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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOmoo - PART II - Chapter LXV. THE HEGIRA, OR FLIGHT
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Omoo - PART II - Chapter LXV. THE HEGIRA, OR FLIGHT Post by :Richard_Cuss Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :3356

Click below to download : Omoo - PART II - Chapter LXV. THE HEGIRA, OR FLIGHT (Format : PDF)


"I SAY, doctor," cried I, a few days after my adventure with the
goblin, as, in the absence of our host, we were one morning lounging
upon the matting in his dwelling, smoking our reed pipes, "Tamai's a
thriving place; why not settle down?"

"Faith!" said he, "not a bad idea, Paul. But do you fancy they'll let
us stay, though?"

"Why, certainly; they would be overjoyed to have a couple of
Karhowrees for townsmen."

"Gad! you're right, my pleasant fellow. Ha! ha! I'll put up a
banana-leaf as a physician from London--deliver lectures on
Polynesian antiquities--teach English in five lessons, of one hour
each--establish power-looms for the manufacture of tappa--lay out a
public park in the middle of the village, and found a festival in
honour of Captain Cook!"

"But, surely, not without stopping to take breath," observed I.

The doctor's projects, to be sure, were of a rather visionary cast;
but we seriously thought, nevertheless, of prolonging our stay in the
valley for an indefinite period; and, with this understanding, we
were turning over various plans for spending our time pleasantly,
when several women came running into the house, and hurriedly
besought us to heree! heree! (make our escape), crying out something
about the Mickonarees.

Thinking that we were about to be taken up under the act for the
suppression of vagrancy, we flew out of the house, sprang into a
canoe before the door, and paddled with might and main over to the
opposite side of the lake.

Approaching Rartoo's dwelling was a great crowd, among which we
perceived several natives, who, from their partly European dress, we
were certain did not reside in Tamai.

Plunging into the groves, we thanked our stars that we had thus
narrowly escaped being apprehended as runaway seamen, and marched off
to the beach. This, at least, was what we thought we had escaped.

Having fled the village, we could not think of prowling about its
vicinity, and then returning; in doing so we might be risking our
liberty again. We therefore determined upon journeying back to
Martair; and setting our faces thitherward, we reached the planters'
house about nightfall. They gave us a cordial reception, and a hearty
supper; and we sat up talking until a late hour.

We now prepared to go round to Taloo, a place from which we were not
far off when at Tamai; but wishing to see as much of the island as we
could, we preferred returning to Martair, and then going round by way
of the beach.

Taloo, the only frequented harbour of Imeeo, lies on the western side
of the island, almost directly over against Martair. Upon one shore
of the bay stands the village of Partoowye, a missionary station. In
its vicinity is an extensive sugar plantation--the best in the South
Seas, perhaps--worked by a person from Sydney.

The patrimonial property of the husband of Pomaree, and every way a
delightful retreat, Partoowye was one of the occasional residences of
the court. But at the time I write of it was permanently fixed there,
the queen having fled thither from Tahiti.

Partoowye, they told us, was by no means the place Papeetee was. Ships
seldom touched, and very few foreigners were living ashore. A
solitary whaler, however, was reported to be lying in the harbour,
wooding and watering, and to be in want of men.

All things considered, I could not help looking upon Taloo as offering
"a splendid opening" for us adventurers. To say nothing of the
facilities presented for going to sea in the whaler, or hiring
ourselves out as day labourers in the sugar plantation, there were
hopes to be entertained of being promoted to some office of high
trust and emolument about the person of her majesty, the queen.

Nor was this expectation altogether Quixotic. In the train of many
Polynesian princes roving whites are frequently found: gentleman
pensioners of state, basking in the tropical sunshine of the court,
and leading the pleasantest lives in the world. Upon islands little
visited by foreigners the first seaman that settles down is generally
domesticated in the family of the head chief or king; where he
frequently discharges the functions of various offices, elsewhere
filled by as many different individuals. As historiographer, for
instance, he gives the natives some account of distant countries; as
commissioner of the arts and sciences, he instructs them in the use of
the jack-knife, and the best way of shaping bits of iron hoop into
spear-heads; and as interpreter to his majesty, he facilitates
intercourse with strangers; besides instructing the people generally
in the uses of the most common English phrases, civil and profane;
but oftener the latter.

These men generally marry well; often--like Hardy of Hannamanoo--into
the Wood royal.

Sometimes they officiate as personal attendant, or First Lord in
Waiting, to the king. At Amboi, one of the Tonga Islands, a vagabond
Welshman bends his knee as cupbearer to his cannibal majesty. He
mixes his morning cup of "arva," and, with profound genuflections,
presents it in a cocoa-nut bowl, richly carved. Upon another island
of the same group, where it is customary to bestow no small pains in
dressing the hair--frizzing it out by a curious process into an
enormous Pope's head--an old man-of-war's-man fills the post of
barber to the king. And as his majesty is not very neat, his mop is
exceedingly populous; so that, when Jack is not engaged in dressing
the head intrusted to his charge, he busies himself in gently
titillating it--a sort of skewer being actually worn about in the
patient's hair for that special purpose.

Even upon the Sandwich Islands a low rabble of foreigners is kept
about the person of Tammahammaha for the purpose of ministering to
his ease or enjoyment.

Billy Loon, a jolly little negro, tricked out in a soiled blue jacket,
studded all over with rusty bell buttons, and garnished with shabby
gold lace, is the royal drummer and pounder of the tambourine. Joe, a
wooden-legged Portuguese who lost his leg by a whale, is violinist;
and Mordecai, as he is called, a villainous-looking scamp, going
about with his cups and balls in a side pocket, diverts the court with
his jugglery. These idle rascals receive no fixed salary, being
altogether dependent upon the casual bounty of their master. Now and
then they run up a score at the Dance Houses in Honolulu, where the
illustrious Tammahammaha III afterwards calls and settles the bill.

A few years since an auctioneer to his majesty came near being added
to the retinue of state. It seems that he was the first man who had
practised his vocation in the Sandwich Islands; and delighted with
the sport of bidding upon his wares, the king was one of his best
customers. At last he besought the man to leave all and follow him,
and he should be handsomely provided for at court. But the auctioneer
refused; and so the ivory hammer lost the chance of being borne
before him on a velvet cushion when the next king went to be crowned.

But it was not as strolling players, nor as footmen out of employ,
that the doctor and myself looked forward to our approaching
introduction to the court of the Queen of Tahiti. On the contrary, as
before hinted, we expected to swell the appropriations of bread-fruit
and cocoa-nuts on the Civil List by filling some honourable office in
her gift.

We were told that, to resist the usurpation of the French, the queen
was rallying about her person all the foreigners she could. Her
partiality for the English and Americans was well known; and this was
an additional ground for our anticipating a favourable reception.
Zeke had informed us, moreover, that by the queen's counsellors at
Partoowye, a war of aggression against the invaders of Papeetee had
been seriously thought of. Should this prove true, a surgeon's
commission for the doctor, and a lieutenancy for myself, were
certainly counted upon in our sanguine expectations.

Such, then, were our views, and such our hopes in projecting a trip to
Taloo. But in our most lofty aspirations we by no means lost sight of
any minor matters which might help us to promotion. The doctor had
informed me that he excelled in playing the fiddle. I now suggested
that, as soon as we arrived at Partoowye, we should endeavour to
borrow a violin for him; or if this could not be done, that he should
manufacture some kind of a substitute, and, thus equipped, apply for
an audience of the queen. Her well-known passion for music would at
once secure his admittance; and so, under the most favourable
auspices, bring about our introduction to her notice.

"And who knows," said my waggish comrade, throwing his head back and
performing an imaginary air by briskly drawing one arm across the
other, "who knows that I may not fiddle myself into her majesty's
good graces so as to became a sort of Rizzio to the Tahitian

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THE inglorious circumstances of our somewhat premature departure fromTamai filled the sagacious doctor, and myself, with sundry misgivingsfor the future.Under Zeke's protection, we were secure from all impertinentinterference in our concerns on the part of the natives. But asfriendless wanderers over the island, we ran the risk of beingapprehended as runaways, and, as such, sent back to Tahiti. Thetruth is that the rewards constantly offered for the apprehension ofdeserters from ships induce some of the natives to eye all strangerssuspiciously.A passport was therefore desirable; but such a thing had never beenheard of in Imeeo. At last, Long Ghost suggested that,


THERE was a little old man of a most hideous aspect living in Tamai,who, in a coarse mantle of tappa, went about the village, dancing,and singing, and making faces. He followed us about wherever we went;and, when unobserved by others, plucked at our garments, makingfrightful signs for us to go along with him somewhere, and seesomething.It was in vain that we tried to get rid of him. Kicks and cuffs, even,were at last resorted to; but, though he howled like one possessed,he would not go away, but still haunted us. At last, we conjured thenatives to rid us of him; but