Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter Twelve


CHAPTER TWELVE

OFFICIOUSNESS OF KORY-KORY--HIS DEVOTION--A BATH IN THE
STREAM--WANT OF REFINEMENT OF THE TYPEE DAMSELS--STROLL WITH
MEHEVI--A TYPEE HIGHWAY--THE TABOO GROVES--THE HOOLAH HOOLAH
GROUND--THE TI--TIMEWORN SAVAGES--HOSPITALITY OF MEHEVI--MIDNIGHT
MUSINGS--ADVENTURES IN THE DARK--DISTINGUISHED HONOURS PAID TO
THE VISITORS--STRANGE PROCESSION AND RETURN TO THE HOUSE OF
MARHEYO

WHEN Mehevi had departed from the house, as related in the
preceding chapter, Kory-Kory commenced the functions of the post
assigned him.  He brought out, various kinds of food; and, as if
I were an infant, insisted upon feeding me with his own hands.
To this procedure I, of course, most earnestly objected, but in
vain; and having laid a calabash of kokoo before me, he washed
his fingers in a vessel of water, and then putting his hands into
the dish and rolling the food into little balls, put them one
after another into my mouth.  All my remonstrances against this
measure only provoked so great a clamour on his part, that I was
obliged to acquiesce; and the operation of feeding being thus
facilitated, the meal was quickly despatched.  As for Toby, he
was 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, at
the same time looking approvingly upon me, and exclaiming 'Ki-Ki,
nuee nuee, ah!  moee moee motarkee' (eat plenty, ah!  sleep very
good).  The philosophy of this sentiment I did not pretend to
question; for deprived of sleep for several preceding nights, and
the pain of my limb having much abated, I now felt inclined to
avail myself of the opportunity afforded me.

The next morning, on waking, I found Kory-Kory stretched out on
one side of me, while my companion lay upon the other.  I felt
sensibly refreshed after a night of sound repose, and immediately
agreed to the proposition of my valet that I should repair to the
water and wash, although dreading the suffering that the exertion
might produce.  From this apprehension, however, I was quickly
relieved; for Kory-Kory, leaping from the pi-pi, and then backing
himself up against it, like a porter in readiness to shoulder a
trunk, with loud vociferations and a superabundance of gestures,
gave me to understand that I was to mount upon his back and be
thus transported to the stream, which flowed perhaps two hundred
yards from the house.

Our appearance upon the verandah in front of the habitation drew
together quite a crowd, who stood looking on and conversing with
one another in the most animated manner.  They reminded one of a
group of idlers gathered about the door of a village tavern when
the equipage of some distinguished traveller is brought round
previously to his departure.  As soon as I clasped my arms about
the neck of the devoted fellow, and he jogged off with me, the
crowd--composed chiefly of young girls and boys--followed after,
shouting and capering with infinite glee, and accompanied us to
the 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 black
stone which rose a few inches above the surface.  The amphibious
rabble at our heels plunged in after us, and climbing to the
summit of the grass-grown rocks with which the bed of the brook
was here and there broken, waited curiously to witness our
morning ablutions.

Somewhat embarrassed by the presence of the female portion of the
company, and feeling my cheeks burning with bashful timidity, I
formed a primitive basin by joining my hands together, and cooled
my blushes in the water it contained; then removing my frock,
bent over and washed myself down to my waist in the stream.  As
soon as Kory-Kory comprehended from my motions that this was to
be the extent of my performance, he appeared perfectly aghast
with astonishment, and rushing towards me, poured out a torrent
of words in eager deprecation of so limited an operation,
enjoining me by unmistakeable signs to immerse my whole body.  To
this I was forced to consent; and the honest fellow regarding me
as a froward, inexperienced child, whom it was his duty to serve
at the risk of offending, lifted me from the rocks, and tenderly
bathed my limbs.  This over, and resuming my seat, I could not
avoid bursting into admiration of the scene around me.

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

The nature of the route we now pursued struck me more forcibly
than anything I had yet seen, as illustrating the indolent
disposition of the islanders.  The path was obviously the most
beaten one in the valley, several others leading from each side
into it, and perhaps for successive generations it had formed the
principal avenue of the place.  And yet, until I grew more
familiar with its impediments, it seemed as difficult to travel
as the recesses of a wilderness.  Part of it swept around an
abrupt rise.  of ground, the surface of which was broken by
frequent inequalities, and thickly strewn with projecting masses
of rocks, whose summits were often hidden from view by the
drooping foliage of the luxurious vegetation.  Sometimes directly
over, sometimes evading these obstacles with a wide circuit, the
path wound along;--one moment climbing over a sudden eminence
smooth with continued wear, then descending on the other side
into a steep glen, and crossing the flinty channel of a brook.
Here it pursued the depths of a glade, occasionally obliging you
to stoop beneath vast horizontal branches; and now you stepped
over huge trunks and boughs that lay rotting across the track.

Such was the grand thoroughfare of Typee.  After proceeding a
little distance along it--Kory-Kory panting and blowing with the
weight of his burden--I dismounted from his back, and grasping
the long spear of Mehevi in my hand, assisted my steps over the
numerous obstacles of the road; preferring this mode of advance
to one which, from the difficulties of the way, was equally
painful to myself and my wearied servitor.

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

Here were situated the Taboo groves of the valley--the scene of
many a prolonged feast, of many a horrid rite.  Beneath the dark
shadows of the consecrated bread-fruit trees there reigned a
solemn twilight--a cathedral-like gloom.  The frightful genius of
pagan worship seemed to brood in silence over the place,
breathing its spell upon every object around.  Here and there, in
the depths of these awful shades, half screened from sight by
masses of overhanging foliage, rose the idolatrous altars of the
savages, built of enormous blocks of black and polished stone,
placed one upon another, without cement, to the height of twelve
or fifteen feet, and surmounted by a rustic open temple, enclosed
with a low picket of canes, within which might be seen, in
various 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 fantastical
religious ritual of these people--comprising an extensive oblong
pi-pi, terminating at either end in a lofty terraced altar,
guarded by ranks of hideous wooden idols, and with the two
remaining sides flanked by ranges of bamboo sheds, opening
towards the interior of the quadrangle thus formed.  Vast trees,
standing in the middle of this space, and throwing over it an
umbrageous shade, had their massive trunks built round with
slight stages, elevated a few feet above the ground, and railed
in with canes, forming so many rustic pulpits, from which the
priests harangued their devotees.

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

Access was had to the enclosure through an embowered entrance, on
one side, facing a number of towering cocoanut trees, planted at
intervals along a level area of a hundred yards.  At the further
extremity of this space was to be seen a building of considerable
size, reserved for the habitation of the priests and religious
attendants of the groves.

In its vicinity was another remarkable edifice, built as usual
upon the summit of a pi-pi, and at least two hundred feet in
length, though not more than twenty in breadth.  The whole front
of this latter structure was completely open, and from one end to
the other ran a narrow verandah, fenced in on the edge of the
pi-pi with a picket of canes.  Its interior presented the
appearance of an immense lounging place, the entire floor being
strewn with successive layers of mats, lying between parallel
trunks of cocoanut trees, selected for the purpose from the
straightest 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 accompanied
by a troop of the natives of both sexes; but as soon as we
approached its vicinity, the females gradually separated
themselves from the crowd, and standing aloof, permitted us to
pass on.  The merciless prohibitions of the taboo extended
likewise to this edifice, and were enforced by the same dreadful
penalty that secured the Hoolah-Hoolah ground from the imaginary
pollution of a woman's presence.

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

Disposed about these muskets, like the cutlasses that decorate
the bulkhead of a man-of-war's cabin, were a great variety of
rude 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 with
the aspect of four or five hideous old wretches, on whose
decrepit forms time and tattooing seemed,to have obliterated
every trace of humanity.  Owing to the continued operation of
this latter process, which only terminates among the warriors of
the island after all the figures stretched upon their limbs in
youth have been blended together--an effect, however, produced
only in cases of extreme longevity--the bodies Of these men were
of a uniform dull green colour--the hue which the tattooing
gradually assumes as the individual advances in age.  Their skin
had a frightful scaly appearance, which, united with its singular
colour, made their limbs not a little resemble dusty specimens of
verde-antique.  Their flesh, in parts, hung upon them in huge
folds, like the overlapping plaits on the flank of a rhinoceros.
Their heads were completely bald, whilst their faces were
puckered into a thousand wrinkles, and they presented no vestige
of a beard.  But the most remarkable peculiarity about them was
the appearance of their feet; the toes, like the radiating lines
of the mariner's compass, pointed to every quarter of the
horizon.  This was doubtless attributable to the fact, that
during nearly a hundred years of existence the said toes never
had been subjected to any artificial confinement, and in their
old age, being averse to close neighbourhood, bid one another
keep open order.

These repulsive-looking creatures appeared to have lost the use
of their lower limbs altogether; sitting upon the floor
cross-legged in a state of torpor.  They never heeded us in the
least, scarcely looking conscious of our presence, while Mehevi
seated us upon the mats, and Kory-Kory gave utterance to some
unintelligible gibberish

In a few moments a boy entered with a wooden trencher of
poee-poee; and in regaling myself with its contents I was obliged
again to submit to the officious intervention of my indefatigable
servitor.  Various other dishes followed, the chief manifesting
the most hospitable importunity in pressing us to partake, and to
remove all bashfulness on our part, set us no despicable example
in his own person.

The repast concluded, a pipe was lighted, which passed from mouth
to mouth, and yielding to its soporific influence, the quiet of
the place, and the deepening shadows of approaching night, my
companion and I sank into a kind of drowsy repose, while the
chief 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 were
enveloped in utter darkness.  Toby lay still asleep, but our late
companions had disappeared.  The only sound that interrupted the
silence of the place was the asthmatic breathing of the old men I
have mentioned, who reposed at a little distance from us.  
Besides them, as well as I could judge, there was no one else in
the house.

Apprehensive of some evil, I roused my comrade, and we were
engaged in a whispered conference concerning the unexpected
withdrawal of the natives when all at once, from the depths of
the grove, in full view of us where we lay, shoots of flame were
seen to rise, and in a few moments illuminated the surrounding
trees, casting, by contrast, into still deeper gloom the darkness
around us.

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

Regarding this new phenomenon with no small degree of
trepidation, 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 trip-
hammer, 'what fire?'

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

'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 hear
me joke?  Why, for what do you suppose the devils have been
feeding us up in this kind of style during the last three days,
unless it were for something that you are too much frightened at
to talk about?  Look at that Kory-Kory there!--has he not been
stuffing you with his confounded mushes, just in the way they
treat swine before they kill them?  Depend upon it, we will be
eaten this blessed night, and there is the fire we shall be
roasted by.'

This view of the matter was not at all calculated to allay my
apprehensions, and I shuddered when I reflected that we were
indeed at the mercy of a tribe of cannibals, and that the
dreadful contingency to which Toby had alluded was by no means
removed beyond the bounds of possibility.

'There!  I told you so!  they are coming for us!' exclaimed my
companion the next moment, as the forms of four of the islanders
were seen in bold relief against the illuminated back-ground
mounting the pi-pi and approaching towards us.

They came on noiselessly, nay stealthily, and glided along
through the gloom that surrounded us as if about to spring upon
some object they were fearful of disturbing before they should
make sure of it.--Gracious heaven!  the horrible reflections
which crowded upon me that moment.--A cold sweat stood upon my
brow, and spell-bound with terror I awaited my fate!

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

'Ki ki!  is it?'  said Toby in his gruff tones; 'Well, cook us
first, will you--but what's this?'  he added, as another savage
appeared, bearing before him a large trencher of wood containing
some kind of steaming meat, as appeared from the odours it
diffused, and which he deposited at the feet of Mehevi.  'A baked
baby, I dare say I but I will have none of it, never mind what it
is.--A pretty fool I should make of myself, indeed, waked up here
in the middle of the night, stuffing and guzzling, and all to
make a fat meal for a parcel of booby-minded cannibals one of
these mornings!--No, I see what they are at very plainly, so I am
resolved to starve myself into a bunch of bones and gristle, and
then, 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, are
you?  Why, how can you tell what it is?'

'By tasting it, to be sure,' said I, masticating a morsel that
Kory-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 the
island till you landed.  I tell you you are bolting down
mouthfuls from a dead Happar's carcass, as sure as you live, and
no mistake!'

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

The next morning, after being again abundantly feasted by the
hospitable Mehevi, Toby and myself arose to depart.  But the
chief 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 in
giving directions to a number of the natives outside, who were
busily employed in making arrangements, the nature of which we
could not comprehend.  But we were not left long in our
ignorance, for a few moments only had elapsed, when the chief
beckoned us to approach, and we perceived that he had been
marshalling a kind of guard of honour to escort us on our return
to the house of Marheyo.

The procession was led off by two venerable-looking savages, each
provided with a spear, from the end of which streamed a pennon of
milk-white tappa.  After them went several youths, bearing aloft
calabashes of poee-poee, and followed in their turn by four
stalwart fellows, sustaining long bamboos, from the tops of which
hung suspended, at least twenty feet from the ground, large
baskets of green bread-fruits.  Then came a troop of boys,
carrying bunches of ripe bananas, and baskets made of the woven
leaflets of cocoanut boughs, filled with the young fruit of the
tree, the naked shells stripped of their husks peeping forth from
the verdant wicker-work that surrounded them.  Last of all came a
burly islander, holding over his head a wooden trencher, in which
lay disposed the remnants of our midnight feast, hidden from
view, however, by a covering of bread-fruit leaves.

Astonished as I was at this exhibition, I could not avoid smiling
at its grotesque appearance, and the associations it naturally
called up.  Mehevi, it seemed, was bent on replenishing old
Marheyo's larder, fearful perhaps that without this precaution
his guests might not fare as well as they could desire.

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

As we proceeded on our way, bands of young girls, darting from
the surrounding groves, hung upon our skirts, and accompanied us
with shouts of merriment and delight, which almost drowned the
deep notes of the recitative.  On approaching old Marheyo's
domicile, its inmates rushed out to receive us; and while the
gifts of Mehevi were being disposed of, the superannuated warrior
did the honours of his mansion with all the warmth of hospitality
evinced by an English squire when he regales his friends at some
fine old patrimonial mansion.


Herman Melville