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    Chapter LXVI

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    Chapter 70
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    Passing through the market place we saw that feature of Honolulu under
    its most favorable auspices--that is, in the full glory of Saturday
    afternoon, which is a festive day with the natives. The native girls by
    twos and threes and parties of a dozen, and sometimes in whole platoons
    and companies, went cantering up and down the neighboring streets astride
    of fleet but homely horses, and with their gaudy riding habits streaming
    like banners behind them. Such a troop of free and easy riders, in their
    natural home, the saddle, makes a gay and graceful spectacle. The riding
    habit I speak of is simply a long, broad scarf, like a tavern table cloth
    brilliantly colored, wrapped around the loins once, then apparently
    passed between the limbs and each end thrown backward over the same, and
    floating and flapping behind on both sides beyond the horse's tail like a
    couple of fancy flags; then, slipping the stirrup-irons between her toes,
    the girl throws her chest for ward, sits up like a Major General and goes
    sweeping by like the wind.

    The girls put on all the finery they can on Saturday afternoon--fine
    black silk robes; flowing red ones that nearly put your eyes out; others
    as white as snow; still others that discount the rainbow; and they wear
    their hair in nets, and trim their jaunty hats with fresh flowers, and
    encircle their dusky throats with home-made necklaces of the brilliant
    vermillion-tinted blossom of the ohia; and they fill the markets and the
    adjacent street with their bright presences, and smell like a rag factory
    on fire with their offensive cocoanut oil.

    Occasionally you see a heathen from the sunny isles away down in the
    South Seas, with his face and neck tatooed till he looks like the
    customary mendicant from Washoe who has been blown up in a mine. Some
    are tattooed a dead blue color down to the upper lip--masked, as it were
    --leaving the natural light yellow skin of Micronesia unstained from
    thence down; some with broad marks drawn down from hair to neck, on both
    sides of the face, and a strip of the original yellow skin, two inches
    wide, down the center--a gridiron with a spoke broken out; and some with
    the entire face discolored with the popular mortification tint, relieved
    only by one or two thin, wavy threads of natural yellow running across
    the face from ear to ear, and eyes twinkling out of this darkness, from
    under shadowing hat-brims, like stars in the dark of the moon.

    Moving among the stirring crowds, you come to the poi merchants,
    squatting in the shade on their hams, in true native fashion, and
    surrounded by purchasers. (The Sandwich Islanders always squat on their
    hams, and who knows but they may be the old original "ham sandwiches?"
    The thought is pregnant with interest.) The poi looks like common flour
    paste, and is kept in large bowls formed of a species of gourd, and
    capable of holding from one to three or four gallons. Poi is the chief
    article of food among the natives, and is prepared from the taro plant.

    The taro root looks like a thick, or, if you please, a corpulent sweet
    potato, in shape, but is of a light purple color when boiled. When
    boiled it answers as a passable substitute for bread. The buck Kanakas
    bake it under ground, then mash it up well with a heavy lava pestle, mix
    water with it until it becomes a paste, set it aside and let if ferment,
    and then it is poi--and an unseductive mixture it is, almost tasteless
    before it ferments and too sour for a luxury afterward. But nothing is
    more nutritious. When solely used, however, it produces acrid humors, a
    fact which sufficiently accounts for the humorous character of the
    Kanakas. I think there must be as much of a knack in handling poi as
    there is in eating with chopsticks. The forefinger is thrust into the
    mess and stirred quickly round several times and drawn as quickly out,
    thickly coated, just as it it were poulticed; the head is thrown back,
    the finger inserted in the mouth and the delicacy stripped off and
    swallowed--the eye closing gently, meanwhile, in a languid sort of
    ecstasy. Many a different finger goes into the same bowl and many a
    different kind of dirt and shade and quality of flavor is added to the
    virtues of its contents.

    Around a small shanty was collected a crowd of natives buying the awa
    root. It is said that but for the use of this root the destruction of
    the people in former times by certain imported diseases would have been
    far greater than it was, and by others it is said that this is merely a
    fancy. All agree that poi will rejuvenate a man who is used up and his
    vitality almost annihilated by hard drinking, and that in some kinds of
    diseases it will restore health after all medicines have failed; but all
    are not willing to allow to the awa the virtues claimed for it. The
    natives manufacture an intoxicating drink from it which is fearful in its
    effects when persistently indulged in. It covers the body with dry,
    white scales, inflames the eyes, and causes premature decripitude.
    Although the man before whose establishment we stopped has to pay a
    Government license of eight hundred dollars a year for the exclusive
    right to sell awa root, it is said that he makes a small fortune every
    twelve-month; while saloon keepers, who pay a thousand dollars a year for
    the privilege of retailing whiskey, etc., only make a bare living.

    We found the fish market crowded; for the native is very fond of fish,
    and eats the article raw and alive! Let us change the subject.

    In old times here Saturday was a grand gala day indeed. All the native
    population of the town forsook their labors, and those of the surrounding
    country journeyed to the city. Then the white folks had to stay indoors,
    for every street was so packed with charging cavaliers and cavalieresses
    that it was next to impossible to thread one's way through the cavalcades
    without getting crippled.

    At night they feasted and the girls danced the lascivious hula hula--a
    dance that is said to exhibit the very perfection of educated notion of
    limb and arm, hand, head and body, and the exactest uniformity of
    movement and accuracy of "time." It was performed by a circle of girls
    with no raiment on them to speak of, who went through an infinite variety
    of motions and figures without prompting, and yet so true was their
    "time," and in such perfect concert did they move that when they were
    placed in a straight line, hands, arms, bodies, limbs and heads waved,
    swayed, gesticulated, bowed, stooped, whirled, squirmed, twisted and
    undulated as if they were part and parcel of a single individual; and it
    was difficult to believe they were not moved in a body by some exquisite
    piece of mechanism.

    Of late years, however, Saturday has lost most of its quondam gala
    features. This weekly stampede of the natives interfered too much with
    labor and the interests of the white folks, and by sticking in a law
    here, and preaching a sermon there, and by various other means, they
    gradually broke it up. The demoralizing hula hula was forbidden to be
    performed, save at night, with closed doors, in presence of few
    spectators, and only by permission duly procured from the authorities and
    the payment of ten dollars for the same. There are few girls now-a-days
    able to dance this ancient national dance in the highest perfection of
    the art.

    The missionaries have christianized and educated all the natives. They
    all belong to the Church, and there is not one of them, above the age of
    eight years, but can read and write with facility in the native tongue.
    It is the most universally educated race of people outside of China.
    They have any quantity of books, printed in the Kanaka language, and all
    the natives are fond of reading. They are inveterate church-goers--
    nothing can keep them away. All this ameliorating cultivation has at
    last built up in the native women a profound respect for chastity--in
    other people. Perhaps that is enough to say on that head. The national
    sin will die out when the race does, but perhaps not earlier.--But
    doubtless this purifying is not far off, when we reflect that contact
    with civilization and the whites has reduced the native population from
    four hundred thousand (Captain Cook's estimate,) to fifty-five thousand
    in something over eighty years!

    Society is a queer medley in this notable missionary, whaling and
    governmental centre. If you get into conversation with a stranger 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 a 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 the other day, 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? 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 Bed-chamber?
    Commissioner of the Royal"--

    "Stuff! 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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    Chapter 70
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