From talks with certain of our passengers whose home was Honolulu, and from a sketch by Mrs. Mary H. Krout, I was able to perceive what the Honolulu of to-day is, as compared with the Honolulu of my time. In my time it was a beautiful little town, made up of snow-white wooden cottages deliciously smothered in tropical vines and flowers and trees and shrubs; and its coral roads and streets were hard and smooth, and as white as the houses. The outside aspects of the place suggested the presence of a modest and comfortable prosperity—a general prosperity—perhaps one might strengthen the term and say universal. There were no fine houses, no fine furniture. There were no decorations. Tallow candles furnished the light for the bedrooms, a whale-oil lamp furnished it for the parlor. Native matting served as carpeting. In the parlor one would find two or three lithographs on the walls—portraits as a rule: Kamehameha IV., Louis Kossuth, Jenny Lind; and may be an engraving or two: Rebecca at the Well, Moses smiting the rock, Joseph's servants finding the cup in Benjamin's sack. There would be a center table, with books of a tranquil sort on it: The Whole Duty of Man, Baxter's Saints' Rest, Fox's Martyrs, Tupper's Proverbial Philosophy, bound copies of The Missionary Herald and of Father Damon's Seaman's Friend. A melodeon; a music stand, with 'Willie, We have Missed You', 'Star of the Evening', 'Roll on Silver Moon', 'Are We Most There', 'I Would not Live Alway', and other songs of love and sentiment, together with an assortment of hymns. A what-not with semi-globular glass paperweights, enclosing miniature pictures of ships, New England rural snowstorms, and the like; sea-shells with Bible texts carved on them in cameo style; native curios; whale's tooth with full-rigged ship carved on it. There was nothing reminiscent of foreign parts, for nobody had been abroad. Trips were made to San Francisco, but that could not be called going abroad. Comprehensively speaking, nobody traveled.
But Honolulu has grown wealthy since then, and of course wealth has introduced changes; some of the old simplicities have disappeared. Here is a modern house, as pictured by Mrs. Krout:
"Almost every house is surrounded by extensive lawns and gardens enclosed by walls of volcanic stone or by thick hedges of the brilliant hibiscus.
"The houses are most tastefully and comfortably furnished; the floors are either of hard wood covered with rugs or with fine Indian matting, while there is a preference, as in most warm countries, for rattan or bamboo furniture; there are the usual accessories of bric-a-brac, pictures, books, and curios from all parts of the world, for these island dwellers are indefatigable travelers.
"Nearly every house has what is called a lanai. It is a large apartment, roofed, floored, open on three sides, with a door or a draped archway opening into the drawing-room. Frequently the roof is formed by the thick interlacing boughs of the hou tree, impervious to the sun and even to the rain, except in violent storms. Vines are trained about the sides—the stephanotis or some one of the countless fragrant and blossoming trailers which abound in the islands. There are also curtains of matting that may be drawn to exclude the sun or rain. The floor is bare for coolness, or partially covered with rugs, and the lanai is prettily furnished with comfortable chairs, sofas, and tables loaded with flowers, or wonderful ferns in pots.
"The lanai is the favorite reception room, and here at any social function the musical program is given and cakes and ices are served; here morning callers are received, or gay riding parties, the ladies in pretty divided skirts, worn for convenience in riding astride,—the universal mode adopted by Europeans and Americans, as well as by the natives.
"The comfort and luxury of such an apartment, especially at a seashore villa, can hardly be imagined. The soft breezes sweep across it, heavy with the fragrance of jasmine and gardenia, and through the swaying boughs of palm and mimosa there are glimpses of rugged mountains, their summits veiled in clouds, of purple sea with the white surf beating eternally against the reefs, whiter still in the yellow sunlight or the magical moonlight of the tropics."
There: rugs, ices, pictures, lanais, worldly books, sinful bric-a-brac fetched from everywhere. And the ladies riding astride. These are changes, indeed. In my time the native women rode astride, but the white ones lacked the courage to adopt their wise custom. In my time ice was seldom seen in Honolulu. It sometimes came in sailing vessels from New England as ballast; and then, if there happened to be a man-of-war in port and balls and suppers raging by consequence, the ballast was worth six hundred dollars a ton, as is evidenced by reputable tradition. But the ice-machine has traveled all over the world, now, and brought ice within everybody's reach. In Lapland and Spitzbergen no one uses native ice in our day, except the bears and the walruses.
The bicycle is not mentioned. It was not necessary. We know that it is there, without inquiring. It is everywhere. But for it, people could never have had summer homes on the summit of Mont Blanc; before its day, property up there had but a nominal value. The ladies of the Hawaiian capital learned too late the right way to occupy a horse—too late to get much benefit from it. The riding-horse is retiring from business everywhere in the world. In Honolulu a few years from now he will be only a tradition.