Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/662

This page has been validated.
644
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

AMONG THE FIJI ISLANDS.

IT is a very trite remark that the Pacific Ocean often emphatically belies its title. I can not altogether defend it; and, in fact, it would be unreasonable to expect consistency from so vast an expanse of the unstable. When the grateful Magellan, escaping from the wintry horrors of the region now always associated with his name, burst into the sunshine and balmy breezes beyond, he did not, naturally, reflect very closely on the area over which the new name was to be applied. Big generalizations are dangerous; but it is not absolutely a misnomer, and those who have known this ocean for weeks together in its more gracious moods—whether on its vast solitudes or among its scattered island groups—will readily admit the justness of the title.

On the morning we reached Fiji the sea was without a ripple, and as we passed the pretty island of Mbengga, we scanned its rich green slopes in vain for a sight of life. Primitive man and his works do not show out prominently against tropical nature. A slight haze veiled the great island of Viti Levu—i. e., great Fiji; but, as we came nearer, its grand and varied outline stood out clearly in front of us, stretching far away to right and left. Suva, the seat of government, has no striking features. The houses lie scattered for a mile or two along a neck of land on one side of a bay, at the head of which enters the Tamavua River. A reef with a navigable opening crosses this bay, and forms a fair harbor. But the marvelous fantastic outline of hills beyond the bay—King David might have described them as "hopping"—seen from the broad veranda of the Club House Hotel, was a view of which one never tired. My expectations as regarded hotel accommodation being small, I was agreeably surprised to find a well-ordered, comfortable, two-storied house. It is true that the chambermaid was a little black Solomon Island "boy"; but his views on cleanliness, and on meum and tuum, were not appreciably behind those of his profession in. Europe; and he was, besides, when at home, a man-slayer and a cannibal. The only drawback, indeed, to comfort lay in the fact that the bedrooms were all open to the roof of corrugated zinc, and the noise of the torrents of rain—I never saw rain like it—was deafening. But rainy days, at that season anyhow—well, at all events, it is the "dry season."

Boat-voyaging in those regions is not only an enjoyable, but in Fiji almost the only mode of locomotion, though there are horses, and the number of tracks has of late years been consid-