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.
The time of Keola in that place was in two periods: the period when he was alone; and the period when he was there with the tribe. At first he sought everywhere, and found no man; only some houses standing in a hamlet and the marks of fires. But the ashes of the fires were cold and the rains had washed them away; and the winds had blown, and some of the huts were overthrown. It was here he took his dwelling; and he made a fire-drill, and a shell hook, and fished and cooked his fish, and climbed after green coconuts, the juice of which he drank, for in all the isle there was no water. The days were long to him, and the nights terrifying. He made a lamp of coco-shell, and drew the oil of the ripe nuts, and made a wick of fibre; and when evening came, he closed up his hut, and lit his lamp and lay and trembled till morning. Many a time he thought in his heart he would have been better in the bottom of the sea, his bones rolling there with the others.
All this while he kept by the inside of the island, for the huts were on the shore of the lagoon, and it was there the palms grew best, and the lagoon itself abounded with good fish. And to the other side, he went once only, and looked but the once at the beach of the ocean, and came away shaking. For the look of it, with its bright sand, and strewn shells, and strong sun and surf, went sore against his inclination.
“It cannot be,” he thought, “and yet it is very like. And how do I know? These white men, although they pretend to know where they are sailing, must take their chance like other people. So that after all we may have sailed in a circle, and I may be quite near to Molokai, and this may be the very beach where my father-in-law gathers his dollars.” So after that he was prudent, and kept to the land-side.
It was perhaps a month later, when the people of the place arrived, the fill of six great boats. They were a fine race of men, and spoke a tongue that sounded very different from the tongue of Hawaii, but so many of the words were the same that it was not difficult to understand. The men besides were very courteous, and the women very towardly: and they made Keola welcome, and built him a house, and gave him a wife; and what surprised him the most, he was never sent to work with the young men.
And now Keola had three periods. First he had a period of being very sad, and then he had a period when he was pretty merry. Last of all came the third, when he was the most terrified man in the four oceans.
The cause of the first period was the girl he had to wife. He was in doubt about the island; and he might have been in doubt about the speech, of which he had heard so little when he came there with the wizard on the mat. But about his wife there was no mistake conceivable, for she was the same girl that ran from him crying in the wood. So he had sailed all this way, and might as well have stayed in Molokai; and had left home and wife and all his friends, for no other cause but to escape his enemy; and the place he had come to was that wizard’s hunting-ground, and the place where he walked invisible. It was at this period when he kept the most close to the lagoon side, and as far as he dared, abode in the cover of his hut.
The cause of the second period was talk he heard from his wife and the chief islanders. Keola himself said little; he was never so sure of his new friends, for he judged they were too civil to be wholesome; and since he had grown better acquainted with his father-in-law, the man was grown more cautious. So he told them nothing of himself; but only his name and descent, and that he came from the Eight Islands, and what fine islands these were, and about the King’s palace in Honolulu, and how he was a chief friend of the King and the missionaries.
But he put many questions, and learned much. The island where he was was called the Isle of Voices; it belonged to the tribe, but they made their home upon another three hours’ sail to the southward. There they lived and had their permanent houses, and it was a rich island, where were eggs and chickens and pigs, and ships came trading with rum and tobacco. It was there the schooner had gone after Keola deserted; there, too, the mate had died, like a fool of a white man as he was. It seems, when the ship came, it was the beginning of the sickly season in that isle, when the fish of the lagoon are poisonous, and all who eat of them swell up and die. The mate was told of it; he saw the boats preparing, because in that season the people leave that island and sail to the Isle of Voices. But he was a fool of a white man, who would believe no stories but his own; and he caught one of these fish, cooked it and ate it, and swelled up and died: which was good news to Keola.
As for the Isle of Voices, it lay solitary the more part of the year; only now and then a boat’s crew came for copra; and in the bad season, when the fish at the main isle were poisonous, the tribe dwelt there in a body. It had its name from a marvel. For it seemed the seaside of it was all beset with invisible devils; day and night, you heard them talking one with another in strange tongues; day and night little fires blazed up and were extinguished on the beach; and what was the cause of these doings no man might conceive. Keola asked them, if it were the same in their own island where they stayed? and they told him no, not there; nor yet in any other of some hundred isles that lay all about them in that sea; but it was a thing peculiar to the Isle of Voices. They told him also that these fires and voices were ever on the seaside and in the seaward fringes of the wood; and a man might dwell by the lagoon two thousand years (if he could live so long) and never be any way troubled. And even on the seaside the devils did no harm, if let alone. Only once a chief had cast a spear at one of the voices, and the same night he fell out of a coconut-palm and was killed.
Keola thought a good bit with himself. He saw he would be all right when the tribe returned to the main island; and right enough where he was, if he kept by the lagoon; yet he had a mind to make things righter, if he could. So he told the high chief he had once been in an isle that was pestered the same way, and the folk had found a means to cure that trouble.
“There was a tree growing in the bush there,” says he, “and it seems these devils came to get the leaves of it. So the people of the isle cut down the tree wherever it was found, and the devils came no more.” They asked what kind of tree this was, and he showed them the tree of which Kalamake burned the leaves. They found it hard to believe, yet the idea tickled them. Night after night the old men debated it in their councils; but the high chief (though he was a brave man) was afraid of the matter, and reminded them daily of the chief who cast a spear against the voices and was killed; and the thought of that brought all to a stand again.
Though he could not yet bring about the destruction of the trees, Keola was well enough pleased, and began to look about him, and take pleasure in his days. And among other things he was the kinder to his wife, so that the girl began to love him greatly. One day he came to the hut, and she lay on the ground lamenting.
“Why,” said Keola, “what is wrong with you now?”
She declared it was nothing.
The same night she woke him. The lamp burned very low but he saw by her face she was in sorrow.
“Keola,” she said, “put your ear to my mouth that I may whisper, for none must hear us. Two days before the boats begin to be got ready, go you to the seaside of the isle and lie in a thicket. We shall choose that place beforehand, you and I, and hide food, and every night I shall come near by there singing. So when a night comes, and you do not hear me, you shall know we are clean gone out of the island, and you may come forth again in safety.”
The soul of Keola died within him. “What is this?” he cried. “I cannot live among devils. I will not be left behind upon this isle. I am dying to leave it.”
“You will never leave it alive, my poor Keola,” said the girl. “For to tell you the truth, my people are eaters of men; but this they keep secret. And the reason they will kill you before we leave is because, in our island, ships come, and Donat-Kimaran comes and talks for the French, and there is a white trader there in a house with a veranda, and a catechist. Oh, that is a fine place indeed! The trader has barrels filled with flour; and a French warship once came in the lagoon and gave everybody wine and biscuit. Ah, my poor Keola, I wish I could take you there, for great is my love to you, and it is the finest place in the seas except Papeete.”
So now Keola was the most terrified man in the four oceans. He had heard tell of eaters of men in the south islands, and the thing had always been a fear to him; and here it was knocking at his door. He had heard besides, by travellers, of their practices, and how when they are in a mind to eat a man, they cherish and fondle him like a mother with a favourite baby. And he saw this must be his own case; and that was why he had been housed, and fed, and wived, and liberated from all work, and why the old men and the chiefs discoursed with him like a person of weight. So he lay on his bed and railed upon his destiny, and the flesh curdled on his bones.
The next day the people of the tribe were very civil as their way was. They were elegant speakers, and they made beautiful poetry, and jested at meals so that a missionary must have died laughing. It was little enough Keola cared for their fine ways; all he saw was the white teeth shining in their mouths, and his gorge rose at the sight; and when they were done eating, he went and lay in the bush like a dead man. The next day it was the same, and then his wife followed him.
“Keola,” she said, “if you do not eat, I tell you plainly you will be killed and cooked tomorrow. Some of the old chiefs are murmuring already. They think you are fallen sick and must lose flesh.”
With that Keola got to his feet, and anger burned in him.
“It is little I care one way or the other,” said he. “I am between the devil and the deep sea. Since die I must, let me die the quickest way; and since I must be eaten at the best of it, let me rather be eaten by hobgoblins than by men. Farewell,” said he, and he left her standing, and walked to the seaside of that island.
It was all bare in the strong sun; there was no sign of man, only the beach was trodden; and all about him as he went, the voices talked and whispered, and the little fires sprang up and burned down. All tongues of the earth were spoken there, the French, the Dutch, the Russian, the Tamil, the Chinese. Whatever land knew sorcery, there were some of its people whispering in Keola’s ear. That beach was thick as a cried fair, yet no man seen; and as he walked he saw the shells vanish before him, and no man to pick them up.
I think the devil would have been afraid to be alone in such a company; but Keola was past fear and courted death. When the fires sprang up, he charged for them like a bull; bodiless voices called to and fro, unseen hands poured sand upon the flames; and they were gone from the beach before he reached them.
“It is plain Kalamake is not here,” he thought, “or I must have been killed long since.” With that he sat him down in the margin of the wood, for he was tired, and put his chin upon his hands. The business before his eyes continued; the beach babbled with voices, and the fires sprang up and sank, and the shells vanished and were renewed again even while he looked.
“It was a by-day when I was here before,” he thought. “For it was nothing to this.” And his head was dizzy with the thought of these millions and millions of dollars, and all these hundreds and hundreds of persons culling them upon the beach and flying in the air higher and swifter than eagles.
“And to think how they have fooled me with their talk of mints,” says he, “and that money was made there! when it is clear that all the new coin in the world is gathered on these sands! But I will know better the next time,” said he. And at last, he knew not very well how or when, sleep fell on Keola and he forgot the island and all his sorrows.
Early the next day, before the sun was yet up, a bustle woke him. He awoke in fear, for he thought the tribe had caught him napping; but it was no such matter. Only, on the beach in front of him, the bodiless voices called and shouted one upon another, and it seemed they all passed, and swept beside him, up the coast of the island.
“What is afoot now?” thinks Keola; and it was plain to him it was something beyond ordinary. For the fires were not lighted nor the shells taken, but the bodiless voices kept posting up the beach and hailing, dying away, and others following, and by the sound of them these wizards should be angry.
“It is not me they are angry at,” thought Keola, “for they pass me close.” As when hounds go by, or horses in a race, or city folk coursing to a fire, and all men join and follow after: so it was now with Keola; and he knew not what he did, nor why he did it, but there, lo and behold! he was running with the voices!
So he turned one point of the island, and this brought him in view of a second; and there he remembered the wizard trees to have been growing by the score together in a wood. From this point there went up a hubbub of men crying not to be described; and by the sound of them, those that he ran with shaped their course for the same quarter.
A little nearer, and there began to mingle with the outcry the crash of many axes. And at this a thought came at last into his mind, that the high chief had consented, that the men of the tribe had set to cutting down these trees, that word had gone about the isle from sorcerer to sorcerer, and these were all now assembling to defend their trees. Desire of strange things swept him on. He posted with the voices, crossed the beach, and came into the borders of the wood, and stood astonished. One tree had fallen; others were part hewed away. There was the tribe clustered. They were back to back, and bodies lay and blood flowed among their feet. The hue of fear was on all their faces; their voices went up to heaven shrill as a weasel’s cry.
Have you seen a child, when he is all alone and has a wooden sword, and fights, leaping and hewing, with the empty air? Even so the man-eaters huddled back to back, and heaved up their axes, and laid on, and screamed as they laid on, and behold! no man to contend with them! Only here and there, Keola saw an axe swinging over against them without hands; and time and again a man of the tribe would fall before it, clove in twain or burst asunder, and his soul sped howling.
For a while Keola looked upon this prodigy like one that dreams, and then fear took him by the midst as sharp as death, that he should behold such doings. Even in that same flash, the high chief of the clan espied him standing, and pointed and called out his name; thereat the whole tribe saw him also, and their eyes flashed and their teeth clashed. “I am too long here,” thought Keola; and ran forth out of the wood and down the beach, not caring whither.
“Keola!” said a voice close by upon the empty sand.
“Lehua! is that you?” he cried, and gasped, and looked in vain for her; but by the eyesight, he was stark alone.
“I saw you pass before,” the voice answered. “But you would not hear me. Quick, get the leaves and herbs, and let us flee.” “You are there with the mat?” he asked.
“Here, at your side,” said she, and he felt her arms about him. “Quick! the leaves and the herbs, before my father can get back!”
So Keola ran for his life, and fetched the wizard fuel; and Lehua guided him back, and set his feet upon the mat, and made the fire. All the time of its burning, the sound of the battle towered out of the wood; the wizards and the man-eaters hard at fight; the wizards, the viewless ones, roaring out aloud like bulls upon a mountain, and the men of the tribe replying shrill and savage out of the terror of their souls. And all the time of the burning Keola stood there, and listened, and shook, and watched how the unseen hands of Lehua poured the leaves. She poured them fast, and the flame burned high, and scorched Keola’s hams; and she speeded and blew the burning with her breath. The last leaf was eaten, the flame fell, and the shock followed, and there were Keola and Lehua in the room at home.
Now when Keola could see his wife at last, he was mighty pleased. And he was mighty pleased to be home again in Molokai, and sit down beside a bowl of poi – for they make no poi on board ships and there was none in the Isle of Voices – and he was out of the body with pleasure to be clean escaped out of the hands of the eaters of men.
But there was another matter not so clear, and Lehua and Keola talked of it all night, and were troubled. There was Kalamake left upon the isle; if, by the blessing of God, he could but stick there, all were well; but should he escape and return to Molokai, it would be an ill day for his daughter and her husband. They spoke of his gift of swelling, and whether he could wade that distance in the seas. But Keola knew by this time where that island was, and that is to say, in the Low or Dangerous Archipelago; so they fetched the atlas, and looked upon the distance in the map, and by what they could make of it, it seemed a far way for an old gentleman to walk. Still it would not do to make too sure of a warlock like Kalamake, and they determined at last to take counsel of a white missionary.
So the first one that came by, Keola told him everything. And the missionary was very sharp on him for taking the second wife in the low island, but for all the rest, he vowed he could make neither head nor tail of it.
“However,” says he, “if you think this money of your father’s ill-gotten, my advice to you would be to give some of it to the lepers and some to the missionary fund; and as for this extraordinary rigmarole, you cannot do better than keep it to yourselves.” But he warned the police at Honolulu that, by all he could make out, Kalamake and Keola had been coining false money, and it would not be amiss to watch them.
Keola and Lehua took his advice, and gave many dollars to the lepers and the fund. And no doubt the advice must have been good, for from that day to this, Kalamake has never more been heard of. But whether he was slain in the battle by the trees, or whether he is still kicking his heels upon the Isle of Voices, who shall say?