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Chapter 26

A Reception Day At Pimminee


Next morning, Nimni apprized us, that throughout the day he proposed
keeping open house, for the purpose of enabling us to behold whatever
of beauty, rank, and fashion, Pimminee could boast; including certain
strangers of note from various quarters of the lagoon, who doubtless
would honor themselves with a call.

As inmates of the mansion, we unexpectedly had a rare opportunity of
witnessing the final toilets of the Begum and her daughters,
preparatory to receiving their guests.

Their four farthingales were placed standing in the middle of the
dwelling; when their future inmates, arrayed in rudimental vestments,
went round and round them, attaching various articles of finery, dyed
scarfs, ivory trinkets, and other decorations. Upon the propriety of
this or that adornment, the three Vowels now and then pondered apart,
or together consulted. They talked and they laughed; they were silent
and sad; now merry at their bravery; now pensive at the thought of the
charms to be hidden.

It was O who presently suggested the expediency of an artful fold in
their draperies, by the merest accident in Mardi, to reveal a
tantalizing glimpse of their ankles, which were thought to be pretty.

But the old Begum was more active than any; by far the most
disinterested in the matter of advice. Her great object seemed to be
to pile on the finery at all hazards; and she pointed out many as yet
vacant and unappropriated spaces, highly susceptible of adornment.

At last, all was in readiness; when, taking a valedictory glance, at
their intrenchments, the Begum and damsels simultaneously dipped their
heads, directly after emerging from the summit, all ready for execution.

And now to describe the general reception that followed. In came the
Roes, the Fees, the Lol-Lols, the Hummee-Hums, the Bidi-Bidies, and
the Dedidums; the Peenees, the Yamoyamees, the Karkies, the Fanfums,
the Diddledees, and the Fiddlefies; in a word, all the aristocracy of
Pimminee; people with exceedingly short names; and some all name, and
nothing else. It was an imposing array of sounds; a circulation of
ciphers; a marshaling of tappas; a getting together of grimaces and
furbelows; a masquerade of vapidities.

Among the crowd was a bustling somebody, one Gaddi, arrayed in much
apparel to little purpose; who, singling out Babbalanja, for some time
adhered to his side, and with excessive complaisance, enlightened him
as to the people assembled.

"_That_ is rich Marmonora, accounted a mighty man in Pimminee; his
bags of teeth included, he is said to weigh upwards of fourteen stone;
and is much sought after by tailors for his measure, being but slender
in the region of the heart. His riches are great. And that old vrow is
the widow Roo; very rich; plenty of teeth; but has none in her head.
And _this_ is Finfi; said to be not very rich, and a maid. Who would
suppose she had ever beat tappa for a living?"

And so saying, Gaddi sauntered off; his place by Babbalanja's side
being immediately supplied by the damsel Finfi. That vivacious and
amiable nymph at once proceeded to point out the company, where Gaddi
had left off; beginning with Gaddi himself, who, she insinuated, was a
mere parvenu, a terrible infliction upon society, and not near so rich
as he was imagined to be.

Soon we were accosted by one Nonno, a sour, saturnine personage. "I
know nobody here; not a soul have I seen before; I wonder who they all
are." And just then he was familiarly nodded to by nine worthies
abreast. Whereupon Nonno vanished. But after going the rounds of the
company, and paying court to many, he again sauntered by Babbalanja,
saying, "Nobody, nobody; nobody but nobodies; I see nobody I know."

Advancing, Nimni now introduced many strangers of distinction,
parading their titles after a fashion, plainly signifying that he was
bent upon convincing us, that there were people present at this little
affair of his, who were men of vast reputation; and that we erred, if
we deemed him unaccustomed to the society of the illustrious.

But not a few of his magnates seemed shy of Media and their laurels.
Especially a tall robustuous fellow, with a terrible javelin in his
hand, much notched and splintered, as if it had dealt many a thrust.
His left arm was gallanted in a sling, and there was a patch upon his
sinister eye. Him Nimni made known as a famous captain, from King
Piko's island (of which anon) who had been all but mortally wounded
somewhere, in a late desperate though nameless encounter.

"Ah," said Media as this redoubtable withdrew, Fofi is a cunning
knave; a braggart, driven forth, by King Piko for his cowardice. He
has blent his tattooing into one mass of blue, and thus disguised,
must have palmed himself off here in Pimminee, for the man he is not.
But I see many more like him."

"Oh ye Tapparians," said Babbalanja, "none so easily humbugged as
humbugs. Taji: to behold this folly makes one wise. Look, look; it is
all round us. Oh Pimminee, Pimminee!"

Herman Melville