The Hawaiian Iliad

Kaupepee, who might have governed Molokai in the twelfth century, had

he not chosen war as his vocation, was a believer in home rule. He

did not like the immigrants who were swarming northward from Tahiti

and Samoa. Though they resembled his own race, to be sure, and

spoke a language he could understand, he regarded them as greedy

and revolutionary, and they worshipped strange gods and sometimes

misused the people among whom they had cast their fortunes. So

Kaupepee resigned his kingship to his brother, and became a fighter,

a devastator. With some hundreds of hardy men at arms and the finest

ships of the time, hewn from Oregon pines and Canada spruces that

had drifted to the islands, he bitterly harassed the other kingdoms,

dashing ashore at the principal towns in buccaneer fashion, laying

violent hands on their stores, capturing their handsomest women,

breaking the taboo in their temples, killing a dozen of their men,

then flying to his canoes again, hoisting his red sails, and putting

off before the astonished people knew exactly what had happened.

This prince had fortified himself in quite a modern fashion at Haupu,

in his native kingdom. From the land side the tract was reached

only by a narrow dike which he had walled across with lava blocks,

a tunnel beneath this obstruction affording the only exit toward the

mountains. On the ocean front he had also built his forts of stone,

although the sea boiled five hundred feet below and the plateau ended

in an almost sheer precipice. Deep ravines on either side of the

stronghold bent around it to the rocky neck, thus making the place

almost an island. In these ravines were narrow paths by which his

people descended to their boats, secreted on the dark and winding

waters or hoisted on the rocks. This was the Troy of the Pacific;

Kaupepee was the Paris, and here he brought his Helen, who was Hina,

the most beautiful woman of her day, and the wife of a chief in

Hawaii. Kaupepee, encouraged by his oracles, inflamed by reports of

the woman's charm, had been lurking along the coast for some time,

watching for his opportunity. It came when Hina ventured into the

sea to bathe on a moonlight evening. Kaupepee, dashing from his

concealment, intercepted her escape, shouted to his men who were

in waiting behind a wooded point, and while the woman's friends and

attendants fled shrieking to the shore, he lifted her into his canoe,

paddled away to his double barge a half mile out, placed his lovely

captive in a shelter on board, and began the return voyage. The drum

could be heard in the village rousing the people, and lights twinkled

among the trees, showing that a pursuit was intended. In vain. The

dusky Menelaus may have put to sea, but he never appeared in view of

the flying ships. During the two days occupied in the run to Molokai

the prisoner refused food, and begged to be put to death. She was

assured that no harm was intended to her. On arriving at the fort of

her captor she was surprised by the appearance of women who had been

stolen from her villages before, and who were now to be her maids; nor

could she restrain an exclamation of pleasure when she was ushered into

what for the next eighteen years was to be her home. It was hung and

carpeted with decorated mats; its wooden frame was brightly painted,

festooned with flowers, and friezed with shells; couches of sea-grass

were overspread with cloth beaten from palm fibre; heavy curtains hung

at the doors; ranged on shelves were ornaments and carved calabashes,

while there was a profuse array of feathered cloaks and other modish

millinery and raiment.

All, from Kaupepee to the humblest soldier, had paid the respect to

her that was the due of a queen. She was told that she could enjoy

a certain amount of liberty, and if she suffered from her slight

captivity she was asked what might be thought of her new lord whose

heart she had absolutely in her keeping, and who was therefore less

free than she. This pretty speech and the really kind treatment she

had received, together with a hearty and needed meal of fruit, fish,

potatoes, and poi, caused her to look on her situation with less of

despair. She belonged to a simple race, whose moral code was different

from ours; she was more luxuriously surrounded than she had ever been

before; Kaupepee was bold and handsome; he was, moreover, strangely

gentle in her presence, thoughtful of her comfort, and--well, she

fell out of love with her old husband and in love with the new.

Matters were not so very dull while the war lord was away on his

forays. A considerable populace had been drawn to Haupu, and there

were dances and feasts, games, excursions, trials at arms, races, and

swimming matches, in which Hina shared when it pleased her. Reservoirs

for water, storehouses for food, and parks of ammunition were also to

be established, for none could tell when the fort might be attacked. A

long time passed before it was besieged. That time might never have

come had not Hina left at home two sons with long memories. For

years, as they approached manhood, they devoted themselves to rousing

the people of all the islands and preparing a navy that should be

invincible. Kaupepee kept himself informed of these measures, and now

and again discouraged them by swooping on their shipyards, destroying

their craft, and running off with a priest or two for a sacrifice. This

kind of thing merely hastened his punishment, and in time ten thousand

soldiers in two thousand boats were sighted from the battlements

of Haupu. A land force was sent to attack the stronghold from the

hills. Kaupepee's brother could not prevent this. He was allowed to

remain neutral. He foresaw the inevitable. When he implored the chief

to give up Hina, save himself and his warriors, and agree to a future

peace, Kaupepee would not listen. He had a thousand men, well armed,

and his enemies had an almost life-long hate to gratify. "If my day

has come," he said, "let it be as the gods will. When the battle is

over, look for me on the walls. I shall be there among the dead." The

king went away with bowed head, for he knew he should never see the

defender of Molokai again.

Early in the morning the fleet put out from its harborage, where

the gods had been invoked and the priests had declared the omens

kindly. The mother of Hina stood in the prow of one of the first

canoes, her white hair blowing about her head in snaky folds,

her black eyes glittering. A fire burned before her on an altar of

stone, and on this she threw oils and gums that yielded a fragrant

smoke. As the walls of Haupu came in sight, bristling with spears,

she began a battle-song, which her warriors took up, crew by crew,

until the mighty chant echoed from the crags and every heart thrilled

with the hope of conflict. As the boats advanced almost within reach

of the slings from the citadel, the land army was seen advancing

over the mountains far in the distance. Haupu would be beleaguered

shortly. Kaupepee gathered his people around him, told of the odds

against them, and confessed that the end might be defeat, adding that

if there was one whose heart failed him the gates were open and he

could leave, freely, with the good-will of all who stayed.

Not a man moved. With one cry of "Close the gates!" they declared

for death, if so be that the gods were against them. The chief smiled

and prepared for the defence. Some cried that the shore was crowded

with enemies. Kaupepee replied, in Spartan phrase, "Our spears will

be the less likely to miss." A messenger arrived offering terms if

Hina were given up. The answer was, "She is here. Come and take her."

The land force had been making a demonstration against the narrow

bridge of rock that led to the fortress, and had succeeded so well,

according to a prearranged plan, that almost the entire garrison had

crossed the plateau to that side, when shouts of triumph arose from

the ravines. The enemy had entered them and was smashing the boats

of Kaupepee to fragments. That cry of defiance was mis-timed. In a

few moments a thunderous roar was heard that echoed through the abyss

and paralyzed the hands of those who were attacking the gates. The men

who had run to the walls, on hearing the shouts below, had let loose,

into the depths, a deadly avalanche of earth, rocks, and timber. When

the dust of it had drifted out, scores, hundreds, of dead and dying

were seen half-buried in the fallen mass. Armed with spears, knives,

and axes, a little company sprang over the parapet, and, running down

the narrow trail to the bottom, despatched the survivors,--all save a

few who swam to the reserve boats, and six who were carried up to the

fort for sacrifice. One majestic chief, who had led this attack from

the sea, avoided knives and missiles and drew away in safety with the

other few who escaped. He was one of the sons of Hina. "He is brave;

I am glad he remains unharmed," said Kaupepee.

For several days the siege went on, the men within the defences taking

heart from this first success, that had cost the enemy two thousand

men. The sea approach was abandoned, and now that Kaupepee's boats were

destroyed or injured, so that he could not get away, the assailants

concentrated their efforts on the landward side. They had devised a

movable wall of wood, heavily braced, like that used by the Romans and

Assyrians in their military operations. Foot by foot they gained the

isthmus and slowly crossed it, those immediately behind this defence

being protected from the slings and javelins of the garrison,--that

reached those at a greater distance, however. On a rainy night they

pushed this wall against the gates, found the entrance to the tunnel,

and at dawn were ready for the final assault. It began with a downpour

of spears and stones, before which it was impossible to stand. Then

the heavy slab that masked the inner door to the tunnel was lifted,

and in another minute five thousand men were pouring over the walls

and through the passage. Not one man attempted flight. Contesting

every inch of ground and fighting hand to hand, the men of Molokai

retired before the invaders. There was an incessant din of weapons

and voices. At last, the garrison--the fifty who were left of it--and

their chief were crowded to the temple in the centre of the plain. One

of the besieging party scrambled to the roof and set it afire with a

torch. The fated fifty rushed forth only to hurl themselves against the

hedge of weapons about them. Kaupepee was transfixed by a spear. With

his last strength he aimed his javelin at the breast of a tall young

chief who suddenly appeared before him,--aimed, but did not throw;

for he recognized in the face of the man before him the features

of the woman he loved,--Hina. The javelin fell at his side and he

tumbled upon the earth, never to rise again. Every man in Haupu was

killed, and its walls were levelled: Hina was found in her cottage,

and although she bewailed the death of her lover, she rejoiced in

her restoration to her mother and her sons.

The Haunted Ships The Hawaiian Orpheus And Eurydice facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail