Page:Colymbia (1873).djvu/41

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35
THE ARCHIPELAGO ON THE EQUATOR.

possession from the shipwrecked British and American vessels.

"French and German are by no means unknown among us, and we have at various times received the crews and passengers of vessels from other countries than England. But, for the reasons I have given, English has come to be the only language spoken by us; and our knowledge of all the changes that from time to time take place in the English language is derived from the continued accessions of men and books the wrecks on our reef bring us.

"It is probable that the aboriginal inhabitants were a thick-skinned race who could stand the heat and could bear with impunity the assaults of the insects, for we find throughout the islands many traces of their dwellings and monuments, which; show that at one time the land was occupied by human beings.

"It is not known at what precise period the habits of the people underwent such a change as to lead them to forsake entirely the land, except for certain necessary operations which you will learn hereafter and to betake themselves to an aquatic life.

"It is probable that this change took place gradually. It is supposed that, as the Anglo-Saxon infusion increased, the race became less and less able to withstand the heat and other annoyances of a land-life; that they found immersion in the sea-water spared them many of the discomforts they experienced in the air; and that gradually, by little and little, the genius of our engineers and chemists succeeded in rendering a permanent or quasi-permanent abode under the water not only possible but absolutely preferable to a residence on the land.

"This faculty we found ourselves to possess of