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Chapter 44

Through Dominora, They Wander After Yillah


At last, withdrawing from the presence of King Bello, we went forth,
still intent on our search.

Many brave sights we saw. Fair fields; the whole island a garden;
green hedges all round; neat lodges, thick as white mice in the
landscape; old oak woods, hale and hearty as ever; old temples buried
in ivy; old shrines of old heroes, deep buried in broad groves of bay
trees; old rivers laden down with heavy-freighted canoes; humped
hills, like droves of camels, piled up with harvests; every sign and
token of a glorious abundance, every sign and token of generations of
renown. Rare sight! fine sight! none rarer, none finer in Mardi.

But roving on through this ravishing region, we passed through a corn-
field in full beard, where a haggard old reaper laid down his hook,
beseeching charity for the sake of the gods.--"Bread, bread! or I die
mid these sheaves!"

"Thrash out your grain, and want not."

"Alas, masters, this grain is not mine; I plough, I sow, I reap, I
bind, I stack,--Lord Primo garners."

Rambling on, we came to a hamlet, hidden in a hollow; and beneath
weeping willows saw many mournful maidens seated on a bank; beside
each, a wheel that was broken. "Lo, we starve," they cried, "our
distaffs are snapped; no more may we weave and spin!"

Then forth issued from vaults clamorous crowds of men, hands tied to
their backs.--"Bread! Bread!" they cried. "The magician hath turned us
out from our glen, where we labored of yore in the days of the merry
Green Queen. He has pinioned us hip and arm that we starve. Like sheep
we die off with the rot.--Curse on the magician. A curse on his
spell."

Bending our steps toward the glen, roaring down the rocks we descried
a stream from the mountains. But ere those waters gained the sea,
vassal tribute they rendered. Conducted through culverts and moats,
they turned great wheels, giving life to ten thousand fangs and
fingers, whose gripe no power could withstand, yet whose touch was
soft as the velvet paw of a kitten. With brute force, they heaved down
great weights, then daintily wove and spun; like the trunk of the
elephant, which lays lifeless a river-horse, and counts the pulses of
a moth. On all sides, the place seemed alive with its spindles. Round
and round, round and round; throwing off wondrous births at every
revolving; ceaseless as the cycles that circle in heaven. Loud hummed
the loom, flew the shuttle like lightning, red roared the grim forge,
rung anvil and sledge; yet no mortal was seen.

"What ho, magician! Come forth from thy cave!"

But all deaf were the spindles, as the mutes, that mutely wait on the
Sultan.

"Since we are born, we will live!" so we read on a crimson banner,
flouting the crimson clouds, in the van of a riotous red-bonneted mob,
racing by us as we came from the glen. Many more followed: black, or
blood-stained:--.

"Mardi is man's!"

"Down with landholders!"

"Our turn now!"

"Up rights! Down wrongs!"

"Bread! Bread!"

"Take the tide, ere it turns!"

Waving their banners, and flourishing aloft clubs, hammers, and
sickles, with fierce yells the crowd ran on toward the palace of
Bello. Foremost, and inciting the rest by mad outcries and gestures,
were six masks; "This way! This way!" they cried,--"by the wood; by
the dark wood!" Whereupon all darted into the groves; when of a
sudden, the masks leaped forward, clearing a long covered trench, into
which fell many of those they led. But on raced the masks; and gaining
Bello's palace, and raising the alarm, there sallied from thence a
woodland of spears, which charged upon the disordered ranks in the
grove. A crash as of icicles against icebergs round Zembla, and down
went the hammers and sickles. The host fled, hotly pursued. Meanwhile
brave heralds from Bello advanced, and with chaplets crowned the six
masks.--"Welcome, heroes! worthy and valiant!" they cried. "Thus our
lord Bello rewards all those, who to do him a service, for hire betray
their kith and their kin."

Still pursuing our quest, wide we wandered through all the sun and
shade of Dominora; but nowhere was Yillah found.

Herman Melville