I have said already that but for the hazard of a journey to Tahiti I should doubtless never have written this book. It is thither that after many wanderings Charles Strickland came, and it is there that he painted the pictures on which his fame most securely rests. in Tahiti the circumstances were favourable to him; he found himself. It would seem that my visit to this remote island should immediately revive my interest in Strickland, but the work I was engaged in occupied my attention. After all, I had not seen him for fifteen years, and it was nine since he died. But I think it was, my arrival at Tahiti made me forget even more important matters.
I remember that on my first morning I awoke early, and when I came on to the terrace of the hotel no one was stirring.
There seemed no chance of breakfast for some time, so I sauntered down to the water-front. The Chinamen were already busy in their shops. The sky had still the pallor of dawn, and there was a ghostly silence across the ocean. I did not altogether believe my eyes. The days that had passed since I left Wellington seemed extraordinary and unusual.
And for three days afterwards the sea was stormy. Gray clouds chased one another across the sky.
The Pacific is more desolate than other seas; its spaces seem more vast, and the most ordinary journey upon it has somehow the feeling of an adventure. The air you breathe is an elixir which prepares you for the unexpected.
Murea, the sister isle, comes into view in rocky splendour, rising mysteriously from the sea.
It would not surprise you if, as you came near seeking for an opening in the reef, it vanished suddenly from your view, and nothing met your gaze but the blue loneliness of the Pacific.
Tahiti is a lofty green island, with deep silent valleys. There is mystery in their depths, down which murmur and splash cool streams and you feel hot in those shadowy places life has not changed for centuries.
But the feeling of sadness is shortened and serves only to add to the enjoyment of the moment. For Tahiti is smiling and friendly. Nothing can be more calming than entering the harbor at Papeete.
The little town along the bay is white and charming, and the flowers of the flamboyant trees, planted along the streets, blazed scarlet against the blue sky. The crowd at the quay as steamer draws alongside is gay and well-dressed.
It is a sea of brown faces. You have an impression of coloured movement against the flaming blue of the sky. Everything is done with a great deal of bustle, the unloading of the baggage, the examination of the customs; and everyone seems to smile at you. It is very hot. The colour dazzles you.
Exercise 2. Read the extract. Seven sentences have been removed from it. Choose from the sentences A-H the one which fits each gap (1-7). There is one extra sentence which you do not need to use.
A. I wandered around to the kitchen but it was locked, and on the bench outside it, a naïve boy was sleeping.
B. The beauty of the island becomes clearer as you approach, and its lovely peaks become more distinct, but it keeps its secret as you sail by.
C. Wellington is trim and neat and English; it reminds you of a seaport town on the South Coast.
D. It is noisy, cheerful, animated crowd.
E. Even here is something sad and terrible.
F. The boats in the quay are trim and neat.
G. Then the wind dropped, and the sea was calm and blue.
H. You may imagine it was guarded by Polynesian knights.