The Tragedy Of Spouting Cave
Category: IN THE PACIFIC
Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate
Many caves pierce the igneous rock of the Hawaiian group, some
with entrances below the ocean level, and discovered only by
accident. Famous among them is the spouting cave of Lanai. Old
myths make this a haunt of the lizard god, but the shark god,
thinking this venture below the water an intrusion on his territory,
threatened to block the entrance with rocks, so the lizard god swam
over to Molokai and made his home in the cave near Kaulapana, where
the people built temples to him. An attempt of a daring explorer to
light the cave of Lanai with fire hid in a closed calabash was also
resented, the vessel being dashed out of the hand of the adventurer
by some formless creature of the dark, who also plucked stones from
the cave roof and hurled at him until he retreated.
To this island, at the end of the eighteenth century, came King
Kamehameha to rest after his war and enjoy the fish dinners for which
the island was famous. One of his captains was Kaili, a courageous
and susceptible Hawaiian, who celebrated the outing by falling
head-over-heels in love. Kaala, "the perfumed flower of Lanai,"
returned his vows, and would have taken him for a husband, without
ceremony or delay, save for the stern parent, who is a frequent figure
in such romances. This parent, Oponui, had a reason for his hate of
Kaili, the two having encountered in the last great battle. Kaili
had probably forgotten his opponent, but Oponui bitterly remembered
him, for his best friend had been struck down by the spear of the
young captain. Another cause for opposing this marriage was that
Kaala had been bespoken by a great, hairy, tattooed savage known as
"the bone-breaker." It occurred to Oponui that a good way to be
rid of the cavalier would be to let him settle his claim with the
famous wrestler. He chuckled as he thought of the outcome, for the
bone-breaker had never been beaten. The challenge having been made
and accepted, the king and his staff agreed to watch the contest. It
was brief, brutal, and decisive. Though the big wrestler had the more
strength, Kaili had the more skill and quickness. He dodged every rush
of his burly opponent, tripped him, broke both his arms by jumping on
them when he was down, and when the disabled but vengeful fighter,
with dangling hands, made a bull-like charge with lowered head, the
captain sprang aside, caught him by the hair, strained him suddenly
backward across his knee, and flung him to the earth, dying with a
broken spine. Kaili had won his bride.
The girl's father was not at the end of his resources, however. He
appeared in a day or two panting, as with a long run, and begged Kaala
to fly at once to her mother in the valley, as she was mortally ill
and wished to see her daughter before she died. The girl kissed her
lover, promising to return soon, and was hurried away by Oponui toward
the Spouting Cave. Arrived there, she looked up and down the shore,
but saw none other than her father, who was smiling into her face
with a look of craft and cruelty that turned her sick at heart. In a
broken voice she asked his purpose. Was her mother dead? Had he killed
her? Oponui seized her arms with the gripe of a giant. "The man you
love is my foe," he shouted. "I shall kill him, if I can. If not, he
shall never see you again. When he has left Lanai, either for Hawaii
or for the land of souls, I will bring you back to the sun. Come!"
Now, the water pushing through the entrance to this cavern becomes
a whirlpool; then, as it belches forth in a refluent wave, it is
hurled into a white column. Watching until the water began to whirl
and suck, Oponui sprang from the rocks, dragging his daughter with
him. She struggled for a moment, believing that his intention was to
drown her. There was a rush and a roar; then, buffeted, breathless,
she arose on the tide, and in a few seconds felt a beach beneath
her feet. Oponui dragged her out of reach of the wave, and as soon
as her eyes grew accustomed to the dimness she found herself to be
in a large, chill cavern. Crabs were clattering over the stones, and
rays and eels could be seen writhing shadowy, in pools. The brawling
of the ocean came smothered, faint, but portentous, and in the green
light that mounted through the submerged door the grotto seemed a
place of dreams,--a dank nightmare.
"Here you stay until I come," commanded Oponui. "Make no attempt to
escape, for so surely as you do, you will be cut to pieces on the
rocks, and the sharks await outside." Then, diving into the receding
water, he disappeared, and she was left alone.
Kaili awaited with impatience the return of his betrothed. He chided
himself that he had allowed her father to persuade him against
following her to the cabin of her mother. Then doubt began to perplex
him; then suspicion. A bird croaked significantly as it flew above
his head. He could not longer endure inaction. Kaala's footprints were
still traceable in the sand. He would go as far as they might lead. He
set off at a round pace, stopping now and then to assure himself,
and presently stood perplexed near the Spouting Cave, for there they
ceased. As he was looking about for some clew that might set him right
once more, a faint movement behind him caused him to turn, and he saw
a figure slinking along from rock to rock, bending low, as if seeking
to be concealed: Oponui! Why should he be alone? Why should he hide
like that? Why was he trying to escape? The truth flashed upon him. He
remembered the man's face in battle, remembered their vain though
savage interchange of spears. Oponui had taken Kaala from him. Had
he killed her? He sprang toward the creeping figure with a shout,
"Where is my wife?"
There was a short struggle; then Oponui, wriggling from his grasp,
set off at a surprising pace toward a temple of refuge, with Kaili
close at his heels. The chase was vain. Oponui reached the gate,
rushed through, and fell on the earth exhausted. Two priests ran
forward and offered their taboo staffs against the entrance of his
pursuer. The gods could not be braved by breaking the taboo. With
a taunt and a curse at his enemy, the captain returned to the shore
where the footprints had disappeared. His heart-beats stifled him. His
head was whirling. As he stood looking down into the boiling waters it
seemed to his wandering fancy as if the girl had risen toward him in
the spout from the cave. Hardly knowing what he did, he spoke her name
and leaped from the rock to clasp her pale form. He was drawn under,
and in a few seconds was flung violently upon the beach in the cave.
Kaili's leap had been seen by his king, who, with a guide, had gone
to seek him, and on learning of this grotto the king and the guide
plunged after. They found the lover seated on the pebbles in the green
twilight, with Kaala's head upon his lap, his arms about her. She was
dying, but a smile of content was on her face. He tried to restore
her, to rouse her to an effort to live. It was of no avail. With a
whispered word of love she closed her eyes and ceased to breathe.
King Kamehameha advanced, his rude face softened with pity. "Come,
Kaili," he said. "The poor child was happy in her last hour. This
cave is her proper burial-place."
"I cannot leave her, O king, for without her I cannot live." Before his
purpose could be divined, Kaili had seized a rock and brought it down
on his own head with crushing force. He swayed for a moment and fell
dead beside the body of his bride. The king had the corpses wrapped
in cloth, but left them there, and the few who have ventured through
the whirlpool have seen in the cave the skeletons of the lovers.
The lament of Ua has been preserved. She was a girl whose secret love
for the captain had impelled her to follow him, and who had seen his
plunge into the leaping water. It runs in this fashion:
"Dead is Kaili, the young chief of Hawaii,
The chief of few years and many battles.
His limbs were strong and his heart was gentle.
His face was like the sun. He was without fear.
Dead is the slayer of the Bone-Breaker;
Dead the chief who crushed the bones of Mailou;
Dead the lover of Kaala and the loved of Ua.
For his love he plunged into the deep water.
For his love he gave his life. Who is like Kaili?
Kaala is hid and I am lonely.
Kaili is dead, and the black cloth is over my heart.
Now let the gods take the life of Ua!"
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