The Story of Piilani
(Continued from last week.)
The next day they moved up the valley and found a place where it was good to stay as there was plenty of water and lots of wild bananas. On that day they heard for the first time the cannon roar and they saw shells strike their old hiding place. They found lots of shrimps and oopu in the river and also some wild taro. During all this time Piilani stood guard half of the time. About a week later the shooting stopped. They stayed in this place about one month and then moved further makai, where there was some kalo patches, lots of fruit and more fish and opae in the river and they stayed around there for nearly two years and often saw their friends, but their friends did not see them.
Always hiding in daytime and foraging in the night, nobody knew what had become of them, some thought they had been killed or were dead from hunger, thirst and exposure.
One day as Piilani was pulling some taro she heard some noise as from a man coming. She crawled up on a high place and saw Willie Kinney coming together with Kelau and George Titcomb. She ran back to where Koolau was hidden and told him. Koolau and family went into hiding further back in the valley, but when they saw who it was they came out and shook hands with them and had a long talk with them, and when they left Kinney told Koolau that he might shoot any bipi that he needed, however, Koolau never killed any of Kinney’s cattle.
A few days after Kinney’s visit Kelau and his wife brought some more clothes for them
They lived in the woods for three years and five months and moved every three-four days, and that is the reason for their not being found by the people looking for them and bringing them food.
Their child began to show bad signs of the dreaded disease and was complaining a great deal about pains in the stomach for quite a while before he died. He died in Piilani’s arms. For a grave they cleared out a cave in the mountain side and in front of same was a large lehua tree and a lot of ferns and wild ginger and they closed up the opening with stones and dirt, evidently in the usual Hawaiian manner.
For more than a year after that they kept travelling, and then Koolau began to show stronger signs of leprosy and was getting weaker and for the last seven months of his life he was sinking steadily.
One day Koolau told his wife that when he died, which he said he expected to be very soon, that she should go back to her people and he also told her to bury him with his rifle. A couple of days after that Koolau began to get delirious. And a few days after that Koolau died.
When Koolau died Piilani started to dig a grave for him, but she could not finish it in one day so she went back and slept by her dead husband’s side that night and all the following day she worked digging the grave and in the evening she considered the grave deep enough. She covered the grave inside with fern leaves and put Koolau into it and laid his friend, the gun, on his chest, filled the grave half full with dirt and then a large flat stone and then filled the grave to the level of the ground.
That night she went makai to be near her people, but it took her a whole month before she could make up her mind to carry out Koolau’s advice about going back to her own people. One morning she started up the pali trail again over the Kilohana and came to Halemanu, when darkness set in. She kept on and in the early morning she saw again the houses at Kekaha, her childhood home and her happy home for years after marriage. She sat down and cried and was very dubious as to the wisdom of her going back. She go up suddenly, however, and walked down the hill and was soon with her family there.
She was, however, scared of being put in prison for assisting in Koolau’s doings, and after she had been at Kekaha for quite a while, she was one day visited by J. H. Coney, sheriff of Kauai, and E Omsted, deputy sheriff for Waimea district. They came to her house with Kaumeheiwa. She told them her story and answered truthfully all their questions and they assured her that there would be no prosecution, and from that time she counted that her troubles were over.
It has been said that Koolau’s burial place was found and Koolau’s gun taken away but that is not true. Piilani visited the place secretly many times and at no time did the grave show any sign of having been disturbed.
Piilani stayed with her people at Kekaha for a year or two, then she went back to Kalalau and lived there a few years, but later she moved back to her father’s house at Waimea, where she died as stated before.
I was well acquainted with her and wanted to get from her the story of Koolau and his doings and scribbled down items as early as 1901 and 1902. In 1905 or 1906, came to Waimea John K. Sheldon, a well-known Hawaiian newspaper man, and he wrote a book of ninety pages about Koolau and Piilani. The book is written in flowing Hawaiian and difficult to read and translate, as he uses the greatest possible amount of crooked words to record the simplest historical point. I have read it through.
Piilani was of a very quiet and reticent nature and to get her to talk about her husband, his doings and their wanderings in the wilds of Kalalau was often difficult. She never spoke of Koolau in an exulting manner but acted always as if she had a secret fear of being called to answer for her actions in staying by her husband and assisting him in his outlaw life.
She may have been wrong in assisting him according to the ethics of some people; she may have been guilty according to the construction that some legal lights put on the law, but, in two respects she can stand as an example for any woman in the world in her devotion to her husband through all his troubles, and she deserves unlimited praise for her courage in standing guard at day or night and for travelling up and down the old Kalalau trail from Waimea, which I consider a severe test for the stoutest heart. She did it twice and once all alone.
(Garden Island, 1/2/1917, p. 4)