MoboReader > Literature > The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen

   Chapter 2 No.2

The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen By Rudolf Erich Raspe Characters: 40582

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The Baron slips through the world: after paying a visit to Mount Etna he finds himself in the South Sea; visits Vulcan in his passage; gets on board a Dutchman; arrives at an island of cheese, surrounded by a sea of milk; describes some very extraordinary objects-Lose their compass; their ship slips between the teeth of a fish unknown in this part of the world; their difficulty in escaping from thence; arrive in the Caspian Sea-Starves a bear to death-A few waistcoat anecdotes-In this chapter, which is the longest, the Baron moralises upon the virtue of veracity.

Mr. Drybones' "Travels to Sicily," which I had read with great pleasure, induced me to pay a visit to Mount Etna; my voyage to this place was not attended with any circumstances worth relating. One morning early, three or four days after my arrival, I set out from a cottage where I had slept, within six miles of the foot of the mountain, determined to explore the internal parts, if I perished in the attempt. After three hours' hard labour I found myself at the top; it was then, and had been for upwards of three weeks, raging: its appearance in this state has been so frequently noticed by different travellers, that I will not tire you with descriptions of objects you are already acquainted with. I walked round the edge of the crater, which appeared to be fifty times at least as capacious as the Devil's Punch-Bowl near Petersfield, on the Portsmouth Road, but not so broad at the bottom, as in that part it resembles the contracted part of a funnel more than a punch-bowl. At last, having made up my mind, in I sprang feet foremost; I soon found myself in a warm berth, and my body bruised and burnt in various parts by the red-hot cinders, which, by their violent ascent, opposed my descent: however, my weight soon brought me to the bottom, where I found myself in the midst of noise and clamour, mixed with the most horrid imprecations; after recovering my senses, and feeling a reduction of my pain, I began to look about me. Guess, gentlemen, my astonishment, when I found myself in the company of Vulcan and his Cyclops, who had been quarrelling, for the three weeks before mentioned, about the observation of good order and due subordination, and which had occasioned such alarms for that space of time in the world above. However, my arrival restored peace to the whole society, and Vulcan himself did me the honour of applying plasters to my wounds, which healed them immediately; he also placed refreshments before me, particularly nectar, and other rich wines, such as the gods and goddesses only aspire to. After this repast was over Vulcan ordered Venus to show me every indulgence which my situation required. To describe the apartment, and the couch on which I reposed, is totally impossible, therefore I will not attempt it; let it suffice to say, it exceeds the power of language to do it justice, or speak of that kind-hearted goddess in any terms equal to her merit.

Vulcan gave me a very concise account of Mount Etna: he said it was nothing more than an accumulation of ashes thrown from his forge; that he was frequently obliged to chastise his people, at whom, in his passion, he made it a practice to throw red-hot coals at home, which they often parried with great dexterity, and then threw them up into the world to place them out of his reach, for they never attempted to assault him in return by throwing them back again. "Our quarrels," added he, "last sometimes three or four months, and these appearances of coals or cinders in the world are what I find you mortals call eruptions." Mount Vesuvius, he assured me, was another of his shops, to which he had a passage three hundred and fifty leagues under the bed of the sea, where similar quarrels produced similar eruptions. I should have continued here as an humble attendant upon Madam Venus, but some busy tattlers, who delight in mischief, whispered a tale in Vulcan's ear, which roused in him a fit of jealousy not to be appeased. Without the least previous notice he took me one morning under his arm, as I was waiting upon Venus, agreeable to custom, and carried me to an apartment I had never before seen, in which there was, to all appearance, a well with a wide mouth: over this he held me at arm's length, and saying, "Ungrateful mortal, return to the world from whence you came," without giving me the least opportunity of reply, dropped me in the centre. I found myself descending with an increasing rapidity, till the horror of my mind deprived me of all reflection. I suppose I fell into a trance, from which I was suddenly aroused by plunging into a large body of water illuminated by the rays of the sun!!

I could, from my infancy, swim well, and play tricks in the water. I now found myself in paradise, considering the horrors of mind I had just been released from. After looking about me some time, I could discover nothing but an expanse of sea, extending beyond the eye in every direction; I also found it very cold, a different climate from Master Vulcan's shop. At last I observed at some distance a body of amazing magnitude, like a huge rock, approaching me; I soon discovered it to be a piece of floating ice; I swam round it till I found a place where I could ascend to the top, which I did, but not without some difficulty. Still I was out of sight of land, and despair returned with double force; however, before night came on I saw a sail, which we approached very fast; when it was within a very small distance I hailed them in German; they answered in Dutch. I then flung myself into the sea, and they threw out a rope, by which I was taken on board. I now inquired where we were, and was informed, in the great Southern Ocean; this opened a discovery which removed all my doubts and difficulties. It was now evident that I had passed from Mount Etna through the centre of the earth to the South Seas: this, gentlemen, was a much shorter cut than going round the world, and which no man has accomplished, or ever attempted, but myself; however, the next time I perform it I will be much more particular in my observations.

I took some refreshment, and went to rest. The Dutch are a very rude sort of people; I related the Etna passage to the officers, exactly as I have done to you, and some of them, particularly the Captain, seemed by his grimace and half-sentence to doubt my veracity; however, as he had kindly taken me on board his vessel, and was then in the very act of administering to my necessities, I pocketed the affront.

I now in my turn began to inquire where they were bound? To which they answered, they were in search of new discoveries; "and if," said they, "your story is true, a new passage is really discovered, and we shall not return disappointed." We were now exactly in Captain Cook's first track, and arrived the next morning in Botany Bay. This place I would by no means recommend to the English government as a receptacle for felons, or place of punishment; it should rather be the reward of merit, nature having most bountifully bestowed her best gifts upon it.

We stayed here but three days; the fourth after our departure a most dreadful storm arose, which in a few hours destroyed all our sails, splintered our bowsprit, and brought down our topmast; it fell directly upon the box that enclosed our compass, which, with the compass, was broken to pieces. Every one who has been at sea knows the consequences of such a misfortune: we now were at a loss where to steer. At length the storm abated, which was followed by a steady, brisk gale, that carried us at least forty knots an hour for six months! [we should suppose the Baron has made a little mistake, and substituted months for days] when we began to observe an amazing change in everything about us: our spirits became light, our noses were regaled with the most aromatic effluvia imaginable: the sea had also changed its complexion, and from green became white!! Soon after these wonderful alterations we saw land, and not at any great distance an inlet, which we sailed up near sixty leagues, and found it wide and deep, flowing with milk of the most delicious taste. Here we landed, and soon found it was an island consisting of one large cheese: we discovered this by one of the company fainting away as soon as we landed: this man always had an aversion to cheese; when he recovered, he desired the cheese to be taken from under his feet: upon examination we found him perfectly right, for the whole island, as before observed, was nothing but a cheese of immense magnitude! Upon this the inhabitants, who are amazingly numerous, principally sustain themselves, and it grows every night in proportion as it is consumed in the day. Here seemed to be plenty of vines, with bunches of large grapes, which, upon being pressed, yielded nothing but milk. We saw the inhabitants running races upon the surface of the milk: they were upright, comely figures, nine feet high, have three legs, and but one arm; upon the whole, their form was graceful, and when they quarrel, they exercise a straight horn, which grows in adults from the centre of their foreheads, with great adroitness; they did not sink at all, but ran and walked upon the surface of the milk, as we do upon a bowling-green.

Upon this island of cheese grows great plenty of corn, the ears of which produce loaves of bread, ready made, of a round form like mushrooms. We discovered, in our rambles over this cheese, seventeen other rivers of milk, and ten of wine.

After thirty-eight days' journey we arrived on the opposite side to that on which we landed: here we found some blue mould, as cheese-eaters call it, from whence spring all kinds of rich fruit; instead of breeding mites it produced peaches, nectarines, apricots, and a thousand delicious fruits which we are not acquainted with. In these trees, which are of an amazing size, were plenty of birds' nests; amongst others was a king-fisher's of prodigious magnitude; it was at least twice the circumference of the dome of St. Paul's Church in London. Upon inspection, this nest was made of huge trees curiously joined together; there were, let me see (for I make it a rule always to speak within compass), there were upwards of five hundred eggs in the nest, and each of them was as large as four common hogsheads, or eight barrels, and we could not only see, but hear the young ones chirping within. Having, with great fatigue, cut open one of these eggs, we let out a young one unfeathered, considerably larger than twenty full-grown vultures. Just as we had given this youngster his liberty the old kingfisher lighted, and seizing our captain, who had been active in breaking the egg, in one of her claws, flew with him above a mile high, and then let him drop into the sea, but not till she had beaten all his teeth out of his mouth with her wings.

Dutchmen generally swim well: he soon joined us, and we retreated to our ship. On our return we took a different route, and observed many strange objects. We shot two wild oxen, each with one horn, also like the inhabitants, except that it sprouted from between the eyes of these animals; we were afterwards concerned at having destroyed them, as we found, by inquiry, they tamed these creatures, and used them as we do horses, to ride upon and draw their carriages; their flesh, we were informed, is excellent, but useless where people live upon cheese and milk. When we had reached within two days' journey of the ship we observed three men hanging to a tall tree by their heels; upon inquiring the cause of their punishment, I found they had all been travellers, and upon their return home had deceived their friends by describing places they never saw, and relating things that never happened: this gave me no concern, as I have ever confined myself to facts.

As soon as we arrived at the ship we unmoored, and set sail from this extraordinary country, when, to our astonishment, all the trees upon shore, of which there were a great number very tall and large, paid their respects to us twice, bowing to exact time, and immediately recovered their former posture, which was quite erect.

By what we could learn of this CHEESE, it was considerably larger than the continent of all Europe!

After sailing three months we knew not where, being still without compass, we arrived in a sea which appeared to be almost black: upon tasting it we found it most excellent wine, and had great difficulty to keep the sailors from getting drunk with it: however, in a few hours we found ourselves surrounded by whales and other animals of an immense magnitude, one of which appeared to be too large for the eye to form a judgment of: we did not see him till we were close to him. This monster drew our ship, with all her masts standing, and sails bent, by suction into his mouth, between his teeth, which were much larger and taller than the mast of a first-rate man-of-war. After we had been in his mouth some time he opened it pretty wide, took in an immense quantity of water, and floated our vessel, which was at least 500 tons burthen, into his stomach; here we lay as quiet as at anchor in a dead calm. The air, to be sure, was rather warm, and very offensive. We found anchors, cables, boats, and barges in abundance, and a considerable number of ships, some laden and some not, which this creature had swallowed. Everything was transacted by torch-light; no sun, no moon, no planet, to make observations from. We were all generally afloat and aground twice a-day; whenever he drank, it became high water with us; and when he evacuated, we found ourselves aground; upon a moderate computation, he took in more water at a single draught than is generally to be found in the Lake of Geneva, though that is above thirty miles in circumference. On the second day of our confinement in these regions of darkness, I ventured at low water, as we called it when the ship was aground, to ramble with the Captain, and a few of the other officers, with lights in our hands; we met with people of all nations, to the amount of upwards of ten thousand; they were going to hold a council how to recover their liberty; some of them having lived in this animal's stomach several years; there were several children here who had never seen the world, their mothers having lain in repeatedly in this warm situation. Just as the chairman was going to inform us of the business upon which we were assembled, this plaguy fish, becoming thirsty, drank in his usual manner; the water poured in with such impetuosity, that we were all obliged to retreat to our respective ships immediately, or run the risk of being drowned; some were obliged to swim for it, and with difficulty saved their lives. In a few hours after we were more fortunate, we met again just after the monster had evacuated. I was chosen chairman, and the first thing I did was to propose splicing two main-masts together, and the next time he opened his mouth to be ready to wedge them in, so as to prevent his shutting it. It was unanimously approved. One hundred stout men were chosen upon this service. We had scarcely got our masts properly prepared when an opportunity offered; the monster opened his mouth, immediately the top of the mast was placed against the roof, and the other end pierced his tongue, which effectually prevented him from shutting his mouth. As soon as everything in his stomach was afloat, we manned a few boats, who rowed themselves and us into the world. The daylight, after, as near as we could judge, three months' confinement in total darkness, cheered our spirits surprisingly. When we had all taken our leave of this capacious animal, we mustered just a fleet of ninety-five ships, of all nations, who had been in this confined situation.

We left the two masts in his mouth, to prevent others being confined in the same horrid gulf of darkness and filth. Our first object was to learn what part of the world we were in; this we were for some time at a loss to ascertain: at last I found, from former observations, that we were in the Caspian Sea! which washes part of the country of the Calmuck Tartars. How we came here it was impossible to conceive, as this sea has no communication with any other. One of the inhabitants of the Cheese Island, whom I had brought with me, accounted for it thus:-that the monster in whose stomach we had been so long confined had carried us here through some subterraneous passage; however, we pushed to shore, and I was the first who landed. Just as I put my foot upon the ground a large bear leaped upon me with its fore-paws; I caught one in each hand, and squeezed him till he cried out most lustily; however, in this position I held him till I starved him to death. You may laugh, gentlemen, but this was soon accomplished, as I prevented him licking his paws. From hence I travelled up to St. Petersburg a second time: here an old friend gave me a most excellent pointer, descended from the famous bitch before-mentioned, that littered while she was hunting a hare. I had the misfortune to have him shot soon after by a blundering sportsman, who fired at him instead of a covey of partridges which he had just set. Of this creature's skin I have had this waistcoat made (showing his waistcoat), which always leads me involuntarily to game if I walk in the fields in the proper season, and when I come within shot, one of the buttons constantly flies off, and lodges upon the spot where the sport is; and as the birds rise, being always primed and cocked, I never miss them. Here are now but three buttons left. I shall have a new set sewed on against the shooting season commences.

When a covey of partridges is disturbed in this manner, by the button falling amongst them, they always rise from the ground in a direct line before each other. I one day, by forgetting to take my ramrod out of my gun, shot it straight through a leash, as regularly as if the cook had spitted them. I had forgot to put in any shot, and the rod had been made so hot with the powder, that the birds were completely roasted by the time I reached home.

Since my arrival in England I have accomplished what I had very much at heart, viz., providing for the inhabitant of the Cheese Island, whom I had brought with me. My old friend, Sir William Chambers, who is entirely indebted to me for all his ideas of Chinese gardening, by a description of which he has gained such high reputation; I say, gentlemen, in a discourse which I had with this gentlemen, he seemed much distressed for a contrivance to light the lamps at the new buildings, Somerset House; the common mode with ladders, he observed, was both dirty and inconvenient. My native of the Cheese Island popped into my head; he was only nine feet high when I first brought him from his own country, but was now increased to ten and a half: I introduced him to Sir William, and he is appointed to that honourable office. He is also to carry, under a large cloak, a utensil in each coat pocket, instead of those four which Sir William has very properly fixed for private purposes in so conspicuous a situation, the great quadrangle.

He has also obtained from Mr. PITT the situation of messenger to his Majesty's lords of the bed-chamber, whose principal employment will now be, divulging the secrets of the Royal household to their worthy Patron.

SUPPLEMENT

Extraordinary flight on the back of an eagle, over France to Gibraltar, South and North America, the Polar Regions, and back to England, within six-and-thirty hours.

About the beginning of his present Majesty's reign I had some business with a distant relation who then lived on the Isle of Thanet; it was a family dispute, and not likely to be finished soon. I made it a practice during my residence there, the weather being fine, to walk out every morning. After a few of these excursions I observed an object upon a great eminence about three miles distant: I extended my walk to it, and found the ruins of an ancient temple: I approached it with admiration and astonishment; the traces of grandeur and magnificence which yet remained were evident proofs of its former splendour: here I could not help lamenting the ravages and devastations of time, of which that

once noble structure exhibited such a melancholy proof. I walked round it several times, meditating on the fleeting and transitory nature of all terrestrial things; on the eastern end were the remains of a lofty tower, near forty feet high, overgrown with ivy, the top apparently flat; I surveyed it on every side very minutely, thinking that if I could gain its summit I should enjoy the most delightful prospect of the circumjacent country. Animated with this hope, I resolved, if possible, to gain the summit, which I at length effected by means of the ivy, though not without great difficulty and danger; the top I found covered with this evergreen, except a large chasm in the middle. After I had surveyed with pleasing wonder the beauties of art and nature that conspired to enrich the scene, curiosity prompted me to sound the opening in the middle, in order to ascertain its depth, as I entertained a suspicion that it might probably communicate with some unexplored subterranean cavern in the hill; but having no line I was at a loss how to proceed. After revolving the matter in my thoughts for some time, I resolved to drop a stone down and listen to the echo: having found one that answered my purpose I placed myself over the hole, with one foot on each side, and stooping down to listen, I dropped the stone, which I had no sooner done than I heard a rustling below, and suddenly a monstrous eagle put up its head right opposite my face, and rising up with irresistible force, carried me away seated on its shoulders: I instantly grasped it round the neck, which was large enough to fill my arms, and its wings, when extended, were ten yards from one extremity to the other. As it rose with a regular ascent, my seat was perfectly easy, and I enjoyed the prospect below with inexpressible pleasure. It hovered over Margate for some time, was seen by several people, and many shots were fired at it; one ball hit the heel of my shoe, but did me no injury. It then directed its course to Dover cliff, where it alighted, and I thought of dismounting, but was prevented by a sudden discharge of musketry from a party of marines that were exercising on the beach; the balls flew about my head, and rattled on the feathers of the eagle like hail-stones, yet I could not perceive it had received any injury. It instantly reascended and flew over the sea towards Calais, but so very high that the Channel seemed to be no broader than the Thames at London Bridge. In a quarter of an hour I found myself over a thick wood in France, where the eagle descended very rapidly, which caused me to slip down to the back part of its head; but alighting on a large tree, and raising its head, I recovered my seat as before, but saw no possibility of disengaging myself without the danger of being killed by the fall; so I determined to sit fast, thinking it would carry me to the Alps, or some other high mountain, where I could dismount without any danger. After resting a few minutes it took wing, flew several times round the wood, and screamed loud enough to be heard across the English Channel. In a few minutes one of the same species arose out of the wood, and flew directly towards us; it surveyed me with evident marks of displeasure, and came very near me. After flying several times round, they both directed their course to the south-west. I soon observed that the one I rode upon could not keep pace with the other, but inclined towards the earth, on account of my weight; its companion perceiving this, turned round and placed itself in such a position that the other could rest its head on its rump; in this manner they proceeded till noon, when I saw the rock of Gibraltar very distinctly. The day being clear, notwithstanding my degree of elevation, the earth's surface appeared just like a map, where land, sea, lakes, rivers, mountains, and the like were perfectly distinguishable; and having some knowledge of geography, I was at no loss to determine what part of the globe I was in.

Whilst I was contemplating this wonderful prospect a dreadful howling suddenly began all around me, and in a moment I was invested by thousands of small, black, deformed, frightful looking creatures, who pressed me on all sides in such a manner that I could neither move hand or foot: but I had not been in their possession more than ten minutes when I heard the most delightful music that can possibly be imagined, which was suddenly changed into a noise the most awful and tremendous, to which the report of cannon, or the loudest claps of thunder could bear no more proportion than the gentle zephyrs of the evening to the most dreadful hurricane; but the shortness of its duration prevented all those fatal effects which a prolongation of it would certainly have been attended with.

The music commenced, and I saw a great number of the most beautiful little creatures seize the other party, and throw them with great violence into something like a snuff-box, which they shut down, and one threw it away with incredible velocity; then turning to me, he said they whom he had secured were a party of devils, who had wandered from their proper habitation; and that the vehicle in which they were enclosed would fly with unabating rapidity for ten thousand years, when it would burst of its own accord, and the devils would recover their liberty and faculties, as at the present moment. He had no sooner finished this relation than the music ceased, and they all disappeared, leaving me in a state of mind bordering on the confines of despair.

When I had recomposed myself a little, and looking before me with inexpressible pleasure, I observed that the eagles were preparing to light on the peak of Teneriffe: they descended on the top of the rock, but seeing no possible means of escape if I dismounted determined me to remain where I was. The eagles sat down seemingly fatigued, when the heat of the sun soon caused them both to fall asleep, nor did I long resist its fascinating power. In the cool of the evening, when the sun had retired below the horizon, I was roused from sleep by the eagle moving under me; and having stretched myself along its back, I sat up, and reassumed my travelling position, when they both took wing, and having placed themselves as before, directed their course to South America. The moon shining bright during the whole night, I had a fine view of all the islands in those seas.

About the break of day we reached the great continent of America, that part called Terra Firma, and descended on the top of a very high mountain. At this time the moon, far distant in the west, and obscured by dark clouds, but just afforded light sufficient for me to discover a kind of shrubbery all around, bearing fruit something like cabbages, which the eagles began to feed on very eagerly. I endeavoured to discover my situation, but fogs and passing clouds involved me in the thickest darkness, and what rendered the scene still more shocking was the tremendous howling of wild beasts, some of which appeared to be very near: however, I determined to keep my seat, imagining that the eagle would carry me away if any of them should make a hostile attempt. When daylight began to appear, I thought of examining the fruit which I had seen the eagles eat, and as some was hanging which I could easily come at, I took out my knife and cut a slice; but how great was my surprise to see that it had all the appearance of roast beef regularly mixed, both fat and lean! I tasted it, and found it well flavoured and delicious, then cut several large slices and put in my pocket, where I found a crust of bread which I had brought from Margate; took it out, and found three musket-balls that had been lodged in it on Dover cliff. I extracted them, and cutting a few slices more, made a hearty meal of bread and cold beef fruit. I then cut down two of the largest that grew near me, and tying them together with one of my garters, hung them over the eagle's neck for another occasion, filling my pockets at the same time. While I was settling these affairs I observed a large fruit like an inflated bladder, which I wished to try an experiment upon: and striking my knife into one of them, a fine pure liquor like Hollands gin rushed out, which the eagles observing, eagerly drank up from the ground. I cut down the bladder as fast as I could, and saved about half a pint in the bottom of it, which I tasted, and could not distinguish it from the best mountain wine. I drank it all, and found myself greatly refreshed. By this time the eagles began to stagger against the shrubs. I endeavoured to keep my seat, but was soon thrown to some distance among the bushes. In attempting to rise I put my hand upon a large hedgehog, which happened to lie among the grass upon its back: it instantly closed round my hand, so that I found it impossible to shake it off. I struck it several times against the ground without effect; but while I was thus employed I heard a rustling among the shrubbery, and looking up, I saw a huge animal within three yards of me; I could make no defence, but held out both my hands, when it rushed upon me, and seized that on which the hedgehog was fixed. My hand being soon relieved, I ran to some distance, where I saw the creature suddenly drop down and expire with the hedgehog in its throat. When the danger was past I went to view the eagles, and found them lying on the grass fast asleep, being intoxicated with the liquor they had drank. Indeed, I found myself considerably elevated by it, and seeing everything quiet, I began to search for some more, which I soon found; and having cut down two large bladders, about a gallon each, I tied them together, and hung them over the neck of the other eagle, and the two smaller ones I tied with a cord round my own waist. Having secured a good stock of provisions, and perceiving the eagles begin to recover, I again took my seat. In half an hour they arose majestically from the place, without taking the least notice of their incumbrance. Each reassumed its former station; and directing their course to the northward, they crossed the Gulf of Mexico, entered North America, and steered directly for the Polar regions, which gave me the finest opportunity of viewing this vast continent that can possibly be imagined.

Before we entered the frigid zone the cold began to affect me; but piercing one of my bladders, I took a draught, and found that it could make no impression on me afterwards. Passing over Hudson's Bay, I saw several of the Company's ships lying at anchor, and many tribes of Indians marching with their furs to market.

By this time I was so reconciled to my seat, and become such an expert rider, that I could sit up and look around me; but in general I lay along the eagle's neck, grasping it in my arms, with my hands immersed in its feathers, in order to keep them warm.

In those cold climates I observed that the eagles flew with greater rapidity, in order, I suppose, to keep their blood in circulation. In passing Baffin's Bay I saw several large Greenlandmen to the eastward, and many surprising mountains of ice in those seas.

While I was surveying these wonders of nature it occurred to me that this was a good opportunity to discover the north-west passage, if any such thing existed, and not only obtain the reward offered by government, but the honour of a discovery pregnant with so many advantages to every European nation. But while my thoughts were absorbed in this pleasing reverie I was alarmed by the first eagle striking its head against a solid transparent substance, and in a moment that which I rode experienced the same fate, and both fell down seemingly dead.

Here our lives must inevitably have terminated, had not a sense of danger, and the singularity of my situation, inspired me with a degree of skill and dexterity which enabled us to fall near two miles perpendicular with as little inconveniency as if we had been let down with a rope: for no sooner did I perceive the eagles strike against a frozen cloud, which is very common near the poles, than (they being close together) I laid myself along the back of the foremost, and took hold of its wings to keep them extended, at the same time stretching out my legs behind to support the wings of the other. This had the desired effect, and we descended very safe on a mountain of ice, which I supposed to be about three miles above the level of the sea.

I dismounted, unloaded the eagles, opened one of the bladders, and administered some of the liquor to each of them, without once considering that the horrors of destruction seemed to have conspired against me. The roaring of waves, crashing of ice, and the howling of bears, conspired to form a scene the most awful and tremendous: but notwithstanding this, my concern for the recovery of the eagles was so great, that I was insensible of the danger to which I was exposed. Having rendered them every assistance in my power, I stood over them in painful anxiety, fully sensible that it was only by means of them that I could possibly be delivered from these abodes of despair.

But suddenly a monstrous bear began to roar behind me, with a voice like thunder. I turned round, and seeing the creature just ready to devour me, having the bladder of liquor in my hands, through fear I squeezed it so hard, that it burst, and the liquor flying in the eyes of the animal, totally deprived it of sight. It instantly turned from me, ran away in a state of distraction, and soon fell over a precipice of ice into the sea, where I saw it no more.

The danger being over, I again turned my attention to the eagles, whom I found in a fair way of recovery, and suspecting that they were faint for want of victuals, I took one of the beef fruit, cut it into small slices, and presented them with it, which they devoured with avidity.

Having given them plenty to eat and drink, and disposed of the remainder of my provision, I took possession of my seat as before. After composing myself, and adjusting everything in the best manner, I began to eat and drink very heartily; and through the effects of the mountain wine, as I called it, was very cheerful, and began to sing a few verses of a song which I had learned when I was a boy: but the noise soon alarmed the eagles, who had been asleep, through the quantity of liquor which they had drank, and they rose seemingly much terrified. Happily for me, however, when I was feeding them I had accidentally turned their heads towards the south-east, which course they pursued with a rapid motion. In a few hours I saw the Western Isles, and soon after had the inexpressible pleasure of seeing Old England. I took no notice of the seas or islands over which I passed.

The eagles descended gradually as they drew near the shore, intending, as I supposed, to alight on one of the Welsh mountains; but when they came to the distance of about sixty yards two guns were fired at them, loaded with balls, one of which took place in a bladder of liquor that hung to my waist; the other entered the breast of the foremost eagle, who fell to the ground, while that which I rode, having received no injury, flew away with amazing swiftness.

This circumstance alarmed me exceedingly, and I began to think it was impossible for me to escape with my life; but recovering a little, I once more looked down upon the earth, when, to my inexpressible joy, I saw Margate at a little distance, and the eagle descending on the old tower whence it had carried me on the morning of the day before. It no sooner came down than I threw myself off, happy to find that I was once more restored to the world. The eagle flew away in a few minutes, and I sat down to compose my fluttering spirits, which I did in a few hours.

I soon paid a visit to my friends, and related these adventures. Amazement stood in every countenance; their congratulations on my returning in safety were repeated with an unaffected degree of pleasure, and we passed the evening as we are doing now, every person present paying the highest compliments to my COURAGE and VERACITY.

THE SECOND VOLUME

PREFACE

TO THE SECOND VOLUME

Baron Munchausen has certainly been productive of much benefit to the literary world; the numbers of egregious travellers have been such, that they demanded a very Gulliver to surpass them. If Baron de Tott dauntlessly discharged an enormous piece of artillery, the Baron Munchausen has done more; he has taken it and swam with it across the sea. When travellers are solicitous to be the heroes of their own story, surely they must admit to superiority, and blush at seeing themselves out-done by the renowned Munchausen: I doubt whether any one hitherto, Pantagruel, Gargantua, Captain Lemuel, or De Tott, has been able to out-do our Baron in this species of excellence: and as at present our curiosity seems much directed to the interior of Africa, it must be edifying to have the real relation of Munchausen's adventures there before any further intelligence arrives; for he seems to adapt himself and his exploits to the spirit of the times, and recounts what he thinks should be most interesting to his auditors.

I do not say that the Baron, in the following stories, means a satire on any political matters whatever. No; but if the reader understands them so, I cannot help it.

If the Baron meets with a parcel of negro ships carrying whites into slavery to work upon their plantations in a cold climate, should we therefore imagine that he intends a reflection on the present traffic in human flesh? And that, if the negroes should do so, it would be simple justice, as retaliation is the law of God! If we were to think this a reflection on any present commercial or political matter, we should be tempted to imagine, perhaps, some political ideas conveyed in every page, in every sentence of the whole. Whether such things are or are not the intentions of the Baron the reader must judge.

We have had not only wonderful travellers in this vile world, but splenetic travellers, and of these not a few, and also conspicuous enough. It is a pity, therefore, that the Baron has not endeavoured to surpass them also in this species of story-telling. Who is it can read the travels of Smellfungus, as Sterne calls him, without admiration? To think that a person from the North of Scotland should travel through some of the finest countries in Europe, and find fault with everything he meets-nothing to please him! And therefore, methinks, the Tour to the Hebrides is more excusable, and also perhaps Mr. Twiss's Tour in Ireland. Dr. Johnson, bred in the luxuriance of London, with more reason should become cross and splenetic in the bleak and dreary regions of the Hebrides.

The Baron, in the following work, seems to be sometimes philosophical; his account of the language of the interior of Africa, and its analogy with that of the inhabitants of the moon, show him to be profoundly versed in the etymological antiquities of nations, and throw new light upon the abstruse history of the ancient Scythians, and the Collectanea.

His endeavour to abolish the custom of eating live flesh in the interior of Africa, as described in Bruce's Travels, is truly humane. But far be it from me to suppose, that by Gog and Magog and the Lord Mayor's show he means a satire upon any person or body of persons whatever: or, by a tedious litigated trial of blind judges and dumb matrons following a wild goose chase all round the world, he should glance at any trial whatever.

Nevertheless, I must allow that it was extremely presumptuous in Munchausen to tell half the sovereigns of the world that they were wrong, and advise them what they ought to do; and that instead of ordering millions of their subjects to massacre one another, it would be more to their interest to employ their forces in concert for the general good; as if he knew better than the Empress of Russia, the Grand Vizier, Prince Potemkin, or any other butcher in the world. But that he should be a royal Aristocrat, and take the part of the injured Queen of France in the present political drama, I am not at all surprised; but I suppose his mind was fired by reading the pamphlet written by Mr. Burke.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares