The Bones of Kahekili by Jack London
From over the lofty Koolau Mountains, vagrant wisps of the trade
wind drifted, faintly swaying the great, unwhipped banana leaves,
rustling the palms, and fluttering and setting up a whispering
among the lace-leaved algaroba trees. Only intermittently did the
atmosphere so breathe--for breathing it was, the suspiring of the
languid, Hawaiian afternoon. In the intervals between the soft
breathings, the air grew heavy and balmy with the perfume of
flowers and the exhalations of fat, living soil.
Of humans about the low bungalow-like house, there were many; but
one only of them slept. The rest were on the tense tiptoes of
silence. At the rear of the house a tiny babe piped up a thin
blatting wail that the quickly thrust breast could not appease.
The mother, a slender hapa-haole (half-white), clad in a loose-
flowing holoku of white muslin, hastened away swiftly among the
banana and papaia trees to remove the babe's noise by distance.
Other women, hapa-haole and full native, watched her anxiously as
At the front of the house, on the grass, squatted a score of
Hawaiians. Well-muscled, broad-shouldered, they were all strapping
men. Brown-skinned, with luminous brown eyes and black, their
features large and regular, they showed all the signs of being as
good-natured, merry-hearted, and soft-tempered as the climate. To
all of which a seeming contradiction was given by the ferociousness
of their accoutrement. Into the tops of their rough leather
leggings were thrust long knives, the handles projecting. On their
heels were huge-rowelled Spanish spurs. They had the appearance of
banditti, save for the incongruous wreaths of flowers and fragrant
maile that encircled the crowns of their flopping cowboy hats. One
of them, deliciously and roguishly handsome as a faun, with the
eyes of a faun, wore a flaming double-hibiscus bloom coquettishly
tucked over his ear. Above them, casting a shelter of shade from
the sun, grew a wide-spreading canopy of Ponciana regia, itself a
flame of blossoms, out of each of which sprang pom-poms of feathery
stamens. From far off, muffled by distance, came the faint
stamping of their tethered horses. The eyes of all were intently
fixed upon the solitary sleeper who lay on his back on a lauhala
mat a hundred feet away under the monkey-pod trees.
Large as were the Hawaiian cowboys, the sleeper was larger. Also,
as his snow-white hair and beard attested, he was much older. The
thickness of his wrist and the greatness of his fingers made
authentic the mighty frame of him hidden under loose dungaree pants
and cotton shirt, buttonless, open from midriff to Adam's apple,
exposing a chest matted with a thatch of hair as white as that of
his head and face. The depth and breadth of that chest, its
resilience, and its relaxed and plastic muscles, tokened the knotty
strength that still resided in him. Further, no bronze and beat of
sun and wind availed to hide the testimony of his skin that he was
all haole--a white man.
On his back, his great white beard, thrust skyward, untrimmed of
barbers, stiffened and subsided with every breath, while with the
outblow of every exhalation the white moustache erected
perpendicularly like the quills of a porcupine and subsided with
each intake. A young girl of fourteen, clad only in a single
shift, or muumuu, herself a grand-daughter of the sleeper, crouched
beside him and with a feathered fly-flapper brushed away the flies.
In her face were depicted solicitude, and nervousness, and awe, as
if she attended on a god.
And truly, Hardman Pool, the sleeping whiskery one, was to her, and
to many and sundry, a god--a source of life, a source of food, a
fount of wisdom, a giver of law, a smiling beneficence, a blackness
of thunder and punishment--in short, a man-master whose record was
fourteen living and adult sons and daughters, six great-
grandchildren, and more grandchildren than could he in his most
lucid moments enumerate.
Fifty-one years before, he had landed from an open boat at
Laupahoehoe on the windward coast of Hawaii. The boat was the one
surviving one of the whaler Black Prince of New Bedford. Himself
New Bedford born, twenty years of age, by virtue of his driving
strength and ability he had served as second mate on the lost
whaleship. Coming to Honolulu and casting about for himself, he
had first married Kalama Mamaiopili, next acted as pilot of
Honolulu Harbour, after that started a saloon and boarding house,
and, finally, on the death of Kalama's father, engaged in cattle
ranching on the broad pasture lands she had inherited.
For over half a century he had lived with the Hawaiians, and it was
conceded that he knew their language better than did most of them.
By marrying Kalama, he had married not merely her land, but her own
chief rank, and the fealty owed by the commoners to her by virtue
of her genealogy was also accorded him. In addition, he possessed
of himself all the natural attributes of chiefship: the gigantic
stature, the fearlessness, the pride; and the high hot temper that
could brook no impudence nor insult, that could be neither bullied
nor awed by any utmost magnificence of power that walked on two
legs, and that could compel service of lesser humans, not by any
ignoble purchase by bargaining, but by an unspoken but expected
condescending of largesse. He knew his Hawaiians from the outside
and the in, knew them better than themselves, their Polynesian
circumlocutions, faiths, customs, and mysteries.
And at seventy-one, after a morning in the saddle over the ranges
that began at four o'clock, he lay under the monkey-pods in his
customary and sacred siesta that no retainer dared to break, nor
would dare permit any equal of the great one to break. Only to the
King was such a right accorded, and, as the King had early learned,
to break Hardman Pool's siesta was to gain awake a very irritable
and grumpy Hardman Pool who would talk straight from the shoulder
and say unpleasant but true things that no king would care to hear.
The sun blazed down. The horses stamped remotely. The fading
trade-wind wisps sighed and rustled between longer intervals of
quiescence. The perfume grew heavier. The woman brought back the
babe, quiet again, to the rear of the house. The monkey-pods
folded their leaves and swooned to a siesta of their own in the
soft air above the sleeper. The girl, breathless as ever from the
enormous solemnity of her task, still brushed the flies away; and
the score of cowboys still intently and silently watched.
Hardman Pool awoke. The next out-breath, expected of the long
rhythm, did not take place. Neither did the white, long moustache
rise up. Instead, the cheeks, under the whiskers, puffed; the
eyelids lifted, exposing blue eyes, choleric and fully and
immediately conscious; the right hand went out to the half-smoked
pipe beside him, while the left hand reached the matches.
"Get me my gin and milk," he ordered, in Hawaiian, of the little
maid, who had been startled into a tremble by his awaking.
He lighted the pipe, but gave no sign of awareness of the presence
of his waiting retainers until the tumbler of gin and milk had been
brought and drunk.
"Well?" he demanded abruptly, and in the pause, while twenty faces
wreathed in smiles and twenty pairs of dark eyes glowed luminously
with well-wishing pleasure, he wiped the lingering drops of gin and
milk from his hairy lips. "What are you hanging around for? What
do you want? Come over here."
Twenty giants, most of them young, uprose and with a great clanking
and jangling of spurs and spur-chains strode over to him. They
grouped before him in a semicircle, trying bashfully to wedge their
shoulders, one behind another's, their faces a-grin and apologetic,
and at the same time expressing a casual and unconscious
democraticness. In truth, to them Hardman Pool was more than mere
chief. He was elder brother, or father, or patriarch; and to all
of them he was related, in one way or another, according to
Hawaiian custom, through his wife and through the many marriages of
his children and grandchildren. His slightest frown might perturb
them, his anger terrify them, his command compel them to certain
death; yet, on the other hand, not one of them would have dreamed
of addressing him otherwise than intimately by his first name,
which name, "Hardman," was transmuted by their tongues into Kanaka
At a nod from him, the semicircle seated itself on the manienie
grass, and with further deprecatory smiles waited his pleasure.
"What do you want?" demanded, in Hawaiian, with a brusqueness and
sternness they knew were put on.
They smiled more broadly, and deliciously squirmed their broad
shoulders and great torsos with the appeasingness of so many
wriggling puppies. Hardman Pool singled out one of them.
"Well, Iliiopoi, what do YOU want?"
"Ten dollars, Kanaka Oolea."
"Ten dollars!" Pool cried, in apparent shock at mention of so vast
a sum. "Does it mean you are going to take a second wife?
Remember the missionary teaching. One wife at a time, Iliiopoi;
one wife at a time. For he who entertains a plurality of wives
will surely go to hell."
Giggles and flashings of laughing eyes from all greeted the joke.
"No, Kanaka Oolea," came the reply. "The devil knows I am hard put
to get kow-kow for one wife and her several relations."
"Kow-kow?" Pool repeated the Chinese-introduced word for food which
the Hawaiians had come to substitute for their own paina. "Didn't
you boys get kow-kow here this noon?"
"Yes, Kanaka Oolea," volunteered an old, withered native who had
just joined the group from the direction of the house. "All of
them had kow-kow in the kitchen, and plenty of it. They ate like
lost horses brought down from the lava."
"And what do you want, Kumuhana?" Pool diverted to the old one, at
the same time motioning to the little maid to flap flies from the
other side of him.
"Twelve dollars," said Kumuhana. "I want to buy a Jackass and a
second-hand saddle and bridle. I am growing too old for my legs to
carry me in walking."
"You wait," his haole lord commanded. "I will talk with you about
the matter, and about other things of importance, when I am
finished with the rest and they are gone."
The withered old one nodded and proceeded to light his pipe.
"The kow-kow in the kitchen was good," Iliiopoi resumed, licking
his lips. "The poi was one-finger, the pig fat, the salmon-belly
unstinking, the fish of great freshness and plenty, though the
opihis" (tiny, rock-clinging shell-fish) "had been salted and
thereby made tough. Never should the opihis be salted. Often have
I told you, Kanaka Oolea, that opihis should never be salted. I am
full of good kow-kow. My belly is heavy with it. Yet is my heart
not light of it because there is no kow-kow in my own house, where
is my wife, who is the aunt of your fourth son's second wife, and
where is my baby daughter, and my wife's old mother, and my wife's
old mother's feeding child that is a cripple, and my wife's sister
who lives likewise with us along with her three children, the
father being dead of a wicked dropsy--"
"Will five dollars save all of you from funerals for a day or
several?" Pool testily cut the tale short.
"Yes, Kanaka Oolea, and as well it will buy my wife a new comb and
some tobacco for myself."
From a gold-sack drawn from the hip-pocket of his dungarees,
Hardman Pool drew the gold piece and tossed it accurately into the
To a bachelor who wanted six dollars for new leggings, tobacco, and
spurs, three dollars were given; the same to another who needed a
hat; and to a third, who modestly asked for two dollars, four were
given with a flowery-worded compliment anent his prowess in roping
a recent wild bull from the mountains. They knew, as a rule, that
he cut their requisitions in half, therefore they doubled the size
of their requisitions. And Hardman Pool knew they doubled, and
smiled to himself. It was his way, and, further, it was a very
good way with his multitudinous relatives, and did not reduce his
stature in their esteem.
"And you, Ahuhu?" he demanded of one whose name meant "poison-
"And the price of a pair of dungarees," Ahuhu concluded his list of
needs. "I have ridden much and hard after your cattle, Kanaka
Oolea, and where my dungarees have pressed against the seat of the
saddle there is no seat to my dungarees. It is not well that it be
said that a Kanaka Oolea cowboy, who is also a cousin of Kanaka
Oolea's wife's half-sister, should be shamed to be seen out of the
saddle save that he walks backward from all that behold him."
"The price of a dozen pairs of dungarees be thine, Ahuhu," Hardman
Pool beamed, tossing to him the necessary sum. "I am proud that my
family shares my pride. Afterward, Ahuhu, out of the dozen
dungarees you will give me one, else shall I be compelled to walk
backward, my own and only dungarees being in like manner well worn
And in laughter of love at their haole chief's final sally, all the
sweet-child-minded and physically gorgeous company of them departed
to their waiting horses, save the old withered one, Kumuhana, who
had been bidden to wait.
For a full five minutes they sat in silence. Then Hardman Pool
ordered the little maid to fetch a tumbler of gin and milk, which,
when she brought it, he nodded her to hand to Kumuhana. The glass
did not leave his lips until it was empty, whereon he gave a great
audible out-breath of "A-a-ah," and smacked his lips.
"Much awa have I drunk in my time," he said reflectively. "Yet is
the awa but a common man's drink, while the haole liquor is a drink
for chiefs. The awa has not the liquor's hot willingness, its spur
in the ribs of feeling, its biting alive of oneself that is very
pleasant since it is pleasant to be alive."
Hardman Pool smiled, nodded agreement, and old Kumuhana continued.
"There is a warmingness to it. It warms the belly and the soul.
It warms the heart. Even the soul and the heart grow cold when one
"You ARE old," Pool conceded. "Almost as old as I."
Kumuhana shook his head and murmured. "Were I no older than you I
would be as young as you."
"I am seventy-one," said Pool.
"I do not know ages that way," was the reply. "What happened when
you were born?"
"Let me see," Pool calculated. "This is 1880. Subtract seventy-
one, and it leaves nine. I was born in 1809, which is the year
Keliimakai died, which is the year the Scotchman, Archibald
Campbell, lived in Honolulu."
"Then am I truly older than you, Kanaka Oolea. I remember the
Scotchman well, for I was playing among the grass houses of
Honolulu at the time, and already riding a surf-board in the
wahine" (woman) "surf at Waikiki. I can take you now to the spot
where was the Scotchman's grass house. The Seaman's Mission stands
now on the very ground. Yet do I know when I was born. Often my
grandmother and my mother told me of it. I was born when Madame
Pele" (the Fire Goddess or Volcano Goddess) "became angry with the
people of Paiea because they sacrificed no fish to her from their
fish-pool, and she sent down a flow of lava from Huulalai and
filled up their pond. For ever was the fish-pond of Paiea filled
up. That was when I was born."
"That was in 1801, when James Boyd was building ships for
Kamehameha at Hilo," Pool cast back through the calendar; "which
makes you seventy-nine, or eight years older than I. You are very
"Yes, Kanaka Oolea," muttered Kumuhana, pathetically attempting to
swell his shrunken chest with pride.
"And you are very wise."
"Yes, Kanaka Oolea."
"And you know many of the secret things that are known only to old
"Yes, Kanaka Oolea."
"And then you know--" Hardman Pool broke off, the more effectively
to impress and hypnotize the other ancient with the set stare of
his pale-washed blue eyes. "They say the bones of Kahekili were
taken from their hiding-place and lie to-day in the Royal
Mausoleum. I have heard it whispered that you alone of all living
men truly know."
"I know," was the proud answer. "I alone know."
"Well, do they lie there? Yes or no?"
"Kahekili was an alii" (high chief). "It is from this straight
line that your wife Kalama came. She is an alii." The old
retainer paused and pursed his lean lips in meditation. "I belong
to her, as all my people before me belonged to her people before
her. She only can command the great secrets of me. She is wise,
too wise ever to command me to speak this secret. To you, O Kanaka
Oolea, I do not answer yes, I do not answer no. This is a secret
of the aliis that even the aliis do not know."
"Very good, Kumuhana," Hardman Pool commanded. "Yet do you forget
that I am an alii, and that what my good Kalama does not dare ask,
I command to ask. I can send for her, now, and tell her to command
your answer. But such would be a foolishness unless you prove
yourself doubly foolish. Tell me the secret, and she will never
know. A woman's lips must pour out whatever flows in through her
ears, being so made. I am a man, and man is differently made. As
you well know, my lips suck tight on secrets as a squid sucks to
the salty rock. If you will not tell me alone, then will you tell
Kalama and me together, and her lips will talk, her lips will talk,
so that the latest malahini will shortly know what, otherwise, you
and I alone will know."
Long time Kumuhana sat on in silence, debating the argument and
finding no way to evade the fact-logic of it.
"Great is your haole wisdom," he conceded at last.
"Yes? or no?" Hardman Pool drove home the point of his steel.
Kumuhana looked about him first, then slowly let his eyes come to
rest on the fly-flapping maid.
"Go," Pool commanded her. "And come not back without you hear a
clapping of my hands."
Hardman Pool spoke no further, even after the flapper had
disappeared into the house; yet his face adamantly looked: "Yes or
Again Kumuhana looked carefully about him, and up into the monkey-
pod boughs as if to apprehend a lurking listener. His lips were
very dry. With his tongue he moistened them repeatedly. Twice he
essayed to speak, but was inarticulately husky. And finally, with
bowed head, he whispered, so low and solemnly that Hardman Pool
bent his own head to hear: "No."
Pool clapped his hands, and the little maid ran out of the house to
him in tremulous, fluttery haste.
"Bring a milk and gin for old Kumuhana, here," Pool commanded; and,
to Kumuhana: "Now tell me the whole story."
"Wait," was the answer. "Wait till the little wahine has come and
And when the maid was gone, and the gin and milk had travelled the
way predestined of gin and milk when mixed together, Hardman Pool
waited without further urge for the story. Kumuhana pressed his
hand to his chest and coughed hollowly at intervals, bidding for
encouragement; but in the end, of himself, spoke out.
"It was a terrible thing in the old days when a great alii died.
Kahekili was a great alii. He might have been king had he lived.
Who can tell? I was a young man, not yet married. You know,
Kanaka Oolea, when Kahekili died, and you can tell me how old I
was. He died when Governor Boki ran the Blonde Hotel here in
Honolulu. You have heard?"
"I was still on windward Hawaii," Pool answered. "But I have
heard. Boki made a distillery, and leased Manoa lands to grow
sugar for it, and Kaahumanu, who was regent, cancelled the lease,
rooted out the cane, and planted potatoes. And Boki was angry, and
prepared to make war, and gathered his fighting men, with a dozen
whaleship deserters and five brass six-pounders, out at Waikiki--"
"That was the very time Kahekili died," Kumuhana broke in eagerly.
"You are very wise. You know many things of the old days better
than we old kanakas."
"It was 1829," Pool continued complacently. "You were twenty-eight
years old, and I was twenty, just coming ashore in the open boat
after the burning of the Black Prince."
"I was twenty-eight," Kumuhana resumed. "It sounds right. I
remember well Boki's brass guns at Waikiki. Kahekili died, too, at
the time, at Waikiki. The people to this day believe his bones
were taken to the Hale o Keawe" (mausoleum) "at Honaunau, in Kona--
"And long afterward were brought to the Royal Mausoleum here in
Honolulu," Pool supplemented.
"Also, Kanaka Oolea, there are some who believe to this day that
Queen Alice has them stored with the rest of her ancestral bones in
the big jars in her taboo room. All are wrong. I know. The
sacred bones of Kahekili are gone and for ever gone. They rest
nowhere. They have ceased to be. And many kona winds have
whitened the surf at Waikiki since the last man looked upon the
last of Kahekili. I alone remain alive of those men. I am the
last man, and I was not glad to be at the finish.
"For see! I was a young man, and my heart was white-hot lava for
Malia, who was in Kahekili's household. So was Anapuni's heart
white-hot for her, though the colour of his heart was black, as you
shall see. We were at a drinking that night--Anapuni and I--the
night that Kahekili died. Anapuni and I were only commoners, as
were all of us kanakas and wahines who were at the drinking with
the common sailors and whaleship men from before the mast. We were
drinking on the mats by the beach at Waikiki, close to the old
heiau" (temple) "that is not far from what is now the Wilders'
beach place. I learned then and for ever what quantities of drink
haole sailormen can stand. As for us kanakas, our heads were hot
and light and rattly as dry gourds with the whisky and the rum.
"It was past midnight, I remember well, when I saw Malia, whom
never had I seen at a drinking, come across the wet-hard sand of
the beach. My brain burned like red cinders of hell as I looked
upon Anapuni look upon her, he being nearest to her by being across
from me in the drinking circle. Oh, I know it was whisky and rum
and youth that made the heat of me; but there, in that moment, the
mad mind of me resolved, if she spoke to him and yielded to dance
with him first, that I would put both my hands around his throat
and throw him down and under the wahine surf there beside us, and
drown and choke out his life and the obstacle of him that stood
between me and her. For know, that she had never decided between
us, and it was because of him that she was not already and long
"She was a grand young woman with a body generous as that of a
chiefess and more wonderful, as she came upon us, across the wet
sand, in the shimmer of the moonlight. Even the haole sailormen
made pause of silence, and with open mouths stared upon her. Her
walk! I have heard you talk, O Kanaka Oolea, of the woman Helen
who caused the war of Troy. I say of Malia that more men would
have stormed the walls of hell for her than went against that old-
time city of which it is your custom to talk over much and long
when you have drunk too little milk and too much gin.
"Her walk! In the moonlight there, the soft glow-fire of the
jelly-fishes in the surf like the kerosene-lamp footlights I have
seen in the new haole theatre! It was not the walk of a girl, but
a woman. She did not flutter forward like rippling wavelets on a
reef-sheltered, placid beach. There was that in her manner of walk
that was big and queenlike, like the motion of the forces of
nature, like the rhythmic flow of lava down the slopes of Kau to
the sea, like the movement of the huge orderly trade-wind seas,
like the rise and fall of the four great tides of the year that may
be like music in the eternal ear of God, being too slow of
occurrence in time to make a tune for ordinary quick-pulsing,
brief-living, swift-dying man.
"Anapuni was nearest. But she looked at me. Have you ever heard a
call, Kanaka Oolea, that is without sound yet is louder than the
conches of God? So called she to me across that circle of the
drinking. I half arose, for I was not yet full drunken; but
Anapuni's arm caught her and drew her, and I sank back on my elbow
and watched and raged. He was for making her sit beside him, and I
waited. Did she sit, and, next, dance with him, I knew that ere
morning Anapuni would be a dead man, choked and drowned by me in
the shallow surf.
"Strange, is it not, Kanaka Oolea, all this heat called 'love'?
Yet it is not strange. It must be so in the time of one's youth,
else would mankind not go on."
"That is why the desire of woman must be greater than the desire of
life," Pool concurred. "Else would there be neither men nor
"Yes," said Kumuhana. "But it is many a year now since the last of
such heat has gone out of me. I remember it as one remembers an
old sunrise--a thing that was. And so one grows old, and cold, and
drinks gin, not for madness, but for warmth. And the milk is very
"But Malia did not sit beside him. I remember her eyes were wild,
her hair down and flying, as she bent over him and whispered in his
ear. And her hair covered him about and hid him as she whispered,
and the sight of it pounded my heart against my ribs and dizzied my
head till scarcely could I half-see. And I willed myself with all
the will of me that if, in short minutes, she did not come over to
me, I would go across the circle and get her.
"It was one of the things never to be. You remember Chief
Konukalani? Himself he strode up to the circle. His face was
black with anger. He gripped Malia, not by the arm, but by the
hair, and dragged her away behind him and was gone. Of that, even
now, can I understand not the half. I, who was for slaying Anapuni
because of her, raised neither hand nor voice of protest when
Konukalani dragged her away by the hair--nor did Anapuni. Of
course, we were common men, and he was a chief. That I know. But
why should two common men, mad with desire of woman, with desire of
woman stronger in them than desire of life, let any one chief, even
the highest in the land, drag the woman away by the hair? Desiring
her more than life, why should the two men fear to slay then and
immediately the one chief? Here is something stronger than life,
stronger than woman, but what is it? and why?"
"I will answer you," said Hardman Pool. "It is so because most men
are fools, and therefore must be taken care of by the few men who
are wise. Such is the secret of chiefship. In all the world are
chiefs over men. In all the world that has been have there ever
been chiefs, who must say to the many fool men: 'Do this; do not
do that. Work, and work as we tell you or your bellies will remain
empty and you will perish. Obey the laws we set you or you will be
beasts and without place in the world. You would not have been,
save for the chiefs before you who ordered and regulated for your
fathers. No seed of you will come after you, except that we order
and regulate for you now. You must be peace-abiding, and decent,
and blow your noses. You must be early to bed of nights, and up
early in the morning to work if you would heave beds to sleep in
and not roost in trees like the silly fowls. This is the season
for the yam-planting and you must plant now. We say now, to-day,
and not picnicking and hulaing to-day and yam-planting to-morrow or
some other day of the many careless days. You must not kill one
another, and you must leave your neighbours' wives alone. All this
is life for you, because you think but one day at a time, while we,
your chiefs, think for you all days and for days ahead.'"
"Like a cloud on the mountain-top that comes down and wraps about
you and that you dimly see is a cloud, so is your wisdom to me,
Kanaka Oolea," Kumuhana murmured. "Yet is it sad that I should be
born a common man and live all my days a common man."
"That is because you were of yourself common," Hardman Pool assured
him. "When a man is born common, and is by nature uncommon, he
rises up and overthrows the chiefs and makes himself chief over the
chiefs. Why do you not run my ranch, with its many thousands of
cattle, and shift the pastures by the rain-fall, and pick the
bulls, and arrange the bargaining and the selling of the meat to
the sailing ships and war vessels and the people who live in the
Honolulu houses, and fight with lawyers, and help make laws, and
even tell the King what is wise for him to do and what is
dangerous? Why does not any man do this that I do? Any man of all
the men who work for me, feed out of my hand, and let me do their
thinking for them--me, who work harder than any of them, who eats
no more than any of them, and who can sleep on no more than one
lauhala mat at a time like any of them?"
"I am out of the cloud, Kanaka Oolea," said Kumuhana, with a
visible brightening of countenance. "More clearly do I see. All
my long years have the aliis I was born under thought for me.
Ever, when I was hungry, I came to them for food, as I come to your
kitchen now. Many people eat in your kitchen, and the days of
feasts when you slay fat steers for all of us are understandable.
It is why I come to you this day, an old man whose labour of
strength is not worth a shilling a week, and ask of you twelve
dollars to buy a jackass and a second-hand saddle and bridle. It
is why twice ten fool men of us, under these monkey-pods half an
hour ago, asked of you a dollar or two, or four or five, or ten or
twelve. We are the careless ones of the careless days who will not
plant the yam in season if our alii does not compel us, who will
not think one day for ourselves, and who, when we age to
worthlessness, know that our alii will think kow-kow into our
bellies and a grass thatch over our heads.
Hardman Pool bowed his appreciation, and urged:
"But the bones of Kahekili. The Chief Konukalani had just dragged
away Malia by the hair of the head, and you and Anapuni sat on
without protest in the circle of drinking. What was it Malia
whispered in Anapuni's ear, bending over him, her hair hiding the
face of him?"
"That Kahekili was dead. That was what she whispered to Anapuni.
That Kahekili was dead, just dead, and that the chiefs, ordering
all within the house to remain within, were debating the disposal
of the bones and meat of him before word of his death should get
abroad. That the high priest Eoppo was deciding them, and that she
had overheard no less than Anapuni and me chosen as the sacrifices
to go the way of Kahekili and his bones and to care for him
afterward and for ever in the shadowy other world."
"The moepuu, the human sacrifice," Pool commented. "Yet it was
nine years since the coming of the missionaries."
"And it was the year before their coming that the idols were cast
down and the taboos broken," Kumuhana added. "But the chiefs still
practised the old ways, the custom of hunakele, and hid the bones
of the aliis where no men should find them and make fish-hooks of
their jaws or arrow heads of their long bones for the slaying of
little mice in sport. Behold, O Kanaka Oolea!"
The old man thrust out his tongue; and, to Pool's amazement, he saw
the surface of that sensitive organ, from root to tip, tattooed in
"That was done after the missionaries came, several years
afterward, when Keopuolani died. Also, did I knock out four of my
front teeth, and half-circles did I burn over my body with blazing
bark. And whoever ventured out-of-doors that night was slain by
the chiefs. Nor could a light be shown in a house or a whisper of
noise be made. Even dogs and hogs that made a noise were slain,
nor all that night were the ships' bells of the haoles in the
harbour allowed to strike. It was a terrible thing in those days
when an alii died.
"But the night that Kahekili died. We sat on in the drinking
circle after Konukalani dragged Malia away by the hair. Some of
the haole sailors grumbled; but they were few in the land in those
days and the kanakas many. And never was Malia seen of men again.
Konukalani alone knew the manner of her slaying, and he never told.
And in after years what common men like Anapuni and me should dare
to question him?
"Now she had told Anapuni before she was dragged away. But
Anapuni's heart was black. Me he did not tell. Worthy he was of
the killing I had intended for him. There was a giant harpooner in
the circle, whose singing was like the bellowing of bulls; and,
gazing on him in amazement while he roared some song of the sea,
when next I looked across the circle to Anapuni, Anapuni was gone.
He had fled to the high mountains where he could hide with the
bird-catchers a week of moons. This I learned afterward.
"I? I sat on, ashamed of my desire of woman that had not been so
strong as my slave-obedience to a chief. And I drowned my shame in
large drinks of rum and whisky, till the world went round and
round, inside my head and out, and the Southern Cross danced a hula
in the sky, and the Koolau Mountains bowed their lofty summits to
Waikiki and the surf of Waikiki kissed them on their brows. And
the giant harpooner was still roaring, his the last sounds in my
ear, as I fell back on the lauhala mat, and was to all things for
the time as one dead.
"When I awoke was at the faint first beginning of dawn. I was
being kicked by a hard naked heel in the ribs. What of the
enormousness of the drink I had consumed, the feelings aroused in
me by the heel were not pleasant. The kanakas and wahines of the
drinking were gone. I alone remained among the sleeping sailormen,
the giant harpooner snoring like a whale, his head upon my feet.
"More heel-kicks, and I sat up and was sick. But the one who
kicked was impatient, and demanded to know where was Anapuni. And
I did not know, and was kicked, this time from both sides by two
impatient men, because I did not know. Nor did I know that
Kahekili was dead. Yet did I guess something serious was afoot,
for the two men who kicked me were chiefs, and no common men
crouched behind them to do their bidding. One was Aimoku, of
Kaneche; the other Humuhumu, of Manoa.
"They commanded me to go with them, and they were not kind in their
commanding; and as I uprose, the head of the giant harpooner was
rolled off my feet, past the edge of the mat, into the sand. He
grunted like a pig, his lips opened, and all of his tongue rolled
out of his mouth into the sand. Nor did he draw it back. For the
first time I knew how long was a man's tongue. The sight of the
sand on it made me sick for the second time. It is a terrible
thing, the next day after a night of drinking. I was afire, dry
afire, all the inside of me like a burnt cinder, like aa lava, like
the harpooner's tongue dry and gritty with sand. I bent for a
half-drunk drinking coconut, but Aimoku kicked it out of my shaking
fingers, and Humuhumu smote me with the heel of his hand on my
"They walked before me, side by side, their faces solemn and black,
and I walked at their heels. My mouth stank of the drink, and my
head was sick with the stale fumes of it, and I would have cut off
my right hand for a drink of water, one drink, a mouthful even.
And, had I had it, I know it would have sizzled in my belly like
water spilled on heated stones for the roasting. It is terrible,
the next day after the drinking. All the life-time of many men who
died young has passed by me since the last I was able to do such
mad drinking of youth when youth knows not capacity and is
"But as we went on, I began to know that some alii was dead. No
kanakas lay asleep in the sand, nor stole home from their love-
making; and no canoes were abroad after the early fish most
catchable then inside the reef at the change of the tide. When we
came, past the hoiau" (temple), "to where the Great Kamehameha used
to haul out his brigs and schooners, I saw, under the canoe-sheds,
that the mat-thatches of Kahekili's great double canoe had been
taken off, and that even then, at low tide, many men were launching
it down across the sand into the water. But all these men were
chiefs. And, though my eyes swam, and the inside of my head went
around and around, and the inside of my body was a cinder athirst,
I guessed that the alii who was dead was Kahekili. For he was old,
and most likely of the aliis to be dead."
"It was his death, as I have heard it, more than the intercession
of Kekuanaoa, that spoiled Governor Boki's rebellion," Hardman Pool
"It was Kahekili's death that spoiled it," Kumuhana confirmed.
"All commoners, when the word slipped out that night of his death,
fled into the shelter of the grass houses, nor lighted fire nor
pipes, nor breathed loudly, being therein and thereby taboo from
use for sacrifice. And all Governor Boki's commoners of fighting
men, as well as the haole deserters from ships, so fled, so that
the brass guns lay unserved and his handful of chiefs of themselves
could do nothing.
"Aimoku and Humuhumu made me sit on the sand to the side from the
launching of the great double-canoe. And when it was afloat all
the chiefs were athirst, not being used to such toil; and I was
told to climb the palms beside the canoe-sheds and throw down
drink-coconuts. They drank and were refreshed, but me they refused
to let drink.
"Then they bore Kahekili from his house to the canoe in a haole
coffin, oiled and varnished and new. It had been made by a ship's
carpenter, who thought he was making a boat that must not leak. It
was very tight, and over where the face of Kahekili lay was nothing
but thin glass. The chiefs had not screwed on the outside plank to
cover the glass. Maybe they did not know the manner of haole
coffins; but at any rate I was to be glad they did not know, as you
"'There is but one moepuu,' said the priest Eoppo, looking at me
where I sat on the coffin in the bottom of the canoe. Already the
chiefs were paddling out through the reef.
"'The other has run into hiding,' Aimoku answered. 'This one was
all we could get.'
"And then I knew. I knew everything. I was to be sacrificed.
Anapuni had been planned for the other sacrifice. That was what
Malia had whispered to Anapuni at the drinking. And she had been
dragged away before she could tell me. And in his blackness of
heart he had not told me.
"'There should be two,' said Eoppo. 'It is the law.'
"Aimoku stopped paddling and looked back shoreward as if to return
and get a second sacrifice. But several of the chiefs contended
no, saying that all commoners were fled to the mountains or were
lying taboo in their houses, and that it might take days before
they could catch one. In the end Eoppo gave in, though he grumbled
from time to time that the law required two moepuus.
"We paddled on, past Diamond Head and abreast of Koko Head, till we
were in the midway of the Molokai Channel. There was quite a sea
running, though the trade wind was blowing light. The chiefs
rested from their paddles, save for the steersmen who kept the
canoes bow-on to the wind and swell. And, ere they proceeded
further in the matter, they opened more coconuts and drank.
"'I do not mind so much being the moepuu,' I said to Humuhumu; 'but
I should like to have a drink before I am slain.' I got no drink.
But I spoke true. I was too sick of the much whisky and rum to be
afraid to die. At least my mouth would stink no more, nor my head
ache, nor the inside of me be as dry-hot sand. Almost worst of
all, I suffered at thought of the harpooner's tongue, as last I had
seen it lying on the sand and covered with sand. O Kanaka Oolea,
what animals young men are with the drink! Not until they have
grown old, like you and me, do they control their wantonness of
thirst and drink sparingly, like you and me."
"Because we have to," Hardman Pool rejoined. "Old stomachs are
worn thin and tender, and we drink sparingly because we dare not
drink more. We are wise, but the wisdom is bitter."
"The priest Eoppo sang a long mele about Kahekili's mother and his
mother's mother, and all their mothers all the way back to the
beginning of time," Kumuhana resumed. "And it seemed I must die of
my sand-hot dryness ere he was done. And he called upon all the
gods of the under world, the middle world and the over world, to
care for and cherish the dead alii about to be consigned to them,
and to carry out the curses--they were terrible curses--he laid
upon all living men and men to live after who might tamper with the
bones of Kahekili to use them in sport of vermin-slaying.
"Do you know, Kanaka Oolea, the priest talked a language largely
different, and I know it was the priest language, the old language.
Maui he did not name Maui, but Maui-Tiki-Tiki and Maui-Po-Tiki.
And Hina, the goddess-mother of Maui, he named Ina. And Maui's
god-father he named sometimes Akalana and sometimes Kanaloa.
Strange how one about to die and very thirsty should remember such
things! And I remember the priest named Hawaii as Vaii, and Lanai
"Those were the Maori names," Hardman Pool explained, "and the
Samoan and Tongan names, that the priests brought with them in
their first voyages from the south in the long ago when they found
Hawaii and settled to dwell upon it."
"Great is your wisdom, O Kanaka Oolea," the old man accorded
solemnly. "Ku, our Supporter of the Heavens, the priest named Tu,
and also Ru; and La, our God of the Sun, he named Ra--"
"And Ra was a sun-god in Egypt in the long ago," Pool interrupted
with a sparkle of interest. "Truly, you Polynesians have travelled
far in time and space since first you began. A far cry it is from
Old Egypt, when Atlantis was still afloat, to Young Hawaii in the
North Pacific. But proceed, Kumuhana. Do you remember anything
also of what the priest Eoppo sang?"
"At the very end," came the confirming nod, "though I was near dead
myself, and nearer to die under the priest's knife, he sang what I
have remembered every word of. Listen! It was thus."
And in quavering falsetto, with the customary broken-notes, the old
"A Maori death-chant unmistakable," Pool exclaimed, "sung by an
Hawaiian with a tattooed tongue! Repeat it once again, and I shall
say it to you in English."
And when it had been repeated, he spoke it slowly in English:
"But death is nothing new.
Death is and has been ever since old Maui died.
Then Pata-tai laughed loud
And woke the goblin-god,
Who severed him in two, and shut him in,
So dusk of eve came on."
"And at the last," Kumuhana resumed, "I was not slain. Eoppo, the
killing knife in hand and ready to lift for the blow, did not lift.
And I? How did I feel and think? Often, Kanaka Oolea, have I
since laughed at the memory of it. I felt very thirsty. I did not
want to die. I wanted a drink of water. I knew I was going to
die, and I kept remembering the thousand waterfalls falling to
waste down the pans" (precipices) "of the windward Koolau
Mountains. I did not think of Anapuni. I was too thirsty. I did
not think of Malia. I was too thirsty. But continually, inside my
head, I saw the tongue of the harpooner, covered dry with sand, as
I had last seen it, lying in the sand. My tongue was like that,
too. And in the bottom of the canoe rolled about many drinking
nuts. Yet I did not attempt to drink, for these were chiefs and I
was a common man.
"'No,' said Eoppo, commanding the chiefs to throw overboard the
coffin. 'There are not two moepuus, therefore there shall be
"'Slay the one,' the chiefs cried.
"But Eoppo shook his head, and said: 'We cannot send Kahekili on
his way with only the tops of the taro.'
"'Half a fish is better than none,' Aimoku said the old saying.
"'Not at the burying of an alii,' was the priest's quick reply.
'It is the law. We cannot be niggard with Kahekili and cut his
allotment of sacrifice in half.'
"So, for the moment, while the coffin went overside, I was not
slain. And it was strange that I was glad immediately that I was
to live. And I began to remember Malia, and to begin to plot a
vengeance on Anapuni. And with the blood of life thus freshening
in me, my thirst multiplied on itself tenfold and my tongue and
mouth and throat seemed as sanded as the tongue of the harpooner.
The coffin being overboard, I was sitting in the bottom of the
canoe. A coconut rolled between my legs and I closed them on it.
But as I picked it up in my hand, Aimoku smote my hand with the
He held up the hand, showing two fingers crooked from never having
"I had no time to vex over my pain, for worse things were upon me.
All the chiefs were crying out in horror. The coffin, head-end up,
had not sunk. It bobbed up and down in the sea astern of us. And
the canoe, without way on it, bow-on to sea and wind, was drifted
down by sea and wind upon the coffin. And the glass of it was to
us, so that we could see the face and head of Kahekili through the
glass; and he grinned at us through the glass and seemed alive
already in the other world and angry with us, and, with other-world
power, about to wreak his anger upon us. Up and down he bobbed,
and the canoe drifted closer upon him.
"'Kill him!' 'Bleed him!' 'Thrust to the heart of him!' These
things the chiefs were crying out to Eoppo in their fear. 'Over
with the taro tops!' 'Let the alii have the half of a fish!'
"Eoppo, priest though he was, was likewise afraid, and his reason
weakened before the sight of Kahekili in his haole coffin that
would not sink. He seized me by the hair, drew me to my feet, and
lifted the knife to plunge to my heart. And there was no
resistance in me. I knew again only that I was very thirsty, and
before my swimming eyes, in mid-air and close up, dangled the
sanded tongue of the harpooner.
"But before the knife could fall and drive in, the thing happened
that saved me. Akai, half-brother to Governor Boki, as you will
remember, was steersman of the canoe, and, therefore, in the stern,
was nearest to the coffin and its dead that would not sink. He was
wild with fear, and he thrust out with the point of his paddle to
fend off the coffined alii that seemed bent to come on board. The
point of the paddle struck the glass. The glass broke--"
"And the coffin immediately sank," Hardman Pool broke in; "the air
that floated it escaping through the broken glass."
"The coffin immediately sank, being builded by the ship's carpenter
like a boat," Kumuhana confirmed. "And I, who was a moepuu, became
a man once more. And I lived, though I died a thousand deaths from
thirst before we gained back to the beach at Waikiki.
"And so, O Kanaka Oolea, the bones of Kahekili do not lie in the
Royal Mausoleum. They are at the bottom of Molokai Channel, if
not, long since, they have become floating dust of slime, or,
builded into the bodies of the coral creatures dead and gone, are
builded into the coral reef itself. Of men I am the one living who
saw the bones of Kahekili sink into the Molokai Channel."
In the pause that followed, wherein Hardman Pool was deep sunk in
meditation, Kumuhana licked his dry lips many times. At the last
he broke silence:
"The twelve dollars, Kanaka Oolea, for the jackass and the second-
hand saddle and bridle?"
"The twelve dollars would be thine," Pool responded, passing to the
ancient one six dollars and a half, "save that I have in my stable
junk the very bridle and saddle for you which I shall give you.
These six dollars and a half will buy you the perfectly suitable
jackass of the pake" (Chinese) "at Kokako who told me only
yesterday that such was the price."
They sat on, Pool meditating, conning over and over to himself the
Maori death-chant he had heard, and especially the line, "So dusk
of eve came on," finding in it an intense satisfaction of beauty;
Kumuhana licking his lips and tokening that he waited for something
more. At last he broke silence.
"I have talked long, O Kanaka Oolea. There is not the enduring
moistness in my mouth that was when I was young. It seems that
afresh upon me is the thirst that was mine when tormented by the
visioned tongue of the harpooner. The gin and milk is very good, O
Kanaka Oolea, for a tongue that is like the harpooner's."
A shadow of a smile flickered across Pool's face. He clapped his
hands, and the little maid came running.
"Bring one glass of gin and milk for old Kumuhana," commanded
June 28, 1916.