by Herman Melville

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Chapter Eleven



VARIOUS and conflicting were the thoughts which oppressed meduring the silent hours that followed the events related in thepreceding chapter. Toby, wearied with the fatigues of the day,slumbered heavily by my side; but the pain under which I wassuffering effectually prevented my sleeping, and I remaineddistressingly alive to all the fearful circumstances of ourpresent situation. Was it possible that, after all ourvicissitudes, we were really in the terrible valley of Typee, andat the mercy of its inmates, a fierce and unrelenting tribe ofsavages? Typee or Happar? I shuddered when I reflected thatthere was no longer any room for doubt; and that, beyond all hopeof escape, we were now placed in those very circumstances fromthe bare thought of which I had recoiled with such abhorrence buta few days before. What might not be our fearful destiny? To besure, as yet we had been treated with no violence; nay, had beeneven kindly and hospitably entertained. But what dependencecould be placed upon the fickle passions which sway the bosom ofa savage? His inconstancy and treachery are proverbial. Mightit not be that beneath these fair appearances the islanderscovered some perfidious design, and that their friendly receptionof us might only precede some horrible catastrophe? How stronglydid these forebodings spring up in my mind as I lay restlesslyupon a couch of mats surrounded by the dimly revealed forms ofthose whom I so greatly dreaded!

From the excitement of these fearful thoughts I sank towardsmorning into an uneasy slumber; and on awaking, with a start, inthe midst of an appalling dream, looked up into the eagercountenance of a number of the natives, who were bending over me.

It was broad day; and the house was nearly filled with youngfemales, fancifully decorated with flowers, who gazed upon me asI rose with faces in which childish delight and curiosity werevividly portrayed. After waking Toby, they seated themselvesround us on the mats, and gave full play to that pryinginquisitiveness which time out of mind has been attributed to theadorable sex.

As these unsophisticated young creatures were attended by nojealous duennas, their proceedings were altogether informal, andvoid of artificial restraint. Long and minute was theinvestigation with which they honoured us, and so uproarioustheir mirth, that I felt infinitely sheepish; and Toby wasimmeasurably outraged at their familiarity.

These lively young ladies were at the same time wonderfullypolite and humane; fanning aside the insects that occasionallylighted on our brows; presenting us with food; andcompassionately regarding me in the midst of my afflictions. Butin spite of all their blandishments, my feelings of proprietywere exceedingly shocked, for I could but consider them as havingoverstepped the due limits of female decorum.

Having diverted themselves to their hearts' content, our youngvisitants now withdrew, and gave place to successive troops ofthe other sex, who continued flocking towards the house untilnear noon; by which time I have no doubt that the greater part ofthe inhabitants of the valley had bathed themselves in the lightof our benignant countenances.

At last, when their numbers began to diminish, a superb-lookingwarrior stooped the towering plumes of his head-dress beneaththe low portal, and entered the house. I saw at once that he wassome distinguished personage, the natives regarding him with theutmost deference, and making room for him as he approached. Hisaspect was imposing. The splendid long drooping tail-feathers ofthe tropical bird, thickly interspersed with the gaudy plumage ofthe cock, were disposed in an immense upright semicircle upon hishead, their lower extremities being fixed in a crescent ofguinea-heads which spanned the forehead. Around his neck wereseveral enormous necklaces of boar's tusks, polished like ivory,and disposed in such a manner as that the longest and largestwere upon his capacious chest. Thrust forward through the largeapertures in his ears were two small and finely-shaped spermwhale teeth, presenting their cavities in front, stuffed withfreshly-plucked leaves, and curiously wrought at the other endinto strange little images and devices. These barbaric trinkets,garnished in this manner at their open extremities, and taperingand curving round to a point behind the ear, resembled not alittle a pair of cornucopias.

The loins of the warrior were girt about with heavy folds of adark-coloured tappa, hanging before and behind in clusters ofbraided tassels, while anklets and bracelets of curling humanhair completed his unique costume. In his right hand he graspeda beautifully carved paddle-spear, nearly fifteen feet in length,made of the bright koar-wood, one end sharply pointed, and theother flattened like an oar-blade. Hanging obliquely from hisgirdle by a loop of sinnate was a richly decorated pipe; theslender reed forming its stem was coloured with a red pigment,and round it, as well as the idol-bowl, fluttered littlestreamers of the thinnest tappa.

But that which was most remarkable in the appearance of thissplendid islander was the elaborate tattooing displayed on everynoble limb. All imaginable lines and curves and figures weredelineated over his whole body, and in their grotesque varietyand infinite profusion I could only compare them to the crowdedgroupings of quaint patterns we sometimes see in costly pieces oflacework. The most simple and remarkable of all these ornamentswas that which decorated the countenance of the chief. Two broadstripes of tattooing, diverging from the centre of his shavencrown, obliquely crossed both eyes--staining the lids--to alittle below each ear, where they united with another stripewhich swept in a straight line along the lips and formed the baseof the triangle. The warrior, from the excellence of hisphysical proportions, might certainly have been regarded as oneof Nature's noblemen, and the lines drawn upon his face maypossibly have denoted his exalted rank.

This warlike personage, upon entering the house, seated himselfat some distance from the spot where Toby and myself reposed,while the rest of the savages looked alternately from us to him,as if in expectation of something they were disappointed in notperceiving. Regarding the chief attentively, I thought hislineaments appeared familiar to me. As soon as his full face wasturned upon me, and I again beheld its extraordinaryembellishment, and met the strange gaze to which I had beensubjected the preceding night, I immediately, in spite of thealteration in his appearance, recognized the noble Mehevi. Onaddressing him, he advanced at once in the most cordial manner,and greeting me warmly, seemed to enjoy not a little the effecthis barbaric costume had produced upon me.

I forthwith determined to secure, if possible, the good-will ofthis individual, as I easily perceived he was a man of greatauthority in his tribe, and one who might exert a powerfulinfluence upon our subsequent fate. In the endeavour I was notrepulsed; for nothing could surpass the friendliness hemanifested towards both my companion and myself. He extended hissturdy limbs by our side, and endeavoured to make us comprehendthe full extent of the kindly feelings by which he was actuated. The almost insuperable difficulty in communicating to one anotherour ideas affected the chief with no little mortification. Heevinced a great desire to be enlightened with regard to thecustoms and peculiarities of the far-off country we had leftbehind us, and to which under the name of Maneeka he frequentlyalluded.

But that which more than any other subject engaged his attentionwas the late proceedings of the 'Frannee' as he called theFrench, in the neighbouring bay of Nukuheva. This seemed anever-ending theme with him, and one concerning which he wasnever weary of interrogating us. All the information wesucceeded in imparting to him on this subject was little morethan that we had seen six men-of-war lying in the hostile bay atthe time we had left it. When he received this intelligence,Mehevi, by the aid of his fingers, went through a long numericalcalculation, as if estimating the number of Frenchmen thesquadron might contain.

It was just after employing his faculties in this way that hehappened to notice the swelling in my limb. He immediatelyexamined it with the utmost attention, and after doing so,despatched a boy who happened to be standing by with somemessage.

After the lapse of a few moments the stripling re-entered thehouse with an aged islander, who might have been taken for oldHippocrates himself. His head was as bald as the polishedsurface of a cocoanut shell, which article it precisely resembledin smoothness and colour, while a long silvery beard swept almostto his girdle of bark. Encircling his temples was a bandeau ofthe twisted leaves of the Omoo tree, pressed closely over thebrows to shield his feeble vision from the glare of the sun. Histottering steps were supported by a long slim staff, resemblingthe wand with which a theatrical magician appears on the stage,and in one hand he carried a freshly plaited fan of the greenleaflets of the cocoanut tree. A flowing robe of tappa, knottedover the shoulder, hung loosely round his stooping form, andheightened the venerableness of his aspect.

Mehevi, saluting this old gentleman, motioned him to a seatbetween us, and then uncovering my limb, desired him to examineit. The leech gazed intently from me to Toby, and then proceededto business. After diligently observing the ailing member, hecommenced manipulating it; and on the supposition probably thatthe complaint had deprived the leg of all sensation, began topinch and hammer it in such a manner that I absolutely roaredwith pain. Thinking that I was as capable of making anapplication of thumps and pinches to the part as any one else, Iendeavoured to resist this species of medical treatment. But itwas not so easy a matter to get out of the clutches of the oldwizard; he fastened on the unfortunate limb as if it weresomething for which he had been long seeking, and muttering somekind of incantation continued his discipline, pounding it after afashion that set me well nigh crazy; while Mehevi, upon the sameprinciple which prompts an affectionate mother to hold astruggling child in a dentist's chair, restrained me in hispowerful grasp, and actually encouraged the wretch in thisinfliction of torture.

Almost frantic with rage and pain, I yelled like a bedlamite;while Toby, throwing himself into all the attitudes of aposture-master, vainly endeavoured to expostulate with thenatives by signs and gestures. To have looked at my companion,as, sympathizing with my sufferings, he strove to put an end tothem, one would have thought that he was the deaf and dumbalphabet incarnated. Whether my tormentor yielded to Toby'sentreaties, or paused from sheer exhaustion, I do not know; butall at once he ceased his operations, and at the same time thechief relinquishing his hold upon me, I fell back, faint andbreathless with the agony I had endured.

My unfortunate limb was now left much in the same condition as arump-steak after undergoing the castigating process whichprecedes cooking. My physician, having recovered from thefatigues of his exertions, as if anxious to make amends for thepain to which he had subjected me, now took some herbs out of alittle wallet that was suspended from his waist, and moisteningthem in water, applied them to the inflamed part, stooping overit at the same time, and either whispering a spell, or having alittle confidential chat with some imaginary demon located in thecalf of my leg. My limb was now swathed in leafy bandages, andgrateful to Providence for the cessation of hostilities, I wassuffered to rest.

Mehevi shortly after rose to depart; but before he went he spokeauthoritatively to one of the natives whom he addressed asKory-Kory; and from the little I could understand of what tookplace, pointed him out to me as a man whose peculiar businessthenceforth would be to attend upon my person. I am not certainthat I comprehended as much as this at the time, but thesubsequent conduct of my trusty body-servant fully assured methat such must have been the case.

I could not but be amused at the manner in which the chiefaddressed me upon this occasion, talking to me for at leastfifteen or twenty minutes as calmly as if I could understandevery word that he said. I remarked this peculiarity very oftenafterwards in many other of the islanders.

Mehevi having now departed, and the family physician havinglikewise made his exit, we were left about sunset with ten ortwelve natives, who by this time I had ascertained composed thehousehold of which Toby and I were members. As the dwelling towhich we had been first introduced was the place of my permanentabode while I remained in the valley, and as I was necessarilyplaced upon the most intimate footing with its occupants, I mayas well here enter into a little description of it and itsinhabitants. This description will apply also to nearly all theother dwelling-places in the vale, and will furnish some idea ofthe generality of the natives.

Near one side of the valley, and about midway up the ascent of arather abrupt rise of ground waving with the richest verdure, anumber of large stones were laid in successive courses, to theheight of nearly eight feet, and disposed in such a manner thattheir level surface corresponded in shape with the habitationwhich was perched upon it. A narrow space, however, was reservedin front of the dwelling, upon the summit of this pile of stones(called by the natives a 'pi-pi'), which being enclosed by alittle picket of canes, gave it somewhat the appearance of averandah. The frame of the house was constructed of largebamboos planted uprightly, and secured together at intervals bytransverse stalks of the light wood of the habiscus, lashed withthongs of bark. The rear of the tenement--built up withsuccessive ranges of cocoanut boughs bound one upon another, withtheir leaflets cunningly woven together--inclined a little fromthe vertical, and extended from the extreme edge of the 'pi-pi'to about twenty feet from its surface; whence the shelvingroof--thatched with the long tapering leaves of thepalmetto--sloped steeply off to within about five feet of thefloor; leaving the eaves drooping with tassel-like appendagesover the front of the habitation. This was constructed of lightand elegant canes in a kind of open screenwork, tastefullyadorned with bindings of variegated sinnate, which served to holdtogether its various parts. The sides of the house weresimilarly built; thus presenting three quarters for thecirculation of the air, while the whole was impervious to therain.

In length this picturesque building was perhaps twelve yards,while in breadth it could not have exceeded as many feet. Somuch for the exterior; which, with its wire-like reed-twistedsides, not a little reminded me of an immense aviary.

Stooping a little, you passed. through a narrow aperture in itsfront; and facing you, on entering, lay two long, perfectlystraight, and well-polished trunks of the cocoanut tree,extending the full length of the dwelling; one of them placedclosely against the rear, and the other lying parallel with itsome two yards distant, the interval between them being spreadwith a multitude of gaily-worked mats, nearly all of a differentpattern. This space formed the common couch and lounging placeof the natives, answering the purpose of a divan in Orientalcountries. Here would they slumber through the hours of thenight, and recline luxuriously during the greater part of theday. The remainder of the floor presented only the cool shiningsurfaces of the large stones of which the 'pi-pi' was composed.

From the ridge-pole of the house hung suspended a number of largepackages enveloped in coarse tappa; some of which containedfestival dresses, and various other matters of the wardrobe, heldin high estimation. These were easily accessible by means of aline, which, passing over the ridge-pole, had one end attached toa bundle, while with the other, which led to the side of thedwelling and was there secured, the package could be lowered orelevated at pleasure.

Against the farther wall of the house were arranged in tastefulfigures a variety of spears and javelins, and other implements ofsavage warfare. Outside of the habitation, and built upon thepiazza-like area in its front, was a little shed used as a sortof larder or pantry, and in which were stored various articles ofdomestic use and convenience. A few yards from the pi-pi was alarge shed built of cocoanut boughs, where the process ofpreparing the 'poee-poee' was carried on, and all culinaryoperations attended to.

Thus much for the house, and its appurtenances; and it will bereadily acknowledged that a more commodious and appropriatedwelling for the climate and the people could not possibly bedevised. It was cool, free to admit the air, scrupulously clean,and elevated above the dampness and impurities of the ground.

But now to sketch the inmates; and here I claim for my triedservitor and faithful valet Kory-Kory the precedence of a firstdescription. As his character will be gradually unfolded in thecourse of my narrative, I shall for the present content myselfwith delineating his personal appearance. Kory-Kory, though themost devoted and best natured serving-man in the world, was,alas! a hideous object to look upon. He was some twenty-fiveyears of age, and about six feet in height, robust and well made,and of the most extraordinary aspect. His head was carefullyshaven with the exception of two circular spots, about the sizeof a dollar, near the,top of the cranium, where the hair,permitted to grow of an amazing length, was twisted up in twoprominent knots, that gave him the appearance of being decoratedwith a pair of horns. His beard, plucked out by the root fromevery other part of his face, was suffered to droop in hairypendants, two of which garnished his under lip, and an equalnumber hung from the extremity of his chin.

Kory-Kory, with a view of improving the handiwork of nature, andperhaps prompted by a desire to add to the engaging expression ofhis countenance, had seen fit to embellish his face with threebroad longitudinal stripes of tattooing, which, like thosecountry roads that go straight forward in defiance of allobstacles, crossed his nasal organ, descended into the hollow ofhis eyes, and even skirted the borders of his mouth. Eachcompletely spanned his physiognomy; one extending in a line withhis eyes, another crossing the face in the vicinity of the nose,and the third sweeping along his lips from ear to ear. Hiscountenance thus triply hooped, as it were, with tattooing,always reminded me of those unhappy wretches whom I havesometimes observed gazing out sentimentally from behind thegrated bars of a prison window; whilst the entire body of mysavage valet, covered all over with representations of birds andfishes, and a variety of most unaccountable-looking creatures,suggested to me the idea of a pictorial museum of naturalhistory, or an illustrated copy of 'Goldsmith's Animated Nature.'

But it seems really heartless in me to write thus of the poorislander, when I owe perhaps to his unremitting attentions thevery existence I now enjoy. Kory-Kory, I mean thee no harm inwhat I say in regard to thy outward adornings; but they were alittle curious to my unaccustomed sight, and therefore I dilateupon them. But to underrate or forget thy faithful services issomething I could never be guilty of, even in the giddiest momentof my life.

The father of my attached follower was a native of giganticframe, and had once possessed prodigious physical powers; but thelofty form was now yielding to the inroads of time, though thehand of disease seemed never to have been laid upon the agedwarrior. Marheyo--for such was his name--appeared to haveretired from all active participation in the affairs of thevalley, seldom or never accompanying the natives in their variousexpeditions; and employing the greater part of his time inthrowing up a little shed just outside the house, upon which hewas engaged to my certain knowledge for four months, withoutappearing to make any sensible advance. I suppose the oldgentleman was in his dotage, for he manifested in various waysthe characteristics which mark this particular stage of life.

I remember in particular his having a choice pair ofear-ornaments, fabricated from the teeth of some sea-monster. These he would alternately wear and take off at least fifty timesin the course of the day, going and coming from his little hut oneach occasion with all the tranquillity imaginable. Sometimesslipping them through the slits in his ears, he would seize hisspear--which in length and slightness resembled afishing-pole--and go stalking beneath the shadows of theneighbouring groves, as if about to give a hostile meeting tosome cannibal knight. But he would soon return again, and hidinghis weapon under the projecting eaves of the house, and rollinghis clumsy trinkets carefully in a piece of tappa, would resumehis more pacific operations as quietly as if he had neverinterrupted them.

But despite his eccentricities, Marheyo was a most paternal andwarm-hearted old fellow, and in this particular not a littleresembled his son Kory-Kory. The mother of the latter was themistress of the family, and a notable housewife, and a mostindustrious old lady she was. If she did not understand the artof making jellies, jams, custard, tea-cakes, and such like trashyaffairs, she was profoundly skilled in the mysteries of preparing'amar', 'poee-poee', and 'kokoo', with other substantial matters.

She was a genuine busy-body; bustling about the house like acountry landlady at an unexpected arrival; for ever giving theyoung girls tasks to perform, which the little hussies as oftenneglected; poking into every corner, and rummaging over bundlesof old tappa, or making a prodigious clatter among thecalabashes. Sometimes she might have been seen squatting uponher haunches in front of a huge wooden basin, and kneadingpoee-poee with terrific vehemence, dashing the stone pestle aboutas if she would shiver the vessel into fragments; on otheroccasions, galloping about the valley in search of a particularkind of leaf, used in some of her recondite operations, andreturning home, toiling and sweating, with a bundle of it, underwhich most women would have sunk.

To tell the truth, Kory-Kory's mother was the only industriousperson in all the valley of Typee; and she could not haveemployed herself more actively had she been left an exceedinglymuscular and destitute widow, with an inordinate ate supply ofyoung children, in the bleakest part of the civilized world. There was not the slightest necessity for the greater portion ofthe labour performed by the old lady: but she seemed to work fromsome irresistible impulse; her limbs continually swaying to andfro, as if there were some indefatigable engine concealed withinher body which kept her in perpetual motion.

Never suppose that she was a termagant or a shrew for all this;she had the kindliest heart in the world, and acted towards me inparticular in a truly maternal manner, occasionally putting somelittle morsel of choice food,into my hand, some outlandish kindof savage sweetmeat or pastry, like a doting mother petting asickly urchin with tarts and sugar plums. Warm indeed are myremembrances of the dear, good, affectionate old Tinor!

Besides the individuals I have mentioned, there belonged to thehousehold three young men, dissipated, good-for-nothing,roystering blades of savages, who were either employed inprosecuting love affairs with the maidens of the tribe, or grewboozy on 'arva' and tobacco in the company of congenial spirits,the scapegraces of the valley.

Among the permanent inmates of the house were likewise severallovely damsels, who instead of thrumming pianos and readinghovels, like more enlightened young ladies, substituted for theseemployments the manufacture of a fine species of tappa; but forthe greater portion of the time were skipping from house tohouse, gadding and gossiping with their acquaintances.

From the rest of these, however, I must except the beauteousnymph Fayaway, who was my peculiar favourite. Her free pliantfigure was the very perfection of female grace and beauty. Hercomplexion was a rich and mantling olive, and when watching theglow upon her cheeks I could almost swear that beneath thetransparent medium there lurked the blushes of a faint vermilion.

The face of this girl was a rounded oval, and each feature asperfectly formed as the heart or imagination of man could desire.

Her full lips, when parted with a smile, disclosed teeth ofdazzling whiteness and when her rosy mouth opened with a burst ofmerriment, they looked like the milk-white seeds of the 'arta,' afruit of the valley, which, when cleft in twain, shows themreposing in rows on each side, imbedded in the red and juicypulp. Her hair of the deepest brown, parted irregularly in themiddle, flowed in natural ringlets over her shoulders, andwhenever she chanced to stoop, fell over and hid from view herlovely bosom. Gazing into the depths of her strange blue eyes,when she was in a contemplative mood, they seemed most placid yetunfathomable; but when illuminated by some lively emotion, theybeamed upon the beholder like stars. The hands of Fayaway wereas soft and delicate as those of any countess; for an entireexemption from rude labour marks the girlhood and even prime of aTypee woman's life. Her feet, though wholly exposed, were asdiminutive and fairly shaped as those which peep from beneath theskirts of a Lima lady's dress. The skin of this young creature,from continual ablutions and the use of mollifying ointments, wasinconceivably smooth and soft.

I may succeed, perhaps, in particularizing some of the individualfeatures of Fayaway's beauty, but that general loveliness ofappearance which they all contributed to produce I will notattempt to describe. The easy unstudied graces of a child ofnature like this, breathing from infancy an atmosphere ofperpetual summer, and nurtured by the simple fruits of the earth;enjoying a perfect freedom from care and anxiety, and removedeffectually from all injurious tendencies, strike the eye in amanner which cannot be pourtrayed. This picture is no fancysketch; it is drawn from the most vivid recollections of theperson delineated.

Were I asked if the beauteous form of Fayaway was altogether freefrom the hideous blemish of tattooing, I should be constrained toanswer that it was not. But the practitioners of the barbarousart, so remorseless in their inflictions upon the brawny limbs ofthe warriors of the tribe, seem to be conscious that it needs notthe resources of their profession to augment the charms of themaidens of the vale.

The females are very little embellished in this way, and Fayaway,and all the other young girls of her age, were even less so thanthose of their sex more advanced in years. The reason of thispeculiarity will be alluded to hereafter. All the tattooing thatthe nymph in question exhibited upon her person may be easilydescribed. Three minute dots, no bigger than pin-heads,decorated each lip, and at a little distance were not at alldiscernible. Just upon the fall of the shoulder were drawn twoparallel lines half an inch apart, and perhaps three inches inlength, the interval being filled with delicately executedfigures. These narrow bands of tattooing, thus placed, alwaysreminded me of those stripes of gold lace worn by officers inundress, and which are in lieu of epaulettes to denote theirrank.

Thus much was Fayaway tattooed. The audacious hand which hadgone so far in its desecrating work stopping short, apparentlywanting the heart to proceed.

But I have omitted to describe the dress worn by this nymph ofthe valley.

Fayaway--I must avow the fact--for the most part clung to theprimitive and summer garb of Eden. But how becoming the costume!

It showed her fine figure to the best possible advantage; andnothing could have been better adapted to her peculiar style ofbeauty. On ordinary occasions she was habited precisely as Ihave described the two youthful savages whom we had met on firstentering the valley. At other times, when rambling among thegroves, or visiting at the houses of her acquaintances, she worea tunic of white tappa, reaching from her waist to a little belowthe knees; and when exposed for any length of time to the sun,she invariably protected herself from its rays by a floatingmantle of--the same material, loosely gathered about the person. Her gala dress will be described hereafter.

As the beauties of our own land delight in bedecking themselveswith fanciful articles of jewellery, suspending them from theirears, hanging them about their necks, and clasping them aroundtheir wrists; so Fayaway and her companions were in the habit ofornamenting themselves with similar appendages.

Flora was their jeweller. Sometimes they wore necklaces of smallcarnation flowers, strung like rubies upon a fibre of tappa, ordisplayed in their ears a single white bud, the stem thrustbackward through the aperture, and showing in front the delicatepetals folded together in a beautiful sphere, and looking like adrop of the purest pearl. Chaplets too, resembling in theirarrangement the strawberry coronal worn by an English peeress,and composed of intertwined leaves and blossoms, often crownedtheir temples; and bracelets and anklets of the same tastefulpattern were frequently to be seen. Indeed, the maidens of theisland were passionately fond of flowers, and never wearied ofdecorating their persons with them; a lovely trait in theircharacter, and one that ere long will be more fully alluded to.

Though in my eyes, at least, Fayaway was indisputably theloveliest female I saw in Typee, yet the description I have givenof her will in some measure apply to nearly all the youthfulportion of her sex in the valley. Judge ye then, reader, whatbeautiful creatures they must have been.

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