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Chapter Eight


CHAPTER EIGHT

THE IMPORTANT QUESTION, TYPEE OR HAPPAR?--A WILD GOOSE CHASE--MY
SUFFERINGS--DISHEARTENING SITUATION--A NIGHT IN A RAVINE--MORNING
MEAL--HAPPY IDEA OF TOBY--JOURNEY TOWARDS THE VALLEY

RECOVERING from my astonishment at the beautiful scene before me,
I quickly awakened Toby, and informed him of the discovery I had
made.  Together we now repaired to the border of the precipice,
and my companion's admiration was equal to my own.  A little
reflection, however, abated our surprise at coming so
unexpectedly upon this valley, since the large vales of Happar
and Typee, lying upon this side of Nukuheva, and extending a
considerable distance from the sea towards the interior, must
necessarily terminate somewhere about this point.

The question now was as to which of those two places we were
looking down upon.  Toby insisted that it was the abode of the
Happar, and I that it was tenanted by their enemies the ferocious
Typees.  To be sure I was not entirely convinced by my own
arguments, but Toby's proposition to descend at once into the
valley, and partake of the hospitality of its inmates, seemed to
me to be risking so much upon the strength of a mere supposition,
that I resolved to oppose it until we had more evidence to
proceed upon.

The point was one of vital importance, as the natives of Happar
were not only at peace with Nukuheva, but cultivated with its
inhabitants the most friendly relations, and enjoyed besides a
reputation for gentleness and humanity which led us to expect
from them, if not a cordial reception, at least a shelter during
the short period we should remain in their territory.

On the other hand, the very name of Typee struck a panic into my
heart which I did not attempt to disguise.  The thought of
voluntarily throwing ourselves into the hands of these cruel
savages, seemed to me an act of mere madness; and almost equally
so the idea of venturing into the valley, uncertain by which of
these two tribes it was inhabited.  That the vale at our feet was
tenanted by one of them, was a point that appeared to us past all
doubt, since we knew that they resided in this quarter, although
our information did not enlighten us further.

My companion, however, incapable of resisting the tempting
prospect which the place held out of an abundant supply of food
and other means of enjoyment, still clung to his own
inconsiderate view of the subject, nor could all my reasoning
shake it.  When I reminded him that it was impossible for either
of us to know anything with certainty, and when I dwelt upon the
horrible fate we should encounter were we rashly to descend into
the valley, and discover too late the error we had committed, he
replied by detailing all the evils of our present condition, and
the sufferings we must undergo should we continue to remain where
we then were.

Anxious to draw him away from the subject, if possible--for I saw
that it would be in vain to attempt changing his mind--I directed
his attention to a long bright unwooded tract of land which,
sweeping down from the elevations in the interior, descended into
the valley before us.  I then suggested to him that beyond this
ridge might lie a capacious and untenanted valley, abounding with
all manner of delicious fruits; for I had heard that there were
several such upon the island, and proposed that we should
endeavour to reach it, and if we found our expectations realized
we should at once take refuge in it and remain there as long as
we pleased.

He acquiesced in the suggestion; and we immediately, therefore,
began surveying the country lying before us, with a view of
determining upon the best route for us to pursue; but it
presented little choice, the whole interval being broken into
steep ridges, divided by dark ravines, extending in parallel
lines at right angles to our direct course.  All these we would
be obliged to cross before we could hope to arrive at our
destination.

A weary journey!  But we decided to undertake it, though, for my
own part, I felt little prepared to encounter its fatigues,
shivering and burning by turns with the ague and fever; for I
know not how else to describe the alternate sensations I
experienced, and suffering not a little from the lameness which
afflicted me.  Added to this was the faintness consequent on our
meagre diet--a calamity in which Toby participated to the same
extent as myself.

These circumstances, however, only augmented my anxiety to reach
a place which promised us plenty and repose, before I should be
reduced to a state which would render me altogether unable to
perform the journey.  Accordingly we now commenced it by
descending the almost perpendicular side of a steep and narrow
gorge, bristling with a thick growth of reeds.  Here there was
but one mode for us to adopt.  We seated ourselves upon the
ground, and guided our descent by catching at the canes in our
path.  This velocity with which we thus slid down the side of the
ravine soon brought us to a point where we could use our feet,
and in a short time we arrived at the edge of the torrent, which
rolled impetuously along the bed of the chasm.

After taking a refreshing draught from the water of the stream,
we addressed ourselves to a much more difficult undertaking than
the last.  Every foot of our late descent had to be regained in
ascending the opposite side of the gorge--an operation rendered
the less agreeable from the consideration that in these
perpendicular episodes we did not progress a hundred yards on our
journey.  But, ungrateful as the task was, we set about it with
exemplary patience, and after a snail-like progress of an hour or
more, had scaled perhaps one half of the distance, when the fever
which had left me for a while returned with such violence, and
accompanied by so raging a thirst, that it required all the
entreaties of Toby to prevent me from losing all the fruits of my
late exertion, by precipitating myself madly down the cliffs we
had just climbed, in quest of the water which flowed so
temptingly at their base.  At the moment all my hopes and fears
appeared to be merged in this one desire, careless of the
consequences that might result from its gratification.  I am
aware of no feeling, either of pleasure or of pain, that so
completely deprives one of an power to resist its impulses, as
this same raging thirst.

Toby earnestly conjured me to continue the ascent, assuring me
that a little more exertion would bring us to the summit, and
that then in less than five minutes we should find ourselves at
the brink of the stream, which must necessarily flow on the other
side of the ridge.

'Do not,' he exclaimed, 'turn back, now that we have proceeded
thus far; for I tell you that neither of us will have the courage
to repeat the attempt, if once more we find ourselves looking up
to where we now are from the bottom of these rocks!'

I was not yet so perfectly beside myself as to be heedless of
these representations, and therefore toiled on, ineffectually
endeavouring to appease the thirst which consumed me, by thinking
that in a short time I should be able to gratify it to my heart's
content.

At last we gained the top of the second elevation, the loftiest
of those I have described as.  extending in parallel lines
between us and the valley we desired to reach.  It commanded a
view of the whole intervening distance; and, discouraged as I was
by other circumstances, this prospect plunged me into the very
depths of despair.  Nothing but dark and fearful chasms,
separated by sharp-crested and perpendicular ridges as far as the
eye could reach.  Could we have stepped from summit to summit of
these steep but narrow elevations we could easily have
accomplished the distance; but we must penetrate to the bottom of
every yawning gulf, and scale in succession every one of the
eminences before us.  Even Toby, although not suffering as I did,
was not proof against the disheartening influences of the sight.

But we did not long stand to contemplate it, impatient as I was
to reach the waters of the torrent which flowed beneath us.  With
an insensibility to danger which I cannot call to mind without
shuddering, we threw ourselves down the depths of the ravine,
startling its savage solitudes with the echoes produced by the
falling fragments of rock we every moment dislodged from their
places, careless of the insecurity of our footing, and reckless
whether the slight roots and twigs we clutched at sustained us
for the while, or treacherously yielded to our grasp.  For my own
part, I scarcely knew whether I was helplessly falling from the
heights above, or whether the fearful rapidity with which I
descended was an act of my own volition.

In a few minutes we reached the foot of the gorge, and kneeling
upon a small ledge of dripping rocks, I bent over to the stream.  
What a delicious sensation was I now to experience!  I paused for
a second to concentrate all my capabilities of enjoyment, and
then immerged my lips in the clear element before me.  Had the
apples of Sodom turned to ashes in my mouth, I could not have
felt a more startling revulsion.  A single drop of the cold fluid
seemed to freeze every drop of blood in my body; the fever that
had been burning in my veins gave place on the instant to
death-like chills, which shook me one after another like so many
shocks of electricity, while the perspiration produced by my late
violent exertions congealed in icy beads upon my forehead.  My
thirst was gone, and I fairly loathed the water.  Starting to my
feet, the sight of those dank rocks, oozing forth moisture at
every crevice, and the dark stream shooting along its dismal
channel, sent fresh chills through my shivering frame, and I felt
as uncontrollable a desire to climb up towards the genial
sunlight as I before had to descend the ravine.

After two hours' perilous exertions we stood upon the summit of
another ridge, and it was with difficulty I could bring myself to
believe that we had ever penetrated the black and yawning chasm
which then gaped at our feet.  Again we gazed upon the prospect
which the height commanded, but it was just as depressing as the
one which had before met our eyes.  I now felt that in our
present situation it was in vain for us to think of ever
overcoming the obstacles in our way, and I gave up all thoughts
of reaching the vale which lay beyond this series of impediments;
while at the same time I could not devise any scheme to extricate
ourselves from the difficulties in which we were involved.

The remotest idea of returning to Nukuheva, unless assured of our
vessel's departure, never once entered my mind, and indeed it was
questionable whether we could have succeeded in reaching it,
divided as we were from the bay by a distance we could not
compute, and perplexed too in our remembrance of localities by
our recent wanderings.  Besides, it was unendurable the thought
of retracing our steps and rendering all our painful exertions of
no avail.

There is scarcely anything when a man is in difficulties that he
is more disposed to look upon with abhorrence than a rightabout
retrograde movement--a systematic going over of the already
trodden ground: and especially if he has a love of adventure,
such a course appears indescribably repulsive, so long as there
remains the least hope to be derived from braving untried
difficulties.

It was this feeling that prompted us to descend the opposite side
of the elevation we had just scaled, although with what definite
object in view it would have been impossible for either of us to
tell.

Without exchanging a syllable upon the subject, Toby and myself
simultaneously renounced the design which had lured us thus
far--perceiving in each other's countenances that desponding
expression which speaks more eloquently than words.

Together we stood towards the close of this weary day in the
cavity of the third gorge we had entered, wholly incapacitated
for any further exertion, until restored to some degree of
strength by food and repose.

We seated ourselves upon the least uncomfortable spot we could
select, and Toby produced from the bosom of his frock the sacred
package.  In silence we partook of the small morsel of
refreshment that had been left from the morning's repast, and
without once proposing to violate the sanctity of our engagement
with respect to the remainder, we rose to our feet, and proceeded
to construct some sort of shelter under which we might obtain the
sleep we so greatly needed.

Fortunately the spot was better adapted to our purpose than the
one in which we had passed the last wretched night.  We cleared
away the tall reeds from the small but almost level bit of
ground, and twisted them into a low basket-like hut, which we
covered with a profusion of long thick leaves, gathered from a
tree near at hand.  We disposed them thickly all around,
reserving only a slight opening that barely permitted us to crawl
under the shelter we had thus obtained.

These deep recesses, though protected from the winds that assail
the summits of their lofty sides, are damp and chill to a degree
that one would hardly anticipate in such a climate; and being
unprovided with anything but our woollen frocks and thin duck
trousers to resist the cold of the place, we were the more
solicitous to render our habitation for the night as comfortable
as we could.  Accordingly, in addition to what we had already
done, we plucked down all the leaves within our reach and threw
them in a heap over our little hut, into which we now crept,
raking after us a reserved supply to form our couch.

That night nothing but the pain I suffered prevented me from
sleeping most refreshingly.  As it was, I caught two or three
naps, while Toby slept away at my side as soundly as though he
had been sandwiched between two Holland sheets.  Luckily it did
not rain, and we were preserved from the misery which a heavy
shower would have occasioned us.  In the morning I was awakened
by the sonorous voice of my companion ringing in my ears and
bidding me rise.  I crawled out from our heap of leaves, and was
astonished at the change which a good night's rest had wrought in
his appearance.  He was as blithe and joyous as a young bird, and
was staying the keenness of his morning's appetite by chewing the
soft bark of a delicate branch he held in his hand, and he
recommended the like to me as an admirable antidote against the
gnawings of hunger.

For my own part, though feeling materially better than I had done
the preceding evening, I could not look at the limb that had
pained me so violently at intervals during the last twenty-four
hours, without experiencing a sense of alarm that I strove in
vain to shake off.  Unwilling to disturb the flow of my comrade's
spirits, I managed to stifle the complaints to which I might
otherwise have given vent, and calling upon him good-humouredly
to speed our banquet, I prepared myself for it by washing in the
stream.  This operation concluded, we swallowed, or rather
absorbed, by a peculiar kind of slow sucking process, our
respective morsels of nourishment, and then entered into a
discussion as to the steps is was necessary for us to pursue.

'What's to be done now?'  inquired I, rather dolefully.

'Descend into that same valley we descried yesterday.'  rejoined
Toby, with a rapidity and loudness of utterance that almost led
me to suspect he had been slyly devouring the broadside of an ox
in some of the adjoining thickets.  'What else,' he continued,
'remains for us to do but that, to be sure?  Why, we shall both
starve to a certainty if we remain here; and as to your fears of
those Typees--depend upon it, it is all nonsense.'

'It is impossible that the inhabitants of such a lovely place as
we saw can be anything else but good fellows; and if you choose
rather to perish with hunger in one of these soppy caverns, I for
one prefer to chance a bold descent into the valley, and risk the
consequences'.

'And who is to pilot us thither,' I asked, 'even if we should
decide upon the measure you propose?  Are we to go again up and
down those precipices that we crossed yesterday, until we reach
the place we started from, and then take a flying leap from the
cliffs to the valley?'

'Faith, I didn't think of that,' said Toby; 'sure enough, both
sides of the valley appeared to be hemmed in by precipices,
didn't they?'

'Yes,' answered I, 'as steep as the sides of a line-of-battle
ship, and about a hundred times as high.'  My companion sank his
head upon his breast, and remained for a while in deep thought.  
Suddenly he sprang to his feet, while his eyes lighted up with
that gleam of intelligence that marks the presence of some bright
idea.

'Yes, yes,' he exclaimed; 'the streams all run in the same
direction, and must necessarily flow into the valley before they
reach the sea; all we have to do is just to follow this stream,
and sooner or later it will lead us into the vale.'

'You are right, Toby,' I exclaimed, 'you are right; it must
conduct us thither, and quickly too; for, see with what a steep
inclination the water descends.'

'It does, indeed,' burst forth my companion, overjoyed at my
verification of his theory, 'it does indeed; why, it is as plain
as a pike-staff.  Let us proceed at once; come, throw away all
those stupid ideas about the Typees, and hurrah for the lovely
valley of the Happars.'

'You will have it to be Happar, I see, my dear fellow; pray
Heaven you may not find yourself deceived,' observed I, with a
shake of my head.

'Amen to all that, and much more,' shouted Toby, rushing forward;
'but Happar it is, for nothing else than Happar can it be.  So
glorious a valley--such forests of bread-fruit trees--such groves
of cocoanut--such wilderness of guava-bushes!  Ah!  shipmate!
don't linger behind: in the name of all delightful fruits, I am
dying to be at them.  Come on, come on; shove ahead, there's a
lively lad; never mind the rocks; kick them out of the way, as I
do; and tomorrow, old fellow, take my word for it, we shall be in
clover.  Come on;' and so saying, he dashed along the ravine like
a madman, forgetting my inability to keep up with him.  In a few
minutes, however, the exuberance of his spirits abated, and,
pausing for a while, he permitted me to overtake him.


Herman Melville