Honolulu, March, 1866.
BOARD AND LODGING SECURED
I did not expect to find as comfortable a hotel as the American, with its large, airy, well-furnished rooms, distinguished by perfect neatness and cleanliness, its cool, commodious verandas, its excellent table, its ample front yard, carpeted with grass and adorned with shrubbery, etcetera - and so I was agreeably disappointed. One of our lady passengers from San Francisco, who brings high recommendations, has purchased a half interest in the hotel, and she shows such a determination to earn success that I heartily wish she may achieve it - and the more so because she is an American, and if common remark can be depended upon the foreign element here will not allow an American to succeed if a good strong struggle can prevent it.
Several of us have taken rooms in a cottage in the center of the town, and are well satisfied with our quarters. There is a grassy yard as large as Platt's Hall on each of the three sides of the premises; a number of great tamarind and algeraba trees tower above us, and their dense, wide-spreading foliage casts a shade that palls our verandas with a sort of solemn twilight, even at noonday. If I were not so fond of looking into the rich masses of green leaves that swathe the stately tamarind right before my door, I would idle less and write more, I think. The leaf of this tree is of the size and shape of that of our sickly, homely locust in the States; but the tamarind is as much more superb a tree than the locust as a beautiful white woman is more lovely than a Digger squaw who may chance to generally resemble her in shape and size.
The algeraba (my spelling is guess work) has a gnarled and twisted trunk, as thick as a barrel, far-reaching crooked branches and a delicate, feathery foliage which would be much better suited to a garden shrub than to so large a tree.
We have got some handsome mango trees about us also, with dark green leaves, as long as a goose quill and not more than twice as broad. The trunk of this tree is about six inches through, and is very straight and smooth. Five feet from the ground it divides into three branches of equal size, which bend out with a graceful curve and then assume an upright position. From these numerous smaller branches spout. The main branches are not always three in number, I believe, but our's have this characteristic, at any rate.
We pay from five to seven dollars a week for furnished rooms, and ten dollars for board.
FURTHER PARTICULARS IN THIS CONNECTION
Mr. Laller, an American, and well spoken of, keeps a restaurant where meals can be had at all hours. So you see that folks of both regular and eccentric habits can be accommodated in Honolulu.
Washing is done chiefly by the natives, price, a dollar a dozen. If you are not watchful, though, your shirt won't stand more than one washing, because Kanaka artists work by a most destructive method. They use only cold water -sit down by a brook, soap the garment, lay it on one rock and "pound" it with another. This gives a shirt a handsome fringe around its borders, but it is ruinous on buttons. If your washerwoman knows you will not put up with this sort of thing, however, she will do her pounding with a bottle, or else rub your clothes clean with her hands. After the garments are washed the artist spreads them on the green grass, and the flaming sun and the winds soon bleach them as white as snow. They are then ironed on a cocoa-leaf mat spread on the ground, and the job is finished. I cannot discover that anything of the nature of starch is used.
Board, lodging, clean clothes, furnished room, coal oil or whale oil lamp (dingy, greasy, villainous) - next you want water, fruit, tobacco and cigars, and possibly wines and liquors - and then you are "fixed," and ready to live in Honolulu.
The water is pure, sweet, cool, clear as crystal, and comes from a spring in the mountains, and is distributed all over the town through leaden pipes. You can find a hydrant spiriting away at the bases of three or four trees in a single yard, sometimes, so plenty and cheap is this excellent water. Only twenty-four dollars a year supplies a whole household with a limitless quantity of it.
You must have fruit. You feel the want of it here. At any rate, I do, though I cared nothing whatever for it in San Francisco. You pay about twenty-five cents ("two reals," in the language of the country, borrowed from Mexico, where a good deal of their silver money comes from) a dozen for oranges; and so delicious are they that some people frequently eat a good many at luncheon. I seldom eat more than ten or fifteen at a sitting, however, because I despise to see anybody gormandize. Even fifteen is a little surprising to me, though, for two or three oranges in succession were about as much as I could ever relish at home. Bananas are worth about a bit a dozen - enough for that rather over-rated fruit. Strawberries are plenty, and as cheap as the bananas. Those which are carefully cultivated here have a far finer flavor than the California article. They are in season a good part of the year. I have a kind of a general idea that the tamarinds are rather sour this year. I had a curiosity to taste these things, and I knocked half a dozen o£ the tree and eat them the other day. They sharpened my teeth up like a razor, and put a "wire edge" on them that I think likely will wear of when the enamel does. My judgment now is that when it comes to sublimated sourness, persimmons will have to take a back seat and let the tamarinds come to the front. They are shaped and colored like a pea-nut, and about three times as large. The seeds inside of the thin pod are covered with that sour, gluey substance which I experimented on. They say tamarinds make excellent preserves (and by a wise provision of Providence, they are generally placed in sugar-growing countries), and also that a few of them placed in impure water at sea will render it palatable. Mangoes and guavas are plenty. I do not like them. The limes are excellent, but not very plenty. Most of the apples brought to this market are imported from Oregon. Those I have eaten were as good as bad turnips, but not better. They claim to raise good apples and peaches on some of these islands. I have not seen any grapes, or pears or melons here. They may be out of season, but I keep thinking it is dead Summer time now.
The only cigars smoked here are those trifling, insipid, tasteless, flavor less things they call "Manilas" - ten for twenty-five cents; and it would take a thousand to be worth half the money. After you have smoked about thirty-five dollars worth of them in a forenoon you feel nothing but a desperate yearning to go out somewhere and take a smoke. They say high duties and a sparse population render it unprofitable to import good cigars, but I do not see why some enterprising citizen does not manufacture them from the native tobacco. A Kanaka gave me some Oahu tobacco yesterday, of fine texture, pretty good flavor, and so strong that one pipe full of it satisfied me for several hours. [This man Brown has just come in and says he has bought a couple of tons of Manilas to smoke to-night.]
WINES AND LIQUORS
Wines and liquors can be had in abundance, but not of the very best quality. The duty on brandy and whisky amounts to about three dollars a gallon, and on wines from thirty to sixty cents a bottle, according to market value. And just here I would caution Californians who design visiting these islands against bringing wines or liquors with their baggage, lest they provoke the confiscation of the latter. They will be told that to uncork the bottles and take a little of the contents out will compass the disabilities of the law, but they may find it dangerous to act upon such a suggestion, which is nothing but an unworthy evasion of the law, at best. It is incumbent upon the custom officers to open trunks and search for contraband articles, and although I think the spirit of the law means to permit foreigners to bring a little wine or liquor ashore for private use, I know the letter of it allows nothing of the kind. In addition to searching a passenger's baggage, the Custom-house officer makes him swear that he has got nothing contraband with him. I will also mention, as a matter of information, that a small sum (two dollars for each person) is exacted for permission to land baggage, and this goes to the support of the hospitals.
I have said that the wines and liquors sold here are not of the best quality. It could not well be otherwise, as I can show. There seem to be no hard, regular drinkers in this town, or at least very few; you perceive that the duties are high; saloon keepers pay a license of a thousand dollars a year; they must close up at ten o'clock at night and not open again before daylight the next morning; they are not allowed to open on Sunday at all. These laws are very strict, and are rigidly obeyed.
I must come back to water again, though I thought I had exhausted the subject. As no ice is kept here, and as the notion that snow is brought to Honolulu from the prodigious mountains on the island of Hawaii is a happy fiction of some imaginative writer, the water used for drinking is usually kept cool by putting it into "monkeys" and placing those animals in open windows, where the breezes of heaven may blow upon them. "Monkeys" are slender-necked, large bodied, gourd-shaped earthenware vessels, manufactured in Germany and are popularly supposed to keep water very cool and fresh, but I cannot indorse that supposition. If a wet blanket were wrapped around the monkey, I think the evaporation would cool the water within, but no body seems to consider it worth while to go to that trouble, and I include myself among this number.
Ice is worth a hundred dollars a ton in San Francisco, and five or six hundred here, and if the steamer continues to run, a profitable trade may possibly be driven in the article here after. It does not pay to bring it from Sitka in sailing vessels, though. It has been tried. It proved a mutinous and demoralizing cargo, too; for the sailors drank the melted freight and got so high-toned that they refused ever afterwards to go to sea unless the Captains would guarantee them ice water on the voyage. Brown got the latter fact from Captain Phelps, and says he "coppered it in consideration of the source." To "copper" a thing, he informs me, is to bet against it.
If you get into conversation with a stranger in Honolulu, and experience that natural desire to know what sort of ground you are treading on by finding out what manner of man your stranger is, strike out boldly and address him as "Captain." Watch him narrowly, and if you see by his countenance that you are on the wrong tack, ask him where he preaches. It is safe bet that he is either a missionary or captain of a whaler. I am now personally acquainted with seventy-two captains and ninety-six missionaries. The captains and ministers form one half of the population; the third fourth is composed of common Kanakas and mercantile foreigners and their families, and the final fourth is made up of high officers of the Hawaiian Government. And there are just about cats enough for three apiece all around.
A solemn stranger met me in the suburbs yesterday, and said:
"Good morning, your reverence. Preach in the stone church yonder, no doubt?"
"No, I don't. I'm not a preacher."
"Really, I beg your pardon, Captain. I trust you had a good season. How much oil - "
"Oil? Why, what do you take me for? I'm not a whaler."
"Oh, I beg a thousand pardons, your Excellency. Major General in the household troops no doubt? Minister of the Interior, likely? Secretary of War? First Gentleman of the Bedchamber? Commissioner of the Royal - "
"Stuff! man. I'm no official. I'm not connected in any way with the Government."
"Bless my life! Then, who the mischief are you? What the mischief are you? and how the mischief did you get here, and where in thunder did you come from?"
"I'm only a private personage - an unassuming stranger - lately arrived from America."
"No? Not a missionary! not a whaler! not a member of his Majesty's Government! not even Secretary of the Navy! Ah, Heaven! it is too blissful to be true- alas, I do but dream. And yet that noble, honest countenance - those oblique, ingenuous eyes - that massive head, incapable of - of - anything; your hand; give me your hand, bright waif. Excuse these tears. For sixteen weary years I have yearned for a moment like this, and - "
Here his feelings were too much for him, and he swooned away. I pitied this poor creature from the bottom of my heart. I was deeply moved. I shed a few tears on him and kissed him for his mother. I then took what small change he had and "shoved."
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