Six Prize Hawaiian Stories of the Kilohana Art League Part 2

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio," I suggested.

Then we went on in silence through the falling mist, but the humorist took the lead.


Peleg Chapman's Sharks

Mr. Dole and I were standing in front of one of the caves which are found near the edges of the bay of Hanauma which is situated this side of Koko Head. We were there for several days of recreation. Mr. Dole was glad to get away from the Executive building, where his Ministers had caged various bees in their bonnets. These bees often wrangled with the bees in his own bonnet, and by temporarily separating them, the different bees ameliorated their buzzing, and a general rest prevailed.

Mr. Dole said he preferred to take recreation with one who had outgrown the bee-hive age and the age of other annoying human devices.

"Do you see that flat stone?" I asked, pointing to one that lay under some lantana bushes, and was partially concealed by the sand and just beyond the reach of the surf.

"I see it," said Mr. Dole. "Do you think that some person with a bee in his bonnet has been around? Has the stone a story?"

"Well," I said, "that stone belonged to the foundation of a house which Peleg Chapman built away back in the 'thirties.'"

"Tell me the story," said Mr. Dole and he sat down on the grass, as if it were his Cabinet, and stretched his legs out towards the much sounding sea.

I then told him the story as I had obtained it from the most authentic sources, included in which were some scraps in Peleg Chapman's handwriting.

Peleg's father, Silas Chapman, was a poor but honest farmer who lived in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, near the State line. He had been eminently successful in achieving poverty, which he shared generously with his wife and sons. Though mentally dull in most matters, he possessed a rare gift for training animals of all kinds. He was a master of those inarticulate sounds, and musical notes which curiously convey ideas to animals. He talked with his dogs and cats, and made them useful. His trained squirrels brought him abundance of nuts, and his trained robins brought him cherries without injuring them. His cows, pigs, and chickens did curious tricks, and when gathered together in the barnyard, under his voice and eye, were more orderly than the General Assembly of the State. These useful animals did much to relieve the family poverty. The collie dogs stole watermelons and rolled them home, and the tame crows supplied the cattle with ripe corn from the neighbors' fields.

Peleg inherited from his father this singular gift of training animals, and he had listened to his luminous expositions of the subject.

"Peleg," he said, "all an'mals think. Ef you only larn how they think, you ken do anything with 'em. Each on 'em has a little different way of working his gumption, but you kinder sit along side 'on 'em, get to communin' with 'em in a slow fashion, and you'l find 'em ekal to human critters."

Peleg in due time became more skillful than his father, in training animals. He caught a young eagle over in Lenox, and trained him to relieve the family poverty by stealing chickens over in York State. The eagle was not morally very strong, and often brought home the tough roosters, after eating the tender chickens.

One day, when Peleg was away, the eagle being in a contrary mood, seized Silas Chapman's Sunday coat, and flying away with it dropped it into the Housatonic river. When Peleg reached home, his father told him that the eagle had done a mean job, and that he must pay for the stolen coat.

Peleg refused on the ground that animals had no morals.

"Dad," he said, "you be livin' off them thievin' dogs and birds." Then said his father: "I guess Peleg you and me has got to have some interestin' conversation in the barn, this evenin'."

Peleg acted promptly on this suggestion. At four o'clock, with a small sum of money, he secretly went to the station, and boarded the Boston express. He left a note to his mother saying he was going off and his dad might lick the eagle if he caught him.

On reaching Boston, he wandered about until he reached the Frog pond in the Common. He had often heard that its waters were sacred in the eyes of every Bostonian. Feeling much depressed he took out of his pocket a copy of the Westminster Catechism, which every child studied in those days, and by accident glanced over the rough wood cuts of Biblical incidents. His eye fell on that of a very stiff looking whale, with a very stiff looking Jonah in front of it, waiting with a very resigned look to be swallowed.

While he was getting some comfort out of Jonah's resigned look, a sea-faring man took a seat by his side, on the public bench, and after glancing at the picture in Peleg's hand, remarked: "purty stiff lookin'

whale I guess."

"Ever see'd one?" asked Peleg.

"Caught plenty on 'em," said the sailor. "Been around the Horn and up in the Artic for sperm and right whales. Plenty of lay money too. Down in Wyhee plenty of gals and bananas."

"Goin' again?" asked Peleg.

"Yes, next week," said the sailor.

"Take me?" asked Peleg.

"Guess you can ship on the Julian," said the sailor. "Fresh fo'cas'le hand gets one hundred and fortieth lay. That's his share of all the oil and bone the vessel takes in her cruise. Have good luck, plenty of money," said the sailor.

Peleg glanced at the stiff figure of the whale, closed the book, and said, "I'm goin'."

On reaching New Bedford, he shipped on the Julian, signed ship's articles, and went on board with a new kit. The vessel sailed for the Pacific and the Arctic ocean.

For a few days, Peleg would have been willing to return home and take the vicarious punishment for the eagle's sins rather than sleep in a fo'cas'le bunk. But the ship bowled along towards the equator, and the carefully expurgated yarns of the crew kindled his enthusiasm.

He caught and trained some sea gulls to fetch fish for the cabin and for'rad deck so that his shipmates, instead of calling him a blankety land lubber, took pains to teach him the art of handling ropes, and chewing old plug tobacco, and reading the sulphurous marine literature of the age.

The Julian took five hundred barrels of sperm oil off the island of Juan Fernandez, and finally dropped her anchor in the harbor of Honolulu, for the purpose of getting wood and water and fresh provisions.

On going ashore, Peleg was amazed at the abundance of bananas of which he was very fond, but for which the price at home was one shilling each.

As he gorged himself, he began to think of exchanging his marine interest in the Pacific for a residence on the Islands. He felt justified in deserting, because the air of the forecastle was bad, and the captain had refused to reconstruct the vessel and place saloon cabins at the disposal of the crew. He obtained from Mellish & Co., ship chandlers, an advance of $300 on his lay, and deserted. He concealed himself at Waimanalo, until the vessel sailed for the Arctic, and then keeping out of the way of the native police or "kikos," he crossed over into Manoa valley and followed the coast line from Waikiki towards Koko Head. Finding the secluded bay of Hanauma he remained there. It was surrounded by a high ridge, as it was part of an extinct crater, and one side of it had fallen in towards the ocean, so that it was almost land locked, and the surf and heavy seas rushed through the narrow opening.

With the aid of a native, he laid a foundation of flat stones and built upon them a thatched house. The native brought him fruit and vegetables, and he caught an abundance of fish.

While the Julian was off the island of Juan Fernandez, Peleg had studied the numerous sharks found there. He discovered that the many rows of teeth in the mouth of the female shark were flexible, and rested on elastic gums. They could be laid flat, at the will of the shark. The reason for this curious arrangement was this. Whenever the young sharks are in danger, the mother shark opens her mouth, lays down her teeth, and the young sharks pass over without danger, into a pouch in her body where they remain until the danger is over. He had counted as many as seventy, each of them about three feet long, at one time diving into their mother's mouth, and emerging after the danger was over. He remembered that Prof. Aggasiz or some noted naturalist, had suggested that in some remote period a female kangaroo had tumbled overboard from some prehistoric canoe, and, according to Mr. Darwin, had adapted itself to the new environment, and become a shark. The pouch for the young which appears on the outside in the case of the kangaroo, appears as a pouch on the inside of the shark.

Peleg learned from the natives that at times fish were very scare in the Honolulu market. During the visits of the whaling fleets which often numbered over a hundred vessels, the demand could not be supplied with any regularity. When there was bad weather, the canoes could not put out to sea, and there was a fish famine excepting so far as it could be supplied from the local fish ponds that were entirely owned by the chiefs and King.

Besides there were some rare fish which the chiefs were especially fond of which were found only in deep water and could only be obtained under the most favorable circumstances of tide and weather. Such were the Kawele-a, the Ahi, the Ono and the Omaka. The Ahi was a very delicate fish and was found only off the coast of Hawaii, and was seldom seen in Honolulu markets.

Peleg said to himself: "Why not train sharks to catch fish? It may be as dad said, some bother to find out their way of thinkin' and they live in the water. But they has eyes and ears, and they hasn't got them things for nothing."

He caught, with the aid of some natives, an immense female shark, and before the young ones could hide, he captured them all, and put them in a pond he built up in the water. He began to educate them. At first they were quite vicious, and refused to be cheerful. But Peleg knew that from the crab to the seraphim, the appeal to the appetite was most effective.

After repeated experiments, he found that sharks had a most extraordinary fondness for salt pork. There was a monotony of freshness in their ordinary diet, excepting as a sailor with a rich tobacco flavor, fell in their way once in a while. He also discovered that the addition of beans to the pork made the food especially attractive, and the young sharks quickly submitted to discipline with this reward before them.

He saw that they thought in their crude way, just as dogs and birds thought, and their hearing was like that of other animals. By tapping stones under water he could call them, but he generally used a speaking tube which he thrust into the water. By using rags of different colors, he trained them to distinguish between colors. He taught them to fetch and carry sticks, and then pieces of meat. As they grew older, he trained them to search for fish in the bay, and to bring them in without injuring them as they took them in or cast them out of their pouches.

Pork and beans were liberally used as rewards. He was finally successful in teaching them to distinguish between the grades of fish and as it were, take orders for special kinds and leave the rest. The most intelligent learned to travel long distances, even to Maui and Hawaii, and find the feeding grounds of the rare fish of which he kept samples in a pond, and exhibited to them whenever he desired a supply of that variety.

He never permitted the natives to watch him while in his training school. He gave names to the expert and reliable sharks. His reading was limited so that he selected names from the Bible and from the names of the towns near his home. He called them "Lenox belle," "Barrington belle," "Pittsfield belle," "Lee belle," "Bashbish belle," "Stockbridge belle," and many other Berkshire names were used. The Scriptural names were "Queen of Sheba," "Jezabel," "Mehita-bel" and "Assyrian girl," with other such names. The word "belle" appealed to his poetic instinct.

He graduated the sharks after two years of training, and then opened business. He purchased a canoe, and paddled out to sea, followed by more than twenty submissive fish. He sent them off singly or by battalion, as he called it. In the battalion form, they moved out on an extended line and drove the fish desired towards the caves and small inlets, where they were easily caught, taken into the pouches, and brought to Peleg's canoe, and pork and beans were liberally served out in return.

On the arrival of the next whaling fleet, Peleg entered Honolulu harbor every morning with a large load of mullet in his canoe or with other excellent fish. After disposing of them to the whalers, he put out of the harbor at once, and joined his "sea hounds" as he called them, who waited for him outside the reef. His enormous catches attracted the attention of the natives, who once followed him in the hope of finding his rich fishing grounds. They were especially surprised at his large catch during stormy weather, when they could not go out in their canoes.

Nor, by watching Hanauma bay could they get any information, as there were no nets there, and the sharks attracted no attention.

On one occasion as he was paddling along the Waikiki shore after selling his load of fish, he met a fleet of native canoes that had no luck.

Taking compassion on them, he dipped his tube under water, gave the sign for mullet to his sea dogs, shipped his paddle, and lit his pipe. In an hour the noses of his hunters rubbed against the side of the canoe, and leaning over, he pulled out of their mouths more than six hundred pounds of mullet, and threw them into the canoes of the natives. The natives were stricken with terror at the sight, and dropped their paddles with the exclamation: "He is a kahuna (sorcerer) of the shark god."

He was soon regarded as an akua (god). No natives dared to enter the bay of Hanauma.

At the end of each whaling season he accumulated considerable sums in gold, a part of which he hid and a part he invested in the purchase of shares in whalers. After the season, he engaged in fishing for the rare fish only, which he supplied to the King and chiefs. Whenever the King said: "Peleg, my friend, I want some of the Ahi," Peleg sent four of his leading sharks to the Kona coast, and they returned within ten hours, with an abundance.

Chapter end

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