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Chapter 36

They Attend The Games

At last the third day dawned; and facing us upon entering the plain,
was a throne of red log-wood, canopied by the foliage of a red-dyed
Pandannus. Upon this throne, purple-robed, reclined those very
magnificent and illustrious lords seigniors, the lord seigniors Hello
and Piko. Before them, were many gourds of wine; and crosswise, staked
in the sod, their own royal spears.

In the middle of the down, as if by a furrow, a long, oval space was
margined of about which, a crowd of spectators were seated. Opposite
the throne, was reserved a clear passage to the arena, defined by air-
lines, indefinitely produced from the leveled points of two spears, so
poised by a brace of warriors.

Drawing near, our party was courteously received, and assigned a
commodious lounge.

The first encounter was a club-fight between two warriors. Nor casque
of steel, nor skull of Congo could have resisted their blows, had they
fallen upon the mark; for they seemed bent upon driving each other, as
stakes, into the earth. Presently, one of them faltered; but his
adversary rushing in to cleave him down, slipped against a guavarind;
when the falterer, with one lucky blow, high into the air sent the
stumbler's club, which descended upon the crown of a spectator, who
was borne from the plain.

"All one," muttered Pike.

"As good dead as another," muttered Hello.

The second encounter was a hugging-match; wherein two warriors, masked
in Grisly-bear skins, hugged each other to death.

The third encounter was a bumping-match between a fat warrior and a
dwarf. Standing erect, his paunch like a bass-drum before a drummer,
the fat man was run at, head-a-tilt by the dwarf, and sent spinning
round on his axis.

The fourth encounter was a tussle between two-score warriors, who all
in a mass, writhed like the limbs in Sebastioni's painting of Hades.
After obscuring themselves in a cloud of dust, these combatants,
uninjured, but hugely blowing, drew off; and separately going among
the spectators, rehearsed their experience of the fray.

"Braggarts!" mumbled Piko.

"Poltroons!" growled Hello.

While the crowd were applauding, a sober-sided observer, trying to rub
the dust out of his eyes, inquired of an enthusiastic neighbor, "Pray,
what was all that about?"

"Fool! saw you not the dust?"

"That I did," said Sober-Sides, again rubbing his eyes, "But I can
raise a dust myself."

The fifth encounter was a fight of single sticks between one hundred
warriors, fifty on a side.

In a line, the first fifty emerged from the sumachs, their weapons
interlocked in a sort of wicker-work. In advance marched a priest,
bearing an idol with a cracked cocoanut for a head,--Krako, the god of
Trepans. Preceded by damsels flinging flowers, now came on the second
fifty, gayly appareled, weapons poised, and their feet nimbly moving
in a martial measure.

Midway meeting, both parties touched poles, then retreated. Very
courteous, this; but tantamount to bowing each other out of Mardi; for
upon Pike's tossing a javelin, they rushed in, and each striking his
man, all fell to the ground.

"Well done!" cried Piko.

"Brave fellows!" cried Hello.

"But up and at it again, my heroes!" joined both. "Lo! we kings look
on, and there stand the bards!"

These bards were a row of lean, sallow, old men, in thread-bare robes,
and chaplets of dead leaves.

"Strike up!" cried Piko.

"A stave!" cried Hello.

Whereupon, the old croakers, each with a quinsy, sang thus in cracked

Quack! Quack! Quack!
With a toorooloo whack;
Hack away, merry men, hack away.
Who would not die brave,
His ear smote by a stave?
Thwack away, merry men, thwack away!
'Tis glory that calls,
To each hero that falls,
Hack away, merry men, hack away!
Quack! Quack! Quack!
Quack! Quack!

Thus it tapered away.

"Ha, ha!" cried Piko, "how they prick their ears at that!"

"Hark ye, my invincibles!" cried Hello. "That pean is for the slain.
So all ye who have lives left, spring to it! Die and be glorified!
Now's the time!--Strike up again, my ducklings!"

Thus incited, the survivors staggered to their feet; and hammering
away at each others' sconces, till they rung like a chime of bells
going off with a triple-bob-major, they finally succeeded in
immortalizing themselves by quenching their mortalities all round; the
bards still singing.

"Never mind your music now," cried Piko.

"It's all over," said Hello.

"What valiant fellows we have for subjects," cried Piko.

"Ho! grave-diggers, clear the field," cried Hello.

"Who else is for glory?" cried Piko.

"There stand the bards!" cried Hello.

But now there rushed among the crowd a haggard figure, trickling with
blood, and wearing a robe, whose edges were burned and blacked by
fire. Wielding a club, it ran to and fro, with loud yells menacing

A noted warrior this; who, distracted at the death of five sons slain
in recent games, wandered from valley to valley, wrestling and

With wild cries of "The Despairer! The Despairer!" the appalled
multitude fled; leaving the two kings frozen on their throne, quaking
and quailing, their teeth rattling like dice.

The Despairer strode toward them; when, recovering their senses, they
ran; for a time pursued through the woods by the phantom.

Herman Melville