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Austin's Hawaiian weekly. [volume] (Honolulu [Hawaii]) 1899-190?, October 07, 1899, Image 5

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85047152/1899-10-07/ed-1/seq-5/

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night and remained sane I cannot say. The
ancient hermit reclined comfortably upon
his pile of bones, telling me tales of Ha
waiian folklore which, under less dis
tressing circumstances no doubt I should
have found instructive, while I crouched
upon the rock close to the precipice which
formed the back wall of the hut.
" At last mine host siiid it was time we en
tered the cave. ' That rock you are sitting
upon stop the entrance.' He' picked a long
stick, evidently for this purpose, and used
it as a lever to pry the rock away from the
precipitous wall. The rock was so evenly
balanced on rolling boulders that it easily
swung out into the room, disclosing the en
trance to the c ive, which was about three
feet square.
" 'I hope y u have good nerves,' said
the hermit, as he busied himself preparing
a Haming torch made from kukui nut oil.
'You will see a great many skeletons,
but, of course, being a doctor, human bones
cannot have much terror for you.'
" 'Yes; I have done a great deal of dis
secting in my time,' I answered as bravely
as I could.
"We had to crawl in on our hands and
knees to enter the cave, but once having
entered, we were able to stand erect with
out ditliculty, and in some places the roof
was, perhaps, eight or nine feet high. The
faint roar of water could be heard in the
deep recesses of the cavern, which, my
guide explained, was the underground
channel of the spring which caused the
little oasis in the rocky desert. On either
side of the cave, laid out on ledges or
benches hewed out of the solid rock, were
hundreds of skeletons, that looked ghastly
in the feeble light of the torch. The floor
of the cave was strewn with loose bones
and it was impossible to avoid making foot
ball of the skulls as we walked along.
Mine host chattered pleasantly, even cheer
fully . as we went, called this or that giant
chief's skeleton by name, relating anec
dotes of his life and deeds of valor. It was
doubtless very interesting and instructive,
but I must confess that 1 felt very uncomfortable.
New Zealand is a unique country, owing to
the sublime grandeur and endless variety of its
scenery, including, as it does, magnificent moun
tain ranges, hundreds of miles in length, the
peaks of which, pierce far into the region of
eternal snow, and down whose slopes travels
the ever-moving glacier, bearing its stupendous
burden of frozen snow and ice.
Then it has its volcanoes, both active and
extinct, its hot lakes and boiling springs, its
cold lakes, its remarkable sounds, its mighly
rivers and countless waterfalls (one of which, the
Sutherland, has a drop of nearly '.2,000 feet), ils
enoimous forests with their giant trees and lux
uriant ferns, its stalactite cavts, its (lowers, and
beautiful birds. The Maoris, too, must be in
cluded in the attractions of this land of strange
sights, for in fheir manner of living and tradi
tional surroundings they are an 'interesting and
distinctly picturesque race.
An opportunity of seeing some of these wou
ders pictorially illustrated and described by a
'cultured son of the soil has never previously
occurred in Honolulu, it is therefore, not sur
prising that the unique and charming recitals
"These bones,' said the hermit 'that
we are kicking around with our feet,' and
he gave a skull a kick and sent it thunder
ing down the cavern, ' are the bones of
slaves. It is an inspiring sight during a
manifestation to see these old chiefs get
clown and dance on the slaves.'
" I began to feel that I would prefer to
skip the manifestation.
"We had proceeded perhaps fifty yards or
more, when my ancient guide stopped and
turned around so as to face me. Reaching
to the ledge on the left, he selected the
shin-bone of one of the largest skeletons
in the cave.
" ' What a giant this fellow must have
been,' he said. 'Surely not less than
eight feet tall. His name was Kaunakakai.
He was not a very high chief, but his great
deeds of valor won him a place among the
very highest chiefs and kings.'
" Suddenly, the hermit paused and stood
in a listening attitude, with his glitteiing
eyes fixed on mine. He seemed to quiver
in every nerve as if he had received an
electric shock. He waved the shin bone
of Kaunakakai around his head as though
it were a magician's wand and shouted, his
voice resounding through the cavern.
"'The manifestation is coming; I can
hear it. Listen.' His powerful eyes
were again fixed on mine. His excitement
was immediately transmitted to me; my
nerves quivered and my fears vanished. I
was all excitement and expectancy. A
cold, clammy chill crept into the cavern,
and a cold wind from whence it came I
know not swept through the cave. An
etherial mist, as it were, was borne clown
toward us from the remote recesses of the
" It is the manifestation,' whispered the
hermit, in awe. ' See. the cloud begins
to take shape.' And, sure enough, the
mist parted into distinct human forms that,
one by one, settled clown over the skeletons
on the ledges.
"The hermit was still waving Kaunakakai's
shin-bone as though it were a magic wand,
and unexpectedly, without warning, all the
skeletons jumped down from their places
and danced the wildest, maddest dance I
ever witnessed. I was f.iscinated, spell
bound. Around each skeleton was the
faintest misty contour of the human figure.
The wind whistling through their ribs, in
not so varied tones as the teolian harp,
made most doleful music. In all their mad
dancing they conformed largely to the hula
step. And it is not an inspiring sight to
see a skeleton dance the hula.
"I did not lose my head until Kaunaka
kai took it into his head to jump clown
from his perch right beside me and be
gan ijirouetting around me and dancing
the wildest hornpipe, which one of Captain
Cook's sailors had taught him. His white
bones glistened with phosphorescent glow
in the immediate rays of the torch, while
his great, grinning skull loomed above me
like a Nemesis the very incarnation of the
devil. My nerw. was g"one. In ,i panic I
fled, falling over bones, rolling over skulls
and bruising myself over rocks, until I
reached the entrance of the cave. Taking
one terrified glance over niv shoulder at the
illuminated skulls, I saddled my horse and
rode down the trail like mad. 'if the moon
had not been shining bright I would have
been killed a hundred times.
"How I reached Hilo I shall never know,
because I ceased to remember anything
after I left the hut. I was prostrated for
three days with nervous prostration. Oh;
it was terrible! terrible! " and Greenwood
quivered in every nerve and muscle.
During the recital the King had become
more and more excited, and when it was
over, he jumped to his feet and cried:
"I knew you would become convinced
of the reality of ghosts."
"lam not so sure that I am convinced
yet, answered Greenwood very deliber
ate y. "During the manifestation, as he
called it, the old hermit held the shin-bone
in his hand and I cannot conceive of Kau
nakakai's dancing a hornpipe with one shin
bone missing, whatever may have been his
prowess at arms. After very serious con
sideration I have come to the conclusion
that I was hypnotized by the Hermit of the
Death Cave."
A Maori Residence

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