Page:Colymbia (1873).djvu/35

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29
THE ARCHIPELAGO ON THE EQUATOR.

on philosophy and science, together with a fair sprinkling of French and German works on the same subjects. Natural history, natural philosophy, mechanics, chemistry, geography and history were the chief subjects. They were generally the last editions of these works, not reprints, and they seemed to be well used, for their pages bore signs of having been read and studied; and several volumes, taken from the shelves, lay with markers in them on one of the tables.

Among the books on the table were a few of a different appearance from the others. I opened one of them, and saw that its pages were made, not of paper, but of some highly-glazed material, and that they were printed in a character I had never seen before, more resembling the dots and strokes made on the paper ribbons by the telegraphic machine than the letters of any civilised language.

I was still engaged in examining this odd book, of which I could make neither head nor tail, when the leafy curtain opened, and there entered a youngish man, with a fine intellectual-looking head, the glow of health in his ruddy cheeks, and his limbs and body of extremely graceful proportions. Like the others I had seen, he seemed to have just come out of a bath, for he had nothing on but the invariable short trousers or bathing drawers, and he was dripping wet.

He took up a soft towel, gave his face and hands a good wipe, and, not troubling himself about the water that trickled down his skin, he snatched up a dressing-gown of some soft silky material that lay on a couch, and wrapped it round his dripping body.

Surveying me with some curiosity, he addressed me in a kindly voice:—