by Herman Melville

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Chapter Sixteen



IN looking back to this period, and calling to remembrance thenumberless proofs of kindness and respect which I received fromthe natives of the valley, I can scarcely understand how it wasthat, in the midst of so many consolatory circumstances, my mindshould still have been consumed by the most dismal forebodings,and have remained a prey to the profoundest melancholy. It istrue that the suspicious circumstances which had attended thedisappearance of Toby were enough of themselves to excitedistrust with regard to the savages, in whose power I felt myselfto be entirely placed, especially when it was combined with theknowledge that these very men, kind and respectful as they wereto me, were, after all, nothing better than a set of cannibals.

But my chief source of anxiety, and that which poisoned everytemporary enjoyment, was the mysterious disease in my leg, whichstill remained unabated. All the herbal applications of Tinor,united with the severer discipline of the old leech, and theaffectionate nursing of Kory-Kory, had failed to relieve me. Iwas almost a cripple, and the pain I endured at intervals wasagonizing. The unaccountable malady showed no signs ofamendment: on the contrary, its violence increased day by day,and threatened the most fatal results, unless some powerful meanswere employed to counteract it. It seemed as if I were destinedto sink under this grievous affliction, or at least that it wouldhinder me from availing myself of any opportunity of escapingfrom the valley.

An incident which occurred as nearly as I can estimate aboutthree weeks after the disappearance of Toby, convinced me thatthe natives, from some reason or other, would interpose everypossible obstacle to my leaving them.

One morning there was no little excitement evinced by the peoplenear my abode, and which I soon discovered proceeded from a vaguereport that boats, had been seen at a great distance approachingthe bay. Immediately all was bustle and animation. It sohappened that day that the pain I suffered having somewhatabated, and feeling in much better spirits than usual, I hadcomplied with Kory-Kory's invitation to visit the chief Mehevi atthe place called the 'Ti', which I have before described as beingsituated within the precincts of the Taboo Groves. These sacredrecesses were at no great distance from Marheyo's habitation, andlay between it and the sea; the path that conducted to the beachpassing directly in front of the Ti, and thence skirting alongthe border of the groves.

I was reposing upon the mats, within the sacred building, incompany with Mehevi and several other chiefs, when theannouncement was first made. It sent a thrill of joy through mywhole frame;--perhaps Toby was about to return. I rose at onceto my feet, and my instinctive impulse was to hurry down to thebeach, equally regardless of the distance that separated me fromit, and of my disabled condition. As soon as Mehevi noticed theeffect the intelligence had produced upon me, and the impatienceI betrayed to reach the sea, his countenance assumed thatinflexible rigidity of expression which had so awed me on theafternoon of our arrival at the house of Marheyo. As I wasproceeding to leave the Ti, he laid his hand upon my shoulder,and said gravely, 'abo, abo' (wait, wait). Solely intent uponthe one thought that occupied my mind, and heedless of hisrequest, I was brushing past him, when suddenly he assumed a toneof authority, and told me to 'moee' (sit down). Though struck bythe alteration in his demeanour, the excitement under which Ilaboured was too strong to permit me to obey the unexpectedcommand, and I was still limping towards the edge of the pi-piwith Kory-Kory clinging to one arm in his efforts to restrain me,when the natives around started to their feet, ranged themselvesalong the open front of the building, while Mehevi looked at mescowlingly, and reiterated his commands still more sternly.

It was at this moment, when fifty savage countenances wereglaring upon me, that I first truly experienced I was indeed acaptive in the valley. The conviction rushed upon me withstaggering force, and I was overwhelmed by this confirmation ofmy worst fears. I saw at once that it was useless for me toresist, and sick at heart, I reseated myself upon the mats, andfor the moment abandoned myself to despair.

I now perceived the natives one after the other hurrying past theTi and pursuing the route that conducted to the sea. Thesesavages, thought I, will soon be holding communication with someof my own countrymen perhaps, who with ease could restore me toliberty did they know of the situation I was in. No language candescribe the wretchedness which I felt; and in the bitterness ofmy soul I imprecated a thousand curses on the perfidious Toby,who had thus abandoned me to destruction. It was in vain thatKory-Kory tempted me with food, or lighted my pipe, or sought toattract my attention by performing the uncouth antics that hadsometimes diverted me. I was fairly knocked down by this lastmisfortune, which, much as I had feared it, I had never beforehad the courage calmly to contemplate.

Regardless of everything but my own sorrow, I remained in the Tifor several hours, until shouts proceeding at intervals from thegroves beyond the house proclaimed the return of the natives fromthe beach.

Whether any boats visited the bay that morning or not, I nevercould ascertain. The savages assured me that there had not--butI was inclined to believe that by deceiving me in this particularthey sought to allay the violence of my grief. However thatmight be, this incident showed plainly that the Typees intendedto hold me a prisoner. As they still treated me with the samesedulous attention as before, I was utterly at a loss how toaccount for their singular conduct. Had I been in a situation toinstruct them in any of the rudiments of the mechanic arts, orhad I manifested a disposition to render myself in any way usefulamong them, their conduct might have been attributed to someadequate motive, but as it was, the matter seemed to meinexplicable.

During my whole stay on the island there occurred but two orthree instances where the natives applied to me with the view ofavailing themselves of my superior information; and these nowappear so ludicrous that I cannot forbear relating them.

The few things we had brought from Nukuheva had been done up intoa small bundle which we had carried with us in our descent to thevalley. This bundle, the first night of our arrival, I had usedas a pillow, but on the succeeding morning, opening it for theinspection of the natives, they gazed upon the miscellaneouscontents as though I had just revealed to them a casket ofdiamonds, and they insisted that so precious a treasure should beproperly secured. A line was accordingly attached to it, and theother end being passed over the ridge-pole of the house, it washoisted up to the apex of the roof, where it hung suspendeddirectly over the mats where I usually reclined. When I desiredanything from it I merely raised my finger to a bamboo beside me,and taking hold of the string which was there fastened, loweredthe package. This was exceedingly handy, and I took care to letthe natives understand how much I applauded the invention. Ofthis package the chief contents were a razor with its case, asupply of needles and thread, a pound or two of tobacco and a fewyards of bright-coloured calico.

I should have mentioned that shortly after Toby's disappearance,perceiving the uncertainty of the time I might be obliged toremain in the valley--if, indeed, I ever should escape fromit--and considering that my whole wardrobe consisted of a shirtand a pair of trousers, I resolved to doff these garments atonce, in order to preserve them in a suitable condition for wearshould I again appear among civilized beings. I was consequentlyobliged to assume the Typee costume, a little altered, however,to suit my own views of propriety, and in which I have no doubt Iappeared to as much advantage as a senator of Rome enveloped inthe folds of his toga. A few folds of yellow tappa tucked aboutmy waist, descended to my feet in the style of a lady'spetticoat, only I did not have recourse to those voluminouspaddings in the rear with which our gentle dames are in the habitof augmenting the sublime rotundity of their figures. Thisusually comprised my in-door dress; whenever I walked out, Isuperadded to it an ample robe of the same material, whichcompletely enveloped my person, and screened it from the rays ofthe sun.

One morning I made a rent in this mantle; and to show theislanders with what facility it could be repaired, I lowered mybundle, and taking from it a needle and thread, proceeded tostitch up the opening. They regarded this wonderful applicationof science with intense admiration; and whilst I was stitchingaway, old Marheyo, who was one of the lookers-on, suddenlyclapped his hand to his forehead, and rushing to a corner of thehouse, drew forth a soiled and tattered strip of faded calicowhich he must have procured some time or other in traffic on thebeach--and besought me eagerly to exercise a little of my artupon it. I willingly complied, though certainly so stumpy aneedle as mine never took such gigantic strides over calicobefore. The repairs completed, old Marheyo gave me a paternalhug; and divesting himself of his 'maro' (girdle), swathed thecalico about his loins, and slipping the beloved ornaments intohis ears, grasped his spear and sallied out of the house, like avaliant Templar arrayed in a new and costly suit of armour.

I never used my razor during my stay in the island, but althougha very subordinate affair, it had been vastly admired by theTypees; and Narmonee, a great hero among them, who wasexceedingly precise in the arrangements of his toilet and thegeneral adjustment of is person, being the most accuratelytattooed and laboriously horrified individual in all the valley,thought it would be a great advantage to have it applied to thealready shaven crown of his head.

The implement they usually employ is a shark's tooth, which isabout as well adapted to the purpose as a one-pronged fork forpitching hay. No wonder, then, that the acute Narmonee perceivedthe advantage my razor possessed over the usual implement. Accordingly, one day he requested as a personal favour that Iwould just run over his head with the razor. In reply, I gavehim to understand that it was too dull, and could not be used toany purpose without being previously sharpened. To assist mymeaning, I went through an imaginary honing process on the palmof my hand. Narmonee took my meaning in an instant, and runningout of the house, returned the next moment with a huge rough massof rock as big as a millstone, and indicated to me that that wasexactly the thing I wanted. Of course there was nothing left forme but to proceed to business, and I began scraping away at agreat rate. He writhed and wriggled under the infliction, but,fully convinced of my skill, endured the pain like a martyr.

Though I never saw Narmonee in battle I will, from what I thenobserved, stake my life upon his courage and fortitude. Beforecommencing operations, his head had presented a surface of shortbristling hairs, and by the time I had concluded my unskilfuloperation it resembled not a little a stubble field after beinggone over with a harrow. However, as the chief expressed theliveliest satisfaction at the result, I was too wise to dissentfrom his opinion.

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