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- The Hawaiian Archipelago - 4/63 -


looked as easy, contented, and happy as if care never came near them. I never saw such healthy, bright complexions as among the women, or such "sparkling smiles," or such a diffusion of feminine grace and graciousness anywhere.

Outside this motley, genial, picturesque crowd about 200 saddled horses were standing, each with the Mexican saddle, with its lassoing horn in front, high peak behind, immense wooden stirrups, with great leathern guards, silver or brass bosses, and coloured saddle-cloths. The saddles were the only element of the picturesque that these Hawaiian steeds possessed. They were sorry, lean, undersized beasts, looking in general as if the emergencies of life left them little time for eating or sleeping. They stood calmly in the broiling sun, heavy-headed and heavy-hearted, with flabby ears and pendulous lower lips, limp and rawboned, a doleful type of the "creation which groaneth and travaileth in misery." All these belonged to the natives, who are passionately fond of riding. Every now and then a flower-wreathed Hawaiian woman, in her full radiant garment, sprang on one of these animals astride, and dashed along the road at full gallop, sitting on her horse as square and easy as a hussar. In the crowd and outside of it, and everywhere, there were piles of fruit for sale--oranges and guavas, strawberries, papayas, bananas (green and golden), cocoanuts, and other rich, fantastic productions of a prolific climate, where nature gives of her wealth the whole year round. Strange fishes, strange in shape and colour, crimson, blue, orange, rose, gold, such fishes as flash like living light through the coral groves of these enchanted seas, were there for sale, and coral divers were there with their treasures--branch coral, as white as snow, each perfect specimen weighing from eight to twenty pounds. But no one pushed his wares for sale--we were at liberty to look and admire, and pass on unmolested. No vexatious restrictions obstructed our landing. A sum of two dollars for the support of the Queen's Hospital is levied on each passenger, and the examination of ordinary luggage, if it exists, is a mere form. From the demeanour of the crowd it was at once apparent that the conditions of conquerors and conquered do not exist. On the contrary, many of the foreigners there were subjects of a Hawaiian king, a reversal of the ordinary relations between a white and a coloured race which it is not easy yet to appreciate.

Two of my fellow-passengers, who were going on to San Francisco, were anxious that I should accompany them to the Pali, the great excursion from Honolulu; and leaving Mr. M--- to make all arrangements for the Dexters and myself, we hired a buggy, destitute of any peculiarity but a native driver, who spoke nothing but Hawaiian, and left the ship. This place is quite unique. It is said that 15,000 people are buried away in these low-browed, shadowy houses, under the glossy, dark-leaved trees, but except in one or two streets of miscellaneous, old-fashioned looking stores, arranged with a distinct leaning towards native tastes, it looks like a large village, or rather like an aggregate of villages. As we drove through the town we could only see our immediate surroundings, but each had a new fascination. We drove along roads with over-arching trees, through whose dense leafage the noon sunshine only trickled in dancing, broken lights; umbrella trees, caoutchouc, bamboo, mango, orange, breadfruit, candlenut, monkey pod, date and coco palms, alligator pears, "prides" of Barbary, India, and Peru, and huge-leaved, wide-spreading trees, exotics from the South Seas, many of them rich in parasitic ferns, and others blazing with bright, fantastic blossoms. The air was heavy with odours of gardenia, tuberose, oleanders, roses, lilies, and the great white trumpet- flower, and myriads of others whose names I do not know, and verandahs were festooned with a gorgeous trailer with magenta blossoms, passion-flowers, and a vine with masses of trumpet-shaped, yellow, waxy flowers. The delicate tamarind and the feathery algaroba intermingled their fragile grace with the dark, shiny foliage of the South Sea exotics, and the deep red, solitary flowers of the hibiscus rioted among dear familiar fuschias and geraniums, which here attain the height and size of large rhododendrons.

Few of the new trees surprised me more than the papaya. It is a perfect gem of tropical vegetation. It has a soft, indented stem, which runs up quite straight to a height of from 15 to 30 feet, and is crowned by a profusion of large, deeply indented leaves, with long foot-stalks, and among, as well as considerably below these, are the flowers or the fruit, in all stages of development. This, when ripe, is bright yellow, and the size of a musk melon. Clumps of bananas, the first sight of which, like that of the palm, constitutes a new experience, shaded the native houses with their wonderful leaves, broad and deep green, from five to ten feet long. The breadfruit is a superb tree, about 60 feet high, with deep green, shining leaves, a foot broad, sharply and symmetrically cut, worthy, from their exceeding beauty of form, to take the place of the acanthus in architectural ornament, and throwing their pale green fruit into delicate contrast. All these, with the exquisite rose apple, with a deep red tinge in its young leaves, the fan palm, the chirimoya, and numberless others, and the slender shafts of the coco palms rising high above them, with their waving plumes and perpetual fruitage, were a perfect festival of beauty.

In the deep shade of this perennial greenery the people dwell. The foreign houses show a very various individuality. The peculiarity in which all seem to share is, that everything is decorated and festooned with flowering trailers. It is often difficult to tell what the architecture is, or what is house and what is vegetation; for all angles, and lattices, and balustrades, and verandahs are hidden by jessamine or passion-flowers, or the gorgeous flame-like Bougainvillea. Many of the dwellings straggle over the ground without an upper story, and have very deep verandahs, through which I caught glimpses of cool, shady rooms, with matted floors. Some look as if they had been transported from the old-fashioned villages of the Connecticut Valley, with their clap-board fronts painted white and jalousies painted green; but then the deep verandah in which families lead an open-air life has been added, and the chimneys have been omitted, and the New England severity and angularity are toned down and draped out of sight by these festoons of large-leaved, bright-blossomed, tropical climbing plants. Besides the frame houses there are houses built of blocks of a cream-coloured coral conglomerate laid in cement, of adobe, or large sun-baked bricks, plastered; houses of grass and bamboo; houses on the ground and houses raised on posts; but nothing looks prosaic, commonplace, or mean, for the glow and luxuriance of the tropics rest on all. Each house has a large garden or "yard," with lawns of bright perennial greens and banks of blazing, many-tinted flowers, and lines of Dracaena, and other foliage plants, with their great purple or crimson leaves, and clumps of marvellous lilies, gladiolas, ginger, and many plants unknown to me. Fences and walls are altogether buried by passion-flowers, the night-blowing Cereus, and the tropaeolum, mixed with geraniums, fuchsia, and jessamine, which cluster and entangle over them in indescribable profusion. A soft air moves through the upper branches, and the drip of water from miniature fountains falls musically on the perfumed air. This is midwinter! The summer, they say, is thermometrically hotter, but practically cooler, because of the regular trades which set in in April, but now, with the shaded thermometer at 80 degrees and the sky without clouds, the heat is not oppressive.

The mixture of the neat grass houses of the natives with the more elaborate homes of the foreign residents has a very pleasant look. The "aborigines" have not been crowded out of sight, or into a special "quarter." We saw many groups of them sitting under the trees outside their houses, each group with a mat in the centre, with calabashes upon it containing poi, the national Hawaiian dish, a fermented paste made from the root of the kalo, or arum esculentum. As we emerged on the broad road which leads up the Nuuanu Valley to the mountains, we saw many patches of this kalo, a very handsome tropical plant, with large leaves of a bright tender green. Each plant was growing on a small hillock, with water round it. There were beautiful vegetable gardens also, in which Chinamen raise for sale not only melons, pineapples, sweet potatoes, and other edibles of hot climates, but the familiar fruits and vegetables of the temperate zones. In patches of surpassing neatness, there were strawberries, which are ripe here all the year, peas, carrots, turnips, asparagus, lettuce, and celery. I saw no other plants or trees which grow at home, but recognized as hardly less familiar growths the Victorian Eucalyptus, which has not had time to become gaunt and straggling, the Norfolk Island pine, which grows superbly here, and the handsome Moreton Bay fig. But the chief feature of this road is the number of residences; I had almost written of pretentious residences, but the term would be a base slander, as I have jumped to the conclusion that the twin vulgarities of ostentation and pretence have no place here. But certainly for a mile and a half or more there are many very comfortable-looking dwellings, very attractive to the eye, with an ease and imperturbable serenity of demeanour as if they had nothing to fear from heat, cold, wind, or criticism. Their architecture is absolutely unostentatious, and their one beauty is that they are embowered among trailers, shadowed by superb exotics, and surrounded by banks of flowers, while the stately cocoanut, the banana, and the candlenut, the aborigines of Oahu, are nowhere displaced. One house with extensive grounds, a perfect wilderness of vegetation, was pointed out as the summer palace of Queen Emma, or Kaleleonalani, widow of Kamehameha IV., who visited England a few years ago, and the finest garden of all was that of a much respected Chinese merchant, named Afong. Oahu, at least on this leeward side, is not tropical looking, and all this tropical variety and luxuriance which delight the eye result from foreign enthusiasm and love of beauty and shade.

When we ascended above the scattered dwellings and had passed the tasteful mausoleum, with two tall Kahilis, {28} or feather plumes, at the door of the tomb in which the last of the Kamehamehas received Christian burial, the glossy, redundant, arborescent vegetation ceased. At that height a shower of rain falls on nearly every day in the year, and the result is a green sward which England can hardly rival, a perfect sea of verdure, darkened in the valley and more than half way up the hill sides by the foliage of the yellow-blossomed and almost impenetrable hibiscus, brightened here and there by the pea-green candlenut. Streamlets leap from crags and ripple along the roadside, every rock and stone is hidden by moist-looking ferns, as aerial and delicate as marabout feathers, and when the windings of the valley and the projecting spurs of mountains shut out all indications of Honolulu, in the cool green loneliness one could image oneself in the temperate zones. The peculiarity of the scenery is, that the hills, which rise to a height of about 4,000 feet, are wall-like ridges of grey or coloured rock, rising precipitously out of the trees and grass, and that these walls are broken up into pinnacles and needles. At the Pali (wall-like precipice), the summit of the ascent of 1,000 feet, we left our buggy, and passing through a gash in the rock the celebrated view burst on us with overwhelming effect. Immense masses of black and ferruginous volcanic rock, hundreds of feet in nearly perpendicular height, formed the pali on either side, and the ridge extended northwards for many miles, presenting a lofty, abrupt mass of grey rock broken into fantastic pinnacles, which seemed to pierce the sky. A broad, umbrageous mass of green clothed the lower buttresses, and fringed itself away in clusters of coco palms on a garden-like stretch below, green with grass and sugar-cane, and dotted with white houses, each with its palm and banana grove, and varied by eminences which looked like long extinct tufa cones.


The Hawaiian Archipelago - 4/63

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