Part 3 out of 4
whose green and violet slope bore its cape of white. Then the
"Albatross" was at last over the grand Sahara; and at once she rose
into the higher zones so as to escape from a simoom which was
sweeping a wave of ruddy sand along the surface of the ground like a
bore on the surface of the sea.
Then the desolate tablelands of Chetka scattered their ballast in
blackish waves up to the, fresh. and verdant valley of Ain-Massin. It
is difficult to conceive the variety of the territories which could
be seen at one view. To the green hills covered with trees and shrubs
there succeeded long gray undulations draped like the folds of an
Arab burnous and broken in picturesque masses. In the distance could
be seen the wadys with their torrential waters, their forests of
palm-trees, and blocks of small houses grouped on a hill around a
mosque, among them Metlili, where there vegetates a religious chief.
the grand marabout Sidi Chick.
Before night several hundred miles had been accomplished above a
flattish country ridged occasionally with large sandhills. If the
"Albatross" had halted, she would have come to the earth in the
depths of the Wargla oasis hidden beneath an immense forest of
palm-trees. The town was clearly enough displayed with its three
distinct quarters, the ancient palace of the Sultan, a kind of
fortified Kasbah, houses of brick which had been left to the sun to
bake, and artesian wells dug in the valley--where the aeronef could
have renewed her water supply. But, thanks to her extraordinary
speed, the waters of the Hydaspes taken in the vale of Cashmere still
filled her tanks in the center of the African desert.
Was the "Albatross" seen by the Arabs, the Mozabites, and the Negroes
who share amongst them the town of Wargla? Certainly, for she was
saluted with many hundred gunshot, and the bullets fell back before
they reached her.
Then came the night, that silent night in the desert of which
Felicien David has so poetically told us the secrets.
During the following hours the course lay southwesterly, cutting
across the routes of El Golea, one of which was explored in 1859 by
the intrepid Duveyrier.
The darkness was profound. Nothing could be seen of the Trans-
Saharan Railway constructing on the plans of Duponchel--a long
ribbon of iron destined to bind together Algiers and Timbuktu by way
of Laghouat and Gardaia, and destined eventually to run down into the
Gulf of Guinea.
Then the "Albatross" entered the equatorial region below the tropic
of Cancer. Six hundred miles from the northern frontier of the Sahara
she crossed the route on which Major Laing met his, death in 1846,
and crossed the road of the caravans from Morocco to the Sudan, and
that part of the desert swept by the Tuaregs, where could be heard
what is called "the song of the sand," a soft and plaintive murmur
that seems to escape from the ground.
Only one thing happened. A cloud of locusts came flying along, and
there fell such a cargo of them on board as to threaten to sink the
ship. But all hands set to work to clear the deck, and the locusts
were thrown over except a few hundred kept by Tapage for his larder.
And he served them up in so succulent a fashion that Frycollin forgot
for the moment his perpetual trances and said, "these are as good as
The aeronef was then eleven hundred miles from the Wargla oasis and
almost on the northern frontier of the Sudan. About two o'clock in
the afternoon a city appeared in the bend of a large river. The river
was the Niger. The city was Timbuktu.
If, up to then, this African Mecca had only been visited by the
travelers of the ancient world Batouta, Khazan, Imbert, Mungo Park,
Adams, Laing, Caill�, Barth, Lenz, on that day by a most singular
chance the two Americans could boast of having seen, heard, and smelt
it, on their return to America--if they ever got back there.
Of having seen it, because their view included the whole triangle of
three or four miles in circumference; of having heard it, because the
day was one of some rejoicing and the noise was terrible; of having
smelt it, because the olfactory nerve could not but be very
disagreeably affected by the odors of the Youbou-Kamo square, where
the meatmarket stands close to the palace of the ancient Somai kings.
The engineer had no notion of allowing the president and secretary of
the Weldon Institute to be ignorant that they had the honor of
contemplating the Queen of the Sudan, now in the power of the Tuaregs
"Gentlemen, Timbuktu!" he said, in the same tone as twelve days
before he had said, "Gentlemen, India!" Then he continued, "Timbuktu
is an important city of from twelve to thirteen thousand inhabitants,
formerly illustrious in science and art. Perhaps you would like to
stay there for a day or two?"
Such a proposal could only have been made ironically. "But,"
continued he, "it would he dangerous among the Negroes, Berbers, and
Foullanes who occupy, it--particularly as our arrival in an aeronef
might prejudice them against you."
"Sir," said Phil Evans, in the same tone, "for the pleasure of
leaving you we would willingly risk an unpleasant reception from the
natives. Prison for prison, we would rather be in Timbuktu than on
"That is a matter of taste," answered the engineer. "Anyhow, I shall
not try the adventure, for I am responsible for the safety of the
guests who do me the honor to travel with me."
"And so," said Uncle Prudent, explosively, "you are not content with
being our jailer, but you insult us."
"Oh! a little irony, that is all!"
"Are there any weapons on board?"
"Oh, quite an arsenal."
"Two revolvers will do, if I hold one and you the other."
"A duel!" exclaimed Robur, "a duel, which would perhaps cause the
death of one of us."
"Which certainly would cause it."
"Well! No, Mr. President of the Weldon Institute, I very much prefer
keeping you alive."
"To be sure of living yourself. That is wise."
"Wise or not, it suits me. You are at liberty to think as you like,
and to complain to those who have the power to help you--if you can."
"And that we have done, Mr. Robur."
"Was it so difficult when we were crossing the inhabited part of
Europe to drop a letter overboard?"
"Did you do that?" said Robur, in a paroxysm of rage.
"And if we have done it?"
"If you have done it--you deserve --"
"To follow your letter overboard."
"Throw us over, then. We did do it."
Robur stepped towards them. At a gesture from him Tom Turner and some
of the crew ran up. The engineer was seriously tempted to put his
threat into execution, and, fearful perhaps of yielding to it, he
precipitately rushed into his cabin,
"Good!" exclaimed Phil Evans.
"And what he will dare not do," said Uncle Prudent, "I Will do! Yes,
I Will do!"
At the moment the population of Timbuktu were crowding onto the
squares and roads and the terraces built like amphitheaters. In the
rich quarters of Sankere and Sarahama, as in the miserable huts at
Raguidi, the priests from the minarets were thundering their loudest
maledictions against the aerial monster. These were more harmless
than the rifle-bullets; though assuredly, if the aeronef had come to
earth she would have certainly been torn to pieces.
For some miles noisy flocks of storks, francolins, and ibises
escorted the "Albatross" and tried to race her, but in her rapid
flight she soon distanced them.
The evening came. The air was troubled by the roarings of the
numerous herds of elephants and buffaloes which wander over this
land, whose fertility is simply marvelous. For forty-eight hours the
whole of the region between the prime meridian and the second degree,
in the bend of the Niger, was viewed from the "Albatross."
If a geographer had only such an apparatus at his command, with what
facility could he map the country, note the elevations, fix the
courses of the rivers and their affluents, and determine the
positions of the towns and villages! There would then be no huge
blanks on the map of Africa, no dotted lines, no vague designations
which are the despair of cartographers.
In the morning of the 11th the "Albatross" crossed the mountains of
northern Guinea, between the Sudan and the gulf which bears their
name. On the horizon was the confused outline of the Kong mountains
in the kingdom of Dahomey.
Since the departure from Timbuktu Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans
noticed that the course had been due south. If that direction was
persisted in they would cross the equator in six more degrees. The
"Albatross" would then abandon the continents and fly not over the
Bering Sea, or the Caspian Sea, or the North Sea, or the
Mediterranean, but over the Atlantic Ocean.
This look-out was not particularly pleasing to the two friends, whose
chances of escape had sunk to below zero. But the "Albatross" had
slackened speed as though hesitating to leave Africa behind. Was
Robur thinking of going back? No; but his attention had been
particularly attracted to the country which he was then crossing.
We know--and he knew--that the kingdom of Dahomey is one of the
most powerful on the West Coast of Africa. Strong enough to hold its
own with its neighbor Ashantee, its area is somewhat small, being
contained within three hundred and sixty leagues from north to south,
and one hundred and eighty from east to west. But its population
numbers some seven or eight hundred thousand, including the
neighboring independent territories of Whydah and Ardrah.
If Dahomey is not a large country, it is often talked about. It is
celebrated for the frightful cruelties which signalize its annual
festivals, and by its human sacrifices--fearful hecatombs intended
to honor the sovereign it has lost and the sovereign who has
succeeded him. It is even a matter of politeness when the King of
Dahomey receives a visit from some high personage or some foreign
ambassador to give him a surprise present of a dozen heads, cut off
in his honor by the minister of justice, the "minghan," who is
wonderfully skillful in that branch of his duties.
When the "Albatross" came flying over Dahomey, the old King Bahadou
had just died, and the whole population was proceeding to the
enthronization of his successor. Hence there was great agitation all
over the country, and it did not escape Robur that everybody was on
Long lines of Dahomians were hurrying along the roads from the
country into the capital, Abomey. Well kept roads radiating among
vast plains clothed with giant trees, immense fields of manioc,
magnificent forests of palms, cocoa-trees, mimosas, orange-trees,
mango-trees--such was the country whose perfumes mounted to the
"Albatross," while many parrots and cardinals swarmed among the trees.
The engineer, leaning over the rail, seemed deep in thought, and
exchanged but a few words with Tom Turner. It did not look as though
the "Albatross" had attracted the attention of those moving masses,
which were often invisible under the impenetrable roof of trees. This
was doubtless due to her keeping at a good altitude amid a bank of
About eleven o'clock in the morning the capital was sighted,
surrounded by its walls, defended by a fosse measuring twelve miles
round, with wide, regular streets on the flat plain, and a large
square on the northern side occupied by the king's palace. This huge
collection of buildings is commanded by a terrace not far from the
place of sacrifice. During the festival days it is from this high
terrace that they throw the prisoners tied up in wicker baskets, and
it can be imagined with what fury these unhappy wretches are cut in
In one of the courtyards which divide the king's palace there were
drawn up four thousand warriors, one of the contigents of the royal
army--and not the least courageous one. If it is doubtful if there
are any Amazons an the river of that name, there is no doubt of there
being Amazons at Dahomey. Some have a blue shirt with a blue or red
scarf, with white-and-blue striped trousers and a white cap; others,
the elephant-huntresses, have a heavy carbine, a short-bladed dagger,
and two antelope horns fixed to their heads by a band of iron. The
artillery-women have a blue-and-red tunic, and, as weapons,
blunderbusses and old cast cannons; and another brigade, consisting
of vestal virgins, pure as Diana, have blue tunics and white
trousers. If we add to these Amazons, five or six thousand men in
cotton drawers and shirts, with a knotted tuft to increase their
stature, we shall have passed in review the Dahomian army.
Abomey on this day was deserted. The soveriegn, the royal family, the
masculine and feminine army, and the population had all gone out of
the capital to a vast plain a few miles away surrounded by
On this plain the recognition of the new king was to take place. Here
it was that thousands of prisoners taken during recent razzias were
to be immolated in his honor.
It was about two o'clock when the "Albatross" arrived over the plain
and began to descend among the clouds which still hid her from the
There were sixteen thousand people at least come from all parts of
the kingdom, from Whydah, and Kerapay, and Ardrah, and Tombory, and
the most distant villages.
The new king--a sturdy fellow named Bou-Nadi--some five-and-twenty
years old, was seated on a hillock shaded by a group of wide-branched
trees. Before him stood his male army, his Amazons, and his people.
At the foot of the mound fifty musicians were playing on their
barbarous instruments, elephants' tusks giving forth a husky note,
deerskin drums, calabashes, guitars, bells struck with an iron
clapper, and bamboo flutes, whose shrill whistle was heard over all.
Every other second came discharges of guns and blunderbusses,
discharges of cannons with the carriages jumping so as to imperil the
lives of the artillery-women, and a general uproar so intense that
even the thunder would be unheard amidst it.
In one corner of the plain, under a guard of soldiers, were grouped
the prisoners destined to accompany the defunct king into the other
world. At the obsequies of Ghozo, the father of Bahadou, his son had
dispatched three thousand, and Bou-Nadi could not do less than his
predecessor. For an hour there was a series of discourses, harangues,
palavers and dances, executed not only by professionals, but by the
Amazons, who displayed much martial grace.
But the time for the hecatomb was approaching. Robur, who knew the
customs of Dahomey, did not lose sight of the men, women, and
children reserved for butchery.
The minghan was standing at the foot of the hillock. He was
brandishing his executioner's sword, with its curved blade surmounted
by a metal bird, whose weight rendered the cut more certain.
This time he was not alone. He could not have performed the task.
Near him were grouped a hundred executioners, all accustomed to cut
off heads at one blow.
The "Albatross" came slowly down in an oblique direction. Soon she
emerged from the bed of clouds which hid her till she was within
three hundred feet of the ground, and for the first time she was
visible from below.
Contrary to what had hitherto happened, the savages saw in her a
celestial being come to render homage to King Baha-dou. The
enthusiasm was indescribable, the shouts were interminable, the
prayers were terrific--prayers addressed to this supernatural
hippogriff, which "had doubtless come to" take the king's body to the
higher regions of the Dahomian heaven. And now the first head fell
under the minghan's sword, and the prisoners were led up in hundreds
before the horrible executioners.
Suddenly a gun was fired from the "Albatross." The minister of
justice fell dead on his face!
"Well aimed, Tom!" said Robur,
His comrades, armed as he was, stood ready to fire when the order was
But a change came over the crowd below. They had understood. The
winged monster was not a friendly spirit, it was a hostile spirit.
And after the fall of the minghan loud shouts for revenge arose on
all sides. Almost immediately a fusillade resounded over the plain.
These menaces did not prevent the "Albatross" from descending boldly
to within a hundred and fifty feet of the ground. Uncle Prudent and
Phil Evans, whatever were their feelings towards Robur, could not
help joining him in such a work of humanity.
"Let us free the prisoners!" they shouted.
"That is what I am going to do!" said the engineer.
And the magazine rifles of the "Albatross" in the hands of the
colleagues, as in the hands of the crew, began to rain down the
bullets, of which not one was lost in the masses below. And the
little gun shot forth its shrapnel, which really did marvels.
The prisoners, although they did not understand how the help had come
to them, broke their bonds, while the soldiers were firing at the
aeronef. The stern screw was shot through by a bullet, and a few
holes were made in the bull. Frycollin, crouching in his cabin,
received a graze from a bullet that came through the deck-house.
"Ah! They will have them!" said Tom Turner. And, rushing to the
magazine, he returned with a dozen dynamite cartridges, which be
distributed to the men. At a sign from Robur, these cartridges were
fired at the hillock, and as they reached the ground exploded like so
many small shells.
The king and his court and army and people were stricken with fear at
the turn things had taken. They fled under the trees, while the
prisoners ran off without anybody thinking of pursuing them.
In this way was the festival interfered with. And in this way did
Uncle Prudent and, Phil Evans recognize the power of the aeronef and
the services it could render to humanity.
Soon the "Albatross" rose again to a moderate height, and passing
over Whydah lost to view this savage coast which the southwest wind
hems round with an inaccessible surf. And she flew out over the
OVER THE ATLANTIC
Yes, the Atlantic! The fears of the two colleagues were realized; but
it did not seem as though Robur had the least anxiety about venturing
over this vast ocean. Both he and his men seemed quite unconcerned
about it and had gone back to their stations.
Whither was the "Albatross" bound? Was she going more than round the
world as Robur had said? Even if she were, the voyage must end
somewhere. That Robur spent his life in the air on board the aeronef
and never came to the ground was impossible. How could he make up his
stock of provisions and the materials required for working his
machines? He must have some retreat, some harbor of refuge--in some
unknown and inaccessible spot where the "Albatross" could revictual.
That he had broken off all connections with the inhabitants of the
land might be true, but with every point on the surface of the earth,
That being the case, where was this point? How had the engineer come
to choose it? Was he expected by a little colony of which he was the
chief? Could he there find a new crew?
What means had he that he should be able to build so costly a vessel
as the "Albatross" and keep her building secret? It is true his
living was not expensive. But, finally, who was this Robur? Where did
he come from? What had been his history? Here were riddles impossible
to solve; and Robur was not the man to assist willingly in their
It is not to be wondered at that these insoluble problems drove the
colleagues almost to frenzy. To find themselves whipped off into the
unknown without knowing what the end might be doubting even if the
adventure would end, sentenced to perpetual aviation, was this not
enough to drive the President and secretary of the Weldon Institute
Meanwhile the "Albatross" drove along above the Atlantic, and in the
morning when the sun rose there was nothing to be seen but the
circular line where earth met sky. Not a spot of land was insight in
this huge field of vision. Africa had vanished beneath the northern
When Frycollin ventured out of his cabin and saw all this water
beneath him, fear took possession of him.
Of the hundred and forty-five million square miles of which the area
of the world's waters consists, the Atlantic claims about a quarter;
and it seemed as though the engineer was in no hurry to cross it.
There was now no going at full speed, none of the hundred and twenty
miles an hour at which the "Albatross" had flown over Europe. Here,
where the southwest winds prevail, the wind was ahead of them, and
though it was not very strong, it would not do to defy it and the
"Albatross" was sent along at a moderate speed, which, however,
easily outstripped that of the fastest mail-boat.
On the 13th of July she crossed the line, and the fact was duly
announced to the crew. It was then that Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans
ascertained that they were bound for the southern hemisphere. The
crossing of the line took place without any of the Neptunian
ceremonies that still linger on certain ships. Tapage was the only
one to mark the event, and he did so by pouring a pint of water down
On the 18th of July, when beyond the tropic of Capricorn, another
phenomenon was noticed, which would have been somewhat alarming to a
ship on the sea. A strange succession of luminous waves widened out
over the surface of the ocean with a speed estimated at quite sixty
miles an hour. The waves ran along at about eight feet from one
another, tracing two furrows of light. As night fell a bright
reflection rose even to the "Albatross," so that she might have been
taken for a flaming aerolite. Never before had Robur sailed on a sea
of fire--fire without heat--which there was no need to flee from as
it mounted upwards into the sky.
The cause of this light must have been electricity; it could not be
attributed to a bank of fish spawn, nor to a crowd of those
animalculae that give phosphorescence to the sea, and this showed
that the electrical tension of the atmosphere was considerable.
In the morning an ordinary ship would probably have been lost. But
the "Albatross" played with the winds and waves like the powerful
bird whose name she bore. If she did not walk on their surface like
the petrels, she could like the eagles find calm and sunshine in the
They had now passed the forty-seventh parallel. The day was but
little over seven hours long, and would become even less as they
approached the Pole.
About one o'clock in the afternoon the "Albatross" was floating along
in a lower current than usual, about a hundred feet from the level of
the sea. The air was calm, but in certain parts of the sky were thick
black clouds, massed in mountains, on their upper surface, and ruled
off below by a sharp horizontal line. From these clouds a few lengthy
protuberances escaped, and their points as they fell seemed to draw
up hills of foaming water to meet them.
Suddenly the water shot up in the form of a gigantic hourglass, and
the "Albatross" was enveloped in the eddy of an enormous waterspout,
while twenty others, black as ink, raged around her. Fortunately the
gyratory movement of the water was opposite to that of the suspensory
screws, otherwise the aeronef would have been hurled into the sea.
But she began to spin round on herself with frightful rapidity. The
danger was immense, and perhaps impossible to escape, for the
engineer could not get through the spout which sucked him back in
defiance of his propellers. The men, thrown to the ends of the deck
by centrifugal force, were grasping the rail to save themselves from
being shot off.
"Keep cool!" shouted Robur.
They wanted all their coolness, and their patience, too. Uncle
Prudent and Phil Evans, who had just come out of their cabin, were
hurled back at the risk of flying overboard. As she spun the
"Albatross" was carried along by the spout, which pirouetted along
the waves with a speed enough to make the helices jealous. And if she
escaped from the spout she might be caught by another, and jerked to
pieces with the shock.
"Get the gun ready!" said Robur.
The order was given to Tom Turner, who was crouching behind the
swivel amidships where the effect of the centrifugal force was least
felt. He understood. In a moment he had opened the breech and slipped
a cartridge from the ammunition-box at hand. The gun went off, and the
waterspouts collapsed, and with them vanished the platform of cloud
they seemed to bear above them.
"Nothing broken on board?" asked Robur.
"No," answered Tom Turner. "But we don't want to have another game of
humming-top like that!"
For ten minutes or so the "Albatross" had been in extreme peril. Had
it not been for her extraordinary strength of build she would have
During this passage of the Atlantic many were the hours whose
monotony was unbroken by any phenomenon whatever. The days grew
shorter and shorter, and the cold became keen. Uncle Prudent and Phil
Evans saw little of Robur. Seated in his cabin, the engineer was busy
laying out his course and marking it on his maps, taking his
observations whenever he could, recording the readings of his
barometers, thermometers, and chronometers, and making full entries
in his log-book.
The colleagues wrapped themselves well up and eagerly watched for the
sight of land to the southward. At Uncle Prudent's request Frycollin
tried to pump the cook as to whither the engineer was bound, but what
reliance could be placed on the information given by this Gascon?
Sometimes Robur was an ex-minister of the Argentine Republic,
sometimes a lord of the Admiralty, sometimes an ex-President of the
United States, sometimes a Spanish general temporarily retired,
sometimes a Viceroy of the Indies who had sought a more elevated
position in the air. Sometimes he possessed millions, thanks to
successful razzias in the aeronef, and he had been proclaimed for
piracy. Sometimes he had been ruined by making the aeronef, and had
been forced to fly aloft to escape from his creditors. As to knowing
if he were going to stop anywhere, no! But if he thought of going to
the moon, and found there a convenient anchorage, he would anchor
there! "Eh! Fry! My boy! That would just suit you to see what was
going on up there."
"I shall not go! I refuse!" said the Negro, who took all these things
"And why, Fry, why? You might get married to some pretty bouncing
Frycollin reported this conversation to his master, who saw it was
evident that nothing was to be learnt about Robur. And so he thought
still more of how he could have his revenge on him.
"Phil," said he one day, "is it quite certain that escape is
"Be it so! But a man is always his own property; and if necessary, by
sacrificing his life --"
"If we are to make that sacrifice," said Phil Evans, "the sooner the
better. It is almost time to end this. Where is the "Albatross"
going? Here we are flying obliquely over the Atlantic, and if we keep
on we shall get to the coast of Patagonia or Tierra del Fuego. And
what are we to do then? Get into the Pacific, or go to the continent
at the South Pole? Everything is possible with this Robur. We shall
be lost in the end. It is thus a case of legitimate self-defence, and
if we must perish--"
"Which we shall not do," answered Uncle Prudent, "without being
avenged, without annihilating this machine and all she carries."
The colleagues had reached a stage of impotent fury, and were
prepared to sacrifice themselves if they could only destroy the
inventor and his secret. A few months only would then be the life of
this prodigious aeronef, of whose superiority in aerial locomotion
they had such convincing proofs! The idea took such hold of them that
they thought of nothing else but how to put it into execution. And
how? By seizing on some of the explosives on board and simply blowing
her up. But could they get at the magazines?
Fortunately for them, Frycollin had no suspicion of their scheme. At
the thought of the "Albatross" exploding in midair, he would not have
shrunk from betraying his master.
It was on the 23rd of July that the land reappeared in the southwest
near Cape Virgins at the entrance of the Straits of Magellan. Under
the fifty-second parallel at this time of year the night was eighteen
hours long and the temperature was six below freezing.
At first the "Albatross," instead of keeping on to the south,
followed the windings of the coast as if to enter the Pacific. After
passing Lomas Bay, leaving Mount Gregory to the north and the
Brecknocks to the west, they sighted Puerto Arena, a small Chilean
village, at the moment the churchbells were in full swing; and a few
hours later they were over the old settlement at Port Famine.
If the Patagonians, whose fires could be seen occasionally, were
really above the average in stature, the passengers in the aeronef
were unable to say, for to them they seemed to be dwarfs. But what a
magnificent landscape opened around during these short hours of the
southern day! Rugged mountains, peaks eternally capped with snow,
with thick forests rising on their flanks, inland seas, bays deep set
amid the peninsulas, and islands of the Archipelago. Clarence Island,
Dawson Island, and the Land of Desolation, straits and channels,
capes and promontories, all in inextricable confusion, and bound by
the ice in one solid mass from Cape Forward, the most southerly point
of the American continent, to Cape Horn the most southerly point of
the New World.
When she reached Fort Famine the "Albatross" resumed her course to
the south. Passing between Mount Tam on the Brunswick Peninsula and
Mount Graves, she steered for Mount Sarmiento, an enormous peak
wrapped in snow, which commands the Straits of Magellan, rising six
thousand four hundred feet from the sea. And now they were over the
land of the Fuegians, Tierra del Fuego, the land of fire. Six months
later, in the height of summer, with days from fifteen to sixteen
hours long, how beautiful and fertile would most of this country be,
particularly in its northern portion! Then, all around would be seen
valleys and pasturages that could form the feeding-grounds of
thousands of animals; then would appear virgin forests, gigantic
trees-birches, beeches, ash-trees, cypresses, tree-ferns--and broad
plains overrun by herds of guanacos, vicunas, and ostriches. Now
there were armies of penguins and myriads of birds; and, when the
"Albatross" turned on her electric lamps the guillemots, ducks, and
geese came crowding on board enough to fill Tapage's larder a hundred
times and more.
Here was work for the cook, who knew how to bring out the flavor of
the game and keep down its peculiar oiliness. And here was work for
Frycollin in plucking dozen after dozen of such interesting feathered
That day, as the sun was setting about three o'clock in the
afternoon, there appeared in sight a large lake framed in a border of
superb forest. The lake was completely frozen over, and a few natives
with long snowshoes on their feet were swiftly gliding over it.
At the sight of the "Albatross," the Fuegians, overwhelmed with
terror--scattered in all directions, and when they could not get
away they bid themselves, taking, like the animals, to the holes in
The "Albatross" still held her southerly course, crossing the Beagle
Channel, and Navarin Island and Wollaston Island, on the shores of
the Pacific. Then, having accomplished 4,700 miles since she left
Dahomey, she passed the last islands of the Magellanic archipelago,
whose most southerly outpost, lashed by the everlasting surf, is the
terrible Cape Horn.
THE SHIPWRECKED CREW
Next day was the 24th of July; and the 24th of July in the southern
hemisphere corresponds to the 24th of January in the northern. The
fifty-sixth degree of latitude had been left behind. The similar
parallel in northern Europe runs through Edinburgh.
The thermometer kept steadily below freezing, so that the machinery
was called upon to furnish a little artificial heat in the cabins.
Although the days begin to lengthen after the 21st day of June in the
southern hemisphere, yet the advance of the "Albatross" towards the
Pole more than neutralized this increase, and consequently the
daylight became very short. There was thus very little to be seen. At
night time the cold became very keen; but as there was no scarcity of
clothing on board, the colleagues, well wrapped up, remained a good
deal on deck thinking over their plans of escape, and watching for an
opportunity. Little was seen of Robur; since the high words that had
been exchanged in the Timbuktu country, the engineer had left off
speaking to his prisoners. Frycollin seldom came out of the
cook-house, where Tapage treated him most hospitably, on condition
that be acted as his assistant. This position was not without its
advantages, and the Negro, with his master's permission, very
willingly accepted. it. Shut up in the galley, he saw nothing of what
was passing outside, and might even consider himself beyond the reach
of danger. He was, in fact, very like the ostrich, not only in his
stomach, but in his folly.
But whither went the "Albatross?" Was she in mid-winter bound for the
southern seas or continents round the Pole? In this icy atmosphere,
even granting that the elements of the batteries were unaffected by
such frost, would not all the crew succumb to a horrible death from
the cold? That Robur should attempt to cross the Pole in the warm
season was bad enough, but to attempt such a thing in the depth of
the winter night would be the act of a madman.
Thus reasoned the President and Secretary of the Weldon Institute,
now they had been brought to the end of the continent of the New
World, which is still America, although it does not belong to the
What was this intractable Robur going to do? Had not the time arrived
for them to end the voyage by blowing up the ship?
It was noticed that during the 24th of July the engineer had frequent
consultations with his mate. He and Tom Turner kept constant watch on
the barometer--not so much to keep themselves informed of the height
at which they were traveling as to be on the look-out for a change in
the weather. Evidently some indications had been observed of which it
was necessary to make careful note.
Uncle Prudent also remarked that Robur had been taking stock of the
provisions and stores, and everything seemed to show that he was
contemplating turning back.
"Turning back!" said Phil Evans. "But where to?"
"Where he can reprovision the ship," said Uncle Prudent.
"That ought to be in some lonely island in the Pacific with a colony
of scoundrels worthy of their chief."
"That is what I think. I fancy he is going west, and with the speed
he can get up it would not take, him long to get home."
"But we should not be able to put our plan into execution. If we get
"We shall not get there!"
The colleagues had partly guessed the engineer's intentions. During
the day it became no longer doubtful that when the "Albatross"
reached the confines of the Antarctic Sea her course was to be
changed. When the ice has formed about Cape Horn the lower regions of
the Pacific are covered with icefields and icebergs. The floes then
form an impenetrable barrier to the strongest ships and the boldest
navigators. Of course, by increasing the speed of her wings the
"Albatross" could clear the mountains of ice accumulated on the ocean
as she could the mountains of earth on the polar continent--if it is
a continent that forms the cap of the southern pole. But would she
attempt it in the middle of the polar night, in an atmosphere of
sixty below freezing?
After she had advanced about a hundred miles to the south the
"Albatross" headed westerly, as if for some unknown island of the
Pacific. Beneath her stretched the liquid plain between Asia and
America. The waters now had assumed that singular color which has
earned for them the name of the Milky Sea. In the half shadow, which
the enfeebled rays of the sun were unable to dissipate, the surface
of the Pacific was a milky white. It seemed like a vast snowfield,
whose undulations were imperceptible at such a height. If the sea had
been solidified by the cold, and converted into an immense icefield,
its aspect could not have been much different. They knew that the
phenomenon was produced by myriads of luminous particles of
phosphorescent corpuscles; but it was surprising to come across such
an opalescent mass beyond the limits of the Indian Ocean.
Suddenly the barometer fell after keeping somewhat high during the
earlier hours of the day. Evidently the indications were such as a
shipmaster might feel anxious at, though the master of an aeronef
might despise them. There was every sign that a terrible storm had
recently raged in the Pacific.
It was one o'clock in the afternoon when Tom Turner came up to the
engineer and said, "Do you see that black spot on the horizon, sir--
there away to due north of us? That is not a rock?"
"No, Tom; there is no land out there."
"Then it must be a ship or a boat."
Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans, who were in the bow, looked in the
direction pointed out by the mate.
Robur asked for the glass and attentively observed the object.
"It is a boat," said he, "and there are some men in it."
"Shipwrecked?" asked Tom.
"Yes! They have had to abandon their ship, and, knowing nothing of
the nearest land, are perhaps dying of hunger and thirst! Well, it
shall not be said that the "Albatross" did not come to their help!"
The orders were given, and the aeronef began to sink towards the sea.
At three hundred yards from it the descent was stopped, and the
propellers drove ahead full speed towards the north.
It was a boat. Her sail flapped against the mast as she rose and fell
on the waves. There was no wind, and she was making no progress.
Doubtless there was no one on board with strength enough left to work
the oars. In the boat were five men asleep or helpless, if they were
The "Albatross" had arrived above them, and slowly descended. On the
boat's stern was the name of the ship to which she belonged--the
"Jeannette" of Nantes.
"Hallo, there!" shouted Turner, loud enough for the men to hear, for
the boat was only eighty feet below him.
There was no answer. "Fire a gun!" said Robur.
The gun was fired and the report rang out over the sea.
One of the men looked up feebly. His eyes were haggard and his face
was that of a skeleton. As he caught sight of the "Albatross" he made
a gesture as of fear.
"Don't be afraid," said Robur in French, "we have come to help you.
Who are you?"
"We belong to the barque "Jeannette," and I am the mate. We left her
a fortnight ago as she was sinking. We have no water and no food."
The four other men had now sat up. Wan and exhausted, in a terrible
state of emaciation, they lifted their hands towards the "Albatross."
"Look-out!" shouted Robur.
A line was let down, and a pail of fresh water was lowered into the
boat. The men snatched at it and drank it with an eagerness awful to
"Bread, bread!" they exclaimed.
Immediately a basket with some food and five pints of coffee
descended towards them. The mate with difficulty restrained them in
"Where are we?" asked the mate at last.
"Fifty miles from the Chili coast and the Chonos Archipelago,"
"Thanks. But we are becalmed, and--?"
"We are going to tow you."
"Who are you?"
"People who are glad to be of assistance to you," said Robur.
The mate understood that the incognito was to be respected. But had
the flying machine sufficient power to tow them through the water?
Yes; and the boat, attached to a hundred feet of rope, began to move
off towards the east. At ten o'clock at night the land was sighted--
or rather they could see the lights which indicated its position.
This rescue from the sky had come just in time for the survivors of
the "Jeannette," and they had good reason to believe it miraculous.
When they had been taken to the mouth of the channel leading among
the Chonos Islands, Robur shouted to them to cast off the tow-line.
This, with many a blessing to those who had saved them, they did, and
the "Albatross" headed out to the offing.
Certainly there was some good in this aeronef, which could thus help
those who were lost at sea! What balloon, perfect as it might be,
would be able to perform such a service? And between themselves Uncle
Prudent and Phil Evans could not but admire it, although they were
quite disposed to deny the evidence of their senses.
OVER THE VOLCANO
The sea was as rough as ever, and the symptoms became alarming. The
barometer fell several millimeters. The wind came in violent gusts,
and then for a moment or so failed altogether. Under such
circumstances a sailing vessel would have had to reef in her topsails
and her foresail. Everything showed that the wind was rising in the
northwest. The storm-glass became much troubled and its movements
were most disquieting.
At one o'clock in the morning the wind came on again with extreme
violence. Although the aeronef was going right in its teeth she was
still making progress at a rate of from twelve to fifteen miles an
hour. But that was the utmost she could do.
Evidently preparations must be made for a cyclone, a very rare
occurrence in these latitudes. Whether it be called a hurricane, as
in the Atlantic, a typhoon, as in Chinese waters a simoom, as in the
Sahara, or a tornado, as on the western coast, such a storm is always
a gyratory one, and most dangerous for any ship caught in the current
which increases from the circumference to the center, and has only
one spot of calm, the middle of the vortex.
Robur knew this. He also knew it was best to escape from the cyclone
and get beyond its zone of attraction by ascending to the higher
strata. Up to then he had always succeeded in doing this, but now he
had not an hour, perhaps not a minute, to lose.
In fact the violence of the wind sensibly increased. The crests of
the waves were swept off as they rose and blown into white dust on
the surface of the sea. It was manifest that the cyclone was
advancing with fearful velocity straight towards the regions of the
"Higher!" said Robur.
"Higher it is," said Tom Tumor.
An extreme ascensional power was communicated to the aeronef, and she
shot up slantingly as if she was traveling on a plane sloping
downwards from the southwest. Suddenly the barometer fell more than a
dozen millimeters and the "Albatross" paused in her ascent.
What was the cause of the stoppage? Evidently she was pulled back by
the air; some formidable current had diminished the resistance to the
screws. When a steamer travels upstream more work is got out of her
screw than when the water is running between the blades. The recoil
is then considerable, and may perhaps be as great as the current. It
was thus with the "Albatross" at this moment.
But Robur was not the man to give in. His seventy-four screws,
working perfectly together, were driven at their maximum speed. But
the aeronef could not escape; the attraction of the cyclone was
irrestible. During the few moments of calm she began to ascend, but
the heavy pull soon drew her back, and she sunk like a ship as she
Evidently if the violence of the cyclone went on increasing the
"Albatross" would be but as a straw caught in one of those whirlwinds
that root up the trees, carry off roofs, and blow down walls.
Robur and Tom could only speak by signs. Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans
clung to the rail and wondered if the cyclone was not playing their
game in destroying the aeronef and with her the inventor--and with
the inventor the secret of his invention.
But if the "Albatross" could not get out of the cyclone vertically
could she not do something else? Could she not gain the center, where
it was comparatively calm, and where they would have more control
over her? Quite so, but to do this she would have to break through
the circular currents which were sweeping her round with them. Had
she sufficient mechanical power to escape through them?
Suddenly the upper part of the cloud fell in. The vapor condensed in
torrents of rain. It was two o'clock in the morning. The barometer,
oscillating over a range of twelve millimeters, had now fallen to
27.91, and from this something should be taken on account of the
height of the aeronef above the level of the sea.
Strange to say, the cyclone was out of the zone to which such storms
are generally restricted, such zone being bounded by the thirtieth
parallel of north latitude and the twenty-sixth parallel of south
latitude. This may perhaps explain why the eddying storm suddenly
turned into a straight one. But what a hurricane! The tempest in
Connecticut on the 22nd of March, 1882, could only have been compared
to it, and the speed of that was more than three hundred miles an
The "Albatross" had thus to fly before the wind or rather she had to
be left to be driven by the current, from which she could neither
mount nor escape. But in following this unchanging trajectory she was
bearing due south, towards those polar regions which Robur had
endeavored to avoid. And now he was no longer master of her course;
she would go where the hurricane took her.
Tom Turner was at the helm, and it required all his skill to keep her
straight. In the first hours of the morning--if we can so call the
vague tint which began to rise over the horizon--the "Albatross" was
fifteen degrees below Cape Horn; twelve hundred miles more and she
would cross the antarctic circle. Where she was, in this month of
July, the night lasted nineteen hours and a half. The sun's disk--
without warmth, without light--only appeared above the horizon to
disappear almost immediately. At the pole the night lengthened into
one of a hundred and seventy-nine hours. Everything showed that the
"Albatross" was about to plunge into an abyss.
During the day an observation, had it been possible, would have given
66� 40' south latitude. The aeronef was within fourteen hundred miles
of the pole.
Irresistibly was she drawn towards this inaccessible corner of the
globe, her speed eating up, so to speak, her weight, although she
weighed less than before, owing to the flattening of the earth at the
pole. It seemed as though she could have dispensed altogether with
her suspensory screws. And soon the fury of the storm reached such a
height that Robur thought it best to reduce the speed of her helices
as much as possible, so as to avoid disaster. And only enough speed
was given to keep the aeronef under control of the rudder.
Amid these dangers the engineer retained his imperturbable coolness,
and the crew obeyed him as if their leader's mind had entered into
them. Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans had not for a moment left the
deck; they could remain without being disturbed. The air made but
slight resistance. The aeronef was like an aerostat, which drifts
with the fluid masses in which it is plunged.
Is the domain of the southern pole a continent or an archipelago? Or
is it a palaeocrystic sea, whose ice melts not even during the long
summer? We know not. But what we do know is that the southern pole is
colder than the northern one--a phenomenon due to the position of
the earth in its orbit during winter in the antarctic regions.
During this day there was nothing to show that the storm was abating.
It was by the seventy-fifth meridian to the west that the "Albatross"
crossed into the circumpolar region. By what meridian would she come
out--if she ever came out?
As she descended more to the south the length of the day diminished.
Before long she would be plunged in that continuous night which is
illuminated only by the rays of the moon or the pale streamers of the
aurora. But the moon was then new, and the companions of Robur might
see nothing of the regions whose secret has hitherto defied human
curiosity, There was not much inconvenience on board from the cold,
for the temperature, was not nearly so low as was expected.
It seemed as though the hurricane was a sort of Gulf Stream, carrying
a certain amount of heat along with it.
Great was the regret that the whole region was in such profound
obscurity. Even if the moon had been in full glory but few
observations could have been made. At this season of the year an
immense curtain of snow, an icy carapace, covers up the polar
surface. There was none of that ice "blink" to be seen, that whitish
tint of which the reflection is absent from dark horizons. Under such
circumstances, how could they distinguish the shape of the ground,
the extent of the seas, the position of the islands? How could they
recognize the hydrographic network of the country or the orographic
configuration, and distinguish the hills and mountains from the
icebergs and floes?
A little after midnight an aurora illuminated the darkness. With its
silver fringes and spangles radiating over space, it seemed like a
huge fan open over half the sky. Its farthest electric effluences
were lost in the Southern Cross, whose four bright stars were
gleaming overhead. The phenomenon was one of incomparable
magnificence, and the light showed the face of the country as a
confused mass of white.
It need not be said that they had approached so near to the pole that
the compass was constantly affected, and gave no precise indication
of the course pursued. Its inclination was such that at one time
Robur felt certain they were passing over the magnetic pole
discovered by Sir James Ross. And an hour later, in calculating the
angle the needle made with the vertical, he exclaimed: "the South
Pole is beneath us!"
A white cap appeared, but nothing could be seen of what it bid under
A few minutes afterwards the aurora died away, and the point where
all the world's meridians cross is still to be discovered.
If Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans wished to bury in the most mysterious
solitudes the aeronef and all she bore, the moment was propitious. If
they did not do so it was doubtless because the explosive they
required was still denied to them.
The hurricane still raged and swept along with such rapidity that had
a mountain been met with the aeronef would have been dashed to pieces
like a ship on a lee shore. Not only had the power gone to steer her
horizontally, but the control of her elevation had also vanished.
And it was not unlikely that mountains did exist in these antarctic
lands. Any instant a shock might happen which would destroy the
"Albatross." Such a catastrophe became more probable as the wind
shifted more to the east after they passed the prime meridian. Two
luminous points then showed themselves ahead of the "Albatross."
There were the two volcanos of the Ross Mountains--Erebus and
Terror. Was the "Albatross" to be shriveled up in their flames like a
An hour of intense excitement followed. One of the volcanoes, Erebus,
seemed to be rushing at the aeronef, which could not move from the
bed of the hurricane. The cloud of flame grew as they neared it. A
network of fire barred their road. A brilliant light shone round over
all. The figures on board stood out in the bright light as if come
from another world. Motionless, without a sound or a gesture, they
waited for the terrible moment when the furnace would wrap them in
But the storm that bore the "Albatross" saved them from such a
fearful fate. The flames of Erebus were blown down by the hurricane
as it passed, and the "Albatross" flew over unhurt. She swept through
a hail of ejected material, which was fortunately kept at bay by the
centrifugal action of the suspensory screws. And she harmlessly
passed over the crater while it was in full eruption.
An hour afterwards the horizon hid from their view the two colossal
torches which light the confines of the world during the long polar
At two o'clock in the morning Balleny Island was sighted on the coast
of Discovery Land, though it could not be recognized owing to its
being bound to the mainland by a cement of ice.
And the "Albatross" emerged from the polar circle on the hundred and
seventy-fifth meridian. The hurricane had carried her over the
icebergs and icefloes, against which she was in danger of being
dashed a hundred times or more. She was not in the hands of the
helmsman, but in the hand of God--and God is a good pilot.
The aeronef sped along to the north, and at the sixtieth parallel the
storm showed signs of dying away. Its violence sensibly diminished.
The "Albatross" began to come under control again. And, what was a
great comfort, had again entered the lighted regions of the globe;
and the day reappeared about eight o'clock in the morning.
Robur had been carried by the storm into the Pacific over the polar
region, accomplishing four thousand three hundred and fifty miles in
nineteen hours, or about three miles a minute, a speed almost double
that which the "Albatross" was equal to with her propellers under
ordinary circumstances. But he did not know where he then was owing
to the disturbance of the needle in the neighborhood of the magnetic
pole, and he would have to wait till the sun shone out under
convenient conditions for observation. Unfortunately, heavy clouds
covered the sky all that day and the sun did not appear.
This was a disappointment more keenly felt as both propelling screws
had sustained damage during the tempest. Robur, much disconcerted at
this accident, could only advance at a moderate speed during this
day, and when he passed over the antipodes of Paris was only going
about eighteen miles an hour. It was necessary not to aggravate the
damage to the screws, for if the propellers were rendered useless the
situation of the aeronef above the vast seas of the Pacific would be
a very awkward one. And the engineer began to consider if he could
not effect his repairs on the spot, so as to make sure of continuing
In the morning of the 27th of July, about seven o'clock, land was
sighted to the north. It was soon seen to be an island. But which
island was it of the thousands that dot the Pacific? However, Robur
decided to stop at it without landing. He thought, that he could
repair damages during the day and start in the evening.
The wind had died away completely and this was a favorable
circumstance for the maneuver he desired to execute. At least, if she
did not remain stationary the "Albatross" would be carried he knew
A cable one hundred and fifty feet long with an anchor at the end was
dropped overboard. When the aeronef reached the shore of the island
the anchor dragged up the first few rocks and then got firmly fixed
between two large blocks. The cable then stretched to full length
under the influence of the suspensory screws, and the "Albatross"
remained motionless, riding like a ship in a roadstead.
It was the first time she had been fastened to the earth since she
ANCHORED AT LAST
When the "Albatross" was high in the air the island could be seen to
be of moderate size. But on what parallel was it situated? What
meridian ran through it? Was it an island in the Pacific, in
Australasia, or in the Indian Ocean? When the sun appeared, and Robur
had taken his observations, they would know; but although they could
not trust to the indications of the compass there was reason to think
they were in the Pacific.
At this height--one hundred and, fifty feet--the island which
measured about fifteen miles round, was like a three-pointed star in
Off the southwest point was an islet and a range of rocks. On the
shore there were no tide-marks, and this tended to confirm Robur in
his opinion as to his position for the ebb and flow are almost
imperceptible in the Pacific.
At the northwest point there was a conical mountain about two hundred
No natives were to be seen, but they might be on the opposite coast.
In any case, if they had perceived the aeronef, terror had made them
either hide themselves or run away. The "Albatross" had anchored on
the southwest point of the island. Not far off, down a little creek,
a small river flowed in among the rocks. Beyond were several winding
valleys; trees of different kinds; and birds--partridges and
bustards--in great numbers. If the island was not inhabited it was
habitable. Robur might surely have landed on it; if he had not done
so it was probably because the ground was uneven and did not offer a
convenient spot to beach the aeronef.
While he was waiting for the sun the engineer began the repairs he
reckoned on completing before the day was over. The suspensory screws
were undamaged and had worked admirably amid all the violence of the
storm, which, as we have said, had considerably lightened their work.
At this moment half of them were in action, enough to keep the
"Albatross" fixed to the shore by the taut cable. But the two
propellers had suffered, and more than Robur had thought. Their
blades would have to be adjusted and the gearing seen to by which
they received their rotatory movement.
It was the screw at the bow which was first attacked under Robur's
superintendence. It was the best to commence with, in case the
"Albatross" had to leave before the work was finished. With only this
propeller be could easily keep a proper course.
Meanwhile Uncle Prudent and his colleague, after walking about the
deck, had sat down aft. Frycollin was strangely reassured. What a
difference! To be suspended only one hundred and fifty feet from the
The work was only interrupted for a moment while the elevation of the
sun above the horizon allowed Robur to take an horary angle, so that
at the time of its culmination he could calculate his position.
The result of the observation, taken with the greatest exactitude,
was as follows:
Longitude, 176� 10' west.
Latitude, 44� 25' south.
This point on the map answered to the position of the Chatham
Islands, and particularly of Pitt Island, one of the group.
"That is nearer than I supposed," said Robur to Tom Turner.
"How far off are we?"
"Forty-six degrees south of X Island, or two thousand eight hundred
"All the more reason to get our propellers into order," said the
mate. "We may have the wind against us this passage, and with the
little stores we have left we ought to get to X as soon as possible."
"Yes, Tom, and I hope to get under way tonight, even if I go with one
screw, and put the other to-rights on the voyage."
"Mr. Robur," said Tom "What is to be done with those two gentlemen
and their servant?"
"Do you think they would complain if they became colonists of X
But where was this X? It was an island lost in the immensity of the
Pacific Ocean between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer--an
island most appropriately named by Robur in this algebraic fashion.
It was in the north of the South Pacific, a long way out of the route
of inter-oceanic communication. There it was that Robur had founded
his little colony, and there the "Albatross" rested when tired with
her flight. There she was provisioned for all her voyages. In X
Island, Robur, a man of immense wealth, had established a shipyard in
which he built his aeronef. There he could repair it, and even
rebuild it. In his warehouses were materials and provisions of all
sorts stored for the fifty inhabitants who lived on the island.
When Robur had doubled Cape Horn a few days before his intention had
been to regain X Island by crossing the Pacific obliquely. But the
cyclone had seized the "Albatross," and the hurricane had carried her
away to the south. In fact, he had been brought back to much the same
latitude as before, and if his propellers had not been damaged the
delay would have been of no importance.
His object was therefore to get back to X Island, but as the mate had
said, the voyage would be a long one, and the winds would probably be
against them. The mechanical power of the "Albatross" was, however,
quite equal to taking her to her destination, and under ordinary
circumstances she would be there in three or four days.
Hence Robur's resolve to anchor on the Chatham Islands. There was
every opportunity for repairing at least the fore-screw. He had no
fear that if the wind were to rise he would be driven to the south
instead of to the north. When night came the repairs would be
finished, and he would have to maneuver so as to weigh anchor. If it
were too firmly fixed in the rocks he could cut the cable and resume
his flight towards the equator.
The crew of the "Albatross," knowing there was no time to lose, set
to work vigorously.
While they were busy in the bow of the aeronef, Uncle Prudent and
Phil Evans held a little conversation together which had
exceptionally important consequences.
"Phil Evans," said Uncle Prudent, "you have resolved, as I have, to
sacrifice your life?"
"Yes, like you."
"It is evident that we can expect nothing from Robur."
"Well, Phil Evans, I have made up my mind. If the "Albatross" leaves
this place tonight, the night will not pass without our having
accomplished our task. We will smash the wings of this bird of
Robur's! This night I will blow it into the air!"
"The sooner the better," said Phil Evans.
It will be seen that the two colleagues were agreed on all points
even in accepting with indifference the frightful death in store for
them. "Have you all you want?" asked Evans.
"Yes. Last night, while Robur and his people had enough to do to look
after the safety of the ship, I slipped into the magazine and got
hold of a dynamite cartridge."
"Let us set to work, Uncle Prudent."
"No. Wait till tonight. When the night comes we will go into our
cabin, and you shall see something that will surprise you."
At six o'clock the colleagues dined together as usual. Two hours
afterwards they retired to their cabin like men who wished to make up
for a sleepless night.
Neither Robur nor any of his companions had a suspicion Of the
catastrophe that threatened the "Albatross."
This was Uncle Prudent's plan. As he had said, he had stolen into the
magazine, and there had possessed himself of some powder and
cartridge like those used by Robur in Dahomey. Returning to his
cabin, he had carefully concealed the cartridge with which he had
resolved to blow up the "Albatross" in mid-air.
Phil Evans, screened by his companion, was now examining the infernal
machine, which was a metallic canister containing about two pounds of
dynamite, enough to shatter the aeronef to atoms. If the explosion
did not destroy her at once, it would do so in her fall. Nothing was
easier than to place this cartridge in a corner of the cabin, so that
it would blow in the deck and tear away the framework of the hull.
But to obtain the explosion it was necessary to adjust the
fulminating cap with which the cartridge was fitted. This was the
most delicate part of the operation, for the explosion would have to
be carefully timed, so as not to occur too soon or too late.
Uncle Prudent had carefully thought over the matter. His conclusions
were as follows. As soon as the fore propeller was repaired the
aeronef would resume her course to the north, and that done Robur and
his crew would probably come aft to put the other screw into order.
The presence of these people about the cabin might interfere with his
plans, and so he had resolved to make a slow match do duty as a
"When I got the cartridge," said he to Phil Evans, "I took some
gunpowder as well. With the powder I will make a fuse that will take
some time to burn, and which will lead into the fulminate. My idea is
to light it about midnight, so that the explosion will take place
about three or four o'clock in the morning."
"Well planned!" said Phil Evans.
The colleagues, as we see had arrived at such a stage as to look with
the greatest nonchalance on the awful destruction in which they were
about to perish. Their hatred against Robur and his people had so
increased that they would sacrifice their own lives to destroy the
"Albatross" and all she bore. The act was that of madmen, it was
horrible; but at such a pitch had they arrived after five weeks of
anger that could not vent itself, of rage that could not he gratified.
And Frycollin?" asked Phil Evans, "have we the right to dispose of
"We shall sacrifice ours as well!" said Uncle Prudent. But it is
doubtful if Frycollin would have thought the reason sufficient.
Immediately Uncle Prudent set to work, while Evans kept watch in the
neighborhood of the cabin. The crew were all at work forward. There
was no fear of being surprised. Uncle Prudent began by rubbing a
small quantity of the powder very fine; and then, having slightly
moistened it, he wrapped it up in a piece of rag in the shape of a
match. When it was lighted he calculated it would burn about an inch
in five minutes, or a yard in three hours. The match was tried and
found to answer, and was then wound round with string and attached to
the cap of the cartridge. Uncle Prudent had all finished about ten
o'clock in the evening without having excited the least suspicion.
During the day the work on the fore screw had been actively carried
on, but it had had to be taken on board to adjust the twisted blades.
Of the piles and accumulators and the machinery that drove the ship
nothing was damaged.
When night fell Robur and his men knocked off work. The fore
propeller not been got into place, and to finish it would take
another three hours. After some conversation with Tom Turner it was
decided to give the crew a rest, and postpone what required to be
done to the next morning.
The final adjustment was a matter of extreme nicety, and the electric
lamps did not give so suitable a light for such work as the daylight.
Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans were not aware of this. They had
understood that the screw would be in place during the night, and
that the "Albatross" would be on her way to the north.
The night was dark and moonless. Heavy clouds made the darkness
deeper. A light breeze began to rise. A few puffs came from the
southwest, but they had no effect on the "Albatross." She remained
motionless at her anchor, and the cable stretched vertically downward
to the ground.
Uncle Prudent and his colleague, imagining they were under way again,
sat shut up in their cabin, exchanging but a few words, and listening
to the f-r-r-r-r of the suspensory screws, which drowned every other
sound on board. They were waiting till the time of action arrived.
A little before midnight Uncle Prudent said, "It is time!" Under the
berths in the cabin was a sliding box, forming a small locker, and in
this locker Uncle Prudent put the dynamite and the slow-match. In
this way the match would burn without betraying itself by its smoke
or spluttering. Uncle Prudent lighted the end and pushed back the box
under the berth with "Now let us go aft, and wait."
They then went out, and were astonished not to find the steersman at
Phil Evans leant out over the rail.
"The "Albatross" is where she was," said he in a low voice. "The work
is not finished. They have not started!"
Uncle Prudent made a gesture of disappointment. "We shall have to put
out the match," said he.
"No," said Phil Evans, "we must escape!"
"Yes! down the cable! Fifty yards is nothing!"
"Nothing, of course, Phil Evans, and we should be fools not to take
the chance now it has come."
But first they went back to the cabin and took away all they could
carry, with a view to a more or less prolonged stay on the Chatham
Islands. Then they shut the door and noiselessly crept forward,
intending to wake Frycollin and take him with them.
The darkness was intense. The clouds were racing up from the
southwest, and the aeronef was tugging at her anchor and thus
throwing the cable more and more out of the vertical. There would be
no difficulty in slipping down it.
The colleagues made their way along the deck, stopping in the shadow
of the deckhouses to listen if there was any sound. The silence was
unbroken. No light shone from the portholes. The aeronef was not only
silent; she was asleep.
Uncle Prudent was close to Frycollin's cabin when Phil Evans stopped
him. "The look-out!" he said.
A man was crouching near the deck-house. He was only half asleep. All
flight would be impossible if he were to give the alarm. Close by
were a few ropes, and pieces of rag and waste used in the work at the
An instant afterwards the man was gagged and blindfolded and lashed
to the rail unable to utter a sound or move an inch. This was done
almost without a whisper.
Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans listened. Ali was silent within the
cabins. Every one on board was asleep. They reached Frycollin's
cabin. Tapage was snoring away in a style worthy of his name, and
that promised well.
To his great surprise, Uncle Prudent had not even to push Frycollin's
door. It was open. He stepped into the doorway and looked around.
"Nobody here!" he said.
"Nobody! Where can he be?" asked Phil Evans.
They went into the bow, thinking Frycollin might perhaps be asleep in
the corner. Still they found nobody.
"Has the fellow got the start of us?" asked Uncle Prudent.
"Whether he has or not," said Phil Evans, "we can't wait any longer.
Down you go."
Without hesitation the fugitives one after the other clambered over
the side and, seizing the cable with hands and feet slipped down it
safe and sound to the ground.
Think of their joy at again treading the earth they had lost for so
long--at walking on solid ground and being no longer the playthings
of the atmosphere!
They were staring up the creek to the interior of the island when
suddenly a form rose in front of them. It was Frycollin. The Negro
had had the same idea as his master and the audacity to start without
telling him. But there was no time for recriminations, and Uncle
Prudent was in search of a refuge in some distant part of the island
when Phil Evans stopped him.
"Uncle Prudent," said he. "Here we are safe from Robur. He is doomed
like his companions to a terrible death. He deserves it, we know. But
if he would swear on his honor not to take us prisoners again --"
"The honor of such a man --"
Uncle Prudent did not finish his sentence.
There was a noise on the "Albatross." Evidently, the alarm had been
given. The escape was discovered.
"Help! Help!" shouted somebody. It was the look-out man, who had got
rid of his gag. Hurried footsteps were heard on deck. Almost
immediately the electric lamps shot beams over a large circle.
"There they are! There they are!" shouted Tom Turner. The fugitives
At the same instant an order was given by Robur, and the suspensory
screws being slowed, the cable was hauled in on board, and the
"Albatross" sank towards the ground.
At this moment the voice of Phil Evans was heard shouting, "Engineer
Robur, will you give us your word of honor to leave us free on this
"Never!" said Robur. And the reply was followed by the report of a
gun, and the bullet grazed Phil's shoulder.
"Ah! The brutes!" said Uncle Prudent. Knife in hand, he rushed
towards the rocks where the anchor had fixed itself. The aeronef was
not more than fifty feet from the ground.
In a few seconds the cable was cut, and the breeze, which had
increased considerably, striking the "Albatross" on the quarter,
carried her out over the sea.
THE WRECK OF THE ALBATROSS
It was then twenty minutes after midnight. Five or six shots had been
fired from the aeronef. Uncle Prudent and Frycollin, supporting Phil
Evans, had taken shelter among the rocks. They had not been hit. For
the moment there was nothing to fear.
As the "Albatross" drifted off from Pitt Island she rose obliquely to
nearly three thousand feet. It was necessary to increase the
ascensional power to prevent her falling into the sea.
When the look-out man had got clear of his gag and shouted, Robur and
Tom Turner had rushed up to him and torn off his bandage. The mate
had then run back to the stern cabin. It was empty! Tapage had
searched Frycollin's cabin, and that also was empty.
When he saw that the prisoners had escaped, Robur was seized with a
paroxysm of anger. The escape meant the revelation of his secret to
the world. He had not been much concerned at the document thrown
overboard while they were crossing Europe, for there were so many
chances that it would be lost in its fall; but now!
As he grew calm, "They have escaped," said he. "Be it so! But they
cannot get away from Pitt Island, and in a day or so I will go back!
I will recapture them! And then --"
In fact, the safety of the three fugitives was by no means assured.
The "Albatross" would be repaired, and return well in hand. Before
the day was out they might again be in the power of the engineer.
Before the day was out! But in two hours the "Albatross" would be
annihilated! The dynamite cartridge was like a torpedo fastened to
her hull, and would accomplish her destruction in mid-air. The breeze
freshened, and the aeronef was carried to the northeast. Although her
speed was but moderate, she would be out of sight of the Chatham
Islands before sunrise. To return against the wind she must have her
propellers going, particularly the one in the bow.
"Tom," said the engineer, "Turn the lights full on."
"And all hands to work."
There was no longer any idea of putting off the work till tomorrow.
There was now no thought of fatigue. Not one of the men of the
"Albatross" failed to share in the feelings of his chief. Not one but
was ready to do anything to recapture the fugitives!
As soon as the screw was in place they would return to the island and
drop another anchor, and give chase to the fugitives. Then only would
they begin repairing the stern-screw; and then the aeronef could
resume her voyage across the Pacific to X Island.
It was important, above all things, that the "Albatross" should not
be carried too far to the northeast, but unfortunately the breeze
grew stronger, and she could not head against it, or even remain
stationary. Deprived of her propellers she was an unguidable balloon.
The fugitives on the shore knew that she would have disappeared
before the explosion blew her to pieces.
Robur felt much disappointment at seeing his plans so interfered
with. Would it not take him much longer than he thought to get back
to his old anchorage?
While the work at the screw was actively pushed on, he resolved to
descend to the surface of the sea, in the hope that the wind would
there be lighter. Perhaps the "Albatross" would be able to remain in
the neighborhood until she was again fit to work to windward.
The maneuver was instantly executed. If a passing ship had sighted
the aerial machine as she gunk through the air, with her electric
lights in full blaze, with what terror would she have been seized!
When the "Albatross" was a few hundred feet from the waves she
stopped. Unfortunately Robur found that the breeze was stronger here
than above, and the aeronef drifted off more rapidly. He risked being
blown a long, way off to the northeast, and that would delay his
return to Pitt Island. In short, after several experiments, he found
it better to keep his ship well up in the air, and the "Albatross"
went aloft to about ten thousand feet. There, if she did not remain
stationary, the drifting was very slight. The engineer could thus
hope that by sunrise at such an altitude he would still be in sight
of the island.
Robur did not trouble himself about the reception the fugitives might
have received from the natives--if there were any natives. That they
might help them mattered little to him. With the powers of offense
possessed by the "Albatross" they would be promptly terrified and
dispersed. The capture of the prisoners was certain, and once he had
them again, "They will not escape from X Island!"
About one o'clock in the morning the fore-screw was finished, and all
that had to be done was to get it back to its place. This would take
about an hour. That done, the "Albatross" would be headed southwest
and the stern-screw could be taken in hand.
And how about the match that was burning in the deserted cabin? The
match of which more than a third was now consumed? And the spark that
was creeping along to the dynamite?
Assuredly if the men of the aeronef had not been so busy one of them
would have heard the feeble sputtering that, was going on in the
deck-house. Perhaps he would have smelt the burning powder! He would
doubtless have become uneasy! And told Tom Turner! And then they
would have looked about, and found the box and the infernal machine;
and then there would have been time to save this wonderful
"Albatross" and all she bore!
But the men were at work in the bow, twenty yards away from the
cabin. Nothing brought them to that part of the deck; nothing called
off their attention from their work. Robur was there working with his
hands, excellent mechanic as he was. He hurried on the work, but
nothing was neglected, everything was carefully done. Was it not
necessary that he should again become absolute master of his
invention? If he did not recapture the fugitives they world get away
home. They would begin inquiring into matters. They might even
discover X Island, and there would be an end to this life, which the
men of the "Albatross" had created for themselves, a life that seemed
superhuman and sublime.
Tom Turner came up to the engineer. It was a quarter past one. "It
seems to me, sir, that the breeze is falling, and going round to the
"What does the barometer say?" asked Robur, after looking up at the
"It is almost stationary, and the clouds seem gathering below us."
"So they are, and it may be raining down at the sea; but if we keep
above the rain it makes no difference to us. It will not interfere
with the work."
"If it is raining it is not a heavy rain," said Tom. "The clouds do
not look like it, and probably the wind has dropped altogether."
"Perhaps so, but I think we had better not go down yet. Let us get
into going order as soon as we can, and then we can do as we like."
At a few minutes after two the first part of the work was finished.
The fore-screw was in its place, and the power was turned on. The
speed was gradually increased, and the "Albatross," heading to the
southwest, returned at moderate speed towards the Chatham Islands.
"Tom," said Robur, "It is about two hours and a half since we got
adrift. The wind has not changed all the time. I think we ought to be
over the island in an hour."
"Yes, sir. We are going about forty feet a second. We ought, to be
there about half-past three."
"All the better. It would suit us best to get back while it is dark,
and even beach the "Albatross" if we can. Those fellows will fancy we
are a long way off to the northward, and never think of keeping a
look-out. If we have to stop a day or two on the island --"
"We'll stop, and if we have to fight an army of natives?"
"We'll fight," said Robur. "We'll fight then for our "Albatross.""
The engineer went forward to the men, who were waiting for orders.
"My lads," he said to them, "we cannot knock off yet. We must work
till day comes."
They were all ready to do so. The stern-screw had now to be treated
as the other had been. The damage was the same, a twisting from the
violence of the hurricane during the passage across the southern pole.
But to get the screw on board it seemed best to stop the progress of
the aeronef for a few minutes, and even to drive her backwards. The
engines were reversed. The aeronef began to fall astern, when Tom
Turner was surprised by a peculiar odor.
This was from the gas given off by the match, which had accumulated
in the box, and was now escaping from the cabin. "Hallo!" said the
mate, with a sniff.
"What is the matter?" asked Robur.
"Don't you smell something? Isn't it burning powder?"
"So it is, Tom."
"And it comes from that cabin."
Yes, the very cabin --"
"Have those scoundrels set it on fire?"
"Suppose it is something else!" exclaimed Robur. "Force the door,
Tom; drive in the door!"
But the mate had not made one step towards it when a fearful
explosion shook the "Albatross." The cabins flew into splinters. The
lamps went out. The electric current suddenly failed. The darkness
was complete. Most of the suspensory screws were twisted or broken,
but a few in the bow still revolved.
At the same instant the hull of the aeronef opened just behind the
first deck-house, where the engines for the fore-screw were placed;
and the after-part of the deck collapsed in space.
Immediately the last suspensory screw stopped spinning, and the
"Albatross" dropped into the abyss.
It was a fall of ten thousand feet for the eight men who were
clinging to the wreck; and the fall was even faster than it might
have been, for the fore propeller was vertical in the air and still
It was then that Robur, with extraordinary coolness, climbed up to
the broken deck-house, and seizing the lever reversed the rotation,
so that the propeller became a suspender. The fall continued, but it
was checked, and the wreck did not fall with the accelerating
swiftness of bodies influenced solely by gravitation; and if it was
death to the survivors of the "Albatross" from their being hurled
into the sea, it was not death by asphyxia amid air which the
rapidity of descent rendered unbreathable.
Eighty seconds after the explosion, all that remained of the
"Albatross" plunged into the waves!
THE INSTITUTE AGAIN
Some weeks before, on the 13th of June, on the morning after the
sitting during which the Weldon Institute had been given over to such
stormy discussions, the excitement of all classes of the Philadelphia
population, black or white, had been much easier to imagine than to
From a very early hour conversation was entirely occupied with the
unexpected and scandalous incident of the night before. A stranger
calling himself an engineer, and answering to the name of Robur, a
person of unknown origin, of anonymous nationality, had unexpectedly
presented himself in the club-room, insulted the balloonists, made
fun of the aeronauts, boasted of the marvels of machines heavier than
air, and raised a frightful tumult by the remarks with which he
greeted the menaces of his adversaries. After leaving the desk, amid
a volley of revolver shots, he had disappeared, and in spite of every
endeavor, no trace could be found of him.
Assuredly here was enough to exercise every tongue and excite every
imagination. But by how much was this excitement increased when in
the evening of the 13th of June it was found that neither the
president nor secretary of the Weldon Institute had returned to their
homes! Was it by chance only that they were absent? No, or at least
there was nothing to lead people to think so. It had even been agreed
that in the morning they would be back at the club, one as president,
the other as secretary, to take their places during a discussion on
the events of the-preceding evening.
And not only was there the complete disappearance of these two
considerable personages in the state of Pennsylvania, but there was
no news of the valet Frycollin. He was as undiscoverable as his
master. Never had a Negro since Toussaint L'Ouverture, Soulouque, or
Dessaline had so much talked about him.
The next day there was no news. Neither the colleagues nor Frycollin
had been found. The anxiety became serious. Agitation commenced. A
numerous crowd besieged the post and telegraph offices in case any
news should be received. There was no news.
And they had been seen coming out of the Weldon Institute loudly
talking together, and with Frycollin in attendance, go down Walnut
Street towards Fairmount Park! Jem Chip, the vegetarian, had even
shaken hands with the president and left him with "Tomorrow!"
And William T. Forbes, the manufacturer of sugar from rags, had
received a cordial shake from Phil Evans who had said to him twice,
"Au revoir! Au revoir!"
Miss Doll and Miss Mat Forbes, so attached to Uncle Prudent by the
bonds of purest friendship, could not get over the disappearance, and
in order to obtain news of the absent, talked even more than they
were accustomed to.
Three, four, five, six days passed. Then a week, then two weeks, and
there was nothing to give a clue to the missing three. The most
minute search had been made in every quarter. Nothing! In the park,
even under the trees and brushwood. Nothing! Always nothing! Although
here it was noticed that the grass looked to be pressed down in a way
that seemed suspicious and certainly was inexplicable; and at the
edge of the clearing there were traces of a recent struggle. Perhaps
a band of scoundrels had attacked the colleagues here in the deserted
park in the middle of the night!
It was possible. The police proceeded with their inquiries in all due
form and with all lawful slowness. They dragged the Schuyllkill
river, and cut into the thick bushes that fringe its banks; and if
this was useless it was not quite a waste, for the Schuyllkill is in
great want of a good weeding, and it got it on this occasion.
Practical people are the authorities of Philadelphia!
Then the newspapers were tried. Advertisements and notices and
articles were sent to all the journals in the Union without
distinction of color. The "Daily Negro," the special organ of the
black race, published a portrait of Frycollin after his latest
photograph. Rewards were offered to whoever would give news of the
three absentees, and even to those who would find some clue to put
the police on the track. "Five thousand dollars! Five thousand
dollars to any citizen who would --"
Nothing was done. The five thousand dollars remained with the
treasurer of the Weldon Institute.
Undiscoverable! Undiscoverable! Undiscoverable! Uncle Prudent and
Phil Evans, of Philadelphia!
It need hardly be said that the club was put to serious inconvenience
by this disappearance of its president and secretary. And at first
the assembly voted urgency to a measure which suspended the work on
the "Go-Ahead." How, in the absence of the principal promoters of the
affair, of those who had devoted to the enterprise a certain part of
their fortune in time and money--how could they finish the work when
these were not present? It were better, then, to wait.
And just then came the first news of the strange phenomenon which had
exercised people's minds some weeks before. The mysterious object
had been again seen at different times in the higher regions of the
atmosphere. But nobody dreamt of establishing a connection between
this singular reappearance and the no less singular disappearance of
the members of the Weldon Institute. In fact, it would have required
a very strong dose of imagination to connect one of these facts with
Whatever it might be, asteroid or aerolite or aerial monster, it had
reappeared in such a way that its dimensions and shape could be much
better appreciated, first in Canada, over the country between Ottawa
and Quebec, on the very morning after the disappearance of the
colleagues, and later over the plains of the Far West, where it had
tried its speed against an express train on the Union Pacific.
At the end of this day the doubts of the learned world were at an
end. The body was not a product of nature, it was a flying machine,
the practical application of the theory of "heavier than air." And if
the inventor of the aeronef had wished to keep himself unknown he
could evidently have done better than to try it over the Far West. As
to the mechanical force he required, or the engines by which it was
communicated, nothing was known, but there could be no doubt the
aeronef was gifted with an extraordinary faculty of locomotion. In
fact, a few days afterwards it was reported from the Celestial
Empire, then from the southern part of India, then from the Russian
Who was then this bold mechanician that possessed such powers of
locomotion, for whom States had no frontiers and oceans no limits,
who disposed of the terrestrial atmosphere as if it were his domain?
Could it be this Robur whose theories had been so brutally thrown in
the face of the Weldon Institute the day he led the attack against
the utopia of guidable balloons? Perhaps such a notion occurred to
some of the wide-awake people, but none dreamt that the said Robur
had anything to do with the disappearance of the president and
secretary of the Institute.
Things remained in this state of mystery when a telegram arrived from
France through the New York cable at 11-37 A.M. on July 13. And what
was this telegram? It was the text of the document found at Paris in
a snuff-box revealing what had happened to the two personages for
whom the Union was in mourning.
So, then, the perpetrator of this kidnapping "was" Robur the
engineer, come expressly to Philadelphia to destroy in its egg the
theory of the balloonists. He it was who commanded the "Albatross!"
He it was who carried off by way of reprisal Uncle Prudent, Phil
Evans and Frycollin; and they might be considered lost for ever. At
least until some means were found of constructing an engine capable
of contending with this powerful machine their terrestrial friends
would never bring them back to earth.
What excitement! What stupor! The telegram from Paris had been
addressed to the members of the Weldon Institute. The members of the
club were immediately informed of it. Ten minutes later all
Philadelphia received the news through its telephones, and in less
than an hour all America heard of it through the innumerable electric
wires of the new continent.
No one would believe it! "It is an unseasonable joke," said some. "It
is all smoke," said others. How could such a thing be done in
Philadelphia, and so secretly, too? How could the "Albatross" have
been beached in Fairmount Park without its appearance having been
signaled all over Pennsylvania?
Very good. These were the arguments. The incredulous had the right of
doubting. But the right did not last long. Seven days after the
receipt of the telegram the French mail-boat "Normandie" came into the
Hudson, bringing the famous snuff-box. The railway took it in all
haste from New York to Philadelphia.
It was indeed the snuff-box of the President of the Weldon Institute.
Jem Chip would have done on at day to take some more substantial
nourishment, for he fell into a swoon when he recognized it. How many
a time had he taken from it the pinch of friendship! And Miss Doll
and Miss Mat also recognized it, and so did William T. Forbes, Truck
Milnor, Bat T. Fynn, and many other members. And not only was it the
president's snuff-box, it was the president's writing!
Then did the people lament and stretch out their hands in despair to
the skies. Uncle Prudent and his colleague carried away in a flying
machine, and no one able to deliver them!
The Niagara Falls Company, in which Uncle Prudent was the largest
shareholder, thought of suspending its business and turning off its
cataracts. The Wheelton Watch Company thought of winding up its
machinery, now it had lost its manager.
Nothing more was heard of the aeronef. July passed, and there was no
news. August ran its course, and the uncertainty on the subject of
Robur's prisoners was as great as ever. Had he, like Icarus, fallen a
victim to his own temerity?
The first twenty-seven days of September went by without result, but
on the 28th a rumor spread through Philadelphia that Uncle Prudent
and Phil Evans had during the afternoon quietly walked into the
president's house. And, what was more extraordinary, the rumor was
true, although very few believed it.
They had, however, to give in to the evidence. There could be no
doubt these were the two men, and not their shadows. And Frycollin
also had come back! The members of the club, then their friends, then
the crowd, swarmed into the president's house, and shook hands with
the president and secretary, and cheered them again and again. Jem
Chip was there, having left his luncheons joint of boiled lettuces,
and William T. Forbes and his daughters, and all the members of the
club. It is a mystery how Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans emerged alive
from the thousands who welcomed them.
On that evening was the weekly meeting of the Institute. It was
expected that the colleagues would take their places at the desk. As
they had said nothing of their adventures, it was thought they would
then speak, and relate the impressions of their voyage. But for some
reason or other both were silent. And so also was Frycollin, whom his
congeners in their delirium had failed to dismember.
But though the colleagues did not tell what had happened to them,