Erewhon HTML version
The ship was the Principe Umberto, bound from Callao to Genoa; she had carried a
number of emigrants to Rio, had gone thence to Callao, where she had taken in a cargo of
guano, and was now on her way home. The captain was a certain Giovanni Gianni, a
native of Sestri; he has kindly allowed me to refer to him in case the truth of my story
should be disputed; but I grieve to say that I suffered him to mislead himself in some
important particulars. I should add that when we were picked up we were a thousand
miles from land.
As soon as we were on board, the captain began questioning us about the siege of Paris,
from which city he had assumed that we must have come, notwithstanding our immense
distance from Europe. As may be supposed, I had not heard a syllable about the war
between France and Germany, and was too ill to do more than assent to all that he chose
to put into my mouth. My knowledge of Italian is very imperfect, and I gathered little
from anything that he said; but I was glad to conceal the true point of our departure, and
resolved to take any cue that he chose to give me.
The line that thus suggested itself was that there had been ten or twelve others in the
balloon, that I was an English Milord, and Arowhena a Russian Countess; that all the
others had been drowned, and that the despatches which we had carried were lost. I came
afterwards to learn that this story would not have been credible, had not the captain been
for some weeks at sea, for I found that when we were picked up, the Germans had
already long been masters of Paris. As it was, the captain settled the whole story for me,
and I was well content.
In a few days we sighted an English vessel bound from Melbourne to London with wool.
At my earnest request, in spite of stormy weather which rendered it dangerous for a boat
to take us from one ship to the other, the captain consented to signal the English vessel,
and we were received on board, but we were transferred with such difficulty that no
communication took place as to the manner of our being found. I did indeed hear the
Italian mate who was in charge of the boat shout out something in French to the effect
that we had been picked up from a balloon, but the noise of the wind was so great, and
the captain understood so little French that he caught nothing of the truth, and it was
assumed that we were two persons who had been saved from shipwreck. When the
captain asked me in what ship I had been wrecked, I said that a party of us had been
carried out to sea in a pleasure-boat by a strong current, and that Arowhena (whom I
described as a Peruvian lady) and I were alone saved.
There were several passengers, whose goodness towards us we can never repay. I grieve
to think that they cannot fail to discover that we did not take them fully into our
confidence; but had we told them all, they would not have believed us, and I was
determined that no one should hear of Erewhon, or have the chance of getting there
before me, as long as I could prevent it. Indeed, the recollection of the many falsehoods
which I was then obliged to tell, would render my life miserable were I not sustained by