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Mark Twain > Roughing It > Chapter LXIII

Roughing It

Chapter LXIII


On a certain bright morning the Islands hove in sight, lying low on the
lonely sea, and everybody climbed to the upper deck to look. After two
thousand miles of watery solitude the vision was a welcome one. As we
approached, the imposing promontory of Diamond Head rose up out of the
ocean its rugged front softened by the hazy distance, and presently the
details of the land began to make themselves manifest: first the line of
beach; then the plumed coacoanut trees of the tropics; then cabins of the
natives; then the white town of Honolulu, said to contain between twelve
and fifteen thousand inhabitants spread over a dead level; with streets
from twenty to thirty feet wide, solid and level as a floor, most of them
straight as a line and few as crooked as a corkscrew.

The further I traveled through the town the better I liked it. Every
step revealed a new contrast--disclosed something I was unaccustomed to.
In place of the grand mud-colored brown fronts of San Francisco, I saw
dwellings built of straw, adobies, and cream-colored pebble-and-shell-
conglomerated coral, cut into oblong blocks and laid in cement; also a
great number of neat white cottages, with green window-shutters; in place
of front yards like billiard-tables with iron fences around them, I saw
these homes surrounded by ample yards, thickly clad with green grass, and
shaded by tall trees, through whose dense foliage the sun could scarcely
penetrate; in place of the customary geranium, calla lily, etc.,
languishing in dust and general debility, I saw luxurious banks and
thickets of flowers, fresh as a meadow after a rain, and glowing with the
richest dyes; in place of the dingy horrors of San Francisco's pleasure
grove, the "Willows," I saw huge-bodied, wide-spreading forest trees,
with strange names and stranger appearance--trees that cast a shadow like
a thunder-cloud, and were able to stand alone without being tied to green
poles; in place of gold fish, wiggling around in glass globes, assuming
countless shades and degrees of distortion through the magnifying and
diminishing qualities of their transparent prison houses, I saw cats--
Tom-cats, Mary Ann cats, long-tailed cats, bob-tailed cats, blind cats,
one-eyed cats, wall-eyed cats, cross-eyed cats, gray cats, black cats,
white cats, yellow cats, striped cats, spotted cats, tame cats, wild
cats, singed cats, individual cats, groups of cats, platoons of cats,
companies of cats, regiments of cats, armies of cats, multitudes of cats,
millions of cats, and all of them sleek, fat, lazy and sound asleep.
I looked on a multitude of people, some white, in white coats, vests,
pantaloons, even white cloth shoes, made snowy with chalk duly laid on
every morning; but the majority of the people were almost as dark as
negroes--women with comely features, fine black eyes, rounded forms,
inclining to the voluptuous, clad in a single bright red or white garment
that fell free and unconfined from shoulder to heel, long black hair
falling loose, gypsy hats, encircled with wreaths of natural flowers of a
brilliant carmine tint; plenty of dark men in various costumes, and some
with nothing on but a battered stove-pipe hat tilted on the nose, and a
very scant breech-clout;--certain smoke-dried children were clothed in
nothing but sunshine--a very neat fitting and picturesque apparel indeed.

In place of roughs and rowdies staring and blackguarding on the corners,
I saw long-haired, saddle-colored Sandwich Island maidens sitting on the
ground in the shade of corner houses, gazing indolently at whatever or
whoever happened along; instead of wretched cobble-stone pavements, I
walked on a firm foundation of coral, built up from the bottom of the sea
by the absurd but persevering insect of that name, with a light layer of
lava and cinders overlying the coral, belched up out of fathomless
perdition long ago through the seared and blackened crater that stands
dead and harmless in the distance now; instead of cramped and crowded
street-cars, I met dusky native women sweeping by, free as the wind, on
fleet horses and astride, with gaudy riding-sashes, streaming like
banners behind them; instead of the combined stenches of Chinadom and
Brannan street slaughter-houses, I breathed the balmy fragrance of
jessamine, oleander, and the Pride of India; in place of the hurry and
bustle and noisy confusion of San Francisco, I moved in the midst of a
Summer calm as tranquil as dawn in the Garden of Eden; in place of the
Golden City's skirting sand hills and the placid bay, I saw on the one
side a frame-work of tall, precipitous mountains close at hand, clad in
refreshing green, and cleft by deep, cool, chasm-like valleys--and in
front the grand sweep of the ocean; a brilliant, transparent green near
the shore, bound and bordered by a long white line of foamy spray dashing
against the reef, and further out the dead blue water of the deep sea,
flecked with "white caps," and in the far horizon a single, lonely sail--
a mere accent-mark to emphasize a slumberous calm and a solitude that
were without sound or limit. When the sun sunk down--the one intruder
from other realms and persistent in suggestions of them--it was tranced
luxury to sit in the perfumed air and forget that there was any world but
these enchanted islands.

It was such ecstacy to dream, and dream--till you got a bite.

A scorpion bite. Then the first duty was to get up out of the grass and
kill the scorpion; and the next to bathe the bitten place with alcohol or
brandy; and the next to resolve to keep out of the grass in future. Then
came an adjournment to the bed-chamber and the pastime of writing up the
day's journal with one hand and the destruction of mosquitoes with the
other--a whole community of them at a slap. Then, observing an enemy
approaching,--a hairy tarantula on stilts--why not set the spittoon on
him? It is done, and the projecting ends of his paws give a luminous
idea of the magnitude of his reach. Then to bed and become a promenade
for a centipede with forty-two legs on a side and every foot hot enough
to burn a hole through a raw-hide. More soaking with alcohol, and a
resolution to examine the bed before entering it, in future. Then wait,
and suffer, till all the mosquitoes in the neighborhood have crawled in
under the bar, then slip out quickly, shut them in and sleep peacefully
on the floor till morning. Meantime it is comforting to curse the
tropics in occasional wakeful intervals.

We had an abundance of fruit in Honolulu, of course. Oranges, pine-
apples, bananas, strawberries, lemons, limes, mangoes, guavas, melons,
and a rare and curious luxury called the chirimoya, which is
deliciousness itself. Then there is the tamarind. I thought tamarinds
were made to eat, but that was probably not the idea. I ate several, and
it seemed to me that they were rather sour that year. They pursed up my
lips, till they resembled the stem-end of a tomato, and I had to take my
sustenance through a quill for twenty-four hours.

They sharpened my teeth till I could have shaved with them, and gave them
a "wire edge" that I was afraid would stay; but a citizen said "no, it
will come off when the enamel does"--which was comforting, at any rate.
I found, afterward, that only strangers eat tamarinds--but they only eat
them once.

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Index Index

Prefactory
Contents
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV
Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
Chapter XXXVI
Chapter XXXVII
Chapter XXXVIII
Chapter XXXIX
Chapter XL
Chapter XLI
Chapter XLII
Chapter XLIII
Chapter XLIV
Chapter XLV
Chapter XLVI
Chapter XLVII
Chapter XLVIII
Chapter XLIX
Chapter L
Chapter LI
Chapter LII
Chapter LIII
Chapter LIV
Chapter LV
Chapter LVI
Chapter LVII
Chapter LVIII
Chapter LIX
Chapter LX
Chapter LXI
Chapter LXII
Chapter LXIII
Chapter LXIV
Chapter LXV
Chapter LXVI
Chapter LXVII
Chapter LXVIII
Chapter LXIX
Chapter LXX
Chapter LXXI
Chapter LXXII
Chapter LXXIII
Chapter LXXIV
Chapter LXXV
Chapter LXXVI
Chapter LXXVII
Chapter LXXVIII
Chapter LXXIX
Appendix

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