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Chapter Four



OUR ship had not been many days in the harbour of Nukuheva before
I came to the determination of leaving her.  That my reasons for
resolving to take this step were numerous and weighty, may be
inferred from the fact that I chose rather to risk my fortunes
among the savages of the island than to endure another voyage on
board the Dolly.  To use the concise, pointblank phrase of the
sailors.  I had made up my mind to 'run away'.  Now as a meaning
is generally attached to these two words no way flattering to the
individual to whom they are applied, it behoves me, for the sake
of my own character, to offer some explanation of my conduct.

When I entered on board the Dolly, I signed as a matter of course
the ship's articles, thereby voluntarily engaging and legally
binding myself to serve in a certain capacity for the period of
the voyage; and, special considerations apart, I was of course
bound to fulfill the agreement.  But in all contracts, if one
party fail to perform his share of the compact, is not the other
virtually absolved from his liability?  Who is there who will not
answer in the affirmative?

Having settled the principle, then, let me apply it to the
particular case in question.  In numberless instances had not
only the implied but the specified conditions of the articles
been violated on the part of the ship in which I served.  The
usage on board of her was tyrannical; the sick had been inhumanly
neglected; the provisions had been doled out in scanty allowance;
and her cruises were unreasonably protracted.  The captain was
the author of the abuses; it was in vain to think that he would
either remedy them, or alter his conduct, which was arbitrary and
violent in the extreme.  His prompt reply to all complaints and
remonstrances was--the butt-end of a handspike, so convincingly
administered as effectually to silence the aggrieved party.

To whom could we apply for redress?  We had left both law and
equity on the other side of the Cape; and unfortunately, with a
very few exceptions, our crew was composed of a parcel of
dastardly and meanspirited wretches, divided among themselves,
and only united in enduring without resistance the unmitigated
tyranny of the captain.  It would have been mere madness for any
two or three of the number, unassisted by the rest, to attempt
making a stand against his ill usage.  They would only have
called down upon themselves the particular vengeance of this
'Lord of the Plank', and subjected their shipmates to additional

But, after all, these things could have been endured awhile, had
we entertained the hope of being speedily delivered from them by
the due completion of the term of our servitude.  But what a
dismal prospect awaited us in this quarter!  The longevity of
Cape Horn whaling voyages is proverbial, frequently extending
over a period of four or five years.

Some long-haired, bare-necked youths, who, forced by the united
influences of Captain Marryatt and hard times, embark at
Nantucket for a pleasure excursion to the Pacific, and whose
anxious mothers provide them, with bottled milk for the occasion,
oftentimes return very respectable middle-aged gentlemen.

The very preparations made for one of these expeditions are
enough to frighten one.  As the vessel carries out no cargo, her
hold is filled with provisions for her own consumption.  The
owners, who officiate as caterers for the voyage, supply the
larder with an abundance of dainties.  Delicate morsels of beef
and pork, cut on scientific principles from every part of the
animal, and of all conceivable shapes and sizes, are carefully
packed in salt, and stored away in barrels; affording a
never-ending variety in their different degrees of toughness, and
in the peculiarities of their saline properties.  Choice old
water too, decanted into stout six-barrel-casks, and two pints of
which is allowed every day to each soul on board; together with
ample store of sea-bread, previously reduced to a state of
petrifaction, with a view to preserve it either from decay or
consumption in the ordinary mode, are likewise provided for the
nourishment and gastronomic enjoyment of the crew.

But not to speak of the quality of these articles of sailors'
fare, the abundance in which they are put onboard a whaling
vessel is almost incredible.  Oftentimes, when we had occasion to
break out in the hold, and I beheld the successive tiers of casks
and barrels, whose contents were all destined to be consumed in
due course by the ship's company, my heart has sunk within me.

Although, as a general case, a ship unlucky in falling in with
whales continues to cruise after them until she has barely
sufficient provisions remaining to take her home, turning round
then quietly and making the best of her way to her friends, yet
there are instances when even this natural obstacle to the
further prosecution of the voyage is overcome by headstrong
captains, who, bartering the fruits of their hard-earned toils
for a new supply of provisions in some of the ports of Chili or
Peru, begin the voyage afresh with unabated zeal and
perseverance.  It is in vain that the owners write urgent letters
to him to sail for home, and for their sake to bring back the
ship, since it appears he can put nothing in her.  Not he.  He
has registered a vow: he will fill his vessel with good sperm
oil, or failing to do so, never again strike Yankee soundings.

I heard of one whaler, which after many years' absence was given
up for lost.  The last that had been heard of her was a shadowy
report of her having touched at some of those unstable islands in
the far Pacific, whose eccentric wanderings are carefully noted
in each new edition of the South-Sea charts.  After a long
interval, however, 'The Perseverance'--for that was her name--was
spoken somewhere in the vicinity of the ends of the earth,
cruising along as leisurely as ever, her sails all bepatched and
be quilted with rope-yarns, her spars fished with old pipe
staves, and her rigging knotted and spliced in every possible
direction.  Her crew was composed of some twenty venerable
Greenwich-pensioner-looking old salts, who just managed to hobble
about deck.  The ends of all the running ropes, with the
exception of the signal halyards and poop-down-haul, were rove
through snatch-blocks,and led to the capstan or windlass, so that
not a yard was braced or a sad set without the assistance of

Her hull was encrusted with barnacles, which completely encased
her.  Three pet sharks followed in her wake, and every day came
alongside to regale themselves from the contents of the cook's
bucket, which were pitched over to them.  A vast shoal of bonetas
and albicores always kept her company.

Such was the account I heard of this vessel and the remembrance
of it always haunted me; what eventually became of her I never
learned; at any rate: he never reached home, and I suppose she is
still regularly tacking twice in the twenty-four hours somewhere
off Desolate Island, or the Devil's-Tail Peak.

Having said thus much touching the usual length of these voyages,
when I inform the reader that ours had as it were just commenced,
we being only fifteen months out, and even at that time hailed as
a late arrival and boarded for news, he will readily perceive
that there was little to encourage one in looking forward to the
future, especially as I had always had a presentiment that we
should make an unfortunate voyage, and our experience so far had
justified the expectation.

I may here state, and on my faith as an honest man, that though
more than three years have elapsed since I left this same
identical vessel, she still continues; in the Pacific, and but a
few days since I saw her reported in the papers as having touched
at the Sandwich Islands previous to going on the coast of Japan.

But to return to my narrative.  Placed in these circumstances
then, with no prospect of matters mending if I remained aboard
the Dolly, I at once made up my mind to leave her: to be sure it
was rather an inglorious thing to steal away privily from those
at whose hands I had received wrongs and outrages that I could
not resent; but how was such a course to be avoided when it was
the only alternative left me?  Having made up my mind, I
proceeded to acquire all the information I could obtain relating
to the island and its inhabitants, with a view of shaping my
plans of escape accordingly.  The result of these inquiries I
will now state, in order that the ensuing narrative may be the
better understood.

The bay of Nukuheva in which we were then lying is an expanse of
water not unlike in figure the space included within the limits
of a horse-shoe.  It is, perhaps, nine miles in circumference.  
You approach it from the sea by a narrow entrance, flanked on
each side by two small twin islets which soar conically to the
height of some five hundred feet.  From these the shore recedes
on both hands, and describes a deep semicircle.

From the verge of the water the land rises uniformly on all
sides, with green and sloping acclivities, until from gently
rolling hill-sides and moderate elevations it insensibly swells
into lofty and majestic heights, whose blue outlines, ranged all
around, close in the view.  The beautiful aspect of the shore is
heightened by deep and romantic glens, which come down to it at
almost equal distances, all apparently radiating from a common
centre, and the upper extremities of which are lost to the eye
beneath the shadow of the mountains.  Down each of these little
valleys flows a clear stream, here and there assuming the form of
a slender cascade, then stealing invisibly along until it bursts
upon the sight again in larger and more noisy waterfalls, and at
last demurely wanders along to the sea.

The houses of the natives, constructed of the yellow bamboo,
tastefully twisted together in a kind of wicker-work, and
thatched with the long tapering leaves of the palmetto, are
scattered irregularly along these valleys beneath the shady
branches of the cocoanut trees.

Nothing can exceed the imposing scenery of this bay.  Viewed from
our ship as she lay at anchor in the middle of the harbour, it
presented the appearance of a vast natural amphitheatre in decay,
and overgrown with vines, the deep glens that furrowed it's sides
appearing like enormous fissures caused by the ravages of time.  
Very often when lost in admiration at its beauty, I have
experienced a pang of regret that a scene so enchanting should be
hidden from the world in these remote seas, and seldom meet the
eyes of devoted lovers of nature.

Besides this bay the shores of the island are indented by several
other extensive inlets, into which descend broad and verdant
valleys.  These are inhabited by as many distinct tribes of
savages, who, although speaking kindred dialects of a common
language, and having the same religion and laws, have from time
immemorial waged hereditary warfare against each other.  The
intervening mountains generally two or three thousand feet above
the level of the sea geographically define the territories of
each of these hostile tribes, who never cross them, save on some
expedition of war or plunder.  Immediately adjacent to Nukuheva,
and only separated from it by the mountains seen from the
harbour, lies the lovely valley of Happar, whose inmates cherish
the most friendly relations with the inhabitants of Nukuheva.  On
the other side of Happar, and closely adjoining it, is the
magnificent valley of the dreaded Typees, the unappeasable
enemies of both these tribes.

These celebrated warriors appear to inspire the other islanders
with unspeakable terrors.  Their very name is a frightful one;
for the word 'Typee' in the Marquesan dialect signifies a lover
of human flesh.  It is rather singular that the title should have
been bestowed upon them exclusively, inasmuch as the natives of
all this group are irreclaimable cannibals.  The name may,
perhaps, have been given to denote the peculiar ferocity of this
clan, and to convey a special stigma along with it.

These same Typees enjoy a prodigious notoriety all over the
islands.  The natives of Nukuheva would frequently recount in
pantomime to our ship's company their terrible feats, and would
show the marks of wounds they had received in desperate
encounters with them.  When ashore they would try to frighten us
by pointing, to one of their own number, and calling him a Typee,
manifesting no little surprise that we did not take to our heels
at so terrible an announcement.  It was quite amusing, too, to
see with what earnestness they disclaimed all cannibal
propensities on their own part, while they denounced their
enemies--the Typees--as inveterate gourmandizers of human flesh;
but this is a peculiarity to which I shall hereafter have
occasion to allude.

Although I was convinced that the inhabitants of our bay were as
arrant cannibals as any of the other tribes on the island, still
I could not but feel a particular and most unqualified repugnance
to the aforesaid Typees.  Even before visiting the Marquesas, I
had heard from men who had touched at the group on former voyages
some revolting stories in connection with these savages; and
fresh in my remembrance was the adventure of the master of the
Katherine, who only a few months previous, imprudently venturing
into this bay in an armed boat for the purpose of barter, was
seized by the natives, carried back a little distance into their
valley, and was only saved from a cruel death by the intervention
of a young girl, who facilitated his escape by night along the
beach to Nukuheva.

I had heard too of an English vessel that many years ago, after a
weary cruise, sought to enter the bay of Nukuheva, and arriving
within two or three miles of the land, was met by a large canoe
filled with natives, who offered to lead the way to the place of
their destination.  The captain, unacquainted with the localities
of the island, joyfully acceded to the proposition--the canoe
paddled on, the ship followed.  She was soon conducted to a
beautiful inlet, and dropped her anchor in its waters beneath the
shadows of the lofty shore.  That same night the perfidious
Typees, who had thus inveigled her into their fatal bay, flocked
aboard the doomed vessel by hundreds, and at a given signal
murdered every soul on board.

I shall never forget the observation of one of our crew as we
were passing slowly by the entrance of the bay in our way to
Nukuheva.  As we stood gazing over the side at the verdant
headlands, Ned, pointing with his hand in the direction of the
treacherous valley, exclaimed, 'There--there's Typee.  Oh, the
bloody cannibals, what a meal they'd make of us if we were to
take it into our heads to land!  but they say they don't like
sailor's flesh, it's too salt.  I say, maty, how should you like
to be shoved ashore there, eh?'  I little thought, as I shuddered
at the question, that in the space of a few weeks I should
actually be a captive in that self-same valley.

The French, although they had gone through the ceremony of
hoisting their colours for a few hours at all the principal
places of the group, had not as yet visited the bay of Typee,
anticipating a fierce resistance on the part of the savages
there, which for the present at least they wished to avoid.  
Perhaps they were not a little influenced in the adoption of this
unusual policy from a recollection of the warlike reception given
by the Typees to the forces of Captain Porter, about the year
1814, when that brave and accomplished officer endeavoured to
subjugate the clan merely to gratify the mortal hatred of his
allies the Nukuhevas and Happars.

On that occasion I have been told that a considerable detachment
of sailors and marines from the frigate Essex, accompanied by at
least two thousand warriors of Happar and Nukuheva, landed in
boats and canoes at the head of the bay, and after penetrating a
little distance into the valley, met with the stoutest resistance
from its inmates.  Valiantly, although with much loss, the Typees
disputed every inch of ground, and after some hard fighting
obliged their assailants to retreat and abandon their design of

The invaders, on their march back to the sea, consoled themselves
for their repulse by setting fire to every house and temple in
their route; and a long line of smoking ruins defaced the
once-smiling bosom of the valley, and proclaimed to its pagan
inhabitants the spirit that reigned in the breasts of Christian
soldiers.  Who can wonder at the deadly hatred of the Typees to
all foreigners after such unprovoked atrocities?

Thus it is that they whom we denominate 'savages' are made to
deserve the title.  When the inhabitants of some sequestered
island first descry the 'big canoe' of the European rolling
through the blue waters towards their shores, they rush down to
the beach in crowds, and with open arms stand ready to embrace
the strangers.  Fatal embrace!  They fold to their bosom the
vipers whose sting is destined to poison all their joys; and the
instinctive feeling of love within their breast is soon converted
into the bitterest hate.

The enormities perpetrated in the South Seas upon some of the
inoffensive islanders will nigh pass belief.  These things are
seldom proclaimed at home; they happen at the very ends of the
earth; they are done in a corner, and there are none to reveal
them.  But there is, nevertheless, many a petty trader that has
navigated the Pacific whose course from island to island might be
traced by a series of cold-blooded robberies, kidnappings, and
murders, the iniquity of which might be considered almost
sufficient to sink her guilty timbers to the bottom of the sea.

Sometimes vague accounts of such thing's reach our firesides, and
we coolly censure them as wrong, impolitic, needlessly severe,
and dangerous to the crews of other vessels.  How different is
our tone when we read the highly-wrought description of the
massacre of the crew of the Hobomak by the Feejees; how we
sympathize for the unhappy victims, and with what horror do we
regard the diabolical heathens, who, after all, have but avenged
the unprovoked injuries which they have received.  We breathe
nothing but vengeance, and equip armed vessels to traverse
thousands of miles of ocean in order to execute summary
punishment upon the offenders.  On arriving at their destination,
they burn, slaughter, and destroy, according to the tenor of
written instructions, and sailing away from the scene of
devastation, call upon all Christendom to applaud their courage
and their justice.

How often is the term 'savages' incorrectly applied!  None really
deserving of it were ever yet discovered by voyagers or by
travellers.  They have discovered heathens and barbarians whom by
horrible cruelties they have exasperated into savages.  It may be
asserted without fear of contradictions that in all the cases of
outrages committed by Polynesians, Europeans have at some time or
other been the aggressors, and that the cruel and bloodthirsty
disposition of some of the islanders is mainly to be ascribed to
the influence of such examples.

But to return.  Owing to the mutual hostilities of the different
tribes I have mentioned, the mountainous tracts which separate
their respective territories remain altogether uninhabited; the
natives invariably dwelling in the depths of the valleys, with a
view of securing themselves from the predatory incursions of
their enemies, who often lurk along their borders, ready to cut
off any imprudent straggler, or make a descent upon the inmates
of some sequestered habitation.  I several times met with very
aged men, who from this cause had never passed the confines of
their native vale, some of them having never even ascended midway
up the mountains in the whole course of their lives, and who,
accordingly had little idea of the appearance of any other part
of the island, the whole of which is not perhaps more than sixty
miles in circuit.  The little space in which some of these clans
pass away their days would seem almost incredible.

The glen of the Tior will furnish a curious illustration of this.

The inhabited part is not more than four miles in length, and
varies in breadth from half a mile to less than a quarter.  The
rocky vine-clad cliffs on one side tower almost perpendicularly
from their base to the height of at least fifteen hundred feet;
while across the vale--in striking contrast to the scenery
opposite--grass-grown elevations rise one above another in
blooming terraces.  Hemmed in by these stupendous barriers, the
valley would be altogether shut out from the rest of the world,
were it not that it is accessible from the sea at one end, and by
a narrow defile at the other.  

The impression produced upon the mind, when I first visited this
beautiful glen, will never be obliterated.

I had come from Nukuheva by water in the ship's boat, and when we
entered the bay of Tior it was high noon.  The heat had been
intense, as we had been floating upon the long smooth swell of
the ocean, for there was but little wind.  The sun's rays had
expended all their fury upon us; and to add to our discomfort, we
had omitted to supply ourselves with water previous to starting.  
What with heat and thirst together, I became so impatient to get
ashore, that when at last we glided towards it, I stood up in the
bow of the boat ready for a spring.  As she shot two-thirds of
her length high upon the beach, propelled by three or four strong
strokes of the oars, I leaped among a parcel of juvenile savages,
who stood prepared to give us a kind reception; and with them at
my heels, yelling like so many imps, I rushed forward across the
open ground in the vicinity of the sea, and plunged, diver
fashion, into the recesses of the first grove that offered.

What a delightful sensation did I experience!  I felt as if
floating in some new element, while all sort of gurgling,
trickling, liquid sounds fell upon my ear.  People may say what
they will about the refreshing influences of a coldwater bath,
but commend me when in a perspiration to the shade baths of Tior,
beneath the cocoanut trees, and amidst the cool delightful
atmosphere which surrounds them.

How shall I describe the scenery that met my eye, as I looked out
from this verdant recess!  The narrow valley, with its steep and
close adjoining sides draperied with vines, and arched overhead
with a fret-work of interlacing boughs, nearly hidden from view
by masses of leafy verdure, seemed from where I stood like an
immense arbour disclosing its vista to the eye, whilst as I
advanced it insensibly widened into the loveliest vale eye ever

It so happened that the very day I was in Tior the French
admiral, attended by all the boats of his squadron, came down in
state from Nukuheva to take formal possession of the place.  He
remained in the valley about two hours, during which time he had
a ceremonious interview with the king.  The patriarch-sovereign
of Tior was a man very far advanced in years; but though age had
bowed his form and rendered him almost decrepid, his gigantic
frame retained its original magnitude and grandeur of appearance.

He advanced slowly and with evident pain, assisting his tottering
steps with the heavy warspear he held in his hand, and attended
by a group of grey-bearded chiefs, on one of whom he occasionally
leaned for support.  The admiral came forward with head uncovered
and extended hand, while the old king saluted him by a stately
flourish of his weapon.  The next moment they stood side by side,
these two extremes of the social scale,--the polished, splendid
Frenchman, and the poor tattooed savage.  They were both tall and
noble-looking men; but in other respects how strikingly
contrasted!  Du Petit Thouars exhibited upon his person all the
paraphernalia of his naval rank.  He wore a richly decorated
admiral's frock-coat, a laced chapeau bras, and upon his breast
were a variety of ribbons and orders; while the simple islander,
with the exception of a slight cincture about his loins, appeared
in all the nakedness of nature.

At what an immeasurable distance, thought I, are these two beings
removed from each other.  In the one is shown the result of long
centuries of progressive Civilization and refinement, which have
gradually converted the mere creature into the semblance of all
that is elevated and grand; while the other, after the lapse of
the same period, has not advanced one step in the career of
improvement, 'Yet, after all,' quoth I to myself, 'insensible as
he is to a thousand wants, and removed from harassing cares, may
not the savage be the happier man of the two?'  Such were the
thoughts that arose in my mind as I gazed upon the novel
spectacle before me.  In truth it was an impressive one, and
little likely to be effaced.  I can recall even now with vivid
distinctiness every feature of the scene.  The umbrageous shades
where the interview took place--the glorious tropical vegetation
around--the picturesque grouping of the mingled throng of
soldiery and natives--and even the golden-hued bunch of bananas
that I held in my hand at the time, and of which I occasionally
partook while making the aforesaid philosophical reflections.

Herman Melville