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Chapter Five


CHAPTER FIVE

THOUGHTS PREVIOUS TO ATTEMPTING AN ESCAPE--TOBY, A FELLOW SAILOR,
AGREES TO SHARE THE ADVENTURE--LAST NIGHT ABOARD THE SHIP

HAVING fully resolved to leave the vessel clandestinely, and
having acquired all the knowledge concerning the bay that I could
obtain under the circumstances in which I was placed, I now
deliberately turned over in my mind every plan to escape that
suggested itself, being determined to act with all possible
prudence in an attempt where failure would be attended with so
many disagreeable consequences.  The idea of being taken and
brought back ignominiously to the ship was so inexpressibly
repulsive to me, that I was determined by no hasty and imprudent
measures to render such an event probable.

I knew that our worthy captain, who felt, such a paternal
solicitude for the welfare of his crew, would not willingly
consent that one of his best hands should encounter the perils of
a sojourn among the natives of a barbarous island; and I was
certain that in the event of my disappearance, his fatherly
anxiety would prompt him to offer, by way of a reward, yard upon
yard of gaily printed calico for my apprehension.  He might even
have appreciated my services at the value of a musket, in which
case I felt perfectly certain that the whole population of the
bay would be immediately upon my track, incited by the prospect
of so magnificent a bounty.

Having ascertained the fact before alluded to, that the
islanders,--from motives of precaution, dwelt altogether in the
depths of the valleys, and avoided wandering about the more
elevated portions of the shore, unless bound on some expedition
of war or plunder, I concluded that if I could effect unperceived
a passage to the mountain, I might easily remain among them,
supporting myself by such fruits as came in my way until the
sailing of the ship, an event of which I could not fail to be
immediately apprised, as from my lofty position I should command
a view of the entire harbour.

The idea pleased me greatly.  It seemed to combine a great deal
of practicability with no inconsiderable enjoyment in a quiet
way; for how delightful it would be to look down upon the
detested old vessel from the height of some thousand feet, and
contrast the verdant scenery about me with the recollection of
her narrow decks and gloomy forecastle!  Why, it was really
refreshing even to think of it; and so I straightway fell to
picturing myself seated beneath a cocoanut tree on the brow of
the mountain, with a cluster of plantains within easy reach,
criticizing her nautical evolutions as she was working her way
out of the harbour.

To be sure there was one rather unpleasant drawback to these
agreeable anticipations--the possibility of falling in with a
foraging party of these same bloody-minded Typees, whose
appetites, edged perhaps by the air of so elevated a region,
might prompt them to devour one.  This, I must confess, was a
most disagreeable view of the matter.

Just to think of a party of these unnatural gourmands taking it
into their heads to make a convivial meal of a poor devil, who
would have no means of escape or defence: however, there was no
help for it.  I was willing to encounter some risks in order to
accomplish my object, and counted much upon my ability to elude
these prowling cannibals amongst the many coverts which the
mountains afforded.  Besides, the chances were ten to one in my
favour that they would none of them quit their own fastnesses.

I had determined not to communicate my design of withdrawing from
the vessel to any of my shipmates, and least of all to solicit
any one to accompany me in my flight.  But it so happened one
night, that being upon deck, revolving over in my mind various
plans of escape, I perceived one of the ship's company leaning
over the bulwarks, apparently plunged in a profound reverie.  He
was a young fellow about my own age, for whom I had all along
entertained a great regard; and Toby, such was the name by which
he went among us, for his real name he would never tell us, was
every way worthy of it.  He was active, ready and obliging, of
dauntless courage, and singularly open and fearless in the
expression of his feelings.  I had on more than one occasion got
him out of scrapes into which this had led him; and I know not
whether it was from this cause, or a certain congeniality of
sentiment between us, that he had always shown a partiality for
my society.  We had battled out many a long watch together,
beguiling the weary hours with chat, song, and story, mingled
with a good many imprecations upon the hard destiny it seemed our
common fortune to encounter.

Toby, like myself, had evidently moved in a different sphere of
life, and his conversation at times betrayed this, although he
was anxious to conceal it.  He was one of that class of rovers
you sometimes meet at sea, who never reveal their origin, never
allude to home, and go rambling over the world as if pursued by
some mysterious fate they cannot possibly elude.

There was much even in the appearance of Toby calculated to draw
me towards him, for while the greater part of the crew were as
coarse in person as in mind, Toby was endowed with a remarkably
prepossessing exterior.  Arrayed in his blue frock and duck
trousers, he was as smart a looking sailor as ever stepped upon a
deck; he was singularly small and slightly made, with great
flexibility of limb.  His naturally dark complexion had been
deepened by exposure to the tropical sun, and a mass of jetty
locks clustered about his temples, and threw a darker shade into
his large black eyes.  He was a strange wayward being, moody,
fitful, and melancholy--at times almost morose.  He had a quick
and fiery temper too, which, when thoroughly roused, transported
him into a state bordering on delirium.

It is strange the power that a mind of deep passion has over
feebler natures.  I have seen a brawny, fellow, with no lack of
ordinary courage, fairly quail before this slender stripling,
when in one of his curious fits.  But these paroxysms seldom
occurred, and in them my big-hearted shipmate vented the bile
which more calm-tempered individuals get rid of by a continual
pettishness at trivial annoyances.

No one ever saw Toby laugh.  I mean in the hearty abandonment of
broad-mouthed mirth.  He did smile sometimes, it is true; and
there was a good deal of dry, sarcastic humour about him, which
told the more from the imperturbable gravity of his tone and
manner.

Latterly I had observed that Toby's melancholy had greatly
increased, and I had frequently seen him since our arrival at the
island gazing wistfully upon the shore, when the remainder of the
crew would be rioting below.  I was aware that he entertained a
cordial detestation of the ship, and believed that, should a fair
chance of escape present itself, he would embrace it willingly.

But the attempt was so perilous in the place where we then lay,
that I supposed myself the only individual on board the ship who
was sufficiently reckless to think of it.  In this, however, I
was mistaken.

When I perceived Toby leaning, as I have mentioned, against the
bulwarks and buried in thought, it struck me at once that the
subject of his meditations might be the same as my own.  And if
it be so, thought I, is he not the very one of all my shipmates
whom I would choose: for the partner of my adventure?  and why
should I not have some comrade with me to divide its dangers and
alleviate its hardships?  Perhaps I might be obliged to lie
concealed among the mountains for weeks.  In such an event what a
solace would a companion be?

These thoughts passed rapidly through my mind, and I wondered why
I had not before considered the matter in this light.  But it was
not too late.  A tap upon the shoulder served to rouse Toby from
his reverie; I found him ripe for the enterprise, and a very few
words sufficed for a mutual understanding between us.  In an
hour's time we had arranged all the preliminaries, and decided
upon our plan of action.  We then ratified our engagement with an
affectionate wedding of palms, and to elude suspicion repaired
each to his hammock, to spend the last night on board the Dolly.

The next day the starboard watch, to which we both belonged, was
to be sent ashore on liberty; and, availing ourselves of this
opportunity, we determined, as soon after landing as possible, to
separate ourselves from the rest of the men without exciting
their suspicions, and strike back at once for the mountains.  
Seen from the ship, their summits appeared inaccessible, but here
and there sloping spurs extended from them almost into the sea,
buttressing the lofty elevations with which they were connected,
and forming those radiating valleys I have before described.  One
of these ridges, which appeared more practicable than the rest,
we determined to climb, convinced that it would conduct us to the
heights beyond.  Accordingly, we carefully observed its bearings
and locality from the ship, so that when ashore we should run no
chance of missing it.

In all this the leading object we had in view was to seclude
ourselves from sight until the departure of the vessel; then to
take our chance as to the reception the Nukuheva natives might
give us; and after remaining upon the island as long as we found
our stay agreeable, to leave it the first favourable opportunity
that offered.


Herman Melville