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Chapter Twenty-six



KING MEHEVI!--A goodly sounding title--and why should I not
bestow it upon the foremost man in the valley of Typee?  The
republican missionaries of Oahu cause to be gazetted in the Court
Journal, published at Honolulu, the most trivial movement of 'his
gracious majesty' King Kammehammaha III, and 'their highnesses
the princes of the blood royal'.*  And who is his 'gracious
majesty', and what the quality of this blood royal'?--His
'gracious majesty' is a fat, lazy, negro-looking blockhead, with
as little character as power.  He has lost the noble traits of
the barbarian, without acquiring the redeeming graces of a
civilized being; and, although a member of the Hawiian Temperance
Society, is a most inveterate dram-drinker.

*Accounts like these are sometimes copied into English and
American journals.  They lead the reader to infer that the arts
and customs of civilized life are rapidly refining the natives of
the Sandwich Islands.  But let no one be deceived by these
accounts.  The chiefs swagger about in gold lace and broadcloth,
while the great mass of the common people are nearly as primitive
in their appearance as in the days of Cook.  In the progress of
events at these islands, the two classes are receding from each
other; the chiefs are daily becoming more luxurious and
extravagant in their style of living, and the common people more
and more destitute of the necessaries and decencies of life.  But
the end to which both will arrive at last will be the same: the
one are fast destroying themselves by sensual indulgences, and
the other are fast being destroyed by a complication of
disorders, and the want of wholesome food.  The resources of the
domineering chiefs are wrung from the starving serfs, and every
additional bauble with which they bedeck themselves is purchased
by the sufferings of their bondsmen; so that the measure of
gew-gaw refinement attained by the chiefs is only an index to the
actual state in which the greater portion of the population lie

The 'blood royal' is an extremely thick, depraved fluid; formed
principally of raw fish, bad brandy, and European sweetmeats, and
is charged with a variety of eruptive humours, which are
developed in sundry blotches and pimples upon the august face of
'majesty itself', and the angelic countenances of the 'princes
and princesses of the blood royal'!

Now, if the farcical puppet of a chief magistrate in the Sandwich
Islands be allowed the title of King, why should it be withheld
from the noble savage Mehevi, who is a thousand times more worthy
of the appellation?  All hail, therefore, Mehevi, King of the
Cannibal Valley, and long life and prosperity to his Typeean
majesty!  May Heaven for many a year preserve him, the
uncompromising foe of Nukuheva and the French, if a hostile
attitude will secure his lovely domain from the remorseless
inflictions of South Sea civilization.

Previously to seeing the Dancing Widows I had little idea that
there were any matrimonial relations subsisting in Typee, and I
should as soon have thought of a Platonic affection being
cultivated between the sexes, as of the solemn connection of man
and wife.  To be sure, there were old Marheyo and Tinor, who
seemed to have a sort of nuptial understanding with one another;
but for all that, I had sometimes observed a comical-looking old
gentleman dressed in a suit of shabby tattooing, who had the
audacity to take various liberties with the lady, and that too in
the very presence of the old warrior her husband, who looked on
as good-naturedly as if nothing was happening.  This behaviour,
until subsequent discoveries enlightened me, puzzled me more than
anything else I witnessed in Typee.

As for Mehevi, I had supposed him a confirmed bachelor, as well
as most of the principal chiefs.  At any rate, if they had wives
and families, they ought to have been ashamed of themselves; for
sure I am, they never troubled themselves about any domestic
affairs.  In truth, Mehevi seemed to be the president of a club
of hearty fellows, who kept 'Bachelor's Hall' in fine style at
the Ti.  I had no doubt but that they regarded children as odious
incumbrances; and their ideas of domestic felicity were
sufficiently shown in the fact, that they allowed no meddlesome
housekeepers to turn topsy-turvy those snug little arrangements
they had made in their comfortable dwelling.  I strongly
suspected however, that some of these jolly bachelors were
carrying on love intrigues with the maidens of the tribe;
although they did not appear publicly to acknowledge them.  I
happened to pop upon Mehevi three or four times when he was
romping--in a most undignified manner for a warrior king--with
one of the prettiest little witches in the valley.  She lived
with an old woman and a young man, in a house near Marheyo's; and
although in appearance a mere child herself, had a noble boy
about a year old, who bore a marvellous resemblance to Mehevi,
whom I should certainly have believed to have been the father,
were it not that the little fellow had no triangle on his
face--but on second thoughts, tattooing is not hereditary.
Mehevi, however, was not the only person upon whom the damsel
Moonoony smiled--the young fellow of fifteen, who permanently
resided in the home with her, was decidedly in her good graces.  
I sometimes beheld both him and the chief making love at the same
time.  Is it possible, thought I, that the valiant warrior can
consent to give up a corner in the thing he loves?  This too was
a mystery which, with others of the same kind, was afterwards
satisfactorily explained.

During the second day of the Feast of Calabashes,
Kory-Kory--being determined that I should have some understanding
on these matters--had, in the course of his explanations,
directed my attention to a peculiarity I had frequently remarked
among many of the females;--principally those of a mature age and
rather matronly appearance.  This consisted in having the right
hand and the left foot most elaborately tattooed; whilst the rest
of the body was wholly free from the operation of the art, with
the exception of the minutely dotted lips and slight marks on the
shoulders, to which I have previously referred as comprising the
sole tattooing exhibited by Fayaway, in common with other young
girls of her age.  The hand and foot thus embellished were,
according to Kory-Kory, the distinguishing badge of wedlock, so
far as that social and highly commendable institution is known
among those people.  It answers, indeed, the same purpose as the
plain gold ring worn by our fairer spouses.

After Kory-Kory's explanation of the subject, I was for some time
studiously respectful in the presence of all females thus
distinguished, and never ventured to indulge in the slightest
approach to flirtation with any of their number.  Married women,
to be sure!--I knew better than to offend them.

A further insight, however, into the peculiar domestic customs of
the inmates of the valley did away in a measure with the severity
of my scruples, and convinced me that I was deceived in some at
least of my conclusions.  A regular system of polygamy exists
among the islanders; but of a most extraordinary nature,--a
plurality of husbands, instead of wives!  and this solitary fact
speaks volumes for the gentle disposition of the male population.

Where else, indeed, could such a practice exist, even for a
single day?--Imagine a revolution brought about in a Turkish
seraglio, and the harem rendered the abode of bearded men; or
conceive some beautiful woman in our own country running
distracted at the sight of her numerous lovers murdering one
another before her eyes, out of jealousy for the unequal
distribution of her favours!--Heaven defend us from such a state
of things!--We are scarcely amiable and forbearing enough to
submit to it.

I was not able to learn what particular ceremony was observed in
forming the marriage contract, but am inclined to think that it
must have been of a very simple nature.  Perhaps the mere
'popping the question', as it is termed with us, might have been
followed by an immediate nuptial alliance.  At any rate, I have
more than one reason to believe that tedious courtships are
unknown in the valley of Typee.

The males considerably outnumber the females.  This holds true of
many of the islands of Polynesia, although the reverse of what is
the case in most civilized countries.  The girls are first wooed
and won, at a very tender age, by some stripling in the household
in which they reside.  This, however, is a mere frolic of the
affections, and no formal engagement is contracted.  By the time
this first love has a little subsided, a second suitor presents
himself, of graver years, and carries both boy and girl away to
his own habitation.  This disinterested and generous-hearted
fellow now weds the young couple--marrying damsel and lover at
the same time--and all three thenceforth live together as
harmoniously as so many turtles.  I have, heard of some men who
in civilized countries rashly marry large families with their
wives, but had no idea that there was any place where people
married supplementary husbands with them.  Infidelity on either
side is very rare.  No man has more than one wife, and no wife of
mature years has less than two husbands,--sometimes she has
three, but such instances are not frequent.  The marriage tie,
whatever it may be, does not appear to be indissoluble; for
separations occasionally happen.  These, however, when they do
take place, produce no unhappiness, and are preceded by no
bickerings; for the simple reason, than an ill-used wife or a
henpecked husband is not obliged to file a bill in Chancery to
obtain a divorce.  As nothing stands in the way of a separation,
the matrimonial yoke sits easily and lightly, and a Typee wife
lives on very pleasant and sociable terms with her husband.  On
the whole, wedlock, as known among these Typees, seems to be of a
more distinct and enduring nature than is usually the case with
barbarous people.  A baneful promiscuous intercourse of the sexes
is hereby avoided, and virtue, without being damorously invoked,
is, as it were, unconsciously practised.

The contrast exhibited between the Marquesas and other islands of
the Pacific in this respect, is worthy of being noticed.  At
Tahiti the marriage tie was altogether unknown; and the relation
of husband and wife, father and son, could hardly be said to
exist.  The Arreory Society--one of the most singular
institutions that ever existed in any part of the world--spread
universal licentiousness over the island.  It was the voluptuous
character of these people which rendered the disease introduced
among them by De Bougainville's ships; in 1768, doubly
destructive.  It visited them like a plague, sweeping them off by

Notwithstanding the existence of wedlock among the Typees, the
Scriptural injunction to increase and multiply seems to be but
indifferently attended to.  I never saw any of those large
families in arithmetical or step-ladder progression which one
often meets with at home.  I never knew of more than two
youngsters living together in the same home, and but seldom even
that number.  As for the women, it was very plain that the
anxieties of the nursery but seldom disturbed the serenity of
their souls; and they were never seen going about the valley with
half a score of little ones tagging at their apronstrings, or
rather at the bread-fruit-leaf they usually wore in the rear.

The ratio of increase among all the Polynesian nations is very
small; and in some places as yet uncorrupted by intercourse with
Europeans, the births would appear not very little to outnumber
the deaths; the population in such instances remaining nearly the
same for several successive generations, even upon those islands
seldom or never desolated by wars, and among people with whom the
crime of infanticide is altogether unknown.  This would seem
expressively ordained by Providence to prevent the overstocking
of the islands with a race too indolent to cultivate the ground,
and who, for that reason alone, would, by any considerable
increase in their numbers, be exposed to the most deplorable
misery.  During the entire period of my stay in the valley of
Typee, I never saw more than ten or twelve children under the age
of six months, and only became aware of two births.

It is to the looseness of the marriage tie that the late rapid
decrease of the population of the Sandwich Islands and of Tahiti
is in part to be ascribed.  The vices and diseases introduced
among these unhappy people annually swell the ordinary mortality
of the islands, while, from the same cause, the originally small
number of births is proportionally decreased.  Thus the progress
of the Hawiians and Tahitians to utter extinction is accelerated
in a sort of compound ratio.

I have before had occasion to remark, that I never saw any of the
ordinary signs of a pace of sepulture in the valley, a
circumstance which I attributed, at the time, to my living in a
particular part of it, and being forbidden to extend my ramble to
any considerable distance towards the sea.  I have since thought
it probable, however, that the Typees, either desirous of
removing from their sight the evidences of mortality, or prompted
by a taste for rural beauty, may have some charming cemetery
situation in the shadowy recesses along the base of the
mountains.  At Nukuheva, two or three large quadrangular
'pi-pis', heavily flagged, enclosed with regular stone walls, and
shaded over and almost hidden from view by the interlacing
branches of enormous trees, were pointed out to me as
burial-places.  The bodies, I understood, were deposited in rude
vaults beneath the flagging, and were suffered to remain there
without being disinterred.  Although nothing could be more
strange and gloomy than the aspect of these places, where the
lofty trees threw their dark shadows over rude blocks of stone, a
stranger looking at them would have discerned none of the
ordinary evidences of a place of sepulture.

During my stay in the valley, as none of its inmates were so
accommodating as to die and be buried in order to gratify my
curiosity with regard to their funeral rites, I was reluctantly
obliged to remain in ignorance of them.  As I have reason to
believe, however, the observances of the Typees in these matters
are the same with those of all the other tribes in the island, I
will here relate a scene I chanced to witness at Nukuheva.

A young man had died, about daybreak, in a house near the beach.  
I had been sent ashore that morning, and saw a good deal of the
preparations they were making for his obsequies.  The body,
neatly wrapped in a new white tappa, was laid out in an open shed
of cocoanut boughs, upon a bier constructed of elastic bamboos
ingeniously twisted together.  This was supported about two feet
from the ground, by large canes planted uprightly in the earth.  
Two females, of a dejected appearance, watched by its side,
plaintively chanting and beating the air with large grass fans
whitened with pipe-clay.  In the dwelling-house adjoining a
numerous company we assembled, and various articles of food were
being prepared for consumption.  Two or three individuals,
distinguished by head-dresses of beautiful tappa, and wearing a
great number of ornaments, appeared to officiate as masters of
the ceremonies.  By noon the entertainment had fairly begun and
we were told that it would last during the whole of the two
following days.  With the exception of those who mourned by the
corpse, every one seemed disposed to drown the sense of the late
bereavement in convivial indulgence.  The girls, decked out in
their savage finery, danced; the old men chanted; the warriors
smoked and chatted; and the young and lusty, of both sexes,
feasted plentifully, and seemed to enjoy themselves as pleasantly
as they could have done had it been a wedding.

The islanders understand the art of embalming, and practise it
with such success that the bodies of their great chiefs are
frequently preserved for many years in the very houses where they
died.  I saw three of these in my visit to the Bay of Tior.  One
was enveloped in immense folds of tappa, with only the face
exposed, and hung erect against the side of the dwelling.  The
others were stretched out upon biers of bamboo, in open, elevated
temples, which seemed consecrated to their memory.  The heads of
enemies killed in battle are invariably preserved and hung up as
trophies in the house of the conqueror.  I am not acquainted with
the process which is in use, but believe that fumigation is the
principal agency employed.  All the remains which I saw presented
the appearance of a ham after being suspended for some time in a
smoky chimney.

But to return from the dead to the living.  The late festival had
drawn together, as I had every reason to believe, the whole
population of the vale, and consequently I was enabled to make
some estimate with regard to its numbers.  I should imagine that
there were about two thousand inhabitants in Typee; and no number
could have been better adapted to the extent of the valley.  The
valley is some nine miles in length, and may average one in
breadth; the houses being distributed at wide intervals
throughout its whole extent, principally, however, towards the
head of the vale.  There are no villages; the houses stand here
and there in the shadow of the groves, or are scattered along the
banks of the winding stream; their golden-hued bamboo sides and
gleaming white thatch forming a beautiful contrast to the
perpetual verdure in which they are embowered.  There are no
roads of any kind in the valley.  Nothing but a labyrinth of
footpaths twisting and turning among the thickets without end.

The penalty of the Fall presses very lightly upon the valley of
Typee; for, with the one solitary exception of striking a light,
I scarcely saw any piece of work performed there which caused the
sweat to stand upon a single brow.  As for digging and delving
for a livelihood, the thing is altogether unknown.  Nature has
planted the bread-fruit and the banana, and in her own good time
she brings them to maturity, when the idle savage stretches forth
his hand, and satisfies his appetite.

Ill-fated people!  I shudder when I think of the change a few
years will produce in their paradisaical abode; and probably when
the most destructive vices, and the worst attendances on
civilization, shall have driven all peace and happiness from the
valley, the magnanimous French will proclaim to the world that
the Marquesas Islands have been converted to Christianity!  and
this the Catholic world will doubtless consider as a glorious
event.  Heaven help the 'Isles of the Sea'!--The sympathy which
Christendom feels for them, has, alas!  in too many instances
proved their bane.

How little do some of these poor islanders comprehend when they
look around them, that no inconsiderable part of their disasters
originate in certain tea-party excitements, under the influence
of which benevolent-looking gentlemen in white cravats solicit
alms, and old ladies in spectacles, and young ladies in sober
russet gowns, contribute sixpences towards the creation of a
fund, the object of which is to ameliorate the spiritual
condition of the Polynesians, but whose end has almost invariably
been to accomplish their temporal destruction!

Let the savages be civilized, but civilize them with benefits,
and not with evils; and let heathenism be destroyed, but not by
destroying the heathen.  The Anglo-Saxon hive have extirpated
Paganism from the greater part of the North American continent;
but with it they have likewise extirpated the greater portion of
the Red race.  Civilization is gradually sweeping from the earth
the lingering vestiges of Paganism, and at the same time the
shrinking forms of its unhappy worshippers.

Among the islands of Polynesia, no sooner are the images
overturned, the temples demolished, and the idolators converted
into NOMINAL Christians, that disease, vice, and premature death
make their appearance.  The depopulated land is then recruited
from the rapacious, hordes of enlightened individuals who settle
themselves within its borders, and clamorously announce the
progress of the Truth.  Neat villas, trim gardens, shaven lawns,
spires, and cupolas arise, while the poor savage soon finds
himself an interloper in the country of his fathers, and that too
on the very site of the hut where he was born.  The spontaneous
fruits of the earth, which God in his wisdom had ordained for the
support of the indolent natives, remorselessly seized upon and
appropriated by the stranger, are devoured before the eyes of the
starving inhabitants, or sent on board the numerous vessels which
now touch at their shores.

When the famished wretches are cut off in this manner from their
natural supplies, they are told by their benefactors to work and
earn their support by the sweat of their brows!  But to no fine
gentleman born to hereditary opulence, does this manual labour
come more unkindly than to the luxurious Indian when thus robbed
of the bounty of heaven.  Habituated to a life of indolence, he
cannot and will not exert himself; and want, disease, and vice,
all evils of foreign growth, soon terminate his miserable

But what matters all this?  Behold the glorious result!--The
abominations of Paganism have given way to the pure rites of the
Christian worship,--the ignorant savage has been supplanted by
the refined European!  Look at Honolulu, the metropolis of the
Sandwich Islands!--A community of disinterested merchants, and
devoted self-exiled heralds of the Cross, located on the very
spot that twenty years ago was defiled by the presence of
idolatry.  What a subject for an eloquent Bible-melting orator!  
Nor has such an opportunity for a display of missionary rhetoric
been allowed to pass by unimproved!--But when these
philanthropists send us such glowing accounts of one half of
their labours, why does their modesty restrain them from
publishing the other half of the good they have wrought?--Not
until I visited Honolulu was I aware of the fact that the small
remnant of the natives had been civilized into drought-horses;
and evangelized into beasts of burden.  But so it is.  They have
been literally broken into the traces, and are harnessed to the
vehicles of their spiritual instructors like so many dumb brutes!

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  

Lest the slightest misconception should arise from anything
thrown out in this chapter, or indeed in any other part of the
volume, let me here observe that against the cause of missions
in, the abstract no Christian can possibly be opposed: it is in
truth a just and holy cause.  But if the great end proposed by it
be spiritual, the agency employed to accomplish that end is
purely earthly; and, although the object in view be the
achievement of much good, that agency may nevertheless be
productive of evil.  In short, missionary undertaking, however it
may blessed of heaven, is in itself but human; and subject, like
everything else, to errors and abuses.  And have not errors and
abuses crept into the most sacred places, and may there not be
unworthy or incapable missionaries abroad,as well as
ecclesiastics of similar character at home?  May not the
unworthiness or incapacity of those who assume apostolic
functions upon the remote islands of the sea more easily escape
detection by the world at large than if it were displayed in the
heart of a city?  An unwarranted confidence in the sanctity of
its apostles--a proneness to regard them as incapable of
guile--and an impatience of the least suspicion to their
rectitude as men or Christians, have ever been prevailing faults
in the Church.  Nor is this to be wondered at: for subject as
Christianity is to the assaults of unprincipled foes, we are
naturally disposed to regard everything like an exposure of
ecclesiastical misconduct as the offspring of malevolence or
irreligious feeling.  Not even this last consideration, however
shall deter me from the honest expression of my sentiments.

There is something apparently wrong in the practical operations
of the Sandwich Islands Mission.  Those who from pure religious
motives contribute to the support of this enterprise should take
care to ascertain that their donations, flowing through many
devious channels, at last effect their legitimate object, the
conversion of the Hawaiians.  I urge this not because I doubt the
moral probity of those who disburse the funds, but because I know
that they are not rightly applied.  To read pathetic accounts of
missionary hardships, and glowing descriptions of conversion, and
baptisms, taking place beneath palm-trees, is one thing; and to
go to the Sandwich Islands and see the missionaries dwelling in
picturesque and prettily furnished coral-rock villas, whilst the
miserable natives are committing all sorts of immorality around
them, is quite another.

In justice to the missionaries, however, I will willingly admit,
that where-ever evils may have resulted from their collective
mismanagement of the business of the mission, and from the want
of vital piety evinced by some of their number, still the present
deplorable condition of the Sandwich Islands is by no means
wholly chargeable against them.  The demoralizing influence of a
dissolute foreign population, and the frequent visits of all
descriptions of vessels, have tended not a little to increase the
evils alluded to.  In a word, here, as in every case where
civilization has in any way been introduced among those whom we
call savages, she has scattered her vices, and withheld her

As wise a man as Shakespeare has said, that the bearer of evil
tidings hath but a losing office; and so I suppose will it prove
with me, in communicating to the trusting friends of the Hawiian
Mission what has been disclosed in various portions of this
narrative.  I am persuaded, however, that as these disclosures
will by their very nature attract attention, so they will lead to
something which will not be without ultimate benefit to the cause
of Christianity in the Sandwich Islands.

I have but one more thing to add in connection with this
subject--those things which I have stated as facts will remain
facts, in spite of whatever the bigoted or incredulous may say or
write against them.  My reflections, however, on those facts may
not be free from error.  If such be the case, I claim no further
indulgence than should be conceded to every man whose object is
to do good.

Herman Melville