Page:Colymbia (1873).djvu/37

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
31
THE ARCHIPELAGO ON THE EQUATOR.

"Well, not exactly," he replied, "because, though, until quite recently, we have never allowed departures from our island, a more liberal policy now prevails. Last year our legislature passed an act permitting strangers to leave the country, if they so wished and an opportunity should offer. Most improbable contingencies," he added, "for, once used to our life here, all other modes of living seem intolerable; and, as for opportunities for leaving the country, they are very unlikely to occur, as vessels that get on our reef speedily become total wrecks, even without our assistance. Moreover, as I told you, we are out of the way of any direct packet-lines—you know it was only owing to the eccentric course pursued by your theoretical captain that you had the chance of being thrown ashore here—so you see you will have to make up your mind to become a citizen of our state, and to adapt yourself to your new circumstances as well as you can. And," he added, "I believe you to be of sufficient intelligence to learn our ways rapidly, and, once you have mastered them, I venture to say you will not be disposed to return to the habits of your native land."

"Indeed, sir," I said, "you make me extremely desirous to commence those studies which I am to go through in order to qualify myself for citizenship in your community. Everything I have observed since I first approached these islands has struck me with the most profound surprise. The tethered barking seals, the aquatic policemen speaking English which seems to be the language of the country, the beauty of your forests, with their gigantic fruit-laden trees, and their magnificent flowering shrubs, the gorgeous colours and varieties of your birds, are to me strange