the adventures of baron munchausen
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 is 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.