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Gene J. Parola
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Ka’ao a Ka Wahine
The story of a woman.
Award Winning Novelist
It had been half a moon’s passage since Lehua had spoken harshly to the ali’i mo’i [governing chief] of Kaua’i and no word had come of what her punishment for the affront was to be. But there was the ongoing punishment of thinking about what such a punishment could be.
The touch of her kumu [teacher] awakened her. The kindly woman Lehua had grown so fond of held out a soft kapa [bark cloth] sheet and draped it over the shoulders of her startled dancer. The seriousness of the situation was made clear when the kumu then gathered Lehua’s few possessions into a net bag.
However, she did not put one thing in the bag. It was the feather lei po’o [head garland] that indicated Lehua’s nobility. She put that on the frightened girl’s head. Then carrying the bag, she led her pupil down, out of the sleeping hale [house], toward the thatched common area.
This was not like the pitch-black meeting with the chief. Lehua had no trouble seeing who her visitors were this time. The sun had already greeted the sky below the horizon, and two young warriors were clearly visible in the early morning light. The halau
[school] gate guard stood haplessly aside, hoping not to be scolded for his inefficiency.
Kumu Mohala turned and handed Lehua her bag, bent, breathed on her cheek, then whispered, “Don’t be afraid. They will not dare hurt you.” She turned, dismissed the gate guard, and went back up the trail toward the kauhale [living quarters].
Lehua turned to stop her, to at least say goodbye, but the
moment was lost. She greatly admired this master teacher of hula
[sacred dance]; that she had come to Kaua’i to learn from three moons
before. Politics were interfering with that pursuit again.
As Lehua approached, the men’s nervousness was apparent. At the last minute, both warriors prostrated themselves in moe before her.
“The kapu [sacred taboo] has been lifted. Stand up and tell me why you disturb the peace of goddess Laka’s sacred place with your
weapons.” Her fear made her command sharper than the threat
appeared. But she was taking no chances.
The two, both more than ten years older than the slip of a girl they had come for, leapt to their feet. One stepped forward holding out his hand at arm’s length, palm down. Bowing his head slightly, he said softly, “The king has sent us to bring you to him in Wailua.”
“King Liholiho is at Wailua?”
The kane [man] looked up in sudden confusion. “Oh, no. King Kaumuali’i is in Wailua. He has been there since the end of makahiki [harvest season].”
“And what does the ‘king’ of Kaua’i want of a hula wahine [woman]?” she asked, aware that these common soldiers would never know the reasons for their mission. But she was stalling for time. She needed to think.
Was this what she had feared ever since the meeting that dark night? What might the ruling chief of Kaua’i do to her? Would he dare to harm a member of an ali’i [noble] family so close to the throne? Not likely, but he could hold her hostage in some negotiations with King Liholiho.
In what might have been an effort to speed up the proceedings, the youth spoke again: “There is news that King Liholiho and Queen Ka’ahumanu are to visit soon. Our king wishes to have all the ali’i together in Wailua when they arrive.”
Lehua considered the answer. It could be true. This summons could be an innocent attempt on Kaumuali’i’s part to greet the new monarch in regal style. She had just decided that this was the case when she heard the sharp chirp of the ‘ania niau bird. Turning, she saw Maka wrapped in a kapa shawl part way up the trail, shivering in the predawn breeze.
Lehua tossed her net bag to the nearest warrior and turning, said, “I must say goodbye to my friend.” With that she climbed to where the whimpering girl stood. “What are you doing here,” she asked. “You were in Wainiha with your sick aunt.”
But Maka hushed her, and turning so the soldiers could not see her face, she hissed Lehua into silence. “They are lying. They are not from the king. They are from the ‘ohana [family] of Keawe, the chief who ruled Kaua’i before Kaumuali’i. They have always wanted him defeated and Kamehamehas to rule this island.”
Lehua started to speak, but Maka was too quick. “I don’t know what they want to use you for, but it can’t be any good. They have a reputation for very bad behavior.” Again Lehua started to speak, but was again too slow. “I’ll go down and tell them that you must say goodbye to the kahuna [priest]. You go to the ledge and wait.” With that she turned and bounded down toward the waiting soldiers. On the way she dropped the kapa from her shoulders and the soldiers were immediately distracted.
After a few moments climb up-trail, Lehua ducked into the fern-hidden path and was soon poised for the last step up onto the secret ledge. She was worried-what did the fussy old chiefs want with her? A sudden movement from above caused her to look up. The maikai [handsome] Pake [Chinese] was reaching down to help her up. Without thinking she gave him her hand and in a moment they stood facing one another.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“Yes,” she nodded.
Then realizing she had stood too long staring into his eyes, she quickly strode past him-all memory of her possible danger replaced by the one when he had stepped out of the uniki [graduation] crowd and kissed her.
The kiss--that strange new thing that the strangers had brought to the customs of intimacy in her culture.
Why did she feel warm all over when he looked at her?