Erewhon HTML version
Though busily engaged in translating the extracts given in the last five chapters, I was
also laying matters in train for my escape with Arowhena. And indeed it was high time,
for I received an intimation from one of the cashiers of the Musical Banks, that I was to
be prosecuted in a criminal court ostensibly for measles, but really for having owned a
watch, and attempted the reintroduction of machinery.
I asked why measles? and was told that there was a fear lest extenuating circumstances
should prevent a jury from convicting me, if I were indicted for typhus or small-pox, but
that a verdict would probably be obtained for measles, a disease which could be
sufficiently punished in a person of my age. I was given to understand that unless some
unexpected change should come over the mind of his Majesty, I might expect the blow to
be struck within a very few days.
My plan was this--that Arowhena and I should escape in a balloon together. I fear that the
reader will disbelieve this part of my story, yet in no other have I endeavoured to adhere
more conscientiously to facts, and can only throw myself upon his charity.
I had already gained the ear of the Queen, and had so worked upon her curiosity that she
promised to get leave for me to have a balloon made and inflated; I pointed out to her that
no complicated machinery would be wanted--nothing, in fact, but a large quantity of
oiled silk, a car, a few ropes, &c., &c., and some light kind of gas, such as the
antiquarians who were acquainted with the means employed by the ancients for the
production of the lighter gases could easily instruct her workmen how to provide. Her
eagerness to see so strange a sight as the ascent of a human being into the sky overcame
any scruples of conscience that she might have otherwise felt, and she set the antiquarians
about showing her workmen how to make the gas, and sent her maids to buy, and oil, a
very large quantity of silk (for I was determined that the balloon should be a big one)
even before she began to try and gain the King's permission; this, however, she now set
herself to do, for I had sent her word that my prosecution was imminent.
As for myself, I need hardly say that I knew nothing about balloons; nor did I see my way
to smuggling Arowhena into the car; nevertheless, knowing that we had no other chance
of getting away from Erewhon, I drew inspiration from the extremity in which we were
placed, and made a pattern from which the Queen's workmen were able to work
successfully. Meanwhile the Queen's carriage-builders set about making the car, and it
was with the attachments of this to the balloon that I had the greatest difficulty; I doubt,
indeed, whether I should have succeeded here, but for the great intelligence of a foreman,
who threw himself heart and soul into the matter, and often both foresaw requirements,
the necessity for which had escaped me, and suggested the means of providing for them.
It happened that there had been a long drought, during the latter part of which prayers had
been vainly offered up in all the temples of the air god. When I first told her Majesty that
I wanted a balloon, I said my intention was to go up into the sky and prevail upon the air