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Chapter 27

Babbalanja Falleth Upon Pimminee Tooth And Nail


The levee over, waiving further civilities, we took courteus leave of
the Begum and Nimni, and proceeding to the beach, very soon were
embarked.

When all were pleasantly seated beneath the canopy, pipes in full
blast, calabashes revolving, and the paddlers quietly urging us along,
Media proposed that, for the benefit of the company, some one present,
in a pithy, whiffy sentence or two, should sum up the character of the
Tapparians; and ended by nominating Babbalanja to that office.

"Come, philosopher: let us see in how few syllables you can put the
brand on those Tapparians."

"Pardon me, my lord, but you must permit me to ponder awhile; nothing
requires more time, than to be brief. An example: they say that in
conversation old Bardianna dealt in nothing but trisyllabic sentences.
His talk was thunder peals: sounding reports, but long intervals."

"The devil take old Bardianna. And would that the grave-digger had
buried his Ponderings, along with his other remains. Can none be in
your company, Babbalanja, but you must perforce make them hob-a-nob
with that old prater? A brand for the Tapparians! that is what we seek."

"You shall have it, my lord. Full to the brim of themselves, for that
reason, the Tapparians are the emptiest of mortals."

"A good blow and well planted, Babbalanja."

"In sooth, a most excellent saying; it should be carved upon his
tombstone," said Mohi, slowly withdrawing his pipe.

"What! would you have my epitaph read thus:--'Here lies the emptiest
of mortals, who was full of himself?' At best, your words are
exceedingly ambiguous, Mohi."

"Now have I the philosopher," cried Yoomy, with glee. "What did some
one say to me, not long since, Babbalanja, when in the matter of that
sleepy song of mine, Braid-Beard bestowed upon me an equivocal
compliment? Was I not told to wrest commendation from it, though I
tortured it to the quick?"

"Take thy own pills, philosopher," said Mohi.

"Then would he be a great original," said Media.

"Tell me, Yoomy," said Babbalanja, "are you not in fault? Because I
sometimes speak wisely, you must not imagine that I should always act
so."

"I never imagined that," said Yoomy, "and, if I did, the truth would
belie me. It is you who are in fault, Babbalanja; not I, craving your
pardon."

"The minstrel's sides are all edges to-day," said Media.

"This, then, thrice gentle Yoomy, is what I would say;" resumed
Babbalanja, "that since we philosophers bestow so much wisdom upon
others, it is not to be wondered at, if now and then we find what is
left in us too small for our necessities. It is from our very
abundance that we want."

"And from the fool's poverty," said Media, "that he is opulent; for
his very simplicity, is sometimes of more account than the wisdom of
the sage. But we were discoursing of the Tapparians. Babbalanja:
sententiously you have acquitted yourself to admiration; now amplify,
and tell us more of the people of Pimminee."

"My lord, I might amplify forever."

"Then, my worshipful lord, let him not begin," interposed Braid-Beard.

"I mean," said Babbalanja, "that all subjects are inexhaustible,
however trivial; as the mathematical point, put in motion, is capable
of being produced into an infinite line."

"But forever extending into nothing," said Media. "A very bad example
to follow. Do you, Babbalanja, come to the point, and not travel off
with it, which is too much your wont."

"Since my lord insists upon it then, thus much for the Tapparians,
though but a thought or two of many in reserve. They ignore the rest
of Mardi, while they themselves are but a rumor in the isles of the
East; where the business of living and dying goes on with the same
uniformity, as if there were no Tapparians in existence. They think
themselves Mardi in full; whereas, by the mass, they are stared at as
prodigies; exceptions to the law, ordaining that no Mardian shall
undertake to live, unless he set out with at least the average
quantity of brains. For these Tapparians have no brains. In lieu, they
carry in one corner of their craniums, a drop or two of attar of
roses; charily used, the supply being small. They are the victims of
two incurable maladies: stone in the heart, and ossification of the
head. They are full of fripperies, fopperies, and finesses; knowing
not, that nature should be the model of art. Yet, they might appear
less silly than they do, were they content to be the plain idiots
which at bottom they are. For there be grains of sense in a simpleton,
so long as he be natural. But what can be expected from them? They are
irreclaimable Tapparians; not so much fools by contrivance of their
own, as by an express, though inscrutable decree of Oro's. For one, my
lord, I can not abide them."

Nor could Taji.

In Pimminee were no hilarious running and shouting: none of the royal
good cheer of old Borabolla; none of the mysteries of Maramma; none of
the sentiment and romance of Donjalolo; no rehearsing of old legends:
no singing of old songs; no life; no jolly commotion: in short, no men
and women; nothing but their integuments; stiff trains and
farthingales.

Herman Melville