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Chapter 6

They Discourse Of The Gods Of Mardi, And Braid-Beard Tells Of One Foni


Walking from the sacred inclosure, Mohi discoursed of the plurality of
gods in the land, a subject suggested by the multitudinous idols we
had just been beholding.

Said Mohi, "These gods of wood and of stone are nothing in number to
the gods in the air. You breathe not a breath without inhaling, you
touch not a leaf without ruffling a spirit. There are gods of heaven,
and gods of earth; gods of sea and of land; gods of peace and of war;
gods of rook and of fell; gods of ghosts and of thieves; of singers
and dancers; of lean men and of house-thatchers. Gods glance in the
eyes of birds, and sparkle in the crests of the waves; gods merrily
swing in the boughs of the trees, and merrily sing in the brook. Gods
are here, and there, and every where; you are never alone for them."

"If this be so, Braid-Beard," said Babbalanja, "our inmost thoughts
are overheard; but not by eaves-droppers. However, my lord, these gods
to whom he alludes, merely belong to the semi-intelligibles, the
divided unities in unity, thin side of the First Adyta."

"Indeed?" said Media.

"Semi-intelligible, say you, philosopher?" cried Mohi. "Then, prithee,
make it appear so; for what you say, seems gibberish to me."

"Babbalanja," said Media, "no more of your abstrusities; what know you
mortals of us gods and demi-gods? But tell me, Mohi, how many of your
deities of rock and fen think you there are? Have you no statistical
table?"

"My lord, at the lowest computation, there must be at least three
billion trillion of quintillions."

"A mere unit!" said Babbalanja. "Old man, would you express an
infinite number? Then take the sum of the follies of Mardi for your
multiplicand; and for your multiplier, the totality of sublunarians,
that never have been heard of since they became no more; and the
product shall exceed your quintillions, even though all their units
were nonillions."

"Have done, Babbalanja!" cried Media; "you are showing the sinister
vein in your marble. Have done. Take a warm bath, and make tepid your
cold blood. But come, Mohi, tell us of the ways of this Maramma;
something of the Morai and its idols, if you please."

And straightway Braid-Beard proceeded with a narration, in substance
as follows:--

It seems, there was a particular family upon the island, whose
members, for many generations, had been set apart as sacrifices for
the deity called Doleema. They were marked by a sad and melancholy
aspect, and a certain involuntary shrinking, when passing the Morai.
And, though, when it came to the last, some of these unfortunates went
joyfully to their doom, declaring that they gloried to die in the
service of holy Doleema; still, were there others, who audaciously
endeavored to shun their fate; upon the approach of a festival,
fleeing to the innermost wilderness of the island. But little availed
their flight. For swift on their track sped the hereditary butler of
the insulted god, one Xiki, whose duty it was to provide the
sacrifices. And when crouching in some covert, the fugitive spied
Xiki's approach, so fearful did he become of the vengeance of the
deity he sought to evade, that renouncing all hope of escape, he would
burst from his lair, exclaiming, "Come on, and kill!" baring his
breast for the javelin that slew him.

The chronicles of Maramma were full of horrors.

In the wild heart of the island, was said still to lurk the remnant of
a band of warriors, who, in the days of the sire of the present
pontiff, had risen in arms to dethrone him, headed by Foni, an upstart
prophet, a personage distinguished for the uncommon beauty of his
person. With terrible carnage, these warriors had been defeated; and
the survivors, fleeing into the interior, for thirty days were pursued
by the victors. But though many were overtaken and speared, a number
survived; who, at last, wandering forlorn and in despair, like
demoniacs, ran wild in the woods. And the islanders, who at times
penetrated into the wilderness, for the purpose of procuring rare
herbs, often scared from their path some specter, glaring through the
foliage. Thrice had these demoniacs been discovered prowling about the
inhabited portions of the isle; and at day-break, an attendant of the
holy Morai once came upon a frightful figure, doubled with age,
helping itself to the offerings in the image of Doleema. The demoniac
was slain; and from his ineffaceable tatooing, it was proved that this
was no other than Foni, the false prophet; the splendid form he had
carried into the rebel fight, now squalid with age and misery.

Herman Melville