James Jackson Jarves.

Kiana : a tradition of Hawaii online

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Author of "History of the Hawaiian Islands," "Parisian" and " Italian Sights,
" Art-Hints," &c., &c.



Ludgate Hill.


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year J857, by


Tn the Clerk s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.












STRICTLY speaking, there is no such thing as Fiction.
Every emotion, thought, or action embodied into litera
ture has been human experience at some time. We can
imagine nothing within the laws of nature, but what has
had or may have an actual existence. A novel, therefore,
but personifies the Truth. In giving a local interest to
its actors, it introduces them to the reader through the
medium of sympathies and passions, common to his own
heart, of reason intelligible to his own mind, or of moral
sentiments that find an echo in his own soul. Its success
depends upon the skill and feeling with which the author
works out his characters into a consistent whole creat
ing a simple and effective unity out of his plot, locality,
and motive. Still every reader likes to feel that the per
sons whose fates warm his interest in the pages of a
romance, actually lived and were as tangibly human as
himself, and his degree of interest is apt to be in ratio to
his belief that they were real personages. I am glad,
therefore, to be able to assure my readers of the following

In my youth I spent several years in different parts of
the Pacific Ocean, but chiefly at the Sandwich or Ha-


waiian Islands. While engaged in procuring materials for
their history, first published in 1843, I was much
struck with a tradition relating to their history by Euro
peans, two and a half centuries before Cook so accidentally
stumbled upon them. Briefly it was this

Eighteen generations of kings previous to Kamehameha
I., during the reign of Kahoukapa, or Kiana, there arrived
at Hawaii, a white priest, bringing with him an idol, which,
by his persuasion, was enrolled in the calendar of the
Hawaiian gods, and a temple erected for its service.
The stranger priest acquired great influence, and left a
reputation for goodness that was green in the memories
of the people of Hawaii three centuries later. Another
statement adds that a vessel was wrecked on the island,
and the captain and his sister reached the shore, where
they were kindly received and adopted into the families of
the chiefs.

Without enlarging here upon the tradition, and the
light my subsequent researches threw upon it, I will sim
ply state that I became convinced that a Spanish priest,
woman, and several men were rescued from a wreck,
landed and lived in Hawaii, and acquired power and
consideration from their superior knowledge, and for a
while were even regarded as gods. Some of them inter
married with the aborigines, and their blood still exists
(or did recently) among certain families, who pride them
selves greatly upon their foreign origin.

Other traces of their existence are perceptible in the
customs, ideas, and even the language of the natives,


which last has a number of words strikingly analogous to
the Spanish of the same meaning. Captain Cook found
among them a remnant of a sword-blade and another bit
of iron. They were not strangers to this metal, and as
no ores exist in their soil, they could have derived their
knowledge solely from foreign intercourse.

Soon after the conquest of Mexico, Cortez sent three
vessels upon an exploring expedition to California. After
sailing as far as 29 north, one was sent back to report
progress. The other two held on and were never heard
from. Why may not one of these be the vessel that was
wrecked on Hawaii ? The winds would naturally drive
her in that direction, and the date of the expedition
agrees, so far as can be made out from Hawaiian chronol
ogy, with the time of the first arrival of white men on
that island. Indeed, at that period of maritime discovery,
white men could come from no other quarter. For my
part, I believe that a port of Mexico was the starting
point of the wrecked party ; a conjecture which derives
some plausibility from the fact, that, when the natives
offered the whites bananas and other tropical fruits, they
were familiar with them, which would be the case, if they
came from Tehuantepec, from whence Cortez fitted out
his vessel.

To absolutely identify the white strangers of Hawaii
with the missing ships of Cortez, is not now possible.
But the interest in them, left thus isolated from civiliza
tion amid savages, upon an island in the centre of the
then unknown ocean, is peculiar. Especially have I


always been curious to trace the fate of the solitary
white woman, a waif of refinement cast thus on a
barbarous shore, and of the priest too, to learn how
far their joint influence tempered the heathenism into
which they were thrown, or whether they were finally
overcome by paganism.

Twelve years ago, while amid the scenery described in
this volume, and the customs and traditions of the natives
were fresh in my mind, I began to pen their history ; but
other objects prevented my going on, until the past win
ter, when leisure and the advice of friends, pleased with
the subject, prompted its completion. The descriptions
of the natural features of this remarkable island, of the
religion, customs, government, and conditions of its abo
rigines, as well as the events in general, are as faithful
transcripts, in words, of the actual, to my personal know
ledge, as it is in my power to give.

In saying thus much for the facts, I am in duty bound
to add a word for the ideas. Prefaces, some say, are
never read. It may be so. But for myself, I like the
good old custom, by which as author, or reader, I can talk
or be talked directly to. It is the only way of familiar
intercourse between two parties so essential to each other.
I shall therefore speak on.

Every tale is based upon certain ideas, which are its
life-blood. Of late, fiction has become the channel by
which the topics most in the thought of the age, or which
bear directly upon its welfare, reach most readily the
popular mind. But few authors, however, can count


upon many readers, and I am not one of them. Still
what a man has to say to the public, should be his earnest
thought frankly told. No one has a monopoly of wisdom.
The most gifted author cannot fill the measure of the
understanding. The humblest may give utterance to
ideas, that, however plain to most thinkers, may through
him be the means of first reaching some minds, or at
least suggesting thoughts that shall leave them wiser and
happier. If what he say, has in it no substance of
truth, it will speedily come to naught. But on the
contrary, if it contain simply the seeds of truth, they
will be sure to find a ripening soil somewhere in human
hearts, and bud and blossom into peace and progress.
With this motive I have spoken freely such views as
have been prompted by my experience and reflections.
They are not much to read, nor much to skip. Which
ever the reader does, he carries with him my warmest
wishes for his welfare, and the hope that if he find in
the Story nothing to instruct, it may still be not
without the power " to amuse."


Piazza Maria Antonia,
Florence, 1857.




" They that sail on the sea tell of the danger thereof ; and when
we hear it with our ears, we marvel thereat." Ecclesiasticus,
xliii. 24.

" The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,

The furrow followed free ;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea."

Jlncient Mariner.

To be alone on the great ocean, to feel besides
the ship that bears you, nothing human floats
within your world s horizon, begets in a thoughtful
mind a deep solemnity. The voyager is, as it
were, at once brought before the material image
of eternity. Sky and sea, each recedes without
limit from his view ; a circle above, a circle around,
a circle underneath, no beginning, no ending, no
repose for the sight, no boundary on which to fix
the thought, but growing higher and higher, wider
and wider, deeper and deeper, as the eye gazes and
finds no resting point, both sea and sky suggest,
with overpowering force, that condition of soul
which, knowing neither time nor space, forever

12 KL/LNA :

mounts Godward. In no mood does Nature speak
louder to the heart than in her silence. When her
thunders roll through the atmosphere and the hills
tremble, the ocean surges and the wind wails ;
when she laughs through her thousand notes from
bird or blossom, the heart either exults at the strife,
or grows tender with sympathy in the universal
joy. But place man alone on the ocean, shrouded
in silence, with no living thing beyond his own
tiny, wooden world for companionship, he begins
to realize in the mighty expanse which engulfs
his vision his own physical insignificancy. The
very stars that look down upon him, with light
twinkling and faint, from the rapidity with which
they have sent their rays through distant firma
ments to greet his vision and tell him there are
countless worlds of greater beauty and higher per
fection for his spirit to explore ; even they deepen
his feeling of littleness, till, finally, his soul recovers
its dignity in the very magnitude of the scenery
spread for its exploration. It knows that all this
is but a portion of its heritage ; that earth, air and
water, the very planets that mock its curiosity, are
ministering spirits, given with all their mysteries
to be finally absorbed into its own all-penetrating

Few, however, can so realize their own spirit-
power, as to be calm in a calm. A motionless
ship upon a silent ocean has a phantom look.
The tall, tapering spars, the symmetrical tracery of
ropes, the useless sails in white drooping folds, the
black body in sharp relief in the white light, added


to the ghost-ship, the twin of the one in the
air, in dimly-shadowed companionship, hull up
permost and her masts pointing downwards in the
blue water, make up a spectral picture. As day
after day passes, overhead a hot burning sun whose
rays blind without rejoicing, no ripple upon the
water, no life, because neither fish nor bird can
bear the heat ; the very garbage thrown overboard
floating untouched, as if destruction rejected her
own ; the night mantling all in darkness, making
silence still more oppressive, for even the blocks
refuse their wonted creaking ; all this consumes
the body like rust slowly eating into iron. Nature
faints and man sinks into her lassitude. He feels
deserted of his own mother. She that bore him
mocks him. Perchance a cold grey sky, pregnant
with gloom, shuts down all around him, reflecting
itself in the ocean which looks even greyer and
colder. The atmosphere grows barren of light.
No wind comes. Silent, motionless, and despairing,
the vessel lies upon the waters; not slumbering,
for every nerve within is quickened to unnatural
keenness to catch a sign of change. It comes not.
The seamen s hearts, too worn to pray or curse,
daily sink deeper within them, like masses of lead
slowly finding their way through the fathomless
depths of the ocean. A sail, a floating spar, a
shark or devil fish, anything that were of man or
beast, a shrub, the tiniest sea-snail or wildest bird,
would be welcomed as Columbus hailed the float
ing signs that told to his mutinous crew a coming



But none come. Weeks go by thus. Is man a
god that his soul cannot fail within him! Must
he not sympathize with the surrounding inanition!
Welcome battle, welcome storm, welcome all that
excites his energies, though it consume blood and
muscle; be the mind racked and the body tortured;
still man marches triumphantly on to his object.
But take away opposition, reduce him to nothing
ness, convince him that action begets no result,
that will is powerless, and he is no longer man.
Not to act is conscious annihilation. But Nature
never wholly deserts. She leaves hope to cheer
humanity with promises that sooner or later must
be fulfilled. There is, however, no condition so
destitute of all that makes man Man as helpless
solitude, when mind and body alike without action,
stagnate and forget their origin.

Such was the condition of the crew of a vessel
about the year 1530, lying motionless on the waters
of the Pacific, not far from 25 north latitude and
140 west longitude. The bark was of that frail
class, called caravel, scarcely fitted to navigate a
small lake, much less to explore unknown seas.
Yet, in those days European navigators did not
hesitate to trust their lives and fortunes, on voyages
of years duration, to craft which would now be con
demned even for river navigation. The one of
which we speak was of about seventy tons burden,
with a high poop, which gave a comfortable cabin,
a half deck and a forecastle, raised like the poop,
sufficient to give partial shelter to the numerous
crew. One mast with a large lateen sail rose from


the centre of the vessel, but her progress was aided
as much by oars as by canvas. At the masthead
was a castle-shaped box, in which the seamen
could comfortably remain, either as lookouts, or for
defence. This gave to the spar a clumsy, top-
heavy look, wholly inconsistent with our modern
ideas of nautical symmetry.

It was plain that the caravel had been long from
port, and had suffered much from stress of weather.
Her sides were rusty grey; barnacles clung so
thickly below and above the water line, as to
greatly interfere with her sailing qualities; the
seams were open, and as the hot sun poured upon
them, pitch oozed out. A tattered and threadbare
sail hung loosely from the long yard which sway
ed from the masthead. The cordage appeared
strained and worn to its last tension. Iron rust
had eaten through and stained the wood in all
parts of the hull. If paint had ever existed, the
elements had long since eaten it up. Everything
indicated long and hard usage. Yet amid all there
were signs of seamanship and discipline ; for bad
and shattered as were rope, spar, and sail, every
thing was in its place and in the best order its con
dition permitted.

Within the cabin was a weather-beaten young
man, well made, of a strong and active frame,
features bronzed by long exposure to varied cli
mates, and fine soft hair, somewhat light in color,
which even now would have curled gracefully, had
it been properly cared for. He lay ill and panting
on the transom, with his face close to the open

16 . KIANA:

port, gasping for air; not that he was seriously re
duced, for it was readily seen that fatigue, anxiety
and scanty fare had more to do with his weak con
dition than actual disease. Near him was a rude
chart of the coasts of Mexico and adjacent sea,
which he had long and carefully, and, to all appear
ance, fruitlessly studied. It was covered with a laby
rinth of pencil marks, indicating a confused idea both
of navigation and his present position. He had been
recently poring over it, and at last had thrown it
aside as utterly worthless, or at all events as afford
ing him no clue by which to extricate himself from
his present situation in a sea wholly unknown to
the navigators of his day.

Near him sat a priest, whose thoughtful, benevo
lent face was far from expressing despair even
under their present circumstances. He talked to the
young man of the necessity of trusting themselves
to the guidance of Providence, and sought to cheer
him by his own hopeful serenity and untiring

Around the deck and under such shelter from
the heat as they could contrive, the crew reclined
in mournful groups; some with faces hardened
into despair, and others careless or indifferent. A
few only manifested a spirit of pious resignation.
The strongest seldom spoke. Their looks were as
sullen as their tempers were fierce, and if they
opened their mouths, it was to mutter or curse,
daring Nature to do her worst. Nothing but their
physical debility prevented frequent violent explo
sions of the pent-up irritability arising from their


helpless state. Disease and starvation were rapid
ly adding fresh horrors to their situation. One
seaman lay on the hard deck with a broken thigh,
in which mortification had already begun, groaning
and piteously asking for water. In his thirst he
would have drank more in one hour than was allow
anced to the entire crew for a day s consumption.
Several others, whose fevered tongues rattled from
dryness, were also tossing and moaning on the rough
planks, too weak or hopeless to join in the fruitless
appeal of their dying comrade. Such water as they
had was clotted with slime, and impregnated with
foul odors. Their meat was all gone, and the little
bread left, musty and worm-eaten.

All wore the look of having long struggled with
adverse fortune. They were men whose element
was made up of hardship and adventure ; men,
who, forgetting in one hour s better fortune all
that had brought them to their present condition,
would not hesitate to embark again on a similar
errand. Here they were, bowed in spirit, haggard
in features, their hardy limbs lying torpidly about,
indifferent to death itself, but worn to worse than
death by drifting for weeks about under a pitiless
sun on an unknown sea, which the oldest of them
had never heard of, and which seemed to them as if
they had arrived within the confines of stagnant
matter, where they were doomed to rot in body
and decay in mind, coffined in their vessel, whose
slow destruction kept even pace with their own.

Five of their number had already died and been
cast overboard. Gladly would they have seen

18 KIANA :

sharks gorge themselves on their late shipmates, as
that would have shown them that the water still
contained life. But no carrion fishes came near
them. With faces upturned and glassy eyes fixed
upon the caravel, those corpses floated about them
so long that the crew were at last afraid to look
over the bulwarks for fear of seeing what they
desired so much to forget.

But humanity had not altogether abandoned
them. The frailest in body among that vessel s
company proved the strongest in faith and action.
A woman was of their number. Consuming even
less of their provisions than the others, she reserved
herself, and in great measure her allowance of food,
for those whose necessity she considered as greater
than her own. At all hours was she to be seen
moving quietly about, speaking hope and courage to
one, giving to eat or drink to another, or fanning
the hot brow of a half delirious sufferer, while
she talked to him of a home into which no suffer
ing could enter, if the heart once were right. Espe
cially was she devoted to the young man in the
cabin. He evidently relied even more upon her
than upon the priest, and imbibed fresh strength
and hope from her voice and example. The priest
was equally unwearied with his bodily aid and
spiritual counsel to the crew. Thus it was that
amid the most trying of the experiences of ocean-
life, despair did not altogether quench hope.

Yet what situation could be more cheerless!
One altogether similar in the history of navigation
had never occurred before, and by the hurried course


of discovery and civilization, would not again oc
cur. They were literally ALONE, drifting on an
unkno\vn, motionless sea. No winds stirred its
surface; no birds flew by ; no fishes came up from
beneath their keel ; there was no change except
from the burning day to the feverish night, which
brought with it no cooling dew, nor any sign to
excite a sailors hope. Although they could not
know the fact, not a vessel beside theirs for thou
sands of miles east or west, north or south, floated
on that ocean. Driven thither against their wills,
they were the first to explore its solitude. It was
true that continents and archipelagoes thickly
peopled were around them, but for all they knew,
they were being carried by an irresistible fate to
the boundary of nature, whence they would drop
into a fathomless void. They were therefore liter
ally ALONE.



<f Suddaine they see from midst of all the maine,

The surging waters like a Mountain rise,
And the great Sea, puft up with proud Disdaine,

To swell above the measure of his guise,
Threatening to devoure all that his Powre despise."


THE caravel in question was more than ordinarily
frail, having been hastily equipped with two others
from the port of Tehuantepec in Mexico, at the
order of Cortez for the exploration of the continent
about and above the gulf of California. It is true,
an experienced seaman named Grijalva had been
put in command, and he had been so far successful
as to have reached the twenty-ninth degree of north
latitude. Thence one vessel had been sent back
with an account of his progress. The other two
continued their explorations northward, with the
hope of arriving at that kingdom so rich in precious
metals, of which they had heard so many rumors
from the recently conquered Mexicans. Creeping
coastwise slowly upward, many fine bays with
shores rich in .verdure met their view, but of gold
they found no traces, and of inhabitants, with the
exception of an occasional glimpse of a naked
savage, who ran terrified away, they were equally


unsuccessful. Yet they were navigating waters,
the tributary streams of which were literally bedded
in gold. But neither the time nor people to which
this treasure was to be disclosed had arrived.
Consequently, Grijalva, with his eyes blinded to
what was constantly within his reach, saw nothing
but a vast wilderness, which promised neither
wealth nor honor as the reward of further explora
tion. Reluctantly, therefore, he turned his course
southward. That night a severe gale came on,
and both caravels were driven far from their course
towards the southwest. It was in vain with
such unseaworthy vessels that Grijalva sought to
regain the coast. The wind blew him still farther
into unknown seas, which daily became more tem
pestuous, until his storm-shattered vessel sank in
sight of her scarcely better conditioned consort,
engulfing all on board.

This sight for the moment chilled the hearts of
the surviving crew, and paralyzed their exertions.
But Spanish seamen and the soldiers of Cortez
were too accustomed to death in every form, to
long despair. They redoubled their efforts, and by
bailing and cautious steering, keeping the vessel
directly before the wind, weathered the gale, which
the next day w T as succeeded by the fatal calm,
already described.

There were on board some twenty persons, vete
rans in the hardships and conflicts of the new
world. Their commander was the young man that
lay exhausted in the cabin. He spoke to the
woman who now sat with his head on her lap,


while she gave him such meagre refreshment as
their famished bark afforded. His name was Juan
Alvirez. Hers was Beatriz. They were brother
and sister. He had been a volunteer with Narvaez,
and after his defeat enlisted under Cortez, and was
present at the siege of Mexico, and all the subse
quent expeditions of his commander, to whom
he was greatly attached. This attachment was
founded in a congeniality of temperament, which
led him to emulate the heroic daring and unflinch
ing perseverance of Cortez, while his more powerful
intellect was equally an object of his profound ad
miration. With the same thirst for adventure, the
same chivalric courage, the same devotion to the
Catholic worship, the same contempt for the rights,
feelings or sufferings of others so that his own
desire was gained, devout and loyal, with deep
affections, easily moved to anger or kindness, child
like in his impulses, yet strong in action, Alvirez in
most points, except judgment, might be considered
a Cortez on a small scale. Indeed, his intimacy
with him, begun when Alvirez was not twenty

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Online LibraryJames Jackson JarvesKiana : a tradition of Hawaii → online text (page 1 of 17)