FRENCH CIRCUMNAVIGATORS, I
Kouakini next apprised Freycinet that though actual disturbances had not broken out on the death of Kamahamaha, yet that some of the chiefs having asserted claims to independence, the stability of the monarchy was in some danger. As a result the political situation was strained and the government was in some perplexity, a state of things which probably would soon terminate, especially if the commandant would consent to make some declaration in favour of the youthful sovereign. Freycinet landed with the prince, to pay him a return visit; and, on entering his house, was introduced to his wife, a very corpulent woman, who was lying on a European bedstead covered with matting. After this visit, the captain and his host went to visit the widows of Kamahamaha, the prince's sisters, but not being able to see them, they proceeded to the yards and workshops of the deceased king. Here were four sheds sacred to the building of large war-canoes, and others containing European boats. Farther on were seen wood for building purposes, bars of copper, quantities of fishing-nets, a forge, a cooper's workshop, and lastly, some cases belonging to the prime minister, Kraimokou, filled with all necessary appliances for navigation, such as compasses, sextants, thermometers, watches, and even a chronometer. Strangers were not allowed to inspect two other magazines in which were stored powder and other war-materials, strong liquors, iron, &c. All these places were for the present abandoned by the new sovereign, who held his court at Koaihai Bay.
Freycinet, on receiving an invitation from the king, made ready to visit him there, under the guidance of a native pilot who showed himself most attentive, and was very skilful in forecasting the weather. "The monarch," writes Freycinet, "was waiting for me on the beach, dressed in the full uniform of an English captain, and surrounded by the whole of his suite. In spite of the terrible barrenness of this side of the island, the spectacle of the grotesque assemblage of men and women was not without grandeur and beauty. The king himself stood in front with his principal officers a little distance behind him; some wearing splendid mantles made of red or yellow feathers, or of scarlet cloth; others in short tippets of the same kind, but in which the two glaring colours were relieved with black; a few had helmets on their heads. This striking picture was further diversified by a number of soldiers grouped here and there, and clad in various and strange costumes."
The sovereign now under notice was the same, who, with his young and charming wife, undertook at a later period a voyage to England, where they both died. Their remains were brought back to Hawaï by Captain Byron in the frigate La Blonde.
Freycinet seized this opportunity to repeat his request for supplies of fresh provisions, and the king promised that two days should not pass before his wishes should be fully complied with. However, although the good faith of the young monarch was above suspicion, the commander soon discovered that most of the chiefs had no intention of obeying their sovereign's orders.
Some little time after this, the principal officers of the staff went to pay a visit to the widows of Kamahamaha. The following amusing description of their lively reception is given by M. Quoy:—"A strange spectacle," he says, "met our view on our entrance into an apartment of narrow dimensions, where eight lumps of half naked humanity lay on the ground with their faces downwards. It was not an easy task to find space to lay ourselves down according to custom in the same manner. The attendants were constantly on the move, some carrying fans made of feathers to whisk away the flies; another a lighted pipe, which was passed from one prostrate figure to another, each taking a whiff or two, while the rest were engaged in shampooing the royal personages.... Conversation, it may readily be imagined, was not well maintained under these trying circumstances, and had it not been for some excellent watermelons which were handed to us, the tedium of the interview would have been insupportable."
Freycinet next went to pay a visit to the famous John Young, who had been for so long a time the faithful friend and sagacious adviser of King Kamahamaha. Although he was then old and in bad health, he was not the less able to supply Freycinet with some valuable information about the Sandwich Islands, where he had lived for thirty years, and in the history of which he had played a prominent part.