“Too much chief eat up people.”—Lomi-Lomi—Volcanic Possibilities
Hilo, Hawaii, Feb. 3rd
My plans are quite overturned. I was to
have ridden with the native mail-carrier to the north of the island to
take the steamer for Honolulu, but there are freshets in the gulches on
the road, making the ride unsafe. There is no steamer from Hilo for
three weeks, and in the meantime Mr. and Mrs. S. have kindly consented
to receive me as a boarder; and I find the people, scenery, and life so
charming, that I only regret my detention on Mrs. Dexter's account I am
already rested from the great volcano trip.
We left Kilauea at seven in the morning
of the 1st Feb. in a pouring rain. The natives decorated us with lets of
turquoise and coral berries, and of crimson and yellow ohia blossoms.
The saddles were wet, the crater was blotted out by mist, water dripped
from the trees, we splashed through pools in the rocks, the horses
plunged into mud up to their knees, and the drip, drip, of vertical,
earnest, tepid, tropical rain accompanied us nearly to Hilo. Upa and
Miss K. held umbrellas the whole way, but I required both hands for
holding on to the horse whenever he chose to gallop. As soon as we left
the craterhouse, Upa started over the grass at full speed, my horse of
course followed, and my feet being jerked out of the stirrups, I found
myself ignominiously sitting on the animal's back behind the saddle, and
nearly slid over his tail, before, by skilful efforts, I managed to
scramble over the peak back again, when I held on by horn and mane until
the others stopped! Happily I was last, and I don't think they saw me.
Upa amused me very much on the way; he insists that I am "a high chief."
He said a good deal about Queen Victoria, whose virtues seem well known
here: "Good Queen make good people," he said, "English very good!" He
asked me how many chiefs we had, and supposing him to mean hereditary
peers, I replied, over 500. "Too many, too many!" he answered
emphatically—" too much chief eat up people!" He asked me if all people
were good in England, and I was sorry to tell him that this was very far
from being the case. He was incredulous, or seemed so out of flattery,
and said, "You good Queen, you Bible long time, you good!" I was
surprised to find how much he knew of European politics, of the
liberation of Italy, and the Franco-German war. He expressed a most
orthodox horror of the Pope, who, he said, he knew from his Bible was
the "Beast!" He said, "I bring band and serenade for good Queen sake,"
but this has not come off yet.
We straggled into Hilo just at dusk,
thoroughly wet, jaded, and satisfied, but half-starved, for the rain had
converted that which should have been our lunch into a brownish pulp of
bread and newspaper, and we had subsisted only on some halfripe guavas.
After the black desolation of Kilauea, I realized more fully the beauty
of Hilo, as it appeared in the gloaming. The rain had ceased, cool
breezes rustled through the palmgroves and sighed through the funereal
foliage of the pandanus. Under thick canopies of the glossy breadfruit
and banana, groups of natives were twining garlands of roses and ohia
blossoms. The lights of happy foreign homes flashed from under verandahs
festooned with passion-flowers, and the low chant, to me nearly
intolerable, but which the natives love, mingled with the ceaseless
moaning of the surf and the sighing of the breeze through the trees, and
a heavy fragrance, unlike the faint, sweet odours of the north, filled
the evening air. It was delicious.
I suffered intensely from pain and
stiffness, and was induced to try a true Hawaiian remedy, which is not
only regarded as a cure for all physical ills, but as the greatest of
physical luxuries; i. e. lomi-lomi. This is a compound of pinching,
pounding, and squeezing, and Moi Moi, the fine old Hawaiian nurse in
this family, is an adept in the art. She found out by instinct which
were the most painful muscles, and subjected them to a doubly severe
pounding, laughing heartily at my groans. However, I must admit that my
arms and shoulders were almost altogether relieved before the lomi-lomi
was finished. The first act of courtesy to a stranger in a native house
is this, and it is varied in many ways. Now and then the patient lies
face downwards, and children execute a sort of dance upon his spine.*
Formerly, the chiefs, when not engaged inactive pursuits, exacted
lomi-lomi as a constant service from their followers.
A number of Hilo folk came in during the
evening to inquire how we had sped, and for news of the volcano. I think
the proximity of Kilauea gives sublimity to Hilo, and helps to lift
conversation out of common-place ruts. It is no far-off spectacle, but
an immediate source of wonder and apprehension, for it rocks the village
with earthquakes, and renders the construction of stone houses and
plastered ceilings impossible. It rolls vast tidal waves with infinite
destruction on the coast, and of late years its fiery overflowings have
twice threatened this paradise with annihilation. Then there is the dead
volcano of Mauna Loa, from whose resurrection anything may be feared.
Even last night a false rumour that a light was to be seen on its summit
brought everyone out, but it was only an increased glare from the pit of
Hale-mau-mau. It is most interesting to be in a region of such splendid