Page:Colymbia (1873).djvu/39

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33
THE ARCHIPELAGO ON THE EQUATOR.

He smiled good-humouredly, and replied,—"I am neither surprised nor offended that you refuse credence to what I have said, for it is all so contrary to your previous experience and knowledge that it must be difficult for a man of intelligence and education, which I perceive you are" [here I became somewhat mollified and bowed], "to regard what I have told you otherwise than as a bad joke. However, you shall shortly be convinced that by the ingenuity of man these seemingly insuperable difficulties are capable of being overcome, and that, when driven out of the air by the stifling heat and vermin you have noticed, he can adapt himself to an aquatic life, and prove therein as much superior to the proper denizens of the watery element, as he is, under other circumstances, to the inhabitants of the dry land."

He spoke with so much sincerity and candour, and was so courteous withal, that I begged him to forgive my outburst of petulance, and promised implicit belief to all he was so kind as to inform me of; "for," I said, "what I have already seen is so surprising and incredible that I am not justified in refusing credence to what a gentleman of your courtesy tells me, however opposed it seems to my previous experience."

Our intercourse having been thus put on a pleasant footing, I was fairly installed as his disciple, and he immediately, in reply to my inquiries, began to give me an account of the mysterious country where fate had cast me, and its strange inhabitants. I shall give the substance of our numerous conversations in my Instructor's words, as nearly as I can remember them.

"Some suppose," he said, "that these islands were originally peopled by a shipwrecked crew of English-

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