by Herman Melville

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Chapter Twelve



WHEN Mehevi had departed from the house, as related in thepreceding chapter, Kory-Kory commenced the functions of the postassigned him. He brought out, various kinds of food; and, as ifI were an infant, insisted upon feeding me with his own hands. To this procedure I, of course, most earnestly objected, but invain; and having laid a calabash of kokoo before me, he washedhis fingers in a vessel of water, and then putting his hands intothe dish and rolling the food into little balls, put them oneafter another into my mouth. All my remonstrances against thismeasure only provoked so great a clamour on his part, that I wasobliged to acquiesce; and the operation of feeding being thusfacilitated, the meal was quickly despatched. As for Toby, hewas allowed to help himself after his own fashion.

The repast over, my attendant arranged the mats for repose, and,bidding me lie down, covered me with a large robe of tappa, atthe same time looking approvingly upon me, and exclaiming 'Ki-Ki,nuee nuee, ah! moee moee motarkee' (eat plenty, ah! sleep verygood). The philosophy of this sentiment I did not pretend toquestion; for deprived of sleep for several preceding nights, andthe pain of my limb having much abated, I now felt inclined toavail myself of the opportunity afforded me.

The next morning, on waking, I found Kory-Kory stretched out onone side of me, while my companion lay upon the other. I feltsensibly refreshed after a night of sound repose, and immediatelyagreed to the proposition of my valet that I should repair to thewater and wash, although dreading the suffering that the exertionmight produce. From this apprehension, however, I was quicklyrelieved; for Kory-Kory, leaping from the pi-pi, and then backinghimself up against it, like a porter in readiness to shoulder atrunk, with loud vociferations and a superabundance of gestures,gave me to understand that I was to mount upon his back and bethus transported to the stream, which flowed perhaps two hundredyards from the house.

Our appearance upon the verandah in front of the habitation drewtogether quite a crowd, who stood looking on and conversing withone another in the most animated manner. They reminded one of agroup of idlers gathered about the door of a village tavern whenthe equipage of some distinguished traveller is brought roundpreviously to his departure. As soon as I clasped my arms aboutthe neck of the devoted fellow, and he jogged off with me, thecrowd--composed chiefly of young girls and boys--followed after,shouting and capering with infinite glee, and accompanied us tothe banks of the stream.

On gaining it, Kory-Kory, wading up to his hips in the water,carried me half way across, and deposited me on a smooth blackstone which rose a few inches above the surface. The amphibiousrabble at our heels plunged in after us, and climbing to thesummit of the grass-grown rocks with which the bed of the brookwas here and there broken, waited curiously to witness ourmorning ablutions.

Somewhat embarrassed by the presence of the female portion of thecompany, and feeling my cheeks burning with bashful timidity, Iformed a primitive basin by joining my hands together, and cooledmy blushes in the water it contained; then removing my frock,bent over and washed myself down to my waist in the stream. Assoon as Kory-Kory comprehended from my motions that this was tobe the extent of my performance, he appeared perfectly aghastwith astonishment, and rushing towards me, poured out a torrentof words in eager deprecation of so limited an operation,enjoining me by unmistakeable signs to immerse my whole body. Tothis I was forced to consent; and the honest fellow regarding meas a froward, inexperienced child, whom it was his duty to serveat the risk of offending, lifted me from the rocks, and tenderlybathed my limbs. This over, and resuming my seat, I could notavoid bursting into admiration of the scene around me.

From the verdant surfaces of the large stones that lay scatteredabout, the natives were now sliding off into the water, divingand ducking beneath the surface in all directions--the younggirls springing buoyantly into the air, and revealing their nakedforms to the waist, with their long tresses dancing about theirshoulders, their eyes sparkling like drops of dew in the sun, andtheir gay laughter pealing forth at every frolicsome incident. On the afternoon of the day that I took my first bath in thevalley, we received another visit from Mehevi. The noble savageseemed to be in the same pleasant mood, and was quite as cordialin his manner as before. After remaining about an hour, he rosefrom the mats, and motioning to leave the house, invited Toby andmyself to accompany him. I pointed to my leg; but Mehevi in histurn pointed to Kory-Kory, and removed that objection; so,mounting upon the faithful fellow's shoulders again--like the oldman of the sea astride of Sindbad--I followed after the chief.

The nature of the route we now pursued struck me more forciblythan anything I had yet seen, as illustrating the indolentdisposition of the islanders. The path was obviously the mostbeaten one in the valley, several others leading from each sideinto it, and perhaps for successive generations it had formed theprincipal avenue of the place. And yet, until I grew morefamiliar with its impediments, it seemed as difficult to travelas the recesses of a wilderness. Part of it swept around anabrupt rise. of ground, the surface of which was broken byfrequent inequalities, and thickly strewn with projecting massesof rocks, whose summits were often hidden from view by thedrooping foliage of the luxurious vegetation. Sometimes directlyover, sometimes evading these obstacles with a wide circuit, thepath wound along;--one moment climbing over a sudden eminencesmooth with continued wear, then descending on the other sideinto a steep glen, and crossing the flinty channel of a brook.Here it pursued the depths of a glade, occasionally obliging youto stoop beneath vast horizontal branches; and now you steppedover huge trunks and boughs that lay rotting across the track.

Such was the grand thoroughfare of Typee. After proceeding alittle distance along it--Kory-Kory panting and blowing with theweight of his burden--I dismounted from his back, and graspingthe long spear of Mehevi in my hand, assisted my steps over thenumerous obstacles of the road; preferring this mode of advanceto one which, from the difficulties of the way, was equallypainful to myself and my wearied servitor.

Our journey was soon at an end; for, scaling a sudden height, wecame abruptly upon the place of our destination. I wish that itwere possible to sketch in words this spot as vividly as Irecollect it.

Here were situated the Taboo groves of the valley--the scene ofmany a prolonged feast, of many a horrid rite. Beneath the darkshadows of the consecrated bread-fruit trees there reigned asolemn twilight--a cathedral-like gloom. The frightful genius ofpagan worship seemed to brood in silence over the place,breathing its spell upon every object around. Here and there, inthe depths of these awful shades, half screened from sight bymasses of overhanging foliage, rose the idolatrous altars of thesavages, built of enormous blocks of black and polished stone,placed one upon another, without cement, to the height of twelveor fifteen feet, and surmounted by a rustic open temple, enclosedwith a low picket of canes, within which might be seen, invarious stages of decay, offerings of bread-fruit and cocoanuts,and the putrefying relics of some recent sacrifice.

In the midst of the wood was the hallowed 'Hoolah Hoolah'ground--set apart for the celebration of the fantasticalreligious ritual of these people--comprising an extensive oblongpi-pi, terminating at either end in a lofty terraced altar,guarded by ranks of hideous wooden idols, and with the tworemaining sides flanked by ranges of bamboo sheds, openingtowards the interior of the quadrangle thus formed. Vast trees,standing in the middle of this space, and throwing over it anumbrageous shade, had their massive trunks built round withslight stages, elevated a few feet above the ground, and railedin with canes, forming so many rustic pulpits, from which thepriests harangued their devotees.

This holiest of spots was defended from profanation by thestrictest edicts of the all-pervading 'taboo', which condemned toinstant death the sacrilegious female who should enter or touchits sacred precincts, or even so much as press with her feet theground made holy by the shadows that it cast.

Access was had to the enclosure through an embowered entrance, onone side, facing a number of towering cocoanut trees, planted atintervals along a level area of a hundred yards. At the furtherextremity of this space was to be seen a building of considerablesize, reserved for the habitation of the priests and religiousattendants of the groves.

In its vicinity was another remarkable edifice, built as usualupon the summit of a pi-pi, and at least two hundred feet inlength, though not more than twenty in breadth. The whole frontof this latter structure was completely open, and from one end tothe other ran a narrow verandah, fenced in on the edge of thepi-pi with a picket of canes. Its interior presented theappearance of an immense lounging place, the entire floor beingstrewn with successive layers of mats, lying between paralleltrunks of cocoanut trees, selected for the purpose from thestraightest and most symmetrical the vale afforded.

To this building, denominated in the language of the natives the'Ti', Mehevi now conducted us. Thus far we had been accompaniedby a troop of the natives of both sexes; but as soon as weapproached its vicinity, the females gradually separatedthemselves from the crowd, and standing aloof, permitted us topass on. The merciless prohibitions of the taboo extendedlikewise to this edifice, and were enforced by the same dreadfulpenalty that secured the Hoolah-Hoolah ground from the imaginarypollution of a woman's presence.

On entering the house, I was surprised to see six muskets rangedagainst the bamboo on one side, from the barrels of whichdepended as many small canvas pouches, partly filled with powder.

Disposed about these muskets, like the cutlasses that decoratethe bulkhead of a man-of-war's cabin, were a great variety ofrude spears and paddles, javelins, and war-clubs. This then,said I to Toby, must be the armoury of the tribe.

As we advanced further along the building, we were struck withthe aspect of four or five hideous old wretches, on whosedecrepit forms time and tattooing seemed,to have obliteratedevery trace of humanity. Owing to the continued operation ofthis latter process, which only terminates among the warriors ofthe island after all the figures stretched upon their limbs inyouth have been blended together--an effect, however, producedonly in cases of extreme longevity--the bodies Of these men wereof a uniform dull green colour--the hue which the tattooinggradually assumes as the individual advances in age. Their skinhad a frightful scaly appearance, which, united with its singularcolour, made their limbs not a little resemble dusty specimens ofverde-antique. Their flesh, in parts, hung upon them in hugefolds, like the overlapping plaits on the flank of a rhinoceros.Their heads were completely bald, whilst their faces werepuckered into a thousand wrinkles, and they presented no vestigeof a beard. But the most remarkable peculiarity about them wasthe appearance of their feet; the toes, like the radiating linesof the mariner's compass, pointed to every quarter of thehorizon. This was doubtless attributable to the fact, thatduring nearly a hundred years of existence the said toes neverhad been subjected to any artificial confinement, and in theirold age, being averse to close neighbourhood, bid one anotherkeep open order.

These repulsive-looking creatures appeared to have lost the useof their lower limbs altogether; sitting upon the floorcross-legged in a state of torpor. They never heeded us in theleast, scarcely looking conscious of our presence, while Meheviseated us upon the mats, and Kory-Kory gave utterance to someunintelligible gibberish

In a few moments a boy entered with a wooden trencher ofpoee-poee; and in regaling myself with its contents I was obligedagain to submit to the officious intervention of my indefatigableservitor. Various other dishes followed, the chief manifestingthe most hospitable importunity in pressing us to partake, and toremove all bashfulness on our part, set us no despicable examplein his own person.

The repast concluded, a pipe was lighted, which passed from mouthto mouth, and yielding to its soporific influence, the quiet ofthe place, and the deepening shadows of approaching night, mycompanion and I sank into a kind of drowsy repose, while thechief and Kory-Kory seemed to be slumbering beside us.

I awoke from an uneasy nap, about midnight, as I supposed; and,raising myself partly from the mat, became sensible that we wereenveloped in utter darkness. Toby lay still asleep, but our latecompanions had disappeared. The only sound that interrupted thesilence of the place was the asthmatic breathing of the old men Ihave mentioned, who reposed at a little distance from us. Besides them, as well as I could judge, there was no one else inthe house.

Apprehensive of some evil, I roused my comrade, and we wereengaged in a whispered conference concerning the unexpectedwithdrawal of the natives when all at once, from the depths ofthe grove, in full view of us where we lay, shoots of flame wereseen to rise, and in a few moments illuminated the surroundingtrees, casting, by contrast, into still deeper gloom the darknessaround us.

While we continued gazing at this sight, dark figures appearedmoving to and fro before the flames; while others, dancing andcapering about, looked like so many demons.

Regarding this new phenomenon with no small degree oftrepidation, I said to my companion, 'What can all this mean,Toby?'

'Oh, nothing,' replied he; 'getting the fire ready, I suppose.'

'Fire!' exclaimed I, while my heart took to beating like a triphammer, 'what fire?'

'Why, the fire to cook us, to be sure, what else would thecannibals be kicking up such a row about if it were not forthat?'

'Oh, Toby! have done with your jokes; this is no time for them;something is about to happen, I feel confident.'

'Jokes, indeed?' exclaimed Toby indignantly. 'Did you ever hearme joke? Why, for what do you suppose the devils have beenfeeding us up in this kind of style during the last three days,unless it were for something that you are too much frightened atto talk about? Look at that Kory-Kory there!--has he not beenstuffing you with his confounded mushes, just in the way theytreat swine before they kill them? Depend upon it, we will beeaten this blessed night, and there is the fire we shall beroasted by.'

This view of the matter was not at all calculated to allay myapprehensions, and I shuddered when I reflected that we wereindeed at the mercy of a tribe of cannibals, and that thedreadful contingency to which Toby had alluded was by no meansremoved beyond the bounds of possibility.

'There! I told you so! they are coming for us!' exclaimed mycompanion the next moment, as the forms of four of the islanderswere seen in bold relief against the illuminated back-groundmounting the pi-pi and approaching towards us.

They came on noiselessly, nay stealthily, and glided alongthrough the gloom that surrounded us as if about to spring uponsome object they were fearful of disturbing before they shouldmake sure of it.--Gracious heaven! the horrible reflectionswhich crowded upon me that moment.--A cold sweat stood upon mybrow, and spell-bound with terror I awaited my fate!

Suddenly the silence was broken by the well-remembered tones ofMehevi, and at the kindly accents of his voice my fears wereimmediately dissipated. 'Tommo, Toby, ki ki!' (eat). He hadwaited to address us, until he had assured himself that we wereboth awake, at which he seemed somewhat surprised.

'Ki ki! is it?' said Toby in his gruff tones; 'Well, cook usfirst, will you--but what's this?' he added, as another savageappeared, bearing before him a large trencher of wood containingsome kind of steaming meat, as appeared from the odours itdiffused, and which he deposited at the feet of Mehevi. 'A bakedbaby, I dare say I but I will have none of it, never mind what itis.--A pretty fool I should make of myself, indeed, waked up herein the middle of the night, stuffing and guzzling, and all tomake a fat meal for a parcel of booby-minded cannibals one ofthese mornings!--No, I see what they are at very plainly, so I amresolved to starve myself into a bunch of bones and gristle, andthen, if they serve me up, they are welcome! But I say, Tommo,you are not going to eat any of that mess there, in the dark, areyou? Why, how can you tell what it is?'

'By tasting it, to be sure,' said I, masticating a morsel thatKory-Kory had just put in my mouth, 'and excellently good it is,too, very much like veal.'

'A baked baby, by the soul of Captain Cook!' burst forth Toby,with amazing vehemence; 'Veal? why there never was a calf on theisland till you landed. I tell you you are bolting downmouthfuls from a dead Happar's carcass, as sure as you live, andno mistake!'

Emetics and lukewarm water! What a sensation in the abdominalregion! Sure enough, where could the fiends incarnate haveobtained meat? But I resolved to satisfy myself at all hazards;and turning to Mehevi, I soon made the ready chief understandthat I wished a light to be brought. When the taper came, Igazed eagerly into the vessel, and recognized the mutilatedremains of a juvenile porker! 'Puarkee!' exclaimed Kory-Kory,looking complacently at the dish; and from that day to this Ihave never forgotten that such is the designation of a pig in theTypee lingo.

The next morning, after being again abundantly feasted by thehospitable Mehevi, Toby and myself arose to depart. But thechief requested us to postpone our intention. 'Abo, abo' (Wait,wait), he said and accordingly we resumed our seats, while,assisted by the zealous Kory-Kory, he appeared to be engaged ingiving directions to a number of the natives outside, who werebusily employed in making arrangements, the nature of which wecould not comprehend. But we were not left long in ourignorance, for a few moments only had elapsed, when the chiefbeckoned us to approach, and we perceived that he had beenmarshalling a kind of guard of honour to escort us on our returnto the house of Marheyo.

The procession was led off by two venerable-looking savages, eachprovided with a spear, from the end of which streamed a pennon ofmilk-white tappa. After them went several youths, bearing aloftcalabashes of poee-poee, and followed in their turn by fourstalwart fellows, sustaining long bamboos, from the tops of whichhung suspended, at least twenty feet from the ground, largebaskets of green bread-fruits. Then came a troop of boys,carrying bunches of ripe bananas, and baskets made of the wovenleaflets of cocoanut boughs, filled with the young fruit of thetree, the naked shells stripped of their husks peeping forth fromthe verdant wicker-work that surrounded them. Last of all came aburly islander, holding over his head a wooden trencher, in whichlay disposed the remnants of our midnight feast, hidden fromview, however, by a covering of bread-fruit leaves.

Astonished as I was at this exhibition, I could not avoid smilingat its grotesque appearance, and the associations it naturallycalled up. Mehevi, it seemed, was bent on replenishing oldMarheyo's larder, fearful perhaps that without this precautionhis guests might not fare as well as they could desire.

As soon as I descended from the pi-pi, the procession formedanew, enclosing us in its centre; where I remained part of thetime, carried by Kory-Kory, and occasionally relieving him fromhis burden by limping along with spear. When we moved off inthis order, the natives struck up a musical recitative, whichwith various alternations, they continued until we arrived at theplace of our destination.

As we proceeded on our way, bands of young girls, darting fromthe surrounding groves, hung upon our skirts, and accompanied uswith shouts of merriment and delight, which almost drowned thedeep notes of the recitative. On approaching old Marheyo'sdomicile, its inmates rushed out to receive us; and while thegifts of Mehevi were being disposed of, the superannuated warriordid the honours of his mansion with all the warmth of hospitalityevinced by an English squire when he regales his friends at somefine old patrimonial mansion.

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