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Chapter Fourteen


CHAPTER FOURTEEN

A GREAT EVENT HAPPENS IN THE VALLEY--THE ISLAND
TELEGRAPH--SOMETHING BEFALLS TOBY--FAYAWAY DISPLAYS A TENDER
HEART--MELANCHOLY REFLECTIONS--MYSTERIOUS CONDUCT OF THE
ISLANDERS--DEVOTION OF KORY-KORY--A RURAL COUCH--A
LUXURY--KORY-KORY STRIKES A LIGHT A LA TYPEE

IN the course of a few days Toby had recovered from the effects
of his adventure with the Happar warriors; the wound on his head
rapidly healing under the vegetable treatment of the good Tinor.  
Less fortunate than my companion however, I still continued to
languish under a complaint, the origin and nature of which were
still a mystery.  Cut off as I was from all intercourse with the
civilized world, and feeling the inefficacy of anything the
natives could do to relieve me; knowing, too, that so long as I
remained in my present condition, it would be impossible for me
to leave the valley, whatever opportunity might present itself;
and apprehensive that ere long we might be exposed to some
caprice on the part of the islanders, I now gave up all hopes of
recovery, and became a prey to the most gloomy thoughts.  A deep
dejection fell upon me, which neither the friendly remonstrances
of my companion, the devoted attentions of Kory-Kory nor all the
soothing influences of Fayaway could remove.

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

These tidings operated upon me like magic.  The hour of our
deliverance was at hand, and starting up, I was soon convinced
that something unusual was about to occur.  The word 'botee!
botee!' was vociferated in all directions; and shouts were heard
in the distance, at first feebly and faintly; but growing louder
and nearer at each successive repetition, until they were caught
up by a fellow in a cocoanut tree a few yards off, who sounding
them in turn, they were reiterated from a neighbouring grove, and
so died away gradually from point to point, as the intelligence
penetrated into the farthest recess of the valley.  This was the
vocal telegraph of the islanders; by means of which condensed
items of information could be carried in a very few minutes from
the sea to their remotest habitation, a distance of at least
eight or nine miles.  On the present occasion it was in active
operation; one piece of information following another with
inconceivable rapidity.

The greatest commotion now appeared to prevail.  At every fresh
item of intelligence the natives betrayed the liveliest interest,
and redoubled the energy with which they employed themselves in
collecting fruit to sell to the expected visitors.  Some were
tearing off the husks from cocoanuts; some perched in the trees
were throwing down bread-fruit to their companions, who gathered
them into heaps as they fell; while others were plying their
fingers rapidly in weaving leafen baskets in which to carry the
fruit.

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

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

When I thought of the length of time that might intervene before
a similar chance of escape would be presented, I bitterly
lamented that I had not the power of availing myself effectually
of the present opportunity.

From all that we could gather, it appeared that the natives were
fearful of arriving too late upon the beach, unless they made
extraordinary exertions.  Sick and lame as I was, I would have
started with Toby at once, had not Kory-Kory not only refused to
carry me, but manifested the most invincible repugnance to our
leaving the neighbourhood of the house.  The rest of the savages
were equally opposed to our wishes, and seemed grieved and
astonished at the earnestness of my solicitations.  I clearly
perceived that while my attendant avoided all appearance of
constraining my movements, he was nevertheless determined to
thwart my wishes.  He seemed to me on this particular occasion,
as well as often afterwards, to be executing the orders of some
other person with regard to me, though at the same time feeling
towards me the most lively affection.

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

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

In the expediency of this I could not but acquiesce; and as the
natives had now completed their preparations, I watched with the
liveliest interest the reception that Toby's application might
meet with.  As soon as they understood from my companion that I
intended to remain, they appeared to make no objection to his
proposition, and even hailed it with pleasure.  Their singular
conduct on this occasion not a little puzzled me at the time, and
imparted to subsequent events an additional mystery.

The islanders were now to be seen hurrying along the path which
led to the sea.  I shook Toby warmly by the hand, and gave him my
Payta hat to shield his wounded head from the sun, as he had lost
his own.  He cordially returned the pressure of my hand, and
solemnly promising to return as soon as the boats should leave
the shore, sprang from my side, and the next minute disappeared
in 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 sight
which by now met my view.  One after another the natives crowded
along the narrow path, laden with every variety of fruit.  Here,
you might have seen one, who, after ineffectually endeavouring to
persuade a surly porker to be conducted in leading strings, was
obliged at last to seize the perverse animal in his arms, and
carry him struggling against his naked breast, and squealing
without intermission.  There went two, who at a little distance
might have been taken for the Hebrew spies, on their return to
Moses with the goodly bunch of grape.  One trotted before the
other at a distance of a couple of yards, while between them,
from a pole resting on the shoulders, was suspended a huge
cluster of bananas, which swayed to and fro with the rocking gait
at which they proceeded.  Here ran another, perspiring with his
exertions, and bearing before him a quantity of cocoanuts, who,
fearful of being too late, heeded not the fruit that dropped from
his basket, and appeared solely intent upon reaching his
destination, careless how many of his cocoanuts kept company with
him.

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

Towards sunset the islanders in small parties began to return
from the beach, and among them, as they drew near to the house, I
sought to descry the form of my companion.  But one after another
they passed the dwelling, and I caught no glimpse of him.  
Supposing, however, that he would soon appear with some of the
members of the household, I quieted my apprehensions, and waited
patiently to see him advancing in company with the beautiful
Fayaway.  At last, I perceived Tinor coming forward, followed by
the girls and young men who usually resided in the house of
Marheyo; but with them came not my comrade, and, filled with a
thousand alarms, I eagerly sought to discover the cause of his
delay.

My earnest questions appeared to embarrass the natives greatly.  
All their accounts were contradictory: one giving me to
understand 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 stolen
away, and would never come back.  It appeared to me, at the time,
that in making these various statements they endeavoured to
conceal from me some terrible disaster, lest the knowledge of it
should overpower me.

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

This gentle being had early attracted my regard, not only from
her extraordinary beauty, but from the attractive cast of her
countenance, singularly expressive of intelligence and humanity.  
Of all the natives she alone seemed to appreciate the effect
which the peculiarity of the circumstances in which we were
placed had produced upon the minds of my companion and myself.  
In addressing me--especially when I lay reclining upon the mats
suffering from pain--there was a tenderness in her manner which
it was impossible to misunderstand or resist.  Whenever she
entered the house, the expression of her face indicated the
liveliest sympathy for me; and moving towards the place where I
lay, with one arm slightly elevated in a gesture of pity, and her
large glistening eyes gazing intently into mine, she would murmur
plaintively, 'Awha!  awha!  Tommo,' and seat herself mournfully
beside me.

Her manner convinced me that she deeply compassionated my
situation, as being removed from my country and friends, and
placed beyond the reach of all relief.  Indeed, at times I was
almost led to believe that her mind was swayed by gentle impulses
hardly to be anticipated from one in her condition; that she
appeared to be conscious there were ties rudely severed, which
had once bound us to our homes; that there were sisters and
brothers 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 reposing
full confidence in her candour and intelligence, I now had
recourse to her, in the midst of my alarm, with regard to my
companion.

My questions evidently distressed her.  She looked round from one
to another of the bystanders, as if hardly knowing what answer to
give me.  At last, yielding to my importunities, she overcame her
scruples, and gave me to understand that Toby had gone away with
the boats which had visited the bay, but had promised to return
at the expiration of three days.  At first I accused him of
perfidiously deserting me; but as I grew more composed, I
upbraided myself for imputing so cowardly an action to him, and
tranquillized myself with the belief that he had availed himself,
of the opportunity to go round to Nukuheva, in order to make some
arrangement by which I could be removed from the valley.  At any
rate, thought I, he will return with the medicines I require, and
then, as soon as I recover, there will be no difficulty in the
way of our departure.

Consoling myself with these reflections, I lay down that night in
a happier frame of mind than I had done for some time.  The next
day passed without any allusion to Toby on the part of the
natives, who seemed desirous of avoiding all reference to the
subject.  This raised some apprehensions in my breast; but when
night came, I congratulated myself that the second day had now
gone by, and that on the morrow Toby would again be with me.  But
the morrow came and went, and my companion did not appear.  Ah!
thought I, he reckons three days from the morning of his
departure,--tomorrow he will arrive.  But that weary day also
closed upon me, without his return.  Even yet I would not
despair; I thought that something detained him--that he was
waiting for the sailing of a boat, at Nukuheva, and that in a day
or two at farthest I should see him again.  But day after day of
renewed disappointment passed by; at last hope deserted me, and I
fell a victim to despair.

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

At other times I thought that perhaps after all these treacherous
savages had made away with him, and thence the confusion into
which they were thrown by my questions, and their contradictory
answers, or he might be a captive in some other part of the
valley, or, more dreadful still, might have met with that fate at
which my very soul shuddered.  But all these speculations were
vain; no tidings of Toby ever reached me; he had gone never to
return.

The conduct of the islanders appeared inexplicable.  All
reference to my lost comrade was carefully evaded, and if at any
time they were forced to make some reply to my frequent inquiries
on the subject, they would uniformly denounce him as an
ungrateful runaway, who had deserted his friend, and taken
himself off to that vile and detestable place Nukuheva.

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

Frequently in the afternoon he would carry me to a particular
part of the stream, where the beauty of the scene produced a
soothing influence upon my mind.  At this place the waters flowed
between 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 upon
its summit a shallow cavity, which, filled with freshly-gathered
leaves, formed a delightful couch.

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

As my eye wandered along this romantic stream, it would fall upon
the half-immersed figure of a beautiful girl, standing in the
transparent water, and catching in a little net a species of
diminutive shell-fish, of which these people are extraordinarily
fond.  Sometimes a chattering group would be seated upon the edge
of a low rock in the midst of the brook, busily engaged in
thinning and polishing the shells of cocoanuts, by rubbing them
briskly with a small stone in the water, an operation which soon
converts them into a light and elegant drinking vessel, somewhat
resembling goblets made of tortoise shell.

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

Every evening the girls of the house gathered about me on the
mats, and after chasing away Kory-Kory from my side--who
nevertheless, retired only to a little distance and watched their
proceedings with the most jealous attention--would anoint my
whole body with a fragrant oil, squeezed from a yellow root,
previously pounded between a couple of stones, and which in their
language is denominated 'aka'.  And most refreshing and agreeable
are the juices of the 'aka', when applied to ones, limbs by the
soft palms of sweet nymphs, whose bright eyes are beaming upon
you with kindness; and I used to hail with delight the daily
recurrence of this luxurious operation, in which I forgot all my
troubles, and buried for the time every feeling of sorrow.

Sometimes in the cool of the evening my devoted servitor would
lead me out upon the pi-pi in front of the house, and seating me
near its edge, protect my body from the annoyance of the insects
which occasionally hovered in the air, by wrapping me round with
a large roll of tappa.  He then bustled about, and employed
himself at least twenty minutes in adjusting everything to secure
my personal comfort.

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

A straight, dry, and partly decayed stick of the Hibiscus, about
six feet in length, and half as many inches in diameter, with a
small, bit of wood not more than a foot long, and scarcely an
inch wide, is as invariably to be met with in every house in
Typee as a box of lucifer matches in the corner of a kitchen
cupboard at home.

The islander, placing the larger stick obliquely against some
object, with one end elevated at an angle of forty-five degrees,
mounts astride of it like an urchin about to gallop off upon a
cane, and then grasping the smaller one firmly in both hands, he
rubs its pointed end slowly up and down the extent of a few
inches on the principal suck, until at last he makes a narrow
groove in the wood, with an abrupt termination at the point
furthest from him, where all the dusty particles which the
friction creates are accumulated in a little heap.

At first Kory-Kory goes to work quite leisurely, but gradually
quickens his pace, and waxing warm in the employment, drives the
stick furiously along the smoking channel, plying his hands to
and fro with amazing rapidity, the perspiration starting from
every pore.  As he approaches the climax of his effort, he pants
and gasps for breath, and his eyes almost start from their
sockets with the violence of his exertions.  This is the critical
stage of the operation; all his previous labours are vain if he
cannot sustain the rapidity of the movement until the reluctant
spark is produced.  Suddenly he stops, becoming perfectly
motionless.  His hands still retain their hold of the smaller
stick, which is pressed convulsively against the further end of
the channel among the fine powder there accumulated, as if he had
just pierced through and through some little viper that was
wriggling and struggling to escape from his clutches.  The next
moment 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 of
work performed in Typee; and had I possessed a sufficient
intimacy with the language to have conveyed my ideas upon the
subject, I should certainly have suggested to the most
influential of the natives the expediency of establishing a
college of vestals to be centrally located in the valley, for the
purpose of keeping alive the indispensable article of fire; so as
to supersede the necessity of such a vast outlay of strength and
good temper, as were usually squandered on these occasions.  
There might, however, be special difficulties in carrying this
plan into execution.

What a striking evidence does this operation furnish of the wide
difference between the extreme of savage and civilized life.  A
gentleman of Typee can bring up a numerous family of children and
give them all a highly respectable cannibal education, with
infinitely less toil and anxiety than he expends in the simple
process of striking a light; whilst a poor European artisan, who
through the instrumentality of a lucifer performs the same
operation in one second, is put to his wit's end to provide for
his starving offspring that food which the children of a
Polynesian father, without troubling their parents, pluck from
the branches of every tree around them.


Herman Melville