by Herman Melville

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Chapter Eighteen



RETURNING health and peace of mind gave a new interest toeverything around me. I sought to diversify my time by as manyenjoyments as lay within my reach. Bathing in company withtroops of girls formed one of my chief amusements. We sometimesenjoyed the recreation in the waters of a miniature lake, towhich the central stream of the valley expanded. This lovelysheet of water was almost circular in figure, and about threehundred yards across. Its beauty was indescribable. All aroundits banks waved luxuriant masses of tropical foliage, soaringhigh above which were seen, here and there, the symmetrical shaftof the cocoanut tree, surmounted by its tufts of gracefulbranches, drooping in the air like so many waving ostrich plumes.

The ease and grace with which the maidens of the valley propelledthemselves through the water, and their familiarity with theelement, were truly astonishing. Sometimes the might be seengliding along just under the surface, without apparently movinghand or foot--then throwing themselves on their sides, theydarted through the water, revealing glimpses of their forms, as,in the course of their rapid progress, they shot for an instantpartly into the air--at one moment they dived deep down into thewater, and the next they rose bounding to the surface.

I remember upon one occasion plunging in among a parcel of theseriver-nymphs, and counting vainly on my superior strength, soughtto drag some of them under the water, but I quickly repented mytemerity. The amphibious young creatures swarmed about me like ashoal of dolphins, and seizing hold of my devoted limbs, tumbledme about and ducked me under the surface, until from the strangenoises which rang in my ears, and the supernatural visionsdancing before my eyes, I thought I was in the land of thespirits. I stood indeed as little chance among them as acumbrous whale attacked on all sides by a legion of swordfish. When at length they relinquished their hold of me, they swam awayin every direction, laughing at my clumsy endeavours to to reachthem.

There was no boat on the lake; but at my solicitation and for myspecial use, some of the,young men attached to Marheyo'shousehold, under the direction of the indefatigable Kory-Kory,brought up a light and tastefully carved canoe from the sea. Itwas launched upon the sheet of water, and floated there asgracefully as a swan. But, melancholy to relate, it produced aneffect I had not anticipated. The sweet nymphs, who had sportedwith me before on the lake, now all fled its vicinity. Theprohibited craft, guarded by the edicts of the 'taboo,' extendedthe prohibition to the waters in which it lay.

For a few days, Kory-Kory, with one or two other youths,accompanied me in my excursions to the lake, and while I paddledabout in my light canoe, would swim after me shouting andgambolling in pursuit. But I as ever partial to what is termedin the 'Young Men's Own Book'--'the society of virtuous andintelligent young ladies;' and in the absence of the mermaids,the amusement became dull and insipid. One morning I expressedto my faithful servitor my desire for the return of the nymphs. The honest fellow looked at me bewildered for a moment,, and thenshook his head solemnly, and murmured 'taboo! taboo!' giving meto understand that unless the canoe was removed I could notexpect to have the young ladies back again. But to thisprocedure I was averse; I not only wanted the canoe to stay whereit was, but I wanted the beauteous Fayaway to get into it, andpaddle with me about the lake. This latter propositioncompletely horrified Kory-Kory's notions of propriety. Heinveighed against it, as something too monstrous to be thoughtof. It not only shocked their established notions of propriety,but was at variance with all their religious ordinances.

However, although the 'taboo' was a ticklish thing to meddlewith, I determined to test its capabilities of resisting anattack. I consulted the chief Mehevi, who endeavoured todissuade me from my object; but I was not to be repulsed; andaccordingly increased the warmth of my solicitations. At last heentered into a long, and I have no doubt a very learned andeloquent exposition of the history and nature of the 'taboo' asaffecting this particular case; employing a variety of mostextraordinary words, which, from their amazing length andsonorousness, I have every reason to believe were of atheological nature. But all that he said failed to convince me:partly, perhaps, because I could not comprehend a word that heuttered; but chiefly, that for the life of me I could notunderstand why a woman would not have as much right to enter acanoe as a man. At last he became a little more rational, andintimated that, out of the abundant love he bore me, he wouldconsult with the priests and see what could be done.

How it was that the priesthood of Typee satisfied the affair withtheir consciences, I know not; but so it was, and Fayawaydispensation from this portion of the taboo was at lengthprocured. Such an event I believe never before had occurred inthe valley; but it was high time the islanders should be taught alittle gallantry, and I trust that the example I set them mayproduce beneficial effects. Ridiculous, indeed, that the lovelycreatures should be obliged to paddle about in the water, like somany ducks, while a parcel of great strapping fellows skimmedover its surface in their canoes.

The first day after Fayaway's emancipation, I had a delightfullittle party on the lake--the damsels' Kory-Kory, and myself. Myzealous body-servant brought from the house a calabash ofpoee-poee, half a dozen young cocoanuts--stripped of theirhusks--three pipes, as many yams, and me on his back a part ofthe way. Something of a load; but Kory-Kory was a very strongman for his size, and by no means brittle in the spine. We had avery pleasant day; my trusty valet plied the paddle and swept usgently along the margin of the water, beneath the shades of theoverhanging thickets. Fayaway and I reclined in the stern of thecanoe, on the very best terms possible with one another; thegentle nymph occasionally placing her pipe to her lip, andexhaling the mild fumes of the tobacco, to which her rosy breathadded a fresh perfume. Strange as it may seem, there is nothingin which a young and beautiful female appears to more advantagethan in the act of smoking. How captivating is a Peruvian lady,swinging in her gaily-woven hammock of grass, extended betweentwo orange-trees, and inhaling the fragrance of a choice cigarro!

But Fayaway, holding in her delicately formed olive hand the longyellow reed of her pipe, with its quaintly carved bowl, and everyfew moments languishingly giving forth light wreaths of vapourfrom her mouth and nostrils, looked still more engaging.

We floated about thus for several hours, when I looked up to thewarm, glowing, tropical sky, and then down into the transparentdepths below; and when my eye, wandering from the bewitchingscenery around, fell upon the grotesquely-tattooed form ofKory-Kory, and finally, encountered the pensive gaze of Fayaway,I thought I had been transported to some fairy region, so unrealdid everything appear.

This lovely piece of water was the coolest spot in all thevalley, and I now made it a place of continual resort during thehottest period of the day. One side of it lay near thetermination of a long gradually expanding gorge, which mounted tothe heights that environed the vale. The strong trade wind, metin its course by these elevations, circled and eddied about theirsummits, and was sometimes driven down the steep ravine and sweptacross the valley, ruffling in its passage the otherwise tranquilsurface of the lake.

One day, after we had been paddling about for some time, Idisembarked Kory-Kory, and paddled the canoe to the windward sideof the lake. As I turned the canoe, Fayaway, who was with me,seemed all at once to be struck with some happy idea. With awild exclamation of delight, she disengaged from her person theample robe of tappa which was knotted over her shoulder (for thepurpose of shielding her from the sun), and spreading it out likea sail, stood erect with upraised arms in the head of the canoe. We American sailors pride ourselves upon our straight, cleanspars, but a prettier little mast than Fayaway made was nevershipped aboard of any craft.

In a moment the tappa was distended by the breeze--the long browntresses of Fayaway streamed in the air--and the canoe glidedrapidly through the water, and shot towards the shore. Seated inthe stem, I directed its course with my paddle until it dashed upthe soft sloping bank, and Fayaway, with a light spring alightedon the ground; whilst Kory-Kory, who had watched our manoeuvreswith admiration, now clapped his hands in transport, and shoutedlike a madman. Many a time afterwards was this feat repeated.

If the reader has not observed ere this that I was the declaredadmirer of Miss Fayaway, all I can say is that he is littleconversant with affairs of the heart, and I certainly shall nottrouble myself to enlighten him any farther. Out of the calico Ihad brought from the ship I made a dress for this lovely girl. In it she looked, I must confess, something like an opera-dancer.

The drapery of the latter damsel generally commences a littleabove the elbows, but my island beauty's began at the waist, andterminated sufficiently far above the ground to reveal the mostbewitching ankle in the universe.

The day that Fayaway first wore this robe was rendered memorableby a new acquaintance being introduced to me. In the afternoon Iwas lying in the house when I heard a great uproar outside; butbeing by this time pretty well accustomed to the wild hallooswhich were almost continually ringing through the valley, I paidlittle attention to it, until old Marheyo, under the influence ofsome strange excitement, rushed into my presence and communicatedthe astounding tidings, 'Marnoo pemi!' which being interpreted,implied that an individual by the name of Marnoo was approaching.

My worthy old friend evidently expected that this intelligencewould produce a great effect upon me, and for a time he stoodearnestly regarding me, as if curious to see how I should conductmyself, but as I remained perfectly unmoved, the old gentlemandarted out of the house again, in as great a hurry as he hadentered it.

'Marnoo, Marnoo,' cogitated I, 'I have never heard that namebefore. Some distinguished character, I presume, from theprodigious riot the natives are making;' the tumultuous noisedrawing nearer and nearer every moment, while 'Marnoo!--Marnoo!'was shouted by every tongue.

I made up my mind that some savage warrior of consequence, whohad not yet enjoyed the honour of an audience, was desirous ofpaying his respects on the present occasion. So vain had Ibecome by the lavish attention to which I had been accustomed,that I felt half inclined, as a punishment for such neglect, togive this Marnoo a cold reception, when the excited throng camewithin view, convoying one of the most striking specimens ofhumanity that I ever beheld.

The stranger could not have been more than twenty-five years ofage, and was a little above the ordinary height; had he a singlehair's breadth taller, the matchless symmetry of his form wouldhave been destroyed. His unclad limbs were beautifully formed;whilst the elegant outline of his figure, together with hisbeardless cheeks, might have entitled him to the distinction ofstanding for the statue of the Polynesian Apollo; and indeed theoval of his countenance and the regularity of every featurereminded one of an antique bust. But the marble repose of artwas supplied by a warmth and liveliness of expression only to beseen in the South Sea Islander under the most favourabledevelopments of nature. The hair of Marnoo was a rich curlingbrown, and twined about his temples and neck in little closecurling ringlets, which danced up and down continually, when hewas animated in conversation. His cheek was of a femininesoftness, and his face was free from the least blemish oftattooing, although the rest of his body was drawn all over withfanciful figures, which--unlike the unconnected sketching usualamong these natives--appeared to have been executed in conformitywith some general design.

The tattooing on his back in particular attracted my attention. The artist employed must indeed have excelled in his profession. Traced along the course of the spine was accurately delineatedthe slender, tapering and diamond checkered shaft of thebeautiful 'artu' tree. Branching from the stem on each side, anddisposed alternately, were the graceful branches drooping withleaves all correctly drawn and elaborately finished. Indeed thebest specimen of the Fine Arts I had yet seen in Typee. A rearview of the stranger might have suggested the idea of a spreadingvine tacked against a garden wall. Upon his breast, arms andlegs, were exhibited an infinite variety of figures; every one ofwhich, however, appeared to have reference to the general effectsought to be produced. The tattooing I have described was of thebrightest blue, and when contrasted with the light olive-colourof the skin, produced an unique and even elegant effect. Aslight girdle of white tappa, scarcely two inches in width, buthanging before and behind in spreading tassels, composed theentire costume of the stranger.

He advanced surrounded by the islanders, carrying under one arm asmall roll of native cloth, and grasping in his other hand a longand richly decorated spear. His manner was that of a travellerconscious that he is approaching a comfortable stage in hisjourney. Every moment he turned good-humouredly on the throngaround him, and gave some dashing sort of reply to theirincessant queries, which appeared to convulse them withuncontrollable mirth.

Struck by his demeanour, and the peculiarity of his appearance,so unlike that of the shaven-crowned and face-tattooed natives ingeneral, I involuntarily rose as he entered the house, andproffered him a seat on the mats beside me. But without deigningto notice the civility, or even the more incontrovertible fact ofmy existence, the stranger passed on, utterly regardless of me,and flung himself upon the further end of the long couch thattraversed the sole apartment of Marheyo's habitation.

Had the belle of the season, in the pride of her beauty andpower, been cut in a place of public resort by some superciliousexquisite, she could not have felt greater indignation than I didat this unexpected slight.

I was thrown into utter astonishment. The conduct of the savageshad prepared me to anticipate from every newcomer the sameextravagant expressions of curiosity and regard. The singularityof his conduct, however, only roused my desire to discover whothis remarkable personage might be, who now engrossed theattention of every one.

Tinor placed before him a calabash of poee-poee, from which thestranger regaled himself, alternating every mouthful with somerapid exclamation, which was eagerly caught up and echoed by thecrowd that completely filled the house. When I observed thestriking devotion of the natives to him, and their temporarywithdrawal of all attention from myself, I felt not a littlepiqued. The glory of Tommo is departed, thought I, and thesooner he removes from the valley the better. These were myfeelings at the moment, and they were prompted by that gloriousprinciple inherent in all heroic natures--the strong-rooteddetermination to have the biggest share of the pudding or to gowithout any of it.

Marnoo, that all-attractive personage, having satisfied hishunger and inhaled a few whiffs from a pipe which was handed tohim, launched out into an harangue which completely enchained theattention of his auditors.

Little as I understood of the language, yet from his animatedgestures and the varying expression of his features--reflected asfrom so many mirrors in the countenances around him, I couldeasily discover the nature of those passions which he sought toarouse. From the frequent recurrence of the words 'Nukuheva' and'Frannee' (French), and some others with the meaning of which Iwas acquainted, he appeared to be rehearsing to his auditorsevents which had recently occurred in the neighbouring bays. Buthow he had gained the knowledge of these matters I could notunderstand, unless it were that he had just come from Nukuheva--asupposition which his travel-stained appearance not a littlesupported. But, if a native of that region, I could not accountfor his friendly reception at the hands of the Typees.

Never, certainly, had I beheld so powerful an exhibition ofnatural eloquence as Marnoo displayed during the course of hisoration. The grace of the attitudes into which he threw hisflexible figure, the striking gestures of his naked arms, andabove all, the fire which shot from his brilliant eyes, impartedan effect to the continually changing accents of his voice, ofwhich the most accomplished orator might have been proud. At onemoment reclining sideways upon the mat, and leaning calmly uponhis bended arm, he related circumstantially the aggressions ofthe French--their hostile visits to the surrounding bays,enumerating each one in succession--Happar, Puerka, Nukuheva,Tior,--and then starting to his feet and precipitating himselfforward with clenched hands and a countenance distorted withpassion, he poured out a tide of invectives. Falling back intoan attitude of lofty command, he exhorted the Typees to resistthese encroachments; reminding them, with a fierce glance ofexultation, that as yet the terror of their name had preservedthem from attack, and with a scornful sneer he sketched inironical terms the wondrous intrepidity of the French, who, withfive war-canoes and hundreds of men, had not dared to assail thenaked warriors of their valley.

The effect he produced upon his audience was electric; one andall they stood regarding him with sparkling eyes and tremblinglimbs, as though they were listening to the inspired voice of aprophet.

But it soon appeared that Marnoo's powers were as versatile asthey were extraordinary. As soon as he had finished his vehementharangue, he threw himself again upon the mats, and, singling outindividuals in the crowd, addressed them by name, in a sort ofbantering style, the humour of which, though nearly hidden fromme filled the whole assembly with uproarious delight.

He had a word for everybody; and, turning rapidly from one toanother, gave utterance to some hasty witticism, which was sureto be followed by peals of laughter. To the females as well asto the men, he addressed his discourse. Heaven only knows whathe said to them, but he caused smiles and blushes to mantle theiringenuous faces. I am, indeed, very much inclined to believethat Marnoo, with his handsome person and captivating manners,was a sad deceiver among the simple maidens of the island.

During all this time he had never, for one moment, deigned toregard me. He appeared, indeed, to be altogether unconscious ofmy presence. I was utterly at a loss how to account for thisextraordinary conduct. I easily perceived that he was a man ofno little consequence among the islanders; that he possesseduncommon talents; and was gifted with a higher degree ofknowledge than the inmates of the valley. For these reasons, Itherefore greatly feared lest having, from some cause or other,unfriendly feelings towards me, he might exert his powerfulinfluence to do me mischief.

It seemed evident that he was not a permanent resident of thevale, and yet, whence could he have come? On all sides theTypees were girt in by hostile tribes, and how could he possibly,if belonging to any of these, be received with so muchcordiality?

The person appearance of the enigmatical stranger suggestedadditional perplexities. The face, free from tattooing, and theunshaven crown, were peculiarities I had never before remarked inany part of the island, end I had always heard that the contrarywere considered the indispensable distinction of a Marquesanwarrior. Altogether the matter was perfectly incomprehensible tome, and I awaited its solution with no small degree of anxiety.

At length, from certain indications, I suspected that he wasmaking me the subject of his remarks, although he appearedcautiously to avoid either pronouncing my name, or looking in thedirection where I lay. All at once he rose from the mats wherehe had been reclining, and, still conversing, moved towards me,his eye purposely evading mine, and seated himself within lessthan a yard of me. I had hardly recovered from my surprise, whenhe suddenly turned round, and, with a most benignant countenanceextended his right hand gracefully towards me. Of course Iaccepted the courteous challenge, and, as soon as our palms met,he bent towards me, and murmured in musical accents--'How youdo?' 'How long you been in this bay?' 'You like this bay?'

Had I been pierced simultaneously by three Happar spears, I couldnot have started more than I did at hearing these simplequestions. For a moment I was overwhelmed with astonishment, andthen answered something I know not what; but as soon as Iregained my self-possession, the thought darted through my mindthat from this individual I might obtain that informationregarding Toby which I suspected the natives had purposelywithheld from me. Accordingly I questioned him concerning thedisappearance of my companion, but he denied all knowledge of thematter. I then inquired from whence he had come? He replied,from Nukuheva. When I expressed my surprise, he looked at me fora moment, as if enjoying my perplexity, and then with his strangevivacity, exclaimed,--'Ah! me taboo,--me go Nukuheva,--me goTior,--me go Typee,--me go everywhere,--nobody harm me,--metaboo.'

This explanation would have been altogether unintelligible to me,had it not recalled to my mind something I had previously heardconcerning a singular custom among these islanders. Though thecountry is possessed by various tribes, whose mutual hostilitiesalmost wholly prelude any intercourse between them; yet there areinstances where a person having ratified friendly relations withsome individual belonging longing to the valley, whose inmatesare at war with his own, may, under particular restrictions,venture with impunity into the country of his friend, where,under other circumstances, he would have been treated as anenemy. In this light are personal friendships regarded amongthem, and the individual so protected is said to be 'taboo', andhis person, to a certain extent, is held as sacred. Thus thestranger informed me he had access to all the valleys in theisland.

Curious to know how he had acquired his knowledge of English, Iquestioned him on the subject. At first, for some reason orother, he evaded the inquiry, but afterwards told me that, when aboy, he had been carried to sea by the captain of a tradingvessel, with whom he had stayed three years, living part of thetime with him at Sidney in Australia, and that at a subsequentvisit to the island, the captain had, at his own request,permitted him to remain among his countrymen. The naturalquickness of the savage had been wonderfully improved by hisintercourse with the white men, and his partial knowledge of aforeign language gave him a great ascendancy over his lessaccomplished countrymen.

When I asked the now affable Marnoo why it was that he had notpreviously spoken to me, he eagerly inquired what I had been ledto think of him from his conduct in that respect. I replied,that I had supposed him to be some great chief or warrior, whohad seen plenty of white men before, and did not think it worthwhile to notice a poor sailor. At this declaration of theexalted opinion I had formed of him, he appeared vastlygratified, and gave me to understand that he had purposelybehaved in that manner, in order to increase my astonishment, assoon as he should see proper to address me.

Marnoo now sought to learn my version of the story as to how Icame to be an inmate of the Typee valley. When I related to himthe circumstances under which Toby and I had entered it, helistened with evident interest; but as soon as I alluded to theabsence, yet unaccounted for, of my comrade, he endeavoured tochange the subject, as if it were something he desired not toagitate. It seemed, indeed, as if everything connected with Tobywas destined to beget distrust and anxiety in my bosom. Notwithstanding Marnoo's denial of any knowledge of his fate, Icould not avoid suspecting that he was deceiving me; and thissuspicion revived those frightful apprehensions with regard to myown fate, which, for a short time past, had subsided in mybreast.

Influenced by these feelings, I now felt a strong desire to availmyself of the stranger's protection, and under his safeguard toreturn to Nukuheva. But as soon as I hinted at this, heunhesitatingly pronounced it to be entirely impracticable;assuring me that the Typees would never consent to my leaving thevalley. Although what he said merely confirmed the impressionwhich I had before entertained, still it increased my anxiety toescape from a captivity which, however endurable, nay, delightfulit might be in some respects, involved in its issues a fatemarked by the most frightful contingencies.

I could not conceal from my mind that Toby had been treated inthe same friendly manner as I had been, and yet all theirkindness terminated with his mysterious disappearance. Might notthe same fate await me?--a fate too dreadful to think of. Stimulated by these considerations, I urged anew my request toMarnoo; but he only set forth in stronger colours theimpossibility of my escape, and repeated his previous declarationthat the Typees would never be brought to consent to mydeparture.

When I endeavoured to learn from him the motives which promptedthem to hold me a prisoner, Marnoo again presumed that mysterioustone which had tormented me with apprehension when I hadquestioned him with regard to the fate of my companion.

Thus repulsed, in a manner which only served, by arousing themost dreadful forebodings, to excite me to renewed attempts, Iconjured him to intercede for me with the natives, and endeavourto procure their consent to my leaving them. To this he appearedstrongly averse; but, yielding at last to my importunities, headdressed several of the chiefs, who with the rest had beeneyeing us intently during the whole of our conversation. Hispetition, however, was at once met with the most violentdisapprobation, manifesting itself in angry glances and gestures,and a perfect torrent of passionate words, directed to both himand myself. Marnoo, evidently repenting the step he had taken,earnestly deprecated the resentment of the crowd, and, in a fewmoments succeeded in pacifying to some extent the clamours whichhad broken out as soon as his proposition had been understood.

With the most intense interest had I watched the reception hisintercession might receive; and a bitter pang shot through myheart at the additional evidence, now furnished, of theunchangeable determination of the islanders. Marnoo told me withevident alarm in his countenance, that although admitted into thebay on a friendly footing with its inhabitants, he could notpresume to meddle with their concerns, as such procedure, ifpersisted in, would at once absolve the Typees from therestraints of the 'taboo', although so long as he refrained fromsuch conduct, it screened him effectually from the consequencesof the enmity they bore his tribe. At this moment, Mehevi, whowas present, angrily interrupted him; and the words which heuttered in a commanding tone, evidently meant that he must atonce cease talking to me and withdraw to the other part of thehouse. Marnoo immediately started up, hurriedly enjoining me notto address him again, and as I valued my safety, to refrain fromall further allusion to the subject of my departure; and then, incompliance with the order of the determined chief, but not beforeit had again been angrily repeated, he withdrew to a distance.

I now perceived, with no small degree of apprehension, the samesavage expression in the countenances of the natives, which hadstartled me during the scene at the Ti. They glanced their eyessuspiciously from Marnoo to me, as if distrusting the nature ofan intercourse carried on, as it was, in a language they couldnot understand, and they seemed to harbour the belief thatalready we had concerted measures calculated to elude theirvigilance.

The lively countenances of these people are wonderfullyindicative of the emotions of the soul, and the imperfections oftheir oral language are more than compensated for by the nervouseloquence of their looks and gestures. I could plainly trace, inevery varying expression of their faces, all those passions whichhad been thus unexpectedly aroused in their bosoms.

It required no reflection to convince me, from what was going on,that the injunction of Marnoo was not to be rashly lighted ,andaccordingly, great as was the effort to suppress my feelings, Iaccosted Mehevi in a good-humoured tone, with a view ofdissipating any ill impression he might have received. But theireful, angry chief was not so easily mollified. He rejected myadvances with that peculiarly stern expression I have beforedescribed, and took care by the whole of his behaviour towards meto show the displeasure and resentment which he felt.

Marnoo, at the other extremity of the house, apparently desirousof making a diversion in my favour, exerted himself to amuse withhis pleasantries the crowd about him; but his lively attemptswere not so successful as they had previously been, and, foiledin his efforts, he rose gravely to depart. No one expressed anyregret at this movement, so seizing his roll of tappa, andgrasping his spear, he advanced to the front of the pi-pi, andwaving his hand in adieu to the now silent throng, cast upon me aglance of mingled pity and reproach, and flung himself into thepath which led from the house. I watched his receding figureuntil it was lost in the obscurity of the grove, and then gavemyself up to the most desponding reflections.

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