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Landing at the Point where Captain Cook was killed - Native Huts
April 2. We landed this morning near the point where Captain Cook fell, and were conducted to the rock on which he stood when he received the fatal wound. It is part of the volcanic scoria which encrusts much of the surface of this section of the island, and occasionally runs out, as here, into the sea. A small native house, and some stunted cocoa-nut trees, are the land-marks of a spot at which the eye of every stranger who visits this coast will look with intense curiosity and interest, and of which every reader of the voyages of the great circumnavigator will have his own ideal picture; and this, however little like the reality, must be far more distinct than such creations of fancy often are, from the minute descriptions of the scene, and details of the tragic event, repeatedly given to the public by the eye-witnesses of the latter and the visitors of the former. We need not dwell on either.
THE RATTLE-STICK PERFORMER.
The bay is about three miles across in the widest, and two in the narrowest, direction.
The neighbouring village consists of about sixty huts ; all, except two or three, exceedingly mean, and the circumstances of the inhabitants proportionally wretched. We crept into one of these hovels, through a hole in the side, which required that we should stoop nearly double to get admittance. Though all was slovenly within, there were various articles of domestic convenience, such as calabashes, stools, mats, &c. Observing, among other things, a stick rather neatly fashioned, five feet long, and tapering to a point at each end, with a hole towards one of these, we enquired the use of it. On this, the master of the house, an old man, started up, and produced a companion-stick, something shorter, which we found was to be to it what the bow is to the fiddle. Grasping th first by the middle, he began to beat upon it with the second; while a boy, with two other corresponding sticks, did the same, to something like measured time, which the master kept with his left foot. This miserably monotonous clatter of sticks, which was any thing but music, was accompanied, by both minstrels, with noises which were any thing but singing; the old man, all the while, writhing his limbs and distorting his visage in the most grossly ludicrous manner, which it would be as difficult to describe as it will be to forget. Brutes never make themselves ridiculous ; that is the peculiar prerogative of men. The former, in their strangest vagaries, act according to nature; while the latter, in trying to go beyond her, render themselves contemptible in the eyes of others, just in proportion as they excel in their own.
Proceeding along the beach, over an immense bed of lava, we arrived at
of great extent, now
RELICS OF CAPTAIN COOK WORSHIPPED.
neglected, and falling into ruins. It consisted of an enclosure of rough stone walls, a hundred feet square, and six feet high, within which cocoa-nut trees are growing, and idol-images stood. Two of the latter remain on the north-east side. These are notched posts, twelve feet high, across the middle of each of which something to resemble a human face has been carved, of monstrous size and uncouth features, once regarded with awe and veneration worthy of men who could think such bugbears divinities. They affect to know better now, and profess to have renounced all their idols. To say the truth, they have done this literally; but their escape from the superstitions of their ancestors as yet amounts to no more than this :—that he who formerly worshipped an idol, “ which is nothing in the world,” now worships “nothing in the world,” not even an idol.
In the course of our ramble, our guide pointed out the hollow, in the volcanic mass, where the body of Captain Cook was roasted, and, a little further on, the place where his arms and legs were submitted to the same process. This was, in fact, the highest honour that his murderers (with the inconsistency of savages) could show to his remains; the corpses of their kings and chiefs being prepared in a similar manner, that the flesh might be more easily separated from the bones, and the skeleton afterwards be put together and preserved, as an object not only of reverence, but even of religious homage. The relics of Cook were thus worshipped in a temple of Rono, one of the gods of Hawaii, of whom the people had notion that the British navigator was the representative, if not an incarnation of him. The torrent of lava, now fixed as adamant, must have rolled in tremendous force and quantity from the far-distant and elevated crater to
the coast, being at this place two miles in breadth, of great thickness, and presenting a surface of utter desolation. In a cavern which we passed we found a quantity of unfinished cloth, and the wooden instruments with which it is beaten out of bark. Hard by was a little walled enclosure, where we were told that the body of an American was interred, who, for some offence given to the islanders, had been stoned to death. In a native burying-ground adjacent, over one grave a pole had been erected, on the top of which were suspended, according to the native usage, two bags of provisions for the deceased, which, however, he had left behind him on the long journey whither he had gone, and whence he could not return to take any thing out of his house.
We dined this day with all the American captains, on board the. Planta, Captain Coffin, and were treated with great hospitality. Besides the twelve ships now at anchor here, there are seven others visible in the offing, and endeavouring to get in. The commerce with these islands, through the American whalers, and certain other vessels which come hither principally to obtain sandal-wood for the China market, is very considerable.
In our excursion, this day, we counted twenty-nine villages, containing, as nearly as might be ascertained by cursory inspection, sixteen hundred and forty-four dwellings, which, computing five persons to a family, give a population of eight thousand, two hundred, and twenty, in a line of twelve miles along the shore.
Mr. Young, to whom we have been introduced, to-day, and who has resided thirty-six years on this island, informs us that the whole circuit of coast is equally well-peopled, but that there are comparatively few inhabitants residing more inland, among the woods and mountains, where the climate is colder, and the soil less productive.
MR. YOUNG, A SETTLER.
Mr. Young, above-named, whom we met at the governor's house, is now seventy-eight years of age. He was made prisoner here at first, but has voluntarily remained for nearly half of his long life; having found favour with kings, chiefs, and people, among whom in reality he soon became a great and influential character. He is yet warmly attached to England, as his native country, and has had it in his power, on many occasions, to render essential services to vessels touching on these shores. For nine years he was governor of Hawaii, during the absence of the king. He is married to a native woman, by whom he has had six children. Accompanied by him we visited a neighbouring marae, which, like other obsolete abominations of the kind, is now a ruin. A house has been built on that part where the corpse of the late king was laid, previous to the flesh being taken from the bones, the latter distributed among his principal chiefs, and the former committed to the flames, according to ancient usage. At this funeral pyre, five hundred dogs were sacrificed with the royal remainsa holocaust of no mean value, when it is considered that such animals constitute the most precious article of food to the rich and luxurious in these islands.
From this marae we went to the house, where, in the year 1819, idolatry was abolished, by the present king Rihoriho, at a feast given by him in commemoration of his late father, Temehameha. In this large building, nearly a hundred feet long by thirty broad, separate tables were set for the men and the women; the latter being held, if possible, in more contempt in the Sandwich than in the Society Islands. When all the guests (including many foreigners from ships or residing in the vicinity) were in their places, and ready to fall upon the abundant provisions spread before them, the king rose up and said to Mr. Young,—“ Cut up those fowls and that pig;" which being done, instead of