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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




AT four o'clock in the afternoon we were winding down a
mountain of dreary and desolate lava to the sea, and closing
our pleasant land journey. This lava is the accumulation
of ages; one torrent of fire after another has rolled down here
in old times, and built up the island structure higher and
higher. Underneath, it is honey-combed with caves; it would
be of no use to dig wells in such a place; they would not hold
water—you would not find any for them to hold, for that matter.
Consequently, the planters depend upon cisterns.

The last lava flow occurred here so long ago that there are
none now living who witnessed it. In one place it enclosed and
burned down a grove of cocoa-nut trees, and the holes in the
lava where the trunks stood are still visible; their sides retain
the impression of the bark; the trees fell upon the burning
river, and becoming partly submerged, left in it the perfect
counterpart of every knot and branch and leaf, and even nut,
for curiosity seekers of a long distant day to gaze upon and
wonder at.

There were doubtless plenty of Kanaka sentinels on guard
hereabouts at that time, but they did not leave casts of
their figures in the lava as the Roman sentinels at Herculaneum
and Pompeii did. It is a pity it is so, because such things are
so interesting; but so it is. They probably went away. They
went away early, perhaps. However, they had their merits;
the Romans exhibited the higher pluck, but the Kanakas
showed the sounder judgment.


Page 513

Shortly we came in sight of that spot whose history is so
familiar to every school-boy in the wide world—Kealakekua
Bay—the place where Captain Cook, the great circumnavigator,
was killed by the natives, nearly a hundred years ago.
The setting sun was flaming upon it, a Summer shower was
falling, and it was spanned by two magnificent rainbows. Two
men who were in advance of us rode through one of these and
for a moment their garments shone with a more than regal
splendor. Why did not Captain Cook have taste enough to
call his great discovery the Rainbow Islands? These charming
spectacles are present to you at every turn; they are common
in all the islands; they are visible every day, and frequently
at night also—not the silvery bow we see once in an
age in the States, by moonlight, but barred with all bright and
beautiful colors, like the children of the sun and rain. I saw
one of them a few nights ago. What the sailors call “raindogs”—little
patches of rainbow—are often seen drifting about
the heavens in these latitudes, like stained cathedral windows.

Kealakekua Bay is a little curve like the last kink of a snailshell,
winding deep into the land, seemingly not more than a
mile wide from shore to shore. It is bounded on one side—
where the murder was done—by a little flat plain, on which
stands a cocoanut grove and some ruined houses; a steep wall
of lava, a thousand feet high at the upper end and three or
four hundred at the lower, comes down from the mountain and
bounds the inner extremity of it. From this wall the place
takes its name, Kealakekua, which in the native tongue signifies
“The Pathway of the Gods.” They say, (and still believe,
in spite of their liberal education in Christianity), that the
great god Lono, who used to live upon the hillside, always
traveled that causeway when urgent business connected with
heavenly affairs called him down to the seashore in a hurry.

As the red sun looked across the placid ocean through
the tall, clean stems of the cocoanut trees, like a blooming
whiskey bloat through the bars of a city prison, I went and stood
in the edge of the water on the flat rock pressed by Captain


Page 514


[Description: 504EAF. Page 514. In-line image of a ship in a lagoon, with a man standing on the edge looking at the ship.]
Cook's feet when the blow was dealt which took away his life,
and tried to picture in my mind the doomed man struggling in
the midst of the multitude of exasperated savages—the men
in the ship crowding to the vessel's side and gazing in anxious
dismay toward the shore—the—but I discovered that I could
not do it.

It was growing dark, the rain began to fall, we could see that
the distant Boomerang was helplessly becalmed at sea, and so I
adjourned to the cheerless little box of a warehouse and sat
down to smoke and think, and wish the ship would make the
land—for we had not eaten much for ten hours and were viciously

Plain unvarnished history takes the romance out of Captain
Cook's assassination, and renders a deliberate verdict of justifiable
homicide. Wherever he went among the islands, he was
cordially received and welcomed by the inhabitants, and his


Page 515
ships lavishly supplied with all manner of food. He returned
these kindnesses with insult and ill-treatment. Perceiving that
the people took him for the long vanished and lamented god
Lono, he encouraged them in the delusion for the sake of the
limitless power it gave him; but during the famous disturbance
at this spot, and while he and his comrades were surrounded
by fifteen thousand maddened savages, he received a hurt and
betrayed his earthly origin with a groan. It was his death-warrant.
Instantly a shout went up: “He groans!—he is not
a god!” So they closed in upon him and dispatched him.

His flesh was stripped from the bones and burned (except
nine pounds of it which were sent on board the ships). The
heart was hung up in a native hut, where it was found and
eaten by three children, who mistook it for the heart of a dog.
One of these children grew to be a very old man, and died in
Honolulu a few years ago. Some of Cook's bones were recovered
and consigned to the deep by the officers of the ships.

Small blame should attach to the natives for the killing of
Cook. They treated him well. In return, he abused them.
He and his men inflicted bodily injury upon many of them at
different times, and killed at least three of them before they
offered any proportionate retaliation.

Near the shore we found “Cook's Monument”—only a cocoanut
stump, four feet high and about a foot in diameter at the
butt. It had lava boulders piled around its base to hold it up
and keep it in its place, and it was entirely sheathed over, from
top to bottom, with rough, discolored sheets of copper, such as
ships' bottoms are coppered with. Each sheet had a rude
inscription scratched upon it—with a nail, apparently—and in
every case the execution was wretched. Most of these merely
recorded the visits of British naval commanders to the spot,
but one of them bore this legend:

“Near this spot fell
The Distinguished Circumnavigator, who Discovered these
Islands A. D. 1778.


Page 516

After Cook's murder, his second in command, on board the
ship, opened fire upon the swarms of natives on the beach, and
one of his cannon balls cut this cocoanut tree short off and left
this monumental stump standing. It looked sad and lonely
enough to us, out there in the rainy twilight. But there is no
other monument to Captain Cook. True, up on the mountain
side we had passed by a large inclosure like an ample hog-pen,
built of lava blocks, which marks the spot where Cook's flesh
was stripped from his bones and burned; but this is not properly
a monument, since it was erected by the natives themselves,
and less to do honor to the circumnavigator than for the sake
of convenience in roasting him. A thing like a guide-board
was elevated above this pen on a tall pole, and formerly there
was an inscription upon it describing the memorable occurrence
that had there taken place; but the sun and the wind have long
ago so defaced it as to render it illegible.

Toward midnight a fine breeze sprang up and the schooner
soon worked herself into the bay and cast anchor. The boat
came ashore for us, and in a little while the clouds and the
rain were all gone. The moon was beaming tranquilly down
on land and sea, and we two were stretched upon the deck
sleeping the refreshing sleep and dreaming the happy dreams
that are only vouchsafed to the weary and the innocent.