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Chapter 19

We were nearly three hours in reaching the village, it being
more than nine miles in the interior, and the path lying through a
rugged country. As we passed along, the party of Too-wit (the whole
hundred and ten savages of the canoes) was momentarily strengthened
by smaller detachments, of from two to six or seven, which joined us,
as if by accident, at different turns of the road. There appeared so
much of system in this that I could not help feeling distrust, and I
spoke to Captain Guy of my apprehensions. It was now too late,
however, to recede, and we concluded that our best security lay in
evincing a perfect confidence in the good faith of Too-wit. We
accordingly went on, keeping a wary eye upon the manoeuvres of the
savages, and not permitting them to divide our numbers by pushing in
between. In this way, passing through a precipitous ravine, we at
length reached what we were told was the only collection of
habitations upon the island. As we came in sight of them, the chief
set up a shout, and frequently repeated the word Klock-klock, which
we supposed to be the name of the village, or perhaps the generic
name for villages.

The dwellings were of the most miserable description imaginable,
and, unlike those of even the lowest of the savage races with which
mankind are acquainted, were of no uniform plan. Some of them (and
these we found belonged to the Wampoos or Yampoos, the great men of
the land) consisted of a tree cut down at about four feet from the
root, with a large black skin thrown over it, and hanging in loose
folds upon the ground. Under this the savage nestled. Others were
formed by means of rough limbs of trees, with the withered foliage
upon them, made to recline, at an angle of forty-five degrees,
against a bank of clay, heaped up, without regular form, to the
height of five or six feet. Others, again, were mere holes dug in the
earth perpendicularly, and covered over with similar branches, these
being removed when the tenant was about to enter, and pulled on again
when he had entered. A few were built among the forked limbs of trees
as they stood, the upper limbs being partially cut through, so as to
bend over upon the lower, thus forming thicker shelter from the
weather. The greater number, however, consisted of small shallow
caverns, apparently scratched in the face of a precipitous ledge of
dark stone, resembling fuller's earth, with which three sides of the
village were bounded. At the door of each of these primitive caverns
was a small rock, which the tenant carefully placed before the
entrance upon leaving his residence, for what purpose I could not
ascertain, as the stone itself was never of sufficient size to close
up more than a third of the opening.

This village, if it were worthy of the name, lay in a valley of
some depth, and could only be approached from the southward, the
precipitous ledge of which I have already spoken cutting off all
access in other directions. Through the middle of the valley ran a
brawling stream of the same magical-looking water which has been
described. We saw several strange animals about the dwellings, all
appearing to be thoroughly domesticated. The largest of these
creatures resembled our common hog in the structure of the body and
snout; the tail, however, was bushy, and the legs slender as those of
the antelope. Its motion was exceedingly awkward and indecisive, and
we never saw it attempt to run. We noticed also several animals very
similar in appearance, but of a greater length of body, and covered
with a black wool. There were a great variety of tame fowls running
about, and these seemed to constitute the chief food of the natives.
To our astonishment we saw black albatross among these birds in a
state of entire domestication, going to sea periodically for food,
but always returning to the village as a home, and using the southern
shore in the vicinity as a place of incubation. There they were
joined by their friends the pelicans as usual, but these latter never
followed them to the dwellings of the savages. Among the other kinds
of tame fowls were ducks, differing very little from the canvass-back
of our own country, black gannets, and a large bird not unlike the
buzzard in appearance, but not carnivorous. Of fish there seemed to
be a great abundance. We saw, during our visit, a quantity of dried
salmon, rock cod, blue dolphins, mackerel, blackfish, skate, conger
eels, elephantfish, mullets, soles, parrotfish, leather-jackets,
gurnards, hake, flounders, paracutas, and innumerable other
varieties. We noticed, too, that most of them were similar to the
fish about the group of Lord Auckland Islands, in a latitude as low
as fifty-one degrees south. The Gallipago tortoise was also very
plentiful. We saw but few wild animals, and none of a large size, or
of a species with which we were familiar. One or two serpents of a
formidable aspect crossed our path, but the natives paid them little
attention, and we concluded that they were not venomous.

As we approached the village with Too-wit and his party, a vast
crowd of the people rushed out to meet us, with loud shouts, among
which we could only distinguish the everlasting Anamoo-moo! and
Lama-Lama! We were much surprised at perceiving that, with one or two
exceptions, these new comers were entirely naked, and skins being
used only by the men of the canoes. All the weapons of the country
seemed also to be in the possession of the latter, for there was no
appearance of any among the villagers. There were a great many women
and children, the former not altogether wanting in what might be
termed personal beauty. They were straight, tall, and well formed,
with a grace and freedom of carriage not to be found in civilized
society. Their lips, however, like those of the men, were thick and
clumsy, so that, even when laughing, the teeth were never disclosed.
Their hair was of a finer texture than that of the males. Among these
naked villagers there might have been ten or twelve who were clothed,
like the party of Too-wit, in dresses of black skin, and armed with
lances and heavy clubs. These appeared to have great influence among
the rest, and were always addressed by the title Wampoo. These, too,
were the tenants of the black skin palaces. That of Too-wit was
situated in the centre of the village, and was much larger and
somewhat better constructed than others of its kind. The tree which
formed its support was cut off at a distance of twelve feet or
thereabouts from the root, and there were several branches left just
below the cut, these serving to extend the covering, and in this way
prevent its flapping about the trunk. The covering, too, which
consisted of four very large skins fastened together with wooden
skewers, was secured at the bottom with pegs driven through it and
into the ground. The floor was strewed with a quantity of dry leaves
by way of carpet.

To this hut we were conducted with great solemnity, and as many
of the natives crowded in after us as possible. Too-wit seated
himself on the leaves, and made signs that we should follow his
example. This we did, and presently found ourselves in a situation
peculiarly uncomfortable, if not indeed critical. We were on the
ground, twelve in number, with the savages, as many as forty, sitting
on their hams so closely around us that, if any disturbance had
arisen, we should have found it impossible to make use of our arms,
or indeed to have risen to our feet. The pressure was not only inside
the tent, but outside, where probably was every individual on the
whole island, the crowd being prevented from trampling us to death
only by the incessant exertions and vociferations of Too-wit. Our
chief security lay, however, in the presence of Too-wit himself among
us, and we resolved to stick by him closely, as the best chance of
extricating ourselves from the dilemma, sacrificing him immediately
upon the first appearance of hostile design.

After some trouble a certain degree of quiet was restored, when
the chief addressed us in a speech of great length, and very nearly
resembling the one delivered in the canoes, with the exception that
the Anamoo-moos! were now somewhat more strenuously insisted upon
than the Lama-Lamas! We listened in profound silence until the
conclusion of this harangue, when Captain Guy replied by assuring the
chief of his eternal friendship and goodwill, concluding what he had
to say be a present of several strings of blue beads and a knife. At
the former the monarch, much to our surprise, turned up his nose with
some expression of contempt, but the knife gave him the most
unlimited satisfaction, and he immediately ordered dinner. This was
handed into the tent over the heads of the attendants, and consisted
of the palpitating entrails of a specials of unknown animal, probably
one of the slim-legged hogs which we had observed in our approach to
the village. Seeing us at a loss how to proceed, he began, by way of
setting us an example, to devour yard after yard of the enticing
food, until we could positively stand it no longer, and evinced such
manifest symptoms of rebellion of stomach as inspired his majesty
with a degree of astonishment only inferior to that brought about by
the looking-glasses. We declined, however, partaking of the
delicacies before us, and endeavoured to make him understand that we
had no appetite whatever, having just finished a hearty dejeuner.

When the monarch had made an end of his meal, we commenced a
series of cross-questioning in every ingenious manner we could
devise, with a view of discovering what were the chief productions of
the country, and whether any of them might be turned to profit. At
length he seemed to have some idea of our meaning, and offered to
accompany us to a part of coast where he assured us the biche de mer
(pointing to a specimen of that animal) was to be found in great
abundance. We were glad of this early opportunity of escaping from
the oppression of the crowd, and signified our eagerness to proceed.
We now left the tent, and, accompanied by the whole population of the
village, followed the chief to the southeastern extremity of the
island, nor far from the bay where our vessel lay at anchor. We
waited here for about an hour, until the four canoes were brought
around by some of the savages to our station. The whole of our party
then getting into one of them, we were paddled along the edge of the
reef before mentioned, and of another still farther out, where we saw
a far greater quantity of biche de mer than the oldest seamen among
us had ever seen in those groups of the lower latitudes most
celebrated for this article of commerce. We stayed near these reefs
only long enough to satisfy ourselves that we could easily load a
dozen vessels with the animal if necessary, when we were taken
alongside the schooner, and parted with Too-wit, after obtaining from
him a promise that he would bring us, in the course of twenty-four
hours, as many of the canvass-back ducks and Gallipago tortoises as
his canoes would hold. In the whole of this adventure we saw nothing
in the demeanour of the natives calculated to create suspicion, with
the single exception of the systematic manner in which their party
was strengthened during our route from the schooner to the village.

Edgar Allan Poe

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