CHAPTER 2


The last and loudest chorus had died away, and the Islanders were
pouring forth their libation to their great enemy the Sun, when suddenly
a vast obscurity spread over the glowing West. They looked at each
other, and turned pale, and the wine from their trembling goblets fell
useless on the shore. The women were too frightened to scream, and, for
the first time in the Isle of Fantaisie, silence existed after sunset.
They were encouraged when they observed that the darkness ceased at that
point in the heavens which overlooked their coral rocks; and perceiving
that their hitherto unsullied sky was pure, even at this moment of
otherwise universal gloom, the men regained their colour, touched the
goblets with their lips, further to reanimate themselves, and the women,
now less discomposed, uttered loud shrieks.

Suddenly the wind roared with unaccustomed rage, the sea rose into large
billows, and a ship was seen tossing in the offing. The Islanders, whose
experience of navigation extended only to a slight paddling in their
lagoon, in the half of a hollow trunk of a tree, for the purpose of
fishing, mistook the tight little frigate for a great fish; and being
now aware of the cause of this disturbance, and at the same time feeling
confident that the monster could never make way through the shallow
waters to the island, they recovered their courage, and gazed upon the
labouring leviathan with the same interested nonchalance with which
students at a modern lecture observe an expounding philosopher.

'What a shadow he casts over the sky!' said the King, a young man,
whose divine right was never questioned by his female subjects. 'What a
commotion in the waters, and what a wind he snorts forth! It certainly
must be the largest fish that exists. I remember my father telling me
that a monstrous fish once got entangled among our rocks, and this part
of the island really smelt for a month; I cannot help fancying that
there is a rather odd smell now; pah!'

A favourite Queen flew to the suffering monarch, and pressing her
aromatic lips upon his offended nostrils, his Majesty recovered.

The unhappy crew of the frigate, who, with the aid of their telescopes,
had detected the crowds upon the shore, now fired their signal guns of
distress, which came sullenly booming through the wind.

'Oh! the great fish is speaking!' was the universal exclamation.

'I begin to get frightened,' said the favourite Queen. 'I am sure the
monster is coming here!' So saying, her Majesty grasped up a handful of
pearls from the shore, to defend herself.

As screaming was now the fashion, all the women of course screamed; and
animated by the example of their sovereign, and armed with the marine
gems, the Amazons assumed an imposing attitude.

Just at the moment that they had worked up their enthusiasm to the
highest pitch, and were actually desirous of dying for their country,
the ship sunk.



CHAPTER 3


It is the flush of noon; and, strange to say, a human figure is seen
wandering on the shore of the Isle of Fantaisie.

'One of the crew of the wrecked frigate, of course? What an escape!
Fortunate creature! interesting man! Probably the indefatigable Captain
Parry; possibly the undaunted Captain Franklin; perhaps the adventurous
Captain Lyon!'

No! sweet blue-eyed girl! my plots are not of that extremely guessable
nature so admired by your adorable sex. Indeed, this book is so
constructed that if you were even, according to custom, to commence
its perusal by reading the last page, you would not gain the slightest
assistance in finding out 'how the story ends.'

The wanderer belongs to no frigate-building nation. He is a true
Fantaisian; who having, in his fright, during yesterday's storm, lost
the lock of hair which, in a moment of glorious favour, he had ravished
from his fair mistress's brow, is now, after a sleepless night, tracing
every remembered haunt of yesterday, with the fond hope of regaining
his most precious treasure. Ye Gentlemen of England, who live at home at
ease, know full well the anxiety and exertion, the days of management,
and the nights of meditation which the rape of a lock requires, and you
can consequently sympathize with the agitated feelings of the handsome
and the hapless Popanilla.

The favourite of all the women, the envy of all the men, Popanilla
passed a pleasant life. No one was a better judge of wine, no one had a
better taste for fruit, no one danced with more elegant vivacity, and no
one whispered compliments in a more meaning tone. His stories ever had
a point, his repartees were never ill-natured. What a pity that such an
amiable fellow should have got into such a scrape!

In spite of his grief, however, Popanilla soon found that the ardency of
his passion evaporated under a smoking sun; and, exhausted, he was
about to return home from his fruitless search, when his attention
was attracted by a singular appearance. He observed before him, on
the shore, a square and hitherto unseen form. He watched it for some
minutes, but it was motionless. He drew nearer, and observed it with
intense attention; but, if it were a being, it certainly was fast
asleep. He approached close to its side, but it neither moved nor
breathed. He applied his nose to the mysterious body, and the elegant
Fantaisian drew back immediately from a most villanous smell of pitch.
Not to excite too much, in this calm age, the reader's curiosity, let
him know at once that this strange substance was a sea-chest. Upon it
was marked, in large black letters, S. D. K. No. 1.

For the first time in his life Popanilla experienced a feeling of
overwhelming curiosity. His fatigue, his loss, the scorching hour, and
the possible danger were all forgotten in an indefinite feeling that the
body possessed contents more interesting than its unpromising exterior,
and in a resolute determination that the development of the mystery
should be reserved only for himself.

Although he felt assured that he must be unseen, he could not refrain
from throwing a rapid glance of anxiety around him. It was a moment of
perfect stillness: the island slept in sunshine, and even the waves had
ceased to break over the opposing rocks. A thousand strange and singular
thoughts rushed into his mind, but his first purpose was ever uppermost;
and at length, unfolding his girdle of skin, he tied the tough cincture
round the chest, and, exerting all his powers, dragged his mysterious
waif into the nearest wood.

But during this operation the top fell off, and revealed the neatest
collection of little packages that ever pleased the eye of the admirer
of spruce arrangement. Popanilla took up packets upon all possible
subjects; smelt them, but they were not savory; he was sorely puzzled.
At last, he lighted on a slender volume bound in brown calf, which,
with the confined but sensual notions of a savage, he mistook for
gingerbread, at least. It was 'The Universal Linguist, by Mr. Hamilton;
or, the Art of Dreaming in Languages.'

No sooner had Popanilla passed that well-formed nose, which had been so
often admired by the lady whose lock of hair he had unfortunately lost,
a few times over a few pages of the Hamiltonian System than he sank
upon his bed of flowers, and, in spite of his curiosity, was instantly
overcome by a profound slumber. But his slumber, though deep, was not
peaceful, and he was the actor in an agitating drama.

He found himself alone in a gay and glorious garden. In the centre of it
grew a pomegranate tree of prodigious size; its top was lost in the sky,
and its innumerable branches sprang out in all directions, covered with
large fruit of a rich golden hue. Beautiful birds were perched upon all
parts of the tree, and chanted with perpetual melody the beauties of
their bower. Tempted by the delicious sight, Popanilla stretched forward
his ready hand to pluck; but no sooner had he grasped the fruit than the
music immediately ceased, the birds rushed away, the sky darkened,
the tree fell under the wind, the garden vanished, and Popanilla found
himself in the midst of a raging sea, buffeting the waves.

He would certainly have been drowned had he not been immediately
swallowed up by the huge monster which had not only been the occasion
of the storm of yesterday, but, ah! most unhappy business! been the
occasion also of his losing that lock of hair.

Ere he could congratulate himself on his escape he found fresh cause for
anxiety, for he perceived that he was no longer alone. No friends were
near him; but, on, the contrary, he was surrounded by strangers of a far
different aspect. They were men certainly; that is to say, they had legs
and arms, and heads, and bodies as himself; but instead of that bloom
of youth, that regularity of feature, that amiable joyousness of
countenance, which he had ever been accustomed to meet and to love
in his former companions, he recoiled in horror from the swarthy
complexions, the sad visages, and the haggard features of his present
ones. They spoke to him in a harsh and guttural accent. He would have
fled from their advances; but then he was in the belly of a whale! When
he had become a little used to their tones he was gratified by finding
that their attentions were far from hostile; and, after having received
from them a few compliments, he began to think that they were not quite
so ugly. He discovered that the object of their inquires was the fatal
pomegranate which still remained in his hand. They admired its beauty,
and told him that they greatly esteemed an individual who possessed
such a mass of precious ore. Popanilla begged to undeceive them, and
courteously presented the fruit. No sooner, however, had he parted with
this apple of discord, than the countenances of his companions changed.
Immediately discovering its real nature, they loudly accused Popanilla
of having deceived them; he remonstrated, and they recriminated; and the
great fish, irritated by their clamour, lashed its huge tail, and with
one efficacious vomit spouted the innocent Popanilla high in the air. He
fell with such a dash into the waves that he was awakened by the sound
of his own fall.

The dreamer awoke amidst real chattering, and scuffling, and clamour. A
troop of green monkeys had been aroused by his unusual occupation, and
had taken the opportunity of his slumber to become acquainted with some
of the first principles of science. What progress they had made it
is difficult to ascertain; because, each one throwing a tract at
Popanilla's head, they immediately disappeared. It is said, however,
that some monkeys have been since seen skipping about the island,
with their tails cut off; and that they have even succeeded in passing
themselves off for human beings among those people who do not read
novels, and are consequently unacquainted with mankind.

The morning's adventure immediately rushed into Popanilla's mind, and
he proceeded forthwith to examine the contents of his chest; but with
advantages which had not been yet enjoyed by those who had previously
peeped into it. The monkeys had not been composed to sleep by the
'Universal Linguist' of Mr. Hamilton. As for Popanilla, he took up a
treatise on hydrostatics, and read it straight through on the spot. For
the rest of the day he was hydrostatically mad; nor could the commonest
incident connected with the action or conveyance of water take place
without his speculating on its cause and consequence.

So enraptured was Popanilla with his new accomplishments and
acquirements that by degrees he avoided attendance on the usual evening
assemblages, and devoted himself solely to the acquirement of useful
knowledge. After a short time his absence was remarked; but the greatest
and the most gifted has only to leave his coterie, called the world, for
a few days, to be fully convinced of what slight importance he really
is. And so Popanilla, the delight of society and the especial favourite
of the women, was in a very short time not even inquired after. At
first, of course, they supposed that he was in love, or that he had
a slight cold, or that he was writing his memoirs; and as these
suppositions, in due course, take their place in the annals of society
as circumstantial histories, in about a week one knew the lady, another
had beard him sneeze, and a third had seen the manuscript. At the end of
another week Popanilla was forgotten.