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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOmoo - PART II - Chapter LXXVI. AN ISLAND JILT--WE VISIT THE SHIP
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Omoo - PART II - Chapter LXXVI. AN ISLAND JILT--WE VISIT THE SHIP Post by :rakeit Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :1665

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Omoo - PART II - Chapter LXXVI. AN ISLAND JILT--WE VISIT THE SHIP

UPON arriving home we fully laid open to Po-Po our motives in visiting
Taloo, and begged his friendly advice. In his broken English he
cheerfully gave us all the information we needed.

It was true, he said, that the queen entertained some idea of making a
stand against the French; and it was currently reported also that
several chiefs from Borabora, Huwyenee, Raiatair, and Tahar, the
leeward islands of the group, were at that very time taking counsel
with her as to the expediency of organizing a general movement
throughout the entire cluster, with a view of anticipating any further
encroachments on the part of the invaders. Should warlike measures be
actually decided upon, it was quite certain that Pomaree would be
glad to enlist all the foreigners she could; but as to her making
officers of either the doctor or me, that was out of the question;
because, already, a number of Europeans, well known to her, had
volunteered as such. Concerning our getting immediate access to the
queen, Po-Po told us it was rather doubtful; she living at that time
very retired, in poor health, and spirits, and averse to receiving
calls. Previous to her misfortunes, however, no one, however humble,
was denied admittance to her presence; sailors, even, attended her
levees.

Not at all disheartened by these things, we concluded to kill time in
Partoowye until some event turned up more favourable to our projects.
So that very day we sallied out on an excursion to the ship which,
lying land-locked far up the bay, yet remained to be visited.

Passing on our route a long, low shed, a voice hailed us--"White men
ahoy!" Turning round, who should we see but a rosy-cheeked Englishman
(you could tell his country at a glance), up to his knees in
shavings, and planing away at a bench. He turned out to be a runaway
ship's carpenter, recently from Tahiti, and now doing a profitable
business in Imeeo, by fitting up the dwellings of opulent chiefs with
cupboards and other conveniences, and once in a while trying his hand
at a lady's work-box. He had been in the settlement but a few months,
and already possessed houses and lands.

But though blessed with prosperity and high health, there was one
thing wanting--a wife. And when he came to speak of the matter, his
countenance fell, and he leaned dejectedly upon his plane.

"It's too bad!" he sighed, "to wait three long years; and all the
while, dear little Lullee living in the same house with that infernal
chief from Tahar!"

Our curiosity was piqued; the poor carpenter, then, had been falling
in love with some island coquette, who was going to jilt him.

But such was not the case. There was a law prohibiting, under a heavy
penalty, the marriage of a native with a foreigner, unless the
latter, after being three years a resident on the island, was willing
to affirm his settled intention of remaining for life.

William was therefore in a sad way. He told us that he might have
married the girl half-a-dozen times, had it not been for this odious
law: but, latterly, she had become less loving and more giddy,
particularly with the strangers from Tahar. Desperately smitten, and
desirous of securing her at all hazards, he had proposed to the
damsel's friends a nice little arrangement, introductory to marriage;
but they would not hear of it; besides, if the pair were discovered
living together upon such a footing, they would be liable to a
degrading punishment:--sent to work making stone walls and opening
roads for the queen.

Doctor Long Ghost was all sympathy. "Bill, my good fellow," said he,
tremulously, "let me go and talk to her." But Bill, declining the
offer, would not even inform us where his charmer lived.

Leaving the disconsolate Willie planing a plank of New Zealand pine
(an importation from the Bay of Islands), and thinking the while of
Lullee, we went on our way. How his suit prospered in the end we
never learned.

Going from Po-Po's house toward the anchorage of the harbour of Taloo,
you catch no glimpse of the water until, coming out from deep groves,
you all at once find yourself upon the beach. A bay, considered by
many voyagers the most beautiful in the South Seas, then lies before
you. You stand upon one side of what seems a deep green river,
flowing through mountain passes to the sea. Right opposite a majestic
promontory divides the inlet from another, called after its
discoverer, Captain Cook. The face of this promontory toward Taloo
is one verdant wall; and at its base the waters lie still and
fathomless. On the left hand, you just catch a peep of the widening
mouth of the bay, the break in the reef by which ships enter, and,
beyond, the sea. To the right, the inlet, sweeping boldly round the
promontory, runs far away into the land; where, save in one
direction, the hills close in on every side, knee-deep in verdure and
shooting aloft in grotesque peaks. The open space lies at the head of
the bay; in the distance it extends into a broad hazy plain lying at
the foot of an amphitheatre of hills. Here is the large sugar
plantation previously alluded to. Beyond the first range of hills,
you descry the sharp pinnacles of the interior; and among these, the
same silent Marling-spike which we so often admired from the other
side of the island.

All alone in the harbour lay the good ship Leviathan. We jumped into
the canoe, and paddled off to her. Though early in the afternoon,
everything was quiet; but upon mounting the side we found four or
five sailors lounging about the forecastle, under an awning. They
gave us no very cordial reception; and though otherwise quite hearty
in appearance, seemed to assume a look of ill-humour on purpose to
honour our arrival. There was much eagerness to learn whether we
wanted to "ship"; and by the unpleasant accounts they gave of the
vessel, they seemed desirous to prevent such a thing if possible.

We asked where the rest of the ship's company were; a gruff old fellow
made answer, "One boat's crew of 'em is gone to Davy Jones's
locker:--went off after a whale, last cruise, and never come back
agin. All the starboard watch ran away last night, and the skipper's
ashore kitching 'em."

"And it's shipping yer after, my jewels, is it?" cried a curly-pated
little Belfast sailor, coming up to us, "thin arrah! my livelies,
jist be after sailing ashore in a jiffy:--the divil of a skipper will
carry yees both to sea, whether or no. Be off wid ye thin, darlints,
and steer clear of the likes of this ballyhoo of blazes as long as ye
live. They murther us here every day, and starve us into the bargain.
Here, Dick, lad, har! the poor divil's canow alongside; and paddle
away wid yees for dear life."

But we loitered awhile, listening to more inducements to ship; and at
last concluded to stay to supper. My sheath-knife never cut into
better sea-beef than that which we found lying in the kid in the
forecastle. The bread, too, was hard, dry, and brittle as glass; and
there was plenty of both.

While we were below, the mate of the vessel called out for someone to
come on deck. I liked his voice. Hearing it was as good as a look at
his face. It betokened a true sailor, and no taskmaster.

The appearance of the Leviathan herself was quite pleasing. Like all
large, comfortable old whalers, she had a sort of motherly
look:--broad in the beam, flush decks, and four chubby boats hanging
at the breast. Her sails were furled loosely upon the yards, as if
they had been worn long, and fitted easy; her shrouds swung
negligently slack; and as for the "running rigging," it never worked
hard as it does in some of your "dandy ships," jamming in the sheaves
of blocks, like Chinese slippers, too small to be useful: on the
contrary, the ropes ran glibly through, as if they had many a time
travelled the same road, and were used to it.

When evening came, we dropped into our canoe, and paddled ashore;
fully convinced that the good ship never deserved the name which they
gave her.

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