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prisoners in seizing the officers, and put Lieutenant Gamble, the
commander, with four loyal seamen, adrift in a small boat, while the
mutineers went to sea in one of the English ships.

The five men reached another of the ships in the bay, where they
learned that Wilson had instigated the mutiny. The worst had not come,
for very soon the natives, perhaps also urged on by the Englishman,
murdered all the others but Gamble, one seaman, one midshipman, and
five wounded men. Of the eight survivors, only one was acquainted
with the management of a ship, and all were sufferings from wounds
or disease. With these men Lieutenant Gamble put to sea.

After incredible hardship, he succeeded in reaching Hawaii, only to
be captured by a British frigate which a few weeks earlier had
assisted in the capture of the _Essex_ and Captain Porter. The
United States never ratified Porter's occupation of Nuka-hiva, and
it was left for the French thirty years later to seize the group. At
about the same time Herman Melville, an American sailor, ventured
overland into Typee Valley, and was captured and treated as a royal
guest by the Typee people. He lived there many months, and heard no
whisper of the havoc wrought by his countrymen a little time before.
The Typees had forgiven and forgotten it; he found them a happy,
healthy, beautiful race, living peacefully and comfortably in their
communistic society, coveting nothing from each other as there was
plenty for all, eager to do honor to a strange guest who, they hoped,
would teach them many useful things.


A visit to Typee; story of the old man who returned too late.

I said, of course, that I must visit Typee, the scene of Porter's
bloody raid and Herman Melville's exploits, and while I was making
arrangements to get a horse in Tai-o-hae I met Haus Ramqe,
supercargo of the schooner _Moana_, who related a story concerning
the valley.

"I was working in the store of the Socéité Comerciale de l'Ocean in
Tai-o-hae when the _Tropic Bird_, a San Francisco mail-schooner,
arrived. That was ten years ago. An old man, an American, came into
our place and asked the way to Typee.

"'Ah,' I said, 'you have been reading that book by Melville.' He
made no reply, but asked me to escort him to the valley. We set out
on horseback, and though he had not said that he had ever been in
these islands before, I saw that he was strangely interested in the
scenes we passed. He was rather feeble with age, and he grew so
excited as we neared the valley that I asked him what he expected to
see there.

"He stopped his horse, and hesitated in his reply. He was terribly

"'I lived in Typee once upon a time,' he said slowly. 'Could there
by chance be a woman living there named Manu? That was a long time
ago, and I was young. Still, I am here, and she may be, too.'

"I looked at him and could not tell him the truth. It was evident he
had made no confidant of the captain or crew of the _Tropic Bird_,
for they could have told him of the desolation in Typee. I hated,
though, to have him plump right into the facts.

"'How many people were there in your day?' I asked him. He replied
that there were many thousands.

"'I lived there three years,' he said. 'I had a sweetheart named Manu,
and I married her in the Marquesan way. I was a runaway sailor, and
one night on the beach I was captured and taken away on a ship. I
have been captain of a great American liner for years, always
meaning to come back, and putting it off from year to year. All my
people are dead, and I thought I would come now and perhaps find her
here and end my days. I have plenty of money.'

"He seemed childish to me - perhaps he really had lost mental poise
by age. I hadn't the courage to tell him the truth. We came on it
soon enough. You must see Typee to realize what people mean to a

"The _nonos_ were simply hell, but as I had lived a good many years
in Tai-o-hae I was hardened to them. The old man slapped at them
occasionally, but made no complaint. He hardly seemed to feel them,
or to realize what their numbers meant. It was when we pushed up the
trail through the valley, and he saw only deserted _paepaes_, that
he began to look frightened.

"'Are they all gone?' he inquired weakly.

"'No,' I said, 'there are fifteen or twenty here.' We came to a
clearing and there found the remnant of the Typees. I questioned them,
but none had ever heard of him. There had been many Manus, - the word
means bird, - but as they were the last of the tribe, she must have
been dead before they were born, and they no longer kept in their
memories the names of the dead, since there were so many, and all
would be dead soon.

"The American still understood enough Marquesan to understand their
answers, and taking me by the arm he left the horses and led me up
the valley till he came to a spot where there were fragments of an
old _paepae_, buried in vines and torn apart by their roots.

"'We lived here,' he said, and then he sat on the forsaken stones
and cried. He said that they had had two children, and he had been
sure that at least he would find them alive. His misery made me feel
bad, and the damned _nonos_, too, and I cried - I don't know how damn
sentimental it was, but that was the way it affected me. The old
chap seemed so alone in the world.

"'It is three miles from here to the beach,' he said, 'and I have
seen men coming with their presents for the chief, walking a yard
apart, and yet the line stretched all the way to the beach.'

"He could hardly ride back to Tai-o-hae, and he departed with the
_Tropic Bird_ without saying another word to any one."

Typee, they told me, was half way to Atiheu and a good four miles by
horse. The road had been good when the people were many, and was
still the main road of the island, leading through the Valley of
Hapaa. My steed was borrowed of T'yonny Howard, who, though he owned
a valley, poured cement for day's wages.

"What I do?" he asked, as if I held the answer. "Nobody to help me
work there. I cannot make copra alone. Even here they bring men from
other place do work. Marquesan die too fast."

If T'yonny revered his father's countrymen, his horse did not. These
island horses are unhappy-looking skates, though good climbers and

"You don't need person go with you," said the son of the former
living picture. "That horsey know. You stay by him."

The saddle must have been strange to the horsey, for uneasiness
communicated itself from him to me as we set out, an uneasiness
augmented to me by the incessant vicious pricks of the ever-present

The way led ever higher above the emerald bay of Tai-o-hae set in
the jade of the forest, and valley after valley opened below as the
trail edged upward on the face of sheer cliffs or crossed the little
plateaus of their summits. Hapaa lay bathed in a purple mist that
hid from me the mute tokens of depopulation; Hapaa that had given
Porter its thousands of naked warriors, and that now was devoid of
human beings.

Dipping slightly downward again, the trail lay on the rim of a deep
declivity, a sunless gulf in which the tree-tops fell away in rank
below rank into dim depths of mistiness. There was no sign of human
passing on the vine-grown trail, a vague track through a melancholy
wilderness that seemed to breathe death and decay. A spirit of gloom
seemed to rise from the shadowed declivity, from the silence of the
mournful wood and the damp darkness of the leaf-hidden earth.

I had given myself over to musing upon the past, but suddenly in the
narrowest part of the trail the beast I rode turned and took my
canvas-covered toes in his yellow teeth. A vague momentary flash of
horror came over me. Did I bestride a metempsychosized man-eater, a
revenant from the bloody days of Nuka-hiva? In those wicked eyes I
saw reflected the tales of transmigatory vengeance, from the wolf of
Little Red Riding Hood to the ass that one becomes who kills a
Brahman. I gave vent at the same second to a shriek of anguish and
struck the animal upon the nose, the tenderest part of his anatomy
within reach. He released my foot, whirled, cavorted, and, as I
seized a tree fern on the bank, went heels over head over the cliff.

T'yonny had said to "stay by horsey," but he could not have foreseen
the road he would take. I was sorry for him as I heard the
reverberations of his crashing fall. No living thing could escape
death in such a drop, for though the cliff down which he had
disappeared was not absolutely perpendicular, it was nearly so.
Peering over it, I could not see his corpse, for fern and tree-top
hid all below. At least, I thought, he had surcease of all ills now.
And so I descended the steep trail on foot - mostly on one
foot - until I reached the vale of Typee.

I found myself in a loneliness indescribable and terrible. No sound
but that of a waterfall at a distance parted the somber silence. The
trail was through a thicket of ferns, trees, and wild flowers. The
perfume of _Hinano_, of the _vaovao_, with its delicate blue flowers,
and the _vaipuhao_, whose leaves are scented like violets, filled
the heavy air, and I passed acres of _kokou_, which looks like
tobacco, but has a yellow fruit of delicious odor. It was such a
garden as the prince who woke the _Sleeping Beauty_ penetrated to
reach the palace where she lay entranced, and something of the same
sense of dread magic lay upon it. Humanity was not so much absent as
gone, and a feeling of doom and death was in the motionless air,
which lay like a weight upon leaf and flower.

The thin, sharp buzzing of the _nonos_ was incessant. They had come
when man departed; there were none when Porter devastated the valley,
nor when Melville spent his happy months here thirty years later. One
must move briskly to escape them now, and I was pushing through the
bushes that strove to obliterate the trail when I came upon a native.

He was so old that he must have been a youth in the valley when it
was visited by the American-liner captain as a boy. He was quite
nude save for a ragged cincture, and his body had shrunk and puckered,
and his skin had folded and discolored until he looked as if life
had ebbed away from him and left him high and dry between the past
and the hereafter. A ragged chin beard, ashen in hue, hung below his
gaping, empty mouth. But there was a spirit in his bosom still, for
upon his head he wore a circle of bright flowers to supplement the
sparse locks.

His eyes were barely openable, and his face, indeed, his whole body,
was a coppery green, the soot of the candlenut, black itself, but
blue upon the flesh, having turned by age to a mottled and hideous
color. Only the striking patterns, where they branched from the
biceps to the chest, were plain.

That he had been one of the great of Nuka-hiva was certain; the fact
was stamped indelibly upon his person, and though worn and faded to
the ghastly green of old copper, it remained to proclaim his lineage
and his rank.

"_Kaoha te iki!_" said this ancient, as he stood in the path.

"_Kaoha e!_" I saluted him.

"_Puaka piki enata_" he said further, and pointed down the trail.

What could he mean? _Puaka_ is pig, _piki_ is to mount or climb,
and _enata_ is man. A great white light beat about my brow. "The pig
men climb?" Could he mean Rozinante, the steed to whom T'yonny had
entrusted me, and who had so basely deserted his trust over a cliff?

I hurried on incredulous, and, in a clearing where there were three
or four horses, beheld the suicide grazing upon the luscious grass.
He had lost much cuticle, and the saddle was in shreds, but the
_puaka piki enata_ was evidently in fairly good health.

The old man had slowly followed me down the trail, and he stood
within the doorway of a rude hut, blinking in the sun as he watched
my movements. In the houses were altogether fewer than a dozen people.
They sat by cocoanut-husk fires, the acrid smoke of which daunted
the _nonos_.

The reason any human beings endure such tortures to remain in this
gloomy, deserted spot can only be the affection the Marquesan has
for his home. Not until epidemics have carried off all but one or
two inhabitants in a valley can those remaining be persuaded to leave

This dozen of the Taipi clan are the remainder of the twenty Ramqe
saw with the heartbroken American. They have clung to their lonely
_paepaes_ despite their poverty of numbers and the ferocity of the
_nonos_. They had clearings with cocoanuts and breadfruit, but
they cared no longer to cultivate them, preferring rather to sit
sadly in the curling fumes and dream of the past. One old man read
aloud the "Gospel of St. John" in Marquesan, and the others
listlessly listened, seeming to drink in little comfort from the
verses, which he recited in the chanting monotone of their _uta_.

Nine miles in length is Typee, from a glorious cataract that leaps
over the dark buttress wall where the mountain bounds the valley, to
the blazing beach. And in all this extent of marvelously rich land,
the one-time fondly cherished abode of the most valiant clan of the
Marquesas, of thousands of men and women whose bodies were as
beautiful as the models for the statues the Greeks made, whose
hearts were generous, and whose minds were eager to learn all good
things, there are now this wretched dozen too old or listless to
gather their own food. In the ruins of a broken and abandoned
_paepae_, in the shadow of an acre-covering banian, I smoked and
asked myself what a Christ would think of the havoc wrought by men
calling themselves Christians.


Journey on the _Roberta_; the winged cockroaches; arrival at a Swiss
paradise in the valley of Oomoa.

I sailed from Tai-o-hae for an unknown port, carried by the schooner
_Roberta_, which had brought the white mare from Atuona and whose
skipper had bore so well the white banner of Joan in the procession
that did her honor. The _Roberta_ was the only vessel in those
waters and, sailing as she did at the whim of her captain and the
necessities of trade, none knew when she might return to Nuka-hiva,
so I could but accept the opportunity she offered of reaching the
southern group of islands again, and trust to fortune or favor to
return me to my own island of Hiva-oa.

The _Roberta_ lay low in the water, not so heavily sparred as the
_Morning Star_, or with her under-cut stern, but old and battered,
built for the business of a thief-catcher, and with a history as
scarred as her hull and as slippery as her decks. Was she not once
the _Herman_, and before that something else, and yet earlier
something else, built for the Russians to capture the artful
poachers of the Smoky Sea? And later a poacher herself, and still
later stealing men, a black-birder, seizing the unoffending natives
of these South Seas and selling them into slavery of mine or
plantation, of guano-heap and sickening alien clime. Her decks have
run blood, and heard the wailing of the gentle savage torn from his
beloved home and lashed or clubbed into submission by the superior
white. Name and color and rig had changed time and again, owners and
masters had gone to Davy Jones's locker; the old brass cannon on her
deck had raked the villages of the Marquesans and witnessed a
thousand deeds of murder and rapine.

I pulled myself aboard by a topping-lift, climbed upon the low
cabin-house, and jumped down to the tiny poop where Jerome Capriata
held the helm.

This Corsican, with his more than sixty years, most of them in these
waters, was a Marquesan in his intuitive skill in handling his
schooner in all weather, for knowing these islands by a glimpse of
rock or tree, for landing and taking cargo in all seas. Old and worn,
like the _Roberta_, he was known to all who ranged the southern ocean.
What romances he had lived and seen were hidden in his grizzled bosom,
for he said little, and nothing of himself.

The supercargo, Henry Lee, a Norwegian of twenty-five years, six of
which he had passed among the islands, set out the rum and wine and
a clay bottle of water. He introduced me to Père Olivier, a priest
of the mission, whose charge was in the island of Fatu-hiva. From
him I learned that the _Roberta_ was bound for Oomoa, a port of that

That I had not been given the vaguest idea what our first landfall
would be was indicative of the secrecy maintained by these traders
in the competition for copra. The supply being limited, often it is
the first vessel on the spot after a harvest that is able to buy it,
and captains of schooners guard their movements as an army its own
during a campaign. The traders trust one another as a cat with a
mouse trusts another cat.

The priest was sitting on a ledge below the taffrail, and I spoke to
him in Spanish, as I had heard it was his tongue. His _buenos dias_
in reply was hearty, and his voice soft and rich. A handsome man was
Padre Olivier, though in sad disorder. His black soutane, cut like
the woolen gown of our grandmothers, was soaking wet, and his low
rough shoes were muddy. A soiled bandana was about his head. His
finely chiseled features, benign and intelligent, were framed by a
snow-white beard, and his eyes, large and limpid, looked benevolence
itself. He was all affability, and eager to talk about everything in
the world.

The rain, which all day had been falling at intervals, began again,
and as the _Roberta_ entered the open sea, she began to kick up her
heels. Our conversation languished. When the supercargo called us
below for dinner, pride and not appetite made me go. The priest
answered with a groan. Padre Olivier was prostrate on the deck, his
noble head on a pillow, his one piece of luggage, embroidered with
the monogram of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the needlework of the nuns
of Atuona.

"I am seasick if I wade in the surf," said the priest, in mournful

The _Roberta's_ cabin was a dark and noisome hole, filled with
demijohns and merchandise, with two or three untidy bunks in corners,
the air soaked with the smells of thirty years of bilge-water,
sealskins, copra, and the cargoes of island traffic. Capriata, Harry
Lee, and I sat on boxes at a rough table, which we clutched as the
_Roberta_ pitched and rolled.

[Illustration: Near the Mission at Hanavave]

[Illustration: Starting from Hanavave for Oomoa]

When the ragged cook brought the first dish, unmistakably a cat
swimming in a liquid I could have sworn by my nose to be drippings
from an ammonia tank, I protested a lack of hunger for any food. My
ruse passed for the moment, but was exposed by a flock or swarm of
cockroaches, which, scenting a favorite food, suddenly sprang upon
the table and upon us, leaping and flying into the plates and
drawing Corsican curses from Capriata and Norwegian maledictions
from Lee. I did not wait to see them throwing the invaders from the
battlements of the table into the moat of salt water and spilt wine
below, but quickly, though feebly, climbed to the deck and laid
myself beside Père Olivier, nor could cries that the enemy had been
defeated and that "only a few" were flying about, summon me below

Père Olivier and I stayed prone all night in alternate pelting rain
and flooding moonlight, as a fair wind bowled us along at six knots
an hour. Padre Olivier, between naps, recited his rosary to take his
mind from his woes. I could tell when he finished a decade by his
involuntary start as he began a new one. I had no such comfort as
beads and prayers, and the flight of those schooner griffins had
struck me in the solar plexus of imagination.

"Accept them as stations of the cross," said the priest. "This life
is but a step to heaven."

I replied with some comments indicating my belief that cockroaches
belonged on a still lower rung, and going in an opposite direction.

"I know those _blattes_, those _saligauds_," he said with sympathy.
"They are sent by Satan to provoke us to blasphemy. I never go below."

Those pests of insects can hardly be estimated at their true
dreadfulness by persons unacquainted with the infamous habits of the
nocturnal beetle of the tropics. Sluggish creatures in the temperate
zone, in warm countries they develop the power of flying, and
obstacles successfully interposed to their progress in countries
where they merely crawl are ineffectual here. They had entire
possession of the _Roberta_.

The supercargo, Lee, was not to be blamed, for he told me that once
he had taken time in port to capture by poisonous lures a number he
calculated at eight thousand, and that within a month those who had
escaped had repopulated the old schooner as before. Then he despaired,
and let them have sway. To sleep or eat among them was not possible
to me, and the voyage was a nightmare not relieved by an incident of
the second night.

Capriata, whose feet were calloused from going bare for years, awoke
from a deep slumber that had been aided by rum, to find that the
cockroaches in his berth had eaten through the half inch or more of
hard skin and had begun to devour his flesh. With blasphemous and
blood-chilling yells he bounded on deck, where he sat treating the
wounds and cursing unrestrainedly for some time before joining Père
Olivier and me in democratic slumber on the bare boards. Several
weeks later his feet had not recovered from their envenomed sores.

When eight bells sounded the hour of four, I got upon my feet and in
the mellow dawn saw a panorama of peak and precipice, dark and
threatening, the coast of Fatu-hiva and the entrance to Oomoa Bay,
the southernmost island of the Marquesas, and the harbor in which
the first white men who saw the islands anchored over three hundred
years ago.

Those Spaniards, on whose ships the cross was seen in cabin and
forecastle, on gun and halberd, murdered many Marquesans at Oomoa to
glut their taste for blood. The standard of death the white flew
then has never been lowered. Oomoa and Hanavave, the adjacent bay
and village, were resorts for whalers, who brought a plague of ills
that reduced the population of Fatu-hiva from many thousands to less
than three hundred. Consumption was first brought to the islands by
one of these whalers, and made such alarming inroads on the people
of Hanavave that most of the remainder forsook their homes and
crossed to the island of Tahuata, to escape the devil the white man
had let loose among them.

We sailed on very slowly after the mountains had robbed us of the
breeze, and when daylight succeeded the false dawn, we dropped our
mud hooks a thousand feet from the beach. On it we could see a
little wooden church and two dwellings, dwarfed to miniature by the
grim pinnacles of rock, crude replicas of the towers of the Alhambra,
slender minarets beside the giant cliffs, which were clothed with
creeping plants in places and in places bare as the sides of a
living volcano.

The fantastic and majestic assemblage of rock shapes on the shores
of Fatu-hiva appeared as if some Herculean sculptor with disordered
brain and mighty hand had labored to reproduce the fearful chimeras
of his dreams.

The priest and I, with the supercargo, went ashore in a boat at six
o'clock, and reached a beach as smooth and inviting as that of Atuona.
A canoe was waiting for Père Olivier; he climbed into it at once,
his black wet robe clinging to him, and called "_Adios!_" as his men
paddled rapidly for Hanavave, where he was to say mass and hear

Lee and I took a road lined with a wall of rocks, and passing many
sorts of trees and plants entered an enclosure through a gate.

After a considerable walk through a thrifty plantation, we were in
front of a European house which gave signs of comfort and taste. At
the head of a flight of stairs on the broad veranda was a man in
gold-rimmed eye-glasses and a red breechclout. His well-shaped, bald
head and punctilious manner would have commanded attention in any

I was introduced to Monsieur François Grelet, a Swiss, who had lived
here for more than twenty years, and who during that time had never
been farther away than a few miles. Not even Tahiti had drawn him to
it. Since he arrived, at the age of twenty-four years, he had dwelt
contentedly in Oomoa.

After we had chatted for a few moments he invited me to be his guest.
I thought of the _Roberta_ and those two kinds of cockroaches, the
Blatta orientalis and the Blatta germanica, who raid by night and by
day respectively; I looked at Grelet's surroundings, and I accepted.
While the _Roberta_ gathered what copra she could and flitted, I

Online LibraryFrederick O'BrienWhite Shadows in the South Seas → online text (page 20 of 29)