By-the-way, you will hear the natives say kalo when they speak of taro; and by this and other words in common use you will presently learn of a curious obliquity in their hearing. A Hawaiian does not notice any difference in the sounds of r and l, of k and t, or of b, p, and f. Thus the Pali, or precipice near Honolulu, is spoken of as the Pari; the island of Kauai becomes to a resident of it Tauwai, though a
native of Oahu calls it Kauai; taro is almost universally called kalo; and the common salutation, Aloha, which means "Love to you," and is the national substitute for "How do you do?" is half the time Aroha; Lanai is indifferently called Ranai; and Mauna Loa is in the mouths of most Hawaiians Mauna Roa. Indeed, in the older charts the capital of the kingdom is called Honoruru.
Society in Honolulu possesses some peculiar features, owing in part to the singularly isolated situation of this little capital, and partly to the composition of the social body. Honolulu is a capital city unconnected with any other place in the world by telegraph, having a mail once a month from San Francisco and New Zealand, and dependent during the remainder of the month upon its own resources. To a New Yorker, who gets his news hot and hot all day and night, and can't go to sleep without first looking in at the Fifth Avenue Hotel to hear the latest item, this will seem deplorable enough; but you have no idea how charming, how pleasant, how satisfactory it is for a busy or overworked man to be thus for a while absolutely isolated from affairs; to feel that for a month at least the world must get on without your interfering hand; and though you may dread beforehand this enforced separation from politics and business, you will find it very pleasant in the actual experience.
As you stand upon the wharf in company with the élite of the kingdom to watch the steamer depart, a great burden falls from your soul, because for a month to come you have not the least responsibility for what may happen in any part of the planet. Looking up at the black smoke of the departing ship, you say to yourself, "Who cares?" Let what will happen, you are not responsible. And so, with a light heart and an easy conscience, you get on your horse (price $15), and about the time the lady passengers on the steamer begin to turn green in face, you are sitting down on a spacious lanai or veranda, in one of the most delightful sea-side resorts in the world, with a few friends who have determined to celebrate by a dinner this monthly recurrence of their non-intercourse with the world.The people are surprisingly hospitable and kind and know how to make strangers at home; they have leisure, and know how to use it pleasantly; the climate controls their customs in many respects, and nothing is pursued at fever heat as with us. What strikes you, when you have found your way into Honolulu society and looked around, is a certain sensible moderation and simplicity which is in part, I suspect, a remainder of the old missionary influence; there is a certain amount of formality, which is necessary to keep society from deteriorating, but there is no striving after effect; there are, so far as a stranger discovers, no petty cliques or cabals or coteries, and there is a very high average of intelligence: they care about the best things.
They know how to dine; and having good cooks and sound digestions, they add to these one requisite to pleasant dining which some more pretentious societies are without: they have leisure. Nothing is done in haste in Honolulu, where they have long ago convinced themselves that "to-morrow is another day." Moreover, you find them
well-read, without being blue; they have not muddled their history by contradictory telegraphic reports of matters of no consequence; in fact, so far as recent events are concerned, they stand on tolerably firm ground, having perused only the last monthly record of current events. Consequently, they have had time to read and enjoy the best books; to follow with an intelligent interest the most notable passing events; and as most of
them come from families or have lived among people who have had upon their own shoulders some conscious share of government, political, moral, or religious, these talkers are not pedantic, but agreeable. As to the ladies, you find them charming; beautifully dressed, of course, but they have not given the whole day and their whole minds to the dress; they are cheerful, easily excited to gayety, long accustomed to take life easily,
and eating as though they did not know what dyspepsia was.
Indeed, when you have passed a month in the Islands you will have a better opinion of idleness than you had before, though in some respects the odd effects of a tropical climate will hardly meet your approval. Euchre, for instance, takes the place here which whist holds elsewhere as the amusement of sensible people.
No one can visit the Islands without being impressed by the boundless hospitality of the sugar planters, who, with their superintendents and managers, form, away from the few towns, almost the only white inhabitants. Hospitality so free-handed is, I suspect, found in few other parts of the world. Though Honolulu has now a commodious hotel, the residents keep up their old habits of graceful welcome to strangers. The capital has an excellent band, which plays in public places several times a week; and it does not lack social entertainments, parties, and dinners, to break the monotony of life. Not only the residents of foreign birth, but a few Hawaiians also, people of education, culture, and means, entertain gracefully and frequently.
As for the common people, they are by nature or long custom, or both, as kindly and hospitable as men can be. If you ask for lodgings at night-fall at a native hut, you are received as though you were conferring a favor; frequently the whole house, which has but one room, is set apart for you, the people going elsewhere to sleep; a chicken is slain in your honor, and for your exclusive supper; and you are served by the master of the house himself. The native grass-house, where it has been well built, is a very comfortable structure. It has but a single room, calico curtains serving as partitions by night; at one end a standing bed-place, running across the house, provides sleeping accommodations for the whole family, however numerous. This bed consists of mats; and the covers are either of tapa cloth—which is as though you should sleep under newspapers—or of blankets. The more prosperous people have often, besides this, an enormous bedstead curtained off and reserved for strangers; and you may see the women take out of their chests, when you ask hospitality, blankets, sheets, and a great number of little pillows for the bed, as well as often a brilliant silk coverlet; for this bed appears to be like a Cape Cod parlor—for ornament rather than use. The use of the dozen little pillows puzzled me, until I found that they were intended to tuck or wedge me in, so that I should not needlessly and uncomfortably roll about the vast bed. They were laid at the sides, and I was instructed to "chock" myself with them. On leaving, do not inquire what is the cost of your accommodations. The Hawaiian has vague ideas about price. He might tell you five or ten dollars; but if you pay him seventy-five cents for yourself and your guide, he will be abundantly and thoroughly satisfied.
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Notes About Book:
Source: Nordhoff, Charles. Northern California, Oregon, and the Sandwich Islands. Harper and Brothers, Publishers, 1875.
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