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Chapter 43

They Land At Dominora


As erewhile recounted, not being on the best terms in Mardi with the
King of Dominora, Media saw fit to draw nigh unto his dominions in
haughty state; he (Media) being upon excellent terms with himself. Our
sails were set, our paddles paddling, streamers streaming, and Vee-Vee
in the shark's mouth, clamorous with his conch. The din was soon
heard; and sweeping into a fine broad bay we beheld its margin
seemingly pebbled in the distance with heads; so populous the land.

Winding through a noble valley, we presently came to Bello's palace,
couchant and bristling in a grove. The upright canes composing its
front projected above the eaves in a long row of spear-heads
fluttering with scarlet pennons; while below, from the intervals of
the canes, were slantingly thrust three tiers of decorated lances. A
warlike aspect! The entire structure looking like the broadside of the
Macedonian phalanx, advancing to the charge, helmeted with a roof.

"Ah, Bello," said Media, "thou dwellest among thy quills like the
porcupine."

"I feel a prickly heat coming over me," cried Mohi, "my lord Media,
let us enter."

"Ay," said Babbalanja, "safer the center of peril, than the
circumference."

Passing under an arch, formed by two pikes crossed, we found ourselves
targets in prospective, for certain flingers of javelins, with poised
weapons, occupying the angles of the palace.

Fronting us, stood a portly old warrior, spear in hand, hump on back,
and fire in eye.

"Is it war?" he cried, pointing his pike, "or peace?" reversing it.

"Peace," said Media.

Whereupon advancing, King Bello courteously welcomed us.

He was an arsenal to behold: Upon his head the hereditary crown of
Dominora,--a helmet of the sea-porcupine's hide, bristling all over
with spikes, in front displaying a river-horse's horn, leveled to the
charge; thrust through his ears were barbed arrows; and from his dyed
shark-skin girdle, depended a kilt of strung javelins.

The broad chest of Bello was the chart of Mardi. Tattooed in sea-blue
were all the groups and clusters of the Archipelago; and every time he
breathed, rose and fell the isles, as by a tide: Dominora full upon
his heart.

His sturdy thighs were his triumphal arch; whereon in numerous
medallions, crests, and shields, were blazoned all his victories by
sea and land.

His strong right arm was Dominora's scroll of Fame, where all her
heroes saw their names recorded.--An endless roll!

Our chronicler avouched, that on the sole of Bello's dexter foot was
stamped the crest of Franko's king, his hereditary foe. "Thus, thus,"
cried Bello, stamping, "thus I hourly crush him."

In stature, Bello was a mountaineer; but, as over some tall tower
impends the hill-side cliff, so Bello's Athos hump hung over him.
Could it be, as many of his nobles held, that the old monarch's hump
was his sensorium and source of strength; full of nerves, muscles,
ganglions and tendons? Yet, year by year it grew, ringed like the bole
of his palms. The toils of war increased it. But another skirmish with
the isles, said the wiseacres of Porpheero, and Bello's mount will
crush him.

Against which calamity to guard, his medicos and Sangredos sought the
hump's reduction. But down it would not come. Then by divers mystic
rites, his magi tried. Making a deep pit, many teeth they dropped
therein. But they could not fill it. Hence, they called it the Sinking
Pit, for bottom it had none. Nevertheless, the magi said, when this
pit is filled, Bello's hump you'll see no more. "Then, hurrah for the
hump!" cried the nobles, "for he will never hurl it off. Long life to
the hump! By the hump we will rally and die! Cheer up, King Bello!
Stand up, old king!"

But these were they, who when their sovereign went abroad, with that
Athos on his back, followed idly in its shade; while Bello leaned
heavily upon his people, staggering as they went.

Ay, sorely did Bello's goodly stature lean; but though many swore he
soon must fall; nevertheless, like Pisa's Leaning Tower, he may long
lean over, yet never nod.

Visiting Dominora in a friendly way, in good time, we found King Bello
very affable; in hospitality, almost exceeding portly Borabolla:
October-plenty reigned throughout his palace borders.

Our first reception over, a sumptuous repast was served, at which much
lively talk was had.

Of Taji, Bello sought to know, whether his solar Majesty had yet made
a province of the moon; whether the Astral hosts were of much account
as territories, or mere Motoos, as the little tufts of verdure are
denominated, here and there clinging to Mardi's circle reef; whether
the people in the sun vilified, him (Bello) as they did in Mardi; and
what they thought of an event, so ominous to the liberties of the
universe, as the addition to his navy of three large canoes.

Ere long, so fused in social love we grew, that Bello, filling high
his can, and clasping Media's palm, drank everlasting amity with Odo.

So over their red cups, the two kings forgot their differences, and
concerning the disputed islet nothing more was ever heard; especially,
as it so turned out, that while they Were most hot about it, it had
suddenly gone out of sight, being of volcanic origin.

Herman Melville