Erewhon HTML version

6. Into Erewhon
And now I found myself on a narrow path which followed a small watercourse. I was too
glad to have an easy track for my flight, to lay hold of the full significance of its
existence. The thought, however, soon presented itself to me that I must be in an
inhabited country, but one which was yet unknown. What, then, was to be my fate at the
hands of its inhabitants? Should I be taken and offered up as a burnt-offering to those
hideous guardians of the pass? It might be so. I shuddered at the thought, yet the horrors
of solitude had now fairly possessed me; and so dazed was I, and chilled, and woebegone,
that I could lay hold of no idea firmly amid the crowd of fancies that kept wandering in
upon my brain.
I hurried onward--down, down, down. More streams came in; then there was a bridge, a
few pine logs thrown over the water; but they gave me comfort, for savages do not make
bridges. Then I had a treat such as I can never convey on paper--a moment, perhaps, the
most striking and unexpected in my whole life--the one I think that, with some three or
four exceptions, I would most gladly have again, were I able to recall it. I got below the
level of the clouds, into a burst of brilliant evening sunshine, I was facing the north-west,
and the sun was full upon me. Oh, how its light cheered me! But what I saw! It was such
an expanse as was revealed to Moses when he stood upon the summit of Mount Sinai,
and beheld that promised land which it was not to be his to enter. The beautiful sunset
sky was crimson and gold; blue, silver, and purple; exquisite and tranquillising; fading
away therein were plains, on which I could see many a town and city, with buildings that
had lofty steeples and rounded domes. Nearer beneath me lay ridge behind ridge, outline
behind outline, sunlight behind shadow, and shadow behind sunlight, gully and serrated
ravine. I saw large pine forests, and the glitter of a noble river winding its way upon the
plains; also many villages and hamlets, some of them quite near at hand; and it was on
these that I pondered most. I sank upon the ground at the foot of a large tree and thought
what I had best do; but I could not collect myself. I was quite tired out; and presently,
feeling warmed by the sun, and quieted, I fell off into a profound sleep.
I was awoke by the sound of tinkling bells, and looking up, I saw four or five goats
feeding near me. As soon as I moved, the creatures turned their heads towards me with an
expression of infinite wonder. They did not run away, but stood stock still, and looked at
me from every side, as I at them. Then came the sound of chattering and laughter, and
there approached two lovely girls, of about seventeen or eighteen years old, dressed each
in a sort of linen gaberdine, with a girdle round the waist. They saw me. I sat quite still
and looked at them, dazzled with their extreme beauty. For a moment they looked at me
and at each other in great amazement; then they gave a little frightened cry and ran off as
hard as they could.
"So that's that," said I to myself, as I watched them scampering. I knew that I had better
stay where I was and meet my fate, whatever it was to be, and even if there were a better
course, I had no strength left to take it. I must come into contact with the inhabitants
sooner or later, and it might as well be sooner. Better not to seem afraid of them, as I