THE first glimmering of dawn rested on Waipio Valley. The _moi kane_,his great nobles and chief officers of state, his personal attendants,his guards, heralds, priests, diviners, bards, story-tellers, dancers,and buffoons, the whole _aialo_, even to the lowest menials of thecourt, slept the deep sleep that follows a night of heavy eating andheavier drinking. All slept except Aa, the terrible high-priest, and afew score men of his personal following. The royal city was silent.
It lay among surroundings both lovely and grand. The valley itself,only a few feet above sea-level and flat as a Western prairie, was,then as now, rich almost beyond exaggeration, and green with alledible products of the lowlands. It was thickly dotted with grasshuts, for in those times, before the great wars and centuries beforethe white strangers came with their loathsome diseases that consumedflesh and bone, the population was dense.
The valley fronted on the open ocean, unobstructed by land forthousands of miles. On every other side it was shut in by rock wallsfrom two to three thousand feet high. At the southwest extremity theWaipio River, cold from the mountain-side, clear and sparkling, fellsix hundred feet to a narrow shelf of rock, and then, dropping athousand feet more at a single plunge, suddenly became a sluggishstream, with a current hardly perceptible, winding its tortuous way tothe sea. To the northwest were the Saw-Teeth of the Gods, wild andpicturesque verdure-clad mountains that to this day form impenetrablebarriers between the plantations of Hamakua and North Kohala. To thesoutheast, stretching along the coast for a hundred miles, were therich highlands of Hamakua, Hilo and Puna, rising, ever rising, as theyrecede from the sea until they reach the dizzy heights of Mauna Kea,and of Mauna Loa, where eternal winter wages intermittent war withrock fires from the bowels of the earth.
In the gray twilight of that morning, centuries ago, Eaeakai paddledhis fishing-canoe down the Waipio River and up the coast, straight tothe Saw-Teeth of the Gods. In the early morning there was good fishingopposite those stupendous cliffs, and Eaeakai had taken to himself abuxom _wahine_, who could not live on love alone any more than if shewere a _haole_ bride, but had to have her fish and poi. He was also indaily expectation of another responsibility. Thus far there had alwaysbeen fish and poi in his hut, for he was industrious and thrifty, richfor a landless freeman, _kanaka-wale_, as his _kaukehi_ or singledug-out was the trimmest and swiftest on all the Windward Coast. Bestof all, he was a happy man, for he was very much in love with his ownwife. So he chanted a love _mele_ as he bent to his work.
He had scarcely reached his fishing-ground and baited his turtle-shellhook when he heard a rustling sound overhead. As he looked up hecaught glimpses through the dense foliage of a woman, in the garb ofEve, rapidly making her way down the steep declivity, regardless ofthe sharp thorns and terrible lava that cut and tore her hands andfeet and body. Yet, in spite of her desperate haste, and at the perilof her life, she firmly clutched and carefully guarded from rock andthorn the _mamo_ which royalty alone might wear and live.
Eaeakai gazed for a moment, dumb and motionless with amazement. Thenhe flung himself upon his face, crying, "_E moe o! E moe o! Hiwa, MoiWahine!_"
Hiwa gave command before she reached the bottom of thecliff--"Fisherman, bring me the boat! _Wiki wiki!_ Quick!"
Kneeling in his canoe, Eaeakai paddled to the shore and prostratedhimself with his face to the ground, for well he knew that by Hawaiianlaw it was death for a common man like him to stand in the presence orin the shadow of Hiwa, _alii-niaupio, tabu moi wahine_, goddess-queen.
She sprang into the canoe, seized the paddle, and sped up the coast.
Eaeakai lay grovelling on the ground until she was a goodly distancefrom him. Then he sat up and began to realize that probably he wasruined. His boat, which made him the envy of fishermen for fifty milesaround, and upon which he had spent months of patient toil, was gone.It was his pride, his wealth, his livelihood. Hiwa was fleeing fromenemies. He could expect no reward if she should escape and return intriumph, for he was beneath her notice; but, if she should beovertaken and slain, the service he had rendered her would not beforgiven. The boat would tell the story, and he would be hunted downand killed or offered a sacrifice to the gods.
Presently, as he turned his eyes in the direction of his home, he sawa great war canoe approaching. He hid behind a rock and watched it.He counted twenty-six warriors at the paddles, and recognized Aa, thehigh-priest, commanding them. They had caught sight of Hiwa, and weredoing their utmost to overtake her.
Eaeakai knew that an heir to the throne was expected. Who in all theland did not? "If it were not for her condition," he said to himself,"she might give them a long chase; but the end would be the same."
Her enemies rapidly gained on her, although she handled the paddlewith marvelous strength and skill, and she seemed to have no chance ofescape. Suddenly she plunged into the water and disappeared.
Her pursuers hastened to the spot. One of them reached out to save theboat, a chattel of great value to a Hawaiian; but the fanaticalhigh-priest interposed. "Let it dash itself to pieces on the rocks!"he exclaimed. "It is accursed! _Tabu!_"
The shore at that point was a traverse section of one of the hugeSaw-Teeth, rising from deep water nearly perpendicularly two thousandfeet into the air. No living creature, save some insect or reptilethat clings to the bare face of a rock, could obtain a foothold there.Hiwa was not a lizard to cling to that cliff, and if she were, shewould be in plain sight. Neither was she a bird to soar above andbeyond it. She was not a fish; if still alive, she must come to thesurface. After watching for her long and anxiously, they discovered afew drops of blood. A sharp fin above the waves, slowly movingseaward, afforded a ready explanation.
The high-priest's face lighted with savage triumph as he cried:"Ukanipo, the Shark-God, hath her! Ku is avenged!"
So thought Eaeakai. "Black death hangs over me!" he wailed. "Liliiwill have no _kane_ to bring her fish and poi and the little _keike_will be fatherless from its birth!"
The story of the death of Hiwa and of the unborn heir to the thronespread from lip to lip through the nation, and all men believed it andsaid, "Ukanipo, the Shark-God, hath her! Ku is avenged!" And a greatfear fell upon them, the fear of Aa, the terrible high-priest of Ku.