One night when a Hawaiian hula was played on the phonograph, she danced alone for us. It was a graceful, insinuating step, with movements of the arms and hands, a rotating of the torso upon the hips, and with a tinge of the savage in it that excited the Swiss, the raw-food advocate. Hallman was also in the social hall, and, after waltzing with her several times, had persuaded her to dance the hula. He clapped his hands loudly and called out:
That is Tahitian for bravo, and I saw a look in Hallman’s face that recalled the story by the Englishman of the jungle trail. He was always intent on his pursuit.
Was I hypercritical? There was Leung Kai Chu with the sharks, and the nature man left behind! The one had lost his dream of returning to Tahiti, in which the Chinese might freely have lived, and the other had thrown away life because he could not enter the America that the other wanted so madly to leave. The lack of a piece of paper had killed him. Was it that happiness was a delusion never to be realized? If the pundit had bribed the immigration authorities, as I had known many to do, he might now have been studying the strange religion and ethics which had caused the whites to steal so much of China, to force opium upon it at the cannon’s mouth, to kill tens of thousands of yellow men, and to raise to dignities the soldiers and financiers whom he despised, as had Confucius and Buddha. And if that white of the sandals had kept his shirt on in Tahiti, he might be lying under his favorite palm and eating breadfruit and bananas.
People have come to be afraid to say or even to think they are happy for a bare hour. We fear that the very saying of it will rob us of happiness. We have incantations to ward off listening devils—knocking on wood, throwing salt over our left shoulders, and saying “God willing.”
What was I to find in Tahiti? Certainly not what Loti had with Rarahu, for that was forty years ago, when the world was young at heart, and romance was a god who might be worshiped with uncensored tongue. But was not romance a spiritual emanation, a state of mind, and not people or scenes? I knew it was, for all over the earth I had pursued it, and found it in the wild flowers of the Sausalito hills in California more than among the gayeties of Paris, the gorges of the Yangtse-Kiang, or in the skull dance of the wild Dyak of Borneo.
The Discovery of Tahiti—Marvelous isles and people—Hailed by a windjammer—Middle of the voyage—Tahiti on the horizon—Ashore in Papeete.