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AUSTIN'S HAWAIIAN WEEKLY.
i sssgsgp . HERMIT OF THE DEATH CAVE. A Story of Skeletons. BY FRANKLIN AUSTIN. "You don't mean to tell me, your Majesty, that you actually believe in ghosts?" "T am perfectly sure that ghosts exist," said his Majesty, "because I have seen them myself. We all have an astral body which, after death, may return to earth with power to make itselt visible. Further more, I am of the opinion that this astral bod' can, under certain circumstances, rehabilitate the skeleton of their former selves and temporarily bring the dead to life. Our Hawaiian philosophy does not go thus far in its reasoning, perhaps, yet in the past, after death, the ancient Hawaii ans waited before burying their dead until the body became so decomposed that all the bones could be easihy extracted. The bones were then buried in caves and laid out systematically upon shelves or ledges in the caves. Why did they do this? I can assure you that I have witnessed the phenomenon of the astral body taking possession of the( bones of their former selves and appearing again as though in the flesh.'.' "Such a phenomena is impossible, your Majestj'; perfectly inconceivable." This colloquy took place in the early eighties in the King's boathouse between King Kalakaua and Ernest Greenwood, a wealthy young New Yorker, who was traveling around the world. He had come to Hawaii armed with a letter of introduc tion to the King from a prominent naval officer. The King had entertained him at a formal dinner at the Palace, and was now giving him a taste of "high jinks" at the boathouse, where only Bohemianism prevailed. There was champagne galore and at intervals the King's dancing girls gave an exhibition of the hula-hula before the as sembled guests in the large and elegantly decorated hall. The girls had just retired and the quintette had begun to play an Hawaiian air in the interval, when the fore going conversation attracted the attention of the "boj's," as his Majesty's immediate circle were familiarly called. "If you are willing to go to Hawaii (the steamer sails tomorrow at 12 o'clock) and investigate this matter for yourself; I will wager a hundred dollars that you will re turn convinced of the existence of ghosts. I will give you a letter of introduction to an old kahuna who has somehow learned to speak fair English, and is generally known as ' The Kahuna ' or ' Hermit of the Death Cave.' The trip will take nearly two weeks and I command that this same' party shall be present here two weeks from to night to hear the story of your adven tures," said the King. " It is a go," assured Greenwood, laugh ing. " I'll take the wager and be off to morrow. There is my hand on it." And after several more bottles of wine and more dancing the party broke up to meet again at the appointed time. Two weeks later Greenwood was the center of attraction at the boathouse. With Ihe circle drawn up around him lie related the thrilling story of his adventures, which was as follows: " I proceeded at once to Hilo as your Majesty directed and as soon as possi ble sought out the people your Majesty had directed to furnish me with saddle horse and guide, and the next morning we started for Puna, the land of caves and cocoanuts. Except for the grand and pic turesque tropical forest through which the trail wound for nearly half the distance, the journey was a tedious one. About 3 o'clock in the afternoon, my native guide stopped and surveyed the country around with his eye, then plunged suddenly into a blind trail, hidden by ferns and bushes nearly as high as our heads, that led in the direc tion of the mountains. After about half an hour's ride, over the rockiest trail I ever saw, we came to a bluff or precipice about fifty feet high; there the trail turned to the left, winding along at the foot of the hills. In a few minutes we sighted a green spot in the rocky desert, with a primitive hut built close up to the precipice, with one end of it abutting the wall of rock. Here my guide again paused and with abject ter ror depicted on every feature of his coun tenance, he silently pointed to the hut, then wheeling his horse started down the trail we had just come over, like a scared wolf. I would not have supposed a man could ride a horse over that rocky trail at full speed with safety to life and limb had it not been that late that night I accomplished that same feat and still live. " I must confess that the sudden terror of my guide, at only the sight of the hut in this lonely spot, somewhat disconcerted me and I felt like following him. But I was determined to solve the mystery, and pull ing myself together trotted leisurely clown the incline into the hollow, or meadow, and went boldly up to the hut. As I approached an old man with white hair and whiskers came out to meet me. He was entirely de void of clothing, vith the exception of a breech clout. His skin was dark-brown and shone like polished ebony, only not so dark. He was tall, erect and athletic, and carried himself with extraordinary dignity. The only thing about him that indicated age was his white hair and whiskers and wrink les under his eyes and around his knees. As he approached he seemed to tower above me like a giant. His eyes were riveted upon me suspiciously, and he said in the most scathing tones, 'Ka! he haoli!' ijt is only a white mam. " lie had such a commanding presence, and he looked at me in such . way that 1 almost felt terrified. When I handed him your Majesty's letter, a broad smile came over his f.ice after its perns 1. In fact, an expression of gre.it satisfaction overspread his countenance, and I was very hospitably invited to enter, lie took charge of my horse. "While my weird host unsaddled my horse and staked him out on the lawn, I entered the hut. The sight that met my eyes made me shudder from head to foot. " Now, gentlemen, remember th it I have taken a course of medicine, and if my father had not died and left me a fortune I might now have been a very ordinary country doctor; and yet, gentlemen, I shuddered when I entered that room. It seemed as if the room was frescoed and upholstered with skulls and human bones. There were human skulls everywhere. In one corner, on a little shelf, was a particu larly large skull, in which a candle burned and the light streamed from its gaunt eye holes in a most uncomfortable way. I surmised, very correctly, that this was the mystic shrine where the Hermit wor shipped. But the horror was completed when, in the other corner, I discovered a skeleton, arm and hand protruding from under the rude bed. Upon further investi gation 1 found that the bed, consisting of mats, was made upon a pile of human bones. In what terrible company to sleep, live and have one's being! I shuddered again at the thought. My ancient host came in and I found it necessary to pull myself together. Without taking any notice of me, he walked over to the corner and made three salaams before the grinning skull, muttering an unintelligible incanta tion. " 'Skull of my most famous ancestor,' lie said, ' I always keep him illuminated. His eyes thus seem to stream forth their old-time fire, especially at night.' Sitting down on the pile of bones that constituted his bed, he motioned me to a seat on a big stone in the back of the hut. " 'Those are also bones of your ancestors I suppose,' 1 said, pointing to a pile of bones he was sitting on. " 'No, but all friends of the family. I like to have my friends about me, especially at night. 1 sleep better. Well I must catch a chicken and cook you some supper.' "While he went to catch the chicken I sought the open air. I felt depressed. Every few moments a nameless terror would seize me and I wanted to run away as fast as my legs could carry me. But I had made up my mind to see the exhibition in the death cave if I died for it, and resist ed the inclination. "The shades of night were creeping over the vast expanse of lava that stretched to the sea, by the time the chicken was cook ed. Mine host brought out a finely woven mat for a table cloth and there being no table in the hut, placed it on the floor, and inviting me to sit cross-legged on the rock floor, served the chicken, some hard-tack and poi. A melancholy light streamed into the room from the eyeholes, nose and grinning teeth of the skull in the corner. It served in some measure to dispel the darkness of the room, but it wasn't a cheerful lamp. "'We must have a little more light I think,' said mine host, and to my horror he began taking down the skulls fastened to the walls and lighting little candles inside of them. The room was now well-lighted, to be sure, but it was not a light that was particularly soothing to the nerves. I felt like sere. ming. Having finished this duty, my ancient host sat down cross-legged on the floor, -ind began to devour the chicken and poi. "The chicken was good, well cooked and I was very hungry, but somehow I could not eat with any degree of comfort. At every little noise I would start and look around with a nameless fear, as if I ex pected to see some phantom, only to meet the glaring eyes of a grinning skull. All the skulls seemed suddenly to have come lo life. " How 1 ever passed the hours until mid- L -. Xfl W fttaJ 1. fr-lJ