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The Sacramento Daily Union, August 18, 1866

Honolulu, July, 1866


Bound for Hawaii, to visit the great volcano and behold the other notable things which distinguish this island above the remainder of the group, we sailed from Honolulu on a certain Saturday afternoon, in the good schooner Boomerang.

The Boomerang was about as long as two street cars, and about as wide as one. She was so small (though she was larger than the majority of the inter-island coasters) that when I stood on her deck I felt but little smaller than the Colossus of Rhodes must have felt when he had a man-of war under him. I could reach the water when she lay over under a strong breeze. When the Captain and Brown and myself and four other gentlemen and the wheelsman were all assembled on the little after portion of the deck which is sacred to the cabin passengers, it was full - there was not room for any more quality folks. Another section of the deck, twice as large as ours, was full of natives of both sexes, with their customary dogs, mats, blankets, pipes, calabashes of poi, fleas, and other luxuries and baggage of minor importance. As soon as we set sail the natives all laid down on the deck as thick as negroes in a slave-pen, and smoked and conversed and captured vermin and eat them, spit on each other, and were truly sociable.

The little low-ceiled cabin below was rather larger than a hearse, and as dark as a vault. It had two coffins on each side - I mean two bunks - though Mr. Brown, with that spirit of irreverence which is so sad a feature of his nature, preferred to call the bunk he was allotted his shelf. A small table, capable of accommodating three persons at dinner, stood against the forward bulkhead, and over it hung the dingiest whale-oil lantern that ever peopled the obscurity of a dungeon with grim and ghostly shapes. The floor room unoccupied was not extensive. One might swing a cat in it, perhaps, but then it would be fatal to the cat to do it. The hold for ward of the bulkhead had but little freight in it, and from morning till night a villainous old rooster, with a voice like Baalam's ass, and the same disposition to use it, strutted up and down in that part of the vessel and crowed. He usually took dinner at 6 o'clock, and then, after an hour devoted to meditation, he mounted a barrel and crowed a good part of the night. He got hoarser and hoarser all the time, but he scorned to allow any personal consideration to interfere with his duty, and kept up his labors in defiance of threatened diphtheria.

Sleeping was out of the question when he was on watch. He was a source of genuine aggravation and annoyance to me. It was worse than useless to shout at him or apply offensive epithets to him - he only took these things for applause, and strained himself to make more noise. Occasionally, during the day, I threw potatoes at him through an aperture in the bulkhead, but he simply dodged them and went on crowing.

The first night, as I lay in my coffin, idly watching the dim lamp swinging to the rolling of the ship, and snuffing the nauseous odors of bilge water, I felt something gallop over me. Lazarus did not come out of his sepulchre with a more cheerful alacrity than I did out of mine. However, I turned in again when I found it was only a rat. Presently something galloped over me once more. I knew it was not a rat this time, and I thought it might be a centipede, because the Captain had killed one on deck in the afternoon. I turned out. The first glance at the pillow showed me a repulsive sentinel perched upon each end of it - cockroaches as large as peach leaves - fellows with long, quivering antennae and fiery, malignant eyes. They were grating their teeth like tobacco worms, and appeared to be dissatisfied about something. I had often heard that these reptiles were in the habit of eating of sleeping sailors' toenails down to the quick, and I would not get in the bunk any more. I laid down on the floor. But a rat came and bothered me, and shortly afterward a procession of cockroaches arrived and camped in my hair. In a few moments the rooster was crowing with uncommon spirit and a party of fleas were throwing double summersets about my person in the wildest disorder, and taking a bite every time they struck. I was beginning to feel really annoyed. I got up and put my clothes on and went on deck.

The above is not an attempt to be spicy - it is simply an attempt to give a truthful sketch of inter-island schooner life. There is no such thing as keeping a vessel in elegant condition, I think, when she carries molasses and Kanakas.


It was compensation for all my sufferings to come unexpectedly upon so beautiful a scene as met my eye - to step suddenly out of the sepulchral gloom of the cabin and stand under the strong light of the moon - in the center, as it were, of a glittering sea of liquid silver, to see the broad sails straining in the gale, the ship keeled over on her side, and the angry foam hissing past her lee bulwarks, and sparkling sheets of spray dashing high over her bows and raining upon her decks; to brace myself and hang fast to the first object that presented itself, with hat jammed down and coat tails whipping in the breeze, and feel that exhilaration that thrills in one's hair and quivers down his back bone when he knows that every inch of canvas is drawing and the vessel cleaving through the billows at her utmost speed. There was no darkness, no dimness, no obscurity there. All was brightness, every object was vividly defined. Every prostrate Kanaka; every coil of rope; every calabash of poi; every puppy; every seam in the flooring; every bolthead; every object, however minute, showed sharp and distinct in its every outline; and the shadow of the broad mainsail lay black as a pall upon the deck, leaving Brown's white upturned face glorified and his body in a total eclipse.


I turned to look down upon the sparkling animalculae of the South Seas and watch the train of jeweled fire they made in the wake of the vessel. I -

"Oh, me!"

"What is the matter, Brown?"

"Oh, me!"

"You said that before, Brown. Such tautology - "

"Tautology be hanged! This is no time to talk to a man about tautology when he is sick - so sick - oh, my! and has vomited up his heart and - ah, me - oh my! hand me that soup dish, and don't stand there hanging to that bulkhead looking like a fool!"

I handed him the absurd tin shaving-pot, called "berth-pan," which they hang by a hook to the edge of a berth for the use of distressed lands men with unsettled stomachs, but all the sufferer's efforts were fruitless - his tortured stomach refused to yield up its cargo.

I do not often pity this bitter enemy to sentiment - he would not thank me for it, anyhow - but now I did pity him; and I pitied him from the bottom of my heart. Any man, with any feeling, must have been touched to see him in such misery. I did not try to help him - indeed I did not even think of so unpromising a thing - but I sat down by him to talk to him and so cause the tedious hours to pass less wearily, if possible. I talked to him for some time, but strangely enough, pathetic narratives did not move his emotions, eloquent declamation did not inspirit him, and the most humorous anecdotes failed to make him even smile. He seemed as distressed and restless, at intervals - albeit the rule of his present case was to seem to look like an allegory of unconditional surrender - hopeless, helpless and indifferent - he seemed as distressed and restless as if my conversation and my anecdotes were irksome to him. It was because of this that at last I dropped into poetry. I said I had been writing a poem - or rather, been paraphrasing a passage in Shakespeare - a passage full of wisdom, which I thought I might remember easier if I reduced it to rhyme - hoped it would be pleasant to him - said I had taken but few liberties with the original; had preserved its brevity and terseness, its language as nearly as possible, and its ideas in thei


Beware of the spoken word! Be wise;
Bury thy thoughts in thy breast;
Nor let thoughts that are unnatural
Be ever in acts expressed.

Be thou courteous and kindly toward all -
Be familiar and vulgar with none;
But the friends thou hast proved in thy need
Hold thou fast till life's mission is done!

Shake not thy faith by confiding
In every new-begot friend,
Beware thou of quarrels - but in them
Fight them out to the bitter end.

Give thine ear unto all that would seek it
But to few thy voice impart;
Receive and consider all censure
But thy judgment seal in thy heart.

Let thy habit be ever as costly
As thy purse is able to span;
Never gaudy but rich - for the raiment
Full often proclaimeth the man.

Neither borrow nor lend - oft a loan
Both loseth itself and a friend,
And to borrow relaxeth the thrift
Whereby husbandry gaineth its end.

But lo! above all set this law:
Then never toward any canst thou
The deed of a false heart do.

As I finished, Brown's stomach cast up its contents, and in a minute or two he felt entirely relieved and comfortable. He then said that the anecdotes and the eloquence were "no good," but if he got seasick again he would like some more poetry.


Monday morning we were close to the island of Hawaii. Two of its high mountains were in view - Mauna Loa and Hualalai. The latter is an imposing peak, but being only ten thousand feet high is seldom mentioned or heard of. Mauna Loa is fourteen thousand feet high. The rays of glittering snow and ice, that clasped its summit like a claw, looked refreshing when viewed from the blistering climate we were in. One could stand on that mountain (wrapped up in blankets and furs to keep warm), and while he nibbled a snow-ball or an icicle to quench his thirst he could look down the long sweep of its sides and see spots where plants are growing that grow only where the bitter cold of Winter prevails; lower down he could see sections devoted to productions that thrive in the temperate zone alone; and at the bottom of the mountain he could see the home of the tufted cocoa palms and other species of vegetation that grow only in the sultry atmosphere of eternal Summers. He could see all the climes of the world at a single glance of the eye, and that glance would only pass over a distance of eight or ten miles as the bird flies.


We landed at Kailua (pronounced Ki-loo-ah), a little collection of native grass houses reposing under tall cocoanut trees - the sleepiest, quietest, Sundayest looking place you can imagine. Ye weary ones that are sick of the labor and care, and the bewildering turmoil of the great world, and sigh for a land where ye may fold your tired hands and slumber your lives peacefully away, pack up your carpet sacks and go to Kailua! A week there ought to cure the saddest of you all.

An old ruin of lava-block walls down by the sea was pointed out as a fort built by John Adams for Kamehameha I, and mounted with heavy guns - some of them 32-pounders - by the same sagacious Englishman. I was told that the fort was dismantled a few years ago, and the guns sold in San Francisco for old iron - which was very improbable. I was told that an adjacent ruin was old Kamehameha's sleeping-house; another, his eating-house; another, his god's house; another, his wife's eating-house - for by the ancient tabu system, it was death for man and woman to eat together. Every married man's premises comprised five or six houses. This was the law of the land. It was this custom, no doubt, which has left every pleasant valley in these islands marked with the ruins of numerous house inclosures, and given strangers the impression that the population must have been vast before those houses were deserted; but the argument loses much of its force when you come to consider that the houses absolutely necessary for half a dozen married men were sufficient in themselves to form one of the deserted "villages" so frequently pointed out to the "Californian" (to the natives all whites are haoles - how-ries - that is, strangers, or, more properly, foreigners; and to the white residents all white new comers are "Californians" - the term is used more for convenience than any thing else).

I was told, also, that Kailua was old Kamehameha's favorite place of residence, and that it was always a favorite place of resort with his successors. Very well, if Kailua suits these Kings - all right. Every man to his taste; but, as Brown observed in this connection, "You'll excuse me."


I was told a good many other things concerning Kailua - not one of which interested me in the least. I was weary and worn with the plunging of the Boomerang in the always stormy passages between the islands; I was tired of hanging on by teeth and toenails and, above all, I was tired of stewed chicken. All I wanted was an hour's rest on a foundation that would let me stand up straight without running any risk - but no information; I wanted something to eat that was not stewed chicken - I didn't care what - but no information. I took no notes, and had no inclination to take any.

Now, the foregoing is nothing but the feverish irritability of a short, rough sea-voyage coming to the surface - a voyage so short that it affords no time for you to tone down and grow quiet and reconciled, and get your stomach in order, and the bad taste out of your mouth, and the unhealthy coating off your tongue. I snarled at the old rooster and the cockroaches and the national stewed chicken all the time - not because these troubles could be removed, but only because it was a sanitary necessity to snarl at something or perish. One's salt-water spleen must be growled out of the system - there is no other relief. I pined - I longed - I yearned to growl at the Captain himself, but there was no opening. The man had had such passengers before, I suppose, and knew how to handle them, and so he was polite and painstaking and accommodating - and most exasperatingly patient and even tempered. So I said to myself "I will take it out of your old schooner, any how; I will blackguard the Boomerang in the public prints, to pay for your shameless good-nature when your passengers are peevish and actually need somebody to growl at for very relief!"

But now that I am restored by the land breeze, I wonder at my ingratitude; for no man ever treated me better than Captain Kangaroo did on board his ship. As for the stewed chicken - that last and meanest substitute for something to eat - that soothing rubbish for toothless infants - that diet for cholera patients in the rice-water stage - it was of course about the best food we could have at sea, and so I only abused it because I hated it as I do sardines or tomatoes, and because it was stewed chicken, and because it was such a relief to abuse somebody or something. But Kangaroo - I never abused Captain Kangaroo. I hope I have a better heart than to abuse a man who, with the kindest and most generous and unselfish motive in the world, went into the galley, and with his own hands baked for me the worst piece of bread I ever ate in my life. His motive was good, his desire to help me was sincere, but his execution was damnable. You see, I was not sick, but nothing would taste good to me; the Kanaka cook's bread was particularly unpalatable; he was a new hand - the regular cook being sick and helpless below - and Captain Kangaroo, in the genuine goodness of his heart, felt for me in my distress and went down and made that most infernal bread. I ate one of those rolls - I would have eaten it if it had killed me - and said to myself: "It is on my stomach; 'tis well; if it were on my conscience, life would be a burden to me." I carried one up to Brown and he ate a piece, but declined to experiment further. I insisted, but he said no, he didn't want any more ballast. When the good deeds of men are judged in the Great Day that is to bring bliss or eternal woe unto us all, the charity that was in Captain Kangaroo's heart will be remembered and rewarded, albeit his bread will have been forgotten for ages.


It was only about fifteen miles from Kailua to Kealakekua Bay, either by sea or land, but by the former route there was a point to be weathered where the ship would be the sport of contrary winds for hours, and she would probably occupy the entire day in making the trip, whereas we could do it on horseback in a little while and have the cheering benefit of a respite from the discomforts we had been experiencing on the vessel. We hired horses from the Kanakas, and miserable affairs they were, too. They had lived on meditation all their lives, no doubt, for Kailua is fruitful in nothing else. I will mention, in this place, that horses are plenty everywhere in the Sandwich Islands - no Kanaka is without one or more - but when you travel from one island to another, it is necessary to take your own saddle and bridle, for these articles are scarce. It is singular baggage for a sea voyage, but it will not do to go without it.

The ride through the district of Kona to Kealakekua Bay took us through the famous coffee and orange section. I think the Kona coffee has a richer flavor than any other, be it grown where it may and call it by what name you please. At one time it was cultivated quite extensively, and promised to become one of the great staples of Hawaiian commerce; but the heaviest crop ever raised was almost entirely destroyed by a blight, and this, together with heavy American customs duties, had the effect of suddenly checking enterprise in this direction. For several years the coffee growers fought the blight with all manner of cures and preventives, but with small success, and at length some of the less persevering abandoned coffee-growing altogether and turned their attention to more encouraging pursuits. The coffee interest has not yet recovered its former importance, but is improving slowly. The exportation of this article last year was over 268,000 pounds, and it is expected that the present year's yield will be much greater. Contrast the progress of the coffee interest with that of sugar, and the demoralizing effects of the blight upon the former will be more readily seen.


Coffee, pounds - 117,000
Sugar, pounds - 730,000

Coffee, pounds - 263,000
Sugar, pounds - 15,318,097

Thus the sugar yield of last year was more than twenty times what it was in 1852, while the coffee yield has scarcely more than doubled.

The coffee plantations we encountered in our short journey looked well, and we were told that the crop was unusually promising.

There are no finer oranges in the world than those produced in the district of Kona; when new and fresh they are delicious. The principal market for them is California, but of course they lose much of their excellence by so long a voyage. About 500,000 oranges were exported last year against 15,000 in 1852. The orange culture is safe and sure, and is being more and more extensively engaged in every year. We passed one orchard that contained ten thousand orange trees.

There are many species of beautiful trees in Kona - noble forests of them - and we had numberless opportunities of contrasting the orange with them. The verdict rested with the orange. Among the varied and handsome foliage of the Kou, Koa, Kukui, breadfruit, mango, guava, peach, citron, ohia and other fine trees, its dark, rich green cone was sure to arrest the eye and compel constant exclamations of admiration. So dark a green is its foliage, that at a distance of a quarter of a mile the orange tree looks almost black.


The ride from Kailua to Kealakekua Bay is worth taking. It passes along on high ground - say a thousand feet above sea level - and usually about a mile distant from the ocean, which is always in sight, save that occasionally you find yourself buried in the forest in the midst of a rank, tropical vegetation and a dense growth of trees, whose great boughs overarch the road and shut out sun and sea and everything, and leave you in a dim, shady tunnel, haunted with invisible singing birds and fragrant with the odor of flowers. It was pleasant to ride occasionally in the warm sun, and feast the eye upon the ever-changing panorama of the forest (beyond and below us), with its many tints, its softened lights and shadows, its billowy undulations sweeping gently down from the mountain to the sea. It was pleas ant also, at intervals, to leave the sultry sun and pass into the cool, green depths of this forest and indulge in sentimental reflections under the inspiration of its brooding twilight and its whispering foliage. The jaunt through Kona will always be to me a happy memory.


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