by Herman Melville

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Chapter Eight



RECOVERING from my astonishment at the beautiful scene before me,I quickly awakened Toby, and informed him of the discovery I hadmade. Together we now repaired to the border of the precipice,and my companion's admiration was equal to my own. A littlereflection, however, abated our surprise at coming sounexpectedly upon this valley, since the large vales of Happarand Typee, lying upon this side of Nukuheva, and extending aconsiderable distance from the sea towards the interior, mustnecessarily terminate somewhere about this point.

The question now was as to which of those two places we werelooking down upon. Toby insisted that it was the abode of theHappar, and I that it was tenanted by their enemies the ferociousTypees. To be sure I was not entirely convinced by my ownarguments, but Toby's proposition to descend at once into thevalley, and partake of the hospitality of its inmates, seemed tome to be risking so much upon the strength of a mere supposition,that I resolved to oppose it until we had more evidence toproceed upon.

The point was one of vital importance, as the natives of Happarwere not only at peace with Nukuheva, but cultivated with itsinhabitants the most friendly relations, and enjoyed besides areputation for gentleness and humanity which led us to expectfrom them, if not a cordial reception, at least a shelter duringthe short period we should remain in their territory.

On the other hand, the very name of Typee struck a panic into myheart which I did not attempt to disguise. The thought ofvoluntarily throwing ourselves into the hands of these cruelsavages, seemed to me an act of mere madness; and almost equallyso the idea of venturing into the valley, uncertain by which ofthese two tribes it was inhabited. That the vale at our feet wastenanted by one of them, was a point that appeared to us past alldoubt, since we knew that they resided in this quarter, althoughour information did not enlighten us further.

My companion, however, incapable of resisting the temptingprospect which the place held out of an abundant supply of foodand other means of enjoyment, still clung to his owninconsiderate view of the subject, nor could all my reasoningshake it. When I reminded him that it was impossible for eitherof us to know anything with certainty, and when I dwelt upon thehorrible fate we should encounter were we rashly to descend intothe valley, and discover too late the error we had committed, hereplied by detailing all the evils of our present condition, andthe sufferings we must undergo should we continue to remain wherewe then were.

Anxious to draw him away from the subject, if possible--for I sawthat it would be in vain to attempt changing his mind--I directedhis attention to a long bright unwooded tract of land which,sweeping down from the elevations in the interior, descended intothe valley before us. I then suggested to him that beyond thisridge might lie a capacious and untenanted valley, abounding withall manner of delicious fruits; for I had heard that there wereseveral such upon the island, and proposed that we shouldendeavour to reach it, and if we found our expectations realizedwe should at once take refuge in it and remain there as long aswe pleased.

He acquiesced in the suggestion; and we immediately, therefore,began surveying the country lying before us, with a view ofdetermining upon the best route for us to pursue; but itpresented little choice, the whole interval being broken intosteep ridges, divided by dark ravines, extending in parallellines at right angles to our direct course. All these we wouldbe obliged to cross before we could hope to arrive at ourdestination.

A weary journey! But we decided to undertake it, though, for myown part, I felt little prepared to encounter its fatigues,shivering and burning by turns with the ague and fever; for Iknow not how else to describe the alternate sensations Iexperienced, and suffering not a little from the lameness whichafflicted me. Added to this was the faintness consequent on ourmeagre diet--a calamity in which Toby participated to the sameextent as myself.

These circumstances, however, only augmented my anxiety to reacha place which promised us plenty and repose, before I should bereduced to a state which would render me altogether unable toperform the journey. Accordingly we now commenced it bydescending the almost perpendicular side of a steep and narrowgorge, bristling with a thick growth of reeds. Here there wasbut one mode for us to adopt. We seated ourselves upon theground, and guided our descent by catching at the canes in ourpath. This velocity with which we thus slid down the side of theravine soon brought us to a point where we could use our feet,and in a short time we arrived at the edge of the torrent, whichrolled impetuously along the bed of the chasm.

After taking a refreshing draught from the water of the stream,we addressed ourselves to a much more difficult undertaking thanthe last. Every foot of our late descent had to be regained inascending the opposite side of the gorge--an operation renderedthe less agreeable from the consideration that in theseperpendicular episodes we did not progress a hundred yards on ourjourney. But, ungrateful as the task was, we set about it withexemplary patience, and after a snail-like progress of an hour ormore, had scaled perhaps one half of the distance, when the feverwhich had left me for a while returned with such violence, andaccompanied by so raging a thirst, that it required all theentreaties of Toby to prevent me from losing all the fruits of mylate exertion, by precipitating myself madly down the cliffs wehad just climbed, in quest of the water which flowed sotemptingly at their base. At the moment all my hopes and fearsappeared to be merged in this one desire, careless of theconsequences that might result from its gratification. I amaware of no feeling, either of pleasure or of pain, that socompletely deprives one of an power to resist its impulses, asthis same raging thirst.

Toby earnestly conjured me to continue the ascent, assuring methat a little more exertion would bring us to the summit, andthat then in less than five minutes we should find ourselves atthe brink of the stream, which must necessarily flow on the otherside of the ridge.

'Do not,' he exclaimed, 'turn back, now that we have proceededthus far; for I tell you that neither of us will have the courageto repeat the attempt, if once more we find ourselves looking upto where we now are from the bottom of these rocks!'

I was not yet so perfectly beside myself as to be heedless ofthese representations, and therefore toiled on, ineffectuallyendeavouring to appease the thirst which consumed me, by thinkingthat in a short time I should be able to gratify it to my heart'scontent.

At last we gained the top of the second elevation, the loftiestof those I have described as. extending in parallel linesbetween us and the valley we desired to reach. It commanded aview of the whole intervening distance; and, discouraged as I wasby other circumstances, this prospect plunged me into the verydepths of despair. Nothing but dark and fearful chasms,separated by sharp-crested and perpendicular ridges as far as theeye could reach. Could we have stepped from summit to summit ofthese steep but narrow elevations we could easily haveaccomplished the distance; but we must penetrate to the bottom ofevery yawning gulf, and scale in succession every one of theeminences before us. Even Toby, although not suffering as I did,was not proof against the disheartening influences of the sight.

But we did not long stand to contemplate it, impatient as I wasto reach the waters of the torrent which flowed beneath us. Withan insensibility to danger which I cannot call to mind withoutshuddering, we threw ourselves down the depths of the ravine,startling its savage solitudes with the echoes produced by thefalling fragments of rock we every moment dislodged from theirplaces, careless of the insecurity of our footing, and recklesswhether the slight roots and twigs we clutched at sustained usfor the while, or treacherously yielded to our grasp. For my ownpart, I scarcely knew whether I was helplessly falling from theheights above, or whether the fearful rapidity with which Idescended was an act of my own volition.

In a few minutes we reached the foot of the gorge, and kneelingupon a small ledge of dripping rocks, I bent over to the stream. What a delicious sensation was I now to experience! I paused fora second to concentrate all my capabilities of enjoyment, andthen immerged my lips in the clear element before me. Had theapples of Sodom turned to ashes in my mouth, I could not havefelt a more startling revulsion. A single drop of the cold fluidseemed to freeze every drop of blood in my body; the fever thathad been burning in my veins gave place on the instant todeath-like chills, which shook me one after another like so manyshocks of electricity, while the perspiration produced by my lateviolent exertions congealed in icy beads upon my forehead. Mythirst was gone, and I fairly loathed the water. Starting to myfeet, the sight of those dank rocks, oozing forth moisture atevery crevice, and the dark stream shooting along its dismalchannel, sent fresh chills through my shivering frame, and I feltas uncontrollable a desire to climb up towards the genialsunlight as I before had to descend the ravine.

After two hours' perilous exertions we stood upon the summit ofanother ridge, and it was with difficulty I could bring myself tobelieve that we had ever penetrated the black and yawning chasmwhich then gaped at our feet. Again we gazed upon the prospectwhich the height commanded, but it was just as depressing as theone which had before met our eyes. I now felt that in ourpresent situation it was in vain for us to think of everovercoming the obstacles in our way, and I gave up all thoughtsof reaching the vale which lay beyond this series of impediments;while at the same time I could not devise any scheme to extricateourselves from the difficulties in which we were involved.

The remotest idea of returning to Nukuheva, unless assured of ourvessel's departure, never once entered my mind, and indeed it wasquestionable whether we could have succeeded in reaching it,divided as we were from the bay by a distance we could notcompute, and perplexed too in our remembrance of localities byour recent wanderings. Besides, it was unendurable the thoughtof retracing our steps and rendering all our painful exertions ofno avail.

There is scarcely anything when a man is in difficulties that heis more disposed to look upon with abhorrence than a rightaboutretrograde movement--a systematic going over of the alreadytrodden ground: and especially if he has a love of adventure,such a course appears indescribably repulsive, so long as thereremains the least hope to be derived from braving untrieddifficulties.

It was this feeling that prompted us to descend the opposite sideof the elevation we had just scaled, although with what definiteobject in view it would have been impossible for either of us totell.

Without exchanging a syllable upon the subject, Toby and myselfsimultaneously renounced the design which had lured us thusfar--perceiving in each other's countenances that despondingexpression which speaks more eloquently than words.

Together we stood towards the close of this weary day in thecavity of the third gorge we had entered, wholly incapacitatedfor any further exertion, until restored to some degree ofstrength by food and repose.

We seated ourselves upon the least uncomfortable spot we couldselect, and Toby produced from the bosom of his frock the sacredpackage. In silence we partook of the small morsel ofrefreshment that had been left from the morning's repast, andwithout once proposing to violate the sanctity of our engagementwith respect to the remainder, we rose to our feet, and proceededto construct some sort of shelter under which we might obtain thesleep we so greatly needed.

Fortunately the spot was better adapted to our purpose than theone in which we had passed the last wretched night. We clearedaway the tall reeds from the small but almost level bit ofground, and twisted them into a low basket-like hut, which wecovered with a profusion of long thick leaves, gathered from atree near at hand. We disposed them thickly all around,reserving only a slight opening that barely permitted us to crawlunder the shelter we had thus obtained.

These deep recesses, though protected from the winds that assailthe summits of their lofty sides, are damp and chill to a degreethat one would hardly anticipate in such a climate; and beingunprovided with anything but our woollen frocks and thin ducktrousers to resist the cold of the place, we were the moresolicitous to render our habitation for the night as comfortableas we could. Accordingly, in addition to what we had alreadydone, we plucked down all the leaves within our reach and threwthem in a heap over our little hut, into which we now crept,raking after us a reserved supply to form our couch.

That night nothing but the pain I suffered prevented me fromsleeping most refreshingly. As it was, I caught two or threenaps, while Toby slept away at my side as soundly as though hehad been sandwiched between two Holland sheets. Luckily it didnot rain, and we were preserved from the misery which a heavyshower would have occasioned us. In the morning I was awakenedby the sonorous voice of my companion ringing in my ears andbidding me rise. I crawled out from our heap of leaves, and wasastonished at the change which a good night's rest had wrought inhis appearance. He was as blithe and joyous as a young bird, andwas staying the keenness of his morning's appetite by chewing thesoft bark of a delicate branch he held in his hand, and herecommended the like to me as an admirable antidote against thegnawings of hunger.

For my own part, though feeling materially better than I had donethe preceding evening, I could not look at the limb that hadpained me so violently at intervals during the last twenty-fourhours, without experiencing a sense of alarm that I strove invain to shake off. Unwilling to disturb the flow of my comrade'sspirits, I managed to stifle the complaints to which I mightotherwise have given vent, and calling upon him good-humouredlyto speed our banquet, I prepared myself for it by washing in thestream. This operation concluded, we swallowed, or ratherabsorbed, by a peculiar kind of slow sucking process, ourrespective morsels of nourishment, and then entered into adiscussion as to the steps is was necessary for us to pursue.

'What's to be done now?' inquired I, rather dolefully.

'Descend into that same valley we descried yesterday.' rejoinedToby, with a rapidity and loudness of utterance that almost ledme to suspect he had been slyly devouring the broadside of an oxin some of the adjoining thickets. 'What else,' he continued,'remains for us to do but that, to be sure? Why, we shall bothstarve to a certainty if we remain here; and as to your fears ofthose Typees--depend upon it, it is all nonsense.'

'It is impossible that the inhabitants of such a lovely place aswe saw can be anything else but good fellows; and if you chooserather to perish with hunger in one of these soppy caverns, I forone prefer to chance a bold descent into the valley, and risk theconsequences'.

'And who is to pilot us thither,' I asked, 'even if we shoulddecide upon the measure you propose? Are we to go again up anddown those precipices that we crossed yesterday, until we reachthe place we started from, and then take a flying leap from thecliffs to the valley?'

'Faith, I didn't think of that,' said Toby; 'sure enough, bothsides of the valley appeared to be hemmed in by precipices,didn't they?'

'Yes,' answered I, 'as steep as the sides of a line-of-battleship, and about a hundred times as high.' My companion sank hishead upon his breast, and remained for a while in deep thought. Suddenly he sprang to his feet, while his eyes lighted up withthat gleam of intelligence that marks the presence of some brightidea.

'Yes, yes,' he exclaimed; 'the streams all run in the samedirection, and must necessarily flow into the valley before theyreach the sea; all we have to do is just to follow this stream,and sooner or later it will lead us into the vale.'

'You are right, Toby,' I exclaimed, 'you are right; it mustconduct us thither, and quickly too; for, see with what a steepinclination the water descends.'

'It does, indeed,' burst forth my companion, overjoyed at myverification of his theory, 'it does indeed; why, it is as plainas a pike-staff. Let us proceed at once; come, throw away allthose stupid ideas about the Typees, and hurrah for the lovelyvalley of the Happars.'

'You will have it to be Happar, I see, my dear fellow; prayHeaven you may not find yourself deceived,' observed I, with ashake of my head.

'Amen to all that, and much more,' shouted Toby, rushing forward;'but Happar it is, for nothing else than Happar can it be. Soglorious a valley--such forests of bread-fruit trees--such grovesof cocoanut--such wilderness of guava-bushes! Ah! shipmate!don't linger behind: in the name of all delightful fruits, I amdying to be at them. Come on, come on; shove ahead, there's alively lad; never mind the rocks; kick them out of the way, as Ido; and tomorrow, old fellow, take my word for it, we shall be inclover. Come on;' and so saying, he dashed along the ravine likea madman, forgetting my inability to keep up with him. In a fewminutes, however, the exuberance of his spirits abated, and,pausing for a while, he permitted me to overtake him.

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