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WHEN, in the spring of 1875, Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon was appointed first Governor of Fiji, I had the good fortune to be invited to form one of the party who accompanied Lady Gordon to that far country.
Two years slipped away, brimful of interest, and each month made me feel more 'At Home in Fiji,' more fascinated with its lovely scenery, more content to linger among its isles.
Then a counter-charm was brought to bear upon the spell which held me thus entranced. The chief magician appeared in the guise of a high ecclesiastic of the Roman Church, clothed in purple, and wearing the mystic ring and cross of amethyst; while his coadjutor, a French gentleman of the noble old school, was the commander of a large French manof-war, which had been placed at the service of the Bishop of Samoa, to enable him to visit all the most remote portions of his diocese. Already this warlike mission-ship had peacefully touched at many points of exceeding beauty and interest, and our visitors had no sooner recognised my keen
appreciation of scenery, and inveterate love of sketching, than they formally and most cordially invited me to complete le tour de la mission, and so fill fresh portfolios with reminders of the beautiful scenes which the vessel was about to visit.
Being duly imbued with a British conviction that such an invitation could not possibly be a bona fide one, I at first treated it merely as a polite form; but when it was again and again renewed, in such terms as to leave no possible doubt of its sincerity, and when, moreover, we learnt that the most comfortable cabin in the ship had actually been prepared for the invited guest, and that its owner was thoroughly in earnest in his share of the invitation, then indeed we agreed that the chance was too unique to be lost; and so it came to pass that on the 5th September 1877 I started on the cruise in a French man-of-war, which proved one of the most delightful episodes in many years of travel.
NOTE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
THE KEY TO THE PANAMA CANAL,
While these pages were passing through the press, I have received details from various sources, which prove that the policy referred to at p. 241 is being actively carried out.
Not content with holding the Marquesas, the Paumotus, Tahiti, and the Gambier Isles, France seems resolved to annex every desirable island lying to the east of Samoa, thus securing possession of every good harbour and coaling-station lying between New Zealand and the coast of South America ; and also, diverting all the trade of these isles, from Britain's Australian colonies, to a French centre, which shall command the great commercial highway of the future, when the Panama Canal shall be completed. Raiatea in the Society Isles has recently been formally annexed, and the independence of Huahine and Bora-Bora threatened.
Now a further step is contemplated. The Austral and Hervey groups still remain free. They are self-governed, and Christianity is firmly established among their people.
According to the latest information, a French man-of-war visited their principal isles last August, to command the inhabitants to divert their present trade from New Zealand to Tahiti, assuring them that Great Britain had undertaken not to interfere with
French action anywhere to the east of Samoa. The islanders, who had at first received the French vessel with all honour, no sooner got an inkling of the true object of its visit than they became alarmed, and returned all presents which had been made to them by the captain ; who thereupon assured them that the French admiral was on his way thither, and would soon bring them to their bearings, and that they would have to accept a French protectorate.
Remembering the history of French protection in Tahiti, the Australs and Hervey Islanders are now justly alarmed for their own independence.