When Alice Told her Soul
by Jack London
This, of Alice Akana, is an affair of Hawaii, not of this day, but of days recent enough, when Abel Ah Yo preached his famous revival in Honolulu and persuaded Alice Akana to tell her soul. But what Alice told concerned itself with the earlier history of the then surviving generation.
For Alice Akana was fifty years old, had begun life early, and, early and late, lived it spaciously. What she knew went back into the roots and foundations of families, businesses, and plantations. She was the one living repository of accurate information that lawyers sought out, whether the information they required related to land-boundaries and land gifts, or to marriages, births, bequests, or scandals. Rarely, because of the tight tongue she kept behind her teeth, did she give them what they asked; and when she did was when only equity was served and no one was hurt.
For Alice had lived, from early in her girlhood, a life of flowers, and song, and wine, and dance; and, in her later years, had herself been mistress of these revels by office of mistress of the hula house. In such atmosphere, where mandates of God and man and caution are inhibited, and where woozled tongues will wag, she acquired her historical knowledge of things never otherwise whispered and rarely guessed. And her tight tongue had served her well, so that, while the old-timers knew she must know, none ever heard her gossip of the times of Kalakaua’s boathouse, nor of the high times of officers of visiting warships, nor of the diplomats and ministers and councils of the countries of the world.
So, at fifty, loaded with historical dynamite sufficient, if it were ever exploded, to shake the social and commercial life of the Islands, still tight of tongue, Alice Akana was mistress of the hula house, manageress of the dancing girls who hula’d for royalty, for luaus (feasts), house-parties, poi suppers, and curious tourists. And, at fifty, she was not merely buxom, but short and fat in the Polynesian peasant way, with a constitution and lack of organic weakness that promised incalculable years. But it was at fifty that she strayed, quite by chance of time and curiosity, into Abel Ah Yo’s revival meeting.
Now Abel Ah Yo, in his theology and word wizardry, was as much mixed a personage as Billy Sunday. In his genealogy he was much more mixed, for he was compounded of one-fourth Portuguese, one- fourth Scotch, one-fourth Hawaiian, and one-fourth Chinese. The Pentecostal fire he flamed forth was hotter and more variegated than could any one of the four races of him alone have flamed forth. For in him were gathered together the cannyness and the cunning, the wit and the wisdom, the subtlety and the rawness, the passion and the philosophy, the agonizing spirit-groping and he legs up to the knees in the dung of reality, of the four radically different breeds that contributed to the sum of him. His, also, was the clever self-deceivement of the entire clever compound.
When it came to word wizardry, he had Billy Sunday, master of slang and argot of one language, skinned by miles. For in Abel Ah Yo were the five verbs, and nouns, and adjectives, and metaphors of four living languages. Intermixed and living promiscuously and vitally together, he possessed in these languages a reservoir of expression in which a myriad Billy Sundays could drown. Of no race, a mongrel par excellence, a heterogeneous scrabble, the genius of the admixture was superlatively Abel Ah Yo’s. Like a chameleon, he titubated and scintillated grandly between the diverse parts of him, stunning by frontal attack and surprising and confouding by flanking sweeps the mental homogeneity of the more simply constituted souls who came in to his revival to sit under him and flame to his flaming.
Abel Ah Yo believed in himself and his mixedness, as he believed in the mixedness of his weird concept that God looked as much like him as like any man, being no mere tribal god, but a world god that must look equally like all races of all the world, even if it led to piebaldness. And the concept worked. Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Hawaiian, Porto Rican, Russian, English, French–members of all races–knelt without friction, side by side, to his revision of deity.
Himself in his tender youth an apostate to the Church of England, Abel Ah Yo had for years suffered the lively sense of being a Judas sinner. Essentially religious, he had foresworn the Lord. Like Judas therefore he was. Judas was damned. Wherefore he, Abel Ah Yo, was damned; and he did not want to be damned. So, quite after the manner of humans, he squirmed and twisted to escape damnation. The day came when he solved his escape. The doctrine that Judas was damned, he concluded, was a misinterpretation of God, who, above all things, stood for justice. Judas had been God’s servant, specially selected to perform a particularly nasty job. Therefore Judas, ever faithful, a betrayer only by divine command, was a saint. Ergo, he, Abel Ah Yo, was a saint by very virtue of his apostasy to a particular sect, and he could have access with clear grace any time to God.
This theory became one of the major tenets of his preaching, and was especially efficacious in cleansing the consciences of the back-sliders from all other faiths who else, in the secrecy of their subconscious selves, were being crushed by the weight of the Judas sin. To Abel Ah Yo, God’s plan was as clear as if he, Abel Ah Yo, had planned it himself. All would be saved in the end, although some took longer than others, and would win only to backseats. Man’s place in the ever-fluxing chaos of the world was definite and pre-ordained–if by no other token, then by denial that there was any ever-fluxing chaos. This was a mere bugbear of mankind’s addled fancy; and, by stinging audacities of thought and speech, by vivid slang that bit home by sheerest intimacy into his listeners’ mental processes, he drove the bugbear from their brains, showed them the loving clarity of God’s design, and, thereby, induced in them spiritual serenity and calm.
What chance had Alice Akana, herself pure and homogeneous Hawaiian, against his subtle, democratic-tinged, four-race-engendered, slang- munitioned attack? He knew, by contact, almost as much as she about the waywardness of living and sinning–having been singing boy on the passenger-ships between Hawaii and California, and, after that, bar boy, afloat and ashore, from the Barbary Coast to Heinie’s Tavern. In point of fact, he had left his job of Number One Bar Boy at the University Club to embark on his great preachment revival.
So, when Alice Akana strayed in to scoff, she remained to pray to Abel Ah Yo’s god, who struck her hard-headed mind as the most sensible god of which she had ever heard. She gave money into Abel Ah Yo’s collection plate, closed up the hula house, and dismissed the hula dancers to more devious ways of earning a livelihood, shed her bright colours and raiments and flower garlands, and bought a Bible.
It was a time of religious excitement in the purlieus of Honolulu. The thing was a democratic movement of the people toward God. Place and caste were invited, but never came. The stupid lowly, and the humble lowly, only, went down on its knees at the penitent form, admitted its pathological weight and hurt of sin, eliminated and purged all its bafflements, and walked forth again upright under the sun, child-like and pure, upborne by Abel Ah Yo’s god’s arm around it. In short, Abel Ah Yo’s revival was a clearing house for sin and sickness of spirit, wherein sinners were relieved of their burdens and made light and bright and spiritually healthy again.
But Alice was not happy. She had not been cleared. She bought and dispersed Bibles, contributed more money to the plate, contralto’d gloriously in all the hymns, but would not tell her soul. In vain Abel Ah Yo wrestled with her. She would not go down on her knees at the penitent form and voice the things of tarnish within her– the ill things of good friends of the old days. “You cannot serve two masters,” Abel Ah Yo told her. “Hell is full of those who have tried. Single of heart and pure of heart must you make your peace with God. Not until you tell your soul to God right out in meeting will you be ready for redemption. In the meantime you will suffer the canker of the sin you carry about within you.”
Scientifically, though he did not know it and though he continually jeered at science, Abel Ah Yo was right. Not could she be again as a child and become radiantly clad in God’s grace, until she had eliminated from her soul, by telling, all the sophistications that had been hers, including those she shared with others. In the Protestant way, she must bare her soul in public, as in the Catholic way it was done in the privacy of the confessional. The result of such baring would be unity, tranquillity, happiness, cleansing, redemption, and immortal life.
“Choose!” Abel Ah Yo thundered. “Loyalty to God, or loyalty to man.” And Alice could not choose. Too long had she kept her tongue locked with the honour of man. “I will tell all my soul about myself,” she contended. “God knows I am tired of my soul and should like to have it clean and shining once again as when I was a little girl at Kaneohe–“
“But all the corruption of your soul has been with other souls,” was Abel Ah Yo’s invariable reply. “When you have a burden, lay it down. You cannot bear a burden and be quit of it at the same time.”
“I will pray to God each day, and many times each day,” she urged. “I will approach God with humility, with sighs and with tears. I will contribute often to the plate, and I will buy Bibles, Bibles, Bibles without end.”
“And God will not smile upon you,” God’s mouthpiece retorted. “And you will remain weary and heavy-laden. For you will not have told all your sin, and not until you have told all will you be rid of any.”
“This rebirth is difficult,” Alice sighed.
“Rebirth is even more difficult than birth.” Abel Ah Yo did anything but comfort her. “‘Not until you become as a little child . . . ‘”
“If ever I tell my soul, it will be a big telling,” she confided.
“The bigger the reason to tell it then.”
And so the situation remained at deadlock, Abel Ah Yo demanding absolute allegiance to God, and Alice Akana flirting on the fringes of paradise.
“You bet it will be a big telling, if Alice ever begins,” the beach-combing and disreputable kamaainas (old-timers) gleefully told one another over their Palm Tree gin.
In the clubs the possibility of her telling was of more moment. The younger generation of men announced that they had applied for front seats at the telling, while many of the older generation of men joked hollowly about the conversion of Alice. Further, Alice found herself abruptly popular with friends who had forgotten her existence for twenty years.
One afternoon, as Alice, Bible in hand, was taking the electric street car at Hotel and Fort, Cyrus Hodge, sugar factor and magnate, ordered his chauffeur to stop beside her. Willy nilly, in excess of friendliness, he had her into his limousine beside him and went three-quarters of an hour out of his way and time personally to conduct her to her destination.
“Good for sore eyes to see you,” he burbled. “How the years fly! You’re looking fine. The secret of youth is yours.”
Alice smiled and complimented in return in the royal Polynesian way of friendliness.
“My, my,” Cyrus Hodge reminisced. “I was such a boy in those days!”
“SOME boy,” she laughed acquiescence.
“But knowing no more than the foolishness of a boy in those long- ago days.”
“Remember the night your hack-driver got drunk and left you–“
“S-s-sh!” he cautioned. “That Jap driver is a high-school graduate and knows more English than either of us. Also, I think he is a spy for his Government. So why should we tell him anything? Besides, I was so very young. You remember . . . “
“Your cheeks were like the peaches we used to grow before the Mediterranean fruit fly got into them,” Alice agreed. “I don’t think you shaved more than once a week then. You were a pretty boy. Don’t you remember the hula we composed in your honour, the–“
“S-s-sh!” he hushed her. “All that’s buried and forgotten. May it remain forgotten.”
And she was aware that in his eyes was no longer any of the ingenuousness of youth she remembered. Instead, his eyes were keen and speculative, searching into her for some assurance that she would not resurrect his particular portion of that buried past.
“Religion is a good thing for us as we get along into middle age,” another old friend told her. He was building a magnificent house on Pacific Heights, but had recently married a second time, and was even then on his way to the steamer to welcome home his two daughters just graduated from Vassar. “We need religion in our old age, Alice. It softens, makes us more tolerant and forgiving of the weaknesses of others–especially the weaknesses of youth of–of others, when they played high and low and didn’t know what they were doing.”
He waited anxiously.
“Yes,” she said. “We are all born to sin and it is hard to grow out of sin. But I grow, I grow.”
“Don’t forget, Alice, in those other days I always played square. You and I never had a falling out.”
“Not even the night you gave that luau when you were twenty-one and insisted on breaking the glassware after every toast. But of course you paid for it.”
“Handsomely,” he asserted almost pleadingly.
“Handsomely,” she agreed. “I replaced more than double the quantity with what you paid me, so that at the next luau I catered one hundred and twenty plates without having to rent or borrow a dish or glass. Lord Mainweather gave that luau–you remember him.”
“I was pig-sticking with him at Mana,” the other nodded. “We were at a two weeks’ house-party there. But say, Alice, as you know, I think this religion stuff is all right and better than all right. But don’t let it carry you off your feet. And don’t get to telling your soul on me. What would my daughters think of that broken glassware!”
“I always did have an aloha” (warm regard) “for you, Alice,” a member of the Senate, fat and bald-headed, assured her.
And another, a lawyer and a grandfather: “We were always friends, Alice. And remember, any legal advice or handling of business you may require, I’ll do for you gladly, and without fees, for the sake of our old-time friendship.”
Came a banker to her late Christmas Eve, with formidable, legal- looking envelopes in his hand which he presented to her.
“Quite by chance,” he explained, “when my people were looking up land-records in Iapio Valley, I found a mortgage of two thousand on your holdings there–that rice land leased to Ah Chin. And my mind drifted back to the past when we were all young together, and wild- -a bit wild, to be sure. And my heart warmed with the memory of you, and, so, just as an aloha, here’s the whole thing cleared off for you.”
Nor was Alice forgotten by her own people. Her house became a Mecca for native men and women, usually performing pilgrimage privily after darkness fell, with presents always in their hands– squid fresh from the reef, opihis and limu, baskets of alligator pears, roasting corn of the earliest from windward Cahu, mangoes and star-apples, taro pink and royal of the finest selection, sucking pigs, banana poi, breadfruit, and crabs caught the very day from Pearl Harbour. Mary Mendana, wife of the Portuguese Consul, remembered her with a five-dollar box of candy and a mandarin coat that would have fetched three-quarters of a hundred dollars at a fire sale. And Elvira Miyahara Makaena Yin Wap, the wife of Yin Wap the wealthy Chinese importer, brought personally to Alice two entire bolts of pina cloth from the Philippines and a dozen pairs of silk stockings.
The time passed, and Abel Ah Yo struggled with Alice for a properly penitent heart, and Alice struggled with herself for her soul, while half of Honolulu wickedly or apprehensively hung on the outcome. Carnival week was over, polo and the races had come and gone, and the celebration of Fourth of July was ripening, ere Abel Ah Yo beat down by brutal psychology the citadel of her reluctance. It was then that he gave his famous exhortation which might be summed up as Abel Ah Yo’s definition of eternity. Of course, like Billy Sunday on certain occasions, Abel Ah Yo had cribbed the definition. But no one in the Islands knew it, and his rating as a revivalist uprose a hundred per cent.
So successful was his preaching that night, that he reconverted many of his converts, who fell and moaned about the penitent form and crowded for room amongst scores of new converts burnt by the pentecostal fire, including half a company of negro soldiers from the garrisoned Twenty-Fifth Infantry, a dozen troopers from the Fourth Cavalry on its way to the Philippines, as many drunken man- of-war’s men, divers ladies from Iwilei, and half the riff-raff of the beach.
Abel Ah Yo, subtly sympathetic himself by virtue of his racial admixture, knowing human nature like a book and Alice Akana even more so, knew just what he was doing when he arose that memorable night and exposited God, hell, and eternity in terms of Alice Akana’s comprehension. For, quite by chance, he had discovered her cardinal weakness. First of all, like all Polynesians, an ardent lover of nature, he found that earthquake and volcanic eruption were the things of which Alice lived in terror. She had been, in the past, on the Big Island, through cataclysms that had slacken grass houses down upon her while she slept, and she had beheld Madame Pele (the Fire or Volcano Goddess) fling red-fluxing lava down the long slopes of Mauna Loa, destroying fish-ponds on the sea-brim and licking up droves of beef cattle, villages, and humans on her fiery way.
The night before, a slight earthquake had shaken Honolulu and given Alice Akana insomnia. And the morning papers had stated that Mauna Kea had broken into eruption, while the lava was rising rapidly in the great pit of Kilauea. So, at the meeting, her mind vexed between the terrors of this world and the delights of the eternal world to come, Alice sat down in a front seat in a very definite state of the “jumps.”
And Abel Ah Yo arose and put his finger on the sorest part of her soul. Sketching the nature of God in the stereotyped way, but making the stereotyped alive again with his gift of tongues in Pidgin-English and Pidgin-Hawaiian, Abel Ah Yo described the day when the Lord, even His infinite patience at an end, would tell Peter to close his day book and ledgers, command Gabriel to summon all souls to Judgment, and cry out with a voice of thunder: “Welakahao!”
This anthromorphic deity of Abel Ah Yo thundering the modern Hawaiian-English slang of welakahao at the end of the world, is a fair sample of the revivalist’s speech-tools of discourse. Welakahao means literally “hot iron.” It was coined in the Honolulu Iron-works by the hundreds of Hawaiian men there employed, who meant by it “to hustle,” “to get a move on,” the iron being hot meaning that the time had come to strike.
“And the Lord cried ‘Welakahao,’ and the Day of Judgment began and was over wiki-wiki” (quickly) “just like that; for Peter was a better bookkeeper than any on the Waterhouse Trust Company Limited, and, further, Peter’s books were true.”
Swiftly Abel Ah Yo divided the sheep from the goats, and hastened the latter down into hell.
“And now,” he demanded, perforce his language on these pages being properly Englished, “what is hell like? Oh, my friends, let me describe to you, in a little way, what I have beheld with my own eves on earth of the possibilities of hell. I was a young man, a boy, and I was at Hilo. Morning began with earthquakes. Throughout the day the mighty land continued to shake and tremble, till strong men became seasick, and women clung to trees to escape falling, and cattle were thrown down off their feet. I beheld myself a young calf so thrown. A night of terror indescribable followed. The land was in motion like a canoe in a Kona gale. There was an infant crushed to death by its fond mother stepping upon it whilst fleeing her falling house.
“The heavens were on fire above us. We read our Bibles by the light of the heavens, and the print was fine, even for young eyes. Those missionary Bibles were always too small of print. Forty miles away from us, the heart of hell burst from the lofty mountains and gushed red-blood of fire-melted rock toward the sea. With the heavens in vast conflagration and the earth hulaing beneath our feet, was a scene too awful and too majestic to be enjoyed. We could think only of the thin bubble-skin of earth between us and the everlasting lake of fire and brimstone, and of God to whom we prayed to save us. There were earnest and devout souls who there and then promised their pastors to give not their shaved tithes, but five-tenths of their all to the church, if only the Lord would let them live to contribute.
“Oh, my friends, God saved us. But first he showed us a foretaste of that hell that will yawn for us on the last day, when he cries ‘Welakahao!’ in a voice of thunder. When the iron is hot! Think of it! When the iron is hot for sinners!
“By the third day, things being much quieter, my friend the preacher and I, being calm in the hand of God, journeyed up Mauna Loa and gazed into the awful pit of Kilauea. We gazed down into the fathomless abyss to the lake of fire far below, roaring and dashing its fiery spray into billows and fountaining hundreds of feet into the air like Fourth of July fireworks you have all seen, and all the while we were suffocating and made dizzy by the immense volumes of smoke and brimstone ascending.
“And I say unto you, no pious person could gaze down upon that scene without recognizing fully the Bible picture of the Pit of Hell. Believe me, the writers of the New Testament had nothing on us. As for me, my eyes were fixed upon the exhibition before me, and I stood mute and trembling under a sense never before so fully realized of the power, the majesty, and terror of Almighty God–the resources of His wrath, and the untold horrors of the finally impenitent who do not tell their souls and make their peace with the Creator.
“But oh, my friends, think you our guides, our native attendants, deep-sunk in heathenism, were affected by such a scene? No. The devil’s hand was upon them. Utterly regardless and unimpressed, they were only careful about their supper, chatted about their raw fish, and stretched themselves upon their mats to sleep. Children of the devil they were, insensible to the beauties, the sublimities, and the awful terror of God’s works. But you are not heathen I now address. What is a heathen? He is one who betrays a stupid insensibility to every elevated idea and to every elevated emotion. If you wish to awaken his attention, do not bid him to look down into the Pit of Hell. But present him with a calabash of poi, a raw fish, or invite him to some low, grovelling, and sensuous sport. Oh, my friends, how lost are they to all that elevates the immortal soul! But the preacher and I, sad and sick at heart for them, gazed down into hell. Oh, my friends, it WAS hell, the hell of the Scriptures, the hell of eternal torment for the undeserving . . . “
Alice Akana was in an ecstasy or hysteria of terror. She was mumbling incoherently: “O Lord, I will give nine-tenths of my all. I will give all. I will give even the two bolts of pina cloth, the mandarin coat, and the entire dozen silk stockings . . . “
By the time she could lend ear again, Abel Ah Yo was launching out on his famous definition of eternity.
“Eternity is a long time, my friends. God lives, and, therefore, God lives inside eternity. And God is very old. The fires of hell are as old and as everlasting as God. How else could there be everlasting torment for those sinners cast down by God into the Pit on the Last Day to burn for ever and for ever through all eternity? Oh, my friends, your minds are small–too small to grasp eternity. Yet is it given to me, by God’s grace, to convey to you an understanding of a tiny bit of eternity.
“The grains of sand on the beach of Waikiki are as many as the stars, and more. No man may count them. Did he have a million lives in which to count them, he would have to ask for more time. Now let us consider a little, dinky, old minah bird with one broken wing that cannot fly. At Waikiki the minah bird that cannot fly takes one grain of sand in its beak and hops, hops, all day lone and for many days, all the day to Pearl Harbour and drops that one grain of sand into the harbour. Then it hops, hops, all day and for many days, all the way back to Waikiki for another grain of sand. And again it hops, hops all the way back to Pearl Harbour. And it continues to do this through the years and centuries, and the thousands and thousands of centuries, until, at last, there remains not one grain of sand at Waikiki and Pearl Harbour is filled up with land and growing coconuts and pine-apples. And then, oh my friends, even then, IT WOULD NOT YET BE SUNRISE IN HELL!
Here, at the smashing impact of so abrupt a climax, unable to withstand the sheer simplicity and objectivity of such artful measurement of a trifle of eternity, Alice Akana’s mind broke down and blew up. She uprose, reeled blindly, and stumbled to her knees at the penitent form. Abel Ah Yo had not finished his preaching, but it was his gift to know crowd psychology, and to feel the heat of the pentecostal conflagration that scorched his audience. He called for a rousing revival hymn from his singers, and stepped down to wade among the hallelujah-shouting negro soldiers to Alice Akana. And, ere the excitement began to ebb, nine-tenths of his congregation and all his converts were down on knees and praying and shouting aloud an immensity of contriteness and sin.
Word came, via telephone, almost simultaneously to the Pacific and University Clubs, that at last Alice was telling her soul in meeting; and, by private machine and taxi-cab, for the first time Abel Ah Yo’s revival was invaded by those of caste and place. The first comers beheld the curious sight of Hawaiian, Chinese, and all variegated racial mixtures of the smelting-pot of Hawaii, men and women, fading out and slinking away through the exits of Abel Ah Yo’s tabernacle. But those who were sneaking out were mostly men, while those who remained were avid-faced as they hung on Alice’s utterance.
Never was a more fearful and damning community narrative enunciated in the entire Pacific, north and south, than that enunciated by Alice Akana; the penitent Phryne of Honolulu.
“Huh!” the first comers heard her saying, having already disposed of most of the venial sins of the lesser ones of her memory. “You think this man, Stephen Makekau, is the son of Moses Makekau and Minnie Ah Ling, and has a legal right to the two hundred and eight dollars he draws down each month from Parke Richards Limited, for the lease of the fish-pond to Bill Kong at Amana. Not so. Stephen Makekau is not the son of Moses. He is the son of Aaron Kama and Tillie Naone. He was given as a present, as a feeding child, to Moses and Minnie, by Aaron and Tillie. I know. Moses and Minnie and Aaron and Tillie are dead. Yet I know and can prove it. Old Mrs. Poepoe is still alive. I was present when Stephen was born, and in the night-time, when he was two months old, I myself carried him as a present to Moses and Minnie, and old Mrs. Poepoe carried the lantern. This secret has been one of my sins. It has kept me from God. Now I am free of it. Young Archie Makekau, who collects bills for the Gas Company and plays baseball in the afternoons, and drinks too much gin, should get that two hundred and eight dollars the first of each month from Parke Richards Limited. He will blow it in on gin and a Ford automobile. Stephen is a good man. Archie is no good. Also he is a liar, and he has served two sentences on the reef, and was in reform school before that. Yet God demands the truth, and Archie will get the money and make a bad use of it.”
And in such fashion Alice rambled on through the experiences of her long and full-packed life. And women forgot they were in the tabernacle, and men too, and faces darkened with passion as they learned for the first time the long-buried secrets of their other halves.
“The lawyers’ offices will be crowded to-morrow morning,” MacIlwaine, chief of detectives, paused long enough from storing away useful information to lean and mutter in Colonel Stilton’s ear.
Colonel Stilton grinned affirmation, although the chief of detectives could not fail to note the ghastliness of the grin.
“There is a banker in Honolulu. You all know his name. He is ‘way up, swell society because of his wife. He owns much stock in General Plantations and Inter-Island.”
MacIlwaine recognized the growing portrait and forbore to chuckle.
“His name is Colonel Stilton. Last Christmas Eve he came to my house with big aloha” (love) “and gave me mortgages on my land in Iapio Valley, all cancelled, for two thousand dollars’ worth. Now why did he have such big cash aloha for me? I will tell you . . .”
And tell she did, throwing the searchlight on ancient business transactions and political deals which from their inception had lurked in the dark.
“This,” Alice concluded the episode, “has long been a sin upon my conscience, and kept my heart from God.
“And Harold Miles was that time President of the Senate, and next week he bought three town lots at Pearl Harbour, and painted his Honolulu house, and paid up his back dues in his clubs. Also the Ramsay home at Honokiki was left by will to the people if the Government would keep it up. But if the Government, after two years, did not begin to keep it up, then would it go to the Ramsay heirs, whom old Ramsay hated like poison. Well, it went to the heirs all right. Their lawyer was Charley Middleton, and he had me help fix it with the Government men. And their names were . . . ” Six names, from both branches of the Legislature, Alice recited, and added: “Maybe they all painted their houses after that. For the first time have I spoken. My heart is much lighter and softer. It has been coated with an armour of house-paint against the Lord. And there is Harry Werther. He was in the Senate that time. Everybody said bad things about him, and he was never re-elected. Yet his house was not painted. He was honest. To this day his house is not painted, as everybody knows.
“There is Jim Lokendamper. He has a bad heart. I heard him, only last week, right here before you all, tell his soul. He did not tell all his soul, and he lied to God. I am not lying to God. It is a big telling, but I am telling everything. Now Azalea Akau, sitting right over there, is his wife. But Lizzie Lokendamper is his married wife. A long time ago he had the great aloha for Azalea. You think her uncle, who went to California and died, left her by will that two thousand five hundred dollars she got. Her uncle did not. I know. Her uncle cried broke in California, and Jim Lokendamper sent eighty dollars to California to bury him. Jim Lokendamper had a piece of land in Kohala he got from his mother’s aunt. Lizzie, his married wife, did not know this. So he sold it to the Kohala Ditch Company and wave the twenty-five hundred to Azalea Akau–“
Here, Lizzie, the married wife, upstood like a fury long-thwarted, and, in lieu of her husband, already fled, flung herself tooth and nail on Azalea.
“Wait, Lizzie Lokendamper!” Alice cried out. “I have much weight of you on my heart and some house-paint too . . . “
And when she had finished her disclosure of how Lizzie had painted her house, Azalea was up and raging.
“Wait, Azalea Akau. I shall now lighten my heart about you. And it is not house-paint. Jim always paid that. It is your new bath- tub and modern plumbing that is heavy on me . . . “
Worse, much worse, about many and sundry, did Alice Akana have to say, cutting high in business, financial, and social life, as well as low. None was too high nor too low to escape; and not until two in the morning, before an entranced audience that packed the tabernacle to the doors, did she complete her recital of the personal and detailed iniquities she knew of the community in which she had lived intimately all her days. Just as she was finishing, she remembered more.
“Huh!” she sniffed. “I gave last week one lot worth eight hundred dollars cash market price to Abel Ah Yo to pay running expenses and add up in Peter’s books in heaven. Where did I get that lot? You all think Mr. Fleming Jason is a good man. He is more crooked than the entrance was to Pearl Lochs before the United States Government straightened the channel. He has liver disease now; but his sickness is a judgment of God, and he will die crooked. Mr. Fleming Jason gave me that lot twenty-two years ago, when its cash market price was thirty-five dollars. Because his aloha for me was big? No. He never had aloha inside of him except for dollars.
“You listen. Mr. Fleming Jason put a great sin upon me. When Frank Lomiloli was at my house, full of gin, for which gin Mr. Fleming Jason paid me in advance five times over, I got Frank Lomiloli to sign his name to the sale paper of his town land for one hundred dollars. It was worth six hundred then. It is worth twenty thousand now. Maybe you want to know where that town land is. I will tell you and remove it off my heart. It is on King Street, where is now the Come Again Saloon, the Japanese Taxicab Company garage, the Smith & Wilson plumbing shop, and the Ambrosia lee Cream Parlours, with the two more stories big Addison Lodging House overhead. And it is all wood, and always has been well painted. Yesterday they started painting it attain. But that paint will not stand between me and God. There are no more paint pots between me and my path to heaven.”
The morning and evening papers of the day following held an unholy hush on the greatest news story of years; but Honolulu was half a- giggle and half aghast at the whispered reports, not always basely exaggerated, that circulated wherever two Honoluluans chanced to meet.
“Our mistake,” said Colonel Chilton, at the club, “was that we did not, at the very first, appoint a committee of safety to keep track of Alice’s soul.”
Bob Cristy, one of the younger islanders, burst into laughter, so pointed and so loud that the meaning of it was demanded.
“Oh, nothing much,” was his reply. “But I heard, on my way here, that old John Ward had just been run in for drunken and disorderly conduct and for resisting an officer. Now Abel Ah Yo fine- toothcombs the police court. He loves nothing better than soul- snatching a chronic drunkard.”
Colonel Chilton looked at Lask Finneston, and both looked at Gary Wilkinson. He returned to them a similar look.
“The old beachcomber!” Lask Finneston cried. “The drunken old reprobate! I’d forgotten he was alive. Wonderful constitution. Never drew a sober breath except when he was shipwrecked, and, when I remember him, into every deviltry afloat. He must be going on eighty.”
“He isn’t far away from it,” Bob Cristy nodded. “Still beach- combs, drinks when he gets the price, and keeps all his senses, though he’s not spry and has to use glasses when he reads. And his memory is perfect. Now if Abel Ah Yo catches him . . . “
Gary Wilkinson cleared his throat preliminary to speech.
“Now there’s a grand old man,” he said. “A left-over from a forgotten age. Few of his type remain. A pioneer. A true kamaaina” (old-timer). “Helpless and in the hands of the police in his old age! We should do something for him in recognition of his yeoman work in Hawaii. His old home, I happen to know, is Sag Harbour. He hasn’t seen it for over half a century. Now why shouldn’t he be surprised to-morrow morning by having his fine paid, and by being presented with return tickets to Sag Harbour, and, say, expenses for a year’s trip? I move a committee. I appoint Colonel Chilton, Lask Finneston, and . . . and myself. As for chairman, who more appropriate than Lask Finneston, who knew the old gentleman so well in the early days? Since there is no objection, I hereby appoint Lask Finneston chairman of the committee for the purpose of raising and donating money to pay the police-court fine and the expenses of a year’s travel for that noble pioneer, John Ward, in recognition of a lifetime of devotion of energy to the upbuilding of Hawaii.”
There was no dissent.
“The committee will now go into secret session,” said Lask Finneston, arising and indicating the way to the library.
GLEN ELLEN, CALIFORNIA,
August 30, 1916.