like being at the foot of fantastic cathedrals whose spires pierce the passing clouds. All the little wandering clouds that the tradewinds drive over the great sea are arrested in flight; they pile up against the basalt walls, to fall back as dew, or tumble down in rivulets and waterfalls. Because of the rains and the dense warm mists the gorges always have a verdure of unfailing freshness, exotic mosses, and astonishing ferns. In reverse direction from the cascades of the Bois de Boulogne and Hyde Park, the falls of Fautaua descend at the antipodes of the Old World, disturbing with their loud monotonous roar that profoundly calm and silent landscape. About a thousand meters higher than the abandoned hut of Huamahine and Tahaapairu, upstream among the woods and the boulders, is the waterfall famous throughout Oceania that Tiahui and Rarahu had often taken me to visit. We had not returned there since settling in Papeete, and so in September we made an excursion there that remained in our memories. Along the way, Rarahu wanted to revisit the hut of her dead parents. She entered, clutching my hand, beneath the already collapsing thatch of her old dwelling and regarded in silence the familiar objects that time and men had yet left in place. Nothing had been disturbed in this open hut since the day the body of Tahaapairu had been removed. The wooden chests were still there, with the rough benches, the mattings, and the native lamp fastened to the wall. Rarahu had taken nothing with her except the old people's large Bible.

93 We continued our journey, plunging into the valley by thickly shaded paths, true virgin forest paths winding between boulders. After an hour's walk we heard close at hand the sound, muted but powerful, of the falls. We were coming to the head of the gorge where the brook of Fautaua, like a great silver sheaf, tumbles into space from a height of three hundred meters. At the bottom of this abyss was a true enchantment: Extravagent vegetation intertwined in the shade, dripping, soaked by a perpetual deluge; for the entire length of the sheer black walls clung creepers, tree ferns, mosses, and exquisite maidenhairs. The water of the cascade, broken and pulverized by its fall, came down a torrential rain in a disheveled and furious mass. It reunited itself afterwards, boiling into basins of bare rock, which it had spent centuries hollowing out and polishing, and then reformed itself into a stream and went on its way beneath the verdure. A fine spray was spread out like a veil over the entire scene. Away up above loomed the sky as though seen from the bottom of a well and the top of the great cliffs half lost in the heavy clouds. What struck Rarahu above all was that eternal agitation amid the peaceful solitude: a great noise, but nothing living—nothing but inert matter following for incalculable ages the momentum given it at the beginning of the world. We bore left along narrow paths that wound up the mountainside. We were walking beneath a thick canopy of foliage; century-old trees raised round about us their greenish, humid trunks, polished like enormous marble columns. Vines wound everywhere, and tree ferns spread their large parasols patterned like fine lace. Climbing higher, we found rose bushes—thickets of rose bushes in bloom. Bengal roses of all shades were blooming up there in singular profusion,

Tahitian landscape with falls

95 and on the ground in the moss were fragrant carpets of wild strawberries. One might say that these were enchanted gardens. Rarahu had never gone so far; she experienced a vague terror at penetrating into these woods. The lazy Tahitian women never venture into the interior of their island, which to them is as unfamiliar as the most distant countries. Only on rare occasions do even the men visit these solitudes to gather wild bananas or to hew precious woods. It was so beautiful, however, that she was enraptured. She made herself a garland of roses and gaily allowed her dress to be ripped by all the shrubbery along the path. What delighted us the most all along our route was always the ferns that spread their immense leaves with a luxury of fretwork and an incomparable freshness of coloring. And we continued to ascend all day, toward the solitary regions no longer crossed by human pathway. Once in a while deep valleys opened up before us, fissures black and jagged. The air became more and more sharp, and we ran into huge clouds with clean and bold contours that seemed to sleep propped against the cliffs, some above our heads, others beneath our feet. XX By evening we had nearly reached the central zone of the island. Beneath us were delineated in the clear air all the volcanic fissures, all the outlines of the mountains. Formidable basalt ridges radiated out from the central crater to dwindle on the beaches. Surrounding all this was the immense blue ocean and a horizon set so high that, by a common optical illusion, all that mass of water produced a concave image on our eyes. The line of the seas passed above the highest summits; Orohena, the giant of the Tahitian

96 mountains, alone dominated it with its majestic somber peak. All around the island a white vaporous girdle stood out upon the blue sheet of the Pacific: the ring of coral reefs, the line of the eternally breaking waves. In the distance loomed the islet of Tupuai-manu and the island of Moorea. On their bluish peaks hovered little colored clouds of incredible tints, which looked as though they were suspended in the boundless immensity. From such a height we could observe all these grandiose aspects of oceanic nature as though we no longer belonged to earth. It was so wonderfully beautiful that we both remained ecstatic and speechless, seated beside each other on the rocks. "Loti," demanded Rarahu after a long silence, "what are you thinking about?" (E Loti, e aha ta oe manao ra?) "Many things," I replied, "that you are unable to understand. I think, my little sweetheart, that on these distant seas are scattered lost archipelagoes; that these archipelagoes are inhabited by a mysterious race destined soon to disappear; that you are a child of that primitive race; that at the very top of one of these isles, far above human creatures, in a total solitude, I, child of the Old World, born on the other side of the earth, am there close beside you, and that I love you. "You see, Rarahu, a long time ago, before the first men were born, the powerful hand of Atua brought forth these mountains from the sea. The island of Tahiti, glowing like red-hot iron, arose like a storm amid the flames and smoke. "The first rains that came to refresh the earth after these terrors carved out the gorge that the brook of Fautaua still follows today in the forest. All these grand sights that you see are eternal: they will still be the same hundreds of years from now, when the Maori race shall long since have van-

97 ished and are only a remote memory preserved in books of the past." "One thing frightens me, " she said, "O Loti my beloved (e Loti tau here). How did the first Maori get here, since even today they don't have boats stout enough to communicate with the islands situated outside of their archipelagoes? How were they able to come from that land so far away where, according to the Bible, the first man was created? Our race differs so greatly from yours that I am afraid, in spite of what the missionaries say, that your God the Savior may not have come for us, and may not recognize us at all." The sun, which was soon going to rise over Europe for an autumn morning, was sinking rapidly in our sky; it threw upon these gigantic scenes its last golden rays. The great clouds that slept below our feet in the basalt gorges took on extraordinary copper tints. On the horizon, the island of Moorea glowed like embers, its great reddened peaks dazzling with light. And then all this incandescence died out at its source, and night descended swiftly and without twilight, and the Southern Cross and all the southern stars shone in the deep sky. "Loti," said Rarahu, "to what height must one climb in order to see your country?" XXI When darkness had fallen, Rarahu became fearful—that goes without saying. The silence of the night was like nothing known. The breakers, very far below our feet, were heard no longer, not even a slight crackling of branches, not even a rustling of

9» leaves; the air was motionless. One can find such a silence only in desert regions where even birds do not live. Everywhere round about us were silhouettes of trees and ferns, just as if we had been below in the familiar woods of Fautaua, but one could get fleeting glimpses, by the pale light that fell from the stars, of the giddying bluish concavity of the ocean, and one was overcome by the extent of the isolation and the immensity. Tahiti is one of those rare lands where one may with impunity fall asleep in the woods, on a bed of dead leaves and ferns, with a pareu for cover. That is what we both soon did, after having chosen an exposed location where no surprise need be feared from the tupapa'u, even though these somber prowlers of the night, who by preference haunt the places where human beings have lived, hardly ever climb up as high as the almost virgin regions where we were lying. For a long while, I contemplated the sky. Stars and more stars. Myriads of brilliant stars in the astonishing blue depths: all the constellations invisible to Europe, turning slowly around the Southern Cross. Rarahu watched them too, her eyes wide open, without saying anything; by turns she looked smiling at me or gazed up at the sky. The great constellations of the southern hemisphere sparkled like particles of phosphorus, leaving between them empty spaces, great black gaps where one could no longer perceive any cosmic dust, and which gave to the imagination an apocalyptic and terrifying sense of empty vastness. All of a sudden, we saw a terrible black mass descending from Orohena and moving slowly toward us. It had extraordinary shapes, a cataclysmic appearance. In an instant it enveloped us in such utter darkness that we could no longer

99 see each other. A blast of wind covered us with leaves and dead twigs at the same time that a torrential rain inundated us with icy water. We groped our way to the trunk of a large tree, against which we took shelter, clinging tightly to each other, both trembling with cold, and she also a little with fright. When this heavy shower had passed, daylight was breaking, chasing before it the clouds and the specters. Laughing, we dried our clothes in the beautiful sunlight, and, after a very frugal Tahitian repast, we started back down. XXII In the evening, exhausted with fatigue and also very hungry, we arrived at the base of Fautaua without further incident. There we found two unknown young men who were returning from the woods. They wore the national pareu knotted around their loins. While passing through the area of the rosebushes, they had made large wreaths similar to that of Rarahu's, and carried beautiful breadfruit, and wild bananas, red and vermilion, suspended from long poles upon their bare shoulders. We stopped with them in a delightful hollow, beneath a vault fragrant with lemon trees in bloom. The flame soon shot up between their hands from the rubbing of two dry branches, and a big fire was lit. The fruits baked in the ground provided an excellent meal, of which the two strangers joyfully offered us half, as is the local custom. Rarahu had derived from this expedition as many surprises and emotions as from a trip to a foreign country. Her young mind had been exposed to a wealth of new conceptions—on the vastness of space, and on the formation of the human races, and the mystery of their destinies.


XXIII Rarahu and her friend Teurahi had become in Papeete two elegant young ladies who set the fashion for certain new colors of fabric, flowers, and hairstyles. They usually went barefoot, the poor dears, and their luxury, which consisted mainly in wreaths of fresh roses, was a very modest luxury. But the charm and the youthfulness of their faces, the perfection and antique grace of their figures, allowed them even with such simple means to appear adorned and entrancing. They spent much time on the water, in a narrow outrigger canoe that they paddled themselves, and they loved to come laughing past the stern of the Reindeer. When they navigated by sail, their frail craft, heeled over by the tradewind, often achieved surprising speeds, and then they would both stand, with animated expressions, hair flying, skimming over the water like phantoms. They knew how, by deft bendings of their bodies, to maintain the equilibrium of this arrow that carried them so swiftly, leaving behind them a long wake of white foam. XXIV Tahiti the delightful, that Polynesian queen, that European island in the middle of the wild o c e a n — t h e pearl and the diamond of the fifth world. (Dumont


The scene took place at Queen Pomare's in November, 1872. The court attendants, usually barefooted and reclining on the cool grass or on pandanus mats, were festive this particular evening and in luxurious attire. * Dumont d'Urville: French navigator, 1790-1842.


I was seated at the piano, and the score of I'Africaine t was open in front of me. The piano, which had arrived that morning, was an innovation at the Tahitian- court; it was an expensive instrument that had soft and deep tones, like the sounds of an organ or of distant bells, and the music of Meyerbeer was about to be heard for the first time at Pomare's court. Standing next to me was my shipmate Randle, who later gave up the seafaring life for that of first tenor in the American theaters and had a spell of celebrity under the name of Randetti until the time when, having taken to drink, he died in poverty. At this time, he was in all the fullness of his voice and his talent, and I have never heard a human voice more vibrant and more delightful. Together we charmed many Tahitian ears, in that place where music is so marvelously understood by even the most savage. At the rear of the salon, beneath a full-length portrait in which a talented artist some thirty years before had idealized her as beautiful, the old Queen was seated on her gilded throne upholstered with red brocade. She held in her arms her dying granddaughter, little Pomare V, who fastened upon me her big black eyes, enlarged by fever. The old woman took up the entire width of her seat with the ungainly bulk of her person. She was dressed in a tunic of crimson velour; a bare lower limb was more or less encased in a satin boot. Beside the throne was a tray full of pandanus cigarettes. An interpreter in dress suit was stationed alongside this woman who understood French like a Parisian but who never consented to pronounce a single word of it. The Admiral, the Governor, and the consuls were seated near the Queen. t Opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer (Jacob Liebmann Beer), 1791-1864.

102 In this wrinkled old face, brown, square, and hard, still lingered a certain grandeur. Above all, there was an immense sadness, sadness from seeing death take all of her children from her one after another, stricken with the same incurable disease; sadness from seeing her kingdom, invaded by civilization, falling into disorder, and her beautiful land degenerating into a place of prostitution. Through windows opening onto the gardens one could see numerous heads crowned with flowers moving about and drawing near to listen: all the retainers of the court—Faimana, hair arranged like a naiad with leaves and reeds; Tehamana, crowned with thornapple flowers; Teria, Raurea, Tapou, Ereere, Tairea; Tiahui* and Rarahu. The portion of the hall opposite me was entirely open. Instead of a wall, there was a colonnade of island wood through which the Tahitian countryside was visible in the starry night. At the foot of these columns, against the dark and distant background, stood a bench occupied by all the women of the court, chiefesses and princesses. Four gilded candelabra, of the style favored by Madame de Pompadour, astonished at being in such a place, threw them into full light and made their truly elegant and beautiful costumes sparkle. Their feet, naturally small, were shod this evening in irreproachable satin slippers. First of all, there was the splendid Ariinoore in a gown of cerise satin, crowned with peia—Ariinoore, who refused the hand of the French naval lieutenant M (who had ruined himself for the marriage gift) and the hand of Kamehameha V, king of the Sandwich Islands. Beside her, Paura, her inseparable friend, a charming example of savagery with her strange ugliness or strange beauty, the look of *Since there is no indication that Tiahui had returned to Papeete, we assume Loti had meant to write Teurahi.

io3 someone capable of eating raw fish and human flesh; an extraordinary young woman who lived in the middle of the forest in a distant district, who had the education of an English miss, and waltzed like a Spanish senorita. Titaua, who had charmed Prince Alfred of England—unique instance of a Tahitian woman still beautiful at a mature age—adorned with fine pearls, head encircled with billowing reva-reva. Her two daughters, recently returned from boarding school in London, already beautiful like their mother, in European party dresses half concealed, by deference to the wishes of the Queen, beneath Tahitian gowns of white voile. Princess Ariitea, daughter-in-law of Pomare, with her sweet face, dreamy and unsophisticated, with her usual coiffure of fresh Bengal roses fastened in her loose tresses. The Queen of Bora-Bora, another old sharp-toothed savage, in a robe of velour. Queen Moe (moe: sleep or mystery), in a somber gown, with a symmetrical and mystical beauty, her strange eyes half shut with an expression of inward gaze like that of old-time portraits. Behind these brightly illuminated groups, in the transparent depth of the Oceanic night, the summits of the mountains outlined against the star-lit sky; nearby banana trees delineating their picturesque silhouettes, their immense fronds, their clusters of fruit like chandeliers, tipped with black flowers. Behind these trees, the great constellations of the southern sky, a mass of blue light, and the Southern Cross burning in the midst. Nothing could be more ideally tropical than this distant background. In the air, that exquisite perfume of gardenias and orange trees that gathers in the evening underneath the thick foliage; a deep silence, mingled with the buzzing of insects beneath the plants; and that special resonance of the Tahitian nights that predisposes submission to the enchanting power of music.

The Queen of Bora-Bora



The selection chosen was that in which Vasco ecstatically strolls alone on the island he has just discovered and admires this unfamiliar landscape; the passage where the master so perfectly depicted what he intuitively knew about the far-off splendor of these lands of verdure and light. And Randle, casting his eyes around him, began in his delightful voice: Marvelous land, Fortunate gardens. . . . Oh! paradise . . . risen from the sea-wave . . .

The shade of Meyerbeer must have trembled with pleasure that night to hear, on the other side of the world, his music thus interpreted. XXV Toward the end of the year, a grand festival was announced, to be held on the island of Moorea on the occasion of the consecration of the temple of Afareaitu. Queen Pomare conveyed to the White-haired Admiral her intention of going there with all her court, inviting him to the ceremony and to the elaborate banquet that was to follow. The Admiral placed his ship at the Queen's disposal, and it was arranged that the Reindeer should be made ready to carry the entire court over there. The retinue of Pomare was numerous, noisy, and picturesque. It was augmented for the occasion by two or three hundred young women, who had made extravagant expenditures for reva-reva and flowers. On a beautiful clear morning in December, the Reindeer, having previously unfurled her great white sails, saw herself overrun by this joyous crowd. I had been given the mission of going, in full dress uni-

io6 form, to fetch the Queen at the palace. She desired to go aboard without fanfare and had dispatched all her women in advance, and so in a small, intimate procession we made our way together toward the beach, in the first rays of the rising sun. The old Queen, in a red gown, led the procession, holding by the hand her well-beloved little granddaughter, and followed at two paces by Princess Ariitea, Queen Moe, the Queen of Bora-Bora, and me. That is a scene that I often recollect in my memories. Women have their hours of radiance, and this image of Ariitea walking beside me beneath the exotic trees in the bright morning light is the one I still recall when, across the distances and the years, I think of her. When the barge of honor that carried the Queen and the princesses hailed the Reindeer, the sailors of the frigate, lined up on the yards according to the usual ceremonial, uttered three times the cry of "Long live Pomare!" and twenty-one cannon shots reverberated over the tranquil beaches of Tahiti. Then the Queen and the court entered the Admiral's quarters, where awaiting them were refreshments to their taste composed of bonbons and fruits, all washed down with vintage pink champagne. Meanwhile, the attendants of all classes had spread out over different parts of the ship, where they created a grand and joyous uproar tossing oranges, bananas, and flowers to the sailors. And Rarahu was there also, embarked as a minor person of the royal retinue; Rarahu, pensive and serious amid this overflowing of boisterous gaiety. Pomare had brought with her the most notable himene choirs of her districts, and, since Rarahu was one of the leading members of the choir of Pirae, she had been invited to the festival.


Here a digression is necessary on the subject of the tiare miri, an article that has no equivalent in the toilet accessories of European ladies. This tiare is a kind of green dahlia that the women of Oceania place in their hair, a little above the ear, on holidays. Upon examining this odd flower closely, one discovers that it is artificial—it is set on a stem of rush and made up of the leaves of a very fragrant little parasite plant, a sort of rare lycopod that grows on the branches of certain trees of the forests. The Chinese excel in the art of arranging very artistic tiare, which they sell very dearly to the women of Papeete. The tiare is particularly the ornament of festivals, banquets, and dances. Whenever it is offered by a Tahitian girl to a young man, it has about the same significance as the handkerchief tossed by the sultan to his favorite concubine. On this day, all the Tahitian women had tiare in their hair. I had been commanded by Ariitea to keep her company during this official luncheon, and poor little Rarahu, who had come mainly on my account, waited long for me on the bridge, silently weeping at seeing herself abandoned. This was a very severe punishment that I had inflicted on her, one that had been going on since the previous evening as the result of a childish transgression and had already caused her to shed tears.

XXVI We had been crossing for two hours and were approaching the island of Moorea. A great uproar was in progress in the wardroom of the Reindeer: the officers had invited about ten young women, chosen from among the best-known and prettiest, for refreshments. Rarahu in my absence had accepted the in vita-

io8 tion to join them. She was there, accompanied by Teurahi and several other friends; she had dried her tears and was laughing heartily. Like most of the others, she spoke no French, but, by signs and monosyllables, she was carrying on an animated conversation with her neighbors, who found her charming. Finally, in what was the height of perfidy and horror, she had, during dessert, with the utmost graciousness offered her tiare to Plumkett. She was intelligent enough, it is true, to know she had picked the right person and that Plumkett would not wish to understand. XXVII How to portray that enchanting spot, the bay of Afareaitu! Great black bluffs of fantastic shapes; dense forests, mysterious fringes of coconut palms leaning over the tranquil water; and below the great trees a few scattered huts amid the orange trees and oleanders. At first sight, one would have said there was nobody in this shadowy land, and yet the entire population of Moorea was there silently awaiting us, half hidden beneath the canopies of greenery. In these woods, one breathed a moist freshness, a strange scent of moss and of exotic plants. All the himene choirs of Moorea were there, seated in order amid the enormous trunks of the trees. All the singers of the same district were clad in an identical color, some in white, others in green or pink; all the women were crowned with flowers, the men with leaves and reeds. Several groups, more timid or more savage, remained in the depths of the wood and watched us approach from afar. The Queen disembarked from the Reindeer with the same ceremonies as when she had boarded, and the roar of the

log cannon reverberated far off in the mountains. She set foot on land and came forward escorted by the Admiral. (We were no longer in that era when the natives used to lift her up in their arms for fear that her foot might touch their soil: the ancient custom which held that all territory trod by the foot of the queen became the property of the crown has long since been forgotten in Oceania.) About twenty lancers on horseback, comprising Pomare's entire guard of honor, were drawn up on the beach to receive us. When the Queen appeared, all the himene choirs burst forth in one voice with the traditional ia ora na oe, Pomare vahinel (greeting to you, Queen Pomare!), and the woods resounded with their noisy clamor. One might have thought he was landing on some enchanted island that had suddenly come to life at the stroke of a magic wand. XXVIII The consecration of the temple of Afareaitu involved a long ceremony. The missionaries made lengthy speeches in Tahitian, and the himene choirs sang joyous hymns to the Eternal. The temple was constructed of coral; the roof of pandanus leaves was supported by beams of island wood lashed together with cords of different colors, in symmetrical and intricate patterns, in the ancient style of Maori structures. I can still see that singular spectacle; the back doors wide open upon the countryside, in an admirable setting of mountains and tall palms; beside the missionary's pulpit, the Queen in a black gown, sad and reflective, praying for her granddaughter, with her old friend the Chieftainess of Papara; the women of her court, grouped around her in white gowns; the temple completely filled with flower-covered

110 heads, and Rarahu, whom I had allowed to leave the Reindeer like a stranger, amid that crowd. A vast silence descended when the choir of Pirae, which had been reserved for the last, began to sing their hymns, and I could distinguish behind me the pure voice of my little sweetheart dominating the others. Under the influence of a religious or passionate exaltation, she executed with frenzy her most fantastic variations. Her voice vibrated like a crystal in the silence of the temple, where she captivated the attention of all. XXIX After the ceremony we proceeded to the banquet hall. The tables were set in the open air in the midst of the coconut trees beneath canopies of greenery. The tables could accommodate five or six hundred persons. The cloths were strewn with serrated leaves and amaranth flowers. There were a great many flower arrangements, made by the Chinese, employing banana stalks and various extraordinary plants. Alongside the European dishes were Tahitian delicacies in profusion: fruit pudding, little pigs roasted whole in underground ovens, and platters of prawns fermented in milk. One served himself to the different sauces from canoe-shaped tureens that the servers had great difficulty passing around. The chiefs and the chiefesses came by turns to harangue the Queen at the top of their lungs, with such resounding voices and such volubility that one might have believed them to be possessed. Those who had been unable to find a place at table ate standing, leaning over the shoulders of those who had succeeded in being seated. The din and the confusion were indescribable. Seated at the table of the princesses, I had pretended to pay no attention to Rarahu, who was far away from me among the people of Pirae.

Ill XXX When night fell upon the woods of Afareaitu, the Queen repaired to th efare-hau* of the district, where a lodging had been made ready for her. The White-haired Admiral reboarded the frigate, and the upaupa began. All religious thought, all Christian sentiment had disappeared with the daylight. As the warm and voluptuous darkness descended once more upon the savage island, all had reverted to seduction, sensual excitement, and unbridled desires as in the days when the first navigators had named it the new Cytherea. And I had followed the White-haired Admiral, abandoning Rarahu in the maddened crowd. XXXI When I was alone on board, I sadly ascended the bridge of the Reindeer. The frigate, so full of life that morning, was empty and silent. The masts and the yards spread their vast outlines against the night sky; the stars were veiled, the air still and oppressive, the sea motionless. The bluffs of Moorea cast their black silhouettes in reverse upon the water. One could see in the distance the fires on shore that illuminated the upaupa. Raucous and lewd songs reached one in a confused murmur, counterpointed by the beats of the tom-tom. I was experiencing a profound remorse over having abandoned her amid that saturnalia. An uneasy sadness held me there, my eyes fixed upon those beach fires; those sounds that came from the land wrung my heart. One after another, all the hours of the night were struck on board the Reindeer, without sleep coming to put an end to my strange reverie. I loved her, the poor little one; the *fare-hau:

government house.

112 Tahitians said of her: "That is the little wife of Loti." She was indeed my little wife in effect; with all my heart, with all my senses, I loved her very much. Yet between us there were gulfs, terrible barriers, never to be surmounted. She was a little savage; between us who had become one flesh remained the radical distinction of race, the divergence of elementary concepts about all things. If my ideas and my conceptions were unfathomable to her, hers were likewise so for me. My childhood, my country, my family, and my home—all of that would remain forever incomprehensible and unknown to her. I recalled the statement she had made to me one day: "I am afraid that it was not the same God who made us." Indeed, we were children of two separate and very different natures, and the union of our souls could only be transient, incomplete, and tormented. Poor little Rarahu! Before long, when we are far from one another, you will revert to and remain a little Maori girl, ignorant and savage. You will die in that far-off island, alone and forgotten, and perhaps Loti will not even know about it. On the horizon a barely discernible line began to take shape against the expanse of the sea; it was the island of Tahiti. The sky was brightening in the east, the fires were dying out on the shore, and the songs were heard no longer. I reflected that, at this especially voluptuous time of the morning, Rarahu was there, enervated by the dancing, and left to herself. And that thought burned within me like a red-hot iron. XXXII In the afternoon, the Queen and the princesses embarked once again for the return to Papeete. When they had been

H3 received with the usual ceremonies, I stood watching the numerous skiffs, canoes, and whaleboats that were bringing back their retinue. This crowd was augmented as well by a number of young women from Moorea who wanted to prolong the celebrations on Tahiti. At last I saw Rarahu; she was there, she was returning also. She had changed from her white gown to a rose-colored one and put some fresh flowers in her hair. One could see more clearly the tattoo on her pale forehead, and the blue circles were more evident under her eyes. Without doubt, she had stayed at the upaupa until morning. But there she was, she was coming back, and that, for the moment, was all I desired of her. XXXIII The crossing was negotiated in beautifully calm weather. It was evening, the sun had just vanished. The frigate glided along noiselessly, leaving behind her slow and gentle undulations that died away in the distance upon a sea smooth as a mirror. Great somber clouds were scattered here and there in the sky and contrasted strikingly with the pale yellow tint of the evening in an astounding transparency of atmosphere. On the stern of the Reindeer, a group of young women stood out gracefully against the sea and the distant island. The sight of this group astonished me: Ariitea and Rarahu chatting together like friends and beside them, Maramo, Faimana, and two other ladies-in-waiting of the court. The subject of conversation concerned a himene composed by Rarahu that they were going to sing together. Presently, they broke into a new song for three voices: Ariitea, Rarahu, and Maramo.

H4 The voice of Rarahu, resonantly dominant, spoke clearly these words, not one of which was lost on me: Haehaa noa iho (e)! te tara o Pahia (e) i tou nei tai ia oe, tau hoa (e)! ehahe! . . .

Humble even the summit of Pahia* compared to my sorrow for you, O my lover! alas!

Ua iriti hoi au (e)! i te tumu o te tiare, e faaite i tau tai ia oe, tau hoa (e)! ehahe!

I have torn out the roots of the tiare t to make known my sorrow for you O my lover! alas! You have departed, my lover, for the land of France. You will lift up your eyes toward me; You shall see me no more! alas!

Ua taa tau hoa (e)! ei Farani te fenua, e neva oe to mata, aita e hio hoi iau (e)! ehahe!

This song that vibrated sadly that evening upon the immensity of the Great Ocean, repeated with a strange rhythm by three women's voices, remains forever graven upon my memory as one of the most poignant recollections left me by Polynesia.

XXXIV It was quite dark when the noisy procession made its entry into Papeete amid a great concourse of people. A moment later we found ourselves walking side by side, Rarahu and I, along the path that led to our dwelling. An identical feeling had brought us both back to this roadway, where we trudged along without speaking to each other, like two sulky children who no longer know how to approach one another. W e opened the door, and when we were inside we looked at each other. * Pahia: towering bluff on Bora-Bora. t Tiare: the flower of festivals; that is to say: there will for me no longer b e either joy or festivity. (Loti's notes.)

ii5 I was expecting a scene, reproaches, and tears. Instead of all that, she smiled while turning away her head with an almost imperceptible movement of the shoulders, an unexpected expression of disenchantment, of bitter sadness and irony. That smile and that gesture said as much as a very long discourse; they were saying in a concise and striking way something like this: I knew very well that I was only an inferior little creature, a chance plaything that you have given yourself. For you people, white men, that's all we are able to be. But what good would it do me to be angry about it? I am alone in the world; to belong to you or to another, what does it matter? I was your mistress; here was our dwelling; I know that you desire me still. So, I stay and here I am. The unsophisticated little girl had made terrible strides in knowledge of the facts of life. The savage child had become stronger than her master and dominated him. I regarded her in silence, with surprise and sorrow; I felt an immense pity for her. And it was I who asked forgiveness, nearly in tears and covering her with kisses. She loved me still, yes, as one might love a supernatural being that one could scarcely apprehend or understand. Sweet and peaceful days of love once again succeeded the experience of Afareaitu; the incident was forgotten, and time resumed its languid course. XXXV Tiahui, who was visiting in Papeete, was staying with us along with two other young women of her fetii* from Papeari. *fetii: m e m b e r s of one's family; kin.

n6 She took me aside one evening with the grave demeanor that ushers in solemn conversations, and we went and sat out in the garden beneath the oleanders. Tiahui was a good little woman, more serious than Tahitian women usually are. In her distant district she had followed the lessons of a native missionary with admiration, and now she had the ardent faith of a neophyte. In the heart of Rarahu, which she could read like a book, she had seen strange things. "Loti," she said, "Rarahu is ruining herself in Papeete. When you go away, what will become of her?" Rarahu's future was indeed tormenting my heart. Given the utter difference of our natures, I could only imperfectly apprehend all the contradictions and aberrations that existed in her. I understood nevertheless that she was lost, lost in body and soul. That was perhaps for me an additional charm, the charm of those who are going to die, and, more than ever, I felt myself in love with her. No one, notwithstanding, had a more gentle or more untroubled demeanor than my little sweetheart Rarahu. Nearly always quiet, calm, and submissive, she no longer had her former childish fits of anger. She was gracious and considerate toward everybody. When anyone came to visit us and saw her there, seated in the shade of our veranda in a happy and nonchalant attitude, smiling at everybody with the mysterious smile of the Maori, one would have said that our cottage and our trees sheltered quite a poem of peaceful and unchangeable happiness. Toward me she had moments of infinite tenderness; it then seemed that she felt the need to cling close to her sole friend and support in the world. In these moments the thought of my leaving would cause her to shed silent tears,

ii7 and I would dream once again of that senseless scheme I had formerly entertained of remaining forever by her side. Sometimes she took down the old Bible she had brought from Pirae. She would pray with rapture, and her eyes shone with an ardent and simple faith. But often she would keep apart from me, and I would find again on her lips that same smile of doubt and scepticism that had appeared for the first time the evening of our return from Afareaitu. She seemed to be gazing afar into space at mysterious things. Strange ideas came back to her from her savage early childhood. Her unexpected questions about remarkably profound subjects betrayed the disorder of her imagination, the troubled course of her ideas. Her Maori blood burned within her veins; she had days of fever and of deep unrest during which she seemed no longer herself. She was absolutely faithful to me, in the sense that the women of Papeete give to that word. That is to say, she was discreet and reserved toward European young men, but I had reason to believe that she had some young Tahitian lovers. I forgave her and pretended not to notice. She was not entirely responsible, poor little thing, for her strangely ardent and passionate nature. Physically, she had as yet none of the signs that distinguish consumptive young women in Europe. Her waist and bosom were rounded and proportioned like those of the beautiful statues of ancient Greece. And yet the characteristic little cough, like that of the Queen's children, grew more frequent with her, and the bluish circles below her eyes became more pronounced. She was a touching and sad little personification of the Polynesian race, which is dying out in contact with our civilization and our vices, and before long will be only a memory in the history of Oceania.


Meanwhile, the time of departure had arrived. The Reindeer was leaving for California, i te fenua California, as the Queen's granddaughter said. This was not the final departure, to be sure. On our return we were to stop over in passing for another month or two in the île délicieuse. Without that certitude of returning, it is probable that at that moment I should not have left: to abandon her forever would have been beyond my power and would have broken my heart. As the time for departure approached, I was strangely obsessed with the thought of that Taimaha who had been the wife of my brother Rueri. It was extremely painful to me, I don't know why, to be leaving without having become acquainted with her, and so I broached the subject to the Queen, begging her to undertake to arrange an interview. Pomare appeared to take much interest in my request. "And so, Loti," she said, "you want to see her? Rueri had, then, spoken to you of her? So he had not forgotten her after all?" And the old Queen seemed to meditate upon sad memories of the past, remembering perhaps some whom she had loved and who had gone never to return. XXXVII It was the Reindeer's last evening. As a result of inquiries made in haste by the Queen, I learned that Taimaha had been in Tahiti for a day, and the head of the mutoi* of the palace had been charged with conveying to her the order to be on the beach opposite the Reindeer at sundown. *Mutoi:


ii9 At the hour for the meeting, we were there, Rarahu and I. For a long while we waited, but Taimaha did not come; I had expected that. With singular dismay, I saw the last moments of our final evening go by. I waited with an inexplicable anxiety. At that moment, I would have given a great deal to see that creature of whom I had dreamed in my childhood and who was linked to the distant and poetic memory of Rueri; and I had a presentiment that she would not appear. W e had made inquiries of some old women who passed by. "She is in the main street," they told us, "take our little girl here along with you; she knows her and will point her out to you. When you have found her, you can tell our child to return home."



The noisy street was lined with Chinese shops. Merchants with small almond-shaped eyes and long queues sold tea, fruits, and cakes to the crowd. Hanging from the verandas were fragrant floral wreaths, pandanus wreaths, and tiare. The Tahitian women milled about singing. Small lanterns in the style of the Celestial Empire lit up the shops or dangled from the dense branches of the trees. It was one of the lovely evenings of Papeete. Everything was gay and fresh. One could smell in the air a bizarre mingling of Chinese odors with those of sandalwood and monoi* and the sweet scents of gardenias or of orange trees. The evening wore on, and we were finding nothing. Little Tehamana, our guide, scanned all the women in vain; she *Monoi: perfumed coconut oil.

120 recognized none of them. Even the name Taimaha was unknown to all those whom we questioned. W e went back and forth among all those groups, who looked at us as though we had lost our minds. I had come up against the impossibility of catching hold of a myth, and each minute that slipped by added to my impatient sadness. After an hour of this search, little Tehamana stopped suddenly in an out-of-the way spot beneath some large black mango trees. There was a woman seated on the ground with her head in her hands and apparently asleep. "Teral" she cried (There she is!). At that, I went up to her and leaned over curiously to look at her. "Are you Taimaha?" I asked, trembling lest she should answer no. "Yes," she replied without moving. "You are Taimaha, Rueri's wife?" "Yes," she said again, raising her head unconcernedly. "I am Taimaha, the wife of Rueri, the sailor with the sleeping eyes (mata moe)"—that is to say, who is dead. "And I, I am Loti, Rueri's brother. Come with me to a quieter spot where we can talk." "You? . . . his brother?" she asked simply, a little surprised but with so much indifference that I was abashed. And I regretted already having come to rake over these ashes to find only banality and disenchantment. She had, however, got up to follow me. I took each of them, Rarahu and Taimaha, by the hand and walked away from that no longer interesting Tahitian crowd.


In a solitary footpath where the distant noise of the crowd could still be heard, Taimaha stopped and sat down beneath


the dense shadow of the trees in the dark night. "I am tired," she said in a voice filled with lassitude, "Rarahu, tell him to talk to me here, I won't go any farther; is he really his brother?" At that moment, an idea that had never occurred to me crossed my mind. " D o you have children by Rueri?" I asked her. "Yes, I have," she answered after hesitating a moment, but nevertheless with a firm voice; "yes, two!" A long silence followed this unexpected revelation. A throng of emotions were aroused in me, feelings of an unfamiliar kind, sad and unutterable impressions. There are situations whose strangeness one cannot convey through words. The charm of the place, the mysterious influences of nature, quicken or transform the emotions experienced, and one no longer knows how to express them, even imperfectly. XL An hour later, Taimaha and I were leaving Papeete, which had already quieted down. The Reindeer's final evening was over, and a great number of sailors from the ship had gone into the Tahitian huts, surrounded by joyous bevies of young women. An atmosphere charged with seduction and sensual agitation hung over the district, as after evenings of great festivals. But I was under the sway of profound emotions and had for the time being even forgotten Rarahu. She had gone home alone and was waiting for me in tears in our dear little cottage to which I was to return for the last time that night. W e walked side by side, Taimaha and I; we followed the beach at a rapid pace. Rain was falling, the tepid rain of the tropics. Taimaha, unconcerned and silent, allowed the long

122 gown of white muslin that trailed behind her on the sand to get drenched. One heard nothing in the midnight calm but the monotonous sound of the sea breaking offshore on the reef. Above our heads, tall palm trees bowed their flexible trunks; on the horizon, the peaks of the island of Moorea were outlined faintly above the blue sheet of the Pacific in the vague and hazy moonlight. I was looking at Taimaha, and admiring her. She remained, despite her thirty years, a perfect example of Polynesian beauty. Her black hair fell in long tresses upon her white gown; by night, her wreath of roses and pandanus leaves lent her the air of a queen or a goddess. Designedly, I had caused the woman to pass by a dwelling already old, half-hidden beneath the verdure and creeping plants, the one she must have lived in long ago with my brother. "Do you know this cottage, Taimaha?" I asked her. "Yes," she replied, becoming animated for the first time; "that used to be Rueri's cottage!" XLI We made our way, the two of us, at that already advanced hour of the night, toward the district of Faaa, where Taimaha was going to show me her younger son Atario. With a faintly mocking graciousness, she had lent herself to this whim of mine, a whim that with her Tahitian perceptions she was scarcely able to comprehend. In this land where misery is unknown and labor needless, where everyone has his place in the sun and in the shade, his place in the water and his sustenance in the woods, the children grow like plants, freely and without cultivation wherever their parents' fancy has situated them. The family does not have that cohesion which in Europe, in the absence of any other cause, the need to struggle for a living gives.

123 Atario, the child born after the departure of Rueri, lived in the district of Faaa. In accordance with the general custom of adoption, he had been entrusted to the care o f f e t i i (distant relatives) of his mother. And Taamari, the elder son, the one who, she said, had the forehead and the large eyes of Rueri (te rae, te mata rahi), lived with the old mother of Taimaha on that island of Moorea whose distant silhouette stood out on the horizon. Halfway to Faaa, we saw a fire glimmering in a coconut grove. Taimaha took me by the hand and led me through the wood toward it by a path that she knew. When we had walked several minutes in darkness beneath the vault of the tall palms drenched with rain, we came upon a grassthatched shelter where two old women squatted before a fire of boughs. Taimaha spoke some unintelligible words, and the two old women got to their feet in order to inspect me better while Taimaha herself, holding a burning piece of wood near my face, began to examine me with extreme attention. It was the first time we had seen each other in full light. When she had completed her examination, she smiled sadly. No doubt she had discovered in me the erstwhile familiar features of Rueri—the resemblances of brothers are striking to strangers, even though they may be indistinct and approximate. For my part, I had admired her large eyes, her beautiful regular profile, and her gleaming teeth, rendered still whiter by the hint of copper in her complexion. W e continued on our way in silence and before long perceived the huts of a district scattered among the black masses of the trees. "Tera Faaa\" (Here is Faaa), she said with a smile. Taimaha led me to the door of apurau hut hidden beneath breadfruit trees, mangoes, and tamarinds. Everybody seemed to be profoundly asleep inside, and she called softly


through the slits of the wall for someone to let her in. A lamp was lit, and an old man with bare torso appeared at the door and signaled us to enter. The hut was large; it was a sort of dormitory where some old people were sleeping. The native coconut oil lamp threw only a small ray of light in the room and barely revealed those human forms over which the sea wind was blowing. Taimaha made her way toward a bed of mattings, where she took up a child whom she brought to me. "But no!" she said when she got close to the lamp, "I am mistaken, this isn't the one!" She laid him back upon his cot and began to examine other beds, but she still did not find the child she was seeking. She carried her smoking lamp about at the end of a long stick and illuminated nothing but red-skinned old women, immobile and rigid, rolled up in dark blue pareu with broad white stripes; one might have taken them for mummies wrapped up in mortuary cloths. A flash of uneasiness passed over the velvety eyes of Taimaha. "Old Huahara," she said, "where is my son Atario?" Old Huahara, awakening, raised herself on her emaciated elbow and gave us a startled glance. "Your son is no longer with us, Taimaha," she said; "he has been adopted by my sister Tiatiarahonui [Spider], who lives about five hundred paces from here at the end of the coconut grove." XLII We proceeded once more through the wood in the black night. At the hut of Tiatiarahonui, the same scene, the same ceremony of awakening as though it were a conjuring up of spirits. They aroused a child whom they carried to me. The poor little one was groggy from sleep; he was naked. I took his head in my hands and brought him close to the lamp held by


the sister of Huahara. The child, dazzled, closed his eyes. "Yes! this one is indeed Atario," Taimaha, who had remained at the door, spoke from a distance. "This is my brother's son?" I asked her in a manner that should have stirred her to the bottom of her heart. "Yes," she said, realizing that the response was to be solemn, "yes, that is the son of your brother Rueri!" Old Tiatiarahonui brought a rose-colored gown to dress him in, but the child had gone back to sleep in my hands. I embraced him gently and laid him back down on his mat. Then I signaled Taimaha to follow me, and we resumed the route to Papeete. All this had transpired as if in a dream. I had scarcely taken time to examine him, and yet his childish features were graven upon my memory, as when sometimes at night one sees a very vivid image for an instant, and it persists and reappears after one has closed his eyes. I was singularly agitated, and my ideas were distraught. I had lost all sense of time and did not know what hour it might be. I was fearful of seeing the day break and of arriving just in time for the departure of the Reindeer without being able to return to my little cottage or even to embrace Rarahu, whom I would perhaps never see again. XLIII When we got outside, Taimaha asked me, "Will you come back again tomorrow?" "No, " I replied, "I leave early in the morning for the land of California." A moment later, she asked me timidly, "So Rueri had spoken to you of Taimaha?" Little by little, Taimaha became animated as she spoke. Little by little, her heart seemed to awaken from a long slumber. She was no longer the same creature, careless and

126 silent. She questioned me with an emotional voice concerning the man she called Rueri, and at last she seemed to me as I had wished her to be, keeping, with a great love and a profound tenderness, the memory of my brother. She had retained minute details that Rueri had conveyed to her about my family and my country. She even knew the childhood name that had been given me long ago in my dear home; she smilingly repeated it to me and then reminded me of a forgotten episode of my early childhood. I cannot describe the effect that this name and these recollections produced on me, preserved as they were in the memory of that woman and repeated in the Polynesian tongue. The sky had cleared. We were returning through a magnificent night, and the moonlit Tahitian countryside amid the deep silence of two o'clock in the morning had a charm full of enchantment and mystery. I escorted Taimaha back to the door of the cottage she was occupying in Papeete. Her normal place of residence was the cabin of her old mother Haapoto in the district ofTearoa on the island of Moorea. On leaving her, I spoke of the probable time of my return and begged her to promise to be in Papeete at that time with her two sons. Taimaha promised solemnly, but, at the mention of her children, she had once again become somber and strange; her last responses were incoherent or facetious. Her heart had closed up again. On saying goodbye to her I saw her the way I was to find her later—incomprehensible and savage. XLIV It was about three o'clock when I regained the tranquil byway where Rarahu awaited me. One could already feel the moist coolness of morning in the air. Rarahu, who had


remained sitting in the dark, threw her arms around me when I entered. I told her about that strange night, begging her to keep those confidings to herself in order that this long-forgotten story might not once again become the gossip of the women of Papeete. It was our last night, and the uncertainties of return together with the enormous distances that were going to come between us threw a veil of indescribable sadness over everything. At this moment of farewell, Rarahu appeared in a pleasing and delightful aspect; she was indeed the little wife of Loti. She was sweetly touching in her transports of love and tears. Everything that pure and disconsolate affection, infinite tenderness, can inspire in the heart of a passionate young girl of fifteen, she said in her Maori language filled with wild expressions and strange images. XLV The first faint rays of dawn awakened me after a few moments of sleep. In that confusion, in that inexplicable anxiety that is peculiar to awakening, I found these ideas intermingled: the departure, leaving the charming island, abandoning forever my cottage beneath the great trees, and my poor little savage sweetheart—and also Taimaha and her sons, those new individuals barely glimpsed that night and who at the final hour came to attach me once again to this land by new ties. The cheerless white light of the morning filtered through my open windows. I regarded the sleeping Rarahu a moment, and then I awoke her with a kiss. "Ah! yes, Loti," said she, "the day has come, you are awakening me, and we must go." Weeping, Rarahu dressed herself; she donned her


loveliest tunic; she placed on her head her faded wreath and her tiare of the evening before, swearing that till my return she would have no others. I threw open the door to the garden. I cast a farewell glance on our trees, on our jumble of plants. I tore off a branch of mimosa blossoms, a cluster of periwinkles. And the cat followed us mewing, as once he had trailed us to the brook of Pirae. At daybreak my little native wife and I went sadly hand in hand down to the beach for the last time. There, we found a numerous and silent company already gathered. All of the Queen's maids-in-waiting, all the young women of Papeete from whom the Reindeer was removing friends or lovers were seated on the sand. Some were weeping; others, motionless, watched us approach. Rarahu took her seat among them without shedding a tear, and the last dinghy from the Reindeer carried me aboard. About eight o'clock the Reindeer weighed anchor to the sound of the fife. Then I saw Taimaha, who was coming down to the beach, she too, to see me off as, twelve years before, she had come at the age of seventeen to watch the departure of Rueri who never came back. She noticed Rarahu and took a seat beside her. It was a beautiful morning of Oceania, mild and calm; there was not a breath of air moving in the atmosphere. However, heavy clouds were massing high up in the mountain; they formed a great dome of darkness, below which the morning sun shone full on the beach of Oceania, the green coconut palms, and the young women in white gowns. The hour of departure brought its melancholy charm to this beautiful picture that was about to disappear.


XLVI When the cluster of Tahitians was nothing but an indistinct mass, the abandoned hut of my brother Rueri was still visible for a long while beside the sea, and my eyes remained fixed on that speck hidden amongst the trees. The clouds covering the mountains descended rapidly on Tahiti; they lowered like an immense curtain beneath which the entire island was soon enveloped. The sharp point of the bluff of Fautaua still stood out in a gap of the sky, and then everything disappeared in the dense somber masses. A brisk tradewind arose on the sea, which became green and surging, and the thundershower began to fall. Then I went to the lower decks of the Reindeer, into my dim cabin. I threw myself upon my narrow seaman's bunk, pulling over me the blue pareu torn by the thorns of the forest that Rarahu had worn as a garment in her district of Pirae. And for the whole day, I remained there, with the monotonous sound of a vessel that rolls and plunges forward, with the melancholy pounding of the waves that broke one after another against the hollow side of the Reindeer. All day long, immersed in that sort of doleful meditation that is neither waking nor sleeping and in which were jumbled scenes of Oceania and remote recollections from my childhood. In the greenish half-light that filtered from the sea through the thick lens of my porthole could be discerned the curious objects strewn about my cabin—headdresses of Oceanic chiefs, embryolike images of the god of the Maori, grimacing idols, palm fronds, branches of coral, miscellaneous branches torn at the eleventh hour from the trees of our garden, faded and yet fragrant wreaths from Rarahu or Ariitea, and the last bouquet of periwinkles gathered at the entrance of our dwelling.

130 XLVII A little after sundown I had to go on watch, and so I went up to the bridge. The brisk sharp air, the breeze that whipped my face, brought me back to clearcut notions of real life, to a keen sense of departure. The one whom I relieved for the night watch was John B , my dear brother John, whose warm and profound affection had for a long time been my great solace in the sorrows of life. "Two lands in sight, Harry," said John to me, on turning over the watch. They are over there behind us, and I don't have to identify them to you; you know them." Two distant silhouettes, two shadows barely visible on the horizon: the island of Tahiti and the island of Moorea. John remained beside me until late in the evening. I told him about my experience of the night before; he knew only that I had made a long excursion that night, that I was concealing from him something sad and unforeseen. I had lost the habit of tears, but since the night before I had needed to weep. In the darkness of the bridge, no one could see it but my brother John; by his side I cried like a child. The seas were heavy, and the wind buffeted us roughly in the dark night. It was like an awakening, a return to the harsh life of the sailor after a year of a languid and delightful dream in the most voluptuous island in the world. Two far-off outlines, two shadows scarcely visible on the horizon: the island of Tahiti and the island of Moorea. Tahiti, where Rarahu is awake at this hour weeping in my deserted cottage, in my dear little hut lashed by the rain and the night winds; and Moorea, where Taamari lives, the child who has "the forehead and the eyes of my brother." That child who is

i3i the elder son of the family, who looks like my brother George—what a strange thing!—he is a little savage, his name is Taamari. My native land will remain forever unknown to him, and my old mother will never see him. And yet this thought brought me a sweet sadness, almost a consoling impression. At least, everything that was George is not finished, did not die with him. I too, who will soon perhaps be cut down by death in some faraway land, cast into nothingness or eternity, I too would like to live again in Tahiti, to live again in a child who would be myself again, who would be my blood mingled with that of Rarahu. I would find a strange joy in the existence of the supreme and mysterious bond between her and me, in the existence of a Maori child who would be both of us blended in the same creature. I had not believed that I could love her so much, poor little one. I am attached to her in an irresistible manner, and for all time; now especially I am aware of it. Lord, how I loved that land of Oceania! I have two countries now, far removed from each other it is true, but I shall return to the one I am leaving and perhaps finish my life there.

Part Zkree


TWENTY days later, the Reindeer called at Honolulu, capital of the Sandwich Islands, for an extremely gay visit that lasted two months.* There the Maori race had already arrived at a relative degree of civilization more advanced than in Tahiti. A very luxurious court; a leprous and gilded king; European-style balls; ministers and generals over-decorated and slightly "Viaud's ship the Flore actually arrived in Honolulu on April 9, 1872, and departed for San Francisco on April 18. The author's brief glimpse of Hawaii thus fell during the reign of Kamehameha V and Emma. At the time the fictional Loti is presumed to have visited Hawaii, Lunalilo would have been king, and he was unmarried. Lunalilo was alcoholic and consumptive, but certainly not "leprous," no more than was Lot (Kamehameha V). SOURCE: Archives of Hawaii.


134 grotesque; all of them a droll company, a multiple foil against which stood out the graceful figure of Emma the Queen. Ladies-in-waiting very elegant and adorned. Young women of the same blood as Rarahu transformed into English misses; young women of her type, with her faintly savage air and her long hair—but who obtained from France, by means of Japanese steamers, their long gloves and their Parisian toiletries. Honolulu, a big city with tramways, a strange mixture of peoples; tattooed Hawaiians in the streets, American businessmen, and Chinese merchants. A beautiful land, a beautiful natural setting; a beautiful vegetation, reminiscent from a distance of that of Tahiti, but less luxuriant and less vigorous than that of the island of deep valleys and huge ferns. Even the Maori tongue, or rather a harsh dialect descended from the same origin. A number of words, however, were the same, and the natives were still able to understand me. There I felt less far removed from the beloved island than later, when I was on the coast of America. II At San Francisco in California, our second port of call, where we arrived after a month s voyage, I found Rarahu's first letter awaiting me. (It had been delivered to the English consulate by an American vessel loaded with mother-ofpearl that had left Tahiti a few days after our departure.) Ia Loti, taata huero tavetave no te atimarara peretani no te pahi auahi Reindeer. (To Loti, aide to the English admiral of the steamship Reindeer.)

Julien Viaud (Pierre Loti) in San Francisco in 1872

136 E tau here iti e! E tau tiare noanoa no te ahiahi e! e mea roa te mauiui no tau mafatu no te mea e aita hio vau ia oe . . . E tau fetia taiao e! te oto tia nei ra tau mata no te mea e aita hoi oe amuri noa tu! . . .

O my dear little friend! O my perfumed flower of the evening! My pain is great in my heart at not seeing you any more . . .

Ia ora na oe i te Atua mau.

1 greet you in the name of the true God, in the Christian faith.

0 my star of t h e morning! my eyes dissolve in tears because you do not come back again! . . .

Your little sweetheart,

Na ta oe hoa iti, RARAHU.


I replied to Rarahu with a long letter, written in correct and classical Tahitian, which a whaling ship was charged with carrying to her by way of Queen Pomare. I gave her assurance of my return for the last months of the year and begged her to tell Taimaha and to remind her of her promises. ILL C H I N E S E DIVERSION

An absurd memory, which has nothing to do with that which has gone before, even less with that which is to follow—which has no connection with this story except a simple chronological connection, a concurrence of dates: The scene takes place at midnight, in May, 1873, in a theater in the San Francisco's Chinatown. William and I, appropriately attired, had soberly taken our seats in the orchestra pit. Actors, spectators, stage hands, everybody was Chinese except us.


It was during a touching scene of a great opera of which we comprehended nothing at all. The ladies in the balconies concealed their small almond-shaped eyes behind fans and simpered under the force of their emotion like figurines on vases. The actors, costumed in the style of ancient dynasties, emitted amazing howls with the voices of gutter cats. The orchestra, composed of gongs and stringed instruments, brought forth extravagant sounds, unheard-of chords. A night scene. The lights were low. Before us, the people of the pit, an alignment of shaved heads, embellished with comical queues that terminated with silken braids. A satanic impulse occurred to us, the rapid execution of which was facilitated by the arrangement of the seats, the darkness, the focus of attention: to attach the queues two by two and then clear out . . . O Confucius! IV California, Quadra* and Vancouver, Russian Americat . . . Six months of expeditions and adventures that bear no relation to this story. In these places, one felt closer to Europe and already far from Oceania. The Tahitian past seemed like a dream, a dream beside which the present reality held no interest. In September there was much talk of returning to Europe via Australia and Japan. "The White-haired Admiral" wanted to cross the Pacific Ocean in the northern hemisphere, leaving the île délicieuse at a dreadful distance to the south. I could do nothing against this project, which brought anguish to my heart. *An island between northern Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. t Former name of Alaska.

i38 Rarahu must have written me many letters, but the wandering life we led along the American coast prevented them from reaching me, and I heard nothing more from her. V Ten months have gone by. The Reindeer, having sailed the first of November from San Francisco, is headed south under full sail. For two days she has been negotiating the zone that separates the temperate regions from the warm, and is called the "zone of tropical calms." Yesterday, there was a dull calm, with a gray sky that reminded one of the temperate regions; the air was cold; a solid screen of motionless clouds veiled the sun from us. This morning we passed the tropic,* and the setting changed abruptly. This is indeed that astonishingly clear sky, that fresh air, mild and delightful, of the region of tradewinds, and that sea so blue, haven of flying fish and dolphins. Plans have been changed; we are returning to Europe via South America, Cape Horn, and the Atlantic Ocean. Tahiti is on our route in the Pacific, and the Admiral has decided that he will stop over there on the way. It will be brief, nothing more than a few days in port and after that everything will be finished for good. But what happiness to go there, especially after having feared that I would never return! I was leaning over the rail, looking at the sea. The Reindeer's old doctor approached me, clapping me gently on the shoulder. "Well, Loti," said he, "I know quite well what you are dreaming of. We'll be there before long, on your island. In fact, we're going so fast that I think your Tahitian friends must be drawing us to them." "Tropic: of Capricorn.

139 "It is beyond question, doctor, " I replied, "that if they all put their minds to it . . . VI November 26, 1873 At sea. Yesterday, we passed before a high wind through the midst of the Paumotu islands.* The tropical wind is blowing gustily, the sky is cloudy. At midday, land (Tahiti) off the port bow. John is the first to see it; a vague form amid the clouds: the point of Faaa. A few minutes later, the peaks of Moorea can be discerned to starboard above a transparent cloudbank. Flying fish are jumping by the hundreds. The isle of delights is there close by. A strange sensation that cannot be conveyed. Meanwhile, the breeze is already carrying Tahitian scents—whiffs of orange trees and flowering gardenias. An enormous cloud mass hangs over the island. Beneath this somber curtain, one begins to distinguish the verdure and the coconut palms. The mountains rapidly fall into line: Papenoo, the great bluff of Mahaena, Fautaua, and then Venus Point, Fare Ute, and the bay of Papeete. I had feared disillusionment, but the sight of Papeete is enchanting. At a distance, all that gilded verdure in the setting sun gives a magical effect. It is seven o'clock when we drop anchor; not a soul on the beach to watch us arrive. By the time I set foot on land, it is dark. One becomes inebriated by this Tahitian perfume that condenses in the evening underneath the thick foliage. This darkness is bewitching. It is a strange happiness to find myself once again in this land. *The Tuamotu archipelago.


I take the road that leads to the palace. This evening it is deserted. The purau have strewn it with their pale yellow flowers and their dead leaves. Beneath those trees it is profoundly dark. An uneasy sadness, without any known cause, gradually comes over me amid this unexpected silence; one might say that the land is dead. I approach the residence of Pomare. The Queen's maids are there, seated and silent. What strange whim has kept these indolent creatures there when in other days they would have come joyously to meet us? They have, nevertheless, adorned themselves; they wear long white tunics and have flowers in their hair. They are waiting. A young woman standing off to one side, a form more slight than the others, attracts my attention, and instinctively I direct my steps toward her. "Aue\ Loti!" she cries, clasping me in her arms with all her strength. And in the darkness I find once again Rarahu's smooth cheeks and fresh lips. VII We spent the evening, Rarahu and I, wandering aimlessly in the byways of Papeete or in the Queen's gardens. For a time, we walked at random in the lanes we came across and then we stretched out on the fragrant grass amid the thick jumble of plants. It is these fleeting hours of intoxication that one remembers all his life; intoxications of the heart, intoxications of the senses over which the life of Oceania casts its indefinable charm and its strange glamour. And yet we were sad, both of us, in the midst of our happiness at seeing each other again. We were both feeling that this was the end, that soon our destinies would be separated forever. Rarahu had changed. In the dark, I sensed that she was

i4i more frail, and the dreaded little cough came often from her chest. The next morning, by daylight, I saw that her face was paler and the features sharper. She was nearly sixteen years old and was still adorably young and childlike, but she had taken on more than ever that something that in Europe is known as distinction. She had in her wild little countenance a fine and eminent distinction. It seemed that her face had assumed that other-worldly charm of those who are about to die . . . Through a quite unanticipated whim she had got herself admitted to the company of the maids-in-waiting at the palace. She had particularly asked to be an attendant on Ariitea, in whose service she was engaged at this juncture, and who had become very fond of her. In that environment she had derived certain ideas about the life of European women. She had, particularly on my account, learned English, in which she was beginning to become fluent. She spoke it with an odd accent, childlike and artless; her voice seemed still more sweet when she attempted those unaccustomed words whose harsh syllables she was unable to pronounce. It was bizarre to hear phrases of the English language coming from the mouth of Rarahu. I listened to her with astonishment; it seemed as though she were another woman. We walked together, hand in hand as we used to, along the main street, which formerly had been full of movement and animation. But this evening, no more songs, no more wreaths displayed beneath the verandas. Even there, everything was deserted. I do not know what wind of sadness had blown over Tahiti since our departure . . . It was the day of the reception at the French governor's house; we were approaching his residence. Through the open French windows were visible the brightly lit parlors.


All my shipmates from the Reindeer were there, and all the ladies of the court; Queen Pomare, Queen Moe, and Princess Ariitea. Doubtless, someone wondered more than once, "Where is Harry Grant?" And Ariitea might have replied with her tranquil smile, "He must be with Rarahu, who is now my companion, and who had been waiting for him since sundown in front of the Queen's garden. " Loti was indeed with Rarahu, and for the time being, no one else existed for him. A little creature being held on someone's knees in the quietest corner of the drawing room was the only one who observed and recognized me. Her childish voice, already enfeebled and almost dying, cried, "la ora na, Loti!" This was the little princess Pomare V, the old Queen's adored grandchild. Through the window, I clasped the little hand she extended me, and the incident passed unobserved by the assemblage. The two of us continued to wander; we no longer had a lodging to which we could retire together. Rarahu was affected as I was by the sadness of things, the silence and the night. At midnight she wished to go back to the palace to perform her duties for the Queen and Ariitea. Noiselessly, we opened the garden gate and proceeded carefully to examine the surroundings. This was because it was necessary to avoid the observation of old Ariifaaite, the Queen's husband, who often prowled in the evening about the verandas of her domains. The palace stood apart, in the rear of a vast enclosure; its white mass was outlined clearly beneath the faint light of the stars. One could hear no sound anywhere. Amid that silence, the palace of Pomare took on the same appearance it had had when in days gone by I saw it in my childhood dreams. Everything was quiet round about. Rarahu, reassured, went up the great staircase, bidding me farewell.


I went down to the beach to take my canoe to go back on board. The entire island seemed to me to be filled with a desolate sadness that evening. And yet it was a beautiful Tahitian night, and the southern stars were resplendent.

VIII Next day Rarahu left the service of Ariitea, who made no objection. Our cottage beneath the great coconut trees, which had remained deserted during my absence, was reopened for us. The garden was more of a jumble than ever, all overgrown with plants and guavas; periwinkles had grown and blossomed even into our bedroom. We resumed possession of the abandoned dwelling with a melancholy joy. Rarahu brought back her old faithful cat, who had remained her best friend and who found himself once more in familiar territory. And everything was like it had been before.

IX The birds ordered by the little Princess had given me uncommon trouble en route—as much trouble as birds are capable of giving. Of the original thirty, some twenty survived, though greatly fatigued from their trip—about twenty ruffled, sticky, pitiful little creatures who had formerly been finches, linnets, and goldfinches. Nevertheless, they pleased the sick child, whose large black eyes lit up at the sight with a very keen joy. "Mea maitail" (Well done!) she cried, "Well done, Loti!" The birds had retained one of their greatest charms: bedraggled and sickly, they sang all the same, and the Princess listened to them with rapture.

i44 X Papeete, November 28, 1873 At seven o'clock in the morning, most delightful hour of all in sunny climes, I was waiting in the Queen's garden for Taimaha with whom I had arranged a rendezvous. Even in Rarahu's estimation, Taimaha was an incomprehensible creature whom she had scarcely been able to see since my departure and who had never given other than vague or incoherent responses on the subject of Rueri's children. At the appointed hour, Taimaha appeared smiling and took a seat beside me. For the first time, I saw in broad daylight the woman who in the previous year had appeared to me in half-fantastic circumstances at night and just as I was leaving. "Here I am, Loti," she said, anticipating my first questions, "but my son Taamari is not with me. Twice I have instructed the chief of his district to bring him here, but he is afraid of the sea and has refused to come. As for Atario, he is no longer in Tahiti. Old Huahara had him go to the island of Raiatea, where one of her sisters wanted a son." I was once again running up against the impossible—against the inertia and the inexplicable oddities of the Maori character. Taimaha was smiling. I sensed that no reproach, no supplication could move her any longer. I realized that neither prayers nor threats nor the intervention of the Queen could have this child whom I desired to know brought to me before I had to leave. And I was unable to make up my mind to go away forever without having seen him. "Taimaha," I said, after a moment of silent reflection, "we are going to leave together for the island of Moorea. You cannot refuse to accompany Rueri's brother on his journey to your old mother's in order to show him your son."

M5 And yet I was very stingy about these few last days spent in Papeete, very jealous of those final hours of love and of strange happiness. XI Papeete, November


Once again the rapid chanting and the noise and the frenzy of the upaupa; once more the crowd of Tahitians before Pomare's palace; a final grand starlight celebration as in former days. Seated on the Queen's veranda, I clasped the thin hand of Rarahu, who wore in her hair an unusual profusion of flowers and leaves. Near us sat Taimaha, who was telling us of her former life, her life with Rueri. She had her hours of remembrance and of sweet sensitivity; she had shed some genuine tears on recognizing a certain blue pareu, poor relic of the past that my brother had long ago brought home, and which I in turn had taken pleasure in bringing back to Oceania. Our trip to Moorea had been decided on in principle. Now, only practical difficulties were delaying its execution. XII December 1, 1873 The departure for Moorea was made ready early in the morning on the beach. Chief Tatari, who was going back to his island, was giving passage to Taimaha and me upon request of the Queen. He was also taking along two young men of his district and two little girls who held cats on leash. We assembled to embark right in front of the abandoned hut of Rueri; chance had brought about this coincidence. The trip had been arranged not without considerable

146 difficulty, the Admiral not understanding at all what new whim compelled me to go running off to this island of Moorea. In view of the short time the Reindeer was due to remain at Papeete, for two days he had denied me leave. Then too, the prevailing winds made communication difficult between the two lands, and so the date of my return to Tahiti remained problematical. Tatari's whaleboat was being launched; the passengers were carrying aboard their light luggage and gaily taking leave of their friends; we were about to depart. At the last minute Taimaha, abruptly changing her mind, refused to follow me. She went and leaned against the hut of Rueri and, hiding her head in her hands, began to weep. Neither my supplications nor the persuasions of Tatari could prevail against this woman's unexpected decision, and we were perforce obliged to leave without her. XIII The crossing took nearly four hours. In the open sea, the wind was strong and the waves heavy; the whaleboat shipped a great deal of water. The two cat passengers, tired of yowling, had lain down dripping beside the two young girls, who no longer showed any sign of life. Utterly soaked, we landed far from the vicinity we wanted to reach, in a neighboring bay in the district of Papetoai, a wild and enchanting country, where we drew the whaleboat ashore upon the coral strand. It was a long way from that spot to the district of Mataveri where the parents of Taimaha and my brother's son lived. Chief Tauiro gave me his son Tatari as guide, and the two of us set out by a scarcely visible path beneath an admirable vault of coconut palms and pandanus. At long intervals, we passed villages built deep in the

Paopoa Bay, Moorea


woods where the natives, seated in the shade, motionless and dreamy as always, watched us go by. Young girls left the groups and came laughingly to offer us open coconuts and cool water. In mid-journey we made a stop at the home of old Chief Tairapa of the district of Taharoa. He was a solemn old man with white hair, who came before us leaning upon the shoulder of a delightfully pretty little girl. In the old days he had seen Europe and the court of King Louis-Philippe.* He told us about his impressions of that time and his astonishments. One might have thought oneself listening to old Chactasf telling the Natchez tribe about his visit to the Sun King. | XIV At about three o'clock in the afternoon I said farewell to Chief Tairapa and continued on my way. We plodded on for perhaps an hour more along sandy paths over land which Tatari told me belonged to Queen Pomare. Then we came to an admirable bay where thousands of coconut trees waved their heads in the sea wind. Beneath those great trees one felt as lowly, as insignificant as a tiny insect moving underneath tall reeds. All these tall slim trunks were, like the soil, of a monotonous ashen color, while here and there a pandanus or an oleander in full bloom cast a brilliant hue beneath that immense gray colonnade. The naked earth was strewn with the debris of coral, dry palm fronds, dead leaves. The sea, of a dark blue shade, broke upon a beach of snow-white sand. On the horizon, * Louis-Philippe: King of France, 1830-1848. tChactas: character in Chateaubriand's Les Natchez. }Sun King: Louis XIV, King of France, 1643 -1715.

M9 Tahiti was visible, half obscured in mist, bathed in the bright tropical light. The wind whistled mournfully, as among gigantic organ pipes. My head filled with somber thoughts, strange impressions; and those memories of my brother which I had come there to invoke lived again, like those of my childhood, across the night of the past. XV "Here," said Tatari, "are the members of the family of Taimaha; the child you are looking for must be there as well as his old grandmother Haapoto." We saw before us a group of natives seated in the shade—children and women whose dark outlines stood out against the sparkling sea. As I approached them, my heart was beating hard at the thought that I was going to see that unknown child, already beloved, poor little native bound to myself by the powerful ties of blood. "Here is Loti, the brother of Rueri; this is Haapoto, mother of Taimaha," said Tatari, introducing me to an old woman who extended me her tattooed hand. "And here is Taamari," he went on, pointing out a child who was seated near my feet. I had taken in my arms with love this child of my brother's; I was looking at him, seeking to recognize in him the longlost features of Rueri. He was a charming child, but I could discover in his round face only the features of his mother, the dark and velvety look of Taimaha. He seemed to me awfully young besides. In this country where men and plants mature so quickly, I was expecting a tall youth of thirteen who had George's serious look, and for the first time a bitter doubt crossed my mind.

15« XVI Verifying the date of Taamari's birth turned out to be a very difficult affair, and I interrogated the women in vain. There where the seasons go by imperceptibly in an eternal summer the idea of dates is imperfect, and the years are hardly reckoned. However, according to Haapoto, certain documents like birth certificates of all the children of the family had been turned over to the chief and were preserved in the district fare-hau. At my request, a young woman left to fetch them from the village of Tehaupoo, asking two hours to go and return. The spot where we were had a magnificent and terrible quality. Nothing in the countries of Europe can give any idea of those Polynesian landscapes; those splendors and that melancholy were created for other imaginations than ours. Behind us great peaks shot up into the clear deep sky. In the entire expanse of this bay, strung out in an immense circle, the coconut palms swayed on their tall trunks; the powerful tropical light sparkled on all sides. The sea wind blew with violence; the dead leaves swirled in vortexes; the waves roared on the coral reef. I inspected the people around me. They seemed to me different from those of Tahiti: their sober faces had a wilder expression. The mind becomes dulled with much travel; one grows accustomed to anything—to the most unusual foreign landscapes, as to the most extraordinary faces. At certain times, however, when the mind becomes alert and reasserts itself, one is struck suddenly with the strangeness of one's surroundings. I looked upon these natives as total strangers,

i5i impressed for the first time with the radical differences of our races, of our ideas and feelings. Even though I was dressed like them, and understood their language, I was isolated amid them all as much as on the most deserted island in the world. I felt strongly the frightful distance that separated me from that little corner of the world that is mine, the immensity of the sea, and my profound solitude. I looked at Taamari and called him over to me. He rested his little brown head familiarly upon my knees. And I thought of my brother George, who was sleeping at this moment an eternal sleep in the depths of the sea off the distant coast of Bengal. This child was his son, and a family descended from our blood would perpetuate itself in these out-of-the-way islands. "Loti," said old Haapoto arising, "come rest yourself in my hut, which is five hundred paces from here on the other shore. You will find there something to eat and a place to sleep. There you will see my son Teharo, and you can discuss how to return to Tahiti with this child you want to take along."

XVII The hut of old Haapoto was situated a few steps from the sea. It was the classical Maori hut, with its old floor of black pebbles, its wall with apertures, and its roof of pandanus, the haunt of scorpions and centipedes. Beams of massive wood supported huge beds of an antique shape, the curtains of which were made of the beaten bark of the mulberry. A rough table comprised, with these primitive beds, the entire furnishings of the dwelling. On the table was a Tahitian Bible, which served to remind the visitor that the Christian religion was honored in this isolated cottage.

152 Teharo, the brother of Taimaha, was a man of twenty-five with an intelligent and gentle face. He remembered my brother with respect and affection and received me with joy. He had at his disposal the district chief s whaleboat, and we agreed to set out for Tahiti as soon as the wind and condition of the sea would permit. I had said that I was accustomed to the native diet and that I could content myself like the rest of the family with breadfruit. But old Haapoto had ordered grand preparations for my evening meal, which was to be a banquet. They caught and strangled several chickens and lighted a large fire to cook fei* and breadfruit for me in the native style.

XVIII Meanwhile, time passed slowly. It would take more than an hour still for the young woman who had gone to fetch the birth certificates of Taimaha's children to return. While waiting for her, I took a walk along the seashore with my new friends. I still have with me a fantastic dreamlike memory of it. From that locality as far as the district of Afareaitu, towards which we were proceeding, the country is no longer anything more than a narrow band of earth, long and winding, shut in between the sea and the abrupt bluffs, the sides of which are covered with impenetrable forests. Everything round about me seemed to be getting darker and darker. The evening, the isolation, the restless sadness with which I was filled lent these scenes an air of desolation. There were always coconuts, flowering oleanders, and pandanus, all astonishingly tall and delicate and bent by the wind. The long trunks of the palms, leaning in all directions, *Fei: mountain bananas, or plantains.


bore here and there tufts of lichen hanging like strands of gray hair. And then beneath our feet, always the same bare and ashen earth pitted with crab holes. The footpath we were following appeared abandoned: the blue crabs had entirely overrun it. They fled before us with that peculiar sound they make in the evening. The mountain was already full of shadows. Tall Teharo walked beside me, dreamy and silent as a Maori can be, and I held the hand of my brother's child. Once in a while, the soft voice of Taamari was raised amid all the loud monotonous sounds of nature. His childish questions were incoherent and strange, but I understood without difficulty the speech of this little fellow, which many people in Tahiti who speak the "dialect of the beach" would not have comprehended: he was speaking the almost pure ancient Maori tongue. We saw a sailboat heave in sight on the sea, imprudently returning from Tahiti. Soon it negotiated the interior basins of the reef, nearly flattened by the gusty tradewind. A few natives disembarked, two young girls who began to run all soaked, tossing to the melancholy wind the incongruous note of their bursts of laughter. There also disembarked an old Chinese in a black gown who stopped to caress little Taamari and took some cakes out of his bag and gave them to him. This consideration of the old man for the child, and his look, gave me a horrible idea. The daylight faded, the coconuts swayed above our heads, shaking upon us their centipedes and their scorpions. Squalls passed, which bent the great trees like a field of reeds. Dead leaves fluttered madly upon the naked ground. It naturally occurred to me that it would undoubtedly be necessary to remain several days on this island before it would be possible for a canoe to put to sea; this is often the case of trips between Tahiti and Moorea. The sailing of the Reindeer was set for the first days of the next week. My

154 absence would not delay it an hour, and the last moments that I could have spent with Rarahu—the last of my life—would thus fly by far from her. When we got back, night was falling fast. I had not anticipated this night, nor the sinister impression made upon me by its approach. I was also beginning to feel the torpor and the thirst of a fever, brought on no doubt by the day's overly vivid impressions combined with excessive fatigue. We sat down before the hut of old Haapoto. Several young girls crowned with flowers were there, come from neighboring huts to view the popaa (stranger), since such appeared rarely in this district. "Why!" said one of them, on coming up to me, "it's you, Mata reva!" It had been a long time since I had heard pronounced that name which Rarahu had given me long ago, and which had given way to that of Loti. She had learned this name in the district of Pirae, beside the brook of Fautaua, where she had seen me the year before. Nature and everything else took on strange and unexpected aspects for me under the influence of the fever and the night. One could hear in the woods of the mountainside the plaintive and monotonous sound of reed flutes. A few steps away, under a thatched roof held up by purau posts, they were preparing the food in my honor. The wind swept the kitchen terribly. Naked men with long, disheveled hair were squatting like gnomes around a thick smoke. The word "tupapaul" uttered close by me rang oddly in my ears. XIX In the meantime the young woman who had been sent to the headquarters of the district chief arrived, and I was still able


to read by the last rays of daylight the few Tahitian phrases which reestablished the truth by dates: Ua fanau o Taamari i te Taimaha, Taamari was born of Taimaha, I te mahana pae no Tiurai 1 8 6 4 . . . The fifth day of July 1 8 6 4 . . . Ua fanau o Atario i te Taimaha, Atario was born of Taimaha, I te mahana piti no Aote 1 8 6 5 . . . The second day of August 1 8 6 5 . . .

A vast collapse had just taken place, a great emptiness in my heart, and I did not want to see, I did not want to believe. Strangely enough, I had cherished the concept of this Tahitian family, and this void which had come about caused me a mysterious and profound sorrow. It was rather as though my lost brother had been plunged more deeply and inexorably into nothingness. All that was a part of him sank into the night, and it was as if he had died a second time. And it seemed that these islands had suddenly become a wilderness, that all the charm of Oceania had died at one stroke, and that nothing any longer attached me to this land. "Are you quite sure," asked Taimaha's mother in a trembling voice, poor woman, half-savage, "are you quite sure, Loti, about the things you have just told us?" I confirmed to her the entire story. Taimaha had done what more than one incomprehensible Tahitian had done. After the departure of Rueri, she had taken another European lover. Since there is little communication between the districts of Mataveri and Papeete, she had been able to deceive her mother, her brother, and her sisters by concealing from them for two years the departure of the man to whom they had entrusted her, after which she had returned to mourn him in Moorea. She had really mourned him nevertheless, and perhaps she had never loved any but him.


Little Taamari was still beside me, his head resting on my knee. Old Haapoto seized him roughly by the arms. She hid her face in her wrinkled hands covered with tattooings; a little later I heard her weeping. XX I remained sitting there a long while, still holding in my hand the documents from the chief and striving to reorganize my thoughts that had been confused by the fever. I had allowed myself to be abused like a simple child by the word of this woman. I cursed the creature who had thrust me into this desolate island while in Tahiti Rarahu was awaiting me, and irretrievable time was flying away from us both. The young girls were still sitting there, with their crowns of gardenias that shed their evening perfume. All were motionless, their heads turned toward the forest, clustered, as if to join forces against the encroaching darkness, against the solitude and the proximity of the woods. The wind wailed more strongly; it was cold and dark. XXI I did small justice to the supper that was being offered me, and, Teharo having turned over his bed to me, I stretched out on the white mats, endeavoring to sleep in order to calm my perplexed mind. Teharo engaged to stay awake till dawn, so that nothing might delay our departure for Tahiti if the wind should lessen toward morning. The family took their evening meal, and all silently lay down upon their beds of matting, rolled up like Egyptian mummies in their somber pareu, the nape of the neck resting in the old-time way upon bamboo supports.

157 The coconut oil lamp, buffeted by the wind, soon burned out, and the darkness became profound. XXII Then there began a strange night, filled with fantastic and terrifying visions. The draperies of mulberry bark fluttered around me with the rustling of bats' wings, the terrible sea wind blew over my head. I shivered with cold beneath my pareu. I felt all the terrors, all the anxieties of abandoned children. How to find words that convey something of that Polynesian night, of those desolate sounds of nature, of those great echoing woods, of that solitude in the immensity of that ocean, of those forests full of whistlings and strange murmurings, inhabited by phantoms—the tupapa'u of oceanic legend, running through the woods with cries of lamentation, blue faces, sharp teeth, and long hair. Towards midnight I heard outside a distinct sound of human voices that reassured me, and then a hand gently grasped mine. It was Teharo who was coming to see if I still had the fever. I told him that I was also delirious at times and had strange visions, and I begged him to remain close to me. These things are familiar to the Maori and never cause them any surprise. He kept my hand in his, and his presence brought some calm to my imagination. It happened also that, the fever following its course, I became less chilled and finally went to sleep. XXIII At three o'clock in the morning Teharo awakened me. At that instant, I believed myself back in Brightbury, sleeping


in my childhood room under the blessed roof of the old family home. I imagined I could hear the old linden trees of the courtyard stirring their mossy branches beneath my window and the familiar rustle of the brook under the poplars. But it was the fronds of the coconut palms that were rustling outside and the sea breathing its eternal lament upon the coral reefs. Teharo was waking me for the departure. The weather had become more calm, and they were getting the canoe ready. When I got outside, I felt better, but I was still feverish and my head was a bit dizzy. The Maori were going and coming on the beach, carrying masts, sails, and paddles amid the darkness. I stretched out exhausted in the boat, and we were under way. XXIV It was a moonless night, but by the diffused light of the stars one could clearly make out the forests hanging above our heads and the white trunks of the great leaning coconut palms. Under the force of the wind we had assumed an imprudent speed for passing the ring of reefs by night. The Maori in low tones expressed their fright at running this way in bad weather in the dark. In fact, the canoe grazed the coral several times. The fearsome white branches flayed its keel with a dull sound, but they broke off and we went on. In the open sea the breeze died down; suddenly we were becalmed. Tossed about in darkness by an enormous swell, we were making no further progress; it became necessary to paddle. Meanwhile the fever had subsided; I was able to get up and take hold of the helm. I saw then that an old woman lay stretched out in the bottom of the canoe; it was Haapoto,


who had followed us in order to talk to Taimaha. The sea became calm like the wind as daylight was about to break. Soon we observed the first rays of dawn, and the tall peaks of Moorea, which already were fading away, took on a light rosy hue. The old woman stretched out at my feet was motionless and looked as if she had fainted. But the Maori respected that sleep bordering on death, the result of fatigue and excessive fright. They spoke in low voices so as not to disturb her. Each of us went ahead quietly with his toilet, consisting of plunging into the sea. After that, we fashioned some cigarettes of pandanus leaves while we waited for the sunrise. Daybreak was calm and splendid; all the phantoms of the night had flown away. I was awakened from my sinister dreams with an intimate sensation of physical well-being. And soon, when I caught sight of Tahiti, Papeete, the dwelling of the Queen and that of my brother in the beautiful morning sunlight and looked back at Moorea, no longer somber and fantastic but bathed in light, I realized how much I still loved this land in spite of that emptiness that I had come to experience and those ties of blood that no longer existed. I ran up the road to the little cabin where Rarahu awaited me. XXV The day set by the little Princess for releasing the songbirds in the country had arrived. There were five of us who were to proceed with this important operation. A carriage from the palace deposited us at the entrance to the footpaths of Fautaua, and we entered the wood. Little Pomare, who had been entrusted to us, walked very slowly between Rarahu and me, holding each of us by the

i6o hand. Two attendants brought up the rear, bearing on a staff the cage and its precious inhabitants. It was evening; the sinking sun barely penetrated into the thick covering of the forest. Above all the vegetation the great bluffs threw their shadows over us. A bluish light, which descended from above as in caves, fell to the ground upon a carpet of delicate and exquisite ferns. Underneath the tall trees spread citrus shrubs all white with blossoms. In the humid air, one could hear from afar the sound of the great falls. Otherwise there was the usual silence of the Polynesian woods—somber, spellbound country where it seemed life was absent. Pomare's granddaughter, grave and serious, opened the door for the birds herself, and then we all stood back so as not to hinder their departure. But the little creatures showed little disposition to take flight. The first to stick its head out the door—a big linnet without a tail—-appeared to examine carefully the surroundings, and then it retreated, frightened at the silence and the solemn atmosphere, doubtless to tell the others: "You won't like it in this country. The Creator did not put any birds here at all. These glooms are not made for us." It was necessary to take them all in hand to induce them to leave. When the whole group was outside, hopping from branch to branch with an uneasy demeanor, we retraced our footsteps. It was already night. We heard them behind us until the moment we emerged from the great woods. XXVI I cannot express the strange effect that Rarahu had on me when she spoke English to me. She was aware of this effect, and she only used that language when confident about what

i6i she was going to say and when she wanted me to be particularly impressed. Her voice at such times had an indefinable gentleness, a bizarre charm of keenness and sadness. There were some words, some phrases that she pronounced well, and then it seemed like she was a young woman of my race and my blood; it seemed that suddenly this brought us closer, in a mysterious and unexpected manner. She saw now there was no use thinking of keeping me near her. This project of old had been given up like a childhood dream, a dream that was indeed impossible and finished forever. Our days were numbered. At the most, I would speak of returning, but even that she did not believe. I don't know what the poor little thing had done during my absence. As far as was known, she had not taken any European lovers—that was all I had wanted to find out. I had kept at least a sort of prestige in her imagination that separation had not taken away from me and which no one else had been able to gain. On my return, all the love that a passionate little sixteen-year-old girl could give, she had lavished on me without stint, and yet I saw very well that as our final days flew by, Rarahu was withdrawing from me. She always smiled with her same tranquil smile, but I sensed that her heart was filling with bitterness, with disenchantment, with dull irritation, and with all the unbridled passions of savage children. I loved her well for all that, Heaven knows! What anguish to leave her, and to leave her ruined. "Oh! my dear little sweetheart," I told her, "oh my wellbeloved, you will be good after my departure. And I—I shall return if God allows it. You believe in God, you also; pray, at least, and we shall see each other again in eternity." "Leave! you too," I said to her on my knees. "Go far away from Papeete. Go live with Tiahui, your little friend, in a remote district where Europeans do not come. Like her,


you will marry; like the Christian women, you will have a family; with little children who will belong to you, and whom you will keep close to you, you will be happy." Then and always, that same incomprehensible smile came back to her lips; she lowered her head and made no response. And I understood quite well that after my departure she would be one of the most foolish of the young girls of Papeete, and one of the most abandoned. What anguish that was, Lord knows, when, silent and distraught, to everything imploring and passionate that I found to say to her, she would smile her same smile of somber carelessness, of doubt, and of irony. Is there any suffering comparable to this: to love, and to feel that someone is no longer listening to you? that the heart which belonged to you is closing itself no matter what you do? that the somber and inexplicable side of her nature is reassuming over her its force and its claims? And, nevertheless, one loves with all one's heart that soul which is escaping. And then too, death is there waiting; it will soon take that adored body that is the flesh of your flesh. Death without resurrection, without hope, since the one who is going to die no longer believes in anything that saves and makes live again. If that soul were altogether evil and lost, one could make the sacrifice like the giving up of an impure thing. But to feel that she is suffering, to know that she has been sweet, loving, and pure! It is like a veil of shadows that envelops her, an anticipated death that lays hold of her and chills her. Perhaps it would still not be impossible to save her, but it is necessary to leave, to go away forever, and time goes by and one can do nothing! And so there are transports of love, of love and tears. One desires to become intoxicated at the last hour with all that which he is going to be deprived of forever, and to seize

163 again, before the approaching end, everything one can capture from life of delirious joys and feverish sensations. XXVII W e were setting out, Rarahu and I, hand in hand, upon the road to Pirae. It was two days before my sailing date. The air was oppressive with the heat of thundershowers and filled with the scent of ripe guavas; all the plants were languishing. Young golden yellow coconut palms spread their motionless fronds against a black and leaden sky; the bluff of Fautaua showed its peaks and ridges in the clouds. Those basalt mountains seemed to hang heavy and hot over our heads and to oppress our thoughts as well as our senses. Two women, who appeared to be waiting for us beside the road, got up at our approach and advanced toward us. One who was old, bent, and tattooed, led by the hand the other, still beautiful and young: it was Haapoto and her daughter Taimaha. "Loti," humbly spoke the old woman, "forgive Taimaha. " Taimaha smiled her eternal smile while lowering her eyes like a child caught in a misdemeanor but who has no consciousness of the evil she has committed and feels no remorse over it. "Loti," said Rarahu in English, "Loti, forgive her!" I forgave that woman and took the hand she extended me. It is not possible for us who were born on the other side of the world to judge or even to comprehend these incomplete natures so different from ours, whose souls remain mysterious and savage but where one can still find, at certain times, so much of the charm of love and of exquisite sensibility. Taimaha had brought me a very precious object, a relic of former times: Rueri's pareu which, at her request, I had entrusted to her. She had laundered and mended it with

164 extreme care. She seemed agitated, however, and a tear trembled in her eye when she turned over to me this souvenir which would go back with me to Brightbury from whence I had brought it. XXVIII During a final visit that I made to Pomare, I commended Rarahu to her. "And even so, Loti," she said, "now, what could you do about her?" "I shall return," I answered hesitantly. "Loti, your brother also was going to return. You all say that," she continued slowly as though reviewing her own memories. "When you leave my country, you all say that. But the Britannic country (te fenua Piritania) is far from Polynesia. Of all those whom I have seen depart, there are very few who have returned." "In any case, embrace this one here," she said, pointing to her granddaughter. "For this one you shall never see again." XXIX That evening, Rarahu and I were sitting on the veranda of our hut. Everywhere in the grass one could hear the noise of the cicadas of the summer evening. The unpruned branches of the orange trees and the hibiscus lent our dwelling an air of abandonment and ruin; we were half hidden beneath their unkempt and dense masses. "Rarahu," I was saying, "don't you wish any longer to believe in the God of your childhood to whom you used to pray with love?" "When a man is dead," Rarahu slowly replied, "and is buried in the earth, can anyone call him forth?" "Nevertheless," I insisted, recollecting certain dark be-

i65 liefs that she had not relinquished, "nevertheless you are afraid of ghosts; you know that at this very minute they may be round about us in these trees." "Ah! yes," she said with a shiver, "afterwards perhaps there is the tupapau. After death there is the phantom who sometimes appears again and prowls fitfully within the woods. But I think that the tupapau fades away also when, at last, he no longer has an earthly form, and that then it is the end." I shall never forget that fresh childish voice, uttering in her gentle and curious language such somber things. XXX It was the last day. The sun of Oceania had risen radiant as usual upon "Tahiti the delightful." That which men who pass and vanish suffer in their hearts has nothing in common with eternal nature and never hinders her spontaneous celebrations. Since early morning we had both been on our feet and very busy. Preparations for departure often bring a happy diversion to the sadness of those who are about to part, and such was our case. We had to pack up the proceeds of all our expeditions on the reefs—all our shells, all our rare pieces of coral which, during my absence, had dried upon the grass of the garden and now resembled large delicate and intricate lichens whiter than snow. Rarahu displayed an extreme activity and did a great deal of work, a thing by no means habitual to Tahitian women. All this bustle relieved her sorrow. I was well aware that her heart was breaking over seeing me go away. I found her more like herself again, and I regained a little confidence and hope. We had to pack a quantity of objects, a lot of things at


which many people would smile: branches from guava trees of Pirae, branches of trees from our garden, pieces of fiber from the big coconut palms that shaded our hut. Several of Rarahu's faded wreaths—all of those from the last days—likewise formed a part of my baggage, with sprays of ferns and flowers. Rarahu even added some tufts of reva-reva, packed in boxes of fragrant wood, and some delicate pandanus wreaths woven especially for me. And all of that filled up quantities of cases, an enormous pile of luggage. XXXI Around two o'clock we had completed these elaborate preparations. Rarahu put on her most beautiful gown of white muslin, fixed some gardenias in her unbound hair, and we went forth from our home. Before going away I wanted to see for the last time Faaa's tall coconut trees and wide sandy beaches. I wanted to cast a last glance over all the Tahitian countryside. I wanted to see Pirae once more and to bathe again with my little sweetheart in the brook of Fautaua. I desired to say farewell to a number of native friends. I wanted to see everything and everybody; I could not make up my mind to leave anything. And time went by, and we no longer knew which way to turn. Only those who have been forced to abandon forever cherished places and persons can comprehend that agitation over departure and that anxious sadness that oppresses one like a physical pain. It was already late when we arrived at Pirae, at the brook of Fautaua. But everything was still there like it was in former days. Beside the water was the same numerous and select company. Tetuara the Negress was still there, en-

i6j throned amid her court, and a group of young women who plunged and swam like fish with the most carefree gaiety in the world. The two of us walked about together, holding hands as we used to and gently greeting all those familiar and friendly faces to our right and left. At our approach, the bursts of laughter had ceased. The sweet and profoundly serious little face of Rarahu, her white gown trailing like that of a bride, her sad demeanor, had imposed silence. The Tahitians understand all the feelings of the heart and respect sorrow. They knew that Rarahu was the little wife of Loti. They knew that the feeling that united us was a thing by no means banal and ordinary; they knew above all that they were seeing us together for the last time. We turned off to the right by a very familiar path. A few steps on, under the gloomy shade of the guavas, was that more isolated basin where Rarahu had spent her childhood and which we had been accustomed to thinking of as our particular property. We discovered there two unfamiliar young girls, very beautiful despite the wild hardness of their features. One was clad in pink, the other in light green; their tresses black as night were frizzy like those of the women of Nuku Hiva, whose expression of savage irony they likewise had. Seated upon rocks athwart the stream, dangling their legs in the running water, they were singing in raucous tones a tune of the Marquesan archipelago. On seeing us appear, they fled, and, as we had wished, we were left alone. XXXII We had not revisited that spot since the return of the Reindeer to Tahiti. Upon finding ourselves once again in that

i68 little retreat which in the old days was our own, we experienced a quickening emotion and also a delightful sensation that no other place in the world would be capable of giving us. Everything had remained just as it used to be in this enclave where the air always had the freshness of running water. There we were acquainted with all the stones, all the branches, everything down to the least mosses. Nothing had changed; these were indeed the same grasses, and this the same fragrance, a blend of aromatic plants and ripe guavas. W e hung our clothing on the branches, and then we sat down in the water, savoring the pleasure of finding ourselves again, and for the last time, in pareu, at sunset, in the brook of Fautaua. That water, clear and delightful, came from Mt. Orohena by way of the great falls. The stream ran over large gleaming stones, between which sprang the fragile trunks of guavas. The branches of these shrubs bent in a vault over our heads, and reflected in that lightly ruffled mirror were the thousand indentations of their foliage. The ripe fruit fell into the water; the stream's bed was sown with guavas, oranges, and lemons. Neither of us spoke a word. Seated beside each other, we mutually divined our sad thoughts without having need to disturb that silence by speaking of them. The delicate fish and the tiny blue lizards went by as tranquilly as though no human being were present. W e were so motionless that the varo,* so timorous, came out of the rocks and moved about us. The sun, which was already sinking—the last sun of my last evening in Oceania—lit up certain branches with warm and golden rays; I was admiring all these things for the last *Varo: crayfish.

i6g time. The sensitive plants began to fold up their delicate leaves for the night; the light mimosas, the black guavas had already taken on their evening tints. And this evening was the last—tomorrow at sunrise I would be leaving for good. All this land and my beloved little sweetheart were going to disappear just the way the sets in the act of a play that has just ended vanish. That act was one of enchantment in the middle of my life—but it was over without return! Finished were the dreams, the sweet emotions, intoxicating or poignant with sadness—all was over, was dead. And I looked at Rarahu while I held her hand in mine. Big tears were running down her cheeks; silent tears that fell quickly as from a vase too full. "Loti," she said, "I belong to you . . . I am your little wife, am I not? . . . Don't worry, I believe in God; I pray, and I shall pray . . . Go, everything you have asked of me, I will do . . . Tomorrow, I shall leave Papeete the same hour as you, and no one shall ever see me there again . . . I shall go to live with Tiahui, and I shall have no other husband, and till the day I die I shall pray for you . . . " Then sighs cut off the words of Rarahu, who put her two arms around me and leaned her head on my knees. I also wept, but they were sweet tears: I had regained my little sweetheart. She was heartbroken, but she was saved. I could leave her now, since our destinies were separating us in an irrevocable and fatal manner. This departure would have less bitterness, less lacerating anguish. I could at least leave with uncertain but consoling thoughts of returning—perhaps also with vague hopes of eternity!

XXXIII That evening there was a great ball at Pomare's residence, a farewell ball for the officers of the Reindeer. They were

170 going to dance up to the hour of getting under way, which the "White-haired Admiral" had fixed for daybreak. And Rarahu and I had decided to attend it. There were many people at the ball, for a ball in Papeete. All the Tahitians of the court, several European women, all that the colonial society could offer, besides all the officers of the Reindeer and all of French officialdom. Rarahu, of course, was not admitted to the ballroom. But, during the time the crowd was feverishly dancing the upaupa in the gardens, she and a few other young women of similar station had, by privilege of the Queen, been invited to take seats below the veranda on a bench from which they could see and be seen just as well as from inside. And with the Tahitian permissiveness, it was deemed entirely natural that I should come frequently to lean out of the window in order to chat with my little sweetheart. While dancing, I constantly encountered her grave regard. She stood out like a vision by the red glare of the lamps, mingled with the blue beams of the moon. Her white gown and her necklace of pearls shone against the dark background of the exterior. Toward midnight the Queen summoned me by a gesture. They were carrying away her little sick granddaughter who had demanded that she be dressed up for the ball. Little Pomare had wanted to say farewell to me before being put to bed. In spite of everything, this ball was sad. The officers of the Reindeer, who were in the majority, cast over it an aura of leave-taking and separation against which it was impossible to react. Young men were there who were going to be saying farewell to their mistresses, to their life of carelessness and pleasure. There were also some older mariners who in the course of their existence had come two or three times to Tahiti, who knew that now their careers were over, and


whose hearts were wrung to think they would never come back again. Princess Ariitea came to me, more animated than usual and speaking more rapidly. "The Queen begs you, Loti," she said, "to take your place at the piano, to play the liveliest waltz you know, to play it very fast, to follow it without interruption by another dance, and then again by a third, in order to put new life into this ball, which seems to be dying." I played feverishly, numbing my own feelings, everything I happened to find on the piano. I succeeded for an hour in reanimating the ball. But it was a factitious animation, and I could not keep it up any longer. XXXIV Around three o'clock in the morning, when the hall was empty, I was still at the piano, playing I know not what nonsensical tunes, accompanied in the distance by the upaupa that was dying away outside. I was alone with the old Queen, who remained pensive and immobile in her great gilded armchair. She had the air of a rude and somber idol embellished with a still savage ostentation. Pomare's salon had that melancholy look of the end of a ball—a vast disorder, a large empty hall, candles burning out in the candelabra, buffeted by the night wind. The Queen rose up laboriously in the folds of her gown of crimson velvet. She saw Rarahu, who was quietly standing near the doorway. She understood and beckoned her to come in. Rarahu entered, timid, eyes downcast, and came up to the Queen. Coming into view after the ball, in the deserted hall, in the silence, with her long train of white muslin, her bare feet, her long flowing hair, her wreath of white gardenias, and her eyes brimming with tears, she had the


appearance of a wraith, of a charming phantom of the night. "You have something you want to say to me no doubt, Loti; you want to ask me to look after her," said the old Queen with benevolence. "But it is she, I fear, who will not want that." "Madam," I replied, "she is leaving tomorrow for Papeari to ask hospitality of Tiahui, her friend. There, like here, I implore you not to abandon her. She will be seen no more in Papeete." "Ah!" uttered the Queen in her gruff voice, surprised and visibly moved. "That is well, my child, that is well; in Papeete you would quickly have become a ruined little girl." We were weeping, the two of us, or to be more exact, the three of us; the old Queen held our hands, and her eyes, ordinarily hard, were filled with tears. "Well then, my child," she said, "you must not put off this departure. If your preparations, as I imagine, will not take long, would you like to leave this very morning, a little after sunrise, around seven o'clock, in the carriage in which my daughter-in-law Moe will be traveling? Moe is leaving for Atiamono, to board the ship which will take her to her estate of Raiatea. You will spend tomorrow night at Maraa, and next morning you will be at Papeari, where the carriage will drop you off on its way." Rarahu smiled through her tears at this idea of leaving with the young Queen of Raiatea, which occasioned in her a childish joy. There existed between Rarahu and Moe a mysterious affinity. Both of them strangely unhappy and heartbroken, they had the same nature, the same demeanor, and even a similar charm. Rarahu replied that she would be ready. The poor little thing had indeed scarcely anything to carry along except a few muslin gowns of different colors and her faithful old gray cat. And we took leave of Pomare, pressing her old royal hands

Queen Moe


effusively and gratefully. Princess Ariitea, who had reappeared in the salon, came in her ball attire to accompany us as far as the garden gate; she said some things to Rarahu to console her as kindly as if she had been her sister. And for the last time we went down to the beach. XXXV It was still dark. Beside the sea, numerous groups were stationed; all the young women of the court, in their costumes of the previous evening, had followed the officers of the Reindeer. If one had not heard some young women weeping, he might have said it was a celebration instead of a leave-taking. And it was there, a little before daybreak, that for the last time I embraced my little sweetheart. At the same time that the Reindeer was leaving the delightful island, the carriage that bore Rarahu and Moe was departingfrom Papeete. For a long while, Rarahu could see, through the coconut trees and the screen of verdure, the Reindeer bearing off over the blue vastness.