FAREWELL TO COLYMBIA.
BEFORE I had quite completed my third year of residence in Colymbia I was thoroughly at home in the country, and had acquired the manners and customs of the people so completely that I was scarcely regarded as a stranger. My time was agreeably divided between study and recreation. I read with avidity the works that treated of the social and political institutions of this strange people. I passed much of my time in the lecture-rooms and the legislative assembly. I frequented the public and private assemblies, and took part in the games and sports of the young men, and derived much pleasure from my intercourse with all classes of society. The little experience I already had of the matrimonial arrangements of Colymbia, had quite disenchanted me of the idea of marriage with any of the charming young ladies with whom I flirted and danced and associated on the most friendly terms. I could not emancipate myself from my English prejudices in regard to the sanctity of marriage, so I determined that I would not run the risk of falling in love again. I had frequent longings for home and the purer delights of our domestic life; and I sighed as I thought of my probably permanent separation from all I loved in old England. I never quite abandoned the hope of one day escaping from this subaqueous life and visiting the scenes of my younger days. I felt enervated by the pursuits that occupied so much of the time of the Colymbians, and I longed to feel my feet once more on terra firma, even though I should have to support again the whole weight of my body, and to contend daily and hourly with the force of gravitation. At times the more than Sybarite softness of existence in this tepid lagoon would inspire me with disgust, and I longed to feel my cheek fanned and my pulses quickened by the fresh breezes of my native land.
My companions would frequently rally me on the sadness I in vain endeavoured to conceal, and when they had wormed from me the secret of my melancholy, they would launch out into praises of the aquatic life, and draw comparisons between the aquatic and terrestrial existence, wholly unfavourable to the latter.
Sometimes I would suffer myself to be convinced by their arguments, and for a while would throw off my low spirits and heartily enter into all their amusements; but the longing for home and terrestrial life would ever recur, and I could not bring myself to think that I was destined to pass my whole existence in this fish-like manner. The winds and tempests they so much dreaded seemed to me to be infinitely preferable to the dead calm that reigned in this submarine abode; and I often felt that I could with delight exchange this luxurious monotony of voluptuous ease for the bleakest and bitterest weather on the flat shore of my native Norfolk.
Hence, as there seemed no prospect of deliverance from the life into which I had been so wonderfully thrown by fate, I tried with all my might to adapt myself to that life; and in this I succeeded so far that I may say, without boasting, that I attained to a more than average proficiency in all the accomplishments and pastimes of the Colymbians. Externally I was as one of themselves, but internally I felt myself to be at heart a terrestrial, and, though I accommodated myself tolerably to the manners and customs of my adopted countrymen, I secretly rebelled against their strange morality and startling deviations from what my education had taught me to consider right principles. I was irritated by their arrogant conceit, and by the supercilious contempt with which they treated my mildly-expressed preference for some of the usages of my native country. I disliked being spoken to as if I were a being of inferior race to themselves, when I knew that almost all their literature was borrowed from us, and that when their science excelled ours, it was only because the peculiarity of their conditions of life had forced them to develop special branches to the degree required by their necessities. The clue that led to these developments had been furnished to them by our philosophers and men of science, without which they might never have attained their actual perfection. Above all, I sadly missed the beautiful and refreshing services of our venerated Church, where our reiterated confession of being miserable sinners guards us against that intolerable pride and self-sufficiency that is such a blemish in the Colymbian character. The longing for home and for the terrestrial life, which I felt to be more suited for my nature than this aquatic existence, imparted an irritability and dogmatism to my conversation, and I frequently defended with, more heat than was necessary the customs of our country, even such of them as I knew to be inferior to theirs. I made myself eminently disagreeable to my friends and acquaintances by attacking them on their tenderest point, their fancied superiority to all other human beings. I departed from the line of conduct I had originally laid down for myself, not to attempt to refute their sophistries respecting their origin, and I sneeringly observed that discarding clothes could not be looked upon as a sign of superior civilization, when there were many races of men who wore even fewer garments than themselves, but who were well known to be mere savages. They of course replied that these were black-skinned races with whom they protested against being supposed to have any affinity. These black creatures, they contended, might well be derived from monkeys, to whom they bore a striking resemblance in feature, form and intellect, but no white race, they argued, could do without clothes except in aquatic life. This showed that the black races were intended for terrestrial life, while the white races were constituted for aquatic existence.
I ridiculed the idea of their musical language, being a proof of superior cultivation, for, I said it was held by our foremost philosophers that man employed musical notes to convey his feelings and ideas before he had any articulate language; and, moreover, this boasted musical language was a strong proof of their derivation from a simious ancestor, as the only other animal who could sing an octave was a gibbon ape.
This was not the way to ingratiate myself with my companions, who I remarked began to regard me as rather a bore, which all discontented people must naturally be.
The more conscious I became of this growing antipathy towards me, the more aggressive I became, until I felt that my society and conversation were rather shunned than courted by my acquaintances, and, though I still continued to mingle with them in their assemblies and pastimes, I felt that there was a great falling off in the cordiality with which I had at first been greeted.
A few of my earliest friends still remained staunch in their friendship, and bore with my outbursts of petulance with great good humour, divining their real cause, and being more disposed to pity than to blame me.
One charming young lady in particular, rejoicing in the musical name of Solla, a fair, blue-eyed, compassionate-souled girl, tried to soothe and comfort me, and endeavoured to reconcile me to my fate. She did not indulge in vainglorious boasts about the superiority of the Colymbians to all the rest of the world, but she led me to talk of the life I had formerly led, and entered with pitying interest into all my regrets and longings; and, by the interest she displayed in the accounts I gave of my terrestrial occupations and employments, gradually induced me to take a less gloomy view of my present situation, and even made me hope that eventually I might be restored to my family and my country.
"Do not," she would say, "indulge in vain regrets, but make the best of the situation in which you now find yourself. It will assuredly not be long before the advent of some ship will afford you the opportunity you desire of regaining some region of the earth where you may resume those habits which we are unable to appreciate, but which are evidently adapted to your nature. It must be hard for you, brought up in such a different manner, to accommodate yourself to those ways which come so natural to us who have never known anything else. Repining will, however, never help you; on the contrary, if you indulge in the moroseness of a disappointed spirit, you may easily lose the chance that may at some future time be offered you of escape."
"I fear," I replied, "that I may appear strangely ungrateful to you and all those who have been so kind to me, in wishing to return to that mode of life which appears to you so immeasurably inferior to this. And in spite of the permission granted by your laws, to all who are willing to leave the country should opportunity offer, might not the authorities or the people be still unwilling to allow me to quit the country that, I confess, has treated me with more kindness and consideration than I, as a stranger, had any right to expect?"
"No fear of that," she returned; "on the contrary, it is one of the first maxims of our people to grant perfect liberty to all, and above all things to place no constraint on any one whereby his happiness could be impaired. So far from meeting with opposition, I believe that every one would be only anxious to forward your views, and assist you to leave Colymbia at the very first opportunity. Of course we should regret your loss, some of us, no doubt, more than others; but what we would regret still more would be to see you detained an unwilling and an unhappy resident here, when your heart longs to be elsewhere."
I felt very much cheered by these words, and determined not to allow my longings for home to influence my conduct as long as I remained in Colymbia. My spirits revived, and I again entered into the amusements and occupations of my companions with as much zest as heretofore. Though I recovered my cheerfulness, I made no concealment of my wish to embrace the first chance to get back to terrestrial life, and though my resolution occasioned surprise, I encountered no opposition, but, on the contrary, the most cordial assurance of assistance in my project. I discovered that it was not a suspicion of my wish to leave Colymbia that had led to the coldness of my friends, but merely my cross and petulant behaviour. Displays of ill-humour and irritability cause discomfort to those who are subjected to them, and no average Colymbian would willingly expose himself to anything that would interfere with his comfort.
The shark-hunts, which were very numerous, had a great attraction for me. They were carried on at all parts of the country and issued from the reef in every direction. I attended as many of them as I could, and frequently took the trouble to join those that were formed at quite the opposite side of the lagoon. I joined them not only for the exciting sport they afforded, but also with the idea that I might one day espy some friendly sail, by means of which I could satisfy the longings of my heart and be able once more to revisit the scenes of my past life, which appeared to me so distant, oh! so very distant. The multitude of new experiences I had gained since I came to Colymbia had made the time during which I had been here so long to look back upon. Though it was barely three years since I had left home, I seemed to be separated from old England by at least a decade.
These shark-hunts often led us many miles from the reef, and I never failed to come to the surface when we were at the greatest distance from the lagoon, and carefully scan the horizon in hopes of seeing a vessel. Again and again and again I repeated my search, on every side of the archipelago. As often was I disappointed but not discouraged. The dead calm that almost invariably prevailed in this part of the world was much against the chance of a visit from any sailing vessel, but as steamers were so numerous on the ocean, it was not impossible that one might pass this way, though there was not enough of breeze stirring to raise the pendant of a man-of-war. So I expected rather to see a long line of smoke than a sail in the horizon, but neither smoke nor sail appeared.
The fact is Colymbia lies so much out of the track of the lines of steam-packets that ply between the principal seaports of the world, and is so destitute of anything like regular or irregular breezes, that it is a very rare event for a steamer or a sailing vessel to pass sufficiently close to be visible to the inhabitants, who, when they do emerge from the depths of their lagoon, so seldom raise their heads much above the sea-level.
Nor was it likely that a distant sail would be noticed from land, for those that were employed there were forced, on account of the terrible heat and the insects, to carry on their work by artificial light in the recesses of the caverns which abound in this volcanic country, or in artificial constructions from which the sun's rays were carefully excluded. So it might well happen that a ship occasionally passed these supposed uninhabited volcanic islands with their dangerous coral-reefs, without being observed by any of the inhabitants and without any inclination on the part of the captain to touch at such an unprofitable and perilous group of islands.
On several parts of the great outside reef there are elevated spots, which are covered with a soil composed of disintegrated coral, decomposed sea-weed, the remains of various shell-fish, especially echini, and the droppings of sea-fowl which congregate in large numbers on them. On this soil there is generally a group of palm-trees, particularly cocoa-nut. When there was nothing particular going on in the way of shark-hunting or the other sports and amusements that engrossed so much of the time of the unemployed youth of Colymbia, I would make an excursion by myself to one or other of these little oases, and sheltered by the foliage of the trees, would sit or lie for hours scanning the vast expanse of calm blue ocean and dreaming of home and the friends from whom I was apparently separated for ever. These islets are singularly free from the inroads of those pestilential insects that render life so intolerable on the mainland. I could repose in comfort and quiet under the shade of the umbrageous foliage of the palms, and I often lay there until the sun had sunk beneath the horizon and the stars began to sparkle in the deep-blue vault of the sky. I would then quit my peaceful resting place and plunge below to the brilliantly-lighted abodes of the pleasure-loving people, and join the merry assemblies at the gyrating-halls or lecture-rooms, or pass a more quiet evening at the house of some of the families with whom I was on intimate terms.
One day I went at an early hour to one of my favourite islets to pass a few hours under the thick shade of the palms. As usual I scanned the horizon carefully on first emerging from the water. My heart beat wildly with excitement when I detected a small speck far away to the south-west which I was sure could be nothing but the masts of a distant vessel. I eagerly climbed one of the tallest trees, and then I could make out a three-masted vessel with all sails spread, evidently bearing down towards our islands. I rapidly descended, plunged into the lagoon, and hastened to inform my friends of what I had seen. A party of my young companions was soon collected, who cheerfully consented to accompany me out into the ocean in order to assist me in getting on board the strange vessel. Taking a hurried leave of some of the chief families who had been so kind to me during my stay among them, we armed ourselves with our shark-spears and sallied forth into the ocean to meet the advancing ship. We swam near the surface of the water, every now and then rising to the top to see that we were travelling in the right direction. The breeze was so slight that the ship advanced but slowly. Its course was evidently not intended to bring it on to the reef, but would lead it past the group of islands at some miles from the reef. So we directed our course with the view of intercepting it when it should arrive at the neatest point of the archipelago. We had calculated our line of approach so well, that the ship bore down right towards us. As she advanced I could see that she was a fine ship, beautifully rigged and with a well-shaped hull. The light breeze that scarcely ruffled the surface of the ocean caused her to move but slowly, and we had to wait long before she came within hailing distance. We lay with our heads above the surface of the water watching her steady advance, and when she was within fifty yards of where we lay, I was horrified to observe a man at the bow deliberately covering us with a rifle, I shouted as loud as I could, "Hollo! there: don't fire," when he dropped his weapon, and responded, "Kreuzdonnerwetter! I dought you was seals." "Well, now you see we are not," said I, as we came alongside; "so let down something that we may come on board." "Not so fast, young man, how shall I know you are not birates, mit dese sharp bikes in your hands; berhaps you vill kill us all and dake my ship." "Never fear," I said; "we are quite innocent of any piratical intentions, our weapons are only to protect us from the sharks; and what could we do against all your crew?"
The captain, for such was the rank of our questioner, reassured by what I said, ordered one of the sailors to let down a rope-ladder, by means of which we all scrambled on board. I briefly explained that I was an Englishman, and wished for a passage on board his ship to some port whence I could embark for my native country. I introduced my companions, who, I explained, had only accompanied me in order to see me safe on board, and who had no intention of remaining with me in the ship.
The captain who was a good fellow, with a rough exterior, willingly consented to give me a passage in his ship, and we were all regarded with much curiosity by the crew, and eagerly questioned by those who spoke English as to who and what we were.
My companions were much interested with the ship, and readily answered the questions put to them respecting their country and their mode of living. But there was not much time for conversation, as the ship still continued on its course and would soon have carried them to an inconvenient distance from home. So taking an affectionate leave of me, and expressing a hope that I would again come among them when I had tired of the terrestrial life I was going to enter on again, they dropped over the side of the ship and disappeared beneath the water, to the no small astonishment of the captain and crew.
"Potztausend!" cried the captain, "I denk I was not wrong to take you for seals, for you are in ze vater like fishes. You must be mermans at ze least."
"Well," I said, "you are nearer the mark now."
When I told him of the great country, with its numerous inhabitants within the enclosure of the coral-reef, he would hardly believe me, and said that these islands were marked in the chart as uninhabited, and so dangerous of approach that it was believed that many vessels had been wrecked in endeavouring to effect a landing there.
I confirmed his information on this point, and told him a good deal about the manners and customs of the Colymbians. I related to him how I had been wrecked, by what strange luck I alone had been saved, and how, after days and nights spent on the open sea in the life-boat, I had at last arrived among these extraordinary people. The circumstantial nature of my narrative and my earnest manner convinced him that I was not hoaxing him. He listened with eager curiosity to the accounts I gave him, and formed such a favourable idea of the strange country from my glowing description of the mode of life prevailing there, that he at last wondered how I had been able to tear myself away from the delights of Colymbia in order to engage in the comparatively dull and plodding occupations of terrestrial life.
The ship was called Der Fliegende Holländer, bound from the Bohemian port of Weissnichtwo to Nirgendsburg, in Van Demon's Land, and the captain's name was Hans Wurst. The crew was a composite one, consisting chiefly of Germans, Swedes, Danes, and Russians. The vessel was well appointed in every respect with a mixed cargo of all sorts of merchandise. I had no money to pay for my passage, but the captain was obliging enough to accept my promissory note for the amount of my passage-money.
I was soon rigged out in a suit of sailor's clothes, in which I felt awkward enough for a few days, but gradually my terrestrial habits returned to me and I felt quite at home in the atmosphere. Walking was, at first, rather a difficulty, so little had I been accustomed during the three years of my residence in Colymbia to use my legs for that purpose or to retain an upright posture. However, all things at last adjusted themselves to my changed condition, and before I had been a week on. board, I felt quite at ease. My greatest difficulty at first was getting to sleep in my hammock. As consciousness began to leave me, I would frequently start up in affright, and grope about for the air-tube to insert in my mouth, and I was forced to get the carpenter to make me a wooden tube, which I placed between my lips on going to bed, and by this means I succeeded in sleeping soundly. For many days I felt encumbered with my own weight, and this fatigued me so much that I spent much of my time in the recumbent posture. The captain, who was a good-natured fellow, would often sit for hours beside me listening to my accounts of the aquatic people and their odd ways. Now that I had made my escape from Colymbia, I often felt a sort of regret that I had left it, and an irrepressible longing for the watery life I had abandoned. However, I managed to conquer this feeling, and I looked forward with pleasure to once more seeing my family and friends in England, who, I felt assured, must be extremely anxious on my account.
After an uneventful voyage we arrived safely in Hobart Town, where I persuaded the captain to touch, as I knew I should find there some friends who had been settled there for a few years, and who would assist me to return to England. Captain Hans Wurst bade me an affectionate farewell, and advised me not to say anything of my sojourn in Colymbia to the people in Hobart Town, as he was sure I should not be believed, and might only raise a prejudice against myself, and get the character of a romancing traveller if not of an absolute madman. He frankly confessed that had he not picked me up in the manner he did, he would not have believed a word of my story, though sailors were naturally disposed to believe about mermen and mermaids. He was sure that no landsman would believe that I spoke the truth.
I thought it prudent to follow the captain's advice, and when I found out my friends in Hobart Town, I said nothing about the extraordinary habits of the people among whom I had been living, but merely mentioned the circumstances of my shipwreck, the marvellous escape I had made, and my residence for three years among the inhabitants of one of the Pacific islands, by whom I had been kindly treated until taken off by Captain Hans Wurst, and brought by him to Hobart Town.
My friends—who were the son of a small landed proprietor in the neighbourhood of my home and his wife—were deeply interested in the account I gave of my shipwreck, but had fortunately little curiosity respecting the locality where it took place, and did not even inquire the name of the island on which I said I had lived for so long. They were good sort of people, friendly but dull. They were much more taken up about the affairs of all our neighbours at home, and though it was upwards of three years since I left England, I could still tell them a great deal that they wished to know respecting the changes that had occurred since they had left some ten years previously. Who was dead, who married, what births had taken place, what farms had changed hands, how this or the other boy had turned out, and a hundred such matters, were far more exciting for them than any adventures that I might have gone through. Like many other good but uninquiring people, I believe they knew very little about the islands of the Pacific and cared less. They probably thought they were all peopled by uninteresting savages, and governed by a Wesleyan or Baptist missionary, who would see that any stranger was well taken care of, and shipped off as speedily as possible.
Mr Paterson had no difficulty in recognising me, though it was so many years since we had last met; and if my features had changed, my knowledge of the localities and people about the home he had left would have removed all doubts as to my identity. He was very kind to me during my stay in Tasmania, and as he was in flourishing circumstances, having done well in commerce since he had settled here, he willingly advanced me money to acquit my debt to Captain Wurst, provide for my personal expenses in Hobart Town, and pay my passage back to England.
It was not long before the steamer in connection with the packet-line from Melbourne to England, by way of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, in which I had engaged a berth, steamed out of the beautiful estuary of the River Derwent.
I need not dwell on the incidents of my voyage home, which was as prosperous and uneventful as it generally is in the well-appointed vessels of the ubiquitous P. and O. Company. As soon as I got to Southampton I telegraphed to my father, and followed my message as fast as the rail could carry me.
On arriving at my father's house in Norfolk, I was received with every demonstration of heartfelt affection. Nothing having been heard of the vessel in which I sailed, it was generally supposed that she had been lost with all souls on board. All despaired of ever seeing or hearing from me again, except my mother, who would not consent to wear mourning, but persisted in hoping against hope, though latterly she had been, less confident in asserting that I would surely turn up again.
When my account of the loss of the Precursor became public, it was curious to see how those who had been the most eager advocates of the principles on which that ill-fated vessel was built, now came forward and declared how they had always been of opinion that the construction was faulty, and was certain to lead to the catastrophe that had overtaken her. The very newspapers that had written leading article after leading article to prove that the advocates of the old mode of ship-building knew nothing about the art to which their lives had been devoted, but were mere antediluvian old-fogies, and were influenced in their opposition to the new lines of the Precursor solely by envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness, now presented their readers with learned disquisitions on the glaring faults in build of the unfortunate vessel, how her centre of gravity was placed too high or too low, how she was over-masted or under-masted, how she should have had two keels or a broad bottom, or something or other which she either had or had not; for, as they evidently knew nothing at all about ship-building, and least of all about the Precursor's real construction, one thing was just as good as another to allege respecting her. One intelligent writer contended that the principles on which she had been built were the best possible, only that she should have had an out-rigger on either side, to prevent her heeling over in a gale. In short, so much wisdom and prescience—after the event—were displayed on all sides, that it was a wonder to me that the Precursor was ever allowed to go to sea, or, having gone, that she could ever have sailed a mile, or having sailed so much, that she had not stood out against every gale whatsoever; which she would undoubtedly have done, had the advice of these omniscient critics—which was never given—been taken.
Some who had committed themselves too completely to the advocacy of the novel construction of the Precursor, affected to disbelieve entirely the truth of my account of its loss, swore that I had never been on board the vessel, that I was an impostor, a myth; and prophesied that the ship would soon be heard of, and her log would be a triumphant refutation of all the dismal fables that had been invented concerning her faulty construction and loss.
As some fragments of my story respecting the Colymbians and their ways began to ooze out, probably in a very distorted form, these irritated and discomfited advocates of the Precursor's build, returned to the charge against me, urging that a person who could tell such palpable falsehoods was unworthy of belief on any subject whatever. They went so far as to say that I was not the person I represented myself to be, that I was somebody else altogether, some low adventurer who had succeeded in persuading the parents of De Courcy Smith that he was their lost son; no difficult task, as they were simple rustics who had never abandoned the idea of the restoration of their son, and were consequently in a fit state of mind to credit the plausible tale of any unscrupulous adventurer. They doubted that I had ever been picked up at sea as I alleged; if so, where was Captain Hans Wurst and his ship Der fliegende Holländer? Why could I not produce even one of the crew? As if that were at all necessary to prove my identity. Might not the ship have foundered at sea, been burnt, or been sent to the bottom by an erratic iceberg, after she had landed me at Hobart Town? or might not the trade in which she was engaged have been one that rendered it a matter of prudence and safety for the captain to conceal his movements?
As time went on and nothing was heard of the Precursor, they admitted the probability of its having perished in a storm; and if so, young Smith had undoubtedly perished with it. They prophesied that nothing would ever be heard of either, and advised my parents to turn me out of doors as a rank impostor and lying rogue.
Of course, all the above had no effect upon the minds of my parents and intimate friends, who still remained convinced of my identity, as I had neither grown enormously fat nor forgotten my mother tongue since my departure from England; but it caused many of my less familiar acquaintances to look rather coldly on me; and some of them even cut me entirely. I bore up against these disagreeables as well as I could, conscious of my own integrity, and quite confident that time would prove the truth of my assertions. I was supported under these trials by the increased display of affection towards me of my very excellent parents, who never for an instant doubted that I was their son—that being impossible—or of the truthfulness of my statements—which was quite possible.
As my outfit and other expenses had been a considerable pull on my father's limited means—though I must do him the justice to say that he never alluded to the subject, far less made it a matter of reproach, as many fathers might have done—I was very unwilling to make any further demands on his generosity. So I gave up the idea of emigrating altogether, and looked about for some suitable employment at home.
The faculty I had acquired in Colymbia of talking their language of signs and taps suggested to me a post in the telegraphs, which had recently been transferred to the Post-Office authorities. After a few lessons I acquired complete command over the technicalities of telegraphy; and, backed by the influence of some of my father's friends, who were now in the Government, I got a good appointment, which, if not accompanied by a very high salary, at all events renders me independent, and holds out the prospect of an advance to better things. My experience of the Colymbian language has enabled me to suggest numerous improvements in the telegraphic signs and symbols, which have been favourably received at head-quarters, and I believe I have been recommended for promotion on account of my useful suggestions.
I have made many attempts to obtain the electricity for the telegraphic instruments directly from the earth, as is done in Colymbia, but hitherto without success. It may be that I have not been able to construct my apparatus properly, or that the electrical force is much more considerable in amount in that very volcanic region, where enormous chemical decompositions, attended by proportionate electrical action, are always going on, than in our non-volcanic country. I am in hopes of being able some day to perfect a tidal machine, which will be especially welcome to manufacturers in these days of dear coal, but at present I am rather bothered with the excess of power at my command, the tides having a rise and fall here so much greater than in the Pacific Ocean.
When sending messages to all parts of the globe, I sometimes think how near some of them must pass to that strange country, which was so entirely unknown to all geographers and travellers, I mean, of course, the inhabited portions of it; as the archipelago itself is put down in the charts, but marked "uninhabited and uninhabitable." I can sometimes hardly persuade myself of the reality of my residence there; all the events of my three years' exile from England appearing to me often like a dream; so utterly different were my experiences during that time to all I had known before or since. I have to look at my oddly constructed spectacles—so totally different in principle from anything known to our opticians—my compressed-air bottle, my shark-spear, my weight-belt, and the few specimens of the coinage of Colymbia I brought away in my pockets, before I am thoroughly persuaded of the reality of it all.
At times a longing for subaqueous life possesses me. My clothes feel oppressive, I seem to be borne down by the weight of my own body, I am tired of halving to preserve the upright position, and I cannot bear the draughts and dust of ordinary life. On these occasions, at the first opportunity, I rush off to the sea, from which my telegraph-station is at no great distance—as I am chief telegraphist at the fashionable sea-side town of Easton-super-Mare—and I dive below the water and amuse myself with some of the gambols I learnt in Colymbia. The low temperature of the German Ocean, however, soon compels me to return to land, teaching me the impossibility of an aquatic life, except in the tepid water of the tropics.
I once attempted to fill my air-bottle with compressed air and oxygen gas, but I could not make it answer. Either I had not hit the right proportions, or I did not understand how to compress the air properly, so that I could not make a comfortable respiration below the water, and I soon gave up the attempt.
I sometimes almost regret that I was in such a hurry to return home, and wish I could re-visit those charming coral grottoes, and mingle in the sports and amusements of my late companions. But I do not see how this can be accomplished, unless I were to charter a vessel for the purpose, and even then I doubt whether I could reach that fascinating country, protected as it is by the dead calm that generally prevails in the region in which it is situated.
The fragmentary accounts I have from time to time communicated to my friends and acquaintances of the manners and customs of the Colymbians, have usually been received with a certain amount of incredulity, which has deterred me from talking much about them; and I fear that the circumstantial details of this truthful narrative may not obtain general credence; but I live in hopes of seeing my account corroborated by future explorers, to whose adventurous spirit the mysteries of Colymbia and the ways of its charming inhabitants cannot long remain concealed.
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