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Chapter 24

Their Adventures Upon Landing At Pimminee


A long sail over, the island of Pimminee came in sight; one dead fiat,
wreathed in a thin, insipid vapor.

"My lord, why land?" said Babbalanja; "no Yillah is here."

"'Tis my humor, Babbalanja."

Said Yoomy, "Taji would leave no isle unexplored."

As we neared the beach, the atmosphere became still closer and more
languid. Much did we miss the refreshing balm which breathed in the
fine breezy air of the open lagoon. Of a slender and sickly growth
seemed the trees; in the meadows, the grass grew small and mincing.

Said Media, "Taji, from the accounts which Braid-Beard gives, there
must be much to amuse, in the ways of these Tapparians."

"Yes," said Babbalanja, "their lives are a continual farce,
gratuitously performed for the diversion of Mardi. My lord, perhaps we
had best doff our dignity, and land among them as persons of lowly
condition; for then, we shall receive more diversion, though less
hospitality."

"A good proposition," said Media.

And so saying, he put off his robe for one less pretentious.

All followed suit; Yoomy doffing turban and sash; and, at last,
completely metamorphosed, we looked like Hungarian gipsies.

Voyaging on, we entered a bay, where numbers of menials were standing
in the water, engaged in washing the carved work of certain fantastic
canoes, belonging to the Tapparians, their masters.

Landing at some distance, we followed a path that soon conducted us to
a betwisted dwelling of bamboos, where, gently, we knocked for
admittance. So doing, we were accosted by a servitor, his portliness
all in his calves. Marking our appearance, he monopolized the
threshold, and gruffly demanded what was wanted.

"Strangers, kind sir, fatigued with travel, and in need of refreshment
and repose."

"Then hence with ye, vagabonds!" and with an emphasis, he closed the
portal in our face.

Said Babbalanja, turning, "You perceive, my lord Media, that these
varlets take after their masters; who feed none but the well-fed, and
house none but the well-housed."

"Faith! but they furnish most rare entertainment, nevertheless," cried
Media. "Ha! ha! Taji, we had missed much, had we missed Pimminee."

As this was said, we observed, at a distance, three menials running
from seaward, as if conveying important intelligence.

Halting here and there, vainly seeking admittance at other
habitations, and receiving nothing but taunts for our pains, we still
wandered on; and at last came upon a village, toward which, those from
the sea-side had been running.

And now, to our surprise, we were accosted by an eager and servile
throng.

"Obsequious varlets," said Media, "where tarry your masters?"

"Right royal, and thrice worshipful Lord of Odo, do you take us for
our domestics? We are Tapparians, may it please your illustrious
Highness; your most humble and obedient servants. We beseech you,
supereminent Sir, condescend to visit our habitations, and partake of
our cheer."

Then turning upon their attendants, "Away with ye, hounds! and set our
dwellings in order."

"How know ye me to be king?" asked Media.

"Is it not in your serene Highness's regal port, and eye?"

"'Twas their menials," muttered Mohi, "who from the paddlers in charge
of our canoes must have learned who my lord was, and published the
tidings."

After some further speech, Media made a social surrender of himself to
the foremost of the Tapparians, one Nimni; who, conducting us to his
abode, with much deference introduced us to a portly old Begum, and
three slender damsels; his wife and daughters.

Soon, refreshments appeared:--green and yellow compounds, and divers
enigmatical dainties; besides vegetable liqueurs of a strange and
alarming flavor served in fragile little leaves, folded into cups, and
very troublesome to handle.

Excessively thirsty, Babbalanja made bold to inquire for water; which
called forth a burst of horror from the old Begum, and minor shrieks
from her daughters; who declared, that the beverage to which remote
reference had been made, was far too widely diffused in Mardi, to be
at all esteemed in Pimminee.

"But though we seldom imbibe it," said the old Begum, ceremoniously
adjusting her necklace of cowrie-shells, "we occasionally employ it
for medicinal purposes."

"Ah, indeed?" said Babbalanja.

"But oh! believe me; even then, we imbibe not the ordinary fluid of
the springs and streams; but that which in afternoon showers softly
drains from our palm-trees into the little hollow or miniature
reservoir beneath its compacted roots."

A goblet of this beverage was now handed Babbalanja; but having a
curious, gummy flavor, it proved any thing but palatable.

Presently, in came a company of young men, relatives of Nimni. They
were slender as sky-sail-poles; standing in a row, resembled a picket-
fence; and were surmounted by enormous heads of hair, combed out all
round, variously dyed, and evened by being singed with a lighted wisp
of straw. Like milliners' parcels, they were very neatly done up;
wearing redolent robes.

"How like the woodlands they smell," whispered Yoomy. "Ay, marvelously
like sap," said Mohi.

One part of their garniture consisted of numerous tasseled cords, like
those of an aigulette, depending from the neck, and attached here and
there about the person. A separate one, at a distance, united their
ankles. These served to measure and graduate their movements; keeping
their gestures, paces, and attitudes, within the prescribed standard
of Tapparian gentility. When they went abroad, they were preceded by
certain footmen; who placed before them small, carved boards, whereon
their masters stepped; thus avoiding contact with the earth. The
simple device of a shoe, as a fixture for the foot, was unknown in
Pimminee.

Being told, that Taji was lately from the sun, they manifested not the
slightest surprise; one of them incidentally observing, however, that
the eclipses there, must be a sad bore to endure.

Herman Melville