The Tragedy Of Spouting Cave

: 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!"