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In the rural districts of any of the Islands, the traveler hourly comes upon parties
of dusky maidens bathing in the streams or in the sea without any clothing on
and exhibiting no very intemperate zeal in the matter of hiding their nakedness.
When the missionaries first took up their residence in Honolulu, the native women
would pay their families frequent friendly visits, day by day, not even clothed
with a blush. It was found a hard matter to convince them that this was rather
indelicate. Finally, the missionaries provided them with long, loose calico robes,
and that ended the difficulty - for the women would troop through the town, stark
naked, with their robes folded under their arms, march to the missionary houses
and then proceed to dress! The natives soon manifested a strong proclivity for
clothing, but it was shortly apparent that they only wanted it for grandeur. The
missionaries imported a quantity of hats, bonnets, and other male and female wearing-apparel,
instituted a general distribution, and begged the people not to come to church
naked, next Sunday, as usual. And they did not; but the national spirit of unselfishness
led them to divide up with neighbors who were not at the distribution, and next
Sabbath the poor preachers could hardly keep countenance before their vast congregations.
In the midst of the reading of a hymn a brown, stately dame would sweep up the
aisle with a world of airs, with nothing in the world on but a "stovepipe"
hat and a pair of cheap gloves; another dame would follow, tricked out in a man's
shirt, and nothing else; another one would enter with a flourish, with simply
the sleeves of a bright calico dress tied around her waist and the rest of the
garment dragging behind like a peacock's tail off duty; a stately "buck"
Kanaka would stalk in with a woman's bonnet on, wrong side before - only this,
and nothing more; after him would stride his fellow, with the legs of a pair of
pantaloons tied around his neck, the rest of his person untrammeled; in his rear
would come another gentleman simply gotten up in a fiery necktie and a striped
vest. The poor creatures were beaming with complacency and wholly unconscious
of any absurdity in their appearance. They gazed at each other with happy admiration,
and it was plain to see that the young girls were taking note of what each other
had on, as naturally as if they had always lived in a land of Bibles and knew
what churches were made for; here was the evidence of a dawning civilization.
The spectacle which the congregation presented was so extraordinary and withal
so moving, that the missionaries found it difficult to keep to the text and go
on with the services; and by and by when the simple children of the sun began
a general swapping of garments in open meeting and produced some irresistibly
grotesque effects in the course of re-dressing, there was nothing for it but to
cut the thing short with the benediction and dismiss the fantastic assemblage.
- Roughing It
by Benjamin W. Clinedinst from 1899 edition of ROUGHING IT.
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