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Wherein Babbalanja Relates The Adventure Of One Karkeke In The Land
At our morning repast on the second day of our stay in the hollow,
our party indulged in much lively discourse.
"Samoa," said I, "those isles of yours, of whose beauty you so often
make vauntful mention, can those isles, good Samoa, furnish a valley
in all respects equal to Willamilla?"
Disdainful answer was made, that Willamilla might be endurable enough
for a sojourn, but as a permanent abode, any glen of his own natal
isle was unspeakably superior.
"In the great valley of Savaii," cried Samoa, "for every leaf grown
here in Willamilla, grows a stately tree; and for every tree here
waving, in Savaii flourishes a goodly warrior."
Immeasurable was the disgust of the Upoluan for the enervated
subjects of Donjalolo; and for Donjalolo himself; though it was
shrewdly divined, that his annoying reception at the hands of the
royalty of Juam, had something to do with his disdain.
To Jarl, no similar question was put; for he was sadly deficient in a
taste for the picturesque. But he cursorily observed, that in his
blue-water opinion, Willamilla was next to uninhabitable, all view of
the sea being intercepted.
And here it may be well to relate a comical blunder on the part of
honest Jarl; concerning which, Samoa, the savage, often afterward
twitted him; as indicating a rusticity, and want of polish in his
breeding. It rather originated, however, in his not heeding the
conventionalities of the strange people among whom he was thrown.
The anecdote is not an epic; but here it is.
Reclining in our arbor, we breakfasted upon a marble slab; so frost-
white, and flowingly traced with blue veins, that it seemed a little
lake sheeted over with ice: Diana's virgin bosom congealed.
Before each guest was a richly carved bowl and gourd, fruit and wine
freighted also the empty hemisphere of a small nut, the purpose of
which was a problem. Now, King Jarl scorned to admit the slightest
degree of under-breeding in the matter of polite feeding. So nothing
was a problem to him. At once reminded of the morsel of Arvaroot in
his mouth, a substitute for another sort of sedative then
unattainable, he was instantly illuminated concerning the purpose of
the nut; and very complacently introduced each to the other; in the
innocence of his ignorance making no doubt that he had acquitted
himself with discretion; the little hemisphere plainly being intended
as a place of temporary deposit for the Arva of the guests.
The company were astounded: Samoa more than all. King Jarl,
meanwhile, looking at all present with the utmost serenity. At
length, one of the horrified attendants, using two sticks for a
forceps, disappeared with the obnoxious nut, Upon which, the meal
This attendant was not seen again for many days; which gave rise to
the supposition, that journeying to the sea-side, he had embarked for
some distant strand; there, to bury out of sight the abomination with
which he was freighted.
Upon this, his egregious misadventure, calculated to do discredit to
our party, and bring Media himself into contempt, Babbalanja had no
scruples in taking Jarl roundly to task. He assured him, that it
argued but little brains to evince a desire to be thought familiar
with all things; that however desirable as incidental attainments,
conventionalities, in themselves, were the very least of arbitrary
trifles; the knowledge of them, innate with no man. "Moreover Jarl,"
he added, "in essence, conventionalities are but mimickings,
at which monkeys succeed best. Hence, when you find yourself at a
loss in these matters, wait patiently, and mark what the other
monkeys do: and then follow suit. And by so doing, you will gain a
vast reputation as an accomplished ape. Above all things, follow not
the silly example of the young spark Karkeke, of whom Mohi was
telling me. Dying, and entering the other world with a mincing gait,
and there finding certain customs quite strange and new; such as
friendly shades passing through each other by way of a salutation;--
Karkeke, nevertheless, resolved to show no sign of embarrassment.
Accosted by a phantom, with wings folded pensively, plumes
interlocked across its chest, he off head; and stood obsequiously
before it. Staring at him for an instant, the spirit cut him dead;
murmuring to itself, 'Ah, some terrestrial bumpkin, I fancy,' and
passed on with its celestial nose in the highly rarified air. But
silly Karkeke undertaking to replace his head, found that it would no
more stay on; but forever tumbled off; even in the act of nodding a
salute; which calamity kept putting him out of countenance. And thus
through all eternity is he punished for his folly, in having
pretended to be wise, wherein he was ignorant. Head under arm, he
wanders about, the scorn and ridicule of the other world."
Our repast concluded, messengers arrived from the prince, courteously
inviting our presence at the House of the Morning. Thither we went;
journeying in sedans, sent across the hollow, for that purpose, by
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