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Chapter Sixteen


CHAPTER SIXTEEN

MELANCHOLY CONDITION--OCCURRENCE AT THE TI--ANECDOTE OF
MARHEYO--SHAVING THE HEAD OF A WARRIOR

IN looking back to this period, and calling to remembrance the
numberless proofs of kindness and respect which I received from
the natives of the valley, I can scarcely understand how it was
that, in the midst of so many consolatory circumstances, my mind
should still have been consumed by the most dismal forebodings,
and have remained a prey to the profoundest melancholy.  It is
true that the suspicious circumstances which had attended the
disappearance of Toby were enough of themselves to excite
distrust with regard to the savages, in whose power I felt myself
to be entirely placed, especially when it was combined with the
knowledge that these very men, kind and respectful as they were
to me, were, after all, nothing better than a set of cannibals.

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

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

One morning there was no little excitement evinced by the people
near my abode, and which I soon discovered proceeded from a vague
report that boats, had been seen at a great distance approaching
the bay.  Immediately all was bustle and animation.  It so
happened that day that the pain I suffered having somewhat
abated, and feeling in much better spirits than usual, I had
complied with Kory-Kory's invitation to visit the chief Mehevi at
the place called the 'Ti', which I have before described as being
situated within the precincts of the Taboo Groves.  These sacred
recesses were at no great distance from Marheyo's habitation, and
lay between it and the sea; the path that conducted to the beach
passing directly in front of the Ti, and thence skirting along
the border of the groves.

I was reposing upon the mats, within the sacred building, in
company with Mehevi and several other chiefs, when the
announcement was first made.  It sent a thrill of joy through my
whole frame;--perhaps Toby was about to return.  I rose at once
to my feet, and my instinctive impulse was to hurry down to the
beach, equally regardless of the distance that separated me from
it, and of my disabled condition.  As soon as Mehevi noticed the
effect the intelligence had produced upon me, and the impatience
I betrayed to reach the sea, his countenance assumed that
inflexible rigidity of expression which had so awed me on the
afternoon of our arrival at the house of Marheyo.  As I was
proceeding to leave the Ti, he laid his hand upon my shoulder,
and said gravely, 'abo, abo' (wait, wait).  Solely intent upon
the one thought that occupied my mind, and heedless of his
request, I was brushing past him, when suddenly he assumed a tone
of authority, and told me to 'moee' (sit down).  Though struck by
the alteration in his demeanour, the excitement under which I
laboured was too strong to permit me to obey the unexpected
command, and I was still limping towards the edge of the pi-pi
with Kory-Kory clinging to one arm in his efforts to restrain me,
when the natives around started to their feet, ranged themselves
along the open front of the building, while Mehevi looked at me
scowlingly, and reiterated his commands still more sternly.

It was at this moment, when fifty savage countenances were
glaring upon me, that I first truly experienced I was indeed a
captive in the valley.  The conviction rushed upon me with
staggering force, and I was overwhelmed by this confirmation of
my worst fears.  I saw at once that it was useless for me to
resist, and sick at heart, I reseated myself upon the mats, and
for the moment abandoned myself to despair.

I now perceived the natives one after the other hurrying past the
Ti and pursuing the route that conducted to the sea.  These
savages, thought I, will soon be holding communication with some
of my own countrymen perhaps, who with ease could restore me to
liberty did they know of the situation I was in.  No language can
describe the wretchedness which I felt; and in the bitterness of
my soul I imprecated a thousand curses on the perfidious Toby,
who had thus abandoned me to destruction.  It was in vain that
Kory-Kory tempted me with food, or lighted my pipe, or sought to
attract my attention by performing the uncouth antics that had
sometimes diverted me.  I was fairly knocked down by this last
misfortune, which, much as I had feared it, I had never before
had the courage calmly to contemplate.

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

Whether any boats visited the bay that morning or not, I never
could ascertain.  The savages assured me that there had not--but
I was inclined to believe that by deceiving me in this particular
they sought to allay the violence of my grief.  However that
might be, this incident showed plainly that the Typees intended
to hold me a prisoner.  As they still treated me with the same
sedulous attention as before, I was utterly at a loss how to
account for their singular conduct.  Had I been in a situation to
instruct them in any of the rudiments of the mechanic arts, or
had I manifested a disposition to render myself in any way useful
among them, their conduct might have been attributed to some
adequate motive, but as it was, the matter seemed to me
inexplicable.

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

The few things we had brought from Nukuheva had been done up into
a small bundle which we had carried with us in our descent to the
valley.  This bundle, the first night of our arrival, I had used
as a pillow, but on the succeeding morning, opening it for the
inspection of the natives, they gazed upon the miscellaneous
contents as though I had just revealed to them a casket of
diamonds, and they insisted that so precious a treasure should be
properly secured.  A line was accordingly attached to it, and the
other end being passed over the ridge-pole of the house, it was
hoisted up to the apex of the roof, where it hung suspended
directly over the mats where I usually reclined.  When I desired
anything from it I merely raised my finger to a bamboo beside me,
and taking hold of the string which was there fastened, lowered
the package.  This was exceedingly handy, and I took care to let
the natives understand how much I applauded the invention.  Of
this package the chief contents were a razor with its case, a
supply of needles and thread, a pound or two of tobacco and a few
yards of bright-coloured calico.

I should have mentioned that shortly after Toby's disappearance,
perceiving the uncertainty of the time I might be obliged to
remain in the valley--if, indeed, I ever should escape from
it--and considering that my whole wardrobe consisted of a shirt
and a pair of trousers, I resolved to doff these garments at
once, in order to preserve them in a suitable condition for wear
should I again appear among civilized beings.  I was consequently
obliged to assume the Typee costume, a little altered, however,
to suit my own views of propriety, and in which I have no doubt I
appeared to as much advantage as a senator of Rome enveloped in
the folds of his toga.  A few folds of yellow tappa tucked about
my waist, descended to my feet in the style of a lady's
petticoat, only I did not have recourse to those voluminous
paddings in the rear with which our gentle dames are in the habit
of augmenting the sublime rotundity of their figures.  This
usually comprised my in-door dress; whenever I walked out, I
superadded to it an ample robe of the same material, which
completely enveloped my person, and screened it from the rays of
the sun.

One morning I made a rent in this mantle; and to show the
islanders with what facility it could be repaired, I lowered my
bundle, and taking from it a needle and thread, proceeded to
stitch up the opening.  They regarded this wonderful application
of science with intense admiration; and whilst I was stitching
away, old Marheyo, who was one of the lookers-on, suddenly
clapped his hand to his forehead, and rushing to a corner of the
house, drew forth a soiled and tattered strip of faded calico
which he must have procured some time or other in traffic on the
beach--and besought me eagerly to exercise a little of my art
upon it.  I willingly complied, though certainly so stumpy a
needle as mine never took such gigantic strides over calico
before.  The repairs completed, old Marheyo gave me a paternal
hug; and divesting himself of his 'maro' (girdle), swathed the
calico about his loins, and slipping the beloved ornaments into
his ears, grasped his spear and sallied out of the house, like a
valiant Templar arrayed in a new and costly suit of armour.

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

The implement they usually employ is a shark's tooth, which is
about as well adapted to the purpose as a one-pronged fork for
pitching hay.  No wonder, then, that the acute Narmonee perceived
the advantage my razor possessed over the usual implement.  
Accordingly, one day he requested as a personal favour that I
would just run over his head with the razor.  In reply, I gave
him to understand that it was too dull, and could not be used to
any purpose without being previously sharpened.  To assist my
meaning, I went through an imaginary honing process on the palm
of my hand.  Narmonee took my meaning in an instant, and running
out of the house, returned the next moment with a huge rough mass
of rock as big as a millstone, and indicated to me that that was
exactly the thing I wanted.  Of course there was nothing left for
me but to proceed to business, and I began scraping away at a
great 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 then
observed, stake my life upon his courage and fortitude.  Before
commencing operations, his head had presented a surface of short
bristling hairs, and by the time I had concluded my unskilful
operation it resembled not a little a stubble field after being
gone over with a harrow.  However, as the chief expressed the
liveliest satisfaction at the result, I was too wise to dissent
from his opinion.


Herman Melville