Pequod

Omoo Chapter 43

ONE IS JUDGED BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS

ALTHOUGH, from its novelty, life at Captain Bob's was pleasant enough, for the time; there were some few annoyances connected with it anything but agreeable to a "soul of sensibility."

Prejudiced against us by the malevolent representations of the consul and others, many worthy foreigners ashore regarded us as a set of lawless vagabonds; though, truth to speak, better behaved sailors never stepped on the island, nor any who gave less trouble to the natives. But, for all this, whenever we met a respectably-dressed European, ten to one he shunned us by going over to the other side of the road. This was very unpleasant, at least to myself; though, certes, it did not prey upon the minds of the others.

To give an instance.

Of a fine evening in Tahiti—but they are all fine evenings there—you may see a bevy of silk bonnets and parasols passing along the Broom Road: perhaps a band of pale, little white urchins—sickly exotics—and, oftener still, sedate, elderly gentlemen, with canes; at whose appearance the natives, here and there, slink into their huts. These are the missionaries, their wives, and children, taking a family airing. Sometimes, by the bye, they take horse, and ride down to Point Venus and back; a distance of several miles. At this place is settled the only survivor of the first missionaries that landed—an old, white-headed, saint-like man, by the name of Wilson, the father of our friend, the consul.

The little parties on foot were frequently encountered; and, recalling, as they did, so many pleasant recollections of home and the ladies, I really longed for a dress coat and beaver that I might step up and pay my respects. But, situated as I was, this was out of the question. On one occasion, however, I received a kind, inquisitive glance from a matron in gingham. Sweet lady! I have not forgotten her: her gown was a plaid.

But a glance, like hers, was not always bestowed.

One evening, passing the verandah of a missionary's dwelling, the dame, his wife, and a pretty, blonde young girl, with ringlets, were sitting there, enjoying the sea-breeze, then coming in, all cool and refreshing, from the spray of the reef. As I approached, the old lady peered hard at me; and her very cap seemed to convey a prim rebuke. The blue, English eyes, by her side, were also bent on me. But, oh Heavens! what a glance to receive from such a beautiful creature! As for the mob cap, not a fig did I care for it; but, to be taken for anything but a cavalier, by the ringleted one, was absolutely unendurable.

I resolved on a courteous salute, to show my good-breeding, if nothing more. But, happening to wear a sort of turban—hereafter to be particularly alluded to—there was no taking it off and putting it on again with anything like dignity. At any rate, then, here goes a how. But, another difficulty presented itself; my loose frock was so voluminous that I doubted whether any spinal curvature would be perceptible.

"Good evening, ladies," exclaimed I, at last, advancing winningly; "a delightful air from the sea, ladies."

Hysterics and hartshorn! who would have thought it? The young lady screamed, and the old one came near fainting. As for myself, I retreated in double-quick time; and scarcely drew breath until safely housed in the Calabooza.

Omoo Chapter 43

Herman Melville
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