The next thing I was conscious of was a feeling of drowsy contentment.
Opening my eyes I saw I was in bed in a small room. The sound that had awakened me came from the next room, and was caused by several voices. From the conversation, I gathered they were telling someone about finding a man on the side of Monte Epomeo, and how, seeing he was not dead, they had brought him home.
It suddenly dawned upon me that I was the subject under discussion.
Presently a man entered the room, by his dress evidently a shepherd. I asked where I was. He told me to "Keep quiet, as I was perfectly safe."
"How long have I been here?"
"What has been the matter?"
"Brain fever. The doctor will be here shortly, do not talk until he comes."
When the doctor came he told me I had had a very narrow escape.
The shepherds had found me, brought me here, and I had been insensible and delirious in turns for weeks; raving about being buried alive, large serpents, phosphorescent bodies, baboons, and caves.
I found this place was on the opposite side of Mount Epomeo from Casamicciola. There had been a great earthquake, only one house in the whole town of Casamicciola had been left standing.
Thousands of lives had been lost, how many was not yet known.
The doctor asked me how I came to have on my pyjamas. And when I told him how I had been buried alive, he smiled and left the room.
He returned soon, carrying a glass in his hand. I drank the contents, and, soon feeling drowsy, sank into a refreshing sleep.
It was about a month after my return to consciousness before I was able to leave my kind nurses.
When I did so I went to Casamicciola.
I searched amongst the ruins of my house and found my bureau. Of course, all my money was gone, but in one of the drawers was the certificate of my death and burial.
My valet, not knowing where to send it, had evidently put it there.
I engaged a man, and together we searched for the vault.
But having a very faint idea of where it was, and the earthquake having torn the ground about, we were unable to find it.
He (the man) evidently looked upon me as a harmless lunatic.
I wrote to my bankers, and having received some money, made my kind nurses a substantial present, and soon after left the land of so many unpleasant memories.
Often I dream I am again in the caves, and wake, wet with perspiration, and with a prayer of thankfulness on my lips, to find it is only a dream.
There is little more to be told, I must have passed about twelve days in the cave, from the 15th to the 28th or 29th of July.
I have given a truthful and unembellished account of my horrible experience; whether it is believed or not, as I said at the beginning, is a matter of complete indifference to me. I write this in London, and, in a few days, leave for Australia. I have inherited consumption from my mother, and the doctors only give me a few years to live. There I mean to pass as far away as possible from the scenes of my misery.
There is only one proof I can give of having passed through these experiences, and that is—"When the shepherds found me, in my hand I held a long lock of bluish-white hair."