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Honolulu, 1873 (Page 2)
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, guavas, strawberries, papayas, bananas (green and golden), coconuts, 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 color - 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 demeanor 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 colored 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 fifteen thousand 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 toward 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 overarching 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 odors of gardenia, tuberose, oleanders, roses, lilies, and great white trumpet flower, and myriads of others whose names I do not know, and verandas were festooned with a gorgeous trailer with magenta blossoms, passionflowers, and a vine with masses of trumpet-shaped, yellow, waxy flowers.
The delicate tamarind and the feathery algarroba 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 fuchsias 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 fifteen to thirty 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 muskmelon.
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, brown and deep green, from five to ten feet long. The breadfruit is a superb tree, about sixty 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 cherimoya, and numberless others, and the slender shafts of the corn 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 verandas are hidden by jessamine or passion-flowers, or the gorgeous flamelike bougainvillea.
Many of the dwellings straggle over the ground without an upper story, and have very deep verandas, 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 clapboard fronts painted white and jalousies painted green; but then the deep veranda 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-colored 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 marvelous lilies, gladiolas, ginger, and many plants unknown to me. Fences and walls are altogether buried by passionflowers, 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° 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 center, with calabashes upon it containing poi, the national Hawaiian dish, a fermented paste made from the root of the kalo, or arum esculentum.
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