A Visit Of Pele

: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

While a great storm was raging over Hawaii a boy was born to a woman

chief in the camp of King Alapai. At once the soothsayers proclaimed

him as the man of prophecy who should conquer the eight islands and end

their strifes. It seemed as if for once--or oftener--the kahunas were

wrong, for the babe disappeared that very night. There were rumors of

foul play; rumors that Alapai had killed him, that he might not stand

the way of his own progeny, for this barbarian Macbeth would have no

Banquo to intercept his line or wrest the crown from him. It was five

years before the fate of the child was known. He was not dead: Naole,

a chief, had kidnapped him that the prophecy might come to pass. When

the king heard of this he commanded that the boy be placed at court,

where he might learn manners and the laws, and be kept under the eyes

of the great; but, doubting his master's motive, Naole did not send

the child; he sent another of the same age, who was to cut no figure

in the history of the islands, not being the favored of the gods.

The real prince was kept in so secluded a place and the secret of

his parentage so well preserved--it was prophecy that he should be

fathered of three kings--that he had reached the age of twenty before

Naole deemed it safe to let him mingle with the multitude. He then

made it known that the young man was Kamehameha. By this time King

Alapai was dead, or helpless with age; but the prince, albeit liberal

and just, was rough, strong, dictatorial, a natural military leader,

and he did not lack enemies. Worst among these was his uncle, Pepehi,

an elderly chief, who had read omens in the entrails of sacrifice

warning him to be discreet and guarded in his life or it would be

taken from him by one related to him, and of greater power. He could

not brook the thought of Kamehameha's ascendency, for he was a man

used to deference, a man of weight and dignity, while this new-found

prince was a boor. He therefore made himself unpleasant by criticisms

and carpings, by false interpretations of signs, by implications

against his nephew, and finding that the young man did not retaliate,

he resolved to have his life.

Pretending anger with Kamehameha because he would not study for the

priesthood and succeed to his honors, the soothsayer dinned a tirade

into his ears in the temple ground, hoping to receive a blow, that

he might stab, in return, for he wished the killing to appear as if

done in self-defence. Stung by his insolence, Kamehameha did knock

him down: a good, stout blow, well won. So soon as he had recovered

his wits and got upon his feet the priest plucked out his long bone

knife and made a stroke, but the priestess of the temple, her eyes

blazing with anger at this trespass, caught his wrist and cried, "Down

to your knees! Ask pardon of your future king and mercy of the gods."

At that instant came a rush of wings and a blaze of light filling

the temple space. All fell to the earth, for they had recognized the

tall form before them with the coronet of vari-colored sparks bound

on the golden hair that swept around it like a cloud of glory, and

the robe of tissue that was like flame of silver whiteness. It was

the volcano goddess.

"Peace!" she commanded. "This boy is in the charge of Pele. Let

no hand be lifted against him. No knife, no art, no poison, and no

spell shall shorten his life. He will be your greatest king: your

best. He will put an end to these wretched wars between your families,

and prepare for the day when a pale race will come to these lands,

making them a step in their conquering march around the world. As for

you, Pepehi, speak another word against those I love, lift a hand

against them, and I turn you to a cinder. Aloha!" She had vanished

like flame. Kamehameha, on this revelation of his destiny, sprang to

his feet. His breath was quick and strong, a smile was on his lips,

and he looked into the distance with lifted face and flashing eye, as

if a glorious vision had arisen there. A touch on his foot brought him

to himself. Pepehi was grovelling before him, baring his breast and

offering to Kamehameha the poisoned dagger he had but a few moments

before aimed at the young king's heart. Lifting him from the ground,

Kamehameha comforted the priest with a few words and sent him homeward

with bowed head and dragging step.