S WE APPROACHED Molokai I found that the slow work of centuries had nearly covered its lava with verdure. At dawn we were opposite Kalaupapa. Two little spired churches, looking precisely alike, caught my eye first, and around them were dotted the white cottages of the lepers. But the sea was too rough for us to land. The waves dashed against the rocks, and the spray rose fifty feet into the air.
We went on to Kalawao, but were again disappointed; it was too dangerous to disembark. Finally it was decided to put off a boat for a rocky point about a mile and a half distant from the town. Climbing down this point we saw about twenty lepers, and "There is Father Damien!" said our purser; and, slowly moving along the hillside, I saw a dark figure with a large straw hat. He came rather painfully down, and sat near the water-side, and we exchanged friendly signals across the waves while my baggage was being got out of the hold--a long business, owing to the violence of the sea. At last all was ready, and we went swinging across the waves, and finally chose a fit moment for leaping on shore. Father Damien caught me by the hand, and a hearty welcome shone from his kindly face as he helped me up the rock. He immediately called me by my name, "Edward," and said it was "like everything else, a providence," that he had met me at that irregular landing-place, for he had expected the ship to stop at Kalaupapa.
He was now forty-nine years old--a thick-set, strongly built man, with black curly hair and short beard, turning gray. His countenance must have been handsome, with a full, well-curved mouth and a short, straight nose; but he was now a good deal disfigured by leprosy, though not so badly as to make it anything but a pleasure to look at his bright, sensible face. His forehead was swollen and rigid, the eyebrows gone, the nose somewhat sunk, and the ears greatly enlarged. His hands and face looked uneven with a sort of incipient boils, and his body also showed many signs of the disease, but he assured me that he had felt little or no pain since he had tried Dr. Goto's system of hot baths and Japanese medicine. The bathrooms that have been provided by the Government are very nice.
A large wooden box of presents from English friends, had been unshipped with the gurjun oil. It was, however, so large that Father Damien said it would be impossible for his lepers either to land it from the boat or to carry it to Kalawao, and that it must be returned to the steamer and landed on some voyage when the sea was quieter. But I could not give up the pleasure of his enjoyment in its contents, so after some delay it was forced open in the boat, and the things were handed out one by one across the waves. The lepers all came round with their poor marred faces, and the presents were carried home by them and our two selves.
As we ascended the hill on which the village is built Father Damien showed me on our left the chicken farm. The lepers are justly proud of it, and before many days I had a fine fowl sent me for dinner, which, after a little natural timidity, I ate with thankfulness.
On arriving at Kalawao we speedily found ourselves inside the half- finished church which was the darling of his heart. How he enjoyed planning the places where the pictures which I had just brought him should be placed! By the side of this church he showed me the palm- tree under which he lived for some weeks when he first arrived at the settlement, in 1873. His own little four-roomed house almost joins the church.
After dinner we went up the little flight of steps which led to Father Damien's balcony. This was shaded by a honeysuckle in blossom. Some of my happiest times at Molokai were spent in this little balcony, sketching him and listening to what he said. The lepers came up to watch my progress, and it was pleasant to see how happy and at home they were. Their poor faces were often swelled and drawn and distorted, with bloodshot goggle eyes.
I offered to give a photograph of the picture to his brother in Belgium, but he said perhaps it would be better not to do so, as it might pain him to see how he was disfigured. He looked mournfully at my work. "What an ugly face!" he said; "I did not know the disease had made such progress." Looking-glasses are not in great request at Molokai!
While I sketched him he often read his breviary. At other times we talked on subjects that interested us both, especially about the work of the Church Army, and sometimes I sang hymns to him--among others, "Brief life is here our portion," "Art thou weary, art thou languid?" and "Safe home in port." At such times the expression of his face was particularly sweet and tender. One day I asked him if he would like to send a message to Cardinal Manning. He said that it was not for such as he to send a message to so great a dignitary, but after a moment's hesitation he added, "I send my humble respects and thanks." I need scarcely say that he gave himself no airs of martyr, saint, or hero--a humbler man I never saw. He smiled modestly and deprecatingly when I gave him the Bishop of Peterborough's message--"He won't accept the blessing of a heretic bishop, but tell him that he has my prayers, and ask him to give me his." "Does he call himself a heretic bishop?" he asked doubtfully, and I had to explain that the bishop had probably used the term playfully.
One day he told me about his early history. He was born on the 3rd of January, 1841, near Louvain in Belgium. On his nineteenth birthday his father took him to see his brother, who was then preparing for the priesthood, and he left him there to dine, while he himself went on to the neighbouring town. Young Joseph (this was his baptismal name) decided that there was the opportunity for taking the step which he had long been desiring to take, and when his father came back he told him that he wished to return home no more, and that it would be better thus to miss the pain of farewells. His father consented unwillingly, but, as he was obliged to hurry to the conveyance which was to take him home, there was no time for demur, and they parted at the station. Afterward, when all was settled, Joseph revisited his home, and received his mother's approval and blessing.
His brother was bent on going to the South Seas for mission work, and all was arranged accordingly; but at the last he was laid low with fever, and, to his bitter disappointment, forbidden to go. The impetuous Joseph asked if it would be a consolation to his brother if he were to go instead, and, receiving an affirmative answer, he wrote surreptitiously, offering himself, and begging that he might be sent, though his education was not yet finished. The students were not allowed to send out letters till they had been submitted to the Superior, but Joseph ventured to disobey.
One day, as he sat at his studies, the Superior came in, and said, with a tender reproach, "Oh, you impatient boy! you have written this letter, and you are to go."
Joseph jumped up, and ran out, and leaped about like a young colt.
"Is he crazy?" said the other students.