CHAPTER XVII. HONOLULU - DEPARTURE FOR JAPAN.
Years following years, steal something every day;
At last they steal us from ourselves away.
Monday, January 1st, 1877. - At midnight we were awakened by our ship's bell, and that of the 'Fantome,' being struck violently sixteen times. For the moment I could not imagine what it meant, and thought it must be an alarm of fire; indeed, it was not until Tom and I reached the deck, where we found nearly all the ship's company assembled at the top of the companion, and were greeted with wishes for 'A happy New Year, and many of them,' that we quite realised that nothing serious was the matter. Soon the strains of sweet music, proceeding from the Honolulu choirs, which had come out in boats to serenade us, fell upon our ears The choristers remained alongside for more than an hour, singing English and American sacred and secular hymns and songs, and then went off to the 'Fantome,' where they repeated the performance. The moon shone brightly; not a ripple disturbed the surface of the water; the cocoa-trees at Waikiki, and the distant mountains near the Pali, were all clearly defined against the dark blue sky. It was altogether a romantic and delicious scene, and we found it difficult to tear ourselves away from the sweet sounds which came floating over the sea.
When I again went on deck, at half-past six, there was a large double canoe close to the yacht, crowded with people. It was difficult to make out what they were doing, for they appeared to be sitting on a great heap of something, piled up between the two canoes. Our sailors suggested that it must be 'some sort of a New Year's set out.' I ordered the 'Flash' to be got ready, and went with the children to make a closer investigation; and, as we approached, we could see that the pile that had puzzled us was a huge fishing-net. The tide here is very uncertain; but as soon as the water is low enough, they stretch the long net right across the narrow mouth of the harbour, and so secure an enormous quantity of fish of various kinds. It was a really good New Year's haul, and provided a hearty meal for a great many people.
Mabelle and I went at twelve o'clock to the Queen's New Year's reception, held in the other wing of the palace. Having driven through the pretty gardens, we were received at the entrance by the Governor, and ushered through two reception rooms into the royal presence. The Queen was dressed in a European court-dress, of blue and white material, with the Hawaiian Order of the Garter across her breast. Two maids of honour were also in court-dress. Of the other ladies, some were in evening, some in morning dress, some with bonnets and some without; but their costumes were all made according to the European fashion, except that of her Highness Ruth, the Governess of Hawaii, who looked wonderfully well in a rich white silk native dress, trimmed with white satin. She had a necklace of orange-coloured oo feathers round her neck, and dark yellow alamanda flowers in her hair. This native costume is a most becoming style of dress, especially to the chiefs and chiefesses, who are all remarkably tall and handsome, with a stately carriage and dignified manner. The Queen stood in front of the throne, on which were spread the royal robes, a long mantle of golden feathers, without speck or blemish. On each side stood two men, dressed in black, wearing frock-coats, and capes of red, black, and yellow feathers over their shoulders, and chimney-pot hats on their heads. In their hands they held two enormous kahilis of black oofeathers, with handsome tortoise-shell and ivory handles. They were at least eight feet high altogether, and the feathers were about six inches across.
The Princess presented Mabelle and me to her Majesty, and we had a short conversation through a lady interpreter. It is always an embarrassing thing to carry on a conversation in this way, especially when you find yourself in the midst of a square formed by a large crowd of ladies, who you fancy are all gazing at you, the one stranger present, and I was glad when fresh people arrived, and her Majesty's attention was claimed elsewhere.
Queen Kapiolani is a nice-looking woman, with a very pleasing expression of countenance. She is the granddaughter of the heroic Princess Kapiolani, who, when the worship and fear of the goddess Pele were at their height, walked boldly up to the crater of Kilauea, in defiance of the warnings and threats of the high-priestess of the idolatrous rites, proclaiming her confidence in the power of her God, the God of the Christians, to preserve her. This act did much to assist in the establishment of Christianity in the Island of Hawaii, and to shake the belief of the native worshippers of Pele in the power of the fearful goddess.