Samuel Butler.

Erewhon, or, Over the range online

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University of California • Berkeley

From the Collection of

Edward Hellman Heller


Elinor Raas Heller





" Tov yap eJpai doKovvro? dyaOov xctpti' Travra irpaTTOvai Trdpres.''

— Arist. Pol.

" There is no action save upon a balance of considerations."

— [Paraphrase].



[All HfjJits reserved']


The Antlior wishes it to be understood that Erewlion
is pronounced as a word of three syllableSj all short —
thus, E-re-whon.





































IF the reader will excuse me, I will say nothing of
my antecedents, nor of the circumstances wliich
led me to leave my native country; the narrative
would he tedious to him and painful to myself.
Suffice it, that when I left home it was with the in-
tentioli of going to some new colony, and either find-
ing, or even perhaps purchasing, waste crown land
suitahle for cattle or sheep farming, by which means
I thought that I could better my fortunes more rapidly
than in England.

It will be seen that I did not succeed in my design,
and that however much I may have met with that was
new and strange, I have been unable to reap any
pecuniary advantage.

It is true, I imagine myself to have made a dis-
covery which, if I can be the first to profit by it, will
bring me a recompense beyond all money computation,
and secure me a position such as has not been attained
by more than some fifteen or sixteen persons, since the
creation of the universe. But to this end I must
possess myself of a considerable sum of money: neither
do I know how to get it, except by interesting the
public in my story, and inducing the charitable to
come forward and assist me. With this hope I now



publish my adventures; but I do so with great reluct-
ance, for I fear that my story will be doubted unless I
tell the whole of it ; and yet I dare not do so, lest
others with more means than mine should get the start
of me. I prefer the risk of being doubted to that of
being anticipated, and have therefore concealed my
destination on leaving England, as also the point
from which I began my more serious and difficult

My chief consolation lies in the fact that truth
bears its own impress, and that my story will carry
conviction by reason of the internal evidences for its
accuracy. I am sure, that no one who is himself
honest will doubt my being so.

I reached my destination in one of the last months

of 1868, but I dare not mention the season, lest the

reader should gather in which hemisphere I was.

The colony was one which had not been opened up even

to the most adventurous settlers for more than eight

or nine years, having been previously uninhabited,

save by a few tribes of savages, who frequented the

seaboard. The part known to Europeans consisted

of a coast line about eight hundred miles in length

(affording three or four good harbours), and a tract of

country extending inland for a space varying from

two to three hundred miles, until it reached the

offshoots of an exceedingly lofty range of mountains,

which could be seen from far out upon the plain, and

were covered with perpetual snow. The coast was

perfectly well-known both north and south of the

tract to which I have alluded, but in neither direction

was there a single harbour for five hundred miles,

and the mountains, which descended almost into the


sea, were covered witli thick timber, so that none
would think of settling.

With this bay of land, however, the case was
different. The harbours were sufficient ; the country
was timbered, but not too heavily; it was admir-
ably suited for agriculture ; it also contained millions
on millions of acres of the most beautifully grassed
country in the world, and of the best suited for all
manner of sheep and cattle. The climate was tem-
perate, and very healthy ; there were no wild animals,
nor were the natives dangerous, being few in number,
and of an intelligent, tractable disposition.

It may be readily understood that when once
Europeans set foot upon this territory they were not
slow to take advantage of its capabilities. Sheep and
cattle were introduced, and bred with extreme rapidity;
men took up their 50,000 or 100,000 acres of country,
going inland one behind the other, till in a few years
there was not an acre between the sea and the front
ranges which was not taken up, and stations either
for sheep or cattle were spotted about at intervals of
some twenty or thirty miles over the whole country.
The front ranges stopped the tide of squatters for
some little time ; it was thought that there was too
much snow upon them for too many months in the
year, — that the sheep would get lost, the ground being
too difficult for shepherding, — that the expense of
getting wool down to the ship's side would eat up the
farmer's profits, — and that the grass was too rough
and sour for sheej) to thrive upon ; but one after
another determined to try the experiment, and it was
wonderful how successfully it turned out. Men pushed
farther and farther into the mountains, and found a


YQXj considerable tract inside the front range, be-
tween it and another which was loftier still, though
even this was not the highest, the great snowy one
which could be seen from out upon the |)lains. This
second range, however, seemed to mark the extreme
limits of pastoral country ; and it was here, at a small
and newly founded station, that I was received as a
cadet, and soon regularly employed. I was then just
twenty-two years old.

T was delighted with the country and the manner
of life. It was my daily business to go up to the
top of a certain high mountain, and down one of its
spurs on to the flat, in order to make sure that no
sheep had crossed their boundaries. I was to see the
sheep, not necessarily close at hand, nor to get them in
a single mob, but to see enough of them here and there
to feel easy that nothing had gone wrong ; this was
no difficult matter, for there were not above eight hun-
dred of them; and, being all breeding ewes, they were
pretty quiet.

There were a good many sheep which I knew,
as two or three black ewes, and a black lamb or
two, and several others which had some distinguish-
ing mark whereby I could tell them. I would try
and see all these, and if they were all there, and the
mob looked large enough, I might rest assured that
all was well. It is surprising how soon the eye be-
comes accustomed to missing twenty sheep out of two
or three hundred. I had a telescope and a dog, and
would take bread and meat and tobacco with me.
Starting with early dawn, it would be night before I
could complete my round; for the mountain over
which I had to go was very high. In winter it was


covered with snow, and the sheep needed no watch-
ing from above. If I were to see sheep dung or
tracks going down on to the other side of the mountain
(where there was a valley with a stream — a mere cul
de sac), I was to follow them, and look out for sheep;
but I never saw any, the sheep always descending on
to their own sidie, partly from 'habit, and partly be-
cause there was abundance of good sweet feed, which,
had been burnt in the early spring, just before I
came, and was now deliciously green and rich, while
that on the other side had never been burnt, and was
rank and coarse.

It was a monotonous life, but it was very health}^ ;
and one does not much mind anything when one is
well. The country was the grandest that can be ima-
gined. How often have I sat on the mountain side
and watched the waving downs, with the two white
specks of huts in the distance, and the little square
of garden behind them ; the paddock with a patch of
bright green oats above the huts, and the yards and
wool-sheds down on the flat below ; all seen as
through the wrong end of a telescope, so clear and
brilliant was the air, or as upon a colossal model or
map spread out beneath me. Beyond the downs was
a plain, going down to a river of great size, on the
farther side of which there were other high moun-
tains, with the winter's snow still not quite melted ;
up the river, which ran winding in many streams over
a bed some two miles broad, I looked upon the second
great chain, and could see a narrow gorge where the
river retired and was lost. I knew that there was a range
still farther back ; but except from one place near the
very top of my own mountain, no part of it was visi-


ble : from this point, however, I saw, whenever there
were no clouds, a single snow-clad peak, many miles
away, and I should think about as high as any moun-
tain in the world. Never shall I forget the utter lone-
liness of the prospect — only the little far-away home-
stead giving sign of human handiwork ; — the vast-
ness of mountain and plain, and river and sky ; the
marvellous atmospheric effects — sometimes black
mountains against a white sky, and then agaio, after
cold weather, white mountains against a black sky —
sometimes seen through breaks and swirls of cloud —
and sometimes, which was best of all, I went up my
mountain in a fog, and then got above the mist;
going higher and higher, I would look down upon a
sea of whiteness, through which would be thrust innu-
merable mountain tops that looked like islands.

I am there now, as I write ; I fancy that I can see
the downs, the huts, the plain, and the river-bed — that
torrent pathway of desolation, with its distant roar
of waters. Oh, wonderful ! wonderful ! so lonely and
so solemn, with the sad grey clouds above, and no
sound save a lost lamb bleating upon the mountain
side, as though its little heart were breaking. Then
there comes som.e lean and withered old ewe, with
deep gruff voice and unlovely aspect, trotting back
from the seductive pasture ; now she examines this
gully, and now that, and now she stands listening
with uplifted head, that she may hear the distant
wailing and obey it. Aha ! they see, and rush towards
each other. Alas ! they are both mistaken ; the ewe
is not the lamb's ewe, they are neither kin nor kind
to one another, and part in coldness. Each must cry
louder, and wander farther yet ; may luck be with


them both, that they may find their own at night-
fall. But this is mere dreaming, and I must pro-

I could not help speculating upon what might lie
farther up the river, and behind the second range. I
had no money, but if I could only find workable
country, I might stock it with borrowed capital, and
consider myself a made man. True, the range looked
so vast, that there seemed little chance of getting a
sufficient road through it or over it ; but no one had
yet explored it, and it is wonderful how one finds that
one can make a path into all sorts of places (and even
get a road for pack horses), which from a distance
appear inaccessible ; the river was so great, that it
must drain an inner tract — at least I thought so ; and
though every one said that it would be madness to
attempt taking sheep further inland, I knew that, only
three years ago, the same cry had been raised against
the country which my master's flock was now over-
running. I could not keep these thoughts out of my
head, as I would rest myself upon the mountain side ;
they haunted me as I went my daily rounds, and grew
upon me from hour to hour, till I resolved that, after
shearing, I would remain in doubt no longer, but
saddle my horse, take as much provision with me as I
could, and go and see for myself.

But over and above these thoughts came that of the
great range itself. What was beyond that ? Ah !
who could say ? There was no one in the whole world
who had the smallest idea, save those who were them-
selves on the other side of it — if, indeed, there was
any one at all. Could I hope to cross it ? This would
be the highest triumph that I could possibly wish for;


but it was too mnch to think of yet. I would try the
nearer range, and see how far I could go. Even if
I did not "find country, might I not find gold, or
diamonds, or copper, or silver ? I would sometimes
lie flat down to drink out of a stream, and could see
little yellow specks among the sand ; were these gold ?
People said no ; but then people always said there
was no gold until it was found to be abundant : there
was plenty of slate and granite, which I had always
understood to accompany gold ; and even though it
was not found in paying quantities here, it might be
abundant in the main ranges. These thoughts filled
my head, and I could not banish them.



A Tlast shearing came; and with the shearers there was
-^^ an old native, whom they had nicknamed Chow-
hok — though, I believe, his real name was Kahabuka.
He was a sort of chief of the natives, could speak a
little English, and was a great favourite with the
missionaries. He did not do any regular work with
the shearers, but pretended to help in the yards, his
real aim being to get the grog, which is always more
freely circulated at shearing-time : he did not get
much, for he was apt to be dangerous when drunk,
and very little would make him so : still he did get
it occasionally, and if one wanted to get anything out '
of him, it was the best bribe to offer him. I deter-
mined that I would question him, and get as much
information from him as I could. I did so. As long-
as I kept to questions about the nearer ranges, he was
easy to get on with — he had never been there ; but
there were traditions among his tribe, to the effect
that there was no sheep-country, nothing, in fact,
but stunted timber and a few river-bed flats. It was
very difficult to reach ; still there were passes : one
of them up our own river, though not directly along
the river-bed, the gorge of which was not practicable ;
he had never seen any one who had been there : was


there not enough on this side ? But when I came to
the main range, his manner changed at once. He
became uneasy, and began to prevaricate and shuffle.
In a very few minutes I could see that of this too
there existed traditions in the tribe ; but no efforts
or coaxing could get a word out of him about them.
At last I hinted about grog, and presently he feigned
consent : I gave it him ; but as soon as he had drunk
it he began shamming intoxication, and then went to
sleep, or pretended to do so, letting me kick him
pretty hard, and never budging.

I was angry, for I had to go without my own grog,
and had got nothing out of him; so the next day I
determined that he should tell me before I gave him
any, or get none at all.

Accordingly, when night came, and the shearers had
knocked off work and had their supper, I got my
share of rum in a tin pannikin, and made a sign to
Chowbok to follow me to the wool-shed, which he
willingly did, slipping out after me, and no one taking
any notice of either of us. When we got down to the
wool-shed we lit a tallow candle, and having stuck it
in an old bottle, we sat down upon the wool bales and
began to smoke. A wool-shed is a roomy place,
built somewhat on the same plan as a cathedral, with
aisles on either side, full of pens for the sheep; a great
nave, at the upper end of which the shearers work ;
and a further space for wool sorters and packers. It
always refreshed me with a semblance of antiquity
(precious in a new country), though I very well knew
that the oldest wool-shed in the settlement w^as not
more than seven years old, while this was. only two.
Chowbok pretended that he expected his grog at once,


tlioiigli we both of us knew very well what the other
was after, and that we were each playing against the
other, the one for grog, the other for information.

We had a hard fight : for more than two hours he
had tried to put me off with lies, but had carried no
conviction; during the whole time we had been morally
wrestling with one another, and had neither of us
apparently gained the least advantage ; at length,
however, I had become sure that he would give in
ultimately, and that with a little further patience I
should get his story out of him. As upon a cold day
in winter, when one has churned (as I had often had
to do), and churned in vain, and the butter makes
no sign of coming, at last one tells by the sound
that the cream has gone to sleep, and then upon a
sudden the butter comes, so I had churned at Chow-
bok until I perceived that he had arrived, as it were,
at the sleepy stage, and that, with a continuance of
steady, unexcited pressure, the day was mine. On a
sudden, without a word of warning, he rolled two bales
of wool (his strength was very great) into the middle
of the floor, and on the top of these he placed another
crosswise ; he snatched up an empty wool pack, threw
it like a mantle over his shoulders, jumped upon the
uppermost bale, and sat upon it. In a moment his
whole form was changed. His high shoulders dropped ;
he set his feet close together, heel to heel, and toe to
toe ; he laid his arms and hands close alongside of his
body, the palms following his thighs ; he held his
head high but quite straight, and his eyes stared right
in front of him ; but he frowned horribly, and assumed
an expression of face that was positively fiendish. At
the best of times Chowbok was very ugly, but he now


exceeded all conceivable limits of the hideous. His
mouth extended almost from ear to ear, his teeth
grinning horribly; his eyes glared, though they re-
mained quite fixed, and his forehead was contracted
with a most malevolent scowl.

I am afraid that my description will have conveyed
onlj^ the ridiculous side of his appearance ; but the
ridiculous and the sublime are near, and the grotesque
fiendishness of Chowbok's face approached this last, if
it did not reach it. I tried to be amused, but I felt a
sort of cree23ing at the roots of my hair and over my
whole body, as I looked and wondered what he could
be possibly intending to signify. He continued thus
for about a minute, sitting bolt upright, as stiff as a
stone, and making this fearful face. Then there came
from his lips a low moaning like the wind rising and
falling, by infinitely small gradations, till it became
almost a shriek, from which it descended and died away;
after that, he jumped down from the bale, and held up
the extended fingers of both his hands, as one who
should say " ten," though I did not then understand

For myself I was open-mouthed with astonishment.
Chowbok rolled the bales rapidly into their place, and
stood before me shuddering as in great fear; horror was
written upon his face — this time quite involuntarily —
as though the natural panic of one who had committed
an awful crime against unknown and superhuman
agencies. He nodded his head and gibbered, and
pointed repeatedly to the mountains. He would not
touch the grog, but, after a few seconds, he made a
run through the wool-shed door into the moonlight;
nor did he reappear till next day at dinner-time, when


he turned up, looking very slieej)isli and abject in liig
civility towards myself.

Of liis meaning I had no conception. How could
I ? All I could feel sure of was, that he had a mean-
ing which was true and awful to himself. It was
enough for me that I believed him to have given me
the best he had, and all he had. This kindled my
imagination more than if he had told me intelligible
stories by the hour together. I knew not what the
great snowy ranges might conceal, but I could no
longer doubt that it would be something well worth

I kept aloof from Chowbok for the next few days,
and showed no desire to question him further ; when
I spoke to him I called him Kahabuka, which grati-
fied him greatly : he seemed to have become afraid of
me, and acted as one who was in my power. Having,
therefore, made up my mind, past all turning, that I
would begin exploring as soon as shearing was over,
I thought it would be a good thing to take Chowbok
with me; so I told him that I meant going to the
nearer ranges for a few days prospecting, and that he
was to come too. I made him promises of nightly
grog, and held out the chances of finding gold. I said
nothing about the main range, for I knew that it
would frighten him. I would get him as far up our
own river as I could, and trace it if possible to its
source. I would then either go on by myself, if !•
felt my courage equal to the attempt, or return with
Chowbok. So, as soon as ever shearing was over and
the wool sent ofP, I asked leave of absence, and ob-
tained it. Also, I bought an old pack-horse and pack-
saddle, so that I might take plenty of provisions, and


blankets, and a small tent. I was to ride and find
fords over the river ; Chowbok was to follow and
lead the pack-horse, which would also carry him over
the fords. My master let me have tea and sugar,
ship's biscuits, tobacco, and salt mutton, with two or
three bottles of good brandy; for as the wool was
now sent down, abundance of provisions would come
up with the empty drays.

With the very beginning of autumn all was ready,
and we started upon our journey.



THE first day we had an easy time, following np the
great flats by the river side, which had already
been twice burned, so that there was no dense under-
growth to check us, though the ground was often rough,
and we had to go a good deal upon the river-bed.
Towards nightfall we had made a matter of some
five-and-twenty miles, and camped at the point where ^
the river entered upon the gorge.

The weather was delightfully warm, considering
that it was verging towards autumn, and that the
valley in which we were encamped must have been at
least two thousand feet above the level of the sea.
The river-bed was here about a mile and a half broad,
and entirely covered with shingle, over which the
river ran in many winding channels, looking, when
seen from above, like a tangled skein of ribbon, and
glistening in the sun. We knew that it was liable to
very sudden and heavy freshets; but even had we not
known it, we could have seen it by the snags of trees,
which must have been carried long distances, and by
the mass of vegetable and mineral debris which was
banked against their lower side, showing that at times
the whole river-bed must be covered with a roaring
torrent, many feet in depth, and of ungovernable fury.


At present the river was low, there being but five or
six streams, too deep and rapid for even a strong man
to ford on foot, but to be crossed safely on horseback.
On either side of it there were still a few acres of flat,
which grew wider and wider down the river, till they
became the large plains, on which we looked from my
master's hut. Behind us rose the lowest spurs of the
second range, leading abruptly to the range itself;
and at a distance of half a mile began the gorge,
where the river narrowed and became boisterous and
terrible. The beauty of the scene cannot be conveyed
in language. The one side of the valley was blue
with the evening shadow, through which loomed forest
and precipice, and hill side and mountain top ; and

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Online LibrarySamuel ButlerErewhon, or, Over the range → online text (page 1 of 16)