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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

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Part of the night passed without any incident. We watched the
opportunity for action. We spoke little, for we were too much moved.
Ned Land would have thrown himself into the sea, but I forced him to wait.
According to my idea, the Nautilus would attack the ship at her waterline,
and then it would not only be possible, but easy to fly.

At three in the morning, full of uneasiness, I mounted the platform.
Captain Nemo had not left it. He was standing at the fore part near
his flag, which a slight breeze displayed above his head. He did not take
his eyes from the vessel. The intensity of his look seemed to attract,
and fascinate, and draw it onward more surely than if he had been towing it.
The moon was then passing the meridian. Jupiter was rising in the east.
Amid this peaceful scene of nature, sky and ocean rivalled each other
in tranquillity, the sea offering to the orbs of night the finest mirror
they could ever have in which to reflect their image. As I thought of
the deep calm of these elements, compared with all those passions brooding
imperceptibly within the Nautilus, I shuddered.

The vessel was within two miles of us. It was ever nearing that
phosphorescent light which showed the presence of the Nautilus.
I could see its green and red lights, and its white lantern hanging
from the large foremast. An indistinct vibration quivered through
its rigging, showing that the furnaces were heated to the uttermost.
Sheaves of sparks and red ashes flew from the funnels, shining in the
atmosphere like stars.

I remained thus until six in the morning, without Captain Nemo noticing me.
The ship stood about a mile and a half from us, and with the first dawn
of day the firing began afresh. The moment could not be far off when,
the Nautilus attacking its adversary, my companions and myself should
for ever leave this man. I was preparing to go down to remind them,
when the second mounted the platform, accompanied by several sailors.
Captain Nemo either did not or would not see them. Some steps were taken
which might be called the signal for action. They were very simple.
The iron balustrade around the platform was lowered, and the lantern and pilot
cages were pushed within the shell until they were flush with the deck.
The long surface of the steel cigar no longer offered a single point to check
its manoeuvres. I returned to the saloon. The Nautilus still floated;
some streaks of light were filtering through the liquid beds.
With the undulations of the waves the windows were brightened by
the red streaks of the rising sun, and this dreadful day of the 2nd of
June had dawned.

At five o'clock, the log showed that the speed of the Nautilus
was slackening, and I knew that it was allowing them to
draw nearer. Besides, the reports were heard more distinctly,
and the projectiles, labouring through the ambient water,
were extinguished with a strange hissing noise.

"My friends," said I, "the moment is come. One grasp of the hand,
and may God protect us!"

Ned Land was resolute, Conseil calm, myself so nervous
that I knew not how to contain myself. We all passed into
the library; but the moment I pushed the door opening on to
the central staircase, I heard the upper panel close sharply.
The Canadian rushed on to the stairs, but I stopped him.
A well-known hissing noise told me that the water was running
into the reservoirs, and in a few minutes the Nautilus
was some yards beneath the surface of the waves.
I understood the manoeuvre. It was too late to act.
The Nautilus did not wish to strike at the impenetrable cuirass,
but below the water-line, where the metallic covering no
longer protected it.

We were again imprisoned, unwilling witnesses of the dreadful
drama that was preparing. We had scarcely time to reflect;
taking refuge in my room, we looked at each other without speaking.
A deep stupor had taken hold of my mind: thought seemed to stand still.
I was in that painful state of expectation preceding a dreadful report.
I waited, I listened, every sense was merged in that of hearing!
The speed of the Nautilus was accelerated. It was preparing to rush.
The whole ship trembled. Suddenly I screamed. I felt the shock,
but comparatively light. I felt the penetrating power of the steel spur.
I heard rattlings and scrapings. But the Nautilus, carried along
by its propelling power, passed through the mass of the vessel like a
needle through sailcloth!

I could stand it no longer. Mad, out of my mind, I rushed
from my room into the saloon. Captain Nemo was there,
mute, gloomy, implacable; he was looking through the port panel.
A large mass cast a shadow on the water; and, that it might
lose nothing of her agony, the Nautilus was going down into
the abyss with her. Ten yards from me I saw the open shell,
through which the water was rushing with the noise of thunder,
then the double line of guns and the netting. The bridge was
covered with black, agitated shadows.

The water was rising. The poor creatures were crowding the ratlines,
clinging to the masts, struggling under the water. It was a human ant-heap
overtaken by the sea. Paralysed, stiffened with anguish, my hair standing
on end, with eyes wide open, panting, without breath, and without voice,
I too was watching! An irresistible attraction glued me to the glass!
Suddenly an explosion took place. The compressed air blew up her decks,
as if the magazines had caught fire. Then the unfortunate vessel sank
more rapidly. Her topmast, laden with victims, now appeared; then her spars,
bending under the weight of men; and, last of all, the top of her mainmast.
Then the dark mass disappeared, and with it the dead crew, drawn down by
the strong eddy.

I turned to Captain Nemo. That terrible avenger, a perfect
archangel of hatred, was still looking. When all was over,
he turned to his room, opened the door, and entered.
I followed him with my eyes. On the end wall beneath his heroes,
I saw the portrait of a woman, still young, and two little children.
Captain Nemo looked at them for some moments, stretched his arms
towards them, and, kneeling down, burst into deep sobs.

CHAPTER XXII

THE LAST WORDS OF CAPTAIN NEMO

The panels had closed on this dreadful vision, but light had not returned
to the saloon: all was silence and darkness within the Nautilus.
At wonderful speed, a hundred feet beneath the water, it was leaving
this desolate spot. Whither was it going? To the north or south?
Where was the man flying to after such dreadful retaliation?
I had returned to my room, where Ned and Conseil had remained silent enough.
I felt an insurmountable horror for Captain Nemo. Whatever he had
suffered at the hands of these men, he had no right to punish thus.
He had made me, if not an accomplice, at least a witness of his vengeance.
At eleven the electric light reappeared. I passed into the saloon.
It was deserted. I consulted the different instruments. The Nautilus was
flying northward at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour, now on the surface,
and now thirty feet below it. On taking the bearings by the chart,
I saw that we were passing the mouth of the Manche, and that our course
was hurrying us towards the northern seas at a frightful speed. That night
we had crossed two hundred leagues of the Atlantic. The shadows fell,
and the sea was covered with darkness until the rising of the moon. I went
to my room, but could not sleep. I was troubled with dreadful nightmare.
The horrible scene of destruction was continually before my eyes.
From that day, who could tell into what part of the North Atlantic
basin the Nautilus would take us? Still with unaccountable speed.
Still in the midst of these northern fogs. Would it touch at Spitzbergen,
or on the shores of Nova Zembla? Should we explore those unknown seas,
the White Sea, the Sea of Kara, the Gulf of Obi, the Archipelago of Liarrov,
and the unknown coast of Asia? I could not say. I could no longer judge
of the time that was passing. The clocks had been stopped on board.
It seemed, as in polar countries, that night and day no longer followed
their regular course. I felt myself being drawn into that strange
region where the foundered imagination of Edgar Poe roamed at will.
Like the fabulous Gordon Pym, at every moment I expected to see "that veiled
human figure, of larger proportions than those of any inhabitant of the earth,
thrown across the cataract which defends the approach to the pole."
I estimated (though, perhaps, I may be mistaken)--I estimated this
adventurous course of the Nautilus to have lasted fifteen or twenty days.
And I know not how much longer it might have lasted, had it not been
for the catastrophe which ended this voyage. Of Captain Nemo I saw nothing
whatever now, nor of his second. Not a man of the crew was visible for
an instant. The Nautilus was almost incessantly under water. When we came
to the surface to renew the air, the panels opened and shut mechanically.
There were no more marks on the planisphere. I knew not where we were.
And the Canadian, too, his strength and patience at an end, appeared no more.
Conseil could not draw a word from him; and, fearing that, in a dreadful
fit of madness, he might kill himself, watched him with constant devotion.
One morning (what date it was I could not say) I had fallen into a heavy
sleep towards the early hours, a sleep both painful and unhealthy, when I
suddenly awoke. Ned Land was leaning over me, saying, in a low voice,
"We are going to fly." I sat up.

"When shall we go?" I asked.

"To-night. All inspection on board the Nautilus seems to have ceased.
All appear to be stupefied. You will be ready, sir?"

"Yes; where are we?"

"In sight of land. I took the reckoning this morning in the fog--
twenty miles to the east."

"What country is it?"

"I do not know; but, whatever it is, we will take refuge there."

"Yes, Ned, yes. We will fly to-night, even if the sea should swallow us up."

"The sea is bad, the wind violent, but twenty miles in that light
boat of the Nautilus does not frighten me. Unknown to the crew,
I have been able to procure food and some bottles of water."

"I will follow you."

"But," continued the Canadian, "if I am surprised, I will defend myself;
I will force them to kill me."

"We will die together, friend Ned."

I had made up my mind to all. The Canadian left me.
I reached the platform, on which I could with difficulty support
myself against the shock of the waves. The sky was threatening;
but, as land was in those thick brown shadows, we must fly.
I returned to the saloon, fearing and yet hoping to see Captain Nemo,
wishing and yet not wishing to see him. What could I have said to him?
Could I hide the involuntary horror with which he inspired me?
No. It was better that I should not meet him face to face;
better to forget him. And yet---- How long seemed that day, the last
that I should pass in the Nautilus. I remained alone. Ned Land
and Conseil avoided speaking, for fear of betraying themselves.
At six I dined, but I was not hungry; I forced myself to eat in spite
of my disgust, that I might not weaken myself. At half-past six
Ned Land came to my room, saying, "We shall not see each other
again before our departure. At ten the moon will not be risen.
We will profit by the darkness. Come to the boat; Conseil and I
will wait for you."

The Canadian went out without giving me time to answer.
Wishing to verify the course of the Nautilus, I went to the saloon.
We were running N.N.E. at frightful speed, and more than fifty yards deep.
I cast a last look on these wonders of nature, on the riches of art
heaped up in this museum, upon the unrivalled collection destined
to perish at the bottom of the sea, with him who had formed it.
I wished to fix an indelible impression of it in my mind.
I remained an hour thus, bathed in the light of that luminous ceiling,
and passing in review those treasures shining under their glasses.
Then I returned to my room.

I dressed myself in strong sea clothing. I collected my notes,
placing them carefully about me. My heart beat loudly.
I could not check its pulsations. Certainly my trouble and agitation
would have betrayed me to Captain Nemo's eyes. What was he doing
at this moment? I listened at the door of his room. I heard steps.
Captain Nemo was there. He had not gone to rest. At every moment
I expected to see him appear, and ask me why I wished to fly.
I was constantly on the alert. My imagination magnified everything.
The impression became at last so poignant that I asked myself if it
would not be better to go to the Captain's room, see him face to face,
and brave him with look and gesture.

It was the inspiration of a madman; fortunately I resisted the desire,
and stretched myself on my bed to quiet my bodily agitation.
My nerves were somewhat calmer, but in my excited brain I saw
over again all my existence on board the Nautilus; every incident,
either happy or unfortunate, which had happened since my disappearance
from the Abraham Lincoln--the submarine hunt, the Torres Straits,
the savages of Papua, the running ashore, the coral cemetery,
the passage of Suez, the Island of Santorin, the Cretan diver,
Vigo Bay, Atlantis, the iceberg, the South Pole, the imprisonment
in the ice, the fight among the poulps, the storm in the Gulf Stream,
the Avenger, and the horrible scene of the vessel sunk with all her crew.
All these events passed before my eyes like scenes in a drama.
Then Captain Nemo seemed to grow enormously, his features to assume
superhuman proportions. He was no longer my equal, but a man of the waters,
the genie of the sea.

It was then half-past nine. I held my head between my hands to keep
it from bursting. I closed my eyes; I would not think any longer.
There was another half-hour to wait, another half-hour of a nightmare,
which might drive me mad.

At that moment I heard the distant strains of the organ, a sad harmony to an
undefinable chant, the wail of a soul longing to break these earthly bonds.
I listened with every sense, scarcely breathing; plunged, like Captain Nemo,
in that musical ecstasy, which was drawing him in spirit to the end of life.

Then a sudden thought terrified me. Captain Nemo had left his room.
He was in the saloon, which I must cross to fly. There I should
meet him for the last time. He would see me, perhaps speak to me.
A gesture of his might destroy me, a single word chain me on board.

But ten was about to strike. The moment had come for me to leave my room,
and join my companions.

I must not hesitate, even if Captain Nemo himself should rise before me.
I opened my door carefully; and even then, as it turned on its hinges,
it seemed to me to make a dreadful noise. Perhaps it only existed in
my own imagination.

I crept along the dark stairs of the Nautilus, stopping at each step
to check the beating of my heart. I reached the door of the saloon,
and opened it gently. It was plunged in profound darkness.
The strains of the organ sounded faintly. Captain Nemo was there.
He did not see me. In the full light I do not think he would have
noticed me, so entirely was he absorbed in the ecstasy.

I crept along the carpet, avoiding the slightest sound which might
betray my presence. I was at least five minutes reaching the door,
at the opposite side, opening into the library.

I was going to open it, when a sigh from Captain Nemo nailed me to the spot.
I knew that he was rising. I could even see him, for the light from
the library came through to the saloon. He came towards me silently,
with his arms crossed, gliding like a spectre rather than walking.
His breast was swelling with sobs; and I heard him murmur these words
(the last which ever struck my ear):

"Almighty God! enough! enough!"

Was it a confession of remorse which thus escaped from this man's conscience?

In desperation, I rushed through the library, mounted the central
staircase, and, following the upper flight, reached the boat.
I crept through the opening, which had already admitted
my two companions.

"Let us go! let us go!" I exclaimed.

"Directly!" replied the Canadian.

The orifice in the plates of the Nautilus was first closed,
and fastened down by means of a false key, with which Ned Land
had provided himself; the opening in the boat was also closed.
The Canadian began to loosen the bolts which still held us to
the submarine boat.

Suddenly a noise was heard. Voices were answering each other loudly.
What was the matter? Had they discovered our flight?
I felt Ned Land slipping a dagger into my hand.

"Yes," I murmured, "we know how to die!"

The Canadian had stopped in his work. But one word many times repeated,
a dreadful word, revealed the cause of the agitation spreading on board
the Nautilus. It was not we the crew were looking after!

"The maelstrom! the maelstrom!" Could a more dreadful word in a more
dreadful situation have sounded in our ears! We were then upon
the dangerous coast of Norway. Was the Nautilus being drawn into
this gulf at the moment our boat was going to leave its sides?
We knew that at the tide the pent-up waters between the islands
of Ferroe and Loffoden rush with irresistible violence,
forming a whirlpool from which no vessel ever escapes.
From every point of the horizon enormous waves were meeting,
forming a gulf justly called the "Navel of the Ocean,"
whose power of attraction extends to a distance of twelve miles.
There, not only vessels, but whales are sacrificed, as well as white
bears from the northern regions.

It is thither that the Nautilus, voluntarily or involuntarily,
had been run by the Captain.

It was describing a spiral, the circumference of which was lessening
by degrees, and the boat, which was still fastened to its side,
was carried along with giddy speed. I felt that sickly giddiness
which arises from long-continued whirling round.

We were in dread. Our horror was at its height, circulation had stopped,
all nervous influence was annihilated, and we were covered with cold sweat,
like a sweat of agony! And what noise around our frail bark!
What roarings repeated by the echo miles away! What an uproar was that
of the waters broken on the sharp rocks at the bottom, where the hardest
bodies are crushed, and trees worn away, "with all the fur rubbed off,"
according to the Norwegian phrase!

What a situation to be in! We rocked frightfully. The Nautilus
defended itself like a human being. Its steel muscles cracked.
Sometimes it seemed to stand upright, and we with it!

"We must hold on," said Ned, "and look after the bolts.
We may still be saved if we stick to the Nautilus."

He had not finished the words, when we heard a crashing noise,
the bolts gave way, and the boat, torn from its groove, was hurled
like a stone from a sling into the midst of the whirlpool.

My head struck on a piece of iron, and with the violent shock
I lost all consciousness.

CHAPTER XXIII

CONCLUSION

Thus ends the voyage under the seas. What passed during that night--
how the boat escaped from the eddies of the maelstrom--
how Ned Land, Conseil, and myself ever came out of the gulf,
I cannot tell.

But when I returned to consciousness, I was lying in a fisherman's hut,
on the Loffoden Isles. My two companions, safe and sound, were near me
holding my hands. We embraced each other heartily.

At that moment we could not think of returning to France. The means
of communication between the north of Norway and the south are rare.
And I am therefore obliged to wait for the steamboat running monthly
from Cape North.

And, among the worthy people who have so kindly received us,
I revise my record of these adventures once more.
Not a fact has been omitted, not a detail exaggerated.
It is a faithful narrative of this incredible expedition in an
element inaccessible to man, but to which Progress will one day
open a road.

Shall I be believed? I do not know. And it matters little, after all.
What I now affirm is, that I have a right to speak of these seas, under which,
in less than ten months, I have crossed 20,000 leagues in that submarine tour
of the world, which has revealed so many wonders.

But what has become of the Nautilus? Did it resist the pressure
of the maelstrom? Does Captain Nemo still live? And does
he still follow under the ocean those frightful retaliations?
Or, did he stop after the last hecatomb?

Will the waves one day carry to him this manuscript containing
the history of his life? Shall I ever know the name of this man?
Will the missing vessel tell us by its nationality that of Captain Nemo?

I hope so. And I also hope that his powerful vessel has conquered
the sea at its most terrible gulf, and that the Nautilus has survived
where so many other vessels have been lost! If it be so--if Captain
Nemo still inhabits the ocean, his adopted country, may hatred be
appeased in that savage heart! May the contemplation of so many wonders
extinguish for ever the spirit of vengeance! May the judge disappear,
and the philosopher continue the peaceful exploration of the sea!
If his destiny be strange, it is also sublime. Have I not understood
it myself? Have I not lived ten months of this unnatural life?
And to the question asked by Ecclesiastes three thousand years ago,
"That which is far off and exceeding deep, who can find it out?"
two men alone of all now living have the right to give an answer----

CAPTAIN NEMO AND MYSELF.

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