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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOmoo - PART I - Chapter VI. WE TOUCH AT LA DOMINICA
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Omoo - PART I - Chapter VI. WE TOUCH AT LA DOMINICA Post by :Joe Gardner Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :2347

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Omoo - PART I - Chapter VI. WE TOUCH AT LA DOMINICA

FEARFUL of spending another night at Hytyhoo, Captain Guy caused the
ship to be got under way shortly after dark.

The next morning, when all supposed that we were fairly embarked for a
long cruise, our course was suddenly altered for La Dominica, or
Hivarhoo, an island just north of the one we had quitted. The object
of this, as we learned, was to procure, if possible, several English
sailors, who, according to the commander of the corvette, had
recently gone ashore there from an American whaler, and were desirous
of shipping aboard one of their own country vessels.

We made the land in the afternoon, coming abreast of a shady glen
opening from a deep bay, and winding by green denies far out of
sight. "Hands by the weather-main-brace!" roared the mate, jumping up
on the bulwarks; and in a moment the prancing Julia, suddenly
arrested in her course, bridled her head like a steed reined in,
while the foam flaked under her bows.

This was the place where we expected to obtain the men; so a boat was
at once got in readiness to go ashore. Now it was necessary to
provide a picked crew--men the least likely to abscond. After
considerable deliberation on the part of the captain and mate, four
of the seamen were pitched upon as the most trustworthy; or rather
they were selected from a choice assortment of suspicious characters
as being of an inferior order of rascality.

Armed with cutlasses all round--the natives were said to be an ugly
set--they were followed over the side by the invalid captain, who, on
this occasion, it seems, was determined to signalize himself.
Accordingly, in addition to his cutlass, he wore an old boarding
belt, in which was thrust a brace of pistols. They at once shoved
off.

My friend Long Ghost had, among other things which looked somewhat
strange in a ship's forecastle, a capital spy-glass, and on the
present occasion we had it in use.

When the boat neared the head of the inlet, though invisible to the
naked eye, it was plainly revealed by the glass; looking no bigger
than an egg-shell, and the men diminished to pigmies.

At last, borne on what seemed a long flake of foam, the tiny craft
shot up the beach amid a shower of sparkles. Not a soul was there.
Leaving one of their number by the water, the rest of the pigmies
stepped ashore, looking about them very circumspectly, pausing now
and then hand to ear, and peering under a dense grove which swept
down within a few paces of the sea. No one came, and to all
appearances everything was as still as the grave. Presently he with
the pistols, followed by the rest flourishing their bodkins, entered
the wood and were soon lost to view. They did not stay long; probably
anticipating some inhospitable ambush were they to stray any distance
up the glen.

In a few moments they embarked again, and were soon riding pertly over
the waves of the bay. All of a sudden the captain started to his
feet--the boat spun round, and again made for the shore. Some twenty
or thirty natives armed with spears which through the glass looked
like reeds, had just come out of the grove, and were apparently
shouting to the strangers not to be in such a hurry, but return and
be sociable. But they were somewhat distrusted, for the boat paused
about its length from the beach, when the captain standing up in its
head delivered an address in pantomime, the object of which seemed to
be, that the islanders should draw near. One of them stepped forward
and made answer, seemingly again urging the strangers not to be
diffident, but beach their boat. The captain declined, tossing his
arms about in another pantomime. In the end he said something which
made them shake their spears; whereupon he fired a pistol among them,
which set the whole party running; while one poor little fellow,
dropping his spear and clapping his hand behind him, limped away in a
manner which almost made me itch to get a shot at his assailant.

Wanton acts of cruelty like this are not unusual on the part of sea
captains landing at islands comparatively unknown. Even at the Pomotu
group, but a day's sail from Tahiti, the islanders coming down to the
shore have several times been fired at by trading schooners passing
through their narrow channels; and this too as a mere amusement on
the part of the ruffians.

Indeed, it is almost incredible, the light in which many sailors
regard these naked heathens. They hardly consider them human. But it
is a curious fact, that the more ignorant and degraded men are, the
more contemptuously they look upon those whom they deem their
inferiors.

All powers of persuasion being thus lost upon these foolish savages,
and no hope left of holding further intercourse, the boat returned to
the ship.

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ON the other side of the island was the large and populous bay ofHannamanoo the men sought might yet be found. But as the sunwas setting by the time the boat came alongside, we got our offshoretacks aboard and stood away for an offing. About daybreak we wore,and ran in, and by the time the sun was well up, entered the long,narrow channel dividing the islands of La Dominica and St. Christina.On one hand was a range of steep green bluffs hundreds of feet high,the white huts of the natives here and there nestling like birds'nests in deep clefts
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LESS than forty-eight hours after leaving Nukuheva, the blue, loomingisland of St. Christina greeted us from afar. Drawing near theshore, the grim, black spars and waspish hull of a small man-of-warcraft crept into view; the masts and yards lined distinctly againstthe sky. She was riding to her anchor in the bay, and proved to be aFrench corvette.This pleased our captain exceedingly, and, coming on deck, he examinedher from the mizzen rigging with his glass. His original intentionwas not to let go an anchor; but, counting upon the assistance of thecorvette in case of any difficulty, he now changed his mind,
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