by Herman Melville

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Chapter Fourteen



IN the course of a few days Toby had recovered from the effectsof his adventure with the Happar warriors; the wound on his headrapidly healing under the vegetable treatment of the good Tinor. Less fortunate than my companion however, I still continued tolanguish under a complaint, the origin and nature of which werestill a mystery. Cut off as I was from all intercourse with thecivilized world, and feeling the inefficacy of anything thenatives could do to relieve me; knowing, too, that so long as Iremained in my present condition, it would be impossible for meto leave the valley, whatever opportunity might present itself;and apprehensive that ere long we might be exposed to somecaprice on the part of the islanders, I now gave up all hopes ofrecovery, and became a prey to the most gloomy thoughts. A deepdejection fell upon me, which neither the friendly remonstrancesof my companion, the devoted attentions of Kory-Kory nor all thesoothing influences of Fayaway could remove.

One morning as I lay on the mats in the house, plunged inmelancholy reverie, and regardless of everything around me, Toby,who had left me about an hour, returned in haste, and with greatglee told me to cheer up and be of good heart; for he believed,from what was going on among the natives, that there were boatsapproaching the bay.

These tidings operated upon me like magic. The hour of ourdeliverance was at hand, and starting up, I was soon convincedthat something unusual was about to occur. The word 'botee!botee!' was vociferated in all directions; and shouts were heardin the distance, at first feebly and faintly; but growing louderand nearer at each successive repetition, until they were caughtup by a fellow in a cocoanut tree a few yards off, who soundingthem in turn, they were reiterated from a neighbouring grove, andso died away gradually from point to point, as the intelligencepenetrated into the farthest recess of the valley. This was thevocal telegraph of the islanders; by means of which condenseditems of information could be carried in a very few minutes fromthe sea to their remotest habitation, a distance of at leasteight or nine miles. On the present occasion it was in activeoperation; one piece of information following another withinconceivable rapidity.

The greatest commotion now appeared to prevail. At every freshitem of intelligence the natives betrayed the liveliest interest,and redoubled the energy with which they employed themselves incollecting fruit to sell to the expected visitors. Some weretearing off the husks from cocoanuts; some perched in the treeswere throwing down bread-fruit to their companions, who gatheredthem into heaps as they fell; while others were plying theirfingers rapidly in weaving leafen baskets in which to carry thefruit.

There were other matters too going on at the same time. Here youwould see a stout warrior polishing his spear with a bit of oldtappa, or adjusting the folds of the girdle about his waist; andthere you might descry a young damsel decorating herself withflowers, as if having in her eye some maidenly conquest; while,as in all cases of hurry and confusion in every part of theworld, a number of individuals kept hurrying to and fro, withamazing vigour and perseverance, doing nothing themselves, andhindering others.

Never before had we seen the islanders in such a state of bustleand excitement; and the scene furnished abundant evidence of thefact--that it was only at long intervals any such events occur.

When I thought of the length of time that might intervene beforea similar chance of escape would be presented, I bitterlylamented that I had not the power of availing myself effectuallyof the present opportunity.

From all that we could gather, it appeared that the natives werefearful of arriving too late upon the beach, unless they madeextraordinary exertions. Sick and lame as I was, I would havestarted with Toby at once, had not Kory-Kory not only refused tocarry me, but manifested the most invincible repugnance to ourleaving the neighbourhood of the house. The rest of the savageswere equally opposed to our wishes, and seemed grieved andastonished at the earnestness of my solicitations. I clearlyperceived that while my attendant avoided all appearance ofconstraining my movements, he was nevertheless determined tothwart my wishes. He seemed to me on this particular occasion,as well as often afterwards, to be executing the orders of someother person with regard to me, though at the same time feelingtowards me the most lively affection.

Toby, who had made up his mind to accompany the islanders ifpossible, as soon as they were in readiness to depart, and whofor that reason had refrained from showing the same anxiety thatI had done, now represented to me that it was idle for me toentertain the hope of reaching the beach in time to profit by anyopportunity that might then be presented.

'Do you not see,' said he, 'the savages themselves are fearful ofbeing too late, and I should hurry forward myself at once did Inot think that if I showed too much eagerness I should destroyall our hopes of reaping any benefit from this fortunate event. If you will only endeavour to appear tranquil or unconcerned, youwill quiet their suspicions, and I have no doubt they will thenlet me go with them to the beach, supposing that I merely go outof curiosity. Should I succeed in getting down to the boats, Iwill make known the condition in which I have left you, andmeasures may then be taken to secure our escape.'

In the expediency of this I could not but acquiesce; and as thenatives had now completed their preparations, I watched with theliveliest interest the reception that Toby's application mightmeet with. As soon as they understood from my companion that Iintended to remain, they appeared to make no objection to hisproposition, and even hailed it with pleasure. Their singularconduct on this occasion not a little puzzled me at the time, andimparted to subsequent events an additional mystery.

The islanders were now to be seen hurrying along the path whichled to the sea. I shook Toby warmly by the hand, and gave him myPayta hat to shield his wounded head from the sun, as he had losthis own. He cordially returned the pressure of my hand, andsolemnly promising to return as soon as the boats should leavethe shore, sprang from my side, and the next minute disappearedin a turn of the grove.

In spite of the unpleasant reflections that crowded upon my mind,I could not but be entertained by the novel and animated sightwhich by now met my view. One after another the natives crowdedalong the narrow path, laden with every variety of fruit. Here,you might have seen one, who, after ineffectually endeavouring topersuade a surly porker to be conducted in leading strings, wasobliged at last to seize the perverse animal in his arms, andcarry him struggling against his naked breast, and squealingwithout intermission. There went two, who at a little distancemight have been taken for the Hebrew spies, on their return toMoses with the goodly bunch of grape. One trotted before theother at a distance of a couple of yards, while between them,from a pole resting on the shoulders, was suspended a hugecluster of bananas, which swayed to and fro with the rocking gaitat which they proceeded. Here ran another, perspiring with hisexertions, and bearing before him a quantity of cocoanuts, who,fearful of being too late, heeded not the fruit that dropped fromhis basket, and appeared solely intent upon reaching hisdestination, careless how many of his cocoanuts kept company withhim.

In a short time the last straggler was seen hurrying on his way,and the faint shouts of those in advance died insensibly upon theear. Our part of the valley now appeared nearly deserted by itsinhabitants, Kory-Kory, his aged father, and a few decrepit oldpeople, being all that were left.

Towards sunset the islanders in small parties began to returnfrom the beach, and among them, as they drew near to the house, Isought to descry the form of my companion. But one after anotherthey passed the dwelling, and I caught no glimpse of him. Supposing, however, that he would soon appear with some of themembers of the household, I quieted my apprehensions, and waitedpatiently to see him advancing in company with the beautifulFayaway. At last, I perceived Tinor coming forward, followed bythe girls and young men who usually resided in the house ofMarheyo; but with them came not my comrade, and, filled with athousand alarms, I eagerly sought to discover the cause of hisdelay.

My earnest questions appeared to embarrass the natives greatly. All their accounts were contradictory: one giving me tounderstand that Toby would be with me in a very short time;another that he did not know where he was; while a third,violently inveighing, against him, assured me that he had stolenaway, and would never come back. It appeared to me, at the time,that in making these various statements they endeavoured toconceal from me some terrible disaster, lest the knowledge of itshould overpower me.

Fearful lest some fatal calamity had overtaken him, I sought outyoung Fayaway, and endeavoured to learn from her, if possible,the truth.

This gentle being had early attracted my regard, not only fromher extraordinary beauty, but from the attractive cast of hercountenance, singularly expressive of intelligence and humanity. Of all the natives she alone seemed to appreciate the effectwhich the peculiarity of the circumstances in which we wereplaced had produced upon the minds of my companion and myself. In addressing me--especially when I lay reclining upon the matssuffering from pain--there was a tenderness in her manner whichit was impossible to misunderstand or resist. Whenever sheentered the house, the expression of her face indicated theliveliest sympathy for me; and moving towards the place where Ilay, with one arm slightly elevated in a gesture of pity, and herlarge glistening eyes gazing intently into mine, she would murmurplaintively, 'Awha! awha! Tommo,' and seat herself mournfullybeside me.

Her manner convinced me that she deeply compassionated mysituation, as being removed from my country and friends, andplaced beyond the reach of all relief. Indeed, at times I wasalmost led to believe that her mind was swayed by gentle impulseshardly to be anticipated from one in her condition; that sheappeared to be conscious there were ties rudely severed, whichhad once bound us to our homes; that there were sisters andbrothers anxiously looking forward to our return, who were,perhaps, never more to behold us.

In this amiable light did Fayaway appear m my eyes; and reposingfull confidence in her candour and intelligence, I now hadrecourse to her, in the midst of my alarm, with regard to mycompanion.

My questions evidently distressed her. She looked round from oneto another of the bystanders, as if hardly knowing what answer togive me. At last, yielding to my importunities, she overcame herscruples, and gave me to understand that Toby had gone away withthe boats which had visited the bay, but had promised to returnat the expiration of three days. At first I accused him ofperfidiously deserting me; but as I grew more composed, Iupbraided myself for imputing so cowardly an action to him, andtranquillized myself with the belief that he had availed himself,of the opportunity to go round to Nukuheva, in order to make somearrangement by which I could be removed from the valley. At anyrate, thought I, he will return with the medicines I require, andthen, as soon as I recover, there will be no difficulty in theway of our departure.

Consoling myself with these reflections, I lay down that night ina happier frame of mind than I had done for some time. The nextday passed without any allusion to Toby on the part of thenatives, who seemed desirous of avoiding all reference to thesubject. This raised some apprehensions in my breast; but whennight came, I congratulated myself that the second day had nowgone by, and that on the morrow Toby would again be with me. Butthe morrow came and went, and my companion did not appear. Ah!thought I, he reckons three days from the morning of hisdeparture,--tomorrow he will arrive. But that weary day alsoclosed upon me, without his return. Even yet I would notdespair; I thought that something detained him--that he waswaiting for the sailing of a boat, at Nukuheva, and that in a dayor two at farthest I should see him again. But day after day ofrenewed disappointment passed by; at last hope deserted me, and Ifell a victim to despair.

Yes; thought I, gloomily, he has secured his own escape, andcares not what calamity may befall his unfortunate comrade. Foolthat I was, to suppose that any one would willingly encounter theperils of this valley, after having once got beyond its limits! He has gone, and has left me to combat alone all the dangers bywhich I am surrounded. Thus would I sometimes seek to derive adesperate consolation from dwelling upon the perfidity of Toby:whilst at other times I sunk under the bitter remorse which Ifelt as having by my own imprudence brought upon myself the fatewhich I was sure awaited me.

At other times I thought that perhaps after all these treacheroussavages had made away with him, and thence the confusion intowhich they were thrown by my questions, and their contradictoryanswers, or he might be a captive in some other part of thevalley, or, more dreadful still, might have met with that fate atwhich my very soul shuddered. But all these speculations werevain; no tidings of Toby ever reached me; he had gone never toreturn.

The conduct of the islanders appeared inexplicable. Allreference to my lost comrade was carefully evaded, and if at anytime they were forced to make some reply to my frequent inquirieson the subject, they would uniformly denounce him as anungrateful runaway, who had deserted his friend, and takenhimself off to that vile and detestable place Nukuheva.

But whatever might have been his fate, now that he was gone thenatives multiplied their acts of kindness and attention towardsmyself, treating me with a degree of deference which could hardlyhave been surpassed had I been some celestial visitant. Kory-Kory never for one moment left my side, unless it were toexecute my wishes. The faithful fellow, twice every day, in thecool of the morning and in the evening, insisted upon carrying meto the stream, and bathing me in its refreshing water.

Frequently in the afternoon he would carry me to a particularpart of the stream, where the beauty of the scene produced asoothing influence upon my mind. At this place the waters flowedbetween grassy banks, planted with enormous bread-fruit trees,whose vast branches interlacing overhead, formed a leafy canopy;near the stream were several smooth black rocks. One of these,projecting several feet above the surface of the,water, had uponits summit a shallow cavity, which, filled with freshly-gatheredleaves, formed a delightful couch.

Here I often lay for hours, covered with a gauze-like veil oftappa, while Fayaway, seated beside me, and holding in her hand afan woven from the leaflets of a young cocoanut bough, brushedaside the insects that occasionally lighted on my face, andKory-Kory. with a view of chasing away my melancholy, performeda thousand antics in the water before us.

As my eye wandered along this romantic stream, it would fall uponthe half-immersed figure of a beautiful girl, standing in thetransparent water, and catching in a little net a species ofdiminutive shell-fish, of which these people are extraordinarilyfond. Sometimes a chattering group would be seated upon the edgeof a low rock in the midst of the brook, busily engaged inthinning and polishing the shells of cocoanuts, by rubbing thembriskly with a small stone in the water, an operation which soonconverts them into a light and elegant drinking vessel, somewhatresembling goblets made of tortoise shell.

But the tranquillizing influence of beautiful scenery, and theexhibition of human life under so novel and charming an aspectwere not my only sources of consolation.

Every evening the girls of the house gathered about me on themats, and after chasing away Kory-Kory from my side--whonevertheless, retired only to a little distance and watched theirproceedings with the most jealous attention--would anoint mywhole body with a fragrant oil, squeezed from a yellow root,previously pounded between a couple of stones, and which in theirlanguage is denominated 'aka'. And most refreshing and agreeableare the juices of the 'aka', when applied to ones, limbs by thesoft palms of sweet nymphs, whose bright eyes are beaming uponyou with kindness; and I used to hail with delight the dailyrecurrence of this luxurious operation, in which I forgot all mytroubles, and buried for the time every feeling of sorrow.

Sometimes in the cool of the evening my devoted servitor wouldlead me out upon the pi-pi in front of the house, and seating menear its edge, protect my body from the annoyance of the insectswhich occasionally hovered in the air, by wrapping me round witha large roll of tappa. He then bustled about, and employedhimself at least twenty minutes in adjusting everything to securemy personal comfort.

Having perfected his arrangements, he would get my pipe, and,lighting it, would hand it to me. Often he was obliged to strikea light for the occasion, and as the mode he adopted was entirelydifferent from what I had ever seen or heard of before I willdescribe it.

A straight, dry, and partly decayed stick of the Hibiscus, aboutsix feet in length, and half as many inches in diameter, with asmall, bit of wood not more than a foot long, and scarcely aninch wide, is as invariably to be met with in every house inTypee as a box of lucifer matches in the corner of a kitchencupboard at home.

The islander, placing the larger stick obliquely against someobject, with one end elevated at an angle of forty-five degrees,mounts astride of it like an urchin about to gallop off upon acane, and then grasping the smaller one firmly in both hands, herubs its pointed end slowly up and down the extent of a fewinches on the principal suck, until at last he makes a narrowgroove in the wood, with an abrupt termination at the pointfurthest from him, where all the dusty particles which thefriction creates are accumulated in a little heap.

At first Kory-Kory goes to work quite leisurely, but graduallyquickens his pace, and waxing warm in the employment, drives thestick furiously along the smoking channel, plying his hands toand fro with amazing rapidity, the perspiration starting fromevery pore. As he approaches the climax of his effort, he pantsand gasps for breath, and his eyes almost start from theirsockets with the violence of his exertions. This is the criticalstage of the operation; all his previous labours are vain if hecannot sustain the rapidity of the movement until the reluctantspark is produced. Suddenly he stops, becoming perfectlymotionless. His hands still retain their hold of the smallerstick, which is pressed convulsively against the further end ofthe channel among the fine powder there accumulated, as if he hadjust pierced through and through some little viper that waswriggling and struggling to escape from his clutches. The nextmoment a delicate wreath of smoke curls spirally into the air,the heap of dusty particles glows with fire, and Kory-Kory,almost breathless, dismounts from his steed.

This operation appeared to me to be the most laborious species ofwork performed in Typee; and had I possessed a sufficientintimacy with the language to have conveyed my ideas upon thesubject, I should certainly have suggested to the mostinfluential of the natives the expediency of establishing acollege of vestals to be centrally located in the valley, for thepurpose of keeping alive the indispensable article of fire; so asto supersede the necessity of such a vast outlay of strength andgood temper, as were usually squandered on these occasions. There might, however, be special difficulties in carrying thisplan into execution.

What a striking evidence does this operation furnish of the widedifference between the extreme of savage and civilized life. Agentleman of Typee can bring up a numerous family of children andgive them all a highly respectable cannibal education, withinfinitely less toil and anxiety than he expends in the simpleprocess of striking a light; whilst a poor European artisan, whothrough the instrumentality of a lucifer performs the sameoperation in one second, is put to his wit's end to provide forhis starving offspring that food which the children of aPolynesian father, without troubling their parents, pluck fromthe branches of every tree around them.

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