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A Vulgar Fraction
by [?]

Sometimes when, like Mirza, I retire to my little Hill of Bagdad for meditation, there comes before me the bright picture of Hawaii with its coral-bulwarked islands and the memory of an idle sojourn on their shores. I remember the rainbow-coloured harbour of Honolulu Hilo, the simply joyous Arcadie at the foot of Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea which lifted violet shoulders to the morning, the groves of cocoa-palms and tamarinds, the waterfalls dropping over sheer precipices a thousand feet into the ocean, the green embrasures where the mango, the guava, and the lovi lovi grow, and where the hibiscus lifts red hands to the light. I call to mind the luau where Kalakua, the King, presided over the dispensation of stewed puppy, lifted to one’s lips by brown but fair fingers, of live shrimps, of poi and taro and balls of boiled sea-weed stuffed with Heaven knows what; and to crown all, or to drown all, the insinuating liquor kava, followed when the festival was done by the sensuous but fascinating hula hula, danced by maidens of varying loveliness. Of these Van Blaricom, the American, said, “they’d capture Chicago in a week with that racket,” and he showed Blithelygo his calculations as to profits.

The moments that we enjoyed the most, however, were those that came when feast and serenade were over, when Hawaii Ponoi, the National Anthem, was sung, and we lay upon the sands and watched the long white coverlet of foam folding towards the shore, and saw visions and dreamed dreams. But at times we also breathed a prayer–a prayer that somebody or something would come and carry off Van Blaricom, whose satire, born and nurtured in Chicago, was ever turned against Hawaii and all that therein was.

There are times when I think I had a taste of Paradise in Hawaii–but a Paradise not without a Satanic intruder in the shape of that person from Illinois. Nothing escaped his scorn. One day we saw from Diamond Head three water-spouts careering to the south, a splendid procession of the powers of the air. He straightway said to Kalakua, that “a Michigan cyclone had more git-up-and-git about it than them three black cats with their tails in the water.” He spent hours in thinking out rudely caustic things to repeat about this little kingdom. He said that the Government was a Corliss-engine running a sewing machine. He used to ask the Commander of the Forces when the Household Cavalry were going into summer camp–they were twelve. The only thing that appeared to impress him seriously was Molokai, the desolate island where the lepers made their cheerless prison-home. But the reason for his gravity appeared when he said to Blithelygo and myself: “There’d be a fortune in that menagerie if it was anchored in Lake Michigan.” On that occasion he was answered in strong terms. It was the only time I ever heard Blithelygo use profanity. But the American merely dusted his patent leather shoes with a gay silk kerchief, adjusted his clothes on his five-foot frame as he stood up; and said: “Say you ought to hear my partner in Chicago when he lets out. He’s an artist!”

This Man from the West was evidently foreordained to play a part in the destinies of Blithelygo and myself, for during two years of travel he continuously crossed our path. His only becoming quality was his ample extravagance. Perhaps it was the bountiful impetus he gave to the commerce of Honolulu, and the fact that he talked of buying up a portion of one of the Islands for sugar-planting, that induced the King to be gracious to him. However that might be, when Blithelygo and I joined his Majesty at Hilo to visit the extinct volcano of Kilauea, there was the American coolly puffing his cigar and quizzically feeling the limbs and prodding the ribs of the one individual soldier who composed the King’s body-guard. He was not interested in our arrival further than to give us a nod. In a pause that followed our greetings, he said to his Majesty, while jerking his thumb towards the soldier: “King, how many of ’em have you got in your army?”