THIS is a story of one of the most daring deeds in Hawaiian history. After the death of Captain Cook in 1779 Ka-meha-meha was slowly gaining dominion over the large island of Hawaii. Meanwhile the king of Maui, Kahekili, seemed to be far more successful in extending the boundaries over which he exercised rule. Kahekili had control of Maui and the adjacent islands and had sent expeditions to harass the followers of Ka-meha-meha on Hawaii. Oahu was also tempting Kahekili, and he had already taken steps to weaken the forces of that island.
Kahekili had fomented distrust and bloodshed among the Oahu chiefs and at last with an immense fleet of canoes filled with warriors had landed on the beach, south of the crater Leahi, now known as Diamond Head. His canoes were spread along the beach below Diamond Head, covering the sands of Waikiki. This was in the early part of the year 1783.
The King of Oahu had been taken by surprise. He was staying for a time in the beautiful valley
back of Honolulu. The Nuuanu stream with its many falls and sweet waters was a place where kings had always loved to rest. While revelling there in seductive pleasures the king, Ka-ha-hana, suddenly was awakened by the report of the coming of the Maui chief. The uninvited guest was unwelcome because no preparation had been made for the reception.
Messengers were hurried to all parts of Oahu, and the warriors were hastily gathered together. Over the mountains and along the arid plains they came. But the force was wofully inadequate to meet the Maui invaders.
In this company there were eight famous warriors, who seemed to think themselves invulnerable. They had often faced danger and returned chanting victory.
The night shadows were falling around the camp when these eight men, one by one, crept away from the other chiefs. Word had been passed from one to the other and a secret expedition partially outlined. Therefore each man was laden with his spear, club, and javelins. When free from all chance of interference they encouraged each other to undertake an expedition, as Fornander says, "on their own account and inflict what damage they could."
Those who have known the Waikiki beach of to-day with its splendidly wooded shores, the luxuriant park inland, the plains covered with trees,
and the lower mountain ridges choked with lantana bushes, cannot realise the desolate wastes of the past. The tropical luxuriance of the region around Honolulu belongs to to-day and not to a hundred years ago.
It was over this arid plain dotted here and there by cocoanut trees and across a few streams bordered by taro patches that the eight famous chiefs picked their way. It was not smooth walking. Lava had been poured out from the craters in the mountains and foothills. The softer parts of the petrified streams had dissolved and the surface of the land was covered with the hard fragments which remained. The trail which they followed led in and out among great boulders until they came to the sandy slopes of Diamond Head.
With the coming of morning light they found themselves not far from the old temple, which had been used for ages for most solemn royal ceremonies, a part of which was often the sacrifice of human beings, and here, aided by their gods, they thought to inflict such injuries upon the Maui men as would make their names remembered in the Maui households.
Fornander says: "It was a chivalrous undertaking, a forlorn hope, wholly unauthorised but fully within the spirit of that time for personal valour, audacity, and total disregard of consequences. The names of these heroes were: Pupuka,
[paragraph continues] Makaioulu, Puakea, Pinau, Kalaeone, Pahua, Kauhi and Kapukoa."
Several hundred warriors from Maui were stationed near this temple at the foot of Diamond Head. Probably some of them had carelessly watched the approach of eight chiefs of Oahu. "Into the valley of death rode the six hundred," but this was not an impetuous torrent of six hundred mounted cavalry men sweeping through Russian ranks. It was a handful of eight against what was said to be a force of at least six hundred.
Into these hundreds the eight boldly charged. The conflict was hand to hand, and in that respect was favourable to the eight men well skilled in the use of spear and javelin. Side by side, striking and smiting all before them, the little band forced its way into the heart of the body of its foes. The Maui warriors had expected to take these men, as a fire without trouble swallows up splinters cast into it. They had thought that this little company would afford them an excellent sacrifice for their war gods, and had hoped to take them alive, even at the expense of the lives of a few men. But quickly the formidable character of the eight fighters was appreciated.
Wave upon wave of men from Maui beat against the eight, but each time the wave was shattered and scattered and destroyed. Large numbers were killed while the eight still fought side by side apparently uninjured.
It has been said that this was a fight "to which Hawaiian legends record no parallel." Eight men attacked an army and for some time were victorious in their onslaught.
But the force around them was continually receiving additions, and an overwhelming body of men was slowly crowding over the dead and dying and preparing to crush them by weight of numbers. Then came the whispered call to retreat, and the eight made a terrific onslaught against the circle of warriors surrounding them. It was a marvellous escape. After an awful struggle the opposition was broken down and the eight leaped over the piles of the slain and fled toward the mountains. One of the eight was short and bow-legged. He could fight well, but could not run away as swiftly as his comrades. The Maui men pressed closely after the fleeing chiefs.
The bow-legged man was tripped and thrown. In a moment his spear and javelin were taken from him and a renowned Maui chief caught him and placed him on his back with the face upward, so that he could not do any injury. He started swiftly toward the temple to have his captive sacrificed "as the first victim of the war."
The friends of the captive were still near at hand and heard him cry out that he was captured. They had no hope of being able to rescue him but turned to see if anything could be done. He saw them and called to one of them to kill him rather
than let him be sacrificed alive. He urged that a spear be thrown to pierce him through the stomach. "In hope of shortening the present and prospective tortures of his friend, knowing well what his fate would be if brought alive into the enemy's camp, the chief did as he was bidden."
The spear came unerringly toward the prisoner, but as he saw the polished shaft almost piercing him he twisted to one side and it sank deep into the body of the chief who carried him.
In the confusion attendant upon the death of this great chief the bow-legged warrior escaped to his friends and soon all the little company were beyond pursuit.
What became of the eight? Only one lived to perpetuate his name among the families of Oahu. Pupuka became the ancestor of noted chiefs of high rank. The others were probably all killed in the destructive battles which soon followed. Kahekili conquered the Oahu army with great slaughter and finally received the body of Kahahana, which was taken to the temple at Waikiki and offered in sacrifice. After this annihilation of the Oahu army no hint is given of the other members of the band of the famous eight. They live on the pages of history.