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Chapter four

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Gibson, waiting impatiently for the laborious scientific experi­menter Eduard Arning to bring forth his proofs from Keanu, the murderer, and his other, nonhuman, laboratory subjects, was more than ready to give a well-recommended practical healer the chance to demonstrate his skills. Toward the end of 1885, Masanao Coto arrived to work on contract with the Board of Health at Kakaako. At least one haole influential at Honolulu, Charles McEwen Hyde, was upset by this incursion of the Oriental into what had been a Western preserve of well-intentioned medicine. But Damien, who had the strongest of personal interests in the efficacy of treatment, was optimistic in advance about Coto's work. Having, as he said, fairly much lost faith in European physi­cians, he presented himself at Kakaako, and took with enthusiasm to Goto's daily round of medicaments and baths: as he described it, two immersions daily in hot water containing a''certain quan­tity" of Japanese medicine; °a grain of little pills" after each meal,


and one hour later "an ounce of a certain decoction or tisane made from Japanese tree bark."

Damien, bringing his enthusiasm back to Kalawao, planned to introduce the Goto treatment there. He wrote immediately to the Board of Health, asking for "50 boxes of Kai Gio Kioso Yoku Yaku —bath medicine, 5o boxes of Sei Kets-uren pills, 5o packages of Decoction Hichiyon bark, to pound of Bicarb Sodium." And two weeks later, he submitted to Gibson a long letter which he called, in English, "a few propositions which I make after a careful study of the japonaise treatment." It was actually nothing less than a plan for a Coto "complex," accompanied by a set of drawings for a "regular hospital," on the "beautiful sloping plain directly east of my house"; with a boiler room, two bathhouses, a dining room, a cookhouse, six dormitories, and a manager's house with a dispen­sary.

This was the quintessential Damien, seized as always with an enthusiasm for service among the victims of leprosy, seeing a way to convert enthusiasm into a plan of action, ready to take the task of implementation upon himself. Something new was added as well: an indication that at this late date he was beginning to be­come aware that the leprosy settlement was not the whole world

or, rather, that he might be able to accomplish more at Kalawao by involving the outside world more. Damien conceded that Gib­son might think his plans expensive; but he argued that after a time the Coto treatment, "by bringing a good number of light cases so far that they may be discharged," would actually diminish the current expenses of the Board of Health. The point, he wrote, winding up his proposal, was to make the Goto complex a first-rate institution. It would be to the honor of His Majesty the King, who suggested it; and to the honor of the Board of Health, for supplying the necessary. Damien had never said anything like that before— perhaps just once, when he politely and formally thanked the Hawaiian monarchy for his decoration in 1881. What had hap­pened since then was that the priest, following his visit to Honolulu in July and his conversations with Gibson and Kalakaua


—after sufficient exposure not only to leprosy but to the politics of leprosy—was learning the rudiments of the art of public relations: how to talk to politicians.

Damien's Coto hospital complex, in all its elaborate usefulness, was never built. Gibson ruled it out as too expensive. But Damien managed, with considerable effort over several months, to get the Got() treatment started, bathhouses, boiler room and all, on a modest scale. He bought empty bread boxes from the settlement store to be used as tubs. Kalawao was short of fuel; he had his Hawaiians go out and cut kukui trees for wood; and he asked Rudolph Meyer to order a ton of coal. One way and another, the boilers were stoked, the water kept hot, and the bathers encour­aged—against the Hawaiian propensity to lose interest in long­term treatment—to turn up day after day for their time in the tubs.

Damien thought he began to see a general improvement in health at the settlement, even a drop in the death rate. As for himself, he was sanguine. After about three months of the Got() treatment, he was writing: "My right hand appears now to be out of danger of becoming crippled.... My system is generally better and with the aid of God—and the treatment I follow—I will pull through" In December, 1886, he spoke of yet further improve­ment. "Six months ago—I was crippled and feeble—saying Mass with difficulty ... today ... I feel strong and robust again." Thanks to "God and the Holy Virgin," of course, but thanks also to the Coto treatment. It was a virtual testimonial letter. And he went on to describe his activities at Christmas, beginning with his medicinal bath at five in the morning on December 24, and con­tinuing with an uninterrupted round of religious exercises until ten in the morning on Christmas Day. This was not the regimen of an enfeebled man.

Damien's occasional confessor, Father Columban Beissel of Maui, saw him every few months, and found him looking and feeling better under the Coto treatment, at least to begin with. But Dr. Arthur Mouritz, not an uncritical admirer of Dr. Goto and


his works, watched the effect of the treatment on Damien well into 1887, and concluded that over the long run it was, if anything, harmful. It did not halt the progress of the disease; and Damien, as usual zealous to excess in anything he took up, tended to overdo the hot baths, Mouritz thought. He was losing a great deal of weight, and some of his strength as well. Mouritz saw him one day after his session at the bathhouse, tottering along, his clothes hang­ing off him like bags.


The news that Damien had caught leprosy became public knowl­edge in the United States early in 1886, and in Europe as well. It was picked up by newspapers in Belgium, and Damien's mother heard it in an embellished form: that her son was already hide­ously diseased, the flesh falling off his bones. Anne-Catherine De Veuster was eighty-three years old; the shock was great; it killed her. She died well and piously, clutching to her heart a picture of the Holy Virgin and a photograph of Damien.

Within a month or two, the news of her passing reached Kala­wao. Damien took it calmly enough. He did not see it as a matter for great grief. He had long since resigned himself to never seeing his mother again on earth; he was sure now, he said, that her holy spirit had gone to its true home.

Later in 1886, stories began to crop up here and there in the European press to the effect that Damien himself had died. Copies made their way to the islands; Bishop Koeckemann sent one of them to Damien in December. Writing to Europe, Damien could say only what was the case: that disease was shortening his journey to heaven, but that he was not yet dead.

Alive, he still needed a confessor. Father Columban Beissel could come to see him once every few months, but Damien needed a colleague who would live at the settlement. In July,1886, just after Damien had got back from his trip to Honolulu, a letter


arrived from Pamphile, proposing to Bishop Koeckemann that he should come out and help his brother. Damien had lately begun to blow hot and cold on that idea: rather a change from the insist­ence of his earlier years that Pamphile somehow owed him his presence. Now he wrote to his older brother that God had ar­ranged for Pamphile to stay at home. It would be best for them both to let religious and ecclesiastical authority decide whether Damien would one day have the pleasure of working with "a brother to whom I am indebted, after Cod, for having been chosen to go on a distant mission." But he put Pamphile's case to the bishop just the same. Koeckemann in turn wrote to Pamphile that all such decisions were in the hands of the father-general alone; and then Koeckemann wrote to Paris saying that he would rather have a good simple man of religion, less learned, than an old scholar like Pamphile. That was as far as the matter went.

So Damien was still alone. At the end of 1886, he wrote to the secretary of the father-general: "Being deprived of the compan­ionship of my colleagues of our dear Congregation is more painful to bear than leprosy."


Pamphile was not the only one to make an offer of help. For the next several years, letters came in quantity, to Damien personally, to his superiors, and to the Board of Health, from all kinds of people: a lady claiming, inaccurately, to be the "only woman" ready to offer her life to the victims of leprosy; a young man "fond of boys''; any number of others. It was hard to distinguish, through the mails, what might constitute a genuine vocation from what might be no more than a dubious long-distance leprophilia. Da- mien's bishop developed a stock response. It was to suggest that the inquirers submit to a novitiate in the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts; or, in the case of women, in the appropriate reli 


gious sisterhood. After that, they could ask to be sent to work in the Hawaiian Islands. Very few of the letter writers were heard from again.

Ira Barnes Dutton arranged things differently. He wrote no letter, but simply appeared in Honolulu one day late in July, 1886, and asked to be allowed to go to work at Kalawao. Walter Murray Gibson interviewed him: "He says he wants to do the will of the 'Blessed Lord' by waiting on lepers.... He may be genuine—but a good deal of cant in hint" Cant or no cant, Dutton got his wish from the Board of Health: an authorization for Kalawao. Ile went ashore at the settlement on July 29.

Damien saw no cant in Dutton. Ife took to him immediately. "Ira B. Dutton is truly an exemplary self devoting man," he wrote to Gibson. "He will be our right hand ... he would be at once my secretary—md cashier—the Bishop not wishing me to handle any money etc. He is a true brother to me."

Arthur Mouritz was at the settlement the day Dutton arrived. The two lunched together, and Mouritz "scanned him carefully." "IIe wore a blue denim shirt, which fitted his well-knit, slim, lithe, muscular figure. He stood about five feet seven inches tall; had dark brown hair and grayish blue eyes; a low voice, placid features, and a pleasant smile. He was reserved and thoughtful, had nothing to say about the reason for seeking seclusion and work at Molokai, and turning his back on the world."

Dutton was forty-three, three years younger than Damien. He had fought in the Civil War, on the Northern side, and had spent the first two years of the peace working among the Union dead, collecting bodies and seeing to their burial in national cemeteries. He married badly; separated from his wife; began to drink heavily and continued for a long time—about a barrel of whiskey a year, he estimated; finally got a divorce; and on his fortieth birthday, in 1883, entered the Catholic Church as a convert, and decided to devote the rest of his life to penance. He spent two years in a Trappist monastery without taking vows; then left, without much in mind; and, quite by accident, found what he had been unknow 


ingly looking for, in an old Catholic newspaper—a "brief item" about Damien.

"It was a new subject and attracted me wonderfully," Dutton recalled long afterward. "After weighing it for a while I became convinced that it would suit my wants—for labor, for a penitential life, and for seclusion as well as complete separation from scenes of all past experiences.... Yet I was not thinking to hide, exactly; it was a good deal the idea of `beginning again.' But the real motive was to do some good for my neighbor and at the same time make it my penitentiary in doing penance for my sins and errors. The only question was, could I get in there and be useful?" Dutton heard about Charles Warren Stoddard, who not long after his visit to Molokai had taken a teaching post at Notre Dame University. "At once, then, I decided to go and see him about (I) how to get to Molokai, and (z) once there, if I could be sure of finding plenty of work. I went; I saw him; and, as expected, I was satisfied as to both questions; so, I set off at once"

Damien called Dutton, unofficially, Brother Joseph; and put him to work at once. Dutton never stopped. He was a totally devoted laborer, extraordinarily industrious, and always calm: preternatu­rally so. No one ever heard him raise his voice or saw him lose his temper. He did all he could, and asked for nothing in return; or perhaps only one thing. "Speaking to him about his works of char­ity," wrote Rudolph Meyer, "he at least three times assured me that his sole object of living was to do all the good he could to these people and to please the Almighty God, & that he constantly prayed and hoped his labors would be acceptable to God and that he could not conceive a greater happiness or blessing if the Almighty God would reward his services by inflicting upon him this (to me) dreadful scourge of Leprosy to enable him to die a Martyr."

Damien built Dutton a one-room house close to his own, near St. Philomena's church and the cemetery. The place suited Dut­ton, just as it suited Damien. "The principal graveyard back of my cabin," wrote Dutton in 1887, long enough after his arrival for him


to know that he would stay, "has about two thousand graves and nearly one thousand are buried elsewhere.... Take it all in all, this is a fine locality for meditation, surrounded by the best symbol of eternity, the boundless ocean."


Another man impressed by Damien's sacrifice was the Reverend Hugh B. Chapman of St. Luke's Church, Camberwell, in London. As soon as he heard through the press that Damien had caught leprosy, Chapman set to work raising money for Kalawao. The vicar of St. Luke's was an energetic man, and a liberal-minded Christian as well. He had the strong feeling that a Christian re­sponse to the example of a life like Damien's ought not to be sectarian. An Anglican himself, he wanted his charitable fund to be supported by Protestants and Catholics alike; and he arranged for the patronage of the leading Catholic prelate of England, Car­dinal Henry Edward Manning, Archbishop of Westminster.

This raised a small storm in the mind of one convinced Protes­tant in London, who attacked Chapman in print for endeavoring to "create sympathy for an idolatrous priest of that abominable religion." In this man's view, all that Damien had done was to make his Hawaiian converts "twofold more children of hell than he is himself." Chapman answered tersely: "Your letter is a very wicked one, though I excuse it on the grounds of its utter folly. Go and do thou likewise." His opponent replied that Scripture did not require him to. "Lepers" were to be kept apart. The Bible said so. Leprosy was "a prominent mark of God's displeasure." To go and do likewise, then, would be "utterly at a variance alike with any man's moral or religious obligation." Even if there was a duty to "do good unto all men," in no case was it enjoined by God "that our lives should be sacrificed, as all men were born for His glory. Life is given to us to preserve to that end."

This argument raised echoes of the discussion that had taken


place in Honolulu in 1873: the responsibilities of the Christian; sectarianism and the nature of charity; the rights and wrongs of embracing the "leper"—in short, whether to touch or not to touch. Chapman wrote at the end of it all that a life such as Damien's "makes one's own appear very easy and selfish, and I consider it an honour to lay the slightest offering at the feet of the man who is brave enough to lead it." Late in 1886, he sent Damien a check for £975; and three times in the next three years he raised and sent more money, a total of £2,625, an amount equal to several months of Board of I-Iealth appropriations for Kalawao.

Chapman was by no means the first to raise charity money for Damien. There had been those well-disposed Honolulu business­men who got up a subscription for him in 1873; his first house had been paid for by charity; small sums of money came from Europe from time to time; the Sacred Hearts Sisters in Honolulu collected gifts for him; and of course Queen Kapiolani had arranged in 1884 for gifts to be sent to Kalawao.

Still, there was clearly something new and different about Chap- man's fund-raising in London in 1886. For one thing, it was highly public: even the Times gave Chapman generous space. For an­other, the sums of money involved were much bigger than before, no doubt because the knowledge of Damien's disease opened up the consciences of those who led "very easy and selfish lives" to be more readily and deeply pricked.

There was one more thing. Damien was being portrayed as a figure of unmatchable heroic self-sacrifice; and this was an evalua­tion with which only the most unreasonable of sectarian Protes­tants would be expected to disagree. But then, out of the need to make total moral contrasts, the heroic self-sacrifice of Damien was held to have been made necessary by the dreadful delinquencies of others in the Hawaiian kingdom. In the "romance of sacrifice," the presence of a hero required the presence of a villain. And it was not enough for leprosy itself to be the villain; there had to be a human villain. Better still, many villains.

In the foreground, the horrible beauty of a single diseased


figure; in the background, the horrible ugliness of comfortable negligence—it made an instructive picture, good food for edifying thought, useful for the encouragement of charity at a distance. Out of all this came the conclusion that if Damien needed charity money to carry on his work, then obviously the government of the Hawaiian kingdom must have been shirking its responsibilities.

The government—meaning Walter Murray Gibson—responded with a kind of aggrieved aggressiveness. Gibson would have held that, under his leadership as premier and as president of the Board of Health, the kingdom was doing everything possible in the mat­ter of leprosy, and more. Look at the appointment of Eduard Arning; look at the hiring of Masanao Goto; look at the biennial legislative appropriation of $100,000. Gibson had always made a point of holding all this worthiness up to approving view: it was part of his political stock-in-trade. As he said, he wanted Hawaii to be known as pre-eminent in Oceania for philanthropy. Yet now, on the other side of the world, in England, Gibson was being made the villain so that people would give more money to Damien the hero. It was too much.

Gibson took to the columns of his editorial mouthpiece in Honolulu, the daily Pacific Commercial Advertiser. He was defen­sive and aggressive at the same time, pitting the record of the government and its money against that of the priest and his money. A good many people, said the Advertiser, would be sur­prised at Damien's published assertion that the sufferers of Kala­wao needed charity money to buy clothes. Yet there was "no mistaking" Damien's meaning. What he said

formulated a serious charge of neglect against the Board of Health. .. It concerns the honor and humanity of the nation. No one ever suggested that the appropriation for the care of lepers should be curtailed. The money asked for by Ministers was freely voted, and its expenditure is entirely at the discretion of the Board of Health. Were it not that Father Damien makes the statement we could not for an instant credit the truth of such an imputation; and, to be candid about it, we are still in doubt regarding this matter.... The public, however,


want to know all about this Father Damien fund expenditure, and the necessity therefor. Let us have all the facts without reserve or dimi­nution, and then a correct judgment may be formed regarding them.

Leprosy had become political again, and in a more complicated way than ever before. Until this moment, in the spring of 1887, Gibson and the Sacred Hearts had been able to keep up a sort of working agreement. Now Damien and his disease and the embar­rassing charity of foreigners seemed about to bring down the deli­cate alliance.

And at the worst possible moment. Whether or not Gibson was really delinquent about leprosy—and his enemies would not have quarreled with the size of the legislative appropriation, only with the maladministration of the segregation program—the govern­ment was in trouble on many fronts. There was a huge rise in the national debt; an unhealthy alliance between Gibson, King Kala­kaua, and the millionaire businessman Claus Spreckels, who seemed able to buy his way to unlimited power and privilege in the kingdom; and a juicy scandal about the awarding of an opium- selling monopoly, which involved the taking of bribes, and which reached into the palace itself. It was possible, and becoming more likely every day in 1887, that the Gibson regime would fall. And if it did, the Minister of Everything, the Catholics' only friend in power, would be gone.


Bishop Koeckemann and Father Fouesnel could not regard this situation with any equanimity. In fact, it upset them greatly. In their agitation they looked for someone to blame, and chose Damien. He, or what he had done, or what had been done in his name, had become an embarrassment to the government; and this in turn unsettled the Sacred Hearts mission. By the beginning of 1887, Damien, marked by leprosy, confined at Kalawao, and irre­versibly on the way to death, was being lauded as a hero in the


outside world and yet condemned at the same time by his superi­ors at Honolulu as an incorrigible troublemaker.

In the early years of his ministry, Damien's relations with his superiors had been cordial enough. Bishop. Maigret had liked him, and spoke well of him; and if the old provincial, Father Modeste Favens, and his vice-provincial, Father Régis Moncany, had had to chide him once or twice for his impetuosity, the criticism was never turned into anything like an indictment. When, in Maigret's old age, Koeckemann became the active leader of the mission, and Fouesnel became vice-provincial following Moncany, Damien fared less well. The unhappy affair of André Burgerman dated from the earlier regime; but it was Koeckemann and Fouesnel who first sent Albert Montiton to Kalawao and then allowed him to leave. And, as it turned out, in the opinion of Damien's new ecclesiastical and religious superiors there was not much to choose between those three priests of Molokai, the two who came and went, the one who stayed—there was official talk of stubbornness, self-centeredness, unmanageability equally distributed. By 1883, Damien was writing in distress that he did not realize he had fallen so low in the esteem of his superiors.

In the complicated situation that developed over Damien, there were still other complications. One sprang from the fact that there were disagreements within the mission over the quality of the new leadership. Father Fouesnel in particular was disliked by a good number of the priests and brothers who had to answer to him as vice-provincial and later as provincial. Even Koeckemann, who was Fouesnel's friend, and who depended on him greatly, recog­nized a number of defects in him: Fouesnel was perhaps too indul­gent of himself; he enjoyed his food and drink too much; he rode about Honolulu in an elaborate carriage; he did not take part wholeheartedly in the communal life of the mission. And at the same time, where others were concerned, he was too harsh, in words and in action, unwilling to "sweeten any pills." Koeck­emann tried always, he said, to dilute the harshness, to put a little water in Fouesnel's wine. Koeckemann himself, as bishop, was

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