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- The Hawaiian Archipelago - 30/63 -


the Pacific coast. But Hawaii is not a place for the sick or old; for, if people cannot ride on horseback, they can have neither society nor change. Mr. Lyons, one of the most famous of the early missionaries, still clings to this place, where he has worked for forty years. He is an Hawaiian poet; and, besides translating some of our best hymns, has composed enough to make up the greater part of a bulky volume, which is said to be of great merit. He says that the language lends itself very readily to rhythmical expression. He was indefatigable in his youth, and was four times let down the pali by ropes to preach in the Waimanu Valley. Neither he nor his wife can mount a horse now, and it is very dreary for them, as the population has receded and dwindled from about them. Their house is made lively, however, by some bright little native girls, who board with them, and receive an English and industrial education.

The moral atmosphere of Waimea has never been a wholesome one. The region was very early settled by a class of what may be truly termed "mean whites," the "beach-combers" and riff-raff of the Pacific. They lived infamous lives, and added their own to the indigenous vices of the islands, turning the district into a perfect sink of iniquity, in which they were known by such befitting aliases as "Jake the Devil," etc. The coming of the missionaries, and the settlement of moral, orderly whites on Hawaii, have slowly created a public opinion averse to flagrant immorality, and the outrageous license of former years would now meet with legal penalties. Many of the old settlers are dead, and others have drifted to regions beyond restraining influences, but still "the Waimea crowd" is not considered up to the mark. Most of the present set of foreigners are Englishmen who have married native women. It was in such quarters as this that the great antagonistic influence to the complete Christianization of the natives was created, and it is from such suspicious sources that the aspersions on missionary work are usually derived.

Waimea has its own beauty--the grand breezy plain, the gigantic sweep of the mountain curves, the incessant changes of colour, and the morning view of Mauna Kea, with the pure snow on its ragged dome, rose-flushed in the early sunlight. I don't agree with Disraeli that "happiness is atmosphere;" yet constant sunshine, and a climate which never threatens one with discomfort or ills, certainly conduce to equable cheerfulness.

I am quite interested with a native lady here, the first I have met with who has been able to express her ideas in English. She is extremely shrewd and intelligent, very satirical, and a great mimic. She very cleverly burlesques the way in which white people express their admiration of scenery, and, in fact, ridicules admiration of scenery for itself. She evidently thinks us a sour, morose, worrying, forlorn race. "We," she said, "are always happy; we never grieve long about anything; when any one dies we break our hearts for some days, and then we are happy again. We are happy all day long, not like white people, happy one moment, gloomy another: we've no cares, the days are too short. What are haoles always unhappy about?" Perhaps she expresses the general feeling of her careless, pleasure-loving, mirth-loving people, who, whatever commands they disobey, fulfil the one, "Take no thought for the morrow." The fabrication of the beautiful quilts I before wrote of is a favourite occupation of native women, and they make all their own and their husbands' clothes; but making leis, going into the woods to collect materials for them, talking, riding, bathing, visiting, and otherwise amusing themselves, take up the greater part of their time. Perhaps if we white women always wore holukus of one shape, we should have fewer gloomy moments! I.L.B.

LETTER XVI.

WAIMANU VALLEY. HAWAII.

I am sitting at the door of a grass lodge, at the end of all things, for no one can pass further by land than this huge lonely cleft. About thirty natives are sitting about me, all staring, laughing, and chattering, and I am the only white person in the region. We have all had a meal, sitting round a large calabash of poi and a fowl, which was killed in my honour, and roasted in one of their stone ovens. I have forgotten my knife, and have had to help myself after the primitive fashion of aborigines, not without some fear, for some of them I am sure are in an advanced stage of leprosy. The brown tattooed limbs of one man are stretched across the mat, the others are sitting cross-legged, making lauhala leis. One man is making fishing-lines of a beautifully white and marvellously tenacious fibre, obtained from an Hawaiian "flax" plant (possibly Urtica argentea), very different from the New Zealand Phormium tenax. Nearly all the people of the valley are outside, having come to see the wahine haole: only one white woman, and she a resident of Hawaii, having been seen in Waimanu before. I am really alone, miles of mountain and gulch lie between me and the nearest whites. This is a wonderful place: a ravine about three miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide, without an obvious means of ingress, being walled in by precipices from 2000 to 4000 feet high. Five cascades dive from the palis at its head, and unite to form a placid river about up to a horse's body here, and deep enough for a horse to swim in a little below. Dense forests of various shades of green fill up the greater part of the valley, concealing the basins into which the cascades leap, and the grey basalt of the palis is mostly hidden by greenery. At the open end, two bald bluffs, one of them 2000 feet in height, confront the Pacific, and its loud booming surf comes up to within one hundred yards of the house where I am writing, but is banked off by a heaped-up barrier of colossal shingle.

Hot and silent, a sunset world of an endless afternoon, it seems a palpable and living dream. And a few of these people, I understand, have dreamed away their lives here, never having been beyond their valley, at least by land. But it is a dream of ceaseless speech and rippling laughter. They are the merriest people I have yet seen, and doubtless their isolated life is dear to them.

I wish I could sketch this most picturesque scene. In the verandah, which is formed of mats, two handsome youths, and five women in green, red, and orange chemises, all with leis of ferns round their hair, are reclining on the ground. Outside of this there is a pavement of large lava stones, and groups in all colours, wreathed and garlanded, including some much disfigured old people, crouching in red and yellow blankets, are sitting and lying there. Some are fondling small dogs; and a number of large ones, with a whole tribe of amicable cats, are picking bones. Surf-boards, paddles, saddles, lassos, spurs, gear, and bundles of ti leaves are lying about. Thirteen horses are tethered outside, some of which brought the riders who escorted me triumphantly from the head of the valley. The foreheads of the precipices opposite are reddening in the sunset, and between them and me horses and children are constantly swimming across the broad, still stream which divides the village into two parts; and now and then a man in a malo, and children who have come up the river swimming, with their clothes in one hand, increase the assemblage.

All are intently watching me, but are as kind and good-natured as possible; and my guide from Waipio is discoursing to them about me. He knows a little abrupt, disjointed, almost unintelligible English, and comes up every now and then with an interrogation in his manner, "Father? mother? married? watch? How came?" "You" appears beyond his efforts. "Kilauea? Lunalilo?" Then he goes back and orates rapidly, gesticulating emphatically. A very handsome, pleasant- looking man, with a red sash round his waist, who, I understand from signs, is the schoolmaster, emerged from the throng, and sat down beside me; but his English appears limited to these words, "How old?" When I told him by counting on my fingers he laughed heartily, and said "Too old," and he told the others, and they all laughed. I have photographs of Queen Victoria and Mr. Coan in my writing-book, and when I exhibited them they crowded round me clapping their hands, and screaming with delight when they recognized Mr. Coan. The king's handwriting was then handed round amidst reverent "ahs" and "ohs," or what sounded like them. This letter was also passed round and examined lengthwise, sidewise, and upside down. They shrieked with satirical laughter when I pressed some fragile ferns in my blotting-book. The natives think it quite idiotic in us to attach any value to withered leaves. My inkstand with its double-spring lids has been a great amusement. Each one opened both, and shut them again, and a chorus of "maikai, maikai," (good) ran round the circle. They seem so simple and good that at last I have trusted them with my watch, which excites unbounded admiration, probably because of its small size. It is now on its travels; but I am not the least anxious about it. A man pointed to a hut some distance on the other side of the river, and appeared interrogative, and on my replying affirmatively, he mounted a horse and carried off the watch in the direction indicated. Mr. Ellis came to this valley in a canoe, and he mentions that when he preached, the natives, who seemed to be very indifferent to the general truths of Christianity, became very deeply interested when they heard of Ora loa ia Jesu (endless life by Jesus). While I was up the valley the poor people made a wonderful bed of seven fine mats, one over the other, on one side of the house, and screened it off with a flaring muslin curtain; but on the other side there are ten pillows in a row, so that I wonder how many are to occupy the den during the night. I am now writing inside the house, with a hollowed stone, with some beef fat and a wick in it, for a light, and two youths seem delegated to attend upon me. One holds my ink, and if I look up, the other rushes for something that I am supposed to want. They insist on thinking that I am cold because my clothes are wet, and have thrown over me several folds of tapa, made from the inner bark of the wauti or cloth plant (Broussonetia papyrifera). They brought me a kalo leaf containing a number of living freshwater shrimps, and were quite surprised when I did not eat them.

WAIPIO, March 5th.

It seems fully a week since I left Waimea yesterday morning, so many new experiences have been crowded into the time. I will try to sketch my expedition while my old friend Halemanu is preparing dinner. The morning opened gloriously. The broad Waimea plains were flooded with red and gold, and the snowy crest of Mauna Kea was cloudless. We breakfasted by lamp light (the days of course are short in this latitude), and were away before six. My host kindly provided me with a very fine horse and some provisions in a leather wallet, and with another white man and a native accompanied me as far as this valley, where they had some business. The morning deepened into gorgeousness. A blue mist hung in heavy folds round the violet bases of the mountains, which rose white and sharp into the rose-flushed sky; the dew lay blue and sparkling on the short crisp grass; the air was absolutely pure, and with a suspicion of frost in it. It was all very fair, and the horses enjoyed the morning freshness, and danced and champed their bits as though they disliked being reined in. We rode over level grass-covered ground, till we reached the Hamakua bush, fringed with dead trees, and full


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