Charmian London.

Jack London and Hawaii online

. (page 1 of 28)
Online LibraryCharmian LondonJack London and Hawaii → online text (page 1 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook




The whole of the author's profits from this book will be given
for the assistance of our blinded soldiers at St. Duns tan's




Author of " A Handbook to Chelsea" " The Carlvle's Chelsea Home"
"Paradise Row" and " In Cheyne Walk and Thereabout"


Crown Svo f 8s. 6d. net

This volume contains a further series of papers on subjects
relating to Chelsea, similar to those which found acceptance in
Mr. Blunt's previous book, " In Cheyne walk and Thereabout".

The Papers are fully illustrated by reproductions from old
drawings, photographs and portraits of the celebrities and
places dealt with, including views of Cheyne House, Orange
House, Carlyle's House, Ranelagh Rotunda, Scenes at Rane-
lagh, Old Battersea Bridge and Old Chelsea Church ; portraits
(hitherto unpublished) of the Lady Jane Cheyne, Thomas
Bentley (Wedgwood's Chelsea partner), William de Morgan,
and Mrs. Carlyle ; and some charming Bartolozzi Cipriani
tickets for Ranelagh Balls and Masquerades.

MILLS & BOON Ltd. 49 Rupert St. London W. i.









Published rgi8

Copyright in the United States of America, 191
by Mrs. Jack London




" A sense of marvel drifts to me —
Of morning on a purple sea,
And fragrant islands far away."

— George Sterling.


"Jack London and Hawaii!" From the years of his youth
the two names have been entwined in the minds of those who
knew him best — since that day when, bound for the Japan
sealing grounds and Behring Sea on the " Sophie Sutherland"
(the schooner "Ghost " of " The Sea Wolf"), he first glimpsed
to northward the smoke and fire of Kilauea. Through suc-
cessive visits, including eighteen months spent in the islands
during the last two years of his life, through early misunder-
standing and final loving comprehension of him, Jack London
and Hawaii have drawn together, with increasing devotion in
his heart for " Aloha-Land " — " Love-Land," in his fashion of
speech — until at the end he could answer to the long-desired
appellation, kamaaina, one-who-belongs, and more.

"They don't know what they've got!" he said of the
American public, when, a decade ago, headed for the South
Seas in his own small-boat voyage around the world, he sailed
far out of his course that Hawaii might be the first port of
call, and threw himself into learning the manifold beauty and
wonder of this territory of Uncle Sam. And "They don't
know what they've got," he repeated to each new unscrolling
of its wonder and beauty during five months of enjoyment and
study of land and people. Again in Hawaii after the breaking
out of the Great War, he amended : " Because they have no
other place to go, they are just beginning to realize what
they've got."

And really, the knowledge of the citizen of the States is
woefully scant concerning this possession but a few days


distant by steamer, and woefully he distorts its very name in
conversation and song into something like Haw-way -ah. To
the adept in the lovely language there are fine nuances in the
vowelly word; but simple Hah-wy'-ee serves well.

What does the average middle-aged American know of the
amazing history of this amazing "native" people now voting
as American citizens ? The name Hawaii calls to memory
vague dots on a soiled map of the Pacific Ocean, bearing a
vaguely gastronomic caption that in no wise reminds him of the
Earl of Sandwich, Lord of the British Admiralty, and patron
of the intrepid discoverer, Captain Cook, whose valiant bones
even now rest on the Kona Coast. Savage, remote, alluring,
adventurous, are the impressions ; but few have grasped the
fact that that pure Polynesian, Kamehameha the Great,
deserved to rank as one of the most remarkable figures in
history for his revolutionary genius, unaided by outland ideas,
and who, dying in 1819, little more than a year before the first
missionaries sailed from Boston, had fought his way to the
consolidation under one Government of the group of eight
islands, ended feudal monarchy, abolished idolatry, and all
unknowing made the land ripe for Christian civilization.

Of those whom I have questioned, only one ever heard
that, before this generation, indeed previous to the discovery
of gold in California and the starting of our forebears over the
plains by ox-team or across the Isthmus of Panama, early
settlers in California were sending their children to be educated
in trie excellent missionary schools of these isles of inconse-
quential name, and importing their wheat from the same
"savage " port.

In this journal covering a few months spent ten years ago
in Hawaii, concluding with a resume of experiences there in
1915-1916, I have tried to limn a picture of the charm of the
Hawaiian islander as he was, and is becoming, with the
enchantment of his lofty isles, and their abundant hospitality.

During the original writing many elisions were advised by
Jack London, as being too personal of himself for me, being


me, to publish. However, in the circumstances of his un-
timely passing, and in view of a desire made evident to me in
countless letters as well as in the press, for biographical work,
I have been led to reinstate and elaborate much of the mass
of data. Even in face of his objections at the time, I had
stoutly disagreed, maintaining that the lovers of his soul and
his work would value revelation of his personality and manner
of living life.

And so, missing incalculably the grace of his final censor-
ship, I am chancing the test. If the personal pronoun I too
lavishly peppers the story, take the role of " the gentle reader "
toward me, I pray, and consider the inevitable handicap of one
who writes intimately of a dear and gracious subject.


Glen Ellen, California,

In the Valley of the Moon,
September 1, 1917.


Pearl Harbour, Oahu,
Territory of Hawaii,
Tuesday, May 21, 1907.

Come tread with me a little space of Paradise. Many pleasant
acres have I trod hitherto, but never an acre like this. It is so
beautiful. And restful. And green. Green upon green. With
blue-depthed shadows imposed from green-depthed foliage of
great trees upon thick deep lawn that cushions underfoot.
Bare foot. For one somehow dissociates the idea of footwear
with an acre of Elysium. It is one of the paradisal blessings
of this new Sweet Home of ours that we may blissfully pace it
unshod, and for the most part unobserved.

The street is a mere white, meandering, coral-powdered by-
way ; nothing less inquisitive than the birds abides in the ad-
joining garden, where a rustic dwelling shows but vaguely amidst
a riot of foliage ; and on our southern boundary is a tropic
tangle of uninhabited wildwood, fronting upon a native fish-
pond — an elongated bit of bay enclosed by a low wall of
masonry of such antiquity that no tradition of Hawaii can place
its origin.

Bayward the outlook is a rosy coral-reef, swept by the tepid
pea-green tides ; and to its outer rim extends a slender wooden
jetty, at the end of which our ship's-boat can lie even at low

An eighth of a mile beyond in the rippling chrysoprase flood
of Pearl Harbour, " Dream Harbour " Jack loves to call it,
swings our Boat of Dreams — our little " Snark," anchored
in the first port of call on her mission of pure golden adventure
— a gallant foolishness, perhaps, but if we be fools, let us
be gallant ones, Whenever my happy eyes come to rest on her


shining shape, I feci them growing big with visions of the
coming years on her deck ; and then, remembering vivid incidents
of the voyage, I drift back to the lovely earth with a filling sense
of several laps of adventure already run. Not the least of these
is mere living in a green shady nook of Paradise where one's
eyes must quest twice in the green gloom among enormous
trees to discover near the water-side the habitation — a very
small, very rustic, very simple brown bungalow of three rooms
— only one, our big breezy bedroom, quite deserving of
the name of room. The others are, one, a long and narrow
seaward strip like an enclosed veranda ; the other, a cosy cubby
of a kitchen. A tiny pantry, an ample bathroom, and windows,
windows everywhere, make perfect the indoor aspect of this
Arcadian acre.

Already, in swimming suits, we have ventured the reef at
high tide, with unbounded delight in the sunwashed liquid silk.
Our goal for to-morrow is the yacht, informed as we are that
there is little danger of man-eating sharks in this sheltered

Beyond the "Snark," across this arm of the sea, over low
green volcanic hills lying south-east between Pearl Lochs and
Honolulu, one is just able to glimpse the rosy bulk of Diamond
Head, dreaming in the fervent sunlight. To the north, over
vast rice-fields and upland plantations, shrug the rugged, riven
Kolau Loa Mountains, their heads lost in heavy cloud-masses
that seem everlastingly to roll and shift above these tropic

Pearl Harbour embraces some twelve square miles, divided
naturally into three lochs, or arms of the sea, by two peninsulas,
on the eastern of which lies the village dignified by the sug-
gestive name of Pearl City. Trust me for having already
possessed myself of the knowledge that the locality has been
these many years filched of its jewels.

On the south-eastern extremity of our particular " neck of the
woods" stray a few suburban homes of the Honolulans, of
which ours is one. Tochigi, Nipponese and poet-browed cabin-
boy ,of the "Snark," will live ashore with us and resume his
erstwhile household service, while the rest of the yacht's com-


plement — Roscoe, sailing-master, Bert, engineer of our ruined
machinery, and Martin, cook because there was no other berth
vacant — will retain their accommodations aboard. In these
protected waters the boat lies at least as steady as a house
on wheels, as she swings to ebb and flow.

Strangely content are we in the unwonted tranquillity of
motion and sound, lacking wish to venture afield, even to
Honolulu a scant twelve miles distant by the railroad. Enough
just to rest and rest, and gaze around upon the beautiful, long-
desired world of island. Scarcely can we glance athwart the
apple-green water but there curves a span of rainbow between
our eyes and the far hills, and like as not a double-span, with
promise of a triple-bow ; while frequent warm showers delicately
veil the land's vivid emerald with all-melting tints of opal.

Very florid, all this, you will smile — a bit overdone, perhaps ?
Gird at my word-storms if you will. Then consider, and
take ship for this " fleet of islands " in the western ocean. It
isn't real ; it can't be — too sweet it is, day and night, the round
twenty-four hours. Here but the one night and day, already we
grope for new forms of expression, as will you an you follow the
sinking sun.

The heat is not oppressive, even though the season is close
to summer. But one must realize that Hawaii is only sub-
tropical. To be precise, the group of eight inhabited islands
occupies a central position in the North Pacific, and lies just
within the northern tropic. For the benefit of any sailor who
may run and read, Jack says I might as well be still more
explicit, and record that the "Snark," anchored about 2000
sea miles south-west of her native shore, lies between 18° 54'
and 22° 15' north latitude, and between 154° 50' and 160° 30'
of longitude west of Greenwich. Figures never did stick with
me — there seems to be a positive lack in my brain, that is the
despair of my thoroughly mathematical and practical com-
mander, who can reduce anything in the world to his eternal
"arithmetic". {Almost anything, I hear him disavow, for
none so humble as he to offer that there are holy things of the
human heart and mind far from amenable to rule of thumb.)
What does penetrate my senses in this particular case is the


immutable truth that this ocean paradise is blessed with a
lower temperature than any other country in the same latitude.
The reasons are simple enough — the prevailing " orderly trades "
that blow over a large extent of the ocean, and the ocean itself
that is cooled by the return current from the region of Bering
Straits. Pleasantly warm though we found the waters of Pearl
Harbour this bright morning, yet are they less warm by ten
degrees than the waters of other regions in similar latitudes.

And now, to go back a little and recount how we came to
rest in this fair haven — Fair Haven, in passing, was the name
bestowed upon Honolulu Harbour by one of her discoverers,
Captain Brown, when, in 1794, in his schooner "Jackal," in
company with Captain Gordon in the sloop " Prince Lee Boo,"
he entered the bay, and mixed in local affairs by selling arms
and ammunition to King Kalanikupule of Oahu, then resisting
an invasion from the sovereign of the island of Maui, Kaeo.
Right near us here, at Kalauao on the way to Honolulu, a red
battle was waged, in which Kalanikupule, assisted by Captain
Brown and his men, overcame the powerful enemy.

Poor Captain Brown was born unlucky, it would seem. Fir-
ing a salute the next day from the " Jackal," in honour of the
victory, a wad from his guns went wild and killed Captain
Kendrick, who was quietly dining aboard his own vessel, the
" Lady Washington ". The blameless skipper's funeral, being
of a different sort from the native ceremony, was believed by
the Hawaiians to constitute an act of sorcery to induce the
death of Captain Brown. Kalanikupule paid the latter 400
hogs for his valorous part in the struggle with the vanquished
Kaeo, and Brown, after the sailing of the " Lady Washington "
for China, put his men to salting down the valuable pork at
Kaihikapu, an ancient salt pond between Pearl Harbour and

One day while the "Jackal's" mate, Mr. Lamport, and the
sailors were gathering salt, Kamohomoho, uncle of Oahu's king,
boarded the " Prince Lee Boo" and the "Jackal," and more
than made good the "act of sorcery" by dispatching poor
Brown as well as Gordon, imprisoning those of the crews not
employed ashore. Lamport and his men were captured, but


their lives spared. The gratitude of the royal family for favours
rendered had been out-balanced by ambition for a modern navy
with which to attack Kamehameha the Great on the " Big
Island," Hawaii. On the voyage, however, the white seamen
regained possession of the vessels, sent the natives ashore in
their own canoes which were being towed, and lost no time
following the " Lady Washington " to the Orient.

But I become lost in the fascinating history of the men who
blazed our trail to these romantic isles, and forget that this is a
chronicle of a more modern adventure.

On the mainland, before sailing out through the Golden Gate,
we made the fortunate acquaintance of one, Mr. Thomas W.
Hobron, artist, merchant, good fellow, and citizen of Honolulu,
who spoke in this wise : " I wonder if you two would care to
put up in my little shack on the peninsula ? It isn't much to
look at, and there's only room enough for the two of you ; but
it's brimful of Aloha, if you care to use it."

So here are we, blessing good Tom Hobron, as we shall
bless him all our years, for the gift of so idyllic a resting-spot
after the tumult of our first traverse on the bit of boat yonder.

And yet, casting back over those twenty-six days of ceaseless
tossing, we are aware only of pleasure in the memory of every
least happening, disagreeable and agreeable alike. In fact the
last week aboard was so cosy and homelike that more than
often we caught ourselves regretting the imminent termination
of the cruise. Even at this moment of writing, despite bliss-
ful surroundings, did I not know that the r< Snark's" dear ad-
ventures were but just begun, I should be robbed indeed, so in
love am I with sea and " Snark " : —

For the wind and waterways have stamped me with their seal.

We picked up a good slant of wind to make Honolulu yes-
terday morning — an immeasurable relief after the wearisome
calm of the night before, during which we had taken our turns
at the idle wheel and scanned the contrary compass with all
emotions, of anxiety, while the helpless yacht swung on every
arc of the circle, with no slightest fan of air to fill the limp sails
that flapped heavily in the glassy off-shore heave. Never shall


1 forget my own tense double watch of four hours, straining eye
and ear toward the all-too-nigh coral reefs off Koko Head,
with Mokopuu Point light blinking to the north-east. But
when a dart of sun through a deck-light woke me from brief
sleep, we were spanking along smartly in a cobalt sea threshed
white on every rushing wave, with the green and gold island of
Oahu shifting its scenery like a sliding screen as we swept past
lovely rose-tawny Diamond Head and palm-dotted Waikiki
toward Honolulu Harbour. After an oddly Ashless voyage of
four weeks, we were joyously excited over a school of big por-
poises, "puffing-pigs," intent as any flock of barnyard fowl to
cross our fleeing forefoot. Undignified haste was their only
resemblance to domestic poultry, for in general movement they
were more like sportive colts hurdling in pasture with snort and
puff — sleek sides glistening blue-black in the brilliant sunlight.

To our land-eager eyes the beautiful old city was the sur-
passing picture of her pictures as, still outside, we came abreast
of her wharves — the water-front with ships and steamers
moored beside the long sheds ; and, behind, the Pompeian-red
Punch Bowl, so often described by early voyagers ; the subur-
ban heights of Tantalus ; the purple-deep rifts of valleys and
gorges ; and the green-and-violet needled peaks upthrusting
through dense dark cloud wrack.

Barely had we finished Martin's eggless breakfast when a
Government launch frothed alongside, and the engineer's
cheery " Want a line, Jack — eh ? " sounded classic assurance
of Hawaii's far-famed grace of hospitality. Since despite my
sanguine temperament, I had been conscious of a premonition
that something unfortunate would happen upon our arrival,
probably due to the impression left by the hasty ship-chandler
of San Francisco who unjustly libelled the u Snark " in Oak-
land and delayed our sailing. So this easy and gracious " Want
a line, Jack?" was music to my ears. You see, Jack London
is not infrequently arrested, or nearly arrested, for one reason
or another, whenever he sets his merry foot upon foreign soil
(I have disquieting memories of Cuba, Japan, and Korea) ; and
Hawaii seems like foreign soil, albeit annexed by the Stars and


The morning paper, the " Pacific Commercial Advertiser,"
preceded Immigration Inspector Brown and Customs Inspector
Farmer over the rail, and they laughingly pointed to a conspicu-
ously leaded item that the " Snark " was supposed to be lost
with all on board — bright tidings already cabled to California
and read by our horrified families and friends ! We cannot
help wishing we were early enough here to be handed the very
first English newspaper published at Honolulu, in 1836 — the
11 Sandwich Islands Gazette ". And two years before that
the Hawaiian sheets, " Kumu Hawaii" and " Lama Hawaii,"
were the first newspapers issued in the Pacific Ocean.

Speed is not the object of our junketing in the Seven Seas ;
but if we of the " Snark " had known any hurt vanity about
the length of our passage, it would have been amply offset by
the report the Inspectors made of the big bark " Edward
May," arriving six days before, which beat our tardy record
but two days, after an equally uneventful voyage.

Meanwhile the pilot had come aboard, a line was passed
for'ard to the launch, and we now ripped and zipped over a
billowy swell to meet the Port Physician, Dr. Sinclair, whose
white launch could be seen putting out from a wharf. That
dignitary, once on deck, scanned our clean Bill of Health,
asked a few routine questions — one of which was whether we
carried any rats or snakes ; and all three officials pronounced
us free to enter the Port of Honolulu. Whereupon Jack
stated that we were bound for Pearl Lochs, expecting there
to find Mr. Tom Hobron, and was in return informed by the
pilot that Mr. Hobron had been called to San Francisco for
an indefinite period, but that he knew the cottage was at our
disposal in accordance with the understanding. Furthermore,
we were smilingly told that the wharves of Honolulu were
lined with her citizens, waiting to garland us in welcome ; but
too strong behind our eyes was the fancied picture of the
promised retreat by the still waters of Pearl Lochs, so we
thanked our kind visitors, secured a launch, and towed reso-
lutely past the hospitable city.

"It does seem a darned shame," Jack mused regretfully.
" But what can we do with all our plans made for Pearl


Harbour ? And anyway," he added, " I don't want the general
public to see boat of mine sail in, looking as if she'd been half-
built and then half-wrecked, the way this one does . . . I've
got some pride."

Then all attention was claimed by the beauty of our west-
ward way to the harbour entrance, as we closely skirted a
broad shoreward reef where greenest breakers combed and
burst into fountains of tourmaline and turquoise, shot through
with javelins of sun-gold, and the air was filled with rainbow
mist. Our boat slipped along in a world compounded of the
very ravishment of melting colours — land and sea, it was all of
a piece ; while off to the south-eastern horizon ocean and sky
merged in palest silvery azure, softly gloomed by shadowy
shapes of other Promised Islands.

Turning almost due north into the narrow reef-entrance to
the Lochs, we could easily have sailed unassisted, even with
the light breeze then remaining, so well marked is the channel
which has been dredged, full thirty feet deep, to admit passage
of the largest vessels into this land-locked harbour, invaluable
acquisition to the American Government. Its low green banks
show both lava and coral formation, and vast cane plantations
and gently terraced rice-fields slope their green leagues back to
the foothills of the Waianae Mountains. Scattered over the
rice-areas are picturesquely tattered Mongolians, who utter
long resonant calls to frighten the marauding rice-birds, which,
floating up in black, disturbed clouds, are brought down with

We two, with oneness in love of our watery roaming, were
happy and vociferous as a pair of children, entering this
our first port. Had we given it a thought, we could have
wished for a less civilized landfall, with conscious missing of a
native face or two. But I am sure this never entered our
blissful heads — not mine, at any rate ; and my memory of
Jack's alert and beaming face precludes doubt of his content-
ment with things as they were.

Presently, as we wound along between the western peninsula
and a little green islet, he called attention to the snowy bore
of a tiny craft racing toward us from ahead. In short order a

1. THE PENINS1 1 \.




smart white launch was rounding up with dash and style be-
fitting the commodore of the famed Hawaiian Yacht Club, Mr.
Clarence Macfarlane, who, with Mr. Albert Waterhouse, a
neighbour of this little eastern peninsula of ours, had learned
by telephone from Honolulu of our arrival, and hurried out to
make us welcome. Both of these u dandy fellows," as Jack
promptly rated them, sent a warm glow through us by the un-
assuming goodwill of their greeting eyes and hearty hand-grasp,
while the first words on their lips was the beautiful Hawaiian
" Aloha ! " (ah-lo-hah) that is epitome of all goodwill and un-
questioning friendship. No noise nor flurry was theirs, as they
set foot for the first time on the deck of the much-bruited
"Snark"; only the kindest, quietest, make-yourself-at-home
manner, as if we had all been acquainted for years, or else that
it was the most usual thing in the world to receive a wild man
and woman who had essayed to circumnavigate the globe in

Online LibraryCharmian LondonJack London and Hawaii → online text (page 1 of 28)