by Herman Melville

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Chapter Five



HAVING fully resolved to leave the vessel clandestinely, andhaving acquired all the knowledge concerning the bay that I couldobtain under the circumstances in which I was placed, I nowdeliberately turned over in my mind every plan to escape thatsuggested itself, being determined to act with all possibleprudence in an attempt where failure would be attended with somany disagreeable consequences. The idea of being taken andbrought back ignominiously to the ship was so inexpressiblyrepulsive to me, that I was determined by no hasty and imprudentmeasures to render such an event probable.

I knew that our worthy captain, who felt, such a paternalsolicitude for the welfare of his crew, would not willinglyconsent that one of his best hands should encounter the perils ofa sojourn among the natives of a barbarous island; and I wascertain that in the event of my disappearance, his fatherlyanxiety would prompt him to offer, by way of a reward, yard uponyard of gaily printed calico for my apprehension. He might evenhave appreciated my services at the value of a musket, in whichcase I felt perfectly certain that the whole population of thebay would be immediately upon my track, incited by the prospectof so magnificent a bounty.

Having ascertained the fact before alluded to, that theislanders,--from motives of precaution, dwelt altogether in thedepths of the valleys, and avoided wandering about the moreelevated portions of the shore, unless bound on some expeditionof war or plunder, I concluded that if I could effect unperceiveda passage to the mountain, I might easily remain among them,supporting myself by such fruits as came in my way until thesailing of the ship, an event of which I could not fail to beimmediately apprised, as from my lofty position I should commanda view of the entire harbour.

The idea pleased me greatly. It seemed to combine a great dealof practicability with no inconsiderable enjoyment in a quietway; for how delightful it would be to look down upon thedetested old vessel from the height of some thousand feet, andcontrast the verdant scenery about me with the recollection ofher narrow decks and gloomy forecastle! Why, it was reallyrefreshing even to think of it; and so I straightway fell topicturing myself seated beneath a cocoanut tree on the brow ofthe mountain, with a cluster of plantains within easy reach,criticizing her nautical evolutions as she was working her wayout of the harbour.

To be sure there was one rather unpleasant drawback to theseagreeable anticipations--the possibility of falling in with aforaging party of these same bloody-minded Typees, whoseappetites, edged perhaps by the air of so elevated a region,might prompt them to devour one. This, I must confess, was amost disagreeable view of the matter.

Just to think of a party of these unnatural gourmands taking itinto their heads to make a convivial meal of a poor devil, whowould have no means of escape or defence: however, there was nohelp for it. I was willing to encounter some risks in order toaccomplish my object, and counted much upon my ability to eludethese prowling cannibals amongst the many coverts which themountains afforded. Besides, the chances were ten to one in myfavour that they would none of them quit their own fastnesses.

I had determined not to communicate my design of withdrawing fromthe vessel to any of my shipmates, and least of all to solicitany one to accompany me in my flight. But it so happened onenight, that being upon deck, revolving over in my mind variousplans of escape, I perceived one of the ship's company leaningover the bulwarks, apparently plunged in a profound reverie. Hewas a young fellow about my own age, for whom I had all alongentertained a great regard; and Toby, such was the name by whichhe went among us, for his real name he would never tell us, wasevery way worthy of it. He was active, ready and obliging, ofdauntless courage, and singularly open and fearless in theexpression of his feelings. I had on more than one occasion gothim out of scrapes into which this had led him; and I know notwhether it was from this cause, or a certain congeniality ofsentiment between us, that he had always shown a partiality formy society. We had battled out many a long watch together,beguiling the weary hours with chat, song, and story, mingledwith a good many imprecations upon the hard destiny it seemed ourcommon fortune to encounter.

Toby, like myself, had evidently moved in a different sphere oflife, and his conversation at times betrayed this, although hewas anxious to conceal it. He was one of that class of roversyou sometimes meet at sea, who never reveal their origin, neverallude to home, and go rambling over the world as if pursued bysome mysterious fate they cannot possibly elude.

There was much even in the appearance of Toby calculated to drawme towards him, for while the greater part of the crew were ascoarse in person as in mind, Toby was endowed with a remarkablyprepossessing exterior. Arrayed in his blue frock and ducktrousers, he was as smart a looking sailor as ever stepped upon adeck; he was singularly small and slightly made, with greatflexibility of limb. His naturally dark complexion had beendeepened by exposure to the tropical sun, and a mass of jettylocks clustered about his temples, and threw a darker shade intohis large black eyes. He was a strange wayward being, moody,fitful, and melancholy--at times almost morose. He had a quickand fiery temper too, which, when thoroughly roused, transportedhim into a state bordering on delirium.

It is strange the power that a mind of deep passion has overfeebler natures. I have seen a brawny, fellow, with no lack ofordinary courage, fairly quail before this slender stripling,when in one of his curious fits. But these paroxysms seldomoccurred, and in them my big-hearted shipmate vented the bilewhich more calm-tempered individuals get rid of by a continualpettishness at trivial annoyances.

No one ever saw Toby laugh. I mean in the hearty abandonment ofbroad-mouthed mirth. He did smile sometimes, it is true; andthere was a good deal of dry, sarcastic humour about him, whichtold the more from the imperturbable gravity of his tone andmanner.

Latterly I had observed that Toby's melancholy had greatlyincreased, and I had frequently seen him since our arrival at theisland gazing wistfully upon the shore, when the remainder of thecrew would be rioting below. I was aware that he entertained acordial detestation of the ship, and believed that, should a fairchance of escape present itself, he would embrace it willingly.

But the attempt was so perilous in the place where we then lay,that I supposed myself the only individual on board the ship whowas sufficiently reckless to think of it. In this, however, Iwas mistaken.

When I perceived Toby leaning, as I have mentioned, against thebulwarks and buried in thought, it struck me at once that thesubject of his meditations might be the same as my own. And ifit be so, thought I, is he not the very one of all my shipmateswhom I would choose: for the partner of my adventure? and whyshould I not have some comrade with me to divide its dangers andalleviate its hardships? Perhaps I might be obliged to lieconcealed among the mountains for weeks. In such an event what asolace would a companion be?

These thoughts passed rapidly through my mind, and I wondered whyI had not before considered the matter in this light. But it wasnot too late. A tap upon the shoulder served to rouse Toby fromhis reverie; I found him ripe for the enterprise, and a very fewwords sufficed for a mutual understanding between us. In anhour's time we had arranged all the preliminaries, and decidedupon our plan of action. We then ratified our engagement with anaffectionate wedding of palms, and to elude suspicion repairedeach to his hammock, to spend the last night on board the Dolly.

The next day the starboard watch, to which we both belonged, wasto be sent ashore on liberty; and, availing ourselves of thisopportunity, we determined, as soon after landing as possible, toseparate ourselves from the rest of the men without excitingtheir suspicions, and strike back at once for the mountains. Seen from the ship, their summits appeared inaccessible, but hereand there sloping spurs extended from them almost into the sea,buttressing the lofty elevations with which they were connected,and forming those radiating valleys I have before described. Oneof these ridges, which appeared more practicable than the rest,we determined to climb, convinced that it would conduct us to theheights beyond. Accordingly, we carefully observed its bearingsand locality from the ship, so that when ashore we should run nochance of missing it.

In all this the leading object we had in view was to secludeourselves from sight until the departure of the vessel; then totake our chance as to the reception the Nukuheva natives mightgive us; and after remaining upon the island as long as we foundour stay agreeable, to leave it the first favourable opportunitythat offered.

Return to the Typee Summary Return to the Herman Melville Library

Anton Chekhov
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Susan Glaspell
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson