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- The Hawaiian Archipelago - 5/63 -


Beyond this enchanted region stretched the coral reef, with its white wavy line of endless surf, and the broad blue Pacific, ruffled by a breeze whose icy freshness chilled us where we stood. Narrow streaks on the landscape, every now and then disappearing behind intervening hills, indicated bridle tracks connected with a frightfully steep and rough zigzag path cut out of the face of the cliff on our right. I could not go down this on foot without a sense of insecurity, but mounted natives driving loaded horses descended with perfect impunity into the dreamland below.

This pali is the scene of one of the historic tragedies of this island. Kamehameha the Conqueror, who after fierce fighting and much ruthless destruction of human life united the island sovereignties in his own person, routed the forces of the King of Oahu in the Nuuanu Valley, and drove them in hundreds up the precipice, from which they leaped in despair and madness, and their bones lie bleaching 800 feet below.

The drive back here was delightful, from the wintry height, where I must confess that we shivered, to the slumbrous calm of an endless summer, the glorious tropical trees, the distant view of cool chasm- like valleys, with Honolulu sleeping in perpetual shade, and the still blue ocean, without a single sail to disturb its profound solitude. Saturday afternoon is a gala-day here, and the broad road was so thronged with brilliant equestrians, that I thought we should be ridden over by the reckless laughing rout. There were hundreds of native horsemen and horsewomen, many of them doubtless on the dejected quadrupeds I saw at the wharf, but a judicious application of long rowelled Mexican spurs, and a degree of emulation, caused these animals to tear along at full gallop. The women seemed perfectly at home in their gay, brass-bossed, high peaked saddles, flying along astride, barefooted, with their orange and scarlet riding dresses streaming on each side beyond their horses' tails, a bright kaleidoscopic flash of bright eyes, white teeth, shining hair, garlands of flowers and many-coloured dresses; while the men were hardly less gay, with fresh flowers round their jaunty hats, and the vermilion-coloured blossoms of the Ohia round their brown throats. Sometimes a troop of twenty of these free-and-easy female riders went by at a time, a graceful and exciting spectacle, with a running accompaniment of vociferation and laughter. Among these we met several of the Nevada's officers, riding in the stiff, wooden style which Anglo-Saxons love, and a horde of jolly British sailors from H.M.S. Scout, rushing helter skelter, colliding with everybody, bestriding their horses as they would a topsail-yard, hanging on to manes and lassoing horns, and enjoying themselves thoroughly. In the shady tortuous streets we met hundreds more of native riders, clashing at full gallop without fear of the police. Many of the women were in flowing riding-dresses of pure white, over which their unbound hair, and wreaths of carmine-tinted flowers fell most picturesquely.

All this time I had not seen our domicile, and when our drive ended under the quivering shadow of large tamarind and algaroba trees, in front of a long, stone, two-storied house with two deep verandahs festooned with clematis and passion flowers, and a shady lawn in front, I felt as if in this fairy land anything might be expected.

This is the perfection of an hotel. Hospitality seems to take possession of and appropriate one as soon as one enters its never- closed door, which is on the lower verandah. There is a basement, in which there are a good many bedrooms, the bar, and billiard-room. This is entered from the garden, under two semicircular flights of stairs which lead to the front entrance, a wide corridor conducting to the back entrance. This is crossed by another running the whole length, which opens into a very large many-windowed dining-room which occupies the whole width of the hotel. On the same level there is a large parlour, with French windows opening on the verandah. Upstairs there are two similar corridors on which all the bedrooms open, and each room has one or more French windows opening on the verandah, with doors as well, made like German shutters, to close instead of the windows, ensuring at once privacy and coolness. The rooms are tastefully furnished with varnished pine with a strong aromatic scent, and there are plenty of lounging-chairs on the verandah, where people sit and receive their intimate friends. The result of the construction of the hotel is that a breeze whispers through it by day and night.

Everywhere, only pleasant objects meet the eye. One can sit all day on the back verandah, watching the play of light and colour on the mountains and the deep blue green of the Nuuanu Valley, where showers, sunshine, and rainbows make perpetual variety. The great dining-room is delicious. It has no curtains, and its decorations are cool and pale. Its windows look upon tropical trees in one direction, and up to the cool mountains in the other. Piles of bananas, guavas, limes, and oranges, decorate the tables at each meal, and strange vegetables, fish, and fruits vary the otherwise stereotyped American hotel fare. There are no female domestics. The host is a German, the manager an American, the steward an Hawaiian, and the servants are all Chinamen in spotless white linen, with pigtails coiled round their heads, and an air of superabundant good-nature. They know very little English, and make most absurd mistakes, but they are cordial, smiling, and obliging, and look cool and clean. The hotel seems the great public resort of Honolulu, the centre of stir--club-house, exchange and drawing-room in one. Its wide corridors and verandahs are lively with English and American naval uniforms, several planters' families are here for the season; and with health seekers from California, resident boarders, whaling captains, tourists from the British Pacific Colonies, and a stream of townspeople always percolating through the corridors and verandahs, it seems as lively and free-and-easy as a place can be, pervaded by the kindliness and bonhomie which form an important item in my first impressions of the islands. The hotel was lately built by government at a cost of $120,000, a sum which forms a considerable part of that token of an advanced civilization, a National Debt. The minister whose scheme it was seems to be severely censured on account of it, but undoubtedly it brings strangers and their money into the kingdom, who would have avoided it had they been obliged as formerly to cast themselves on the hospitality of the residents. The present proprietor has it rent- free for a term of years, but I fear that it is not likely to prove a successful speculation either for him or the government. I dislike health resorts, and abhor this kind of life, but for those who like both, I cannot imagine a more fascinating residence. The charges are $15 a week, or $3 a day, but such a kindly, open-handed system prevails that I am not conscious that I am paying anything! This sum includes hot and cold plunge baths ad libitum, justly regarded as a necessity in this climate.

Dr. McGrew has hope that our invalid will rally in this healing, equable atmosphere. Our kind fellow-passengers are here, and take turns in watching and fanning him. Through the half-closed jalousies we see breadfruit trees, delicate tamarinds and algarobas, fan-palms, date-palms and bananas, and the deep blue Pacific gleams here and there through the plumage of the cocoanut trees. A soft breeze, scented with a slight aromatic odour, wanders in at every opening, bringing with it, mellowed by distance, the hum and clatter of the busy cicada. The nights are glorious, and so absolutely still, that even the feathery foliage of the algaroba is at rest. The stars seem to hang among the trees like lamps, and the crescent moon gives more light than the full moon at home. The evening of the day we landed, parties of officers and ladies mounted at the door, and with much mirth disappeared on moonlight rides, and the white robes of flower-crowned girls gleamed among the trees, as groups of natives went by speaking a language which sounded more like the rippling of water than human speech. Soft music came from the ironclads in the harbour, and from the royal band at the king's palace, and a rich fragrance of dewy blossoms filled the delicious air. These are indeed the "isles of Eden," the "sun lands," musical with beauty. They seem to welcome us to their enchanted shores. Everything is new but nothing strange; for as I enjoyed the purple night, I remembered that I had seen such islands in dreams in the cold gray North. "How sweet," I thought it would be, thus to hear far off, the low sweet murmur of the "sparkling brine," to rest, and

"Ever to seem Falling asleep in a half-dream."

A half-dream only, for one would not wish to be quite asleep and lose the consciousness of this delicious outer world. So I thought one moment. The next I heard a droning, humming sound, which certainly was not the surf upon the reef. It came nearer--there could be no mistake. I felt a stab, and found myself the centre of a swarm of droning, stabbing, malignant mosquitoes. No, even this is not paradise! I am ashamed to say that on my first night in Honolulu I sought an early refuge from this intolerable infliction, in profound and prosaic sleep behind mosquito curtains. I.L.B.

LETTER III.

HAWAIIAN HOTEL, Jan. 28th.

Sunday was a very pleasant day here. Church bells rang, and the shady streets were filled with people in holiday dress. There are two large native churches, the Kaumakapili, and the Kaiwaiaho, usually called the stone church. The latter is an immense substantial building, for the erection of which each Christian native brought a block of rock-coral. There is a large Roman Catholic church, the priests of which are said to have been somewhat successful in proselytizing operations. The Reformed Catholic, or English temporary cathedral, is a tasteful but very simple wooden building, standing in pretty grounds, on which a very useful institution for boarding and training native and half-white girls, and the reception of white girls as day scholars, also stands. This is in connection with Miss Sellon's Sisterhood at Devonport. Another building, alongside the cathedral, is used for English service in Hawaiian. There are two Congregational churches: the old "Bethel," of which the Rev. S. C. Damon, known to all strangers, and one of the oldest and most respected Honolulu residents, is the minister; and the "Fort St. Church," which has a large and influential congregation, and has been said to "run the government," because its members compose the majority of the Cabinet. Lunalilo, the present king, has cast in his lot with the Congregationalists, but Queen Emma is an earnest member of the Anglican Church, and attends the Liturgical Hawaiian Service in order to throw the weight of her influence with the natives into the scale of that communion. Her husband spent many of his later days in translating the Prayer- Book. As is natural, most of the natives belong to the denomination from which they or their fathers received the Christian faith, and the majority of the foreigners are of the same persuasion. The New England Puritan influence, with its rigid Sabbatarianism, though considerably worn away, is still influential enough to produce a general appearance of Sabbath observance. The stores are closed, the church-going is very demonstrative, and the pleasure-seeking is very unobtrusive. The wharves are profoundly quiet.

I went twice to the English Cathedral, and was interested to see there a lady in a nun's habit, with a number of brown girls, who was


The Hawaiian Archipelago - 5/63

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