Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 70

They Land At Hooloomooloo


"Keep all three prows, for yonder rock." cried Media; "No sadness on
this merry morn! And now for the Isle of Cripples,--even
Hooloomooloo."

"The Isle of Cripples?"

"Ay; why not? Mohi, tell how they came to club." In substance, this
was the narration.

Averse to the barbarous custom of destroying at birth all infants not
symmetrically formed; but equally desirous of removing from their
sight those unfortunate beings; the islanders of a neighboring group
had long ago established an asylum for cripples; where they lived,
subject to their own regulations; ruled by a king of their own
election; in short, forming a distinct class of beings by themselves.

One only restriction was placed upon them: on no account must they
quit the isle assigned them. And to the surrounding islanders, so
unpleasant the sight of a distorted mortal, that a stranger landing at
Hooloomooloo, was deemed a prodigy. Wherefore, respecting any
knowledge of aught beyond them, the cripples were well nigh as
isolated, as if Hooloomooloo was the only terra-firma extant.

Dwelling in a community of their own, these unfortunates, who
otherwise had remained few in number, increased and multiplied
greatly. Nor did successive generations improve in symmetry upon those
preceding them.

Soon, we drew nigh to the isle.

Heaped up, and jagged with rocks; and, here and there, covered with
dwarfed, twisted thickets, it seemed a fit place for its denizens.

Landing, we were surrounded by a heterogeneous mob; and thus escorted,
took our way inland, toward the abode of their lord, King Yoky.

What a scene!

Here, helping himself along with two crotched roots, hobbled a dwarf
without legs; another stalked before, one arm fixed in the air, like a
lightning rod; a third, more active than any, seal-like, flirted a
pair of flippers, and went skipping along; a fourth hopped on a
solitary pin, at every bound, spinning round like a top, to gaze;
while still another, furnished with feelers or fins, rolled himself up
in a ball, bowling over the ground in advance.

With curious instinct, the blind stuck close to our side; with their
chattering finger, the deaf and the dumb described angles, obtuse and
acute in the air; and like stones rolling down rocky ravines, scores
of stammerers stuttered. Discord wedded deformity. All asses' brays
were now harmonious memories; all Calibans, as angels.

Yet for every stare we gave them, three stares they gave us.

At last, we halted before a tenement of rude stones; crooked Banian
boughs its rafters, thatched with fantastic leaves. So rambling and
irregular its plan, it seemed thrown up by the eruption, according to
sage Mohi, the origin of the isle itself.

Entering, we saw King Yoky.

Ah! sadly lacking was he, in all the requisites of an efficient ruler.
Deaf and dumb he was; and save arms, minus every thing but an
indispensable trunk and head. So huge his all-comprehensive mouth, it
seemed to swallow up itself.

But shapeless, helpless as was Yoky,--as king of Hooloomooloo, he was
competent; the state being a limited monarchy, of which his Highness
was but the passive and ornamental head.

As his visitors advanced, he fell to gossiping with his fingers: a
servitor interpreting. Very curious to note the rapidity with
which motion was translated into sound; and the simultaneousness with
which meaning made its way through four successive channels to the
mind--hand, sight, voice, and tympanum.

Much amazement His Highness now expressed; horrified his glances.

"Why club such frights as ye? Herd ye, to keep in countenance; or are
afraid of your own hideousness, that ye dread to go alone? Monsters!
speak."

"Great Oro!" cried Mohi, "are we then taken for cripples, by the very
King of the Cripples? My lord, are not our legs and arms all right?"

"Comelier ones were never turned by turners, Mohi. But royal Yoky! in
sooth we feel abashed before thee."

Some further stares were then exchanged; when His Highness sought to
know, whether there were any Comparative Anatomists among his
visitors.

"Comparative Anatomists! not one."

"And why may King Yoky ask that question?" inquired Babbalanja.

Then was made the following statement.

During the latter part of his reign, when he seemed fallen into his
dotage, the venerable predecessor of King Yoky had been much attached
to an old gray-headed Chimpanzee, one day found meditating in the
woods. Rozoko was his name. He was very grave, and reverend of aspect;
much of a philosopher. To him, all gnarled and knotty subjects were
familiar; in his day he had cracked many a crabbed nut. And so in love
with his Timonean solitude was Rozoko, that it needed many bribes and
bland persuasions, to induce him to desert his mossy, hillside,
misanthropic cave, for the distracting tumult of a court.

But ere long, promoted to high offices, and made the royal favorite,
the woodland sage forgot his forests; and, love for love, returned the
aged king's caresses. Ardent friends they straight became; dined and
drank together; with quivering lips, quaffed long-drawn, sober
bumpers; comparing all their past experiences; and canvassing those
hidden themes, on which octogenarians dilate.

For when the fires and broils of youth are passed, and Mardi wears its
truer aspect--then we love to think, not act; the present seems more
unsubstantial than the past; then, we seek out gray-beards like
ourselves; and hold discourse of palsies, hearses, shrouds, and tombs;
appoint our undertakers; our mantles gather round us, like to winding-
sheets; and every night lie down to die. Then, the world's great
bubble bursts; then, Life's clouds seem sweeping by, revealing heaven
to our straining eyes; then, we tell our beads, and murmur pater-
nosters; and in trembling accents cry--"Oro! be merciful."

So, the monarch and Rozoko.

But not always were they thus. Of bright, cheerful mornings, they took
slow, tottering rambles in the woods; nodding over grotesque walking-
sticks, of the Chimpanzee's handiwork. For sedate Rozoko was a
dilletante-arborist: an amateur in canes. Indeed, canes at last became
his hobby. For half daft with age, sometimes he straddled his good
staff and gently rode abroad, to take the salubrious evening air;
deeming it more befitting exercise, at times, than walking. Into this
menage, he soon initiated his friend, the king; and side by side they
often pranced; or, wearying of the saddle, dismounted; and paused to
ponder over prostrate palms, decaying across the path. Their mystic
rings they counted; and, for every ring, a year in their own
calendars.

Now, so closely did the monarch cleave to the Chimpanzee, that, in
good time, summoning his subjects, earnestly he charged it on them,
that at death, he and his faithful friend should be buried in one
tomb.

It came to pass, the monarch died; and Poor Rozoko, now reduced to
second childhood, wailed most dismally:--no one slept that night in
Hooloomooloo. Never did he leave the body; and at last, slowly going
round it thrice, he laid him down; close nestled; and
noiselessly expired.

The king's injunctions were remembered; and one vault received them
both.

Moon followed moon; and wrought upon by jeers and taunts, the people
of the isle became greatly scandalized, that a base-born baboon should
share the shroud of their departed lord; though they themselves had
tucked in the aged AEneas fast by the side of his Achates.

They straight resolved, to build another vault; and over it, a lofty
cairn; and thither carry the remains they reverenced.

But at the disinterring, a sad perplexity arose. For lo surpassing
Saul and Jonathan, not even in decay were these fast friends divided.
So mingled every relic,--ilium and ulna, carpus and metacarpus;--and
so similar the corresponding parts, that like the literary remains of
Beaumont and of Fletcher, which was which, no spectacles could tell.
Therefore, they desisted; lest the towering monument they had reared,
might commemorate an ape, and not a king.

Such the narration; hearing which, my lord Media kept stately silence.
But in courtly phrase, as beseemed him, Babbalanja, turban in hand,
thus spoke:--

"My concern is extreme, King Yoky, at the embarrassment into which
your island is thrown. Nor less my grief, that I myself am not the
man, to put an end to it. I could weep that Comparative Anatomists are
not so numerous now, as hereafter they assuredly must become; when
their services shall be in greater request; when, at the last, last
day of all, millions of noble and ignoble spirits will loudly clamor
for lost skeletons; when contending claimants shall start up for one
poor, carious spine; and, dog-like, we shall quarrel over our own
bones."

Then entered dwarf-stewards, and major-domos; aloft bearing twisted
antlers; all hollowed out in goblets, grouped; announcing dinner.

Loving not, however, to dine with misshapen Mardians, King Media was
loth to move. But Babbalanja, quoting the old proverb--"Strike me in
the face, but refuse not my yams," induced him to sacrifice his
fastidiousness.

So, under a flourish of ram-horn bugles, court and company proceeded
to the banquet.

Central was a long, dislocated trunk of a wild Banian; like a huge
centipede crawling on its hundred branches, sawn of even lengths for
legs. This table was set out with wry-necked gourds; deformities of
calabashes; and shapeless trenchers, dug out of knotty woods.

The first course was shrimp-soup, served in great clamp-shells; the
second, lobsters, cuttle-fish, crabs, cockles, cray-fish; the third,
hunchbacked roots of the Taro-plant--plantains, perversely curling at
the end, like the inveterate tails of pertinacious pigs; and for
dessert, ill-shaped melons, huge as idiots' heads, plainly suffering
from water in the brain.

Now these viands were commended to the favorable notice of all guests;
not only for their delicacy of flavor, but for their symmetry.

And in the intervals of the courses, we were bored with hints to
admire numerous objects of vertu: bow-legged stools of mangrove wood;
zig-zag rapiers of bone; armlets of grampus-vertebrae; outlandish
tureens of the callipees of terrapin; and cannakins of the skulls of
baboons.

The banquet over, with many congees, we withdrew.

Returning to the water-side, we passed a field, where dwarfs were
laboring in beds of yams, heaping the soil around the roots, by
scratching it backward; as a dog.

All things in readiness, Yoky's valet, a tri-armed dwarf, treated us
to a glorious start, by giving each canoe a vigorous triple-push,
crying, "away with ye, monsters!"

Nor must it be omitted that just previous to embarking, Vee-Vee,
spying a curious looking stone, turned it over, and found a snake.


Herman Melville