Himalaya: Listen. Learn. Grow.
The time camefor my departure from Tahiti. According to the gracious custom of the island,presents were given me by the persons with whom I had been thrown in contact --baskets made of the leaves of the cocoa-nut tree, mats of pandanus, fans; andTiare gave me three little pearls and three jars of guava-jelly made with herown plump hands. When the mail-boat, stopping for twenty-four hours on its wayfrom Wellington to San Francisco, blew the whistle that warned the passengersto get on board, Tiare clasped me to her vast bosom, so that I seemed to sinkinto a billowy sea, and pressed her red lips to mine. Tears glistened in hereyes. And when we steamed slowly out of the lagoon, making our way gingerlythrough the opening in the reef, and then steered for the open sea, a certainmelancholy fell upon me. The breeze was laden still with the pleasant odours ofthe land. Tahiti is very far away, and I knew that I should never see it again.A chapter of my life was closed, and I felt a little nearer to inevitabledeath.
Not much morethan a month later I was in London; and after I had arranged certain matterswhich claimed my immediate attention, thinking Mrs. Strickland might like tohear what I knew of her husband's last years, I wrote to her. I had not seenher since long before the war, and I had to look out her address in thetelephone-book. She made an appointment, and I went to the trim little house onCampden Hill which she now inhabited. She was by this time a woman of hard onsixty, but she bore her years well, and no one would have taken her for morethan fifty. Her face, thin and not much lined, was of the sort that agesgracefully, so that you thought in youth she must have been a much handsomerwoman than in fact she was. Her hair, not yet very gray, was becominglyarranged, and her black gown was modish. I remembered having heard that hersister, Mrs. MacAndrew, outliving her husband but a couple of years, had left moneyto Mrs. Strickland; and by the look of the house and the trim maid who openedthe door I judged that it was a sum adequate to keep the widow in modestcomfort.