Six Prize Hawaiian Stories of the Kilohana Art League Part 1

Six Prize Hawaiian Stories of the Kilohana Art League.

by various authors.


"_Auhea oe, Nalima? Elua nahae hou o kuu lole!_"[1] "_Auwe, pela?_"[2]

replied the old woman addressed, taking at the same time from Kalani's hands a coat hat might best be described as one of many colors. The old man seated himself on the floor of the little hut, and gazed at this same coat in a manner savoring of dejection. "Yes," he said, "while I was digging around the taro down by the stream, I left it hanging on a branch of the big kukui tree, but when I returned to put it on, I found that it had blown off, caught on a piece of bark and torn that hole. Do you think you can mend it so that I can wear it on Sunday? You know I have no other. _Pilikia maoli!_" (sad plight), and Kalani gave a grunt that embodied many emotions.

[Footnote 1: "Where are you, Nalima? Here are two new rents in my clothes!"]

[Footnote 2: "Oh dear! is that so?"]

Nalima's small, slightly withered hands were turning the coat tenderly.

Patch had already been placed upon patch, nearly every one differing in material and color from the original fabric, which was a cotton twill, and the bleachings of sun and soap had added variety in many shades of blue and brown.

Yes, she had a little piece of blue flannel left that would just fit his new rent, she mused, and the whole thing must be washed again. She was sure she could have it ready to wear that same night. This hopeful view enabled her old husband to start again with his _o-o_ (Hawaiian spade) for the garden patch. He removed his tattered hat as he went, revealing a head of fine proportions. The forehead was high and full, and the top bald and shining. Soft, white locks clustered in his neck, and a white beard several inches in length gave a distinguished look to his face. Patience looked from his soft dark eyes and the expression about his mouth was kind and firm. The small rush mat which Nalima had been braiding when Kalani arrived with his tale of woe was laid aside, and, from a very meager supply of housewifely stores, a needle, thread, and bit of flannel were produced. Her dim eyes strained themselves to adjust the patch to the torn edges, and her trembling hands set the stitches with patient effort. Meanwhile the thoughts of the old wife wandered into the past. The long-ago was a happy time to re-live. When they were young, in Kauikeaouli's time, Kalani had been a _kanaka nui_ (great man) among Hawaiians. He had been a _luna_ (overseer) in their valley and had directed the _konohiki_ (chief's resident land-agent) labor for years. His own _kuliana_ (land-holding) was a large one, and the rights of the stream for some acres were his. He in his turn controlled the work of others for himself. Their house was large and high and had a window of glass in one end; the _hikie_ (bedstead) was a pile of mats soft and fine, and the bedding was of the finest _kapa_.[3]

There was always a plenty of _poi_[4] in the calabash; ti roots, kukui-nuts, cocoa-nuts and breadfruit abounded for more delicate dishes.

They themselves were well and strong, and oh! how proud they were of their boy and girl. Like a dream had been the years between. Sovereign had succeeded sovereign. Epidemics has decimated the people. The _konohiki_ labor had lapsed. Strangers had leased the lands, fences now barred the way, and keys effectually locked the fastnesses from the ramblers and seekers for shells and ferns. Their own acres had been cajoled away from them, and only this little hut far up the valley, and a small plot of land, on which they with difficulty raised a little _taro_ and a few sweet potatoes, remained. They were allowed to retain possession of this as compensation for guarding the leased lands of the valley against trespassers, but they received no money. The children had grown and gone. The daughter had married and lived a few years at Kona, Hawaii, then died. The son had braved the Arctic cold and had been a sailor for years on a whale ship. But many, many moons had passed since his last visit home; probably he, too, was dead. They themselves were growing old now; they had no chance to earn money; economy had crystallized for them into the problem of how long they could make things last. Kalani would be broken-hearted when his coat was too old to wear to church, for, rain or sun, he faithfully attended the service at the mouth of the valley every Sunday afternoon, walking several miles to do so. While Nalima sewed and mused, Kalani, wrestling with mountain _nahelehele_ (wild growth) was thinking too. Perhaps the vigor in the arm that drove the _o-o_ into the grass stirred the thought cells in his head; the mental result, however, was not retrospection, but determination to do some thing in the immediate future to help the present condition of affairs. "I _must_ have a new coat. I cannot wear my old one to church any longer. I have no money, but perhaps some one will give me clothes if I ask for them. I have never begged, and Nalima wouldn't let me beg now if she knew about it; I musn't tell her. It is more than two years since I have been beyond the church, but there are _haole_ (foreign) families living not far from there, and I'll go to them. I'll tell Nalima I'm going to try to sell some eggs, we've got six saved in the pail, and perhaps I can buy some salmon to bring home to her. It would taste good (_ono loa_) to her. I'll go tomorrow morning."

And, full of his resolve, Kalani shouldered his o-o and returned to his hut.

[Footnote 3: A cloth made from bark.]

[Footnote 4: The Hawaiian "staff of life." A paste made of pounded _taro_ root mixed with water.]


"Ruth, please see who is knocking at the side door," said Mrs. Hamilton early one morning in the month of August. "It's a native man, Mamma,"

said Ruth a moment later, "he wants to see you, but says he can wait until you can come. I think he has never been here before; he is very old; and he has a small tin pail with him." When Mrs. Hamilton opened the door leading to the veranda, the rising sun was glorifying a strip of lawn, glancing among young orange trees, glowing along an hibiscus hedge, and giving an effect beyond description to a golden-shower tree in full bloom. On either side of the steps leading to the drive, banks of ferns stood crisp and cool. The grass was bright with fairy rainbows strung on drops of dew. "Oh, what a morning to be alive!" thought Mrs.

Hamilton, "what, I wonder, will be the first thing given me to do this beautiful day?" From the lower step arose, at this instant, Kalani. With the grace and dignity natural to the Hawaiian, he bared his head, and, holding his tattered hat in his hand, gave the friendly salutation "Aloha" which Mrs. Hamilton returned in as friendly a tone. Noting in an instant the splendid proportions of his head, his fine brow, and the character which shone from every feature of his up-turned face, it was with the sincerest interest that she asked in Hawaiian, "What can I do for you, what would you like?" Kalani took a step sideways into the ferns, still looking up into her eyes, and, with various apologetic expressions flitting across his face, finally took hold of the lapel of his coat with his left hand and, drawing it slightly forward, said, "I didn't know but perhaps you had a cast-off coat that you would be willing to give me. This one is very old and has many holes. If I had a better one I should wear it to church and that would be _maikai loa_ (very pleasant), but, if not, never mind, it will be all right" (_like pu, he maikai no ia_). Mrs. Hamilton's quick eye took in at a glance the entire suit in which this son of the soil stood. His garments showed their many patches, and she thought that the colors of the remnants still clinging together, would be difficult to reproduce upon any painter's palette. Stepping within the bedroom door she found Mr.

Hamilton adjusting his necktie before the mirror. "George," she said, "do you suppose you have a second-hand coat I might give this man? He needs one badly enough. There is something singularly appealing about him, and, you can see in a moment, he is no beggar."

"Yes, I guess so," said Mr. Hamilton, first taking a glance through the door at Kalani and then proceeding to his wardrobe. Presently he returned and handed his wife an entire suit of grey woolen clothes.

"My," said she, "he has asked only for a _coat_! I'll give them to him one by one. Come out and enjoy the good time with me." Returning to the veranda she held up the coat. "Do you suppose this will fit you?" she asked. "Oh yes, yes!" was the quick reply, "you must see for yourself,"

and his hands trembled as he carefully withdrew the delicate coat he wore from his shoulders. "See, see, it fits, it fits!" (_Ku no, ku no!_) and his hands stroked down the sleeves, and lovingly patted the pocket flaps.

His expressions of delight and appreciation were cut short by Mrs.

Hamilton's holding up the trousers. "What do you think about these?"

Kalani shot a lightning glance at Mr. Hamilton, who stood on the veranda enjoying the scene, and said "Oh, yes, we are just the same size." "He,"

pointing to Mr. Hamilton, "isn't any bigger than I am." Taking the trousers, the old man avowed most solemnly that they would be just right (_ku pono loa_). "Besides," said he with a look of conscious pride, "I've got an old wife who can fix them if they are not." So that point was settled. The vest was now held up. "Of course you don't want this,"

said Mrs. Hamilton, "it will make you too warm." "A vest, a vest!" he cried, "no it won't, oh, I shall be too proud for anything, (_hookano maoli_) to have a vest!"

All three were laughing by this time, Kalani as much as the others.

"Dear me," said Mr. Hamilton, "this is getting interesting. I must see if I can't find him something else." In a moment he was back with a neat, striped negligee shirt, which he himself offered the old man. The expression on the shining face of the native as he received this fresh gift, was something to remember. It was brother looking into brother's face, with a something too deep for words. It was an expression that one would like to meet again, in the world beyond.

"Let's give him a hat," said George Jr., who had joined the group on the veranda, "there are a lot on the hat-tree to spare." The tattered hat under Kalani's arm had not spoken in vain. As the boy was searching for one, his father cried to him, "Bring the silk hat from the top peg."

"No, no," said Mrs. Hamilton, "don't let us spoil a good thing by allowing the old man to think we are making fun of him." "Fun of him!"

said Mr. Hamilton, "I tell you I know what will please his soul, and it's a silk hat, now see if it's not." George first handed his mother a brown derby, only slightly the worse for wear, and then a silk hat still possessed of a good shine but not the most modern in shape. Having only the first in evidence, Mrs. Hamilton again addressed Kalani. "Do you think you could wear this hat?" "That hat for me? Oh how fine! Yes, yes, I know--" here his words failed, for his eyes had caught sight of the silk hat, which Mr. Hamilton was in a great hurry to prove would be the climax of his life. "Here, try this, I guess you can make it stick on,"

he said. The brown derby fell among the ferns, and trembling hands seized the shining beaver. "_Auwe, auwe! heaha keia! ka nani! ka maikai!

Auwe! ka lokomaikai!_"[5] Over the shining bald head it was pressed, coaxed, urged and settled, and _it was a tight fit_. "There," said Mr.

Hamilton, "I told you so, he would wear that hat if it killed him, rather than not take it when he had the chance! Of course he never had a silk hat before in his life."

[Footnote 5: "Oh my! oh my! what's this! how splendid, how fine! Ah, what generosity!"]

The old man was speechless and voluble by turns. His good fortune choked him, but the joys of possession ran over his eyes and sparkled in every square inch of his honest face. Ruth brought some wrapping paper, and Mrs. Hamilton helped fold the articles for easy carrying. "But my hat, how am I going to carry my hat?" he wailed. "I'll wear this one,"

putting the derby on his head, "but this _papale kilika_ (silk hat) is to wear to church, and how am I to carry it home?" Another paper was brought, and, with twine, a secure package was made, with a loop to slip over his arm. Then a fresh idea came to the old man. Conscious of the humor of the whole situation, he said, "You have left me only one thing to ask for," and he raised a foot to which was bound a much worn shoe.

"Shoes!" cried Ruth, "May I find some, Mamma?" and in less time than it takes to tell it she was back with a pair of half-worn brogans that were more beautiful in Kalani's eyes than the handsomest ten-dollar boots that ever came out of a shoe emporium. Now there really seemed to be nothing left but for the old man to go, but he had something to say.

Lifting his happy face, he said, "You have been very good to me. I have no money to buy such things for myself, and I was going to ask only for a coat. I live in Palolo valley, and have no means of earning anything.

I brought a few eggs with me, thinking I could change them for something to take back to my old wife, but now I would like to give them to you."

He slipped the cover from his pail and held up to Mrs. Hamilton's view the half dozen small eggs. Tears filled her eyes at his honest, dignified independence. "No, no," said she, slipping a coin in among the eggs, "get something for the wife with the eggs, and give her our _aloha_."

At last with many an _aloha_ and _auwe_ of benediction, Kalani betook himself and his new wealth down the drive, and the Hamilton family answered the breakfast bell.


The barking of a small dog awoke Nalima from a nap. Sitting up, she saw at a little distance down the valley, someone coming up the path. At first she thought it was Kalani, then saw that it was a _haole_ hat that appeared and disappeared among the bushes. "_Auwe_, it's some trespasser that's come up here because Kalani is away, what shall I do?" While she yet feared, the figure stood at the door and Kalani's voice reassured her.

We may not repeat all that Nalima listened to, for in another tongue than the Hawaiian, its flavor would be much impaired. The simple souls accepted the great good fortune of the suit of clothes, the shoes, and the hats, with childlike simplicity. The long and early walk had given Kalani a hearty appetite, which the sour poi, spiced with a bit of salt salmon from the _Pake_ (Chinese) store at Moiliili, soon appeased.

Nalima produced a few mountain apples she had gathered during his absence, and they felt they had feasted like chiefs of old.

Nor can we tell of the profound sensation produced in the little district church the following Sabbath, when Kalani entered dressed in his new suit, and crowned with his silk hat. This latter he wore until he took his seat, so that all might see it; then he carefully placed it on the bench beside him. It seemed as if the possession of this silk hat bade fair to restore to him his prestige of the long ago. That he should have been in such high favor with anyone, as to receive such a gift, surely argued greatly for his birthright, and for the heritage of his youth, of which the younger generation had not been aware. Certain it was that soon after this Kalani was made a deacon in the church, and other honors were accorded him in the months that followed. In the little hut in the valley, the driest corner was given to the precious hat, and Nalima gently fondled it as she smoothed it again and again, hoping to preserve its shining gloss indefinitely. It was not pride but _satisfaction_ in this _special possession_ that filled Kalani's soul.

He often removed the paper in which it was kept, and, holding it upon his hand, would relate to Nalima the experiences of that momentous morning walk, when he became possessed of this treasure. And Nalima never tired of listening to the tale, though she had long known it by heart. In closing he always said, "The best of it all was, I know they were _glad_ to give it to me, and, Nalima, you know what to do with it if I die first."


"Mamma," cried Ruth Hamilton, reining her horse beside her mother's porch one afternoon a year later, "George and I have been for a ride out to Wailupe and back, and as we came near the Palolo Valley road on our way home, we saw a funeral procession coming down. It passed the corner just as we reached it, and, what do you think! On the _top of the coffin was a silk hat_, and George declares it's the same one Papa gave that old man that came here one morning a good while ago!"

Even so, according to the customs which still obtain in many lands, and which have been handed down through the centuries, of burying one's choicest possessions with the body of the deceased, Kalani and his silk hat were not parted in the grave.


Chapter end

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