Rumours of the wealth of Silphonimena have spread to distant countries and continents, circulating such that “silphon” has become a synonym of surfeit and greed. Tales of its banquets and feasts and fetes parade from city to city, their lavishness exaggerated by the imagination of each new teller.
Come to Silphonimena, however, and you shall see no such spectacle. No patrons live here, and streets there are hardly to speak of. Men wander into town, and seeing neither water nor shops nor women, move on, dispirited at the staccato of gates and statuettes and domes. The homes are adorned in every fashion and the trees behind the fences have truly grown to the most magnificent proportions, even, now and again, casting a slice of shade on the sunbaked streets below. But there are no people to shade there.
There is a city not so far from Silphonimena where the housekeepers and the gardeners live. Here the robber barons keep their mistresses and come to gamble and drink and eat sardines at quayside taverns. Their boredom-struck wives sneak too in disguise to entertain these same prospects and both live their parallel lives to the fullest. There is some suspicion that the homes of Silphonimena are mostly abandoned, that save for the dinner parties thrown on occasion to keep up appearances, there is not a soul that lives there, and that the seaport three miles away hums with all that secret wealth and glamour in its clandestine rags.
Silphonimena spreads. The rumor of its grandness, its sophistication, instigates emulation and mimicry among the newly rich. Soon they will all take part in this loneliness and escape, forgetting themselves somewhere else, while their palaces crumble and the oval pools fill with frogs and dirt and years forgotten.