Island Nights' Entertainments
Robert Louis Stevenson
Part 2 out of 3
FANGA-ANAANA - "the haven full of caves." I've seen it from the
sea myself, as near as I could get my boys to venture in; and it's
a little strip of yellow sand. Black cliffs overhang it, full of
the black mouths of caves; great trees overhang the cliffs, and
dangle-down lianas; and in one place, about the middle, a big brook
pours over in a cascade. Well, there was a boat going by here,
with six young men of Falesa, "all very pretty," Uma said, which
was the loss of them. It blew strong, there was a heavy head sea,
and by the time they opened Fanga-anaana, and saw the white cascade
and the shady beach, they were all tired and thirsty, and their
water had run out. One proposed to land and get a drink, and,
being reckless fellows, they were all of the same mind except the
youngest. Lotu was his name; he was a very good young gentleman,
and very wise; and he held out that they were crazy, telling them
the place was given over to spirits and devils and the dead, and
there were no living folk nearer than six miles the one way, and
maybe twelve the other. But they laughed at his words, and, being
five to one, pulled in, beached the boat, and landed. It was a
wonderful pleasant place, Lotu said, and the water excellent. They
walked round the beach, but could see nowhere any way to mount the
cliffs, which made them easier in their mind; and at last they sat
down to make a meal on the food they had brought with them. They
were scarce set, when there came out of the mouth of one of the
black caves six of the most beautiful ladies ever seen: they had
flowers in their hair, and the most beautiful breasts, and
necklaces of scarlet seeds; and began to jest with these young
gentlemen, and the young gentlemen to jest back with them, all but
Lotu. As for Lotu, he saw there could be no living woman in such a
place, and ran, and flung himself in the bottom of the boat, and
covered his face, and prayed. All the time the business lasted
Lotu made one clean break of prayer, and that was all he knew of
it, until his friends came back, and made him sit up, and they put
to sea again out of the bay, which was now quite desert, and no
word of the six ladies. But, what frightened Lotu most, not one of
the five remembered anything of what had passed, but they were all
like drunken men, and sang and laughed in the boat, and skylarked.
The wind freshened and came squally, and the sea rose extraordinary
high; it was such weather as any man in the islands would have
turned his back to and fled home to Falesa; but these five were
like crazy folk, and cracked on all sail and drove their boat into
the seas. Lotu went to the bailing; none of the others thought to
help him, but sang and skylarked and carried on, and spoke singular
things beyond a man's comprehension, and laughed out loud when they
said them. So the rest of the day Lotu bailed for his life in the
bottom of the boat, and was all drenched with sweat and cold sea-
water; and none heeded him. Against all expectation, they came
safe in a dreadful tempest to Papa-malulu, where the palms were
singing out, and the cocoa-nuts flying like cannon-balls about the
village green; and the same night the five young gentlemen
sickened, and spoke never a reasonable word until they died.
"And do you mean to tell me you can swallow a yarn like that?" I
She told me the thing was well known, and with handsome young men
alone it was even common; but this was the only case where five had
been slain the same day and in a company by the love of the women-
devils; and it had made a great stir in the island, and she would
be crazy if she doubted.
"Well, anyway," says I, "you needn't be frightened about me. I've
no use for the women-devils. You're all the women I want, and all
the devil too, old lady."
To this she answered there were other sorts, and she had seen one
with her own eyes. She had gone one day alone to the next bay,
and, perhaps, got too near the margin of the bad place. The boughs
of the high bush overshadowed her from the cant of the hill, but
she herself was outside on a flat place, very stony and growing
full of young mummy-apples four and five feet high. It was a dark
day in the rainy season, and now there came squalls that tore off
the leaves and sent them flying, and now it was all still as in a
house. It was in one of these still times that a whole gang of
birds and flying foxes came pegging out of the bush like creatures
frightened. Presently after she heard a rustle nearer hand, and
saw, coming out of the margin of the trees, among the mummy-apples,
the appearance of a lean grey old boar. It seemed to think as it
came, like a person; and all of a sudden, as she looked at it
coming, she was aware it was no boar but a thing that was a man
with a man's thoughts. At that she ran, and the pig after her, and
as the pig ran it holla'd aloud, so that the place rang with it.
"I wish I had been there with my gun," said I. "I guess that pig
would have holla'd so as to surprise himself."
But she told me a gun was of no use with the like of these, which
were the spirits of the dead.
Well, this kind of talk put in the evening, which was the best of
it; but of course it didn't change my notion, and the next day,
with my gun and a good knife, I set off upon a voyage of discovery.
I made, as near as I could, for the place where I had seen Case
come out; for if it was true he had some kind of establishment in
the bush I reckoned I should find a path. The beginning of the
desert was marked off by a wall, to call it so, for it was more of
a long mound of stones. They say it reaches right across the
island, but how they know it is another question, for I doubt if
anyone has made the journey in a hundred years, the natives
sticking chiefly to the sea and their little colonies along the
coast, and that part being mortal high and steep and full of
cliffs. Up to the west side of the wall, the ground has been
cleared, and there are cocoa palms and mummy-apples and guavas, and
lots of sensitive plants. Just across, the bush begins outright;
high bush at that, trees going up like the masts of ships, and
ropes of liana hanging down like a ship's rigging, and nasty
orchids growing in the forks like funguses. The ground where there
was no underwood looked to be a heap of boulders. I saw many green
pigeons which I might have shot, only I was there with a different
idea. A number of butterflies flopped up and down along the ground
like dead leaves; sometimes I would hear a bird calling, sometimes
the wind overhead, and always the sea along the coast.
But the queerness of the place it's more difficult to tell of,
unless to one who has been alone in the high bush himself. The
brightest kind of a day it is always dim down there. A man can see
to the end of nothing; whichever way he looks the wood shuts up,
one bough folding with another like the fingers of your hand; and
whenever he listens he hears always something new - men talking,
children laughing, the strokes of an axe a far way ahead of him,
and sometimes a sort of a quick, stealthy scurry near at hand that
makes him jump and look to his weapons. It's all very well for him
to tell himself that he's alone, bar trees and birds; he can't make
out to believe it; whichever way he turns the whole place seems to
be alive and looking on. Don't think it was Uma's yarns that put
me out; I don't value native talk a fourpenny-piece; it's a thing
that's natural in the bush, and that's the end of it.
As I got near the top of the hill, for the ground of the wood goes
up in this place steep as a ladder, the wind began to sound
straight on, and the leaves to toss and switch open and let in the
sun. This suited me better; it was the same noise all the time,
and nothing to startle. Well, I had got to a place where there was
an underwood of what they wild cocoanut - mighty pretty with its
scarlet fruit - when there came a sound of singing in the wind that
I thought I had never heard the like of. It was all very fine to
tell myself it was the branches; I knew better. It was all very
fine to tell myself it was a bird; I knew never a bird that sang
like that. It rose and swelled, and died away and swelled again;
and now I thought it was like someone weeping, only prettier; and
now I thought it was like harps; and there was one thing I made
sure of, it was a sight too sweet to be wholesome in a place like
that. You may laugh if you like; but I declare I called to mind
the six young ladies that came, with their scarlet necklaces, out
of the cave at Fanga-anaana, and wondered if they sang like that.
We laugh at the natives and their superstitions; but see how many
traders take them up, splendidly educated white men, that have been
book-keepers (some of them) and clerks in the old country. It's my
belief a superstition grows up in a place like the different kind
of weeds; and as I stood there and listened to that wailing I
twittered in my shoes.
You may call me a coward to be frightened; I thought myself brave
enough to go on ahead. But I went mighty carefully, with my gun
cocked, spying all about me like a hunter, fully expecting to see a
handsome young woman sitting somewhere in the bush, and fully
determined (if I did) to try her with a charge of duck-shot. And
sure enough, I had not gone far when I met with a queer thing. The
wind came on the top of the wood in a strong puff, the leaves in
front of me burst open, and I saw for a second something hanging in
a tree. It was gone in a wink, the puff blowing by and the leaves
closing. I tell you the truth: I had made up my mind to see an
AITU; and if the thing had looked like a pig or a woman, it
wouldn't have given me the same turn. The trouble was that it
seemed kind of square, and the idea of a square thing that was
alive and sang knocked me sick and silly. I must have stood quite
a while; and I made pretty certain it was right out of the same
tree that the singing came. Then I began to come to myself a bit.
"Well," says I, "if this is really so, if this is a place where
there are square things that sing, I'm gone up anyway. Let's have
my fun for my money."
But I thought I might as well take the off chance of a prayer being
any good; so I plumped on my knees and prayed out loud; and all the
time I was praying the strange sounds came out of the tree, and
went up and down, and changed, for all the world like music, only
you could see it wasn't human - there was nothing there that you
As soon as I had made an end in proper style, I laid down my gun,
stuck my knife between my teeth, walked right up to that tree, and
began to climb. I tell you my heart was like ice. But presently,
as I went up, I caught another glimpse of the thing, and that
relieved me, for I thought it seemed like a box; and when I had got
right up to it I near fell out of the tree with laughing.
A box it was, sure enough, and a candle-box at that, with the brand
upon the side of it; and it had banjo strings stretched so as to
sound when the wind blew. I believe they call the thing a Tyrolean
(3) harp, whatever that may mean.
"Well, Mr. Case," said I, "you've frightened me once, but I defy
you to frighten me again," I says, and slipped down the tree, and
set out again to find my enemy's head office, which I guessed would
not be far away.
The undergrowth was thick in this part; I couldn't see before my
nose, and must burst my way through by main force and ply the knife
as I went, slicing the cords of the lianas and slashing down whole
trees at a blow. I call them trees for the bigness, but in truth
they were just big weeds, and sappy to cut through like carrot.
From all this crowd and kind of vegetation, I was just thinking to
myself, the place might have once been cleared, when I came on my
nose over a pile of stones, and saw in a moment it was some kind of
a work of man. The Lord knows when it was made or when deserted,
for this part of the island has lain undisturbed since long before
the whites came. A few steps beyond I hit into the path I had been
always looking for. It was narrow, but well beaten, and I saw that
Case had plenty of disciples. It seems, indeed, it was a piece of
fashionable boldness to venture up here with the trader, and a
young man scarce reckoned himself grown till he had got his breech
tattooed, for one thing, and seen Case's devils for another. This
is mighty like Kanakas; but, if you look at it another way, it's
mighty like white folks too.
A bit along the path I was brought to a clear stand, and had to rub
my eyes. There was a wall in front of me, the path passing it by a
gap; it was tumbledown and plainly very old, but built of big
stones very well laid; and there is no native alive to-day upon
that island that could dream of such a piece of building. Along
all the top of it was a line of queer figures, idols or scarecrows,
or what not. They had carved and painted faces ugly to view, their
eyes and teeth were of shell, their hair and their bright clothes
blew in the wind, and some of them worked with the tugging. There
are islands up west where they make these kind of figures till to-
day; but if ever they were made in this island, the practice and
the very recollection of it are now long forgotten. And the
singular thing was that all these bogies were as fresh as toys out
of a shop.
Then it came in my mind that Case had let out to me the first day
that he was a good forger of island curiosities, a thing by which
so many traders turn an honest penny. And with that I saw the
whole business, and how this display served the man a double
purpose: first of all, to season his curiosities, and then to
frighten those that came to visit him.
But I should tell you (what made the thing more curious) that all
the time the Tyrolean harps were harping round me in the trees, and
even while I looked, a green-and-yellow bird (that, I suppose, was
building) began to tear the hair off the head of one of the
A little farther on I found the best curiosity of the museum. The
first I saw of it was a longish mound of earth with a twist to it.
Digging off the earth with my hands, I found underneath tarpaulin
stretched on boards, so that this was plainly the roof of a cellar.
It stood right on the top of the hill, and the entrance was on the
far side, between two rocks, like the entrance to a cave. I went
as far in as the bend, and, looking round the corner, saw a shining
face. It was big and ugly, like a pantomime mask, and the
brightness of it waxed and dwindled, and at times it smoked.
"Oho!" says I, "luminous paint!"
And I must say I rather admired the man's ingenuity. With a box of
tools and a few mighty simple contrivances he had made out to have
a devil of a temple. Any poor Kanaka brought up here in the dark,
with the harps whining all round him, and shown that smoking face
in the bottom of a hole, would make no kind of doubt but he had
seen and heard enough devils for a lifetime. It's easy to find out
what Kanakas think. Just go back to yourself any way round from
ten to fifteen years old, and there's an average Kanaka. There are
some pious, just as there are pious boys; and the most of them,
like the boys again, are middling honest and yet think it rather
larks to steal, and are easy scared and rather like to be so. I
remember a boy I was at school with at home who played the Case
business. He didn't know anything, that boy; he couldn't do
anything; he had no luminous paint and no Tyrolean harps; he just
boldly said he was a sorcerer, and frightened us out of our boots,
and we loved it. And then it came in my mind how the master had
once flogged that boy, and the surprise we were all in to see the
sorcerer catch it and bum like anybody else. Thinks I to myself,
"I must find some way of fixing it so for Master Case." And the
next moment I had my idea.
I went back by the path, which, when once you had found it, was
quite plain and easy walking; and when I stepped out on the black
sands, who should I see but Master Case himself. I cocked my gun
and held it handy, and we marched up and passed without a word,
each keeping the tail of his eye on the other; and no sooner had we
passed than we each wheeled round like fellows drilling, and stood
face to face. We had each taken the same notion in his head, you
see, that the other fellow might give him the load of his gun in
"You've shot nothing," says Case.
"I'm not on the shoot to-day," said I.
"Well, the devil go with you for me," says he.
"The same to you," says I.
But we stuck just the way we were; no fear of either of us moving.
Case laughed. "We can't stop here all day, though," said he.
"Don't let me detain you," says I.
He laughed again. "Look here, Wiltshire, do you think me a fool?"
"More of a knave, if you want to know," says I.
"Well, do you think it would better me to shoot you here, on this
open beach?" said he. "Because I don't. Folks come fishing every
day. There may be a score of them up the valley now, making copra;
there might be half a dozen on the hill behind you, after pigeons;
they might be watching us this minute, and I shouldn't wonder. I
give you my word I don't want to shoot you. Why should I? You
don't hinder me any. You haven't got one pound of copra but what
you made with your own hands, like a negro slave. You're
vegetating - that's what I call it - and I don't care where you
vegetate, nor yet how long. Give me your word you don't mean to
shoot me, and I'll give you a lead and walk away."
"Well," said I, "You're frank and pleasant, ain't you? And I'll be
the same. I don't mean to shoot you to-day. Why should I? This
business is beginning; it ain't done yet, Mr. Case. I've given you
one turn already; I can see the marks of my knuckles on your head
to this blooming hour, and I've more cooking for you. I'm not a
paralee, like Underhill. My name ain't Adams, and it ain't
Vigours; and I mean to show you that you've met your match."
"This is a silly way to talk," said he. "This is not the talk to
make me move on with."
"All right," said I, "stay where you are. I ain't in any hurry,
and you know it. I can put in a day on this beach and never mind.
I ain't got any copra to bother with. I ain't got any luminous
paint to see to."
I was sorry I said that last, but it whipped out before I knew. I
could see it took the wind out of his sails, and he stood and
stared at me with his brow drawn up. Then I suppose he made up his
mind he must get to the bottom of this.
"I take you at your word," says he, and turned his back, and walked
right into the devil's bush.
I let him go, of course, for I had passed my word. But I watched
him as long as he was in sight, and after he was gone lit out for
cover as lively as you would want to see, and went the rest of the
way home under the bush, for I didn't trust him sixpence-worth.
One thing I saw, I had been ass enough to give him warning, and
that which I meant to do I must do at once.
You would think I had had about enough excitement for one morning,
but there was another turn waiting me. As soon as I got far enough
round the cape to see my house I made out there were strangers
there; a little farther, and no doubt about it. There was a couple
of armed sentinels squatting at my door. I could only suppose the
trouble about Uma must have come to a head, and the station been
seized. For aught I could think, Uma was taken up already, and
these armed men were waiting to do the like with me.
However, as I came nearer, which I did at top speed, I saw there
was a third native sitting on the verandah like a guest, and Uma
was talking with him like a hostess. Nearer still I made out it
was the big young chief, Maea, and that he was smiling away and
smoking. And what was he smoking? None of your European
cigarettes fit for a cat, not even the genuine big, knock-me-down
native article that a fellow can really put in the time with if his
pipe is broke - but a cigar, and one of my Mexicans at that, that I
could swear to. At sight of this my heart started beating, and I
took a wild hope in my head that the trouble was over, and Maea had
Uma pointed me out to him as I came up, and he met me at the head
of my own stairs like a thorough gentleman.
"Vilivili," said he, which was the best they could make of my name,
There is no doubt when an island chief wants to be civil he can do
it. I saw the way things were from the word go. There was no call
for Uma to say to me: "He no 'fraid Ese now, come bring copra." I
tell you I shook hands with that Kanaka like as if he was the best
white man in Europe.
The fact was, Case and he had got after the same girl; or Maea
suspected it, and concluded to make hay of the trader on the
chance. He had dressed himself up, got a couple of his retainers
cleaned and armed to kind of make the thing more public, and, just
waiting till Case was clear of the village, came round to put the
whole of his business my way. He was rich as well as powerful. I
suppose that man was worth fifty thousand nuts per annum. I gave
him the price of the beach and a quarter cent better, and as for
credit, I would have advanced him the inside of the store and the
fittings besides, I was so pleased to see him. I must say he
bought like a gentleman: rice and tins and biscuits enough for a
week's feast, and stuffs by the bolt. He was agreeable besides; he
had plenty fun to him; and we cracked jests together, mostly
through the interpreter, because he had mighty little English, and
my native was still off colour. One thing I made out: he could
never really have thought much harm of Uma; he could never have
been really frightened, and must just have made believe from
dodginess, and because he thought Case had a strong pull in the
village and could help him on.
This set me thinking that both he and I were in a tightish place.
What he had done was to fly in the face of the whole village, and
the thing might cost him his authority. More than that, after my
talk with Case on the beach, I thought it might very well cost me
my life. Case had as good as said he would pot me if ever I got
any copra; he would come home to find the best business in the
village had changed hands; and the best thing I thought I could do
was to get in first with the potting.
"See here, Uma," says I, "tell him I'm sorry I made him wait, but I
was up looking at Case's Tiapolo store in the bush."
"He want savvy if you no 'fraid?" translated Uma.
I laughed out. "Not much!" says I. "Tell him the place is a
blooming toy-shop! Tell him in England we give these things to the
kids to play with."
"He want savvy if you hear devil sing?" she asked next.
"Look here," I said, "I can't do it now because I've got no banjo-
strings in stock; but the next time the ship comes round I'll have
one of these same contraptions right here in my verandah, and he
can see for himself how much devil there is to it. Tell him, as
soon as I can get the strings I'll make one for his picaninnies.
The name of the concern is a Tyrolean harp; and you can tell him
the name means in English that nobody but dam-fools give a cent for
This time he was so pleased he had to try his English again. "You
talk true?" says he.
"Rather!" said I. "Talk all-e-same Bible. Bring out a Bible here,
Uma, if you've got such a thing, and I'll kiss it. Or, I'll tell
you what's better still," says I, taking a header, "ask him if he's
afraid to go up there himself by day."
It appeared he wasn't; he could venture as far as that by day and
"That's the ticket, then!" said I. "Tell him the man's a fraud and
the place foolishness, and if he'll go up there to-morrow he'll see
all that's left of it. But tell him this, Uma, and mind he
understands it: If he gets talking, it's bound to come to Case, and
I'm a dead man! I'm playing his game, tell him, and if he says one
word my blood will be at his door and be the damnation of him here
She told him, and he shook hands with me up to the hilt, and, says
he: "No talk. Go up to-morrow. You my friend?"
"No sir," says I, "no such foolishness. I've come here to trade,
tell him, and not to make friends. But, as to Case, I'll send that
man to glory!"
So off Maea went, pretty well pleased, as I could see.
CHAPTER V. NIGHT IN THE BUSH.
WELL, I was committed now; Tiapolo had to be smashed up before next
day, and my hands were pretty full, not only with preparations, but
with argument. My house was like a mechanics' debating society:
Uma was so made up that I shouldn't go into the bush by night, or
that, if I did, I was never to come back again. You know her style
of arguing: you've had a specimen about Queen Victoria and the
devil; and I leave you to fancy if I was tired of it before dark.
At last I had a good idea. What was the use of casting my pearls
before her? I thought; some of her own chopped hay would be
likelier to do the business.
"I'll tell you what, then," said I. "You fish out your Bible, and
I'll take that up along with me. That'll make me right."
She swore a Bible was no use.
"That's just your Kanaka ignorance," said I. "Bring the Bible
She brought it, and I turned to the title-page, where I thought
there would likely be some English, and so there was. "There!"
said I. "Look at that! 'LONDON: PRINTED FOR THE BRITISH AND
FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY, BLACKFRIARS,' and the date, which I can't
read, owing to its being in these X's. There's no devil in hell
can look near the Bible Society' Blackfriars. Why, you silly!" I
said, "how do you suppose we get along with our own AITUS at home?
All Bible Society!"
"I think you no got any," said she. "White man, he tell me you no
"Sounds likely, don't it?" I asked. "Why would these islands all
be chock full of them and none in Europe?"
"Well, you no got breadfruit," said she.
I could have torn my hair. "Now look here, old lady," said I, "you
dry up, for I'm tired of you. I'll take the Bible, which'll put me
as straight as the mail, and that's the last word I've got to say."
The night fell extraordinary dark, clouds coming up with sundown
and overspreading all; not a star showed; there was only an end of
a moon, and that not due before the small hours. Round the
village, what with the lights and the fires in the open houses, and
the torches of many fishers moving on the reef, it kept as gay as
an illumination; but the sea and the mountains and woods were all
clean gone. I suppose it might be eight o'clock when I took the
road, laden like a donkey. First there was that Bible, a book as
big as your head, which I had let myself in for by my own
tomfoolery. Then there was my gun, and knife, and lantern, and
patent matches, all necessary. And then there was the real plant
of the affair in hand, a mortal weight of gunpowder, a pair of
dynamite fishing-bombs, and two or three pieces of slow match that
I had hauled out of the tin cases and spliced together the best way
I could; for the match was only trade stuff, and a man would be
crazy that trusted it. Altogether, you see, I had the materials of
a pretty good blow-up! Expense was nothing to me; I wanted that
thing done right.
As long as I was in the open, and had the lamp in my house to steer
by, I did well. But when I got to the path, it fell so dark I
could make no headway, walking into trees and swearing there, like
a man looking for the matches in his bed-room. I knew it was risky
to light up, for my lantern would be visible all the way to the
point of the cape, and as no one went there after dark, it would be
talked about, and come to Case's ears. But what was I to do? I
had either to give the business over and lose caste with Maea, or
light up, take my chance, and get through the thing the smartest I
As long as I was on the path I walked hard, but when I came to the
black beach I had to run. For the tide was now nearly flowed; and
to get through with my powder dry between the surf and the steep
hill, took all the quickness I possessed. As it was, even, the
wash caught me to the knees, and I came near falling on a stone.
All this time the hurry I was in, and the free air and smell of the
sea, kept my spirits lively; but when I was once in the bush and
began to climb the path I took it easier. The fearsomeness of the
wood had been a good bit rubbed off for me by Master Case's banjo-
strings and graven images, yet I thought it was a dreary walk, and
guessed, when the disciples went up there, they must be badly
scared. The light of the lantern, striking among all these trunks
and forked branches and twisted rope-ends of lianas, made the whole
place, or all that you could see of it, a kind of a puzzle of
turning shadows. They came to meet you, solid and quick like
giants, and then span off and vanished; they hove up over your head
like clubs, and flew away into the night like birds. The floor of
the bush glimmered with dead wood, the way the match-box used to
shine after you had struck a lucifer. Big, cold drops fell on me
from the branches overhead like sweat. There was no wind to
mention; only a little icy breath of a land-breeze that stirred
nothing; and the harps were silent.
The first landfall I made was when I got through the bush of wild
cocoanuts, and came in view of the bogies on the wall. Mighty
queer they looked by the shining of the lantern, with their painted
faces and shell eyes, and their clothes and their hair hanging.
One after another I pulled them all up and piled them in a bundle
on the cellar roof, so as they might go to glory with the rest.
Then I chose a place behind one of the big stones at the entrance,
buried my powder and the two shells, and arranged my match along
the passage. And then I had a look at the smoking head, just for
good-bye. It was doing fine.
"Cheer up," says I. "You're booked."
It was my first idea to light up and be getting homeward; for the
darkness and the glimmer of the dead wood and the shadows of the
lantern made me lonely. But I knew where one of the harps hung; it
seemed a pity it shouldn't go with the rest; and at the same time I
couldn't help letting on to myself that I was mortal tired of my
employment, and would like best to be at home and have the door
shut. I stepped out of the cellar and argued it fore and back.
There was a sound of the sea far down below me on the coast; nearer
hand not a leaf stirred; I might have been the only living creature
this side of Cape Horn. Well, as I stood there thinking, it seemed
the bush woke and became full of little noises. Little noises they
were, and nothing to hurt - a bit of a crackle, a bit of a rush -
but the breath jumped right out of me and my throat went as dry as
a biscuit. It wasn't Case I was afraid of, which would have been
common-sense; I never thought of Case; what took me, as sharp as
the colic, was the old wives' tales, the devil-women and the man-
pigs. It was the toss of a penny whether I should run: but I got a
purchase on myself, and stepped out, and held up the lantern (like
a fool) and looked all round.
In the direction of the village and the path there was nothing to
be seen; but when I turned inland it's a wonder to me I didn't
drop. There, coming right up out of the desert and the bad bush -
there, sure enough, was a devil-woman, just as the way I had
figured she would look. I saw the light shine on her bare arms and
her bright eyes, and there went out of me a yell so big that I
thought it was my death.
"Ah! No sing out!" says the devil-woman, in a kind of a high
whisper. "Why you talk big voice? Put out light! Ese he come."
"My God Almighty, Uma, is that you?" says I.
"IOE," (4) says she. I come quick. Ese here soon."
"You come alone?" I asked. "You no 'fraid?"
"Ah, too much 'fraid!" she whispered, clutching me. "I think die."
"Well," says I, with a kind of a weak grin, "I'm not the one to
laugh at you, Mrs. Wiltshire, for I'm about the worst scared man in
the South Pacific myself."
She told me in two words what brought her. I was scarce gone, it
seems, when Fa'avao came in, and the old woman had met Black Jack
running as hard as he was fit from our house to Case's. Uma
neither spoke nor stopped, but lit right out to come and warn me.
She was so close at my heels that the lantern was her guide across
the beach, and afterwards, by the glimmer of it in the trees, she
got her line up hill. It was only when I had got to the top or was
in the cellar that she wandered Lord knows where! and lost a sight
of precious time, afraid to call out lest Case was at the heels of
her, and falling in the bush, so that she was all knocked and
bruised. That must have been when she got too far to the
southward, and how she came to take me in the flank at last and
frighten me beyond what I've got the words to tell of.
Well, anything was better than a devil-woman, but I thought her
yarn serious enough. Black Jack had no call to be about my house,
unless he was set there to watch; and it looked to me as if my
tomfool word about the paint, and perhaps some chatter of Maea's,
had got us all in a clove hitch. One thing was clear: Uma and I
were here for the night; we daren't try to go home before day, and
even then it would be safer to strike round up the mountain and
come in by the back of the village, or we might walk into an
ambuscade. It was plain, too, that the mine should be sprung
immediately, or Case might be in time to stop it.
I marched into the tunnel, Uma keeping tight hold of me, opened my
lantern and lit the match. The first length of it burned like a
spill of paper, and I stood stupid, watching it burn, and thinking
we were going aloft with Tiapolo, which was none of my views. The
second took to a better rate, though faster than I cared about; and
at that I got my wits again, hauled Uma clear of the passage, blew
out and dropped the lantern, and the pair of us groped our way into
the bush until I thought it might be safe, and lay down together by
"Old lady," I said, "I won't forget this night. You're a trump,
and that's what's wrong with you."
She humped herself close up to me. She had run out the way she
was, with nothing on her but her kilt; and she was all wet with the
dews and the sea on the black beach, and shook straight on with
cold and the terror of the dark and the devils.
"Too much 'fraid," was all she said.
The far side of Case's hill goes down near as steep as a precipice
into the next valley. We were on the very edge of it, and I could
see the dead wood shine and hear the sea sound far below. I didn't
care about the position, which left me no retreat, but I was afraid
to change. Then I saw I had made a worse mistake about the
lantern, which I should have left lighted, so that I could have had
a crack at Case when he stepped into the shine of it. And even if
I hadn't had the wit to do that, it seemed a senseless thing to
leave the good lantern to blow up with the graven images. The
thing belonged to me, after all, and was worth money, and might
come in handy. If I could have trusted the match, I might have run
in still and rescued it. But who was going to trust the match?
You know what trade is. The stuff was good enough for Kanakas to
go fishing with, where they've got to look lively anyway, and the
most they risk is only to have their hand blown off. But for
anyone that wanted to fool around a blow-up like mine that match
Altogether the best I could do was to lie still, see my shot-gun
handy, and wait for the explosion. But it was a solemn kind of a
business. The blackness of the night was like solid; the only
thing you could see was the nasty bogy glimmer of the dead wood,
and that showed you nothing but itself; and as for sounds, I
stretched my ears till I thought I could have heard the match burn
in the tunnel, and that bush was as silent as a coffin. Now and
then there was a bit of a crack; but whether it was near or far,
whether it was Case stubbing his toes within a few yards of me, or
a tree breaking miles away, I knew no more than the babe unborn.
And then, all of a sudden, Vesuvius went off. It was a long time
coming; but when it came (though I say it that shouldn't) no man
could ask to see a better. At first it was just a son of a gun of
a row, and a spout of fire, and the wood lighted up so that you
could see to read. And then the trouble began. Uma and I were
half buried under a wagonful of earth, and glad it was no worse,
for one of the rocks at the entrance of the tunnel was fired clean
into the air, fell within a couple of fathoms of where we lay, and
bounded over the edge of the hill, and went pounding down into the
next valley. I saw I had rather undercalculated our distance, or
over-done the dynamite and powder, which you please.
And presently I saw I had made another slip. The noise of the
thing began to die off, shaking the island; the dazzle was over;
and yet the night didn't come back the way I expected. For the
whole wood was scattered with red coals and brands from the
explosion; they were all round me on the flat; some had fallen
below in the valley, and some stuck and flared in the tree-tops. I
had no fear of fire, for these forests are too wet to kindle. But
the trouble was that the place was all lit up-not very bright, but
good enough to get a shot by; and the way the coals were scattered,
it was just as likely Case might have the advantage as myself. I
looked all round for his white face, you may be sure; but there was
not a sign of him. As for Uma, the life seemed to have been
knocked right out of her by the bang and blaze of it.
There was one bad point in my game. One of the blessed graven
images had come down all afire, hair and clothes and body, not four
yards away from me. I cast a mighty noticing glance all round;
there was still no Case, and I made up my mind I must get rid of
that burning stick before he came, or I should be shot there like a
It was my first idea to have crawled, and then I thought speed was
the main thing, and stood half up to make a rush. The same moment
from somewhere between me and the sea there came a flash and a
report, and a rifle bullet screeched in my ear. I swung straight
round and up with my gun, but the brute had a Winchester, and
before I could as much as see him his second shot knocked me over
like a nine-pin. I seemed to fly in the air, then came down by the
run and lay half a minute, silly; and then I found my hands empty,
and my gun had flown over my head as I fell. It makes a man mighty
wide awake to be in the kind of box that I was in. I scarcely knew
where I was hurt, or whether I was hurt or not, but turned right
over on my face to crawl after my weapon. Unless you have tried to
get about with a smashed leg you don't know what pain is, and I let
out a howl like a bullock's.
This was the unluckiest noise that ever I made in my life. Up to
then Uma had stuck to her tree like a sensible woman, knowing she
would be only in the way; but as soon as she heard me sing out, she
ran forward. The Winchester cracked again, and down she went.
I had sat up, leg and all, to stop her; but when I saw her tumble I
clapped down again where I was, lay still, and felt the handle of
my knife. I had been scurried and put out before. No more of that
for me. He had knocked over my girl, I had got to fix him for it;
and I lay there and gritted my teeth, and footed up the chances.
My leg was broke, my gun was gone. Case had still ten shots in his
Winchester. It looked a kind of hopeless business. But I never
despaired nor thought upon despairing: that man had got to go.
For a goodish bit not one of us let on. Then I heard Case begin to
move nearer in the bush, but mighty careful. The image had burned
out; there were only a few coals left here and there, and the wood
was main dark, but had a kind of a low glow in it like a fire on
its last legs. It was by this that I made out Case's head looking
at me over a big tuft of ferns, and at the same time the brute saw
me and shouldered his Winchester. I lay quite still, and as good
as looked into the barrel: it was my last chance, but I thought my
heart would have come right out of its bearings. Then he fired.
Lucky for me it was no shot-gun, for the bullet struck within an
inch of me and knocked the dirt in my eyes.
Just you try and see if you can lie quiet, and let a man take a
sitting shot at you and miss you by a hair. But I did, and lucky
too. A while Case stood with the Winchester at the port-arms; then
lie gave a little laugh to himself, and stepped round the ferns.
"Laugh!" thought I. "If you had the wit of a louse you would be
I was all as taut as a ship's hawser or the spring of a watch, and
as soon as he came within reach of me I had him by the ankle,
plucked the feet right out from under him, laid him out, and was
upon the top of him, broken leg and all, before he breathed. His
Winchester had gone the same road as my shot-gun; it was nothing to
me - I defied him now. I'm a pretty strong man anyway, but I never
knew what strength was till I got hold of Case. He was knocked out
of time by the rattle he came down with, and threw up his hands
together, more like a frightened woman, so that I caught both of
them with my left. This wakened him up, and he fastened his teeth
in my forearm like a weasel. Much I cared. My leg gave me all the
pain I had any use for, and I drew my knife and got it in the
"Now," said I, "I've got you; and you're gone up, and a good job
too! Do you feel the point of that? That's for Underhill! And
there's for Adams! And now here's for Uma, and that's going to
knock your blooming soul right out of you!"
With that I gave him the cold steel for all I was worth. His body
kicked under me like a spring sofa; he gave a dreadful kind of a
long moan, and lay still.
"I wonder if you're dead? I hope so!" I thought, for my head was
swimming. But I wasn't going to take chances; I had his own
example too close before me for that; and I tried to draw the knife
out to give it him again. The blood came over my hands, I
remember, hot as tea; and with that I fainted clean away, and fell
with my head on the man's mouth.
When I came to myself it was pitch dark; the cinders had burned
out; there was nothing to be seen but the shine of the dead wood,
and I couldn't remember where I was nor why I was in such pain nor
what I was all wetted with. Then it came back, and the first thing
I attended to was to give him the knife again a half-a-dozen times
up to the handle. I believe he was dead already, but it did him no
harm and did me good.
"I bet you're dead now," I said, and then I called to Uma.
Nothing answered, and I made a move to go and grope for her, fouled
my broken leg, and fainted again.
When I came to myself the second time the clouds had all cleared
away, except a few that sailed there, white as cotton. The moon
was up - a tropic moon. The moon at home turns a wood black, but
even this old butt-end of a one showed up that forest, as green as
by day. The night birds - or, rather, they're a kind of early
morning bird - sang out with their long, falling notes like
nightingales. And I could see the dead man, that I was still half
resting on, looking right up into the sky with his open eyes, no
paler than when he was alive; and a little way off Uma tumbled on
her side. I got over to her the best way I was able, and when I
got there she was broad awake, and crying and sobbing to herself
with no more noise than an insect. It appears she was afraid to
cry out loud, because of the AITUS. Altogether she was not much
hurt, but scared beyond belief; she had come to her senses a long
while ago, cried out to me, heard nothing in reply, made out we
were both dead, and had lain there ever since, afraid to budge a
finger. The ball had ploughed up her shoulder, and she had lost a
main quantity of blood; but I soon had that tied up the way it
ought to be with the tail of my shirt and a scarf I had on, got her
head on my sound knee and my back against a trunk, and settled down
to wait for morning. Uma was for neither use nor ornament, and
could only clutch hold of me and shake and cry. I don't suppose
there was ever anybody worse scared, and, to do her justice, she
had had a lively night of it. As for me, I was in a good bit of
pain and fever, but not so bad when I sat still; and every time I
looked over to Case I could have sung and whistled. Talk about
meat and drink! To see that man lying there dead as a herring
filled me full.
The night birds stopped after a while; and then the light began to
change, the east came orange, the whole wood began to whirr with
singing like a musical box, and there was the broad day.
I didn't expect Maea for a long while yet; and, indeed, I thought
there was an off-chance he might go back on the whole idea and not
come at all. I was the better pleased when, about an hour after
daylight, I heard sticks smashing and a lot of Kanakas laughing,
and singing out to keep their courage up. Uma sat up quite brisk
at the first word of it; and presently we saw a party come
stringing out of the path, Maea in front, and behind him a white
man in a pith helmet. It was Mr. Tarleton, who had turned up late
last night in Falesa, having left his boat and walked the last
stage with a lantern.
They buried Case upon the field of glory, right in the hole where
he had kept the smoking head. I waited till the thing was done;
and Mr. Tarleton prayed, which I thought tomfoolery, but I'm bound
to say he gave a pretty sick view of the dear departed's prospects,
and seemed to have his own ideas of hell. I had it out with him
afterwards, told him he had scamped his duty, and what he had ought
to have done was to up like a man and tell the Kanakas plainly Case
was damned, and a good riddance; but I never could get him to see
it my way. Then they made me a litter of poles and carried me down
to the station. Mr. Tarleton set my leg, and made a regular
missionary splice of it, so that I limp to this day. That done, he
took down my evidence, and Uma's, and Maea's, wrote it all out
fine, and had us sign it; and then he got the chiefs and marched
over to Papa Randall's to seize Case's papers.
All they found was a bit of a diary, kept for a good many years,
and all about the price of copra, and chickens being stolen, and
that; and the books of the business and the will I told you of in
the beginning, by both of which the whole thing (stock, lock, and
barrel) appeared to belong to the Samoa woman. It was I that
bought her out at a mighty reasonable figure, for she was in a
hurry to get home. As for Randall and the black, they had to
tramp; got into some kind of a station on the Papa-malulu side; did
very bad business, for the truth is neither of the pair was fit for
it, and lived mostly on fish, which was the means of Randall's
death. It seems there was a nice shoal in one day, and papa went
after them with the dynamite; either the match burned too fast, or
papa was full, or both, but the shell went off (in the usual way)
before he threw it, and where was papa's hand? Well, there's
nothing to hurt in that; the islands up north are all full of one-
handed men, like the parties in the "Arabian Nights"; but either
Randall was too old, or he drank too much, and the short and the
long of it was that he died. Pretty soon after, the nigger was
turned out of the island for stealing from white men, and went off
to the west, where he found men of his own colour, in case he liked
that, and the men of his own colour took and ate him at some kind
of a corroborree, and I'm sure I hope he was to their fancy!
So there was I, left alone in my glory at Falesa; and when the
schooner came round I filled her up, and gave her a deck-cargo half
as high as the house. I must say Mr. Tarleton did the right thing
by us; but he took a meanish kind of a revenge.
"Now, Mr. Wiltshire," said he, "I've put you all square with
everybody here. It wasn't difficult to do, Case being gone; but I
have done it, and given my pledge besides that you will deal fairly
with the natives. I must ask you to keep my word."
Well, so I did. I used to be bothered about my balances, but I
reasoned it out this way: We all have queerish balances; and the
natives all know it, and water their copra in a proportion so that
it's fair all round; but the truth is, it did use to bother me,
and, though I did well in Falesa, I was half glad when the firm
moved me on to another station, where I was under no kind of a
pledge and could look my balances in the face.
As for the old lady, you know her as well as I do. She's only the
one fault. If you don't keep your eye lifting she would give away
the roof off the station. Well, it seems it's natural in Kanakas.
She's turned a powerful big woman now, and could throw a London
bobby over her shoulder. But that's natural in Kanakas too, and
there's no manner of doubt that she's an A 1 wife.
Mr. Tarleton's gone home, his trick being over. He was the best
missionary I ever struck, and now, it seems, he's parsonising down
Somerset way. Well, that's best for him; he'll have no Kanakas
there to get luny over.
My public-house? Not a bit of it, nor ever likely. I'm stuck
here, I fancy. I don't like to leave the kids, you see: and -
there's no use talking - they're better here than what they would
be in a white man's country, though Ben took the eldest up to
Auckland, where he's being schooled with the best. But what
bothers me is the girls. They're only half-castes, of course; I
know that as well as you do, and there's nobody thinks less of
half-castes than I do; but they're mine, and about all I've got. I
can't reconcile my mind to their taking up with Kanakas, and I'd
like to know where I'm to find the whites?
THE BOTTLE IMP.
Note. - Any student of that very unliterary product, the English
drama of the early part of the century, will here recognise the
name and the root idea of a piece once rendered popular by the
redoubtable O. Smith. The root idea is there and identical, and
yet I hope I have made it a new thing. And the fact that the tale
has been designed and written for a Polynesian audience may lend it
some extraneous interest nearer home. - R. L. S.
THERE was a man of the Island of Hawaii, whom I shall call Keawe;
for the truth is, he still lives, and his name must be kept secret;
but the place of his birth was not far from Honaunau, where the
bones of Keawe the Great lie hidden in a cave. This man was poor,
brave, and active; he could read and write like a schoolmaster; he
was a first-rate mariner besides, sailed for some time in the
island steamers, and steered a whaleboat on the Hamakua coast. At
length it came in Keawe's mind to have a sight of the great world
and foreign cities, and he shipped on a vessel bound to San
This is a fine town, with a fine harbour, and rich people
uncountable; and, in particular, there is one hill which is covered
with palaces. Upon this hill Keawe was one day taking a walk with
his pocket full of money, viewing the great houses upon either hand
with pleasure, "What fine houses these are!" he was thinking, "and
how happy must those people be who dwell in them, and take no care
for the morrow!" The thought was in his mind when he came abreast
of a house that was smaller than some others, but all finished and
beautified like a toy; the steps of that house shone like silver,
and the borders of the garden bloomed like garlands, and the
windows were bright like diamond; and Keawe stopped and wondered at
the excellence of all he saw. So stopping, he was aware of a man
that looked forth upon him through a window so clear that Keawe
could see him as you see a fish in a pool upon the reef. The man
was elderly, with a bald head and a black beard; and his face was
heavy with sorrow, and he bitterly sighed. And the truth of it is,
that as Keawe looked in upon the man, and the man looked out upon
Keawe, each envied the other.
All of a sudden, the man smiled and nodded, and beckoned Keawe to
enter, and met him at the door of the house.
"This is a fine house of mine," said the man, and bitterly sighed.
"Would you not care to view the chambers?"
So he led Keawe all over it, from the cellar to the roof, and there
was nothing there that was not perfect of its kind, and Keawe was
"Truly," said Keawe, "this is a beautiful house; if I lived in the
like of it, I should be laughing all day long. How comes it, then,
that you should be sighing?"
"There is no reason," said the man, "why you should not have a
house in all points similar to this, and finer, if you wish. You
have some money, I suppose?"
"I have fifty dollars," said Keawe; "but a house like this will
cost more than fifty dollars."
The man made a computation. "I am sorry you have no more," said
he, "for it may raise you trouble in the future; but it shall be
yours at fifty dollars."
"The house?" asked Keawe.
"No, not the house," replied the man; "but the bottle. For, I must
tell you, although I appear to you so rich and fortunate, all my
fortune, and this house itself and its garden, came out of a bottle
not much bigger than a pint. This is it."
And he opened a lockfast place, and took out a round-bellied bottle
with a long neck; the glass of it was white like milk, with
changing rainbow colours in the grain. Withinsides something
obscurely moved, like a shadow and a fire.
"This is the bottle," said the man; and, when Keawe laughed, "You
do not believe me?" he added. "Try, then, for yourself. See if
you can break it."
So Keawe took the bottle up and dashed it on the floor till he was
weary; but it jumped on the floor like a child's ball, and was not
"This is a strange thing," said Keawe. "For by the touch of it, as
well as by the look, the bottle should be of glass."
"Of glass it is," replied the man, sighing more heavily than ever;
"but the glass of it was tempered in the flames of hell. An imp
lives in it, and that is the shadow we behold there moving: or so I
suppose. If any man buy this bottle the imp is at his command; all
that he desires - love, fame, money, houses like this house, ay, or
a city like this city - all are his at the word uttered. Napoleon
had this bottle, and by it he grew to be the king of the world; but
he sold it at the last, and fell. Captain Cook had this bottle,
and by it he found his way to so many islands; but he, too, sold
it, and was slain upon Hawaii. For, once it is sold, the power
goes and the protection; and unless a man remain content with what
he has, ill will befall him."
"And yet you talk of selling it yourself?" Keawe said.
"I have all I wish, and I am growing elderly," replied the man.
"There is one thing the imp cannot do - he cannot prolong life;
and, it would not be fair to conceal from you, there is a drawback
to the bottle; for if a man die before he sells it, he must burn in
"To be sure, that is a drawback and no mistake," cried Keawe. "I
would not meddle with the thing. I can do without a house, thank
God; but there is one thing I could not be doing with one particle,
and that is to be damned."
"Dear me, you must not run away with things," returned the man.
"All you have to do is to use the power of the imp in moderation,
and then sell it to someone else, as I do to you, and finish your
life in comfort."
"Well, I observe two things," said Keawe. "All the time you keep
sighing like a maid in love, that is one; and, for the other, you
sell this bottle very cheap."
"I have told you already why I sigh," said the man. "It is because
I fear my health is breaking up; and, as you said yourself, to die
and go to the devil is a pity for anyone. As for why I sell so
cheap, I must explain to you there is a peculiarity about the
bottle. Long ago, when the devil brought it first upon earth, it
was extremely expensive, and was sold first of all to Prester John
for many millions of dollars; but it cannot be sold at all, unless
sold at a loss. If you sell it for as much as you paid for it,
back it comes to you again like a homing pigeon. It follows that
the price has kept falling in these centuries, and the bottle is
now remarkably cheap. I bought it myself from one of my great
neighbours on this hill, and the price I paid was only ninety
dollars. I could sell it for as high as eighty-nine dollars and
ninety-nine cents, but not a penny dearer, or back the thing must
come to me. Now, about this there are two bothers. First, when
you offer a bottle so singular for eighty odd dollars, people
suppose you to be jesting. And second - but there is no hurry
about that - and I need not go into it. Only remember it must be
coined money that you sell it for."
"How am I to know that this is all true?" asked Keawe.
"Some of it you can try at once," replied the man. "Give me your
fifty dollars, take the bottle, and wish your fifty dollars back
into your pocket. If that does not happen, I pledge you my honour
I will cry off the bargain and restore your money."
"You are not deceiving me?" said Keawe.
The man bound himself with a great oath.
"Well, I will risk that much," said Keawe, "for that can do no
harm." And he paid over his money to the man, and the man handed
him the bottle.
"Imp of the bottle," said Keawe, "I want my fifty dollars back."
And sure enough he had scarce said the word before his pocket was
as heavy as ever.
"To be sure this is a wonderful bottle," said Keawe.
"And now good-morning to you, my fine fellow, and the devil go with
you for me!" said the man.
"Hold on," said Keawe, "I don't want any more of this fun. Here,
take your bottle back."
"You have bought it for less than I paid for it," replied the man,
rubbing his hands. "It is yours now; and, for my part, I am only
concerned to see the back of you." And with that he rang for his
Chinese servant, and had Keawe shown out of the house.
Now, when Keawe was in the street, with the bottle under his arm,
he began to think. "If all is true about this bottle, I may have
made a losing bargain," thinks he. "But perhaps the man was only
fooling me." The first thing he did was to count his money; the
sum was exact - forty-nine dollars American money, and one Chili
piece. "That looks like the truth," said Keawe. "Now I will try
The streets in that part of the city were as clean as a ship's
decks, and though it was noon, there were no passengers. Keawe set
the bottle in the gutter and walked away. Twice he looked back,
and there was the milky, round-bellied bottle where he left it. A
third time he looked back, and turned a corner; but he had scarce
done so, when something knocked upon his elbow, and behold! it was
the long neck sticking up; and as for the round belly, it was
jammed into the pocket of his pilot-coat.
"And that looks like the truth," said Keawe.
The next thing he did was to buy a cork-screw in a shop, and go
apart into a secret place in the fields. And there he tried to
draw the cork, but as often as he put the screw in, out it came
again, and the cork as whole as ever.
"This is some new sort of cork," said Keawe, and all at once he
began to shake and sweat, for he was afraid of that bottle.
On his way back to the port-side, he saw a shop where a man sold
shells and clubs from the wild islands, old heathen deities, old
coined money, pictures from China and Japan, and all manner of
things that sailors bring in their sea-chests. And here he had an
idea. So he went in and offered the bottle for a hundred dollars.
The man of the shop laughed at him at the first, and offered him
five; but, indeed, it was a curious bottle - such glass was never
blown in any human glassworks, so prettily the colours shone under
the milky white, and so strangely the shadow hovered in the midst;
so, after he had disputed awhile after the manner of his kind, the
shop-man gave Keawe sixty silver dollars for the thing, and set it
on a shelf in the midst of his window.
"Now," said Keawe, "I have sold that for sixty which I bought for
fifty - or, to say truth, a little less, because one of my dollars
was from Chili. Now I shall know the truth upon another point."
So he went back on board his ship, and, when he opened his chest,
there was the bottle, and had come more quickly than himself. Now
Keawe had a mate on board whose name was Lopaka.
"What ails you?" said Lopaka, "that you stare in your chest?"
They were alone in the ship's forecastle, and Keawe bound him to
secrecy, and told all.
"This is a very strange affair," said Lopaka; "and I fear you will
be in trouble about this bottle. But there is one point very clear
- that you are sure of the trouble, and you had better have the
profit in the bargain. Make up your mind what you want with it;
give the order, and if it is done as you desire, I will buy the
bottle myself; for I have an idea of my own to get a schooner, and
go trading through the islands."
"That is not my idea," said Keawe; "but to have a beautiful house
and garden on the Kona Coast, where I was born, the sun shining in
at the door, flowers in the garden, glass in the windows, pictures
on the walls, and toys and fine carpets on the tables, for all the
world like the house I was in this day - only a storey higher, and
with balconies all about like the King's palace; and to live there
without care and make merry with my friends and relatives."
"Well," said Lopaka, "let us carry it back with us to Hawaii; and
if all comes true, as you suppose, I will buy the bottle, as I
said, and ask a schooner."
Upon that they were agreed, and it was not long before the ship
returned to Honolulu, carrying Keawe and Lopaka, and the bottle.
They were scarce come ashore when they met a friend upon the beach,
who began at once to condole with Keawe.
"I do not know what I am to be condoled about," said Keawe.
"Is it possible you have not heard," said the friend, "your uncle -
that good old man - is dead, and your cousin - that beautiful boy -
was drowned at sea?"
Keawe was filled with sorrow, and, beginning to weep and to lament,
he forgot about the bottle. But Lopaka was thinking to himself,
and presently, when Keawe's grief was a little abated, "I have been
thinking," said Lopaka. "Had not your uncle lands in Hawaii, in
the district of Kau?"
"No," said Keawe, "not in Kau; they are on the mountain-side - a
little way south of Hookena."
"These lands will now be yours?" asked Lopaka.
"And so they will," says Keawe, and began again to lament for his
"No," said Lopaka, "do not lament at present. I have a thought in
my mind. How if this should be the doing of the bottle? For here
is the place ready for your house."
"If this be so," cried Keawe, "it is a very ill way to serve me by
killing my relatives. But it may be, indeed; for it was in just
such a station that I saw the house with my mind's eye."
"The house, however, is not yet built," said Lopaka.
"No, nor like to be!" said Keawe; "for though my uncle has some
coffee and ava and bananas, it will not be more than will keep me
in comfort; and the rest of that land is the black lava."
"Let us go to the lawyer," said Lopaka; "I have still this idea in
Now, when they came to the lawyer's, it appeared Keawe's uncle had
grown monstrous rich in the last days, and there was a fund of
"And here is the money for the house!" cried Lopaka.
"If you are thinking of a new house," said the lawyer, "here is the
card of a new architect, of whom they tell me great things."
"Better and better!" cried Lopaka. "Here is all made plain for us.
Let us continue to obey orders."
So they went to the architect, and he had drawings of houses on his
"You want something out of the way," said the architect. "How do
you like this?" and he handed a drawing to Keawe.
Now, when Keawe set eyes on the drawing, he cried out aloud, for it
was the picture of his thought exactly drawn.
"I am in for this house," thought he. "Little as I like the way it
comes to me, I am in for it now, and I may as well take the good
along with the evil."
So he told the architect all that he wished, and how he would have
that house furnished, and about the pictures on the wall and the
knick-knacks on the tables; and he asked the man plainly for how
much he would undertake the whole affair.
The architect put many questions, and took his pen and made a
computation; and when he had done he named the very sum that Keawe
Lopaka and Keawe looked at one another and nodded.
"It is quite clear," thought Keawe, "that I am to have this house,
whether or no. It comes from the devil, and I fear I will get
little good by that; and of one thing I am sure, I will make no
more wishes as long as I have this bottle. But with the house I am
saddled, and I may as well take the good along with the evil."
So he made his terms with the architect, and they signed a paper;
and Keawe and Lopaka took ship again and sailed to Australia; for
it was concluded between them they should not interfere at all, but
leave the architect and the bottle imp to build and to adorn that
house at their own pleasure.
The voyage was a good voyage, only all the time Keawe was holding
in his breath, for he had sworn he would utter no more wishes, and
take no more favours from the devil. The time was up when they got
back. The architect told them that the house was ready, and Keawe
and Lopaka took a passage in the HALL, and went down Kona way to
view the house, and see if all had been done fitly according to the
thought that was in Keawe's mind.
Now the house stood on the mountain side, visible to ships. Above,
the forest ran up into the clouds of rain; below, the black lava
fell in cliffs, where the kings of old lay buried. A garden
bloomed about that house with every hue of flowers; and there was
an orchard of papaia on the one hand and an orchard of breadfruit
on the other, and right in front, toward the sea, a ship's mast had
been rigged up and bore a flag. As for the house, it was three
storeys high, with great chambers and broad balconies on each. The
windows were of glass, so excellent that it was as clear as water
and as bright as day. All manner of furniture adorned the
chambers. Pictures hung upon the wall in golden frames: pictures
of ships, and men fighting, and of the most beautiful women, and of
singular places; nowhere in the world are there pictures of so
bright a colour as those Keawe found hanging in his house. As for
the knick-knacks, they were extraordinary fine; chiming clocks and
musical boxes, little men with nodding heads, books filled with
pictures, weapons of price from all quarters of the world, and the
most elegant puzzles to entertain the leisure of a solitary man.
And as no one would care to live in such chambers, only to walk
through and view them, the balconies were made so broad that a
whole town might have lived upon them in delight; and Keawe knew
not which to prefer, whether the back porch, where you got the land
breeze, and looked upon the orchards and the flowers, or the front
balcony, where you could drink the wind of the sea, and look down
the steep wall of the mountain and see the HALL going by once a
week or so between Hookena and the hills of Pele, or the schooners
plying up the coast for wood and ava and bananas.
When they had viewed all, Keawe and Lopaka sat on the porch.
"Well," asked Lopaka, "is it all as you designed?"
"Words cannot utter it," said Keawe. "It is better than I dreamed,
and I am sick with satisfaction."
"There is but one thing to consider," said Lopaka; "all this may be
quite natural, and the bottle imp have nothing whatever to say to
it. If I were to buy the bottle, and got no schooner after all, I
should have put my hand in the fire for nothing. I gave you my
word, I know; but yet I think you would not grudge me one more
"I have sworn I would take no more favours," said Keawe. "I have
gone already deep enough."
"This is no favour I am thinking of," replied Lopaka. "It is only
to see the imp himself. There is nothing to be gained by that, and
so nothing to be ashamed of; and yet, if I once saw him, I should
be sure of the whole matter. So indulge me so far, and let me see
the imp; and, after that, here is the money in my hand, and I will
"There is only one thing I am afraid of," said Keawe. "The imp may
be very ugly to view; and if you once set eyes upon him you might
be very undesirous of the bottle."
"I am a man of my word," said Lopaka. "And here is the money
"Very well," replied Keawe. "I have a curiosity myself. So come,
let us have one look at you, Mr. Imp."
Now as soon as that was said, the imp looked out of the bottle, and
in again, swift as a lizard; and there sat Keawe and Lopaka turned
to stone. The night had quite come, before either found a thought
to say or voice to say it with; and then Lopaka pushed the money
over and took the bottle.
"I am a man of my word," said he, "and had need to be so, or I
would not touch this bottle with my foot. Well, I shall get my
schooner and a dollar or two for my pocket; and then I will be rid
of this devil as fast as I can. For to tell you the plain truth,
the look of him has cast me down."
"Lopaka," said Keawe, "do not you think any worse of me than you
can help; I know it is night, and the roads bad, and the pass by
the tombs an ill place to go by so late, but I declare since I have
seen that little face, I cannot eat or sleep or pray till it is
gone from me. I will give you a lantern and a basket to put the
bottle in, and any picture or fine thing in all my house that takes
your fancy; - and be gone at once, and go sleep at Hookena with
"Keawe," said Lopaka, "many a man would take this ill; above all,
when I am doing you a turn so friendly, as to keep my word and buy
the bottle; and for that matter, the night and the dark, and the
way by the tombs, must be all tenfold more dangerous to a man with
such a sin upon his conscience, and such a bottle under his arm.
But for my part, I am so extremely terrified myself, I have not the
heart to blame you. Here I go then; and I pray God you may be
happy in your house, and I fortunate with my schooner, and both get
to heaven in the end in spite of the devil and his bottle."
So Lopaka went down the mountain; and Keawe stood in his front
balcony, and listened to the clink of the horse's shoes, and
watched the lantern go shining down the path, and along the cliff
of caves where the old dead are buried; and all the time he
trembled and clasped his hands, and prayed for his friend, and gave
glory to God that he himself was escaped out of that trouble.
But the next day came very brightly, and that new house of his was
so delightful to behold that he forgot his terrors. One day
followed another, and Keawe dwelt there in perpetual joy. He had
his place on the back porch; it was there he ate and lived, and
read the stories in the Honolulu newspapers; but when anyone came
by they would go in and view the chambers and the pictures. And
the fame of the house went far and wide; it was called KA-HALE NUI
- the Great House - in all Kona; and sometimes the Bright House,
for Keawe kept a Chinaman, who was all day dusting and furbishing;
and the glass, and the gilt, and the fine stuffs, and the pictures,
shone as bright as the morning. As for Keawe himself, he could not
walk in the chambers without singing, his heart was so enlarged;
and when ships sailed by upon the sea, he would fly his colours on
So time went by, until one day Keawe went upon a visit as far as
Kailua to certain of his friends. There he was well feasted; and
left as soon as he could the next morning, and rode hard, for he
was impatient to behold his beautiful house; and, besides, the
night then coming on was the night in which the dead of old days go
abroad in the sides of Kona; and having already meddled with the
devil, he was the more chary of meeting with the dead. A little
beyond Honaunau, looking far ahead, he was aware of a woman bathing
in the edge of the sea; and she seemed a well-grown girl, but he
thought no more of it. Then he saw her white shift flutter as she
put it on, and then her red holoku; and by the time he came abreast
of her she was done with her toilet, and had come up from the sea,
and stood by the track-side in her red holoku, and she was all
freshened with the bath, and her eyes shone and were kind. Now
Keawe no sooner beheld her than he drew rein.
"I thought I knew everyone in this country," said he. "How comes
it that I do not know you?"
"I am Kokua, daughter of Kiano," said the girl, "and I have just
returned from Oahu. Who are you?"
"I will tell you who I am in a little," said Keawe, dismounting
from his horse, "but not now. For I have a thought in my mind, and
if you knew who I was, you might have heard of me, and would not
give me a true answer. But tell me, first of all, one thing: Are
At this Kokua laughed out aloud. "It is you who ask questions,"
she said. "Are you married yourself?"
"Indeed, Kokua, I am not," replied Keawe, "and never thought to be
until this hour. But here is the plain truth. I have met you here
at the roadside, and I saw your eyes, which are like the stars, and
my heart went to you as swift as a bird. And so now, if you want
none of me, say so, and I will go on to my own place; but if you
think me no worse than any other young man, say so, too, and I will
turn aside to your father's for the night, and to-morrow I will
talk with the good man."
Kokua said never a word, but she looked at the sea and laughed.
"Kokua," said Keawe, "if you say nothing, I will take that for the
good answer; so let us be stepping to your father's door."
She went on ahead of him, still without speech; only sometimes she
glanced back and glanced away again, and she kept the strings of
her hat in her mouth.
Now, when they had come to the door, Kiano came out on his
verandah, and cried out and welcomed Keawe by name. At that the
girl looked over, for the fame of the great house had come to her
ears; and, to be sure, it was a great temptation. All that evening
they were very merry together; and the girl was as bold as brass
under the eyes of her parents, and made a mock of Keawe, for she
had a quick wit. The next day he had a word with Kiano, and found
the girl alone.
"Kokua," said he, "you made a mock of me all the evening; and it is
still time to bid me go. I would not tell you who I was, because I
have so fine a house, and I feared you would think too much of that
house and too little of the man that loves you. Now you know all,
and if you wish to have seen the last of me, say so at once."
"No," said Kokua; but this time she did not laugh, nor did Keawe
ask for more.
This was the wooing of Keawe; things had gone quickly; but so an
arrow goes, and the ball of a rifle swifter still, and yet both may
strike the target. Things had gone fast, but they had gone far
also, and the thought of Keawe rang in the maiden's head; she heard
his voice in the breach of the surf upon the lava, and for this
young man that she had seen but twice she would have left father
and mother and her native islands. As for Keawe himself, his horse
flew up the path of the mountain under the cliff of tombs, and the
sound of the hoofs, and the sound of Keawe singing to himself for
pleasure, echoed in the caverns of the dead. He came to the Bright
House, and still he was singing. He sat and ate in the broad
balcony, and the Chinaman wondered at his master, to hear how he
sang between the mouthfuls. The sun went down into the sea, and
the night came; and Keawe walked the balconies by lamplight, high
on the mountains, and the voice of his singing startled men on
"Here am I now upon my high place," he said to himself. "Life may
be no better; this is the mountain top; and all shelves about me
toward the worse. For the first time I will light up the chambers,
and bathe in my fine bath with the hot water and the cold, and
sleep alone in the bed of my bridal chamber."
So the Chinaman had word, and he must rise from sleep and light the
furnaces; and as he wrought below, beside the boilers, he heard his
master singing and rejoicing above him in the lighted chambers.
When the water began to be hot the Chinaman cried to his master;
and Keawe went into the bathroom; and the Chinaman heard him sing
as he filled the marble basin; and heard him sing, and the singing
broken, as he undressed; until of a sudden, the song ceased. The
Chinaman listened, and listened; he called up the house to Keawe to
ask if all were well, and Keawe answered him "Yes," and bade him go
to bed; but there was no more singing in the Bright House; and all
night long, the Chinaman heard his master's feet go round and round
the balconies without repose.
Now the truth of it was this: as Keawe undressed for his bath, he
spied upon his flesh a patch like a patch of lichen on a rock, and
it was then that he stopped singing. For he knew the likeness of
that patch, and knew that he was fallen in the Chinese Evil. (5)
Now, it is a sad thing for any man to fall into this sickness. And
it would be a sad thing for anyone to leave a house so beautiful
and so commodious, and depart from all his friends to the north
coast of Molokai between the mighty cliff and the sea-breakers.
But what was that to the case of the man Keawe, he who had met his
love but yesterday, and won her but that morning, and now saw all
his hopes break, in a moment, like a piece of glass?
Awhile he sat upon the edge of the bath; then sprang, with a cry,
and ran outside; and to and fro, to and fro, along the balcony,
like one despairing.
"Very willingly could I leave Hawaii, the home of my fathers,"
Keawe was thinking. "Very lightly could I leave my house, the
high-placed, the many-windowed, here upon the mountains. Very
bravely could I go to Molokai, to Kalaupapa by the cliffs, to live
with the smitten and to sleep there, far from my fathers. But what
wrong have I done, what sin lies upon my soul, that I should have
encountered Kokua coming cool from the sea-water in the evening?
Kokua, the soul ensnarer! Kokua, the light of my life! Her may I
never wed, her may I look upon no longer, her may I no more handle
with my loving hand; and it is for this, it is for you, O Kokua!
that I pour my lamentations!"
Now you are to observe what sort of a man Keawe was, for he might
have dwelt there in the Bright House for years, and no one been the
wiser of his sickness; but he reckoned nothing of that, if he must
lose Kokua. And again, he might have wed Kokua even as he was; and
so many would have done, because they have the souls of pigs; but
Keawe loved the maid manfully, and he would do her no hurt and
bring her in no danger.
A little beyond the midst of the night, there came in his mind the
recollection of that bottle. He went round to the back porch, and
called to memory the day when the devil had looked forth; and at
the thought ice ran in his veins.
"A dreadful thing is the bottle," thought Keawe, "and dreadful is
the imp, and it is a dreadful thing to risk the flames of hell.
But what other hope have I to cure my sickness or to wed Kokua?
What!" he thought, "would I beard the devil once, only to get me a
house, and not face him again to win Kokua?"
Thereupon he called to mind it was the next day the HALL went by on
her return to Honolulu. "There must I go first," he thought, "and
see Lopaka. For the best hope that I have now is to find that same
bottle I was so pleased to be rid of."
Never a wink could he sleep; the food stuck in his throat; but he
sent a letter to Kiano, and about the time when the steamer would
be coming, rode down beside the cliff of the tombs. It rained; his
horse went heavily; he looked up at the black mouths of the caves,
and he envied the dead that slept there and were done with trouble;
and called to mind how he had galloped by the day before, and was
astonished. So he came down to Hookena, and there was all the
country gathered for the steamer as usual. In the shed before the
store they sat and jested and passed the news; but there was no
matter of speech in Keawe's bosom, and he sat in their midst and
looked without on the rain falling on the houses, and the surf
beating among the rocks, and the sighs arose in his throat.
"Keawe of the Bright House is out of spirits," said one to another.
Indeed, and so he was, and little wonder.
Then the HALL came, and the whaleboat carried him on board. The
after-part of the ship was full of Haoles (6) who had been to visit
the volcano, as their custom is; and the midst was crowded with
Kanakas, and the forepart with wild bulls from Hilo and horses from
Kau; but Keawe sat apart from all in his sorrow, and watched for
the house of Kiano. There it sat, low upon the shore in the black
rocks, and shaded by the cocoa palms, and there by the door was a
red holoku, no greater than a fly, and going to and fro with a
fly's busyness. "Ah, queen of my heart," he cried, "I'll venture
my dear soul to win you!"
Soon after, darkness fell, and the cabins were lit up, and the
Haoles sat and played at the cards and drank whiskey as their
custom is; but Keawe walked the deck all night; and all the next
day, as they steamed under the lee of Maui or of Molokai, he was
still pacing to and fro like a wild animal in a menagerie.
Towards evening they passed Diamond Head, and came to the pier of
Honolulu. Keawe stepped out among the crowd and began to ask for
Lopaka. It seemed he had become the owner of a schooner - none
better in the islands - and was gone upon an adventure as far as
Pola-Pola or Kahiki; so there was no help to be looked for from
Lopaka. Keawe called to mind a friend of his, a lawyer in the town
(I must not tell his name), and inquired of him. They said he was
grown suddenly rich, and had a fine new house upon Waikiki shore;
and this put a thought in Keawe's head, and he called a hack and
drove to the lawyer's house. .
The house was all brand new, and the trees in the garden no greater
than walking-sticks, and the lawyer, when he came, had the air of a
man well pleased.
"What can I do to serve you?" said the lawyer.
"You are a friend of Lopaka's," replied Keawe, "and Lopaka
purchased from me a certain piece of goods that I thought you might
enable me to trace."
The lawyer's face became very dark. "I do not profess to
misunderstand you, Mr. Keawe," said he, "though this is an ugly
business to be stirring in. You may be sure I know nothing, but
yet I have a guess, and if you would apply in a certain quarter I
think you might have news."
And he named the name of a man, which, again, I had better not
repeat. So it was for days, and Keawe went from one to another,
finding everywhere new clothes and carriages, and fine new houses
and men everywhere in great contentment, although, to be sure, when
he hinted at his business their faces would cloud over.
"No doubt I am upon the track," thought Keawe. "These new clothes
and carriages are all the gifts of the little imp, and these glad
faces are the faces of men who have taken their profit and got rid
of the accursed thing in safety. When I see pale cheeks and hear
sighing, I shall know that I am near the bottle."
So it befell at last that he was recommended to a Haole in
Beritania Street. When he came to the door, about the hour of the
evening meal, there were the usual marks of the new house, and the
young garden, and the electric light shining in the windows; but
when the owner came, a shock of hope and fear ran through Keawe;
for here was a young man, white as a corpse, and black about the
eyes, the hair shedding from his head, and such a look in his
countenance as a man may have when he is waiting for the gallows.
"Here it is, to be sure," thought Keawe, and so with this man he
noways veiled his errand. "I am come to buy the bottle," said he.
At the word, the young Haole of Beritania Street reeled against the
"The bottle!" he gasped. "To buy the bottle!" Then he seemed to
choke, and seizing Keawe by the arm carried him into a room and
poured out wine in two glasses.
"Here is my respects," said Keawe, who had been much about with
Haoles in his time. "Yes," he added, "I am come to buy the bottle.
What is the price by now?"
At that word the young man let his glass slip through his fingers,
and looked upon Keawe like a ghost.
"The price," says he; "the price! You do not know the price?"
"It is for that I am asking you," returned Keawe. "But why are you
so much concerned? Is there anything wrong about the price?"
"It has dropped a great deal in value since your time, Mr. Keawe,"
said the young man stammering.
"Well, well, I shall have the less to pay for it," says Keawe.
"How much did it cost you?"
The young man was as white as a sheet. "Two cents," said he.
"What?" cried Keawe, "two cents? Why, then, you can only sell it
for one. And he who buys it - " The words died upon Keawe's
tongue; he who bought it could never sell it again, the bottle and
the bottle imp must abide with him until he died, and when he died
must carry him to the red end of hell.
The young man of Beritania Street fell upon his knees. "For God's
sake buy it!" he cried. "You can have all my fortune in the
bargain. I was mad when I bought it at that price. I had
embezzled money at my store; I was lost else; I must have gone to
"Poor creature," said Keawe, "you would risk your soul upon so
desperate an adventure, and to avoid the proper punishment of your
own disgrace; and you think I could hesitate with love in front of
me. Give me the bottle, and the change which I make sure you have
all ready. Here is a five-cent piece."
It was as Keawe supposed; the young man had the change ready in a
drawer; the bottle changed hands, and Keawe's fingers were no
sooner clasped upon the stalk than he had breathed his wish to be a
clean man. And, sure enough, when he got home to his room, and
stripped himself before a glass, his flesh was whole like an
infant's. And here was the strange thing: he had no sooner seen
this miracle, than his mind was changed within him, and he cared
naught for the Chinese Evil, and little enough for Kokua; and had
but the one thought, that here he was bound to the bottle imp for
time and for eternity, and had no better hope but to be a cinder
for ever in the flames of hell. Away ahead of him he saw them
blaze with his mind's eye, and his soul shrank, and darkness fell
upon the light.
When Keawe came to himself a little, he was aware it was the night
when the band played at the hotel. Thither he went, because he
feared to be alone; and there, among happy faces, walked to and
fro, and heard the tunes go up and down, and saw Berger beat the
measure, and all the while he heard the flames crackle, and saw the
red fire burning in the bottomless pit. Of a sudden the band
played HIKI-AO-AO; that was a song that he had sung with Kokua, and
at the strain courage returned to him.
"It is done now," he thought, "and once more let me take the good
along with the evil."
So it befell that he returned to Hawaii by the first steamer, and
as soon as it could be managed he was wedded to Kokua, and carried
her up the mountain side to the Bright House.
Now it was so with these two, that when they were together, Keawe's
heart was stilled; but so soon as he was alone he fell into a
brooding horror, and heard the flames crackle, and saw the red fire
bum in the bottomless pit. The girl, indeed, had come to him
wholly; her heart leapt in her side at sight of him, her hand clung
to his; and she was so fashioned from the hair upon her head to the
nails upon her toes that none could see her without joy. She was
pleasant in her nature. She had the good word always. Full of
song she was, and went to and fro in the Bright House, the
brightest thing in its three storeys, carolling like the birds.
And Keawe beheld and heard her with delight, and then must shrink
upon one side, and weep and groan to think upon the price that he
had paid for her; and then he must dry his eyes, and wash his face,
and go and sit with her on the broad balconies, joining in her
songs, and, with a sick spirit, answering her smiles.
There came a day when her feet began to be heavy and her songs more
rare; and now it was not Keawe only that would weep apart, but each
would sunder from the other and sit in opposite balconies with the
whole width of the Bright House betwixt. Keawe was so sunk in his
despair, he scarce observed the change, and was only glad he had
more hours to sit alone and brood upon his destiny, and was not so
frequently condemned to pull a smiling face on a sick heart. But
one day, coming softly through the house, he heard the sound of a
child sobbing, and there was Kokua rolling her face upon the
balcony floor, and weeping like the lost.
"You do well to weep in this house, Kokua," he said. "And yet I
would give the head off my body that you (at least) might have been
"Happy!" she cried. "Keawe, when you lived alone in your Bright
House, you were the word of the island for a happy man; laughter
and song were in your mouth, and your face was as bright as the
sunrise. Then you wedded poor Kokua; and the good God knows what
is amiss in her - but from that day you have not smiled. Oh!" she
cried, "what ails me? I thought I was pretty, and I knew I loved
him. What ails me that I throw this cloud upon my husband?"
"Poor Kokua," said Keawe. He sat down by her side, and sought to
take her hand; but that she plucked away. "Poor Kokua," he said,
again. "My poor child - my pretty. And I had thought all this
while to spare you! Well, you shall know all. Then, at least, you
will pity poor Keawe; then you will understand how much he loved
you in the past - that he dared hell for your possession - and how
much he loves you still (the poor condemned one), that he can yet
call up a smile when he beholds you."
With that, he told her all, even from the beginning.
"You have done this for me?" she cried "Ah, well, then what do I
care!" - and she clasped and wept upon him.
"Ah, child!" said Keawe, "and yet, when I consider of the fire of
hell, I care a good deal!"
"Never tell me," said she; "no man can be lost because he loved
Kokua, and no other fault. I tell you, Keawe, I shall save you
with these hands, or perish in your company. What! you loved me,
and gave your soul, and you think I will not die to save you in
"Ah, my dear! you might die a hundred times, and what difference
would that make?" he cried, "except to leave me lonely till the
time comes of my damnation?"
"You know nothing," said she. "I was educated in a school in
Honolulu; I am no common girl. And I tell you, I shall save my
lover. What is this you say about a cent? But all the world is
not American. In England they have a piece they call a farthing,
which is about half a cent. Ah! sorrow!" she cried, "that makes it
scarcely better, for the buyer must be lost, and we shall find none
so brave as my Keawe! But, then, there is France; they have a
small coin there which they call a centime, and these go five to
the cent or there-about. We could not do better. Come, Keawe, let
us go to the French islands; let us go to Tahiti, as fast as ships
can bear us. There we have four centimes, three centimes, two
centimes, one centime; four possible sales to come and go on; and
two of us to push the bargain. Come, my Keawe! kiss me, and banish
care. Kokua will defend you."
"Gift of God!" he cried. "I cannot think that God will punish me
for desiring aught so good! Be it as you will, then; take me where
you please: I put my life and my salvation in your hands."
Early the next day Kokua was about her preparations. She took
Keawe's chest that he went with sailoring; and first she put the
bottle in a corner; and then packed it with the richest of their
clothes and the bravest of the knick-knacks in the house. "For,"
said she, "we must seem to be rich folks, or who will believe in
the bottle?" All the time of her preparation she was as gay as a
bird; only when she looked upon Keawe, the tears would spring in
her eye, and she must run and kiss him. As for Keawe, a weight was
off his soul; now that he had his secret shared, and some hope in
front of him, he seemed like a new man, his feet went lightly on
the earth, and his breath was good to him again. Yet was terror
still at his elbow; and ever and again, as the wind blows out a
taper, hope died in him, and he saw the flames toss and the red
fire burn in hell.
It was given out in the country they were gone pleasuring to the
States, which was thought a strange thing, and yet not so strange
as the truth, if any could have guessed it. So they went to
Honolulu in the HALL, and thence in the UMATILLA to San Francisco
with a crowd of Haoles, and at San Francisco took their passage by
the mail brigantine, the TROPIC BIRD, for Papeete, the chief place
of the French in the south islands. Thither they came, after a
pleasant voyage, on a fair day of the Trade Wind, and saw the reef
with the surf breaking, and Motuiti with its palms, and the
schooner riding within-side, and the white houses of the town low
down along the shore among green trees, and overhead the mountains
and the clouds of Tahiti, the wise island.
It was judged the most wise to hire a house, which they did
accordingly, opposite the British Consul's, to make a great parade
of money, and themselves conspicuous with carriages and horses.
This it was very easy to do, so long as they had the bottle in
their possession; for Kokua was more bold than Keawe, and, whenever
she had a mind, called on the imp for twenty or a hundred dollars.
At this rate they soon grew to be remarked in the town; and the
strangers from Hawaii, their riding and their driving, the fine
holokus and the rich lace of Kokua, became the matter of much talk.
They got on well after the first with the Tahitian language, which
is indeed like to the Hawaiian, with a change of certain letters;
and as soon as they had any freedom of speech, began to push the
bottle. You are to consider it was not an easy subject to
introduce; it was not easy to persuade people you were in earnest,
when you offered to sell them for four centimes the spring of
health and riches inexhaustible. It was necessary besides to
explain the dangers of the bottle; and either people disbelieved
the whole thing and laughed, or they thought the more of the darker
part, became overcast with gravity, and drew away from Keawe and
Kokua, as from persons who had dealings with the devil. So far
from gaining ground, these two began to find they were avoided in
the town; the children ran away from them screaming, a thing
intolerable to Kokua; Catholics crossed themselves as they went by;
and all persons began with one accord to disengage themselves from
Depression fell upon their spirits. They would sit at night in
their new house, after a day's weariness, and not exchange one
word, or the silence would be broken by Kokua bursting suddenly
into sobs. Sometimes they would pray together; sometimes they
would have the bottle out upon the floor, and sit all evening
watching how the shadow hovered in the midst. At such times they
would be afraid to go to rest. It was long ere slumber came to
them, and, if either dozed off, it would be to wake and find the
other silently weeping in the dark, or, perhaps, to wake alone, the
other having fled from the house and the neighbourhood of that
bottle, to pace under the bananas in the little garden, or to
wander on the beach by moonlight.
One night it was so when Kokua awoke. Keawe was gone. She felt in
the bed and his place was cold. Then fear fell upon her, and she
sat up in bed. A little moonshine filtered through the shutters.
The room was bright, and she could spy the bottle on the floor.
Outside it blew high, the great trees of the avenue cried aloud,
and the fallen leaves rattled in the verandah. In the midst of
this Kokua was aware of another sound; whether of a beast or of a
man she could scarce tell, but it was as sad as death, and cut her
to the soul. Softly she arose, set the door ajar, and looked forth
into the moonlit yard. There, under the bananas, lay Keawe, his
mouth in the dust, and as he lay he moaned.
It was Kokua's first thought to run forward and console him; her
second potently withheld her. Keawe had borne himself before his
wife like a brave man; it became her little in the hour of weakness
to intrude upon his shame. With the thought she drew back into the
"Heaven!" she thought, "how careless have I been - how weak! It is
he, not I, that stands in this eternal peril; it was he, not I,
that took the curse upon his soul. It is for my sake, and for the
love of a creature of so little worth and such poor help, that he
now beholds so close to him the flames of hell - ay, and smells the
smoke of it, lying without there in the wind and moonlight. Am I
so dull of spirit that never till now I have surmised my duty, or
have I seen it before and turned aside? But now, at least, I take
up my soul in both the hands of my affection; now I say farewell to
the white steps of heaven and the waiting faces of my friends. A
love for a love, and let mine be equalled with Keawe's! A soul for
a soul, and be it mine to perish!"
She was a deft woman with her hands, and was soon apparelled. She
took in her hands the change - the precious centimes they kept ever
at their side; for this coin is little used, and they had made
provision at a Government office. When she was forth in the avenue
clouds came on the wind, and the moon was blackened. The town
slept, and she knew not whither to turn till she heard one coughing
in the shadow of the trees.
"Old man," said Kokua, "what do you here abroad in the cold night?"
The old man could scarce express himself for coughing, but she made
out that he was old and poor, and a stranger in the island.
"Will you do me a service?" said Kokua. "As one stranger to
another, and as an old man to a young woman, will you help a
daughter of Hawaii?"
"Ah," said the old man. "So you are the witch from the eight
islands, and even my old soul you seek to entangle. But I have
heard of you, and defy your wickedness."
"Sit down here," said Kokua, "and let me tell you a tale." And she
told him the story of Keawe from the beginning to the end.
"And now," said she, "I am his wife, whom he bought with his soul's
welfare. And what should I do? If I went to him myself and
offered to buy it, he would refuse. But if you go, he will sell it
eagerly; I will await you here; you will buy it for four centimes,
and I will buy it again for three. And the Lord strengthen a poor
"If you meant falsely," said the old man, "I think God would strike
"He would!" cried Kokua. "Be sure he would. I could not be so
treacherous - God would not suffer it."
"Give me the four centimes and await me here," said the old man.
Now, when Kokua stood alone in the street, her spirit died. The
wind roared in the trees, and it seemed to her the rushing of the
flames of hell; the shadows tossed in the light of the street lamp,
and they seemed to her the snatching hands of evil ones. If she
had had the strength, she must have run away, and if she had had
the breath she must have screamed aloud; but, in truth, she could
do neither, and stood and trembled in the avenue, like an
Then she saw the old man returning, and he had the bottle in his
"I have done your bidding," said he. "I left your husband weeping
like a child; to-night he will sleep easy." And he held the bottle
"Before you give it me," Kokua panted, "take the good with the evil
- ask to be delivered from your cough."
"I am an old man," replied the other, "and too near the gate of the
grave to take a favour from the devil. But what is this? Why do
you not take the bottle? Do you hesitate?"
"Not hesitate!" cried Kokua. "I am only weak. Give me a moment.
It is my hand resists, my flesh shrinks back from the accursed
thing. One moment only!"
The old man looked upon Kokua kindly. "Poor child!" said he, "you
fear; your soul misgives you. Well, let me keep it. I am old, and
can never more be happy in this world, and as for the next - "
"Give it me!" gasped Kokua. "There is your money. Do you think I
am so base as that? Give me the bottle."
"God bless you, child," said the old man.
Kokua concealed the bottle under her holoku, said farewell to the
old man, and walked off along the avenue, she cared not whither.
For all roads were now the same to her, and led equally to hell.
Sometimes she walked, and sometimes ran; sometimes she screamed out
loud in the night, and sometimes lay by the wayside in the dust and
wept. All that she had heard of hell came back to her; she saw the
flames blaze, and she smelt the smoke, and her flesh withered on
Near day she came to her mind again, and returned to the house. It
was even as the old man said - Keawe slumbered like a child. Kokua
stood and gazed upon his face.
"Now, my husband," said she, "it is your turn to sleep. When you
wake it will be your turn to sing and laugh. But for poor Kokua,
alas! that meant no evil - for poor Kokua no more sleep, no more
singing, no more delight, whether in earth or heaven."
With that she lay down in the bed by his side, and her misery was
so extreme that she fell in a deep slumber instantly.
Late in the morning her husband woke her and gave her the good
news. It seemed he was silly with delight, for he paid no heed to
her distress, ill though she dissembled it. The words stuck in her
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