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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOmoo - PART II - Chapter LXXI. WE START FOR TALOO
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Omoo - PART II - Chapter LXXI. WE START FOR TALOO Post by :lyka120 Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :3463

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Omoo - PART II - Chapter LXXI. WE START FOR TALOO

BRIGHT was the morning, and brighter still the smiles of the young
ladies who accompanied us, when we sprang into a sort of family canoe
--wide and roomy--and bade adieu to the hospitable Marharvai and his
tenantry. As we paddled away, they stood upon the beach, waving their
hands, and crying out, "aroha! aroha!" (farewell! farewell!) as long
as we were within hearing.

Very sad at parting with them, we endeavoured, nevertheless, to
console ourselves in the society of our fellow-passengers. Among
these were two old ladies; but as they said nothing to us, we will
say nothing about them; nor anything about the old men who managed
the canoe. But of the three mischievous, dark-eyed young witches who
lounged in the stern of that comfortable old island gondola, I have a
great deal to say.

In the first place, one of them was Marhar-Rarrar, the Bright-Eyed;
and, in the second place, neither she nor the romps, her companions,
ever dreamed of taking the voyage until the doctor and myself
announced our intention; their going along was nothing more than a
madcap frolic; in short, they were a parcel of wicked hoydens, bent
on mischief, who laughed in your face when you looked sentimental, and
only tolerated your company when making merry at your expense.

Something or other about us was perpetually awaking their mirth.
Attributing this to his own remarkable figure, the doctor increased
their enjoyment by assuming the part of a Merry Andrew. Yet his cap
and bells never jingled but to some tune; and while playing the
Tom-fool, I more than suspected that he was trying to play the rake.
At home, it is deemed auspicious to go a-wooing in epaulets; but
among the Polynesians, your best dress in courting is motley.

A fresh breeze springing up, we set our sail of matting, and glided
along as tranquilly as if floating upon an inland stream; the white
reef on one hand, and the green shore on the other.

Soon, as we turned a headland, we encountered another canoe, paddling
with might and main in an opposite direction; the strangers shouting
to each other, and a tall fellow in the bow dancing up and down like
a crazy man. They shot by us like an arrow, though our
fellow-voyagers shouted again and again for them to cease paddling.

According to the natives, this was a kind of royal mail-canoe,
carrying a message from the queen to her friends in a distant part of
the island.

Passing several shady bowers which looked quite inviting, we proposed
touching, and diversifying the monotony of a sea-voyage by a stroll
ashore. So, forcing our canoe among the bushes, behind a decayed palm
lying partly in the water, we left the old folks to take a nap in the
shade, and gallanted the others among the trees, which were here
trellised with vines and creeping shrubs.

In the early part of the afternoon, we drew near the place to which
the party were going. It was a solitary house inhabited by four or
five old women, who, when we entered, were gathered in a circle about
the mats, eating poee from a cracked calabash. They seemed delighted
at seeing our companions, but rather drew up when introduced to
ourselves. Eyeing us distrustfully, they whispered to know who we
were. The answers they received were not satisfactory; for they
treated us with marked coolness and reserve, and seemed desirous of
breaking off our acquaintance with the girls. Unwilling, therefore,
to stay where our company was disagreeable, we resolved to depart
without even eating a meal.

Informed of this, Marhar-Rarrar and her companions evinced the most
lively concern; and equally unmindful of their former spirits, and
the remonstrances of the old ladies, broke forth into sobs and
lamentations which were not to be withstood. We agreed, therefore, to
tarry until they left for home; which would be at the "Aheharar," or
Falling of the Sun; in other words, at sunset.

When the hour arrived, after much leave-taking, we saw them safely
embarked. As the canoe turned a bluff, they seized the paddles from
the hands of the old men, and waved them silently in the air. This
was meant for a touching farewell, as the paddle is only waved thus
when the parties separating never more expect to meet.

We now continued our journey; and, following the beach, soon came to a
level and lofty overhanging bank, which, planted here and there with
trees, took a broad sweep round a considerable part of the island.

A fine pathway skirted the edge of the bank; and often we paused to
admire the scenery. The evening was still and fair, even for so
heavenly a climate; and all round, as far as the eye could reach, was
the blending blue sky and ocean.

As we went on, the reef-belt still accompanied us; turning as we
turned, and thundering its distant bass upon the ear, like the
unbroken roar of a cataract. Dashing forever against their coral
rampart, the breakers looked, in the distance, like a line of rearing
white chargers, reined in, tossing their white manes, and bridling
with foam.

These great natural breakwaters are admirably designed for the
protection of the land. Nearly all the Society Islands are defended
by them. Were the vast swells of the Pacific to break against the
soft alluvial bottoms which in many places border the sea, the soil
would soon be washed away, and the natives be thus deprived of their
most productive lands. As it is, the banks of no rivulet are firmer.

But the coral barriers answer another purpose. They form all the
harbours of this group, including the twenty-four round about the
shores of Tahiti. Curiously enough, the openings in the reefs, by
which alone vessels enter to their anchorage, are invariably opposite
the mouths of running streams: an advantage fully appreciated by the
mariner who touches for the purpose of watering his ship.

It is said that the fresh water of the land, mixing with the salts
held in solution by the sea, so acts upon the latter as to resist the
formation of the coral; and hence the breaks. Here and there, these
openings are sentinelled, as it were, by little fairy islets, green
as emerald, and waving with palms. Strangely and beautifully
diversifying the long line of breakers, no objects can strike the
fancy more vividly. Pomaree II., with a taste in watering-places
truly Tahitian, selected one of them as a royal retreat. We passed it
on our journey.

Omitting several further adventures which befell us after leaving the
party from Loohooloo, we must now hurry on to relate what happened
just before reaching the place of our destination.

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FINDING the society at Loohooloo very pleasant, the young ladies, inparticular, being extremely sociable; and, moreover, in love with thefamous good cheer of old Marharvai, we acquiesced in an invitation ofhis to tarry a few days longer. We might then, he said, join a smallcanoe party which was going to a place a league or two distant. Soaverse to all exertion are these people that they really thought theprospect of thus getting rid of a few miles' walking would prevailwith us, even if there were no other inducement.The people of the hamlet, as we soon discovered, formed a snug littlecommunity of
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