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On the Makaloa Mat   By: (1876-1916)

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by Jack London


On the Makaloa Mat The Bones of Kahekili When Alice Told her Soul Shin Bones The Water Baby The Tears of Ah Kim The Kanaka Surf


Unlike the women of most warm races, those of Hawaii age well and nobly. With no pretence of make up or cunning concealment of time's inroads, the woman who sat under the hau tree might have been permitted as much as fifty years by a judge competent anywhere over the world save in Hawaii. Yet her children and her grandchildren, and Roscoe Scandwell who had been her husband for forty years, knew that she was sixty four and would be sixty five come the next twenty second day of June. But she did not look it, despite the fact that she thrust reading glasses on her nose as she read her magazine and took them off when her gaze desired to wander in the direction of the half dozen children playing on the lawn.

It was a noble situation noble as the ancient hau tree, the size of a house, where she sat as if in a house, so spaciously and comfortably house like was its shade furnished; noble as the lawn that stretched away landward its plush of green at an appraisement of two hundred dollars a front foot to a bungalow equally dignified, noble, and costly. Seaward, glimpsed through a fringe of hundred foot coconut palms, was the ocean; beyond the reef a dark blue that grew indigo blue to the horizon, within the reef all the silken gamut of jade and emerald and tourmaline.

And this was but one house of the half dozen houses belonging to Martha Scandwell. Her town house, a few miles away in Honolulu, on Nuuanu Drive between the first and second "showers," was a palace. Hosts of guests had known the comfort and joy of her mountain house on Tantalus, and of her volcano house, her mauka house, and her makai house on the big island of Hawaii. Yet this Waikiki house stressed no less than the rest in beauty, in dignity, and in expensiveness of upkeep. Two Japanese yard boys were trimming hibiscus, a third was engaged expertly with the long hedge of night blooming cereus that was shortly expectant of unfolding in its mysterious night bloom. In immaculate ducks, a house Japanese brought out the tea things, followed by a Japanese maid, pretty as a butterfly in the distinctive garb of her race, and fluttery as a butterfly to attend on her mistress. Another Japanese maid, an array of Turkish towels on her arm, crossed the lawn well to the right in the direction of the bath houses, from which the children, in swimming suits, were beginning to emerge. Beyond, under the palms at the edge of the sea, two Chinese nursemaids, in their pretty native costume of white yee shon and straight lined trousers, their black braids of hair down their backs, attended each on a baby in a perambulator.

And all these, servants, and nurses, and grandchildren, were Martha Scandwell's. So likewise was the colour of the skin of the grandchildren the unmistakable Hawaiian colour, tinted beyond shadow of mistake by exposure to the Hawaiian sun. One eighth and one sixteenth Hawaiian were they, which meant that seven eighths or fifteen sixteenths white blood informed that skin yet failed to obliterate the modicum of golden tawny brown of Polynesia. But in this, again, only a trained observer would have known that the frolicking children were aught but pure blooded white. Roscoe Scandwell, grandfather, was pure white; Martha three quarters white; the many sons and daughters of them seven eighths white; the grandchildren graded up to fifteen sixteenths white, or, in the cases when their seven eighths fathers and mothers had married seven eighths, themselves fourteen sixteenths or seven eighths white. On both sides the stock was good, Roscoe straight descended from the New England Puritans, Martha no less straight descended from the royal chief stocks of Hawaii whose genealogies were chanted in males a thousand years before written speech was acquired... Continue reading book >>

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