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- The Hawaiian Archipelago - 3/63 -


that they may sit down to a protracted meal; they are insulting and disobliging, and since illness has been on board, have shown a want of common humanity which places them below the rest of their species. The unconcealed hostility with which they regard us is a marvellous contrast to the natural or purchasable civility or servility which prevails on British steamers. It has its comic side too, and we are content to laugh at it, and at all the other oddities of this vaunted "Mail Line."

Our most serious grievance was the length of time that we were kept in the damp inter-island region of the Tropic of Capricorn. Early breakfasts, cold plunge baths, and the perfect ventilation of our cabins, only just kept us alive. We read, wrote, and talked like automatons, and our voices sounded thin and far away. We decided that heat was less felt in exercise, made up an afternoon quoit party, and played unsheltered from the nearly vertical sun, on decks so hot that we required thick boots for the protection of our feet, but for three days were limp and faint, and hardly able to crawl about or eat. The nights were insupportable. We used to lounge on the bow, and retire late at night to our cabins, to fight the heat, and scare rats and kill cockroaches with slippers, until driven by the solar heat to rise again unrefreshed to wrestle through another relentless day. We read the "Idylls of the King" and talked of misty meres and reedy fens, of the cool north, with its purple hills, leaping streams, and life-giving breezes, of long northern winters, and ice and snow, but the realities of sultriness and damp scared away our coolest imaginations. In this dismal region, when about forty miles east of Tutuila, a beast popularly known as the "Flying fox" {14} alighted on our rigging, and was eventually captured as a prize for the zoological collection at San Francisco. He is a most interesting animal, something like an exaggerated bat. His wings are formed of a jet black membrane, and have a highly polished claw at the extremity of each, and his feet consist of five beautifully polished long black claws, with which he hangs on head downwards. His body is about twice the size of that of a very large rat, black and furry underneath, and with red foxy fur on his head and back. His face is pointed, with a very black nose and prominent black eyes, with a savage, remorseless expression. His wings, when extended, measure forty-eight inches across, and his flying powers are prodigious. He snapped like a dog at first, but is now quite tame, and devours quantities of dried figs, the only diet he will eat.

We crossed the Equator in Long. 159 degrees 44', but in consequence of the misty weather it was not till we reached Lat. 10 degrees 6' N. that the Pole star, cold and pure, glistened far above the horizon, and two hours later we saw the coruscating Pleiades, and the starry belt of Orion, the blessed familiar constellations of "auld lang syne," and a "breath of the cool north," the first I have felt for five months, fanned the tropic night and the calm silvery Pacific. From that time we have been indifferent to our crawling pace, except for the sick man's sake. The days dawn in rose colour and die in gold, and through their long hours a sea of delicious blue shimmers beneath the sun, so soft, so blue, so dreamlike, an ocean worthy of its name, the enchanted region of perpetual calm, and an endless summer. Far off, for many an azure league, rims of rock, fringed with the graceful coco palm, girdle still lagoons, and are themselves encircled by coral reefs on which the ocean breaks all the year in broad drifts of foam. Myriads of flying fish and a few dolphins and Portuguese men-of-war flash or float through the scarcely undulating water. But we look in vain for the "sails of silk and ropes of sendal," which are alone appropriate to this dream-world. The Pacific in this region is an indolent blue expanse, pure and lonely, an almost untraversed sea. We revel in these tropic days of transcendent glory, in the balmy breath which just stirs the dreamy blue, in the brief, fierce crimson sunsets, in the soft splendour of the nights, when the moon and stars hang like lamps out of a lofty and distant vault, and in the pearly crystalline dawns, when the sun rising through a veil of rose and gold "rejoices as a giant to run his course," and brightens by no "pale gradations" into the "perfect day."

P.S.--To-morrow morning we expect to sight land. In spite of minor evils, our voyage has been a singularly pleasant one. The condition of the ship and her machinery warrants the strongest condemnation, but her discipline is admirable, and so are many of her regulations, and we might have had a much more disagreeable voyage in a better ship. Captain Blethen is beyond all praise, and so is the chief engineer, whose duties are incessant and most harassing, owing to the critical state of the engines. The Nevada now presents a grotesque appearance, for within the last few hours she has received such an added list to port that her starboard wheel looks nearly out of the water. I.L.B.

LETTER II.

HAWAIIAN HOTEL, HONOLULU, Jan. 26th.

Yesterday morning at 6.30 I was aroused by the news that "The Islands" were in sight. Oahu in the distance, a group of grey, barren peaks rising verdureless out of the lonely sea, was not an exception to the rule that the first sight of land is a disappointment. Owing to the clear atmosphere, we seemed only five miles off, but in reality we were twenty, and the land improved as we neared it. It was the fiercest day we had had, the deck was almost too hot to stand upon, the sea and sky were both magnificently blue, and the unveiled sun turned every minute ripple into a diamond flash. As we approached, the island changed its character. There were lofty peaks, truly--grey and red, sun- scorched and wind-bleached, glowing here and there with traces of their fiery origin; but they were cleft by deep chasms and ravines of cool shadow and entrancing green, and falling water streaked their sides--a most welcome vision after eleven months of the desert sea and the dusty browns of Australia and New Zealand. Nearer yet, and the coast line came into sight, fringed by the feathery cocoanut tree of the tropics, and marked by a long line of surf. The grand promontory of Diamond Head, its fiery sides now softened by a haze of green, terminated the wavy line of palms; then the Punchbowl, a very perfect extinct crater, brilliant with every shade of red volcanic ash, blazed against the green skirts of the mountains. We were close to the coral reef before the cry, "There's Honolulu!" made us aware of the proximity of the capital of the island kingdom, and then, indeed, its existence had almost to be taken upon trust, for besides the lovely wooden and grass huts, with deep verandahs, which nestled under palms and bananas on soft green sward, margined by the bright sea sand, only two church spires and a few grey roofs appeared above the trees.

We were just outside the reef, and near enough to hear that deep sound of the surf which, through the ever serene summer years girdles the Hawaiian Islands with perpetual thunder, before the pilot glided alongside, bringing the news which Mark Twain had prepared us to receive with interest, that "Prince Bill" had been unanimously elected to the throne. The surf ran white and pure over the environing coral reef, and as we passed through the narrow channel, we almost saw the coral forests deep down under the Nevada's keel; the coral fishers plied their graceful trade; canoes with outriggers rode the combers, and glided with inconceivable rapidity round our ship; amphibious brown beings sported in the transparent waves; and within the reef lay a calm surface of water of a wonderful blue, entered by a narrow, intricate passage of the deepest indigo. And beyond the reef and beyond the blue, nestling among cocoanut trees and bananas, umbrella trees and breadfruits, oranges, mangoes, hibiscus, algaroba, and passion-flowers, almost hidden in the deep, dense greenery, was Honolulu. Bright blossom of a summer sea! Fair Paradise of the Pacific!

Inside the reef the magnificent iron-clad California (the flag-ship) and another huge American war vessel, the Benicia, are moored in line with the British corvette Scout, within 200 yards of the shore; and their boats were constantly passing and re-passing, among countless canoes filled with natives. Two coasting schooners were just leaving the harbour, and the inter-island steamer Kilauea, with her deck crowded with natives, was just coming in. By noon the great decrepit Nevada, which has no wharf at which she can lie in sleepy New Zealand, was moored alongside a very respectable one in this enterprising little Hawaiian capital.

We looked down from the towering deck on a crowd of two or three thousand people--whites, Kanakas, Chinamen--and hundreds of them at once made their way on board, and streamed over the ship, talking, laughing, and remarking upon us in a language which seemed without backbone. Such rich brown men and women they were, with wavy, shining black hair, large, brown, lustrous eyes, and rows of perfect teeth like ivory. Everyone was smiling. The forms of the women seem to be inclined towards obesity, but their drapery, which consists of a sleeved garment which falls in ample and unconfined folds from their shoulders to their feet, partly conceals this defect, which is here regarded as a beauty. Some of these dresses were black, but many of those worn by the younger women were of pure white, crimson, yellow, scarlet, blue, or light green. The men displayed their lithe, graceful figures to the best advantage in white trousers and gay Garibaldi shirts. A few of the women wore coloured handkerchiefs twined round their hair, but generally both men and women wore straw hats, which the men set jauntily on one side of their heads, and aggravated their appearance yet more by bandana handkerchiefs of rich bright colours round their necks, knotted loosely on the left side, with a grace to which, I think, no Anglo-Saxon dandy could attain. Without an exception the men and women wore wreaths and garlands of flowers, carmine, orange, or pure white, twined round their hats, and thrown carelessly round their necks, flowers unknown to me, but redolent of the tropics in fragrance and colour. Many of the young beauties wore the gorgeous blossom of the red hibiscus among their abundant, unconfined, black hair, and many, besides the garlands, wore festoons of a sweet- scented vine, or of an exquisitely beautiful fern, knotted behind and hanging half-way down their dresses. These adornments of natural flowers are most attractive. Chinamen, all alike, very yellow, with almond-shaped eyes, youthful, hairless faces, long pigtails, spotlessly clean clothes, and an expression of mingled cunning and simplicity, "foreigners," half-whites, a few negroes, and a very few dark-skinned Polynesians from the far-off South Seas, made up the rest of the rainbow-tinted crowd.

The "foreign" ladies, who were there in great numbers, generally wore simple light prints or muslins, and white straw hats, and many of them so far conformed to native custom as to wear natural flowers round their hats and throats. But where were the hard, angular, careworn, sallow, passionate faces of men and women, such as form the majority of every crowd at home, as well as in America, and Australia? The conditions of life must surely be easier here, and people must have found rest from some of its burdensome conventionalities. The foreign ladies, in their simple, tasteful, fresh attire, innocent of the humpings and bunchings, the monstrosities and deformities of ultra-fashionable bad taste, beamed with cheerfulness, friendliness, and kindliness. Men and women


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