The wizard grew and grew so that he stood in the deep seas to the armpits, and his head and shoulders rose like a high isle...

Keola was married with Lehua, daughter of Kalamake, the wise man of Molokai, and he kept his dwelling with the father of his wife. There was no man more cunning than that prophet; he read the stars, he could divine by the bodies of the dead and by the means of evil creatures; he would go alone into the highest parts of the mountain, into the region of the hobgoblins, and there he would lay snares to entrap the spirits of the ancient. For this reason no man was more consulted in all the Kingdom of Hawaii; prudent people bought and sold and married and laid out their lives by his counsels; and the King had him twice to Kona to seek the treasures of Kamehameha. Neither was any man more feared: of his enemies, some had dwindled in sickness by the virtue of his incantations, and some had been spirited away, the life and the clay both, so that folk looked in vain for so much as a bone of their bodies.

It was rumoured that he had the art or the gift of the old heroes; men had seen him at night upon the mountains, stepping from one cliff to the next; they had seen him walking in the high forest, and his head and shoulders were above the trees. This Kalamake was a strange man to see; he was come of the best blood in Molokai and Maui, of a pure descent; and yet he was more white to look upon than any foreigner, his hair the colour of dry grass, and his eyes red and very blind; so that “Blind as Kalamake that can see across tomorrow,” was a byword in the islands.

Of all these doings of his father-in-law, Keola knew a little by the common repute; a little more he suspected; and the rest ignored. But there was one thing troubled him. Kalamake was a man that spared for nothing, whether to eat or to drink or to wear; and for all, he paid in bright new dollars. “Bright as Kalamake’s dollars,” was another saying in the Eight Isles. Yet he neither sold, nor planted, nor took hire – only now and then for his sorceries – and there was no source conceivable for so much – silver coin.

It chanced one day Keola’s wife was gone upon a visit to Kau­nakakai on the lee side of the island, and the men were forth at the sea fishing. But Keola was an idle dog; and he lay in the veranda, and watched the surf beat on the shore and the birds fly about the cliff. It was a chief thought with him always: the thought of the bright dollars. When he lay down to bed, he would be wondering why they were so many; and when he woke at morn, he would be wondering why they were all new; and the thing was never absent from his mind. But this day of all days, he made sure in his heart of some discovery. For it seems he had observed the place where Kalamake kept his treasure, which was a lockfast desk against the parlour wall, under the print of Kamehameha V and a photograph of Queen Victoria with her crown; and it seems again that, no later than the night before, he found occasion to look in, and behold! the bag lay there empty. And this was the day of the steamer; he could see her smoke off Kalaupapa; and she must soon arrive with a month’s goods, tinned salmon and gin and all manner of rare luxuries, for Kalamake.

“Now if he can pay for his goods today,” Keola thought, “I shall know for certain that the man is a warlock, and the dollars come out of the devil’s pocket.”

While he was so thinking, there was his father-in-law behind him, looking vexed.

“Is that the steamer?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Keola. “She has but to call at Pelekunu, and then she will be here.”

“There is no help for it, then,” returned Kalamake, “and I must take you in my confidence, Keola, for the lack of anyone better. Come here within the house.”
So they stepped together into the parlour, which was a very fine room, papered and hung with prints, and furnished with a rocking-chair and a table and a sofa in the European style; there was a shelf of books besides, and a family bible in the midst of the table, and the lockfast writing-desk against the wall; so that anyone could see it was the house of a man of substance.

Kalamake made Keola close the shutters of the windows, while he himself locked all the doors and set open the lid of the desk. From this he brought forth a pair of necklaces hung with charms and shells, a bundle of dried herbs and the dried leaves of trees, and a green branch of palm.

“What I am about,” said he, “is a thing beyond wonder. The men of old were wise; they wrought marvels, and this among the rest; but that was at night, in the dark, under the fit stars and in the desert. The same will I do here in my own house and under the plain eye of day.”

So saying, he put the bible under the cushion of the sofa so that it was all covered, brought out from the same place a mat of a won­derful fine texture, and heaped the herbs and leaves on sand in a tin pan. And then he and Keola put on the necklaces, and took their stand upon the opposite corners of the mat.

“The time comes,” said the warlock. “Be not afraid.”

With that he set flame to the herbs, and began to mutter and wave the branch of palm. At first the light was dim because of the closed shutters; but the herbs caught strongly afire, and the flames beat upon Keola, and the room glowed with the burning; and next the smoke rose and made his head swim and his eyes darken, and the sound of Kalamake muttering ran in his ears. And suddenly, to the mat on which they were standing, came a snatch or twitch, that seemed to be more swift than lightning. In the same wink, the room was gone and the house, the breath all beaten from Keola’s body. Volumes of sun rolled upon his eyes and head; and he found himself transported to a beach of the sea, under a strong sun, with a great surf roaring: he and the warlock standing there on the same mat speechless, gasping and grasping at one another, and passing their hands before their eyes.

“What was this?” cried Keola, who came to himself the first, because he was the younger. “The pang of it was like death.” “It matters not,” panted Kalamake. “It is now done.”

“And, in the name of God, where are we?” cries Keola.

“That is not the question,” replied the sorcerer. “Being here, we have matter in our hands, and that we must attend to. Go – while I recover my breath – into the borders of the wood, and bring me the leaves of such and such a herb, and such and such a tree, which you will find to grow there plentifully: three handfuls of each. And be speedy. We must be home again before the steamer comes; it would seem strange if we had disappeared.” And he sat on the sand and panted.

Keola went up the beach, which was of shining sand and coral, strewn with singular shells; and he thought in his heart: “How do I not know this beach? I will come here again and gather shells.” In front of him was a line of palms against the sky, not like the palms of the Eight Islands, but tall and fresh and beautiful, and hanging out withered fans like gold among the green; and he thought in his heart: “It is strange I should not have found this grove. I will come here again, when it is warm, to sleep.” And he thought: “How warm it has grown suddenly!” for it was winter in Hawaii and the day had been chill. And he thought also: “Where are the grey mountains? and where is the high cliff with the hanging forest and the wheeling birds?” And the more he considered, the less he might conceive in what quarter of the islands he was fallen.
In the border of the grove, where it met the beach, the herb was growing, but the tree farther back. Now, as Keola went toward the tree, he was aware of a young woman who had nothing on her body but a belt of leaves. “Well!” thought Keola, “they are not very particular about their dress in this part of the country.” And he paused, supposing she would observe him and escape; and seeing that she still looked before her, stood and hummed aloud. Up she leaped at the sound. her face was ashen; she looked this way and that, and her mouth gaped with the terror of her soul. But it was a strange thing that her eyes did not rest upon Keola.

“Good-day,” said he. “You need not be so frightened, I will not eat you.”

And he had scarce opened his mouth before the young woman fled into the bush. “These are strange manners,” thought Keola, and not thinking what he did, ran after her.

As she ran, the girl kept crying in some speech that was not practised in Hawaii; yet some of the words were the same, and he knew she kept calling and warning others. And presently he saw more people running, men, women and children one with another, all running and crying, like people at a fire. And with that, he began to grow afraid himself, and returned to Kalamake, bringing the leaves. Him he told what he had seen.

“You must pay no heed,” said Kalamake. “All this is like a dream and shadows: all will disappear and be forgotten.”

“It seemed none saw me,” said Keola.

“And none did,” replied the sorcerer. “We walk here in the broad sun invisible by reason of these charms. Yet they hear us; and therefore it is well to speak softly as I do.”

With that he made a circle round the mat with stones, and in the midst he set the leaves. “It will be your part”, said he, “to keep the leaves alight, and feed the fire slowly. While they blaze (which is but for a little moment) I must do my errand; and before the ashes blacken, the same power that brought us carries us away. Be ready now with the match; and do you call me in good time lest the flame burn out, and I be left.”

As soon as the leaves caught, the sorcerer leaped like a deer out of the circle, and began to race along the beach like a hound that has been bathing: as he ran, he kept stooping to snatch shells; and it seemed to Keola that they glittered as he took them. The leaves blazed with a clear flame that consumed them swiftly; and presently Keola had but a handful left, and the sorcerer was far off, running and stooping. “Back!” cried Keola. “Back! the leaves are near done.” At that, Kalamake turned, and if he had run before, now he flew. But fast as he ran, the leaves burned faster. The flame was ready to expire, when with a great leap he bounded on the mat; the wind of his leaping blew it out; and with that the beach was gone, and the sun, and the sea; and they stood once more in the dimness of the shuttered parlour, and were once more shaken and blinded; and on the mat betwixt them, lay a pile of shining dollars. Keola ran to the shutters; and there was the steamer tossing in the swell close in.

The same night Kalamake took his son-in-law apart, and gave him five dollars in his hand. “Keola,” said he, “if you are a wise man (which I am doubtful of) you will think you slept this afternoon on the veranda, and dreamed as you were sleeping. I am a man of few words, and I have for my helpers people of short memories.”

Never a word more said Kalamake, nor referred again to that affair. But it ran all the while in Keola’s head; if he were lazy before, he would now do nothing. “Why should I work,” thought he, “when I have a father-in-law who makes dollars of sea-shells?” Presently his share was spent, and he spent it all upon fine clothes. And then he was sorry. “For”, thought he, “I had done better to have bought a concertina, with which I might have entertained myself all day long.” And then he began to grow vexed with Kalamake. “This man has the soul of a dog,” thought he. “He can gather dollars when he pleases on a beach, and he leaves me to pine for a concertina! Let him beware; I am no child, I am as cunning as he, and hold his secret.” With that he spoke to his wife, Lehua, and complained of her father’s manners.

“I would let my father be,” said Lehua. “He is a dangerous man to cross.”
“I care that for him!” cried Keola, and snapped his fingers. “I have him by the nose, I can make him do what I please.” And he told Lehua the story.

But she shook her head. “You may do what you like,” said she. “But as sure as you thwart my father, you will be no more heard of. Think of this person, and that person; think of Hua, who was a noble of the House of Representatives and went to Honolulu every year; and not a bone or a hair of him was found. Remember Kaman, and how he wasted to a thread, so that his wife lifted him with one hand. Keola, you are a baby in my father’s hands; he will take you with his thumb and finger, and eat you like a shrimp.”

Now Keola was truly very much afraid of Kalamake, but he was vain too; and these words of his wife incensed him. “Very well,” said he. “If that is what you think of me, I will show how much you are deceived.” And he went straight to where his father-in-law was sit­ting in the parlour.

“Kalamake,” said he, “I want a concertina.”

“Do you indeed?” said Kalamake.

“Yes,” said he, “and I may as well tell you plainly, I mean to have it. A man who picks up dollars on the beach can certainly afford a concertina.”

“I had no idea you had so much spirit,” replied the sorcerer. “I thought you were a timid, useless lad, and I cannot describe how much pleased I am to find I was mistaken. Now, I begin to think I may have found an assistant and successor in my difficult business. A concertina? You shall have the best in Honolulu. And tonight, as soon as it is dark, you and I will go and find the money.”

“Shall we return to the beach?” asked Keola.

“No, no,” replied Kalamake; “you must begin to learn more of my secrets. Last time, I taught you to pick shells; this time I shall teach you to catch fish. Are you strong enough to launch Pili’s boat?”

“I think I am,” returned Keola. “But why should we not take your own, which is afloat already?”

“I have a reason, which you will understand thoroughly before tomorrow,” says Kalamake. “Pili’s boat is the better suited for my purpose. So, if you please, let us meet there as soon as it is dark. And in the mean while, let us keep our own counsel, for there is no cause to let the family into our business.”

Honey is not more sweet than was the voice of Kalamake; and Keola could scarce contain his satisfaction. “I might have had my concertina weeks ago,” thought he, “and there is nothing needed in this world but a little courage.” Presently after, he spied Lehua weeping, and was half in a mind to tell her all was well. “But no,” thinks he. “I shall wait till I can show her the concertina; we shall see what the chit will do then. Perhaps she will understand in the future that her husband is a man of some intelligence.”

As soon as it was dark, father- and son-in-law launched Pili’s boat and set the sail. There was a great sea, and it blew strong from the leeward; but the boat was swift and light and dry, and skimmed the waves. The wizard had a lantern, which he lit and held with his finger through the ring; and the two sat in the stern, and smoked cigars, of which Kalamake had always a provision, and spoke like friends of magic, and the great sums of money which they could make by its exercise, and what they should buy first, and what second. And Kalamake talked like a father.

Presently he looked all about, and above him at the stars, and back at the island, which was already three parts sunk under the sea; and he seemed to consider ripely
his position.

“Look!” says he. “There is Molokai already far behind us, and Maui like a cloud; and by the bearing of these three stars I know I am come where I desire. This part of the sea is called the Sea of the Dead. It is in this place extraordinarily deep, and the floor is all covered with the bones of men, and in the holes of this part gods and goblins keep their habitation. The flow of the sea is to the north, stronger than a shark can swim; and any man, who shall here be thrown out of a ship, it bears away like a wild horse into the uttermost ocean. Presently he is spent and goes down, and his bones are scattered with the rest, and the gods devour his spirit.”

Fear came on Keola at the words; and he looked, and by the light of the stars and the lantern, the warlock seemed to change. “What ails you?” cried Keola, quick and sharp.
“It is not I who am ailing,” said the wizard; “but there is one here very sick.”

With that he changed his grasp upon the lantern, and behold, as he drew his finger from the ring, the finger stuck and the ring was burst; and his hand was grown to be of the bigness of three.

At that sight Keola screamed and covered his face.

But Kalamake held up the lantern. “Look rather at my face!” said he. And his head was huge as a barrel; and still he grew and grew as a cloud grows on a mountain, and Keola sat before him screaming, and the boat raced on the great seas.

“And now,” said the wizard, “what do you think about that concertina? and are you sure you would not rather have a flute? No?” says he. “That is well, for I do not like my family to be changeable of purpose. But I begin to think I had better get out of this paltry boat; for my bulk swells to a very unusual degree, and if we are not the more careful, she will presently be swamped.”

With that, he threw his legs over the side. Even as he did so, the greatness of the man grew thirtyfold and fortyfold as swift as sight or thinking; so that he stood in the deep seas to the armpits, and his head and shoulders rose like a high isle, and the swell beat and burst upon his bosom as it beats and breaks against a cliff. The boat ran still to the north, but he reached out his hand, and took the gunwale by the finger and thumb, and broke the side like a biscuit, and Keola was spilled into the sea. And the pieces of the boat, the sorcerer crushed in the hollow of his hand and flung miles away into the night.

“Excuse me taking the lantern,” said he; “for I have a long wade before me, and the land is far, and the bottom of the sea uneven, and I feel the bones under my toes.”
And he turned and went off walking with great strides; and as often as Keola sank in the trough, he could see him no longer; but as often as he was heaved upon the crest, there he was striding and dwindling, and he held the lamp high over his head, and the waves broke white about him as he went.

Since first the islands were fished out of the sea, there was never a man so terrified as this Keola. He swam indeed, but he swam as puppies swim when they are cast in to drown, and knew not where­fore. He could but think of the hugeness of the swelling of the warlock, of that face which was great as a mountain, of those shoulders that were broad as an isle, and of the seas that beat on them in vain. He thought too of the concertina, and shame took hold upon him; and of the dead men’s bones, and fear shook him.

Of a sudden he was aware of something dark against the stars that tossed, and a light below, and a brightness of the cloven sea; and he heard speech of men. He cried out aloud and a voice answered; and in a twinkling the bows of a ship hung above him on a wave like a thing balanced, and swooped down. He caught with his two hands in the chains of her, and the next moment was buried in the rushing seas, and the next hauled on board by seamen.

They gave him gin and biscuit and dry clothes; and asked him how he came where they found him, and whether the light which they had seen was the lighthouse, Lae o Ka Laau. But Keola knew white men are like children and only believe their own stories; so about himself, he told them what he pleased, and as for the light (which was Kalamake’s lantern) he vowed he had seen none.

This ship was a schooner bound for Honolulu, and then to trade in the low islands; and by a very good chance for Keola, she had lost a man off the bowsprit in a squall. It was no use talking, Keola durst not stay in the Eight Islands. Word goes so quickly, and all men are so fond to talk and carry news, that if he hid on the north end of Kauai or in the south end of Kaii, the wizard would have wind of it before a month, and he must perish. So he did what seemed the most prudent, and shipped sailor in the place of the man who had been drowned.

In some ways the ship was a good place. The food was extraordinarily rich and plenty, with biscuits and salt beef every day, and pea-soup and puddings made of flour and suet twice a week, so that Keola grew fat. The captain also was a good man, and the crew no worse than other whites. The trouble was the mate, who was the most difficult man to please Keola ever met with, and beat and cursed him daily both for what he did and what he did not. The blows that he dealt were very sore, for he was strong; and the words he used were very unpalatable, for Keola was come of a good family and accustomed to respect. And what was the worst of all, whenever Keola found a chance to sleep, there was the mate awake and stirring him up with a rope’s end. Keola saw it would never do; and he made up his mind to run away.

They were about a month out from Honolulu when they made the land. It was a fine starry night, the sea was smooth as well as the sky fair, it blew a steady trade; and there was the island on their weather-bow, a ribbon of palm-trees lying flat along the sea. The captain and the mate looked at it with the night-glass, and named the name of it, and talked of it, beside the wheel where Keola was steering. It seemed it was an isle where no traders came. By the captain’s way, it was an isle besides where no man dwelt; but the mate thought otherwise.

“I don’t give a cent for the directory,” said he. “I’ve been past here one night in the schooner Eugenie; it was just such a night as this; they were fishing with torches, and the beach was thick with lights like a town.”

“Well, well,” says the captain, “it’s steep-to, that’s the great point; and there ain’t any outlying dangers by the chart; so we’ll just hug the lee side of it. Keep her ramping full, don’t I tell you!” he cried to Keola, who was listening so hard that he forgot to steer.
And the mate cursed him, and swore that Kanaka was for no use in the world, and if he got started after him with a belaying-pin, it would be a cold day for Keola.

And so the captain and mate lay down on the house together, and Keola was left to himself. “This island will do very well for me,” he thought. “If no traders deal there, the mate will never come. And as for Kalamake, it is not possible he can ever get as far as this.” With that he kept edging the schooner nearer in. He had to do this quietly; for it was the trouble with these white men, and above all with the mate, that you could never be sure of them; they would all be sleeping sound or else pretending, and if a sail shook, they would jump to their feet and fall on you with a rope’s end. So Keola edged her up little by little, and kept all drawing. And presently the land was close on board, and the sound of the sea on the sides of it grew loud.

With that, the mate sat up suddenly upon the house. “What are you doing?” he roars.

“You”ll have the ship ashore!”

And he made one bound for Keola, and Keola made another clean over the rail and plump into the starry sea. When he came up again, the schooner had paid off on her true course, and the mate stood by the wheel himself, and Keola heard him cursing. The sea was smooth under the lee of the island; it was warm besides; and Keola had his sailor’s knife, so he had no fear of sharks. A little way before him, the trees stopped; there was a break in the line of the land, like the mouth of a harbour; and the tide, which was then flowing, took him up and carried him through. One minute he was without: and the next within, and floated there in a wide shallow water bright with ten thousand stars, and all about him was the ring of the land with its string of palm-trees. And he was amazed, because this was a kind of island he had never heard of.

Continue: Keola living with the cannibals  |  Contents

The Isle of Voices

Robert Louis Stevenson