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Chapter Twenty


CHAPTER TWENTY

HISTORY OF A DAY AS USUALLY SPENT IN TYPEE VALLEY--DANCES OF THE
MARQUESAN GIRLS

NOTHING can be more uniform and undiversified than the life of
the Typees; one tranquil day of ease and happiness follows
another in quiet succession; and with these unsophisicated
savages the history of a day is the history of a life.  I will,
therefore, as briefly as I can, describe one of our days in the
valley.

To begin with the morning.  We were not very early risers--the
sun would be shooting his golden spikes above the Happar
mountain, ere I threw aside my tappa robe, and girding my long
tunic about my waist, sallied out with Fayaway and Kory-Kory, and
the rest of the household, and bent my steps towards the stream.  
Here we found congregated all those who dwelt in our section of
the valley; and here we bathed with them.  The fresh morning air
and the cool flowing waters put both soul and body in a glow, and
after a half-hour employed in this recreation, we sauntered back
to the house--Tinor and Marheyo gathering dry sticks by the way
for fire-wood; some of the young men laying the cocoanut trees
under contribution as they passed beneath them; while Kory-Kory
played his outlandish pranks for my particular diversion, and
Fayaway and I, not arm in arm to be sure, but sometimes hand in
hand, strolled along, with feelings of perfect charity for all
the world, and especial good-will towards each other.

Our morning meal was soon prepared.  The islanders are somewhat
abstemious at this repast; reserving the more powerful efforts of
their appetite to a later period of the day.  For my own part,
with the assistance of my valet, who, as I have before stated,
always officiated as spoon on these occasions, I ate sparingly
from one of Tinor's trenchers, of poee-poee; which was devoted
exclusively for my own use, being mixed with the milky meat of
ripe cocoanut.  A section of a roasted bread-fruit, a small cake
of 'Amar', or a mess of 'Cokoo,' two or three bananas, or a
mammee-apple; an annuee, or some other agreeable and nutritious
fruit served from day to day to diversify the meal, which was
finished by tossing off the liquid contents of a young cocoanut
or two.

While partaking of this simple repast, the inmates of Marheyo's
house, after the style of the ancient Romans, reclined in
sociable groups upon the divan of mats, and digestion was
promoted by cheerful conversation.

After the morning meal was concluded, pipes were lighted; and
among them my own especial pipe, a present from the noble Mehevi.

The islanders, who only smoke a whiff or two at a time, and at
long intervals, and who keep their pipes going from hand to hand
continually, regarded my systematic smoking of four or five
pipefuls of tobacco in succession, as something quite wonderful.  
When two or three pipes had circulated freely, the company
gradually broke up.  Marheyo went to the little hut he was
forever building.  Tinor began to inspect her rolls of tappa, or
employed her busy fingers in plaiting grass-mats.  The girls
anointed themselves with their fragrant oils, dressed their hair,
or looked over their curious finery, and compared together their
ivory trinkets, fashioned out of boar's tusks or whale's teeth.  
The young men and warriors produced their spears, paddles,
canoe-gear, battle-clubs, and war-conchs, and occupied themselves
in carving, all sorts of figures upon them with pointed bits of
shell or flint, and adorning them, especially the war-conchs,
with tassels of braided bark and tufts of human hair.  Some,
immediately after eating, threw themselves once more upon the
inviting mats, and resumed the employment of the previous night,
sleeping as soundly as if they had not closed their eyes for a
week.  Others sallied out into the groves, for the purpose of
gathering fruit or fibres of bark and leaves; the last two being
in constant requisition, and applied to a hundred uses.  A few,
perhaps, among the girls, would slip into the woods after
flowers, or repair to the stream will; small calabashes and
cocoanut shells, in order to polish them by friction with a
smooth stone in the water.  In truth these innocent people seemed
to be at no loss for something to occupy their time; and it would
be no light task to enumerate all their employments, or rather
pleasures.

My own mornings I spent in a variety of ways.  Sometimes I
rambled about from house to house, sure of receiving a cordial
welcome wherever I went; or from grove to grove, and from one
shady place to another, in company with Kory-Kory and Fayaway,
and a rabble rout of merry young idlers.  Sometimes I was too
indolent for exercise, and accepting one of the many invitations
I was continually receiving, stretched myself out on the mats of
some hospitable dwelling, and occupied myself pleasantly either
in watching the proceedings of those around me or taking part in
them myself.  Whenever I chose to do the latter, the delight of
the islanders was boundless; and there was always a throng of
competitors for the honour of instructing me in any particular
craft.  I soon became quite an accomplished hand at making
tappa--could braid a grass sling as well as the best of them--and
once, with my knife, carved the handle of a javelin so
exquisitely, that I have no doubt, to this day, Karnoonoo, its
owner, preserves it as a surprising specimen of my skill.  As
noon approached, all those who had wandered forth from our
habitation, began to return; and when midday was fairly come
scarcely a sound was to be heard in the valley: a deep sleep fell
upon all.  The luxurious siesta was hardly ever omitted, except
by old Marheyo, who was so eccentric a character, that he seemed
to be governed by no fixed principles whatever; but acting just
according to the humour of the moment, slept, eat, or tinkered
away at his little hut, without regard to the proprieties of time
or place.  Frequently he might have been seen taking a nap in the
sun at noon-day, or a bath in the stream of mid-night.  Once I
beheld him perched eighty feet from the ground, in the tuft of a
cocoanut tree, smoking; and often I saw him standing up to the
waist in water, engaged in plucking out the stray hairs of his
beard, using a piece of muscle-shell for tweezers.

The noon-tide slumber lasted generally an hour and a half: very
often longer; and after the sleepers had arisen from their mats
they again had recourse to their pipes, and then made
preparations for the most important meal of the day.

I, however, like those gentlemen of leisure who breakfast at home
and dine at their club, almost invariably, during my intervals of
health, enjoyed the afternoon repast with the bachelor chiefs of
the Ti, who were always rejoiced to see me, and lavishly spread
before me all the good things which their larder afforded.  
Mehevi generally introduced among other dainties a baked pig, an
article which I have every reason to suppose was provided for my
sole gratification.

The Ti was a right jovial place.  It did my heart, as well as my
body, good to visit it.  Secure from female intrusion, there was
no restraint upon the hilarity of the warriors, who, like the
gentlemen of Europe after the cloth is drawn and the ladies
retire, freely indulged their mirth.

After spending a considerable portion of the afternoon at the Ti,
I usually found myself, as the cool of the evening came on,
either sailing on the little lake with Fayaway, or bathing in the
waters of the stream with a number of the savages, who, at this
hour, always repaired thither.  As the shadows of night
approached Marheyo's household were once more assembled under his
roof: tapers were lit, long curious chants were raised,
interminable stories were told (for which one present was little
the wiser), and all sorts of social festivities served to while
away the time.

The young girls very often danced by moonlight in front of their
dwellings.  There are a great variety of these dances, in which,
however, I never saw the men take part.  They all consist of
active, romping, mischievous evolutions, in which every limb is
brought into requisition.  Indeed, the Marquesan girls dance all
over, as it were; not only do their feet dance, but their arms,
hands, fingers, ay, their very eyes, seem to dance in their
heads.

The damsels wear nothing but flowers and their compendious gala
tunics; and when they plume themselves for the dance, they look
like a band of olive-coloured Sylphides on the point of taking
wing.  In good sooth, they so sway their floating forms, arch
their necks, toss aloft their naked arms, and glide, and swim,
and whirl, that it was almost too much for a quiet, sober-minded,
modest young man like myself.

Unless some particular festivity was going forward, the inmates
of Marheyo's house retired to their mats rather early in the
evening; but not for the night, since, after slumbering lightly
for a while, they rose again, relit their tapers, partook of the
third and last meal of the day, at which poee-poee alone was
eaten, and then, after inhaling a narcotic whiff from a pipe of
tobacco, disposed themselves for the great business of night,
sleep.  With the Marquesans it might almost most be styled the
great business of life, for they pass a large portion of their
time in the arms of Somnus.  The native strength of their
constitution is no way shown more emphatically than in the
quantity of sleep they can endure.  To many of them, indeed, life
is little else than an often interrupted and luxurious nap.


Herman Melville