Life in Hawaii, by Titus Coan
Copyright ©1882, 1997 (electronic edition by Edward J. Coan)

Chapter XI.

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Compensations Social Pleasures Some of our Guests and Visitors.

FROM the almost entire absence of civilized society, we have now come to enjoy the fellowship of a community of families and individuals equal, on an average, in intelligence, morality, and refinement, to any with which I am acquainted. In addition to the three mission families who have been longest on the ground, there is around us a little community of families of missionary descendants of the first and second generations. The number of cultivated and scientific visitors from other parts of the world is also increasing.

When in 1835 we were stationed at Hilo, a good brother missionary wept and condoled with us because of our banishment from civilized society, our communication with friends so slow and uncertain. But we believed our destination was ordered of the Lord. The feeling of joy with which we first hailed the sight of its beautiful harbor, its fields of living green, its shining hills, has never left us. And while we have tilled our garden, saying, Let its moral beauty outshine its physical, and "its righteousness go forth as brightness, and its salvation as a lamp that burneth," we have found our life full of compensations.

I do not now regret a sojourn in "that great and howling wilderness" of Patagonia, or my perils on the sea and in the rivers; my painful travels on foot over thousands of miles, or my hungerings and thirstings in cold and heat, nor any suffering that the Lord has laid upon me in His service. They all seem light and momentary now, and there is full compensation in the joy the Master has granted me.

I have spoken of the visits of seamen to this port, and of the religious efforts in their behalf. Their coming often added to our social comforts. The very sight of the stars and stripes at their masthead, the snowy canvas, or the weather-beaten and tempest-torn sails, was pleasant. Many of the masters brought cultivated and pious wives, and from time to time they, with their little children, would be left with us for months while the ships were absent on their cruises in the north, the south-east, and west. Not a few sailors’ boys and girls have been born in Hilo, and several have been born in our house. We have formed near and lasting friendships with many of these visitors. We have nursed sick sailors under our roof, and sent them home healed, so far as we could judge by their conduct and profession, in soul and body. We have buried the remains of seamen in the soil of Hilo, attended to their secular affairs, and written to parents and friends by their request; we have found out the wandering sons of senators, clergymen, and men of wealth and distinction, as well as of the poor and lowly, and received the tearful thanks of parents, comrades, and friends.

The dust of a wild young English physician lies in our cemetery. He was the son of a clergyman, and his mother, sisters, and brothers were all Christians, while he wandered, like the poor prodigal, into realms unknown to his mourning friends. He was shy of the missionaries, but in his wildness the hand of the Lord arrested him. He fell from a horse and received a mortal injury. In his misery he sent for me; he knew his wound was fatal, and he felt that he must be forever lost. When I pointed him to the Lamb of God and spoke to him of the blood which cleanseth from all sin, he exclaimed, "Can it be possible that is for me that I can be saved?" He came at last to trust, his despair fled, and in three days he died in peace on the very day he had set for his departure from earth. We buried him with tears, and thanksgiving to Him who "giveth us the victory." There was printed on the slab that marks the repose of his mortal part this stanza from one of his own poets:

"By foreign hands thy dying eyes were closed,
By foreign hands thy clay-cold limbs composed,
By foreign lands thy humble grave’s adorned;
By strangers honored and by strangers mourned."

A tender and grateful answer was received to the letter written to his parents.

We had, at different times, not less than five professed physicians who offered their services to our public. But one after another four of them died, and the fifth left the country, and shortly after, he also died. All these were intemperate, and some of them were bitter haters of the missionaries and opposers of the work of the Lord. The career of four of them was very short, and their deaths were sudden and admonitory.

Our great volcano has attracted many hundreds of visitors, and they have come from nearly all the nations under heaven. Many have been distinguished scientists. Statesmen and foreign officials of almost every rank have looked in upon us, and our intercourse has been most precious with the many Christians that we have been permitted to entertain.

Chief-Justice William L. Lee, chancellor of the kingdom, spent many days with us. Coming from the United States in 1846, he was a leader in our government until his death in 1857. His chief labors were the drafting of the Constitution of 1852, the civil and penal codes, and his arduous and gratuitous services as President of the Land Commission, which abolished feudalism, and gave each native his land in fee simple. A man of high ability, integrity, and of charming personal character, his name can never be forgotten in Hawaii.

Prof. C. S. Lyman, of Yale College, was our guest for three months, and his scientific tastes and acquirements, and his mechanical skill, made his visit especially interesting. We used to say that with a jack-knife, a file, and a gimlet he could make anything. An excellent sun-dial, a complicated rain gauge? with a clock attachment, a self-opening and closing valve, and a scale that marked the day, the hour, and the moment of rain-fall, with the exact amount of water, and a bookcase of koa wood for my study, were some of the proofs of his skill. He made, also, one of the best surveys of Kilauea crater that I have ever seen.

He once accompanied me along the shores and over the highlands of my missionary field, sharing with me my simple fare and my rocky beds, and cheering me with his delightfully genial companionship.

How vividly I remember one incident in our tour! We were returning from Puna over the highlands where, for fifteen miles, there were no inhabitants. Our trail lay through forest and jungle and open fields of wild grasses and rushes. We heard that about midway between the shore and an inland village there was a small grass hut built by bird-catchers, but now abandoned. We struck for that, and reached it a little before sundown. We entered with our two native burden-bearers, and congratulated ourselves on having found a shelter for the coming cold and rainy night. In less time than I can write the story we began to jump and stamp and dance. What is the matter? we exclaimed, and looking down upon our legs we saw them sprinkled thick with fleas, those terrible back-biters that never talk. We ordered a hasty march and went on at double-quick through bush and brake, scattering our actively bloodthirsty foes by the way. After a mile’s walk we skirted a forest, and here, sheltered from the wind, we halted and began our works of defence from the coming rain and cold. Without axe or saw we broke off limbs of trees and made a little booth, which we covered with grass and leaves, and then prepared wood for a fire.

Alas! we had no matches, no lamp, no candle. What next? One of our natives took his pole, which they call the auamo-yoke, on which they carry burdens, and by hard and rapid friction with another dry stick he soon raised smoke, and fire followed. At nine P.M. it was a roaring fire at which we dried ourselves, and when we had eaten our scanty supper, and offered up thanks to the Lord, we lay down to sleep or not to sleep as the case might be.

Long after this Mr. Wm. T. Brigham, of Boston, spent a season with us, and went the same rounds with me. On this occasion we visited a pulu station upon the highlands, and in a deep forest. Here were about thirty or forty men and women employed in gathering this soft, silky fern-down for upholstery, and here, ten miles from Kilauea, we saw the natives cook their food over hot steam cracks without fuel. Near the volcano this is frequently done.

The widowed Lady Franklin was our guest for a while. The patient, hopeful, and earnest woman was then (1861) in search of her husband, Sir John Franklin. It was sad to see her hopes blasted.

An honored officer of the British army in India once spent a week with us. He came an entire stranger, but by his great intelligence, his urbanity, his noble figure, and his gentlemanly address, he made an indelible impression upon us. And this impression was deepened by such a frank and affecting tale of his life as filled us with interest in his behalf. His mind was in such a state that his appetite and his sleep often departed from him. He occupied an upper room in our house with a door opening upon a veranda, which afforded a good and quiet promenade. Often during many hours of the night we could hear his foot-falls as he paced to and fro through the still watches. He was always with us at our morning and evening hours of devotion, and he seemed to enter earnestly into these exercises.

At length he could no longer restrain his feelings, and begged that we would hear his tale of sorrow.

He began, saying: "I was once a happy man, but now I am miserable. I had a very dear friend, a fellow officer in the army, and I loved him as my own soul. On a certain occasion, and through a misunderstanding, an altercation took place between us, and he hastily gave me a challenge. I, under a false sense of honor, as hastily accepted. We met, and my bullet pierced his heart. I saw him stagger, and ran to hold him up. His warm blood spurted over me. He said, faintly, ‘You have killed me.’ He gasped, and was dead. I laid him down; the sight of his pale, ghastly face filled me with horror. That image haunts me everywhere. It comes to me in my dreams. It stares at me in my waking hours; it haunts me like a ghost; it follows me like my shadow; and I am miserable. I have attended church, have read my Bible through and through, to find something on which to hang a hope. I have read sermons and systems of theology; I have wept and prayed, but no comfort comes to me. In spite of all my prayers, and tears, and struggles for pardon and peace, the ghost of my murdered friend haunts me. It wakes me at midnight, it confronts me by day, and what can I do? Is there any hope for such a blood-stained sinner as I am?"

His plaintive story struck us dumb for a while; our hearts were melted with sympathy; but presently we blessed the gracious Lord for this opportunity.

We saw his difficulty, that he was filled with "the sorrow of the world which worketh death." He had labored in agony to save himself, and the cloud of despair grew thicker and darker over him. I at once pointed him to "The Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world." "Yes," said he, "but can Jesus forgive my sin? It seems too great to be forgiven." I assured him that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin," and that Isaiah had told us long ago, that if we would but listen to our God "though our sins be as scarlet they should be white as snow, and though red as crimson they should be as wool." And that Jesus "will in no wise cast out" one penitent sinner that comes to Him. It was his duty, and it was an infinite privilege to believe and accept pardon and peace as a free gift of God, while it was an insult to God to doubt His call and His promises; this "treading underfoot the blood of the Son of God" would be a greater and a more fatal sin than to have shed the blood of his friend. He accepted the offer of salvation, and rejoiced in hope. He found, to his joy, that there is "a blood which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel," or the blood of his murdered companion.

After he left us he remained some time in Honolulu, and we there met him again on our annual visit, just before he embarked to return to India.

We have heard from him several times since and learned that he had been promoted in the army and in civil life, and that he was happy. He was, I think, six feet four inches tall, weighing some 225 pounds, well formed, a man of great physical power, of superior strength of intellect, and excellent executive ability. With a heart and conscience of tender sensibilities, he was "bold as a lion" in all he felt to be right, but he quailed before what he believed to be wrong.

We have not only enjoyed the privilege of entertaining men of rank, but also men of low estate, for poor and friendless strangers came to our distant shores as well as the rich and the noble, and we feel it to be no less, and often a greater, privilege to care for the neglected and needy than for the honorable. The lessons of Christ are plain, practical, and personal. "I was hungry and ye gave me meat," "When thou makest a feast call the poor," "Remember the stranger" and "Be careful to remember the poor." And we have sometimes entertained angels unawares.

I should like to speak of many more of those whose acquaintance we have made, and who have been our guests in our Hilo home; as Admiral S. F. DuPont, the gallant officer, the accomplished gentleman and the sincere Christian, whose dearly-cherished friendship we enjoyed until the day of his death; or of Admiral Pearson, who with his wife and daughter spent a season in our family. On our visit to the United States in 1870 both Mrs. DuPont and Mrs. Pearson spared no pains to see us in their homes.

But time would fail me to speak of the visits of the venerable Dr. Anderson and his wife, of Boston; the gifted Dr. Boyd and his estimable wife, of Geneva, with whom we held sweet converse; the "Friends" Wheeler, of London; Joel and Hannah Bean, of Iowa; President Moore, of Earlham College, through whom we have been brought into Christian fellowship with many of his denomination; of Dr. Thompson, of Detroit, who in his advanced years came to look upon this distant missionary field, and was almost enamored with the beauties of Hilo; of the Rev. Mr. Hallock, who with glowing heart went back to tell his people of what he had seen in these isles of the sea; and of many others whose visits of Christian love and fellowship were cheering and refreshing in this far-off land.

If these brief seasons of communion on earth are so sweet, what will the reunion of kindred spirits be in the eternal world where love forever reigns?

Of one other guest I would speak somewhat more fully, for from our humble abode she went up to the palace of the King in heaven. In the midst of earnest missionary work with her husband, the Rev. J. D. Paris, located on the southern shores of Hawaii, she was stricken down with consumption. They came to our house and were our guests until she died; and here on the borders of the unseen world, while she still lingered, she spoke words of such triumphant faith that I would transcribe them anew.

When told that no one thought it probable that she would recover, she was silent for several minutes; then calling her husband to her bedside, she said: "Do not be anxious about me; I commit all to the Lord, to live or to die. I have had a strong desire to be spared for your sake and that of our little ones. I have hoped that I might live to see the image of Christ impressed upon their hearts. They will need a mother’s care, a mother’s watchfulness; but let His will, not mine, be done. He has always been good to me, infinitely better than I deserve. Let us leave all with Him; His time is best."

To the question how she felt in regard to her spiritual state, she replied: " I have no distressing fears. I know that I love the Saviour and that He loves me. I sometimes shrink from the thought of death and the cold grave; but when I look beyond all is calm, all is peace."

Hearing one speak of "the dark valley and shadow of death," she asked, "What does that mean? I do not understand it. I look upon death very differently. Jesus will come and take the soul to Himself. It will be released from its house of clay and wafted to immortal glory. The valley does not look dark to me now, perhaps it may; but I think it will not be dark to me anywhere if my Saviour is with me, and He will never, no, never leave me."

One night when her end was near, she urged her husband to seek rest. He objected, as her hands were cold and her pulse feeble and irregular, and he feared she would swoon away and awake no more.

"You ought not to say so," she replied. "It would be a blessed end to swoon away into the arms of my Saviour and awake in His image. Do not be afraid. If Jesus should take note away from your side without a struggle or a groan, would you grieve?"

On another occasion, when Mr. Paris read

"On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,"

and spoke of Bunyan’s river of death, remarking that she now stood on the verge of this river, she replied: "I do not like that view of death. Our blessed Saviour has told us that He will come again for His own and receive them to Himself. I love to believe His words and to commit myself to Him. If He takes me to Himself death is swallowed up in victory. What are all the dark valleys and rivers if Jesus is with us?"

I said, "Do you see your way clear?"

"Yes," she answered promptly, "it is all clear; there is no cloud, no darkness; all is light up to the heavenly hills."

Morning was breaking upon the mountains of Hawaii, while a morning of unending brightness was dawning on her soul. Her mortal powers gently gave way; "the silver cord was loosed," and she quietly left us in our tears for the bosom of her Saviour.


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